Actions

Work Header

Fall Without Wings

Chapter Text

Cirrus is very sweet.

That's about as far as Magnus can go, as he stands conversing with the Seelie for longer than is entirely appropriate, mostly owing to his unwillingness to hurt the feelings of a man so very nice and so very pretty. He's polite, and he listens, and his flirting is obvious enough to notice but subtle enough to be classy, and he's gorgeous.

But, beyond a nice conversation, Magnus doesn't feel all that much. He doesn't even have the desire to drag him out of the party and into his bedroom, when the guests have gone. Or right now.

The reason, he knows, is currently sitting at the bar, nursing yet another glass of beer, with a scowl on his face. Part of Magnus wants to go over there, slide into the empty bar stool next to him, and strike up some stupid, meaningless conversation to make him smile. But Alec's entire being screams fuck off, so he thinks he's probably going to have a more pleasant time with Cirrus. Even if he's going to have to let him down gently later.

Magnus forces his thoughts away from the Shadowhunter apparently having an awful time, and returns his attention to the young Seelie, instead. He's caught up in conversation, focusing on being an attentive listener and a polite host, and he doesn't notice someone approaching them until he hears someone saying his name.

"Magnus."

Magnus glances up, and sees Alec walking through the crowds towards them. He can't help the way his eyes dip down, flickering over every inch of the Shadowhunter stalking up to them in a huff, determination setting his brow. He suspects Isabelle is probably to credit for Alexander's attire—flattering fitted jeans, a denim shirt, and a black leather jacket that does everything for his shoulders.

He's really never had any problem admitting that Alec is more than a little attractive. It's the rest that he can't quite bring himself to embrace—Alec is a Shadowhunter, for god's sake. It's only going to end in heartache.

Cirrus glances over his shoulder as Alec nears them, and his eyes catch on Alec, clearly noticing the object of Magnus' attention. He raises his eyebrows, and a small smile of understanding flits across his face.

"Ah." He looks up at Magnus, and shakes his head. "I'll leave you to it."

Magnus feels instantly guilty. "Cirrus—"

"I'm not a fool, Magnus. I know a look of longing when I see one. I'll be at the bar. If you desire companionship."

With that, Cirrus tilts his chin up to kiss Magnus' cheek, the merest breath of a kiss, platonic at best irrespective of any intentions Cirrus may have had tonight, then he smiles, and disappears through the crowd.

Magnus meets Alec's gaze. He's stopped several feet away, and is staring at Magnus with his lips pressed together and a hard look in his eyes.

"Was– Who was– Was that your date? Or your boyfriend, or—?"

The words are blurted out in a rush, tumbling over each other, face full of discontent and discomfort, and Magnus nearly smiles.

"No," he says, leaning back against the wall and taking a sip of his cocktail. "He's a client. I met him a few days ago. I remain decidedly single."

He leaves out the anecdote about Cirrus unwittingly delivering Alec's flowers.

"Oh." Alec chews on his lower lip. "Oh."

Magnus raises an eyebrow at him. "Are you going to come over here, or are we going to shout across the room?"

"I– Yeah." Alec steps closer, and Magnus doesn't miss his eyes dropping down from Magnus' face, lingering on his partially exposed chest and abs, before he drags his gaze back up. "Magnus, I– Have I done something wrong? Said something?"

Magnus blinks. "Not that I'm aware of. Why? What are you talking about?"

"You haven't spoken to me all night. I just– I know we're not exactly friends, and I know you probably don't want to spend all your time making nice with someone who's– someone like me, but you spoke to my sister, and to Jace, and I just..." He shrugs. "I don't know. Forget it."

"Alex– Alec," Magnus says, firmly, Isabelle's passing comment from earlier as she'd dragged him over to introduce him to Lydia Branwell ringing in his ears.

Nobody calls him Alexander, you know...

"I don't know what you think I do with my business partners, but Stars Wars, sleepovers, and pillow talk isn't usually on the agenda."

Alec opens his mouth, and then closes it again. "What does that mean?"

"I've been more honest with you than I've been with anybody for a long time," Magnus says, dragging a finger through the condensation on the side of his glass, eyes following the path he makes. "There's no reason I wouldn't want to talk to you. If I didn't want you to be here, rest assured, you wouldn't have been invited."

If anything, Alec only looks more bewildered. "Then why—?"

