As Alec rushed out of the portal he nearly ran headfirst into a tree, but managed to steer him and Magnus around it at the last second. Then his injured leg gave out around the same time as Magnus’s energy and they both fell to their knees on the concrete.
Jace stumbled out behind them just as the portal closed and paused to take in their surroundings; they were on the grassy parkway around the corner from the Institute.
Jace laughed in disbelief. “We did it. We got out.”
Alec was less concerned about their escape and more about Magnus. He maneuvered himself in front of Magnus and put a hand on his cheek, careful to avoid the swollen areas and the cut above his eye.
“Are you okay?” Alec asked, his eyes trying to catalogue the injuries Jace had inflicted on him along with how drained he was from using so much magic.
But Magnus just smiled softly and lifted a hand to lay over top the one Alec had on his cheek.
“I’ve never been better,” Magnus said.
Alec exhaled in pure relief before he leaned forward and kissed Magnus desperately. Magnus’s fingers squeezed around Alec’s as he happily reciprocated, pouring every ounce of relief he felt into the kiss.
“Hey, why did you portal us … WHOA! WHAT THE HELL!?”
Alec pulled back instantly at Jace’s exclamation and turned to see his parabatai standing next to them, eyes wide in disbelief.
“Oh … um …” Alec stuttered and looked at Magnus who just licked his lips and laughed, seemingly amused.
“What was that?!” Jace demanded. “Is this a thing? Are you guys a thing?!”
Alec gave a non-commital shrug. “Um … it’s complicated.”
“Too complicated to mention during the three days we were trapped in a cell together?”
“To be fair you weren’t in the cell all that often,” Magnus pointed out.
“Not helpful,” Jace said, pointing a finger in warning.
Alec motioned towards the Institute looming over them less than a hundred feet away. “Maybe we can talk about this when we’re somewhere more secure.”
Jace shifted his finger of warning to point at Alec before he stalked off towards the Institute. “Oh we’ll talk about it. We’re gonna talk the hell about it.”
“Well that hardly made sense,” Magnus muttered but stood up with Alec to follow Jace.
“We’ll uh … we’ll have to talk as well,” Alec said to him, stammering again. “About us.”
“Of course. We’ll talk the hell about us,” Magnus said, smiling when Alec laughed lightly. The laugh turned into a cough and Alec rubbed a hand over his chest. “Oh come on, it wasn’t that funny.”
“No, I …” Alec’s eyes went wide with panic and he clawed at his chest again, his breath coming out as a wheeze. “I can’t …”
His legs gave out and Magnus only just barely managed to catch him.
“No, no … Jace!” Magnus yelled, calling the shadowhunter back as he lowered Alec to the ground.
“Alec!” Jace shouted as he ran back towards them, dropping to Alec’s other side.
“I can’t …” Alec tried to say again but couldn’t form the words past the pain in his chest.
“Easy, just take it easy, it’s okay,” Jace said even though he knew it was anything but. He pulled the tatters of Alec’s shirt aside and grimaced; the Loyalty rune on his chest was activated. “Valentine.”
“He’s killing him,” Magnus said, remembering how Valentine had demonstrated this function of the rune on their first day in his dungeon of horrors.
Jace patted down Alec’s pockets until he found the stele they had stolen and ran it over the Loyalty rune then growled in frustration when nothing happened.
“I can’t deactivate it.”
Alec arced off the ground in pain and tried to take in a strangled breath but with each second it was clearly getting more difficult. Magnus pushed him down gently and then released a torrent of healing magic into his body. Alec inhaled again, this time noticeably easier but still not like normal.
“Can you get rid of it?” Jace asked, surprised the magic was doing anything at all, but Magnus shook his head.
“Angelic and demonic magic don’t exactly mix. I can’t deactivate the rune, I can just fight against it and help Alec’s heart keep beating in spite of it,” Magnus said, then turned to him with a look of pained honesty. “But I can’t do it for long.”
Jace exhaled. He knew they only had one option. He squeezed Alec’s hand then met Magnus’s eye. “Send me back.”
“No,” Alec said, his own grip on Jace tightening.
