It was always disconcerting when Alec’s private phone rang during work hours. Not many people had the number and when the thing had started buzzing in his pocket that afternoon during a rather important meeting, he hadn’t been able keep his stomach from clenching with worry. It was a rare occurrence, to get these kind of calls, which made it even scarier to say the least.
Alec excused himself to take the call and went out of the room. He didn’t miss the worried look his father gave him when he rushed past him on the way to the door. Or the whispers from their clients. But he couldn’t care less. When it came to Max, work would never be first.
“Hello?” he said immediately as he closed the door of the room behind him.
“Mr. Lightwood?” the serious voice of Max’s school’s principal came from the other end of the line and Alec’s heart started racing.
It had only been a couple of weeks since Max, his 6 year-old son, had started attending one of the most prestigious private elementary schools in New York and Alec was still getting used to it.
“Yes?” he replied, “Is Max alright?”
That’s all he could think of. He couldn’t stop his brain from going into overdrive. All the worst imaginable scenarios passing in front of his eyes.
“Your boy is fine,” the man reassured and Alec finally felt he could breathe. “But there has been an... incident. I need you to come to my office right away.”
“An incident? What incident?” Alec asked, irritated by how vague the man was being. He went inside his office and after switching to speaker, he set down the phone and started to pack his briefcase.
“We will talk about it when everyone’s here,” the principal insisted, “When do you think you can be in my office?”
“I’m already on my way,” he said taking his jacket and rushing towards the elevator.
The drive to Max’s school had never seemed so long as it felt that day, even if technically Alec had made it to the parking lot faster than he ever had. In his frenzy he missed a car that was trying to park in the same spot he quickly snagged, causing the other man to almost crash his car into Alec’s.
As he got off, he heard a voice coming from behind.
“I almost rear ended your car,” the man said, his head popping out of the driver seat’s window.
Alec turned around, ready to give him a brief apology and continue his way to the school but the man continued before he could say a word.
“Though I wouldn't have minded bumping into you. In other circumstances, I mean,” the man added shamelessly, a smirk forming on his lips.
Alec opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, unable to find a proper comeback to that. Had that complete stranger just flirted with him? Alec let his mind drift for a second. He couldn’t deny the man in the car was good-looking, even with his particular taste on shirts. And the makeup. Which wasn’t a bad thing, he found himself thinking.
But it didn't matter. There was a place and time for that--which in Alec’s case was nowhere and never--and it definitely wasn’t when his son was waiting for him in the Principal’s office.
“I have no time for chit chat right now,” he said sternly, “If your car has any scratches just leave me your number and your insurance details and I’ll deal with it later.”
With that he turned around and rushed to the school’s front door without looking back. The Principal’s secretary, a woman in her sixties that looked like she had never smiled in her whole life, was waiting for him in front of the office. She sent a judgmental glare towards him before opening the door to let him in.
Alec was already used to it. All the looks and the judgement, not only for being a single father raising a kid that wasn’t his (as they said, which made Alec’s blood boil), but also for what they called his lifestyle .
As soon as he was inside the room, Alec briskly walked past everyone, barely exchanging a glance with them. Max looked up from where he was sitting and jumped off his chair, running to meet his dad. Alec crouched down and reached out his arms to wrap his little boy in a warm hug.
“Dad,” Max exclaimed as he put his arms around Alec’s neck.
“It’s okay,” he said reassuringly, using one hand to gently pat his son’s head. “What happened?”
The boy shook his head immediately and buried it in Alec’s neck. He noticed that Max was wearing his cardigan despite it being an especially warm day, and he had his right arm completely covered by the sleeve, successfully hiding the birthmark that covered his arm all the way to his back.
For the first time, Alec looked around the room. On one side, there were two slightly older boys accompanied by their mothers, who looked like the poster children of soccer moms. Alec disliked them instantly. Sitting on the chair next to the one Max had been sitting on, there was another older boy, probably around 8 years old, who was looking at them with a spark of curiosity in his eyes.
The door opened one more time and the boy’s eyes darted behind Alec. He was still crouching down and could only see the legs of a man passing by him.
“Sorry for keeping you waiting,” he excused himself, “But someone took my parking spot and I had to go look for another one.”
Alec looked up. He recognized that silky voice. The man turned his head slightly to meet eyes with him and winked. Alec raised an eyebrow but it didn’t catch the eye of the other man, who was already talking to the boy.
The Principal’s dull voice interrupted Alec’s thoughts.
“Now that we’re all finally here, we can begin,” he said gesturing to the empty chair. Alec whispered into Max’s ear for him to sit down and went to stand next to him.
“Mr. Bane, it seems that your son Rafael,--” he continued looking at the man that had arrived last, “--got into a fight this morning during recess.”
The man looked down at his son with somewhat apprehensively and then back at the Principal. Then, his eyes drifted momentarily to the two other kids and their mums and his expression changed, as if something had become clear to him just by looking at the other families in the room.
“Is that so?” he asked, to the surprise of the Principal. The two mothers let out an indignant gasp, as if they were personally offended by the question.
“There’s no doubt Mr. Bane,” the Principal insisted. “We had to stop the fight. Mr. Lewis was there too.”
Alec saw his friend coming inside the office, his eyes open wide like a deer in headlights as everyone’s attention was on him. He smiled sheepishly and stayed next to the door.
“And why are you so sure it was Rafael who started it?” the man asked, defensive. “Why does it seem he’s the only one being scolded here?”
The man put a hand on his son’s shoulder protectively.
“That’s not what I said…” the Principal replied, slightly taken aback by the accusation.
Alec had been observing how the situation unfolded but he was beginning to wonder why in the world he and his son were in that room. He looked at Max with concern. He seemed small and scared, pulling on his sleeve with his eyes fixed on the floor. Alec couldn’t see his face but he knew the mannerisms well.
The people in the room had started arguing before he realized but Alec couldn’t hear a word of what they were saying. He could only focus on Max and how sad he looked and it broke his heart. He didn’t remember seeing his son like that since…
“Excuse me,” he blurted, his voice echoing in the room like thunder, making everyone stop in their tracks. “Why are my son and I even here? If you don’t stop this circus and explain, I’m going to take Max and leave.”
The Principal made a gesture with his hands. Mr. Bane crossed his arms over his chest, staring daggers at the two women, who were looking back at him with utter disdain. Alec wondered if they knew each other because the animosity they seemed to have towards each other couldn’t just have begun just now.
“Max was there during the fight too,” the Principal explained. “He saw the whole thing.”
Alec turned his head towards Simon, frowning and mouthing a silent ‘what?’ that Simon answered with a hand gesture and a quiet ‘later’ .
“He hasn’t said a word since we brought them to my office,” the principal continued. “So we were hoping you could help.”
Alec crouched down again next to his son’s chair and looked at him gently, taking Max’s little hand in his.
“Max?” he said kindly, “What happened?”
The boy looked at his dad and after a couple of seconds, he shook his head again like he had done when Alec had arrived and fixed his eyes to the floor.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he urged, rubbing his son’s back in circles.
