The story of Magnus Bane and Alec LIghtwood started as all the best ones did, at the lowest point in both of their lives. One was on the cusp of adulthood, and the other was just trying to hold on to life with the strength he had left. Both of them were thinking it was over, that this was the best life had to give them. Neither of them could have thought that a rainy Friday could have brought them the brightest part of their lives thus far. It was a chance of fate, of luck, and of very good timing.
“You’re going,” Ragnor Fell had his arms crossed as he stood in what could be loosely called the foyer of Magnus Bane’s apartment. The other man had given up on finding motivation to leave the house and was therefore dressed in sweats and some old tee he’d dug around for in the back of his closet.
“Ragnor, come the fuck on,” Magnus was hungover and really not in the mood for any of this. “I know Cat is worried, and that you guys think I need a hobby, or whatever. I am perfectly fine.”
“You aren’t fine,” Ragnor insisted with a roll of his eyes. “It’s like we told you yesterday, it’s this or rehab. You haven’t been fine in months since your dad-”
“Yes my dad went to prison, I know,” Magnus snapped harshly. “You guys act like I’m all torn up about him. Fuck Ragnor, he was a terrible human being and I’m glad to be rid of him. He hated me and he tried to kill me.” Magnus sighed heavily and knew with the unchanging look on his best friend’s face that he wasn’t about to get out of this. “Fine, let me get dressed and you can drag me to play with kids.”
“I’ll be waiting,” Ragnor said in a sing song voice as he got settled on the couch. Magnus grumbled to himself all the way upstairs. His friends had signed him up to mentor some kid at the local school. It was ridiculous, he could hardly be a mentor to anyone. He was a mess, and though he tried to deny it he knew it was true. He’d been on drugs most of the last year to numb what was going on with his dad. Now his dad was gone, and while that was complicated it was definitely for the best. His friends were forcing him to quit the drugs, and get his drinking under control. High school was over, and now the real work began. Magnus had taken cosmetology courses this year with his best friends at his side and they had recently completed their training for that as well. It was time to find jobs and get on with their lives. Only thing was, Magnus couldn’t find much motivation to move onto anything.
He threw on some jeans and a zip up and called it good enough. This was most definitely the most casual he’d ever dressed to go anywhere in a long, long time. He was tempted to find some baseball cap just to complete the look, but he didn’t even own one of those. He wondered if this was actually going to help, mentoring some kid. He really had no idea what he was doing. Kids were not his thing, and he’d never been around them very much. All of his friends were like him, the only kid in their families. None of them had younger siblings to play with or be around. He knew he needed something to take his mind off the trial and his dad. It had been a long few months to get through. He had no more marijuana in his possession and he’d promised Cat he’d stop. He really did try to honor his promises to her at least.
“Do you think kids relate to being homeless?” Ragnor asked as his mouth turned up in the corners into an amused smirk. “Or is this you trying to set a new trend?”
“I am hungover without coffee,” Magnus replied simply. “This is the results. Kids don’t appreciate fashion anyways. I think I look approachable.”
“To the homeless,” Ragnor agreed, laughing as he dodged Magnus hitting him. The duo hit the sidewalk to walk the eight blocks to the school. September had a chill to it this year earlier than it usually did, and it made Magnus most unhappy. He loathed sweaters and coats of any kind, though scarves and hats he could do for a bit. He hated leaving the warm weather behind to face the long, cold fall and winter. Holidays didn’t even hold all that much appeal to him the last few years. He had to tag along as a guest and be starkly reminded that he didn’t have a family of his own.
“Are you okay?” Ragnor asked finally, most unusual for him. Magnus figured he’d worried Ragnor to death lately with his antics of getting high more and more often coupled with pushing them away while he suffered through the trial and recovering from his father’s murder attempt.
“I’m okay,” Magnus confirmed. It was the truth as well. He was okay, but not better than that. Now that his father was behind bars and out of his life things were easier. Magnus didn’t have to deal with the pressing hatred at his back all the time. He didn’t have to deal with glaring and insults and the cold shoulder. He could now pretend his father didn’t exist, and that suited him fine. He tended not to think about what it meant having your own father try to kill you. The bruises aorund his throat were mostly gone now and his lungs could finally again breathe to full capacity.
“Don’t worry us like that,” Ragnor scolded lightly. “You could have told us how bad things had gotten with your dad. You could have crashed with me, or even Cat probably.”
“It’s over,” Magnus said as he folded his arms around himself. “I’m ready to move on. We’re on our own now, and we have this whole life we can create. I applied to a few salons yesterday.”
“You should come work with me and Catarina,” Ragnor said as he stepped closer to Magnus to avoid a bunch of teenagers skipping their first class. “We could put in a good word for you. Cat has our new boss around her finger already. I think he has the hots for her….but there you go.”
“I don’t know. Manhattan would make me some money,” Magnus mused quietly. “I need to catch up on money Rag, I’m broke as hell. I used the money from the case to afford the apartment and some furniture. I have no clue how I’m going to pay rent next month.”
“You could get a roommate,” Ragnor suggested with a shrug. “I know it’s not really your thing, even with me, but it’s an option.”
“Except it isn’t,” Magnus argued. “I don’t need some stranger in my life right now. I just need some space to breathe for a bit.” They had come to the entrance to the elementary school, the tall brick building not looking the most welcoming. “Well, I’ll text you tonight. Let you know if I traumatize some kid or not.”
“You’ll do great, or something,” Ragnor grinned at him before Magnus turned to go in alone.
The signs were easy enough to follow as he wound through the halls decorated with drawings of the younger grades pinned on the walls. It reminded him of his blissful days of being so small the real world couldn’t touch you with its darkness yet. The days when you were friends with everyone and socializing was as easy as breathing. The memories were vague to him now, but he could say he didn’t have a bad memory in this school.
They were holding this first meeting in the large gymnasium so they could meet the kid they would get to tutor until May. Magnus was sort of unclear just what he was meant to do for this program. Some of it was tutoring, but it was meant to be more than that. These were kids that didn’t have the best home lives, and so they needed someone to show that they gave a shit. Magnus wasn’t sure he was qualified to mentor, but he would give it a shot.
“Magnus Bane,” He gave his name to the lady sitting at the front table who gave him a warm smile and nodded before consulting her list. She seemed to pause, if only for a moment, before she took another look at him and pointed to a far corner.
