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If Alec’s grateful for one thing in his life, it’s the existence of Grindr. If he has to be gay – and it seems that he does, despite all efforts to the contrary – then at least he’s gay in the age of technology-assisted anonymous hook-ups. He can’t imagine how people had done it before, especially people who, like him, didn’t like the idea of being seen at a gay bar or club.

Of course, he had been terrified of Grindr at first, too, always paranoid that his mother would find some excuse to poke around on his phone. It’s password-protected, of course, but it still felt like a risk. But after using it the first few times had worked, he started to relax at least a little. It seems safe. And it’s worth it, in his opinion. He can go without if he has to, and only indulges once every few months, but sometimes his right hand just doesn’t cut it.

Over the years, it’s become something of a motivational tool for him, a way to reward himself for things like surviving his mother’s fiftieth birthday party with all her socialite friends, or getting through the blind date she set up for him with some friend’s daughter. His profile makes it clear that he’s looking only for a quick hook-up, that he’s not in it for a relationship. Grindr has plenty of like-minded men, many of them in the closet just like he is, and he never has trouble finding somebody when he’s in the mood.

So when he finally gets the promotion he’s been working towards for the last five years, a celebratory screw seems like a great idea. He swipes through Grindr, sets up a date, and agrees to meet the guy at a bar in midtown.

He always gets a hotel room when he does this. A quick hook-up is one thing; he doesn’t want one so quick that it’s in the nearest storage closet. But he’s certainly not bringing the guy back to his apartment, which has a doorman and security cameras. Hotels are a good middle ground, and it’s not like he can’t afford them.

He’s been in the bar for fewer than three minutes when his phone buzzes and he looks down to see a message from his Grindr date, saying he’d been called in to work an emergency shift and wouldn’t make it. Alec looks down at his phone and tries not to swear too loudly. He always psyches himself up for these, to get over his nerves, and now he’s both jittery and horny.

Well, he’s at a bar. A gay bar, he’s pretty sure. There’s probably someone else here he could hook up with. If only he knew how to go about finding an interested party.

He looks around, hoping he doesn’t look as confused and desperate as he feels. Everyone seems engaged in their own thing, as a couple or with friends, it doesn’t even look like anyone else is alone, and then his eyes rest on a man who’s just turning to survey the room. Their eyes lock, and it should be awkward or embarrassing, but it isn’t. That might be because this man is the hottest guy Alec has ever seen, and every molecule in his body instantly wants to get naked with him. He realizes that his throat is dry, and he has to force himself to swallow as the man smiles and walks over. “Are you here by yourself?”

“Uh, yeah, I, uh, my d-date cancelled,” Alec says, stammering like an idiot.

“Well, that won’t do at all,” the man says, his smile growing wider. “I’m Magnus. Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure. Yes. Alec. I mean, my name is Alec.” This is why he likes Grindr. Less awkward social introductions. Of course, he doesn’t usually stammer like this. He looks at the bartender and tries to remember what he likes to drink. “Uh, Scotch and soda. Please and thanks.”

Magnus is beaming like he’s just too adorable for words. He turns to the bar and says, “And a martini for me, lemon, no olives.”

Their drinks are ready a few moments later, and Alec tries to think of something to say. “So, uh, you come here often?” he asks, and then inwardly rolls his eyes at himself for asking the most clichéd question in the book.

It doesn’t seem to faze Magnus, though. He just continues smiling and says, “Actually, I just moved to the city this week. This is my first time here.”

Alec sips his Scotch and thanks God for something he knows how to reply to. “Oh, really? Where are you from?”

“Indonesia, originally,” Magnus says, “but my family moved to the United States when I was very young. I’ve lived in northern California most of my life. You?”

“Born and bred New Yorker,” Alec says. “That’s a big move, though.”

“It was for work.”

“Yeah? What do you do?”

“I’m something of an academic; it’s very boring,” Magnus says with a laugh. “A lot of research, history, sociology. How about you? No, let me guess.” His eyes rake up and down Alec’s figure in a way that makes all of Alec’s skin go hot. “Hm, let me see,” he murmurs. “You’re well-off, that’s clear from your watch and your shoes, but they’re not nice enough for a politician or a lawyer. Your hair is too messy for you to be in sales; they all have the same haircut. Figure isn’t right for professional athlete.”

“Should I tell you that the watch was a gift now, or wait until you’ve finished your Sherlock routine?” Alec asks, smirking.

Magnus laughs. “Oh, you should definitely let me finish,” he says, and Alec flushes pink. “Your sense of style is all wrong for any sort of artist or musician. And your hands – which are lovely, by the way – aren’t rough enough for manual labor. But you do have calluses here . . .” He takes Alec’s hand, making his skin go hot again. “And here. Gun calluses. Which means you’re most likely in law enforcement.”

At this, Alec’s eyebrows go up. “Wow, okay. I’m impressed.”

Magnus smirks and finishes his drink. “What do I get for being right?”

“Satisfaction?” Alec suggests.

“I certainly hope so,” Magnus says, and Alec goes from pink to red as he realizes the double entendre he had accidentally flung into the conversation. Magnus smirks at him and changes the subject to different places in the city he’s hoping to see. Alec’s lived in the city the whole life, so he knows it like the back of his hand, and their conversation meanders between places Magnus should absolutely see, places not worth Magnus’ time, and places Magnus has never heard of but should definitely go. Alec finds that he’s enjoying it more than he would have expected, despite how far outside his comfort zone he’s drifted. Still, as the minutes tick by, he wonders how one goes about the ‘can we please go have sex’ part of the discussion. He’s not used to having to do this. Is there a tactful, polite way to say, ‘I really just want to screw’?

He finds out after their second drink, when Magnus says, “You know, I’m enjoying our conversation, but I tend to like to get to know people somewhere a bit more . . . intimate.” His hand rests on Alec’s thigh underneath the bar, and Alec feels all the blood in his cheeks rush to southern destinations.

“I have, uh, have a hotel room a couple blocks away,” he manages.

“That sounds perfect,” Magnus says.

He pays the bartender and a minute later, they’re on their way out of the club. Alec leads the way, and Magnus asks, “I have to admit I’m curious – why the hotel? If it’s so you don’t have to throw me out in the morning, I promise I’m very good at not making things awkward.”

Alec laughs a little despite himself. “I live in Brooklyn. It’s too far to go all the way back there.”

“No bars in Brooklyn?” Magnus asks innocently.

Alec certainly isn’t about to admit he went there to meet a Grindr date, so he just says, “I like that bar.”

“Fair enough,” Magnus says, with an easy smile. They’re at the hotel a few minutes later, and Alec is already half-hard as he shuts the door behind them and grabs Magnus by the front of the shirt, pulling him in for a kiss. It’s just as glorious as he had imagined it would be. Magnus threads a hand through his hair and holds on for dear life as Alec pushes him up against the wall. But he’s nowhere near passive, tugging Alec’s shirt out of his pants and then sliding his hands onto the bare skin underneath and pushing it over his head. His hands head downward and over Alec’s ass, pulling Alec against him. One of Magnus’ thighs slides between Alec’s legs like it was always meant to be there.

“Fuck,” Alec bites out, resisting the urge to just grind into that delicious pressure. He pulls Magnus away from the wall and quickly divests him of his shirt before pushing him down onto the bed. They kiss for what feels like hours, hands exploring the bare skin, hips rocking together like hopeless teenagers. Alec pulls away to catch his breath and gasps quietly as Magnus’ mouth closes on his ear. He fumbles with Magnus’ belt and manages to get his pants off, to reveal black boxer briefs. He licks his lips involuntarily, and Magnus groans. Alec leans down and starts mouthing at the bulge there, and Magnus’ hands grip harder at his hair.

Alec loves this, way more than he feels like he should. For a long time, he had tried to argue with himself that maybe he wasn’t really gay, straight guys could assess another man’s attractiveness, straight guys could like butt play, right? But this. He can’t deny the fact that he just loves sucking cock. He loves listening to the noises he can get other guys to make, loves the way they tug at his hair or grip his shoulders, loves feeling them tremble and shudder under his mouth. It makes him hard unlike anything else.

Magnus is a particularly responsive partner, moaning and pulling on his hair and shaking as he tries to keep from thrusting up into Alec’s mouth. Alec has him by the hips, but he’s not moving much, not making Alec pin him down. His thumbs rub over Magnus’ hip bones, and he hears Magnus give another quiet, choked gasp. “Oh – oh – oh, Alec, I’m so close – ”

Alec hums in acknowledgement and redoubles his efforts, and bare seconds later, Magnus is coming in his mouth. He loves that, too, after he’d had some practice and gotten used to it. Once Magnus is done, Alec kisses his way back up the other man’s trembling body.

“That. That was.” Magnus lets out a content sigh as Alec presses kisses into his throat and shoulders. “Mm. You’re going to have to give me a minute.”

“Take your time,” Alec says, trying not to grind against Magnus’ thigh too obviously.

It doesn’t work very well, and Magnus is smirking again. “Should I return the favor, or is there something else you’d rather do with that?”

Alec lets out a shaky breath and has to pull back to stay in control of himself. This only prompts Magnus to reach for him and start undoing his pants, and Alec’s hips flex unconsciously into Magnus’ hands. “Oh, God,” he says, trying to catch his breath. “I want to fuck you. Okay?”

“That is way beyond okay,” Magnus murmurs, tugging at Alec’s pants as if he’s suddenly in a huge hurry to get them off.

Alec tries not to squirm. “I want - to get you hard again first.”

“Well, I’ve no objection to that for obvious reasons, but it might take me a few minutes,” Magnus replies, grinning at him.

“Better leave my pants on until then,” Alec says, batting Magnus’ hands away and leaning down to bite at his collarbone. Magnus laughs but obeys, sliding his hands up Alec’s back instead, tracing delicate fingers down his spine. Alec groans into the crook of Magnus’ neck and starts working on making a mark there.

They make out for a little while, with messy, open-mouthed kisses that leave both of them oxygen deprived while their hands explore. It doesn’t take long for Magnus to recover, and Alec starts fumbling for where he left the condoms and lube. He presses soft kisses into Magnus’ stomach and hips while he slides a finger inside him. Magnus gives a quiet gasp and arches into his touch, hooking his legs around Alec. His body is nearly bent in half, heels digging into Alec’s shoulder blades in a way that proves that Magnus is sinfully flexible. “Oh, right there,” he moans, as Alec adds another finger.

“Jesus, you’re too much,” Alec mumbles, trying to stay in control of himself. He’s so hard that he aches. “You good?”

“God, yes, any time,” Magnus says, tugging on Alec’s hair.

Being inside Magnus is like a revelation. Alec doesn’t know what makes him different from other men he’s had sex with. Maybe it was the amazing foreplay, maybe it’s the angle from where Magnus has hooked his legs, maybe it’s just how Magnus is built. It’s like he was made for Alec. Magnus seems to feel the same way, his fingers still twined through Alec’s hair, taking little hitching breaths between each kiss. Alec tries to keep things slow, wants to make it last, but before long Magnus is panting, “please, harder, Alec, please,” and he can’t stop himself. He loses himself in the rhythm entirely, biting at the cords of Magnus’ neck, one hand reaching down to wrap around Magnus’ cock.

Magnus lets out a gasp as Alec nips his ear and his whole body goes tense, hands pulling hard at Alec’s hair as he comes. Alec moans into his shoulder and fights for control, a battle he immediately loses, the rhythm stuttering to a halt as he comes so hard that the world fades into something vague and sparkly.

He eases himself down carefully, body trembling, and Magnus surprises him by arching up for a kiss, slow and lazy and welcoming. Alec pulls out of him and rolls onto his side, taking care of the condom and then stretching out beside Magnus, feeling amazing. “Oh my God. Okay.” He tries to stay awake, but post-orgasm sleepiness is crashing over him in waves. Magnus kisses him again, and then snuggles up beside him, tucking his head into the crook of Alec’s neck like it was always meant to be there. Alec is vaguely aware of Magnus dragging a blanket up over them, and then he’s asleep.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec long ago perfected how to make a quick and easy escape from hotel rooms the next morning. It’s better to set an alarm, rather than risk his partner waking up first. So when his goes off at eight thirty, he grabs it and pretends it’s a phone call. His voice is still a little muddy from sleep, but he can manage, “Hello? . . . yeah . . . okay. Sure.” He sets the phone down as Magnus stirs, rubbing a hand over his face. “Hey, good morning.” He keeps his voice friendly. Acting like he regrets what happened always kicks the awkwardness up to eleven. “I’ve gotta head to work.”

“On a Sunday morning?” Magnus asks sleepily.

“Law enforcement, remember?” Alec says. “It’s not really a nine to five job.” He slides out of the bed and starts pulling on his clothes.

“Yes, all right.” Magnus is still yawning, but he sits up.

“You can relax if you want. The room has express checkout. Take your time, use the shower, just be out by eleven AM.”

Magnus sprawls backwards and gives a content sigh. Then he reaches out for his phone, as Alec pulls his pants on. “You should put your number in my phone,” he says, tapping the screen to unlock it.

Alec freezes a little. He’s always taken a ‘one show only’ approach to this sort of thing. He doesn’t want to see these guys again. Grindr makes that easy for him, and most of the guys are pretty understanding. But Magnus is so hot, and the sex was so good. He hesitates.

Magnus, still not entirely awake, doesn’t notice. “You could show me around town, maybe . . .? I understand now that you need a true native to really enjoy New York.”

“I, uh, I can’t really.” Alec clears his throat. “Sorry.”

“Are you sure? I’d love to - ” Magnus sees something shift on Alec’s face, and winces. “I’m sorry. I promised not to make the morning after awkward, and here I am doing precisely that. Number, yes, no?”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” Alec holds his hand up for the phone, and Magnus tosses it to him. Against his better judgment, he enters his number into Magnus’ contacts. He can always ignore it if Magnus calls him. “I’ve gotta go. I’ll see you around, maybe,” he says, and leaves the room without looking back.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

All things considered, Alec feels pretty good as he walks into the office the next day. He’s relaxed and content and looking forward to meeting his new team at work. He had been vying with several others to get the lead position in the new Supernatural Crime Task Force, and had found out Friday that he had gotten it. This is going to be his first day on the job, and he’s going to have a lot to do. He stopped outside the Supervisory Agent’s office and gave it a quick knock.

“Agent Lightwood, come in,” Luke Garroway says, glancing up from his paperwork. He’s met Luke before, several times, during the interview process. “Your team is assembled in the briefing room. Did you get the files I sent you?”

“Yes, I’ve already looked through them,” Alec says.

“Great. They’re all yours, then. Oh, one last thing - I’ve assigned your team a special consultant, but our wires got crossed about what time to come in, so he’s on his way now.”

“Okay, thanks,” Alec says, and heads for the briefing room. He’s been given a team of three, which will be fine to start. He’s worked with Jace Wayland multiple times; they had been at Quantico together. He knows Lydia Branwell by reputation, if not personally, as one of the best agents in the DC area, who had transferred up for this task force. He’s not as familiar with Clary Fairchild, but her record is impeccable.

Jace greets him with a wave as he comes in, and Alec nods back. “For those who don’t know me, I’m Agent Lightwood. You can call me Alec. I expect we’ll all be working together closely. This is a first of its kind task force, and a lot of people are watching to see what’s going to happen with it. I’m sure you’re all up to it.”

Supernatural crime has been on the rise lately. It’s the information age, and people who have the capability to do magic are suddenly figuring that out a lot younger and a lot less responsibly. Whereas before, at least fifty percent of mages only learned a few of what were called ‘home and hearth’ spells to make their lives easier, now they could access a hundred times as many spells. The mage’s version of the anarchist’s cookbook had been released online two years ago, and had been downloaded millions of times.

That wasn’t even going into the non-human creatures who were always having territory disputes and generally getting humans mixed up in their messes. There were strict laws regulating such creatures, but that didn’t mean they always paid attention or cared.

“So there are eight cases here, we’re each going to take two and do some preliminary investigation to see if we can figure out what we’re dealing with.” Alec starts handing the files out. “Then we’ll prioritize. These are all fresh, so if you think there are likely to be more victims, those ones will be at the top of the pile. I’m going to - ” He looks up as there’s a knock on the door. “Come in.”

Agent Garroway opens the door and steps in. “Your consultant is here,” he says, and in walks the same gorgeous man whose dick had been in Alec’s mouth thirty-six hours previous. Alec’s jaw sags. Magnus looks similarly taken aback, although then a broad smile appears on his face, like he’s genuinely happy to see Alec.

“Agent Lightwood, this is Magnus Bane,” Luke says.

“Oh, we - ”

“Nice to meet you,” Alec says hastily, forcefully, practically grabbing Magnus’ hand to give it a shake. His heart is beating wildly in his chest. How could he have been so stupid? His Grindr dates all know he’s closeted, it’s in his profile, and they all respect that. But Magnus hadn’t been a Grindr date, he had been a stupid hook-up in a stupid bar, and at no point had Alec thought to mention ‘hey, if you see me in the street, you don’t know me’, because he hadn’t figured he would ever see Magnus again. It’s a city of over eight million people; what are the odds?

Magnus is clearly startled, but he rolls with it like a champ, shaking Alec’s hand and saying, “Likewise, Agent Lightwood.”

Alec’s heart eases from his throat back into his chest, and he manages to stop shaking Magnus’ hand and let it go. “This is, uh, Agents Wayland, Branwell, and Fairchild,” he says, and they’re all introducing themselves and shaking his hand. He remembers Magnus saying he’s an ‘academic’ of sorts - apparently, that’s only partly true.

