With Dragon's Heart still going strong, what I really didn't need was to add a new fic to my ever-growing list of works in progress. But, I can't help myself and honestly, can we ever have too many Pride and Prejudice AUs, particularly with Malec in the leading roles? I think not.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Looking up from his place by the window, Alec sighed and looked over at his meddlesome sister. “Yes, and what of it, Isabelle? I have no fortune and therefore, no want of a wife. Why can’t I stay here and watch over you and Mother and Jace and Max? I do not need a wife to do that.” Since Robert Lightwood abandoned his family five years back, in favor of moving to London with some woman he married promptly after arriving, the Lightwood family was barely getting by. If Alec took a wife, she would be another mouth to feed, something they just couldn’t afford.
Alec opened his mouth to point this out to his sister who sighed heavily, sitting next to him at the window. Her skirts rustled as she moved, a sound he found comfort from his sister and mother but one that grated on his nerves from anyone else. “I wasn’t talking about you, Alec. I was talking about myself. Sooner or later - and I do hope it is sooner - I am going to marry and leave this house to be with my husband. I need to make sure you are taken care of before I do that. Which means you can’t stay in here all day, ignoring the rest of the world and pretending it doesn’t exist.”
His mind swam with the idea of his dear sister leaving. Alec wanted everything to stay the same. His mother and he did what they could to provide the life Izzy, Jace, and Max deserved. Alec didn’t need anything personally and would give up what small pleasures he had to make sure his siblings never went without. “Do you have to? Aren’t you happy here with us?”
“Alec,” Izzy chastised, the fondness in her voice causing a twinge in his heart. “Of course I am happy with you, but eventually I have to grow up and get married. Jace and Max will want to as well. Just because you have no interest in the institution of marriage doesn’t mean the rest of us should be here alone for the rest of our lives.”
It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested, Alec thought miserably to himself. It was the fact that no matter what he did, he would never be able to marry one he loved. One he tolerated, perhaps, but that was the best he could hope for.
Izzy leaned over to kiss her brother on the cheek. “Besides, what happens when you find someone who loves you heart and soul? Then you leave me to be alone in my old age. No, I must think of myself for once. And you should as well.”
“That won’t be a problem, Iz. I have no intention of marrying unless I have no choice.”
With another roll of her eyes (a trait Alec recognized from both himself and his youngest brother), Isabelle left his study once more, closing the door behind her. The office once belonged to their father, a place where he worked and studied. Alec had always hoped to have one just like it someday, but he never expected to have this one in particular. But when Robert disappeared and it became clear he wasn’t coming back, Alec claimed it as his own. He didn’t want his mother to walk past it every day and be consumed by the loneliness he knew she must feel. Maryse Lightwood was a strong and formidable woman who hid her emotions well, but Alec knew she was suffering. They all were, in their own ways.
Shutting his book with a snap, Alec sighed as he looked at the leather bound cover. Voltaire was usually one of his favorites but today he couldn’t focus on the words in front of him. At least he had been reading one of the great thinkers when Izzy interrupted his reading time. If he had been reading one of his mother’s romances, something he’d been doing in secret for months since she discarded them after Robert’s flight, then he would never hear the end of it from his sister. Particularly since Alec himself wouldn’t be able to explain why he enjoyed them so much. Something about the story appealed to him where an actual romance with a woman did not. And while he knew the reason, there was no way he could say such a thing out loud. It was forbidden. It was sinful. It was wrong.
His twenty-fifth birthday approached and he knew that sooner rather than later, he would be expected to settle down and start a family. While he had no interest in that, duty to his family was more important than any personal desire and he knew that his mother already started watching for someone who would be a good match for him.
The Lightwood name meant almost nothing in their county anymore, not since Robert dragged it through the mud on his escape to London. Alec heard the whispers in church, hated that their family was subject to constant speculation. Particularly Isabelle. As the only daughter, the smart thing to do would be to marry her off to the first eligible, respected bachelor who asked for her hand. It would restore some pride to the name, and allow for both Isabelle and Maryse to be cared for in their old age.
But the last thing Alec wanted to do was marry his sister off to some random man simply to restore the family name. Particularly since none of the men in their county would be good enough for Isabelle. At least as far as Alec was concerned. Jace told him he was overprotective (of all of them, not just Izzy) but it was his duty as their older brother.
Standing, Alec returned the book to the shelf, pausing to run his fingers over the spines of the leather-bound tomes. As a child, Alec wanted to read all the books in his office but Robert always found a reason to deny him. Alec practiced reading, worked hard to be a good son and do everything his father asked him, but it was never enough. But then, it turned out that Robert was the real disappointment of the Lightwood family and Alec now had access to every book he’d ever been denied. Too bad it came at such a cost.
“Alec!” Max cried, sticking his head in the room, his toothy smile warming Alec’s heart immediately. “Dinner is served. Mother says not to doddle. There is something important she needs to discuss with all of us.”
An important conversation with Maryse was never a good thing. It meant she probably had a new idea to restore the family honor which would result in more work for Alec with no real pay off. Nothing had improved their image yet, so he couldn’t see how this new scheme, whatever it was, would work either.
Still, he hurried to wash up before joining the rest of the family at the dinner table.
“Alexander, good of you to join us.” Alec took his seat at the head of the table. While they all knew Maryse was the one who ran the family, Alec - as the oldest male - as technically head of the household. “Please lead us in grace.”
With a sigh, Alec recited their usual prayer, his mother’s hand firmly in one of his, Isabelle’s in the other. “Amen,” he said, to which they all replied in kind.
Alec served himself then his mother and sister before passing the bowls to Jace to take care of Max. “Izzy didn’t cook, right?” Max complained, poking at the food as it was placed in front of him.
“No, I cooked. But, Isabelle, you really need to spend more time with me in the kitchen. A man is going to want a wife who can make him a delicious meal at the end of the day. No one wants to be the one to accidentally kill their husband with dinner.” Izzy looked put out, pouting as she began to eat. Alec felt for her. It couldn’t be easy to have all the expectations of being lady placed on her shoulders. But, at the same time, Isabelle was a terrible cook and they were all relieved when Maryse and Alec agreed to share cooking duties.
It took time to convince Maryse that Alec could help, as it wasn’t a man’s traditional role, but when she tasted his food, she admitted it was better than anything Izzy made and, in the end, acquiesced.
“Mother, Max said there was something you wished to discuss with us?” While it most likely would put the focus right back on his sister, Alec had to try and divert the conversation away from her cooking skills, knowing how upsetting a topic it was for them all.
The question brought Maryse’s eyes back to his and Alec did his best not to cower under her stare. The calculating look in her eye usually spelled misery for him but he knew better than to question it. “Yes. Have you heard there is a new owner at DuMort Park?”
Of all the things she could have said, not much could have been more confusing to Alec, who shared a glance with his siblings before asking, “I had not heard. I am not sure what that has to do with us. DuMort Park has been unoccupied for years. Why would it matter if someone moved in there now?”
“Because, the story in town is that the new owner, a Mr. Lewis, is young, handsome and unwed. If he can afford to buy DuMort, then he must also be exceedingly wealthy.” Things made more sense now and Alec hardly managed to hold back the sigh he felt building in his chest. “Tomorrow, you and Isabelle will go out there to introduce yourselves as their new neighbors. One look at Isabelle and he will fall in love immediately. All the men in town do, after all. But as he is new, he does not know of our misfortune and will be untainted by the stories about our family. It is imperative that you make a good impression on him. He is the best possible suitor for Isabelle. As the man of the family, Alexander, you will go as her guardian and chaperone. Is that understood?”
Ice ran in Alec’s veins. Not only was he expected to socialize with people he’d never met but he also had to try and pawn his sister off on some man simply because of his wealth and social status? The worst part was the look in his sister’s eyes, pleading and excited. “Wouldn’t you prefer if I just sent a letter giving him consent to marry her. You seem to think this will end in marriage so why not just cut out that middle step? Or do you think us showing up unannounced and offering Isabelle’s hand in marriage is the better option? Doesn’t anyone else find an issue with this plan?” He wasn’t surprised when all he received as an answer was an angry glare from his mother. The rest were smart enough to only question her decisions when she wasn’t around to hear them.
“All you need to do, Alec, is stand there and not embarrass this family. I trust Isabelle to take care of the rest.” Knowing it was a losing battle, Alec finally just nodded and turned his attention back to his food. “Alexander,” Maryse prompted, forcing Alec to look at her. “I know you don’t want this, but Isabelle will need to marry eventually and a man of Mr. Lewis’ stature will give your sister the life that your father and I were never able to provide. Don’t you want her to have the best possible future?”
Alec scowled, angry that she used his love for his sister against him. He knew she was right and he knew she had Izzy’s best interests at heart. Maryse might be abrupt and cold at times, but Alec knew she loved him and his siblings deeply. With their father gone, the kids were her entire world. “I know, Mother. And I will do what I can.” Because Alec would do anything and give up anything to make sure his siblings were taken care of. And if that meant helping his sister secure a good marriage, that was exactly what Alec was going to do.
Alec meets the new neighbor, where neither of them makes a dazzling first impression.
DuMort was an hour carriage ride from the Lightwood house and while it would have been faster on horseback, as Alec had argued, Isabelle quickly pointed out that if she was to impress the new owner, she could not look like she’d just ridden in on a horse, even if that was precisely the case. Alec, having grown up with her and knowing full well what was and was not an acceptable argument, wisely said nothing and hoped he would remember to get up an hour earlier to prep the carriage.
However, when he woke that day, rain poured down in sheets against the windows of his room and Alec knew the carriage would be going nowhere that day. The roads of Idris were just not maintained well-enough to withstand a storm like this without turning to mud. Even preparing himself for Isabelle’s disappointment didn’t help when he came face to face with her sadness and longing at the breakfast table. “Rain on your wedding day is supposed to be good luck,” she sighed forlornly, staring out the window like the heroine of the dramatic romance novels Alec read in secret. “I do not suppose rain on the day you are supposed to meet your betrothed is lucky, particularly when it means you are not able to meet said man.”
“Isabelle,” Alec sighed, the sound of a man highly put-upon and endlessly enduring. “You are not betrothed. We were going to drop by and extend to him a polite welcome to the county as good neighbors should. If you are already planning a spring wedding, you are in for a disappointment.”
Izzy laughed, “Like I would want a spring wedding. That is what everyone does. I would much rather have one in the autumn. The colors of the leaves would provide the perfect background to our nuptials.” Max rolled his eyes, focusing on his breakfast and not indulging his sister in her fit of fancy.
Jace was not as smart, “What makes you think he will even like you, Iz? If he’s as rich as they say, he may be one of those eccentric guys who prefers to live alone in his huge mansion and never talk to anyone.” At Izzy’s glare, Jace held up his hands, “Or he’s just waiting for you to arrive so he can sweep you off your feet from the moment your eyes meet.”
“That’s more like it, brother,” she grinned, popping the last piece of toast in her mouth. Only then did her attention turn back to the rain. “Unfortunately, it seems my groom will have to wait another day until we can meet. The weather conspires against us.”
She excused herself from the table and went to her own room to work on whatever project she had going at the time. Alec could hardly keep up. Their sister was the most talented of the lot of them. While Jace could play the piano like an angel, Max liked to draw, and Alec held illusions of someday being a writer, Isabelle could do them all. She could also debate philosophy with Alec, dance, sing, and embroider. It seemed the only skill their sister did not possess was cooking.
“Are you really going to do this?” Jace asked once Izzy, Max, and Maryse had left the room. “Go out and try to sell our sister’s hand to the wealthiest neighbor in the area? I thought you hated the idea of Izzy getting married?” While Jace had been their brother since Alec was twelve years old, he had his own family name and fortune to fall back on. The last surviving Herondale came to live with his godparents after the untimely deaths of his parents, becoming a Lightwood in everything but name along the way. But where he was every bit a part of the family, he also didn’t understand the urgency of their situation. He didn’t understand that no matter how much Alec might be against it, Isabelle marrying well was the best chance for them all.
Alec would never prove a good match for anyone, Max was too young, and Maryse was tainted by her husband’s infidelity. Isabelle had the qualities every man in the county would want in a wife and though he had little experience of it himself, Alec believed that she would even find a good husband were they in London’s society instead of their small hamlet in the country. “I am,” he admitted. “You saw how excited she was. If I didn’t at least try, she would never forgive me.” Not the entire reason but one Jace wouldn’t be able to refute.
Jace didn’t argue, sighing heavily. “Isabelle isn’t used to not getting what she wants. Hopefully, she will not be disappointed if Mr. Lewis turns out to be dull, old, and unattractive. I don’t care what the town gossip says. You need to go in there and get a real impression. Tell me what you honestly think about him. Whether Izzy wants this or not, we need to make sure she is making the right choice.”
The thing with Jace was, that while he claimed to not care what others thought of him or his actions, that he was beyond the pettiness of country life, Jace cared deeply for his family, almost Alec’s equal in that respect. And for both of them, Isabelle ranked at the top of the list – along with Max – of the people they would protect before all others.
“I give you my word. Mr. Lewis may have money, but it will take more than that for me to willingly agree to Isabelle marrying him.” Looking out at the rain, Alec sighed. “Will you cover for me if they notice I am gone? I would like a chance to meet him before Isabelle does. This rain will give me the perfect distraction.”
Jace smiled, clapping him on the shoulder. “This is why you are the smart one. Be safe, though. Even without the carriage, travel will be difficult.”
“When am I not careful?” Alec asked in return, knowing that would be a far different sentiment if Jace was the one saying it to him. Of the two of them, Alec was always the voice of reason, the cautious one thinking through every situation. Jace, on the other hand, would rush headlong at anything that caught his interest for even a moment.
Alec laughed and made for his room, dressing in the warmest, driest clothes he could find. The ride would be long and muddy and wet and it was unlikely he would make the best of impressions but he was not the one who wanted to marry the man. And if he could accept the unfashionable appearance of the man of the Lightwood family, then he might possibly be worthy of his sister.
“Hello, boy,” Alec greeted his favorite horse at the stable. Archer was not the youngest, strongest, or most handsome horse but he’d belonged to Alec for years and Alec thought there couldn’t be a finer horse in all of Idris county, if not England and the world. “Hope you don’t mind getting a little wet. We have a long ride today but I'll try and take it easy, okay?” If the horse understood, he made no sign of it.
Saddling up, Alec mounted and the two took off, flying through the town of Alicante. Nobody paid much attention to him. He wasn't popular or flashy like his siblings. They knew his face only because Isabelle dragged him to the dances she and Jace were so fond of. And they knew his name because of the scandal and because he often wrote articles for the local paper. It helped bring in some money the family desperately needed and Alec held out hope that someday it would lead to a real career as a writer.
As he set out for DuMort Park, Alec had nothing on his mind but fulfilling his mother’s wish and meeting this man for himself. Archer’s hooves kicked mud up as they ran, the rain pelting Alec’s face. Several times they slowed to almost a stop as Alec tried to get his bearings. The house had been empty for so long that Alec wasn't sure if he'd ever actually been there before or not.
The rain slowed his progress and a ride that should have taken twenty minutes lasted for nearly an hour. By the time Alec arrived, he was soaked to the bone and half covered in mud. Thankfully, a stable hand came out to greet him when he arrived, taking pity on poor Archer and leading him to the stables to get him clean and warm. Alec thanked the man profusely and walked up the steps of the massive estate.
He knocked, hearing the sound echo through the hall he knew must be just on the other side. Rapid footsteps approached and Alec stood closer to the door than normally would be polite in an effort to stay out of the rain. A man opened the door, looking rather baffled. “Are you lost?” he asked. “What could bring you out in a storm like this?”
Admittedly, this was not his best decision and Alec stood silent for a moment before regaining his wits and remembering the social training his mother and siblings instilled in him. “My name is Alexander Lightwood and I have come to call upon Mr. Lewis to welcome him to the neighborhood.” It sounded ridiculous to his own ears and he wished he was back home in his warm dry study.
“And that couldn’t wait until the rain passed? You may catch your death of cold.” The man stepped aside, “Please, come in. I can’t have your death on my conscious.” Once inside, Alec looked at the man in front of him. He was informally dressed for a butler but he assumed the house was still in disarray following the move. It would make sense if the help were not fully trained just yet, or not expected to maintain their proper style of dress.
“Is Mr. Lewis in? I have come along way and it would be a disappointment if I missed him.” It would be just Alec’s luck that he would ride all this way only to find out that the man he came to see wasn't in.
Alec was perplexed when the man in front of him started to laugh. “Where are my manners? I’m Simon Lewis. Probably should have said earlier. You are probably expecting a huge staff but I just haven't had time to hire many people yet. When my brother arrives, he promised he would do at much for me. I am just hopeless with that sort of thing.”
“So you are Mr. Lewis, the new owner of DuMort park.” Alec didn’t understand. The person in front of him had to be about Isabelle’s age. To have been able to buy DuMort, he must have been born into wealth or exceedingly lucky. Which only made Alec more aware of the state of his own clothes. Because while Mr. Lewis wasn't in fancy attire, he at least wasn't dripping mud and water all over the foyer of the grandest house in Idris. “I apologize for my appearance. I had hoped to have a chance to freshen up before we met. I'm afraid I must not be making the best first impression.”
“Please think nothing of it. I answered my own door wearing clothes better for riding than accepting callers. You must think so little of me right now.”
Alec wanted to argue that he didn’t, however, that was neither polite nor conducive to what was expected from this meeting. “Neither of us are presenting ourselves in the best manner,” he agreed. “Can we ignore the way we look and start over?”
“It would be a pleasure, Mr. Lightwood. You know, you are my first visitor. I’m rather glad it was you and not someone who would have been offended by my poor manners. Is that something the local township is going to gossip about should they ever find out?”
Sighing, Alec gave him a rueful smile. “You have no idea.”
That evening at supper, Isabelle sighed heavily, pushing the food around her plate. The rain let up around twilight and she hoped by morning Alec would agree that they would be able to go and visit DuMort Park. But he had yet to say anything and she glared at him on occasion when she thought he wasn’t looking.
“I had a rather eventful day while you were all trapped indoors,” he started, sipping his drink and looking at the curious faces of his family. “I took Archer out for a ride.”
“In this weather? Alec, I shudder to think what would happen to this family were anything to happen to you. You really should think more about all of us than just yourself.” Maryse scolded him as if he were still a young boy and not the man of the household and the only one currently keeping them afloat. Jace had his heart set on joining the army in the spring but until then, he mostly sat in town, played cards and flirted with girls. Alec was the one to bring in money, with a little help from Izzy’s seamstress abilities.
“I was hardly thinking of myself, mother. You know if it had been up to me, I would have spent the whole day in the office with a cup of tea and my books. But, as it were, you asked something of me and I saw fit to follow through.”
Maryse blinked, “What could I have possibly asked of you that would require you to risk your life and our well-being in a rainstorm?”
“I believe I was informed that Mr. Lewis needed to be vetted to see if he would be a good match for Izzy. While she was in no mood to ride in the rain, I had no issue with it at all, and spent most of the late morning and early afternoon with him.” Alec waited while his news had the desired effect. Max and Jace rolled their eyes and continued to eat. Izzy nearly squealed with happiness and pulled her brother into a hug. But it was the pride in Maryse’s eyes that meant the most to Alec. “Thank you, Alexander. And, do you find him a worthy husband?”
“He is better than most in the county, I will give you that,” Alec hedged, taking a bite of his food while leaving them waiting. “But you can judge for yourself. I invited him to come for lunch in the week. He said he would send word when we could expect his attendance.”
For once, it seemed he did everything right, as Maryse and Izzy talked excitedly over lunch plans, leaving Alec to have a quiet evening alone with his books.
Mr. Lewis host's a ball at DuMort park, organized by the greatest party planner Simon knows. A dear friend of his who will change Alec's mind in more ways than one.
I wonder who it could possibly be....
To everyone’s surprise, Simon showed up at their door the very next day. Maryse ran frantically from room to room while Isabelle shrieked and took off to find a far better outfit than the one she was wearing. Something about “He can not see me in this old dress” though Alec saw nothing wrong with her attire. He doubted Simon would either, based on how he’d reacted when Alec showed up at DuMort.
“Mr. Lewis, what a surprise. I didn’t expect to hear from you for another few days.” In all honesty, while the man was polite and well-spoken, intelligent and witty, Alec rather hoped Simon would forget he ever came by and they could go back to living their lives as they had. Instead, the object of his sister’s imagination and his mother’s machinations stood on the stoop of their humble, yet still well-maintained home.
Simon looked sheepish, glancing behind Alec before meeting his eye once more. “Have I come at a bad time. Everyone seems, well, busy.”
“No, this is about normal for this house,” Alec explained as he stepped aside to let Simon in, ignoring the way his mother slapped the back of his head as she passed by. “My brothers are out, I am afraid. They are both younger than me and Jace offered to teach Max to shoot. Figure it is never too young to learn. My mother is just straightening up so that you will be impressed with her housekeeping skills and my sister will join us in a moment.”
Alec knew it was things like this that got him in trouble with his mother, telling everything as he saw it without the flowery language used to speak around the truth that was favored by so many of their community. Alec always appreciated honesty and gave it, regardless of the consequences.
Simon, thankfully, chuckled and followed Alec inside, joining him in the sitting room where Maryse was just setting out tea. “Mr. Lewis, I would like you to meet my mother, Mrs. Maryse Lightwood. Mother, this is Mr. Lewis, the new owner of DuMort park.”
“Mr. Lewis,” his mother smiled, offered her hand for him to kiss. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I am sorry we don’t have a meal prepared for you. My son told me we would have some warning before you arrived.” The blistering glare she gave Alec told him he would be hearing about that later on, even if this was far from his fault.
Simon appeared to understand the situation, something Alec was surprised about because the other man seemed as inelegant in his social scenarios as Alec. But he smiled and shook his head, “I did tell Mr. Lightwood that I would be in touch about a visit to DuMort but business calls me to London in the morning. I didn’t want to leave without at least calling on you and making arrangements for when I get back.”
Maryse appeared appeased and nodded. “I am sorry my other two sons are out. I am sure you and Jace will get along well.” At the moment, Isabelle returned, hair done and dress immaculate. “And this is my daughter, Isabelle Lightwood. Isabelle, this is Mr. Lewis.”
“Mr. Lewis, I am charmed,” she smiled, curtsying to him before straightening up. “I am thrilled you have stopped by. I was disappointed to not be able to join my brother to visit you yesterday but he said such complimentary things that I knew it would be an honor when I met you. And I was right.”
Simon smiled, kissing the back of her hand. “The pleasure is all mine, Miss Lightwood.” Alec shook his head as Izzy blushed. If he thought she was capable of doing that on demand, he would be certain she blushed entirely for Simon’s benefit.
“How is life in DuMort Park? I’ve always felt that house needed to be occupied and was so delighted to hear someone had moved in. Please, tell me you are going to be throwing a ball soon. That home just cries out to host one and everyone around here would be so pleased if you did just that.”
Alec desperately wanted to shake his head no, to tell Simon that Isabelle would happily take over all control and planning of such an event. It had been a dream of hers and he knew she wouldn’t let an opportunity like this pass her by. But, decorum stopped him and he watched as Simon stepped right into the trap she’d laid. “A ball? I hadn’t thought about that but it would be quite fun. I have a close friend who would probably love a chance to meet the people of this county as well as throw a party of this size. His parties in London are legendary. I will see if he can come back from the city with me and I will let you know when everything's in order.”
While it was obviously not the exact answer that Izzy wanted, she smiled nonetheless, happy that they would have a real ball, as she claimed to have a real one, the house must be majestic enough to hold it. And the only house that majestic in Idris was DuMort Park.
“I look forward to hearing about the plans,” Izzy smiled, as magnanimous as she was beautiful. Alec wished he could say that after knowing her for twenty years he was immune to her wiles, but they both knew that wasn’t the case. Alec would cave to anything his sister desired.
Word spread quickly in town that Mr. Lewis would be throwing a ball and Isabelle got to work, making sure their clothes were immaculate. She insisted that the Lightwoods needed to be the best-dressed family at the event, and with Alec as their head of household, they were already at a disadvantage. Alec knew better than to take offense at that, his clothes were old and tattered after all. He had far more important things to worry about than the shape of his clothing. But to Isabelle, who understood the importance of making the right first impression, it was a disgrace.
In the end, she picked his clothes and even Alec had to admit he looked better than he had in years.
The night of the ball, the weather cleared and stars shone overhead as they pulled the carriage up in front of Simon’s home. Alec helped his mother and his sister from the carriage. Max had been left with a family friend, far too young to attend the ball just yet.
Alec helped his sister and mother out of the carriage and then stepped aside as Jace escorted the two women into the house. He followed the carriage to the house and made sure both Archer and Seraph - his and Jace’s horses which also pulled the family carriage - were taken care of before entering the ball. It was with a heavy sigh that he surveyed the room, seeing almost everyone in town gathered, with a quartet at one end of the room. Already Maryse was mingling, talking with the few friends who hadn’t abandoned her after the family’s disgrace.
Jace went off to talk with some of his friends from Alicante that he spent most of his free time with. What they did, Alec didn’t know, but he assumed it was something to do with looking at girls and trying to figure out if any of them would actually marry them. Jace invited him along a number of times but Alec had nothing in common with any of them, from their love of socializing to their interest in girls and eventual marriage. He wanted none of that because Alec knew he would never be able to marry the type of person he would be interested.
Spotting Isabelle, she was dancing with Raj, a man her age who had wanted to marry her for years. Neither Isabelle nor Maryse thought him to be good enough for her but Alec could recognize what Izzy was doing, even if she wouldn’t say it out loud. And spotting the envious look on Simon’s face, he would say it was working. However, Simon faded away a moment later when Alec’s eyes fell on the man next to him. Someone who had to be the most beautiful man Alec had ever seen. His bronze skin stood out like gold in the room of people paled by the cold winters of Idris. The ebony the hair shone in the candlelight of the room, catching different colors so it seemed to be tipped in blue, purple or red. His eyes were almost golden and Alec entertained the possibility he’d died and was now seeing an angel.
While nothing could happen - Alec knew far too well how the town would react to a scandal such as that - it didn’t mean he couldn’t get to know the man better. Maybe Simon would introduce him. If he could just shake his hand, that would be enough for Alec.
Their eyes met across the room and the mystery man gave Alec a small smile and nod before turning his attention back to Simon. Simon grinned in what Alec was beginning to think was the only way he could smile, clapped the man on the back and then made his way out onto the dance floor. Alec watched with mixed emotions as Simon asked Isabelle to dance. Seeing the way his sister’s eyes lit up, Alec knew she was thrilled, even if he worried about the way she. went about getting what she wanted. But in this town, no one would accept Izzy making the first move. There were too many skeletons in the LIghtwood closet and they all knew the careful line they had to walk.
Alec’s feet carried him around the room as he watched the dancers and tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. He didn’t realize how close he was to the beautiful man until he heard a voice he didn’t recognize. “Not a dancer? I would think a handsome man like yourself would be in high demand.”
Alec rolled his eyes, despite how many times his mother told him it as an impolite response. “No one in town is interested in me, no one in the county either. I am not interested in any of them either, so it works out in that way.” This man was new but soon enough, he would hear about the unfortunate Lightwoods and their father who abandoned them for no reason. “Besides, I don’t dance, so not having a partner suits me just fine.”
“I am sure you are a fine dancer, Mister...?” The question was evident in the inflection.
“Lightwood. Alexander Lightwood,” Alec smiled, holding out his hand. “And who might you be? I know everyone in this town. I’ve never even left the county before.”
“Magnus Bane. I’m friends with Mr. Lewis and helped him plan this affair. I think it turned out quite well, don’t you?”
Alec smiled. “It is lovely, yes. This will surely be the talk of the town for months to come.” And it would. Now that Simon set a precedent, the talk would eventually go from the ball he threw to when the next one would be. Alec would have warned him this would happen if he’d had the choice. But judging by the smile on Simon’s face as he twirled Isabelle around the dance floor, he probably would have done it anyway.
“You do not have a lot of events like this out here, do you?” While Alec wished he could ignore the tone of disdain in Magnus’ voice, it was too clear to let go.
“Well, not everyone can live in London,” he said, half-sigh, half-sneer. He had little respect for people in London. Particularly after Miss Highsmith lured his father away (though Alec knew it was far from her fault alone, Robert held the majority of the blame).
Magnus raises a brow, “You do not like London.” It wasn’t a question but Alec answered it anyway.
“I’ve never been. There isn’t a lot of opportunities to travel. I must work to keep my family fed and they are far more important than any personal desire to see the city. But the few people whom I have met from London have not left the best of impressions.” Alec did not hide their family’s problems. He was taking care of it and they didn’t want for anything that was necessary.
“Would you like to go? If there was nothing holding you back?”
“Perhaps,” Alec shrugged. “I would love to go to the libraries and museums. We don’t have a lot of that here. But I need to be here so it will never happen.” He was resigned to his fate.
Magnus pursed his lips, looking Alec over with a calculating eye and Alec felt his cheeks heat under his gaze. But before Alec had a chance to think about it too much, the song changed and a new dance started. “Would you like to dance, Mr. Lightwood?”
Magnus’ grin had stirrings of something unfamiliar in Alec’s chest and he sputtered and shook his head. “We can’t do that. Men don’t dance together, Mr. Bane. I don’t know what things are like where you are from but my family’s reputation would be ruined were I to say yes.” Not a flat-out denial because Alec desperately wanted that, much to his surprise. But his feelings of propriety kept him in line.
“Alas, you disappoint me.” His eyes went to where Simon and Izzy were dancing a second time. “Well, if you will excuse me, I need to go save my friend from the clutches of a station climber.”
Before Alec had a chance to respond, Magnus was off into the crowd, interrupting Simon and Izzy’s dance. He dragged Simon off to the corner where a sullen young man stood, leaving Izzy disappointed and alone. Alec stepped to where Izzy was and offered her hand. “Who was that? He just came up, whispered something to Simon and they disappeared.” At first, Alec thought Izzy was going along with their mothers plan to marry her off to someone rich. And he felt guilty about thinking that because she obviously was disappointed.
“Don’t worry about him. He is awful and hopefully will be returning to London soon.” And Alec meant it because no matter how beautiful he might be and how tempted he made Alec, Magnus insulted his family and Alec couldn’t forgive that.
Isabelle looked at him like Magnus had, calculating and close. It was more unnerving with her as she knew him better than anyone and he didn’t want her to figure out the secret he carried deep in his heart. Instead of saying anything directly, she hedged, “Isn’t there another woman you’d rather be dancing with instead of your own sister?”
He chuckled nervously and kissed cheek, “There’s no other woman here that compares to you, Iz.”
“Well, we both know that is true, big brother. But I’m not the only one you should worry about. I want you to be happy as well, Alec.” Alec knew she meant it but there wasn’t anything else he wanted that he could have. So he settled for taking care of his family.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m happy.” And he was. As happy as he could be with the nature of his heart.
Isabelle frowned. “You and I both know that isn’t true. Not entirely. Did Mr. Lewis’ friend say something to you? Because you are the best, most wonderful person he could ever hope to have in his life.” Alec realized that Izzy probably knew and didn’t care. What he had done to have her in his life, he didn’t know.
“And you are the best, most wonderful person I could have hoped for in my life. Now, go find some man to dance with and make Mr. Lewis horribly jealous.” If Simon made Izzy happy, and if it made Mr. Bane miserable, Alec decided he was all for the match.
