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The Fashionable Wallet

Chapter Text

Alec grunted loudly as he reached for his alarm, missing it twice before hitting it with such force the machine crumbled to pieces under the touch.

It was Saturday morning, 6:30 AM. Usually, Alec would curse the Gods for waking up at this ungodly hour and go straight back to bed to sleep in till noon. But since two days, he had a job – thanks to Jace – and he had to get his ass out of bed within exactly thirty seconds to even stand a chance of making it in time.

The place he worked at was an odd combination of a breakfast place, a café and diner - they basically served everything, all day long – and was located in one of the small yet cosy streets of downtown Manhattan. Jace worked there and had gotten Alec his job. And now Alec was running late (again).

He stumbled out of bed, still way too sleep deprived to be of any value to the world. On his way to the bathroom he grabbed some two-day-old clothes and checked his phone for the time. “Dammit!” He cursed while realising he only had ten minutes left to do… well everything basically. He changed quickly and checked his face in the mirror while running a hand through his messy black locks. “That’ll just have to do for today,” he mumbled.

A little (or a lot, who’s counting?) more than ten minutes later, Alec left his shared apartment with a half-consumed sandwich in his mouth trying to remind himself why he decided to get this job again. Alec, this is what you want, he thought.

Maybe he’d want it tomorrow, but right now the thought of lying between his soft sheets was definitely more tempting.

***

“Nice to see you decided to show up too, Lightwood,” Alec’s boss all but yelled at him the second he opened the back door of the restaurant and found Valentine looking at him with dead eyes and a face grumbled up in annoyance. Jace shrugged and gave Alec his best “get your shit together” look from the back of the room.

Alec had been intimidated by Valentine Morgenstern the very first time they’d met. And how was he to blame? Valentine basically looked like some crazy ass assassin – mind he also has the aggressive and unkind personality of one. The man has gone bald and his entire body is covered in tattoos. Speaking of which, the man’s physique is not one to be missed; his shoulders are wider than the freaking ocean (doesn’t matter which ocean, they’re wider anyway) and his arms and legs are loaded with what could only be an unhealthy amount of muscle, if that’s even a thing.

Long story short: Valentine scares the crap out of Alec.

“I don’t tolerate people being late, but because you’ve got such a pretty face I’ll turn a blind eye to it just this one time,” he continued, looking slightly amused by the looks of shock and mild distress Alec was giving him.

“Right. Thanks,” Alec mumbled not knowing what other response would be appropriate.

Valentine started walking towards the door before he turned around. “What are you waiting for?” He demanded, staring at Jace and Alec. “Get your butts to the restaurant and start doing your jobs!” Without another word he disappeared in a room Alec had yet to discover the use of.

“Dude, you really piss him off,” Jace whispered, making sure Valentine couldn’t hear them. “I mean, he’s never the nicest guy, but right now he’s absolutely insufferable.”

A small smile creeped onto Alec’s face. “Good to know I bring out the best in people,” he chuckled, but was met with a death glare and quickly added, “But I’ll work on not being too late, maybe that’ll sober him up.”

“Good, now let’s get to work.”

 

The first hour or so was spent cleaning the space since no costumer had come in yet, except for some people getting a coffee to go. But after that is was absolute mayhem. At least that’s how Alec experienced it.

Within ten minutes the diner was filled to full capacity. People sat at the tables and bar, all demanding for someone to take their order or bring their breakfast. Jace was running between the tables trying to keep up with the continuation of raising hands while Alec tried his best to deal with the situation at the bar, all the while wondering why the hell Valentine wasn’t helping them out. It was his restaurant after all, right?

“Oh for Christ’s sake!” Alec yelled a little too loudly to be appropriate after ruining his fifth cup of coffee which had caused milk foam to fly everywhere. “What have I done to deserve this?” he cried out. Jace eyed him from the other side of the restaurant and shook his head in disappointment, though laughing at the same time.

As Alec cleaned up the ever growing mess of dried coffee stains, milk residues and used cups, another costumer found a place at the bar. When Alec returned from one of the rooms inaccessible to costumers to get another cleaning cloth the new man had made himself comfortable.

“Can I help you sir?” Alec offered.

The man barely looked up from his fancy magazine full of overpriced paintings – at least that’s what it looked like from alec’s perspective – while mumbling “My regular, please.”

Alec huffed. How was he supposed to know what the man normally took? “And what exactly would that be?” he asked kindly, trying not to show his irritation.

The man finally looked up and a smile ran across his face. Wow, Alec thought, the inconvenience of just a minute ago already forgotten. The man looked Asian and had the most intriguing eyes that were lined with dark kohl liner and covered in glittery eyeshadow. His dark hair was spiked up and a single strand dyed a bright pink. How does someone like this even exist?

Alec was pulled out of his train of thought when the male spoke up.

“Who are you?” he asked suggestively, while a sly grin formed around his lips. “Oh don’t worry, darling. I’m just messing with you,” he continued when he saw the look of confusion on Alec’s face.

Alec felt like his cheeks were on fire. What was this man doing to him?

“Also, that,” referring to his regular order, “would be a cappuccino with a double espresso, a dollop of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of cocoa, please.”

“Uhm, okay. Got it,” Alec mumbled, already half-forgotten the order and feeling embarrassed by the flirtatious behaviour of the new costumer.

As he turned around to prepare the luxurious coffee, he let out a breath he hadn’t realised he had been holding. What was happening to him? The man was clearly messing around, but Alec shouldn’t be affected by that. He wasn’t, he told himself. Just a little worked up because of the crazy amount of people. Yeah, that was it. It was busy and being new to the job definitely didn’t make the situation any easier to handle.

Alec didn’t realise he was staring again, this time at the full cup of coffee in his hand, until jace hit him on the back.

“I think it’s a dollop of caramel sauce and a sprinkle of cocoa you’re looking for,” he said, emphasising the exact parts of the man’s order with a posh accent.

“Oh thank God,” Alec sighed, relieve clearly audible. “I was seriously going to mess this up. I was on the edge of just adding some of this stuff,” he laughed while pointing towards the chocolate sauce. “I mean, who orders something that complicated?”

“Well, you better remember that exact order, because he’s a regular,” Jace said over his shoulder while walking towards the next demanding costumer.

“You’re new here?” the man asked when Alec finally approached him with his best attempt at the luxurious creation of coffee.

“Yeah,” Alec mumbled but continued speaking when he was met with two questioning eyes. I’m supposed to talk, he reminded himself. “I- uhm, I-” he stuttered and looked up, only to realise the man was still staring at him expectantly. “Yeah, I moved to the city a couple of weeks ago,” Alec finally managed to blurt out.

“Well, I hope you are having a great time in ‘the Big Apple’.”

“Thanks,” Alec whispered embarrassedly while turning away and quickly occupying himself with a nonsense activity.

 

The rest of Alec’s shift was just as crazy as the beginning. Not only did the amount of customers increase, Valentine had finally decided he’d help out in the restaurant and wasn’t happy with Alec’s performance at all. It came down to this: “Alec Lightwood, you are a screw up. You ruin everything. It’s one big mess and if you don’t fix this situation quickly, you’re fired.”

Alec tried his best, he really did. But being a barista just wasn’t his thing. He didn’t want, and never had wanted, to serve grumpy people their food and make endless amounts of coffee and latte. He wanted to open his own place and do what he loved: cooking.

Alec had wanted to become a professional chef since he was little, but that was an absolute no-go under his parents’ regime. As long as he lived under their roof, a career as a chef was completely out of the picture. Alec still remembered the one-sided discussions with his parents: “The risk is too big. The chance you make it is so small and we can’t have any of that. Can you imagine losing everything because you chose to become a chef instead of live up to your potential?” they had said with disgust and disapproval. “Alexander,” ugh how he hated it when they called him that, “you know that going to university is the better choice to make here. You’ve got to think rationally,” his father had continued. And then his mother had finished with the most cliché comment ever: “You know we only want what’s best for you.” Alec had walked out of the room by then, thinking and we both know that’s a big, fat lie.

So, Alec had gone to university to get his degree in economics, dreading every single second of it. At least, most of them.

The part where he met Jace and Lydia and spent time with them was rather fun.

Jace and Lydia served as the crazy friends who took you to bad parties and got you drunk even though all you had really wanted to do that night was to get comfy on the couch and watch Netflix while consuming an unhealthy amount of candies and crisps. But they were also right at Alec’s side whenever he had failed a semester horribly or was being pressured by his parents again. Lydia had even pretended to be Alec’s girlfriend once for Christmas because Alec’s parents had been badgering him for not having a girlfriend yet. How could he help it? It just never worked out for the long term.

Anyway, Jace and Lydia were the best and Alec loved them with all he had.

After graduating, Alec had taken the job his father had offered him at Lightwood Investment Bureau in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By the age of 24, he had made an incredible amount of money being the head of the economics department. He had a nice, big loft, a BMW and proud parents. Now, none of those were still present in his life, although he didn’t care about missing the first two as much as the latter.

His parents had basically rejected Alec the second he had shown them his resignation paper and had told them he was finally going to follow his heart. So, he had decided it would be best to live somewhere else and start with a clean slate.

That’s how he had ended up in New York, living in a cheap apartment together with a roommate he had met via an app while taking cooking courses to up his game. Of course, Alec had always been talented in the kitchen – if the opinions of his friends and sister, Isabelle, were anything to go by - so the whole cooking thing wasn’t new to him. However, finding a job as a chef with zero experience turned out to be more difficult than thought in advance.

Jace - who had moved to the city right after university - had told Alec about his job at a restaurant downtown. It turned out Valentine knew quite some people around the city who owned decent restaurants; the perfect opportunity for Alec. That’s how Alec had ended up with this shitty job, hoping that if he’d do well, Valentine would put in a good word for him at one of the fancy places.

Alec was about to go on his lunch break when a rather large, and very glittery wallet on the bar caught his attention. Since everyone near the pocket of cash seemed too vanilla to own such a wallet, and no one claimed it either, Alec picked it up.

“Magnus Bane. So that’s his name,” he mumbled as he opened the wallet and took out the person’s ID. Alec had been wondering what the interesting man’s name was ever since said person had left the restaurant after finishing his coffee and paying, and apparently forgetting his fashionable wallet.

“What about him?” Jace asked while peeking over Alec’s shoulder. “Another person forgot his wallet?” he murmured, already knowing the answer and sounding as if it had happened plenty of times before. “Just put it at lost and found. He’ll come back for it, or not. Not our problem,” Jace said while turning his back to Alec and continuing with whatever he was doing.

“I can bring it to his apartment,” Alec said, sounding a little insecure. Why exactly would you do that, Alec?

Jace turned to face Alec again, question visible in his eyes.

“I mean, his address is written in here and I practically pass by his apartment on the way to mine. Also, you said he’s a regular, right? I think he would appreciate a little more service.” Alec seemed to have made his point when the strange look on Jace’s face disappeared.

“If it’s no problem for you, I guess that would be a good thing to do,” he shrugged.

He started retreating into one of the staff rooms but turned around one last time. “Oh, and dude? You better not be lining just your own pockets with that money,” he smirked, pretending to be dead serious, though Alec knew he was kidding, “don’t forget who got you this job!”

“Never. I’ll give you your fair share tomorrow,” Alec deadpanned, a wide smile creeping up his face.

God, he had missed Jace.

***

“No. No. No!” Magnus all but yelled after digging through his handmade Italian leather backpack for the fifth time and not finding what he was looking for. “Where the hell is that thing? I swear to God, if I’ve left it somewhere I’ll summon my stupid ass right back to hell,” Magnus said dramatically while raising his hands in distress.

Back to hell? You’ve been there before?” a women’s voice laughed from the fluffy couch in the middle of the room. “And also, relax. I’m sure you put it in one of your million bags, trench coats, blazers- what else? Oh yeah, million clutches, cargo pant-”

“Dear Catarina,” Magnus started, “how about you help me search instead of make fun of my extraordinary and very beautiful collection of fashion? And cargo pants, really? I didn’t know you thought so little of me and my exquisite style,” Magnus basically whined, while going through his bag another time.

 

“That’s it. I’m giving up.” Magnus sighed after having searched for his wallet for yet another hour.

In the meantime Catarina had left and Magnus’ place had been turned upside down. He didn’t live in a really a big apartment, but the place served enough squared feet to make a big enough mess that would take hours to clean up.

The usual serenity was completely lost under the piles of clothes and accessories. The well-decorated open space the loft offered was looking more chaotic than the average sorority house – which says a lot, shame on you Magnus! – and the many turquoise and brown leather pieces of furniture could no longer be sat on.

When Magnus looked around to take in the somewhat unorganised and out of character situation he had managed to create in such a small amount of time, the doorbell rang.

“Out of all times, someone had to come now,” Magnus hissed while walking to the door and picking up some clothes in an attempt to make the loft look like he had his shit together at least a little, but to no avail; the place was an absolute chaos.

When magnus opened the door to find the handsome barista from that morning, even he – the straightforward and sassy person he was – found himself a little startled at the sight in front of him.

It took him not long to recover though. He had already pulled up some smooth line that he blurted out before the tall, dark and handsome (like so handsome; he must have been made first-hand by the all mighty Gods of beauty) man had had a chance of speaking.

“Honey, I must say, I didn’t think you’d be so eager to see me,” Magnus purred, an undercurrent of pure joy in his voice. “But I like the commitment.”

“Actually,” the other man started, “you forgot your wallet at the restaurant, and I thoug-”

Magnus cut the man off. “Here I thoughts the Lord had given up on me,” Magnus cried out, raising his bejewelled hands in the air as if to talk to someone higher up. “Thank you for sending an angel, I’ll forever be in debt!”

Magnus lowered his arms and reached out his hand. “I’m Magnus by the way,” he said when he shook the other man’s hand. “And sorry about that,” he apologised, referring to his prayer (or whatever it was supposed to be). “I have searched for that thing for hours and genuinely thought it had evaporated into thin air.”

Mr. Handsome’s face wore a look of amusement, probably taking in the mess behind the smaller man as he spoke up again. “Magnus Bane, I know,” he simply stated.

“How so?”

“Oh,” the man spluttered, probably having realised that what he’d just said might have evoked the wrong assumptions. “I saw your ID when I looked through your wallet to find the owner and address. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to invade your privacy,” he muttered the last part while a light pink flushed his face.

“Not at all, it’s actually really thoughtful, uhm?”

“Alec. Alec Lightwood.”

“Well, you certainly acted true to your name, Alexander,” Magnus smiled while taking his wallet when the other man offered it.

For a second, Alec looked surprised at Magnus’ remark, most likely not having expected him to know such details about the name, before composing himself. “Well you don’t just get called “helper of mankind” for nothing, now do you?” he asked playfully. “How did you know Alec was short for Alexander?”

“Let’s just say I have my ways of knowing things,” Magnus explained cryptically when a soft fur brushed against his ankles. “Good to see you’re still alive,” Magnus said while shifting his gaze down to where a cat sat at his feet. “That little ball of fur would be Chairman Meow,” the smaller man said when the cat started bumping his head into Alec’s legs instead of Magnus’.

“You okay down there, buddy?” Alec cooed towards the animal that clearly enjoyed the presence of the taller man, as it had fallen on Alec’s feet and had started purring hard while rolling around. “I take that as a yes,” Alec laughed while squatting to his haunches and reaching out a hand to pet the fluffy goodness, before he stopped his motion and looked up. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he exclaimed. “I should have asked first. Is it okay if I give this friend a cuddle?”

It took Magnus way too long to respond and he blamed that all on Alec. To be more precise, his eyes. How had he not noticed them before? Not at the bar and not when he had opened the door, but now that he had, all he could do was stare dumbfounded.

Sweet baby Jesus Magnus thought when those perfect two optics stared at him with patience. The large white sclera formed the base to a breathtaking, hazel iris with specks of bronze and an overall glow of olive green. And then there was the astonishing glimmer that was caused by the light sheen of water. They were breathtaking. Breathtaking indeed.

Magnus was pulled out of his daze when Alec spoke up again. “Are you okay?”

“Of course,” he was quick to reply when a wave of embarrassment – not an emotion he felt often – came down on him. “Totally.”

It took Magnus another minute to remember that Alec – who had raised himself to his feet again – had initially asked a question and Magnus hadn’t replied. Alec had asked him a simple question and Magnus had stared him in the eyes - and not just for one second - obsessively.

If the tall man didn’t already think I was crazy, he must certainly do now, Magnus thought.

“Of course you're welcome to pet the Chairman,” Magnus said, still embarrassed because of how long it had taken him to respond. “You’re lucky to meet him, he’s out a lot.”

“Do you cuddle him enough?” Alec laughed when he had lowered himself next to the purring cat and started caressing the little animal. “I’m sure he’ll stick around then.”

Magnus laughed at the sight in front of him: a total stranger – who turned out to have the most beautiful eyes in the universe (just a kind reminder) – cuddling his cat while talking about why said cat was barely home. It was weird, but it definitely didn’t feel that way to Magnus.

“I’m certain he doesn’t leave me for the lack of intimacy, I give him plenty of that.” Magnus said. “I honestly think he’s cheating on me.”

Alec cracked a smile and a muffled laugh escaped his mouth. Yup, definitely need to hear that laugh again.

“What?” Magnus snapped while he tried in vain to keep the smile from his face. It was a serious case after all.

“Nothing,” Alec croaked. “Just to clarify though, your cat is cheating on you?”

“Uh huh. And stop laughing. It’s an emotional subject,” the shorter man fake-pouted while wiping an invisible tear off his cheek.

“When did you find out?” Alec asked, pretending to be all serious. “Don’t tell me you hacked his phone and found secret text messages.” Alec got to his feet once again as Chairman Meow lazily walked off.

“Yeah, just ignore your problems!” Magnus yelled sarcastically after the retreating form of the Chairman.

“Worse, actually,” Magnus started when he turned back to meet those hazel eyes again. “I saw him leave someone else’s apartment the other day. The audacity!”

“The bastard! He really had me tricked into thinking he was a good boy,” Alec played along.

They both burst into laughter, as they suddenly realised they had been talking a solid five minutes about a cat cheating on its owner.

“I should probably get going,” the tall man said, a sudden rush in his voice. Magnus had no idea where that came from.

“Yeah sure, thanks again for the wallet and listening to my ramble about my cheating cat, who, I must admit, is actually really sweet.”

“I figured, and you’re welcome,” Alec laughed shyly while turning around and leaving for the elevator.

“See you around, Alexander!” Magnus yelled as the other man got into the elevator. The doors closed quickly, but he still got a glimpse of Alec’s choked laugh and composure of discomfort.

That’s when Magnus realised he had been flirting with the man albeit he didn’t know about his sexuality. But he had been playing along just as enthusiastically as Magnus, hadn’t he? Or had it made him extremely uncomfortable but had he been hiding it well until his façade had weakened a little at the end?

It left Magnus feeling weird and uncertain. He barely knew the man and yet he had been able to make Magnus feel things he never normally felt. Whether those feeling were positive or negative was up for debate.

Chapter Text

A week had passed since Alec had gone to Magnus’ place to deliver the wallet. They had not seen each other since, which left Alec in confusion. If Magnus was a regular to the café, why didn’t Alec ever see him during his shifts? That exact question raised many more. Why did he even care about Magnus being or not being at the café? And why had he been wondering if the Chairman had already apologised to Magnus for abandoning his caretaker?

It left Alec with a knot in his stomach, a feeling of unease in his gut. Although he strictly told himself Magnus had just made an impression on him in a way friends did, he knew better. He knew very well that he had never been this curious about just friends before; not Jace, not even Lydia, to whom he could have easily been attracted. It made him feel filthy and wrong.

He remembered the encounter at the stranger’s – yes, a stranger. Then why had it felt so familiar? – doorstep. He remembered the ease of the conversation flowing until he had suddenly realised what he had been doing. The man had been flirting with him shamelessly and Alec had accepted it, hell he had happily kept the conversation going. But at one point it had hit him hard: the man in front of him must have completely gotten the wrong idea. Alec wasn’t like that. He wasn’t… gay.

So he had done the first thing that had come to his mind. He had excused himself and stormed off as quickly as he could, hoping that the man got his message. At least his mind hoped he did, his heart told him something different. But Alec was wise and ignored his heart.

This was just a one-time thing. It were the extravagant charms of the glittery man that had intrigued him. It wouldn’t happen again.

