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Well I Guess This is Growing Up

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Alec Lightwood experienced his first real heartbreak at age twenty.

He should've known it would come at the hands of Magnus Bane.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Then again, maybe he'd always known, deep down inside, hidden away. Hell, the first thought he'd had when he'd initially spotted Magnus across the courtyard during a tour of Alicante University was oh fuck. And when he'd properly met the man a few months later, that same expression flitted through his head.

Yeah, Alec had been well aware from the beginning that Magnus would be dangerous, would flip his world on its ass and change it. He just had no clue how much or how badly.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec's parents were both high-priced defense attorneys and were both ultra-conservative republicans. Meaning they were homophobic as hell, despite claiming the contrary. "We don't have a problem with gay people" was usually followed by comments over how they shouldn't be allowed to raise kids, get married, show their love in public. A character on their favorite show was rumored to possibly be gay and his father declared the program "ruined". A famous actor came out and his mom muttered about what a shame it was. Any love scenes between same sex couples were branded as disgusting.

They never flat out said it was a sin or talked of violence against the queer community or anyone within it, but degrading comments were constantly made against them. Alec remembered with excruciating clarity a dinner time conversation over one of his mom's partner's daughters coming out and bringing home a girlfriend, what a waste it was that a girl like that would never be a good housewife to a successful husband, how hard it would be for her from then on out. She then went on to say she hoped none of them were gay, looking each of her four kids in the eye as she said it. Alec had simply nodded while digging his nails into his thighs. His sister Isabelle had shot him a sympathetic look when she was sure their parents weren't paying attention.

He'd been nearly fourteen at the time and had vowed he'd never come out, terrified of his parents' reaction. And he didn't, not for another five years anyway...

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alicante University was located in Idris, a midsize town in upstate New York. It was far enough away from his parents' home in NYC to give him freedom to breathe, yet close enough to keep in touch with his younger siblings.

His parents had both attended the university, had even met there and married upon graduation. He'd been raised under the expectation that he'd get his degree there also, head to law school, follow their footsteps, and meet a nice girl along the way.

Alec didn't have the heart to tell them he didn't want to be a lawyer any more than he wanted to be straight.

~*~*~*~*~*~

His younger brother Jace was adopted.

It wasn't a deep dark family secret that caused a huge family drama when it'd been revealed. It was obvious to anyone who looked at them and saw the Lightwoods with their dark hair and dark eyes, then Jace with his blond hair and heterochromatic eyes. Even if they weren't physically different, it had never been a secret to begin with.

Alec had been nine, Izzy eight, when their parents had sat them down and told them about their father's old college friend Michael Wayland, about how he'd recently died in a car crash, about his eight year old son that was now orphaned and the will that had given guardianship to Robert Lightwood. The two children were asked to make nice, to welcome him into their home, to be patient as this little boy had just had his entire world ripped away and would need some time to adjust.

Turned out, Jace didn't need much time at all. He fit right into their family as though he'd always been there and it wasn't long before Alec was referring to him as his brother, before Jace was calling the Lightwoods "Mom" and "Dad".

It was, however, the night Jace had moved in that Alec had first borne witness to his parents' homophobia, accidentally overhearing them when he'd sneaked downstairs after bedtime for a drink. The two of them had been deep in conversation in the living room, discussing what a shame it was for someone so young to lose their parents, but what a good thing it was that at least now Jace wouldn't be raised in such a terrible environment, how wrong it was for two men to adopt a baby in the first place.

Alec didn't quite understand why the words felt like a dagger in the heart, at the time believing he just felt sad for Jace. It wasn't til later that he realized the words had felt like a personal assault, when he figured out his feelings for Jace had developed to something more than just brotherly.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Jace was Alec's first crush, but Magnus had been Alec's first kiss, first relationship, first anything and everything that mattered. It killed Alec inside when he realized that Magnus wouldn't be his last.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec came out to Izzy and Jace when he was fifteen.

Or rather, Izzy confronted him about his "thing" for Jace, Alec reluctantly confessed to Jace, and Jace had let him down easy with a friendly smile and brotherly hug. Alec bounced back and forth between being glad Jace had been so cool about the whole thing, not getting weirded out by it, and hating the guy for playing it off like it was obvious Alec would have a crush on him, he was Jace fucking Wayland.

Eventually, Alec decided he was relieved that nothing had changed between them. And while he learned the hard way why it was called a "crush", he was glad for it, allowing his feelings to develop into the brotherly love he wouldn't trade for anything.

And true to their promises, neither Izzy nor Jace hinted that Alec was anything other than the hetero son Robert and Maryse Lightwood wanted. It wasn't until he was nineteen and in love with Magnus that Alec finally came out.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec sometimes resented Magnus for turning his world upside-down. After all, if it hadn't been for the guy, Alec would never have come out, his relationship with his parents wouldn't have become so strained, and his heart wouldn't feel like it was constantly ripping every time it beat.

But then he'd remember how he was to blame as well. He'd asked Magnus out in a burst of liquid courage and goading from his friends. He'd made the decision to tell his parents the truth about his sexuality and who exactly "that Magnus boy" was to him. He'd been the one to let Magnus go and not fight to keep their relationship going when the older man had called things off.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Jace turned eighteen when Alec was home from spring break, complete with huge party attended by friends from the various sports teams he was on, his girlfriend Clary, her best friend Simon who had somehow managed to charm his way into Izzy's heart.

But despite the countless acquaintances Jace was surrounded by at any given moment, the night before his milestone birthday was spent just with Alec, the two laying side by side on the latter's bed as they had so many times as kids. Jace brought up the fact that the next day, he'd be an adult and able to look into his original adoption by Michael and Eric Wayland, able to find out who his birth parents were--if he wanted. The two were up until sunrise talking it over, weighing pros and cons, Alec finding it strange the whole time. To him, Jace was his brother and the reminder of different parentage was a dagger in the gut.

Six months later, Jace received an official envelope in the mail from the state. His adoption by Robert and Maryse was now legal and his last night was officially changed to Lightwood.

It wasn't until later, in Jace's dorm room at Alicante U, that Alec and Izzy were told the change of name was more to do with them and their younger brother Max than the two parents. The three of them stayed up til dawn recalling stories of sibling adventures, immediately becoming one of the best nights of Alec's life.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus had been the product of his mother's rape, a fact he shared with Alec six months into their relationship. The words had been quietly confessed in the dark at three am, the two curled up together in nothing but bedsheets and sweat, in Magnus' bedroom of the house he shared with his friends. He followed it up with a further confession of how his mother had tried to kill him when he was eight, how a neighbor had luckily just happened to stop by and save him, how his mother had managed to kill herself in a psych ward awaiting trial.

Alec remembered eight year old Jace showing up at his family's house, how small and scared he'd seemed. He remembered his brother Max and his upcoming eighth birthday next month. He couldn't imagine anyone causing harm to someone so small, so innocent, with their whole lives ahead of them.