The Principal sighed disapprovingly.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to take disciplinary actions,” he announced, “Mr. Bane, your son will be suspended for three days.”
Rafael’s father took a couple of steps towards the Principal’s desk until he was right in front of him.
“You can’t just punish my son. I bet those two are just as responsible,” he accused, looking at the two mums over his shoulder and pointing at them.
“It’s Rafael’s word against theirs,” the Principal insisted and that seemed to be the last straw for the man.
Just as he was going to yell something, Rafael jumped off the chair and spoke.
“They were calling him a freak!” he blurted defensively glaring at the two boys. “They were pushing him around and he was crying!”
Alec watched in silence, trying to make sense of it. His hand was still on Max’s back and he noticed how his shoulders started heaving when Rafael had finished speaking. Max had covered his face with the sleeves of his cardigan but Alec could still hear the sniffles coming from behind them.
He felt an anger he hadn’t felt in years when a similar situation had arisen at the kindergarten Max was attending. He just couldn’t believe it was happening again.
“Even if that’s what happened, you shouldn’t have resorted to violence Rafe,” the man scolded, going back to where his son was standing. The boy was biting his lower lip visibly upset, trying to suppress a sob. The man crouched down to be on eye level with the boy and whispered, low enough so that the women and the Principal couldn’t hear it. “But I’m proud of you.”
The boy seemed to cheer up a little, his lips curving in a small smile.
Simon’s voice came from the back of the room, interrupting the scene.
“I agree with Mr. Bane here,” he said, “I think if Rafael is punished so should everyone else. Except Max, of course.”
The Principal stared at Simon from across the room. Even if he didn’t want to, he had no other choice but to agree.
“The three of you will get three days of suspension,” he announced finally.
The mothers were positively furious about their angels , as they called them, being suspended from school until Monday, but they didn’t succeed on changing the Principal’s mind.
“Just as we have zero tolerance for physical violence, we have zero tolerance for bullying,” Simon added from his spot, since the Principal didn’t seem willing to say it himself.
“Can we go now?” Mr. Bane asked, taking his son’s hand and picking up his backpack from the floor.
“You may go. We’re finished here.”
When Alec got to his car there was a card under one of the wipers with a phone number and the name Magnus Bane scribbled on it.
“Max, eat your cereal,” Alec said for the tenth time that morning. “Come on, you’re going to be late for school.”
It was Friday. Two days had passed since the incident at Max’s school and he had been quieter than usual. It worried Alec that Max was closing up again after the fight. It had happened when he had first been laughed at because of his birthmark and even if they had seemed to get over it, Alec knew how cruel kids could be.
“Dad?” the boy called shyly.
Alec had finished packing Max’s lunch and looked at him raising an eyebrow suspiciously. He knew that tone too well. “What is it?”
There was a moment of silence before Max spoke again.
“Can we go see Rafael?” he asked in barely a whisper, playing with his cereal that was already getting soggy.
Alec hadn't been expecting that and, for a second, his thoughts went to Rafael’s father and the card he still had inside the side pocket of his briefcase. He shook his head in an attempt to push those thoughts out of his mind. This wasn't about him.
It must have seemed like Alec was saying no because before he could answer, Max was already pouting and looking at him with the saddest eyes.
“Please Dad,” he drawled. “Please, please, please?”
Alec knew how weak he was against his son’s tactics whenever he wanted something, and so did Max. Over time, Alec had learned how to say no to him, but still there were times when he was powerless against those eyes.
Still, he wouldn’t give up without a fight.
“Why do you want to see him?” he asked, trying to avoid looking at his little face, “Can’t you wait until Monday? He’ll be coming back to school then.”
“He’s my friend,” Max pouted, looking down again.
Now, there hadn’t been many chances when Max had called someone his friend. There had been a couple of kids at his Kindergarten, who were now in different schools, and Lydia’s girls, with whom he’d gone on playdates since the day Alec met their mom. But for the first time since he started going to elementary school Max seemed interested in being someone’s friend, and Alec wasn’t about to deprive him from that.
“Okay,” he conceded softly and Max’s face lit up like the city’s skyline at night, hIs lips curving into the biggest grin he could manage.
“Really?” he asked excitedly, bouncing on his chair.
“Really,” Alec replied and the boy jumped up to go around the counter and wrap his arms around Alec’s legs.
“Can we meet them tomorrow?” Max said, looking up at his dad, resting his chin against Alec’s leg. “Can we, can we?”
Alec smiled gently and ruffled Max’s hair.
“I’ll call Rafael’s dad and ask, okay?” he said and the boy nodded his head in agreement. “Now, finish your breakfast.”
After nodding one last time, the boy happily skipped his way back to his chair.
Alec looked at the card in his hands. He played with it, flipping it between his fingers. He had been in his office for the last half hour debating what to say. He felt ridiculous. All he had to do was ask if it was okay for their sons to meet, when and where. But for some reason he was nervous.
First, there was their short interaction in the parking lot that had gotten him wondering things he hadn’t had in his mind for years. And second, Alec had been feeling slightly responsible for Rafael’s suspension, like maybe he could’ve done more to prevent it. After all, the boy had gotten into that fight to defend Max.
He put the card on the table and massaged his temples roughly. He needed to get a grip and he needed it yesterday. Sighing, he picked up the card again and dialed.
“Hello?” A soft, silky voice greeted him and for a second Alec forgot what he was going to say.
“Umm hello,” Alec replied clearing his throat. He closed his eyes hard, cursing himself for acting like he was suddenly some kind of brainless teenager. “Is this Mr. Bane?”
“Yes, that’s me,” the man said and stopped, probably waiting for him to go on. Alec realized he likely had no idea who was calling him since he never got to give him his phone number.
“It’s Alec Lightwood,” he introduced himself rushedly, “We met a couple of days ago… kind of,” Alec tried to explain.
“Oh, I remember,” he said, but now his voice sounded dry and somewhat brisk. Alec swallowed. “You’re Max’s dad, right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Alec replied and added “We also talked in the parking lot.”
He didn't know why he said it. Obviously the man remembered him without the need of adding that fact but he did nevertheless.
“I know,” the man said simply.
Alec pressed his lips together, holding back a sigh.
“How’s Rafael doing?” he asked awkwardly, trying to keep the conversation going.
“He’s fine,” he replied dryly, “Enjoying his days off.”
The change in the tone of the man’s voice and the almost monosyllabic answers were telling him that his suspicions were right. He had already felt responsible but now it was clear to him that Rafael’s father wasn’t really happy about his passiveness either.
He was going to have to do something and fast.
“I was calling because I want to apologize,” Alec started. He ran his tongue over his dry lips and breathed deeply.
“There’s nothing to apologize for,” the man interrupted before he could continue. “Rafael did something wrong even if it was for the right reasons.”
Alec paused for a moment, not sure of how to continue. What was okay to say now? He had never been a man of a lot of words and he hated dealing with these kind of situations, which is why he tried to not put himself or his family in them in the first place.