“Okay Magnus, you’re paired up with Alexander.” She bit her lip for a moment before continuing. “Alec has a hard time opening up to people, give it a bit. He’s a sweet boy.”
“Okay, thanks,” Magnus muttered, wondering just what on earth he was getting into now. What kind of kid needed a warning to go with him?
Years later Magnus would wonder why he didn’t have a stronger reaction to seeing the person who would change his life forever.
The boy indicated to him had messy black hair that desperately needed cutting as it fell in his eyes. He was hunched over coloring by himself, evidently trying to block out the rest of the room. He was humming tunelessly under his breath and sitting on the very edge of the bench. Magnus stood by him for several moments, trying to talk himself out of being nervous around a stupid kid. Kids were the best people. They never judged you the way the rest of the world did. He tugged at his jacket and suddenly wished he would have bothered to put on his usual armour he wore when he left his house.
“Hi Alec,” Magnus finally brought himself to say. Alec’s hand stopped moving across the paper, but he didn’t look up at Magnus or give any reaction to his presence. “My name is Magnus and we’re going to be spending time together this year.”
Alec was simply silent.
Magnus sighed and looked around to see the rest of the kids eagerly talking and engaging with their mentors and peers. He ran a hand through his hair in agitation. He really was too tired and way too hungover for this. He sat down across from Alec and tried to think of something that Alec would want to talk about.
“So, what are you coloring there?” He sounded stupid, even to his own ears, but it made Alec pause and that was something.
Alec mumbled something before he got right back to work on his picture. He was rather adorable if Magnus was honest with himself.
“What was that?” Magnus asked as nicely as he could. He was a bit annoyed, but couldn’t let it show to some kid who obviously didn’t mean to be annoying.
“I”m drawing, not coloring,” Alec said only a tad louder than the first time. Magnus could still hardly hear him over the noise of the rest of the crowd. He still hadn’t actually looked directly at Magnus, his head bowed and concentrated.
“Sorry, sorry,” Magnus conceded with a tiny grin. This Alec was a mystery, and somehow Magnus liked him already. He leaned forward to see if he could make out what it was Alec was so concentrated on. It was a cake, just a single layer cake with a candle on top of it. It had quite a bit of detail put into it for a nine-year old. Why on earth would he be drawing a cake of all things? “How come you’re drawing a cake?”
Alec shrugged one shoulder, but his pencil slowed across the paper all the same. Magnus felt back making him stop what was obviously making him happy. He was so out of his element here. What if Alec didn’t need tutoring? He was probably the quiet, genius type. What did Magnus have to teach a kid that would be of any use?
“What’s your favorite kind of cake?” Magnus had no idea why he was still on the cake thread, but it was something to ask and would hopefully spur some kind of conversation.
“Birthday cake,” Alec mumbled, and Magnus could hear the sadness in those two words. He frowned to himself and really wanted to point out that birthday was hardly a cake flavor.
“When’s your birthday?” That seemed like a safe enough topic to go on. Kids always loved their birthdays. Even Magnus liked his birthday, and he didn’t admit to liking too many things. Alec, however, went silent again at the question as he got out colored pencils to finish what he’d drawn. Magnus had fucked up somewhere, but the where was the mystery. Magnus wondered if maybe he started talking that Alec would respond eventually? “My birthday is in November, which sort of sucks because it’s cold, but it’s nice to fill in the time between Halloween and Christmas. Though I’m not a huge holiday fan anyways.” Magnus sighed quietly and really wasn’t so good at rambling about nothing.
“I don’t like holidays either,” Alec said quietly, his small voice barely reaching Magnus across the table. Normally Magnus was exponentially glad when someone shared his view on the over-rated commercial holidays, but hearing Alec say it made his heart break a little. Alec was only a kid, a small kid, and he should still love the magic and fun of holidays. “Holidays mean I have to move again.”
“Your family moves a lot then?” Magnus was happy that at least Alec was saying more than one word at a time. Alec still hadn’t looked at him, but maybe that was coming. His head ducked down further and the blue pencil paused it’s rhythmic sweeping over the paper.
“No, just me,” His voice sounded different now, and Magnus had the sinking feeling Alec was holding back tears. Fantastic, he’d been with this kid five minutes and he’d made him cry. Catarina had really judged wrong on this one.
“That’s a good drawing,” Magnus decided to bring things back to the drawing Alec was working so diligently on. “Is that the birthday cake you want this year?”
Alec silently nodded and switched to a green pencil now for the frosting on the top. Magnus was trying to figure him out and find out what he meant by only he moved. Did this school change classrooms every semester or something? How could a child this small move by himself? It made no sense. Or maybe it was some kind of stupid riddle thing?
Magnus watched Alec finish his picture and as soon as he settled into his boredom the picture clicked into place. Alec was in foster care, it was the only way his statement made any kind of sense. Magnus had seen movies and shows about kids in foster care, but this was real and in front of him. He looked again to see that Alec had drawn a birthday cake of course, and Magnus figured out one other thing in the process.
“It’s your birthday today, isn’t it Alec?” Magnus asked, sure of the answer. He couldn’t say how he knew it was today for sure. It was maybe Alec’s shoulders that seemed to be slumped and the way he couldn’t say what day his birthday fell on.
Alec finally looked up at him and the moment Magnus saw his huge blue eyes he was hooked completely. Alec’s eyes were the most beautiful shade of blue and right now Magnus could see the sadness they held. He swallowed a few times before saying in a voice so quiet that Magnus read his lips more than heard the words. “Yeah.”
“Happy Birthday then Alec,” Magnus said softly with a gentle smile. “How old are you now?”
“Nine,” Alec answered, his pencils finally forgotten and he seemed afraid to look directly at Magnus for more than a moment.
“Nine, huh,” Magnus said softly. He blew out a breath and looked around this drabby school gym that was no place for any kind of celebration. This kid hated his birthdays, and probably because he’d never gotten to celebrate one properly. He’d been shoved from home to home for nine years and he’d never known anything more. That could have been Magnus if his father and mother had left him any sooner. He was lucky enough to be eighteen when his father had been sent to prison and he could get his own place. “Do you like ice cream Alec?”
“I’ve never had it,” Alec said quietly. “Most of my families are too poor for that stuff.”
“Well, today is the day you are going to have some,” Magnus said confidently. He gestured for Alec to stay put while he went to find the lady that had directed him to Alexander in the first place.
“Hi,” Magnus said to get her attention. She turned with a smile already plastered, but seeing him her smile fell a little and her eyes flicked to Alec.