“Dr. Bane is a specialist in supernatural crime,” Luke says.

Magnus grimaces a little. “Please call me Magnus,” he says, smiling at the other agents. “Doctorates really aren’t the same as medical degrees, in my opinion.”

“What’s your degree in?” Lydia asks curiously.

“I have two, as it happens. One in cryptozoology and one in criminal justice.”

Alec tries not to look as horny as he feels and wonders why that’s so attractive. “Are you a field agent?” he asks, and when Magnus raises his eyebrows, he holds his ground. “I have to know what sort of situations you can handle.”

“Fair enough. Yes, I’m a fully trained field agent, although I haven’t acted in that capacity in over five years now. Mostly they keep me behind a desk.”

“Only because you’re more valuable there,” Luke says. “I’ll let you get settled in - catch you for that drink later?” he adds, and Magnus nods. Luke shakes Alec’s hand and leaves the room.

“So you two know each other?” Jace asks.

“We were at Quantico together. Our careers have taken very different trajectories, however.”

“Alec and I trained together, too,” Jace says.

“Hm,” Magnus says, his tone noncommittal. Alec has a feeling he’s wondering why, if these people are all friends, Alec had chopped him off at the knees like he was diving on a grenade. That or he’s just distracted, because he’s already picked up the first file and is saying, “Oh, a kelpie! How fascinating, they’re hardly ever seen in urban areas - climate change is really wreaking havoc on the supernatural world, you know - ” and then they’re back to work.

For the rest of the day, Alec manages to ignore how uncomfortable and awkward he feels. He tries not to stare at Magnus, and settles for hoping that Magnus isn’t staring at him. Despite not wanting to be outed, he’s glad beyond words for the presence of the other agents. As awkward as this is, he can only imagine how awkward being alone with Magnus would be.

That doesn’t happen until the end of the day. They’ve sorted through all the cases and everyone has their assignments. Alec isn’t quite paying attention, and doesn’t realize that the other three agents are leaving in a swell of chatter, until suddenly it’s just him and Magnus. He freezes like a deer in headlights when he sees Magnus looking at him.

“Drink?” Magnus asks, smiling at him.

“Aren’t you going out for drinks with Agent Garroway?” Alec asks.

“Not until Friday.”

“Oh.” Alec shuffles his papers, then says, “It wouldn’t be appropriate. I’m your superior officer now.”

“Technically, you and I are on equal footing, and Garroway is - ” Magnus sees the look on Alec’s face. “Ah, well, never mind. The offer stands, though.”

Alec rubs both hands over his face and looks around to make absolutely sure that the room is empty. “Look. Magnus. I had, uh, had a good time. But. That’s all it was. One show only, no encores. It doesn’t have to be a problem, so let’s not make it one. Okay?”

Magnus studies him for a moment, then nods. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

“Yeah. Tomorrow.” Alec breathes out slowly as Magnus leaves the room, and wonders if he just made the biggest mistake of his life. Magnus is smart and well-spoken, and his interactions with the others have showed him to be patient and kind. Even when they’re obviously way behind his train of thought, he doesn’t patronize them. He’s sexy as hell, and he’s clearly into Alec, for some weird reason. He’s basically the perfect man, and Alec just brushed him off like he isn’t even interested.

But it doesn’t matter. It’s never going to be anything. Not even with someone like Magnus. There are things he just can’t have, and he can never forget that.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

The task force gets off to a running start, and Alec has to admit that he’s thrilled with how things are going. In the first month, they take down half a dozen sorcerers, a vampire clan, two rogue werewolves, and a variety of other creatures he had barely even heard of. All of his agents are competent, and their strengths differ, which he appreciates. Lydia is the best analytically, putting facts together to assemble a case. Clary has the best intuition, which is often helpful on supernatural cases. And Jace is by far the best in the field.

Then, of course, there’s Magnus. Alec has worked with him for a week before he realizes that Magnus is an honest-to-God genius. He knows a little of everything, and his knowledge of the supernatural goes far beyond textbooks. He’s competent in the field even if it’s not his specialty, and Alec would be happy to have any of them at his back.

There are still awkward moments occasionally, when they reach for something at the same time, or when Magnus talks openly about getting to know New York and the people he’s meeting and Alec has to try not to burn with jealousy. This isn’t Magnus’ fault, and it wouldn’t be fair to be angry with him about it. He reminds himself of that at least once a day.

“So you really moved all the way from California for this?” Clary asks, as they’re shuffling through case files in an effort to determine whether or not a supernatural creature is responsible.

“Oh, absolutely,” Magnus says. “I’ve been trying to tell the FBI that they needed a supernaturally-oriented department for years. I wasn’t going to miss my chance. Besides, up until a couple months ago, they weren’t sure where it would be based.”

“Really?” Jace glances up at that.

“Mm. I actually lobbied for Chicago – the convergence of ley lines there is impressive, and Lake Michigan is a hotspot for supernatural activity. But in the end they decided against it because the rate of regular crime there is high, and sorting out which cases should go to our department would be too time-consuming. Miami was vetoed for the same reason.”

“What about the west coast?” Lydia asks. “If you were one of the driving forces, why relocate you?”

“Funny and somewhat disturbing story,” Magnus says, gesturing with a pen. “San Francisco was originally a frontrunner, but research indicated that the amount of supernatural crime there has been steadily on the decline for about a decade.”

“Why?” Clary asks.

“Because of the earthquake.”

“Don’t they get them all the time?”

“Not because of the earthquakes, plural. Because of the earthquake, singular. The one that’s coming. The supernatural creatures can often sense them far in advance, and of course anyone with any sort of prognostication would know about it. All the geologists know that San Francisco is overdue for a devastating quake – they’ve been trying to get the government to take it seriously for years. But the mass exodus of supernatural creatures around the area shows that it probably will be soon. Of course,” he adds, “to an immortal vampire, ‘soon’ means something quite different than it does to a human. Still, within the next dozen years would be my guess.”

Alec grimaces. “I assume you’ve talked about this Upstairs.”

“Of course. It was all in my report. But again, it’s nothing that the government hasn’t known for years, anyway. In early 2001, FEMA issued a report saying that the three catastrophes that the United States were most likely to face in the upcoming years were a terrorist attack on New York, a hurricane in New Orleans, and an earthquake in San Francisco.”

“Jesus,” Jace says. “That was before 9/11?”

“And Hurricane Katrina. Mm hm. They both happened not long afterwards.” Magnus shrugs a little and starts chewing on his pen, which is very distracting. “The earthquake hasn’t happened yet, but nobody will be able to say that we couldn’t see it coming.”

Lydia changes the subject. “So they chose New York?”

“Yes, it came down between New York and Phoenix, and New York had the better personnel for it – that would be our fine Agent Lightwood,” Magnus adds with a smile, and Alec flushes pink. “Which was fine with me. I had no desire to live in Phoenix. Go outside between May and October and your makeup melts right off your face.”

“A tragedy,” Clary says, giggling. “Was anyone else vying for your position?”

“Originally, my position didn’t exist,” Magnus says. “It took me two years to convince them that a team of field agents would need a specialist if they wanted to get anywhere.”

“Gotta say, as awesome as I think we all are, they were right about that,” Jace says. Alec nods, and then sees Magnus smiling at him. He ducks his head, feeling his blush all the way up to the tips of his ears.

“How did, uh, how’d you start – why’d you – ” he stammers, hating himself more with every syllable.

Magnus gets the idea and has mercy on him. “Originally, I was a straight criminal justice major, but one of the classes I took was about the different penalties for supernatural creatures caught committing crimes. I found the idea of it fascinating, and continued to study it. Somewhere along the way I realized I’d gotten nearly enough credits for a bachelor’s in cryptozoology, so I went for it. When I was in graduate school, I did my thesis on the recognition of cryptozoology in the legal field.”

“Two birds with one stone, huh?” Jace says, laughing.

“Pretty much. I kept learning about both fields afterwards, even after I joined the FBI. I did field work for less than a year before they put me at a desk and told me to start researching the shit out of supernatural crime. Trends, patterns, deterrents – I’ve written entire manuals for the agency on it. You’ve probably read them.”

“I think we all did in preparation for this job,” Lydia says.

“Were you disappointed to give up field work?” Clary asks.

“Not really. And I think they figured I’d be the best person for the job, due to my own – background. In the field.”

“You mean your degrees?” Jace is frowning at him.

“No, my personal background.” Magnus glances up and starts chewing on the pen again. “My father was a sorcerer. I grew up in a cult.”

“Whoa, that sounds crazy,” Jace says.

“The reality is much less exciting than whatever you’re imagining, trust me,” Magnus says.

“Growing up in a cult is boring?” Jace asks.

Clary smacks his wrist. “Aren’t you an FBI agent? You can’t pick up on a polite ‘I’d rather not talk about it’ when you hear one?”

“Oh, shit. Sorry,” Jace says.

Magnus laughs and waves him off. “It’s true that I don’t really like talking about it, but it’s also true that it’s more boring than you imagine, up until the very end. Get a few drinks in me on a Friday night and I might tell you about that, but not now.” He holds up a folder and adds, “Who wants a shtriga?” and with that, the conversation turns back to work.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec thinks he’s handling things pretty well, really, until two days before Thanksgiving when he’s swiping through Grindr in preparation of rewarding himself for surviving his annual family dinner, and he sees Magnus there. Of course, it makes sense that Magnus would use the app. He’s clearly got no problems with a quick hook-up. He’s new in town and doesn’t know anybody. There’s nothing wrong with Magnus using Grindr. But seeing his profile makes Alec go from zero to homicidally jealous in approximately two seconds. He spends the entire day trying not to think about Magnus having sex with other people.

He thinks he’s hiding it well, but apparently not, because as they’re grabbing their coats, Clary asks if he’s feeling okay. “You’ve kind of looked like you had a stomachache all day,” she says.

“Oh, yeah, I just.” Alec curses Clary’s intuition, pushing a hand through his hair and trying not to notice Magnus’ look of concern. He can’t tell the truth, but he doesn’t necessarily have to lie, either. “I’ve got the family dinner on Thursday and it usually doesn’t go well.”

“Why not?” Lydia asks.

“My mother, uh, doesn’t approve of my life choices. She reacted to me going into law enforcement like I had just told her I wanted to be a professional mime.” Alec clears his throat. “We Lightwoods are made for better things, according to her.”

“What does your mom do?” Clary asks.

“Mostly drink tea and gossip about how the world is going to hell with her socialite friends. My father is a corporate lawyer, so, you know. They’re richer than the Kardashians, who my mother would definitely pretend not to know about.”

Lydia gives a snort, and Clary says, “Do you want to come to Thanksgiving at my place? My mom’s always happy to make room for one more!”

Alec gives her a surprised glance, then says, “Oh, I, uh, I appreciate it, but I only see my folks on major holidays already, so she’d be pretty pissed off if I ducked out. I’ll be fine.”

“What about you, Magnus?” Clary asks. “Do you have any plans? I know you don’t have any family in the city, so you’d be welcome to come!”

“You know, if you honestly think your mother wouldn’t mind, I think I’ll take you up on that,” Magnus says. “I was planning to spend it with some Chinese food and a movie marathon, but I’d love to have some company.”

“Great!” Clary gives Magnus a sunny smile, and Alec feels ridiculously jealous again. What is that even about? He has no claim to Magnus whatsoever, and Clary’s not even interested in him that way. He ducks out before they can have any more conversation, thinking about how screwed up he is.

Thanksgiving is about as painful as always. His mother isn’t at all impressed by his promotion or the fact that he’s in charge of his own team. He’s still “working blue-collar,” as she puts it, still single, still living in a one-bedroom apartment instead of a nice house. The only saving grace is Izzy, who’s home from her work with Doctors Without Borders for a week and manages to act as a buffer.

The next day, he meets up with a guy from Grindr. It’s okay, he supposes. He’s probably had worse sex. There’s no reason to compare it to Magnus. He has to put that out of his head. It’s not like he’s never going to have sex with anyone again, so he’s got to stop thinking about it.

At work on Monday, Magnus is quiet and surly, which is very unlike him. “Everything okay?” Clary asks.

“Yes, I’m just . . .” Magnus rubs both temples. “I tried to go out on a date this weekend and it went very poorly for me.”

Alec wonders if it was a date or a hook-up, and can’t bring himself to ask. Clary and Jace, of course, want details. Alec tells them to leave Magnus alone, because the last thing he wants to hear about is Magnus dating other people. Magnus is back to his usual self by the next day, and they get back to working through cases.

“I mean, who does that?” Magnus is saying to Clary when Alec and Jace get back from the interview they’d had with a theft victim. It’s nearly the end of the day, and they’re both surrounded by drifts of paper, so Alec doesn’t bother to reprimand them for whatever personal conversation they’re having.

“Who does what?” Jace asks, coming in behind Alec.

“My date over the weekend.” Magnus is rolling his eyes. “He literally wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise the entire time because he was busy bragging about his college football career, and then wouldn’t take a hint when I most emphatically did not accept his invitation to go back to his place. I managed to get out of his clutches, and then today, he sends me a picture of his dick.”

Jace chortles. “What a jackass.”

“Did you respond yet?” Clary asks.

“I sent back a picture of one of those banana slicers,” Magnus says, and Jace and Clary both break down into laughter. “Dating in this city is a nightmare, I swear to God.”

Alec rolls his eyes and says, “It’s not that bad,” an automatic response to Magnus’ melodrama that he realizes a moment too late was something he absolutely should not say out loud in front of the rest of his team.

Indeed, Clary’s eyes immediately light up. “Oh my God, does our fearless leader actually have a social life?”

“No,” Alec growls at her, “and that’s inappropriate.”

Clary’s face falls, and now it’s Jace’s eyes rolling. “Oh, come on, man. She didn’t ask you to give the dirt. Take a deep breath.”

Alec grumbles a little but then says, “I don’t date.”

“Then why do you even have an opinion on the New York City dating scene?” Lydia asks, arching her eyebrows at him.

Alec flushes pink and stammers, “Well, it’s just, you can’t be super picky, it depends on what you’re looking for – and we’re done talking about this now, how are things going on that selkie case?”

They get back to work, and nothing else is said about it until the others have left for the day. Magnus is shutting down his computer, and he turns around and says, “Out of curiosity, what are you looking for?”

“Huh?” Alec says, looking over from where he’s pulling his jacket on.

“In a date,” Magnus clarifies. “You said it depends on what you’re looking for.”

Alec glances around to make sure nobody else is within earshot. He doesn’t really want to talk about this, but he has a feeling that ducking the question won’t help. So he answers it, brusque but honest. “Someone who wants to have sex and won’t want to talk about it afterwards.”

“One show only, no encores?” Magnus says, and sighs. “Look. It’s not my business, I know, and being out is a very personal decision. But this ‘one and done’ policy – I don’t get it. For someone like you, who is intent on staying in the closet, wouldn’t a partner you knew you could trust be better than trolling through Grindr and meeting random guys?”

“I can’t – ” Alec forces himself to take a deep breath and let it out. “I don’t do that because I’m not in this for a relationship. Not even a friends-with-benefits relationship. You have sex with someone once, it’s a hook-up. Twice, and it’s a coincidence. Three times, it’s a relationship. And I don’t want that. Not even with someone who understood I wasn’t looking for romance.”

Magnus looks at him thoughtfully. “Might I ask why?”

Alec glances over at him and actually thinks about telling him. He’s sure he can trust Magnus at this point. Magnus hasn’t breathed a word about what happened between them to anybody, hasn’t asked questions about it until this moment, months later. He pushes a hand through his hair. “Why do you care?”

“Should I be honest, or would that only make you shut yourself off more?”

Alec shrugs. “Try me.”

“Two reasons, then. The first, because despite your best efforts, you’re my friend. You seem unhappy. So, yes, there is a part of me that wants to help you, and I feel like understanding this might be the key to that. But secondly?” Magnus huffs. “My first date smelled like he hadn’t bathed in a week. The one after that was actively high when she showed up. Then there’s College Football Dick Pic from this past weekend, the worst of the lot. I want to get laid, Alec. I want another one of those ten-thousand-dollar blowjobs you gave me.”

Alec’s laughing despite himself. “Gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess, Bane.”

“Clearly. But I think your one-and-done rule is odd. If you find someone who you’re sexually compatible with, you should take full advantage. And I still maintain that from the standpoint of remaining closeted, it would be a lot safer. Haven’t you ever had any close calls? Besides the one with me?”

“Yeah,” Alec admits. He’s half-hard in his pants, thinking about it. He can’t deny that he really, really wants to have sex with Magnus again. And really, what would be the harm in it? Magnus has protected his secret. A second round of sex wouldn’t change that. It wouldn’t really make things more awkward than they had been during their first few weeks on the job together. “Okay, but here’s my question – are you looking for a relationship? Because if so, you shouldn’t be wasting your time with me.”

“Time spent with my dick in your mouth would never be wasted,” Magnus says. “But to answer your question, no. I’m actually on a relationship hiatus right now.” He glances away. “I got out of one just before I came here. Being on the rebound is never the time to start something serious. I’m just looking for a good time. Have you ever done sixty-nine? I think you’d be great at it.”

Alec chokes. “Oh, God. You’re the worst.”

“Sorry. I don’t mean to pressure you, honestly. I’m very horny and I might not be thinking clearly.”

“Hotels only,” Alec says, before even realizing that he’s going to commit to this. “And we don’t arrive or leave together.”

“Agreed.”

