Magnus startles awake, jerking up on one elbow and blinking away the blur of sleep, trying to figure out what woke him. The bedroom is dark, barring him and his company of boxed supplies stacked along the thin gaps either side of the bed, there’s nothing untoward about his surroundings. He pauses, muscles tensed, holding his breath and straining to hear past the thump-thump of his heartbeat in his ears and the low choking growl of the RV's engine.
He's confused for a few more seconds before it dawns on him: the rough background grinding of gears being manhandled into position is missing.
Magnus sighs in relief. Shift change.
Meaning, more specifically, that Alec is no longer behind the wheel. Like most Shadowhunters he'd never learned to drive so mastering the manual stick of the aged RV had proven... difficult, for his boyfriend. Magnus huffs out a breathy laugh as he collapses back onto the lumpy mattress. He rubs at his eyes and yawns, feeling his jaw click with the stretch.
It's not long before the flimsy plywood door slides open, it catches on the run a few times as per normal and Alec shoulders his way in muttering quiet curses at the door as he does. He slides it back into place and leans against it for a second, letting loose a deep tired sigh.
"Biscuit at the wheel?"
"Hm?" Alec hums before waving a hand at the fog gathering around his head, "Oh, no she switched with Izzy."
Magnus nods and pats the empty side of the bed, beckoning Alec to join him for some much needed shut eye. Alec pulls his t-shirt up and over his head getting caught for a few jerking seconds before he frees himself. He drops the stained cloth onto the ground and kicks off his shoes as he undoes his belt, resting against the door behind him. He looks dead on his feet, eyes half shut and fingers fumbling with the easy catch of his belt.
Soon though he's kicking out of his jeans and crawling up the mattress before flopping face first next to Magnus with a groan. Magnus chuckles lightly as he runs a hand through Alec's messy hair and down his spine. Alec sighs happily into the fabric before moving his head towards Magnus in order to breathe.
"'ove 'ou," Alec mumbles, the words a little mangled but the meaning always clear to Magnus.
"Love you too Alexander, now sleep," Magnus replies and Alec hums, already halfway to Morpheus' realm.
Magnus tugs the threadbare excuse of a duvet out from under Alec and tosses it over him. He shuffles a little closer until he can rest his head against Alec's, one hand petting Alec's head and back lazily.
Alec snores quietly, already sound asleep and Magnus isn't far behind him.
The slowing momentum of the RV wakes Magnus, sleep pushed aside in a moment as he rolls onto his back with a groan.
Alec snuffles in his sleep, too tired to fully wake up but still able to sense the difference in his surroundings. Magnus smiles and brushes some of Alec's hair back lovingly.
There’s weak beams of sunlight slipping through the swaying curtains, thinned by age and wear and tear. The awful '70's style brown and yellow flower pattern barely visible. In the morning light the master suite is a mess of clothes and supply boxes stacked and shoved either side of the squeaky bed. The veneer paneling on the walls is cracked in places or peeling in others and the ceiling is stained yellow, the previous owner clearly a heavy smoker.
When Magnus closes his eyes and with Alec snuffling quietly into his chest, he can almost pretend they’re just on a normal cheap road trip instead of the hell their lives have become. He enjoys the brief moment of respite, pushing away reality for a moment as sleep attempts to entice him back into its arms.
The jerk of winnebago coming to a complete stop though has Magnus groaning and scrubbing a hand over his face as he tries to wake up fully. Alec grumbles darkly and burrows closer to Magnus but the squeak of the breaks against the tires draws him up a little.
"Whazzit?" He asks confusedly, still half asleep.
"We're stopping darling, go back to sleep and I'll go check what's happening," Magnus says quietly, he presses a quick kiss to Alec's forehead as he pets his hair. Alec hums and drops back to the mattress, already back to dozing. Magnus allows himself a few more moments to take in Alec, loose and relaxed against the bed. He flips the duvet off and scoots to the end of the bed.
