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Serendipi-tea

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“If people did not love one another, I really don't see what use there would be in having any spring.”
-Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Alec could grow plants like nobody’s business. He could make roses bloom in the dead of winter, and he could coax tulips to life in the middle of a snowstorm. His bedroom was packed with creeping vines and hanging baskets full of flowers, and the kitchen had taken a hit too, crawling with cacti. His apartment was basically a very large, wild meadow, although his sister, Izzy, who he shared it with, had forbidden the presence of plants in the sitting room.

It was his Small Magic, to make things grow, and he hid it as best as he could. There were far stranger Small Magic’s out there, from turning any liquid into fresh milk, to being able to speed-knit, but Alec didn’t like his ability. Flowers and plants were not for people like him, who wanted to write and draw and escape this world. Flowers and plants were for people firmly rooted in reality, and that wasn’t Alec.

His Small Magic remained a secret until one Tuesday afternoon, in the beginning of April, when a man walked into the flower shop that Alec worked at. It had made sense, at the time, to get a job there, but he regretted it as soon as it caused friction with Clary, the girl who worked behind the till. She didn’t know how he always sold the best bouquets, and she was determined to find out, despite how much Alec obviously didn’t want that to happen.

The bell above the door to ‘The Watering Can’ jingled as Alec was fielding questions from Clary, both of them clustered behind the main desk. A man strolled in from outside, hands deep in his coat pockets. His inky hair was wet with rain, and Alec peered around Clary’s petite form to find it was pouring outside, water lashing at the large windows in fits and spurts. He grimaced. He was going to have to walk home in that, and it had been sunny earlier, so he didn’t bring a coat with him.

Clary watched as the man began to walk around the store, fingers trailing along the various pots and trowels in the equipment section. He was quite clearly headed for the succulents.

“It’s your turn,” Clary said. She had a scone hidden on a plate behind the till, and Alec watched as she spread jam all over one of the halves. The jam jar had also been hidden under the counter, and Alec wondered if he could distract her and sneak a glance under there for something to eat. He was hungry, but he knew better than to ask Clary to give up her lunch. She would sooner bite his hand off than share her food.

“I did the last one,” Alec complained, but he was already lifting himself off the stool and straightening his green apron. Everything in The Watering Can was a shade of mint green, from the shelves, to the curtains, to the clothes Alec was forced to wear.

He put on his best customer service smile and made his way over to the man. He was a little taller than Alec, with dark skin and pretty eyes. His shoulders were broad, and he wore a shirt as bright as Clary’s red hair under his coat, although it was less offensive. Alec wouldn’t have been able to pull it off, but it suited him.

“Anything I can help you with today, sir?” Alec asked. He cleared his throat when the man didn’t reply, and the man looked up after a moment more, a vacant expression on his face. The vacant expression cleared when he caught Alec’s eye, replaced with happy recognition.

“Oh, it’s you.”

Alec blinked. He didn’t know this man, but he was looking at him like they had met before, with recognition in his dark eyes. Alec surveyed the odd man, trying to work out how they might have met, but he came up blank.

“Sorry. You are…?”

“Never mind who I am,” said the man. “Although you can call me Magnus, if you like. Here, you need this.”

Magnus dug around in his pocket and produced a crinkly yellow square. For one wild moment, Alec thought it was a condom, and his face burned red when he realised it was a tea-bag.

“Go on, then,” Magnus said, gesturing at the tea-bag with his free hand. “Take it.”

“Why would I do that?" Alec narrowed his eyes. "This feels like a test. Is it one of those ‘don't take things from strangers’ tests that they do in prank shows on TV? Is my mother hiding behind the shelves, waiting to see if I’ll cave?”

Magnus frowned at him. “It’s a tea-bag, not one of the Child-Catcher’s lollipops. Just take it. It’s part of my ability, to find people who need different types of teas. This one will give you a boost of courage.”

“A what?” Alec shot a helpless look at Clary, who was leaning right over the desk to listen in, a blob of jam smeared at the corner of her mouth. She waved a hand at him, urging him to turn back to Magnus. Magnus was still frowning, and his arm must have been getting heavy, outstretched like that, but Alec had no intentions of taking the tea-bag.

“Courage,” Magnus repeated. “It’s my Small Magic. I don't know why you need courage, but you do. So take it.”

Alec took it, if only to stop Magnus from wiggling the thing right in front of his face.

Lemon and Lime Black Tea was scrawled on the yellow square. Alec had heard of different teas being able to make you feel sleepy, or energised, but he didn’t think they could give you a genuine concept, or an emotion, like courage.

Magnus beamed at him. He had very straight teeth, and a pretty mouth, although Alec stamped that thought out immediately.

“Did you actually need help with anything?” Alec asked, pointing at the neat little rows of succulents beside them.

“Oh, no, thank you,” Magnus said. “I only came in here because the tea-bag wanted me to. I wish there was a tea shop around here, then I could do what you do.”

“What I do?”

Magnus looked at where Alec was pointing, and Alec reared back when he noticed the mess of flowering cacti that now crowded the shelf, stems and prickles spilling all over the place.

He jerked his hand back, but not before he heard Clary gasp from the counter.

“Yes, you know,” Magnus said. “Work with my Small Magic. That would be a lovely arrangement. You’re quite lucky, Alec.”

Alec watched, baffled, as Magnus gave him a wave before he strolled out of the store. The door clinked shut behind him, and Alec focused very carefully on the cacti, watching as they shrunk back in on themselves. It was always much harder to get plants and flowers to shrink, to turn backwards, than it was to make them grow.

Clary stormed towards him, a triumphant look on her face. “I knew it! I knew your Small Magic was to do with plants. I just knew it.”

“Well, it’s not as if you figured it out. A stranger had to do the work for you.”

Clary’s expression darkened, and she huffed before folding her arms across her chest. They stood in silence for a moment, with just the sound of the rain hitting the glass filling the store.

“Why do you keep it a secret?” Clary asked. “It’s just plants and flowers. It’s not like you can see ghosts, or break things just by looking at them. You don’t spit fire.”

Clary didn't keep her Small Magic a secret. She was always drawing things that came to life, inking pictures onto her skin and her sketchpad and every available surface. The ink and graphite always peeled right off and pranced through the air, telling stories without words. There was the beginnings of a bunny rabbit on her left wrist, and it would remain there until it was finished, and then it would take flight and hop around the room until Clary erased it.

Her Small Magic was as free as she was, but Alec thought of his dad’s sad, disappointed face when confronted with Alec's very first flower, and snapped, “It’s none of your business.”

“I was only asking. There’s no need to be rude.” Clary rolled her eyes, and walked back to the counter. Her shoes made little clicking sounds against the floor, and Alec almost felt like they were accusing him of something with each step. Guilt filled him, but it wasn’t strong enough to make him apologise straight away.

The yellow square in his hands seemed to judge him. Magnus was nothing but a distant shape on the path up the street, just visible through the water-logged window, but he had left a substantial mess in Alec’s life in the space of a few minutes. Now he had an apology to make, a spilled secret, and a tea-bag that would supposedly make him feel brave.

Alec tucked the tea-bag away in the pocket of his apron and decided to forget about it.

*

Alec wasn’t a tea sort of person. He liked coffee, without any of the oddities and extras that came with it, just roasted coffee beans ground down to make piping hot liquid that he could gulp down every morning, before he left for work at The Watering Can. He didn’t really drink alcohol, although he could be persuaded to grab a beer if his colleagues were offering and he had no plans for the evening. And he enjoyed a hot chocolate every now and then, topped with whipped cream and the little pink marshmallows that Max would sneakily eat by the bag, if Alec wasn’t too careful.

But tea, well, he didn’t really get tea. It was just… leaf water, with a slightly different hint of flavour each time, if you were lucky. There were all these rules for good, proper tea, and some of it came in loose little grains, and some of it came in triangular bags, and he just didn’t understand it.

He didn’t think he would try the tea-bag. A stranger had given it to him in a haze of rain and confusion, and Alec didn’t like tea, and yet here he was, standing with the kettle and a mug and the little yellow square.

He didn’t need courage. There was nothing he needed to be brave about.

Alec sighed, shrugged, and then carefully ripped open the tea-bag and dropped it in the mug. The mug was patterned with little yellow bees, and he was pretty sure it was Jace’s, but Jace wasn’t here, and this was Alec’s apartment, so he could use it if he liked. The kettle finished boiling and he poured a considerable amount of hot water into the mug and poked at the tea-bag dubiously with a spoon.

The water gradually turned a bright, vivid yellow.

“Nope,” Alec said, and dumped the tea down the drain.

The door slammed open and Izzy stormed in, soaked and pissed off, by the looks of it. She distracted Alec from rinsing out his mug, and he put it down on the counter in favour of going to comfort his sister, who was complaining about her awful job.

“It sucks. It sucks that I have to put up with men leering at me as they walk past my desk, especially when I don't even want to be there in the first place. I want to do something important, something that means something,” she said, flopping down on the couch beside him. “I don't want to be a secretary all my life. That might be what other people want, but not me.”

Alec hummed and stroked her wet hair. “You know mum would let you work at the law firm, if you wanted. You could learn the ropes, and then start studying, and go back to school, maybe.”

Izzy whined and put her head in his lap, and he shifted so he was settled more comfortably on the couch. She hadn’t found her Small Magic yet, which meant it was something so small that it was unnoticeable. Alec didn’t think she needed it, anyway. She was going to be brilliant.

“I want something different,” Izzy said. “I don't want to live in our parents’ pocket. That’s why we moved out in the first place, instead of staying at the Institute.”

The Institute was what they called the family home, which had felt more like a school or a prison than a home. Even Jace had moved out, and was now living with a boy called Simon, whom he loathed and who left figurines and comics strewn all over the place, but who at least helped with the rent every month.

“Just because you work in the same place doesn’t mean you’re back in their pockets,” Alec told her, but he could tell she didn’t believe him.

“I’ll think about it,” Izzy said. “Change the subject, before I start screaming. What did you do today?”

“I met a guy,” Alec said. “Bit weird. He gave me a tea-bag.”

Izzy looked up at him, slightly alarmed. “You didn’t use it, did you?”

Alec felt himself go red, thinking of the mug on the side, but he shook his head. Izzy settled back down.

“Was he cute, at least?”

Alec prodded her in the stomach, and she laughed, wriggling down the couch out of reach.

“Come on, Alec. You need to get out there! Even if it is with weird guys who hand you tea-bags. You haven’t had sex in.... well, ever.”

Alec made a mutinous noise, crossing his arms over his chest, and Izzy laughed again, not unkindly. Izzy was the only one, besides Jace, who knew that he was gay. He hadn’t told their parents yet. He knew his dad would be even more disappointed about this than he was with his Small Magic, and he wasn’t quite sure about his mother. He wanted to tell them, but he couldn't quite form the words whenever he saw them.

“I’m not talking about this with you,” Alec said. “You’re my sister. It’s weird.”

“If you say so,” Izzy said, still quite clearly finding joy in his pain, which Alec didn’t appreciate. “Put something on TV, if we’re not going to talk about your lack of love life. We’ll be unsociable couch potatoes until Jace gets here with take-out, but just for the record, you need to have sex.”

Alec made another mutinous noise, and Izzy patted him on the leg before reaching for the remote.

He lay in bed later that night and frowned at the ceiling. He didn’t think it was strange that he wanted more than just a physical relationship. Maybe that was enough for some people, but for Alec, he needed something else. Something meaningful, before he could even think about sex. But that seemed kind of odd to a lot of people, and he didn’t get why.

His skin itched as he thought. He felt something against the skin of his forearms, and he sighed. Reaching over, he switched on the lamp beside his bed with his left hand, since his right one was currently covered in little green stems. They sprouted from the lines in his palm in rows, growing beneath his gaze. They slunk down his arms and came to a rest just above the dip of his elbows, thin vines, glossy green and smelling sourly of sap.

He knew better than to let his mind wander like that. When his mind wandered, and his thoughts clouded over with the beginnings of fierce emotion, things started to grow. From his palms, from his fingers, from the undersides of his wrists, and occasionally from his shoulders. He wasn’t sure about everywhere else on his body, and frankly, he didn’t want to find out.

