“Hold my beer,” Magnus says suddenly.
Alec is suddenly holding an extra beer.
“Uh,” he starts to say, but Magus is already sweeping out the door into the street outside.
He leaves the faint scent of iron filings and an ether of static behind him and it’s not until Magnus dashes across the street through light traffic that Alec connects a few things. He’d been kind of distracted with looking at Magnus, which was understandable, because looking at Magnus is his favorite pastime and Magnus was doing that thing where he absently runs his thumb along the shell of his ear while he talks. A thing that Alec should be less enamored of but is not.
Alec follows the figure of his boyfriend, who cuts rather boldly between two men and a young woman arguing on the sidewalk. He’s looped his arm around the woman’s waist. He’s smiling. It’s one of those smiles that’s not really a smile because Magnus has definitely had that same smile on while telling Alec he’s going to ‘literally burn this entire place to the ground’, the ‘place’ at the time being a McDonalds. (A particular reminder not to take Magnus inside a franchise establishment if at all possible.)
Alec sips cautiously at his beer, watching.
The conversation ends and the two men back away, one with his hands raised. Magnus kind of… feints at them, like jerks forward as if he might attack and both men bolt down the street. Alec, eyebrows traveling north on his face, continues to drink his beer. Magnus takes the girl’s hand between his palms, patting her knuckles in a consoling kind of way.
After he ushers the girl into the taxi, he jogs back inside the bar.
“Apologies, Alexander!” Magnus hops back up on the stool, swiveling around so his knees knock into Alec’s. He takes his beer back from Alec’s fingers and knocks back a swallow before settling his elbow and forearm against the counter and beaming at him. “Where were we? Jace can’t drive a car: Confirm or deny because that’s hilarious–”
“Did you just threaten those guys out there?” Alec says, cutting right through the blandish.
Magnus blinks innocently. “Why? Did they look threatened?”
“They literally ran away from you.”
“That’s their problem. Not mine.”
The warlock rolls his eyes. “It’s nothing. A pair of ne’re-do-wells I’ve warned to stay out of my neighborhoods before. Just reminding them they’re up to two strikes.”
“Okay… and if they get to three strikes?”
“I portal them to the Arctic.” Magnus takes another sip of his beer, looking very nonchalant.
“Is that how warlock community policing works?”
“It’s how mycommunity policing works. Trust me, they deserve it.”
Alec eyes the man sitting beside him with the moderate amount of suspicion warranted to both a warlock of Magnus’ reputation and a man who can charm his way out of virtually anything. Of Magnus, back when Jace was less charitable about things, his brother had said somewhat derisively that he could ‘win over a dinner plate if he tried hard enough’. Alec finds that’s largely true. Even his enemies have a… rapport with him that’s somewhat confusing. He can’t tell if it’s an immortal thing or a Magnus thing though.
“What counts as your neighborhood?”
Magnus looks surprised at the question. “Well, Brooklyn,” he says, but a little warily. “Anywhere I have a business holding is also generally understood to fall under my….” He waffles on the word. “…jurisdiction. There are rules decades old around my establishments and I have business all over New York.”
“So if someone is behaving badly anywhere near your stuff, you go after ‘em?”
Magnus kind of laughs. “I suppose. It’s slightly more complex than that, but yes.”
Alec snorts. “Okay, I’ve met a few different High Warlocks… a lot of them just seem like politicians. Why is that?”
Magnus is taking a long swallow of his drink, the lean muscles of his throat flexing a slow (very distracting) rhythm. He finishes the entire bottle then slides the empty receptacle down the bar where it lands perfectly in the recycling bin at the end of the counter. That done, Magnus pivots in his seat to face Alec properly. For a moment, Alec is drawn by the way his mouth parts and just… stays like that, like an invitation, as he mulls over his words.
“High Warlock isn’t a role that has duties set in stone,” says Magnus, breaking his unintentional spell on Alec. “It varies city to city and I know some very fine High Warlocks who do more for their people than I’ll ever do for Brooklyn, but in some cities, the role tends to attract… well, you said it, politicians. Not shocking. You need some charisma to be a High Warlock.”
Magnus presses his fingers to his own chest.
“Now, I can be political. I ampolitical.” The barkeep drops a new beer on the counter for Magnus. Magnus smiles and ignores the number written on the napkin. “I just believe in dealing with problems directly when possible. I did that before I was High Warlock. BeingHigh Warlock just makes what I do… more authoritative.”
“Okay.” Alec ingests this. “Okay. Hmm.”
