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Find Me in the Shadows

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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.

“Ahhhhh!”

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.

Oh.

“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.

Chapter Text

Bleary eyed, Alec made his way to the kitchen, his bare feet padding on the tiled floor quietly. He’d been sent by Magnus to go eat something while the Psychic finished showering, although Alec had no idea why he’d been so forceful about it. He had barely used his abilities the day before and felt perfectly fine, but he wasn’t about to argue with a shirtless Magnus as he was pushed out in to the hallway.

Well, more like he couldn’t argue since his tongue seemed to have gone on a siesta at the sight.

He stepped in to the kitchen, tossing a casual wave to Simon who sat hunched over an untouched poptart staring off in to nothing. Alec shrugged it off, thinking of the mornings that he had in the past that took his brain a little longer to boot up than others. Glancing through the pantry, he tried to think of what he was in the mood for that morning.

“I think Magnus had Clary pick up some danishes for you on the last grocery run. They should be in the fridge,” came Luke’s voice as he entered the kitchen behind him, making a beeline straight for the coffee machine.

Alec tossed his thanks over his shoulder as he went to check on the said treasures, his mouth watering at the sight of a whole assorted box of pastries with a sticky note attached with his name written on it in Clary’s handwriting. He made a mental note to thank both of them later in the day. Thinking back to only a few months ago when his normal breakfast consisted of either air or stale bread, he couldn't believe how much his life had changed for the better. He practically felt spoiled just being able to have ice cubes in his water, let alone fresh pastries bought just for him. He could remember the joy that a single sugar packet would bring him on those special days when Jace risked stealing some from his cafe, and now he could have an industrial bag of sugar if he wanted it. 

It was a little surreal and strange to have once felt guilty for eating one extra piece of bread to having others cheerfully encourage indulgence, but as long as he reminded himself to be grateful for each thing and never take anything for granted then maybe he wasn't that spoiled.

He pulled together a plate of several sugary pastries, a piece of fruit, and a tall glass of cranberry juice before making his way over to the table where Luke and Simon sat. Pulling out a book to read, he began to eat, trying to ignore the growing look of disgust on Luke’s face. He flipped a page and took a bite of a danish, carefully trying to ignore the wince on Luke's face. Another page turned, another bite and a sip of his juice. He could still feel eyes on him like a physical presence. He only got two more pages in before he put his book down to regard the team leader.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

Luke chuckled, “No, I’m just making a mental note to have Catarina check your teeth next time she visits. I know that sugar is supposed to be good for you, but I can’t imagine your teeth agree.”

Alec snorted and took an unnecessarily large bite of a powdered donut, “And maybe she should check yours and Izzy’s arteries as well. With the amount of red meat you two eat I can only imagine your veins running about as smooth as a milkshake through a soda straw,” and threw Luke a dirty look.

Luke laughed out loud this time, “Okay, you got me there. Perhaps I'm just a little jealous that you can eat like that and gain nothing but muscle. Anyway, I guess it’s good that you’re eating a lot right now. You’re going to want to be on the top of your game for later today,” he said, downing the rest of his coffee and getting up to make himself some bacon and eggs.

Alec frowned, “What do you mean?” he asked, mouth still half full of powdered donut. Simon’s head perked up as well, confusion on his face.

“Do we have a mission?” the Molecular asked.

Luke shook his head, “No mission for today, but you and I will be reviewing what you’ve found in the database to see if there are any potential ones in there,” he said to Simon, frowning when Simon’s heart rate picked up a bit.

“Well then why do I need to eat more?” Alec asked, bringing the team leader’s focus back.

Luke smiled at him, “Because your mentor is stopping by for your first lesson.”


 

After trying to read the same paragraph for the fourth time and still not absorbing any of it, Alec tossed his book down on the couch and turned his head to where Magnus was sitting next to him, his own book in his lap.

He’d styled his hair differently today, Alec had no idea what the different styles were called, but he liked this one. He liked all of them really, but this one was especially sexy on Magnus. The eyeshadow applied today was really nice too, making him look mysterious. And the clothes were hugging in all the right places…

“I’d try to concentrate on something else, Angel. Your mentor will be arriving any minute and you don’t want to seem too excited,” Magnus said calmly without looking up from his book. He smirked when he saw Alec blush and sink down in to the couch, pulling a pillow over his lap. In truth, Magnus was finding himself in the same situation more and more, like he had regressed back to his teenaged years. He was making a point of now trying to avoid walking by the glass walls of the dojo while Alec was working out in a vain attempt to gain some self control. It wasn’t entirely his fault though, after all, Alec and Jace were the ones who seemed to develop some kind of allergy to shirts while working out.

Even just sitting on the couch together Magnus had been stealing glances at Alec’s profile, watching as he became more agitated as time drew closer to when his teacher was supposed to arrive. It was rather cute in a way to watch the progression of Alexander's hair in relation to his growing anxiety. Each time that Magnus felt a slight surge coming from his boyfriend he would glance over to see a hand combing worriedly through his hair, leaving the locks even more or less strategically mussed. Magnus had no idea how, but after several ticks up on his Alexander doppler radar his hair actually looked better than earlier. 

“Sorry, I just…you look nice,” Alec said lamely, making Magnus smile wider.

Magnus raised an elegant eyebrow, “Do I now? And I don’t suppose your inability to focus on your book is simply because of that, or if there’s an air of apprehension you want to talk about?”

Alec looked even more embarrassed, “Okay, I guess I’m a little nervous. Luke hasn’t told me a thing about them, just that they’re going to help me develop my abilities. The way Izzy talks about her training with Luke, it sounds kind of…intimate. Like getting in to my head kind of intimate,” he rushed to say at Magnus’ alarmed look.

Magnus nodded slowly, his own apprehension simmering down at that, “Well, Luke has worked hard at finding the perfect match for you. I’m sure that he made sure that any person going near that pretty little head of yours would be fully trustworthy,” Magnus said just as a portal formed in the middle of the living room, signaling Clary’s return with Alec’s new teacher.

Alec got to his feet, heart rate picking up as he waited for them to step through. Only Magnus’ solid presence behind him kept him from fiddling with his hands.

Clary stepped out first, smiling as she saw the other two mutants waiting for her, waving a leather gloved clad hand at them. Then the portal shimmered as a man stepped out behind her. He was around Magnus’ height and maybe a little bit older, with blond curly hair. Even Magnus had to begrudgingly admit that he was very handsome.

He offered a gentle smile to the two other men, “Hello, my name is Underhill. I’m here to train Alec?” he asked, looking between the two trying to figure out who his student would be.

Alec stepped forward with his hand out, “That’s me, uh, welcome I guess. And thanks for coming.”

Underhill took his offered hand and shook it, his smile becoming wider as he looked around, “Thanks for having me, this place is beautiful,” he said as he gazed around the room in wonder.

Magnus took the moment to scan over the newcomer, trying to detect anything that would trigger one of his mental alarms. He did his best to be subtle about it as he didn’t normally do things like that with people Luke invited, but this man was about to start an ‘intimate’ relationship with Alexander. What kind of Psychic boyfriend would he be if he didn’t at least try to protect him.

There was a bit of awe, surprise, excitement, nervousness, and eagerness all mixed in around the man. Nothing that would cause for Magnus to step in, so he did his best to keep a welcoming smile on his face and not appear to be hovering around Alec like a wolf protecting his mate.

“It is quite lovely, isn’t it?” Magnus interjected, drawing the man’s eyes back to them, “And Underhill, is there a first name to go with that?”

Underhill smiled, “Not one that I know of. My genetic disease had been noted in my records before I was even born, so I was on the Circle's radar a bit earlier than most. I was taken to a facility as a baby immediately after my mother passed during childbirth. I was given her surname and nothing else for the records. So, no first name. Just Underhill,” he said factually, not a hint of change on his face as he continued to look around them in wonder. 

Magnus winced internally, but he felt no malice coming from Underhill at the question. Small save from Magnus feeling like a royal heel for being so suspicious. Hadn’t he been the one to tell Alec that he should trust someone Luke had given his golden stamp of approval to? What was his problem...

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Alec said, his voice warm with the sincerity that Magnus had come to adore.

Underhill shrugged, “It’s all in the past. Now, would you like to get started, Alec?” he asked, blinding smile stretched over his handsome face.

Even though he was still practically vibrating with nerves, Alec nodded eagerly, “Yeah, let’s do this. Uh, did you want to go to the dojo, or the mediation room…” he trailed off, not sure how Underhill wanted to first approach. He was surprised when the man shook his head at both places.

“Actually, Luke has told me a little bit about your abilities and from that I think it best if we start outside. We are surrounded by a forest, are we not?”

Alec’s nervous tremors were replaced by eagerness and excitement at the suggestion and nodded enthusiastically, “Sounds great, let’s head out.”


 

Magnus and Clary watched as the two Elementals walked out of sight, Magnus straining his ears to hear anything that was said as they headed down the hall, but from what he could tell there were no words spoken between the two. Only a soft comradery of a moderately comfortable silence. He rocked back on his heels a bit discouraged.

He felt Clary dig her elbow in to his ribs, “Try not to be so obvious, Magnus. Jealousy is not becoming of you.”

Magnus winced, knowing she was correct in her assessment. He had no right to be jealous, not with Alec practically on par with a German Sheppard with his level of loyalty, and Underhill almost oozing with an air of good natured-ness. This relationship was just so new, and Magnus was still so scared of losing the best thing that he could ever remember happening to him. And perhaps he was still a bit in recovery after some of his more recent relationships. He felt awful for thinking anything negative, but it had become a survival instinct for him; A reflex to be suspicious if it meant catching betrayal early, before he got in too deep. 

He sighed sadly, “I know, Biscuit. I suppose I was just caught off guard by him. He isn’t exactly what I expected to be coming through that portal,” he said.

Clary patted his arm sympathetically,  “You were expecting something more…Luke-ish?”

Magnus nodded, “Yes! Exactly. And I wouldn’t even blame him if he did find Alec attractive too, I mean, have you seen his…," Magnus gestured wildly in front of him where Alec had stood a minute earlier, "...everything about him?”

Clary laughed, her eyes bright with mirth, “So you were expecting another Dad… not a Daddy.”

“Clarissa!” Magnus exclaimed in shock before joining her in laughter. It felt good to make light of it all, and deep down he knew that he didn’t need to be concerned about Alec or Underhill. He just truly hoped that the man would be able to guide Alec through his ability’s development. It physically pained Magnus to see Alec almost constantly draining himself because he didn’t know how to dial down a bit when using his mutation. Perhaps this Underhill will be able to help in ways Magnus never could. That was the whole idea of this, wasn’t it?


 

Stepping outside was still every bit a thrilling now as it was the first time he had walked out amongst the trees. Everything about it was rejuvenating, a recharge to batteries he didn’t even know he had, a breath of fresh air when he didn’t even realize the room had become stuffy.

A few times now he’d snuck out of the house to enjoy everything the woods had to offer. He didn’t mind telling Magnus where he was going, but he knew there would be some sort of teasing from the rest if they knew that sometime he just wanted to…sit with the trees. Jace would probably kid about Alec spending time among his people. It was a bit odd though, even Alec had to admit that. Jace was an Elemental too, but you didn’t see him lighting fires to just sit next to and bask in their glory. Any fire they sat near was just for warmth. It was just one more reason for Alec to feel like he didn't fit in. 

Alec stepped out the door and in to the clearing were a car and motorcycle were still parked. He resisted the urge to walk straight in to the trees, even if it did feel like they were calling him to come play. Instead he turned back to Underhill, hands behind his back to wait and see what his mentor had in mind. He watched him slowly emerge out of the house and stepping in to the clearing, stepping through the shadows of the canopy of trees and stopping as soon as the sun hit his face.

Alec watched him pause, raising his face to the sky as a look of utter peace fell upon him. After a moment or so, he sighed and brought his gaze back down to Alec and smiled.

“Of all the types of light in this world, the sun is by far my favorite,” he said quietly, “I find that pure and natural sources feel all the more potent.”

Alec had a feeling that Underhill was a lot like him in that they didn’t waste breath on unnecessary words, so he listened closely for what was said…and what was unsaid.

“Is that why this forest feels so…why I’m so drawn to it?” Alec asked. He was allowed to ask questions, right? This guy was supposed to be his mentor, he was supposed to answer all the questions Alec had in relation to his abilities. Of course, Alec had amassed thousands of questions over the years, but had lived with the idea that none of them would ever be answered. Now though, he had a chance. 

Underhill smiled at him, “I would believe so. Why don’t you take me for a walk? I’m sure you know these woods like the back of your hand by now.” Alec nodded and turned to the trees and thought about which direction to take. The was one way that was a bit easier to walk down and would lead them to a pretty pond, but his favorite part of the woods was a bit harder to get to.

“Take me to where you are most drawn to,” Underhill suggested gently. So Alec turned to the right, heading to where his favorite spot was. He’d shown it to Magnus once already, a little over a week ago. Since then they’d returned a few more times. They’d spent a while there enjoying each other’s company as well as the other’s lips, and while Alec would have loved to keep that spot a secret between the two of them, he longed for that safe feeling right now that the spot provided. Anything to help him ease his nerves.

It wasn't that he found Underhill to be intimidating, it was more of the situation that he found to be a little daunting. If anything, Alec was almost immediately comfortable with his mentor. He seemed to have a gentle nature and a calmness that made Alec feel almost comforted by his presence. Perhaps it was an Elemental thing. He'd ask him about it later.

They walked into the forest, Alec leading the way along the now familiar path. He'd come this way almost a hundred times at this point, sometimes now even with Magnus. Thinking back, Magnus had always grumbled about how easily Alec was able to walk through the roots, low branches and rocks without ever losing his footing, and Alec had thought that maybe it was just the Psychic refusing to switch in to more reasonable shoes. However, Alec was quickly re-assessing that assumption as he listened to Underhill stumbling frequently behind him.

Alec winced at one particularly loud thud and slowed his pace down a bit. It would take them a while to get there at this rate, but at least his mentor would be in one piece.

“So, what has Luke told you so far?” Alec asked. He was honestly a little anxious over the answer. He and his siblings had a complicated past, and he wouldn’t be surprised if a little judgement or pity was stewing in the man behind him. He’d maybe ask Magnus later about that. Alec sneaked a glance over his shoulder, trying to get a read on the man behind him, but his mentor didn't appear to look like he wanted to wrap Alec in a blanket and give him hot cocoa. He didn't even look like he was approaching a stray cat either. He just looked neutral if not a bit awkward, but maybe that was because he was very busy trying not to face-plant on the forest floor.

Underhill, paused, hands on his hips as he tried to catch his breath, “Uh, not as much as you’re probably thinking, but more than nothing?" he said wrinkling his nose in thought, "He told me that you have been living on the streets for almost a decade with your Feral sister and Elemental brother. He told me about your recent incidents involving the overuse of your abilities, and some of Catarina’s advice on how to manage that,” he said. It all came out factual, with no inflection of emotions of pity or judgement. Alec breathed out a soft sigh of relief.

“Is that all?”

The other man’s gaze fell to the ground for a moment, as if he was gathering himself for what he was about to say next. After a moment he looked back up, meeting Alec’s eyes, “He told me what your element was,” he said softly.

Alec frowned, confused at Underhill’s serious expression, “Well, I figured that was a given. Why do you seem so…bothered by it?” Alec felt his anxiety kick back in to full gear as Underhill almost squirmed under his gaze.

His mentor winced as he shrugged, “Because I’m honestly not sure that I can help you. I don’t even know if anyone will be able to.”

Chapter Text

Alec probably had a thousand and one questions in several tones of panic and shame, but Underhill waved them onwards in to the woods, saying that they could talk more once they reached their destination. While on the outside Alec was reasonably sure he looked calm and collected, inside he was nearing a mental breakdown.

Why could no one help him? Was he broken? Did his mentor take one look at him and go "yeah, hopeless cause for sure"? Was he that pathetic looking? Was there something wrong with his mutation that made him a freak among freaks? Did this mean he was doomed to never be able to master his abilities? Would Luke keep him on his team if no one could teach him control? Would he have to leave the team? The house? His family? Magnus?

What will Magnus think of all this?

It was one thing for Alec to occasionally believe that he wasn't as talented as his siblings, or that maybe his best just wasn't enough. It was another whole beast for it to be thrown in his face by someone who was supposed to help him get better. He couldn't grasp the idea that he may have to head back to the house and explain to Magnus that he had failed before he even got to try. 

Alec was so lost in his self-depreciating thoughts that he almost kept walking after they reached their destination. It was only the feeling of the flora welcoming him back that made him lift his gaze enough to realize where they were. He sighed and stopped walking, turning back to Underhill and spreading his arms out to gesture around them, “This is where I’m drawn to,” he said blandly, and watched as the man took in their surroundings.

Alec also lifted his gaze to take it all in again, drinking in the utter peace that this place seemed to radiate. The trees here were so thick around the base that it would take at least four men to completely reach around the trunk of the smallest tree. Every inch of the forest floor was covered in thick grass or moss, not patches of dirt visible anywhere. Wild flowers popped up like splashes of paint around the bases of the trees. Large boulders that fell from the mountain thousands of years before now lay around them, creating what felt like a border around them.

There was one boulder that must have split long ago due to ice and temperature changes, leaving a flat piece in the center, almost like a bed. Alec loved to lay there sometimes. Alec loved it more when Magnus joined him.

Wearily, Alec sat down on the edge of the flat stone, scooting over a bit when Underhill moved to join him. They say there for a while, each gathering their thoughts. It was almost funny to Alec, he just knew that if the others were here they’d laugh and ask how these two would ever carry on a conversation seeing as how reserved they both were. Simon would probably make a joke about Ents from that Lord of the Rings movie he’d made them watch and how trees converse very slowly.

“What is it about this place that draws you to it?” Underhill asked suddenly, his soft voice startling in the tranquility of the grove.

Alec took a moment to look around before replying, “I’m not sure, I never really thought about it. I was just walking through the forest one day, I guess I got a little lost, so I reached out to the trees thinking maybe I’d find some familiar ones to lead me home…but instead they led me here.”

Underhill hummed as if in deep thought, “Could it be perhaps, that the trees felt that you wanted to go to a safe place, and they led you here?” he asked, sounding a little hesitant.

The line of questioning was a bit odd to him, but Alec just shrugged and replied, “I guess so. I do feel safe here. The trees are so old, older than anything else I've encountered so far. They have a sort of presence that the rest of the forest doesn't have…I’m pretty sure this is where the forest started, the first trees that grew and survived through everything the mountain and sky threw at them before all of this grew around them.”

He saw Underhill nod out of the corner of his eye, “That would make a lot of sense. We as humans tend to seek out elders when we’re lost, like children searching a crowd for their parents. I suppose to you these trees are like that.”

It did make a bit of sense, and Alec was surprised he’d never thought of that himself. Maybe this is what Luke had intended for him, someone to help him understand his connection to his element, not just someone to teach him how to fight with it. But if Underhill could offer these kinds of insights, then why was Alec a hopeless cause?

The very thought made his chest feel like it was filled with iron, the sheer weight making him slump over and his lungs struggle to draw in full breaths. “Why don’t you feel like you can help me?” Alec asked, shame filling him again at the thought that something inside him was broken.

Underhill gave him a pained look, “Don’t go thinking something is wrong with you, because that is not the case at all,” he said, “And don’t bother denying that you feel that way. I can recognize self-loathing better than most. It’s all in the eyes and shoulders,” he said, gesturing to Alec's drooped back. His face was kind, and that somehow made Alec feel worse. He could barely handle his own self-pity, he didn't think he could take on some stranger's on top of that. He was so confused, he felt lost and would have felt completely alone if not for the trees rustling around him as if to remind him of their presence.

Alec swallowed back the urge to cry, “If nothing is wrong with me, then why can no one help me?”

The man sighed, turning to face Alec and laying a comforting hand on top of his own clenched fist, “Because you are…different, even among Elementals. Unique I should say, really. You know our kind’s abilities lie in sharing the energy signature with natural substances or occurrences, right? Like your brother for example, he can sync up and manipulate the energy found in fire. And you know how he does it?”

“Emotions,” Alec supplied, and Underhill nodded pleased.

“Yes, exactly. And there are other Elementals out there who control all sorts of things. Like myself, my element is light. Anything from ultraviolet to gamma rays, I’ve can bend and use at will, making things invisible, heating things up like a microwave, creating the solar energy that powers the safe house I live in. I think that's part of why Luke chose me for you, because my Element and yours are compatible in that my Element can feed in to yours…Anyway, I’ve met an Elemental that controls water, another air, another metal, electricity, sound, stone, the very ground we walk on…there are so many sources for us…but even still among all those Elements...you’re unusual. Think about all the things those I just listed that people can control and tell me what it is about your element that makes you so very special,” he said, his voice taking on a sense of awe as he finished.

Alec was taken aback a bit, his mouth falling open as he quickly ran through the possibilities in his head, but it was hard for him to get past the idea that in any way he was special, not when he had such incredible siblings, not when he was working with a team of amazing people who every day showed him just how much he had to learn.

His eyes moved around the area before him, falling on the hard stone they sat on, rubbing his shoes in where he knew dirt lay underneath, unmoving. Fingering the cold metal watch on his wrist. Breathing in the still air around them. The flora around him humming with contentment…what was so different?

Oh!

“None of those are living things,” Alec said, realization slapping him in the face.

Underhills’ face lit up as he nodded, “Yes! Your gift is an incredible one, one that I don’t even know where to begin to comprehend it's enormity. With the rest of us, we can tap in to our elements and use them for this or that, but with you…you can tap in and the plants can tap back. Haven’t you ever wondered why it was that your abilities seem so much more…potent than your brothers? Or any other Elementals? Why it is that you can do incredible things like create entire wooden domes to save your team and set a whole flower shop on the defensive while half dead on your feet? It’s because you are bound to a living element. Something that can feel you and respond to you. Something that already holds it's own life force and energy. You aren’t just manipulating an existing object, you are doing so much more than that. It’s all too incredible to think about the possibilities.”

Alec shook his head, his mind swimming with even more questions. He was sure he looked like a somewhat overwhelmed and extremely perplexed deer and fish hybrid in headlights seeing as how wide his eyes were and how his mouth couldn't seem to settle on a single word to say. Underhill seemed fascinated and excited about him, and Alec was just trying to grasp the basic concept that he wasn't a complete failure.

“That’s why I told Luke I wasn’t sure if I was the best fit for this, and why I don’t think anyone would be able to fully grasp just what it is you do! Luke was adamant though, saying that I would be the only one that he thinks you’d be comfortable with, something about you being a bit…stand-offish with strangers. I just want you to know that I want to help in any way that I can, but we may be a bit more limited. Do you understand? There is nothing wrong with you. You’re just so very special,” he finished, lowering his voice as he finished, noting that Alec was beginning to look slightly overwhelmed with what he was being told.

“I don’t feel special,” Alec said softly, “I just feel like…boring, overly tall, slightly rude, me.”

Underhill smiled sadly, patting Alec gently on the back, “I hope that we can fix that together. Someday I hope you can see yourself as more than just that.”


 

The computer lab was just as chilly as it always was, so Luke had come prepared with a large coffee in his hand. No cream, no sugar, just the bitter life giver that was good old black coffee. He didn't care if drinking it in front of the kids made them all cringe and gag, hell, he may even like drinking it in front of them just because it came off as a power move, especially when it was scalding hot. Taking a long sip of broiling hot sludge while maintaining eye contact with any of the kids as they started to squirm was just another way to maintain dominance. He smiled to himself as he walked over to the monitor where Simon was busy working. 

“Okay, Simon. Show me what you got,” he said, raising an eyebrow at how high Simon jumped in his chair as he called out.

The Molecular’s heart rate became erratic rather quick, and Luke steeled himself for what was about to come. He would let Simon take the lead on this one though, he wanted to get a few good sips in before he was hit with whatever it was that was bugging the kid so much. Luke pulled one of the rolling chairs over, turning it backwards to sit with the backrest up against his chest while Simon pushed his glasses off his face and back up in to his hairline.

Simon clicked out of whatever he was doing and moved the mouse to pull up the database.

“Um, so I’m getting a bit closer to a search feature, but that may still be a few weeks out. In the meantime, I’ve been checking through random folders and categorizing them. I know you wanted to focus on finding new mutants to help, so I’ve got patient files in a special folder. I’m trying to crosscheck them against mutants we’ve already located, mutants we’ve already re-located, mutants we know have been captured, and ones that we’ve seen working for Valentine. Um, I can pull up a couple profiles if you want,” Simon offered, his voice a little dull compared to the normal exuberance it usually carried.

Luke shrugged, “Sure, we can start there if you like.”

Simon nodded and clicked open a few files, reading through a couple, waiting for Luke’s nod before moving on to the next.

“So this one is for patient# 60375. They would be around 28 years old now. Feral with, uh, raccoon DNA. Really good at climbing things it seems, there’s a footnote about not letting them be in a room with windows near a drainpipe. Bet there’s a story behind that...” Simon continued, his eyes fixed on the computer, not looking Luke in the eye.Somehow the team leader did not think it was because of the coffee he was drinking.

It was about seven files in that Luke had about enough caffeine running through his veins to be steady enough to handle whatever it was that had Simon so jittery, but before he could say anything more the Molecular swerved his chair to face him.

“Did you know about Clary?”

Luke’s eyebrows rose at the sudden question, “I do believe I’m aware she exists. Is there something more specific you’re asking?” he had an idea already though, it was probably time for the truth to come out anyway. He felt the dread pool in his stomach, churning his stomach in to a sour acid that rose in his throat.

