They told him that he had died in the line of duty.
Major Alexander Lightwood, United States Air Force.
Major Lightwood was survived by his husband, Magnus Lightwood-Bane and their adopted son, Max. The devastating night that took away Alexander from his family was the night of his fourth wedding anniversary where he was called for duty in the middle of the celebration dinner. An imminent attack on the American soil demanded that all the forces of the United States Defense come together. Alexander kissed his husband on the lips as the latter leaned on the door, with a little over a year-old Max in his arms.
"I'll be back before you know it, hon. Happy Anniversary", Alec whispered in his ear as he exited.
“Be safe, Major”, Magnus waved goodbye as Alec disappeared into the elevator.
He sighed and shut the door behind him. Of course, it had to happen. The night that Magnus and Alec were supposed to celebrate together. He sat on the couch cradling Max who was playing with the beads that hung on his chest. One of those necklaces happened to be Alec’s gift to him, on their first anniversary. Magnus softly caressed Max’s cheeks who giggled as his father’s touch registered his mind.
“Daddadaddaa…”, he hummed chortling in his arms.
“Your Dadda has gone to do his job. I believe we won’t be seeing him for a few days, Maxie”, Magnus sighed as he pressed a kiss on Max’s plump cheeks. Max grabbed the hemp of Magnus’ shirt and crawled a little on his father. He cooed softly and dropped his head on Magnus’ shoulder gesturing the older man that it was time for Max to go to sleep.
“As you say, little one”, Magnus rubbed Max’s back and rhythmically patted it as Max dosed off to sleep. Magnus walked back to their room and waited for Max to go to sleep. Once he heard little snores coming from his shoulder, he placed Max in the cradle and gave a swing. Max curled in his blanket and clutched his pillow in his tiny hands.
Magnus returned to the balcony where he was welcomed by an anxious Isabelle and Simon.
“Where’s Alec?”, Izzy grabbed Magnus.
“He had to report to the Command center. His Colonel called. Apparently, they need their best fighter pilot to lead this mission."
“On his anniversary”, Simon was appalled.
“Simon, it’s ok. He has to do his job.”, Magnus sighed.
“His team knew that. They fucking knew that it was his anniversary.”, Isabelle shut her eyes in frustration.
“It is his job, Isabelle. He is fighting for the country. We signed up for this the moment as much as he did”
“I know, Magnus…but it doesn’t make it...alright”
“I know…but, it is what it is”, Magnus pursed his lips as he controlled his own emotions. “We love him for all that he is. And that includes his duty to his country. I know how difficult it is, but if we don’t support Alexander, who will?”, Magnus consoled his sister-in-law. Or himself. It was rather difficult to guess.
He had been married to Alexander for 4 years and dated him for the previous three. In his seven years of knowing the love of his life, he had come to terms with the fact that Alec was a soldier and he loved that part of his life as much as he loved Magnus and his family. Every time the Major went for a mission, Magnus didn’t admit but it scared the shit out of time. A soldier’s life was full of difficulties and whenever Alec was gone, Magnus just prayed for his return.
After the guests left from their anniversary celebration, Magnus poured himself a drink and sat down. He checked his phone and there was a text alert from an hour ago from a contact named “Major” with a purple heart.
Happy Wedding Anniversary, honey. I love you so much. I’ll see you very soon – Your Major
Magnus smiled and put his phone aside. He finished his drink and retreated to his room. Changing into a pair of pajamas and a lose t-shirt, he kissed Max goodnight and dropped on the Duvet. Hugging Alec’s pillow which was filled with his scent, Magnus dozed off to sleep.
A sharp cry from the cradle woke Magnus up. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the watch. It was 6:30 in the morning. He got up from bed and hurried to his son who was crying monotonously.
“Max…I am here…Papa is here”, Magnus picked his son up in his arms and pressed him on his chest. Feeling his diaper, which was still dry, he recalled the last meal Max had had and concluded that he was hungry.
“My baby…we’ll go and get some food in your tummy right away…just a few more minutes”, Magnus cradled the boy and ran out to the kitchen to heat some milk. He placed Max in the cradle in the kitchen and boiled some milk. He also made some Cerelac in case Max was not interested in drinking milk.
The little baby was still sobbing when Magnus picked him up to feed him.
“Come on, baby boy…here we go”, Magnus smiled and offered a little Cerelac in a spoon. Max looked at his father and opened his mouth to take the Cerelac in. He smiled and moved his jaw up and down to chew the Cerelac.
“That’s like Dada’s boy. He’ll be so proud of you”, Magnus grinned. Something interested in that statement made Max clap and giggle. “Daddadd…aa”, he chortled making his sleepy father smile. He couldn’t remember how he managed Alec’s absence when they did not have Max. It was such a repelling thought for Magnus. He checked Max’s diaper again and replaced it, just in case. Putting him back in his cradle, Magnus yawned and proceeded to the bathroom to wash his face and start with his day.
His door clicked open at 8am in the morning. It had to be Clary – Max’s babysitter and Alec’s brother Jace’s girlfriend.
“Morning, Mags”, she chimed putting her bag down.
“Morning, biscuit”, Magnus came out adjusting his rings in his hand.
“My my…someone looks like a showstopper”, she grinned.
“Well, thank you Clarissa Morgenstern”, Magnus saluted her as he slipped his watch on his wrist.
“Who said anything to you…I was talking about this little prince here”, Clary scrunched her nose and picked up Max in her arms.
“Max does look stunning, don’t you baby…”, Magnus cooed and bent down to kiss Max’s cheek. “Papa is going to miss you at work. Don’t trouble Aunt Clary ok?”, he told his little son and was about to leave for his work when the phone rang. Magnus looked at the clock. It was 8:15am in the morning. Who was calling at this hour?
“Hello”, he answered the call frowning his brows.
“Mr Magnus Bane?”, a hoarse voice spoke over the phone.
“Magnus Lightwood-Bane.”, Magnus corrected.
“Right…can you come over to the Air Force Base as soon as possible?”
“Is everything, alright?”, Magnus panicked as he heard the words.
“Can you report, immediately. Colonel Starkweather would like to speak with you in person”, the voice said and hung up the call. Magnus gulped and dropped everything he was holding – his laptop bag, his files and the coffee cup. He ran out of his loft in Brooklyn instructing Clary to keep an eye on Max.
Something in his heart didn’t felt right.
“Mr Lightwood-Bane. You might want to sit down”, Colonel Starkweather, a stout man with a light grey stubble spoke. Magnus was hyperventilating.
“Colonel Starkweather, what is wrong?”, he stammered.
“Major Alec Lightwood’s Viper was recovered in the Alaskan grounds this morning”
“What did you just say?”
“We have reasons to believe that Major Lightwood died in action”
“What?”, Magnus choked. He felt weak in his limbs and stumbled on the table when a strong arm caught him. It was Lieutenant Jem Carstairs. Alec’s second-in-command and his most trusted friend.
“Magnus…hey…you’re ok”, he whispered as he helped Magnus sit on the chair.
“It is hard for all of us, but we can’t even begin to imagine what you must be going through. Alec was our most celebrated soldier and none of us can believe that this has happened, but it has. The Viper burst up in flames midair and we couldn’t recover the body. We have evidence to believe that Alec’s remains did not survive the fire. We did find a dental sample and it matched with Major Lightwood’s records in our system. The black box has been recovered from the crash site and it is being analyzed as we speak. I really am sorry, Magnus. But, Alec died a hero”
“Stop…stop right there…Alexander…he is not…I can feel it…he’s not dead, Colonel. He is not!”, Magnus’s chest suffocated as he grabbed his hair in his hands shaking on the chair to and fro.
“Magnus…I am sorry”, Colonel sighed and pressed his hand on Magnus’ shoulder.
“HE IS NOT DEAD!”, Magnus spat at the Colonel. His eyes were red and burning with rage and pain at the same time. “He’s not”, his voice broke into a sobbing whisper.