“Then I’d like to thank your son. For defending Max,” he said sincerely, “Max… has always had trouble making friends. I’m glad there’s someone looking out for him.”
There was another pause. Alec played with the card as he waited for the other man to talk, hoping his words had been enough to be given a chance.
“Is your boy going to be okay?” the man asked and Alec couldn’t help but smile a little, relieved.
“He’s tougher than he looks,” Alec said with a hint of pride in his voice. “He’ll be fine.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Alec made a sound of agreement and nodded his head, even though the other man couldn’t see him. He was about to start saying goodbye when he remembered why he was calling Mr. Bane to begin with.
“I was wondering,” Alec started, “If you and Rafael had some free time this weekend. Max really wants to see Rafael.”
He heard a chuckle coming from the other side of the line and furrowed his brow, confused.
“You don’t need the kids as an excuse to ask me for a date, you know?” he teased and Alec could almost see the smirk on the man’s face.
“I- I would never d-” Alec protested sounding more outraged than he had intended to.
This time the man let out an unfiltered laugh.
“Calm down pretty boy. I was just kidding,” the man said, “And you can call me Magnus.”
“Alec,” he replied lamely, rolling his eyes at himself. He cleared his throat. “About this weekend…”
“Ah, right,” Magnus exclaimed, “We always go to this park in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoons. I can text you the details.”
“Sounds good to me, “ Alec replied
“Then it’s a date.”
Max had been climbing the walls all morning. Alec hadn’t seen his son this excited since last Christmas at his parent’s house. It had been difficult at first for Maryse and Robert to come to terms with him adopting Max, especially because it had been so sudden. But after the initial shock and only one day together, Max had won their hearts and they had been the most doting grandparents since then.
Being their only grandchild (for now) made it so Christmas was all about him. The whole family would spend it together. They would go to parades, and Max would choose the Christmas tree from the store. He was also the one who got to put the star on the tree, sitting on Alec’s shoulders to reach the top.
And of course, he also got showered in presents. While Alec had tried to keep it within a limit, his parents had always had a different idea and every Christmas morning, for the last four years, the room had been filled with all kinds of presents.
Seeing Max this excited about a playdate warmed Alec’s heart. From the threshold, Alec looked at his boy as he debated which toy he wanted to show Rafael the most. He had lined them all up in front of him, asking Alec for his opinion.
After twenty minutes of deliberation and a careful selection process, Max had eliminated the Avengers action figures Simon had given him for his birthday, the teddy bear and unicorn (because they could get dirty, he argued), all the different kinds of Lego, and the remote control toy car (because there was only one and they couldn’t both use it at the same time).
“Dad,” he drawled, “Can I take the soccer ball and the pirates?”
Max was sitting on the floor holding the soccer ball in one hand and one of the pirate figures in the other. He looked from one to the other, unable to decide.
“We said one toy Max,” Alec said, taking the few steps that separated them and sitting next to him. “What do you want to play with the most?”
“Both?” the boy said innocently, his pleading eyes shining.
“One toy," Alec insisted, trying to stay firm.
Max pouted a little and turned to look at the toys again, deep in thought and furrowing his brow in concentration. Suddenly, he jerked his little head up like he had some kind of realization.
“I choose the pirates,” Max said finally with a mischievous smile on his lips.
“Which one?” he asked and his son’s smile only grew bigger.
“The four of them,” the boy announced triumphantly. Alec opened his mouth to argue but Max was faster. “They count as one because they’re a set.”
He said it with such conviction that Alec’s jaw dropped comically and looked at his son in disbelief. Max was smiling so wide and feeling so proud of tricking his father that Alec had to bite his lip to stop himself from grinning. He patted Max’s head a couple of times and decided to give him that one.
“I guess I can’t beat that logic,” he said, faking defeat. “You win.”
Max threw up his arms in victory and ran to put the four figures in his backpack.
“Hurry up Dad!” Max protested, pulling Alec by the arm as hard as he could (which really wasn’t that hard) towards the park where they were supposed to meet Rafael and Magnus.
“There’s no need to run. We’re almost there,” Alec said softly but he was smiling and letting Max pull him.
It was a warm sunny afternoon in New York, just perfect for a day at the park. Unfortunately, that meant that every other New Yorker had had the same idea and Brooklyn Bridge Park was full to the brim with families having picnics, playing catchball, or watching their kids run around on the playground.
The kids’ laughter filled Alec’s ears as they crossed the park, looking for Magnus and Rafael. It was Max who saw them first and pulled Alec’s arm excitedly. The boy waved with his free hand, swinging his arm from side to side in an effort to be noticed by his friend. Alec smiled fondly.
“Max!” Rafael exclaimed, grinning and waving.
Max let go of Alec’s hand (since pulling hadn't really worked) and ran towards his friend. As he approached them, Alec saw his son taking off his backpack and opening it to show Rafael and Magnus the pirate figures.
The man had crouched down next to the kids, smiling as Max talked about his toys.
“So Max,” Magnus said as he stood up, “Is mummy not coming today?”
Max shook his head and looked at Alec, who had just caught up with them.
“It’s only dad and me,” he said with a smile, “Just like Rafael!”
The two men exchanged glances. It was the first time Alec had even heard about anyone else in the school being a single parent, let alone a single father. It was obvious by the way Magnus was looking at him that he wasn’t expecting that answer either.
“Hi,” said Alec, as casually as he could manage, scratching the back of his head.
“Hi,” Magnus replied, followed by a silence. The kids were looking at their parents curiously, from one to the other, but soon they were focused on the toys again.
“Can we go play, Papa?” Rafael asked, forcing Magnus to finally take his eyes from Alec.
“Yes, Dad, can we go?” Max asked, turning towards Alec.
“Same place as usual,” Magnus said and pointed behind him. “We’ll be sitting there, so don’t go anywhere where you can’t see the bench, okay?”
“Okay!” he said, gesturing at Max to follow him. Alec nodded and Max ran behind Rafael.
Alec went to sit down next to Magnus in silence and just observed the boys from the bench. It was hard to believe how comfortable Max was around his new friend, to the point where he hadn't even hesitated to roll up his sleeves to his elbows, showing part of the birthmark that covered his arm.
Since the moment Max had arrived into his life, Alec had tried his best to teach him not to be ashamed. It hadn’t been difficult at the beginning before he started Kindergarten. Then, things had started getting slightly more challenging.
“They seem to be really getting along, don’t they?” Magnus commented finally breaking the ice and bringing Alec back to reality.
“Yeah,” he replied nodding his head in agreement. “I’m glad Max is making friends.”
Magnus smiled at him. A bright, warm smile that made Alec’s heart beat a little bit faster, like he hadn’t felt in years. He smiled back. There was something about Magnus, something Alec couldn’t explain. From the day he had brought Max home with him Alec hadn’t had time to think about relationships. His priorities had been Max, his job, and proving to everyone he knew that he could do it, despite the initial doubts.
“Don’t look now but, that woman over there,” he heard Magnus say and Alec couldn’t help but turn around. “I said don’t look!”
“Sorry,” Alec said apologetically, nervously scratching the back of his head.