“Valentine won’t kill me, but he’s going to kill you if I don’t go back. It’s what he wants. I don’t have a choice Alec,” Jace said. “Magnus please, you have to portal me back.”
“No … find another way,” Alec said, echoing what he had said in their cell the last time Jace had wanted to go to Valentine for help.
“There’s no other way Alec, even if we had a de-runing device, they can’t remove active runes. We need Valentine to shut it off.”
Alec shook his head, refusing to believe that.
“ ‘Nother way … Silent Brothers,” he gasped out before his body arced up with pain once more.
Magnus looked at Jace hopefully at the suggestion. “They know more about runes than anyone, they might be able to remove it.”
“But they might not and then Alec dies!” Jace said.
“And if you go back to Valentine you have no guarantee he’ll turn it off and there’s nothing you can do to him that won’t also kill Alec,” Magnus argued.
Jace looked down at Alec whose face was pale and pinched with pain. “Magnus please, I’ll convince him, I’ll give him anything he wants, whatever I have to do, just send me back.”
“Don’t …” Alec shook his head weakly, his eyes fluttering open and closed. “Please Magnus … don’t.”
Magnus clenched his jaw, hating the decision the parabatai were putting on his shoulders. Then he lifted his free hand and brought a portal to life behind them.
“That goes back to Valentine’s ship,” Magnus said, his voice laced with regret even as he did it.
“Thank you,” Jace sighed and squeezed Alec’s hand a final time. “You’re gonna be okay. It’s gonna be all right.”
“No,” Alec said a final time, his voice barely audible.
“I’m sorry,” Jace said, tears brimming his eyes as he stood up and headed towards the portal.
He only made it a few steps before another portal snapped to life next to the first one.
“What …” Jace turned around to find Magnus hauling Alec up over his shoulders. “What are you doing?”
“This one goes to the City of Bones. I’m taking Alec to the Silent Brothers,” Magnus said. “I don’t trust Valentine to spare Alec’s life today anymore than I did yesterday. It’s your choice which one you want to go through.”
Jace shook his head. “The rune power in the City of Bones will kill you Magnus!”
“Maybe but it’ll save Alec,” Magnus answered, never breaking stride towards the portal even as Alec became a deadweight across his shoulders.
“You stubborn son of a …” Jace didn’t manage to finish his insult before Magnus disappeared through the portal with Alec.
Magnus and Alec came out of the portal near the bridge entrance to the City of Bones and it looked just as desolate and unwelcoming as Magnus remembered. He took a deep breath and steeled himself to venture inside somehow while dragging Alec along with him but had barely made it a step before he felt Alec’s weight lift off his back.
“Good choice,” Magnus said, surprised to find himself smiling at Jace as he hefted Alec’s other arm over his shoulders.
“Yeah well, I wasn’t done insulting you, you stubborn son of a bitch,” Jace said. As they approached the door Jace helped Magnus lower Alec back to the ground. “Wait here and keep him alive.”
Magnus nodded in a promise to do his best and watched as Jace ran to the doors of the City of Bones.
“Hey! We need some help out here!” he heard Jace yell as he ran inside. The echo of his voice disappeared quickly though and Magnus looked back down to find Alec barely clutching on to consciousness, his face pinched with pain but a small smile gracing his mouth.
“Thank you,” he whispered, every syllable a struggle past the tightness in his chest. “For not letting … him go.”
“I merely gave him his options, Jace made his own choice,” Magnus said, then frowned as he felt how much worse Alec had gotten from the brief portal trip to the City. He grit his teeth and poured more healing magic into Alec’s body, struggling to force his heart to keep beating against the strain of the Loyalty rune trying to stop it. “Just hold on, he’ll be back with the Silent Brothers any moment to fix you up.”
Alec’s breath hitched painfully even with Magnus’s magic fighting for him. They could both feel it was a losing battle. Alec lifted his hand towards Magnus and smiled when the warlock took it and squeezed.
“Mag … I don’t think …”
“Shhhh, save your strength, you’re going to be fine,” Magnus insisted, refusing to let Alec put a voice to the fear that was gripping his own chest.
