Blood moved sluggishly through his veins, slowed by the frigid temperature surrounding him. His hands tried to move, but his fingers were stiff, from the cold or disuse he couldn’t recall. His nose and ears stung with the bitter frost that he was sure was gathered on them. Why was he so cold? Where was Magnus? He was always so warm…
Slowly Alec tried to lift an arm, wincing as the joints ached and cracked, as if he hadn’t used them for years. He reached out to the side, his hand searching for a warm body next to him, but his hand stopped short, hitting a hard surface. Why was there a wall in his bed?
His breath started to come in pants, his eyes still stubbornly kept shut, afraid of what he’d see if he opened them. He trailed his hand over the surface, trying to see how far it went, but he hadn’t found any break yet. It just seemed to keep going in a continuous arch over him.
He started to breathe heavier, now panicked. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that if he opened his eyes he’d see his breath come out in a fog in front of his face, the cold turning it to instant vapor. His other hand joined the search for an opening in the walls around him, his movements becoming frantic as the search continued to be fruitless.
Soon his arms and legs were kicking and pushing in all directions, desperate to find a break in the walls around him, whimpers escaping his lips every time a limb hit a barrier. He continued to struggle until he was sure he’d be peppered in bruises and stopped when he finally fell out of breath.
Terrified, Alec slowly opened his eyes.
He was in a metal tube, no bigger than coffin…
Alec groaned in distress. Was this a coffin? Was he dead?
Then he heard tapping from above his head, and his eyes tracked out the noise falling on a frosted glass window. The tapping continued, his heart racing in time.
Then a hand swiped away the frost. Alec screamed as Valentine’s laughing face came in to view.
Alec yelled as he shot up from his bed, he tried to scramble away, but all his limbs were still frozen! He started to struggle to break free, his eyes still not adjusted to the dark of the room around him.
“Alec! Angel, please calm down!”
Alec sagged in relief as he heard Magnus’ worried voice nearby, “Magnus? Magnus, I can’t move,” he called out desperately.
“Shh, shh. It’s okay. You’re okay, it’s because you’re all wrapped up in the sheets. Here let me help.”
Alec’s heart slowly got back to a normal rhythm as Magnus gently helped unravel the Elemental from the sheets that had constricted his arms against his torso from the frantic tossing. He watched as Magnus worked, the deft hands were so warm and Alec couldn’t help but lean in to the touch, even if it did slow down the process of releasing him.
He felt a small blush dust over his face, one that Magnus hopefully wouldn’t see in the dark room. He had practically forgot to be embarrassed at having to be saved from his own mind by his boyfriend, too relieved that his nightmare hadn’t been real. That he wasn’t really in one of those…things.
Max was though.
Alec’s body shivered at the thought, completely repulsed and disturbed by the image of his once active and happy brother frozen stiff in some madman’s clutches. Then the now familiar rolling in his stomach was returning, the one that came up every time that he realized that they had left Max behind. They didn’t even think to check for a body, too concerned with running away to stop and wonder if they should trust Valentine’s words that their brother was dead.
He had left his brother behind.
He knew Magnus was having to feel everything he did as he went through his various stages of grief and guilt, but he had no control anymore. He had tried to distance himself a little, to spare Magnus the burden, but the Psychic had been very firm in that he wanted to be there for him. He had even gone as far as to seek out Alec when he tried to hide in various places around the house, or in the woods around them.
He'd looked so beautiful as he stepped out from behind the tree. Alec had run in to the woods multiple times thinking it was the only place that felt peaceful anymore, each time thinking it was best to not burden Magnus when all he wanted to do was cry, but rather than stay away…Magnus had followed him. Followed his grief as a guide through the trees.
He had been so gentle as he cupped Alec’s face, telling him everything he didn’t know he needed to hear, “When things get hard, don’t push me away. Part of being together is being there for each other during tough times. I want to help. I want to offer what support and happiness I can provide. Please…let me stay.”
