There are three things that should be known about Alec Lightwood.
The first was that he was both brilliant, and brilliantly loyal.
The elder Lightwoods had always wanted a brilliant son, and they wanted nothing less than brilliance from their eldest. An old family that could trace their roots back through the generations, it was expected that Alec should have a career to suit. A Doctor maybe, or a Lawyer. Something with prestige. There was very little to put a damper in their plans for a very long time. Alec was a studious boy, who excelled in school. Everything from English to Math to Science and Language, he tackled with apparent ease. He worked hard, and both facts and rules were easy for him to understand, comprehend and apply.
At least, there was very little to put a damper in their plans until Alec was nineteen, and his mother caught him making out with Henry Blackthorn’s son at a fancy party. That had dashed their hopes of moulding their son into exactly who they wanted him to be, because gay was definitely not on their master plan.
The second thing was that Alec Lightwood was perennially single.
It wasn’t that he’d never dated - obviously he had some experience if his mother had caught him kissing Julian Blackthorn by a water fountain. In fact, his first experience had been at sixteen, with Daniel Stravinsky after hockey practice - a sport Alec had only ever participated in because Jace wanted him to. But still, he had to thank Jace for that coercion. It had gotten him somewhere.
There’d been a slow but steady string of boys ever since. Boys he flirted with, boys he went out on a date with, boys he even had sex with. But nothing seemed to last. It all felt superficial to Alec, like he was skimming the surface of his hopes and desires, but never quite finding anything that could go further. Last longer, touch the part of his heart that was hidden away to all but his siblings. He dated, yes, but nothing ever seemed to last much longer than a week or two. In fact, his longest relationship with a boy had been the one who kept coming back to his damn loft because they were convinced his home was haunted.
Which lead onto the third and most important thing.
Alec Lightwood absolutely did not, in no way, shape or form, believe in ghosts.
It wasn’t as if he hadn’t heard the stories. Old Great-Great-Great Aunt Lucy was a Terrible Person who went out and made herself what was fondly called a harlot back in the day. The family were incensed with rage, and when Great Aunt Lucy ended up pregnant, they locked her up in the attic of the church, drowned the baby in the river and more or less left her to rot. The story said that she still wandered, looking for the baby that was so cruelly stolen from her.
Ghost stories told to scare them as kids, and keep them away from things they shouldn’t touch. Nothing more.
The old church building had been more or less derelict until Alec, Izzy and Jace had chosen to build it back up again. It was a big space, so it wasn’t so hard. The ground floor and end of the building was a bright, airy coffee shop, with their own bakery through the back. The rest of the building was living space that the three of them had renovated into apartments, where they still stayed. It was a big, flexible space, that simultaneously gave them the privacy and togetherness they had all wanted. Plus rent in New York was high, and what was the point of moving out when their parents had more or less given them a building to play with?
The attic had never been touched though. It was mostly storage space. Jace and Izzy hadn’t wanted to go near the thing, which Alec had thought was completely and utterly ridiculous. They’d been ranting for the past couple of weeks about it being haunted, which only made Alec groan and wonder why his siblings were as mental as that one ex boyfriend who spent hours in the attic looking for Great Aunt Lucy’s unquiet spirit.
They’d been complaining about shrieking and weird noises. Alec insisted it was the coffee machine. They said stuff moved around. Alec said they’d moved it themselves and been too drunk to remember. There was a weird light in the room - they lived in the middle of New York, weird shit happened all the time. Their business was losing money - well, that was probably due to a business model reason rather than a fucking ghost .
His coffee shop was not haunted. End of story.
Which meant that when he got home one evening after spending the day with Raj and Lydia from college, he found a lot to be upset about.
“You paid how much for what ?”
“We haven’t paid anything yet ,” Izzy insisted.
“No, but Izzy is paying one of them back with a date and probably some really good makeout sessions later,” Jace added. Izzy rolled her eyes, and Alec just looked between the two of them, wondering which of them was crazier.
“You paid the Ghostbusters over $1000 to fix a ghost problem we don’t have !” Alec yelled, trying not to be too mad about it, but it was hard. The business wasn’t making enough money for them to waste that kind of cash. It would pick up again, Alec was sure, but they’d agreed to be careful until then.
This wasn’t careful.
“We don’t have a ghost problem anymore ,” Jace amended, and Alec sighed, exasperated. He threw his hands up.
“You two are crazy.”
“Trust me, we definitely had a ghost problem, big brother.”
“Ghosts aren’t real, Izzy! That story is something Mom and Dad told us to stop us playing with the antiques as kids. Nothing more.” Not that they’d visited the building that much before. But it had never been a stranger. Not unfamiliar. Just… different. They’d made it home, though.
His home was not haunted.
“Tell that to the Ghostbusters,” Izzy retorted, and Alec shook his head.
“It’s an elaborate hoax, playing on people’s paranoia to make some quick cash. And I can’t believe you fell for it. You’re a scientist, Iz!”