“Earth to Alec!” a woman’s voice yelled with a tone that suggested it wasn’t the first time she had addressed him.

“Where are you, man?” she asked, slightly annoyed, but a hint of amusement audible when Alec responded to her yelling with a confused “Huh?”.

“Sorry, Iz,” Alec mumbled, still a bit overwhelmed by the way he had been abruptly torn from his train of thought. His sister had always been like that; straight to the point – it made him think of a certain man… Nope, not going there – and fiery, though mostly in a good way.

“What has my brother’s mind consumed, I wonder,” she said slyly.

“Nothing in particular,” Alec quickly replied. “I was just daydreaming. The usual stuff.”

Izzy gave her brother a look, one that suggested she was not going to drop the subject. Before she could say anything, Alec opened his mouth.

“So, how’s life?”

Izzy seemed to have taken the bait. She sighed dramatically and got more comfortable on the small couch against one of the walls of Alec’s apartment as if getting ready for a long story.

“Shitty,” was her blunt reply. Alec gave her time to resume, knowing that the rest of the story was about to come. “Mom and dad have been fighting non-stop, it’s like they don’t even know how to have a normal conversation anymore. They literally fight over everything.” A pained expression covered the young woman’s face. “Yesterday, they fought over dad leaving a pen without putting a cap back on it! They act like small children, it’s exhausting.”

Alec knew the situation had worsened since he'd left Philadelphia, but he didn’t know it had escalated so badly. When he'd left for New York, he'd been relieved to escape the ever growing pressure between his parents, though feeling guilty for leaving behind his sister and younger brother Max. Izzy still lived at home, but Alec knew she would move out as soon as she graduated from college, which would not take long. Max though, being only fifteen years old, was stuck. He didn’t have much of a choice in where he wanted to live and was therefore doomed to endure fights and heated discussions between his parents.

“How’s Max holding up under the pressure?” Alec asked, feeling genuinely sorry for his little brother.

“He’s doing okay, I guess,” a somewhat concerned look on her face as she talked. “He spends a lot of time in his room or with friends. Mom and dad try to keep him out of their fights but Max witnessed too much already and it’s starting to take its toll on him,” she said sadly.

Alec clenched his fists in anger. Why couldn’t his parents just figure out their problems? Why did they have to take everyone down with them on their run to misery? The constant pressure his parents were putting on them - first of being forced to make a career and now the fights - made Alec’s blood boil in his veins. He wanted to tell his parents to get their act together and behave like grown up human beings with a fucking heart. The fact that they basically drove Alec out of the house was one thing, but hurting his little brother and sister? It made him downright furious.

“Are you okay, Izzy?” Alec asked in concern, trying to hold back the anger in his voice.

“Yeah, I’m- I’m fine. I’ll manage.”

“If anything ever becomes too much, you and Max can always sleep here. We’ll just let mom and dad stew in their own juices,” Alec offered, a gentle smile on his face.

Izzy hugged him tightly. “Thanks,” she muttered.

“Enough depressing talk,” she said while she disentangled their bodies and put a smile back on her face. Alec was still impressed by how quickly she always brightened the mood with that beautiful smile of hers. “How are you doing?” she continued. “Must be fantastic to finally live your dream.”

“It’s not half bad living on my own and not working for dad anymore,” Alec shrugged.

“But?” Izzy asked, having heard the doubt in her brother’s answer.

But, it’s not all easy peasy lemon squeezy, you know? Living on your own demands a lot of discipline – which is something I have a lack of apparently – and dad is replaced by some other douchebag named Valentine Morgenstern.”

Izzy scrunched her nose at the name. “With such a name you can only be evil,” she laughed. 

“I guess,” Alec agreed.

“In all fairness, I expected this to happen,” Izzy said softly. Of course she did, Alec thought. Somehow Izzy always knew everything, sensed it when something was wrong and figured someone’s issues out before anyone else. Alec shouldn’t be surprised anymore, his sister was brilliant, but he still was sometimes.

“Expected what to happen?” Alec already knew Izzy was referring to him having a more difficult time than he had expected, but he asked anyway.

“Before you left,” Izzy started, “you lived in a rut. Every day was the same; you got up, went to work, got home, had dinner and went to bed. You lived in a rhythm that had been the same for years. Until you got your head out of your ass and decided you’d do what you loved. You just have to get used to your new way of living. You have to find your rhythm again, so to say. And I’m sure you will, it just takes time.” She sent a gentle smile in Alec’s way. “With regards to your job, I’m sure this Valentine dude is a piece of shit with the way you introduced him, but just keep in mind you’re not always going to work there. You’ll make it eventually, I’m positive.”

“Thanks Izzy,” Alec said. “We’re not doing so well with keeping the subject light, now are we?” he laughed.

“We’ll give it another try. How are Jace and Lydia?”

Izzy had met Jace and Lydia a couple of years back, when Alec had first started hanging out with them and they had celebrated new year’s together. She had fit into the group immediately (with her charms and kind personality that was easily done) but with Izzy being busy attending college and both Jace and Lydia moving to New York, they had lost touch (except for the occasional text message).

“Jace is being Jace,” Alec answered. “He’s living his life, not doing more than the necessary and enjoying it. Lydia, however, is busy being successful. So much even, we haven’t had the chance to meet since I moved in. I really miss her.”

Alec remembered their agreement to keeping their conversation light-hearted, in the sake of their moods, and changed the subject. “So how’s Meliorn?”

“Not worth talking about,” Izzy snapped. “The bastard only wanted me for the sex.”

“Roger that. Meliorn does no longer exist,” Alec stated.

“Now that we’re talking relationships,” Izzy began, the smile having returned to her face. “Any luck yet?” Alec shook his head. “Maybe you should be more open minded.”

“What are you saying?” Alec grunted.

“I’m saying, maybe you should try something new, broaden your horizon,” Izzy explained.

“And how would I do that? Kiss every girl I come across to check whether she’s the one?” Alec asked sarcastically.

“I’m talking about kissing a man, Alec.”

Alec looked at her in shock. Had she just really suggested he should try something sexual with a man?

“Oh come on. It’s 2018. Don’t give me that look. I’m just trying to help to make you see you create your own limitations, without good reasoning.”

“Then why don’t you kiss a girl, huh? Relationships don’t seem to be working out with you so well either,” Alec snapped, not wanting to sound angry, but something about the ease with which Izzy had suggested him kissing the same gender had triggered the emotion.

“I have. The first time was actually with Lydia,” Izzy said, completely aware of how uncomfortable that made her brother but loving his reaction regardless. “It was fun, but not fun enough for the long haul. I’m too feisty to be in a relationship with another woman. It would only result in us having catfights.”

Alec couldn’t argue that. But him kissing a guy? No, not happening. He wasn’t into men.

The next couple of minutes were spent in silence.

Alec felt weird. He had never considered being gay, and he definitely wasn’t now, but somehow the subject had been brought up twice already over the last week. First with Magnus and now with Izzy. Just because it had been a while since he had dated, or even kissed a woman didn’t mean he was gay. He knew better.

“I’m sorry,” a small voice whispered. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s okay Izzy,” Alec responded immediately, not willing to make his sister feel bad for him. “Shall we go out for lunch?”

“Seems like a plan,” Izzy smiled. The light mood was back. How did she do that?

***

“Stay still,” Magnus ordered Chairman Meow.

The cat was laid out in front of Magnus’ easel as he purred contently and stretched out his little paws repeatedly, gripping at the ocean coloured velvet fabric of the couch. Magnus was sat behind the easel, a paintbrush in his hand and a look of absolute concentration on his face while he made another attempt at painting a portrait of his pet.

He had been trying for at least two hours already, and he was starting to recognise the fact that just because you demanded a cat to lay still, didn’t mean the cocky ball of fluffy fur would actually obey. A motionless model was kind of a key factor to a good portrait. With the Chairman not living up to that criterion, a solid amount of canvasses had been discarded already.

“Ugh, could you at least give me a chance?” Magnus grunted when the cat had decided it was time for a visit to the litter box and had ruined another one of his owner’s attempt at a piece of art.

“You know,” Magnus started, focusing his eyes at his pet. “Normal cats are supposed to sleep twenty hours a day, which would give me plenty of opportunity to paint you. But of course you had to choose these four hours to be active, you little demon.”

As if he had understood Magnus’ words entirely, as well as the insult, the chairman hissed aggressively. Magnus shrugged, ignoring the cat and throwing away the painting he had been working on for thirty minutes, before the pet had ruined it by walking off.

“I guess that leaves to me to paint the bowl of fruit again,” he sighed. As he walked around the room to set up his new décor, his phone rang. A small smile tugged at his lips when he saw the caller.

“Found joy in life yet?” Magnus joked.

“Nope, still as depressed as always,” the voice of a male with a British accent teased back.

“What can I help you with, dearest Ragnor?”

“I was thinking,” Ragnor began, but Magnus cut him off.

“Uh-oh, that’s never a good sign,” he laughed.

“Shut up. As I was saying, I was thinking maybe we should go out for coffee this afternoon, since it’s been a while we’ve seen each other.”

“Are you asking me out on a date, my oldest friend,” Magnus asked teasingly, enjoying the annoyed response of his friend.

“I most certainly am not.”

“Fine,” Magnus gave in. “How about Pandemonium at three?”

“You still go to that place?” Ragnor sounded surprised.

“What can I say? They serve a really good cappuccino with a double espres-”

“I actually know your order. That’s because you have been poisoning your body with that shit for years.”

Magnus was ready to make another snarky comment on his friends when he was cut off.

“See you at three.” Ragnor had hung up immediately after that.

“Why am I friends with this man again?” he muttered to himself as he mixed some different shades of paint together to match the bright red of the apple in front of him. It was meant as a rhetorical question to himself, but in his head he answered it anyway. Ragnor was his friend, because he had been there for Magnus during the darkest days of his life and ever since. They’d always had each other’s backs and Magnus trusted Ragnor with his life.

They had met many years ago back in high school, when Magnus was only twelve years old. They were both little kids who stood out from the crowd. Magnus was young to discover his true self and looked different (more glittery and well-dressed) than most twelve-year-old boys, and Ragnor had already developed his grumpy persona and had just moved to the States from England; they fit together perfectly. They didn’t demand much of their friendship, sitting together at lunch while not even talking was enough. But somehow, the few talks they’d had were good and a strong relationship was built upon that quickly. Magnus did most of the talking, but Ragnor always listened and responded at the right moments, saying the right things. And Ragnor had been there when everything had rapidly gone south in Magnus’ life.

Magnus had lived with his mom and stepdad – his biological father had abandoned him and his mom when he was only four years old. His relationship with his parents was good. They formed a peaceful family that played board games together on lazy Sunday afternoons and that went out to the cinema regularly to enjoy new movies. Magnus realised now that their little bubble of happiness had always been too good to be true and had never stood a chance at lasting long.

His step dad had gotten sick. Really sick. It was an aggressive form of cancer they had said.

It had hit Magnus hard, but his mom even harder. The regular visits to the cinema had become rare and the board games had started to get covered by a small layer of dust; a sign of the scarce use. At first, his mom had visited his dad every day, but that had become less and less every time he had come out of chemo therapy without positive response. Eventually, she had closed herself off from the world entirely, though always making sure Magnus would have something to eat.

Barely three months after the diagnosis, Magnus’ stepdad had passed away. And a day after his funeral, Magnus had found his mom on her bed, not breathing, an empty bottle of pills on the bedside table.

She had lost her first husband. Losing her second had been too much.

Within a week, Magnus had become an orphan. Ragnor’s parents had taken him in without a doubt and he and Magnus had only grown closer together. Even when Magnus had gone to Art school, with the money his mom had left him, while Ragnor travelled the world, they had never lost touch. Something about the serious events they had gone through, and the many hours, days, months and years they had spent together had connected them in a way that would never vanish.

Their relationship was special. Their dynamics could come across as rivalrous to strangers, but Magnus loved Ragnor and Ragnor loved Magnus. Of that he was a hundred percent sure.

 

Magnus eyes lingered at the bar a little too long, like they had done every time he’d come for a coffee the past week. He told himself it was a habit of checking out the hopefully handsome bartender – like he always did whenever he entered a place with a bar, and therefore a bartender - but since the bartender he’d wanted to see had become more than just another handsome dude after the wallet incident, it felt weird. A little obsessive even.

He felt a rush of disappointment come over him when his eyes didn’t find the beautiful hazel ones he had been looking for. It was odd, the fact that those pair of optics and the person around them hadn’t left Magnus’ mind the entire week. Some uncharacteristic urge pulled at him from the inside; an undeniable desire to see the man again, maybe talk about the Chairman, anything.

Magnus didn’t do longing. Other people longed for him, that’s how it had always been. At least, until now. Because despite not wanting to admit it, Magnus knew he was longing for Alec. The weird thing was, it was not just in a sexual way. Alec had intrigued him with his advice on how to take care of his cat. Alec had flattered him when he had gone through all the effort to personally deliver the lost wallet, for whatever reason he might have had. And Alec had triggered Magnus’ interest, being the only person to ever leave him speechless, even if it was only for half a second.

Magnus shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind of all thoughts concerning a certain messy-haired man and walked over to the table where Ragnor and, surprisingly, Catarina had already started their first cup of coffee.

“Thank you for saving me from the grumpy devil, darling,” Magnus cheered when he hugged the chuckling woman, the thoughts about Alec pushed to the back of his mind.

“You know I would never leave you to deal with him alone, sweetheart,” she purred back, sarcasm in her voice.

“I am right over here,” Ragnor grunted, “and your behaviour is romantically disturbing and downright rude at the same time.”

Magnus laughed hard, sharing a look with Catarina. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Yeah, yeah, now sit down,” Ragnor muttered.

“I did you the favour of ordering you a coffee,” Cat said while pushing a cup towards Magnus. Before he even had the chance of questioning whether it was the right order, Cat cut in. “And yes, it is that luxurious creation of yours. I only had to say your name and the young bartender knew exactly what to do.”

Magnus peeked over at the bar again. Cat had mentioned a young bartender, but the only person behind the bar was a disturbingly broad figured man that looked like he could be dangerous if you got off on the wrong foot. Magnus knew that was the owner, Valentine. Had Cat meant Alec? Or was it this Jace dude who had helped him before? Maybe Alec was on his lunch break and would come back any second? Oh whatever, it shouldn’t even matter.

“Thank you,” Magnus mumbled.

“So, did you find your wallet yet?” the dark-skinned woman asked, trying to get Magnus’ attention.

Magnus found himself blushing a little, internally thanking himself for taking the extra time that morning to cover his face with foundation and concealer that would cover the redness of his cheeks. “Actually,” he started. “That is quite the story.”

Caterina looked at him with interested eyes and even Ragnor shifted slightly in his chair so that he could listen to Magnus properly. He explained to Ragnor the mess he had made searching for his wallet – to which Caterina felt the need to make the comparison between his loft and one of those over-packed dumpsters you would find in a dark alley. His apartment had been a shambles, he must give her that, but the dumpster part? Very exaggerated. Very exaggerated indeed.

Caterina also contributed the part where she had left Magnus’ apartment - to prevent herself form being buried alive by the piles of clothes, shoes and whatever else Magnus had managed to pull out of its original storage place – to which Magnus huffed and Ragnor teased a smile (did Ragnor just show a little smile!? Magnus would definitely use that against him later).

After Cat had started to describe the state of Magnus’ loft that particular day yet another time, using new exaggerated similes, Magnus took action. He continued his story, taking control of the situation.

He finally came to the part where he had cursed when someone had rung his doorbell and had opened his door to a man telling Magnus he had his wallet. He explained how it had been one of the bartenders of the café they found themselves in that exact moment and how he had left his wallet at the bar and the barista had been so kind to bring it to Magnus’ apartment. He skipped the part where they had talked for a good amount of minutes. As well as the part where he had found himself startled, because if he told his friends that, he wouldn’t hear the end of it.

He quickly added that no money, nor any credit cards, not even his bath and bodyworks gift card had been taken (which Magnus didn’t understand, he would have definitely steal that if he found it inside someone’s wallet). The wallet had been returned like Magnus had left it on the bar.

“Why would someone go through all that trouble to get nothing out of it himself?” Ragnor huffed. “I don’t understand how some human beings,” he said almost accusingly, as though he wasn’t human himself, “can be so selfless. What’s the fun of it? I prefer doing things I, and exclusively me, benefit from. It’s the most efficient,” he finished before sinking further down in his seat.

“You are a weird person, Ragnor, and most people think at least the slightest bit more about the greater good than you,” Cat began. “But I, too, wonder what made this bartender personally bring you your wallet. Also, is the delivery boy present? I would like to judge for myself whether we can trust him or not. He has your address after all.”

“Cat, believe me, he’s a genuinely good person.” Magnus simply couldn’t think of a scenario in which he wasn’t. It was impossible with such kind eyes.

“And he’s not he-” Magnus cut himself off for two reasons. The first being that Alec was here and Magnus’ comment would have been false. And the second, when Magnus’ eyes had wondered over at the bar and had unexpectedly fallen on the tall figure standing there, he had almost choked on a dry throat.

His two friends followed his gaze to the bar. Caterina was the first to make the connection. “I take it that’s the boy we’re looking for. Hot damn, Magnus. How are you always so lucky?”

“I don’t even know if he’s into men.”

The words had escaped his mouth before he could stop himself. Did he just admit to his friends that he was interested in this guy? He really hoped they hadn’t drawn the same conclusion.

Nope, too late, he thought when he saw the faces his friends had made in response to his latest comment.

He’d expected Catarina to be the first to speak, but to his surprise it was Ragnor “If you want him, I’m pretty sure he’ll be gay for you.” Magnus honestly had no idea how to respond to that (when had being speechless become a reccurring issue in his life?).

Catarina poked Ragnor in his side with her elbow and bent over slightly to speak closer to his ear. “Magnus is in loveee,” they said at the same time, drawing out the last word excessively.

“Okay, first of all,” Magnus defended himself, “the way you two behave is beyond childish. And second of all, you don’t fall in love after meeting someone once. That’s absolutely ridiculous. You clearly don’t know the half of it.”

Magnus’ friends laughed for another minute but seemed to sense they had gotten as far as they could go with teasing Magnus before he would storm off. When Catarina had gotten herself together, she changed the topic of their conversation.

“Magnus darling, how’s your gallery coming together?”

Magnus felt relieved to talk about something not concerning the man who had suddenly taken his breath away by walking through a door and appearing behind the bar. How special he must be.

“Not so well. I only have one work done, and Chairman still refuses to be a good model-“

“Oh, give the poor animal a break,” Ragnor interrupted him.

“Anyway, the painting part is not going so well. Neither is the logistics part, I’m afraid,” Magnus sighed. “All the places I’ve visited are either gross, dilapidated or too expensive. And then there’s the framework company that won’t do anything for a reasonable price. And how am I going to serve everybody drinks and snacks? Hiring a catering company will cost me a fortune, and they’ll probably show up with some cheap platter of indigestible toasts and spit-worthy drinks. I really thought this was a good idea, but I’m seriously starting to doubt that.”

Magnus had come up with the idea of opening his own gallery while being drunk. He could have left it at that: an impulsive thought he’d had when intoxicated. But no, he had started to think about it more and more. Eventually, it wouldn’t leave his mind and he gave in to the ideas; he would get a gallery. He knew it was somewhat out of order to get a place before a collection of art was even made, but he wanted it that way, so it happened that way.

It wasn’t just the thrill of having a goal in his life again, he knew the gallery would mean a lot more to him than just that. Without having started on it, he knew his first exhibition would tell the story of his life. It would be personal and painful, but it would give him the chance to give certain terrible events a good and safe place. He himself experienced that art – whether that was in the shape of dance, music or painting – helped him incredibly after his parents’ deaths. It had helped him like no human could have done. He’d always felt the urge to tell his story to outsiders, and now he finally knew how.

One painting was already done; a portrait of his mom and step dad sitting on a bench in central park, holding hands while laughing at each other. Magnus remembered the moment he’d seen them there, so innocent and joyful, and had taken a picture in his mind to safe for later use.

As the next painting he had – as you already know – tried to paint his cat. How he’d ever thought his cat would fit into the exhibition well, was beyond him now (he had probably been well into the night, which goes hand in hand with a numerous amount of martinis). But after Chairman Meow had made Magnus struggle so much, he’d made it his mission to make a portrait of his cat. So there would be a fucking portrait of his cat. He’d find a way to make it work with the rest of the paintings.