He couldn't find the words so he simply kissed Magnus, held him close as they stayed up all night, talking about everything and anything.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec came home for the summer two days after Magnus had left him. Jace returned the all-nighter favor--as he called it--staying up in Alec's room as the brunet cried over the death of his relationship.

Neither of them spoke.

There was nothing to say.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Jace was in love with Clary and Izzy was in love with Simon and he was pretty sure Maia and Lydia were now a thing, though they seemed like they were trying to hide it--or at least hide it from him.

He resented their happiness.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec met Lydia Branwell his freshman year of high school in their shared honors biology class. Despite her blonde hair-blue eyed appearance, she reminded him a lot of Izzy, mainly in the confident way she carried herself, in the way he was both in awe and in fear of her. Being seated at the same table gave them the chance to get to know one another and Alec grew to respect her, as well as develop a friendship that lasted throughout high school and into college. He figured it was their common interests and goals, as well as the fact that they were both closeted.

Lydia had confessed first and Alec felt secure enough to follow. But unlike him, she had plans to eventually tell her parents she was bisexual once she'd graduated high school--or found the right girl, she amended. The shared secret brought them closer, to the point where Alec's parents believed they were an item, and when he told Lydia this, she shrugged and suggested letting his parents believe it. He didn't want to use her like that, but she explained she'd be using him, too, that pretending to date him would make her own parents happy.

The twosome kept up the act until their senior year, when they told their parents the relationship had fizzled and they realized they were better as friends. He still escorted her to homecoming and prom and helped her campaign--and win--student council president, and the tale wasn't exactly a lie--they really were better as friends. Jace and Izzy knew the truth and never spoke a word, Izzy and Lydia even becoming good friends. And when Alec was struck with a pang of guilt over lying to his parents, he thought of their homophobic comments over the years and felt the turbulence in his gut subside.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Lydia and her freshman roommate Maia Roberts were the reason why Alec had met Magnus in the first place but no matter what, he couldn't bring himself to be mad at them for it. It wasn't as though they knew how things would turn out or had even directly introduced them in the first place. And even knowing that it would end, how it would end, Alec also couldn't bring himself to regret any of it or want to do any of it over.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Maia had friends and Lydia had a crush and Alec had a new role as wingman that he needed to fill. Which was how he found himself dragged to a house party at the conclusion of his first week of college classes.

Of course he had no idea how to be a wingman. His only other real friends were his brother Jace, who didn't need any help hooking up with a girl, and Izzy, who he didn't want hooking up with anyone. But Alec knew he owed Lydia for all her help over the past few years so he agreed, unsure of what the hell he was supposed to do.

Other than hang in a corner, nursing the same stale beer out the same red solo cup, like he had at every high school party he'd ever attended.

Turned out Lydia didn't need his help, which worked out, since Alec spent the entire time being distracted by someone else.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus Bane was a junior when Alec was a freshman and was already somewhat of a legend on campus. He'd developed a reputation for throwing extravagant parties, stories flying about that seemed larger than life and had to be exaggerations.

Until you actually went to one of those parties and realized that no, everyone was telling the truth about how over the top they were.

And it wasn't as though the bashes were way out there due to tales of alcohol poisoning, idiots jumping off roofs, this being broken, that being smashed, cops showing and chaos reigning. From what Alec understood, they seemed to be mostly peaceful, just... extravagant.

And once Alec met and got to know Magnus, he learned why.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec always thought Magnus was the sun, shining brighter than anyone or anything else, making his dark world and dark outlook brighter. His hands were always adorned with large rings that caught the light as he gesticulated every time he spoke. His hair featured bright streaks of color: gold when Alec first met him, red and green at Christmas, bright pink over Valentines, a literal rainbow at one point. His clothes were usually decorated with glitter and rhinestones, embellishments in jewel tones and precious metals.

He was the bright spark that lit up Alec's life and Alec should've known that he wasn't a sun, but a comet from a disaster movie: burning hot as he came through and leaving damage behind when he left. But he didn't realize it until it was too late and he was left picking up the scorched pieces of wreckage that had once been Alec's life.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec nearly threw up when he came out to his parents. He put it off until the last hour or so before he had to go back to school during a weekend visit home, knowing it would be better to drop the bomb and leave the destruction behind--as asshole-y as that sounded--rather than having to stew in it all weekend, rather than having to constantly look at the hurt and betrayal on his parents' faces, having them constantly bringing it up.

He didn't tell them about Magnus at that moment, although he wasn't sure if it was better or worse that he didn't. He was told that he was probably just confused after his long relationship with Lydia ended, that he just needed to find another nice girl to date. He also didn't tell them that his relationship with Lydia had been fake, knowing they'd use it as fodder for their own argument and try to convince him to give dating women a chance.

He hid Magnus for a similar reason, knowing his parents would blame his boyfriend for corrupting him or perverting him, trying to convert him over to the dark side or some bullshit like that. Magnus understood why Alec didn't tell his parents about him, letting the younger man do this at his own pace, and Alec fell even more in love with him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

His parents found out about the break-up soon after Alec came home for the summer before his junior year, noting his change in attitude and personality. His mom had been sympathetic, sad that her son was hurting and there was nothing she could do about it. His dad had been happy, relieved, gruffly commenting over how glad he was that Alec was over his little experimental phase and should be ready to start date in a more serious manner now.

In his room that night, Alec pulled his cell out and brought up Magnus' name from his contacts, ready to call and rant and cry over what a homophobic dick his dad was being, only to remember.

He cried in Jace's arms instead.

~*~*~*~*~*~

His parents didn't talk to Alec for nearly a week after he came out and he tried convincing himself it was okay. He had Magnus, he had his friends, he had his siblings, he even had Magnus' friends. He spent every night at Magnus' place, no longer ashamed, no longer afraid of being caught out and word getting back to his parents. Magnus held him close as he talked about how hurt he was, avoided how hurt he was, not promising it would be okay but telling Alec he would get through it.

His mom called the following Saturday night, his dad fast asleep, and Magnus held his hand the entire time, silent and strong by Alec's side. She admitted to not understanding, to not being comfortable, but she was willing to try for Alec's sake, for his happiness. Alec told her about Magnus and she was silent down the line before finally, quietly saying she wanted to meet him.

Alec felt like he could breathe for the first time in nineteen years.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Izzy was physically small but huge in personality, a warrior princess in her own right with a love of knives, a proficiency in hand-to-hand combat, and a strange thing for whips. Jace made the mistake of referring to her as a domme only once and Alec refused to think about whether or not he was right.

When news of the break-up reached her ears, she pulled Alec into a bone-crushing hug and threatened to walk all over Magnus in her new stilettos that had knives for heels. He gave a dry laugh but never gave an actual response. He wasn't sure if he wanted her to or not.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus Bane was the type of guy who knew everyone. He'd once explained to Alec that having been raised in various foster and group homes meant he'd had to learn how to get along with everyone, while also cultivating his own existence and personality. He'd learned to charm various guardians, other orphans or children taken from homes, fellow students, countless adults.

