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This Is a Bad Idea

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Alec tapped his fingers on the airplane window, feeling the glass vibrate against his temple. He could see the clouds clearing around the outline of the buildings as Manhattan appeared right in front of his eyes. All mighty and high-speed and-

“Fuck,” he cursed under his breath and closed the window. “What am I thinking?”

He should never had said yes. Alec was just fine working at his mother’s law firm, building a solid career as an attorney and following her steps. He had graduated as the top of his class, had passed the Bar with flying grades, and was quickly becoming a reference name after one-upping a case that made it to national news.

That was probably why headhunter Magnus Bane had been harassing him to take a trip to New York. Apparently, IDRIS LLP wanted to meet him. To think that Alec had brought the attention of his dream law firm to himself on his own merits only after three years out of Law School was crazy.

To think he was actually being offered a job there was insane.

Sure, he had to practically lie to his mother about the reason he was leaving during a huge closing and Izzy was definitely not as excited as Alec had expected her to be when he told her about this job offer, but at least Jace urged him to go. Kind of. He mostly urged Alec to get out of his apartment, since his girlfriend was arriving at any minute and he didn’t want his older brother there to spoil the night.

So Alec didn’t like Clary, sue him. She was too short, too red-haired, and too stubborn. And she came with Simon, who was always a pain in the ass. Both of them did seem quite happy for him when they heard the news though, so maybe Alec was projecting his anxiety onto getting back to hating them for no actual reason. He did that sometimes, retrocede to the stage of animosity even though Clary and him had grown to become good friends.

Still, New York. He had to keep his cool. It was just one interview, a preliminary interview at that. It didn’t mean anything.

---

Magnus checked his phone for the thousandth time since he arrived at the airport. Waking up early wasn’t one of his favorites activities, but he was willing to put on a little extra effort for this particular job. It wasn’t always that his clients offered a seven-digit bonus for securing a hiring.

This Alec guy was worth his weight in gold and Magnus was determined to close the deal. In order to do so, he had gone that extra mile and worn his favorite suit, paired with the violet shirt Cat had got him for his birthday and just enough makeup to make his eyes pop.

He was a professional. In fact, Magnus was the best there was in his job, and his job was to sell the right people to the right company and profit from their happy marriage. These lawyers could get bit old fashioned, especially the ones from Ohio. If Lightwood LLP’s reputation was anything to go by and dear Alec had taken after his lovely mother, he would be a close-minded, by the books, neurotic asshole.

But also very, very attractive. Magnus arched his eyebrows as he watched the young man getting out of the landing gate. It was not like he hasn’t seen pictures of Alexander Gideon Lightwood, but seeing the man in person was a whole different experience. Alec was taller than he expected, and the pictures didn’t do his gorgeous face enough justice. He had beautiful hazel eyes and Magnus was suddenly hit with the urge to know exactly how he had gotten that scar on his eyebrow, if only to make those kissable lips move.

Magnus waved at him, lifting the sign he was holding a little higher. He smiled as Alec approached him with a puzzled expression. Clearly he wasn’t the lawyer's first image to come to mind when he thought of headhunter.

“Welcome to New York, Alexander,” Magnus said cheerfully, offering his hand for Alec to shake. “I’m Magnus Bane, executive recruiter. We’ve been exchanging emails for the last couple of months.”

“Hi,” Alec said simply and took his hand; he had a nice, firm handshake that set Magnus’ imagination flying over the possibilities. “Thanks for receiving me.”

“It’s my pleasure.” Magnus grabbed the small bag that was hanging on Alec’s shoulder. It was apparently his only luggage and it wasn’t even heavy. These Ohio folk packed light. “Ready for the interview that will change your life?”

Alec just arched an eyebrow at him, watching silently as Magnus guided them out of airport lounge.

Magnus smirked; he knew how to handle these entitled geniuses who thought they were too good to talk to the people. He stopped in front of the car waiting for them and opened the door. “In my experience, silence means someone is a little nervous. I know this is your first time, but let’s not worry about popping that cherry, shall we, darling? They already love you, and they haven’t even seen you yet. If your impressive curriculum isn’t enough, I’m sure those cheek-bones will do the trick.”

Frowning, Alec seemed very torned between ignoring him and running right back to Ohio, but eventually he went with the first option and just got in the car. He seemed very used to people opening doors and carrying his stuff for him, so Magnus wondered what kind of spoiled rich kid Alec was growing up as he followed him inside.

And then Alec did something nobody ever did. He greeted Ragnor, the driver. “Hey,” he said in the same tone he used to greet Magnus.

“Hello.” Ragnor turned to the back seat, a little startled. He was more than used to be ignored by his friend’s high-class clients. “Welcome to New York.”

“Thank you,” Alec said again, fingers moving tentatively over his hands.

Magnus frowned. Maybe he had misjudged him and Alec wasn’t rude. It was hard to believe, especially considering the videos he had watched of him owning the court as he defended his mother’s clients with lethal effectiveness, but watching him now, fidgeting and curving his shoulders as he watched New York approach through the window, Magnus was sure. Alec was nervous.

“Alexander,” Magnus decided to try a new tactic, a gentler one, “how about we go through your credentials one last time? Just in case they ask you to tell your story in there, hm? I know Imogen likes to have her potential future lawyers tested when she interviews them personally.”

Alec nodded and something in his sweet eyes shifted from insecurity to practicality. “Okay.”

Magnus smiled and started to count using his fingers. “Graduated from Ohio’s most prestigious private school with honors at the age of seventeen. Graduated from Harvard Law School, as class valedictorian. Licensed to work as a lawyer in no less than four states, all at the age of twenty-six. Worked as criminal defense lawyer at the state’s most famous law firm, Lightwood LLP, where you, between several other iconic cases, singlehanded proved that formerly-untouchable executive Valentine Morgenstern had been blackmailing and extorting local authority figure Luke Garroway and his ex-wife Jocelyn Fray to maintain a billion dollars worth scheme of drug sales, saving not only Deputy Luke’s reputation, but probably Jocelyn’s and her daughter’s life. You’re practically a hero. There should be a movie about you.”

“Oh God, no,” Alec said quickly, clearly mortified. “I didn’t do it alone. My brother and sister, they were the ones who-”

“Alexander, I’m trying to bust your confidence level here. It’s rude to interrupt.”

Alec blinked, ready to protest again, but he ultimately just closed his mouth and stared at him,  waiting for the next torrent of compliments he would ignore.

Magnus thought it was endearing somehow. “You don’t have to feel nervous about the interview. I meant what I said, they love you already. Why do you think I spent four months calling you everyday until you picked up the phone?”

“Because you don’t know the conceit of limits, so you work as a professional stalker?” Alec arched an unimpressed eyebrow at him.

Ignoring Ragnor’s very indiscreet chuckle, Magnus rolled his eyes. “No. Because Idris wants you that badly. Stalker-level badly. The job is practically yours, if you want it. Today is just a formality.” Alec still didn’t look convinced and Magnus wondered how someone that beautiful could be so insecure about himself. There should be a law against it. Alec would understand that. “Okay, listen, would you have come all the way here if you thought you weren’t fit for the job?”

That got Alec thinking. “I… I don’t think I would, no.”

“There you go!” Magnus smiled brightly. “That is what I want you to think about when you get in that interview room. Idris wants you. I know you’re the man for this job. All that is missing is for you to believe it too.”

Alec pushed his lips together and tilted his head a little. “I mean… It’s just one interview anyway. It’s not like they’d make a decision right away. These things take time.”

“Sure they do,” Magnus said and laid a hand on Alec’s shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. “Just check out the place, feel the vibe. Maybe you’ll end up realizing you’d never work there, not even for the ridiculous salary or the never ending benefits. Maybe you’ll fall in love. There’s only one way to find out.”

Nodding, Alec smiled a little. He had stopped fidgeting, which could only be a good sign. “Thank you, Magnus,” he said as Ragnor parked in front of Idris LLP headquarters. “You’re a great headhunter, when you’re not flooding my inbox with a hundred emails or relentlessly calling me at very inappropriate hours.”

“You can only blame yourself, darling.” Magnus shrugged nonchalantly. “All it took for me to stop was an answer.  I doubt your ex-girlfriend would judge me.”

It was Alec’s turn to shrug. “Never had a girlfriend.” He swept out of the car and turned to Ragnor, thanking him for the ride before smiling a little to Magnus. “Wish me luck.”

Magnus winked at him, partially to hide his surprise. “Go get them.”

When Alec was safely inside the huge building, Ragnor turned to face his friend. “Nice pep talk back there. Very touching. My eyes teared up so much I almost crashed the car.”

“I’m very good at a variety of fields,” Magnus said absently, narrowing his eyes at the building’s doors as if they would bring Alec back by themselves. “What do you think he meant by never had a girlfriend? Did you see that ass? I’m not buying it.”

Ragnor shrugged, more interested in finding a radio station that actually played music instead at the annoying beats people seemed to enjoy. “Maybe he’s one of those people who are saving themselves for marriage? They exist, you know?”

“That is a horrible thing to say so early in the morning.” Magnus gasped. “Now let’s caffeine up. The only thing I kept my eyes open for is now safely wooing his new bosses, so I need coffee. And a bagel.”

---

Stepping out of IDRIS LLP building felt like lifting the weight of the world from his shoulders. Alec sighed in relief and let the smile that he had kept hidden take over his lips. They liked him. Imogen Herondale, the name of criminal defense, liked him. She even said so, once the interview was over and she offered him a cup of coffee.

I can see your mother’s relentlessness in you, Alec, Imogen had said in her professional tone after she told him her mother and her had gone head to head in every competition their rival Universities had took them to. But there’s something else as well. Something entirely yours. Do not lose that.

He wanted to call Izzy right away, but Alec knew better than to wave a phone up and down in the busy streets of New York. He was starving too, after spending over four hours trying to make the best impression he could on the company’s top lawyers. Food, then sister.

“Alexander!” A cheerful voice called from his left and Alec turned to see Magnus approaching him. “So, how was it?”

Alec frowned. “You’re still here?” He had been sure he would have to find ways to kill the time until his flight back home at 6:45pm.

Magnus dismissed his surprise with a flourish of his hand. “Of course I am, it’s my job to take care of you while you’re here in the most glorious city of New York.”

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Alec said, but he snorted at Magnus’ offended gasp.

“But could you use some company for lunch? I am so very interested in hearing how the interview went.” Magnus grabbed his bag again, the same carefree way he had at the airport. Alec wondered if it would be rude to take it back, just like the first time. “Come on, I know a great Ethiopian place, just down the corner.”

The most exotic food Alec had ever tasted was sushi and only because Jace had dared him to eat raw fish. He wasn’t the kind of guy who liked taking too many risks, but considering how his day was going, he was willing to be a bit adventurous. Alec shrugged. “Sounds good.”

Magnus winked at him and guided him through the street, walking as if he owned the place. He found a table at the back of the restaurant and ordered some drinks and an unpronounceable entree as he went through the main course options displayed on the menu.

“So,” Magnus purred once Alec had made his mind. “The interview. Tell me everything, no detail spared.”

Alec smiled a bit as he couldn’t help but to feel proud of himself. “I think it went well. They showed me around and we talked about some important cases they are working on. Imogen was very…” He searched for a word to describe her, but it was like describing his mother. Impossible.

“Impressive?” Magnus offered. “She’s the best at her job. Darling, would you mind checking the time for me while I order our food?” He turned to the waitress without giving Alec time to process and started blabbering incomprehensive names at her.

Fishing his phone out of his pocket, Alec frowned at the screen when he unlocked it. “Magnus,” he called quiet, “why have you just sent me an email?”

Magnus’s smile was sly and fairly dangerous. “Not a simple email; your job offer, darling. All you have to do is accept it. You have until midnight, Cinderella.”

Alec frown deepened and he opened the email. It was like Magnus had said; he was being offered to become an associate attorney, starting on the following week. Aside from the huge salary, there were listed very nice benefits, like three choices of apartments, all of them situated on amazing spots at Manhattan. It was better than Alec dared to hope.

He pushed his lips together, staring at the bright screen without moving until Magnus’ voice resounded on his ears. “Please contain your excitement, dear. We’re in a public space.”

“I-I’m sorry, it’s just… A lot to take in,” Alec said, blinking. The words on his phone didn’t change, so he wasn’t dreaming.

Magnus smiled at him. “Take a deep breath. That is what I do when I’m struggling to take in something big.” He chuckled when Alec just stared blankly at him. “Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you? You’re clearly passionate about what you do, I saw the way your eyes were shining when you spoke about the interview. You’re also very good, and you’ve been through enough already to know that. Is it the city? New York can get a bit lonely sometimes, but it’s the greatest in the world for a reason.”

“That’s not it.” Alec shook his head and tried a piece of the pork that had been put in front of him. It was sweet and spicy, so utterly different from everything he had ever tasted it made him wince. “I live three houses away from my family home, with my siblings. I work at my mother’s law firm. The time I spent away at Harvard were the hardest years of my life, and not because of the classes, but because I was away from my family. Everyday I wear the same type of suit, I drink the same type of coffee, and I eat at the same restaurant. I jog on the same streets and I meet my siblings for drinks on Saturday nights at the same bar. I don’t remember the last time I bought a new piece of clothing.”

Shuddering at that last part, Magnus grimaced but nodded. “You don’t like changes.”

“No, I don’t,” Alec confirmed in a whisper.

Magnus cocked his head to the side and played with the fish he had ordered. “That’s fair. Changes can be scary and they are not always for the best. But answer me this, Alexander, if you weren’t ready to change, then why did you come?”

Alec stared at him like he had asked why there were flying pigs in the sky. “Nobody in their right mind turns down an interview at IDRIS LLP.”

“They do if they are happy with their lives,” Magnus said simply. “I’ve seen it happen, more than a couple of times. That’s not why you came, though.”

“Maybe I just wanted to make the crazy headhunter stop sending me texts at two in morning.” Alec stared at him with both eyebrows arched.

Magnus just smiled. “Those damn time-differences.” He continued before Alec could point out Ohio and New York were in the same time-zone, “I think you came exactly because even though you don’t like changes, you know it’s time for one. What better place in the world for you to prove yourself? What better time? No offense to your mother, but you were made for bigger things than following her steps, furthering her accomplishments. It’s time for you to shine on your own.”

Sighing, Alec looked at the food in front of him, it's different colors and smells burned on his tongue at every bite. He looked at Magnus, vibrant, fast-talking Magnus who seemed to have an answer ready for everything. He looked at the window, at the passing cars and the city pulsing with life, with possibility.

“So.” Alec narrowed his eyes at the headhunter. “Do you always sweet talk your clients through African cuisine and pep talks?”

Magnus chuckled. “I usually go with fancy restaurant and ass kissing, but let’s say I’d rather leave that last part for when we know each other a little better. I’m old-fashioned like that.”

Snorting, Alec just helped himself with more food. “My sister wanted me to buy her a few things while I was here, so if you could point me to a mall, I’ll be out of your way once we’re done eating.”

“Alexander,” Magnus sounded slightly disappointed. “I’ve told you already, I’m taking care of you. Besides, you did say something about shopping, so you just got yourself company for the rest of the afternoon, my darling.”

Alec had learned in their short time together that there was no denying Magnus. He didn’t know his way around the city very well yet, considering he had visited New York just a couple of times, mostly when he was teenager. He could use the help. “Don’t you have other clients though?”

Magnus shook his head. “I’m all yours for today. And any other day you want, dear.”

“Okay.” Alec wondered if shameless flirting was a local thing, or just Magnus’. “What do you know about jewelry?”

The smile that spread on Magnus’ lips was borderline maniac. “Oh, Alexander, what do I know about it.”

---

Magnus was laying on his couch, with the Chairman spread on his stomach when his phone buzzed and distracted him from the news he hadn’t been watching in the first place.

After spending the afternoon with Alec, running up and down to find his sister the perfect necklace for her wedding, he was exhausted, but positively happy. Once the whole “change your life” business was put behind them, Alec started to let loose a little and they ended up having a great time. He listened attentively as Magnus explained to him about different kinds of gemstones and had some witty comments to add as they skipped from store to store.

With the perfect necklace in hands, Alec boarded his plane smiling that sweet smile of his and thanking Magnus for the help as if he had saved his life somehow. It was endearing and seeing Alec look so happy about a gift for his sister made Magnus happy as well.

Hanging out with Alec had felt like hanging out with a friend, and he couldn’t say that about a lot of his clients.

So, when he saw Alec’s name on the text he’d just received, Magnus smiled brightly. His smile broadened still when he read its content.

I’m taking the job. I’ve talked to my siblings and they agree with you. It’s time for a change.

A second text appeared right away, and that one came with a picture of a gorgeous young woman looking fabulous with the blood red gem Magnus had picked hanging around her neck. Izzy loved it. She told me to bring you with anytime I’m shopping in NYC.

Chuckling, Magnus snapped a selfie of himself smirking as smugly as he could. Oh, darling, you’ve just made my evening. A deal close and an open invitation for shopping? Keep talking dirty to me.

Alec’s response came after enough time for a snort and a head shake. I’m copying you on my acceptance email. Thank you, Magnus. I mean it.

Magnus smiled fondly and scratched the Chairman behind his ears before coming up with an answer that pleased him. I like it when the appreciation is showed in person, preferably in the form of goods. Could be edible goods, wearable goods, Ohio lawyer’s goods. I’m not picky.

If he closed his eyes, Magnus could hear Alec’s deep chuckle resounding with his answer. See you next week, Magnus.

Seven days and a couple of texts exchanges later, Magnus walked into the IDRIS LLP building carrying Alec’s contract and a proud smirk. He stopped at Imogen’s office first, just to annoy her like he loved to do during her busy days, and received the cold look he was looking for while doing it. That meant everything was going fine. When she smiled at him, that was when Magnus got the shivers.

Alec’s office was a simple room, packed with books and codes and nothing that seemed remotely fun. His desk was meticulously organized, and Magnus had a suspicion it was not only because it was his first week. The only personal touch was a couple of pictures precariously pinned against his computer screen.

The man sitting at that office; now that was a sight in itself. Alec was reading a page from an old fat folder, lips pressed together tight, eyebrows furrowed in concentration as his mind worked through the problem presented to him.

“Knock, knock,” Magnus announced himself at the door. “Somebody is working hard, I see.”

“Magnus,” Alec said with a smile, closing the folder on his lap. “Doctor Imogen wanted me to go through some old cases and see if I could find a new angle to defend.”

“Any luck so far?” Magnus crossed the office and leaned against the desk.

Alec shook his head. “Not yet, but I’ve just started. What are you doing here, anyway?”

Magnus pouted, crossing his arms against his chest. “Ouch. Aren’t you happy to see me?” Startled blinking and intense stutter was not the intended reaction, but Magnus liked it just the same. He giggled and waved Alec’s lack of a coherent response with a flourish. “I’m just kidding, darling. I brought your contract. Sign this and our business is concluded.”

“All right.” Alec took the contract and leafed through it, as if he hadn’t made Magnus email the damn thing to him two days prior and sent back his own version with a few alterations. It was their first fight and Magnus finally found out what Imogen saw in Alec, besides of how amazing he looked in a suit.

A few swift movements of the pen and Alec was officially signed up with IDRIS LLP. Magnus smiled and took his version of the contract. “I guess this is goodbye, darling.”

Alec nodded and offered him his hand, standing up. “Nice doing business with you, Magnus Bane.”

“It was my pleasure, Alexander Lightwood.” Magnus shook his hand, realizing they did feel as nice as he had imagined. He was ready to go, but Alec cleared his throat before he could move.

“Do you want to grab a bite or something…? I don’t really know any good restaurants around here yet, but I figured you might.”

Magnus blinked and couldn’t help the smirk forming on his lips. “Oh my, Alexander. We’ve barely finished our work relationship and you’re already asking me out? Cheeky.”

Alec’s jaw dropped and he seemed mortified. “T-that’s not… I-I didn’t… I wasn’t…!”

“Oh, dear, you’re too easy to mock.” Magnus chuckled and sent a text to Ragnor and Cat, cancelling their lunch. “Come on, I’m in the mood for a nice burger. Sounds good?”

The spark in Alec’s eyes was enough to send Magnus into a fit of giggles. He dragged the lawyer to a burger place at Rockefeller Center, where they had their favorite milkshake and he was feeling like celebrating.

“So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how bad did your mother take the news of you moving to New York?” Magnus asked after witnessing Alec devour a sinful mixture of bacon, cheddar, and meat with impressive effectiveness.

Alec cocked his head to the side and swallowed hard. “Off the charts. My father had to intervene before she accused me of selling myself to the enemy. We’re no longer on speaking terms.”

Magnus arched his eyebrows. “And you still came?”