The vines lengthened and thickened, and then snapped off gently. He unwound them and slid off the bed, walking over to the hanging basket closest to the window. The vines had a mind of their own, and slithered into the soil when Alec lifted his hands up to the basket. They dug down deep and hung over the sides, tendrils drifting gently back and forth. Alec brushed his fingers against them and sighed, pushing the curtain over slightly to let a sliver of moonlight bounce off the basket.

He has always wondered what the point of his powers was. He knew, realistically, that there wasn’t a purpose to these things; the Small Magic that grew deep down within everyone simply manifested itself however it chose, and that was that. But a bigger part of him, the part of him that could still hear taunts and jeers from the idiots in school, the part that could still see the disappointment in his father’s face when Alec first presented him with a flower -- that part wondered what the point of it all was.

Chapter Text

Alec cracked one eye open blearily to find Izzy standing over him, dressed for work and holding a mug of coffee in her hands.

She handed it to him as he groaned his way out of bed, swinging his feet over the side. He mumbled a thank you as he gulped down several mouthfuls of hot, strong black coffee.

“I still think that’s disgusting,” Izzy said. She ruffled his bed-head, ignoring his attempts to escape. “Don't get used to this, by the way. I just felt bad about teasing you so much yesterday.”

“You don't usually,” Alec pointed out, and Izzy pulled a face at him before leaving his room, her usual sway back in her hips, a spring in her step. She was always that way; the world could throw whatever it wanted at her, and she would be buoyant and bright the next morning.

He downed the rest of his coffee, felt the burn in his throat and grimaced slightly at the uneven taste. He smacked his lips a few times to distract from the strangely citrus flavour, and wondered what Izzy had added. The mug went down on his bedside table and he said hello to the plants around his wrists, coaxing them away from his skin gently and introducing them to the various pots around his room. They were roses, this time, in a shade of purple that wasn’t natural, but was pretty nonetheless.

He was in the kitchen when he felt it. The world seemed to fall away, and Alec felt lighter than air. He could smell lemons and limes and his heart beat joyfully in his chest, and he felt on top of the world. Like he could fly, or run a thousand miles barefoot, or swim the deep depths of the ocean without an oxygen tank. Like he could jump out of a plane with no parachute and still feel this euphoria that had enveloped him.

He felt brave. Full of courage. He picked up his phone and dialled his mother’s number, a wide grin on his face.

“I have something to tell you,” Alec said, when she picked up.

*

“So, let me get this straight,” Clary said, and then paused. “Or not straight, as it were.”

Alec, who had his head in his hands, groaned at the pun. “Yes, I came out to my mother over the phone because I drank the remains of some magic tea that a stranger gave me.”

To be fair, it hadn’t gone as badly as he thought it might. Maryse had gone quiet, and Alec had felt nothing but determination and a light-hearted happiness, and that wasn’t right. He had always been afraid of this. He had assumed he would come out when he was ready, further down the line, when he had someone to support him, someone who he loved. He didn’t think he would come out over the phone, standing in the kitchen in his pyjamas, all because of a magical cup of tea.

“That’s… rough,” Clary said, with the air of someone who wanted to be comforting, but had no real idea how. She took a bite out of her biscuit and said, “You said she took it well, though?”

Alec groaned again. “She told me to bring my young man along to the family wedding this weekend, and when I tried to explain that I didn’t have a young man to bring, she told me not to be so secretive, now that the secret was out. So, now if I don't bring someone, she’s going to think that I think she’s not supportive, and she’ll be cold and upset, and it’ll cause a big thing in front of all the family.”

Clary winced and patted him on the shoulder, biscuit crumbs spilling down Alec’s apron. It was just her in the store, commiserating with Alec. The Watering Can was empty, due to the heavy rain that had barely stopped falling since yesterday. Nobody was sane enough to be out and about in this kind of weather.

Except for Magnus, who bumbled into the shop only a few seconds later.

Clary sucked in a breath and tried to block Alec’s view, but Alec’s head had shot up at the sound of the chime above the door, and then he was scrambling out of his seat and pointing a finger at Magnus.

“You! You did this.”

Magnus startled. He faced Alec, soaked to the bone, and his eyebrows went up. He put a hand to his chest and said, “Me? What have I done?”

“You gave me a tea-bag, and I accidentally drank it, that’s what,” Alec said, rounding the counter despite Clary’s hissed warnings. Magnus’s eyes cleared and his mouth dropped open.

“You actually drank it? Most people just throw them away, I assume.”

Alec spluttered. Magnus was very attractive, and he had a lovely musical voice. Combined with his eyes, which were a very deep, dark brown that held a lot of warmth, it all became extremely distracting. It was hard for Alec to hold onto his anger in the presence of that handsome, bewildered face.

“I’m pretty sure that’s victim-blaming,” Clary piped up. She munched down on her biscuit, and Magnus peered around Alec to furrow his brow at her. Alec spluttered again, one of his arms flailing out to the side, which was the most expressive he'd been in years, Izzy would say.

“I did make the tea, but then I poured it away because it turned bright yellow, and I may not know a lot about tea, but I know it’s not supposed to do that. And then my sister gave me coffee in the same cup this morning, which hadn’t been rinsed properly, and I swear it did something to me.”

“It should have given you courage,” Magnus said, and his voice was slightly cautious now, like he sensed he was about to hear something he wasn’t going to like.

“It gave me more than courage,” Alec snapped. “I came out to my mother. As gay. Over the phone.

Magnus looked stunned, and then the shock slid off his face to be replaced with horror. Alec felt awful for snapping, but he thought he had a right to be mad about this, even if Magnus hadn’t meant for it to happen.

“Usually it just gives you a small boost,” Magnus said, his voice quiet. “I’ve tested some myself, and it never makes you that bold. It must have had something to do with the coffee, or how long you left it for.”

“That doesn’t make this any better,” Alec said. He felt wretched again. Misery settled in his veins, viscous and heavy. “Now I have to go to a wedding full of family members, and my mother’s going to be there, and I don't know if she’s told anyone, but she knows now and I know she expects me to bring someone. Your explanation doesn’t make anything any better.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Magnus said softly. He stepped closer, one of his hands fiddling with his earring, a dainty, dark thing that looked like a vintage trinket. “I’m so very sorry. That should have been for you, and you only, to decide when to come out.”

Alec stayed silent, although he felt slightly mollified by the fact that Magnus clearly hadn’t intended for this to happen.

“I could help,” Magnus offered tentatively. He placed a hand gently on Alec’s wrist, barely there, as though he was afraid Alec might shove him out of the store.

Alec snorted, but didn’t push him away. “I think you’ve done more than enough.”

Magnus looked genuinely upset at that. “Yes, I suppose I have. But look, I’ll give you my number. If you need anything - even something as silly as a fake boyfriend, for your wedding - I’ll gladly help. I feel terrible.”

He looked terrible. Even his hair seemed to droop, and Alec deflated with a sigh. He rubbed his arms and nodded. “It’s alright. It was a long time coming, anyway.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Magnus insisted. “Maybe it was, but you should have had a choice. It should have been a decision you got to make for yourself, not something that was forced upon you because you were… tipsy on magic. Decisions made under the influence are rarely consensual, and I’m really sorry for my part in it. Anything I can do to make it up to you, I will.”

Alec gave a reluctant nod, and Magnus relaxed, looking relieved. He stepped around Alec and strode towards the counter, smiling at Clary, with Alec trailing behind him like a cat on a string.

“Good morning, Biscuit,” Magnus said, tapping the surface. Clary hastily put down her biscuit and wiped her hands on her apron. “I was wondering if I could trouble you for a piece of paper and a pen? I have a number to write down.”

“You don't have to,” Alec began, but Clary was already tearing off a piece of sketchpad paper from under the counter and handing him a charcoal pencil. Magnus raised an eyebrow at the utensil, but didn’t comment, and as he bent to scrawl his number across the paper, Alec tried admirably not to stare at his ass in those jeans.

Clary gave him a thumbs up and a grin over Magnus’s spiky hair, and Alec knew he hadn’t succeeded.

“There you are.” Magnus handed Alec his number with a flourish, his rings glinting in the bright lights above. He was dressed so elegantly, not a button out of place, and his hair had regained its usual height despite still being damp, but his eyes were still soft and guilty. “I really am very sorry.”

Alec took the paper with a raised eyebrow. “This isn’t going to give me a boost of anything, is it?”

Clary audibly thunked her head down on the counter.

“Uh, no,” Magnus said, and he looked like he wasn’t sure whether he could laugh or not. “Nothing so exciting, I’m afraid. I only deal tea-bags. Although I really wouldn’t recommend eating it, just in case.”

Alec let himself smile, a bit. Magnus threw him another apologetic look before he left the store, without buying anything. Alec had a feeling that he wouldn’t be returning anytime soon, to avoid anymore travesties, and the thought made him strangely sad.

He watched the door shut, and he waited until Magnus was nothing more than a blur in the rain-washed glass before he groaned again.

“Well, that was delightful,” Clary said. Her chin was propped up on her hand, and she was watching Alec stand there like he was a fascinating art exhibit in the museums she usually frequented. “I have to say, watching you stare after a stranger like a character from a music video has been the highlight of my week.”

Alec snorted. “I don't think I can call him a stranger after all of this.”

“No, probably not,” Clary agreed. “I’m glad he said all of that, about coming out. And I’m glad you agreed. I would have had to kick his ass if he hadn’t felt sorry, and I’m wearing my pretty heels today. Plus, I think he could take me.”

Alec thought of the size of Magnus’s arms, and privately agreed. And then he publicly agreed, quite loudly, until Clary threw the rest of her biscuit at him.

*

Alec spent the rest of the day wondering what to do about the wedding. It was this weekend, and it was for some strange cousin, or a family friend, or something, he wasn’t quite sure, but they always made such big deals out of weddings. The family wasn’t often all together, so the get-togethers that they did have were always full of nosy ‘Aunts’ and friends of friends who wanted to know about Alec’s work and life and Small Magic. And his love life, which might be common knowledge now.

If it wasn’t, and his mother hadn’t told anyone, it sure as hell would be common knowledge when he showed up with someone on his arm. He couldn’t not show up, and he couldn’t show up with nobody at his side, so he was a bit screwed.

Rain made the bus a little later than usual, and when he got home, Izzy was waiting for him. She was leaning against the kitchen counter, her arms crossed, and she looked lost in thought. She popped out of her mind when she spotted Alec, combing his fingers through his wet hair, coming through the door.

“Alec,” she said, biting her lip. “Mom called me around lunchtime. She asked me… she asked me if I knew that you were gay.”

Alec grimaced. His stomach was still a mess of writhing knots at the thought of their conversation this morning. “Yeah. I came out to her this morning. That’s a thing that happened.”

Izzy nodded, wide-eyed. “You didn’t tell me. You don't have to, of course, but I thought you would have told me you were planning to do it. I would have wanted to be here for you.”

“I didn’t plan it at all,” Alec said, and then he explained the whole mess to her while he made himself a sandwich. She listened attentively, shifting out of the way as he reached for lettuce and mayonnaise and cheese, and when he was done she caught him a hug.

“It’s tricky,” she mumbled against his jumper, heedless of the water clinging to the fabric. “I’m on your side, obviously, but it’s pretty obvious he didn’t mean to do what he did. Are you okay?”

Alec didn’t feel hungry anymore. He wrapped his arms around Izzy instead. “I’m okay. I felt sick all day, and I still feel sick if I think about it too much. I wanted it to be on my terms.”

“It should have been,” Izzy said fiercely. “I’m so sorry I didn’t double-check the mug was clean. I thought it had been rinsed, since it was on the draining board.”

“Not your fault,” Alec said, against her hair. She smelled like cinnamon, and home. “I don't think it was anyone’s fault, not even Magnus’s. I think it’s just one of those things.”

Izzy sighed and stepped back. She stole Alec’s sandwich, ripped it in half and forced the other half into his hands. He bit into it, but he couldn’t really taste it.

“Mom was really keen on you bringing someone to the wedding,” Izzy said. “She kept asking me who your partner was. She’s trying, at least, and I don't think she’s told anyone, so you might be able to get away with going alone.”

“Maybe,” Alec said. “Probably not, though. I’ll wait and see.”