"Because–" Magnus pushes off the wall, and comes to stand in front of Alec, close enough that their breaths intermingle "–you walked in having spaced out on my doorstep for a good minute, barely said a word to me, and then went straight for the bar. Forgive me for thinking you didn't want to talk to me."

Alec's brow furrows, eyes flickering around Magnus' face as though he's not sure where to look. He's quiet for a moment, mouth open slightly, and then he says, "I always want to talk to you."

Magnus' breath catches, heart stilling for a moment before it restarts, thudding double-time against his ribs. His lips part a little as he stares up at Alec, and by Lilith, he hasn't wanted to kiss anybody this much for such a long time.

"How much have you had to drink?" he manages to get out, eventually, and the delivery isn't as smooth as he'd like it to be, but it's better than whatever jumbled, incoherent mess is running through his brain.

One corner of Alec's mouth tips up. "I don't know. I had, like, five, and then I pissed Maia off, so I picked up the pace. By the Angel, I sound as bad as Jace."

Magnus raises his eyebrows. "What did you do?"

"To piss off Maia? Put my foot in my mouth. I was being ignorant. I think." He frowns a little. "Maybe I should apologise."

"I'd wait twenty-four hours, if I were you. If you'd like to keep your head attached to your shoulders," Magnus advises him. He snaps his fingers to make his drink disappear, and then says, on a whim, "In the mean time, how do you feel about dancing?"

Alec blinks, looking adorably confused in the way people do when they're a little bit drunk with fuzzy brains, and they can't quite keep up with quick changes in topic.

"Dancing?"

"Yes, Alec, dancing." Magnus jerks his head towards where people are meshed together in what had been his living room. "Like that."

"With you?"

"Mmhm."

"Yeah, okay. But–" His face falls almost comically. "I don't know how to dance."

"I'll teach you," Magnus says, and holds out a hand. He wiggles his fingers pointedly when Alec just looks at it, making no move to take it. "Come on. Nobody's going to be looking at you. They'll all be looking at me." He drops Alec a smirk and a glittery wink, and delights in the flush that covers Alexander's cheeks.

Uncertainty flashes in Alec's eyes. "Are you sure?"

Magnus arches an eyebrow. "That they'll be looking at me rather than you? Yes."

"No, that—" But Alec cuts himself off, and odd expression covering his face, and he shakes his head, resolve setting into the lines of his face. "No, fuck it."

While Magnus recovers from his surprise at Alec's abrupt change of tone, he takes Magnus' hand, gripping firmly. Magnus flashes him a smile over his shoulder, and then drags him through the people milling around towards the centre of the room.

The music is loudest over there, the bass drum of the song pulsing through the floor, vibrations running through Magnus' feet and diffusing through his entire body, until he feels like his heart is in synch with the song, the music washing over him until he's drowning in it.

He twists, pulling Alec to a halt, and turns to face him, dropping his hand but staying close.

"Think of it like fighting," Magnus says, already swaying his hips to the beat of the music. "There's a rhythm, and you don't need to overthink it."

Alec is standing frozen, rubbing his lips together as he watches Magnus ease himself into the movements. Magnus has to bite down on the inside of his cheek to stop himself laughing, because Alec looks so utterly lost.

"Come here," Magnus says, reaching out to drag Alec closer by his hips, trying to ignore the way Alec's body feels under his palms. "Don't worry about what anybody else is doing. Nobody is looking at you. I promise."

"I can't do that," Alec says, eyes flickering down Magnus' body. "And you're looking at me."

Magnus shrugs, a smile tugging at his mouth. "Darling, most people can't dance like me. I've had four centuries to perfect it. I won't judge you."

That makes Alec laugh, and Magnus' smile stretches out into a full grin.

It takes him a moment, but Alec manages to follow Magnus' instruction, shifting his hips side to side under Magnus' hands. It's inelegant, movements stilted and stiff with nowhere near enough flex in his knees, and it's painfully obvious that Alec has never danced like this before, but Magnus couldn't care less. Because it's fun. This is fun, dancing with Alec, watching him loose some of that infuriating Shadowhunter decorum as he throws his head back and laughs when Magnus executes a particularly spectacular full body roll. It makes Alec's eyes crinkle at the corners, and god, Magnus wants to evoke that reaction again.