The somewhat sick look on Simon’s face was enough evidence as to what was about to come, and Luke was almost positive that his own face was looking green as well. 

“Did you know that Valentine is Clary’s father too?”

And there it was.

It had been foolish of him to think that he would avoid having to tell this story forever. It was only pure luck that it had taken this long for him to finally be backed in to a corner where he had to finally spill everything. Every last horrid, painful, blood soaked part of the truth he wished he could have kept hidden in his closet. Luke sighed heavily, slowly placing his coffee on the desk next to him, using both free hands to rub over his face wearily before regarding Simon.

“Yes. I’ve always known. I promised her mother that I would keep it a secret though.”

Simon’s eyes bugged out, “Her mother? You knew her mom? I thought you just took a shining to Clary or something and decided to visit her few times back at the facility, not that you knew her family.”

Luke shook his head, “No, I knew Clary’s mother before she was born. I knew all along who the father was too.”

“And you’ve been letting her and Jace do...things? They’re brother and sister! Dude, we need to stop them!”

Luke shook his head, “Calm down, they’re not related. I know that much.”

“What?! Luke, what the hell aren’t you telling us?”

Luke sighed, and downed the rest of his coffee, “I’ll tell you now. It about time you all knew anyway.”

Chapter Text

“So, while we still have some time left, how about we go through some of the basics of how we control our elemental energies,” Underhill offered.

Now the two were sitting face to face on the rock, as if they were back in the meditation room. Alec’s long legs were folded, his hands resting on his knees, mirroring the man before him.

“Uh, sure,” Alec said, still a bit unsure about everything.

“First, I need you to identify a safe place in your mind. Somewhere that brings you peace of mind, someplace you won’t feel anything else but a sense of calm. Not a happy place, mind you. Happiness is not the emotion we’re going for because it can be too strong sometimes. The only thing you need to feel is secure and calm. Can you do that?”

Alec thought hard, there weren’t many places he had been in his life that he had ever felt safe in, besides the house, but being there made him happy…so that probably wouldn’t work.

“Um, is this place okay? Here, in the woods? I feel safe here, sort of…and calm…”

Underhill smiled, “Yes, it should work well. Now, take in the area around you. How you feel right now. Empty yourself of everything other than what you feel around you.”

“But the trees…I can’t push them out of my head, there always in there when I come here.”

“Close your eyes,” he ordered gently and Alec complied, “They can stay, in a way they’re a part of you I suppose. You feel what they feel. Now, once you feel you’ve completely rid yourself of everything, I want you to tap your knee twice. Then I’ll tell you the next step.”

Alec nodded, his eyes clenched shut. Push everything away? How could he do that when his life was so chaotic? They’re all still trying to settle in to a new life, a new home. His siblings and him are adjusting to being apart more. They’re all trying to get their abilities under control. They just ran in to Valentine after some of them got kidnapped. He just learned that Max has been alive this whole time…and on top of that he’s in a relationship for the first time and it’s with someone so incredible he doesn’t have words to describe him. He couldn’t even bring himself to sleep lately without Magnus nearby…wait.

Magnus made him happy, but he also made Alec feel…calm. Like everything chaotic in his life was suddenly not so bad once Magnus whispered in his ear that everything would be okay.

“Can…can people be in this ‘special place’,” Alec asked hesitantly, thankful he could keep his eyes closed. He didn’t want to see Underhill’s reaction to that.

There was a pause before he answered, “Of course. Sometimes the safest place is not a location, but a person or a group of people. If your soul calls out for another when you’re lost, rather than just a place, then maybe that soul is your safe place.”

“Okay,” Alec breathed out, this time picturing Magnus sitting next to him on the rock, both of them staring up at the branches above them. Without even thinking about it, all the chaos in his life suddenly disappeared. All he saw was green, all he felt was Magnus.

Finally Alec’s shoulders relaxed as well as where he had his eyes slammed shut, the skin smoothing out. Alec tapped his knee twice.

“Excellent, you’re doing very well. Our next step is a bit easier. First, do you think you can open your eyes, but keep your peace in place?” Alec nodded and slowly pried his eyes open. He saw Underhill reaching down from the rock to grab something off the ground. He sat back up, this time holding an acorn in his hand. Gently he placed it on the rock between them.

“Alright, Alec. I want you to tell me what you feel most strongly about. What makes you the happiest? The saddest? The angriest?”

Alec’s calm place shuddered a little at the sudden onslaught of questions, but he gained control quickly again and began to think. What made him happiest? He couldn’t remember being happy growing up, sure there were happy moments here and there, but as a whole not very happy really. Even lately, having more happy moments in the last month than in his whole life…there was still peppered bits of stress and sadness. Alec’s hands clenched in frustration, something that Underhill quickly picked up on.

“It doesn’t have to be a specific memory. I know you’ve had a very rough life, but there must have been something consistent that brought you joy, small moments of life in your otherwise dark existence.”

Finding the light…

Alec remembered having a talk like this with Magnus, the night that Ragnor died.

“My siblings, and…Magnus. They make me the happiest,” he said.

Underhill nodded encouragingly, “Good. Now, picture them in your head, feel how happy they make you. And while you do that, I want you to reach out to the acorn.”

Alec nodded and started to think of those whose smiles made him feel warm inside. Izzy, her sharp whit and ability to sense whenever he was upset about something. Jace, a solid presence that made Alec feel protected and strong. Magnus…Magnus made him feel wanted, safe, warm…

The acorn in front of them started to sprout, a little stock of green with a single leaf on top that quickly grew in to a larger plant. Both men smiled.

“Very good.”

Alec shrugged, “It’s not that impressive, really. I’ve done that a bunch of times before.”

“But we’re not here today to learn your limits. Luke wanted us to focus on control so that we can better prevent you exhausting yourself. Today we’re starting with control, and part of that is knowing what effects your emotions will have on your element. Happiness will help things grow, I think that’s pretty straight forward. So, next. What makes you feel the saddest?”

Alec thought back. Lots of stuff made him sad. Being rejected by his parents. Having become a mutant through torturous treatments. Knowing what Jace went through as a child. Knowing how Magnus felt like everyone would abandon him. Max…

“I think I’m saddest about Max.”

“Who’s Max,” Underhill prodded gently when Alec fell silent.

“He’s was…is my little brother. We thought he was dead, but he’s not. He’s being held by Valentine.”

“Tell me about him. Tell me about Max. What are you most sad about?”

Alec leaned back, his head turned up to the sky as he closed his eyes, as if gravity would keep the tears from falling, “I’m sad about the life lost. Even though he’s been alive all this time…he hasn’t been living. He was always such a handful, never in one spot more than a minute, always curious about everything around him, always asking questions, always looking for answers…When his mutation presented I thought it was very fitting for him. He was a Psychic. He could pull knowledge out of any mind that he wanted. Ninety-nine percent of what he learned was useless trivia, or personal facts like what a person’s favorite candy bar was or the average rate at which turtles reproduce. But that one percent left is what made him so dangerous, dangerous enough that I think that’s why Valentine targeted him over me and Izzy. Security codes, building layouts…the one percent left were all secrets. It wasn’t his fault, he was so young he couldn’t control it yet…” he choked out the last bit, and then glanced down at the acorn, watching as it started to grow branches that reached out to him as if to surround his body.

“What…what’s it doing?” Alec asked.

Underhill stared for a moment, watching as the branches slowly wrapped up the Elemental, “I think that maybe it’s trying to protect you. Much like how Luke described that dome you made to protect your sister and friends from the agents advancing. Luke mentioned that at the time you thought Jace had died. Such sadness can be felt like physical pain. I think the flora around you sense when you are in pain, or are sad, and then tries to protect you the only way it knows how.”

“By being a shield,” Alec murmured, letting the sadness drift away and watching as the branches receded.

Underhill watched, pleased at the progress. He was a little surprised that this was going so well, he’d honestly thought that he would be of no help to Alec, “Okay, last one and we’ll call it for today. This is all very rough and exhausting, having to dredge up such emotions, so we’ll head back after this. Sound fair?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. The last one, that was anger, right?”

Underhill nodded and Alec shut his eyes again, trying to think about what made him angry.

It wasn’t Simon’s constant allusions to pop culture, that was annoying but didn’t make him angry. Jace’s casual ignorance for his own safety? Well, Alec couldn’t be that mad at him since it was mostly Jace being insecure about his necessity in other’s lives. Izzy leaving her shoes everywhere for him to trip over? Yeah, no…

What made him the angriest?


 

“So anyone know what this house meeting is about?” Isabelle asked, her limbs draped heavily over the arm rests of the lounge chair she was in. The others were similarly spread around the living room, all having been paged over the intercom to gather there. Luke mentioned that he and Simon would be arriving shortly.

Clary and Magnus exchanged worried glances, not sure how to answer. For them, this was completely new as well. All team meetings had been held in the war room, or computer lab and they were generally about missions or that time that Luke gathered them to discuss common kitchen cleaning etiquette. They didn’t want to alarm the newer members of their team though, so they silently agreed to keep their mouths shut for the moment.

Jace didn’t seem particularly concerned, instead letting his gaze travel around the room as if looking for something.

“Hey, where’s Alec at?”

Magnus rolled his head over to look longingly down the hall to where Alec had left with his mentor a few hours before. They still hadn’t returned and he was starting to get a little worried. If Alec had been using his abilities this whole time he would be needing to eat something soon. Sensing Magnus was lost in his own thoughts, Clary turned and gave Jace’s hand a small pat, “He left with his mentor a while ago. I’m sure they’ll be back soon. We can call his new cell number if you want, I think he has his phone with him.”

Jace looked tempted, but shook his head anyway, “Nah, I don’t want to interrupt anything. You’re right, I’m sure they’re fine.”

Seconds after the words left his mouth, footsteps were heard coming from down the hall they had left from earlier that day. Magnus’ head whipped up at the approaching figures, a smile forming on his handsome face that quickly melted in to a look of shock as he took in the appearance of the two men. The others noticed as well and they all jumped from their seats and darted over.

“Oh my god, Alec! What happened to you two?” Isabelle shrieked as Magnus ran up to him, hands trailing all over to check for injuries while Clary took over Underhill.

Alec scratched the back of his head sheepishly, the action causing a few leaves and some dust to fall, “Uh, there was a…a really angry acorn.”

They were both covered in twigs, leaves, and dirt. Small scraped and cuts littered them where skin was clean enough to see, little beads of already dried blood at the corners. Despite looking like they had both rolled down the mountain, they appeared to be in good spirits about the whole thing. Underhill was smiling brightly, his teeth looking startlingly white against his dirtied face. Magnus could feel amusement, pride, and a touch of awe coming from the man which was strange enough. Alec was merely radiating embarrassment and not much else.

“We’re both fine, Isabelle is it?” Underhill said to the Feral, shaking her hand enthusiastically, “Wonderful to meet you. And Jace? Alec spoke most highly of both of you.”

Magnus turned his focus back on the man before him, taking in the mess of skin and torn clothes, “Alexander…what on earth happened? Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked, his hands now roaming over Alec’s chest not even caring that the dirt was getting on him. Magnus swore under his breath as he took in the scrapes, one on his face in particular that he reached up to inspect.

Meanwhile, Alec was practically preening under the attention Magnus was giving him. Each careful touch and concerned glance made his face feel warm and his stomach jittery with butterflies. He gave Magnus a pained grin, “I’m okay, Mags. I took him to that place in the woods, you know? Where I went when I got lost that one time? We were just experimenting with some emotions and I made an acorn go crazy. It went after me and Underhill and I kind of panicked, and we got pushed off the rock and…it got messy,” Alec finished lamely, his face blushing in pure embarrassment now, “but the scrapes are the worst of it, and Underhill says he isn’t mad. We just know now that anger and me is not a good combination and should definitely be avoided.”

Magnus’ eyes bugged out as he once again took in both Alec’s and Underhill’s appearances before nodding slowly, “Noted.”

The chatter stopped as Luke and Simon entered the room, the Molecular keeping his head down as he made his way over to the couch, falling back on it heavily. Luke stopped short at seeing the condition of Alec and Underhill, his eyes widening for a moment before he shook his head, not really wanting to know the details.

Underhill seemed to note the mounting tension in the room and took it as his cue to leave. Digging a hand in to his pocket he walked over to Alec, pulling out a small card and smirking when more dirt fell from his pockets when he retracted his hand.

“I think today went very well, so if you want to continue to work together I’ll gladly come back next week. In the meantime, I’ll leave you my personal number. Luke only has the number to my safe house, but this one you’ll be able to reach me directly and not one of my roommates.  And feel free to call whenever you want, day or night if you need help with something or have more questions. You did remarkably well today, Alec, don’t convince yourself otherwise, alright?” he said, placing the card in Alec’s hand and bending the fingers over it.

Alec nodded stiffly, but offered a smile, “Thank you for everything, and…sorry about the acorn thing. That…that was new.”

Underhill laughed as he walked over to Clary where she was pulling up a portal for him, he waved over his shoulder one last time before stepping through and leaving the team alone.

All eyes turned towards Luke.

Chapter Text

Alec slipped the card in to the pocket of his dirty pants, hoping he didn’t forget to pull it our before he did his laundry, and turned back to the rest of the room, frowning when he saw several very serious faces all looking at Luke.

“Um, did I miss something while I was out?”

“Go ahead and take a seat, Alec. The rest of you as well, we’ve got a few things that need to be said and I think you need to hear them from me before you find out some other way,” Luke said seriously.

Nervous glances were shot around the room as everyone complied, finding someplace to sit. Alec, still feeling a little emotionally raw from his training decided to take a seat further away, by the waterfall where he would be less likely to cause any trouble. He breathed out a happy sigh when Magnus joined him, the Psychic still hovering around him worriedly.

Clary sat down on the couch, not surprised when Jace sat down next to her, but was a little surprised when Simon got up and moved over to her, plopping down close enough for their knees to touch. She looked at her best friend, now seeing the dark circles under his eyes and the small tremors in his shoulders. A little bit of guilt ate its way in to her stomach, thinking maybe she hadn’t been paying as much attention to her friend since Jace and her started to get close.

“Luke, what’s going on?” Magnus asked, the rising tension in the room making him feel itchy all over as it grew. He felt Alec reach out to grab his hand, a silent offering to unload if the need came.

Luke squared his shoulders as he stood before the room, his gaze roaming over the young people before him. Oh how he wished that he could just let them all be kids, let them remain ignorant for just a little bit longer. His eyes fell on red hair and a small angelic face.

I’m so sorry, Jocelyn.

Luke drew in a breath and began, “I know it’s been on your minds for a while, and I must thank you for your patience by so far not asking about my past and how it was that I became a part of all this. It’s not something I’m proud of, and where I am now is merely a station on the journey of my atonement. I made a promise a long time ago to keep a secret, but deep down I knew I’d never be able to keep it forever. I always intended to tell all of you, but there never seemed to be a good time. So, to start off, I want to apologize to all of you, and I hope that after I’m done you’ll still want to be a part of this team. I’ll understand though, if you don’t.”

He looked at each person as he spoke, making sure they could see his sincerity before moving on to the next face.

“I guess the best place to start would be the very beginning. Twenty-one years ago, when Circle corp was just getting started…”


 

Twenty-One Years Ago

The alcohol burned at the back of his throat as Luke tossed back his third shot of the night. He didn’t even notice, too eager to begin the numbing process and get to the black-out and sleep part of a drunk stupor. His face was as bitter as his drink.  Somewhere in the background he could hear the tv buzzing out with static over some news report involving a dead heir to some pharma company and a missing baby. He sighed, if he was still an officer he’d probably be at the scene right now.

He jolted, almost spilling his next shot as a hand slapped on his back, “Luke! Don’t look so down! Those men have no idea what they’re losing with you no longer on the police force. They’re too corrupt to realize that your whistle-blowing is all that’s keeping them from prison right now! You’re too good for them!” Ragnor said, his words slightly slurred as he knocked back his own sympathy shot of whiskey.

“They still fired me, and now I’m out of a job. Where am I supposed to work now? The police have this whole city tapped, no one is going to hire me after I called them out,” Luke grumbled at his old friend. He’d known Ragnor for years, their paths crossing a few times when Ragnor would hire police security for his various fundraisers. Something that Ragnor was now swearing he would never do again, hearing from Luke what crimes were being committed inside the station.

Ragnor ran his finger over the rim of his glass, thinking out loud, “You know, I just donated a lot of money to this company that claims it is going to save the lives of thousands of people with genetic diseases. Fascinating stuff they’re doing, all very secret, you know, and all for a great cause! They have a list of children as long as this bar that they plan to save, and I just had to be a part of that. So I talked with the CEO and he’s letting me work on a few projects there for him so long as I stay an investor. It's run by a man named Valentine. Odd fellow, madly brilliant though. He’s been very hush hush about the treatments, not wanting other companies to steal the knowledge and use the technology to make people pay to be fixed, he’s doing all this for free, you see?”

Luke nodded as he bent down to place his chin on the bar, waving to the bartender to bring him another, “Yeah, sounds all very fulfilling. What does this have to do with keeping me from being homeless?”

Ragnor smiled and slapped him on the back, “Haven’t you been listening? This company is just getting started and it has secrets to keep from evil pharma devils who like to over charge poor people who just want to live! He’s building a special security team, and I can get you on that team! Hell, I can get him to let you lead the team if you wanted!”

Luke lifted his head, looking at Ragnor for any signs of a joke, but his friend was completely serious. With a smile growing on his face he raised the glass just placed in front of him, “Well, cheers to that!”


 

Six Months Later

Luke nervously walked down the white hallways, not entirely sure why he was being called to the CEOs office. Had there been a breech? Did someone steal some data? He’d been in charge of a small squadron on men that were stationed at headquarters, their main task to assure that no one learned about the details of the treatments occurring at the facilities, but to his knowledge, there hadn’t been anything suspicious of late at any of the facilities.

Facilities that Luke had yet to be allowed to visit anyway, something that bothered both him and Hodge, the guy in charge of another squadron. He seemed just as confused and disgruntled at not being able to review the security at those buildings. How were they supposed to effectively protect anything that they couldn’t visit in person?

He sighed and stopped and knocked on the door, noting the name written on the plaque next to it while he waited. Valentine Morgenstern, the name was written in fancy scrawl along the gold metal along with the title of CEO.

A voice called for him to enter, so Luke stepped in.

The office was sparse in that modern aesthetic that was just starting to become the new look for technological companies. One desk in the center of a room surrounded by glass walls that overlooked some of the offices below. At that desk sat a man that Luke had to assume was Valentine. He probably was handsome years ago, but now looked harsh and weathered, his buzzed hair reminding Luke of a lot of convicts he had escorted to cells. Still, he was dressed in a suit that he was sure cost more than his annual salary.

He stepped up to the desk and pulled into a parade rest before his boss, waiting to be addressed.

Valentine looked up from his laptop and smiled, “Hello, you must be Luke Garroway, Dr. Fell has spoken very highly of you,” he said and reached out to shake his hand firmly.

Luke smiled back, “Glad to hear it. I hope that my team has been performing to your highest expectations, Mr. Morgenstern.”

“Oh, please, just call me Valentine. And don’t you worry, your team as well as Mr. Starkweather’s have been outstanding on all counts. It actually why I’m calling you in here today,” he said, sounding pleased.

Luke mentally breathed out a sigh of relief.

“I have come to realize recently that our greatest achievements lie not just in our genetic technology, but in our patients as well. They need protection as much as our data, so I’m looking for my most trusted agents to work up security for the medical facilities across the nation,” Valentine said, his voice excited as he stood up, walking over to a map on the wall that showed a red dot for each medical facility, “This one in particular, it’s in northern New York. See, that’s where my ex-wife works. I want to make sure that things are extra secure there, for her safety as well as the patients. All the facilities share the same network, so whatever security systems you put in place there will extend automatically to all the others in the nation. I have Hodge heading to a different New York facility where I have another precious investment to keep after.”

Luke nodded as he reviewed the location, “I can leave right away. And I’m sorry to hear about your divorce,” he added politely.

Valentine looked a bit sad, but more like a child who had his toy taken away rather than someone suffering heartache, “Ah, yes thank you. It was quite a shock to me. Suddenly four months ago she just called it all off. I still care for her deeply, and I only trust you to assure that the place she is working is impenetrable to anyone looking to harm our company’s treasured patients and employees. Can you do that for me?”

Luke straightened up and nodded, “Of course, Sir. It would be an honor.”


 

One week later

At first glance as Luke pulled up to the facility earlier that week, the place looked a little like some of the prisons he had sent criminals too. There were tall chain fences around the entire campus, topped off with barbed wire. There were guards at the gate, checking the ID of anyone coming in or out. There were even men stationed with sniper rifles on the roof.

The whole place seemed more geared to keeping people in, rather than out.

He had been greeted at the gate by some grunt named Pangborn who showed him around the facility with almost sickening detachment. The inside was mostly like a hospital, rooms and wards full of children running around in white cloth gowns. Some were attached to IVs, looking pale and sick, while others looked as healthy as could be.

Luke smiled at the children as he walked by, a warm feeling in his gut as he took them all in. Every single one of these kids would have died if it weren’t for these treatments. He was a part of that miracle. He had to hold back tears when they walked by a nursery full of babies.

The further they got, and the more children he saw, Luke became curious and a little confused.

“Where are all the adults? I thought Circle Corps was taking in all ages for treatment.”

Pangborn grunted, “They were for a while, but Mr. Morgenstern has halted the recruitment of anyone over the age of 16. Mortality rate was eighty-five percent. Children it was five percent. The few surviving adults he’s keeping for studies in different locations away from the mongrels.”

Luke felt his stomach drop at the news, surprised that no one had mentioned it before, “How many adults died before we learned those statistics?”

“How the hell am I supposed to know? And why do you care, you’re just here to fix this playpen for the brats. Just keep your head on your job, don’t worry about the science crap. We pay scientists for that,” Pangborn grunted and continued with the tour. At the end he handed Luke a clipboard with list attached.

“There’s the suggestions we’ve gotten so far to spruce up security. You’re to see that all of these happen and then add your own suggestions. Any questions?”

Luke glanced down at the list, frowning at some of them.

“Lead walls? Fireproof paint? Filters for the ventilation system? What is all this for?” Luke asked.

Pangborn smirked before walking away, “You’re in for some wacky shit, Sir. Just don’t turn your back on any of these kids.”


 

Several days later, Luke was finally beginning to understand what he meant. At first he thought that maybe he was losing his mind, that he didn’t really just see a four year old do a backflip off of the wall. And that boy out in the yard…there was no way that he could have lifted that rock all by himself, surely it was a ball and Luke just saw wrong.

But it kept happening again and again, and eventually Luke found himself walking towards the labs, looking for anyone in a lab coat that could maybe provide some insight seeing as the nurses refused to speak on anything other than medical stats.

He swiped his card at the door to the labs, his shoulders falling when he was rejected.

“What do you want in there?” came an accusatory voice.

He turned to see a frown on one of the most beautiful faces he had ever seen before. Even with her lips pursed, she was stunning. Her red hair was so thick and lovely, Luke just wanted to reach out and touch, but stopped himself when he realized he’d been staring too long.

“Uh, sorry. I was looking for someone who could explain to me what is happening here? Why the kids are all…special,” he said, trying not to stare too much. It wasn’t like he could tell anything about her figure in the slightest with how baggy the lab coat was on her.

She scanned him over, as if searching for any reason to not trust him…but she came up empty.  

“Fine. I’ll tell you Come with me. My name is Dr. Jocelyn Fairchild, by the way.”

She had taken him to a small empty hospital room and sat him on the empty bed while she told him in a bland voice that the genetic treatments had an unforeseen effect on their patients. They had all begun to present with mutations, how the mutations were a result of the four different types of treatment approaches, how the adults systems couldn’t handle the foreign material, how the children flourished after they were saved.

She said it all with barely any infliction in her voice and not a single twitch of her face, as if just reading from a medical journal, but her words hit Luke like knives.

After she finished he had tears in his eyes as he looked to her and asked simply, “How can I help them?”

It was only then that her façade cracked.


 

Two months later…

“Luke, please I need your help. Please! Oh, it hurts!”

Luke’s heart started to beat out his chest as he heard the panic and pain in Jocelyn’s voice. Over the last two months they had become closer as they seemed to be the only two in the entire campus who showed any true concern for the conditions the children were kept in. Never too close though, no one better than Luke knew how many people could be watching them through cameras, how many of Valentine’s loyal agents would report if his ex-wife was seen with the squadron leader.

They had a careful balancing act going on. Luke completing his list of tasks as slowly as time would allow without seeming like he was stalling. Trying to meet up just enough to curb the need, but not frequently enough to draw attention. He just wanted to stay there as long as possible, being near Jocelyn as long as possible.

“Where are you?” he asked worriedly. He'd never heard Jocelyn so scared before.

“The place I took you when you first arrived. Please, hurry!”

He walked as quickly as he could down the hall without drawing too many looks, trying to get to the hospital room. When he finally reached the door and stepped in, he nearly fell to the floor in shock.

Jocelyn held out her bloody hand, her face streaked with tears as she panted through the pain. Her other hand rested on her swollen belly, one that Luke had never seen through her lab coat.

“Please, the baby is coming. Luke, it hurts!”

He ran up to her side, grabbing the bloody hand in his and helping her sit up.

“It’s okay, I’m here. Just push, okay? Should I go get someone? A nurse?”

