Magnus ignored the chime of an incoming text message as he was nearly finished with the translation he was working on and unwilling to be torn away. Ironically, it was his own work, but he'd written it in Spanish and the client needed it in Dutch. It should have been a simple job but he'd spent the entire time horrified at some of his own choices (bat wings? for that application? had he been that oblivious 200 years ago to how alligator teeth were far superior?). He'd ended up not only translating but also writing a supplemental text with additions and corrections that was nearly as long as the original. Magnus shuddered at the thought of how many copies were floating around in the world unable to be corrected and with so many terrible decisions on display.
His phone rang and Magnus sighed, summoning it to hand. Apparently the outside world was determined to come knocking. He glanced at the ID and answered the call. "Isabelle! Your dulcet tones are always a delight but is this important?"
"I don't know. Is Alec there?"
At the tone of her voice, Magnus put down the pen he was holding and straightened up. "No, he said he was meeting you this afternoon to shop for Max's birthday presents."
"Yeah, he's late. Not a lot late, but… I don't know. Sisterly intuition? I mean, he's usually early or sends a text if he gets held up. He's not answering his phone and he wasn't working this afternoon so he's not distracted by paperwork. The only other option was you."
"I am an excellent distraction, I will admit, but unfortunately not in this case," Magnus said, standing and grabbing his jacket. "Did you call blondie?"
"No, not yet. That was my next step."
"Is he at the Institute this afternoon?"
"He should be."
"I'll tell you what, I'll try calling Alec and, if he doesn't answer my call either, then I'll pop over there and make sure everything's okay. You stay there and wait for him."
"Yeah, that sounds good." She sighed. "I feel like I'm overreacting. He's a valuable target but Jace would've already sent out the emergency alert if he'd sensed anything wrong."
"Better safe than sorry, love.” Magnus attempted to sound far less concerned than he actually was. "Text me if he appears."
Magnus started gathering magic even as he ended the call with Isabelle and dialed Alec. The phone rang through, but there was no answer and it tripped over to his painfully short voicemail message: This is Alec. Leave a message.
Magnus opened up a portal.
Jace was sitting in Ops reviewing the files of a half dozen incoming assignees when he distantly heard a portal opening up in the entryway. A few beats later, Magnus came in and made a beeline for Jace as soon as he spotted him.
"Am I forgetting something?" Jace asked.
"Probably, but aren't we all?" Magnus sounded chipper but there was an urgency in the tilt of his body and the restlessness of his hands. "Have you heard from Alec recently?"
"No." Jace swung the chair around. His own hand was suddenly itching to drop to the hilt of the dagger at his thigh. "He was meeting Izzy this afternoon. Why?"
"Izzy just called and he didn't show. She was worried." Yeah, Izzy clearly wasn't the only one. "I tried calling him, but it went to voicemail. I told her I'd pop over here and see if you'd heard from him."
False alarm then. Jace relaxed back into the chair. "One of you could have just called me. I would have noticed if anything was wrong." Alec's heartbeat was slow and steady in the quiet corners of Jace's brain but he nudged the bond awake. Alec's heartbeat remained slow and steady. Very slow and steady. Jace frowned. "He's… asleep?"
Magnus pulled out his phone and started texting, presumably Izzy. Jace tried getting a sense of direction for Alec but there was nothing, just a soft void where his parabatai should be. The bond was quickly getting restless, feeding off Jace's growing unease. Jace pulled out his phone, but just then Sonia walked by so he stopped her instead. "I think that's Clary up in the training room. Go tell her I need her here and it's an emergency."
'Emergency' was the magic word inside the Institute walls. Sonia sprinted off. Jace stood up and looked back to Magnus, who was still texting and now looking actively worried. "Do you have anything of Alec's on you?"
Magnus, still looking at his phone, shook his head. "No, but I can retrieve something from the loft that would probably be a stronger tracker than anything here."
"Do that." As Magnus started to open a portal it occurred to Jace that the middle of Ops wasn't the best place for tracking. "Magnus! Meet us in Alec's office!" Magnus waved that he'd heard even as he stepped through the portal and disappeared.
