Chapter 1: A Chance Encounter
Alec was in his zone. The oldies rock pumping out of the ancient speakers in the corner of the room mixed with the buzz of the tattoo gun to create the perfect soundtrack for him to tattoo to.
He was working on the outline of some lilies wrapping around a cross on his favorite customer. Raphael was a grumpy twenty-two-year-old who always came in with heavy duty yet stylish headphones to ward off any hint of conversation, and a gigantic cup of iced black coffee to, Alec assumed, cope with having to deal with people. Alec could relate.
Raphael had been coming in for the past year to make a shoulder to elbow sleeve of a mishmash of different neo-traditional pieces. Raphael was a dream client: no small talk, no whining, and he gave Alec all the creative freedom that he wanted. Alec had been pumped about this latest addition for weeks. As soon as he found out that Raphael wanted another piece, he had cooped himself up in his apartment for hours on end after work, sketching and sketching until he got the perfect pattern. And thankfully, Raphael had liked his design and they started line work right away. It was a big piece, a large ornate cross on his underarm, so he had already been working for two hours.
Alec had just finished up the last of the line work when his phone started to buzz like crazy. He glanced at it worriedly; it was programmed so that only Izzy and Jace’s calls came through while he was at work. He couldn’t help but think that something was wrong, but he banished the thought as quickly as it came. Izzy probably just wanted to pester him into giving her his password on Tindr again so she could swipe for him. He’d learned from that mistake the first time he had let Izzy take over, after she started a series of awfully awkward text conversations and then set him up on a few disastrous blind dates. Izzy insisted that she could match him up with someone nice if she had another chance, but he was less than convinced.
Alec wiped the excess ink and blood off of Raphael’s arm before sealing his new tats with a big clear bandage. Raphael rotated his arm to look at his work, and Alec couldn’t help but feel a happy buzz when Raphael’s lips twitched up into a small smile.
“Alright Raphael, you’re all set. You know the drill for infection control, right? Don’t take that off for the next three hours and—”
“Really? I was going to take it off right now and go swimming in some diseased water,” Raphael deadpanned, pulling his headphones off of his head and wrapping them up. He looked up at Alec’s aghast expression with a grin, “Kidding. Don’t worry, I won’t mess up your work. I’ve got your tattoo care pamphlets coming out of my ears.”
Alec ran a hand over his face and let out a sigh, “Get out before you give me a heart attack. Come back for your appointment next week so I can fill in with color. And you better call me if you ever want to go full sleeve.”
“Mhmm,” Raphael grabbed his bag and sarcastically raised his iced coffee in a mock goodbye before going up front to pay. Alec resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but he was a little glad that Raphael left in his typical abrupt and slightly rude fashion. He was Alec’s last scheduled customer of the day, and they didn’t do walk-in appointments on Tuesdays, so that meant Alec was finally good to go home.
He quickly cleaned up his station. Usually he worked late hours to tattoo all the drunk people making bad decisions, but, by some weird scheduling hiccup, Alec was off of work at 4. He wasn’t going to complain. Well, maybe a little because he needed the tips and the commission money, but his bank account would survive giving him one night to relax.
Once everything had been wiped down and sanitized, he finally checked his phone, which had started vibrating again. He picked it up without looking at the caller ID, “Hey Iz.”
“Alec, hi! Why didn’t you pick up?” She seemed a little frantic.
“I was in the middle of a piece, sorry. What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Oh, you know, do I need a reason to call my favorite brother?” Izzy was trying so hard to be casual, it made Alec snort.
“…you do when you called me five times at work,” he said, slightly grouchily.
“Okay, uh, so I might not have looked at the calendar this week and I might not have realized that Mom’s birthday dinner is tonight. Please tell me you got mother a present.”
“Um.” Alec did not get their mother a present, he didn’t even remember that the dinner was that night. “That’s tonight?” he asked as he frantically wracked his brain for how the hell he managed to forgot about this. A rush of realization hit him; that’s why he cleared his schedule for that day. He immediately began to feel trepidation bubble in his stomach. Alec wasn’t exactly his mother’s favorite person, no matter how hard he tried, and him being ill-prepared for a family gathering definitely wasn’t going to help his case.