“And we can still have sex with other people if we want,” Alec says, not because he has any intention to but because he wants to make the non-seriousness of this clear.

“Fine by me.”

Magnus is now looking at him somewhat expectantly, and Alec realizes that, not unreasonably, Magnus thinks this is something they’re going to do right now. Which would be completely possible. They’re done with work for the day. He could get a room. Magnus could meet him there and they could be having sex within the hour. “I’m not really, uh . . . prepared . . .”

“Oh, well, I have supplies if you don’t – ”

“No, I mean – ” Alec sighs. “I kind of . . . use sex as a way to reward myself when I’ve survived something obnoxious. If I just start having sex whenever, it ruins the system.”

Magnus gives him a look of complete disbelief. But when he speaks, his voice is calm and even, “To me, that sounds a lot more like you punish yourself with celibacy until you have an excuse not to.”

Alec stops, taken aback. He feels like this should have been obvious to him, but really, he had never thought about it that way. He considers for a long moment before saying, “I guess you could look at it that way.”

“Well,” Magnus says, “I’m going to give you a different excuse not to, which is that I, a man standing right here in front of you, would really like to have sex with you. Today. Right now, or at least as close to ‘right now’ as we can get.”

“Okay,” Alec chokes out, because if Magnus keeps talking, he’s going to start tearing his clothes off. “I’m just, uh, I’m gonna go and, and get the, uh, the hotel – I’ll, uh, I’ll text you in a few – ” he stammers, before giving up and leaving the room at a brisk jog.

It’s probably a bad idea. No, it’s definitely a bad idea. But the downstairs brain has taken over, and upstairs brain is still struggling to catch up by the time Magnus shows up at the hotel and starts taking his clothes off, and after that upstairs brain takes a vacation.

He’s not great at sixty-nine, because concentrating on anything when Magnus’ mouth is on him is literally impossible. He keeps trying, but then Magnus curls his tongue just right and Alec’s head thumps back to the pillow as he gasps for breath. Magnus doesn’t seem to mind. “It takes practice,” he says afterwards. Alec tells him to be quiet so he can return the favor. “That’s not going to end with me being quiet,” Magnus says, smirking, and Alec play-bites at his hip.

After two orgasms apiece, they order a pizza and find a movie on television, and Alec thinks about what a bad idea this was. He’s surprised to find that he doesn’t really care.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It’s Christmas before he knows it. In the intervening three weeks, he’s already lost track of how many times he and Magnus have had sex. He meant to try to limit them to a couple times a week, and it did not happen at all. He doesn’t have a lot of remorse over it. It might be conceited to tell himself that he’s just doing it for Magnus, but it gets his brain to shut up, so he’ll take it.

The department mostly shuts down for a week. Lydia is going back to DC to visit family. Alec gives Jace and Clary the week off as well, telling them that they’re on call if he needs a hand but not to come in unless he does. He gives Magnus the week off, too, but isn’t really surprised when he shows up anyway. They work through a few cases before adjourning to the hotel for more spectacular sex.

“So is Christmas with your family as bad as Thanksgiving?” Magnus asks, when they’re sprawled out on the bed afterwards.

“It’s going to be even worse, to be honest. My sister won’t be there this time.” Alec glances over at him and rolls onto his side. “She works with Doctors Without Borders, and she’s in Haiti right now.”

“That’s very admirable of her.”

“Yeah. Izzy’s great. I wish I saw her more often.” Alec changes the subject. “What about you? Any plans?” he asks, and Magnus shakes his head. “You don’t have family to go visit? That’s why I gave everyone the week off.”

“I don’t have family, period,” Magnus says.

“Oh, right. The cult.” Alec frowns a little.

Magnus waves a hand and says, “My mother died when I was ten, my father when I was twelve. I was a ward of the state after that. Bounced around a lot, never got adopted. But let’s leave the Lifetime movie for some other day. Christmas has never been a big deal to me. I think a lot of orphans feel the same way.”

“I can see that.” Alec sighs, idly rubbing a hand up and down Magnus’ back. “My mother always makes a huge deal of it. The Christmas party this weekend is literally going to have hundreds of people at it. Oh, and I have a date to it, whether I want to or not. My mother’s invited some friend’s daughter to be my arm candy.”

“Sounds horrific.”

“It always is. Though I guess it could be worse. As long as I put in my appearance to that and play nice, I’m not required to show my face on actual Christmas.”

“The party is more important than the actual holiday?”

Alec gives a half-smile. “Welcome to life amongst New York’s elite. I haven’t gotten presents since I was twelve. Just money dropped into my trust fund. And that ended when I was eighteen. Since then I haven’t gotten anything. Not that Christmas is all about presents, but that should give you an idea of the kind of relationship I have with my parents.”

“Indeed.” Magnus shrugs. “But if you’re not doing anything on Christmas itself, you should come over. We can drink eggnog and put on that Yule log channel while we have unseemly amounts of sex.”

It sounds amazing. Alec wants it so badly that he aches. But he shakes his head. “It’s not a good idea. That’s the . . . that’s the kind of thing a couple would do. We’re not a couple, and invitations like that are exactly why I didn’t want to start having sex again.”

Magnus looks away. “I suppose you’re right,” he says quietly.

Alec squashes the instinctive desire to comfort him. “Hey, maybe we’ll come up lucky and some poor bastard will get murdered,” he says, and Magnus laughs despite himself. “And let me tell you right now that after my parents’ party on the twenty-third, and the two days of ‘we can’t see each other because that’s relationship territory’ – and I’m just going to remind you that you said you didn’t want a relationship either – I will be seeing you on the twenty-sixth, and I will be screwing you silly.”

“Sounds good to me,” Magnus says, and kisses him until they’re both out of breath.

 

 ~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Halfway through January is when Alec finally gives in and realizes that he can’t afford to get them a hotel every night for the rest of his life. His salary is generous, but the trust fund was long ago depleted by paying for college with no support from his parents. New York City hotels aren’t exactly cheap, and neither is his rent. Without having to go somewhere that would take forty-five minutes to get to, he’s shelling out at least a hundred dollars a night, and that’s not sustainable long-term. Despite how many times he’s told himself that he should just stop having sex with Magnus four or five days a week, that’s clearly not going to happen any time soon.

“So, uh . . .” Alec studies Magnus as he pulls his coat on, and Magnus gives him an expectant look and a warm smile, since this is how Alec usually starts their ‘you wanna go to a hotel and bang tonight’ conversations. The rest of the team had left about a half hour previous. Magnus’ smile gives Alec the courage to bite the bullet and continue. “Were you serious when you invited me over to your place?”

“What, for Christmas?” Magnus blinks, clearly confused since that was almost a month ago now. “Yes. Why?”

“Just.” Alec clears his throat. “I’m kind of, uh. Not broke, exactly, but the hotels aren’t cheap and I can’t really keep paying for them all the time.”

“Ah.” Magnus is back to smiling. “The hotel stipulation was yours, Alexander, not mine. I have a perfectly serviceable apartment.”

“Yeah. Thanks. I mean, we can’t use mine. The doorman knows me, and . . .” Alec lets his voice trail off, because Magnus probably doesn’t actually care about the intricacies of remaining in the closet. “Anyway. Your place?”

“Sure. I take the subway to get back to it.”

“Okay,” Alec says, because none of his mother’s friends would ever be caught dead on the subway.

Magnus’ loft apartment is both larger and nicer than Alec would have expected. He looks around at the exposed brick and gorgeous balcony and wonders how Magnus affords it. He knows that the FBI doesn’t pay well enough for a place like this. “This place is beautiful,” he says, studying the wall of windows and the view of the city.

“Thank you,” Magnus says, taking off his scarf. “I have more money than I know what to do with, but admittedly I am a slave to aesthetics.”

“Uh huh,” Alec says, because his mother would ask where the money came from, so he absolutely can’t.

“When I was nineteen,” Magnus says, going over to the bar, “a very nice man wanted to write a book about the cult I was in. If I agreed to give him exclusive interviews, he would give me a percentage of the royalties. Then the book got made into a movie, and again, I received a percentage. A very, very small percentage, but the movie won lots of awards and et cetera, et cetera. Drink?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Alec says, frowning. “What movie?”

“Devil’s Escape,” Magnus says. “A title which I did not come up with, by the way.”

“I’ve heard of that. Never seen it, though.” Alec shrugs a little. “I’m not actually a huge fan of crime and action movies. I get enough of that in my real life.”

“Well, they edited out the role of the child I had been entirely,” Magnus says, laughing. “Apparently thought it interrupted the flow of the movie. But I still got the royalties since I’m the one who provided virtually all the information on the cult itself. In any case, that’s not really pleasant conversation. And I believe you didn’t really have conversing in mind, in any case . . .”

If having steady sex with Magnus was a bad idea, going to his apartment was a terrible one. There’s an intimacy to it which has nothing to do with sex. Not just being in his bedroom, but using his shower, raiding his refrigerator. It’s easy to get used to, being with him like that. Whereas at the hotels, they typically vacated after the sex, a quick shower, and occasionally a pizza, at Magnus’ apartment it’s easy to linger. They end up channel surfing and find a movie. Magnus offers to make dinner and Alec helps him in the kitchen. Sometimes that leads to a second round of sex, which often leads to Alec staying the night.

It’s a terrible idea, and the worst part about it is that he really, really likes it. He likes debating what to watch, likes watching Magnus chop green onions or carrots, likes curling up in bed with him. Sometimes they don’t even do anything together, but he just reads on the sofa while Magnus cooks, and then Magnus plays on his phone while Alec does the dishes, or vice versa.

It’s exactly the sort of relationship Alec can’t have, but he finds that as long as he doesn’t think about it too hard, it doesn’t really bother him. Magnus, for his part, never mentions it. Either he genuinely doesn’t care, or he’s aware that Alec is employing some impressive self-defense mechanisms and avoiding the topic.

By mutual agreement, they spend Valentine’s Day separately. It falls on a Saturday, and they don’t even have sex. Alec spends the weekend at home, cleaning his apartment, which is becoming somewhat of a mess. He barely spends any time there lately, only coming home sometimes to sleep and/or change clothes. His laundry situation is getting desperate, and things in his fridge had long ago gone bad and started rallying for freedom. It’s probably a bad sign, but he can’t really bring himself to care.

On February fifteenth, he deletes Grindr from his phone. He can always reinstall it later, but he doesn’t need it and there’s always the off chance someone will see his profile and say something to his mother. Better not to take the risk. He has zero interest in sleeping with anyone who isn’t Magnus, possibly ever again.

In the first week of March, they end up working a horrible case, one that ends with them finding the bodies of several missing children. They pack up for the day in solemn silence. Clary has been crying for an hour. Jace is pale and hasn’t said a word most of the afternoon. Even Lydia is shaken.

Once the three of them are gone, Magnus looks at Alec and says, “Are you coming over?”

Alec folds his arms over his stomach, trying to ease the knots there, and says, “I’m not really in the mood for sex.”

“Me neither,” Magnus says. “I just thought - you might not want to be alone right now. God knows that I don’t.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Alec lets out a breath and realizes that being alone is the last thing he wants. “Okay.”

It’s a Friday, and they end up spending the weekend together. That night, they’re both too shaken to do anything beyond curl up on the sofa and try to distract themselves with the television. Magnus has horrible nightmares, and Alec has to wake him twice and soothe him back to sleep. Magnus apologizes, saying that the case has stirred up bad memories for him. Alec tells him that he has nothing to be sorry for.

On Saturday, Magnus asks if he wants to go out somewhere to stay busy, like a museum or the park, but Alec says no. He doesn’t offer an explanation, but Magnus knows it’s because he doesn’t want to be seen in public with another man. He accepts it without argument. They have a Netflix marathon instead, bingeing on Parks and Recreation to cheer themselves up. Magnus goes out for groceries and makes a stir fry.

By the next week, things are basically back to normal, but something fundamental has shifted. Alec supposes that they couldn’t have sex twice a day, five days a week, forever. But after that weekend it becomes more natural for Alec to go over and for them to just hang out, without necessarily having sex. Which isn’t to say that they don’t still do, quite often, but it’s not the reason they’re going to Magnus’ apartment anymore.

He shouldn’t be okay with that, he reflects drowsily one night, his fingers trailing over Magnus’ bare shoulder while the other man sleeps, tucked up against him. This is exactly what he was afraid would happen.

Sometimes he has his own nightmares, and Magnus has to soothe him afterwards, but he never tells Magnus what they’re about.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The first time Magnus suggests being on top, Alec brushes him off and tries not to look uncomfortable about it. Magnus accepts that without question, but a few weeks later, mentions it again.

“It’s not a control thing,” Alec says immediately, before Magnus can even ask. “It’s not like I think getting fucked would make me gayer or something. I mean, I can’t really say that given how much I enjoy giving head. So don’t, like, do that thing you do – ”

“You know, not everyone enjoys being on the bottom,” Magnus says.

“ – where you’re all understanding and shit.” Alec huffs out a sigh. “Dammit. How do you do that?”

“I believe it’s called ‘not being a jerk’,” Magnus says, his lips twitching in a smile. “That being said, I’m compelled to ask if you’ve ever actually tried it.”

“A couple times, yeah.” Alec shrugs and tries not to look defensive. “It just didn’t do a lot for me. Then I tried to explain that to a guy who just wouldn’t let it go and he spent half an hour trying to convince me that it was just the result of all my repression, and that I’d really like it if I could just get over myself. Aaaaaand that’s the last time I had a Grindr date with someone who wasn’t in the closet.”

Magnus lets out a snort. “You probably just got fucked by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.”

Alec gives him a sideways look. “Look, if I just don’t want to – ”

“Then we won’t,” Magnus says immediately. “You don’t have to justify. But, if it’s just that you tried it and didn’t get off, then I think it would be worth one more try. It’s harder than some people think – pun not intended,” he adds with a wink, and Alec rolls his eyes. “Some people are too sensitive for direct stimulation, and sometimes you have to try multiple positions before you get one that really works for you.” He leans in and nips at Alec’s ear. “And if you don’t enjoy it, you get a compensation blowjob.”

Alec laughs. He thinks he would probably rather just skip to that, but, well, there are other things he’d been dubious about that he had turned out to enjoy. “Do you like being on top?”

“Honestly, I tend to prefer the bottom, which is why this isn’t a dealbreaker of any kind, but occasionally I get the urge.”

“Well, then,” Alec says, pressing a kiss into Magnus’ neck, “I’ll give it a try, and if I enjoy it we can do it whenever you want, and if I don’t enjoy it, we can still do it once in a while, if you really like it.”

“That’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me,” Magnus says, and he’s smiling, but Alec thinks he’s actually serious.

Alec doesn’t like being on his hands and knees because he doesn’t like not being able to see his partner, despite the fact that Magnus thinks it’s the position that would work best. So they try it with Alec on his back, and as predicted, he’s more uncomfortable than aroused. “It doesn’t feel bad, it just feels . . . weird.”

“All right, let’s try something else,” Magnus says, with more patience than can be human. He does have to stop and take a breath after pulling out of Alec, then rolls onto his back and gestures Alec on top of him. “Have you tried it this way before?”

“No, and I’m not sure what I’m doing,” Alec says.

“Take it slow. Let me help.” Magnus has one hand wrapped around the base of his cock, and uses the other to guide Alec down. He shivers a little when Alec eases himself onto it, but still maintains control. “Better?”

“Yeah, I . . .” Alec shifts a little more, rocking his hips. “Okay, yeah, that, that actually feels pretty good.”

“If it feels half as good as it looks, it must be fantastic,” Magnus says, his dark eyes drinking in the sight of Alec riding his cock. Alec just hums a little in reply, because he’s not really listening, fully focused on trying to find the best angle. He groans as he leans forward, rocking steadily now. “Good?” Magnus asks, his voice a little rough.

“Uh huh,” Alec pants, fists curling in the sheets on either side of Magnus. He doesn’t hear what Magnus says in reply, but the next time he comes down, Magnus’ hips snap up to meet him. “Oh, fuck.”

“Not good?” Magnus asks, although his voice is a little strained.

“No, no, really good, do it again.”

Magnus obliges, and Alec loses himself in it entirely. It’s different from being on top, but still good, and if it takes him a little longer to work his way to an orgasm, that’s okay. Certainly Magnus seems fine with that, his hands digging into Alec’s hips as he fights for control. They wind up in a tangled, trembling heap afterwards. Magnus’ hand trails up and down Alec’s spine for a few moments before he regains his ability to speak. “How was it?”

“Actually pretty good.” Alec yawns. “You?”

“Mm. I did enjoy it immensely.” Magnus’ eyes are drooping too. “And the visuals were magnificent.”

“Whatever you say,” Alec says, because he can’t muster up the energy to get embarrassed. He nestles his face in the crook of Magnus’ neck, taking a deep breath and letting it out. Every muscle in his body seems to have relaxed. “Probably still prefer being on top. But wouldn’t say no to doing it again.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Magnus says, his hand rubbing idly down Alec’s arm. Alec gives a content sigh and closes his eyes, thinking that he would be pretty happy just to stay in this moment for the rest of his life.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

It’s late. Alec is on a stake-out that he’s wishing he had volunteered somebody else for. Watching the same warehouse door for hours is mind-numbing. It’s an underground club for supernatural creatures, and they’re waiting to see if a sorcerer dealing organs for magical rituals is going to show up. The visibility is poor, thanks to the hard rain that’s falling.

