Actions

Work Header

Fall Without Wings

Chapter Text

It takes Magnus several moments to find the sense of mind to move.

He's caught in his head as he stares at the space where Alec disappeared from. The memory of Alec so close to him, eyes fixated on his lips, hot breath washing across his skin, is so sharp in his mind it's almost tangible.

In a split second of weakness, Magnus lifts his hand to his face, brushing fingertips across where Alec's lips touched his cheek in a kiss so soft and so tender it could only be described as a caress. His eyelids flutter closed, and he exhales. He can't remember the last time somebody got under his skin quite like this—so intensely, but in such a good way.

Well. He can. And perhaps that's what terrifies him.

But, right now, he knows he can't stand around in his bedroom and reminisce. The Institute is under attack from Valentine, which means every Shadowhunter in New York is in danger. Including Alec, but also, more urgently, Clary. He knows Alec can look after himself. But Clary hasn't even passed all her exams.

He has to call Luke.

He clicks his fingers once to sound-proof the room, because he really doesn't need his guests overhearing this, and then slides his phone out of his pocket.

"Magnus?" Luke's voice comes through the speaker gruffly, as though he's just woken up. A quick glance at the clock shows that it's long past midnight. "What's going on?"

"The Institute is under attack," Magnus says. "Right now. I'm assuming Clary isn't going to call you and say anything, but they're all going to be there, and they're all going to be in danger."

"What?" Luke's voice is clear, and Magnus can hear the rustling of sheets as Luke gets out of bed. "How do you know this? Tell me you're not at the Institute, Magnus, they'll kill you."

"No, of course I'm not." Even if that's exactly where he wants to be, to defend those in the younger generation of Shadowhunters he's come to care about, despite the fact that he doesn't give a rat's ass about what happens to the rest of them. "But I thought you'd want to know. I'm throwing a party. I invited some of them. Isabelle, Jace, Clary, Alexander, their Clave envoy—"

"You invited a Clave envoy to a party?" Luke demands. "Magnus, what the hell are you thinking? Have you forgotten that you're being actively hunted?"

"I'm being hunted by Alexander," Magnus reminds him. "And, apparently, he's convinced said Clave envoy that I'm not a heinous monster who deserves to rot in hell for all eternity."

"When I'm done ripping out Valentine's intestines, we need to discuss your lack of self-preservation tactics." Magnus hears the sound of a door being ripped open, the handle smacking against plaster. "I'm going to grab the pack and get over there. I'm supposed to be their ally, and if Clary's in danger—"

"She'll be fine, Luke," Magnus says, quickly. "She's with Jace and Isabelle and Alec. Jace especially isn't going to let anything happen to her."

Luke makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. "They're good kids," he admits. "I don't like Maryse and Robert, but their kids give me hope."

The sight of Alec grinning flashes through Magnus' mind, and he smiles a small smile as he remembers Alec's most recent letter. I think you're the best man I've ever met...

"Me too," he says, a little wistfully. "Be careful. And Luke, please—"

"I'll look out for Alec," Luke says, before Magnus can voice his urgent desire to ensure that Alec isn't harmed.

He doesn't even know how disastrous this attack is. The Institute could be burning, its inhabitants could be dead, and Valentine could have raised his proverbial flag up onto the rafters. Or there could just be a single Forsaken that's managed to get through the wards.

But the panic in Isabelle's voice when she'd burst into the room and called Alec's name...

"Look out for all of them," Magnus says, and drags a hand over his face. "God, I want to be there."

"You can't be," Luke says, not unkindly. "I promise I'll do my best, Magnus, but I've got to go now."

And, feeling more helpless than he has for decades, Magnus stares at his phone screen when Luke disconnects the call, wondering how in the world he's allowed himself to come to care so much for the children of people who murdered his friends and persecuted his people.

***

When Alec reaches the Institute with his siblings, all of them clattering down onto the pavement from flight in their haste, too rushed to activate any more runes than the essentials, it's like the world is burning.

