“I sleep. I dream. I make up things that I would never say. I say them very quietly.”
It takes about three days for everything to fall apart. Alec is impressed. He’d been betting on two.
Unsurprisingly, his parents have been summoned to a Clave meeting in Idris. His mother doesn’t even look at him when she announces their departure, and his father just squeezes his shoulder and says that he trusts Alec to make the right choices. As if he’s ever been allowed to make the wrong ones.
After they leave, Alec slumps in his chair and rubs a hand over his face. Running the Institute is a responsibility he’s never shied away from, but with the added pressure of Valentine stealing the cup and Jace's absence, it seems that with each step they take forward, something else pushes them ten steps back.
Furthermore, his parabatai rune is acting up, burning his skin painfully. Even through their weakened bond, Alec knows that Jace is hurting. Whatever pain he’s in seems to amplify itself in Alec, which in turn sends the sensation back to Jace like some sort of twisted feedback loop.
“Alec,” calls a soft voice, causing him to startle. It’s Izzy, and although she sends him an amused smile, he can see the sadness tugging at the corners of her mouth. She perches on the edge of the desk, tapping her long fingernails against the oak.
“What is it?” Alec tries to smile back, but it ends up feeling like a grimace.
“Lydia’s back in Idris. Magnus portaled her there himself. Thought you’d like to know,”
Alec nods, thanking her. He’s glad that at least Lydia’s out of this mess, safe and healing back home. He ignores the pang in his chest when he thinks about Magnus, the image of Camille kissing him still fresh in his mind.
And yet, he still can’t help himself from asking. “Magnus -”
“Just left,” Izzy smiles at him genuinely this time. “Said he had some business to attend to back in his loft,”
“You should go visit him,” she continues. “Talk things over.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Izzy, please!” he barks, voice sharper than intended. She raises her eyebrows, clearly unimpressed. Alec sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. Yelling at his sister wasn’t going to solve anything.
“I will talk to him, just not – not now,” Not when he had about a million other things to tackle, his to-do list growing longer by the second.
Izzy nods, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Whenever you’re ready, big brother. I won’t push.”
In the end, Alec doesn’t have a choice. They’ve found a lead on Valentine, the first one that seems promising. They need a portal to Yalta, receiving intel that a large gathering of Forsakens and rogue Shadowhunters were spotted boarding a ship to the Ukrainian coastline.
Magnus Bane is the only warlock in the city who’s been to Yalta. At least, that’s what Alec thinks. No one had been keen to approach any other warlock in the first place. Clary and Isabelle had banded together in favour of asking for Magnus’ help, easily defeating Alec’s half-hearted protests.
That’s how he finds himself, at eight in the morning, trudging up the stairs to Magnus’ loft, stomach in knots at the thought of facing Magnus. They’ve been texting infrequently, but Alec hasn’t seen him in person for two weeks. When they reach the ornate door of his apartment, Alec knocks hesitantly. What if Magnus didn’t want to see him? What if he’d realized that Alec was too jealous and easily influenced by a malicious vampire to be worth the effort?
Magnus’ door swings open, and Alec panics for a moment before he remembers that it’s always unlocked. Nevertheless, he grips his seraph, just in case. They prowl through the apartment quietly, Izzy searching the kitchen and Clary checking the living room. The lights are off, and the apartment is cast in the bluish glow of pre-dawn.
“All clear,” they say in unison, and promptly fist-bump. Alec rolls his eyes, trying to conceal the panic that’s been building inside him. Magnus wouldn’t have just disappeared without telling anyone.
As if sensing Alec’s reluctance to pry, Izzy shoves him none too lightly towards another door.
“You haven’t checked the bedroom,” she winks, and Clary snickers behind him. After a truly spectacular eye roll, they both ignore him in favour of the sofa, propping their legs on the coffee table.
Alec hesitates before the plain door of the bedroom. He doesn’t want to just barge in, but every second spent outside means less time to track down Jace. He steels himself, pushing the door open, apology ready.
Whatever he wanted to say dies on his lips. In front of him, sprawled on a frankly gigantic bed, lies Magnus Bane. He’s flat on his stomach, face pressed against pillows that are worth more than everything Alec owns, hair sticking out at odd angles.
It should be funny, the High Warlock of Brooklyn spread out like a starfish, snoring ever so slightly. If it was anyone else, Alec would’ve already snapped a picture on his phone for blackmail material.
But this isn’t anyone. This is Magnus, and Alec has already lost his breath just looking at him. The deep maroon sheets are thrown haphazardly around his hips, wrapping themselves around his long legs. He’s not wearing a shirt, and the length of his back is on display, the tawny skin smooth and unblemished. Alec can see the back of his ribs, the sure path of his spine, the shoulder blades that seem to angle outwards. Magnus is thinner than he is, of course, with no need for a soldier’s body. And yet, another light snore causes his back to rise, unexpected muscles swelling with the motion.