“You need to improve those gossiping skills or we won’t have any fun.” He laughed, making Alec smile again. “As I was saying, that woman over there has been looking at you since we sat down.”
“What?” Alec exclaimed, almost looking at her again but stopping himself just in time. “Why?”
“You’re a hot single dad, darling” he said nonchalantly, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “A lot of women are into that.”
It took Alec a couple of seconds to register the words. So, maybe he hadn’t been imagining things. Maybe he really had been flirting? He shook his head, pushing those thoughts away and let out an unamused snort.
“Too bad I’m not into them then,” he deadpanned with a smile.
“Into that kind of woman?” Magnus asked curiously and Alec turned, meeting eyes with him, as he replied.
“Into women,” he clarified. The answer was met by a sly smirk.
Alec would be lying if he said he didn’t know what had compelled him to be so blunt, but the last thing he had planned for that day was to be (subtly or not) flirting with the father of his son’s friend. It was just wrong.
“That’s… good to know,” Magnus said playfully, a smirk still on his lips as he leaned against the back of the bench.
They both went back to looking at the kids who were playing with the figures, pretending to be having a sword fight. Their sixth sense must have spiked because both Rafael and Max looked towards their parents and waved, smiling widely. Magnus and Alec waved back and when the boys were satisfied they continued playing, going back into their fantasy world where they were pirates trying to find treasure.
“So… how did you end up becoming a dad?” Magnus asked casually, without even glancing at Alec.
Alec hesitated for a second before even considering answering, slightly taken aback by the suddenness of the question. He had pretty much gathered by now that Magnus wasn’t the type of man that would beat around the bush. If there was something he wanted to say, do, or ask, he just would and, in a way, Alec appreciated it.
“As it happens,” he started, “It’s a bit of a long story, but I adopted him after a gap year abroad four years ago.”
Magnus nodded but didn’t ask any questions, leaving it up to Alec to continue his story if he wanted to. He remembered the first few weeks (or probably more like months) of being back in the States and the incessant flow of questions and judgement he received from people who were practically strangers. It had been overwhelming, though it never for a second made him regret his decision. If anything, it made him more determined.
Even after all these years, it felt good to have someone that just seemed to want to listen to the story. Someone who might have a similar story or a completely different one, but with whom he could relate on some level. And despite the fact that this was the first time they had officially talked, Alec felt that he could trust Magnus.
“After finishing Law school and passing the Bar, I decided I needed a break so I took a year to travel around South East Asia,” Alec explained. Magnus had draped his arm over the back of the bench and shifted slightly to face him.
“The first couple of months it was about sightseeing mostly,” he continued, “I went alone but my boyfriend at the time joined me a couple of weeks in. It was fun even though we ended up breaking up not long after.”
“Not up for the challenge, I see,” Magnus commented. “Not everyone is.”
“I guess he was hoping I would get tired and go back home when he wanted me to,” Alec said with a shrug. “Anyway, after he left I started volunteering at an orphanage, teaching English to the kids. Max had been there since he was a few months old after his parents died. He didn’t have any other family that could take care of him, so they were hoping he would be adopted locally.” He stopped talking to look at Max, laughing and running around chasing Rafael.
“I’m guessing this is when you say that he wasn’t that lucky,” Magnus said and Alec pressed his lips together.
“Well, you’ll have seen the birthmark on his arm,” he said and Magnus nodded his head. “Let’s just say people from that area are very superstitious.”
“Oh,” Magnus breathed as he realized where this was going.
“He was the sweetest little boy. He still is. And I always wanted to have kids,” Alec confided, smiling at the thought, “So I did all I could and didn’t stop until I could bring him home with me.”
Magnus was looking at him with something that resembled admiration, although Alec didn’t think he deserved it. There was something else there that Alec couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“You’re truly remarkable, Alexander,” Magnus said in that silky voice Alec remembered from the day they first met, shaking his head and smiling softly.
It was a second too late when Alec realized he was staring, completely caught off guard by Magnus’ words. He felt his cheeks start to burn but it was too late to hide it.
“I don’t... “ Alec muttered, trying to find the right words, “It’s not…”
“Not many people would have done what you did,” Magnus insisted. “Don’t take credit away from yourself.”
Alec looked down, letting Magnus’ words sink in. He really didn’t think he had done anything that extraordinary.
“And what did your family think about you adopting Max?” Magnus asked, bringing Alec back to reality.
Alec snorted. Loudly.
“That’s definitely a story for a second date,” he replied absentmindedly, attempting to correct himself as soon as he realized what he had said. “I mean…”
“So there’s going to be a second date?” Magnus smirked. “I’d like that.”
“I meant playdate,” Alec said, keeping a serious face.
“Of course, darling,” Magnus teased, unable to contain his mischievous smile and making Alec laugh.
Max and Rafael had moved on from the pirate figures and were now playing on the swings. Rafael had put himself in charge of pushing. Max was laughing at the top of his lungs, asking to go higher.
“What’s your story?” Alec’s words came out more quiet and hesitant than he wanted them to, like he wasn’t convinced it was alright to ask, even after having shared his.
“My story…” Magnus started in a soft, almost dreamy voice. He leaned back again, avoiding Alec’s eyes. “It’s also a long story.”
“You… don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Alec offered, although deep inside he hoped Magnus would.
Magnus shook his head with a small, sad smile. His eyes, that had been sparkling all afternoon, suddenly looked darker and heartbroken.
“When I was twenty-four, I was dating a woman. Her name was Etta, and she was a few years older than me,” he explained. “She really wanted to have a family but I had just used all my money to start my yoga studio in Brooklyn and I was broke. In the end, we decided we wanted different things and broke up. She moved to the West Coast soon after.”
Alec listened intently, just nodding his head not wanting to interrupt him by making any sound.
“One night, a couple of months later, she called me. She was pregnant with Rafael and he was mine,” Magnus continued. “She told me we didn't have to get back together, that both of us had our lives set on a different course but even if Etta and I didn’t love each other anymore that way, I wanted to be part of my son’s life.”
Magnus licked his lips and smiled again, letting out a sigh, the sadness in his eyes intensifying. Alec swallowed hard.
“When Rafael was three, Etta died in an accident, so he came to live with me,” he finished quickly as he saw the two boys running towards them.
Alec’s jaw dropped slightly but he didn’t have time to say anything before he felt Max climbing his legs to sit on his lap.
“Dad!” Max exclaimed and asked excitedly, “Can Rafael come meet Astrid one day?”
“Astrid?” Magnus asked, tilting his head to the side, visibly amused. There were no signs of the sorrow that Alec had seen on his features just moments ago, and his eyes had regained their usual sparkle.
“Astrid is our dog.” Alec answered hurriedly.
“I chose the name!” Max said, bouncing on his father’s lap, “From ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ ! She’s a viking!”
“If it’s OK with Rafael’s dad,” Alec added, looking at Magnus, “Rafael can come meet her whenever they have time.”
“And Max can come meet Chairman Meow too! Right, Papa?” Rafael said, pulling Magnus’s hand.