The Institute is alight. Flames are licking up its walls, casting eerie shadows in the darkness as sizzling timbers fall from the roof with crashes that make the ground beneath their feet tremble. It's a picture of tragedy painted against the obsidian background of the nighttime, devastatingly beautiful beneath glittering stars that hang overhead, peering down at the destruction.

"Holy shit," Clary breaths, eyes wide. Alec glances over at her, and sees the fires reflected in her pupils, her lips parted, horror and wonder spread across her face in equal proportions.

It's a gorgeous tableau of ruthless chaos, the fires lighting up the stain glass, causing colour to splatter across the ground. They're all of them enraptured by the sight. But it's their home, broken and flawed and ruined as Alec knows it is, and people they love are inside.

He can hear screaming. He prays it's not Max. Not Raj. Not his mother.

"We have to go in," Alec says, grabbing Jace's shoulder and a stele to activate his parabatai's fireproof rune, while the others turn to activate their own runes and Jace tugs at Alec's sleeve. The rune won't stop them burning to a crisp if they walk straight through the fires, but it'll protect them against the heat.

The moment Alec steps over the threshold, flames trying to catch onto his gear as he leads the team with Jace at his shoulder, there's a roar, and a Forsaken appears in their path.

Clary shouts, but Alec has an arrow released and embedded in the creature's eye before the sound can die. It staggers, but it doesn't fall, and Alec barely has the chance to share an astounded look with Jace before it's on them again.

"Izzy, get Clary out of here!" Jace hollers as he shoves Alec sideways before the Forsaken can land a blow, rolling after him quickly. "Find Maryse!"

Alec slashes at the Forsaken's legs with a seraph blade, but it merely turns its head and spits. He spins the blade in his grip, so the tip faces himself, and brings the hilt across the creature's face, again and again, quickly brushing and battering its nose.

It screams, reeling back, and Alec's seraph blade clatters to the floor as Alec jumps up, wings flaring out to shoot him up to the high Institute ceiling. He catches onto the chandelier overhead where Jace is already poised, eyes flashing as he watches the progress of his parabatai. Jace grabs Alec's free hand, the friction of their gloves stopping Alec slipping back to the floor the moment the propulsion of the single beat of his wings runs out.

Wings tucked tight into his sides, Alec lets go of the chandelier, and snaps off one of the ornate candelabras. His shoulder wrenches as Jace takes his weight, and he swings, right in time to scratch the uneven edge of the metal of the broken chandelier across the Forsaken's face.

Viscous black blood oozes out of the wound, dripping from its eye socket and pooling at its lips. Jace lets go of his hand. Alec lands in a crouch beyond the Forsaken, almost back by the front door, right by where he'd tossed his seraph blade before he jumped up.

He turns, sweeping up his fallen weapon with his wings spread wide, and raises it, ready to cut the creature in two. But Jace is already there, hovering in the air, plunging his blade into the Forsaken's neck. Blood spurts out of its jugular, painting across Jace's gear and feathers, and the Forsaken roars at him, swiping Jace across the chest. Jace lands halfway across the entry hall, skidding across the stone floors, narrowly missing a burning chair with his wingtip.

"Jace!" Alec shouts, and the creature spins, clearly about to attack him too, but it freezes suddenly. It reaches up to pluck the seraph blade from its neck, stares, and then its knees flood, and it falls to the floor, dead.

"Jace," Alec says again, rushing to his parabatai's side, but someone is already there, crouched over, a stele in hand as runes are burnt into Jace's skin. Iratzes, energy runes, stamina runes...

"Alec," his mother says, relief clear in her voice as she looks up. She presses the stele into Alec's hand immediately. "Help him. The runes from his parabatai are stronger."

Alec does, but he can feel that Jace is okay. He's breathing, he's alive, and as Alec pulls away his jacket to activate another healing rune, he coughs, eyelids fluttering before he sits bolt upright. Alec ducks to avoid being hit in the face with Jace's wing.

"Shit," Jace hisses, rolling his shoulder, and then blinks when he sees Maryse. "What the hell is going on?"

"Valentine," Maryse says grimly. "He's not here, but he's sent half his forces. And they're not...natural."