Alec shook his head and clenched his jaw, shaking with the effort to breathe. “I’m sorry.”
“You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for, just stay with me.”
A tear slipped down Alec’s cheek. “Our date … I really wanted … to …”
“Nonsense,” Magnus said, even though he could feel Alec’s heart faltering from the war going on between his magic and the Loyalty Rune. “Our date is going to be wonderful. I’m taking you to The Red Door. We’ll go on Thursday, they have a duck special. You’ll love it, it’s nothing too fancy but the food is delicious.”
Alec nodded and smiled. “Sounds … perfect.”
“You can get a mojito and I’ll have a martini, we’ll drink to our new beginning and then we’ll go to the Hunter’s Moon. I’ll hustle you at pool but you won’t mind then … then we’ll walk home along the water and … and knowing us we’ll run into a demon or something but it doesn’t matter, we’ll take care of it together, like we always do.”
Another tear slipped down Alec’s cheek. His fingers tightened around Magnus’s hand.
“Together,” he whispered on the exhale, managing the smallest nod of agreement. Then his fingers went slack in Magnus’s grip.
Alec’s eyes slipped shut. He wasn’t breathing.
“No, no Alec!” Magnus pushed every drop of magic he had into his shadowhunter but his eyes remained closed. “Help! Someone!”
At that moment the door to the City of Bones slammed open and Jace rushed out, a Silent Brother not far behind him walking in long strides.
“Alec?” Jace asked as he dropped down on Alec’s other side.
“He’s not breathing,” Magnus said, still pouring magic into Alec’s body.
“No, Alec, come on,” Jace said, pulling out his stele and running it over Alec’s healing rune, desperate to do something. A shadow appeared over him and he looked up at the Silent Brother. “Can you help him?”
The monk stood for a long moment, his stitched eyes roaming over Alec’s body and the activated Loyalty rune. Finally he turned around and walked back towards the door.
“Bring him inside,” his voice echoed in their minds. “We will do all we can for Alexander Lightwood.”
Jace and Magnus hefted Alec up to his feet, ignoring the fact that he was a deadweight on their shoulders. When they got close to the door Jace shifted so he could take all of Alec’s weight.
“Magnus you have to stay here.”
Magnus hesitated. His magic might be the only thing that could help Alec if the Silent Brothers failed, but even from a few feet away he could feel the rune power of the City burning him.
“He won’t …”
“What he’ll do is kill me if anything happens to you. Now stay here!” Jace said but couldn’t risk arguing any longer as the Silent Brother disappeared down the hall ahead of them. Magnus nodded tightly in agreement and Jace turned to the door, hefting Alec easily and racing after the monk.
Magnus watched for as long as possible, but in a few feet they turned down a corridor and he lost sight of them. A moment later the sound of their footsteps disappeared as well and the door to the city shut on its own in front of him. Magnus jumped and let out a shaky breath as he looked around realizing he was very much alone. He had no way of knowing what was happening or if Alec was even still alive. He stumbled back and collided with a steel support beam for the bridge and slid down until he was sitting on the ground. He breathed out heavily, a million emotions vying for dominance in his heart, but as he rubbed a hand down his face he was mostly terrified that he had made the wrong choice.
“Hold on Alexander. Please,” Magnus whispered. He was tempted to sit and wallow in self-pity, but as was usual with Magnus, his misery loved company and he soon found himself composing a fire message to Izzy.
“We escaped Valentine’s ship but Alec is hurt. We’re at the City of Bones.”
He sent the fire message off and leaned back to wait.
It couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes later that the sound of footsteps made him look up to see Izzy, Clary and Simon running towards him.
“Magnus!” Izzy called out in relief and even pulled the warlock into a light embrace. “I can’t believe it.”
“I hardly can either my dear,” Magnus said.
“Alec and Jace?” Clary asked.
“Jace is fine but he took Alec inside to see the Silent Brothers. Valentine did something to him but I can’t go in. I don’t know if …”
“It’s okay,” Izzy said so he wouldn’t have to finish. “We’ll go in and check on him.”
Magnus nodded gratefully but before Izzy and Clary could enter the door swung open from the inside and Jace stepped out, looking more exhausted than they had ever seen him.