Magnus is with him, because it’s never a good idea to do a stake-out alone. Lydia is on another case, Clary’s out sick with the flu, and Jace volunteered but Alec wanted him watching Lydia’s back. Magnus has been good company, taking the stake-out completely seriously and drinking coffee mostly in silence. The noise of the rain drumming on the roof of the car is comforting.

Alec knows that his life is a mess. He knows that he’s got feelings for Magnus in the worst sort of way. He should have stopped having sex with him as soon as the Christmas invitation had been issued. But he hadn’t, and now he’s wondering if it’s too late. He’d probably have to move eight hundred miles away before he could actually manage to break it off with him.

“Can I ask you a question?” Magnus says, sipping his coffee.

“Has it ever stopped you if I say no?” Alec replies.

Magnus shrugs. “You can feel free to tell me to go to hell. It’s just that my curiosity has been driving me mad. I can’t stop trying to figure you out. Why are you still in the closet? I’m not trying to judge you, honestly. Ten years ago, I never wondered why people stayed in the closet. I wouldn’t ask if you lived in Alabama. But this is New York City in 2016. Our coworkers have known I’m bisexual since the second week of the job and none of them have had a problem with that. I thought maybe it was religious, but when we talked about Christmas, you made it clear that religion isn’t part of your life. Maybe it’s because your parents disapprove. I could understand that. Except you hardly ever see them. They clearly already object to almost every part of your life, but you have no problem telling them where to stick it when it comes to your profession or your apartment. So honestly, I just don’t understand, and I hate things I don’t understand.”

Alec takes a drink of his coffee. He sits in silence for a few minutes, watching the empty alley. “You’re right, you know. It doesn’t make sense. I’m not religious. Nobody in my family really is. Mom goes to church sometimes, but it’s just for show. So I really don’t know why she hates the fact that I’m gay so much. She just does. I think it’s because . . . that was the first sign that I wasn’t just a little carbon copy of herself that she had made. There were things about me she couldn’t control. I was supposed to grow up and go into law and marry some rich girl. But I wasn’t the picture-perfect son that she had always imagined I would be. She’s not religious and has no reason to be homophobic, but other people are. And the opinions of other people have always mattered to her, more than could possibly be considered reasonable.”

“Even so. As much as I can understand how homophobia can be contagious, it doesn’t explain why you care about her opinion.”

“Yeah. That’s true.” Alec’s quiet another minute. “You know what conversion therapy is?”

Magnus winces. “Yes.”

Alec stares out the window. “My parents sent me to this fancy boarding school when I was a teenager. All boys, college prep, sort of thing. The sort of environment where even the kids who are mostly straight are going to experiment and fool around. I got caught with my pants down with one of my classmates when I was sixteen.”

He hadn’t decided to tell this story, not consciously, but it’s coming more easily than he would have expected. “Both our sets of parents hit the roof. More his than mine. They were the religious type. Mom was mostly upset that I’d caused a scandal, that I’d upset these influential, prestigious – anyway.” He takes another drink of his coffee. “We weren’t even having sex, just fooling around, but that didn’t matter to them. The school put us in separate dorms and called that an end to it, but both his parents and mine weren’t done. They threw us both into – ‘reparative’ therapy, God, how I hate that term. That’s what they called it, though. Do you know how it works?”

“Not really,” Magnus says quietly. “I’ve heard that it’s awful on every level.”

“The basic technique is that they convince you to hate everything about yourself. Throw in some electroshock therapy and you’ve got the basic idea.” Alec clutches the coffee cup so tightly that his knuckles are turning white. “You know, I don’t want to be like . . . I don’t want to say I defeated it because I was strong. Honestly, I think the opposite is true. I already hated myself, thanks to my mother, so it was just . . . icing on the cake. I just . . . went numb. Shut down.”

“That doesn’t really sound like defeating it,” Magnus says.

“Maybe not. I don’t know.” Alec sets down his cup because his hands are shaking. “It feels like I did, though, because the guy I got caught with – he killed himself three months in.”

“Jesus,” Magnus says.

Alec nods, still not looking at him. “It was . . . bad. His parents were adamant that he had never been gay, that I must have corrupted him, pressured him . . . there was even talk of them filing assault charges against me, although the school talked them out of it. After he died, I wasn’t allowed to go to the assembly they held for him, or to his funeral. Everyone told me it was my fault, and I believed them.”

Magnus is quiet. Finally, he says, “I’m so sorry, Alec. I know that doesn’t help, but I am.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Alec clears his throat. “My parents pulled me out of school. Home-schooled me for the rest of that semester and then sent me somewhere else. Eventually the scandal died down. But this wasn’t 2016, you know? This was fifteen years ago, and a hell of a lot has changed in fifteen years.”

“It has,” Magnus agrees.

“So even though . . . even though I’m old enough now, smart enough, to know that there’s nothing wrong with me . . . even though I can tell myself that my mother’s opinion shouldn’t matter, that she already disapproves of who I am . . .” Alec has to clear his throat again. “There’s this, this solid core of me that . . . that they left behind. That thinks about being with a guy, really being with one, and just can’t handle it. That says I’m not worth it. That I should be ashamed of myself. I can tell myself it’s not true, but I can’t just feel that way. Believe me, I’ve tried.”

“I know.” Magnus is quiet another moment before asking, “What was his name?”

Alec is surprised by the question, and nearly can’t squeeze the answer out. “Brandon.”

“Thank you for telling me about him.”

Alec nods and wipes his eyes. “He, uh . . . he wanted to be a cop. Talked about it a lot. That’s why I became one. I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life, so I thought . . . maybe if I could do that, it would make up for what I did to him.”

Magnus reaches out and takes Alec’s hand, squeezes it hard. “You didn’t do anything to him.”

“I know. But I had to focus on something. The years after Brandon died – those were bad years for me. To put it mildly. I only passed high school by the skin of my teeth. I couldn’t focus on school work, didn’t sleep well, didn’t care about anything. My parents would lecture me and I would force myself through it for a while, going through the motions, but it never lasted more than a couple weeks before I stopped caring again. My mother did some college applications for me and sent them in, then bribed people to get me interviews, but I bombed them. I was messed up.” He looks back out the window. “I was drinking a lot. I spent days at a time in bed, wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t shower. Seems almost like a dream now. I complained about not being able to sleep and being tired all the time. My mom brought me to a shrink who gave me some sleeping pills. I took the whole bottle and chased it with a fifth of vodka.”

“Jesus,” Magnus mutters again.

“My sister found me. God, I feel so bad about that, even now, but Mom and Dad were on some weekend retreat. She called 911. I wound up on a seventy-two hour psych hold even though I told everyone I hadn’t actually been trying to kill myself. One of the doctors there saved my life.” Alec lets out a shaky breath. “I was trying to convince him that I wasn’t suicidal, and I told him I’d just been kind of messed up since I’d finished conversion therapy. Turns out, he was gay, and he knew all about conversion therapy and how much it fucks people up.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect, that doctor went way above and beyond for me. Pretty sure that most of the time it’s just a quick half hour to figure out what’s going on, then a prescription for pills and a referral to outpatient therapy. That doctor sat with me for hours. Talked to me about homosexuality in nature, the studies with twins and brain chemistries, the gay penguins, all that stuff. Told me about how conversion therapy doesn’t work and what the suicide rates are like and why. He wouldn’t let me leave the hospital until I was able to look him in the eye and say out loud that Brandon hadn’t killed himself because of me.”

“Well, thank God for that,” Magnus murmurs.

“Yeah. Only therapy I’ve ever gotten, but I think he did more with me in three days than any other doctor could have in three years. I got cleaned up, got sober, got back into school.”

“I’m surprised you still drink socially,” Magnus says. “Most former alcoholics I know won’t touch a drop.”

Alec shrugs. “Drinking socially is a big deal in my mother’s circles. She didn’t want anyone to realize something was wrong with me, so she insists.”

“Your mother insists that you, her formerly alcoholic son, drink socially.” Magnus pinches the bridge of his nose. “That probably shouldn’t surprise me after everything else, and yet . . .”

“Yeah, well, she’s probably still disappointed that I couldn’t even get killing myself right,” Alec says, and Magnus makes an affronted noise. Alec glances at him, amused despite the darkness of the situation. “Seriously? She gave her severely depressed eighteen year old son an entire bottle of sleeping pills rather than rationing them out, then left him all alone in the house for three days. Izzy wasn’t even supposed to be there. She had come home from school for the weekend because one of her friends was having a birthday party. My mom definitely set everything up so I could kill myself, she could sweep it all under the rug, and then I could stop embarrassing her.”

“And you still spend Christmas and Thanksgiving with this woman.”

“Spite is a powerful motivator.” Alec shrugs. “I can’t undo what she did. But I can show up a few times a year and make her choke on the fact that I’m still alive and working in a job she hates.”

“That does make sense to me,” Magnus muses.

“Maybe someday I’ll be able to make her choke on the fact that I’m dating a gorgeous bisexual man,” Alec says. “I can’t yet. I just . . . I just can’t. But I want to. Someday. If that means anything.”

“I think it means everything,” Magnus says, squeezing his hand again.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

“So tell me about this cult,” Alec says, on one of those evenings when they’re done having sex, but neither of them want to get out of bed yet. Magnus is curled up against him, and he’s rubbing a hand up and down Magnus’ back, just letting his fingers trail over the skin. Magnus makes a little noise against his shoulder. “I mean, you don’t have to. I’m just curious.”

“Well, I do know your dark secrets now,” Magnus muses. He rolls onto his back, tucking his hands underneath his head. “Honestly, one of the reasons I don’t tell most people is that it’s one of those things that sounds like it can’t be true.”

“I’ll believe you,” Alec says.

“Oh, I know.” Magnus gives a little sigh. “My father was a sorcerer. A very powerful one, more powerful than any of the ones that we’ve investigated in the last six months. He convinced a bunch of people that he was the messiah. I don’t know how much of it he really believed, to be honest. He had a commune full of people that would do anything he wanted them to, and of course a number of women dying to have his children. Which resulted in me, along with several others.

“Things were pretty peaceful when I was little, but my father kept getting more and more power hungry. He started refusing to let people leave, inducing people to commit suicide so they could ‘experience salvation’. My mother was one of those suicides, when I was ten. Then he decided he wanted to ‘spread salvation’, mainly by killing people who had criticized him or were trying to investigate, then claiming he had saved their souls.” Magnus gives a little shrug. “When it became clear that the law had had enough, my father murdered all the cult members and then had a two-day standoff with the police that ended with him being shot so many times he had more lead than bone in him.”

“How did you survive?” Alec asks.

Magnus is quiet for a long minute. “Let me show you something,” he says, sitting up. He glances around and then closes his eyes, taking several deep breaths in and out while Alec watches curiously. He makes a circular gesture with one hand, and Alec sees it take on a blue glow. The brightness intensifies, expands into a circle, and then pops like a bubble. Magnus mutters something underneath his breath and tries again. This time the glow stays, and with another gesture, he uses it to pick up the empty glass sitting on the table and bring it to his hand.

“You can do magic,” Alec says, unnecessarily.

“I inherited my father’s ability, but I’m not . . . very good at it.” Magnus lets out a breath and sets down the glass. “I’ve tried to learn, but most teachers say I have a mental block. My father used magic to punish people, so I have an instinctual reaction to suppress my talent.”

“That’s still amazing,” Alec says. “But I guess I know that feeling pretty well. The mental block feeling.”

“Yes, I suppose you do.” Magnus smiles a little. “In any case, sometimes when I’m stressed or surprised, my magic will act like it has a mind of its own. When all the commotion started at the commune, I hid in a closet. Someone came looking for stragglers. He opened the door and looked right at me, but didn’t see me. I stayed there until it was quiet again. Gave the police quite a surprise when they found me.”

“You stayed there two days?”

“Mm hm. It was quite preferable to the alternative, believe me.”

“I do, I’m just . . . thinking about how awful that must have been.”

“It’s not one of my fonder memories, to be sure. But it was over twenty years ago now. The worst of it long since faded.”

“How did you end up in the FBI after that?” Alec asks. “I don’t remember if you said you were studying cryptozoology first, or criminal justice.”

“The latter. I actually had no interest in anything supernatural, after what happened with my father. But then finding out about how the two related intrigued me. I started thinking about how things could have been handled differently, if there had been a department or an agency that dealt specifically with supernatural crime. If maybe my father could have been stopped sooner. And the FBI recruited me straight out of graduate school, after reading one of my papers.” Magnus flops down onto his stomach, propping his chin on his arms. “What about you? I know you said you became a cop because of your boyfriend, but why the FBI?”

“My dad’s doing. I think he thought it was kind of a compromise – my mother didn’t want me to be a police officer, but an FBI agent was like a cooler version of that. In his opinion. He hoped it would mollify her. It didn’t, of course, but he’d already gotten me the job and I was enjoying it, so I never thought about quitting or changing things. To be honest, it was nice to be really good at something for the first time in my life.”

“Ah, that’s a feeling I know well. I was startled when I realized I was suddenly the foremost expert in my field. Everyone was very impressed with me and I had no idea why. The data was all there. I was just the first person to bother looking at it.”

“I guess you’re just a genius,” Alec says, grinning at him.

Magnus beams back. “Flattery will get you everywhere,” he says, and Alec laughs, pulling Magnus into a kiss.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

A few weeks later, Alec gets an e-mail from Izzy about how she’s going to be in town during the first week of June, and he decides to take a chance. Izzy has always wanted him to be happy. He wants to show her that he is, at least as close to it as he’s ever been. So after work, when he and Magnus are eating the carbonara that Magnus had made, he says, “So, uh, can I ask you something? And feel free to say no, I really mean that, I don’t want you to agree if you’re really not comfortable with it.”

“I’m comfortable saying no to anything,” Magnus says, laughing.

“My sister Izzy’s going to be here next week,” Alec says, “and, uh, I’d really like for her to meet you. I know that you’re not my boyfriend, but . . . I think you’d really like her, and she only comes to New York a couple times a year.”

“I’d love to meet your sister,” Magnus says. “From the way you’ve described her, she sounds like an amazing person.”

“She is. And she . . . she’s always been really supportive of me. I mean, even when she’s thought that what I was doing was kind of stupid, she’s supported me. She wants me to be happy, and I think meeting you will ease her mind. I, uh, I’m not sure why.”

Magnus smiles a little. “Well, because I’m fabulous, obviously,” he says, and Alec laughs. “But how do you want to introduce me? Just as a friend? I think she’ll see through that, if she knows you as well as you say.”

“I think . . . I’ll just be honest with her. Tell her that we sort of have a thing but we don’t put labels on it because we’re both working through some issues.”

“That sounds fair,” Magnus says.

“Well, it’s not, not really. I mean. The issues are mostly mine.” Alec clears his throat. “But since you didn’t want a relationship either, I figured I could get away with it.”

“That’s true. After breaking up with Camille, I gave myself a six-month relationship-free hiatus.” Magnus shrugs. “That was in August, so, it’s come and gone. But now I have you, and our non-relationship, which honestly is working just fine for me.”

Alec doesn’t really want to talk about their non-relationship or Magnus’ opinion of it, so he says, “What happened with you and Camille, anyway? You never talk about it.”

“That’s because it was a complete nightmare.” Magnus shakes his head and reaches for the bottle of wine. “I generally disapprove of people telling stories about their ‘crazy ex-girlfriend’ but I figure that once it gets to the point where she sets your apartment on fire, it’s probably allowed . . .”

“Wow,” Alec says.

“Camille was . . . how did she put this? High maintenance. She was needy, demanding, and possessive. I didn’t mind at first. I told myself she’d settle down once she realized that I wasn’t like her last boyfriends, who had – she said – cheated on her. Instead she got worse, so I broke it off with her. Whereupon she stalked me relentlessly and tried to kill me twice. She ended up in prison and I decided to move across the country. Then I made myself two promises. The first was that I would be single for at least six months before dating anyone else, and the second was that I would never enter a relationship with someone on the supposition that I could change them.”

Alec ducks his head and rubs a hand over the back of his hair. “I’m surprised you’ll even give me the time of day, then.”

Magnus gives him a sideways glance. “I don’t want to change you, Alec. I like you just the way you are. I think you’d be happier if some things in your life were different, but . . . there’s nothing inherent about you, which would make me not want to date you. Which I’ll remind you we’re not technically doing.”

“Right. Yeah.” Alec flushes pink and won’t quite look at him. “But – if I wanted to – would you?”

“Absolutely,” Magnus says. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“Okay.” Alec clears his throat. “So, uh – Izzy wants to see what she’s missed at the Met, so – would you meet us there Saturday? Ten o’clock, maybe?”

“That sounds great.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec picks Izzy up at the airport, and she’s bright-eyed and excited as always, even though she had just been on a plane for twelve hours. He has no idea how she can do that, and she laughingly just says that she took a Benadryl and slept the entire plane ride. Her flight gets in early, at seven AM, so they go out for breakfast.

“So do you still want to go to the Met?” Alec asks, as the waitress takes their order to the kitchen.

“Absolutely! They’ve got what looks like an amazing exhibit on art from Africa right now.”

“Okay.” Alec takes a drink of his coffee and swallows it down, nearly choking on it. “So, I, uh, I have to tell you something. I kind of invited a friend of mine I thought you might want to meet.”

“Oh, Lord, Alec,” Izzy says, “I get enough of Mom trying to set me up with eligible bachelors, don’t you start - ”

“No, not like that!” Alec protests, and clears his throat. “He’s . . . he’s a guy I’m kind of . . . seeing. Socially.”

“A boyfriend?” Izzy asks, her eyes going wide with excitement.