“You don’t know my mother. If I had backed down, I’d be eating out of her hand for the rest of my life. She’s mad now, but she still respects me for sticking to my convictions.” Alec dipped his fries in ketchup so casually, it almost made it seem he was talking about the weather.

Not, like, dealing with his mother as if it was a business transaction. Magnus frowned. “Sounds like a loving relationship.”

Alec sighed. “It’s okay. She’ll come around someday.”

He didn’t sound very sure, so Magnus decided that a change of topics was for the best. “How are you finding New York? Is the city treating you right? I remember paying for the ‘welcoming first week’ package for you.”

Alec snorted at that. “Yeah. There’s a lawyer who’s helping me adjust, Lydia, and the girls across the hall, Maia and Lily. They are great,” he said quietly. “They needed sugar and I didn’t have any, so the three of us went grocery shopping together. Turns out we suck at that.”

Magnus chuckled. “Good! I’m having a few people over this Friday, you should stop by after work. Just a nice, cozy night in with friends.”

Alec pushed his lips together and Magnus could see him fighting himself as he answered, “sure. Sounds fun.”

Smiling, Magnus texted him the address. “Lovely.”

---

‘Nice, cozy night in with friends’ in Ohio meant a couple of people meeting at someone’s house with a few beers and maybe some buffalo wings. Apparently, in New York it meant over fifty people bouncing to some electro music under neon lights.

Alec felt seriously deceived.

It wasn’t hard to find Magnus’ address in Brooklyn, but when Alec arrived at the loft, he would’ve turned around and ran back to his silent, peaceful apartment if Magnus himself hadn’t welcomed him at the door. Alec had been dragged inside and introduced to more people than he cared to remember. Suddenly, there was a bottle of beer in his hand and Alec found himself in a conversation circle with that British driver from the day he met Magnus and a very passionate doctor who was graphically describing a surgery she had performed a couple of hours previously.

Alec wondered if he could pass out to get out of there.

“Cat, my dear, I think you’ve successfully scarred the attorney for life,” Ragnor said with a hint of a smile.

Catarina, who was definitely not as gentle as her features suggested, smiled too and it would’ve seemed apologetic if she wasn’t giggling. “I think you should get some fresh air, Alec. You do look very pale.”

“I think you’re right,” Alec agreed and excused himself, not even caring to pretend he was fine. What kind of people talked about digging through organs in a party?

He skirted around the dancing bodies and found his way to the balcony, which thankfully was empty. Magnus’ loft had a privileged view of the New York skyline and Alec thought it was mesmerizing. The glass door behind him muffled the sounds, making them seem very far away, so it was very much like standing inside a bubble.

“Alexander,” a known voice bursted it, but Alec smiled when he saw Magnus, “what are you doing here, all by yourself?”

“Treating myself to a nice view.” Alec leaned forward, eyes still on the horizon.

Magnus joined him. “It’s my favorite part of this loft. I bought it for the view, and stayed for everything else. Manhattan is great, but Brooklyn… Brooklyn has my heart.”

Alec chuckled. “You’re so drunk.”

“That, my darling, I am.” Magnus giggled and took another sip from the orange drink he was holding. “I’m glad you came. Do you want to come in my bed now?”

Alec just glared at him.

Magnus giggled and shrugged. “It sounded sexier in my head. Don’t you want to mingle, single pringle? You are, right? Single?”

“Yeah,” Alec said carefully. Magnus was a lot to take in normally, but now that he was intoxicated he spoke even faster than before, his voice dancing with some sort of cute accent Alec couldn’t identify.

“There’s a lot of people there dying to meet you,” Magnus continued, playing with his glass. “Young hot thing like you come from the countryside? People have been talking.”

Alec frowned. “I’m from Columbus.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “Countryside. But anyway, if you see someone you like, you tell me and I’ll get you their number, as long as it’s not Raphael. He’s trouble, you keep your sweet innocent ass away from him.”

“I’m good,” Alec said quickly, a little uncomfortable. Truth be told, he hasn’t been looking for anyone. Magnus had some good-looking friends, but everyone in New York seemed stylish and glamorous, so it was hard to tell if it was that or real beauty. “I think I’m heading home. Busy day at work.”

“Oh, no!” Magnus whined and grabbed him by the arm. “You just arrived! Come on, at least do a shot with me. Just one.”

“Puppy eyes,” Alec congratulated him as he watched Magnus’ expression grew a thousand times cuter right in front of his eyes. “Nice touch.” He laughed when Magnus smiled brightly. “One shot.”

Seven shots of Tequila and four hours later, Alec stumbled into his apartment and passed out on his couch only to wake up to no recollection of the night before and a text from Magnus confirming a lunch appointment for the following week.

---

Lunch led to drinks three days later, and those led to another lunch on the next Tuesday, and then Magnus managed to convince Alec to go to a club. To make up for that fiasco, Alec had Magnus paying for a day at the MET. Soon, they were seeing each other every other day, and texting in between those.

The days Alec spent back in Ohio for Thanksgiving seemed to drag by, but the huge smile on Alec’s face when he got back and went straight to Magnus’ loft to tell him his mother and him had made peace made the long days worth the wait. After that, they went Christmas shopping together, since Alec had no idea what to buy for his siblings and Magnus needed someone to level down his extravagance.

To celebrate the New Year after everyone went back to town, they were chilling at Alec’s apartment with Lily and Maia and enjoying a Game of Thrones marathon, which meant hours of Lily and Alec complaining about every little detail that was changed from the books while Magnus and Maia finished the ice cream. The girls were starting to fall over each other, but Alec’s personal vengeance against the changes that were made to Jon Snow’s character was still burning hot, so Magnus sent them to their apartment and promised to stay up with Alec.

He sat next to Alec at the couch and wrapped himself with the blanket they had been sharing. “Darling, you’re huffing. What is it now?”

“He went head in into a battle he couldn’t possibly win! They have to make up their minds, he’s either the great hero or an idiot. He just got the Northmen in to be slaughtered.” Alec groaned in frustration and pointed at the TV screen as the extras were killed in increasingly more gruesome ways. “And he’ll be named King in the North for this. It makes no sense, in the books-”

“He’s dead,” Magnus said sharply and sighed at Alec’s offended gaze. “I know, darling, I know. Why do you keep watching if it makes you this mad?”

Alec narrowed his eyes at him. “Why do you keep answering Camille every time she texts you?”

That was a low blow and Alec knew it. During one of their many times together, Magnus had told him about his on and off relationship with Camille Belcourt. During the few months they knew each other, Alec had witnessed two offs, both of which initiated by Camille.

Magnus was very aware that Alec hated her; he completely and utterly hated her. Magnus also knew that Alec was a great friend and so he never judged him for loving her. Maybe Alec didn’t understand why Magnus kept coming back whenever Camille decided to give them a chance again, but even Magnus couldn’t quite answer that himself, so Alec seemed resigned in only being there when he needed a shoulder to cry on.

That didn’t mean Alec did it quietly, though he had never been mean about it before. The outburst was probably because the last off had happened when Magnus was sure Camille had changed her ways and was willing to stop cheating on him or disappearing out of the blue. Magnus had been so happy, he had organized a celebratory dinner to commemorate eight years of knowing each other.

When Camille never showed up, Magnus called Alec and was unable to hold back his tears. Alec had dropped the case he was working on and met him right away.

“I’m sorry,” Alec said weakly when no answer came, guilt written all over his gorgeous face. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

Magnus shook his head and smiled, though it never reached his eyes. “It’s okay, dear. You’re agitated after seeing your favorite bastard being forsaked mercilessly on TV. I understand. Also, you’re sex deprived.”

Alec gasped and was ready to deny it, but Magnus knew he was right. In the six months since he had moved to New York, Alec claimed he hadn’t met anyone that had caught his eye, which sounded like utterly bullshit to Magnus. He had offered to introduce Alec to some of his friends, but the lawyer always found an excuse not to get attached, and that was when he actually showed up to the parties Magnus arranged just for that end. Not that there were anyone that Magnus thought was good enough for Alec, but he could fix him up with a couple of one-night stands, right? That is what friends are there for.

“Ouch,” Alec said, eyebrows frowning the way they always did when he was trying to pretend he wasn’t as offended as he felt.

Magnus smirked and crossed his arms, clearly having fun. “And it’s entirely your fault. It’s not like there’s no offer rolling in.”

Alec snorted disdainfully. “Oh yeah?”

“Oh, yeah,” Magnus didn’t skip a beat. “That Raj guy from your office? From that day I met you at IDRIS for lunch? News flash; he’s crushing on you. Hard. And two weeks ago, when we were chilling at Maia’s boyfriend’s apartment? I saw it when one of his housemates was hitting on you.”

“Alaric is a cop. We’re talking criminal law,” Alec protested. “And he’s hairy.”

Magnus shot him an unimpressed look. “I’ve seen you shirtless, Alexander. I wouldn’t say your chest is exactly frictionless.”

Alec grimaced, blushing just slightly. “I just prefer to be intimate with someone I’m comfortable with in the first place. Call me old fashioned.”

“That is adorable, darling,” Magnus conceded. “However, keeping that body of yours out of the market is a sin against humanity. You are depriving the male population of New York of its fundamental right of screwing gorgeous young men until they find their true love.”

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” Alec chuckled. “You find your true love, and then fuck him?”

Magnus shrugged. “I hope not. I wouldn’t stand a chance that way.”

Alec snorted. “Come on. You only have that reputation because people are too busy with their own lives to realize you’re actually the most romantic, love sick puppy this side of the Hudson river. When you’re into someone, you’re in deep.”

“I am offended that you’d question my sluttyness, a reputation I’ve worked hard to cultivate.” Magnus faked a gasp and pushed Alec by the shoulder. “I’m the king of one-night stands. You’re the celibacy club president.”

“Please.” Alec rolled his eyes. “You’ve fallen in love with everyone you’ve ever slept with. Etta, Imasu, Axel. You even dated that Woolsey guy. Just admit that, despite your fame, you don’t do casual.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes at him, regretting ever telling the lawyer about his past lovers. “I could have sex just for the sake of it. I’m not some hopeless romantic. I’m an adult.”

“Debatable,” Alec said, clearly just to annoy him.

“And I say more,” Magnus said not annoyed at all since he was so winning this argument. “I’m totally down for fucking you right now and there’s definitely no romantic feelings between us.”

Alec blinked. “W-what?”

“You heard me!” Magnus smirked triumphantly. “But I’ll repeat for you, darling. I could have sex with you tonight and that wouldn’t mean a damn thing. Tomorrow morning we would still be just as much friends as we are now, if not more, and nothing would be different, because I can, very much so, separate sex from love. Can you?”

“Of course I can!” Alec protested in a high pitched voice that made Magnus chuckle. “But this is the worst idea I’ve heard this week. That will obviously ruin our friendship. We could never do that.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes at him. It was a horrible, awful idea that made absolutely no sense. Alec was right and it would probably ruin their friendship, which was the last thing Magnus wanted. Alec had quickly become one of his best friends and he couldn’t remember a moment in the last few months that they had not shared in some account. Hell, Magnus didn’t even feel the need to wear makeup when visiting him anymore. “You’re right, of course. It was a stupid idea.”

“Totally stupid,” Alec agreed, eyes never leaving Magnus’. The hazel in them had never seem so dark, like there was a heavy cloud hanging over them. It was oddly attractive.

They fell into silence, and not the familiar comfortable silence they were used to. Eye contact was broken and Alec had fallen into one of his introspective reflections that could take hours to pass. Magnus, who preferred talking things out, was not going to let that happen. “Unless… It’s not that stupid.”

Alec stared at him, startled. “What do you mean?”

Magnus turned completely to him and cleared his throat, channeling his best professional self. “We’re friends. Great friends, we get each other. We just do, and this is not something that we’re losing anytime soon. It’s been years since you last had sex - no, don’t interrupt me while I’m speaking, Alexander - and I could use a friend right now. After the last breakup, I’m not sure Camille hasn’t ruined sex for me forever. Doing it with a friend who I trust and cherish… It doesn’t sound so bad.”

Pondering a little, Alec shook his head. “Still, it’s a bad idea.”

“Then we drop the subject and never speak of it again.” Magnus raised a hand in a oath. “Just like we never talk about that time you ate wasabi thinking it was guacamole and almost died.”

Alec groaned. “Stop bringing that up.” He glared at Magnus as he just giggled and then sighed, staring blankly at the TV as the forgotten episode was still on. It took a couple of minutes before Alec spoke up again. “Hey, Magnus.”

“Yes, darling?” Magnus said absently, his attention focused on his phone.

“Let’s fuck.”

“Oh, thank God,” Magnus said, throwing his phone on the couch. “For a second there, I was really worried we weren’t going to.”

Alec laughed and crashed their lips together before any of them could come up with a reason not to do it. Magnus moved to sit on his lap and Alec was quick to dig his fingers through Magnus’ hair while his other hand touched Magnus’ face.

Their lips moved against each other, wanting more, and Magnus pulled Alec’s shirt up, exploring his body as he got rid of the inconvenient fabric. They had to part away so the shirt could come out and the shared glimpse that followed ended in laughter.

“This is so weird,” Alec whispered, closing his eyes. “Not a bad weird, though.”

Magnus chuckled, tracing down Alec’s arms with the tips of his fingers. He had nice, firm arms from all the workout he did to take the edge off after the difficult cases he dealt at the office. “Do you want to stop?”

Alec swallowed hard and pushed his lips together. “No,” he finally said, convinced. “Do you?”

“Absolutely not,” Magnus said with certainty. “I have to say, since the day we met, I’ve had a healthy curiosity about what your lips would taste like.”

“Have you?” Alec smiled a little, looking surprised. So endearing. “And what do they taste like?”

Magnus smiled wide. “Addictive,” he said, feeling a shiver go through Alec’s spine as he kissed him again, claiming his mouth to himself. “So addictive,” Magnus said again, tracing a path of kisses to Alec’s neck and biting into the tender skin, smiling at the moan that escaped the lawyer’s lips. “Do you have anything against hickeys?”

Alec shook his head, downing his hands to Magnus’ ass and squeezing it. “As long as I can hide them with my shirt’s collar, it’s fine.”

“Good. I’ve been told I’m a bit of a vampire,” Magnus informed between a chuckle and, just to prove his point, started to work on the pale skin, lips moving in sync with his tongue as he smiled every time Alec squirmed and moaned under his touch.

“M-my last… Last boyfriend,” Alec said once he regain control over his mind, “t-told me I give good head.”

That picked Magnus’ interest and he stopped what he was doing at once, to Alec’s obvious frustration, judging by his impatient gasp. It didn’t last long after Magnus placed a gentle kiss on the darkening bruise on his collarbone.  

“I have my doubts,” Magnus said and licked his lips in anticipation. “Can you prove it?”

Alec snorted. “I thought you were a headhunter, it should be your job to know this kind of things.”

“Look at you, Alexander!” Magnus full on laughed. “Making awful innuendos! I’m so proud.” He chuckled at Alec’s roll of eyes and let himself be manhandled until he was laying on his back on the couch. Magnus smiled as Alec got comfortable between his legs. “Should I guide you through it? I’m very demanding.”

“Don’t you ever shut up?” Alec shot him an annoyed look and pulled Magnus’ top up.

“How about you mak-?” Magnus dared, but his voice broke in the middle of the sentence as Alec started kissing right below his bellybutton, sucking on the skin until he got to the rib of the yoga pants. Alec smirked as he watched Magnus biting his lips to keep a moan in, fingers digging into the couch.

No amount of restraint, however, was enough to stop Magnus from gasping when Alec’s lips closed on his cock over the thin fabric, wet tongue moving all over it. It felt so hot, so unbearably hot and perfect.

Magnus’ eyes shot open when Alec pulled down his yoga pants, getting rid of the inconvenient fabric. Alec had told the truth, he was good. He was oh, so good. There was little he could do other than intertwine his fingers in those dark messy curls and enjoy.

“Best friend I ever had,” Magnus said as he panted once Alec finished him. He grabbed the lawyer by the chin and licked his lips, pulling him into another long kiss. “How much further do you want to take this, Alexander?”

Alec smiled, closing his eyes. He had never looked so beautiful, with his pale skin contrasting with red lips and hair pointing at every direction from Magnus’ treatment of it. When he opened his eyes, Alec was a vision in itself. “Let’s go to the bedroom. We’ll need lube and condoms.”

Magnus smirked deviously. “Are you sure they haven’t expired? Lack of use will do that.”

“Fuck you, Magnus.” Alec narrowed his eyes, but then he smiled. “Better yet, fuck me.”

---

When Alec woke up in the next morning, he found himself laying naked besides a curled up Magnus, both of them sharing his kingsized bed. It wasn’t the first time they had shared a bed, but they had never been naked while doing it before.

Alec blinked as the events of the previous night came back to him. Magnus and him kissing. Him blowing Magnus. Magnus fucking him. Alec fucking Magnus in the shower. There were a couple of flashes of them in the balcony too, but that was too confusing to take anything from it.

Shit. The kitchen counter. Alec was not looking forward to clean up that mess.

Magnus mumbled in his sleep next to him and Alec rolled his eyes when he realized the headhunter had pushed the sheets all to himself again. He distinctly remembered making Magnus promise not to do that before they collapse in the bed.

“Food,” Alec listed out loud to himself. “Then shower. Then clothes. Then… More sleep.”

It sounded like a solid plan, so Alec stuck to it until he realized he had run out of coffee. Since he could not function with it, he groaned and put on the first pair of pants he could find, going to knock on the girls' door. It there was something they always had in the apartment, it was coffee.

“What?” Lily said, answering his insisting knocking with a murderous look on her face. “It’s, like, uber early, so it better be an emergen- What the fuck happened to your neck?”

Alec arched an eyebrow. “I ran out of coffee.”

Maia’s face appeared behind Lily’s. “We have some!” She informed cheerfully, because she was one of those people who were happy in the mornings, but then her happy smile turned into a horrified expression. “Oh my God, Alec! Did you get beaten up?!”

“What?” Alec frowned and touched his own neck out of a reflex. “No, that’s not… It doesn’t look that bad.”

Maia bit his lower lip, trying and failing to hide a smile, but Lily took out her phone and snapped a picture of Alec, showing it to him. “Doesn’t it?”

It did look bad. Magnus hadn’t been kidding when he said he was like a vampire. Alec’s neck and collarbones were covered in hickeys, some of them dangerously black. Magnus was true to his word and kept them all beneath the shirt collar line, but that was borderline scary.

“Where the fuck did you and Magnus go yesterday?” Lily asked as Maia dragged Alec inside the apartment. “I thought you were staying in and finishing watching that shitty excuse of a show. If I knew you were going out man-hunting, I would’ve tagged along.”

Alec, who was too shocked to process, just blinked and accepted the cup of coffee Maia pushed into his hands. “We did stay in,” he said weakly.

Maia snorted. “Alec, please. Those are hickeys, so don’t even try to deny it.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Alec said, feeling offended by the accusation. “Magnus and I stayed in the whole night.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. And who did those? Magnus?” Alec just stared at her. If it wasn’t for Maia’s resounding gasp and her punching Lily on the shoulder, the penny probably wouldn’t have dropped. “Oh, shit.”

Clapping her hands, Maia cheered loudly. “I knew it! You guys took your sweet time, though! I should’ve taken that bet.”

“But you didn’t,” Lily said quickly, looking disconcerted.

“Whatever that’s about,” Alec said quietly and arched his eyebrows at them, “quit it, both of you. Magnus and I… That was a one-time kind of thing. It means nothing.”

Maia and Lily exchanged a poignant look and Maia pushed a pack of coffee powder into his hands. “You keep telling yourself that.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “Thank you for the coffee. Not so thankful for the patronizing talk.” He returned the empty cup and ran back to the safety of his own apartment, before the girls could say anything else.

He already had a nagging voice at the back of his mind telling him they had screwed up; Alec didn’t need actual people repeating that out loud.

“Good morning,” Magnus said as he entered the kitchen fully clothed. His hair had been perfectly combed up and if Alec hadn’t been there to witnessed, he’d never know what Magnus had been up to the night before. “Oh, coffee! Thank God!” He snatched the cup Alec had been drinking from and swallowed the entire content in one go.

Alec had to consciously turn his eyes away in order not to stare. “Lily and Maia.”

Magnus put the cup down. “You have the best neighbors,” he said absently, straightening his top against his chest. “I have a meeting in about an hour, so I’m hitting home to change.”

There was something wrong with Magnus and it wasn’t just the fact that he hadn’t look Alec in the eye yet. His voice was stern, almost strangled. He hadn’t stayed still in one place since he entered the kitchen.

Alec breathed in, realizing he hadn’t been much of himself either, grunting words and staring at the walls like they had offended him. “All right. See you Thursday night.”

Magnus blinked and stopped half way through the door. “Thursday night?”

