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Fall Without Wings

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[Alec Lightwood, 9:12]

Hey

[Mags, 9:35]

Have you just woken up like a normal person, or have you been awake since 6?

[Alec Lightwood, 9:35]

5:30. Morning patrol. You?

[Mags, 9:36]

I always knew the Nephilim were uncivilised. This is just proof. I just got up. I have decorum.

[Alec Lightwood, 9:36]

Don't you have clients?

[Mags, 9:37]

Yes. They just don't start until half ten. I take appointments until eight, I work until midnight. Usually. I'm fairly flexible.

[Mags, 9:37]

Also, the Chairman is not cuddling with me, and I think he's sulking because you didn't play with him the other night. As though that's MY fault.

Alec grins at his phone. He takes another bite of his apple, fingers poised over the screen to tap out a reply, when there's a knock on his bedroom door. He glances up, and raises his eyebrows.

"Yeah?"

Isabelle pushes open the door, and frowns when she sees him. "Why are you smiling?"

"Nothing."

"Bullshit." She glances down at his phone, and her face softens, before she plasters an expression of mock revulsion across it, wrinkling her nose. "Mags? Really? You two are giving each other pet names now?"

Alec rolls his eyes at her. "No. I'm not gonna call him that to his face, obviously. But I can't exactly have his full name in my contacts, can I? I'd have my runes stripped."

Isabelle hasn't bothered to rune her wings away, and they're currently curled into her to prevent her knocking against everything in Alec's tiny bedroom. She flicks one wingtip absently against the photograph of the three of them and Max that sits on Alec's bedside table.

"So your immediate choice of code name was Mags?" She arches an eyebrow at him, clearly a little doubtful. Alec's not sure what she's implying, and he really doesn't like it. "Not, like, John Ravenwood, or something random?"

Alec sighs, the long-suffering sigh of an older brother. "What do you want, Isabelle?"

"The Clave envoy just arrived. I thought you should know. No word from Mom or Dad."

That makes him pause, and focus in on her. Magnus has just sent him a photograph of the Chairman curled up on the sofa, an undoubtedly haughty expression on his face as he stares at the camera, but Isabelle's words suck any amusement he might have got out of the image right out.

"The Clave envoy? What Clave envoy?"

"The Clave envoy ordered after Mom told all of Idris about the Downworlders escaping. Didn't anyone tell you? Mom sent us a fire message a week ago."

Already spurring into action, Alec shakes his head and tucks his phone away in his back pocket. "No, but it doesn't matter. We're good. We know what we're doing. Is he here to look at Clary, too?"

"She, Alec." Isabelle shakes her head, a little smile on her face. "You're so stereotypical, sometimes, honestly. I don't think so. Jace is chatting her up now. Clary's in the training room. Had an argument with Simon, apparently."

"Let's go and meet her, then," Alec says.

***

The Clave envoy, it turns out, doesn't look much older than Alec. He spots her the moment he enters the Ops Centre, standing behind Raj and Jace as she watches them navigate through a map and talk her through their routine patrol routes, and their daily strategies. She raises her eyebrows and nods. She looks impressed. Alec feels pride flutter through him, and he shoots Raj a smile when he glances up.

Raj meets his gaze, but he doesn't return the look. They haven't really spoken since their argument the morning after they broke out the Downworlders. Alec isn't sure how to mend the broken fences between them, but he wants to.

Maybe I should ask Magnus. Magnus is good with people.

But then, he thinks, he's probably brought enough Shadowhunter angst onto Magnus' doorstep. He might not appreciate any more.

The Clave envoy lifts her eyes, and smiles tightly when she sees Alec and Isabelle entering. She straightens up, and walks over. She's dressed in a suit, neat and perfectly pressed, with long blond hair braided and falling down her back; it's an incredibly professional look, and it's so typical of an Idris native. It gives a fantastic first impression, but it's totally impractical for field work.

"Alexander?" she guesses as she approaches, and Alec nearly winces at his full name. "Lydia Branwell."

"Alec," he corrects her, firmly, and grips her proffered hand. "And this is my sister, Isabelle."

Lydia glances over at Isabelle, and smiles a tight-lipped smile that doesn't reach her eyes as she scans her up and down. She doesn't offer to shake Isabelle's hand, and instead says, "It's lovely to meet you."