Clary came trotting up with a grinning Max on her heels, both of them still armed with seraph swords. "Hey, what's up?" she asked, wiping the sweat off her forehead with the back of one hand.
"Sonia said it was an emergency!" Max sounded excited as always at the potential for mayhem.
"Yeah, Alec's missing."
The grin dropped off Max's face.
"C'mon, we're heading to his office." Jace lead the way out of Ops, Clary and Max following. "I can't get a sense of his location so we're going to try together. Magnus went to get a token from the loft."
Magnus was waiting for them by the time they walked through the door. "Shirt he slept in last night or his bow?" he asked, holding one in each hand. Jace hesitated a moment, eyes snagging on the bow. Of course he didn't have it. He'd been meeting Izzy to go shopping. But at best he had a small dagger at his ankle, his stele, and a witchlight. Fuck.
"Shirt," Clary handed Max the sword she'd been carrying and pulled out her stele. "It'll be a good supplement to the bond."
Jace nodded, stripping off his own shirt. "Yeah, balance it out." He traded shirts with Magnus as Clary stepped up to put the tracking rune over his heart.
"Ready?" she asked. Jace nodded again, planting his feet and bracing himself. He could see her drop almost instantly into a different headspace. Clary didn't just draw runes, especially the ones Ithuriel had gifted her. She pulled them up from some deep well like she was harnessing something half wild, giving the raw power form and purpose.
She etched the tracking rune into his skin like a slow motion brand, the power rising up in his skin and mixing with the restless bond. When she finished the last stroke Jace's vision haloed out as his pupils dilated. Closing his eyes against the brightness, he tightened his jaw down against the surge, holding fast to both the now angry bond and the bottled power of the rune. He clutched the shirt over the raw skin of the rune, over his heart. Clary slipped behind him, her arm wrapping around his ribs so she could join her hand to his. As they held the shirt together, her other hand slid down just under his waistband to cover the parabatai rune. He settled his free hand over hers and, with the loop complete, the world dissolved as his focus was yanked inward like a collapsing star. A wash of red-gold — Clary — surged up from the depths. The power in their blood poured through the rune, his bond with Alec snapped and crackled, the fabric of Alec's shirt in their hands a focus and a catalyst in one.
There was a flash of Alec for just a moment, in the loft, wearing the shirt they were holding, and smiling at something. The image dissolved and there was a heartbeat of nothing before Jace felt the tracking rune latch onto the bond, arrowing down the hard gold light that stretched out into the darkness. It couldn't have been long, maybe two heartbeats, but suddenly there was an invisible barrier and the red cast of the tracking rune fractured out into thousand threads, looping back into itself and fizzling into nothing.
Jace opened his eyes. "Fuck. "
One of Clary's hands slid up and the other slid down to meet at his waist. She leaned her forehead against the back of his neck. "The bond kept going, we just couldn't."
"Yeah, that's what I got." He looked over at Magnus to find him covering Max's eyes with one hand. He blinked. "What are you doing?"
"I am almost fifteen," Max bitched, "and they were tracking."
"Oh, you know," Magnus said faintly, dropping his hand. "It was rather… bright."
Behind him Clary giggled, slightly hysterically.
Magnus shook himself. "So that didn't sound like you found anything."
"No, not really," Clary replied, letting go of Jace so he could pull a shirt back on. "He's there, but the tracker shatters before it actually gets to him. I didn't even get a general sense of direction."
"So probably water?" Max suggested.
"But it's Alec. I should be able to—" Jace broke off that line of thought. Frustration was a useless distraction in an emergency. "Okay, we have to cover the bases. Magnus, you try and see if you get anything more than we did. While you do that, we'll start tracking the CCTV back. He was just meeting Izzy so he wouldn't have activated his runes. Fortunately, Alec can be predictable."
Magnus' warlock tracking was a bust. Even after three attempts, he couldn't sense Alec at all, let alone a location. He wasn't happy about it either and he'd stormed back into Ops in a bad temper.
Fortunately Tatiana was on duty. She was the fastest in the Institute at dealing with the city's surveillance infrastructure. Max perched on the chair next to her, watching intently as she worked backward from the meeting point, accessing and skimming at high speed through the CCTV feeds along Alec’s most likely route. Once Magnus had himself back under control, he and Clary made good attempts at patience during the tedious process, but Jace couldn't stop pacing for the itch under his skin. It didn't help when Izzy returned and started wearing a path in the floor tile with him.