And with that Magnus had become the small oasis in his desert. His paradise in hell. His lifeboat in the middle of a storming ocean.
Once the sheets were in a harmless pool around his waist, Magnus pulled Alec against his chest and started to stroke the mess of hair, whispering soft soothing noises as Alec calmed down and took stock of where he was.
He was still in his own room, back at the mountain, he wasn’t in one of those stasis pods. He wasn’t in Valentine’s collection. Magnus was here. Magnus was safe. Magnus was warm. Magnus had kissed him goodnight only a few hours ago and Alec had reluctantly let him go back to his own room. He had wanted him to stay.
“Darling, talk to me, please. Is it the same dream?” Magnus murmured into Alec’s hair before placing a soft kiss at his temple. He could feel Alec nod against his lips, and he resisted the urge to sigh sadly, not wanting Alexander to feel even more upset, “Alec, you need to let go of the guilt. It will eat you alive. You didn’t know, none of you did.”
Alec nodded weakly and curled up further against the Psychic, burying his face in the other’s neck, “I know. I just can’t help but think about what it’s been like for him. Eight years…”
It was a lot to think about, and even Magnus found himself speechless with the different scenarios that Alec and the team had discussed as they all reviewed if retrieving Max was something they could do. Had Max been in there the whole time? If they got him out would he be a teenager with the mind of a six year old? Would he be angry at being left behind? Would he remember his siblings? Could he even be taken out of stasis after so long? Medically speaking, what happens to the body after all that time?
Not to mention, they had all finally started to grasp what Ragnor was warning them about when it came to Valentine’s collection. He had mutants of all kinds in stasis, waiting to be used at any given need. And he had a way of controlling them to listen too, something that Clary and Izzy had seen in person with the young woman who had captured them before. Those angry black lines of her face were further evidence that they needed to be on their toes even more now that fellow mutants may be used against them.
All of this being discussed heavily, it was no surprise to Magnus that Alec would have nightmares over it. Especially since there was little to be done on the matter at the moment. It had been a heartbreaking thing, but Luke had to deliver the reality of the situation to the team when they all frantically were trying to come up with a rescue mission.
“I know you don’t want to hear this, but it has to be said before we go and do something stupid,” Luke said to them all, his face sad but stern, “We just barely escaped that place, and you know damn well it won’t be as easy to break in to again now that they have figured out how we got in. We won’t be able to use Jace to trick him again. We won’t have Hodge helping us. And by now they’re reviewed the cameras of all the places we were…they know we saw the stasis room, and they know Alec saw Max’s pod. We can be reasonably sure they know we’re going to try coming back for him.”
“So what, we just give up on him?” Alec asked, his voice angry.
Luke shook his head, “Not at all, we will continue to work on a plan to get your brother back, but we have to be smart about this. We have no idea how to wake him up safely, or transport the pod safely. This kind of rescue will take time and research. I’m just asking you to be patient.”
“He’s been there for eight years,” Jace said, his voice strained, “How can we possibly make him wait any longer?”
“By assuring you’ll all be alive for him when we do bring your brother home. We go in there now with no plan, I guarantee we won’t come out alive. And Max will still be in that pod, no hope of ever getting out.”
Magnus felt Alec shiver against him. While he loved the proximity to his boyfriend, he wished it would have been under better circumstances. He didn’t need his abilities to share Alec’s horror at the situation, the feeling a constant presence since Isabelle had come running to Alec’s room over a week ago, tears in her eyes and screaming out Max’s name. That night would forever been stained on his cranium, the slow motion high definition replay as the Lightwoods realized that their younger brother was left behind. The joyous part of the discovery shrouded by the black blanket of bleakness that covered them as the implications materialized in their minds.
Still, they had jobs to do in the meantime and Alec and his siblings took the responsibility very seriously. During the day they would focus on their tasks, be their normal charming Lightwood selves, but then the sun would set and honestly, Magnus was finding that Lightwoods should never be left alone with their thoughts. They needed some sort of chaperone in their minds for sure as it was far too dark to walk around in without a guide.