Alec thought he didn't even have to try to win people over, that it just happened naturally. It was as though Magnus had his own gravitational pull, drawing others in--including Alec--with his over the top personality, the way he carried himself as though he hadn't a care in the world. His confidence in himself was enthralling and everyone wanted to be around him, hoping it would rub off on themselves.

God knew it had rubbed off on Alec.

He'd immediately won over Izzy and Jace when they came up for a weekend visit only a few weeks into their relationship, despite Izzy's constant declarations to Alec that no man would ever be good enough for her big brother and Jace's statements of violent threats if the guy wasn't cool enough. Alec wanted to think the fact that Magnus had given the underage teens alcohol was part of it but he knew it wasn't the truth. To know Magnus was to adore him and Alec adored him the most out of everyone.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The tipping point that started Alec on his roller coaster college experience could be blamed on Maia. She was the one who'd suggested they go to Magnus' party that first time, then a second time. She was the one shoving shots in Alec's hand. She was the one telling Alec to just "hop on that thang already" in reference to Magnus. And she was the one who'd shoved him, half-drunk and stumbling, out her dorm room and towards Magnus, threatening to burn his favorite sweater if he didn't ask the guy out.

Granted Lydia wasn't much help, backing Maia up at every turn in a way that made him wonder if she was looking out for Alec's best interests or hoping that taking Maia's side would endear her to her new roommate and crush.

Neither one of them had counted on Alec simply grabbing Magnus' face the second he opened the door and kissing the shit out of him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Lydia came out to her family as bisexual just after high school graduation, as she always said she would. Alec spent dinner that night listening to his parents rant about bisexuality not being a valid sexuality, how it was a cover for being confused and an excuse for slutty behavior. They mistook his silence for upset that he'd suffered three years of dating a deviant such as her, his father blindly reassuring him that he was lucky he got out when he did, his mom patting his hand and saying it was okay because he didn't know any better.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Dating someone well-known on campus meant you became well-known by default. And while most of the student body might not have known exactly who "Alec Lightwood" was, they recognized his face as "Magnus Bane's Boyfriend". It became as much a part of his identity as his black hair and brown eyes and B-neg blood--a fact that led to many a joke--to the point where at the start of his sophomore year, he was responding to cries of "Magnus' Boyfriend!"

His abysmal high school social circle of his siblings and Lydia grew, now including Maia and her on and off boyfriend Jordan Kyle, Magnus himself, and his close friends Catarina Loss, Ragnor Fell, and Raphael Santiago. A theater major, pre-med, classic lit, and business, none of them should've been friends and yet they were as tight as Alec was with Izzy, Jace, and Lydia. And the three of them welcome Alec into their fold--and their house, all of them living with Magnus, despite none of them seeming the party type--and for the first time ever, Alec's phone had multiple contacts and was never silent for longer than an hour or so.

His friend groups even intermingled. Maia began bar tending at Magnus' parties. Catarina had many discussions with Izzy about her own upcoming college life and what path she wanted to take. Izzy's boyfriend Simon Lewis was pulled in and began pestering Raphael with business talk and rambles over whether he wanted to pursue an accounting degree like his mom said. Jace talked to Ragnor about old books he loved, a fact he usually kept hidden to not betray the jock persona he'd cultivated. Even Jace's own girlfriend Clary was brought into the fold, discussing art with Magnus.

Alec was happy as hell that everyone was getting along, that they blended so well. His life felt fuller, richer for the people in it and the love they shared amongst the group. It didn't occur to him at the time that a break-up meant losing not just a boyfriend.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The first day of his junior year, Alec spotted Raphael at the campus store, the other man now a senior, both picking up books they still needed. Alec had raised his hand in greeting, small smile on his face. They hadn't been exceptionally close but Alec figured maybe they'd still be friends of sorts, since Raphael's had all graduated months prior.

Raphael just gave him a blank stare before turning on the heel of expensive boots and walking out the store, the books he hadn't paid for deposited on a random shelf and left for some poor employee to put up. It was then that Alec realized he hadn't heard from Catarina or Ragnor since spring either and his small world felt smaller and colder.

~*~*~*~*~*~

No one called his name anymore. No random strangers stopped to ask him about the next party or thank him for the last one--even though his greatest contributions were generally "Alexander, could you be a dear and please go pick up this random nonsensical item I've rented to go with the theme? Thank you, love." No one yelled out for Magnus' Boyfriend because that wasn't who he was anymore.

And as he stared down at his class list, taking in all his pre-law requisites, he felt an even bigger loss of identity. No Magnus and a major he didn't even want. Alec had no clue who he was anymore.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus was the first person Alec confessed to about his reluctance to go into pre-law. He'd managed to get away with being undeclared his freshman year, but with sophomore registration looming and his parents pressuring him, he had to make a decision. And after their reaction to his coming out, he felt like he'd disappointed them enough.

Things with his mother remained strained but she kept to her word and tried. His dad barely spoke to him and when he did, it was curt, cold, and usually with a thinly veiled insult at his son's sexuality. The last thing Alec wanted was to give them more reasons to hate him, to ruin what progress he and his mom had made in repairing their relationship. Afraid to rock the boat, he did as he'd been told to do.

Magnus had seemed disappointed yet insisted he was just sad for Alec and the fact that he was continuously living his life for someone else. He knew what Alec was afraid to admit, that in the long run, it would hurt Alec more to do what he'd been forced into than what would make it happy.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The July before his junior year, Alec changed his major to education. His mom understood and was proud, even though he wouldn't make as much money--a fact she'd pointed with a wink to let him know it was meant in jest, that she was aware there was more to life than a paycheck. His dad had gotten up and left the room without a word.

Alec overheard him on the phone later on wondering how he'd gone so wrong with his kid, that at least Jace was proving to be a better son, that at least he still had Max and a chance to raise one kid right.

He cried silently into the night, hand clutching his phone and Magnus' contact information pulled up.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec wasn't perfect. He hated alcohol but still got drunk and on some of those nights, when his friends were off wrapped up in each other and he was left alone to drown in his own misery, he fell into the cliche habit of calling his ex. It always went to voicemail and he always forgot what he said, but he always woke up feeling guilty and regretful, knowing he'd spilled his guts and bled all over the messaging service, each one a blubbering mess of heartache and misery and a promise to change.

Magnus changed his number in January of Alec's junior year. Alec took it as a sign that he needed to move on, too.

He didn't.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Izzy believed that Cosmopolitan magazine was the bible. She sang the praises of sex tips, devoted herself to style ideas, followed beauty regiments like they were the Ten Commandments. And according to the almighty writers of Cosmo, it took half the length of the relationship to fully get over someone.

Alec gave her a deadpan look before rolling over in bed, determined to continue his self-imposed exile and not join her for New Years. The last thing he needed was to spend the evening watching everyone around him suck the face off their romantic partner and toast to a new beginning.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec told himself that his mother's sadness was due to her eldest son going off to college and the realization that all her babies would one day grow-up.

He told himself it was due to his being gay and what a disappointment that would be.