Magnus dresses quickly, shoving his arms and legs into his clothing with little care, something that would have made him wince years ago but times have changed. He pushes his feet into Alec's boots, unable to recall where he kicked his. Magnus snaps his fingers, a curl of yellow smoke wrapping around the digits like a coiling snake as the laces tie themselves. A frivolous use of magic he can't really afford but he'd rather not trip on over his own feet and brain himself against the table or something. After all they've been through it would be a rather stupid way to go. But time was a wasting.
Magnus pulls the door open and slips out of the room. He spares a glance at the pods and their sleeping occupants before moving swiftly to the front of the RV.
Clary's behind the wheel, Izzy still sound asleep on the sofa with a thin blanket draped over her.
“Good morning biscuit,” Magnus mumbles cheerily dropping a kiss to the top of her head. She smiles at him in greeting looking a little brighter than the rest of them, her burnt ginger hair is pulled up in a messy bun and she’s donned a fresh -ish baby blue blouse with faux pearl buttons. It’s two sizes too big and she has it folded and tied in such a way that it’s more of a crop top now with the arms rolled up to her elbows. It makes her look smaller than she actually is, like the little girl he once knew years ago playing dress up in her mother's clothes. It makes Magnus’ heart ache a little for her and the innocence she’s lost.
Magnus pushes that old pain to one side and leans against her chair, staring out the window that’s smudged with the gunk of a thousand bugs.
“Walt-do called an all stop, there’s a town a few miles up ahead.” Clary answers his unasked question, her eyes are fixed ahead and her body is braced to hit the gas if necessary.
WLTDO - or Walt-do as it’s shortened to - is Simon’s attempt at codenames for the individual caravans and their groups, this one belongs to Luke and his pack’s RV at the front of the caravan and it stands for ‘Who let the dogs out’. Most of the Shadowhunters hadn’t got the reference, which sparked an entire day of nineties karaoke. That was one of the better days and Magnus remembers it fondly every time they use the code name, though he does wind up whistling the damned tune every now and then which he hates.
Magnus nods to Clary and grabs the old radio from the dash and taps the speak button twice in quick succession.
Luke’s voice is confident and straight to business over the crackle of the line. “ Avengers, we’ve got a small town up ahead. Maps show it’s not too big but it looks like there’s a few shops we can hit for supplies, if they haven’t already been looted yet. Over.”
“Sounds promising, over," Magnus answers.
"We should send the Furiosa," Alec says from behind them, yawning widely. Magnus smiles at him and hands the receiver over to him. Alec repeats his suggestion for Luke adding, "We should get an idea of what we’re facing before we make a trip. Have Maia work out an alternate route just in case, over.”
Luke confirms over the line and Cleophas signals that she’s already on route, the small off road jeep invaluable under these circumstances and Cleophas wields the car like an extension of herself, one of the few Shadowhunters to take to driving like a duck to water. Cleophas loved driving fast and a little wild hence the code name Furiosa.
Jace had had enough after that and put his foot down. Simon wasn’t allowed to name anything else simply because it took hours of his excited rambling to explain the individual reasons for the code names and sometimes Jace didn’t have the patience to sit and listen to mundane pop culture.
Cleophas hits the horn twice, two sharp barks of noise, as the jeep passes, speeding up the line of vehicles and out of view in a matter of moments.
With Cleophas scouting out the town, Magnus sets about waking the rest of the cabin while Alec gets dressed properly.
First is Izzy, still dead to the world laid out on the sofa, her head resting on her bicep as her other arm dangles over the side, knuckles scraping the worn dark carpet. Magnus shakes her shoulder gently and Izzy's hand flops around as she tries to wave him off, grumbling softly like her brother. Magnus watches her fondly but persists with his shaking.
"Isabelle," Magnus says softly, "Wakey wakey."
"'uck off," Izzy replies as she curls inward, burying herself under the brightly patterned blanket and startling a laugh out of Magnus.
He pushes her shoulder a little harder than before and Izzy whines, "'lright, I'm up. I'm up."