"We know," Alec says, and Jace nods as he sits up, looking better by the minute. "That Forsaken wouldn't die."

Maryse shakes her head, and, to Alec's shock, she leans forward and presses a kiss to first Jace's forehead, and then his own. Her hair is pulled up in its signature, scraped-back style, but strands have escaped, and are falling around her face. Clearly, the attack took the Institute by surprise—she's still in a blouse and a skirt, and she's barefoot, as though she hadn't had enough time to find a pair of flat shoes. Fighting in heels is more Izzy's style.

"Where did Lydia go?" Alec asks, suddenly, realising that she's not here. "We told Izzy and Clary to go, but—"

"I don't think she'd have let Izzy go on her own without fully trained backup," Jace says, and jumps up onto his feet. "We have to find them. Mom, where is everyone?"

"I don't know," she says, and bites her lip. "I was in my office when people started screaming. Raj was trying to control the Ops Centre, and without you three here—" Alec sees her lips tremble, but she shakes her head, hauling herself back together instantly. "We've done our best. But Valentine must have employed a warlock, because the Institute, it just lit up. Things exploded and fires appeared out of nowhere, simultaneously."

"Where the hell is Dad?" Alec asks. "And where's Max? Is he okay?"

"He's fine," says a voice behind them, and Alec turns to see Max's hand clutched in Clary's. Max's wings have jumped free, apparently too frightened to override his instinctual fight-or-flight (literally) response. "But his room was burning. I didn't know where else to—"

"Alec," Max says, and lets go of Clary to barrel into him.

"Max, Max, it's okay," Alec says, because there isn't time, not now, for comfort. Not when everyone could die in a mere moment. He wraps an arm tight around Max's shoulders. "Come on. I need you to hold together, okay?" He looks up at Clary, and purses his lips. "Where did Izzy and Lydia go?"

"The Ops Centre," Clary says. "I think that's where the battle's raging. And also—" She drags a hand through the fire consuming the charcoaled chairs beside her. Jace flinches next to Alec, reaching out to her with one hand reflexively.

But when Clary removes her hand from the scorching flames, her skin is untouched, blister free, smooth and unblemished.

"It's warlock fire," she says. "It's not real. If you know it won't hurt you, it won't."

Maryse's face darkens. "Downworlders," she hisses, eyes flashing. "Demonic scum. How dare they—"

"Not now," Alec says, straightening up out of his crouch while he fights down the urge to snap at his mother that, actually, the Downworlders he's come to know in the last months are some of the best people he's ever met. "Max, I want you to stay with Clary." It's killing two birds with one stone, getting the two most untrained people out of the firing line. He fixes Clary with a sharp stare. "Don't attack. Don't antagonise. Defend yourselves, but don't go looking for trouble. Hide, if you have to. Understand?"

Clary nods sharply. "Max, come on."

Alec turns to his mother and parabatai. "Ops Centre. Now."

***

The Ops Centre is a breeding ground of death.

Not even the fire can cover the stench of overheated, decaying bodies lying around the stations. Computer screens are cracked, glass covering the floor in a fine sheen, and Alec glances across at his mother's bare feet.

But she, he reminds himself with considerable bitterness, has been in this war for far longer than he has. And she learnt from the best Shadowhunter of her generation. She learnt from Valentine, when she was in the fucking Circle. She's grabbing at a dead woman before Alec can blink, tearing off her shoes and gear jacket without mercy, unconcerned at wearing a dead woman's clothing.

Alec looks away in time to see Lydia standing balanced on Isabelle's shoulders with her wings tucked tight into her sides to decrease the amount of vulnerable bodily area that the demons can target, physically ripping off a Forsaken's head with her bare hands and tossing it into one of the fires. She somersaults down gracefully.

"Alec! Jace!" Raj hollers from across the room, where he's locked in a battle with a demon that has to be six times the size of an ordinary Drevak. "Look behind you!"

Alec whirls, just as a whip whistles past his ear to wrap around the neck of a Moloch demon, yanking it away from the rest of the group. The demon screams, folding in on itself as Lydia slices a seraph blade across it.