He told himself it was upset over her son's heartache and the helplessness of not being able to heal it the way she could a scraped knee.

He told himself it was due to two of her other children heading off to Alicante U and she was getting one step away from an empty nest.

He told himself his father's cold distance was aimed solely at him for bucking every single expectation that had been placed on him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was spring break of his junior year when Maryse Lightwood told her children their father was moving out. The news had been a shock, but looking back it felt inevitable. Alec recalled his mother's sadness and how tight her voice was when she told him everything at home was fine, how glum Max was on the phone as he told his oldest brother about how busy their dad was, always staying late at the office, rarely ever spending time with the only child left.

Later that night after a few glasses of wine, Maryse told Alec that his father had been cheating but she'd forced herself to ignore it, tolerate it, at least until Max was older and moved out. But Robert had gotten his secretary pregnant and would rather be with her than the family he'd built over the past twenty-one years, so he left.

Alec never spoke to him after that. His own pain caused by his father's distant behavior was bad enough. He couldn't tolerate the bastard hurting his mom or his siblings.

After helping her to bed, he called Magnus out of habit, the automated message telling him the number was no longer in service, and he whispered an unheard "I miss you" into the dark.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was sunny and seventy-three and Alec was in a cheerful, celebratory mood after having finished his sophomore exams.

He wished it'd been raining.

The weather shouldn't be perfect when your world fell apart.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus had a friend named Malcolm Fade--that Alec highly doubted was his birth name--who originally grew up in England but moved to New York a few years ago. Alec was never clear how they met, other than it unsurprisingly took place at a party, and over the two years he was with Magnus, he became used to stopping by the house to find Malcolm already there, crashed out on the couch.

The guy was alright, a bit of an airhead and a ditz who was prone to moments of enlightenment and actual deep thoughts, as well as able to perfectly recite poetry written by people who'd died several centuries ago. He wore leather pants and button down shirts, like a rock star pretending to be a business man or vice versa, and was constantly flitting from job to job with no real career goal in mind.

The only solid, clear thing about Malcolm was that he was heartbreakingly in love with a girl who lived across the country in LA. He waxed poetic about her as he sloshed whatever alcohol his cup was full of, cigarette behind his ear and another dangling out his mouth, and Alec sometimes thought she was actually made up, a fantasy created by those proses Malcolm seemed to love.

It wasn't until Magnus showed pictures of a gorgeous brunette named Annabel that Alec realized she was an actual person, mind soon preoccupied by the depths of sorrow that seemed to inhabit Magnus' eyes as he talked about how hard a time Malcolm was having with the long-distance. Apparently the guy wasn't coping very well, hence the constant crashing at Casa de Bane-Loss-Fell-Santiago and Magnus struggled with trying to console his friend, unable to imagine experiencing that amount of hardship. Alec had simply nodded along, absently wondering how he'd deal with it if Magnus suddenly up and moved across the country, only to push the thought aside. It wasn't anything worth lingering on.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec was buzzed when he first met Magnus, half-drunk when he first kissed him and asked him out, a couple shots deep when he went on their first date, and tipsy the first time they fooled around.

He was stone cold sober when he lost his virginity to Magnus and yet he still felt dizzy drunk on eyes that looked like golden whiskey in the low light of the bedroom.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Two weeks after confessing to having a boyfriend, Maryse made the trip up to Alicante U to have lunch with her son and formally meet said boyfriend. His dad was unsurprisingly a no-show and she said he was busy with work, a lie Alec accepted if for no other reason than to kept tensions down for the afternoon.

Looking back, he wasn't entirely sure if she'd been fibbing for his sake or her own.

Magnus dressed more subdued than normal, in nice black slacks, matching vest, and burgundy button-down, clearly remember a passing comment Alec had made about how much his mom loved the color. The rings stayed on his fingers and Alec was glad Magnus wasn't completely giving up his true self in order to fit someone else's idea of what was acceptable.

It took him far too long to realize he was doing that exact thing himself.

Lunch was calm, civil, yet still tense. Magnus was his usual charming self, even though Alec could tell he was trying harder than normal to win over another person. Maryse kept any disapprovals to herself, just as polite as Magnus was, asking all the right questions and not once judging or turning her nose up at any responses she received.

She spent the night at a hotel and when Alec met her for brunch the next morning before she headed back, she was uncharacteristically quiet, as though she was holding her tongue. When Alec asked her to just spill it, she sighed long and held his hands in her own on top of the table and gave him a sad sigh.

"You love him," she said softly and he was just about to ask what was so wrong with that but she continued as though she hadn't noticed his lips parting to argue. "You're growing up and you're in love and I'm gonna lose you. And I'm scared. I'm starting to understand but your--the world, it won't."

She didn't say "your father". She didn't have to. He heard it loud and clear anyway.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Jace, Izzy, Simon, and Clary all started at Alicante U the fall of Alec's junior year. Along with Lydia and Maia, he'd never been surrounded by so many friends at once.

But still, he noticed who was missing.

It was obvious in the way Clary quickly ended phone calls when Alec entered the room or Simon occasionally hid his phone while texting or Izzy spoke of "her friend" while never giving an exact name. It took a few times of this happening before he caught on to what exactly they were keeping from him and after that, he felt a stab in his heart each time.

Eventually he told them that it was okay to be social with whomever, that they shouldn't feel the need to hide a friendship solely for him, that he understood the fact that his break-up didn't extend to the rest of the group and therefore, they shouldn't feel the need to cut ties with anyone. They all gave him sad looks and it felt worse than when they tried to keep anything secret.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec found out about Izzy and Simon by accidentally walking in on them. She'd been straddling his lap, both their shirts gone, his hands fumbling with the apparent quantum mechanics involved with a bra clasp as she kissed his neck. He wasn't sure if he was more pissed that this geek was trying to get his sister naked, or that they were doing it on his bed.

Magnus had been the one to talk him down when Alec called him, reminding him that Izzy was seventeen and past the age of consent and therefore, able to do whoever she wanted. The wording hadn't helped, but eventually, Alec was able to see that Magnus was right and he had to let his little sister do grown up things. He then wondered how the hell he'd managed to survive so long without Magnus' logic ringing in his ear.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec thought a lot about cliches after his break-up. Time heals all wounds. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Out of sight, out of mind. Some of them seemed to contradict the others, seemed to argue the points of them.

He wondered which ones were true.

He hoped it was the ones about moving on, hated that it was the ones about longing.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Whenever something disastrous did actually happen at one of Magnus' parties, Malcolm was usually found in the middle of it. Drank too much and knocked something expensive over. Stood on top of the coffee table and perfectly recited Annabel Lee before falling off it. Managing to wrangle a bunch of drunken idiots and convincing them attack whatever random frat house he decided was his target that month.

The worst was when he'd climbed onto the roof and proclaimed loudly for the whole neighborhood to hear that his next dive was for his precious Annabel, a competitive swimmer at UCLA.

Magnus' house didn't have a pool.