“Hmm?” Magnus repeats, prompting.
“Nothing. It’s interesting. I was just curious.”
“Alright, but shadowhunter curious or…?”
Alec blinks. “What?”
Magnus blinks. “Oh. Nothing. Never mind.”
“Wait. No. Did you think I was asking because I’ve have a… Claveissue with what you were doing?”
Magnus is drinking his beer again, tactically.
“Magnus, look, I know there’s still some… some unresolved things between us.” Great. Magnus gave him an out and he’s just… powering through anyway. He sighs. “You’re still High Warlock. I’m still Head of the New York Institute and… we’ve been on opposite sides recently.”
“Technically, we’ve always been on opposite sides,” Magnus says, tone a little cooler than it was before.
Alec feels that sting a little.
“You really think shadowhunters are the enemy still?”
“On an individual basis?” says Magnus, brows arching. “No. Of course not. Plenty of shadowhunters are noble and genuine and want to help. But as an organization? Of course they are.” He shakes his head and takes a swing of his fresh drink, sets it sweating on the countertop. “Alexander, the Clave has come a long way, don’t get me wrong, but we’re less than one-hundred and fifty years past it being legal for shadowhunters to kill warlocks and take their fortunes for family coffers.”
Alec stares. Magnus stares right back.
“Yes?” Magnus says, reading the question in Alec’s eyes, and there is this ambivalent patience in his stare that’s ancient.
Alec bites the bullet and says, “You lost people like that.”
“A lot of people,” Magnus confirms, far too agreeably. “I personally had my own wealth annihilated no less than three times by shadowhunters over the centuries. There was one investigator who particularly would target me for the sake of robbing me, but I was lucky. I survived. Unlike dozens of my friends.”
Alec has no idea what to say to that.
Because ‘sorry’ sounds so fucking idiotic in the face of ‘my dozens of murdered friends’.
“Look,” Magnus says, mercifully cutting in. “You want your Downworld Cabinet meetings to work, then listen: Because there are going to be people sitting across from you who saw childrenkilled for the sake of the Law. Friends. Family. Don’t ever for a moment remove the personal from the political. Act like the blood is still fresh on the ground because you may not remember it, but most themdo. Literally.”
“I’m hearing you, Magnus.”
“Are you?” he says, “because how I feel about you as an individual doesn’t improve my opinion of your organization as a whole. And the other Downworld representatives don’t have my biases. You need to be ready for that.”
Alec stares, a little dumbfounded for a moment, then sits forward over the bar and picks up his own beer.
“Well, I did ask for that,” he says, taking a drink.
“Alexander…” Magnus starts to say.
“No. You’re right, Magnus. I have a lot to do to gain your trust.” A beat where Magnus kind of just looks at him. “We,” Alec corrects himself, clearing his throat, “we, the Clave I mean, have a lot to do.”
“Okay,” Magnus says. “Let’s step back from talking about the big picture for a moment. I trust you. With my life, in fact and I said before: I don’t think I have to choose between you and the Downworld. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to–” Magnus is interrupted by his phone ringing, a picture of a red X popping up on the screen. “Oh. I’m so sorry. I have to take this.” He picks up the phone, grimacing apologetically as Alec waves that it’s fine. Magnus moves off his barstool, fitting the phone to his ear. “Yes?”
“Well that’s not very nice.”
“Okay, but did he do it in triplicate or is he just throwing a tantrum? If he didn’t issue the demand in triplicate then he’s mostly doing it for show. It’s not a duel unless he invokes hatred three times.”
Alec picks up at the word ‘duel’.
“Really?” Magnus scratches the back of his head, seeming perplexed. “Over voicemail?”
Someone is yelling, ‘I KNOW’ from the other end of the phone.
“Well, I guess. If that’s what he really wants, but what the fuck? I haven’t done that since the nineteen-thirties.”
A short pause.
“Well obviously. Fine. Where is this going down? Can you text me the –? Yes. And forward the voicemail? Thank you. No, no. It’s not your fault. I just find it baffling he left this at reception and not my business line or something.” Magnus frowns, turning his head like he’s trying to recall something. “Oh, wait, I think I blocked him after the turn of the millennium. That might be why. Okay. Thank you, again. Take care.”
He hangs up.
“This is appalling, but I may have to cut this short.”
Thank god,Alec thinks before realizing how morally bankrupt that is and he is, in fact, a monster. Alec shakes it off and turns in his seat, one elbow on the counter.