“Ahhh! Please, I don’t want him to know. He can’t know!” she panted, her face covered in sweat, her panic rising. Luke shushed her, and pushed the hair back off of her face.

“Shhhhh, it’s okay. I won’t tell anyone. I’ll keep you safe. I’ll keep you both safe.”


 

Not long after, while Jocelyn rested on the bed, Luke held a small baby girl in his arms as he marveled at how tiny this human was. She was beautiful, just like her mother.

They both knew that Valentine had eyes and ears everywhere, and that he would know if Jocelyn brought home a baby, so they knew they needed to hide her somewhere. Neither of them wanted to be far away from this precious girl, but the need to protect her was above all else.

When Jocelyn woke up the day after delivering her little girl, she tearfully told Luke about what her ex-husband had done and why she had to hide her Clarissa.

She told him about how Valentine had experimented on her during her first pregnancy without her knowledge, her son being the first mutant that Valentine ever made. He was two years old when she and Valentine started Circle Corps, using the technology that Valentine had created to experiment on their son.

When strange things started to happen around Jonathan, that was around the time when Valentine came home and told her that their son was dead. She knew Valentine was responsible, and she filed for divorce. It was a week after the papers were signed that she realized she was pregnant.  With suspicions swarming in her head, she tested her own blood at the lab, and saw that Valentine had been experimenting on her again, and knew that her baby would be affected. That her baby would become changed like all the other children at the facility.

Then she heard the news that a baby had been stolen from one of Circle Corps competitors, a young boy…and she knew that Valentine had stolen another child to experiment on. She had gone in to the database to look up infants entered with the same birthdate as the stolen child, and found a match. A little boy was listed under the name Jace. It was too late to report it, he had already undergone treatments. She couldn’t get him back to the family knowing what was in store for him. She was the only one who knew of her ex-husbands crimes, but she couldn't do anything about it without exposing the mutant children to the world that would want to see them locked away or destroyed. She had no choice but to keep her silence.

She hid her growing belly under large lab coats and loose blouses, adamant that no one learn of her condition. She wanted to run away, quit her job, but she had to stay for the children. She felt she owed them for being one of the people responsible for their pain.

“I don’t want to lose another baby, but I don’t know what to do. She needs people to help her with whatever mutation she’ll have,” Jocelyn cried softly, not wanting to wake the baby nestled next to her.

Luke reached out, placing his hand on hers, “Give her to me. I can sneak her in to the system here, give her a fake last name, a fake disease, fake background. I’ll make sure that I replace all her IVs with placebos so she won't suffer any more. She’ll still be close, you can watch her grow,” he said, tears forming in his eyes as he imagined the pain of seeing your child grow but not being able to touch.

But Jocelyn was so strong, stronger than anyone he’d ever met…she agreed.


 

Six years ago…

Fourteen-year-old Clary Fray was a handful. Trying to keep and eye on her and her best friend Simon as the two troublemakers continued to give nurses headaches was getting more and more difficult. Still, Luke and Jocelyn watched the two from afar, knowing that the peace would never last.

Valentine wouldn’t be able to keep all these soon to be adults in the facility for much longer. All it would take is a few recognizing that using their abilities together they would overpower all the security and agents and escape. They knew Valentine would be busy cooking up some heinous way to deal with the growing concern.

There wasn’t enough time to rally the children, it was too dangerous with so many watching, so they came up with their own plan that started with Ragnor.

Luke had driven off the campus late one night and driven down to headquarters under the guise of visiting an old friend and having a few drinks, but really Luke was bringing photos of what was happening over to Ragnor, knowing that he would do anything to right the wrongs.

He had been horrified, not just because of what was happening but also because he had helped sponsor it, protect it even! He sobbed as he apologized to Luke for getting him involved in this atrocity, but Luke waved it off, saying that they could fix this, but they needed help.

So Ragnor started by creating offshore accounts for his money that would fund the creation of several safehouses, and one headquarters to man them all. They would take time to build, but he didn’t want to wait too long, the children had been in Valentine’s hands too long.

Knowing that they were limited on time, he created a virus, one that Luke simply needed to plug in to the server at the facility to break down the security of every facility in the nation. It would be a mass breakout, but hopefully most if not all the mutants trapped would get the chance to run.

All it took was one night for it all to happen.


 

Ragnor went back to the city, using his high level clearance to enter one of the other facilities there so that he could be near another network access in case things went wrong on Luke’s end. It’s not like the systems would have any evidence of his presence once this was over. Everything from payroll to security cameras would be wiped clean by the end of the night. 

But he was never needed, he waited in the wards watching the tablet in his hand, waiting until the agreed upon time arrived…and it worked. Everything shut down at once, the database on his tablet crashing down and disappearing. It was perfect, the doors around him swung open, the bars retracting from the windows…and the children started to pour from their rooms, all scrambling for the doors. Some of the older ones ran out alone while others were carrying with them some of the younger children and babies.

Agents tried to take them down, their stunners primed and ready, but there were too many all at once. Their gifts being used to push the agents back and assure their freedom.

It was beautiful, but Ragnor noticed one small teen of Asian descent who stood trembling in the hall, too afraid to run, flinching away from anyone who brushed past him.

That one, Ragnor had thought, he needs me.


 

The easy part had been inserting the virus into the server, it was everything after that would give Luke nightmares for years to come.

He had left the server room to enter in to utter chaos in the halls, scientists and nurses running away in terror as the children they had been experimenting on charged, running in every which way to get out of the building and not caring who got in their way.

He fought against the flow, trying to get back to the wards where Clary and Simon were kept, his eyes continually scanning the crowd for their faces.

He saw some of the agents fighting as well, guns set to stun and shooting in to the mass. Whoever they hit would quickly be picked up by another child, dragging their paralyzed bodies with them as they ran. He could see his men getting frustrated, but Luke yelled at them to keep it on stun, to not harm the children!

Pangborn suddenly appeared, sneering at Luke like he had done all those years ago, and set his gun to kill.

Before Luke could run and stop him, he raised his weapon to the crowd and shot out one bullet.

A cry was heard, one that Luke knew in his heart the person who had been hit. He ran, not caring that Pangborn was lifting his gun again, this time pointing it in Luke’s direction.

Luke barely even noticed when Pangborn was overrun by a group of young Ferals, his screams echoing in the hall around him as they clawed at him until all that remained of his face were bloodied ribbons of skin.

Luke fell to his knees in front of the only woman he had ever truly loved, his hand joining hers over the gaping wound in her chest.

“Jocelyn…no, please, stay with me,” he begged, but she shook her head. They both knew there was nothing that could save her now.

“Keep Clary safe…for me. Promise…” her breath hitched, “promise me that you’ll never tell her about me or her father. It will only put her in danger. Luke, please, protect her,” she begged.

Tears streamed from his eyes as he brought her limp hand to his lips, kissing her skin for the first and last time, “I promise.”

“I love her so much. She’ll never know it, but I do,” Jocelyn said softly, regret stinging with each word, “And I love you, Luke. Watch over our little girl.”

Luke watched her eyes turn to glass, and felt as she took her last breath. He wanted to hold her, to curl up with her body and stay with her until he too died, but he felt hands pulled at his shirt, ripping him away from her.

He yelled, kicked and screamed as the agents cuffed him and dragged him down the hall.

As they threw him in the back of an unmarked van, he caught a flash of red off in the trees. He knew that it was Clary, and that Simon wouldn’t be far away. She peered at Luke through the branches, looking so scared to see the one man she trusted being arrested and accused of setting the mutants free.

As the door closed in his face he mouthed to her, “Don’t worry, I’ll come back.”


 

“You were supposed to keep them secure. You were supposed to protect her. You failed on both counts!” Valentine screamed, gesturing for Hodge to strike again, the man hesitating for a single breath before moving forward.

Luke felt his jaw crack as the fist slammed in to his face. He turned and spit the blood back on the floor. Somehow each hit felt like a rock smashing in to his face.

“You’re a monster! You knew all along what you were doing to those children!” Luke screamed back, his voice hoarse.

Valentine sneered, “Of course I knew. And I know exactly what I’m going to do with you. Now, Mr. Garraway…are you feeling lucky tonight? For your sake, you better hope that the odds are in your favor." 


 

Several days passed in a haze of agony, his arms too weak to pull the IV from his arm as it dripped that dreaded liquid in to blood, forever changing his DNA to whatever Valentine had concocted. Each drop he watched fall from the IV he felt like a liquid lava in his veins and he felt sick as he thought about the thousands of children that had gone through this same process. 

He wanted it to kill him, for him to fall in to the eighty-five percent of adults who succumbed to their cells collapsing as the body fought off the foreign matter…but death never came for him, though he would have gladly taken its hand. Slowly, his strength returned tenfold, he could hear, see and smell to levels that made his mind swirl in wonder. His IV had eventually been replaced with chains, unable to run, as soon as they realized that Luke would survive his treatment. No one brought him food or water, he was just left to rot away. More days passed, and Luke wondered just how long it would take before he would see Jocelyn again.

Perhaps, the only reason he had not died yet…was because there was a young girl out there who needed him.

“Clary…” he breathed out.

The door beside him suddenly clicked open, and someone quietly moved in to the dark room.

“Shhh…I’m getting you out of here. You just have to promise me something,” came the whispered voice.

Luke’s heart started to beat fast, “What?” he asked the figure.

“If you ever find three kids with the name Lightwood…please take them somewhere safe. Please keep them away from Valentine.”

“I promise.”

Luke heard a crunch, and the chains on his wrists fell off. He watched the figure sneak out of the room after that, leaving the door ajar behind him. While he had whispered and kept the room dark, there was no mistaking who had set him free now that Luke’s Feral eyes could see perfectly in the black.

“I’ll find them, Hodge. I’ll find them all.”

 


 

Three weeks earlier, while rescuing the girls from HQ...

“Luke, he knows about Clary. I’m so sorry.”


Present Day

His story finished, Luke gasped back a sob. It was finally over. The truth was out.

 

Chapter Text

The room was silent as Luke’s finished, his voice hoarse towards the end. Not a single eye in the room was dry, all having felt the agony behind the story with each word.

Magnus was clutching Alec’s hand so hard that their fingers were white. The overwhelming pain in the room had become too much for the empath to handle before even half the story had finished, and Alec had squeezed his hand until finally Magnus caved and started to funnel some of the burden to the Elemental. Alec felt the sadness leak in to him like pure ice, but didn't pull his hand back. He couldn't let Magnus carry the burden himself, the pain emanating from everyone in the room. Jace's shock and sorrow over the life he could have had. Clary's gut wrenching pain and sadness. Luke's guilt and self-loathing...it was too much for Magnus to hold alone.

He didn't let go, instead his grip became tighter. Nobody noticed how all the plants in the room and by the waterfall seemed to be leaning forward is if to surround all those in the room, nobody except Magnus who started to breathe a little easier at the sight. 

Isabelle sat still, her arms wrapping around herself in a hug so tight that she would have bruises on her sides by morning. She couldn't even begin to fathom what the others were going through. How Clary felt at having discovered what she missed all those years. Just hearing what Jocelyn had sacrificed for her daughter made Isabelle marvel at the power of what a mother's love would have been like if Maryse had been anything like Clary's mom. 

Clary was openly weeping as she was held tightly by both Simon and Jace, both speechless and helpless on how to comfort her. Her small frame wracked as she cried out for everything that she had lost without even knowing it. Her world had completely changed in this one afternoon, and she wasn’t sure how she would ever stand steady again.

Jace appeared to be equally rocked. The conflict of being overjoyed to hear he didn't share blood with Valentine against the pain of losing a family he could never know...it was more than he was really ready to process just yet. He didn't want to allow himself to be happy, not when Clary was suffering so deeply next to him. He may have been released from the familial bindings that tied him to Valentine, but those same bindings were no doubt tangled around Clary, trapping her where she never in her worst nightmares thought she'd be. It just wasn't fair. Valentine didn't deserve to have any hold over such an incredible and caring person. He could taste the bitterness on his tongue at the thought of Clary growing up like he had. It was the only small mercy in all this, that she escaped the childhood that he had lived.

Luke…he stood there looking every bit the defeated man that he had pretended not to be for all these years. He was waiting for it to come. The anger, the hate, the resentment. He deserved it all. These young people we all hurt in the past because of something he was a part of. How could they not hate him for it?

Suddenly, Clary stood up, her face still red and streaming with tears as she looked at Luke. Luke tried to meet her gaze, but with the weight of guilt they fell to the floor as he heard her starting to walk quickly across the floor towards him.

Absently he thought that either she was coming to hit him, something that he would gladly let her do, or she was going to run right past him towards her room.

What he didn’t expect was to feel her throw herself at his chest, her thin arms wrapping around his waist as she embraced him. Luke stood there stunned, his hands hovering only inches above her shoulders as he tried to get his brain to comprehend what was happening. His eyes searched out Magnus, the only one in the room who could know exactly what Clary was feeling.

The Psychic stood, hand still clamped firmly in Alec’s as they watched the events before them. He too had tears streaming down his face, but there was a small smile there too. He gave Luke a nod of his head and a small push of what Clary and them were feeling towards the Feral, signaling that everything was okay, they would all be okay.

Luke couldn’t believe what he was feeling from Magnus. Not an ounce of hate, distrust or even anger. Sadness, yes. There was enough sadness there to make even the strongest crumble…but then the forgiveness and understanding hit him like a warm breeze, blowing away the chill that had settled in his bones ever since he walked in to that facility for the first time all those years ago.

“It’s okay. I love you, Luke,” Clary whispered in to his shirt.

Luke gasped out a breath and finally put his arms around her, pulling her even closer. Every moment, every breath, every move he had made since that night that Hodge had set him free had been spent in an effort to make up for the part he had played in this whole mess. Gladly, he had welcomed the burden on his shoulders if only to lighten the burden on his heart.

But now he held the little girl who had grown so strong…just like her mother…who was now forgiving him for all that he had done. Something inside of him that had broken was now slowly beginning to mend. Yes, he would continue to spend every waking moment working towards his goal until every mutant had been found and made safe, but he would do it with a mended soul and a much stronger heart.

“I love you too, kiddo.”


 

Hours had passed since Luke had bared his soul to them, but to Clary it felt like it had been mere seconds. There was so much to process, it was like her mind was a car going a thousand miles an hour but the images outside the window were too blurred for her to truly focus on for more than a moment or two.

She’d been experimented on before she was born.

Luke knew her mother.

She had a mother.

She had met her mother without knowing it.

Luke worked for Circle Corp.

Her mother worked for Circle Corp.

Jace wasn’t Valentine’s biological son.

Clary was Valentine’s biological daughter.

Valentine knew she was his child now…

She had so many questions to ask Luke, but she first needed some time to figure out which questions she truly wanted answers to. Learning all this had hurt in places she didn’t know she could hurt, and she wasn’t sure if she was ready to take on any more of that.

Behind her she heard approaching footsteps and for the life of her she couldn’t decide if she wanted anyone’s presence at that moment, or if she just wanted time to process on her own. It was why she had chosen the library to hide. She knew it remained quiet enough for her to think, but that the door was literally open to anyone who wanted to enter. Not to mention, the fireplace and the fuzzy rug in front of it, perfect for her to stay warm while everything in her life just dropped several degrees.

And getting the fire going was now just a snap of her fingers away thanks to her many shared moments of skin on skin with Jace. He’d given her one of his favorite lighters once he learned that she had taken on his gift, something she had taken to carrying around with her like a token. Even now she fiddled with it in her hands as she stared in to the blaze before her.

The footsteps stopped to her left side, and she turned her head up to see who it was. When she saw Jace’s concerned face, she knew right away that this was the only person that she was ready to see then. Jace, the one who made her feel safe and warm and happy. Jace…the one who would know exactly how she felt.

She had wanted to just ask him if he wanted to sit down, but all that came out was a broken sob and even more tears.

Immediately, she was enveloped in two strong arms that pulled her in to his lap where he held her firm and rocked slowly back and forth as she cried. It could have been hours or a few minutes later that Clary felt she had a little more control over herself and she sat up a bit, wiping at her face.

Cautiously, she reached out with her empathy to see what it was that Jace was feeling, if it was anything like what she was going through, and also to see if he was disturbed by her getting tears and snot all over his shirt. What she felt was a bit of shock, a bit of sadness, and a little bit…of happiness.

“You done giving me the Psychic one-over?” he asked, amusement in his voice.

She blushed at being caught, “Sorry, I’m just—”

“It’s okay. I know what you’re doing it for. And yeah, I’m still processing too. Today was…a bit much. Why do you think it took me so long to come find you? I was practically swarmed by Alec and Izzy right after, both of them wanting to make sure I wasn’t freaking out. It took Magnus assuring them that I was okay before they let me go,” Jace said as he placed a kiss in her hair.

Clary let out a halfhearted chuckle, “I think it’s sweet that they’re both so protective of you. But really…are you okay?”

Jace shrugged as he gently maneuvered her so that she rested on her side, her head pillowed in his lap so he could stroke the red waves that reminded him of the element he was bound to.

“I’ll take your evasion technique and raise you a deflection. I’m not the one who’s hiding in the library. Spill it Red, are you okay?” he asked.

She grumbled a bit, but relented, “I’m okay, but at the same time I’m not. Objectively I know that Valentine being my father has no effect on the kind of person I am,” she said firmly, looking up at his handsome face, “You taught me that.”

He didn’t say anything, but nodded for her to continue.

“And I also objectively know that everything Luke and my mother did was to keep me safe, because they loved me,” she continued. Jace nodded again.

She sighed and started to twist her finger, making patterns in the rug under them, “I guess my biggest issue here, is that little voice in my head that tells me I’m completely wrong about everything I just said.”

Jace nodded again, “Yeah, I know that voice. I’ve been listening to it all my life, annoying little nasally jerk with a perpetual tone of ‘I told you so’.”

“How do you turn it off?” Clary asked, her voice small.

“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” he said, his own voice just as small, “For a while I was able to make it like a white noise in my head, but it was always there. Then I met Alec and Izzy, and their voices would overpower it sometimes, still do every once in a while. But now, now that I’ve become a little older, a little less stupid, and a lot more aware of knowing that there are people who care about me…I’m finding that my own voice is becoming better at blocking out that annoying little nasally jerk with a perpetual tone of ‘I told you so’.”

Clary giggled her gaze moved from the floor to the fireplace, watching the flames dance.

“Am I anything like him?” she asked.

She could feel Jace’s heartbeat speed up for a moment because he knew exactly which ‘him’ she was talking about. After all, Jace probably knew him better than anyone else.

She felt his finger, rough with callouses earned from the streets, gently trace down the lines of her jaw, scooping back the hair that had gathered over her ear.

She felt him lean down, his warm breath ghosting over where his finger just was, “You are the farthest thing from him. And it’s one of the biggest reasons that…I like you so much.”

She smiled as she continued to watch the fire in front of them, grinning wider when the flames started to dance with an unnatural grace, the movement mesmerizing.

“Are you trying to distract me with a fire show?”

“Is it working?”

Letting out a soft chuckle, she tucked her head further against Jace, “Yes.”


 

Luke sat on his bed as he stared down at his hands, remembering when they were covered in the blood of the woman he had loved so dearly. Sometimes they still felt sticky, and he could taste the scent of pennies on his tongue.

But every time they saved another mutant, every time they thwarted another of Valentine’s attempts on an innocent, every time that Luke was able to deliver another person to a safe house with a new chance at life…his hands felt a little less sticky and he could breathe just a little bit easier.

He hoped that when the time came, when he would leave this world and be with his Jocelyn again…his hands would be clean when he reached out to hold her. That his voice would be strong when he told her that he kept Clary safe. That he could revel in the shared joy as he told her how proud she would be of the person Clary had become.

His team may have forgiven him for all his past sins, but that didn’t mean that he had forgiven himself. He still had a lot of work to do before he would be completely rid of the smell of blood on his skin.

Chapter Text

In the past, when the house became a little too heavy with private misery, Magnus had decided that it was sometimes best for him to let people emote without worry of him eavesdropping on their souls. Sometimes people just wanted to work through things themselves, or wanted to stew in their pots of self-imposed sadness. Magnus would know, he had been a pro self-stewer for years.

It was one of the best ways for people to avoid those repetitive consoling words that they knew in their head were right, but just weren't ready to acknowledge yet. Sometimes, a little solo sulking was good for the individual to work through things themselves. It was far more fulfilling than having someone next to you read inspirational quotes to you out of some tiny book they bought for a dollar somewhere. 

Whenever he got in his moods where the reality of people not trusting a Psychic hit a little too close to home, he just needed a good solid day or two of a self-pity party. He didn’t want someone to come and tell him he was wrong to be upset, he just wanted to be upset for a bit, and there was nothing wrong with that.

So, if he felt that one or more of the occupants of the house was in an ‘I don’t want to talk about it, I just want to be alone for a bit’ moods, he would try to make himself scarce for a while. He’d take his motorcycle down the mountain and find something to fill up a few hours, be it shopping, sight-seeing, dancing at a club, getting drunk as a skunk, or even just finding a hotel and a warm body for the night.

Right now was one of those days that some individuals, he wouldn't name any names despite everyone knowing exactly who they were, would need some spiritually alone time, so he had grabbed his helmet and headed towards the warehouse to gas up his bike. It was time to fill up a few hours, and seeing as now he had Alexander in his life, he thought it best to stick with just shopping. Warm bodies and hotel rooms no longer called to him unless that body was a tall, hazel eyed Elemental in some upscale hotel suite.

The city was a tad overwhelming when it came to shopping, but Magnus was well experienced and knew exactly where to go for whatever he needed. The only issue now was…he had no idea what he needed.

Clothes had always been an excellent form of retail therapy, but it was one of those rare moments that Magnus didn’t feel the need to add to his expansive wardrobe. His mind was too occupied as it kept flitting back to what he had stowed carefully away in the zipped pocket of his leather jacket.

Alec’s little tracking token was now something that Magnus had come to treasure. It was an unspoken thing between them, and Magnus was glad for it because he’d be a bit embarrassed if Alec ever asked him why he was keeping an acorn in his pocket every day. However, Magnus was fully aware that Alec could feel that seed on him at all times, that he already knew Magnus was obsessive about keeping it close. The quiet Elemental never spoke on it though, probably just happy that he could know where Magnus was at all times. The thought still made Magnus feel warm all over and set butterflies loose in his stomach.

Alec had given him a gift, even if he didn’t consider it a gift, and now Magnus was practically ravenous with the need to shower the man in tokens of his own. New York city was overwhelmingly expansive in the shopping sense, there had to be something that he could get for Alec that he would treasure as much as Magnus treasured his acorn. 

What on earth would my past self thing if I told him that one day an acorn would be one of his most precious possessions? Magnus thought to himself wryly. It was precious though, and he would continue to take it with him everywhere if it meant always having a piece of Alec with him, protecting him.

“What do you get the man who has nothing…” Magnus asked himself as he slowly rode through the streets, doing his best not to get hit while making his was through the traffic.

Then his eyes fell on two stores right next to each other.

Convenient and inspiring, he thought to himself and wedged his bike between two poorly parked cars and went in.


 

Alec sighed as he slouched down in to the cushions of the couch in his room, a book on African botany balanced on his chest as he tried to read more on Baobab trees, mildly inspired by that movie about lions Simon had made them watch a few nights ago.

For the first time since coming here, Alec was finding himself a bit bored. His room was immaculate, having cleaned and finished laundry earlier that day. He was moderately proud about only having destroyed a few items that were still in his pockets after running them through the wash. Thankfully none of them were the cell phone Luke had given him. Just a now mushy post it note that he had written a list of seeds he wanted to order, and a now inedible power bar that somehow made it's way in to is jacket pocket. He counted that as a win, even if with the past few loads Magnus had rolled his eyes as he watched Alec fold his clothes, wincing when Alec pulled another snack wrapper or now dryer roasted seeds from his jean pockets.

Besides all that, the chores for around the house, assigned randomly every week, he’d already completed as soon as they were posted. Izzy was busy with her solo workout. Jace and Clary were…processing emotions, he hoped. And Luke and Simon had gone to the computer lab again trying to find their next mission. That left Alec wholly alone, and very bored.

Alec selfishly wished that Magnus had stayed so that they could spend some alone time together, but he had insisted that he needed to give the others some mental privacy, or something like that. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if he could go with him, but Magnus hadn’t offered, so Alec didn’t comment on it, and just gave him soft peck on the lips before he rode off.

Alec wondered if Magnus would ever take him for a ride on that bike.

Alec had found himself wandering around the house, debating what to do next, when he caught the tug of something in the back of his mind. It reminded him of the small tugs he'd feel at the back of his hospital scrubs when Max wanted his attention, only it was in his head. Curious, he reached out along the mental tendrils to see what could be asking for him. He followed the tug, it leading him to the living quarters where a few potted plants decorated the hallway. He quickly realized that the tug was the plants asking for water, and so Alec filled the next few hours going to each and every plant in the house and assessing them for any needs they might have, watering a few, pruning a couple of dead leaves, turning soil, and moving others closer to sunlight.

The tug in the back of his head turned to a happy tingle that made him smile as he finally finished. Somewhat satisfied that he had passed some time, he made his way back to his room for a quick shower to remove the dirt and sweat and then got dressed in to his comfiest sweatpants and t-shirt, pulling a random book out of the pile on his side table and getting settled in to read.

