Alec wasn't sure what made him agree to do this.
Maybe it was still the fiery rebellion inside his gut that had come aflame when he heard from his sister the plans their parents had laid out for them. Maybe it was that his issues with Jace was making him feel less secure in his personal relationships and fueling a desire to spend time with those outside of the Shadowhunter realm. Maybe it was that, although he was stubborn beyond words at times, Alec knew that there was something deeper pulling him to the warlock he was currently in the company of.
But whatever it was, it had led him here. To sharing a drink with the High Warlock of Brooklyn.
He had originally come because Jace had asked him to throw aside duty for Clary Fairchild's friend Luke, who had been badly injured in a werewolf power battle. He had argued with Jace on the matter at first, knowing the redhead was more trouble than benefit and that throwing aside their Shadowhunter duties to tend to all of her extensive needs was getting a little ridiculous and only spelled disaster. He and Jace hadn't been seeing eye-to-eye lately, but he couldn't deny that he missed his parabatai. And after Isabelle spouted their parents' plans for them, he knew that following the rules wasn't helping him build the life he wanted. His life's path apparently would always be chosen for him.
So Alec ran to Magnus' side, where Jace had claimed he was needed according to Magnus' specific request, and he found the warlock struggling to maintain his magic. The shaking items in the loft and intense colours swirling out of his hands made it clear Magnus had been using a lot of power to attempt to heal Luke.
Alec had bounded to his side, clasping around his middle to keep him upright as he swayed, and offered his hand for Magnus to leech his strength from.
It had been an exhausting and strange experience, but they ended up saving Luke from the alpha venom wreaking havoc in his veins, so he figured it was worth it. Even if he didn't have any alliance to the new werewolf pack leader and he was wary about interfering with Downworlder politics, a life spared from the evils of the world was always a win in his books.
After Magnus had settled Luke into the guest room across the loft in order to recuperate post-near-fatal wounding, and Clary had excused herself to speak to him before she too followed Simon and Jace's earlier farewell and raced out of the loft like she was on a mission.
Normally, Alec would care what the troublesome girl was off to likely screw up next, but he found himself ignoring his usual ambition to minimize any potential damage and deciding that someone else could clean up everyone else's messes for once.
Instead, he hung around Magnus, cleaning up the blood from the leather couch with the remnants of Luke's torn shirt. He wasn't sure if Magnus even owned cleaning supplies.
Sure enough, Magnus made a comment about being able to use magic to tidy the mess, but Alec reminded him of his intense exertion not long before and hesitantly accepted the drink Magnus offered him.
It was quite strong, making him grimace at the taste as it burned down the length of his throat, but he kept drinking it anyways. He usually wasn't much of a drinker, but he'd had a shitty enough day that he'd make an exception.
And then of course his mother called and he was reminded of all the things he was trying to forget. Including the way Magnus was hinting at something growing between them that he wasn't ready to face.
A part of him wanted to say yes. Wanted to keep going with the rebellious drive he had alight inside, but it was so much more than just disapproving parents he had to worry about. He wasn't sure he was prepared to tackle everything that came with admitting what it all would mean.
And Magnus seemed okay with that. Seemed to understand his inner turmoil. As much as he was flirty and playful, he also backed off when he sensed Alec getting spooked, and he made it clear he wasn't pressuring him.
For that, Alec was grateful.
And he supposed that was why he ended up agreeing to a second drink.
"See, I told you I'd find a drink that you'd like. Some things just take experimenting." Magnus teased, sipping at his own martini and smiling at Alec fondly from the rug in front of the couch. He had taken to sitting on the floor, taking samples of the food he had conjured up for them to enjoy while Alec sat stretched out on the couch.
Alec rolled his eyes, but his smile was goofier than usual, as the alcohol was now buzzing warmly under his skin.
"I should've had more faith in you." Alec said in mock-sombre tone, drinking more of the bourbon staining the bottom of his glass.
His phone buzzed again, but he feigned ignorance, knowing it was just his mother again. He wasn't one to defy his parents, always the rule-follower, but he needed a night off from being the model son. And he had already told Izzy he would be home late. Worst case scenario, Jace would be able to reassure their mom that he was fine, since anything otherwise and his parabatai rune would let him know.
So Alec didn't let it bother him. If his parents felt they had a right to dictate his life, such as setting him up with a politically beneficial arranged marriage for the sake of the family name, well, he could have drinks with a warlock for one night.
Alec hadn't been sure how the night would go. After all, he doubted he and Magnus had much in common. Alec had grown up in the institute, following rules, leading demon killing missions, and generally being as straight-laced as could be. He didn't have mundane experiences or wild nights to reflect on. Whereas Magnus had lived for centuries, and, with his dramatic story telling that night backing it up even further, had clearly lived a colorful life.