“Let me know if you need me to set you up,” Izzy said, a bit of a grin back on her face. “I think I could find somebody. If worse comes to worse, we could borrow Simon. He’s coming anyway.”

Alec thought of Jace’s roommate and shuddered. Simon wasn’t bad, exactly, but he definitely wasn’t Alec’s type.

“Thanks, but I think I’m gonna say no,” Alec said, deadpan, and Izzy laughed. He offered her a small smile. “I’ll figure something out.”

“You will. I’m going to shower, and then we’re watching something trashy on the TV. No arguments.”

She blew him a kiss and headed for the bathroom, and Alec smiled as he leaned back against the counter. It had been a very, very long day, but it wasn’t over yet.

He needed a date for the wedding, and he knew where to get one, but he didn’t have a boost of courage when he picked up his phone this time. It was a long shot. Magnus had obviously been joking, when he made the comment in the store. But there was always a chance. He took a deep breath and waited until he could hear the water running in the bathroom, and then he dialled the number on the scrap of paper in his pocket.

“Magnus Bane speaking.”

“Yeah, hi. It’s Alec from the flower shop, The Watering Can. You know, the guy you drugged.” He winced, and decided to stop Magnus’s flurry of apologies with another stupid sentence. “Hey, I was wondering… how serious were you about that fake boyfriend proposition?”

Chapter Text

Car rides were incredibly awkward when there was a stranger in the midst of friends.

They waited for Magnus on the street outside Alec and Izzy’s flat, as the rain drizzled down, casting a light mist over the wet sidewalk. Simon was driving them to the wedding in his van, which Izzy had emphasised was very kind of him, considering he wasn’t invited to the actual ceremony.

Alec didn’t feel the need to be extra nice to him, though, considering Simon had told him that he had only agreed because it meant he got to laze around a fancy hotel room for the weekend.

“I’m going to eat everything in the mini-bar and work on my Avengers fanfiction,” Simon confided, bouncing eagerly on the balls of his feet, and Alec barely resisted the urge to shove him inside the mailbox they were standing beside.

Luckily, Magnus’s friend pulled up in their car, and Magnus climbed out of the passenger seat with a wave. He sauntered towards the back of the car and pulled a bag out of the trunk.

The actual wedding ceremony wasn’t until Saturday, which meant that they had a night in the hotel room, and then another night after the wedding, before they came home on Sunday evening. Alec had told Magnus over the phone to bring several sets of clothes, and the colossal suitcase he pulled out of the car proved that he had taken Alec’s advice to heart.

“Good morning,” Magnus said, smiling brightly as he walked over, wheeling the suitcase behind him.

Izzy, who was talking on the phone with Jace, whispered something before hanging up and glowering at Magnus. Magnus, to his credit, didn’t falter under the combined weight of three heavy stares. Alec wondered what it would be like to be so blatantly confident, even in the presence of strangers. He wasn’t shy by any means, but he definitely wasn’t as outgoing as Magnus seemed to be.

“So you’re the guy,” Izzy said. “I’m Isabelle, Alec’s sister.”

“Alec mentioned you,” Magnus said. “He said only nice things, and I’m glad to see they’re all true.”

Izzy smiled slowly and elbowed Alec. “Got yourself a charmer, there. I like him, despite what he accidentally did.”

“Yes, about that,” Magnus said, and grimaced slightly. It didn’t change how handsome he looked, although the tea-bag that he pulled out of his pocket and handed to Izzy somewhat dampened everyone’s enthusiasm.

“It’s Rosehip. The magic will help to combat any resentfulness, which I assume is a common thing to feel at family events,” Magnus explained, a hint of sympathy in his voice. “You don't have to drink it, obviously, considering the circumstances, but if you do, I recommend drinking it as soon as it’s brewed, and not mixing it with anything.”

He winked, and Alec coughed as Izzy pocketed the tea-bag, her lips pursed. Magnus looked apologetic again and fiddled with his earring. It was obviously a nervous habit, and Alec made a mental note to look out for it this weekend, to save Magnus from any more awkwardness.

“Well,” Simon said brightly, clapping his hands together. “This is going to be a fun weekend.”

They piled into the van. Izzy took the front seat, fiddling with the stereo despite Simon’s whines about his homemade playlist, and Alec and Magnus squeezed along the bench in the back, buckling themselves in with difficulty.

“Thank you, for doing this,” Alec said, as they started to drive. He could feel the beginnings of buds in his palms, and he was reluctant to crush them in his fists, but he didn’t want Magnus to see either. His Small Magic always went a little insane during Spring, its favourite month, and it was even worse when Alec was nervous. “I appreciate it.”

“It was the least I could do,” Magnus said. “Although I won’t deny that it’s a little odd, and I can’t say I have any experience in being a fake boyfriend.”

“Do you have experience in being a real boyfriend?” Simon asked, peering at him curiously in the rear-view mirror. “You look like the kind of person who does. Like, not in a mean way. Or a shaming way. You just look, like - too handsome not to have had a girlfriend.”

“Way to assume,” Izzy said, fiddling with her phone.

“Or a boyfriend,” Simon added, shooting Izzy a glare. “Or someone of a non-specified gender. I was getting there.

He took a sharp left turn that left Alec’s stomach rolling, and Magnus laughed, leaning into Alec with the motion of the van. He was warm and solid, and Alec caught a trace of subtle perfume, or maybe shampoo, that smelled like honey. His stomach rolled for an entirely different reason.

“I have had experience with all of those specifications, or non-specifications, as it were,” Magnus said, glancing at Alec. “None of them were fake, though.”

“Well, just act like you did then,” Simon said. Alec glared at the back of his head; it was easy for him to say. “It’s supposed to seem real, right? So just act normal.”

“Solid advice,” Alec said drily. Simon beamed at him in the mirror; he seemed to have decided that the best way to combat Alec’s sarcasm was by taking it at face value, as though it were true. It annoyed Alec to no end.

“You should try learning things about each other, like your favourite foods and allergies and what song you hate most and, like, background stuff, like where you grew up and who your childhood best friend was. And make sure you’ve got your story straight, so you know what to tell people about how you met and dated and stuff. You do have a story, don't you?”

They did not, in fact, have a story, and Simon looked extremely disappointed in their silence.

“You read too many weird stories online,” Izzy muttered, before he could continue ranting. “You’re way too intense about this. Both of you just relax, have fun, and enjoy the subtle sounds of our brother embarrassing himself on karaoke when he gets too drunk to know better.”

“Thank you for the advice,” Magnus said, with an amused look. He shot a glance at Alec, who was quietly urging the sprouting periwinkles out of his hands and down the side of the seat, where Simon likely wouldn’t find them for a week or two, when they started to smell and go mushy. “I’m sure we can figure out a basic story when we get to this... hotel, I believe you said?”

Izzy laughed. “It’s exactly as rich and pretentious as it sounds, which is why Jace is already there, enjoying the food and comfortable beds. He drove up with our parents and our other brother.”

“Jace is…?”

“Our brother,” Alec explained, as the last periwinkle snapped off. “The one who will be embarrassing himself.”

“I may have to come out of my room, if Jace is going to be singing,” Simon said gleefully, and then he swerved maniacally to avoid a pigeon, which made Izzy yell at him.

“Are you quite alright?” Magnus whispered to Alec, as Simon righted the van and kept on, staunchly ignoring Izzy’s loud cursing. Magnus rested a hand on Alec’s wrist, and Alec jumped, swivelling his head around slowly, like something out of a horror movie, to stare at him. Magnus seemed unperturbed, although he did loosen his grip a little, like he was preparing to take his hand away.

He was going to have to get used to this, Alec thought. Touch was going to be a major feature this weekend, if they wanted to make it look like they were together, although he wasn’t sure how he was going to survive if he had to do something else, like kiss Magnus.

It was just holding hands, though, for now. He took a deep breath, and thought miserably about how the first time he would ever do this with a guy would be fake, and shifted his hand, lacing their fingers together.

Magnus looked surprised. His dark eyes swam the lengths of Alec’s expression, and perhaps he sensed where Alec’s thoughts were, because he squeezed his hand and smiled warmly. Alec felt a little braver. It didn’t feel as fake as he feared it would.

He let another periwinkle grow, one last one, and as it curled around his thumb and snapped off, Alec handed it to Magnus while the other two weren’t looking. Magnus took it, obviously confused, but his answering smile only amplified the warmth Alec felt in his chest.

He settled back in his seat, still holding Magnus’s hand. He had a feeling this weekend was going to be long, strange, and full of surprises.

*

They pulled up at The Idris Hotel at roughly twelve o’clock, and by that time Alec had a headache from listening to Simon’s awful music and a cramp in his stomach from nerves. Magnus squeezed his hand again before they got out of the van, which looked awful against the backdrop of expensive, sleek cars in black, white and silver that were parked out front.

Boots crunched against the gravel of the car park as they moved to get the bags out of the trunk, only to be shooed away be several boys in ridiculous hats, who came running out of the hotel and took their luggage and their information, before bumbling off.

“I feel underdressed,” Simon said, tugging on his shirt. His converse were red and a little manky, and he shifted them awkwardly against the small beige stones until Izzy rolled her eyes and pulled him towards the front steps.

“I take it this is for the reception?” Magnus asked, as they followed along behind Simon and Izzy. The Idris Hotel was tall and grand, painted white and decorated with marble statues and the odd bit of greenery out front. Alec had been here a few times in the past; it was a favourite among the family and friends, and they usually held their special occasions there.

Alec nodded. “There’s a church for the actual wedding and the ceremony down the road, and then everyone comes back here for food and dancing and speeches. I think they planned to have the reception outside, but it’s been raining a lot, so they moved it to where everyone’s staying.”

“A spring wedding should be lovely,” Magnus said, although he was eyeing the flashy cars like they were something distasteful he had stepped in.

“My mom wants me to get married outside,” Simon said, unprompted, as he tripped up the bottom step. He caught Magnus’s questioning look and grinned proudly, jabbing a thumb at his chest. “Jewish. People don't do it as much anymore, because of the weather, but mom wants the Chuppah to be outside, you know, to honour old traditions.”

Magnus smiled kindly, but Alec was busy panicking. He had heard from Simon that some Jewish people didn’t like to attend weddings of other religions, and he hadn’t even asked Magnus if it would be a problem. He didn’t know Magnus’s religion, if he even had one.

He stopped at the main doors, waiting for Izzy and Simon to push inside, and then dragged Magnus aside by the lapel of his coat.

“My, Alec, how bold of you, stealing me away to ravish me in broad daylight,” Magnus said, speeding up a little so he didn’t trip. Alec scoffed, but his face grew hot at the thought.

“You should be so lucky,” Alec said, to cover it up.

“The luckiest man alive,” Magnus agreed, and preened when Alec ducked his head, very red in the face. They came to a stop on the corner of the walkway that ringed the Hotel, beneath a tree that had been pruned precisely to resemble some sort of elegant Greek figure.

Magnus squinted at it. “Do you think they intended to create Lady Gaga when they brought out the garden shears?”

“Probably not,” Alec said distractedly. “Look, Magnus, I forgot to ask about weddings and churches and… stuff. Religion. Like, if you have one?”

Magnus watched him, clearly amused. “So eloquent. I don't, but I appreciate the thought, even if it is a little late. If you’re opposed to me being inside the Church during the ceremony, I can always just join you at the reception instead.”

“No! No, I just didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.” He stuffed his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket. “I feel bad for asking you to come and do this.”

“And I feel bad for what I unintentionally caused,” Magnus countered. “The difference is, you asked for a favour and I said yes, whereas I gave you a tea-bag, and you acted under the influence. I promise you, if I feel uncomfortable, I’ll tell you, but you have to promise the same.”

Alec grinned, relieved. “Easy. Deal. We should probably go in and make sure everything’s okay. I think we’ll have to change clothes and then mingle for a while with whoever’s already here.”

Magnus arched an eyebrow. “I was under the impression that the wedding was tomorrow?”

Alec made a pained sound. “It is, but as you might have realised, Lightwood’s are very theatrical. It’s a weekend-long affair.”

“Well then.” Magnus held out his hand. “We better not waste any more time.”