“Um, not exactly. Sort of. We’ve decided not to put labels on it.”

“That’s awesome!” Izzy surprises him by reaching across the table and taking both of Alec’s hands in her own, saying, “I am so proud of you, Alec.”

Alec flushes pink and looks away. “Because I ‘sort of’ have a boyfriend and can’t bring myself to call it that?”

“Yes! Two years ago if I had suggested a guy you were seeing was a boyfriend, you would have shouted ‘of course not!’ and then not spoken to me for a month. This is amazing progress, so yes, I’m really proud of you for sort of having an unlabeled boyfriend.”

Alec’s nerves ease back a little. “Oh. Okay. I guess you have a point there.”

“So what’s he like? What’s his name?”

“His, uh, his name is Magnus. I know him from work; he’s a cryptozoologist who’s working with my new team. He’s just . . . he’s really smart and gorgeous and honestly way out of my league, and has been ten times more patient with me on the whole relationship thing than I deserve.”

“You deserve all the patience in the world,” Izzy says, squeezing his hands.

“I guess.” Alec pulls a hand back so he can take a drink of his coffee, but leaves his left hand in her grip. “I, uh. I told him about Brandon. About what happened back then.”

Izzy’s eyes widen a little again. He knows what she’s thinking, that she’s realizing the seriousness of this relationship, but she’s smart enough not to mention it, lest he freak out. “Well, I’m really glad he’s joining us today. I definitely have to meet this man.”

The Met is a good place to meet someone, Alec thinks. The place is huge and the art is amazing and it’s easy to kill an entire day wandering around, looking at the different exhibits. Magnus is waiting there, looking far more fabulous than he has any right to, in a turquoise silk shirt and black pants. Alec says hello and thinks about kissing him on the cheek, but chickens out. He introduces Magnus to Izzy, and Izzy says she’s thrilled to meet him. “Likewise,” Magnus says, and they head into the museum.

In Izzy, Magnus has finally met his match for esoteric knowledge, and the two of them are immediately fast friends, talking about art and culture and things that Alec hardly knows anything about. He wanders along behind them, feeling like a bit of a third wheel even though he’s the common point between the two.

They spend about four hours at the Met, and then head out to a late lunch at a nearby Greek restaurant. Magnus has a hundred questions about Izzy’s work in Haiti, and Izzy has a thousand questions about Magnus and Alec’s work with the FBI. The service is incredibly slow and they have plenty of time to talk.

When they’ve finished their entrees and they’re waiting for the check, Alec zones out a little, just watching his sister and his lover. They’re getting along like a house on fire, both of them smiling and animated and clearly thrilled to be there. For the first time, he allows himself to think about whether or not it would be so bad to be out of the closet. He and Magnus had never been out to a restaurant before - it would be too obvious that they were on a date. It would be nice to do this more often - to go to the different museums, or out to a movie or a concert, to try different restaurants. To hold hands with Magnus in public and not care about who saw. Would it really matter? His mother might never even find out. And what could she do if she did? He’s an adult now. It wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t -

“This is for your own good, Alec,” Maryse says in his memory, and Alec’s stomach goes cold, his chest tight. He can’t breathe suddenly. He’s thinking back to the implacable voice of the ‘therapist’ who had worked with him, to the look on Brandon’s face the one time Alec had seen him after the ‘therapy’ had started, to the way Brandon’s mother had sobbed, ‘You killed my son and now he’s going to burn in Hell’, to the -

“Right, Alec?” Izzy asks, and Alec startles back to the present. He pulls for air, but it won’t come. His heart is beating wildly in his chest. “Alec?”

“Alec, are you all right?” Magnus asks, his voice full of concern.

“Izzy, I’m - ” Alec chokes out. She’s seen him do this before, although it’s been such a long time. He tries to remember the word they had used, a code word so Maryse wouldn’t figure out what was happening, wouldn’t torment him further for the trouble he had dealing with the memories. He can’t remember it.

Izzy figures it out anyway. “Hey, Alec, you’re fine, we’re going to count breaths, okay?” She turns her chair so she’s facing him, holding her hands up in front of herself so he can watch them. “Four beats in, okay, good, hold it for seven - watch my hands, Alec, focus on my hands - hold for seven - good, okay, now let it out for eight, don’t rush - ”

It takes about five cycles for him to break out of the panic attack. He nods at her, feeling shaky and weak. “Sorry,” he whispers.

“You don’t need to be sorry, big brother. Drink some water, okay?”

Alec nods and takes a sip. He can’t look at Magnus, and he’s making the easy transition from panicked to embarrassed. “Sorry,” he mumbles.

“Should I - ” Izzy says, and gestures subtly to Magnus, asking if Alec wants her to explain.

Alec manages a wan smile. “Pretty sure the guy with two PhDs can recognize a panic attack when he sees one,” he says, and Magnus gives a rueful nod to indicate that he had, indeed, figured out what was happening. “I, uh. I used to have them all the time, so Izzy got pretty good at calming me down.”

“Do you know what triggered it?” Izzy asks.

“Just - thinking too much about - ” Alec looks away. “I don’t really want to talk about it, okay?”

“Sure,” Izzy says, squeezing his hand.

Alec wants to apologize again for ruining the mood, but he knows that they’ll just tell him that he doesn’t need to be sorry, so instead he just clears his throat and changes the subject. “So did I hear you making plans to go shopping earlier?”

“Absolutely,” Magnus says. “Your sister’s taste is divine. We absolutely have to go to Fifth Avenue while she’s here.”

“I’m only in town for four days, so I hope you don’t mind,” Izzy says to Alec, since she knows Alec won’t go with them.

“No, it’s fine. I’m glad you two are making friends.” Alec picks up his glass of water. “Where are you off to next?”

“Turkey,” Izzy says. “One of the Syrian refugee camps, to be precise.”

“A toast to your health, then,” Magnus proposes, and Izzy blushes but agrees.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec’s second panic attack strikes abruptly the next week, triggered by seeing he had missed a call from his mother. He’s alone, and it takes him an hour to calm down enough to call her back, whereupon he finds out that she’s set him up on another date. He agrees to go, like he always does, and then sits in his bathroom with his head in his shaking hands.

The second is followed by a third, which is followed by a fourth.

The fifth is the worst by far, because he’s out at the fancy restaurant with his date and is stopped by one of his mother’s friends, and she says, “Who was that handsome young man I saw with you at the Met with last weekend?”

“Oh – that – ” Alec’s stomach twists and he stammers helplessly.

“He looked like quite a catch!” the woman continues, and Alec stops breathing, his heart seizing in his chest. “Izzy’s always snagged the handsome ones, hasn’t she? Ah, to be young again! I suppose she’s already off to Cambodia or somewhere, leaving him broken-hearted behind her . . .” The woman continues to chat for another minute with Alec’s date, oblivious to how he’s frozen, how he doesn’t dare move because he thinks he’ll fall apart. When she finally goes back to her own table, Alec’s date asks if he’s all right. He manages to squeeze out that he feels a little sick before he bolts for the restroom.

It takes almost ten minutes to calm himself down enough to go back to the table and politely apologize and excuse himself because he’s not feeling well. His date is sympathetic and clearly clueless to the fact that something is going on. He promises to text her so they can reschedule before fleeing the restaurant and getting in a taxi. He gives the driver Magnus’ address.

Magnus isn’t expecting him, so he’s surprised when he opens the door to find Alec standing there. He’s even more surprised when Alec greets him by blurting out, “I can’t do this anymore.”

The surprise is replaced with hurt, but almost immediately changes to sympathy. “Come in,” Magnus says, standing back from the door.

“I can’t. Magnus, I can’t.” Alec folds his arms over his stomach. “I’m sorry, I just – this was such a mistake, I never should have – I’ll never be the kind of person you deserve, and – I should have put a stop to this a long time ago – ”

“Alec,” Magnus interrupts gently, “you’re hyperventilating. You’re going to pass out. Please come inside. We’ll work through it. Okay?”

Alec’s too upset to argue with him. He lets Magnus lead him inside and sit him down on the sofa with his head between his knees, lets Magnus talk him through breathing the way Izzy does, until he finally manages to calm down. Magnus doesn’t say much, doesn’t ask what happened or why Alec showed up so abruptly.

Finally, Alec says, “One of my mom’s friends saw us at the Met.”

Magnus winces a little. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah. She assumed you were Izzy’s date, not mine. But I had a full blown panic attack in The River Café.” Alec takes another deep breath and steadies out a bit more. “I can’t do this, Magnus. I’m never going to be able to just, just take you out to dinner or a museum. I want to, but just the thought of, of people finding out – I’m sorry, but I can’t. I’ve been having panic attacks all week just thinking about it. You – you deserve better than this, better than someone who’s still taking women on dates just to try to fake being straight – ”

“Hey, hey,” Magnus says, his voice still gentle. “Alexander, this has nothing to do with ‘deserving’. What I deserve, what everyone deserves, is to be happy. And you make me happy. Even though you can’t take me to the River Café.”

Alec hugs his arms to his stomach again. “I can’t ask you to, to put up with things being this way forever, and it’s going to be forever, Magnus.”

“I know it feels that way,” Magnus says. “I truly do. But things do get better. It takes time, and it takes work, but they do.”

“Only if I survive the process,” Alec mumbles.

Magnus is quiet for a few moments before he says, “The panic attacks – have you considered talking to someone about them? Someone other than me and your sister, I mean.”

“What, like a shrink?” Alec looks away. “They’d probably laugh me out of their office for being so pathetic.”

“Alec, you are not pathetic.” Magnus sounds a little affronted. “You survived something very traumatic, something that a lot of people don’t. I’m not just talking about Brandon. People who have gone through conversion therapy have suicide rates that are almost ten times the rate of people who haven’t. A few panic attacks hardly makes you pathetic.”

Alec shrugs a little. “I guess.”

“Would it help you to know that I was in therapy for several years?” Magnus says, and Alec looks up, surprised. “I didn’t exactly have a rosy childhood, you’ll recall. I had no idea how to deal with my emotions as a teenager, and I was angry, God, so angry at the world for what had happened to me.” Magnus reaches out and squeezes Alec’s hand. “But I had no idea how to be angry. It had never been allowed. So yes, I went through a lot of therapy.”

“Well, yeah, but – but what you went through was so much worse than what happened to me. I should be able to, to handle this.”

“Trauma isn’t a competition, Alec. Yes, what happened to me was objectively worse than what happened to you. But that doesn’t make what happened to you not matter.” Magnus squeezes his hand again. “Will you at least think about it?”

Alec nods. He’s suddenly exhausted, like he had climbed a mountain. “Yeah. I’ll think about it.”

“Good. And Alec? If you want to break up with me because you don’t like me, because you like somebody else more, because my habit of clipping my toenails in bed infuriates you, feel free. But don’t you ever dare try to break up with me for my benefit. That’s not how it works. I’m the one who decides whether or not I want to be with you, whether or not the disadvantage of having to keep our relationship secret outweighs the advantages. It doesn’t. Not to me. It doesn’t today, and it won’t tomorrow, and I don’t foresee a change in that any time soon if ever. And that’s my choice to make. Understand?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry.” Alec closes his eyes and rests his head against Magnus’ shoulder. Magnus leans over and kisses him on the forehead, combs his fingers through Alec’s hair. “I don’t get it, though. Why you want to be with me.”

“I imagine it must be hard for you to see good in yourself,” Magnus says. “Believe it or not, it took me a long time, too. So for your own information – take notes – you are smart, and hard-working, and brave. And when you smile, it’s like the sun coming out after a dozen rainy days, it’s so beautiful.”

Alec flushes pink. “Staaahhhhp,” he says into Magnus’ shoulder.

“You never complain about doing the dishes, even when I’ve used six different mixing bowls,” Magnus continues. “You don’t make fun of me for liking animated movies. You’re not jealous when I talk about the friends I go out with on nights we’re not together. You let me talk about things like makeup and fashion even though I know you don’t care.”

“You’re not stopping,” Alec mumbles.

“All right, I’ll stop,” Magnus says, laughing quietly. “After one more thing. Which is that I truly believe one day, you’re going to be able to hold hands with me on a walk in the park. Because you are that brave, and that strong. It won’t be for a while, I know, but I have complete faith that it will happen someday. Because you won’t be doing it for my sake. You’ll be doing it for your own. Because it’s something that you want. You’ll get there, Alec. Just be patient with yourself.”

“I’ve never been a patient person,” Alec says with a sigh.

At this, Magnus laughs again. “I know. But you know, you really have made progress. Izzy made that perfectly clear when she went shopping with me. That before this year, you wouldn’t even admit you were gay to her, even though she knew perfectly well, and you knew she knew, et cetera. You always maintained the illusion that you had been ‘converted’, even though you knew she had never believed it. The you of a year ago never would have come to another man’s apartment, never would have let me cook you dinner without an expectation of a quick hook-up. Things are better for you, aren’t they?” he adds, and Alec nods. “So let them be better, and don’t be cruel to yourself because everything isn’t perfect yet.”

“Okay.” Alec rests his head down again, lets Magnus stroke his hair. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Alexander.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

As long as Alec can remember that he doesn’t have to come out of the closet, that Magnus doesn’t need him to do that to be happy, the panic attacks aren’t too bad. He still has one on occasion, but he can usually calm himself down without needing anyone’s help. It doesn’t interfere with work, which is what he was most worried about.

He reschedules his date and does the usual, being polite and friendly but just a little bit distant. As expected, a few days later she texts him to say she had a good time but isn’t really interested in him romantically. Alec counts on this happening, and it does at least three quarters of the time. He’s not sure if that’s because of his demeanor or his job or if they subconsciously know he’s gay. He tries not to worry about it, since none of them have ever tried to ask about his sexuality or out him.

“You know, I’m curious about something,” Magnus says, as Alec is telling him about this. “And as always, you can refuse to answer, but how did you end up hooking up with guys on Grindr after everything that happened?”

Alec looks up from his phone and his lips twitch. “You mean, how did a mentally traumatized, socially incompetent closet case ever manage to lose his virginity in the first place?”

Magnus clears his throat. “I wasn’t going to put it that way.”

“Obviously, but I can see why you’d be curious. Anyway, it was about what you’d expect. College and alcohol. Boring story.”

Magnus puts his chin in his hands and scoots up to the table.

Alec laughs. “Okay, fine. I went to college at SUNY in Buffalo. My mother hated that, of course, and tried to insist that I go to college in New York City, so she could keep an eye on me. When I refused, they decided they wouldn’t pay for anything, so I spent most of my trust fund paying for tuition and living expenses. There wasn’t anything special about Buffalo that made me pick it over the others. I just wanted to get away from my parents, and they accepted me even though my records were a little spotty in places. I kept my head down, studied, and had no social life at all for the first three years.

“In my senior year I met this other guy who was just, really flamboyantly gay. Naturally, I was really jealous of him, but I also thought he was really cute, so, you know, I was conflicted. I wasn’t a jerk to him or anything, I basically just gave him the cold shoulder, which was really no different from how I treated anyone, but . . . long story short, fast forward to March, I got drunk at a party – this story doesn’t end with me losing my virginity in a drunken haze, by the way – and I unloaded all over him. Told him how much I hated being gay and how much I hated him for not hating being gay, and how I was so lonely and desperate and I wanted to know what having sex was like but nobody would ever want me – et cetera, you get the idea.”

Magnus nods a little and takes a drink of his tea. “I’m not sure which one of you I feel sorrier for.”

Alec laughs a little. “He was actually really nice about it. Totally a gentleman, didn’t lay a hand on me, walked me back to my room to make sure I got there okay. He left me his number and said to call him if I wanted to talk, or do anything else, once I’d sobered up. Which of course I didn’t. I wouldn’t even look at him for the next week and a half. But . . . I really wanted to call him. You know? So I rationalized. You might have noticed I am an expert at rationalizing. You know, it’s okay to have sex with a guy as long as it’s only one time, it’s okay to have sex with a guy multiple times as long as it’s in hotels, it’s okay to go to his apartment as long as it’s only for sex . . .”

“Well, whatever works to get you where you need to be,” Magnus says.

“I guess.” Alec shrugs. “So I told myself I’d go over to his place – he was living off campus with some other guys – but it was just to tell him that I wasn’t interested and I was sorry I’d made things weird. Which is what I started with, and he asked if I wanted to come in and talk, and I rationalized that, you know, there was nothing wrong with talking to a guy. I think I finally stopped rationalizing when he was riding my dick, but knowing me, there was probably still some going on in the back of my brain somewhere.”

Magnus is laughing quietly. “Was it good?”

“Oh my God, Magnus, he blew my fucking mind.” Alec finds that he’s less embarrassed to talk about this than he would have expected. “I mean, given that my only sexual experience at that point was a couple handjobs when I was sixteen – I suddenly figured out what the big deal was, you know? Which I’m sure you can guess how I responded to.”

Magnus winced. “You freaked out.”

“I freaked right the fuck out. Ducked out the next morning before he was awake and began hardcore pretending he didn’t exist and nothing had ever happened. I still feel bad about that. He called and left me a voicemail at one point saying he understood why I was doing it, he was there if I wanted to talk. Seriously a guy that was too good for this world.”

“You should look him up,” Magnus suggests. “Maybe let him know that you’re okay.”