"For an Idris girl, you're not bad at this," Jace says, not looking at Lydia, already palming a seraph blade in one hand and a throwing knife in the other. There are another seven demons behind, all with the same semi-corporeal, liquid appendages in place of their legs, and shrunken, ruined faces that have always reminded Alec of half-decomposed corpses.

Alec knows his bow isn't useful in close-range combat, so he kicks up off the wall, flipping back over Jace's head to land on one of the consoles in the middle of the room. He knocks an arrow against his bow, and exhales as he shoots the first demon, firing off another six arrows in rapid succession.

But the demons, like the Forsaken, don't die.

One screams, launching itself at Lydia, and only Maryse stepping in front of her and flicking a double-ended blade through its sternum prevents another tragedy.

"This is insane," Isabelle shours. "What the hell has Valentine been feeding these things?"

"Or the Downworlders," Maryse snarls, as she ducks a blow from a stray Eidolon demon. "Brooklyn's supposed High Warlock, that vile monster Bane—"

"Enough!" Alec hollers, and tries not to let himself be so consumed by rage that he becomes distracted from the battle. "It doesn't matter! Not now!"

Just as Isabelle dispatches the last of the Moloch demons, and he hear the slick sound of Raj withdrawing his blade from the Drevak with an audible sight of relief, a small figure appears in the doorway. Alec's heart leaps into his throat when he recognises Max, and he freezes. What the hell is his little brother doing in here?

But then he sees Clary in front of him, two blades raised in front of her. Fear flashes across her face, but she's covering Max as she backs away from—

Fuck.

"Well," hisses the demon, with a broad grin as he surveys them all. "Isn't this a delightful little gathering?"

Every Shadowhunter in the room is frozen, staring at the writhing mass of smoke and oil that's walking through their door. Moloch. The Greater Demon, who commands the lesser demons that are his namesake.

"Don't look so frightened," he says, with a laugh. "Valentine sends his regards. As does Iris. Delightful woman."

Maryse's lip curls, and Alec feels his own stomach swoop with guilt at the resentment for the Downworlders that builds inside him. They've done this. A warlock has let this happen. A warlock has worked with Valentine to achieve such chaotic, meaningless destruction. People lay dead around him with their guts and blood slicking the floor, and a warlock has let it happen.

But it's not all warlocks, he reminds himself, tightening his grip on his blade. It's not all warlocks, and it's not all Downworlders. It's not even most. It's not nearly most. It's a handful, who have a right to be pissed, anyway.

And he can think of five Downworlders, just off the top of his head, who would be repulsed by the sight of so many dead people, no matter their race. There are horrible people in every niche and corner of humanity. There are horrible Shadowhunters, horrible Downworlders, horrible mundanes—their race is irrelevant.

He repeats it to himself, twice, because he knows it's true, and he won't let himself be hauled back into such a close-minded mindset. Not after all he's been exposed to. The voice in his head sounds exactly like Magnus.

"What?" Moloch laughs. "Cat got your tongues? No witty comebacks from the Nephilim? No futile attacks? Tut tut." He clucks his tongue, but with his swirling, almost-gaseous form, it sounds more like the hiss that results from water being flicked on boiling coals. "I'm almost disappointed. I suppose that makes it easier to—"

A snarl, unlike any Alec has heard all day, meets their ears, and an enormous dark mass boulders at Moloch. The Greater Demon snarls as a werewolf rips through him, dispersing part of him through the air before he reforms across the room.

"What in the name of Raziel is a Downworlder doing in the Institute?" Maryse demands, fury written into every line of her face, but they ignore her.

"Luke?" Clary breaths, as the werewolf circles, still snarling, and moves to stand in front of her, hackles raised. "It is you. How did you know?"

Alec doesn't know why she's bothering to ask. He's fairly sure he knows, anyway. The only other person who knew about this attack who might have told the leader of the biggest werewolf pack in New York is Magnus.

Luke gives Clary an affectionate swipe of his tail before he leaps forwards, snapping his teeth as he sails over Jace and Alec's heads to roll right through Moloch this time.

