Blue was everything Alec saw. Around him, there was only sky and clouds. It was a beautiful day, warm and clear. Flying high above any mundane concerns, the world seemed like a different reality. Up in the sky, the imminent war against the Seelies didn’t matter. President Malachi’s weak position wasn’t an issue to worry about. The Circle wasn’t hovering over them, to the delight of Alec’s parents.
Alec hated the election season. He had since he was a kid, when he’d have to watch his mother become almost unrecognizable in her support to the Circle Party. Maryse Lightwood was a judge at the Supreme Court now but, before, she was still building up her career. Election season was when she thrived. By marrying Robert Lightwood, Maryse had made all connections she needed.
The most lucrative of those connections had been the former President, Valentine Morgenstern. During his eight years in power, Maryse had risen like a shooting star. Alec’s mother was ambitious and highly capable. She had endured her husband’s indiscretions for years, all for the sake of her career.
The former President had been there for her along all the way. Alec remembered walking into the kitchen and seeing his mother and Valentine sharing a cup of coffee. His wife, Jocelyn, was also a frequent visitor. Alec never liked them but they liked him.
Or rather, Jocelyn did. Especially because Alec, Jace, and Isabelle rescued their daughter Clary when the Seelies kidnapped her. They had been mere Sergeants, barely out of the Academy. Eager for action, to be able to serve their country. But they didn’t know it would come at the risk of their friend’s life.
Jace and Clary were dating already when she was taken. Alec remembered that night well. It was calm and quiet, a night like any other. Alec, Isabelle, and Jace had seen Clary for dinner, as they so often did back then. None of them was old enough to be drinking, but they did it anyway. Alec remembered being tipsy when they got the news.
Clary was taken from her own room just a few hours after their dinner. The entire Shadowhunter Forces had been activated. Jace was frantic, too restless to just sit and wait. The three of them snuck out of the house and Alec drove them to the basis. They were on their warplanes as soon as the first clue to Clary’s location was transmitted through the communicator.
It had been the Seelies. Alec remembered the shape of the elegant warplane that shot against them as they approached. He and Izzy held the attack while Jace maneuvered to the ground. With his siblings covering him, Jace had snatched Clary out of the Seelies’ fingers. They were back to base before the sun was up.
Back then, it seemed right that Valentine was re-elected just months after that. The Seelie President, Madam Quinn, denied the kidnapping attempt but Alec knew what he saw. Alongside his siblings, Alec had given many statements about what had happened that night. They had been clamored by the nation as heroes, the faces of what the Shadowhunter Forces should be.
Nobody cared that they had broken protocol and gone against orders. Since then, the Light Squad was untouchable. Their rise to the high ranks of the air force was spectacular. Jace became the youngest Captain in the history of the military. Isabelle was widely regarded as the best pilot in the force. At 27, Alec was a Major, commanding his own forces, participating in meetings regarding the future of the nation.
Looking back, Alec regretted not realizing how he had been used. Valentine’s foreign maneuvers weren’t only against the Seelies. He had something against all the Downworlders, even those who lived in Alicante. Every time a new discriminating policy was instated, one of the components of the Light Squad was promoted. The official engagement party between Jace and Clary was celebrated as if they had married already. Isabelle’s scandalous affair with a Seelie diplomat was news for three months.
Meanwhile, immigration borders were almost shut close. Families were torn apart as illegal immigrants parents were forced to leave their Alicante-born children. Their right to vote was questioned and severely limited. Even the Downworlders that had lived in Alicante for decades were so persecuted by the police they were forced to move to the poorer neighborhoods of the main cities. There, the lack of cops on the streets offered more safety than a battalion in every corner.
When Valentine’s second mandate was over, a part of the population had been so ostracized, even the Nephilim saw their struggle. Malachi Dieudonné, from the central-right Party of the Clave, was elected instead of the Circle candidate.
His four years in power were a great conquest for the Downworlders. They were able to form their own Party and claim back some of their rights. The Praetus Lupus was organized, even if not officially recognized by the Government as part of the country’s security system. President Malachi wasn’t a Downworlder sympathizer but he knew better than to openly oppose them. He recognized a few important names, even awarding Lieutenant Luke Garroway with a valor medal for his services to the country.
But now, the election was coming again and Valentine was done waiting. Three consecutive mandates were not allowed, but Valentine had been out of the office for four years. He had announced his candidacy a couple of days ago. Just when… Just a day after…
Alec gritted his teeth. In the blue sky, he didn’t have to think about it. There, it was only Hawk Blue and him, hovering above everything and everyone else. No tragedies, no losses. He was free there, to come and go as he would like.
If not for the red light blinking in his panel. Alec sighed and turned on his communicator.
“Iron Sister to Hawk Blue,” Isabelle’s voice poured from his headphones. “Alec, what’s your status?”
“I’m here. Sorry, I had the mic turned off for a second.” Alec inhaled sharply. “I just needed a minute.”
At his right side, Alec could see his sister’s warplane approaching. She had the quickest of their planes and also the lightest. Iron Sister was a devilish machine, armed with every crack. It was also the most elegant of the planes from the Light Squad.
Still, Alec loved his Hawk Blue. She was not very big, but deadly and silent like a ghost. Alec could infiltrate enemy lines and shoot them from a long distance, before anyone even knew he was there. For a while, the airplane had been rumored to be just imaginary. Alec had proved the rumors wrong, though. Both his plane and he were real, very real.
Isabelle leveled up their planes and Alec could distinguish her waving at him. “I know,” Isabelle said into his ears. “But he needs you now. We’ll leave for the funeral in two hours.”
Alec pushed his lips together. “Roger that. I’m coming down.”
Breathing hard again, Alec maneuvered Hawk Blue down. It was time to go back to the ground and face the problems waiting. General Imogen Herondale was dead. Jace had to grief for yet another family member, the only one left to him. Alec had given him the space he’d asked for, but both of them knew Jace needed more than that.
Only, they differed on what. Alec thought Jace needed a shoulder to cry on. Jace thought he needed revenge.
General Imogen had been killed in a Seelie attack. After eight years of relative peace, they had stricken again. The people claimed for retribution but none as loud as Valentine. His entire campaign was to break out the war General Herondale had refused to fight. And, every day, more and more people agreed with that.
A Seelie attack had granted Valentine the Presidency. Eight years later, history was about to repeat itself. But, where Alec and his siblings had been able to prevent death before, now they had failed.
They would not fail again.
Magnus met Maia Roberts at the ballroom’s door. The journalist looked beautiful with her bushy hair styled in a mohawk and that low cut blouse showing off her back. Maia had dressed to impress, as she should to crash the birthday party of a national hero.
“Senator Bane,” Maia said with a courteous nod. They had been communicating for two weeks now, ever since General Imogen’s death. However, that was the first time they met in person so Magnus figured the politeness was called for.
He smiled gently. “Call me Magnus, my dear. Ready to infiltrate enemy lines?” Magnus offered his arm to her.
Maia snorted and accepted it. She was younger than Magnus had expected but he ought to have seen it coming. The new generation of Downworlders had spent their college years under Malachi’s brander regime. They had more to lose if Valentine rose to power once more as they had been given more as well. People like Maia would fight to keep their rights, even to expand them.
Ragnor had warned him the time for passiveness was gone. When the Downworlder Party was formed, almost four years ago, Magnus hadn’t put his faith in it. That idealistic fool of a tutor had told him that it was no turning back to the darkness of the Circle rule.
But Magnus hadn’t listened to Ragnor. Instead, he did what he could to expand the Downworlders’ rights from within the Senate, building up a brighter future for the coming generations. There weren't many Downworlders in the Government seats, but Magnus did what he could to help.
Senator Camille Belcourt was an asset when dealing with Nephilims, as she was as treacherous as she was charming. Luke Garroway quickly became a reference in the military and he had Senator Alaric to represent him in sessions. Together, they had made a powerful front to ensure Downworlder rights in an otherwise Nephilim-infested House. President Malachi might be sympathetic, but he was no supporter. If it wasn’t for them pushing their agenda forward, none of the achievements would’ve been made.
But now, with the imminent election coming and Valentine on the run for the presidency, things could change. As the new General, Luke had been able to stroll the war as investigations continued. Valentine had appointed the Seelies as the spearheads of the assassination and the Seelie Diplomat Meliorn was still in jail as the main suspect. Still, no conclusive proof had been found.
Because it wasn’t the Seelies that killed Imogen Herondale. It was the Circle.
Or so Maia thought. She also claimed to have Meliorn’s alibi. Magnus hadn’t been surprised by the allegation at first but he was happy she had dug deeply enough to back up her word. Knowing Valentine’s trajectory to the presidency, faking an assassination attempt was right up his alley. He had murdered before, through mysterious accidents or poisons. Up until that day, nobody could quite tell what had happened to the engine in the aircraft carrying both Stephen and Céline Herondale.
Both had been prominent members of the Circle, Valentine’s Party. But while Valentine had founded it, Stephen was far more popular. Even some Downworlders liked him, with his easy smile and noble last name. Céline was also adored, the people’s golden-haired heroine. When their plane burst off in flames, the country wept. The Nephilim people lost their beloved idols and the Downworlders, any hopes of protection.
The beautiful couple left behind a toddler son. Little Jace was raised by his grandmother, Imogen Herondale. The boy had become a man, just as popular as the father once was. If Magnus could convince Jace that his grandmother was murdered by Valentine’s people, things would change.
The Circle was dangerously close to starting a war against the Seelies. If Valentine got elected, it would be the end. But Jace… Jace could convince the people that weren’t already Circle voters to stop the madness.
“This party is…” Maia searched for the word as they walked into the saloon. It was Major Alec Lightwood’s twenty-eighth birthday celebration. Everyone that mattered was there, so they kept walking as Magnus nodded to a few people on their way. “... boring,” Maia finished her sentence.
It really was. The celebration was supposed to be a casual cocktail, which translated by standing on one’s feet and pretending not to be talking about business while eating tasteless food. It was fitting for someone from Alec’s status, both in the military and social circle. The Lightwoods was a dignified, stiff family that had funded the Circle since its conception.
From the three components of the Light Squad, Alec was certainly the least known. Jace was their golden boy, the star pilot in the Shadowhunter Air Force. Isabelle Lightwood was the rebel child, the troublemaker. As smart as she was beautiful, Isabelle could finish an entire battalion without giving the helmet time to mess up her pretty hair.
But Alec… Little was known about him other than his perfect shooting score. He had more flying hours than the other two together, which meant he spent the most time practicing. In any other company, Alec would be brilliant but Magnus couldn’t help but notice that he was overshone by Jace and Isabelle’s raw talent. However, Alec was a Major when they were just Captains. There had to be a reason why he was kept in the dark.
Though tonight wasn’t the time to find out. Magnus was attending the dullest party of the year with a clear goal. “It’s a Shadowhunter party, darling. Did you expect it to be fun?”
Maia nodded to that. “You have a point. Let’s get this over with. I feel like everyone is staring at us.”
“As they should. We look smoking.” Magnus looked around, unbothered. He had three long years of practice being stared at by Nephilim elite. At this point, it was almost a personal accomplishment to outrage them by simply existing. “There. Target located.”
That made Maia scoff. “You’re really digging the whole secret mission lingo, aren’t you?”
Magnus smiled at her. “My dear Maia, you have to enjoy the small things in life. It is not everyday we get to play spy, is it?” He turned to where the Light Squad themselves were standing, away from all the big names in the room. “But now the game is over. It’s time for business.”
With that, Magnus crossed the distance between them. As it was a casual affair, the three Shadowhunters were wearing casual clothes. Isabelle’s dress hugged her in all the right places, leaving little to the imagination. Her hair was done in a high ponytail that framed her gorgeous face perfectly. Magnus was impressed with her sense of style. At her side, Jace had opted for a boring black jacket over a white shirt. He was handsome enough to pull it off but still too basic for Magnus’ taste.
But it was the birthday boy that drew Magnus’ attention. Alec Lightwood was taller than the other two by almost a whole head. He was even taller than Magnus and that was a feat in itself. Alec was wearing a nice purple dress shirt with a white diamond pattern, paired up with long black pants. And damn it, the man was gorgeous.
“Well, happy birthday,” Magnus said with a smile, interrupting their conversation, “Major Lightwood.”
Alec licked his lips as he moved his eyes from his sister to Magnus. “Thank you, Senator Bane. Your presence here is a, hm… surprise.”
“I’m sure you meant it as a compliment.” Magnus smiled at the other two. “Captain Lightwood, you look splendid.”
“So do you, Senator,” Isabelle replied with a polite smile and then turned to Maia. “I don’t believe I know you. That is odd, since I know everybody that was invited to my brother’s birthday party. Are you from the Downworlder Party too?”
Maia held her gaze with a dignified smile. “Journalist, actually. My name is Maia Roberts.”
“Oh,” Isabelle said, not sounding surprised at all.
“This is a private event,” Jace said, his voice edging over hostility. It was unsurprising, considering his life has been hell since his grandmother’s passing. Everyone wanted a word from the last Herondale in the country. “No press allowed.”
“I’m not working right now,” Maia shot back. There it was, the passionate investigative reporter that had flooded Raphael’s inbox with emails until the secretary brought the matter to Magnus’ attention. Maia didn’t do anything half-assed. “Although I do have some news you might be interested in. They are about the late General. Specifically, about who really murdered her.”
Magnus pushed his lips together. That was not how he’d have approached the matter. Jace’s bicolored eyes widened and he pressed his lips into a thin line. There was something dangerous about him, similar to the glare of a caged animal. Beside him, the Lightwoods froze in place. They both watched Maia, waiting for a reason to attack. It was fascinating.
And counterproductive. Magnus sighed heavily. “Captain Herondale,” he said, trying to defuse that ticking bomb of a moment, “Miss Roberts here has substantial proof that the Seelies weren’t behind your grandmother’s assassination. If you would give us just a moment of your time, I’m sure we could prove to you that the real killers were the Cir-”
“What is going on here?” a voice said from behind them and Magnus turned to see Clary Morgenstern standing there. She was a wisp of a woman But, with her mother’s beauty and her father’s charisma, it was hard not to take her seriously. “Jace, are you okay?”
Oh, yes. They were engaged, weren’t they? Magnus had forgotten about that. Maybe going to the Golden Boy to accuse his future father-in-law of murdering his grandmother hadn’t been the best strategy. Should he change his target to pretty Isabelle instead? Meliorn was her former boyfriend, surely she was sympathetic.