After a while, he slips one hand off Alec's hip, instead draping his forearm over his shoulder, so they're actually dancing together. Alec looks momentarily panicked as Magnus' body shifts, the angle between them changing, bringing them closer together so that Magnus can really let loose.

"Relax," Magnus says with a smile, and reaches up to brush a strand of hair out of Alec's eyes. "You're fine."

The song changes twice before Magnus feels fingers brush hesitantly against his hip. Alec's eyes have dropped down, watching where his hand is going; Magnus slows their movements a little, realising that Alec has seen how other people are dancing together, and is trying to imitate it.

"Go on," Magnus murmurs, when Alec hesitates.

"This isn't as awful as I always thought it would be," Alec says, securing his hold and glancing up at Magnus.

Magnus laughs. "It's only a little bit awful?"

"Well. Yeah." Alec shrugs, and it throws off his rhythm, but it doesn't matter. Nothing matters, except this, right now, making Magnus feel elated in ways he hasn't for years.

Just because a pretty boy - and a Shadowhunter, at that - is dancing with him.

"You're such a Shadowhunter," Magnus says, shaking his head, still smiling so wide it's making his cheeks ache.

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?"

He looks adorably outraged, and Magnus can't resist tilting his chin up to kiss his cheek, laughing again. Alec's eyes glaze over a little as Magnus pulls back, expression softening, and—

Fuck.

Magnus spins, arms above his head, flinging his head back so that he can look elsewhere, just for a moment. He can't look at Alec with that expression on his face. It makes him hope. Makes him consider than maybe, maybe, he hasn't been reading too much into Alec's actions, that maybe—

The song comes to a rather abrupt end, and the soft guitar chords that float through the air are decidedly slow, intimate, and Magnus decides that enough is enough. He can't slow dance with Alec. It'll tear him to pieces.

"Drink?" Magnus suggests, stepping back to put a little more space between them.

"Yeah." Alec's eyes flicker, up and down again, several times. "Yeah, okay."

***

Isabelle offers Jace a grin as he approaches the bar, dragging a hand through his hair. Clary's standing across the room, trying to convince Lydia to dance, and Jace, apparently, has decided to leave her to it and grab a drink.

"Here." Isabelle slides a glass of vodka and coke over to him.

He catches it before it slides off the bar, and winks. "Thanks, Iz."

She jerks her chin up towards where Alec and Magnus have been dancing for the last five minutes, Alec having finally gone over to talk to the warlock after hours of pining at the bar. How Alec can be so dense he can't see the way Magnus looks at him, she'll never know.

"Alec's having fun," she says, as Jace stands beside her, both of them leaning back against the bar in lieu of utilising the bar stools provided.

"I noticed," Jace says, and shakes his head, smirking. "Walked straight past me when Bane was dragging him over to dance."

Isabelle rolls her eyes. "Why do you call him that?"

Jace shrugs, taking a long swig of his drink. "He's got eyes for Alec. I can't be too nice, can I?"

"You're an ass," Isabelle tells him.

Jace hums noncommittally. Isabelle can't help glancing over to where Clary and Lydia are; Clary appears to have given up on convincing Lydia to dance, and is instead pointing out people around the room. She's gesturing at Simon and Raphael, who are at the other end of the bar, leaning towards each other. Simon is babbling, talking so rapidly Isabelle is surprised Raphael can understand him, and waving his hands around dangerously. Raphael has his eyebrows half-raised, lips turned up just a touch.

Lydia meets Isabelle's eyes across the room, and Isabelle can't hold her gaze. She drops her eyes, focusing instead on the toes of her boots. The guilt she feels about how she's treated Lydia is still eating at her.

She can't count how much she's fucked up in the last few months. First not paying enough attention, letting her brother get shot and fall out of the sky, because she'd been so desperate to see whether Meliorn had been part of the Downworld group the Circle had been meeting.

Then she'd arrested her own boyfriend, unable to practise what she's spent her life preaching. She hadn't stood up to her mother's orders to arrest dozens of innocent Downworlders, leaving children without parents and the most powerful warlock in the country with a desire for revenge.

And, however hard she's tried since, she can't stop making things worse. Their rescue plan had succeeded—but it had been Alec's idea to go to Magnus, not hers, and he's the one whose favour won them such an alliance, and Meliorn had dumped her anyway.

