If you'd asked Alec Lightwood a couple of centuries ago what places he would never imagine himself in, his answer would have been immediate: a casino (because humans lost what little sense they had at the thought of making a quick buck), an open mic night (because humans all thought they had what it took to become the next superstar. They didn't.)
And finally, hell—because it was hell, and angels and heat didn't mix quite well.
Alec Lightwood was in hell. And he meant that quite literally.
He'd expected it to be… hotter. It wasn't. It felt more like a warm tingle, like going to a summer vacation at a sunny coast. He'd expected blisters; he'd gotten a tan. Somewhere at the back of his mind, he wondered how the extremely religious humans would react to the news that hell was not as bad as they claimed, and that all the people they kept damning to said 'fiery pit' were more likely to get an enjoyable vacation than the place of torture and torment the religious nuts proclaimed.
The thought made him smile. But the smile vanished the moment the wraiths appeared. They were corporeal forms that drifted by, sending icy pinpricks down his spine as they passed through him. The ones that turned him into a living entryway weren't even the worse in the bunch. No, that title was reserved for the especially curious ones, whose eyes twitched as they lean closer than acceptable to peer at him, their mouths open wide like a silent mime’s.
One reached for him and Alec stretched out his hand, building the power he needed to scorch Edom's earth with the errant souls when a voice drifted down to him, slinky and wet, tinged with amusement and an echo of a warning, "You really think you can come down to my realm, and kill my people?"
The voice tutted and at the sound, the wraiths all drifted away, leaving Alec alone with its owner, Edom's prince: Asmodeus. "Indeed, Isabelle is the smart one."
Alec looked up to meet the face behind the voice. Shadows shifted behind Asmodeus, billowing and powerful, cloaking him and making the green-gold slits he had for eyes look sparkle in the darkness.
Asmodeus grinned, a quick show of razor sharp teeth as he leaned back, the shadows behind him shifting and contorting, forming a throne that seemed to be in a constant state of flux, corporeal one moment and barely visible the next.
Quite apt considering Asmodeus seemed to drift between looking real and being a figment of a child's overtaxed imagination.
"I assume you're here to claim Isabelle's errant soul?"
Asmodeus' laughter built. It started as a light chuckle, the sound echoing in the carvenous room that had become his impromptu court, and built to a loud guffaw that rattled the ground itself. But Alec stood his ground. There was no backing down from this. Isabelle's life was at stake. And if he had to come to plead with a demon to save her, he would do so, no matter how much the thought chaffed.
Asmodeus leaned his cheek against his palm, face looking lightly amused as he stared down at Alec. The amusement extended to his voice as he spoke. "Interesting isn't it?"
Alec raised a brow.
Asmodeus waved his free hand. "That heaven's punishment for your sister falling in love is to send her lover's soul here."
What the… Oh no you didn't Izzy.
His surprise must have shown on his face because Asmodeus started laughing again. "She didn't tell you? She sent you all the way here, and didn't even extend the courtesy of telling you why she desperately wanted Maia Roberts' soul back?" He cocked his head and studied Alec for a long moment. "She doesn't know you're here does she? How… noble. Idiotic, but noble."
Alec crossed his arms, itching to spread out his wings, but keeping them contained beneath his skin. They vibrated with the need to spread out and take him far away from the demon with the knowing eyes, and it was a struggle to keep from turning around and walking away. He needed answers. Needed Izzy to tell him why she didn't think she could trust him enough to tell him about Maia. But he also needed to get that soul back.
The thought of not having any memories of his baby sister after heaven cast her out took what little breath he had left and his head swam.
He swallowed and glared at Asmodeus who was still studying him, but thankfully had wiped that annoying smirk off his face. "Where is the soul, Asmodeus?"
Asmodeus snapped his fingers and the darkness parted, letting through a sliver of light that slowly built until it became a bubble that showed glimpses of a girl, her skin a warm brown, her fro pushed back with a headband. She snarled, fists tightening at her sides, her dark brown eyes spitting all the hate it could at Asmodeus.
Alec liked her on principle.
Another snap and the bubble was gone.
Alec's eyes swung to Asmodeus who was back to looking at him with a considering glint in his eyes. Alec did not trust that look. It was the kind of expression he got, just before Izzy asked him to do something she knew he was going to object to. It was the expression of a man who knew he was about to push his luck, but who intended to do so anyway because he held all the cards and all the power.
"You can have the soul back. Just find me someone first, and Maia Roberts is all yours."
Alec's eyes narrowed. "I am not a bounty hunter."
"I've got a soul waiting to be claimed that says otherwise, Alexander."
The amusement was back on Asmodeus' face. As was the insistent itch to sink his fist in the man's smug, too-thin face. "It's Alec." Alec gritted.
Asmodeus waved the words away like he found them irrelevant. The jackass probably did. "Bring me back my son, angel, and you can have your human soul back."
"Yes. The silly boy pulled a Houdini and has been gallivanting all over the world. It's about time he comes back home and starts getting groomed. There's a hell with his name on it, and it can't rule itself."
Something in his face must have given him away because Asmodeus answered his question, even before Alec asked it. "I have sent several of my men to bring him home. Easy enough to do because Magnus likes sending postcards to tease us with his location. But by the time they get there, he's in the wind, laying low for weeks. Until another postcard arrives, and the chase begins again."
"But have you personally gone looking for him? I'm sure you can find him easily," Alec muttered. "Demonic fatherly bond and all."
It was Asmodeus' turn to roll his eyes, although something told Alec Asmodeus wasn't rolling his eyes at him, but at whomever Asmodeus was thinking of when he made the motion. And when Asmodeus spoke, he confirmed it. "I could find him— if I was allowed to go looking for him. But I can't leave here. Lucifer's being a little bitch. You step out for just six months, and poof, he never lets you forget the fact that he had to command both your hells because according to him, you were on a vacation, getting laid and having a blast. Like it's anyone's fault that he's such a stick in the mud."
Asmodeus' eyes narrowed, and he leaned forward to glare suspiciously at Alec. "He kind of reminds me of you. You sure you're not related?"
It was like he'd stepped straight into the twilight zone. "Am I sure I'm not related to Lucifer? Yeah, I'm pretty sure."
Asmodeus sniffed. "You could have fooled me."
Then the words Asmodeus had spoken hit. "Wait, there are different hells?"
Asmodeus gave him a look of such scorn Alec vowed to spend the next couple of decades in the library, with Raj catching him up on everything there was to know about the different hells and the fallen angels who ruled them. No angel should ever be subjected to a demon glaring at him like he had rocks for brains.
"Of course there are! Every human's version of hell is different from others. For some, it's the heat. For others, their hell is eternal darkness. No two humans detest the exact same thing, in exactly the same way. Not even twins. Ergo, different hells that cater to the different fears of humans."
"So what version of hell is Edom?"
Asmodeus grinned, his smile stretching from ear to ear, like a Cheshire cat, especially fitting considering his slit gold-green eyes. "Lust. The lust for power, for sex, for money, for blood, and the extremes that come with being deprived of something you desperately want and can't have. It's fascinating how depriving humans of what they desperately want can drive them from madness to pain. Even better, you don’t have to burn a single strip of skin to get them to that point."
TMI. An acronym that was invented with Asmodeus in mind. Not like Asmodeus gave a shit.
"Bring my son back Alexander." Alec felt his nose flare, and Asmodeus winked at him, utterly unrepentant. "And you will get Maia Robert's soul back."
"But that would mean Maia's soul would continue to be tormented."
The 'and so' was loud in its silence.
"And every second her soul spends in Edom is one second closer to Izzy being found out, and having her wings and her immortality taken away from her, Alec added."
Asmodeus shrugged. "Well then, consider it your incentive." He tapped his chin thoughtfully. "But to sweeten the deal, Isabelle can come once a day to visit her lover. For an hour, they will meet outside Edom, giving Maia respite. When their time's up, back to Edom she will go.
“Of course, if you haven't brought my son back in two months, in time for Lucifer to elevate him to the status of prince and ruler of hell, our deal is off, and I will personally call on Michael so we can have a little chat about your baby sister."
"I don't even know where to start looking," Alec pointed out.
A wave of Asmodeus' hand, and a shadow skittered along the edges of the hall until it leaped, landed on Alec's palm and transformed into… no way! Was that a postcard?
The front of said postcard said Greetings from Recife. Alec turned it over. Suck it old man. Alec felt his mouth twitch and had to suppress the laughter that threatened to burst out.
The message was succinct. And perfect. Especially with the way Asmodeus' face turned sour.
"How long ago did he send this?" Alec asked as he slid the postcard into the folds of his robes.
"Last month." Another wave and five more postcards appeared. The one that sent greetings from Athens had Magnus telling Asmodeus to Kiss my ass old man. The one from Tegucigalpa had Magnus stating, most likely gleefully: Hope Lucifer and Azaziel are giving you hell.
Busan's postcard merely had a crudely drawn middle finger, and the one from Port Elizabeth had the image of what looked like poop landing on a stick figure's head. If you were in doubt that the stick figure represented Asmodeus. the coronet Magnus had drawn on the head was a dead giveaway. Obviously, Magnus didn't have the talent of Picasso, but he was quite inventive with the insults. If a bit juvenile. Not like Alec could blame him. He was sure if Asmodeus was his father, he probably would have told him to eat shit as well. What worried him however was the card from Vegas which had the alarms going in his head. Vegas. Casinos. Humanity's greed. Fuck!
Magnus had written: Send another one of your goon's after me, and they're getting knives in their hearts.
P.S. Bet you wish you were here.
"He doesn't seem happy that you keep sending people after him."
Asmodeus shrugged. "I don't care. We have a deal, Angel. Bring him back and your sister's safe."
"And if he doesn't want to come back?"
"Then persuade him otherwise." A flick of his hand and an exit appeared within the shadows, giving Alec a view of rolling hills, blue skies and the sun high and bright. "Chop-chop and get moving. I would say, don't forget to get it done quickly, but we both know what's at stake. Plus, I know you will be back in plenty of time. You aren't one of my goons, and I'm sure Magnus will not see you coming."
"You did what?!!!!!"
Having a best friend of over half a millennia meant two things: one, they were the first call when you'd made a shitty decision — which in this case, Alec totally had. And two, they felt no qualms about giving you hell and reminding you of exactly how truly shitty your decision was. Which right now, Raj was doing.
"You dumbass, idiotic, stupid, moronic-"
"You know technically, all of those words are basically the same…" Alec interrupted, and then trailed off as the one of the curtains above his head caught fire.
Raj waved his hand and the fire was out, leaving in its wake, a dark pool of smoke that quickly aired out. What wasn't leaving as quickly, though, was the glare Raj was still leveling on him.
"I cannot believe you would do something so stupid." Raj glared as he turned sharply on his heel and strode towards the Heavenly Athenaeum, closed to all except the Cherubim whose job it was to hold all the knowledge of the world.
Raj pulled out his key, turned the locks, whispered a prayer and the huge doors swung open, leading to a room with no end in sight, just hallways upon hallways filled with books of all kinds: the ones penned by man and the ones penned by demons, the ones penned by those dreamed, those who were awake, and those who walked the fine line between worlds.
Seeing it all made Alec smile, thoughts of Izzy flooding his mind. As kids, this had always been her dream. To ascend to Cherubim and spend eternity learning all the mysteries of the universe, puzzling out its unanswered questions. He remembered younger Izzy bonding with Raj over their love for books, while Jace wandered over to the Heavenly Chorale because his mind rung with unsung music.
The thoughts had him knuckling down on the wave of despair that threatened to swamp him. He was not going to let Izzy down. All he needed to do was keep his end of the bargain with Asmodeus, and Izzy could live the life she'd always wanted.
"But seriously though. What were you thinking, Lightwood?"
The words brought him back to the present, to the sight of Raj studying him intently. Behind him floated five books that were most likely filled with the information Alec needed to get started on his hunting mission. His best friend might not agree with what he planned on doing, but he was going to support him anyway.
The thought made him smile for a brief second.
"I can't lose her Raj." Alec shook his head. "I can't."
Raj's eyes softened. "You mean you can't lose her too."
The words brought on a flood of memories and Alec immediately shut them all down. That was a path he had no intention of ever going down. Never again.