“I wish I could say the same, Mr Bane”
“Mr LIGHTWOOD-Bane”, Magnus interrupted the Colonel. He fiddled his wedding ring in his finger and shut his eyes dropping his head on the table.
Alec did not die.
Magnus refused to believe it. He sat there in the visiting room. Jem was rubbing his back. Magnus was fighting his tears, moving to and fro on his chair. His heart refused to believe that Alec was dead. His hands were shivering with fear and anger.
“Magnus…you have to make yourself believe this. It is not getting any better”, Jem sighed.
“Make myself believe that Alexander, my husband…is dead. It is a little cruel, don’t you think?”, Magnus chucked as tears trickled through his eyes.
“Major Lightwood died in action, Magnus…I know that nothing I say will ever make it better but Major died a hero. I am sure he fought valiantly until his last breath”
“Jem…please”, Magnus sighed rubbing away his tears violently. “Can you leave me alone for some time”, he closed his eyes and looked away.
“Of course. I’ll go and get you some water”, he said.
Magnus looked at the nothingness in front of him. The visiting room was only lit on the side that Magnus occupied. He sniffed and stopped crying. The tears dried where they were smudging his kohl with him. The reality caught up with Magnus.
Was Alec really gone?
He took out his phone and looked at his messages. The last text from Alec.
“You lied to me”, Magnus whispered looking at the phone. “You promised to return, honey…where are you?”, Magnus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Come back, baby”, he lifted his head up and dropped his neck on the backrest of the chair.
Magnus returned home that afternoon with Jem dropping him in his jeep. Isabelle and Maryse had received the news and Magnus was afraid of facing his in-laws. He, himself, had gone numb. The moment he had stopped crying at the Base, he just shut down. Colonel spoke to him about something…some formality or the other, Magnus’ mind told him. He simply nodded, looking at the wall in front of him. His eyes burned because of the incessant crying. Jem escorted him upstairs and opened the loft door for him.
The loft was buzzing with people. He shifted his gaze to the living room. Izzy was sitting on the couch, Simon rubbing her back. Maryse was standing near the lamp and Clary was holding Jace by his shoulders.
“Magnus!”, Izzy screeched as she saw her brother-in-law. “They’re lying…Alec is fine…right? It was nothing…Alec is fine”, she shook her head approaching Magnus who just stood there staring at Izzy. He could not say it from his mouth. He just couldn’t.
“Mrs Lewis”, Jem straightened himself next to Magnus. Izzy frowned and looked at him.
“I am afraid the news is very much true”, he sighed.
“Jem…”, Izzy intervened. “Don’t you dare say it!”, she pointed her finger at Jem and tears formed in her eyes. “Alec is completely fine”, she sniffed.
“Magnus…tell me”, she grabbed his shoulder and shook him. Magnus rolled his eyes and looked right into Izzy’s. Izzy stammered as she saw the look in them.
“No”, she shook her head again. “Magnus, NO!”, she repeated and dropped lifelessly in Magnus’ arms. Magnus took a deep breath and lifted his hands up to encircle her in his arms.
“I am sorry”, is all Magnus whispered. Izzy broke into a sob and cried grabbing Magnus’ shirt. Magnus stood there comforting his husband’s sister…hoping that things would magically go back to the evening before when Alec was in his arms as they were getting ready for their anniversary celebration. Simon grabbed Izzy as she pulled away from Magnus. Magnus spotted Maryse across the room and he knew what he had to do. A single mother who raised three beautiful kids was standing near the balcony, lifeless and frozen. He knew that she had a soft spot for Alec, because he was her eldest. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through.
“Mum”, he whispered as he shook his mother-in-law. Maryse snapped out of her trance and looked at Magnus. Her lips trembled as she shot a questioning look at Magnus, as if asking him if this was all real. Magnus’s eyes teared up as he nodded. Maryse gave in to her emotions and hugged Magnus. She caressed his head and rubbed his back. He closed his eyes as he let himself be cared by his mother-in-law who loved him as much as she loved Alec.
Jem left the family mourning for their fallen hero.
Magnus made Maryse sit on the couch and he laid his head on her lap. Maryse closed her eyes and cradled Magnus comforting him as much as she could. They were broken from their emotions when Max yelled in the other room. Magnus came back to his sense…right, Max – his and Alec’s son. He got up and darted to their room to find Max sitting on the carpet.
“Dadadddaaa”, the boy clapped as he saw Magnus. The father shut his eyes in pain. His Dadda wasn’t coming back. Ever.
“Hey, there little boy. How are you?”, Magnus threw away his pain and faked a smile picking Max in his arms. “Papa missed you”, Magnus sniffed and pressed a kiss on those pink and soft cheeks. Max clapped and gurgled in Magnus’ arms as he took him out to meet his Grandma and his uncle and aunt. Max occupied the Lightwoods and Magnus and for a few hours, their sorrow seemed to hurt a little less.
Everyone was gathered for the funeral. Alec had lived a noble life. He had helped so many people, so many times and it looked as if half of Brooklyn was here to pay him their last respects. Magnus had Max in his arms as they put a wreath on an empty grave. The tombstone said, “Alexander G. Lightwood – husband, father, son, brother and a hero. We love you, and we miss you”.
Max was playing with the hemp of Magnus’ shirt, his father’s demise unbeknownst to him. He handed over Max to Clary and took a stand in the center.
“Thank you for coming today. It means a lot to me and Alexander’s family. As you all know, Alexander was a soldier and he died in the line of duty. He was also my husband and the man who made me fall in love with him in the blink of an eye. Today, I stand before you with a void in my heart where he is supposed to be. Alexander, darling…I love you and I miss you. There was no one who could make me love so hard and so deep before I loved you and there will never be anyone after you. You were, are and always be the only love I wanted. Saying goodbye to you hasn’t been easy for any of us, but we promise you that we will take your legacy forward. Isabelle, Jace and I…we promise you that. Max will grow up to be the son you always wished for and if you can see him, I hope you are proud of him…proud of us.
I love you”
Magnus took a deep breath and closed his eyes. A strong hand squeezed bicep. It was Ragnor. Why wouldn’t it be? His best friend. What he couldn’t believe that Ragnor came all the way from London where he lived and worked. Magnus gave a painful glance to his best friend and buried his head in the latter’s chest.
“Let it out, Magnus”, Ragnor whispered comforting his best friend.
“Alec was my elder brother, as you all know. We had our moments. We fought like cats and dogs, but he was the best man I had ever met. He always joked about how good my life would be if he was gone…but that’s not true big brother. It has been 5 days and it is certainly not good…quite the opposite, actually. I miss you, but I am proud of you Major Lightwood. There’s just a little request…come back to me if you can?”, she pleaded and choked at her last line and Simon wrapped his arm around her.
“Iz…you’re strong and you can do this…come on”, he whispered rubbing her arm.
“Hold me, Si”, she covered her mouth with her hand as her lips trembled.
“Always”, Simon sighed and kissed her hair.
Maryse and Jace spoke about Alec next and the ceremony concluded with a few air force officers giving Alec a gun-salute. The Lightwoods and Magnus had already attended the official funeral where Alec’s other uniform, and the items in his office were handed over the Magnus. It was another painful truth that Alec’s body was never recovered so the family did not have his final belongings with him. Magnus lifted the box the Colonel gave him and silently took them to his car.
The Air Force Base was lit up in Alec’s honor and Magnus and the Lightwoods watched as Alec was paid tribute.
Magnus sat on the bed inspecting the carton that was given to him by the Base. There were several novels, a few photo frames of Magnus and Alec’s wedding, Izzy, Alec and Jace, Little Max, Maryse and several others. Magnus kept the frames aside. He would add them to their collection at home. There was another pair of his uniform – his battle uniform. The characteristic green camouflage print. Magnus picked up the shirt and smelled it, taking in Alec’s scent. He kissed the batch which was labelled A. Lightwood and kept it for safekeeping. There was a paper folded and kept in the bottom. He picked it up and scanned it. It didn’t mention that the document was confidential. There was a little something written in one corner.