Now for the last few nights, Magnus had been awoken by horrid feelings of terror coming from Alec’s bedroom, only to find him in the throes of another nightmare. His face was always so tortured as he writhed in his bed and Magnus wished he could just smooth all the worry lines away, to take him somewhere where he could forget everything if only for a little while. Getting him calm and centered again after such dreams was truly a challenge, and Magnus couldn’t help but wish that he could just stay in there from the moment Alec went to sleep in hopes of stopping the nightmares before they even could get their claws on his mind. But, asking to stay in Alec’s room with him just seemed a little too much so early on in their infantile romance.
While Magnus at this point in a relationship would already have shared many passionate nights in bed, something with Alec held him back a bit. Made him want to approach this slowly with the intention to not spook someone who was just beginning to adjust to life with others as well as to savor the moments as they came. However, while this intention of his made perfect sense in his head, it wasn’t working seamlessly in practice.
Alec needed proximity like never before, the comfort of having someone near, and Magnus would give him anything he asked for…but he had yet to ask for anything. Alec never asked for anything, be it a snack from the kitchen or even with ‘come hither’ eyes from across the room.
During the day they would steal kisses from one another behind staircases, behind the other team members backs, hidden in the meditation room…they would hide casual touches under the table, brush shoulders as they all gathered to look over something Simon had found in the database. It was wonderful, every second of contact between them was like a spark of pure warmth and desire. By the end of the day Magnus had convinced himself that this would be the night that Alec would ask for him to come to bed with him, like they had done in the infirmary weeks before.
But all he had gotten were sinfully sweet kisses goodnight and whispers of sweet dreams. They were mere delectable morsels of the feast that Magnus had been hungering for. He ached for Alec to lead them on to more, but he would wait for an eternity living off those crumbs if it meant Alec was comfortable.
Alec shivered again and Magnus sighed, “Let’s get you back under the covers. We both need some sleep after that last workout that Luke put everyone through,” he said, carefully maneuvering Alec off his lap so as not to excite anything at this moment with the proximity. Hesitantly, Alec gave in to the gentle pushes and lay back down, letting Magnus fret over the comforter as he made sure it was tucked nicely around the Elemental.
Despite the blanket, Alec still felt chilled as he watched Magnus get up from the bed and walk towards the door. He hated adding any kind of burden on to Magnus, not after how much he’d already done for him. It always made him feel like a clingy child as urges would flit across his mind of leaning on Magnus for anything, support, someone to talk to, a wonderful needed distraction or even just warmth.
They’d spoken about this before, in the woods. Alec wasn’t supposed to push him away, but he didn’t remember anything said about pulling him closer either. He just wasn’t sure how much was too much. But, as Magnus finished tucking in the last corner of his comforter, smoothing out a few wrinkles that really didn’t need to be smoothed, the urges started to come back at full force. The words were out of his mouth before he even had a chance to push them back down his throat.
“Wait,” Alec called out, not even sure what he wanted Magnus to wait for until the Psychic turned around, his eyes gleaming in the dark room.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot a goodnight kiss didn’t I?” Magnus said with a smile, I sounded a little sad to Alec but he wasn’t sure why that would make the Psychic upset. He watched as Magnus made his way back, each step closer Alec felt a little less cold.
“No, I mean, you didn’t forget anything I just…did you want to stay? Here?” Alec asked, wincing at how stuttered he sounded. What was it about Magnus that made his tongue stick and his hands clammy?
Magnus looked pleased as he sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes on the sheets between them, not meeting Alec’s eyes, “Until you fall asleep?” he hedged, his voice almost hopeful in a way that made Alec feel his stomach go from uncomfortable rolls to excited butterflies.
Alec shook his head as he slowly reached forward, tracing his fingers along the arm Magnus had propped himself up on. His skin felt so soft and wonderful, and it made him smile when even in the dark room he could make out the goosebumps popping up wherever his fingers moved.