“Don’t leave yet,” She pleaded. “I know Alec is a difficult child to get talking, but he’s such a nice kid when he does. Give him some time and-”
“I wasn’t leaving,” Magnus said with a bit of a smile. It was apparent Alec had been given up on many, many times in the past. “I wanted to know if I could take Alec for ice cream?”
“Absolutely,” She brightened immediately. “This is a community sponsored program. The school was just a place to meet. Feel free to take Alec.”
“Perfect,” Magnus waved with a grin and headed back to Alec, who was staring at his picture of a cake quietly. The longing in every ounce of him could be felt and Magnus was so glad he’d come today. He was determined here and now to never give up on Alec. Everyone needed someone in their corner, and Magnus was going to be one of those people for Alec.
He walked up next to Alec, but hesitated to touch him. Alec did not seem like someone who trusted easily, or at all. He needed to earn that kind of trust with Alec instead of assuming he had it.
“So, we are free to get the hell out of here,” Magnus said with a grin as Alec’s head turned to look up at him. “You want to come taste your first bit of ice cream?”
Alec nodded as he stuffed his pencils in his bag that was a dark, coffee brown that was faded and torn on one side. He got up and his head came to Magnus’s stomach. He was so small, even for the age of nine, and Magnus just felt a pull towards this kid that he’d never felt before. He led the way out to his car and saw a flash of nerves hit Alec as he stayed by the trunk of the car, clutching onto his bag for dear life.
“Are you okay?” Magnus asked him, pausing by his car door.
“I don’t know if I should trust you,” Alec blurted out before ducking his head and red coloring his pale cheeks.
Magnus sighed and went to kneel down in front of Alec, instead of towering over him. This act right here probably went against every bit of stranger danger he’d ever been taught. Alec hadn’t had a lot of people prove to him that he was worth sticking around for. His own parents hadn’t even proved that much to him. He wanted Alec to trust, smartly of course, but trust someone in his life nonetheless. Magnus had many doubts about what he could actually teach anyone about life when he’d royally messed a few things up already.
“I can’t make you trust me,” Magnus told him honestly, his voice soft and sincere. “I can’t tell you that every adult you meet is worthy of your trust. I can tell you that with people it’s best to go with your gut. Your first instinct is most often right. What does your gut tell you about me?”
Alec was quiet for a long moment as he studied the pavement at his feet. Magnus wondered if kids even knew what going with your gut meant. Alec seemed smart though and he seemed contemplative rather than confused. “I want to trust you,” Alec finally spoke up. “You notice things nobody else does. You see me.”
“I do see you,” Magnus agreed quietly as he lifted a hand to rest it gently on Alec’s cheek for a moment before dropping his hand. “Why don’t we walk huh? There’s a place not far from here as a matter of fact.”
Alec seemed much more relaxed at that idea and he happily walked at Magnus’s side as they left the school behind them and headed four blocks over. Alec still hardly said a thing, but Magnus decided to take up a stream about his own life. He told Alec about cutting hair and about his friends. He kept it light, but talked enough so it wasn’t awkward. Alec soaked it in and even smiled a few times as Magnus talked.
“Alright,” Magnus said as they entered the shop and walked up to the counter. “This place has two dozen flavors of ice cream. Not the best spread in New York, but a good place to start. One day, when you’re an ice cream expert, I’ll take you to Brooklyn where they have a shop with twice as many flavors.”
“That’s too many choices,” Alec said softly with a shake of his head. He stood on his tiptoes to see the flavors, too short to read the small labels. Magnus didn’t really think about it before he scooped Alec up in his arms so he could see the display better. Alec made a squeak of surprise and his wide eyes looked at Magnus again in shock. Magnus was about to put him down when Alec seemed to relax and settled back against his shoulder. He was heavy Magnus would admit, but the weight was warm and oddly comforting.
“Alright,” Magnus said, trying not to get caught up in his thoughts about all of this. “So, we have two main categories, fruity and chocolate. What do you like more?”
“Chocolate,” Alec said into Magnus’s ear. He always spoke so quietly, and it wais on one hand adorable but on another worrisome. It was as if he was afraid to be heard by the wrong person, or that he wasn’t worth being heard.
“Okay, so we need this side then.” Magnus walked over to the right side of the display. “Anything look good?”
“They all do,” Alec’s blue eyes were wide as he stared at all the choices of sweets. Magnus laughed softly. “Can you just pick for me?”
“But picking the flavor is half the fun” Magnus protested. He glanced behind them to see that people had entered behind them and that was what had likely prompted Alec to hide and shut down again. This kid very obviously didn’t like people. Magnus gestured for them to go ahead of them so Alec could take his time choosing. As soon as they left to sit at a table Alec perked up again to look closely at the flavors.
“I want that one,” Alec pointed out the double fudge brownie. Magnus nodded in appreciation of his choice. He ordered them both a scoop and sat Alec at one of the tall stools the boy kept staring at. Alec looked like he was having the time of his life at the tall tables with delicious ice cream in front of him. Magnus couldn’t remember the last time something so simple had made him happy. These days happiness was like something constantly slipping through his fingers and he needed something bigger and better to feel that bubble of happiness.
They ate in enjoyable silence, Alec seeming to savor every last bite of the dessert in front of him. Magnus looked fondly at him for a long moment before Alec caught him looking and suddenly erupted in giggles. Magnus was taken aback and was about to ask what Alec found so funny when suddenly he felt the ice cream dab on his nose. He grinned in return as Alec couldn’t hold back his giggles of happiness. It was so good to see Alec laugh after how serious he’d been al day long.
Magnus was taken with Alec already, completely and utterly smitten.
Well, the mentoring program had certainly taken over his life.
Magnus found himself at the school every afternoon after work. He’d shortly gotten the job in Manhattan at the busiest salon he’d ever seen. It was a crazy place and the competition was nearly killing him. He’d done well in his classes, and he truly believed that he could handle anything. This salon was proving to question his talents. Ragnor and Catarina were working somewhere much smaller in Brooklyn, but Magnus had taken his job for the money. He was beaten mentally each and every day, but seeing Alec always made him slow down and care for something other than the way his brain felt like it had been wrung dry. Alec was sweet and every time Magnus made him laugh felt like an accomplishment. He was behind in nearly every subject, probably as a result of moving around so much. Magnus was helping him through the homework and spoiling him rotten with ice cream as much as he could afford. It became more and more clear that whoever Alec was living with only gave him the minimum they could. All of his things looked like they could be better off in the garbage and Alec’s hair was matted and dirty most of the time. He didn’t relate to the other kids well from what Magnus had seen. He was always alone every time Magnus came to see him. His bright blue eyes would light up when they saw him, and after a few weeks he was much less quiet.