Chapter Text

Maryse was waiting for them inside. She cut an imposing figure in a long, burgundy dress that hugged her from shoulder to shin, and her heels put her at the same height as Alec and Magnus, who walked hand-in-hand into the main reception. Izzy was beside her, talking quietly, and Simon was bothering the person behind the desk, who was growing more and more irritated by the second.

“Mom,” Alec said, steeling himself as they grew closer. Maryse was expressionless, but even that seemed judgemental coming from her.

“Alec,” she said. There was no hug, and his stomach sank. “It’s good to see you. And this must be your partner.”

To her credit, she didn’t falter, but she also didn’t sound pleased. Alec’s stomach twisted itself up in vines, and prickles grew on the back of his free wrist, like the spines of a cactus. He shook them off and they collected on the floor, little pinpricks on the white tiles.

“This is Magnus Bane,” Alec said, aiming a soft smile in Magnus’s direction. It came out slightly strained. “Magnus, this is my mother, Maryse Lightwood.”

Magnus looked a little unsure, but he covered it well with a smile and a handshake. Alec was half expecting for him to turn and sprint out of the hotel, steal the van and make a break for it, but he must have been made of sterner stuff, because he put up the charm to full whack and started talking.

Alec didn’t want to abandon him to his mother's icy glare, but Izzy was pulling him aside with one of her most placid, genteel smiles, which privately said that if Alec didn’t do as she said, he was going to be in for a world of hurt.

“What?” Alec hissed, as they drew to the side, almost bumping into Simon.

“Mom came here with someone called Luke,” Izzy hissed back. “Not dad. Apparently they’re dating. Jace was texting me about it, but I didn’t believe him until she just told me.”

Alec scrunched his nose up, confused. “Why didn’t you believe him?”

“He was calling Luke her fancy-man,” Izzy said, rolling her eyes. “What do you think?”

“I think she could afford to look a bit kinder, if she’s got a fancy-man with her,” Alec grumbled, watching as Magnus’s charm bounced off Maryse’s stone exterior. Izzy elbowed him, and he grunted.

“Alec, be serious,” she said. “What do you think?”

“I think,” Alec said, expelling a vast sigh, “that we knew this was coming. Something’s been going on with her and dad for years now, and I think they were only together for so long because of Max. But Max is a bit older now, so maybe they’ve decided to be a bit more separate after all. I think it’s a good thing, Iz.”

Izzy bit her lip, but she seemed to be thinking about it. Alec knew she was far more attached to the more original view of their family than he was, and he didn’t fault her for it. He also knew, ultimately, that Izzy would probably take mom’s side in the end. Things were just a little stiff between them sometimes.

“Alright, alright, I can see you vibrating from here,” Izzy said, as she left her thoughts alone and nudged him gently away. “I get it. Go and rescue your man.”

“He’s not my—” Alec started, and then stopped, with a sheepish look. “I mean, yeah. I’ll just, go and do that.”

Izzy aimed a despairing look at the ceiling, and then rounded on Simon’s blathering form. Alec took the opportunity to flee, although not before snatching the key-card from one of Simon’s flailing hands.

“Sorry, mom, but we better go and change,” Alec said, interrupting Magnus’s smooth voice. “We’re pretty disgusting from Simon’s van, and I don’t want to see Aunt Eldritch if I stink, because then she’ll never let me live it down.”

Maryse cracked a little, a smile bleeding through her hardened shell. Alec gave in and swept her up in a hug, although he was very careful. She hugged him back just as carefully.

“It is good to see you, Alec,” Maryse said softly, in his ear. She pulled back and patted him lightly on the shoulder, her gaze keen. “We’ll talk later.”

It was not a suggestion, and the dread that pooled in Alec’s chest was tempered only by exasperation at the fact that they were so alike, in terms of theatricality.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Mrs Lightwood,” Magnus said, and although his voice showed no hint of desperation, something in his eyes made Alec hook their arms together and make a break for the stairs, before his mom could respond.

“I consider myself a brave man, Alec, but if I may make one request of this weekend?” Magnus asked, as they bypassed the lift in favour of the stairs, just in case someone from Alec’s family cornered him inside the little box. “Please, don’t leave me alone with your mother again.”

Alec laughed a little desperately. His arm was still hooked through Magnus’s, and he could feel the warmth of Magnus seeping through his hip.

“I’m not sure I’ll have much of a choice,” Alec said, “but I’ll try my very best, I promise. I’ll stay so close you’ll get sick of the sight of me, that way they can’t corner you alone.”

Magnus huffed a laugh. “You speak as though they’re sharks. I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.”

“Only just beginning?” Alec teased, as he approached their room. It was just him and Magnus staying in the room, which came complete with a large bathroom and a mini-bar packed with snacks and drinks, according to the brochure that Izzy had shoved at Magnus during the car ride. Their luggage was already inside, waiting for them, so Alec pushed open the door with the help of the little key-card.

Magnus made a small sound of appreciation as Alec bowed him into the room. The room was light and airy, the gossamer curtains drifting in the afternoon breeze. Soft, feather-down quilts and pillows were decorated in subdued shades of cream and white, and snug yellow lights were fitted into every available surface. The place gleamed, and the cool air smelled like fresh lavender.

Magnus sat on the King-sized bed and bounced lightly on the mattress, testing the springs. There wasn’t a single squeak. Alec shut the door and leaned against it, breathing out slowly. It already felt like a very long, tiring day, and it had barely begun.

“You don’t have to worry, Alec,” Magnus said. “Your mother aside, I have an excellent track record in dazzling hapless wedding guests, especially when they’re slightly tipsy. This fake relationship is going to be so believable that they’ll be planning our wedding next.”

“Don’t say fake, someone might be listening at the walls,” Alec warned him.

“Do they have a glass pressed up against the paintwork, too?” Magnus stood and walked over to him, patting him on the chest, much to Alec’s surprise. There was nobody around to show off to, and yet Magnus didn’t seem to mind touching him.

“It will all be fine, Alec. You have your siblings beside you, and I promise I’ll do everything I can to help,” Magnus said softly. His eyes caught on the open bathroom door, and widened slightly. “Is that a claw-foot tub? My, you really do go all out, don’t you?”

Alec’s very stressed brain was busy picturing an evening in the bath, surrounded by candles and Magnus, so it was no surprise that he jumped like a Pogo stick when Magnus brushed against him on his way to investigate. He shook off the rather wet images and went, blushing, to change into something a little more appropriate, and a little less comfortable.

*

Jace found them just as they were getting ready to leave their room. He knocked on the door and opened it just as Magnus was reaching over to straighten Alec’s collar, and Alec watched Jace’s eyebrows go up and his grin grow wider, and he groaned internally.

“Jace,” Alec said, a note of warning in his tone. “Don’t be yourself. This is Magnus.”

“You look awfully cosy,” Jace observed lazily, leaning against the door with a wicked smile. His hair was artfully styled and his unbuttoned shirt looked roguishly handsome rather than scruffy, which was annoying. Alec straightened his shirt again - black, which Izzy would complain about, but it wasn’t like anyone would notice anyway with Magnus standing beside him, a vision in purple.

“Nice to meet you,” Jace added, when Alec simply glowered and Magnus looked between the two with raised eyebrows.

“Likewise,” Magnus said. “You wouldn’t mind leaving us for a moment, would you? I just have to clear a few things up with Alec.”

Jace shrugged, unbothered. “Sure. Don’t be too long though, they’re starting afternoon tea, or whatever it’s called soon.”

He loped across the room with astounding grace to give Alec a back-slapping hug, and then disappeared down the corridor.

“Alec, you do realise you can’t tense up every time someone insinuates we’re together,” Magnus said, smiling. “That is sort of the point of this whole weekend, after all, for people to assume that.”

Alec grimaced. “I know, I’m sorry.”

“Is it so terrible, pretending to date me?” Magnus teased, although Alec thought he caught a hint of disappointment in his tone. He couldn't quite tell; Magnus was a very good actor, which was supposed to work in his favour this weekend, but seemed to be tripping him up instead.

“No, it’s really not terrible. The opposite of terrible,” Alec said, emphasising the words until Magnus smiled properly again. “It’s just that I’ve never actually done this before.”

“I don’t think there are many people who’ve orchestrated a fake date to a family wedding, Alec,” Magnus said. His laughter died a little when Alec looked at the floor, scratching his nose to avoid catching Magnus’s eye. “Oh. Oh, Alec, did you mean you hadn’t dated at all before?”

Alec bristled, and started walking towards the door, but Magnus neatly stepped around him and put himself between Alec and the handle.

“Alec,” he said sternly, and Alec deflated.

“Yeah, no,” Alec said. “I haven’t dated before. Haven’t even kissed anyone. I didn’t want to be with girls, and I couldn’t be with guys, so I just haven’t been with anyone.”

Magnus stayed silent for so long that Alec started to get a little defensive.

“If that’s a problem,” he said, but Magnus shook his head.

“No, of course not,” he said soothingly. “I’m not judging you. I’m just thinking.”

Alec chewed on his lip while Magnus thought, and then he sighed.

“Look, we just have to get through the weekend. It’s not a big deal.”

“Maybe so,” Magnus said thoughtfully, “but I’m putting down ground rules. Consent is very important to me, Alec, and I don’t want you doing things simply because you think you have to, to sell this. The first rule is no kissing. On the cheek and hand is fine, but I don’t know if a first kiss is important to you or not, and you may not either, until you have one. So we’ll make this the most PG relationship possible.”

Alec laughed, but although something in him felt a little disappointed at not getting to kiss Magnus, the rest of him felt giddy with relief. He was a little bit of a romantic at heart; he at least wanted his first kiss to be real, even if it wasn’t special.

He put one hand inside his pocket and concentrated, and a miniature hydrangea wriggled free from his fingers. Alec didn’t particularly like Hydrangeas - he thought they looked like little old lady bonnets - and Magnus looked a little confused when Alec handed it to him, but it was the message behind it that mattered.

“Don’t ask,” Alec said, “but they mean heartfelt gratitude.”

Magnus took the hydrangea with a soft look. He looked quite nice, holding flowers, Alec thought, and he vowed to give him more to hold.

He meant it, the gratitude. If he was going to kiss somebody, he wanted it to mean something.

And if he was going to kiss Magnus, he wanted it to be real.

Chapter Text

Afternoon tea took place at one o’clock, in the main dining hall of The Idris Hotel. Alec held Magnus’s hand the entire time they walked down the stairs and only let go to catch Max in a hug, swinging him around when Max leapt at him. Magnus seemed far more taken with this sibling than the others, leaning down to talk to him and grinning when Max took one look at his piercings and asked if he also had tattoos.

“Only in unsavoury places,” Magnus said, with a wink at Alec. Max glanced between them, and Alec watched with amusement as he slowly came to a realisation. He watched with slightly less amusement as Max held out his fist for a bump, which Magnus graced him with, his rings pressing against Max’s small knuckles. Alec flat-out refused, putting his hands in his pockets, and Max pouted.

He looked adorable in his grey suit, although Alec would never tell him that, for fear of finding something disgusting in his bed later. Max’s hair was flat and swept to the side, although he was eyeing Magnus’s hair with a beady look, and Alec had visions of hair-gel all over Max’s expensive suit that would make Maryse shudder. At least there was no dye at the wedding, or Max might end up with indigo tips, just like Magnus. He was pretty sure that Izzy and Jace would even help.

Izzy ambled up to them in a short, floaty lilac dress and grinned at Magnus’s suit. “We match. It just goes to show who in this family has excellent taste.”

She shot a dirty look at Alec. He opened his mouth to defend his shirt - at least it was free of creases, unlike Jace’s - but he was interrupted.

“Come on, everybody inside,” Maryse said, sweeping past them in a rush of powerful arms and sleek hair.

“Do you still not know whose wedding it is?” Magnus whispered, as they were ushered into the dining hall. It was prettily set up to resemble something out of a classic book, the kind with the cloth-bound cover and yellow pages. Everything was a shade of pastel, which Alec didn’t particularly enjoy, having spent so long wearing mint green, but it looked nice enough.

“Not got a clue,” Alec said. “Some distant second-cousin, I think. Izzy was the one who had the invitation, so she probably knows. You probably won’t have to meet the bride or groom, though, and if anyone asks you can just say you’re with me, and I forgot to tell you, or something.”