“I’m not going to ask,” Alec said, rolling his eyes slightly. Magnus stuck his tongue out at him because it was the adult thing to do.
“So can he come to our house someday?” Rafael insisted.
“Absolutely,” Magnus said, his eyes fixed on Alec’s.
It was strange how incredibly comfortable he felt around Magnus despite barely knowing him. But it just felt good and natural and, for now, it was all Alec needed. It was just right.
After that first playdate in the park, Alec, Magnus, and the boys met several times. They would go to the park and play while Magnus and Alec chatted sitting on the bench. When the weather didn’t allow it, they would change the park for a movie (Alec may or may not have cried watching ‘Finding Dory’. ‘You’ll never know for sure,’ he had said after they left the theater), an indoor playground, or story time at the New York Public Library.
Playdates had started getting longer too. After the park, either Magnus or Alec would propose to go for an ice cream or a pizza at one of the restaurants nearby. More then once, they had ended up at Alec’s or Magnus’ place, and the boys had finally been able to meet the rest of their small families: Chairman Meow, Magnus’ yellow eyed, maine coon; and Astrid, Alec’s golden retriever.
It was a couple of days before Halloween and the boys were excited to spend it together. They had decided to do a group costume, and Magnus had put himself in charge of everything. Costumes, place, schedule… he had planned each detail and sent it to Alec for approval.
That afternoon, he had gotten a call from Magnus informing him that the costumes had arrived and asking him if they could drop by Alec’s apartment after work.
“I could pick up Rafael,” Alec offered. “Just come directly to my apartment later.”
“Are you sure?” Magnus asked, “I don’t want to impose.”
“I’m sure,” he insisted. “I’ll make sure he does his homework before you get there.”
“Thank you Alexander. You are an angel.”
Alec hung up the phone with a feeling in his stomach he hadn’t felt in a long time.
The rest of the afternoon went by as usual. After Alec picked up the kids from school and took them to the apartment, he sat with them at the kitchen table. While Rafael was doing his homework and Max was drawing, Alec worked on some of the cases he had taken home. Astrid had come to lie down on the floor next to them, making the picture even more idyllic.
It made Alec’s head spin, how fast they had become friends. Not only the kids, who seemed inseparable by now, but also him and Magnus. They were both so different, their stories, their friends, their whole lives. Yet, they had found comfort in talking to each other, asking for help or tips or even venting when something frustrated them. They had been talking (or at least messaging each other) practically every day since that first playdate, and by now they knew even the number of each other’s pediatricians.
“Uncle Alec,” Rafael called. Alec looked up from his piles of documents.
As they met more and more often, Rafael had started calling him ‘Uncle Alec.’ Max had soon copied his friend and next thing they knew, Magnus had become ‘Uncle Magnus.’
“I finished my math homework,” he announced cheerfully. “Can I go draw with Max?”
“Let me see,” Alec reached out his hand and took the worksheets the boy had been working on for the past half hour.
While he was going through the exercises, the doorbell rang. “Okay, you can go,” he said, putting the worksheets down and walking towards the door.
“Yes!” Rafael exclaimed, practically jumping out of his seat. Out of the corner of his eye, Alec saw Max happily sharing his color pencils and crayons, and explaining which ones were his favorites. Alec couldn’t suppress a smile.
Not expecting anyone other than Magnus, Alec opened the door without checking only to find it wasn’t him, but Izzy who was waiting on the other side.
“Since when do you ring the bell?” Alec asked, looking to both sides of the corridor as if he was expecting Magnus to suddenly appear out of nowhere.
“Forgot my keys,” she replied casually, walking past him. “Where’s my favorite nephew?”
“He’s your only nephew,” Alec deadpanned, closing the door behind him.
“Which makes him my favorite.” Izzy stopped in her tracks when she saw Rafael. “Have you adopted another kid without telling us?” But as she said that, realization seemed to hit her and she turned her head to send the most mischievous smile in Alec’s direction. “I can’t believe my luck. Am I finally gonna meet the famous Magnus?”
“Shut up,” Alec practically hissed which only made her smile grow bigger.
“Aunt Izzy!” Max exclaimed, jumping off his chair and running to hug her. “Come draw with us!”
Max took Izzy’s hand and pulled her towards the kitchen table.
“You must be Rafael,” Izzy said as she sat down next to Max.
“Yes, ma…” Rafael started but before he could finish, Izzy had held up her hand, interrupting him.
“Ah, ah, ah, ah,” she warned, wagging her finger, “You can call me Aunt Izzy, sweetheart.”
Just then, the bell rang again and Alec went back to the door. Izzy was faster though and she opened the door, sticking her tongue out at him. Magnus, carrying a mountain of bags, barely noticed who was at the door until he was already walking into the apartment.
“I haven’t been able to check all the costumes yet but I think they’re all okay. I hope I didn’t mess up the si- Oh!” he let out a surprised little sound as he finally saw Izzy standing next to Alec, smiling widely and somewhat knowingly like she was seeing something both Alec and Magnus weren’t.
Magnus reacted quickly though.
“You must be Alexander’s amazing--and stunning I might add--sister I’ve heard so much about,” Magnus said, reaching out his hand for a handshake, trying to balance the bags.
“Alexander?” Izzy whispered teasingly with a smirk before taking Magnus’ hand. “Magnus, isn't it? I've heard a great deal about you, too.”
“Is that so?” Magnus said, lips curving into a smirk. He glanced at Alec who was rolling his eyes at both of them.
“Papa!” Rafael called from the kitchen, interrupting the introductions.
Alec took advantage of the distraction and, taking a couple of bags from Magnus’ hands, he made his way to the living room.
“Who wants to try on their costumes?” he asked as he passed by the boys who squealed happily, putting down their crayons and following Alec into the living room.
They had decided to go as pirates, and from the size and quantity of the bags, Magnus had gone all out. It didn’t take much to know that Magnus wasn’t the type to do things by halves and Alec was going to see it first hand.
After the boys had finished trying the costumes on and Magnus had checked that everything was in order, Max and Rafael sat down on the living room floor with their crayons to continue drawing while the adults sat down on the sofa.
“I want to wear makeup like Uncle Magnus,” Max said excitedly when Izzy had asked him what kind of pirate he was going to be. “He wears makeup just like Aunt Izzy! I want to wear it too! It’s so cool!”
“I actually have this natural makeup we can use,” she said with a smile. “It’ll be on point, just like Uncle Magnus’.”
“Not as on point as yours, I must say,” Magnus replied, winking at Izzy who replied with a little shush, holding up her finger.
“Your dad is really cool too though, isn’t he?” Izzy said, looking at Alec. He sat up straight, alarmed by her comment. “Why don’t you show Uncle Magnus and Rafael that picture of your dad you have in your room?”
With a simple nod and a big smile, Max stood up and all but ran to his room, coming back a second later carrying a frame with a picture of Alec in one of his archery competitions, just when he was about to shoot.
“I made the frame!” Max announced proudly as he handed it to his friend.
“Wow!” Rafael exclaimed. “Papa, look!”