“Jace,” Magnus said. “Alec, is he …?”
Jace walked towards Magnus rigidly, laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed tightly. “You wanted to come here, remember that.”
Jace’s shoulders dropped and he smiled. “It was the right call. They got the rune off. He’s gonna be okay.”
“Thank the Angel.” Magnus’s sigh of relief was so deep he had to grab his chest, but he recovered quickly to glare in Jace’s direction. “That was cruel.”
Jace shrugged. “Yeah, it was. Sorry.”
“It’s all right. You’re forgiven.”
Simon quirked an eyebrow as he watched the two interact.
“Do you two like, get along now?”
Jace and Magnus looked at each other and shrugged.
“I guess we do,” Jace said.
“For the moment,” Magnus added.
“Well for the moment then - ” Jace stepped forward and offered his hand to Magnus. “- what I should have said is thank you, for getting us out of there. You saved both our lives.”
Magnus smiled and accepted the offered hand. “I could say the same for you.”
“Oh wow, you guys are friends,” Simon exclaimed happily. Jace and Magnus stepped away from each other.
“Now that that moment’s ruined I’m going into the City of Bones where Simon can’t follow or he’ll die,” Jace said. “Love the City of Bones, we gotta spend more time here.”
“You can’t escape your feelings forever Jace!” Simon yelled but Jace had already slammed the door behind him. “There’s no hope for that guy.”
Magnus shrugged. “There might be some hope.”
The lights were too bright. That was Alec’s first thought as consciousness came back to him and he blinked his eyes open, flinching at the harsh lighting. He recognized the scent in the room immediately though and knew he was in the Institute infirmary. He opened his eyes again, more slowly this time, and was pleasantly surprised to find a handsome warlock asleep in the chair beside his bed.
Alec smiled and rolled on to his side to better watch Magnus, but the sound of him moving was enough to wake the warlock. Magnus was on alert immediately, bolting up straight, but he relaxed when he saw Alec’s tired eyes staring back at him.
“Well, my Sleeping Beauty’s finally awake,” Magnus said, standing up to sit on the edge of the bed.
“I was about to say the same thing to you,” Alec replied with a teasing smile.
“Then I guess that makes us both Prince Charming.” Magnus intertwined his fingers with Alec’s and rubbed his thumb along his hand. “How are you feeling my prince?”
“Better now,” Alec said, squeezing back. “Sorry if I scared you.”
“You’ve done more than enough apologizing,” Magnus said. “Just focus on resting.”
“How long have I been out?”
“Almost twelve hours, which was intensely rude of you.”
“I’d apologize but you told me not to.”
“Just don’t let it happen again,” Magnus said, but his light words were belied by a lingering darkness behind his eyes. Alec wrapped his free hand around Magnus’s.
“How bad was it?”
Magnus’s gaze moved to the floor. “I felt your heart stop beating.”
“Oh, that’s nothing to worry about,” Alec shook his head. “It does that every time you walk in the room.”
“Alexander Gideon Lightwood, are you flirting with me from your hospital bed?”
“Yeah,” Alec said, seemingly surprised himself. He looked around for an IV. “Am I drugged?”
“Slightly. They gave you something a few hours ago, I didn’t ask what it was.”
“Either way, I am sorry I scared you. But if I can’t apologize how about I make it up to you?”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
“Well I hear from a reliable source that The Red Door serves a mean duck on Thursday nights.”
Magnus smiled and squeezed Alec’s hand tighter. “We’ve got plenty of time for that. You focus on getting better for now.”
Magnus’s forehead creased in confusion. “No?”
“Valentine and the Circle have tried to kill us half a dozen times since we met, and they almost succeeded more times than I like to think about. I know I promised we would make it off that boat alive, but I wasn’t entirely sure that we would. Now that we’re here I … I don’t want to waste a second of what we have together, Magnus.”
Magnus smiled fondly and nodded, not about to argue with that sentiment. “I’ll make the reservation.”
“Thank you. And I’ll … let Izzy pick out something for me to wear,” Alec said.
Magnus moved a hand to cup Alec’s cheek. “You truly are an angel.”