“Honey, sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven,” Catarina said soothingly, pulling Magnus from his daydream.

Magnus nodded and looked away, he didn’t like being seen as weak and incapable. His busy mind could never stop thinking about a thousand things at the same time, so even though he felt vulnerable, his mind wondered about the saying his female friend had used. You have to go through to hell to get to heaven. Geographically speaking it just didn’t make sense. Why would you have to go to the core of the earth to get to the sky? Because that’s where hell and heaven respectively were located, were they not? The person who ever came up with the saying must have been confused, that’s the only explanation.

Magnus’ thoughts were interrupted by Catarina again, who apparently wasn’t done giving her pep talk yet. “And I’m positive you’ll be fine. Your gallery will be a hit.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I don’t know if you remember, but I have magical powers,” Cat smiled widely. Magnus remembered her once explaining she had special abilities, something about the perks of being a woman.

“I can foresee the future and yours looks successful. So don’t throw in the towel, you’re going to be great.”

“I already am great,” Magnus deadpanned, though a little less convincing than usual since Cat’s words had touched him. He knew Cat was right. He was Magnus Bane. If he had a plan, the world apocalypse couldn’t stop him (it would make things significantly more complicated though). He had to trust himself and his friends that the gallery would be there eventually, maybe it would even be a success.

After that they had fallen into easy banter. Ragnor had dozed off somewhere during a discussion between Magnus and  Catarina about the significance of a good pair of stiletto heels in every woman’s wardrobe. Cat had argued that they were highly [pun intended] uncomfortable, to which Magnus had replied “No pain, no gain.” However, Ragnor was shaken from his dreams when Magnus announced his departure, he was going to hit the dance studio for a late afternoon dance session to “come down to earth in this crazy world”.

“I’ll pay,” Magnus offered, with one eye on the bar where a certain man was still making coffee.

“You never pay,” Ragnor said suspiciously while reading conjecture on Cat’s face.

Before his friends could ask any questions or make embarrassing comments, Magnus made a clever remark, while turning around towards the bar. “My point exactly.”

He was already several metres away when he heard Catarina ask Ragnor a question, laughter in her voice. “Am I dreaming? Or did I just see Magnus blush?”

Dammit I should have worn my full coverage foundation.

He waited patiently at the bar. Usually you would either pay for your coffees immediately after ordering or the waiter would come to your table with the cheque, but going to the bar himself would give Magnus the biggest chance of talking to Alec. And somehow, that was what he wanted. A little more than he liked to admit.

“I would like to pay for table eighteen, please,” Magnus said as soon as Alec was not busy doing anything else.

Alec turned around immediately, a glimpse of what looked like shock on his face, but it was gone before Magnus could properly identify it. “Yes, of course,” Alec stuttered and cleared his throat. “That can be arranged.”

While Magnus waited for Alec to get the micro ATM from the side of the bar, the scary man – who Magnus knew was the owner of the place – appeared from a door behind the bar. He walked towards Alec and hovered over him a little too closely for Magnus’ liking. The man followed Alec’s every movement. Probably some routine for training the new employees.

Alec quickly came over to Magnus once his boss had let him. “Uhm, how’s your cat?” Alec asked, doubt in his voice.

Magnus was quick to reply with a funny comment, given the other man’s discomfort and awkwardness. “The victim of adultery is usually the one to get asked that question,” he deadpanned.

Alec’s face cleared immediately, a smile appearing on his face. Oh God, that smile. “My bad. How are you?”

Even though Magnus knew he had provoked the question himself, he still felt flattered. “I’m better than last week. The Chairman and I have talked and we’re working things out. Thank you for asking.”

Magnus pulled his card out of the machine when Alec spoke again. “I’m glad to hear that.” There was laughter in his voice, but also something that sounded like genuine sincerity? They both knew the cat-cheating story was all made up. Then why would Alec take such a serious turn on it?

Magnus didn’t have a chance to drift off further, as someone yelling at Alec interrupted him. “Alec, get your sexy butt back to work!” yelled his boss. Alec blushed intensely.

“I guess that’s my cue to go,” Magnus said. “See you next time.”

“Yeah,” was all Alec replied before turning around quickly and cleaning the counter obsessively.

 

Magnus and his friends had parted after leaving the café (not before they had made another comment about Magnus’ crush, which Magnus had flipped off easily by throwing an insult at both his friends in return) and Magnus had been left alone with his thoughts.

He was confused. Had he picked up the hints correctly?

After arriving at home, Magnus had opened his laptop and had googled the wide shouldered (not a pretty feature in Magnus’ opinion) man. Searching Owner Pandemonium New York sufficed to get Magnus the information he needed.

Pandemonium was established by Valentine Morgenstern and opened its doors for the first time on January 12, 2015.

The next search command was reasonable in Magnus’ opinion, he was just curious about the man’s social status. He found an abandoned Facebook page which seemed to belong to Valentine.

Divorced.

Magnus didn’t know what to do with the information; it didn’t confirm nor refute his suspicion. Could Valentine be Alec’s boyfriend? It felt weird thinking about it, considering Valentine was – according to Google – 39 years old and Alec must be at least fifteen years younger. Yet, Alec could just have a thing for older guys, right?

The signs had been there. First there was that time Alec had so abruptly left after bringing Magnus’ wallet even though they had only been having a friendly conversation. Then, the intimacy at the café between the two. Valentine had hovered over Alec just a little too closely for them to be in a non-sexual relationship, however not quite close enough to be obvious to the public of the restaurant. Next, Valentine had not held back calling Alec out on his bottom (which Magnus must admit he had looked at after Valentine’s remark, it wasn’t a bad sight). It would be weird if it was your boss to say something that personal. And last but not least, Alec hadn’t known how to get away from Magnus fast enough after Valentine had seen them together and had called out for Alec.

There were two positive sides to that conclusion. First of all, if Valentine was indeed Alec’s boyfriend, it meant the latter was into men. This significantly increased Magnus’ chances. Secondly, Alec had definitely seemed younger than Magnus – if only a year or two. Theoretically speaking, Magnus stood a chance if Alec was into older men.

It shouldn’t bother Magnus – the thought of Alec having a boyfriend – but it did. It bothered him even more that he was together with Valentine Morgenstern. Not only did he look scary and very unattractive, he didn’t exactly seem like a nice guy either. But maybe Magnus was too biased to judge objectively.

***

The day had been way too long and exhausting.

Alec had worked a double shift – his own plus one he owed Jace – and was tired. Really tired. He wasn’t just physically tired from all the running around in the café, he was mentally tired too. The continuous requests or complaints of consumers started to seriously get on his nerves. And then all of a sudden Magnus had walked through the doors of the café. It wasn’t like Alec hadn’t been waiting for him – not that he would admit so himself – it came as a shock nevertheless. It was weird, the way his mind had fought between wanting to talk to the magical man and wanting to completely ignore him. He ended up doing neither. He hadn’t walked over, nor ignored him when Magnus had so suddenly decided to pay at the bar.

The amount of stress and excitement had been exhausting. But like that hadn’t been enough already, there had been Valentine to top it all off. Alec felt uncomfortable around him. His boss never held back any of his thoughts and wasn’t scared of physically intimidating Alec (that was what he was doing right?), like the time he had stood close when Alec had gone to get the ATM machine for Magnus to pay. Secretly, Alec hoped the way Valentine was around him a lot was a sign that he was starting to like him. But if it was, Valentine did a shitty job showing so.

Alec plopped onto the couch and started to give in to the exhaustion (even though it was only late afternoon), when his phone played the ringtone Izzy had put in Alec’s phone for when she called.

“Hey sis,” Alec said when he answered.

“Hey brother, how are you holding up?”

Alec had to think about his response, but eventually went with the truth, knowing his sister would know if he was lying. “I’m exhausted, I hate my job and there is no food in this apartment. Well, that is if you don’t count the rotten dragon fruit in the fridge.”

“Why is there a dragon fruit in you fridge?” Izzy exclaimed, ignoring the first two reasons for Alec’s misery.

“I saw some in the shop the other day and I thought it’d be fun to try one. But when I came home I realised I had no idea how to eat the stuff and the shape and colour kind of scared me, so it was just left in my fridge to create more life,” Alec explained.

“Right… Anyway I called to make your life more miserable,” Izzy said seriously. “Mom and dad want to have a family diner. You, me, Max and them.”

“Why?” Alec asked, annoyance in his voice. Lightwood family dinners were always a disaster, and that was a nice way to put it.

“Mom thought it was time to talk about life. But what she really meant was that she wants to know if we – mostly you, I’m afraid – are successful yet.”

“When?” If Alec’s mood had been off before, it was absolutely depressing now.

“Next week Thursday,” Izzy said softly. “Sorry Alec, I tried to talk them out of it, I really did, but you know how they are. Once they want something, nothing can change their minds.”

“I know Iz, it’s not your fault. We’ll get through it.”

“Okay, see you next week,” Izzy said.

“Bye.” Alec hung up the phone. Even after leaving his parents’ house, they still had the power to upset him and freak him out by announcing a simple family dinner. But that was the thing, it never was a simple dinner. There was always a reason his parents wanted to come together, and it was never a good one. What the reason was this time, was for Alec to anguish over for the coming week.

Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, his roommate walked in.

“Hello to you too,” Raphael called out after Alec had unconsciously shown his frustration by grunting and rubbing his eyes.

“Yeah, hi,” Alec replied before walking off to his room. Why had he ever agreed to living with that man? It wasn’t like Raphael was the worst human being alive, he and Alec just didn’t exactly have the same lifestyle.

After Alec had moved to New York, he had quickly realised he wasn’t going to be able to pay the rent of his apartment by himself (he could have just gotten a smaller apartment, but he didn’t think about that at the time). He had looked for a roommate on an app and had matched with Raphael Santiago. How that had ever happened was still a mystery to Alec, but he had been in desperate need of someone with whom he could share the cost of his place, so he’d let it happen.

They didn’t see each other much and Alec preferred it that way. Raphael was out for work a lot – well Alec assumed it was work, he didn’t actually know for sure – and so was Alec. The inconveniences mostly occurred at night. Raphael loved the nights, to say the least. No matter what day of the week, he would go out and drink himself into oblivion. But somehow, he always managed to pick up a girl on the way, causing an endless amount of awkward encounters at the apartment. That was if Alec was still up and could prevent the worst case scenario. He would hail the woman a cab and send Raphael to bed (of course feeling uncomfortable doing so, he was his roommate not his son). It was mostly to protect the woman from doing something she’d regret in the morning, even though that, again, wasn’t Alec’s responsibility. However, when Alec would already be in bed and vast asleep when Raphael came home with his catch of the night, it always ended in Alec having to find his earplugs and at least three pillows to cancel out the sound of a squeaking bed and much more Alec definitely didn’t want to hear coming from the other room.

They had lived together for around one and a half months, but barely knew each other. Alec knew Raphael had a sister, due to this one time Izzy had come over and had rambled on and on about something unimportant and Raphael had muttered “sisters” while shaking his head. Alec assumed it meant he was familiar with the issue of a sister talking the ears of his head.

Alec, however, had no idea what Raphael did for a living, if he even had a job. He had no idea if his parents were alive, or where he came from. He didn’t know if Raphael had gone to college or if he had any hobbies. And, honestly, he didn’t care.

“I’m going out tonight, so don’t call the cops when you hear someone coming into the apartment,” Raphael yelled after Alec had opened the door to his bedroom. “It’ll probably be late. Or early, depends on how you look at it.”

“Whatever,” Alec mumbled in response.

Once in the comfortable environment of his closed off bedroom, Alec stripped of his working clothes and got into soft sweats and a simple T-shirt. He grabbed his laptop before falling down on his bed and resting his back against the headboard. He ordered in some Thai, despite the odd hour for take-out (he was hungry okay? Give the man a break) and realised he had nothing to do.

He remembered to text Lydia, asking her to have lunch together some time soon. Somehow, his mind wondered off to a certain well-dressed man, when he had nothing else to think about. Alec opened his browser ready to type the name, but stopping himself before he could do so.

“No Alec, you’re not some crazy stalker,” he told himself out loud, as if to convince himself he wasn’t extremely curious about everything concerning Magnus Bane. “Oh screw it, I deserve some joy on this God awful day,” Alec gave in, while deliberately typing in the man’s name.

There wasn’t that much to find, which meant Magnus wasn’t some famous person Alec should have known. There were a few articles from smaller newspapers from town that talked about Magnus. Alec opened the first one and read.

Magnus Bane blew everyone away with his beautiful choreography to Wide Eyed by Billy Lockett. The dance was performed perfectly by the amateur dancer; no technical mistakes were made and the performer was able to share his emotion with the audience beautifully.

Magnus Bane is also known for his contribution to many art collections exhibited at Idris, a small but well-visited gallery in New York.

“Holy crap,” Alec muffled. Little did he know he had met such a talented man. He played a dance video of Magnus and got so consumed by the fluent movements and beautiful choreography, he completely missed the doorbell being rung.

“No I didn’t order anything!” Alec heard Raphael yell at the deliverer of what should be his Thai. “Which nutshell even orders in at four o’clock?”

“That would be me,” Alec said dryly, while paying the delivery man and apologizing for his rude roommate.

“Dude you could have come out of your room a little quicker if you knew your order was about to come in, I bet you were a little consumed,” he said with a smug face.

Alec couldn’t help but blush. He knew Raphael was referring to a whole different activity concerning him watching something on his laptop, but Alec couldn’t help but feel like he was caught committing a felony.

Once back in his room, he immediately turned off his laptop and ate his Thai.

***

Magnus felt the music and nothing else. Not the pain in his feet from dancing the last two hours, not the worry about the success of his gallery he’d felt earlier, not even the exhaustion that should technically be consuming his body by now.

It had always been like that; once the music played and Magnus started dancing – whether it was a choreography or free style – he forgot his surrounding entirely. It gave him a sense of freedom, something he had lacked so much in his childhood. He had somehow always felt trapped after his parents had passed. It had forced him to grow up too fast, and had taken away his chance of finding himself in the most crucial period of his life when it came to development. It had pushed him in a corner and demanded him to suffer and agonize, where he should have been free to start mapping the path of his life.

Dance had been one of the many getaways Magnus had found, together with art and music. He had started dancing a month or so after his parents had passed. It hadn’t been during a dance class, not even in a dance studio. It had been in his room at Ragnor’s house. One afternoon, when everyone else living at the house had either gone grocery shopping or was at school, Magnus had turned on his mom’s favourite song and had started moving around to the slow and familiar rhythm, like he used to do with his mom. It had quickly developed into full dance moves and Magnus had felt the slightest of happiness come over him for the first time since the funerals. It had given him wings when he hadn’t known he had ever felt the need to fly.

After the first time, many more had followed. Eventually, Magnus danced as often as he could, alternating it with painting and teaching himself simple songs on Ragnor’s parents’ piano. A certain day, Ragnor’s mom had gently offered Magnus to take dancing classes, probably having seen Magnus dance while his door had been ajar.

So Magnus had started taking them, enjoying every single minute. It’d made him relive memories of his parents without agonizing over them, the peaceful environment of the dance studio and the dancing itself offering him all he needed to come to terms with his new life: a life without his parents.

The dancing had come with more than one perk.

Into the second year, Magnus had met Catarina. She had come in new to the group and she and Magnus had connected immediately, something about the calm spirit of the young woman giving Magnus the peace and rest in his life only dance had been able to give him before. It had offered the perfect opportunity for them to become each other’s dance partners.

They trained together for years, doing many performances (Ragnor always came to watch, meeting Cat through that) and losing themselves in the precious moments they shared together. Of course, everything had to come to an end. And even though neither of them had wanted it, they had been forced to break apart as a dance couple as they both finished high school and were confronted with the time consuming work grown-up life brought on.

While Cat had been working her ass off to become a nurse and Magnus had gone off to art school, they hadn’t lost touch. Their friendship was special and a busy schedule or distance between them wouldn’t endanger that.

Magnus came back from his daze when the alarm he’d set on his phone started to go off. If he didn’t set an alarm, he could easily be dancing for hours, which he knew was neither physically safe nor socially acceptable as more people wanted to use the studio. So he grabbed his bag and went home, feeling relaxed like he’d just come back from a weekend at the spa.

Chapter Text

Alec hadn’t been scheduled in for work the three days after Magnus had been at the café with his friends. He should’ve been happy about it, being off of work for a long weekend, but to the contrary, Alec felt an unease nibble at his bones.

Alec hadn’t expected to get used to a job so quickly again – only having worked at Pandemonium for barely two weeks. But it felt weird to get up in the morning without having to stress about being late again and having no time to eat the breakfast his body was craving but could not get due to the lack of time. It felt strange to see Raphael in the morning, as Alec usually missed the guy, leaving the apartment early (as early as he could manage – there was progress, it just took a little time) to work a morning shift. And somehow he only worked morning shifts, sometimes the afternoon, but never the evening. It was as if Valentine deliberately scheduled Alec in early to teach him a lesson of discipline, because it meant Alec was forced to get out of bed early instead of being able to sleep in.

It wasn’t like he had been working every day since he had started, but having three days off in a row felt like a holiday. One Alec didn’t request and didn’t want, because there were reasons he’d much rather be at work instead of eating what felt like a feast meal of a breakfast while his roommate sipped and slurped some nasty red juice (tomato juice he said – yuk!) in a disgusting manner.

Alec had felt weird after Valentine had been a little touchy the last time at work. Alec wasn’t stupid, he’d noticed the way Valentine had creeped up on him deliberately, it wasn’t something he’d ever done to Jace. He’d given it some thought, since he hadn’t had much else to do, and had eventually settled with the idea that was the least worrying: it was probably a good sign that Valentine was a little more intimate, it could mean he liked Alec better already.

It wasn’t like Valentine had exactly liked him from the start - something Alec had been bothered by quite a bit the first week. He’d tried his best to impress his boss, the chance of a recommendation to a chic restaurant always in the back of his mind. He’d tried to understand how to use the coffee machine as quickly as possible and had tried to be extra polite to every costumer, even the really grumpy ones (it should be illegal to get a coffee while being grumpy and depressed, it affects the bartenders, okay?). However, Valentine had never shown his appreciation for Alec’s efforts. At least he had now, right?

The way Valentine had been comfortable with Alec like they were family had to be a way to show how Valentine started to trust Alec and his abilities. It had to be, there wasn’t a different explanation, but Alec still needed confirmation. If Valentine would be the slightest bit kinder the next time he’d be at work, Alec knew they were good and that he was the tiniest bit closer to getting that recommendation.

There was also a completely different reason Alec wished he wasn’t at home. Because, just like the last time he hadn’t seen Magnus for a couple of days, the feeling inside him wanting to see the other man grew bigger every day. It was starting to annoy Alec. Why was there a voice in his mind continuously asking for Magnus? He didn’t need the other man, he was perfectly able to live his days without having Magnus in them. Was he? Alec remembered the conversation he’d had with Izzy in his apartment, about him broadening his horizons and found himself shaking his head. He was seriously starting to consider taking Izzy’s advice, and pictured doing so with one man in particular, and he really shouldn’t. He just…shouldn’t. It was wrong. And his parents wouldn’t approve, Jace would feel engrossed acknowledging he’d had sleepovers with someone who was willing to kiss men.

Alec wouldn’t do it. This voice yearning for Magnus would shut up eventually.

***

“That one was bad,” Magnus laughed. “No wonder it has been on sale for two years. It looked like a damn dungeon.”

Magnus had spent the last few days visiting all the possible places to make his gallery, but without success. He hadn’t even taken the time to get a coffee each morning, like he’d do every other day. After the first two days of the ‘hunt’ and at least twenty buildings later, he’d been so miserable he would have taken the first place he’d see, just to get it over with. Luckily his friend Dorothea was so kind to join him on his journey and guide him in his search for the perfect place, giving him the hope he’d needed to continue.

“Definitely the worst we’ve seen so far,” Dot joined Magnus in laughter. “The next has to be better. If it’s not, I’m certain you’re cursed.”

Magnus was still laughing. It had been a real struggle, not one Magnus had particularly enjoyed, but Dot made it endurable. She had even made a list of places she thought would be perfect and with her expertise in architecture Magnus didn’t doubt they were going to find his future gallery soon.

“This next place could be a real option though,” Dot said as she had stopped laughing. “The pictures looked really promising, I think you’re going to love it.”