The boy gave the frame to Magnus and sat down on the sofa next to him to look at the picture some more.
“Can I learn how to use a bow?” Rafael asked Alec, his eyes shining, bouncing up and down on the sofa and taking the frame from his father’s hands.
“Well, you’ll have to ask your dad,” Alec replied with a kind smile.
“I wouldn’t mind having a little fun with your bow,” he said casually, smirking shamelessly. Alec felt his face burn and he looked away, rolling his eyes. Izzy snorted.
“Really, Magnus?” Alec said, shaking his head with his eyes closed.
“Maybe not just a little?” Magnus added. Alec almost hid his face with his hands.
“I don’t think Papa would be very good with the bow,” Rafael noted innocently.
Izzy and Magnus couldn’t hold back a laugh.
“I guess we’ll have to find out,” Magnus said, winking at Alec mischievously.
“Just… stop,” he begged, mortified by the whole exchange. It didn’t help that Magnus had put images in his head that he didn’t seem to be able to stop.
Max had already started playing with his toys again, obviously bored by the adults’ conversation. Rafael joined him soon after.
“You have to relax, Alexander,” Magnus said, a smile still curving his lips. “The kids just think I’m interested in archery although I’m sure we can figure out more efficient ways to do some exercise.”
Halloween was on a Monday this year, which meant that most of the events were happening during the weekend, except for the trick or treating. It had seemed like a waste of money to use the costumes just for a couple of hours, so they had ended up dressing up on Sunday and going to one of the parades in Brooklyn and even participated in a costume contest. They had won second prize, which had made Alec’s competitive side emerge (much to Magnus’ amusement), but the boys seemed to be having the time of their lives.
The next day after school, Magnus had called to ask Alec to meet him at his apartment instead since he had a last minute client and was running late. While Izzy, Jace, and their little brother Max were usually able to join them for the trick-or-treating, this year only Simon could make it since the rest were busy with work or school.
Simon had gone to Alec’s apartment after school, and after helping him get Max ready (although he refused to get his makeup done by anyone but Magnus), they headed to Magnus’ place. What Alec wasn’t expecting, though, was to be received by a shirtless Magnus when they got there.
“I… Hi,” Alec managed, not even trying to look away. Max ran inside looking for Rafael while Simon shifted his eyes between Alec and Magnus.
“Come on in,” Magnus said, obviously enjoying the way Alec’s eyes lingered. “I’ll be ready in a minute.”
Magnus disappeared into his room, leaving Alec and Simon with the kids. His apartment was a huge loft, remodeled to add a few fake walls to divide it and separate the living space from the yoga studio. Chairman Meow was rubbing his head against Alec’s legs, meowing and clearly asking to be petted.
“Do you want me to take the kids so you two can… you know?” Simon asked, half teasingly half serious. Alec furrowed his brow.
“What are you talking about?” Alec said, his voice going slightly high-pitched.
“Come on,” Simon laughed. “The-” He paused to give Alec a knowing smile, “-tension between you two could be cut with a knife.”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about. We’re just friends,” Alec said dismissively.
“Seriously?” Simon asked, incredulous. Alec blinked a few times. “Wait, you’re serious. Have you not noticed at all? All the flirting and… stuff?”
“He’s like that with everyone, Si,” Alec replied calmly.
“Have you ever seen him being like that with me?” he retorted almost immediately. Alec opened his mouth to answer but stopped in his tracks, like he couldn’t think of a time he had seen that happen.
“Well, that’s because you’re Rafael’s teacher,” he said matter-of-factly. Simon shook his head.
“How about Jace? Or Izzy?” Simon continued, getting a little frustrated.
“Ha! He flirts with Izzy!” Alec exclaimed triumphantly.
“Not like the bow thing!” he shot back and Alec’s eyes went wide.
“How do you know about that?” he asked but regretted it almost immediately, “Forget I asked. I’m going to kill Izzy.”
“No you won’t,” Simon said. “Do you at least see it now?”
Alec bit the inside of his cheek. Of course he saw it. And he had seen it, or at least thought he had seen it, several times in the time he had known Magnus from their very first interaction. He had just decided to shove it to the back of his mind where it was safe, and ignore it. Because as someone very wise once said, ignorance is bliss, and he just didn’t have time for this kind of thing right now.
“Let’s say I do...see it. Nothing can happen anyway so I’m just going to keep it as it is. Platonic,” Alec admitted finally.
Simon pressed his lips together in frustration, pointing his finger at Alec.
“I knew you couldn’t be that oblivious,” he said. Just as he was going to continue, Magnus came out of his room.
Alec didn’t know if it was because of the conversation he just had with Simon or because Magnus looked simply stunning, but he couldn’t stop staring. For some reason Alec completely ignored, Magnus had decided to modify his costume from the day before and now the shirt he was wearing was slightly open, showing part of his chest. He was wearing a few more necklaces and the makeup…
“How do I look? Steven?” Magnus said, looking from Simon to Alec and giving a little twirl. “Alexander?”
“Y-you… hmm…” Alec stuttered, closing his eyes to try to compose himself. Damn you, Simon!
“You look great!” Simon said, “It’s Simon, by the way.”
“Thank you, Sherwin,” he replied with a bow. When he looked up, he fixed his eyes on Alec’s.
“I… What he said,” Alec mumbled, walking away. “Boys! We’re ready!”
They spent a couple of frenzied hours trick-or-treating, going around all the shops that participated in the event, until Max and Rafael had seemed satisfied with the candy they had gotten.
Before going back to Magnus’ loft for a movie, the five of them had taken a group photo to commemorate the occasion. Simon had crouched down between Max and Rafael and Magnus and Alec were behind them, standing close to each other. Alec felt the back of their hands lightly touch and the whole conversation earlier with Simon flashed through his mind.
Stupid Simon with his stupid ideas. Alec had been doing so well up to this point! And now it was all he could think about. Every word, every gesture had a meaning that was getting increasingly harder to ignore. But he had to. He didn’t want to--he couldn’t--put Max through possibly losing his friend if things between him and Magnus didn’t go well.
Once the boys had sorted their candy, the four of them had sat down in the living room to watch a movie. Max and Rafael had settled on the floor, surrounded by a little fort made of pillows. Not even halfway through the movie they had fallen asleep, Max resting his head against Rafael.
Magnus and Alec were looking at the boys from the sofa. It wasn’t exactly small, but somehow they had both ended up sitting in the middle, their arms and shoulders touching.
“It hasn’t always been this easy, you know?” Magnus whispered. “Doing this.”
Alec slowly turned his head to look at Magnus, realizing too late just how close they were sitting. And that he smelled like sandalwood.
“It was hard at first. For Rafael and I,” he continued, keeping his voice low to not wake the boys up. “When he came to live with me he was acting out a lot and I couldn’t… I didn’t know how to handle it.”
Alec didn’t know what to say. Magnus hadn’t really talked that much about their past since that first playdate and Alec hadn’t asked.
