~That's the beauty of a secret. You know you're supposed to keep it ~
Halsey - Strange Love
“I need you to be my boyfriend.”
Alec choked on his diet coke when he heard those entirely unexpected words come from his best friend’s mouth. Magnus had knocked on Alec’s door promptly at 6 o’clock, the same time he came to Alec’s door every day to hang out after work. Except, this time, he had dragged him out of his apartment and to their favorite diner down the street, claiming he was going to treat him to dinner. Alec thought he was acting a bit weird, but had just brushed it off as Magnus being Magnus… until now. Now, it all made sense… and didn’t make any sense at all.
“Come again?” Alec asked when he finally caught his breath, his voice raspy from all the soda now resting in his lungs.
“I’ve thought over every option and I literally have nothing else I can do. No one else could be as convincing as you. You know me better than anyone and I panicked and I just desperately need your help, please please pleaseeeee, Alexander,” Magnus pleaded, giving Alec his trademark puppy eyes.
“I literally have no idea what is happening here… and stop giving me that look,” Alec grumbled in confusion.
Alec had dreamed of hearing those words from Magnus since about a week after they first met, which was now almost five years ago. They had met during orientation week of their freshman year at NYU. Magnus had picked Alec out of the crowd and stuck by his side the entire week, claiming he needed some good arm candy and that they were destined to be the best of friends. And he hadn’t been wrong.
Where Alec was shy and reserved, Magnus was coy and outgoing. Magnus dragged Alec along to all the best parties (as well as threw plenty of his own). He forced Alec out of his tiny bubble and to interact with others and make friends. They shared the same blunt sense of humor and Alec was always there to get Magnus out of trouble. Alec helped Magnus study for his courses and reassured him of how amazing he was (no one would ever guess by looking at him, but Magnus was actually really insecure and doubted himself a lot- a fact that completely threw Alec for a loop when he realized it a year into their friendship). So he had made it his mission in life to make sure Magnus knew how wonderful he was. And Magnus was always ready to return the favor with his own slew of compliments toward Alec. They balanced one another perfectly in every way.
With Alec came Jace, his best friend since childhood. They had made a pact when they were ten-years-old to always stick together, so they were thrilled when they were both accepted to NYU, Alec attending for business and Jace for physical therapy. And with Magnus came his three best friends Ragnor, Catarina and Clary, who brought her childhood best friend Simon, who brought his boyfriend Raphael (who instantly became best friends with Ragnor and, together, loved to tease Magnus, much to his chagrin).
Together, the eight of them became the best of friends, completely inseparable during college and beyond. They had been out of school for over a year now and were still all extremely close, emotionally and distance-wise. Magnus and Alec lived in the same apartment complex, right next door to one another, while Simon and Raphael lived together three blocks down. Jace and Clary had recently started dating, as well, and were thinking about moving in together. If they made the jump, Clary would move into Jace’s place, which was another three blocks away from Alec and Magnus in the opposite direction from Simon and Raphael’s. And Ragnor and Catarina lived in the same apartment complex just two subway stops away from them all. Some would say that the group was co-dependent on one another, but really they were just super close, like family.
But Alec and Magnus, despite how close they were, had never crossed into this territory before. Of course, Alec wanted to. God, how he wanted to. But Magnus was his best friend, and Alec was shy and also completely terrified of losing his best friend over unrequited feelings. So he had stood by and watched as Magnus dated Camille. And Etta. And Imasu. And Axel (god, that one had been a nightmare). And he had helped Magnus nurse a broken heart time and time again. He was always there, and his heart always broke in turn as he watched Magnus fall in love, then fall apart.
Of course, Magnus hadn’t even known Alec was gay, at first. No one had. Alec was deep, deep in the closet when they first met, and Magnus’ openness had been absolutely terrifying to him at the time. Magnus was so out and proud of who he was. He was “not shy about being bi” according to the many bedazzled t-shirts he owned. But, in the end, it was Magnus who inadvertently convinced Alec that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he came out, and that his friends might actually celebrate that which made him different, much as they did for Magnus.
So he told his sister, Izzy, who had already figured it out. And then he told Jace, who had also already figured it out. And then he told the rest of his friends over drinks one night, and received nothing but love and support. And he thought, maybe, maybe things might change between him and Magnus now.
And for a few weeks after coming out, Alec thought maybe something had shifted, that something actually had changed between them. That the touches and looks between them lingered longer than usual, that there was an unspoken energy sparking between them. And then Axel happened. And nothing had changed between them after all, except that their friends now seemed to be able to read between the lines and see the heartbreak in Alec’s eyes every time Magnus dated someone new. Everyone saw the truth except for Magnus, who continued to date everyone except for Alec.
Which is why Magnus’ declaration that he wanted Alec to be his boyfriend made absolutely no sense. Alec had to have misheard or misunderstood or something.
“Just, slow down. Start from the beginning,” Alec said, staring across the diner table at Magnus and reaching out to rest a calming hand on Magnus’ shoulder.
“Right. The beginning. Ok, so there’s this guy at work, Craig, who was hitting on me and I’m not interested in him like, at all, and I kept telling him that and he just wasn’t listening, so finally I told him I had a boyfriend so he would just leave me alone. But he totally called my bluff and was like, ‘Oh yeah? Who? How come I’ve never heard about him?’ So I was like, ‘Ok, I have to give him a name so he’ll back off. But it has to be someone I’ve talked about before.’ And then, duh- that’s you. So I told him I was dating you, and he totally bought it and finally backed off. But then he told someone else, who told someone else, who told someone else… you know how the fashion industry is, darling; everybody talks, news travels fast. And then, everyone started exchanging money because apparently they had all been betting on how long it would take for us to start dating, which, what? But anyway, my boss, Marie, found out and told me to bring you to my next runway event because it would look good to show that I was in a stable, committed relationship- it would apparently make me look more trustworthy or something, I don’t know, I stopped listening because I was freaking out. And then someone at work called Clary and told her, and then she called me and was squealing and freaking out and she was so excited about it that I just couldn’t lie to her and it all just spiraled so quickly, and this was all before lunch!” Magnus broke off, looking frantically at Alec and gasping for air after that long, drawn out tale.
