“Alexander. Alec. Alec.”
Magnus’ sleep-croaky voice along with the soft though insistent nudge against his chest stirred Alec awake. The chill in the air since they’d shrugged their blankets off in the night had him turning over in protest, burrowing down into Magnus’ warmth.
“Cold,” he complained, snagging the edge of one of those blankets and yanking it up over them both, snuggling down beneath it with a contented sigh, as Magnus wrapped him up in his arms with an absent kiss to the top of his head.
“Not that I’m complaining—”
“It’s too cold out.”
“Your alarm, Alexander. I think you forgot to set your alarm. Or it didn’t go off.”
Grumbling under his breath Alec wriggled closer still, smiling at Magnus’ soft burst of laughter for it, then humming in approval at the further kisses pressed into his hair. He thought about moving, reaching behind him for his cell phone to check how late he was already, but then the previous day’s events came back to him, and before his thoughts could spiral into unpleasant things Alec cut them off, concentrating instead on the warmth of Magnus against him.
“Not going in today,” he announced, splaying his fingers wide at Magnus’ hip and peppering kisses over his chest. Magnus’ hand sweeping up the length of his arm and dropping to rest on his lower back pushed the last of his sleepiness away. With a tighter grip at Magnus' waist, Alec rolled over on his back, hauling Magnus on top of him.
“You’re not?” Magnus asked in surprise, balancing himself on his forearms either side of Alec’s head, sweeping back a stray strand of hair from his forehead as he smiled down at him.
“Nope. Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Magnus repeated, surprise still laced through his voice. But then Alec shifted until Magnus fell in the gap between his legs, pressed his feet into the bed, and gave a languid roll of his hips that claimed all of Magnus’ attention.
“Not now,” Magnus smiled, one thumb out to Alec’s temple to swirl there as he ducked in to kiss him, humming in appreciation as Alec continued that lazy roll, and answered it with one of his own.
“But why aren’t you working today?” Magnus asked, ducking to mouth along Alec’s Deflect rune, for which Alec turned his head away to give him better access and hummed in approval, closing his eyes with a soft sigh.
The first time they’d had a full, uninterrupted evening together, with Alec happily pinned beneath Magnus on his couch as they made out, Alec had been startled by the feel of insistent lips on his neck, and even more so for the heat it had shot straight through his core. Alec’s initial fear that one glimpse at the runes etched into his skin would send Magnus running from him with the reminder of who and what he was were put to rest in that very moment; first for Magnus’ confession about how long he’d been waiting to get his mouth on his rune, and second for the lust-filled way Magnus had looked at him before claiming his mouth again.
So to avoid Magnus’ question, unsure as he was about how to get the words out to answer, Alec instead laced his fingers through the back of Magnus’ hair to keep him in place as his lips repeatedly traced out the length of that rune.
“Alexander,” Magnus teased, nipping it into his jaw, “I know you’re trying to distract me.”
“Can’t be trying hard enough if you’ve noticed,” Alec retorted, laughing into Magnus’ shoulder seconds later when his quick roll over had Magnus on his back.
“I want you, Magnus,” Alec whispered then, reaching down between to begin to coax them both to hardness, eyes fluttering closed at the soft moan falling from Magnus’ mouth, and angling himself a little better to be able to thrust into his own hand. Slotting his free one beneath their pillows to balance himself on an arm, Alec smiled down at Magnus, dropping his gaze for a moment to watch them beginning to stir together, then looking back up to catch Magnus doing the same, and leaned in for a kiss. “That okay?”
“I am always yours, Alexander,” Magnus told him with a soft smile, arching beneath him and splaying his legs a little wider, nudging Alec up enough so he could watch them again for a few moments before tilting his chin up for a kiss.
Alec closed his mind off to everything else, concentrating on the feel of them thickening against his palm, the sharp shoots of heat firing through his gut. And more than anything, the expression on Magnus’ face; never able to get over the awe he always felt that he could be the one to bring Magnus pleasure, and that Magnus would want to share such a thing with him.
Snatched kisses and repeated smiles stole any need for talking, interrupted only by the occasional groans blasting out of their mouths. Alec twisted his hand up to sweep over their cock heads, swallowing Magnus’ moan with the flick of his tongue. And as he tightened his grip a little, Magnus swept a wide hand down his back, bringing it to a stop on Alec’s ass, fingers curling between his cheeks. Alec arched back, his cock jolting already anticipating the feel of Magnus sliding into him, the tease of his fingertips against his hole punching a soft groan from his lips.
“Magnus,” he whispered, mouthing at his earlobe, “I—”
A cell phone vibrating hard against a nightstand had Alec dropping his head and groaning into Magnus’ neck in frustration, thrusting into his hand a couple more times before throwing himself over on his back. Magnus’ own complaint was a frustrated huff with a trace of laughter for Alec’s reaction, as he stretched across the bed for his phone and pulled it close to look at the screen.
“Good morning,” Magnus said, his voice professional and clipped as he immediately moved to sit up, standing to the side of the bed with a look of concentration on his face as he absently straightened up their sheets. “No, that’s okay; it cannot be helped. I’ll be there in a few minutes. Okay, I’ll see you soon."
“Everything okay?” Alec asked, his eyes sweeping over Magnus as he moved around to the foot of the bed.
“It will be,” Magnus sighed, snapping his fingers and immediately being clothed in a favorite suit. Alec smiled at the disgruntled way Magnus stared down at himself, one hand over his tenting pants as he mumbled to himself to soften, and adjusting himself with a huff when he didn’t. “I’m sorry to—”
“It’s fine,” Alec smiled, lifting a hand to wave in dismissal at his apology, and harder still as Magnus ducked down to kiss him, arching up a little to meet him. “Do you think you’ll be long?”
“I hope not,” Magnus sighed, reaching out to smooth hair away from Alec’s forehead, bending to kiss him once more before straightening up and snapping his fingers again, this time to apply eyeshadow and liner, then turning to snatch up an assortment of jewelry from the side.
“‘What is it?”
“A territory dispute."
“Between?” Alec asked, his stomach dropping at the thought of the Clave needing notifying, loathing the thought of even a moment in the Institute when he’d set his heart on avoiding it all day.
“It’s fine, Alexander,” Magnus assured him, flaring his fingers in what Alec assumed was a plea for him not to worry, already half-turning away, “just an infantile dispute between two warlocks who are more than old enough to know better."
Alec’s imagination flew to other warlock disputes he’d both witnessed and Magnus had told him about; it had him sitting up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, telling himself he was selfish for not wanting to be involved. “Magnus—”
“It’s fine,” Magnus insisted, nudging to stand between his knees and leaning down to cup his face, “I’ll be back before you know it. You’re sure you don’t need to work today?”
“Positive,” Alec nodded, once more ignoring the clench of his stomach.
“Then perhaps we can have breakfast together."
“Maybe I can make breakfast?” Alec suggested, splaying his fingers over Magnus’ hips. “Or at least, get something ready."
“That would be perfect,” Magnus smiled, ducking to kiss him again. “I promise; I’ll be no more than an hour."
Alec nodded as Magnus pulled away from him, watching as he conjured a portal right there beside their bed, and smiled when Magnus winked at him before stepping through.
The room seemed unnaturally quiet in Magnus’ absence. To avoid being left alone with his thoughts Alec first took a quick shower, then ran downstairs to a bakery near their apartment to pick up some breakfast pastries, selecting all the ones he knew to be Magnus’ favorites, and picking up a loaf of their usual bread while he was there.
Back in the apartment, he set a table for them, displaying the pastries on a wide oval plate in the center of it, and sliding matching smaller plates on either side. He put out a favorite jar of jelly and a fresh one of honey, added two tall glasses of juice to the table, then turned away, and debated making coffee.
Deciding to wait a little longer in case Magnus was delayed, Alec busied himself with unnecessary tidying, slotting away a couple of magazines, putting fresh towels in the bathroom, even moving Magnus’ discarded jewelry from the previous evening to where it was usually kept.
His heart gave a thud when he’d run out of things to do, sagging in relief as the air crackled announcing an opening portal that Magnus soon stepped through, greeting him with a warm smile.
“Everything okay?” Alec asked, busying himself preparing coffee, and leaning back against Magnus’ chest as he looped his arms around him from behind.
“Everything is fine,” Magnus replied, kissing at his shoulder, then turning and spotting the table, Alec assumed, for the delighted, “Alexander,” he heard next.
“I didn’t know how hungry you would be."
“Then sit,” Alec smiled, turning a little to nudge him then tilting his chin towards the table, listening as Magnus crossed the room and sank down with a grateful sigh.
“So, what are you going to do with yourself today?”
Alec imagined spending the day at home doing nothing, climbing the walls in frustration for something to do, having no training room to take out his frustration on, and nothing but his own thoughts for company.
“I thought maybe… I mean, if it’s okay with you, that is,” Alec began to say, the idea forming firm in his mind even before he could get his words out.
“Can I… I know you need to work today."
“It is not too busy, but yes, I do have some things to attend to,” Magnus agreed, taking a sip of his juice as Alec came to stand beside him, his heart fluttering in anticipation of his reaction.
“So. You think I can… you think I can… come with you?” he asked, swallowing with difficulty, giving a nervous smile at the instant surprise flitting over Magnus’ face as he looked up at him.
“I mean,” Alec said, reaching out to snatch up Magnus’ hand from where it was resting on the table to kiss the back of it, “can I… Magnus, when you’re working, can I come with you? Like… watch you working, or something?”
“To… watch me work?” Magnus repeated, sounding as though he was checking because he didn’t think he’d heard right.
Alec thought of all the times he’d watched Magnus perform magic, the confidence in his posture, and the power flowing through his hands, and felt his stomach knot in excitement. “Yes, Magnus,” he said, then spun away in case the answer was a definite no, and finished preparing their coffee.
Magnus remained worryingly quiet as he did, and Alec didn’t know what to make of it, casting repeated glances over his shoulder as he filled the carafe before walking back to the table and sliding into his chair.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Alexander?” Magnus asked, concern in his voice as he turned a little more to face him properly, reaching out to snag up his hand.
“I am,” Alec nodded, kissing his hand once more in reassurance, then nodding towards Magnus’ plate to encourage him to start eating. “I am, Magnus. I just… I’d really like it if I could… if I could see you working today, is all. I mean, if your clients don’t object, that is."
“I have no one that is difficult today,” Magnus replied, appearing to go through a mental checklist, “and there are some supplies that I will need to pick up in person. If you are happy to come with me—”
“I want that,” Alec assured him, nudging at the plate.
“Then that is what we will do,” Magnus told him with a warm, pleased smile, reaching out to choose some of the pastries. “Though if you need to go to the Institute—”
“I don’t,” Alec immediately snapped back, softening his harshness by bracing his hands against the table and leaning across it to kiss him. “I’m… everything I needed to do is done."
What he’d like to do, of course, involved leading Magnus back to bed, drawing the covers up over their heads and losing themselves in one another for a few hours. But the set of Magnus’ shoulders spoke of work needing doing, and Alec chided himself for being selfish, busying himself instead by pouring them coffee.
“Then I would love for you to spend the day with me, Alexander,” Magnus said, smiling around a bite of breakfast and humming, with Alec smiling in answer, hoping for a day of distraction that would help lift his mood.
“So where are we headed first?”
Leaning on the wall beside them, Alec watched Magnus at his shelves, snatching up pinches of different dry ingredients to shake into a wide-necked glass flask and swirling them once before pushing a stopper into its neck, and after hesitating, pushing the flask into Alec’s hands to hold.
“We’re just gonna go pluck some feathers from some birds?” Alec asked, with Magnus immediately spinning back from where he’d been reaching for a shelf to frown at him in disapproval.
“Of course not, Alexander. We—I am going to collect some that have already been shed, or plucked during preening."
“And we can just… walk up to them like that, without anyone complaining or anything?” Alec asked, already envisioning being chased by several disgruntled Mundanes for stealing feathers, and holding in a burst of laughter.
“Of course,” Magnus smiled, reaching once more for his shelf, though the way he was stretching had Alec stepping forward to grab for the jar he was needing with a little less effort, earning himself an amused smile and nudge in his stomach to step back.
“And the feathers. They’re for—”
“Various spells. Specifically, air and water magic,” Magnus told him, then returned his full concentration to the jar in his hands, slowly unscrewing its cap as though something volatile lurked inside. Alec thought of water magic, and air magic, and just how much magic there must be that he didn’t already know about, then grimaced as Magnus slid his fingers into the gloopy brown mess in the jar, pinching an amount up in his fingertips, then gesturing for Alec to uncork the flask.