Magnus was kind of starting to get where parents were always coming from.
It was after two months of his work and mentoring routine that he came home to see both Ragnor and Catarina on his front steps. He texted the two of them on a regular basis, but he hadn’t seen them in person in quite some time. He wore a sheepish expression as he climbed out of his car and faced them.
“Hi guys,” Magnus said meekly. “I’m sorry?”
“You go on a drug rampage for six months and we get you back only to lose you again,” Ragnor said grumpily as he gave Magnus a one armed hug. Catarina rolled her eyes.
“Ragnor, you seriously need to work on your delivery,” She also gave Magnus a hug, but kept her hands on his upper arms to look him over. “You look exhausted.”
“Work is hard,” Magnus said simply with a shrug.
“Well, it’s Saturday so you don’t have to mentor?” Catarina confirmed.
“He doesn’t have to more than once a week,” Ragnor put in with a tiny smirk.
“I like spending time with Alec,” Magnus defended himself. HIs friends were the best people he knew, but they were by no means humble, or knew how to stay out of his business.
“He is pretty adorable,” Catarina said with a smile. “How about we hit dinner and then walk around the mall like teenagers?”
“Sounds good enough for me,” Magnus agreed. “Come on in while I get changed and stuff.”
He led the way to let the three of them into his apartment. It was snugly between two larger buildings with cement front steps that were cracked and had weeds poking through. It needed a new paint job and probably a whole bunch of other things, but it had a nice little driveway and nobody else wanted to live here so Magnus had the duplex to himself. The upstairs apartment was a piece of shit anyways, and the landlord didn’t really seem like he wanted to fix it up. One day Magnus hoped to buy this place from him when he had the money, and before he kicked Magnus out to sell it.
He went for the casual yet chic look with a fitted tee and a tight pair of jeans before heading back down to be with his friends. Ragnor was on his couch, scrolling through some form of social media or another. Catarina, however, was peering through his mail that he kept piled on a small table in the hall that came with the place.
“So, were you going to share that you were behind on rent?” She asked as she waved a notice in her hand. Magnus rolled his eyes and snatched it from her.
“When are you going to stop snooping through my shit?” Magnus snapped. Ragnor sighed as he followed the both of them into the kitchen. Magnus was trying not to get angry. He knew Catarina loved him more than anyone in the world, but it was irritating the way she was always in his business. This was hardly the first time he’d snapped at her over it.
“I guess when I stop caring about you,” Catarina retorted. “Magnus, how far behind are you on rent? I don’t want you ending up on the street.”
“I paid him today,” Magnus said with a sigh. “I just got a little behind. I’m fine.” It was mostly the truth. He was mostly perfectly fine on money, but he was admittedly nervous about this Manhattan job working out. If it did he’d have plenty, but he wasn’t exactly a shining star. He may have paid rent, but his cupboards are admittedly pretty empty.
“Don’t get into it you two,” Ragnor said with a sigh. “Let’s just spend some time together, okay?”
“I’m ready to go,” Magnus said, taking a deep breath to calm down and letting it go. He linked arms with Cat. He loved her like a sister, but she irritated him like one too. They piled into Ragnor’s car and drove over to the mall they’d been to for years. It wasn’t anything new or elaborate, but it was their stomping grounds. They knew this place inside and out. They had often met here when Cat still had her step-dad around. He had treated her horribly most of her life, until her mom finally got up the courage to throw him out when they had been sixteen. Cat’s problems had seemingly ended just as Magnus’s had begun.
It was crowded, as it was every single Saturday since the beginning of their lives. People were always around shopping and talking and doing whatever they liked. Magnus made a bee line for the food court, despite the fact that they had just finished dinner.
“Are you always going to have an Orange Julius? How are you not sick of them after five years?” Catarina asked as she trailed behind Magnus to wait in line at the Dairy Queen.
“You can only get it here,” Magnus protested. “Not to mention they are the most delicious thing ever. How could you not like them?”
“That kid is staring at us,” Ragnor said slowly and softly to them so as not to draw attention.
“Ragnor, your hair is currently green, of course kids are going to stare at you,” Magnus pointed out with just enough sarcasm laid on to be effective.
“Insult my hair again,” Ragnor threatened as he shoved Magnus only hard enough to make him stumble. Magnus laughed and pushed him back which caused Catarina to roll her eyes and look the way Ragnor had indicated.
“No, he really is staring pretty intently,” Catarina agreed, causing Magnus to turn and look as well. It took him a minute to find the kid she was talking about in the crowd of families in the food court. It took him a minute but soon enough his eyes focused on the head poking out around a pillar and definitely staring at the three of them. He knew that mop of messy black hair by now and even though he’d seen Alec the last five days in a row, he was still more than happy to see him again. HIs blue eyes caught onto Magnus’s and he blushed and looked away, typical Alec behavior that never failed to make Magnus smile.
“Well, that is Alexander,” Magnus said happily. He indicated for his friends to hold his spot in the much too long Dairy Queen line before making his way over to Alec, knowing that the three of them bombarding the boy would make Alec run away. He seemed more skittish than normal, his eyes darting around and wringing his small hands. Magnus frowned to see his hair not washed once again, the strands heavy with dirt and grease. It was probably only because he was a stylist that he noticed, but it was a sign that whoever it was that was in charge of this boy’s care didn’t do a great job.
“Hello there,” Magnus said with a smile as he squatted down to Alec’s level. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“I’m sorry,” Alec blurted immediately. “I don’t know where they are and they left me here with a happy meal. I heard you laughing, but then I wasn’t really sure it was you. Then it was and I didn’t want to go back to being alone. I didn’t mean to bother you, really. I’ll go back to my table and-”
“Darling, it’s alright,” Magnus assured him immediately. Inside he was seething at the injustice of a kid being left alone in a crowded mall for who knew how long. “I don’t mind that you found me. Do you want to come have an Orange Julius with me? I get one every single time I come here. They’re one of the best drinks in existence.”
“Okay,” Alec agreed easily, reaching for Magnus’s hand as had already become practice for them.