Yet Alec found himself enjoying the other man's company immensely. The intrigue he felt towards the warlock after meeting him only grew as the night went on. He found himself laughing more than he had in a long time, and his humour came out more than usual. Maybe the alcohol helped aid in that, but Alec felt oddly comfortable in Magnus' presence.
It probably helped that Magnus watched him as if he was just as enraptured as he was.
Magnus refilled his glass with a flick of his wrist and Alec watched in fascination as the liquid appeared out of thin air.
"That's so weird to see." Alec commented, pulling his glass so it was in line with his sight, as if studying the contents would explain the magic he witnessed. "I've only ever been around warlocks in battle. Or ones doing healing. But random, every day kind of magic is… cool."
Magnus chuckled. "I'd be happy to show you more any time. I forget that, despite your involvement in the Shadow World, you still have only been exposed to so much."
Alec sipped at his drink, brow furrowed as he got lost in his thoughts once again. What else was he missing out on? What else could warlocks do? He didn't really know much about them, besides that they could be a terrifying force to be reckoned with so you better damn well hope you don't piss one off. Usually the mission plan when a warlock came on the scene was to get out of there as soon as possible. Runes may be able to make Shadowhunters perform better and give them extra skills, but the angel blood wasn't a replica of magic. And warlock magic was unpredictably intimidating, especially with as little as they knew about it.
"You're cute when you're thinking hard about something." Magnus drawled, sly smile resting on his lips.
Alec predictably reddened. Even the alcohol couldn't save him from his own awkwardness, so he started to try to say something, but his stuttering was all he could choke out so he quickly shut his mouth.
He didn't understand why Magnus seemed so charmed by him. He was awkward, socially stunted due to being raised at the Institute and not seeing much outside of the building besides demon killing missions. It wasn't exactly a place for growth outside of skills. And he never really outgrew his shyness, since he spent most of his time with people he was closest to. Getting to know new people and be comfortable with conversation was a strange experience. He much preferred knowing what to expect.
He didn't even know if he was conventionally attractive. He figured he must be, since Jace always teased him about the odd female Shadowhunter group whispering about them, but Alec always noticed their eyes dart to his parabatai. He was the one who attracted attention, who stood high with confidence and was perfectly comfortable with being flirty and using his charm to get his way. And Izzy definitely turned heads. Alec had sent many scowls at the drooling men that watched her walk by or kick ass in the training room. If he went up against them in the next duel and added a few extra bruises than was necessary, so be it.
Magnus shuffled over so he was sitting in front of him and slipped his hand in Alec's, causing him to startle in surprise.
Looking up to see his face, Alec spotted the roundness of his eyes and the way the frown drew down his entire face.
"What's wrong, Alexander? You look troubled. Is something on your mind?"
Alec shook his head immediately. "I'm fine."
He didn't move his hand away from Magnus', oddly enjoying the warmth in his own. His gaze dropped to watch the way Magnus' thumb rubbed an arc across the back of his hand. He wondered if Magnus was even aware he was doing it.
His eyes narrowed in on the dark colour adorning Magnus' nails and he picked up their joined hands to inspect it further.
"Do you use magic to paint your nails? Izzy says it's a lot of work to get them right."
Magnus laughed. "Sometimes. I've had a lot of practice though, you know." he teased with a wink, leaning back against the front of the couch and letting Alec play with his fingers, checking out each nail. "You don't think it's weird? That a guy wears make-up and nail polish?"
Alec didn't take his eyes off their hands. "Not really. It looks pretty."
Magnus smiled and felt himself relax further. He was surprised by the answer; Alec didn't seem like he was comfortable with things diverging from the societal norm. The society, of course, being the Shadowhunter realm. Magnus was an anomaly in a place like the Institute, but for some reason, Alec didn't seem to think so.
Alec piped up again. "Were you there when they invented nail polish?"
"Well, there's a lot of history to it, and most say that it was invented long before I was alive and used in other countries like China first. But the introduction and marketing into North America I was there for, since that was the 1900s."
"Cool." Alec said, finding himself grinning. "You must have seen a lot of things invented."
"I did. Also a lot of magical innovation come to life."
"Really? Like what?"
Always one to quell a curious mind, Magnus began a long story about an experiment adventure with Ragnor Fell that left them seeking ingredients for a potion across the world. It was harder then, when they had seen less of the world so portals didn't come as easily. The ingredients weren't easy to obtain either, and the potion was one of their own invention, so there was the added risk that it would all be for naught. But they had done their research and had a lot of motivation, so it ended up being successful in the end.
Alec found himself tuning in more to the honey sound of Magnus' voice than the retelling of the tale, and soon was lulled into a peaceful slumber, body going lax on the leather cushions.
His hand never left Magnus'.