“Maia?” The man next to Clary frowned. He had a boyish face, very kind too. Magnus was surprised to notice he too was a Downworlder.
Clary frowned, looking back at him. “Do you know her, Simon?”
“Yeah, from college. Maia and I were in the same class. She runs this amazing independent investigative blog, the Hunter’s Moon. What a coincidence!” Simon smiled brightly at Maia. “Are you here with Senator Magnus? I thought he was dating that actress, Dot Rollins. Well, congratulations.” He blinked. “Unless you’re here for work. Although, there shouldn’t be any journalists here. Alec hates journalists and he didn’t even want a party in the first place. Anyway, what are you doing here?”
Before Maia could answer - and she seemed surprisingly able to, which was more than Magnus could say for himself -, Jace spoke up. “She’s leaving.” He looked at Maia with cold eyes. “And since you’re Simon’s friend, here’s a statement. The Seelies will pay for what they did to my family. When President Valentine is back to office, I’ll be the first one in the air.”
Jace turned to his fiancé after that and dragged Clary away. Simon blinked, looking uncomfortable before following them. There was rage on Maia’s face as she watched them go but then Isabelle stepped forward.
“You two should leave,” she said, in a much calmer voice. There was something else too, a hint of melancholy. “This is not the night for this kind of talk.” Isabelle threw a glance to her brother and then she too walked away.
Magnus was disheartened. In less than four minutes, he had lost all his chances of getting the Light Squad on his side. There weren’t enough Downworlders to vote out Valentine. They needed a figurehead to convince the brander Nephilim that war was not the way. A national hero that would speak against the imminent war, someone that would stand against it just as Imogen Herondale once did.
But the chance was gone. Jace wanted the fight, he wanted revenge. Isabelle was too defeated to even listen. They were Shadowhunters, they were raised to be soldiers. And soldiers fought wars.
“The Circle,” Alec said in a smooth voice. He was looking at Maia, his expression dead serious. “That is what you were going to say. You think the Circle was behind the General’s murder.”
Feeling his heart skip a beat for a second, Magnus tried to keep his cool. Maybe the chance wasn’t gone after all.
“I can prove it,” Maia said.
Quietly, Alec looked from her to Magnus. He seemed to be evaluating something. For a second, Magnus wondered if Alec was playing a trick on them. Two Downworlders coming to accuse their most prominent adversary of assassinating the Shadowhunter General. Hardly something a Lightwood would endorse.
Narrowing his eyes, Alec turned around. “Good,” he said, “because you have fifteen minutes to convince me before I throw you off my birthday party. Come with me.”
As he guided the Senator and the journalist to a back room, Alec tried to recall everything he knew about Magnus Bane. Politics wasn’t his forté, especially remembering specifics of it. Alec always preferred to stay at bay and focus on his duty. He’d vote for whoever his parents did and that was it. It had been since he was sixteen.
But everyone that owned a TV knew who Senator Magnus Bane was. He was the biggest name in the Downworlder Party, the most popular and influential one too. Alec had lost count of how many times his mother had complained about a new law Magnus had made Congress approve or how one of Magnus’ discourses had inflamed the media against the decisions of the Supreme Court. The Senator was a nuisance for the Circle Party and everyone that benefitted from it.
He was also a hero for the Downworlders. One of the few that made a difference. Senator Belcourt was unreasonably devious while everyone knew Senator Alaric was just there to voice General Luke’s opinions. Magnus was the real deal, a born politician. He had endured political and personal attacks about his morality for simply dressing the way he did, for his sexual orientation, for coming from a Muslim family. The Circle had thrown at him everything they got and Magnus had been nothing if not gracious in his responses.
Besides that one time, he kissed another male Senator in session, but Alec had thought his mother’s assertion that it was inappropriate a bit too harsh. It certainly drove the point, even if it was very scandalous.
Still, Magnus wouldn’t have brought that journalist if he didn’t believe her. It was too low of a blow for him otherwise. Alec always felt he had to be twice as good in the military to be taken seriously, being who he was. With people like Magnus, that social demand was four times higher. He had to be absolutely perfect only to be heard when Magnus’ job basically consisted of talking.
If nothing else, he wouldn’t have to go to great lengths to be heard now. Magnus’ track record was more than good enough for Alec to listen to him if he wanted to say something.
“All right.” Alec closed the door behind them. He had taken them to the pantry near the security room, so no one would overhear them. Aside from the coffee table and a few chairs, there was only a laptop there that Alec unplugged. “Talk.”
Magnus and Maia exchanged a look. The senator stepped forward and pointed to one of the chairs. “You might want to sit, Major.”
Alec shook his head. “I’m fine on my feet. It’s just fifteen minutes.”
“Fair enough,” Magnus conceded. “That’s all we’ll need. Besides, the soldier pose is kind of hot.” He smirked when Alec blinked, realizing he had been standing in position.
Overcoming an irrational embarrassment, Alec didn’t move. Magnus apparently took that as an invitation to continue speaking. “We believe General Imogen Herondale was murdered by an agent of the Circle. It makes sense; Valentine won his re-election when his daughter almost suffered the same fate. You may recall that better than any of us.”
“Agreed. I also recall that it was the Seelies who kidnapped Clary,” Alec said, keeping his voice calm. “Just because it’s convenient for Valentine doesn’t mean he faked an attack to a prominent Nephilim family.”
Maia shook her head. “The Seelies deny killing Imogen. Her death only benefits the Circle. Valentine wanted war since 2008 and Imogen Herondale was the one standing in the way of that. With the General gone, he doesn’t even need to be president. Sheer public pressure will be enough.”
“Not with Luke Garroway as General.” Alec shook his head. “He’ll continue Herondale’s refusal to start a war. He’s already doing that.”
General Luke was the only thing keeping the war from start, even in Malachi’s mandate. He was conducting a thorough investigation of the case, examining everything. It was a waste of time but if it delayed the war, it was worth it in Alec’s opinion.
Magnus sighed, sounding impatient. “Luke is a Downworlder, even if just by half of his parentage. Just like the Seelies, we all share ancestries. How long until his loyalty to this country is questioned? Herondale could afford to take a stand against him without having her motives questioned. Nobody openly accused her of opposing Valentine because he murdered her son and we all know it’s true.”
Alec gritted his teeth. That again. The Downworlders loved to toss around that old tale. Clary had confronted her father about it once. She told them Valentine had cried and lamented the loss of his friend. Alec didn’t particularly liked the man but he doubted he could be so cruel as to fake that. “Valentine wants this war because the Seelies attacked his family. They continue to attack us and with treacherous means.”
“The Seelies deny the attack.” Maia shook her head. “And the Seelies don’t lie. It’s in their cult-”
“But they do,” Alec interrupted her. It was a mistake to have given them his time. Both Magnus and Maia kept repeating the same old stories all Downworlders did. Over the years, the accusations had turned into platitudes to throw off in internet feuds. “They also said it wasn’t them who kidnapped Clary but it was. I was there, I saw the Seelie airships. Jace fought off their soldiers. Clary saw glimpses of her capturers. The Seelies lied before. They could be lying again.”
Magnus cocked his head to the side. He was an elegant man, tall and strong in his fancy shirt. It was intimidating to be in his presence but it was also exciting. That was, when he wasn’t repeating urban tales.
“Could be,” Magnus said calmly. “But they are not.” He took a step forward and sat down in a gracious move. “You say Valentine wants revenge for his family. I say he wants something else. He wants this war so it will kill as many Downworlders as possible. Both citizens and foreign.”
When Alec frowned, too perplexed to dignify that with an answer, Magnus kept going. “While Valentine inflates the nation, the Circle Senators are pushing a new law. Mandatory enlistment. The Nephilim children already have a history of serving the Shadowhunter Forces but not the Downworlders.”
Magnus moved his hands as he spoke, in a way it was hard to look away. “I am no military strategist, Major Lightwood. But tell me if this seems like a likely scenario to you. If that law is approved and war starts, thousands of young Downworlders will be sent to fight it. Untrained and defenseless. They’ll be the first ones to arrive in Seelie territory and the first ones to die there, preferably taking the Seelie army with them. Only then Valentine would send his Shadowhunters, with his son Jonathan flying the highest above them.”
Alec pushed his lips together, trying to think. That was something that could happen, especially if Magnus was telling the truth about this new law. Foot soldiers were always the youngest of the recruits, the least trained and the first to die. The Nephilim had fewer kids every day while the Downworlder population only grew. That meant the lowest troops would be made mostly of Downworlder youths. In times of war, there wouldn’t be time to properly train them. They’d be slaughtered.
Even if Valentine wanted revenge, even if his goal wasn’t so obscure, a generation of Downworlders would be lost to fight his war for him. And there was something in the way Magnus had said that. The Circle had a good grasp of the Shadowhunter Forces. Through it, Valentine had always made sure his son Jonathan had an advantage when entering the battlefield. They had fight in some minor conflicts over the years but Alec didn’t ever remember seeing Jonathan fly head on to danger. There was always a plan, a distraction so he could catch their enemies behind their backs.
Shaking his head, Alec pushed away those thoughts. He looked at Maia. “You said you had proof.”
The girl nodded. At some point during Magnus’ little speech, her anger had left her. Maia now seemed focused, determination burning in her eyes as she fished a flash drive from her cleavage and plugged it into the laptop.
“I have the number of the law project the Senator mentioned here too. And the entire file, if you want to take a look at it afterward,” Maia said, quickly going through the files. There were a lot of them. “But first, the Seelie diplomat. I have his alibi.”
Alec frowned and walked to her. Maia double-clicked a file and a video began playing. It was the view of a street camera, turned to a dump of a door squeezed between two old buildings. The hour was two in the morning, around the same time Jace had heard something coming from his grandmother’s master bedroom. The gashes in her throat were made by a Seelie knife and the forensic team had found Meliorn’s digitals on her skin. He had been in her mansion earlier for a meeting to discuss a military exercise in a common ocean.
The official theory was that Meliorn had pretended to leave the mansion, waited for the staff to go home, and killed her in her sleep. But that couldn’t be. Meliorn couldn’t have been hiding in the Herondale mansion if he was in that shady street, knocking on that murky door as the camera fee shown.
“He stays there until the morning. That’s a crack house, known for selling Seelie drugs,” Maia said. “Someone in Meliorn’s position can’t exactly come clean about what he was doing there that night, whatever that is, so that’s probably why he isn’t talking. Or maybe he is and the investigators are keeping quiet about it. All I know is that the police station that had this video had a shortcut the next night. All video files were lost.”
“So how did you come by it?” Alec asked, watching Meliorn disappear through the door.
“It came to her, actually,” Magnus said from his seat. He hadn’t moved to watch the video with them. “That lovely place is in a Downworlder neighborhood. Everyone there knows Meliorn is a frequent visitor and not only because of his continuous financing of the parks of the region. When he was arrested, people were very surprised. But mostly, everyone was very upset. Meliorn has been helping a lot of kids in that region, Major Lightwood.”
“I have a friend in the area precinct,” Maia explained. “Gretel checked the cameras because she knew Meliorn had gone there the night before. She saved the video in a flash drive before everything was erased.”
Alec looked between them. Maia looked anxious, as if she was waiting for something bad to happen. Magnus, on the other hand, looked so calm they could’ve been talking about the weather judging by his expression.
“We have to take this to General Luke.” Alec looked back at Maia.
Magnus’ gracious smile grew wider. “We?”
“I’m not saying I believe you,” Alec said immediately, realizing only too late that he might have sounded a little too defensive. “This doesn’t prove that the Circle is behind the assassination. But it does prove that Meliorn is innocent. Let’s go now.”
The senator and the journalist exchanged a look and Magnus gestured to the door. Alec had never paid attention to how graceful his movements were before. “Darling, we can’t just leave. You’re the guest of honor. This is-”
“My party, yes,” Alec agreed. “So I get to leave whenever I want to. Come on.”
Ignoring how Magnus and Maia exchanged another look, Alec grabbed the laptop and stormed out of the room. It didn’t matter if the rest of Magnus and Maia’s accusation were true or not. This was. Alec was no judge to decide on the rest, not like his mother. But he had sworn to protect and that was what he was going to do. Meliorn was innocent and that was all that matters at the moment.
Meliorn was released from custody three days later. As Imogen Herondale had been military, the investigation was being conducted by the Shadowhunters. General Luke, then, had taken it upon himself to communicate the turn of events. Among the other personal that accompanied the pronouncement, Major Alec stood up high as Captain Isabelle fought back tears and smiles.
Magnus watched it from the comfort of his penthouse, sipping on hot tea. The Lightwoods were certainly an interesting bunch. Isabelle was known for hardly settling down and, yet, there she was, hugging Meliorn on national television as he was set free.
And Alec... Magnus had been nothing short of impressed. Together with Maia, they had followed the pilot to his car and then driven to Luke’s apartment downtown. Alec had asked Maia more questions about what the Downworlders knew of the assassination and he’d seemed to believe her when the journalist had said all they knew that it hadn’t been one of the Downworlders.
Once they’d arrived at the General’s home, Alec had been very professional. He’d introduced Maia to Luke and let her explain her discoveries. Luke had been quiet aside from wishing Alec a polite happy birthday and offering Magnus and Maia something to drink. Once he’d seen all the proof, he’d promised to take care of things.
Which brought them full circle to the official release of Meliorn. The investigations would continue and Maia’s name had been kept a secret as per her wish. Maia had promised Magnus she’d find proof that the Circle was behind the attack. That would be easier to do if Valentine and his goons weren’t after her.
The camera focused on Isabelle’s face and then on a shot of both her and her brother. Alec had been staring at Luke and his expression was hard to read. In fact, Magnus had a hard time understanding the man at all. Alec had made it abundantly clear that he didn’t believe in the accusations about the Circle. Still, it seemed the only thing stopping him was lack of hard evidence.
Magnus sighed and took another sip. He needed the Lightwoods to get on board and convince the Nephilims to vote against Valentine. Alec was his best bet. Magnus had to find a way to convince him all the way, so the pilot could throw his support to… To…
Sighing, Magnus stared at nothing. He could hear Ragnor’s voice in his head. “What is it worth to do all this if there isn’t a figure the masses can truly rally behind?”
It was true. The elections were coming but the Downworlder Party hadn’t decided on a candidate yet. It would be the very first Downworlder to run for an executive office. And not only any executive office. The President of Alicante.