“I try,” Alec said, then tugged on Magnus’s wrist to pull him closer. Magnus happily obliged and leaned down to plant what he had planned to be a chaste kiss on Alec’s lips, but when Alec leaned up into his touch he found himself unable to pull away and instead splayed his fingers around the back of Alec’s head to pull him closer.
A surprised inhale sounded from behind them followed by a long put-upon sigh.
“Of course this is what you’re doing when I walk in.”
Alec pulled away from Magnus and tried to sit up straighter in his bed before he dared look up at Jace standing in the doorway.
“This isn’t going to be like a thing that keeps happening, is it?” Jace asked.
“Not if you learn how to knock,” Alec muttered, fighting back a blush at having been caught kissing Magnus for the second time.
“I’ll work on it,” Jace said as he moved to the other side of Alec’s bed opposite Magnus. “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty good,” Alec said.
Jace looked at Magnus and smiled teasingly. “Yeah, I bet you are.”
“Not cause of that,” Alec said stuttering and full on blushing now.
“You know I was going to thank you for getting me to the City of Bones and not going to Valentine, but forget it, you ruined it,” Alec said.
“No, no,” Jace said with a ‘go on’ gesture, “don’t let me stop you.”
Alec rolled his eyes but smiled. “Thank you Jace. If you’d gone back to Valentine, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“Any time,” Jace said, grasping his shoulder. “Magnus is the one who really saved our asses though, so make sure you thank him too.”
“He can thank me later. Privately,” Magnus said, his eyebrow going up suggestively and relishing in the way Alec turned an even darker shade of red.
“Well I hate that I made that suggestion,” Jace said. “But I feel less bad that I came in here to separate you two.”
Magnus nodded and straightened up. “We’re ready?”
“Yeah, we’re just waiting on you,” Jace said.
“What’s going on?” Alec asked.
“We’re raiding Valentine’s base. I’ve got fifty shadowhunters ready to take that place apart, we just need Magnus to portal us there,” Jace said.
Alec tried to push himself out of bed. “I’ll go with you.”
“Hey, no.” “Lay back down.” Jace and Magnus said simultaneously, each pushing down one of Alec’s shoulders.
“You’re not going anywhere until the doc clears you,” Jace said, his tone serious, but then he looked at Magnus and smiled. “We got this.”
“You got this?” Alec questioned, shocked to see them both nod in agreement. “The two of you?”
“Something wrong with that?” Magnus asked, moving to stand up along with Jace.
Alec opened his mouth to say something and then seemed to think better of it and instead lowered himself slowly back down on his bed, as though scared to upset the sudden balance Jace and Magnus seemed to have found with each other.
“No, that’s great,” Alec said eventually. “You two go, just, be careful.”
“Of course, that’s like our middle name,” Jace said, but then looked at Magnus. “Actually, do you have a middle name?”
“It changes day by day. Today it’s “Kick Valentine’s Ass.”
“It’s beautiful,” Jace said dryly.
“Thank you. Shall we?” Magnus said, motioning towards the door.
“Rest up,” Magnus said, squeezing Alec’s hand one more time before they left.
“We’ll be back before you know it,” Jace promised.
“All right,” Alec said, still too amazed by what he was seeing to process most of what was happening. He watched as Jace and Magnus left, side by side, discussing battle strategies and the layout of the ship once more.
“I’m dreaming,” Alec mumbled as he shifted back down in his bed. “It’s the only explanation.”
But as he laid down he couldn’t help but smile. If he wasn’t dreaming then that meant that they really had escaped Valentine’s ship, and Magnus and Jace really were getting along and he and Magnus really were going on a date in a few days. He sighed in surprised joy.
Maybe he could have the things he wanted after all.
It turned out Alec didn’t miss much by not going on the raid as Magnus, Jace and a throng of Shadowhunters portalled on to the ship to find it completely silent. They waited a long moment for an attack or the sound of an alarm, but a quick magical check and a few enhanced hearing runes told them what they had feared since they stepped through; Valentine and the rest of the Circle were gone. While the shadowhunters behind him relaxed their battle stances, Magnus tensed up in fear and took off running towards the stairs.
