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Every time we fall to pieces we build something new out of the hurt

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The Day of Lilith’s Defeat

“There’s nothing more I can do for it. I’m sorry.”

Magnus squeezed Alec’s good hand as they both took in Catarina’s words.

“Maybe the Silent Brothers?” Magnus suggested, an edge of desperation in his voice. “I can contact Brother Zachariah, he can -”

Catarina shook her head sadly. “I already consulted with him, Magnus. And Tessa. We’re lucky Alec’s even alive at all, given the power that the Owl was channeling. If he’d used any other weapon - if it hadn’t been Alec’s own arrow - the Owl would have destroyed him. He very nearly did anyway. You’re lucky you showed up when you did.”

The two men sat in silence. That was it then - there was nothing more that could be done for Alec’s hand, angelic or demonic or mundane. The bones in his hand and wrist would never heal properly. His days with his bow were over.

“I’m sorry.” Catarina said again, standing up, giving Magnus a small squeeze to the shoulder. “I have to get home to Madzie. Our door’s always open if you need a change of scenery.”

A Portal sprung out of her fingers, and she was gone.

Magnus leaned into the lingering magic unconsciously, feeling the whisper of it on his skin. He couldn’t generate it anymore, but he could still feel it. He could taste the burnt sugar on his tongue, smell the tang of ozone in the air. The magic was everywhere.

Only not in him.

But he wasn’t the only one who had lost something - everything. Everything that made him what he was. Alec still hadn’t said a word. As painful as it was to feel the magic right there but not be able to channel it - Alec was hurting as well. Alec, who he loved more than anyone else in the world.

“Alexander?” Magnus asked softly, squeezing the hand in his again. “Please say something.”

“What do you want me to say, Magnus?” Alec lamented. “What can I say that - that isn’t - that doesn’t sound so self-indulgent and self-pitying when you’ve had the core of who you are ripped away. This is nothing compared to that.”

“It isn’t nothing, Alexander.” Magnus said, resting his head against Alec’s. “We’ve both had something we cherish torn from us today. You’re allowed to be sad. You’re allowed to be angry.”

“And you? Are you allowed to be sad and angry?”

“Alexander -”

“No. Don’t you shut yourself off. If you need my permission, take it. I give you my permission to be as sad and angry as you need to be. If you want me to go -”

“Why in the world would I want you to go?”

“Because it’s my fault, if I hadn’t been so adamant about getting Jace back no matter what, you never would’ve -”

“I don’t blame you. None of this is your fault. It was all Lilith. But what’s done is done. We can’t change the past. We can only head into the future. And for that, what I need is for my boyfriend to be here with me, to be here with me so that - so that we can figure this out.”

“Figure us out?” Alec turned his head to look at Magnus, confusion written all over his face.

“No, no. I mean - our situation. For the both of us. Life is going to change significantly, whether we like it or not.”

“Not.” Alec said in a small voice. “But - at least my worst fear wasn’t realized. And for that, I will always be grateful.”

“What do you mean?”

“I worried more than anything that you wouldn’t come back. That you’d be lost to Edom and - and your father - forever.”

“He wanted it.” Magnus admitted, reaching an arm around so that he could card his fingers through Alec’s hair, feeling him lean into the touch. “That was the initial price he asked for. That I was not going to give him. Because I’d promised you that I’d come back. Because I love you more than anything, and I wasn’t ready to watch any part of you die. And then to come back and almost see it happen anyway, despite the price I’d paid - then it wouldn’t have been worth it to me. But you made it. You’re here. You’re alive.”

“And broken. I - I don’t know what I am anymore. What I can be.”

“I know exactly what that feels like.”

They sat in silence, watching as dawn began to break over the city, the sun painting the sky in reds and oranges that heralded a new day. A new day, that brought with it uncertainty and a world different from that which they’d always known.

But they would be facing it together.

* * *

A Week after Lilith’s Defeat


Alec awoke with a start to a yell and crash coming from the kitchen. He threw on his pants and dashed out to the kitchen, skidding to a stop in the doorway. He surveyed the scene in front of him.

Magnus was sitting on the floor, head tipped back against the cabinets, eyes closed, tears streaming down his cheeks. The ground in front of him was littered with the pieces of a coffee mug, the steaming liquid slowly edging towards Magnus’ bare feet. Alec grabbed a dish towel and knelt on the floor in front of him, cleaning up the hot coffee and pushing away the ceramic shards. Once he was done, he sat down next to Magnus, resting his head on his shoulder.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Alec asked.