Alaric was certainly not going to do it and Camille didn’t seem interested in actually having to be the government. She much preferred the role of opposition, where she could criticize everything and live her life under less scrutiny. The other components of the Party weren’t nearly as known, which only left one true option.
“That wasn’t a rhetorical question,” Ragnor’s voice sounded again. And definitely not as a memory in Magnus’ head.
He jumped from his seat. Ragnor stood at the door, looking less than impressed with his welcome.
“What are you doing here?” Magnus asked, putting down his cup of tea. Ragnor wasn’t supposed to show up for two hours. Magnus was still in his silk robe, face undone and sincerely missing a shower.
Ragnor sighed and walked in, dropping his old bones on the couch. “Raphael was kind enough to give me a ride.”
As if summoned by his name, Magnus’ secretary walked in. Raphael didn’t even dignify Magnus with a look before walking into the kitchen to grab a bite, that traitorous bastard.
Magnus didn’t have time to protest. Raphael wasn’t the only one walking into the house. Behind him, Catarina came too. And after her, little Madzie. Magnus’s indignation immediately turned to delight when the girl yelped and rushed to his arms. “Uncle Magnus!”
“Sweet-pea!” Magnus chuckled and lifted her from the air, spinning on his heels. “Oh, I’ve missed you!”
Madzie chuckled in his arms as he put him down. “Where are the cookies?”
Magnus chuckled and immediately pointed at Raphael but Catarina rolled her eyes. “Don’t get too comfortable, kiddo.” Madzie hopped by her, completely ignoring her mother’s warning. It wasn’t an uncommon scene but it never failed to make Magnus smile.
“It is good to see you, my dearest,” Magnus said to Catarina as they all went back to the couch. At the kitchen, Raphael treated Madzie to the cookie jar. Magnus always had her favorite flavors in handy. “Although I have to say impromptu visits rarely happen for casual reasons with the two of you.”
Ragnor just shrugged. Magnus had no welcoming words for him. “We were meeting anyway. What is an hour or two?”
Narrowing his eyes at him, Magnus finished his tea. “My prep time.”
“Please.” Ragnor shook his head. “Like you need more than a few spares minute to finish your face at this point.”
“I meant mental preparation. I need at least two hours to fortify myself before any contact with you.” Magnus smiled cheekily but all he got was an obnoxious sigh from Ragnor and a mild chuckle from Catarina. Tough crowd. “All right. What is this really about?”
As Catarina and Ragnor exchanged a look, Magnus felt a chill creep down his spine. Deep down, he knew the answer. Meliorn’s release had diffused the first part of a ticking bomb. However, it was not enough to rid them of the real danger. They hadn’t been able to prove the Circle’s involvement in Imogen’s murder. Without proof, they didn’t have the support of any of the Lightwoods.
And without the Lightwoods, the swinging portion of the Nephilim population would never turn to their side.
They needed more. Maia was working day and night to find a condemning connection between Valentine and whoever entered the Herondale mansion on that fateful that night. There was still no way to prove Valentine’s involvement, but Magnus could feel it in his bones. That man, if he was even human, could not be their president. Not again. Not when they had come so far. The war on the Seelies would be just the first step to annihilate every Downworlder in the country. Valentine was not contented in just terrorizing those who had sought a more prosperous life in Alicante. He would rain his rage on every person whose blood he deemed lesser than his own.
“Magnus,” Catarina said, elaborating the syllabus. Her voice was a beacon of rationality. “We have to talk about your role in these elections.”
It was funny, really. Catarina wasn’t even a part of the Downworlder Party. She would vote for them and was more than vocal on social media, but her life as a doctor didn’t allow her much time for professional politics. Still, just as the words came out of Catarina’s mouth, Magnus knew exactly what she meant. His role.
Sighing, Magnus looked at Ragnor. He had been Magnus’ mentor ever since the start of Magnus’ career. Ragnor had been there to guide Magnus through the finer points of politics, as Magnus never had a formal education about it. He had gone to chemical engineering school, something Magnus thought would make his mother proud. The plan had been to find a steady job, live a good life beside someone Magnus loved, and be happy. Just like Sari Bane had been once she’d found her husband Darma.
Although, Magnus’ life never seemed to follow the plan so he didn’t know why he’d bothered. On the sophomore year of college, Magnus had found himself already wrapped up in politics. He was one of the very few Downworlders in the student body and there wasn’t a shortage of injustices that he would suffer. That he would see others like him suffer.
It didn’t take long for Magnus to start making noise. He organized protests, marches, even a blockade or two. As his grades got lower and lower, the fight grew stronger in him. Idris University was just waiting for him to flunk enough classes to be kicked out. They wouldn’t expel him lest they would give Magnus that much ammo against them.
But Professor Fell refused to flunk him. By all accounts, Magnus didn’t even have an attendance rate high enough to even be considered enrolled in the class. Still, Ragnor not only passed Magnus, he convinced the other three Downworlder professors to do the same. Then, he taught Magnus how to play smart. He taught him that his fight was just but only as long as it didn’t destroy his life.
Under Ragnor’s tutelage, Magnus had graduated with honors. He had used that diploma as a paper shield against criticism but nothing else. In those years of college, Magnus had learned much and more, but not about chemistry. He learned how to be a leader, how to represent his people.
People like little Madzie, eating a cookie as she laughed at Raphael’s silly faces. Magnus looked between Catarina and Ragnor. In their eyes, he knew what the real reason for that visit was. He knew why Catarina wanted to discuss his role in the elections. Why Ragnor kept quiet, letting him work out the finer details on his own. Even why they had brought little Madzie and why Raphael was copiously quiet.
Magnus hoped that, in his eyes, they could see that he understood. And, more importantly, that he accepted. “There’s nothing to talk about.” Magnus smirked, cocking his head to the side. “Although I will need Ragnor’s stalking skills for something.”
Catarina smirked right back, not letting Ragnor protest. “For what?”
“I need the number of a pretty boy. The next President of Alicante should have some eye candy on his arms during his acceptance speech. I know it gets people voting more.” Magnus smiled wickedly. “Besides, this particular pretty boy might just be playing hard to get and I love a challenge.”
Alec accepted to meet Magnus for coffee when the politician called asking. He wouldn’t have, not two days prior to that call. But two days prior to that call, Alec didn’t believe Magnus’ accusation. He did now.
It hadn’t been Magnus who had convinced him. Nor had it been that reporter, Maia Roberts. They had been spot on about Meliorn’s innocence and Alec was glad he had helped. But he hadn’t been ready to accept everything they said at face value just because of one strike.
No. It had been two other people that convinced him. The first had been General Luke. Alec and he weren’t close, no more than a subordinate and a superior officer were close. General Luke was always polite on the few occasions they had interacted but never warm. In fact, Alec didn’t remember ever seeing the man smile.
That didn’t stop him from admiring the General. Luke Garroway was a brave man, made hard after years serving in the Shadowhunter Forces. It certainly couldn’t have been an easy career, considering that he was half-Downworlder. Alec remembered the first time he had seen Luke. Despite all of his incredible skills as a pilot, when Jace asked about him, all their instructor had to say to the class was how Luke flew like a Shadowhunter. As if that meant anything.
But if the military insisted on highlighting that side of Luke’s ancestry, the General had another thing coming. He made a point of proudly refer to himself as anything but a Nephilim. The few Downworlder recruits that joined the Shadowhunters found a protector in him. They formed his pack of sorts. That made some of the Nephilim high officers mockingly call Luke the “alpha.”
Luke took that joke away from them, alongside every promotion he set his eyes on. His pack began to call him the Alpha as well, but there were no sneers accompanying the title anymore. Soon, everyone in the military knew better than to tease him. Or his.
That was how Alec knew whatever Luke said was no joke. So he had gone to him with Magnus’ suspicions and listened to Luke’s take on them.
“I believe him,” Luke had said once Alec was done talking. “It sounds like something Valentine would do. Like something the Circle would do. It explains why my investigation has been unable to find any proofs. They have mastered how to cover their tracks. I’m afraid we’ll never know for sure who killed Imogen Herondale.”
Alec had gritted his teeth then. Luke had nothing to gain from accusing Valentine and the Circle or something like that. His position as General went beyond anything the President could do. Only the military itself could take him out and nobody would dare.
If Luke believed Magnus’ accusations, he didn’t do it for any personal advantages. Alec didn’t truly believe Magnus himself had said those things out of a hidden agenda, out of some plot to hold onto power for power's sake. For a politician, Magnus has a sincerity to him that stroke Alec as truthful. Still, he only knew for a fact that General Luke wouldn’t do it.
The second person to convince Alec had been, surprisingly enough, his mother. Alec had not brought his doubts to her; he wouldn’t be so dumb. Maryse had overheard him talking to Isabelle and Jace, just before they all sat down for their weekly family dinner. It was a tradition, in which Maryse would prepare them a meal and Robert would not show up until dessert was served. While they waited for the food, Jace, Isabelle, and Alec would sit down with Max and hear all about his plans for college.
Max had been the one to bring up the subject. His group of friends was fiercely loyal to the Circle, way more than Alec had ever been at his age. They had all been planning to join the Circle Youth Group. Jace and Isabelle had been teasing Max about it when Maryse overheard of her youngest son’s plans.
Alec saw it when his mother’s face went paperwhite. “No,” Maryse had barked, her fingers digging into the platter she had been carrying. “You are not to join the Circle Youth Group, Max. I forbid it.”
The sudden anger had washed away from Maryse’s face when she saw the confused looks her children were throwing her way. She had cleaned her throat, put down the dish, and marched back to the kitchen without uttering another word. When they all sat down to eat, Maryse had acted as if her outburst had never happened.
Whatever that had been, though, it was enough to set off alarms in Alec’s head. He remembered how Maryse and Robert had taken Isabelle and him to the annual Circle Youth Group meetings when they were in high school. It had been their dream to join the initiative, but neither of them did. Isabelle had used the visits to expand her social circles and Alec would just bring his Kindle and ignore everything going on around him. If Jace was there, they would ditch the seminars together.
As disappointed as Maryse was about their disinterest, she had never seemed a tenth as upset as she had that night. And that strong reaction had erased all doubts that were still in Alec’s head.
“I believe you,” Alec said once he and Magnus were sitting face to face in a coffee shop of Magnus’ choosing. It was located in a half-and-half district of Idris, one where both Downworlders and Nephilim lived. There weren’t many as such and Alec appreciated that Magnus had chosen a neutral spot. “About everything. I believe you.”
Magnus lifted an eyebrow at that and sipped his tea. For someone as extravagant as he was, the politician had gone for simple tea instead of an elaborate drink. “That was easy. What changed your mind, darling?”
Alec shook his head. He held his plain black coffee as a way to distract himself. If he had something to do with his hands, Alec wouldn’t be fidgeting. He hated it when he fidgeted. “As you said, it makes sense. I talked to General Luke too. And…” Alec trailed off, wondering if he should mention his mother’s reaction. Magnus seemed trustworthy but, then again, that was his job. “Valentine was the front-runner of the election poll the moment General Imogen’s death hit the news. Her murder was… too convenient. It does not benefit the Seelies in the slightest.”
Nodding, Magnus put down his cup. “Have you told anyone else about this? Anyone besides the good General?”
“Izzy and Jace.” Alec sighed. “I didn’t tell them you were the one who told me that. They don’t believe it, though. They think it’s just-” He stopped himself before the words came out. It was one thing to hear other Nephilim refer to the things the minority said as ‘Downworlder bullshit’ but Alec knew how bad it was to actually say the expression out loud. “They think it’s a conspiracy theory.”
If Magnus knew why Alec had restrained himself, he didn’t mention it. Instead, he nodded again. “That seems to be the general consensus in the Nephilim population. I suppose I can’t blame them. We haven’t been able to produce any condemning evidence so far.”
Alec stared at the beverage growing cold in his hands. He didn’t want to talk about that. It felt wrong to be there, talking about how a friend of his family, how the father of his friend, was a murderer and a schemer.
“Why is it so important that I believe you?” Alec asked out of a sudden. He hadn’t understood that. Magnus had gone to his birthday party with the clear intent to convince Jace of the truth. Alec could understand wanting to make things right by Meliorn and the Herondales, but Magnus hadn’t insisted on convincing Jace himself. He’d settled for Alec when he’d gotten his ear. Now, they were meeting again because Magnus had called him.
There was a pause before Alec got his answer. Magnus’ face was very calm. His voice was almost chirurgical as he spoke, but Alec could still see the fire underneath. “Come election day, the Downworlders won’t outvote the Nephilim, even if there are more of us than there are of you. Most Downworlders aren’t enlisted to vote or have to work on the voting day. Most don’t see the point. But the Nephilim do. You’ve always been able to vote, to make your voice heard. It’s something your people see as a duty, not only a right.”
Your people. Magnus didn’t let Alec wonder why it was so weird to hear that coming from his voice. The Senator kept going. “Among the Nephilim population, there are those who do not agree with Valentine’s ideas. They are against the war or against the mistreatment of Downworlders or simply do not like Valentine as a person. I believe those people can be persuaded to vote for a Downworlder candidate.”
Shock rushed through Alec’s entire body and then he immediately felt ashamed for being so surprised. A Downworlder for President. He never thought of that, but then again, he was sitting right in front of a Downworlder Senator. That had been equally impossible just a few years ago but Magnus Bane had made it possible. Maybe he could make everything else possible too.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Alec noted. “I’m a pilot of the Shadowhunter Forces. We do not get involved in politics. I never have.”
“It’s time you do,” Magnus said, still in his implacable voice. There was something kind about it, not as patronizing as the words would suggest. Magnus didn’t fault Alec for being away from politics, he didn’t seem to care either way.
He wasn’t asking about Alec’s past. Magnus was asking about Alec’s future. “No Downworlder will convince these Nephilims to vote against Valentine. But a national hero might. You, Alexander,” Magnus said, looking straight into Alec’s eyes, “might.”
Alec inhaled sharply. “You want me to throw my support behind Downworlder candidate.”
Magnus nodded at that. He allowed Alec a minute to process that before continuing. “A public endorsement would be enough. Maybe show up to a few events. It won’t take much of your time, Major.”
Back to titles, then. Magnus really was a master politician. It wouldn’t be something Alec would usually notice, the back and forth in the way Magnus addressed him. But for some reason he did. Probably because Magnus had used his full name. It wasn’t something Alec was used to anymore.