The gloop gave off a soft hissing sound the second it contacted the dry contents already in the flask, and Alec quickly pushed the cork back in as instructed, turning to watch Magnus walk across the apartment, returning seconds later from the bathroom drying his hands.
“Now, Alexander. Care to mix your first potion?”
“Sure,” Alec smiled, following when beckoned and watching their low coffee table cleared with a snap of Magnus’ fingers. A large mat appeared to one side of it that Magnus gestured towards, and Alec set the flask down in the center of. “Are we gonna need the feathers for this?”
“No,” Magnus smiled, coming back with an armful of other jars and a long thin glass rod. “No, they are for something else. And are always good to keep in supply."
“Then… what’s this for?” Alec asked, staring at the oddly bubbling gloop that seemed to be ingesting the dried ingredients, reminding him of a caterpillar eating its way through leaves.
“This will form a poultice when it has thickened and set,” Magnus said, coming to sit beside him, removing stoppers from a couple of the jars and dragging others closer. “You’ll need to add a good pinch of this one, and perhaps a finger width of this. My finger width,” Magnus added, reaching out to squeeze Alec’s hand with a teasing wink that made Alec think of earlier, unrelated conversations they’d had about the thickness of his own fingers, and blushing for it.
Alec smiled back at Magnus anyway, moving as directed, holding his breath in case any of the things he was about to add smelt as bad as some of those he’d seen Magnus use in the past, then took the glass rod extended in Magnus’ fingers. “And the poultice is for what?”
“It’s for werewolves. Sometimes during their transformation, they scratch themselves, and those scratches produce a particularly unpleasant infection. One application of this,” he added, nodding towards the flask as he added ink black drops from another small jar, “and the infection is gone. Soothed, at least, if they can’t apply the poultice for long enough."
“And this is for Luke?” Alec asked, watching Magnus add what looked like three small, shriveled berries as he waited for him to reply.
“Ostensibly, yes,” Magnus agreed after a short pause, concentrating on what the concoction before them was doing. “Although the pack in general; I usually give Luke a supply of this once every three months, but he’s run out. He has a couple of new pack members that are having difficulty adjusting.”
“So, the werewolf teeth and vampire hair you use in spells,” Alec said with a frown as the thought occurred to him, his stirring slowing and almost coming to a stop. “How do you… where do you get them?”
“The teeth—fangs—are donated by the pack here, sometimes, or exchanged for other ingredients with other warlocks. The hair is… occasionally donated by the vampires here,” Magnus added, with his hand up at his ear cuff and his eyes darting elsewhere. He took the glass rod from Alec’s fingers and stirred the mixture more vigorously, leaving Alec free to watch.
“On occasion, I might have… helped myself. When Simon has been here.”
“You yanked his hair out?” Alec laughed, translating Magnus’ words for him.
“Only a few times. He makes it so easy,” Magnus added quickly, his voice coming out higher, and his hands up in defense. “He just… stands there. Even though he knows that on previous occasions—”
“But it was generally in exchange for other services,” Magnus pointed out, interrupting him, paying far more attention to the potion he was mixing than Alec thought he really needed to. “Raphael is usually generous enough for me not to need to go to such extreme measures.”
“I guess no one minds since you’re always helping everybody,” Alec replied, with a surge of pride for Magnus that meant he had to lean in and kiss him, smiling to himself at Magnus’ look of surprise. The rod in Magnus’ fingers clattering against the side of the flask as his stirring came to a complete stop with how distracted they became. When they eventually pulled apart, Magnus turned to look at Alec with a softness about him that meant Alec was fighting back excuses to get them back to bed.
“I… should finish this,” Magnus mumbled, his eyes down on Alec’s lips for a second then up again, before he cleared his throat and turned back to the flask. Alec watched the small, pleased smile on his face in profile for a few seconds before returning his focus to the potion.
“And the egret feathers,” Alec said, taking over the stirring once again when prompted, “do you need them for something for your clients today?”
“No. But since the first client I need to visit lives so close to Idlewild Park, it made sense to make time to pick some up on the way there. I’ll send them back here so we are not carrying them around.”
“And this first client. They won’t mind me being there?” Alec asked, his increasing enthusiasm for the idea of watching Magnus work all day only hampered by the fear of reluctant clients or being in Magnus’ way.
“Not at all,” Magnus assured him with a squeeze over his knee, “I can always introduce you as my assistant."
“Or the love of my life; whichever you prefer,” Magnus teased, leaning in to kiss him again. Alec sighed, dropping their foreheads together for a moment before pulling back and rolling his eyes, nodding towards the flask as the mixture gave an extra loud bubble.
“Now, we will need to leave this to steep for the rest of the day,” Magnus instructed, leaving Alec to stir as he disappeared, returning with a small cauldron and adding yet more ingredients before turning back to him. “You need to pour the contents of that flask into here—slowly.”
Alec shifted a little so he could do that, handing over the glass rod Magnus gestured for and pouring as slow as he could, watching the mixture thicken and bubble as Magnus stirred it. “It’s good?”
“It’s perfect,” Magnus agreed. “Are you ready to leave?”
Alec nodded in agreement, his stomach knotting in excitement for whatever the day was about to bring.
“How many of your clients are Mundanes?”
Alec looked up doubtfully at the residential house in front of them, with its neat front yard and overall air of being well maintained, then turned to Magnus waiting for an answer.
“More than you might expect,” Magnus replied, looking over the house himself for a second before reaching out to swing open the gate, “you have to remember that Mundanes often turn to things like magic, and witchcraft—what appears to be impossible to them—when everything else seems so… hopeless."
“Like, as a last resort?” Alec asked, waiting as Magnus closed the gate behind them then stepping close to walk by his side as they made their way up the drive, coming to a stop outside a wide mahogany door with frosted glass in an overlaid shell pattern.
“Sometimes,” Magnus admitted as he raised his hand to press the doorbell. “Sometimes because they believe there is something other than their own, relatively simple lives. Sometimes—”
“Well, good morning.”
The door swinging wide open cut off whatever Magnus had been about to tell him, and Alec’s attention was taken by the kindly-looking woman standing in the doorway with a dog nosing at her hand trying to get out.
“Good morning, Ann,” Magnus smiled, warmly, “I hope you don’t mind a little extra company this morning?” he added, turning to gesture at Alec.
“Not at all,” Ann replied, though turning to Alec in interest before beckoning them in. “Not afraid of dogs, are you?”
“Or cats?” she checked, still smiling brightly at him.
“Then you’re good,” she announced, squeezing Magnus’ hand affectionately as he passed.
“Ann,” Magnus said once the door was closed and the dog had sat at Alec’s feet looking up at him with his tail wagging in excitement, “this is Alec. Alec, this is Ann. My… what should we call you, Ann?”
“Oh,” Ann laughed, hand to her chest as she did, “I feel a little too old to be called your protege."
“Nonsense,” Magnus told her affectionately, shrugging out of his jacket, and extending his hand for Alec to do the same.
“Magnus is… teaching me,” Ann settled for saying, taking the two jackets then passed to her and turning away to hang them on hooks.
“Ann is learning—perfecting, her skill as a witch,” Magnus explained, gesturing for Alec to follow as he trailed behind Ann through to her kitchen.
Alec tried to school in the surprise he felt, sinking down on to the stool pointed to, and nodding as Ann offered tea, the dog at his heels for a few more moments before being distracted by a biscuit, and chasing after it as Ann threw it outside.
“I dabble,” Ann smiled, turning away to sprinkle tea into a teapot, then rolling a hair tie down over her wrist to tie up her dark blond hair. “Magnus has been, I suppose you can say coaching me, for the past… what are we up to? eight? Nine years now?”
“Almost nine,” Magnus agreed, nodding as he sank down beside Alec, nudging briefly into his side.
“And you’re… I mean—”
“My grandmother always believed she was a witch,” Ann explained as she washed and dried her hands, then gathered teacups and matching saucers that would not have looked out of place in their own home. “And I suppose I grew up with Wiccan practices, and herbalism, things like that; when I had to take a month off work sick after an operation, I did some research, looked to find some guidance, and I found Magnus.”
“Ann visited a friend of mine in their apothecary for some ingredients,” Magnus added. “They mentioned my name. We went for coffee—”
“And here we are,” Ann finished for him with a smile, drumming her fingers on the counter as she waited for the water to heat.
“Did you purify the crystals we need for the spell?” Magnus asked then, his tone switching from affectionate to formal as though to signal the beginning of the lesson, or whatever this meeting between the two of them might be called.
“Out on the deck in the sun as we speak,” Ann told him, pouring water into the teapot and carrying it to the tray. “Can we go through to the lounge? My back hurts if I sit on one of these stalls too long."
“Of course. We’ll take the tea through,” Magnus replied, with Ann gesturing towards the back door and telling them she would follow, and Alec reaching out for the tray before Magnus could.
“She seems… nice,” Alec mumbled when he heard the door close behind him, and Magnus tilted his head for him to follow.
“Ann is a wonderful woman,” Magnus agreed. “As well as her dog, Crosby, and her own two cats—who will no doubt introduce themselves shortly—she fosters cats, is a story reader at the local library, and has been a receptionist in the veterinary surgery just a few blocks from here for almost twelve years.”
“Gives people good grounds to call me the mad cat lady,” Ann added as she walked up behind them, pointing Alec to a round glass table to the end of a brown leather couch mismatched with two armchairs, all covered with handmade, crocheted throws.
“I wouldn’t use the word mad,” Magnus objected, though already making cooing noises at the ginger cat slinking its way towards him, his hand out along its flank even as a black cat leaped up on the arm of the couch and nuzzled into his side. “The cat part, though—”
“These are my boys,” Ann said looking fondly at the two cats before turning to pour their tea. “Fred, and Ginger."
“The cats that visit our balcony generally favor Alexander more than they do me,” Magnus smiled, then laughed as Fred pushed his head into his hand repeatedly with a purr loud enough for Alec to hear across the room.
“Ah,” Ann said, dawning realization filling her face and curving up her mouth into an even more welcoming smile, “that Alec. You’re the reason I haven’t seen a scowl on Magnus’ face in years, huh?” Ann asked, turning to Alec with a soft laugh.
“I—don’t know about that,” Alec stuttered, blush beginning to sweep up his neck.
“Don’t be so modest,” Magnus teased, smiling at him over the lip of his cup before turning to Ann. “Alec has enchanted both myself, and the cats.”
“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve returned home to find Alexander in conversation with two cats in particular,” Magnus added, his eyes lighting up in delight at the blush Alec felt then creeping across his cheeks.
“Well,” Ann said, handing Alec his tea and smiling at his polite thank you, “it is very good to finally meet you after hearing so many wonderful things about you. Although I’m sorry to say; these two are only talkative for two things. Mealtime, and bedtime."
“Which, of course, they teach to the other cats that come to stay here when Ann is fostering,” Magnus added, giving a final stroke along Fred’s flank before lifting him carefully to deposit on the floor beside Ginger.
Alec smiled at the brief conversation that followed between them about previous foster cats they’d both been fond of, and one that Ann was planning on taking in the following weekend. He quietly sipped his tea as he watched, letting his eyes drift away and over their surroundings, noting the framed family pictures of grown-up children, pieces of framed embroidery that he wondered if Ann had made herself, and more than anything, how relaxed Magnus seemed in Ann's home. But then the spell was starting, and Alec watched with increased interest as the crystals were positioned around a pentagram carved into the surface of a tall wooden table, and ingredients that Alec identified as salt, sage, and dried flower buds were placed in between them, before a large pink candle was lit and placed in the center.
Alec tried to hear the incantations Ann was muttering, smiled unconsciously at Magnus’ words of encouragement, and jolted in surprise as without any obvious magic from Magnus, the pentagram carving lit up bright yellow, with each of the pieces of crystal pulsing, glowing with that residual light.
Alec thought he heard names spoken, but couldn’t identify any of them, continuing to watch with his breath held as the candle flame flickered wildly, its reflection appearing to dance on each of the crystal surfaces. And with a final pulse of brightness, the pentagram flared for another second then went out, the candle flame dying with it, and the residual glow in each of the crystals fading several seconds later, as though they had been charged.
“That was perfect, Ann, well done,” Magnus enthused, his face the picture of encouragement, and Alec unable to help echoing his smile.
“Well that worked better than I could have hoped for,” Ann laughed, sitting back in her armchair appearing drained. “Let’s hope the actual spell does what it’s supposed to.”
“It will,” Magnus insisted, watching her carefully for a few seconds, then reaching out for his tea and taking a grateful sip. Alec continued to watch in silence as the two of them spoke, studying Magnus’ careful instruction, and Ann’s equally careful note-taking, hearing snatches of ingredients he’d never heard of, and spells he had no idea of the purpose of, as he absently patted at Ginger who had crossed the room and leaped up on his lap without invitation.