“I can’t even make coffee, Alexander.” Magnus wept. “Forget about being a warlock, I’m even a terrible excuse for a mundane.”

“There’s nothing mundane about you, Magnus Bane.” Alec said, kissing Magnus’ temple. “You may be mortal, but you’ll never be mundane.”

“I wish I could believe that. So many people have been calling me, to say how sorry they are. Even Lorenzo called me - to say that since I’m now a filthy mundane, he can’t banish me for attacking him, since that would give the Shadowhunters cause to come after him for hunting mundanes.”

Alec winced. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have made it known that you were under our protection?”

“Lorenzo would have said it regardless. There isn’t really an accepted… procedure for what happens if someone is no longer a member of the Shadow World. One doesn’t typically exit it in any way besides death.”

“You’re still a member of the Shadow World.” Alec argued. “Magnus, you’re not useless. So you can’t channel magic anymore. Fine. But you still have centuries of knowledge. You know pretty much everything there is to know about potions. You can read Angel-knows how many supernatural languages. Your repository of magical books rivals that of the Spiral Labyrinth. And you can feel the magic still, right? I know you can. I’ve seen you, whenever Catarina or Madzie are over and they do something without thinking about it.”

“I can.”

“See? New warlocks should be honoured to learn from you. Just because you can’t do it anymore doesn’t mean you don’t know how it works. You can teach people so much.”

Magnus cracked an eye open and looked at Alec critically. “Are you trying to convince me or yourself?”

Alec sighed and rested his head back against the cabinets as well. “I thought you were already asleep when I got that call from Idris last night.”

“I heard some of it. I’m sorry, Alexander.”

“I have a month to convince them not to replace me as Head of the Institute.”

“That shouldn’t be difficult.” Magnus said with conviction. “There’s so much that you’re doing as the Head of the Institute. The Head doesn’t need to be out in the field. They shouldn’t be, by the very definition of the term - that’s something that you should be delegating anyway, injury or no.”

“I’m not injured, Magnus. I’m - I’m disabled.” Alec’s eyes widened, and Magnus realized that was the first time Alec had voiced his new reality out loud.

Alec looked down at his hand, taking in the unnatural twist in the wrist, the phantom knuckles under the skin where bones had snapped clean in half, making it appear that he’d had started growing extra fingers. The shards of bone within rubbed against each other and the jagged demonic traces that remained in the wound, put there by the Owl, sending flares of pain through the nerves and up his arm. He swept the fingers of his good hand over the Painless rune carved into the skin above his wrist, closing his eyes and shuddering as he reached for his stele to activate it again.

“It still hurts?” Magnus asked.

Alec nodded, pressing his lips together against the pain as he finally found his stele and pressed it to the rune, feeling the muted relief flood through the limb. “Always.” He croaked out. “This, it - it takes the edge off, but - always.”

Magnus pulled himself up and moved to kneel in front of Alec, taking both of his hands in his, resting his forehead against Alec’s.

“We’ll get through this.” Magnus whispered. “And I meant what I said. You’re doing so much as the Head of the Institute - you’re improving Shadow World relations. Downworlders feel safe here, because they know you won’t accuse or judge them unfairly. Work that. Use that. And the Clave will know that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Okay?”

Alec moved forward to close the gap between their lips, pressing a soft kiss to Magnus’. “Okay.”

* * *

A Month after Lilith’s Defeat

For the first time since that fateful night in the alley, Alec had a smile on his face as he climbed the stairs to Magnus’ penthouse. All of the arguments had been made, evaluations done, and the Council had decided to leave the New York Institute in Alec’s hands. He’d stopped by his favourite burger joint in the East Village, and picked up some bacon burgers for himself and Magnus on the way, excited to share at least a piece of good news.

Magnus must have heard him fumbling at the door, trying to balance the takeout bag in the crook of his elbow while unlocking the door with the other hand, for the door opened as he was still trying to get his key in the lock, and he almost stumbled straight into Magnus’ chest.

“Alexander.” Magnus said, steadying them both, grabbing the bag before it fell to the floor. “You didn’t have to bring dinner. I’m sure today is finally the day that I master boiling water for spaghetti.”

“I wanted to.” Alec said, leaning in for a soft kiss. “I - I wanted to celebrate.”