Magnus gasped and unfolded the paper in a hurry. It was a letter in Alec’s beautiful handwriting. Magnus cleared his throat swallowing the lump in his throat.
I don’t know why I am doing this, but I am so…bear with me if I blabber rubbish things later. You know, when I joined the Air Force, I did not have a care in the world…I did not realize that I was risking my life and to be honest, I didn’t care if I died. Then, I met you. And you made me fall in love with you. It was so easy…just like breathing. The night you proposed me…on my birthday, do you remember that? It was the best goddamn birthday I’ve ever had. I still remember how you almost gave me a heart attack when you went on your knees because I never thought you’d wanna marry me. Marrying a man in a uniform – it comes with a price. You chose to live in fear of losing me every day and frankly, Magnus…I love you a little more every second of my life.
After you, I started fearing the day I might not return to you, and to Max. The thought that didn’t matter to me before, does now. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to lose me. But if you ever do, if I ever leave you…remember that I loved you with everything I had. I love you with every cell of my body and I promise you that I will find you in every life.
I am writing this letter and I hope you never find it because if you do, that means something went horribly wrong and I am not there to explain. I am sorry for leaving you alone, Mags but I promise you that I tried my best to make it back to you. I hope you can have the courage in your heart to forgive me.
I love you so much.
Magnus finished reading the letter as his vision blurred. His eyes were burning with tears. He kept the letter on the side table, below a photo frame of Alec and Magnus from their wedding and hugged the sweater he was wearing. It was Alec’s favorite sweater. He grabbed Alec’s pillow and pressed his eyes on it as tears flowed out.
“Honey, come back”, he moaned as he sobbed in the duvet. The coldness of Alec’s side of the bed haunted Magnus but he knew he had to learn to live with it. Because Alec was gone, and he was not coming back.
Magnus returned to work another week later. There were so many assignments pending and he realized that the only way he could live with the pain of Alec being gone was burying himself in his work until he stopped hurting that much. He knew he couldn’t get over Alec’s death even if he tried for it all his life, but he had to become stronger to be able to tolerate his absence and bring their son up to become the man Alec would have wanted him to.
Izzy and Magnus co-owned the company that specialized in interior designing and he was glad, more than ever, to have a part of Alec still in his life, in the form of little sister. They developed a big photo of Alec in his service uniform and hung it right outside their offices. That way, they could see Alec’s face every morning they came to work. Magnus couldn’t help but smile when he saw the frame because Alec was grinning ear-to-ear and it was what Magnus wanted to remember his husband like.
5 years later,
“Alexander, you have no idea how happy I am. Max is a natural. He is just so good. Whenever he speaks, he enthralls his entire audience. You should have seen him at the oration competition last night. Max just nailed it”, Magnus chimed as he spoke to a photo that sat on his desk. It was his late husband, Alec Lightwood’s. Magnus was working on an assignment as he habitually spoke to the photo of his dead husband. Alec’s sister Izzy had gone to drop her son at the playschool. Little Alex, named after his uncle, was three years old and an exact replica of Alexander. Simon have named him Alex the moment he saw his eyes. Magnus adored his nephew even though he reminded him of Alec on more than one occasions. He had the same smile, the same naughtiness in his eyes and the characteristic Alec Lightwood eye-roll.
His own son, Max was six years old now and was the center of Magnus’ world. Magnus was either at the Lightwood and Bane Co. working with Izzy or at home playing with Max. Magnus was not only Max’s father but also his best friend. They played together, danced together, cooked together and even did a little mechanical work together. Max accompanied his father to work on weekends and he helped him with collecting the artworks and finished designs from Aunt Izzy.
Over the years, Magnus had gotten better with handling the grief of Alec’s death. He still hated sleeping alone at night, but it was better than sleeping with someone who wasn’t Alec. The idea itself was appalling to Magnus. Alec’s clothes had shriveled with time, but he did not have the heart to discard them. He had Alec’s perfume with him and every few days, he’d spray it on his clothes so that he could remember what Alec smelled like.
Every evening, Magnus came back and spoke to Alec’s photo in their room. He would tell him about his day and Max’s. He couldn’t visit his grave for some reason but talking to Alec’s photo gave him happiness and a little peace of mind.
5 years ago,
“Viper to Falcon. Code Red. Viper to Falcon”, a distress voice sounded from the comms. The man seated in a Falcon F-16 looked for the source of the distress call and he located a plane in the radar. It was tagged the Viper.
It was Major Lightwood’s fighter plane. His most trusted friend.
“Falcon to Viper, I copy. Falcon to Viper”, the Captain responded.
“I see some suspicious activities, 238°N from here. I am headed there. Over and out”
“Copy that, Viper. I have your coordinates. Will be on the lookout. Over and out”
The Viper took a dive through the clouds and vanished from the Falcon’s line of sight. But it was still visible on the radar and the pilot of the Falcon was on high alert. He waited for Major Lightwood to inform them when he needed back up, but the alert never came. The Falcon kept circling the skies as it saw the Viper chasing something. And then, the fighter plane vanished from the radar. Just like that. The Falcon F-16 dived in the direction of the last communication signal that the plane received from Major Lightwood’s and saw a plane go down in flames.
The Captain freaked out as he saw the Viper crash in the mountain. He alerted the emergency team to go down with medical supplies, to try and save Major Lightwood’s life but the blast was so severe that nothing, but a dental sample was ever recovered.
“I can’t believe this. My son has a sweeter tooth than my husband”, Magnus rolled his eyes at his son who was hogging at the chocolate cake in front of him. “I never thought someone would like sweets more than Alexander did…but like they say…expect the unexpected”
“I am Dada’s son, after all. I will take after him…wouldn’t I?”, Max rolled his eyes.
“You would”, Magnus chuckled as he pulled the cake away. “That’s enough, buddy. I don’t want to take you to the dentist”, he warned.
“Every kid says the same for their parents, Maxie…it really doesn’t bother us”, Magnus arched a brow and sighed.
“Whatever. I am going to my room. You do remember that it’s Pizza Friday…right?”
“How can I forget”, Magnus taunted. Max and Pizza…he had a miniature Alec in his home.
“Alexander…do you see our son’s obsession with Pizza…I am beginning to think that you baby-whispered this in our son’s mind…”, Magnus looked at the photograph that just stood there, smiling at him.
He put the cake away and wiped his hands. Grabbing a glass of martini, he made his way out to the living room to drink and watch TV in peace. It was going to be a rough couple of days for him. Day after tomorrow, on Sunday, was Alec and Magnus’ 9th wedding anniversary, and Alec’s 5th death anniversary. The irony. He put on the latest season of Masterchef Australia and cuddled on the couch with his blanket and Alec’s pillow that was kept on the couch for the same purpose.
There was a persistent knock at the door and Magnus grabbed his wallet to head towards it. It must be the delivery boy with their Pizza for Pizza Fridays. Magnus rolled his eyes and opened the door. To his surprise, it wasn’t the pizza boy but Jem Carstairs, who was now a Major in the Air Force.
“Jem…what brings you by…at”, Magnus tilted his body bad to look at the wall clock. “9 in the evening”
“Can you come to the Base?”, Jem looked like he had seen a ghost.
“I can drop by tomorrow morning, before work? Is there any more formality I have to do as Alexander’s widower?”, Magnus sighed. He was tired of the number of document he had had to sign over the last half a decade.
“It is not about the documents, but it is about Major Lightwood. I would appreciate if you can come down to the Base with me, right now”
“I am expecting a Pizza delivery for my son, Jem. Can’t leave him starving”, Magnus sighed. He was curious about what was going on.
“We can wait until then…but I am to escort you to the Base”, Jem said.