Izzy was all too happy about the fact that he’d forgotten about the dinner. She started talking at light speed, “Great! We’re in the same boat. Can you please, please get her chocolates or something? Wait actually, isn’t there that flower shop right by your tattoo place? You should go there. Say they’re from both of us, and let’s be honest, Jace probably forgot too, so from all three of us. I texted him, but he’s probably off making out with some girl and not checking his phone. So, yeah, can you go?”
“You are literally working down the street from me. Why can’t you do it?” Alec tried to focus on Izzy’s voice, and not the impending doom that was being around his mother.
“I can’t get out of work until right before the dinner, so I won’t have time to get anything, and since you picked up the phone, you’re probably off of work, so, yeah, please do this or when mother passive-aggressively kills me I’ll haunt you forever.”
Alec rolled his eyes, “Fine, but you owe me. Actually, you double owe me because you know I’m only going tonight for you and Jace. I expect lots of coffee deliveries during your breaks for like, the next three months.” Izzy was working at a coffee place called Taki’s a block away from him, and getting coffee brought to him while he was working had become his favorite bargaining chip with Izzy.
“Yeah, yeah, fine. Make me walk in my gross uniform all the way down a whole block when you have legs that can—oh! Jace texted and he, of course, didn’t get a present.”
“Of course,” Alec felt a bit of the anxious knot in his stomach melt away. None of them were prepared, so at least that would make him stand out less.
“Okay, my manager is staring at me because I’m taking too long of a break. Gotta go. Thank youuuuuu!”
“Wait, but--!” Izzy abruptly hung up, leaving Alec to deal with the awful job of getting a present for his mother.
Grumbling about ungrateful sisters, he threw his sweater on and shoved his phone into his pocket. If he was being honest, he had forgotten that he was even invited to his mother’s birthday this year; he had been so sure that she would have figured out some excuse to uninvite him by now. It’s not like she enjoys his company anyway.
But Izzy and Jace were determined to mend the bridge between him and his mother, even if it’s a mangled, burnt down, uncrossable bridge in Alec’s opinion. So, he was secretly a little glad that he had the foresight to clear his schedule for the rest of the day. He hated disappointing Jace and Iz, and Alec didn’t want to picture them being the sole receivers of their mother’s wrath. And besides, there was no reason to make mother dearest hate him any more than she already does, he supposed.
He said a quick goodbye to the new apprentice, Clary, and went in search of flowers.
Magnus was bored. He was a people person, and there hadn’t been a lot of people around for him to talk to. It was a gloomy Tuesday in February, and the air in the shop was stale and thick from the heaters. Only a few customers had floated in. After the Valentine’s Day craze, things at the Pandemonium Flower Emporium tended to slow to a near halt.
As much as he wanted to hate the tedium of the store, it had belonged to his mom and it provided a fairly steady income while he got his Masters and built up a portfolio. Besides, it usually wasn’t quite so lonely. He usually coerced one of his friends into hanging out with him during his shifts, but Catarina and Ragnor’s schedules were completely filled with writing their theses for their Masters, and Raphael was assuredly off somewhere being a cloud of young adult angst.
He had one of his textbooks open and was desperately trying to figure out what his next paper topic would be when the bell at the door to the store jingled as someone walked in. Magnus was glad for the distraction because he was ready to pull out his hair, and wouldn’t that be a tragedy when he was having an especially nice hair day?
He watched casually from behind the register as a pale hand pushed open the door. He followed that hand with his eyes up a tattooed arm and to the face of what could have very well been an angel if he believed in that kind of thing.
Well, fuck studying. The man who walked in the door was far more interesting than figuring out a thesis. He was at least six feet tall with broad shoulders, and ripped. And as if that wasn’t enough to get Magnus interested, the man had the sleeves of his sweater rolled up to his elbows, exposing the tattoos curling around his forearms. Magnus always thought it was unfair when people did that, because something about rolled up sleeves was too damn attractive. When he thought about it, tattoos were also too damn attractive. Sure, the stranger’s hair was sticking up everywhere and his outfit was the most monochromatic thing in existence, but it somehow managed to still be painfully hot. Clearly, Magnus had done something awful and this man was sent to torment him with his good looks.
