Chapter 1: Coming Home
Twenty-seven was too old to be going to summer camp. It didn’t matter that he was the counselor for his cabin, or that it was possibly the only safe place in the world for people like him. No, the only thing that mattered was that Magnus refused to turn thirty while still living at a camp filled with children and teenagers.
It wasn’t like he stayed there all year round. Considering his age, he could come and go as he pleased and no one could stop him. Between his magic and his bronze daggers, Magnus could hold his own against any monster and the few trophies that decorated their cabin were evidence of that. So occasionally he would make his way back to Brooklyn, spend time with his father and friends before worrying that he was putting them all in danger and returning to camp.
In the end, his fear for the safety of his loved ones kept Magnus coming back to Camp Half-Blood. Because even if he excelled in fighting, the people he loved in the city were all mortals, and completely susceptible to the monster attacks that followed wherever a half-blood went.
Cat stood in the doorway, smirking at him, “What brought you back this time? You weren’t gone very long.” Usually, Magnus disappeared for a few weeks at a time, enough to enjoy life outside the camp and then return before anything terrible happened. This time, it was only four days.
“So, you’re back,” Ragnor drawled when Magnus dropped his bag on his bunk. The dust that came off it had them all coughing and Magnus shot a glare at his siblings. Ragnor, the only camper older than Magnus, shrugged, completely unapologetic. It wasn’t as if they ever won the competition, mostly because the majority of the camp lived in fear of them and their cabin. They tended to slack a little on their cleaning because of it. But considering the time he’d been away, the only reason for that much dust was if one of them was messing with him.
Ignoring Cat’s question in favor of getting settled, Magnus turned his back on the two other elder members of the cabin. As he started to unpack, small arms wrapped around his leg and Magnus looked down at his favorite sister, who smiled up at him with a wide, happy grin. “Sweetpea, have you missed me?”
She nodded emphatically and climbed onto his bed to help. Madzie never spoke much, which wasn’t a surprise to any of them when they found out about the life they lived before one of the other demigods found her and brought her to camp. She lived in the Hermes cabin for all of three hours before their mother’s paired torches appeared over her head and everyone there scrambled away from her as if she was cursed.
Ever since, Magnus and his siblings worked to make sure she knew she was loved and appreciated, even if it was only within the walls of their own home.
“Well, I’m glad because I brought you a present.” Slipping a small item from his pocket, he dropped it into Madzie’s hand. “It’s a prism. If you have a light source, you can make a rainbow. That way you can always call me, no matter where either of us is.” Madzie grinned brightly and hurried off to show Zoe, the only other member of the cabin her own age. There were eight in the cabin in total; Ragnor, Cat, Magnus, Dot, Elias, Lorenzo, Zoe and Madzie. Elias didn’t come around much anymore and Lorenzo... Well, they all just preferred to ignore him entirely.
He’d hoped that the other two had left but neither of them knew when to leave him alone. It was one of the things he loved about them and one of the things he hated. “So, are you going to tell us why you are back so soon?” Cat asked, sitting on the bed after snapping her fingers to rid it of the dust. “Did you run into Camille again?”
Frowning at the name, Magnus shook his head. After making sure no one else was in the room with them, he flicked his wrist, slamming the door shut so the others couldn’t overhear. “No, I haven’t heard from her in months, thank Zeus for that.” Not that Zeus had anything to do with it. Camille was an issue in and of herself, with or without their godly parents getting involved.
“So, what was it? Usually, you like to spend time with your dad and date half of Queens before you return.” Magnus rolled his eyes at Cat. He loved her but she could be nosy as hell.
With a sigh, Magnus threw himself down on the bed next to her. “Mom told me to come back.”
That got the reaction he expected. Both Ragnor and Cat froze, staring at them intently. Their mother was a very hands-off parent, even more so than the rest of the pantheon. They’d each only seen her once or twice before, and always in times of great trouble. If she was appearing, something big was going to happen.
“What did she want? Did she say?” Ragnor was the one to ask that question but he could see in Cat’s eyes that she wondered the same thing.
Magnus shrugged. “To get back to camp because I needed to be here. Everything was going to change. She’s not the most straightforward person ever, you know that.” What their mother meant had been weighing on him since she appeared in his father’s loft in Brooklyn twelve hours before. He left a note for Asmodeus and began the trek back to camp. Whatever it was his mother was talking about, it was important enough for her to appear in person, so Magnus wasted no time.
“Everything is going to change for you? For all of us? For the world? Honestly, Bane, you’d think you would find out details.” Ragnor’s frustration mirrored Magnus’ but he’d already told them everything he knew.
Frustrated, Magnus ran his hand through his hair, inadvertently changing the color of his highlights from blue to red. “If I knew more, I would tell you. Get back here. Things are going to change. And something about prophecy but whether it was a specific prophecy or just a general seeing of the future, I don’t know. Once I find out, I’ll tell you two. Do you think there is anyone else in this camp I would talk to about this? Certainly not Lorenzo, and obviously the big twelve cabins wouldn’t listen even if I did.”
“So, what do you need us to do?” If nothing else, Magnus knew he could always count on Ragnor and Cat to be there for him. There were others he considered friends but he held everyone besides his siblings at an arm’s length. It was safer because in the end, people only hurt you and you could only count on your family.
Before he could answer, the bell rang up at the pavilion and he sighed. With a snap of his fingers, his things were put away and his side of the room straightened up. “Right now you need to go with me to dinner and make sure I don’t curse any of the idiots we have the misfortune of calling our family.”
They both nodded and hurried to collect both Zoe and Madzie. Through a silent agreement, not another word was spoken about their mother on the walk up to the pavilion. While everyone at Camp Half-blood knew who their parents were (even if it was a generic one-of-the-Greek-gods sense), only children of the big twelve really talked about them. The rest were just there, accepted into camp because one half-blood many years ago saved Olympus and got the lesser gods’ children admitted to the camp as well. But while they might be there, they didn’t feel like they belonged.
Particularly not Magnus and his siblings because they weren’t even children of a god. They were children of a Titan, problematic in completely different ways. When Magnus really thought about it, he understood why no one really trusted them. Particularly since the gifts they received from their mother was more than any of the other demigods could have hoped for, the big three possibly excluded.
Keeping Madzie and Zoe between them to protect them from the heckles of some of the less than kind campers, the group made their way to their assigned table in the corner of the pavilion. “Look the freaks have arrived,” one loud mouth camper called, getting a laugh from his table. As a son of Nike Sebastian walked around camp like he owned the place, despite having almost no skills of any discernible value. Aside from being his mother’s son, there was nothing remarkable about him whatsoever.
“Sebastian, shut up,” a daughter of Ares hissed, a beautiful redhead who certainly didn’t act anything like her obnoxious cousin. Magnus was shocked when she even gave them a tentative smile. Maybe there was hope for some of the family yet.
Cat caught Magnus’ eye and he could see she was thinking the same thing. “That was different,” she mumbled under her breath when they took their seats. “Has anyone ever stood up for us before?”
“Not in the fifteen years I’ve been here,” Ragnor replied. He was one of the first of their mother’s children to move to the Camp and acted as Counselor when Magnus wasn’t around. For their mother, the cabin Counselor was the strongest one in the group, which was currently Magnus. She only valued the best and brightest. While it could be seen as cruel, it was who she was and none of them were inclined to argue about it. Considering they’d survived her brutal vetting process (that ended in most of her children dying far before making it to Camp), they were not about to try to convince her otherwise, lest she turns on them next.
They all shrugged it off, discounting it as a one-time thing and filled up their plates. One by one, the campers went to the fire to leave their offerings for their parents. Magnus and his table were always last. He wondered if Hades had any children in camp if they might be more reviled than Magnus and his siblings but he doubted it. At least Hades had a throne on Mount Olympus. Magnus didn’t even know if his mother was welcome there.
Eventually, everyone else was eating and so Magnus helped usher Zoe and Madzie to the front, ignoring the way Lorenzo cut in front of them all. As if he was more important than the rest of them. “Fucking Lorenzo,” he muttered under his breath, causing the two little ones to giggle and Cat to slap him on the back of his head. “What?” he grumbled, “If Dot was here, she would have laughed.”
Their missing sister was a lot like Magnus. Dot came and went wherever she felt like but sometimes it was months to over a year before they heard back from her. Not as strong as the rest of them, she didn’t seem to attract a monster’s attention quite like Magnus and the others did. (Sometimes he wished Lorenzo would go out into the world. Maybe they would get lucky and a monster would take care of him. But no, he stayed here, making their lives miserable and staying alive for day after day.) She always came back but this time she’d been gone without a word. No letters, no texts, no Iris messages. It wasn’t normal for her.
“She would have laughed and then she would have hit you too and you know it.” They shared a grin, both of them missing their friend. It wasn’t the same without her there. Cat sighed, “You think she’s okay? I’m starting to get worried.”
“I’m sure she’s fine, Catarina. You and I both know Dot is too cunning to get caught by anyone or anything. I’m sure she’s just enjoying her time away from the glares of our lovely cousins and Lorenzo’s lectures about his own importance and elegance.” All three of them - Magnus, Cat, and Ragnor - wished they could do that. But for Zoe and Madzie’s sake, they stuck around, making sure at least two of them were in camp at any time. Neither of the girls’ fathers were still alive, which left them stuck at camp year round. Thankfully they had each other and their older siblings to watch over them but Magnus couldn’t imagine how painful it would be to realize you had nowhere else to go. “Besides, maybe she got the same message from mom and is on her way back as well.”
Cat didn’t look convinced, biting her lip as she tipped coms of her food into the brazier and made her offering. “I hope you’re right, Magnus. I would never forgive myself if something happened to her and we just sat here and did nothing.”
With a heavy sigh, Magnus nodded. If he knew Dot was in trouble, he’d be out there looking for her right now. But since they didn’t know anything, they could only wait and hope she was fine. Cat turned back to the table and Magnus made his offering. As the food hit the fire, he smelled the burnt sugar of their magic, the night sky before a thunderstorm, and the forest after a thunderstorm. “Mother,” he whispered. “Tell me why I’m supposed to be here.” Shaking his head, he spoke his mother’s name, loud enough that it would carry on the smoke to wherever she was now. Hopefully, she would hear his prayer as well.
Chapter 2: Family
“ALEC!” Max yelled from across the cabin. “Jace took my book and I want it back!” He sighed heavily, pulling himself from his seat at the far end of the cabin. All Alec ever wanted was some peace and quiet but with the family he had, it never really happened.
Not that Alec would trade his siblings for anything. There were ten of them in the Cabin seven, and Alec was currently the counselor, which meant that every little squabble came to him. And when it involved Jace, the screaming tended to get even more prominent. Jace only ever listened to Alec, though Alec argued that didn’t actually happen as often as people thought.
Ever since coming to Camp Half-blood, Alec and Jace had been inseparable. Having the same father made them brothers but it was more than that. The bond they shared was only comparable to the one Alec had with his full siblings, Isabelle and Max. Despite their father being the godly parent, both Izzy and Max took more after their mother than their dad, whereas, no one had any doubt who Alec’s father was. Jace looked the part but Alec’s personality...it was all Apollo.
“Jace, leave him alone,” he chastised, plucking the book from the blond’s hand and giving it back to Max. “Pick on someone your own size.”
“I would but you can’t pull your nose out of the book. Sometimes I think you both might be Athena’s kids. You know there is more than life than books, right?” The smirk pulling at Jace’s lips calmed Alec. It was an argument they had often. Sometimes it was a real fight that left them not speaking for hours or days, but most of the time it was a simple joke between them. And Alec always knew how to shut him up.
Placing his hands on his hips, Alec raised a brow, “You want to go do something else? Fine. Archery range, you and me.”
All of them were skilled when it came to archery but Alec almost rivaled their father when it came to his accuracy and poise with a bow. The rest of them could only hope to come in second place whenever they held a competition. “That’s not fair!” Jace whined, reaching for his own blade. “I thought we could go down to the arena and spar.”
“You know there is more to life than sparring, right? Sometimes I think you might be Ares’ kid.” From the other side of the cabin, Alec heard Izzy’s laughter. There wasn’t a greater insult in their cabin than to suggest one should actually be in Cabin five.
The only thing worse would be in one of the cabins for the minor gods.
“Fine, I could probably take you at archery. Eventually, you’re going to peak and the rest of us will finally have a chance to win the camp games.” That had everyone laughing and Jace glared at them all. “I don’t understand why you are laughing. He beats you too, you know!”
“Yeah, but because of him, we haven’t lost a camp games yet,” another kid, someone named Duncan, pointed out. “I’m okay losing on my own if it means that we win as a cabin.”
“Spoken like a true sibling,” Alec grinned. “Come on, Jace. Archery range, now. Otherwise, I’ll tell everyone you’re scared of a little competition.”
Jace could never turn down a challenge like that so he grabbed his coat and stormed out of the cabin, Alec hot on his heels. He threw the book to Max with a smile, “Enjoy your story, Max. Izzy! Make sure everyone is at the pavilion in time for dinner if we aren’t back by then.” Because while he fully intended to wipe the floor with Jace on the archery range, Alec knew they would end up sparring as well because Alec enjoyed it nearly as much as Jace did. He couldn’t always count on his bow and arrows in a fight, which meant training in hand to hand combat might someday save his life or the lives of his siblings.
Max smiled and climbed back onto his bed to return to reading. This was the first summer Maryse sent their youngest sibling to camp. He wasn’t as strong as the others and hadn't attracted the attention of any monsters yet, but he threw such a fit about being left behind that she piled all three of them into the car and drove them upstate. There were many tears on her part and Alec stayed next to her while she waved goodbye to Max who hardly turned back, running into camp without thought for anything but his own excitement. Alec promised to keep him safe, and he had, protecting him from the bullies in the other cabins as well as Jace’s hijinks.
“Kick his ass, Alec!” Max laughed, already flipping back to the proper page in his novel.
Sighing, Alec shook his head, “Language!” He grabbed his own bow, a gift from his father on his eighteenth birthday before he slipped from the cabin. Closing the door behind him, Alec stepped from the chaos of Apollo into the chaos of camp in general. Several kids from Cabin five were sparring outside their cabin and Alec had to dodge to avoid being hit by an errant blade. “Watch it!” he growled. Whether they were cousins or not, Alec had no interest in getting to know the people in that cabin who were hot-headed, impulsive and convinced of their own superiority.
He wasn’t joking when he said Jace would fit in well over there.
And it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that Jace’s best friends outside of their siblings both came from that cabin. Clary was beautiful enough to have been the daughter of Aphrodite, and Jace once suggested that maybe she was a full goddess, a child of the love between Ares and the goddess of love, but Alec could see Ares influence too strongly for her to be anything but his child.
Alec thought maybe Jace wanted to get in her pants, though that would be a recipe for absolute destruction. He’d had to ban him from bringing Clary into their cabin as it usually resulted in several fights and some minor property damage. It wasn’t worth the hassle just to make Jace that happy.
Jace was already down at the range by the time Alec got there, trying to find a bow from the selection they had. Alec used those the first few years but when he showed an aptitude for it, Apollo gave him his own, far nicer than anything the rest of the campers got to use. “What took you so long? Thought you got kidnapped or something.”
“Funny, ha ha,” Alec rolled his eyes and pulled out an arrow to inspect it, make sure it was perfect. His arrows always were but the routine grounded him, helped lower his heart rate and get him ready to kick Jace’s ass. If his brother ever figured out his secret method for centering himself before shooting, Jace would probably do whatever he could to distract him. But Jace was too busy looking for some arrows of his own to pay any attention to Alec. All the better.
They weren’t playing for anything but pride, something Jace was certain to lose by the end of the afternoon, but their competitive natures meant that it took on a fevered edge regardless of the prize.
When Jace came back with a dozen arrows and one of the standard camp bows, Alec was ready. “Ten arrows. Highest score wins. Then we can go to down to the arena if you want to go a few rounds with swords.” With a sword, Alec was far more likely to lose than here at the range, but he’d managed to get Jace a couple times, much to his delight and Jace’s shock.
“This might be the day I beat you,” Jace grinned, notching his arrow and letting it fly, hitting a seven on the target. Average for him and exactly what Alec would have expected. “Today could be the day where that is the worst shot I make.”
Alec smirked, giving Jace a one-armed shrug before turning to his own target. A deep breath and between one heartbeat and the next, he released the arrow, hitting dead center of the target. “Ten points. I’m thinking today is not going to be your day.”
They continued like that, alternating shots until Jace came away with a respectable 84 and Alec had 97. “I did better that time,” Jace pointed out and Alec was in too good of a mood to pick on him too much about losing, even if he knew Jace would never extend to him the same courtesy. “Why did you get all the skill with archery? I thought all of dad’s kids were supposed to excel at it.”
That was what Maryse had told them too, that their father was the best archer in the world, that they would take after him. But, archery wasn’t the only thing Apollo was known for and most of his kids took after one trait more than the other. For Jace, he got their father’s talent for music. His piano playing could bring people to tears. For Isabelle, she was the most gifted healer in Camp Half-blood and the one charged with training their younger siblings who took after their father in that manner. And with young Max, he drew all the time, pictures like the manga stories he read whenever they got a moment.
In reply to Jace, Alec shrugged, “You look more like dad than Izzy, Max, or me, so you have that going for you. And you know that no one in camp can compare to your music. We aren’t carbon copies of our parents, Jace. I sometimes have to remind myself of that but it doesn’t make it any less true.” Jace relaxed, the tension in his shoulders slipping away with Alec’s words. Alec understood, of course. Jace’s road to Camp Half-blood had been bumpier than most. His mother died when he was young, young enough that Jace didn’t remember her at all. He’d been taken into the system but so many things happened because of his demigod status that no house would keep him for long. A satyr found him when he was ten and brought him to Camp. It was the first summer Alec was there as well and Apollo claimed them both that day. They were inseparable after that but while Alec could go home to his mother and siblings at the end of the summer, Jace had nowhere else to go. After their third summer together, Jace started coming back to the Lightwood’s home with them and from then on, Alec considered him his brother in all ways.