She's been so determined to disobey authority, since, that she's ended up alienating one of the few people in Idris who isn't a stuck-up bigot. Her fury with herself, her devastation about how terribly everything ended with Meliorn, led to a fierce prejudice against Lydia before they'd even met, just because she knew she was a Clave envoy from Idris.

And now—now, she can barely look her in the eye. Because Lydia is doing everything she's never managed to. Lydia is putting words into action. Lydia is trusting them, trusting that the case the Clave has built around Magnus isn't as simple as it seems, and investigating, trying to find a way to prove it.

Trying to find a way to save Alec from a mess Isabelle had a hand in creating.

She pushes the thoughts away. She's not going to think about it. She's going to watch her hopeless brother try to dance with the most graceful man in the room.

"Do you think he realises?" Izzy asks, abruptly, wrapping her lips around the neck of the bottle of beer to take a swig. She's leaning back against the bar, arms braced on the rough surface, and has her ankles crossed, balanced on the long heels of her shoes.

Jace quirks an eyebrow, but doesn't glance over at her, instead watching Alec try to follow Magnus' instruction. He's moving in time with the music, but his motions are stilted, awkward, especially in contrast to Magnus'. Magnus is laughing, eyes bright, and he tilts his chin up to kiss Alec's cheek.

It's not that Magnus looks at Alec as though he's the only person in the room. He doesn't. Isabelle's always thought that's an odd expression, because if there's only one person in the room, where else would you look? It doesn't mean you'd look at them favourably, or willingly, or with any pleasure. No. Magnus looks at Alec like he's fully aware of the fact that there are a few hundred utterly beautiful people surrounding him from all sides, all probably more than eager to impress the High Warlock of Brooklyn with their flirting and their seductive dancing, but he doesn't care; he only cares about Alec.

"Realises what?" Jace asks.

"That he's in love."

Jace snorts into his vodka and coke. "No. He hasn't got a clue. Not that Bane could make how besotted he is any more obvious. Although, I'm surprised he's into someone like Alec."

Isabelle turns to glare at him. "Really, Jace? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well—" Jace waves a hand at the pair of them. "Magnus is...all that. Alec's more...low-key."

Isabelle smiles, and leans her head against Jace's shoulder. "Yeah. He is. I think that's part of the reason Magnus likes him."

Jace wraps an arm around her shoulders, and kisses the top of her head. "Whatever it is, I like it. Magnus seems good for him. And he's patient with him. God knows things haven't been easy recently, but Alec... I don't know. He feels calmer. More settled. Less on edge."

"Yeah." She snuggles against Jace a little. "Yeah, he does."

"They're coming this way," Jace murmurs. "Shall we go find Clary and Lydia?"

Isabelle follows Alec and Magnus making their way through the crowd with her eyes. Magnus is leading him again, their hands linked, and it's obvious that Alec can't take his eyes off the warlock. Not that Isabelle blames him—Magnus is gorgeous, and he's dressed to impress.

Lydia's face flashes through her mind, and, unbidden, she remembers what Lydia said to her.

I like you, Isabelle. And I forgive you.

"Come on," Jace says, straightening up and offering Isabelle his arm with a lopsided grin on his face. "Let's leave them to it. I wouldn't want to interrupt, if Alec is finally pulling his head out of his ass. Maybe you'll have more luck convincing Lydia to dance than Clary did."

Isabelle doubts it, somehow, but she takes Jace's arm anyway. Just for once in her life, she wishes something could be simple.

But then she catches sight of Magnus and Alec smiling at each other as though nothing else in the world matters, and she thinks that maybe some things are.

And she swears to herself that irrespective of anything else, she's not going to let circumstance fuck things up for Alec. Not any longer. She's going to fight the Clave with her bare hands before they can even try to force Alec to kill the man he's falling in love with.

***

"Pulled your head out of your ass, Shadowhunter?" Maia asks, sharply, when Magnus approaches the bar with Alec in tow.

Alec swallows. "Maia, I'm sorry. I didn't– I'd never thought about it like that. I don't think I really understand, what we do to you and why it makes you so desperate. But I'd like to."

Maia purses her lips. "Apology accepted. Drink, Magnus?"

"I'll have a margarita," Magnus says, leaning one hip against the bar and sending Maia a lazy smile. "Alec?"