“Magnus! Hey!” Jace called out, following after him into the bowels of the ship. “Wait, we don’t know who’s down here!”
Magnus heard Jace’s shouts but ignored them, magicking open door after door until he came to the last bulkhead and finally stopped. Jace skidded to a halt behind him and was about to yell at the warlock once more when he realized where they were.
“Oh,” he muttered, changing his stance to move directly behind Magnus in a support position.
Magnus took a steadying breath and pushed open the door.
The Zoo was exactly as he had remembered it. The lighting was poor but he could see cages hanging from the ceiling, metal pens and cells in every corner and chains hanging off poles, all holding warlocks, seelies, werewolves and vampires.
And they were all alive.
Magnus braced himself against the wall to keep from collapsing in relief. He had been sure Valentine would slaughter his people but it seemed the Circle leader had been in too much of a rush to escape and had instead left them where they were. Magnus had never been so happy to be wrong.
Jace entered behind him and similarly sighed in relief, then laid a hand on Magnus’s shoulder.
“They need help,” Magnus said, already cataloguing which were the most malnourished or crazed from Valentine’s injections and most in need of care.
Jace just nodded. “We’ll help them.”
It wasn’t easy, but they did. Alec ended up assisting after all, coordinating from the Institute for several hours, contacting more warlocks to help them transport supplies and the injured to the ship and reaching out to the rest of the downworld about the recovered prisoners. Luke, Raphael and Meliorn all showed up to help treat the imprisoned downworlders and find safe places for them to recover with their own people. Lydia agreed to offer medical help and treatment to anyone who wanted it, but after being held captive and tortured by shadowhunters for days, if not weeks, no one was surprised when almost none took them up on the offer to stay at the Institute. Instead Magnus and the other warlocks helped transport the injured to their respective downworlder sanctums.
It was exhausting work. There were dozens of prisoners, and being out in the middle of the ocean made coordinating assistance a mess, but it was worth it, especially to Jace who felt a vice release itself from his heart when he found the two werewolves he had brought in for Valentine locked up and uninjured on the far side of the Zoo. Magnus had been right. Life was hope and they had all made it out alive.
The day after the raid was a mess of continuing to coordinate assistance for the downworlders, filing reports and finally Alec and Jace being debriefed for several hours about what they had been through at Valentine’s hands. Unfortunately they had no leads so far on the Circle Leader’s location but Magnus managed to successfully wake up Jocelyn who was working closely with Lydia to help any way she could.
Then finally, after many long hours of work and reports and triage, it was Thursday night, things were relatively calm, and Alec was knocking on Magnus’s door, his mind almost in a haze as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that he was about to go on a real date with Magnus Bane.
His head didn’t become any clearer when Magnus opened the door, looking simultaneously superb and delicious in a collared shirt with a vest over top and a purple lined blazer over it all.
“Alexander,” Magnus said, eyes crinkling with warmth.
“Hi, you … you look amazing.”
“Thank you. You look wonderful as well.”
Alec smiled and looked down at the outfit Izzy had picked out for him. “I’ll tell Isabelle you said so.”
“She had absolutely nothing to do with the parts I’m interested in, I guarantee you,” Magnus said, gesturing Alec to come inside and smiling when he saw the shadowhunter’s ears start to burn with embarrassment. “We have some time before our reservation. Care for a drink?”
Alec nodded and came inside. “Is it that obvious I need it?”
“It’s never a hindrance. Besides, we’re celebrating,” Magnus said, summoning a mojito for Alec and picking up his own drink off the counter. “It’s our first date, finally.”
Alec took the drink and smiled shyly, then looked at the ground as he shuffled his feet. “Actually, about that … um …”
Magnus straightened. “We are going on our date …”
“Yes! Yes of course. It would take a thousand Valentines for us not to be going,” Alec said so emphatically Magnus almost felt foolish for doubting they would go. “I just meant the celebration part … might be for more than we thought.”
“Oh? Do tell.”
“I uh … I had a meeting with Lydia today that did not go at all like I expected,” Alec said.
“In a good way I presume if we’re celebrating.”