A flurry of emotions passed over Magnus’ face before they settled into wariness. “Good news from the Clave?”

“Yeah. They’ve decided that I can keep my position. No strings attached. You were right, Magnus. The Council is beginning to change, and they do see the value of the diplomacy that I’ve been working on here in New York. They want me to keep at it, and also start working with other Institutes so that they can also develop plans on how to begin Downworlder Cabinet meetings in their own cities. Real change, Magnus. It’s beginning to happen.”

Magnus smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m happy for you. And for the Downworld.”

“What’s wrong?” Alec asked, frowning. “I recognize that tone. Is it - I mean, are you -”

“Catarina and Madzie are leaving New York.” Magnus said quietly. “After what happened in Idris - the prisoners escaping - and Lorenzo - Catarina has decided it is safer to go somewhere where no one knows where they are. Not even me. Lorenzo - Lorenzo threatened to banish her to the Spiral Labyrinth if she kept helping me - helping us.”

“What? That’s ridiculous.”

“It is, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Not a warlock, remember?”

“I can’t believe that Catarina - that she’d abandon you like that. After everything you’ve been through together.”

“She’s not abandoning me, Alexander. She’s doing what she has to to keep Madzie safe, and to still be able to see me. Not as regularly as now, but - if she’s living under the jurisdiction of another High Warlock, a High Warlock who doesn’t hate me, then there’s no obstacle to her keeping company with me.”

“Except you can’t Portal to wherever she is.”

“Thank you, Alexander. Because I needed that reminder.”

“I’m sorry, it’s just - it means a lot more, now, if friends aren’t nearby.”

“Don’t I know it.” Magnus scowled, stepping away, throwing the bag of food onto the coffee table. Alec followed him at a distance, recognizing Magnus’ flexing and clenching of fists. Alec didn’t know if it was a long-ingrained habit or a new compulsion, but Magnus did it when he was frustrated, mimicking the feel of drawing destructive magic into his hands, to pulverize a lamp or vase. Only Magnus was doing it more often, now, than he had before, even when there was no power flowing to his hands. Which was, Alec realized, the whole source of his frustration.

“Hey.” Alec softened his tone. “Let’s eat dinner. Talk about the rest of your day. What else did you do?”

“What else did I do? Besides learning that my best friend was leaving town? I attempted to make coffee, which failed because I still can’t grind the beans right, and the ones that we can buy in New York don’t have the same flavours that I’m used to, my social calendar is empty because no Downworlder will even look at me, I’ve had to send all of my clients to other - to warlocks, because I can’t do a damn thing for them anymore, and I can’t even wear my favourite outfit, because it was in my magical storage closet, which now doesn’t exist anymore because I don’t have any fucking magic.” Magnus paused and composed himself, schooling his features to a neutral expression. “But please, Alexander, continue. Tell me about your day. Tell me about how life is going back to normal for you. Please.”

“Nothing is normal, all right?” Alec snapped. “Nothing. Jace is still a wreck, even though Simon and Luke are certain now that Clary’s not dead, just - somewhere else. And even if the Clave has let me keep my job, they’ve still forbidden my mother from setting foot in the Institute. I’m not even supposed to speak to her, but they’re overlooking that part at least because of my ‘special circumstances’.” Alec felt a wave of nausea come over him, and he stumbled to the couch. “And I’m in pain every damn minute of every damn day and nothing is okay. I came here hoping that my boyfriend would understand that, because no one else does.” Alec sighed, feeling the fight go out of him. “I can’t stand it, Magnus. I can’t stand the way they all look at me, like - like I’m someone to be pitied. Anger, disappointment - I’m used to those. I can handle those. But pity? That might just kill me.”

Magnus’ expression softened, and he took a seat next to Alec. “I’m sorry.” Magnus said. “And I do understand. It’s the same look that I’ve seen on the faces of people I’ve known for decades, even centuries. I hate it too.” Magnus bridged the space between them, curling his fingers around Alec’s wrist, rubbing at the Painless rune, wishing that he could provide any kind of relief to the pain in Alec’s bones.

Alec relaxed into the soothing touch, which, while it didn’t do anything for the physical pain, he recognized it for the gesture it was meant to be. It didn’t soothe his bones, but it did soothe his heart.

“I’m sorry too.” Alec said. “I shouldn’t - I mean, I shouldn’t keep reminding you about what you’ve lost. That’s not fair of me.”