“Ok then, Major Carstairs…come in. Make yourself comfortable”
Jem sat on the couch, fidgeting his hands. Magnus was walking to and fro as he waited for the Pizza boy.
The pizza was delivered 10 minutes later, and Magnus took Max and the Pizza and dropped both of them at Izzy’s house.
“You promised no work on Friday night”, Max complained as he walked in Izzy’s house.
“I did…I am sorry, bud but I have to go to Dad’s old work place”
“Dada’s work place…”, Max widened his eyes. “Ok…”, he added.
“Ok?”, Magnus was taken aback.
“It’s about Dada…so, you should go”, Max bit his lip.
“You’re my hero, Max”, Magnus smiled and kissed his son goodbye.
He came back and sat in Jem’s jeep as it made its way to the military Base. Magnus felt nauseous whenever he came here, not because of the armory and the weapons, but because of what this place had taken from him – his husband. He followed Jem to a building that looked like a Base Hospital. Magnus felt sick to his stomach.
“Last night, a patrol team brought down an enemy camp in the Alaskan soil. Right outside the boundaries of Sitka. There were at least 2 troops of terrorists and we rescued a few civilians. They were being kept hostage to negotiate deals with the US Government to release some of their allies that are in jail”
“Jem, why are you telling me this?”, Magnus sighed as he followed Jem through the lobby of the hospital.
“There was no way anyone would have survived the blast in Major Lightwood’s Viper”, Jem gulped. He felt Magnus freeze in his spot.
“We rescued Major Lightwood as one of the civilian hostages from the terrorist camp”, Jem informed Magnus as he stopped in front of a room. The room was lit with tube lights and two heavily armed guards stood at the gate. Magnus’ lips trembled as he came closer to the glass to have a closer view at the patient lying on the bed inside the room. He felt movements in his stomach as he recognized the height and stature of the man covered in white sheet.
“Major Lightwood is alive”, Jem whispered.
Magnus stumbled on his feet. Jem was telling the truth. His dead husband lay right in front of him, across the glass wall.
“Would you like to come inside?”, Jem asked. Magnus blinked as a tear dropped from his eyes. He turned to look at Jem who was standing in front of the door. The guards had stepped aside, and the door was open for him to get in. Magnus pursed his lips and took a deep breath. He slowly walked inside. The closer he went to the bed where Alec lay unconscious, the more his heart ached. He wasn’t the Alec he had said goodbye to, on the night of their fourth wedding anniversary.
“When we rescued him, he was severely starved and dehydrated. There were some minor injuries and some major scars on his back and thighs that indicated that Major Lightwood was being tortured for information. He has a fractured left arm but other than that, his vitals looked fine.”, Jem began. “From the documents and recordings retrieved from the camp, we have no reason to believe that Major gave up any information that threatened US security.”
Magnus smiled at the fact that he had the most head-strong man as the love of his life. He wouldn’t exchange it for anything else.
Magnus came closer and looked at Alec’s face. There was a deep crescent moon shaped scar over his left eye and it looked like it was still healing. Alec’s hair had been trimmed off bald in the past – a fact Magnus could guess by the size of Alec’s hair that had grown back. His lower lip was bruised and swollen and his upper lip had a cut on the corner. There were stitches on his left cheekbone. But there was one thing that caught Magnus’ attention. Alec’s head was tilted towards his right, baring his neck to him. There was a big tattoo on the bare side of his neck – a curly Z slashed in the middle by a single line. The tattoo began right below his chin and went all the way down to his collarbone.
His blood boiled at the thought of the atrocities that marred his beautiful husband’s body.
His nose and mouth were covered by an oxygen mask and Magnus could hear Alec breathe – a sound that he had yearned for the last 5 years. Magnus sat on the stool next to Alec’s bed.
“There’s something more”, Jem folded his hands together in front of him. Magnus looked at him.
“We did some tests on Major Lightwood, to see if he had any infections, so that we can start treatment accordingly”
“Hmm?”, Magnus narrowed his brows.
“Certain tests came back this morning…and uhh…I don’t know how to say this, Magnus”, Jem dropped his head down.
“Jem…”, Magnus sighed.
“There are marks on Major Lightwood’s body that confirmed the diagnosis”
“And…?”, Magnus stood up and crossed his hands on his chest.
“There are evidences of sexual assault on Major Lightwood”, Jem closed his eyes as he blurted the report out. Magnus gasped and widened his eyes.
“Jem…are you telling me that…Alexander…was”, Magnus choked.
“Raped. That’s exactly what I am telling you, Magnus. I am really sorry you have to hear this from me, but it is what the tests show. And we can conclude that it happened on more than one occasion – by both men and women”, Jem pursed his lips.
“Did he say something when you rescued him?”, Magnus faked calmness on his face.
“He has been in and out of consciousness. We found him tied to a hook in a stable and he looked like he had just been beaten up again. We will know of his psychological condition only after he wakes up. You’re free to stay for as long as you want. But the military will release the Major after they’re certain of what information he was tortured to give out”
“Thank you, Jem”, Magnus took a deep breath and sat back on the stool. His hand shivered as he took it to press it over Alec’s cold and thin hands. Magnus felt Alec’s bones in his touch. He felt so weak. He sat on the bed next to Alec and placed a soft hand on his cheek. The Major’s breath relaxed, and he leaned in. His cheekbones felt sharp to Magnus, but he was glad that he was able to feel Alec’s warm skin again.
“You came back to me”, Magnus smiled as tears rolled out of his eyes. “You’re ok, Alexander. You’re ok. We’ll get through this together. You don’t have to do this alone anymore. I am here with you. In sickness and in health, for better or for worse…remember?”, Magnus lifted Alec’s right hand and pressed a kiss on those protruding knuckles.
He was unsure whether Alec’s return was a wish granted or not. 5 years later, Alec wasn’t the man Magnus lost. He was different. He looked different, for starters and then, only Alec knew how much had been tortured for every day in the last 5 years and how that had affected the Major. Magnus was certain that he wouldn’t let go off Alec’s hand but what if Alec was not willing to be with Magnus anymore. What if he did not love him anymore.
Magnus’ heart sank as he felt Alec wince in the bed.
“Alexander”, he whispered. “You’re safe, honey…you’re safe”, he rubbed Alec’s cheekbone. He could not look at Alec for a very long time. The atrocities that Alec had faced were visible all over his body. His soft brown hair that Magnus loved to play with were replaced by short and sharp hair that revealed his round shape of the skull. There was a persistent stubble on his face flanked by the scars of all the times he was hurt by his captors.
He was also aware of one thing. Alec had been violated more than one time during his captivity in the last five years. Having had interest in human psychology, he had a fair share of knowledge about the trauma that Alec had gone through…and the mental battles that he had to fight when he woke up. He knew that he would never allow that fact about Alec intervene with his emotions for his husband, but he was aware that Alec would not be the same person when he woke up. He was scared for Alec and his heart hoped that somewhere down the line, Alec had stayed strong.
“Magnus”, Jem cleared his throat. Magnus blinked back into existence and looked back. Jem stood at the door of Alec’s room. “The Colonel would like to speak with you”, he said.
Magnus straightened his clothes and got up. He let go Alec’s hand and walked out of the room. Wrapping his arms around himself, he stood listening.
“Magnus. I believe Jem has already updated you with Major Lightwood’s present condition. We know that it has been a trying time for your family ever since he was declared dead, but I assure you that we don’t want to prolong it. Once he is fit to be discharged from our care, you can take Alec home”
Magnus’ eyes popped open.
“I can take…Alexander…with me?”, Magnus choked closing his mouth with his hand unable to believe what he was hearing.
“You can. There’s just one thing. You’ll have to bring him to the Base for questioning, every now and then. That is all”, Colonel said.
“I can do that. Colonel…I appreciate what you’re doing for Alexander”, Magnus sighed.