He had read for about two hours before his mind started to wander a bit, taking in his sparse bedroom and comparing it to the lavishness of Magnus’ room, or the comic book store feel to Simons, or the art gallery that Clary somehow lived in. Luke had encouraged him and his siblings to decorate their rooms any way they wanted, but so far Alec had come up empty on how to do that. His old bedroom back when he was a child living with his parents had been orderly and stuffy, with no room for toys or fun because of all the medical equipment the medical equipment that was stuffed in there to help keep his lungs clear and the air clean. He'd never been able to choose decorations then. No, instead he got to stare at creepy paintings of dead relatives on the walls while he tried to keep breathing, even if he wasn't sure why he wanted to keep living in a loveless home.

And it wasn't like they got to pepper their medical wards with posters of action movie stars or finger paintings. Anything moderately toy-like was coveted like cigarettes were in a prison. Alec would never forget the common sight of seeing a pair kids trading comic books in the play yard like some sort of stealthy drug deal. Of course, Jace was more often than not one of the two kids making the deals. His brother had taken it as some sort of mission in life to make sure that Max got to read each and every comic that made it's way through the facility, and it was only after Max got to read them that Alec and Jace would take a turn. Then they'd be gone the next day, traded by Jace for something else to give to his new siblings. Nothing they had lasted very long, always traded for something else they needed at the time.

Even after living with his parent and living at the facility, collecting things had never really been something practical in his eyes, not when they potentially would need to run on a moments’ notice, or let alone justifying the money for decorative trinkets. But, he needed to get out of that mindset. They didn’t need to be ready to run anymore, he was allowed to ask for things, he was allowed to keep things...he just had no freaking clue what he wanted. 

He continue to think more about what he would want to surround himself with when he heard a knock at his door.

“Está abierto,” he called out, thinking it may be Izzy coming to check on him, but he was pleasantly surprised when Magnus stuck only his head in with a hesitant smile on his face.

“Hola, guapo. You look relaxed,” the Psychic said.

Alec sat up a bit, putting his book down, “Yeah, I’ve been reading for a bit. The house is ridiculously quiet right now and I’m kind of scared to make a noise.”

Magnus nodded from where he stood in the doorway, “I know the feeling, literally, after all I’m feeling it coming off you in waves,” he said, sounding a little distracted and nervous, something Alec was not used to hearing from the normally confident demeanor that seemed synonymous to Magnus.

“Um, do you want to come in?” Alec asked, eyes scanning his room for any mess that may be embarrassing, even though he knew there wouldn’t be one after his cleaning attack earlier that morning.

Magus suddenly looked a little shy, but he nodded and stepped in to the room and Alec noticed him holding a couple bags behind his back. Noticing Alec’s eyes on what he was carrying, Magnus pulled them in front of his body, handing the first one to the Elemental.

“Here, I got some things for you while I was out. I figured that you may be hungry,” he said, trying to sound casual. He brought a hand up to scratch the back of his helmet dented hair, but quickly slapped it down again when Alec looked up at him with a big grin on his face.

“I’m starving, how did you know?” he said emphatically as he dug in to the bag, his face lighting up as he explored the contents. He moved over to the small table in his room, over by the couch and started to pull out the items.

Magnus shrugged, following Alec deeper in to the room, “I’d say I’m psychic, but really I knew because I don’t think I’ve ever seen you not hungry since you got here. Anyway, I saw a panaderia while I was out and thought I’d pick up a few things.”

Alec’s eyes widened as he took in the ‘few things’ that Magnus had gotten from the bakery. Leche fritas, sobao, mantecados, flan, dulce de leche…, “Wow Magnus, it looks like you bought one of everything. Oh, you even got Izzy’s favorite in here! You’re going to share with me, right? Come sit down,” he said as he sat on the floor, his mouth already watering as he looked over the treats he used to adore as a child, his abuela Lightwood often bringing them during the holidays when they were all very young, before the facility was even known to them.

Magnus gently lowered himself to the ground, finding himself looking over the vast assortment of pastries before them, his teeth already aching but his stomach was growling with excitement, “Yes, well, I don’t have much experience with Latin pastries and I wanted to make sure I got at least one that you liked.”

Alec snorted as he took a bite of a churro, “Mission accomplished, I guess,” he said and began to describe each type of treat that was in front of them until Magnus decided to pick a cup of flan out for himself. Alec asked about what Magnus saw while he was out, and the Psychic fell in to a dramatic retelling of his run in with the elderly lady at the counter of the panaderia and how she flung question after question at him about when his wife’s baby was due, because only someone with a pregnant wife would possibly buy this much food at once, and Magnus floundering to pull out any Spanish words he had in his vocabulary to first understand her, and second to try and explain that he wasn’t having a baby.

In the end, he had made up a wife named Alexandra and that she was eight months along and it earned him several free handfuls of alfajores. Alec was nearly doubled over laughing by the time he had finished, both of them with content bellies and feeling miles better than they had the day before.

As Alec wiped a mirthful tear from his eye, he caught sight of the second bag next to Magnus, “Hey, you find some new clothes while you were out? Can I see?”

Magnus froze, thinking about what he had stowed away in the bag by his side. He thought about how he had agonized over the selection in the store, asking all the workers there for advice, and going back and forth between his final few before deciding on a purchase. He thought about how carefully he had placed it in the saddlebag of his bike, how worried he was every time he took a sharp turn. How he had stopped every half mile on his way back up the mountain to pull over and check that it was still safely nestled inside. How his trip home took an extra hour and a half because of that…how he hoped that Alexander liked it.

“Uh, no, I didn’t buy any clothes today. I did get you something else while I was out,” he said, his heart fluttering at the way Alec’s face broke in to a smile, his eyes crinkling at the corners, “It’s nothing large or extravagant, I’m afraid. I just…well, here,” he said and handed over the bag carefully.

He watched as Alec peered over the edge of the paper bag, but then quickly looked away before he could see a reaction, choosing instead to fiddle with some sugar dust on the table. He didn’t look, but he couldn’t help but reach out with his mind to gently caress Alec’s aura, to see what emotions were flitting across the brightest light in his life.

“Magnus, this…is perfect. Thank you” Alec breathed out, his voice raw with something Magnus couldn’t quite put his finger on, far to distracted by what he was feeling. There wasn’t a name for it that could do this feeling justice, so Magnus just took it as it was and turned his gaze back on Alexander as he happily examined his gift, chattering in a way that Magnus had never heard before. It made him look so much younger and spoke of a hidden innocence that most would never notice.

“I’ve read about these, they’re called bonsai trees, right? I heard there’s an art to growing them that dates back thousands of years. I’ve never seen one in person, but this even cooler than I thought they would be! Look at the little leaves! I’ve got the perfect spot for it in here. Come to think of it, Luke told me I should decorate a bit, maybe I should start collecting a few plants. There’s a bunch out there that I could keep for useful purposes, and it would be nice to have them on hand. And Underhill said that immersion with our given elements is key to a better understanding, maybe this counts? I should order a book on bonsai though, I don’t know if being able to vibe with plants will be enough to really help this little guy grow to its full potential. It’s so nice right now, I’d hate to mess it up,” he gushed, completely unaware of the soft look that had fallen over Magnus’ features.

Magnus continued to listen, soaking in every word but at the same time in a different world all together. Something inside him was changing, the cogs and wheels of what made him up were shifting, gearing up to something that Magnus perhaps had never truly felt before. Alexander had unlocked something in him, and soon, he thinks, he’ll know for sure what that is.

Chapter Text

“This is your friendly wake-up call, Team! We got a ding a few minutes ago, so everyone is to report to the war room as soon as you’re fully dressed. No shoes, no shirt, no saving the mutant race. Thank you!”

Magnus groaned loudly and pulled a pillow over his head, momentarily forgetting that this was not his bed and that someone was actually using that pillow. He heard Alec’s grunt as his head suddenly fell to the mattress.

“Ugh, what time is it?” Alec slurred, pulling a new pillow out from the mountain of plushes and stuffing it under his tousled head, “And what the fuck is a ‘ding’?”

Magnus sighed and threw off the second pillow, instead moving to bury his face against the Alec’s back, rubbing it on the fabric of the shirt as if to rub away his sleepiness, “That was Simon over the speaker. A ‘ding’ means that the computer that monitors the media for potential mutant sightings found something,” he mumbled back, cracking his eyes to glance at the clock on the wall, “And it’s 6:30 am.”

Alec grunted again and turned over to face Magnus, his eyes still puffy with sleep, “For a computer, it’s being very inconsiderate.”

Magnus snorted and bumped his forehead against Alec’s, a wordless agreement with the statement. Waking up with Alec was making him feel far too giddy for first thing in the morning. Sure, they had woken up together before, but it was always after something rough had happened and one or both of them needed proximity to finally fall asleep. This time though it was just because they had stayed up in to the small hours of the morning, just talking and snacking on pastries until their stomachs hurt.

It wasn’t until Alec had nearly fallen asleep while still sitting up that Magnus suggested that they go to bed. That was when Alec had sheepishly said that they could just use his. They were too tired to do anything that would have made either of them uncomfortable, so Magnus had agreed.

He was so happy that he had agreed, for in all his life he had never seen a sweeter sight than a half-awake Alexander in the morning glow, hair tousled, eyes droopy, and lips pouted at being woken so early.

As much as he would have loved to continue to bask in this blissful and warm state, duty was calling. Literally.

Alec flung the blankets off of himself, using the sudden chill on his body to shock him in to alertness, “I showered last night, so go ahead and use mine if you don’t want to be caught by Jace doing the walk of shame back to your room. I think I’ve still got a few of your shirts that I had borrowed in the back of my closet, they’re clean I just forgot to give them back. So, you should have something to wear. I can go get us some coffee in the meantime,” Alec offered as he got up and headed towards his closet pulling a random shirt, jacket and jeans from inside to change in to. It was one of the benefits of having a muted wardrobe, there was no concerns of colors clashing. Alec didn’t even have to have his eyes open when he got dressed in the morning and Magnus almost envied him. Almost.

“My hero,” Magnus said as he stretched like a cat, a little more reluctant to leave his happy warm cocoon. He kept his happy mood going, even when Alec had chosen to dress in the bathroom rather than where Magnus could sneak a peek. Honestly, it was like Where's Waldo when it came to Alexander with trying to catch little glimpses of skin here and there. He'd spend hours searching and searching, and finally when he spots the little bastard Magnus only has a momentary thrill as he realizes that he's going to have to do the same thing again and again.

A soft click of the bathroom door sounded through the room as Alec emerged again, running his hand through his hair as a means of styling, and came up to the bed, dropping a soft and quick kiss on Magnus’ cheek, “I’ll meet you at the war room. Cream and one sugar, right?” he asked, already half out the door.

Magnus nodded and continued to grin after the door was shut.


 

With two steaming mugs of coffee in his hands, Alec stepped in to the war room, noting that only Luke and Simon had made it there so far. He made his way over to the long table, hesitating to choose a chair as he got closer. Luke noticed and took pity on the new team member.

“There aren’t assigned seats or anything, but that being said…this is my chair,” Luke said, taking the chair at the head of the table.

Alec nodded and sat down at the one closest to him, across from where Simon was busy clacking away at his laptop keyboard. He placed the coffee for Magnus to his right just as Jace and Clary came in to the room.

Alec almost held his breath. It had only been a day and a half since Luke had delivered his story and Alec had not seen Clary since then. He was completely unsure how to act around her, if he needed to walk on the proverbial eggshells or if he was supposed to pretend nothing had changed. But Jace saved him from making the call when he let out a happy noise as he slid in the chair to Alec’s right, his eyes zeroing in on the coffee.

“Aw man, Alec! You’re such a sweetheart to bring me some coffee! You really are a happy little flower, aren’t you?” he said, all smiles and blinding smiles as he reached for the cup, but Alec’s reflexes were just a little faster and he pulled the mug out of reach, somehow managing to not spill any of the scalding liquid on himself in the process. And all this while sporting a sour expression on his face that made Clary laugh as she pulled up a chair next to Simon.

Seeing her smiling and trying to sneak a peak over Simon’s shoulder was enough for Alec to relax slightly, secretly glad that the somberness of the other day did nothing to dim her sunny attitude. He’d never admit it, but he envied her obnoxiously optimistic outlook on life. Sort of. Not really though. Optimism was a risky characteristic meant for the terminally hopeful, not for those living dangerous lives. Still, sometimes it would be nice to not be the dark cloud hanging around an otherwise sunny day.

Only a few moments later Izzy and Magnus walked in, both looking a little more fresh from the shower than any others in the room. Izzy winked at Alec and moved to take the open chair on the other side of the table, leaving the seat to his left open for the Psychic.

Alec tried to focus on the projector screen that Simon was booting up, and not the gentle scent of sandalwood that was invading his senses, but it was damned difficult. Wordlessly, he pushed the second mug towards Magnus, trying to not look too closely at whatever incredible outfit he had chosen for the day. He needed to concentrate on this mission. After the disasters they had already experienced, with the fire at the warehouse and the ambush at the facility…Alec felt like they really just needed a solid win to prove to Luke they really did belong there.

“Alright, Simon. What do you have for us?” Luke asked now that his team had gathered.

The Molecular glanced up at the projector to make sure it was showing the correct screen before he started, “At around 5am this morning, in a small town southwest of Bar Harbor, Maine, there was a disturbance that triggered the MOO system, so I took a look deeper and it looks like there is some Circle Corp activity that has gone on since that disturbance, so it is definitely worth looking in to. There’s a large facility up in that region—”

“Excuse me,” Jace said, his hand raised high above his head, “Moo system? You got cows keeping track of mutant activities or something?”

Clary giggled, the only one finding the joke funny.

“MOO, it stands for Mutant Observation Output system. I didn’t care much for the acronym either, but Simon insisted—"

“I kind of like it,” Alec whispered to himself, not realizing Magnus had heard him and started to smile despite the serious look on Simon’s face.

 Simon cleared his throat loudly, cutting off a grinning Magnus to continue, “Anyway…Looks like a bunch of agents closed in on a house in those parts, alarming a few nosy grandma type neighbors who were keeping watch. They told news reporters that they saw a bunch of men wearing military styled outfits were thrown out the door, seemingly by some unseen force. Whoever they were after seemed to have escaped as they didn’t take anyone with them. Circle Corp obviously isn’t being named as the intruders, but I got a clip of video that confirms it’s the good old agents we know and hate,” Simon said as he clicked open the video for them all to see.

It was grainy, obviously taken through a window with an outdated phone, but the uniforms of the men piling back in to their vans was unmistakable.

“I did some digging in to who lived in the house and that’s where things get really interesting,” Simon clicked on another link and a file popped up of an older looking woman wearing a lab coat that they also recognized, “Meet Iris Rouse. She works for Circle Corp as a scientist, stationed at the facility I mentioned before. Those agents were after one of their own it seems, but someone as old as her is highly unlikely to be a mutant, so that begs the question…what threw those agents around like rag dolls?” Simon finished, the screen falling black as everyone absorbed the information.

“Is it possible she is housing a mutant with her?” Magnus asked, knowing that the same thing had happened with him and Ragnor.

Simon shrugged, “That seems the most logical thing to assume. I guess she has a kind of grandma air about her, could be she bonded with someone she was experimenting on and helped them escape.”

“It’s also possible she took a mutant to serve her own needs,” Alec added.

“Or maybe she’s the literal devil in that facility and an escaped mutant came back for revenge,” Jace said darkly, thinking of a few facility nurses he’d love to pay a visit to.

Luke nodded at each suggestion, thinking over the possible ways to approach the mission, “Any of those could be correct, but that does not change the fact that the agents didn’t find anyone before the media chased them off. That means that Iris is out there, with a mutant either willingly or unwillingly, and we need to focus on finding them. Simon, pull up all her records, credit cards, family, photos from past vacations, friends…anything that could provide a possible location for her to go and hide. Let’s create a list of the top possibilities and knock them out one by one. Hopefully we’ll get lucky.”


 

Not wanting to waste too much time, they gathered their laptops and gear and loaded themselves in to the small private plane that would fly them all to the Acadian forest region of Maine. From there Luke had made some calls and a mutant safe house near there would have several vehicles waiting for the on the tarmac when they arrived as well as a stolen item from Iris’ house that he had sent someone to retrieve.

As Luke flew the plane, the rest of them poured over the vast amounts of data that Simon had pulled before they left, writing down a list of any and all potential hide outs that Iris may have run to. Luckily for the team, the Lightwoods were masters at the art of hiding from Circle Corp and were able to quickly cross out half the list without breaking a sweat.

Izzy had reasoned that she was a scientist, so she was smart enough not to choose anything obvious. So that eliminated friends and family’s houses. Hotels usually were a strong possibility, but their cameras were easily hacked, and she would know that Circle Corp could easily track her that way.

Alec had mentioned that there was no recent activity on her credit cards, so she was probably using cash, but they should still review her older history to see if she had any places that she frequented. It would be possible to hack the cameras at those places to see if she went there and used cash for the first time. That avenue brought up several potential areas to check.

Jace took the narrowing down of the list seriously as he considered all the urban versus rural locations, knowing that Iris would be aware of how hard it would be to remain hidden from people, street cams, and security drones in the city. Anything that pinged on the list as too urban was crossed off.

What was left were seven possible locations.

“It’s not too bad, I guess,” Clary said, looking over the list as they gathered near the cockpit, delivering the news to Luke.

“List them again for me,” he said, keeping his eyes on the controls and sky in front of him.

Magnus cleared his throat and held the list up as he read, “Acadian University, a secluded college campus that she attended while earning her PhD. A small town near the college where her credit cards showed a lot of activity a while back, including paying for the same campsite a few times. Her taxes show her claiming insurance on an RV, so we have two RV parks in the area that are a possible for her to get to while avoiding all cameras. She has an Acadian National park membership, so we can check campsites and cabins around there. And lastly, there are two abandoned buildings in her current hometown that everyone knows about who lives there, but anyone from out of town would have no clue about. No cameras, and no people to stumble in on them.”

Luke nodded and half turned his head to his team, “We can cover more ground faster if we split in to groups. Isabelle, I want you to go with Magnus to the college campus and small town, and be sure to check that campsite. They’re both large areas, so we need Isabelle to sniff out possible leads there,” he said, noting the slight hesitation from Magnus before he nodded, accepting his assignment.

“Next, I want Jace and Simon to check out the abandoned buildings. Keep your eyes open for any danger, some strange people are drawn to places like that and I want both of you on your toes,” he said, ignoring the two roll their eyes at the pairing.

Alec slid his eyes over to where Clary stood, knowing that her and Luke were the only ones left.

“And that leaves Clary and Alec to check on the National Park, it’s an expansive area, the largest forested area in New England. So big it spreads in to Canada. I know that’s a little overwhelming, but once I finish taking a look around the RV parks I’ll head over to join you. Don’t get lost,” he finished firmly, glancing back at the two of them, “That place is so big that dozens of people go missing each year….and watch out for bears. I hear they’re a problem up here.”

Alec groaned internally, not only did he have to partner with little miss sunshine instead of Magnus or Jace, but he had to watch out for bears while doing it. This was not shaping up to be the best day. Shame really, it had started so nicely.

Chapter Text

A nice Molecular by the name of Maureen met them after they landed, handing over four sets of car keys as well as a worn blanket that she had snuck out of Iris’ house for tracking purposes. Luke ripped the blanket in half, giving Izzy and Magnus one piece and keeping the other for himself. They all quickly thanked Maureen before heading to their cars.

Magnus quickly snatched the keys to the only convertible car and jumped in to the driver’s seat, Isabelle happily taking the passenger side. They drove off with a rev of the engine and a wink from Magnus to Alec as he sped off.

Luke took the least flashy car, claiming that it was the highest rated in safety features, and nodded to his team before driving off at a more legal speed.

Jace grabbed for the second to last key, a big smile on his face as he ran off to jump in to his car, leaving Alec with his mouth hanging open from the protest he never got to say before Simon had jumped in after Jace.

The last key he held in his hand as he watched the car that held his brother, apprehensive look on his face.

“Uh, you driving then?” Clary asked, her head turning to try and identify what seemed to be bothering her partner so much.

The car with Jace and Simon jerked and backfired before awkwardly twisting off down the road, swerving a few times before disappearing beyond their line of sight.

Alec sighed and shook his head, handing the keys to the redhead, “No, I don’t have a license and I’ve never driven before either. Hard to learn to drive when you don’t have a car or any means of getting an ID without agents finding you.”

Clary looked surprised, “Oh. How did Jace get his license then?” she asked as they climbed in.

Alec leaned back against his chair as he pulled out the pamphlet of the park, “He didn’t,” he said simply.

Clary’s eyes widened as she thought of what her best friend might be experiencing at that moment, but nodded slowly as she accepted the implications. Simon was resourceful, she told herself. How hard could it be for him to clone some extra airbags?


 

Magnus parked the car in the visitor’s parking lot at the college, using the rearview mirror to fix his hair before stepping out to get the door for Isabelle.

“Such a gentleman,” she commented with a smirk as she patted down her own wind swept hair.

Magnus gave a small bow, “I try to be for fine ladies such as yourself, and of course for Alexander. Although, I’m not sure how he would react to my pulling his chair out for him at dinner.”

“He’d probably just be completely clueless and pull out a different chair and sit down, all the while wondering why you were taking so long to sit down yourself,” she giggled, shaking her head at the thought, “As you might have noticed, Alec has no idea how to be woo-ed properly. I love my brother, but he is about as socially aware as a platypus sometimes.”

Magnus didn’t disagree with her, but he also didn’t mention how absolutely charming he found it and how excited he was to be the one to introduce Alexander to all the small quirks of being courted as it were. He still would find himself grinning like a lovestruck fool every time he thought about the completely baffled look on Alec's face the first time that Magnus opened the car door for him, the Elemental just stood there wondering why Magnus didn't just get in the car already. 

“So, how do we do this? I just take a whiff and we walk around?” Isabelle asked, gesturing to the scrap of blanket Magnus held.

“That’s part of it,” he said, running the fabric through his fingers, “There is more that I’m here for besides just being an experience team member I’ll have you know.”

Isabelle raised an elegant eyebrow, “Well then, do tell.”

“Well, as you can plainly see, our friend Maureen grabbed something that appears quite old, and very well used. That means that there may be a sort of emotional attachment to it, or a lingering sense of what their aura may look like. So while you would be able to narrow down a direction to head in, I can spot the individual based on whatever sense of aura I can pull from this blanket. It can come in handy if the scent is weakened for whatever reason, like a recent shower,” he said as he continued to run his hands over the threads, creating an image in his mind as he did so.

Isabelle smiled, “Well, look who’s not just a pretty face.”

He looked up and smiled, handing her the blanket to being her own hunt, “Looks who’s talking.”

After taking in the scent, she lifted her head catching the wind as it blew through, carrying all sorts of smells that downloaded in her brain as normal college smells. Books, sweat, cheap food, cheaper alcohol…

“I don’t smell anything even remotely like her,” she said, disappointed, but Magnus laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“Don’t let this get you down, there is still plenty of ground to cover. This campus is secluded, but it isn’t tiny. We can still take time to look around before heading in to town. Besides, there was no guarantee that this is where she chose to hide. Let’s keep going,” he said softly, smiling brightly when Isabelle nodded.

He could still feel that she was a little put out about not being able to find her prey at first sniff, and Magnus knew that being so young she would be still ripe with impatience for a while yet. He knew she had excellent potential though seeing as how smart she was, and how much faith Luke was showing in her by not pairing Isabelle with the team leader himself. He trusted that Isabelle was a capable enough Feral on her own to not need Luke guiding her along through this expedited mission.

It would take time, but her confidence would grow, Magnus knew it.

For now though, some distraction would probably help pull her from her growing self-doubt.

“Now, my dear, I’m sure Alec would be appalled if I didn’t show the dear lady Lightwood around properly,” he said with a touch of a British accent. He held out his arm for her, letting her lace her arm through before guiding her along.

She giggled as he strut forward, chin held high.

“I think Alec would be more appalled that you weren’t holding his arm,” she said coyly.

Magnus gave a mock gasp, “Oh my, are you telling me that Alec and I have reached the arm holding stage?”

“I have no idea what stage you’re at because you keep closing doors and the walls are all soundproofed against Ferals,” she reminded him. There had been a lot of closed doors lately. Not to mention long walks in the woods. Really, on any day that they weren't working it was kind of a surprise to even see her brother without Magnus. On top of all that, her brother's scent, the one that she knew by heart, was starting to shift. It sometimes made her metaphorical fur stand on end to know that Magnus' scent was becoming more prominent on Alec now than his siblings' scents. It wasn't a bad thing, it was just different. Something that never had been a problem in the past...and maybe her inner animal was a little territorial sometimes, not to mention immensely protective, but they wanted the best for Alec. And for Magnus. The two of them were moving along beautifully...if not alarmingly fast too. She didn’t need to admit that this had actually been a bit of a concern for her the last couple weeks. She knew Magnus would pick up on her apprehension in her comment, and he didn’t disappoint.

“Do I sense a bit of worry in there, because I can assure you that we’re taking our time and your brother’s honor is still in place,” Magnus said, trying to still sound lighthearted, but the fact that Isabelle was concerned about anything regarding her brother was enough to make him backtrack on anything in Alexander’s behavior that would indicate something wrong.

She winced slightly, putting her hand over Magnus’ and squeezing it in reassurance, “It’s not that…well, it kind of is I guess,” she said, doing her best to say something without overstepping her bounds, “Just do me a favor?”

Magnus nodded seriously, “Of course. Anything to make you both more comfortable.”

“Just ask Alec about his past experience with relationships,” she said, biting her tongue on saying anything else.

