“I’m sorry, you’re going to what?”
Alec’s eyes flicker briefly towards the closed office door.
“I’m going to Edom to strike a deal with Lilith,” he repeats calmly. “Jonathan in exchange for Magnus’s magic.”
Izzy stares at him. Honestly, she doesn’t know why she’s even surprised; if anything, she should be surprised something like this didn’t happen a lot sooner.
“Have you lost your mind?” she hisses.
“Not as far as I’m aware,” Alec deadpans, and the fact that he can joke in this situation only serves to agitate her even more. She knows she’s not actually angry at him, but it’s easier than giving in to the blinding terror that seizes her at the thought of what Alec is considering doing.
“Alec, facing Lilith on your own, and in Edom, is a suicide mission.”
“I’m offering her what she came here looking for,” Alec points out absently, attention on the report in front of him, as if this is a completely ordinary conversation. “From a negotiation point of view, I’d say I’m in a good position.”
He’s not wrong, and yet…
“Last I checked, Magnus gave his magic to his father, not Lilith.”
Alec rolls his eyes.
“She’s the Queen of Hell, Izzy. She must be able to get it, somehow.”
It’s not an unreasonable assumption; but then, this is Alec. He’s a meticulous planner, has probably been over this hundreds of times in his head already. It’s unlikely she can offer any tactical observations that he hasn’t already taken into consideration.
Izzy presses her lips together.
The big guns it is, then.
“Have you told Magnus?”
If Alec’s silence hadn’t been answer enough, the way he very deliberately doesn’t meet her gaze certainly is.
Izzy exhales a frustrated breath.
“No, of course you haven’t, because he’d tell you exactly what I’m telling you: that it’s insane.”
Alec seems maddeningly unaffected by her outburst, and Izzy steps away from where she’s stood frozen in the middle of the room ever since Alec blasted her with his “plan.” Putting her hands on the desk, she lowers her voice. “Alec, I know you want to help him, I do, too, but you can’t do this.”
“I’m already doing it, Iz.” He finally looks up at her, and some of her ire abates at the guilt and exhaustion working deep grooves into the skin around his eyes. “I should never have let him go to Edom in the first place. It was a mistake.”
“You didn’t force him to make that deal with Asmodeus, Alec.”
“I might as well have,” Alec mutters, and the bitterness and self-loathing in his voice sting Izzy’s skin. “He did this for me, because he thought he had to, thought that that’s what I wanted him to do. I should have stopped him but I didn’t, and the price was too high.” Alec averts his gaze, throat working. “It’s always too high, and he’s always the one who ends up paying for it… He deserves better.”
Izzy’s heart gives a painful pang.
Her brother shakes his head, and Izzy lets the words clogging in her throat go unspoken, along with the ones Alec won’t say out loud.
He deserves better than me.
“Alec,” she insists after a moment, soft desperation underlining the words. “Losing you would kill him.”
“He won’t lose me,” Alec says quietly, but Izzy can tell by the determined set of his jaw that it won’t be thanks to him revising this suicidal plan of his. “You don’t see how he is without it, Izzy, he’s…”
Alec breaks off and takes a deep breath. When he meets her gaze, his eyes are burning with familiar resolve.
“I don’t care about the risks. I need to do this for him.”
“He wouldn’t want you to,” Izzy says softly.
Alec huffs bitterly.
“Right now, I don’t care about what he wants as much as about what he needs. Izzy, he’s terrified. He acts like he’s fine, like this isn’t a huge, life-altering change, but I know him. This isn’t something he’ll learn to adapt to, and I won’t just stand here and pretend everything is okay when there’s even the slightest chance I can do something about it.”
“Alec, you’re the Head,” Izzy tries to reason, because it’s necessary and yet she hates herself for it. “You can’t just leave the Institute without her leader.”
“I won’t.” Alec’s lips quick slightly. “I’ll leave her to you.”
Izzy manages a tight smile.
“Much as I appreciate that, you still can’t go. If anything were to happen to you, Magnus would never recover, even if it gave him his magic back.” She reaches out and squeezes his arm. “He made this amazing, selfless sacrifice because he wanted to protect you and keep you safe, and your plan is to immediately put yourself in mortal danger? Alec, you can’t do that to him.”
Alec visibly deflates. Defeat, misery, and self-hatred all play across his face, a painfully familiar combination that Izzy had hoped she’d never have to see again.
“I’ll go.” The words don’t surprise her as much as maybe they should.
Alec stares at her as if she’s lost her mind.
“What? Izzy, no, absolutely not—”
“Why not?” she insists. She raises her chin defiantly. “You’re not the only one who considers him family.”
“You don’t think he sees you the same way?” Alec asks incredulously. “Izzy, he adores you. It would break him if something happened to you because of this.”
Izzy’s lips twitch into a wry smirk, not completely devoid of humor.
“But it wouldn’t kill him.”
Alec’s eyes are pained.
“Izzy, it’s too dangerous—”
She raises an eyebrow.
“Oh, so now it’s suddenly dangerous?”
Alec glares at her, but there’s little heat to it.
“This would be an unsanctioned mission,” he reminds her. “I can’t send anyone in there with you; you’d have no one to watch your back…”
“Right, because you were about to march into Edom with a battalion of rouge Shadowhunters at your heels?”
“Izzy, please,” Alec implores, rising and moving around the desk to stand in front of her. “You can’t expect me to be okay with sending my little sister to face the Queen of Hell on her own. What kind of brother would that make me?”
Izzy squeezes his arm reassuringly.
“The kind who trusts in his thoroughly thought-out plan.” She smirks. “And in what a total badass his sister is.”
Alec’s lips give a minute twitch. He’s shaking his head slowly, hazels awash with sorrow and shame.
“Stop apologizing for other people’s decisions, hermano,” she admonishes gently. “I want to do this for him… Please let me.”
When, moments later, Alec releases a heavy sigh, Izzy knows she’s won. Alec’s expression is pinched, the furrow in his brow as deep as ever. When he moves his arms in a small gesture, Izzy doesn’t hesitate to step into that strong, familiar embrace she will always associate with feeling safe and truly loved.
“I’ll ask Simon if he wants to come with,” she murmurs. “He was a pretty huge help last time.”
“That only makes me feel marginally better,” he mutters, but some of the tension eases from his posture and she hugs him tighter.
Alec sighs again.
“Thank you, Izzy,” he mumbles into her hair. “I love you.”
“Love you too, hermano.” She gives him one last squeeze before she steps back. Smiling softly, she says, “I’ll call Catarina. Make plans.”
Alec’s answering smile is tight, his eyes impossibly sad.
Squaring her shoulders, Izzy gives one curt nod. Then she turns on her heels and walks out of the office before he can change his mind.