Magnus snorts but leaves her be to wake the others. There are two pods next to the bedroom and opposite the tiny toilet and shower room. Both technically single sleepers that are a touch too small for some of them and almost ridiculously claustrophobic for Alec and Magnus’ long limbs, which is why Alec and Magnus got to claim the master bed. A good night’s sleep is hard enough to come by without resorting to contortion and nobody wanted Alec working on even less sleep than he already was or so sore he could barely move. Plus Magnus was unbearably grumpy if he failed to get more than a few hours of relativity comfortable sleep. They really couldn’t put two of the council in such a position that they could barely function.
Magnus crouches down and rolls the dark muddy coloured curtain along the track of the bottom bunk. Rebecca and her brother Simon are still fast asleep but Simon jerks roughly awake the moment Magnus touches his arm. He blinks rapidly, eyes wide and full of fear as his chest heaves for breath he no longer needs. Rebecca wakes at her brother's sudden stiffness but settles quicker than her brother once she assesses the situation and realises who's hunched over them. Magnus rubs Simon's forearm gently in apology and offers Rebecca an apologetic smile. Rebecca pats his arm with a sleepy smile.
"What's happening?" Simon asks.
"Shopping trip children, up and at 'em," Magnus responds cheerily, he stands up and tugs the second curtain along the warped railing for the top bunk.
Jace and Max are tucked in together, Jace with his back to Magnus and Max hidden from view, safe between his brother and wall. Jace has a similar reaction to Simon, if a touch more violent. Magnus' hand aches as he catches the flying elbow meant for his face and Jace blinks a few times, struggling to focus on Magnus, before he mumbles out a quick apology, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, the adrenaline fading quickly.
Max is more gentle and innocent in the morning but no less grumpy than his siblings, he curls tighter under his blanket with a groan and Magnus can’t help but chuckle fondly as he tousles Max’s hair gently before the chaotic mop of brown disappears into the growing ball of blanket.
Alec slips out of the bedroom beside Magnus, fully dressed, his hair a little wild. He dips his head down a litte, for a quick good morning peck before the day really starts. Magnus sighs against Alec’s lips, used to the stale morning breath that's become a staple of their new life.
“Save it for the bedroom lovebirds, there are children present.” Jace teases, stretching out as much as he can in the cramped space, letting loose a deep satisfied groan. Max grumbles darkly from his blanket ball at the disturbance.
Alec rolls his eyes as Magnus snorts.
“Alec,” Clary half-shouts from the front and it effectively stalls the usual banter that they engage in. Alec strides up to the front of the RV, Magnus not far behind him.
Clary scoots round on the driver's seat, it lists to one side, the old spring base broken long ago, “Cleophas just radioed in the all clear. She says there’s a few shops still intact as well.”
“That’s good,” Magnus says as he rests on the back of the driver’s seat.
“The pharmacy seems to be stocked as well.”
Magnus hums happily, sharing a look with Alec, “Catarina will be pleased.”
“Anything else Cleophas reported?” Alec asks.
Alec settles on the slight step and starts on his undone laces. He flicks his gaze over his shoulder, “Magnus can you grab us some rations?”
Magnus nods, “Happy to darling. Hmm, nutri-grains. The breakfast of kings,” he jokes, dipping enough to drop a peck against Alec’s hairline before he goes off to raid their supplies. He grabs two of the stale breakfast bars and hurries back to the cab waving one of the bars at the side of Alec's head, who gamely takes it as he clicks the radio on again.
“Walt-do, you heard the report from Furiosa, over?”
“ We did. Small party? Over, ” Luke asks.
“Myself and Magnus, can we get a wolf from you?”
There’s a beat of staticky silence, “Alaric’s volunteered. Who else is going? Over.”
Alec taps his fingers against his knee clearly thinking through the list of people in the caravans. Magnus runs through the options too.