“Yeah, and so are these guys!” Izzy insisted, reaching over for the coffee table in their apartment, forcing the book she’d grabbed into Alec’s hands. Demystifying the Paranormal, by Dr. Magnus Bane and Dr. Luke Garroway. Great. Another hoax, only this time hidden behind a bunch of advanced physics that he didn’t understand. “This is real, Alec.”
“A whole room full of people don’t just hallucinate someone screaming , Alec,” Jace encouraged, and Alec shook his head.
“This is New York. It was probably someone in the alley who lost their cat.”
“You know what, if you think so little of all this, you can go to their office and pay the bill. That way you can negotiate the price of the ‘hoax’ down,” Izzy insisted, making air quotes with her fingers.
Which was how he’d ended up here. At an old fire station, resisting the urge to do something rash. He couldn’t decide what that was - either run, or go in there and yell at these lunatics for infecting his siblings with their crazy. It was a close thing. Either way, he wasn’t paying that much money for some magic tricks and a good show.
Deciding to get it over with, Alec pushed the door open. He then immediately stopped dead, because rather than looking like an abandoned warehouse space - as he’d expected - the place looked like an actual, real life mad scientist’s lab. There were random bits of scrap and machinery everywhere, a chalk board with a large array of calculations, and the whole place smelled a little like burned ozone.
There was a receptionist’s desk and a lounge area, but it looked very, very empty to Alec. It was lunchtime, which probably explained that a little. Instead of waiting, he couldn’t help but wander forward, looking at some of the machinery, careful not to touch. There was a wall of guns, something that looked like a steel trap, and lots of scrap pieces littered everywhere that was clearly meant to be part of something bigger. It was completely without rhyme or reason or logic, and all this stuff was probably just lying there so these people could charge more. It was all part of the charade.
Something shrieked to his left, making Alec jump about five feet in the air, knocking a screwdriver from the workbench with a clatter. Looking to the wall he’d been moving along, there was a mirror there. It was glowing a sickly green, and something blue was smashing against it. Was that… hands?
A screen. That’s all. A really nice, high definition screen designed to freak him out.
“You should be careful of that. None of us are quite sure how it works yet.”
A voice came from above, and Alec span on the spot, looking up at the mezzanine level. And there, leaning against the railing, was the most singularly attractive person Alec had ever had the pleasure of seeing.
The media had been talking about the Ghostbusters for long enough, and it wasn’t like Alec hadn’t heard of them. But he’d never stopped for long enough to really examine them. This guy was… exquisite. And did not look crazy. Rather than the uniform, he was wearing a pair of sinfully black pants, combat boots, and a crimson shirt cut deeper than should be allowed. There were necklaces draped over his chest, but from this angle, Alec had a rather enviable view of the man standing up there, dark eyes sparkling with humour, a wry smile curving his lips.
Alec felt his mouth go dry. Shit. This was… what was wrong with him? He was here to yell at these people for tricking his siblings, not to get horny over some crazy guy.
Been there, done that.
“Sorry, there was no one at the desk…” Alec tailed off, and the man waved him off, moving over to the staircase.
“I sent them out for lunch. Maia works too hard as it is, and the rest were quite happy to join her.” Alec couldn’t help but gravitate towards where the man was, watching him descend the stairs with a certain grace that was both natural and ethereal. It was… dammit Alec, focus! “Magnus Bane,” he offered, holding out a hand. “And who might you be?”
“I… uh… Alexander- Alec! Lightwood. Alec Lightwood,” Alec stammered, the contact with Magnus’ hand throwing him off his stride as they shook hands. He’d dated before. He shouldn’t be like this. But God damn, he’d never felt like this about anyone before. Ever. Certainly not so fast, either. This was attraction on a whole new level. Alec inhaled deeply, steadying himself, and Magnus smiled.
“Alexander. Lovely to meet you,” Magnus replied, and Alec felt that he meant it. “You’re from that charming little coffee shop, right? I believe I met your siblings.” Alec nodded slowly, withdrawing his hand as if that would help him regain his focus.
“They sent me to settle the bill actually,” Alec explained. Magnus nodded, beginning to head for the desk. Before he could get two steps, though, his mouth started moving again. “I told them you were overcharging, though.”
Shit. Sure. Insult the hot guy, Alec. That’ll really improve your chances of asking him out later.
Magnus span on the spot, eyebrow raised in question. “We overcharge for removing a malevolent Class IV spirit from your attic, rescuing your business, making your customers feel safe, and risking our own lives in the process?”
“I… We’re not haunted.” Alec said weakly. Magnus snorted.
“Well, no. Not anymore. You’re welcome,” Magnus replied sardonically, and Alec shook his head.
“Ghosts aren’t real. This is all just some big… scheme. Right?” Alec insisted, and Magnus paused. He seemed to examine Alec for a moment, and he didn’t know what it was that Alec found, but rather than heading for the office, he moved in the other direction, gesturing for Alec to follow him.