“We’re going bowling with Tessa and her husbands, right?” Alec asked in a rushed tone, not sounding nearly as casual as he intended to. When Will invited them, it seemed fun, but now the idea of going bowling with them looked dangerously like a double date. “I-I might be late, though. Huge case in the office.”

“Yeah,” Magnus nodded, picking on his nail polish. “Thursday is complicated to me. We’ll keep in touch.”

Alec nodded too. “Sure.”

Magnus looked at him shyly, a weird thing coming from him, and left without saying goodbye.

And thus began the worst week of Alec’s life since he had moved to New York. Every time Alec saw something that reminded him of Magnus, and the universe seemed set to have all makeup commercials show up any time he turned on the TV or entered a taxi, he would snap a picture, with every intention of texting it to his friend, but didn’t. It seemed wrong somehow, as if he would be pushing something.

They didn’t text or call each other either, what was weird on itself. Alec had lunch with Lydia and Raj every day, aside from the day they were both busy and he ate in his office. It was sad and frankly a little ridiculous.

The side looks from Lily and Maia didn’t help either. The problem with having friends was that boundaries became a relative concept. Both girls were very aware of his current non-speaking situation and they were very vocal about their concerns. Alec was starting to contemplate the idea of finding another place to live.

When Thursday arrived, he was angry. Alec was not going to lose his friendship with Magnus over something as stupid as sex. It didn’t matter that it had been the best sex he’d ever had. It didn’t matter that he had dreamed of it. Magnus was one of his best friends and sex was not going to ruin it.

Alec was about to call him when his office phone rang. “Alec,” his secretary said in her detached tone, “Magnus Bane. He said it’s about tonight’s appointment, although there’s nothing on your agenda. Will you take the call?”

“Yes, thank you.” Alec pushed his lips together and didn’t let Magnus calling him on his work number bother him. “Hey,” he said as casually as he could when the line was transferred.

“Alexander, hi.” Magnus sounded distant, although clear. He was probably in his own office. “I called because… I’m not interrupting, am I?”

Alec wanted to scream. Never in the year they knew each other had Magnus worry that he was interrupting anything. “No. Not at all.”

“Good.” Magnus inspired sharply. “So, something came up and I don’t think I’ll-”

“We’re still friends, right?” Alec interrupted him, already knowing where that conversation was going. “We didn’t fuck this up, did we?”

The seconds seemed frozen in time and Alec held his breath until the answer came. “Of course we’re still friends, darling.” Magnus chuckled, and he sounded like relief. “I distinctly remember that you promised to defend me in court when I inevitably get arrested for indecent exposure, so this friendship will last for the ages.

“Glad to be at service.” Alec smiled. “I was going to call you.”

“Were you?” Magnus’s voice went up a tone. “I was going to text you an article I read yesterday.”

Alec smiled bitterly. Almost an entire week shaken by their stupidity. “Please go tonight. I really don’t want this mistake to get in between us.”

Magnus sighed on the other side of the line. “Alexander… I’ll go. We can’t start avoiding each other now just because we took intimacy to a whole new level.”

“Yeah,” Alec said quietly. “Besides some lousy excuse not to go out tonight, was there a real reason for this call?”

The sound of a giggle settled things back to normal, finally. “Sassy,” Magnus remarked. “Maybe I just wanted to hear your sexy voice.”

“See you tonight, Magnus.” Alec rolled his eye and hang up, the happiest he felt since he took the job at IDRIS LLP.

From all of Magnus’ friends, and he had a bunch of them, Alec liked Tessa the most. She was impossibly smart and always had a witty observation to make that had Alec chuckling and nodding along. Jem was sweet and gentle, and he made Alec feel welcomed from the first. As for Will, he had won Alec’s affection for the simple fact that he reminded him so much of Jace and Alec missed his brother fiercely.

Alec also enjoyed how at ease Magnus seemed when he hanged out with the three of them. As it turned out, he was a disgrace at bowling, but he having too much fun laughing at one of Will’s jokes and mocking him with Jem the whole night to care.

“What am I missing?” Tessa said, sitting next to Alec at the bench while Will and Jem worked together to teach Magnus how to properly throw the ball. She was smiling, which meant there was no dismissing her.

As a lawyer, though, Alec had to try. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Tessa’s smiled grew into a smirk and she offered him a beer. “I think you do, but if you don’t want to talk about the heart eyes you and Magnus have been exchanging the entire night, fine. We can talk about something else. My suggestion is the indiscreet bruises on your neck and their origins. Let me take a guess: Indonesia?”

Alec blinked. He had completely forgotten about the hickeys on his neck, but they were still there. In the heat of the game, he had gotten rid of his tie and opened the first two buttons of his shirt, which should be enough to reveal one of them. Or two, or three. There was a whole collection. “Hm, I-I met someone.”

“I’m happy for you,” Tessa said with a polite tone that made it clear she didn’t believe him. “You’re a sweet guy, Alec, very intelligent and responsible. I don’t have to worry about you breaking his heart, right? I don’t want to have to set Will and Jem on you.”

Swallowing hard, Alec shook his head slowly. “M-Magnus and I… W-we’re not… W-we…” He held his breath, realizing Tessa’s gaze was just like his mother’s when she caught Jace, Izzy and him sneaking out of the house without permission. “That is the last thing I want. To break his heart, that is. I won’t.”

Tessa nodded and laid a hand over his, squeezing it. “Good. And I hope he won’t break yours either.”

Alec didn’t have the chance to ask her what she meant by that, since Magnus started shouting his name and pointing at three pins down by the end of the lane. Will and Jem were cheering with him and the whole scene was too adorable to be put in words.

When the game was over and the trio said their goodbyes, Alec and Magnus walked to the nearest subway station shoulder by shoulder, talking about the game and Magnus’ achievements. They laughed together, with Magnus gesturing the techniques he had learned from the boys and Alec snorting.

They stopped at the intersection of the tunnels that would lead for their lines. The sensation of deja-vu was strong, but Alec stuck his hands in his pockets and tried to ignore it. “I’m glad I saw you tonight. I was really getting worried… About us, you know.”

Magnus smiled brightly. “Me too! I was so afraid for us. We almost put everything to lose, like two horny teenagers.”

“We were so stupid,” Alec agreed wholehearted. “I can’t believe we both thought we could do something like that and it wouldn’t change anything between us.”

“I know!” Magnus shook his head in disdain. “We should never have done it. Never.”

Alec nodded fiercely, glad that they had came to the right conclusion. Now they could go back to being friends without the weight of what they had done hanging over them like a shaming threat. In a couple of weeks they would probably forget that had ever happened. It was perfect.

“All right,” he said with a smile he couldn’t be bothered to hide. “See you later.”

Magnus moved to hug him goodbye. “Yes, you will,” he said quietly against Alec’s neck and looked up at him. Magnus was smiling softly, looking very comfortable in Alec’s arms, his bright eyes shining more than the sparkly makeup around them.

That was probably why Alec leaned down and kissed him.

If Magnus was caught off guard at all, the fact that he responded to the kiss immediately didn’t show it. Alec was suddenly thrown against the wall, pressed by Magnus’ entire body. They barely had time to decide which apartment was closer and the ride on the mostly empty train was torture, but when they arrived at Magnus’ loft, there was nothing preventing them from putting their hands all over each other.

In the morning, they would find a path of discarded clothes leading the way to the bedroom, but that was barely an afterthought as they had more pressing matters to pay attention. Alec had been to Magnus’ room dozens of times, but he still stumbled through the dresser and on a piece of clothing on the floor on his rush to get to the bed, which resulted in both of them collapsing on it.

Magnus chuckled, laying on top of him when they got over the shock of the fall. “You okay there, darling?”

Alec grimaced. “I think I hit my head on something,” he said as he searched the hard object near his head and found a hair drier. “I almost died. Your place is dangerous.”

Laughing, Magnus put aside the attempt murder weapon. “People always say my beauty tips are deadly.” He kissed Alec’s lips slowly, almost adoringly, and smiled. “Maybe I can make it up to you somehow?”

“You’re very resourceful,” Alec said, touching Magnus’ face and drawing the line of his cheekbones with his thumb. “I’m sure you can think of something.”

Magnus smirked. “I can buy you that new book you’ve been rambling about for weeks.” He moved his hips over Alec’s lap as he spoke, deliberately slow and smiled brighter when he felt the result of his efforts showing. “Oh, I also heard there’s a Confederate War exhibition coming to town. I can tell you all about it, like we did the other day at the museum.” Magnus stopped and bit his lower lip as Alec moaned underneath him, eyes shut and fingers digging into the mattress. “What do you think, Alexander?”

When Alec opened his eyes, there was nothing innocent about them. “I think that if you don’t start moving again, I’m never going to forgive you.”

“Reasonable request,” Magnus said with a chuckle and did as he was asked.

---

After that, there were no attempts to stop whenever they had the chance to go at each other. To have some resemblance of control, Alec set a couple of rules to guide them through what Magnus called a “Deep Friendship”. They could never skip over an invitation by their friends to do something they would normally do in order to meet up and have sex. Game night was sex-free, unless the Falcons won their game: on those occasions, Alec - as Magnus found out - was always down for celebration.

If the Falcons lost, as Magnus also found out, Alec would begrudgingly be down for angry comforting sex, but only after spending the better part of an hour cursing each player’s ancestrals with his brother on the phone. Those required a great deal more of creativity to get Alec’s head out of the game, but were infinitely more interesting once he succeeded in doing so.

Magnus was lowkey not a Columbus Falcon’s supporter.

Location was very important, or rather, changing location was. They were never to repeat apartments, so it wouldn’t become too comfortable. They also could not do it in anywhere other than their homes, and so avoid making it less casual than it was supposed to be, such as the time Magnus wanted to rent a hotel room in order to spice up the surroundings.

Alec opened an exception to that rule, however, during their three day trip to Ragnor’s lake house, but only because Magnus presented him the irrefutable argument of slipping inside the box while Alec was taking a shower.

They did not hide from their friends, and that was at Magnus’ request. It didn’t matter how much Maia and Lily warned Alec it was a bad idea, or how many times Raphael rolled his eyes at Magnus and told his high-school best friend it was going to end in heartbreak and tears, he wanted to be straight with their loved ones, if with nothing else. After all, they were both consenting adults and they knew what they were doing. Alec pouted and groaned, but ultimately agreed when Magnus pointed out it was for his own benefit, since he was incapable of telling a lie without stuttering and blushing.

Alec’s stuttering and blushing protest to that settled the matter.

Flirting with other people was allowed, but if one of them wanted to start dating again, their little arrangement was over. Neither of them dwelled much on that rule, mostly because at that point of the discussion, they were so drunk, paying attention to anything was getting hard and not the hard they wanted to get.

“Do we really need all of these stupid rules?” Magnus asked during a lazy afternoon they were spending in bed. He was laying on top of Alec, playing with his messy hair as Alec went through the file of the last case he was working on. He refused to talk about it, since it would be unethical, but Magnus had a feeling so was reading it in bed after an oral marathon that left they both breathless and very happy.

Sometimes they got competitive. So what?

Alec turned to face him, putting down the file. He had told Magnus time and again that only because he could sometimes work from home, they couldn’t use that as an excuse to meet up during the day. That lecture was usually given after they had met up during the day, so it wasn’t as effective as the lawyer hoped it to be.

“Rules are important. They make everything clear.” Alec narrowed his eyes at Magnus’ disregarding expression. “You don’t think they matter now, but that’s because this is working fine. Once we have a problem, you’ll appreciate having rules to refer to.”

Magnus cocked his head to the side and pouted. “What kind of problems? I don’t think I’ve ever had a better functioning relationship.”

“I’m serious,” Alec said and Magnus recognized his hot attorney voice. “Let’s say tomorrow, when you pick up the designer at the airport, you fall in love with her. She falls for your sweet talk and signs the contract, moving to New York. Because we have pre-established a rule, you can just tell me and we’re back to just being friends.”

“Just like that?” Magnus asked with a flourish of his hand. “No hurt feelings? No questions asked?”

Alec shook his head. “No nothing, thanks to the rules. Just stick to them.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “I’d rather stick into you.”

“That too.” Alec shrugged and turned his attention back to his reading.

But Magnus wasn’t convinced. “Okay. Just to be clear, I don’t date my clients. I’m professional like that. But let’s say I meet the love of my life tomorrow. I can just text you - not call, not meet up, just text - and say ‘Hey, buddy, we have to stop fucking because I want to fuck someone else monogamously now’. Just like that?”

Alec nodded, only half paying attention. “Just like that.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes at him and poked Alec’s cheek. “And you would be okay with that?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Alec sighed and turned back to him. “We’ve established that what we’re doing is not romantic. And you’ve just said it yourself, you don’t date your clients.”

“You’re not my client,” Magnus protested, a little offended. “You’re my friend.”

“I was a client first,” Alec said matter-of-factly. There was something chirurgical in the way he spoke, almost robotic. Magnus remembered that tone from when Alec told him about the day he came out to his parents and his mother started crying in disappointment. It was Alec’s way to detach himself from his feelings and face a situation from a purely logical point of view.

Magnus hated that tone. “And now you’re my best friend,” he said shortly.

Alec’s surprised expression was no surprise at all. Of course Alec had no idea how important he was to Magnus, how essential he had become. He didn’t know he was the first name in Magnus’ recent calls, the very top of his texts list. He probably never considered that he was the first person Magnus turned to in order to tell anything that had happened during the day, the first person Magnus went for counseling and comfort.

Magnus sighed and kissed him, turning Alec’s puzzled face into a deep questioning scowl. “Well, you don’t have to worry about me falling in love anyway. I think I’m locked. After what happened with Camille, I’ve given up on love.”

Worry colored Alec’s features and he grabbed Magnus’ hand. “Don’t say that. Whatever you felt for her, it was not what real love is. I’ve seen real love, in the way my brother looks at his fiancé or in how my sister’s eyes light up when she talks about her boyfriend. There is someone who will make you feel just like that. Proud, happy, fulfilled. That person is out there and it’s someone who actually deserves a fraction of your attention.”

There was such certainty in Alec’s voice that Magnus almost believed him. Instead, he smiled and intertwined their fingers. “Have you ever been in love, Alexander?”

Alec blinked, disconcerted. “I… I don’t know. I’ve dated some guys before, and I really liked them. Not only kissing them or the sex. I liked them, as in who they were. But not enough to make me say the words when they said them to me. Never as much as they did… Never enough.”

Magnus nodded and laid his head on Alec’s chest. He could hear his fast heartbeat, feel his chest go up and down with each breathing. Magnus closed his eyes and smiled when Alec deposited a kiss into his hair. “One day, Alexander, you will find someone who will make you feel enough,” he said quietly. “Some wonderful guy, as intelligent as you are, so he’ll know how to appreciate every fiber of your being. That will be worth of your laughs and that will enchant your siblings. That will not only know how important family is to you, but will cherish that as well. He’ll be there the day you command IDRIS LLP, to hold your hand and tell you how proud he is of you.”

“He sounds great,” Alec whispered to himself, bringing his other hand to Magnus’ hair and playing with it nonchalantly, his mind a thousand miles away.

“Well, he’s not perfect, of course.” Magnus rolled his eyes, suddenly feeling very protective of his friend. “He’s quite standard in bed. One go and he’s out. Satisfactory is the word I’d use.”

“How do you know?” Alec asked in between a chuckle. “Have you fucked the man of my dreams, Magnus?” He accused, barely holding back his amusement.

“But of course, darling. I had to make sure he wasn’t a weirdo. Fear not, he’s quite plain.”

Alec’s laugh accompanied Magnus for the rest of the week. He was grateful they had that conversation. Magnus felt like it had strengthened whatever it was happening between them, made it more real somehow.

Truth be told, he had been enjoying these last couple of months fooling around with Alec more than he had anticipated. Yes, Alec was handsome like an angel sent to Earth to purify the horribleness of the human race and Magnus would be lying if he said he hadn’t been interested in him when they first met, but getting to know him as a person changed his entire perspective.

As a lawyer, Alec was ruthless and effective. He had been growing inside of IDRIS LLP and Imogen had personally called Magnus to thank him for convincing Alec to come for an interview all those months ago. As a friend, Alec was generous and caring. He was ready to drop everything to help his friends, that being waking up in the middle of the night to kill a cockroach at the girl’s apartment or meet Magnus for drinks when he needed to vent, even after a long day at the court.

As a lover, Alec was intense. He was a reserved person by nature, but Magnus knew him too well to expect shyness in bed. Alec knew what he liked, what he wanted. He wasn’t as experienced as Magnus, but he was open for trying new things and he enjoyed doing so. He made Magnus feel cherished, he made Magnus feel wanted. The hungry look in his eyes was something Magnus looked forward to every time they crossed the friendship line into unnamed territory, and Alec never seemed to get enough of him.

It was a great feeling and Magnus was beginning to wonder whether he wasn’t getting addicted to it.

He hadn’t started their predicament on purpose. When Magnus teased Alec, all of those weeks ago, he had still been hurting from his last breakup with Camille. He wanted to hurt her back, even if she would never know he had found solace into someone else’s arms. He never meant to use Alec, he couldn’t bear thought of ever using him, but in his mind if there was anyone in the world that was better than Camille, it was him. Camille might be beautiful and deadly smart, but Alec is just as much with the advantage of being kind too. If she’s danger and adventure, he’s safety and certainty. Camille is wildfire, consuming and devastating. Alec is blue fire; entrancing and hottest of them all.

And Magnus wanted to burn.

No matter how much he tried to deny it, though, Magnus knew that whatever Alec and him were doing, it wouldn’t last. He could protest and shout, but Alec was right when he said Magnus was a romantic. He had never been able to separate sex from love, and he was missing the latter like oxygen.

But there was no rule that applied to that. No rule that covered the hypotheses of one of them wanting more than detached sex. No rule that allowed them to just lay in bed, hugging and fully clothed, talking about nothing until they fall asleep in each other’s arms.

And Magnus was afraid to ask for that. Alec was a highly logical individual, which was great for his job, but not so great for emotional situations. The second Magnus suggested that they just watched a silly movie and cuddle, a siren would sound inside of Alec’s brain and he would draw a line. Magnus had made the mistake of saying he wanted sex and that was what Alec was willing to give to him.

In the end, Magnus also knew he wasn’t enough for Alec.

So, when his phone buzzed in his pocket and Magnus saw the text on the bright screen, he had little doubts of how to answer. He had expected his heart to flutter, to feel his body grow hot with excitement. It was everything he had wanted in a couple of sentences, the words he had been aching to hear.

And now that they were there, being offered to him, Magnus felt nothing.

My love. It read under Camille’s name in his text inbox. I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding. I had to leave town immediately and couldn’t make it to dinner, but I’m back now. How about we rendezvous, mon cher? I’ll be at our favorite restaurant. I’ve missed you.

Magnus stared at it in silence. She called standing him up without any form or shape of satisfaction a misunderstanding, gave no excuse, not even a lame one at that, and expected him to forgive her for the simple fact that she was back to town. To top all of that, he was sure the restaurant she was referring to was that disgusting place up town that she loved and he couldn’t stand.

Beneath that text, there was the last one Alec had sent him. Today sucks. I need a beer and an ear. Meet me at Pandemonium at 7pm?

Breathing in sharply, Magnus closed his eyes. To Alec, he sent I’m sorry, darling, I can’t tonight. Lunch tomorrow?

And to Camille, I’ll see you there.

Magnus stared at his phone and wondered why he did things that felt like a mistake.

Chapter Text

Alec had a bad feeling nagging him since the day before, but he couldn’t quite pin point about what. The colossal loss of a case he had been working on with Lydia had been a huge hit, especially because they had done everything right and it hadn’t been enough in the end. Not when they were taking on a multimillionaire enterprise headed by Victor Aldertree, the dear golden boy who could do no wrong. No judge wanted to smear their reputation by acknowledging the shady transactions that had raised Aldertree to power and so law and justice had been defeated by power.

All Alec wanted was to see Magnus and vent about his disillusions with the legal system, but he knew he couldn’t expect his friend to stop his own life just to comfort him. It was selfish of him to feel so betrayed, so Alec went with his other option and called his sister. Isabelle always knew how to cheer him up, even through a simple phone call, and she didn’t disappoint.

Even so, something was not right. There had been other times Magnus couldn’t make it, but he would always check on Alec as soon as he was able to. There had been no texts nor calls and Alec had been left out without knowing if they would have lunch together or not. Raj and Lydia had invited him to go eat with them but Alec had dismissed them with a thank you.

Now he was starting to regret it. It was over 2pm and all he could do was kept staring at his phone, as if it would tell him what to do.

“Someone is frowning,” a voice sounded from his door and Alec looked up just to see Magnus smirking at him at the door. “Is it because you’re hungry? I bet it is. You get cranky when you’re food deprived.”