Alec and Izzy talk after the ball.
A glimpse into the Lewis-Santiago-Bane family.
A day late. Sort of forgot yesterday was Monday. This is what happens when I am not on my normal schedule :)
This is kind of a strange chapter, split into two parts. I'm trying to follow the basic style and tone of P&P (with the obvious addition of a same-sex relationship), and this is what Austen did in the chapter as well.
Also, Rebecca Lewis is going to be a bit of a harpy in this fic. I apologize for that now. Someone needed to play the role and it was better to use a side character than someone we actually know well.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Exhausted from the night, the three siblings fell asleep in Izzy’s room, barely having the energy to change into their sleep clothes. The next morning, Jace was up far earlier than usual, speaking of some girl he met the night before that he hoped to go visit. Alec and Izzy were far too tired to try and talk him out of it. Every time this happened, they would talk and talk and talk, and Jace would still ignore them all the same. This way, he would be the one to make that mistake all on his own. (He’d fallen for girls before but it always ended in disaster far before he could secure an engagement.)
When the sister and brother remained, Alec finally asked the question he’d been curious about. “What do you really think of Mr. Lewis, Iz? He isn’t traditionally handsome like the men you normally go for. Is he someone you would really want to marry? Would you marry him even if he didn’t have the money and house?”
Izzy sighed, a soft smile pulling at her lips. “I really like him, Alec. He may not look like the men I might normally like but that makes him even better. He’s sweet and funny and he loves his brother.”
Simon never mentioned a brother during their conversation at duMort a few days passed. Only a friend who would help plan the party, the unpleasant Mr. Bane. “Was that the grumpy looking man in the corner?” Alec saw Magnus drag Simon over there and thought the man looked wholly unpleasant.
Izzy laughed, “Sounds right. He said that Mr. Raphael was entirely against the ball but that a Mr. Bane managed to talk some sense into him. The three of them are as close as brothers, with two of them being actually siblings and Mr. Bane being their closest friend and confidante. They have known each other since they were children.”
Tensing at the mention of Magnus, Alec did his best to relax before Izzy noticed. Of course, she noticed anyway. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at her brother, always able to read him far better than anyone else. There was no getting out of this conversation, he knew, when she said, “Now tell me what happened. You hinted something did but you weren’t clear on what.”
“It doesn’t matter, Izzy. He said something untoward and if you weren’t at all interested in Mr. Lewis, I would suggest we cut all ties with them.” It would have been much easier that way. “But since you really like him, then I will have a talk with him if I run into him again. He needs to respect Mr. Lewis’ obvious feelings for you and your feelings for him.” And if it gave Alec an excuse to talk to Mr. Bane once more, then that was his own weak and sinful burden to carry.
Yet again, though, Isabelle proved too insightful for her own good. “You like him.” Not a question, just a simple statement holding no judgment at all.
“I don’t. He is just an arrogant soul from London and Idris would be better off if he never came back.” Though, even as he said it, Alec’s heart ached at the thought of never seeing Magnus again. What was wrong with him that he still wanted to spend time with Magnus even after the horrible thing he said about Izzy?
“You know it is okay, right? It won’t change the way Jace or Max or I think about you. And Mother would understand eventually.” This was the closest anyone had ever come to admitting to the darkness that lived inside Alec, the darkness he tried so hard to keep tamped down.
He sighed, “It isn’t, though. If Father hadn’t done what he did, maybe. But after he left... We all have to be perfect, Izzy. I can’t give in to what I want. There would be no way the Lightwood name could survive that scandal.” Tears burned at his eyes and Alec blinked rapidly, cursing the weakness of his flesh that he would cry over something that would disgust every person they ever knew.
“Damn the Lightwood name, Alec. Your happiness is far more important than any name.” Isabelle cared about him so much, Alec knew that, but he couldn’t do that to her. He couldn’t do that to any of them.
Alec shook his head. “No, it isn’t. Because if you and Max want to get anywhere in society, I have to play my part. I accepted that the moment dad left. You probably should as well.” He didn’t want to argue. His siblings were the only thing that mattered. They were the two who would be able to make something of themselves. Alec simply facilitated that possibility. He’d accepted his own fate the moment he realized where his feelings truly lied. Happiness was not in the cards for him, so he would move heaven and earth to make sure it was for Isabelle and Maxwell.
Seeming disappointed, Izzy nodded. Alec knew it wasn’t the end of the conversation, just a pause until Izzy felt like pushing it once more.
Mr. Simon Lewis and his brother Mr. Raphael Santiago were about as different as could be. Where Simon was gregarious and friendly, Raphael was sullen and withdrawn. He looked harshly on everyone and everything, concerned that someone with less than scrupulous intentions would take advantage of his trusting brother. Simon thought the best of everyone, Raphael thought the worst. Both looked out for their youngest sibling, a sister named Rebecca. She only had eyes for the man whom their mother brought into their home when he was ten and Rebecca was four. Not that her brothers knew anything of that, both blind to the romantic inclinations of a sister they both still thought of as a child most of the time.
When their parents died, Raphael was left with a considerable fortune. And while he kept enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life, he gave the rest to his younger brother, hoping to give Simon a chance at the best life possible. He didn’t know what kind of financial mind Simon had but it turned out that he did well with money and managed to increase his wealth.
Simon eventually decided to move away from the hustle of London, seeking a quieter life in the country. Looking for a home, Simon finally settled on Idris, buying a home sight unseen. He’d been assured he would love it and he did, though it was far more house than he could ever need for himself.
Raphael and Rebecca remained in London at first. Raphael was convinced that London was the place where Rebecca was likely to find the best husband, and Rebecca would stay anywhere the object of her affections resided. Though, they both missed Simon and soon enough ended up at DuMort Park far more than they were in the city. With Simon’s eyes already on a woman in the area, Raphael worried his sister would fall in love with someone there as well and his entire family would remain in Idris instead of returning home with him. He trusted their judgment but still needed to make sure that they were both protected from people who would use them to climb the social ladder, instead of loving them as they both deserved. His siblings were more important than anything, even his own happiness.
Unlike his friends who inherited their fortunes, Mr. Magnus Bane worked hard to get to where he was. He lost his parents to illness while still very small and Simon, Rebecca, and Raphael’s mother took him in. Having lost her husband, she told him that she couldn't imagine what would happen to her children if something were to happen to her as well. So she added a new son to her family, loving Magnus as if he were hers by blood.
Magnus thrived with his three new siblings. He was older than them all but customs of their society meant that he would never inherit anything from his adopted family. If he did not wish to live on the streets, he would need to make his own fortune.
Luckily for everyone involved, when Magnus put his mind to it, he could do almost anything. While Simon had a mind for numbers, Magnus had an eye for fashion. He started off designing gowns for the women in their family but as they got more and more compliments, his talents became even more in demand. Soon he was designing for some of the most powerful women in London, and the wives of the most powerful men. He often dined with the Queen, helping her plan for the next public event. He designed suits for men to wear while they sat for portraits and helped the artist style everyone so that their portrait would be perfect. It didn’t take long for his name to spread throughout England and he's traveled often, always on the move to make his latest client happy. His home outside London, Edom Estates, was second only to the palace when it came to biggest homes in the country, and he returned there between clients, occasionally hosting his siblings for extended holidays.
In his travels, he gained a bit of a reputation, which only helped business. People enjoy courting a bit of controversy and working with Magnus Bane was as close as most people felt comfortable. It was said he enjoyed the company of both men and women, including some influential people within the palace itself. His flirtations were for everyone he came across and several lords were reduced to stuttering messes in his presence. While he never did anything to bring shame upon his family, many people asked just how much longer his adopted family would be willing to claim him as one of theirs before his reputation began to pull them down. Little did anyone know that the three siblings loved him, and all his quirks, and found the rumors more amusing than anything else. People of their wealth were mostly untouchable when it came to scandal, so they had no issue with their adopted brother being the most whispered about man in London.
But while he would flirt with anyone, and was known to laugh and smile and enjoy every pleasure he could find, Magnus was also fiercely protective of his family. If he thought anyone was trying to use or abuse the people he cared about, Magnus Bane would cut them down with some well-timed gossip or harsh word. The properly spread rumor could ruin a family for generations so people were careful around Simon, Raphael, Rebecca, and the rest of the family as a result.
His family was everything and Magnus would do anything to keep them safe from those who wished them harm.
Yes, Simon and Raphael are biological brothers in this. Yes, their last names are different. No, I'm not explaining why because it doesn't have any bearing on the story (and I never figured out a plausible explanation... lol). Mainly I couldn't decide if they should both be Lewis or both be Santiago, so I just kept them canon. XD
After breakfast, the day found Alec and Izzy accompanying Maryse to visit their friends, the Monteverde family. Maryse and Mrs. Monteverde had grown up in the neighboring county and both ended up marrying men of Idris. Their eldest sons, John and Alec, were the same age and grew up together. John was quiet and soft-spoken like Alec, so the boys got along well. John was also unmarried, a fact that bothered Mrs. Monteverde far less than Alec’s bachelorhood bothered Maryse. She kept saying that John would know when the right woman came along and that she would be happy to welcome anyone John loved into their family. Alec found himself torn between jealousy at John’s mother’s easy acceptance and horror that he might end up competing against his friend for the affections of a woman. He swore back when they were still young that if John liked anyone, Alec would never get in the way of their relationship. Alec would never love a woman like they deserved and it was worth his mother’s fury if it meant that both John and the woman were happy.
Listening to Izzy, Maryse, and Mrs. Monteverde talk about the ball, Alec sighed and met John’s eye, nodding toward the door. Knowing if they stayed too long, Maryse would start bemoaning the fact that Alec hardly danced with anyone and he wanted nothing to do with that line of guilt today. Alec and John escaped to the relative quiet of the outdoors under the pretense of checking on the horses. “Did you have fun?” Alec asked, knowing John would understand he was talking about the ball the night before.
He’d seen John there but his friend was in high demand, dancing the whole night while Alec stuck to the walls away from as many people as he could manage. “You know what? I did. I thought it would be awful, the way mother always speaks about the balls she went to when she was young. But I danced with Isabelle as well as a few other girls from town. It was a good time, as surprising as that is to say.” John was never one for socializing, always focused on his studies. He wanted to go into service to the church, but the studies were proving to be far more rigorous than he expected. He’d been trying to get into the seminary south of Idris but he felt guilty leaving his mother alone. Mr. Monteverde traveled to London often for work so his mother spent most of her days with only John and her friends for company.
Alec smiled, happy that his friend had a better time than he did. John was such a happy soul with a good heart and someday would make a fabulous husband. “Anyone catch your eye? You know you are going to need to marry sooner rather than later, lest your mother turn into a clone of mine.”
“Is she still on you about marrying?” Alec had complained about it enough Maryse’s behavior to John that he knew exactly what Alec suffered with.
He shook his head, “Surprisingly, no. Unsurprisingly, it is because she has latched onto Izzy marrying Mr. Lewis. That will solve all our problems, she is sure about it. Because the answer to everything is marriage and social climbing. Preferably social climbing through marriage.” Alec wished he could laugh about this but it was his sister’s life as well as his own that Maryse was playing with. Of course, Maryse saw it as her right as their mother to use them for her own purposes.
“She may get her wish,” John pointed out. “Everyone at the ball saw the way Mr. Lewis looked at your sister. I think it is safe to say the man is hopelessly smitten. Might we expect an engagement in the near future?” Alec’s stomach turned at the thought of his little sister marrying and moving to duMort. She was going to leave him alone with their mother. It took all his effort to turn his attention back to John. “If I was a jealous man, I would say that I hoped not so that I might have a chance with the lovely Miss Lightwood. However, I think we both regard each other more as siblings the potential suitors.”
Alec often wished that John and his sister would prove to be a good match. Then Izzy wouldn’t move far away and he trusted John above almost everyone outside their family. He would take care of her and their family’s reputation wouldn’t drive him away. He knew, though, that it would never happen. “I fear you are right. On both accounts. Isabelle would destroy you, even if she had the best of intentions. It would take a special kind of man to handle my sister. I do not know if Mr. Lewis will fare much better, but he seems bound and determined to try.”
Not seeming to take any offense, John simply laughed and shook his head. He grew more solemn when he asked, “You do not like him? I thought you would be pleased. Judging by the smile on your sister’s face last night, it seemed as though Mr. Lewis’ affections were returned. As her brother, isn't that the best you can hope for her?”
Alec sighed, “It is. And if it was just Mr. Lewis, I would not hesitate to give my blessing to the match. He is a good man, with a good heart, and I think he would love Isabelle the way she deserves to be loved. His two brothers, however, are the ones giving me reason to doubt. One of them looks as if he has never smiled in his life and wants nothing but to hurt the people who so much as look at his brother wrong. I could probably forgive that - you know how I am with my siblings - if it wasn’t directed at my sister. The other one, Mr. Bane, is unforgivable in my mind. He said something about Isabelle, making an assumption without ever speaking to her once, and I will never be able to look upon him without thinking of it.” Insults to his family were the one thing Alec couldn’t tolerate. And if anyone associated with that man was interested in his sister, Alec would be on guard.
John looked at him, wide-eyed. Isabelle Lightwood was sought over for counties. No one had ever say an unkind word about her, or if they did, they were smart enough not to do it in the presence of one of her protective friends and family. “What did he say?” The thought that anyone could come up with something that would upset Alec that much was unthinkable to John.
“That he needed to go save his friend from a woman who was obviously only after him for his money.” The worst part was that Mr. Bane wasn’t far off. Not Isabelle, of course. Her feelings for him seemed true and strong and that only made this worse. But their mother...
Laughing, John shook his head. “Maryse, sure. But I think your sister actually feels something for him. I’ve never seen her look at anyone like she looked at Mr. Lewis. If Mr. Bane tries to keep the two of them apart, I fear he might have met his match in her.”
It was something Alec knew to be true. Izzy was one of the most driven people he knew. If there was something she wanted, she would stop at nothing to get it. “I worry, though. You know what people around here say about my family because of what Robert did. If she fights with Mr. Bane, it would only add more disgrace to us.”
John laughed, “Far from it. It might raise people’s opinions of you.” Alec raised his brow, confused by his friend's comment but said nothing, waiting for John to continue. “Apparently the man drank far too much at the party and complained long and loud that there was no one in this county worth his time except perhaps the beauty with hazel eyes. No one could figure out who he meant as he only spent time with Mr. Lewis and his brother. No one even saw him speak to anyone else except the poor people brave enough to approach him. Of the several people who asked him to dance, he turned every one of them down He made a terrible impression and if anyone managed to tear him down a little, that person might be the most popular soul in Idris.”
As John laughed, Alec's heart caught in his throat. Even in his family, he was the only one with hazel eyes. Izzy and Maryse both had a deep, dark brown. Max's were a brilliant blue, and Jace had a strange mix of the two. That always made him popular with girls, or so he claimed. Alec never enjoyed discussing his brother’s romantic life with him.
But Alec's were the brown-green-gold combination known as hazel. He'd never thought of his eyes as anything special but maybe Magnus thought so. And Alec hoped that he had, but hated himself for that hope. “What is the matter, friend?” John asked, pulling him from his thoughts. “I seem to have lost you someplace. I was saying that mother hopes to hold a dance soon and I should make sure she invites Mr. Lewis but that I hope that horrid man might stay away.”
Forcing a smile, Alec shook his head. “My apologies. I was trying to think of what unhappy person might have captured his attentions. It is not a situation I imagine many would find enviable.”
“Too true, Alec,” John laughed, unaware of Alec’s inner conflict. “Too true. What an unlucky soul that would be.”
It seemed a fitting title for Alec, who harbored a secret hope in his heart.
It soon became a common experience for Isabelle - with Alec as her chaperone - to be making trips to DuMort park several times a week so she could spend time with Simon. It meant spending hours in the presence of Raphael -who Alec quickly began to appreciate for his sour demeanor, quick mind, and dedication to his younger siblings - and Magnus, who mostly sat on the side of the room with a sketch pad and unreadable expression.
While Simon and Isabelle would entertain themselves with games of cards, discussions of favorite books, or piano recitals, Alec and Raphael would sit at the chessboard and play. Sometimes they would talk but much of the time they would play in silence, the only sound Magnus’ pencil scratching against the paper on the other side of the room. Rebecca would sit and crochet, always near Magnus, who never paid much attention to her. Sometimes she would engage her brothers in conversation, Simon and Raphael always willing to try and include her, though Magnus just ignored her for the most part. Alec wondered if it bothered her but she didn’t seem to mind, seeming content to sit in his presence. Not once did she attempt talking to either Isabelle or Alec, at least not when Alec was around.
Magnus didn’t say anything to anyone. Instead, he would watch Alec and Raphael from across the room, an ever-present spectre during their meetings. While a part of Alec wished to talk with him, the words Magnus had spoken about his sister stayed in the front of his mind and would force him to keep his mouth clamped shut every time he was tempted to open it.
A week before the Monteverdes’ dance, Alec and Izzy once more made the trip to DuMort Park. However, from the moment they walked in the room, Alec sensed that something was different. Magnus’ usual spot sat empty and Alec breathed a sigh of relief that he would not need to fight his dual instincts to ignore him completely or to talk to him for the rest of eternity. (The instinct to kiss him and hold him close was ignored entirely because of the strange feeling it caused in Alec's chest.)
As Alec fought down the disappointment, he watched Simon and Isabelle slip into the other room where the piano was. He sighed and made his way to the chess board, only to stop short when he realized that it wasn’t Raphael who sat there waiting for him. Glancing at the door as he tried to decide whether to flee and to stay, Alec took a deep breath and sat. He could be the bigger person. Magnus knew Alec and Raphael always played chess, so he sat there knowing Alec would be joining him. Rebecca, as always sat near Magnus, looking between the two men with a look of unbridled disagreement.
“This is different,” he said softly, looking across at the man who was just as breathtaking as he had been at the ball all those weeks ago. “It is strange to see you not glaring at me from across the room. Sometimes I am worried I might catch on fire from the sheer strength of your glare.”
Magnus chuckled, humorless and low. “It isn’t you I am glaring at. It is Raphael, who knows exactly what he is doing every time he plays chess with you and keeps all your attention for himself.” Frowning, Magnus looked at what Alec assumed had to be a baffled expression on his own face. “You thought I was glaring at you. Is that why you haven’t spoken to me since the ball?”
Raising a brow, Alec wondered if Magnus was truly mad or just utterly blind to his own faults. “No, I haven’t spoken to you since the ball because you accused my dearest sister of wanting to marry your friend solely for his money. You didn’t bother to check who you were talking to or even get any information at all. Just made an assumption - a wrong one about my sister. She is the most important person in my life and you spoke of her like a common mistress.” Alec practically spit the last word at Magnus. The last thing he wanted was for Izzy to be lumped in with the likes of Annemarie Highsmith. She deserved better. She deserved the world.
Magnus had the decency to look sheepish, which made something loosen a little in Alec’s chest. “We have had bad experiences, the lot of us. Every one of us has had someone come after us because of our wealth and not because of who we are as people. I didn’t want that to happen to Simon. He gives his heart away so easily and has it crushed just as easily in return.”
Frowning, Alec tried to hang onto his anger a little longer. “Isabelle would never do that. She truly cares about Mr. Lewis and doesn’t want to hurt him ever.” If someone had told him he would be having this conversation today, Alec would have run the opposite direction. Discussing feelings and relationships and all that entails could rank as one of his worst nightmares. As it was, he couldn’t do anything about it but push through.
Giving Alec a small smile, Magnus continued. “I understand that now. She is a good woman and she makes Simon happy. I truly approve of the match and feel guilty that I ever questioned it. Can you forgive me?”
Alec didn’t want to. He wanted to continue to be angry, for his pride’s sake as much as for Izzy’s honor. But he also wanted to know Magnus better, because apparently he wanted to talk with Alec and had for a while. Which made him wonder why would Raphael be keeping them apart? He thought Raphael liked him but was this some elaborate ruse on all their parts to embarrass the Lightwoods further? Of course, Magnus never mentioned their controversy but that didn't mean he was unaware.
“Can you answer me one question? If you can do that honestly, then I will forgive you.”
“Anything, Mr. Lightwood,” Magnus promised without hesitation.
Bolstered, Alec asked, “Why was Raphael occupying my time? You say he is trying to keep us apart, or at least keep you away from me. Why is that?”
Magnus looked relieved at the question as if it wasn’t as bad as the one he expected. “Because he doesn't think your family deserves the scandal of being associated with me. Apparently, he has grown fond of you all, and does not believe that my association with you would do any of you any good.”
“And he couldn’t let me decide for myself?”
“Don’t judge him too harshly.” Fondness carried through every word Magnus spoke. “He knows how infatuated his baby brother is with your sister and wants to protect her every bit as much as Simon does. He has grown fond of you and I can certainly see why. The two of you are very similar and I think will become fast friends. While they have grown up with me and are slightly immune to the rumors that follow in my wake, he has hinted that your family name could not deal with being paired with mine, and therefore, for your sake, it would be wise to keep me away.”
Alec had already released most of his doubts from the ball regarding both Simon and Raphael, but hearing that only made him happier. To know there was someone else looking out for his family, no matter how misguided the attempt might be, warmed his heart.
“Well, there is not much scandal to be found in chess. Shall we play a game? I’m not afraid of a little controversy if you’re not.” Not entirely true most of the time, but if it meant that he got to spend time with Magnus, especially here, away from the prying eyes and ears of town, then Alec had no worry about what other people might think.
“Darling,” Magnus purred. “Sometimes I actively court it.”
For some reason, Alec thought he was talking about more than just controversy. The feeling was bolstered by Rebecca huffing and storming from the room. The two men exchanged a glance, shrugged, and turned back to the game.
“What is wrong with you?” Izzy demanded when they were getting ready for the dance a few days later. “You’ve barely said a word since we left DuMort and you have a sappy smile on your face. I’m the one in love, so why do you look like it?”
“You’re in love?” Alec asked, hoping to deflect the conversation away from him. While Izzy may suspect where his affections turned, he didn’t want to say the thoughts out loud, for fear of making them permanent. “You barely know him. How can you be sure you are in love?”
Izzy laughed, a soft, somewhat patronizing smile gracing her lips. “You are so innocent, big brother. When you know, you know. It’s a feeling that I think would be impossible to explain. Besides, I know him better than almost anyone else outside of our family. I am looking forward to dancing with him at the dance tonight. Nothing feels better than being in his arms.”
Once more, Alec envied his siblings. They would eventually get what they wanted out of life, where he would need to do his duty to his family and give up on his own wants and dreams. Though, even what he wanted wouldn’t be possible, even if he didn’t have the family’s reputation resting on his shoulders. It just wasn’t done, as far as he knew. Sure there were rumors on occasion but Alec doubted any of that to be true.
Still, he couldn’t deny that Magnus had captured his heart and mind in the short time they knew each other. And Alec thought he would give anything in order to be able to hold Magnus in his arms, dance with him like Simon and Isabelle would be able to do. “Alexander,” Izzy laughed, poking his shoulder. He glared at the use of his full name and Izzy only laughed more. “I lost you there for a moment. You really need to stop overthinking things. Have you fallen for someone? Is it Simon’s sister? We could have a double wedding.”
Alec shuddered at the thought. If he was going to marry a woman, at least it would be someone who he liked to be around. While Simon’s sister was no doubt a lovely person, she never so much as glanced at Alec without dislike in her eyes. He couldn’t live like that for the rest of his life. “I am not going to marry Miss Lewis. She is not interested in me in the slightest.” Which was just fine with him. Alec suspected both him and Rebecca had their eyes on the same person, but only one of them was likely to land him. He hoped they would be happy for them if they ever ended up together if Magnus ever realized and returned her feelings.
“Then who is it? There is someone, big brother, and I will not rest until I find out who. You’ve never shown an interest in anyone before so they must be truly extraordinary to have captured your attention.” A determined set of her jaw and Alec knew he wouldn’t be getting away with anything while his sister was so focused on his love life.
He sighed, “And if you don’t like what you find?” Because she wouldn’t. They were all religious and they all knew what happened to men like Alec. There was no salvation for him. All he could do was make sure his siblings were taken care of before he died and hope for the best.
Izzy looked at him out of the corner of her eye and sighed sadly. Wrapping an arm around him, Alec relaxed into the warmth of his baby sister’s embrace and the kiss she placed on his cheek. “I already know,” she said softly, never loosening her embrace. “And if he doesn’t return the affections, it is his loss, not yours.” With one last kiss, she released him and returned to finish getting ready, leaving a stunned brother standing there staring at her back.
His mind blurred with emotion and confusion, one thought circling back to him again and again. Isabelle knows. Isabelle knows. Isabelle knows. And yet it seemed like nothing at all to her. Alec opened his mouth a few times, trying to think of something to say. “How long have you known?” he managed, voice cracking with emotion and fear. “Does everyone else know?” They couldn’t. Jace would never speak to him again. His mother would be forcing him to get married immediately, just to cover his shortcomings. Izzy must be the only one. Which was a small relief though still not enough to soothe the panicked beating of his heart. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?”
Izzy turned, putting the last pin in her hair. “There are plenty of men like you, Alec. You aren’t as alone as you think you are. And, in case you were wondering, Magnus is like you. Simon told me. He wanted me to know there would be rumors about the family if we got close to his brother, wanted to make sure we were okay with being associated with him. Simon said that anyone who couldn’t accept Magnus wouldn’t be the one for him, which I respect. If I can accept his brother, then why wouldn’t I be able to accept my own?”
Tears pricked at his eyes and Alec blinked to try and stop them from falling. As nice as it was to know that maybe Magnus might be able to feel the same way about him, the more important thing to know was that Isabelle still loved him, despite who he was and what he wanted. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“You will always have me, Alec. And someday, somebody will love you, heart and soul. He’s out there somewhere, big brother. Maybe even staying at DuMort Park,” Izzy smirked. “Now, go get ready. I’ll be in to help you in a little bit. You want to have Mr. Bane staring at you from the moment you walk in until the moment we go home.” She shooed him out the door and Alec, still too stunned to put up much of a fight, simply walked across the hall to his own room.
Suddenly, the coming evening appeared far more interesting.
As nice as this chapter is, the course of true love never did run smooth. Please don't get too mad at me if (when) things go south for awhile. They have issues to work through first.
Communication and open minds are key to any relationship. Not that Magnus nor Alec understand that just yet.
The dance was in full swing by the time the Lightwoods arrived at the Monteverde’s that evening. While Jace sought out a local girl named Kaelie, Isabelle’s eyes went straight to Simon who was dancing happily with his sister. Izzy’s magnetic pull drew simons eyes to her immediately and by the time the song was over, he was already by her side, leaving a sputtering Rebecca in the middle of the room looking very put out and abandoned.
Maryse made her way over to Mrs. Monteverde, no doubt to gossip about what everyone was wearing and to hope for some scandal to befall them all, Alec assumed. Since this party was being held at their home, Max found John’s younger brother quickly and the two of them were playing happily at the side of the parlor, oblivious to the dance and gossip going on around him.
Which left Alec, standing near the doorway and staring out, looking for Magnus in the crowd. If Simon and Rebecca were there, surely Magnus and Raphael were around as well. Though, after what John said about Magnus after the last ball, maybe the Monteverdes hadn’t invited him. It would have been improper and rude, so he doubted it, but stranger things had happened.
Like meeting a beautiful man who felt about men the same way he did.
“Nice if you to make it,” John laughed as he smiled at Alec, who jumped when his friend approached. He was so engrossed in finding Magnus in the crowd that he didn’t hear him approach. “I was beginning to think I would have to dance with all these lovely ladies by myself.”
Alec forced a smile, one he knew made him look more ill than happy but was all he had to offer at that moment. “You may still have to. I’m afraid I am only here to chaperone Isabelle. I am not feeling up to dancing tonight.” Both true and untrue. Because while Alec had absolutely no desire to dance with any woman (besides his sister if she asked), at the ball at DuMort Park, Magnus asked him for a dance and Alec hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it. It wouldn’t be possible in the main room but maybe he could find the courage to invite Magnus someplace more private? He doubted it but maybe that would be the case.
“More for me, I suppose.” They both laughed, knowing John hated these events as much as Alec did, though for far different reasons. While both were quiet and reserved, John still did like women and wanted to marry someday. Asking them to dance, particularly ones he was interested in was his downfall. Whereas Alec just didn’t want to dance with any of them, period. “It appears your sister might be married soon. That is the word around town, at least.”
It didn’t surprise him that Simon and Isabelle’s relationship was the subject of county gossip. There wasn’t much else to do in Idris than talk about everyone else. But, while he privately agreed with what John said, Alec didn’t say that in so many words. Instead, he sighed, “Well, he hasn’t asked for her hand yet, so unless they are planning on eloping, I think talk of marriage might be a bit premature.”
John nodded, “It will be a solid partnership when it does happen. I am sure your mother is pleased. Financial security for her daughter would have to be a top priority for her. Particularly after...everything.”
Alec wondered if that was true. Did Maryse push them toward Simon to make sure Izzy was taken care of in the manner that she deserved or did Maryse do it to bolster her own tarnished reputation? Alec wished he could be as generous in his assessment as John was but intimate knowledge held him back. “She loves him. That is what is important, not how much he is worth.”
Taken aback when his friend laughed and rolled his eyes, Alec stared at John. “Love hardly factors into it, Alec. There needs to be financial security and the promise of children. If a partnership doesn’t have those two things, then no amount of love in the world could save it.” While they had different views on marriage and relationships, Alec didn’t realize his friend was so unconcerned with love. Though, he supposed that the fact that he avoided all mention of falling in love that it shouldn’t be a surprise that he didn’t know John’s actual thoughts on it.
“That is a rather cynical view, don’t you think?” Alec tried to keep his smile in check at the sound of that voice. He knew he didn’t succeed but turned to face Magnus all the same, the other man’s eyes as happy as his own. “Please tell me you have a different opinion, Mr. Lightwood.”
“While financial security in our elder years is important, I think having someone to spend those years with is even more so. No amount of money in the works could make a weak partnership strong. If I ever marry, it will be for love.” Which meant that it would never happen but he couldn’t exactly say that, not with John standing right there.
Surprise colored Magnus’ features as his brows jumped at Alec’s statement. “If? Every woman in the county must want you. You would have your pick of bride.” Magnus looked almost nervous, an expression that didn’t sit well on his face. He couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it was because Magnus was interested in him and figured it must be because they were broaching a sensitive subject.
Alec gave him a tight smile, not wanting to have this moment here, in front of people he’d grown up with. People who wouldn’t understand his feelings for other men and would most likely ostracize his family further. While he tried to find the right words to reply to Magnus question, someone else jumped in.
John, oblivious to what was happening between the two in front of him, laughed, “You would think so. But no one wants to touch their family with the blemish on their name. No one in Idris would marry any of them. I mean, look at Izzy. As beautiful as they come and still unmarried.” John knew that Izzy wasn’t married because she wanted to love the person she was with but he seemed to be enjoying being the center of attention, even if he was misrepresenting his friends and their family in the process. “That’s why Mrs. Lightwood is so determined that Izzy will marry Mr. Lewis before he learns of their issues as well. Why do you think she sends Alec and Izzy out to his house all the time? Better to get him bound to her now, before he finds out how terrible it would look for him and his family to be tied to the Lightwoods.”