The stranger walked around, towering over the aisles of flowers. Magnus quickly stood up from behind the counter to walk closer to the mystery man. He pretended to straighten out some carnations near him and put on his best smile, “Welcome to Pandemonium. Can I help you find anything?"
Mystery man looked up from the sunflowers he was contemplating and blinked at him, “I, um, I’m okay, thank you.”
Magnus’ eyes drifted down to his lips when the man spoke, noticing his silver lip ring. That was just unfair. He might have been staring at the man’s lips for too long, because he was pretty sure that the mountain of a man covered in tattoos started blushing. Now, he was all for defying societal norms and stereotypes, but he couldn’t help but be surprised that someone so obviously gorgeous could be shy.
Magnus recovered quickly, tearing his eyes away from the piercing and amping down his megawatt smile into something less intimidating. He lightly touched his hand to the man’s arm before quickly moving it away, “Sorry if I ambushed you with the salesperson talk. It’s been a slow day.”
“It’s okay, sorry,” the stranger mumbled, clearly still a little flustered.
“Nothing to apologize for,” Magnus replied with a grin. He backed off then, heading back to the register, mildly disappointed that he didn’t make more of an impression. But, he wasn’t going to make a total stranger uncomfortable just because he was attractive, that would just be rude.
He stared at his textbook, trying to force himself to pay attention to the words in front of him. He lasted a good five minutes, before looking back up and seeing the man still wandering around.
His resolve crumpled. The shop was empty, studying was boring, and he couldn’t just not talk to the hottest man in existence. “Looking for anything in particular? I know the options can get overwhelming,” Magnus said gently.
“I’m looking for a birthday present for someone that hates me,” the man let out a nervous laugh as Magnus let out a surprised one.
“That’s rough. Did you piss off your girlfriend?”
“No,” he mumbled, blushing again as his sudden confidence dissipated.
“Boyfriend?” So Magnus was a little curious, sue him.
“No,” the stranger seemed to be getting more flustered by the second.
“My mom. Family dinner tonight, and she’s not a fan of…” he gestured vaguely at his entire body, “this.” The stranger seemed a little startled that he had admitted that much. He bit his lip and seemed like he was about to start apologizing.
Magnus quickly swooped in with a response to smooth it over, “I’ve got the perfect thing for that; sounds like you need some red and white roses. They symbolize unity when they’re put together, so hopefully your dinner will go alright.” Magnus plucked up one of the premade bouquets and handed it to the stranger.
“I, um, yeah that’s- that works, thank you, really.”
“Would you like anything else, or should I check you out? I mean, I’ve already done that,” Magnus smiled and deliberately panned his eyes down to the cute guy’s lips, then back up to his eyes. He couldn’t resist getting in at least one flirty line, the stranger was exceptionally cute after all.
He seemed to get even more flushed, if that was possible, “yes please.” His blush was kind of adorable though, so Magnus wasn’t about to complain.
Magnus strode to the cash register and rung up the flowers for the nervous man fumbling with his wallet. The man finally found his credit card and passed it over to Magnus, who took the opportunity to scan for his name after sliding it through the card reader.
“Alexander, huh?” Magnus said with a smile, handing back the plastic card.
“Um, yeah. I go by just Alec actually.” Apparently-just-Alec said.
“Not according to this card you don’t,” he said as he handed back the credit card. “I’m Magnus, by the way. Have a wonderful dinner, Alexander.”
“Thanks,” Alec smiled lopsidedly, taking the flowers from Magnus and walking to the door. The bell jingled as he opened it.
Alec paused for a second, then abruptly turned back towards Magnus, who was pretending that he hadn’t been watching Alec leave.
“Have a good night,” Alec said, meeting his eyes with sincerity that startled Magnus. Alec quickly looked down and rushed out of the shop before Magnus could reply.
A woman coming in through the door bumped into Alec and hissed out an indignant “excuse you!” Alec spluttered out an apology and quickly left the shop, leaving Magnus alone with the jingling of the door shutting behind him and a very annoyed woman.
Magnus stared after Alec as he left. He recovered after a second and turned on his Customer Smile to the woman. His smile quickly dropped once he got a good look at her.