“Stay until I wake up,” came the whispered reply, and only belatedly did Alec realize he had spoken the words he’d been pushing away. Don’t push me away. Had he been distancing himself without even realizing it? His refusal to cling on to Magnus may not have been as obvious as physically creating distance, but it had still been keeping a chasm between them.
The way that Magnus’ eyes lit up in the dark room was all that Alec needed to know that he wasn’t asking too much, if anything Magnus had been wanting this just as badly and he felt like an idiot for not realizing it sooner.
Lifting the edge of the comforter, Alec scooted over to created a Magnus sized space next to him and then looked up at the Psychic with what he hoped was an inviting expression.
Magnus needed no further invitation and he climbed under the sheets, each of them reaching out to pull the other close. They fell in to a dreamless sleep, still cradled in each other’s arms. Finally warm.
“I still don’t understand why we can’t just go back to my room,” Clary giggled as Jace pulled her back on the couch, lips pressed against her neck.
“Because,” came his muffled reply, “I don’t want to find out Luke’s reaction to smelling me in your room, especially anywhere near your bed.”
Clary scoffed and playfully tried to detach Jace from where he seemed bound and determined to mark up her collarbone, “As if the hickies wouldn’t be of more concern. And besides, I’m an adult now and he will have to get used to it sometime! It’s not like Magnus hasn’t had visiting mutants in his bedroom before!”
“I’m pretty sure that Luke doesn’t think of Magnus as a daughter, but I could be wrong. You tell me.”
Clary rolled her eyes, “Fine, but I’d be more worried about Simon than Luke.”
Jace pulled back with a frown, hair mussed up and bangs over his eyes. Clary sighed and pushed the stubborn hair back.
“Is Simon still mad at me about the Valentine thing?” Jace asked, concerned. He had thought that mess was behind them. He thought back to his interactions with the Molecular the last week. He’d been a little skittish at first, but that went away as soon as they started cussing each other out during Mario Kart. But a couple days ago…
“He’s been acting a little stand-offish the last couple days, hasn’t he,” he asked the redhead, he felt her shrug against his chest as she further explored his abs. He sucked in a breath when her light touch hit a ticklish spot, making her giggle as his stomach rippled.
“I hadn’t noticed, really,” she said, “Maybe it’s because he’s upset he couldn’t help you guys with Max.”
Jace’s happy grin drooped like a wet painting, his body drawing in on itself at the mention of the youngest Lightwood, and Clary felt like kicking herself for bringing up such a painful subject.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset,” she said, placing a small apologetic kiss to his shoulder as he sat forward on the couch, his back turned to her. He reached a hand up behind him to cup the side of her head against his.
“It’s okay, we’re all just still processing it. I mean…it’s hard being thrilled that he’s alive, but at the same time horrified that he’s been kept there all this time. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at any given moment. Izzy is all positive vibes about it, I think she is just happy he’s not dead. Alec though…he’s all negative, which isn’t new for him really. He’s probably beating himself up about abandoning family even though it isn’t his fault,” he said, his eyes staring blankly ahead.
“Any you?” the Psychic asked, her voice soft.
He shrugged, “I’m an unhealthy mix of the two.”
“The nightmares?” she asked, knowing that Jace had been suffering through some after their rescue. Magnus wasn’t the only empath in the house, he was just the better one by far.
Jace tensed up for a moment, becoming still under her hands before cautiously relaxing as he realized there was no danger in telling her anything, “I had them after we got back…but they stopped as soon as Izzy told us she smelled Max on Alec and Alec realized that he had seen him. I don’t understand it. You’d think my dreams would get worse, not disappear completely.”
They both sat in silence for a few minutes, both just reveling in having someone close, but Clary didn’t like how bothered Jace seemed to be over all of this. Her heart ached and she wanted to see Jace smile again, a real smile and not the ones he painted on to trick everyone in to believing he was invincible.
“It’s all going to be okay. We’re going to find him and bring him home,” she whispered in to his shoulder.