When the demon reforms, his face is set, all amusement disappearing from his features, just as two more wolves appear at the door, moving to flank Luke.

"I am a Greater Demon," Moloch spits, smokey tendrils of fires jetting through the air. "Mortals will not harm me."

Abruptly, Jace is standing beside Alec, teeth barred and weapons held aloft. "Try murdering my family and my friends again," he growls. "We're going to blast you back to hell."

Moloch sneers. "Oh, the arrogance of the Nephilim."

With that, he dissolves, appearing around the wolves, and he wraps himself around one of them, smoke tightening until the werewolf is choking, collapsed onto its belly.

Adrenaline surges through Alec, and he jumps, snatching a blade from Jace's belt as he catapults thorough the air, slicing through Moloch, wings beating harshly to blow his atoms through the room.

The wolf is still for a moment, before it picks itself up, shaking its fur like a dog coming out of water. Alec almost smiles at the disgruntled look in its face, and, abruptly, he feels like he recognises the brown eyes, set with anger and determination.

"Maia?" he asks, eyebrows shooting up, and she kicks at him lightly with a paw.

Maybe their alliance with Luke and his pack wasn't such a bad idea, after all.

But Moloch is reforming, and he dances out the way of Izzy's whip and then Lydia's throwing knife, appearing behind Jace. Jace lands a blow to the demon's face, but Moloch is by Clary and Max in a moment, and, before any of them can move, he plunges a hand into Max's chest.

"Max!" Alec screams, while Isabelle and Maryse make similar sounds of distress. Only Maia and the third unknown wolf leaping in front of him stop Alec running forward, and he clenches his jaw.

"He's not just here to kill us," Lydia says, voice strained, holding back Isabelle. "He's here to taunt us. He's a Greater Demon. Don't give into his games."

"Games?" Alec spits. "He just—"

He looks back over at Max, whose eyes are rolling back in his head. The smoky nature of Moloch means he hasn't just ripped through Max's flesh, he's infected him, done something, because Max's veins are turning to liquid gold, sparking like forks of lightning as the demon withdraws his hand.

Moloch grins round at them. "Who shall I target next, for the most destruction?"

He peers round at them all, and then his eyes fix on Jace. Alec stills, every function in his body pausing as he takes in the smirking, predatory look Moloch is fixing Jace with.

"Friend, brother, son," he says, tilting his head to one side. His eyes fix on Jace's parabatai rune. "Parabatai. Boyfriend to the girl? Friend to the Downworlders, too?"

Jace grits his teeth. "You're not getting inside my head."

"Oh, my dear boy." Moloch lets out a delicate little laugh, and it sounds like the dripping of hot oil. "I don't need to get inside your head to know how loved you are. The innocent–" he doesn't even spare Max a glance, where he's on the floor, clutched in Clary's lap "–was obvious. You, I think, will be a nice addition."

With that, Moloch disappears, and, almost instantaneously, reappears, warping his form to wrap itself around Jace. He grips Jace's throat before Jace can kick out, and smoke floods out of Jace's nostrils. He chokes; Alec's parabatai rune throbs.

"Come on, child of the angels," Moloch hisses. "Give in. Your father will be so pleased to see you."

"Valentine is not my father," Jace gasps, as Alec catches Luke and Isabelle's gazes. A look from Luke, and Maia and Lydia both step back slightly, loosening their grips on Alec and Isabelle as they communicate, silently, as only siblings can.

"No?" Moloch's form expands, until he flicks a grossly elongated finger against Clary's cheek. "Perhaps I should just kill you and take this one instead. Valentine longs to be reacquainted."

"Fuck you," Clary spits, slashing a knife through Moloch's smoky finger, and, despite himself, Alec feels a flash of pride.

"Ouch," Moloch says, pouting, one hand still wrapped around Jace's throat, slowly replacing the air in his lungs and the oxygen in his veins with smoke, while Jace chokes and writhes. Alec has to look away before he's sick.

The wolf that Alec knows is Luke - bigger than the other two, his fur a dark umber colour - pads up silently onto the table directly behind Moloch, and jerks his chin to the right. Isabelle understands, eyes flashing with rage as she curls her fingers tighter around her whip.