Alec looked in horror between John and Magnus, knowing exactly how John’s words were going to come off. That their whole family was grabbing for status and money through Izzy’s relationship with Simon. That everything Alec had assured Magnus of, that Izzy wasn’t using him and that she did love Simon, was all just another lie to get his money. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Magnus would now inquire as to why the Lightwoods were such social poison in this small community. All Alec wanted was a chance to talk to the beautiful man and now his friend, however unmeaning, just ruined that, perhaps forever.
Unwilling to stay there another moment, he muttered, “If you’ll excuse me,” pushing his way through the small crowd and out onto the steps of the house. He needed a chance to breathe, to think. He couldn’t do that with John’s laughter still ringing in his ears. Unable to bring himself to look at Magnus, Alec could only imagine the emotions he would see there. Annoyance. Disgust. Horror. Hatred. It’s how so many others in Idris looked at them. The Lightwoods were tainted and wrong, and willing to do anything to get back into favor with the society in which they lived. Even if he was able to pursue a forbidden relationship with the man of his desires, this would probably be one scandal too many for Magnus. Too many issues, too much baggage.
Alec would never be worth it.
Standing outside, Alec took deep, gulping breaths, hoping the cool air would calm his racing heart. Just as it started to do just that, a familiar voice sounded behind him and never in his life had Alec wanted the earth to open up as much as he did in that moment. “What was Mr. Monteverde talking about?” Magnus asked, cool and collected, no hint of the warmth that had graced their conversation earlier in the day. “He seemed to be implying that your sister is only interested in my brother for his money. Is this true?”
Alec shook his head, hoping beyond hope that Magnus would believe him. “No, not Isabelle. She is in love with Mr. Lewis. I’ve never seen her like this before. All she’s ever wanted was someone who would love her, whom she could love in return. Your brother, he makes her lighter, happier. Everything she feels for him is as genuine as it comes.” Every word was sincere, a plea for his sister’s happiness above all else. But, as much as Alec wanted to stop there, he couldn’t. Magnus deserved the truth and he only hoped it wouldn’t cost Izzy in the end. His own happiness? Alec figured that was lost the moment John started to speak. “But my mother.” His voice shook and Alec averted his eyes, unwilling to see what Magnus was thinking as he spoke. “When she heard that your brother had moved to DuMort Park, she immediately began scheming to get him and Isabelle together. A man of Mr. Lewis stature would help repair the damage my father did to our family name. We are mostly pariahs in Idris. Everyone knows my father abandoned us to move to London with a woman he met there while traveling for business. If someone as respectable as your brother were to marry Isabelle, then it would restore the Lightwood name, and give my mother her place back in society.”
“So your mother was using my family to improve her social station. She was using my brother so that she could be friends with the right kind of people again?” Alec wanted to scream and cry and prove to Magnus that their whole family wasn’t like that, that none of the kids cared about the status of the person they married, as long as they loved them. But the bitter disgust in Magnus’ voice froze the words in Alec’s throat and he could only nod mutely. “It’s no wonder your father left. I certainly can’t blame him if that is what he lived with all those years.”
Alec recoiled as if he’d been physically hit. Sure, other people whispered that behind their backs but no one had ever said it to his face. To hear it from Magnus was a blow Alec didn’t know if he could recover from. “Please don’t say anything to Mr. Lewis,” he asked, voice cracking with emotion. “Please. This wasn’t Isabelle’s fault. She loves him. Please don’t hurt my sister to get back at the ones you are angry with.” He could only assume he would be included in that category, judging by the way Magnus looked at him. If Magnus could burn him to the ground with only a look, Alec would have been ash by now. “My family is everything to me. They are all I have. You have to understand.”
“I understand,” Magnus said, voice turned impossibly colder. “I understand that you think your family is more important than mine, that your sister’s happiness should trump my brother’s knowledge of what he is getting into. I understand that you are not the person I thought you were.” He turned on his heel to return to the party, and Alec knew that Simon would be done with his sister by the end of the night if Magnus had his way. Everything was ruined and Alec couldn’t do a damn thing to fix it. “Goodbye, Mr. Lightwood,” Magnus said over his shoulder as he disappeared into the crowd.
No longer feeling in the mood to be around others, particularly those who would probably delight in talking about what just happened outside the Montverde’s home, Alec went to their carriage. There he sat alone, lost in his despair, while he waited for his family to be ready to go home.
They'll get there, I promise, and sooner than Darcy and Elizabeth did. But well, they're idiots. I love them but it's true.
A day early because I am traveling tomorrow so this way I don't forget.
Much to Alec’s surprise, the whole family left the ball that night giddy and light, the complete opposite of what he expected following the explosive conversation with Magnus. He doubted the other man would have waited long before telling Simon what he knew about the Lightwood family but maybe he didn’t wish to cause a scene. Alec stayed silent on the way home, driving the carriage and trying to ignore his family’s happy chatter from inside.
He went directly to his room once the horses were put away and climbed into bed, the door locked to keep his siblings from barging in and demanding he talk to them about what was wrong. There would be time enough for that in the morning. Alec didn’t have the energy or will that night.
The next morning, as expected, Isabelle was waiting for him just outside his door. Instead of letting him out, she pushed him back inside and closed the door behind them. “What happened last night? You and Mr. Bane disappeared and not twenty minutes later he came back with a stormy expression and practically dragged Simon away from me.”
Despite how well Izzy was handling it, the guilt ate away at Alec until he burst out with, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t lie to him but the truth... He hates all of us, Iz. I’m sorry I ruined everything. I’m sorry. Nothing I do is good enough and in the end, you still get hurt. All I wanted to do was protect you.”
Izzy raised a brow, looking somewhere between confused and annoyed. “Alec, will you shut up and let me talk?” He snapped his mouth shut and waited obediently for his sister to talk. “Apparently Mr. Bane hates Mother, which I understand. Unless you know her, she can be difficult. And I think we both agree that her desire to marry us both off is not without complications. But I’d already told Simon all of this during the afternoons we shared together. So it wasn’t a surprise to him and he told Mr. Bane that. Mr. Bane, however, didn’t like that and stormed off somewhere. Which means, you are the one I am concerned about, not me. How are you doing, big brother?”
Alec sighed, eyes trained on the ground. “Nothing could have happened between us. I have to protect all of you and I couldn’t do that when courting controversy and skirting the edges of the law. So, everything that happened is probably for the best.”
“And do you actually believe that?” Izzy knew him far too well and in that moment, Alec cursed that very fact. Isabelle could rule the world if she wanted to, and Alec was powerless under the force of her will.
He shook his head, “I should believe that, but I don’t.” It wasn’t safe, what he felt. But even so, he wanted it, he wanted to take a risk and do something entirely for himself. However, John’s big mouth and their mother’s desire to come out from the shadow they’d been living under had doomed him to live a life of loneliness and hiding. Not that he was sure if Magnus would have ever been interested in someone like him anyway. He’d probably been just playing with him for fun if the ease with which he turned cold toward Alec was any indication.
Izzy smiled, knowing she already won, despite Alec’s words. “Then we are going to have breakfast and you are going to chaperone me when I go visit Rebecca this afternoon. She has invited me and you will have to come along as I obviously cannot go alone.” The pride coming off her in waves set Alec’s teeth on edge but he merely nodded. An afternoon in the same house with Magnus was the last thing he wanted to do today. But after almost ruining Isabelle’s relationship, he would put himself through any amount of misery to make things right with her again.
At the table, Jace and Maryse were already engrossed in conversation. “I’m not saying I plan on joining up but it isn’t every day that the regiment comes through town. I want to go see what it is like.”
“As the Herondale heir, you don’t need to join the army, Jace. When you are twenty-one, you will inherit your family’s fortune. There will be no need for a career outside of being the heir.”
It was a common conversation. Maryse believed a title was the only job one needed but Jace wanted to do more. Alec knew he’d dreamed of joining the military since he was small. With the regiment in town, it seemed obvious that Jace would be going to be stopping by at some point or another.
“Can I go with him? I want to see the soldiers, too!” Alec smiled at the youngest in their family. While Max was very much like Alec in many respects, he idolized Jace and followed him wherever he went. “I’ll stay out of the way and do what I’m told. I promise . Please, Jace!”
“Of course, Max,” Jace beamed, obviously happy for the new topic and the fact that it would be much harder for Maryse to argue with him now. Max had them all wrapped around his little finger and if he wanted something, none of them had the heart to say no. Jace turned back to Maryse who sighed heavily but nodded all the same. “Maybe they’ll let you shoot one of the rifles,” Jace told Max, watching as the little boy’s eyes lit up.
Alec bit back the urge to make Max stay home. This is why Jace was the favorite and not him. The soldiers wouldn’t let anything happen to him, so he knew Max would be safe, even if it seemed highly dangerous.
Turning her attention back to her two eldest, Maryse smiled in a way that told Alec that whatever was about to come out of her mouth would most likely upset him. “Isabelle, did I hear that Miss Lewis invited you to DuMort for the day?”
“She did, Mom. Alec is going to escort me. We should be home for dinner if that is your concern.” Alec admired his sister’s poise, even in the face of their mother meddling in her romance.
Sighing, Maryse nodded, “That is fine, dear. Take all the time you need. I am just worried because you will need to take a horse instead of the carriage. There is something wrong with it and it is not fit to drive today.”
“Mother, it is going to rain. I did not think you would want us out in such weather.” Already seeing where this was going, Alec did his best to stop it before his mother got her way. Again. The last time she meddled, he lost the one person outside their family who came to mean something to him. He wouldn’t let her do that to Izzy, too. “We can send our regrets and go another day. Or we can set out late, giving me enough time to fix the carriage. Do you know what is wrong with it?”
“I already told you. It isn’t fit to drive. And you will do nothing but show up on time and be the picture of proper guests. I expect you there, Alexander, is that clear?”
Maryse rolled her eyes, “I named you Alexander when you were a colicky baby, and that is what I will insist on calling you if you continue to act like a sullen child. I am simply asking you not to insult the neighbors by turning down a perfectly lovely invitation. Do not act like I am asking you to fight demons single-handedly. Go, play cards, have fun. The carriage will be there tomorrow for you to fix.”
Sharing a look with his sister, they both knew this was easier than arguing. If one of them fell ill, that was on Maryse’s head, not theirs. Besides, Izzy wanted to see Simon and Alec wanted to make Izzy happy. If that meant riding all the way to DuMort Park on horseback, it was a small price to pay.
The two of them enjoyed the ride for the first mile and a half between their home and DuMort, but then the sky opened up and rain fell down on them for the rest of the trip. By the time they reached the estate, Izzy was shaking and Alec was ready to go home and give his mother a piece of his mind.
Simon hurried out to meet them, bringing them in and lightly scolding them for being out in such weather. “While I am always happy to see you both, you should not have come this far without proper transportation. What would happen if you fell ill? I would never forgive myself if something were to happen to you simply because I enjoy your company. I know Rebecca would agree with me.”
The woman standing in the doorway looked like she would be perfectly happy if Alec froze to death out in the rain but he didn’t point that out to her brother, instead, helping him get Izzy inside and near a fire where they could both dry off. “Our carriage is broken, it appears,” Alec sighed through gritted teeth. He very much doubted there was a problem with it, but since their mother had this idea in her head, there was no way they would have been able to get out of it. “I am so sorry for the inconvenience. We will be out of here as soon as it is dry enough to ride back. Izzy needs to be in her own home, in her bed, with her family where we can care for her.”
“Once you have both dried off, I can send for my carriage. You can come retrieve your horses some other time. I promise they will be well taken care of here.”
Simon fussed over Izzy, making sure she was warm enough, that the clothes Rebecca lent her fit comfortably. Alec stood back, feeling exceedingly awkward. Not only were Simon and Rebecca taking care of his sister, leaving him feeling helpless, but Magnus sat in his usual spot in the room, glaring daggers at Alec. He probably knew why they didn’t take the carriage, Alec thought miserably to himself, and went to send a messenger to his mother to inform her that Izzy had fallen ill and they would be returning by Simon’s carriage as soon as she was ready for the journey.
Not ready to go back into the lounge and watch other people do his job as big brother - let alone be stared at by Magnus - Alec leaned against a wall, staring out the window in the hallway. While he wanted to go home and forget this day ever happened, until Izzy felt better, he wouldn’t leave her side. Her health was far more important than his happiness. Which was how he found himself still moping outside the room where the Lewis’ cared for his sister when Magnus came to find him.
“There is nothing wrong with your carriage, is there, Mr. Lightwood?” Alec closed his eyes, inhaling slowly through his nose before exhaling and turning to face Magnus. The condemnation he saw written there all over Magnus’ face hurt and suddenly, riding back home in the rain didn’t seem like a terrible option.
He shook his head, however, unwilling to lie. “I doubt it. I wasn’t even allowed to go check. We were told to get moving and that we would be fine if we hurried. We both knew it wasn’t true but my mother is...a force of nature. It is better to just go along with what she wants most of the time.”
“And how is that working out for you?”
Narrowing his eyes, Alec wanted to know why Magnus was questioning him so harshly. His family screwed up. He knew that. Why did he keep prodding? “Terribly and I think you know that. My sister is lucky and found someone she loves. Even if nothing else good comes from this, I can at least know there is someone who will love and cherish and protect Isabelle the way she was meant to be. I know my mother can be awful. I know her methods are rude and hateful and all of that. But this is my family. If I turn my back on them, my brother will starve, and so will my mother. After my father left, it all fell to me. Do you think this is the life I wanted? Fixing carriages and writing silly articles and doing whatever is necessary to make sure my family has food on the table? Do you think I want to eventually marry some woman I will never love and have children I don’t even know if I want, all to make sure the Lightwood name lives on?
“If I had my way, I would bring shame to my family, and I can’t do that. It doesn’t matter what I want. It doesn’t matter who I want. No matter how frustrating my family might be, they are all I have. So I will sacrifice every bit of dignity and every hope I had for the future if it means that their lives are even slightly easier.” It was the closest Alec had ever come to mentioning his predilections out loud. Even with Izzy, he never directly said it, preferring to pretend they didn’t actually exist. Unable to look at Magnus, Alec turned back to the window, waiting for the footfalls that would take the other man away.
Instead, a moment later, Magnus stood by his side. “You don’t have to carry the world on your shoulders, Alexander. You have a blond brother, don’t you? Why can’t he help with the burden of being the man of the household? You are still so young to have so much pressure placed upon you. And you certainly shouldn’t give up on the life you want simply to make other people happy.” It was kinder than Alec expected, and kinder than he deserved, but Alec couldn’t help letting out a soft sigh as some of the weight on his shoulders lifted.
“My brother, Jace, is only staying with us until he comes of age. He turns twenty-one in a couple months. Then, as the sole heir of the Herondale family, all their wealth becomes his. He will inherit the Clave and everything that comes with it. I know he will help when the time comes, but he will be so far away. It would be so easy for him to forget us with his new responsibilities. I need to make sure we are taken care of now so that if he does come through, it will be a pleasant bonus and not a matter of life or death.”
Magnus pursed his lips, obviously thinking about what he was about to say. “You expect your brother will just abandon you when he inherits the Herondale home and fortune? What does that say about him?”
Growling, Alec ran his hand through his hair, briefly relieved that Izzy wasn’t there to see him do that until he remembered she was ill and felt guilty all over again. “I’m not good with words, Mr. Bane. My brother loves our family. We were there for him at a time when he had no one else. But he gets ideas in his head and runs with them without really thinking them through. I don’t think he will abandon us. I just think he will be distracted for awhile. And when that happens, I will not let my brother, sister, and mother suffer while we wait for him to figure it out again.”
“I still don’t understand why that means you have to go along with all of your mother’s ideas.”
Alec didn’t have an answer for that. It wasn’t like his mother would kick him out. She needed him far more than he needed her. But the fear was there that something terrible would happen if he disobeyed or brought any shame to the family. It was what kept him from doing anything remotely inappropriate. “I’ve never disobeyed her. Not directly. I suppose I’m saving up for the moment when I disappoint her so much that there will be no coming back from it. At least then she can say she had no idea it was coming.”
Thankful that Magnus was silent for a few minutes, Alec stared out the window, willing the rain to stop. Of course, things never worked like that and it continued to fall. Magnus broke the uncomfortable silence, “If your family wasn’t an issue, Alexander, what would you do?”
It was a question no one had ever asked him but Alec had an answer all the same. “I want to write. I’ve done it my whole life but to be able to get a novel published would be a dream come true. And I don’t want to get married. I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than marry a woman.” Something about Magnus made it easy for Alec to trust him, to lay bare his heart. With a few simple words, Magnus could destroy him now but Alec knew he wouldn’t.
Nodding, Magnus gave him a small smile, “Perhaps you should consider whether your family is holding you back. Families should lift one another up like you do for your siblings. They shouldn’t keep them from what they want in life. If they can’t accept who you are, your wants and desires, then maybe they aren’t good enough for you.”
While part of what Magnus said resonated with Alec, more of it hurt his heart. “I want my family to be safe and taken care of. That is what I need to worry about more than anything else.” Nothing was more important than his family.
Seeming resigned, Magnus sighed. “In that case, you should probably get back to your sister. But, Alexander, it is okay to follow your heart. There is more to life than duty and obligation. Something to think about, alright?” Magnus turned and walked away from him and Alec couldn’t help the pang of loss that hit his heart as he watched the retreating form.
But he was right. Alec needed to get back to Izzy who looked completely awful. “Izzy, mom hasn’t replied yet but I think it might be best to get you in the carriage and get you home.” She was pale and shaking, covered in a sheen of sweat. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was quite ill and if it turned out to be serious, Alec knew he would never forgive his mother for risking Izzy’s life just to climb the social ladder.
“I’ll send for the carriage,” Simon started to say when the butler came in with a note for Alec.
Do not inconvenience Mr. Lewis in such a way. With such a large house, surely there is a place for you to stay with your sister until she is well. If I have not heard from you by the end of the week, Jace and I will pay a visit to check on her health.
Taking a shuddering breath, Alec let his arm fall to his side, the note still clutched in his hand. “Might you have a room or two where we can stay? My mother will not let us impose upon you by making use of your carriage. It appears that imposing on you by moving into your home until Isabelle is healthy enough to return home is by far preferable.” Simon knew about their mother. Magnus knew about their mother. It was safe to assume Rebecca and Raphael, who’d stayed near Isabelle but had not interfered with the other two trying to help, knew as well. If it came as a surprise that Alec was exasperated by her antics, then they were not paying attention.
Simon took it all in stride. “We have more than enough room. Becca, stay with Miss Lightwood. I will take her brother with me to get the rooms sorted.” He ran a hand over Izzy’s feverish head. “I’ll be right back, darling. We will make sure you are healthy as soon as we can.” He led Alec toward a wing of the house Alec had never visited, to a set of adjoining rooms where he and Izzy could remain close to one another while still having some privacy. “Will this do for you both?”
The rooms were almost as big as the entire house they lived in and Alec nodded. “This is far nicer than we deserve. I hope someday to be able to repay your hospitality. We will be out of here as soon as it is safe for Izzy to return home.”
Waving off his concern, Simon smiled, “Nonsense. I have a house that can easily accommodate us all. I will send for my doctor immediately. I will feel better when I know Isabelle is healthy. She is very important to me and I will never forgive myself if something were to happen to her.” Not for the first time, Alec thanked the angel that the man his sister loved was as kind and compassionate as she was. They were a good match and for once in her life, Maryse’s idea was a good one. Her methods were awful but Isabelle and Simon worked well together, despite her interference.
Alec turned down the bedding and then returned to the lounge with Simon to fetch Izzy. He carried his sister up to the room, ignoring the jealousy that bubbled inside him when he saw Rebecca place a hand on Magnus’ wrist while the two spoke urgently on the far side of the room. He was nothing to Magnus and should not wish for something he would never be allowed anyway. It was nothing but a lesson in pain and futility.
Once Izzy was settled in the bed, Alec excused the rest of them so he could get his sister more comfortable. He didn’t normally like people from outside his family, and with Izzy sick, those feelings were amplified ten-fold. As he stood there, looking at his sister in a bed more opulent than anything in their own home, he knew she would fit in well with this life. Of all of them, she was built for the life of the upper class. Izzy could work a room, dance like an angel, and make conversation about any topic, leaving her companion feeling as if they were the most important person in her world. Sometimes he envied her, but most of the time he felt terrible. She should have been born into this world, where everything would have been easy. Instead, she was born to Maryse and Robert, who never appreciated her like they should. She had Jace and Max, but she also had Alec, who would do anything for her and would probably ruin her chances at happiness if he had to stay in this house for too long.
Convinced Isabelle was as comfortable as he could make her, he retired to his own room to wash and change his clothes. Someone had laid out clothes for him and while he was taller than everyone else he’d seen in the house, they still fit well enough that he didn’t feel like he looked ridiculous. As he sat on the bed, Alec ran his hands through his now dry hair and sighed heavily. He knew his mother’s plan was for them to stay here, to make Simon see how much he wanted Isabelle in his home and in his life. But she’d risked Izzy’s life and his own to make that happen. If there was ever a point where he said enough was enough, this would be it. And yet, his obligation to his family continued to tell him to obey what she demanded, that it would be fine if he stuck to the path that had been laid out for him since birth. Whether it was what he wanted or not was beside the point. What mattered was protecting his siblings. His desires came a distant second to that.
Desperate for something to do, Alec built a fire in the hearth, casting the room in a soft glow as the clouds blotted out most of the sun’s light. He moved back to Izzy’s room and built one for her as well. Her fever had spiked but he wouldn’t let her get chilled. Besides, it made him feel useful, even if there was really nothing he could to help her.
With nothing else to do, Alec sat at Izzy’s bedside, wiping her brow with a cool cloth and holding her hand while she rested. “I’m sorry I let her talk us into this. You didn’t deserve to get sick just for mother’s ambition. And I know you love Simon, but he doesn’t want you to be sick either. You should have seen him, Iz. He’s beside himself with worry. You have a good man there and I am so happy for you, even if it will break my heart when he takes you away from me. Soon, Jace will be moving to the Clave and you will be getting married. Before you know it, it will just be me and mother. But I would do everything all over again if it makes you happy.” He continued to talk to her, reassuring her that she’d be alright and apologizing for everything he’d done wrong, not just to Izzy but to everyone he cared about.
He was lost in his own misery when he heard a rap on the door and turned to see Magnus standing there, a softer look in his eye than Alec had seen since their chess game. “I came to see if you might join us for dinner. You can’t sit here all day, Alexander. It isn’t good for you and your sister would be concerned if she knew. She’s going to be okay, just needs to rest. Why don’t you come eat and then you can be right back here when you are done.”
But looking at his sister, he knew he wouldn’t leave her, even if she didn’t even know he was there. “I’m fine but thank you for the kind invitation.” He didn’t know what prompted it from Magnus but he appreciated it all the same. But right now, Izzy was far more important than his own health and he couldn’t be torn away from her for any reason.
“She will be cross if she wakes up and finds you haven’t been taking care of yourself.”
Alec smiled, not taking his eyes away from her, “That’s when I know she is going to be okay. I’m looking forward to that moment, not worried about it.” He was angry, worried, and frustrated, which was all being focused on taking care of Isabelle.”
Magnus, seeming to admit defeat, sighed. “I will have someone send some food up for you. I don’t like the idea of you starving yourself as punishment for some imagined sins.” The door closed behind Alec, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
Imagined sins . Did that mean Magnus no longer blamed Alec for his mother’s misdeeds? Though up until the moment Izzy got sick, she hadn’t really done anything wrong. Just pushy and overly involved in her children’s romances. Now, however, she really had crossed a line and Alec looked forward to when he could give her a piece of his mind.
Instead of worrying about what he would say to his mother the next time he saw her, Alec tried to focus on Izzy, though his mind kept drifting to Magnus. The night prior, he’d called Alec by his formal name. He didn’t like the way ‘Mr. Lightwood’ sounded on Magnus’ tongue like they were strangers. And he couldn’t deny that the way he purred ‘Alexander’ made Alec’s heart flutter in his chest. Since their arrival at the house this afternoon, Alec had once again shifted from Mr. Lightwood to Alexander and he hoped that boded well for their friendship going forward.
Later on, a young man brought a bowl of soup for Izzy and a plate of food for Alec. He thanked him and took the food but had trouble drawing his eyes away from his sister for even a moment. Finally, he gave in, returning to his own room to sleep that night, hoping Izzy would be better by morning.
It took three days before Izzy was well enough to sit up and hold a full conversation. During that time, Alec hardly left her side, only to wash and take care of personal needs. Magnus stopped inviting him to meals after two days but Alec knew he continued to stop by and check on him. It was comforting, knowing that someone was concerned about him.
Magnus wasn’t the only one, however. Simon stopped by several times a day, inquiring about her health and making sure Alec had everything he needed to be comfortable in the home. By the end of the three days, Alec knew that Izzy couldn’t have found a better man to love her than Simon and when the man eventually asked, Alec would wholeheartedly give his blessing to their union.
He must have drifted off because the next thing he knew a voice he didn’t expect drifted in from the hall. “Thank you so much, Mr. Lewis. It is a relief to know that my daughter has such a wonderful gentleman in her life to take care of her in her time of need.”
Alec took a deep breath and sat up, straightening his clothes as best he could. A glance at Izzy made him think she was asleep but he knew his sister was faking it to avoid dealing with their mother. “I hate you,” he muttered, only to see her lips quirk briefly before settling into a neutral expression.
“To be honest, Mrs. Lightwood, I have done nothing really besides offer a roof over their heads. Your son has been the one to do most of the care for Isabelle.” While he appreciated Simon’s effort to give him credit, he knew his mother would have words for him when they got home. He was impeding Maryse’s plan to bring Isabelle and Simon closer.
“Well, I am sure you have done far more than Alec has. He was always rather useless when it came to caring for the family, head always in the clouds with those books of his.” And there it was. No matter what he did, it would never be enough. Izzy frowned at him and Alec took her hand, smiling when she squeezed it.
It looked as if she were going to say something but a new voice joined the conversation outside. “And how would you know? We have both been here all week, watched your son care for his sister with more affection than I realized was possible between siblings. You should be thankful to have a child such as him and not write him off entirely because he is not what you wanted him to be.”
Izzy and Alec shared a look, his sister apparently having decided that supporting him was more important than avoiding their mother. “Who are you to talk to me like that?” Maryse demanded and Alec smirked, wondering what she would think.
“Have we not been introduced?” The humor in Magnus’ voice was obvious to Alec and he wondered if Maryse could hear him mocking her. “Magnus Bane, master of Edom Estate.” Alec’s eyes went wide as he stared at his sister who seemed as shocked as he was. Edom was one of the largest, most impressive home in all of England. While he’d never seen it before, people who traveled outside of Idris spoke of its grandeur. He had no idea that Magnus owned it. It made sense, though. Magnus was the only person fashionable enough to own such a home.
If her children were surprised, Maryse was absolutely shocked. “Mr. Bane. I am so sorry. I had no idea you were friends with Mr. Lewis here. I should have introduced myself sooner.”
Simon scoffed as Magnus answered, “You’ve had plenty of time. I’ve been here at DuMort with Simon since he moved in. I have seen plenty of your children, particularly your delightful son. It’s too bad you don’t understand how lucky you are to have a child who does your bidding without question, at the expense of his own interests. Simon, I have a matter I must speak with you about urgently. Is there anything more you need here?”
The two men wandered off, their voices fading as they moved down the hall and Izzy didn’t have enough time to school her features back to an impression of sleep before Maryse stormed in, closing the door behind her. “Isabelle, you are looking well. Alec, I thought it was clear that Mr. Lewis was to care for her. What good was all of this if you kept them apart the whole time?”
Alec glared, standing to put himself between his mother and sister. “Did you get what you wanted? Isabelle fell ill! We are lucky that she pulled through. You risked her life and mine and do you have any regrets at all?”
He was shocked to see his mother nod, figuring that she did everything without guilt or second thoughts. “Of course I regret that your sister got sick. I was only hoping that you would be forced to spend the night because of the weather. I never expected that you would be here for several days. But since it happened, you should have made the best of it instead of locking yourselves away in a room and not letting them all near.”
“Do you even hear yourself? I was taking care of Izzy! She couldn’t get out there and find a husband when she was barely waking up to eat. Mr. Bane and Mr. Lewis checked on us several times. We were never completely alone. But here you are, still more concerned about her marriage prospects than her health. I’m honestly surprised you haven’t changed targets and aren’t trying to get her to marry Mr. Bane instead.” His heart panged at that thought. If Maryse wanted Izzy to marry Magnus, Alec would probably cry.
Thankfully, she shook her head. “While his fortune is well known, I’ve heard the rumors about him. Besides, Edom is so far away and I would miss Isabelle if she were to leave Idris.”
Alec wondered if she would miss him if he left. Jace would be moving to the Clave soon enough. If Izzy married Simon, then Maryse would be left only with Max and Alec at home. Max would make a fine catch for someone someday. Then what would she do? While Alec loved his mother, he’d never been particularly close to her. She always favored her younger children, raising him to be the man of the house rather than her son. Perhaps when his father was still around, she had loved him like she loved the others. But now, he was her only hope for salvation, unless Izzy’s husband were to take pity on her, something that would never happen with the way she was acting. When he was the only one who remained in the home with her, Alec didn’t know if he would be able to handle the constant criticism.
Hearing someone outside, Maryse raised her voice, “I do say, Isabelle. I worry about you traveling in this condition. Perhaps another day or two of rest will be necessary before you return home.”
“Mother, enough,” Alec hissed. “Izzy and I will both return tomorrow. Let me find someone to show you out.” Finding the man who had brought them their food for the last few days, Alec expressed that his mother needed an escort to her carriage and was not to speak to anyone on her way out. She huffed and complained but had enough social awareness to realize that making a scene right now would not be in her best interest. Alec watched, relieved as the carriage pulled away from DuMort and returned to Alicante.
“I must say, your mother is an intimidating woman.” Alec relaxed, hearing the humor in Raphael’s voice. He hadn’t been made aware the other man had returned and it was nice to see him once more. “Am I to believe that Miss Lightwood is still suffering?” No one in the house believed that Isabelle was on her deathbed, no matter what Maryse might want them to think.
Alec smiled, “We will both be out of your home in the morning. I fear we have overstayed our welcome as it is.” He looked forward to going back to the small home he shared with his family. While the estate was nice, he hated to feel a guest in another person’s residence. Maybe someday, if Izzy was the lady of the house, he would feel more at ease.
“Will you join us for dinner and cards? I am sure that with your sister’s condition, she will not be up for visiting for many days. This may be the last chance I have to beat you at a game.”
While he might not have wanted to leave Izzy, he knew she was doing much better. The knowledge that they would be returning home the following day relieved some of the stress Alec was feeling so he graciously accepted. “I would be happy to join you. Thank you for the invitation.”
Maryse left some clothes for them both before she left so Alec bathed and dressed, relieved to have something of his own attire to put on. After being assured by his sister numerous times that she would be just fine without him, Alec made his way to the dining room, just in time to overhear a conversation between Rebecca and Magnus.
“Can you imagine marrying into that family? Isabelle is lovely, of course. But the rest of them? Having Mrs. Lightwood as a relation? I can only hope that if my brother marries Izzy, he takes her far away from here. The less influence that family can have on him, the better. And think how much more agreeable Isabelle would be with more refined company all the time.”