Magnus spent fifteen minutes talking him down, then another two hours listening to Malcolm rant, cry, yell, and despair over his long-distance love, the two locked in Magnus' room. Alec wasn't in there, spending his time on the living room couch talking to Catarina or at the makeshift bar with Maia, perusing a book Ragnor had randomly left behind or pretending to be host by refilling snacks.

Later that night when the reverie was over, everyone had gone home, and Malcolm had passed out somewhere, Magnus had apologized for being absent. Alec had told him it wasn't an issue, he understood, that his friend needed him and Magnus had done the right thing by being there for him. Despite his reassurances, there was still a sadness in Magnus' eyes that he tried to wipe away with a smile and Alec told himself he was just feeling bad for his best friend.

He had no idea that a countdown clock had started, ticking away the final moments of his relationship.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Robert Lightwood moved out of the home he'd bought for his growing family while three of his kids were away at college.

Alec felt bad for his mom and his sister, who had always been a daddy's girl, but didn't miss him. He refused to let the bastard hurt him anymore than he already had.

He heard Magnus' voice in the back of his head saying he was proud and fell asleep with an aching heart.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus met Alec's father and youngest brother seven months into their relationship, when he spent the final weekend of spring break with the Lightwoods. He stayed on the fold-out couch in Robert's office and not once did either one of them sneak off to be with the other in the middle of the night, despite Magnus' playful suggestions that they do just that. Magnus was being polite and respectful and Alec was too afraid.

It didn't occur to Alec until later how much Magnus wanted the Lightwoods to like him, both for his own sake and to make Alec's life easier.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus stayed with the Lightwoods during the last week of July after Alec's freshman year. That time, Alec did sneak down, hands clamped over mouths and moans muffled against one another's skin as they fooled around every night in his father's office. Part of him felt guilty, but the other part of him took a great amount of pleasure knowing he was getting off with another man in an important place belonging to a homophobe.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec got a job his junior year. He moved into an apartment with Lydia and Maia. He practically dove head-first into his studies.

Weekends were no longer filled with parties and week nights not taken up by social engagements. He wasn't lonely, Jace stopping by whenever he needed to get away from Simon or was sexiled and Clary was busy, Izzy waltzing in like she owned the place simply because she could, Lydia and Maia forcing him into tv nights or movie nights, study groups meeting on Wednesdays and customers hitting on him during his shifts at a nearby restaurant.

The forced socialization always rubbed him the wrong way, even before everything, especially after everything. But soon he fell into it and it became his new life, a new way of existing. And not long after that, he found he could actually be happy.

~*~*~*~*~*~

He was dragged out for drinks after mid-terms, Maia now an actual bartender and Lydia using any excuse to be around her, despite sharing a room. Alec couldn't hold it against her, knew he'd been the same way, the thought of which had him throwing back a few too many.

Lydia shoved her phone in his hand to get them a ride home and he stumbled outside and got an Uber lined up. He was dialing a number before he was aware of it and for the first time, the call was answered.

"Hello?"

Alec stopped breathing at the sound of that voice and felt a lump form in the base of his throat that he couldn't quite clear away. "Magnus?"

There was a sharp inhale and the call disconnected.

He didn't hear Magnus' voice after that.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec had always gone by "Alec" for as long as he could remember. His full name was reserved for getting in trouble or for when his parents were being especially serious, and because of that, the sound of it caused a sense of dread to prick at the back of his neck.

But when he heard the sound of "Alexander" rolling off Magnus' tongue, it caused a different sort of shiver to spread up his spine. It always sounded exotic, almost foreign, and always spoken in reverence, even if it was thrown out in every day conversation. And when it left those lips in the throes of passion, Alec swore he felt every syllable, every letter, deep down in his soul.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Joe was completely unremarkable in every way. Average name, average looks, average build, average everything. He was plain, boring, bland blond hair, skin that was neither tan nor pale, dull blue eyes.

The only important thing about him was that he was the opposite of Magnus and that Alec would never see him again.

And because of those two things, Alec fooled around with him one night at the beginning of summer before his senior year.

A couple quick handies in the bathroom of some party he'd been dragged to on Staten Island and it was over.

Alec had gone home almost immediately after and spent the next day queasy from both alcohol and a sense of guilt before deciding it didn't matter. He was single and chances were Magnus wasn't being celibate either.

Still. His heart felt sick and he hated himself. The relationship may have been gone, but his love for Magnus wasn't.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Izzy knew Alec was gay without him even needing to tell her. She noticed, the way she notices everything. She saw the way his eyes lingered a little too long on Jace, the way he paid more attention to cologne ads than Victoria's Secret ones, the way he rejected every female's flirtations when other guys his age were begging for it.

After he officially came out to her, she handed him a small rainbow flag as a show of support, explaining she'd bought it months ago and was waiting for him to make the first move.

He put it in his closet, both to hide it from his parents and as a symbol of where he was at in life.

~*~*~*~*~*~

When Alec came home after his junior year, the small flag was pinned to the wall above his headboard with a note attached from his mom. "I support you <3" was all it said.

He spent twenty minutes crying in her arms over it.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Izzy left a Cosmo magazine at his apartment the beginning of his senior year and as he stared down at the offensive bright pink cover and the cleavage-bearing model, he wondered if maybe she hadn't been right about needing half the time of the relationship to get over it.

He felt a pang in his heart at the thought of ever fully getting over Magnus but was relieved to realize it didn't hurt as much to think about him and what Alec had lost.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus was moving to California after he graduated.

It wasn't a surprise or a big secret. Alec had known this practically since they'd met, when talk of post-college plans were general hopes and dreams and ideas. As his senior year rolled on, those plans became more solid and morphed into actual plans. Magnus would be leaving end of June, with Malcolm, and heading out west.

Alec hated hearing about it, dreading Magnus being so far away, especially as they grew closer and he fell more in love. But he knew this was what Magnus wanted and he refused to be the asshole needy, clingy boyfriend who put a damper on his loved one's dreams.

Sometimes he fantasized about transferring to UCLA for his final two years, about going to law school out there so he could reunite with Magnus and they could pick up where they left off.

The thought still occurred to him, even after the break-up, becoming less frequent as time wore on, until his own graduation grew closer and he realized he couldn't leave his family like that, especially not for someone who didn't want him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Maia had been the first one to try to snap him out of his funk, reminding him in no uncertain terms that Magnus had left him, that it was over, and going through the motions of school life wasn't gonna change that.

He became more social but still didn't date, no matter how many times one of his friends made a comment over how much they thought he'd like this one guy. Dating meant he'd be giving up on Magnus, just like Magnus had given up on him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The summer before his senior year, after Robert had left his family behind, he noted a change in his mom. She was still upset, yeah, but she didn't let it affect her life. She dedicated herself to her kids in a way she never had, spending more time with them, becoming more involved in their lives. They had a barbecue for the Fourth of July, Simon, Clary, Maia, and Lydia all joining, as well as the Lewis and Fray families. Alec couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his mom laugh so often and so loud, blushing when Clary's step-dad mentioned a detective he worked with whose divorce had recently become finalized, offering to introduce them.