“None of this is fair, Alexander. For either of us. But we can’t push each other away. The only way we’ll get through this is together. You’re the only one who doesn’t look at me with that look. And I hope I don’t give you that look either.”

“You don’t.” Alec smiled a small smile. “I love you. And I brought burgers.”

“I love you too. And thank you. Let’s eat.”

* * *

Two Months after Lilith’s Defeat

Alec dragged himself up the stairs towards Magnus’ penthouse, bones aching down to their very core, limbs feeling like lead no matter how many Endurance runes he activated. He was just so tired, but desperate to feel useful.

And that need to feel useful… Alec didn’t even want to think about the price he’d almost paid for that today.

He let himself into the apartment with his key, but the place was dark, curtains drawn, though it was still light outside.

Something was wrong.

Despite every muscle screaming for him to stop, Alec couldn’t ignore his instincts or training, and with some effort he drew a seraph dagger from his belt and began sweeping the rooms, looking for intruders, but everything seemed to be in place, until he entered their bedroom. The light was off there as well, but Alec’s night vision rune showed him Magnus huddled up in the far corner, clutching a whiskey bottle and sobbing.

Alec put the dagger away and crossed the room quickly, dropping to the ground in front of Magnus, prying the bottle out of his hands and setting it aside carefully before wrapping his arms around his boyfriend.

“It - it was a bad day.” Magnus hiccuped, pressing his forehead against Alec’s shoulder. “A-a bad d-day.”

Alec nodded, holding Magnus closer. “I know. I know. That’s - that’s why I’m home early too.”

Magnus shifted in Alec’s grasp so that he could wrap his arms around him, feeling Alec’s tears drop on the back of his neck. They stayed there, holding each other, until they both ran out of tears to cry. Alec let out a few dry gasps against the back of Magnus’ head, and then pulled back from him, resting a hand on his cheek.

“All the teams were out this morning, but there were reports of Shax demons attacking mundanes in Grand Central. I didn’t know where Jace was, off somewhere with Clary I’m sure, now that they’re reunited and so fucking sappy together, so Izzy and I were the only ones available. It’s been months since I’ve been out in the field, and I was itching for it, but when it came down to it, I - I was useless. Izzy was taking care of most of them, but even though I was watching her six, one got the drop on us, and Magnus - Izzy almost died because I wasn’t - because I couldn’t - do my job.” Alec took a few deep breaths, trying to steady his breathing. “Thank the Angel I was able to get her back to the Institute on my own, but - if I hadn’t stopped to activate her healing and blood replacement runes every block, we might not have made it. She might not have made it. She’s okay now, but - but it was my fault.”

“Oh, Alexander.” Magnus whispered, pulling Alec close and kissing him gently. “I - I get it. I won’t get into the details, but - but that’s about how my morning went too. I - I hate feeling so damn useless.”

Alec nodded. “I hear you. If you want to talk about it, or not, I’m here. Whatever you need.”

“To feel whole again.” Magnus started crying again, holding Alec tighter. “I feel so lost, Alexander. I try, but it - it doesn’t seem enough. I can’t do anything.”

“You made scrambled eggs without burning them this morning.”

“Anyone can do that.”

“Izzy can’t. You’ve got a leg up on her.”

Magnus laughed wetly. “Well, that’s something.”

Alec pulled back and kissed Magnus’ forehead. “Come on. I think there’s some leftover pasta in the fridge. We should get some food into you. Have you eaten at all since I left this morning?”

“Just the whiskey.”

Alec tutted. “Come on, let’s get you up.”

Once Magnus had both hands on Alec’s shoulders, Alec pulled him up awkwardly with his good hand, though they stumbled, knocking over the bottle of whiskey, spilling it across the floor. Magnus moved to grab a towel from the ensuite, but Alec stopped him.

“We’ll deal with that later. Food first.”

Alec got Magnus onto the couch, and pulled open the curtains, letting light into the room. Magnus blinked in the bright light, and now Alec got a better look at him - he was still wearing the same housecoat and casual pants he’d had on that morning when Alec had left for the Institute, just with the addition of a few whiskey stains, and what looked like it could be blood, though from the positioning, not his own. It was also clear that it had been days since Magnus had shaved, or even left his apartment.

He didn’t push Magnus on it though. They’d both run through so many emotions since that fateful night that they knew what it meant if one of them said it was a bad day. On such a day, they sought comfort and solace, rather than looking for solutions.