“Both of you deserve it. Now, if I may be excused”, the Colonel smiled and walked away from Magnus.
“I shall make arrangements for you to sleep over in the Major’s room tonight”, Jem asked.
“I would like that…thank you Jem. You’re a good man”
“My pleasure, Mr Lightwood-Bane”
“Magnus, you can’t ask me to not see him”, Maryse sobbed on the couch in Magnus’ loft. Max had gone to school and Magnus had just broken the news to Alec’s mother and his siblings, Izzy and Jace.
“I am not asking you that. I am just saying that I think you should not come and see him all at once. Alec has been through a lot, and we can’t even begin to imagine that. So, he might get overwhelmed. You can come one by one and visit him so that it is easy on the both of you?”, Magnus sighed.
“Magnus is right, Mum”, Jace said. He was still shivering from the revelation and Clary was rubbing his hands to calm him down. “Magnus…I think you should go and see him. Mom can go tomorrow, and Izzy and I will see him when he returns home. Is that ok?”, Jace peered at his sister. Izzy was crying in Simon’s arms, but she smiled and nodded.
“Magnus go and get your husband back”, Izzy smiled. “I’ll take care of Max”, she nodded.
“Yeah, anyway he is quite fond of Uncle Simon”, Simon held his fingers in a V that lightened everyone’s mood for a bit.
Magnus rubbed Maryse’ arm. Her head was dropped on Magnus’ head, her hand covering her mouth as she cried.
Magnus reached the Base Hospital and Jem was waiting to meet him at the main door.
“Is everything alright, Jem”, Magnus sprinted across the road as he spotted Jem. “Is Alexander ok?”, he panicked.
“Sir is absolutely ok…don’t worry. He just woke up in the morning”
“He did”, Magnus’ eyes gleamed.
“He has refused any visitors”
“Why? Why?”, Magnus screamed.
“We don’t know. He said that he does not want to see anyone. Even the Colonel was helpless”
“He can’t do that to me”, Magnus blinked away his tears. “I am going in right now”, Magnus protested and walked towards Alec’s room.
“Sir, Major made it…”
“He is not a Major to me…he is my husband”, Magnus spat back and brisk walked to the room. Right before entering, he caught a glance at Alec. He was sitting on the bed, legs hanging down. His palm were pressed against the edge of the bed, fingers gripping the metal of the bed. His head was dropped down. Magnus took a deep breath and clicked open the door.
“I instructed no visitors”, Alec roared from the bed and turned his neck around. His eyes blinked when he registered his husband’s image in front of him. Magnus noticed Alec’s eyes glisten with tears as he struggled to fight his own. Alec looked away, as if hiding himself from Magnus. He knew that he looked different and Magnus felt Alec’s fear of being noticed and judged for that.
“A husband is technically not a regular visitor, is he”, Magnus cleared his throat. The man sitting in front of him was still his husband and Magnus was going to treat him just like that.
“I don’t want to see anyone”, Alec whispered in a softer voice.
“Ok…fair enough. But I can see you, right?”, Magnus put the bouquet on the vase next to Alec’s bed and fiddled his fingers together. How was he supposed to make Alec comfortable?
“The Doctors told me I can take you home in a week”, Magnus tried to make conversation. Alec did not respond.
Magnus closed his eyes.
“Alexander?”, Magnus proceeded towards Alec and saw the later notice his advance. Alec was responsive. It was a good thing. He was aware that Alec was finding it hard to let anyone through his walls. Being his husband, he was going to have to bring them down again, one brick at a time.
Magnus dragged a stool and sat in front of Alec. Alec gulped and looked further away.
“Go away”, he whispered in his raspy voice.
“It is not up to you”, Magnus whispered with concern and love in his voice. His posture spoke a lot about him. He knew Alec wanted someone to make him feel comfortable and he was going to do just that.
“You should not see me like this…”, Alec closed his eyes.
“See you like what…like my husband returning home from war?”, Magnus sighed.
“Like a damaged piece of furniture”
“You’re not…”, Magnus shook his head and closed his eyes.
“Well, if you think so. But, it doesn’t bother me. So, your point?”, Magnus could feel the tears building in his eyes.
“MAGNUS”, Alec raised his voice and laid his eyes on Magnus. This was the first time they made proper eye-contact and Alec’s heart skipped a beat. Magnus looked different. He wore a simple cotton white shirt and faded blue jeans. There were no signs of make-up or grooming on Magnus and that transition from his glittery husband bothered the Major.
Magnus felt awkward as he saw Alec looking at him. He knew what Alec was wondering. Where did his glamour go?
“Magnus”, Alec’s voice broke into a gasp.
Magnus flashed a soft smile. “Yes, darling”
“You…”, he scanned him. “…you look different…”, he blurted. “Beautiful…but different”
“As long as you find me beautiful, different is manageable”, Magnus gently leaned forward and raised his palm flat in the air. He hoped Alec would feel comfortable placing his hand in Magnus’.
“You are always going to be the most beautiful person I look at”, Alec confessed. His eyes burned as he saw the pain that Magnus’ new look carried. He could feel how much it hurt Magnus to lose him and how he wasn’t the only one who suffered. He looked between Magnus’ eyes and the hand Magnus had offered.
His mind wanted to grab Magnus’ hand and press a kiss on his gorgeous lips but his body told him otherwise. Touch of human skin – the idea made Alec shudder. He took a deep breath and looked away. He raised his hand in the air and groped for Magnus’ until he found it. A shiver ran down Alec’s spine as Magnus’ skin came in contact with his. It was a familiar touch. A touch that Alec had missed every day of his life for the past 5 years. He rolled his fingers around Magnus’ palm and squeezed it. To his fortunate surprise, Magnus understood Alec’s anxiety and didn’t squeeze back.
There was an eerie silence when Alec looked up at Magnus again. The man was looking over his shoulder, his eyes shut. His lips were trembling, and Alec knew what it was. Magnus was crying. He saw tears streaming down his beautiful husband’s face and his body acted in instinct. He rose from the bed and curled his arms around Magnus’ neck, burying his head in the crook of his neck. Magnus’ sobs deepened as he broke down completely. Alec shut his eyes in pain and rubbed his hands at the back of Magnus’ head, trying to console him.
“I am here”, he whispered. Magnus wanted to hug Alec back, but he was afraid of what touching him would do to the wounded soldier. He tried hard to stay frozen where he was, but his body moved instinctively, and his hands rubbed up Alec’s back. Alec shivered as Magnus touched him and pulled himself away.
“Don’t touch me”, he blurted out, sitting back on the bed horrified. Magnus’ mouth gaped as he felt guilty for making Alec uncomfortable.
“I am sorry”, he moaned.
“It’s not your fault…you…I…”, Alec was struggling with the fact that he had to explain his husband that he had been violated sexually every single day in the last five years. There was a fear that Magnus would not want to be in his life anymore after he hears this. But he couldn’t have lied to him either.
“Magnus…I was…when…I…”, he stuttered. His hand moved in the air, like they always did when he was explaining something.
“Alexander…stop”, Magnus whispered raising his hand in the air. “I know”, he said in a very soft and considerate tone.
“No…you don’t”, Alec’s voice choked. “You’ve no idea”
“I am here…aren’t I?”, Magnus came closer until Alec’s knees brushed against his thighs. “The doctors…the tests…I know”, Magnus sighed and raised his hand. “Can I?”, he waited for Alec to give him permission to cup his face.
“It is just me…I promise I will just touch your face”, he whispered. Alec looked at him with tears in his eyes and nodded. Magnus’ eyes welled up and he cupped his face caressing his cheekbone with his thumb.
“Nothing else matters…you’re back with me. That’s all I have ever wanted for every second of the last five years”, Magnus assured Alec. Alec’s lips trembled, and he leaned forward to rest his head on Magnus’ stomach. Magnus wrapped his arms around Alec’s neck and pulled him closer.