Alec’s heart dropped when Magnus replied. “True. Their mother is a nightmare and one I am thankful enough to avoid. How she managed to have those two lovely children, I do not know. But, it is a relief to know that she will never have the sort of influence in my life that Simon might face in his.” While Magnus’ words about him and Izzy were kind enough, Alec knew well enough to read between the lines. Magnus wouldn’t stick around for him. Even if it was possible for them to be together, he would never wish to be tied to someone of such low breeding.
“I don’t see how you can think Mr. Lightwood is agreeable. He scowls constantly, never talks much except to Raphael. He is dull and uninterested in anything but his sister who he dotes upon in a manner far more fitting a nursemaid than an older brother.”
Every part of his mind screamed for him to turn around, to return to Izzy’s room and stay there until sleep threatened to overtake him. However, his heart wished to hear Magnus’ response. Seldom did people talk so freely around others that this might be his only chance to hear what Magnus truly thought about him.
“Then you, my dear, are purposefully blind to his attributes. Your brothers would both do for you what he is doing for his sister and you can’t deny it. Those two men would burn the world down to protect you, just as Alexander would do for Isabelle. He does speak. The two of us have had fascinating conversations on topics I’ve never found another soul informed on. And his beauty makes it so that even if he didn’t speak, he could captivate a room simply by being in it.”
Deciding that if he waited any longer, he would not only cry from the onslaught of emotions coursing through his mind but that he would get caught eavesdropping and lose what little faith he had earned within this family, Alec waited for a breath before pushing open the door and entering the room. “I do hope I am not late. Raphael invited me and as we are leaving in the morning, I thought I would join you.” The little speech he’d prepared so he didn’t stumble over his words froze on his lips as he looked on Magnus. “To, um, thank you. To thank you for your hospitality.”
Magnus smiled at him and Alec felt his face flush from the sight of that simple expression.
The table was set for five, so Raphael must have informed them that someone would be joining them for the family’s supper. Simon took his seat at the head of the table with Raphael at his right and Rebecca at his left. It meant that Alec couldn’t sit next to Magnus without making a serious social faux pas, so he sat next to Raphael, where he would be able to look at Magnus throughout the meal. It did make conversation easier, he decided, not having to turn his head to talk to the man.
While Simon and Raphael caught up on business from London, Rebecca did her best to keep Magnus’ attention solely on her. Whatever her reason was for ignoring Alec, he figured it was working, if the small smirk she shot him when no one was watching was any indication.
“Will you be returning home soon, Magnus?” Alec asked, attempting to get included in the conversation. “I am sure you have stayed far longer in Idris than you ever meant to.” No one stayed for too long, unless they were born and raised here. The county offered nothing besides ancient gossip and stubborn people.
Magnus smiled, turning his full attention to Alec, much to Rebecca’s dismay. “I have it on good authority that my brother here is going to be throwing a ball as soon as your sister is feeling up for it. I will return to London after that. You are right in that I never intended to stay this long however, parts of Idris have really started to grow on me.”
It was hard to remember that this was the same man who had scoffed at everything about their little hamlet the first time Alec met him. The same man who had stormed out on Alec when he first learned about what a horrible person Alec’s mother could be. Now, he was speaking kindly, as if Alec might be the sole reason to stay behind in a place he obviously hated so much.
“They will always be here when you come back. Idris never changes. Stagnant might be too kind of a term for this region.” A feeling Alec held for many years, made all the more prominent by the infusion of this family from far away who all seemed far too good for the area.
Except for Rebecca. She irritated Alec, but he always assumed that if he were ever to fight for the affections of someone, he would certainly hate his opponent.
Magnus smiled, “Sometimes it can be nice to slow down the tides of progress. You can actually see what you might have otherwise missed out on.” His eyes locked on Alec’s and Alec’s breath caught in his throat, realizing the hidden meaning.
The rest of the meal passed in companionable small talk, never really dying down but saying little of any importance at the same time.
When the group retired to the drawing room, Rebecca insisted on playing cards, picking a game only acceptable for four people. Magnus and Simon both tried to suggest alternatives, as they could see her purposefully excluding their guest, but Alec assured them he was quite happy with a book. He picked one from the shelves and situated himself in a chair where he could watch the game, should he choose. And if Magnus was the one he could see the most clearly, that had far more to do with the lighting than anything else.
The book was fascinating, and while he stole occasional glances at Magnus, most of the night was lost to the words on the page. Only when he started to yawn did he realize how late it was. “If you will pardon me, I think I will retire for the night. I need to check on Isabelle and then get some rest for the journey home in the morning.”
He expected to get a nod or a brief goodbye. Instead, Magnus folded his hand and stood. “I too will take my leave of you all. I will see you at breakfast. Good night.” He strode purposefully from the room, slowing minutely as he passed Alec. “Walk with me, Alexander?” Alec nodded and followed him into the corridor.
The home was massive and Alec never did figure out where everyone's quarters were, though he suspected they weren’t anywhere near where he and Isabelle were staying. Still, Magnus led them toward Alec’s rooms, pausing when they were far from prying ears on every side.
“I expect you will be off early in the morning, and I fear I will not be up in time to bid you farewell. Please, stop by again. I would love to be able to continue our conversation and be able to play chess once more.”
Alec smiled, nodding. “I would like that as well. Sleep well, Magnus. I will see you the next time we return to DuMort.” He turned to go to his room but Magnus caught his hand, pulling him back.
“May I write to you?” Seeing the question in Alec’s eyes, Magnus continued. “I know we just met but you have unlocked something in me, Alexander. I wish to see more of you, not less. If you would be amenable.”
“I would like that, as long as I could write to you as well.”
“Of course, darling.” It was only then that Alec realized, Magnus’ warm hand was still linked with his own. “Good night, Alexander.” Leaning in, Magnus pressed the softest of kisses to Alec’s lips and then he was gone, leaving Alec confused yet giddy in his wake.
Izzy and Alec return home.
Magnus was nowhere to be seen the next morning when Simon helped Izzy into his carriage and gave Alec a firm handshake. “If you or Isabelle need anything, please do not hesitate to call on me.” Alec smiled and nodded, slipping in beside his sister. Their horses would be returning with them but Simon insisted Izzy was not up to the ride and offered his carriage instead. Alec was not proud enough to turn down such an offer that would make his sister more comfortable.
As the carriage began to move, Alec stared out at the house, hoping for a glimpse of Magnus. Unsure whether he was happy or not to escape without running into the other man, Alec settled back in his seat. His lips still tingled from the sensation of the kiss, the first one he’d ever had. Heart racing at the thought, Alec let his mind run away with him, considering how it would feel to hold Magnus in his arms, kiss him deeply, in the way that he longed to do. It was wrong, he knew that. But he also knew he would never be rid of these desires and could at least think about them, even if they never came to fruition.
“What has you thinking so hard, big brother?” Izzy asked, pulling him from his thoughts as she nudged him gently with her foot. “You’ve hardly said a thing since we left DuMort.”
Alec gave her a tight smile. While Izzy might know about him, he wasn’t sure she wanted to hear about him being kissed by another man, and she certainly didn’t want to hear about all the other things he would like to do with Magnus if given the chance. “It seems weird to be going home. I know we’ve only been gone a few days but it feels like forever.”
“You just don’t want to deal with mother. And I think the absence of a certain man might be weighing on you as well.” Izzy teased but Alec knew she meant well. Whenever he was feeling worn down, he could count on his sister to be there for him. She was the most supportive person in his life and Alec didn’t know how he could have coped all these years without her.
He nodded, looking back out the window. Silence fell between them for a few minutes before he asked, “Have you ever kissed anyone?” It was only the two of them in the carriage. There would be no one to overhear if Isabelle confessed to something that was frowned upon in their society. “Do you want to kiss Simon?”
“I’ve kissed a few boys,” she laughed. “Remember Meliorn? We used to sneak out and kiss whenever we had a dance in town. He would never have been able to marry me, though. You know neither mother nor Robert ever approved of him.” Alec wondered who else she kissed, since she mentioned boys, plural, but only named Meliorn. He quickly decided he didn’t actually want to know. “And I have already kissed Simon. I hope to keep kissing Simon for the rest of my life. Why do you ask?” Her brows jumped and she grinned broadly, “You kissed Mr. Bane, didn’t you?”
Blushing, Alec nodded, chancing a look at his sister who continued to look as if she had just been told she was the queen. “And...?”
“And what?” he asked, honestly not sure what she was implying. “Technically he kissed me.”
“And what was it like, Alec? Did your heart stutter and your stomach flutter and all those other poetic things you like to read in your novels? That’s how it felt for me when Simon kissed me for the first time. I knew in that moment I never wanted to kiss another person.”
He smiled, bashful but happy, “Yeah, just like that. It was so short, I barely understood what was happening before it was over, but I liked it, and I wanted to do it again but he was already gone. And he wasn’t there this morning. Maybe he regretted it.” His smile faded as he worried for the first time that maybe Magnus didn’t feel anything from the kiss. Maybe that was why he didn’t come say goodbye. He’d given it a shot but it wasn’t going to work so that was that. His teeth worked his lip nervously as he looked back in the direction of the house.
Izzy kicked him hard in the shin, forcing his attention back to her. “Stop it right now, Alec. I see your mind working and whatever you are thinking, it is wrong. Have you seen Mr. Bane up and moving before nine any other day? No. So he is most likely asleep and he is certainly not avoiding you.” Alec knew that made sense but.... “Stop! For once in your life, don’t overthink this. Be happy, Alec. Revel in it. There will be plenty of time for worrying later.”
“Why will I need to worry later?” Isabelle rolled her eyes and kicked him again. “Fine, I won’t worry. Do you think I will see him again?”
“As assuredly as I know I will see Simon. You’ve captured his attention, Alec. With a man like him, I can’t imagine that is easy to do. Have you seen the way Simon’s sister throws herself at him and he doesn’t even think twice about her? When you are in the room, he only has eyes for you.”
It was an interesting thought, that Alec could gain the respect (and dare he say love) of a man like Magnus Bane when there was a well-bred, beautiful woman also vying for his attention. With that knowledge, he relaxed, content to think about the kiss in silence until they reached home.
Max ran out to meet them when the carriage pulled up in front of their home, babbling incessantly about the soldiers he and Jace visited while Alec and Izzy were away. “They have the best guns, Alec! Nothing like the ones you and Jace have. And they wear uniforms and play cards and smoke and they are just the best.” Alec chuckled, listening to their brother and wondering how upset Maryse was at the knowledge that her youngest seemed to dream of joining the army. There wasn’t enough status in that for Maryse’s liking but it would be a good place for Max if he still wanted that when he was older.
Jace helped Izzy from the carriage and up to her room before returning to get the few things they had with them. Alec stabled the horses and the three eldest siblings met in Izzy’s room before lunch was set to be served.
“Are you doing okay, Iz?” Jace asked, looking their sister over in a way that amused Alec greatly. She had two mother hens for brothers and neither of them would let anything happen to her. “You’re going to be okay, right? Then go on to marry that guy and drive us all crazy by throwing dances we are required to attend?”
Izzy rolled her eyes but kissed Jace’s cheek. “That is exactly what I am going to do, Jace, simply because I know how much it will upset you. But I am fine, thank you for asking. A little weak but I will be back to normal in no time. Simon was a complete gentleman while I was there and Alec hardly left my side, except for dinner last night.”
Alec closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, knowing by the tone of her voice, Izzy was saying far more than her words conveyed. And of course, Jace picked up on it. “What happened last night, Alec?”
He shook his head, imploring Izzy not to say anything. “Please don’t make me say it. I don’t want you to think less of me.”
“ALEC!” they both cried at once, but Jace continued on first. “Nothing could make me think less of you. Wait, did you get into a fight and lose? I’ll admit, I might be a little disappointed but I can help you out and you’ll be able to beat them next time.”
“Alec caught someone’s eye and he is just as infatuated with them. That is what happened last night.”
Catching the glance between Izzy and Jace, Alec flopped down on the bed next to his sister with a huff. “So you both already know? Why didn’t you just tell me? Would have saved me from a lot of worrying.”
“Nothing will stop you from worrying, big brother. If it wasn’t about this, it would have been something else.” It was true and Alec knew it, but Izzy didn’t need to point it out.
“So, who is he? Simon’s moody brother who always lurks in the corners?”
Hearing Jace say it out loud made Alec relax a little. “Yes, but not the one you are thinking of. Raphael is nice but we aren’t interested in that. It’s, um, Magnus?” The name came out more as a question, and Alec groaned and closed his eyes.
“Mr. Bane? Owner of Edom? Leave it to you, Alec to fall for the most eligible bachelor in England. Makes my new girl look boring by comparison.”
Happy for the change of subject, even if it was about Jace’s love life, Alec grinned, “Tell us all about her. The fact that you made it this long without mentioning her is impressive. Ten minutes might be a new record.”
Jace rolled his eyes at them. “Her name is Clarissa Fairchild but everyone calls her Clary. Her step-father is a Lieutenant and she and her mother are traveling with the regiment to their new home in the north. She is beautiful. Fair skin, hair like copper and the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. I think I am in love already.” He sighed, as melodramatic as always.
“How long has it been since you were in love with Kaelie? A week? Maybe you should wait a few days between relationships. You don’t want to gain a reputation do you?” Izzy teased.
Scoffing, Jace laid down on the other side of her. “I’m the heir to Herondale. No one is going to say anything to me.” And Alec knew he was right. While he may live with the Lightwoods in their humble home, someday he would outrank every one of them. He was immune to the gossip in a way that Alec and Isabelle never would be. Or at least Alec. Someday, Izzy would be Isabelle Lewis and she would be protected as well. “But, also, I’m not doing anything untoward with them. I dance with them, talk with them. Kaelie was never going to be the type of woman I married. I knew that pretty quickly. But Clary. There is something magical about her. She draws me in. She’s small and beautiful, like the fair folk of old stories.”
“Didn’t they lure men in and then kill them?” Alec offered, a smirk pulling at the corner of his lips.
“You aren’t nearly as funny as you think you are,” Jace sighed, rolling his eyes at his brother. “Wait until you meet her. You will love her just as much as I do.”
Alec and Izzy both giggled at that, though her brothers fretted when Izzy began to cough heavily. She waved them off a moment later when she caught her breath. Convinced Iz was going to be okay, Alec leveled their brother with a look. “I think we have already established that I will not love any woman as much as you do.” It felt good having his siblings’ support. His life would never be easy but at least for now, they would be there for him. “Besides, you saw Magnus at the last dance. I’m pretty sure no woman could compare to him.” He might be biased but Alec felt comfortable with that assessment.
“Sorry, Jace but I’ve got to agree with Alec. If I didn’t have Simon, and Mr. Bane didn’t have eyes only for Alec, I might have tried something.” Izzy laughed at Alec’s confused face, trying to decide whether or not he had just been insulted. If he’d had to compete against his sister, Magnus would never have looked twice at him. Or maybe he would have. Alec didn’t know what was scarier for someone who only wanted to be normal and blend in. “But I am sure she is wonderful and I can’t wait to meet her. It would be nice to have another woman around. It’s not like Alec is going to bring one into the family.” Alec glared, deciding that maybe he hated his siblings after all.
Grinning, Jace nodded, “Just wait until you meet her. I fear you two might be best friends in no time.”
“You should fear it. You know how Isabelle is. If she has someone else on her side, you will never get a moment of peace.” Jace visibly paled and Alec laughed, greatly amused by his brother’s discomfort. He would have said more but Max interrupted them. “Alec, you have a letter that was just delivered. And you need to come down to lunch.” Isabelle and Jace gave him pointed looks before leaving him alone to read what had arrived for him.
I apologize for not being able to see you off this morning. The home was visibly colder when I woke to find it lacking your presence.
I must go north for work for a few days but I promise to return before Simon holds the ball he promised your sister. I look forward to continuing our conversation where we left it last night.
Be well, darling, and I will see you soon.
There was no signature, but there didn’t need to be. Only one person would have written a letter like that and Alec was still smiling to himself when he reached the dining room.
At the table, Max was once more talking about the soldiers, though this time Jace joined in with equal excitement. “I can’t wait to meet Clary’s dad and find out more about being an officer. He has land like I will and yet he still fights for England. I think I may do that. I want my life to be about more than dances and land and writing letters all the time.”
Expecting his mother to have the same tired arguments against Jace’s wishes, Alec was surprised and terrified to hear the next words out of his mother’s mouth. “Speaking of letters,” his blood ran cold as she started to speak. Izzy shot him a nervous glance, no doubt guessing the contents of the letter were not meant to be shared with anyone, particularly their mother. Thankfully, she had another topic in mind, “I got one from our cousin today. She is coming to town to visit the family and will be staying with us for a few days. Won’t that be lovely?” Alec noticed but tried to ignore the pointed look he got from his mother. If she was already scheming, he knew this visit would be nothing close to lovely.
“I didn’t realize we had many cousins,” he said instead, aiming for a conversational and diplomatic tone. “Is this one I would remember?” Alec had vague memories of living in London before they came to live in Idris. While Izzy had lived in Alicante her whole life, Alec knew they’d moved when he was very small.
Maryse shook her head, “No, I don’t think so. I’m not even sure I have met her. Miss Branwell comes from a good family, not as highly ranked as Mr. Lewis of course, but beggars can’t be choosers, Alexander. I do hope you will find Lydia as wonderful as she sounds in her letter. So formal and polite. You all could learn a thing or two from her.”
As the siblings shared a look across the table, one thing was certain. There was no way this was going to be anything but a disaster as far as they were concerned. Their mother liking someone was almost a surefire way to make sure all three of her eldest hated them.
If Maryse noticed the looks between them, she faked her ignorance well and dished up their food, choosing to talk about the latest gossip from town then address whatever complaint her children had.
Their cousin arrives. And she is...delightful.
On time to the minute, Miss Lydia Branwell and her escort arrived in Alicante. She stepped from her carriage looking more like a queen than the somewhat better off relative of a no-name family in the north of England.
“Mrs. Lightwood, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Lydia effused, crossing the distance between them with a practiced grace that looked too unnatural to be comfortable. “I have heard so much about you, and I know we will have a wonderful time getting acquainted. Could you please have someone show Raj to my room so he can start unpacking for me? I plan on staying for at least a week.”
Maryse waved at Alec, beckoning him closer. “Miss Branwell, this is my eldest son, Alexander. He has dreams of writing someday, but I think we both know that a woman’s hand would keep him from such frivolous pursuits and direct him down a path of absolute productivity.” The pointed look she gave Alec had him keeping his mouth shut tight, knowing that whatever he said would only make matters worse despite how painful it was to hear his mother disregard his own dreams so easily. “He will be happy to show you to your room and help you get settled in any way that he can.”
“Thank you. Come along, Alexander,” Lydia sighed, turning toward the house without looking back, trusting Alec would follow.
While hearing his full name in Magnus’ voice made desire roil in his belly, hearing it from Lydia made his skin crawl and he followed behind like a good lap dog, pointing out, “Actually, my name is Alec.”
“Your given name is Alexander, is it not?”
“It is, but everyone calls me Alec and if you were to call me by my Christian name, many people would not know who you were talking about.
“It is only proper to call someone by their given name,” Lydia argued, clearly not caring Alec’s opinion on any of it.
Fed up, he bit his lip until he could say as politely as possible, “Then perhaps you should call me Mr. Lightwood. That is the truly proper way of addressing someone you have just met.” Because if she called him Alexander one more time, he was going to scream.
“But we are family, are we not? And my patroness was quite happy to have me meeting with my dear relatives. Hopes that a bond between us will grow and prosper during my visit.” For someone with no title, no land, and no husband, Lydia carried herself with the dignity of one of a much higher station. It grated Alec’s nerves that she was far more pompous than men like Magnus and Simon, who had a reason to act like Lydia was and yet chose to be kind instead.
Still, he felt obliged to engage her in friendly conversation, as he had been taught to do, even if he despised the person he was talking to. “And who is your patroness? I did not know that you had such a person.” Of course, he knew very little about Lydia in the first place and didn’t care to know more, but she didn’t need to know that.
Rolling her shoulders back, as if to make her look even more important, she explained, “The one and only Lady Imogen Herondale. I believe she is a distant relative of your brother Jonathan.”
“Jace. His name is Jace. He will appreciate the wrong name far less than I appreciate it, and that is saying something.”
If Lydia noticed the coolness in his tone, she said nothing, continuing on as if uninterrupted. “She is one of the finest ladies I have ever had the opportunity to learn from. She lost her husband many years ago, and instead of caving in and giving herself over to grief, like most of the fairer sex would, she carried on. As she tells me, the only thing worth loving is the work that you do in your life. It is something I hold dear and will always pass on to anyone who seems to need guidance. You, Alexander, seem to need guidance. Almost twenty-five and still no wife or career of which to speak? You should come and meet Lady Imogen. I am sure she would change your life the way she has changed mine. She adores me, so I am sure that as my kin, she would accept you without question as well.”
Alec had neither the interest nor the desire to learn from some old woman who thought that his cousin was a good example of humanity. But he simply nodded and turned on his heel. “Feel free to get settled. Someone will come and fetch you for supper later.”
He turned to head to his office, trying to ignore the words spoken between Lydia and her footman Raj. “While Lady Imogen had her distant nephew in mind, perhaps that is the one I should seek out. I will have to consider this carefully.” Whatever that meant, Alec didn’t have a good feeling about it and knew that he should warn his brother before he got too close to the woman. He could sense her schemes, even if he didn’t know what was the desired end result for her.
In his office, Alec sat at his father’s old desk and stared at the paper in front of him. He generally wrote stories about grand adventures in far-off lands, places more interesting and desirable than England, and particularly the county of Idris. While no one ever read these stories, Alec was proud of them, certain one day he would be able to make something of all the work he put in.
But today, the words wouldn’t come. He didn’t feel like going on some grand adventure, leaving everything he knew behind him for a world he would never know. Instead, his thoughts resided much closer to home, three miles away in DuMort, where he’d shared his first kiss only a few days prior. Magnus had occupied his every thought since then and Alec wondered if it would be wrong to write about what he felt.
As soon as his pen hit the paper, everything he felt started to flow. Everything he felt about Magnus, his fears and his hopes and his deepest desires. He didn’t exactly understand how an intimate relationship between two men worked but it didn’t matter. They could work it out between them if Magnus was interested. Besides, if the rumors everyone was so worried about were right, then Magnus already knew what to do.
While he couldn’t risk actually sending these papers to Magnus, he knew then and there that this was something he wanted to pursue. Alec only needed to wait until their guest was gone, and then he could go and make his interests known to Magnus.
Spending the afternoon hours locked away in his office, Alec was surprised to hear the knock on his door, calling him to supper. He was even more surprised when the door opened not a moment later and Lydia stepped inside. “This is my private office,” he pointed out, thinking maybe she was lost because otherwise, it was the antithesis of polite.
“I am aware. Your mother told me you would be here and asked me to fetch you. What do you do all day in here? The way she talks, you don’t have an actual job so what could keep you occupied for so many hours?” She looked over at his desk and Alec made a point of putting all his papers in a drawer and locking it. Her curiosity could prove to be his downfall if he wasn’t careful.
Scowling, Alec stood and straightened out his clothes. “I am a writer. I do whatever writing is needed in town. I hope to have a novel completed soon.” He had several written but he wasn’t sure if they were any good or not, and so they stayed locked in his office until he could get the courage to show them to someone.
“Oh, that just won’t do,” Lydia huffed. “A man needs a real job. Your brother will soon be Lord Herondale and if rumors are to be believed, your sister will be the new Mrs. Lewis, so it seems of this family, you are the one most in need of my help. Once again, my patroness knew exactly what was needed and when, sending me to you at just the right time. Her greatness and generosity know no bounds.”
“Your patroness just happened to know that I, Alec Lightwood, who has no title and little land to my name, was in need of a career that the Lady would find acceptable?” He had to ask because it made no sense and yet Lydia said it with such conviction.
She laughed, “Oh no, of course not. She sent me here to check on her nephew, or however Mr. Herondale is related to her. She doesn’t wish for him to embarrass their family when he comes into his inheritance in a few months. I believe she wished for me to marry him, but I believe he is doing just fine without my interference. Perhaps the girl I heard him talking about will be a calming influence on him and he will live a gentleman's life in the Clave where the head of Herondale belongs.”
There was so much wrong with what Lydia said, he didn’t know where to begin. Alec opened and shut his mouth a few times before finally shaking his head and making his way to the door. “You do not want to marry Jace. He will find someone who is perfect for him and everything will work out just fine.” Something Alec chose to believe, even if he hadn’t seen evidence of it yet. “As for me, I do not think that my career reflects in any way on your patroness, so I respectfully decline your offer.”
Not waiting for a response, Alec made his way to the dining room, sharing a look with his siblings that promised he would have a story for them later on. Izzy smiled and nodded, while Jace’s eyes darted to Lydia who was only a few steps behind Alec.
“Alec, nice of you to join us. I was beginning to fear you would never come out of your study.” It was the same thing Maryse said every time and at this point, he simply pulled out Lydia’s chair for her, as was expected of anyone in his position, and then sat without further comment.
“I’m sorry, mother. I lost track of the time.” A common occurrence and one they were all used to but with a guest in the house, Alec knew he wouldn’t hear the end of it. “I did get the project for Mr. Aldertree completed so that money should be arriving by the end of the week.” He hated that he needed to justify the way he spent his time, particularly since he was the only one who had a job, but he also knew that it was what Maryse expected of him. Plus, a small part of him wished to prove to Lydia that he wasn’t wasting away like she seemed to think he was.
Maryse sighed and started to pass dishes around. “And I am sure he will be quite happy to get whatever it is that he asked you to do. I wish you would find something more lucrative, however.”
“Have you considered the ministry? They are always looking for more theologians and it would allow you time to read books, which appears to be important to you. My future husband will work for the church. Lady Herondale and I are in agreement on that one.” Why this woman needed to have that much say in Lydia’s life, Alec would never understand. But it seemed Lydia was happy like that, so all the better he supposed.
He raised a brow, ignoring his siblings’ incessant giggling at the question. There was no way the church would accept a man like him to lead their faithful. And if he chose that life, he would never be able to have what he desired most. “I have no interest in the ministry. I do my daily devotions and go to church every Sunday but I would prefer my talents to be dedicated to other avenues.” It was the most diplomatic way he could think to word it without giving away his secret sins.
“There is no higher calling than the church, Alec. Perhaps you should consider it. Miss Branwell has much knowledge on the topic and I am sure her patroness would be happy to help you through your studies.” Alec would have felt betrayed if he’d presumed anything more from his mother. As it was, this was about what he expected. She never approved of his writing, and if she only knew who it was his heart longed for.
Only later on would Alec realize with horror the path the two women were leading him down. But at the time, he simply shook his head. “I am fine with the career I have now. It provides for the food on our table, the roof over our heads and clothes on our bodies. I have no desire for more than that.” The frown on his sister’s face as she looked between Lydia and Maryse then back to Alec was his only warning that something was wrong.
The topic, however, was dropped and the six of them ate dinner in peace, listening to Lydia’s profuse praise of Lady Imogen and her description of the home in which she lived on the Lady’s property. Not that any of them cared but it seemed to be the only thing Lydia was capable of talking about.
“Oh! Alec!” Izzy cried out, interrupting a fifteen-minute description of Lady Imogen’s gardens. “A footman stopped by today to drop off an invitation to a ball out at DuMort next week. Will you go with me to get a new dress for the occasion? We can get you something nice to wear as well. It would definitely make an impression.”
Silently thanking his sister for the change in topic and the subtle hint of pleasing Magnus, Alec smiled to himself before looking up at her. “I would be happy to accompany you, Iz. Do we want to go down to Mrs. Monteverde? She always has the best new things.”
She grinned and nodded, “Perfect. Thank you, big brother!”
Lydia watched the exchange closely, and Alec had a terrible feeling that she would be in his way at the ball. There was no way he could hope for her to be gone by then. Maryse was rather clear that she would be in Alicante for many days. “A ball, here in Idris? I would never have expected that. The homes here are all so quaint. You should really come to Lady Imogen’s home for a ball sometime. Nothing would ever compare.”
“And you have never been to DuMort Park,” Isabelle snapped, obviously annoyed with the endless banter from their cousin. “It is the most beautiful home in the county and second in England only to Edom.” She smiled at Alec who blushed and looked down, hoping that no one noticed his reaction.
“I find that hard to believe, but I suppose I will see it next week.” And with that, Alec’s fears were confirmed. Lydia would be there, probably making everyone hate his family even more by the end of the evening.
“Great,” he muttered, focusing on his food and not the drastic downturn Lydia caused in his mood. The sooner she was gone, the better.
In the Lightwood house, what Maryse says, goes.
And here we begin the canon divergence. It will still follow the basic P&P storyline but there will be some drastic differences in certain aspects.
The days passed slowly with Lydia in the house. While it worked for the five of them, adding two more people (with Lydia’s escort Raj always lurking in the shadows) made it far too crowded. No matter where any of them went, it felt as if they couldn’t escape her and her stories of life closer to the city. Every one of them, with the exception of Maryse, hated it but it was Alec who took the brunt of it. She insisted that he accompany her into town when she went to go shopping or do her prayers at church. She would interrupt his work to blather on about how a life in the ministry would leave him far more complete. She extolled the virtues of marriage every chance she got, how a solid partnership benefited both the man and the woman in the relationship.
He tried to lock her out of his office once, but that led to a lecture on purity and innocence and what would people think of a man who locked himself away all day without a woman’s hand to guide him? What unthinkable sins could he be up to in his darkened room?
Two more letters arrived from Magnus, unsigned but undeniably from him. Those were the days when Alec locked the door, not caring what Lydia had to say about it and savored every word, imagining Magnus’ voice speaking to him.
It was no surprise when after several days, Maryse called for him to take a walk with her. “What do you think about your cousin?” she asked pointedly. Alec while he knew the answer he was supposed to give but found it impossible to hold his tongue, particularly when he immediately knew where this was all leading.
“She is vile, Mother. I am sure for the right man, she would be the perfect match, but I find her to be stuck-up, proud and downright insufferable. If I have to hear one more story about Lady Imogen, I may leave home and never come back. She has nothing nice to say about anyone except that woman and I don’t know why she continues to stay if she hates it here so much. I have no interest in spending any more time with her than absolutely necessary.”
Maryse pursed her lips, saying nothing for a moment, a brief, shining period where Alec thought he had some hope. Maybe his feelings on the subject really would matter to his mother and she would let this go. But soon enough, his hope was smashed when his mother opened her mouth again. “She is here for one purpose, one that every young woman her age must undertake for herself when she does not have a mother to watch out for her and make sure she marries well. I don’t understand your problem with her, she seems perfectly lovely to me.”
“Of course you don’t. That is because you two want the same thing!” he cried out in frustration. “You both think of nothing but money and status and moving up in society. Did it ever occur to you that those things mean nothing to me?”
His mother sighed, raising her eyes to the heavens as if this conversation was a great burden to her. “Of course I know that, Alec. Anyone with eyes can see that you don’t care about the things you should. People in town are starting to talk about you, in particular, and not just the family because of what your father did. They don’t understand why you haven’t married yet, why you haven’t gone to London to seek out a fortune. The few people who hire you do it out of pity, not because they couldn’t get the same skills from anyone else in town. It is time you gave up your childish fantasies, settled down, and started acting like a man.”