“It was after a couple of months? Maybe a little bit less,” Magnus said, “We went to Kings Plaza, this mall here in Brooklyn. We were shopping for clothes and I got distracted for one second.”
Magnus stopped, closing his eyes for a moment and licking his lips before continuing.
“It was a second but when I looked around, Rafael wasn’t there anymore. I just… freaked out,” he remembered, letting out a pained chuckle. “I ran around in a panic like an idiot until I saw him, sobbing and scared, with a lady that was trying to calm him down. I thought I was going to be angry but all I could feel was relief, you know?”
Alec nodded again.
“And then, when he saw me, he came running towards me and hugged me and he…he called me Papa for the first time.” Magnus’ voice broke a little and Alec felt his heart clench. Magnus’ eyes were shining.
Alec couldn't help but remember the first time Max had called him dad, the immense happiness and warmth that had filled his heart. Alec could just imagine how that moment had been for Magnus.
“At that moment something clicked. I just knew I would do anything for that little boy. My little boy,” Magnus whispered, closing his eyes again.
Without realizing it, Alec was holding Magnus’ hand, giving it a soft but reassuring squeeze. Magnus opened his eyes and turned his head, and time seemed to stop for Alec. They were so close, he could feel the warmth of Magnus’ breath on his skin. Alec’s heart was pounding in his chest like a drum, so loud he wondered if Magnus could hear it.
Alec’s eyes drifted to Magnus’ lips and his body acted of its own accord, leaning forward to close the space between them. It was a soft, candid, innocent kiss, their lips barely brushing against each other’s, soft as a feather. But the fight between Alec’s heart and his mind was too overwhelming and he pulled away.
“I’m sorry. I… I shouldn’t have done that,” Alec muttered, eyes wide open.
He stood up and walked away, not really knowing where he was going. He went into the bathroom where he finally released a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He turned on the tap and splashed some water on his face. How had he lost control like that? What the hell was he thinking?
With his hands, he gripped both sides of the sink and closed his eyes. Over the sound of his own heart, Alec could hear steps growing closer. He could feel Magnus standing behind him, looking at him.
“Alexander?” Magnus said gently. Alec bit his lower lip.
Their eyes met in the mirror and for a few moments they lingered there, staring at their reflections. It was a battle of wills of sorts, one Alec felt he wasn’t going to win. He sighed shakily and turned around, standing still for what seemed an eternity before moving closer and taking Magnus’ face in his hands, kissing him hard on the lips.
Where the first kiss had been gentle and soft, this was the complete opposite. It was desperate and raw and it made Alec’s head spin. He felt he was losing the last bits of control he had but, at the same time, it just felt right. Magnus kissed him back just as desperately, his hands on Alec’s waist pulling him closer and Alec’s mind went blank.
And just then, a cry coming from the living room forcefully jerked him back to reality. A reality where only one person mattered. Alec pulled back almost immediately.
“I… I can’t do this,” he said trying to avoid Magnus’ eyes.
“Dad? Dad?” Max called, between sobs. Alec all but ran to hold his son, who was crying uncontrollably next to Rafael.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. It was just a bad dream,” Alec said tenderly, rubbing the boy’s back in circles.
“My… my tummy hurts,” he moaned pitifully, hugging Alec tight.
“It’s okay. I’m gonna take you home, okay?” he said and the boy nodded.
Alec glanced at Magnus, who was still looking a bit flustered from the kiss.
“I-we need to go,” Alec said, starting to pick up his things frantically. Magnus helped him in silence and walked him to the door.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Magnus said and with a nod, Alec disappeared through the main door.
Almost a month had passed since Halloween and Alec had done everything in his power to avoid talking to Magnus. Magnus had called him the next day as promised, but Alec had made sure to just talk about Max and how he was doing. After ignoring Magnus’ messages a couple of times, they had become fewer and fewer and mostly to talk about their kids and when they could meet.
Alec had distracted himself with work, taking a few more cases than he had to, just to not think about what had happened. He thought that if he kept his distance, if he followed the plan he had set for himself and Max, everything would go back to normal.
It wasn’t just the calls and messages he avoided, it was also the playdates with the kids. He would say he was busy whenever Max went to see Rafael and Magnus would do the same when he took Rafael to his apartment.
It was a good plan, or so he thought, and it seemed to be working except for the fact that he felt miserable. Max was also starting to pick up something wasn’t right, which worried him more than anything else. And then there was Izzy.
“I thought Magnus and Rafael were going to have Thanksgiving lunch with us,” Izzy asked, as soon as Alec arrived to his parents’ house.
“Change of plans,” he replied briskly, walking past his sister to try to avoid the conversation altogether. He knew better than that though. Before he could reach the living room where Jace was helping Robert to set the table, Izzy caught up with him.
“Max, sweetheart,” she called, “why don’t you go help your grandpa and Uncle Jace?”
The boy nodded and ran towards the two men, who greeted him with bear hugs.
“Just let it go,” Alec pleaded, hoping she would listen for once. He was out of luck.
“Did you and Magnus have a fight?” she asked, adding in a concerned tone, “Max looks a bit…”
“We didn’t fight,” he muttered, exasperation present in his voice.
“But?” Izzy urged. She knew him too damn well and he knew it was going to be impossible to hide it from her, no matter how hard he tried.
“Something happened on Halloween,” he started. Izzy made a hand gesture for him to continue. “And I’ve been pretty much ignoring him since.”
“You’re an idiot, big brother,” she deadpanned, shaking her head in disappointment. “Makes me wonder who of the two is the child, Max or you.”
Izzy was right, he was an idiot. Alec had no doubt about that. But after a day of ignoring Magnus had turned into a week, and a week into three, how was he supposed to face him? He had taken his childishness way too far and now he didn’t know how to fix it.
And it was just a kiss, wasn’t it? But it was so much more than an incredibly mind blowing kiss. It was the first time in years that he had let his guard down. The first time he had let himself go like that. And that scared the hell out of him.
Alec ran his hand through his hair with a heavy sigh. He couldn’t do it. He had to stick to his plan. It was too risky. What if…
“What if it doesn’t work out and it ends badly?” Alec said out loud suddenly, catching Izzy off guard. “I have to think about Max.”
“Alec…” she sighed. "You can't just give up on possibly finding love like that."
“When you have a kid you need to make sacrifices,” he replied automatically, like he had learned it by heart.
“But you don’t have to,” Izzy insisted. “I’ve seen the four of you together. It could be amazing if you just give it a chance.”
Alec let out a sigh. “I don’t know…” he said finally,
“Trust me on this one, big brother,” Izzy patted Alec on the back a couple of times as she said it, “I know what I’m talking about.”
“But he has a cat…” Alec tried, biting his lip to hide a sheepish smile.
“Now you’re just reaching,” she exclaimed, “And you know Astrid loves Chairman Meow.”
“I guess I’m running out of excuses, aren’t I?” he said, knowing quite well that she was right.
“You most definitely are.”
It was already pretty late by the time they got back home after a long day at the grandparents’ house. Max brushed his teeth while Alec got his favorite pajamas ready. When he had changed out of his clothes, Max sat down on the bed looking at Alec intently.
