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Bow in hand, Alec watched Magnus walk away. Technically Downworlders weren’t supposed to be in the Institute unsupervised, but what was another broken rule at this point? And who was he to object to Magnus’ dramatic exit? He just didn’t have it in him anymore to care about things like that.

Alec put his—no, it was Magnus’ now—bow away. His stomach churned with the wrongness of it. It wouldn’t do to owe Magnus favors. The Clave had a rule about never owing debts to a Downworlder, lest a debt be used against them. He didn’t think Magnus thought that way, but it wasn't like Alec knew him that well. Even if he did work that way, if he would use Alec's debt against him later, Alec wouldn't really mind. He'd wanted to pay Magnus for his efforts, wanted to make the sacrifice, wanted to give him something personal. There was nothing else he could give him, and now he hadn't given him anything.

It didn't feel right that Magnus walked away with nothing. But then, nothing had felt right in a long time. Magnus had looked sad and resigned, but he’d been furious when Alec first told him about the marriage. Alec could still hear the venom in Magnus’ voice saying 'Goodbye, Alexander'.

He’d walked away then, and he’d walked away now. Magnus kept walking away from him, and Alec couldn’t allow himself to stop him. Even if he wanted to.

Alec sighed and left the armory. Izzy’s trial had left him with a huge load of paperwork, and now they officially found the Cup, he’d have to fabricate some kind of report to make Jace and Clary’s mission an official one. He should probably talk to Lydia as well, to get their ducks in a row, and to thank her for standing up for Isabelle.

But Alec didn’t walk to his office, or to Lydia’s, but instead made his way to Izzy’s room. He still couldn’t quite believe she was safe from exile—he needed to make sure she was okay.

“Come in!” Izzy yelled when he knocked on her door. “I’m changing, I’ll be right there.”

“Don’t rush, it’s just me,” Alec said, and flopped down on Izzy’s bed. He heard her moving around in her bathroom and felt himself slowly relax in the pillows. Izzy would be fine. She was here and she’d be okay.

He had no idea how she ever managed to sleep on this bed, though. It seemed to swallow him. The mattress was too soft, the comforter too fluffy, and there were way too many pillows. It reminded him a bit of Magnus’ bed, which had looked equally comfortable, but probably was equally deceiving.

Alec stopped himself right there. No good could ever come from thinking about Magnus’ bed. Look where Izzy’s thing for the Seelie had gotten her. Mother had left her to the wolves, and frankly, she hadn’t been a mother to Izzy for years. The Clave had tried to exile her for her unsanctioned affairs the first opportunity they had. Meliorn wasn’t even that prominent a Seelie. Magnus was the High Warlock of Brooklyn, the political ramifications if the Clave found out that he…

Alec closed his eyes.

It was no use thinking about. Izzy was fine, and he would marry Lydia, and he'd be fine as well.

He sat up when Izzy came back into the room, wearing a long dressing gown, face stripped of most of her make-up. She looked tired and sad. And vulnerable. He hadn’t seen her looking this young since forever.

“How do you sleep in this thing?” he asked, in an attempt to lighten her mood.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Like a baby. Not everyone prefers a wooden plank with a 30-year-old mattress over an actual bed, Alec. Some of us like a little comfort in life.”

Alec wanted to object—it wasn’t that he didn’t like comfort, it was that there weren’t enough hours in a day, so he never had time to spend some time on himself, so he just let things like that be—but she was smiling while browsing through her clothing rack, so he figured mission accomplished.

“So,” she said. “You walked Magnus out. How’d that go?”

Alec groaned and fell back on the bed again.

“That well, huh,” Izzy said and poked his knee. Alec threw a pillow at her. Maybe these had some use after all.

“Izzy, I—" Alec said, and broke himself off there. There were just too many ways to end that sentence. ‘Izzy, I’m pretty sure I’m gay.’ Or, ‘Izzy, I think I like him.’ Or, ‘Izzy, I don’t want to marry Lydia.’ Or, ‘Izzy, I don’t know what to do’.

But before he could decide how to finish his sentence, Izzy finished it for him. “I know, I know, you don’t want to talk about it,” she said, and threw the pillow back at him, right on his head. “Just saying you can.”

“Everything is just… really messed up,” Alec said into the pillow. “But yeah, I don't want to talk about it.”

He stayed there for a minute, head under a pillow, just listening to Izzy puttering around her room. It had been ages since they’d spent time together, just hanging out, and he realized he’d missed this. They hadn’t done this since even before Clary arrived. He had no idea why they stopped, and now he'd nearly lost her before they could do so again. 

He wouldn’t have let her be exiled alone. He would have found a way to save her, or he would have gone with her. If they’d stripped Izzy off her runes, they would have had to strip him off his too.

“Help me pick a dress, Alec. The indigo one, or the burgundy?” Izzy interrupted his thoughts.

Alec smiled and sat up. He knew this game, and he knew she did it just to get him out his own head. Izzy knew him so well, he really didn’t deserve her.

I should’ve picked you, he thought, and immediately tried to push the thought away. It was a horrible thing to think, and guilt burned in his stomach. Jace was his parabatai, and he wouldn't change that. But Alec hadn't been the one to pick Jace.

When Jace had asked him to be his parabatai, Alec had been overwhelmed with it. Jace, the most promising shadowhunter of their generation, the golden wonder boy, had asked him to be his parabatai. He hadn't hesitated. They were brothers, they loved one another. They’d be together forever, always have each other's back. It would be great.

But here he was, alone, and the only one who'd had his back was his sister, like she always had. Meanwhile, Jace was off gallivanting with Clary, with no care for Alec, Izzy, their family, or their fucking job. Just like that, he’d thrown everything he ever knew away, for a girl. Alec just didn’t understand how Jace could have done that. It felt like he didn’t know him anymore, like they were different people.

Izzy whistled to get his attention. “Alec, pay attention. Indigo or burgundy?”

Alec looked at the dresses. Except for the color, they looked somewhat similar in design, the blue one a bit shorter at the knee, and a bit more open at the back. The other one looked like a dress his mother would approve off, the blue one looked like one Izzy might pick for herself. He liked the blue one, but he knew this game.

“Burgundy,” he said.

Izzy rolled her eyes. “How is it possible you still don’t have any clue about fashion, really Alec,” she muttered, while putting the burgundy away, and throwing the indigo one on her dressing doll thing.

She sat down at her makeup table but smiled at him in the mirror. ’No taste,’ she lipped at him, grinning.

I should have picked you, Alec thought again. “I wouldn’t have let them exile you alone. I would have gone with you,” he said instead.

Izzy turned around on her chair, looking slightly unbelieving. New guilt churned in his stomach. He wanted Izzy to know, to be sure of it, that he’d always have her back. In anything.

“I mean it,” he said.

“Thanks, big brother,” Izzy said eventually. She turned around again, and started brushing her hair, but she kept throwing him looks in the mirror.

Alec watched her do her thing. The paperwork wouldn't run away, so he could enjoy her company for a little while longer.