Alec stands transfixed, as the meagre light streaming in from the window grows stronger. He watches the sunrise on Magnus’ skin, the rosy hues dappling on his shoulders, swathes of brilliant orange across his lower back as if they belonged there. The entire room is awash with colour, with Magnus as the focal point. He’s living, breathing art, and Alec spends a few blissful moments just admiring him, forgetting about every single thing that’s been weighing him down.
“Are you going to stare at me all day, Alexander?” Magnus says slyly, face still mushed against the pillow.
Alec jolts, bow clattering to the floor. The moment is broken, and his nerves kick into hyper drive. He hastily retrieves it, sputtering his way into an apology. An ugly blush is crawling its way up his neck. It doesn’t help that Magnus is moving too, pulling the sheets off himself and padding around the room. The rustle of the sheets against his bare legs is enough to break him into a sweat. Alec stares at his feet, not trusting himself to meet Magnus’ eyes.
He doesn’t look up even when Magnus strides towards him, feet clad in fluffy bunny slippers. Alec snorts despite himself. Whatever possessed Magnus Bane to make this particular fashion choice?
Magnus, for his part, shrugs. “Zoey made them for me,” he answers, referring to the warlock child Clary saved all those weeks ago.
Alec can only gawk at him, something he finds himself doing much too often. A child made those ridiculous slippers for Magnus, and he just wore them. Just slipped on those silly shoes because a child had pushed the gift into his hands and asked without asking in the way children often do. Something sweet grows in Alec’s chest, unexpected in its arrival.
When he does look up, he’s greeted with Magnus’ bare face, devoid of any makeup or glitter. The side of his cheek is creased with the pattern of the pillow, and his thick hair refuses to lie flat. His lips are pursed, eyebrows raised, clearly waiting for Alec to say something. The morning rays are bright now, bathing Magnus in sunlight. Alec blinks once, twice. Surely Magnus isn’t actually glowing?
“So,” begins Magnus, clearly amused by his inability to speak. “How can I help you?”
“We need a portal to Yalta,” he says, staring at the ridged skin on Magnus’ cheek. “We’ve received intel that Valentine was spotted there.”
Alec nods, trying not to stare too much when Magnus bends over and searches for a robe. He pulls out a flimsy lilac one, tying the belt loosely around his waist. It hangs above his knees, and lies open in a V against his chest. Alec follows him mutely out of the bedroom, making the mistake of eye contact with Clary, whose eyebrows have disappeared into her hairline.
“My eyes are up here, biscuit,” Magnus admonishes, but there’s no heat to it. He snaps open a portal for them, the magic sparking easily from his fingertips. He dips his fingers into the portal, tightening around something and pulling it out.
“Take this with you, Isabelle,” he presses the portal shard into her palm, and she makes a fist around it. Isabelle and Clary step through it immediately, eager to begin the mission.
Alec hangs back, wanting to thank Magnus. Magnus shushes him, fingertip hovering over his mouth.
“Bring something back for me,”
Alec furrows his brow. “You want a souvenir?”
Suddenly, a bright peal of laughter fills the room. Magnus claps a hand over his mouth gently, eyes crinkling with mirth. Alec watches him for too long, trying to memorize the lines that appeared briefly on Magnus’ face.
“Not a souvenir, Alec. Something I can use to track your parabatai.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Alec starts. “We’re going to find Jace in Yalta,”
Magnus nods sagely. “I believe you.” He guides Alec towards the portal, hand on the small of his back. “But still. Do it for me, alright?”
Alec nods, and steps through the portal. He can still feel the warmth of Magnus’ hand, and he sets out after Izzy with a slight smile on his face.
Yalta is cold and miserable, giving to howling winds and never-ending rain. They spend a whole day simply trudging through the outskirts of the city, shivering under their meagre jackets. The only bright spot is that their intel proves true, and Isabelle plans the ambush that catches a group of Valentine’s sympathizers by surprise. With a little force, they manage to track him down to an abandoned warehouse a few kilometres from the rocky coastline.
A string of demon attacks, however, throw them off the trail, and by the time they’ve regrouped and strategized, Valentine’s men are gone.
Alec shrugs off his jacket, now ruined with the ichor that’s burned a hole through the sleeve. Every time they get close enough to Jace, something always yanks him just out of reach. He’s barely fighting off the panic that comes in waves, the sense of failure that permeates the empty warehouse. Clary leans against the concrete pillar, arms wrapped around herself protectively.