Isabelle's eyes flash; Alec knows why. Isabelle and Lydia couldn't really contrast more, one dressed in beige and looking like the perfect Idris Shadowhunter leader, the other dressed in tight black leather pants, a red top that covers the essentials and not much else, and heels that go on for days—and are covered in studs and spikes.

(Alec admires his sister's sense of fashion. He's constantly surprised by the apparent practicality of some of her shoes—high heels are fantastic for spilling demon intestines onto the floor. And, irrespective of anything else, she likes it, and she's confident in herself, so who's he to judge?)

Lydia, apparently, isn't quite so in favour. She purses her lips, giving Isabelle another sweep up and down with her eyes.

"Likewise," Isabelle says, coldly. A smile tips up her lips, but her eyes are like ice.

Alec clears his throat, and the two women break away from their staring match. Lydia looks a touch embarrassed; Isabelle looks, if anything, even more furious.

"Lydia, shall we head to the office so I can point you to everything and show you around?"

"Yes." Lydia smiles up at him. The expression is warmer than anything she graced Isabelle with, but it's all professional, with no feeling behind it whatsoever. Alec wonders whether there's anything locked behind the frigid, steely outer case. "That would be lovely."

***

The metal of training room door handle cracks against the stone wall when Isabelle flings it open with all the force she can muster. Clary spins around, alarmed, and stares at Isabelle as she slams the door behind her again, and stalks over to the weapons rack.

"Are you okay?" Clary asks, hesitantly, one hand wrapped around a staff, the other hand resting on a punching bag.

"Fuck her," Isabelle snarls, searching for wraps to put around her knuckles. She needs to punch something. Hard. For hours. "Fucking Idris and their fucking archaic views. They can all go fuck themselves."

"Oh my god, Izzy," Clary says, eyes wide. "Calm down."

Izzy glares at her over her shoulder. "Don't tell me to calm down, Fray."

"Alright, alright, I'm sorry."

When Isabelle whirls round to face her, she's got both hands up, palms forwards, concern written across her face. It makes Isabelle soften a little, racing, frantic heart calming slightly, and she shakes her head.

"Sorry," she tells her. "I shouldn't have sworn like that. Or I should have done it in Spanish."

Clary laughs. "I don't mind. What happened? Something with the Clave envoy? Lydia, or whatever her name is?"

"Don't." Isabelle raises a finger. "We don't say her name. Okay? Henceforth, I refuse to call her Lydia. She's the dinosaur from Idris."

Clary quirks an eyebrow at her. "Okay."

"The look she gave me, Clary, Raziel. She looked at me like I was a prostitute offering my services to her while still covered in my last customer's semen."

"Ew." Clary wrinkles her nose. "Do you have to be that...graphic?"

"Side effect of being Jace's sister," Isabelle says, with a shrug and a grin. "I hate people like that."

Clary walks towards her, and squeezes Isabelle's hand gently. "Iz, if she's that bad, we can hate her together. Nobody slut shames Isabelle Lightwood."

Isabelle smiles at her, and squeezes back. "Thank you."

***

"I'm impressed," Lydia says, standing at the door with a clipboard in hand and a pen shoved in the front pocket of her blazer when Alec and his team return from their evening patrol, a week into Lydia's stay in New York. "I was tracking your progress, and Raj had the cameras on you. That was good work, and an efficient run when Raj called in about the demons causing trouble at the mundane bar."

Alec pushes the front door shut behind them, and catches sight of Isabelle rolling her eyes in response to Lydia's comments. Clary snickers, and whispers something to her. Whatever it is, it makes Isabelle grin.

Lydia's eyes flicker to the two women, and something flashes across her face, so fast Alec can't pin it down. But it's not a comfortable emotion; Alec wonders whether Isabelle realises that Lydia's not stupid, and is probably fully aware of what her and Clary's exchange was about.

Not that he has no sympathy for Isabelle. Lydia's earlier greeting upon meeting Isabelle had irked Alec no end, but Isabelle's not a child. She knows it's not an appropriate time to make snide commentary when Lydia's present.

"Thank you," Alec says instead, because it doesn't seem like Isabelle or Clary are going to respond, and Jace is preoccupied with drawing an iratze to close the gash on his arm. "If there's anything else, we can debrief in twenty. Let's unload and shower, first."