Which meant that he understood Jace’s insecurities because they’d talked about them, on late nights when they were the last two up at Alec’s New York home and when training at Camp. They both knew things about the other that no one else did. Jace was the first one Alec came out to, crying on his shoulder when Jace shrugged and accepted it as if it changed nothing. He tried to set Alec up with a few guys that summer, that ended as disastrously as Alec knew it would, but it made Jace smile so he went along with it. However, neither of them wished to show their faces in the Hermes cabin again, any time soon.
Where Alec worried about the acceptance of his mortal family, he knew Jace worried that he wasn’t good enough to be the son of such an important god. He knew Jace was just waiting for the Olympians to turn their backs on him like all those foster families did while he was growing up. So far, the Lightwoods had never abandoned him and Alec hoped that maybe they were making progress getting it into his heart that he wouldn’t be alone anymore. And even Apollo showed up now and then to encourage him and tell Jace that he was proud. Their father might be flaky and absent most of the time but Alec thought he was still one of the best men he’d ever met.
Putting Jace’s bow and arrows back, they moved to the arena, where the tables were turned. It was Jace who had a specialized blade, one that moved like an extension of his own arm where Alec was stuck using the camp training swords. Even still, he managed to get a hit in now and then and even pinned him once.
“Be careful,” Jace smirked when Alec had him on the ground, Alec sitting on his chest. “People might get the wrong idea about us.”
Alec rolled his eyes and stood up. “Like anyone would believe that. They all know I have much better taste in men than to go after you,” he teased, helping Jace to his feet. As they dusted themselves off, they were called to the pavilion for dinner. Alec’s bow folded itself up into a small ring that he slipped over his finger for a time when he needed it once more. Jace’s sword did the same, becoming a wand-like creation their father called a stele. “You’re great and all but I’d prefer someone whose ego was smaller than their...”
“ALEC!” Max’s voice carried across the field, cutting off Alec’s last word and Jace’s already indignant sputtering. “Sit by me for dinner!”
“Of course, buddy.” Alec took his offered hand and swung it between them as they walked to the pavilion, Jace meeting up with Izzy who was already talking his ear off about her newest method for setting broken bones, a common occurrence in camp. “Are you excited for the campfire tonight?”
“Yes! Our cabin is always the best, especially when they bring the piano down for Jace.” Even if he didn’t have a piano, Jace’s skills with guitar and lyre were almost as good.
Alec grinned at his youngest brother. “That is very true. It has a lot to do with who our father is. You know Apollo would never settle for letting his children be anything less than the best when it came to music, but it also has a lot to do with Jace himself.” While they could all carry a tune and had better than average skills when it came to the lyre, Jace took it to another level.
Up at the pavilion, the entire cabin gathered, chatting amongst themselves. They delivered their offerings to their father, Alec doing so with a smile on his face. While he didn’t get to see Apollo very often, Alec was proud to be his son. Unlike some gods, he believed his father to be truly good. He made mistakes, but who didn’t. And he obviously loved Alec and his siblings immensely.
Sitting down, Alec’s eyes drifted to the other cabins delivering their offerings as well. They went in cabin order, which meant the big twelve went first, letting them eat long before the children of the minor gods were able to. Those cabins never complained, at least not within earshot of the Olympians offspring, but Alec wondered if things like that might be a cause of some of the tensions between them.
“See something you like?” Izzy asked, taking her seat next to him and following his line of sight to the brazier where the most beautiful man in camp was making his offering to his mother. Alec had noticed him before but he was always surrounded by his own siblings and after the thing he had with one of Selene’s daughters, Alec figured the other demigod was only interested in women. Not a big deal, considering he would never be forgiven for trying to go after a child of a minor god.
Not just any god either. Hecate, Titan goddess of magic and night.
A child of day and a child of night?
It would never work. No matter how pretty he was.
“Nah, just thinking,” Alec shrugged and turned his attention back to his food. No sense in pining about something that could never happen. He turned his focus to the campfire that night and pushed all thoughts of the beautiful man out of his mind.
Chapter 3: Surprise Visitor
“Do you think anyone will notice if we aren’t there?” Judging by the way Catarina rolled her eyes, Magnus thought maybe he’d asked that question one too many times. However, he didn’t think anyone could blame him for trying to get out of it. If it wasn’t him, then it would be Ragnor. And Ragnor was far more obnoxious with his whining, trying to style it as an academic debate, rather than just an admission that not one of them wanted to be there. Not even Zoe and Madzie, who were far more into camp activities than their older siblings. But it got old sitting on one side of the campfire while the children of the major gods sat on the other.
No one likes to feel like a second-class citizen. Even if that is what you were.
Cat sighed and nodded. “Yes, they will notice if we aren’t there. They hate us enough as it is. No point in giving them more ammunition against us. Besides, if Lorenzo is there- and you know he will be - he would waste no time in explaining to everyone why it is your fault the rest of us didn’t show up and if there was a competent counselor in charge of cabin twenty, we would be far more productive members of camp life.”
Her deadpan delivery made the corners of Magnus’ lips turn up at the edges. It wasn’t a secret that Lorenzo wanted his job. That was one of the main reasons he left Ragnor in charge when he disappeared for a while. If he let Lorenzo have the title, he would never get it back. The man was power hungry, unwilling to admit that out of all of Hecate’s children living at the camp, he wasn’t the strongest.
He wasn’t even in the top five.
“Well, we can’t have that. But you know as well as I do that no one else in this camp wants to get involved with our cabin politics after what happened last time.” Ragnor might have gotten frustrated when one of Harmonia’s children tried to mediate an argument between him and Magnus before. Ragnor turned him back to a camper after about an hour, but both of them thought it did the boy some good to spend a little time as a frog. Gave him some perspective on life.
It did end their argument, though. So the kid got some credit for that, at least.
“Fine, we’ll go. But I bet you five drachma that Apollo’s kids don’t even come around to our side of the fire.” Everyone knew that the children of Apollo led the campfires. They were the golden children of Camp Half-Blood. While their father might not be the strongest of the gods, he was one of the most beloved. Not even Mr. D criticized them much, and he hated everyone.
But it also meant that they were free to ignore the minor demigods as much as they wanted. No matter how much Percy Jackson preached equal treatment for the children of all the gods, it was clear that some were more important than others.
Not that Magnus was bitter or anything.
“I’m not taking you up on that bet. The kid that always sings - Jason, or something like that - I’m not even sure he is aware there are cabins past number twelve,” Ragnor offered, falling in step with Cat and Magnus as they made their way to the bonfire.
Magnus laughed, watching the younger ones run up ahead to get their seats. “Oh, he knows. He dated that daughter of Hebe for awhile, remember? He just doesn’t care about us unless he is getting into someone’s pants.”
“You’re one to talk, Magnus. How many people have you dated in camp?”
Magnus shrugged, “A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell, but I can guarantee none of them were children of the big twelve. Even I have standards.”
“A gentleman might not, but you are a different story altogether.”
He pulled a face at them and then shrugged, “Seventeen at last count, I think.”
Cat and Ragnor both laughed at that when they took their seats. Zoe had conjured hot chocolate for all of them which they all took with a smile. Madzie immediately froze hers, licking at it like a popsicle. “Thanks, Zoe,” Magnus grinned, sitting next to Madzie who rested her head against him. He knew somewhere in the crowd currently coming down for the fire was Lorenzo, but hopefully, he would just stay away from them. Right now, Magnus was surrounded by his favorite people in the world. Growing up, he knew who his mother was. She stopped by on occasion to check on him and to visit his father. But it wasn’t until coming to Camp Half-Blood that he realized he had siblings. There wasn’t anything he would do for any of them. Walk through Hades and back to make sure they were all safe.
“Magnus?” Madzie asked, looking up at him with the warmest eyes. “You don’t think they are going to recite poetry, do you?” The question was so innocent, asked without a hint of sarcasm of malice that Magnus had to cover his mouth to stop from laughing out loud. Apollo might be the god of poetry but he certainly wasn’t the god of good poetry, if his children were anything to go by.
“Let’s hope not, sweet pea. There is only so much I can put up with and one of the golden children reciting limericks would be too much for one night.” Madzie giggled and Magnus kissed the top of her head. Catarina smiled at him and at that moment, all was right in Magnus world.
Of course, Apollo’s cabin decided that was the time to start the bonfire and Magnus barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes all the way to the back of his head when one of the cabin members stood up. “Welcome campers to our weekly bonfire! We have a great campfire planned out but before we get started, we’re going to hear a few words from Mr. D.”
Mr. D, the portly camp activities director stood up and glared at them all. Magnus found it hard to believe that he was a god, though he knew they all chose human forms that were far less inspiring than their godly ones. He was also thankful that Mr. D’s kids seemed to have inherited their looks from their mothers, as having a number of Mr. D clones running around would have been uncomfortable. The director cleared his throat and everyone fell silent waiting for him to start.
“Alright, so some of you little brats are back. Others have disappeared. And that’s just cabin twenty.” Magnus exchanged looks with Cat and Ragnor wherein the three of them rolled their eyes and looked back to him. “The rest of you are just as annoying. Anyway, enjoy the singing and whatever else they have planned. Just don’t wake me up.” With that, he turned and walked back to the Big House, not even bothering to see if anyone had any question.
“Well, that was inspirational as always,” Catarina mumbled under her breath. Magnus snorted. Mr. D was never the most understanding of people, but the nice thing about him was that he hated them all equally. He didn’t care if the campers were the children of Zeus or the children of Iris. They were all simply torments he had to deal with until his exile was over. At least he was slightly more polite to his own children, though it would be hard to be any ruder.
The kid from Apollo’s cabin who worked as an MC for the event was talking again and Madzie shushed them all so she could listen. “Sorry, Sweet Pea,” Magnus muttered, falling silent so she could listen. It might not be anything he cared about but if it made Madzie happy, he would suffer through some inane songs and skits.
As always, they started with a singalong, Madzie sang and clapped and Magnus smiled at his youngest sister. His focus was so intent on her that he didn’t notice the fire starting to twist and turn in strange directions until someone from one of the other cabins screamed. A moment later he was on his feet with Ragnor and Catarina, pushing Madzie and Zoe behind them as their magic sparked, ready to defend their youngest siblings if necessary. When a woman stepped from the flames, Magnus stepped forward, magic shifting from blue to orange. The other campers might hate their magic, but the fact was that they were some of the strongest warriors the camp had, specifically because of the magic that flowed through their veins.
His own faded a moment later when he recognized the woman in front of them. “Mother?”
Gods did not come to Camp Half-Blood. It was supposed to be a safe place for demigods only. So to see one there was unnerving, even if it was his own mother. The rest of the camp had their weapons drawn as if they could do anything to the goddess of magic and sorcery. “Oh put those down you imbeciles,” he growled, waving his hand and sending their weapons back to the cabins where they were supposed to be in the first place. “If she wanted to hurt you, there’s nothing you could do about it.”
“So you invited her in?” one of Hephaestus’ daughters yelled at him and it was all Magnus could do not to roll his eyes. If any of them wanted to talk to Hecate, having her appear in the middle of the camp bonfire would not have been the way they went about it. The camp already hated them enough as it was. They didn’t need to ruin their favorite night of the week in order to make that happen.
Thankfully, his mother answered for herself, saving them from having to yell at their annoying cousins. “Please, my dear girl, like I need an invitation. But I am here to talk to my children so maybe you should take your little party somewhere else.” While a few of them complained, most got out of there as quickly as possible.
“Now, my dear ones, how is everyone?” Hecate asked, turning back to the five of her children that were still around the bonfire.
“I think we’re all fine but Lorenzo should be here too,” Magnus said, looking around to see if their brother was anywhere to be seen. But the only ones remaining at the firepit were the six of them. And while skipping out on the bonfire did seem like something Lorenzo might do, Cat had a point when she made Magnus come. Lorenzo had a desire to be seen as the most responsible, the best of the cabin. Ditching the bonfire, no matter how dull they were, wouldn’t have given him what he wanted.
Hecate smiled though it wasn’t a warm and comforting smile by anyway. While their mother was beautiful, it was more like nightshade, something you admire from afar because you know if given the chance it would kill you in an instant.
"Lorenzo is the reason I am here, my dear child," Hecate smiled. "Both him and Dorothea. You have known that Dorothea was gone for a while, but now Lorenzo has left camp as well and I fear for the worst. I know that my children are the strongest here at Camp, whether the Olympians want to admit that or not but I still worry. You know I love each and every one of you who have made it this far. Which means, that I need someone to go out there and find them."
The five of them glanced between one another and Madzie wrapped her arms around Catarina's waist, though Magnus couldn't tell if she was worried that Cat would be sent, or Madzie herself. While their mother was strict and demanding, she also did love them all so Magnus knew that Madzie and Zoe would be staying behind in the camp where they would be safe. She wouldn't risk anything happening to the young ones if there was anything Hecate could do about it.
"Now, I know Dionysus," she spat his name like something foul, "will argue that he gets to pick who goes on quests and who stays home. We all know he will never choose one of you to go, which is why I am here. It must be one of you five, for only you know the limitations of one another's magic. We've trained for this. And now, I need you to go bring your brother and sister home."
Though she hadn't yet said who she wanted to go on the quest, none of them really doubted it. Ragnor would stay behind as counselor for cabin twenty. The two girls would stay behind because they were far too young to be out on their own. Which left Cat or Magnus. And while Cat was a formidable fighter and not one to mess with, she was also closer to both Madzie and Zoe and would stay behind to make sure they were alright.
Their assumptions were confirmed when Hecate turned to Magnus. "Magnus, this is your quest. You are the one who I know will be able to get to the bottom of this, who will be able to find them and make sure they are safe. This is why I had you go back to camp. You needed to be here for when this moment happened. And now, here we are. Go directly to the Oracle. Don't let Mr. D or Chiron stop you. This is your destiny, my son. I will talk to you again soon. Remember whose son you are and don't let them push you around. I'm counting on you, as are your siblings."
She vanished before their eyes and Magnus sat, staring into the fire as he contemplated what he'd just heard. Dorothea and Lorenzo weren't just gone. They were missing. If their mother couldn't find them, then there was something more at stake here than just being tired of camp life. And now it was Magnus' job to find them and bring them safely home. Which meant visiting the oracle, something he had never done for all the time he'd been at camp. He'd rather hoped to avoid it all together.
It meant a quest. One none of his siblings could go on and that could result in the possible death of two of them if he failed. He wouldn’t miss Lorenzo, but Dorothea? No, he couldn’t fail.
Magnus rolled his shoulders back and gave a nod. He could do this. He would bring Dot and Lorenzo home and prove to the camp once and for all that he and his siblings weren't the bad guys everyone else wanted them to be.
Simple as that.
Chapter 4: Prophecy
"Are you sure about this?" Ragnor asked, following him to the Big House while Cat escorted Zoe and Madzie back to their cabin. Both were upset by what happened and she was going to try to calm them down while Magnus visited the oracle. "You do realize what this means, right?"
"That Lorenzo isn't exactly the asshat we always expected? Or that he is and I'm going to have to save him anyway? Or the fact that I actually get out there and do something for a change instead of having to sit here and be gawked at and feared by all of our lovely cousins?" Other than the very likely possibility of death, Magnus wasn't seeing a lot of downside to this plan.
"Our cousins are the exact ones I'm thinking about," Ragnor sighed, his heavily put-upon voice firmly pack in place. "Because you are going on a quest and you know what that means, right?" When Magnus didn't respond immediately, Ragnor grabbed his shoulder to force Magnus to look at him. "It means you are traveling with one of them. A quest is never alone, Magnus. You know that. We've both have been here long enough to know that you will have to take at least one other with you. And while Hades children are usually sympathetic to us, most of the others still hate or fear us. One them will be your companion to try and save Dot and Lorenzo. Do you see it now?"
He did. Magnus hated it but yes, he saw it.
"There has to be someone out there who isn't completely odious. Maybe one of Iris' kids? Or one of Aphrodite's? I mean, they can't all be stuck up snobbish jerks, right?" Magnus knew the answer to that, as he had the misfortune of interacting with almost every camper there at one point or another. And not one of them seemed to care one whit about him or his brothers and sisters.
Reaching the house, Magnus gave Ragnor the bravest smile he could. "Wish me luck. I think I am going to need it." Ragnor patted him on the back and turned for the cabin. Even if they were best friends, Magnus knew Ragnor had no interest in facing the oracle anymore than he did. Magnus was well and truly on his own for this one.
The stairs creaked under his steps as he climbed to the attic, ignoring the way his skin crawled with every step closer to his fate. The oracle would chant some ridiculous poem that would make no sense now and then in hindsight, he would feel ridiculous for not realizing the meaning. But first, he had to deal with a creepy mummy in a room full of heroes' trophies. Nothing at all to be frightened of. He took a deep breath and stepped forward, ready to meet his fate, whatever it would be.
In front of him, the mummy sat there near the window, just as everyone said it would. Dressed in sixties attire and looking disturbing as all Hades, Magnus wanted to run far away from that. But for his mother, for Dot, and even for Lorenzo, Magnus forced himself to stay, to wait for his quest and hear the prophecy laid out for him.
After several long moments, Magnus began to believe that this had all been a mistake and he’d missed something, somewhere, when the smoke began to billow from the mummy and the spirit of Delphi began to speak.
Apollo’s sun will light the way
While the child of magic will soon betray
The children of a Titan and God,
Traveling west for a mission most flawed
Taking them to the spot
They shall find it was all for naught
For they shall fail at half the quest
But still return most certainly blessed
“Because that isn’t ominous or anything,” Magnus sighed, running his hands through his hair as the oracle retreated back into the mummy. So the quest will fail, at least halfway. But they’ll return blessed. And he was going to betray someone. Or maybe not. Hecate had many children, most of which did not live in camp so it was likely they would encounter one or another over their travels.
Most disturbingly, Magnus realized, was that he would have to take a child of Apollo with him. That much seemed clear, even if the rest of it seemed like nonsense. At least they would return. He could promise Madzie and Zoe he would see them again, even if they failed at everything else.
His feet dragged as he walked back towards the cabin, ignoring the stares from other campers. Magnus knew he looked like a dead man walking. Most demigods returned from their quests just fine. But not all. And he knew that his siblings would be asked to make a burial shroud for him, should he fail.
Which wasn’t something he wanted to think about too much.