Maryse Lightwood went on her first date on August first and Alec realized that if his mom found it okay to move on after a bitter break-up, then it was okay for him to do the same.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Malcolm was to blame whenever something wrong happened at one of Magnus' parties and sometimes, Alec truly believed he was to blame for the end of his relationship, too.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec attended his first Pride event his freshman year of college. Magnus had taken him to a club that held Pride Nights once a month--not nearly often enough, Magnus had repeatedly pointed out--remarking how the company this time would be so much better than the usual dour Raphael.

Soon it became a monthly thing, Magnus temporarily streaking the colors of the bisexual flag in his hair, Alec getting rainbow stripes drawn on his cheeks with Magnus' make-up. On occasion, Raphael would join, wearing his ace tee like armor, as though to repel any unwanted attention--even though Magnus liked to point out his perma-gloom did that on its own.

Alec didn't go to any more Pride Nights after the break-up, despite being out to everyone in his life. It wasn't until his senior year and the bar Maia worked at began hosting its own Pride Nights that he went back to one, she dressed in pansexual colors, Lydia with a tank saying "I go both ways", and Alec in a shirt with a triangle bearing the rainbow flag. It was there that he met George and Alec felt the first stirrings on an actual crush coming back to him.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec once wore a dress when he was twelve on a dare by Jace. Izzy took a picture and liked to threatened him with it, using it as blackmail.

It astounded Alec how men wearing female clothes used to be a source of shame, embarrassment, ridicule. Then he saw Magnus wearing a long skirt and realized how amazing it was--if for no other reason than easy access. It still wasn't anything he himself wanted to wear, yet he couldn't help but love the fact that he lived in a time where it was more accepted for men to wear what they wanted, even things that were traditionally deemed as female.

~*~*~*~*~*~

George Lovelace was studying abroad for the semester and Alec sometimes wondered if that was why he began a relationship of sorts with him in the first place. Of course the guy was gorgeous, thick curly hair, broad build, classic features, and a Scottish brogue that made Alec realized that all those women swooning over Outlander had a point.

Still, the knowledge that the relationship had an expiration date from the get-go gave Alec a weird sense of comfort. Knowing where it was all headed made it feel safer. He could keep his heart to himself, not risk falling and getting hurt when things suddenly fell apart out of nowhere.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a perfect summer day and Alec had grabbed drinks from the coffee stand outside the Lit building before meeting Magnus in the courtyard outside the dorms.

Magnus had said they needed to talk.

Alec never had a mocha flavored anything ever again. The thought of it left a burnt taste in his mouth.

~*~*~*~*~*~

His friends all loved George, especially Simon, who was stoked to have someone to talk Geek with. They became instant best buds, something that caused Alec, Izzy, and Clary to exchange looks and roll their eyes simultaneously.

But George had enough athlete in him to get along with Jace, too, enough smarts to match up to Lydia, enough sarcasm to spar verbally with Maia. Alec occasionally felt a small pang whenever he thought about the last person who'd slipped into their group so seamlessly but never focused on it too long, thankful that that pain had lessened over time as well.

Still, it didn't help when Izzy caught his eyes over those of their friends and gave him a knowing, sympathetic smile like she knew exactly what--or who--he was thinking about. She'd always been a mind reader like that.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Sometimes Alec felt sorry for Magnus and the fact that he didn't have a family. But then he'd see him joking with Catarina, messing with Ragnor, giving advice--most of it unwanted--to Raphael and Alec would realize Magnus did have one. Family wasn't always by blood.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec's final semester of college featured a stint of student teaching at the local elementary school, aiding the gym teacher already there. By the time he finished his hours, he had an interview lined up with the school system for a substitute position.

He was hired that August.

He celebrated with his family and friends and was proud not only of his accomplishment, but the fact that his longing to share the news with Magnus had diminished.

~*~*~*~*~*~

He and George amicably split before winter break, when George had to go back to Scotland. They both knew it was coming yet it still stung and Alec realized he'd grown to care for and about the other man. They exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch, Facebook friend requests having been accepted months ago, and with a bittersweet kiss at the airport, Alec let George go, feeling like the wounds Magnus had made on his heart were fixed up with tartan patches.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec kept thinking about cliches and realized the one about time healing wounds had been the most accurate.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The lease of their apartment ended after graduation so Alec, Lydia, and Maia spent the first two weeks of June fixing the place up so they'd get their security deposit back. Soon after, he moved back home into his mom's place and began finding a place back in Idris to stay at.

The house he found was three bedrooms and he'd been the one to suggest Jace, Izzy, Clary, and Simon move in with him. Maia and Lydia would be staying in NYC as the latter pursued her law degree and the rest of their group were still attending Alicante U. It just made sense to Alec, who wanted his family close and no longer minding being surrounded by couples all day every day.

He learned to sleep with headphones on very quickly though. Cutesy PDA over breakfast was one thing. He didn't need to hear the sounds they made behind closed doors.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Catarina posted a congrats on his Facebook wall the day he graduated. He took the plunge and befriended her. She accepted minutes later. They never spoke but every now and then, she'd hit 'like' on a post he made about any major life developments. He sometimes wondered if she passed the news on to Magnus, then promptly decided it didn't matter. Alec was living life for himself now, not for anyone else.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Facebook was dangerous for the recently dumped and Alec found himself stalking Magnus' page more often than he liked to admit. His Instagram was just as risky but Alec needed to see it, needed to see that Magnus was okay and happy and thriving in LA. Most of the photos were Magnus alone, or with Malcolm and/or a brunette female Alec figured was the infamous Annabel.

It was November first when Magnus was tagged in a Facebook photo making out with a black haired, blue eyed man who looked awfully similar to Alec. He stopped checking his ex's social media sites after that, choosing instead to spend the weekend in bed heartbroken and lovesick.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Magnus once confessed to Alec that he had a fear of being alone, most likely stemming from his formative years being ignored by his mother and then raised in a system full of thousands of other kids. It was why he had the parties, why he constantly surrounded himself with other people.

Alec just pulled him closer and held him tighter in Magnus' bed, kissing his forehead and promising he'd never feel that way again.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec was three beers deep--buzzed but not drunk--the first time he had sex with George. It was a stumbling, bumbling thing and he was honestly surprised he could even slip inside the guy, much less properly prep him.

The lights were off and Alec bit his lip to keep from crying out the wrong name.

~*~*~*~*~*~

His parents' divorce was finalized on the same day Alec took his last college exam ever and his mother celebrated both with a Lightwoods only bonfire in the backyard. She burned her old wedding dress, marriage certificate, and a placard of their vows Robert had commissioned for their one-year anniversary and they all got pleasantly buzzed on expensive champagne--except Max, who was given only a sip and relegated to sparkling grape juice.

When the youngest was settled in bed and the rest had settled around the fire, Maryse admitted that she almost kept the dress and rings to pass down to her kids, only to decide she didn't want to risk them being cursed and bring bad fortune to their relationships. Instead she pawned the rings, bought a two-tier wedding cake and the champagne and decided to celebrate her new freedom and new beginnings.