Alec considers asking for something non-alcoholic, because he's probably had enough for one night - it's more than he's ever drunk in one period, ever - but then he registers that Magnus' hand is still wrapped around his, and he thinks that he might need a top-up, if he's going to survive the rest of the night.

"I, um." He looks across at Magnus. "What was that thing you gave me, once?"

"Port?" Magnus raises an eyebrow. "Oh, no, I know what you mean. A Manhattan, please, my lovely Maia."

Maia rolls her eyes. "You're such a flirt, Magnus. And your friends are just as bad. It's a good thing you're paying me so much for tonight. Do you know how many times I've been hit on?"

Magnus smiles. "I apologise for their poor behaviour. If I need to perform any castrations, let me know."

Maia shakes her head, lips twitching. "No. You got this one away from moping at the bar, that'll do."

Magnus glances over at him, smile not diminishing, and Alec finds himself drowning in the depths of Magnus' slitted pupils, gold-green irises glistening like halos around them, enchanting every cell in Alec's body.

But it's not some demonic mark of seduction. It's just Magnus.

"Here you go," Maia says, sliding two glasses towards them. "Enjoy."

Alec breaks his gaze away from Magnus', not without effort, and turns to take his drink and thank Maia, their hands dropping as they both reach forward. He glances back over at Magnus, and finds the warlock already watching him, that same small smile still on his lips.

He's fucking beautiful.

It's the only thought Alec can get through his stupid head. Magnus Bane is beautiful, and he's not smiling at anyone else, he hasn't been dancing with anyone else, he isn't holding hands with anyone else—he's doing all that with Alec.

"You're really pretty," Alec blurts out, because, apparently, being slightly drunk dissolves his brain-to-mouth filter.

Fuck.

He feels himself flush the moment the words are out, and Magnus' face goes blank in surprise, lips parting. Alec busies himself with taking a sip of his drink, instead. He's fairly sure it tastes of whiskey, and it's sweet, but not overpoweringly so. It's nice. If a little...red. It's a nice distraction from his sheer idiocy.

Then soft laughter meets his ears, and he looks up to find Magnus watching him as though—

"Thank you," he says, a smile on his face and something gentle in his eyes. "You're very pretty too, angel."

Oh.

That's new. Alec's been called handsome before, by his parents and by other adult Shadowhunters when he was younger, but never by anybody he's been...interested in. And never pretty. Male Shadowhunters aren't really allowed to be pretty. It's not considered masculine enough. But from Magnus, it makes his stomach flutter.

"Hey." Magnus ducks his head to catch Alec's gaze more fully. "You okay?"

"I'm good. Where, um. Where does Chairman Meow hide, while all this is going on? Does he go somewhere else?"

"He tends to hide behind closed doors," Magnus says, dragging a finger around the rim of his glass but not breaking his gaze away from Alec's eyes. "Why don't we go and have a look?"

The idea is awfully appealing - getting away from the plethora of sticky, writhing bodies and the excruciatingly loud music with that thudding bass drum - but Alec doesn't want to take Magnus away from something that he clearly enjoys.

"It's okay," Alec says. "I wouldn't want you to miss out. It is your party, after all."

"No." Magnus straights up from where he's been leaning against the bar, and turns away, already walking through the crowd, swaying his hips in a way that tugs Alec's attention downwards, as he turns to call over his shoulder, "I think I want to find my cat, in the company of the prettiest boy in the room."

Alec's brain revolts at that description, because Magnus is in the room, for Raziel's sake, but he can't stop himself following, as though Magnus is a magnet that he's eternally attracted to.

It's like chasing an elusive ghost, following Magnus through the crowds. Without their hands joined, Alec has to push past people and crane his neck and utilise every last drop of his agility rune to successfully follow Magnus through to a door—his bedroom door, Alec realises.

By the time Alec reaches him, Magnus is already inside, and he's got the Chairman cradled in his arms, petting the cat and murmuring to him. His eyelashes are swept down, almost brushing the sharp edges of his cheekbones, and the line of his mouth is soft, relaxed. Kissable. Alec takes a moment to simply stare, leaning back against the door once he closes it behind him, because Raziel, Magnus Bane is so beautiful.

In more ways than the obvious.