“Have you done any of your math homework?” Magnus felt like he had to ask. “Or better yet, that reading assignment?” Those were Alec’s weakest subjects. He was good with facts, like in History and Science. Numbers tripped him up, and so did reading and writing for some reason.
“I did some reading,” Alec said softly with his head down.
“Good,” Magnus praised easily. He reached his friends, who by now had reached the front of the line and were undoubtedly talking about him and his new obsession with Alec. Alec immediately stopped a few feet away, wary and on guard. He really did awful around strangers. Magnus knelt behind him with hands on his shoulders.
“You’re alright Alec,” Magnus told him gently. “These are my two best friends, Ragnor and Catarina. They both cut hair like I do, and they’re the best people I’ve ever met. Plus, Ragnor has green hair. Does a bad guy ever have green hair?”
“The Joker does,” Alec mumbled as he did his best to make his shoulders relax. Magnus let a loud laugh escape which made Alec giggle in return.
“Please call Ragnor The Joker, I beg of you,” Magnus told him with a grin. Alec shook his head, still giggling softly.
“You say the weirdest stuff Magnus,” He said. Magnus grinned proudly, knowing that somehow he’d gained this guarded boy’s affection.
“You wanna meet them?” Magnus asked, never forcing Alec to talk to anyone he didn’t want to.
“Okay,” Alec agreed as he laced his smaller fingers in Magnus’s. Magnus squeezed his hand gently before leading him over.
“Cat, Ragnor, you guys get to meet Alec. He’s already heard the worst about you so don’t bother trying to make a good impression.” His friends both rolled their eyes and Alec giggled again. Ragnor’s face even softened at the innocent sound.
“Hi Alec, it’s wonderful to meet you,” Catarina said sincerely.
“Hi,” Alec said softly with a tiny wave. Well, Cat was won over already. He was happy to see his friends getting along with Alec, and he wasn’t sure why this was so important to him. He turned to order a drink for himself and for Alexander, trusting his friends not to ruin things for a moment. Laughter reached him, honest real laughter, and he looked over to see Ragnor making the boy actually laugh instead of the quiet giggles he normally let out. It was rather obvious Ragnor was making fun of him in some way or another, but his pride was somehow worth Alec laughing like that.
Alec fit into their group seamlessly as they walked around looking at shops and talking and laughing. It seemed natural that Alec was with them, and Magnus was happy to buy him the few things he got excited about. He knew spoiling Alec wasn’t a way to win his affection, but it was clear Alec had never had hardly anything so it was easy to buy for him. They spent a couple of hours together before the mall got old and they were all ready to leave, well except for Alec. Magnus volunteered to sit with Alec until his parents came, waving off his friends
“You don’t have to wait with me,” Alec said quietly. “They’ll come around soon. How long can they shop for?”
“I’m not leaving you alone here at night, kiddo,” Magnus told him. “Did you have fun today with us?”
“I always have fun with you,” Alec said eagerly and honestly. “You don’t have to buy me anything. I like you a lot anyways.”
“That’s not why I do it,” Magnus laid a hand over the boy’s. “I do it because it’s fun. I do it because you don’t ask for hardly anything, from anyone.”
“I guess,” Alec fell quiet for a few minutes, silently watching the families herd their children out the door. There was a certain longing in his eyes that made Magnus’s heart hurt. As much as he already liked Alexander, he could never fill the void he would always feel. “Magnus, could you come to my school on Monday morning?”
“For what, darling?”
“Well,” Alec seemed to be unsure of how to say what he needed to. “We have show and tell that day. I-I don’t really have anything to show that I’m...that I like. Except you. You’re the best thing that’s ever been mine. You’re my Magnus.”
Well, okay then, Magnus didn’t need his heart anyways.
His heart melted then and there as Alec quietly proclaimed that he was his, and there was no denying that small fact. Magnus did belong to Alec, and he’d do anything for the younger boy. He’d only known Alec for six weeks, but already he was hooked. Seeing Alec brightened his day tenfold, and he went there every single day after work, no matter how exhausted he was or how horrible his day was. Alec chased away the darkness that had been lingering for so long. The dark clouds that had been with him since finding his mother swinging in her bedroom were now more of a light gray than the charcoal black.
“Of course I’ll be there. I’d never miss it.” Magnus said hoarsely. Alec beamed at him happily before a gruff voice interrupted their cautious happy bubble.
“There you are Didn’t we tell you to sit here, kid? How hard was it to stay put? This is the third time I’ve been back to get you.” The man had thinning red hair and he spoke abruptly and with a curt undertone to his voice. He had a military cut, and Magnus wouldn’t be surprised if he’d served at some point in his life.
Alec fell apart at seeing this man in front of him. The cautious confidence he got when he was around Magnus disappeared completely. His head immediately bowed and his eyes didn’t leave the floor. HIs shoulders were slumped as he shuffled off the seat.
“I think that’s my fault,” Magnus spoke up, nerves battling with his desire to defend Alec. This man was at least four inches taller than him, and not to mention his very defined muscles.
“Who the hell are you?” The man snapped, his cold blue eyes focusing on him.
“Magnus Bane, I’m Alec’s mentor,” It sounded completely ridiculous to say it as he stood here in only a tee and some jeans looking not nearly old enough to mentor anyone.
“Yeah, you look like the mentoring type,” The man said, looking him over. Despite the same impression running through his own head, Magnus was highly offended that this hillbilly in camouflage thought he was so unfit. At least he knew better than leaving a kid alone in a mall the whole damn day.
“More so than you, his guardian,” Magnus shot back, probably out of his mind getting into an argument with this man. He could easily pound Magnus into the ground, and Alec did not need to see them in some kind of brawl at the mall.
“Screw you buddy,” The man said shortly, obviously not in the mood for a fight either. “Kid, let’s go. We’ve already been waiting on you for an hour now.”
‘I’m sorry,” Alec apologized simply and quietly. The man still shoved Alec in front of him roughly, the little boy nearly falling as he got his feet under him. Magnus seethed with anger as he watched them go. Alec deserved so much more than this. He deserved someone to love him and care about him. He deserved to not be afraid to ask for things, and to be spoiled rotten. He deserved ice cream regularly and laughing often.
He didn’t know how to get Alec the things he deserved, but he’d figure it out one way or another. Alec meant the world to him in a way nobody had since his mother had died.