“Would that be enough?” Alec asked, carefully. He knew his answer would be yes. There was no other way, not when refusing might put Valentine in power again. Publicly supporting the Downworlder Party would make his mother go crazy, but Alec was not going to let more than half of the population be thrown into a war that served no purpose. Magnus was giving him a way to help put a stop to that. Alec would seize it.
A smirk spread through Magnus’ lips. It lit up his entire face. “We can always pretend to be dating. That ought to bring some attention to the case.”
Frowning, Alec blinked a couple of times. “What?”
Magnus chuckled to himself and shook his head. “No, you’re right. It never quite works and the public can get really angry if they find out it’s a farce. A platonic relationship is better. We’ll keep it professional.”
Alec wasn’t quite sure of what had just happened but he nodded. Did Magnus really consider faking a relationship or was that just him joking? “Okay. So when are you announcing your candidature?”
For the first time in that entire conversation, Magnus seemed to hesitate. It didn’t last for more than a split of a second, but Alec saw doubt in those triangular brown eyes. It was gone faster than it had come, though. Magnus sighed. “Not long now. I’ll keep you posted. A simple tweet might do the trick, initially.”
Despite his nod, Alec knew he would do more than that. It didn’t matter what his mother would think, or how his siblings would react. The military never dwelled in politics. Alec had followed that tradition even before he joined the Shadowhunter Forces.
But traditions changed. Especially when politics wanted to use the military against the country citizens. Alec would not allow it. And supporting Magnus was the way to do it.
The announcement of Magnus’ candidature was met with inflamed reactions. He had done the speech to a mass of Downworlders, which meant the initial reception was very good. Ragnor had even congratulated Magnus on his words. That was not something that happened often.
However, just as they had predicted, the Nephilim population hadn’t been so kind. Most didn’t care either way but the few who did, did it loudly. In the few weeks that followed the speech, Magnus saw his entire life be scrutinized on national television like never before.
Not that he cared. Magnus was more than used to being criticized and badmouthed. Still, it had been nice to see Maia’s online campaign to discredit the worse lies told about him. The Nephilim commanded the biggest news companies of the country, along with every major communication channel. But that was not enough to shut down other people’s voices now. Maia and her friends were doing a great job at using informal networks and social media to spread the truth.
It was rather refreshing.
But as things went, merely throwing Magnus’ name as a candidate wasn’t enough. As the voting polls got out, he was a good 20% behind Valentine. There wasn’t as big of a difference as Magnus himself was expecting, but it was still alarming. Soon enough, that number was going to grow. Everyone knew that, including Valentine. The leader of the Circle had publicly dismissed Magnus as a threat during a dinner party. He was no more than a shining nuisance, according to Valentine.
Well, Magnus would make him eat his words. The Downworlder Party campaign started out heavily. Every one of the three main Downworlder neighborhoods received visits. There, Magnus’ plan was to encourage people to vote. As voting was not mandatory, Magnus had a clear goal in mind. He didn’t have to win their trust, but he did have to give them enough hope to show up on election day.
From there, Magnus visited schools, hospitals, senior houses. His schedule became even more erratic than it was before. It was good to have both Ragnor and Raphael with him, otherwise, Magnus wouldn't even find the strength to get up from his bed in the morning. His entire body was aching from stress, but nothing hurt as bad as his face. Magnus didn’t even remember the last time he had forced a smile for so long.
Though the last couple of weeks weren’t all made of forced smiles. Every once in awhile, Magnus’ phone would vibrate in his pocket with a text from Alec. They were usually short and to the point, but they never failed to light up Magnus’ day.
Apparently, Alec had been keeping up with his speeches and public appearances. Every time Magnus appeared on TV, he would receive a small text saying “nice speech” or “that reporter’s face was priceless.”
Those silly comments were enough to make Magnus smile. The Major had a dry sense of humor that was endearing as well as plain funny. They hadn’t talked much, save from those occasional texts, but Magnus was growing more and more fond of Alec. Amidst the high tensions that were the election campaign, it was nice to have that one person that simply supported him. Alec wasn’t versed enough in politics to do much else, nor did he want to. But he could, and would, give Magnus small doses of cheering up that were just as necessary as the long coaching sessions with Ragnor.
But now it was time to expand those small doses. Magnus’ campaign had decided to hold a speech at an old military base, long time deactivated. It was a symbol to the country, where General Will Herondale once married the half-Downworlder Tessa Gray. The entire things had been about to create the image of unity.
So, it made sense to have a public appearance there. The press had ruled it out as a way to appease the Nephilim. Which had been deemed as either a brilliant move or a terrible reach, depending on which channel one followed. But they had no idea what was really going to happen there.
“Nervous?” Alec asked, his voice quiet. He looked splendid in his full uniform. Magnus had personally asked him to wear it and Alec had agreed immediately. Even in the dim light of the backstage room where Magnus was preparing himself, Alec truly looked the part.
Good. They would need all the imagery they could get. “Not at all, darling. This isn’t my first time. But it is yours.” Magnus cocked his head to the side. “Are you nervous?”
“A little,” Alec admitted, ignoring the suggestive tone. “But I don’t have to do more than open my mouth and say a few words. Not a lot of room for error there.”
Magnus smirked. “Yes. Once you use that pretty mouth of yours, you just stand there and enjoy. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Alec tried to conceal a snort by rolling his eyes, but Magnus caught it. This was nice. Inside that room, what was waiting outside didn’t seem real. Or rather, it didn’t seem so terrifying. Never before had Magnus been afraid of Nephilims. He still wasn’t but he was afraid of what they could do.
And there was a lot of them waiting for him outside of that door. The rest of the Light Squad, for example. With them, a contingent of over fifty Shadowhunter Soldiers of high rank was reunited there, alongside who knows how many soldiers and civilians. Magnus had even heard that Jonathan and Clarissa Morgenstern were attending the event. It was crossing enough that the majority of the people present that day were Nephilim. Magnus didn’t need Valentine’s children there too.
No. It was good that they were there. Ragnor would find a way to spin that in their favor. All Magnus had to worry about was talking. Which just happened to be one of his specialties.
A knock on the door and Raphael showed up. “We’re ready for you, Major Lightwood.”
Nodding, Alec threw a last glance at Magnus before following Raphael outside. The ceremony consisted mostly of Downworlder soldiers professing their support to Magnus and a final speech from the candidate himself. They had tried to contact General Luke, but Magnus knew that would be too much. Luke had remained neutral ever since Magnus’ announcement. It was a smart decision in a time of uncertainty. Luke wouldn’t compromise that, not for a candidate that might as well lose it all when election day came. The choice of a deactivated base had been a compromise good enough for both parts.
Well, things would certainly change now. No more compromises; it was time to attack.
Magnus followed Alec and Raphael to the edge of the stage. The plan was for Alec to announce him as a show of support. The message was clean and simple, in a way that Alec’s presence would be noticed but the attention would still be on the Downworlders. Ragnor had written what Alec would have to say, word for word. Everything had been accounted for. Starting with the stunned silence once Alec stepped on stage.
Magnus watched as the reporters collectively gasped. Maia was between them and she made sure to take a few exclusive pictures before Alec reached the microphone. In the crowd, Magnus saw the exact moment Jace Herondale’s jaw dropped. Interestingly, he seemed more amused than revolted. Beside him, Isabelle brought a hand to her mouth, covering up a smile.
It seemed Alec hadn’t told them what he was going to do that night. Magnus wasn’t sure what to make of that.
Alec cleared his throat once he was in position. He fidgeted with the discourse sheet hidden in the podium before swallowing hard and looking straight to the crowd. As Alec began speaking, his voice calm and clear, Magnus thought that was the right thing. Alec’s image would be the push they needed to win over the heart of the indecisive Nephilims.
“This historical place was once a water divisor,” Alec said, Ragnor’s speech probably memorized by now. “Over a hundred years ago, a union between a Shadowhunter and a Downworlder happened exactly where we stand today. Back then, that union was a scandal, even an outrage. Back then, the notion of equality between our two people was unthinkable.” Alec stopped, frowning slightly. It made Magnus frown too but whatever it was, it was gone from Alec’s face in a second. “Not anymore,” he said, with a hint of something stronger. “Times change. Traditions change, especially those based on ignorance.”
Almost done, just two more sentences. I am a part of that change. And as such, it is my honor to introduce to you today the Downworlder Candidate to Presidency, Senator Magnus Bane. Biting his lower lip, Magnus waited for Alec to finish. The Major swallowed hard, his hazel eyes shining with resolve as he nodded shortly to himself.
“I am a part of that change,” Alec said to the silent crowd. His eyes met with Magnus’ for just an instant before Alec’s attention was back to the pairs of unbelieving eyes staring at him. That only seemed to make him more determined. “And as such, it is my honor to introduce to you today the future President of Alicante, Senator Magnus Bane.”
Magnus’ jaw dropped. Did Alec just referred to him as ‘the future President’?
“Go,” Raphael grunted behind him and Magnus moved.
The small crowd was still too struck to react and, truth be told, so was he. When Magnus reached the microphone, he threw a nod in Alec’s direction. The Major had retracted to where the other soldiers had been sitting.
Just the way Alec looked at him was enough for Magnus to be sure. Alec knew exactly what he’d done. The change had been no mere lapse of memory.
Funny how that realization made Magnus feel confident. He’d expected to be thrown off by the sudden burst of arrogance but no. Alec had just voiced what Magnus himself hoped for. It wasn’t arrogance. It was honesty. It wasn’t a hope, but a goal.
Smiling, Magnus looked at the stunned crowd. “Thank you, Major Lightwood. You are right when you talk about a change of tradition. It is time things change in Alicante. The Downworlders have been here long before Will and Tessa married and we will still be here long after I am President. A country cannot survive ignoring over half of its population. It certainly cannot survive killing it.”
Magnus sighed, looking at the Downworlder soldiers. One of them was just a boy named Bat Velasquez. They had talked briefly before the ceremony started and Bat had thanked Magnus. Not because he thought they would win but because Bat thought they had a chance to change.
Looking at the way the soldier stared from Alec to Magnus, the Senator realized something. It wasn’t just the quiet Nephilims who miraculously hadn’t begun protesting that were affected by the support of a National Hero. Some Downworlders believed in the Shadowhunter Forces. Not as an organization but as a symbol of protection.
Good or bad, Imogen Herondale had stopped the war against the Seelies for years. Now, the Shadowhunter Forces were lead by a Downworlder like them. One of the organization heroes, the son of a prominent Nephilim house, had just thrown his open support to them. To the common people, that only meant one thing. The Clave’s army was on their side.
Well, didn’t that tie up well with the theme of that election?
Magnus smiled and resumed speaking. “We do not want Valentine’s war. We want safe streets, safe homes, safe lives. But no Downworlder will stand for violence and injustice. In this, we stand as tall as any honorable Nephilim. In all these long years of negligence, we’ve shown time and again that we are able to prosper instead of divide. The Praetus Lupus patrols the streets of the Downworlder Districts even in the coldest of nights. The Spiral Labyrinth is open to any mind in search of knowledge. Today, we have Downworlders serving our country even in the Shadowhunter Forces. We protect our own and what is ours. And we are not afraid of sharing with those who want to share with us.”
That wasn’t the discourse Magnus had prepared for that night. Magnus blinked, looking at the pieces of paper with speeches that both he and Alec had ignored. None of those words felt half as true as those coming out of his mouth now. “We do not want war but we will fight for peace. Fight with us. On election day, don’t vote for your race or for wherever your roots are from. Vote for the future of Alicante, for all of Alicante. Vote Magnus Bane.”
The crushing silence that followed was the worst part. It felt even worse than if Magnus had been booed, because at least that would’ve been a reaction. The lack of response felt like a cold shower, extinguishing Magnus’ fire. As if he had just screamed into a void for no one to listen.
It all lasted for excruciatingly long before timid applause started out. Mostly, it came from the Downworlder soldiers at first. Alec had been clapping too. Magnus had never been so grateful.
And then, someone in the crowd joined in. He wasn’t sure but he thought it might have been Clary Morgenstern. All Magnus knew was that Isabelle Lightwood and Jace Herondale clapped too, politely as they were. Others followed and soon the whole crowd was clapping. Not nearly as cheerfully as the Downworlder crowds, but they were.
Was that good enough?
“What the Hell was that?” Raphael roared once Magnus was backstage again. They were safely away from the reporters, locked up in the prep room. Magnus had promised Maia to give her an exclusive later that night but she was the only press he wanted to do for the day. “That was not the speech you were supposed to do!”
“If you really thought I was going to say a bunch of bullshit about unifying this great nation,” Magnus sneered, rolling his eyes, “you clearly don’t know me. I’m not going to beg for scraps. The Nephilim that join us will do it because they believe it’s best. Not out of pity.”
Raphael chuckled coldly, shaking his head. “It doesn’t matter why they vote for you, Magnus. It just matters that they do!”
“Hey,” a third voice came in and both Magnus and Raphael turned to the newcomer with raging expressions. Alec blinked from the door, only half inside the room. “So, hm… Not a good time?”
“It’s always a good time when you’re involved, darling,” Magnus said without thinking. Really, he wasn’t even nervous anymore. He should watch his mouth. Maybe.
Although, that did lit up Alec’s expression, so maybe not. Raphael, on the other hand, huffed and left the room, making a point of bumping his shoulder with Alec’s on his way out.
Alec sighed and walked into the room, closing the door behind him. “I guess he didn’t like me changing the introductory speech.”
Magnus snorted and shook his head. “You only changed a sentence, darling. I winged it all. Raphael is not one for steering away from the plan.”
“Hm,” Alec mused, looking away. “I meant what I said. About you being the next President. You will be.”
“That is sweet of you, Alexander, but-”
“No buts.” Alec shook his head. “You have to win this, Magnus. What you said… I never thought about this before, but you’re right. We were supposed to protect everyone, Downworlders included. We failed. President after President, we failed. But you won’t fail. You’ll make Alicante a good place for everyone. Not a great nation or a military force, but a good place. It’s important.”
Alec’s eyes were burning again, with that same resolve as before. That by itself infused Magnus with the confidence to reach to his own fuel. That was right, he had to win the election. And starting on that night, that was the only acceptable outcome.