With a potentially fully stocked pharmacy ahead of them, Catarina is an absolute must on the team and there’s always the chance with a small town that there’ll be home grown food, so Meliorn comes to mind as well. Magnus ponders a few more names, including Jace but discards it just as quickly. Jace has gotten better over the years but he still tends to chafe a little under Alec’s command, not always intentionally, but it does make Alec and Magnus a little more wary about including Jace in sensitive missions. The last thing they need is Jace to go running off on his own or disobeying orders, especially when tensions are already high enough.
“Cat is a must," Magnus says and Alec nods.
"Great minds think alike," Magnus says and Alec smiles.
"Raj to cover?"
Magnus nods and Alec repeats their chosen group over the radio. Each caravan radios the okay, ending in Cat's stern voice crackling over the radio.,“ Roger that Avengers, pick up in thirty? Over .”
“Thirty confirmed. Over,” Alec agrees quickly.
Alec snaps the handset back into its grip and pushes himself up with a groan. Magnus gives him a concerned look that Alec brushes off with a shake of his head. It doesn't appease Magnus much, Alec tends to let any pain or injury go unchecked.
When they turn round, Jace is already waiting just behind them with his mussed blonde hair and wrinkled white t-shirt rucked up over his hip bones having just rolled out of the pod.
“You want back up?” Jace asks, leaning against the cupboard in a seemingly relaxed manner which was only betrayed by the tense lines of Jace’s body.
“Magnus and I should be enough but I want you on the backup jeep with Jocelyn and Luke just in case,” Alec says and Jace nods, sharply. For all their caution they feel about including Jace in certain outings, there’s nobody else Alec would want riding in like an avenging angel to save them.
“Gotcha. Let’s eat,” Jace says, slapping Alec’s arm before heading over to the table.
Alec follows him, tearing open his own bar while Magnus turns to check in with Clary, still vigilant behind the wheel. “Clary, are you alright?”
“I’m good for the wheel for a few more hours,” she says with a quick shrug.
Magnus nods, trusting her not to push herself too much, “You should switch with Simon or Rebecca soon though. They've had a full night sleep."
Magnus smiles and rests his hand on her shoulder and Clary twists her head to rest on his knuckles for a moment. With a soft squeeze, she rights herself and Magnus goes to the growing family crowd around the table to choke down his own stale breakfast bar.
The migrating mass of vehicles they call home has three off road jeeps in total for scouting purposes or to provide distractions.
One is Cleophas', the primary scout. A small two seater, sports edition with a roll cage and thin, light frame that once had fire stickers along its side but now they’ve faded or torn over the months of hard driving. Cleophas' jeep winds up hooked onto the back of a caravan unless needed as it isn't safe enough to live in. The thin metal sheets were great for bouncing around a track at speed once upon a time but against the undead it might as well have been paper.
The second jeep belongs to Lydia. It’s a little sturdier with a thicker frame and more room, so Lydia lives out of her’s with two other women, Luke's old police partner Ollie and her wife Sam. The third jeep is their backup and stays hooked onto the back of the Walt-do unless absolutely required, it’s the only one with a weapons stash and first aid kit that nobody is allowed to touch.
The rest of the line up is made up of a multitude of RV’s and winnebagos of varying sizes and one overcrowded bus with black tinted UV proof windows, the only thing standing between the remnants of the New York Vampire clan and the sun.
Luckily Simon is a daylighter or he'd have found himself crammed onto the already overcrowded bus as well.
Magnus kicks at the front of their ageing RV. The old grill is rusted and missing a few slats and the flimsy panelling that decorates the RV is warped and tinged with rust and dust. Alec keeps his gaze on the overgrown fields beside the road as Magnus watches the way ahead. The tarmac is pot marked with weeds and grass, cracking through the asphalt. The world decaying slowly as nature reclaims the spaces human civilisation carved out of her.
The air is oppressive with a breeze that only seems to shift the muggy heat around rather than alleviate it. They aren’t kept waiting long before Lydia’s jeep rolls up alongside them with a rumbling purr and she reaches across the passenger seat to open the door.