They all toasted and Alec had never felt prouder of his mom.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec's first two years of employment by the Alicante County School System were spent substituting at whatever school was short a gym teacher that day. Sometimes in a crunch, he was called in to cover a health class, but almost always in those cases, there was a movie he could play for the students.

Teaching elementary was his favorite, the kids running around reminding him so much of his youngest brother at that age, and he envied their innocence, not knowing how shitty things would be for them as they grew older.

High school was the worst due to shameless female students flirting and making thinly veiled lewd remarks. It got worse when he saw them out and about around town while running errands and he found himself wishing that make-up rainbow Magnus used to draw on his face in cheap imitation of a pride flag had been more real.

Then again, he considered as he thought of his dad, maybe it was better to not be as open and risk losing his job. Or worse.

~*~*~*~*~*~

During the first couple years post break-up, Alec would occasionally blame himself for the split, only to blame Magnus and hate him.

The two years after that were sometimes spent wondering if maybe Magnus had been right to end things.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec went out, had a social life, even had a few dates, but nothing was ever serious. It was a shocking revelation when he thought about how his sexual partners now had to be counted on two hands instead of one.

Strange really, considering the fact that at one point, he honestly thought he'd only have one.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Jace proposed to Clary moments after they graduated college and Simon was the only one who objected, mainly because he'd wanted to be the one to pop the question first. Izzy had joked they could always run down to the courthouse and get hitched first and Maryse threatened to skin them both alive if they dared.

Facebook statuses were changed by that night and the next day when Alec scrolled through his feed, he caught sight of a familiar face commenting on Clary's engagement announcement.

"Congrats, Biscuit."

Alec felt the familiar stop-stutter of his heart that always accompanied anything Magnus related and he struggled to catch his breath for a moment.

Then he clicked like.

~*~*~*~*~*~

One of the gym teachers at Idris Elementary was an old guy with severe knee issues, a hip that probably needed to be replaced, and a bad heart. He couldn't keep up with the kids anymore and refused to retire for another two years so he could get the most out of his pension plan, so Alec was brought in full time in an assistant capacity.

He did most of the work while the old fart sat on a chair to the side and "supervised" but Alec never complained, glad to finally have a real job and a steady paycheck and in the place he wanted it to be.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Malcolm sent a Facebook friend request not long after Catarina approved the one Alec had sent her. Alec didn't reply, just let it sit in pending limbo.

Friending Catarina was easy, safe. Most of her posts were about her life at Johns Hopkins or political rants regarding equality for all. Magnus hardly ever popped up on her page and when he did, it was usually in the form of a comment or something he posted on her wall he thought she'd enjoy. Meaning it was easy for Alec to ignore it and scroll past.

But Malcolm was in LA with Magnus, increasing the risk of him being in photos and mentioned in posts. Alec didn't want to jeopardize the progress he'd made in moving on.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec was twenty-five and staying with his mom for the holidays when he spotted Robert in Macy's. A small child was on his hip, beautiful blonde wife--who looked to be Alec's age--by his side pushing a double-stroller with two small babies.

His fingers curled into fists at the sight, at his asshole father with his new family, his other kids tossed aside and forgotten about. And while NYC was large and heavily populated, Robert had to know there was a chance he'd run into someone he'd left behind.

The wife said something and Robert laughed, tickling his son's chin and making him giggle. Alec felt nauseous, bitterly wondering if his father thought it was his second chance to raise kids who weren't disappointments like he'd claimed Alec was.

Part of him wanted to storm over and give him hell but instead, he turned on the heel of his boots and headed to the escalator, leaving the asshole behind just like he'd left Alec.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec and Magnus discussed having kids, both in a general sense, then about whether they'd actually have them themselves. Magnus commented that Alec would make a great father, causing his cheeks to heat up. And seeing Magnus with Max caused an urge in Alec he felt too young to have, deciding the discussion would be better off tabled for another time.

Still, at night, he'd dreamt of a time when he and Magnus were married and had kids of their own, wondering if they'd adopt since Magnus knew what it was like to grow up in foster care. He couldn't wait, naively believing they'd be together forever.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec taught Max how to drive, Jace taught him to shave, and they tag-teamed The Talk. Both made sure their little brother didn't get the chance to miss out on having a father figure around.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was the summer of his twenty-sixth year when Alec finally traveled outside of New York state. He and George had kept in touch over the years and now the Scot was getting married to a man named Jon Cartwright. Alec flew overseas the week of the wedding to join the festivities and wish his old friend the best.

While there, he and George hit a pub, just the two of them, to catch up. George spoke about how great Jon was, how happy he was, how much he was looking forward to married life. Alec began to feel a longing for the same thing, wanting to settle down with someone, get married, have kids.

He just needed to find a guy first.

He studiously ignored a flash of memory involving golden eyes and tan skin.

~*~*~*~*~*~

When he was twenty-six, Alec got his own place for the first time. Nothing fancy, a small one-bedroom bungalow in a decent neighborhood only a short distance from the school he taught at. He loved his siblings but decided it was time for him to get his own space.

Plus living with two sets of newlyweds wasn't his idea of fun.

He still saw them often, Clary most of all now that she was an art teacher at Idris Elementary, and he knew nothing would tear the bond they had. He just needed some space away from people who constantly made him realize exactly how lonely he was becoming.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec spent the night before Jace's twenty-first birthday getting drunk with him--because he'd insisted on one last night of getting illegally plastered and Alec still hadn't learned to say no to his dumb ideas--and realizing two things.

One: he'd spent more of his adult life without Magnus than with him, even though he felt like those two years had helped shape him into who he was and who he was going to be.

And two: he hated tequila.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec tried dating more seriously, hitting Pride Nights at local bars, no longer balking when someone mentioned they knew a guy. He even tried online dating, although he drew the line at any sites that required payment or signing up for extra services that needed a credit card number. He wasn't that desperate yet.

He went on a bunch of dates, met a few nice guys, some of whom became good friends in the community that he didn't realize he'd missed having. He even had a relationship at one point with a guy named Pete that wound up fizzling out when their schedules wouldn't match up.

But he never felt the spark he'd had with Magnus. He wondered if he imagined it, that he was looking back at his first love with rose colored glasses and stars in his eyes, or if it was something he made up of could only feel when he was young and dumb.

Either way he gave himself until the age of thirty to find it again and then he was sucking it up and paying for eHarmony.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Over the years Alec discovered he wasn't a fan of liquor--except in the occasional mixed drink and even then he was choosy--or beer. But he did love wine, making sure to bring a bottle or two when he visited his mom for dinner once a month.

Izzy also happened to be a fan and would sometimes drop by his house with a bottle of red to split, just to chat and catch up--despite the fact that they saw each other often. One night they sat together on the six-by-eight cement patch that he supposed passed for his back porch, drinking, when she remarked on the change in him. He quipped it was because he was finally able to get a full night's sleep but she shook her head no, dark eyes serious and wine stained lips pressed into a flat line.