“Alec!” cries Isabelle, somewhere beyond the warehouse. Alec and Clary lock eyes, feet pounding as they race to find her.
Alec breathes out a sigh of relief when Izzy is crouched outside, unharmed. He moves closer to her, but before he can move Clary has helped Izzy to her feet and taken whatever was in her hand.
“It’s Jace’s seraph!” she says breathlessly, turning the blade in her hands. Izzy beams, wrapping an arm around her waist. Alec moves closer to inspect it.
It is Jace’s seraph. Alec releases a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. The blade is heavy in his hands, and he runs his fingers down the familiar serrations. Before he can get too happy, Alec notices there’s blood splattered on the handle. He wonders if that too belongs to Jace. His stomach sinks, and he pockets the blade, sending Clary a supportive smile. There was no reason to worry her any further.
That night, when the three of them settle into their motel, Alec tucks the blade under his pillow. He settles into an uneasy sleep, Valentine evading him even in his own mind. Jace’s fractured eyes, glassy with unshed tears, follow him as he steps into the same portal over and over again. His parabatai rune is burning now, with Jace so close. He tosses and turns, mind whirling with a dozen scenarios where he slits Valentine’s throat and brings Jace home and runs the Institute and -
And Magnus. Always Magnus. Alec dreams of him frequently, not that he would ever admit it. He thinks of the last time they saw each other, how he should have pressed a kiss to his sleep-creased cheek instead of just staring at it. The image of him forms slowly, taking its time just like Magnus does. Magnus sprawled on the bed, the sunrise on his skin. Magnus with the robe wrapped around his body, the silky material fluttering with every movement. Magnus with his curious gaze, always watching Alec as if he was some sort of puzzle to figure out.
His mind goes to the kiss at the wedding, as it often does. Alec touches his finger to his lips, the darkness soothing any embarrassment he might’ve felt. He’d only kissed Magnus once after that, an angry press after seeing Camille slobber all over him.
It wasn’t surprising, the surge of possessiveness that washed over him when Camille kissed Magnus. In his heart he knows Magnus hadn’t instigated it, and Alec vows to talk it over with him soon. And finally kiss him again, properly, maybe even sneaking a hand inside that poor excuse for a robe and letting it fall to the floor and moving his hands all over the skin he’d only had a glimpse of.
He flushes, pulling the covers over his head. Izzy and Clary were right there, snoring peacefully. He turns on his side, squeezing his eyes shut. It wouldn’t do him any good to give those two anything embarrassing to hold against them.
Alec bites his lip, ignoring the ache between his legs. Now was not the time to think about Magnus Bane.
The next morning Isabelle slots the portal shard back into the rotting door of an old stakeout, and Alec braces himself for the painful zap of intra-dimensional travel. Jace’s seraph is secure in Clary’s messenger bag, and it’s a testament to their newfound friendship that he trusts her enough to keep it safe. They all link arms, and Alec thinks of Magnus’ loft as they step inside.
Magnus is sitting at his desk when they return, unfazed by the three Shadowhunters in his loft. He pushes off his swivel chair, closing the portal once they’ve all come through.
“Welcome back,” he says to all of them, although his eyes are solely on Alec. “How was the trip?”
“We found Jace’s seraph!” Clary exclaims, pulling the blade out of her bag. Her excitement is infectious, and Alec smiles softly at Magnus.
“That’s good,” Magnus says, scraping off the blood on the handle and storing it in a vial. “The blood will make it easier to track Jace.”
Clary’s face does something funny at that, where her mouth trembles but her eyes harden with determination. She nods once, biting her lip. Wordlessly, she steps closer to Magnus, wrapping her arms tightly around his middle. Magnus holds her, stroking one hand over her hair and muttering softly in her ear.
Isabelle looks over Clary’s head at Alec, her expression a mixture of fondness and worry. She must be thinking about that vampire.
Alec, well, he’s not jealous per se. It’s not like Clary would ever want Magnus that way. She once confided in him that Magnus was like that crazy uncle she met every few years and then promptly forgot about soon after.
So logically, there’s nothing to be mad about.
But still, it’s not fair. Alec’s spent an entire week away, without touching or kissing or even speaking to Magnus. It should be him clinging to Magnus like a vine on a pole.
Eventually, Clary breaks away, wiping her eyes surreptitiously. Magnus explains the tracking spell he’s been looking for, sending a fire message to the warlock Catarina Loss for its whereabouts.
“How long will this spell take?” Izzy asks. Her eyes are sharp, attentive. Alec can see the barely concealed desperation behind them, how badly she wants to find Jace.
“The potion can be made in a week’s time,” Magnus answers, retrieving a mortar and pestle from his pantry. He grinds a few herbs in, mixing them in with the blood from Jace’s seraph.