Magnus rolled his eyes fondly. “Well, I wasn’t going to tell them I was with your mother, now was I?”

They began the hunt for their little place-cards. Alec kept bumping into finely-dressed relatives and studiously pretending not to hear them say his name, until Izzy waved at him from across the seat of round tables and he made a beeline for her, Magnus at his heels. Jace was there too, and Max had been relegated to the kids table, something he looked extremely unhappy about.

Magnus plucked the place-card off the gauzy tablecloth and fanned his face with it. “Alexander’s delicious plus one. How flattering.”

Alec snatched the place-card from and stared in horror at the printed text, and then at the word delicious that had been scribbled above. He narrowed his eyes at Jace, who simply raised both hands in surrender.

“It wasn’t me. Looks like you’ve got an admirer, Bane,” Jace said.

“A common occurrence. Really, Alexander, there’s no need to look so upset,” Magnus said. “Unless you disagree with the label?”

“No,” Alec said petulantly. Magnus looked far too smug at his admittance. Alec put the place-card down with a disgruntled noise and avoided Izzy’s smirk.

“Sit down,” Maryse scolded through her teeth as she breezed past, a fixed smile on her face. Izzy and Jace both rolled their eyes, and Alec was about to do the same when Magnus drifted closer.

“Allow me,” he murmured, and pulled Alec’s chair out for him. It didn’t make a horrible grating noise, like it would have if Alec had done it.

“You don't have to,” Alec protested, but he sat down, folding his napkin in his lap and trying not to let himself blush. Magnus sat down beside him, folding himself neatly into the seat like a little paper person.

Izzy and Jace exchanged a look, and Izzy immediately dropped into a low bow.

“Allow me,” she said, in a grand, deep voice, gripping hold of Jace’s chair.

“No, no,” said Jace, doffing an imaginary hat and shooing her hands away. “Allow me.

“I insist,” Izzy said, as she wrenched the chair out of his grip.

“No, I insist,” Jace said, wrenching it back.

“There is nothing wrong,” Magnus said, with great dignity, “with having good manners, something you two would apparently know nothing about.”

Alec smirked as Izzy and Jace gaped at him. Magnus ignored them, primly arranging his teaspoon in a more adequate position beside his saucer.

“Will you both sit down?” Maryse hissed, as she passed them again, and Izzy and Jace scrambled to obey.

There was a flurry of activity as people streamed in to take their places. Alec squinted at who he presumed was the bride, further up, on a larger round table, but he couldn’t tell who it was. It would have been much more helpful if she was wearing her white wedding dress, just to be sure, but apparently that was a little too much to expect just for tea.

Alec didn’t listen to the first speech, or the second. He did notice when waiters began pouring out of the double doors at the end of the room, and he noticed when a finely-patterned teapot was thrust in his face, courtesy of a harried waiter. He took it with a nod and placed it between him and Magnus. Magnus wrinkled his nose.

“Are you a tea snob?” Jace asked, watching as Magnus lifted the lid and peered inside.

“Let’s just say it’s much too dull for my tastes,” Magnus said. Alec thought of the bright colours that accompanied Magnus’s Small Magic and figured that made sense. That euphoric feeling he had gotten from his Lemon and Lime Black Tea had been unlike anything he had ever felt, and Magnus said he often had some of the tea-bags himself, to test them. Regular tea must have been a snooze, after tea that could make you brave.

“Did you bring one of your own?” Alec asked, and Magnus shook his head. “At least there’s cake, then. Or I can get you something else. I’m sure they won’t mind.”

“There’s no need, sweetheart, but thank you,” Magnus said blithely, and Alec very nearly had a fit of hysterics at the pet name. He could sense Izzy’s stare, and he cleared his throat, lifting the teapot and nearly spilling it everywhere.

“This is fun,” Izzy said, propping her chin up on her hand and grinning wickedly when Alec glared at her.

“Definitely,” Jace agreed, joining in the staring.

“Oh hell,” Alec said, but it had nothing to do with his awful, interfering brother and sister. He had just spotted Aunt Eldritch in the distance, shuffling towards them as fast as her plump, moth-eaten skirts would allow. A fastener was perched on her head, garishly green, and her lips were pursed as she zeroed in on her target.

“Incoming,” Alec warned them, and everyone, including Magnus, tensed as one.

Aunt Eldritch waddled up to their table, bringing with her the smell of old scotch and boiled sweets. She bent and pressed a big, sloppy kiss to Jace’s cheek, her crumbly lipstick staining his skin. Jace went rigid with disgust, and Alec could see his fist clench around his teaspoon, as though he was resisting the urge to wipe his face. Or perhaps stab her with it.

“Handsome as ever, boy. Lovely to see you all,” Aunt Eldritch boomed. “Alec, you’ve grown since I last saw you.”

Alec, who had reached his current towering height at the age of eighteen and hadn’t grown an inch since, scowled in her direction. He played with the sugar shaker as she harassed Jace, envisioning it flying across the room and bouncing off her wrinkly forehead.

Aunt Eldritch squinted at them from behind overly large glasses, her beady eyes taking in Magnus last, who smiled politely. “And who’s this? He looks... new.”

Alec wondered if that was the word she had wanted to use and scowled. Magnus’s polite smile took on a strained approach. Alec opened his mouth to introduce him, and found the words quite stuck in his throat, and it was only Izzy’s non-verbal urging - a kick to the shin - that made him speak up.

“This is Magnus, my partner,” Alec choked out. Magnus patted him on the hand, just out of sight.

Aunt Eldritch blinked rapidly. “Have you started a firm?”

Jace snorted so loudly that several flocks of birds took flight in Australia.

Alec gave her a stilted smile. “Not that kind of partner.”

Aunt Eldritch looked between them both for a moment, and Magnus tightened his grip on Alec’s hand. Her fastener wobbled dangerously. It wasn’t more than a few seconds later that she simply turned and faced Izzy instead, blanking them in favour of smiling down at Izzy, who looked less than impressed.

“And you, Isabelle, dear, how are you? Have you found your Small Magic yet?”

“Fine, thank you. You forgot to answer Alec, though.”

Aunt Eldritch ignored this. She made a show of looking around, as though someone might pop up out of the wood flooring. “Still no boyfriend, then? Hmm.”

She bumbled off before Izzy could answer, patting her condescendingly on the cheek as she made a muttering exit. Izzy scowled down at her tea-cup and delved into the pocket of her white blazer, producing the Rosehip tea-bag Magnus had given her.

“I think I’m going to need this,” Izzy said, ripping the packet open, and then there was a clink of a spoon against a glass, and the rest of the speeches began.

“That hair fastener of hers was ghastly,” Magnus said under his breath, stirring his tea. “Looked like something that crawled out of a bug box. Mind you, so did she.”

Jace choked on his tea, drawing several harsh looks, and Alec bit his lip against a grin. Izzy smirked against the rim of her cup, the contents a bright blue.

Alec shot Magnus a grateful look, and tuned out the speech.

Chapter Text

The evening came much earlier than Alec had been hoping, and yet not soon enough. He didn’t want to spend the night in the same bed as Magnus, but he also didn’t want to spend any more time in the presence of his family, and all their friends. He was quickly learning that they were generally the worst people on earth, and he could see the strain around Magnus’s mouth as they bid everyone an early goodnight and ascended the stairs to their floor.

He had spent most of the afternoon sequestered in a corner with Izzy, Jace, Max and Magnus, only venturing out for drinks and food. Only a few people had been brave enough to interrupt their cosy little circle, and he had fielded questions as best as he could. Nobody had been quite as upfront as Aunt Eldritch, but the manners wouldn’t last the weekend, not once the wine started to flow.

“I won’t mind if you want to back out,” Alec said, as he stepped into their room and held the door open for Magnus. Magnus shot him a tired smile and moved to take his jacket off, and Alec shut the door and locked it, sighing in the semi-silence. He could hear chatter and laughter floating up through the open window, but for the most part, the place was quiet.

“I’m not going to abandon you to the wolves now,” Magnus said. “Or did we say sharks?”

You said sharks,” Alec said, feeling strangely fond of this man he barely knew. “What are you doing?”

“I’m undressing, Alexander. This is what it looks like when someone needs to soak themselves for at least an hour. Do you think they have bath salts?”

“I expect so,” Alec said faintly, eyes wide as the shirt came off, exposing smooth skin and hard muscle. He averted his eyes when Magnus reached for his belt buckle, and crossed the room to the window, which he shut with a small bang. The curtains floated back down to earth, and Magnus hummed a tune as he disappeared into the bathroom.

Alec could hear the rumble of the pipes as they began to warm, the soft hush of water pouring from the bath taps, and the noise of bottles clattering together as Magnus rummaged through the cupboards. He felt exhausted to the bone, and he collapsed, fully-dressed, on the bed, which bounced slightly under his weight.

The sheets were cool and comfortable, and he felt himself begin to drift, one foot hanging off the mattress.

He woke abruptly when Magnus flicked water in his face. He was dressed in a bathrobe, and he looked different without his makeup, his hair flat and still damp. His eyeliner was gone, the glitter rubbed off his eyelids, but Alec could still see areas that were blotted with concealer, and he wondered if Magnus had done a fresh coat when he got out of the bath.

Alec propped himself up on his elbows and yawned. “Sorry, didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“I fell asleep in the bath,” Magnus admitted.

Alec blinked at him. “You fell asleep in a body of water.”

“Well, it was hardly a body, but when you put it like that, it does sound ridiculously stupid,” Magnus said, motioning wildly with a hand, as though he could wave away his previous foolishness. His hands were always poised, as though ready to perform magic, and Alec found it mesmerising, the way his fingers curled through the air as he spoke. He realised he was staring in silence and looked away quickly.

“So, our story,” Magnus said, folding his legs underneath him, perched near the edge of the bed. Alec propped himself up against the pillows, legs splayed carelessly, and tilted his head to show he was listening.

“I’m thinking that we met somewhere elegant, obviously. A classy place, nowhere tacky.”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to say we met at work? Where do you work, anyway? That seems like something I should know.”

“I’m a counsellor at a school,” Magnus said, smiling. “I like working with kids, but I’m not cut out to teach. I prefer to help however I can, in other ways, you know?”

Alec smiled. “Puts my job to shame.”

“Retail is a respectable career,” Magnus countered. “Anyone with that amount of patience for people gets my vote instantly. I worked for three weeks selling coffees in a Starbucks when I was a teenager, and I honestly never want to drink coffee again because of it.”

“A teenager, huh? What was that, aeons ago?” Alec teased.

Magnus mock-gasped. “Oh, I see how it is. Youths these days, with their acid-wash jeans and atrocious manners.”

“It’s words like ‘atrocious’ that make me call you old,” Alec said, grinning widely. “That, and you just have a very worldly kind of air. Like you’ve seen a lot, or done a lot, or been to a lot of places.”

Magnus shifted a little closer on the bed, getting more comfortable. “I have been to lots of places, actually. Peru was stunning, and I rather enjoyed London - I have a townhouse there, in fact, although don't ask me how I afforded it. And Paris is beautiful, of course, I love the museums there.”

Alec leaned his head back and listened. They had gotten off track, slightly, but Alec was loathe to make Magnus stop talking so freely. He seemed most comfortable like this, feet tucked under him, dressed in a bathrobe and his rings, talking fondly of his adventures with his friends.

“Ragnor quite blatantly prefers Catarina over me, and Raphael doesn’t like many people. He’s a sharp boy, and sweet, though he tries his very best not to show it. And Catarina’s adopted daughter, Madzie, is my world. The sweetest girl you’ll ever meet. I’m thinking of stealing her away soon.”

“I’m a little concerned about your job now,” Alec said. Magnus laughed softly, playing with the edge of the sheet. “Didn’t you say you wanted to work with your Small Magic?”

Magnus hummed a little. “I did, didn't I? I think I meant it more in the sense that I know my Small Magic goes to waste. Not many people want to drink tea from a stranger. If I had a… a tea-shop, or something, where people could come specifically for tea that helps them, knowing what they’re getting into, that might give me some credibility. It might mean my Small Magic doesn’t just get thrown away.”