“Hop in losers, we’re going shopping,” Lydia greets with a wide grin. Simon seems determined to corrupt as many Shadowhunters with pop culture references as possible. They’d stayed at a campsite in the early days, before things got... worse , and Simon had rigged a projector and an old bed sheet for a good old fashioned movie marathon. Lydia had taken to the cheesy nineties and noughties movies quickly. Magnus had found out Alec actually preferred the silver screen flicks of old. A pleasant surprise, among many, that have come with dating the once repressed Shadowhunter.
Alec rolls his eyes at the regular line she greets them with and Magnus chuckles a little before he flips the front passenger seat forward so he can clamber into the back with Catarina, Meliorn and Raj. Alec takes the front passenger seat for the leg room and shuts the door behind him. Lydia hits the gas as soon as they’re strapped in and all four of them in the back find themselves flattened into their seats with the speed. It reminds Magnus of his first time in a concorde. Not something he'd ever thought he'd find himself comparing to a Shadowhunter's driving skills...not necessarily a compliment either.
"How are you, my beautiful medical queen?" Magnus greets Cat. She snorts and rolls her eyes.
"Exhausted as normal. You?" she responds and Magnus understands. As one of the few medically trained individuals in their caravan, she rarely has a moments peace. Plus she has Madzie and Zoe, as well as other young warlocks, in her RV to keep her busy too.
"Oh you know, surviving," Magnus responds with a self deprecating tilt of his lips.
He catches Alec's gaze in the rear view mirror and they share a soft smile before Lydia hits the breaks a touch too hard as they skid to a stop beside the front winnebago, the Walt-do.
“Alaric is gonna have to squeeze in the back with you four until we catch up with Cleophas, she's already done a little foot scouting so we should be back before the sunset," Lydia says and Alec huffs unhappily. Cleophas should have stayed with her jeep or even come back to the main caravan but instead she put herself at risk and anybody else who had to pull her ass out of the fire. Luke is usually able to keep her in line but with their relationship already shaky no one wanted to ruin the ground Cleophas and Luke had covered.
“Someone should talk to her,” Meliorn suggests with a slightly judging eyebrow raise. The former knight has lost his playful poetic speech over time for a more blunt assessment of the situations they face. Long gone are the flowing loose shirts and pants, replaced with a more military mind and attire that Magnus had seen the Seelie knight in only a few times. The whole get up just as dark as his eyes. His hair is still long though, kept in a neat high bun most days, especially recently with the abnormal Autumn heat.
“Actually I was hoping Catarina could have a word with her?” Alec proposes, his eyes finding Catarina’s in the rear view mirror. Her dark eyebrow flicks up in a way that reminds Magnus of the first time she'd met Alec, the way she looked him up and down and found him lacking in... something . He’s not sure if Alec's passed her silent tests since then but she respects him enough as one of the leaders to not question his actions... much .
“I’m not known for pulling my punches,” Catarina says and Magnus snorts, understatement . “Besides, I’m a Doctor not a therapist.”
“I know but that’s exactly why I want you to talk to her, she needs to be reminded of the reasons why she can’t just go off like this, preferably by someone who won’t sugar coat it,” Alec points out before Alaric raps his knuckles on Alec's window. Alec opens the door and clambers out, letting Alaric into the back before resuming his seat at the front.
It really is a tight squeeze in the back, Cat having to perch herself on Magnus' lap leaving her to hunch her head at an awkward angle against the ceiling. Meliorn tries to look regal and unaffected as he’s nearly shoved right up close Raj and Alaric offers up an apologetic look as he tries to take up as little space as he can.
“Alright, but you’ve been warned,” Cat agrees with a sigh as Lydia hits the gas again. Alec's hand slams into the glove box to brace himself and Cat's finger nails dig into Magnus' shoulder hard as they zoom forward towards the town.