Raj sighed, and with a wave, all the books settled on the desk, in front of Alec. He waved his hands at the seat, and Alec took one. Raj took the seat across from him.
"Isabelle is going to be spitting mad when she finds out."
Alec shrugged. "As long as she still has her wings, and can remember me well enough to be mad at me? I'll take it." Raj nodded, so Alec continued. "So, what do you know about this Magnus?"
Raj motioned at the first book, and the pages flipped over, until they finally settled. "Magnus Bane. Last living son of Asmodeus, prince of hell."
Raj made a face. "Asmodeus has a thing for draining his offspring of their power, and by extension, their life force."
"Model father," Alec muttered.
"Tell me about it," Raj replied.
"So, how was Magnus Bane able to keep his power, and his life with a parasite for a dad?"
Raj shrugged. "Some say it's because Asmodeus actually loves him." He reached across the table for one of the bigger books, flipped the pages and then turned it over, letting Alec read the Greek historian, Herodotus' unpublished accounting of the relationship between the father and son. "Others believe it is because Magnus is too much like his father." The pages on the next book flipped over to the Arabian poet: Tarafa's own unpublished reports to the uncanny likeness that existed between the father and son. "The truth, I am sure, belongs somewhere in the middle."
Alec nodded. "Asmodeus saw too much of himself in Magnus and has grown to respect him as a result."
"So, how does one find a temperamental, arrogant, seemingly a lot like his father prince of hell who doesn't want to be found," Alec muttered as he flipped through the five pictures of Magnus Bane that the Athenaeum had. Goddamn, the demon was good-looking. "The only thing I know so far is, he was last in Vegas, if the post card is to be believed."
Raj grinned. "Then you must start in Vegas. Find his best friend: Ragnor Fell. Magnus Bane shouldn't be too far behind. If their friendship is as close as it is to be believed, Ragnor Fell would be the first person Magnus contacted when he got out. And if Magnus isn't with Ragnor Fell…" Raj held up a box, and opened it. Alec eyed the ruby necklace and stared back up at Raj who grinned at him. "Ragnor might be convinced to tell you just where Magnus is."
"Word on the street is that your father is looking for you." Ragnor followed the announcement by dropping into the love seat and smirking at Magnus.
"Word on the street is that Elias has a new boyfriend," Magnus retorted, feeling a dark satisfaction at the wince that Ragnor released. He was just about to gloat some more when someone bonked him on the head. "Ouch!" And with the first printing of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost at that! "Really, Catarina? Really?"
Catarina rolled her eyes and walked over to Ragnor. She placed a soft kiss on his forehead and flopped onto the sectional.
Magnus glared. Ragnor had always been her favourite.
"That was a cheap shot and you know it," Dot said, her hands resting on her hips as she glowered at him.
Magnus rolled his eyes. Of course Dorothea was going to support her girlfriend, and by extension the person Cat loved more.
"Yeah well, he shouldn't have brought up Asmodeus," Magnus pointed out.
Cat, Dot and even Raphael who had walked into the room at some point, all cocked their heads and looked contemplative for a moment. "Good point."
Dot joined Cat on the sectional, and Raphael took his spot at the extreme corner of the sofa, legs pulled back and under him so he looked like a statue, self-contained and aware. Nothing like Dot and Cat's languid sprawl.
"But really Ragnor, when is Asmodeus not looking for me? For a prince of hell, and a manipulative prick of a father, you would think he would have figured out by now that I don't want to be found," Magnus pointed out.
"Or that you really didn’t catch the wandering man itch, nor are you currently partying all over the world, in celebration of your newly discovered nihilism and refusal to kowtow to the status quo," Ragnor added.
They all turned their eyes on him and Magnus felt the sudden itch to pour himself a drink and shot up from the sofa. The sudden burst of nervous energy had his friends looking at him. Some with worry. One with apathy. And Ragnor, Ragnor had that knowing look of a best friend who knew him better than he knew himself.
He went through the shelves, pulling out five lowball glasses, a bottle of vermouth-thankfully, they'd stocked up on some Vermouth Russo when they'd gone grocery shopping, a bottle of dry gin, and…
"Where's the Campari?"
He caught the bottle floating from his peripheral vision, nodded his thanks at Ragnor, and mixed them all a Negroni.
A flick of his wrist and they each had a glass.
Magnus settled back on the couch, took a gulp, let the drink sit on his tongue for a long moment before he swallowed. He did it three more times, until his nerves had settled before finally speaking.
"He's probably already sent one of his men to Vegas at this point."
Raphael nodded. "I sent word. There has been sightings of strange 'men' appearing and then vanishing at the Venetian, Palazzo, Caesars, Aria and the Bellagio."
"He will soon start getting suspicious," Cat murmured, and they all nodded in agreement.
"And we can't have that happening," Magnus said. He caught Ragnor's eyes and grinned. "Thankfully, it's someone's birthday tomorrow."
Raphael immediately started muttering about the estúpidos amigos he has, Dot and Cat started chattering about their shopping plans, and Ragnor came to join him on the couch. "A Vegas birthday? Seriously Magnus? You do know that technically, I am not you, right?"
Magnus chuckled, taking the time to stare at the rest of his friends -already lost in their own worlds- before replying. He dropped his voice to a whisper. "One of the warlocks just got back to me. They've found her."
Ragnor's eyes narrowed. Magnus might not be a mind reader but he could tell what was going through his friend's mind. This wasn't the first time someone had led them on a goose chase in their search for her. Their informants might be half human and half demon like he was, but their demonic side always won out, and they ended up doing everything they could to protect the Prince of Hell, rather than his son.
They both flexed their fingers, remembering for a brief moment the flash of fire and pain that they'd both released simultaneously when they'd discovered one of the warlocks trying to not only give away Magnus' location, but his quest as well. The mole hadn't had the most peaceful of deaths.
"It's the only lead we have at this point Ragnor." He stretched out, placing his head across Ragnor's thighs, sighing as his best friend, instinctively started stroking his hair. "It's the only lead we have to finding my mother."
There were so many things one would notice if they entered the darkened private rooms at the Aria.
Fear made a demon’s eyes glow, even in the dark. And its rotten smell hung pungent in the air, as did the body of said demon.
A twirl of his fingers and Magnus saw the demon's throat constrict and then release. The demon gasped.
"Now Demoriel. Didn't anyone tell you it's rude to fall asleep when your prince is talking to you?"
"I—I wasn't sleeping your hi—highness."
Magnus' teeth flashed. "Are you calling me a liar, little one?"
Demoriel's tongue rolled out, his wiggling tails clinging to his body like a second skin.
Magnus flicked out his tongue. He grinned. Demoriel's fear had risen to newer heights, turning tangy and colliding, certain of his impending death.
"N—never your hi—highness."
"Hmmm". A flick of his fingers and Demoriel was gone.
The curtains swung open, and Ragnor slipped in to take the seat beside his. "Sent him back to hell?"
"And give him even more incentive to go tattling to my father? Of course not."
"So an island?" Ragnor asked.
"The pyramids. Agathodemon will keep him out of hell till I tell him otherwise," Magnus said.
The curtains parted for a brief moment, and then closed. Raphael shook his head. He scowled, but his eyes danced.
"And in the meanwhile, host him well enough, make him forget how close he came to death and he’ll forever be grateful that you spared his life," Raphael muttered.
Magnus shrugged. "Show a demon your power, and he will respect you. Follow it with mercy and he will be loyal to you until the day he dies."
"You sound just like Asmodeus when you say that," Ragnor pointed out, drily.
Magnus rose to his feet. A wave of his hand restored power to the otherwise dark room and he motioned at his friends to go ahead of him. "Well, I am my father's son after all."
"So were you able to learn anything new?" Raphael asked, his dark eyes rapidly scanning the room. He tried to remain as self-contained as always but Magnus could read it in his eyes. Raphael Santiago was well into his ‘get the hell out of dodge’ phase and was merely bidding his time until he could return home.
"Her last sighting was in Hawaii. Or at least that was the last thing the Warlock could tell me before Demoriel tore him into shreds." He clenched his fists, as the words brought back memories of the moment. Demoriel hadn't been acting on any instruction, the demon had informed him after Magnus had started flaying his skin. He'd had previous problems with the Warlock and had used his running into the warlock, whilst the latter waited for Magnus, as an opportunity to get his revenge.
He'd had no idea that the cost of his revenge was Magnus losing a lot of the progress he'd spent the last couple of months building.
Magnus felt Ragnor's hands clamp on his shoulders. "Easy there Bane. Your eyes are shifting."
He took in a deep breath, in through his mouth, out through his nose, centering himself until he felt his power ebb back. "Thank you."
Ragnor nodded. The clock struck twelve and at the sound, Raphael gave a little bow in his and Ragnor's direction and melted away into the crowd.
He saw Ragnor's mouth twitch. "Wanna bet that he's been dying to do that all night."
Magnus chuckled. "Yeah well, nobody does antisocial quite like Raphael."
"Tell me about it," Ragnor murmured. He released a little sigh and then grasped Magnus' hands in his, studied him for a long while and then smiled. "Thank you for the birthday."
"Torturing lesser demons and finding out about my mother's whereabouts is your idea of fun?" Magnus teased. "We really should get you a boyfriend."
Ragnor rolled his eyes. "I'll see you when I see you, old friend."
And with that he was gone, leaving Magnus alone in the Aria's lobby with the rest of the early morning to drink his frustration away.
He made his way to the bar, winked at the bartender who immediately started making him an Old Fashion. He murmured his thanks with a twenty dollar bill, and turned around to watch the people entering and leaving the Aria's bar, like a pantomime. Few words were exchanged and few people even made contact with each other when moving around the room. It was in one part entertaining, and one part boring, and Magnus tossed back his drink.
The Aria had lost its charm and the early morning held little of his interest. He was just about to leave the place when he saw him come in. How couldn't he? Angels wore their authority like a shroud, their pride a compass and their beauty a beacon — and they were always oblivious of the fact.
Something which explained why the tall, dark-haired and utterly gorgeous angel strode through the crowd, completely unaware of the effect he had on people and the many heads that turned to take in the view.
The angel whispered something to the concierge who had come ahead of him—Tomas with the big grin and just as huge family—and Tomas spun around, eyes scanning the room, until they landed on Magnus. Now, most of Aria's staff knew to leave him alone. Most of the staff. Except Tomas who pointed at him. Magnus would have been pissed. But Tomas was pointing him out to one of the most gorgeous men Magnus had ever seen. In the large scheme of things, Tomas Alfonso was doing him a favour.
Magnus caught the angel's eyes and the man stumbled to a stop. Something flashed across the man's face, but it was gone too quickly for Magnus to figure out what it had been. The angel strode towards Magnus, his long legs eating the distance quickly, his eyes raking across Magnus, taking in Magnus' navy blue skinny jeans, the mix print silk shirt he'd put on, with the top unbuttoned all the way to his navel, the necklaces Magnus had layered on, something shifted in the angel's face again.
This time around though, Magnus was able to catch the emotions. The mix of curiousity, surprise and desire. The last pulled a smile to Magnus' lips and he licked them, then leaned back against the bar, crossing his heeled purple python boots as he ran his fingers through his hair. Hyun-Seok, his stylist, had teased the coloured ends into a high pompadour, and shaved the sides of his head really low. It was a look that turned heads, and he felt the hum of satisfaction to realize that the angel wasn't immune either.
"He said he's been looking for you Mr. Bane," Tomas said with a smile.
How the short man had made his way over to Magnus faster than the angel was a mystery Magnus still hadn't solved. If not for the fact that Tomas had never attempted to drag Magnus back to Edom, Magnus would have wondered if maybe Tomas was one of the goons Asmodeus had planted on him. But that had never happened, and Tomas had been nothing but loyal in the two weeks Magnus had spent in the Aria. Magnus made a mental note to find out the appropriate thank you gift to give to the man.
"Thank you Tomas," Magnus murmured and slipped a twenty into Tomas' breast pocket.
Tomas bowed and walked away, leaving Magnus alone with the angel, who, now that he was in front of Magnus, looked less confident than he had when he'd been striding through the room like a man on a mission.