Magnus smiled a little. “Well, I will do my best. I won’t stop until I’m elected, Alexander. No matter what they throw at me. I promise. No obstacle is big enough to stop it.”
A smile spread through Alec’s lips too. Magnus knew then that the Major trusted him wholeheartedly. He wanted to say more but then Alec’s phone began buzzing.
The smile quickly became lips pushed together in a thin line when Alec saw who was calling. “Hm…” He sighed and turned the screen to Magnus. “Then I guess no obstacle will be big enough for me either.”
Incoming call from General Garroway.
“What were you thinking?!” General Luke roared as soon as Alec was left alone in his office. The ride back to the base had been the longest twenty-three minutes in Alec’s life. He had prepared a whole discourse in his mind but now, facing the General, all the words were gone. “I specifically told Magnus Bane that I wouldn’t throw the Shadowhunter Forces’ support to him. Not now!”
Alec swallowed hard. He had taken many scoldings from his parents. Falling into a soldier position helped to stand his ground and let the worse of it wash over him. However, the General was not his father. Luke Garroway had a way to be intimidating not because of some authority given to him but because one simply didn’t want to disappoint him.
And Alec had disappointed him. He tried not to wince. “Sir, with all due respect, the speech in the old base was already known. Senator Bane chose the location specifically because it is not tied up to the military anymore.”
“Don’t try to lecture me, son.” Luke sighed, pinched the bridge of his nose. “You are too smart to pretend you don’t know what I mean. Whose idea was it to have you wear your uniform?”
Swallowing hard again, Alec clenched his teeth. There was no way he would tell Luke that Magnus had asked him to wear his uniform. No way.
Maybe that was written all over his face, because Luke sighed again, louder this time. “Alright, don’t tell me. Do you have any idea what you’ve done? What kind of position you’re putting me in?” The General shook his head. “I should have you suspended. In the very least, demoted.” Alec inhaled sharply, but he knew better than to speak up against a superior officer.
Luke kept going. “Out of the three of you, I could expect this kind of trouble from Jace. Even Isabelle. But you, Alec? Why are you doing this?” He looked straight into Alec’s eyes. “Is this some kind of rebellion against your parents? Do you think it’s a game?”
“No, sir.” Alec sustained his gaze, as hard as it was. “It’s no game. I’m not doing this to upset anyone. I believe in what Senator Bane says.” He shook his head, frustrated. “I didn’t before. But then I talked to you, Sir. As a Shadowhunter, my duty is to protect the country. This is what I’m doing. I will not stand by and watch my country fall into a lunatic’s hands. I…” Alec hesitated for a second, realization coming to him as he spoke. “I helped put him there once. I can’t do it again.”
Dark eyes stared at Alec’s for much longer than he was comfortable with. However, Alec didn’t flinch away. Luke seemed to be evaluating his words, his arms folded against his chest as he thought. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Luke sighed. This time, it didn’t sound angry anymore. It sounded resigned.
“Right. Before we do this, have you thought about what supporting Magnus will mean to you?” Luke’s voice was calm now. For a second, Alec wondered if all the anger had been about Luke thinking he had done it for sport. Not because of political scenario at all.
“To me?” Alec frowned. “How do you mean?”
Luke arched an eyebrow at him. “I mean that Valentine will come after you, try to discredit you. Major, you have to be ready. He plays dirty and he is not afraid of using people’s individuality against them. Turn anything that isn’t the norm into a weakness.”
Alec’s heart got caught in his throat. How could the General know? How could anyone know? Alec had been discreet. He never dated anyone, not openly. Every guy he ever slept with was a hookup, a stranger. Jace and Isabelle had helped him in any way that they could. Alec was sure his mother knew, but even Maryse had covered for him once or twice when she realized it was not a phase.
Once again, Luke seemed to be able to read exactly what was in Alec’s mind because a calming hand posed on Alec’s shoulder. “It’s going to be fine, son. I have zero tolerance for discrimination. All kinds of discrimination,” Luke made a point of noting. “No matter what happens, the Shadowhunter Forces will continue to be your home.”
“I didn’t think-” Alec inhaled sharply.
“I know.” Luke let go and walked to his desk, sitting on it. “People like Magnus Bane have this… Aura about them. Valentine has it too. A magnetic charisma that makes people like us rally behind them with all we got. They make us forget about ourselves and where we are most vulnerable.”
Shaking his head, Alec looked at the General with a scowl. “Magnus didn’t make me do anything.”
An amused expression crossed Luke’s face just for a second. “I’m not saying it is a bad thing. You chose the right side, son. But I doubt the Senator will want you getting hurt. Magnus Bane… He has a thing for saving people. Those he saves tend to stay safe.”
The way the General spoke about Magnus, there was fondness there. Alec didn’t understand it. “You think I’m right. To support Magnus.”
“Of course you are.”
“But you’re going to demote me.”
Luke chuckled a little and shook his head. “I said I should demote you. But I won’t. You’ll need every protection I can give you and keep your rank is something I can do. Besides, it would send the wrong message.” The General grabbed a remote control on his desk and turned on the TV. “I wouldn’t want people to think I’m aligning with him.”
On the screen, a news channel appeared. Valentine’s face was plastered on the background as the reporter commented on his counter-speech. It seemed word had gotten to him and the Circle’s candidate was firing back. He called Magnus a coward and a seductor, preying on their youth.
Alec’s name wasn’t uttered once but the message was clear. Every Nephilim that stood behind the Downworlders was weak and a shame to their families, unworthy of the great country of Alicante. Valentine ended his discourse by urging the true children of the Angel to rise and take over their sacred duty.
“You’d better hope he doesn’t win,” Luke commented as they watched the reporter praise Valentine’s passion. “If he does, you’ll be the first sent into Seelie territory, with only enough fuel to get there.”
Nodding, Alec pushed his lips together. “So… Am I dismissed?”
Luke sighed, turning off the TV. “Yes, Major Lightwood. Besides, I think you’ll find out your true punishment is outside of this door.”
It wasn’t until Alec saluted the General and exited the office that he understood what Luke meant. In the corridor, both Isabelle and Jace were waiting for him. And neither of them looked pleased. His sister had a weary look on her face but it was Jace’s expression that truly made Alec worry.
“Are you into conspiracy theories now?” was all that Jace said as he shook his head. He sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t get it. It was badass, don’t get me wrong. But that Senator is crazy. Everyone knows it. ”
Alec raised his eyebrows at him and then looked at his sister. “What about you?”
Isabelle shrugged. His sister had always been less explosive than Jace, more prone to see all sides of matters. “Senator Bane got Meliorn freed. I like his style.” She looked at the boys and sighed. “Mom is going to be livid, though. She’s been acting weird for a while now.”
“Good thing I stopped doing what mom wanted me to a long time ago,” Alec said. He stared at them, the two people closest to him in the entire world. Alec didn’t need their permission to do anything but he would rather have their support.
His sister was the first to cave. Isabelle cocked her head to the side, hands on her hips. “Well, whatever crap she throws your way,” she said calmly, “I got your back, big bro.”
“I don’t get it,” Jace repeated himself, shaking his head. But there was no animosity in his eyes when they met Alec’s. “But I get that you wouldn’t do this if you didn’t believe it was the right thing to do. That’s good enough for me.”
And those words were good enough for Alec too.
The speech at the old military base did change things. For the first time, the election polls had Magnus two points over Valentine. Magnus knew the numbers wouldn’t stay up for long but that was not what mattered. What did was the only logical conclusion.
There were Nephilims who wanted to vote for him. Who had heard his message and believed it, despite Valentine’s best tries to undermine it. Besides that, more and more Downworlders spoke up, even those who had first dismissed any chances of ever electing one of theirs.
It helped that Luke had finally spoken up. Maia had secured herself an interview with the General where he revealed his personal intention to vote for Magnus. Luke hadn’t put the Shadowhunter Forces behind Magnus’ campaign but it didn’t matter. Magnus wanted him and his pack, not the army or the navy or the air forces.
He’d get them once he was the President. But first, he had to get to that chair.
One thing at a time, though. Their temporary success had to be celebrated, both as a show of strength and as a real party. Magnus had learned that enjoying life was the only way to know what was worth fighting for. And he did enjoy parties.
So, Magnus threw one. His penthouse was full of people, some dancing, others drinking. Ragnor and Raphael talked on the balcony, while Dot dragged Catarina for a dance in the living room. Even Camille seemed to be having a good time as she spoke to Ralf Scott, a rising member of their Party. But the night wasn’t only made of political figures. Maia was there too, surrounded by her friends, Gretel and Bat. And those were just a few of the faces Magnus recognized.
But there was one face missing. Or rather, on his way. Magnus was just out of his master bedroom, where he made sure Madzie’s sleep wasn’t disturbed by the loud noises, when Alec walked in the apartment. There was no uniform for him this time, just cargo pants and a black shirt under a leather jacket.
“Alexander!” Magnus exclaimed, still half surprised. Alec hadn’t been in the mood for a party. The entire country knew the Major and his mother were no longer on speaking terms and Valentine’s insinuations that Alec’s sexuality was reason for concern had only added to that.
Alec had assured Magnus he didn’t regret openly supporting him. Still, Alec seemed tired as he looked around to search for who was calling his name.
The tiredness was replaced by a smile when Alec found Magnus. “Hey.”
“I’m glad you could make it, Major Lightwood,” Magnus said, stopping just in front of him.
“I wouldn’t miss it, Senator Bane.” Alec blinked and then produced a bottle of wine. “I figured I shouldn’t show up empty-handed.”
Magnus had to take a second to take that in. The man was so damn sweet. However, before he could say anything, Raphael walked by them and rolled his eyes. “Just get a room already,” he said loud enough for the entire party to hear it.
Coughing, Magnus took the bottle. “That is very thoughtful of you, darling, thank you. Come on in, I want to show you around.”
“Hm, sure.” Alec closed the door behind him and followed Magnus. “I just… I don’t think I’m going to stay long.”
The words were way more disappointing that they had the right to be. Magnus frowned, surprised with himself. He shook his head, ignoring the feeling. “That’s a pity. I have a few friends that are dying to meet you.”
Alec’s weary expression made Magnus chuckle, but the Major followed him to where Catarina was now winning a game of poker. Ragnor didn’t seem surprised at all, but poor Alaric seemed like he still thought he had a chance. Dot was satisfied to sip on her glass of whiskey and pretend to understand the game, as she often did with cards. She was not a fan, especially after a misfortune involving some tarot cards. Magnus didn’t quite remember the details.
“Everyone,” the Senator said, drawing the attention of the room, “this is Major Alec Lightwood, from the Shadowhunter Air Forces.”
“Yes, my friend,” Ragnor said, his eyes never leaving the cards, “I believe we all own TVs and have read the papers at least once in the last decade.”
Magnus ignored his mentor. “He’s here to say hello, so be nice. Alec just looks like he could kill you, but he’s actually quite fluffy on the inside. Unless you give him a heavily-armored plane. Then he can actually kill you.”
“Nice introduction,” Alec whispered once everyone was back to what they had been doing. Much like Ragnor said, the people present already knew Alec. More importantly, they knew Magnus, so they shrugged and waved the Major hello.
“This is how you make friends, Alexander,” Magnus said with a cheeky smile. Truth be told, Alec wasn’t the greatest conversationalist Magnus knew but he was a good listener. That was more important, in a way. “Now, let me get you something to drink.”
Once Alec had a beer in his hands, things seemed to flow more smoothly. Maia made a point of calling Alec to sit with her friends and Magnus watched their interaction from afar. Alec didn’t say much, which was to be expected, but he seemed to be having a good time regardless.
“He’s prettier in person,” Catarina said as she stopped at Magnus’ side, an hour later. Her eyes were on Alec too. Magnus felt only half-ashamed for being busted watching the Shadowhunter. “And he seems like a decent guy.” She raised an eyebrow. “For a Nephilim.”
“Why do I feel like this isn’t a political assessment?” Magnus asked, turning his attention to his friend.
Catarina shrugged. “Probably because I leave the politics for you and Ragnor to play. Some of us are busy actually making a difference.”
Snorting, Magnus shook his head. “Alright, doctor. Just say what you want to say. What is your diagnostic?”
Even if he tried to sound casual, Magnus braced himself. From all his friends, Catarina was the one that knew him the best. Unlike Ragnor, she rarely meddled in Magnus’ personal life but, somehow, Catarina always knew what was happening with him.
“You’re interested but you’re afraid because of who he is. I’d be too, if I had enough bad taste to fall for a Nephilim, no matter how handsome he is.” Catarina sighed and took a sip of her beer. “Nobody here will judge you, Magnus. Not after you showed up dating Camille.”
Magnus rolled his eyes. “That was over fifteen years ago. When will you guys let it go?”
“Probably never,” Catarina answered sincerely. “Anyway, pretend we were talking about something else.”
“Hey.” Alec emerged at Magnus’ side, almost giving him a heart attack. The Major seemed somewhat uncomfortable, avoiding to look at him, so at least Magnus wasn’t the only one. “So, I should get g-”
Something stopped Alec mid-sentence. Magnus frowned and followed Alec’s gaze, who had been looking down. Madzie was there, looking sleepy as she rubbed her eyes. “Nana, I had a nightmare.”
Catarina frowned, bringing a hand to Madzie’s hair in order to calm her down. “What did you dream about?”
The little girl pouted, bringing a hand to her own neck. There were tears forming in her eyes. “I had gills. Like a fish.”
“Gills are cool,” Alec said, his voice soft. “You could breathe underwater that way, like a mermaid. Do you like mermaids?”
Madzie blinked, just then realizing Catarina wasn’t alone. She stared at Alec with her big brown eyes before nodding every so slightly. Magnus expected her to hide behind her mother’s legs as Madzie often did when talking to strangers, but for some reason she didn’t this time.
Alec grinned. “Cool. If you have that nightmare again, just remember you’ll be like a mermaid. Nothing to be afraid of, right?”
The tiniest of smiles spread through Madzie’s lips, washing away the tears forming in her eyes. Madzie looked back at her mother. “Can I be a mermaid?”
“If you dream it, yes, kiddo.” Catarina offered a hand to her. “Come on, let’s go back to the bed so you can swim.” She threw Alec something that could only be an approving look before taking Madzie back to Magnus’ bedroom.
Magnus arched an eyebrow at the soldier. “I didn’t know you had such a way with kids.”
Alec just shrugged. “I have two younger siblings. Three, if you count Jace. I learned a few things.”