Alec heated up the pasta in the microwave, dumping on a bottle of sauce he found in the cupboard, making sure it was warm. He took two plates of food into the living room and passed one to Magnus without a word.

Magnus picked his way through the meal methodically, taking measured bites of pasta, chewing carefully. Alec did the same, trying not to let his expression show how much it hurt to hold the plate in his broken hand, since he couldn’t hold a fork with it, and eventually giving up, sliding to the ground in front of the coffee table, dropping the plate on it with a thunk. The defeat he felt with this simple action made tears press in behind his eyes again, but he blinked them back and tried to focus on finishing his meal.

Dropping the fork on his empty plate, Alec looked up to see Magnus looking at him carefully.

Magnus laced his hand into Alec’s, reaching for the other one as well, running his fingertips over the Painless rune, hearing the hitch in Alec’s breath as he brought it to his lips, kissing the rune even as tears started to stream down his face again.

“We’ll make it through this.” Alec whispered brokenly. “We will.”

Magnus nodded wordlessly, pulling Alec to his feet by his good hand, pressing that hand to his own heart. Alec closed his eyes, splaying his fingers out on Magnus’ chest, feeling his heartbeat and breathing in time with it.

“Do you -?” Magnus trailed off, trying to compose his thoughts while his mind still raced. “Would you want to - I mean, are you up for -?”

Alec nodded. “Always.” He breathed, shifting to press open-mouthed kisses along Magnus’ neck, tasting the salt of his own tears on his skin. “It’s only with you that I don’t feel broken.”

Magnus gripped Alec’s bicep and pulled him closer, walking backwards slowly, leading them towards the bedroom. They shed their clothes quickly, a torn zipper here, a broken snap there, in their quest to press their hot skin together.

Alec fell back onto the bed, dragging Magnus with him, kisses hot and clumsy as they rearranged themselves, but not wanting to lose any bit of contact that they had, wanting to give all they could to help drown out the sorrows that overwhelmed both of their minds.

Once Alec was propped up on the pillows, Magnus kissed down his sternum with an intensity that they hadn’t had in a long time, possibly not since their first time. They’d each had bad days in the past months, but never had they fallen on the same day. On any bad day, the reassurance of skin on skin was the best gift that they could give each other, and now with both of them vulnerable, the relief of being close was intensified all the more.

Magnus rubbed circles into Alec’s hips with his thumbs, helping release some of the tension that still plagued his body, before shifting to take him into his mouth, feeling the rest of the tension in Alec bleed out with that simple touch. He worked Alec slowly, building a gradual intensity until he was finally spilling in his mouth.

Alec’s hand pulled Magnus off gently, dragging him up his sweat-slicked skin so that their mouths could meet in another messy kiss, and Alec urged Magnus to move up, kneel up such that Alec could get his mouth on Magnus’ cock. Weeks of experimenting had finally granted them a position that worked, so that Alec didn’t have to support himself on both hands to be able to work Magnus to completion, needing only his mouth and one hand to take Magnus there. Alec was hungry for him, working him harder and deeper than he had before, wanting this, needing this, needing to feel that he could, that there was something he could still do, and feeling a sense of relief flood through every cell of his body as Magnus came with choked-off cry.

At least they still had this.

Magnus retrieved a cloth to wipe them down with, both too exhausted for a shower. He returned the cloth to the ensuite, wrinkling his nose at the sticky whiskey that had now soaked into the hardwood floor, but he couldn’t be bothered to care about that right now. All he wanted was Alec in his arms, and himself in Alec’s, and that at least for the evening, they would both be able to feel some sort of peace and contentment, even if it wouldn’t - couldn’t - last.

As they both drifted off to sleep, still entwined with one another, the same thought passed through both of their minds: I have to do something to help him, otherwise I’ll lose him.

* * *

The next morning, Isabelle sat at her worktable, soldering a chunk of handle back to the edge of a seraph blade. How Ashdown had managed to break off a chunk of it while on patrol, she didn’t know, but this was a job she could do without needing to send the blade back to the Iron Sisters for a more involved repair.

Her phone buzzed. She put down her soldering iron and picked it up.

MAGNUS: Hi, Isabelle. I hope you’re feeling better after that incident with the Shax demon yesterday. But I have to be honest: I’m worried about your brother. It’s killing me to see how much all of this is hurting him. I need your help. Can you meet me at my apartment tomorrow at 2pm while Alexander is in that teleconference with the Clave?