The weeks went by and the snow started to come in bursts. He still saw Alec more than his friends or anyone else in his life. He started taking Alec out on Saturdays as well and helping him with homework or whatever they wanted to do. The more time he spent with Alec the signs of neglect grew more and more obvious. Alec always took at least an hour to warm up to him every time they met together. He flinched easily at loud noises and he was always unkempt and dirty. His clothes were too big and his hair was always dirty. He wasn’t sleeping well judging by how he didn’t focus easily and how exhausted he looked. Magnus had no idea if that was due to his foster parents, or bad dreams keeping him awake. The more he cared the more furious he got every time he noticed some small thing showing how Alec just wasn’t being taken care of the way a boy should be.
One Saturday in particular made him more upset than usual. Alec had been over his apartment and had been far too tired to do homework so they had put on a movie. Alec wouldn’t cuddle up to Magnus today like he usually did, no matter how inviting Magnus made himself. He stayed in a corner of the couch, his gaze not focused on anything, but rather just staring out the window at the falling snow. Magnus let it go on for a half hour before that had been enough of that and he’d paused the film, the silence startling Alec badly enough to jump and look over at him.
“Alec, darling, what’s going on?” Magnus asked softly as he scooted over to where Alec was curled up all alone. “You’re so tired, and you seem upset. You’ve hardly said a word to me today. You can talk to me Alec. You won’t be in trouble for saying anything, and I won’t tell anyone.”
“Not even the police?” Alec asked softly. The question startled him badly and made a sick feeling start in the pit of his stomach.
“Not even,” Magnus promised, wondering what he was agreeing to. What kind of kid had to keep secrets from the police?
“He was different last night,” Alec said finally in a choked voice. Magnus knew he meant his foster father. He never called him anything other than He. Alec never even used his name, and that said a volume about the relationship there. “It...It was scary. He threw things and yelled at her a lot. They fought for a long, long time and she was crying. H-he hit her some I-I think. He’s never acted like that before, and it was bad.” Alec was crying now, partly from how tired he was and partly from his awful night. Magnus figured he was probably drinking more than likely. His own father acted the same way when he’d had far too much to drink. He was incredibly agitated and occasionally violent.
Magnus pulled the boy onto his lap, hushing Alec softly and cuddling him close. Alec was tense for only a moment before he let his head rest on Magnus’s shoulder as he cried quietly. Magnus knew by now that nobody touched Alec besides him. Alec wasn’t afraid of touch, but he was woefully unused to it. Every single touch seemed foreign to the little boy. “Shh Alec, you’re safe with me. It’s alright now. Your dad just drank a bit too much and got out of hand.” Magnus told him. Alec stiffened again at that and sniffed a few times.
“He isn’t my dad,” Alec said coldly, or as coldly as he could with his nose running and his voice so tiny. “I don’t have a dad. I’m never going to.”
“I’m sorry,” Magnus apologized sincerely for his mistake. He didn’t want to tell Alec just how bad his situation was since it wasn’t like Alec could fix it, but it was all more than a bit alarming. “I”m sorry, darling. I never should have called him that.”
“It’s alright,” Alec said as he settled back against Magnus once more. Magnus was at a loss of what to say so he turned the movie back on, though he kept Alec on his lap instead of letting him go back to being alone. Alec fell asleep quickly once Magnus pulled a blanket over the both of them. HIs breathing was slow and even against Magnus’s neck and though Magnus felt sick at what Alec had told him he held himself together until he took Alec home after some dinner.
After he’d seen that awful man open the door roughly and sneer at Alec Magnus had driven only a short ways before he’d had to pull over to get rid of all that was in his stomach. It made him sick, what Alec had to go through. Things were bad, so very bad. That couple should never have children, but due to a mostly broken system they had a sweet, quiet boy that they could do with as they saw fit. He cried the entire drive home and when he pulled in his driveway to see Ragnor there he wasn’t even annoyed in the slightest for once.
“Mags,” Ragnor said, his original snarky greeting dying on his lips. Magnus was more than sure he looked a complete mess now that he’d been crying for twenty minutes. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“They treat Alec so badly,” Magnus said as a new wave of tears hit. Saying it all out loud might kill him. “I can’t stand it. I can’t take seeing him neglected and so unloved. He’s so alone in that house.”
“Oh Mags,” Ragnor said softly. HIs best friend put an arm around him as Magnus unlocked the door with shaking hands. He wanted Alec back here with him, laughing at that stupid movie they’d put on and being happy. His heart lurched at the empty living room with two blankets bunched on the floor. Ragnor sat him on the couch and Magnus numbly pulled the blanket Alec had been curled up in towards him and held it close.
“Take a drink, okay?” Ragnor poured him a shot of vanilla rum and pushed it towards him. His best friend watched him carefully as he tossed it back, the sting of it stopping his tears at last and calming him down by fair margin. Magnus poured himself another shot, his hands having stopped shaking finally. “Maybe you’re getting too invested in this Magnus, seriously. I think you need to have some space.”
“Space?” Magnus repeated, slightly furious. “How the fuck do you suggest I take space? I am the only good person Alexander has in his entire life right now! He has nobody to rely on and nobody to show him one ounce of love. He needs me more than anyone has ever needed me.”
“You can’t get this invested though,” Ragnor argued. “You didn’t cry this much when your own father went to prison. There’s nothing you can do to help Alec, unless you call child services. But then you’d still be the one getting hurt when Alec goes to a new home, and it might not be in the city.”
“Fuck,” Magnus swore, promptly downing his third shot before pushing the bottle away and taking a few deep breaths. “Ragnor, he’s already become family to me. I can’t just pull away from him. Everyone leaves him, fucking everyone. It’d be like if I didn’t have you or Catarina around me. I’d be so lost and miserable. How do I do that to Alec?”
“I…” Ragnor trailed off, lost for a proper answer. “I just don’t want you hurt by this. You’ve...well fuck man you’ve been through more than your fair share lately. I feel like Cat and I got you into this, only for you to end up hurt yet again.”
“I’m all he’s got,” Magnus said softly. “I”m not leaving him, not now or ever. I don’t care how much it hurts.”
Ragnor hung his head and raised his glass in a silent toast to that statement. They both knew there was nothing else to be done.
Alec hated the rain.