The session drew to a close before Alec had realized how much time had passed, and he found himself being kissed on the cheek in parting, with an invitation to come back with Magnus any time. Magnus took his hand to lead him up the drive and back on to the small street, gesturing in a direction for them to walk.
“So,” Magnus said once they’d walked for a few minutes, “was that what you were expecting?”
“I don’t know what I was expecting,” Alec admitted, squeezing his hand, nudging into his side. “Do you have many, uh… students?”
“Not like Ann,” Magnus replied. “Ann is quite exceptional. I would imagine there is an element of Seelie blood in her family line; not that I would ever ask to check, of course."
“So, does that mean you don’t trust her, or—”
“Alexander,” Magnus laughed in reproach, “not all Seelies are—”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Alec said immediately, turning to pull him to a stop, and leaning in for a quick kiss. “I just meant, since you said you wouldn’t check—”
“Merely a polite courtesy,” Magnus told him, smiling smugly as though he’d intentionally tricked him into kissing him; not that he ever had to trick him of course, Alec added to himself as he smiled back, and turned once again for them to keep walking.
“So… I mean, you don’t have to tell me, but that spell. Was that—”
“Ann’s youngest daughter is having marital issues,” Magnus sighed, the smile slipping from his face to an expression of sorrow. “I believe she is having difficulty coping with the birth of their first child. Her husband has also started a new job, so things are… pressured for them.”
“That sounds difficult,” Alec agreed, though his mind immediately went to remembering the joy on Magnus’ face whenever they were with Madzie, and the way his eyes had lit up when they’d visited Luke at the Jade Wolf when one of the waiting staff had brought in their newborn baby.
“It is,” Magnus replied, “it is also putting a strain on the relationship with both Ann and her siblings. The spell was for family harmony.”
“And Ann did that spell herself,” Alec checked, that having been the question he’d meant to ask.
“She did,” Magnus smiled, full of pride, “she is becoming quite remarkable.”
“And what does she know? Of like… our world?” Alec asked, going as directed when they rounded the corner.
“Only enough to know that there are things that exist that most Mundanes know can’t exist.”
“But if they believe in gods, and… angels. Demons, then—”
“How do they not know the truth about our world?” Magnus finished for him, taking Alec’s hand again.
“Mundanes often see what they want to see,” Magnus replied. “It is safer for them to dream up their fictional monsters in their literature, and movies—like werewolves, and vampires, for example—than to truly believe they exist. And to put their faith into a god if only by name; it is easier to call yourself a person of faith than act as a person of faith might be expected to do, if they were to read and abide by their own religious texts,” Magnus added when Alec opened his mouth to ask the question, again second-guessing what he wanted to know.
“So they… but they accept witches, warlocks, without question?” Alec asked after a pause, trying to fathom the reasoning Mundanes must go to, and failing.
“When it suits them,” Magnus smiled. “Some believe that all witches are the same; innately evil, or only practicing magic for their own personal gain. Others think they are simply Mundanes who believe in some sort of… paganism, and mock them for it.”
“Well. No offense to Ann, but... Mundanes are confusing,” Alec told him, smiling as Magnus nudged into his side.
“Not all of them,” Magnus argued, “and certainly at times no more confusing than Nephilim when you first meet them."
“Or Warlocks,” Alec retorted, smiling harder.
“Coy, Alexander. Warlocks are coy, not confusing.”
“I called you cryptic, not confusing,” Alec pointed out, lifting his arm so Magnus would duck beneath it to tuck into his side.
“And yet you just—”
“Magnus,” Alec whispered, cutting him off with a kiss, that he meant to only be a quick thing to keep them moving forward, but brought them to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk, his hands snug in the lapels of Magnus’ jacket as Magnus’ fingers dug gently into his sides.
“You were saying?” Magnus asked when they pulled back, smiling up at him in triumph.
“Nothing, Magnus,” Alec said, echoing his smile, “I was saying nothing."
“What are we doing here?” Alec asked once they’d portaled across the city, peering around the corner of the alleyway they’d landed in and up at the office block directly beside it.
“Dropping off this,” Magnus replied, digging his free hand into his jacket pocket and pulling out a midnight blue velvet box about the size of his palm before slotting it back in.
“What is it?”
“A pendant. With enchantments,” Magnus added, gesturing with his finger.
“Can I see?”
“If the client wants to show you, of course. Though superstition means that this particular enchantment on a piece of jewelry should not be shown to anyone other than the client first, so that the enchantment works solely for them.”
“Okay,” Alec agreed, reaching out to take Magnus’ hand again, only for him to draw it back with an apologetic wince.
“Alexander, I'm sorry; this client is a good man, but his colleagues are… surly at best. Obnoxious at worst. And his secretary has no tolerance for, well; anybody. Be prepared to be glared at in the reception; she barely allows me to go in, despite having an appointment."
“I can wait out here if you want.”
“Nonsense,” Magnus replied, shaking his head, “it is too cold to be standing around on street corners. Just… prepare yourself for a scowl like no other.” And with that Magnus pushed open the thick, heavy door, the heat rushing at them and making Alec suck in a breath.
Alec watched as Magnus greeted a serious-looking woman who sat immaculately behind her desk, privately agreeing with him about that scowl. Suspicious eyes darted to and fixed on Alec, and he held perfectly still with an uneasy smile on his face, hoping that she’d look away. But before that could happen, the office door behind her flew open, and a man in a well-tailored suit not unlike something Magnus might wear himself came rushing through, a look of pure delight on his face.
“Magnus,” he called out, crossing the room oblivious to the disapproving daggers his secretary was shooting at his back.
“Nathan,” Magnus replied, taking his extended hand and smiling as he firmly shook it.
“Come through,” he said, waving enthusiastically towards the doorway.
“Do you mind if—”
“Come through, come through,” Nathan urged, ushering Alec to follow and looking him over in interest, then closing the door behind him. Magnus made a brief introduction between them then slid his hand inside his jacket for the velvet box.
Nathan clapped his hands together with glee then held them out expectantly.
“Just as you ordered,” Magnus told him, explaining the design as Nathan traced over the pendant with his finger.
“And the protection charms will—”
“Ward off any counterspells or hexes during your next shareholder meeting, yes,” Magnus assured him, to which Nathan let out a relieved sigh.
When Nathan noticed Alec’s polite look in their direction from where he was stood a little way back towards the office door, he beckoned him forward with a smile of sheer delight on his face, then extended the box in his hand for Alec to look. Alec studied the design; entirely in silver, with a sword shape dividing the pendant in half, wings either side to the head of it, and a moon and sun engraving either side towards the bottom.
“When is your meeting?” Magnus asked when Nathan stood back, already looping the silver chain over his neck and settling the pendant against his chest, pressing a hand over it for a moment before sliding it away.
“Tomorrow,” Nathan replied with a grimace, that jubilance giving way to a look of panic for a few seconds before the smile returned. “I’m flying in a few hours, actually. Just came in to tie up a few loose ends, make sure I’ve got everything I need.”
“Then I wish you well; you will be fine.”
“Thanks, Magnus,” Nathan sighed in sheer relief, sliding his cell phone out his pocket and thumbing at the screen. “Check your account; I deposited the payment this morning,” to which Magnus mumbled a soft, thank you.
“Actually,” Nathan said, cutting Magnus off, with a guilty glance in Alec’s direction, “do you have a minute? I won’t keep you long."
“Of course,” Magnus agreed, darting a quick look over his shoulder, and Alec immediately took the hint, already turning.
“I’ll wait out there,” he said, turning back. “It was nice to—”
“The pleasure is mine,” Nathan cut him off with, a lingering glance up the length of him that had Alec turning away and blushing, hearing Magnus’ disapproving clearing of his throat.
Alec caught Nathan’s sorry just as he closed the door.
Nathan’s receptionist glared at Alec, watching him as he crossed the room with a cautious wave, sinking into the stiff seating in front of her desk. Her eyes never left him as she resumed the typing she’d been doing when they’d walked in, and the uncomfortable feeling it left Alec with was enough to distract him for a few minutes. But then the thoughts he’d been trying to escape came back to him insistently enough for him not to be able to ignore them, and even the clack of that typing and that unpleasant scowl couldn’t keep his mind from wandering to the Institute.
The Institute that Alec had grown up in was a very different place to the one it was for him as an adult; or he was a very different person to the one who was supposed to know its hallways, corners, and floors just as well as he did, Alec thought was probably a fairer assessment. But since Magnus had come into Alec’s world—and more accurately, Clary—the Institute Alec had always known had begun to fade in front of his eyes, shifting into something unrecognizable that he strived to change, regularly feeling it was an insurmountable battle.
Gone was the certainty behind every decision, the knowledge that difficult choices were made for the greater good. The oppression of Downworlders Alec had seen over the years he’d been raised to think of not as oppression, but instead guidance, having been brought up to believe the treatment of those others so very different from those around him was justified, so that the Shadow World could exist within the relative peace of the law.
Falling in love with Magnus wasn’t Alec’s only reason for an entirely new way of thinking. The way the Clave had behaved towards Meliorn, countless arguments with Izzy over the treatment of both him and other Downworlders—as well as her own mockery of a trial, and Luke, Raphael, and Simon’s help and friendship over the years; all of those experiences had shaped Alec’s perspective in just as many important ways as Magnus had. It was his duty to protect those that fell within those laws imposed on them all, yet the more he learned, the more he couldn’t avoid seeing the Clave’s thinking as fractured with flaws, and Alec’s formation of the Downworld Cabinet though problematic in the beginning had proved an important turning point for truly making a difference.
Discrimination and prejudice still existed among so much of the Clave, though both were rarely-seen traits of any of those Shadowhunters serving under him at in the New York Institute. But the visiting authorities and those Shadowhunters from some other Institutes did enough to prove just how much more work they had to do. So many of Alec’s days were taken up in such bureaucracy, trying to do the best he could within the limitations imposed on him by the law, that on occasion Alec found himself with his head in his hands at his desk wondering how everything had gotten so convoluted, and lost.
Loving Magnus had introduced Alec to another layer of discrimination that he’d never even thought to imagine, though the looks, comments, and general judgment he received on a regular basis purely because of being with Magnus never made him regret anything about him or their relationship, nor change the way he felt about Magnus at all. But it had opened his eyes to just how skewed opinions were around them, from both Shadowhunters and Downworlders alike. In fact, Alec was proud that their relationship had in some ways helped people overcome their prejudices; it was those steeped in tradition and refusal to accept change who made life so difficult at times.
Alec sighed hard, remembering the archaic views he’d had directed at him just the day before, the condescending words that had driven him to lose his temper, and the resultant arguments that had sent him away in a furious mood he’d had to force back with several rounds of arrows fired from the rooftop before Magnus had come home, just to calm himself enough to keep bitterness from his tongue. The sympathetic looks he’d received from his siblings as he’d walked out the Institute earlier in the evening were just as wounding as being belittled in front of so many of those he was supposed to lead, the looks on their faces still etched in the back of his eyes less than twenty-four hours later, and taunting him anytime he didn’t keep his mind occupied.
So Alec was thankful when the office door swung open again, meaning a reprieve from a true spiraling of his thoughts. He stood with a false smile already on his face, relieved to be leaving, barely noticing the indignant tutting from the secretary who had not uttered a single word, or responded to a single one of Magnus’ or his attempts at greetings. And when they stepped outside Alec took a moment to breathe deep, happy to get some fresh air with Magnus by his side.
“Where are we going now?” Alec asked as they fell in to step together, with Magnus’ arm thrown loosely around his waist.
“Just a moment,” Magnus told him, speaking it almost into his shoulder as he guided him around a crowd walking towards them. Then Magnus was grabbing his hand, and tugging him to follow in a rapid walk across the street.
But Magnus cut him off before he could ask anything, nudging him away from the sidewalk and into a small alley between two stores, and kissed him with a hum of relief, crowding up against Alec with a sigh.
“What was that for?” Alec smiled against him, wrapping his fingers tight around Magnus’ waist, forgetting for a moment that he wished he’d remembered gloves.
“Alexander. It would be foolish of me not to enjoy the perks of having you accompany me for the day. If I cannot enjoy moments like this, then perhaps I don’t deserve an unexpected day of your company at all.”
“It’s a good reason,” Alec smiled, pulling Magnus a little closer, the sound of the traffic and general busy noise around them disappearing, and only the feel of Magnus pressed warm against him occupying his mind.