Stepping into the cabin, Zoe and Madzie wrapped themselves around him immediately. Magnus tried to ignore the tears streaks on both of their faces and knelt down to hug them both. “It will be okay. The prophecy promised I would return.” Both him and whoever it was he chose to travel with. “I just need to go west. They’re probably in California. I’ll get Lorenzo and Dot, catch a few rays on the beach, and then we will be back before you know it.” The girls nodded but if they were convinced, they certainly didn’t show it.
“Madzie, Zoe, go work on your spells while we talk to Magnus okay?” Cat asked and they tightened their grip on him. “He won't leave without saying goodbye. We just need to work out a few things. It will be okay.”
Magnus kissed them both on the forehead. “I’m not going anywhere yet. I don’t know who I am traveling with so I probably won’t leave until sundown tomorrow at the earliest.” It was when his own powers were at the strongest and Magnus knew he would need to be ready for anything that might come after them. “Go work on the spells while I talk to Cat and Ragnor. Then we will go have a snack before we go to bed.” Leaving was the last thing he wanted to do, particularly when he saw his little sisters crying. But he had to go. The other members of their cabin were counting on them.
Eventually, both Madzie and Zoe left the room to go work on their summoning spells and Magnus threw himself on his bed, exhausted already and he hadn’t even left yet. “How did it go?” Ragnor asked, voice unusually considerate. It was a sign of how worried he was, Magnus figured, that he was being nice to him. “Was it as bad as everyone says?”
“Worse. I just can’t trust a mummy, no matter how fashionably dressed it might be.” He shuddered at the mere memory of it and threw an arm over his eyes. He’d only just gotten back and now he was having to leave again. It would be unfair if it wasn’t for a good cause. Even if he hated Lorenzo, the man was still his brother, regardless of personal feelings. If the other cabins were any indication, few of them actually liked all of their siblings.
Cat nudged him over and laid down beside him. “What did she say? I’m assuming you got the prophecy.”
Dutifully, Magnus recited it to them, eyes still covered so he didn’t have to see their furrowed brows and anxious expressions. “Well,” Ragnor said, breaking the silence once Magnus was done. “At least you are going with one of Apollo’s children. They are some of the least odious campers in this place. As long as they don’t recite poetry, you should be fine.”
As much as they all complained about the campfire, it was more because of where they sat and how they were treated by the camp as a whole then personal feelings towards Apollo’s cabin in particular. “Any idea which one you are taking? It is your choice, regardless of what Mr. D might tell you.”
That hadn’t occurred to Magnus yet and he considered his options carefully. There were a lot of people in that cabin, some better than others. “The blond that leads the music is definitely out. I can hardly stand to look at him most of the time. And the children, obviously. Some of the older ones, maybe. Not that guy, Underpants, or Underhill or whatever. He looks like he would panic when faced with magic and I don’t want to have to babysit whoever is going with me. Maybe Isabelle. Of all the children of the big twelve, she’s definitely one of the nicest ones towards us. And she has fabulous style, which should really count for something.”
While they talked, Magnus’s mind drifted back to the sullen, beautiful counselor of that cabin. Alec Lightwood had caught his eye from the moment they were both at camp and while Magnus generally had no trouble making a move, he really didn’t know if Alec would be interested or horrified by his advances. No one in camp was as good with a bow as Alec and he had a strong protective streak when it came to his siblings. Maybe he would understand why this quest was important, even if it was saving campers from a cabin Alec couldn’t stand.
He hadn’t even said anything about Alec when a small child rushed into the room. “Magnus!” Madzie cried, running and jumping on him. “You should take Mr. Alec. He’s nice to me. He liked my magic.”
The three older siblings shared a look. No one ever complimented their magic. It was something no one talked about, preferring to pretend Hecate’s children weren’t exceptionally strong. It made the twelve Olympians uncomfortable to even think about.
“Why should I take Alec, sweet pea? What even made you think about him?”
And then Madzie was off, telling them a story of how at arts and crafts, her project wasn’t coming out the way she wanted and so she magicked it so it looked right. Most of the other campers yelled and ran away from her but Alec was kind and told her she did really well. None of them had ever heard her say so much all in one go, and no one in that cabin ever complimented the ones outside of it. It just wasn’t a thing they did.
“So, you think Alec would go with me?”
She nodded and dropped her head to his chest. “I can come too. I’ll help! I want Dot to come back.”
It was sweet that Madzie wanted to help but Magnus would never do that, would never put their youngest sister in that kind of danger. “You can help by staying here with Ragnor and Catarina and staying safe, okay? I’ll be fine and I’ll have someone with me but I will be a lot better if I know you and Zoe are alright.”
Madzie considered this for a moment before giving a sharp nod and snuggled closer. “Alec will protect you.” She said it with such certainty that even Magnus was beginning to believe it.
Eventually, she got bored and left the cabin with Zoe to practice in the field leaving the three eldest siblings alone. “So, are you going to take Alec? I’m not sure how camp will feel about the counselors for two different cabins leaving,” Catarina pointed out and Magnus wondered if they would throw a fit about him choosing Alec for his partner on this quest.
“If Alec is the one prophesied to come with me, there isn’t much they can do. Besides, that is a huge cabin. Surely they have other people just as capable of being the counselor.” Magnus knew that he would be asking. He knew someone from Apollo’s cabin had to come with him. But he worried. He didn’t want to make the wrong choice. The wrong choice could make his quest a disaster. The wrong choice could upset the children of Apollo and they could make life miserable for his own siblings until they returned.
The wrong choice could ruin everything.
Ragnor shoved his shoulder, pulling him back to the present. “Snap out of it. The longer you sit here and stew about it, the worse you will feel. Dorothea and Lorenzo are out there and you need to stop stalling and get going already.”
Magnus hated when Ragnor was right but he couldn’t deny it this time. “Fine, I’ll go over and ask him. But if I return with a hundred arrows in my back, avenge me, okay?”
“They’re not that stupid, but you are if you keep stalling.” Ragnor chased him out of the cabin and locked the door. Magnus knew he could get back in but his friend’s point had been made.
Feet dragging on the grass, Magnus noticed the unnatural quiet that had settled over the camp. The appearance of one of their parents was always a shocking experience and having it be his mother out of all of them was likely making everyone else far more inclined to stay indoors. As if walls could ever stop her if she wanted.
Thankful it was night and therefore the cabin wasn’t blindingly gold like it often appeared in the sun, Magnus took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Some blond man a few years younger than Magnus opened it and almost managed to slam it in his face until Magnus snapped his fingers, locking the door open. “I’ll leave if he asks me to but I need to speak with Alexander.”
A tall man stood in the back of the cabin and made his way to the door. “It’s okay, Jace. I’ve got this.” He looked at Magnus and when those hazel eyes were directed at him, Magnus nearly melted on the spot. “What do you want?”
“I’ve been sent on a quest and the oracle said you’re coming with me.”
Chapter 5: Summons
Campfires were generally uneventful activities. Everyone showed up and sang, most pretended not to be offended by his cabin's poetry, and then everyone went back to their own homes for the night. On occasion, Ares's kids might start something but overall, it was usually about as calm as things got around camp.
Which was what made the events that night all the more shocking. Other than Mr. D, none of their parents had ever appeared in the camp. It just wasn't done. They were supposed to watch from afar, to stand back and not interfere. To have one walk right into the center of camp with no warning whatsoever was a shock of the highest magnitude.
The moment Alec realized what was happening, he had his bow out and ready to fire at the intruder. It was bad enough to put him and the elder campers at risk, but there were young children there in almost every cabin. God or not, Alec wasn't about to let anything bad happen to those kids.
The goddess stepped from the fire and it didn't take long to realize who she was. The kids from Cabin twenty all relaxed and looked at her with a mixture of fear and love, a common sight when someone met their godly parent.
So, Hecate. Not even a goddess. A Titaness. And one of the most powerful beings around.
Alec was well aware of how much power her kids had as well. There was a rumor she killed all those but the absolute strongest but no one got close enough to that cabin to find out. They were mostly ostracized from the rest of camp, though Alec hardly understood why. They'd never done anything to harm anyone. It was simply who their parent was that made everyone so scared.
Alec couldn't imagine having a parent like that. The few times he'd seen Apollo, his father had been nothing but warm and kind. He didn't know what he would do if his godly parent actually killed the children she didn't think were good enough.
Regardless of his feelings on the campers in cabin twenty, having their mother appear in camp was a bad omen as far as he could tell. His own siblings and the rest of the campers who were not Hecate's descendants were rightfully terrified and Alec would fight her if he needed to in order to keep everyone safe. Or, that was his plan before his bow vanished from his hands and everyone else's weapons were gone as well.
Jace opened his mouth to say something, no doubt something that could get them all killed with a snap of Hecate's fingers, so Alec clamped a hand over his brother's mouth and shook his head. "We need to get everyone back to the cabin, now," he whispered, grabbing Max's hand and ushering him away from the campfire, everyone else following behind.
As they made their way across the field to their home, Alec saw all the other cabins running as well, until the only people that remained were the Titaness's own children. Alec couldn't imagine what they were talking about but if their mother appeared in camp, it wasn't good and he felt for them all while being thankful that it wasn't him.
Once inside the cabin, Alec locked the door and did a quick headcount to make sure everyone was there. "Is anyone missing?" he asked, needing the confirmation that no one else saw anyone missing. The last thing he wanted to do was leave someone outside, scared and alone.
"We're all here, Alec," Izzy called, sitting on Max's bed with him, Max resting his head on her shoulder. Alec could see how scared he was, even though he was trying valiantly to be brave.
Alec gave a quick nod and finally allowed himself to relax. His siblings were safe, and he knew the other counselors would take care of their own. If they needed help, everyone knew where to find him. It wasn't as if their cabin was hidden away and inconspicuous. It practically glowed in the sunlight, after all.
Moving through the cabin to the back where he kept his own things, Alec smiled reassuringly at his siblings who were most shaken up by the night's turn of events. It had thrown him too, but he was good in a crisis and would only allow himself to panic later. Right now, he needed to be strong for the ones who were frightened.
Jace threw himself down in a chair next to Alec and grumbled, "I don't even know why they let them have a cabin here anyway. They're nothing but trouble. They aren't even demi-gods! They're demi-Titans. Maybe they should go form their own camp and leave the rest of us out of it."
A small part of Alec agreed. Hecate was not an Olympian and her children weren't Olympians either. They were something different and maybe, at times, it would be better if they had another place to go. But they didn't and Alec wasn't about to ask Mr. D to throw them all out just because they were a little strange and made people uncomfortable. "Jace, there are little kids in that cabin. You really think they don't deserve to be here just because you are scared of their mother?" He thought about little Madzie, easily the youngest person in camp. She was certainly strong and her abilities would keep her safer than most five-year-olds but he wasn't about to make her go out into the world on her own. It wouldn't be fair.
"The kids can stay, but the older ones? They don't need to be there. If their mother hasn't killed them now, she isn't going to, so why let them continue to stay here and take up space?"
"Because regardless of if they have a godly parent or a titan one, they are still demi-gods and need our protection. I don't know any of them well enough to say if I like them or not but they have every right to be here, Jace." While he understood the animosity towards that cabin, it had always bothered him. And now, with Hecate appearing in camp, it was only going to increase tenfold and Alec hoped the small group of siblings would be able to handle it.
Jace continued to rant, listing the reasons he had for feeling the way he did. Alec eventually just tuned him out. Jace was going to rant about whether he listened or not, and Alec had a couple other things on his mind.
First, he was curious what was Hecate there for. If she was appearing in camp, something was wrong and since she wanted to talk to her own children, it probably involved them. He didn't know what that meant for the group and hoped at least the two little girls would be okay. Somehow, he suspected the three older campers that were still there would be just fine if faced with any difficulty.
Second, and more embarrassing, was the fact that the counselor for cabin twenty was ridiculously hot. Alec knew this of course. Izzy caught him staring too many times for him to pretend it was an accident. But he'd never before seen Magnus actually use his abilities before. While the magic-wielders probably practiced their abilities at some point, it was never done in front of the rest of the camp, so Alec had no idea what it looked like. Magnus's eyes had glowed and magic swirled around him, ready to defend his siblings and the rest of camp if need be.
Alec never saw anything more attractive.
But there wasn't anything he could do about it. First, Magnus didn't even know who he was. Maybe he'd be able to say that Alec was the counselor for Apollo's cabin but he wouldn't know his name or anything about him. And even if he did, there was no way anyone would approve of Alec dating one of Hecate's kids. Even his own godly father who tended to be one of the more easygoing Olympians seemed uncomfortable whenever Hecate and her magic was mentioned.
Not that Magnus would have wanted to date him, even if there wasn't the issue of their parents. No doubt Magnus saw Alec the way he probably saw everyone in camp. None of them missed the way that cabin talked about everyone else. They didn't hold back and while Alec couldn't blame them for their dislike, it made it difficult to find any way to reach out. Alec was always nice to Magnus's siblings when he was around them, usually just the two little ones, but that was the only thing he could really do.
Jace was still ranting when someone knocked on the door. Alec's brother was out of his seat like a shot and Alec knew he was hoping it was Clary. The two of them had something going on that Alec really didn't want to think about. He turned his attention to one of his books when he heard his name.
“I’ll leave if he asks me to but I need to speak with Alexander.”
Alec knew who said those words before he ever saw his face and he hurried through the cabin to the door, knowing that his siblings would want him to send Magnus away as quickly as possible.
He did his best not to laugh at Jace trying and failing to slam the door in Magnus's face, the door being held open by Magnus's magic if the burnt sugar smell surrounding them was anything to go by.
"It’s okay, Jace. I’ve got this." Alec stepped out of the door but hadn't closed it yet when Magnus looked him up and down. No one ever looked at him like that, all their attention being on Izzy or Jace, never him. “What do you want?” he asked when it became clear Magnus had no intention of saying anything right away.
It took a moment but Magnus regained his composure and told him, "I’ve been sent on a quest and the oracle said you’re coming with me."
That was the last thing Alec wanted his siblings to hear. They were prone to overreaction as it was and this wouldn’t go over well. He tugged on the door to close it behind, somewhat surprised when it closed easily. Whether it was Magnus’s magic responding to him, or Magnus himself allowing it to happen, Alec didn’t know but he was thankful to have the chance to literally shut his siblings out of the conversation for now.
He’d have to explain it eventually but it might be best to do that when Magnus wasn’t around.
"What do you mean I'm coming with you? Don't I get a choice?" Alec knew he sounded angry, knew that how Magnus must be viewing him right now. But it was more shock and fear than anything else. The shock that of all the people Magnus could ask to come on the quest, he chose Alec. And fear of leaving his siblings behind, of not returning from the quest.
Magnus's eyes hardened and Alec took a deep breath to calm himself. This situation wasn't Magnus's fault and Alec should stop acting like it was. "The Oracle specifically said it was a child of Apollo. You come highly recommended to me. I understand if you don't want to but someone from your cabin needs to come so if you won't, tell me who I should take."
Alec quickly ran through his siblings in his head. The only one who would be remotely ready to go on a quest was Izzy but while she was a formidable fighter, she was also one of the best healers the camp had and he didn't want to take her away, leaving them more prone to lasting injuries.
"I'll come," Alec said quietly, only realizing after the fact that it meant him and Magnus alone for who knows how long. Considering his long-standing crush, this could end up being more awkward than most quests. "When are we leaving?"
Surprise flashed in Magnus's eyes but he covered it quickly. "I want to leave at sun-up before most of the camp realizes what happened. There's going to be an uproar. Cabin twenty has never gotten a quest before and I know better than most that some of the other cabins won't be happy with this development."
"No kidding," Alec laughed before shaking his head. "Sorry, I didn't mean that to be rude. I've seen how you and your brothers and sisters are treated around camp. People aren't going to be happy that you get something that so many of them want, no matter how deserving of it you are."
"I don't know about deserving, Alexander. It is more, I'm the only option. And mother was quite clear it had to be someone from our cabin."
Alec couldn't imagine that life, while he wasn't as flashy as some of his siblings, he knew that his parents loved him and were proud of him. He was well respected in camp. All in all, he had things pretty good. "Well, I've seen you fight while training. You're deadly with your daggers and there isn't anyone I would rather be on a quest with."
After he said that, Alec blushed, even if it wasn't quite true. He and Jace had trained together since the moment they were both in camp and Alec knew what his brother was going to do in battle at any given moment. Magnus would be an unknown but Alec knew deep down that they would work well together.
"You are the best archer we have in camp and I will be glad to have you there with us. Besides, I've seen your sword work as well. I think the two of us will be just fine," Magnus said with a smile and Alec was relieved as the other man started to relax around him. "Plus, the prophecy did say we would return blessed so at least we can tell our cabins that they won't have to worry about us dying."
That wasn't a confidence Alec had and he frowned, "I don't know about that, Magnus. Isn't it considered an honor to die in battle? Perhaps our bodies returning to camp would be blessing enough."
The other demi-gods eyes went wide as he considered and eventually he sighed and shook his head, shoulders slumped slightly. "I'm not telling that to Madzie or Zoe. They are upset enough as it is. You are free to tell your own cabin whatever you like but I ask that they not say anything like that around my youngest sisters. Tonight has been hard on them both, and the nature of the quest isn't helping that at all."
"What are we supposed to be doing?" Alec asked, realizing he didn't even know what the quest was. "What was the prophecy?"
Magnus diligently recited it back to him, and Alec felt the panic start to grow. This was something more than just "retrieve this magical item". This was a rescue mission for two of their own, a rescue that would apparently be only half successful. Alec didn't like to do things only partway and the thought that something might happen to either Dot or Lorenzo because of something he did or didn't do was worrisome.
"What do you think it means? I mean, do you think we have any chance here or is this going to be hopeless?" If he was with his own siblings, Alec would never have raised those concerns but with Magnus, he felt comfortable doing just that. Something about the other demi-god made Alec trust him, even if this was the first conversation they ever had.
Sighing, Magnus looked away and then back again, "I don't know. I don't want to think I will betray anyone but that is what the prophecy says, so I understand if you don't want to go. I also don't know what it means that we will only succeed in half the quest.