Strangely enough, it was the comment about his writing that hurt Alec the most. He knew he was a disappointment for not marrying the first pretty, eligible girl who crossed his path. He knew it got the local gossips talking because there was nothing Alicante loved better than a good scandal. Him marrying well was all his mother truly cared about up until the day his father left. When he couldn’t do that right, his career became an added source of humiliation for the family and Alec often wished he could run away, just like his father.
But he wasn’t Robert and he faced his problems head-on, no matter how painful they were. “I’m glad to know you think so little of me that you believe anyone could do what I do. Thank you, Mother. I suppose I don’t need to worry about disappointing you anymore.” He had to have sunk as low as he could go in his mother’s eyes. What else was there for him but to settle on being the town embarrassment? He supposed he could live with that.
“Don’t be overly dramatic, Alec. You and I both know you were never going to amount to anything as a writer.” Alec started to storm off not wishing to hear more, but his mother grabbed his arm, effectively trapping him there. “This is what you are going to do. You are going to propose to Lydia and you will marry her before the spring rolls around. Once you are married, you will move to the house she was given by her patroness and will enter the seminary. Once you have your own parish, you can send for me and I will move closer to help care for my grandchildren. We both know Isabelle and Jace will both have more than enough money to pay for help with their own kids. You are the only one who will need to settle for accepting familial help.”
Alec gaped at her as if she didn’t rely on him for every single need. As if he didn’t already do everything to make sure she was comfortable and happy. Not that it did any good because Maryse Lightwood was never satisfied.
This was the moment, the time when he was supposed to stand up and tell her no. It should have been when she wanted to show Izzy off like a prized mare and not a beloved daughter. It should have been when Izzy nearly died from exposure after Maryse made them ride to DuMort in the rain. But if there had ever been a moment where the line was drawn, Alec knew he was standing in it right now. His entire life was on the line. Everything he’d ever hoped for and dreamed of about to vanish in a puff of smoke with Maryse’s demands. But, he thought about his family, about the embarrassment he would bring on them if he followed through with his own desires. And maybe his mother was right about his writing. He’d never thought it good enough to send to a publisher. Maybe he should just put it away and try to move on. If that was the case, he was wasting all of their time and maybe what Maryse told him was best.
“I will think about it,” he said after some time had passed.
But even that wasn't good enough for Maryse. “You will ask her tonight, before dinner so I can tell your siblings. Isabelle will be upset, of course. That girl was always ruled by her emotions. But eventually, I am sure you will both understand that this was by far the best option for you. You’ve certainly ruined your chances with every other girl in town, by glaring at them whenever they dared approach.”
Without waiting for Alec to reply, Maryse turned back toward the house, walking calmly, as if she hadn’t just ruined his entire life in the span of a fifteen-minute stroll. She was right in her belief that Izzy would be upset, Alec thought as he walked home alone, miserable and brooding. But she was wrong about the reasons. Alec’s mind drifted to the papers he kept locked up in his desk, the ones that detailed his ever-growing affection for Magnus, and the letters Magnus’ sent him on his travels. While they hadn’t seen each other since Lydia’s arrival, it hadn’t dampened the feelings Alec had for him.
To marry Lydia was a betrayal of everything he felt for the man, everything he knew about himself. But for his family, Alec had once sworn he would sacrifice everything and so, that afternoon, he got down on one knee and proposed to Lydia.
“You will not regret this, Alec,” she assured him, admiring the small ring on her finger. The moment the words were out of his mouth, Alec regretted it but there was nothing to be done about it now. “Lady Imogen said I would find my groom here, that all the men in Alicante were desperate to get out and I would have them fighting over me. But the moment I saw you, I knew I didn’t need any of the others. I will write to her at once, tell her to contact the seminary so you can get started with your work as soon as we are married.”
Not wanting the word to get out just yet, needing time to get a plan together if he had any chance of saving his own life, Alec asked, “Would you mind not contacting the Lady until after the ball tomorrow night? I wish for us to be presented to society properly and not just announced in a letter.” He hoped she would find the appeal of the pomp of a couple’s introduction at the ball to be enough incentive to stall her for a few more days. Magnus deserved to hear this from him and not through the strange grapevine of gossip that covered the country.
“Oh, of course, I'd forgotten that you would want to show me off to all your friends. Don’t worry, Alec. I won’t tell a soul until you are ready.” She turned on her heel and returned to her room. And just like that, Alec was engaged.
As expected, Isabelle was not happy. “Engaged? Are you out of your mind, Alec? You can’t marry her!” She struggled to keep her voice down, tears burning her eyes as she looked at Alec and he needed to look away, unable to take the pain in his sister’s face. “What about Magnus? What about your life? She isn’t going to let you write. You are going to live according to her standards for the rest of your life and she will never let you have a moment of peace. How can you do this?”
“Izzy, it’s okay. I want this.” It wasn’t. Not really. But Alec didn’t want to tell his sister that. She took care of him as much as he took care of her. And they both knew how heartbroken he was about the whole situation, but her happiness and Max’s were the most important thing. In the end, Alec would do what he needed for his family, and no matter how much he wanted Magnus, he couldn’t turn his back on the ones he loved. He would suffer for them to have the lives they deserved.
Izzy looked unconvinced. “ Magnus , Alec.” Just that one word was enough to send ice through his veins, and he broke. He was only so strong and Alec didn’t know if he could handle anymore.
“I know, Iz. I know. If I can get out of this, I will. But at the moment, I don’t know how.” He needed to find a way to get Lydia to call off the engagement so it wouldn’t look bad on his family. There was always the option of telling her his feelings for Magnus. She would call off the wedding immediately if she knew of his perverse preferences, but it would ruin the Lightwoods forever. He knew it wouldn't affect what Simon felt for Isabelle, but Max deserved a chance if nothing else.
His sister pulled him into a hug. “We will figure it out. You have me and you have Jace and between the three of us, we can come up with a plan. You aren’t going to marry her. You and Magnus deserve happiness, even if you don’t see it yourself.” She kissed his cheek. “I will recruit Simon and Raphael as well if we need them. We can all see what you two have. It deserves a chance.
“Yes, please. Talk to them. Do whatever it is we need to do. I need help here. Mother has gone too far and I panicked.” He closed his eyes for fear that tears might start to fall. “I don’t want to marry her, Iz. I want to write and I want...” Alec paused and took a breath, opening his eyes so she could see his sincerity before finishing that sentence. “I want a chance to love Magnus because I think I could love him if we had time.”
Tears slipped from Isabelle’s eyes, “You will get to love him, Alec. I give you my word. We will both get our men.” Alec didn’t know what he did to deserve his sister but he was glad for it.
Canon divergence can be a beautiful thing...
Lydia joined the Lightwoods in their carriage on the way to DuMort Park for the ball the following night, while Raj chose to stay behind. Isabelle could hardly contain her excitement. Since their cousin’s arrival, neither she nor Alec found time to go visiting as had become their habit. She missed Simon terribly, something she bemoaned every night when the siblings gathered together after the rest of the household fell asleep for the night.
Jace’s excitement was more subdued. As his interest in Clary hadn’t dissipated, he’d hoped to bring her with him. However, since they were only passing through town and knew no one outside the regiment, her parents had forbidden her from going to the ball without a chaperone, and it would have been the height of impudence for the two of them to show up at the ball uninvited. Still, Jace was never one to turn down a good party. He wanted to get to know Simon better for Izzy’s sake and he was just as determined as she was to get Alec out of his engagement with Lydia and into Magnus’ arms.
Maryse smiled, pleased with the progress her family had made in the past few weeks. Alec was engaged and moving to live on the property of Lady Imogen. While he wouldn’t have land and title of his own, having a patroness like her would be a boon to the family name, and his new career would make him far more important than his county writings ever did. Isabelle would soon enough be the lady of DuMort Park and Jace would come into his inheritance in a few months. Life was practically perfect as far as she was concerned. Her family name was almost restored and her children would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. So caught up in her own happiness, she hardly noticed the gossip as they entered the room.
Lydia slipped her arm through Alec’s as they stepped inside and his face burned with embarrassment. Never in his life had he attended a dance with a woman on his arm. He knew this would get people talking, the aloof Lightwood heir finally found a woman to spend time with. No one knew of the engagement yet, outside their own family, and he didn’t want them to know. He’d managed to swear Maryse to secrecy, promising her that the surprise invitation to the wedding that their neighbors would receive would be far more gratifying than telling them only days after it happened. As far as anyone knew, he was escorting a dear cousin visiting from the south. That was all, and hopefully all it would ever be.
If he had his way, there would be no invitations, no wedding of which to speak, but he couldn’t tell his mother that. She had all her hopes for him pinned on that one event. So she couldn’t know, not until he put his plan into action. Because Alec Lightwood was methodical in everything he did and he threw himself into the problem, working late into the night until he realized exactly what he needed to do. His siblings, of course, supported him and would help in any way they could.
But most of this relied entirely on Alec himself.
Scanning the room, Alec’s heart dropped when his eyes fell on Magnus. The man watched him from across the crowd, gaze boring into him in a way that left him feeling vulnerable and exposed, even in the middle of the crowd. If the night went according to plan, Magnus wouldn’t have to stare at him like that anymore but he wasn’t going to take a chance of Magnus misunderstanding. He gave Magnus a small smile and a wink, knowing that Izzy would get over to him and explain the situation. His heart pounded in his chest. Everything could blow up in his face and he would be left without his family or the man he cared for if only one thing went wrong. There was a heartbroken quality to Magnus’ look that left Alec feeling like the worst man in all of England. The sooner he got this over with, the better.
“Shall we dance?” Lydia asked him, trying to pull him toward the dance floor. Having her there in the center of the room where everyone could see was more than Alec wanted. So instead of agreeing, he decided to flatter her with how important she was to him. If he could pull this off, he thought bitterly, maybe he was destined for a career on the stage.
Alec shook his head, giving her a tight smile that she thankfully mistook for being shy. “Not yet. Before we do that, I want to introduce you to my closest friend. Of everyone here, I need you to meet him before anyone else. Outside of my family, he’s the most important person in my life and it makes the most sense to introduce you to someone who means that much to me.”
If he was honest, while John was his closest friend outside of his family, the two of them didn’t know each other that well anymore. When Alec figured out his attraction to men, he’d pulled away from most of the people in his life for fear of tainting them with his own sinful thoughts. He knew it was ridiculous but he couldn’t help the way he thought. Besides, after John running his mouth off near Magnus the last time they were all together, Alec really didn’t know if he could even consider him a friend.
“That is the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Alec,” Lydia smiled, squeezing his arm lightly. “Please, introduce me to your best friend. I am sure he will be so happy for you to hear about your new plan in life. Anyone who has the blessing of Lady Imogen is obviously someone to be friends with. All of the people she surrounds herself with are the best and brightest.”
While Alec knew she was still talking about Imogen and the amazing woman she must be (Alec secretly figured she had to be awful and really had no interest in meeting her), his eyes were focused on John only a few feet in front of him. If he had any doubts about this, he would never be shoving his fiance in John’s direction but it seemed almost too perfect. Lydia’s husband would go to seminary, paid for by her patroness. John wanted to go to seminary but couldn’t justify the expense. John would be infatuated with her, if his previous interests were anything to go by and John was a handsome enough man that he felt confident that he would catch Lydia’s eye.
Alec smiled to himself when he saw John’s eyes go directly from him to Lydia and widen slightly. She was a beautiful woman, Alec knew that, but she did nothing for him. His tastes were about as opposite from her as one could get. But he also knew that she was almost exactly what John was looking for in a wife, at least based on her appearance. Whether her personality was a fit would be up to John to determine. He would be the one to have to deal with her for the rest of his life.
“John, may I introduce Miss Lydia Branwell, my cousin visiting from the south. Lydia, this is my close friend Mr. John Monteverde. John is looking to start his seminary studies within a few months so I thought you two might have a lot to talk about.”
As expected, the word ‘seminary’ lit a fire in Lydia and she nodded excitedly. “Oh, you will have a most delightful time. Do you know where you are going yet? Are you looking to have your own parish or would you prefer to be more of a theologian? I’ve always thought that having your own parish would be far more fulfilling, going out and living The Word every day, but for some people, that isn’t really an option.” She cast a disparaging glance at Alec who shrugged and gave John an apologetic smirk. They could discuss the situation later if John wanted.
Though it hardly seemed like any of this was an issue for John who couldn’t take his eyes off Lydia. “I will certainly want my own parish. Obviously, I will need to start off as an apprentice, but I would like to lead a church of my own someday.”
It didn’t take long before Lydia offered John plenty of ideas of what would help him get a church faster and John hung on her every word.
Despite being close enough to be considered part of the discussion, due to the din of the crowd conversation, the sound of the quartet playing, and the dancers’ feet scuffing on the floor, Alec only managed to catch a few words of their thoughts, the two of them speaking a language he didn’t understand.
His eyes met Magnus’ across the room and he watched as the other man winked and stepped out into the hall, one blocked off for the partygoers and one he knew led to the private residences. “Pardon me,” he said, though he loathed to interrupt their conversation and draw attention back to himself. “There is someone I must speak with. Lydia, I leave you in good company.”
From there, he slipped through the crowd, expertly avoiding both his mother (who would never approve of what he intended to do) and Jace (who would approve too much). Thankfully Izzy was busy dancing with Simon to prove much of a challenge. Otherwise, he might never have slipped through the same door Magnus had disappeared into only moments before.
Compared to the bright, lively atmosphere of the ballroom, this hallway was dim and silent. As his eyes adjusted, Alec worried that Magnus had already gone to his room, a place Alec had never been. He wasn’t sure which of the many doors would lead there. But a strong hand laced into his and tugged him up the stairs.
“Are the rumors true?” Magnus asked as he opened the door to a place Alec never set foot before; Magnus’ room. “You are to marry the woman on your arm tonight?” If he was going for casual, Magnus might have persuaded anyone else in the room below. But Alec spent far too much time watching Magnus, studying him, even when they were upset with one another. Magnus worried about the answer Alec would give.
Alec closed the door behind them and turned to face Magnus, hoping the other could hear his sincerity. “Technically, yes, but I hope that will change by the end of the night.” Part one of the plan as going well downstairs and now, out of his hands. The rest was now up to him.
“Your mother,” Magnus scoffed, keeping some distance but not moving away either. The tension between them was thick and heavy, pressing down to the point that breathing became difficult. The fire burned in the mantle of Magnus’ room and while Alec thought it would probably make the room feel warm and comforting normally, right now it felt stifling. “Does her meddling know no end?”
Alec shook his head. His mother would be involved in her children’s lives until it was physically impossible for her to do so. The three miles between their home and DuMort would do Izzy a world of good. He could only hope that if he got his way, Magnus would be strong enough to stand up to her as well. His partner and Jace’s would need to be strong in the face of her will. Maryse Lightwood could bend anyone to her whims given the right motivation and time. “Though,” Alec smiled, taking a tentative step forward. “There is one good thing. I have learned well from her. I may not be an expert like she is, but downstairs, I am hoping my fiance is preparing to call off our engagement. Which means I will be a free man once more.”
That seemed to be all the motivation Magnus needed, surging forward to grasp Alec’s face between his hands and kissing him with all the passion that had built between them.
It didn’t matter that fiancé was downstairs, or his siblings, or his mother. It didn’t matter that Magnus’ adopted family was there in the same home. All that mattered was the two of them, together and alone.
“Are you sure, Alexander?” Magnus asked, hands pausing on the buttons of Alec’s shirt.
The question hung in the air while Alec considered. What he wanted - what they both wanted - was frowned upon. He would never be able to claim innocence again after this. But, if his plan failed and he still needed to go through with the wedding, at least he would have this memory to keep him for the rest of his life.
Deep down, however, Alec knew everything would work out. It had to. Because why else would the Angel have placed in his path a man like him who captured his heart and mind in the way Magnus had?
He brought his hands up to Magnus’ and watched his soon-to-be lover’s face drop a little, obviously thinking Alec was going to push him away. “I want this, Magnus,” he assured the other man. “I want you.”
Smut ahead. Won't really move the plot forward so if it isn't your thing, go ahead and skip it.
That was all he needed to say. Magnus reached behind him and locked the door. “My brothers know not to disturb me when I am in my room, but I would still feel better knowing it wouldn’t even be possible for them to get in.” The sound of the door locking, effectively trapping them alone inside the room should have felt like a prison. But it had the opposite effect for Alec. Looking at Magnus standing there, lips kiss-swollen already, Alec felt freer than he ever had.
“My siblings wouldn’t be rude enough to search the house for me, but...” Mentioning his mother while in the bedroom with the man he intended to be intimate with seemed a less than prudent way to achieve his goal. Still, Magnus understood, giving Alec a smirk and pulling him toward the bed.
The two of them stared at each other, the knowledge that they were truly free settling over them like a warm blanket. Smiles lit up both their faces and Alec moved forward to kiss Magnus gently. Unlike the kiss when they first stepped into the room, this one was warm and soft, a tease of what was to come rather than an overpowering tsunami of lust and need.
It ended as soon as it began and they stared at each other once more as Alec began walking them back toward the bed. He didn’t want to overthink this, he didn’t want to let his mind take over with thoughts of ‘what if’. This was about him and Magnus and the desire that crackled between them whenever they were in the same room.
Magnus jolted when his backs of his legs hit the bed, and it seemed to pull him from some sort of trance. “I don’t want you to regret this, Alexander,” he whispered, cupping Alec’s cheek with his hand and searching his face for any sort of hesitation. “I don’t want to regret this.”
Alec smiled back at him, face flushed - only partially because of the heat in the room - and shook his head. “I told you. I want this, Magnus. I’m not going to regret this. You want it too, right?”
The smile he received in return was all he needed but Magnus answered him anyway. “More than anything, darling.”
The two of them grinned at one another once more and dove for the other, kissing as if their lives depended on it. Where Magnus’ hands were sure and steady, flicking open the buttons on Alec’s shirt and slowly exposing the skin underneath, Alec’s hands shook with excitement and nervousness. He knew he wanted this more than anything, but where he knew (or had heard rumors) that Magnus was experienced with this, their kiss the other day was the first one he had shared with anyone and he didn’t want to disappoint.
“There is no pressure here, Alexander,” Magnus smiled as if sensing Alec’s very thoughts. He pushed Alec’s shirt off his shoulders and moved his excited boyfriend back a step so he could admire the view. “Even if this is all we do tonight, I am okay with it as long as I have you here in my arms.” Alec understood the unspoken promise that even if he couldn’t have Alec in his arms, that would be okay too. Disappointing, but acceptable.
But as much as he loved kissing Magnus, Alec wanted more. “I want everything,” he admitted shyly, his eyes trained on the ground while he tried to calm his pounding heart and find the words to explain what he was feeling. “You just need to guide me. I’ve, um, never done this before.”
Magnus nodded and stepped closer, bringing his hands between their bodies. For a moment, Alec thought Magnus would run his hands over the skin on his chest and he tried to imagine it, for it would be overwhelmingly intimate in Alec’s mind. However, Magnus instead turned his hands toward his own chest and finished unbuttoning his own shirt, throwing it on the ground with Alec’s before taking Alec’s hands in his own. “I’ll lead, but if you feel uncomfortable, tell me. We can go slow, Alexander. This isn’t just some fling. Not for me.”
A tension Alec didn’t realize he’d been carrying released at those words. What they were doing went against everything he’d ever been taught. The church would be horrified, declaring they were sinners who could not be saved. Most of their community would turn their backs on them, ostracizing them from society almost entirely. It was a risk of the highest magnitude and they both had to trust the other not to break their hearts and ruin their lives. Hearing that this wasn’t just a fling for Magnus assured Alec that he wasn’t alone, this was something they would face together, no matter what the situation threw at them. “It isn’t for me, either, Magnus. I...I don’t want something casual. And I don’t know what we could become to one another but I want to try if you do.”
“Of course I do, Alexander. I’ve been dreaming of you since the moment I first laid eyes on you at Simon’s party.” His smile was bright and honest and the last bit of ice that ran in Alec’s veins from the thought of what he wanted to do melted under the rays of that grin.
They wrapped their arms around one another, kissing and giggling as Alec enjoyed the feel of Magnus’ warm skin against his own. Together, they tumbled onto the bed, Magnus landing on top of him, a comfortable weight and an arousing hardness that sent shots of desire down Alec’s spine.
Magnus kissed down his neck as Alec ran his hands up and down his lover’s back. Never did he think it would be as arousing as it was, feeling the strong muscle under his fingers. While Magnus might design clothes for the wealthiest of London’s elite, he had the body of a soldier and Alec knew he was the luckiest man in the world to have this beautiful person sharing a bed with him.
Settling between Alec’s legs, Magnus kissed down his chest and Alec lifted his head just a little to watch. He wasn’t innocent, he had a vague idea what happened in the bedroom. But what he knew, it happened between a man and a woman. When it was two men, he felt more out of his league than he cared to admit. And yet, just thought of being with Magnus had his cock twitching in his trousers, something Magnus didn’t miss if the smirk on his lips was anything to go by.
He ran his fingers down Alec’s breastbone, ending at the waist of his pants. “May I take these off you, darling?”
Nervously, Alec nodded and watched Magnus strip him off the last of his clothes. Sitting back on his heels between Alec’s knees, Magnus looked over him, laid out on the bed in front of him. Alec had never felt so exposed; nude, hard and wanting everything Magnus would give him. “You are delicious,” Magnus smiled, tracing light patterns on the sensitive skin of Alec’s inner thighs.
“How would you like this, Alexander?” Magnus asked, leaning forward to kiss him, Alec’s length pressed between Magnus and his own bare belly. While Alec was completely undressed, Magnus had only lost his shoes and shirt, which made Alec feel more vulnerable.
The question, however, made no sense to him. He had no idea what they were doing and told Magnus so. “I’m...not really sure what my options are?” While Magnus knew he’d never been with someone before, Alec was almost embarrassed to admit it out loud. He’d kept himself pure like the church taught them, but he didn’t think they’d even considered this situation. So now, he felt lost and confused.
Magnus smiled kindly, ‘“It’s alright. We will figure out what you like together. Is there anything you know that you want?”
Smiling at the gentle tone, the fact that no judgment came from his lover, Alec felt comfortable enough to ask. “I would like to see you. If you want that.” He didn’t want Magnus to feel pressured. Magnus was so careful with Alec’s feelings that Alec wanted to do the same for him.
Magnus didn’t answer, instead, slipping off the bed and standing in front of him, stripping out of his clothes before walking around to lay next to Alec. Alec couldn’t take his eyes off him. The way the firelight danced off his tan skin, his muscles working under the surface making his mouth water. And his length, hard and wanting, all because of Alec. Alec figured he wasn’t subtle as Magnus smirked at him, “Do you like what you see?” to which Alec just nodded.
In the distance, they could hear the faint music from the ball still going strong downstairs. The knowledge that everyone Alec loved in his life was down there while he was here, naked in bed with another man almost worried him. But unless Lydia or his mother made a scene because they couldn’t find him, nothing would happen. And with Magnus looking so beautiful, the two of them pressed together so close that he wondered if he was truly feeling Magnus’ heartbeat against his own chest, Alec didn’t think it would have mattered if Lady Imogen herself walked into the room.
While he didn’t know what he was supposed to do, instinct seemed to take over and Alec ran his hands down Magnus’ toned chest until they settled on his hips. Alec tugged him close and for the first time, their lengths lined up, causing both men to gasp in pleasure. “Are you sure you’ve never done this before?” Magnus asked, rolling his hips against Alec’s once more.
“Maybe I’m a natural?” he asked in return. He tipped his head back and Magnus attacked his neck almost instantly. Never before could Alec have imagined that a neck was that sensitive but he wondered if he might release simply from the sensation of Magnus’ lips on his pulse point. “Mag-nus,” he whined. “Touch me.”
Magnus complied immediately, wrapping a hand around Alec’s length and giving a long slow stroke. Alec cried out, arching off the bed with the first touch to his most sensitive flesh. “Oh my god,” he cried out.
Slowing his hand, Magnus smirked at him, “I don’t think He wants anything to do with this.” Alec groaned and rolled his eyes. Then he rolled his hips, thrusting up into Magnus’ hand. “You like that, darling?” While Magnus was being unfailingly gentle, the teasing touches and bright smiles were putting Alec on edge, almost more than his strong grip even.
Despite laying on the softest sheets Alec had ever felt, in the most comfortable bed he could have imagined, all Alec wanted was to feel more of Magnus. “Can I touch you?” He was rewarded almost instantly when Magnus nodded. Wrapping his hand around Magnus’ hard cock, Alec whimpered at the silky warm skin under his fingertips.
The minute he began to stroke Magnus, Magnus’ own hand sped up and the two went from kissing to breathing against each other’s lips. His world narrowed to Magnus; his lips, his hand, his body. And when pressure began to build at the base of his spine, Alec trembled, knowing what was coming but unprepared for how wonderful it would feel when brought on by another man.
As he came, Alec arched off the bed, painting his stomach and Magnus’ fist with his release. He maintained the state of mind to continue to stroke Magnus who followed him over the edge a minute later.
Shaking in Magnus’ arms, Alec tucked his face against his lover’s neck as he recovered from the sheer waves of pleasure that still wracked his body. “Is it...is it always like that?” he asked when his voice returned to him.
Magnus, who appeared as affected as Alec felt, shook his head. “Not at all, Alexander. That was something special.”
He would have puffed his chest if he thought he could move, but instead, Alec settled for throwing an arm around Magnus’ waist and snuggling closer.
“Darling, we need to clean up. Then, I hope you will consider spending the night.”
The thought of going back downstairs and returning home as if nothing happened appalled Alec and he nodded. “I was rather hoping I could. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Magnus climbed out of the bed and returned a few moments later with a dampened cloth to wipe them both. He discarded it and laid back down, drawing Alec into his arms. “I want nothing more than to hold you all night.”
Tomorrow he would have to face the consequences of everything, but right now, here in Magnus’ bed, safe from the scrutiny of everyone around them, Alec fell into a deep sleep, where he dreamt of a life next to the man he knew he would love.
The sun shone through the window, pulling Alec from slumber when it fell across his eyes. Groggy and disoriented, it took a moment to remember where he was, but as he shifted on the bed, a few things occurred to him.
First, this was not his bed if the silky soft sheets were anything to go by. They stood in sharp contrast to the crisp linens they used at home. This bed seemed to envelop you in comfort and warmth.
Which led to Alec’s second realization. Moving was difficult thanks to a warm, solid weight pressed against him. Alec smiled when he remembered and wrapped his arms around the body that lay half on top of him. “Good morning, Magnus.” His voice was gravely, both from disuse while they slept and overuse during their ministrations just before drifting off that night.
Magnus nuzzled closer, face pressed to Alec’s neck and the rest of his body wrapped around Alec, holding him tight. “Go back to sleep, Alexander,” Magnus mumbled, obviously fighting to hold onto what sleep he had. “It’s too early.”
But while Alec would have loved nothing more than to fall back to sleep and spend the day there in Magnus’ bed, he knew that sooner rather than later, he would need to return home. Hopefully, his siblings remembered to leave him a horse, but if not, the three-mile walk would give him time to think about what he was going to say. His mother would be worried that he hadn’t returned the night before, and when he walked in wearing rumpled clothes and mussed hair, it would send Maryse into a panic.
After that, he would have to deal with his fiancé.
Magnus’ hold on him loosened infinitesimally, and Alec knew he’d fallen back asleep. He took the moment to admire him. The bedding was bunched around their hips and Magnus’ back was exposed to the cool air of the room, the fire had long since died out. In the daylight, Magnus looked just as beautiful as he had in the light of the fire the night before. His skin glowed golden and perfect. Alec ran his hands down his back, enjoying the warm skin on his fingertips.
“You aren’t going back to sleep,” Magnus grumbled, amusement clear in his voice, even as he yawned and threw a leg over Alec’s own. Alec laughed lightly, pressing a kiss to the top of Magnus’ head. If he’d ever felt freer than he did then, Alec couldn’t remember it.
Rolling away from him when he felt Alec laughing, Magnus cracked his eyes open to glare at his lover. “Why do you insist on being awake so early? Did I not wear you out enough last night? Would you like to try again?” How Magnus’ voice could go from annoyed to seductive in the span of three questions, Alec couldn’t understand. But he felt his body reacting and almost leaned in to take him up on the offer.
Instead, he shook his head. “Not right now. I need to go home before my family fears I have gotten eaten by wolves and my sister takes over my study. But next time I get a chance, I would love to come back and try again.” Because Alec got the feeling there was a lot more they could be doing and he wanted to experience it all. Magnus was a terrific teacher and Alec never felt quite this devoted to his studies than before. “Will you be here in DuMort for a while?” He didn’t expect that Magnus hung around his brother’s house all the time. As the master of Edom Estate, Magnus had to be there on occasion. Plus, with his business in London, it seemed impractical to be here in Idris all the time.
Magnus smiled sadly and shook his head, “Unfortunately no. I have a few more days here before my affairs will take me back to Edom and London. Then it will probably be a month before I return north. Why do you ask? Want to accompany me?”
It was tempting, Alec would never say otherwise, but he also knew there were things he needed to deal with at home before he could go running off with his lover. The temptation of having Magnus around all the time, however, almost had him throwing caution to the wind so he could run off with him immediately. But Alec was a good son and protective brother more than anything else and he couldn’t leave his duties behind, not without giving them some warning.
“When you come back in a month, ask me again. Unfortunately, there are some things I need to do here first. But, eventually, I would like that. I’ve never left Idris and I would like to see London if nothing else.” Alec was not an impulsive person usually. Choosing to spend the night with Magnus the night before had been the most reckless thing he’d ever done, and even that was spontaneous, the built up courage of two nights of self-motivation.
Thankfully, Magnus nodded and smiled, leaning over to steal a kiss from Alec. “I expected that would be the answer but I feel better for asking. And I will be around until the middle of the week so I hope we will be able to find time to have tea if nothing else.” The possibilities of things other than tea caused stirrings deep inside Alec’s chest and he had to shake his head to clear his mind. He needed to be going home, not staying in bed with a handsome man all day long.
No matter how perfect that sounded.
“Can you at least stay for breakfast? I spent some time in Belgium and learned how to make the most delightful breakfast dish.” Because Magnus seemed dead set on finding some way to get Alec to stay with him and offering to cook for him, despite having a mansion full of people hired specifically for that purpose was one surefire way to get Alec to reconsider the need to rush home.
Still, he knew his mother would send out a search party if he didn’t come back soon enough. “I would love to. Maybe next time?” Because he desperately hoped there would be a next time. “However, if I don’t get home soon, Mother will have all of the town out looking for me and I would prefer if they didn’t find us naked in bed together. I feel like this is a scene for our eyes only.”
Chuckling, Magnus pulled Alec close, one hand running down his bare side. “Trust me, darling. I want no one else to see you like this as well. So, please get dressed and get out before I change my mind and keep you here forever.” Said as a threat, Alec wondered if he could think of anything he wanted more.
In the end, he tugged on all his clothes, sighing heavily when he saw just how wrinkled they were. “How is my hair, Magnus?” His hair was a constant source of disappointment for both Izzy and Jace, and he assumed it would be for Magnus as well.
Alec, then, was surprised when Magnus smiled fondly at him. “While most people can’t pull off the ‘I spent all night in bed with a handsome man’ look, on you, it looks positively sinful. But...” Magnus trailed off, climbing from the bed to come up to Alec and run his hands gently through his hair. That felt divine enough, but looking at Magnus standing there unapologetically nude, made Alec blush, both from embarrassment and desire.