“Did you say ‘duel’?” he demands.
Magnus looks embarrassed.
“Okay, you’ve caught me on a strange day. This doesn’t normally –” His phone rings again this time with a picture of a skull-and-crossbones as the caller ID. Magnus looks somewhat agonized. “Okay, just… hold on.” He holds up one finger while Alec arches his brows. Magnus answers again, but in French, Alec’s translation rune playing it back like slightly stilted voice over. “Vincent. I’ve told you before: No. No, a thousand times. Stop it. I will burn your flower shop of horrors to the ground. How many times have I told you? This is the sixties all over again. No!”
He stops, putting his hand over the receiver and turning to mouth ‘sorry’ at Alec. He returns to hissing into his phone.
“I don’t care how much you paid the Seelie Queen. You shouldn’t be buying things from the Seelie Queen anyway because she’s the goddamn Seelie Queen and you know better. I shouldn’t have to tell you this. I’m extremely disappointed.”A pause. “It’s okay. Vinnie, I’m not mad. I’m just upset. I’m sorry I yelled. Call Cat. She’ll help you. No, I don’t have time. Cat will sort you out I promise. Okay? Breathe? Okay? Good?”A longer pause. “You too.”
He hangs up.
“Flower shop of horrors?” Alec repeats.
“I’m having a busy day,” Magnus says, determination in his face.
“It’s High Warlock stuff.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“Duel,” Alec says with emphasis. “Flower shop of horrors.”
“I’m not actuallygoing to duel him,” Magnus says, exasperated, folding his arms. “It’s just a dramatic way to get my attention.”
“Wait, he challenged you to a duel to get your attention?”
Magnus sighs. “I’m so sorry. I feel terrible. This is your day off and I’m wasting it with work. I promise you I would much rather spend my hours sitting here with you. I can come right back when I wrap this up.”
“Is this something you could use company for?” Alec asks patiently.
Magnus kind of freezes. “Oh… no. It’s okay.”
“You help me all the time with Clave business,” he points out. “You let me come along for magic grocery shopping last time and I have a free day today. So, again, are you doing anything that might benefit from having some backup?” He holds up two hands. “Not pushing. I know it’s Downworlder business and things are touchy right now.”
“And I appreciate it, Alexander, but I don’t want to… oh, this sounds bad, but I don’t want to get a reputation of relying on the Clave to settle my scores,” says Magnus.
“That’s the shadiest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Magnus immediately looks alarmed.
“I’m into it,” Alec adds, a little more quickly than he’d intended. “I’m just saying, I could be your muscle if you wanted.”
Magnus pauses, as if he hadn’t considered that before.
“C’mon,” Alec cajoles. “You know you want me to be your scary bodyguard, right?”
“I am centuries old and I can throw fireballs. I hardly need a bodyguard. Particularly a shadowhunter bodyguard.”
“Right. But it would look very cool.”
“It wouldlook very cool,” Magnus murmurs, visibly conflicted.
“Hey, if you think it’ll hurt your rep to have me there with you, it’s fine. I was just throwing it out there. I do not want to complicate your day.”
“You can complicate my day,” Magnus says, sounding heartbroken.
Alec laughs. “Okay. So what are we doing? What’s the mission?”
Magnus offers a hand, eyes rolling. “Such a soldier. C’mon. You can watch a warlock duel. It will be very underwhelming and mostly arguing about dumb ancient history and, I don’t know, the correct pronunciation of an old Enochian phrase for ‘fuck off’. Whatever is bothering him.”
“Who’s ‘him’?” Alec asks, taking Magnus’ hand and following him through the door.
“Bo Steady. A warlock from Queens. He’s just very needy and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
“So you avoided him for a decade?”
“That’s fairly standard warlock procedure.”
“The silent treatmentfor a decade is standard?”
“Well, when you put it like that, warlocks sound like a bunch of passive aggressive prima donnas,” Magnus says.
Alec gives him a look.
“No, you’re right. We are.”
They step outside and Magnus rifles for his phone, pulling up his voicemail with a thumb-swipe. Alec watches him closely because Magnus’ voicemail and the general functions of Magnus’ phone don’t always seem to align with the rules of technology and reality. Clave-issue smartphones are just that. Normal smartphones. Magnus has definitely used his phone in cellular deadzones and generally it just… cooperates too easily. Everything takes three less thumb swipes than it should.
He plays the voicemail on speaker.
“Magnus Bane!” begins the message. “You have broken your sacred vow!”