Alec frowned. It did sound a bit upsetting. Small Magic’s were precious, which was why many people chose to keep them a secret, but some people couldn’t, and it made the value of it all rather public. Alec could imagine how he’d feel if people took one look at the flowers he’d grown from his own hands and threw them in the trash.

“How does it work? Do you wake up in the morning with pockets full of tea-bags?”

“Sometimes, actually,” Magnus said, laughing. “That was the way I found out about it. For the most part, I take a tea-bag, and I feel the emotion, or the concept, or whatever I want to imbue it with, and I pour the recollection into the paper. I imagine I could do a lot more with tea, if I tried.” 

“You must feel things strongly, to give people such a boost,” Alec mused.

“As must you, to make living things bend to your will.”

Alec nodded slowly. It was true, to an extent, but mostly the plants he grew just felt like another part of him, bits that he could afford to lose. The ones he manipulated around, once detached, felt like old friends.

“I have something for you,” Alec said quietly. He had never really done this before, not properly, not in full view of someone else. He had made things grow, like the cacti in the shop, but he hadn’t let life bloom from his skin, not with another person’s eyes on him.

He held out a hand, palm facing up, and said, “Watch.”

A tingling started in the lines on his palm. Alec felt the roots take hold, and then a stem began to grow, winding upwards, a lovely verdant green. Leaves unfolded, each one thick and waxy, littered with small veins, and then the purple flowers blossomed forth, small and sweet and frail, each petal softer than smoke.

Alec twisted his fingers, and the stem broke free with a gentle snap, and he held the sprig of lilac out to Magnus. Magnus took it, eyes filled with wonder, mouth slightly parted.

“Beautiful,” he said, staring first at the flowers, and then at Alec. “Absolutely beautiful. I knew you could manipulate flowers and plants, but I had no idea you could actually create them. That’s stunning.”

Alec found himself smiling. Magnus’s awe siphoned some of the pain from the past, took a little of the disappointment out of his father’s face.

“What do Lilacs mean?” Magnus asked, pressing the flower a little closer to himself, like he wanted to lock it away inside himself, a treasure for a bleak day.

Alec inhaled sharply. It was an ingrained part of his Small Magic, to know the language of flowers. The words came easily to his tongue, but he pushed them back and smiled, shrugging, although he didn’t feel that calm inside.

“No idea,” he said easily. Too easily. Magnus sharpened his gaze, but hummed and didn’t say anything. He simply got up and laid the flower gently on the bedside table, and Alec’s heart thudded in his chest. If Magnus woke up that way in the morning, the first thing he would see would be the Lilacs; the first thing he would see would be Alec’s first feelings of love.

*


Alec was a grown man; he could handle sleeping in a bed with another person. He had shared a bed with Jace before, and this was basically the same thing, he told himself firmly.

Except it very much wasn’t, because Jace was his brother, and Magnus was something else entirely. Partly a stranger, and partly a friend, and partly something more. So many parts that made up the length of man stretched across the bed beside Alec, warm and solid and so very plainly there, in a way that he couldn’t ignore.

Magnus didn’t seem to be having the same problem as Alec did. He offered to put a pillow between them, jokingly, and Alec shook his head mutely and settled down. The lamp on Magnus’s side stayed on a little longer, illuminating a dark halo of hair against the snow-soft headboard, as he leaned back and read. Alec kept himself stiff and still on his own side, a rigid board, until Magnus coughed a laugh.

“Alexander, you look like you’re in a hospital bed,” he said. He put his book down in his lap with a flurry of papery shushes, and reached over to poke Alec gently in the stomach. Alec grunted, shifting onto his side. “Better, but not perfect, which I’m sure is a first for you.”

He was teasing, but Alec felt his cheeks grow warm anyway.

“Is it because I’m a stranger?” Magnus asked, a curious lilt to his voice. “Are you uncomfortable?”

Alec wanted to tell him that it was because Magnus didn’t feel like a stranger at all. He was too comfortable, and he wanted to be closer, and that thought made him want to get as far away as possible. It was a complicated set of thoughts running through Alec’s mind.

“No,” he said, cautiously, trying not to give too much away. “I’m just not used to having someone else in the bed with me.”

He cringed. That sounded exceptionally lonely and sad, now that he thought about it, but Magnus didn’t comment. He just tapped his fingers against his book, his silver painted nails clicking slightly against the glossy cover.

“Perhaps we could talk, until you fall asleep,” Magnus suggested. “It might be a good idea, anyway, so we can get to know each other a little more. Your friend seemed pretty keen on us learning things about each other.”

Alec groaned. “Please, don't talk about Simon when I’m in bed. That’s the last thing I need before I go to sleep.”

“Alexander!” Magnus chided, but he was laughing. Alec grinned sleepily into his pillow.

“Favourite food?” Alec asked, apropos of nothing. Magnus took it in his stride, looking amused.

“Lontong Sayur,” Magnus said, with a small, pleased sound. “Although that’s mostly because of the krupuk that comes on top. It’s delicious, you should try it one day.”

“You’ll have to cook it for me, because I have no idea what any of those words mean, and I wouldn’t want to butcher your favourite meal,” Alec said, and then he promised Magnus that he would look it up.

“If it helps, I’m also partial to noodles straight out of the pan,” Magnus said, laughing.

“That’s much more my style,” Alec agreed. “Favourite colour?”

“I’m becoming partial to lilac,” Magnus said, with a glance at the bedside table that left Alec flushing. “But I would have said blue, before. Any shade of blue, but particularly indigo. And you didn’t tell me your favourite food.”

“Because it’s embarrassing to say that I like bread when you had a proper answer,” Alec explained, setting off a wave of chuckles from the other side of the bed. “And my favourite colour is green.”

“I would have thought it was black.”

Alec reached out and lazily swatted Magnus’s leg, his eyes closed. Another wave of chuckles made him grin, and he tucked himself further into the bed. Sleep had come on suddenly, out of nowhere, and he bit back a yawn as he asked, “What are you reading?”

“Don't laugh,” Magnus warned him. “It’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“The third one’s the best one,” Alec murmured, and an outraged noise filtered through his semi-conscious state.

“I’m going to prove you wrong, Alexander Lightwood,” Magnus said, and Alec heard the ruffle of pages as he went back to the beginning, and then the slow, steady thump of syllables taking flight through the air as Magnus started to read.

It only took a few pages, read aloud in Magnus’s soothing voice, before Alec dropped off to sleep, and when he did, he dreamed of purple flowers caught between silver-painted fingers, and kisses that tasted like spring.

Chapter Text

They agreed that their first meeting had been at a book fair. It had been a rare, warm day. Magnus had bought a worn, pink and yellow copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Alec hadn’t bought anything, so entranced by Magnus’s stunningly good looks that he forgot what he was there for.

“I think that’s a bit much,” Alec said, deadpan, as he got dressed the next morning.

“I think it’s perfect,” Magnus said, grinning as he brandished the iron he had found in the closet. He was painstakingly ridding his shirt of creases, despite having hung it up the night before. “Very in character. I was wearing my favourite velvet suit jacket, and you were in your usual… attire.”

“Nobody’s going to ask what we’re wearing, Magnus,” Alec said, exasperated. “And what’s wrong with my clothes?”

“Nothing, darling,” Magnus said, oblivious to the way Alec’s heart seized in his chest. He had no idea he had a thing for nicknames, but apparently he did, or maybe it was just that Magnus was the one saying them.

“How long ago did we meet?” Alec asked, as he fiddled with his tie. He was trying not to watch as Magnus slid his tee off and put his arms into his crisp blue shirt, but his eyes kept drifting sideways, despite his guilt.

“I’d say a few months ago,” Magnus said. “Do you think this is a bit much, for a spring wedding?”

Alec looked properly, now that he had permission to. Magnus spread his arms and did a slow turn, the necklaces resting against his chest jangling slightly as they collided. An elegant, soft blue jacket was draped over his shoulders, not quite hiding the grey waistcoat wrapped around him, or the fine, swirling patterns on his shirt. He looked stunning, and Alec stared for a little longer than was appropriate, eyes dipping down to admire his legs and the design on his shoes.

“Well?” Magnus said, but there was a slight smirk on his face that said he already knew Alec’s answer.

Alec narrowed his eyes. “I’m not answering you. Come here, though.”

He held out his hand, and Magnus looked delighted. Alec concentrated hard, this time, to make the flower do what he wanted, and a miniature blue calla lily blossomed forth, so small that it was hardly noticeable.

“I know you’re not supposed to wear buttonholes anymore unless they’re given out, but I thought you might like to keep this with you anyway,” Alec said. A calla lily meant magnificent beauty, and although it should have been white to truly symbolise it, Alec knew he was still moving too much, too fast. Despite that, he wanted something that spoke the depth of the possibilities in front of them, even if Magnus never found out what they meant. Even if he went away at the end of this weekend and never spoke to Alec again.

The thought made Alec’s mouth turn down and his stomach twist, but luckily Magnus was busy taking the flower.

“Astounding,” he murmured, his face all lit up, and Alec smiled as he watched Magnus tuck the calla lily carefully behind his ear. “You even made it blue.”

Alec put a hand in his pocket and shrugged. “It’s nothing.”

Magnus surprised Alec then. He stole Alec’s breath by placing one hand gently on his arm and sliding it up to his neck, where he cupped Alec’s face and pressed a quick kiss to the cheekbone, lips like velvet. Alec swallowed as Magnus turned away, as though the action meant nothing, but there was nobody here to see it, which meant it had to mean something. It had to be real.

*

If Alec had picked up a postcard in a small countryside shop in England, he might have seen a Church just like this one painted on the front. It was nestled cosily in a blanket of green grass, dotted with shrubbery and little white flowers. A graveyard could be seen further up the hill, but all the focus was on the honeysuckle scent in the air and the rose-covered archway that lead into the Church itself.

Alec wound his way through the sea of people mingling and murmuring. Magnus kept close behind him, although he kept slowing down to arch an eyebrow at a particularly bright hat, or lurid gown. The Church doors were open, and the inside was a little darker than the pale day outside, although it was lit with hundreds of candles, cloistered away in glass jars along the aisle and window sills.

“Alec! Magnus!” Max called, from the middle of one of the pews. He was tugging on his shirt collar, and Alec shot a look at Magnus when he spotted the way his hair was spiked up at the front. Magnus didn’t bother to hide a smile, but he did lace a hand with Alec’s and strutted down the aisle, slipping into the pew beside Max.

“You look handsome,” Alec said, smirking. He reached out a hand to ruffle Max’s hair, and Max slapped it away, scowling.

“Don't, this took me hours, and I don't need you ruining my look.”

Magnus made a sound that Alec couldn’t describe; almost a titter, and almost the sound an elderly woman would make if she saw a puppy perform a trick. He side-eyed Magnus, who pretended to be examining a hymn book poking out of the top of the pew in front of them. Alec rolled his eyes and turned back to face Max.

“Where’s everyone else?” Alec asked, re-arranging Max’s shirt collar so that he looked a little less bedraggled. Max bore it with stoic grace. “I couldn’t find Izzy or Jace at the hotel, and Simon was still asleep, so I couldn’t ask. Mom’s not here either.”

“Mom was with her fancy-man, but then she got called away to help with Auntie… uh, thingy’s, wedding makeup.”

“Do neither of you know who’s getting married today?” Magnus demanded. Alec and Max shot him identical sheepish looks, and he rolled his eyes, muttering under his breath as he turned to survey the people coming in through the Church doors.

Alec was about to ask after Jace and Izzy again when they both came rushing down the aisle and skidded to a halt beside the pew, hardly out of breath and grinning widely.

“We caught Mom with Luke, all cosy,” Izzy explained, before Alec could ask. Max made a disgusted face, and Izzy blew a kiss at him. “Just kissing, Max-ie, don't act like such a teenager. Your hair looks spectacular, by the way.”

Max tugged on his collar again and looked away, scowling and red-cheeked. Jace caught Alec’s eye over his head and grinned, before dropping into the seat, one leg crossed at the knee over the other, arms spread out over the backs of the seat like he owned the place.

“We need pictures,” Izzy chirped, pulling out her phone. Alec cringed back into Magnus and almost jumped at the arm that crept around his waist, steadying him. Magnus didn’t move away, so Alec relaxed into the hold, studiously avoiding Izzy’s phone, which was pointed mercilessly in their direction.