“Well, it isn’t perfect but at least it doesn’t look like someone was tugging on it last night,” Magnus laughed, stepping back to admire his work. “You will be careful getting back? I could have Simon send for the carriage if you didn’t want to make the trip alone.”
Smiling, Alec leaned in and stole a quick kiss, “I’ll be fine, Magnus. I grew up around here, remember.”
After many more kisses, including a memorable one where Alec backed Magnus against a wall and kissed him until they were both breathless, he began to trip home. Thankfully Jace had thought to leave a horse for him, which probably upset Maryse but there was little to be done for that. As he rode, Alec couldn’t keep the smile off his face, every time he thought of Magnus, he wanted to turn the horse around and rush back there to him.
He stabled his horse when he arrived home, stalling a few extra moments before he would have to face his family and the onslaught of questions that were unavoidable. Taking a deep breath, Alec stepped through the door to be assaulted by Maryse’s verbal tirade almost immediately.
“Where have you been? I thought you would know better than to disappear at a party and leave your fiancé to fend for herself in a crowd of people she has never met. You have to thank John for saving you as he spent the entire evening with her. His mother and he even brought her home when no one could find you. And then there was me! Worried sick, certain something had happened to you. I was going to call Mr. Aldertree and see if he would go looking for you as I obviously couldn’t leave your baby brother alone to do it myself. He’d worried himself half to death last night, fearing his big brother wouldn’t come home.” A quick glance at Max told Alec everything he needed to know. He’d been assured by Jace and Izzy that Alec was just fine and was hardly paying attention to what their mother was saying.
“The crowd at the party was too much for me,” he explained, knowing that it would make perfect sense to everyone in his family. His aversion to social situations was well known. “When John was talking about seminary with Lydia, I excused myself to find some quiet. It turns out that Mr. Lewis has an extensive library and I must have lost track of time and fallen asleep. Mr. Bane was kind enough to wake me this morning and let me know that Jace had left a horse for me.”
Alec ignored the way his sister and brother snorted at his words. The last thing he wanted was for his mother to ask what was so funny. Because his love life was not something his mother needed to know about. Particularly since he shouldn’t have a love life, to begin with.
“You should know better than to lose yourself in books when you were supposed to be introducing your fiancé to our community. I am very disappointed in you, Alec.”
So what else is new , Alec thought miserably. He didn’t know a time when his mother had been proud of him for anything that he did on his own. Only when he followed her instructions did he get anything close to compliments from his mother. “I’m sorry, Mother. I will apologize to Lydia and go thank John later today.” It was only then that he wondered where Lydia was. While she and John may have hit it off the night before, it would have been improper for her to stay at their house for the night. “Where is Lydia? Is she still sleeping?”
Izzy laughed and shook her head, “She left before even I was up this morning. John was going to take her for a walk to the church, promised her a personal tour and offered to introduce her to the pastor.” Alec had to restrain his smile, lest his mother think he was happy his best friend was trying to take his fiancé from him.
Instead, he gave a small smile, “I am glad to hear they are getting on so well. She and John have many things in common and I am sure they are both happy to have a friend well versed in similar interests.” Maryse frowned but said nothing. Maybe she didn’t want Lydia to be her daughter in law. She certainly wouldn’t have much control, with Lydia taking all of her instructions from Lady Imogen. “I will call on the Monteverdes after lunch. Right now, I wish to freshen up and put on clean clothing.”
He excused himself quickly before his mother could ask any more questions. He wasn’t as lucky when it came to his siblings, both of the older ones barging in with ridiculous grins on their faces.
“Alright brother, start talking,” Izzy laughed, throwing herself down on his bed.
He sighed, acting as if there was something horrible about the question he was asked and not like he was desperate to tell them everything. “What do you want to know, Isabelle? I told mother I fell asleep in the library. Didn't that answer your question for you?”
Jace punched his shoulder. “It didn’t and you know it. Where did you actually spend the night? Don’t lie to us or I’ll hit you again.”
“Like I couldn’t take you, Jace” Alec grinned back at him. “But no, I didn’t sleep in the library. I spent the night with Mr. Bane.”
“In his bed?”
“No.” Their squeals threatened his hearing and he groaned, clapping his hands over both their mouths “Stop, you heathens! I don’t want to explain your screaming to Mother.” He only took his hands away when they both calmed and nodded to indicate they wouldn’t stop screaming again. “I slept with Magnus, in his bed, without clothing on, and he has asked me to travel with him sometime in the near future.”
Izzy’s eyes went wide and this time she covered her own mouth before asking, “And you said yes, right? Alec, you have to say yes.” Jace nodded right along with her and Alec was reminded how much he loved them, which made his decision to stay behind that much easier.
“I told him I would go next time. Once Jace is safely ensconced down at The Clave and Izzy is a happily married woman, then there will be nothing really left here for me to do. I do want to see the world but mostly, I just want to be with him.” Holding up his hand to stop the questions, Alec continued, “I don’t know how that will work. We all know that what I feel for Magnus will get me excommunicated and what we did last night could get me imprisoned. But, he is worth the risk.” Magnus was worth every risk.
Jace hugged him, “I’m happy for you, Alec. To be honest, Iz and I have been worrying about leaving you behind. We had horrible nightmares about it eventually being just you and mother here alone. She will be miserable without us and one of us will eventually need to take her in once Max is old enough to move out. But at least now we won’t need to worry about you. You really are moving up in the world.”
“How, Jace? How am I moving up in the world? It’s not like Magnus and I can marry. I don’t know what I will be to him, at least in everyone else’s eyes. I know what it is that I feel, what he is to me, and I suspect that he feels the same way.” What that would mean for them in the long run, Alec didn’t know, but he trusted Magnus and together, they would figure this out.
The siblings laughed and talked through the day and by dinner time, Alec was feeling better about everything. He had his beloved siblings. He had a man whom he knew he would grow to love. And soon, he would get to travel, just as he always hoped.
Things were finally looking up.
If that isn't the most ominous thing to read at the end of a fanfic chapter, I don't know what is...
Having never gotten to town to visit the Monteverdes the day before, Alec knew they would have to do it now. Lydia left early to visit John once more, something that perplexed and worried Maryse, though not as much as Alec would have expected. Thankfully, his siblings offered to join them. Even Max, who wanted to see the soldiers again. They promised him they would go right there after they were done calling on the Monteverdes.
Which was how they found themselves seated in their parlor, sipping tea and making small talk. The way Lydia and John were looking at each other, Alec knew without a doubt that his plan had worked, possibly even better than expected. “Would you all mind if Lydia, John and I took a walk?”, he asked. His siblings gave him knowing smiles and shook their heads, shooing the three of them from the house.
Lydia and John looked worried but Alec tried to calm their nerves with a small smile. “Lydia, I thought that marrying you... We were trying to do the right thing, but this isn’t it. It is obvious that you two are crazy about each other. John, you’ve been my best friend for so many years. If you two will let me, I would like to call off our engagement so that Lydia can marry someone who truly loves her the way she deserves.”
As both of their faces lit up with brilliant smiles, Alec knew he’d done well. He’d have to face the wrath of his mother but that was nothing new. Considering he made both Lydia and John happy, it made anything his mother threw at him worth it. John hugged him and Lydia kissed his cheek. When she looked at John, Alec could see why his friend was falling for her. They were very much alike and he knew that this would work out for the both of them.
Particularly when John dropped to his knee and proposed, right there on the spot. Lydia accepted immediately, of course, and Alec smiled as he witnessed his friend get engaged only a few moments after calling off his own. While some people might feel bitter, Alec felt nothing but relief and joy.
“I’ll go get my siblings and we will be on our way,” Alec smiled. “Go tell your mother and we can talk later in the week, alright?”
Soon enough, the Lightwoods were heading toward town while John explained the happy situation to his mother who was more than excited for her only child. “That was nice what you did for them,” Izzy smiled, nudging Alec lightly with her elbow. “I always knew you were a romantic at heart but ever since he came into your life, you’ve really been showing it.”
“Who?” Max asked, prompting Alec to glare at his sister. “John? You’ve known him his whole life.” While he was significantly younger than the rest of his siblings, Max was by no means dumb and looked between all of them - reading Izzy and Jace’s amused expressions along with Alec’s mortified one - before coming to some conclusion and nodding. “You really shouldn’t talk about adult things outside. You’re going to get Alec in trouble.” That shut all three of them up, sharing horrified glances.
“Max, you know you can’t say anything about that to anyone, right?” Izzy’s grip on Alec’s arm was nearing too tight and while he appreciated her desire to protect him, cutting off the feeling in his hand was not the way to do it.
Max rolled his eyes, “Of course. I’m not an idiot. But you all are. Don’t talk about it. I don’t want anyone to hurt Alec because then I would have to hurt him and Mom would be mad at me.”
The logic of a child, Alec thought with a chuckle. He appreciated his brother’s willingness to stick up for him, even if he was too little to actually do anything. “Thanks, Max. I’ll make sure that I keep it quiet so you don’t get into trouble.”
“That’s all I ask,” Max said solemnly before turning his attention back to the soldiers who were just up the road. While he would deny it, Jace looked just as interested as Max was, and Alec smiled at his brothers as they launched into a deep conversation about the ranks of the men they passed. Though, Alec knew Jace's interest in them was far more personal these days. Most likely it wasn’t the soldiers that had Jace’s attention, as much as he was looking for the mysterious Clary. Alec hoped they would finally meet her since she was all Jace could talk about whenever they were alone.
“There she is!” he blurted out after they’d been walking for some time. There were soldiers everywhere and Alec briefly wondered how Jace could spot her in the crowd. When she approached them, however, he understood as her bright red hair would have been noticeable no matter how many people were around her.
Or how short she was. Which was very, VERY short.
“Clary,”Jace grinned and Alec knew then and there that this was different for his brother. He’d seen him chase girls in the past but he’d never seen him so breathless at just the sight of one of his prospects.
Clary smiled, bright and angelic. “Hello, Jace. I was hoping you would come by today. I want to hear all about the ball. I bet it was marvelous. DuMort is positively gorgeous. I would love to see inside someday.”
Happy to have something to offer her, Jace nodded. “It was fun but it would have been better if you were there. If you want, though, I bet my sister or brother could arrange a meeting for you. They are both close to Mr. Lewis and his brothers.”
Only after Jace mentioned them did Clary look in their direction, smiling politely. “You must be Jace's siblings. I have heard so much about you.” Max, she had met before so Jace introduced the other two. “This is my brother, Mr. Alec Lightwood and my sister, Miss Isabelle Lightwood. Alec and Izzy, this is Miss Fairchild. She’s the one I have told you so much about.”
Izzy grinned and offered Clary her hand. “I have heard so much about you. Wait until we get rid of these two and I will be happy to tell you all of Jace’s darkest secrets.” Glancing around as if to tell something monumental, Izzy leaned in. “Did you know that he is afraid of ducks ?” Clary giggled, Jace glared and Alec desperately tried to hide his amusement behind his hand.
“No, you can’t get rid of me. I want in on this. I know even more than Izzy does. Trust me, there are some things only brothers know about one another.”
“Like how he sometimes uses some of Izzy’s hairpins to make sure his hair looks perfect and then gets upset because he forgets about them and finds them in bed the next day.” Max grinned at Jace, who could only smile in return, despite his face burning with embarrassment. Max had that effect on people.
“Hairpins, Jace? Really?” Clary laughed and Alec could see in his brother’s face that he didn’t mind it so much when Clary was the one teasing him. Alec liked Clary. She could hold her own with his brother and put Jace in his place. Plus, seeing how soft it made Jace, Alec couldn’t find anything to really fault her on.
Jace being Jace, he put up his fake bravado that Alec had seen ever since Jace came into his life, and preened, “Do you think this comes naturally? My sort of beauty takes a lot of effort. Something some people wouldn’t understand.” He faux glared at Alec who simply shrugged. No, he wouldn’t understand that. But he was also the one who had his hair styled by someone beautiful and interested in him the morning prior, so he was pretty sure he was winning at life.
Speaking of, Alec grinned when a familiar voice sounded behind him. “Well, I would know those two beauties anywhere. Oh, and Blondie.”
Alec spun around, taking in the sight of his lover in front of him. While he preferred the Magnus he saw yesterday, relaxed and naked, perfectly content in his own skin while in Alec’s company, there was something to be said for the way he looked all dressed up for a day on the town. His fashion was unlike anything Idris had ever seen and he noticed many people staring at him as he walked by. Not that Magnus seemed to care. He made his wealth off making people look their best and making them stand out. If he didn’t do that for himself, what kind of a businessman would he be? “Magnus,” he breathed, before remembering himself and nodding to Simon as well. “And Simon. A pleasure to see you both today.”
“And you as well, Mr. Lightwood. A little exercise has done wonders for your complexion.” Magnus gave him a quick wink and Alec choked while his siblings and Simon laughed behind his back. Magnus was going to get them in trouble and yet, Alec couldn’t find it in himself to be too worried.
Simon and Izzy quickly wandered off together, his sister so focused on the love of her life that she didn’t even notice she never said goodbye. Alec rolled his eyes, knowing he would go need to find them sooner rather than later. But he would give Izzy her happiness for now. If anyone deserved it, it was her.
His good mood vanished when Clary stepped around him to see who they were all talking to. He realized that she was so tiny, no one would have seen her behind him. “Hi, I’m,” she started to say, though the rest of the words died in her throat.
“Miss Morgenstern,” Magnus said tightly, his eyes never leaving Clary’s. “I didn’t know you traveled this far north. I would have made arrangements for my family and myself to be elsewhere while you were in town.” It was by far the most impolite thing Alec had ever heard Magnus say to someone and he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why he said it.
Alec shook his head, confused, “Magnus, I think you are mistaken. This is Miss Clary Fairchild, not Morgenstern like you said.” Torn between his desire to support his boyfriend but his knowledge that he should always stand up for what was right, Alec prayed that this was some misunderstanding. That he wouldn’t have to stand up to his lover, not about this.
Magnus turned his attention to Alec, eyes softening slightly and he sighed, “No, her name is Clarissa Morgenstern. I’ve had the misfortune of knowing the family for years.”
Tears pooled in Clary’s eyes as she looked from Magnus to Jace and Alec. “I don’t know why he is saying that. Mr. Bane? My mother used to hire you to come watch me when she had to go into the city. We used to play fun games and you would do my hair. I adored you. Why would you say such cruel things?” Jace wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders, glaring daggers at Magnus.
“Yes, and then ten years later, your father tried to destroy my business, you tried to seduce Simon for his money, and Ragnor nearly got killed.”
Alec’s eyes went wide, trying to imagine this girl in the family of someone so heartless. It didn’t fit with what he’d seen, and considering the tears streaming down Clary’s cheeks, he was pretty sure there was something wrong here. “Magnus, I think that is enough,” he said gently. “She’s obviously upset.”
“Don’t trust that family, Alexander. They are only after money and status, nothing more. People like that, they aren’t people you want to spend time with.”
Gritting his teeth, Alec remembered that was something Magnus had accused his own family of, and while it was true of their mother, it certainly wasn’t for the rest of them. He thought Magnus understood that and was over it, but here was the accusation once more, this time directed at someone else. “Did you ever think the problem might be you?” he asked before letting himself overthink it too much. “Hers is the second family you have accused of that crime which is obviously horrendous in your mind. Do you think it might be possible that not everyone is out to get you?”
“Alexander, please. You don’t know what you are talking about. But please, keep your voice down. You are causing a scene.” Something Alec would normally avidly avoid but right now, his righteous indignation overpowered every other sense.
“Is that how you see me, Magnus? Is it? Someone just out for money and power, obviously unable to actually love another without seeing how much currency they have to their name?” He was getting close to a line he shouldn’t cross in public but he was so angry. “Jace, can you see Miss Fairchild back to her family? I think I have had enough of town for the day. Good day, Mr. Bane.”
Taking Max by the hand, Alec turned for home, ignoring the way his heart was breaking inside his chest.
Please don't hate me.
Alec learned from Izzy a few days later that Magnus left Idris to return to London. His heart hurt, though he kept it hidden from everyone, even his siblings. Alec threw himself into his work, taking any job that came his way, no matter how small. His siblings tried to pull him out but Maryse told them to leave him be. She assumed - and no one corrected her - that Lydia had broken off the engagement. Thinking Alec to be heartbroken over the loss of his marriage prospects, she allowed him to have some time to feel sorry for himself and grieve.
A week later, Alec found himself back at DuMort, surrounded by the familiar location but without the warmth he’d started to associate with it. While Simon, Raphael, and Izzy played a lively game of cards, Alec sat in an armchair with a book he remembered seeing Magnus read. He’d been lost in the words - or, more specifically, the thought of Magnus reading the words - when Rebecca sat down next to him. “Is there a reason you keep yourself separate from everyone here? You know the game could use a fourth, right?” She nodded toward the table, where his three friends were laughing.
“You could join as well. I am currently engrossed in this novel and I know both Mr. Santiago and my sister understand that.” While Alec certainly approved of Simon courting his sister and respected him, they didn’t know each other as well as Alec knew the other people in the room. Izzy cast a small smile at him, obviously worried about his heart but thankful that he’d agreed to accompany her once more. Without her chaperone, Isabelle would never have been allowed to visit Simon. Alec’s discomfort was nothing compared to his sister’s happiness.
Rebecca plucked the book from his hands and rolled her eyes as she looked at the cover. “Gulliver’s Travels? You and Mr. Bane are so similar. How can you read this children’s book when there are far more interesting activities to engage in?” She dropped the book back in his lap. “I am so looking forward to seeing him soon. You know we are leaving for London at the end of the week. I have no idea when we will be back.”
Unaware (or uncaring) of Alec’s heart breaking for his sister, Rebecca continued on, rubbing salt in an already raw wound. “I can’t wait to see Mr. Bane and his sister while we are there.” Magnus had never mentioned a sister and the thought that this woman knew more about Magnus than Alec did hurt in a new, yet still painful way. “She is so accomplished. A talented healer who delivers babies and cares for the mothers. She is beautiful and well-read. I hope that Simon and Miss Loss will marry someday. Then we will be sisters two times over when I marry Mr. Bane.”
“If you’ll excuse me,” Alec managed through gritted teeth, taking his book from the room and storming into the hallway. Simon’s sister, aware of Izzy’s feelings for her brother, just told him she is hoping he marries another woman. He had been well aware of Miss Lewis’ interest in Magnus but he had no idea that she was so against Izzy’s involvement with Simon, as well.
Tears threatened to fall, both for his sister and for him and Alec made his way through the halls, looking for a quiet place to hide while he calmed down. He wouldn’t give her that satisfaction. When he found himself in front of Magnus’ bedroom door, the tears started to fall in earnest.
Knowing that the man was long gone, Alec pushed into the room and immediately threw himself onto the bed. While it was improper, Rebecca made it clear that they weren’t intending to return for awhile, so there would be no reason for Magnus to return either. Alec was still mad at him, unsure why he held such a grudge against a girl who seemed as sweet as Clary, but his heart still wanted him and right now, his heart was winning out over his head.
Lying on the bed, Alec tried to remember how happy he’d been the last time there. Waking up in Magnus’ arms had been the happiest moment of his life, feeling loved and warmed and accepted. To have things turn on their head so quickly left Alec unbalanced and lost. Now, to hear that he might never see Magnus again, that his sister might lose Simon, and he would be forced to spend his life remembering all of his mistakes that led to this point, Alec didn’t know how he would manage.
As his tears dried, Alec laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. He wished he’d stayed to talk to Magnus, found out why Magnus reacted in such a way to Clary. Because while Magnus was hot-headed and perhaps a little prejudiced against the people of their county, he’d always shown himself to be willing to discuss and learn and grow. Then there was Alec, who automatically believed the girl his brother was interested in over his own lover. No wonder Magnus was upset with him. First, he followed his mother’s horrible ideas and then he sided against the man who had offered him everything he’d ever wanted. Maybe Alec didn’t deserve him.
Definitely, Alec didn’t deserve him.
Deciding that wallowing in self-pity wasn’t going to do anything for him, Alec pushed himself off the bed and made his way back downstairs, leaving the book behind. He’d read it before, had his own copy at home, and somehow this felt symbolic. “Isabelle,” he said softly from the door, smiling at his friends and ignoring the smug look on Rebecca’s face. “I think it is time we left for home. Mother is expecting us for supper.”
Not waiting for a reply, Alec made his way out to the stables to get their carriage ready. He had no one to say goodbye to. Even Raphael, whom he thought was on his side, would obviously prefer to have his brother marry Magnus’ sister. They were of the same status, the same class. Magnus’ sister could offer the social stature that Isabelle and her family never could. Particularly with Maryse’s society climbing ways.
The ride home was quiet as Alec drove and Izzy rode inside. Normally she would ride up top with him but today, she sat inside. Knowing his sister, Alec assumed she could tell he wanted to be left alone with his thoughts. Or maybe Izzy needed it herself.
Dinner was a quiet affair, no one quite willing to push Alec, who’d spent his first day out of his study since the incident with Magnus and his ‘break up’ with Lydia. Jace, in particular, looked awkward, as he knew his relationship with Clary had been the thing that triggered the whole situation, though he was as ignorant to the cause of Magnus’ outburst as the rest of them. He and Clary apparently left immediately after Alec and Max did, so no one stayed around to find out the true source of Magnus’ anger. Alec knew Izzy planned to ask Simon that day but either hadn’t gotten around to it or was upset in her own right and didn’t want to make things worse.
It wasn’t until Simon, Raphael and Rebecca left to visit him in London as well, that Alec stopped spending extended periods of time in his office. Izzy was depressed that Simon was gone, though he’d promised to write her as often as possible. Letters were wonderful and Alec knew she was already looking forward to receiving them, but they weren’t the same as the comfortable afternoons the two of them were accustomed to spending. Alec waited as impatiently as Izzy for the mail to arrive if only to prove to himself that Simon really was interested in Izzy and not just killing time until he could return to London and marry Magnus’ mysterious sister. He didn’t seem like the type to lead Isabelle on, but after everything Rebecca said, Alec no longer trusted his own judgment.
“He will write, won’t he, Alec?” Izzy asked one rainy day while they were curled up in her room, hiding from the chores they knew Maryse would assign to them. Two weeks passed without word from Simon and Izzy was starting to lose hope. Maybe he hadn’t felt for her what she felt for him. Isabelle was a romantic, wanting to give her heart to someone who deserved it, but she was also pragmatic and knew when it was best to cut ties.
Alec, however, believed in love above almost all else and wouldn’t let his sister settle for anything less. “He will write. Maybe he is busy, or the letters are lost in the mail. There are many possibilities that do not involve him losing interest in you.”
His hopes were dashed, however, when a letter arrived for Izzy from Rebecca the day of Lydia and John’s wedding. They were just leaving for the church when it was delivered. Neither of them would have been able to focus until they read it, so they crowded together with Jace and read through the words that struck Alec to his core.
London is beautiful and we are all so happy to be home. It is awful to be isolated from everything we love while trapped in Idris. As happy as Simon seemed to be there, it is clear that the city is where he belongs.
We have met up with Mr. Bane and his sister. Miss Loss and Simon have become close, having many similar interests and I expect to be able to announce an engagement by the time I write again.
Once Miss Loss and my brother are married, I know that Mr. Bane will propose to me. The four of us will certainly not be returning to Idris as Miss Loss would despise it even more than Mr. Bane and I do.
I hope this letter finds you well. Write if anything interesting happens in your life, though judging where you live, I rather expect not to hear from you.
While Alec knew Rebecca was determined to ‘save’ her brother from an unwise marriage, he never expected her to be so heartless to his sister. Izzy’s eyes filled with tears and Alec pulled her into a hug. “He won’t marry her. Rebecca is trying to upset you. Simon loves you. Anyone with eyes can see that.”
Jace nodded and grabbed the letter from her hand, balling it up and tossing it away. “Don’t even think about it anymore, Iz. He will see through her plan and he will be back here with you where he belongs before you know it.” Jace met Alec’s eyes and he could read the message clear as day. They both hoped they were right.
Izzy nodded and dried her eyes, giving them both one more hug before making her way to the carriage that would take them to the wedding. And when she cried off and on throughout the ceremony, most just thought she was happy for the bride and the groom.
Alec had trouble focusing, however. He was happy for both John and Lydia, who seemed thrilled with their luck, finding someone who accepted them as they were. And Alec knew he had found someone like that as well, though that was probably over by now. Hopefully, whoever Magnus ended up with, they would deserve him. While Alec respected Simon and Raphael, Rebecca would never be good enough for Magnus. He deserved warmth and happiness and love, not someone using him for his wealth and status.
Just like their own mother was trying to do with Simon.
Did Magnus tell Simon his suspicions? Did Rebecca? Maybe that was why he didn’t write to Izzy. It would make sense. Alec only hoped Simon would see that what his sister felt for him was real and true, not fabricated and forced like Rebecca and Maryse both saw relationships to be.
After the wedding, the town stood and waved goodbye as John and Lydia left for their new home. Lady Imogen had granted them the parsonage on her own land, something both of them were excited for. John was used to living under his mother’s thumb, so he figured this would be familiar. Lydia, obviously, adored Lady Imogen and looked forward to spending the rest of their lives in her shadow. Alec wished them well, relief that he had avoided the same fate pulsing through his veins.
Only when they were home did he ask Izzy how she was doing. “Fine, I guess,” she sighed. “We always knew Rebecca was after Mr. Bane. I suppose she sees setting Simon up with his sister as the next step in getting in with Magnus.” Looking over at Alec, she offered him a small smile. “How are you doing? I wasn’t the only one to have their heart broken by the letter and you can’t even deny it.”
Alec had no intention of denying it. “Something is going on with Magnus and if he wants to come talk to me, he can. But he didn’t feel like sharing the fact that he had a sister with me. And he yelled at an innocent young woman. So I don’t know if he has the same interest in me that I have in him.” Magnus had promised Alec he wasn’t a fling, but then vanished at the first sign of trouble.
“It sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into believing that,” Izzy pointed out and he knew it was true, though he would never admit it. “Magnus likes you, Alec. But something happened and you need to figure it out. Why don’t you go to London? It would be good for you to get out of Idris for awhile. Take your book to London and see if anyone will buy it. You never know what might happen. Maybe you will come back with your man and a published book.”
It wasn’t a terrible idea. He could go through London on his way to visit John, see how he and Lydia were doing with married life. Something to get out of Alicante and away from his mother and all the bad memories. “I’ll talk to Mother and makes some arrangements. I think I want to do this.”
The idea of bringing his book was the worst part. He didn’t want to be rejected but he’d been writing for so long and it was time to see if it was any good or not. Either way, at least then he would know. And if he happened to see Magnus while there, so be it. Izzy grinned and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. “You need to send me lots of letters and if you see Simon, kick him until he sees reason and comes home to me.”
“It’s a promise, Izzy.”
Anyone else hate Rebecca as much as I do?
Communication is key.
To everyone’s surprise, Maryse agreed readily to Alec’s trip to London. She assured him that they would be just fine without him for a few weeks and to try and find himself a respectable job or wife while he was there. Of course, until she approved of both, he shouldn’t make any rash decisions but simply keep the possibilities in mind.
Knowing that his family would have no need to leave Alicante while he was away, Alec took the carriage, packing his clothing, writing materials, and book into the back and starting on his way. Having never left Idris before, he mentally noted the moment when he was farther from home than he’d ever been. Every moment after took him farther from the known and the comfortable. There was no way to know what was waiting for him in London but Alec could only hope it would be better than the situation he left behind.
The size of London threatened to overwhelm him, with buildings as far as the eye could see. No wonder Magnus and the rest of his family found Idris so quaint. The places couldn’t have been more different. While Alec loved his home, he could see the appeal of a bustling city where one could simply be another face and not be recognized by everyone in town.
Finding a place to stay in London was more difficult than he expected but eventually, he found a small place called The Institute and was able to buy a room for a couple weeks, which he figured would be more than enough time to find Simon and to turn in his novel. His room was small - just a chair, a bed, and an oil lamp - but it was more than enough for him. He stabled his horses and carriage and brought his things to his room. While he wished he had a desk at which he could write, there was nothing to be done for that. He assumed there had to be someplace around that would fill that void in his life.
But before he did anything else, he wanted to find his way around a city that looked bigger than the entire county where he lived. If he was going to go and accomplish everything he wanted to, he would need to be able to find everything first.
On his first excursion out into the city he found a pub around the corner from The Institute. It was small, quiet, with a welcoming atmosphere that drew Alec in. He’d never been one for being out in public but there was also nothing like this place in Alicante. Alec had read about places like this in his books and it made him step through the door for supper every night.
The Hunter’s Moon seemed to be a meeting place for all kinds of people. Some were drinking and laughing, others played cards, still, others seemed engrossed in their reading or conversations. It reminded Alec of a low-key version of Simon’s drawing room, without the overtly tense atmosphere caused by his attraction to the owner’s brother.
During the day, he would go out into the city, his novel neatly tied within his satchel, but he never found the nerve to go to a publisher and ask them to read it. With the possibility of rejection, Alec resorted to his normal state, sticking with what was comfortable and safe. He tried to find Simon but neither he nor Magnus seemed easy to track down.
At night, he would return to the Hunter’s Moon, order a pint of ale and some dinner and write until he couldn’t keep his eyes open, then stumble home to sleep until it was time to do it again. Each day and night was the same, and Alec fell easily into a routine. He’d almost forgotten about his promise to visit John, content to stay in London until he had to return home to Idris.
Which meant, that everything changed as soon as Alec got used to it. The day had been the same as every other and he arrived at the Hunter’s Moon, settled at his normal table, and ordered his drink and dinner. Just as he began to write, however, a voice cut into his consciousness, one he’d wondered if he would ever hear again.
Eyes wide and mouth gaping, Alec knew he looked ridiculous but as he saw Magnus standing in front of him, he just didn’t care. Here was the man of his dreams, the one he’d thought he lost, looking at him as if he was thinking exactly the same thing. “Magnus?” While he was proud that he got his voice to work, Alec wished he could find a fraction of the words he easily put on the page.
“What are you doing here? I thought you never left Alicante.”
It took a moment before Alec managed to find the words to answer Magnus. “I don’t. This...this is the first time I left. I’ve been here for ten days now.” Nodding to the chair, Alec didn’t know whether Magnus would accept the unspoken offer or not and breathed a sigh of relief when he sat down. “It’s different but I like it here. People don’t recognize me. There are no whispers behind my back or even to my face. I don’t have to worry about my family's history, just get to live my life and be Alec.”
He hadn’t meant for all of that to come tumbling out and flushed when he realized just how much he’d admitted to Magnus. But when he looked at the other man, he was smiling fondly. “It’s one of the reasons I like the city as well. Though I have been here for much longer and depending on where you go, I get the same types of whispers that you do back in Alicante. What you need to remember is that the whispers reflect on them, not you. You are a good man, Alexander. So what brought you to London?”
Alec reached into his satchel and pulled out his novel, setting it on the table in front of them. “I want to sell this. I want it to be published. I think it is time I try to accomplish what I’ve wanted for so long.” With a sigh, he placed his hand on top of it, “But I can’t do it. I walk to the publishing district every day and then I turn around and come back. I don’t want to be rejected. I keep thinking it is better not to know.”