Lydia agrees, and turns on her heel to return to the Ops Centre. Isabelle shakes her head; Alec catches her eye, and raises his eyebrows at her.

"Come on," Isabelle says, waving a hand when Lydia is out of sight. "She's annoying as fuck, and she's one of those moronic Idris crazy people stuck in the eighteen hundreds."

"She's a Clave envoy, you're being particularly unfair, and I don't care if you don't like her, stop acting like a child," Alec says. "She's not stupid, and that was mean. And you—" He turns to Clary. "I know you're trying to be a good friend, but Clave envoys are important and we're being inspected, so behave."

"You know why I hate her," Isabelle says. "You saw how she looked at me."

"I didn't like it either, Iz. But that was a lot better than how Mom looks at you, and you don't seem to care much when people on the street give you looks, so there's clearly something else bothering you." His expression softens, and he reaches out to touch Isabelle's shoulder. "If this is about Meliorn—"

"It's not," Isabelle says, a little too quickly. "I don't care. I'm fine."

She extracts herself gently from Alec's grip, shoots him a reassuring smile, and disappears off to the training room to get rid of her weapons. Alec watches her go, and then looks over at Jace and Clary.

"Think she's lying?" he asks them.

Their reply is instantaneous: "Yes."

***

[Alec Lightwood, 21:46]

What's a normal reaction to your boyfriend breaking up with you because your relationship put him in danger?

Alec doesn't expect a reply, as he kicks back on his bed after an hour long debrief with Lydia, which had been excruciatingly dull. But, halfway through attempting to finish a chapter of his book, his phone buzzes.

[Mags, 22:01]

Asking for a friend?

[Alec Lightwood, 22:02]

Um, sort of? Why?

[Mags, 22:02]

It was a joke, Shadowhunter. It depends. Break-ups aren't nice. Nobody's going to come out of one happy and rational.

Alec considers that for a moment. It makes sense, he suppose, that Isabelle might be more prone to upset and insult than usual, after being broken up with. She's usually the one who does the dumping. In fact, Alec doesn't remember anyone ever breaking up with her, before now.

[Mags, 22:03]

I've got a job to go to, Alexander, but if you need relationship advice, ask me later ;)

Alec huffs out a laugh at that, and types out a "sure" in response, before he tosses his phone to one side. Instead, he picks up his book with a yawn, and attempts to focus on the words.

***

The buzzing of his phone wakes Alec immediately. He jerks back into consciousness, and gropes on his nightstand for his phone. He must have fallen asleep reading, he realises, because his book is still on his chest, open to where he last remembers reading; he folds the corner with one hand while he locates his phone and switches the screen on.

[Mags, 00:17]

Can you do me a favour?

Alec frowns. A favour? What sort of favour could Magnus Bane possibly need from a Shadowhunter?

[Alec Lightwood, 00:18]

What sort of favour?

[Mags, 00:18]

Transport. I need someone to collect something from a roof.

Alec blinks in bewilderment. What sort of things to warlocks get up to for their clients, exactly? Why would any job require rooftop pickups? And can't Magnus portal there himself?

When he asks, Magnus' reply is almost immediate.

[Mags, 00:19]

The number of times I've saved your ass, Shadowhunter, just get over here and do it, it's nothing illegal.

There's an address typed out below, and Alec realises that Magnus has a point. He owes the warlock his life, probably several times over, and another lump of favours besides; he can fly up to a roof and pick something up for him, even if the request seems a little bizarre.

After replying to say that he'll be there, Alec picks up his bow and quiver from the corner of his room, sticks his stele, phone and witchlight into his pocket, and slips out into the darkened hallway. It's quiet, although he can hear the low hum of distant voices downstairs.

He lifts a hand to rap on Jace's bedroom door, lightly.

"Jace," he hisses, after a moment. "Open up."

Jace pulls the door open groggily, rubbing at his eyes. He's wearing a pair of boxers and nothing else, except the brown leather bracelet with that Clary gave him last year. Alec doesn't think Jace has taken it off since he first put it on. It's a very sweet gift, really. Rather than a traditional clasp, it's held together with a metal infinity sign, and Clary clearly put thought into the three charms slid on. A small bird, representative of the herons always inscribed on the Herondale family ring, flames for the Lightwood family, and a tiny, circular charm with clashing swords etched on.