“You know, I’ve heard it before,” Magnus started. “I used to be a professor at Columbia. People called my theories crazy, and when I refused to let them go, the Dean had me fired.”
“I’m sorry,” Alec said immediately, and Magnus shook his head, making a dismissive gesture.
“I’m not. Firing me gave me the chance to do this. And given we saved a good portion of the city not that long ago, I’ll take that any day,” Magnus said plainly. “This kind of thing… it comes with belief. Luke always believed, and we’re just fortunate his daughter and her best friend are so adept at all this. You can’t force someone to believe in something they can’t explain. They’ll always look for the trick, the wires holding everything up, the mirrors creating the illusion. Sometimes, though, Alexander, there aren’t any.”
Magnus reached for something on one of the workbenches, tossing it in his hand before passing it to Alec. Alec turned it over in his hands, examining it. It was a seemingly innocent metal box, with a button on the side. Alec eyed it suspiciously, before glancing back up at Magnus.
“Go on. Open it,” Magnus encouraged. Alec wanted to put it down, to insist Magnus was crazy and run away. But he didn’t want to. Magnus sounded like he knew what he was talking about. He was smart, Alec could tell that much. Maybe as smart as his sister. Why would someone that clever believe in something so ridiculous, if there was nothing to it?
Alec pressed the button, and immediately a blue wisp of light floated out, dancing around the room. The air went cold, and Alec saw his breath mist the air. It floated around Magnus, before chasing around Alec, brushing his neck. It was a moment or two before Alec heard them. The voices. The whispers. ‘He’s pretty.’ ‘He looks nice.’ ‘Clever too.’ ‘He’d fit well with that one.’ ‘Think of all the things they could do, I think he’d look pretty lying on a desk with someone’s-’
Magnus reached over, grabbing the box and pushing the button again. The light immediately vanished. “Your basic Class I. Pretty innocent, really, but more of a bother than anything. Caught that one in an old strip club. It’s a hair salon now, was driving the owners crazy.”
Alec swallowed, nodding momentarily, before shaking his head.
“It’s just… lights and speakers and tricks.”
“I would never attempt to deceive you, Alexander,” Magnus promised. And somehow, Alec believed him. He didn’t know why - there was no reason for it. Alec trusted so few people. His family were his everything, and everyone else had to work hard for a spot in his heart. But Magnus… Magnus was different.
“How about this?” Magnus spoke again, placing the box aside. “Come out with me, for one night. If I can’t convince you that ghosts are real, then you don’t have to pay me a thing.”
Was there money involved? Oh yeah. The bill. That bill. The one he’d come to negotiate.
Why did he feel bad now?
“It’s just, the business has been struggling, we can never seem to get anyone to stay for long and-”
“That’s because you were haunted, darling. But it’s okay. I’ll make sure everyone knows about your little café, if you like. Just go out with me.”
“Wait… when you say go out do you mean…. Ghostbuster-ing or… go out ?” Alec asked, resisting the urge to facepalm at his inelegance. Magnus chuckled.
“Why can’t we do both?”
Christ, this guy actually wanted to go out with him? That was… incredible considering how completely rude he’d been so far. Alec flushed a little, smiling softly.
“I’d like that.” Alec paused. “I’m sorry for the skepticism I just-”
“You’re a traditional guy. You’re practical. Like things you can touch, see, prove. I understand completely. But not everything is that easy.” Magnus smiled, stepping a little closer, closing the space between them. “We could be, though.”
“I… You don’t-”
“No commitments. Just some fun, if that’s all you want,” Magnus cut in. Alec exhaled. Usually a little fun was all he wanted but Magnus… Magnus felt different. Fundamentally, wholly otherworldly. And for the first time, that alien-ness didn’t feel bad .
“Let’s just take it one step at a time,” Alec suggested. Magnus’ face fell minutely, in a way most people probably wouldn’t notice.
“Of course. I can be a lot to handle. You know, most people call me insane by-”
“You’re not insane,” Alec cut in. “And you’re not a lot to handle. You’re just… different.”
“I think so.”
There was a fluttering moment of something between them, stood close in the middle of that lab. It was a moment that seemed to last for an eternity and a moment all at once, and just as Alec was thinking about doing something rash, there was a clatter as the door opened, and four people bundled inside. They all seemed to pause as they caught sight of Alec and Magnus, promptly turning towards the office. But it didn’t matter. The moment was gone.
“So I’ll see you at eight tonight, then? If that suits?” Magnus offered, and Alec nodded. Magnus smiled. “Then I look forward to it.”
“Me too,” Alec said, surprised to find he meant it.
He was going on a ghost hunt. And for the first time, that sounded a lot like fun, rather than the insane fictional nonsense he’d always thought it was before. The only new thing there was Magnus. Magnus, who still made his heart flutter a little when he thought of him.
Alec was screwed. And somehow, he didn’t even mind.