All I know is that I need to go west and I would like you to be the child of Apollo who goes along with me."
"I'll go." Alec didn't know how this would work, how the camp would react, how his siblings would react. But he knew that this was where he needed to be. He knew that he didn't want anyone else from the cabin going with Magnus. "Give me some time to talk to my siblings and to pack. I'll meet you by the Big House at dawn?" Dawn was good for him. It was a time when his father's power was coming into full strength and he would be ready to go. He didn't know if the same could be said for Magnus whose mother was often associated with darkness and night.
It only took Magnus a moment before he nodded sternly. "Good. That's good. I will see you then." He turned, taking the few steps away from Alec's home before turning back and giving him a small smile. "I'm glad you are coming with me, Alexander. I think this will be better for you there."
The vulnerability in his words struck Alec who nodded mutely before finding his own voice. "I'm glad I'm coming too, Magnus. I would feel better knowing you had someone by your side and I won't be able to rest well knowing there are campers out there who need help if I wasn't doing everything I could to help them."
"You're a good man, Alexander," Magnus said with a small smile. "I'm glad to be going with you." And with that, he disappeared into the darkness, crossing the space between all the cabins to return to his own for the last time before they left camp.
With a heavy heart but some excitement as well, Alec turned back to his cabin and took a deep breath. Jace was going to hate this, Izzy was going to be worried, and Max would be upset. But this was something he had to do.
After all, it was prophesied, wasn't it? He wasn't only going so he could spend some time with the handsome man from cabin twenty.
That was just a perk.
Chapter 6: Departure
Alec prepares himself for the quest ahead. Their departure doesn't go exactly the way he wanted.
Alec closed his eyes, leaning his head against the door of his cabin. Whatever was about to happen once he stepped inside would not be good. No matter what his siblings said, it wouldn’t change his mind about going on this quest but he didn’t want to leave with them mad at him.
He would if he had to, though.
With a deep breath, he opened the door and walked in. As expected, most of the people were gathered at the door, trying to hear what was being said. “Alright, move. Let me get back in, at least.” He pushed through them all and went to sit on his bed, figuring he needed to answer all the questions and then begin packing. “One at a time. I have until dawn so ask away.”
Everyone glanced between one another and somehow it was agreed that Jace would be the one to ask first. “Tell us what he wanted. If he hurt you in any way...”
Alec rolled his eyes. Of course, even with all those people crowded around the door, none of them actually heard what was being said. “He has been sent on a quest and asked me to accompany him.” Everyone started to speak at once and he held up his hand. “I already told him yes and we are leaving at sunrise, so don’t even try and talk me out of it.”
“Why you?” Jace demanded, arms crossed over his chest. “There are hundreds of campers here. He could have had his pick of anyone. Why choose you?”
Doing his best not to feel insulted by Jace’s words - why not Alec, after all - he sighed and closed his eyes. After a moment, he opened them again and looked at his brother, “Because of the prophecy, Jace. Why does anyone do anything when it comes to these quests? The prophecy made it clear that someone from this cabin would be the one to go with him. I’m not sending any of you out there for various reasons. Which means I am the best option.”
No matter how much they wanted to argue, Alec knew he was right. No one else could go and accomplish what they needed to do while leaving his cabin in working order.
Of course, that didn't stop them from arguing. "Like hell you are," Jace growled, already making his way to the door. "He can find someone else. No one from this cabin is going with him or any of his freaky siblings. Prophecy or no prophecy, you can turn him down. You don't need to go. We need you here."
Alec grabbed him by the arm, "Jace, the prophecy literally said a child of Apollo. One of us has to go. You know as well as I do that if you go against a prophecy, it still ends up working out in the first place and I would rather not risk any of your safety by testing that theory." Not to mention that Alec wanted to go.
"Then I'll go. I'm not going to let you sacrifice yourself. You and I both know that if it came down to him or you, you would give up your life to make sure anyone else was safe. Even someone like him. I wouldn't make that mistake."
He loved Jace. He really did. But at that moment, Alec saw red. "Last I checked, I am the counselor of this cabin or was there a vote while I stepped outside. This is not up for debate, Jace. I am going. You are staying here. And if I hear that anyone from Cabin seven has hurt anyone from Twenty in any way while I was gone, then you are answering to both me and Father. Do I make myself clear?"
Heads nodded around the room and Alec let himself relax just a little. "I know you are worried and I know you are scared, but the prophecy literally said we would return. There is no need to worry. I don't know what I will encounter out there but I will be in touch as much as I can." People slowly started to go back to their own bunks, talking among themselves until only Izzy, Jace, and Max remained.
"Are you okay, big brother? I mean, your first quest. Do you want to talk about it?" There was more meaning to her words than appeared and Alec shook his head. Even if he did want to talk about it, and about his feelings for Magnus, he couldn't risk it here in the cabin. Particularly not with Jace looking stormy and about to let all his rage loose on the first person to cross him.
Instead, Alec gave her what he hoped was a bright smile. "I'll be fine, Iz. You and I both know I can handle myself in battle. And I've seen Magnus train. He's just as competent as any of us. We'll go complete the mission and be back before anyone notices we were gone."
Alec wondered just how long they would be gone for. He didn't know how far west they would need to travel, or how long it would take to locate Magnus's siblings. But he would go and he would do whatever he needed to do. Alec Lightwood didn’t make commitments and then go back on them. And since it was something to help Magnus, he was even more likely to follow through.
Talking with his older siblings, Alec didn’t even notice Max was upset until he climbed into Alec’s lap. “I don’t want you to go. He can take someone else and you can stay here.”
“See, at least the kid is talking sense. Doesn’t anyone else see what a terrible idea this is? How do we know this isn’t one of his mother’s tricks, trying to weaken our cabin in an effort to get back at Dad for some perceived slight. She’s known for being petty and vindictive. Don’t you think her kids are going to be the same way?”
Alec glared at Jace. “Have you ever talked to any of them? Gotten to know any of the campers from that cabin? Or any of the newer ones? I’ve now had conversations with three people from Cabin Twenty and regardless of what you think about them, they are all lovely. The kids are sweet and Magnus is a good man. You’re letting your prejudices cloud your judgment, Jace. But I won’t allow them to cloud nine.” He turned to his sister. “Iz, while I’m gone, you are the counselor. Make sure everyone does what they are supposed to do and if anyone goes after Twenty, I need an Iris message immediately. Do you understand?”
“Of course, Alec. I’ve got things under control. Go get ready.” She smiled at Alec and while he could see her own worry and unease hiding behind her eyes, he was thankful that she was at least putting on a strong face until he was gone.
But before he could leave, or even start packing, he needed to deal with Max. One of the youngest in camp, Alec always thought Max, Zoe, and Madzie would get along if they were ever in the same place and at the same time. But Twenty kept to themselves and Seven didn’t make any effort to get to know them so Alec didn’t even know if Max ever crossed paths with the two girls before, let alone talk to them.
“Max,” he said calmly, looking down at his brother who was clinging to Alec as if that would keep him from leaving. “I need you to be strong for me, okay? Izzy and Jace are going to need your help while I’m gone and I need to know you are doing your part to keep this cabin running smoothly.” Max’s lower lip trembled and he said nothing but Alec thought he might be getting through to him. “I’ll be back soon, okay? But when the Oracle says it’s your turn for a mission, you go. And that is what I am doing. I’m going to go help Magnus and then I will come back and you will forget all about this, okay? Plus, think of all the treats we will have at the feast when we return? It will be great.”
No one in that cabin thought Max was placated but Max also grew up with his siblings going to camp and coming home with all the fantastic stories. He knew that quests were a part of the whole thing and that to complain about them would make him look young and silly to everyone else. Instead, Max nodded and snuggled closer to his brother, his unspoken fear that he would never see Alec again obvious to everyone in the room.
Eventually, the excitement of the day wore off and he drifted to sleep at Alec’s side. Once certain his brother wouldn’t wake if moved, Alec carried him to his bed and left him there while he went to get ready.
Quests were tricky things. There was no way to know what he would encounter out there in the field and so it was hard to pack with any confidence. His bow and arrow would definitely be coming with him, as would a sword. He’d need some clothes and some drachmas though he wasn’t sure how much of either of them. Would he need things for sleeping, blankets and such? Or food? Alec stared at the bag he’d placed on his bed, feeling suddenly overwhelmed.
He wasn’t prepared for this. If he had a month to get ready, maybe he could feel more confident but he only had a few hours at this point and the last thing he wanted to do was mess this up. Not only because there were other campers’ lives on the line but also because he wanted to impress Magnus. Wanted to prove that not all of the children of the main Olympians were the horrible people Magnus must see them to be.
As he fretted, Izzy came over and took the bag away from him. “Stop overthinking this, Alec. He asked you for a reason. You are the best choice and we all know it. Even Jace, no matter how much he might complain.” He already had his bow and sword on him, always did unless he was sleeping. She grabbed some of his clothes. “Pack layers, and only a few. You can always wash them if necessary. Take a small bag of drachmas and some food. And this.” Izzy pulled a few vials from her pocket. “Ambrosia and nectar. A few of each. If the rumors are to be believed, Hecate’s kids can use their abilities to heal but if something happens to him, I would feel better if I knew you had these.”
Alec shoved them and everything else into the bag that Izzy handed back to him. In only a few minutes, with his sister’s guidance, he was as prepared as he was going to be. “You’ll watch over them?” he asked quietly, looking around the cabin where most of their siblings had now fallen asleep. “And talk to Jace? He won’t listen to reason right now but I think he will understand eventually. At least, I hope he will.”
“Alec, relax. I’ll take care of it. You go help Magnus. Maybe when you get back, the trophy won’t be the only thing you’ve won.”
She gave him a wink and kissed his cheek. “You’re going to be fine, Alec. Relax. We’ve been training for something like this our whole lives. It’s about time one of us got called for a quest. I bet dad is so proud of you."
Alec hoped so. He knew their mother was proud of them but their father was more difficult. He was distant (needfully so) but Alec knew he kept tabs on them. Maybe he was thrilled that Alec got a quest. Maybe he was mad that he was going on a quest with one of Hecate's kids. But regardless of what anyone - even their father - thought, Alec was going on the quest with Magnus.
"Is this a terrible idea, Iz?" he asked, looking around to make sure no one was listening. "I mean, nothing can happen between us and you know..." He didn't finish the thought. Izzy was the only one who knew about his crush and he knew she wouldn't say anything to anyone else.
She smiled at him, a sad, knowing smile. "Why can't anything happen? It's only old prejudices of everyone around us that keeps you from making a move. Maybe this is exactly what you need. You'll be away from everyone, there won't be any pressure to behave a certain way because you are a son of Apollo and he is a son of Hecate. You can just be two demi-gods, Alec and Magnus. Anything can happen on a quest, Alec. Anything. Even that."
Somehow his sister always knew exactly what to say. Even if his crush didn't come to anything, at least for the length of the quest, he could get to know Magnus without everyone watching and judging him. It was all he could ask for and he was suddenly grateful for Magnus's mom bursting into camp and disrupting everything.
Alec pulled Izzy into a hug. “I’ll miss you,” he whispered. While he was excited to be on his way with Magnus, he and Izzy were almost never apart. She was his best friend and his confidante and it would be weird not to have her there.
“I’m only an Iris message away. But I think you’ll be fine. There will be someone else there to watch out for you this time.” Though her words were teasing, her arms tightened around him and he knew he wasn’t the only one feeling the strain of their separation. “Be kind to yourself, okay, Alec? Don’t overthink things like you always do. Sometimes the things that feel right don’t always make sense.”
He pulled back and nodded. A sudden wave of exhaustion weighed down his limbs and his eyes drooped even as they stood there talking. “I should probably get some sleep. I don’t know how long or how far we are going tomorrow.”
Izzy nodded and went to get herself ready for bed. By the time Alec was ready to lay down, she was back for one last hug. “Wake me up to say goodbye, okay?”
“Of course,” he promised.
The moment his head hit the pillow, Alec was asleep. No amount of worry regarding the quest could have kept him awake at that point and he slept soundly until his alarm went off just before six.
Though it seemed like he'd just fallen asleep, Alec woke a few hours later, still unrested but anxious to get underway. Daybreak was still a few minutes off so Alec took the time to write letters to each of this full siblings, as well as to Jace. He wanted them to know that this wasn't personal, that he was doing what he felt needed to be done. To go on this quest' Alec thought it might be the whole reason why he came to camp in the first place.
Tucking the letters next to Jace's pillow and Max's, Alec shook Izzy's shoulder slightly. "I'm leaving, Iz," he whispered, bag already thrown over his back.
His sister blinked her eyes open and stared up at him, sleep-riddled brain struggling to catch up with what he said. When she understood a moment later, Izzy climbed out of bed and pulled on a sweatshirt and some slippers. "At least let me walk to to the Big House?"
Thankful for the company, Alec led Izzy out of the cabin and away from one of the only homes he'd ever known. He felt confident that he would see the place again but that didn't mean it was true. There was a chance this was the last time he'd see the camp, the last time he'd see Cabin Seven.
The last time he'd see Izzy.
"Stop overthinking this. You are the best fighter this camp has and you are going to be just fine." Izzy elbowed him in the shoulder, always able to sense when his thoughts were taking a darker turn. "Trust Magnus and you two will come back just fine."
Her words gnawed at him until Alec finally found the courage to voice something that had been in the back of his head since Magnus came by the night prior. "Should I trust Magnus?" he asked, voice quiet but carrying in the still of the early morning. "The prophecy literally said that the son of magic would betray. How do I know he won't betray me the first chance he gets?"
The moment the words were out of his mouth, Alec regretted them. Not only because he knew he could trust Magnus but because the man in question turned the corner right as Alec said them. The myriad of emotions that flickered across his face were difficult to discern but Alec saw two that he recognized. Disappointment and anger.
Izzy, not seeing Magnus yet, continued, "I really don't think you have to worry about that Alec. Remember, prophecies aren't always what they seem. He picked you for a reason and while the Oracle said a child of Apollo would accompany him, he got to pick which one. And I think he chose correctly. You're going to be fine. And when everything happens, I think you will finally understand."
Magnus stared at Izzy in disbelief and quickly crossed the distance between them, pulling her into a hug. "I suppose it's too late now to change my mind. I would much rather travel with someone who believes in me rather than one who thinks I will betray them." He glared at Alec and stepped back, straightening his clothes. "Never the matter, we should be off. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can be back here and Alexander can let everyone know that I am not a traitor, a coward, or a turncoat. Ready, Alec?"
Gone was the warmth of his usual smile. Now Magnus was all business and there was nothing friendly about him. "Yeah, I'm ready," he said quietly, vowing to make it up to Magnus. He needed Magnus to realize that Alec didn't doubt him. He didn't know if he could doubt Magnus.
The person Alec did doubt was himself.
And, if he was perfectly honest, Alec was afraid.
But nonetheless, he straightened his bag, gave Izzy a kiss on the cheek and nodded towards the entrance to the camp. "Let's go."
Chapter 7: Forgiveness
If Alec wants Magnus's forgiveness he's going to have to work for it.
At least, that's what he tells himself.
To say Alec’s words didn’t hurt would be an understatement. Magnus thought that maybe the other demi-god was one who would actually treat him like an equal and not see him as someone to be kept at an arm’s length, someone not to be trusted. Alec’s sister could see that Magnus was a good person. Or at least not a bad one. Why couldn’t Alec?
Logically, Magnus knew why Alec said what he did. In the quiet of his own mind, he was asking himself a very similar question. He didn’t think he would betray anyone. He didn’t want to betray anyone. But the prophecy said he would.
Prophecies were strange things, everyone knew that. There were a hundred meanings and a hundred situations that could prove that phrase true. Maybe he will have to do something on the quest that would seem like a betrayal? Maybe it won’t actually be a betrayal at all and it was all just the overly flowery language of a long dead oracle spirit? Or maybe it didn’t refer to Magnus at all? His mother had other children. While he loved the ones he knew - even Lorenzo, ass that he was - there were so many others out in the world still trying to prove their worth to their mother. Who was to say one of them wouldn’t betray him and Alec in order to gain her favor?
In his anger and hurt and frustration, Magnus stomped past Alec on the way to the entrance to the camp. His own bag hung over his shoulders but there was very little inside of it. Some food and some drachmas. That was it. Anything else he needed he could get with magic if it turned out to be necessary. His daggers were with him as well, disguised as rings on each finger should he need them at any point. Just from the looks of it, Alec’s bag was much heavier and maybe when he wasn’t so angry, Magnus would offer to help him with that.
“Magnus! Will you please slow down? I thought we were going on this mission together?” He nearly scoffed at that but did slow his steps, letting Alec catch up. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” he grumbled. “I thought you would appreciate me being in front of you, that way you didn’t have to worry about me stabbing you in the back.”
No, he wasn’t going to make this easy, he decided. Alec would need to grovel - a lot - before Magnus forgave him for acting like a jackass.
“I’m sorry,” Alec started before falling silent leaving Magnus to wonder if he’d ever had to apologize to anyone before. Probably not. Apollo’s kids were practically worshiped around camp.
So Magnus helped him out, prompting, “For...?”
“Um, I wanted to apologize for what I said back there. It isn’t really how I feel. I’m glad you are the one I’m going on this quest with.” A delightful blushed colored Alec’s cheeks and Magnus found his resolve to stay angry slipping. How was he supposed to be mad when the man was so adorable? Deadly warrior demi-gods were not supposed to be adorable!
Trying to hold onto what little outrage he could, Magnus asked, “So why did you say that? If you don’t think I will betray you and you are glad to be coming with me, why say that to your sister?”
Alec bit his lip, looking anywhere but at Magnus. “Because...” he started and unconsciously Magnus leaned forward, anxious to hear his answer. “Because I’m scared, okay. I know this is what we train for and everything but I want to make it back. I want to watch my youngest brother grow up, see Jace and Izzy find the love and happiness they both deserve. But these quests are never what we think they’re going to be and we have no guarantee that we will return home, despite what the prophecy says.”
That wasn’t what Magnus was expecting. He figured there would be some vague comment about not trusting Magnus’s mother, or maybe his concern over Magnus’s fighting skills. He never considered that Alec, the most favored son of Apollo, would be frightened.