Even Alec, who tends to avoid sentiment and sickly sweet feelings, can appreciate the thought behind the gift.

"What?" Jace mumbles, staring at Alec with bleary eyes.

"I'm going here." He shoves his phone at Jace, indicating the address Magnus gave him. "If I'm not back in three hours, come find me. Or I'll text you."

Jace furrows his eyebrows, and stares up at Alec. "Mags? Are you going to see a prostitute?" His eyes light up abruptly. "Or have you discovered Grindr?"

He huffs in exasperation. "Of course I'm not— What the hell is Grindr?"

"I'll tell you some other time that's not the middle of the night. But then who the fuck is— Oh." Jace snickers. "Pet names, that's adorable. What does he call you, Allie-Cat?"

"You're a fucking git," Alec tells him, pulling his phone back. "Why the hell are we parabatai?"

"Aw, c'mon." Jace grins. "You love me."

"When you're not being an ass."

"I'm always an ass."

"Draw whatever conclusions from that you wish."

"I'm telling Clary that you're being mean to me."

"Do I look like I care? What's she gonna do, strangle my kneecaps?"

"Fuck off, you human giant."

"With absolute pleasure."

Jace shuts his bedroom door with a bang. But not before he summons enough emotional maturity to stick his tongue out at Alec with an incredible amount of gusto and a grin that he can't quite fight down.

***

When Alec reaches the address Magnus sent him, it's cold, wind blowing softly but insistently, and he's grateful for his jacket. The moon sits high, half full and shining bright above the clouds, dwarfing the glittering stars around it.

He activates his glamour rune, and then wipes across the rune that keeps his wings hidden. They shimmer into existence, heavy and thick with feathers. He tips his head back, inhaling the cold night air as he surveys the building in front of him. It's high - more the twenty stories, Alec would guess - and directly vertical, with a flat roof that he can just make out in the darkness of the night with the aid of a night vision rune burning on his forearm.

He bends his knees, inhaling again, deeply, and then, on his next exhale, he springs up, hard, wings shooting out to the sides and beating once to propel him upwards. They stretch, easing out to their full extent, and he climbs steadily, wings beating on either side of him as he leaves the ground behind him.

The wind picks up speed as his altitude increases, ruffling through his feathers. He'd never have been able to feel this again, if it weren't for Magnus, he thinks. He'd never have been able to fly again. He'd never have been able to let go of everything pressing down on him and let the wind carry him high above the world.

As he comes up to level with the roof, he begins to look around, searching for whatever it is that Magnus wants him to collect. Magnus' text said he'll know it when he sees it; he's not quite so sure, but he supposes he can always call, if—

"Hello, darling," Magnus says, with a smile that crinkles the corners of his eyes, as Alec rises up. "No need to ask if you've had any side effects since you fell, I see."

Alec lands with a gentle thud on the debris-covered roof, stray leaves crunching under his boots as he flexes his knees to absorb the impact. He pulls his wings into his sides the moment his feet meet the ground.

"Hi," he says, a little embarrassed. "What– I mean– I don't understand."

Magnus is sitting on the edge of a raised skylight, and he's dressed in a fitted three piece suit that draws Alec's eyes to all sorts of inappropriate places. A moment's lack of focus has Alec's eyes flickering to his arms, and his chest - where the lack of necklaces is immediately noticeable - and the way his dark pants are stretched over his thighs when he's seated, and—

"Well." Magnus spreads his hands out wide. He's wearing rings, still, but fewer than normal, and his nails are painted a dark bluish-purple to match his suit. "I did tell you you'd know what needs collecting when you saw it."

Alec stares at him, and squints one eye slightly. There's something a little...off, about the way Magnus is talking. His voice sounds different. Uneven. His syllables are just slightly slurred, and there's a heaviness to his intonation that isn't normally present.

"You want me to...collect you?" Alec asks, slowly, furrowing his eyebrows. "Can't you just portal? Or, I don't know, go through the building? Why are you up here, anyway?"

"Demons, Alexander," Magnus says, with a dismissive wave of his hand that's not quite as fluid as usual. "Valentine. It was all very tiresome."