Her heart only got back to a normal rhythm after Magnus had promised he’d do just that.


 

“Why didn’t you tell me that you’ve never driven before?! We almost died!”

“I got us here, I think that counts as an unqualified success! And we didn’t get pulled over,” Jace added smugly as the two walked up to the first abandoned building.

Simon stopped, his mouth hanging open, “A succ…you call that a success!? You almost ran over that squirrel!”

Almost.”

“You ran three red lights.”

“And made it through safely each time.”

“That little old lady at the crosswalk…” Simon moaned.

“Will probably think twice next time before crossing the street without looking both ways,” Jace responded smugly.

“That group of kids…”

Jace grinned back at him, “I know, they were totally impressed.”

“…unbelievable.”


 

Alec sighed as he sat on a long wooden bench next to Clary, both of them listening to the overly perky park ranger as she ran over safety basics of entering the forest. They had already wasted too much time getting here, then just trying to get a map from the store, then being stopped by the ranger insisting that they listen to her speech before she let them leave.

Then of course, four families had walked in with what looked like a hoard of kids in tow, all wanting to ask a thousand questions from the park ranger who welcomed them to join her safety talk with Alec and Clary. Despite their need to get back to the actual mission quickly, Clary had reasoned with Alec that they didn't want to draw unnecessary attention by roughly pushing past the Ranger, like Alec had wanted to do.

Thirty minutes in and she was still having to stop every other sentence to answer something like, ‘where do the bears go potty’ and then having the hoard of kids giggle at the answer. Alec was damn near close to grabbing Clary and just walking out, ready to sneak in to the park at a different entrance. Clary tried to hide her smile as she felt the inner turmoil growing in Alec as the park ranger had to stop once again, making the Elemental close his eyes, probably counting to ten, before opening them again.

“Not a fan of kids?” she whispered, leaning in close to him.

He sighed heavily, “It’s not the kids so much as that we may be running out of time to find Iris before the agents do.”

Clary nodded her understanding, “Yeah, sorry about that. If I’d known we would be accosted by Smokey the bear’s groupies for this long I would have glamoured us before coming in.”

“Why do you wear those ugly hats?”

Alec groaned out loud this time, causing a few of the parents to turn and give them dirty looks which Clary winced at.

“Are you sure you don’t have anything in your bag of tricks to get us out of here? I’ll work with anything you’ve got,” Alec pleaded.

Clary bit her lip as she thought, “Um, I could start a fire…?”

Alec blinked, but pushed back the small flitter of temptation, “Yeah, no. I lied, anything but fire. Give me something else.”

“Portal?”

“A bit obvious, don’t you think?”

“Okay, now raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of erosion!”

“Right, yeah, um…let’s see, super hearing, not useful here. Water, not really helpful there either. Pulling a Jesus and doing a healing would only draw attention. Emotional projection would be a little too chaotic…camouflage?” she asked hopefully.

Alec sighed, what good was having the Swiss Clary Knife if she couldn’t even help them escape a boring safety discussion?

“Now let’s move on to the topic of what to do if you get lost!”

Alec buried his face in his hands, “I really hope the others are having better luck than us.”

Clary hoped so too.


 

It didn’t take long for Luke to determine that the first RV park was a bust, so he had found himself quite quickly moving on to the second, stepping out of his car to take a look around. There were about thirty trailers, all in various amounts of decay and use, going from hot off the lot to big old piles of tetanus nests. As he walked over to the main office, he lifted his nose to the air, taking a quick survey of the area, but he smelled nothing that triggered his glands from the blanket.

Somewhat dejected, he stepped inside and walked up to the desk where a man stood counting inventory of worm cups.

“Hey there, I don’t suppose you can help me. I’m looking for an old coworker of mine, Iris Rouse. She mentioned coming here a few times in the past and I thought maybe I’d find her hanging around. You seen her?” Luke asked, holding up a friendly looking picture of her that Simon had pulled off her social media account.

The man only glanced at the photo before returning to his counting, a cigarette dangling dangerously from his lips, “Well, she sure is popular today it seems. You’re the second person to come by looking for her. You going to tell me there’s a reward out for her too?”

Luke stiffened, “Can you describe who came looking for her? I’ll make it worth your while,” he said as he pulled out his wallet.

The man glanced at the wallet and sighed, “Well that’s a nice improvement over the last fellah. He just pulled out a gun on me. Nothing I haven’t seen before though, lots of hunters come through these parts and get a little testy when I don’t give ‘em bullets without checking for a license. Or when I’m out of the red Gatorade. Or that one time we ran outta condoms.”

Luke slapped several bills on the counter, “Just tell me what you told him. I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

The man chuckled, “He said that too, the nasty little bugger. Anyway, I told him that I hadn’t seen her for a long time. She said that now that she was a grandma she needed to find some more kid friendly places to visit. She said she was going to take a look around that national park, heard they had some decent cabins.”

Luke was already heading out the door as he pulled his phone from his pocket.

Chapter Text

“Damn, no service,” Clary said as she pulled out her phone to check the time. A whole hour wasted, and they were only just starting to head in to the park. Thankfully, most of it had dirt roads running through it, so they hopped back in the car and started to drive along while they kept an eye out for anything suspicious. Alec had honestly been a little worried that they would be forced to hike their way through the extensive acreage of the park. Just getting from one end to the other would be a several days walk at least.

As they turned down a road that took them away from the picnic tables and gift shops and on to the trail heads, Clary lowered the windows in the car, letting some of the most fresh and crisp air in that the Elemental had ever breathed. Alec drank in the oxygen like a man just returned from the desert.

This place was incredible, and he made a mental note to thank Luke for this assignment later. While he loved the forest back on their little mountain back home, this was truly a new experience for him. Everything around him thrummed with life, like a second heartbeat in his mind. He didn’t know how to even begin to process what he was feeling, he just felt like every cell in his body was vibrating as the flora emitted its energy all around him. It was equal parts energizing and calming to him, and it was breathtaking.

There were so many different plants out there, each with a unique signature but still similar to those of the same species. Evergreens were sharp, but steady. Oaks and maples were strong and dominating. Wild flowers were like little bells, ringing on the peripheral of the mass of everything else around them. It all called out to him, like a friendly neighbor waving as he passed. He wanted to stop and greet them all back, but they had a purpose here, one that outweighed his own pleasures.

“So, can you sniff them out or something?” Alec asked, wondering how they were supposed to locate a wayward scientist and a mutant in such an expansive area.

Clary shrugged, “Not really. I can smell almost as strongly as a Feral, but I am terrible at scent identification. That’s why Luke didn’t bother giving us any of that blanket. It’s like…knowing I’m eating ice cream, but not being able to tell what flavor. Mostly I’m just trying to pull a Magnus and scan the area for any out of place emotion. Windows are open cause I figured you’d enjoy the exposure, not for sniffing purposes,” she said simply, shrugging her shoulders as she continued to drive.

To Alec though, having someone he barely knew, and at this point had barely spoken to, be so thoughtful was still stunning to him. If she was even half as courteous towards Jace as she was to Alec, then he was even more on board with their budding romance.

He was still Alec though, and being cared for rather than being the one doing the caring still made him immensely uncomfortable. Magnus had only just started to pull him from that, but hey, these things would take time.

“Thanks…I kind of feel a bit useless though. Did Luke just send me with you because he thought I’d enjoy the forest, or is there something more I can be doing,” he asked, hoping that the more senior team member may have some insight.

Clary looked thoughtful for a moment before responding, “You know, I honestly am not sure. We’ve never had Elementals on the team before, so I’m not overly familiar with the more advanced parts of your abilities. My water, and fire now I guess, tricks are limited to movement and sensory awareness. It would make sense to have Jace around, if say we were trying to locate a fire in the woods. Or using me if we were looking for a body of water. It would be like using a magnet to find the needle in the haystack…but I’m not entirely sure why Luke would send you. That’s more like…finding hay in a haystack.”

Alec huffed out an annoyed breath, hating feeling useless. It was one of the things that had always bothered him growing up. Back then, when he was so limited, he could never figure out how he could  use plants to protect his family. Now he’d found that perhaps he wasn’t as hopeless as he thought. Underhill’s words still rang in his head, tempting him to believe that perhaps he was special, that his limits had still not been reached. It was a daunting thought, but one that gave him hope nonetheless.

“Maybe it’s just because if we ran in to trouble, you wouldn’t find any issue with recourses,” she said, smirk on her face as they passed through miles of thick wooded forest.

Alec snorted, “Yeah, I guess.”


 

Three cars all screeched in to the parking lot of the welcome center within five minutes of each other. Luke arrived first, leaping out of the car to run inside and confirm that Alec and Clary had entered from there. Rudely, he cut off the park ranger trying to read off some safety pamphlet and headed back outside where he saw Jace and Simon stepping out of their car just as Magnus and Isabelle’s pulled in behind, the tires leaving dark marks on the pavements.

Shakily, all of them ran up to him, all wearing matching faces of concern.

“Luke, have you found them? Are they okay?” Jace asked, his voice carrying over the others with similarly phrased questions.

With a heavy sigh, Luke shook his head and watched as the remaining parts of his team all seemed to tense up. He could already see Magnus and Izzy reaching out with their senses to see if they could detect anything, but the continued look of worry on their faces let Luke know they didn’t have any luck either.

“The front desk confirmed seeing them. The sign-in sheet shows they only left to enter the park about thirty minutes ago, so they don’t have too much of a lead on us. And they also mentioned that reception out here is spotty at best because of the mountains, so it’s possible that nothing is wrong and they just aren’t getting any calls,” Luke explained in a rush.

The group nodded, their faces still serious but a little relieved.

This was a rough situation, and Luke felt that he was a little to blame in choosing both Clary and Alec to be the ones to come out here. Each one of the team remaining had very strongly invested emotions towards at least one of the missing two, but that was almost impossible to avoid with the tightly knit team he had. He could plainly see how badly this was affecting Jace and Magnus, the two of them barely grasping at the edge of control.

Jace looked sweaty and pale, his head swiveling like an owl as he looked around the area as if he may suddenly spot Alec and Clary sitting at one of the picnic tables having a quick lunch. Magnus’ looked like he was trying to keep it together, but the way his fingers were digging in to where he had his arms crossed told Luke a completely different story.

He had wanted to have Alec paired with Clary though, knowing that with his abilities, level headedness and natural protective instinct that Clary would be safest, especially when they were placed in a forest. He only hoped that nothing had actually happened.

Despite what his gut was telling him.

“So, we know that some agents are here already?” Simon asked, his voice tight as he looked around as if some men in army camo may suddenly pop out of nowhere, Clary clutched by their side.

Luke nodded, “If not already, then definitely on their way. We need to get going, but no splitting up. I know it could save time, but I don’t want to be out of contact with anyone else if I can help it. We’ll take my car. First thing’s first though. We need a way to get by Overly Invested in Her Job, Park Ranger Patty.”

Simon grinned, despite the serious situation and casual rubbed his hands together, “I think I can help with that!”


 

“It’s just wonderful to see so many young adults so eager to explore the outdoors! Let’s get started though, and feel free to interrupt with any questions!” she said, smiling brightly.

None of the group in front of her said anything, just stared intently, bordering on creepily.

She cleared her throat, “Um, okay! First let’s go over the trail markers!”


 

“Your clones…they’re not going to suddenly poof out of existence in front of the park ranger, right?” Isabelle asked from the backseat where she was crammed between Jace and Simon.

Simon cocked his head in consideration, tapping a finger to his chin, “Uh…I mean they wouldn’t completely poof out of existence. There would just be several rocks in place where some people were just sitting. I’m sure she can just…assume that she’s been outside for way too long, or something. It wouldn’t be a long shot to accidentally mistake several large rocks for attentive listeners, right?”

Magnus and Luke exchanged winces from the front seat.

“Yeah, no. It’ll be fine,” Simon said.

Jace huffed out a breath as he scanned out the window, hoping to catch any sign of his brother and Clary “Yeah, no. Totally.”


 

They drove deeper and deeper in to the forest, the trees becoming denser and the roads much more sparse and unkempt. The gravel was loud beneath the tires, annoying Alec a little. He preferred to stay in permanent stealth mode, something that his siblings shared and something that drove the other occupants in the house nuts after several unintentional scares.

More than once Simon had threatened to put bells on all the Lightwoods.

They’d been at this for almost an hour when Clary suddenly stopped the car, the force of it causing both of them to jolt against the seatbelts.

Rubbing his chest, he turned to her, “Did you almost hit a squirrel or something?”

She shook her head, her eyes appearing unfocused, “No, I feel something. Someone is scared, terrified. Wait…no, two people are scared,” she said, her head wiping around trying to figure out which direction it was coming from.

Alec’s whole body tensed, putting himself back in to mission mode, “There are no side roads here to turn down, but the map shows there is a cabin up the hill to the west,” he said, pointing to where it would be. Clary’s head turned to where he indicated and was ripping off her seatbelt the next second.

Alec cursed and scrambled to follow her as she started to run up the hill, leaving the car running at the base. There was no path, so the brush she was encountering on her way up the hill was less than accommodating, branches snapping in her face and several times she almost lost her footing on loose leaves on the forest floor. Alec scrambled up after her, slightly more gracefully since he was used to moving through the woods. And he may also be prompting some branches to pull back from him a bit. He supposed he could probably be doing the same for Clary, but he refrained. It had slowed her progress enough to keep her in eyesight, it had nothing to do with her not listening to him. Totally.

“Clary, slow down! We need to approach this carefully,” he ground out as he caught up, trying to keep his voice and footsteps as quiet as the twigs and leaves on the ground would allow.

“They’re so scared, Alec. We have to help them,” she bit back, charging on as she pulled herself up the hill.

Alec groaned in annoyance. Honestly, it was like he’d adopted another child to babysit in Clary, “We will, but we need to be smart about this. Don’t you remember Simon mentioning agents being tossed around by nothing? You want that to be us? Jace would kill me if I let you get hurt,” he said, grumbling the last part.

He could only see Clary’s back, but he knew that she was rolling her eyes as she didn’t even pause her climbing, “I take full responsibility for myself, thank you very much. Now come on, we’re getting close.”

Alec cast his eyes to the heavens for a brief moment before trudging after her, thankful for his long legs otherwise he’d have no way of catching up to Clary before they crested the top of the hill. He grabbed the back of her jacket pulling her back in to the shadows of the treeline, just barely stopping her before she ran across the clearing surrounding a small cabin.

She turned to him, her mouth already open in protest, but he put a finger to his lips for silence before she could speak. She looked upset, but she followed his hand to where he pointed out the helicopter that was tucked behind the other side of the cabin, only the tail in view.

“The agents are already here,” she breathed out, frustration painted on each softly spoken word.

Alec nodded, equally as frustrated. He pulled his cell from his pocket, seeing if they had enough reception to send a message to the others, but he had no bars. Cursing in his head, he stuffed it back in his pocket. They were on their own in this.

He was about to lean down and try and work out a plan with Clary when a shrill scream echoed through the clearing, shocking both of the mutants. It was quickly followed by several loud crashes and yelling from the other side of the cabin.

“That sounded like a little kid,” Alec murmured, his wariness forgotten at the distressed sound of a child rocked him to the core. He didn’t have any further time to process before Clary was suddenly gone from his side, racing towards the building.

“Fuck,” he bit out and raced after her.

This is really not turning out to be my day.


 

It didn’t take long for Luke and Isabelle to latch on to the two familiar scents of their missing group, what did take a while was narrowing down which turns they had taken. There were a couple times they had to turn back, the scent lost after a few minutes down a wrong turn, and had to start all over.

With each new delay, their dread got worse. Even though there was nothing yet that would indicate something bad had happened, their guts were screaming at them otherwise, each of them becoming more anxious with each passing minute that they searched.

Luke’s knuckles were drained of all color as he gripped the wheel hard enough to tear the leather. Isabelle was getting light headed from constantly sniffing the air, desperate to catch anything of use. One either side of her, Simon and Jace were worriedly staring out the windows, looking for anything. A hint of red hair amongst the trees. An unnaturally moving branch. A whiff of cheap two dollar shampoo. Anything.  

Magnus was stretching his senses as far out as they would go, each mile they searched he pushed himself further, a horrid headache starting to form as he began to reach his limits.

He and Alec hadn’t been an item very long, but that did nothing to ease the worry that was slowly eating its way through his gut like acid. He should have been prepared for this, after all, Alec appeared to have a secondary mutation which made him prone to turning up unconscious at various times during missions. There was no doubt in his head at this point. His boyfriend was a danger magnet. A very tall, very sweet, very handsome, slightly awkward danger magnet.

Magnus sighed as he pulsed out a sweeping scan for what felt like the thousandth time. This time, it came back with a solid hit.

“I sense something!” he exclaimed loudly, all faces in the car turning towards him, everyone’s breath held as he clenched his eyes shut in concentration, “Fear. Lots of it. And frustration. There are too many minds to get a solid count, at least ten people, but I can guarantee that the agents have found their target by the feel of things. I just don’t know if Alec and Clary are involved.”

Luke nodded, changing the gear of the car, “Lead the way.”

The closer they got, the stronger the scents became and they knew with growing dread that the scents included that of their two missing friends and with their stomachs turning over they all concluded that Alec and Clary were at least nearby.

Then they saw the abandoned car in the middle of the road and their hearts stopped as screams erupted from up on the hill.

Chapter Text

Alec legs pumped under him as he tore across the clearing and rounded the cabin, all the while cursing under his breath and reaching out his senses for whatever floral help may be available. There wasn’t much since they were in a clearing, just some grass and scattered wild flowers. The nearby trees would take time and concentration, something he may not be able to afford now that Clary was like a bull racing towards a red target. He wished Clary would have given him enough time to grab some stuff from the woods before tearing after the screams, but already he could hear her footsteps stop as she reached the other side of the cabin. He almost ran in to her as he arrived, but he didn’t stop to scold her as the scene before them played out.

There were at least eight agents at first count, all armed to the teeth. Alec’s eyes were first drawn to where most of the screaming was coming from, an older woman who must be Iris was being held between two men as she fought hard to get free. Her face was red and splotchy with angry tears as she tried vainly to kick off the men holding her arms. Strands of hair wear escaping from the bun on top of her head as she kicked and screamed.

“Let’s go of me you sick bastards! How could you? How could you shoot her, you monsters!” she wailed.

One agent sneered, “The only monster here is that fucking mutant. She took down five of my men this morning,” and then jerked his chin towards one of the other men who was carrying a limp bundle in his arms. Alec was no Feral, but he felt a growl grow behind his breast as he saw that the small bundle was a child of no more than 4 or 5, and that agent was carrying her as if she were a rotten sack of potatoes. The Elemental watched as the agent started walking towards the helicopter where something lay in the grass next to it. Alec felt the bile rise in his throat as he realized what it was.

“Clary, that’s one of the stasis pods,” he breathed out, then he realized what the bundle was, “Oh my god, they’re going to put that kid in there!”

Who the hell are you? What are you doing here?”

Alec and Clary whipped their heads to where the agent who spotted them stood, weapon already raised. The others around them also reacting to the new presence, all of them scrambling to pull their stun guns from their holsters. Before either of them could make up a story about being lost hikers or something, Iris started to scream anew.

“Help me, please! They’re trying to take my granddaughter! Madzie!”

Fuck.

“Clary, you handle getting Iris, I’ll get the kid,” Alec said and they split apart just as the first shot was made, missing Clary’s arm by mere inches.

Clary darted forward, shooting a bright beam of light in front of her, blinding the men who were shooting momentarily, just enough time for her to get close enough to kick out at the first man in her way. In the back of her head she tried to keep a running count of who was left as she ducked to avoid the heavy gun that was swung over her head like a bat. She could feel her hair move with the air displaced by the force of the swing. As she found her balance again, Clary blew out a harsh breath, already scanning for her next victim.

Alec may have sent her to handle the larger group of men, but the child took priority right now and he had to believe that Clary could hold her own against the agents. The wrongness of this whole situation churned his gut, wondering just how much these men had to hate mutants to think it was okay to not only stun a kid, but to toss her in to a cryochamber pod. Every strand of his mutant DNA, ever fiber of his being was primed and ready to do whatever it took to fix this, to free that little girl from whatever fate Valentine had planned for her. He couldn't let Circle Corp get there hands on her. He couldn't fail another innocent child. Not like he failed Max.

Out of the corner of her eye, Clary tried to keep Iris' situation in her periphery, just in case she had to step in at some point. For the most part though, she knew that those two agents holding the older woman had their hands full with Iris who continued to fight as dirty as she could, spitting in the faces of the men holding her, and kicking as near the groin as high as she could get her knees. Clary smirked a little when she saw his knees quake after the hit.

The current agent that she was facing was resillient, but it wasn't anything that Clary couldn't handle. Quickly she freed one hand and blast another burst of sunlight from her palm, blinding him. The agents’ sight would only be blurry for a few seconds more, so Clary searched her head and the area quickly for an idea on how to dispose of the last few men around her. It was Iris who spotted it first though.

“Behind you, against the barrel!” she called out to the Psychic.

Clary risked the glance behind her to see the sledgehammer resting amongst a few tools.

‘This will do nicely,’ she thought to herself and flipped it up to her hand with her boot and slammed it in to the gut of the first agent, wincing slightly when she heard bone crunch. The agent didn’t get back up.

She turned back to the remaining three, smirking when she saw the fear in their eyes.


 

As he ran forward, Alec resisted the urge to turn to check on Clary, he needed to stay focused if he was going to stop these men from putting that little girl in that pod. Flashes of Max’s face blinked through his mind, but Alec shook them away.

‘Not the time for that,’ he thought bitterly.

With a small push of his energy, the grass on the ground suddenly came alive, growing tall, sharp and thick in seconds, moving like a thousand arms coming from the ground. He flicked his hand and sent two of the agents to the ground, their legs wrapped up to the knees in the sharp blades of grass, moving higher over the bodies as they continued to grow. If he let it go on, it would only be another minute or two before the men would be wrapped up like spiders’ prey, slowly suffocating and bleeding out as the razor sharp blades cut in to their bodies.

He didn’t use the grass to trap the third one, the one holding the girl, as he didn’t want him to harm her in any way. Still, his heart lurched as the agent moved and he could see the limp limbs sway. He wished he knew which one it was that though it was okay to shoot a little girl with a stunner. Alec knew exactly how that felt and he was horrified that it had happened to someone so small. He thought of Izzy and Max when they were that size, of them being hunted down like this, ripped away from family…his blood boiled at the thought.

“Put her down, and I may just let you live,” he growled out as he slowly walked closer, now only a few feet away from them.

The agent with the girl stood only two feet from the pod and the helicopter, his eyes darting around as he tried to find an escape route. Eventually his eyes fell on Alec’s face and his eyes widened.

“You’re one of the mutants Valentine is looking for, the plant Elemental that made that dome,” he said, sounding even more nervous, beads of sweat erupting on his face where the helmet and goggles didn't cover. Alec preened a little inside, liking that he had that effect on Circle Corp men. He never thought he'd see the day that anyone would actually be afraid of his abilities. Alec took a step closer.

"Put her down and I'll think about letting you go," he said with barely controlled anger.

The agent paled, his bottom lip trembling.

Alec took another step forward, sweeping his hands up next to him, calling more blades of grass to emerge around his feet threateningly from the soil like a thousand thin green snakes, "I won't ask again," he hissed.

The agent sputtered, “W-wait! Stop, please...He has him! Valentine has your little brother!”

Alec froze.


 

Clary grunted as the agent landed a blow to her stomach, the force of it making her feel like she was about to choke up her guts and that bagel from this morning as she fell to her knees to catch her breath. The hammer in her hand was starting to feel far too heavy, her arms shaking every time she tried to lift it for another swing. She wouldn’t be able to fight much longer, and she needed to save enough energy to portal them all out of here as soon as Alec got the girl.

Speaking of which, she risked a quick glance over to where Alec was facing down one last agent, the one holding the girl. She frowned when she noticed that Alec seemed to be shocked at something, too stunned to move. Then she caught a small movement one the ground behind him and she screamed as loud as she could, “ALEC! BEHIND YOU!”

It was too late, the agent who had managed to cut his way free of the grass trap he was in had already raised his stunner, pointing it at the Elemental and letting out a shot that hit him in the center of his back, propelling him forward until he hit the ground, hard.

Suddenly surging with adrenaline at the sight of her teammate immobile on the ground, Clary lurched up and started swinging the hammer with renewed strength, hitting agents who dared get close. All her mind focused on was getting to Alec.

Over the din, she heard some of them shouting.

“It’s one of the Lightwoods!”

“Quick, put him in the pod! Valentine wants him.”

“That pod is for the kid, what about her?”

“She’s unconscious, what can she do?”

“The scientist?”

“We’ll get her later, we’ve got the mutants, that takes priority. Let’s go!”

Time seemed to start running at double speed, Clary was barely able to process it all, let alone react quickly enough to do anything. It almost felt like she had been turned in to a stone statue, frozen in spot for eternity, unable to even bend an arm to help. She watched as the agents that had been closing in on her were retreating, all racing towards the helicopter that was already being started up, the blades already cutting through the air and kicking up dust and leaves that caught in Clary’s throat. She saw the two agents wrestling with Iris suddenly drop her and run after the others, leaving their dead fellow agents behind as they ran up to where several of them were shoving Alec’s limp body in to the pod and closing it over him with a hiss of air as it engaged.

No, no, no, no….