“Dad?” Max called shyly, fidgeting with the rim of his pajama top.
“When we go to see Rafael tomorrow, can you stay?” he asked tentatively.
“Max… You know I’m very busy,” Alec replied although he knew it was a lie. Even after his conversation with Izzy, he wasn’t sure he could handle it.
“You always say that,” he whined, pouting a little. “You never stay anymore.”
“Come on, it’s bedtime,” Alec urged. He took the covers, ready to tuck him in, but Max shook his head, not even attempting to move.
“No! Not until you promise you’ll stay,” he said, his voice raising a little.
“Max, go to sleep,” he warned and crossed his ams over his chest.
“No!” Max insisted, “When you don’t stay, Uncle Magnus gets sad. You can cheer him up!”
Alec sighed. How could kids be so perceptive and so bluntly honest? Obviously they were on to something when they said that only drunks and children told the truth. He sat down on the bed next to Max, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
“Do you remember your first day of school?” Alec asked softly, a little smile curving his lips. Max nodded, looking up at him. “You were really nervous and didn’t want to go.”
Max nodded again.
“Well, Daddy is feeling something like that,” he said. The boy nodded once more, this time more to himself. His eyes were fixed on his hands, deep in thought. He furrowed his brow like he was trying hard to remember something.
“It’s okay to be scared sometimes,” the boy said slowly, like something he had memorized. “It just means you’re going to do something very brave. Yes! That’s what you told me! I remembered!”
Max bounced on his bed a little, grabbing Alec’s free arm.
“I did, didn’t I?” Alec chuckled. Having his own advice thrown back at him by his six year-old son wasn't something he thought he would ever experience.
But Max was right. It as time for him to be brave and not hide behind excuses.
“I'll help you, Dad.” Max said encouragingly.
Alec laughed a little, ruffling Max’s hair and pulling him into a hug.
Alec’s palms were sweating like never before. He and Max were standing in front of Magnus’ loft door, and after two failed attempts to ring the bell, Max had jumped to do it himself. Now, he was smiling mischievously as they waited for Magnus to open the door.
“Alec,” Magnus said, sounding slightly surprised.
“I… hmmm,” he stuttered, unable to find the words.
What was he going to say? Obviously he hadn’t thought this through. He should have practiced at least. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe…
Alec felt a little squeeze in his hand and he looked down at his son.
“You can do it, Dad,” he whispered and Alec nodded. Before he could say anything though, Magnus spoke.
“Just, come on in,” he said. “We’re getting ready to decorate the tree.”
As they walked in, Alec saw Rafael and Catarina, one of Magnus’ best friends, come out of the living room to greet them. She looked between them and gave them a knowing look.
“Hey Max. Do you want to help us untangle the lights?” Catarina asked, making a gesture for Max to follow. With one last squeeze, Max disappeared into the living room.
“Can we talk?” Alec asked as soon as they were alone.
“Oh, now you wanna talk?” Magnus retorted, but he didn’t wait for an answer before going to the kitchen. Alec quickly followed him.
Alec’s brain was on overload. There were a hundred things he wanted to say but the words weren’t coming. He was panicking and...was that flour on Magnus’ cheek?
“So?” Magnus asked, sounding irritated, and Alec said the only thing he could think of.
“You… There’s something on your cheek,” he whispered, reaching out his hand to softly use his thumb to clean it, lingering there for a second longer than he needed to. Magnus let him, his features softening at the touch.
It didn't last more than a second. He took Alec's hand and moved it away, not harshly but firmly.
"Stop that," Magnus said, trying to sound firm. "I'm supposed to be mad at you."
"Sorry..." Alec muttered, "I'm... I'm really sorry. About everything. It was childi-"
"Are you now?" Magnus snapped.
"I am! I just... I’m sorry. I freaked out. I had a plan. From the beginning I had this idea in my head of how things should be and it's been a long time since I've felt this way. So... so helpless. It was supposed to be just Max and I. I never thought I would find someone I could rely on but I just... I really, really, really like you and I panicked because you-"
"What was that?" Magnus asked, interrupting his blabbering for which Alec was eternally grateful.
“I’m sorry I freaked out?” Alec replied, in an attempt to dodge the question.
“You know that’s not the part I’m referring to,” Magnus replied.
“If you know already, why do you need me to repeat it?”
“Humor me,” he said, raising an eyebrow expectantly.
Alec pressed his lips together, completely mortified. He could feel his cheeks burn a little which just added fuel to his embarrassment.
“... I really, really, really like you?” Alec repeated, trying to look away but ultimately locking his eyes with Magnus’.
Magnus hummed, furrowing his brow. “No, that wasn’t it,” he said finally, the beginning of a smirk starting to form on his lips as he slowly walked away.
Before he could take a single step though, Alec grabbed him by the arm, turning him around so they were facing each other again.
“I said it!” Alec protested. Magnus licked his lips trying to keep a serious expression.
“It was really childish of you to-” he started but was promptly interrupted by Alec.
“I know. I’m sorry,” he said, his voice low and apologetic.
Magnus swallowed and let out a little sigh.
"Is it always going to be this difficult to stay mad at you? Because it's not fair Alexander," he said, in that silky voice that sent electricity down his spine.
"So you're not mad at me anymore?" Alec asked, a little, soft smile curving his lips
"I never really was," he confessed. “Maybe just a little bit.”
Something over their heads caught Magnus’ attention. He looked up and Alec followed his eyes, just to see a branch of mistletoe hanging from the frame of the door frame.
"Isn't it a bit too early to be hanging mistletoe around the house?" Alec asked, slightly amused.
"It wasn't me! I-"
Alec didn't let him finish and grabbing Magnus by his jacket, he pulled him closer and kissed him without hesitation. Magnus’ lips felt just like he remembered them and Alec couldn’t help but get lost in the kiss, forgetting everything around them.
“Ewwwww!!” Max cried. “Kissing is gross!!”
Startled, they pulled away quickly, glancing at the two boys who were making gestures of disgust. Alec smiled and rested his forehead against Magnus’. He let go of the jacket and after swiftly kissing Magnus’ nose, he walked towards Max in big steps, grinning.
“Kissing is gross, huh?” he said and a high-pitched squeal filled the room as Max realized what was coming.
The boy tried to escape but it was too late. Alec grabbed him by the waist and easily picked him up. Max laughed and called for help, and Rafael ran to cling onto Alec’s legs to prevent him from getting near the mistletoe.
Alec looked at Magnus. His smile made Alec’s heart skip a beat.
“A little bit of help?” he said softly but Magnus just shrugged a little. “Traitor.”
Magnus chuckled and took the few steps that separated them.
“Who wants to help me put the star on the tree?” he asked. The two boys raised their hands. Rafael ran into the living room and Magnus followed him.
Still under the mistletoe, Alec put Max down and he started to run off behind them, just to come back and pull Alec’s shirt so he would crouch down. When he did, Max quickly kissed him on the cheek.
“I love you, Dad.”
Alec saw him disappear into the living room again.
“I love you, too.”