“In a … in a very good way. Do you remember when she asked me to write up a report of everything I learned about the Circle while I was here?”
“The one I offered to conjure for you but you insisted on writing yourself like a good little Shadowhunter?”
“Yeah, that one. Well apparently the Clave read it and were impressed with the amount of cooperation we achieved and how much intel we gathered. The two of us. Together.”
Alec’s lips curled up at the final word and Magnus took a sip of his martini to hide his matching smirk.
“Well, I don’t usually like being on the Clave’s radar but I suppose in this complimentary scenario I can enjoy it.”
“I think you’ll like the next part even better,” Alec said, stepping closer into Magnus’s space. “They were so impressed by our collaboration that they’re starting a new pilot program here at the New York Institute.”
“Your downworlder cabinet?” Magnus guessed.
“Not quite, but close. The Clave has authorized the creation of four new downworlder ambassador roles at the Institute to encourage cooperation and sharing of information between us and the downworld.”
Magnus licked his lips, starting to see where Alec was going with this. “Ambassador roles? How diplomatic. And who will be taking on these roles?”
“Well, Isabelle has been assigned to work with Meliorn and the seelies.”
“Not a hard task for either of them,” Magnus mused.
“Jace will be working with the werewolves.”
Magnus nodded. “He and Luke seem to get along well.”
“Clary is assigned to the vampires.”
“Simon must be thrilled.”
“And that just left me to work with the warlocks,” Alec said, sighing dramatically while trying to hide the smile that wanted to crack open his face.
“You poor boy,” Magnus replied, his tone dripping with equally playful sarcasm. “How will you survive such trying times?”
“I’ll find a way to make it work. As you may recall, I have some experience dealing with warlocks.”
“Oh I recall. And what exactly will the duties of this new position entail?”
“Well I’ll have to work closely with the nearest High Warlock, be at his beck and call at all hours so we can … exchange information.”
“Of course,” Magnus sipped his martini again, circling Alec playfully. “So you’ll be spending late nights together, hard missions, early mornings.”
“Well promise me you’ll take care of yourself. The High Warlock of Brooklyn has a terrible reputation.”
“You don’t say.”
“Rumor has it he preys on handsome young shadowhunters from time to time.”
Magnus finished circling and smiled as he moved into Alec’s personal space. “Sometimes he even makes them get over here and kiss him.”
Alec closed the distance between them, capturing Magnus’s lips before the warlock had a chance to pull him closer. He moaned lightly as Magnus’s fingers tightened in his hair and he savored the taste of fire and alcohol he picked up off his lips. They both pulled away after only a moment, grinning widely, all too aware that their night was only just beginning but incredibly pleased with how it was going. Then Magnus frowned as Alec tensed beneath his fingers and turned his gaze to the door.
“Nothing, sorry,” Alec said, shaking his head and huffing out a self-deprecating laugh. “I uh … I was worried for a second that Jace was going to walk in again.”
“Ah, no need to worry about that, I tightened the wards as you came up. It’s just the two of us, Ambassador,” Magnus said.
Alec smiled and lowered his hands to Magnus’s waist. “I like the sound of that. The … the two of us thing, not the Ambassador thing.”
“You have every right to enjoy both. This position sounds sincerely wonderful Alexander. Congratulations. I of course relish the opportunity to spend as much time together as possible, but I know you had resigned yourself to likely never holding a leadership position at the Institute again.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t very likely given the Clave’s opinion on me. Thankfully I racked up some unique work experience since they fired me that made me pretty much the only candidate for the job,” Alec said and fondness shone in his eyes as he looked down at Magnus. “I have you to thank for that.”
“Well, I know exactly how you can show your appreciation.”
“Let me guess,” Alec’s smile widened and he leaned forward to kiss Magnus once more but stopped when Magnus pushed him back with a hand against his chest.
“Tell me where the cats come from.”
Alec blinked. “What?”
“You heard me,” Magnus said, his playful attitude replaced with complete seriousness. “I expect the ambassador to the High Warlock to see to my needs, and I need to know where the cats on my balcony come from Alec.”
Alec looked around the apartment at the wine and candles and gestured between them as though he could point at the romantic tension. “Now? Are you serious?”