“Maybe.” Alec shrugs a little. “Anyway, that was pretty much it until I’d gotten through FBI training and moved back to New York City. Then I discovered Grindr. Rationalized myself into downloading it – you know, there’s no harm in looking, right? – and then realized that there were actually a lot of closeted guys on there, and that everyone was actually pretty open and respectful of that, which surprised me. I figured other closet cases would be safe. Couldn’t actually rationalize myself into messaging anybody, but hey, if someone expressed interest in me, it was only fair to reply, right? Which got me through the first year or so, and then I implemented my ‘reward for good behavior’ system, which brings us up to last September when my Grindr date cancelled on me last minute and left me horny and awkward in a bar. Which is where I met you.”

“That wasn’t a boring story at all,” Magnus says, leaning over to kiss him briefly on the mouth. “And for the record, I’m very glad your date cancelled on you that night.”

“We would have met anyway,” Alec says.

“Well, yes, obviously,” Magnus says. “But who knows how things might have been different? I might not have even realized you were gay, and eventually might have met someone else on my own.”

“Maybe would’ve been better for you that way,” Alec remarks.

“Oh, I doubt that very much.” Magnus leans in for another kiss, this one more involved. “But thank you for telling me the story. My curiosity has been assuaged. How do you feel about Pad Thai for dinner?”

“Sure,” Alec says, smiling despite himself. “That sounds great.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec has always hated the summer. He hates it even more now that he wears a suit every day, although there isn’t really a formal dress code. He stops wearing the jacket. Even Magnus downgrades his outfits in the interest of not dying of the heat.

It’s been nearly a year since the task force was started. Their stats are good and it’s been expanded twice. The news is all good, and Alec is, for the first time in his life, really proud of something he had accomplished. They’re going to be opening up units in three other cities. Magnus is going to be the consultant for all of them, which is going to mean a lot of travel. He doesn’t mind. Like Alec, he’s proud of what they’ve done.

“Most of the consulting can be done by phone or email anyway,” he says, as he and Alec are discussing what’s going to happen with the new units. They’re sitting in the car on another stake-out, waiting at a crime scene which, according to the black magic he practiced, he’s going to return to. “It’s rare that I’ll have to actually go to Chicago or Denver.”

“Why Denver, anyway?” Alec asks. “That wasn’t on the original short list, was it?”

“No. But it’s centrally located. From Denver you can reach almost any city in the western United States in a few hours.”

Alec nods. “Makes sense.”

“Besides, now that these teams are being formed, the field agents are getting a lot more training in cryptozoology, anyway. Soon I’ll put myself out of a job.”

“You’re indispensable and you know it,” Alec says, laughing. Magnus preens, and Alec is about to say something about false modesty when he sees movement in the darkness on the other side of the street. He gets on the radio. “There’s our guy. Jace, Lydia, come in from the north, I’ll come from the south. Clary, stay where you are to block the alley.”

“Roger,” three voices say. Magnus will stay in the car. He’s not as accustomed to field work as the rest of them are. Alec exits and walks over to the edge of the park, seeing the bundle that the man is carrying.

He waits until Jace and Lydia are in position and then shouts, “Freeze, FBI!”

The man drops the bundle and bolts. Alec swears, more out of annoyance than anything else, and follows. There are only two ways out of the park; Clary is blocking one and Magnus the other. He’ll run the suspect into Jace and Lydia before he ever gets near them.

“He’s going over the fence,” he says into his radio, throwing himself up over it. His fingers brush the man’s shoe, but he makes it before Alec can grab him. Alec drops down on the other side and sprints after him.

He’s so focused on his pursuit that the car takes him completely off guard. It roars out of the dead end alley, headlights off, and the next thing Alec knows he’s flying through the air and the world is exploding into phenomenal amounts of pain.

He hits the ground hard and is vaguely aware of the man he was chasing throwing himself into the passenger’s side of the vehicle. It’s some kind of pick-up truck, he notices, without really knowing why. Everything’s moving very slowly as the car jolts forward again. Twenty more feet and it’s going to run him over, but his body isn’t moving the way he’s telling it to. It’s not moving at all.

“Alec!” Magnus is shouting from the other side of the street. Alec doesn’t know where he is.

There’s a flash of blue light and a wave of concussive force. It sends Alec rolling several more feet and up against the fence. The truck is slammed backwards like it had run into a solid wall, the entire front end of it crumpled. Magnus skids to his knees at Alec’s side, checking his pulse.

“I’m okay,” Alec rasps, although he’s pretty sure that he’s anything but. “Can’t move my legs,” he adds, as if that’s the biggest problem right now. He’s not even one hundred percent sure that his legs are still attached. Magnus is already on his radio, talking rapidly, and Jace and Lydia are hauling people out of the truck, and Alec thinks vaguely that everything seems to be under control, he’s going to check out for a little while.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

The next several hours, or possibly days, are very confusing for Alec. He’s aware of bright lights, calm voices talking about things he doesn’t always understand. Things smell differently from usual, like disinfectant and latex. He tries to ask questions but there’s a tube down his throat, and when he panics and tries to pull on it, they knock him out.

He doesn’t know how long goes by before he really wakes up again, to see Magnus nodding off in the chair beside his bed. He tries to get his bearings. It’s louder than he would have expected, with the beeping of monitors, and the lights are bizarrely bright. This isn’t the quiet hospital room with a cheerful window that TV would have led him to expect. There’s no window at all, and no door, either, just a blue curtain pulled around his ‘room’ about halfway.

He clears his throat, and Magnus jolts awake. “Hey! You’re awake, thank God, how are you feeling? Are you in pain? Can you move your legs now? Wait, don’t try yet, let me get the doctor – ”

Alec tries to say something, but his throat hurts like hell. The doctor comes in and starts asking questions while Magnus stands out of the way. They give him something to drink, just a few swallows, and it numbs his throat and makes talking easier. It’s normal to have throat pain after being intubated, the doctor tells him calmly. He had severe internal bleeding and they had to do two different surgeries. Alec answers their questions about his full name and the date and who the president is, but he waits for what he thinks is coming, what he’s not sure he wants to know.

“Can you feel that?” the doctor asks, squeezing the big toe on his right foot.

Alec lets out a sigh of relief. “Yeah.”

Magnus practically melts against the wall, looking like he might pass out from the release of tension.

“How about that?” the doctor asks, moving to the other foot.

“Yeah. But – ” Alec hesitates. “I can feel them, but I can’t move them. I can kind of make my legs twitch a bit, but that’s not really what I’m trying to do.”

“Okay.” The doctor walks back towards him. “Don’t be too discouraged, Mr. Lightwood. Your back wasn’t broken. There might be some damage to your spinal cord, but there was also a lot of swelling, which can interfere with the nerves. We might not know the full extent of the damage for several weeks, and even then, incomplete spinal injuries have a much better prognosis than complete ones. The fact that you have any movement at all is a very promising sign.”

Alec nods. “Where is it? The swelling, I mean. Is it lumbar or thoracic?”

The doctor is clearly a little surprised that he knows the terms, but answers readily enough. “Lumbar.”

“Okay.” Alec tries to breathe. That’s low in the spine, which means he’ll probably have a better prognosis than if the injury was higher up. The doctor moves on to talking about post-surgery recovery and how long he’s likely to be in the hospital. He says they’ll probably move him out of the ICU the next day. When the doctor is done, the nurse asks him to rate his pain. He says four, so they give him a low dose of morphine.

It blurs him out a little, so he can’t ask Magnus the questions he wants to ask. He does, however, manage to grab him by the wrist and slur, “Stay,” because he’s afraid of being there alone. Magnus leans down and kisses him on the forehead, and he falls back to sleep.

It’s impossible to sleep for long, with the loud noises and constant hectic motion of the ward. He wakes up again a couple hours later, and Magnus is still there. He’s still in the same clothes he had been in on the stakeout, and he looks wrecked and exhausted.

“I’m surprised they let you in,” he says, after Magnus has asked how he was feeling. “ICU and all.”

“Yes, well.” Magnus lets out a breath. “After it became clear that neither of your parents were going to grace us with their presence, I think they felt sorry for you. I told them I was your partner, by the way, you know, on the force.”

“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” Alec lets out a breath and tries to wiggle his toes. His entire foot contracts instead.

“Alec, I am so sorry,” Magnus says in a rush, leaving Alec blinking at him, bewildered. “You shouldn’t have been moved after the car hit you, this might be my fault – ”

“What, because you used your magic to stop them from running me over?” Alec’s still confused. “Magnus, you saved my life.”

“Yes, but – but if I had been able to control it, been able to stop the car without moving you, it would have been better for you, you might not be – ” Magnus tries to take a deep breath, impatiently wiping his eyes. “I just saw you in danger and I, I reacted, but I’ve never been good with my magic. If I had practiced more, gotten it under control – ”

“Magnus, stop.” Alec says, lifting his hand up and pressing his fingers against Magnus’ mouth. “It’s not like you didn’t learn to do magic because you were lazy. You had a very reasonable mental block due to being raised by a murdering psychopath.” He pulls his hand away, and sees Magnus try to smile. “Even if I do wind up paralyzed, I wouldn’t blame you. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. You heard what the doctor said about the swelling.”

Magnus nods and hastily wipes his eyes. “Oh, speaking of doctors. I spoke with your sister. She’s on a flight here. I think she should be here within the next few hours.”

“Okay. How long was I out? It’s all really blurry. I’m not even sure what day it is.”

“It’s Thursday night. You were in surgery almost all of Wednesday night, and then you were unconscious most of the day. The others were here earlier, actually – Luke sent them home at dinner time, after you woke up the first time and he could reassure them that your prognosis was fairly good.”

“Okay,” Alec says again. “So, uh. They called my parents?”

Magnus pinches the bridge of his nose. “Yes. I’m not supposed to mention it, lest it upset you – in fact, I’m fairly sure I’m not even supposed to know. But while you were in for your second surgery, I heard one of the nurses talking to Luke about it. Said that they had finally gotten in touch with your mother, who said – Alec, are you sure you want to hear this?”

Alec nods. “Yeah. Very sure.”

“She said ‘call me if you need me to sign for the release of the body’ and then hung up.” Magnus squeezes his hand. “I’m so sorry, Alec.”

Alec shrugs. He should be upset, he thinks, but he’s exhausted and just doesn’t have the energy for it. “She’s always said that I’d get myself killed chasing honor and glory. Her words, obviously, not mine. She’s going to be so disappointed when she hears I failed at dying again. I hope I get out of the hospital in time to go to her birthday party.”

Magnus laughs at that, just a little chuckle, and presses a kiss against Alec’s knuckles. “You’re amazing.”

“Pretty sure someone amazing would have noticed the getaway vehicle, but sure,” Alec says. “What happened, by the way? Arrests made all around?”

“Mm hm. And now a lovely attempted murder charge on top of it.” Magnus kisses his hand again. “I’m so glad you’re all right.”

“Me too.” Alec runs his hand over Magnus’ hair, then lets his arm drop down to the bed. He’s already exhausted again, and yawns despite himself.

“Get some rest,” Magnus says. “I’ll be right here.”

“Okay, but – when Izzy gets here, go home and get some sleep, okay? You look wrecked. Take a shower, sleep in a real bed. You promise?”

“All right, I suppose if you insist,” Magnus says.

Alec nods. “Good,” he says, and twines his fingers’ through Magnus’ as he drifts back into sleep.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

“ – and a punctured lung,” someone is saying, the next time Alec wakes up. “That was taken care of during the first surgery. Fortunately, the damage to his liver and kidneys was minimal. The second surgery was for the lateral crush injury of his pelvis. That was really the worst of his injuries. From the way his partner described the car, I think it must have taken the brunt of the impact.”

“What about his arm?” It’s Izzy’s voice in response. “It’s on the opposite side, so I assume it’s from his landing?”

“Yeah. The wrist was broken, but it’s a pretty clean break.”

“No head trauma?”

“Surprisingly, no. Not even a concussion. Just a mild abrasion on the side of his head. His body really did take the fall for him, somewhat literally.”

Izzy’s voice tightens a little. “Magnus mentioned a spinal injury.”

“Hard to say at this point. Dr. Penhallow thinks it’s just associated swelling from the trauma. There’s no fracture and we didn’t see any compression of his spinal cord on the x-ray. He had sensation in both feet and his reflexes are normal, but he had trouble with coordinated movement. It’ll probably be a few weeks before we can fully assess it, because of the pelvic injury.”

“Okay. Thank you, doctor.” Izzy glances over as Alec manages to pry his eyelids open. He feels a little vague and fuzzy. “Oh, hey, look who’s awake. How’re you feeling, champ?”

“All right,” he says. “Thirsty.”

Izzy gives the doctor a questioning look, and he says, “Liquids are okay. He probably won’t be able to take solids for a few days.”

“Okay.” Izzy gets a cup of water from the sink and holds it to Alec’s mouth.

“The aides will be in soon to take him up to a room,” the doctor says, and shakes Izzy’s hand before departing.

Izzy sinks into the chair next to him. “You scared the shit out of me, big brother.”

“Sorry.” Alec winces a little. “It was that bad, huh?”

“Well, keep in mind that I got on the plane right after hearing about your injury, at which point they’d really only done a bare-bones assessment. So I heard ‘hit by a truck, internal bleeding, needs major surgery’ and that was about it. I – ” She lets out a shuddering breath. “I was about eighty percent sure I was going to get off the plane and find you’d died while I was en route.”

“Sorry,” Alec says again, and squeezes her hand. He blinks down at his arm. “I don’t think I even realized that was broken last time I woke up.”

“It’d be easy to miss, what with everything else.” Izzy shakes her head. “You’re in for a rough road, you know. The physical therapy is going to be brutal.”

“Well, hey, at least we caught the bad guy,” Alec says. Izzy narrows her eyes, and he has a feeling she’s about to say something rude, when a nurse and an aide come in. They’re going to move him to a room on the regular ward, now, and in preparation for this, they dope him up. Alec’s quite grateful for that, because even the slight jolt he feels when they transfer him to the stretcher is some of the worst pain he’s ever felt.

By the time they get him settled in, he’s only half-conscious. Izzy sits down beside him and he tries to focus on her. “Where’s Magnus?” he slurs out.

“He went home, Alec. He needed to rest. Said you insisted.”

“Oh. Right.” Alec blinks at her slowly. “I love him so much, Izzy. So damn much. I wanna . . . wanna marry him. Put a ring on it. I wanna kiss him every day for . . . for forever.”

Izzy’s mouth twitches in a smile. “I’m glad you found someone who makes you happy.”

“He’s so amazing and I’m so . . .” Alec waves a hand vaguely. It’s hard to organize his thoughts. Actually, he’s not sure if he’s even having thoughts. “I wanna marry him but I can’t. It’s not fair.”

“Alec,” Izzy says patiently, “you can totally marry Magnus. I mean, I would suggest proposing first, but . . .”

“I can’t, Izzy.” Alec’s too stoned to feel the wave of panic that he’s sure is there somewhere. “I can’t. Not after what happened. What if . . .” He struggles for the words to explain what he’s feeling. “What if they hurt him?”

“Hurt Magnus?” Izzy is clearly a little surprised at the turn in his train of thought. “Who’s the ‘they’ in this scenario?”

Alec doesn’t understand her question. “They. They, Izzy. They murdered Brandon. He liked me and they killed him for it. I don’t . . . they said he killed himself, he did, but they murdered him first. They killed his soul. All because he liked me. What if they kill Magnus, too? I can’t let that happen.”

“That’s what this is about?” Izzy is still blinking at him. “I always figured you were in the closet for your safety, not . . .”

“I don’t care about me.” Alec sees her flinch, but doesn’t know why. “I don’t care what happens to me. They can hurt me. I can take it. Always have. But Magnus. He’s so special. I couldn’t stand it if they hurt him.”

“Alec,” Izzy says gently, “there is no ‘they’. Mom can’t do anything to Magnus.”

Alec struggles to make this statement align with things he knows in his heart, and has known for years, to be true. “Are . . . are you sure?”

“I’m sure, big brother.” Izzy smoothes his hair back. “Magnus is going to be fine. You’re not going to hurt him by loving him, or letting him love you.”

“Oh.” Alec considers this for several long minutes. “Then . . . then he should get in here. I wanna make out with him. On his face.”

Izzy dissolves into giggles. “I’ll let him know. But for now I think you should get some rest.”

“Mmkay.” Alec closes his eyes obediently, and lets the world float away.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

Alec’s next visit is from Luke, who comes by long enough to tell Alec not to worry about anything, that no matter what happens with his physical recovery, he always has a place in the bureau. When Magnus arrives mid-day, Izzy says she’s going to get some rest. She barely slept on the plane, so she’s been up a long time. Alec has no idea where his keys are, and doesn’t know if the doorman at his building would let her in, so Magnus offers to let her crash at his place. She accepts with a smile.

“How are you feeling?” Magnus asks.

“Still kinda stoned. Not in any pain, though, so I’ll take it.”

“Good.” Magnus leans over and kisses him on the forehead.

Alec wants a real kiss, but can’t actually move well enough to move in for one. But when Magnus starts to pull away, he says, “Hey. Come here. I can’t reach you over there.”

Magnus laughs. “Okay.” He scoots his chair closer and leans in, pressing his forehead against Alec’s, letting Alec run a hand over his hair. They stay like that for a long minute, and Alec just breathes, enjoying the closeness.

It takes a long time for his nerves to settle enough to get the words out, but he does. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Magnus says, and brushes his lips over Alec’s.

“I want to stay with you. I don’t know – what that’s going to mean for me, or how I’m going to handle it. I’ve got no plan. I just want you to know that I love you, and I don’t want to ever be without you.”