His eyes were also a stunning hazel, a mix of light browns and green that blended and danced, switched between one and the other when the light hit just… so. Right now the greens were in high focus and the angel shifted from one foot to another, like a man who had something to say but couldn't work the nerve to say it just yet.
Magnus smiled and stretched out his hand. "Magnus Bane. And what's your name angel?"
The man's eyes sharpened. "You can tell?"
Magnus’ smile turned into a grin. "You don't do subtle very well angel. I'm sure every non-human in this room knows exactly what you are."
The angel said nothing for a long while, just chewed his lower lip in a way that had Magnus' tongue flicking out to whet his own lips. The angel caught the movement and Magnus winked at him, then shook the hand in the man's face. "You still haven't introduced yourself yet, angel."
The angel studied him for a long moment, then extended his hand and shook Magnus’. "Alec. Alec Lightwood. And I came to take you back home, Magnus Bane. Your father's waiting."
Alec could see when the words hit Magnus Bane. Asmodeus' son wore his emotions plain as day for the world to see, right there on his face. And what a face it was. Kohl-lined brown hooded eyes. A high forehead, sharp cheekbones, full lips that glistened with whatever lip-gloss he'd applied that morning. The desire to taste whatsoever fruity concoction that made up the lip-gloss rose sharp within him and Alec pushed it back down to where it had come from. Magnus' adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed.
And then Magnus wrenched his hand out of Alec's grip and tilted his head to study Alec's face.
"An angel in the service of Asmodeus? That's a first." Just like that, the wariness was gone, and Magnus was back to leaning against the bar, seemingly unconcerned as he smiled at Alec. "Tell me, Alexander.... What does he have on you?"
Alec shook his head. He opened his mouth to tell Magnus that no one called him Alexander, not even his parents and instead said, "Nothing. Your father and I have a deal is all. I bring you back, and he gives me what I want."
"And what is it you want Alexander?" Lean bejeweled fingers reached for Alec's face and ran across his cheekbones, the cool jewellery dragging across the dips and planes of his face, as Magnus Bane stepped so close every breath Alec took was filled with the scent of man and musk and Caron's Poivre- a scent he recognized because Jace had spent months dousing himself in the perfume, until someone had pointed out that it was a perfume for women and he’d been so aghast he’d tossed the bottle. Magnus Bane however owned the scent. He was a demon whose masculinity wasn’t so easily threatened, it would seem. "What would make an angel like you, make a deal with a devil like him?"
Magnus wove his magic, a seemingly endless twine of desire and warmth, his secretive smile, knowing eyes and nimble fingers. They stole his breath, stole what little sense he had, until with a start Alec realized he was standing, alone at the bar, with no trace of Magnus to be seen, except for a Las Vegas postcard that slowly drifted down to him. The minute it touched his palm, noise returned to the Casino.
So, not only could Magnus Bane portal in and out of wherever he wanted—no wonder Asmodeus' goons never seemed to be able to catch him (and also, he really needed to talk with Asmodeus about that. The jackass could have at least given him a warning)—but he could also freeze time?
What Alec couldn't understand was how the freeze had worked on him? He could understand it working on mortals, but he was an immortal. He reached out to rub the back of his head and felt…
He pulled out the tiny needle. A sniff confirmed that it still had a residue of Demeter's Poppy, known to make even a god sleep, nevermind an angel.
The sonofabitch had roofied him!
"You did what?!!!"
Dot’s' scream echoed in the otherwise peaceful beach of San Andreas. Catarina didn't even budge at the sound of her girlfriend's screams. She just kept napping with her shades on, her novel covering three-quarters of her face, her hands dangling from the side of the beach chair she'd turned into her bed, leaving Magnus alone to deal with an irate Dot.
"Seriously Dorothea. I'm sure the angel is perfectly fine. It's not like I gave him a too powerful dose. I'm sure he recovered almost immediately after I portalled out of there."
"Who gives a shit about the angel," Dot screeched.
Okay. Maybe he'd miscalculated. She wasn't pissed that he'd drugged Alexander Lightwood.
"That was the last of the Poppy dammit! I had plans for that shit! Demeter hasn't made any new Poppies ever since her and the rest of the Pantheon decided to be as far removed from humanity as they could get! Do you know what I went through to get the Seelie Queen to give me some? Last time I ever give you shit, Magnus."
The stink eye she gave him had him nudging Cat with his toe. Finally she stirred, fit one finger beneath her book and lifted slightly to glare at him with one eye open. "What?" she grumbled.
"Come beg your girlfriend for me. I'm one step away from being turned into a skish kebab."
Cat clucked. "She won't do that. She loves you too much."
Magnus was just about to point out that Dot was not looking very loving at the moment, but he was met with light snores. He glared at Catarina, finding her fast asleep.
"Leave her alone Magnus!" Dot snapped as she unfurled her gigantic towel and made to lie on it. "It's been a very busy couple of months. Let her enjoy her vacation in peace."
Catarina had been busy. She'd volunteered for Doctors Without Borders and the recent Iranian riots had meant back to back shifts, trying to patch up and save those she could, even as she grieved for those lost to the senseless violence.
His best friend was an oxymoron; one moment, acting like she thought humans were the dumbest people to ever walk the earth, and at the same time, doing everything in her power to save them, and using her magic to actually pull it off in the times when she could do so in the privacy of a ward.
"Is that why the two of you couldn't make it to Ragnor's party?"
Dot harrumphed. "Yeah. We were about to leave when the hospital paged her. Head-to-head collision with an eighteen-wheeler. They needed all hands on deck. So I called Ragnor. Told him Catarina and I will do our own mini-get-together celebration with him and booked Catarina and I a holiday, somewhere far, far away."
Magnus joined Dot on the towel and they both lay there in silence, staring at a sky so blue and uncorrupted by the pollution of man, it took Magnus' breath away, and listening to the soothing sounds of crashing waves. "I'm sorry, Dorothea."
Dot hummed and shifted to lie on her side. Magnus could see her from his peripheral vision, her dark skin looking more vibrant with the tan she and Cat had gotten. Her long hair was braided away from her face and she was strangely enough devoid of all jewellery, proof that Cat was having more of an influence on her girlfriend than both of them knew.
"I already figured it was an emergency considering you just dropped in without giving us a heads up warning first. And I know you wouldn't have crashed our vacation if you'd had a second choice."
Magnus nodded. A flick of his hand and a basket of apricots appeared between them. They both reached for one, and Magnus bit into the fruit, enjoying the sweet tartness that flooded his mouth. "He'd never come so close. My fault for not suspecting that he would change tactics considering the fact that I'd successfully evaded him all along."
"Did he really send an angel?" Dot asked.
Magnus turned so he was lying on his side as well and could look Dot in the eye. He nodded. "Yes."
His mind flashed to hazel eyes, dark hair, full lips, a body his hands itched to touch and explore.
"Like you wouldn't believe."
Dot grinned. "So what are you going to do?"
She gave a long suffering sigh and shook her head like he had absolutely no sense and she had no idea why she was still dealing with him.
"About the angel, silly."
Magnus shrugged. "What's there to do? He's gone." Magnus refused to deal with the twinge of sadness he felt at the realization. He had been looking forward to having a ton of fun with the angel. Until the angel had dropped the bomb that he was nothing but Asmodeus' latest messenger in a gorgeous body and an oh-so pretty face.
"Is he really?"
Magnus slid Dot a look from beneath his eyes. The light that danced in her eyes made him laugh. He was sure she'd gotten the same idea he had and he attempted to protest. "I couldn't."
Dot said nothing. She just continued to grin at him.
"Seriously Dot. It's like playing with fire."
Dot nodded. "And who better to handle fire than the Prince of Hell."
"Good point." A wave of his finger and he had a postcard in his hand: Greetings from Maui.
"But you're not in Hawaii," Dot pointed out.
"I will be. Plus," he turned to look at Cat who was now on her side, dead to the world and to his and Dot's machinations. "This is your vacation. I would prefer if my father doesn't come stomping all over it."
Dot nodded. "Thank you." Her eyes slid back to the postcard he held in his hand. "Any personalized message?"
Magnus chuckled. "When have you known me not to send it with a personalized message?"
A snap and he had a pen in his hand. He deliberated for a long moment, searching for the right words to say, and then grinned when it hit him.
Nice try old man. Better luck next time. Oh, and tell Alexander I said it was a pleasure meeting him and that I hope our paths run into each other sometime soon.
"It's not funny, Raj."
It was like his words were merely adding fuel to the fire because Raj gave up all pretense of trying to catalogue books in the Athenaeum and laughed so hard, he doubled over.
Alec sighed and crossed his arms as he waited impatiently for his best friend to ditch the amusement he seemed to have gotten from his predicament.
Raj held out a hand. "Let me get this straight. He roofied you? Magnus Bane actually roofied you?!!" And that set him off again.
Maybe he should just make himself comfortable. It would seem like he was going to be here for a while and Raj had no intention of sparing his dignity.
"How could you not have felt it when he was putting it in?" Alec's eyes narrowed and Raj grinned. "Yeah, I know. That sounded nasty. It wasn't on purpose. My bad."
"Could have fooled me," Alec muttered. "You've been too concerned about my sex life of late. When is your boyfriend coming back?"
Raj opened his mouth, most likely to say something inappropriate about the different things he wanted to do to with Victor when the other man came back, and Alec held up his hand to stop him.
Nope. He had no interest in being privy to that information.
"It was because I was… distracted."
Raj's smile turned teasing. "You? Distracted? No way." He tsked when Alec rolled his eyes and sat on the head librarian's table.
Alec replied with a smug grin. Nothing got into Raj's craw like disrespect to the very person who represented the collective wisdom and will of the cherubim.
"ALEXANDER GIDEON LIGHTWOOD!"
He would deny to his dying day, his little whelp and the way he'd jumped off the table at the sound of the door slamming open, and his baby sister screaming at him.
"How could you?!"
"Don't Izzy me. You went to Asmodeus? Alone? Without telling me?!"
"I was just trying to protect…"
Wrong choice of words.
Izzy's eyes narrowed. Her head went back, held high. Her back straightened and the most beautiful pair of golden wings spread out behind her as she stalked her way towards him, index finger pointed like she wished she could eviscerate him on that very spot.
Whoever came up with the line 'avenging angel' must have met Isabelle Lightwood.
"HOW DARE YOU?"
"You selfish. Egotistical. Pompous. Self-righteous. Self-centered. Misogynistic ass!"
"I was trying to help you!"
"By insulting me?" She teared up. But if anyone can keep tsunamis away, it's his baby sister. She held the tears back with sheer force of will, and her dark brown eyes sparkled with unshed tears. "Why are you strong enough to confront Asmodeus and I am not?"
She remained stiff as Alec wrapped his arms around her, head dipped low as he rested his chin on her head. She stiffened up some more. "We both know that there is no other angel as smart or as strong or as wise as you Isabelle. No one else even comes close."
"Because I'm your big brother," Alec interrupted. "Protecting you is instinct. It doesn't mean I don't think you're capable. It just means I get carried away and forget."
Izzy pulled back and studied him for a long while, but then something shifted in her eyes and she sighed. "You're just damned lucky Raj told me."
The mouth-running Raj was at the moment finding the history of the sixteenth century shelves very interesting.
"Did you tell Jace?" Alec asked, wondering where their brother was at the moment. Nothing made Jace happy like Izzy lighting into Alec, as it usually meant she wasn't turning that anger on Jace instead.
Izzy scoffed. "That would imply that I have seen him. He's back on earth, shacking up with the newest flavor of the month." She shrugged. "I've just learned to accept it. He's the very epitome of childhood irresponsibility. And you have this insane need to micromanage every aspect of your life, and you tend to include mine in it as well."
Damn. Izzy wasn't pulling back any punches.
But then she smiled. "But I know you love me. So it makes it a little," she held out her thumb and index finger bringing them together until they were micro inches apart, "bearable."
Alec placed a soft kiss on the top of her head. She glared, swatted him off and patted her hair down until it was back to absolute perfection.
Izzy smiled back at him, and then sighed. She took up a seat, and motioned at Alec and Raj to take the ones across from her. "I'm sure you have questions."
"Give the angel a prize," Alec muttered. Now that she was done being angry with him, it was his turn to remember how he'd felt when Asmodeus had told him about his sister's errant human soul, belonging to her girlfriend. "I thought you knew you could trust me, Iz."