“For better or for worse, Major”, Magnus whispered.
“For better or for worse”, Alec repeated.
Later that day, Magnus walked in the Base Hospital with some food and novels. He was certain that Alec was not comfortable with people touching him. There were moments in his life in captivity that horrified Alec and it would take some time before Alec started accepting that he was going to be ok again and no one will ever hurt him.
Magnus pushed the door open and found Alec sitting on the bed, trying to read news on a Tablet.
“Hi”, Magnus whispered putting down the food next to Alec’s bed. Alec looked at him and his eyes widened. It was a good sign, Magnus thought. There was no smile on Alec’s face, but it was ok. Baby steps.
“Mm”, Alec mumbled and looked away. “Magnus?”, he asked a second later.
“How ugly do I look to you?”, Alec narrowed his brows.
Magnus heart flinched. Was it bothering Alec? Did Magnus make him feel something like that?
“Not one bit…”
“Be honest, Mags”, Alec shook his head, unaware that he had just called Magnus by his nickname.
“I am as honest as I can be. You’re the most beautiful thing that belongs to me”, Magnus smiled and sat on the bed next to Alec.
“I look like a mashed potato”
“You’re my knight in shining armor. If you really want to know”
Alec was about to retaliate when Magnus’ phone rang. Alec was startled, and he sat straight up. “It’s just my phone, honey”, Magnus raised his hands and excused himself to the corner of the room.
“Yes…”, Magnus answered the call. “he is absolutely ok!”, Magnus’ eyes gleamed with joy as he spoke over the phone. Alec wondered who it was Magnus was speaking to.
“Yes, my love. You’ll see me before you go to bed. Don’t forget to have dinner or I will be very sad.”, Magnus assured him.
“I love you too”, Magnus added and cut the call. He turned around and saw Alec looking at him with confused look on his face. His bit his lip and blushed. Alec looked a little jealous.
“That, was your son”, Magnus hummed. Alec gasped as he realized. Max. Right. How could he have forgotten about him. “Our son…”, Magnus corrected and stepped towards Alec again.
“He…Max…how is he?”, Alec choked.
“He’s so beautiful, Alexander”, Magnus grinned as he spoke of their son. “So smart, and loving…he has your love for sweets…I fear we’re going to have a lot of dentist visits in the future…but he is so kind and he is growing so fast…I miss the times when he just cooed in our arms and giggled when we kissed him”
“I…missed so much…of his time”, Alec sighed.
“You can make up for all the lost time…he can’t wait to meet his Dadda”, Magnus smiled.
“I can’t wait to see him too”, he whispered under his breath.
Magnus took a seat on the couch that sat in one corner. He wanted to give Alec space, careful not to pry to much into his life. Alec fiddled with his plaster for a while and then the doctor came in to check on him.
“You look great, Major Lightwood.”, the doctor turned to Magnus who was standing by Alec’s best with his hands crossed on his chest.
“Lightwood-Bane”, Alec muttered absentmindedly which made Magnus smile.
“You can take him home tomorrow evening, if you like?”, the doctor offered.
“I can?”, Magnus’ eyes looked hopeful and happy. Alec noticed that a smile brushed his lips.
“Of course. The Major is recovering well and there’s no reason to confine him in these walls”
“Thank you, doctor. I appreciate”, Magnus extended his hand towards the doctor who shook it gracefully.
The doctor left the room and Magnus started grabbing his stuff. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning, Alexander. You take rest. I’ll see you tomorrow, pretty boy”, he smiled and headed towards the door.
“Magnus?”, Alec called him back. Magnus turned around and saw Alec standing next to the bed.
“Yeah?”, he hummed.
“Can…I…can I hug you?”, Alec entangled his lips together as he waited for a reply.
“You can…?”, Magnus gasped.
“I promise I won’t touch you…come here”, Magnus smiled and dropped his bag on the ground. Alec nodded and stepped forward. He quietly advanced towards Magnus and reaching him, wrapped his arms around Magnus’ arms trapping his biceps in his embrace. Magnus sighed as he let Alec hug him.
“I missed you, hon”, Alec choked under his breath. That was the first time Alec had said it since they met again this morning.
“I missed you too, Alexander”, Magnus fought very hard to control his tears. Alec needed him to be strong for the both of them. And he was going to be just that.
“Can I ask you one more thing…?”, Alec whispered as he pulled away from Magnus. Magnus shook his shoulders and relaxed himself. He blinked away his anxiety and flashed a smile on his face.
“Why don’t you wear makeup anymore?”, Alec looked at him with curiosity.
“I…uhh”, Magnus gasped. He never thought about it. It just naturally went out-of-habit for him…sometime right after…right after Alec passed away. Or they thought he did. “I never…thought about it…but, after you…uhh, went away…I did find…it necessary…because…even though I liked putting it on…after I met you, I continued doing so…because you liked it…and then when you were gone…I didn’t want to get ready for anyone…like I did…for you.”, Magnus saw Alec’s lips curve into an “oh”
“I am sorry…?”
“Why would you be sorry, darling? It wasn’t in your hands”, Magnus shook his head.
“I miss my glittery Magnus”, Alec rubbed the back of his head. Magnus’ heart melted. He missed Alec doing that whenever he got nervous.
“I’ll tell him…and ask him to pay a visit to you very soon”, Magnus gave a shy smile. “Come on, lie down so that I know you’re going to sleep”
“I am not…tired”, Alec heaved a sigh.
“You need to rest, Alexander. Come on. You and your son, hyperenergetic all the time”, Magnus rolled his eyes which made the Lightwood boy chuckle. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Take care of yourself, okay?”
Magnus helped Alec get to bed without actually touching him anywhere. He made sure Alec was tucked in the blanket before he grabbed his stuff to head to the door again.
“Magnus?”, Alec called again. “I love you”
Magnus blushed and tears welled in his eyes, “I love you too, husband”
Magnus came out of the shower rubbing his wet hair. It was October 15th, Magnus and Alec’s ninth wedding anniversary. Two days ago, he was dreading this very day because it reminded him of the night he lost Alec. And now, he was just anxious to get to the Hospital and meet with his husband who was recuperating fast. Max was still snoring in his room and Maryse had already come in early morning to make breakfast for her grandson and visit Alec later in the day. Izzy and Jace had decided to give some time to Alec before they bombarded him with emotions again. It was difficult for the siblings, but Alec’s well-being was more crucial to them than anything.
“Oh my God, those pancakes smell divine”, Magnus hummed as he joined Maryse for breakfast. Maryse gave a huge grin and popped two pancakes on his plate.
“Eat up. You’ll be out all day. I don’t want my other son falling sick”, she patted Magnus’ cheek and gave him a fork.
“You’re the best”, Magnus smiled and dug his knife and fork in the pancake.
“How did Max take it…did you tell him?”
“I did…I did…he is very excited to see his Daddy”, Magnus smiled. He was so proud of Max and how he had taken the news of Alec being back in their lives.
“He’s such a bright little boy, my Max”, Maryse grinned.
“He is…”, Magnus nodded proudly. “I’ll come back to take Max to his swimming tutorials in the afternoon. You can go and see Alexander then?”, he asked.
“Sounds good to me. Magnus…he is ok right?”, Maryse’s smile vanished.
Magnus stopped chewing and took a sip of juice from his glass.
“He is injured, Mom. There are excruciating marks on his body, I can’t even imagine how he survived in the camp in the last five years. It is difficult to forget about the pain he is in when you see him…but we have to be strong for him. He needs us to be strong…and normal. But, he is a strong man, our Alexander. He is holding up in the best way he can. I am sure he’ll be much better when he sees you today”, Magnus smiled and gulped the lump in his throat. Maryse stood up and walked around to Magnus wrapping her arms around him.
“You’re a strong boy, Magnus. I am so proud of you. Alec is lucky to have you”, she pulled apart and placed a kiss on Magnus’ forehead. “I love you”, she cupped his face.