"You've grown a lot," she explained. "You've finally become Alec."

He rolled his eyes, ready to point out that he'd technically always been Alec, given the fact that it was his name, when she went on.

"That's why Magnus let you go."

The name hadn't been spoken in Alec's presence for years and the shock of it stole his breath and pricked at his chest. At least that was the reason he gave for the reaction.

He didn't say anything, simply turned to stare at his dark and barren backyard and sipped his wine. He didn't need to acknowledge the words or let her think she was right.

Later that night as he tried to fall asleep, he wondered if maybe she really did have a point then shoved the idea aside, knowing there was no point in dwelling on it.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec was best man for Lydia and Maia's wedding, for Jace and Clary's nuptials, a groomsman for Izzy and Simon's ceremony. It occurred to him during all three that he was the eldest out of all of them and the one who was still unhitched.

A thought that quickly became depressing if he focused on it too long.

But he still had fun and enjoyed himself. He gave Izzy away then took his place next to Jace. He made sure Jace's bow tie was on straight and he didn't lose his vows. He held Lydia's flowers as she recited her own promises.

He danced with his mom, with all the brides, with a half-drunk Jace who was crying about Alec being his brother and how glad he was his older bro liked Clary. Grandmothers came up to him and mentioned nice nieces they had and he was comfortable enough in his own skin now that he politely turned them down, asking if they had a nice nephew instead.

Clary mentioned to Alec that she'd invited Magnus to her wedding but he'd had to RSVP "no", unable to rearrange his schedule. Alec gave her a smile to show it was okay that he was invited in the first place, obviously the thing she'd been worried about, then silently tried to figure out how exactly he felt about Magnus not showing.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was by pure chance Alec ran into Catarina at a Starbucks while he just happened to be visiting his mom during the summer break of his twenty-seventh year. He expected awkwardness, an ignored wave, a stifled smile, pleasantries forced out while they both awaited their drink orders.

Instead she asked him to join her as she took a load off and indulged her sweet tooth and he agreed, noting the changes in her. The blue hair was gone, replaced with a subdued blonde. The piercings that had once lined both ears were also missing and her modest scrubs were a far cry from the ripped jeans and leather jacket he remembered being staples of her wardrobe.

Turned out Catarina was a doctor at a nearby hospital in NYC, working the pediatric ward. Ragnor lived with her and was teaching at NYU and Raphael was only a block away. After complaining of long hours, she asked about his life teaching, asked about his family, seeming genuinely interested. The entire time he spoke, Alec felt as though he was catching up with an old friend, rather than his ex's friend, and he remembered why he'd sent her a friend request in the first place.

They chatted for half an hour before she had to head back and she pulled him into a warm hug, rubbing his back with one hand. "He'd be proud of you, you know?" she said lowly and he stiffened in her embrace. Catarina pulled back and held him at arm's length, gaze intense as she stared him down. "Do you ever--" she didn't finish, let it hang, but his mind finished it for him.

"Do you ever think about Magnus?"

"Not as much as I used to, but yeah."

Her smile was soft, fond, and she gave him a kiss on the cheek. "He misses you, too." Gathering her things, she headed out with a wave and a quirked eyebrow, knowing exactly what fuse she snapped in his head.

~*~*~*~*~*~

On his twenty-sixth birthday, Alec headed to the bar Maia worked up and got drunk in a way he hadn't since he was a sophomore in college.

He woke up the next morning with his laptop open to Magnus' Facebook page. The next day was spent balancing nausea with panic as he scrolled through the profile to make sure he didn't stupidly like or comment or anything--thankfully drunk!Alec had enough sense not to.

But drunk!Alec had apparently been a masochist and had saved every photo of himself with Magnus that was still inexplicably on the other man's profile. He considered deleting them for half a moment before leaving them be.

After backing them up on a thumb drive of course.

~*~*~*~*~*~

When Alec turned thirty, he realized he could take the last twelve years of his life and chop them into two-year chunks.

Two years with Magnus.

Two years of college without Magnus.

Two years as a substitute.

Two years working under the old gym teacher and living with his plethora of siblings.

Two years being single and living on his own.

Two years being happily taken and in love before getting engaged.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec Lightwood had his heart broken in the courtyard of Alicante University when he was twenty years old. The memory of the day was forever burned into his brain, each detail another brand that scarred.

The sun on his skin.

The buzz of cicadas and chirping of birds and grateful cheers of students celebrating the end of exams.

The burnt taste of his mocha coffee.

The scent of sandalwood cologne and hair gel and freshly cut grass.

The way the sun glinted off gold rings, matching necklaces, glitter in black strands of hair.

The tightness of black jeans and the fact that Magnus was wearing the same shirt he had when he first met Alec's mom, a few more buttons undone to expose inches of tan skin Alec had loved pressing his lips to.

Magnus talked about Malcolm, the distance from Annabel bringing him down and ruining his life, the fact that he didn't want to do that to Alec.

Alec called him a coward and a fucking liar, said that if they truly loved each other they'd make it work.

Magnus said he didn't want to hold Alec back from living his life.

Alec pointed out life was nothing without Magnus in it, then stopped whatever the other man was about to say, storming off with a final "fuck you".

It took him half a decade to realize they were both right, and both wrong.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Alec Lightwood first spotted the love of his life during a tour of Alicante University.

Twice.

Max was eighteen and on a tour of the campus, accompanied by his mom, older brothers, and older sister. Alec had bittersweet memories of the quad, remembering how he'd first spotted Magnus during his own tour, then how he'd been dumped there two years later.

It was when he glanced over to the fateful bench where he'd had his heart shattered that he saw a familiar face already sitting there, book on his lap, paper coffee cup in his hand. He looked exactly the same as he always had, the same giant rings and golden necklaces, the same colored streaks in his hair and silver cuff on his earlobe. He was dressed in black skinny jeans, black button down with white circles, and a black vest and Alec swore he'd never seen anything more beautiful.

Alec had initiated their first kiss, had asked Magnus out first, had made the first move when they first had sex, and when he asked why, Magnus explained that he never wanted to do anything Alec was uncomfortable with. The younger man appreciated the thought and looking back, was even more glad for it, knowing it helped him develop the confidence he used in the rest of his life.

Remembering that very thing, he told his family he'd catch up then walked over, heart pounding so loud he swore everyone else in the quad heard.

He was a foot away when Magnus noticed his approach, lifting his head, eyes doing a slow drag up before focusing on Alec's face. The golden orbs went wide before crinkling at the corners as a wide grin slowly spread across his face.

"Alexander," he breathed out in pleasant surprise and reverence, the sound causing a shiver to race over Alec's skin at the familiarity of it.

"Magnus," he spoke the name he'd kept behind his teeth for eight years, wide grin of his own on his face.

The book was set aside as Alec sat on the bench with Magnus, the two of them slipping into easy conversation. For Alec, it felt like coming home.