“May I?” Magnus asked, sliding the novel out from under Alec’s fingers. Alec held his breath while Magnus flipped through the meticulous papers, his pride, and joy written out on paper for all the world to see. “A love story? For some reason, I expected action and adventure, good conquering evil.” He set the book back down and looked at Alec with a new light in his eyes.
Giving him a small smile, Alec shrugged, “Why can’t it be both? A man going on a journey to find treasure, adventure, and himself. Along the way, he meets someone he can’t live without. But does he give up everything for the love he never knew he wanted, or does he keep living his adventurous life, knowing that his heart was no longer his own? That is my story.”
“And are you the man?”
Alec shook his head, “No. I mean, when I wrote it, I thought I was. But then, well, I realized I was the love interest. The one asking the person they loved to give up everything just to be with them. I realize now it is selfish to try and stop someone from living the life they were meant to, only because you can’t imagine leaving the comfort of your own home.” An uncomfortable thing to admit, for sure, but Alec always felt honesty was the best policy and he wasn’t going to lie simply because he was embarrassed.
The smile Magnus gave him lessened his embarrassment a little and Alec smiled back at him. “But you are here, far from home, seeking your fortune in what must feel like a faraway land. Doesn’t that sound like your hero?”
It did a little but Alec hesitated to admit that. “But he wishes to continue his journey while my thoughts keep drifting to home.”
“To home itself or the people who live there because you never seemed all that happy in Alicante, Alexander. The only time I saw you smile was when you were with your siblings.”
“And you,” Alec blurted our unable to stop himself. Though, after he said it, he didn’t regret it. Their path had been a bumpy one but Magnus deserved to know how much happiness he’d brought to Alec’s life in the short time they’d been acquainted.
Judging by the surprised look on the other’s face, it was clear that Magnus didn’t realize and Alec hurried to explain. “You are the first person outside of my family to look at me and see me. You weren’t turned off by the darkness inside me. Instead, you reflected it back and showed me it wasn’t so dark after all. Even if we never see each other again, my life is better for having known you, Magnus.”
Alec wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the fire light that lit the small pub, or if those really were tears in Magnus’ eyes. “I was afraid to talk to you when I saw you here. Thought you would be upset with me considering the way we parted.”
“And what is happening to my sister,” Alec grumbled, thrown back into his current problems by Magnus’ words. “I’m still upset. I’m not sure what would drive you to make a young girl cry in the public square. But more, I don’t understand why you would ruin my sisters hope for happiness. If it is to get back at my family for all the wrongs, both real and perceived, then please choose another way. Ruin me, disgrace me. Don’t convince Simon to marry your sister - who I didn’t even know existed - just to be away from Isabelle. They love each other. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
Dumbstruck, Magnus only stared at him for a long moment. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, “My problems with the Morgensterns and long and drawn out and I should have at least offered you an explanation. But I don’t understand the accusations about Simon. My brother has been writing to Isabelle every other night since he arrived. I have no sister other than Rebecca and Simon is obviously not marrying her. It is Isabelle who doesn’t respond, leaving my brother a lovesick wreck.”
Which made no sense because Alec went with Izzy every day to collect the post and there had been no letters from Mr. Lewis. “She hasn’t received anything from him. Only one letter from Miss Lewis explaining that her brother was due to be engaged to your sister by the end of the month.”
For his part, Magnus only looked stunned for a moment before he began to laugh. Shaking his head, he laughed until other people began to turn and look at them in conclusion. “Magnus,” Alec hissed. “It really isn’t that funny. Izzy’s heart is broken. I don’t understand what is going on.”
“That is because you do not know the tenacious Miss Lewis very well. If you did, you would understand. And considering I grew up with them, I should have seen this coming a mile a way. I thought I was immune to her tricks but it seems that even I fall for it on occasion.” Magnus grinned at Alec, as if what he just said was the answer to all his questions, though Alec still didn’t understand anything. “As for my sister, I can only assume she means Catarina, for whom I promise you Simon holds no romantic interest. Catarina and I have known each other since I was a child. She is significantly older than us all and engaged to a dear friend, though I doubt Rebecca knows that yet. If she did, she would have chosen some other way to get under your sister’s skin.”
He raised a brow, waiting for more of an explanation but when it didn’t come, he asked, “So, what does that mean? Why aren’t your brother’s letters making it to Alicante? She really is upset, thinking that he doesn’t want her, that he is in love with someone else.”
Magnus reached out, patting Alec’s hand, “I assure you, that isn’t the case. Most likely, the dear Miss Lewis is taking each letter before it gets to the post. That way, she can drive a wedge between them. I thought she was passed these games but it appears not.”
“So, Miss Lewis is trying to keep her brother from marrying my sister, even though anyone could see that they love one another?” Who could be so cold and cruel to mess with other people’s lives in such a way? What did she have to gain from that?
Thankfully, Alec didn’t voice that question out loud because he knew the answer before he’d even finished thinking the question.
She wanted Magnus. That much had been clear since the moment Alec met them all.
Magnus seemed to know the answer as well. “When she was still very young, just after I moved out of their home, Rebecca decided that we needed to marry. Obviously she couldn’t marry her brothers and once I became an adult, I was no longer tied to the family. We could marry and the family would be back together again. At first, that was all it was. Then, it became more. I grew successful and built my fortune. I soon had more money than either Simon or Raphael and I would have been a good match financially as well as emotionally. So, she became convinced that this would be the perfect opportunity for her.”
It definitely made sense from what Alec had seen. But Magnus continued. “I thought, for awhile, that she might have given up. When I got caught in bed with a lower level duke about five years ago, I thought they would all abandon me.” Magnus had lowered his voice, glancing around to make sure people weren’t listening in. Alec got the feeling that it was for his sake rather than Magnus’. “And I think Rebecca considered it. But Raphael and Simon laughed it off, thinking nothing of it. I moved on quickly, courting Lady Camille Belcourt, but that ended in disaster as well. However, I think that made Rebecca think that I had my unusual proclivities out of my system and was ready to settle down with a woman.
“When Simon moved to Idris, I don’t think she ever conceived of the idea that either of us would fall for someone, let alone a pair of siblings. At first, she was annoyed by your mother, and I encouraged that annoyance as she grated on me as well. But as I got to know you and Miss Lightwood, I realized that you were not your mother, and neither was your sister. I didn’t think you would look at me the way I wanted, but then you did and I couldn’t believe my luck. Rebecca’s world was falling apart, however. She’d dedicated her life to this singular goal of becoming my wife, something that would never have happened anyway since I only see her as my little sister. But it doesn’t surprise me that she would sink to this level. Everything is falling apart and she is doing what is in her power to get it back on track.”
With that explanation in place, Alec almost felt sorry for her. He’d never experienced something he wanted so badly that he would ruin other people’s lives to get it, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t imagine it. “I need to let Isabelle know. She may be plotting to castrate your brother if she were ever to see him again. As I think they might both want children someday, it would be best if I could get word to her before that happens.”
“And I will talk to Simon. He deserves to know what his sister is up to if only to put a stop to it. She is dependent on him, not the other way around and it would be good for her to remember that. Simon wouldn’t begrudge her anything she wanted in life, but the line is drawn when it starts to hurt other people, especially the ones he loves.”
Hope began to bloom in Alec’s chest, hope that his sister wouldn’t be left alone and forgotten after all. “Thank you, Magnus,” he smiled, able to breathe for the first time since the Lewis family left Idris. “Izzy will be so relieved.”
Magnus’ smile was warm and kind and made butterflies flutter in Alec’s stomach. He’d forgotten in just the short time they’d been apart how Magnus could bring such warmth to his life just by being in it. “I hope that earns me some favor with her brother as well,” Magnus stated, reaching out to steal Alec’s drink and taking a sip. “Though, I understand if he is still cross with me.”
Was he still upset? Alec wasn’t sure. It was hard to be upset when he knew Magnus would help Izzy, but he still didn’t understand what transpired in Idris that day. “Maybe. Not really. I don’t know, Magnus. Why did you yell at Miss Fairchild? She seems so sweet and she makes my brother happy.” While Jace wasn’t always the best judge of character, everyone else seemed to like her as well, so how could they all be wrong?
“Miss Morgenstern, actually, even if she isn’t using the name. It isn’t really her that I was upset with,” Magnus said with a sigh, eyes staring off into the past. “Like she said, I used to watch her when she was small. The Morgensterns lived next door to the Lewis’. After their father died, Mr. Morgenstern tried to take over their estate. He tried to convince them that he could manage it better than Mrs. Lewis or either of the boys. Rebecca was still so young, she probably doesn’t even remember that time. I’d only just come to live with them and Mrs. Morgenstern asked me to come over and play with her daughter every once in awhile. Her husband kept them both very isolated and I think she worried that he daughter was lonely.
“Clary was a sweet kid, with an active imagination. She was a talented artist, even at a young age, so we would draw for hours. Or we would dance around their ballroom. But I was never allowed to be there when her father was there. Mrs. Morgenstern told me he wouldn’t approve of a person like me associating with their daughter. Whether she meant where my family came from or the fact that I didn’t have family anymore, I don’t know. Whatever it was, I avoided him, only occasionally catching a glimpse of him whenever he would leave to go to London for work.”
Magnus sighed, looking down at his hands. “After a few years, I stopped seeing Clary altogether when I moved to London to start my business. It took off far better than I could have expected and soon I was one of the wealthiest men in the city. My name was known a hundred miles in every direction. I had everything I always wanted and bought my home, naming it Edom Estates after the town my parents came from when they moved to England. My family stood by me throughout everything, so I was happy to have a home where I could host them whenever they were in the area.
“But Mr. Morgenstern hated the idea of new money, as it is called in London. He despised the idea of anyone making a fortune who didn’t have one before. And so, he attempted to ruin me. Through shady business deals and even shadier personal attacks. When I had my scandal with the young lord I was seeing, that was his doing. He thought it would ruin me. Little did he know that a little scandal was great for my business. It made everyone feel like they were doing something dangerous without any threat to them. But, when he attempted to have a good friend of mine killed, that was the final straw. Last I heard, Valentine Morgenstern was in prison and hopefully that is where he will stay.”
As Alec started to get a more complete picture, he nodded and felt bad for the way he yelled. “I...I didn’t know.”
“And I didn’t explain. It wasn’t Clary’s fault that her father is evil incarnate. But seeing her in Idris, a place so far removed from the drama that had been my life during those couple years, it was too much. I didn’t want to be reminded of everything that was wrong, of everything he did to me, of the fact that I almost lost Ragnor.” Magnus sighed, dropping his head to the table. “I owe her an apology. Though, I would love to give her mother a piece of my mind. She stood by that madman, even after the Lewis’ told her what he was doing. I can only assume she brought Clary to the north and changed their name to avoid the stigma.”
Alec tried to remember what Jace had told him about Clary’s family. “She’s married to someone else now. An officer. They were traveling to Scotland with the regiment to set up a family home there. Hopefully this man is less awful than her father.” Realizing that maybe that wasn’t the point, Alec turned his hand over and took Magnus’ in his own. “But I am sorry you went through that, and I am sorry for what your friend must have suffered. Most of all, I’m sorry for not staying to listen to you. I couldn’t believe that you would yell at someone who seemed so nice that I didn’t consider why you might be doing that. It wasn’t fair, particularly after everything we have shared.”
The two of them sat there in comfortable silence, Alec having long forgotten about the writing he was doing before Magnus arrived. Eventually, realizing that they were holding hands in a public place, no matter how innocent it looked, Alec withdrew his hand slowly, giving Magnus a sympathetic smile. “How long are you in the city, Alexander? Would I be able to take you out sometime and show you the city as I know it?”
“Only a few more days. But I will be passing back through after I go visit Mr. and Mrs. Monteverde at their new home. His mother has tasked me with delivering some items to the newlyweds. I don’t intend to stay long, considering she is my former fiance and I do not wish to meet the patroness I have heard so much about.”
“Lady Imogen? Yes, she is quite horrible. Not quite as bad as Valentine Morgenstern, but she does not approve of new blood in upper society. I am ignored by her and her followers at every social event, but they do not hesitate to come to me when they need a new gown.” Alec was struck by the sheer hypocrisy of using someone to gain what you want but then to turn your back on them and refuse to look at them as equals.
He pulled a face, hoping beyond hope that he would not need to see her while visiting. There was no way she would approve of him, and if she heard anything about Robert Lightwood, the stain of his father’s abandonment would probably taint the entire interaction. “If you are bad, then I am sure to be awful. I have no money of which to speak, and after my father left, I have almost no status in society. I have my brother Jace but I cannot follow on his coattails forever.”
The only way out of his situation was to marry and Alec didn’t want that. He would rather be ostracized forever rather than settle down with someone he would never love. But to do so would be to admit there was something wrong with him and he didn’t want to do that to his family.
Magnus seemed to understand what ran rampant through Alec’s thoughts because he smiled at him softly. “You go see your friend and when you get back, call on me.” He slid his card across the table to Alec. “We will talk more at my home where we will be freer to do so.”
Alec didn’t know if they would get much talking done, considering the desire that pulsed through his veins every time they looked at one another. “That will give me time to talk to Simon. I will mail his letter myself if necessary. I promise, your sister will hear from her soon. But I want you to promise that I will hear from you soon as well.”
Giving him the softest, happiest smile, Alec nodded. “You will, Magnus. I’ll call on you as soon as I am back in London.”
To Lady Imogen's and back again.
Okay, so this is a day early. In my defense, it is my birthday and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be inundated with squees of joy once I post this so... Happy Sunday? Or is it Sinday? (Which should tell you what you are about to read.)
It turned out that John’s life on Lady Imogen’s estate was exactly what Alec expected it to be. He had hoped it would be different, that the newly married couple would be free to live their lives as they wanted but from what John told him, Lady Imogen controlled every aspect of their lives. They dined with her almost every night, though they would be staying home while Alec was their guest, as it turned out that word of his family’s humiliation had indeed reached this far south and Lady Imogen would not dine with someone whose family name carried such a stain. Alec, of course, was okay with this but Lydia was devastated.
“To think, I could have married into a family that would have brought so much shame to Lady Imogen. Thank you, Alec, for being noble enough to release me from my vow, as I would never have been able to live with myself if we had gone through with the wedding.” She went on and on about how wonderful it was to be married to a man of integrity, one from a good family who would never bring shame to her and Lady Imogen.
Alec wanted to be insulted. He knew that Lydia was insulting him, but he couldn’t help but share her relief. He would never have been able to live with himself if they’d gone through with the wedding, either. And if she ever found out what he was doing when she first met John? It would only solidify her belief that she made the right decision not marrying him.
And while she went on and on, for the five full days he spent in their house, Alec hardly even noticed. Because every time she started to talk, Alec thought about Magnus waiting for him in London. That was enough motivation to make it through this week. He would get a small smile on his lips whenever she spoke and Alec knew that John noticed. It would be hard not to. They’d known each other long enough to know when something was going on.
The day he was due to return to London, Lydia had gone to have tea with the Lady of the estate, leaving John to say goodbye to Alec on his own. “Before you go, I must ask, what has you so happy my friend? You are more relaxed and comfortable then I have ever seen you. Whatever it is that has made you so happy, hold on to it.”
“I intend to,” he said softly, offering his friend a small smile.
John nodded, walking him out to his carriage. “He is a lucky man, my friend. Be good to each other.” He turned and walked back into the house to work on the studies he had neglected during Alec’s visit, leaving his friend to stare at him in shock. John knew. John was accepting. At this point, Alec didn’t care about anything but getting back to Magnus. This trip had been magical already and he knew it would be more so once he made it to Magnus’ home.
His surprise and happiness carried him the whole ride to London, hardly able to believe his luck. Particularly with John, who was studying to be a leader in the church; to hear that his friend accepted that part of him was a shock, to say the least. He could never be fully accepted, Alec knew that, but if the people he cared about the most were willing to take him as he was, then that was all he would ask out of life.
Before he knew it, Alec saw the almost familiar sight of London and smiled as he urged his carriage on, anxious to get to the Institute and get cleaned up. He didn’t plan on going to see Magnus until the next day but it would make it feel so much real once he was settled back in his room.
Finding sleep hard to come by that night, Alec spent most of it writing by candlelight in bed. He was well on his way to a second novel and wondered if he would find the courage to drop off the first one before he had to return to Idris. As the sun came up, Alec finally managed to drift off into a dreamless sleep, waking a few hours later, tired but ready.
While he didn’t want to assume anything, Alec didn’t unpack any of his things the night before. He hoped he would be able to stay with Magnus until he had to return home, but he refused to show up on the man’s doorstep, bags in tow. He could come back for his things if necessary. He grabbed a quick breakfast of coffee and bread and made his way to the address written in script on the card Magnus gave him.
The stately home gave Alec pause for a moment, wondering if this was really where he was supposed to be, but with a deep breath, he rang the bell and waited. A butler opened the door and Alec inquired after Magnus, a question in his voice. The man simply nodded and led him in. “Alexander,” Magnus smiled, waltzing into the room only a few moments later. “Thank you for coming, darling. I worried you might not accept my invitation. Where are your bags?”
Alec blinked, distracted by Magnus’ beauty, particularly here in his own home which was almost as beautiful as Magnus himself. Once he realized what Magnus asked, he shook his head, “I left them at the Institute. I didn’t know if you wanted me to stay here or just visit and I thought it would be rude of me to presume.”
Magnus crossed the distance and pulled him close, one hand resting on Alec’s hip and one on Alec’s cheek. “Darling, now that I have you here, I don’t know how I will ever let you return to Idris, let alone to another bed here in town. Now that we have some of that unpleasantness behind us, I thought we could continue where we left off.” Magnus’ breath ghosted across Alec’s lips and he wanted nothing more than to close the distance and kiss his lover senseless. However, he didn’t know if that would be okay here in the parlor, with the staff moving around the house.
“But, your staff?” he asked, the question one of the hardest he’d ever had to ask, if only because it could lead to him not getting what he wanted.
Thankfully, Magnus smiled and shook his head, “What happens in this house, stays in this house. If anyone has a problem with the way I live my life, they are not welcome to live here” And it was as simple as that.
Alec was the one to move in, kissing Magnus with all the passion that had only grown since the last time they were able to be together. He practically sobbed when he felt Magnus’ body pressed tight against his own. Alec could have this every day for the rest of his life and it would never, ever be enough.
“Oh, darling,” Magnus sighed, pulling back just enough to catch his breath. “I’ve missed you. Let’s never part again.”
Kissing him instead of answering, Alec already knew Magnus would not like what he had to say. He’d meant it when he said he couldn’t run off immediately. But he also knew his return to Idris would be temporary. He’d missed Magnus as much as Magnus missed him and being separated was too painful a thought for Alec to bear. “I’m yours, Magnus,” he said instead because it was the truest statement he could make. Magnus had his heart since the moment their lips first touched. Alec could never love another, not when he knew that Magnus Bane was in the world.
When the heat of the initial kiss wore off, Magnus stepped back to smile and Alec. “That was not the greeting I intended to give you,” he laughed, straightening his coat. “Tea and breakfast are waiting for us in the observatory if you’d like to join me. If not, I would be happy to give you the tour of the part of the house that leads to my bedroom.”
The tour sounded wonderful but Alec knew they shouldn’t jump back into bed immediately. Besides, the small piece of bread and the coffee really hadn’t filled him up like what he would have back home. “Observatory and then the tour?” he asked, an apologetic smile pulling at his cheeks.
“Of course, darling,” Magnus laughed, taking Alec’s hand. “I didn’t know what you liked for breakfast, so I’m afraid I may have gone overboard. Also, I may have also requested rather large meals for lunch and dinner as I wasn’t sure when you would be stopping by.”
Alec couldn’t believe this ridiculous, beautiful man was his, by some miracle. Maybe God didn’t hate men like him after all. How could he when He put Magnus in his life? “Any chance you could ask your cook to skip lunch and pare back on dinner? I think I would prefer keeping you occupied this afternoon and then we can have a light dinner, just the two of us?” Alec didn’t know if he was crossing a line though Magnus didn’t seem to complain about the way he was.
Magnus grinned, “That is brilliant, darling. I will do just that when we finish breakfast.”
Magnus led the way to the observatory, which turned out to be a room made almost entirely of glass. Alec couldn’t imagine how much it would have cost but the experience was extraordinary. Filled with plants, the room gave the feeling of being outdoors, yet much warmer than the air outside. Alec didn’t know the name for many of the plants and he walked slowly around the small room, running his fingers delicately over the leaves.
“This room is beautiful,” he said, turning to look at Magnus who was gazing back at him with a strange look in his eye. “What? Oh, was I not supposed to touch them?”
“You really have no idea, do you?” Magnus asked. “You are the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, but it goes beyond that. You are kind and warm and genuine. I don’t think you could be dishonest if you tried. You love with your whole heart and I don’t know how I got so lucky that you would be interested in me.” Magnus closed the space between them, cupping Alec’s cheek with his hand and gently stroking his cheekbone with his thumb. “I could so easily fall in love with you, Alexander.”
All his life, Alec thought love was something other people got, not him. The moment he realized that he preferred men to women, he thought that romance was not possible for him because there couldn’t be other people out there with his affliction. It was wrong and bad and sinful, and it was his own burden to carry. So when Magnus said those words, Alec’s eyes burned with tears. He blinked rapidly, trying to will them away and eventually closed his eyes against the onslaught of emotion. “I never thought I could have what I wanted,” he admitted, eyes still closed. “Until I met you.”
When he finally opened them, Alec was struck by the sheer strength of emotion he saw in Magnus’ eyes. Those golden eyes he adored so much seemed to reflect everything he was feeling, pulling him in until he thought he could happily drown in Magnus’ gaze alone. It seemed as natural as breathing to kiss Magnus again, despite knowing breakfast was sitting right there waiting for them. He was relieved to know that they were someplace safe, where he wouldn’t need to hide the affection he felt for the other man. Though, it would only make things harder if they were to go out together.
They kissed for several more minutes, Magnus’ hand sneaking into Alec’s hair and messing it even more than it already was. Finally, when they broke apart, both men grinned at the other. “In case it wasn’t clear, I could easily fall in love with you too, Magnus.”
How they managed to eat with as much as they were smiling, Alec didn’t know. Their hands would brush as they reached for the same pastry or they would lace them together while one poured coffee for the other. It was magical, their own little world. But as much as Alec wanted this to last forever, there were some things he needed to be cleared up first.
“We can’t marry,” he blurted out, realizing only after the fact that it made no sense with the tone of the conversation up until that point. “I mean, as two men, the church would never allow us to marry. But I don’t want anyone but you. Is there anything we can do that would show our commitment to each other, even if it is only our siblings who attend?”
He’d shared far more with Magnus than he ever did with Lydia and so felt comfortable talking about such a permanent commitment already. If he’d been ready to bind himself to a woman he barely knew, then certainly he could commit to the man that held his heart. But once he asked the question, he wondered if it would be too soon for Magnus, who probably had plenty of opportunities to marry over the years and was still single.
“I almost married once,” Magnus replied, pulling Alec from his internal turmoil. “I was so in love with her and when I proposed, she laughed in my face. Told me no one would ever be able to love someone like me. That I was broken and disgusting and only good for a little fun before moving on to someone who was actually worthy of her. I believed that for a long time. Thought no one would actually want to be with me. But you do, don’t you Alec?” The awe in his voice broke his heart. For all his bravado and confidence, Magnus was as broken as Alec was. But maybe, together, they could start to fill in the cracks in each other’s hearts.
“I do, Magnus. If it was possible for us to get married, I would say we should do it right now. But since it isn’t, I will promise you my life, for as long as you shall have it. I will stay with you until my dying day, or even beyond if there is any grace and forgiveness in this world.” He took Magnus’ hand, bringing it to his lips to kiss each of the fingers and his palm. “I want you, Magnus. Not just your body but your heart and soul as well.”
By way of answer, Magnus threw himself at Alec, who barely had time to react and catch him before they both tumbled to the ground. They kissed long and hard, breakfast quickly forgotten in the passion and love growing between them. “I know I promised a tour but how about we skip right to the bedroom and I will show you the rest later?”
Smirking in reply, Alec stood, carefully setting Magnus on his feet. That sounds like an excellent plan.”
If the passed anyone on their way to Magnus’ bedroom, Alec didn’t notice. Unlike the calm, almost tense walk they did to get to his rooms at DuMort, here they were free to be themselves, Magnus assuring Alec that no one here would say a word about what they saw happening between the two men. “Most of them are like us,” he whispered between kisses. “They keep me safe and I keep them safe. They’re almost family.”
That thought relaxed Alec, not only because he knew they wouldn't tarnish his family name but also because it meant that there were so many more people in the world like him and Magnus, so maybe they weren't as broken as the church and society liked to think they were.
Magnus kicked the door closed as soon as they were in his room and immediately began to tug at Alec clothes. The garments went everywhere in their haste to be rid of them. The kisses were stuttered, broken by giggles and excited smiles. While Alec had felt free when they were first together back at DuMort Park, here, he felt like he could fly.
“You are so beautiful,” he sighed, once Magnus had removed the last of their clothing. Dragging a finger down Magnus’ chest, he watched in fascination as the muscles quivered under his touch. “I didn't know men could look like you.” With his smooth, golden skin, hard planes of muscle and large arms, Alec wondered briefly how anyone could look at a woman when someone like Magnus Bane existed. No one would ever compare to him, and Alec couldn’t help thanking the universe for bringing them together.
“Where my mother comes from, this is how most of the men look,” Magnus pointed out, which made Alec wonder where this magical place was and if he would ever survive being there. Perhaps for the best that Magnus seemed well ensconced in England. Though, maybe someday they would travel there together. Magnus had seen the world and Alec would like to do so as well.
But, the thought of other men was easy to push from his mind when Magnus wrapped his arms around him and pulled Alec down onto the mattress. He was still new to physical intimacy, but this close contact, the feeling of skin on skin, was something he wanted every night. In the warmer months, he could picture the two of them sleeping without any fabric between them, their bodies wrapped around each other as they were now.
He reached to grab Magnus’ length, wishing to recreate what they had done the last time they were together but Magnus batted his hand away. “I appreciate that darling, but let me do something for you first.” Alec’s imagination only went so far considering his limited experience, so when Magnus started to kiss down his chest, he hummed at the pleasant sensation but didn’t think much more of it.
Then Magnus settled between his legs and Alec started to get an idea. “Magnus?” He asked, watching as the other man wrapped a hand around Alec’s cock and gave one firm stroke. Alec’s brain short-circuited when instead of continuing with his hand, Magnus let the tip of his length slide between his lips.
Never before had anything felt so good. Hot, tight, wet - Magnus’ tongue teased the sensitive shaft in ways Alec didn’t know possible. When Magnus hollowed his cheeks, Alec cried out, back arching off the bed in absolute pleasure. Magnus’ hand felt like heaven, but his mouth, that was pure sin and Alec wanted to drown in it forever.
“Magnus, please, please,” he begged, hips thrusting up in search of something more. What, he didn’t know but hoped that maybe Magnus would. And it seemed that he did because while one hand still worked the par of Alec’s cock that his mouth couldn’t reach, the other hand cupped his balls, rolling them lightly with gentle fingertips.
That was all it took for Alec to come, immediately and unexpectedly, drawn from him by the sheer pleasure of what Magnus could do to him. Sparks seemed to explode behind his eyelids and his body felt white hot as he finally relaxed onto the mattress, shaking uncontrollably as the aftershocks of his orgasm moved through his limbs. “There’s no doubting what we are doing in here now, Alexander,” Magnus chuckled, still settled between Alec’s legs. He watched as his lover licked his lips and realized that he had released into Magnus’ mouth.
Mortification overtook him and he began to tremble once more, this time in fear that he had done something unforgivable. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. I didn’t mean to... in your mouth...you must think I am disgusting.”
Magnus shook his head, moving up to lay next to Alec. A soft hand cupped Alec’s cheek and forced him to look at Magnus. “Darling, if I didn’t want to taste you, I wouldn’t have used my mouth on you in the first place.” A sly smile pulled at his lips as he leaned forward. “Kiss me, Alexander. I want you to see why I enjoyed it so much. You taste divine.”
Despite his misgivings, Alec trusted Magnus and leaned in to kiss him, their tongues sliding together. There was a bitter taste he’d never experienced before and while it wasn’t the best thing he’d ever tried, it did make him curious for more.
“Could I, um, try what you did? For you? Will you tell me how to make you feel that good?” Because his limbs still felt heavy and relaxed, and Alec wanted to give that peace to his lover as well.
“Only if you want to, darling. I am perfectly happy if you just wish to bring me off with your hand, or watch as I do it for myself.” That was a thought for another day, Alec mentally filed it away so he could remember it some other time when they were together. Another time, he smiled. After everything they went through, Alec knew that this would be far from the last time he got to spend a day in bed with Magnus.
He kissed him and gently pushed Magnus to roll on his back. “I really do what to. I want to taste you like you tasted me,” he smiled. Magnus’ eyes darkened slightly and Alec wondered what he’d said that caused that reaction.
Repeating what Magnus had done for him, Alec kissed down his chest, swirling his tongue around one nipple and then the other and relishing the noises it brought from Magnus. As he made his way down Magnus’ body, getting ever closer to his goal, Alec’s heart began to pound in fear that he wouldn’t be good at this or that Magnus would decide he wanted someone better.
Magnus’ hand combing through his hair brought him back to the present and he looked up to see the other man smiling fondly at him. “Whatever you were thinking there, just stop, You are going to be great. And even if you aren’t, it won't matter because it is you and I think I might come just from the way you look right now.”
Relaxing at Magnus’ words, Alec smiled a little, trying to push his anxiety aside. Magnus had wrapped a hand around him, stroking lighting at first and then sucking on the head, which was exactly what Alec intended to do. However, he misjudged how deep he was going and pulled off, gasping and choking with tears forming in his eyes.
“Slowly, my darling. You don’t have to take the whole thing. Start with licks and then work up to that, if that would be more comfortable. Just avoid teeth and you really can’t go wrong.”
With a nod, Alec tried once more, tentatively licking at the head with the tip of his tongue. He didn’t know if it was doing anything for Magnus until he heard a moan and looked up to see his lover watching him with lust blown eyes, his lower lip trapped between his teeth. The expression of pure desire fueled Alec to try more and he sucked lightly at the head, this time careful not to choke himself as he did so.
A string of expletives in several languages fell from Magnus’ tongue and Alec had to pull off when he started to giggle. “Am I to believe I am doing okay?”
“Darling, I think you were made to do this,” was Magnus’ answer and Alec sucked him down again, this time letting him slip farther into his mouth. He soon found a rhythm, bobbing his head to take what he could and making up the difference with his hand. Urged on by Magnus’ rambling praise, Alec cupped him the way Magnus had done for him and he could feel the pulse under his lips start to pick up. “I’m going to come soon,” Magnus warned him, tugging on his hair to get him to pull off. But Magnus had let Alec come in his mouth and Alec wanted to experience it as well.
He hummed to let Magnus know he wasn’t pulling off and was rewarded with a scream of his name and a hot, viscous material flooding his mouth. The taste wasn’t as good first hand, not compared to when it had been cut by the flavor of Magnus’ tongue and Alec sputtered a little, some of it dribbling out the side of his mouth, even though he managed to swallow most.
“I did try to warn you,” Magnus laughed, his eyes heavy and mostly closed. Wiping his mouth to clear the remainder away, Alec pulled Magnus into his arms and sighed as he felt that strong body settle against him.