She was about to type a response when her phone buzzed again, and another text message popped up.

ALEC: Izzy, help. Please. Magnus - he’s getting worse. I’m so worried about him. I don’t know what I can do, but I have some ideas. Chat tonight before you go on patrol?

Isabelle put her phone down, resting her head in her hands as she thought back over the past few months. She wasn’t blind to the pain that her brother was in, or how lost Magnus felt without his magic. She knew they were both self-sacrificing to the extreme. The events with Lilith had proved that, and they’d both suffered for it. And they would always focus on each other’s pain more than their own.

In which case, perhaps both of them having a project to focus on for the other would help them help themselves. It wasn’t a bad idea, at any rate.

Isabelle picked her phone back up, but instead of responding to either of them right away, she pulled up a number she had yet to use, and tapped out a message, sending it off to who knows where in the world.

* * *

Catarina had just put Madzie to bed when she heard her phone buzz in the kitchen. She heard it buzz two more times before she retrieved it, sitting down on the couch as she looked out at the sun setting over the winding river in front of their little house.

ALEC: It’s Alec. I really hope you haven’t changed your number now that you and Madzie have gone… wherever you are. I understand why you left, I do, but you need to know that Magnus is getting worse. If you care about him, please. Please help me help him.

MAGNUS: Cat, I’ve been trying to respect your need for distance between yourself and New York. And me. But I can’t hold off anymore. I need your help, Cat. This is killing Alec. He’s fading away and I need to do something - anything - I can to help him. But I can’t do it alone. Please, Cat.

UNKNOWN: Hello, this is Isabelle Lightwood. We haven’t really talked outside of Clave business, but my brother Alec had given me your number as an emergency warlock contact. I know you’re a good friend of Magnus, and this morning I’ve received messages from both of them, each of them wanting me to help them help the other. I’m willing to bet you got the same messages, because they’re both self-sacrificing idiots who can never help themselves, but always helping others. If you did get messages from them, we need to talk. I think this could be good for both of them, projects to work on, but only if we manage this properly. You in?

Catarina smiled. Ignoring Alec and Magnus for now, she sent off a message to Isabelle: I’m in.

* * *

Six Months after Lilith’s Defeat

Alec let himself into Magnus’ - correction, their - apartment, backpack of books weighing heavily on his back. He’d officially moved in a month ago, which now meant bringing a lot of his reading home. To their home.

“Magnus?” He called out.

“In the library.”

Alec dropped his backpack on the couch and made his way down the hall to Magnus’ library. He had to duck quickly as he opened the door, a small airplane coming for his head.

“What the -?” Alec asked. “What’s going on?” He saw the room was full of a number of small airplanes, all flying around in different paths, with different attachments, looking like something out of a Victorian novel. “Is it magic?”

“No, no magic. Just pure science.” Magnus flipped a few switches on the console in front of him, and one by one the planes landed on his long worktable, engines sputtering into silence. He took off his glasses, dropping them on the table, and came around to give Alec a kiss.

“What are you going to do with them?”

“Oh, they’re just… prototypes. I’m trying out some new things. But once I’ve experimented enough, I’ll be able to sell them. There’s a real collectors’ market for steampunk items. And I’ve got a leg up on other creators, since I lived through the Victorian era.”

“Steampunk?” Alec asked.

“Oh, a mundane hobby. Aesthetic. Literary genre. It’s complicated. But I can always introduce you, if you think these look interesting.”

Alec nodded. “Yeah. That would be nice. Anyway, did you want to grab dinner?”

“Maybe in an hour or so. I’ve got a few things to do here before I try my hand at… what did we have on the menu for tonight?”

“Pulled pork sandwiches.”

“Right. Is that okay?”

“Sure. No problem. I’ve got a bunch of reading to do anyway.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of that lately.”

“Yeah. I just - there’s a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn. If I want this new treaty with the Downworld to go right, I - I need to understand more. Learn more, about the different factions, their internal laws, that sort of thing. This is big. It’ll be bigger than the Accords. When it is signed - I’ll feel like I’ve really accomplished something. That all of this has been worth it.”

Magnus smiled. “I’m proud of you. I know I don’t say it enough.”

“Magnus, you say it almost every day.”

“Like I said, not enough.”