"Are you alright?" Alec asks, more than a little perplexed by the whole situation. And, he's surprised to find, the thought of Valentine doing something to harm Magnus is... Well. Unpleasant. Once upon a time, he wouldn't have batted an eyelash at seeing Magnus brutally murdered. He'd have watched his blood wash across the ground and seep into cracks in the pavement have felt absolutely nothing.

Now, the thought makes his chest tighten just a little.

"Did Valentine do something to you?"

"Psh." Magnus snorts, inelegantly, and Alec's eyebrows shoot up, because there's no way Magnus would usually make a noise like that without some careful consideration about who he's around, and what sort of impression he wishes to make. Nothing Magnus does is unconsidered. The only time Alec has ever seen him let his walls down was when he'd walked in on Magnus and Raphael talking. "Let him try."

"I thought you just said he did."

"Mm." Magnus gazes up at him from where he's sitting, and he sighs, heavily. "Did you know Valentine wanted you Nephilim to intercept that meeting, Alexander? He wanted you to capture the Downworlders. He wanted the Clave to torture them. He wanted to turn more Downworlders against the Clave by showing them what the Clave does to us. Did you know that? That's what he spat at me tonight. That's what you helped stop."

"Of course that's what he wanted," Alec says, distractedly, because it is obvious, and he's certain Magnus knew that without having to be told, and he's more preoccupied by the utterly bizarre way Magnus is acting. "Magnus, you're delirious, what the hell is going on?"

"I'm not delirious," Magnus tells him.

"Alright, let's go then." Alec is watching Magnus in utter puzzlement, confused and more than a little concerned at the warlock's strange behaviour. "Come on, we can go through the building, I've got my stele. Just put up a glamour."

Alec jerks his head and takes several steps towards where he can see a staircase several metres behind Magnus, and a door that clearly leads down into the building. He hopes there's some residual heat left inside, because, jacket or not, the wind is fierce seventy metres up, and New York is hardly the warmest city in the world.

Magnus rises from where he's sitting on the skylight. Alec falters in his steps to watch him. Every movement Magnus makes is so fluid, so effortlessly graceful, it's hard not to watch him, no matter how much Alec tries to resist.

But this time, when Magnus straightens, he sways a little in place, and when he moves to follow Alec, he stumbles. It's such a direct contradiction of everything Alec has ever seen from Magnus that his eyes widen and his lips part.

He's by Magnus in a moment, a single beat of his wings enough to propel him forwards faster than he could move on foot, and he reaches out a hand to steady the warlock. Magnus blinks down at where Alec is gripping his arm, and then transfers his gaze up to Alec's face.

Softening his hold, but not letting go entirely, Alec says somewhat urgently, "Magnus, tell me. What happened? What's going on?"

"I'm—" Magnus blinks again, slower this time, as though he's struggling to fix his gaze on one thing. "I just need to go home."

"I know," Alec says, gentling his voice. "I just—"

A thought hits him, abrupt and sudden, cutting off his train of thought and his words simultaneously, as he wonders.

Even my magic is not infinite, Nephilim.

Magnus had admitted to him, the first time they'd met, that even his magic has limits. And, from their sporadic text conversations today, Alec has inferred that Magnus has been working for most of the day. Has Magnus run out his magic? Like Jace occasionally collapses after he's run a mission entirely on adrenaline, and, as soon as it fades from his system, is too exhausted too stay conscious?

"Hey." Alec tightens his hold on Magnus' arm to get his attention. "Magnus. How much magic have you used to day? How many jobs have you taken?"

"Seven," Magnus tells him, a frown etching itself onto his face. "And then I killed a few of the Circle. Why do you think I called you? I'm burnt out."

And now, now, it makes sense. Well, it doesn't, not really, because there are probably more than a thousand people in Magnus' contacts, and there's no logical reason for Alec to be his first choice of transportation down off a roof when he can't use enough magic to get through the building the mundane way, or to portal home.

But at least Alec can assure himself that Magnus hasn't been a victim of one of Valentine's heinous Downworlder experiments, now. He's used too much magic - not that Alec really knows what that means, aside from the obvious - and he needs to go home and sleep, or rest, or...something.

Maybe he should call Raphael, or Luke. He's really got no idea what he's supposed to do.