“Come on, Alexander, with a face like that you can’t possibly justify being camera-shy. It deprives the world,” Magnus said, squeezing his hip. Alec leant back hard enough that he crushed Magnus’s arm slightly, and Magnus pinched him in retaliation. It was all very mature.

“One picture, and then I’ll leave you alone,” Izzy promised, narrowing her eyes at Alec, and then at Max, who was halfway out of his seat. He sat back down with a grudging sigh, and Alec patted his shoulder in commiseration.

Alec sighed, and then smiled for the camera. The smile became a little more real when Magnus tucked himself against Alec, his other arm joining the first, and he heard Izzy snap another few pictures while he turned to look at Magnus, but he paid it no mind.

“Isabelle, Jace,” Maryse said, her heels clacking against the floor as she stormed towards them. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

There was a man behind her, a man that Alec knew. He squinted at him, trying to work out how.

“Everything alright, sweetheart?” Magnus murmured. Alec nodded distractedly, half of him concerned with the heat of Magnus against him, and half of his mind taken up with the fact that his mom’s fancy-man, Luke, was the same Luke that often picked up Clary from The Watering Can, the one Clary had introduced as her ‘as good as a dad.’

He waved, and Maryse cut herself off when Luke grinned at him, startled but pleased, and reached around her to shake Alec’s hand.

“Alec, it’s good to see you.”

“Hey, Luke. I didn’t realise it was you, or I would have said hello before.”

“Lucian?” Maryse asked, looking a little out of her comfort zone. Alec could sense the weight of Izzy and Jace’s stare on the back of his neck, and he rolled his eyes at their surprise. It wasn’t that big of a deal.

“Alec works with Clary,” Luke clarified. And then he caught everyone else’s gaze on him and clarified again, “She’s my daughter. I’ve met Alec a few times when I picked Clary up from work, but I never made the connection. I always heard you call him Alexander.”

Alec watched as Luke smiled at Maryse, a big, soft smile that his mom seemed to melt at. Max mimed retching, to which Jace cuffed him gently over the head.

“We should probably sit down,” Maryse said, sounding slightly flustered. Alec knew he was outright staring, but he felt it was justified, since he had never seen his mom get flustered before. Her eyes drifted back to them and landed on Magnus’s arm, which was still around Alec’s waist, and Alec tensed.

Maryse opened her mouth, like she was thinking of saying something, but apparently thought better of it. Her mouth snapped shut and she lead Luke away without further comment, to the front of the Church, where she and Aunt Eldritch began a rapid-fire discussion.

“He seemed alright,” Jace said, steamrolling over the awkward moment. “Stopped worrying yet, Iz?”

Izzy scowled at him, and they began bickering, Max piping up every now and again. Alec tuned them out, a skill he had honed over the years.

“Clary was the redhead in The Watering Can that day, I assume?” Magnus said. He hadn’t slipped his arm away, which Alec found himself grateful for. “The one with the sketchpad?”

“You could have said ‘the one with crumbs all over her,’” Alec said. “She’s not here to mind.”

Magnus shot him a reproachful look, which Alec ignored. His relationship with Clary was a complicated one that he didn't pretend to understand himself. He would absolutely take a bullet for her, but he would also like to water her until she grew some sense, sometimes.

“The one with the sketchpad?” Magnus repeated, a fond spark in his eyes.

“Yeah, that was her. She’s only ever said nice things about Luke, practically raved about him, so I’m not too worried.”

“He seemed lovely,” Magnus said quietly, as everyone settled into their seats. They were shuffled along by a chattering couple that Alec didn’t recognise, until all of them were bunched up uncomfortably in the seats. Magnus was practically in his lap, although Alec couldn’t say he minded. The couple stared curiously at Magnus, and then went back to their conversation, although Alec could see their eyes flicking back to them.

Music began to swell in the far corner, the soft sounds of a hand-picked playlist echoing off the cool stone walls. The groom stood up at the far end, trembling with nerves, and Alec rose with the rest of the crowd as everyone grew quiet. Magnus let his arm drop away, but their hands brushed as they leaned close together to compensate.

The Church doors were wide open, and the procession began. A small child in pale pink tripped up the aisle, throwing petals haphazardly at the floor, and everyone cooed. There was a hush as the bridesmaids filtered in, and then the bride appeared as the music reached a crescendo, a vision in white, clutching bridal roses. Happy love, they meant.

She reached the end of the aisle and the veil was lifted gently, to reveal a head of dark curls and a smiling face.

“Do you know who it is now?” Magnus whispered.

Alec blinked at the bride, and then sighed. “No idea.”

*

Alec found himself cornered in the Churchyard. Magnus had been spirited away by Max, who wanted to show him something, and Izzy was off conversing with several of the bridesmaids. She outshone them, in Alec’s opinion, in her floral dress and tall heels, but Izzy outshone everyone when it came to what Alec thought.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Jace said, clapping Alec on the shoulder before making a beeline towards a pretty blonde guest. Alec rolled his eyes and waved him away, and suddenly found himself surrounded on all sides by three ‘Aunts.’ Or, as Alec liked to put it, friends of the family who had taken up the position of Aunt so they had something to brag about, presumably.

“Alec, you look lovely today,” said Aunt One, Julie or something, with big hair and overly glossy lips. Her eyes gleamed as she fixed them on Alec, who instantly felt the urge to scowl and pushed it back. It would only encourage them. “I was just saying to Jessie that you it’s been a while since we saw you, wasn’t I Jessie?”

Aunt Two, Jessie, flattened her mouth into a sticky smile. “Indeed you were. And it’s so nice to see you finally brought someone along with you to one of these little gatherings. Who was that, by the way? A friend? Someone from work?”

Alec failed to see why he would bring someone from work along to a family wedding, but he shook it off and smiled back, equally as fake.

“My partner, actually. His name’s Magnus.”

Aunt Three looked completely bored with the whole thing, but the other two let out shocked gasps, as though confronted with the very first invention of the whoopee cushion during an upper-class charity tea.

“A partner?” Aunt One and Two exchanged looks, and then Aunt One said, in a hushed voice, “As in… an intimate partner?”

“We’re together,” Alec said flatly.

“Together as in…?”

Alec didn’t know how else to put it. Well, he did, but some of those ways were crude and born of anger, but he felt they would be justified right about now.

“We’re romantically involved,” Alec said, deadpan. “We’re together. Boyfriend and boyfriend. Significant Others. Lovers. Fu--”

“Alexander,” Magnus said, appearing at his side with a dazzling smile and slipping an arm around his waist. “I lost you for a moment, darling.”

Aunt Three snorted, and arched an eyebrow when Aunt Two glared at her, before wandering off. Aunt Two pasted on a simpering look as she faced Magnus, who continued to smile serenely, like some kind of angel sent from heaven to stop Alec from scandalising several nosy women.

“Apologies, madam, I don't have the pleasure of knowing your name,” Magnus said. Alec smirked at the ground, watching as Aunt One and Aunt Two introduced themselves before tottering off, casting glances over their shoulders and whispering together. There were more than a few glances thrown their way, but Alec ignored them in favour of turning in Magnus’s hold to face him.

“Were you about to tell three women what we supposedly get up to in the bedroom?” Magnus inquired, a hint of glee in his eyes. The blue calla lily had shifted a little behind his ear, and Alec reached up to tuck it back into place. He brushed his hand down Magnus’s cheek and watched as Magnus leaned into the touch. They were standing very close together.

“Possibly,” Alec said. “I didn’t like that they wouldn’t believe me about you, like there had to be another reason why you were here that didn’t include us dating. They wouldn’t stop asking about you, but they wouldn’t take yes for an answer.”

“Perhaps I should get one of those little labels,” Magnus suggested, although his face was soft with sympathy and understanding. “One that says ‘Property of Alexander’ on it. Although I’ve always found those distasteful, so I’m afraid you’ll have to wear my name on the back of your jacket, to even things out.”

Alec snorted a laugh. He could think of worse things.

A flurry of white confetti biffed him in the face, buffeted by the cool breeze, and he coughed and sputtered his way back until he was a few feet apart from Magnus. Magnus put a hand over his mouth to hide his mirth, and Jace preened proudly. Max gave a little cheer from beside their brother, who took a deep bow, confetti still clenched in his fists.

“You were looking far too comfortable there,” Jace explained, as Alec snarled wordlessly in his direction. “It’s a wedding. Everyone who’s not the bride or groom is supposed to be in total agony.”

Chapter Text

The meal was a little dry and bland, but dessert was delicious. Dozens of hand-crafted miniature cakes and pastries were escorted to the little round tables on fragile, floral cake-stands. Max had snuck away from the kid table to join them and kept trying to pinch the cakes off the top tier, despite having eaten most of the ones on the bottom.

Magnus polished off precisely one cake and a pot of his own tea, which apparently didn’t do anything except taste better than most teas. Alec wasn’t keen to try it, but despite everything, he trusted Magnus, and he wanted to show that. He had a few sips and hummed.

“Not bad, considering I don’t drink much tea,” Alec said. “You should definitely open up that tea shop you were talking about.”

Magnus smiled at him, delighted, and poured another cup for himself. They spent most of the speeches alternating between whispering together and blessing the best man with a few half-hearted laughs. His jokes were drier than the chicken they had just eaten.

They were shooed outside at six o’clock, so that the room could be prepared for the evening affair.

“There’s usually dancing and karaoke,” Jace said, sounding unusually excited. Alec wondered which ridiculously inappropriate song he had requested for the karaoke that would inevitably get him sent away early. Magnus aimed a look with Alec that said if he wasn’t away from here when karaoke started, there was going to be hell to pay. Alec winced in return. They would have to hang around this time, after going to bed early the night before.

There would be no escaping his various ‘Aunts’ and ‘cousins’ and ‘Uncles’ tonight, and he was going to have to drag Magnus along behind him the whole time.

Magnus really was going to be sick of the sight of him.

Fairy lights shaped like lightbulbs were strung from the trees outside, illuminated faintly with the same orange glow as the sunset behind them. Max was collapsed on the grass, probably staining his suit and evidently not caring at all, and Izzy had brought a chair out to sit on and was tapping away at something on her phone.

“They’re having the first dance soon,” Izzy said, waving them over. “I don't really want to go back in there though. Everyone keeps asking me about my non-existent love-life and my lack of a real job.”

Alec grimaced, unbuttoning his jacket. “We can watch the dance through the glass.”

“Does this mean we won’t be slow-dancing the night away?” Magnus asked. Alec lay his jacket down on the grass, and he and Magnus squished themselves onto the thin square of material with difficulty.

“With any luck,” Alec said. The thought of dancing with Magnus sent a little thrill of anticipation down his spine. Buds bloomed along his knuckles, and he let them peel away and scatter on the ground, settling amongst the grass. Lavender, for enchantment.

“All my little plans and schemes…”

The slow song drifted through the open glass doors of the re-made dining hall. He craned his neck to see the bride and groom spinning slowly across the smooth floor, the hem of the white gown sweeping the ground in slow strokes. Alec didn’t recognise the song, but Magnus hummed along, bobbing his head gently as he twisted three blades of grass into a braid. White camellia’s found their way out of Alec’s skin, and he grinned; they meant, quite simply, you’re adorable.

“You have to dance,” Max said, levering himself up off the ground with a pout. His hair had grown flat as the day wore on, his shirt rumpled and untucked. “You and Magnus have to dance. All the couples dance at weddings, and I want to see Alec do the dad-dance.”

Alec scowled at him. “I do not dance like a dad.”

“You do at weddings,” Izzy said, smirking as she put her phone away. “Max is right, though, you two should dance. Come along, boys. While the song’s still young.”

Alec thought for a minute, and then he sighed. They weren’t going to let it go.

“I’m not going inside.”

Izzy made a noise of victory, and Max fist-pumped. Magnus watched them with a small grin, and then he glanced at Alec and quirked one eyebrow in question.

Are you sure?

Alec nodded. He was sure.

Magnus stood without further hesitation, brushing off his trousers and discarding the twisted grass. He held a hand out to Alec, who flushed and took it, standing too. They stood in silence for a moment, a little ways apart, and then Magnus made an amused sound and arranged their hands.