“Oh God,” Magnus breathes.
“You have violated the trust and the confidence of your fellow warlocks and for that I demand satisfaction. By the rule of three, I demand it.”
Alec, delighted, smiles at the phone, then Magnus, then the phone.
“Meet me on top of the Heller and State building in Queens to answer for your crimes. You have until the end of the third day to answer my summons or suffer the consequences.”
The message ends.
“That was amazing,” Alec starts to say.
“Oh, quiet. I have to take time out of my day to deal with this.”
“What vow? What’s the rule of three?”
“There is no vow,” Magnus growls. “I think he’s just saying I’m doing a bad job as High Warlock and three is just a big deal in a lot of magical practice. In this case, it doesn’t mean anything except he’s officially filing a complaint and I need to meet him. Most warlocks don’t do a by three challenge because there is a magical component to the summoning that it’s rude.”
“Wait.” Alec’s brow furrows. “He’s like… cursing you or something?”
“Not exactly, it’s not that dire. I won’t bore you with the arcane contractual details, but it’s the equivalent of a magic glove slap, I guess. Ignoring him would be bad form for me. Like I said, he’s just trying to make a point.”
Alec grins. “Does he always talk like that?”
“No!” Magnus throws up his hands. “I have no idea why he’s doing that. He could have just called me three times saying ‘Fight me in a Taco Bell parking lot’ and I would have been obligated to address it.”
“Have… have you fought people in a Taco Bell –?”
“Shut up.” Magnus opens a portal between a parked SUV and an unloading zone, the air splitting, spinning, then plunging into a vortex of quantum flux. “He wants us to meet on a rooftop for some reason. The drama I think. This is all going to be exceptionally stupid. I’m sorry.”
“Would it be poor taste to film this?”
“Yes, Alec, it would be in poor taste.”
They jump through.
The roof of Heller and State is a private veranda topped with an elaborated glass gazebo structure. The walls are trimmed in carefully manicured hedges. Beneath the glass roof, there is a shallow open-air pool with concrete walkways crisscrossing the shimmering, artfully lit waters. There are strange koi swimming in the pool, glittering internally, passing slowly beneath bright red lily-pads. The glass roof is covered in crawling vines, scented of jasmine, deep green ivy spiraling down around the oak support beams that hold it.
It’s a breathtaking urban garden overlooking a beautiful city scape.
Alec would be more impressed with it, if a good portion of the roof weren’t also populated by about half a dozen other people than Alec was expecting, all of whom look very surprised to see Alec because – for a split second – they look like they’re about to move forward, then, upon seeing him, they step back.
Rather like they were expecting to grab someone who portaled in solo.
Like Magnus, for example.
Alec immediately goes for his stele, but Magnus grabs his arm. Lightning fast, he reflexes, actually. He never once looks at Alec while he does it, rather maintaining eye-contact with a a tall, handsome looking fellow in a very expensive looking suit and a Burberry scarf. Magnus waits until Alec settles a little, then moves forward a step.
“Hello,” he says, the portal siphoning shut behind them. He smiles at the scarf guy. “Bo?” says Magnus, his tone so very gentle and conversational and yet none of those things at all “Who are your friends?”
“You were supposed to come alone!” Bo sputters.
Alec, despite Magnus’ warning, palms his stele and discretely activates the haste rune on his wrist.
“You interrupted my date,” says Magnus pleasantly, still ignoring the gathered men and women. “Since you did that, we didn’t want to be cheated out of time with one another, you understand.” Magnus gestures one handed in Alec’s general direction. “You know Alec Lightwood? Head of the New York Institute?”
Alec, very cautiously, waves a hand at the surrounding warlocks who look uncertainly at one another.
“You’re bringing shadowhunters to settle your disputes now?” says Bo.
“No. Alec is here purely for decoration. He adds to the overall ambiance, don’t you think?”
“Hey,” Alec says, more nervous than offended.
Magnus ignores him and jerks his head at the other warlocks.
“Unlike your friends who seem very… participatory. Not decorative.” He raises his voice. “All warlocks I swear I banned from North America by the way.” He lowers his voice again, angling his head just slightly as his tone gets low, gets threatening. “If I didn’t know better, dear Bo, I’d say you gathered a gaggle of ill-favored miscreants to gang up on me. But that can’t be the case because, Bo, while we have our differences, that kind of nonsense is far beneath you.” He pauses, then, tone softening, asks, “Right?”