The rain wasn’t like it was in the movies. The rain didn’t make the world quiet and soft. For Alec, the rain made it stuffy and made him feel like he was suffocating. Magnus had dropped him off at home later than usual, but it was never late enough. They had ended up more and more often at Magnus’s house, which Alec loved. The place somehow felt just like Magnus did, safe. Alec had taken a long time to identify the way he felt with Magnus, but safe was definitely it. Magnus seemed sad lately, and he always postponed taking him home as long as he could. Alec had tried to be happier for Magnus’s sake, but it hadn’t helped just yet. Now it was pouring rain and he was sitting on their lumpy couch while They were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. Alec didn’t know their names any longer, since it wasn’t like he was allowed to use them. He mostly only answered yes or no to any given question, even when it got him dirty looks or irritated sighs. He didn’t want to talk to them if he could help it. He did as he was told and kept out of the way.
“Where was he the whole night anyways?” She asked, her voice tired but flat as it always was. Alec knew she asked to have something to talk with Him about, not because she generally cared. Even as little as they spoke to him, Alec knew exactly why he was here. It was hardly an unusual reason. He was their hail mary for their relationship. It was more than obvious that they only thing they could talk about was him, or else it ended up in fighting and worse.
“Off with that fag mentor of his,” He replied, his voice gruff and angry. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t always angry, but Alec felt himself stiffen as Magnus came up. Ever since that day at the mall they’d brought him up a couple of times, and not ever in a good light. “Do you know what he does for a living? He cuts hair, and if that isn’t so fucking fitting for a fairy I don’t know what is.”
“Do you think we got one like that?” She asked. “Y’know, a fag?”
“Fucking probably,” He complained. “It’d be our luck wouldn’t it?”
“Well, we can probably fix it. I mean he’s, what, nine?”
“I want him out of this mentoring shit,” He said firmly. “Especially with a guy like that. I mean, who lets them around children anyways?”
“I can call the school,” She offered meekly. Alec heard the slight fear in her voice and wondered if he’d start yelling at her again. She wasn’t so bad, but she was terrified of doing the wrong thing. Alec was barely breathing as their words washed over him. They wanted to take Magnus from him, the only person who always saw him and paid him his full attention. Magnus made him laugh and made him feel like he mattered because he was Alec and for no other reason. They couldn’t do that. If they did, then all he would have was Him and Her, and they never even looked at him if they could help it. Magnus looked at him, all the time. He looked at him when he talked, and he asked questions. Magnus loved him, even if he never said it, or at least Alec thought so.
He quietly got off the couch and went upstairs. He got out the little brown bag his first foster father had given him when they’d had to send him away. He packed what little he had in it, leaving most of his clothes alone since they were too big and smelled awful. He packed his school things and tugged it down the hallway. He was shaking from head to foot, equally scared of what would happen if he got caught, or if he didn’t. He only knew he couldn’t lose his Magnus, not this time. He wasn’t sure where he’d go once he got out of the house, or if they would look for him. They didn’t seem to care all that much about him, but they liked him around to keep them from killing each other and for the money. Alec had heard about the money he earned his families all his life. It was the reason most of the families took him in to start with, and most of the time it wasn’t enough to keep him.
“What the hell?” He stood in front of Alec, his eyebrows raised in surprise and his tone angry. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“You aren’t taking Magnus away!” Alec shouted at him. His own voice surprised him since he never yelled at anyone. He started to shake harder, knowing he was pushing every button there was. “You can’t take him away!”
“You think you can raise your voice to me, you little brat?” He took Alec’s bag and threw it against the opposite wall of the hallway. “I can promise you that you are never seeing that fag again. He’s going to turn you into one of them, and that’s just not gonna happen under my roof.”
“NO!” Alec screamed louder as tears pricked at his eyes. “No, you aren’t taking him away!”
“I can take away whatever I want to,” He sneered. “Especially from some brat like you. Kid, you better drop your screaming and crying act if you know what’s good for you.”
Alec started to cry loudly, in a way he never had before. He had to hold onto Magnus with all he had, even if he was scared. Magnus was all that made his days better now. Magnus was the best person he’d ever met. “Magnus is mine! All mine! I won’t let you take him!”
“You don’t have a god-damn thing to your name, you fucking runt! You belong to the state of New York, and that’s it. I”m about to give you something to cry about.” Before Alec could dodge out of the way, His strong hand had grabbed his upper arm and shoved him into the wall. Alec flinched at the pain and felt fear grip him with Magnus forgotten for the moment. He struggled against the hand holding him while the other hand was working the belt loose. Alec’s eyes widened as he held the belt up with a not so nice grin.
“I’m gonna teach you what my daddy taught me, the respect only a belt can teach. You’ll learn to hold your tongue tonight, I promise you.”
Alec was shoved against the couch, bent over as his shirt was hiked up to his shoulders. He squirmed and struggled as hard as he could, terrified of what was happening. The first lash of the belt came without warning and stung harshly on his bare skin. The buckle cut into him as it dragged over his skin, causing the tears to come more fiercely. It went on for what felt like forever until She came in and started yelling.
“What the hell are you doing? You know we can’t hurt him or they’ll take him away from us! Have you lost your damn mind?” She stood to the side, not even glancing in Alec’s direction. Alec panted, his whole body aching and his chest not able to get a proper breath.
He quickly lost interest in punishing Alec when he could punish Her instead. Alec sank to the floor, but only for a moment. He knew what this kind of fight menat. It meant they would be sending him back. He wasn’t saving their marriage, so he had to go. He’d seen it happen. If they sent him away he’d be leaving Magnus, and that just wasn’t an option.
Alec took off for the door, slipping out silently undercover of the yelling. He hurt badly all over, but he had to keep going. He would go find Magnus, and the older man would help him. Magnus always helped him when things were bad. He just had to figure out where the older man lived, since he was always busy talking when they were driving. The rain soaked him quickly as he was forced to slow to a walk, making him shiver uncontrollably. He was alone in this big city and he’d never been so scared. He’d never run away before, though some of the older kids had told him it was one of the only ways out of the system, this or dying. He had no idea if the police would come after him. If they did he’d be in the system again and off to another home.
It took him so much longer to walk to Magnus’s apartment than it took to drive, and it didn’t help that he took several wrong turns on the way here. He stood in front of Magnus’s door, suddenly too afraid to knock. What if Magnus didn’t want him here this late? What would he say now that Alec had left Them? Would he turn Alec over to the police?
It was the thought of the blue, soft, and fuzzy blanket Magnus had bought just for him that laid inside this door that finally made him knock.