Izzy sighed and scooted her chair forward, till she was back to sitting beside him. She leaned her head against his shoulders, her fingers finding and tangling together with his. "I do trust you. There is no one I trust more than you big brother. You know that."
Alec sniffed. "Is that why you didn't tell me about Maia? Could have fooled me."
Izzy was silent for so long after he'd spoken that he turned around to look at her. She was pulling on a loose thread on her sweater, eyes staring into the distance, a soft smile on her face. She looked so… happy that Alec found himself instinctively smiling at the sight of his baby sister happy and in love.
"You love her, don't you?" The words were a whisper, a reverent touch he hadn't known he was capable of until they whizzed past his lips.
Izzy looked at him, blushing and radiant like the first time she'd come into his room to tell him of her dream to pursue a double calling: becoming a Cherubim and a Guardian.
Up until she'd finally stepped foot into the Athenaeum, his baby sister had been depressed, unsure of what her calling would be and where she would fit in the angelic hierarchy. But he remembered how at peace she'd looked that morning, when she’d finally found both her callings. She’d laughed and squealed her joy to the rest of the world. Jace had congratulated her on her desire to join the stodgy heavenly librarians and offered her a pair of reading glasses
Their brother was such a dick sometimes.
"She's funny, and smart, and resourceful, real, tough, outspoken. And she smells sooo good."
Alec quirked a brow. "You love her because of the way she smells?"
Izzy stuck her tongue out at him and Alec laughed. "I love her because of the way she smells, the sound of her voice, her sexy strut minutes before she pounces and we get…"
Alec held out a hand. "No! I have no interest, nor will I ever be interested in hearing about your sex life."
Izzy shrugged. "Your loss."
"Yes it is." Izzy looked at him questioningly, so he elaborated. "I should have been here. You should have felt that you could trust me enough to talk about her. Rather than waiting till now, when you're on the brink of having everything taken away from you and your girlfriend is Edom."
She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him closer until his shoulders were pressing against her forehead. He tried shifting around to relieve the pressure but Izzy refused to budge. "You're here now. That's all that matters."
They stayed silent for so long, listening to the sounds of people walking through the walkway, angels talking about their new assignments, archangels, and the talk of supposed demon uprisings. No one gossiped quite like angels. They should know, talk of the Lightwoods' epic fail at a marriage and the fall and disgrace that accompanied it had been the subject of heavenly gossip for more than a century.
Alec looked down at Izzy's cobalt coloured nails. There was no way he was going to allow his baby sister to be the subject of heaven's gossip.
"You never did tell me how you lost her soul Iz."
Bucharest. Alec's mind drifted to thoughts running through the streets and alleys of Lipscani in search of the errant demon that had turned Bucharest into its feeding ground. "Yeah. Bozzoth. Lesser demon. Loved to feed on women and children. You vanquished him." He smiled, remembering the moment when they'd stumbled on Bozzoth's smoking remains and Izzy with a dagger in her hand that still held droplets of the demon's blood.
"Actually, that wasn't exactly how it happened, Izzy interjected."
Alec looked at Raj who stared back at him in confusion. "What?" They both blurted, at the same time.
"He had me cornered. You know how dad used to warn us not to be in such a hurry to confront demons? That we never knew which day would be the day we would lose?"
"I lost that day Alec. I lay there, pinned to the ground, staring into the face of the thing that was going to be the end of me, and all I could think was, Maia. How I never got the chance to show her off. How I never introduced the two people I love the most in the world to each other. How I would never hear her laugh or hear her call my name anymore. How much it would hurt."
Her voice broke and it was Alec's turn to pull her to him, until her head rested against his chest, and his shirt grew damp with her tears. "How did you escape?"
"Maia." Izzy hiccupped. "She was there. In Bucharest. I'd invited her over, figured that it was a good place to introduce you to each other." Another hiccup. "She made a deal Alec. She made a deal with a greater demon. Her soul to save my life." She made a sound that was half laugh, half sob. "I should have been the one saving her. And yet she traded her soul for my life. What sort of angel lets that happen?"
He pulled back; looking down into her eyes, thumb brushing away her tears. "Iz. It wasn't your fault."
"But I should have-"
Alec shook his head. "There is no way you could have known. We were going in blind. You did not see it coming. What you should focus on is that your girlfriend is fucking amazing."
Izzy gave a watery smile. "I know."
"So don't take that away from her. She did something brave. Something few humans would be able to do. Because she loves you, and she wanted you to live. Don't cheapen that by letting your guilt about what happened keep you from acknowledging that. Besides," he leaned forward and tweaked her nose. "We will save your girlfriend and the both of you can go back to living in your insanely happy bubble. Being gay and fabulous with your… interspecies relationship."
Izzy slid him a glance from beneath her lashes. "What are we? Aliens?"
"Nope. Just a human girl and her angelic lover."
Izzy huffed, but then deflated almost immediately after. "Easier said than done. You have no leads about where Magnus Bane is right now. And I'm guessing Asmodeus wasn't too happy that you let the errant prince get away."
"Interestingly enough, he was impressed that I even got that close to him. Turns out none of the others he'd sent after Magnus had ever managed to be in the same room as him. So progress."
"Progress. Except we have no idea where he is," Izzy murmured.
Alec flicked her forehead. "Do you doubt your big brother's investigative skills?"
Izzy leaned forward and down, checking beneath the desk. When she came up empty, she looked around the room, searching for something only she could see.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for the big brother with the investigative skills," Izzy replied. Alec flicked her arm and she yelped. "Ouch. That hurts." She rubbed at the spot and scowled at Alec. "It's not my fault you suck at anything to do with investigation."
"Seriously Izzy. I'm not that bad."
"Says the kid who never found us when we were playing hide and seek," Izzy said.
"Max was pretending he was a lamp. He stood there! In his bright pink suit, with red shoes and had on a paisley lampshade carrier. It was basically a sign screaming 'one of these things is not like the others', and you never noticed."
Raj burst out laughing and Izzy grinned at him. Trust the two of them to find his humiliation funny.
"That is not…" The summonning hit them both at the same time and Alec's voice trailed off. Alec squeezed her hand. "It's going to be okay."
Izzy nodded. "Of course. This is the first time I'm seeing my girlfriend after a demon showed up to claim her soul for her saving my life. What could possibly go wrong?"
Turned out Izzy had been worrying for nothing.
Alec smiled at the sight of his sister, arms wrapped around Maia Robert's waist as they two of them alternated between kissing and murmuring softly to each other. Izzy said something and Maia's laughter rang out.
Izzy was right. She does have a lovely laugh.
The thought made him smile and followed him as he walked into Edom's entrance, skirting the wraiths who thankfully had given up on reaching out to him. Now though, they all just kept to corners, greedily eying him as he went deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast.
Finally, he was standing in front of Asmodeus, still sitting in front of the throne although he seemed to be studying something intently that finally turned out to be a postcard when Alec had drawn close enough to see it.
Asmodeus however still hadn't noticed Alec's presence and Alec found himself clearing his throat to draw Asmodeus’ attention to him. "Ha. Alexander. You came." He tilted his head slightly, as if listening to something, and smiled. "And brought your sister, I see. Charming. Your Isabelle. And happy now that she's reunited with her lover I presume."
"As happy as only an hour with Maia would get her," Alec muttered, and then raised his voice higher so Asmodeus could hear him. "And it's Alec."
"Alec huh." Alec tapped the postcard. "My son doesn't seem to think so. Apparently he wants me to tell Alexander that meeting him was a pleasure."
Alec felt his entire body flush at the words, but refused to consider why he felt so happy that Magnus not only called him Alexander, but also loved meeting him, even though Alec's purpose for being there had been to bring him back home.
He heard the tail end of Asmodeus' words and blinked himself back to the present. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
Asmodeus rolled his eyes and gave an impatient flick. The postcard appeared in Alec's hands: Greetings from Maui.
"I said, pack your things; you're heading to Maui."
"Are we sure he's still in Maui?"
"Even if he's left, it's still more of a lead that you have at the moment." Asmodeus eyed Alec suspiciously. "Did something else happen at Vegas that you're not telling me Alec?"
He said the Alec like he was humouring Alec's choice of being addressed just so, but Alec didn't care. No one had called him Alexander since he was a kid, trailing after his father, hoping for a smidgen of approval from his parents. He wasn't that kid anymore, and the name wasn't one he wanted associated with anymore.
Except Magnus maybe. Admit it. You're looking forward to hearing Magnus call you Alexander.
Alec pushed the thought straight to the depth of his soul, where it belonged, and met Asmodeus' gaze unflinchingly. There was no way in hell he was going to admit to the demon that Magnus Bane had smelled of man and musk, that his hot breath had brushed against the shell of Alec's ear, that he had tempted him to sin, to give up his allegiance to one devil and pledge it to another.
The less Asmodeus knew of the matter, the better for them all. Because something told him Asmodeus was one to use that information for his own personal gain, somehow, and there was no way in hell or heaven Alec was going to give Magnus' father that much power over his and Magnus' affairs.
"Nothing else happened. It went exactly like I told you. I got to the Aria. I found him. I told him I had been sent to bring him back. There was a commotion. I turned. By the time I turned back around, he was gone."
"You should have kept your eyes on him," Asmodeus muttered.
"You should have told me he could freeze humans and could portal out with a thought," Alec threw back.
"He's a prince of hell. Of course he can," Asmodeus growled.
A wave of his hand and a doorway appeared, showing Izzy and Maia now laughing and pointing to the sky from the position lying on the grass. They looked so happy that Alec smiled.
"Next time. Be more aware. Don't forget what's at stake." Asmodeus followed the words with a snap and Maia disappeared, leaving Izzy in a moment with the words caught on her lips and a look of such anguish, Alec's heart broke.
Fucking demons and the games they played.
Four days now he'd been at Hotel Wailea, and Alexander Lightwood still hadn't made an appearance. If not that he'd personally made sure Asmodeus had gotten the postcard, Magnus would have been worried that maybe it hadn't been delivered after all.
As it was, he knew it had been and all he had to do was wait. So wait, he did.
Not like Wailea made it any difficult for him. His mornings were spent waking up in the Cabana with the sun on his face, and a breathtaking view of blue, uncontaminated seas, and three islands that were prime viewing spots from the hotel.
The island breeze brought it with it scents of mangos and avocados, and the salty scent of the sea, the birds dancing and singing, as free as Magnus wanted to be.
He chuckled wryly at himself. "Some would say you're already as free as you can be," he muttered to himself, and smiled and shook his head when he caught the eye of one of the Hotel Wailea staff who gave him a questioning look.
Sometimes, having a very attentive staff can be a curse masquerading as a blessing in disguise.
A glance at his watch confirmed that it was almost sunset. Looked like Alexander wasn't coming today either. He'd just pushed out his chair and dropped his tip for the copious glasses of wine the bartender had kept sending to him to keep him company when one of the hotel's valet came running up to him, puffing and out of breath, their brown curls a messy tangle of knots and sweat.
Magnus reached out to brush the tangle strands out of their eyes. "Aloha Leilani. Any reason why you're rushing like the hounds of hell were pursuing you?"
Leilani nodded their head, and leaned forward to whisper against Magnus' ear. "The Haole has arrived Sir. The one you've been waiting for."
His heart immediately quickened in response and Magnus smiled. He laughed, a joyous happy sound that turned several heads and caused the other hotel guests to smile at him.
"Mahalo Leilani. Thank you."
"He Mea Iki, Sir. Where would you like to meet him?"
Magnus closed his eyes for a minute, mentally scouring the island, searching for the most ideal place where they would have some privacy, and still get a killer view. He would have said the patio of his hotel room, but something told him Alexander wouldn't feel at ease there.
"Is The Treehouse occupied for the evening?"
Leilani radioed it and after they got their confirmation, nodded. "It's free, Sir."
Magnus grinned. "Perfect. Please tell Chef Noe that we would be having Poi, Laulau and more of that Kalua pig, if she still has some left over."
Leilani relayed the message, gave Magnus the thumbs up to confirm that his order had been acknowledged and led the way out of the restaurant and through the back channels. It barely gave Magnus enough time to breathe in the cool air and lose his breath all over again at the beauty that surrounded him, before he was walking up the walkway that led to The Treehouse. His path was illuminated by lit candles on both sides, guiding him to his destination.