Although, come to think of it, he's not entirely sure when he began to care. Why should it matter to him if Magnus dies tomorrow? It'd make his life a hell of a lot easier, as the New York Institute is currently supposed to be hunting Magnus for releasing their Downworld prisoners.

But he does. There's no point in denying it, in the privacy of his own head. After everything, he does care about Magnus, at least to some degree. He cares about Magnus, and he cares about his stupid cat, and—

Does Magnus know? Is that why Magnus asked Alec for help? Since when does Magnus trust Alec to do anything more than make a cup of tea without becoming a catalyst for the apocalypse?

Magnus is blinking up at him, kohl-rimmed eyes devoid of all the smoky eye-shadow he seems to be partial to. He's still wearing make-up, but it's softer, natural colours that match his bronze skin rather than bold shades that match his heart, and, for once, he's clean-shaven. Alec wonders where he's been.

"Alexander."

Alec realises he's been staring, and he clears his throat, averting his eyes quickly. Not that it helps. Magnus had been staring right back—he's been caught red-handed, gazing at the warlock for far longer than is appropriate.

"I need to go home."

"Yeah. Okay." Alec swallows, and takes a half step back, extending his arm to accommodate the distance between them but not letting go of Magnus yet. "Don't move for a sec, okay? I'm gonna check if there's CCTV."

Magnus arches an eyebrow. "Yes, sir."

Alec rolls his eyes, and catches sight of Magnus' smile as he turns to check the roof. A quick glance through a larger skylight on the north side of the building shows an incredibly complex mundane CCTV system set inside. There's a camera near where he flew up on the street, he knows, but round the back—

Alec calls Magnus over to the back ledge of the building, and turns to follow Magnus' progress across the roof with his eyes. He's not unsteady on his feet, this time, but his movements lack the seamless grace Alec has come to know. There's no sway to him, no intention behind every shift of every muscle.

"I can't fly you all the way if you're not glamoured," Alec says, glancing over his shoulder, "because the mundanes will have a field day if they see. But I can fly you down to the street, and walk back with you, if you- if you'd like me to."

There's something oddly soft in Magnus' eyes as he looks at Alec, head tilted slightly to one side, stars glittering in his slitted pupils and making his irises shine like they're embedded with diamonds. A smile is curling at one corner of his lips, so small it's barely perceptible save for the way his cheeks lift and his eyes crinkle, just slightly.

Alec's lips part, and he feels his cheeks turn crimson with heat as he realises that his gaze has fixated on Magnus' mouth—on the bow of his upper lip, the smooth fullness of his lower, both shimmering enticingly with lip gloss.

He forces his eyes back up, and sucks in a deep, sharp breath in an attempt to control himself. Magnus' little smile hasn't slipped, and, rather than reply, he lifts a hand towards Alec's face. His fingers brush Alec's forehead, just above the scar that cuts through his eyebrow. Alec feels the touch like a spark of electricity shooting over his skin.

"You'll have to tell me how you got that, one day," Magnus murmurs.

"Jace," Alec says, and his voice cracks. "Training accident. It wasn't his fault."

"Mm."

Magnus drops his hand and his gaze simultaneously, and Alec watches him as he sweeps his eyes across Alec's wings. He's still got them pulled into his back, and Magnus' scrutiny makes him draw them in tighter. For some unfathomable reason, the action makes Magnus chuckle, quietly, a fond little sound that Alec really doesn't understand.

"Home," Magnus whispers, brushing a hand against the front of Alec's jacket. "Please."

Alec swallows, and nods, extending his hand for Magnus to take as he steps up onto the ledge at the edge of the rooftop. Magnus' fingers curl around his. They're a little cold, but the contact sends sparks of warmth through Alec's veins, and his heart jumps when Magnus steps up beside him, palm pressed flush to his.

"I don't–" Alec bites his lip as he peers up at Magnus from beneath his lashes. "How do you want to...?"

Magnus touches the sole of his shoe to the top of Alec's combat boot. "How about like this?"

"That– Yeah, okay."

Magnus steadies himself with a hand on Alec's shoulder, and Alec glances down at the drop to the ground. It's not too far. Eighty, ninety metres, maybe. It's certainly not the greatest distance Alec has transported another person - mundanes, injured Shadowhunters, the occasional young werewolf - down. But it's the first time the person has been someone like Magnus.