“You never cease to amaze me, Alexander,” Magnus said, smiling fondly. “Please tell me you weren’t about to say you’re leaving.”
“I... “ Alec licked his lips, something that shouldn’t have been so enticing as it was. “No. I-I saw that your glass was empty.” He gestured to Magnus’ hands, which was busy holding a glass of whiskey. “Do you want a refill?”
Inhaling deeply, Magnus let a satisfied smile take over his lips. “Only if you’ll have one with me.”
“Sure,” Alec said with a nod and a smile of his own. For the first time in the night, there were absolutely no signs of discomfort on him. Alec seemed completely at ease.
And, as Magnus realized as they crossed the penthouse together, so was he.
With his life turned into chaos, Alec turned all his attention to flying. He was used to having a fairly discreet life despite being widely known in the country and an uneventful love life. Both things had changed since meeting Senator Magnus Bane.
First, Alec was now being talked about on TV, newspapers, and social media. Not because of any personal accomplishment but because of his political opinion. Now, that was something Alec never thought would happen. He never considered that he would one day be linked to the Downworlder Movement, in either a bad or good way.
But it was not only Alec’s beliefs that were under scrutiny. Every day, he lived in fear that one of his nameless one-night stands would show up in a magazine. Valentine knew Alec was gay, there was no way it had escaped him. The man was too close to his family and Maryse had made a storm out of it.
Still, neither the scrutiny nor the possibility of exposition was worse than every time Magnus sent a text to Alec. At some point during the two months of campaigning, the Senator had grown to be more than just someone Alec admired. Now, it was a much more personal feeling, much closer to Alec’s heart.
Not love. At least, not yet. But Alec knew it was more than it was before.
Shaking his head, Alec grabbed his helmet. “Ok, the exercise today is a basic offense formation,” he said to Isabelle and Jace. All three of them were uniformized and ready to board their warplanes. “Three-layer formation.”
Jace nodded, though his eyes kept deviating to where the other pilots were sitting and watching. It was exercise day, which meant every squad was going on rounds. That, in turn, meant they were forced to share the practicing runaway with Jonathan Morgenstern. And that meant disaster was about to strike.
Jonathan and Jace did not get along. They never had, even when they were all kids. From the three components of the Light Squad, only Isabelle had ever had any fondness for him. She and Jonathan had been best friends when they were in middle school. Alec remembered how jealous he was of his baby sister and how angry Jace was about that friendship.
Back then, though, it was all childish animosity. Jonathan just showed his true colors when he, Jace, and Isabelle got to high school. It was then that he started to bully the younger children, even middle schoolers. When Isabelle found out one of Jonathan’s victims had been Max and his friends, there was nothing Jonathan could do to make her forgive him.
However, it was Jace who truly despised him. Once he and Clary began dating, Jonathan had made Jace’s life hell. Obsessively jealous of his sister, Jonathan made a point of meddling in their relationship every chance he got. More often than not, every time Jace and Clary had a problem, Jonathan was either behind it, or had something to do with it.
Things only truly deteriorated, though, when Clary was kidnapped. Jonathan was with Valentine when the news of Clary’s disappearance hit them. Therefore, he was taken to the emergency meetings that happened as the Government and Shadowhunter Forces joined forces to trace a plan of attack. When Jace convinced Isabelle and Alec to go after Clary, he denied Jonathan a chance to save her as well.
Or so Jonathan thought. Regardless, the two brothers-in-law couldn’t stand each other. Alec didn’t personally have anything against Jonathan, aside from his bullying of Max. Other than that, he just disliked the man on principle, like every sane person should.
“Ignore him,” Alec said once the Light Squad was on their way to their warplanes. “It’s not worth the trouble.”
Jace groaned but nodded, putting on his helmet. “I just can’t stand him.”
“No one can,” Isabelle said, stopping by her Iron Sister. “Just make a perfect score to rub it on his face and get over it.”
Snorting, Jace smirked at her. “You’re right. I still hold the highest score on a low flight. I’m breaking my own record today.”
“Actually,” Alec said with a frown. “Let’s change positions for today. I’ll fly low, Izzy goes in the middle, and you get the highest point.” Isabelle and Jace exchanged a confused look and Alec didn’t blame them. He always flew on the highest position, as he had the best aim among the squad. “Come on. We have to practice our weaknesses.”
Flying low had always been a problem for Alec. He loved the sky, the distance between Hawk Blue and the rest of the world. That was why he had specialized in long-distance shots, why he was the best at maneuvering in open spaces. Flying close to the ground unnerved him and he always felt too suffocated.
And that was exactly why Alec had to practice it. Everyone in the Shadowhunter Forces knew Alec was never as exposed as he was when flying low. In the off chance that Valentine won the election, that would exactly where he’d make Alec fly. Luke had made that crystal clear.
Not that Alec was going to explain that to Isabelle and Jace. They respected his choice of supporting Magnus but thought the Downworlders’ worries were greatly exaggerated. Alec had failed to properly explain how grave the danger was to anyone that wasn’t a Nephilim if the Circle was back to power, though. Isabelle and Jace knew things were better for the Downworlders now but they simply didn’t think Valentine was truly going to go back to the worst years of his reign.
“That’d be crazy,” Jace had said, dismissing the discussion.
Isabelle, on the other hand, attributed Alec’s support to a crush on Magnus. “No judging, big bro. Half of the country is right there with you,” she had said with a knowing wink.
“Alright,” Jace said, climbing onto Céline. “I can beat him in any position anyway. Let’s mix it up.”
Alec sighed, thankful there wasn’t any protest. Once he was safely inside of Hawk Blue, Alec swallowed hard. It was the first time he’d ever done an exercise actively thinking it could one day save his life. Flying wasn’t supposed to be about that. It was supposed to be about being free.
It would be again, Alec forced himself to think. Once Magnus became President, there would be no war. Alec could go back to flying to promote safety, to defend instead of attack. To brave the skies instead of cut through them.
They took off once Isabelle had gone over all the safety protocols. Alec had to consciously keep Hawk Blue from flying further up. Much like him, the warplane seemed to want to go higher. It felt wrong to be so low, so close to the surface of the training plains.
Jace’s laugh poured into Alec’s phone, distracting him. “You’re totally right about changing things up. Jonathan is pissed off. I got a glimpse of his face when we got into position. Priceless.”
“Focus on the exercise,” Alec cautioned but couldn’t help a smile from spreading over his lips.
Even at such a low altitude, he was back to flying. Isabelle and Jace were right there with him. Alec felt the anchors of the real-life set free from his ankles as Hawk Blue flew, skirting from the obstacles strategically laid on the field. This was all that Alec had to focus on now. Up there, the elections didn’t seem to matter. It was just him and Hawk Blue.
Alec smiled, the feeling of peace taking over him. Old buildings passed by him as blurs and soon they were flying over the ocean. The exercise required them to execute a few maneuvers and Alec focused on them. Every once in awhile, he heard Isabelle’s laugh or Jace’s celebratory shouts. This was what Alec missed every time he had his feet on the ground.
Though, lately, Alec had found himself smiling much more, even outside of Hawk Blue’s cockpit. As difficult as his life had become in the last two months, it was now just as exciting. For the longest time, Alec had thought of his duty as an abstract thing. Protect, serve, fight. Those were verbs, too nebulous to take form.
It wasn’t like that anymore. Alec finally felt like he was accomplishing something. Every interview he gave in where he confirmed his support to Magnus felt just as good as the day they saved Clary. It felt like protecting, like serving, like fighting. It felt like doing the right thing.
Magnus. Magnus had done that. He had taken the abstract concept of what it meant to be a Shadowhunter and given a form for Alec to do it.
Was that why Magnus was such an inspiration? He’d done that for Alec without even realizing it. The General had said Magnus was the kind of people that inspired others to follow them. At the time, it made sense.
Now, though, Alec disagreed. Magnus didn’t make people follow him. That wasn’t quite right. Magnus convinced people to follow their own dreams. It just so happened that he represented those dreams. With his irreverence, his wit, his defiance. Magnus was the voice of those who weren’t heard, a beacon of sanity in a mad world.
Shit. Alec really was in love, wasn’t he?
“Nice duck, big bro,” Isabelle’s voice filled Alec’s ears. “Let’s go back.”
“Copy that,” Alec answered and turned Hawk Blue around. Flying over the ocean posed little distraction, so Alec was forced to deal with his realization. He truly was in love. It felt different from the other times Alec had felt something for someone, though. Way more intense and, somehow, more complete too.
When a loud thump sounded, Alec wasn’t sure it hadn’t been his heartbeat.
But Jace was. “Hawk Blue, you’re alright? There’s smoke coming out of one of your turbines.”
“What?” Alec asked in a reflex and checked his controls. There was a red light on his panel that wasn’t there before. It indicated a malfunction of one of his engines. It was dead. “I’m down one engine,” Alec said on their open line.
“Can you hold on until we get to the base?” Isabelle asked, her voice stern with worry. “The smoke looks pretty bad.”
Alec checked the rest of his controls. He was having difficulty keeping Hawk Blue stable, but the base wasn’t too far away. “Not sure.”
“Then land,” Isabelle commanded.
Nodding, Alec moved his controls. “Copy that. I’m starting emergency landing procedur-”
Before he could properly position Hawk Blue, though, another loud noise exploded. Alec didn’t need the second red light on his panel to know he was down both engines now. Jace had started to curse on the open line and Isabelle was shouting commands, but Alec focused on something else.
He wasn’t going to be able to land, not without any way to maneuver the warplane. The only option now was to eject. Alec was flying close enough to the ground that it was safe to open his parachute. He slammed his hand on the eject bottom, bracing for impact.
But none came. He was still inside of the Hawk Blue and losing altitude fast. “Fuck,” Alec cursed. “I cannot eject. I repeat, I cannot eject. I have to force a landing.”
Alec gritted his teeth, turning the communication channels off. He didn’t need Jace and Isabelle shouting in his ears. Earth was closing in on him way faster than he’d like and Alec needed to concentrate. He grabbed the controls, finding that he was still able to control some of the plane’s stability.
“Come on, Jess,” Alec whispered, doing what he could to aim the plane at the biggest building on his way. If he could use it as a break, Hawk Blue would lose speed and land in the forest behind it.
Even without the channels open, Alec thought he could hear his sister yelling his name as his warplane crashed into the building. But Alec wasn’t sure. As soon as the first contact happened, everything went silent.
Silent and dark.
Magnus pressed the elevator’s button a thousand times before it finally reached its destination. He could barely breathe as he rushed through the corridors, looking for room 17-K.
His day had started out horribly, with a new election poll that indicated Magnus almost 8% behind Valentine in the surveys. Forced to attend a press conference, Magnus endured the journalists’ questions all the while wondering if things could be any worse.
Well, they clearly could. Word of Alec’s accident reached him in the middle of a response. From the moment Raphael whispered the terrible news into his ear, Magnus had blanked. All he remembered was saying something to end the press conference and hopping into a car.
The way to the military hospital was a blur but for the voices on the radio. Apparently, Alec had been in some kind of military exercise when his aircraft crashed. The Major had been found alive inside the cockpit and rushed to surgery. An investigation had been opened to identify exactly what had happened and the initial reports indicated there had been something wrong with the engines of Alec’s warplane.
Whatever it was, Magnus only wanted to know one thing. If Alec was going to be all right. When Magnus arrived at the hospital, he learned the Major was just fresh out of surgery and had been moved to one of the superiors rooms. However, the nurse wouldn’t let him go up to visit, insisting only family was allowed.
If it hadn’t been for General Luke being attracted by the scene, Magnus would’ve probably been thrown out of the lobby.
Instead, he’d reached room 17-K. Magnus swallowed hard and knocked, opening the door.
Part of his resolve turned into panic when Judge Maryse Lightwood was the one to open the door. Magnus tried to say something, but the woman looked at him with such a cold look, his voice froze in his throat.
Maryse didn’t say a word, though. She stepped aside, giving Magnus room to enter. Once he was inside, she walked to the corridor in angry steps. Magnus wasn’t sure of what to make of that, especially when Simon Lewis materialized in front of him
“Hey, Senator!” the journalist said with a half-smile. “Sorry about that. The mood here is… Tense. Excuse me.”
He left with that, leaving Magnus even more confused. When he finally turned to look inside the room, Magnus found the rest of the Light Squad and Clary Morgenstern. It seemed Simon had been spot on, because for a hot second, Magnus thought Jace Herondale was going to attack him. The anger in his two-colored eyes burned like fire. Isabelle’s attention, however, didn’t even flinch from her brother, who was laying in the hospital bed, eyes closed.
Looking at Alec made Magnus forget any sense of self-preservation. He ignored Jace’s rage and approached the bed, hands closing on the bar beside the bed. “How is he?” Magnus asked, barely louder than a whisper.
“Stable,” Isabelle answered. She brushed Alec’s hair away from his eyes. “Three broken ribs, internal bleeding, and a clenched wrist. The doctor said the worst has passed.”
Magnus nodded, realizing he had held his breathe while Isabelle was talking. Alec looked too pale, too fragile. Magnus would’ve given everything to see those hazel eyes open and give him back some color. “Any idea when he’ll wake up?”
Isabelle shook her head, finally looking up to Magnus. “It won’t be long. He knows I’ll kick his ass if he doesn’t open his eyes soon.”
A small smile took over Magnus’ lips but it only lasted until Jace spoke up. “This… This was not an accident, was it?” When Magnus didn’t have an answer for him, Jace tried again. “It couldn’t have been. Not with the way his turbines stopped working. If Alec hadn’t asked to switch positions in the exercise, he’d be dead right now. Killed.”
Magnus’ gaze went to Clary, who was standing by the window. She seemed to purposefully be avoiding his eyes. Magnus sighed, trying to summon the strength to endure that conversation. “It’s… possible that the incident was forged. However, without any proof I-”
“Don’t give me the politician bullshit.” Jace clenched his teeth. “You said Valentine had my grandmother killed, not Meliorn. I didn’t believe you. Alec did. And you were right, it wasn’t Meliorn. Now, someone tried to kill Alec. Do you, Magnus Bane, think it was Valentine?”
Inhaling sharply, Magnus fought against every fiber of his being. He had been trained to search for the diplomatic response, to give the answer his audience wanted from him. But what Jace wanted from him was honest. It was an opinion and not a fact.