“I trust you completely, darling. And if this place is the one, we’re definitely going out for a drink.”

“It’s Thursday, Magnus,” Dot said.

“Does that make us any less capable of going out?” Magnus asked and continued when no answer came from his friend. “Didn’t think so. Now, let’s take a look at that place of yours.”

 

“Honey, you are absolutely amazing! I would have never found this place without you!” Magnus exclaimed after they left the building, the one in which Magnus would have his gallery in a couple of months, hopefully. “It was exactly what I was looking for, thank you so much,” he said while hugging Dot.

“Darling, it was my pleasure,” Dot smiled lovingly.

She had always offered a helping hand whenever Magnus had needed it, even before they had been formally introduced. When Magnus had been in his third year of art school, he had signed up for a minor in interior design. When he’d struggled with a certain project, Dot had been so kind to help him, even though they had only seen each other in class. It was the nicest any stranger had ever been to Magnus at school and Dot had never stopped being that kind, loving person. She’s the definition of kindness.

“Then I guess my day isn’t over yet?” Dot asked with a pained face.

“Nope,” Magnus shook his head, “time to celebrate! But first, we’ll go to my place first, because you’re not going out with me like that,” Magnus said while pointing a finger at Dot’s clothes and scrunching his nose.

“What’s wrong with my clothes?” the small woman asked innocently. “And why am I the only who has to change?”

“Do you even know who you’re talking to?” Magnus smiled while dragging Dot towards the cab he had haled in the meantime. “Of course I’ll change too. I’m not going to miss out on an opportunity to glam up,” Magnus said.

“How stupid of me to think,” Dot laughed while stepping into the cab, Magnus following after her.

***

Alec had woken up with a bitter taste in his mouth. It was the day of the family dinner and Alec hadn’t exactly been looking forward to it. To be really honest, he’d been worrying about it for the last couple of days. He knew he could stand up to his parents if it was necessary, but somehow they always succeeded in making him feel miserable.

Since Alec had to work the afternoon shift he had some time in the morning to clean the apartment (which was really necessary) and do some grocery shopping. It also gave him time to think, which was never a good thing. What would his parents want to talk about this day? Or better, how would they crush Alec’s hopes and dreams this time?

Just when Alec was starting to feel sorry for himself for having such terrible parents, Izzy called. Before he even had the chance to greet his sister, she was already yelling through the phone.

“HELLO dearest brother! I bet you were sobbing about how bad your life is and feeling sorry for yourself for having to attend the dinner tonight, weren’t you?”

“No,” Alec denied, while feeling annoyed at the accuracy of Izzy’s words.

“Mmmh, I bet you were shedding some tears there,” Izzy teased.

“Izzy, I wasn’t crying about a family dinner!”

“Whatever,” Izzy said with nonchalance. “Anyway, I called to bring some good news. Or actually both good and bad news,” she said, her tone turning slightly less enthusiastic at the second part of the sentence. “Mom and dad had a really bad fight yesterday night, and they’re not talking.”

“Izzy, are you and Max okay?” Alec asked, worrying about his siblings.

“Yeah, but it means the dinner will have to be rescheduled,” Izzy continued.

“Oh, what a shame,” Alec deadpanned.

“But that doesn’t mean you can get out of seeing me!”

“How so?” Alec asked.

“We’re going out tonight. And I don’t want to hear one complaint, it’s been too long.”

“Izzy-” Alec tried, but his sister cut him off.

“I said no complaints, Alexander Lightwood. I’ll be at your place at nine, so I can help you get ready. If I let you dress yourself, you’ll wear black jeans and an ugly sweater.”

“Hey! Those sweaters are comfortable!” Alec said, offended by Izzy’s words.

“See you tonight,” Izzy hung up the phone. Alec would never get used to his sister’s bluntness.

 

Alec was cursing in his mind. He had no idea how he had let Izzy convince him to wear such tight black pants and a body-hugging white T-shirt, that was a little too see-through for Alec’s liking. But it wasn’t like he’d really had a choice; once his sister had decided what he was going to wear, Alec would either wear the outfit or she wouldn’t stop annoying him with unsettling questions and comments about whatever Izzy knew would trigger her brother.

Why he had the clothes in the first place, was totally Izzy’s fault too. One day, she’d had enough of Alec’s lack of variety in his wardrobe and had spent her own money on buying her brother clothes. She had demanded her money back later though, which Alec had ended up giving. The young woman really had too much power over him.

“Do remind me where it is we’re going,” Alec said as he got out of the cab. Izzy had taken him to a place in town he’d never been before. It was one thing to go out, which wasn’t something Alec did often nor liked very much, but to go to a place he’d never been to before was another. Also, he didn’t exactly trust his sister in choosing a club that wouldn’t be too big and overwhelming for him.

“Alec, relax. Just wait and see for yourself,” Izzy said with a smirk, which didn’t comfort him in the least.

His intuition had been right. The club was way too big and was crowded with too many people of which multiple had already bumped into Alec a number of times since he’d entered.

“It’s going to take a lot of drinks for me to like this place,” Alec said flatly.

“Why don’t you start with this,” Izzy said as she offered her brother a small shot glass with a green concoction Alec knew wouldn’t do his body any good. He took it anyway and swallowed it down immediately. Izzy gave him a look but he just shrugged. “Might as well make the best of it now that we’re here.”

After some more shots, Alec settled on beer and looked around properly for the first time. His eyes fell on a man in the middle of the dance floor. He was wearing sinfully tight pants which left little to the imagination (not that Alec could see much from his spot at the bar) and a silk button up of which only the last two buttons were actually closed. The man danced around his friend, a young woman with dark hair, taking her hand a twirling her. Then the woman left and the man was left dancing alone. It didn’t get any less interesting though. It was only after the man had started shaking his hips dangerously and Alec had forced himself to look up, he’d recognised him.

Izzy had apparently been watching the show as obsessively as Alec. “Someone’s stealing the show,” she commented, while her gaze remained on the dancer.

Before Alec knew it, the words had rolled off his tongue.

“Yeah, Magnus is a great dancer.” Alec put his hand in front of his mouth immediately, as if that would take back his words. Alec knew his sister wouldn’t let him talk about anything else, not before she’d gotten answers. And there would be questions from her side. So many questions.

“Wait,” Izzy started, turning her head towards Alec. There we go… “You know him?”

Alec knew there was no point denying it at this point.

“Yeah, he’s a regular at the restaurant.”

“And?”

And,” Alec sighed. This might be worse than he’d thought. “I went to his apartment after he forgot his wallet. That’s all.”

“Oh my God. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!”

“Tell you what, Izzy? Nothing happened.”

Izzy totally ignored him and rambled on. “Someone’s finally gotten my brother’s interest! I’m so happy for you, big brother!” Izzy all but yelled.

Alec stopped smiling when the realisation of what his sister had just said hit him. No, this was wrong. It wasn’t like that.

“Izzy, I’m not gay!” Alec said forcefully, completely thrown off guard by his sister’s assumption.

“Hey,” Izzy said softly, “I didn’t mean to upset you. I got a little overexcited, sorry.”

Alec wasn’t able to react to tell his sister it was alright. He thought about how he’d wanted to see Magnus ever since the first time they’d met. He thought about how he had googled the dancer like some crazy stalker. He thought about how he’d caught himself staring at the man, and not just his face. He’d done it just minutes ago and had enjoyed it. Perhaps he’d even felt a little shiver go down his spine when he’d seen Magnus move his hips around while throwing his hands up in the air. He wasn’t supposed to feel and want all those things, and yet he did. He did, and he was no longer going to deny that. He couldn’t deny it any longer.

What exactly that meant, was a whole other case. Did that mean he was gay? Did it mean he just wasn’t straight? Alec’s mind dug up old memories of his ex-girlfriends. He hadn’t had many, but that could be explained by his loyalty and respect towards women, not just his sexuality. He remembered how he’d genuinely enjoyed being with girls, loved to be around them and spent time with them. However, he saw now, whenever it had gotten intimate he’d backed out.

He’d always thought he just wasn’t ready yet, not ready to go any further than kissing and some light touching here and there. But had that really been the reason? He just knew he’d always felt uncomfortable about seeing a woman naked, and it had never been something he’d been excited about, in contrast to all his male friends. He’d been curious, yes. But that had always been more about his interest for the human body and its anatomy, not so much the interest in a woman’s features. However, he only realised that now. Somehow everything made sense, and that was frightening. So incredibly frightening.

He felt the beginning of tears stinging in the corners of his eyes. It was the alcohol that made his emotions more intense, but he was still able to think as straight as he had to, to make the equation. The equation of his love life, one that had never been correct. One to which a variable had always missed, caused by the way Alec hadn’t dared to think outside the box. Alec had never had the guts to even consider him being in a relationship with anyone other than a woman. But if even his sister had hinted at him to try things with a man, how had he dismissed the option so easily?

It stressed him out. And that was an understatement. He was panicking, tears rolling down his face. It wasn’t the thought of him being gay that had him go insane, it was the fact that he’d never even considered it and that everything his love life had consisted of so far made sense now. It wasn’t just a slap in the face, it was a forceful right-hook punch that hit him hard in between his eyes. One that not only crushed his nose, but his brain too. It was too much to take in in such a short amount of time.

Izzy had started talking again, in a soft, soothing voice that showed how she knew exactly what Alec was thinking. “Alec, it’s okay. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong for wanting things with a man. If I can feel turned on by a man, so can you. What’s the difference?”

Alec huffed at that, but it was quickly followed by another sob.

“It’s important to know what you want, and you can take as much time as you need to do so. You hear me?”

Alec nodded.

“Also, I want you to know that no matter what you end up finding out about yourself - whether it is you like men, woman, both or neither - I don’t care. I want you to be happy. That’s all that really matters to me.” Izzy looked Alec straight in the eyes when she said it and pulled him in a tight hug.

It took Alec a couple of minutes to stop the endless stream of tears. He breathed in through his nose and out of his mouth slowly. He considered his sister’s words. Tonight had been a good start at finding out who he really was. It had come unexpectedly, but it was a good thing it had happened. Alec felt himself calm down, both physically and mentally. He felt the need to say something and felt brave for saying the first thing that came to his mind.

“He’s pretty hot, isn’t he?” Alec asked shyly, a blush quickly covering his cheeks as he nodded in Magnus’ direction.

“Yeah, he is,” Izzy said, a proud and soft smile on her face while her eyes twinkled as they were slightly more wet than usual.

“So, shall we get drunk?” Alec offered. It was a little out of character, but this evening was supposed to be fun, and even though it had been an important eye opener, he still wanted to make the best of it.

“Let’s get drunk,” Izzy agreed.

 

They didn’t act like the conversation had never taken place, but they didn’t agonize over it either. The tension had disappeared to a point where it was barely noticeable. The alcohol definitely played a role in that, but it was also the atmosphere of the club (which Alec had started to appreciate a little more) and the familiarity and kindness of his sister that made him feel comfortable.

Izzy emptied another shot glass in her mouth while offering one to Alec.

“No thanks. And you should stop too if you want to be able to get out of your bed at all tomorrow,” Alec said while closely observing his sister. She’d already had many more drinks than Alec and it didn’t look like she was ready to stop yet. Alec wouldn’t let her pass a point where it would actually damage her though; he’d keep an eye on her.

Another empty glass hit the bar before Izzy got to her feet, a little more unstable than usual, and offered Alec her hand.

“Dance with me?” Izzy asked, while already lowering her hand and turning around towards the dance floor. Alec should join his sister, but he’d already come with her to the club. Going to dance with her was too much to ask. And besides, he couldn’t dance and there was a certain man still moving in the middle of the club Alec would rather not embarrass himself in front of. So he declined the offer with a gentle nod.

“You have no idea what you’re missing out on!” Izzy yelled over her shoulder while giggling at the same time. Alec really had to keep a close eye on her. Izzy was a strong woman who didn’t need help from her brother. That was if she hadn’t consumed any alcohol. She was pretty small and it didn’t take much for her to lose her self-control and stability once she had started touching the shots. There had been minor incidents before, so Alec was always careful with drinking around his sister. If anything happened to her, he at least would be sober enough to help her.

Alec had been observing his little sister so obsessively while she enjoyed her time dancing around strangers (who touched her a little too much), to have noticed a man taking Izzy’s former seat next to him. He only noticed when the man spoke up.

“Hey.” Alec looked up to find Magnus staring at him.

“Hey,” Alec repeated with a hoarse voice.

“Are you enjoying yourself?”

“You’re a great dancer.” Both men said at the same time. Magnus was the first to push aside the slight awkwardness and started talking again.

“Thank you, Alexander.” Alexander, why did he like it so much when Magnus called him that? “I would like to say the same to you, but you haven’t left your stool yet,” Magnus smiled gently.

“Yeah,” Alec started, looking down slightly to prevent himself from drowning in those beautiful eyes. “I uhm, I don’t dance. I mean, I can’t dance.” Alec cleared his throat.

“I don’t believe that for one second,” Magnus said while pointing towards Alec’s sister, who was dancing a full routine now. “It must run in the family.”

“I wish, but I’m not that good at anything, really,” Alec laughed softly. It was true, right? He hadn’t made career yet and had given up everything he’d built up before that. He was a disappointment to his parents and, well, started to be one to himself too.

“Again, I don’t believe you.” Magnus looked Alec straight in the eyes and Alec felt like he was on fire. His insides burned, his organs ignited from the countless sparks. What was happening to him?

Before Alec had the chance to embarrass himself anymore, although the other man actually seemed to enjoy Alec’s company, he heard a loud yelp coming from the dance floor. Alec recognised it to be his sister’s voice and got up immediately looking around hysterically to find the reason for the scream.

He found his sister lying on the ground, almost motionless.

You had one job, Alec. One fucking job!

“Izzy!” Alec yelled while running towards the young woman’s body on the ground. Magnus followed Alec instantly.

“Izzy! Are you alright?” Alec kneeled next to his sister and gently pulled her face up, which was partly covered in blood. Alec found the source of the red stain quickly; a nasty, but not too deep, cut on Izzy’s forehead, just above her perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

Izzy smiled a crooked smile, while she spoke up in a barely audible voice.

“I’m okay, Alec. Relax. I think I’m bleeding though, and my ankle hurts a little.”

Magnus kneeled next to Alec.

“Someone told me she tripped while making a pirouette. I think she twisted her ankle and she might have hit her head when she fell.”

“We need to take you to the hospital, Iz,” Alec said deliberately after he’d heard what Magnus had just told him.

“Alec, come on. It’s not that bad, I’m fine,” Izzy basically begged.

“I think Alec is right, darling. If you’ve hit your head, you need to get it looked at. And your ankle looks pretty swollen too,” Magnus said in a gentle voice while idly running one hand over the young woman’s arm and steadying the man next to him - who was clearly overwhelmed by his sister’s state - with his other. “I can take you to the hospital, my car’s parked around the corner.”

“You’re not driving if you’ve drunk,” Alec said immediately.

“Don’t worry, I’m a responsible adult. I’ve only had one beer. And it was alcohol-free.” Alec looked at Magnus questioningly. He didn’t take the man for the non-drinking type.

“It’s new to me too, they serve really good cocktails here, so that’s a shame. But my friend, who just left, wasn’t drinking tonight, she has to get in to work early tomorrow morning, and it’s never fun to drink alone. Now, let me take you to the hospital.”

“Only because you insist on it,” Izzy muttered, before being lifted up in the strong arms of her brother.

“You said your car was around the corner?” Alec asked, angling his body towards Magnus while carrying Izzy in his arms princess-style.

“Yeah, I mean it’s only a couple of hundred metres. But I can walk ahead and park in front, if you prefer that,” Magnus said quickly.

“It’s okay, I should be able to carry her that distance.”

“Don’t you dare joke about my weight, Mr. Lightwood!” Izzy said warningly before falling back against her brothers arms.

“I wouldn’t dare,” Alec said, laughing.

 

The ride to the hospital was silent. Izzy and Alec sat in the back, Izzy’s injured leg sprawled over Alec’s lap while she leaned against the door. Alec was still freaked out, but he started to calm down slightly as his sister kept repeating to him that she was fine. The wound on her head had almost stopped bleeding, but it looked appalling as blood had dried all over her flawless skin.

Once arrived at the emergency entrance of the hospital, Alec gently pulled Izzy back into his arms and carried her inside towards someone who would lead them the way into the hospital. Alec was pretty sure it usually took hours before receiving treatment with such minor injuries, but the dramatic effect of the dried up blood on Izzy’s face seemed to have done the trick to get treated almost immediately.

 

They had been in the waiting room for only five minutes when a young male doctor called out Izzy’s name. When Alec offered Izzy the support she needed to get up, the doctor quickly came to their aid with a wheelchair and helped Izzy to sit down comfortably before reaching out his hand.

“Hi, I’m doctor Lewis.”

Izzy took his hand and shook it a little longer than socially acceptable. Alec blamed the remainder of the alcohol still running in his sister’s veins for the way she said her next words. A way that was totally inappropriate if you asked Alec. But then again, how much did he really know about society and its standards, being the awkward, staying-at-home-whenever-not-needed-outside guy.

“Hi, doctor Lewis,” she said, drawing out the man’s title. “I’m Isabelle, but you can call me Izzy.”

The young doctor blushed heavily, probably fairly new to the received attention, but recovered within a couple of seconds.

“Well Izzy, why don’t I take you to my office to take a look at your forehead and your ankle? Would you like anyone to keep you company?”

Alec already knew the answer, but didn’t argue. It would be rude to leave Magnus waiting alone, it’d be better to keep him company. Besides, Izzy clearly enjoyed hers.

“No, I’m a grown woman. I can do this on my own,” Izzy exclaimed while throwing a smug grin Alec’s way. As Izzy got rolled off to the doctor’s room, the two men settled down on the uncomfortable wooden chairs in the waiting room.

“You okay there?” Magnus asked gently.

“I’m not the one getting treatment, you know,” Alec said flatly. He was shocked by the coldness of his tone and continued talking. “I’m fine and Izzy will be. I’m mostly worried about the doctor though,” he laughed shyly.

“Yeah, he seemed a little overwhelmed by Izzy. I think he’s still in training and she’s not the easiest patient to have,” Magnus laughed. “It’s okay to feel worried, though,” he started again. Alec knew Magnus was only trying to make him feel comfortable, but the concern in his voice did nothing to calm him down. In fact, it did the complete opposite. It had been a while since someone besides his sister, and maybe Jace and Lydia, had cared about his well-being.

“You two seem really close, I get it if you’re worried,” Magnus ended softly.

“Yeah.” Did he just admit to being worried or being close to his sister? It was also then he realised Magnus had no idea how he and Izzy were related.

“My sister and I,” Alec began, “have always been close. My parents aren’t exactly the easy-going ones and we found a way out by spending time with the three of us: me, Izzy and Max, my little brother. They really mean the world to me and I shouldn’t have let tonight take such a bad turn,” Alec said, guilt audible in his voice.

“I guess the blame’s on me, I distracted you.”

“It’s not your fault,” Alec said sternly.

“And neither is it yours. I know you’re the big brother, but Izzy just said it herself, she can take care of herself,” Magnus said attentively.

“She’s drunk,” Alec argued back.

“Alcohol doesn’t change the way you think, at least not entirely. It only gets rid of the filter that decides what you normally would, or would not say or do. Believe me, I speak from experience.”

Alec smiled at that. Magnus did have a point, didn’t he? But it was in his character to be protective over the people he loved, and Izzy was without doubt one of them.

“I really miss my coffee,” Magnus said out of the blue. Wait what?

“I have been really busy these past days and I haven’t even had the time to stop by Pandemonium to pick up my regular. It makes me lifeless,” Magnus said dramatically.

“That must have been a horrible time for you,” Alec joked back, taking the opportunity to change the topic. When had he become comfortable enough to make jokes? Maybe it had been the moment Magnus had given him the answer to a question that had secretly been in the back of his mind the entire week: why had Magnus not been at the café? The answer had been a relief. Somehow Alec had thought he’d scared off Magnus by, well, being him. But the opposite seemed to be true, as Magnus had offered them his help and had refused to leave them behind in the hospital when Alec had told him it was fine if he’d wanted to go.

“Now that we’re talking coffee, I could use some caffeine. Anything I can get you?” Magnus offered.

“No, thanks, I’ll stick to water. Usually that works best to minimalize the consequences of my drinking.”