It's the first time he's seen Magnus so vulnerable, he thinks. So prone to attack. He's quite sure Magnus is not incapable of defending himself without magic, if necessary, but nevertheless, it's strange, seeing such a powerful, dangerous man at the mercy of someone else, just this once.

Hesitantly, Alec slips a hand around to Magnus' back, because if there's a sudden gust of wind that throws them momentarily off balance, the last thing he wants to do is drop him. Magnus glances up at him; their height difference, those mere three or four inches that are barely perceptible, most of the time, seem so much vaster up close like this.

Magnus inhales, and Alec feels his ribs lifting and his lungs expanding beneath his hand, expensive suit shifting against Alec's chest to accommodate the breath. He wonders what it would be like to be able to feel Magnus' heartbeat against him.

But that's certainly not an area Alec is willing to stray into, ever, so he snaps himself out of any thoughts about his proximity to Magnus. Instead, he lets his wings flex once behind him, and he leans down until his feet tip off the edge, and they both fall.

For a mere second, they free fall, dropping off the rooftop like stones, and Alec thinks about the last time he fell off a roof. That one had been higher, and his fall had nearly crippled and killed him.

Magnus' eyes are wide as they near the ground, the wind ruffling his perfectly styled hair as they whip through the air like bullets from a gun. His grip on Alec's shoulder and hand is tight, fingers digging in, but Alec doesn't let go.

His wings stretch out behind him, slowing their fall instantly. After another second, he beats his wings, once, then twice, then a third time, hovering them just above the ground before he touches down, and Magnus steps back without preamble, away from him.

Alec relinquishes his hold on the warlock, and their hands drop. They've landed behind the mundane building, well away from the busy street out front and out of sight of any CCTV cameras.

"Thank you," Magnus says, and he sounds tired, weary, as though the world has worn him just a little too thin, today.

"You're welcome," Alec replies, and then pauses. "Do you want me to come? Back to your apartment, I mean. I don't mean— Just to—"

"Well, the Chairman has been pining," Magnus says, and there's something in his voice that Alec can't quite pin down. "If you wish, darling."

Alec nods, and lifts his stele to reactivate his rune to conceal his wings, when a cold hand grasps his wrist lightly. He glances up, stele hovering.

"Don't feel obliged," is all Magnus says.

***

Magnus is exhausted by the time they reach his loft, weariness long since having seeped into every cell in his body. He hauls himself up the stairs, Alexander behind him, wings still out and in the process of slashing through his glamour rune.

The sight of Alexander on these stairs, wings tucked neatly behind his back as though he's afraid to let himself stretch out, makes Magnus' mind flicker back to the day the Shadowhunter crashed into a broken, mangled mess of shattered bones and ruined, bruised flesh, bleeding all over the sidewalk. Carrying the dead weight of Alec up these stairs hadn't been difficult due to his weight, or even the extra weight of his wings, but due to the sheer size of them. Manoeuvring him without causing further damage had taken some minutes.

Chairman Meow darts out from under the sofa the moment Magnus opens the front door, summoning just enough energy to let blue sparks sputter out of his fingers to draw back the lock. The cat meows, curling around Magnus' ankles in a plea for attention.

Magnus bends at the waist to stroke the Chairman's head, and then moves further inside. He drops his jacket and waistcoat, eases off his shoes, and lifts his hands to tug off his tie, letting it fall on the floor behind him as he heads into his bedroom.

"Magnus—?"

Alexander's voice, hesitant and soft, makes him pause. He turns to see Alec loitering in the doorway, fingers running absently over Chairman Meow's fur where he's leapt up onto a side table.

"Shall I– Shall I go, now? Are you going to be okay?"

Something situated deep in Magnus' chest, buried beneath layers of fortified walls and iron-clad barricades, aches to the point of physical pain at the question, and he has to curl his fingers into his palm.

"I am several centuries old, Alexander," Magnus tells him, and he's going for firm, but it comes out gently. He's finding it ever-harder to remember not to let himself do anything foolish when Alexander is in the room, looking at him like that, so earnestly, as though he genuinely gives a shit about whether or not Magnus is going to collapse and lie unconscious on the floor for hours.