Bo’s expression flickers, a hesitation crossing into his eyes as he stands there. Suddenly, he looks a lot less like a furious enemy and more… confused. Some nebulous region between ally and enemy. Magnus is looking at him with a kind of familiar hopefulness, sincere from the top of his head to the soles of his expensive boots in a way that makes Alec worry. Magnus tips his chin a little, like, c’monand Bo’s expression kind of wrinkles.
“Magnus,” he starts to say.
“Are you kidding?” snaps one of the other warlocks.
That breaks the spell. Bo blinks, looking around – at the other warlocks, at Alec, then back at Magnus and as he stares into the High Warlock’s eyes, his expression closes again.
“Magnus, if you just… send Lightwood away,” he says softly. “This is a warlock matter.”
“Oh, it most certainly is,” Magnus says brightly. “And I am veryembarrassed. I would have never brought Alec if I’d know you were going to behave like this and I came out here thinking you were going to fight with me about a hundred-year-old drinking contest. This is much worse.”
“Oh god,” snarls a small red-head woman that Alec thinks he recognizes from a Clave file. “Bo, either get your shit together or I’m gone. Are we doing this or what?”
“Lily,” drawls one of them, a heavy-set man with pure white hair. “Bane brought a shadowhunter. I didn’t come back to New York to get slapped with another Clave violation and I’m not fooling with the Head of an Institute.”
“Oh, just move him out of the way,” Lily hisses. “He’s got no jurisdiction.”
“If any of you touch him, this roof goes up in flames,” interjects Magnus, brutally calm, one hand raised. like you might flag down a waiter. He looks over his shoulder and now Alec can see his eyes are gold. “Dammit, Alec. You sold me on the whole tattooed bodyguard look and now it’s a mess.”
“Magnus?” says Alec, halfway to lunging at the nearest warlock just for the sake of doing something besides stand here like a tool. “Should I…?”
“Don’t. I’ve got this.”
“You arrogant cocksucker,” says a beautiful warlock in a navy pea coat. They have antlers like a doe and a faintly rabbit-like nose. “Do you really think you can take all five of us? If your boyfriend wasn’t here, we’d have had you already.” Here their eyes snap to Alec and he can see, now, that they’re animal eyes. All black. No color in the iris. “I don’t like Nephilim. I particularly don’t like Lightwoods. I don’t know how you stomach it, given what his great, great grand-daddy did.”
Magnus eyes them. “Venna, I would love for the Clave to just… disappear into the ether and leave us all the hell alone, but barring that miracle, I’m going to behave like the Accords still hold.”
Venna bares their teeth. “Like they held twenty years ago?”
“Don’t you dare,” snarls Magnus, turning on them suddenly, teeth bared right back. “You ran. I stayed. You don’t get to talk about the Uprising because you weren’t even in city limits when they came for us!”
“Youdon’t get to tell me how to survive!” Venna points a finger. “Not all of us have monsters at our beck and call. Not all of us are fucking hell-raisers, Bane.”
“Yes, we are, you idiot. That’s what a warlock is!”
“Oh, this old argument,” Venna laughs, tossing up their hands. “How many times do I have to hear this?”
“As many times as it take to get through your skull,” Magnus says loudly.
“You are such an asshole!” Lily yells.
Magnus turns on Lily this time, giving his back to Venna. Alec jerks, instinctive to defend… but they don’t do anything about it. Magnus plants his feet and glares at Lily.
“Takes one to know one,” he says.
“Excellent school-yard banter, Bane.”
“God, I hateyou!” Lily shakes her fists, literally, with rage. “I knew you were an asshole the second I read your arcana on ley line regeneration. You’re so fuckin’ prescriptive.”
“I’m prescriptive? Me?” He sounds scandalized. “Half my thesis was on unconscious manifestation. Are you joking? It’s not prescriptive of me to tell you to leave a populated area because you’re planning to raise a goddamn elemental! You wanna die? Fine. Do it. Don’t drag a highly populated urban area into it.”
“That’s such reductive bullshit! That’s not what I was doing!”
“By what definition of higher order ley-beings?”
Alec, confused about whether this is a fight or an academic debate, twitches a little and scoots a little to the left. He’s mostly ignored by the collection of warlocks, who seem bound and determined to have it out with one another. Except for one of them, the white-haired warlock, who looks increasingly aggravated by the whole conversation.
“This is bullshit,” says the white-haired warlock. “I came here to rough a guy up. This isn’t my jam. I’m outta here.”
“That’s it, Book? You’re just gonna leave?” Magnus snaps.