Magnus returned a few minutes later with a bitter look on his face and a bitter drink in his hand. “It’s like hospitals make bad food and beverages on purpose,” he pouted. “This tastes like they used only one badly burned coffee bean to make this entire cup of what they call coffee! My ass, this is sewage water!”

“You can have some of my water,” Alec offered Magnus his cup while laughing at the exaggeration with which the other man had described his drink.

“Thanks,” Magnus said while he washed down the nasty taste in his mouth with a big gulp of the liquid. “Life saver,” he muttered.

“You drove us to the hospital and insisted on staying to check in on Izzy later, and I’m the life saver?” Alec asked, astonished by Magnus’ praise.

Magnus shrugged and smiled fondly. He looked so beautiful.

They stared at each other. Their eyes were locked, the key to unlock their gaze long thrown away. How could Alec not be consumed by the deep, meaningful eyes of the man in front of him? Even the cold, white light of the hospital turned gold in the reflection of those beautiful optics. Alec might have been mistaken, but when he looked in Magnus’ eyes, he saw a glimpse of what looked like the orbs of a cat; it only made them more special and absolutely breathtaking.

They were abruptly torn from their stare battle when someone cleared their throat next to them. When Alec eventually looked away from Magnus, he was met with a knowing grin on Izzy’s face.

Don’t say a word, Alec mouthed to her, a warning look on his face, that he knew for a fact wouldn’t scare his sibling in the slightest. He still hoped to see the day it would.

Doctor Lewis was on Izzy’s left, supporting her gently with one hand on her arm. Isabelle’s face had been cleaned and the wound had been stitched, the sutured cut barely visible anymore. Her ankle had been wrapped tightly in a sterile, white bandage. She was holding herself up on two crutches, combined with the help of the dark-haired doctor.

“I see you two have been enjoying yourselves just fine,” Izzy teased. Nope, Alec really didn’t have any control over his sister.

“Your brother is not bad to spend time with. But we’re not important right now,” Magnus said, receiving a thankful look from Alec. “How are you feeling?”

“Just like I said before, I’m totally fine,” Izzy sighed. “No need to worry about me.” The way she talked suggested she had sobered up slightly since arriving at the hospital, but the slur of some words implied the alcohol still had her less focused and sharp than usually.

“Who will be responsible for taking Isabelle home?” the doctor asked.

Alec heard Izzy mutter “myself” but interrupted her. “That would be me.”

“I would like to officially give you the diagnosis, and finish up the documents for the insurance company. If that’s alright with you,” Lewis said.

The doctor pointed towards a corner of the hallway, seeking some privacy for the conversation. “Your sister, I assume,” Alec nodded, “doesn’t have any permanent damage, and her injuries aren’t too bad, which is why I thought it wasn’t necessary to take you back to my office. If you’d prefer to have this conversation there anyway, that would be fine too,” Lewis offered kindly. Alec was stunned by how young the doctor looked, up close even more than from further away.

“Here is fine,” Alec said.

“Alright,” he started, “Of course I already explained everything to your sister, but I always tell a relative as well, it’s a basic procedure. And I’m not sure how much of the diagnosis she’ll remember tomorrow,” the doctor smiled gently. “Isabelle has sprained her ankle and overstretched the ligaments in the joint. She’s not allowed to walk or run without crutches for at least two weeks. After that, we’ll check on her again and see how the recovery is going. The gash in her forehead wasn’t too deep, but it required stitches; they can be taken out after six days. I suspect she has a mild concussion. It’s important that someone stays with her tonight and wakes her up every two hours to check on her state of mind. If she doesn’t remember where she is and she reacts at all confused, I would like you to come back to the hospital immediately. It’s precautionary, it most likely will not be the case with your sister. Is there anyone she can stay with for the night?”

“She’ll stay with me,” Alec said, still processing everything the doctor had just told him.

“Brilliant.”

Alec filled out some forms for the insurance company and returned to the waiting room, where Izzy and Magnus were laughing and talking passionately. Doctor Lewis had followed Alec and offered his hand to Izzy, Magnus and Alec and continued his shift. Alec did however notice the small blush on Izzy’s face when she had shook the doctor’s hand. Alec wondered if she had suddenly realised she had flirted shamelessly before, or if it was for a totally different reason.

Isabelle and Magnus had continued their conversation again, but when Alec stepped closer, Izzy turned around, a smile from ear to ear on her face.

She giggled. “Magnus agrees that you need new clothes,” she said proudly.

“What?” Alec spat out, surprise in his voice. Magnus’ face turned a light pink. 

“We agreed on the fact that you should wear more colour and not dress like a grumpy old man,” Izzy said flatly.

Alec turned to Magnus, challenge in his voice. “You barely know me and you’re already judging my wardrobe?” he asked. He was rewarded with a bright red blush replacing the light pink one on Magnus’ face. He hadn’t expected Magnus to be fluttered so easily. But maybe he didn’t know the man that well yet, because Alec hadn’t expected the next comment either, and this time he was the one blushing.

“I’m just saying some colour and more body hugging clothes would make you look even hotter,” Magnus said with a smug face.

Alec choked. Hot. Magnus had called him hot.

Izzy giggled again, before suggesting they’d go home.

“Yeah, let’s go home,” Alec replied before the situation could escalate any more.

“I’ll drive you two,” Magnus said and this time Alec didn’t even bother arguing that he should just go home.

“Where to?”

Izzy started telling Magnus the train station from which she could take a train home, but Alec cut her off. “My apartment. Izzy, you’re staying with me,” he said strictly, while giving Magnus his address. And for once, Izzy actually listened to him. It was a fucking miracle.

After they left, Alec realised all he and Magnus had talked about was him. Magnus had been nice ever since they had met, but Alec still knew nothing about him, except for where he lived. It’s not like he hadn’t meant to ask Magnus about his family or job - since Magnus knew all those things about Alec already – but the conversation had been smooth without him asking those questions, and then Izzy had come back and the chance to ask was gone. The curiosity, however, not.

 

When they arrived at the building of Alec’s apartment, Magnus helped Izzy get out of the car, while Alec grabbed their stuff from the back of the vehicle. They cooperated smoothly without communication, as if they’d known each other for ages. Izzy yawned shamelessly.

“It’s been quite the night,” Alec said as he walked towards his sister and helped her stabilise herself. “We should, uhm, probably go up.”

“I think that’s for the best,” Magnus said with soft eyes.

“Thank you so much Magnus, you were so helpful without reason. I can’t thank you enough,” Alec said, a small blush on his cheeks.

“That’s quite alright, Alexander. I would have done it anytime.”

When Alec didn’t know how to respond to that, Izzy cut in. “I’ll text you the exact date of our shopping spree!” she said fondly. “And, thank you.”

“No worries, angel. Now, go upstairs and get some rest. And get better soon!”

Alec helped Izzy inside - even though she insisted she was perfectly capable of walking herself - but turned around one last time. Magnus was already in his car, ready to leave. When Alec turned back around to face Izzy, she was staring at him.

“I guess you figured it out already, but if not: yes, I have Magnus’ number. And I’m sure he doesn’t mind you taking it,” she smirked.

“Izzy!” Alec snapped, while letting go of his sister. He’d had enough of her painfully accurate remarks the entire evening and if she insisted she could walk by herself, she could go right ahead.

Izzy pouted some sad words but Alec had already started walking towards the stairs. He always took the stairs, a habit he had to stay healthy, but turned around the last second.

“You made your point, Alec! But you’re not going to let your dying sister go with the elevator all alone at this hour, now are you?” Izzy yelled.

Alec walked back to Izzy while raising a finger. “Not one word about him. Not one.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Izzy said teasingly, knowing very well who Alec had referred to.

“I’m sorry!” Izzy laughed when Alec started leaving again. “I won’t say another word, I promise!”

“Good,” Alec said flatly, before guiding his sister to the waiting elevator. “Oh, one more thing, I don’t know how you’ve interpreted the doctor’s diagnosis, if you’ve heard it all, but you’re not dying. So don’t pull that trick on me.”

“No sir, won’t happen again,” Izzy said playfully, before entering the elevator. But when the elevator closed its doors and Alec had nowhere else to go, she couldn’t help herself from blurting out one more teasing sentence.

“At least the liking of each other’s physique is mutual.”

Alec grunted loudly. She was never going to let this go, was she?

Chapter Text

“Chairman, are you even listening?” Magnus asked the cat in front of him, who was currently preoccupied with thoroughly cleaning his bottom. It was quite the sight; Magnus standing in his living room, arms folded in front of his chest and talking to the busy fluff ball on the carpet in front of him. (Magnus had actually gotten Chairman one of those fancy, way too expensive, cat pillows, but the cat had refused to even touch it once, as he preferred the carpet.)

“Hey! I’m trying to get your advice here, okay?” Magnus snapped, addressing his cat again, who finally seemed to have finished cleaning himself. Magnus interpreted the soft purr as a sign to start talking again.

“As I was saying,” Magnus continued the story he had started before the cat had busied himself with – in the Chairman’s opinion - more important matters. “I have a problem. I’m about to get a coffee at Pandemonium, but there’s someone I’m not sure I want to see,” Magnus said with a pained expression on his face. Chairman Meow had made himself comfortable, his paws lazily stretched over his upward-facing belly, his head pointed in Magnus’ direction. If you didn’t know better, you’d believe the cat had gotten himself ready to genuinely listen to his owner’s story.

“I mean, I want to see him. Really badly. But that right there is exactly the problem, I’m not allowed to see him – he’s called Alec…Alexander by the way - because I want something from him I can’t have. He has a boyfriend, you see. At least, that’s what I think,” Magnus said, uncharacteristically uncertain of what he was saying, even though it was a cat he was talking to. An animal who was, theoretically speaking, very incompetent of understanding him and therefore judging him.

However, Chairman purred softly, as if understanding Magnus’ struggle completely.

“But this Valentine dude really doesn’t deserve him. This one time I saw them together, Alec didn’t even seem to enjoy Valentine’s touch,” Magnus spat out the oldest man’s name as if it were dirt in his mouth. “Alec and I, we seem to have this connection. Damn that’s cheesy Magnus,” he told himself. He was drifting off topic and, as it seemed, the Chairman had once again lost interest in the story.

“Long story short: I like him and I’d like to get to know him better. But it’s inappropriate to just ask him out in front of his boyfriend, who ultimately is also his boss. But then again, Valentine is in my opinion not worthy of Alec and I’m not even a hundred percent sure they’re together in the first place!” Magnus cried out while throwing his hands in the air. His cat seemed to have taken that as his cue to leave and replace Magnus’ sob story for a bowl of food in the kitchen.

“So much for loyalty!” Magnus yelled after the retreating form of his cat.

Magnus continued his conversation - which had turned into a monologue after the departure of a certain pet – while sitting down on one of the comfortable chairs and resting his head on the back of the chair.

“God, you’re pathetic,” Magnus muttered to himself. “I feel bad for feeling something for Alec, because he has a boyfriend. And then I completely run down their possible relationship. What on earth am I supposed to do with myself?”

A couple of minutes passed before Magnus got up and grabbed his trench coat. When the Chairman heard the movement in the living room, he quickly ran towards his boss.

“Now that I’ve solved the problem myself, you want to know what I’m going to do, huh?” Magnus sneered.

He turned towards the door, turning his back to his cat, having made up his mind. “I’m going to be me. Sassy and straightforward, because that’s who I am. And sue me for ruining a relationship that is already poisoned!” he yelled before throwing the door open and slamming it shut after dramatically stepping out of his apartment.

It was a little over the top, Magnus realised a second later. But screw that. He was Magnus freaking Bane; he lived for being over the top.

 

Magnus ended up giving himself a few pep talks on the way to the restaurant to keep his confidence going. Besides involuntarily riding a rollercoaster of emotions at the moment, Magnus felt great as he opened the door to coffee heaven. When he entered the space, he realised he didn’t even know for a fact if Alec would be there. He only knew Alec usually worked on Saturday mornings, but he hadn’t mentioned having a weekend shift when Izzy had asked the tall man about his job, earlier that week in the hospital. Well, there was only one way to find out if he was here.

And oh yes, Alec was present. All 1,9 metres of pure beauty were busy behind the bar, cleaning and making coffee. Magnus had to physically pinch himself to stop staring. It wasn’t like he’d never seen the other man before, but somehow Magnus found himself struck by his beauty once again. How could he not be? It just wasn’t fair. That messy dark hair was too perfect! And that was just one of the many, many features Magnus liked about Alec.

Alec seemed to have noticed Magnus standing by the door and had started waving at him to come over. Magnus obliged happily, a bit of the knot in his stomach untangling at seeing the smile on Alec’s face.

“How’s Izzy?” Magnus asked when he reached the bar. To be honest, he already knew the answer, since he’d been texting with Alec’s sister the entire week, but what else was he supposed to ask? “Hey, Alec are you still doing your boss?” or “Alexander, want to go on a date with me, even though you’re in a relationship?” That just wouldn’t come across as very casual, and the Izzy question seemed to have done the trick anyway, because Alec had responded immediately without judgment in his voice.

“She’s doing great, but she’s still recovering. She’s kind of frustrated by the concussion; it forces her to actually rest, which is something she’s not too good at,” Alec laughed. Magnus remembered the conversation he’d had with Izzy two days ago, when she’d complained his ears off about the concussion and how her brain should have recovered by then, because she had important shit to do.

“It’s a good thing she’s tired most of the time,” Alec continued, “because I’m pretty sure she would have torn the bandage around her ankle straight off if she’d have had the energy to walk again and go out.”

“Seems like something she would do,” Magnus agreed.

Alec had been multitasking while talking and had started to prepare a coffee, which Magnus assumed was his - Alec knew his order by now. And indeed, a second later the cup was placed in front of him. But when Magnus slid the caffeine drink closer, it didn’t look like his order at all. There was no mushroom shaped figure of brown coffee in the milk foam, and there was no sign of the dollop of caramel that should have been added at the very end. Did Alec mess it up?

When Magnus looked up to ask Alec what went wrong, he was met with a smug grin.

“What-” Magnus started.

“You always take the same exact thing,” Alec interrupted him. “There are so many other great coffees to try. And besides, it doesn’t seem like you to never take a risk.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You seem like a person who’s curious about everything. I figured, you only needed a little step in the right direction to discover all the different coffees we offer.” Alec was smiling, but there was some doubt in his voice, an ever so light tremble. “So, I took it upon myself to make a start. Taste it.”

At first Magnus didn’t know what to say. Had Alec just denied him his regular coffee? Had he, instead, taken the effort to find one Magnus would love as much, if not better? There was something so endearing about that thought. But Magnus wouldn’t be Magnus if he didn’t take advantage of the situation by responding with a clever question. Being himself was what he’d told himself to do when he’d left his apartment, after all.

“Should I consider this as you buying me a drink?” he asked with his most flirtatious, low voice, a challenging look on his face.

Alec’s breath hitched, a small choking sound erupting from his mouth. Magnus couldn’t have hoped for a better reaction; it was just so incredibly cute to see Alec get embarrassed and fluttered by one, simple question. Magnus didn’t exactly consider the possibility of Alec reacting the way he did, because another man had been flirting with him while his boyfriend was barely five metres away. In fact, Magnus took it even further when Alec replied with a repetitive stutter of “Uhm” and “I-,I-”.

“Too late. Already done. That means I’ll have to take you out for a drink sometime, Alexander,” Magnus said slyly, emphasising the full name of the startled man in front of him.

“Yeah,” was all Alec was able to blurt out before Magnus’ phone started bursting some ridiculously loud tune he’d once set as his ringtone for unknown callers when he was drunk (he’d never taken the effort to change it after that, which resulted in him having “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO as his ringtone for more than two years already, much to his friends’ disbelieve and aversion).

Magnus cursed whoever had interrupted the moment by calling him, before declining the call and turning back towards Alec. However, Alec seemed to have been occupied too. Valentine’s hand was in his neck, slowly caressing the small hairs on the back of his head. It was an oddly intimate action to pursue while at work, but it became even worse when Valentine bent forward slightly to come closer to the younger bartender as he whispered something in his ear. To any stranger watching, it could have looked like a confession of love, but to Magnus it didn’t at all. He was sure he didn’t imagine the way Alec’s entire body had flinched the tiniest bit when Valentine had rubbed his neck. And it was absolutely impossible to have dreamed the way Alec had fought back the reflex to step away from his boss when he’d shuffled closer.

It didn’t make sense. Of course, Alec could be one to dislike showing affection in public, let alone at work, but he could have just told his boyfriend off, right? He could have shoved Valentine’s arm off of his shoulder the second it had landed there. And yet, he hadn’t, though he clearly didn’t feel comfortable with the situation. If Magnus had disapproved of their relationship before, he was absolutely disgusted by it now. If Alec didn’t even dare to tell his boyfriend off about such a small thing, Magnus could feel horrified imagining what they must be like when they’re fighting. It didn’t seem right.

Magnus didn’t like third-wheeling, even though Valentine had started to retreat already, and threw a ten-dollar bill on the bar and took his coffee.

“Keep the change,” he yelled before leaving the place as quickly as he could.

He didn’t even know what had just happened, but the situation had made him feel sick. He just needed to be somewhere he didn’t need to look at his crush – yes, he had developed a crush – being touched by his boyfriend right in front of his eyes. The worst, Alec had clearly not liked it. And not knowing why, had Magnus confused.

For one second, a thought crossed his mind. One he quickly pushed to the back, because it couldn’t be. What if Valentine wasn’t Alec’s boyfriend and had been intimidating Alec? Magnus could have texted Izzy. He could have asked her about Alec’s dating status, but he didn’t. Because if he did, he considered it an option that Alec was being harassed, and he couldn’t fathom the thought.

It was probably just him who was seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. It had to be.

Alec was making him go insane.

***

What the fuck just happened?

Alec had raced to the bathroom the second Magnus had left. He’d locked the door before throwing some water in his face and taking a deep breath.

Breathe, Alec. Breathe.

But how was he supposed to do that after what had just happened.

Breathing had become an action Alec had to consciously remind himself to do when the door of the restaurant had been opened to the beautiful face full of glittery make up. It had become difficult to breathe when the other man had started flirting with him – because Magnus had been flirting shamelessly, even Alec recognised that. But it had become impossible when Alec’s eyes had been on Magnus when the latter had taken his phone out of his pocket and a large, rough hand had creeped up his neck. Alec had been sure he was not going to survive with the lack of oxygen running in his rushing blood when Valentine had whispered in his ear, way too close to Alec’s face.

“No flirting at work.”

Over the last two weeks, Alec had noticed the increase of physical contact with Valentine. It had all started that time he’d spoken to Magnus at the bar. Alec had been confused afterwards, but hadn’t thought about it too much. Not until now, when things were clearly going in the wrong direction. But the problem was, he couldn’t, and maybe didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Valentine was his boss and if Alec were to accuse him of being too physical with his employees – only Alec really, he’d never once seen valentine as close to Jace as he was with him – Valentine would lead him straight to the door and ask him not to return; he’d easily be replaced.

It’s not like Alec really liked this job, and therefore feared of being fired, but he needed a way into the world of neat cuisine. And so far, Valentine had been the only option. He couldn’t be fired, it would take away his only opportunity of making a career. But Alec knew he’d have to make an end to it eventually, before things could spiral out of hand.

A soft knock on the door, followed by a whisper, tore Alec from his thoughts.

“Hey, buddy,” Jace said softly, “you okay in there?”

Alec looked at himself in the mirror before clearing his throat. “Yes, I’ll be back in a sec.” Alec just needed another minute to conceal the confused look on his face.

“Actually,” Jace said, even softer this time, “I-” he sounded nervous. “I saw what just happened.”

Alec drew a sharp breath.

“I don’t know how you think about it, but it’s weird, man. He’s way too fucking close to you all the time. At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal, but now? You’ve got to tell him off at some point, you know?”

When Alec didn’t respond, Jace continued. “If you don’t tell him, I will. He’s not going to touch my best buddy like that. Not under my watch.”

Alec still didn’t reply.

“Okay, I’m gonna go now. I’m afraid you have to get back soon, too. Before everyone notices,” Jace said, before leaving Alec alone again.

Goddammit, why couldn’t Valentine just keep his fucking hands to himself? And why did he have to choose Alec?

Before he left the bathroom, Alec looked at himself in the mirror, as if making what he was going to say next official. “If it happens one more time, you’re going to ask him politely to keep his hands to himself. Capiche?”