Magnus took a step back and held up his drink with a flourish. “I have never been more serious. You promised to tell me if we escaped from Valentine’s ship and frankly I did most of the escaping, so you can tell me where the cats come from or I can find myself a new Ambassador to the High Warlock.”
Alec could tell Magnus didn’t really mean it but still shook his head at his theatrics. “Fine, I’ll tell you.”
“Excellent!” Magnus sat on the armrest of the chair behind him and looked ready to listen intently. “I can’t believe you figured it out. I checked for everything, errant portals, a cat transformation curse, glamours, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
“Do you want to know where they come from or just list me more of your theories?” Alec asked.
“Apologies, go on,” Magnus said, then his eyes widened and he whispered to himself, “Maybe I conjure them in my sleep!”
“The cats …” Alec started, then waited until Magnus was leaning forward before he finished, “… belong to Mrs. Neidermayer.”
Magnus’s face fell. “Mrs. Neidermayer …?”
“Down on the fifteenth floor,” Alec said.
“I know who she is,” Magnus said, eyes closed and visibly trying to put the pieces together, “but, how is she … she’s a mundane! How is she sending cats through my wards?!”
“No one is sending cats through your wards Magnus, not everyone is out to get you,” Alec said.
“Tell that to the Circle,” Magnus muttered. “How do you know they’re her cats?”
“Besides the fact that she has about twelve of them?”
“Is that all you’re basing this on?! People can own cats Alec! It’s perfectly normal.”
“No,” Alec laughed at Magnus’s incredulousness. “I have proof. I snipped a tuft of fur off one of the cats one morning. When I came out later and the cat was gone I used the fur to track it … straight to Mrs. Neidermayer’s apartment.”
Magnus’s brow furrowed. “But how do they get here?”
“I wanted to know that too so I knocked on her door and said I worked for the landlord and needed to do some repairs.”
“How devious,” Magnus said.
“Not really. I hadn’t even finished my cover story before she hauled me inside and started forcing ice tea on me. She eventually mentioned there was a draft in her kitchen sometimes. I checked it out and the vent was missing from the fume hood above the stove, which left an opening just big enough for the cats to get through.”
“So, they left her apartment through the stove vent. How did they get up here? And past my wards?”
“The vent leads to a duct that goes to the roof, which also has an opening just big enough for cats to get through. Once they get on the roof they walk down onto your balcony. Your wards don’t stop them because you have them set to not let anything into the building, not to stop someone who’s already inside.”
“The cats were inside the whole time,” Magnus whispered, still in shock. “I’ve been feeding Mrs. Neidermayer’s cats.”
“Yeah, and it might be best if you stopped. She says they disappear for days at a time sometimes and when they come back they refuse to eat the food she puts out.”
Magnus smirked with pride. “I only serve the very best.”
“Congratulations, you successfully spoiled a bunch of cats someone else owned.”
“So they were never strays. None of them,” Magnus sulked and took a drink of his martini. “I feel used.”
Alec smiled and sauntered towards Magnus, pulling him up to stand again. “I’m sure they didn’t mean to fool you. They just went where they felt safe, and cared for and well fed and then they kept coming back for more. I can relate in some ways.”
Magnus’s face softened and he took Alec’s hand. “You don’t secretly belong to Mrs. Neidermayer as well do you? Because I couldn’t handle that disappointment.”
“No, I’ve only ever belonged to one person. Literally.”
“Excellent, because I intend to keep putting you to work, Ambassador. The next thing I need is someone to go out to dinner with me.”
Alec smiled and took Magnus’s hand. “I think I can find you someone. He’s eager but not super experienced.”
“Is he willing to learn?”
“Then I’m more than willing to teach.”
“You’re so generous.”
“I really am. Well we had best get going before the Circle attacks us or some other nonsense interrupts us yet again.”
“I’m not worried. If something happens we’ll handle it. Together.”
Magnus smiled and entwined his fingers with Alec’s. “Together.”
They walked out of the apartment side-by-side, the High Warlock of Brooklyn and his Ambassador. Alec and Magnus. Together.