“You won’t be,” Magnus says, and kisses him again. After a long moment, he pulls back, although he doesn’t go far. He takes Alec’s hand in both of his and presses a kiss against his knuckles. “It might not be a good idea to make any decisions now. Your recovery is going to take time, and you’re going to need to focus on that. But there is one thing you should probably know, so you can think about it. Remember the other units they’re opening? The one in Chicago, especially?”

Alec nods. “Yeah. What about them?”

“The bureau wants me there. They said that it made more sense for me to be on hand for the rookies, and consult with your team by email on the off occasion you need me. When it came up, I told them no, that I didn’t want to be transferred. But they weren’t happy about it, to be honest. I only got away with it because my expertise can’t really be replaced, but I’m not sure pissing off my bosses – you know, the government – was the best idea. I hadn’t brought it up yet because I wasn’t sure how you’d react if I said I didn’t want to move without you.”

Alec thinks about this for a moment. “Would you have to move again afterwards?”

“Probably, yes. Although it’s hard to say what the future will bring. Chicago and Denver are being opened simultaneously, but then they’ll probably want to transfer me to the one opening in Houston the next year. After that, hopefully enough people would be trained that I wouldn’t have to keep being moved around.”

“You’d stay in Houston?”

“Certainly not!” Magnus says, laughing. “Texas in the summer? I’ll pass. Who knows where we might go after that? But my point is, if you don’t want to stay in New York City, we don’t have to.”

“Okay.” Alec squeezes Magnus’ hand. “Wherever you go, I go. But . . . even if we stay here . . .” He shakes his head a little. “I’ve been afraid of being who I am for most of my life. Afraid that what happened to Brandon would happen to anyone I cared about. I still am, I guess. I’m not going to say I’m suddenly not scared anymore. I just don’t want to let it stop me anymore. I want to be with you, for real. I want to be everything you want, everything you need.”

Magnus smiles brightly, and leans down for another kiss, murmuring against Alec’s lips, “You already are.”

Alec kisses him back, cupping the back of Magnus’ neck in his good hand. It becomes somewhat involved, until they hear a throat clearing.

“We’re interrupting,” Clary says, grinning at them both like she’s honestly thrilled.

“Oh shit,” Alec says faintly. Magnus darts a concerned look at him, like he’s afraid Alec’s going to pass out. “Um. Hi . . . hi, guys. This is . . . exactly what it looks like.”

“No kidding,” Jace says, shouldering past Clary so he can walk over and look Alec up and down. “Man, you look like ten miles of bad road. Didn’t you ever learn to look both ways before crossing the street?”

“Jace!” Clary says, smacking him on the upper arm. Jace just smirks at her, not at all remorseful.

“You’re not surprised,” Alec says, as the three other team members settle in the room.

“By what, you two doing the tongue tango?” Jace asks, and shrugs. “Nah. We’ve known you two were dating since . . .” He looks at Lydia. “February?”

“That’s when I figured it out.” Lydia’s smiling too. “But Clary knew before either of us.”

“What, but, but, how?” Alec demands.

“Well, Magnus stopped talking about dating,” Clary says. “He was clearly looking for someone, but then he just . . . didn’t talk about it anymore. So I figured he had found someone, but they had to keep the relationship on the DL. Which meant it was probably someone in our department, since, you know, work place romances are generally frowned upon.”

“In retrospect, I probably should have thought of that,” Magnus says, giving Alec’s hand an apologetic squeeze.

“Now, first I thought it was a woman,” Clary says, “because Magnus is bi, but I didn’t know of any gay men in the department. Then Jace mentioned you being gay – ”

“Wait, what?” Alec chokes. “How’d you know that?”

Jace gives him a surprised look. “I didn’t know it was a secret. Dude, you check out the ass of almost every guy you see.”

“Oh my God,” Alec mumbles.

“Sorry,” Jace says. “But, uh, you’re not really subtle about it. You literally turn and watch guys walk by. And then there was that thing where Agent Lewis had to jump up onto a fire escape and you watched him go and then you just looked so disappointed afterwards.”

“If a guy is going to be that obnoxious, the least he can do in return is have a nice ass,” Alec grumbles, and Magnus laughs so hard that he nearly falls out of his chair.

“So then I realized it had to be you,” Clary continues, “because you would definitely want to keep it secret, what with you being in charge of the team. Plus you two were almost always the last to leave. But I didn’t figure it out for sure until January because that was when you started coming in smelling like Magnus’ shampoo.”

Alec flushes pink. “It – it’s just shampoo, it can’t smell that different from mine – ”

“I’m willing to bet my shampoo costs about three times whatever you keep at your apartment,” Magnus murmurs.

Clary nods. “Magnus’ shampoo smells like coconuts. Yours smells like shampoo.”

“Well, I’m going to go die of mortification now,” Alec says.

“After all the work the doctors just did to keep you alive? Seems ungrateful, to say the least,” Magnus says, and leans in for another kiss. He looks over at Lydia, still grinning. “And how did you figure it out?”

“Whenever you brought leftovers to work for lunch, you always had the same thing,” Lydia says, amused. “If one of you had Thai food, the other had Thai food. If one of you had Indian food . . .”

“Yeah, we get it,” Alec mutters. “I guess we might as well make my humiliation complete and ask Jace how he figured it out.”

“Magnus had worked an all-nighter doing research on that string of poltergeists,” Jace says. “He couldn’t find his toothbrush, so he used yours. Guys don’t share toothbrushes if they aren’t having sex.”

Magnus winces when Alec turns to look at him. “In my defense, I was incredibly sleep-deprived, and I don’t think I realized Jace was there.”

Alec laughs, finding that he honestly doesn’t care at all. “That’s okay.” Something occurs to him. “Wait. That poltergeist case was last month. That means Clary figured it out in January, Lydia figured it out in February, but you . . .”

“And you call yourself an FBI agent,” Clary says, giggling.

“I’m just not a nosy parker like you two,” Jace protests. “And to be honest, I still feel like I missed something. I mean, we all figured that you guys hadn’t said anything because of the professional aspects, but now you’re saying I wasn’t even supposed to know you’re gay?”

Alec grimaces a little, but Magnus squeezes his hand. “I, uh . . . my mom is really not a fan of the concept of me being gay. To the point where she still regularly sets me up with women. So I’ve stayed in the closet. Or at least I thought I had stayed in the closet.”

“Okay, but your mom is kind of the worst,” Lydia says matter-of factly. “I mean, we’ve all heard you talk about her.”

“Where is your mom, anyway?” Clary asks, looking around like she half-expects Alec’s mother to have appeared and overheard them.

“Beats me,” Alec says. “Somewhere else.” He sees Clary’s confused look and adds, “Mom always said that my career choices were going to get me killed someday and not to come crying to her when it happened. Which, in addition to showing a very flexible interpretation of the space-time continuum, is why I don’t expect to see her any time soon.”

“But . . . you’re seriously injured,” Clary says, still not getting it. “I mean, we - we weren’t sure you’d make it.”

Alec looks at her, then looks at Magnus. “Is there a way to explain this that won’t traumatize her?”

“I don’t think so,” Magnus says.

“Okay then.” Alec turns back to Clary. “My mother doesn’t love me, okay? She hasn’t loved me since I got out of diapers, and probably not even then. She doesn’t love my sister, either. My mother is, in short, a terrible person.”

“Then why do you even care if she doesn’t like the fact that you’re gay?” Lydia asks, while Clary is still trying to wrestle with the idea of a mother not loving her child.

Alec shrugs a little. “She won’t react well.”

It looks like Lydia’s about to point out the fact that he’s an adult, but Jace speaks up first. “Then wouldn’t it be better to just get it over with?”

Alec blinks at him. “Well, maybe. I don’t know.”

“I never understood that,” Clary says. “You know, back in school, we’d get report cards and I’d hear kids talking about how they just weren’t going to say anything. They knew their parents would find out eventually, so why bother to put it off?”

“Ah,” Magnus says, “that might be the kind of thing only someone familiar with abuse can truly understand. To use the report card example, yes, the parent will eventually find out, and will likely react poorly. But the longer you can put off the abuse, the better. Maybe you can delay until they’re in a good mood, and mitigate the punishment. Or perhaps the opposite, wait until their mood is truly foul and you know you’re going to get beaten for something, so it might as well be your report card. Or put it off long enough and maybe they’ll get hit by a bus. Who knows? Don’t rock the boat. Maintain the status quo. The mantra of every abused child.”

“Well, this conversation got depressing in a hurry,” Jace says with a snort. “I was the other kind of abused child, I guess. When I screwed up, I threw it in my dad’s face. Sometimes I’d screw up just to piss him off.”

“You were the ‘if I’m gonna get it, I might as well deserve it’ sort of abuse victim,” Alec says.

“Yeah, I guess I was,” Jace says, laughing a little. “My point stands, though. If I was gay, and my dad didn’t like it, I would’ve thrown it in his face every chance I got.”

“And if your dad reacted the way my mom had when I was sixteen, you’d shut up about it in a hurry,” Alec replies.

“So your mom does know,” Clary says, uncertain.

“She thinks she beat it out of me. Uh, metaphorically speaking. Although only barely. Hey, about that change of subject we were having - ”

Magnus squeezes his hand. “In any case, since Alec likely won’t be taking the supervisory position back any time soon, our relationship now causes no professional problems. Though darling, I do hope that’s not what was on your mind when you darted out in front of the truck,” he adds, his voice teasing.

Alec grumbles. “I didn’t even know the truck was there, and you know it.”

“So now we can be at least partially out of the closet, as it were.”

“At least with us,” Clary says firmly.

Alec rolls his eyes at her. “Sure,” he replies. “Whatever you say.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Recovery is every bit as difficult as Izzy had predicted. He knows that it’s going to take months if not years, that it’s going to be a prolonged and painful process. That, he’s prepared for. What bothers him isn’t the pain; it’s the dependence. He doesn’t like Izzy putting her life on hold so she can stay with him while he’s bedridden.

“We could hire a nurse to do this,” he says, as she’s settling in.

“Well, we could, but why would we? I don’t mind,” Izzy says. “I could use some time stateside anyway. I miss it after a while.”

Alec doesn’t like it, but then again, he doesn’t think he’ll like it any better if he’s relying on some outside party. Izzy’s seen him at his worst; she’s probably the best option. And if she’s there taking care of him, he doesn’t have to worry about Magnus trying to put his life on hold to cater to him.

They’d already had at least two lengthy debates about where Alec is going to stay. Magnus naturally wants Alec nearby, and assumed from past experiences that Alec wouldn’t want Magnus in his apartment, which he’s still never seen. But although Magnus’ loft apartment is beautiful, it isn’t very handicapped accessible. Although there’s an elevator to the second floor, there are several steps inside the apartment – two up to get into the bedroom, and two down to get into the kitchen. Alec won’t be out of bed much for the first few weeks, but once he’s up and around again, it will be a real road block for him.

After some discussion, they agree that he’ll stay at his own apartment. Izzy will stay with him during the day and Magnus will stay with him at night. Since Alec’s apartment doesn’t have a second bedroom, Magnus will let her spend the nights at his place. It’s only about a fifteen minute ride away. She can take a taxi or an uber when it’s late, or take the subway when it’s not.

“Are you sure about this, darling?” Magnus asks, as Izzy is rolling his wheelchair out of the hospital. “You’ve been anxious in the past about people seeing me at your apartment.”

“I’m sure,” Alec says. “If Mom finds out, she finds out. I can’t spend the rest of my life hiding from her. Maybe Jace was right and it’s better to just get it over with.”

“As long as that’s what you want,” Magnus says, squeezing his shoulder.

Alec nods and says that it is. He doesn’t say the rest of what he’s thinking, which is that after his mother refused to come see him in the hospital, he’s finally getting past the knee-jerk reaction to care what she thinks. He’s not sure why that was the tipping point, after everything else, but something has definitely shifted inside him, emotionally. He thinks of his mother and feels – really, not much at all. There’s nothing left there to care about.

Izzy stays with him during the day; she helps him in the shower and brings him food and makes sure he gets all his medication. He has a tendency to try not to take the painkillers unless he absolutely has to, which both Izzy and Magnus chide him for. “It’s not just about not suffering,” Izzy reminds him. “You have to let your body rest and heal, which it won’t do if you’re tense from pain all the time.”

The physical therapist comes to his apartment and works with Alec there. It’s just as slow and frustrating and painful as Izzy had predicted, but Alec throws himself into it. He’s determined to be back on his feet by the time his mother’s Christmas party rolls around.

After some negotiation, the bureau agrees to let Magnus consult remotely for the new department in Chicago. They’ve found two other cryptozoologists to work there, so although Magnus still has the most expertise, his presence isn’t quite as crucial. They’ll still want him on hand for the opening in Houston, but that won’t be until March, at which point Alec should be mostly healed. If he’s up to working at that point, the bureau will find a position for him in Houston. Luke seems unsurprised and even a little amused at his transfer request.

He’s been home for two weeks when his phone rings while Magnus is making dinner. He glances down to see that it’s his mother, and swipes quickly to reject the call. It’s not surprising when it rings again a few minutes later. Maryse has never been one to leave voicemails. She wants Alec’s attention when she wants it, and not a second later. He knows from experience that she’ll keep calling until he picks up, so he does. Magnus glances over from the kitchen, but doesn’t say anything.

“What is it?” Alec greets his mother.

“Do you know Samantha Irons?” Maryse says, as abrupt as usual. “Her father, you know, he’s going to be running for mayor next year – anyway, she’s a charming young lady, works in some silly non-profit, and you’re going to dinner with her this weekend.”

“I’m really not,” Alec says.

“I beg your pardon! I’m trying to a build a future for you, not that you seem very appreciative of it!”

“Okay,” Alec says, “I’ll have dinner with this nice young lady if you really insist on it, but she’s going to have to come to my apartment, because I’m still basically bed-bound at this point.”

“There’s no need to exaggerate to try to make me feel sorry for you – ”

“Mother,” Alec says, surprised at how patient he sounds, “I had what’s called a lateral crush injury to my pelvis. There was spinal damage. I can’t put any weight on my right leg whatsoever, and probably won’t be able to for at least another two weeks. They don’t even know for sure if I’ll ever walk again, and I certainly won’t be doing so by this weekend. So unless you want to have me wheeled to my date by Izzy, then you’re really going to have to let me put it off for a while.”

“For God’s sake,” Maryse says, “only you could manage to do something like that to yourself in your pursuit of justice. Now I’m going to have to call Samantha’s father back and he probably won’t want to reschedule the date at all. Thank you for that.”

“Yes, Mom, I got hit by a truck just to make your life difficult,” Alec says. “How about I call you when I’m back on my feet?”

“Fine,” Maryse says, and hangs up.

Magnus looks over as he dumps pasta into a pot of boiling water. “As charming as ever, I take it.”

“Mm hm,” Alec says. “Now maybe she won’t bother me for a little while.”

“What are the odds,” Magnus says, although he sounds more amused than anything else. He sets the wooden spoon down on top of the pot to keep it from boiling over, and walks over, leaning down for a kiss. Alec returns it with interest, reaching up with his good arm to twine his hand through Magnus’ hair. It becomes rather involved, despite the awkward angle.

“God, I’ve missed this,” Alec says, as Magnus leans in to nip at his ear. “How long has it been?”

“Too many days to count,” Magnus murmured, sucking a mark into Alec’s neck. “And I think it’s going to be a few more.”

Alec groans. “No, I mean, I know that it’s going to be a while before we can actually have sex again, but there are still plenty of things we can do while I’m lying down, right?”

“I can think of a few.” Magnus is unbuttoning his shirt and planting a line of kisses down Alec’s chest. Alec lets his head fall back as Magnus slides to his knees. “Try not to move too much, though. In all seriousness, keep your hips still.”

“Oh, sure,” Alec says, already trembling as Magnus undoes his pants. “Not sure how I’m going to return the favor afterwards.”

“You can get me off with one hand,” Magnus says. “Hell, you could get me off with one finger. You have a gift.”

“Jesus fucking – ” Alec chokes out the words as Magnus goes down on him, and tries to remember that he shouldn’t let his hips jerk. It’s not as difficult as it seems, since the first time they twitch, it comes with a flare of red hot pain. “Oh, oh fuck, ow, fuck – ”

Magnus pulls off him immediately. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just.” Alec lets out a shaky breath. “Really have to not move my hips.”

“We don’t have to do this, you know – ”

“I know, I just, I really want to. I’ll be okay.”

“If you’re sure,” Magnus says, and gets back to what he was doing. But he puts his hands on Alec’s hips, not quite applying enough pressure to hurt, but a firm, steady restraint. Alec takes a deep breath and lets his body relax, lets the pleasure wash over him in slow waves. He keeps one hand nestled in Magnus’ hair, fingers tracing over the back of his neck. His entire body is trembling by the time he comes. Magnus kisses his way back up. “Good?” he murmurs into Alec’s ear.

“So good.” Alec gives a content sigh.

“You just revel in that while I check the pasta,” Magnus says, getting off his lap. He heads into the kitchen while Alec stays limp on the sofa. “A few more minutes,” he says, coming back into the room.

“Good, get over here,” Alec says.

Magnus laughs and obeys. “If you’ll allow me to make a suggestion without it seeming like I’m being demanding . . .”

“Suggest away,” Alec says. Magnus settles on the sofa with him, one knee on either side of Alec’s lap, careful not to put any weight on him. That puts his stomach just about level with Alec’s face. “Okay, yes, that is an excellent suggestion,” Alec says, rubbing his hands down Magnus’ back and over his ass. Magnus shivers a little, and when Alec fumbles at his belt with his good hand, Magnus hastily undoes it himself.