“Brother, you are on your own. You banished me. I’m banished.” And the warlock, Book, climbs onto a bench, turns into an albatross, and dives off the roof. Just like that. Alec stares, two parts outraged and astounded by both the facts of the magical exit and the ease at which said warlock up and left the fight.
“Coward!” Magnus yells, shaking a fist after the bird. “You banished yourself, you jackass!”
“Do you even remember me?” says the fifth warlock, a man in a red blazer and sneakers. He’s circling to Magnus’ left. “Bane, hey, do you even remember why you banished me?”
“Jeb,” says Magnus, biting the syllable off at the end like licorice. “I banished you for reasons we should not discuss in front of a shadowhunter, you dim bulb. God, you’re so hard to help.”
“You didn’t help me!”
“I got you out of the country and cleaned up your mess,” Magnus sputters. “I honestly cannot believe you are with this group yelling at me about banishment. I actuallybanished them. I pretended to banish you because that way no one would look for you!” Magnus kind of flails in range. “And you’ve screwed it all up to have a pissing contest on roof!”
“Really?” says Lily, staring at Jeb. “I thought that thing with the flying carpets was bullshit.”
“Shut uuuup,” Magnus sing-songs, jerking his thumb at Alec. “The narc is still here.”
He’s sleeping on the couch,Alec thinks, mostly out of panic.
“You didn’t help me! That was eighty years ago!” Jeb insists, loudly. Then, more quietly, “And stop talking about it, Lily.”
“You dumb hick warlock fucker,” she says.
“Lily, that’s mean,” Magnus says.
“Sorry. Wait. NO! Fuck off, Bane!”
“Oh, by Raziel’s flaming cock, can you all shut up!” Venna snarls. They gesture at Alec. “At this point the shadowhunter is going to arrest everyone for aiding and abetting.
“It’s my day off,” Alec interjects for no other reason than he doesn’t like how the warlocks are starting to circle toward Magnus, arraying themselves around him in a manner that makes every tactical instinct in him scream. They’re creating a kill floor with Magnus at the center. “Magnus… any chance we can just leave? I don’t think we paid our tab. Can we just raincheck?”
“He’s funny,” says Jeb. “Shadowhunter gets to be funny. We get jailed.”
“Or have our fortunes stolen,” says Lily.
“Or worse,” says Venna, completely deadpan, their doe-like eyes suddenly predatory.
Shit. Should have kept my mouth shut.
Magnus eyes the group around him. “Hey, I’m not arguing with you about that, but I am telling you all to take this up with me exclusively.”
“Oh, we are,” says Venna, turning away from Alec to smile at Magnus again.
Magnus holds up a hand. “Venna. Lily. Jeb. I don’t want to hurt you –”
“Oh, gonna get Biblical on us?” Lily sneers. She waves her hands and six gold glyph-circles spawn, spinning, around her forearms. Like moving gauntlets. “C’mon, Bane. Show us a bit of a demon fire, won’t you? I’ve always wantedto see it.”
“This is the definition of moronic,” Magnus says. “Everyone just… calm down. We don’t need to do this.”
“It’s not about ‘need’,” says Venna. They smile and there are fangs now behind their lips and a crackle of darkness gathered at their fingers. “It’s about setting things straight. They made a mistake putting gutter-trash in as High Warlock.”
“Bo,” Magnus say suddenly.
Bo, who hasn’t said a word for a few minutes now, is suddenly the center of attention. He seems… pale. A little panicked if Alec was going to name an emotion. At some point during the fight, he took a seat on a bench by the water and he’s seated there now, with his hands slack between his knees. Alec had almost forgotten about him. He’d forgotten the reason they were here at all was because this warlock called Magnus on a voicemail to fight about something. It seems lightyears ago Alec thought that was funny.
“Bo,” Magnus says again, more firmly. “Do you really want to fight me over this? You really want to break the rule of three because I blocked youon my cell ten years ago?”
“it was more than that and you know it.”
Magnus holds his ground. “Of course, I know that. But this… is too far.”
“You should have listened to me.”
“You weren’t making any –”
“Saphina died while you were stonewalling me.”
Magnus has the look of a man who stepped on a hot wire, rigid, like there’s an unexpected electric current running through his limbs. His eyes are no longer gold but dark again, wide with surprise, then softening with regret.
“Bo…” he says. “Why didn’t you –?”
“Because you’re such a bastard when you’re mad,” Bo says quietly.
Magnus says nothing for a moment, looking lost.