Clary moved to chase after them, her legs feeling like they weighed a thousand pounds with how slow she felt like she was going. Nothing she did seemed to be fast enough. Iris beside her also started to run towards the chopper, but they both had to draw up short as the ground in front of them was suddenly peppered with real bullets, dirt flying over their shoes. Through squinted eyes and the gusts of wind, Clary could just make out the agent pulling the pod in to the helicopter as it rose from the ground.

She tried to think of something, anything, any power, any ability she had in her possession, but each thought became slippery with panic, falling from her mental grasp before she could even think of a way to stop that chopper from flying away. Alec was still in there. They were taking him. That little girl too. 

It had already gotten above the treeline when Clary felt a hand slap on her shoulder. She whipped around, hammer held high only to stop short when she saw Luke’s worried face looking up in the sky. Then she saw the others scrambling over from where they emerged from the woods, all eyes on the helicopter as it continued to rise and turn away.

Clery felt sick as she saw Jace, Izzy and Magnus’ heads swiveling around, like they were looking for something.

Or someone, Clary though sourly, already hating herself for letting this happen, hating herself for what she was going to have to say. She barely noticed when Simon started to pat her down, looking for injuries, his hand hovering over the sore ribs on her right side. She was sure she looked a mess, but she couldn't care less about her condition, slapping away Simon's hands angrily. She didn't deserve anyone's concern.

“Where’s Alec?” Jace yelled over the noise, his head whipping around as wildly as his hair in the wind as he searched for sight of his brother.

Clary was glad it was too loud for him to hear her whimper as she tried to tell him, the response too choked to be understood. Instead she turned her eyes, slowly filling with frustrated tears, up to where the helicopter was. She saw the exact moment that realization hit all of them, the horror reflected in their eyes. She saw Jace's mouth fall open in shock and his face pale as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that Alec was taken. Clary hung her head in shame, unable to handle seeing Jace's anguish so plainly written on his handsome features.

Magnus was the first to move, taking a few half hearted steps in the direction of the aircraft as if to chase after it, his eyes wide open in shock as he watched them fly off with his lover on board. They had him, Valentine would have him. He felt sick thinking of what may happen to Alexander once he reached wherever they were going.

Izzy gasped as her hands flew up to cover her mouth, and Clary felt her agony and fear like a knife in the heart.

There was a soft click of a lighter and in seconds Jace had a ball of flame in his hand, his face furious as he readied himself to throw the ball after it, but his arm was stopped before he could try by Luke, holding Jace back and shaking his head.

“No, Jace, if you damage the chopper then they’ll all go down! Alec too.”

Jace looked like he was about to scream back in protest, his face and eyes red, but instead he turned and roared as he threw the ball at the nearest boulder, the flames bursting out in a loud blast that cracked the rock and left it broken in two glowing pieces of molten stone. He stared at the broken boulder, his shoulders heaving as he dragged in heavy breaths. Seconds. That’s all it was, mere seconds too late for Jace to save Alec. How many times had Alec saved him in the past, and Jace missed his chance by fucking seconds!

“Clary, what can you tell us. Did they say anything about where they were going? Anything that can help us track them down?” Luke prodded gently, knowing time was going to be a major factor in getting Alec back.

Clary shook her head, trying to clear away the guilt that was eating her up, “I—they mentioned that they were looking for the Lightwoods. That Valentine was looking for them—”

“Did they recognize you too?” Luke asked, looking relieved when she shook her head.

“I don’t think they got a good look at me. I—I’m so sorry, this is all my fault, I didn’t listen, I just heard screaming and I ran, and he told me to stop! I’m sorry, I should have listened,” she choked out, her lungs finding trouble sucking in enough air around her words, guilt literally choking her. She felt the tears well up in her eyes as she saw Jace’s reaction to hearing Valentine’s name.

Valentine would be getting his hands on their brother; the very idea was enough for Jace’s vision to turn white and Izzy’s claws to extend.

The same train of thought was enough to make Magnus’ hands start to tremble, his adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed hard. He was in shock, he knew it, but with all the emotions tumbling around him he couldn’t get a handle on himself, and the one person in the world who could help him was on his way in to the hands of a madman. His Alexander...it wasn't right. This couldn't be happening, they only just barely escaped with their lives from that monster only a few weeks ago.

“Clary, can you tell us anything else, please?” Luke asked, his hands holding her shoulders so he could try and meet her eyes.

Clary sucked in air as she closed her eyes to think harder, “I don’t know, they weren’t here for him, they just recognized him when one of the agents got close enough to see his face. They were here for a little girl, she—”

“Madzie…”

All eyes turned to where Iris stood staring blankly at an empty sky, the helicopter now far out of sight.

“Iris?” Luke asked, hesitantly stepping towards the distraught woman.

She sighed and wrapped her arms around herself, “Madzie was the one they were after. They have her now. Please…If you help me get her back I’ll tell you everything I know that can help get your friend back as well.”

Chapter Text

“Status Report,” came the command over the headsets as the platoon leader flew the chopper over the trees.

The radios crackled in their headsets, “Sir, three agents dead on location. Three injured but accounted for, two full status including yourself. Two mutants acquired, the original target and the wanted plant Elemental. Original target remains unconscious from stunner blast. Elemental is now fully in hibernation, stasis pod battery at sixty percent charge. Target scientist was left on location.”

“Roger that,” the platoon leader said, somewhat pleased at the turn of events. Surely being able to deliver the Elemental to Valentine would make up for not having the traitor scientist in tow. They’d be able to find her later, he was sure. 

“Sir, what’s our ETA?” one of the injured men asked, his hand shiny with the blood that was quickly soaking his pant leg. His face was turning grey, standing out starkly against his dark uniform.

“It’ll be a while, soldier,” he replied, knowing by the rate of the blood flow the kid would not likely make it to their base. He didn’t care though, it was his fault for letting that grass get hold of him and cut his legs to nothing more than ribbons of flesh. The pilot  turned his head back to the cabin for a quick glance at the stasis pod in the center, the face behind it barely visible behind the frosted crystals forming on the glass. His mind was put at ease as soon as he saw that the mutant was indeed in full hibernation. Who knows what that freak would be capable of if he were awake.

Speaking of which, his eyes flicked over to the small girl now deposited on the hard floor, her curly hair fanned out under her head. She looked so innocent, but the pilot shook his head, reminding himself that she was a freak too, and should not be fooled by her age.

“Sir, should we put a suppressor on the girl?” one soldier asked, warily eyeing the small girl.

“Negative, they don’t work on second gens. Not yet anyway, that’s why she was supposed to go in the pod.”

“What do we do if she wakes up, Sir?”

The leader sneered in to his headset, “Shoot her again, I don’t care. Just don’t kill her.”They've got plans for her in the labs."

He chuckled to himself as he thought about the Lightwood they had stowed away in the pod, Valentine would probably stick him right next to his brother.

He continued to fly them over the trees, knowing that there would still be a few mountains to pass through on their way, slowing them down considerably. He was really beginning to hate nature.

“Fuck, this forest is big.”


 

After sending a message to Maureen to tell her where the cars were located, along with a warning that agents may return at any moment, Luke told Clary to portal them to the nearby safe house, something that was met with several voices in protest. All of them were loath to move from the spot that they could still just barely make out the helicopter on the horizon as it continued to fly away. 

Luke silenced them all with a stern glare, “We can’t stay here and wait for them to find and capture the rest of us. The safe house will at least offer some tools we can use to try and track where they’re headed,” he said, not waiting to hear anything more before grabbing Iris and stepping through the portal. The others followed, he knew they would, as they all stepped in to the safe house.

It was set up for Maureen’s team, one of the many houses specializing in radio wave monitoring. Maureen had been hiding out as a radio tech when Luke and his team had found her, just in time to get her away from her workplace before agents had descended. This place had been perfect for her, hugging both him and Clary as they dropped her off here years ago, forever grateful to have a safe place to call home.

As the shell-shocked group stepped in, they took a few seconds to cautiously look around. All around them were stations set up to monitor radio waves over the entire state, edging in to most parts of New England and bits of Canada. Topographical maps covered the walls, pins and flags marking any and all possible and confirmed Circle Corp branches. The place had a sort of organized chaos about it, stacks of paper scattered around the room yet still somehow strategic in their placement. The whole room echoed with an energy that spoke of daily bustling activity where the resident mutants were hard at work monitoring their region. Now though, the house was empty as the team was busy trying to square away Luke’s plane and cars, making sure that they all remained untraceable. Perhaps it was a small mercy, seeing as no one on the team was anywhere near the correct state of mind for socializing. Not after what they just witnessed.

Isabelle slowly made her way over to the one map on the wall that detailed the immediate area around them, her heart dropping as she realized just how expansive this place was. The map itself was huge, covering at least five feet of wall, and when she spotted the tiny little pin that was flagged as the welcome center she almost couldn't hold back the cry of despair. They could have gone in any direction and ended up at so many different branches of Circle Corp. How would they ever find them? She hated to think that now she had two brother's frozen in those pods, but it was all her mind kept going back to. It was like some sick boomerang that she kept trying to fling away from her only for it to come back with more horrid images conjured of pale faces behind glass panes.

Luke handed Iris off to Jace, who gripped her arm tightly, as if daring her to try and run away before she helped them. Meanwhile, Luke grabbed a chair from one of the stations and dragged it to the center of the room, gesturing to Jace to place her there. After depositing her in the chair, Jace raised an eyebrow in question to Luke, making a small gesture towards her unbound hands as if asking what was to be done about that. Luke shook his head in response, he doubted she'd be cooperative if they strung her up like a pig for roast.

She sat down gingerly, straightening her pink sweater as she stared at the floor. She seemed agitated, but no where near as distraught as she was earlier. It seemed very odd to the team leader, alarming even. To go from one extreme to nearly perfectly calm in a matter of minutes did not make him feel good about the woman before him. He had an idea of what that could mean, but he'd need some Psychic help to confirm his suspicions.

“Simon, get on the radio and run a search through all channels. See if you can find that helicopter. Magnus, I’m going to need you for this,” Luke called gently, but the Psychic still startled at being addressed. He'd been staring blankly at the same map that Isabelle had been agonizing over, the whole world a roaring white noise in his periphery, but he only seemed able to focus on his own inner agony.

Magnus was…struggling. There was just so much to process with the team suddenly feeling fractured. The guilt and worry alone coming off the others was enough to make him feel suffocated, but he was trying to keep his mind clear. His fingers kept twitching, as if searching out Alec’s hand so that they could share the burden, but they clasped at nothing. Alec wasn’t here though. Alec was...Magnus clenched his eyes shut as his whole body shuddered in revulsion at where the Elemental was. 

He nodded anyway to Luke, finding the inner strength he always did to handle this before Alec even came in to his life and stepped up next to his team leader, his eyes falling on the woman before them as she shrank under their gazes, the corner of her lips pulled up in a sneer as she took in all the mutants around her.

“Tell us everything,” Luke ordered.

She looked up at them, taking in their faces before she drew in a breath to steady herself before starting to speak, her voice soft but angry, “My name is Iris Rouse, and we’re wasting time here, we need to get Madzie back. Aren’t you all mutants? Shouldn’t you have a way of finding them?” she accused, as if they were intentionally holding her back.

Luke pointedly glanced over to where Simon was working at a station, Isabelle sitting down next to him and pulling on a second headset to help sift through the hundreds of channels quicker. Nearby, Jace stalked back and forth, his eyes bouncing between the station and Iris.

“We’re doing what we can with what we have. Now, Dr…it was Dr. Rouse, correct? Why don’t you start by telling us why those men were after you and the mutant you had with you?” Luke asked, arms crossing over his chest as he stared down at her.

She flinched under his gaze, “I took Madzie away from the facility, I knew that they were going to start doing damaging experiments on her, and I couldn’t let them do that to years of work. She wouldn’t have survived them, so…I stole her.”

“Who’s Madzie,” Magnus asked, sensing strong emotions connected to the name.

“She’s mine. My granddaughter,” she growled out, “She’s only four years old. She only exists because of me, and I wasn’t about to let them tear her apart.”

Luke sighed, rubbing a hand over his face as he realized they were dealing not with scientist turned a mutant sympathizer, but just a twisted mind who thought of her experiments as a possession. He’d seen it before with a few of the others who worked in Jocelyn’s labs, people who at first glance seemed to care for the children but then would be caught later on being the ones to inflict pain on them.

Magnus could feel it too, the strange imbalance in her mind whispering of delusions and light touches of madness.  He shivered to think about what Madzie must have gone through or may have eventually gone through, being the subject of this woman’s obsession.

Luke pulled a chair over for himself, suddenly feeling decades older, and he sat down heavily with his hands over his face, rubbing at the weariness there, “Start from the beginning. Tell me where Madzie came from.”

Iris scoffed, twisting her normally grandmotherly appearance in to one of an old shrew, “She is a product of my own efforts. I was tasked with the breeding program at the Bangor branch facility. I was granted access to several female mutants that had been re-captured after the breakout, and was also granted male DNA samples to create a breeding program, to see the effects having mutant parents would have on the offspring. I was creating life, and Madzie was one of the first successful experiments. The product of a male Feral and a female Psychic. She was incredible, showing small traits of both parents mutations--”

She continued to speak of her hard work, about the many failed pregnancies, the stillbirths, the tests, all while sounding so proud. She didn’t notice how ill the faces in front of her had become, how the temperature in the room fell as they listened to the atrocities that seemingly never ended for their people even after the breakout. Magnus was having trouble breathing, trying too hard not to throw up as he listened to her ramblings. A breeding program? Those poor women, being forced in to unwanted pregnancies, only to end up in pain or dead due to complications. All those children. Madzie…

For a moment, Magnus was glad that Alec wasn’t here to listen to this. Surely hearing what was happening to those still under Valentine’s grasp would send him spiraling, knowing that his little brother was one of those mutants. He quickly looked over to where Jace was had paused his pacing, his own face a painting of disgust and horror at what they were being told, a cold feeling creeping over him as the Elemental’s thoughts probably took the same direction as his own.

“—We called them second gen mutants. We thought that maybe we could raise them to be useful to Valentine, but somehow the normal means of controlling them don’t seem to work. Suppressors are next to useless. So they wanted to start experimenting on Madzie, in hopes of finding a way to ensure control. I’ve seen what those tests did to past subjects, I wouldn’t let them botch up my hard work, so I took Madzie and ran,” she said, a sick look of righteousness on her face.

“Luke,” Clary’s voice suddenly called out.

Luke gratefully dragged his attention away from the mad woman in front of him and turned to her where she stood behind Simon and Izzy, the two of them bent over holding their headsets tight against their ears.

“What is it?”

Clary glanced down at Simon who perked his head up and nodded eagerly at her.

“They found the helicopter,” she said, relief saturated in her voice.

Magnus’ knees felt weak at the announcement, just barely keeping him stable enough to stumble his way over to where Simon was sitting.

“Put it on speaker,” Luke ordered, not moving from Iris’ side, even though he wanted nothing more than to put some distance between himself and that woman.

Simon flipped the switch, the static of a radio filling the room as they all waited, breath held.


 

“Sir, do we have an ETA yet?”

“No, these damn mountains are messing with the navigation! I can’t even see any towns nearby!”

“Sir, the kid…I think she’s waking up!”

“Well, don’t just sit there, shoot her!”

“She’s too close to where the engine is, the stunner could hit it!”

“Then knock her out a different way, hurry!”


 

Magnus’ heart was beating so hard against his chest he was sure that everyone in the room would be able to hear it, not just the Ferals. His sweaty hands gripped the back of Simon’s chair hard enough that his knuckles were as white as paper. Those around him were no better, he could feel every ounce of anxiety in the room, crushing him beneath it all, but somehow, he remained standing. He watched as Simon reached out to grab Isabelle’s hand, not even flinching when her claws dug in to his skin.

He felt Clary move up next to Jace, hesitant to reach out to offer physical support because she was still swimming in guilt over her role in Alec's status, but Jace didn’t hesitate to pull her against his side. The physical touch the only thing keeping him grounded. Magnus couldn't help but feel a cold jealousy run through him, wishing he had a hand to hold too.

They all stood still, listening to the growing chaos on the helicopter, not having any way to get a location on the signal, all they could do was hope that the pilot said something.


 

“Hurry up! She’s moving!”

“I’m trying, she’s holding me back somehow!”

“Fuck, what do we do?!”

“Just shoot her! Now, before she gets us killed!”


 

Screams echoed over the radio, the sounds vibrating off the metal walls of the helicopter cabin, making it sound like hundreds of voices yelling out in fear.

There was a cracking sound that startled all of them, Magnus raising a hand to clutch at the small breast pocket where Alec’s acorn was stowed. His hands were shaking.


 

“Fuck, I can’t get control! She’s moving the whole damn thing! I’m losing altitude!”

"Sir, what do we do?!"


 

Isabelle’s hand flew to her mouth to muffle a cry, barely catching the wretched sound before it escaped her lips as the radio continued to blare loudly in to the room.


 

“I can’t get control of the steering, just kill her before we all crash!”

“We can’t, she’s holding us down!”

“We’re getting too close to the trees! Hit the beacon, hit the beacon!”


 

The room filled with screamed once again before a loud crash was heard and the radio suddenly cut off, the signal lost. Then the agony and horror came as each team member realized what had happened.

Magnus reached for his head before crumpled to the floor and his sight went dark.

Chapter Text

As consciousness gradually started to return to Magnus’ senses he could feel himself shrinking away, wishing to remain unknowing for just a few minutes longer. He could feel the vestiges along the periphery of his mind of every emotion his teammates had bombarded his brain with sending him crashing to the floor in the first place. He knew that when he became fully aware, he would absorb everything he was already feeling tenfold from those around him. He just wanted to stay numb and locked away in the darkness, but his body betrayed his mind, pulling him kicking and screaming from his mental cave.

His eyes opened to an unfamiliar room, scanning everything around him as the momentary panic set in, only to calm when he saw Maureen sitting in a chair beside the bed, a sad smile on her face that made Magnus want to run away from the world.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” she asked quietly.

“Crowded,” Magnus replied bitterly, casting his eyes away from her sympathetic face.

She didn’t seem offended though, something that a small part of Magnus was grateful for, “Yeah, I get that. Luke asked me to bring you to one of our rooms to rest away from…everyone, while they worked through some stuff,” she said, “and he said to give you this when you woke up.”

She handed him a bottle of painkillers and a bottle of water, about to hand them over to Magnus when she paused, “Oh wait, let me chill this for you,” she said, holding the water bottle in her hand. Within seconds the plastic took on a condensed mist as she cooled it to just above freezing before handing it and the meds over to Magnus who took them eagerly, knocking back double the normal dosage in one gulp.

“Handy,” he rasped out, making her smile softly.

“Yeah, heating and cooling things is not a bad mutation to have. Works wonders for warm towels when you first step out of the shower too.”

Magnus continued to slowly sip at the water, not because he was thirsty, but because it kept his mouth occupied and unable to ask any questions that would include words he wasn’t prepared to say out loud. Maureen didn’t seem to have such reservations, her own anxiety over the situation buzzed around her making her jittery and unable to keep the silence for more than a few seconds.

“You’ve been out for about an hour, but the others are all still here for the time being. The radio signal went down when the chopper crashed, oh wait, you were still awake for that part, um, but after it went down a beacon started to emit on one of our other system trackers, so Luke has been having Simon nail down the location on that while getting the team ready to head out. He said that you can rest as long as you like here, we’ve got—”

“What do you mean ‘head out’, where are they going?” Magnus asked, suddenly cutting her off.

She looked a little shocked for a moment before replying, “The beacon, it’s from the helicopter, it started to go off right after the crash. Luke is taking the rest of your team there to see if anyone survived the wreckage. Clary mentioned that your team member that was on there was in some sort of pod, and that may have protected him in the fall…maybe.”

Magnus’ heart stuttered with renewed hope that almost had him spitting out the water he just drank, “Have they left yet?”

Maureen shook her head, “No, but—”

Magnus didn’t wait another second as he threw the blankets off and leaped from the bed, already halfway down the hall by the time Maureen could even stand up from her chair.

The tiny flicker of hope was all that Magnus needed to keep his internal fires going, just a little longer. For Alexander.


 

Two large brown eyes peered over the half rotted away log, staring at the smoking wreckage of the helicopter that had landed in the middle of the forest, tall imposing mountains shadowing the area from both sides, casting the area in muted colors.

She saw some of the men that had scared her strewn about the clearing, unmoving, coated in blood with bits of their bodies at weird angles that made her shiver. There was one of the scary men left inside the helicopter too, from where it lay face down, nose buried in the dirt. That man was bent over the controls, his helmet cracked against the front window, a lumpy red liquid leaking from inside the helmet was coating his face. He wasn’t moving either.

She had been so scared, waking up in a noisy place in the sky, men with guns pointed at her, she didn’t know what to do, she just wanted everyone to stay away! Her magic protected her, Nana had told her it always would. It kept the men from hurting her again with that gun. It kept her safe when they fell from the sky. She didn’t think her magic could protect her now though. It didn’t know the way home. She didn’t even really want to go home.

Madzie whimpered as she looked around her, only seeing trees and rocks behind her, she had no idea where to go or who to ask for help. She could feel her face and chest get hot as the urge to cry started to overwhelm her.

Then she stopped as she saw a big rounded box, one with a window on top, tipped on its side after falling out of the helicopter. Slowly, she got on her knees and crept forward, not caring about the dirt and pine needles that got stuck to her striped tights. She was curious to see what was inside.

As she reached the window of the box, she saw that it was cloudy and wet like her milk cup got after sitting out for too long. She pulled the sleeve of her jean jacket up over her palm and wiped along the glass, taking away the wetness so she could peer in.

She gasped as she saw a face on the other side. She drew back a few feet, waiting for anything to happen, but this man wasn’t moving either. Slowly she crept forward again, her pink boots dragging in the dirt as she studied the man’s face.

She sat for a few minutes, just looking before deciding that she liked his face. It didn't scare her like the other men's faces did. She startled suddenly as she heard a soft beeping start up. She looked around trying to find the source, finally noticing that it was coming from the box in front of her, specifically from a flashing light on a small panel on the side. There were numbers next to the flashing light, she had learned her numbers and letters from Nana.

The number read 5 in large red lines. She didn’t know what that meant and she stared at it for a little while, jumping in surprise as it suddenly the red lines changed to read the number 4 instead.


 

“Magnus, are you sure you’re up for this?” Isabelle asked him quietly as Luke steered the jeep they were using down the winding roads of the national park.

Magnus shrugged from where he sat in the passenger seat, not even sure what he could say at this point. He honestly didn’t know if he would be alright if they found anything other than Alec sitting on a rock by a crashed helicopter, perfectly fine and enjoying the surrounding foliage with Madzie sitting next to him.

It was wishful thinking, but it was all he had at the moment. The only small glimmer of hope in all this, besides Alec being in a metal coffin of sorts, was that Iris had confidence that one of Madzies’ mutations would likely protect her as well. She had told them that Madzie called her mutations her ‘magic’ and that it often would protect her, even though in reality it was simply the girls’ telekinesis that she instinctively used when in danger. Then she went on to talk about how she survived a test of dropping her from a height of two stories, her ability softening the landing so that she got away with no injury.

It was after that revelation that Luke had Maureen and her team lock up Iris until he could figure out what the hell do to with her. Magnus was eternally glad he wouldn’t have to look that woman in the face anytime soon, for he wasn’t sure he could refrain from bashing in her nose.

After they had fixed in on the beacon location, Luke had sent Simon and Clary up in a helicopter to fly as quickly as they could towards the signal, trying to locate visually the crash site as well as keep an eye out for incoming Circle Corp agents, while the rest of them were on ground crew, the Ferals ready to track as soon as they got closer, and Jace and Magnus there simply because they refused to be anywhere but on the retrieval team. They had been driving at a breakneck speed ever since driving out of sight of the welcome center, knowing that they had far too much road to cover before even getting close to where they needed to be.

Isabelle had ripped one of the maps of the park off the wall of the safe house and was now busy memorizing every path, body of water, cabin, road, and mountain was located, because of course after getting a reading on the beacon, they realized that their goal was almost 8 miles away from the nearest trail, and 12 miles away from the nearest road.

Having spent most of their lives in the city, Isabelle and Jace were finding it very difficult to grasp the enormity of this place. They were not used to anything of this scale, never before being more than a mile away from the nearest Starbucks. And Alec was somewhere in all of that, possibly hurt, possibly even worse…

“Simon, do you have an ETA on the beacon?” Luke radioed from his comm headset, the rest of the team in the jeep’s matching headsets crackled with the echo.

“We’re probably another ten to fifteen minutes out at least. Depends on the wind and…also if we can find it. We’re running in to the same problem as the Circle Corp asshats, navigation is crap with these mountains in the way.”

Luke cursed under his breath, “Okay, Clary can you keep a doppler out for any emotions or something? The welcome center sign in book showed that there are about two hundred hikers and campers around today, but the crash site is far enough away from all the normal human traffic that you may have some luck.”

Clary’s voice crackled in their ears, “I can try. My range isn’t great though, we’d have to be right above them and at that point I’m sure we’d see something before I could pick up anything.”

“What about water, how far can you sense that?” Isabelle asked.

“If it’s a lot of water, probably a mile to a mile and a half as long as it doesn’t start raining, why?”

Isabelle nodded to herself, her finger following the map, “If you can’t navigate by signal, try by landmark. You should be headed between two big mountains and there should be a river about four miles to the east of the site. If you can find that river then you won’t be far at that point.”

“Roger that, I’ll keep that in mind.”