Cleophas is alert as they roll up. Her thick dark curls are wild around her head and even at a distance Magnus can recognise the warm brown well worn cracked-leather jacket she's always in. She looks severe in the emptiness of the town, ragged pale scars stark against the dark skin of her cheek as they snap out like lightning strikes over her ear and curl around the base of skull. The side of her head long since shaved to show off the building scar tissue, some sort of psychological tactic to scare anybody off that they encountered.
Alec tenses in the front seat as they stop nearby. Her jeep is parked further down the street and though Cleophas is armed with two large barrelled guns tucked into holsters hugging each of her thighs, she still should have remained with her jeep until backup arrived. They've lost too many people to stupid ass decisions like that.
Magnus doesn't blame Alec for wanting Cat to try and talk to her but he's not sure that Cleophas will actually listen. She's never exactly been Downworlder friendly. She's gotten better but there's still that slight raise of her chin around Downworlders that signal she's not quite over her stint in the Circle.
Alaric shifts into wolf form as soon as he hits the road, losing the rugged beard, shoulder length raven hair and lumberjack-inspired clothes for salt sprayed dark fur and four legs. His snout tilts up into the air, sniffing out possible dangers.
“How’s the town look?” Alec asks turning to Cleophas, putting aside her recent actions for Catarina to handle later.
Cleophas hums softly, “Relatively in one piece, surprisingly.”
Magnus looks around and takes in the area. It does all appear to be in one piece, overgrown in places but there’s a distinct lack of burnt out car skeletons and blackened buildings. The pavements are slightly broken by nature’s resurgence but not littered with the usual abundance of shop window glass as with some of the other towns they’ve scouted.
It’s almost... neat .
Something in Magnus' stomach rebels at the sight of it and he struggles to pinpoint why the view unsettles him so much.
The jeep empties and everybody spreads out across the intersection, moving in sync and alert. Lydia has a glowing blade in each hand as she keeps her eyes on the roads and buildings to their left. She tightens and relaxes her fingers around the grips rhythmically, her gait bouncy and light as she circles them in a tight perimeter. Many of the Shadowhunters still have some of their old gear and Lydia is no exception, wrapped in a tight leather jacket and pants that have served her well over the months and miles since they left New York.
Meliorn has his eyes shut, stance relaxed as he seeks out suitable vegetation through his Seelie connection to the Earth, Lydia’s pacing keeping Meliorn inside the unseen bubble of their group as he focuses.
Alaric sniffs the road, nose twitching as he sneezes through some odd scent. Standing separately from the group, Catarina's already talking quietly to Cleophas, their heads bowed together and Catarina’s frown stern but gentled by the hand on Cleophas' forearm. Cleophas looks mulish and a little rebellious but she's not storming off, so Magnus counts it as a win.
Alec stays close to Magnus, the two of them watching the roads alongside Raj. Silent sentinel's as everybody gets used to the town and stretches their legs a little.
“I sense some gardens nearby,” Meliorn says quietly, he tilts his head in Alec’s direction for approval.
Alec nods before catching Lydia’s eyes, “Lydia, you’re with Meliorn.”
“See if you can find me a caesar salad darling,” Magnus says and Lydia giggles as she follows Meliorn down one of the main roads. Alec raises an eyebrow at Magnus’ antics, he shrugs at Alec, “There’s only so much spam one can take.”
Alec snorts with a quirked smile.
“I want to see the pharmacy first before we go on a spree,” Catarina all but orders.
“Follow me.” Cleophas says, sauntering away towards the centre of town. Alec sighs as he watches her go. Magnus fits their hands together and gives him a small, but reassuring, smile that Alec returns. Raj follows them at a sedate pace.
The pharmacy windows are intact, the sign flipped to closed and door locked with a key rather than a padlock. The scene is so normal it’s abnormal and Magnus wonders why, in the years that have passed, has nobody found the town or raided the pharmacy. Alaric whines at the building, unnerved by the normalcy as much as the rest of them.
“Stay on guard,” Alec reminds them, tugging his bow over his head and nocking an arrow.