Alec’s jaw dropped open and he was staring wide-eyed at Magnus in total disbelief. This was one of those things that Alec should have been used to by now after five years of friendship with Magnus, because he always managed to get himself in these crazy situations that Alec had to help get him out of (like the time he had gotten banned from Peru and Alec had to pick him up at customs. Ragnor still wouldn’t talk about that trip). But this one really took the cake.
“You can’t be serious,” Alec said simply, shaking his head in disbelief.
“I’m afraid I am,” Magnus sighed. “So, Alexander Lightwood, would you please do me the honor of being my boyfriend?”
“It would mean so much to me. I know I’m an idiot to have gotten into this mess in the first place, but I was desperate, and I just threw out your name and I know I shouldn’t have done that, but it’s you.”
Alec couldn’t breathe.
No. He would say no. Absolutely not. There was no way he was going to do this. This was crazy and would only end in heartbreak and it would be torture. ‘NO!!!!’ his mind was screaming at him.
“Please, Alec,” Magnus murmured, softly.
“Yes.” Wait, what?! “I’ll do it.” Nooooo!
Alec gasped as Magnus flung himself into his arms, squeezing him tightly in gratitude. “Yay! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’re the best friend ever!”
Ok. He was doing this. Breathe, Alec. He wrapped his arms around Magnus and breathed him in, grounding himself in the familiar scent of cinnamon and thyme, a scent that was entirely Magnus. God, he was an idiot. But he could never resist Magnus. And that was destined to be his downfall.
Alec allowed himself ten minutes of frantically pacing around his apartment and fully freaking out, which involved a lot of jumping up and down and cursing (quietly- He shared a wall with Magnus, after all) before he finally caved and called his sister, Izzy. Izzy was a year younger than him and in her senior year at NYU. She lived off campus with her best friend Maia, and she was the only one in their group of friends who had verbal confirmation from Alec himself about his feelings for Magnus.
“Spill,” Izzy said simply as she answered the phone.
“You heard?!” Alec exclaimed.
“Of course I heard. Everyone’s heard. Someone at Magnus’ work called Clary, who told Jace, who called me. And, seriously Alec?! I can’t believe I had to hear it from Jace and not you! And why don’t you sound more excited? I thought you would be excited!”
“Oh, I would definitely be excited. If it were real.”
“…What are you talking about?”
“It’s fake, Izzy. Magnus asked me to fake-date him and I said yes because I’m a fucking idiot.” Alec groaned and resisted the urge to kick something- just barely. The last thing he needed right now was Magnus barging in (because he had a key, of course) and making sure he was ok.
“Oh, Alec…” Izzy sighed.
“No, stop. Stop that. I’m already agonizing over it enough. I don’t need you pitying me on top of it. It is what it is. I said yes. I have to deal with that. Now I just need you to tell me what to do,” Alec pleaded. Izzy was an expert at dating, while Alec’s only experience with it was what he saw Magnus go through. In other words, he was clueless.
“You need to go back and say no, Alec. This is a horrible idea.”
“I can’t do that,” Alec dismissed.
“Alec, you’ve been in love with Magnus since you met. This is going to break your heart. You either need to come clean, or tell him no,” Izzy persisted.
“No, I can’t do either of those. Izz, Magnus was so happy when I said yes. I can’t go back on my word. It would break his heart.”
“And what about your heart? Why do you never seem to consider your heart?”
“Izzy…” Alec sighed. They’d had this argument several times ever since Magnus came into his life. He appreciated his sister’s concern for him, but she just didn’t understand. He would always put Magnus first. It was just the way it was, and it was the way it would always be.
“Why can’t you just tell him it’s real for you?”
“There’s no way I’m doing that,” Alec insisted.
“Alec…” Izzy sighed.
“I can’t,” Alec choked out. “It would ruin… everything.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do, Izzy. He’s made it very clear through the years that he’s not interested in me like that.”
“Or maybe he just dated all those losers because he thought he couldn’t have who he really wanted,” Izzy argued back.
“I’m just saying… ok fine. Whatever. So you’re going to do this. For how long, big brother?”
“I don’t know. A few weeks, maybe? We didn’t really specify.”
Alec heard Izzy sigh down the line, then a few seconds of silence.
“Maybe it will be a good thing? Maybe he’ll be a horrible boyfriend and you can finally move on.”
Alec laughed humorlessly. “Yeah, right.”
“Or maybe he’ll see what a great boyfriend you are and want to make it real.”
“Izz…” Alec groaned.
“I’m just trying to spin this so it’s a good thing,” Izzy explained. “Give me some credit here, Alec. It’s really hard to make this a positive thing.”
“I appreciate that, but I’m seriously freaking out here.”
“I know… I’m sorry. It’s all going to be ok. I promise. I mean, it was dumb of you to say yes. But you’ll be ok. Just a few weeks, right? What could go wrong in a few weeks?”
“I’m afraid to find out,” Alec groaned, then hung up the phone and collapsed back onto his couch in a Magnus-Bane-style dramatic fashion. Alexander Lightwood was truly and utterly fucked.