Then, “I would have wanted to know that. Even if I was mad at you.”
“How would I know that?” The man huffs, staring down into his empty hands. “I have no idea when you’re really mad and when you’re pretending. It’s all the same to you. You like it when people can’t tell what you’re thinking. Well, I’m no good at that. I needed you and I didn’t even know how to talk to you.”
“There… you know there was nothing I could have done for her.” Magnus moves toward Bo, slowly. The other two warlocks… they let him, just watching with unreadable expressions, magic spun up around them. Magnus says, “You can’t fix immortality when it breaks like that.”
“You should have been there. You should have tried.”
Magnus kneels in front of Bo, hesitating, then taking the man’s hand, laying his other palm over his wrist. Bo stares at Magnus then, blank with grief.
“She wore away,” he says. “I couldn’t make her wonder at the future anymore.”
“I’m so sorry,” Magnus says.
“She never got over it,” Bo says, his voice cracking. “She never really left that bunker in Yonkers. She never got over what happened to Sissy and Lyre. Six hundred years she lived…” Tears run from the man’s eyes, dripping into his expensive scarf. “And she dies of old age. Can you believe that?”
“I’m sorry, Bo. I should have been there.”
“She said it wasn’t your fault, what happened in Yonkers.”
Magnus freezes, biting his lip. His hands tighten around Bo’s fingers. “It was no one’s fault but the Clave’s. Valentine’s. And he’s dead now.”
“She outlived him,” Bo says. “By three days she outlived the bastard.”
Lily and Venna are gone. Venna, fading into a section of shadow and Lily quietly opening a portal and slipping away through it. Jeb lingers for a moment but catches Alec’s eye and seems to realize he’s magic carpet stealing hooligan alone on a roof with a shadowhunter. He takes the roof-top exit on the far side of the building and then it’s just Alec. Just Alec standing under an ivy-grown canopy while Magnus speaks quietly to Bo, who’s begun to weep openly now.
Alec moves to the far side of the roof, folding his arms on the railing overlooking the east side of the city. His day off dwindles away to the sound of two warlocks talking.
They leave a few hours later.
“They made you High Warlock after the Uprising.”
Alec says this suddenly over dinner at Magus’ loft. The warlock is dressed down already for the evening in a sweatshirt and soft pants. He blinks up at Alec over a plate of steak and potatoes which he’s been pushing around his plate for the last three minutes. Alec’s long since finished off his meal and set the empty plate aside.
“Sorry. What?” Magnus says, thinking he’s missed other parts of a conversation leading up to this statement.
“During the Uprising,” Alec repeats, “you didn’t leave the city. You stayed to get people out.”
“Lots of people stayed to get people out,” says Magnus, putting his fork down. “Warlocks can portal. We were taking other Downworlders out of New York in droves.”
“But that’s why they made you High Warlock, right? Because of what you did for everyone during the Uprising?”
“Essentially,” says Magnus. His features are beautiful and blasé under the lamplight. He’s already ditched the makeup and there’s something much… softer about Magnus when he’s not done up. He shrugs. “There was a vote.”
Alec says nothing for a while.
“So you’re a hero,” he says eventually.
Magnus snorts. “I’m a survivor. Like everyone was during that time. After what happened, everyone was scared. They wanted a High Warlock who’d die for them if it came down to it and, well, I pretty much almost got myself killed constantly during the Uprising. So I was the flavor of the month I suppose. Keeping the position has been some work though.”
“I think you’re selling yourself short as usual, but okay.”
Magnus looks a bit nervous. “Look, Alec, what happened with Bo today…”
Alec waves a hand. “That was warlock business. I don’t have anything to say about it. Hell, you stopped five warlocks from starting a fight just by talkingto them.”
“Most warlock fights end like that,” says Magnus, amused. “We start arguing and reminiscing and then forget why we were angry.” A beat. “Or we remember every single petty slight over the years and light each other’s shoes on fire over a stolen yogurt. Honestly, I can go either way. But it’s almost never lethal. Even if they did fight me and I lost –” here he holds up his hands to indicate how impossible that would have been, of course— “they wouldn’t have killed me. Just… roughed me up. Told people about it.”
“I thought attacking a High Warlock was… well, a pretty serious offense.”
“It’s grounds for banishment.” Magnus huffs a laugh. “But most of them are already banished from this region and I’m not sending someone to the Spiral Labyrinth over a personal vendetta.” He clears his throat. “Besides, Bo was just upset.”