The table had been set, facing the sunset, and the sky was already dotted scarlet, that was bleeding into pink with some shades of purple. The clouds spreading its fingers all over the sky, trying to absorb as much of the leftover sunshine as it possibly could.
Breathtaking. And romantic.
He took his seat, reached for the bottle of 1949 Domaine Leroy Richebourg Grand Cru and poured himself a glass. He sipped the sweet red wine, and waited.
He heard him before he saw him. Alexander's footsteps were steady and sure, the only sound that disrupted the peace and tranquility of the Treehouse. Magnus found himself smiling, and the smile deepened into a grin when he saw Alec's expression as Alec caught sight of the view.
"Breathtaking, isn't it?" He murmured.
Alec startled, like he'd lost all consciousness of his present environment, and by extension Magnus himself. Magnus would have been insulted, except, he'd had exactly the same reaction when he'd first gotten here.
Alec swallowed. "Yeah."
Magnus smiled at that, and gestured at the seat across from him. "Have a seat, Alexander." He steepled his fingers. "They should be bringing dinner shortly."
Alec took his seat, hazel eyes meeting Magnus, and then skittering away to stare some more at the sunset.
They sat in silence for a long moment, drinking in the view, surrounded by evergreens all around them, the only sound, the chirps and cries of birds. Alone, for miles around.
When the sun had finally finished with its descent, Alec cleared his throat, and his eyes met Magnus. He was just about to speak when footsteps intruded and Leilani and Chef Noe appeared, bearing trays that carried their food.
After setting the full platter in front of them, Chef Noe bowed deeply and walked away. Leilani followed immediately after.
Magnus poured himself a glass of wine and poured another for Alec. "I hope you don't have an aversion for sweet reds, Alexander. This bottle has always been a bit of a favourite of mine."
"What are you doing?"
Magnus took a sip of wine. "What do you mean, Alexander?"
Alec gestured around them. "I mean, what is this?" He leaned forward to whisper, and Magnus found himself fighting a smile and resisting the urge to point out that they really were alone, and there was no need for Alec to be secretive. "I thought you would have left by now," Alec pointed out.
"And miss the chance to see your gorgeous face in a place that's more than worthy of your beauty?" Magnus smiled. "I don't think so."
Alec flushed a bright pink, his eyes skittering away. He started to speak, stopped, shook his head and reached for the glass of wine, downing it all in a gulp.
Magnus couldn't help but wince. That was a glass of wine meant to be savoured. Although with the way the heady rush of wine had Alec flushing some more, he appreciated the versatility the Domaine provided.
When Alec made to pour himself another glass, Magnus reached out, his hand folding over Alec's, thumb stroking the inside of Alec's palm. "Too much will get to your head, Alexander. And as much as I would like that, to see what you look like fully uninhibited..."
He heard Alec's sharp inhale and his eyes wandered down, fast enough to catch the sight of Alec's tongue flicking out to wet his lips. He glanced back up, his eyes meeting Alec's hooded ones. "I don't think you're quite ready for that."
He lost his himself in those hazel eyes. Completely in-tune with Alec's reactions. The gulp that followed his words. The way his body slowly relaxed, from the initial pull he'd attempted when Magnus' hands had touched his, to the slow sigh he released as Magnus continued to stroke him.
"How…" Alec cleared his throat, and tried again. His voice still husky though. "You're different. From your dad, I mean."
"I should hope so. We're all unique in our own ways. He might have shared his DNA and powers with me, but I am my own person. As I am sure you will understand. You are different from your dad, I assume."
If the way Alec had stiffened immediately he said the words hadn't tipped him off to the subject being a touchy one, the way Alec pulled his hand away was his second clue. Thankfully, the other man didn't stand up and walk away.
He ignored the voice that told him that of course, Alec wouldn't walk away. A deal with Asmodeus meant Alec had to follow through to get what he wanted from the prince of Edom, and in this case, the deal rested on Alec handing him over to his father.
"I'm sorry," Magnus murmured.
Alec's breath whooshed out of him and he sighed, then shook his head. "The fault isn't yours. I just get a bit… touchy about my father."
Magnus chuckled. "Don't we all." He waved his hand, setting further protection on the TreeHouse to ensure that no sounds came through or escaped, and no one would be able to intrude. Alec quirked a brow and Magnus smiled. "A privacy ward."
"You can talk about it with me if you want."
Alec's eyes narrowed. "And why should I?"
Magnus shrugged. "Cuz that's what friends do." When that got him a bland stare, he nudged Alec's knee, feeling pleased when Alec released a laugh at the sudden contact. "Or don't you think so?"
"I don't make friends that fast," Alec replied.
Magnus tsked. "How like an angel to take a century to develop close bonds." He shook his head. "Demons choose their friends in an instant." At Alec's doubtful expression, Magnus laughed.
"Really. You angels spend eternity bottling up your emotions, trying to be perfect. To fit into a mold you've all made for yourselves. We don't need perfection, and our lives are messy enough as it is. Demons, we meet someone we like, we connect with them, and we hope we can keep that relationship for eternity. If it doesn't work out, we walk our separate ways. Eternity is too long to be terrified of stepping a toe out of line." He gestured at the human occupants of the island. "Even humans have learned that. Why do angels refuse to see that?"
"Maybe because the consequences for us are more dire, and some rules should remain unbroken." Alec's lips tightened, following the words, and he shook his head in self-reprimand.
Ha. So either he, or someone he knew had broken the rules and was suffering or about to suffer the consequences of that action. Magnus made a mental note to ask around. Angels might think their private lives were well… private. But rumours spread, and Magnus needed to know what he was dealing with before he went in too deep.
“That may be. But Alexander, angels aren’t the only ones who have a lot to lose should they break the rules. We all have our own cross to bear. Some of us just bear it better than others.”
Alec’s eyes widened and then narrowed almost immediately, like he believed Magnus was just messing with him and couldn’t possibly know what he was going through. Magnus chuckled.
The look in his eyes turned to one of contemplation and Alec looked about ready to ask something, when Magnus held up a finger and tsked. “Careful there, Alexander. Ask a question now, and I will be sure to return the favour and ask one of my own in return.” He reached for the glass of wine, and brought it to his lips. “Can you handle that?”
Alec hesitated for a moment. It was long enough for Magnus to drain his glass of wine, pick up a spoon and have his first taste of the day of Chef Noe’s Poi.
The sweet taste exploded on his tongue and he hummed. He would never be able to decide if he preferred the just made sweet Poi or the several days old, well fermented Poi. He wondered what it said about him that he couldn’t make up his mind which he preferred more, and he could just hear Ragnor at the back of his mind, muttering that his food tastes were more a reflection of his constantly contradictory nature.
“What rule did you break?”
The question stopped him mid laugh, and he met Alec’s eyes. There was still wariness there. But there was open curiosity as well, and he smiled when Alec reached for a piece of shredded laulau, dipped it in Poi and popped it in his mouth.
He made a face, shook his head, and tried the Laulau again, except this time around, he popped only the meat in his mouth. He nodded and reached for another piece.
Magnus steepled his fingers. "Tell me Alexander, what do you know about the demonic process of ascension?”
Alec paused just as he was about to reach for the Kalua pig. His forehead furrowed and even before he asked, Magnus knew what the other man was about to ask. “Demons ascend?”
Magnus nodded. “Yes, we do. It’s a highly sought after ‘promotion’, if you will. Unless you’re born into royalty like I was. In which case, it’s your birthright.”
“You mean, taking over your own hell?”
Magnus raised a brow.
Alec blushed and shrugged. “Asmodeus made a statement to that effect.”
“Of course he did,” Magnus muttered. He poured himself another glass. “So, I take it you’re not familiar with demonic ascensions?”
Alec shook his head.
“Not surprising. Your archangels...” He waved his glass at Alec “frown at such information getting out. They have the mistaken belief that more people will be willing to turn into demons if they learn that unlike angels and your set hierarchies, demons don’t mind you working your way up.” Alec’s eyes narrowed and Magnus grinned. “Very idiotic of your bosses if I do say so myself.” That got him a scowl and he chuckled. “Anyway, for pureblood demons, ascending is pretty straightforward. Lucifer welcomes you into his inner council, has you drink from Iure Imperare and welcomes you to sit on your throne.”
“And for demons with human mothers?”
The angel had done his research. “We drink not from Iure Imperare but Renuntiat.”
“What are you renouncing?”
Magnus’ eyes turned to the sky. The sun had long set, and now the stars were out to play. “My humanity. Anything that ties me to that pesky thing we know as a human soul.”
Alec sighed, drawing Magnus’ eyes away from the sky to Alec who was rubbing the back of his neck and staring into the distance. The tension that had bled out of the man whilst they had been eating had returned in full force.
Magnus waved his hands, lighting the various sconce on the walls, humming slightly at the way the golden light played on the planes of Alec’s face. A snap of his fingers and Prince poured out of the speakers. At Alec’s raised brow, he grinned. “What? Prince’s the greatest.”
Alec made a face.
“No way. You don’t think Prince’s the greatest?”
Alec wiggled his fingers.
“So who’s better than Prince?”
“Freddie Mercury isn’t too bad.”
Magnus cocked his head, and pursued his lips as he studied Alec. He caught a slight twitch to Alec’s lips and snorted. “You know, I won’t knock Freddie because he is amazing. Prince is still the greatest though.”
“We’ll agree to disagree.”
Magnus nodded in agreement and they fell into a long silence again, taking the moment of quiet to finish eating their meal. Just as Magnus licked the last bit of Poi that had stained his fingers when he’d dipped his Laulau in it, Alec spoke. “So that’s why you ran.”
It was more a statement, than a question and Magnus’ eyes flickered to Alec, catching the barely tampered heat that flared in his eyes as Magnus carefully licked each finger, catching every last bit of Poi. He picked up a napkin and wiped his fingers. “Eternity is only worth living if you have a form of guiding principle. Memento vivere Alexander. Memento vivere.”
“Remember to live,” Alec whispered.
Magnus inclined his head. “Okay. My turn. Tell me Alexander, what rule did you break.”
It was Alec’s turn to sigh. “I didn’t break the rules.” He leaned back and crossed his arms, staring at a spot beside Magnus’ head, and not looking Magnus in the eye. “It’s my sister. Isabelle. She lost a soul. A human soul.”
Magnus winced. Damn. Angels took their responsibilities seriously. Losing a soul for a Guardian was as much a death sentence as it was a deep disgrace to their family and their friends.
Archangels could never accept that angels, like the humans that they looked after, and the demons they scorned, were also capable of making mistakes.
“Her lover’s soul.”
It took a moment for the second part of Alec’s words to sink in. “Wait, your sister fell in love with her human charge?”
“Wow. That’s… impressive.” He really needed to meet this Isabelle Lightwood. An angel who had no qualms with breaking the law and following her heart? That was rare.
He caught Alec’s glare and snickered. He waved his hands at Alec. “Seriously. You have to admit it, your sister’s pretty ballsy.”
Alec scowled even more.
“Come on Alexander. We’ve all been there.”
“Breaking the rules. Falling in love. Falling in love and breaking the ru-” He stopped at the puzzled expression on Alec’s face. “You can’t tell me you’ve never done that.”
“Done what? Break the rules?”
Something in Alec’s voice had Magnus leaning forward. He dropped his voice. “Or fall in love.”
Alec hesitated, and then shook his head slowly.
“You’ve never done either?”
Something in his voice must have upset Alec. The angel rose to his feet, swallowed, stared at Magnus and turned on his heel.
Magnus reacted instinctively. A ward went up, and stopped Alec in his tracks. He spun around and glared. “What do you think you’re doing,” he gritted out.
“I’m sorry, Alexander.” Magnus pushed away from the table, and slowly made his way towards Alec, his hands open and in Alec’s line of sight, his voice low, like he was approaching a wild animal who would bolt at any sight of a threat. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Alec studied him for a while. He still vibrated in place, like his wings wanted to take him far away from Magnus. But he didn’t push against the wards, didn’t even budge when with a wave, the wards melted away.