Chapter 2: A Blast From the Not-So-Distant Past
Hi, so I'm a bad person and am updating this waaaaaaaaay later than I said I would, but it's here! And it's kind of decent ish?! Thanks for sticking with me <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Of all the people that Magnus was expecting to see walk into his shop after meeting the hottest man in existence, his ex-girlfriend was definitely not one of them. Yet there she was, in all her well-dressed and perfectly manicured glory.
Magnus was pretty sure that he was having some form of medical emergency. The sight of her had turned his insides into what might as well be a bubbling acid pit, and his brain was quickly losing all sense of reason.
Had she finally come to apologize? Her actions had seemed irredeemable at first, but now that Magnus was looking at her, they didn’t seem like such big deal-breakers. She was here, in front of him, after all.
He felt his carefully constructed resolve start to crumble a little. How could he care about the past when she was standing right in front of him?
He knew that logically, nothing had changed and that she was still the same asshole that he had broken up with. Unfortunately his heart and his brain ran on different frequencies.
“Magnus,” she said in greeting. Fuck, her saying his name sent anticipatory tingles down his back.
This was it, Magnus thought, this was the moment when she’d finally apologize and beg him for his forgiveness. The could finally get back together and everything would be okay again.
Camille dropped a box onto the counter with a dull thud. “You left some things at my house. Since you haven’t been coming by, I thought you might want them.”
Oh. So, she wasn’t there to apologize then. Magnus felt like cold water had been dumped on him, effectively freezing any bit of hope out of him. Of course she didn’t come to apologize. Magnus shouldn’t have even dared to hope otherwise.
He scrambled for something witty to say and came up with nothing. He eyed the box like it was a snake ready to uncoil and attack. “You should have texted first,” Magnus found himself saying coolly. “The shop’s been busy,” he stated, desperately forcing his tone to be light.
Camille made a show of looking around the empty store. “Oh, I’m sure it has,” she said with a pearly white smile, teeth gleaming in the light.
“Thanks for my stuff. You should probably go.” Magnus stayed behind the register, gripping the countertop a bit too tightly. He wanted his tone to match her unaffectedness, but it sounded nervous at best, even to his own ears.
Camille stepped closer. “Magnus, it’s been almost a month. Don’t you miss me? Aren’t you lonely?” she cajoled.
“No and no, I’m not,” he insisted, taking a step back, feeling the need to distance himself even though there was a counter between them. He tried for an offhanded smile, but it came out a little wobbly.
“Well I’m lonely. Can’t you forgive me this one little indiscretion? I still care for you, you know.” she sighed, pouting a little.
He stared at her blankly. Suddenly, his hurt rushed to the forefront; his disappointment and fear morphed into a strange and potent combination of anger and baffled amusement.
Magnus laughed sardonically, “I wouldn’t call six months of cheating a ‘little indiscretion.’ And I can’t exactly forgive you for something you never apologized for.”
“Why do you have to get caught up in the details of everything? Still as sensitive as ever, I see.”
“I am not being sensitive,” Magnus snapped, his voice getting louder.
“Mhmm, well, give me a call when you’ve gotten over yourself.”
“Hah, give me a call when you grow a conscience,” he called out hotly. Camille wasn’t even listening, having already spun around and started to make her leave. The remark felt a little lame to him as it sat, unacknowledged in the air.
Magnus watched as Camille plucked a wilted white lily from a bouquet by the door as she left. Funeral flowers, how fitting. Time to host a funeral for their fucking relationship. The door let out a celebratory jingle as it shut.
And then, there was silence.
She still wasn’t sorry. How was she still not sorry? Magnus sat down on the stool behind him with a thud. The anger that had been building the whole time she was there fizzled out faster than a lighter dropped into the ocean.
Self-doubt started to creep into the gaps that his dissipating anger had left behind.
Was she right? Was he being too sensitive? After all, he was the one that had ended the conversation with yelling and being childish.
Magnus knew that he could be a little dramatic. He knew that he loved deeply, sooner than some people may like. It could be overwhelming, he supposed. He could be overwhelming.
Magnus stared at the door for a second. His vision was blurring a little bit, which made him suddenly aware of the tears clinging to his lashes. He grabbed a tissue so that the runaway droplets didn’t completely wreck his eyeliner.