He knocked as loudly as he could, though the place was dark. Magnus had to be home, he just had to be. He started sobbing before long when Magnus still didn’t answer the door. It was so cold and he didn’t have the energy to walk all the way back, not to mention he was more than slightly afraid of what he would find if he did go back.
He didn’t notice a light turn on until the door opened and Magnus was in front of him. He stood in just a pair of pants and like he’d been sleeping. Alec had no idea what time it was, but it must be pretty late. He wanted to throw himself in Magnus’s arms, but instinct held him back. He could never let himself trust that easily. Plus he generally hurt too much to move right now.
“Alec?” Magnus said once, looking at him for a moment before he sprang into action. He knelt in front of Alec the way he always did to make Alec feel better. “Oh Alec, how did you get here? Why are you so wet?”
“I-I walked,” Alec got out between his chattering teeth and his tears. “I left them. He hurt me and I left. They want to take you away from me.”
“Okay Alec,” Magnus said soothingly. He picked him up, probably sensing Alec wasn’t able to move very much anymore. Alec would never get used to being picked up, not having it done since he was very small. He found himself clinging to Magnus tightly, trying to stop crying the best he could. He wasn’t much for crying, until tonight it seemed. It only made all the adults so angry and it never got him comforted anyways. Nobody wanted him around when he cried, again until Magnus came around that is.
“Shh, Alec honey,” Magnus said as he set Alec on his lap while he sat on the couch. “Take some deep breaths, okay? You need to calm down so you can talk to me. It’s okay now.” Magnus started to rub his back, but soon he hit one of the marks that belt buckle had made and it made him cry out and flinch away violently.
“Ow,” Alec whimpered, the tears had stopped but the shaking hadn’t.
“Ow?” Magnus questioned, turning Alec gently so he could see. He lifted up the soaking went shirt, making the cuts hurt more as the shirt was peeled away from them. Magnus hissed in sympathy as he saw his back. Alec ducked his head down, completely ashamed it had happened. He didn’t know what Magnus was thinking, and he was so afraid to ask.
“Are you upset I came here?” Alec asked with a lump in his throat. “I-I’m sorry I did.”
“I’m not upset even a little,” Magnus told him with a kiss to his head. “I’m going to get you a new shirt to wear, okay?”
“Okay,” Alec sat in silence as Magnus went upstairs. He made himself relax a little, knowing somehow that he was truly okay now. Magnus would not make him go back there, at least not tonight.
Magnus took a moment to breathe as he looked into his closet for something to give Alec to wear. He pulled on a shirt as well, his mind whirring unpleasantly with a million thoughts. Alec had come here in the rain, all the way across Brooklyn. He was shivering and miserable and scared. Was he supposed to just send him back home again? Was that the protocol here? Could he just let Alec stay? Would those assholes even care if Alec didn’t come back? The answer was probably not, but surely the state of New York would? But he didn’t want to call child services because he’d lose this boy forever.
That couldn’t happen for either of them.
He pulled down a gray sweater and got a pair of boxers from the drawer that would be more like basketball shorts on Alec. He also grabbed his first aid kit from his bathroom since the cuts on his back looked painful and they were bleeding. He was halfway down the stairs when he realized Alec would probably get sick without a hot shower first. He set the things he’d gathered in the bathroom and went to go fetch Alec instead.
He sat curled up on the couch where he’d left him. He was still shivering a bit, but at least his tears had stopped. He had come here because they wanted to have him stop seeing Magnus. Alec had ran away over the thought of not seeing him again. Was that bad? Should he cut this relationship off and have Alec go back?
Magnus caught a glimpse of his back again and decided that answer was definitely not. This wasn’t abuse, and Magnus knew that. He also knew that Alec had been neglected for months now and that he couldn’t see that continue either. Alec wanted to be here and Magnus wanted him here. He wouldn’t send him back, and if that proved bad then he’d take the consequences when they came. He had two bedrooms, and Alec was nine already so how hard could it all be? He may not be an ideal guardian, but he’d do better than those idiots. He could make sure Alec was happy and that he was clean and that he got his homework done.
“Alright,” Magnus said and Alec jumped slightly, not realizing he was in the room. “We need to get you in a warm shower first, okay?”
“Can I have a bath?” Alec asked shyly. He didn’t look at Magnus as he said it and his bottom lip quivered slightly. He looked as if he regretted asking the moment he had.
“I have one of those too,” Magnus agreed with a smile. Alec finally looked at him and his blue eyes were scared, but he let a smile linger on his lips. Magnus moved to sit next to him again and took a deep breath.
“I will go talk to the idiots you live with tomorrow and tell them you’re going to be staying with me. They can keep their child support money, and you can stay with me. That might work for awhile. I can’t promise you that the state won’t ever come looking for you, but for now you can stay with me. We’ll make this work as long as we can.”
“I can stay with you?” Alec looked like Christmas had come early as his face lit up. “Really?”
“How many visits from the state do you have left?” Magnus asked him. He’d done a bit of research on foster care and knew for a certain amount of time the state did come check on the kids until they were settled.
“None,” Alec shook his head. “They’ve already come three times, and that means they don’t check anymore until the parents call them. I-if they agree to let me live here it wouldn’t be a big deal.” Alec suddenly deflated and tears glistened in his eyes again. “But they hate you. They don’t want you around me. They wanted to stop me from seeing you anymore. They’ll never let me be happy with you.”
“Hush,” Magnus said softly as he brought a hand up to wipe the tears away. “Darling, I’m going to try my very best. I promise you. They honestly only want the money from the state more than likely. I”ll gladly let them keep receiving the checks. We’ll get this worked out, okay sweet pea?”
The latest pet name made Alec’s cheeks pink, but he smiled as well. “Are you sure you want me?”
“That was never even a question,” Magnus told him honestly. He pulled Alec to him in a hug and held him tightly. “You aren’t alone Alexander, not anymore. Now, it’s time for a bath and bed for you.”
Alec nodded in agreement and let himself be carried upstairs to the bathroom. Magnus was going to leave him to do his own thing, but as soon as he put a hand on the door and glanced over his shoulder he realized that wasn’t an option. He saw Alec’s hands shake and his eyes dart around, obviously afraid to touch anything. Alec had been through enough tonight, and so Magnus would help him bathe and tuck him into his bed. This would be his start into parenting, or whatever he wanted to call it. He had no clue what he was getting into, but he knew he had to step up to the plate. He was Alec’s shot at happiness, and he couldn’t let that go.