He remained standing, his eyes going from frustrated to wary and then to want with every step that Magnus took.
Soon, Magnus was standing so close he could feel the heat pouring out of Alec, like a trapped furnace moments away from combusting. Angels and the heavenly fire they carried.
He reached slowly for Alec, his eyes roving across the angel’s face, lingering briefly on those lips before flickering up to meet Alec’s eyes, seeing the way the brown and green melted away, leaving only a gold that blazed.
His fingers finally made contact, brushing lightly up the back of Alec’s palm, all the way up his forearm. They danced a bit across Alec’s collarbone, till they finally buried themselves in soft black strands.
Alec released a sharp inhale, and Magnus slowly leaned forward, and paused when he was inches away from Alec’s lips. Their breaths tangled. His heart picked up pace, beating so loudly he was sure Alec could hear it.
His eyes flicked up again, meeting Alec’s eyes, and without breaking his gaze, Magnus blew, light and warm against Alec’s lips.
Alec groaned and those long eyelashes fluttered shut as he closed the distance, reaching for Magnus as his lips covered Magnus’.
They both moaned, their tongues tangling, teeth clashing, fingers digging into clothing. Magnus tightened his grip on Alec’s hair and Alec whimpered. Their kiss gentled, the thirst easing into exploration.
He felt long fingers slide beneath his shirt, grazing the lines of his abs, when the low sound of someone — probably Leilani — quietly walking away snapped through the haze.
Alec pulled back, his eyes blown, his lips swollen, his hair disheveled. He looked well and truly kissed, and Magnus was sure he didn’t look any better either.
Alec took in a deep gulp of air, his fingers flexing as he opened his mouth, and then closed it. He shook his head, turned around and walked out of the Treehouse.
Moments later, Magnus heard a swoosh and he knew Alec was gone. Probably flying back to the heavens as fast as he could. It was a testament to just how much the kiss had affected him; that Alec hadn’t even attempted to drag him back to Edom.
Magnus’ fingers rose and he rubbed at his lips. He could still taste Alec, could still feel the way those lips had given way beneath his. He was lucky Alec hadn’t asked him to follow him to Edom.
With the way he was feeling right now, Alec could just as easily have asked him, and Magnus would have willingly followed him to the end of the world and to Edom itself.
Fucking hell. What the hell had he just done?
Getting back into his room was a study in patience. Suddenly, it seemed like every angel in heaven had something pressing to say to him, something they believed couldn’t wait, and so he talked and talked and talked, coordinating the patrols, assigning duties, mediating in yet another angelic fracas until he finally managed to slip into his quarters.
Alec sighed as he sank into his bed, eyes on the ceiling as his mind drifted. Drifted back to an island, where the air smelled of mangoes and held a tang of salt and sea. To brown eyes that had darkened to a deep black when he’d pulled back from their kiss.
His tongue flicked out and he licked at his lips, capturing one last taste of Poi and salted pork and Magnus Bane. His fingers itched to continue their exploration of Magnus’ body and his cock filled as images of doing just that tumbled through his mind.
The sudden exclamation had the lights in his quarters going out with a bang and coincided perfectly with Jace opening the door to his room that the startled look his brother gave him had his lips twitching.
He let the laughter ring free, laughing even harder when Jace’s look turned perplexed.
“Um, Alec. Are you okay?”
The laughter slowed to the occasional chuckle and Alec nodded. “What’s up?”
Jace frowned. “I can come check up on you, you know. Nothing has to be up for me to come see you.”
Alec raised a brow.
Jace sighed. “Fine. Something happened and I need your help.”
“Unsurprising.” Alec gestured at the built in bar and Jace grabbed the gold inlay carafe of Ambrosia that Izzy had scoured from her former lover Meliorn.
The seelie had always been one to give Izzy expensive looking gifts. Others might have interpreted it as Meliorn trying to buy Izzy’s affection. Those who knew the seelie however knew that the seelie didn’t place any importance on wealth or the trappings that came with it.
Everything had a reason for being and pretty artefacts existed to be used, enjoyed and appreciated.
Jace poured them both glasses of the mead. Alec lifted his in a toast and downed the content of the cup in a gulp. He waved away Jace’s look of surprise and refilled the cup.
How the hell was it that even while he drank the drink of gods, all he could think about was red wine and a mouth that tasted of wine, salty food and desire?
“I saw her.”
Jace’s words brought him back to the present. Alec was sure he looked as confused as he felt. “You saw who?”
One word and all thoughts of Magnus was wiped clean from his mind. The only thing that remained in his head was the memories. Memories he had spent centuries trying to forget, and now Jace had brought it roaring back to the surface. Alec stood. “No.”
“She seems happier.”
“Drop it Jace.”
“She doesn’t even rem-”
He didn't know when he rose or when he made his way to the other end of the room. All he knew was that when the haze cleared, he had Jace up by his neck, held against the wall, staring down at him with sympathy in his eyes.
Alec let him down slowly. His chest still felt tight. Every breath was a struggle. “I’m sorry.”
Jace shook his head, hands massaging his throat as he jerked his head in the direction of the couches. Alec took one and Jace sat across from him. “I shouldn’t have sprung it on you.”
“No, you shouldn’t have.” Alec sighed. “What were you doing on earth anyway?” He caught Jace’s look and shook his head. “Really Jace? A human?”
Jace shrugged. “You didn’t have a problem with Isabelle and her human though,” he pointed.
Alec nodded. He had a point. “That’s because Izzy really does give a shit about the people she dates.”
“And I don’t?”
“Do you really want me to answer that question.”
“You’re an asshole, Alexander Gideon Lightwood,” Jace muttered.
“Only a fellow asshole will recognize one of his own, Jonathan Christopher Lightwood-Herondale.”
Jace stuck his tongue out at him and Alec burst out laughing. “So, who’s the lucky girl or guy this time around,” Alec asked amidst light chuckles.
“Clary Fray. Clary Fray.” Jace’s eyes skittered away. He always did have that tell when he’d done something he knew Alec would be pissed about. Clary Fray. Why did that name sound familiar.
His mind flashed to bright red hair and he shook his head. “You didn’t.”
“No way. You actually did?!! You’re dating Jocelyn fucking Fairchild’s daughter? What in all that is good and holy were you thinking, Jace?”
Jace held up his hands. “Will you let me explain?”
“Explain what?” The door swung open and Izzy stepped through. Behind her was Raj, and Lydia followed seconds later.
Alec waved at the door. “Would you excuse us for a moment, Lydia. This is a private family conversation.”
Lydia nodded and her eyes skittered over to Raj.
“Raj’s basically family,” Alec said.
Lydia shrugged and stepped out. Alec walked over to the door. Locked it. And with the press of a button raised a privacy ward that would keep their conversations private. The only people who could listen to at this point were the archangels, but none of them were on site at the moment.
For the first time in forever, Alec was thankful for the increase in demonic activity that facilitated the need for an emergency Supreme meeting.
When she was sure that they could not be heard, Izzy turned to look at Jace, and Alec, then back at Jace. “Explain what?”
Alec gestured at Jace. “He’s dating Clary Fray.”
Izzy’s eyes widened. Raj held up one hand. “Wait a minute. Clary Fray? The Clary Fray? Daughter of Jocelyn Fairchild and Valentine Morgenstern Clary Fray? Sister of Samael’s progeny, Jonathan Morgenstern? That Clary Fray?”
“One and the same,” Alec muttered.
“What the fuck were you thinking, Jace,” Izzy bellowed.
“Obviously, he wasn’t thinking,” Raj muttered dryly.
“Shut up, Raj,” Jace retorted.
“You shut up,” Alec said. “If anyone should be upset in this situation, it’s us.” Jace made to speak but Alec shook his head. “And you know we’re right. If you didn’t feel guilty about your relationship, you would have told us about it, a lot earlier. You were hiding it.”
“I wasn’t hiding it.”
Everyone scoffed and Jace hissed. “I wasn’t. It’s just, Luke is still a huge part of that family.” Izzy sucked in a harsh breath and Jace’s look turned apologetic. “I’m sorry Iz. It’s why I never said anything about it. I didn’t want to bring back the memories.”
Alec crossed his arms. “The right way to have ensured that wouldn’t happen was to not have dated Clary Fray in the first place,” he said.
Jace huffed and crossed his arms as well. “Like you would understand what it felt like to fall for someone you shouldn’t fall for. Tell me Alec, when was the last time you broke the rules?”
The words made his mind flash to brown eyes, a cocky smile, a kiss that was all Magnus Bane.
“Alec.” He felt the touch before he came to and realized Izzy had the back of her palm against his forehead. She looked concerned. “Are you alright. You look flushed.”
Alec shook his head and stepped back. He licked his lips. “I’m fine Izzy. Just a bit distracted.”
“That’s a first.” Now it was Jace’s turn to look concerned. Or at least as concerned as Jace could be. “You sure you’re okay?”
All the haranguing had his wings twitching behind him. He pushed down the urge to fly away. Nothing like him running away to confirm to his family that something really was wrong. “I said I’m fine.”
Raj just studied him for a moment, but didn’t throw in his own questions into the mix. Although the amusement that danced in his eyes told Alec that whenever Raj did get them alone together, Alec wasn’t going to like whatever came out of his best friend’s mouth.
The best thing to do, was to divert the line of questioning. “How long have you been dating her?”
Jace walked around them and flopped on the couch. Izzy settled on the one across from him, and Raj, like Alec chose to stand.
“About a couple of months, give or take.”
“And you met Maryse?” Alec asked.
Izzy made a strangled sound. Her fingers dug hard into the couch and Alec walked over till he was sitting beside her. He took her hands in his and squeezed. She let out a long breath, and nodded at him.
They both turned to look at Jace. “And she’s happy?” Izzy asked.
Jace smiled. “Happier than I’ve ever seen her.”
Izzy smiled at that. Alec didn’t. He needed time to unpack the emotions coursing through him at the moment, and he needed space to unpack. But nobody was leaving anytime soon. If the way Jace stretched out on his couch was any indication.
“Did she recognize you?” Raj asked.
Jace gave a bitter laugh. “With a Supreme memory wipe? Come on, Raj. We both know they don’t make mistakes, especially when it comes to ensuring that you never remember anyone you ever knew or loved.”
“Dicks,” Izzy muttered.
“Izzy.” She turned to look at him. “We can’t hate them for keeping to their side of things. The law is the law. And we knew what was going to happen when she broke it.”
Izzy stood, eyes blazing as she glared down at him. But just as soon, she deflated, gave a long suffering sigh and leaned down to give him a kiss on his cheek. “Oh big brother. The law isn’t really as straightforward as it makes itself out to be.”
“If it was, Samael wouldn’t be allowed to visit hell and return to heaven at his whims. He does that because he is an archangel.” She wagged a finger in his face when he tried protesting. “We both know I’m right, Alec. The rules are different for archangels. And they only get away with it because the rest of us agree to do what they want.”
“So you’re suggesting we revolt? Is that it?” Alec asked.
Izzy shrugged. “Tell me, Alec. What will you do when one of them really does find out what I did? Will you let them take my memories and cast me to earth like they did our mother?” His pain must have shown on his face because Izzy cupped his cheek and smiled. “Thank you, Alec.”
“I won’t let them cast you out,” Alec said.
She nodded. “I know you won’t. But these are not things we can necessarily control.” She cocked her head. “Or were you able to find Magnus?”
“I did.” Izzy brightened. Raj stepped forward. And even Jace sat up. “But then, I lost him,” Alec finished.
Jace shook his head. “Dude. How hard is it to catch one demon?”
Alec raised a brow. “I’ll like to see you try.”
“Keep dragging your feet, and I might just do that.” Jace rose from the couch, placed a kiss at the side of Izzy’s hair, flipped off Raj and walked out of the room.
He’d already started humming, so he was probably answering a summons from the Chorale; a song only he could hear.
But as the door closed behind Jace, Raj took up space on the couch beside him, and Izzy took the space to his right, effectively caging him.
Shit. He should have known that they wouldn’t buy the whole ‘he lost Magnus Bane’ line.
“What are you not telling us?”
Just like Izzy to get straight to the point.