Alec dead pans. “He called up a bunch of your enemies to jump you on a roof, Magnus.”
Magnus shrugs again. “Not the worst thing someone’s done to me because I disrespected them.”
“That’s the new shadiest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“Are you okay?” Alec asks, leaning his elbows on the table. “You seemed upset about what Bo said about… Saphina? Another warlock?”
“Yeah. She was hurt pretty badly during the Uprising.” Magnus stares down at his plate a moment before looking up at Alec again. “It broke her spirit and that’s one thing warlocks can’t really survive.” He pauses. Then, seeing Alec’s silent question, goes on. “When a warlock loses their will to live and no longer look forward to life, the years start to catch up with them. Not immediately but… faster the longer it goes on.”
“They can lose their immortality?”
“Kind of. More like… they let themselves stop making use of it. I guess.”
“I didn’t know that could happen to warlocks.”
“It does. It’s just… when most warlocks get to feeling that way, they don’t usually wait around for the aging to get them.”
There’s a silence.
“Magnus,” Alec starts to say.
“I’d tell you if I felt that way,” he cuts in. “I don’t, by the way.”
“You don’t talk about the people you’ve lost,” Alec says, carefully, like feeling for the pressure pad on an IED. “Magnus, I don’t ask about it, but it’s not like I don’t see it. You lost people the day we met. You’ve lost people since then. We’ve been fighting and running since the day we mey, but we have time now, if you ever –”
“I’m okay,” Magnus says gently. “Really, Alexander.”
Alec, for a moment, moves to insist. To push that it’s impossible to him that Magnus can know every warlock in Brooklyn, even the ones he’s banished, so well that he can script-flip four estranged magic-users out of a grudge match… but he doesn’t need to talk about losing any of them. For a moment, Alec gears up to tell him:I know you’re faking. I know you pretend. Dot is missing. People are dead. I know you think something about all that and I want you to just tell me. Let me help. Let me in.
But Magnus looks at him and, for a moment, there’s this… flicker.
Like he’s afraid.
And what Alec says instead is, “Magnus, we never finished our conversation back at the bar. What you said about long memories and… and how the past isn’t that easy to forget.” He pauses, then adds, “That there’s still fresh blood between all of us.”
“Yes?” Magnus tilts his head.
“I did hear you. You know that right? I want things to be different, to be better between my people and yours. I don’t want to… I don’t want to be something you’re embarrassed of.”
Magnus looks mortified. “I’m not –”
“Stop,” Alec says, holding up a hand. “Not like that. I know you’re not ashamed of me… but my organization, my people, their history… you can’t separate that from me. People still give me shit behind my back for dating a Downworlder and I know that goes both ways. They call me a traitor when they think I’m not listening. I’ll bet you get the same for dating one of the nephilim, yeah?”
He looks uncomfortable. “Alexander…”
“No. It’s fine. But I want…” Alec struggles for a moment to articulate what’s been eating at him since the bar. “Look, I want you to be proudof what I’m doing at the Clave. Like I’m just… fuckin’ in awe of what you do for the warlocks in Brooklyn.” And Magnus looks so beautifully stunned by that, Alec catches him speechless and goes on. “I’m just saying, I promise I’m going to protect your people as much as I’d protect my own. Okay? That’s all.”
Magnus stays stunned for another few seconds before blinking and dropping his head a second.
“I… I appreciate that, Alec. Th-” His voice catches and he clears his throat. “Thank you.”
“You’re so weird,” Alec says, breaking the tension.
Magnus looks up sharply. “Excuse me?”
“You. You’re weird. Five guys try to mug you on a roof and you just yell them down like it’s a Tuesday. I tell you you’re amazing and you choke.”
Magnus’ eyes widen. “Shut up, shadowhunter.”
Magnus stares at him.
Then he swipes his dinner plate off the table to the floor with a bang and, while Alec is jumping, steps up on the table top, so he’s standing squared up, fists at his sides, staring down at Alec and that should… not… do thingsto him. But it definitely is, the act of looking up at Magnus while he’s looking down at him like that.And then Magnus kneels down, one hand braced against his bent knee and leans forward so his face is very, very close to Alec’s and Alec feels like his entire face must be red by then. Like there’s nothing between him and the way Magnus is taking him apart without ever touching him.
“Get up,” Magnus says very quietly. “And lets take this conversation…” His eyes rove toward the hallway and the bedroom door beyond. “…elsewhere,” he finishes eventually.
“Yeah,” Alec manages, a little strangled.