Luke rears up, front paws slamming into Moloch's back and tossing him to the right. The Greater Demon is caught by surprise, reforming almost immediately in the direction Luke tossed him—

And Isabelle is there, whip cracking with deadly precision, flinging him across the room as the smoke begins to lose its ability to reform, and the oil begins to move sluggishly, lacking the energy required to hold Moloch's form together.

Alec's bow is held steadily against his arm, and Luke lands the other side of Jace, crashing into and wrecking the computers on the table, just in time for Alec to let three arrows fly.

Moloch screams at the arrows hit him near instantaneously, another two whooshing through the pitiful curls of smoke that try to regroup. The scattered smoke begins to disperse as he tries desperately to haul his form back together, to make himself semi-corporeal again rather than mere atoms in the air.

Alec drags his stele over one of his arrows, activating the fire rune, and the tip lights up. The arrow soars through the air, catching on an oil droplet, and the meagre remains of Moloch flare up. For just a moment, the air burns as the volatile oil flames.

And then, fuel gone, the fire extinguishes itself, and all that's left of the Greater Demon is the lingering stench of burnt oil.

***

The sound of Jace coughing hauls them all out of their frozen staring. Alec's parabatai clutches at the edge of the table he's sprawled on, head hanging over as he dry-heaves, body trying to reverse whatever Moloch did to him.

Alec is torn, as Isabelle flings herself down by Max lying limp in Clary's arms, between which brother to go to first. Luke stands by Jace, eyes fixed on him as though...

Well. As though - even if only because he knows what Jace means to Clary - he's protecting him.

"I'm fine," Jace gasps, when he sees Alec lingering, hesitant. "I'm fine, I'm fine."

Alec's parabatai bond feels strong, steady, stable like it hadn't when Moloch had his hand around Jace's throat, but it's fizzing, hissing, restless. So Alec drops everything in his hands, stops by Jace, and hauls him off the table and to his feet.

"Okay?" Alec asks, as he slings one of Jace's arms over his shoulders. Their bond seems to settle with the physical contact, and Alec's restless mind eases a little, slowing enough to become clear.

"I'm really fine," Jace says, but he leans into Alec and clutches at the material of his jacket. "Max—"

"I know," Alec says, already easing Jace to the ground as they both fall to their knees beside their little brother.

"I don't know what to do," Maryse says, looking up at Alec and Jace with panic in her eyes. "The healing runes— They're not working, I—"

"Let me try," Alec says, taking his mother's stele to sear healing rune after healing rune into Max's near-unmarked skin. He's only had his first rune for a few months. He's ten years old.

He can't die. Alec won't let him.

"I called the Silent Brothers," Lydia says, while Isabelle clutches at Jace's hand, both their knuckles white. "They said there have been attacks in other cities, and in other countries, but that they'll come when they can."

"There isn't time for that," Alec says, abruptly, tossing the stele back at his mother. And, whatever her emotional state, she catches it cleanly. "Iz, can you grab my bow?"

Isabelle flies up into the air, apparently as unwilling as everybody else is to walk through all the dead bodies, and scoops up everything Alec dropped when he dashed for Jace.

"Here." Raj's voice is quiet as he slides several arrows back into the quiver still strapped to Alec's back. "Alec—"

"Not now," Alec says through gritted teeth. "Thanks, Iz."

"Alec."

Maryse's voice is shaky, but her jaw is clenched and her eyes are dark, full of icy rage. She looks, in that moment, so very nearly like Isabelle, full of passion and feeling and emotion. But whereas Isabelle explodes in burning flames, Maryse is trapped, frozen and repressed behind walls of ice that are too transparent to truly mask the storm brewing beneath.

"What are you doing?" she demands, when Alec slips an arm under Max's shoulders and another under his knees. "Alec, what in Raziel's name are you doing?"

Alec lifts his little brother, whose eyes are still rolling and whose veins still look like rivers of magma, and fixes his mother with a blank stare. "What do you think I'm doing? I'm taking Max to someone who can help him."