Alec shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Cut the crap Lightwood,” Raj interrupted. He pointed his finger in Alec’s face. “I know you too well. The flush. The avoidance. The fact that you spent the entire day in Maui…” He trailed off and squinted at Alec. “How was Maui?”
Alec shrugged. “It was okay.”
He’d blurted out the word without thinking and tried backtracking. “I meant, he’s-.”
“A breathtaking prince who wined and dined you in one of the most beautiful places on earth,” Izzy said with a laugh. “You like him.”
Alec shook his head. “No I don’t.”
“Tell that to your face, Lightwood,” Raj said, drily. “You’re blushing.”
The moment was interrupted by the rushing sounds of rapidly turning pages.
“And now we’ve been summoned,” Raj said as both he and Izzy stood. “Consider yourself lucky, for now.”
Izzy grinned. “But it just means we will continue this conversation when we get back.”
Alec waved them off, and when the door shut behind them, he released a pent-up sigh.
Gods, this was way more trouble than he’d bargained for. And to make matters worse, once again, he’d left Magnus Bane without getting him to agree to return to Edom, or with an idea of where he would be.
"Tell me Alexander, what do you know about the demonic process of ascension?”
Alec shook his head at the thought. Doing more research into what the process entailed might give him the lead into finding out how he could best get Magnus to return home and have Maia’s soul released. But if Magnus’ words were to be believed—and he did believe him—then the archangels would take particular interest in the situation if he went searching for what he wanted, openly, in the Athenaeum. And he couldn’t have that. The more they pried, they more they were likely to find out.
They hadn’t come this far to get caught now.
Alec turned to the closet. A wave of his hands and he was staring at clothing pieces that were more suited to walking into the human-supernatural bookstore Izzy had once dragged him to, back when she’d been looking into the history of fallen angels and their recorded offsprings.
He settled on black jeans, one of the myriad of t-shirts he’d picked up from a human store, a black double rider jacket to pair on top, and a pair of black harness boots to complete the look. Fully dressed, he shut the door behind him, reset the wards to the suite, walked down the hallway until he made it to the stairs.
Once he was outside, he spread out his wings, and made the drop.
The door to Lone Panda creaked as it swung open, drawing the attention of the handful of patrons that were currently perusing the bookshelves.
It also caught the attention of the dark haired owner who excitedly grinned, showing off fangs that had the human patrons looking befuddled, and the supernatural patrons chuckling at the classic Simon exuberance.
Simon bounded over, arms outstretched. Alec stepped back. But that didn’t discourage Simon who responded by punching Alec lightly on his arm.
Simon loved nothing more than to try his already much diminished patience.
Simon peered around Alec.
“She didn’t come today,” Alec said, and reached for the chair closest to him. He settled in the chair, and raised a brow when Simon dragged another chair and sat right in front of him. Simon as always, was unfazed.
“Where is she?”
Alec shrugged. “Angelic business.”
Simon hummed. “So this is a solo research mission?” He cocked his head and looked Alec up, and then down. “I never took you for the type to willingly crack open a book.”
Simon laughed and held his hands out. “Just kidding Alec.” He smiled, and even in the slightly darkened room, Alec could tell that his eyes were twinkling. “How can I help you?”
Alec glanced around the store. The sign outside had been replicated and hung over the checkout point. The book buyers had dwindled to half the number he’d seen when he’d stepped into the bookstore, and… yes, Bat was as always restocking the shelves, and keeping an eye on the reading section of the bookstore for any readers who might need his help.
Bat sensed his eyes on him and turned to look straight at Alec. He gave a cheery grin, waved, and made to climb down the ladder. Except he missed his footing and yelped as he started to tumble.
Quick as anyone could blink, Simon caught him in his arms, murmured something in Bat’s ears that caused the other man to chuckle, and they carefully set him back on the floor. He snuck in a quick kiss, and hand-in-hand, the two of them walked back over to Alec’s corner of the bookstore.
“Hello Alec,” Bat said as he grabbed another chair and dragged it over. “Where’s Izzy?”
Bat nodded. “Cherubic or Guardian duties?”
Alec was just about to reply that neither was their business, and more importantly he came to do some research, and not indulge in their need for gossip when Simon interrupted.
“Definitely Cherubic.” Simon huffed impatiently at Bat’s confused expression and gestured at the back section of the store where they kept most of their forbidden books. “Maia isn’t back yet.”
Bat’s mouth opened in a silent ‘Oh’ and Alec looked from one to the other. “Hold up, you know Maia?”
Now it was Simon’s turn to look at Alec like he was missing a couple of marbles.
Alec didn’t care for it. “What?!”
Simon sighed and crossed his arms. It would have been more intimidating if he had more bulk, and Alec felt his lips twitch. That just made Simon scowl and he snapped. “Dude. Maia worked here for almost six months. It’s why Izzy always found a reason to come down every weekend for half a year to see her girl.” He nodded at an empty nook that had a table and two chairs. It looked… cozy. “They met there. Maia found Izzy pouring over some books, she offered to help, and that was their spot.”
“I didn’t…” Alec cleared his throat. “I didn’t know.”
And just like that, Simon deflated. He reached to pat Alec’s shoulder and smiled when Alec pulled back. “Yeah well, it happens. I can’t tell you the number of times Rebecca has kept secrets from me. Even when her secrets were all staring me in the face. Like the other time, I found her with her—”
Alec held up his hand. “Hold it right there, vampire.” When Simon looked like he wanted to keep right on talking anyway, Alec cut him off. “I don’t want to hear it.” He scanned the room, looking for another familiar face, which is when he finally noticed that who wasn't around. He snapped his fingers at Simon. “Where is she?”
“Where is who?”
“The other girl. Your partner.” At Bat’s narrowed stare, he clarified. “Business partner. Isn’t she always here on Tuesdays?”
Simon stared back at him like he’d suddenly grown two heads, dropped his pants and asked to be gagged.
Okay. Was there something he’d missed.
Simon spluttered. “How long have you been coming with your sister to Lone Panda, Alec?”
“You mean back when you were Rock Solid Panda?” Alec pointed at the sign. “Speaking of which, when did you change the name?”
Simon sighed and rubbed at the back of his head. “It’s been more than eight months Alec, and my business partner, who has a name by the way — it’s Maureen — decided to move cross-country, and sold us her shares in the store.” He pointed at the door. “You were standing right there when Izzy asked.” He narrowed his eyes at Alec. “Do you ever listen to anything I’m saying?”
Simon huffed and stalked off. Bat’s eyes followed him, looking caught between trailing after his boyfriend, and helping Alec out with what he’d come in for. Eventually, his need to help won out and he turned to look at Alec. “He really thinks you’re friends, you know.”
It was Alec’s turn to sigh. “Yeah, I know.”
“So why do you keep messing with him like that?” Bat held up a hand before Alec could reply. “You know, no, don’t tell me. Just... “ He shrugged. “Be a little bit kinder to him. He sees you more like a brother he wishes he had.”
Alec’s mind flashed to Jace and his antics, and Max and the unending escapades that trailed after him. “I have enough brothers, thank you very much.”
Bat rubbed between his brows. “You know what, I can’t even… What can we do for you, Alec?”
Alec’s eyes wandered to the back of the store. If the information he needed about demonic ascension could be found in Lone Panda, it would most likely be there.
He spun around to find Bat and Simon—when had he returned—staring incredulously at him. “What?”
“Nothing.” Simon grinned. “I just never thought I’d see the day when Alec Lightwood would ask to glance through the forbidden books.”
Bat tsked. “Maybe Izzy really has been rubbing off on you.”
Alec rose to his feet and crossed his arms. “Are you both done?”
They chuckled at the same time the door to Lone Panda creaked open. They all turned to look at the new visitor and Bat motioned at Simon to take Alec to the back, while he walked up to the new customer—seelie. The pointy ears were a dead giveaway.
“Follow me,” Simon said with a jerk of his head for Alec to come along with him.
Alec did, and in moments they were at the back of the store. Simon pulled out a key from the pocket of his jeans, the Chai and Star of David ornaments on his keyring clashing together as he turned the key and unlocked the door, separated from the rest of the store by thick red curtains.
He pushed open the now opened door and motioned Alec in.
Alec stepped through the door, and walked down the stairs until they opened into a room that had him ducking so his head wouldn’t bang against the low ceilings.
The room smelled musty, like old books and ancient scrolls, and powerful magic—the type of magic required to preserve the history and culture of beings that had existed since the beginning of time.
Then Simon switched on the lights and bathed the room in a soft light that made the ancient scrolls glow.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Simon asked.
“Anything and everything you have on the demonic rite of ascension,” Alec said.
Alec nodded and took up a seat in front of the lone desk in the room.
Simon turned towards one of the bookshelves, and began humming to himself as he searched. Every time he found a book he was looking for, he released a loud ‘aha!’ and sent the book flying, to join the rest that were rapidly accumulating on the desk.
He finally nodded his head, and dusted his hands in satisfaction. “That’s all. Is there anything else?”
Alec looked at the books, and at the grinning Simon. He was about to say ‘yes, that was all’, when a second thought crept in. “Do you have anything on Magnus Bane?”
That brought Simon to a halt, and for a brief moment, his smile faltered.
“You know him?” Alec asked. “Magnus Bane. You’re familiar with him?”
Simon chuckled wryly. “What makes you say that?” He turned back to the shelves and began repeating the process, except this time around, without any of the exclamation or the dancing. It was more proof that the question had gotten to him.
When the books on the table had just about doubled in quantity, he stopped searching and turned around to stare at Alec. “That’s it.”
They stood in silence. Simon fidgeted and moved from foot to foot, like he wanted to be anywhere but in that room with Alec.
Alec gestured at the chair across from his. “I’m not after him, you know.”
Simon scoffed and Alec smiled. “Okay, maybe I am.”
“Of course you are,” Simon muttered. “Izzy told me.” He made a face. “And Magnus.”
“So, you are on talking terms with him?”
Simon shrugged. “Kind of.” He gave a bashful smile. “I even think he might consider us friends.”
“You and Magnus Bane? Friends?” He must have failed in keeping the disbelief out of his voice because Simon scowled.
“Yes, we are,” Simon said. “He even offered to take me under his wings, show me the ropes, keep my head afloat among the other supes.”
Alec chuckled, but stopped laughing when he saw Simon’s face. “Wait, you’re serious? Magnus Bane actually said that?”
“Surprising isn’t it? For a demon to give a shit,” Simon sneered.
“I didn’t say-”
“You didn’t have to,” Simon said with a shrug. “I know how you angels think. Demons have no heart. They flit from one thing to another, are absolutely devoid of compassion, have zero self-control.” He sat back in his seat and started flipping through texts. “And in some cases, you are right.”
He pushed one of the books at Alec, finger tapping on the page he wanted Alec to take note of. It was an anonymous accounting of a cambion incubi who had wanted to ascend to the position of one of Lucifer’s generals. Just like Magnus had said, the cambion had been forced to drink from Renuntiat. It had driven him mad. His human half holding on tenuously, refusing to be separated his demonic side. His demonic side, driven by an all-consuming desire to exist on its own had torn his mind to shreds. Some weeks later, he’d torn the body to shreds as well.
Alec slowly closed the page and breathed in deep. But no amount of breathing could quell the panic that was rapidly building. All he could see was Magnus’ body being torn to shreds. Never being able to hear that laugh or see that smile again. Not being able to talk with the man whose every word pulled him, whose mind he still ached to know more of.
“It’s not an easy process,” he heard Simon whisper. Simon looked up and met his eyes. “Especially for those of us that straddle the world identifying with both, and belonging to neither.”
“So why do they do it?”
Simon pushed a scroll in his direction. This one had a recording of the number of successful Imperare and Renuntiat ascensions in the last millennial. As expected, Imperare had a ninety-nine percent success rate--ninety-nine percent because Lucifer was known to occasionally decide that the applying demons weren’t worthy and incinerated them on the spot, while in history only-
“No way,” Alec muttered and stared up to look at Simon who paused to look at him questioningly. “Only six?”
“Out of thousands?”
“Remember that Steve Jobs quote?” Simon asked.
Alec shook his head.
“He said, ‘Quality is much better quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.’”
“Okay… What’s your point?”