“The actual tracking process is a little more complicated. The blood sample will help the hounds track Jace, but there’s no telling how my magic will react to whatever Valentine’s cooked up with all those Forsakens.”
“Wait – hounds?” Clary interjects. “Like Hellhounds?”
Magnus nods. “They’ve a hundred percent success rate when it comes to tracking. They’re our best bet if we want to find Jace in time.”
“But Hellhounds can only be summoned by a Greater Demon,” Izzy says, narrowing her eyes. “Why would they respond to you?”
“It doesn’t matter why,” Magnus replies tersely. “They will do as I say,”
A peculiar silence falls over the loft then, as Magnus refuses to elaborate further on the Hellhound summoning. Izzy and Clary shoot him a questioning look, but Alec feels out of his depth here. It’s not like Magnus is going to tell him any more just because they’re dating.
“Maybe we should go,” Clary says, sensing the awkwardness. “Let Magnus work his magic, literally.”
She tugs Izzy out, hand on her forearm. Magnus watches them leave, arms folded across his chest.
“I suppose you’d like to leave as well?” he asks, not even glancing in Alec’s direction. He looks cold and untouchable, like a statue. Alec thinks of the restless nights in Yalta, the unending rains. How only thoughts of Magnus kept him warm at night.
He doesn’t want any distance between them. There’s already been too much of that.
“I’d like to stay here a little longer,” Alec steps closer to him. “I-if that’s okay.”
Magnus grins, widely. Alec feels his chest constrict, unused to the affection flooding his system.
“More than okay,” Magnus says, and leans up on his toes to kiss him. Alec tries not to go weak at the sensation, hands fluttering uselessly until they settle on the crook of his elbows.
They stay like that a while, trading soft kisses until Alec pulls away. He rests his forehead against Magnus’, their bodies swaying slightly.
“I missed you,” Magnus says softly, as if to himself. His eyes follow Alec as he kisses the corner of his mouth. He looks gentler now, less like a statue and more like a man. Alec recognizes the vulnerable look in his eye, the same one after Alec kissed him at the wedding.
“Missed you too,” Alec sighs. It’s not as embarrassing as he thought it would be. Or is it that being around Magnus makes him admit things he never thought he would?
Before he can even try to attempt something smooth like kiss Magnus’ neck or let his hands drift lower, Alec lets out a loud yawn. Magnus chuckles slightly, pulling away.
“Cocktails?” He’s not really asking, as a glass appears in Alec’s hand instantly. “They’ll help you relax.”
He doubts that’s what Magnus’ cocktails really do, but he takes a tentative sip of whatever is in the glass. Sweet, but not cloying. The alcohol burns slightly on its way down, but at least Alec doesn’t grimace this time.
They migrate to the living room, Alec slowly sipping his drink and Magnus flipping through a book of spells. He settles on his chaise, illuminated slightly by the sunset. Alec isn’t sure how much time slips away before he remembers to stop watching Magnus, only that the sunset has ended and the inky night spills into the loft.
Magnus conjures a lamp, angling it so he can read better. His long fingers run along the edge of the page before flicking it over. Alec bites his lip, the alcohol buzzing pleasantly in his head.
“Come here,” he says, after he finishes his drink. The hum of traffic makes its way through the open windows, twisting with the rush of night air. Magnus is too far away, sitting on the armchair facing the balcony. He sends Alec a bemused smile as he saunters over, setting down whatever book he’d been reading on the coffee table.
Magnus drops down next to him, their knees pressed together. He isn’t close enough. Alec winds an arm around his waist, thinking of how to say what he wants without imploding.
“Could you, um, s-sit here?” he mumbles. Magnus looks at him and then looks down, where Alec is patting his own knee awkwardly. For what must be the most mortifying second of his life, Magnus just stares at him.
“Oh,” he says, when he finally gets it. He grins wolfishly, and moves even closer. “In your lap, you mean?”
Alec nods, shutting his eyes. He’s blushing hard now, and he’s ready to stammer his way out of this mess and apologize to Magnus for asking him to sit in his lap like some sort of perverted grandpa.
Before he can do any of that however, Magnus swings his legs over in one smooth motion, straddling Alec. His knees lock against his hips, and he wraps his arms lazily around Alec’s neck.
“Is this where you want me?” Magnus all but purrs. The new angle has Magnus looking down at him, his throat at Alec’s eye level. His Adam’s apple bobs as he speaks, and Alec barely resists kissing it. He nods, hands resting lightly on Magnus’ hip.