"You can't just fly to the City of Bones and demand to see a Silent Brother," Maryse says, standing. "There might not even be anyone there!"

He doesn't bother correcting her. "Watch me," he says, coldly, and then he's in the air, because flying is less jarring than running, and he won't let Max be in any more pain.

Jace's hand wrapping around Maryse's arm is all that stops his mother coming after him.

***

Magnus lunges across his apartment when his phone buzzes, Isabelle Lightwood's name flashing up on the screen. He pauses for just a moment before answering. Why on earth is Isabelle calling him? Why isn't Luke calling him?

Is Luke hurt? He's never going to forgive himself if Luke is hurt from a battle he was only in because Magnus alerted him to it.

"Isabelle?" he says, when he answers. "What's—"

"It's me, Magnus," comes Luke's deep, gravelling voice, warm and rich and soothing. Magnus exhales a little. "My phone got fried. Literally. I need to brief you on this attack. And someone needs to arrest Iris. I'll get on it, unless you've got objections."

"She helped Valentine?" Magnus asks, horror pulsing through him. He'd visited Iris, after Cirrus had first come to him and reported that she'd fed him lies. He'd warned her about poor trade, and dishonest business. How hadn't he noticed that something was more wrong than the norm?

"Warlock fire," Luke says, grimly. "It's fading, now, but it looked like the Institute was going to burn to ashes. And plenty of the Shadowhunters didn't realise what it was. Some are waking up now. But a lot of them died. Valentine sent Forsaken and demons way beyond the ordinary, and Moloch paid us a visit."

Magnus' heart is thudding against his ribs, hammering arrhythmically. It's so much to take in. It's too much to take in. And he knows, logically, that it's because of who's there, and who was caught in the crossfire, and that on a normal day he'd process Luke's words instantly.

But it's not a normal day. And it's not a normal battle.

"Are they alright?" Magnus asks, and he manages to force his voice into something that resembles a vague sense of decorum. "Clary, and Jace, and Isabelle, and...?" He trails off.

"They're fine," Luke says, shortly. "Clary's traumatised by her first real battle and Jace is vomiting Moloch's remains out in the bathroom, but they'll be fine. I took Maia and Alaric, and we've all been kicked out by Maryse. She's not happy. Iris' involvement only seems to have fuelled her hatred and her prejudice. Magnus—"

"The others?" Magnus asks, feeling desperation claw at him. "Lydia, and—Alec?"

He hadn't wanted to say the name, because he'd known that his voice would break the moment he did. It makes Luke pause, and his answer comes painfully slowly.

"They're both unharmed, to my knowledge," Luke says, and relief floods through Magnus so forcefully he collapses into a chair, uncaring of the debris from his party that he has yet to finish cleaning up. "But Magnus, the little boy, the Lightwoods' youngest—Moloch did something to him. Whatever he was doing to Jace stopped, once we killed him, but this..."

Magnus sat up straight. "Max?" he asks, and fear pulses through him - fear for Alexander, because he knows, painfully well, how much Alec cares for all his siblings, and how entirely it would break him if any of them were to be incurably wounded - quickly followed by concern for a child so young. "What kind of something?"

"I don't know exactly, but—"

The buzzer to Magnus' apartment goes off, and Magnus makes a noise of frustration in the back of his throat. He tells Luke that he'll call him back, and then forces himself up off the sofa. He buzzes whoever it is up without question, because his wards don't detect danger, but familiarity, and footsteps thunder up the stairs.

He opens the door, and the sight that greets him makes him freeze.

Alexander stares up at him from where he's on the floor, a shivering, convulsing boy in his arms. The boy is young, not more than twelve, Magnus would guess, and his veins, quite literally, are flooded with fire.

Magnus can't help scanning over every inch of Alec that he can see, cataloguing every cut and bruise and tear in his clothing and reassuring himself that Alec is fine, he's fine, he's not hurt. But his little brother...

His little brother looks an inch from death, and sheer agony is written into Alec's face.

"Please," Alec whispers, and his voice is so broken and so desperate it makes Magnus' heart crack in two. "Please, help him."