And with that he unlocked the door to get back to work. If Valentine would bother him once more, he would make an end to it. He had to.

He was almost back at the bar when he felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. When he got it out, he found a message from Izzy.

Izzy: Family dinner next Thursday at mom and dad’s. Time enough to mentally prepare, good luck!

How had his day started off so good, and become so dreadful in just a matter of minutes? As if the whole Valentine problem wasn’t bad enough already. One mention of his parents and everything immediately became so much worse. Five days. That’s how long he had to get himself ready for the awful event to take place.

First things first, though; let’s get back to work.

***

The coffee tasted really good. Magnus didn’t know what Alec had put in there, but he recognised the delicious buttery hint of what seemed to have been white chocolate combined with the nutty taste of hazelnut. It was bittersweet like any coffee, though it wasn’t just the taste that made the beverage bittersweet. The thought alone of Alec made Magnus’ stomach twist and turn, for every wrong reason. He’d struggled with the thought of the dark-haired man being touched like that the entire way home. Something about the whole situation, whether it was that Magnus had been stubborn and faced with the fact once again that Alec was taken and he wouldn’t stand a chance, or just that Magnus hadn’t felt this strongly about anyone before, made breaths come out slightly hitched.

The emotions were too much, so Magnus did what he always did when he badly needed to blow off steam: he painted.

He didn’t even know what it was he was creating, until the dark colours contrasting with the bright, blood red started to form coherent objects and shapes on the earlier blank canvas. The wild, yet controlled strokes of various brushes, large and thick to small and precise, cohered perfectly to create art that at first seemed like nothing in particular. Until you looked at it just a little longer.

Magnus hadn’t intended to paint his old bedroom, the one in his parents’ house where he’d grown up, but when he was emotional he always painted something from his past; something that carried even more emotion, that made him realise his life wasn’t quite that bad. That it could be so much worse.

When Magnus dropped his brush and admired his work, he was much calmer already. Happy, even. The painting was one of his best works and it would definitely be a part of the exhibition, he decided right there.

It was a good thing he had made a painting again, because the rest of the exhibition and gallery wasn’t coming together at all yet. He’d picked out the place, but the bank had been incredibly difficult with regards to granting him the loan required to set up his gallery. They weren’t denying him the money definitively, he just needed to bring them his more detailed plan and needed budget, which was something he didn’t have. At least not yet.

Since he didn’t have any other plans for the night, he gathered all the financial stuff belonging to the project and tried his best at adding up the numbers to come up with a solid plan. There was just one problem: he really sucked at financials. If only he’d know someone who could help him out. Cat and Ragnor, and even Dot (who was always helpful but disgusted doing anything financial even more than Magnus himself) had tried to help him, but without much success. They either screwed up just as much as Magnus and made a mess of anything he had already filed, or they ended up watching some simple-souled reality show because neither of them actually felt like doing the task at hand. Which resulted in Magnus being denied the loan he really needed.

Just like any other time, Magnus had tried, he really had. But it just didn’t work out. Maybe he should hire someone to figure out his mess.

Right now, though, he’d just watch his guilty pleasure show. The financials would come later.

***

“So, Alexander-”

“It’s Alec,” he cut his dad off. He knew it wasn’t fair to be so moody already, they hadn’t even done anything in particular to upset him (yet) but they knew how much he hated to be called by his birth name (except when it came from a specific man’s mouth).

“So, Alec,” his father corrected himself, a judgmental tone to his voice. “How’s life in New York?”

“Great,” Alec said without giving a single thought to his answer, he wasn’t going to tell his parents the truth anyway.

Alec hadn’t talked much to his parents ever since he’d left Philadelphia. It wasn’t like he’d wanted to break off all contact with them, but his parents hadn’t exactly been supportive of his decisions; the situation didn’t invite Alec to call them every day and cry on the phone about all the setbacks he’d had to endure. But after all, they were still his parents. And what child doesn’t want their parents to be proud?

Alec had tried his best to talk some sense into them at the rare family encounters they’d had ever since his departure, but it hadn’t helped much. His parents were still judgemental and non-supportive, though they had stopped saying that straight to his face. Instead, they had started asking him these questions “How’s New York?” and “Has the world seen your talent yet?”, when all they really meant to ask was, “Are you still failing horribly and regretting leaving the company, your future?

Eventually he’d stopped trying, he knew his parents wouldn’t support him, maybe not even when he would make it to the top. But it didn’t hurt any less. His parents had always been like that, striving for success, and they demanded no less of their children. But success, in their eyes, meant having power and making endless amounts of money in the most efficient way. Being successful didn’t mean possibly being at the top of the ladder in the kitchen, while taking the risks of falling down the entire way up.

Alec understood (partly) where it came from. His father had come from a rich family and had had all the resources to create an empire, which he’d done in the form of Lightwood Investment bureau. As he always liked to put it “Life was good, but I made it even better,” and he expected no less of Alec and his other children.

His mother, however, he didn’t get. She had grown up in a big family, they were wealthy, but not incredibly rich. His mom had gone to university, had even gotten her master’s degree, but never actually made career. Robert had just set up his company and Maryse was applying for jobs, when she had gotten pregnant of Alec. It had forced her to stay at home and take care of her child, while Robert was at work most of the time. It had wiped away her chance of following her dream to set up her own company, and it seems she had no problem with not being successful herself. But now that it comes down to her children, she’s just as demanding as her husband.

“Did you find a job yet?” his father asked, this time a little more forcefully.

“Yes, in fact I did,” Alec shot back. In the meantime, his sister and little brother were both looking away from the conversation - if that’s what you could call it – their soup suddenly worth staring at. Alec knew this evening was mostly centred around him – the unsuccessful son that had left the household – but that didn’t mean his parents wouldn’t take the opportunity to ask their other children unnerving questions they wouldn’t get the chance to ask on a daily basis. Izzy and Max would, without a doubt, get their fair share of questions.

“Do continue,” his mother suddenly said, joining the conversation when it got interesting.

“I work at a restaurant,” Alec said matter-of-factly. He wasn’t lying, he did work at a restaurant. Just not in the way his parents thought, though he wouldn’t tell them. No need to make the situation any worse.

‘It’s a really nice place,” Izzy cheered. Alec couldn’t thank her enough for helping him get through the worst part.

“Is that so?” Maryse said, genuine surprise in her voice.

“It is. They serve the best coffee in New York!” Izzy said, enthusiasm audible. Alec sent a smile her way. She was exaggerating a little, but it seemed to work as his parents both found themselves startled at the news. Izzy had never actually been to his job, but he’d told her enough for her to make her statement trustworthy to his parents.

It went silent for a minute. Even his parents didn’t seem to have any pressing questions for the time being, so Alec took the chance to change the topic and talk to his little brother for the first time since arriving.

“Hey Max, how’s school?”

Max jumped up in his chair, his composure relaxing at the opportunity to talk about something he liked. “It’s great! Last week I was chosen honour student of the week! And I’m in opportunity class for mathematics since three weeks,” Max rambled. “And we’re working on a really cool project with arts and crafts!”

“Tell me more about that,” Alec said proudly. His little brother had always been smart, highly intellectual even. He loved solving equations in his free time and reading ahead on the topics of next week’s class, but the one thing he loved more was drawing.

“We have to create shapes and figures, they can be round or squared it doesn’t matter, and then come up with the power of a certain shape. For example, one can be strength and another extra power. It’s super cool!” he exclaimed.

“Sounds awesome, buddy. Is there a name for these “shapes and figures” or did Mrs. Herondale think of it?”

“They’re called runes, I can show you some of mine!” Max said enthusiastically.

“Why don’t we do that after we finish dinner?” Maryse cut in.

“Okay,” Max said, a little disappointed.

“Isabelle,” Alec saw her cringe at the name. Just like Alec, she preferred not being called by her birth name, at least not when it came from her parents. “Why don’t you tell Alec about college?”

Alec looked up, a little surprised by his mother’s remark.

“Uhm, yeah. I’m graduating in two weeks.”

“Wait what?” Alec blurted out. As far as he was concerned, Izzy wasn’t graduating for another two months. Why hadn’t she told him?

“I meant to tell you,” she started. “I finished my thesis earlier than I thought I would, so yeah. Two weeks.”

There was something off about her tone, Alec couldn’t quite put his finger on it. But he was proud, nonetheless. So proud of his little sister. She was graduating so soon and then (hopefully) moving to New York!

“That’s amazing, Iz! I’m so proud of you!” Alec said.

She smiled widely, but her eyes were a little sombre. His parents didn’t seem to pick up on that, though, and asked Alec the next question on the list: the relationship one.

“Alec, is there a girl we can meet yet?”

Alec met Izzy’s eyes again, this time it were his that were sombre. He’d dreaded this question the most of all. “No, not really,” he muttered.

“Not really?” his father asked. “Is that a yes or a no?”

“A no.”

“Oh.” A disappointed look reappeared on his parents’ faces. Faces Alec knew he should no longer be affected by.

“Well, it’s time you do bring someone home. We’ve been waiting way too long,” his father said, a forced smile on his face that was more repulsive than endearing.

Alec nodded. What on earth was he supposed to say to that? “I’m working on it, but don’t be shocked, it will most likely be a dude?” He was pretty sure his parents would both have a heart attack right then and there, after having physically kicked him out of the house first, of course. And besides, who were his parents to demand from him to have a healthy relationship, when both of them seemed to fail drastically at it themselves?

 

The rest of the dinner wasn’t much better, but the most difficult questions had been asked at the beginning, so the worst was over. Alec would have loved to have had the chance to talk to his siblings alone, not with the eyes of their parents constantly watching over them. He had wanted to ask Max how he was holding up under all the pressure. He’d only had updates via Izzy and Max didn’t seem all too closed off this evening, but it could all be pretend and it worried Alec. He also wanted to talk to Izzy, about her graduation being moved forward.

It wasn’t until Alec was at the door, ready to leave when Izzy came up to him. “I’m sorry Alec,” she said apologetically. “I should have told you about the graduation.”

Alec wasn’t angry, he just didn’t understand it. “Why didn’t you?” he asked softly.

“It wasn’t my choice to graduate early. Mom and dad kind of – uhm, forced me. They saw my grades and thought the sooner the better, so they convinced me to graduate in two weeks from now. Also, I didn’t want to-” Izzy laughed nervously, before continuing. “I didn’t want mom and dad to be extra proud of me for graduating early, while they are still basically disowning you for quitting your job. I don’t want the extra attention, you know? And you deserve to have proud parents just as much as I do.” Izzy’s eyes were wet now, the emotion raw and pure on her face.

“Hey, Iz,” Alec said, while he pulled his sister in his arms. “It’s okay. I don’t need mom and dad to be proud of me. Not anymore, at least. I know I made the right decision by quitting the company, and I’m proud of myself for that. You don’t need to feel sorry, okay? Just don’t let any of that hold you back from telling me this kind of information in the future. I’ll always be proud of you, because you deserve that and so much more.”

Izzy pulled out of Alec’s grip. “That’s so cheesy, Alec!” she laughed. “But thanks. Now, get your butt back home, before the last train leaves and there’s nothing else you can do but sleep here.”

“No thank you! I’m on my way!” Alec laughed while kissing Izzy’s cheek lightly. “See you soon sis.”

“See you big brother!” Izzy waved before closing the door.

Chapter Text

Breathe. Breathe, Alec. BREATHE!

It was too late. He had been too late. It had happened. He had seen it coming and yet it had come so unexpectedly.

Breathe.

Walk. Step by step. Foot by foot. Metre by metre.

Alec didn’t know where he was going and it didn’t matter much, as long as the distance from him became bigger with every step he took. He had to get away, but walking was hard. So incredibly difficult, like every single muscle in his legs suddenly went numb, paralysing the lower half of his body.

Tears rolled down his face like waterfalls. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d cried, but nothing was stopping him from doing it now. He didn’t stop moving; a combination of falling, running and staggering. He had to move.

How had he not seen it coming? How had he been so ignorant? The signs had been there, bright and clear. They were ten merely grey clouds colliding together and evolving into one big, black cloud that starting pouring down imminent amounts of precipitation before you could even think of hiding. He should have looked ahead, then he could have predicted this outcome.

Valentine hadn’t touched Alec ever since the last encounter, when Alec had fled to the bathroom afterwards. He hadn’t bothered Alec by stepping too close, he hadn’t even put his hand on Alec’s or an arm around his shoulders. He hadn’t whispered in his ear, he hadn’t yelled either. It had been so good. Too good to be true, it turned out.

Breathe. Walk.

Tonight had been Alec’s first evening shift. He didn’t know why, but Valentine had so far only scheduled him to work in the mornings and afternoons, never the night. This time he worked late because Jace was out of town, enjoying some time with his girlfriend, Clary. Jace had asked Alec to take over his night shift and even though that meant working alone with Valentine, Alec hadn’t doubted long before saying yes; Valentine hadn’t done anything the entire week. Why would he that night?

If only he’d realised that working the night shift meant closing the restaurant at night, in the dark with nobody else around other than his boss. If only, maybe he wouldn’t be desperately stumbling the dark streets of New York at this moment, cheeks wet, figuring out where to go. If only…

The shift had been long and exhausting, the last costumers only leaving at 11:00 PM. Valentine had been patient the entire night, maybe even a little nice. He had complimented Alec on his friendly behaviour around costumers and had smiled at him. He hadn’t acted differently when he’d closed the doors behind the last people.

They had started cleaning up the space, putting chairs and tables in the right places and cleaning the remainders of food and crumpled napkins. Alec had gone to the sanitary room looking for one of those cheap, yellow cloths. His hearing was good, brilliant even. He usually heard everything, but this time he had completely missed the sounds of someone entering the room and closing and locking the door behind him.

Alec dropped the cloth and his breath staggered when a hand creeped up his back, over the bumps of his spine. He should have acted immediately. He should have turned around and hit the person touching him, but he couldn’t. His entire body froze. His brain was screaming, yelling, begging him to take action. To do something. Anything. But he just stood there, transfixed. The connection between body and mind absent, the control over his limps completely gone.

The hand moved upwards, from his lower back up to the small of his neck.

Alec felt the ghost of someone’s breath itching at the sensitive skin behind his ear.

“I’ve been waiting so long to get you alone,” Valentine’s voice croaked, low and full of desire.

No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening.

“You have no idea how long I’ve been fantasizing about this moment, I’ve dreamed about this countless times,” Valentine laughed bitterly.

The older man moved one hand over to the front of Alec’s face, slowly caressing his cheek like it was a precious belonging, while the other disappeared under Alec’s left arm. It slowly trailed along Alec’s side, moving it towards his front, before it stopped on the shirt on top of Alec’s racing heart.

“Seems like someone wants this just as badly as I do,” Valentine said while brushing his lips to the back of Alec’s neck.

No! No, I don’t want this. I don’t, I really don’t.

The panic boiled in his veins, before finally regaining enough control to turn around and open his mouth to speak.

“No! Stop! Valentine, I don’t want this! Get off-” Valentine’s lips on his made it impossible to speak.

This time his recovery was quicker, taking only a couple of seconds before he was pushing the strong man away.

“Give into your feelings, you want this, Alexander,” Valentine purred while pushing Alec’s back flush against the wall.

His hands were everywhere. Attacking his arms, kneading the tight muscles around his neck, on his pecks. They moved south, south, south.

“No,” Alec cried out, desperately trying to push Valentine away. But he didn’t just look strong, he was strong. Much stronger than Alec. The younger man didn’t stand a chance.

The hands moved and moved. Keeping him still against the concrete behind him, while sliding down over his stomach.

“You’re so beautiful Alec,” the strong man moaned against Alec’s mouth. “You have no idea what you do to me. You make me crazy, I’ve had to release myself of the ever building pressure inside so many times after I saw you bend over so seductively every time you picked up something. You did that for me, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t-” Alec couldn’t finish his sentence. He didn’t even know what to say. He was completely grossed out by the thought of Valentine touching himself while thinking of him. The dry, hard lips were back to his, and the hands moved lower, lower.

“Please,” Alec begged, screaming for help was useless, nobody would hear him. But Valentine interpreted his plea completely wrong.

“You want this, don’t you?” he asked suggestively, not giving Alec the opportunity to say no, when he moved his hands down over Alec’s jeans.

Alec gasped and Valentine moaned, loud.

“You feel so good, Alexander, so good. I’m going to make you feel even better. Don’t worry.”

Alec gave every little bit of his strength when he put his hands to Valentine’s shoulders and pushed him. But he hadn’t even moved an inch before Alec’s back was against the wall again, pushing the air out of his lungs.

“You want this to be rough, huh? Well, I’m not complaining.”

“Please, no,” Alec’s voice was barely a whisper.

Valentine kissed him hard and rough. Pushing his body to Alec’s while one hand worked on Alec’s belt buckle and the other was still on top of the fabric between Alec’s thighs. Alec didn’t kiss back. His hands were free and he didn’t give up fighting Valentine. He had to get out of here. Now. The moment Valentine opened the button on Alec’s jeans, he grabbed Alec’s wrists and pinned them to the wall next to his ears. He deepened the kiss, forcing Alec’s lips to make an entry for his tongue, which he pushed in with force and determination.

Alec felt Valentine’s body against his, he felt every muscle that made it impossible for him to move. His position was powerless. He was proud of himself for having enough control over his mind – while his boss was kissing him senseless – to remember one of the moves Izzy had learned him from her self-defence class. He needed Valentine to move, give him a little more space to manoeuvre. If he would back off a couple of inches and he would let go of his arms, he would have a chance. He had to take action first, tough. Alec was mentally vomiting from the idea, but it was his only chance before things would get even worse.

Alec kissed Valentine back. He didn’t miss the excited hum Valentine let out at the feeling of Alec’s tongue finally twirling around his. Alec’s plan worked. After another second, Valentine moved back slightly.

“I told you, you want this,” he sighed, beyond all reasonable thought. He moved his head away from Alec’s.

I need my hands.

“Lower my jeans,” Alec instructed, and Alec was disgusted by the moan that erupted from Valentine’s throat.

“With pleasure,” he said while letting go of Alec’s wrists and moving his hands eagerly to the waistband of the younger man’s jeans, urging them down slightly. Before the fabric sunk lower than the elastic band of Alec’s boxers, Alec gathered all his power. He lowered his arms and pushed a forearm forward, against Valentine’s throat as hard as he could. Valentine let out a choked breath. Alec didn’t stop. He stepped forward and lifted his leg, hitting Valentine’s groin with his knee with such force the older man whimpered before collapsing and reaching to the injured area with both hands.

Now!

Alec jumped away from the wall, around Valentine and towards the door. He reached for the handle and turned it, but the door didn’t open.

Valentine had locked it. Of course he had.

He hadn’t taken out the key, though. Alec heard the muffled sounds of someone getting back to his feet. He turned the key and reached back for the doorknob, before flinging the door open. He ran, but hands grabbed at the hem of his shirt, tearing it, and lowering Alec to the ground. He got up before Valentine could stop him and moved quickly. As he ran towards the entry of the restaurant, he heard the heavy footsteps of someone following him.

“Don’t you dare leave!” Valentine yelled.

Alec reached his destination, turning yet another key before he threw the door open. Fresh air hit his face, stinging particularly on his left cheek. Valentine was only seconds away and Alec didn’t hesitate as he started running again. Away from the drama. Away from the distress. Away from him.

Alec had left everything behind, not bothering and not having the time nor the chance to turn back around to grab his phone, wallet and keys; all the essentials he needed to either get to his own place or one of someone he knew. The city was still rather new to him, and even if he did know how to get to Jace’s place, he wasn’t home. He would never be able to get to Philadelphia without money and he couldn’t call Izzy to come pick him up, again due to his lack of money and a phone. He lived with a roommate, but Alec knew better than to hope for him to be home; he never was around this hour.

The tears had stopped falling down his cheeks like waterfalls, but his eyes weren’t dry yet. It was so much, too much to process and he just needed a safe place to go. It wasn’t until he dared to look up, that he recognised the buildings that towered over him. He’d been here before, albeit only once. It took him longer than usual – the stress still consuming a significant part of his brain – to realise where he was. If he’d turn around the corner, he’d be at Magnus’ place.

Ever since the last time he’d seen him, he’d considered going here. He hadn’t thought, however, that it would ever be for this reason. He probably wasn’t home, or already asleep, but there was a small chance he’d open the door. He had to try, what else was he supposed to do? Wander the streets the entire night with a torn T-shirt and tear-stained cheeks?