Alec blushed, but smiled anyway, giving Magnus another kiss before he returned to the living room.

Once Alec had gone, Magnus left the door open a crack, and returned to his worktable. He set aside the control box for his airplanes and opened a special box that he pulled out from under the table. Inside was still just a jumble of pieces and parts, but with Isabelle’s help, he was starting to pull together a plan for what he’d build with them. Catarina had also made some suggestions, whenever she stopped in, usually after Madzie had gone to bed, wards around their house able to alert her if she needed to get back quickly.

He didn’t know how long it would take, or if Alec would even want it when he was done - his boyfriend had seemed happier and more focused lately, not in the depths of despair that had led him to reach out to Isabelle and Catarina for help in the first place - but he knew from experience that these things came in waves. If Alec dropped off this high, Magnus would be there to catch him.

In the living room, Alec settled into his favourite armchair, gingerly pulling a delicate book from his backpack and settling it in his lap. He hadn’t lied to Magnus, just not… told the whole truth. He did have other books with him that were Downworld reading for the treaty that he was formulating. But this one… this one was special. One of a kind, even. It had taken several of Catarina’s contacts, and the assurance that what he was working on was for Magnus, before Brother Zachariah had even let it out of the Silent City. Alec needed it to make any sort of progress with what Catarina and Isabelle had helped him formulate.

He just hoped it would be enough. Magnus seemed busy, now, with his new hobbies- while his magic may have gone, his substantial bank accounts, property holdings and ancient artifacts were all firmly grounded in the mundane world, thus Magnus didn’t need a new source of income, but Alec could still feel the longing in every cell of Magnus’ body whenever magic was performed around him. Magnus never said it, but Alec knew he missed it. If Alec could return any part of it back to him, he’d move heaven and hell to be able to do so.

* * *

One Year After Lilith’s Defeat

Alec was already there, a silhouette on the balcony as Magnus came in the front door, large box under his arm. He’d had a last meeting with Isabelle and Catarina, and Jace had joined them, for a final test and demonstration of what he’d spent the past months creating for Alec. Jace assured him that it would be perfect, but Magnus was still worried.

He put the box on the coffee table and slipped out to the balcony to join Alec, pressing himself along his side. Alec smiled, wrapping his arm around Magnus and dropping a kiss on his forehead.

“You’re home late.” Alec said.

“Sorry, I was meeting some - some friends, just to get their opinions on a few things.”

“Oh? On what?”

“Perhaps it is best if I show you.”

Alec nodded. “Okay. I just - I was just thinking. It’s - it’s been a year. Since… Lilith. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about everything that happened. To both of us. And everything that has happened since.” Alec pulled a cloth pouch out of his pocket. “Magnus, I - I have something for you.”

Magnus smiled, and pulled Alec inside, over to the couch. He flicked on a light and ran his hand over the intricate box on the table in front of them. “I have something for you too. Together?”

“Together.” Alec repeated, handing Magnus the pouch.

Magnus pulled open the pouch and shook its contents into the palm of his hand at the same time as Alec flicked the clasp on the box open, pushing up the lid.

“Magnus…” Alec breathed. “Is this…”

“Alec…” Magnus whispered, disbelieving. “This can’t be…”

They looked each other in the eye, and together said “It is.”

Alec bit his lip, trying to stop the tears from spilling over, but when he saw that Magnus’ eyes were also brimming with tears, he let them go, collapsing into Magnus’ side.

“This is what you were working on. I knew it couldn’t just be the airplanes.” Alec said, voice shaking.

“I wanted to give you back what was taken from you. As much as I could.”

“So did I.”

Magnus nodded frantically. “I can feel it… I’m going to need more details, of how exactly you accomplished this, and I can feel that it is different, but… somehow you did it.”

“I had help.”

Before Magnus could ask what help precisely, though he was starting to suspect, a knock sounded on the door.

“Come in.” Magnus said, wiping away his happy tears as much as he could. He could feel who was on the other side of the door, and as Isabelle and Catarina came inside, and Alec smiled, unsurprised to see them, what Magnus had suspected all fell into place.

“Let me guess, Alexander - these two helped you.”

“Actually, we helped both of you.” Isabelle said. “But you did all of the work. The work that you needed to do. To help yourselves.”

“Izzy, I asked you for help to help Magnus, not me.”

“Big brother, I love you, but sometimes you’re an idiot.”