Magnus glances up. Alec knows that there's a quip, a snarky comment, on the tip of his tongue, because there's that glint in his eyes that he always seems to get when he's about to make that sort of comment. But it disappears after a mere moment, and instead he steps towards Alec, the Chairman purring contentedly against his chest while Magnus scratches at his fur absently.

"Alec," he says, a look of concern on his face, "you know you don't have to be here, don't you? I was teasing you. If this makes you uncomfortable—"

"Magnus, stop."

Alec shakes his head in frustration, taking a step forwards, towards the warlock, so he's away from the door. Like this, standing up straight, he's a few inches taller than Magnus. The height difference only really notices when they're this close.

"I'm not—" He makes a noise of annoyance in the back of his throat when he can't find the words, and takes a breath before he tries again. "I'm not some innocent kid who needs protecting."

"I know, Alec, I—"

"Then why do you always do this?" Alec asks, softening his voice. "You're always so considerate, it's— I'm not afraid of you. Not like that. If I were uncomfortable, I wouldn't be here. I know what I want."

Magnus raises his eyebrows just as the Chairman leaps from his arms, dropping onto the floor and disappearing into Magnus' en suite.

"And what is it that you want?" Magnus asks, voice low as he moves closer, so there's a mere handful of inches between their faces.

"You're doing it again," Alec whispers, while he tries, desperately, not to let his eyes stray from Magnus'. If they do, he knows they'll fix on Magnus' lips. "You're testing me, or trying to make me nervous, or something. You don't need to."

Fingers brush against his forehead as Magnus reaches up to push Alec's hair back. It's not a practical movement: Alec's fringe isn't quite in his eyes, and it flops back down the moment Magnus finishes brushing it back. It's...affectionate, Alec thinks. The kind of thing he might do to Max, or his mother might do to him. But...different, somehow.

It's puzzling, and confusing, and feels unlike anything Alec's ever felt—much like every emotion he experiences around Magnus. Beyond that, it lights something warm in Alec's chest, and he has the horrible urge to lean into the touch.

Magnus drops his hand, letting it slide over the curve of Alec's shoulder and down to rest on his bicep. His eyes flicker, down and near-instantly back up again, and Alec freezes. Did Magnus just—?

"Don't I?"

"No," Alec breaths, and shakes his head in a tiny motion. "No, you don't."

"And why–" Magnus' eyes dip again, and this time, it's unmistakable, and it makes Alec's heart hammer against his chest, anticipation and desire flooding through him "–is that?"

"Because I trust you," Alec tells him, and he lifts a hand, fingers just flitting against Magnus' side before dropping down again. "And I like you, and I'm not scared of you. Not like that. I know you're powerful, and I know you could devastate the city with a snap of your fingers, but I also know that you won't. Because you're not like that. Not unless something's at stake. You're a good person. You're an incredibly good person."

Their gazes are locked, and Magnus is staring up at him in wonder, eyes wide and jaw slack, and he shakes his head, not moving his hand from where it's still resting lightly on Alec's arm.

"Alec," he whispers, searching the Shadowhunter's face as though looking for something that might explain the impossible enigma Alec is apparently presenting him with.

"Why have you started calling me that? You never call me Alec."

Magnus shrugs. "Your sister said that nobody calls you Alexander. I presumed that meant you didn't like it."

Astonished, Alec huffs out a little laugh, and shakes his head. "Don't you think I'd have said something by now if I hated it so much?"

"Hate is a strong word."

"Magnus." Alec lifts a hand, and brushes his thumb against Magnus' cheek, where glitter from his eyeshadow has fallen in a perfectly imperfect little circle. "I don't mind you calling me that. It's...it's just what you do. It's a you thing."

"Alexander," Magnus whispers, something desperate, something almost pleading, in his voice.

Alec doesn't realise that he's had his eyes fixed on Magnus' mouth until he glances up to see that Magnus' gaze is locked down below his eyes, too. Magnus is the most beautiful man he's ever had the privilege of seeing.

And he's staring at Alec like he's the wonder in the room.

Fuck, he wants to kiss him. He wants to kiss Magnus Bane. The skin of his jaw is warm against Alec's palm, and they're close enough to feel the heat rolling off each other, to feel the pounding of each other's hearts, and Alec has his chin angled down a little, head tilting to one side without conscious thought.