Magnus felt himself losing his audience, and sure enough, he looked up to see Alec's chest rising and falling at an even rhythm. His eyes were closed, his hair splayed across his forehead, and his face at a peace Magnus hadn't seen on it before.
His few interactions with Alec made one thing clear—he had an ability to get too caught up in his own head. So to see him with his mind at rest was refreshing. And he was even more beautiful than Magnus had anticipated.
Unable to help himself, he teased the raven hair back and watched it flop back into place almost instantly. Alec didn't stir in the slightest.
Magnus could feel his body begging him to join the slumber party, but he knew he should wake Alec and remind him that he had an Institute to get back to. He hadn't missed the frequent calls Alec had been ignoring. He only hoped that Alec wasn't solely there to stick it to his parents.
The insecure part of him, the one that was fueled by Alec's avoidance of his gaze and short remarks, had him worried for that. But tonight had been eye-opening too. Lowering Alec's inhibitions with alcohol had certainly helped them get to a more comfortable place. Magnus enjoyed his company, the way his interest peaked instead of extinguished when it came to learning more about his warlock side, the rapt attention he gave Magnus any time he was speaking, the gentle brush of his touch when he was brave enough to reach out.
Magnus didn't know what was happening to him. He wasn't supposed to be falling for anyone, much less a Shadowhunter. Not since Camille…
He wasn't going to dwell on her. He had told himself he didn't need love; it had never been an easy thing to have and keep. His track record hadn't been great, and it didn't seem to improve with age.
But Alec… Alec's soft smile he tried to hide. The ringing sound of his laugh. The way his skin crinkled around his eyes when he really let go and laughed.
He couldn't be falling for Alec Lightwood. Not when he was a straight-laced Shadowhunter who was unbearably stubborn and buried under his own internalized homophobia that had been forced upon him by the powers that be. It would never work. Not when he was part of a powerful Shadowhunter family. Not when he refused to admit to being himself.
Magnus' eyes drifted back to Alec's sleeping form, and his heart melted once again.
He was so smitten.
Which meant he was so doomed.
The sunlight peeking over the horizon and casting shadows across the tall buildings was what caused Magnus to wake in the early morning.
His body felt like molten lead had filled his veins. Every move was heavy, making him want to sink further into the couch he was sprawled across.
But he managed to sit up and wipe the sleep from his eyes. It made him realize he had forgotten to take off his make-up the night before, so he grumbled as he cleared the old and applied new make-up with a wave of his hand.
The pathetic spark that faded from his hand after he was done reminded him why he was so exhausted. His magic had been wiped pretty spectacularly the night before. He needed a lot more sleep and maybe even some remedial potions to help get him back to his usual glory.
Magnus suddenly spotted the man on the opposite couch.
Alec was still sleeping.
Magnus had halfway expected him to wake up in the middle of the night and bolt out of there. But maybe he had been too exhausted. After all, Magnus drained his strength pretty well too.
He hadn't planned on falling asleep. He was sure Alec hadn't intended to stay the night either. And despite the nonsense his Downworlder friends would no doubt throw his way if they ever heard of the impromptu slumber party, he knew it would be nothing compared to what Alec would endure. The Clave was not a fan of the Downworld, and it definitely wasn't a fan of him.
Magnus stood. It was still early. Alec could likely share a coffee with him before he ran back to the Institute. They may not have even realized he was gone all night yet.
Making sure his appearance was more than favorable, Magnus conjured up steaming hot coffee and placed a mug in front of Alec on the coffee table.
"Cream or sugar?"
He tried not to coo at the confused frown Alec sported before he bolted upright.
"Did I fall asleep?" he asked, noting the sunrise colors painting the loft.
"We both did." Magnus admitted, sitting next to him with his own mug, but Alec immediately leapt to his feet like he was burned.
So much for progress.
"On separate couches, never fear." Magnus added, a little more peeved than his previous light tone.
"I should never have taken you up on your offer for drinks." Alec said quickly, his anxiety settling into his features as he paced back and forth.
Magnus tried not to feel hurt, but it still snuck under his skin and cut into his chest. He knew it was just Alec's panic talking, the alcohol having worn off and now being faced with the daunting concept of returning to the Institute after his rebellious evening.
"In hindsight, liquor may have been a bad idea after I drained all of my magic to heal your friend Luke."
"He's not my friend." Alec cut in immediately. "He's Clary Fairchild's. I've known her five days and she's already more trouble than she's worth."
The bitterness in his tone was stronger than ever, but Magnus only watched him intently.
"You're more than just a pretty face, aren't you?"
As expected, Alec looked utterly bewildered. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Only someone like Alec would take offense to such a comment.
"You shared your strength with me to help your friend? It's rare to find a Shadowhunter with such an open heart."
Alec swallowed, absorbing his words. He paused from his spot near the door, not sure how to explain the complicated feelings he had yet to analyze.