Alec arched an eyebrow at him. “And whose fault is that?”

Magnus rose a hand up, taking the blame. “My bad.  I got stuck in an endless meeting that amounted for nothing. Let me make it up to you by buying you lunch.”

“You were already buying it this time,” Alec pointed out, not moving a muscle. “Maybe it took you so long to get your ass here, I went to have lunch with Lydia and Raj.”

“Is that so?” Magnus crossed his arms against his chest and Alec couldn’t help but noticing he was wearing a shirt that hugged his biceps in all the right places. In a friendly way. “Should I just show myself out and let you work, then? Leave you alone with your hungry frowns.”

Alec narrowed his eyes at him. “I will fight you, Bane.”

Magnus chuckled and closed the door behind him. He crossed the room and leaned over the desk, stopping just a few inches from Alec’s face. “Maybe you’re just hungry from something other than food.”

Usually, the suggestive tone and the dangerous sparkle on Mangus’ eyes would’ve done the trick. Alec would forget whatever they were fighting about and dive in for the kiss. Since they were in his office, that kiss would have to be postponed until they were in a less professional place, or one of the cabins in the restroom. Fuck the rules.

For some reason, though, this time it didn’t work. “I have a meeting in forty minutes,” Alec said and stood up, searching for his coat. “We can go for kebab.”

Magnus frowned, but straightened up himself. “Sure,” he said in a small voice and followed Alec to the elevator. There were only the two of them and the ride down was silent until Magnus cleared his throat. “Darling, I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

Alec shook his head, typing on his phone to let Lydia know where he was going. “It’s not your fault.”

“Then why are you giving me such a hard time?” Magnus asked after another minute of silence, as they walked out of the building into the cold of the streets. He had to rush to keep up with Alec’s fast pace.

The combination of the busy street, a short window of time, and a touch of pettiness had Alec waiting until they got to the restaurant to answer. By then, Magnus looked so frustrated, he felt bad.

“I’m sorry,” Alec finally said after they got their food. “Yesterday was terrible and I’m still sulking, but I shouldn’t take it out on you. I thought I had gotten over it after talking to Izzy, but I guess I was wrong.”

Magnus smiled sympathetically and took Alec’s hand in his. “Do you want to talk about?”

Alec shook his head. “I’m good.” He looked up from their hands and smiled a little, trying to forget his awful day. “Everything okay with you? You’ve been working overtime lately.” When Magnus frowned in confusion, Alec went on. “You had that long meeting today and yesterday you had to stay late.”

“Oh, yes.” Magnus blinked. “It’s… It’s fine, dear. Nothing out of the ordinary.” He turned to stare at the kebab that he hadn’t touched yet and Alec felt his bad feeling creeping in again. It was like staring at a picture with a missing piece that he couldn’t find.

“Alexander,” Magnus said and the name felt alien in Alec’s ears. There was nothing of the warmth and joy that made it sound so casual like Magnus managed to do. It sounded pompous, like a title. Alec hated it. “There’s something I need to talk to you about and I know you won’t like it.”

Having a logical mind meant that Alec usually went through every possibility and found clues that let him cross them out until he was left with a suitable solution or explanation. He did that at work, as he searched for ways to help his clients. He did at home, trying to navigate between his siblings’ shenanigans. He did it with friends, in order to be able to support them however they needed him to.

With Magnus, though, all logic could be thrown out of the window. “What is it?” Alec asked, half already knowing and half hoping he was wrong.

Magnus played with his food for a couple of seconds and he seemed distant. It was ironic, since for moment Alec felt like they were alone in the world, just the two of them for an instant before the words came out of Magnus’ mouth and everything went to hell. “I think I want to get back to dating again,” Magnus finally said, confirming Alec’s fears.

The relief of knowing he was right felt like a stab through the heart. Alec pushed his lips together and cursed himself. He should never had told Magnus he was okay with they stopping what they were doing, because he wasn’t. He so wasn’t.

But now it was too late. “Okay,” Alec said weakly, because there was no other answer he could give. “It’s over then.”

Magnus nodded, and although Alec’s eyes seemed sewed on his face, he never looked up from his plate. “I… I want to stay friends.”

“Of course,” Alec said, a little harsher than he intended to. He bit into his kebab, chewing without even recognizing its favour. It just tasted bitter. “Do you have anyone in mind?” He asked, though he really didn’t want to know. But if he wanted Magnus to feel like that wasn’t going to shake their friendship, though, Alec would have to get over himself. “For dating, I mean.”

Something in the way that Magnus shrinked in his seat made Alec grew suspicious. If there was anyone new, he would’ve told him already. Magnus knew Alec preferred to deal with hard truths rather than with soft lies, but above all he hated not knowing. He wouldn’t torture him with keeping any secrets, because he knew Alec wouldn’t judge him for finding someone more interesting than himself.

Unless… Unless that was someone he knew Alec would have a problem with. And there was only one person Alec had a problem with.

“Tell me it’s not Camille,” Alec said, not bothering to hide the reprehension in his voice. It couldn’t be. Not after what she’s done.

But when Magnus just stared blankly at him, mouth opening and closing with no sounds coming out of it, Alec knew he was right. “Oh my God,” he exclaimed in dismay. “You weren’t working yesterday night. You went to see her. That’s why you couldn’t meet me. She probably told you some lame excuse and you bought it. And then you were too ashamed to call me afterwards.”

Something shifted on Magnus’ face and he went from guilt to anger in a heartbeat. “I don’t have to explain myself to you, Alexander.”

“Were you with her today?” Alec ignored him, voice tight in his throat. “Is that why you showed up so late? Why you’re not hungry? You’ve already had lunch with her.” There was no response, and that was response enough anyway. “Oh my God, Magnus,” Alec breathed out.

Magnus swallowed hard and kept quiet, and that was the worst part of it. Magnus Bane was passion in human form, a force of nature to be reckoned with. Whenever they fought, and they fought a lot, Magnus would talk back and stand his ground. If he didn’t agree with something, he would say it. Alec could handle hours of arguing and angry screams.

He could not handle this passiveness though. And that was what Camille did to Magnus, she turned him into someone he was not, made him helpless and vulnerable and insecure.

Alec wanted to shout at him and make him wake up. He wanted to hug him and shield him from Camille’s influence. He wanted to yell at him until the real Magnus surfaced through that wall of resignation.

Instead, he just breathed in again. “You know what? It’s your choice.” Alec gritted his teeth and tried to remember Isabelle’s words. He had gone to her numerous times for advice on how to help Magnus open his eyes, and his sister had always told him the most he could do was to be there for his friend when he finally did.

Magnus looked at him, half afraid. Magnus Bane, afraid. Alec felt like punching something. “I knew you would be angry.”

“I am,” Alec admitted because there was no denying it. “But it doesn’t matter. We’re still friends, so I’m not giving up on you just because you’ve decided to date Satan. Someone has to be there to pick up the pieces when she inevitably breaks your heart again.”

“She won’t this time,” Magnus said in all certainty. “I know you don’t want to hear it and maybe you won’t even believe me, but yesterday I went there to tell her that we were through. That I was over her and that she was to stop calling me. I got there and it was like she had finally come to her senses. She apologized, not only for the last time, but for all of the others. It was like the Camille I met eight years ago was there, talking to me. The fierce wanna-be actress that didn’t take shit from nobody, who took things on her own hands and shaped them to her liking. The Camille I fell in love with.”

Alec felt sick. He knew Magnus was being completely sincere and that was what hurt the most. How much Magnus wanted to believe the words coming out of his mouth. How much he wanted them to be true. In his infinite generosity, Magnus would sometimes lose himself in trying to see the best in everyone. Even in those who had no good in them.

“Okay,” Alec said carefully, weighing his words. “And what now? Are you two back together? How long is she going to stay this time? Is she renting an apartment or staying with you for free again?”

Magnus smiled brightly, so completely delighted that it was hard to Alecto keep facing him. “She actually bought a flat up town. She said she’s decided to move here once and for all. But, well, I’m not stupid, so we’re taking things slow. But hear this; she wants to meet you.”

Alec felt his heart skip a beat. “What?”

Giggling, Magnus chewed on a french fry. “I told her all about you, of course! And Camille is now dying to meet the famous lawyer from Columbus. We’re actually hosting a get-together at my loft on Saturday night. She wants to see all of my friends. Isn’t it great? I don’t remember the last time that happened.”

Because it never did, Alec wanted to scream. Whenever Magnus got back together with Camille, he would vanish from his friend’s lives until the subsequent breakup. Alec had heard Ragnor and Catarina comment on that before, and there was a reason Raphael clenched his teeth at the mere sound of that name.

“I’ll be there,” Alec grunted. “But now I have a meeting to attend.”

“Off you go,” Magnus said with a chuckle, but took Alec’s hand before he could get up. “I’m just… I’m happy, Alexander. I really am.”

Alec stared at the thankful smile on his friend’s face and sighed. He squeezed Magnus’ hands and turned away, running to an imaginary meeting before he couldn’t hold back what he wanted to say any longer.

---

Magnus Bane was happy. His year had started in an unusual manner, with his little shenanigans with Alec and the four months that it lasted were fun, and exciting, and one of the sexiest thing he had ever done in his life.

And if that wasn’t great enough, Camille had come back to him and was willing to really take a chance on them. He had been terrified that breaking the news to Alec would ruin them, but the lawyer took it remarkably well. Magnus was not disappointed by the lack of protest at all, because he already knew Alec saw him solely as a friend, so that was just a confirmation that if he wanted love, he had to look for it elsewhere.

So, he placed his bets on Camille. Magnus knew very well the risks of entrusting her with his heart once again, but truth be told, that sometimes seemed like his only option. No matter how many times she disappeared, Camille would always come back to him. More importantly, Camille seemed willing to do whatever it took to prove him she loved him back this time. She didn’t request to stay at his place, she didn’t make any invitations to shopping that ended up with Magnus paying for the whole thing.

Instead, Camille suggested a get together with all of Magnus’ friends and none of hers. It turned out to be all kinds of awkward and uncomfortable as Ragnor and Catarina refused to acknowledge any of her various attempts to make conversation. Raphael didn’t even show up while Tessa and Jem went home early. Will made a ton of comments that were borderline offensive and Alec spent the night talking in low grunts and monosyllabic sentences, and only when directly addressed.

The Chairman also did not help. He hissed at Camille the moment she walked into the apartment and refused to let her touch him, jumping on Alec’s lap every time she tried to pet him. At some point, Magnus was sure his cat was doing it out of spite.

The night had been such a disaster, Magnus thought Camille was going to dump him on the spot. To his immense surprise and delight, she behaved beautifully and told him she understood his friend’s actions towards her and didn’t blame them on him at all. Not even for the fact that Alec refused to get a hint and leave, and Will had to quite literally drag him out of the apartment when everyone else had already gone home.

After that, things between them had been growing strong. When she wasn’t going on auditions, Camille would surprise Magnus at his office and bring him small gifts, like a portrait with a picture of herself for him to have or treat him for dinner after a particularly stressful day. That kind of pampering was unheard of and it usual went the other way around, so Magnus was more than delighted. Camille was even starting to remember the places he liked to frequent and had promised to give them a chance. “For you” she would always say.

Things were great and shaping up to get even better.

But still Magnus didn’t feel as happy as he had since the beginning of the year. The first couple of months had been thrilling and intense, and he remembered going to bed happy with his days, waking up excited for what would come next. He loved going on dates with Camille, like he always did, but there seemed to be something missing every time.

It was probably his friends. Not only Magnus didn’t feel like the he could share his new found happiness with any of them, after that disaster of a night Camille understandably seemed very uncomfortable every time Magnus suggested that they went out with Ragnor or Catarina.

“Why don’t you try that Raphael again? I bet he won’t be as unpalatable,” she would propose instead. Raphael, being Raphael, would just straight up refused to share oxygen with her.

They tried going on a double date with Tessa, Will and Jem, but it went horribly wrong. Camille had a burning hatred of Will and the feeling was mutual. She couldn’t even stand when Magnus was talking alone with him, and after she accused him of hitting on Magnus, Camille had permanently put herself into Tessa’s black list. Not even sweet, patient Jem accepted Magnus’ peace offer, and so he had to cross the three of them out of his list of possibilities. That sparkled their first fight, which ended when Camille pointed out that she had only been trying to protect him, and if he was going to fault her for it, so be it. Magnus felt bad for days after hearing that one.

The only one left was Alec, but Magnus couldn’t bring himself to ask him to come and join them, because it felt like rubbing salt on a wound. Also, he was pretty sure it would end in carnage.

Alec still texted him almost everyday, and albeit it was less frequent than before, he never forgot to respond to anything Magnus sent him. It annoyed Camille to no end that Magnus would sometimes stop their time together when Alec finally answered or sent him the smallest joke, or even if Magnus felt the need to send him an article of archery that he found interesting from time to time.

Magnus never told her about Alec’s and his little predicament, but somehow he thought she knew about it. If she did, though, Camille never said anything. In fact, apart from that first dinner, she never talked about Alec at all. Everytime Magnus mentioned him, she would dismiss the conversation without a hint of interest, saying she had always found lawyers to be boring or mixing him up with Will. To her, they looked too much alike. When she grew particularly irritated with the interruptions, she would start texting other people herself and ask Magnus if he liked to be ignored like that as well.

Until one day Magnus stopped kissing her to laugh at something Alec had sent him. Camille was so offended, she began yelling at him and that caught Magnus completely out of guard. She had never done that and certainly she had never accused him of cheating on her, which was all kinds of ironic.

Magnus could’ve taken her throwing accusations at him and even the occasional glass of wine, but when Camille started calling Alec names, he flipped out. He had been ready to leave his apartment to give her time to cool off, but the second she began doing the f sound with her blood red lips, Magnus stood up and told her to leave.

Camille was so astonished, she actually did. She didn’t answer any of his calls for three days after that, not a single one, and Magnus was starting to believe he had chased her away for good when Camille showed up at his office out of nowhere, smile on her lips and a sinful dress that should not be allowed in a professional setting.

“Hello, darling,” she purred as she walked to his desk and laid a hand on her hips. “I’ve missed you.”

Magnus, who had been on a call with a client, frowned. “Malcom, I’m going to have to call you back.” He put down the phone and frowned. “You’ve been ignoring me for three days now.”

Camille gasped, offended. “Of course not, dearest. I was giving you time to calm down, since you were very agitated.” She didn’t give him the chance to protest and picked up an envelope from her purse. “In the meantime, I had an idea that will do us good. I bought us tickets to a trip to Peru for the 4th of July.”

Something twisted inside of Magnus’ stomach. Camille never spent money on him. At least, not that much money. A small gift here and there, yes. Sometimes. She was trying to apologize, in her own way. Only… “I can’t go to Peru. I was deported the last time I went there and they cancelled my visa. I thought I’ve told you that.”

“Oh, Magnus,” Camille sighed in frustration. “I’m really trying here. After you yelled at me, I wasn’t sure I should be, but things have been so good otherwise… But this won’t work if only one of us is trying.”

Magnus blinked, not quite believing what he was hearing. “I… Ragnor…. Ragnor invited Cat and I to go spend the holiday at his house in London. I’m sure he’ll be fine with you tagging along if I ask him.”

Camille pushed her lips together, arching one perfectly done eyebrow up. “You know your friends don’t like me. How about a compromise? I can change the trip to Paris. It’s our city, isn’t it? The one we used to say we were going to move to when we become famous. You might have given up on your dreams and settled as headhunter, dear, but I’m still keeping faith to our promise. Besides, how expensive could it be to change destinations?”

It wasn’t always that Magnus found himself at a loss of words. He had already told Ragnor and Cat that he was going with them, and he had been looking forward to that trip as a chance to reconnect with his friends for weeks now. Besides, he loved London and a change of air was in need.

But Camille had paid for the trip, she was offering it as an apology. And she was right, it took two to tango. “Paris sounds lovely,” Magnus said and tried to focus on her smile. Whenever he and Alec fought, Alec’s smile when they made peace made everything worth it.

Camille’s smile wasn’t much more than a smirk, though. Not very encouraging. “Perfect. I’ll text you the details, then. Oh, I know you forgot to ask, but I think I got the part for that commercial I auditioned a few days ago. In a few weeks, my face will be on every billboard in the city.” Her smirk grew more cynical. “Just a feeling.”

Something in the way she said that sent a cold chill through Magnus’ body. Before he could say anything, though, Camille leaned forward and locked their lips together. She smiled at him as she pulled away as quickly as she started it. “We’re meant to be, Magnus. You and I, we’re one and the same.” She chuckled to herself and exited the room without saying anything else.

Magnus knew he should be over the moon. Camille had not only apologized, she bought an international trip for both of them. She was investing in their relationship, factually so. It wasn’t like her to spend money on something she would throw away without a second thought.

But then why did he feel like crying?

---

“Hey, Alec,” Raj called from the office’s door. “I’m leaving, okay? I have to catch my plane in less than three hours.”

Alec looked up from his computer and nodded. “All right. Have a safe trip, Raj.”

Raj smiled a little. There were the last ones in the floor, since half of the lawyers of Idris LLP had already gone to enjoy the holiday. Lydia had taken the week off to go to Portugal with her boyfriend and meet his family and Raj was going back to his hometown. “You too. What time does your plane leave?”

“There’s still a few hours.” Alec checked the clock. “It’s a short flight anyway, I hope it pass by fast.”

“It will. Tonight you’ll be dining with Jace and Izzy and Max,” Raj said confidently. Along with Lydia, they had been working overnight to revert the Aldertree case, which meant lots of complaining and forced bonding. Alec knew more about Lydia’s and Raj’s life than he cared to think of and it went the other way around too. “But hopefully, it will be a take out and not something your sister cooked.”

Alec chuckled fondly. “I hope so. See you in a few days.”

“See you.” Raj nodded him goodbye and left.

With the entire floor deep in silence, Alec wondered if he should just wrap up the petition he had been struggling to write and head home. Maia should be at her boyfriend’s and Lily was also going out of town. The rest of building would be just as empty.

At this time, Magnus should be picking up Camille to drive to the airport. Alec still couldn’t believe he had backed out from his trip with Ragnor and Cat in order to go to Paris with her. It didn’t sound like something Magnus would do, not in his right mind. Magnus never put his romantic relationships before his friends. Especially not his oldest, most dear friends who have been there for him since the start.

Camille was a parasite, sucking out everything Magnus held dear from him. If only there was something Alec could do…

His thoughts were interrupted when his phone started buzzing and Magnus’ smiling face appeared on the screen. Alec frowned before picking it up. “Hello,” he said, a bit confused. It had been weeks since they last spoke on the phone.

“She’s gone.” Magnus’ voice sounded hollow, almost robotic. “She left a note in her apartment saying she’s gone to Paris with somebody else.” Whatever steel there was left to Magnus’ resolve, it broke. His next words weren’t barely louder than a whisper. “She left me again.”

Mixed feelings didn’t begin to cover what Alec felt when the words made sense. “Magnus, where are you? I’m coming to pick you up.”

“N-no, darling.” Magnus snorted bitterly, weak sniffing resounding every time he tried to catch a breath. “I just… I called to let you know you were right. When you said she would break my heart again. Inevitably, you said. You were right, of course. I don’t know what I did this time… Everything was going smooth and then she just… I should’ve listened to you.” He sighed, and judging by his voice, the tears were already there. “I should’ve listened to everyone.”

Alec felt his heart tightening inside his chest. He had exchanged numerous texts with Ragnor and Catarina full of concern for Magnus, but no one knew what to do about it. Raphael’s suggestion to arrange an accident for Camille was never welcomed, no matter how many times he made it or how passionately Will endorsed it. Everyone had agreed to just keep an eye on Magnus and only interfere if he asked them to, like Jem proposed.

Alec and Tessa had been debating the exact definition of ‘interfere’ since then and they had decided that Alec sending Magnus texts everyday did not apply and therefore was allowed.

Typing on his computer, Alec decided he was done squirming around excuses. “I’m leaving Idris right now and coming to get you. Tell me where you are.”

Magnus inhaled sharply on the other side of the line. When he spoke, the hurt was the first thing Alec heard. “I want to be left alone, Alexander. This is bad enough as it is, I don’t want you to-”

“Magnus,” Alec said firmly, not caring to hide his annoyance. “Where the fuck are you?”

Whatever was implicit in the question, Magnus seemed to understand it. He told Alec the address in a weak, but resigned voice, matching Alec’s fierce determination. “You can’t just come here and take me to buy ice cream for me to bury myself under, darling.” Magnus said in an attempt of self deprecation that fell flat on Alec’s ears. “You have a flight to catch.”

“We have a plane to catch,” Alec corrected him, sending the email. “I’ve just booked a seat for you in my flight to Columbus. You’re coming with me.”