“And that goes for you too, Magnus.” Catarina said, dropping into one of the chairs across from them. “Isabelle contacted me after both of you reached out to each of us. And neither one of you would accept help for yourselves, so… this was the way to get you to help yourselves. We’ve seen you, both of you, over the past months. The focus you’ve had. The fewer drinks -” Catarina eyed Magnus sternly “- and less long nights filling out Clave paperwork.” Now she glanced at Alec. “You’re both happier. Even if your efforts on what you were creating had come to nothing, and even if you decide not to use what we’ve helped you create - you’d still be happier. Because you stopped focusing on the pain and concentrated on what you could try to do about it.”

“Of course, it is your choice to decide whether or not you want to use what you’ve got now, you may be perfectly happy in your new lives, but - you do have these options open to you now, should you wish to take them.” Isabelle said. “And we’re all excited to see how they work, so don’t keep us waiting.”

“You go first.” Magnus whispered, kissing Alec’s cheek. “Please.”

Alec nodded, lifting the contraption out of the box, examining all sides of it, before slipping it onto his arm, every inch of it calibrated to perfectly align itself with his muscles and bones, even if the bones weren’t where they should have been. Isabelle helped fasten the clasps around his bicep and forearm, but Magnus stepped up to fasten the strap around Alec’s twisted wrist, his slim fingers pressing a particular spot against the Painless rune, and Alec felt a relief that he hadn’t felt in months flood through his body like a soothing balm.

“What - what is that?”

“A little something special that the Silent Brothers cooked up. It enhances the effects of your Painless rune. It can’t take away the demonic taint, but it can isolate it with pure angelic energy so that its effects on you are lessened.”

“Thank you, Magnus.” Alec said. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“How about with a demonstration of what this is supposed to do?”

Alec smiled, reaching back into the box for an arrow, which he mounted into the contraption. It took some wiggling around of the fingers on that hand to find the right place to pull the trigger, but once Alec found it, he aimed and hit a perfect shot into the eye of Michelangelo on the portrait that Magnus had on the wall.

“Alexander!” Magnus said in mock horror. “How could you do that to Michelangelo?”

“Nothing personal.” Alec said, loading up another arrow and taking aim further across the apartment, letting loose another one, nodding in satisfaction as it hit its target. “You’ve always said that Michelangelo was a great artist and a great lover, but… you outshine him in everything, Magnus. You’re brilliant, to design this, to create this for me - I never thought I’d be able to shoot a bow again, and here you’ve managed to create one that works with my body, not against it. Thank you.”

Magnus nodded, overcome with emotion as he dropped back into his seat, hand still painfully clenched around a collection of amulets, rings and bracelets. Alec disconnected his arm-bow and placed it back into the box carefully, sitting back down next to Magnus, rubbing his thumb over Magnus’ wrist, encouraging him to open his hand again.

“I can feel the magic in these.” Magnus whispered. “And I can feel that it connects to me somehow, but - I don’t understand how. Asmodeus took my magic from me. He took everything.”

“He couldn’t take your blood.” Catarina said. “You’re still of his blood. And that’s what we were able to draw on. I admit, that as a warlock, I’ve always focused on Asmodeus as a demon, but - Alec and Isabelle reminded me that Asmodeus was once an angel. And as a fallen angel, that means his blood is special. Your blood is special.”

“That day you complained that I kept leaving my stele in places I shouldn’t, when you were holding it and it lit up for you - that gave me the idea.” Alec explained. “There’s still power in your veins, power that Asmodeus couldn’t touch, and these - these will help you focus it. It’ll be different than what you were used to, and it’ll take some practice, but - it is here, if you want it. You don’t need to decide right away. Neither of us do. Just - it’s been a hell of a year, and now after everything - we can’t go back to the way things were before, I don’t even think I want to anymore, but we can go into the future, a future that has all sorts of possibilities available to us. A future where we decide what we want, rather than having those choices made for us.”

“Thank you, Alexander.” Magnus said, resting his forehead against Alec’s. “And you’re right, everything is so different now, and what we choose, day by day, is full of possibilities. But the most important - it’s having you. After everything we’ve been through, that we’re still here, standing together - that’s the most precious gift of all.”

“It is.” Alec said, voice heavy with emotion. “I love you so much. Without you, this past year - it - it would have been hell. I’m so lucky to have you in my life.”

“As am I. I love you, Alexander.”

“I love you too.”