Magnus leans forward, close enough that Alec can feel his breath against his cheek. He rests his forehead against Alec’s. He doesn’t move, eyes locked on to Alec’s own. For a brief second, Alec swears he can see a flash of gold in Magnus’ eyes, but it’s gone before he’s really sure.
Then Magnus’ eyes drop to his mouth and Alec is gone, surging up to kiss him. Magnus opens his mouth obligingly, tightening his arms around his neck. His blood roars in his ears, and Alec slides his hands down to grip hard at the back of his thighs. Magnus has one hand tangled in his hair, the other scratching aimlessly at his nape. When Alec moves to kiss him deeper, their lips part with an obscenely wet sound. Magnus does something akin to a shudder, and he turns away, perhaps to compose himself.
Alec drops kiss after kiss on his cheek, his neck, his shoulder. It’s something he finds himself doing often, although it had taken a painfully long time to admit he wanted to. Magnus had coaxed the tactile affection out of him one smile at a time, and now it’s hard to imagine a time when he looked at Magnus’ face without kissing every square inch of it.
“I dreamt about you,” he mumbles, face tucked safely in Magnus’ shoulder. His collarbone pokes Alec rather sharply, and he undoes a button on his shirt to kiss it. He pushes back the fabric gently, mesmerized by how easily it pulls off.
“What was that?” Magnus whispers, squirming slightly. The shift makes their groins brush together, and Alec holds back a moan. Magnus’ breathing hitches, and they lock eyes again.
It would be so easy to pull Magnus down, to give into the lust that’s been brewing between them for weeks now. Alec’s been half-hard since Magnus crawled into his lap, and he could see that Magnus was getting there, too.
And yet, despite the heat coiling in his gut, Alec is floundering. It hits him, almost cruelly, that he doesn’t know a single thing about what to do next, what to do if Magnus removes his shirt entirely, if he should kiss him there, too. Does Magnus even like being kissed on the chest? Does Magnus like how hard Alec is holding on to him, or does the drag of blunt nails hurt and he’s just humouring Alec?
Magnus pulls away, and Alec lets him. The moment is broken, but Alec still misses the heat of his body.
“What do you want?” Magnus asks softly. He holds himself still, unnaturally so. As if Alec’s hesitancy siphoned out all of his natural grace. He waits patiently for Alec’s answer.
It feels wrong to see Magnus like this, hesitant and unsure. He scoots back even further, creating a respectable distance between them. Something ugly coils in Alec’s gut. He doesn’t want to be respectable with Magnus. He fights the urge to yank Magnus back into his lap, to seal their bodies so tightly there isn’t a millimetre of space between them.
What do you want?
The question hangs between them, and Alec tears his eyes away from the strip of golden skin he can see between the rich maroon dress shirt. The tiniest sliver of Magnus, a hint of what he could have if he’d been braver, sets Alec on edge. Before he can stop himself, he reaches out, smoothing the wrinkled collar and letting his fingers rest on the junction of Magnus’ neck and shoulder.
His skin is warm, and his pulse jumps considerably when Alec drags his fingertips down to the jutting collar bone. Alec wonders what the rest of his bones are like, what the knobs of his spine and curve of his sternum would feel like under his lips.
What does he want? Alec closes his eyes, suddenly overwhelmed.
He wants to press Magnus down into the couch, pin his pretty wrists above his head and watch him squirm. He wants to trace the tendons of his throat, lave over the jugular vein and Adam’s apple, hear Magnus whimper and moan in that honeyed voice. He wants Magnus in his lap, closer than they were a few moments ago, wants to clutch at his back and hold him by the hips like those ridiculous romance movies Izzy forced him to watch, wants to kiss his plush lips until neither of them can breathe or think or do anything but hold each other.
He wants and wants and wants, but the words die in his throat. Instead, he shyly reaches for Magnus’ hand, twining their fingers together.
“Can we nap?” he blurts out. Magnus looks at him, eyebrows raised, a flash of hurt crossing his face until it settles back into a smirk.
“After all that, you’re sleepy?”
“I-” He starts, but ends up nodding. He is tired, the week in Yalta draining him more than he realized. Magnus understands, he always does, and he lets out a ridiculously loud yawn that makes Alec giggle. He stretches his arms, which pulls his shirt up, giving Alec a glorious view of his taut abdomen for a good thirty seconds.
“Well, I could use some rest too,” he says, moving to get off the couch. Alec panics, grabbing at his arm and pulling him down abruptly.
Magnus doesn’t say anything, just watches with that curious expression. Alec bites his lip, curling his fingers around Magnus’ bicep as he struggles to explain what he wants.
“Could we sleep together?” he mumbles, ignoring the flush on his cheeks. “I mean, just take a nap here?” He closes his eyes, waiting for Magnus to make some joke at his expense, to murmur something that would undoubtedly set Alec on fire.