“I love you too, Mom”, Magnus smiled and kissed the top of her knuckles.
“Happy Anniversary”, she added. Magnus chuckled.
“Go…take care of your Major”, she pushed him gently. Magnus sniggered as he grabbed his bag and pushed out of the door.
Magnus pushed the door of Alec’s room with his shoulder. He was carrying two coffee cups in his hand and a food packet. Alec was sitting on the bed, half of the bed upright to support his back. He was reading a newspaper.
“Good morning”, Magnus huffed as he put down the food packet on the table. Alec looked at him and smiled. Magnus felt the rush of blood in his cheeks. Alec hadn’t smiled very often yesterday, and this was progress. “I brought you your favorite Irish Mocha Latte. There’s a café outside the Base that serves mean coffee”, Magnus hummed putting a glass down on the side table for Alec to pick it up. Alec looked between the mug and Magnus and widened his eyes.
“You remembered”, he gasped.
“Of course, I did”, Magnus smiled and put his bag down. “I got you fresh clothes to wear when I take you home, your watch…and your phone”
“Yeah…I got you a new one. Your contact number is the same. I kept the number alive”
“Why?”, Alec gasped as he took the phone from Magnus’ hand.
“Your voicemail…was the only way I could hear you”, his voice shook as he spoke. He turned around, unable to face Alec.
“Mags…look at me. It’s ok?”, Alec insisted.
Magnus composed himself down and turned around, flashing a false smile. “Anyway, Max…”, Magnus cleared his throat. “is very excited to see you…he wanted to come down as soon as I told him yesterday, but I had to stop him…”
“He is?”, Alec could not believe it.
“Of course. He is going to meet his favorite superhero. He is delighted”, Magnus grinned.
Magnus sat on the stool next to Alec to talk when a nurse walked in a cart in his hand. “Major Lightwood, I hope you’re doing well this morning?”
“I am. Thank you”, Alec nodded.
“Here’s a change of clothes. It’ll be good if you get cleaned up. I can assure you that the hospital smell is a little overwhelming sometimes”, the nurse rolled his eyes. “Should I assist you?”
Magnus saw Alec stiffen. He stood up and stepped closer to Alec, aware of the fact that he couldn’t go further without making Alec uncomfortable.
“I insist only because you have a fractured arm. You’ll find it difficult”, the nurse shook his head as he saw Alec panic. Alec absentmindedly grabbed Magnus’ wrist and squeezed it hard.
“Alexander, it is ok. No one is going to force you”, Magnus whispered. “Can I…help instead?”, Magnus asked the nurse.
“Ok? But…will you be able to…”
“I am his husband. I will be”, Magnus sounded determined. The nurse thought for a while and then nodded. He left the cart there and exited the room.
“See, he is gone. He won’t touch you. No one will”, Magnus assured Alec. Alec’s breath eased, and he let Magnus’ wrist go. Magnus’ wrist was red with Alec’s finger imprints on it.
“Did you…mean it?”, Alec asked a moment later.
“That you’d help me change…if I wanted to…?”, Alec arched his brows.
“Of course”, Magnus narrowed his brows.
“You’re ok…seeing those scars…on my body”, Alec heaved a deep sigh.
“Alexander…what are you saying?”
“I am just saying…you don’t have to help me…just because I am your husband and you took some vows…or anything”, Alec shook his head.
“Alexander…stop?”, Magnus raised his palm. “I meant every word I said to that nurse. You are my husband. I am in love with you…all of you. I don’t care about scars…they don’t define you. Your heart defines you and I know how scratch less that is. Do you understand? You’re not a burden to me!”, Magnus sounded hurt.
“I am sorry…I did not mean to hurt you, Mags”
“I know you didn’t…you don’t have to apologize for anything. I love you. And I am here. Every step of the way”
“I love you too”, Alec nodded.
“Do you…do you want to clean yourself up…I’ll…I’ll help you?”
Alec blinked and stared at him. He was awkward and nervous.
“Forget I asked”, Magnus snapped him out of his trance.
“Yes…? Help me?”, Alec blurted out.
Magnus gaped his mouth.
“Are you sure?”, Magnus asked.
“I am.”, he dropped his legs out of the bed and stood up, tall in front of Magnus. Magnus gulped and groped for the cart. He pushed it towards the bathroom and turned the faucet to fill the bucket with water. The door closed behind him and his heart skipped a beat. He calmed himself down and swallowed softly. He turned around and saw Alec standing in front of the mirror, rubbing his stubble.
“Sit here, I’ll help you with it”
“How long do you think it’ll take for me to get back my hair”, Alec frowned.
“A few weeks? I don’t know…I am kinda digging this rugged biker look”, Magnus winked. Alec tilted his head and rolled his eyes. He sat on the stool and tilted his head up. Magnus turned on the shaving machine and the sound made Alec flinch a little.
“Alexander…hold my wrist and squeeze it tight whenever you want me to stop”, Magnus raised his hand to hold Alec’s chin. Alec nodded and curled his fingers around his husband’s wrist. Magnus pressed the machine against Alec’s cheek and rolled it down shaving his husband’s stubble. After the stubble was gone, Magnus wiped Alec’s cheek and went back to check the water temperature.
“You can pull out your shirt and keep the vest on”, Magnus mumbled and turned around. Alec had already removed his t-shirt and his vest. Magnus widened his eyes. The colonel was right about the scars. There was a long white scar across his chest running all the way to his pelvic region. It looked that a knife had been cut through his skin. The left side of his waist had a patch of skin healed after a burn. Regardless of the scars, Alec was still the most beautiful man Magnus had ever met.
“Or not”, he whispered and blinked away his awe. Magnus dipped the mug in the bucket and pulled it out filling it with water.
“Magnus…you’ll get wet…”, Alec widened his eyes as he pulled his pants down and threw them away. Magnus didn’t make it obvious and ignored the fact that his husband was nervous and naked in front of him. It was brave of Alec to do something like that considering all the times he had been raped in his captivity. This act showed how much Alec still trusted Magnus with his integrity.
“I have a change of clothes. Don’t worry, Alexander. Place your plastered arm on my shoulder so that we don’t get it wet”
“Yeah”, Alec nodded and came closer until his elbow rested on Magnus’ shoulder. Magnus gasped as he poured water on Alec’s body making the latter flinch.
“Are you ok?”, Magnus asked. “I’ll stop…”
“I know you will…I am fine. Trust me”, Alec smiled. He kept his gaze fixed at Magnus as the man moved around rubbing soap on Alec’s body. Alec was relaxed that Magnus did not make a big deal about it but somewhere, he already knew that Magnus wouldn’t. He was a great man with a big heart. That’s what drew Alec to Magnus in the first place.
After the bath, Magnus dried Alec’s torso up and let him do it himself for his thighs and the lower part of his body. They slipped into dry clothes and came out of the bathroom. Alec was tired of the ordeal and he dropped on the bed. Magnus turned the lights dim and pulled a blanket over Alec as the soldier drifted to sleep. He came out of the room and sat in the cafeteria, taking in everything that had happened in his life in the last two days.
Magnus was busy packing Max’s bag for his swimming classes. Maryse had already left for the hospital, with Jem accompanying her.
“Can we go see Dadda?”, Max asked as he came out of his room.
“You can see him when he comes home tonight”
“He is coming home?”, Max yelped in joy. Magnus chuckled as he grabbed his hand and dragged him out of their loft.
Maryse opened the door of Alec’s room and found him sleeping peacefully. Her heart leaped in her chest. He was really alive. It wasn’t a dream. Her son was back to him. She put the bag she had brought to take him home with her. Magnus did not know about this. She wanted to surprise Magnus and Max when they returned to the loft and this was the perfect way to do it.