As the bell on the door they were closing behind them rang out, Alec glanced quickly around the store they had stepped into before his attention fell on the man behind the counter, watching as the small shoots of bright green magic shooting from his fingertips came to a stuttering stop. Another glance told Alec he was mending the silver chain of an intricate-looking talisman, and the scowl the man turned on Magnus said how much he loathed being interrupted.
The tone of voice was a perfect pitch between false welcome and condescending, the warlock’s smile freezing on his face as he turned just enough to stare at Alec. Alec held his gaze, his face a perfect mask of indifference as he gave a polite nod back, moving when gestured by Magnus to follow him further into the small store.
“Charles,” Magnus replied with a sharp nod, reaching out to clasp his hand, “this is—”
“Alec Lightwood. Head of the New York Institute. I know who he is, Magnus,” Charles replied, anger in his voice that Alec half-expected, though didn’t know if there was a specific source for, or if it was just general discomfort for being in a Shadowhunter’s presence.
“He is here with me, Charles; not for anything you need to be concerned about,” Magnus told him, waving a dismissive hand as he made his way towards the back of the store, inspecting some things on a shelf that Alec couldn’t identify as he went.
“Of course,” Charles replied, sounding as though he didn’t believe him at all.
“Do you have any more of these?” Magnus asked, holding up a jar that on first glance looked to Alec to be filled with tiny metallic jewels, but on closer inspection he realized were irises. He gritted his teeth, forced breath through his mouth instead of his nose, and told himself to show no reaction. He should be more than used to such things having been, and lived, with Magnus as long as he had.
“Not until next week.”
“Pity. I had been hoping to prepare a potion with them,” Magnus sighed, staring down at the jar, and pursing his lips together.
“It can wait,” Magnus replied, putting the jar back, “I was merely hoping to be organized.”
“I can let you know when they’re in if you want.”
“That would be perfect,” Magnus agreed, picking up a small set of tongs and snatching up a fist-sized ball of what appeared to be hair, depositing it on a sheet of tissue paper at the counter. Charles immediately transferred it to a scale to weigh, then carefully wrapped and secured it, apparently without letting the substance touch his skin.
“Heard you defended a warlock in one of your hearings,” Charles said then, calling for Alec’s attention, staring at him from across the counter with his hands wrapped around the edge of it, a mistrustful look in his eye.
“He did,” Magnus said, coming to stand beside him and beaming at Alec with pride as he deposited a small pile of bright yellow pebbles. “Jeremiah.”
“What’s he been accused of?”
“Performing magic outside of the law,” Magnus replied, rolling his eyes as he spun away and returned to the shelves behind them.
“Jeremiah was accused of deliberately attempting to expose Mundanes to the Shadow World,” Alec added a little softer, still continuing to hold Charles’ gaze.
“A foolish accusation. Why would we want to do that?” Charles grumbled back. “Our lives are complicated enough with the interference of the Clave without—”
“Exactly,” Alec agreed, tilting his chin up a little. “Jeremiah was actually helping a Mundane woman who was being followed by a guy—”
“Mundane,” Alec confirmed. “Jeremiah noticed them when he was on his way home, didn’t like the look of the guy. Stepped out in front of him just as he was about to grab the woman, showed his warlock mark."
“Spines. Needle-like spines cover his entire skin when unglamored,” Magnus called out, returning to the counter with a large scoop of something that Alec could only describe as glittery dirt.
“That’s why you call him hoglet,” Charles replied, eyes wide in understanding, and that anger on his face slipping away for a few seconds until he realized, hiding back behind his stern mask.
“Precisely,” Magnus nodded, drumming his fingers on the counter as he watched Charles weigh then parcel up his latest purchase.
“Anyway,” Charles said, “what happened to Jeremiah?”
“The guy screamed the street down, got the attention of a passing Mundane cop,” Alec told him. “Word got back to the precinct; turned out it wasn’t the first time he’d done something so… heroic.”
“So why did the Clave get involved?” Charles asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“Because,” Alec replied, “most things, individual incidents, stuff like that, Luke assesses and only reports to me if he thinks there’s a genuine concern."
“The werewolf? Galloway?”
“Oh, Charles likes Luke,” Magnus retorted, returning to them yet again with yet more ingredients.
“Luke happened to be passing my apartment block when this obnoxious Mundane with a huge, out of control German Shepherd came waltzing around the corner, like he did every night, intimidating everyone he passes. Luke stared the dog down, did that thing with his eyes. The dog became the most docile thing, and the guy moved out. It’s a woman walking the dog now; I guess his ex-girlfriend.”
“Right,” Alec nodded, not sure what else he was supposed to add. “Anyway. When Luke heard about Jeremiah, he was with his partner. She started digging through older reports; turns out Jeremiah’s been doing, uh, that, for a while now."
“Dear, sweet Jeremiah,” Magnus sighed. “He thinks he is some sort of Mundane superhero.”
“Luke didn’t have any choice but to report it to me. And because there were so many, uh, sightings—”
“How many?” Charles asked, seeming more intrigued than angry.
“Enough for the police department to start investigating,” Magnus added, coming to a stop by Alec’s side again.
“The Clave happened to have decided that very week to monitor… warlock activity,” Alec told him, gritting his teeth a little, “so there was no way for us to avoid them finding out about the potential police investigation when they showed up at the Institute for a spot check.”
Magnus stepped a little closer to Alec in reassurance, but the memory of that month that followed was already replaying in Alec’s head. There was no way for it to have been a coincidence with Alec and Magnus’ announcement just a week prior to that spot check, and quick calls placed to other Heads of Institutes confirmed to Alec that the only interest in warlock activity was being targeted solely at New York. Alec felt sick for it even then, pinpointing the experience as one of many catalysts for the fallout of the day before, then quickly shook his head to deny the memories a voice, and leaned back against Magnus’ side.
“Jeremiah was quite literally dragged to the Institute,” Magnus said, shoulders slumping a little.
“Not under my instruction,” Alec added before Charles had the chance to scowl.
“Attempted to put him on trial before Alexander had even had chance to hear about it. Alec turned the decision around in minutes merely reciting the law, sent the Clave scattering like rats,” Magnus said with a smile full of pride for Alec.
“And Jeremiah?” Charles asked, belatedly beginning to ring up Magnus’ purchases.
“He’s fine,” Magnus replied before Alec could, waving a careless hand through the air, “he took a couple of weeks to be away from New York.”
“Jeremiah is a good guy,” Charles sighed, shoulders slumping a little. “We shouldn’t need to defend the Mundanes from themselves. From each other.”
“No, we shouldn’t,” Alec agreed, his still-conflicted feelings about Mundanes and their apparent lack of common sense and morality making them so difficult for him to work out.
Charles finished bagging up Magnus’ ingredients and stared back at Alec for what felt like a full minute in contemplation, then gave a stiff nod in what seemed like approval, and turned back to Magnus, telling him the total. Alec stepped back a little as they began to speak of other things, his eyes darting out over the various jars and packages behind Charles’ head and trying to identify them as they talked.
When they turned to leave, Charles gave him another nod, exchanged a final few words with Magnus, then returned to the chain he’d been mending when they’d arrived.
“Perhaps we could take a break,” Magnus suggested once they were back out on the street, bringing Alec to a stop and pointing across to a small corner cafe.
“I could eat,” Alec agreed. “Or at least, have coffee.”
“Then that is what we shall do,” Magnus smiled. “That is one of three establishments that I truly believe to make the finest desserts in New York.”
“Really,” Alec smiled, putting an arm out in front of Magnus as he went to cross the street and a car sped by.
“Yes. Here, for instance, the vanilla salted caramel or the chocolate pound cake is exceptional."
“Then,” Alec said, pulling then holding the door open for Magnus once they were safely across and outside the cafe, “maybe we can take a slice of each,” to which Magnus smiled in agreement then gestured towards what Alec assumed was a favorite table towards the back after hanging up their jackets.
Magnus smiled at the waitress immediately coming to take their order, and a brief discussion was had to choose their drinks and cake. And then Magnus was reaching across the table for Alec’s hand, brushing a thumb over the back of his knuckles.
“Is today what you expected?” he asked, concern in his voice and a soft smile that had Alec covering their hands with his free one to squeeze in reassurance.
“Honestly, Magnus, I didn’t know what to expect. But I’m really glad I’m here.” Which was true; having a peek into Magnus’ world was fascinating to Alec. Watching Magnus going about his regular day to day activities that were so very different from those of his own left Alec wanting to know and see even more.
“As am I,” Magnus replied, “it is good to have the company. Though I hope that nothing you have seen, or will see, will be overwhelming for you.”
“Magnus,” Alec said in a loud whisper, casting a glance over at a passing waitress to make sure she wouldn’t hear, “this is your world. Our world; I need to know more about it. It’s important, and—”
A crash outside their window cut Alec off, with a gasp from the waitress at the table beside them calling his attention, and the muffled sounds of several people talking at once drifting in through the glass.
A cyclist had come off their bike, and from the look of the dented wheel jutting up from the sidewalk, Alec thought the injury must be quite severe. A small crowd of people had gathered and were pulling the cyclist to their feet; Alec saw arms draped around shoulders as they tried to hold the person up, and heard the mumbles of encouragement as their limbs failed from under them.
But then he watched Magnus, saw a discreet burst of magic sent out that seemed to put strength in the cyclist’s spine leaving them standing of their own accord, and another burst of magic straightened out the wheel of their bike. The cyclist looked dazed, but a quick dusting off of their clothes by those passing, and they were climbing on their bike again, cautiously cycling away.
“Do you do that a lot?” Alec asked when their drinks and cakes had been slid on to the table, watching Magnus arrange their plates and take an appreciative sip of his coffee.
“That,” Alec said, gesturing towards the window, agreeing with Magnus that the cakes looked delicious even before trying them.
“I help wherever I can,” Magnus shrugged as though it was nothing, picking up a fork and extending it to Alec. “Try.”
Alec took the fork and slid it through the chocolate cake, nodding in approval as the taste burst on his tongue. “It’s good.”
“And this one,” Magnus said, sliding his own fork through the vanilla salted caramel and holding it out for Alec, grinning as he wrapped his lips around the fork and slid it off whilst holding his gaze.
“That’s… that’s so good,” Alec told him with his mouth full, already reaching out for another bite.
“I can never decide which is my favorite,” Magnus agreed, reaching out for the chocolate cake and scooping up a forkful, humming around it in thought.
“This one,” Alec said, tapping against the plate with the salted caramel, and taking another sip of his coffee.
“Have you heard from anyone today?” Magnus asked over the lip of his own cup.
“I silenced my cell phone."
“They can live without me for one day,” Alec replied with a smile he hoped didn’t look quite as false as it felt, reaching out to squeeze Magnus’ hand again. “Besides. I’m sure Izzy and Jace can cope with being in charge for one day without too many problems.”
“Are you sure everything’s okay?” Magnus asked, his face the picture of concern. And partly because of that look on his face, but more so just because he wanted to, Alec repeated his gesture from breakfast, bracing his palms flat against the table and leaning across to kiss him.
Magnus’ confused though pleased smile for him once he sat back down, Alec decided, was worth it, especially when Magnus huffed to himself with a little unconscious wriggle of his shoulders as he went back to eating their cakes.
“Catarina is hoping to come to us for dinner on Sunday,” Magnus said then. “I forgot to tell you yesterday. Madzie has a new dress that she is adamant she show Uncle Alec.”
Alec smiled at that, laughing. “Can’t wait.”
“And your sister sent me a threatening message telling me she would cook something if I didn’t order food from that Thai house she likes when they all come over this Friday.”
Alec’s smile grew wider, rolling his eyes at Izzy, already having heard her threats in person the previous morning, before his day had gone to hell. “Yeah. I’m not surprised.”
“We haven’t had an evening together with everyone in weeks,” Magnus smiled, seeming excited by the idea. Alec decided he agreed with him even if his idea of a perfect evening right then was being curled up with Magnus shut off from the entire world.
“It’s not exactly everyone,” Alec smiled, “just Izzy, Clary, and Jace.”
“But we did agree we would meet Luke for a drink in the Hunter’s Moon first,” Magnus pointed out, “and Maia is working, so we will at least see her, even if she is busy.”
“How’s your coffee?” Magnus asked, taking another sip of his.
But Magnus cut himself off with a hand raised asking Alec to wait, leaning to the side to slide his cell phone from a back pocket. He stared at the screen for a second before holding the phone to his ear.
“Hello—okay. Okay; please, calm down. Okay, don’t worry. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Alec watched as Magnus ended his call and gulped back his coffee with a soft sigh.
“Not quite,” Magnus said, lifting his head with a small smile. “I need to open a portal for someone. Do you want to wait here, or come with me?”