Instead, the joke never comes. Alec opens his eyes and finds Magnus smiling softly at him, that half-smile where his lips quirk up and his eyes crinkle.
“Of course, darling,” And there it is, darling, the pet name which means Magnus is back, whatever awkwardness between them finally dissipated. He pulls off his socks gracefully, wiggling his toes and settling into the couch.
Alec watches him, the spark of desire burning low and steady now, the rush of affection overtaking it. He wraps a tentative arm around Magnus’ waist, pulling him back until he’s between Alec’s legs. He’s leaned back enough, head resting comfortably on the armrest. The couch isn’t big enough for the both of them, and Magnus is still obviously trying to respect his space by kneeling. His shoulders are tense, and he startles a little when Alec places his hands on them. Gently, he pulls Magnus down, reveling in how easily they fit together. Chest to chest, Magnus tucks his face into Alec’s shoulder. His soft hair brushes Alec’s nose, and the shell of his ear sticks out adorably. One day, Alec will work up the courage to bite it.
However, the tension in Magnus’ shoulders remain. That won’t do. Alec roves his hands aimlessly around Magnus’ back, securing his arms around Magnus’ waist until he relaxes.
“Not too heavy?” Magnus asks, voice light and teasing. But Alec can hear the slight tremble behind it, and he realizes that Magnus is afraid of messing up just as much as he is.
“No,” he mutters, pressing a kiss to Magnus’ hair. Magnus is a welcome weight above him, present and solid in a way that grounds Alec. “Never.”
And if he wakes up with his arms numb, well, it’s worth it to see the High Warlock of Brooklyn curled up on his chest like a cat, snoring peacefully. It’s the best sleep he’s had in years.
From then on it becomes a ritual of sorts, just like how Saturdays are takeout nights and Tuesdays they sit together on Magnus’ comfortable couch and watch reruns of the interior decorating shows Magnus seems to love so much.
It’s a Monday, however, which means they spend the entire day searching for a tracking spell that will help them find Jace. Magnus must know his parabatai rune is bothering him, and sends him sympathetic glances every now and then when he thinks Alec isn’t looking.
Alec traces his fingers over several worn books in Magnus’ collection. Some of them have gilded text on the spine, running over ancient names and symbols. One of them catches his eye, and he tugs the book gently out of the shelf. It’s huge, thicker than the dusty tomes in the Institute, bound in old leather with a thick clasp over the pages.
18th Century Potions and Spells, Intermediate Demonic Energies and Summonings reads the long title. Alec takes note of the inscription on the bottom, brows rising in the surprise when he sees the author. By Magnus Bane.
“You wrote a book?” he calls out to Magnus, who’s poring over a manuscript Catarina sent over yesterday.
Magnus looks up, setting aside the delicate manuscript and collecting the other books they’d been reading. Magnus moves past him, getting on his tip-toes to push them back on the shelf. His loose tunic rides up as he stretches, and Alec catches sight of twin indentations carved on his lower back. Perfectly symmetrical, they curve gently to the path of his spine and further down to his waistband. Alec’s mouth goes dry, and he barely snaps his eyes back to Magnus’ before he catches on.
“I had a lot of time on my hands,” Magnus takes the book from Alec. Their fingers brush, and Alec pretends that it doesn’t cause his heart to skip a beat or two.
“Strange how you found this,” Magnus murmurs, undoing the clasp gently.
“Should I not have?” Alec panics, wondering if he’s touched some sacred warlock artifact and doomed them both to Hell.
“No, it’s just that I’ve glamoured the book quite well. It’s the original copy, you know. Nephilim aren’t supposed to be able to see it,”
Alec raises a brow. “What does that mean, then?”
“I’m not sure,” he admits, running his finger slowly over the page. The blue of his magic reacts instantly to the crinkled page, sparking every which way until the looping text reveals itself. Alec moves closer, not trying to hide his growing interest. The sheets fill themselves with rows of meticulously taken instructions and neat diagrams.
His boyfriend is a scholar, Alec realizes giddily. It’s such an endearing concept, Magnus hastily scrawling down notes for all his spells, carefully measuring ingredients for his potions like some magical scientist. By the Angel, what if he wore glasses? Alec flushes, not sure what to do with that mental image.
“Eureka!” Magnus exclaims, tapping a bejeweled finger to the page. “This must be the one.”
He moves quickly after that, darting around the loft and returning with an armful of supplies. He waves off any of Alec’s attempts to help.
“You call up your sister and Clary,” Magnus orders, laying the book on his work table. “Tell them I’ve found the spell.”