“For what it is worth, I’m scared too. Not just because my siblings are the ones that are missing but because we don’t know what is going to happen. I’m scared that I’m leading you to your death which was never my intention. I will do everything in my power to make sure you return to your family, Alexander. I give you my word.”
Apparently, that was the right thing to say because Alec turned to look at him for the first time since they left the big house and his smile was as bright as the sun peeking over the horizon. “Thank you, Magnus. And I promise the same to you. We will find your siblings and we will both return home. Deal?”
To Magnus’s utter amusement, Alec stuck out his hand to shake and Magnus took it, grinning at him. “It’s a deal, Alexander.”
As they left the camp, Magnus glanced back, hoping that they would see it again soon. With one last look, they started down the other side of the hill to where the cab Argus called for them was waiting. “I didn’t know if you were dead set on the whole golden chariot thing your dad has going so I made sure to get a yellow cab,” Magnus teased as they climbed into the back seat. "It’s about as close to a golden chariot as either of us is going to get for a while, I’m afraid.”
“Chariots were never really my thing anyway,” Alec laughed and Magnus noted the gentle slope of his shoulders, the unclenching of his jaw. Seeing Alec relax around him made butterflies dance in his stomach and Magnus wondered when he’d gotten so sentimental. “So, do we really have a plan for this or are we just going to head west and see where it takes us?”
Magnus gave instructions for the cab to take them to Grand Central Station before turning to face Alec. “There are a few places that stand out in my mind, places that are important to my mother and what she represents. If the person or being that took my siblings was trying to harness some of my mother’s power, those would be the most likely places to do it. If they took Lorenzo and Dot for any other reason, then I really don’t know where to look.”
And that was the problem. They had no motive, no suspect. If this was a cop movie, they would declare this a dead end.
But it wasn’t a movie and Magnus’s siblings’ lives were on the line. “As much as I would like to just take a plane and get there, I think traveling by ground is going to be our safer bet. We can start on the train and go from there as necessary. If that works for you.” He could see that Alec was surprised that Magnus wanted his opinion at all. It was his quest, after all. He could dictate everything and Alec would have little choice but to go along with it.
It would be more enjoyable actually getting some input.
“I think that sounds great. Prophecies have a way of making themselves happen and if we are supposed to be in Nebraska but are in a plane, I’d hate to find out just how fate would get us down to the ground.” Magnus was relieved. He never really enjoyed flying much. He thought Alec might, however since his dad might pull the sun and have the golden chariot and all of that. “And if we really don’t know where to go, probably best to let fate run its course.” Magnus hoped that was the right idea but considering they were in agreement, he figured it was a start if nothing else.
They rode in silence for a while, both of the men lost to their own thoughts. Magnus’s mind raced with possibilities and strategy. They needed to get to Lorenzo and Dot before anything happened to them, without anything happening to the two of them either. And they needed to do it with the smallest amount of information possible.
“Do you think your mother knew anything more than she told you? Obviously, the oracle can’t tell us more than just the prophecy but if we reached out to her, is there any chance she will answer?” Magnus figured Alec’s knowledge of Hecate was limited, but he was at least trying.
Which Magnus appreciated but he began to laugh almost immediately and shook his head. “There is no point in trying, Alexander. My mother is not like the Olympians. She only likes us as far as what we can do for her. Why do you think there are only seven of us? She kills most of her offspring before they even make it to camp. If she wanted to help, she would have already. She is counting on us to do this. For all I know, this is another test to see if she still finds me worthy to be her son.”
Magnus knew he was right. His mother was nothing like any of the Olympians. They might not always want their children but he couldn’t think of one instance where they purposefully killed them.
At least not in these modern times. Ancient Greece was a world unto itself, as far as Magnus was concerned.
To Magnus's surprise, Alec actually tried to comfort him. He supposed it wasn’t every day that someone revealed to you that they thought their parent might want to kill them. “I’m sure it isn’t that, Magnus,” Alec offered, sounding sincere. “She didn’t say which of her children had to go on the quest, right? So if she was testing you in particular, then wouldn’t she have singled you out from the beginning?”
Unless of course him choosing to go on the quest was part of the test. Gods were difficult creatures to understand at the best of times. And so were parents. Godly parents were pretty much impossible.
Magnus watched as Alec ran his hand over the ring on his thumb, the one Magnus knew hid the bow and arrow he was legendary with around the camp and he wondered why Alec wanted his weapon. It didn't even occur to him that the urge to protect was practically written into Alec's genes. Sure, he always protected his siblings but that was because he was Counselor. It didn't make any sense that Alec would want to protect him. “I know I’m just a demi-god and if she actually tried to stop me, I would be dust before I could blink, but I will do everything I can to protect you if this is a test. And if it isn’t, I’ll still protect you until we are back in camp.” They'd already promised that to one another but Magnus's heart skipped a beat when he heard that Alec would protect him, even against his own mother. Not even his siblings would do that.
He couldn't help but stare at Alec, heart full of affection for the other man. “Thank you, Alexander. That means so much to me. And I will do everything I can to make sure you get back as well.” They shared a smile and fell into silence once more. Pleasantly surprised that Alec didn’t feel the need to fill every second with mindless chatter, Magnus felt better and better about the upcoming quest.
Or at least his travel companion.
The quest itself still felt vast and impossible.
The cab dropped them off in front of the train station and they each grabbed their bags before heading inside. There were people everywhere, far more crowded than Magnus generally felt comfortable with if only because of the collateral damage any monster attack could create. His eyes darted around the place, looking for anything unusual that might pose a threat. Occasional a blue spark or two fell from his fingertips and he saw the moment Alec realized that he was concerned. Alec's eyes were darting around as well, so at least with both of them looking out, they should be able to stop any trouble before it began.
“Where are you gentleman off to?” the ticketing agent asked when they reached the front of the line.
Magnus didn’t hesitate, just said, “San Francisco, please. The first train possible.” He handed over his card, and the woman got them booked and printed their tickets.
“Have a lovely trip,” she smiled. Magnus was momentarily unsettled because this was going to be anything but a lovely trip, but how was she to know that. He smiled in return and gave her a quick nod before turning to the platform, knowing Alec was close behind.
The ticket told them they only had twenty minutes until the train left, just enough time to grab a few snacks and board, finding two isolated seats towards the back.
Once underway, Magnus look out the window, watching New York fly past. “Are you ready for this, Alexander?” he asked and Alec could only chuckle in return.
“Even if I’m not, it’s a little late now.” Alec's smile was probably the most reassuring one he could manage. “It’s going to be fine, Magnus. We have each other. That’s enough. We’ll be back in Camp before you know it.”
If Alec believed that, Magnus hoped that would be enough for now. Until he could believe it himself.
Chapter 8: Westward
Magnus and Alec finally get going, out of New York and into the quest itself.
Alec held his breath until they were seated on the train and it started to pull away from the station. Located in the back corner of their car, with no one else around them, he finally relaxed. Just a little. The clickety-clack of the train as it pulled away provided something for him to focus on, directing his mind away from the monsters that could be lurking around every bend, as well as the feelings that seemed to grow by the minute for the man next to him.
Chancing a glance, Alec smiled when he saw Magnus’s eyes closed. He didn’t seem to be asleep, his body still held far too tense for that, but at least he was getting some rest. They would need it. It could take days to cross the country, and that was if everything went well. Any small issue and they would be derailed - hopefully only figuratively - before they ever got to their destination.
Before Alec went to the camp for the first time, when they were still just normal kids, or as normal as they could be, they used to travel everywhere. Alec loved spending time in California, in Spain, in France. They’d play and laugh and learn about places far from the busy streets of New York where he grew up. After Alec went up to camp, Maryse chose to stay in the city all the time, wanting to be close in case he needed anything or if something happened that warranted getting Izzy or Max there as well.
That was years ago now, back when Max was still a baby, but Alec remembered that they always flew. They obviously couldn’t take a train to visit the relatives in Europe and even if they could, Maryse would have balked at the idea of several days on the train with the three kids (four after Jace joined the family). Aside from subway rides across town, Alec had never been on a train before. He settled in to watch the scenery roll by. The city he loved slowly disappeared from view as they moved farther west.
“Where were you from?” Alec asked Magnus, wanting to know more about him. He’d captivated Alec’s attention from the moment he stepped foot in camp and yet, they’d just had their first conversation in the past twenty-four hours. They knew so little about one another and yet they were the other man’s best chance of survival.
Magnus smiled, opening his eyes and looking over at Alec. “Originally, I’m from Indonesia. Father was working in Jakarta when he met my mother. They had me and then she left us behind. You know how that is.”
Alec did. The gods never stuck around, even if they loved their children.
“When I was eight, my dad decided to take a job in Brooklyn, so we moved halfway around the world. The adjustment was hard and it was then that I started to realize I was different than everyone around me. Not just because I didn’t look like them, but because I could do things no one else could do. I was ten when my dad finally explained who and what my mother was. Two years after that, the first monster found me and I ran away, making my way to camp with just my magic to protect me. Mother refuses to tell the fathers of her children where the camp is. It is up to us to find our own way and to survive. She doesn’t tolerate weakness.”
Again, Alec couldn’t imagine having a godly parent like that but Magnus explained it as if it were completely normal. “Wait, so that means Madzie and Zoe...?”
Magnus nodded. “Yes, even they made it there on their own. Our magic guides us, but if you can’t control it, it can just as easily destroy you like any of the monsters we encounter.” He must have seen something on Alec’s face because he smiled and reached out, patting the top of his hand. “Don’t worry about it, Alexander. We are all used to it. It also means that if there is ever trouble, every single one of us in cabin Twenty can defend ourselves, even tiny Madzie. Why do you think we train separately from everyone else? Partly because the rest of you fear our magic, but mostly because we are all deadly and we know it. There isn’t a lot you can do to defend against magic with celestial bronze.”
Alec hoped that after everything settled when they got back to camp, maybe Magnus would help teach him how to defend against it. Or maybe even before. If there was a chance they were going up against anyone with magic on this quest, it would be better for him if he wasn’t completely useless against his weapons of choice. “It still doesn’t seem right,” Alec muttered. He hated the fact that Hecate’s cabin had to keep themselves separate partly because others were afraid of them. “I’ve never been afraid of you,” he said more firmly. “Your mother, yes. But you? I’ve never had a reason to think you or your siblings were anything other than good people who have the same lot in life as the rest of us at camp.”
Hoping it was the right thing to say, Alec was rewarded with a warm grin, which certainly didn’t help the fluttery feeling in his heart that happened every time Magnus looked at him.
“You are one of a kind, Alexander, and you keep surprising me.”
His own smile blossomed and Alec forgot about everything besides how happy he was to be there with Magnus in that moment. “In good ways, I hope.”
Magnus nodded and turned his attention back to the rest of the train, his words almost lost to the sound of the wheels on the track. “The best ways.”
A woman with the cart passed by and Alec bought a soda. He offered one to Magnus as well who shook his head with a smile. With his drink in hand, Alec thanked the woman and sipped as he watched out the window.
Magnus and Alec settled into a comfortable silence once more, Magnus’s attention on the people in the car with them and Alec’s outside. He’d missed traveling since moving to camp and was excited for this opportunity, even if it called for them to risk their lives in the process.
As the minutes passed, the world outside seemed to blur around the edges and Alec’s eyes grew heavy, feeling far more tired than he had any right to feel. His head drooped against the window, struggling to keep his eyes open. But would it really be that bad if he just took a quick nap? They would be on the train for hours now, certainly, Magnus wouldn’t mind.
Distantly, he heard someone calling his name. The sound wrapped around his heart and Alec smiled in his sleep. Whoever was calling him in his dream, had such a lovely voice. He would happily listen to them for hours, particularly if they kept saying his name.
“ Alexander. ”
“ Alexander. ”
Someone was shaking his shoulder and Alec growled, wanting to stay in the dream with the lovely voice and the warm happiness that surrounded him like a soft blanket. “Alexander, wake up! What is wrong with you?” Through the haze in his mind, Alec realized it was Magnus talking to him, Magnus shaking his shoulder and trying to get him to wake up. For Magnus, he would try, but it proved more difficult than he thought. “Sleepy, Magnus,” he mumbled. While his companion sounded stressed, it couldn’t be that bad. Alec felt too relaxed for anything bad to be happening to them.
For a brief moment, everything went still and quiet again, letting Alec slip back into his comfortable doze. Magnus colored his dreams, even when he wasn’t speaking to him in the waking world and Alec smiled as he dreamed of when Magnus asked him to come on this trip, this time with significantly more kissing. He was yanked from the most pleasant dream he’d ever had as he was dosed in icy cold water, Magnus standing over him looking magical and intimidating. His eyes glowed gold and his hands glowed blue and he was the most beautiful thing Alec had ever seen.
A quick smile tugged at Magnus’s lips and Alec wondered what he did. But it was quickly replaced by a look of determination, one that would have had Alec quaking in his shoes if he were on the receiving end of it. Even though Magnus was staring at him, Alec knew it wasn’t him that Magnus was mad at. He didn’t know who it was or why, but he had a feeling that the nice quiet train ride across the country wasn’t going to be an option anymore.
“Alexander, I need you to snap out of it. I need help here and you need to not be asleep right now!” Okay, that frustration was definitely directed at him and Alec understood why even if he thought it was hardly his fault he was so tired. “I will douse you again. Get up and get a weapon, we aren’t alone.”
That woke him more than the cold water. If Magnus was in danger, then Alec had to focus, no matter how difficult it was. He stood, unglamouring the bow from the ring around his finger. In the close quarters of the train, it seemed unlikely that the bow would be useful, but when in doubt, it was the weapon he turned to every time. Everything was still fuzzy but Alec fought against it.
“What’s happening, Magnus?” he asked, his tongue thick and heavy in his mouth. Shaking his head did nothing to relieve the cotton that seemed to wrap around his brain.
As he asked, Magnus asked the same question to him. “What’s wrong, Alexander? You fell asleep and now you won’t wake up.”
Not needing to contradict that since it was clearly true, Alec nodded at the magic swirling around Magnus’s hands. “I don’t know. Just got very tired all of a sudden. What are we fighting?”
“Drink cart lady.” Alec frowned, not understanding why the nice lady who sold him his drink was such a danger. “I...what did she do?”
The way Magnus rolled his eyes, Alec would have been insulted if he wasn’t still trying to figure out what was going on. “I think she drugged you, Alexander. You drank something, I didn’t. You passed out, I didn’t. She gave you something in that drink. Do you know any monsters that might do that?”
If his mind was clear, Alec knew he could have figured it out almost immediately. As it was, he was fighting the instinct just to shrug and sit back down. Was it really that important or could they just ignore it and wait for it just to go away?
“LOTUS!” he yelled out as a moment of clarity. As Magnus’s eyes went wide in recognition, and Alec knew he was onto something.
Nodding, Magnus relaxed infinitesimally. “So as long as you don’t drink anymore, you should be fine any minute now.” To make his point, Magnus’s magic blasted a hole in the window of the train and threw the soda away.
Alec grabbed for it more out of instinct more than anything else, but Magnus closed the hole in the window as quickly as he opened it. “I’ll get you something else to drink if we survive this.” Already, the adrenaline was starting to pump through Alec’s veins and he knew that whatever it was that the woman gave him (the story said lotus but really, they didn’t know), was clearing from his system.
At the other end of the train car, the drink lady stood, staring down at them. “You two should really stay in your seats and have a drink,” she said, syrupy sweet in a way that made Alec’s skin crawl. Judging by the way Magnus grimaced and drew back, he probably felt the same way. “We can’t have demigods like you roaming around without protection. It isn’t safe. We can offer you protection. All you have to do is drink.”
As lovely has having no responsibilities sounded, the quest they were on was too important for him to give up before they’d even left New York. “Do we fight her? She isn’t really trying to kill us?” He glanced at Magnus who had his blades in each hand, magic dancing down along them as he stared at the woman.
Magnus shook his head, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. She doesn’t seem violent now but we don’t know how that might change if we attack without real provocation. Though, drugging you could count.” And getting into a fight on a train with many mundanes was not the way either of them wanted to start their quest. “I think,” Magnus started quietly, looking around for a moment before heaving a sigh, “that we need to get off this train. Right now.”
Grabbing Alec by the elbow, Magnus dragged him back towards the door he knew led to the space between the cars. A town rose just over the horizon but Alec couldn’t have guessed which it was since he had no idea how long he’d been asleep. “Magnus, it’s going to be at least twenty minutes until we get there. She’ll get to us long before then.”
“Do you trust me?” Not the question Alec expected and he stared at Magnus for a moment before nodding. “Good. Then, I’m sorry for this.” Magnus gave no other warning before shoving Alec back and off the train.
Alec’s stomach jumped to his throat as he was thrown from the training, flailing in an effort to slow himself down and to avoid getting caught under the train. He hit the ground with a dull thud and rolled until he was back on his feet, bow and arrow in hand. Magnus followed a moment later, mirroring Alec’s movements.
“What in Hades name do you think you were doing?” Alec yelled over the roar of the train as it continued down the track, their enemy still inside. “I could have died!”
“But you didn’t! I’m sorry, Alexander, there wasn’t time for a debate. And while you are a wonderful man, you are also one who likes to think everything through and we just didn’t have time for that. My magic kept you away from the train. You weren’t in any danger. I would never have done that if I thought you could have been hurt in any way.”
Alec’s glare softened at the explanation. At least Magnus was trying to keep him safe, not kill him. “Okay, that’s fine. Next time tell me, though. Okay?”
“Okay,” Magnus nodded. “I guess we should get walking. We need to figure out how to keep moving west.” Unfortunately the train they’d been on went north first, then west, so they weren’t very far at all from where they started. “We should at least be able to find food there and make our next plan.”
As they walked, Alec pulled out his phone. “Syracuse, Magnus! That’s Syracuse! We haven’t even left the state yet.” Panic bubbled in his chest, constricting his lungs and making breathing difficult. “Dot and Lorenzo are going to die because I got drugged!”
Magnus stopped and took both of Alec’s hands in his own. “Alexander, breathe. We are fine. If something happened, my mother would have let us know. We are where we need to be, okay. What happened on the train wasn’t your fault. Let’s go get food, maybe a place to sleep, and we will figure out more in the morning, okay?”