Maybe he had overreacted. He should’ve probably just been grateful that Camille came back to talk to him at all. He’d probably never find anyone else willing to deal with his clinginess and assorted quirks. She had been nice enough to ignore them for him.
Maybe he shouldn’t have been so rude to her. She was pretty great when he didn’t know she was cheating on him, after all. He didn’t want to lose her forever.
Magnus took out his phone and started to frantically tap out a text to Camille, ‘You’re right, I miss you. Come back to the shop. I’m sorry.’
Magnus’ finger hovered over the send button. Something made him pause.
Did he really want her back in his life?
“Not today, Satan,” he whispered to himself.
He mashed the delete button with his thumb until the whole sorry mess of a text was gone.
Magnus wasn’t going to go down that road again.
Quickly going to the Recent section on his phone, he hit the top contact. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down as he listened to the ringing.
“Hello?” drawled the voice on the other end of the line, already sounding annoyed.
“Ragnor, I need lots of alcohol and junk food, stat.”
Ragnor let out a pained sigh, “I already told you that I absolutely will not help you throw another party at the frat-“
“It’s more of a party for two, or more if Raph or Cat’s around,” Magnus said glibly, trying to sound casual.
There was a pause on the other end of the line. Magnus could feel Ragnor’s foolproof bullshit sensors going off. Ragnor’s tone lost some of its sharpness, “Magnus, what happened?”
“Oh, you know, just a little dance with the devil.”
“A cheating, manipulative devil?”
“That’s the one,” Magnus said, leaning back against the wall.
Ragnor sighed, “I’ll bring the booze.”
“Do these say ‘sorry my existence is a constant disappointment’ efficiently enough?” Alec held the bouquet of roses up to Izzy and Jace. They were standing outside the metal gate that led up to their mother’s penthouse apartment and were waiting to get buzzed in. Because of course she wouldn’t want go out to dinner like a normal family. Be amongst the common folk? Gasp!
“There’s definitely a ‘sorry my career path tarnishes your perfect reputation’ vibe going,” Jace replied with a half-smile, shoving the flowers away from his face.
“Tattoos? What tattoos? I’m too distracted by the flowers to notice,” Izzy chimed in with a grin.
Alec brought the bouquet back to his chest, staring down into the flowers with a tiny smile. As Jace and Izzy continued to banter back and forth, Alec couldn’t help but zone out thinking about the guy he met. At least something good had happened today. Better to think of that than about what was inevitably going to happen later in the evening.
Izzy’s grin widened as she zeroed in on Alec’s dopey expression, “Why are you being all not miserable?”
“Can I not just be not miserable?”
“No,” Izzy and Jace said simultaneously.
Alec huffed to hide a tiny smile forming on his lips.
The gate let out a few beeps before gliding open with an electronic whir. Alec embraced the opportunity for escape and went through the gate without replying. They walked into the building and made their way to the elevator, Jace and Izzy trailing behind Alec in expectant silence.
Once the elevator doors had safely slid shut, Alec said, “Okay so the flower shop guy might have flirted with me.” Izzy squealed as Jace punched him in the shoulder. Alec added, “but I was a total idiot as usual, so it’s going nowhere.”
“Alec!” Izzy groaned.
Jace asked, “Was he hot?”
“…I saw him and forgot how to talk for a second,” Alec admitted with an embarrassed laugh. Alec had thought he was having heart palpitations while Magnus stared at him, but he didn’t think Izzy and Jace needed to know that.
“Niiiiice,” Jace said.
“I need to see this man,” Izzy declared.
The elevator door dinged as it reached their destination. Izzy pointed at Alec accusingly, “We are talking about this later!”
Alec smiled to himself as they walked to their mother’s door and rang the bell. He knew that nothing would ever happen with Magnus after Alec was so awkward, but sometimes it was nice to pretend that he had the potential of a romantic life.
His mom opened the door, a tight-lipped smile firmly affixed on her face. “Isabelle, Jace. Alec,” she greeted them each in turn as they walked through the door.
Alec felt a strange sense of comfort when he saw that she was icy as usual. At least that hadn’t changed. He held out the flowers to her, “Happy birthday, mother.”