“Yes,” Magnus finally said. “I think Valentine had Alec’s plane sabotaged to make him an example. His death would’ve sent a message to any Nephilim thinking of supporting the Downworlder Party. Valentine’s base of power is rooted in fear, so it fits his go-to-tactic. I-” Magnus gasped, feeling tears sting at the back of his eyes. Saying this out loud made it seem real. “I’m sorry. I didn’t anticipate that something like this… I never thought Alexander would be in this kind of danger, I-”
“It’s not your fault,” Clary said. She lifted up her chin, eyes finally meeting Magnus’. “You didn’t put Alec in this bed.” She swallowed hard, her expression bittering. Clary looked like she was about to combust.
Magnus pressed his lips together. “Still, I should’ve realized he’d be made a target.”
“Alec knew that.” Isabelle took her brother’s hand in hers. “That’s why he asked to fly low. He expected Valentine to try to kill him, though he probably thought it would be in battle. Not cowardly, in a random flying exercise. Alec probably expected to be given a fair chance of fighting back.”
“Of course he did,” a voice said from the door. Maryse Lightwood was back, with Simon standing sheepishly behind her.
Magnus felt his mouth going dry. Suddenly, he felt like an intruder. What was he doing there, as if he was a part of Alec’s family? As if he belonged?
But if Maryse had any similar thoughts, she kept them to herself. “My son was always too honorable. You all are. It makes you think others will be too.” Maryse stopped at the bed’s side and for a second, Magnus could see beyond the iron in her eyes. There was sorrow there, but there was something else too. Shame.
Maryse turned to him. “Alec was targeted because of his support for you. Because he was braver than any of us. But bravery isn’t enough. You won’t be able to trace this to Valentine. Just as you won’t be able to trace Imogen’s death to the Circle. There isn’t any physical proof left. Everything has been taken care of.”
“That won’t stop me from trying,” Magnus said immediately. He’d heard that discourse before and he was sick of it. “There is always a way.”
To his surprise, Maryse Lightwood smiled. “You sound just like Alec. Or maybe, he sounds like you.” She sighed and swallowed hard. Her eyes met Simon’s, who was still standing by the doors. There seemed to have been some kind of understanding there when Maryse looked back at Magnus. “And you’re right, there is a way. The physical evidence is gone, along with most witnesses. But not all. I can tell you everything. The Herondales accident. Imogen’s death.” Maryse looked over to Clary. “Even your kidnapping. I know it all.”
“Mom,” Isabelle’s horrified expression translated what everyone was feeling. “What are you saying?”
Everyone but Maryse. There was no fear in her eyes. “I’m saying I’m done being afraid of him. Valentine will pay for coming after my family.”
Alec woke up a day after his surgery. He didn’t recognize the white room he was in at first, but then everything came back to him. The flying exercise, the explosions. Hawk Blue colliding against that building. Closing his eyes again, Alec tried to remember what he did to still be alive. Maybe he wasn’t and this was just a dream from whatever there was after someone died.
That would explain why Magnus was drowsing in a chair in his room, for one.
“Alec?” Isabelle’s voice made him open his eyes again. His sister grinned. “You’re awake!” She giggled nervously, wiping a tear from her eyes. “Took you long enough!”
“Yeah. Sorry about that.” Alec frowned.
Beside him, Magnus woke up too. He gasped and stood up, standing on the other side of the bed. “Alexander, how are you feeling? Do you want us to call the doctor for you?”
Shaking his head, Alec looked at Magnus. The Senator looked gorgeous as always but there was exhaustion written all over his face. “How long have I been here? How long have you?”
Magnus blinked, clearly not expecting that question. “Two days, darling. You were brought here yesterday. Do you remember why?”
“Yes, there was an accident,” Alec said but before he could continue, an alarming thought crossed his mind. He tried to sit up, only to realize his right arm was in a casket. Ignoring it, Alec turned to his sister. “Hawk Blue. Izzy, what happened to Hawk Blue?
The way Isabelle’s expression turned into sorrow was answer enough, though. “She’s gone,” Alec whispered.
Isabelle winced but then shook her head. “She can be reconstructed. You can’t, big bro. What matters is that you’re alive. You’re going to be just fine. Once the election is past, you’ll be back in the sky with Jace and I.”
Something else clicked in Alec’s head and he looked at Magnus. “The election! Magnus, I don’t think it was an accident. I think it was the Circle that-” Alec stopped when an amused smile spread through Magnus’ lips. “What’s funny?”
Magnus shook his head. He still looked tired but the smile smoothed the lines on his face. Or so Alec thought, until he saw tears in the Senator’s eyes. “Nothing, Alexander… I just thought it’s ironic that we met when I was accusing the Circle of something and now… Now the tables have turned, it seems.”
“Oh.” Alec blinked. He looked at his sister in search of a light of how to answer that. Isabelle just smiled an enigmatic smile and excused herself, leaving just the two of them in the room.
“Don’t you worry about the election, darling,” Magnus said once he had wiped out the tears. “You just worry about getting better. I’ll take care of everything else.”
Alec frowned. “How?”
Pushing his lips together, Magnus cocked his head to the side. “A lot has happened while you were resting, Alexander. For example, your mother decided to come clean. Simon Lewis convinced her to talk about everything she knows about the Circle’s misdoing. Maryse is with Simon and Maia now, giving them an exclusive.”
Yeah, that didn’t sound right. Maybe Alec had hit his head harder than he remembered. “My mother? Are you sure?”
“I was surprised too.” Magnus shrugged. “But Valentine should’ve known better than coming after her son. It seems he has been threatening her for years. Maryse finally has had enough.” He sighed, looking to his hands. Magnus had been playing with his fingers as he spoke, hands hanging in the air as he leaned over the bed’s grid. “As for what happened to you, the good General is investigating. Initial reports concluded both of your engines were compromised. As was your ejection system.” Magnus looked back at him. “I’m very sorry about your plane.”
Inhaling sharply, Alec shook his head. “Izzy is right, Hawk Blue can be reconstructed.”
Magnus arched an eyebrow. “That’s an odd name. Quirky pet?”
Alec snorted and shook his head. “It’s an inner joke. When I was a kid, I came up with an imaginary girlfriend. Jessica Hawkblue. It was very stupid but the name stuck.”
“And why would young Alexander need an imaginary girlfriend?” Magnus asked, chuckling to himself.
“Because young Alexander was stuck in the closet and trying to cover it up.” Alec sighed and only then realized how blunt he’d sound. Magnus looked at a loss for words, so Alec shook his head. “It’s okay. I’m out to the people that matter.”
“Alexander,” Magnus said, more carefully, “I apologize. I didn’t mean to pry.”
But Alec shook his head, dismissing the unnecessary apology. “You didn’t know you were prying. Besides, I’m glad you know now. I don’t hide it anymore, it’s just something I don’t talk about very often. There’s no point.”
“Of course there’s a point,” Magnus protested. “It’s your heart that you’re talking about. Love. It matters, just as much as your happiness. You deserve both, Alexander.”
Alec didn’t know what made Magnus stop talking; if it was his solemn expression or the contrasting racing heartbeat on the monitor. Still, the Senator shut his mouth and only posed his hand over Alec’s. “I should go now, darling. I could really use a shower and a change of clothes. I’ll come back tomorrow, okay? Rest. Everything is under control.”
With that, Magnus left the room. His absence didn’t last long, though. He came back on the following day as promised, and the day after that too. Alec had to stay in the hospital bed for almost two months, in which Magnus visited him almost every single day. He’d always come at the end of day, just before sunset, though sometimes for only long enough to say hello.
During that time, the election race caught fire when Maryse’s interview hit the press. Alec watched the repercussions from his hospital bed as the country exploded in rage. Maryse had pulled no punches as she told about the Circle’s most sordid wrongdoings. The interview covered Valentine’s entire political career. Maryse knew about the deaths of Stephen and Céline, and how Valentine had their pilot poisoned before the plane took off. It was around that time that Valentine started to threaten both Robert and her, as well as his wife Jocelyn.
It had been fear that kept Maryse from saying anything. Instead, she had focused on her career while Robert found escape in the arms of a different woman. Maryse refused to name her husband’s mistress but she knew who was the one who had killed Imogen Herondale. Hodge Starkweather was the chief of security from the Circle’s staff and the only one with access to the Herondale Mansion’s security codes.
The most talked about part of the interview, however, was the third revelation. Clary Morgenstern had not been kidnapped by Seelies. In fact, Valentine had faked the entire thing in order to assure his re-election. His idea was to have his own son, Jonathan, save Clary in just a couple of days. That was why there had been only one Seelie aircraft to fight; the copies constructed by the Circle hadn’t arrived yet. The guards Jace fought were the ones dressed as Seelies to make Clary believe in the lie.
Her “rescue” had been a success because Valentine hadn’t planned for it to happen. Still, he was quick to capitalize on it. He had the people on his side and three new pawns to move across the board.
But the Nephilim didn’t like games. Especially after Maryse was removed from the High Court for her interview, the country believed her words. Alec enjoyed watching Magnus confronting Valentine with every single fact exposed during their debate night from the comfort of his own couch. Having being released from his hospital bed, Alec was still to rest until he was able to go back to the flying exercises.
He enjoyed it much more when Magnus came to visit on the next day and re-told everything that had happened. Come election day, Magnus was set to win with an overwhelming 87% of the projected votes.
And Magnus did win but with 89% of the votes, in the election with the biggest show of Alicante’s history. Over 75% of the population was said to have voted and Alec believed that number. He watched the vote counting from his mother’s living room, surrounded by his siblings. Maryse had smiled when Magnus was named the President of Alicante.
Alec had just texted him. Congratulations, Mister President.
He hadn’t expected a response. At least, not until the following day. Alec had been sure Magnus would be too busy celebrating with his friends and loved ones.
Still, a response came. Thank you, Alexander. Be ready at the usual time. I have a surprise for you.
Magnus stopped his car in front of Alec’s building, sending him a text to let Alec know he was there. By all medical reports, Alec should be completely recovered from his injuries. Still, Magnus expected him to take it easy.
Which was why he had to hold down a laugh when Alec rushed down the stairs out of his building to meet with Magnus. “Hey!” Alec said as he climbed into the car. “Shouldn’t you be at a press conference or some important dinner?”
“I haven’t even taken over office and you’re already questioning me, Alexander?” Magnus arched an eyebrow at him. “The next four years will be hell, I see.”
Alec blinked. “Next four years?”
“Why, yes, Alexander.” Magnus frowned and cocked his head to the side. “Did you think we would stop seeing each other?”
Because Magnus did not. Sure, as President he’d be making regular visits to the military but that was not the only way he wanted to see Alec. It was not for nothing that he had visited the Major at every chance he got, even during the most crucial days of the presidential campaign race.
Magnus didn’t know what it was to not see Alec. And he didn’t want to find out. Catarina had been right, he really liked Alec. Maybe even loved him. He wasn’t sure yet. The only thing Magnus knew for sure is that he wanted Alec in his life. That wouldn’t have changed whether he’d won the election or not.
“I hoped not,” Alec said quietly, almost to himself. He was looking at Magnus, his eyes pouring with happiness.
It was a good look on him, but Magnus bet he could make it even greater. He turned on the car and started driving. A comfortable silence fell around them and Magnus was thankful for it. He was about done with loud celebrations and intense moments. He had barely slept since the night before, though Magnus remembered just flashes of it. And most of those flashes happened after he’d began drinking.
Being announced President had an interesting effect on him. Magnus knew for a fact he hadn’t quite understood that yet but he still had some months before absolutely having to. Until January, Magnus would have time to digest all the implications.
Right now, though, he had a clear list of what truly mattered. There would be no war. Valentine was facing the legal consequences for all of his actions. The Downworlder Party was organizing itself to contact all the suitable candidates to the Ministers and Secretaries Magnus would be appointed.
Well, it would be once Ragnor wasn’t suffering from a hangover.
In the meantime, Magnus had important things to take care of. Personal things. He chuckled to himself when he realized these personal things brought him all the way to the military base of the Shadowhunters Air Forces.
Alec frowned and looked at him with a confused expression. “What are we doing here?”
Magnus just smiled and parked his car. Alec must have gotten the clue and bit back his questions. There were a few soldiers training in the open fields but not a lot of people in the facilities. Magnus was surprised to notice they all saluted him. No just Alec, but him as well.
He must have had a puzzled look on his face because Alec chuckled beside him. “You’ll have to get used to this, you know?”
“I suppose I will.” Magnus blinked, letting an amazed smile take over his lips. With Alec there, he didn’t care if anyone saw him so stunned. All he cared about was Alec. And Alec was smiling too. “It’s just… different to see Shadowhunters show respect instead of distrust.”
“This is how it should be,” Alec said as they walked. He nodded to his own words and there was a seriousness to his semblance that impressed Magnus. “Just give us another chance. We’ll do better, Magnus. The Nephilim, I mean. We can learn to do better, to be better.”
They stopped when Magnus did, in front of the giant glass walls to the landing track. There was a promise on Alec’s face as he spoke, a determination that had become familiar to Magnus. It had been there when Alec told Magnus and Maia to prove their point, when Alec announced Magnus as the future President. It was there now.
It was a determination that Magnus had grown to love. “I believe you, Alexander.” By instinct, Magnus reached out and took Alec’s hands in his. He looked at their hands together, as Alec laced their fingers together almost unconsciously. “For so long I only saw the Nephilim as one mass of people that hated me. It’s a generalization, even if there is a part of the population that is exactly that. But that is also true for the Downworlders. I intend to be everyone’s President, even if my priority is my people.”
“I know,” Alec whispered. He too was looking at their hands together.
Magnus inhaled deeply. “But that doesn’t mean I’ll forget that there are people like you, my darling. People that are unafraid to fight, even if they get hurt. There are people like your sister, like your brother. People that were never taught better. People like your mother, whose love for her family is greater than fear for herself. So thank you for showing me that.”
“Thank you for letting me,” Alec said. He swallowed hard and smiled a shy thing that was very unlike him. “And thank you for letting me help you. It… It changed my life. And I think it changed it for the better.”
“Oh, Alexander.” Magnus shook his head. “You’re thanking me but you haven’t even seen your surprise yet.”
Alec’s frown only grew deeper and Magnus gestured to the landing track in front of them. The frown turned into a grin, though, when Alec saw it. Magnus himself felt the pulse of energy rush through Alec by the way the Major’s hand squeezed his.