“I’ll come with you,” Alec said immediately, reaching out to squeeze his fingers. Magnus looked down at the gesture, squeezed back, then retrieved his hand.
“Do you think we can finish this quickly?” Magnus asked, gesturing towards the plates, pushing the vanilla salted caramel towards Alec and draining the last of his coffee.
Alec finished the cake in three quick bites watching Magnus do the same with the chocolate one even as he stood, turning away to pay as Alec picked up their jackets. They huddled into them quickly, and Alec grabbed the bags of Magnus’ purchases as they rushed outside. Magnus searched around them for a second before guiding Alec into a boarded-up doorway, presumably away from prying eyes, snapping his fingers and swirling them as a portal began to form.
“Where are we going?” Alec asked as he watched.
“We don’t need to be more specific? For the portal?”
Magnus answered only with a wink, reaching his hand out again for Alec to hold, and encouraged him to follow. They stepped out the other side to find a bald man in a well-tailored grey suit pacing back and forth across the floor of a closed restaurant, agitation turning his entire head red.
“Magnus,” he said, turning the moment he heard them and looking so relieved his entire body seemed to sag. “Thank—”
“No time for that,” Magnus replied, cutting him off immediately and squeezing his upper arm. “You’re about to be a grandfather."
“I can’t believe she went into labor early,” the man said as he slid a couple of bags from a nearby table and turned back, worry written across his face.
“She wasn’t due for another week, right?” Magnus asked, already conjuring a portal once his client had mumbled out the address.
“Right,” he agreed. “I was flying out at the end of the week anyway, but—”
“She’s all I’ve got, Magnus,” the man said, turning to look at him beseechingly, as though Magnus was capable of fixing whatever problem he had.
“And she will be fine. As will your new grandchild,” he assured him, patting him on the shoulder. “I expect pictures as soon as you are able."
“I owe you for this,” the man said, turning and smiling, though with worry still etched firmly on his face.
“Don’t you always?” Magnus teased, patting him on the back. “Now, go,” and with one sharp nod, one final glance back at Magnus, the man stepped through the portal leaving Alec and Magnus to stare after him until it closed.
“So, what was that?” Alec asked, dropping the bags he’d been carrying on to a nearby table for a moment.
“Maxwell,” Magnus replied smiling fondly. “He has been supplying some of our dinners for the past few years.”
“The… ribeye steak and potatoes we get sometimes?” Alec asked, finally noticing the menu boards up behind the counter.
“The very same."
“Maxwell’s daughter, Natalia, moved to Italy with her husband about two years ago for work. They found out she was pregnant not long after Maxwell lost his wife earlier this year. He was closing the restaurant for a couple of weeks to be with her, and she—”
“Went into labor early,” Alec finished for him, nodding in understanding.
“He is a good, kind man.”
“He seems it,” Alec agreed, hit with a wave of affection for Magnus, who always seemed to be helping someone. There was nothing that could convince him that Magnus wasn’t far more angelic in his actions than quite a few of the Shadowhunters he knew.
“Now,” Magnus smiled, looking around them, “since the doors are all bolted, perhaps we should portal out again."
Alec nodded in agreement, though his mind was filled with reminders of just how unpleasant some of the people in his world really were. Standing in front of this generous, powerful, caring warlock did nothing but highlight that contrast, and the conversations of the previous day at the Institute rushed at him once again. “Sounds good.”
“And of course, since I doubt he found the time to set any kind of alarm, I’ll leave a ward up to protect the—”
Alec cut Magnus off mid-sentence with a hard, insistent kiss. He wrapped his arms firmly around his waist to draw him in closer, closing his eyes as Magnus first hummed in surprise, then all but melted back against him. Alec spread his fingers wider, needing to feel as much of him as possible at once, then reluctantly pulled back with a sigh, aware of Magnus still needing to work, though not quite able to let go of him.
“I love you."
Magnus’ mouth curled up in that delighted smile it always did on hearing those words, pressing his chest a little firmer against Alec’s and tilting his head up.
“I love you, too,” he replied, his eyes flaring a little as though wanting to ask again if he was okay, then leaning up to kiss him and stepping back, conjuring another portal in seconds; Alec snatched up the bags he’d dropped on the table at the last moment before stepping through.
“Do you know this place, Alexander?” Magnus asked, tugging on his fingers and nodding towards the entrance of a bustling market, with streams of people passing in and out of it going about their days.
“I don’t,” Alec admitted, adjusting the bags in the crook of his arm after insisting on carrying them. “It’s not really… I’ve never had any reason to go here. And when I go food shopping with you, it’s always that small market near home.”
“True,” Magnus agreed, tugging again and gesturing for him to follow, “and I do much prefer that market for when we are looking for things to eat. But here has a much wider selection, and though I am loathe to admit it, a better quality of some of the things I need. Some of which we are running low on ourselves in the kitchen as well. We can take them home; I have something I need to pick up, anyway."
“You’re… getting spell ingredients from the market?” Alec checked, his eyes taking in the ornately arranged stalls, breathing in the assault of mingling scents, and shivering a little into his jacket, thinking the huge hall to be so much colder than outside.
“Alexander,” Magnus smiled, that warm, affectionate one that Alec knew meant he’d said something Magnus found endearing, “herbs and other plants have long been used in potions, and in simple concoctions like teas, for as long as people have been on this planet.”
“Makes sense,” Alec agreed, immediately feeling foolish, but receiving a kiss for the blush on his cheeks left him unable to object. Then as he trailed behind Magnus buying things like basil, anise, and garlic, he wondered how many of the things were destined for their kitchen as well as Magnus’ potion store.
“Have you any idea what you would like to eat this evening?” Magnus asked, paying for his items with a smile for the stallholder before turning back to Alec.
“I’m still kind of too full of cake to think about it,” Alec admitted, eyeing the various vegetables on the stall to their side and not able to think of a single thing he felt like eating.
“Me too,” Magnus smiled, “perhaps we should have something light; there is a client we are going to see soon that will no doubt give us something else to eat."
“So, maybe sandwiches?” Alec suggested, already curious about both the client and the food.
“Smørrebrød like we had in Copenhagen, or just—”
“Just regular sandwiches, Magnus,” Alec smiled, his heart giving a thud for Magnus’ never-ending need to keep trying to give him things; new experiences, exotic trinkets, more locations than Alec had even heard of before Magnus came into his life.
“Barbecue chicken with sides from the deli near ours?” Magnus suggested, smiling as Alec stepped closer and wrapped his arms lower around his waist, leaning in for a quick kiss before pulling back and slipping the bag of ingredients from his hand to add to those he was already holding.
“Then perhaps, a little salad,” Magnus suggested, gesturing over the lettuce, tomato, and other salad items closest to them.
“Perfect,” Alec told him, wrapping an arm around Magnus’ waist and pulling him closer, and helping him choose as he ordered.
When Magnus had everything he needed, they portaled home, and Alec took the bags destined for the kitchen to put away as Magnus took his spell and potion ingredients, leaving some on the coffee table to prepare later, and others being stored immediately in jars, boxes, and flasks.
“How’s the potion for that poultice?” Alec asked as Magnus walked to join him in the kitchen, still bundling together the feathers he’d portaled home earlier.
“Looking good,” Magnus smiled, dropping the bundle on a counter and holding out a hand to Alec to draw him closer, slotting himself into his arms with a contented sigh.
“Are you okay?”
“Of course,” Magnus said, mumbling it into his neck and dropping a kiss there. “I am thoroughly enjoying having you with me today, Alexander."
“Yeah, me too,” Alec agreed, pressing a kiss to his temple as he cradled the back of his head. And for a few minutes, they stood in complete silence, just holding on to one another, those unpleasant thoughts from the previous day having no chance of surfacing for Alec, for the feel of Magnus in his arms.
“You would tell me if something was troubling you,” Magnus asked when he pulled back, flashes of that same concern he’d been showing him since they’d left the apartment earlier dancing behind his eyes.
“Don’t worry,” Alec said, raising his hand to cup his cheek and kiss him, raising the other to hold Magnus in place as he kissed him more thoroughly.
“You will talk to me about this,” Magnus insisted with an exasperated huff and smile as they parted, prodding a finger against his chest. And Alec thought for all of a few seconds about denying it, not wanting Magnus to have anything else to have to think about, then nodded in defeat.
“I will,” Alec agreed, wrapping his hand around Magnus’ finger before he could withdraw it. “Just… it’s nothing for you to worry about, Magnus.”
“If it’s something that is concerning you, or making you worry, then of course it is mine to worry about,” Magnus countered, raising an eyebrow, and pressing his palm flat on Alec’s chest.
Alec smiled covering Magnus’ hand with his own. “I’m not concerned. I’m angry."
“That’s even worse,” Magnus declared, his eyes widening in alarm. “I can cancel—”
“Magnus,” Alec whispered, sliding his hands over Magnus’ hips to press firmly against him. “It’s fine. Just… let’s just have today, okay? We’ll… maybe we can talk about it tonight when we get back.”
“If there’s anything I can do,” Magnus said softly, that concern growing on his face as he raised his hands to grip Alec by his upper arms.
“If there is, I’ll let you know,” Alec agreed. And so Magnus had no way of not understanding at least one of the things he was thinking, slipped his hands down from his hips to cup his ass, pulling him closer still.
Magnus grinned at the gesture, and that worry on his face lessened a little for it, though the look he gave him told Alec he wouldn’t drop the subject altogether. Alec nodded back, kissed him once more, then pulled him into another hug.
“How much of a hurry are we in to get to your next client?” Alec asked, shifting enough to be able to murmur it into his ear, then mouthing a trail of kisses up his neck.
“I did not give a specific time,” Magnus smiled, tilting his head to one side to give him better access, and leaning back just enough to be able to slide his hands up Alec’s chest.
“So, if we wanted, we wouldn’t have to leave right now,” Alec continued, slipping his hands down Magnus’ arms and squeezing there just above his elbows, then unbuttoning his jacket and slipping it off.
“Perhaps we could delay leaving a few minutes,” Magnus agreed, fingers already working open Alec’s shirt buttons, sweeping his thumb down his chest as he did.
“I think we can do that."
“Do what, Alexander?”
“Anything. I just… I need you, Magnus,” and that need he’d been feeling since they’d been interrupted earlier in the morning reared up, calling him to crowd Magnus back against the kitchen counter, then hoist him up on to it, running his hands repeatedly up his thighs.
“Then you have me,” Magnus replied, pressing his feet against the counter so he could drag himself closer to the edge of it, then cupping Alec’s face, pulling him in for a kiss. Alec grabbed at his ass, sneaking his fingers up beneath his tunic shirt and pushing it up, lifting it over Magnus’ head in one swift tug, then greedily spreading his hands over his skin, touching as much of him as he could at once.
“Here’s good?” Alec asked, stroking a thumb up the length of Magnus already swelling in his pants then grabbing at his belt when he hummed in agreement, letting out a disgruntled grumble when realizing the buckle was typically at his back.
“I just like to give you a challenge,” Magnus teased, kissing that grumble from his lips and guiding his fingers over the buckle, humming in approval as Alec made light work of it and pulled it from its loops, dropping it to the floor.
In seconds he’d unbuttoned Magnus’ pants, slipped his hand in to work him harder through the silk of his boxers, and when that didn’t feel like enough he was slotting his fingers through Magnus’ and pressing them into the counter.
“Lift,” Alec insisted, and when Magnus realized what he wanted and held himself up, took another couple of seconds to slip his fingers in the waistband of those boxers and tug them down with his pants in one go. Magnus splayed his knees the second he was sat back down, with Alec bending to mouth up the length of him, lapping over his head then sucking it into his mouth.
Magnus dug his fingers into his shoulders, calling out as Alec wrapped his fingers around his length and squeezed, repeatedly darting his tongue along its slit. And with a swirl of his thumb over his cock head, Alec looked up to catch Magnus’ expression before ducking again, gripping lightly around his base and sealing his lips around his crown with another lave of his tongue over it, then taking him into his mouth.
Magnus called out again, spreading his knees a little wider as Alec dragged his lips up the length of him, pausing only to lap over his head again as he hastily tried to free himself from his own pants with one hand.
“Alexander,” Magnus growled, tugging on his hair so Alec would look up, reaching out to run his thumb over the swell of his lower lip then surging forward to claim an urgent kiss, sliding from the counter as he did, and shoving Alec’s shirt off in seconds.
“Too many clothes,” Magnus announced, and with a snap of his fingers they were both naked. His eyes narrowed as they darted over to the coffee table, with Alec sure he was weighing up how likely it might be for them to knock his potions flying if they were to move to the couch.