Taking a long breath, Alec let it out slowly and nodded. They turned back towards town. While Alec was looking forward to a meal and some real sleep, he didn’t exactly want the walk to end, either.
Because Magnus’s hand was still in his and Alec thought it might be worth all the attacks in the world to have that right here and right now.
So, this is a week late and I'm sorry.
I'm also sorry because it won't be updating again until December. NaNoWriMo is 28 hours away and I live and breathe that during November, so no other writing will probably get done.
If you haven't read it yet, might I suggest Universally Acknowledged to pass the time? It was my 2017 NaNo novel, and 2018 will be Malec as well, so something to look forward to in the new year?
Chapter 9: Chicago-bound
Stuck in Syracuse, Alec and Magnus find a way out of town, needing to keep moving.
Alec had never been to Syracuse before, and as they walked into town, he could see he wasn’t missing much. It was like any other small town, though there was a major university which gave it the feel of a much bigger city. “So, now what?” he asked, glancing around for any sign of danger. None of his senses were pinging that something was wrong but he had not recognized the Lotus drinker until it was too late. (If he was being honest, he didn’t recognize her at all. That was Magnus and yet again, Alec realized he was lucky to have him along.)
“The way I see it, we have two options. We stay here for the night, regroup and plan our next path. Or we try and find a way out of town immediately and see how far we can get before we need to rest. Preference?”
With the sun still high overhead, it seemed silly to stop already. They’d managed to travel for six hours before everything went to hell. That did not bode well for the rest of the quest. “We should keep going. I don’t think we are going to find the answers we seek here, so we should at least continue as far west as possible.” If it was on foot, they wouldn’t be making it much farther but Alec Lightwood wasn’t one to give up at the first stumbling block and he figured Magnus wasn’t either.
Magnus’s answering grin was answer enough that Alec said exactly what Magnus wanted to hear. But it turned slightly more devious and he wondered where this was going next. “So, the next question is...how do you feel about stealing a car?”
"Stealing a car?" Alec echoed, just to make sure he understood properly. He figured they'd catch a bus or maybe hitchhike. This wasn't exactly what he signed up for. "I...never really thought about it before. Isn't that illegal?"
Magnus thought about it, or at least went through the motions for Alec's sake. "Why yes, I think it is. Still, it would be the fastest way to get where we are going."
"Which is where? We still haven't figured that out yet." That was how quests went, Alec knew. Didn't mean he liked the uncertainty.
With a shrug, Magnus started to look around at the cars nearby. What his criteria were, Alec didn't know but he stayed close, partly to watch out for any other monsters that might come at them and partly to make sure they didn't get themselves arrested before even leaving the state. "I'm thinking Chicago is the most likely place to make our first check. I don't feel any magic here, so I don't see any reason to stick around in Syracuse. Unless you want to. Or have some moral objection to my car theft idea."
Alec had many moral and legal objections to the car theft idea but neither of them had the money to buy a car and it seemed a surefire way to attract attention, putting their names on paper someplace where it could easily be tracked. Stealing the car would at least buy them a little time until the authorities started looking for it. "How would we avoid being arrested?" he asked, figuring that was the most pressing problem with Magnus's plan.
“Magic and luck?”
Alec frowned. He trusted Magnus’s magic, at least he thought he did, but luck rarely worked in favor of demi-gods. Trusting in it to help them seemed a surefire way to cause exactly what they were trying to avoid. “How would the magic work? Because luck isn’t going to save us.” He wished it would. That would make things far simpler if they could trust that on occasion, things might work out in their favor.
That wasn’t going to happen so best to just not even wish for it in the first place.
“I can put a subtle glamour over the car,” Magnus was explaining and Alec shook his head to clear it of unnecessary thoughts. “It should disguise it just enough that people’s eyes will glance right over it. They’ll see it so we don’t cause accidents. It will simply be wholly unremarkable. Should keep anyone from looking too closely and realizing it was stolen.”
Alec didn’t understand the full scope of Magnus’s powers but he was slowly coming to realize that they were far more vast than any of the other campers believed. “That could work. If you can do that, it might be enough to get us to Chicago at least. Then we can plan our next move.” One other obstacle stood in their way, however. “Um, how do we steal a car?” At first glance, it was easy. Get keys, start car, drive away. But how did you get the keys? How did you find the car? How do you get in without anyone noticing?
“More important question,” Magnus said with a laugh, “is, do you know how to drive? Because I never learned.” Alec stared at him, shaking his head in disbelief. Of course, Magnus would suggest stealing a car when he couldn’t even drive. “Don’t look at me like that, Alexander. I had no needed learn. And isn’t your father the one who created the chariot?”
Barking out a laugh, Alec ran his hand through his hair. “Yes, I can drive. I don’t know if it is because of my father but I did learn when I turned sixteen. My mom liked me being able to drive my siblings around. There were three of us plus Jace. I think she got tired of giving us rides, so once I was old enough, it was my turn.”
“I’ll get the car and you drive it? Maybe this is why the Oracle put us together.” If his driving skills were the only reason he was on this quest, Alec would be disappointed.
Still, if they needed him to drive, he would be happy to do it. “You never did answer how we are going to get it. I can drive anything so whatever is easiest.” Maybe some of his driving skill did come from his father, Alec realized. Glancing up and down the street, there weren't a lot of people around and plenty of cars. Many were non-descript sedans no one would look twice at with or without a spell hiding them. Those were the safe choice, as far as Alec was concerned.
So, of course, Magnus chose the most ostentatious sports car he could find. With a burst of magic, the car purred to life and Alec looked it over approvingly. He never had much desire to break rules, content to follow the path laid out for him. But then Magnus Bane appeared in his life and now he stood on the side of the road in Syracuse, New York, stealing a car with a child of Hecate.
Sometimes life was like that, he supposed.
Alec slipped into the driver’s seat, acquainting himself with the controls as quickly as possible. Even if Magnus put a glamour over the car, Alec knew he wouldn’t feel comfortable until they were out of town and away from the owner. He tried to shake that particular thought because if he focused too long on the fact that someone was about to come out and find their very expensive car missing, Alec would certainly lose his nerve.
Magnus took the seat next to him and pulled up a map on this phone. “Looks like we need to take this road south and it will lead us straight out of town. You really think we can get to Chicago tonight?”
A glance at the clock showed it was nearly lunchtime. With almost eleven hours of driving in front of them in order to reach the city, Alec knew they could do it, but it wouldn’t be fun. “We’ll be there before midnight if we don’t stop too much.” That meant probably only one or two stops the whole time and eating in the car instead of stopping someplace to have a bite. “You want to work on finding us a place to stay there and I will get us going.” He threw the car into gear and pulled out onto the street. Magnus mumbled under his breath, hands moving in front of him as he did and by the time they reached the first stoplight, magic flowed over them and the car. Even though he could see no real difference, Alec trusted that Magnus hid them from mortal eyes.
They drove in silence for some time, Alec focused entirely on driving in a place he’d never been before while Magnus closed his eyes and hummed softly to himself. Eventually, even the humming trailed off and Alec thought he’d fallen asleep. They were as safe as could be in the car, so it was the perfect time for Magnus to rest. Who knew what awaited them ahead.
Passing out of New York and into Pennsylvania, Alec watched Lake Erie off to their right. Occasionally, something seemed to move under the surface, causing his blood to run cold. Plenty of monsters lived in large bodies of water, and if the directions were to be believed, they’d be driving along the Great Lakes for quite some time. Maybe the car wasn’t as safe as he originally believed.
When something passed right next to the shore, Alec gasped involuntarily and Magnus blinked his eyes open. “Is everything alright?” he asked, eyes bleary with sleep and Alec nodded rather than try and find his voice. Magnus was unfairly beautiful under the best of conditions but sleep rumpled and soft? That was something else and Alec didn’t want to look away.
He did, however, as they weren’t even in Ohio yet and had a long way to go. Dying in a car accident while on the quest was not how he wanted to be remembered.
“Something is moving in the water,” Alec said, voice soft as he cast his eyes towards the lake once more. His mind raced, trying to remember the monsters that it could be and the best ways to avoid them. If they could circumvent a fight, that would be the best option. They were on a time schedule to find Dot and Lorenzo and any fight they were drawn into only prolonged the time it took to find them. The quest was to return them to camp, not to fight everything in their path. That would be a quest more suited for a child of Ares, in any respect.
Magnus turned his attention from Alec to the lake, concentrating on its surface. A moment later, the shadow passed by again and Magnus let out a breath. “We don’t need to worry, darling. That one won’t bother us. Charybdis hates to come out of the water for any reason. As long as we stay on the road, we will be just fine.”
He didn’t allow himself to ponder too closely why his heart beat faster at the word darling than the name Charybdis. That one could eat men alive without blinking an eye. The other? Well, the other was a term of endearment from someone Alec very much wished would eat him alive.
In a metaphorical sense.
If they survived this quest, he’d need to figure out how to get past this. When no danger in the world compared to the rush of a kind word from his crush, Alec knew he had it bad.
“Okay, so we’ll avoid waterways. If Charybdis is after us, does that mean Poseidon is involved? That wasn’t really what I was expecting when I signed on to this quest.” No demi-god wanted to go up against one of the Big Three. It was a death sentence. And if Poseidon had Dot and Lorenzo, then he had them for a reason and wasn’t going to be letting them go just because two demi-gods asked nicely.
Thankfully, Magnus shook his head almost immediately. “Nah, I bet it lives there and smells demi-god. It will follow us for a while and then go back to tormenting whoever it finds out on the water. No need to worry.”
Alec laughed, shaking his head. The ridiculousness of their situation was catching up with him and laughing was the only reaction that seemed even remotely correct. “You don’t know me very well, yet, Magnus. I tend to worry about everything. One of the perks of being the oldest sibling, I guess.”
“I know how that goes,” Magnus replied. It hit Alec hard, realizing that the whole reason they were together at the moment was that Magnus needed to save his siblings from some unknown fate, something Alec never faced before. If Alec worried about his siblings, it was probably nothing compared to what Magnus was feeling right there.
With nothing to say to that, Alec fell silent, considering it for over an hour. When they stopped in Cleveland to get food and gas, he turned off the car and shifted to face Magnus. “We’re going to find them. We will get them out from wherever they are and we will get them home. I am worrying about them just like I would my own siblings.”
Magnus took Alec’s hand, squeezing it once. “Thank you, Alexander.”
The rest of the drive passed in relative quiet. Magnus told Alec about what it was like growing up with magic and Alec, in return, told him about growing up in a family with full siblings. Not many demi-gods got that so Alec’s experience was fairly unique.
To the surprise of them both, they rolled into Chicago not long before midnight, having made it without any issue. Considering the rough start on the train, it seemed that driving was a much better option for them. But never before had Alec driven so far and for so long. Exhaustion left his legs feeling like lead and when they got to the room they rented on the outskirts of the city, he hardly gave it a second glance when he saw the single bed in the room. He collapsed, fully dressed, onto the bed and was asleep before Magnus had a chance to turn off the light.
Awkwardness could wait until morning. Sleep was far more important.
Oh yes, there was only one bed.
THERE WAS ONLY ONE BED
Watching Alec flop face first onto the bed and pass out almost immediately, Magnus hesitated. Normally he would have taken the floor or conjured another bed for himself but while he didn’t do any of the driving, the long day exhausted him as well. The thought of using any magic was too much.
With a soft sigh, he moved to pull Alec’s shoes off, an attempt to make him slightly more comfortable. Alec’s jeans and his jacket were Alec’s problem to deal with.
Magnus pulled off his own shoes and undressed down to his shirt and boxers before turning off the light and climbing into the bed. This would be uncomfortable in the morning, he realized as he started to drift off. But he could deal with it when he had a full night’s rest. Until then, he would just need to take that chance.
The sun shone well above the horizon when Alec woke, still not entirely rested but feeling much better than the night before. With a yawn, he stretched out his long limbs, frowning slightly when he couldn’t move as much as he should. Opening his eyes, Alec was met with a sight from his best dreams and worst nightmares.
Magnus curled on his side, head pillowed on Alec’s chest and arm thrown over Alec’s waist. He was sound asleep, his warm breath reaching Alec’s skin, even through the thin jacket and shirt Alec wore.
How many times had Alec dreamed of something like this? Ever since Magnus came to camp and caught Alec’s attention with his beauty and skill, Alec had trouble getting the other demigod out of his mind. Before, it was just a fond dream, something that could never, ever happen. And Alec was okay with that. Leaving it as a dream was safe. No one could get hurt if he only imagined it.
But now, here in Magnus’s arms, the man he’d dreamed of so often actually in bed with him? Well, Alec was panicking. His heart raced and he took long, slow breaths to try and calm it. It wouldn’t do if Magnus woke because the pounding of Alec’s heart under his ear was too loud to let him continue sleeping.
While Alec’s mind struggled to come up with a solution to the problem he faced, Magnus woke, stirring slowly before blinking open his eyes and smiling at Alec. “Good morning, darling. Sleep well?” Magnus rolled off him onto his back, seemingly oblivious to Alec’s panic. “Sorry for using you as my own personal pillow but the ones the hotel provided are inferior compared to you.”
Alec gaped at Magnus’s easy acceptance of the situation and wondered if he could ever be that confident in himself that he could wake up wrapped around another person and not immediately freak out. “It’s...it’s fine. I’m glad you slept well.” Alec did, too, if he was honest. Whether it was because he was so tired his body gave him no choice but to sleep or if it was the added warmth of Magnus next to him, he didn’t know. But he hoped, now that he knew this didn’t bother Magnus, that maybe he would experience it again soon. For restful purposes only, of course.
When Magnus climbed out of bed, Alec’s mind short-circuited at the sight. While Alec didn’t remember to undress before going to bed the night before, Magnus obviously didn’t have the same problem. The camp t-shirt he’d been wearing under his more stylish attire clung to his chest in all the right ways and the black boxer briefs left very little to Alec’s imagination. He knew that outfit - if it could be called that - would be starring in his more private dreams when they returned to camp.
“Come on, Lightwood. We still have a long ways to go.” Neither of them actually knew if that was true or not. For all they knew, Dot, Lorenzo, and their captor were right here in Chicago. But it didn’t seem likely that they would find them on the first day. Demigods simply weren’t that lucky.
As he stood, Alec’s back popped and muscles screamed at him for staying stationary for so long after a long day of driving. What he could have used the night before was some exercise before bed, something to stretch out and get his blood pumping. Not much they could do about that now, however. They were headed back into the car for another day of driving, hopeful that this day would bring some clue they needed.
Whether Magnus saw how uncomfortable Alec was or he was just kindhearted to begin with, Alec didn’t know, but when he looked over at the other demigod, Magnus smiled fondly. “Why don’t you go take a quick shower? I’ll get rid of the car and get a new one. Also, I have an idea about where we need to go but I need to check a couple things.” He shooed Alec off without further explanation, leaving him baffled but smiling.
By the time Alec finished his shower, he had almost shaken off the awkwardness of the morning. They would need to be comfortable with each other for this quest. They’d be together, just the two of them for however long this took and if Alec got flustered every time they even brushed against each other, it would be a long, miserable quest indeed.
It was more than just a casual brush , his brain reminded him as if he could have forgotten. Still, Alec wouldn’t let himself dwell on it. He could almost hear Izzy’s voice in his head telling him to stop overthinking everything. It was going to get him in trouble one day.
Alec dressed quickly, anxious to get back on the road. He didn’t want Dot and Lorenzo to suffer just because he took too long in the shower. When he got back in the other room, Magnus sat on the bed, scrolling through something on his phone. “Did you find what you needed?” Alec asked, hoping that Magnus’s idea had some merit because otherwise, he didn’t know what they were going to do.
“I think so. Do you know anything about Belgrade, Minnesota?”
Eyebrow arched, Alec shook his head. He’d never even heard of the place so he had nothing to add.
Magnus nodded. “I didn’t either but I think there is a landmark there that has something to do with your dad. Since the prophecy said a child of Apollo would be coming on this quest, my theory is that the fact we ended up only eight hours away from it is too strong of a coincidence to ignore.” While Alec knew there was the false Parthenon south of here, he didn’t know of any other places that even attempted to look like they were worshiping any of their family, let alone his father in particular.
“And this is in Belgrade Minnesota , of all places?” He couldn’t help but sound incredulous. Why there would be a shrine to his father in such a place, he couldn’t begin to imagine. “A monument to Apollo?”
With a smile, Magnus shook his head. “No, not a monument to Apollo but I think we both know that there are other ways to worship the gods without involving temples and statues and sacrifices. This is something of a tourist trap, from what I understand.”
Any hope Alec had of understanding the other faded and he looked at Magnus like he might have grown a second head. “We’re going to a tourist trap in the middle of nowhere Minnesota in the hopes that there might be a connection to my father which, in turn, might lead us to your siblings?” If that was correct, then Alec didn’t know what to say.
“Yes,” Magnus said, nodding as if he’d made everything clear.
Alec continued to stare, gaping at the demigod in front of him. “Why? I... I don’t get it, Magnus. This makes no sense.” When he accepted the quest, Alec knew he was going to be pushed out of his comfort zone, away from everything that felt normal to him. Traveling with Magnus turned out to be a little more unusual than he expected but even then, it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. This, however? This was almost too much for him.
Magnus stared back at him before his eyes went wide. “Oh, right, you probably don’t know.” Before Alec could even ask, Magnus hurried to continue. “Magic runs in lines around the world. We call them ley lines. When you are near one, the magic is stronger. There is one in Chicago but there are also more magic users here so I can’t feel it as strongly as I do the one at camp.”
“There is a magic line that runs through camp?” Alec blurted out, unable to stop himself.
Nodding, Magnus gave him a half shrug. “Yeah. That’s the reason the camp is where it is. Much easier to protect when you have that much magic to draw on.”
That made a bit of sense, Alec admitted to himself. But there was something unsettling about the thought of that much magic someplace he loved. Like most demigods, he’d been raised to fear magic. The more time he spent with Magnus, the more comfortable he got with it, but it would take a while to overcome all his prejudices.