“Hawk Blue…!” Alec whispered, looking at Magnus with an ecstatic look. His eyes shot back to his beloved warplane, completely reformed and waiting to fly again. “How…? Izzy said- She said..!”
Magnus chuckled. “You weren’t the only one going through some recovery in the last couple of months, Alexander. I have some friends from engineering school that were more than happy to reconstruct this killing machine. They say they even added a few upgr-”
Before Magnus could keep talking, he felt a hand grabbing him by the lapels of his tailored jacket. Just like that, Alec’s lips were on his. The kiss felt even more electric than Alec’s grab on his hand but Magnus was glad for it. He gasped, kissing Alec back with just as much urgency as Alec felt. Soon enough, they were both laughing and kissing and laughing some more.
“I take it that you liked it,” Magnus whispered once they pulled away just enough to catch their breaths.
Alec still had his forehead leaning on Magnus’, so he felt the vibration of the Major’s chuckle. “I love it. Thank you, Magnus. Thank you!”
“What are you waiting for?” Magnus smiled. “Go take it for a test-drive.”
Snorting, Alec stole a kiss before shaking his head. “It’s not a car, Magnus.” He shook his head, but his chuckles ruined the attempt of reprehension. “But I really want to fly it.”
“Then do it. I’ll be here when you get back.” Magnus cocked his head to the side. He didn’t know if it was the gleam of Alec’s eyes or the taste of him, but something was making Magnus feel cheeky. “Then, maybe, you can show how really thankful you are, Major Lightwood.”
“Well, Mister President, I-”
Whatever Alec’s answer was, however, he never got to say it. Both his and Magnus’ phone began buzzing at the same time. It certainly didn’t appear like an informal call. Like a premonition, Magnus knew nothing good would come from answering that call.
Still, he did. “Hello?”
“Do you have a TV near you?” Raphael’s voice poured from the other side of the line. In front of Magnus, Alec had answered his sister’s call as well.
Magnus thought he was probably mirroring Alec’s scowl. “I could get one. Why?”
“Valentine was found dead in his manor,” Raphael said, right to the point. “Killed by his son, Jonathan. It’s all over the news. The place is infested by reporters. They’re saying it was a passionate crime, that there was some struggle. But Magnus, that is not the worst part.” Raphael swallowed hard. “Jonathan is missing and so is his aircraft. They found a note. He’s on his way to attack the Seelie Court. He says that he’ll make the war his father wanted, one way or the other. Magnus, he’s going to kill Madam Quinn.”
Alec was in the air seven minutes after turning off the call. Hawk Blue behaved just like before, if not even better. That was good, because there was no time to lose. Jonathan was probably halfway through the distance between Alicante and the Seelies. The only silver lining was that Jonathan’s Lilith had still been in the Air Force base, which meant he had to be flying with an older version of his warplane.
Hopefully, that would give Alec some advantage. Still, he knew he was no match for Jonathan in a one-on-one battle. Alec was good, one of the best. But Jonathan was just as good and he had nothing else to lose. He wasn’t flying out of duty or ambition, he was desperate. Much like a child, a desperate man would pull no punches.
“Alexander, do you hear me?” Magnus’ voice came through the headphones. He sounded a little bit frantic but Alec had to admit that he was too. There hadn’t been time to think before Alec was rushing to the landing track, putting on his pilot uniform over his civilian clothes. Magnus had probably been taken to the commander tower.
“I hear you,” Alec answered. “You’re supposed to ask for Hawk Blue, not me.”
Magnus huffed. “I’m not talking to your imaginary girlfriend, Alexander. Anyway, they’ve located Jonathan’s flying path. Isabelle and Jace just arrived and are hopping on their planes. They’ll be with you in no time.”
“Hawk Blue,” General Luke’s voice poured in, “your orders are to stall Jonathan until the rest of your squad catches up to you. Do not let him fire against the Seelies.”
“Copy that, Sir.” Alec inhaled sharply and looked at the coordinates the control tower had fed him. If the calculations were right, he was just a few minutes away from Jonathan. He certainly wouldn’t be expecting such a quick response so there was still a chance Alec could use the element of surprise.
Alec gritted his teeth and pulled Hawk Blue to fly higher, right among the clouds. He turned on the stealth mode, hoping against hope that Jonathan’s aircraft wouldn’t find him on its radar. His best chance was to catch him off-guard.
The minutes turned into seconds and soon Alec could see Jonathan’s plane on his radar. There were no signs that Jonathan was aware of his presence, though. The airplane was an older model for sure, but not a bad one. It was probably a lesser version of Jonathan’s own Lilith. Refraining from the impulse to warn the fellow Shadowhunter and request that he stood down, Alec decided for a riskier approach. It was time to test the updates Magnus’ friends had boasted about.
Alec locked up the aim and fired against the enemy’s turbines.
Only the first couple of ones hit before Jonathan was able to skirt through the others. Alec knew that because Magnus had yelled in his ears. Barely after released the trigger, the pilot went back to max speed, flying over Jonathan. As Lilith fired expectedly where Alec would’ve been just a few seconds ago, Hawk Blue began to ascend even further.
“Just a little more, girl,” Alec grunted, feeling the pressure begin to crunch his entire body. He needed just a couple more feets before… “Now!” Alec pushed the controls back, making his plane turned 180 degrees in the air. Upside down, he was able to see exactly where Lilith was, even with the clouds blocking the way. Alec pressed the trigger again, flying head-on in Lilith’s direction.
This time, he saw where the shots hit. One of the wings of the aircraft exploded in a million sparkles as the bullets crashed against the metal. Alec also managed a hit on the cockpit glass, but it did little more than clenching it.
Even in an older version, Lilith was still the hardest aircraft in the force to break. Alec knew that, though he had hoped a head-on attack would be enough. Now, he had given up his position and Jonathan wouldn’t be kind in his counter-attack. Whatever happened, Hawk Blue couldn’t be caught. Besides her incredible defense, Lilith was also known to have a lethal cannon equipped to it. Alec could see that cannon pointing out at him as he descended towards the ocean.
“Don’t fly beneath him!” General Luke shouted in Alec’s ears. “He’ll catch you if you do!”
“Rise, Alexander! Rise!” Magnus said, his voice stricken with a shade of fear.
Easier said than done but Alec would not let Magnus down. He kept on his path but remembered the training in low flight. As if there were ruins and buildings in his way, Alec made Hawk Blue turn and twist, too erratic for an aim to be locked on him. When he emerged out of Lilith’s range, no shot had touched him.
“That was very well-done,” a cold voice filled Alec’s cockpit. Jonathan’s voice. Alec realized too late he had left all the communication channels open. “One can see why you survived the attempt on your life, Major Lightwood. I just wish you hadn’t. You have no idea the lengths I had to go through to get to your airplane the night before. It was terribly rude of you to not die after that. Father was so angry.”
Gritting his teeth, Alec turned Hawk Blue again, firing another round of shots before hiding in the clouds again. He could hear the explosions but Jonathan just laughed through the impact. “No matter. You die now.”
With every intention to keep firing, Alec started the preparations for another round of attacks. However, Magnus’ voice made him stop. “Keep him talking, Alexander. Isabelle and Jace are almost there. Stall him.”
“Yes, Mister President,” Alec answered, taking the care to mute Jonathan as he spoke. Alec opened up the channels again, all of them. “I’ve survived you once. I’ll do it again.”
“You were lucky once,” Jonathan sneered through the microphone. “You know, I don’t care about you. I really never did. Isabelle was my friend once so I might spare her. It’ll be my pleasure to kill Jace. Someone has to free my sister from him. But you? Good soldier Alec, trying to compensate how broken you are by following the rules. I was rather surprised when you joined your Downworlder boyfriend. Too bad you have to die when you finally became interesting.”
Alec pulled Hawk Blue into a circle right when Jonathan began shooting at will. He did not know where Hawk Blue was. As fortified as this version of Lilith was, it did not have a very advanced tracking system. “I’m interesting because of my involvement with the Downworlder Party? I thought you hated Downworlders.”
Jonathan sighed, sounding truly frustrated. “That was my father. This is his war. It’s not something I want but… He’s dead now. Someone has to honor him. I have to honor him. That is what family does.”
An explosion sounded near Hawk Blue’s tail and Alec felt the whole world tremble. Among the clouds, Lilith emerged, all black metal and sharp edges. It was enormous, a beast of a plane. Face to face, Alec knew there was no way to run. Jonathan had his cannon locked up on him.
So Alec didn’t run. He looked straight ahead. From this angle, he could see Jonathan’s face through the clenched darkened glass. He looked disfigured somehow, as if his skin had burned and taken away his features. A monster just like his father was before him.
“No,” Alec said, “families do not start pointless wars for each other.”
“They end them,” Isabelle said, her Iron Sister appearing just on Hawk Blue’s left. On its right, Jace’s Céline closed the formation of the Light Squad. “And this is exactly what we are going to do.”
Jonathan’s eyes grew to two black balls but there was little he could do when Jace yelled “fire.” All three warplanes shot at the same time, Hawk Blue and its accurate bullets, Iron Sister and its electric slashes, and Céline’s missiles.
Lilith exploded right in front of their eyes, taking Jonathan and the war with it.
President Magnus Bane sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Six months in that chair had taught him patience, a lot of it. It had not, however, taught him how to deal with the Nephilim inability to see beyond the rules. As a former Senator, Magnus knew just how attached the Nephilim Senate was to its precious Accords. But he had never imagined they would use it to hinder the country’s own prosperity.
Maybe it was time to re-write the Accords.
The mere thought was enough to amuse Magnus for a week, though not discard it. Still, he was done with meetings for the day. In fact, it was the beginning of the night. That meant Magnus had lost yet another sunset with Alec.
As President, Magnus was having some difficulty to see his boyfriend every day, such as he wanted to. It was true that Magnus saw Major Lightwood every other week during the meetings with the military. General Luke often delegated the task to Alec, to which Magnus was deeply grateful. However, those were professional meetings. It was no time to hold hands, to talk about their day, to be themselves.
That was what Magnus missed. He missed his Alexander, the man he loved. They had been together for seven months now so there was no excuse for Magnus to miss him too much. Alec was perfectly happy to wait for his late meetings in the corridor or to just have a couple of minutes with him before Magnus was rushed into another discussion that could change the country and its population’s lives.
But Magnus wasn’t. It bothered him to no end.
“Hey,” Raphael said, walking into Magnus’ office without knocking. That was how Magnus knew the official business hours were over. Raphael kept his usual habits of completely disrespecting him but only when nobody else was there to notice. “Your boyfriend is here.”
Raphael didn’t wait for a response before indicating that Alec could come in. He didn’t really have to either. That scene had grown a constant in Magnus’ life. Whenever he couldn’t make it to Alec, Alec would find him.
“Mister President,” Alec greeted him once Raphael had closed the door behind him, walking up to Magnus’ desk. He got around it, leaning on the desk as Magnus turned to him, still sitting.
“Major Lightwood.” The hint of amusement in Alec’s voice made Magnus smile. How different it was to have Alec there in his office with him, just the two of them. It felt so casual, so right. Although, Magnus figured it was too early in the night for them to have sex on his desk like the week before. Those things were better left for after midnight. Just in case. “How was your day?”
Alec just shrugged. “Did some training and met a few recruits. Nothing too exciting. Yours? How many meetings did you have today?”
Magnus groaned, leaning his forehead on Alec’s hip. “Too many. It’s like I’m dealing with a bunch of Ragnors every day. They even make me miss him. No wonder Valentine was insane and Malachi was such a dull tool. You either have to be crazy or numbed to survive this job.”
“Well, you’re neither and you’re still the most popular President of the last fifty years.” Alec snorted and brought a hand to Magnus’ hair. “It’s not the job that is getting you down. I actually like going to your meetings, getting people to do the things you want them to do. It’s something else. What?”
Sighing, Magnus shook his head. He still didn’t look up. “This chair is really uncomfortable.”
“Come on, Magnus.” One could hear Alec’s eyeroll just in his tone of voice. “What’s upsetting you so much?”
There really was no distracting this man. Sometimes, Magnus hated just how stubborn Alec could be. This was one of those times. Almost. “I miss you.”
Alec’s fingers stopped moving for the smallest of seconds but then they slipped to Magnus’ cheeks. “I’m right here,” Alec whispered. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Magnus shook his head again and this time his eyes met with Alec’s. “I know. I just miss seeing you every day. It’s… childish of me. I just never thought I would find someone I want to wake up to every day. Someone I want to be the last thing I see before I go to sleep.” Magnus brought his hand to grab Alec’s. “That is how I feel about you, Alexander.”
Nodding, Alec pondered about that for a minute. “That’s how I feel about you too. But you know… That is easy to solve.”
A snort escaped Magnus’ lips. “How? My schedule is too erratic and you have your responsibilities towards the Shadowhunters Forces. It’s not like one of us can just throw everything to the air. We make it work, but we’ll just have to accept that our jobs will always interfer-”
“We could move in together,” Alec said.
Five words. Magnus dealt with words and discourses his entire day, every day. He had signed a peace treaty with the Seelies after two months of negotiations. He had kept a good relationship with Nephilim organizations for longer than that. Magnus’ entire job was to know how to deal with words.
But those five left him speechless. Magnus blinked. “Move in… together?”
“Yes.” Alec smiled simply. “Magnus, I love you. I want to go to sleep at your side every day and wake up to you first thing in the morning. I want all those things too. I already know I can’t live without you. So I’d love to live with you.”
Magnus exhaled, barely believing what he was hearing. “When did you become so eloquent?”
Alec snorted, shrugging. “I pick up some things from you.” He smiled, cocking his head to the side. “So, what do you say? Do you think I can officially move to your place?”
“Yes, of course.” Magnus chuckled. “I can’t believe I never considered that.”
“You’re busy running a country.” Alec shrugged. He smirked and pulled Magnus to stand up, kissing him. It was so easy for him to do it. Magnus had expected Alec to have a tough time adjusting to the whole country knowing about his private life but the pilot had surprised him. Alec didn’t care about what anyone thought as long as he and Magnus were happy.
As always, Alec never ceases to amaze him.
“I love you, Alexander,” Magnus said, feeling the weight of his worries melt away from his shoulders. Once again, Alec was his peace. Once again, for that brief moment, the only thing that mattered was the two of them.
Alec smiled, a mirror of everything that Magnus felt. “I love you too.”