“Bed?” Alec suggested, pulling Magnus flush to him and groaning into his mouth for the feel of Magnus wedging his hand between them, wrapping fingers around his cock to stroke and kissing him in reward for the whimper blasting from his lips.
“An excellent suggestion,” Magnus agreed, and it took them a couple of minutes to reach it for the continual kisses and exploring fingers that left them both hard and panting by the time they tumbled onto their bed. Magnus was between Alec’s legs in an instant, lifting and arranging Alec how he wanted him then rolling his hips between his thighs, mouthing up Alec's neck before claiming his mouth once again.
“Is this quick enough for you?” Alec teased with a soft gasp, gripping tight to Magnus’ waist and rolling up to meet him, already feeling that pleasured heat building in his gut.
“You know I don’t normally like to rush things like this,” Magnus smiled, bending to nip at his ear then dropping his head into his neck with a soft groan.
“Saturday,” Alec blasted out, “we’ve got nowhere to go Saturday."
“Then you, and I, Alexander, on Saturday, are not leaving this bed,” and Magnus raised his head once again to kiss him.
“Sounds good,” Alec agreed, but then could only concentrate on the feel of them sliding together, holding Magnus up just enough to watch their cocks pressed tight between their stomachs then pulling him down again, sliding his hand through the back of Magnus’ hair to keep him in place.
They were done in minutes, coming within seconds of one another, and Magnus slumping tiredly against him, nuzzling his way into Alec’s neck with a contented groan. Alec stroked his fingertips over the curve of Magnus’ ass before raising his hands to drape over his back, with Magnus pushing himself up just enough to smile at him and lean in for one final kiss before slumping over on to his back and sighing in contentment, snatching up Alec’s hand against the sheets.
“We can’t fall asleep,” Alec said, squeezing his fingers and jabbing his thumb against Magnus' thigh, though stretching in satisfaction, and feeling that he could happily curl up with him for the rest of the day.
“No. But five minutes.”
“Think we have time for a shower?”
“Nope,” Magnus sighed, turning just enough to drop a kiss on his shoulder, then snapping the fingers of his free hand to clean them up.
“Bath tonight when we’re done?” Alec suggested, laughing softly at Magnus’ pleased hum in answer, laughing harder as he lifted Alec’s arm to duck beneath and tuck his face into his neck.
“You always make the best suggestions."
“You always give me the best options,” Alec retorted, smiling when Magnus turned just enough to prop himself up on his chin to smile at him, then shifted again to drop a kiss on to his chest.
A dark-haired man with shirt sleeves pushed back past his elbows and several splashes of what looked like pie filling down the front of his apron beamed in happiness as he opened the door to Magnus and Alec, ushering them inside a small, homely-looking bakery. As he watched the door being locked and its sign flipped to announce it would be open again in ten minutes, Alec felt a tiny pang of guilt for their delay in getting to him. But for the sated feeling that settled the churning of the mood that had been with him all day, he could more easily ignore it.
“For you,” Magnus said once the man turned back around, already holding out the small vial they’d gone home to collect.
“So what’s the potion for?” Alec asked as the man turned from them again, wondering why they’d had to portal home for such a small thing in the first place, then wondering how many portals Magnus might need to take on any given day, and storing it away as yet another thing to ask.
Magnus laughed softly as the two of them watched his client all but skipping through the doorway in excitement to what Alec presumed was the kitchen, with the vial carefully held between his hands as though precious and in danger of breaking. “Confidence.”
“Confidence for what?” Alec asked, straightening up a little from where he’d leaned in to speak quietly to Magnus as the client bounced back through the door, extending two plates with thick wedges of cherry pie to them both, and presenting them forks from his shirt pocket with a flourish.
“Tony is by far the best baker in all of Manhattan,” Magnus smiled, his fork already sliding through the pie and lifting to his mouth, immediately humming in appreciation.
“I don’t know about that,” Tony replied, a bashful blush on his already rosy cheeks. Alec watched as he withdrew the tiny vial of potion Magnus had just pressed into his hands from his pant pocket, and snapped an older one from a fastening on a chain around his neck, replacing it in seconds in a move suggesting this was not the first time he’d done such a thing.
“Nonsense,” Magnus denied, the word coming out thick with pie crust. “Alexander; do you remember the cake we had for Max’s rune ceremony? And the one for Izzy’s birthday party that we had at home?”
Alec nodded in agreement, surprised by the burst of flavor on his tongue the second he took up a mouthful of his pie. It was rich, deep, the perfect balance between sweet and sour, leaving Alec convinced he’d tasted nothing as good in his whole life.
“Well, they were both from Tony’s,” Magnus smiled, looking at Tony with pride.
“I couldn’t have done it without your help, Magnus,” Tony told him with a small, pleased smile curving up his lips.
“Nonsense,” Magnus repeated, his words again thickened with another mouthful of pie, that Alec was having to convince himself to eat slowly for how good it tasted, trying to avoid shoving the entire thing in his mouth. “The potion is merely to help you… focus. To give you the confidence to believe in your own work."
“Still,” Tony said, clasping his hands behind his back and looking at their rapidly emptying plates in satisfaction, “I couldn’t have done it without you. So, thank you, Magnus. As always.”
“Where else am I going to come to get all my baked goods?” Magnus teased, scraping up the last of the cherry filling and humming. “And there is no one else I would trust to make the cakes I need for special occasions.”
“Do you want another slice?” Tony asked, eyes darting between their plates then back up at Alec in curiosity. Alec shook his head still with his mouth full and tried to smile around it.
“No, thank you,” Magnus replied, “otherwise Alexander and I will certainly have no room for our dinner.”
“You’re Alec,” Tony said then, his smile widening in understanding, a considering gaze sweeping over him before giving a small nod.
“Forgive my manners,” Magnus said, pressing a hand to his own chest and his eyes growing a little wider in alarm, “I failed to introduce you both,” then made quick work of making those belated introductions formally.
“It’s good to finally meet you,” Tony said, taking Alec’s empty plate and hesitantly extending a hand to shake.
“You too,” Alec replied, shaking his hand willingly. “That pie was… amazing.”
“Thank you,” Tony replied, ducking a little in embarrassment at the praise, and leaving Alec understanding perhaps a little why he would need a potion for confidence in the first place.
“We have a little more work to do, otherwise we’d stay longer,” Magnus said then with a quick glance at the time on his cell phone.
“I’ll see you both again soon,” Tony replied with a warm smile, eyes crinkling as his eyes darted between the two of them.
“You will,” Magnus said, reaching out and squeezing his shoulder.
“Thanks, Magnus,” Tony said again with pure gratitude in his voice, handing him over an envelope Alec assumed contained Magnus’ payment, and walking them to the door.
“So… how come you suggested we have cake if you knew we were gonna get pie?” Alec asked once they were out of Tony’s earshot, hand in hand as they made their way down the street.
“I have a sweet tooth today,” Magnus replied, fingers up and playing with his ear cuff as he looked away. “Besides. I wanted to show you some of my favorite places to visit that you haven’t already seen. And I thought it would be good for you to meet Tony."
“I’m not complaining,” Alec told him, pressing a kiss to his temple, and smiling when Magnus looked back at him.
“Where are we going now?” Alec asked, breathing deep and acknowledging once more just how glad he was to be spending the day with Magnus.
“I have some tedious things to do, if you are still sure you would like to accompany me."
“Of course,” Alec said, wondering what Magnus’ version of tedious was, and how similar such activities might be to his own.
There was a tense cup of tea at the house of a warlock who was obstinate and only reluctantly listened to reason when Magnus listed all of the offenses he was in danger of committing in the eyes of both Mundane and Clave law, if he continued with the practices he was following in his store. Alec didn’t get to hear exactly what those practices were and didn’t want to ask, not wanting to interfere with Magnus’ work—or for him to lose the warlock’s trust.
A new addition to Luke’s pack was visited next, with Magnus reluctantly performing a memory charm on their mother after she had walked in on them mid-transformation. Alec spent the time entertaining the young werewolf’s little sister, who secured herself on his hip the moment he hoisted her up.
There was a quick visit to Magnus’ bank where Alec had been with him once before, standing quietly by his side as he deposited some money, then an even quicker stop at a post office where he mailed some letters, leaving Alec smiling to him affectionately with Magnus’ confession that he enjoyed the process of letter writing. The accompanying playing with his ear cuff as he’d justified it had Alec wrapping Magnus up in his arms and grinning to himself hard, loving the rarity of seeing Magnus blush when he reminded him he already knew, having watched him writing several times.
There was a constant commentary from Magnus as they made their way across the city, pointing out both clients and acquaintances with the occasional wave in greeting, even stopping to talk for a few minutes twice.
Magnus settled a dispute between two warlocks with a careless snap of his fingers, the spiraling of magic from his fingertips holding them both back from a pointless fight. He kept them held there effortlessly to talk out their differences, the authority in his voice having Alec discreetly adjusting his pants and telling himself it was absolutely not the time. And when apologies had been said and both parties were forgiven, it was Alec’s turn to blush, with teasing comments about stamina runes that Magnus did his best to not laugh at, discreetly avoiding Alec’s eye.
“And this is a typical day for you, Magnus?” Alec asked, the thought occurring to him as they walked, pulling him to one side as a woman rushed past with a stroller weighed down with several bags of groceries on each handle.
“It’s not that different from usual, aside from having you with me, of course,” Magnus smiled, tucking contentedly into his side as Alec kept his arm draped around him.
“But normally, it’s like this for you?” Alec asked, thinking the day had already been fairly busy, and that there were still some things that Magnus needed to do.
“Like you, I don’t really have a typical day,” Magnus replied after a moment to consider his question. “Some days there are nothing but meetings. Others, a full day of potion making; you know the days when I’ve spent all my time doing that because of the mess I leave everywhere at home.”
“You’re not messy,” Alec denied.
“But in answer to your question, I suppose this is one of my typical days, yes," Magnus smiled, leaning into his side.
“Then thank you for sharing it with me,” Alec smiled back, pressing a kiss to his temple. Magnus snuggled into him a little more, then pointed out the direction they needed to go.
“So, what are we doing here?”
Alec stared up at the apartment building with its peeling paint and boarded up lower windows, then back down at Magnus in doubt.
“Visiting a friend who does not want to draw attention to themselves,” Magnus sighed, lips pinched together as though deep in thought.
“Anyone I know?”
“I doubt that,” Magnus muttered, taking a deep breath as though bracing himself, then raising his hand, pressing his thumb hard against the intercom buzzer a couple of times. There was a short pause, and then a loud, heavy click signaling the door opening to their side. Magnus’ hand splayed wide on the faded blue door and pushed hard, beckoning for Alec to follow.
The stairwell was dank and dark, a thick layer of greasy dust on the overhead light showing just how long it had been since it had last been working. Alec debated activating a rune to help him peer through the darkness, but instead gripped tighter on to Magnus’ hand, following his practiced steps up the stairs.
“Should I be worried?”
“Cautious,” Magnus replied with a soft huff that echoed against the bare walls around them, stepping out on to an equally dark landing after a couple of flights then rapping his knuckles hard on a door.
Shuffling from inside the apartment had Alec tensing, though Magnus’ grip on his hand extended behind his back was reassuring and calm. And then they were blinking into a clink of light shining out into the hallway, Alec holding in a huff of surprise.
A young, frail-looking woman blocked their entrance in the doorway, her half-smile for Magnus immediately turning to a scowl of deep mistrust for Alec.
“Why did you bring a Shadowhunter here?” she asked, her voice croaking out in accusation, her arms crossing tight over her chest protectively, and her lips curling into a petulant pout.
“Liliana, this is Alec,” Magnus replied, his words coming out soft, and more than anything, kind. “He’s—”
“Yes, but he’s also—”
“Is he an important Shadowhunter?” she asked, with even more suspicion in her voice, her chin lifting up in defiance. The points of her ears and the shrewdness of her look for him identified Liliana as Seelie, yet her fading black leggings and oversized knitted sweater more typically placed her as Mundane; she could have been any one of the art students Alec had seen milling around outside the Brooklyn Academy of Art with Clary all that time ago. Alec’s curiosity was piqued, yet instinct told him to keep quiet.
“He’s an important Shadowhunter to me,” Magnus told her, and Alec took the hint not to mention being the Head of the Institute, waving back with what he hoped was an easy smile.
“He won’t touch anything,” she said, the words coming out as both a question and a statement, her eyes not darting from Alec’s face as though if she looked away, he might steal something, or strike.
“You have my word.”
Liliana narrowed her eyes at Alec for another few seconds, then stepped back with a relenting sigh, ushering them in.
“How have you been, Liliana?” Magnus asked, giving Alec a few seconds to cast a sweeping glance around the small apartment; green the main color of the furniture and soft furnishings, and the walls a pale fawn color, with touches of Seelie-like decorations draped and hung over every surface.