"Alexander," Magnus murmurs again, this time so lowly it barely disturbs the air, but Alec hears him, because they're so close. He can smell the citrus of Magnus' drink on his breath, and he slides his fingers back to tilt Magnus' head up as their eyes just begin to flutter closed, and—

"Alec!"

Isabelle's voice cuts through the air. Alec screws his eyes shut, a breath leaving him suddenly as the tension in the room shatters, and the real world comes crashing back around them like an icy shower after too long in the sun.

Magnus leans back, clearly planning on putting a vast amount of space between them to accommodate for Alec's closeted status, but Alec doesn't let go of him, dropping the hand on his jaw to his shoulder, and resting the other lightly on his hip in a sober imitation of how they'd been dancing, earlier. His fingers are light enough to let Magnus step back is he wants to, but firm enough to communicate that he wants him to stay close. He knows Isabelle doesn't care, and he's fairly sure she knows about this, anyway.

She probably worked it all out before he did.

"We've got to go," she says, and she has the decency to sound apologetic, but the tone of her voice is just slightly harried. "Mom just called. The Institute—they're under attack. We need to go. Max is there, and—"

Alec's eyes snap open at that. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. The Institute is under attack, his family, his little brother, is in danger, and he's at a Downworld party, a mere moment away from kissing the High Warlock of Brooklyn. He shouldn't be here, he should be doing his job, he should be protecting his family—

Fuck.

"Shit," he says, turning to look over his shoulder at Isabelle. He relaxes his hold on Magnus, but he doesn't let go. Not yet. Not when he feels like Magnus' hand on his arm might be the only thing grounding him and stopping him flying off into self-deprecating hysterics in his head. "I'm coming."

"Alright. Lydia's looking for Jace and Clary, we'll meet you outside."

He hears the click of her heels as she jogs away, and he turns back to Magnus. Magnus is curling his fingers lightly into the sleeve of Alec's shirt, worry - for what, Alec doesn't know - plastered across his face, brow furrowed anxiously.

The urge to reassure Magnus that this isn't an embarrassing drunken moment that he never wants to speak of again grips him. It's not. He's not that drunk. He's drunk enough to feel the effects, and he's perfectly certain that he'd never have leant down to kiss Magnus and would never have said such things perfectly sober, but he's far from out of his mind.

In lieu of a real kiss, he leans in and presses his lips to the elegant arch of Magnus' cheekbone, letting the touch linger for several long seconds. Magnus tilts his head into the contact, and Magnus' free hand rests on his forearm.

When he pulls back just slightly, he lets his mouth brush Magnus' skin as he whispers, "I'm sorry."

He feels Magnus' eyelashes flutter against his cheek, and Magnus' grip on his arms tightens. They're close enough for Alec to feel Magnus' heart thudding, rapid and heavy against his chest. It's intimate, and closer than Alec's ever dared to hope he'd be to any man—let alone Magnus Bane.

"Be careful," Magnus murmurs, turning his head so that his cheek rests against Alec's, their hair brushing together. "Please, angel, be careful."

"I'm always careful," Alec says, chest tightening, and Magnus pulls back, eyes searching Alec's with a desperation that Alec doesn't understand.

At last, he shifts back, loosening his grip. "Go on. Go. Get out. And for god's sake, call me. I want to know you're okay."

"Promise," Alec says, inclining his head. He holds Magnus' gaze for just a moment longer, and then he turns, before anything can persuade him to stay.

"Alexander!"

Alec pauses at the door, hand resting on the handle, and he glances over his shoulder at the man who's haunted his dreams in the best and worst way for so many weeks. "Yeah?"

"If you need help, call me. I'll be there."

Alec shakes his head. "You can't come to the Institute. We'll be fine. Just- just enjoy all this, or whatever. This is our job. We've got it."

"If you do any more wing acrobatics, I swear—"

"I won't," Alec says, with a little laugh that eases the tight band of worry around his lungs. "I've got to go. I'll text you."

"Stay safe, Alexander."

And, with that, Alec slips out of the door, pulling it shut behind him, and makes his way through all the people entirely ignorant to the battle waging a mere few miles away, out towards his siblings and his friends.

Because by the Angel, he isn't going to let anybody, not even Valentine, hurt his family. He's good at his job. He's a leader. They're going to kill whatever has infiltrated the Institute, and then–

Then, Alec is going to come back, and he's going to kiss Magnus Bane.