“So, there is another ley line that happens to run through the town of Belgrade. And they have this tourist attraction that draws people in from all over, despite being nothing more than a giant statue in a tiny town. And my theory is the magic must be strong enough there that even regular people can feel it, without knowing what it was. It’s why they’re drawn there. I think you might even be able to recognize it as magic when we get there.”
Alec considered this. “So... If there is this place that has something associated with my father and a massive amount of magic, you think there is a chance that we might find some information there?” Slowly, things were starting to make sense. “Alright. Let’s go see what we can find.”
He threw his clothes from the day before into the bag he brought and shrugged on his coat.
Out on the street, the car they’d driven the day before was nowhere to be seen and Magnus pointed to yet another sports car that he’d found somewhere. “This is us today.” Alec rolled his eyes with a fond smile. What was wrong with just a simple sedan? Though, the moment he thought the question and tried to picture Magnus in some small, nondescript car, he almost laughed out loud.
“You keep us hidden and pull up the directions. I’ll get us out of town,” Alec told him, throwing their bags in the back before taking the keys from Magnus, once more not asking where he found them. It was bad enough driving a stolen car, Alec reasoned. He didn’t need to know anything about the actual stealing of it unless absolutely necessary.
Thanks to Magnus’s magic and Alec’s driving, they were out of town and on the way in a record amount of time. While having never driven in Chicago before, Alec wondered if Magnus used magic to help them get out of there faster. There was no way to get through a city that big that quickly. At least not in his experience.
The road from Chicago to Belgrade was long and dull, and while the two of them chatted about inconsequential things, the drive seemed to take forever. With no monsters in sight, though, they got there without issue and Alec saw the location they were heading for long before Magnus told him what it was.
He stared as they pulled into the parking area up at the statue. Of a crow. A giant crow. Frowning, Alec wondered if Magnus knew what the crow represented.
A few families milled around at the base of it, taking pictures and laughing among themselves. Alec pulled into the parking lot and started at the monstrosity in front of them. The crow was one of Apollo’s symbols but not one Alec thought of very often. Not like the lyre, or the bow and arrow, or the chariot. “How did you even think of this?” Alec asked, turning to face Magnus. “I’m his son and would never have even considered looking for something crow related.
Magnus looked at him, the corner of his lip turned up into a smirk. “When I found out one of your father’s children was coming with me, I might have looked up information about you and your siblings. Not each of you specifically, just things that might be useful. I had to assume that if the prophecy was clear about which demigod was coming with me, that it had to be important.”
It made sense but Alec wondered whether it was true or not. It might not be something about him or his siblings but the need for his father’s help, or something similar. Time would tell, he supposed.
The two of them sat on the hood of the car, staring at the statue for some time, trying to determine if there was anything about it that would help with their quest. Neither detected any sense of the Mist around but Magnus had been right about one thing. Even Alec could sense the magic running through the place. It felt like when Magnus and he touched. A static electricity that danced along his skin without shocking or sparking him. If nothing else, it had to feel good for Magnus to be somewhere he could access his own power without issue.
They waited until the sun started to go down and the tourists all drifted away, leaving the two of them alone with a giant statue of a crow. “This has to be one of the weirder days I’ve ever had,” Alec muttered, jumping down from the car and making his way over to the statue.
“Really? This doesn’t even rank in my top ten.” Somehow, Alec didn’t doubt him. Magnus had to have seen some weird things, living in the cabin that he did. “You live with Ragnor for more than a few days and you just get used to the weird.” Magnus thought maybe Ragnor would say the same about him, however, he also knew his best friend and brother would say one never got used to Magnus’s particular brand of weird.
Alec decided not to even comment on that and made his way around the statue, looking for anything that might be a clue. “Did you look up why crows are associated with my father?” he asked conversationally. He’d been holding back a piece of information for fear it would be unwelcome, but as they continued to look and found nothing that helped, he knew Magnus deserved to know.
“No, I didn’t look it up. Only that they were one of your father’s symbols. Why?”
With a sigh, Alec stopped and looked at Magnus. His face was apologetic because this seemed to be a dead end and he knew how much Magnus wanted some good news from this trip. “My father is the god of prophecy, right? Crows are supposed to be somewhat prophetic. They are omens of bad luck.” Bad luck. The last thing any demigod needed while on a quest.
Magnus stared at him with an impassive face for a brief moment. “Oh.” Alec’s heart broke for him, wishing that he could have said something - anything - that would have made this better for him.
Before Alec could say anything, however, a sharp cry ripped through the air and his blood ran cold. He just had to say something, didn’t he?
Spinning around, Alec had his bow in hand, arrow notched in place and he saw Magnus’s kindjals appear at his waist, while magic swirled around his hands. A flock of large bird-like creatures stood between them and their car. If they wanted out, they would have to talk or fight their way through.
“Son of Hecate,” the creature closest to them said and as she stepped closer, Alec could see her face in the glow of Magnus’s magic. A body of a bird but the face of a woman.
“A demigod is missing because of you. And for that, you must pay.” Magnus choked softly and looked over his shoulder at Alec. There was a mistake. Alec knew there was no way Magnus was involved with this, other than trying to save his siblings. Alec was by his side, no matter what.
He gave Magnus a quick nod and drew the arrow back. They were getting out of here. They were saving Dot and Lorenzo. And if not, then they wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Complete the quest or die trying. Those were the only two options.
Sorry about the cliffhanger. I couldn't find any other way to make this chapter work.
The slow burn is coming to an end very soon. Bear with me a little longer.
And in case you were wondering, the crow is totally a real thing.
Alec’s hand wrapped tight around the bow as he stared down the creatures in front of them. They were too close for his arrows to be very effective but if he had any choice at all, that was what he would fight with. Archery was in his blood, a god-given gift. Literally.
But it would be even better if they didn’t have to fight at all.
“Magnus Bane!” one of the harpies cried out, causing Alec to flinch at the screech of her voice. He took a step closer to Magnus, not sure what the harpies wanted from him but knowing that regardless of what happened and what they said, Alec was with him until the end. If they fought and died here, in the middle of nowhere Minnesota, or if they returned to camp victorious, Alec would be by his side.
Watching Magnus tense, they both turned their heads to look at her, waiting to see what else she had to say. Perhaps his mother was sending him a message, though it seemed a drastic way to do so when she could just use Iris messaging. “You have been judged guilty of kidnapping the children of a goddess. You must come with us to face your punishment.”
Magnus paled the moment he heard the words. All demi-gods knew what harpies did. They tormented the guilty as they took them to Hades for eternal punishment. Only those who were truly terrible faced harpies and none returned once the creatures got their talons into them. For the harpies to be here, the gods must be convinced Magnus was the one responsible for the disappearances. Alec knew the man, though, knew that he was horrified by the loss of his brother and sister. Unless Magnus was the world’s greatest actor, there was no way he could have kept up this charade the entire time they’d been together.
It was hard to remember it was only a matter of days that they’d been on this quest and not weeks or months. The stress of not knowing what would happen from minute to minute combined with the tension Alec felt between himself and Magnus made the days seem so much longer. But despite the short time together, Alec would die for Magnus and Magnus would do the same for him. Alec had no doubt about that.
“You have the wrong person,” Alec declared, doing whatever he could to protect Magnus without resorting to violence. “Magnus is trying to save Dot and Lorenzo. He wasn’t the one behind their disappearances.” If the harpies were here, however, Alec’s words would do nothing but make him feel like he was accomplishing something.
(He tried to ignore the small voice in his head that told him of the line in the prophecy about the son of magic betraying. It couldn’t be about Magnus. It just couldn’t .)
“Son of Apollo, you have no place here. Return to camp before you are judged guilty along with him.” The harpy in the center spoke to them both, her sisters standing beside her, staring them both down. The three to two odds were good enough in Alec’s opinion. He knew their fighting abilities and he didn’t know if the harpies were able to fight or only torment. Either way, he was about to find out.
He shook his head and drew an arrow. “I will not leave him. You are wrong here and we will prove his innocence.”
“Alexander,” Magnus hissed under his breath. Whether he was warning Alec about goading the harpies or if he was suggesting Alec leave and protect himself, Alec didn’t know. And he didn’t care.
He shook his head, not taking his eyes off the harpies in front of them. “Either we both leave together or neither of us do.” Alec wouldn’t leave him behind. Whatever it took, they were together until the end.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Magnus nodded and he nodded in return. Magnus turned his attention back to the harpies and declared, “Then we fight.” Magnus’s magic swirled around his hands and despite the danger they were facing, Magnus grinned at him. This was what they trained for, what all the practice sessions and capture the flag and everything else led up to. Alec couldn’t blame Magnus for being excited to finally do something after years of practicing against people who wouldn’t really hurt you. Moments like this were the ones where you proved if you were truly worthy of being called a demi-god.
“Ready, Alexander?” Alec nodded and drew back his arrow. The distance between him and the harpies was still a problem and before he could even think to take a step back, Magnus waved his arm in Alec’s direction and between one blink and the next, Alec ended up twenty feet back from where he started.
Alec didn’t know if he would ever get used to magic.
With enough distance now, Alec let the arrow fly, breathing a sigh of relief when it struck one of the harpies and she vanished with a horrid screech, sent back to the Underworld. It brought the odds to two against two and Alec smiled to himself. That was much better and he drew his bow to cover Magnus as he went after the harpy who was obviously in charge of the others.
Alec had seen Magnus fight at camp, and a little on the train but nothing like this. His movements were like a dance, dodging and spinning around as if he were working through a well-practiced choreography rather than a battle that could lead to his death. Even as he kept his arrow ready in case Magnus needed a hand, it seemed the other demi-god had things well under control.
Magnus’s magic flowed along his arms, extending out like a whip whenever he moved his hands. It wrapped around one of the harpy’s legs and dragged her down and when her companion went in to attack, Magnus flicked his wrist and sent the one on the ground flying up to meet the other’s claws. A burst of feathers and dust clouded the air and then there was one.
The remaining harpy shrieked, obviously angry at the loss of the other two and while anger could make one dangerous, it could also make someone sloppy. She no longer cared about anything but revenge, that much was clear from the look in her eyes.
Magnus glanced over his shoulder, brow furrowed in concern. “Alexander, I think I made things worse.” Considering the rage pouring off the harpy, that was an understatement if Alec ever heard one.
He chuckled and drew another arrow. “Really, Magnus? What was your first clue?” The harpy was far too close for the arrow to be effective but Alec felt better with it in place. Luckily, for him anyway, the harpy only had eyes for Magnus, screeching at him, claws outstretched. Magnus blasted her with his magic before dropping to the ground and rolling back over his shoulder. He popped back up in a graceful move Alec envied. Alec could do that, of course, but he wouldn’t look half as good.
Though, it didn’t really matter what Magnus did. He always looked good.
The smell of singed feathers filled the air and Alec grimaced, looking for some kind of shot. She was just too close and every step Alec took, she mirrored, or Magnus got in his way. And Alec wouldn’t risk shooting Magnus unless he had no other options.
With another duck and weave, Magnus yelled over to him, “Alexander, if I can get some space between the two of you, do you think you could hit her?” At the moment, Magnus was doing much of the fighting and while Alec was about to throw his bow down and stab her with one of his arrows himself, he knew it would be more effective if he could shoot her.
“Get me the space and I won’t miss.” It might have sounded cocky but Alec knew his abilities and this was something he could do. He was the best archer in camp and not even a furious harpy could stand a chance against him if he had the room to maneuver as he wanted.
Magnus gave a quick nod. With a swirl of his arms, the magic spiraled behind him, becoming a vortex like nothing Alec had ever seen. Alec expected to be thrown back like Magnus had done to him at the beginning of the fight. Instead, the vortex came at him and pushed him straight up into the air. Just as he started to flail, his feet hit something solid and Alec settled into a comfortable stance.
Several feet off the ground, Alec realized Magnus had placed him on top of one of the cars in the parking lot. Though the height wasn’t extensive, it was enough. “Magnus! Duck!” he called, letting the arrow fly the moment Magnus hit the ground.
The scream of the harpy echoed through the town and every hair on his arms stood on end at the sound. Alec never heard anything like it before and never wanted to hear it again. As the last feathers disappeared from view and an eerie silence settled over them, Alec let out the breath he’d been holding and sat on the car where he’d ended up.
Magnus was breathing hard as well and it occurred to Alec that he didn’t know how difficult it was for him to use that much magic, if it gave him the pleasant burn when he pushed himself, the same way Alec’s muscles often ached after a good training session with Jace. Sliding down to the ground, Alec made his way over to him. “Are you okay?”
When Magnus turned to look at him, a large gash across his cheek was bleeding profusely and Alec’s heart clenched. “Did they get you anywhere else?” he demanded, eyes scanning over Magnus looking for any other sign of injury.
“I’m fine, Alexander. Just a scratch. Nothing a little ambrosia or magic won’t fix up.” With a wave of his hand, the blood stopped flowing but his face still looked raw and painful. Alec hadn’t even seen a harpy get close enough to Magnus to cause that kind of damage and realized it must have happened when he was being moved by Magnus’s magic.
He bit his lip against the onslaught of emotion when he realized that Magnus might have been hurt because he was too busy getting Alec out of the way of danger to pay attention to his own well-being. While they were still getting to know each other, Alec knew without a shadow of a doubt that that was something Magnus would definitely do. He’d sacrifice himself to save someone else and never even considered that his own life was worth saving as well.
Without thought, Alec reached out and ran his thumb just under the wound, gentle and feather-light. His hand cupped Magnus’s cheek and they stared at one another. Suddenly aware of how close they were, Alec’s heart beat faster and he swallowed hard, subconsciously licking his lips.
Whether Magnus took that as a sign or just wanted to take the chance, Alec didn’t know but the two moved in simultaneously. They met in the middle, a gentle press of lips before pulling back to stare at each other in surprise. An apology grew on the tip of Alec’s tongue but when he started to say something, Magnus shook his head and kissed him again.
Alec had been kissed before. He’d had a couple of boyfriends, though the relationships never lasted more than a couple days. He’d always been too focused on his siblings and on his training to really give any guy the attention he deserved. And while his attraction to Magnus was stronger than anything he’d felt for any of them, he’d assumed a relationship between them would be doomed from the start.
But with Magnus’s lips against his, his arms wrapped around Alec’s waist to pull him close, Alec realized he didn’t care. He parted his lips as Magnus’s tongue teased the seam and they both moaned at the first taste of the other. It was everything Alec wanted it to be and he thought he could keep on kissing Magnus forever.
The adrenaline of the fight, however, was starting to wear off and they broke the kiss, simply resting their heads together and breathing the same air. “Magnus,” Alec whispered, not needing another word because his name was everything he wanted and everything he needed to say. It conveyed every emotion racing through him and the deepest desires of his heart.
Magnus replied in a voice equally breathless and full of emotion. “Alexander.” They stayed there, holding each other until Magnus sighed softly and closed his eyes. “We need to go. We can’t stay here. I don’t know what the mortals of this town saw but I bet police will be here soon enough. We need to get away. And then we can talk. About everything.”
Alec nodded and stepped back, though the desire to pull Magnus close once more almost won out. “Let’s get another car.” Leaving the one they stole the night before would give the cops something else to focus on. At least, Alec hoped.
The choices were limited, much to Magnus’s obvious dismay. He didn’t get a nice sports car, instead settling for an SUV that had seen better days. But there was enough room for their things and it would get them several hundred miles away from here, which was all they needed.
Alec put the car in gear and pulled out onto the highway. “Where are we going next?” West was the obvious answer but he didn’t know if Magnus had a more specific idea.
“I’m not sure. But we’re on the right track. Someone is trying to frame me, it seems, so we must be getting closer. Why don’t we drive for a while then find someplace to stay for the night? We need to regroup and plan.”
Nodding, Alec kept his eyes on the road, the car pointed west. With no other cars on the road at that time of night, he took his hand off the wheel and laced it with Magnus’s. Magnus gave his hand a soft squeeze and Alec smiled to himself.
Yes, monsters just tried to kill them. But it wasn’t the victory that had Alec walking on air.
He won something more important that night. And he would fight to the death to protect it.
To protect Magnus.
To protect them .
Took a while to get here but hey look, the slow burn is over! Don't expect everything to go smoothly for them from here on out, though, because what would be the fun in that?
If Alec was driving a little faster than the speed limit (okay, a lot faster than the speed limit) as they left Belgrade, he hoped there was no one around to see it. Magnus promised his glamour would keep them hidden from most mundane eyes but Alec wasn’t sure he wanted to risk their safety on that. Not with Magnus as tired as he was. Alec didn’t know if his magic would slip due to exhaustion.
The sun had gone down but it was still early. Alec figured he could drive for several more hours unless the adrenaline wore off quicker than he expected. But whatever the situation, they needed to get out of Minnesota before stopping for the night. There was no question of that.
Magnus typed away at his phone, thought what he was doing, Alec didn’t know. “Try and find a hotel about three to four hours from here,” he suggested. “I want to stay off the highways if at all possible.” His heart still pounded in his chest every time he looked at Magnus and thought about the kiss after the heat of battle. They would need to talk about it but getting somewhere safe had to be their first priority.
Alec wasn’t stalling, he promised himself, but it sounded weak, even in his own head.
“Of course, darling.” Magnus’s reply was automatic and the term of endearment fell from his lips with ease. Alec pointedly ignored the way his breath caught when Magnus said that, focusing instead on the road in front of them.
The plan had to been to head west, as that was the only clue they had that was clear enough to follow. But heading west would put them into North Dakota and Alec highly doubted they would find anywhere open at that time of night. If they had to veer north or south, so be it. They were still west of camp, and therefore, Alec reasoned were closer to their destination than they had been.
“Think we can make it two hundred and fifty miles? Sioux City, Iowa is south of here and looks like the closest big city that wouldn’t require us to backtrack. We could find a place to stay, ditch the car, and maybe figure out a new plan.” That was farther than Alec wanted to drive but it did seem like their best option. Cities were a crapshoot when it came to monsters. There could be a ton or there could be none, depending on the type, the time of year, and so much else. But they would be able to find a place to stay, so maybe they could get a full night’s sleep and figure out a plan.
And, if he was really lucky, talk about what happened between them after the fight.