“Cold. I’m always cold here,” she added, glancing around the apartment and wrapping the shawl already around her shoulders a little tighter.
“It’s not that cold,” Magnus smiled as he removed his jacket, giving a discreet nod for Alec to do the same, then draping them over a nearby armchair.
“Should I offer your Shadowhunter refreshment?” Liliana asked, obviously having no intention of addressing Alec directly. Which was fine with Alec, unconsciously adopting his usual stance of straightened spine, arms behind back, observing the scene in front of him in silence.
“We are both fine, thank you. How about we look at your wounds, hmm?”
Alec’s stomach knotted immediately, eyes skimming over Liliana in search of evidence of those wounds but unable to see a thing for the layers of clothing covering her completely.
Liliana came to an uncertain stop in front of her couch, before turning away from them both. Alec took a quick look in Magnus’ direction to gauge his reaction, imagining the performance before him must be something he had seen before for his lack of reaction to it, debating if he shouldn’t just wait outside. But as they continued to wait, Alec saw her shoulders slump forward in resignation, then watched as she turned on her heel and stumbled out of the room.
“She’ll be getting changed,” Magnus told him, but gave no further explanation, just glanced back over his shoulder with a soft look that was both reassuring and asking for his patience. Or discretion. Or kindness, even. Leaving Alec clueless and with no idea what to expect.
Liliana returned as quick as she’d left, this time in a pair of tiny denim shorts and a tight black vest, the delicate skin Alec associated with Seelies not visible at all, and instead nothing but a mottled, scale-like rash covering her limbs and torso when she pushed the vest up. Alec noticed then what he hadn’t earlier, that the same rash covered the backs of her hands, patches of her neck, and much of her face, and his heart gave a painful pound wondering what had happened to her, recognizing it belatedly as a kind of curse.
“How are you feeling?” Magnus asked gently, stepping closer and walking around Liliana as she held perfectly still.
“Is it irritating?”
“Only when the sun is plentiful,” Liliana replied. “I am used to it.”
“You shouldn’t be used to it,” Magnus reproached, flaring his fingers and twirling them until two perfect spheres of blue light joined and flowed between them.
“Is your Shadowhunter interested in my deformity?” Liliana asked, tilting her head to the side with a soft sigh in what appeared to be the beginning of a routine.
“It is not a deformity. It is a cruel infliction. Though you could ask him,” Magnus replied, his voice growing absent as he began to work. Pulsing his hands out over Liliana starting at her neck, his face the picture of concentration.
“He is your Shadowhunter. Your guest.”
“Very well,” Magnus sighed, beckoning Alec a little closer but not stopping his work. “Liliana’s poorly skin here is a result of her rebellion against the Seelie Queen some years ago, when she decided that she wanted to live alone, amongst the Mundanes. In her escape from the Court, she was giving this… ailment.”
“So that I may never be looked on in daylight without disgust again,” Liliana added, monotone, eyes dazed as she stared unseeingly at an opposite wall.
“And this magic,” Alec asked after a short pause to absorb the information, feeling a little more loathing for the Seelie Queen being capable of doing such a thing to one of her own people. “What does it do?”
“Reduces the symptoms and appearance for an extended period. Though we have never gone more than… six weeks between doses at most. Any longer, and I fear—”
“At which time, the disease will crawl its way up my throat and—”
Alec winced at the grating, cracking noise Liliana made, darting his eyes away from the jolting motion of her hand up by her own neck, and caught Magnus holding back a smile.
“Thankfully, we have successfully avoided such an incident; even when I am unable to help in person, we have a mutual friend that can assist.”
“Catarina?” Alec guessed, watching Magnus nod as he continued working. “How long have you been helping her?” Alec asked, trying to remember if this was something Magnus had mentioned to him in passing and deciding that he hadn’t.
“Almost a year now; I took over from a warlock who moved away,” Magnus replied, moving around Liliana’s curse-ridden body to pulse more magic over her back, a slight tut carrying across the room for what Alec had to assume was a patch of that scaliness seeping red with sores.
“You’re quiet,” Magnus observed once they’d left, making their way back towards, Alec thought, their apartment.
“Just thinking,” Alec replied, squeezing his hand with a soft smile.
Alec thought of all the people Magnus must help and never see again, those that became regular clients, what it must take to get regular clients, and how Magnus might feel about those he couldn’t help. He thought about the disdain the Clave had for warlock magic aside from that directly needed to help it, and that same disdain from many Shadowhunters unless they needed direct help themselves.
Their world was changing, far more rapidly than any of them could have imagined, yet with so many archaic principles and ideologies holding them back. Alec didn’t like to think what kind of catastrophe might have to befall the Clave for them to truly recognize how important and equal Downworlders were in their world, still holding on to the hope that he and Magnus alongside others might be able to change that outlook in more peaceful ways.
Then Alec thought of Liliana, so obviously suffering at the hand of her own Queen, and Alec knew a moment of despair at all the people in the world turning on one another for little more than momentary power, or continual greed. It took a few seconds to compose himself before he could push the thought away again. They could make a difference, and they would change the views of their world; even if it was just their corner of it to begin with, he was determined. Alec turned to smile at Magnus then, tugging on his hand to pull him to a stop right there in the middle of the sidewalk, and cupped his face.
“Only that I’ve enjoyed spending today with you, Magnus,” he replied, which was true, if not the only thing occupying his thoughts.
Magnus stared back at him with a small smile that suggested he didn’t quite believe him, though accepted Alec’s kisses before he turned away once again for them to continue their walk.
“Okay, Alexander. This is the last place we need to go before picking up our dinner, and then we can go home.”
Alec took in the walls and furnishings of the small, Mundane-run apothecary stuffed with trinkets, crystals, and adornments that wouldn’t have looked out of place in some of the Downworlder homes he’d visited, and followed Magnus into the depths of the store with a small smile for the woman sat at the counter clutching a book to her lap. “What do you need here?”
“Burdock root. Agarwood. And mullein,” Magnus replied, hand already in a basket to drag out a handful of what appeared to be tree bark, then depositing it into an already-open paper bag.
“So many things,” Alec sighed, glancing over all the baskets holding things he neither recognized nor knew the name of. How was he ever going to remember any of them when he had to?
“You’ll pick them up in time,” Magnus assured him, “after all, Alexander; how many potions have you watched me prepare by now?”
“A few,” Alec smiled, thinking back over a bubbling cauldron filling the apartment with the smell of citrus, a paste-like substance scraped into an ornate box that both he and Magnus had held their breath for, grimacing at the cloying, pungent scent of it. Countless clear liquid potions, dried spell ingredients that proved just as potent as those liquid ones when used, and so many others. Alec decided he might recognize at least some of the things in those baskets after all, and was pleased for it.
“You know, we didn’t have all that much to eat today, aside from that cake and the pie at Tony’s,” Magnus said then as they made their way to the counter to pay.
“Are you hungry?” Alec asked, realizing his own stomach was starting to rumble.
“Starving,” Magnus announced, thanking the store assistant and turning on his heel with a flourish, grabbing Alec’s hand the moment they were outside. “We did work ourselves up an appetite earlier, after all.”
“We did,” Alec grinned, squeezing his fingers and turning just enough to catch Magnus’ wink for him.
“How would you feel about taking a detour, to eat on the way home?”
“Sounds perfect,” Alec agreed, “where are we going?”
“I want steak.”
“Medium rare? With vodka?” Alec asked in teasing, earning him a disgruntled wriggle into his side.
“I feel like wine this evening,” Magnus retorted, pointing the restaurant out.
“Wait. Is this the place we get the stuffed potato skins delivered from?”
“The very same.”
“Then yes,” Alec enthused, his stomach rumbling again, this time loud enough for Magnus to hear, and cover with his hand with a soft burst of laughter.
“Look, Alexander; the poultice you prepared is perfect.”
Alec hung up their jackets and slid Magnus’ discarded shoes to one side along with his own, then followed Magnus over to the coffee table he’d made a beeline for the second they’d returned to the apartment. He took in the thick, viscous mixture Magnus was pouring into a series of smaller jars through a funnel, and dropped to his knees to watch more closely, stoppering the jars as instructed after receiving an encouraging nod. “It’s turned out okay?”
“Perfect,” Magnus assured him, scraping the last of the mixture from the cauldron into the final jar, and setting it to one side. “This will hopefully keep Luke and his pack supplied for the next three months, all being well.”
“Can I help with any of this?” Alec asked, standing to help clear things away then sinking down next to Magnus on the couch as he began to mix ingredients for another potion from the fresh ingredients they’d bought earlier.
Magnus turned to him for a moment as though debating with himself, then nodded, pressing a cold pestle and mortar into his hands, then pushing a bag of leaves in front of him, and sprinkling a handful into the small bowl.
“If you can grind these down for me,” Magnus said, hand stilled over Alec’s to show how he wanted him to move it.
“What should they look like when I’m done?”
“Like a glossy paste,” and Magnus watched him work for a moment then nodded in approval, picking up other ingredients to mix.
The crunch of leaves in the mortar kept Alec’s attention for a few moments, though his eyes soon followed everything Magnus was doing, loving to watch how engrossed he became when preparing potions. He kept working himself, however, adding more leaves when instructed, changing hands regularly so he didn’t tire, then sitting back in relief when the last of the leaves were crushed, and absently working out the stiffness in his hand.
“How’d you always do all this wearing rings, bracelets, whatever, and never have them digging in your skin?” Alec asked, easing up the ring that had been permanently adorning his finger for months to pout at his reddened skin, poking at the underside of it that appeared to be starting to blister.
“Practice,” Magnus smiled, reaching out to take Alec’s hand, snapping his fingers to conjure magic and sending a soothing swirl of cold over the soreness until he could push the ring back down. Alec reached out in habit to squeeze over the matching ring on Magnus’ finger, and slumped back with a contented sigh, absently pressing a kiss to his shoulder as he did, then picking up the pestle and mortar once again to inspect the contents.
“Are you working tomorrow?” Magnus asked after their comfortable silence, and all the warmth and comfort that had seeped into Alec from them working side by side and just being in one another’s presence slipped away again, leaving him slumping his shoulders and leaning back against the couch.
“Yeah. Guess I have to.”
“Alexander,” Magnus’ voice was soft, immediately putting down the flask he was holding and leaning in to his side, then nodding for Alec to put the pestle and mortar on the table, and raising his arm for Alec to duck beneath and pulling him closer, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “Alec. What’s this about?”
“It’s just…” and to anchor himself, to stall for the time to find his words, Alec reached out, pulled Magnus’ free hand across his lap to rest against his thigh so he could play with his fingers, turning a little more into him so he wasn’t stretched uncomfortably. “It’s just… the arguments.”
“Not arguments,” Alec amended with a slight shake of his head. “It’s just… there’s so much I need to prepare. So much I need to get ready. Before… you know.”
“I do,” Magnus agreed softly, kissing the top of his head. “Alexander. If you have changed your mind, or need to delay things—”
“I haven’t,” Alec quickly reassured him, lifting his head and kissing Magnus until his own heart had calmed.
“Then what is it?” Magnus asked, lifting his hand to smooth hair away from his forehead.
“I… there’s so many things I wanna have in place. Have agreed, before it happens.”
“Because if there are not already formalized agreements… you fear the Clave will go back on their word?”
Alec didn’t want to admit that out loud, despite how it was essentially the very thing he was fearing more than anything, but a fresh wave of anger at the constant difficulties being thrown his way had him nodding in agreement and sighing hard. “Something like that.”
“I mean, I’ll deal with it,” Alec said, kissing him again and leaning their foreheads together. “But it’s just… things got a little—I got a little… I lost my temper yesterday. And it really didn’t help.”
“They do know how to push your buttons,” Magnus agreed, nuzzling against him. Then he gestured for a drink which Alec debated for all of a second, then nodded for gratefully.
“Yeah. They do. It’s like they’re making things difficult just to be difficult. They can’t really believe that not including the other members of the Downworld Cabinet in decisions that are going to impact them specifically is going to do anything to help relations between us all.”
“This isn’t a new argument,” Magnus pointed out as he sat back down, clinking his glass against Alec’s.
“No, you’re right. It isn’t. But it should be an old argument; one we don’t have anymore. We should be over this stuff by now. It’s been… the Downworld Cabinet isn’t exactly new either.”
“But the Clave has always been… set in its ways,” Magnus said, and Alec couldn’t help but agree with him, even smile at his careful selection of words.
“So they should be making the effort to change.”
“They’re… changing for you,” Magnus pointed out, squeezing him a little.