The silence that came from the other side of the line was very telling. Magnus breathed in deeply. “I couldn’t, I-”

Alec shook his head, completely aware Magnus couldn’t see him doing it as he walked to the nearest subway station. “You have a suitcase with you anyway, right? Columbus is no Paris, but we have free food, fireworks, and my fashionista sister who has been dying to meet you ever since I gave her that necklace you chose.”

“You should be a salesman, Alexander, because I’m totally buying it.” Magnus chuckled a little and that made the day seem ten times brighter than seconds prior. “Won’t your family mind though?”

Alec smiled a bit. “What? That I brought a boy home? Probably. But I’ve told everyone I had a glittery friend that forced me to buy new clothes, because apparently I wasn’t a real New Yorker until I had my first makeover, whatever that means.” Magnus’ guilty chuckle sounded again and Alec’s smile grew accordingly. “It’s like they know you already.”

“Still… It’s a family holiday.” Magnus sounded unsure, but he was half-way in. Alec could feel it.

“Come on,” he decided to go with the coup the grace. “My brother will have Clary, Izzy will have Simon. If I show up by myself, I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Magnus laughed. “Oh, I see. Someone needs a fake boyfriend. First we had sex and no romance. Now you want romance and no sex. Make up your mind, Alexander.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Alec tried to sound serious, but he couldn’t help laughing too. “I want my best friend back.”

When Magnus sighed, Alec knew he had won the war. “All right. They say the countryside is beautiful this time of the year.”

Alec just laughed and shook his head, getting into the subway station. Three hours later, they were landing on Columbus. Alec had met Magnus and took him to mandatory drinks before they hit the airport. Thankfully, he didn’t need to bring much besides his wallet and phone, so they had time to chill before boarding the plane. Magnus fell asleep as soon as they took off and he was out for most of the flight sleeping on Alec’s shoulder.

Just as expected, Hodge was there waiting for them. He picked up Magnus suitcase with a small knowing smile and guided them to the car, asking Alec the usual welcoming questions. Growing up, Alec had spent more time with the family driver than in the presence of his parents, so it was no wonder Hodge grasped the picture quickly enough. After Izzy, Hodge had been the second person Alec admitted he was gay to.

If there was someone Alec didn’t mind picking them up and listening in as he told Magnus about the city, it was Hodge. Whatever Magnus and him were, and Alec genuinely called it friendship as it stood, having Hodge’s silent support helped him cope with their less than ideal situation.

The ride home went smoothly and Magnus seemed way too impressed with the city. It was a bit offensive, considering Alec had showed him pictures of it before. Magnus insisted on keeping a disappointed pout on his lips as Alec grinned about the fact that the headhunter couldn’t deny Columbus was a city after all.

Once they passed through the ranches that separated downtown from the suburbs, though, Magnus exclaimed smugly. “Ha! I see cows! And grass! And fields!”

“Good for you.” Alec rolled his eyes and he was not feeling betrayed by his home state. He wasn’t.

Magnus smirked at him. “And you said you weren’t a country boy! Liar liar, pants on fire, Alexander.”

Alec glared at him. “I’m not. My parents live in the suburbs and I grew up there, but we hardly ever went to the family property.”

That caught Magnus’ attention, judging by his intense blinking. “Family property?”

“The Lightwood name is very traditional in the corn industry,” Hodge informed. “The family owns half of the productive lands up state.”

Magnus frowned and threw Alec an inquisitive look. “I thought you came from a family of lawyers.”

“Mother is a lawyer.” Alec shrugged and fidgeted with the rim of his shirt. He didn’t like talking about that. “She had already been one when she married my father, and she didn’t want to stop working, so she didn’t.”

“And what does your father do?” Magnus asked. It was funny that they had never talked about Alec’s family in depth. He knew Jace was a famous football player and that Izzy was finishing her residence and getting her medical degree, but aside from Alec’s problems with his mother, they rarely spoke of his parents at all.

Alec cocked his head to the side. Truth be told, he barely knew what his father did. Robert spent most of his time up state, in one of their farms or the other. When Alec was a kid, he remembered seeing his father around the house more, but a few years after Max’s birth, Robert became more of a ghost than a father. Alec didn’t even know if he would be there for the holiday. Maryse he knew wouldn’t, at least for the most part. She had rented an apartment in town, much closer to her office and that didn’t require losing time bonding with her children.

With some luck, they would only have to see his parents at dinner one day. Alec sighed. “He takes care of the family business, basically.”

Magnus nodded, getting the hint. He stared through the car’s window, watching the sky turn dark and leaning his shoulder against Alec’s comfortably. When Hodge pulled over at the Lightwood manor, Magnus blinked and shot Alec a bewildered look. “This is your childhood house? This palace?”

Alec looked at his parent’s house. It was big, to say the least, and it had its charm in a colonial way. He remembered spending hours sitting on the ceiling with Jace, talking or studying or just watching the sky. They climbed up the windows and hid from their tutors until Izzy found them. “Yeah. Here is where I grew up.” He pointed a few houses down the street. “That is where I was living with Jace and Izzy before someone convinced me to move away. We sold the house and they moved to the city. For the holiday, we’re all staying at my parent’s. They’re not here, though. We have the house for ourselves.”

“I always forget you come from money,” Magnus sighed. They walked out of the car and Magnus looked at the streak of perfect houses that vanished into the horizon, partly incredulous and part astonished. “Which is ridiculous, considering I stalked you for over three months.”

Alec snorted. “You still do. Nobody else likes my pictures of the sky on Instagram. Especially the ones I took four years ago.”

Magnus dismissed the comment with a flourish of his hand and was about to retort when the front door opened and Isabelle stormed out of it. “Big brother!” She squealed and ran to hug Alec, laughing when he lifted her from the ground. “I missed you so much!”

“Izzy,” Alec breathed out, hugging her tight. “I missed you too.” She put her back carefully not to hurt her. Even at home, Isabelle were high stilettos. She looked beautiful, not a single hair out of place. Of course, Alec could see underneath all her makeup the dark circles from the lack of sleep, but as long as her eyes kept shining with excitement, he wasn’t concerned.

Isabelle turned to Magnus with a huge smile. “You must be the famous Magnus Bane my brother has talked so much about.”

“Not half as much as he talks about you, I guarantee,” Magnus smiled and kissed her cheek. “It’s so nice to finally meet the doctor slash fashion icon slash badass sister.”

“Likewise, headhunter slash bamf slash best friend.” Isabelle winked at him and pointed to the necklace she was wearing. “Slash jewelry expert! I love this so much. I used it almost everyday.”

Magnus smiled even more, gesturing largely to the huge red gem. “You make it look so good.”

“I know, right?” Isabelle giggled and locked arms with Magnus, dragging him inside the house. Alec followed after thanking Hodge and carried Magnus’ suitcase inside. “I was so excited when Alec said he was bringing a friend! That is what you two are, right? Friends? Or did the flight do the trick and I can add a male prefix to it?”

“Very much friends,” Magnus chuckled, letting himself be carried inside. Isabelle treated him with a tour around the house, making sure to point out each and every corner in which Alec had done something embarrassing on their way. They stopped by the bedroom corridor so Alec could drop Magnus’ stuff on the room right in front of his. Isabelle and Magnus chatted incessantly all the way, immediately getting along.

Alec watched them in silence, growing suspicious by the minute. He had told his siblings what was happening between Magnus and him; in fact, they were the sole reason he agreed not to make them a secret, since he wouldn’t be able to lie to them anyway. When he told Isabelle Magnus had gone back to Camille, he could feel murderous vibes coming from the phone.

And now there she was, being a gracious host and all that shit. Something was seriously wrong.

The tour ended when they reached the patio, where Jace and Simon played chess while Clary and Max talked. They only seemed to notice them when Isabelle towered over the chessboard, hands on her hips and a smirk on her lips. “Look who I found at the door!”

“Hey guys,” Alec said with a smile and pointed to Magnus. “This is my friend Magnus, from New York.”

Everyone greeted them and Clary was about to say something, but Simon beat her to it. “Which part of New York?”

“Brooklyn, actually.” If Magnus was bothered by the up and down stairs he was getting, he hid it well.

Clary and Simon shared an excited smile. “We’re from Brooklyn!” She said, standing up. “Simon and I were neighbors, but then my parents moved here. That was before the divorce, of course. A few years later, Simon and his mother came too. But I miss Brooklyn so much.”

“I would too, Biscuit,” Magnus said with a serious nod and soon the three of them were immersed into a deep regionalist discussion, so Alec took the chance to greet his brothers properly. Max was all tight hugs and a billion questions about the comic book stores Alec had been discovering for him, but Jace was more reserved. He got up to hug Alec, but there was a sternness in his gestures that intrigued Alec.

Alec called Magnus to introduce him to them and while Max was his usual quirky self, Jace barely exchanged a word with Magnus. That was extremely rude and not Jace’s style at all, but Isabelle grabbed Magnus by the arm again and offered to show him the garden before he could make any notice, so Alec decided not to make a fuss out of it. Dinner was served not long after that, and they ate at the patio since the weather was great.

Magnus seemed to be having fun. Clary and him had the same artistic vibe and he was quick to answer Simon’s jokes with witty comments that had everyone laughing. He shared a lot of interests with Isabelle and listened to Max’s complaints about the DC movies with surprising interest.

Only Jace seemed immune to his charms. Magnus was busy enchanting the other four, so thankfully he didn’t notice the angry glares Jace thrown at him every time he opened his mouth. That would’ve been bad enough, but then Magnus laid a hand on Alec’s shoulder as he told them a story and Alec was sure he heard his brother snarl.

Thankfully, Isabelle chose that moment to announce she was going to make dessert and everyone groaned loudly, covering Jace’s little outburst. Magnus offered to help and they both excused themselves as he told her about a chocolate truffle recipe he had seen in the internet.

Jace looked straight to Alec. “You shouldn’t have brought him here,” he said angrily and stood up, storming inside the house.

Frowning, Alec looked at Clary and Simon for an explanation, but neither returned his gaze. They seemed too busy looking at everywhere else but at his direction.

Alec gritted his teeth. “Okay. What is going on here?”

Simon blinked innocently. His resolve had always been weaker than Clary’s. “Here in Ohio? Not much, you know. Farmers are farming, businessmen are bussinessing, kids are kidding. Much of the same.” Alec glared at him, not dignifying that with an answer. “Oh, you mean Columbus? There’s this new place where you can play old-school video games for five bucks an hour. Max and I were thinking of checking it out tomorrow, if you want to come.”

“Simon,” Alec warned in a tight voice.

“What? Oh, you mean here as in, in this lovely house. I hear your mother had the kitchen reformed. It looks amazing, very modern with a touch of class. But I guess that was to be expected, since, you know, that’s how you guys do stuff around here.”

Alec turned to his youngest brother. “Max, why is Jace acting like a neanderthal towards Magnus?”

But Max only gasped loudly, in surprise. “Is he? Hm, maybe he has a stomachache. He gets grumpy when he’s sick. Or is that you? I know one of you gets grumpy and the other turns into a baby.”

Sighing, Alec turned to his last option. “Clary, please.”

Clary bit her lower lip, clearly deciding what to do. “I think you should talk to him. Jace is… He’s worried. I’m sorry, it’s really not my place to say more.”

Alec pushed his lips together. It didn’t make sense that Isabelle was being so completely adorable with Magnus when she was the one who cursed him and his entire family on the phone. When Alec told Jace he and Magnus were back to being friends, his brother’s only comment was “his loss” and he quickly changed the subject.

“I’ll talk to him in the morning,” Alec said quietly. Every time they were both spending a few days at the same house, Jace and him would wake up early and go for a run together. It was a tradition they started when Jace decided one day they had to get into shape, or they wouldn’t make the team in high school. Alec, who was already in high school and played basketball, had no intentions of changing disciplines, but he would keep Jace company anyway.

Alec stood up suddenly, startling the other three. “I’m not hungry anymore. Magnus is a great cook, so it’s safe to eat whatever Izzy and him are baking in there. Good night, guys.”

As soon as he got to his room, Alec went for a long shower. He was feeling tired, both mentally and physically. The day had been too long. If he knew that Magnus would be calling him after getting dumped once again by Camille and that Alec would’ve acted out on instinct and brought him along, he wouldn’t have believed it.

But now Magnus was there and apart from Jace, everyone seemed to like him. There was still the big step of introducing him to his parents, but Alec had faith on Magnus’ abilities to charm them as well. Even his mother.

Was it bad that Alec was happy that Camille had broken things up again? He should be feeling sorry for Magnus, but he wasn’t. That was how one was supposed to do when they saw their friend heartbroken, right?

Sighing, Alec got out of the shower and put on one of his oldest shirts. It felt good wear his old clothes, the ones he left behind to start a new life. It felt safe, though not seducingly so. It was like hugging Izzy; a moment of comfort that propelled him forward.

The whole bedroom felt like that. Sitting on his old bed, Alec smiled a little to himself. Despite how confusing his personal life got, and it was fucking confusing, he didn’t regret his choice to move away. Home would always be home, but the concept was big enough to accommodate both Columbus and New York.

In the morning, he was going to settle things with Jace and everything was going to fall back into place. Alec smiled and laid on his back, closing his eyes. A bit of sleep would do him good.

Only, sleep never came. Alec rolled on his bed for almost over an hour, his mind going to a hundred places and none at all. He finally gave up and decided to go check on Magnus. If the day had been taxing for Alec, he couldn’t begin to imagine how it gone for him.

He found Magnus was already in bed, but he too wasn’t asleep. He had no makeup on as he told Alec to come in and was wearing a silk pajama that was way too fashionable to the simple task of sleeping.

“Hey,” Alec said and closed the door behind him. “How are you doing?”

Magnus smiled at him and put his kindle aside, tapping on the bed to invite Alec to sit. “I’m okay, but mostly because I ate too much. I don’t know why you all think Isabelle can’t cook. It was the best dessert I had in years.”

Alec arched an eyebrow at him and sat at the end of the bed. “Are you sure my sister was involved in baking it?”

“Well, she was there at the kitchen while I baked it.” Magnus shrugged. “That’s involvement for you. I bet it was one of the hundreds of sweet childhood stories she told me about you that leveled up the sugar. She’s really into the fake boyfriend scheme, acting like my sister in law and all. We should totally revisit the plan. I don’t want to disappoint her.”

Snorting, Alec shook his head. “Izzy should mind her own business.”

“Biscuit told her that, after you were gone and left me behind,” Magnus said without bothering to hide the accusation in his voice. “And Isabelle told her that when you and I marry, it will be her business because she’ll be the wedding planner. Can’t argue with that logic.”

“I’ve given up arguing with Izzy when I was fourteen.” Alec sighed and gestured the kindle lying between them. “What were you reading?”

Magnus did something he rarely did. He blushed. “Hm. It’s just a book.”

Alec frowned and arched an eyebrow at him. “That is usually what people read, yes. But which book? Maybe I know it.”

“It’s just some book, Alexander.” Magnus insisted, a bit too restrained.

They stared at each other in silence for a second, and then they both moved. Alec was quicker though and he grabbed the kindle, unlocking it. Magnus should really re-think his password, because meow wasn’t a very good one.

Alec’s jaw dropped. “A Storm of Swords. You’re reading a Song of Ice and Fire.” He blinked, staring at Magnus blankly. “This is the third book, Magnus.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “Surprisingly enough, I know. That is usually what people do, they read the third after they read the first and the second ones.” Alec was still too shocked to speak anything coherent, so Magnus groaned. “The idea was to read all of them and impress you, okay? Maia is doing the same because of Lily.”

Alec smirked a bit. “Is she?” Maia was not a book girl. She loved movies and series, but reading wasn’t one of her favorite activities in the world.

“She isn’t,” Magnus admitted bitterly. “You totally busted me. Congrats. Now wipe that grin off your face and give me back my kindle. I’m on a Sansa chapter and she’s my favorite.”

Alec laughed and obliged, but he was too excited to just leave. “I told you you’d love her in the books.”

Magnus rolled his eyes again, the fond smile on his lips betraying his annoyed act. “You were right, Alexander. I admit it.” He looked at Alec and sighed, lifting the blanket that was covering him. “Come here. I know you can’t sleep. I can see it in your face, like that night before the seminar Imogen wanted you to give for the new guys.”

Obliging, Alec crawled over to him and sat next to Magnus under the blanket. Magnus pushed them both to lay down and gave the kindle to Alec, leaning his head against his shoulder. “Read it to me,” Magnus said, closing his eyes as he got comfortable.

Alec nodded and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him closer. Magnus felt warm against his skin, and it was soothing. He began reading, his fingers tangling in Magnus’ hair as the familiar words came out of his mouth. Alec only stopped after he was sure Magnus was sound asleep in his arm, his breathing calm and regular and peaceful.

And then he closed his eyes, falling asleep as well.

---

When Magnus woke up, he was feeling light. After the emotional rollercoaster of the day before, it was a miracle he could feel that well-rested. He stretched a bit and felt a sting of absence burst his perfect morning bubble when he realized Alec was nowhere to be seen.

Magnus was pretty sure Alec had been there though. Not only because he literally had fallen asleep on him, but also because when Magnus woke up in the middle of the night, Alec was still there, hugging him tight. If it was not for Alec’s soothing heartbeat resounding against his ear, Magnus wouldn’t have been able to fall back to sleep.

As he sat up, Magnus caught sight of his kindle on the side table. There was a small note over it, where Alec’s handwriting read Good morning! I went out for a run with Jace. Breakfast is served where we had dinner yesterday :)

Snorting, Magnus picked up the note and stared at the smiley face. Alec hardly ever used emojis in his texts, much less wrote them by hand. Maybe it was the familiar air making him loosen up a bit.

After a quick bath and doing his face, Magnus found the way to the patio with little effort. The house was big but very functional, so it was easy to navigate through its many corridors. It was easy to imagine a younger version of Alec growing up there, sitting in one of the many chairs or running after his siblings.

When he reached the patio, Magnus found Clary and Isabelle already there, sharing a piece of strawberry cake.

“Good morning, girls,” he said as he sat in front of them. Under the morning lights, the vast garden looked beautiful with its bright colors shining through.

They both smiled at him. “Good morning,” Isabelle said. “Did you sleep well?”

“Marvelously,” Magnus purred and poured himself some coffee. “I wonder how was it to grow up in a movie scenario.”

“Well, I’m spoiled and entitled, so not very good.” Isabelle chuckled as Clary shook her head.

“You are neither of those things, Iz,” she said. “Which makes this even more unfair, because it’s ridiculous that you all grown up to be decent human beings who work hard to achieve their dreams.”

Magnus sighed. “I know, right? Alexander stays in the office after scandalous hours. I’ve lost count of the Saturday mornings I saw him working from home as well. It’s so annoying that the Lightwoods are not only beautiful and rich, they are responsible and ethical too. There has to be something wrong with you people.”

Isabelle smirked and took a sip from her coffee. “We put family and friends before all, and that can be a little bit of a conundrum sometimes.”

Clary rolled her eyes. “Now you’re just praising yourselves and passing it as a complaint.”

Shrugging, Isabelle just laughed. “You’re going to be a Lightwood soon, so consider that everything being said here extents to you too.”

Magnus smiled. “Oh, did Jace propose?”

Clary blushed a bit and shook her head. She had a shy, but brave smile on her lips. “I’m going to propose.”

“And he’ll totally say yes!” Isabelle exclaimed excitedly.

Magnus nodded. “He’d be a moron not to.” He looked through the rich table in front of him, but didn’t find what he wanted. “Is there cream?”

“In the kitchen,” Isabelle informed. “Simon is the only one who likes cream on his coffee, so we usually leave it for him to get it once he wakes up. But I can go get some for you.”

She was starting to get up as she spoke, but Magnus stopped her with a flourished movement. “Oh no, darling. Let me. You two stay put.” He winked at the girls and swiftly found his way to the kitchen. He was starting to get used to that after making chocolate truffles with Isabelle the night before.

Magnus turned on the right corner, but stopped before entering the kitchen as he heard very altered voices coming from there.

“Yes, Alec, I am angry. I can’t believe you!” Jace was saying in a rush of rage.

“What?” Alec asked just as fiercely. “What did I do?!”

“You brought him here!” There was a pause, in which Magnus was sure Alec was too dumbfounded to speak, so Jace continued. “You brought Magnus here, to our house. And you’re acting like it’s all right. Like he didn’t break your heart. You’re acting like you guys are still friends and there’s nothing wrong.”

“I’m not acting, Jace. Magnus and I are friends.”

“Bullshit! You don’t want to be friends with him, don’t try to deny it. I can see it in your face. I can’t stand seeing him touching you, laughing at your jokes, finishing your sentences. You let him do all of that stuff, and you do it too, but I can see it hurts you. I’m angry because you’re hurting, and he’s the reason why.”