“Yeah, I can make it. You might need to talk to keep me awake though.”
Magnus laughed and placed his hand on Alec’s thigh for a moment before pulling his hand back. “Have you met me? That will not be a problem, Alexander.”
It turned out Magnus wasn’t joking and he kept up a story about growing up in camp with only Cat and Ragnor as his closest friends. Alec didn’t know if the stories he told were real or not, but they were entertaining that was what he needed. For four hours, they drove through increasing darkness until the lights of a city started to appear up ahead.
An hour before, Alec’s eyes were already heavy so by the time they arrived at the hotel, he didn’t know if he could even be bothered to put one foot in front of the other. “I should just sleep here,” he muttered as best he could between yawns.
“No, sorry darling. I refuse to sleep in the car and I won’t leave you alone so time to get up and into the hotel room.” Magnus got out of the car and came around to the driver’s side. Opening the door, he took Alec’s hand and tugged him out. “I’ll carry you if I have to but you’re so lanky, I’ll probably hit your head a few times.” He grinned, unapologetic, and Alec couldn’t stop his groan on annoyance.
“I’m moving. I’m moving.” With legs like lead, Alec followed Magnus up to their room on the third floor. Their hands remained laced together the whole time and Alec drew strength from that fact. It took Magnus three times to get the card key to work on their room and in the end, Alec suspected it was more Magnus’s magic that got them in than the card.
Alec collapsed immediately onto the bed. Staying up late wasn’t usually an issue for him but after two battles and hundreds of miles of traveling, his body finally decided it could go no farther.
Distantly aware of Magnus putting upwards and magicking them both into pajamas, Alec tried to tell him to save his magic, that he had to be exhausted too, but the words wouldn’t come out. He groaned pitifully and held his hand out to Magnus, deciding to be embarrassed about his actions tomorrow. He couldn’t muster the energy to be embarrassed right now.
Magnus took his hand and laid down next to him, drawing Alec into his arms almost immediately. They both let out soft sighs and fell asleep like that, curled together as if that was how they were always meant to be.
The next morning, Alec woke, expecting to be nervous about the fact that they were still holding one another, Magnus’s head now pillowed on Alec’s chest. But the nerves never came. Instead, Alec brushed his fingers up and down Magnus’s back, enjoying the feel of soft skin and hard muscle quivering under his touch. “Alexander.” Magnus’s voice rumbled, knocking the air out of Alec’s lungs. It was deep and gravelly with sleep and Alec’s body responded almost immediately.
“Magnus,” he said in reply, amazed his voice wasn’t shaky in the least. He hoped Magnus would hear the longing, know just how much Alec wanted him without having to come right out and say it. Alec didn’t know if he could find the words to convey it, even if he wanted to.
Magnus turned to look up at him and they stared for a moment, their breaths the only sound in the room, though Alec suspected that Magnus could probably hear the way his heart pounded in his chest, threatening to burst out, so filled with love and adoration as it was. Stretching up, Magnus’s lips met Alec’s and they kissed softly, gentle and chaste. It was similar to the kiss they shared the day before, but this time there was more behind it. Because the day before, the kiss had been fueled by adrenaline and stress (and yes, desire too). But today it was what they wanted, pure and simple. There was no life or death situations in that room, just the two of them and all the emotion that had been building between them for days.
Alec parted his lips as Magnus tried to deepen the kiss and Magnus rolled so he was half on top of him. Wrapping a leg around Magnus’s hip, Alec rolled his own up, drawing a pleasured groan from them both. He wanted to remove the final layers between them, to finally see and feel Magnus the way he’d only been able to dream of before now.
Everything else was forgotten except for the feel of the way Magnus moved against his body. He seemed to roll and gyrate, the elegant motions of Magnus in battle directly correlated to the elegant motions of Magnus in bed. Alec wanted more. He needed more and his broken cry of “Magnus!” told that entire story.
“Darling,” Magnus purred, moving his lips to kiss Alec’s neck, sucking light marks to the collarbone and pulse points. Alec squirmed under the attention, his lust ratcheted up even farther, though he didn’t know how that was possible. He dragged his nails down Magnus’s back, rewarded with a sound that Alec could only describe as a mew. His lover (if that was what he could call Magnus now) reminded him of a cat in so many ways, it didn’t surprise Alec in the least to hear that soft noise from him.
Hands slid down Magnus’s back, Alec eager to get their pajama pants off but he froze in horror when Magnus moved away. He’d been so caught up in what he was feeling, he didn’t consider Magnus’s opinion of things. Ice ran through his veins at the thought that he’d pushed Magnus too far before they even were able to discuss what they were to one another. “I’m sorry,” was out of his mouth before he could stop it and Alec ran a hand over his face, trying to figure out how to make it better.
“What in Olympus’s name are you sorry for?” Magnus asked, sitting back on his heels to look at Alec. The thin pajamas he wore did not hide the fact that he was as affected by their attraction as Alec was, which made Alec even more confused.
He blinked, trying not to be embarrassed. “I thought I did something wrong.” If he did do something wrong, he wanted to hear about it so he could do better or make it right.
“Darling, there’s no such thing. I just thought...” Magnus trailed off, his eyes darting around the room for a moment before settling back on Alec. “I just thought maybe we should talk about this before we get so far gone that we do something one or both of us might regret.”
Now, with a few deep breaths to calm down, Alec realized that Magnus was right. He was far too worked up to think clearly and they were going to rush into something without ever talking about it. That wasn’t how he wanted things to be with Magnus. He nodded, running a hand through his hair thought he knew there was no way that would do anything to make it better. “I do want this,” he offered, wanting to make sure Magnus knew that above all else. “I...I’ve wanted you since our first conversation.”
“I’ve wanted you since the first time I saw you,” Magnus countered and when their eyes met, they both grinned broadly. “So you’re saying I could have been sharing a bed with you and not feeling guilty about how that made me feel this whole time? You could have said something.”
“So could you. Guess we’re both cowards.”
Magnus got up on his knees so he could lean forward and cup Alec’s face in his hands. “There is not a world out there where you, my dear, are a coward. I would like to think the same could be said for me.”
“Magnus, you are the bravest person I know. There isn’t anyone in the world I would rather be here with, on the quest or in bed.” Magnus kissed him then, all lips and tongue, need and desire. He whimpered against Alec’s lips and pushed him back onto the mattress. Alec didn’t know if that meant their talk was over or Magnus just needed a break from heavy confessions, but he wasn’t complaining either way.
They kissed and touched, happy to lay tangled together forever. And when they eventually lost the last of their clothes and came together in the most intimate way possible, Alec saw stars.
When they were done, breathing heavy and high on the joy of being together, Magnus rolled onto his back to look up at the ceiling, laughing when he saw it. “I guess my magic enjoyed that as much as I did.” Multi-colored bursts of light shone all over the room and Alec stared in wonder. Magnus’s magic was as remarkable as he was and Alec didn’t think he would ever get enough.
And it was a heady thing to know that he made someone as powerful as Magnus lose control like that.
Alec watched as the lights slowly extinguished as Magnus got his magic (and breathing) back under control. It was already approaching midday but the sunlight was diffused by the heavy curtains of the hotel room, giving it a feeling of late evening or just before dawn. Alec couldn’t remember if he’d ever felt such peace before.
He opened his mouth to say something when Magnus sat bolt upright in bed. “I know where we need to go.”
“And where is that?” Alec sat up as well, the sheet bunching around their waists. The quest had been the last thing on his mind but apparently, Magnus couldn’t stop thinking about it, even after mind-blowing sex (at least in Alec’s opinion).
Magnus grinned at him, and the dark amusement in his eyes had Alec running simultaneously hot with desire and cold with fear. “How do you feel about Kansas?”
I finally have an end destination picked out so that's good.
Currently on hiatus until at least DEC 2019. Please be patient.
“Kansas? Kansas?” Alec hadn’t stopped asking that question since they got out of Sioux City and once more were heading south. Not that Magnus could blame him. It had been rather abrupt and if it wasn’t for the shining moment of brilliance (in his opinion), they would still be curled up in bed.
Magnus couldn’t quite believe what they’d done that morning. Well, he could. He wouldn’t forget that for a long time. It had been magical, no matter how cliche or trite it sounded. Once this quest was over and his siblings were home once more, Magnus intended to really explore this relationship.
Which didn’t mean they couldn’t have a lot of fun before then as well. So many hotels with only one bed...
Shaking his head to clear the less than pure thoughts, Magnus turned his attention back to Alec. “Yes, Alexander. Kansas. I know it sounds weird but there’s a place there that can help us. I don’t actually know anywhere that might give us a better chance of finding them, now that I really think about it.”
“Is this like the statue in Minnesota?”
He nodded. “Yes, kind of. But much stronger. Geographically and magically, that is the place we want to be if we want to find someone who doesn’t want to be found.” Explaining magic to someone who didn’t have it was always a challenge and Magnus tried to walk the balance between giving Alec all the information he needed and not looking like he had lost his mind.
“I’m not being cryptic. I’m being coy.”
Alec snorted, not taking his eyes off the road. “Whatever you say. So where in Kansas are we going?”
“A town called Lebanon? Or at least near there. I’ll have better directions once we get closer.” Magnus could already feel the pull of the magic the closer they got. It was subtle but he figured by the time they got to town, there would be no way to ignore it. “I think we can pretty much guarantee that we will have a fight on our hands. That much magic and two half-bloods in the same place? There’s no way we don’t attract the wrong kind of attention.”
When Alec asked, “Is there a good kind of attention?” Magnus just rolled his eyes and went back to scrolling through messages on his phone. There were some pictures from Madzie and Zoe from back at camp, as well as a couple of texts from Cat and an email from Ragnor. All of them wanting to make sure he was okay and staying safe. Their family didn’t get quests. Ever. They were probably all panicking.
And rightfully so. If their mother had sent anyone else, Magnus would have been there panicking as well.
“Any news from camp?”
Magnus shook his head. “No, not really. My siblings are curious about how things are going and the younger ones sent me some pictures of what they’ve been up to but it sounds like things are perfectly normal. Have you heard from your family?”
“I haven’t checked. I’ll look after we get to Lebanon. I hope we get some real information. I’m tired of feeling so lost.”
The flat plains of the central United States flew by outside the window and Magnus lost himself in the monotony of the scenery. He wondered what Alec’s siblings would think about them being together. Magnus didn’t know them very well but he expected that most half-bloods of the big ten would be less than pleased to find out their brother was dating a child of Hecate. But Alec didn’t seem too concerned so hopefully, his siblings would accept their relationship.
It was something to worry about later, though. When they weren’t likely to encounter death or destruction at any moment. He was getting far ahead of himself. They needed to survive first, then deal with the fall out after they returned home.
Alec’s thoughts, for the most part, were following the same line. He didn’t know what Magnus was to him, other than the fact that he was important and Alec wanted to spend more time with him once they got home. Once they weren’t in danger of being killed at any moment. Izzy would be happy for him. She always told him to be more assertive and go after what he wanted. Jace would be more difficult, if only because he had some issues with Magnus and his siblings, simply because of who they were. Alec would do his best to help Jace see what good people they were but he wasn’t going to be upset if Jace never saw the truth. Some conditioning was hard to break.
Pulling into Lebanon, Alec frowned. Even for a small town it was...not much. A main street with a few buildings. Some houses scattered around. There wasn’t much impressive about it and if Alec didn’t trust Magnus implicitly, he would wonder if this was where they were supposed to be. However, he did trust Magnus and so far the other half-blood’s instincts hadn’t led them wrong. If Magnus said there was something to see here that would help them on their quest, Alec was willing to go along with it.
Though, what could be in the middle of a grassy plain that would help was beyond him.
“Looks a bit like the Underworld, don’t you think?” Magnus asked, staring at the vast sea of grass as far as the horizon. “Endless nothingness in every direction.” It was what he expected the Underworld to look like, anyway. Magnus had never been there and had no intention of going any time soon. He would get there when he was old and grey and lived a long and happy life by anyone’s standards, not just half-bloods.
Alec nodded in agreement, unsettled by the great span of nothingness. For a man who’d grown up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, this was almost too much quiet, too much nothing. Give him taxis honking, people yelling, and monsters lurking around every corner any day. “So where are we going here? There isn’t much. Looks like a diner, a post office, and some landmark.” He answered his own question already. “Landmark, right? Ley lines and all of that?”
“Exactly. You’re a quick study, Alexander. This one is more powerful than most. I’ve been able to feel the magic behind it building for about a hundred miles already” Magnus fell silent for a moment, staring out the window and seemingly lost in thought. “When you need to find someone, a crossroads is usually the best place to look.”
Unsure what to think about the nonsequitur, Alec stayed silent, knowing Magnus would explain when he was ready.
“This goes for any type of tracking and will work at any crossroads. If you ever see me or one of my siblings standing at the cross between two paths in capture the flag, you can be sure we are trying to find someone. Basic magic.”
“And if the person doesn’t want to be found?” Alec figured that was where Magnus was going with this. If he could track anyone from any road, then why were they on this quest unless they were able to do something to prevent being found.
Magnus sighed. “Then, you either need some way to break their shield, or you need a stronger crossroads.”
Alec had been following the signs to the landmark out of town and pulled into the parking lot just as Magnus finished speaking. There weren’t a lot of people around, thankfully. Easier to get in and out without trouble.
In front of them was one of the most unremarkable landmarks Alec had ever seen. A stack of stones with an American flag out the top. There was a plaque but otherwise, it was dull. The type of place Alec would have driven by and not given a second thought.
They climbed out of the car, gravel crunching under their feet as they approached the monument and Alec read the words on the plaque.
The GEOGRAPHIC CENTER of the UNITED STATES
LAT. 39°50' LONG. -98°35'
“So, when you say crossroads...”
“I mean the exact center of this country, yes. In a way, every road leads to here eventually. It’s the ultimate crossroads. If I can’t track them from here, then I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
The other people milling around paid them no attention, though Alec remained on high alert. Attacks could come from any place at any time and the last thing he wanted was for someone to catch them off guard. It would be terrible luck to come this far and then die before finishing the quest. “I’m guessing this is going to require magic,” he said quietly, pretending to be staring at the plaque so as to not be overheard. “Do we need to wait for them all to leave before you can do anything?”
Biting his lip, Magnus looked around. “Either that or we find someplace private that I can do this.” There was a small gazebo with a picnic table but it offered no privacy. Besides, a family of five were eating their lunches there and neither man wanted to disturb them, particularly if what they were about to do would bring on a monster attack that could leave the civilians in danger.
The only other structure was a small chapel off to the side. It didn’t even look big enough to hold a dozen people but no one seemed to be interested in it at all. Alec nodded his head in that direction, asking Magnus the silent question.
“Yeah, that might work. Mother will be furious that I’m using someone else’s temple but hers are few and far between these days.”
As they walked, Alec raised a brow. “Your mother still has temples?” He didn’t know if there were any temples for his father left anywhere in the world. And his father was one of the most well known.
“Yes, sort of. Not as elaborate as they once were but Hecate’s followers never really left her. There are long lines of families who still count her as their personal goddess and as such, she is worshipped in their own way. There is still magic in the world, Alexander. Even among those without a drop of divine blood in their bodies. Remembering my mother and offering sacrifices to her is the way they thank her for its presence.”
“Sacrifices?” Alec really hoped it was similar to they did during meals at camp. Offering a bit of their food to their godly parents. And not the types of sacrifices he heard about from ancient days.
Magnus rolled his eyes and opened the chapel door for Alec. “Not those kinds of sacrifices, darling. Her followers are still civilized people, even if they follow an ancient religion.”
Taking a seat in the back of the chapel, Alec watched Magnus pace the floor, counting out his steps under his breath. “Okay, this is going to be tight but I can make it work.” Alec snorted before he could stop himself. “Oh, Alexander. What a dirty mind you have. Save that for tonight, darling.” Magnus shot him a wink and then got to work.
As with every other time, Alec was transfixed as he watched the blue magic swirl around Magnus’s hands. His lover looked otherworldly in a way none of the other half-bloods did. Something about being Hecate’s child just made them...different. In the best possible ways. At least, Alec thought so.
He was probably biased.
The magic was brighter than Alec had ever seen it and he sat forward a little, drawn in by the sight. A wind from somewhere rippled Magnus’s jacket and his eyes glowed a brilliant gold. He was the most beautiful thing Alec had ever seen.
Magnus crouched, placing his hand on the floor and the magic grew brighter. The smell of ozone filled the whole chapel and Alec found himself glad that they’d come during the day time. He figured the sunlight would keep the glow from the chapel from being noticeable.
Chanting under his breath, Magnus strained, trying to pull enough magic from the lines underneath them to be able to break through the spell. If it was a god who had his siblings, there was nothing Magnus could do. But a demi-god or monster? He should be able to find them with the amount of magic currently flowing through his veins. He felt powerful. Invincible.
Magnus closed his eyes and listened to his magic, searched for his siblings. The strength of the magic made him able to reach to all corners of the country and he struggled under the onslaught of new information. There were so many people, so many demi-gods, in this country that Magnus had to focus to filter them all out. Even then, he found siblings he never knew about, children of Hecate that had not yet made it to camp. A part of him itched to reach out to them, to find them and lead them home but he had other priorities.
Other siblings who needed to be led home. Siblings that were in danger.
His connection to Dot was far stronger than his connection with Lorenzo so Magnus focused on her, hoping that it would help him find Lorenzo as well. And then, whoever took them.
Like a map inside his head, Magnus moved across the land, following that thread that connected him to his sister. Across grassland and dry land, rivers and red rocks and endless, endless fields. He could feel Alec’s sturdy presence behind him, an anchor to hold on to as his magic carried him farther and farther from Kansas.
Finally, the vision cleared and for the first time in years, he saw his siblings. He saw where they were being held. He saw the town, the building, the room. And he saw the person who kept them captive.
With a gasp, Magnus let the magic flow back into the ground and fell to sit hard on the wooden floor of the chapel. “I know where they are, Alexander,” he said, trying to catch his breath as his heart pounded in his chest. “I know who has them. We have to go and we have to go now.”
And we're back! Sorry for the long delay but I have every intention to finish this fic now. Should be a couple more chapters. Thanks for sticking with me!