Alec’s hand found the crease of Magnus’s waist. He rested it there as lightly as possible, and then looked down at their feet, which were so close that they were almost tangled together. He stepped back a little, and Magnus slid his hand up Alec’s arm to his neck again, cupping the back of it so he was pressed close together.

Alec took a step, and then they were dancing.

He could see Izzy and Max dancing beside them, giggling occasionally, but most of his attention was take up by Magnus. He smelled of bath salts, and he felt warm beneath Alec’s hands, and Alec wanted desperately to lean in and kiss him, properly, not a kiss to the cheek or hand, but a real, true kiss.

“Hey, Alec.”

Alec turned his head mid-step to see three men he vaguely recognised lingering near the stone steps. The one that had spoken was shifting his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot, scratching his nose, and Alec’s stomach sank at the sight of him. Dave, his name was, Alec thought, and he was a friend of Alec’s dad, although he couldn’t be sure.

There was a beer in his hand, half-full, and Alec kept that in mind as he gently de-tangled himself from Magnus and walked towards him. He kept his chin tipped up, a fierce expression on his face. Dave looked even more uncomfortable as Alec drew closer.

“Something wrong?” Alec asked.

“Well, yeah, a bit,” Dave said, his eyes flicking to somewhere behind Alec, where Magnus stood. “Look, it’s not like we’ve got a problem with it, yeah? What you do behind closed doors is all fine and good, but there’s no need for you to rub it in our faces, you get me?”

“No, I don't ‘get you,’ sorry,” Alec said flatly.

Anger flickered momentarily across Dave’s face, but it was gone again within a few moments. Alec didn’t think he would start anything, not at a wedding in front of the rest of the family, and now when Alec was a lot bigger than he was, but the man had half a beer in him and an opinion.

“It’s just the kind of thing that we don't want to see when we’re trying to enjoy a Wedding,” Dave said, jerking a thumb at his mates and sloshing his beer over the glass. “It’s s’posed to be a nice occasion, right?”

Magnus came up behind Alec, but didn’t interrupt. He did place a hand on Alec’s shoulder in a show of solidarity, and Alec was grateful for the touch, even though Dave’s eyes lingered on it. His friends began to mutter behind him.

“Not trying to start anything,” Dave said, with a vaguely ill expression. “We just want to have a nice time, too, yeah, without you guys… doing things.”

“I believe the term you’re looking for is dancing, sir,” Magnus said, with a bright, fake smile. “Nothing untoward about that, is there?”

“That’s not it,” Dave protested. “I’m allowed to have an opinion, aren’t I? I’m just voicing it, that’s all.”

Magnus cut him off before he could continue squawking.

“If you’re going to be homophobic, at least have the decency to admit what you’re doing,” Magnus said, in a scathing tone that made Alec wince, even though it wasn’t aimed at him. “It’s not you voicing an opinion, it’s you being uncomfortable in the presence of something that isn’t straight. That’s homophobia. You may not like the label, but I don't particularly like your disgust, so I suppose we’ll both have to make do, won’t we?”

Dave went rigid and pale, and didn’t respond. He shot a sullen look at his friends, and then mumbled something inaudible.

“That’s what I thought. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Magnus said, and he touched Alec lightly on the arm before making a swift exit. Alec watched him disappear up the steps and through the crowds of people, and wondered whether he should go after him, not caring about the fact that Dave and his friends had finally cleared off, scurrying away in the opposite direction with their tails between their legs.

He decided against following Magnus when he caught Izzy’s eye. She shook her head, and he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He would give Magnus some time alone, and then he would go and find him later on, offer some comfort and sympathy. Perhaps an apology, for dragging him to an event packed with offensive, homophobic idiots.

Chapter Text

Evening had fallen, bringing with it the sweet scents of honeysuckle and a fresh burst of rain, although that had quickly dried out. The conservatory of the second dining hall opened up onto several acres of freshly-mown grass, and the first few feet of land had been studded with egg-shell shaped love-seats. Alec bypassed those as he crossed the wet grass in search of Magnus.

A wooden swing stood at the back of the hotel, book-ended by more glass jars stuffed with candlelight. Magnus was deep in thought in the centre of it, swinging slowly back and forth. His shoes gleamed on the ground, lost things abandoned on the shores of Neverland, and his socked toes just barely grazed the tips of the blades of grass.

He seemed so lost in his own mind that Alec thought he’d have to cough to get his attention, but Magnus flicked his gaze towards him and aimed a tired, honest smile in his direction before shuffling over on the seat.

“I’d say sorry, but I’m not sure that would help,” Alec said quietly, as he nestled into the seat beside Magnus. The wood creaked lowly beneath his weight, and they swung a little heavier than before. “I’m sorry anyway. I know you didn’t sign up for this, and nobody should have to deal with idiots like that."

“I was more worried about you," Magnus said, another smile gracing his features. "Honestly, Alexander, I’ve grown used to it. I’ve been out and proud since I was a teenager, but I can say that although it gets better, it doesn’t necessarily get any less tiring, hearing all the world has to say to you. Everyone has an opinion, after all, although I’m not sure why we need to hear it if it’s a harmful one.”

“I’ve only been doing this openly for a few days now, and it’s already exhausting,” Alec said. He found one of Magnus’s hands in the dark and wrapped tentative fingers around his knuckles, feeling the bump of each ring. He didn't think he imagined the small intake of breath beside him.

“One large attack is a little easier to deal with,” Magnus said, and Alec knew he was speaking from experience. He felt abruptly angry at the world, for putting someone so compassionate through any type of pain. “It’s the little comments, the looks, the leaning away from me as though I might be contagious - all of it adds up, and it - it just makes you feel small inside.”

“You are not small inside,” Alec said firmly, turning to face him. He was mostly in shadow, candlelight sending amber flickers across his skin. “You’re larger than life, Magnus. You’re so much bigger than all of those people inside. You’re more than they are.”

Magnus looked touched, his eyes warm.

“That’s very kind of you, Alexander,” Magnus said, patting his leg with their joined hands. “Most days I even agree with you. It’s just...”

“I get it,” Alec said. “It’s been a long weekend, and it’s not even over yet. Look, I guilted you into this when I asked you to come with me, but I’ll leave with you right now if you like. Simon can drive us home, or I’ll get us a lift somehow. We don't have to stay.”

Magnus chuckled, but it wasn’t his usual happy noise. It was a softer sound, made for twilight.

“I’ll stay, if only for the breakfast you promised me,” Magnus said, with a wink. “Although I might go back to our room, if you’ve had enough for tonight? I can always stay down here with you, if you prefer…”

“No, no,” Alec said, and then he hesitated. “Do you mind if I join you?”

Magnus looked as though he was about to protest, glancing at the guests in the distance, but Alec didn’t want him worrying about that. He tried to recall that euphoric feeling from his kitchen, the tang of citrus on his tongue, but he came up blank. All he felt was fear, but he decided to be brave anyway.

“The only reason this weekend’s been bearable is because I’ve had you with me,” Alec said, his voice growing quieter to match the chill of the evening. “I don't really want to spend any more time with that lot than I have to, and I’d rather spend the rest of it with you, if you’ll have me.”

Magnus looked so stunned that Alec began to panic internally, wondering if he’d said something wrong, or perhaps too much. And then Magnus lifted their hands and turned them, so he could press a lingering kiss to Alec’s palm, and his heart stopped in his chest.

He stood hurriedly to cover up the way his pulse was thumping erratically, and held out a hand.

“Bed?” Alec asked, and then blushed at his blunt wording.

“I’d say ‘how forward of you’ but considering we’ve already slept together, that seems a little pointless, doesn’t it?” Magnus said slyly, looking highly amused. Alec didn’t really care that it was at his expense, if it wiped the upset expression from Magnus’s face.

Magnus slipped his shoes back on and took Alec’s hand. They strolled slowly through the lush grass, slipping slightly on the mud and laughing in hushed tones, until they reached the little walkway that ringed the hotel. They stepped onto it and followed it around to avoid the crowds inside the dining hall, and it was as they rounded the corner near the front of the Hotel that Alec spotted his mom, perched on the railing up ahead, beneath the tree shaped like Lady Gaga.

“Mom, are you okay?” Alec asked, as they stepped towards her. Maryse turned to look at them, and her eyebrows rose as she saw their linked hands, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she patted the empty space beside her on the railing.

Alec caught Magnus’s eye and nodded, and he pressed another kiss to Alec’s cheek before ducking past Maryse with a polite nod. Maryse watched him go thoughtfully, the barest of frowns on her face. Alec lowered himself cautiously into the space beside her while he waited for her to speak.

“He seems like a good man,” she said, after a moment. “He hasn’t buckled under our family’s blatant interrogations.”

“Homophobia,” Alec corrected her. “The phrase you’re looking for is blatant homophobia.”

Maryse looked stunned at the accusation, but then her face creased with guilt and regret. Alec stared at her in surprise. He had expected outrage and defensiveness. He thought the world of his mother, although they didn’t always see eye to eye on everything, but he had never really seen her look truly guilty.

“I suppose it is,” she said softly. “I suppose I also owe you an apology.”

Alec hesitated, and then made a little gesture with his hands, urging her to continue.

“I won’t pretend to understand,” she said, looking at him keenly. “I also won’t pretend that I’ve tried, even a little, to understand, and I’m sorry for that. I’ll do my best in the future, to be more kind, to think. I won’t treat Magnus any differently than I would if you’d brought a girlfriend home, which is to say that I still won’t think he’s good enough for you, but any bad feelings won’t be because of who he is, but how he treats you.”

She laid a hand on his cheek and then stroked his hair gently. The touch was almost more surprising than the words.

“He treats me well, mom,” Alec promised her. He felt a little giddy, a little light-headed; never in his wildest dreams did he picture actually talking to his mom about this. He thought it would always be a secret, and that if he did come out, it would always be treated like a secret.

“I feel a little like I’ve failed you,” Maryse admitted. “I promise to do better, in the future.”

“How much wine have you had?” Alec asked, teasing, although his heart was a bruise in his chest, prodded into aching.

“Lucian’s just gone to get us more champagne,” Maryse said. “So not enough, apparently.”

Alec wrinkled his nose. “On that note, I’ll be going.”

He got up just in time to spot Luke coming out of the Hotel, two flutes of champagne held aloft as he dodged incoming missiles in the form of tipsy guests. Alec patted his mom’s hand before leaving, and just before he was out of earshot, Maryse called out to him.

“Alec? I’m very proud of you,” Maryse said softly, and Alec mumbled a thank you as he darted off, feeling awkward and lighter than air and pleased as punch. The euphoric feeling carried him up the stairs and outside their room, which Magnus had let himself into with his key-card. He listened, but he couldn’t hear any sound from inside.

Quiet was perfect for what he had in mind. He let mossy roses sprout from his wrist, watching as they curled into a bouquet. He gripped it and opened the door with a quiet hiss.

Maybe it was too soon. Maybe a few days wasn’t enough to know you liked someone, let alone loved them, but Alec’s feelings were so strong that he knew the road lead to love, if he wasn’t at the end of it already. He didn’t think it was too soon to ask for a date, at least. A real one, not something that served as a slight of hand in front of a curious crowd.

He took a deep breath, nerves jangling, and stepped inside the darkened room. It took a few moments before his roaming eyes spotted Magnus, and when he did, the mossy roses wilted in his hands.

Magnus was asleep. He had tucked himself under the blankets haphazardly and was sleeping soundly, one arm thrown over his head and the other tangled in the sheets. Alec felt all the excitement, the giddiness, the courage, leave him in a rush that left him swaying slightly.

Maybe Magnus had just been really tired. Maybe Alec hadn't imagined the tension between them, the inevitability in the air that felt like they were crashing towards something that simply had to happen. But then again, maybe he was seeing what he wanted to see. Maybe Magnus hadn’t felt the same things Alec had, and he had gone to bed to spare him the awkwardness of making a fool out of himself.

Alec glanced down at the roses; covered in moss, they meant confessions of love. He felt a little stupid now, and he let them wither until they were dust that he moved to flush down the drain in the bathroom.

His heart felt bruised again.