“Everyone credits that quote to Steve. No one knows that it was Asmodeus who first said it.” He shrugged in the face of Alec’s disbelief. “What? He did say it. Long ago, when one of the lower level demons had asked him why so many of the half demons had to try, only to get weaned out.”
Alec scoffed. “And that’s what Asmodeus said.”
Simon nodded and handed over another set of scrolls. “More or less. Of course he followed it by burning the demon who kept asking him all those pesky questions to a crisp.”
It was Alec’s turn to nod. “Now, that I believe.”
Simon rolled his eyes and passed over two more sets of scrolls.
They sat in reading for a long moment, reading up on the half demons. Alec noted that half of them were children of princes of hell and the other three were offsprings of greater demons.
“Even if his power will help him pull through,” Simon said in a quiet voice, “the problem was never with his power.” He noted Alec’s questioning expression and passed another book—this one much recent than the others, so much so that Alec was half tempted to ask if they weren’t in the wrong part of the library—towards Alec. As Alec read through, Simon continued speaking. “The problem is his attachment to his humanity. His last connecting thread to his human mother.”
Alec glanced through the texts. Magnus’ mother had birthed him in Batavia, spent the first decade of his life traveling with him all over the world, until she vanished without a trace a couple of days after his twelfth birthday. Asmodeus had made his return shortly after that and raised Magnus in Edom.
“Is she alive?” Alec asked, and then shook his head. A human, still alive after so many millennia? It was a fools’ dream.
“Nobody knows,” Simon replied.
Something in the words had Alec asking. “But?”
“But Magnus seems to think so.”
“Still alive? After all this time? A human woman. Seriously?”
Simon shrugged. “Not all humans remain humans. And not all supes are born this way.” He pointed at himself. “Case in point.”
Alec couldn’t argue with that. He rose, grabbing the books and the texts he hadn’t gone through yet. “So do you have any idea where she is?”
“That is the question we’ve all been seeking answers to,” Simon said and walked around Alec to reach for a ledger on the top shelf. He placed it down on the desk, and carefully penned the titles Alec was carrying out with him.
When he was done, he returned the ledger, walked over to a painting of a relic and shifted the frame to reveal a wall safe. Alec watched with mild disinterest as Simon reached for a knife, slashed across his palm and used the drops of blood to unlock the safe.
All that effort, and the only thing Simon took out of the safe was a small envelope. Alec ruefully shook his head.
He watched Simon wipe his hands clean with a handkerchief, and then stroll over to his side of the room, with the envelope outstretched.”Here. This is for you.”
“What is that, a new and improved library card?” Alec asked as he accepted the envelope. Opening it was easy, but he drew in a sudden breath at the sight of that cursive font.
Here’s hoping I get to see you soon.
Remember, Memento vivere.
Alec flipped the postcard over. It was a stunning shot of La Grotto Azzurra.
Looked like he was heading off to the Isle of Capri.
The door banged closed behind them with a loud crash, and with a wave of his hands, Magnus restored the wards to the loft.
Cat and Dot vanished into the separate quarters Magnus had created just for them. Not that he found it surprising. Between Dot’s work at her antique store, Cat’s back-to-back double shifts at the hospital, and then both of them helping him to continue this search for his mother, it was only pure strength of will that had kept them standing till that moment.
Ragnor looked just as exhausted, although he was hiding it better, and intermittently fought the long yawns that threatened to put him faster to sleep that a drop of Demeter’s Poppy in his hot toddy.
Raphael was the only one of them that looked sharp-eyed. And part of Magnus resented him for looking that undisturbed. He’d however managed to ignore the mild jealousy until Raphael spoke.
“Are you sure she wants to be found?” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the door, and by extension, the outside world. “It takes quite a level of determination to be so hidden that neither warlocks nor werewolves or seelies, or vampires can sniff you out. Hell, even the demons you hired couldn’t find her.”
“It just means we don’t know where to look just yet,” Magnus said. A snap of his fingers and he had a Daiquiri in hand. He held up the cup towards Raphael, in silent enquiry. Raphael shook his head. Magnus shrugged and took a sip of his drink.
A sound from Ragnor’s slump position on the couch had him snapping his fingers.
“Thank you,” Ragnor muttered and took a sip of his Bloody Mary.
“Or it might mean that your mother doesn’t want to be found,” Raphael said.
Magnus smiled sweetly at him. “Tell me, Raphael, how fond are you of that suit?”
The words got through to Raphael who took a couple of steps back and glared at him. “Hey, there’s no reason to go that far! I get the message.”
Ragnor chuckled, warranting Raphael’s ire in the form of a glare. Not that he cared.
“So what’s your plan, Magnus?” Ragnor asked.
He pulled a map from his shelves with a flick of his wrist. He spread it out on the floor, rearranging the furniture around the floor size map with another gesture.
The move dislodged Ragnor, who glared briefly at him, then became hyper focused on the map and on the lines and circles Magnus had drawn over it.
Magnus pointed at the small island country of Palau. “If Raphael’s vampire sources are to be believed, she was last seen somewhere around here half a century ago.”
“My vampires are trustworthy,” Raphael muttered.
“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, that’s where all trails of her run cold. No one has seen her or someone who looks like her ever since,” Magnus said.
“A pity Asmodeus was dick enough to get rid of everything that belonged to her,” Ragnor muttered. “It would have been much easier just locating her with something that was personal to her.”
“Yeah. He was probably acting on the belief that a day like today would happen and I would go looking for her.”
“Have I mentioned of late how big of a dick I think your father is?” Ragnor asked.
Magnus chuckled. “Once or twice. But I appreciate you pointing it out again.” He felt the low hum of magic, felt it prickle against his skin and looked up from his map at Ragnor who held his hands out and pulling a portal out.
Once it was set, he turned and motioned at it. “So? When do you want to explore?”
Magus shook his head and with a wave closed the portal. “Not tonight.” He jerked his thumb at the antique grandfather clock in the corner of the room. “It’s almost morning. He,” he pointed at Raphael, “will be asleep in another hour. And you,” he eyed Ragnor, “are just about dead on your feet.” Ragnor yawned in response, setting him off to yawn as well. “We’ll continue the search later today. Right now—” the sound of his phone chiming cut him off and Magnus pulled it out of the pockets of his slacks to peer at it. It was from Simon.
He’s gotten it.
Three words and they made the day brighter.
“Who’s that?” Ragnor stopped to ask.
“Simon Lewis.” Ragnor looked confused, so Magnus clarified. “The daylighter.”
“Ha. Okay. Wait, does he have the books I ordered?”
Magnus shrugged. “What am I, a mind reader? You can ask him tomorrow. I want to see if he has a Palauan map from last century. See if anything’s changed from the current map.”
Ragnor held both hands in a farewell, and took a left, opening the double doors that led to the suite Magnus had also created just for him, for the rare occasions that he would spend the night in the loft.
Raphael headed towards his own suite, specially warded to keep out the sun’s rays. But then he stopped and came back around, head a bit bowed, his voice tinged with slight remorse. “My apologies. I didn’t mean to seem… insensitive.”
Magnus raised a brow. “You? Apologizing?” He chuckled. “That’s a first. Also there’s really no reason to apologize.”
Raphael shook his head. “But there is, Magnus. Familia comes first. If anyone knows that, it’s me. No matter where she is, we will find her.” He pulled out the crucifix beneath his shirt and kissed it. “I swear on my mother.”
Magnus nodded. “Thank you, Raphael.”
Raphael nodded and walked away, leaving Magnus, the only one, still awake in the loft. A long yawn debunked him of that notion and he smiled as he headed to the bedroom.
He remembered just in time to set the protections in the loft, keeping the sunlight out, just in case Raphael felt the itch to explore while Magnus was still asleep. With that done, he nodded, and allowed his body to turn off.
He was asleep even before his head touched his silk sheets.
He woke up to the mouthwatering aroma of Pozole simmering on a stove. The aroma made him smile and propelled him up, had him reaching for his robe without a second thought and strolling out into the main living area of the loft, where sure enough, everyone was already gathered.
The grandfather clock confirmed that he’d been asleep for over twelve hours and he shook his head as he yawned. “Gods, I was asleep for that long?”
Cat nodded and Dot patted the space on the sectional beside them.
Magnus stretched on the couch, with his head across Dot’s thighs and Cat’s fingers running through his hair. They both looked like they wouldn’t mind sleeping in some more, and with the way Cat kept looking in the direction of the kitchen, Magnus was fairly certain that it was the same incentive that had pulled both of them from their beds: Raphael’s cooking.
And they were in good company too. It was why Raphael’s chain of restaurants and bed and breakfasts were internationally sought after, and patrons were willing to pay double the price for the chance to eat his cooking.
It was especially ironic considering Raphael couldn’t even taste anything he made. But a blessing, because immediately Raphael stepped out of the kitchen, carrying several bowls of Pozole, and Magnus’ mouth watered.
They all reached for the bowls. Ragnor snapped his fingers and they each had a stool on which to place their food. A flick of Cat’s fingers and they each had a glass of red wine to go with it. And Dot provided them with music.
They were silent for a long moment, scooping spoonfuls of the stew, the kick of the added Pequin burning up their mouths even as the sweet red wine cooled it.
Magnus added more shredded onions, cabbage, radish and lettuce, blissfully closing his eyes at the crunch it added to the meal.
Half an hour later, they were done.
A wave of his hands and the dishes vanished, the only proof of the delicious meal they’d just eaten being the lingering aroma of the stew.
“Delicious as always Raphael,” Magnus said. “Thank you.”
Raphael graciously inclined his head.
“I’m guessing the Pozole is becoming a staple?” Ragnor asked.
“It has always been a staple,” Raphael replied. “I only tweaked it slightly by adding a little more heat, a little more spice.”
“And it tastes even more delicious,” Dot said. “Thank—”
A knock on the door cut her off and Magnus slowly rose, holding one hand to keep to keep his friends seated.
Sure, he might move his loft around every couple of days, but it still didn’t mean one of Asmodeus’ spies hadn’t discovered his present location and alerted his father to his whereabouts. And if it was Asmodeus on the other side of the door, the only way his friends would survive would be if Magnus slowed Asmodeus down and gave them a couple of seconds head start.
He opened the door slightly, half relieved to see that it wasn’t Asmodeus like he’d feared, and irritated because he had no idea who the human standing outside his door was.
The human started, like he hadn’t been expecting Magnus to speak. He swallowed. “Sorry, Sir, but is Mr. Ragnor Fell here?”
Magnus had to fight back a smile. It had been too long since anyone had prefixed Ragnor’s name with a ‘sir’. He opened the door wider and gestured the human to enter the loft.
The door closed behind them with a nick and Magnus turned around to find his friends all at the doorway, staring curiously at the human. Even Ragnor, which was surprising considering the human had said he was there to see him.
“Ragnor, this human here was asking for you.”
Ragnor stepped forward. “Do I know you?”
The human nodded and stretched out his hand. “Yes. I’m-”
Ragnor’s hands touched his and the human moved faster than they could blink, placing a pentagram coin over Ragnor’s heart.
Just as quickly, a powerful blast of ancient magic exploded, sending them all reeling. By the time Magnus regained his footing, Ragnor was gone, leaving only the charred remains of pentagram on the floor and the human —- no, witch —- glaring defiantly up at him.
Magnus lifted him up with a thought. “Where is he?”
The witch laughed at him, and gagged for breath when Magnus brought his thumb and index finger closer together, mentally squeezing on the man’s lungs.
“I said, where is he?!” The man gurgled and Magnus lifted him even higher. “Start speaking, boy. Or I will fleece you from your toes, to your head. Who sent you?”
The witch grinned, a bloody smile that bordered on insane. “Nergal sends his greetings.”
As the words left his mouth, his body twisted, contorting till his bones snapped, and blood poured from every available orifice, his expression forever frozen into one of pain and terror.
The silence that followed was deafening.
“Damn, Magnus. What in the hell did you do to make a god of destruction come after you?” Raphael asked, his eyes like the rest of them, on the body of the mangled witch.
Magnus cringed. Nergal did like making bloody statements and booby trapping his messengers.
Raphael’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do?”
“I might have set free all of his tortured souls as a distraction for me to get out of Edom unnoticed.”
They raised their eyes from the body on the floor, and collectively released in one breath, the word that best summarized their present situation. “Fuck.”