Cleophas falls back with Raj, weapons in hand and ready for anything as Alaric crouches with a low snarl. Catarina and Magnus step forward, magic already curling around their fingers. Magnus looks over his shoulder at Alec, partly to make sure they're ready...mostly, in case of the worst, he wants Alec to be one of the last things he sees.
With a circular wave and push, Magnus unlocks and opens the door out with a snap. The glass planes vibrating as they hit the crumbling red brick wall.
Magnus counts his breaths, hands steady and magic tingling his fingertips, four breaths pass with nothing out of the ordinary. Then ten, fifteen, twenty.
He sighs and lets the magic return to his core, relaxing just a little. The rest of the group follows his lead.
“I believe we’re clear…” Magnus mumbles peering inside the dark pharmacy without stepping forward.
“Alaric?” Alec checks and Alaric trots forward taking a few sniffs. He sneezes, pauses and twists his head to look at Alec making a quiet woofing noise.
“Lassie says Timmy isn’t down the well,” Cat translates and Alaric playfully nips at her calves, eliciting a soft laugh from her.
“Okay, Catarina, it’s all yours.” Alec says waving Catarina in.
“We could stay here tonight, might be nice to sleep in a house again,” Raj suggests as he loads another box of pills and vials into Cleophas' jeep.
Magnus leans against the side of the jeep, groaning gently at the thought of four real walls and a roof and even a real bed.
"Victor's been complaining about the old mattress, can't blame him really. That thing has no springs left, might as well be sleeping on the van floor," Raj continues, leaning beside Magnus.
"I hear you," Magnus agrees, staring down the main street. Wistfully he thinks about the possibility of a power shower or even a washing machine. The thought makes him shiver with delight.
"Nice as it would be, we should move on," Alec grunts as he slides another box into the jeep.
"Spidey sense tingling boss?" Raj asks, pushing himself off the jeep.
"Something like that..." Alec mutters, staring out at the empty road.
Magnus hums, "No bodies, things neat...I miss the times where that was a good thing."
"Maybe they all left?" Raj suggests, though his heart's not really in it. His hand curls around the handle of his blade.
Magnus sighs sadly, “Some things don’t change Raj...people are stubborn. I’ve seen entire families refuse to vacate their homes despite understanding the inevitable destruction that’s about to rain down on them.”
"Right," Raj mumbles, "So what happened to them?"
"Now that, my dear Raj, is the question nobody wants to answer," Magnus responds and Alec nods.
"Let's speed this up," Alec says unnecessarily.
Raj didn't need telling twice, he went back to the pharmacy to help Cat and Cleophas gather the remaining boxes. Magnus eyed the road distrustfully, at the risk of sounding cliche, it had been far too quiet.
He missed it to start with, though there was a sense of wrongness the town evoked, but most towns did nowadays. Eventually though, like a twisted game of spot the difference, the complete lack of corpses suddenly stood out against the neat parked cars and unbroken windows. The whole scene sending a cold shiver down his spine and the sooner they left, the sooner Magnus would feel better.
Alec laces their fingers together, squeezing the digits together before following Raj.
With a new sense of urgency they clear out the pharmacy quickly, packing everything from the prescription glasses to the antibiotics into Cleophas' and Lydia’s jeeps. It’ll be a tight squeeze on the return to the main caravan but in the long term, worth it. They have enough medical supplies to last them months, maybe even a year if they can avoid anything life threatening. Catarina is smiling over the supplies, patting the boxes like they’re adorable puppies, happy now that she isn’t under pressure to find a MacGyver option for the most basic amenity.
Lydia and Meliorn jog up not long after the pharmacy is emptied of its contents. Bags full and heavy on their backs and even some clinking coming from them suggesting cans.
They unburden their haul into the jeep quickly and Meliorn stops next to Magnus, looking as unsettled as the rest of them.
“The houses were empty,” he whispers nervously to him. Magnus purses his lips, feels his shoulder muscles bunch. Meliorn doesn’t say anything else, he doesn’t need to.