She took the roses without comment and told them to have a seat at the table while she found a vase. They all sat down and stared blankly at the rest of the vacant seats. Without their dad, Robert, or their little brother Max, the table felt empty. Alec refused to think about that, though.
Once everyone had settled into their places at the table with their food, Alec dug into his pasta and pretended that he was anywhere else. Preferably tattooing somewhere across the country from the awkward mess of a dinner party he was being subjected to.
The silence pressed in and made it hard for him to concentrate on pretending to be elsewhere. Something about these family gatherings always made Alec feel like a teen again, uncertain and anxious. Well, he knew that the “something” making him uncomfortable was Maryse, but he couldn’t exactly uninvite her from her own birthday party.
He couldn’t recall exactly when he started to call his parents by their first names, but he could hazard a guess that it was around the time they kicked him out of the house for not wanting to pretend to be straight. Being back in the house wasn’t exactly his favorite thing in the world.
The room was silent except for the quiet sounds of eating. It always weirded him out that Izzy and Jace, the two people that he could never get to stop talking, never said anything during these dinners. Maybe that was what bothered him the most: the sense that the three siblings were waiting on Maryse to take charge of the conversation, the situation, everything.
“I see you’ve been busy.”
Alec looked up from his plate, a little startled that Maryse was addressing him first. Jace and Izzy’s heads whipped not-so-subtlety over to him.
Alec smiled tentatively, “Yeah, actually. I don’t know if I told you, but I’ve been given my own station at Garroway’s since I finished my apprenticeship a year ago, and I just got my piercing certification so I can start doing that too.”
Maryse’s face made Alec briefly wonder if she had found something distasteful in her pasta. He quickly realized that his lip ring, which Maryse was staring very intently at, was the source of her sour expression. He had to admit that drawing a reaction like that out of her made him a little proud, seeing as he had gotten it a couple years ago to piss her off anyway. Magnus had seemed to like it though...
Alec had to take a second to remind himself that it was not the time to think about cute guys, probably the worst time, in fact. He was painfully reminded of this at Maryse’s next question.
“Have you registered for the bar exam this year?” she asked briskly.
Alec could feel tension creeping its way into his shoulders. Before his parents had determined that he was a useless heir to their law-firm-throne, they had tried to make him be a lawyer. His mother was still trying, unfortunately. For all Alec cared, she could choke on the law degree she had tried to shove down his throat.
He politely said, “No, I’m actually really happy where I am with my job at Garroway’s. I’m making a lot of progress.”
“He’s getting really good at it, Mom,” Izzy chimed in and Jace nodded in assent. Alec smiled at them, grateful that they were at least supporting him.
Maryse pointedly ignored Izzy and turned away, “Jace, how’s that mock civil case been going? And your final project?”
Jace glanced worriedly at Alec before turning back to Maryse to answer her question.
Alec relaxed into his seat as the conversation turned to Jace and Izzy’s law careers following in mother dearest’s footsteps. It was a safe topic that he didn’t need to pay attention to. Besides, Alec already knew about how their classes were going, because he, unlike his mother, actually bothered to check in on them and talk to them.
Alec was so deep in thought that it took him a minute to realize that he had no more food on his plate, and that he had been pushing around air with his fork. Without the plate of food to distract himself with, he diverted his restless energy to taking long gulps of water.
He was shocked that he was getting pulled into the conversation by his mother for the second time that night. He put down his cup. “Sorry, what?”
“I need you to do me a favor,” she started. Without even looking, Alec could feel Jace and Izzy tense. Maryse continued, “The Branwells have expressed interest in a merger with the Lightwood firm. Their daughter, Lydia, will not be part of the negotiations and will be in need of entertaining. She has unfortunately gotten it into her head that you’re an interesting person, and since your siblings will both be at work or in class, I have no other choice than to invite her to lunch with you next week. Make room in your schedule.”
Alec had to remind himself that it was his mother’s birthday, and that he didn’t want to fight with her in front of Jace and Izzy. He plastered the fakest of smiles onto his face. “Yes, mother. I’ll make room.”
Thanks for reading! I'd love any feedback you guys have, it's always appreciated. Sorry that this was kinda of weird and angsty, but I wanted to explore what Magnus was like post-Camille-breakup, and since it's an AU, I played around with the timeline. Hope the chapter was okay!