But when he entered the foyer of the apartment building, doubt returned. Yes, he and Magnus had seen each other a couple of times, but that didn’t mean Magnus actually wanted anything to do with him, let alone deal with all the misery in his life. He couldn’t do that to him, it wasn’t fair, saddling Magnus with his problems like he was Alec’s therapist.

He was ready to turn around and actually wander New York, when someone – no not someone, Magnus – called him out.

“Hey Alec! What are you doing here? Were you so eager to see me?” Magnus joked when he stepped closer. But when Alec found the guts to turn around, Magnus’ mouth fell open, shock and horror on his face. He jumped forwards and gently rubbed his thumb over Alec’s cheek, brushing away some of the wetness.

“Alec, what happened?” he asked, so soft Alec barely made out the words.

Alec wanted to say something, but if he’d had any words ready to leave his mouth, they were drowned by the fresh stream of tears. Magnus pulled him into a tight hug, whispering soft, soothing words in his ear. The touch and intimacy should have freaked Alec out, but the familiarity of Magnus made Alec hug him even tighter. He wanted Magnus to hold him, keep him safe and replace Valentine’s touch by his own.

“Want to go upstairs?” Magnus offered, gently pulling away from Alec and observing his face. “You don’t have to tell me what happened, but I’m not going to let you leave like this. Let me a least give you a new shirt and let me clean your wound.”

Alec nodded, the struggle of finding his words ongoing. He didn’t notice Magnus having mentioned a wound. He didn’t feel any pain externally; the pain was inside.

“I’m sorry,” Alec managed to croak. He shouldn’t have burdened Magnus with his problems.

Apparently, Magnus’ opinion on that matter was different. “Don’t say that. You could clearly use some help, and I’m more than willing to give it.”

Magnus led Alec to the elevators, politely asking a young woman to wait so that they could be alone in the lift. How they actually got to Magnus’ place or how he ended up on his soft couch in the living room, was kind of a blur to him.

Magnus appeared from another room – probably the bathroom – with a wet cloth and a first aid kit. He put them down beside Alec, before walking off again. “Let me get you a T-shirt first, and maybe a nice, warm blanket?”

When he returned, Magnus handed him the piece of clothing. “I’ll give you some privacy,” he said softly before disappearing into the kitchen. Alec pulled at the hem of his shirt and heard a tearing sound at the first tug he gave the fabric. Valentine had done that, torn his shirt, left him with a mark. He needed it off, now. He basically tore of the piece of clothing, ignoring the pain coursing through his upper body that came with the aggressive movement. He quickly changed into the shirt Magnus had offered him, feeling exposed without it on.

The small change in his outfit made the connection to Valentine weaker, he didn’t want to be reminded to what had happened by the clothes he’d worn during it. In fact, he wished he could take off all his clothes, throw them in the shredder and jump in the shower, washing off every single skin cell that had been touched by those disgusting hands.

Alec coughed lightly, his way to tell Magnus he was good to come in. He walked over to Alec, and as if he was reading his mind said, “If you want to, you’re more than welcome to take a shower, but I’d like to clean the cut on your cheek first.” He opened the first aid kit and took out a small bottle of iodine and some butterfly bandages when Alec nodded.

“This might sting a little,” he said softly when he leaned in and cupped Alec face gently with one hand while he used the other to pour a few droplets into the wound. He had probably cut his cheek when he fell in the restaurant and hit his head on the ground, trying to get away from…Valentine. The name made Alec’s stomach twist, giving him the urge to vomit. He gagged a little, but Magnus brought him back to the present.

“It’s okay, you’re okay. The wound is not deep, but I’ve put some butterfly bandages over it to seal it. It might leave a tiny scar, but you’re going to have to use a loop to see it,” he assured Alec. “You want to take a shower?” Magnus whispered.

Suddenly the tides turned. Where it had been impossible to get one word to make it out his mouth, Alec felt the flood of words, sentences ready on his tongue. Of course, that went hand in hand with another stream of tears.

“My boss,” he started, crying through staggered breaths.

“Valentine,” Magnus said knowingly, assuring Alec he knew the man.

“He- He-. We were alone.” Magnus moved a little closer to Alec. “I was so stupid. I should have seen it coming. We worked together tonight and after the shift- I was getting a cloth for cleaning the tables and he was just there, right behind me.” Alec sobbed and struggled to breathe.

Magnus grabbed Alec’s hands reassuringly, telling Alec to take his time to continue.

“He…t- touched me. I told him not to, I told him so many times, but he wouldn’t listen,” Alec cried softly. “He kissed me, opened my jeans and I couldn’t stop him, he’s so strong.”

Magnus was clearly in shock. His breathing fastened and the grip on Alec’s hands tightened a little. He looked at Alec, meeting his eyes. Alec saw the pain on his face, the doubt whether to ask or not. Magnus chose to do the first.

“You’re not…together?” he asked unsurely.

“No!” Alec all but yelled, the idea alone made him feel nauseous all over again.

“Son of a bitch,” Magnus cursed under his breath. “I’m going to kill him!” He reached out to Alec’s injured cheek. “He did this?” Alec nodded. “He harassed you?” Alec nodded again, shocked by the realisation of what had just happened; he had been harassed by his boss. “Oh my god,” Magnus gasped. “Oh, Alexander,” he sighed softly. “You’re safe now. Tell me what you need and I’ll get it for you. Do you want to call your sister?”

Alec shook his head. “No, she’s sleeping, I don’t want to wake her.”

“I’m certain she won’t mind being woken for you.”

“Tomorrow okay? I’ll call her tomorrow.”

“Of course, don’t feel rushed. Did you take any of your belongings with you or are they all at Pandemonium?”

Alec physically cringed at the name, everything about it associated with what had just happened and he didn’t like it in the slightest. Magnus seemed to have noticed Alec’s reaction.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “I just want to make sure you’ll get back what’s yours that’s still in the place.”

“I left…everything. My phone, my keys, my wallet…” Alec forced away the thought of how ironic at him forgetting his wallet. That was, after all, how he’d met the man who was taking care of him right now.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll send a friend of mine to pick up all your things tomorrow and I might also order them to search the whole restaurant a little more thoroughly than necessary, which might leave it a little messy, if that’s okay with you.”

Alec laughed softly. He had to admit that the idea thrilled him.

“Did you still want that shower?” Magnus asked again, the serious tone back to his voice.

“Yeah.”

“I already put a new towel in the bathroom and use as many soaps and foams as you need, I have too many anyway, and,” he paused, looking Alec in the eyes, “take your time. Shower as long as you need, okay?” Alec nodded. “And you can sleep in my bed tonight, I’ll sleep on the couch. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to wake me. Really, if you- I don’t know, have a nightmare, or if you just need some water and can’t find a cup, let me know. There’s a clean cup next to the sink in the bathroom though, if you need it.”

“Thank you, Magnus,” Alec forced a small smile onto his face. The contrast was so big, he realised. Earlier that evening, he’d been confronted with such horror caused by a certain man, a lunatic. And now, he was in the hands of the most beautiful, caring person he’d ever met. Alec still felt horrible, but the safe environment around him finally settled down on him. He was safe.

 

The shower was the best and the longest he’d ever had. Magnus had the most luxurious shower Alec had ever seen; the jets of water came from the three walls at the same time, while another came from the ceiling. Alec was surrounded by the liquid, it closed in om him like a cage. However, this cage wasn’t there to lock him in, it was to keep him safe. The warm floods relaxed his muscles and slowed his breathing, letting it take away the last remainders of stress and horror left in his body. He let it drench him until his skin started getting wrinkly and the bathroom was filled with steam, fogging the big mirror above the sink.

Magnus had also given him some sweats and new boxers to sleep in. The pants were a tight fit – Alec’s legs were a lot longer than Magnus’ – but the fabric was soft, and it fit well around his waist. The bathroom was connected to the bedroom. When Alec walked into the sleeping room, Magnus was making the bed with deep red, silk sheets.

“Magnus,” Alec started, “you don’t have to give up your room for me, you know. I can sleep on the couch.”

Magnus smiled lovingly. “Believe me, if I didn’t think you were worth giving up the bed for, I’d be claiming it right now and you’d have no chance sleeping here. But you need and deserve a good night’s sleep and my spoiled ass can survive sleeping on the couch for one night.”

“You sure?”

“No discussion. You’re sleeping in here tonight.” Magnus walked towards Alec and put a light hand on his right shoulder. “You need to be anywhere tomorrow morning?” Alec shook his head. “Good. In that case, sleep in as long as you need. And again,” Magnus gently rubbed Alec’s cheek, “don’t be afraid to wake me up if you need anything. You’re worth disturbing my beauty sleep.”

Alec laughed, but tears pained the corners of his eyes again. He’d heard the sincerity with which Magnus had spoken and simply couldn’t believe anyone would be so kind to him. If he’d be emotionally more stable, he’d write an entire essay about how thankful he was of Magnus and he’d read it right then and there, to make sure Magnus understood every single word. But writing an essay was a pain in the ass when he hadn’t just been harassed by his boss, let alone having to write one when that exact thing had happened just two hours ago. He made a mental note of doing it later, though.

Magnus left the room, giving Alec the privacy to go to bed. The mattress was softer than the one Alec had at his apartment, so were the sheets. It should have guaranteed Alec to sleep tight, but as soon as he had nestled and tugged himself deep into the warm sheets and closed his eyes, all the bad memories returned. It wasn’t like he’d been ignoring to acknowledge the fact that Valentine had done things to him, but maybe he’d been trying his best not to think about it too much. As soon as he’d been calmed by Magnus, he’d not given himself another moment to worry about…everything. But he couldn’t be more wrong if he’d thought he could forget what had been done to him. The kind words of another man and a couple of hours of distraction for certain hadn’t done the job.

Alec tried again, closing his eyes and focusing on the black décor the inside of his eyelids offered him. But no matter how hard he tried, the non-demanding and insignificant dark got slowly replaced by shots and visions of Valentine pushing him against the wall, Valentine touching him, Valentine kissing him. Valentine…everywhere.

Alec reached out for the small alarm on the bedside table, tapping the light button with a shaking hand. The clock read 2:13 AM. He’d gone to bed at 2:10 AM, but those past three minutes had felt like a life time. Alec didn’t try to close his eyes again, knowing the consequences of doing so all too well already. He hoped exhaustion would eventually consume his body to such a degree that he’d close his eyes and fall vast asleep within a minute.

After another hour of tossing and turning, it finally worked.

***

Magnus woke up around four in the morning with a dry throat and the urgent need to go to the toilet. When he turned around to get out of what he thought was his bed, he clumsily fell off the couch, hitting his head on the glass coffee table. “Ow!” he squealed. It took some serious brainstorming and calculating why he, the luxurious Magnus Bane, was sleeping on the couch. He pushed himself up from the ground, holding a hand to the growing bump on the back of his head when he remembered what had happened that night. The fury was back. The outright rage pulsing through his body, waking him up in the most efficient way ever. He couldn’t say he’d ever woken up that quickly before.

He’d gone out the night before, trying his best to get rid of the stress that had been in his body the second he’d started worrying about the financial aspect of setting up his gallery. It had been a good night; at one point, Magnus had been dancing with a handsome stranger, they’d kissed, but the asshole got a little too handsy and had demanded Magnus to go home with him. Magnus had eventually taken off. As he’d been in a cab driving him home, he’d felt disgusted at the way the man had touched him, little did he know that the man he’d been pining for had just experienced the same, only a hundred times worse.

He’d been - for a lack of a better word – surprised (he’d felt better than “surprised”) to find Alec standing in the foyer. The annoyance he’d felt in the cab evaporated off of him the second he’d laid eyes on the unmistakable dark, messy locks. But there were no word to describe the emotion that had shot through him the moment Alec had turned around and Magnus had been confronted with the mingle of tears and blood on the most beautiful face he’d seen in his entire life. The contrast was so big; those enchanting eyes that always shone with love were now full of tears that represented a melange of all the negative emotions.

He’d done the best he could at trying to give Alec a sense of security and sincerity when they’d been at his place, but if he was being honest with himself, he had no idea how Alec was feeling. He’d looked calm when Magnus had left him to get to bed, he’d even tried to smile a little. But Magnus didn’t believe anyone was able to let go and forget such a horrific event so easily. Not even the best warriors can forget all horrible experiences.

Magnus didn’t mean to sneak up on Alec, but he really needed to use the bathroom and the only way to get there was to go through the bedroom. He opened the door slowly, knowing the loudest sound would come just about when it was halfway open. He tiptoed to the bathroom, passing the bed with a sleeping Alec. Magnus relaxed a little when he saw that Alec had left the bathroom door open; that thing creaked like it had taken it upon itself to wake up not just the people in his apartment, but in the entire building. Before he stepped in the bathroom, he glanced at the still body on the bed, curled up in his softest sheets. Magnus’ stomach twisted, he’d get the fucking bastard who would do something like that to Alec. He’d make the psychopath whimper like a small child and beg for forgiveness – which he would never get of course – before he’d throw some good punches, maybe a kick here and there and wish him a really good time in hell. He would also kick himself, because if he had been paying more attention he would have known Valentine wasn’t Alec’s boyfriend. He would have been able to help Alec.

He didn’t turn on the light since he didn’t close the door behind him, afraid that the squeaking would wake up the person sleeping in the room. He quickly emptied his bladder, hoping the flushing toilet wouldn’t wake Alec. He got a facecloth out of one of the cabinets to put against his aching head. While he wet the cloth and filled the cup meant for Alec with some water to pour down his throat, the lights suddenly turned on. Magnus threw both the small towel and the half full cup to the ceiling from shock. The water moistened his sleepy hair, but luckily he didn’t sleep in a shirt, so only his torso was a little wet, which was easy to dry off with a towel. Magnus turned around when Alec spoke softly, sleep in his voice.

“I’m so s- sorry,” he stammered. “I had no idea you were in here. The light weren’t on and the door was open-” he trailed off when he noticed Magnus’ wet chest and the lack of clothes covering it up. Magnus supressed a shiver as Alec’s eyes inspected him.

“No, it’s okay, it’s my fault. I didn’t want to wake you,” Magnus explained, looking at the ground, preventing himself from melting at the sight in front of him. “I hit my head, so I needed a cloth,” he said a little awkwardly while bending over to grab the wet fabric from the ground.

“Are you okay?” There was concern in Alec’s voice, something that was so out of place. He’d had a more than terrible night and he asked Magnus if he was okay, when all that had happened to him was that he’d knocked his head into the table. But Magnus couldn’t not get a warm feeling in his body at the other man’s concern.

“I’m okay,” he assured him.

“Where did you knock your head?” Alec asked while walking to Magnus and standing close to his back, both facing the mirror. “I want to make sure it’s not bleeding.”

Magnus swallowed back a lump when Alec gently got a hold of his hair with one hand while the other searched for a sign of pain. “On the back of my scalp. In the centre,” Magnus said, a lot softer than intended. Alec tugged at Magnus’ hair with the least amount of pressure to get Magnus to bend his head forward a little so he could take a better look. Two fingers gently walked over his scalp, finding the painful spot effortlessly.

“You have a big bump, but it doesn’t bleed.”

“I told you I was okay.”

“Just making sure.”

Magnus turned around slowly, not being able to step back as his back already touched the sink. Alec didn’t back off either, which didn’t put Magnus off guard at all. No, why would it? But Magnus knew it wasn’t the right time to misuse the situation; he didn’t expect Alec to be comfortable with intimacy so shortly after…all of it.

“Are you okay?” he asked tenderly.

“Couldn’t sleep,” Alec said softly.

Magnus didn’t ask Alec to continue, if he wanted to tell him the reason, he would.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see him.” He sounded broken. “I think I fell asleep earlier, but he was there in my sleep. He was everywhere. And I know he can’t be here, I know I’m safe, but, I don’t know…”

“Hey,” Magnus said, voice low and determined. “It’s okay. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through, but I’m sure it is normal, the nightmares.” Alec nodded, but still looked down at the ground. “Do you want me to stay in the room with you?” Alec’s head shot up. “I can sleep on the ground,” Magnus added immediately. “I thought, it might make you feel…a little safer,” he said, but realised what he’d just offered Alec. “Never mind, it’s a stupid idea.”

“No. It’s not. I would actually really like that. But only when you are comfortable, I’m not letting you sleep on the floor.”

“I have a spare mattress in the storage room downstairs.”

“You can sleep in the bed, if that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable,” Alec murmured.

“Are you certain?”

“I don’t know why, but I trust you. So, yes. I’m sure.”

“Okay, take your time in here. I’ll be in the bed.” Magnus could face palm himself so hard right there. I’ll be in the bed. What? Waiting for you… Goddammit he hadn’t meant it that way. “I mean-”

“I know what you mean,” Alec said, a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.

“Okay,” Magnus said when Alec disappeared in the bathroom.

“Magnus?” he asked from the other side of the door.

“Yes?”

“You have to lubricate your door hinges.”

Magnus couldn’t hold himself back from smiling widely. “Yes, I do.”

 

Chapter Text

Alec woke up, instantly knowing it wasn’t his own bed he was lying in; the sheets were way too soft. It didn’t take long for him to realise it was Magnus’, but it wasn’t for the presence of said man. Because when Alec turned around to look at the other side of the bed, it was empty.

When Magnus had offered to stay in the same room, it hadn’t taken Alec long to agree. He had no idea why or how he’d made up his mind that quickly, but his entire body had been screaming to take the offer. There was something about Magnus, something that made him feel calm and safe. The opportunity to have that as close as possible when having major difficulty sleeping, was too good to turn down.

They hadn’t done anything more than share the bed, but that had been enough for Alec. He had listened to the slow, easy breathing of the man beside him and had tried to slow his own to the same rhythm. The soft, tiny snorts that had erupted from Magnus’ slightly opened mouth from time to time reminded Alec where he was. All the sounds Magnus had made had assured him he was safe.

Alec had been staring at Magnus’ bare back and taking in the calm atmosphere when Magnus had turned around, opening his eyes slowly.

“Did I wake you?” Alec had whispered, not knowing how he could have possibly woken up Magnus, he had been completely motionless – too caught up in the man splayed in front of him – for a good ten minutes.

“No, no. I wasn’t sleeping yet,” Magnus had said tenderly. “Are you gonna be okay tonight?”

“Yeah, I think so. You make this situation a lot easier. Thank you, Magnus.”

“I’m glad to help. Now, try to get some sleep.”

After that, it hadn’t taken Alec long to fall asleep.

 

When Alec walked into the kitchen, he saw Magnus facing away from him, working on something on the counter. Alec’s eyes focused on the clenching and unclenching of the muscles on Magnus’ back and arms. He wasn’t wearing a shirt - probably not having expected Alec to walk in – only an apron. He was wearing the same sweats he’d given Alec, only in a darker shade. They fit him perfectly, accenting all the right things, and Alec had a perfect view from where he was standing.

He’d been staring so obsessively he hadn’t seen Magnus turn around. The latter was smugly sporting one of those aprons with the print of the midsection of a well-trained man, six pack and all. Alec knew for a fact that Magnus looked pretty much the same under the fabric that hid his chest; he’d gotten a chance to observe Magnus’ abs that night, when he’d accidentally walked in on him in the bathroom.

“Good morning, Alexander.” Magnus wore a wide smile on his face, eyes sparkling. “Did you sleep well? I mean, after you finally got to the sleeping.”

“Really well, actually,” Alec smiled.

“Good. You should have slept a little longer though.” Alec looked surprised, so Magnus continued. “Then I could have brought you your breakfast in bed. I’m making pancakes.”

“I think I might need some more rest,” Alec joked, while turning back around towards the bedroom; it had been years since he’d had breakfast in bed.

“In hindsight,” Magnus said quickly, “I did put my finest sheets on the bed, it would be a shame to ruin them with syrup, wouldn’t it? And I could use some help, if you’re up for it.”

“Of course.” It was the least he could do after all that Magnus had done for him. And, well, the idea of helping Magnus bake pancakes wasn’t a particularly bad one.

“Let me grab a T-shirt, I’ll be right back. You can mix the batter in the meantime,” Magnus chirped happily.