“Time to go,” Magnus says to Alec who's hovering nearby. His boyfriend nods, spreading the order through the group quick and quietly. Everybody moves quickly to finish the tasks at hand, they all sense the growing unease in the air.
“Where’s Alaric?” Cat asks, her head snapping back and forth quickly as she seeks out the werewolf of their group. Everybody looks around themselves for Alaric. He’s not in sight and a few calls of his name don’t get any response, barring the whistle of the breeze. Something tightens in Magnus' chest and he swallows it down, buries it deep.
“Lydia, Catarina, Cleophas, Meliorn, into the jeep now. Magnus and Raj, with me," Alec barks.
Nobody fights him. Cleophas, Catarina and Meliorn climb into Lydia’s jeep, Lydia hesitates for a moment before following his orders. The comforting click of the locks engaging as soon as the doors shut easing the tight knot in Magnus' chest. Alec checks Cleophas' door twice and taps the window, pointing to the radio. Cleophas nods in understanding and she picks it up to inform the caravan of the development.
Alec turns to Magnus, who gives him a quick reassuring nod before glancing at Raj, who pulls himself up in preparation. They take off down the main road splitting the town.
Their footfalls are heavy but steady against the roads, no other sound beyond their harsh breaths as they call out at even intervals, sticking together despite the large area to cover. Their gazes roaming every inch of the streets and roads they pass quickly.
But one street turns into three and then an intersection and another couple of streets before they hit overgrown fields at the edge of the town.
No sign of Alaric.
Just an all too quiet town, barely touched by the chaos that ripped through the rest of the world.
Alec licks his cracked dry lips as he gazes out at the rustling grass. Magnus feels the beginning of a deep chasm opening up in his chest. They have to turn around, go back to the caravan. But they can’t. They stand still at the edge of the town, staring at the darkening horizon as though they can will Alaric into view.
With a quiet order, Alec leads them back through the town and past the jeeps, shaking his head as they lock eyes with the occupants. It’s a fleeting glance as they push on to the other end of town.
Time ticks on and the air cools enough to draw goosebumps along Magnus' skin but still they circle the town hoping to find their missing friend.
"I hate to say it... but I think we need to call it..." Raj says reluctantly, after they come to the edge of town for the third time, legs burning with the strain of it. Alec's hand flexes around his bow like he's gearing up for a fight. He shuts his eyes and breathes out slowly.
"Magnus?" Alec asks.
Magnus shrugs sadly, "If he was... we'd have found him by now."
He doesn't say dead . He doesn't want to. But reality is starting to creep into their situation here and Magnus knows they should have stopped looking a while ago.
"Yeah...yeah..." Alec agrees, mostly to himself.
There's silence among them for a little while longer. No one really wanting to say the words. The finality of it. Losing another member of the caravan, another empty grave. It wears them all down like the ocean against a cliff face, slowly eroding away their strength.
"Let's head-" Alec trails off, his gaze fixed on a moving mass in the distance heading towards them. They all tense, hope creeping in despite the more rational explanations. Magnus' fingers twitch as his magic trickles through his veins, ready for a fight. Alec pulls his bow tight, arrow aimed at the stumbling mass in the distance and Raj twirls his blade in a nervous gesture, bouncing on his feet a little.
The darkening sky makes it difficult to identify the shuffling mass as it gets closer and Magnus squints into the darkness, preying under his breath that it's Alaric. They hold their position, nothing but the brush of a breeze tickling the overgrown grass and their laboured breathing echoing through the thick silence that weighs on them.
Please be Alaric... Magnus prays silently.
At least not just Alaric.
Alec drops his arrow as he folds in on himself in relief, Raj mutters some insults regarding Raziel’s parentage to the sky beside him. Magnus relaxes with a relieved smile as their wolfy friend ambles over, still on all fours.
Next to him, hobbling along slowly, is a curvy blonde woman in a dirty white night dress.