Alec pulls out his phone, excitement growing in his chest. He can’t help the wide smile spreading over his lips. They were going to find Jace, after all.
“This last ingredient is perhaps the most important one of all,” Magnus gestures widely, almost knocking off the empty vials collected around their workshop.
Alec dubiously watches the green smoke rise from the honest to God cauldron centred in Magnus’ living room. It curls thickly on the ceiling, muting the already dim lights of the loft until Alec can’t see any further than Magnus’ shoulders. The room itself seems to warp inwards, the heavy oak bending towards the murky concoction.
Alec feels as if he’s stepped into a different century altogether. Magnus’ complicated outfit certainly helps add to his theory.
“Any guesses?” Magnus still has his arms spread out wide, speaking to an invisible audience. He glances at Alec out of the corner of his eye, grinning widely. Despite the uneasy feeling the potion gives him, Alec grins back. It’s an indulgent one too, brought on by how unexpectedly adorable Magnus looks – twirling around his loft and teaching Alec about how to extract magic from herbs and dirt and animals, voice animated and airy.
“Rat’s tail?” he asks, recalling Magnus’ earlier lessons. Magnus shakes his head and moves towards the pantry, briefly disappearing from Alec’s vision.
“Slimier,” he calls out, disembodied voice carrying through the fog. Alec can hear jars clinking together and shelves being thoroughly rummaged. He’s excited to see what Magnus pulls out, and eager to guess it right.
“Tentacle of a giant squid?” Magnus snickers, a throaty sound that shouldn’t be so endearing. Magnus, centuries old warlock that he is, shouldn’t be so endearing. Alec ignores the sudden constriction of his heart, the strange flip-flop it does whenever he hears Magnus laugh.
“Not that slimy, Alexander,” Magnus reappears from the haze, holding a small jar in his hands.
He unscrews the lid, plucking the mysterious ingredient out and dropping it into the cauldron. Alec moves closer, fascinated by how the potion surrounds and disintegrates it.
“What was that?” Alec wrinkles his nose at the acrid smell of the preservative.
“Goat’s eyes,” Magnus replies, peering into cauldron.
“You just keep that lying around?” Alec asks, and Magnus shrugs, never taking his eyes off the cauldron.
He must be waiting for something important to happen, perhaps a puff of smoke or an ominous bubbling. In the end, it’s nothing Alec’s untrained eye can catch, and Magnus simply claps his hands together and tells him it’s done.
“You have all that you need?”
Magnus tilts his head and looks at him, a wicked smile growing on his lips. Alec knows that look, knows Magnus well enough to anticipate something that will undoubtedly embarrass the hell out of him. He stares back, fighting the flush that blooms across his cheeks.
“One more thing,” Magnus says sweetly, and Alec can’t stop staring even if he tried. He raises his eyebrows and moves closer, causing Alec to stumble against the cart of supplies. Magnus looks up, eyes round and soft, and bites his lip.
“How about a kiss?” he murmurs, never once taking his eyes off Alec. For a while, Alec can only gape at him. Magnus has never asked before, seemingly content with the glacial pace Alec’s been setting in their relationship. He must interpret Alec’s gawking as reluctance, and turns his neck, offering his cheek instead. A simple, chaste demand. “For the potion to work, of course,”
Alec clenches his fist in frustration, not willing to lose the chance to kiss Magnus because of his own stupidity. Boldly, he places his fingers on the sharp bend of Magnus’ jaw, brushes his thumb against the striking curve of his cheekbone and pulls gently until Magnus is facing him again. Before he can overthink it, Alec ducks down, pressing his lips to Magnus’.
Perhaps Magnus had wanted something quick, a light peck that felt like all the other ones they’d shared since the wedding. A gentle press of mouths.
Instead, Alec licks into his mouth immediately, swiping his tongue over the silky seam of his lips. His grip on Magnus’ jaw tightens, the sharp bone unyielding against Alec’s fingers. The pressure draws an involuntary gasp from Magnus, and Alec takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss further. He doesn’t stop kissing Magnus until he’s pressed him against the wall, the hand not gripping Magnus’ jaw pressed flat against the small of his back, pulling him flush against Alec. The heat of their bodies, combined with the heavy air of the potion, makes time melt slowly around them.
It’s Magnus who ends the kiss, their lips parting with a soft smack. For a while, Alec can only pant and stare as he disentangles their limbs and reluctantly creates some distance between them. It’s such an intimate thing, watching Magnus Bane pull himself together, watch him run a shaky hand through his hair and exhale slowly through his nose.
There’s a slight discolouration under Magnus jaw, a finger shaped bruise purpling rapidly on the bronze skin. Alec files away the fact that Magnus bruises easily in the back of his mind, and tamps down the urge to suck on it until it blooms under his teeth.