Magnus felt his heartbeat racing inside his chest. He leaned against the wall, incapable of moving. Rationally, he knew he had to go. That conversation was not meant for him to listen in, he had no right to be witnessing it.

But he couldn’t leave. Not until he heard Alec’s answer.

And it came, cynical and dripping with venom. “You got it wrong, Jace. I’m not the heartbroken one, Magnus is. He’s the one hurting. He’s the one that walked into a trap with open arms. Do you want to know why I brought him here? Because he had nowhere else to go. He dismissed his friend’s offer to travel abroad in favour of his ex girlfriend and got dumped hours before boarding the plane. I couldn’t just let him rot at New York all by himself. He has no one.”

There was nothing new in what Alec said. Absolutely nothing. Both Ragnor and Cat had used some of those words to warn Magnus before. Heartbroken. Hurting. Trap. Magnus knew that discourse by heart. He knew it was right too; if he hadn’t backed down from Ragnor’s offer, he would be in London right now, happy and with his oldest friends in the world. His real family.

But no. He had chosen Camille, and now he was paying for it. He had no one to turn to and Alec, sweet gentle Alec, had taken pity on him. So much so, he had allowed Magnus to intrude in his family holiday, one of the few opportunities he had to be with his loved ones since Magnus had taken him away from them.

Pity. That was what Alec felt for him.

“So you’re not in love with him?” Jace asked distrustfully, but considerably less angry.

“I’m worried about him, that’s what I am.” Alec sounded serious and detached, like he was when they talked about the rules they had settled for their relationship. But there was also a hint of sadness to his voice.

Alec said something else, but by then Magnus was too far away to distinct the words. He couldn’t hear anymore. After what had happened the night before, he had thought that maybe, just maybe, he had been wrong when he thought Alec would never want anything else with him. They had spent an entire night together in each other's arms, fully clothed and whispering until they both fell asleep.

It had been the best night Magnus had had in years. And it had been an illusion.

Bright lights caught Magnus off guard and he stopped as he walked into the patio. His legs must have brought him there, because he wasn’t really thinking where he was going. He was shaking a little and probably crying, because Isabelle’s and Clary’s worried expressions were blurred when they looked at him.

“Magnus, what happened?” Clary asked and rushed to him.

“I… I should go.” Magnus breathed out and started to search in his pockets for his phone. “I can’t stay here.”

Isabelle, who had caught up to them, frowned. “What? Magnus, calm down.” She pushed a glass of water into his shaking hands. “Tell us what happened.”

“No, I…” Magnus’ mind was a whirl of thoughts, but he swallowed hard and tried to gave the girls a reassuring smile. “I’m fine. I just remembered I have a lot of things to do back home. Work. I really have to go.”

Clary shook her head. “It’s the Fourth of July, Magnus. Nobody is working today, and certainly not you.”

“It’s for Monday, Biscuit. I really can’t stay.” Magnus breathed out, ignoring how strangled he sounded. At least the tears stopped coming.

Isabelle twisted his mouth and sighed in resignation. “Clary and I will drive you to the city. There’s a bus station there. We can wait until Alec and Jace are back from their running and then we can go.”

“There’s no time.” Magnus shook his head a little too emphatically. “I’ll text Alexander on the way. I just… I need to go.”

Clary looked from Isabelle to him, and nodded. “All right, then let’s go.”

In the state that he was, Magnus completely forgot about his suitcase. All he had was his wallet and his phone, and that was more than enough to buy a bus ticket home. He wasn’t shaking anymore in the quiet twenty-minute drive to the city, and that was good. He was thirsty though, and he cursed inwardly as he remembered the glass of water he had left behind, untouched.

Magnus cursed outwardly, though, when they reached the bus station only for him to find out there were no more tickets available to New York. “This is ridiculous! I tried looking for plane tickets too, but there are no seats left anywhere!” He complained when he got into the car again.

Isabelle and Clary had stayed in the parking lot, enjoying the air conditioner. It was insufferably hot, to make things even worse.

Neither girl seemed the least bit surprised. “I guess there’s nothing to be done, then,” Isabelle said in a definitive tone. “I bet you’re hungry. There’s a little bakery down the street that I think you’ll like.”

Magnus, who was indeed growing hungry, groaned. “You did this on purpose.” When both of them just smiled at him, he couldn’t help but chuckle. “Ingenious, girls. If I wasn’t mad at you, I’d be impressed.”

“Thank you,” Clary said cheerfully. “Come on, I didn’t get a chance to finish my breakfast and you haven’t even started yours.”

Magnus sighed in resignation and followed them out of the car. They walked in silence until a charming bakery and he let the girls order their food. He wasn’t in a particularly sharing mood, but after a few sips on his coffee and two croissants, Magnus felt a bit better.

Both Isabelle and Clary chatted about amenities until he finally broke his silence. “Okay, so you two know how Alexander and I, we’re… We’re friends with benefits.”

“Worst idea ever,” Isabelle commented. Clary shot her a reprehensible look, but Isabelle shrugged it off. “What? It is. Alec can barely handle a relationship in the traditional sense. He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word casual.”

Magnus smiled bitterly. “It’s not your brother who has developed unrequited feelings, I’m afraid.”

It had gone too far to deny it; Magnus was in love with Alec and he had been for a while. At some point as they fooled around between laughs and kisses, Magnus had fell for him and even Camille’s resurgency hadn’t been strong enough to stop him. Magnus had gone back to her, yes, but out of fear, not love. He had gone to her because she was known territory. She offered familiarity, even if it was painful. Deep down Magnus knew it wasn’t going to work out, no matter how many times he repeated the opposite.

Because Alec had his heart and there was nothing Camille could’ve done to take it from him.

But Alec didn’t love him back, not like this. He was passionate and caring in bed, but because Magnus was his friend. He cared for him, to the point of bringing him to his hometown without a hint of hesitation just so Magnus wouldn’t be left alone. But he didn’t love him.

Magnus wasn’t enough for Alec.

So it was better to suffer with Camille than to keep dreaming of him. One of them Magnus could have for real, for as long as they would have him. It wasn’t what he truly wanted, but it was better than touching without truly meaning it.

Magnus breathed in and closed his eyes. There were no tears to wash away the sadness, but he knew he couldn’t keep it in any longer. Carefully, as if he was holding glass, he told the girls everything. From that fateful night at Alec’s apartment, to their extraordinary time together, to his decision to get back with Camille, and finally his realization that it didn’t hurt when he discovered her note; it felt right.

It took him a few moments to calm down, but Magnus also told them about the night before and how, in his mind, it seemed to change everything.

Clary cooed. “I had no idea Alec could be this sweet. He read for you?”

“You guys are so married.” Isabelle smiled smugly.

Magnus just sighed. “That was what I thought until I accidently overheard him and Jace talking this morning. Apparently Jace doesn’t like me because he’s under the impression I broke Alexander’s heart, but Alexander was very clear he wasn’t heartbroken, he didn’t even like me that way. He invited me here out of pity.”

Clary’s smile was gone and she seemed at loss, but it was Isabelle who spoke up. “Sorry, I’m not buying it. My brother is in love with you, that’s the only logical explanation.”

“That really isn’t.” Magnus shook his head. “He’s just a very good friend.”

“Okay, I’m Alec’s friend.” Clary pointed at herself, frowning. “And yes, he’s great, if not a bit short tempered and we fight a lot, but even so, we’re friends. Would he call me from another state if I needed someone to talk to? Yes. Would he give me tough love if I was being whiny? Absolutely. Would he invite me to spend the holiday with his family, if I was the one who convinced him to move away and work for his mom’s greatest rival? No. No, he wouldn’t. I’ve only ever seen Alec confront his mother three times. When he came out of the closet, when she was giving Izzy an extra hard time over her prom dress, and when he decided to go to New York. The only reason for which he would risk angering his mother is love. For himself, for his sister, for his convictions. And now, for you.”

Magnus blinked. He knew very little of Clary, other than she was a tiny girl with flaming hair and determination burning in her eyes. Now, he learned she was also wise beyond her years.

Isabelle smiled at her best friend and looked at Magnus with compassion. She held his hand and there was understanding in her voice. “I had a boyfriend once, a guy I was sure I was going to marry. We met in high school and he was perfect. Beautiful, kind, intelligent. When I was with him, I felt like I had found my equal.” She stopped a second and Magnus could see her usually bright eyes turn sad. “But then we graduated, and he didn’t like that I wanted to become a doctor. He didn’t like that I had gotten into pre-med right of the hat, while he had no plans. He didn’t like that I had ambitions of my own.”

That was all too familiar. Magnus remembered the day he told Camille he was beginning a career as a headhunter instead of being an actor like her. He had expected her to be happy he was given a chance in a big agency to do something he was truly good at, but Camille called him a coward and mocked him for giving up on their dream. She couldn’t see that he wasn’t giving up, only his dream had changed. He didn’t want fame anymore, he wanted a happy life in helping others find their dreams as well.

Isabelle kept going. “So he began to put me down, to make me second guess myself. Good thing I had Clary with me, because I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my brothers about it. They liked him. They were friends with him. He got under my skin, he made me wonder if I was good enough. Soon, I was doing anything to prove to him that I was, only to realize he wasn’t worth it. It took me years to believe I deserved someone good. Someone like Simon. I know about Camille, and I think I know why you chose to go back to her. I also know you’re worth so much better.”

Magnus smiled a bit, trying to believe her words. For too long he thought Camille had been right, that she had been pushing him to be better out of love, even if she hurt him in doing it. But Isabelle, confident, intelligent, accomplished Isabelle could have believed in the words of an abusive jerk, could that have happened to him too?

“Thank you, my dear, but you hardly know me.” Magnus shook his head, though not with the certainty he thought he had.

“But I do,” Isabelle said with conviction. “I’ve seen you through my brother’s eyes, I’ve listened about you through his words. Magnus, if you’re half the person my brother sees you as, you’re amazing.” She smiled and maybe there were tears in her eyes, but there were definitely tears in Magnus’. “Even if you and Alec don’t work romantically, I’m glad he has you as his friend, because I sure as hell want to be your friend too.”

Sniffing, Magnus tried wiping out his tears. He smiled at Clary when she offered him a napkin in order to do so and then he laughed, because the whole scene was ridiculous. The three of them crying like little children.

Magnus snorted. “So, what I’m getting from all of this is that I should be afraid of meeting Maryse Lightwood?”

Clary nodded fiercely, suddenly very somber. “Yes, you should.”

Magnus turned to Isabelle, waiting for her to soothe his worries, but all he found was a deadly serious expression. “Do you remember when you asked what was wrong with us Lightwoods? The answer is my mother. And she already doesn’t like you.”

“Why don’t we get back to that part you were talking about how amazing I am?” Magnus asked with a grimace. “I liked that part better. This part of the conversation is making me nervous.”

“Good,” Isabelle said gloomily. “You should be.”

None of that was very encouraging and, hours later, Magnus wasn’t exactly excited to go for dinner with the entire Lightwood family and attachments. He had chosen his best outfit and was finishing his eyeliner when someone knocked on his door.

“Come in, Alexander,” Magnus said as he stared at his work, nodding approvingly. “What do you think?” He twirled at his heels, facing the lawyer.

Alec smiled. “I like it. When did you dye your hair blue?”

Magnus brought a finger to his lips. “I can’t tell you all my secrets. It would ruin the mystery.” He smiled fondly as he took a better look at Alec. He had put some extra effort to look good tonight by wearing a shirt without any holes in it and that, Magnus suspected, had been bought in the last couple of years. He had a nice pair of pants on too, and he had tried to tame his hair. “Someone is looking handsome tonight.”

“Oh.” Alec looked at himself. “Izzy,” he explained shyly and cleared his throat. “So, Hodge is coming to pick us up and bring us to the restaurant where we’re dining with my parents. There we can see the fireworks by the lake. My siblings want to go to the city after that to drink, but it’s up to you. I hope this is okay with you… U-unless you want to stay here? I guess we could cook. There’s food in the house.”

Shaking his head, Magnus began rolling up Alec’s sleeves to his elbows. “I’ve signed up for the entire Lightwood experience. Besides, the food here is amazing, if it gets too awkward, I’ll just stuff my mouth with it.”

“That’s usually how I handle it,” Alec nodded in approvement.

They stayed in silence until Magnus was done and then Magnus stole a glance at their reflexions in the dresser he had been using to do his face. They looked beautiful in his opinion, with Alec wearing dark plain colors that complemented his pale skin while Magnus had opted for a fairer palette to bring out the honey in his complexion.

Were the girls right? Could Alec really be in love with him?

“Come on,” Alec said out of the blue. “Let’s wait with the others.” He turned around and exited the room without giving Magnus time to protest.

Aside from Isabelle, everyone else was already there. After the conversation in the kitchen, Jace seemed to have chilled down the murderous vibes, but he still didn’t seem to like Magnus much. Good thing the others didn’t partake his distaste. Simon and Max were deep in a discussion about some new superhero movie, so Magnus talked to Clary while Alec went to get his sister.

Hodge arrived shortly and of course he was driving a limousine. It seemed that the more time Magnus spent at Columbus, the richer the Lightwoods got. Alec was deep in a conversation with his youngest brother, so Magnus just enjoyed the view until a country club, because naturally that was where they were going to spend the night. He had to have seen that one coming.

Since nobody acted like that was strange, Magnus just followed them into the main saloon, where the restaurant was. The tables were huge, obviously meant for big families, and some of them were already occupied. The maitre guided them to one of the outside tables, where the warm night was soothed by the faintest of breezes.

“Did your parents pay for this weather too?” Magnus asked Alec, making him laugh.

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” the lawyer whispered back, but it was hard to say if he was kidding or not.

They finally arrived to their table, where unmistakingly Robert and Maryse Lightwood were already seated in silence. Robert was the image of a rich middle aged man; half bald and well dressed but altogether not very impressive. Maryse, on the other hand, was the epitome of class in her turquoise envelope dress and high ponytail. Magnus could see the similarity with Isabelle, but the soon-to-be-doctor had none of her mother’s harshness.

“Izzy,” Robert called for his daughter, showing her a huge book, beautifully ornamented. “For you.”

Isabelle blinked and smiled, taking it carefully from his hands. “A cookbook! Are you trying to tell me something, father?”

“Not at all.” Robert smiled too. “You’re perfect.”

As everyone gathered around her to take a look at the book - and some to tease her about her need to learn it by heart -, Magnus felt someone approaching him. He barely had time to face her before Maryse was speaking to him.

“You must be Alec’s friend,” she said sternly, almost like an accusation. “I only became aware of your presence here today, when Alec called to ask for another seat at the table.”

Magnus nodded and smiled as pleasantly as he managed, realizing he was alone facing the beast. “I’m sorry about that, me coming to Columbus was unexpected for me as well. I’m Magnus Bane. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Lightwood.”

Maryse narrowed her eyes at him and Magnus could tell she wasn’t very impressed. “Yes, the headhunter. Tell me, do you make a habit of stealing people’s employees and heirs or was Alec a special case?”

Rationally, Magnus knew he was stepping into a trap. All he had to do was to keep his calm and play it like a joke, because that was what that was. A ridiculous joke.

But Magnus had been having a very bad couple of days, so his patience wasn’t at its peak. “Not a habit as much as my job, actually. But yes, Alexander was a very special case. Imogen was adamant I was to win him by any means necessary.”

Whatever reaction Maryse was seeking, it was clearly not that. Alec was turning to their direction, worry coloring his features, so his mother just cocked her head to the side, lips turned into a thin line. “I see you’ve made some peculiar friends in New York City, Alec.”

“Yes, mother,” Alec said as he stood right beside Magnus. “Magnus is very unique.”

Maryse’s sharp eyes grew smaller. “That I can see for myself.”

They sat down and Magnus couldn’t help but notice Alec had placed himself between him and his mother, very much like a human shield. Isabelle seized everyone’s attention by announcing she had found the perfect wedding dress and the conversation soon turned to that topic, much to Magnus’ relief. Simon freaked out, saying that he couldn’t know about it and so had to endure Jace’s endless mockery.

The food arrived and it tasted as marvelously as it looked. It was a wonder people were thin, but then again, everyone in the Lightwood family looked like a miracle already so Magnus wondered if he should be surprised at all. Robert tried talking to him at some point, but he not only was cleared taken aback by Magnus’ fashion choices, he also lost him the second he began talking about farming and the corn industry. Magnus decided Alec’s father was nice enough and, if he had to choose, he’d prefer to spend hours listening about corn plantations than five minutes under Maryse’s scrutinizing gaze.

Poor Alec had no such freedom to choose, however. His mother has began questioning him on the Aldertree failure, as she called it, and despite Alec’s many remarks that it would be unethical to discuss the case outside the office, she wouldn’t stop inquiring on his methods or the procedures Alec had taken. Magnus knew he was beyond annoyed, but Alec just answered each question with a few cold words, vaguely enough not to breach his confidentiality contract but still seem like he was giving her something.

That took practice and Magnus realized horrified that Isabelle had applied the same technique when her mother questioned her on her choices for her dress. If that was what passed as family conversation at the Lightwood house, no wonder Alec had never been in love. His parents barely exchanged words, despite obviously putting up an effort to look like a couple.

Exchanging words didn’t seem to be Maryse’s forté, if Magnus was being completely honest. She hadn’t so much as glanced at his direction after that adorable introduction and anytime someone tried to include Magnus in the conversation, she seemed set on calling him Alec’s friend. It was annoying even Jace, who hadn’t been one of Magnus’ greatest fans, and an annoyed Jace was an opinative Jace.

“Hey Magnus,” he called, completely talking over Simon as the poor guy tried to tell them a story, “Alec told me you’ve been showing him these cool exotic places to eat in New York. Do you travel a lot?”

Magnus blinked, a little disconcerted by the obvious artificiality of the amicable tone Jace was using, but he wasn’t one to throw away alliances in the face of the enemy. “Oh, yes. It’s one of my passions in life. My family is from Indonesia, so whenever I go back there to visit my mother and my stepfather, I take the time to explore Asia a bit.”

Jace nodded fiercely. “That sounds awesome. Alec and I used to talk about travelling the world one day together. You’ve always wanted to go to one of those spiritual places, right buddy?”

“I… Yes,” Alec said with a frown, clearly trying to grasp what was Jace’s angle with that line of conversation.

“Maybe Magnus could take you the next time he visits his family,” Jace suggested, bi-colored eyes set on Maryse, who gasped in horror.

“Alec is at the beginning of his career,” she said sharply. “He has no time for self-discovering trips. I’m sure his friend can find someone else to take with him.”

There was nothing overly rude on what Maryse had said, nothing that could justify an outburst, but even so, Alec snapped. “My friend has a name. Magnus Bane. And don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing by calling Magnus ‘Alec’s friend’ all night, like he couldn’t possibly be something else. Like you could control our relationship by labeling it at your pleasure. So stop it.”

For a moment, no one said anything and the silence that fell was beyond uncomfortable. Maryse seemed too shocked to speak and there was rage written all over Alec’s face. Magnus never wanted to kiss him more.

Robert cleared his throat. “Son, I’m sure your mother wasn’t trying to imply that-”

“No,” Alec cut him. “You don’t get to play peacemaker, not when you’re never there to witness the war. A gift every time we meet doesn’t change that.” He turned to his mother, who was watching him like a hawk. “You blame Magnus for my choice to go to New York and work for Idris. My choice. He made an offer, but I was the one that took it. And I would again, a hundred times over.” He didn’t stop, not even when his mother tried to speak over him. “I don’t care about what went down between you and Imogen, I honestly don’t, but keep Magnus out of it. You are right, he’s my friend. Magnus is my best friend. He’s an integral part of my life, and that’s not changing anytime soon. If it’s up to me, that’s never going to change at all. So if you have a problem with that, I suggest you deal with it, because neither Magnus nor I have to stand by your rudeness.”

This time the silence was nearly unbearable, so when Alec stood up and exited the restaurant, Magnus didn’t waste time in going after him. Long legs and hurt made it hard for him to keep up with the lawyer’s pace, but finally Magnus caught up Alec when he reached the lake.

“Alexander,” Magnus called, stopping beside him.

“I’m sorry,” Alec burst out. He was shaking. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. I had no idea she would… I didn’t think she would be like that. That she would treat you that way. I’m so sorry, Magnus. I should’ve-”

Magnus shook his head and took Alec’s hands in his. “Darling, as much as I love to watch you be my knight in shining armor, be it against your mother or drunkards in the street, that was not about me. Not in the slightest.”

Alec gritted his teeth, breathing hard. “They never speak of it. Of me being gay. Never. Not even when I was dating. I’m used to it, sometimes I even think that’s better than they hating me for it, or something. If she wants to pretend that doesn’t exist, fine. But she doesn’t get to do that to you. To ignore you. To blame you. Not you, Magnus. I can’t let her hurt you.”