“Alec?”, she whispered sitting on the stool next to her sleeping son. Alec blinked open his eyes and moved around to find the source of the voice. As soon as his eyes met his mother’s, his pupils dilated, and he took a deep breath pulling himself up.
“Mom”, he gasped.
“Hi baby”, she smiled and felt tears drop out of her eyes. Alec’s eyes burned with tears.
“Hi…”, he whispered back. “How…how are you?”, he asked.
“I am good…actually, very good…now that I came here”, she smiled and wiped away her tears. “My brave boy”, she whispered. Alec shut his eyes and looked away. Maryse stood up and sat on the bed next to Alec. Surprisingly, he didn’t flinch at all.
“Alec…can I…can I touch you?”, she asked.
Alec looked at her with astonishment and nodded. Maryse cupped his face and pressed her lips on his cheek.
“I missed you”
“I missed you too”, he said in a sobbing voice. Leaning closer, he buried his head in her arms. Maryse smiled and let her son hug him, keeping her arms down…so as to not startle him. “I am sorry you’ve to see me like this”
“See you like what? I am blessed that I don’t get to talk to your grave anymore, Alec. That is all that matters”
“Mom”, Alec blinked to clear his vision.
“Alec…it’s ok. We’ll get through this. Ok? We will. I know that.”, she smiled.
Alec nodded and swallowed.
“How is…Izzy, and Jace?”, he whispered dropped back on the bed.
“They’re fine, Alec. Izzy and Simon have a son now, Alex. Simon named him after you…and Jace proposed to Clary last month. They’re going to get married in the winters”
“I’ve missed so much…of their lives”, Alec gasped for breath.
“You’ve your whole life to catch up with it. And we’re all here to help you”
“I know. It is just hard. How long has it been since I…five years?”, Alec sighed.
“Exactly, five years today…”, Maryse blurted out absentmindedly.
“Its October 15th?”, Alec widened his eyes.
Maryse realized her mistake. She shouldn’t have overwhelmed Alec. “Its Magnus and my wedding anniversary…”, he breathed heavily.
“Alec, I am sorry…”
“Why didn’t he mention it…why did Magnus not mention it”, Alec sounded a little frustrated.
“Alec…calm down, baby”, Maryse cupped his face. Alec pulled away from her touch. “Alec…listen to me”
“Magnus doesn’t want to be with me…I was right…he thinks I am ugly…he thinks I am damaged which is why he didn’t tell me anything…”
“He is ashamed of being my husband…”
“ALEC”, Maryse raised her voice and shook his shoulder. “Calm down”, her lips trembled. “Magnus loves you more than anything in this world. He would never let you go even if you pushed him away with everything you have. The reason he didn’t mention it is because he doesn’t want to overwhelm you. He wants you to be relaxed while you recover.”
“It’s my wedding anniversary…”
“And the day he lost you!”, Maryse interrupted. “He has been living the nightmare of losing you on this day, for the last five years…the most important day of your life…and he lost you”
“I know what you’ve been through, my love. But he has been through enough too. I’ve seen him pull himself together for the sake of Max…after your death. I’ve seen him be devoted to his husband’s family because they lost their son and their brother”
“He never abandoned me. Or Izzy…or Jace. Why do you think he would ever abandon you?”
“I…don’t…know”, Alec hid his eyes in his palm. “What was I even thinking…how could I doubt…Magnus…he…Mom, I am sorry”, Alec breathing disturbed again.
“Alec…calm down…you’re ok. Magnus is ok. You both are together…and things are going to be just fine”, Maryse rubbed his arms and helped him level his breathing.
“I need to see him…now”, Alec sniffed and crawled out of the bed.
“That’s what I am here for. Jem has prepared all your discharge papers, Major. Let’s get you home”
“Mom…do you mind stopping at a store nearby. I want to buy something for Magnus”, Alec asked.
“Why not!”, Maryse smiled.
Alec stepped in his loft for the first time in five years. It was exactly how I remembered it, except for a few changes here and there. Magnus and Alec had designed the interiors of the loft they bought together right after their wedding. It was suited to their every need – Magnus’ need for sunlight right in the morning while cool breeze entering the loft during the evening that pleased Alec. Everything was customized for Magnus and Alec’s preferences. Alec’s heart skipped a beat as he stepped his foot inside. Maryse followed him behind and dropped his bag on the couch as they walked inside. There was an unfinished game of chess on one side.
“Magnus and Max love playing chess together”, Maryse explained. Alec’s attention went to the corner where they had kept photographs. There were mostly the ones he knew about – their wedding photograph, Magnus and Alec holding their newborn Max, Max’s first Christmas, Alec and Magnus’ first wedding anniversary. But there were some new ones. In one frame, Magnus held a little boy in his arms. The boy’s mouth was cheerfully open as he held a shield in his tiny arms.
“This is when Max won the oration competition at school”, Maryse pointed at the photo frame when she noticed Alec looking at it. Alec picked the frame up and rubbed his thumb on Magnus and Max’s face.
“You have plenty of time to make memories of your own with them”
“I left Magnus alone in this…after vowing not to”
“It was not up to you. Stop beating yourself up, ok?”, Maryse squeezed his shoulder and Alec flinched a little.
“Make it up to him…you’ve both been given this chance. Do you understand, Alec?”, Maryse asked.
“I do…I promise, I’ll make it up to them”
“I know you will.”, Maryse pursed her lips. “Sit down now, I’ll make you pancakes”
“Well, I don’t like Chris…he tries to be this really cool person, but he is not”, Max complained. His hair was dripping, his arms wrapped around Magnus’ neck.
“Forgive him, Max. It’s not healthy to hold grudges. Jesus...”, Magnus rolled his eyes as he pushed the door of his loft open. He smelled pancakes. His eyes narrowed because no one was supposed to be at home.
“I don’t like him, Papa…and that is final”, Max crossed his hands on his chest and huffed out air.
“Come on, Max. He ain’t that bad…”, Magnus arched a brow at his son and pressed him closer to his chest, defensively.
“You’re right…he is badder”, Max declared.
“It’s not badder…it’s worse”, Magnus chortled as he walked inside.
He rubbed his eyes when he saw the dining table. Was he hallucinating Alec back in the loft. Alec couldn’t be here because he was supposed to be with Maryse at the hospital.
“DADDA”, Max screeched in Magnus’ ears pulling him out of his trance. “Papa…put me down”, Max patted Magnus’ shoulder. Magnus blinked and let Max go. Alec stood up as Max ran across the living room and jumped right into Alec’s arms who picked him up. Max wrapped his arms around Alec’s neck and giggled.
“It is you. Papa was right…it’s you”, he was delighted.
“Max”, Alec closed his eyes as tears ran down. He rubbed the back of his son’s head. Max pulled away and scanned Alec’s face.
Magnus closed his eyes as he dreaded Alec reacting to Max touching him. But Alec was surprisingly calm.
“Why are you crying?”, Max widened his little big eyes. He raised his little palm and wiped the tears away from Alec’s cheek. Alec’s face curved into a soft grin.
“I am…”, Alec stammered for words. “I am…just happy to see you”
“I am happy to see you too”, Alec choked. Max blinked at him and then looked at Magnus. Magnus smiled and nodded, making Max turn back to Alec and wrap his arms around his other father. Alec was dazed by Max’s reaction and he looked at Magnus. Magnus had tears glisten in his eyes. He crossed his hands on his chest and nodded asking Alec to go with the flow. Alec smiled and snuggled his head in his son’s neck.
“Max…? Why don’t you take your Daddy to your room and show him your stuff? I am sure he’ll love to see it.”
Max’s eyes widened, and he looked at Alec, “You will?”
Alec bit his lip, “I would be glad”, he grinned.
“Ok…then put me down”, Max chuckled. Alec dropped his son on the ground. Max grabbed Alec’s hand and pulled him towards him room, at the far end of the lobby.
Maryse turned to Magnus, “We need to talk”, she said pulling him in his room.