The radio fizzled and cut off as Luke took another turn deeper in to the forest, they all sighed, knowing it could be a while before they got signal back.

“Do we have an ETA for us?” Jace asked, his voice taut with anxiety.

Isabelle sighed next to him, “Even with Luke trying to break the sound barrier with this little jeep, it could be hours before we reach the crash site. We still need to reach as far as the road goes, and then we go by foot, but that’s all we can do now.”

“And we’re just…hoping that Circle Corp doesn’t reach it before us?” Magnus hedged, already knowing the answer.

Luke’s shoulders slumped, “Let’s just try and stay positive here. We’ve got a team member and a little girl to find, they can’t have us giving up on them.”

Jace growled at the news, slouching in his seat as his impatience grew in time with Isabelle’s.

Magnus could feel it multiplying upon his own haste, making his already painful headache even more pronounced, but he didn’t scold the two because he understood completely.

He also understood that Clary was a guilty mess in all this, her recklessness in charging in to a fight without any information was indeed foolish and she saw that now. This had been a problem before though, it just never had led to as unfortunate a situation as this, one where it may have gotten a team member, a brother, a boyfriend killed.

He wanted to be mad at her, he wanted to make sure she felt this lesson like a brand on her skin so that she would always be reminded to think of the consequences of her rash actions…but sometimes those rash actions were the only reason some of their missions were successful, and her intentions were always pure. She had been concerned for a child in this case, how could he be angry at her for that?

The answer was, he couldn’t. And Jace and Izzy couldn’t either, or perhaps Jace was a little biased by love or perhaps he and Isabelle were too focused on finding their brother to even pay it any mind. In any case, Magnus had felt her remorse and shame before he had even gotten back to the radio room after his little episode. She was punishing herself enough as it is for now.

Magnus turned his gaze to look out his window as they drove along, the mass of trees all around him still astounding him. In his mind he pictured how happy and at peace Alec would be here at a time when there was no mission, no one to safe, no one to fight. Maybe one day…


 

The big red number on the panel had gone down to one, Madzie’s eyes never leaving it since she first noticed it, wondering what would happen when it ran out. What would happen to the man inside?

The big one suddenly shifted and the lights on the panel all started to blink at once, making her fall back in shock as the box started to hiss and hum. She glanced over to the window, seeing that the frost was quickly melting away and being replaced with a fog of moisture from the inside, the face of the man being hidden again.

Her whole body jumped again when the lid of the box suddenly unlocked, releasing steam from inside like her Nana’s kettle when she made tea. Madzie wanted to scramble back more, but her legs weren’t listening, so she just sat there watching as the lid slowly opened more and the steam cleared away to reveal the rest of the man, slumped to the side.

He still wasn’t moving and neither was she.

Then the man’s body suddenly spasmed, making Madzie gasp as he fell from the box in a heap on the ground, coughing and gasping, his face half smooshed in the dirt beneath him.

Consciousness returned to Alec in the span of a second, his last though was of being stunned and then blearily seeing the lid of the pod close over him and suddenly feeling very cold before everything went black, but seemingly a moment later he found himself laying on the ground with his body doing its best to expel his lungs from his body as he felt the organs fight to function as they continued to thaw.

It was so cold, and he was wet all over from the steam that had thawed out his body from the stasis, making him shiver uncontrollably, the only thing he could manage between gasps was curling up on his side, pulling his face out of the dirt.

The disorientation of waking up in such a way was enough to make him feel sick to his stomach, but when he finally opened his eyes to take in the helicopter smashed against the ground, the bodies thrown around the forest floor, and the small girl watching him with wide eyes…he was, to say the least, a little thrown off. He wanted to panic and freak out, but as soon as he caught sight of the girl he instinctively tried to rein it in as best he could. Even though he was sure he looked like a wet corpse coming back to life, he tried to give her a small smile between the coughs that spasmed through his chest.

She hadn’t run yet, so that was something.

Slowly Alec started to get his breathing back under some control, his limbs also beginning to respond to his commands as they too finished thawing out. He looked up at the treetops and sky, trying to see if he could figure out where the hell he was, but nothing looked even vaguely familiar. He glanced back over at the girl, seeing that she had copied him in looking up at the sky, her neck stretched to the side where he caught a glimpse of slits on the side of her throat.

He turned towards her, still gasping in between his words as he met her gaze.

“Cool gills.”

Chapter Text

It took another several minutes before the world stopped spinning enough and the frozen sludge of his blood started to move smoothly enough for him to sit up without toppling over. His head was another story though. The more recovered he became after his little cryogenic nap, the more that his head spun at the information overload that was happening as he took in their situation.

Yeah, their, not his. There was another person he had to take in to account, a small girl that had been staring at him this whole time, as if waiting for him to do something scary. Honestly, Alec thought she was holding it together better than himself.

He had already spotted the several mangled bodies of the agents scattered around the ground, not to mention the pilot still in the cockpit. That was something Alec wished he could scrub from his mind with a brillo pad. Even with his metal coffin, Alec was surprised that either of them had survived the crash. The helicopter was crunched from it’s nose to halfway up its body, the propellers dug so far in to the dirt that they were the only thing that kept the whole thing from falling over.

He could feel the raw and angry edges of the treetops where they had crashed through, the branches bent and snapped making him wince in sympathy. Whatever had made them crash must have happened fast seeing as there was a sharp drop instead of a glide in to the trees, leaving only a small break in the canopy rather than a drag upon more of the forest.

His hand trailed down to his pocket, pulling out his phone to see if he could check to see how much time had passed, maybe even try to call the others for help, but the screen was fogged up with moisture and wouldn’t even turn on. He groaned and shoved the useless thing back in his pocket.

Alec sighed and rubbed his hands up and down his wet sleeves, trying to create a little friction to warm up his half frozen body. He knew without looking that his nose would probably be red and his lips almost for sure were blue. Already he was wishing he had just stayed in that warm bed with Magnus that morning.

He turned his attention away from the mess before him and back to the small girl who had still not moved. His heart ached, remembering when Max and Izzy were this age, both still hiding behind him whenever strangers spotted them. The poor girl must be terrified of him. He did just fall out of a big metal box that her captors had on the helicopter they were kidnapping her with after all. He’d be scared of him too. Hell, he’d probably have already started running at this point.

Alec stayed sitting on the ground, not wanting his tall frame to alarm her if he stood up too suddenly, and scooted to face her with a soft smile on his lips. She didn’t smile back, just continued to stare. Her large brown eyes making her look far too young for all this.

Alec cleared his throat, “Hey, my name’s Alec. You’re Madzie, right?” he asked, remembering the name that Iris had been screaming before.

She hesitated before nodding and Alec’s smile grew.

“Hi Madzie, this, uh, this all is pretty scary, huh?” he said.

She waited a beat and then nodded again.

Alec tried his luck and scooted forward on the dirt another foot, pleased when she didn’t flinch but he could still see the fear reflected in her big brown eyes. How could she not be scared after all she had been through in the last day? Alec himself wasn’t just shivering because his body had been a block of ice a few minutes before, he was scared too.

He knew the trees could feel it too, his fear. He could feel them tingling in the back of his brain, he could hear the leaves rustling even though there wasn’t a breeze, reminding him that he wasn’t completely alone. Focusing on that, he felt a bit warmer. And that gave him an idea.

“I know you’re scared, those men who took you were bad, but I promise I’m not one of them. I can prove it too,” he said, making sure he kept eye contact the whole time as he stretched out his hand over the grass around him, feeling around for anything that might help him win her over.

He smiled when he found just what he was looking for. With a gentle nudge, he woke up the hibernating seeds beneath the surface, encouraging them to emerge slowly. Alec smiled as he watched the wonder grow in Madzie’s eyes as a copse of flowers popped up from the ground between her and Alec. Wild flowers peppered the grass, each more stunning in color than the last, starting around Alec and then slowly appearing around the little girl, bringing the first smile to her face that Alec had seen.

“See? I’m just like you,” he said, the tight feeling in his chest loosening when she nodded in agreement. He watched as she raised her own hand in the air, and then letting out a laugh of his own when a few of the flowers suddenly were pulled from the ground and bundled in midair, the bouquet then flying across until Alec plucked it from the air.

“Why, thank you, Madzie” he said with a grin, making a show of smelling the gift. He hid his surprise at her telekinesis, not wanting to make her self conscious about her gifts, but it was something he had never seen before. He had thought when he saw the gills that she was a Feral of some sort. Maybe she was like Clary and had multiple abilities? Or maybe it was something else special about her. Maybe that was why so many agents had been sent to retrieve her…

“That’s a cool trick you’ve got there,” he said to her, making her smile and nod.

“It’s my magic. It keeps me safe,” she told him quietly.

“My magic tries to keep me and my friends safe too,” Alec replied, “Do you want to be my friend?”

She appeared to think about it before her lips twitched in to a small smile as she nodded.

Alec felt sick as he thought about how that pod he had been in was meant for her. That she would have been the one frozen solid. That once she was removed she would be the one coughing up her lungs and shivering like she fell in a lake in January. He couldn’t let that happen to her, not when he had already let it happen to Max.

Carefully, Alec got to his feet, swaying dangerously as he righted himself. If he was going to keep Madzie out of Circle Corp hands, he needed to get off his ass quick and figure out what to do.

Swallowing back a bite of bile, he knew his first stop needed to be the cockpit, where the splattered pilot lay. Shakily he started to walk over, waving Madzie back when she tried to follow, “Don’t worry, I’m just checking inside for something. Wait for me here.”

She nodded and stayed as Alec hoisted himself up on the upturned helicopter, dragging his lower half behind him as he dragged his body inside the crumped cabin. He only had to pull himself a few feet before there was a sudden break in the surface, the doorway leading to the cockpit. Carefully he peered over the edge, trying his best not to look at the blood and brain matter covering the window and controls.

The first thing he noticed was a blinking red light on the panel, and he cursed when he realized that it must be a tracking beacon of some sort. Circle Corp would be honing in on this place, they might already be on there way. Alec had to think quickly.

They were in the middle of a forest, a big one by the feel of it. He groaned when he realized they must still be in the park, the freaking largest forest in New England. Who knows how far away from civilization they’d be, or how long they would be hiding out here. Surely his team would be trying to track him down, but who knew if they would find Alec and Madzie first? They couldn’t stay and wait to find out.

With a loud grunt, Alec moved the top half of his body further over the opening, letting his head and chest dangle down, angling to reach under the pilots seat. There he saw the survival kit that most aircrafts kept, something that Luke had been sure to tell him about during their first flight. Grabbing it, Alec pulled back up and quickly jumped out of the helicopter and back on the ground.

While Alec had spent the last month and a half living in the most luxurious house he’d ever seen, it was easy for him to flip the switch in his head that put him back in to his most primal survival mode, the one that kept him and his siblings safe for years in the city.

This was no city though, this was the wilderness, and Alec’s soul sang out it’s readiness. He was among his Element, and he had someone to protect. He had to do this right.

He knelt down in front of Madzie, holding out his hand to her as he met her gaze, “Hey, I know this is really scary, but we have to get away from here fast. Those men in there,” he jerked his head over to the chopper, “called in more of their friends to come get us. Now, you don’t want to go back wit them, right?” he asked gently.

“No,” she whispered.

Alec nodded, “Yeah, me neither. I’ve got friends like us who will find us, but we still need to hide from those bad guys. Do you want to come with me?”

“Yes,” she said, slipping her small hand in to his much larger one.

Alec sighed a breath of relief before steeling himself, mind running as fast as a computer as he thought over every little piece of information that could possibly help them as he led Madzie in to the trees.

His biggest worry right now was not actually of agents coming after them. No, his mind kept switching back to Valentine’s collection of mutants that were puppets under his control thanks to whatever he was shooting them up with. Surely, he must have hundreds of Ferals at his disposal that he could send out in to the woods to track them down like a pack of wolves after their prey.

How could he possibly protect them from that?


 

“Hey, Luke, we think we’re getting close to where the crash was. Just having a little trouble actually finding it,” Simon said in to his headset, even thought he was almost positive that nobody would hear it besides Clary. The radio was still spotty at best, and they hadn’t heard from the rest of their team since Izzy had suggested looking for large bodies of water.

After that message, Clary had easily and quickly led them to the river that Izzy had mentioned and from there they headed towards the mountains, where they hoped the beacon was coming from. The only benefit in all this mess was that Circle Corp would probably be struggling as much, if not more, as they were in navigating this place.

It was probably why they still hadn’t seen a swarm of choppers moving in on them. Yet.

Their first pass over the trees gave them nothing obvious to indicate a crash, so for the second pass they had lowered their altitude, just a dozen or so meters above the treetops, in hopes of spotting something they missed before. It made the whole process much slower, but they were holding out hope seeing as it was the last thing they had.

He could hear Clary’s groans of frustration through his headset, their frequency increasing the more that time passed. He knew that she felt somewhat responsible for their current situation, but there wasn’t much that could change her mind otherwise, something that Simon had learned in the past. There was no consoling Clary Fray. The only thing that would put her mind at ease would be in fixing her mistake, and in this case that meant finding Alec and Madzie.

“Simon, turn back! I think I saw something!”

Simon didn’t hesitate to turn them back around, circling slowly around the treetops trying to spot what had caught Clary’s attention.

“There! Twenty degrees south, there’s a break in the trees. I saw some broken branches,” she said eagerly, her hand twitching like she wanted to take the controls from him.

Gingerly, Simon pulled the chopper around to hover just beside the broken branches she had spotted.

“I can’t see anything, do we have a pair of binoculars or something?” she asked.

Simon glanced around the cockpit, noticing a few maps and other random pieces of equipment. He grabbed the nearest thing, a spare helmet and concentrated on moving the molecules in place. As soon as they had solidified in to a somewhat functional pair of binoculars, he handed them over to the Psychic.

“That will never not come in handy,” Clary said with a smile and put them up to her eyes as she scanned below them.

As her eyes adjusted to the new view, the first thing she saw were the broken branches that caught her attention before. It was hard to focus with them bouncing around, but what she saw next was unmistakable. The tail end of a helicopter.

“Simon, this is it!” she said excitedly.

Simon’s heart started to pound in matched excitement, “It is?! Awesome, can you see them?”

“Move us directly above so I can see to the ground,” she said as Clary continued to search, trying to focus on the tail so she didn’t lose her place. As Simon got them closer, she followed the tail down to the body.

Or bodies, she should say. It was impossible to miss the obviously dead agents scattered around the chopper and the ground. She felt her heart rate increase the longer she searched and didn’t see a small body among the corpses. Had Madzie saved herself and run away?

Then her heart stuttered as her focus fell on the pod that had fallen to the ground.

“Thank god, the pod is empty! Alec must have gotten out!”

“And the little girl?” Simon asked, his own worry apparent in his voice.

Clary sighed happily and sat back in her seat, “She’s not there. I bet Alec took her and ran. I can’t see them anywhere.”

Simon didn’t share her joy, he was too worried about what their absence meant to them, “What do we do now though? We have no idea which direction Alec would have gone in, and in case you haven’t noticed, we can’t see shit from up here!”

Clary frowned as she turned to look around for any place to land their own helicopter, but there was nothing. No clearings for miles. She groaned and ran a frustrated hand through her hair, “I don’t know, Simon. I’d say we should join the others on the ground, but we don’t know where they are either.”

“Well, we need to refuel anyway. We’ll head back to Maureen’s, tank up, and come right back. If we fly around we’re bound to notice them sooner or later, right? It’s not like Jace or Alec are really subtle when it comes to their mutations,” he tried to joke, but Clary just sighed in defeat.

“Fine. Let’s tank up and come back.”


 

Magnus sprang up in his seat as they rounded the road headed down the mounting. It was the first open view that they had seen of the area the crash supposedly had been. His heart thudding in his chest he stared out over the miles beneath them as Luke continued to drive.

Behind him he could hear Isabelle and Jace doing the same, clamoring to get closer to the window.

He had been picturing in his mind a tower of smoke coming from somewhere in the middle of it all, or a long line of downed trees, but he saw neither. All that lay before them looked so deceptively peaceful, and Magnus couldn’t help but feel a stab of fear that they may never locate Alec and Madzie in time.

“Hey, I see Clary and Simon!” Isabelle exclaimed from the backseat.

Magnus squinted in to the distance, but he couldn’t see anything.

“What are you talking about, Iz? All I see is sky and trees,” Jace said, his voice annoyed but hopeful.

Isabelle scoffed, “I can see them, but they’re flying away from the center. Where are they going?” she asked out loud.

“Probably headed to fuel up, they’ve been flying for over two hours now. They’ll be back later. Try the radio real quick though. There aren’t mountains in between us right now so we may be able to catch a wave that works,” Luke said, already handing the radio to Magnus.

Taking it in his hands and bringing the speaker to his mouth, Magnus called out, “This is the Fab Four. Come in, Dynamic Duo.”

They all waited, breath held.

“Hey, you guys made it! We found the crash, and guess what? Alec and Madzie aren’t there!” came Simon’s excited voice.

Magnus let his body sink in to his seat with a relieved exhale, his relief almost palpable in its entirety. Alec was alive, and Magnus felt his heart sing with hope and joy. For the last few hours he couldn’t believe how dark his life had suddenly become at the possibility at Alec being gone forever. Had Magnus really fallen so hard so quickly?

“We’re low on fuel though, so we’re headed back to Maureen’s and then we’ll be right back! I’m going to send you guys a picture of where the crash is on the map,” Clary said.

A few seconds later Luke’s phone pinged with a new message from Clary.

“We’ve got it. You head out an refuel, we’ll—” Luke suddenly stopped, jerking the whole car to a standstill and sending everyone slamming against their seatbelts.

Magnus turned to look at whatever had caught their team leader’s attention, his own eyes widening as he saw them.

At first it looked like a flock of birds coming in over the ridge, but those birds would have to be dinosaurs in size to be seen this far away. That meant they were something else.

Helicopters. The Circle was here.

They all watched in horror as a dozen choppers descended on the valley like locusts, spreading out everywhere. He heard Jace choke back a groan as parachutes started to fall from some of them, slowly drifting down past the treetops.

Luke ripped the radio from Magnus’ limp hand, “Clary, Simon, get out of there now! Stay away until we send a signal for you. You hear me? Stay away!”

Luke chucked the radio to the floor and jerked the car in to motion, his tires sending gravel and dust flying in all directions as he raced the car forward.


 

“Sir, this is alpha team, we’ve arrived at the crash site. Over.”

“Roger that, alpha team. What do you see? Over.”

“All agents that were unaccounted for at the cabin are here, all dead. Mutant target isn’t here. The Feral we have with us says he can smell two people at the site besides our agents. We assume the second person must have taken the target and ran. Over.”

“Acknowledged. Have the Feral track them. Over.”

“Roger that.”

Chapter Text

“If I were a Feral who wanted to hunt me down…” Alec mused to himself as they walked deeper in to the forest. It was getting much more difficult to move along gracefully now that he was a head taller with Madzie sitting happily on his shoulders. Half his focus was on avoiding hitting them both in the head with low bearing branches and the other half was on high alert for any signs of being followed. It had to be done though, after hearing a few helicopters in the distance, he had upped the pace a little, making it too hard for Madzie to keep up, so he had quickly offered her a ride, something she eagerly said yes to.

It had been a while, but all of his knowledge of caring for kids came back to him as easily as remembering how to tie a shoe. He started a mental clock for potential potty breaks, meals, kept an eye on the weather and temperature, even thinking of ways to keep her entertained if she got bored. It was like caring for Izzy and Max, only…at this age his siblings weren’t mutants yet. He had to keep that in mind too.

He’d carefully asked Madzie if there was anything special she would need, his mind conjuring up all sorts of needs an aquatic Feral may ask for, but she shook her head and said she liked water but she only went swimming every few days when her Nana allowed it. She didn’t seem to have any needs that, up to this point, surpassed his current abilities to produce. Even with her aquatic traits, she seemed like any other normal kid.

He breathed out a sigh of relief having been somewhat worried as he remembered the tragic fate of the one goldfish his parents had allowed him back when he was five. Bubbles hadn’t even stood a fighting chance.

As they moved along, Alec quickly noted the first problem that would easily lead anyone to them. Footprints. He was leaving them everywhere, in the grass, in the dead leaves, in the dirt. He mentally kicked himself as he tried to figure out how they could cover their tracks.

He’d first tried walking lighter on his feet, but that was useless. I wasn’t like his weight would suddenly decrease if he tiptoed, he felt silly for even trying. He then tried to step on nothing but rocks, but there simply weren’t enough rocks to keep that up long enough to lose a trail. Then he tried brushing the dirt behind them with a branch of pine needles, but that just made it look even more obvious, like someone’s grandma got loose in the woods and tried to sweep the dirt with an old fashioned straw broom.

He heard Madzie giggle above him as he jumped up on another rock, a vain attempt at avoiding more prints.

“What are you doing?” she asked him, her grip digging in a little too sharply in to his hair to keep her balance.

He wanted to lie so that she wouldn’t get scared about the possibility of being hunted down, but there was a small part of him that knew she was probably too smart to believe him if he said he was playing leap frog. He sighed, “I’m trying to hide our footprints so that people can’t follow us,” he said.

“Can I help?” she asked shyly.

Alec chuckled lightly, “Sure,” he replied, not really believing there was anything she could do, but she raised her hand out behind them and waved once. Immediately dirt and leaves blew out over the trail they had left, covering any trace of where their feet had been. Alec stared with a growing smile on his face.

“Wow, Madzie that’s perfect! Now all we need to do is cover our scent. Any ideas for that?” he asked.

He heard her hum in thought above him, “Take a bath?”

“I had the same thought, and I think I know how to find us some water…”

Madzie let out an excited cheer.


 

Luke tore down the mountain, gravel and dust flying out in all directions as they sped their way to the base. He only slowed down when they finally reached the bend in the road that would circle them back around, pulling the car to a stop behind some large bushes. They all clamored out of the jeep, knowing that this was as close as they were going to get with a vehicle. The roads ended here, as did their quick progress. It would all be on foot from here on out. Magnus was already beginning to regret his choice of footwear this morning as he nearly slipped on some wet dirt.

Isabelle, as if with a superpowered talent at wearing heels over the soft earth, didn’t waste a second before jogging a few meters in to the tree line and turning her nose to the air, scenting it for anything human, or superhuman.

“Carajo! I can’t smell Alec or Madzie,” she cursed as Luke walked up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“I can’t either, but I also don’t smell anyone else yet. No to mention we’re probably at least seven miles away from them at a minimum. Means we shouldn’t bump in to anyone for a while, enough time for us to figure out where we’re headed first,” he said as he turned Isabelle around and waved Jace and Magnus closer, “Now, before you all start to panic I need you to realize that we have a very distinct advantage over all those Ferals and agents you just saw dropped. You three know Alec better than anyone else in the world, and that gives us a major head start on where he may go. Isabelle, Jace, you lived with him on the streets for years and will know his basic survival instincts. You can start us off, okay?” he said, making sure to catch their eyes in succession so that they may believe him.

Jace was already shaking his head in denial though, “But Alec doesn’t know this place at all! Yeah, if we were in the city Izzy and I could find all his favorite hiding places, but as far as I know there isn’t a library or candy shop around here. And he has a kid with him, that changes things. His priority would be keeping her safe.”

Luke nodded eagerly, “Yes, see? That’s what I’m asking for, you know that he would focus on protection for both of them first. That helps us. Anything else you can think of?” Luke encouraged the three mutants.

Isabelle frowned as she took in the area around her, trying to picture herself as her brother dumped in the center of a forest with a child, and no idea which way would lead home. It was difficult for her to think in terms other than her own survival, not having been without her super senses since she was a preteen, what could someone with basic senses do?

“It’s the middle of the day, so Alec probably won’t be able to discern much about direction from the sun, but even if it was sunset I’m not sure he’d have any idea of which direction to go in,” she said slowly, “He obviously didn’t stay put though, so he must know that people would be coming for them. Otherwise he would have stayed and waited for us to find him.”

Jace nodded, following her train of thought, “Alec is smart and outshines us all when it came to strategy and tactics. He wouldn’t just take off in any random direction if he knew he was going to be followed. And I’m sure he took in to account Valentine’s use of mutants against us, so he’s going to cover his tracks somehow. If we were in the city, he’d take a shower and then find a place he could hide his scent in a crowd. I would think he would head to water first, try to dampen their scent from the Ferals.”

“But there isn’t a crowd out here, only some mutants and agents, and I doubt he’d try to hide among them. Where could he hide their scents in an empty forest?” Magnus asked, quickly becoming frustrated. While he fully respected Luke in his leadership, he was deeply worried for Alexander out there on his own in an unfamiliar area. He could only begin to imagine what might be running through his head at this point, “And for that matter, even if he is somehow successful in hiding his scent, how are you and Isabelle supposed to track him?”

Isabelle looked just as concerned, her eyes searching Luke’s face as if it held all the answers, but Luke was already shaking his head.

“Well, I’m hoping that maybe you’ll be able to feel them out if we can get close enough. In the meantime, we need to figure out where Alec would head for water,” he turned back to Jace, facing the Fire Elemental, “You know Elementals better than I do. Is there any way that you think Alec could find water using his ability?”

“Um, it’s an energy source for his element, so maybe. It would be like me trying to find the accelerant in a house fire, which is possible. He’d just have to…sense out…a place where the plants have a more reactive pull,” Jace offered with a small smile that was quickly growing, “And Clary said that there was a river nearby the crash site! He’d feel that pull more than anything else in the area, we need to head there.”