(Which he might. It's happened before, when he's run his magic dry. His day has been filled with disaster after disaster, and expending his last reserves on fighting off six Circle members, headed by Valentine himself, has not helped matters. Valentine, clearly, has caught wind of the fact that the New York Institute is out for Magnus' blood, because it's the second time he's tried to recruit him in a week. Valentine is clearly more comfortable with force than diplomacy—his first attempt had ended with Morgenstern finding himself drenched in river water. This time he'd just run off.)

"I know. I could- I could call Raphael. I never asked, is he okay? After—"

"Fine," Magnus says, tiredly, and rubs at his temples. He's got a headache. He's had a headache for the past three hours, like a thousand tiny pickaxes slowly chipping into his skull, and he really, really wants it to go away. "He's fine. You don't need to call anyone."

"That's– Good. That's good."

Alexander shifts, from one foot to the other, and it's clear that Magnus is making him uncertain. Part of Magnus wants to reach out, at least verbally, and tell him that he doesn't need to be, that Magnus wouldn't have told him he could come back if he hadn't wanted him to, but he's too tired. They hadn't spoken a word on their walk back, and Magnus is just so tired. He just wants to go to sleep. He wants to collapse into bed, and he wants his head to stop hurting, and he wants the world to stop spinning in such an alarming fashion, and he especially wants to stop feeling so utterly confused about Alexander, and—

"Magnus, you're— Woah." Hands grip at his shoulders, and he opens his eyes - when had he closed them? - to see Alec in front of him, brow furrowed and lips pressed together. "Where's your bedroom?"

Magnus' gut instinct is to come up with an innuendo, a flirty joke, but he can't quite grasp at one. Instead, he pulls himself out of Alec's grasp, grabs his hand, and stumbles down the corridor info his bedroom.

Alec blinks when he's dragged in, and stops in the doorway, Magnus' hand dropping away from his, discomfort and hesitance clear on his face and in his hunched shoulders.

"You can show yourself out," Magnus tells him, as he sinks down onto his bed, relief overpowering him. "I'll just sleep for the next twelve hours."

"Okay." Alec shifts, and licks his lips. He's still frowning. Magnus wants to tell him that he needs to worry less, but it seems to be in Alec's nature to worry about people. Well. People he cares about.

Does that mean he does care about Magnus?

No. No. Magnus isn't going to ponder that now. He's too tired, and it's too complicated, and he's hardly in the right state of mind to make an impartial hypothesis.

Between one blink and the next, Alexander has disappeared. He hasn't shut the door. Magnus huffs a little at that, but he can't quite find the energy to care. His remaining clothes get slung across the floor until he's left in his briefs and nothing more, and, after a moment of struggling, he manages to pull the crimson-red sheets out from beneath him.

He slides into bed, a moan of contentment slipping from between his lips as his mattress sinks to accommodate his weight and his pillow cradles his painful head. The sheets rest lightly around him, slung across his torso at an angle that's sure to leave him cold in a few hours, but right now, he doesn't care. He just wants to sleep.

The soft thud of boots on his flooring meets his ears, and he cracks one eye open. Is Alexander still here?

Light from the hallway spills into the room as the door is opened fully, and Alexander comes into view. His wings are pulled tight into his back, folded in a manner than has to be uncomfortable. Magnus watches through slitted eyes as he steps in, and moves to close the curtains, clearly making an effort to be as soundless as possible. He thinks Magnus is asleep, probably.

He approaches the bed slowly, and Magnus closes one eye, heart thudding against his ribcage in nervous anticipation. Alec bends, setting a glass of water down on Magnus' nightstand, and then pauses, gazing down at him.

Fingertips brush against his skin as Alexander reaches for the sheets, making goosebumps erupt across his flesh. Magnus tries not to shiver when Alec lifts them up to settle oh so gently around his shoulders.

"Goodnight," Alec whispers, softly, and Magnus has to fight every instinct in his body to remain still when Alec tilts his head down to brush a soft, fleeting kiss to Magnus' hairline. It's so light Magnus can hardly feel the touch, but it sets every nerve ending in his body alight.

With that, Alec straightens and withdraws, padding out of the bedroom as quietly as he entered. This time, when he leaves, he pulls the door shut, and the soft click of the latch resounds around the room, drowned out only by the rush of blood in Magnus' ears and the erratic pounding of his heart against his chest.