If it had been a wider search radius or a longer time frame, it would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack. As it was, Tatiana was able to track down a sighting of Alec within an hour. Leapfrogging from there, they found one brief shot of him clearly unconscious, an arm over someone's shoulder, and then nothing. The camera quality was too poor to distinguish anything about the person holding him up other than their general height.
"Magic?" Jace asked, leaning closer to the monitor like it would resolve the blurry pixels into something sharper.
Magnus stood very straight and still. "Maybe, but it could be a dart to the neck just as easily. That fast of a disappearance, though, that was almost certainly a portal."
Jace rubbed at his eyes, shoving down the increasingly angry bond and trying to focus on the problem at hand. "Okay, first—"
The sudden pain came out of nowhere. Jace found himself on the floor, head pounding, jaw throbbing. He had his seraph dagger out and ready before he realized he was looking up at five confused faces. Oh fuc—
The next blow came from the other side, because people did tend to follow patterns when beating the shit out you. The first punch had shocked Alec awake and the bond had latched onto him immediately, yanking Jace half out of himself. Jace was holding onto his awareness of the Institute by the thinnest thread while Alec was muzzily trying to figure out what the fuck was going on and shut the bond back down. Jace barely managed to re-sheathe his blade before the next blow came, all while holding onto Alec and without losing himself in the process.
"Clary," he grated out, and she dropped down to straddle his waist, one hand sliding up under his shirt to cover the tracking rune. He saw her eyes flare gold before they both dropped like rocks straight down to the bond, the intense flare of power and speed of the descent knocking the breath out of him. They slid along it like flying.
Two heartbeats later the tracker shattered against the darkness again despite Jace feeling himself stretching further, extending out to Alec. He surfaced to Clary swearing, her teeth bared. The next hit was to his stomach — to Alec's stomach — and Jace doubled up, nearly bashing Clary in the face. "Off," he said, gasping for air. She rolled off and back up to her knees next to Magnus. He looked like he'd already drawn the obvious conclusion and was pissed.
Jace lost time to the beating after that. Alec couldn't keep his eyes open enough to see the blows coming, couldn't brace against anything with the magic or drugs still in his system. Jace curled up in a ball and just hung on, unwilling to leave Alec alone.
He didn't lose consciousness, neither of them did, but once the blows finally stopped Alec was near enough to it. Jace didn't know how much more time passed but he eventually blinked upward and realized Max was kneeling over him. He stared up at Max, feeling like his lip was split and bleeding, like he was having a hard time getting enough air, like all his muscles were still sluggish, like he was strapped into a wooden chair, like he was laying on the floor in Ops, like there were definitely people he should be pissing off because he wasn't going to give them the satisfaction—
"Fuck," Jace said to the whole situation.
"Yeah," Max agreed, holding one of Jace's hands in his own.
Jace could hear Izzy's voice rising and falling a short distance away, shifting between cold anger and sweetly dangerous. Whoever she had called was getting a whole range of threats. Magnus sat on the floor behind him, out of sight but with one hand laying heavy on Jace's head. His voice was quieter than Izzy's but had an uncharacteristic calm that conveyed all the subtlety of an Institute wide alarm. There were other bodies moving around the edges as Ops ramped up to high alert. Clary appeared briefly with a tablet in hand and a look of concern. She yanked up his shirt to draw an iratze on his side, then disappeared again.
The iratze helped for a few minutes but Alec's disorientation and the effects of the beating continued filtering down the bond and fucking with Jace's perceptions. He drifted for a while, finally starting back to wakefulness at a gasp from Clary. He heaved his shoulders up and braced on his elbows while Max fretted and tried to help. Izzy, Clary, and Magnus were huddled around a glittery phone — Magnus' — with expressions ranging from Clary's wide-eyed oh shit look to Izzy and Magnus' twin looks of complete and utter fury.
"What did you find?" Jace asked.
"I am going to dismantle him slowly." Magnus' knuckles were white where he was gripping the phone.