“Well,” Magnus says, voice noticeably higher than it was before. He clears his throat, and it dawns on Alec that Magnus is having trouble speaking because of him. It sends a pleasant little shiver up his spine.
“We should - we should get back to the potion,” Magnus mutters, stepping past Alec. His voice has returned to the same silky quality, but Alec can see the tips of his ears are bright red, and he can’t control the wide smile spreading on his face as he follows Magnus back to the potion-making.
(Later, at night, when he’s locked the door and shut the window, Alec stares at the shadowy blobs moving on the ceiling. He knows that he should probably go to sleep, that there’s training and paperwork to do tomorrow, but his eyes won’t close no matter how tired he is.
One of the dark shapes near his bookcase looks like the bruise on Magnus’ jaw. Alec slips his hand guiltily down his sweatpants, the afternoon forming so easily in his mind. Magnus biting his lip in concentration. Magnus dropping the eyeballs into the cauldron. Magnus’ body, firm under his hands, arching slightly when Alec brushed their tongues together. The sound of his back hitting the wall, the small oomph that Alec swallowed, the crinkling of his silken shirt against the brick.
The room is too hot all of a sudden. It feels like Magnus is here, waiting to make some smart-assed remark. Alec can almost see the curve of his eyes, the way they flutter shut when he’s pleased, the burning amber of his iris.
There’s nothing he doesn’t want when it comes to Magnus. The image of him sprawled on the bed morphs into one of him lounging on a chaise, legs spread like a king. The lazy smirk on his face whenever he says something terribly filthy shifts to the almost-shy smile whenever Alec presses kiss after kiss on his face.
He wonders, not for the first time, if it’s even possible to want one person this much. If his heart and his body haven’t somehow defied the laws of nature, tripping over themselves to reach Magnus.
Funnily enough, it’s the image of Magnus’ ears that sends him over the edge. Something about the tips flushed bright red with embarrassment has Alec biting his fist to keep from moaning.
He digs his heels into the thin mattress, coming with a wordless cry. He shudders, all the tension in his spine melting until he’s loose and boneless on the bed. Alec cleans himself up wordlessly, throwing his sweatpants across the room with far more force than necessary.
His phone lights up with one unread message, sent nearly two hours before. There’s no use replying now, so Alec vows to just read it once and finally go to sleep.
Goodnight, Alexander. Sleep well. :)
It’s from Magnus, and Alec smiles so widely it hurts his cheeks. One goodnight text out of a dozen shouldn’t make his heart swell with so much affection, and yet it does. He reads the message over and over again, and falls asleep that way, phone clutched to his chest. It’s the closest he can get, he thinks, to having Magnus in his bed.)
On the day of the summoning, Alec arrives ten minutes early to help Magnus prepare. It’s not like the warlock needs his help, but Alec likes feeling useful.
When he walks in, it’s Clary he finds putting the final touches on the pentagram. Her fingers brush over the magic-infused chalk, perfecting the sharp lines of her design. Isabelle and the mundane turned vampire were conspiring in the corner, standing too close to one another.
Magnus orders them to join hands around the pentagram. The magic, as always, sends a jolt of electricity down his spine. This time, it’s welcome. Alec tightens his grip on Magnus’ hand, his other hand in Isabelle’s. It’s only the vampire that looks nervous, looking between Clary and Isabelle.
Magnus pulls out a tall glass, filled to the brim with the potion. It bubbles ominously, and Alec eyes the concoction warily.
“Is that for Jace?” Simon asks. Alec resists rolling his eyes, because how can this mundane turned vampire be so dense?
“Of course not,” Magnus replies, unperturbed. “It’s for me,” he says, and downs the potion like a shot. He grimaces, muttering about some sort of briny aftertaste. Alec is momentarily distracted by the bob of his throat.
“How’s this going to help us?” Clary cuts in.
“It’s going to unlock my magic,” Magnus stretches his arms. “I’ve had to tamp it down to preserve the magical integrity of this realm. To summon the Hellhound however, I’ll need all the power I can get.”
“Won’t that raise suspicion?” Alec wonders. “Such powerful magic being used all at once?”
“Not if it’s from me. The Institute has graciously offered me some magical liberties in exchange for my compliance with the Accords.”
Magnus, seemingly done with explaining such a complicated spell, moves to begin the summoning. He chants something lowly in Latin, and Alec grips his hand tighter. The pentagram begins to glow, and a swirling wind carries through the loft.
“Now remember,” Magnus murmurs, voice nearly lost in the wind. “We must not let go of each other’s hands.”
It’s the last thing Alec hears before his vision turns pitch-black.