There was such raw emotion on Alec’s voice, much more than Magnus had ever seen coming from him, that it took him a moment to take it all in. It was time enough for Jace and Max to catch up with them, though, so there was no more time for Magnus to say anything as the brothers tackled Alec, throwing him on the ground as they asked him if he was all right.

Isabelle, who arrived a second later with Clary and Simon on her heels, pushed the boys from over him. “Alec, I’m so proud of you,” she said with tears in her eyes and a huge grin on her lips, seconds before she threw herself at him.

Alec laughed and hugged his sister tight, kissing her temple. Magnus helped her up once they let go of each other and squatted down as Alec sat up. “I’m proud too, darling,” he said quietly and received a small smile in response.

“Thank you, guys,” Alec said, first looking at Magnus, but then at his family. “I’m sorry I ruined dinner.”

Simon shrugged. “Who said you ruined it? I mean, the food was incredible, this place is stunning, everyone is wearing their best clothes. It was freaking me out how perfect everything was. We needed at least one family crisis to settle things back to normal. My bet was on Jace, but I have to say Alec, you’re the real MVP.”

The first firework caught everyone by surprise so only Magnus heard exactly where Alec told Simon to shove the MVP title. Soon the black sky lit up with red and blue and yellow and as the lights came, the worries seemed to be chased away to the shadows. Clary and Jace laughed together, pointing at the lights and trying to guess what the next colors would be while Isabelle and Simon hugged each other, her head leaning peacefully on his shoulder, as Max spoke something to them.

Alec turned to Magnus, whispering in his ear. “Thank you for coming.”

“Thank you for bringing me,” Magnus whispered back. He laid his hand over Alec’s and intertwined their fingers together. The sparkling lights colored Alec’s face, but his smile was the brightest thing in the night.

Once the sky became dark again, Isabelle and Jace began preparations to go to the city and discussing the best bar to start the night as they entered the car. Clary told Magnus about the Lightwood bet, which happened during a night Jace and Izzy wanted to get Alec drunk and he ended up outsmarting both of them by pretending to be drinking vodka when in reality he had a glass of water the entire night.

“We should totally try that again,” Jace exclaimed, already a little altered.

Isabelle nodded fiercely. “But this time we pay for the drinks, to make sure it’s actually alcohol.”

“Sorry, guys, but I’m tired,” Alec said, leaning his head against the window and closing his eyes.

“A few more years and you’re finally going to be your mental age.” Max smirked and ignored the glare he received in response.

Alec deadpanned. “I liked you better when you were a kid. There was no sassing then.”

“You really are old,” Max said, astonished. “Next you’ll be saying ‘back in my day, younger brothers respected the older ones’ or something like that.”

“Max, please,” Isabelle scolded him seriously, but then a shit-eating grin took over her face. “You have to speak up or the old man won’t hear you.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “We have to drop Max home anyway. I’ll just stay back.”

“I’ll stay with you,” Magnus said. After the incident at dinner, nobody disputed Alec’s resolve to set the night out aside, so when Hodge pulled over and Alec, Magnus and Max exited the car, Isabelle just told them to have fun. The car was out of sight before Alec had the chance to warn them to be careful.

Max checked his phone and waved at them. “I’m heading to my friend’s. Good night, guys. Use protection. Jace should have some, if you don’t.”

Alec gasped, so scandalized someone could think that was his first time listening to a sex reference. “Max!” was the only thing he managed to say, after opening and closing his mouth a couple of times.

Magnus chuckled fondly. “You have fun at your friend’s.”

“Thanks! You have fun on my brother. Or in. Or under. Whichever.” Max winked and turned away before Alec got over his horrified shock and could do anything to stop him.

“Come on, darling,” Magnus said between a giggle and guided Alec into the house. “I know it’s hard to believe, but even baby brothers grow up.”

Alec shook his head, incredulous, but let himself be dragged in. “He was nine, like, two days ago! Following Jace and I around, asking to come with us when we sneaked out to the city. He’s a baby, Magnus. A baby. He shouldn’t be saying these things.”

“He’s a teenager.” Magnus chuckled. “They are supposed to say inconvenient stuff. It’s in their blood.”

“I didn’t say inconvenient stuff when I was a teenager,” Alec protested, banging his feet against the floor as they crossed the hall to their rooms. “I was well behaved.”

Magnus chuckled and stopped in front of his door. “I’m sure you were. But you shouldn’t wish your boring manners on others, my darling. That’s a horrible thing to do.”

“So you think I’m boring?” Alec raised an eyebrow at him, crossing his arms against his chest.

“I wouldn’t call you a risk-taker, no,” Magnus smirked, daring him to contradict him.

Alec narrowed his eyes at him. “How is this for taking a risk?” He took a step forward, closing the distance between them and effectively pinning Magnus against the door. Their faces were so close, Magnus could feel Alec’s warmth against his skin.

Magnus swallowed hard, eyes never leaving the green on Alec’s irises. They seemed darker, with a hint of expectation. He wondered if his heartbeat should be racing, but for once he felt calm. He felt like having Alec so close to him was right.

No. He wasn’t close enough. Magnus smirked. “You and I both know you can do better than this, Alexander.”

Alec inhaled harshly, and Magnus realized he had been holding his breath. They lips touched, but there was none of the eagerness of the first time they kissed, nor the casualty of second or the third. The kiss was intimate, slow, caring. They already knew each other’s mouths, so there was nothing to explore, only to revisit.

As Alec’s hands rested on the rim of Magnus’ pants, bringing their hips even closer together, Magnus touched Alec’s face, tracing his jawline with the faintest of touches. Magnus didn’t know how long the kiss lasted, but he honestly didn’t care. Not when he was greeted with Alec’s eyes smiling at him like he was everything he ever wanted.

Magnus put one hand away from Alec’s face just to open the door behind him, and they entered the room without ever breaking eye contact. There was nothing else in the world to be seen but each other, so anything else didn’t matter anyway.

Reaching for Alec’s lips again, it was Magnus’ turn to push Alec against the door as it closed behind them. He did it carefully, fingers tangling between the dark hair as he tasted Alec’s mouth once again. It still didn’t feel enough, and Magnus suspected it never would, but it felt like home.

When they parted again, Alec smiled that sweet smile of him, the one from all of those months ago. The smile that had Magnus wonder about him, how could a man so impressive seem so kind. It was as if his strength came from that infinite kindness.

They crossed the room to the bed and Magnus sat Alec down with a weak pull, just to sit on his lap right after that. As Alec’s hand grabbed his hips firmly, Magnus began to work on the buttons of Alec’s shirt, disentangling them one by one, revealing the pale skin inch by inch. Every button that was loosened amounted for a small kiss and soon the shirt was discarded at the floor.

Alec smiled again and kissed Magnus where his jaw met his neck, right beneath his ear. He pulled Magnus’ blouse up, careful not to wrinkle it in the process, and then started working on Magnus’ jewelry, his big hands moving at the back of Magnus’ neck. Alec had helped Magnus put them on so many times before, the scene was a familiar one. One by one, Magnus’ necklaces and earrings were taken off and carefully laid over the blouse.

They never spoke, but they talked with their eyes, their gestures, their smiles. Magnus pushed Alec gingerly and he immediately responded by pulling back and laying on the bed. Magnus climbed on top of him and they repeated the process with each other’s pants.

Once they were completely naked, Magnus grinned and laid on Alec’s side. Out of a sudden, Alec rolled on top of him and Magnus let a carefree laugh escape his lips. “I like your hair like this,” Alec said quietly, playing with the blue strands.

Magnus smiled. “I was the only person in that country club with dyed hair.”

“Were you?” Alec asked, hands tracing down from Magnus’ hair to his shoulders, and then down his arms.

“Didn’t you notice how everyone was staring at me?” Magnus chuckled. “I usually enjoy being the center of attention, but I have to say it was a notch too much. I guess I’ve shocked the high society of Columbus.”

Alec smiled a little bit. “Fuck the high society of Columbus.”

“I intend to,” Magnus said and enjoyed the way Alec’s laugh vibrated through his body. He wrapped Alec’s hips with his legs. “But only after said high society fucks me.”

“Happy to oblige,” Alec whispered, almost to himself, and that sent a chill down Magnus’ spine. He quickly recovered and searched for the lube he left at the side table's drawer, but Alec beat him to it. He spread the content over two fingers, bringing them down to circle Magnus’ entrance.

Magnus shivered with the cold touch, but it soon grew hot, unbearably so. He grabbed the condom package and tore it apart, hands shaking with anticipation. Magnus wrapped his fingers around Alec’s throbbing cock, smiling to himself as he worked the condom down on it.

Alec’s eyes were set on him and Magnus sustained the gaze without blinking, watching the brown and green on them shifting as he breathed through his mouth. Magnus placed a single long kiss on Alec’s mouth and smiled when he was done.

Magnus shivered with the cold touch, but it soon grew hot, unbearably so. “Alexander,” he called, and it was all Alec needed to hear. The introduced the first finger slowly, moving it just enough to give Magnus a taste. The second finger came right away, filling Magnus at the same time that it stretched him.

The third one broke through Magnus’ resistance and he moaned, his voice failing as he squirmed, wanting more. “Come on,” Magnus said between heavy panting. “I want you, Alexander. I’ve missed you. I-”

Alec claimed his lips, kissing him in a way that reduced Magnus to whimpers. The kiss was all Alexander; demanding and caring, fierce and gentle. It was also fire, burning through Magnus’ doubts and fears, leaving only pleasure behind.

Magnus moaned against Alec’s lips in frustration when he felt the fingers slipping away, but Alec barely gave him time to breath before entering him. Magnus gasped, voice broken in desire. It was already perfect, but then Alec took his hand and kissed its back. Magnus opened his eyes, staring at the man he loved steal the last bit of his heart away.

And then Alec began moving and whatever thoughts there were left in Magnus’ mind disappeared. There was only pleasure, and Alec, and happiness. Those beautiful hazel eyes were staring at his soul, intense and burning, and Magnus wouldn’t look away. He never wanted to, not when he could see Alec’s face change with every little reaction he had. Not when he could see in Alec’s eyes how much he wanted him.

How much, at that moment, Alec loved him. And that was all that Magnus wanted.

It didn’t take long for Alec to find the spot that made Magnus forget everything. They came together, not longer after that. Alec collapsed over Magnus, panting and smiling, half exhausted half excited. Magnus kissed his sweaty temple, brushing aside a few stubborn strands of hair.

Without warning, though, Alec got up and entered the bathroom. Magnus had never felt more alone than during the few minutes the lawyer took to clean himself up, but then Alec returned to take care of Magnus. Once he was done, though, Magnus was sure Alec was going to start picking up clothes and return to his own room.

But Alec just dropped the towel on the floor and came back to bed, leaning against Magnus’ shoulder and closing his eyes. “Can you fuck the high society on another night?” He asked, his voice muffled.

Magnus hugged him and chuckled, not wanting to move a muscle. “Yes, darling. Good night, my sweet Alexander.”

“Good night, babe.” Alec smiled and nudged against Magnus’ shoulder, sleeping almost immediately.

Magnus smiled and kissed his temple again, feeling at peace.

---

Their last morning at Ohio was spent in the water, as the day was so unbearably hot, anything else felt like torture. Of course, the Lightwoods had a beautiful pool at their garden, because nothing spoke suburb louder than that.

Magnus had no bathing suits, but Jace lent him a short. They were similar in body than Alec and him, being both strong men while Alec was more slender and tall. Magnus wasn’t a fan of water, not after a childhood incident in which he almost drowned, so he opted to tan with Isabelle and Simon while Alec and Clary fought Jace and Max in pool.

They ate after everyone had showered, which took longer for some than for others. Although Jace and Isabelle teased him mercilessly, Alec did not regret being the last one to show up alongside Magnus. They blamed their lateness at Magnus’ makeup routine, solemnly to be polite, since the headhunter had opted for a simple shimmering highlight over his eyelids and that definitely didn’t take over forty minutes to do.

Leaving his family to go to the airport was as hard as ever, but this time Alec managed not to feel so bad. He was getting back for his sister’s wedding in a couple of weeks and Isabelle made Magnus promise to come along.

“My brother doesn’t have a date,” she confined very, very loudly when they were already inside of Hodge’s car.

Magnus laughed. “He does now!”

The flight back to New York was quietly as Alec slept through most of it leaning on Magnus’ shoulder. They parted on their separate ways once they got the Big Apple, Alec to Manhattan and Magnus to Brooklyn, but only after deciding where they were going for dinner on Friday night.

To say Alec spent the week daydreaming was an understatement. He was frankly distracted, so much so that he didn’t hear it when Lydia marched up to him and dropped a huge file on his desk, successfully making him jump in his chair.

“Earth to Alec,” Lydia called, barely hiding her victory smirk. “We have a case to solve.”

“I’m working on it,” Alec protested as he closed the empty document he was supposed to be writing an appeal on.

Lydia narrowed her eyes at him and pulled a chair to sit down. That was never a good sign, never. “I take it the trip home went well.”

“That is a way to put it, yes.” Alec opened the file, pretending to be taking a look on it.

“Did you have a good time with your siblings? Is Isabelle ready for her wedding?” Lydia kept going, arms crossed over her chest.

Alec nodded and hummed positively, still not looking at her.

Lydia arched both eyebrows at him. “You know, Raj told me something interesting the other day. He heard your secretary saying you used the office’s credentials to buy flight tickets. Specifically, a second seat on your plane.” Alec just shrugged, though he knew there was no denying it for much longer. “I don’t remember, where did you say Magnus spent the holiday?”

“All right,” Alec said with a heavy sigh. “I took Magnus with me. His evil ex dumped him and he was crying and I bought the tickets without thinking it through. I’ve talked to Imogen already and she’s said it’s all right. That as long as I never do it again, there’s no problem.”

They stared at each other, Alec daring her to reprimand him and Lydia processing all the implications of that. “So,” she finally said after the moment passed, “you brought Magnus home to meet your family? That’s pretty serious stuff.”

Alec blinked. “T-that wasn’t… That wasn’t the intention. I just… I didn’t want to leave him alone here. I was worried. And he's my best friend.” He rolled his eyes at Lydia’s dramatic pouting. “One of my best friends.”

“So you two were strictly friendly? No holding hands? No gazing at each other’s eyes? No kissing?”

Coughing, Alec cocked his head to the side. “There was some hand holding. A bit of gazing, yes. Definitely kissing.”

Lydia had bright blue eyes that pierced through people’s souls when she stared at them. And she was staring at Alec. “Oh my God. Are you finally dating? For real? No more stupid games, or rules, or stupid stupidity?”

Alec frowned at ‘stupid stupidity’, but he had learned in the worst way not to question an excited Lydia. “We kissed, like, a lot. And we had sex. But it was different from the other times. It’s always great, amazing actually. But this time… There was something else too. I can’t tell what, but it was like it was our first time together, but also the thousandth time. It’s hard to explain. I felt like it meant more.”

Nodding vigorously, Lydia watched him closely. “So you guys sorted out whatever was happening between you two? Are you finally dating?”

“Hm,” Alec said, because suddenly all other words escaped him. In his infinite happiness, he had completely forgot about that small detail. Magnus and him had never actually talked about them. It didn’t seem necessary, not once during all the time they spent in Columbus.

To Alec, it felt obvious how much he loved Magnus. So why hasn’t him say it out loud yet?

“Oh my God,” Lydia squealed again. “How can you keep avoiding this talk?! This is pissing me off, Alec. I expected better from you.”

“It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose!” Alec huffed, but he was equally perplexed. “It’s just that… Everytime I see him, there are more important things to do than talk about… Those things.”

“Feelings?” Lydia deadpanned.

“That.”

“Oh my God!” Lydia pinched the bridge of her nose. “Okay, let me put it this way. It’s time for you two to revisit your little contract. I’d advise you to take a double look on the exclusiveness clause. Also the one that allows you two to make heart eyes and tell how much you love each other, because you do. So much. So disgustingly much. I’d add a prenup just in case.”

Alec gasped and his tone went three tones higher. “We’re not getting married.”

“That’s because you already are,” Raj’s voice sounded from the other side of the wall. Sometimes Alec forgot how thin those were.

“Fuck off, Rajesh,” Alec roared. He narrowed his eye at Lydia, who was smirking. “I’m seeing him on Friday. We’ll talk then.”

Lydia shook her head. “Today, Alec. Get this out of the way!”

“All right, stop shouting at me.” Alec huffed and pointed at the huge file between them. “What even is all of this? Did you find anything new for the Aldertree case?”

“Funny you should mention that.” Lydia sighed, lips firmly pressed together in a thin line. She only did that when she was annoyed. “This woman showed up claiming she spent the holiday with Aldertree in Paris and that she dug some dirt on him. She wants us to contact Aldertree and cut a deal. Of course, she’d take a part of the money.”

Alec frowned. “She wants to extort him? No way.”

“That’s what Imogen said.” Lydia nodded. “I’m going there and telling her it’s a no deal. She’s going to freak out. You should’ve seen her coming in here, acting all high and mighty like she owned the place, calling everyone ‘dear’ in her fake French accent.”

Something clicked inside of Alec’s mind and he took a second look at the file, this time actually reading its content. He stopped when he saw the woman’s name. “Oh shit,” he cursed under his breath. “Lydia, that’s her. That’s Magnus’ evil ex.”

Lydia blinked and covered her open mouth with her hands. She closed the file and took it from Alec. “You shouldn’t be seeing this. You have a personal connection to her. That’s unethical.”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Alec agreed. “I should stay out of this.”

Lydia looked around. There was nobody on the corridor or watching them inside the office. “Just… Just focus on what you were doing. I’m going to set her on her way and we both will forget this conversation ever happen.”

“That’s the best thing we can do.” Alec nodded too.

They stared at each other a few more moments, not moving a single muscle. And then Lydia dropped the file on Alec’s desk again. “She’s in room number 8, at the twelfth floor,” she said and marched out of the office.

Alec didn’t waste a second and rushed to the elevator, file in hand and fire burning inside his veins.

Room number 8 was the meeting room where they left the potential new clients, which meant it was the furthest away from every other room. Alec had to cross the hallway covered in pictures of famous lawyers that had worked in Idris LLP. Until that very moment, he had never felt like he belonged with them. Like he was making a difference in the world. Like he was doing good.

But seeing Camille smugly smile to herself as she waited and knowing he had the opportunity to wipe out that smile felt just as righteous.

“Oh, hello,” she said as Alec walked into the room and took the chair in front of her. “Where is the blonde one I was talking to? I’m sure she has one more question to ask, along with the thousands she already did.”

Alec shook his head. “Lydia and I work together. I’m taking over your case.”

Camille’s eyes shifted as she took a good look at him. The smugness was replaced by recognition and she smirked like a predator ready to strike. “I know you. The lawyer.” She arched her eyebrows, faking uncertainty. “Will, isn’t it?”

“Alec.”

“Oh yes. Magnus’ friend.” She made the last word sound like an insult.

A week ago, it would’ve worked. It would’ve hit right beneath all of Alec’s defenses, where it hurt the most, just like she intended it to. It would’ve make Alec lose his cool and ruin everything.

But it wasn’t a week ago and Camille was much too late to be able to influence Alec. Or Magnus for that matter. “Yeah. Let’s talk about him. Or rather, let’s talk about how he’s done with you.”

Camille frowned just slightly, not enough to affect her smirk. “Is that so? Funny, I’ve been meaning to pay him a visit.”

“Don’t bother,” Alec said sharply. “Magnus has someone else now.”

Just her mocking chuckle was enough to make the blood in Alec’s veins boil with rage, but he didn’t let any of it reach his face as she spoke.

“Let me guess, is that person you?” Camille chuckled again, a high pitched sound that was all scorn and no humor. “The last time I checked, fuck buddies were people that are good enough to fuck, but not good enough to love. And he loves me. He always had and he always will. Magnus, sweet, caring Magnus, will always forgive me. Because you know what, dear? We’re never going to be done with each other. Magnus and I are forever.”

Alec looked at her, truly looked at her. Camille was a beautiful woman, there was no denying that. Everything on her accentuated her beauty, from her styled hair, to her perfectly applied makeup and her tailored clothes. The way she moved was intended to entrance, the way she spoke, to seduce.

But it was a façade. Beneath all that, there was emptiness.

No, not emptiness. If Camille was devoid of emotion, she wouldn’t get so defensive. She wouldn’t feel the need to make bold statements and reassure anyone’s devotion to her. Because that was what she had just done. Reassured it.

As if she needed to believe it herself.

Alec sighed, all rage gone. He didn’t feel pity, because he wouldn’t, not for her. Not after all she had put Magnus through. She could rot as far as Alec was concerned. He felt contempt.

“Is that what you tell yourself? That Magnus will always be there for you?” Alec stared at her, sustaining her affronted gaze. “Is that because he’s your last hope?”