Alec chuckled, feeling a warm blanket being pulled over the top of them. Kissing Magnus’ shoulder, Alec yawned and settled in for a nap. “I didn’t really mind. It just surprised me, that’s all.”
“Whatever you say, my love,” Magnus laughed and together, curled close and completely sated, the two of them fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Alec Lightwood. BAMF.
Somehow, the two managed to untangle themselves and make their way to the Institute to get Alec’s things. He thought he would have felt more of an attachment to the place, but knowing where he was going, Alec hardly looked back as he took the last of his belongings to the carriage. While the rest of his luggage was simply tossed in the back, Alec held tight to the novel that had been the impetus for the trip. “Let’s go turn that into the publisher, darling,” Magnus smiled when he saw what was in Alec’s hand. “If you return to Idris without having done that, you will be disappointed.”
Alec knew it was true but he worried. “What if they don’t like it. What if they laugh at me?”
“What if they love it? What if they want you to write more for them? You can’t live your life worrying about what might happen. If they don’t like it, you write something else and move on. I already know you are a wonderful writer, Alexander. Let the rest of the world see it as well.”
Magnus’ belief in him buoyed his confidence a little and Alec nodded, letting Magnus steer the carriage toward Fleet Street, where all of the publishers were located. “This is where I get confused,” Alec sighed. “How do I know which one to go to?” There were plenty of publishers in this neighborhood but which one would like his book?
“Can I recommend one?” Magnus pointed to one down the street. “They’ve put out several of my favorite novels and I think yours would be a good fit, especially considering I know it will become my new favorite very soon.”
“If we weren’t in public,” Alec muttered under his breath, “I would kiss you right now.” Magnus grinned back at him and instructed the driver to park the carriage in front of the building. With Magnus by his side, Alec found the courage to turn his book over to the publisher, heart pounding in his chest as he did so. But the man smiled kindly at him and told him he would be happy to read it. If they chose to publish it, he could expect a letter within the month. And if they did not, they would return the manuscript to him. All in all, it was quite uneventful and while Alec still worried about what they would say regarding his writing, he felt lighter as they left the publisher.
Looking down the street, Magnus hummed thoughtfully. “If I remember right, there is a coffee house down around the corner. Could I interest you in a cup before we head home?” There was no rush. Magnus had a few clients but no one that was due that day. Having accomplished everything he’d come to London to do, Alec could relax and enjoy time with his boyfriend before heading back to Idris at the end of the week.
“I like that idea. Other than the Hunter’s Moon, I haven’t been out anywhere in the city. I’ve heard about these coffee houses. Are they really the popular thing to do in London or is that just nonsensical Idris rumor?” Of which there was usually plenty so it wouldn’t have surprised him one bit.
With a shake of his head, Magnus slipped his arm through Alec’s and led him down the street, “They are very much the place to be seen these days. And with this one so close the publishing district, we may run into another author or two.” Alec tried to ignore the fluttering of nerves and happiness that bubbled up inside him at Magnus’ close proximity in a public place, but if it didn’t bother Magnus, Alec decided it shouldn’t bother him either. No one so much as glanced in their direction so he quickly relaxed, realizing they weren’t actually doing anything wrong.
Stepping inside the coffee shop, the scent of the rich, bitter drink hit him first off and he smiled. They didn’t get as much coffee at home as he would have liked, his family more interested in tea than coffee. So it was nice to be someplace where it was an option. Magnus led them to a small table where the two of them ordered a pot of coffee to share and special for the day, a meat pie.
“How are you feeling, Alexander?” Magnus asked, his hands resting only a breath away from Alec’s. “You turned in your first manuscript. Soon enough, you will be a published author.”
“You don’t know that,” Alec blushed, though the way Magnus said it, so full of certainty gave him an added boost of confidence. “I’ll know in a month.”
Magnus waved off his concern, “They’d be mad not to publish it. You will be famous and I will be able to tell everyone that I know what your lips taste like. Along with other parts of you.”
Eyes wide, Alec glanced around, looking for anyone who might have overheard. “Magnus,” he hissed, “you can’t say things like that out here.” If the wrong person overheard, they could be jailed or beaten, and while Alec didn’t want that for himself, he really didn’t want it for Magnus.
“Relax, darling. No one is paying any attention to us.”
Alec looked around and saw everyone was deep in conversations of their own, completely ignoring the two of them. He smiled, but as he turned to look back at Magnus, he froze and the happiness drained out of him. “Alexander? Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Almost,” he gulped, nodding in the direction of a couple on the far side of the shop. “That is my father. And the woman he abandoned us for.”
Alec hated her. He’d hated her long before he laid eyes on her but now that he could see his father's mistress for himself, the emotion increased tenfold. She was petite and blonde, giggly and hanging on his father's every word. Where Maryse Lightwood was tall, dark-haired and formidable, this Miss Highsmith was everything his mother was not.
He glared at the couple, who continued on unaware of the angry eyes trained on them. Only Magnus’ hand on his pulled his attention away and back to their table. “Would you like to leave, darling?” Magnus' voice was so concerned and compassionate that Alec’s anger dissipated almost completely. He couldn’t be too upset with Magnus looking at him like that. “We can just go. They don’t need to know we were here.”
Debating momentarily, Alec shook his head. “I don’t know when I will have another chance," he pointed out. "I want to talk to him.” His eyes trailed back to his father who looked so happy, and a dark part of Alec’s heart couldn’t wait to ruin that. “But, come with me? Stop me from doing anything too stupid?”
Magnus tossed some money on the table and squeezed Alec’s hand before letting it go. “As I have a vested interest in your continued well being, I was already planning on coming with you. Let’s go talk to the wayward Mr. Lightwood and then I am taking you home.” While the statement was purposefully vague, Alec knew exactly what Magnus was suggesting and it added an urgency to what he wanted to do.
Steeling himself with a deep breath, Alec walked over to the table and addressed his father. “Robert. I’m surprised you have the nerve to show yourself in public. Courting controversy was never your style. You always preferred to run away from your problems or blame everyone else for your misfortune.” Heads started to turn and Robert tried to quiet him but Alec smirked. “Oh, they don’t know, do they? Your new friends don’t know about the family you abandoned to run off with this woman? Miss Highsmith was it? Robert Lightwood and Miss Annamarie Highsmith, living in sin and fooling everyone in London about it. Does she know about your children? You have four, you know. The youngest is only eleven and can’t figure out why his father would leave. We keep telling him it was because his father was a particular type of pond scum that only grows in the easiest to reach places but I don’t think he understands. Not yet. He’ll get there.”
Whispers could be heard throughout the room, everyone watching in fascination as the drama unfolded around them. “Your daughter? The only one of us you ever cared about? She’s marrying a man richer than you could imagine, a man who knows about the taint you put on our family name but loves her for her and not the filth that was her father. Isabelle will be happy and if you so much as dare appears in her life again, I will make you regret that you were ever born.”
Alec felt Magnus’ hand on his back gentle enough that no one else probably saw it. “Jace Wayland, the son you adopted after your best friend whom you abandoned died? Turns out he’s actually Jace Herondale and will be inheriting the Clave next month. You must feel so silly now having burned that particular bridge. Think where clout like that would have gotten you.” Robert gasped silently at him while Miss Highsmith cried into her handkerchief. Alec would have felt guilty if she hadn’t tried to ruin his life in the first place.
“As for me,” he sighed. “I have no marriage prospects which is fine because I don’t want them anyway. But I have a standing invitation to live at Edom Estates where I plan on writing my second book. I’m thinking of one about a man who makes every possible mistake but instead of getting some great reward, dies alone, unloved and forgotten. People love macabre things like that.” He grinned at his father. “What do you think, Magnus?” Alec asked, unable to stop the grin on his face as he turned to look at his lover, who smiled adoringly back at him.
“I know I would love to read it, Alexander.”
Annamarie seemed to have recovered slightly, eyes going wide when she finally noticed the man standing behind Alec. “Oh my god, you are Mr. Bane! Your dresses are amazing. I would love for you to design me something.” Alec tensed, horrified at her lack of manners. What his father saw in her, Alec would never know.
Magnus, for his part, was well versed in social graces and handled it far better than Alec would have. “Well, my dear, I am afraid I am booked for years out. Also, I trust we will never see each other again so at this point, it would be futile to even attempt a plan. Alexander, shall we?”
“You’re moving in with him?” Robert asked, incredulous. He grabbed Alec’s hand and pulled him to the side, “He has a bit of a reputation, Alexander. If you move into his home, you will ruin your own because people will make assumptions. How well do you really know him?”
Yanking his hand from his father’s, Alec glared at him. “Better than you do. And I don’t care about my reputation. Magnus Bane is a better man than you could ever hope to be and if I have the choice of being associated with him or with you, I will choose Magnus every single time.”
Robert seemed to come to a realization and his eyes went comically wide. “Alec Lightwood! No son of mine is a... like that . Go home to your mother and never speak to this man again. I forbid it.”
Alec rolled his eyes. “Good thing I’m not your son. You gave up any rights to call me that when you left us behind. Goodbye, Robert. Enjoy the rest of your life. I know I will.” He turned on his heel and followed Magnus out the door.
Only when they were back in the carriage did the moment start to catch up with him. As soon as the door was closed, Magnus pulled him into his arms. “Darling, you’re trembling. Are you alright? That was impressive back there. Your father didn’t know what to say.”
Curling into Magnus’ embrace, Alec took long, deep breaths until his heart stopped racing. “I did okay? I didn’t make things difficult for us?” He worried he might have said something that would get them both in trouble but Magnus smiled and waved away all his concern.
“They’re going to figure it out eventually. But we never acknowledge it directly. A wink or a nod, that’s all the confirmation we need. They’ll start referring to us as confirmed bachelors and that will be enough for most people. Some people will avoid us entirely and others will seek us out to see if entertaining with those kinds of people will spice up their own lives. What you want to tell people about us is up to you. I will support you no matter what.” And Alec could tell he meant it. If he went out and told everyone that they slept in the same bed, curled in each other’s arms with no clothing between them, Magnus would nod and accept whatever consequences came their way.
“Can I tell them you are a dear friend and someone I cannot live without? A man of integrity and honor and the kindest, most wonderful person I’ve ever met? The type of man anyone would be lucky to have in their lives? I wish we didn’t have to hide what we are because more than anything I want to tell the world that I love you and you are the one that holds my heart.”
It was the first time he’d said the words and Magnus’ breath caught for a second as he looked at Alec. “I love you too, Alexander. From now until the end of time. There is no one else I want by my side than you, my beautiful love.”
The two of them shared soft kisses and tender caresses the whole way back to Magnus’ place and Alec found he was glad for accepting Magnus’ offer to have his own driver take them around the city. After the encounter with his father, Alec wanted Magnus to hold him, not to focus on navigating the confusing London roads.
That night, while the two of them lay together in bed, limbs tangled and bodies sated, Alec stole one more kiss before extinguishing the light. “I love you, Magnus Bane,” he smiled, letting his eyes fall closed. “Good night.”
“Good night, my darling,” Magnus replied, tightening his grip on Alec’s hands. “And I love you too, Alexander Lightwood.”
Time moved too fast for Alec and when he woke one day, knowing it was the day he needed to return to Idris, his heart broke once more. Having grown used to sleeping in Magnus’ bed, to living openly in the house they were sharing while in London, Alec didn’t know how he would be able to return to the oppressive atmosphere of Alicante and his familial home. Particularly, he didn’t know how he would be able to leave Magnus, not when the man had become as vital to him as breathing.
Magnus’ arm tightened around his waist as Alec stirred and he murmured into his neck. “You can’t go. Stay here with me forever.”
How tempting it was. The thought of giving everything up and staying here in the bubble they had created for themselves made Alec feel as if he could fly from happiness. But, at the same time, he had responsibilities. He had things that needed to be dealt with and could only be handled in Idris itself. “It is only for a little while, Magnus,” Alec promised. “You are coming to Alicante soon, right?”
They’d discussed it, the fact that Simon would be returning soon and Magnus would accompany him. After that, the two of them would start their lives. It would give Alec a chance to explain the situation to his mother, who would be difficult to convince. Alec wouldn’t take no for an answer, but she deserved to hear it from him.
“Besides, the publisher is sending my letter up there. I need to be there so I can know.”
“They’re going to publish it. You don’t need to be there to find out. We’ll just tell them where to send your money.” Magnus rolled to look up at Alec, eyes sleepy and soft. “Stay with me forever, Alexander.”
“Come to Idris in three weeks time,” Alec offered. “When you arrive, I will come with you. I’m already yours forever. We just need to wait a few more weeks before it can be official. Until then, I need to go to my family. There are things that must be done and I cannot leave it to Izzy and Jace to take care of them.” He needed to be there to give his blessing to Simon and Izzy’s wedding and he needed to explain to his mother the path his life would take from now on. She would not understand if he simply sent a letter saying he was moving to Edom Estates; this was something to be done in person. And while she might not understand, might throw him out or disown him, for his own sake, Alec needed to tell her everything.
He could see Magnus wanted to argue but thought better of it. He gave a soft sigh and pulled Alec in. The two of them were lost to the rest of the world for several minutes, caught in a bubble that was all their own. Trading gentle kisses and soft caresses, promises were spoken under the soft linens their covered their naked bodies. Magnus assured Alec he would follow him to Alicante in only a few short weeks, and they would be together after that.
Before he knew it, Alec’s carriage was packed and he was bidding his lover goodbye. “I’ll miss you, Magnus,” he said softly, keeping a respectable distance now that they were outside. “I lo...,” he started to say but was quieted by Magnus’ finger over his lips.
“Tell me when I get to Idris, darling. But know that I do too.” He dropped his hand, lacing their fingers together for a moment before letting Alec go.
Alec was not one to cry. He hadn’t cried when his father left or his grandfather died or any of the other numerous minor tragedies that struck any family. But as he left London behind and faced the long ride back home alone, a few tears fell from Alec’s eyes. Magnus seemed to bring out that side of him, one he thought was long since buried. He knew they would see each other again soon but the time in London had acclimatized him to sleeping next to a warm, firm body, and it wouldn’t be the same until Magnus was back in his arms.
Seeing the house come into view was a relief if only for the break his siblings would give him from his own thoughts. Max rushed out to meet him, bursting with stories of everything Alec missed while he was gone. Alec scooped his brother into his arms, “I’ve only been gone a month. How is it possible you’ve grown this much in four short weeks?” Max giggled and ran off again, wanting to show Alec something he’d made.
Jace met him next, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, “London was good for you, wasn’t it?” he asked quietly.
Nodding, Alec offered his brother a smile, “It was. I’ll tell you all about it. I have a lot of stories. But first, what have I missed?”
Jace got a look in his eyes, one Alec didn’t know he’d ever seen there before. It took him a moment to realize it was pure, unadulterated joy. “I’m getting married. I asked Mr. and Mrs. Garroway for Clary’s hand and they said yes. The ceremony will be Sunday. You’ll be there, won’t you?”
Alec laughed, nodding and pulling his brother into a tight hug. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. This is what you want?” He didn’t doubt that it was but he wanted to hear it from Jace.
“Of course. Clary is... She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met. She’s amazing, Alec and I can’t believe she agreed to marry me.” Anyone could see Jace practically glowing. Anyone who brought that smile to Jace’s face was someone Alec would be proud to call his sister.
He grinned, “Does that mean you are joining the army still?” Alec never believed it would actually happen but now with a wife, Jace wouldn’t leave her.
Shaking his head, he sighed, “No, I can’t marry her and then disappear immediately. So, we decided it would be best if we stayed here in Alicante until I came into my inheritance and then moved to my family home.”
“Family home? Jace, have you told her that you basically have a palace?” The Clave was the third biggest home in England, besides the palace and Edom Estates. “You have told her you are about to become Lord Herondale, haven’t you?”
“It hasn’t exactly come up yet.”
While not normally a violent person, Alec slapped his brother on the back of his head. “Go tell her, right now. Then when you come back, I will tell you about London. But I need to talk to Izzy first. Go.”
Alec sighed, figuring Jace and Clary were perfect for each other. Neither seemed eager to share their past with the other. Should make for an interesting marriage, but if that was what Jace wanted, Alec certainly wasn’t going to stand in his way. Jace was a grown man, soon to be one of the richest in the country. He could choose his own bride without his brother questioning him.
Leaving Jace to go tell his fiance that they wouldn’t just be moving to a small family home after they married, Alec went inside to find Izzy. They’d exchanged a few letters since he left, mostly just him updating her on what he was doing in London and Izzy assuring him that she was okay, except that she missed him terribly. Knowing his mother would want to talk to him, Alec hurried to Isabelle’s room, hoping to speak with her first.
“Iz?” he asked, stepping inside to see his sister sitting at her window, staring out over the countryside.
“He wrote me,” Izzy smiled over her shoulder at him. “There was never anyone else. Rebecca was playing some game. But you knew that already, didn’t you?”
Alec smiled and sat down on her bed, “Yeah, I did. I ran into Magnus and we talked. He explained everything. He doesn’t even have a sister, just someone he was close to growing up. Someone who is already engaged to someone else, which apparently he delighted in telling Rebecca.” One of the many topics of conversation that came up between Magnus and Alec during their week together was what Simon and Raphael decided to do about their sister. It turned out they had a distant relative on the continent that was more than happy to take her in and provide a more stable, guiding force in her life. The brothers decided they’d been too lenient, letting her do whatever she wanted without consequences. Which could have continued if she hadn’t tried to hurt people in the process.
Finally turning to look at him properly, Izzy grinned at her brother. “And what else did Magnus have to say?” He would never fail to be amused and at how easily his sister switched topics to his love life. If he didn’t know just how much of his heart belonged to Magnus, Alec might think Izzy loved their relationship more than he did. As it was, he appreciated having someone as supportive of his sister to be there with him in the good times and the bad.
“Magnus and I talked. We both overreacted and from now on, we are going to work on talking more to each other and making fewer assumptions.” He smiled to himself, “Since he doesn’t actually have a sister, he wasn’t neglecting to tell me about her or anything.” Alec didn’t know why it hurt so much to think Magnus would keep something like that from him. Probably because of how close Alec was to his own siblings. He knew how important the relationship was and would hate for Magnus to think it wasn’t something Alec needed to know about him.
Izzy smiled knowingly, “And Clary?”
“Has a terrible father which we both know something about. Her involvement was all a misunderstanding. It turns out she and Simon grew up together and when he came back from starting his business, Magnus misinterpreted their relationship. He swears Simon assured him there was nothing romantic there, not now or ever. So, he apologized for that and I apologized for not staying to listen.”
“Good, I’m glad you two figured it out because I would hate to have to beat you both until you came to your senses.” Alec didn’t doubt that she would. Isabelle Lightwood, on top of being a lady, was downright terrifying. Simon was either the luckiest man in the world or the bravest. Possibly both. “So, what are you doing back here? Why aren’t you still in London with Magnus?”
Alec regaled her with the stories of his travels, telling her about the horrible Lady Imogen, the chance meeting of Magnus at the pub, and the loveliness of being in Magnus’ home. “There are other people out there like me, Izzy. Not just Magnus. His entire staff is the same. They all have rooms in the home and most of them live there with their lovers. He’s amazing. He protects them and they protect him. Us.”
Rolling her eyes at him, Izzy laughed fondly, “Did you really think you were the only two out there?” She must have seen something in his face because hers softened almost instantly. “Oh, Alec. You really did. No wonder you weren’t any fun for the last few years. You aren’t nearly as alone as you think. Not that you ever were. You’ll always have Jace and me, you know that, right?”
He hugged her and nodded, “I do, Iz. Thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too, big brother. So, when is Simon getting here?”
The days waiting for Magnus and Simon to arrive seemed to drag and the only thing that kept him going was the letters he got from Magnus each and every day. He took to reading them in his office because some were far more risque than Alec would have ever been brave enough to put on paper.
I still think of the taste of your skin under my lips and cannot wait to devour you again.
When I think of you, darling, my heart swells. Other places swell also.
The bed is cold without your strong body to keep me warm. I count the days until I hold you again.
The best parts, though, were the ones where Magnus put his heart on the line.
My darling, Alexander. I have not taken a full breath since you left my home. I count the days until I see you again. You are my heart and my hope and I love you with every fiber of my being. Be strong for me, darling, as I must be strong for you. We will be together again soon.
Alec wrote back, pouring as much of his love into each line of prose that he could. His fears of their affair being caught, of the knowledge of their unconventional love, stopped him from saying everything he wanted but even still, the words flowed like a gentle river and Alec knew Magnus would understand everything he was not saying.
Three weeks had never moved so slowly, yet Alec waited with a patience he did not know he possessed. Magnus was worth the wait, no matter how hard it was.
“You’re going to have to tell her eventually.” Izzy was fixing Alec’s tie, chastising him for the hundredth time about a conversation he had been putting off since coming home from London. “You can’t simply tell her, ‘Oh, mom, I’m moving to Edom Estates’ the day you leave. Even if she doesn’t approve, she should hear it from you.”
Alec knew all this. His mother deserved to hear the truth from his mouth and it was one of the reasons he came home instead of staying three more weeks in London with Magnus. By the time his lover got here, Alec wanted his mother aware of the situation and if not accepting of it, then not likely to be a stumbling block for them. “I’ll tell her after the wedding. Today is Jace’s day and I won’t ruin it by giving Mom a reason to cause a scene.”
The siblings shared a smile, knowing exactly what the other was thinking. After knowing Jace as long as they had, to see him fall in love and settle down with someone was about as unexpected as it could get. But Clary was good for him and neither of them could be happier. “I can’t wait to call Clary my sister,” Izzy grinned, nodding at her handiwork when she finished with Alec’s tie. “When he told us that she punched his shoulder and then kissed him when he admitted who he was, I knew she would fit right in.”
Alec agreed. Clary softened Jace, but the few times he’d seen them interact, he could tell they were very similar. “He’s going to regret the day you two became friends.” He grinned at his sister and kissed her forehead. “Come on, we need to get going. Mom will be waiting.” He’d already pulled the carriage around to the front but Izzy insisted he needed to fix his tie before they went anywhere and dragged him up to his room.
“Before we go, I wanted to ask you one more thing.” Alec turned to look at his sister, raising a brow as he waited. “What are you going to tell Clary?”
It was something Alec had been considering but couldn’t reach a conclusion. He’d been lucky so far in that everyone who knew the true nature of his relationship with Magnus was accepting and supportive. But the farther outside of their circle he went, the less likely that would be. Magnus told him it was up to Alec to decide who knew and how much but it was a decision he thought he should share with Magnus, especially considering his history with Clary’s family. “I’ll leave that up to Jace. He’ll have to make the decision whether she can be trusted or not.” Considering Jace was marrying her, he suspected that Jace would tell her eventually and they would deal with whatever consequences came from that.
Isabelle accepted that answer and took Alec’s arm, practically dragging him to the carriage so they could go to the church.
The wedding was beautiful, but similar to every other wedding Alec ever attended. Their local pastor said the same words, pronounced them man and wife, and everyone filed out again. Alec was happy for Jace who couldn’t stop smiling, his eyes trained on Clary at all times. And she wasn’t much better, glancing at him every few seconds. It was beautiful but made Alec miss Magnus all the more. Just over two weeks and both Magnus and Simon would be back in Idris. He could make it that long.
Besides, he still needed to talk to Maryse.
They hosted a small party at their house after the wedding, just for the closest of family. Jace and Clary danced as Izzy played the piano and Alec hung back, watching his family with a small smile on his lips. Since he knew that Jace was moving to the Clave in less than a month’s time, and Izzy would be married not long after that, this might be the last time they all got to be together as a family for a long while. And while that thought might have once brought him a good deal of pain, Alec was now excited for what lay ahead. Izzy would be the most beautiful bride and Simon would make her happy for the rest of her life. It was clear Jace and Clary loved each other fiercely and he worried about anyone who tried to come between them.
And him. Two more weeks and Magnus would be back, his dashing hero who swept him off his feet and would soon be ushering him into a world he never once imagined. No fear in his heart, Alec couldn’t wait for this next adventure.
Later that night, when he danced with his sister while Jace played and sang for Clary, Izzy kissed his cheek, “Happiness looks good on you, dear brother.”
“Thanks, Iz. You too.”
With the excitement of the wedding, most of the family slept in the next day. It would be weird having Clary living with them until they were able to move to Jace’s home but they would make do with one extra mouth to feed. Besides, she made Jace softer somehow and it would be a welcome change. Alec slipped from his bed early, going out to tend to the animals and get firewood to start the oven for breakfast.
He’d intended to have a few minutes of quiet before the rest of the family woke and chaos descended on the house again. He didn’t expect to see his mother standing in the front yard, looking out over the fields that eventually led to town. “Mom?” he asked, stepping close, horrified to see her try to scrub the tears from his face before he saw. “What’s wrong?”
Maryse stayed quiet for some time, continuing to look away from him. Eventually, she sighed, “Do you think they’ll be happy? Jace and Clary?”
Alec hadn’t expected that but he knew the answer instantly. “I know they will. The way the two of them look at each other? They’ll live long and happy lives and I don’t think anything could pull them apart. Why do you ask?”
A small, sad smile pulled at Maryse’s lips, “Watching them yesterday, seeing how happy they are, I was reminded that it was how I felt when I married your father. Ours was a love that fairy tales were made from, ones you would find in those books you read. I thought we would last, that nothing could come between us. And then...” The tears started to fall once more and without thinking, Alec pulled Maryse into a hug.
“What happened wasn’t your fault, mom. Robert never deserved you. He deserves that vapid, brainless creature he is stuck with now. You were always too strong, too brilliant for him. He needs someone he can feel superior to, and you are better than him in every way.” Alec never intended to tell his mother about that part of his trip to London but now, he felt she deserved to know. “I saw him in London. I didn’t mean to. He was at a coffee shop that I went to with Mr. Bane.”
Maryse’s breath caught and she turned to stare at her eldest. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because he isn’t worth your tears and I didn’t want to cause you any more. You should have seen the look on his face. I told him everything he was missing out on, how Jace was the heir to the Herondale fortune, how Isabelle and Mr. Lewis would soon marry, making her the richest woman in the county. I told him about how great Max was doing and how he never even asked about Robert. You could see the regret written all over his face but I also told him he would never be welcomed back.”
Alec laughed a little, “You might have been proud of me. I caused quite a scene and I’m sure I ruined his reputation in several circles.”
With a small smile, Maryse shrugged, “I’m always proud of you, Alec. I know it probably doesn’t seem like it but you have done so much for this family. You were so young when your father left, didn’t deserve the pressure I placed on your shoulders but I didn’t know what else to do. I would have gotten myself a job if I could but...” She didn’t need to finish that sentence. Alec understood. Being a woman in this world couldn’t have been easy, particularly one as brilliant and ambitious and strong as his mother. “You had such potential, though, and it hurt me to see you wasting it here in Idris. You deserve the world, Alec, and yet I kept you tied to a place you obviously despised.”
“Idris is home, mom,” Alec promised. “It always will be. But, with Jace married now and Izzy on her way to it, I think it is time for me to move on as well.” Maryse’s eyes went wide and he added, “I’ll make sure you and Max are taken care of. If you want to come live with me, you can. Leave Idris and all the gossips behind and start a new life, like Clary and her mom did. You deserve better than this. You always have.”
Alec could see how much she wanted to accept, how the idea of leaving this place behind appealed to her. But, she hesitated. “Where will you go? Did you find something in London?”
He shrugged, “Sort of. I turned in my book to the publisher. I should hear in the next couple weeks whether they will publish it or not. But even if I don’t, Mr. Bane has offered me a home at Edom Estates. He will be my patron, so to speak. When I ran into him in London, he read through my novel and he was the one to convince me to actually turn it in. I can live with him and have all the time in the world to write, without having to worry about making ends meet.”
“What about love, Alexander? I always expected you would be the first of my children to marry, not the last. With your head in the clouds, I thought you would fall in love at the drop of a hat.”
Taking a deep breath, Alec let it out slowly. He knew he wanted to tell his mother this part. He knew he needed to tell his mother this part. But it was terrifying to finally put it into words with the one person whose approval meant the most to him. “I will have love there. It won’t be the kind of love you wanted for me. It won’t result in the wedding that Jace had or Izzy will have. But I will be unspeakably happy. I am unspeakably happy. I didn’t know it was possible for me to feel like this.”
“You are in love and you didn’t tell me? I suppose I deserve that.” Alec hated how resigned she sounded, that she deserves nothing but the barest of affection from him. “For what it is worth, I regret pushing you towards Miss Branwell. You deserve someone who makes you happy and you would have been miserable with her. I should have seen that but my own fear for your own future and mine blinded me to that.”
Never in his life did Alec expect that he would hear his mother apologize for her actions, or to admit she was wrong about them at all. He had to blink away his own tears, briefly wondering if being with Magnus had made him soft. “I appreciate that, Mom. More than you can imagine.” Alec never expected that his mother was proud of him. She never once gave any indication. So to hear that she was made all the difference in the world.
“So who is the person that has captured your heart? Someone on the staff of Edom Estates? Mr. Bane’s sister, maybe? Isabelle did say something about her.” Alec highly doubted Isabelle said anything complimentary about Magnus’ sister but he didn’t want to point that out. It didn’t matter anyway.
“No,” he said softly, looking away. “It’s Magnus.”
He watched his mother go through a myriad of emotions, each one flitting across her face. Confusion. Embarrassment. Anger. Resignation. “Magnus Bane. Your patron .” Her tone wasn't as mocking as Alec might have expected and he held onto what small hope he had. “When the people in town talked about his proclivities, I didn’t think that extended to my own son as well.”
“Mom, this wasn’t anything Magnus did. I’ve been like this all along. This is who I’ve always been. Now it’s just out in the open.” Alec wondered if he should keep talking or if his mother even needed to hear more. But for his own sake, he continued, “It’s why I’ve never wanted to marry. It’s why I’ve never wanted a wife. I would have been happy if I could just live my life here and know that my siblings were married to people they loved. But, then I met Magnus. He opened my eyes and I’m not going to close them again.”
Maryse opened her mouth a few times and closed it once more. Alec wondered what she was possibly thinking of and how horrible it was going to be when she finally said something. “I’m not going to say I understand,” she said quietly. "And I don’t know how you are going to be able to live like that without raising suspicions. I’ll worry constantly that someone is going to turn you in. But, he makes you happy?”
“I love him with all my heart.”
He watched as his mother’s eyes softened and she nodded, “Then I will do my best to accept it. I guess this means no grandchildren?”
Alec choked out a laugh at his mother’s idea of a joke and then the tears started to fall. “I thought you would hate me.”
Maryse pulled him into a hug and he could feel her shaking her head, “I could never hate you, Alexander. It will take time and I am going to make mistakes. I hope you will be forgiving. But all a mother ever wants is for their children to be happy and protected. It seems like Mr. Bane can do both for you, so, therefore, I will give you my blessing.” She kissed his cheek and continued to hold him while he cried, tears of relief releasing all the emotions he had bottled up for so many years. “I love you, Alec. Please, never forget that.”
“I love you too, Mom. Thank you.”
I'm not sure if Maryse is going to seem OOC here but it was important to me that she accept Alec, even if she doesn't understand completely. She really does love her kids. She did everything she did to make their lives better, not thinking how much worse it actually was.
She's going to try for Alec's sake. She's still going to make mistakes (as you will see in coming chapters) but she is going to make an effort which is really all we can ask, right?