It was Clary who finally looked up and answered, "He wasn't taken because he's the Head of the Institute. He was taken because—"
Jace's own eyes weren't focusing consistently but he could tell Magnus had flat out lost the glamour on his. He was also pretty sure he was actually seeing red sparks around Magnus' hands and through the strands of his hair.
Clary side-eyed Magnus. She looked torn between edging closer to offer comfort and moving out of the danger zone. "It's a warlock by the name of Cynric. He sent Magnus a video."
Jace took a moment to process that someone had kidnapped the Head of the New York Shadowhunter Institute, the significant other of the High Warlock of Brooklyn, and Jace's goddamn parabatai all in order to deliberately piss off Magnus Bane.
"Does he have a death wish?" Jace asked.
"He's not from New York," Magnus snarled, still staring at his phone. Jace could hear distant, tinny thuds that he assumed he'd been feeling earlier. Was still feeling the effects of now. "He's an old enemy. It's possible he doesn't know anything about Alec besides that he's obviously a Shadowhunter and that he's mine."
Jace opened his mouth to argue that Magnus wasn't the only one in the room that Alec belonged to, but a self-preservation he didn't even know he had made him close it again. They could have that argument later.
Clary took a deep breath, set her shoulders, and put her hand over the screen of Magnus' phone. Magnus looked over at her and Jace couldn't see Magnus' expression, but he could guess. Clary stood her ground.
"If it's a warlock," Max said, "then him being on water isn't a given. There's wards that could block the tracking, right?"
"Yes." Magnus finally let Clary take the phone from him and shut off the video loop. "It's possible specific blocking wards would interfere. But that likely means…"
"He's not bait." Izzy's whip started a threatening rattle. "He's an object lesson."
"Send Maryse a fire letter." Jace activated his own iratze this time. His brain cleared of the drug's effects again, at least temporarily. Izzy's face was a mask, but the continuous shifting of her bracelet was an easy tell of what kind of mood she was in. "Clary you're acting head, at least until—" The room spun sideways and Jace blinked, suddenly realizing he was looking at the ceiling again. "Fuck."
A half dozen faces loomed over him for a moment. He blinked and it was an empty ceiling again, but he could hear Clary delegating tasks.
"Magnus." Magnus appeared and Jace held up a hand. "Help me to my room. I'm not doing this in the middle of Ops."
Jace didn't dare shut the bond down, even for the short trip to his room. If he did and couldn't get it back, they would lose their only connection to Alec. Using Magnus as a crutch and with Izzy's leverage, Jace managed to make it upright even with the room lurching. Despite a dozen iratzes along the way, it was a drunken path they staggered down the halls. With Max leading, Magnus' bulk and Izzy's quick thinking saved Jace from crashing into walls each time the drug rolled back over him through the bond.
"Definitely drugged," he explained to Magnus on the way. "He's still got it all in his system, but we're diluting the effects between us."
"Yeah, that cat's out of the bag," Max said as he dodged out of the way of Magnus dragging Jace through the doorway into his room.
"What?" Jace asked even as he felt his knees buckle and Magnus' grip go tight as he took all of Jace's weight.
Jace surfaced from the fog and discovered he was horizontal again, but at least this time it was on his own bed. He activated his iratze. "If you answered me, Max, say it again. What cat?"
"The thing about your and Alec's bond being weird." Max was sitting cross legged on the bed at Jace's hip. "Everyone in Ops saw everything. Word's going to get back to Idris that something's up."
"Yeah, that's a problem for after we have Alec back." Jace struggled back up to his elbows. "Magnus."
Magnus, pacing overlapping paths at the foot of the bed with Izzy, turned at his name. Izzy, on her phone and threatening someone again, automatically detoured around him.
"I can't lea—" Jace heard the strain in his own voice. He dropped back down and stared at the ceiling. "I can either stay with him or block him out completely."
Magnus appeared almost immediately in his field of vision, leaning down with hands on either side of Jace's head. "Don't you dare." There was an echo of thunder in his voice. If Jace had actually needed the reminder that Magnus was effectively a prince of Hell, today would have already done it. And he had a feeling Magnus was just getting started.
"I won't. I swear I won't, but you have to find him, Magnus. Burn down whatever you have to, just find him."