“They’re making an exception for me,” Alec argued, shaking his head. “If you and I hadn’t been able to stop so much conflict over the past couple years because of the Cabinet, and us—”
“They’re making an exception for you, because the members of the Downworld Cabinet refuse to deal with anyone but you,” Magnus insisted. “They trust you, Alexander. You have earned their trust over the years.”
“Yeah, well,” Alec replied, nuzzling against him, “I’ve got you to thank for that. Your guidance—”
“We have worked exceptionally well together,” Magnus smiled, and the teasing in his voice had Alec lifting his head for another kiss, before dropping his forehead into his neck.
“We have. But that’s sort of the point. If it wasn’t for us, and everyone who’s been involved with the processes we’ve put in place, the agreements—everything—then who knows how much harder some of the things they wanted to implement would have gone?"
“You have prevented them making many terrible decisions,” Magnus added, and Alec sat back up so that they could both take a sip of their drinks.
“I know. I probably shouldn’t have had to—”
“You should be proud of yourself, Alexander,” Magnus said, smiling over the lip of his glass. “I know I am,” which left Alec smiling to himself, feeling his cheeks heat with blush.
“The point is, this exception they’re making for me, was always going to come with conditions," Alec sighed, closing his eyes to the memory of the long list of requirements that had formed the basis of all of his arguments the day before. The face of the Clave representative that had watched him with a snake-like smile before listing all manner of unacceptable suggestions reared in Alec’s mind, making him snap his eyes open once again to rid himself of the image.
“What are the terms?”
“Magnus,” he sighed, “I’m pretty sure you can already guess. Monitoring of abilities. Weekly checks to make sure my views aren’t becoming biased; not that they don’t accuse me of that anyway. Signing off on all my decisions before I can approve anything—”
“I talked them out of most of that stuff,” Alec assured him, taking a longer sip from his glass. “It’s just, it was constant. The list of requirements was—there’s no possible way they could have thought for a second I’d agree to even half the stuff, or that they had any right to ask. Yet they asked them anyway, Magnus. They stood there, and asked me—all kinds of things. Made snide comments about you, us, our—”
“So you believe they are… attempting to dissuade you from remaining as Head of the Institute after you—”
“I can’t tell,” Alec shrugged, honestly not sure either way, and debating with himself yet again if it was even worth it. He could find other work; there would be so many opportunities for him in liaison roles outside of the Clave, or training, or even the legalities he’d become an expert in that he could advise Downworlders on. But being Head of the New York Institute had been a childhood dream, and giving it up without fighting for it was not a decision he could make easily; not without at least giving it as much effort as he could.
Magnus’ expression said he didn’t think the Clave was worth that much effort, but he tactfully said nothing, instead just reaching out to squeeze over Alec’s thigh. “You know I’ll support you, whatever you decide to do.”
“I’m gonna need you for so many things,” Alec sighed, thinking of all the discussions they’d had about what needed to happen, his stomach knotting for just how quickly time was slipping away, closer and closer to the date they’d agreed.
“And I intend to always be here for you,” Magnus smiled, turning his hand over for Alec to lace his fingers through, “even if you change your mind—”
“I’m not gonna change my mind, Magnus,” Alec smiled, draining his drink and pushing the glass on to the table, nodding for Magnus to do the same, then straddling his lap without warning.
“I would understand if you did,” Magnus replied, though it was said to Alec’s stomach; that Magnus still doubted that he would want to become immortal—that Magnus still doubted Alec would want to spend an eternity with him, Alec knew he’d have to work on. Perhaps once the ceremony was complete, and they were on the other side of it, and the nervousness that fluttered in his stomach for all he’d been reading in his preparation for the ceremony had gone; perhaps when they woke together the morning following him becoming immortal, and Magnus could see that he was there right beneath his palms, perhaps then he could believe it. Magnus doubting he’d deserve that kind of love, that level of commitment, was something Alec very much looked forward to helping him get over.
“Hey,” Alec whispered, a nudge against his chin so Magnus would have to look up, “I want this. I want you. I love you, Magnus. All these problems, arguments, whatever things we have to deal with to get through this? It’s all worth it. If I get to be with you forever, and I… I never want you to be alone again, Magnus. You deserve… so much. And if I can give it to you, I’m gonna give you everything. Anything you ask.”
“I only ask that you give me yourself, Alexander,” Magnus replied in a soft whisper, tears brightening his eyes, “in whatever way you can give me yourself. Mortal, or immortal—”
“Let’s go with the latter,” Alec smiled, pressing a kiss to his forehead and hooking his elbows over Magnus’ shoulders. “We’re gonna have so much work to do.”
Magnus smiled, letting his head fall back against the couch. “Do you remember when you proposed to me, Alexander?”
“Magnus,” Alec laughed, leaning down to kiss him, “it’s never gonna be something I forget. And besides; it wasn’t all that long ago.”
“I know it wasn’t,” Magnus agreed, reaching out and nudging Alec’s hand so he would lift it, so that they could look at the rings they’d been wearing ever since that proposal. “We’ve had a lot to do ever since then.”
“I know,” Alec smiled, staring down at their fingers, and for the first time that day willingly allowing his mind to wander. It took him back to that evening when he’d covered their balcony in what had felt at the time like a thousand fairy lights, hoping to set the scene for his proposal, and fearing he’d never get it right. He’d set the table with trembling fingers, checked three times on the order he’d placed for a delivery of a dinner fancier than anything he could ever have prepared himself, then made sure the champagne he’d slotted into the back of the fridge hadn’t disappeared of its own accord—and chided himself for being too optimistic in case Magnus had reason to say no.
Not that he should have worried of course; from the second Magnus had stepped through the portal, throughout the perfect dinner, and right up to the moment Alec had fallen to one knee, drawn out the box he’d had hidden out of sight, Magnus had been nothing but wide-eyed with delight. It was a simple proposal; far simpler than anything Magnus might have done, but it was so very Alec, and Magnus apparently needed nothing more than that.
That had been coming up to six months ago. Their evening had continued out on their balcony with a discussion of Alec’s plans for immortality; something that had long been on both their minds but not always spoken about with ease out loud. And Alec’s announcement about both their engagement and his pending immortality the next morning in the Institute with Magnus proudly at his side had been met with nothing but jubilant celebration, until, of course, he’d had to share the news with the Clave. His parents had arrived with proud smiles on their faces having long accepted Magnus into their family, but warning in their eyes. And a week later that first representative had arrived for the spot check that had led to the warlock Jeremiah’s temporary imprisonment awaiting his trial.
“When you proposed to me, I—I already knew that you loved me, Alexander,” Magnus told him with an affectionate, humble smile, “but I still… I still doubted that you would want to stay with me indefinitely. Would want to commit yourself to me like that.”
“I know you did,” Alec agreed, wrapping his arms a little tighter around him wishing there was more he could do to take away Magnus’ occasional bouts of insecurity—probably just as much as Magnus wished he could do the same for his, Alec thought with a rueful smile to himself as he nuzzled against Magnus’ cheek.
“And I knew there would be so many more changes for you to have to contend with than any I have to face,” Magnus continued with a tiny frown, darting his gaze elsewhere until Alec hooked a finger beneath his chin to turn his face back to him, and rewarding him with a smile.
“Magnus. I’d do anything for you, you know that.”
“But this isn’t just about doing something for you,” Alec continued, “this is just as much about me. For me.”
“I know that too,” Magnus admitted, though his expression spoke of how much he still didn’t quite believe it, and Alec decided the best way to shift the expression from his face was to kiss it off him.
Magnus had no objection, of course, letting out those little hums of contentment Alec never tired of hearing, pulling him ever closer, and when Alec sat back a few minutes later, had put a pleased brightness in his eyes.
“Yesterday, I just kind of… I was done with it. All the comments and obstacles they keep trying to throw up to make everything so much harder than any of this needs to be,” Alec sighed, fingers up and playing with the chains against Magnus’ chest. “And I… I guess I finally realized that—that I’ve been looking at this whole thing wrong.”
“Oh?” Magnus asked, with fresh curiosity in his eyes. Alec settled himself a little better on his lap and squeezed over Magnus’ shoulders.
“You were right. About the members of the Downworld Cabinet insisting I was the one who, at least for now, stays as Head of the Institute.”
“And I know the view of Downworlders isn’t exactly something the Clave pays that much attention to, but when it was a unanimous decision, they had to listen,” Alec added, remembering the swell of pride, and acceptance he had felt when the Cabinet had voted in favor of him.
“But?” Magnus prompted, smiling at him affectionately.
“But,” Alec repeated, smiling back with just as much affection, “it’s not just them. I mean, there’s Jace, Izzy, Clary. Everyone else at the Institute; they’re… they all support me. This.”
“And your parents,” Magnus pointed out, squeezing his hands around his waist.
“And my parents,” Alec agreed, “they’ve been incredible.”
“So yesterday, you realized that no matter what the Clave try to threaten you with, you have overwhelming, unwavering support from everyone around you?” Magnus summarized for him with another squeeze to his waist.
“Exactly,” Alec nodded. “They can say whatever they want to me, but I… I worked hard for this, Magnus. We worked hard. They need to know they can’t just… take over, without a fight.”
“So, today?” Magnus said, turning the subject back to the question that he’d asked at intervals throughout the day.
“Today,” Alec sighed, rolling his eyes, “they wanted to come back. The Clave. To discuss things further. I told them I was taking the day off. That there wasn’t anything else left to discuss.”
There was, of course, Alec admitted to himself. They still had to decide how they would cover the role of Head of Institute while he and Magnus were on honeymoon, had no idea how long his transformation was going to take him and how long that would keep him away from work. And that wasn’t even mentioning all they still had to prepare for their wedding and the immortality ceremony he would take part in once they’d returned from their honeymoon. In truth, there were so many things to think about, that Alec felt like his mind never quite switched off. It left him constantly in awe of just how much of that organizing Magnus did without comment or showing the slightest evidence of stress over, hoping someday he might grow to be even half as effortless.
“You realize you don’t have to go through all of this on your own, Alexander,” Magnus teased, reaching up to brush Alec’s hair away from his forehead.
“Magnus,” Alec laughed, “you’re basically dealing with the whole wedding by yourself ‘cos I’ve got no idea about any of that.” Which was mostly true, Alec thought, but also because Magnus thrived on organizing such things, had been utterly delighted at the prospect of planning their wedding in intricate detail—with Izzy as his willing and equally excited assistant.
“I just need you to be there, and have vows to say to me,” Magnus smiled.
“I already wrote your vows, Magnus.”
And Alec had to wrap Magnus up in a hug for the surprise in his voice, kissing at the back of his head repeatedly, and sighing at the soothing sweep of his hands up his back. “I have.”
“And you met the baker of our wedding cake today, so that’s two things already in preparation,” Magnus added, when Alec sat back.
“Tony?” Alec smiled.
“Yes,” Magnus nodded, “he would like us to go for a cake tasting session next week so we can discuss the design. I thought it would be good for you to meet him first.”
“That pie was… I don’t have words, Magnus.”
“He is incredible,” Magnus agreed, settling his hands on Alec’s thighs. “So. There’s… nothing else that is bothering you?”
“Not a thing,” Alec smiled, dropping a long kiss on his forehead.
“Then… please talk to me, if there is anything at all that is troubling you.”
“Magnus,” Alec smiled, pulling back to look at him, “I will. I do. I was more… yesterday just pissed me off. And I wanted… I wanted a day not thinking about it, with you.”
“Alexander,” Magnus replied, not needing to say anything else to reveal just how pleased and proud he was about that. So Alec leaned down to kiss him again, letting out the most content of sighs, and allowed himself relax.
Magnus’ cell phone vibrated then threatening to interrupt them as it had done earlier that morning, but before Alec could grumble out a complaint he felt Magnus’ hand leave his thigh, heard his fingers snap, and the vibrations stop.
“Whatever it is, it can wait,” Magnus smiled, slotting his fingers beneath Alec’s shirt. “This—you, are more important.”
Alec smiled up at Magnus as he flipped him over on his back on the couch, arching beneath him as he slid their shirts up so their skin was touching, then sweeping his hands up Magnus’ back to rest over his shoulders, and forgetting everything else. “Fine with me.”
“I seem to remember you promising me a bath, Alexander,” Magnus whispered against his lips, though made no move to get up.
“You let me up and I’ll go run us one," Alec offered, tilting his chin for another kiss.
Magnus hummed as though deep in thought, continuing to drop kisses over his cheeks, then nuzzled his way into Alec’s neck, and sighed in contentment. “Perhaps in a few minutes.”
*** End ***
Hello! This is the end of the story - the final chapter is another chance to see the art for it <3