"I trust you. I don't know why, but I do." he admitted.
It was the truth. After all, it was one of the reasons why he had come running when he asked. And why he had said yes to drinks instead of going for a walk in the city to avoid going home.
It was getting lighter out. He couldn't waste any more time.
"What time is it? I have to get back to the Institute."
Magnus' usual flirty smile was back. He clearly enjoyed Alec's comment about trusting him.
"Stay for breakfast. I conjure up a mean Belgian waffle."
"No." Alec retorted immediately. He couldn't give Magnus the wrong idea. Not again. Last night was an accident. "And if you let anyone know I slept here last night…" he added for good measure.
"Relax. My reputation is on the line just as much as yours. I would lose all my credibility if I let my people know I let a Shadowhunter spend the night."
Alec hovered by the door, confusion settling on his features. "Then why'd you let me sleep here?"
Magnus looked wistful, a half-shrug on his shoulders. "Trust makes you do strange things. Must be something in the air."
Before his words could sink in too much, Alec turned on his heel and left out of the door without looking back.
It wasn't until he was walking briskly through the throng of mundanes in the street that he reached up to wipe the stray water that slipped from the corner of his eye.
If only last night could have been something different than a mistake.
Things didn't seem much better back at the Institute. Apparently his dad had been looking for him to fill out some large stack of paperwork he had procrastinated on by skipping coming home the night before, and Izzy was sending him knowing looks like she could see into his soul, which was aggravating. Her pointed statements were only making Alec's head spin even more.
But his denial to his sister made it obvious how much he was keeping buried. That nothing had happened. It was just a business thing. There was nothing to tell.
But Alec wished he could give in and tell Izzy things like she wanted him to. Like the sparkle in Magnus' eyes when he started exuberantly telling a story and how the details he wove painted such a clear picture. How he constantly used his hands when he talked, so much so that at one point he knocked something off the coffee table and they both dissolved into laughter for a good few minutes. How much he could shut off his brain when he was around Magnus and just take a breath.
The memories made his guilt eat at him further, and he slipped into his room after submitting the completed paperwork to make a phone call.
"Alexander? Did something happen with Luke?"
Alec bit his lip. Of course Magnus would assume he was calling out of duty rather than socially.
"No, no, he's fine. Everyone's fine. I was calling to talk to you."
"Oh, well that's even better." Magnus said, voice immediately warming. Alec felt his heart pick up speed at the sound, hearing the smile on the other end of the line and the memory of the sight was enough to make his own form.
"Look, I…" He should've thought out his words better before calling. He was never good at speaking, especially when feelings were involved. "I… I was rude to you this morning, and I wanted to apologize."
There was a poignant pause at the other end of the line. "It's all right, Alec. I know it was an unexpected place to wake up."
Alec pinched the bridge of his nose, even the memory of the morning making the anxiety lick its way along his skin. "I just panicked… I knew my parents were looking for me to talk about their new plans for my future, and Jace was going to try to drag me to help Clary with her next crises, and Izzy was being roped into plans by my parents too… It just all came back at once and spending the night anywhere besides the Institute is a huge breaking of rules unless on a mission and I was already in trouble for ignoring my mom's calls…"
"I understand, Alexander. I forgive you. I know you weren't upset with me so I didn't take offense."
Alec exhaled slowly. "Are you sure? You're more angelic than any Shadowhunter I know if you really aren't going to hold my bad manners against me."
"Ah, don't be so quick to dismiss yourself. You're quite angelic when you sleep. Minus the snoring."
"Wh-what? I don't snore!" Alec practically shouted, mouth agape.
Magnus laughed, the sound tinkling through the phone line. "Whatever you say, angel."
"You're horrible." Alec grumbled, pout on full display now.
"Then why are you calling to make sure my feelings aren't hurt?"
Alec hesitated, not sure how to approach the subject.
He became serious again. "I… I did have fun last night. I enjoyed spending time with you."
"As did I."
He let out a breath he didn't even realize he was holding.
"Wh-what… um, what do you want? With me?"
Alec closed his eyes, hating his awkwardness for making him less than eloquent.
"I want to get to know you more. If you're willing."
"I am. But I just…"
Magnus interrupted this time, tone soft. "I know. You can take whatever time you need. I'm not getting any older, remember. I'll be here for you, when you're ready."
Alec didn't know what to say, so many words ready to spring off his tongue but something stronger blocking their motion.
"Thanks for calling, Alexander. Let me know when you decide what you want."
And with that, he hung up, and Alec was left standing in the middle of the room with a quiet phone line.
"I just want you." he whispered into the silent device, the ache in his chest almost too much to bear.
But that was just another thing he'd have to bury. Another feeling he'd have to treat like a mistake.
So Alec shut his mouth and walked out of his room with his head held high, swallowing the lump in his throat once more.