“Actually, let me just – ” Magnus gets off the sofa, making Alec grumble, and quickly strips out of his pants and underwear. “That’s better.”

“So much better,” Alec says, as Magnus climbs on top of him again. “Just – come up a little, like – yeah, that’s good – ”

It’s not the best angle; he has to lean down to really get to Magnus’ cock, and he’s probably going to wind up with a sore neck. It’s totally worth it, though, getting his mouth on him for the first time in a month, listening to the choked little noises Magnus makes. Magnus leans against the wall, one hand digging into the back of the sofa to keep his balance.

Fortunately for Alec’s neck if not for Magnus’ dignity, it doesn’t take very long before Magnus is shuddering and coming in Alec’s mouth. He carefully lowers himself down afterwards, making sure not to jostle Alec, before he sprawls out on the sofa next to him. “Oh Lord. You do have a gift, darling.”

Alec laughs and says, “Don’t bask in it too long or the pasta will get mushy.”

“I’m more than willing to pay that price,” Magnus says, with a content sigh.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter Text

 

“How do I look?” Magnus asks, tucking a stray hair back into place.

“Like some sort of beautiful god descended to earth and for some reason standing in my apartment,” Alec says, and Magnus actually blushes. “Me?”

“Gorgeous, naturally,” Magnus replies. “Shall we?”

Alec takes a deep breath. “Yes. Okay. Let’s go.”

They’ve gotten a taxi for the purpose, because he doesn’t want to take the subway in their finery, but neither of them own a car. Alec has to admit that he balks a little when they get out of the taxi and he sees the BMWs and Lexuses parked all along his parents’ drive. Magnus reaches out and takes his hand. “Remember, you don’t have to do this. If you need more time, it’s fine.”

“I know. But I want to do it. I mean, Jace kind of had a point. I want to get it over with.” Alec extends an arm. “And I want to show you off.”

Magnus laughs and accepts it. Alec is relatively steady on his feet now. He still has a limp - and likely always will - but he’s left behind the sturdy crutch he’s been using and replaced it with a cane instead. It’s less obtrusive, and Magnus particularly seems to find it a complement to the outfit. He has to lean on it heavily, and probably won’t be able to stay on his feet more than an hour, but he doesn’t imagine they’ll be there long.

The Lightwood’s Christmas party is attended by over a hundred wealthy New Yorkers, and Alec knows that his mother will be so busy with the important people that she won’t even notice he’s arrived until he goes over to say hello. That gives him free rein to introduce Magnus to as many people as he wants before he has to explain himself. He squares his shoulders and walks through the front door.

It takes approximately ten seconds for him to be noticed, but at least it’s by someone he can stand, Hodge Starkweather, one of his father’s law partners who generally acts like a real person. “Alec, how are you? We heard about what happened, but it looks like you’re recovering well.”

“I’m doing well, thank you,” Alec says, and inquires after Starkweather’s wife and children, then takes a deep breath and says, “This is Magnus Bane, my fiancé.”

He chokes on the word a little, but Starkweather doesn’t notice. Nor does he bat an eyelash at the gender of Alec’s intended. “Good to meet you,” he says, shaking Magnus’ hand. “I hadn’t heard you were engaged, Alec. When’s the wedding?”

“We haven’t set a date yet,” Alec says. “We wanted to wait until well after I was using a walker to get around.”

Starkweather laughs and they chat for another minute. Another one of Robert’s coworkers comes over, and Alec again introduces Magnus. They chat for a few minutes about Magnus’ work with the FBI before Starkweather excuses himself.

By the time they’ve been there half an hour, Magnus has been introduced to at least two dozen of the partygoers, and everyone loves him. Alec is almost jealous at how Magnus is instantly popular with these people, but he can hardly blame them. Magnus is, as usual, witty and charming. He knows exactly how to compliment a lady without it being too much, and he can talk business or sports or celebrity gossip with the best of them.

Given this, Alec isn’t surprised when Maryse finally emerges from the crowd and gets him by the elbow, barely even noticing Magnus. “What is this everyone’s saying about you being engaged?” she hisses.

“Oh, I must’ve forgotten to tell you,” Alec says, trying to keep his voice bland even though his stomach is churning. “Mother, this is Magnus Bane, my fiancé. Magnus, my mother, Maryse Lightwood.”

“It’s a pleasure,” Magnus says with his most charming smile.

Maryse’s eyes narrow. “Excuse us for a moment,” she says, dragging Alec out of the room and into the kitchen without waiting for Magnus to reply. “Alec, what are you doing?”

“I’m attending your holiday party, as requested, with my fiancé,” Alec says. “I think you just met him, but you might not have noticed.”

“How dare you just spring this on me? Do you have any idea how embarrassed I just was - everyone congratulating me on your engagement and me not knowing what they were talking about! It was humiliating - ”

“Well, you probably would have met Magnus before, if you’d bothered to come see me in the hospital,” Alec points out.

“Do not make this about that, Alec. I told you a long time ago that your foolish career choices were going to put you there. And if you’re trying to deflect off the, the obvious problem - ”

“You know, momentary embarrassment aside, I think it actually works better for you this way,” Alec says, and Maryse’s jaw tightens. “See, if I’d introduced you to Magnus ahead of time, you would have berated me for my choices, made a huge deal out of my sexual orientation, and forbid me from bringing Magnus to the party. So then everyone would have been really confused later if they saw the marriage announcement. This way, everyone’s met him, and everyone seems to think he’s a pretty good catch, and they’ll all congratulate you on how your stubbornly single son is finally settling down. Plus, all the women I’ve attempted to date are probably way less confused now. So it works out for everybody.”

He turns to go back to the party, but Maryse catches his wrist. “We’re not done with this.”

“What are you going to do?” Alec forces himself to breathe evenly, to hold the panic at bay. “Throw me into conversion therapy again? I’m thirty years old. You can’t stop me from marrying Magnus. You can tell all your friends what a terrible life choice I’ve made, but they won’t understand why, and you’re the one who will come off looking bad, not me.”

“I can’t believe that you would drag out all the old scandal again, at the holiday party, no less - ”

Alec swallows hard. “Nobody cares about that, Mother. It’s only a scandal if you start parading it around like a drunk wearing a lampshade.”

“I beg your pardon! The son of a very influential family killed himself because of what you did, and I - ”

“Nobody killed themselves because of anything I did,” Alec snaps at her. “It’s taken me fifteen years to figure that out, but I didn’t do anything wrong back then. His parents did, the therapist did, you and Dad made it worse, but I wasn’t the one responsible.”

“That boy was - ”

“What was his name?” Alec challenges, and Maryse blinks. “My boyfriend, who killed himself. You’re saying it’s an enormous scandal and you don’t even remember his name. It was Brandon, by the way. And for the record, I’m one hundred percent sure that the only person in this room who gives a shit about what happened to him is me. So you can stop talking about things that happened fifteen years ago like they’re somehow going to ruin your reputation because absolutely nobody out there has a problem with my fiancé, or with the fact that I’m gay. So if you have a problem with that, I suggest that you deal with it. Because your problem isn’t my problem, Mother, and I’m not going to let you make it my problem any more. Am I clear?”

Maryse’s mouth tightens. “Take your terrible life choice and get him out of my house, Alec.”

“Gladly,” Alec says. “Be sure to come up with some brilliant excuse when everyone asks why we left so early. Because if anyone asks me later, I’m going to tell them the truth.”

He exits the kitchen and looks around for Magnus, who’s drinking champagne and looking unconcerned, although Alec knows it’s a lie. “Time to go,” he says, smiling at Magnus, somehow.

Magnus smiles back, politely excuses himself from the woman he’s chatting with, and follows Alec over to get their coats. He doesn’t speak until they’ve left the house, and are walking down the drive to where they can get a taxi. Then he stops and puts his arms around Alec, pulling him into an embrace. “I’m so proud of you, Alec. You were amazing tonight.”

“You didn’t even hear what I said to her.”

“I didn’t need to. No matter what happened between you and your mother, you did exactly what you set out to do.”

The weight on Alec’s chest lightens a little. “Yeah, I did, didn’t I.” He leans in and gives Magnus a kiss. “I’m officially out of the closet. Want to go out to dinner?”

“I can’t imagine anything I’d like more.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Much later that night, after dinner at a romantic French restaurant, a few too many glasses of wine, and some really fantastic sex, Alec is dozing in bed with Magnus tucked up against him. He’s startled back awake when Magnus says, “Can I ask you something?”

“Pretty much always,” Alec says, yawning.

“Why did you decide to introduce me to your family’s friends as your fiancé, rather than your boyfriend? Did you think a more serious relationship would be more easily accepted?”

Alec blinks at him, half-sitting and propping himself up on his elbows. “Uh, no. I introduced you as my fiancé because you’re my fiancé.”

Magnus is clearly just as puzzled as Alec. “I am?”

“Yes . . .? I mean, we, we talked about it, in the hospital.” Alec is still just blinking. “I said that I wanted to marry you and it wasn’t fair that I couldn’t, and Izzy said that I could, and you . . .” He searches in his memory for Magnus’ exact response in those foggy days after the accident. “You said . . . oh my God. You weren’t there for that conversation, were you.” He flushes dark pink and flops back onto his side, pulling the blankets up to his face. The embarrassment is excruciating. “Oh my God, I thought I had proposed to you and I didn’t and then I told everyone you’re my fiancé. Just kill me now . . .”

Magnus is laughing quietly, pulling the blanket away despite Alec’s half-hearted protests, and leans in to cover his face with kisses. “It’s not that I don’t want to marry you, but I was a little puzzled to find myself suddenly engaged.”

“Oh my God,” Alec moans, still trying to hide his face. “I was drugged out of my skull for three days straight and it all blurred together, and I knew we hadn’t talked about it since then, but what with the rehab and the physical therapy and negotiating your new job and my new job and talking about the Christmas party, we had so much going on that I just sort of retitled you as my fiancé and then put it in the back of my brain.”

Still laughing, Magnus reaches out and runs his fingers through Alec’s hair. “You know, you’re only more beautiful when you’re embarrassed. You get pink all the way to the tips of your ears.”

“You’re the worst sort of person.” Alec lets his hands drop back to the bed. “Marry me?”

“Name the time and place,” Magnus says, and kisses him. This goes on for several minutes before Magnus pulls away and says, “Actually, I’ll name a time and place. You have no idea which venues would go with which seasons.”

“That’s true enough,” Alec says. “I suppose you wouldn’t agree to a five-minute courthouse wedding.”

Magnus reaches out and rubs his thumb over Alec’s lips. “If you’d be more comfortable with that, I would.”

Alec thinks it over, then shakes his head. “No. I mean, I don’t want to invite hundreds of people, but I do want to do it right. I want to get up in front of everyone I know and promise to have and hold you forever.”

Magnus’ smile is beautifully brilliant. “Everything after that is just window dressing.”

“And you definitely know more about window dressing than I do.”

“True. Although it’s worth asking if this is something you feel the need to do right away. We’re going to be moving to Houston in a few months. I can’t pull together a wedding of the elegance and style that I would prefer in that short amount of time, but we can’t really make all our friends trek to Houston. Well, we could, but if we’re going to have a destination wedding, it’s going to be Aruba, not Texas.”

Alec laughs. “I’m fine with waiting. But we don’t know where we’re going to be after Houston.”

“Luke and I were talking about that last week, actually. About the possibility that they’ll just bring me back to New York, since this is where they’re going to be training the new agents for the supernatural department. I don’t know how you’d feel about living in New York again, so I didn’t give him a firm answer.”

“I don’t think I’d mind it. I like the city; I always have. Now that I don’t have to hide from my mother, we can live anywhere.”

“All right.” Magnus kisses him again. “I also don’t know how you feel about waiting to get married. Since you thought we’ve been engaged for the last three months already.”

Alec moans a little, flushing pink again, but says, “If you’d rather wait longer so you can have a wedding somewhere beautiful in New York, that’s okay with me. As long as I’m with you, the formalities can wait.”

“Okay. I’ve always liked the idea of a spring wedding.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Alec lays in silence for a minute, trailing his fingers over Magnus’ back and shoulder, just watching him. “You know what’s weird?”

“Mm?” Magnus asks, opening his eyes again.

“I was just thinking about how different things could have been. I mean, you were saying a while back that if we hadn’t met at the bar, you might not have realized I was gay and we wouldn’t have had a relationship. But the same thing is true in reverse, too. If we hadn’t met a few days later, we never would have seen each other again. Trust me, even if you had texted me, I would have ghosted you.”

Magnus nods. “I figured. So?”

“So it’s like . . .” Alec tucks an arm underneath his head. “I only went into law enforcement because that was Brandon’s dream. And if I hadn’t done that, I never would have really met you. So in a weird way, it’s like we met because of him.”

Magnus reaches out and caresses Alec’s face. “Do you think that’s a good or a bad thing?”

“I don’t know, really. I mean, I’m happy I met you, obviously. I think . . . I think Brandon would be happy, too. That’s the sort of person he was.”

At this, Magnus smiles and leans in for a kiss. “I’m sure he would be.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec glances up as there’s the noise of the key in the lock, and gets to his feet so he can jump Magnus as soon as he comes in. He still has to lean on his cane, although not as heavily as before. It would be nice to grab Magnus and sweep him off his feet, but it’s not going to happen. He settles for a hug and a kiss, which quickly ends in them stripping their clothes off and heading to the bedroom.

“So how was Houston?” he finally gets around to asking, about an hour later.

“Rainy, but otherwise not too bad,” Magnus says, sitting up and reaching for his phone. “I have pictures to show you!”

“Yeah?” Alec sits up too, leaning over to press a kiss against Magnus’ shoulder. “Of?”

“The house,” Magnus says. After some discussion, they had decided to rent a house rather than an apartment, in a Houston suburb. That gave them the opportunity to get a place with a pool. Alec had recently started aquatic therapy for his hips and back, and was finding it very helpful. “I thought you might like to see it.”

Magnus has made two other trips to Houston in the past month, getting things organized for their move. Alec had only recently been approved to fly, so Magnus had been responsible for everything that needed to be done in Houston. Alec hadn’t been idle, though, helping pack up their belongings and get the department ready to lose Magnus as their consultant. He’s steady on his feet now, and although he’ll never work as a field agent again, the bureau has given him a job as an analyst at the new department in Houston.

“It’s gorgeous,” Alec says, as Magnus swipes through the pictures. “I can’t wait to see what you do with it.”

“Have sex with you on every flat surface of it, to start with,” Magnus says with a wink. Alec snorts with laughter. “Honestly, I would have preferred one with a bigger kitchen, but I also didn’t want an hour long commute. Besides, it’s only for a year. Then it’ll be back to the city, and by then you’ll be well enough that we can settle down at the loft.”

Alec nods. Magnus has decided to keep his loft apartment for the year while they’re in Houston. He doesn’t want it to “be lonely”, though, so he was letting a family stay there while he was gone. Izzy, who had been working with a charity to provide free medical care to the poor and homeless in the city, had helped him find a family who needed a place to live. The hope was that by the time Magnus and Alec were back in the city, the family would be back on their feet and able to afford their own place.

“Oh, you might find this interesting, too,” Magnus says, setting his phone down. “Apparently, Houston has one of the best sorcery academies in the country. I talked to the admissions department while I was there about taking a few classes.”

Alec is surprised, but then smiles. “Yeah?”

“Mm. I think I can do it now.” Magnus reaches out and takes Alec’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “I never really wanted it, you know. My father’s so called gift. But I think I can finally learn to use it now, without being afraid of it.”

“That’s great, Magnus.” Alec leans in for a kiss. “I’m really proud of you.”

“Save that for if I stick with it for more than a week,” Magnus says. “I’m going to be in classes full of teenagers who all know more than me. It’s going to be horrific.”

“Just make them call you Dr. Bane,” Alec says.

Magnus laughs. “You know, whenever someone says that, I always get the urge to look over my shoulder to see who they’re talking to.”

“I felt that way about ‘Agent Lightwood’ for a long time, too.”

“I’m sure. You’re really going to be all right, taking a desk job?”

Alec shrugs. “It’s not what I would have preferred. But there’s no point in sitting around moping about it, either. I’ll still be helping people. I think that’s enough.”

Magnus leans over and presses a kiss against the corner of Alec’s mouth. “I think it’s more than enough.”

“Oh, speaking of helping people, though,” Alec says, “I finally ballsed-up and looked Ryan up on Facebook. Remember, the guy from college – ”

“Too good for this world, I remember,” Magnus replies.

“He’s living in DC now. He was, uh, he seemed actually glad to hear from me. Said he had wondered about me off and on. He’s married, has a couple kids with his husband. Anyway, we talked over Skype, caught up. He works for GLAAD, and we talked some about the states that have put bans on conversion therapy. He, uh, he’s going to have a lawyer friend of his call me. I thought maybe I could help some with the cases, you know, by going public about what happened to me.”

“That’s amazing.” Magnus reaches out and squeezes his hand. “You are amazing.”

Alec turns pink. “I mean, I know things won’t change overnight, but . . . I would work on it every day for the rest of my life if it would keep even one fucked-up teenager from going through what Brandon and I went through.”

“Amazing,” Magnus repeats, and leans in for a quick kiss.

“Thanks,” Alec says, still blushing a little. “Well, I know we just got undressed and all, but we should celebrate you being back. You want to go out, get a drink somewhere, maybe shoot some pool?”

Magnus smiles and gives him another kiss, this one more generous. “I would love that.”

 

~fin~