The shocked expression on her face confirmed it. Alec pressed on. “He’s told me about you, about how you two met and the plans you two had. What he didn’t have to tell me is how you are the one who desperately needs him, because he’s moved forward and found happiness while you still seeks for a breakout that will never come. How he, in his generosity, let’s you back in his life for you to lick your wounds every time the world throws at your face that you’re not as good as you think you are. Magnus doesn’t love you. He pities you, he even cares for you. Because he’s a good person. Deep down, both of you know who is the successful one. Who could live without the other.”

Camille inhaled sharply, lifting her chin in an attempt to look immune to the words. The twist in her lips said otherwise. “Is that what you think, pretty boy?”

Alec shook his head. “No, that’s what I see. I see a sad, lonely woman who knows she has no one left by her side. You’re smart, Camille, there’s no denying it. You know that having someone as special as Magnus means something. For you, it means that you’re special too. So that’s why you keep coming back, no matter how many directors you screw to get parts or how many rich people you extort to buy you things. You need him to feel good about yourself. Well, that ends today.”

“What are you going to do?” Camille asked, smirk still on her face but Alec could see it wavering. “Drag me out of the city? I’m calling the cops.”

“Good. When they arrive, you can explain all the missing jewelry from the hotels you stayed.” Alec opened the file and began flipping the pages. There were many. “Or the numerous accusations of extortion and blackmail. We ran a back check on you, Camille. Idris LLP is not taking your case, not only because you couldn’t afford us, but also because what you want us to do is against the law. We will, however, request that you be summoned to testify, so expect a visit from a court official in the next few days. But more importantly, stay away from Magnus. There’s enough in this file to get you behind bars for the rest of your life and I’m sure the authorities would be very interested.” Alec stood up, closing the file under his arm. “Now, please, show yourself out.”

Alec walked out of the room before Camille could say anything. He got in the elevator and then back to his office, never rushing. Once he was sitting on his chair, Alec picked up his phone and dialed the number from memory.

“Darling!” Magnus’ cheerful voice filled his ears. “I’m just getting out of the office. I hate it when I have to stay in there all day, but there’s this executive in Minnesota that would be perfect for this opening, if only she answered her phone.” Magnus sighed heavily. “I tried everything! LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter! Email, naturally. She finally gave signs of being alive through Tinder. Tinder! I had forgotten Raphael had set that one on for me, as a joke. I deleted it afterwards, of course. I feel like I’ve slayed a dragon or two.”

“But did you get burned?” Alec asked with a snort.

Magnus sneered. “Of course not. Never underestimate my dragon-fighting abilities.”

“Never.” Alec smiled. He looked out of the window. The sun was still burning hot, illuminating the frenetic city beneath him. “I want to see you,” he confessed quietly.

There was a small pause, in which Alec was sure Magnus stopped whatever he was doing. “I want to see you too,” the headhunter said, and Alec felt his heart race with the fondness in Magnus’ voice. “Friday is too far away.”

Friday was two days away. That was not much, not under normal circumstances. But it wasn’t normal circumstances.

“Can I see you tonight?” Alec asked. He had a dinner planned with Lily and Maia, and Magnus had a night out with Ragnor and Raphael. They couldn’t blow off their friends just because they missed each other.

“Yes,” Magnus said without missing a heartbeat. “Come to my loft.”

Alec smiled. “I’ll do.”

New York in the Summer was an odd place. The heat didn’t stop the furious pace of its residents but it made everything seem slower somehow. Alec had been used to long sunny days that were spent in the pool with his siblings or bright lights coming through the window at his mother’s office.

Walking in the streets of Brooklyn with the sun still high in the sky was a whole new memory, one he intended to re-live as much as he could.

Alec got to Magnus’ loft in time to see the sun beginning to set. Magnus was facing the open windows of the balcony, seating in a meditation pose and wearing a simple white tank and one of his many colored yoga pants. Alec got rid of his suit, shoes and belt, grabbing a mat and sitting next to him. That pose was easy enough to mimic, unlike the others Magnus had tried to show him before.

“Inhale,” Magnus said without opening his eyes. “Let the oxygen fill your lungs. Feel the energy pulse inside your veins.” Alec nodded and did as he was told. Bit by bit he became aware of every inch of his body, every joint and curve. “As you exhale, push the bad energy away with it. Let it clean your mind of all worries, let it wash away the doubts.”

They stayed in silence, enjoying the peace as the world spun around them at a million miles per hour. It didn’t matter, because time didn’t seem to pass for them. When Magnus announced it was time to slowly come back, Alec could feel every inch of his body, every curve and every pressure point.

He opened his eyes and was welcomed by the image of Magnus smiling, his gorgeous face bathed in the last rays of sunshine. It wasn’t that Alec had never noticed before, but Magnus’ eye had a particular shape to them. They were so expressive, it was easy to tell what Magnus was thinking just by looking at them.

Right now, he was happy. “I’m so glad you came by,” Magnus said and reached to hold Alec’s hand.

“Yeah, I…” Alec smiled a little. “I think we have to talk.”

Magnus chuckled. “Yeah, we really do. Should I… Should I go first?”

Alec breathed in. “No, let me go first, please. I… I want to tell you a couple things before we talk… Before we talk about us.”

“Okay,” Magnus said with uncertainty. He turned completely to Alec, facing him and crossing his legs. He was still smiling and that gave Alec the courage he needed.

Talking wasn’t Alec’s strong suit, it had never been; he preferred to let his actions speak for themselves. If he absolutely had to speak, he’d rather have orienting lines to stick to. That was why he had pursued a legal career, guided by laws and jurisprudence.

But now there were no guidelines aside from what was inside of him. But first things first. “Something happened today. Camille came to Idris.” Alec didn’t stop, not even as he saw the smile on Magnus’ eyes waver. “Apparently she went to Paris with Victor Aldertree and dug some dirt on him. She wanted us to help extorting him.”

Magnus said nothing. His face was a blank canvas, but Alec was looking at his eyes. There was shock in them, yes, but mostly there was hurt. Alec used that as incentive to continue. “We told her no. I… I don’t know how much you know about how she makes a living, but it’s… Not lawful.”

“I know she’s been accused of some petty crimes before. And an ex-lover tried to use her as an escape goat once,” Magnus said calmly, as if he was used to list those things. “He was stealing his wife’s jewelry and tried to pin it on Camille.”

Alec swallowed hard. “Right. R-right, right. Hm… Lydia ran a back check on her and… Well, there are some other stuff too.” He didn’t want to keep facing Magnus, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the disappointment on the headhunter’s face. The last blow would be the worst, so Alec decided to do it quickly. “I told her to leave you alone, otherwise I would give what we found to the police.”

The problem with coming up with possible scenarios is that it brought some expectations with it. Magnus’ utter silence wasn’t one of them. Alec expected him to look shocked or to be overwhelmed with what had transpired. Alec certainly was.

But Magnus just stared at him in silence, until he finally spoke in a ice cold tone. “You had no right.”

Alec blinked. “I-”

“You had no right, Alexander,” Magnus said again, but this time there was anger in his voice. “You don’t get to decide my life for me. You don’t get to chose who gets to be in my life and who doesn’t. That’s not up to you!”

“I-,” Alec attempted again, trying to keep calm. Words were failing him, so he went with what he felt. “I’m sorry. I just… I didn’t think. I just wanted to protect you.”

Magnus’ face twisted from anger to affront. “I don’t need you to protect me. I can take care of myself.”

“I know that.” Alec shook his head. He thought he was doing good, but he had really screwed up this time. He had never seen Magnus this angry before. “I never thought you couldn’t. Never. I just thought that I could do something to help.”

Magnus stood up in a jump and threw his arms in the air. “Why would you do something to help?!”

Alec huffed, not believing what he was hearing. “Obviously because I love you.”

“Oh! And because of that, you decided to up and t- Wait, what?” Magnus stopped mid-sentence and blinked. “What did you just say?”

“I said that I love you,” Alec repeated, considerably calmer. “And not only in a friendly way, though that is one of the ways I love you. I’m in love with you.”

Magnus frowned. “Well, I’m in love with you too,” he said and it sounded like an accusation. “That doesn’t change the fact that you went over my head and banished someone from my life.”

Alec blinked, a little disconcerted. When Magnus shot him an inquiring look, he sighed. “Excuse me, I’m confused. We just confessed our love to each other, but we’re still fighting because I threatened to put Camille in jail if she ever came near you again. Is that it?”

“Yes!” Magnus all but shouted. “It sounds ridiculous when you put it like that, and it really, really is, but I’ve been waiting for this moment for months now and I just don’t know how to deal with it.”

“Okay.” Alec stood up and breathed in deeply. “I’m sorry I acted without your consent. It wasn’t my intention at all, but I still should’ve asked if you were okay with me doing that.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes at him, examining Alec from head to toe as Alec stood still, waiting for the verdict. Finally, Magnus sighed. “Apology accepted. And I’m sorry I lashed out on you. I can’t believe you’d threaten Camille for me. You risked your job. You know that, right? She could’ve reported you or used that against you somehow.” He swallowed hard, eyes flickering with sadness. “I had trouble to admit it to myself, but Camille is a cold hearted manipulative bitch who’s not afraid to hurt others to get what she wants. Oh my brave, sweet Alexander,” Magnus giggled to himself and shook his head, incredulously.

“What?” Alec asked, confused again.

“Nothing,” Magnus giggled again, this time a little louder. “I just thought… I thought I wasn’t enough for you, I guess. But then you continue to go that extra mile for me. You never abandoned me, not even when I chose her over you. You were there for me, you even brought me with you to that palace you insist in calling a house. And now found a way to ban her from my life, I-” He shook his head again, sniffing. “I just always thought I was another one of those guys that you really liked, but never loved.”

Alec pushed his lips together and then shook his head in a sharp movement. “No. That’s not you. You are the wonderful, intelligent guy. The one that makes me laugh and that has enchanted my siblings. The one that understands that family means everything to me. I’m not commanding Idris yet, but you’re the one that always tells me how proud you are of me after each case. No matter if I win or lose, you’re always there for me.”

Magnus blinked, his eyes filling with tears, and his smile grew bigger. “You remember all of that?”

“Of course I do.” Alec shook his head and took Magnus’ hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “During the entire time you were describing the man of my dreams, the only person I could think about was you. I was probably already in love with you at that moment. We didn’t know it back then, Magnus, but you were describing yourself.”

Chuckling, Magnus wiped a tear from his eyes with his free hand. “Well, that’s not strictly true,” he said between a mischievous giggle that made Alec want to kiss him. “No one can call me a standard guy in the bedroom aspect.”

Alec snorted and pulled him into a hug. “You’re impossible.”

Magnus let himself be embraced and laid his head against Alec’s shoulder. He frowned a bit. “There’s something I don’t understand. Back in Columbus, I overheard you talking to Jace. He asked you if you were in love with me and you said you were worried about me.”

“Hm.” Alec touched Magnus’ face, brushing his cheekbone slightly. “For a professional stalker, you’re a terrible eavesdropper. If you had stayed for a couple more minutes, you would’ve heard the rest. I was worried about you, because I felt it was my fault. Because I should’ve told you back then I loved you, Magnus. Maybe if I had, then you… Maybe I would’ve saved ourselves some pain.”

“Maybe,” Magnus agreed quietly. “But there’s no use in dwelling on the past.” He smirked. “Though you can learn from it and tell me that now. I do like to hear it.”

Alec smiled and kissed him fondly on the lips. “I love you, Magnus.”

“I love you too, Alexander.”

---

“So.” Isabelle narrowed her eyes at Alec and Magnus suspiciously. “What should I call you two now?”

“Our names will do,” Alec answered without missing a heartbeat.

Isabelle rolled her eyes. “Obviously. But what exactly is the relationship status? Acquaintances? Friends? Friends with benefits? Boyfriends? Husbands? I will chose one if you don’t, big brother, and I’m forewarning you, it will be husbands.”

Alec narrowed her eyes at her, arms crossed against his chest. The staring contest lasted for a couple more moments and finally he relented, rolling his eyes. “Magnus is my boyfriend.”

The shriek of victory that Isabelle emitted was enough to have Magnus cracking up. The whole scene was ridiculous, not only because Isabelle had demanded to see them on the morning of her wedding day, but also because she was now interrogating them on the nature of their relationship in her wedding dress.

There were many things to be admired about Isabelle Lightwood and her dedication to her cause was definitely one of them.

But Magnus was actually thankful for her. He never grew bored of listening to Alec referring to him as his boyfriend, and he didn’t think he ever would. Magnus made a point of breaking the news to his friends individually, just so he would have an excuse to say the word as many times as possible.

Disappointingly enough, nobody was surprised. Cat, who was a decent person, congratulated him and showered Alec with compliments, only to give him the scary ‘break his heart and I’ll break your face’ talk when she saw the lawyer again. Ragnor just mumbled that he was sorry for Alec, because he was such a bright young man and he was ruining his life. Magnus had to wait three beers to hear his friend tell him he was happy for them and that Magnus deserved someone who would love him unconditionally.

Raphael just stared at him unimpressed. “Groundbreaking information,” he finally said and that was it. Three days later, when they all went out for a concert, Magnus caught Raphael staring at Alec as the lawyer hugged Magnus from behind and leaned his chin on Magnus’ shoulder, humming the song that was playing. Raphael was a very inexpressive person, but Magnus knew him well enough to see the small approving smile on the curve of his lips.

Apparently, Tessa, Will and Jem had an ongoing bet on when Alec and Magnus were going to realize they were perfect for each other and so did Maia, Bat and Lily. Magnus managed to secure thirty percent of both pools for himself and used it to buy Alec the tie he was wearing for his sister’s wedding.

His only regret was not being there when Lydia and Raj presented Alec with a cake that read ‘Congratulations on the relationship’.

Now that they were back to Columbus, it was like going through all of that again and Magnus was enjoying every second of it. Alec had expectations written all over his face as he told Hodge when he came pick them up at the airport and the driver smiled proudly at him as he congratulated them. It was a small thing, but the grin on Alec’s lips during the entire drive home spoke volumes.

“Isabelle, darling,” Magnus interrupted as Alec and his sister began arguing again. Isabelle was trying to convince him to break the news to their parents by kissing Magnus in front of everyone during the ceremony, and Alec was refusing vigorously, under the excuse that it was her wedding and the focus should be on her alone. “Alexander is right, this is yours and Samuel’s day. And so, your brother and I should let you get ready for it.”

Pouting a bit, Isabelle relented with a thwarted sigh. “Okay. Can you call Jace for me? I want to pretend to be having second-thoughts and freak him out. I’m angry that Clary is Simon’s best friend, so he’s going to suffer my frustration.”

Alec nodded as if that was a reasonable request. “Are you, though? Having second-thoughts?”

“Me?” Isabelle giggled and Magnus could see happiness in every inch of her body. She grabbed the ruby hanging on neck and played with it. “Big brother, I don’t think I’ve ever been surer of anything quite as much as I am about this. I love Simon, I want to marry him. And now I will.”

The simplicity of how she said those things made Magnus’ heart flutter. Alec must have felt the same way and smiled brightly at his sister, hugging her tight. “You’re my hero, Izzy.”

Isabelle hugged him back, her eyes starting to tear up. “And you’re mine, big brother.”

The wedding ceremony was beautiful. Simon’s face when he saw Isabelle entering the church was pure adoration. Clary broke into tears halfway through the wedding vows, which were clearly written by Simon since they were two thirds made of silly jokes that had Isabelle giggling the entire time. Even Jace seemed touched and he would deny it later, but he was seen sniffing a couple of times.

Magnus couldn’t help himself and he cried openly when he saw that Alec had tears running down his face as he watched his little sister changing rings with the man she loved.

The party was held in the Lightwood house. As per usual, the food was amazing and Isabelle had chosen the perfect balance between upbeat and romantic songs. She had danced the entire time, mostly with Simon, but also with all of her brothers, Clary and Magnus. As Isabelle expressed her joy on the dance floor, Simon did it by cracking the highest amount of bad jokes Magnus had ever witnessed firsthand. It was annoyingly endearing.

Magnus had been talking to Clary as they watched from afar Alec and Jace enduring Simon’s torrent of lame puns with just minor groaning when Isabelle gestured for Clary to join her because ‘it was their song’. Magnus sipped on his champagne, silently thanking the day Imogen contacted him to request information about an Ohio lawyer named Alexander Lightwood.

“Good evening,” a voice sounded from behind him and Magnus felt his entire body freeze.

“Good evening, Mrs. Lightwood,” he said, turning around to see a very stoic Maryse staring at him. She looked regal in her navy dress, a woman to be feared and respected. Magnus could manage the second one. He had never been very good with being afraid of anyone though.

Maryse cleared her throat. “I heard you and my son are in a relationship now.” Her face was impassible, betraying nothing. “I have to say I do not approve. He was your client.”

Magnus considered that with a move of his head. “And there’s the small detail that I’m a guy.”

“Contrary to what Alec believes,” Maryse said with a pinch of irritation, “that is the least of my worries.” She huffed under Magnus’ disbelieving gaze. “I’ll admit I wasn’t the most… Accepting mother when he informed me about his sexuality, but-”

“But nothing.” Magnus had to inhale sharply not to let his voice grow higher. He wasn’t going to ruin Isabelle’s wedding by making a scene, but he wouldn’t let Maryse get away with her bigotry either. “He needed you and you disappointed him. Yes, Alexander was my client when we met and I can see how that could make you uncomfortable, but rest assured I love him and I would never take advantage of him.”

Maryse swallowed hard and for a second Magnus was reminded of seeing her cry with a smile on her lips as she watched Isabelle laughing at Simon’s silly jokes. She had looked human, just like she did now. Her dark eyes focused on Alec, who was snorting with Jace, and Magnus could see something there. Something that soothed his anger.

“I love my children,” Maryse said after a long pause. “I have not been the mother they deserve, this much is true, but they remain the most important thing in my life. Isabelle, Jace, Max; they are like Robert. Extrovert, charismatic, expansive. I never doubted they would find love. But Alec… Alec has the misfortune of being like me; work driven, serious, rational. And that worries me. I may not understand him, but I want him to be happy and I know from experience that love is hard for us to find.”

Magnus found himself at a loss of words. He didn’t understand why Maryse was telling him all this, but he kept his mouth shut as she caught her breath.

Maryse exhale sharply and straightened her unwrinkled dress. “I’ve seen the way Alec looks at you. I’ve seen you two dancing and you making him laugh. As much as it pains me to admit it, Imogen Herondale did my son a favor by putting you in his life. He looks happy.”

Being a businessman, and a very successful one, Magnus could recognize a peace offering when he heard one. Maryse wasn’t saying that she liked him or approved of him, but she was recognizing that Alec had chosen him and there was nothing she could do to change that. Magnus didn’t know how, but he had earned her respect, if not her blessing.

“That’s all I want him to be,” Magnus said quietly. “Happy.”

Maryse nodded, but said nothing. She raised her eyes above Magnus and when he met her gaze, there was Alec, full on rescuing mode. “Mother,” he greeted carefully, clearly trying to grasp what the situation was before making any moves.

“Alec, if I’m not mistaken the necklace Isabelle is wearing today is a gift from you. Is that right?” Maryse asked as if she was discussing the particularities of a gruesome case.

Alec stared at Magnus with a puzzled expression. “Hm, yes. Magnus chose it.”

That didn’t seem to surprise her at all. “Then you’d better bring Magnus with you the next time you buy me a gift. The last one was somewhat disappointing. If you two excuse me,” Maryse nodded in Magnus’ direction as he fought a giggle and walked away. He wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but he thought he saw a smirk on her lips.

“What was that?” Alec asked in the high pitched voice he used when he was terrified. “She said she liked the appointment book I bought her.” Magnus full on laughed, earning himself a betrayed look from his boyfriend. “What did you do to my mother? She used your name. She made a joke, I think. I’m weirded out.”

Magnus snorted. “Maybe I’ve won her over. I know your father freaked out when I emailed him that article about the corn industry last week. I just hope he wasn’t serious when he invited me to that seminar.”

Alec arched an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, sure. Not serious at all. Maybe I should be angry with you. I’ve been trying to impress them for over twenty-five years and you managed it in a month. What are you? A wizard?”

“I’ve been told I’m quite magical, yes.” Magnus snorted and kissed Alec, washing away his affronted expression. It melted into a loving smile that made Magnus smile too. “But you can call me boyfriend, boyfriend.”

Chuckling, Alec hugged him. “I’m happy to do that.”

Magnus couldn’t help but chuckle. Looking at Alec and feeling his heartbeat pounding against him, he decided one thing. As stupid as they were when they thought they could sleep together and not develop feelings for each other, there was one thing he was sure of; it was the best idea they had ever had.