When Magnus left the kitchen and Alec made his way to the bowl of batter on the counter, he smiled to himself; Magnus had added rainbow sprinkles and sugar glitter to the pancake mixture. How could he not have? Alec did what Magnus had told him and stirred. He caught himself smiling widely and feeling genuinely content, dare he say happy. It should be impossible, after everything that had happened barely twelve hours ago. And last night, when he was consistently woken up by nightmares and horrifying thoughts, he’d foreseen it impossible to feel happy ever again. And yet, here he was, making pancakes in someone else’s apartment and feeling happier than he’d had in a really long time.

Magnus walked back into the kitchen, wearing a deep purple button-up shirt with the upper two buttons undone, putting some of his caramel toned skin on display.

“Is it good to go in the pan yet?” Magnus asked, looking at Alec instead of the bowl.

“Almost. It might need a little more milk, it’s a bit thick.”

“Are you insulting my recipe, Mr. Lightwood?” Magnus scoffed, mock hurt to his voice.

“You should be honoured to get cooking advice from me, Mr. Bane,” Alec shot back, copying the way Magnus had called him.

“Is that so?” Magnus asked daringly, moving towards Alec and hopping on the kitchen island in the middle of the room.

“Well, yes,” Alec shrugged.

“How so?”

“If I should believe my friends and Izzy, I’m a brilliant cook.”

“Then why did you work at such a shitty restaurant?” Alec loved the fact that Magnus no longer referred to his former job as “the Coffee Heaven” but had instead started making up more appropriate names, like “nutjob’s cave” and “motherfucking hell hole”. It softened the sting of being remembered of the place and what happened ever so slightly.

“I didn’t really have a choice,” Alec sighed, while Magnus retreated the milk container from the fridge and offered it to him.

“My recipe is still better,” he muttered. “But, do continue,” he said while jumping back onto the marble island.

“I kind of, uhm, left my father’s company to become a chef. My hopes had been unrealistic though, and I couldn’t find a job.” He laughed bitterly while he continued, “Turns out, you don’t get very far in the field of cuisine with a master’s degree in economics. It was a kick in the balls not being able to get to work, do what I had left everything behind for. So I took the first job opportunity I got, even if it wasn’t nearly close to what I had hoped for. Jace, the blond bartender, a good friend of mine-” Magnus nodded as if to say he knew who Alec was talking about, “told me Val-” Alec cut himself off. He wasn’t prepared to say the name yet, it brought too many memories with it. Magnus offered him an alternative.

“Let’s call him Wackjob from now on,” Magnus offered helpfully.

‘Yeah. So, Wackjob was supposed to have good connections with important people at fancy restaurants around town. I hoped that he’d eventually put in a good word for me, so I could finally get to the real work. I guess it didn’t exactly go according to plan.”

“I’m sorry,” Magnus said softly.

“No, it’s okay. I haven’t given up yet. My time will come, hopefully.”

“If the rest of your cooking looks as bad as that pancake, I’m not so sure it will,” Magnus giggled, pointing a figure in the direction of the pan, in which the first pancake was burned black.

“Oh shit!” Alec cursed while taking the pan off the heat immediately. “It’s the first. That one always turns out bad,” he said quickly, making up an excuse to get away with his blunder.

“Then why don’t you show me you can actually bake some?” Magnus said while getting back to his feet and approaching Alec with challenge in his eyes.

“You want me to show off what I have up my sleeve, huh?”

“The stage is all yours, handsome.”

Alec didn’t let the pet name throw him off guard as he responded, “You want a show, I’ll give you a show. Take a seat and watch.”

He ended up flipping several pancakes, even threw a pancake high enough to make it turn twice before it hit the pan again. Occasionally the pancake got a little too close to the ceiling, which resulted in Magnus shrieking and yelling at Alec to better not ruin his ceiling. But inevitably, Alec threw one up with too much force and it stuck to the ceiling for a solid minute before it crashed down onto the ground into a messy pile with a thud. Both men erupted in laughter.

When all the batter had been used up, and a pile of colourful pancakes had been formed on a plate, they sat down in the stools next to the kitchen island.

Alec was chewing on his third pancake already when Magnus spoke up again. “Izzy texted me to ask if I’d heard from you. She called you, but you didn’t answer.”

“Oh. What’d you say?”

“I told her you were with me.” Alec choked on the food in his mouth. “Not like that,” Magnus assured him. “Though she would have been thrilled if we were,” he smirked. “Anyway, I think she’s waiting for an explanation.”

Alec suddenly breathed heavily. “I want to tell her, I do, but-”

“You don’t know how?”

“I guess,” Alec said while locking his gaze on the hardboard on the floor. “It’s all really…recent. I’m just as much telling her as myself what happened. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish. I’m sorry, I’m pathetic.”

“Hey, you’re not pathetic, you hear me?” Magnus demanded while shifting in his seat next to Alec and lifting the latter’s chin with a gentle finger. “If you’re sure you want to tell her,” Alec nodded immediately. “Okay. It doesn’t matter how you tell her, she’s going to listen to you anyway. It’s okay if you only tell half of everything that has happened, it’s okay if you end up breaking out in tears; it doesn’t matter, because she’s your sister and she’ll understand.”

Alec’s eyes will locked on Magnus’ when he asked his next question. “Will you stay with me? I mean when I call.” There was so much tension in Alec’s voice. It wasn’t because he dreaded talking to Izzy. He’d wanted Izzy to know everything the second it’d happened, but for that to be the case, he’d have to tell her first. Well, that was one thing he dreaded.

“Of course, Alexander. Of course, I’ll stay for as long as you need me to.”

A single tear rolled down Alec’s cheek, but Magnus thumbed it away quickly. Alec leaned into the touch a little, and Magnus accepted it. It was all the comfort and reassurance he needed at that moment to accept the phone Magnus offered him with his free hand and dialled Izzy’s number by heart. She answered after the second ring. Alec put down the phone on the marble surface and hit speakerphone.

“Hey Magnus!” Izzy chimed from the other side of the line.

“It’s Alec, actually.”

“Alec! Have you lost your phone or something? I’ve left you messages and I called you, I wanted to give you the information about my graduation.”

Magnus saw the hurtful expression on Alec’s face and spoke up. “Sweetheart?”

“Hey Magnus! What’s the matter?”

“Alec wants to tell you something. Are you in a place where you can listen?”

Alec heard some shift on Izzy’s side of the phone before an answer came. “I am now. Alec, I’m listening.” Alec knew Izzy had understood Magnus perfectly, the tone in her voice had changed from cheering to serious.

“You remember my boss?” Alec started. Izzy hummed in understanding. It took Alec a solid minute to continue, swallowing back the tears. He wondered how his body was still able to produce them; he’d shed too many the last twelve hours. “I worked with him yesterday.” Magnus grabbed Alec’s hand tightly, reminding him he was there with him; he’d be okay. “He did- he did…things.” Alec tried, but the right words wouldn’t form. Izzy seemed to have sensed the same.

“Is it something that’d be easier to tell person-to-person instead of on the phone?” she asked, voice like a whisper.

“Yeah.”

“I’ll be there in two hours. You’re still at Magnus’ place?”

“Iz, you don’t have to-” Alec started, but his sister cut him off.

“Alec, I can sense it’s a serious matter. I’m already in the car so you can tell me properly. Magnus, can you take care of him the next two hours?”

“I’ll give him the best I’ve got, honey. And we’re at my place, you know where to find it?”

“Yes. Alec?”

“Yes?”

“You take all the comfort Magnus offers you, okay? I’ll be there before you know it.” And with that she hung up. Magnus closed the distance between them and hugged Alec tightly. He moved one hand to the younger man’s head and caressed his hair with the most gentle fingers, while his other hand rubbed Alec’s back.

“I couldn’t…” Alec whispered.

“I know. But Izzy will be here in two hours and she’ll listen again. She’ll listen for as long as it takes. Now, I did make her a promise.”

Alec moved back slightly, looking at Magnus in confusion.

“I promised her to give you my best,” Magnus said with a smug face.

“Do I need to be afraid?” Alec asked, daring to put a small smile on his face.

“Normally, I would say yes, or at least my friends would. But under the current circumstances? No. I’m thinking about watching a movie and supplying you with an unhealthy amount of ice cream.”

“We literally just had breakfast,” Alec laughed.

“And?”

“Well…”

“You do realise that I just offered you free access to my stash of break up ice cream, right? I even suggested to bring it to you while you watched a movie you chose. That, dear Alexander, is something I have never even done for my closest friends.

“Ice cream it is then, I suppose.”

“You’re a wise man, Alexander.”

***

They watched Crazy Rich Asians. Alec had suggested a couple of Marvel films, he seemed more into to action movies. But when they’d come across Crazy Rich Asians, Magnus hadn’t been able to hide his excitement for watching that movie, which Alec found adorable, so they’d settled on the romcom.

The end credit scene played on the screen when a knock came from the door. Magnus got up to answer the person, who could only be Izzy.

“Hey beautiful,” Magnus greeted the young woman.

“Hey handsome,” she responded, a sly smile on her face.

“Why, thank you. I’m flattered,” Magnus laughed.

“Is he okay?” Izzy asked, while the smile was replaced by a serious expression.

“Not really. He seems fine right now, we’ve just watched a movie, but he’s very emotional, though he probably won’t admit that if you’d ask him. It’s good you’re here.”

“It’s good you’re here too,” she said. “I mean not here as in your apartment, because of course you’d be here. But I mean here as in with Alec. I don’t know what happened, but I’m certain it would have been a lot worse if he wouldn’t have had you. Thank you.”

“I’m glad I could help.”

Magnus took Izzy’s leather jacket and put it on the coat rack, taking extra long to do so, to give the two siblings some privacy. When he walked in a couple of minutes later, they were entangled into a tight hug. It seemed like such an intimate moment, Magnus couldn’t help but ask, “Do you want me to leave? You could text me when you’re done.”

Magnus had barely finished his last sentence when Alec replied. “No!” he said loudly, surprising himself with his tone. “I mean, I would like you to stay. If that’s not a problem for you.”

“Alec, I told you before, I’m here for as long as you need me.” Alec sent him a thankful gaze, one so full of emotion Magnus’ breath staggered for a second.

They had all sat down around the coffee table with big mugs of tea that Magnus had given them and Alec had talked. It had been just as difficult as on the phone, but Izzy had been more than patient. She had listened carefully the entire time, not interrupting her brother, but occasionally wiping away a tear on his face or grabbing his shoulder gently with her small hand. In the meantime Magnus had held Alec’s hand, squeezing it gently every once in a while, it seemed to have given Alec the confidence and comfort he’d needed to keep talking.

And eventually, he’d told Izzy everything. He’d told her all the things that had happened prior to the night before, all the times Valentine had touched him. He’d told her every detail of last night, explaining her everything. The further Alec had gotten into telling the story, the more the sadness and misery turned into anger and rage. He spat out his last words, as though he finally realised just exactly what had been done to him.

The expression on Izzy’s face was indescribable, though it told Magnus enough to know that Valentine was in serious trouble. Izzy might look innocent, but Magnus knew better than to underestimate her capacity. A combination of “Oh my God” and “I’m going to kill the fucking psychopath” escaped her mouth when she lunged forward to grab her brother as closely as she could.

Silence filled the room for a couple of minutes, but no one felt uncomfortable. Eventually, Izzy spoke up. “What are you going to about him?” she asked.

“What’s there to do?” Alec responded.

“You could go to the police and file a report against him, that’s one. Then, of course, I could also go after him myself. I’m pretty sure I could handle him.”

“Iz, you don’t even know what he looks like,” Alec said softly.

“Magnus could help me out. Right, Magnus?”

“I would love to give that man exactly what he deserves,” he spat out. Alec laughed shyly.

“All jokes aside,” Izzy said, the serious tone back in her voice, “you are going to file a police report, right? You can’t let him get away with this.”

“I don’t know. There’s no evidence.”

“We have to try. He committed a very serious felony, he has to pay for it.”

“I don’t really want to think about that right now,” Alec said softly.

“That’s okay,” Magnus cut in. “Let’s make it a fun day.”

“Ooh yes! Let’s go shopping!” Izzy cheered, but sat down when she saw the expression of horror on her brother’s face. “Or not,” she huffed.

“Actually,” Magnus continued, “I was thinking about playing some board games. That should be fun, right? And if you want to, you could stay for dinner.” Magnus focused his gaze on Alec, knowing Izzy would say yes anyway.

“That’s sound really fun,” Alec said while a twinkle shone in his beautiful eyes.

“We could order in, or we could make something. It would be a good opportunity for you to show me what you got, and Izzy and I could assist.”

“No,” Alec said sternly.

“Bad idea? I’m sorry,” Magnus said, a little shocked by Alec’s reaction.

“No, the part where you and I cook sounds good,” the younger man started. “But Izzy is not joining us. Not even if my life depended on it,” Alec said in all seriousness.

“Alec, come on,” Izzy pouted.

“Nope. Not happening. You have poisoned me enough times to last a lifetime.”

Magnus laughed, questioning what poor Izzy could have possibly done to lose the rights to cook. “I assume Izzy isn’t very successful in the kitchen?”

“Let’s just say,” Alec started, “she didn’t inherit the same feel for anything that concerns preparing food as me.”

“I’m very talented in other things,” Izzy shrugged.

“Of that I’m sure, darling,” Magnus said soothingly, patting her on her shoulder. He turned back to Alec. “You got anything in mind? We might have to run to the grocery store.”

“I like to decide in the shop what I’ll make. I let the products inspire me, so I don’t know yet. You’ll have to wait till the last moment.”

“Your food will have to prove you’re a good chef, but you sure as hell sound like one,” Magnus laughed. “Now, are you up for some board games?”

“You bet I am!” Izzy all but shouted. “I’ll kick both your perfectly trained asses!”

Alec leaned towards Magnus, his mouth only inches away from his ear. “She can get very competitive. It’s best to let her win.” Magnus answered with an absent “Uh-huh”, his mind occupied with way more urging things. Things like how Magnus had been able to feel the puffs of air coming from Alec’s mouth when he’d spoken, or how if Magnus had turned his head slightly, his lips would have touched Alec’s. The thoughts made him shiver, despite his best effort not to.

Even though the situation had calmed down in comparison to the night before, he had to remember what had happened to Alec. He had to remember not to jump his bones, just because he felt an undeniable attraction. Alec probably wasn’t ready for intimacy like that and Magnus wasn’t going to test if he was. So he collected himself and got up and walked to the closet with his board games and picked monopoly. He was bad at it, but that way Izzy could win and their relationship wouldn’t be at the expense of the competition.

 

Two hours later Izzy was dancing though the room with joy. It made Magnus laugh, how such an unimportant thing like winning a game could make the young woman so incredibly happy. He hadn’t even stood a chance against the Lightwood siblings. Alec had visibly (at least to Magnus) held back, but was nevertheless much better than Magnus. Izzy, however, had gone all the way. When Magnus had been sent off to jail on his second turn, she had captured the most valuable properties on the board, leaving Magnus to almost go bankrupt the second he was released out of jail and had ended on one of the places Izzy owned. His financial situation hadn’t become any better since, not that Magnus minded for one bit. In fact, he felt happier than he’d had in a really long time.

The way the three of them sat on the countless pillows on the ground, nestled in several fluffy blankets, around a game board, reminded Magnus of his youth. It brought back the most precious and endearing memories he had, the ones of the Sunday afternoons spent playing endless amounts of board games with his parents until one of them could no longer ignore their hunger and they got up to make dinner. It had been a while since Magnus had let those images consume his mind, but he could only smile when he did.

Alec shuffled closer, sitting on the pillow next to Magnus’ hand on the ground. “Losing is always worth it when you see her like this afterwards,” he laughed, while looking at his sister. Magnus lost his breath, looking at the man beside him. That smile suited him so incredibly good, why would anyone ever want to take that away from his face by doing him harm? Alec turned slightly to face Magnus, who hadn’t stopped staring. “Are you okay?” he asked softly, leaning in the tiniest bit to ensure the privacy of their conversation.

“I actually feel really good,” Magnus said just as softly as Alec had.

“Me too,” Alec whispered.

“Yeah?” Neither of them noticed it when Izzy soundlessly moved to the kitchen.

Alec looked down hesitatingly at Magnus’ hand, before he put his over it with a slow and thoughtful movement. Magnus’ breath hitched when he felt the warmth of Alec’s hand on his. He looked up to meet Alec’s eyes, the ones that would never lose their beauty.

“Magnus,” Alec started, voice hoarse, “you have no idea how thankful I am for everything that you have done for me these last 24 hours.”

“It’s no big de-”

“No, let me finish.” Alec moved his hand under Magnus’ and lovingly tightened his grip around the bejewelled fingers. Such a simple gesture shouldn’t set off fireworks inside Magnus’ body, but it definitely did. “I have been meaning to thank you properly ever since you offered me to come up with you. I considered writing an essay about it,” he laughed softly.

“Oh God, please don’t put yourself through that misery for me,” Magnus chuckled.

“My point, you made all of this so much more bearable for me. I haven’t forgotten what happened, and I don’t think I will soon, but somehow it doesn’t seem that bad when you’re around. You couldn’t have helped me any better and I’ll forever be thankful for that. You are a really good person.” Alec cleared his throat. “I guess that’s all I have to say. You can talk again,” he laughed nervously.

Alec had once again managed to take away Magnus’ capacity to talk. Magnus had wanted to say that Alec only deserved the best or that none of what he’d done had taken any effort. He had wanted to say so much, but he was speechless. So he acted when words refused to come. He rather abruptly launched forward and folded his arms around the startled man in front of him and pulled Alec into a tight hug, resting his head on the other man’s shoulder. Magnus felt how it took Alec only a second to lean into the touch. He put his arms around Magnus’ upper body and hugged back as if his life depended on it.

They had hugged before, twice, but none of those times had felt so intimate. The first times had been to comfort Alec and Alec had probably barely registered the intimacy of the moment, but this time it was different. It was still to comfort, both of them however, but neither of them were in a state of distress; this hug was intentional from both sides, which made it so much more meaningful.

They stayed like that, entangled in each other’s arms, nuzzling in each other’s necks, for what must have been a really long time. They were torn from their peaceful setting when Izzy cleared her throat as she returned to the living room. Magnus and Alec looked at each other before they moved back, both smiling their most genuine smiles.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Izzy started, an apologizing expression on her face, “But if you still want to hit the store, you might want to leave before the stores close.”

Magnus looked at the antique clock on the wall next to Izzy. It read 5:30 PM. Magnus had no idea it was that late already. The time really had flown by.

“I think the closest shop is open until nine, but thank you for the reminder,” Magnus said kindly. He looked at Alec again. “Do you want to go now or later?”

“Now is fine,” Alec said. “Iz, are you coming too?”

“Actually, I would love a shower, if that’s possible,” she looked at Magnus.

“Of course. I’ll show you the way. Alec?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you grab my wallet from my black bag in the hallway? You know what it looks likes,” Magnus said. “I’ll be with you in a minute.”

“On it.”

When Izzy followed Magnus into his bedroom to get to the bathroom, Magnus almost fell when Izzy ran into him and pulled him into another tight embrace.

“Lucky me,” Magnus chuckled. “I get to hug the entire family.”

“You deserve it Magnus,” Izzy said with a serious tone as she moved back slightly. “Alec usually isn’t the best at outing his thoughts, but he’s extremely thankful of what you did, and so am I.”

“He did really well, actually,” Magnus beamed.

“You seem to have a good influence on him.”

“Don’t give me all the credit, your brother is…really great.”

Izzy walked towards the bathroom with a smug grin on her face.

“What?” Magnus demanded.

“Nothing. I’m just really glad he met you.” She disappeared into the bathroom when Magnus muttered to himself, “I’m really glad I met him, too.”

Izzy yelled from the other side of the door, “I know where to find a towel, go shopping with your man.”

Magnus didn’t argue about the “your man” part and simply obeyed.

Alec was already waiting at the door when Magnus walked into the living room. He had taken some shoes that matched his outfit from the closet in his bedroom and tried to put them on while making his way to Alec. It wasn’t the best way to put on shoes, Magnus found out, as he stumbled his way towards the doors and tripped right into Alec’s arms.

“You could have just sat down to put on your shoes,” Alec laughed while he lifted Magnus back to his feet.

“Didn’t want to keep you waiting. I’m ready now, anyway.” Alec just smiled widely and opened the door before taking Magnus’ hand and pulling him behind him.

Magnus couldn’t help but beam just a brightly as the man in front of him,. The latter seemed to have that effect on Magnus more often than not. It was good. Better than good, actually.