The group didn’t waste another breath as Isabelle had already pulled out the map and was already several steps in to the woods, determined to find Alec before anyone else could.


 

Finding the river had been easy, the buzzing in the back of his head getting more and more charged the closer they got to the body of water. He couldn’t believe how lucky they were to have been so close to a river that it had only taken an hour to reach it. Madzie had been the first to notice they were close, her Feral hearing picking up on the sound of rushing water, and she had started to bounce on his shoulders, pointing excitedly to where the source of the sound was coming from. Her gills started to flutter in joy as they got closer to their goal, making Alec smile fondly.

Alec had quickly followed her direction, both of them sighing in relief as they came out from the trees to see the water before them. They didn’t waste any time, Alec quickly letting Madzie hop down from his shoulders before they started to make their way down the incline, jumping from boulder to boulder until they got to the bottom.

Alec wished he had more time to appreciate the beauty of the scene. The trees lush and shading the area around them. The large and small boulders deposited around the river making breaks, pools and runoff streams with their presence, all smoothed over from ages of having the water lick at them. The water was so clear that it deceived the eye to its true depth, sometimes not even appearing to have any water between the surface and bed. The air felt crisper and fresh, rejuvenating after having walked this far.

It had been a rather long day. Alec still couldn’t believe it had only been half a day since he had woken up next to Magnus, warm and safe. Now here he was, barely thawed from his little nap in the pod, bumped and bruised from falling out of the sky, lost in one fucking big forest, and on top of all that, looking after a young mutant while they hid from who knows what. Yeah, long day.

Alec knelt down first as they reached the water, dipping his hand in to a shallow pool that had formed behind a large boulder that interrupted the river. He winced at the temperature, his hand coming back partially numb from the water. Madzie hardly seemed bothered, already splashing her now bare feet in a shallow pool, giggling as tiny minnows tickled her toes.

This was a mountain spring water, as fresh as it could come, and as cold too.

He was still shivering already from his dampened clothes, the cryogenic pod having soaked him earlier. He wouldn’t have time to dry them after he had washed up with the frigid water. With a sigh, Alec resigned himself to the cold he would inevitably have after all this, and hoped that the team would find them before he got sick out here in the wilderness. He didn’t think he could hide his loud sneezes from Feral hearing.

“Okay, Madzie, did you want to wash up real quick behind this boulder? I’ll keep watch on the other side,” he offered, and walked to the other side after she nodded.

He hated having to ask this of her, knowing how damn cold that water was. He just hoped that it would be enough to keep them hidden. He needn’t have worried much, as he heard her jump in without a single protest. If anything, it sounded like she was having fun. Perk of being an aquatic Feral, he supposed. Her skin did feel naturally colder than his own when she held his hand.

As he heard her begin to splash around, he glanced around the area. He knew Madzie was keeping her ears tuned in around them in case anyone got close, so he felt moderately safe enough to pull the survival kit pack off and take a look inside for anything they could use.

There were a few cans of food, a canteen with purification tablets, a blanket, a couple road flares, matches, compass, and a pitiful excuse for a first aid kit. The compass he knew would be completely useless without a map, so he tossed that aside.

The canteen was an easy one, he quickly filled it up and placed in the tablet so that he and Madzie could drink something before they headed out and he could refill it again. The flares and matches would have been useful if they weren’t trying to stay under the radar, but he kept them just in case.

The food was…meant to be cooked over a fire, but if they got desperate then he could crack one open to eat the cold soup. They’d have to eat really fast though, and bury the empty cans though, knowing the smell of human food may draw unwanted attention. If they even had time to eat it fast anyway, who knows how close those agents would be in the next hour or two. And the first aid kit…well, it had some gauze, wipes and some band aids. Next to useless, but if Madzie got a scrape on her knee or something at least he could help her with that.

He sighed, disappointed overall, but at least he had the water for them.

He heard some pebbles crunching behind him and he turned around to see Madzie walk up, face glowing with happiness. She had probably never been in a real river before, Alec grimaced and quickly pulled out the blanket from the kit, tossing it over her shoulders and rubbing up and down her sides.

Seeing someone so young being asked to do things like this to survive…it made Alec feel sickened at the injustice as well as the familiarity. He remembered all too vividly all the things that had been asked of Max at such a young age. The treatments and the tests by the doctors, and then to use his ability by his siblings to help them escape. He had only been a couple years older than Madzie was now, and even back then it had made Alec feel terrible. Madzie should be in a kindergarten class, making pasta art and playing on a swing set. Not out here in the woods being hunted down, not having to take frigid baths just to hide. Alec hated this. He hated not being able to just whisk her away from this life. He hated not being able to just go and take Max away from Valentine. He hated how useless he felt in protecting them.

“Sorry, I know it’s cold, but we both need the bath,” he said, but she didn’t seem upset, just nodded at him and gave him another shy smile that warmed his heart a little. The leaves rustled above them, branches cracking as they shifted with the wind.

Alec sighed and stood up from his crouch after Madzie seemed to be all set, “My turn,” he said and moved behind the boulder, already taking off the light jacket he had on.

After removing his clothes, he made the decision to not even bother slowly getting in, knowing that no amount of slow wading would ever get him used to the temperature. Instead he quickly dunked his body into the water as deep as the shallow pool would let him go, wincing as the freezing water knocked the wind from his lungs.

He didn’t even wait for his breathing to get back under control before he was using the sand to scrub away at his body. He knew from listening to Magnus talk about skin care that this was exfoliating and it would remove a lot of dead skin cells as well as oils, but instead of the pampering that Magnus claimed, Alec just felt like he was rubbing away all his skin cells, not just the dead ones. He spared a glance at his arm and saw the red streaks running up and down the length of it, but he wasn’t sure it that was just him scraping away his skin or simply due to the cold. Either way, it made him wince as he continued to scrub at his legs.

He made sure to spend a little extra scrubbing time at the scent heavy spots on his body, some of the more obvious ones being where Izzy had a tendency to nuzzle at when she was feeling anxious about something. His neck and wrists were raw by the time he finished there.

After he rinsed off, he scrambled to pull his damp clothes back on, desperate for anything moderately warm, and as he was pulling back on his jacket and rounding the boulder to get back to Madzie, he froze as he realized what he was doing.

“Oh no…” he said, hands coming up to scrub at his face wearily.

He heard Madzie sigh as he came back in to sight, “We still smell a little,” she said sadly.

Alec nodded, cursing heavily in Spanish in his head where if just in case Madzie was hiding some more talents and could read his thoughts at least she may not speak the language. He had only just realized that their clothes would still smell like them, and he couldn’t make them both wash them in the river. It was too cold and it would take too long to dry them with the sun.

With a groan, Alec let his knees buckle under him as he sat heavily down on a nearby rock. Rubbing at his forehead he tried to think of what the hell he should do now. If he was back on the streets trying to hide him and his siblings from tracking Ferals, yeah they’d still take the bath. It works to lessen the scent a bit, but not hide it. The next thing he’d do would be to take them to a crowded area, a place with so many similar human scents their own would be dampened simply by volume.

But there were no crowds to hide in out here!

He sighed and glanced up to where Madzie was using her telekinesis to make a few leaves dance in the wind, he stared for a moment, taking in the scene in its pure innocence. She truly was incredible, having the Feral and Psychic abilities. It wasn’t a surprise that the Circle agents would want her back, he could only imagine the nightmarish things that the scientists would have planned for her back there.

He watched as one of the leaves escaped her little game, drifting over to land on his boot where he stared at it before frowning, “Uh, Madzie?”

She looked up from her game at him.

“When you use your magic to cover our footprints with the leaves…can you smell where we walked still?” he asked.

She shook her head, “No. It just smells like leaves.”

Alec nodded, his blood racing with renewed adrenaline and purpose as he stood up from the rock, grabbing their kit and walking over to her, scooping her up in his arms in a hug before carrying her back over to the forest.

“Now this is going to seem a little funny at first, but I think it’ll help us with our problem.”

Chapter Text

Even with his eyes watering from the strong scents slapping him in the face, Alec was very pleased with the results of his plan. He may not have had a crowd of people to hide among, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a ‘crowd’ of some sort out here in the wilderness. Yeah, sure, it was a bit unorthodox, but it wasn’t like he had a whole bunch of choices out here.

After their ice box bath, he and Madzie had trekked back in to the woods as he reached out around them with his mind to try and find that familiar sharp and steady presence anywhere nearby. The one energy signature that would lead him to their best chance at hiding out here, he just knew it. Oak wasn't nearly strong enough for this, and flowers would be more likely to draw attention than deter it. No, their best choice by far was pine.

Thankfully, there had been a large grouping of evergreen blue spruce trees just a little way up the side of the river that they were already on. Quickly Alec had jumped up to grab a large branch above them, pulling it down and apologizing profusely to the tree when he started to shred hundreds of the needles that would stop falling in midair before neatly coming together in a pile, thanks to Madzie’s magic helping. It didn't take long before the small needles amassed to a pile big enough that Alec was more than happy to stop tormenting the branch.

After he had finished he gave the tree a gentle push of his own energy in order to grow back every needle he had just removed, leaving it as though it had never been touched in the first place. He felt a little guilty, and would have gone further in healing the tree, given a little more than he had taken, but he knew that he needed to conserve as much of his energy as possible right now, just in case any Circle agents caught up with them. Or bears. Bears were also on his list of concerns right now.

Taking their pile of pine needles, they found a boulder with somewhat of a concave spot on it and deposited their harvest on the surface. Then Alec got to work using another smaller rock to grind and pulp them until nothing remained but a wet and sticky green mush.

If the burning in his nose and eyes was anything to go by, this would be perfect.

Slathering some of the goo on his fingers, he started to wipe along his neck, face, arms and legs, making sure that the oils sank in to his clothes and skin. He grimaced before also rubbing some in his hair, just in case. He really didn’t want to end up back in that pod just because he didn’t want to mess up his already less than styled hair. It felt like expired hair gel, which unfortunately yes, he did know what that felt like. He knew without even looking at his reflection that his hair probably resembled a green porcupine's ass, and he almost found himself missing the teasing words that he knew Jace would be saying right now if he was there.

Madzie’s amused laughing wasn’t exactly helping things.

“You smell like a Christmas tree,” she giggled, her little nose scrunching up as the smell of fresh pine hit her sensitive nose.

Alec tried to ignore the blush on his cheeks as he finished making sure he hadn’t missed any spots. He felt...disgusting. His clothes were no doubt beyond fixing at this point. Not even a semi truck of oxi-clean and some peppy soccer mom scrubbing for the next year would be enough to save his current wardrobe. Everything was sticky and oily, and definitely not in the fun way that Magnus would have joked about. For just a second, he was actually glad that it was just him and Madzie having to do this. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to convince Magnus to destroy his expensive clothes by rubbing oil and sap all over him…even if the activity seemed a little fun.

When he was relatively sure he had gotten everything, he turned back to Madzie, arms held out from his sides, “Well? Can you smell anything besides tree now?”

Madzie’s face became serious as she scented him, but the sight of her hesitantly sniffing at the air like a kitten made Alec grin despite the grody feeling of the oils and sludge all over him.  

“Christmas tree,” she said with finality, nodding her head once firmly.

Alec blew out a breath of relief and crouched back down next to her, his fingers dipping back in to the sludge, “Well then, I guess it’s your turn to smell like a Christmas tree too,” he said with a smile, swiping one gooey finger over her nose. Her face split in to a wide grin.

He would never understand how it was that every kid other than himself seemed to take some sort of personal pleasure in becoming as dirty as possible. Right now, Madzie was gleefully smearing the green goo all over her clothes and face, all the while smiling like Alec had just handed her a dozen teddy bears.

His mind flashed back years to when Izzy would sneak in to the facility kitchen to steal snacks for them all, every time somehow coming back covered in some confectionary or other. Jace would be escorted outside for his play yard time and would come back caked in dirt and dust after trying to dig up plants as gifts for Alec, before they had poured concrete over everything.

And Max…he was the worst of all three of them. He seemed to take ‘Do Not Enter’ signs as a personal challenge, sneaking in to labs, closets, medicine cabinets, server rooms, even the girl’s bathrooms when he got bored enough with the other places. Each time Alec was able to find him again after hours of frantically searching, Max would appear out of nowhere with a big grin on his little face…and some sort of substance all over the rest of him. He couldn’t even begin to get a mental count of how many times he’d had to sneak one or more of his siblings in to the nurse’s locker room to rinse them off while they giggled happily at his disgruntled expression.

Back then Alec had been so exasperated and frustrated, but now…years later Alec when he thought back on those memories, he only felt a sad longing to go back and instead of scolding Max while he scrubbed away it has sandy brown hair, he would gather him in to a hug and never let go.

“Why are you sad?”

Alec jolted out of his memories at the sound on Madzie’s voice. He looked up at her, completely covered in streaks of green and looking up at him with far more concern than should ever come from someone her age.

“What makes you think I’m sad?” he asked her, wondering if he had found himself yet another empath.

“Your eyes look sad,” she said simply. Okay, good. Not an empath. She didn't need to have Alec's fears on top of her own, it just wouldn't be fair to her.

After his momentary relief that she wouldn’t have been sensing his fear all this time, Alec mentally slapped himself for appearing weak in front of a little kid who was probably scared out of her mind and relying on him to keep them safe. Anyone else on the team probably would have been a better choice for this, for Madzie. Well, maybe not Simon.

“So why are you sad?”

Alec winced, “I’m sad because…,” he paused, trying to think of a good excuse. Some easy lie that any kid would believe, but each idea he came up with he shot down. He didn’t want to be like any of the other adults in her life, telling her lies, hurting her, using her. She deserved so much better than all this.

“…because you remind me of someone that I miss. He’s…lost right now, and I don’t know when or where we’ll find him.”

She nodded, like that was enough reason to her, and reached out her hand for him to take.

“I can help you find him if you want,” she offered.

Alec swallowed hard, holding back the sudden urge to cry.

“I’d like that very much, Madzie.”


 

“Base, this is alpha team. We’ve lost the trail. Over.”

“Roger. Report location. Over.”

“About one click east of the river. Over”

“Check the river for any signs. Chances are they’d head towards that. Beta and Delta team are in that area and will start scouting in that radius. Over.”

“Yes, sir.”

 


 

Silently, Alec let her climb back on to his shoulders as they started their trek back in to the forest. The only sounds he heard were from birds in the trees, breezes making the leaves shudder, and of Madzie’s occasional sweeping of their footprints behind them.

She wasn’t much of a talker, but then again, neither was Alec, so the silence between them was comforting rather than awkward. Still though, Alec couldn’t help but wish that Magnus was there with them. He’d know exactly what to do to keep Madzie happy and distracted. She would love the Psychic, with his soothing voice, kind words, and his funny stories. Just like Alec did.

Alec’s breath hitched as he thought about the Psychic. For a few days now he’d been struggling with how to define his feelings for the older man, unsure where he stood. Did Alec love Magnus or did he just love the things that Magnus does and says? Is that the same thing as loving someone romantically? Is it too early in the relationship to love someone? He knew logically he was probably over thinking things, after all Izzy had told him many times before, over-thinking was what he did better than anyone. It was just almost impossible not to second guess himself when he had absolutely no idea what he was doing.

Truthfully, Alec had no idea what it really meant to be in a romantic relationship. Sure, he’d seen plenty of couples before that had come in to the flower shop trying to pick out arrangements. They’d held hands, smiled at each other, even kissed in front of him sometimes, but that was as much as he’d seen. Jace and Izzy had seen a few people multiple times, but due to their fugitive status they had never gotten too involved. Always keeping a safe enough distance away in case it was a trap. So, they weren’t exactly the best role models for keeping a significant other.

He hadn't seem many movies since before he went to the facility, and the only ones he'd seen since were from Simon's 'team bonding night' events. They all had a taste of romance here and there, even if it truly was in no way necessary for the plot, but it just seemed forced to him. Nothing about him and Magnus seemed forced as far as he knew, so did that make them different? At least the movie showed examples of activities that couples do. That was kind of helpful.

He and Magnus had done those things plenty, kissing, hand holding, smiling…they’d even shared a bed a few times. They both cared about each other, so as far as Alec knew, this was almost like any other normal relationship out there.

Well, almost normal anyway. He was sure most couples weren’t part of a team of mutants trying to save a whole race of fellow mutants. And, most couples probably had already done more…intimate things by this point if those movies were anything to go by. The very thought about those intimate things brought a light blush to his face, so he quickly changed tracks in his mind before Madzie started asking why he looked terrified.

Alec just wasn’t sure what loving someone other than a family member felt like, and he was scared to put a name to his own feelings, knowing that Magnus would be able to tell right away if what he was feeling truly was love, or if it was something else, something less significant. Magnus deserved to be truly and wholly loved, and if Alec gave him anything less than what he deserved then it would be another failure on his ever-growing list of how Alec Lightwood has fucked up.

A yawn from over his shoulder tore Alec from his darkening thoughts, and he turned his eyes to the sky to figure out what time it may be. Worryingly, it was later than he had thought, and he panicked for a moment as he realized that the sun may begin to set within the next hour.

Should he keep going? Should he find a place to sleep for the night? Should he risk sleeping?

Alec didn’t even have a damn clue where the hell they were going! He’d just picked a direction and started walking. It was still a direction though, so he hadn’t thought to change course. But what the hell did he know, he could be leading them in circles. He could be leading them right in to the agents waiting pods!

God, I’m so useless, he though angrily to himself.

He heard Madzie yawn again and with a sigh he made his choice. They would stop for the night. It’s not like he could see in the dark anyway. Not like Luke and Izzy. And at least Jace could make a fireball to light the way. And Clary could freaking shoot sunlight out her hand. And Simon could clone a flashlight. Underhill could have even made a light.

Well, even if he couldn’t produce a light, Alec could at least find shelter for them.

Alec never knew exactly why, but he’d always been drawn to high places. They just felt safer to him than shelters on or even under the ground. So, when he looked up in to the trees above them and spotted the perfect place to rest, he didn’t hesitate to walk up to the trunk of the tree and start pushing his own energy in to its base.

He felt Madzie climb down from his shoulders, staring with a look of awe as small branches started to grow out of the side of the tree, like a ladder that led up to a thick and sturdy branch thirty feet above the ground.

“I think it’s time for us to take a break, yeah?” Alec said to her as he finished pulling the last new branch out for them. He stepped back, stumbling a little as a wave of dizziness hit him, reminding him that not only had he not eaten since breakfast, but had also expended a lot of energy today both with his Element during the fight at the cabin along with his hiking with Madzie. He hoped that sleep would be enough to keep him charged up enough in case of an attack from the Circle.

Madzie nodded eagerly, “It’s like a treehouse!” she said, jumping excitedly, already moving to start up the ladder.

Alec chuckled and followed behind her, one hand held to her back in case she lost her balance, “Yeah, just like a treehouse.”

When they reached the large branch that stretched out about 20 feet up in the air, Alec pulled Madzie in to his lap as he lay his back against the trunk with both of his long legs dangling on either side of the branch edges. Once he was sure that she was secure, he continued his work on their home for the night.

With a gentle nudge, he encouraged the branches around them to spread out and grow several more twigs, all lush with fresh leaves. Soon they were covered from all sides, nobody able to see them from any side angle, or even from above. Next, Alec had the trunk and large branch morph to allow for an indent to perfectly fit him and Madzie in like a hammock, so that there was no chance of them accidentally rolling out of the tree that night. From the forest floor it would just look like a wide branch and nothing more.

The last thing he did as he lay them both down in their little nest for the night was retract their temporary ladder, ensuring that no one could reach them. It was perfect. He dutifully ignored the second wave of dizziness that hit him.

“You hungry?” he asked her.

She nodded and yawned again. Alec was a little reluctant to pull out canned food that would smell strongly, but he still took a look in the bag, trying to find something that wouldn’t be too obviously human made. He handed her the canteen in the meantime, letting her drink as much as she wanted.

Frustration was starting to build in his chest as he rejected can after can, each seemingly worse than the last. He may just have to grow a whole grove of evergreens around them to just barely mask the scent. He sat back, running an icy hand over his face. He shivered at the touch of his own skin, and shoved his hands in to his pockets, but he stopped short as his left hand bumped in to something inside.

Gently, he pulled his hand back out to reveal three power bars, the kind that Magnus had started keeping around in case Alec’s blood sugar dropped. His eyes and mouth watered at the sight. Their wrapping must have saved them from being ruined by the cryo-pod moisture, and they wouldn't smell anywhere near as strong as the soup cans.

Wordlessly, he handed one over to Madzie and took one for himself too, his head already feeling light after creating their shelter for the night.

They both ate in silence, Madzie already half asleep and Alec once again lost in thought.

As if being lost in body wasn’t enough, he half joked to himself.

Of course, Magnus would be thoughtful enough to sneak snacks in to his jacket pockets. He’d probably stuck some in to all his mission gear, Alec just hadn’t even noticed until now. The idea that someone would care enough about him to do something like this made Alec’s half frozen body tingly and warmer.

Magnus is kind to everyone though, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anything special, he thought, but, he always tries to make me feel special, to feel…cared for.

Alec sighed and carefully tucked the kits’ blanket around a now sleeping Madzie, pulling her in to his arms to try and keep her as warm as possible. Around the two of them, the leaves rustled gently as the branches bent in closer, preventing any cool breezes from reaching the little nest as the sun began to set.


 

“Shit, the sun is starting to set. What should we do when it gets dark?” Jace asked.

Luke raised his head and drew in a breath as he closed his eyes and listened, “I hear water in the distance. We must be getting close to the river. We should check there before we lose the light. After that we’ll decide if we need to keep going through the night.”

Magnus and Jace nodded, but Isabelle stood still, her eyes unfocused as she took in the area around them. Her silence and growing anxiety was beginning to worry Magnus.

Slowly the Psychic stepped closer to the Feral, his hand coming up to rest on her shoulder. He wasn’t surprised when she jumped a little at the contact.

“What’s wrong, Isabelle?” he asked, “Besides the obvious, I mean.”

The small joke didn’t even make her lips twitch, she just sighed and looked over to Luke with fear in her eyes, “I think I can smell others. Not Madzie or Alec, but…others. I think they’re over in the direction of the river.”

Luke looked serious as he scented the air again.

“Good job on that Izzy, I didn’t catch them at first go. That pine tree smell is a bit overwhelming over there, it must have distracted me” he said, clapping her on the back, but she didn’t smile. Smelling others was the last thing she wanted to do. If Alec and Madzie had gone in that direction they may bump in to those agents sooner rather than later.

This whole situation was putting her on edge. Ever since they had begun their search in the forest, Izzy’s inner animal had been clawing at the cage she’d carefully constructed to gain some control. Everything about being in the woods, and hunting down a specific target seemed to cater to the instincts that she had been trying to keep back for a month now. And it couldn’t be at a worse time. They were trying to find her brother! What would happen if her instincts got out of control?

Would she start thinking of Alec as prey? Would she run away if it started to get dangerous?

And if she didn’t let her animal side out to play for a bit, would that mean she wasn’t giving it her all to find them?

She knew the possibilities of other Ferals being sent out by Valentine, knew that there were probably dozens like her out there all hunting down a target that just happened to be with her brother. The very idea of others hunting him down was enough to make the cage bars rattle and bend. That was probably the only reason she could smell those agents when Luke couldn’t. Because he had better control. Because she wasn’t good enough at keeping her animal in check.

“What do we do now?” she asked Luke, keeping the tremble out of her voice, “If there are others like us by the river then they’ll know if we try to sneak up on them.”

“I think I have an idea for that,” Magnus said suddenly, making the others turn to him, “It’ll take a bit of coordination, but I think I know how we can take a look around the area without being interrupted.”

The group all huddled in around the Psychic as the sun finally disappeared behind the trees.

Chapter Text

“I really hope this works,” Jace muttered as he and Magnus stood alone amongst the trees, both shivering slightly as the sun finally set behind the mountains. The sky was now a dark purple, just starting to show the small dots that promised to be sparkling stars within the next hour. As beautiful as Magnus had found the trees earlier that day, now they were suddenly beginning to look menacing, their branches becoming shadowy hands, and their shifting leaves looking like a thousand moving creatures around them.

Magnus would have been embarrassed to admit how intimidating the dark appeared out here in the middle of nowhere, but he could feel the same timid caution emanating from the Elemental beside him. He knew that Jace was itching to light up a small flame, any source of light to cut in to the thick shadows around them.

“It’ll work, just hang tight for a few minutes longer. We promised we’d give them thirty minutes to get in place,” Magnus replied, even though he too was itching to get this going.

Jace grunted, kicking at a rock by his boot, trying his best to seem unaffected by the encroaching black around them. There was a small rustle of leaves in the bushes beside them, making both of them jump and their hearts start to thunder in their chests.

Magnus kept some sense about him and whipped his hand out to grab Jace’s wrist when he could feel the blond summoning up a flame to his hand, “Stop! It’s not an agent or a mutant for that matter,” he scolded.

Jace looked over at him with wide eyes, “Are you sure?”

The Psychic nodded, his firm grip turning gentle as he tried to help calm Jace, “I promise. I can’t feel any human around us besides ourselves for at least half a mile. I do, however, sense that there may be a few non-humans around,” he tired to joke.

Jace’s eyes got even wider.

“Squirrels, I mean! Not like…angry bears or mountain lions,” Magnus assured quickly, but Jace was becoming more panicked.

“There are bears and mountain lions around here?” Jace whispered back desperately, his eyes darting around the darkness trying to identify anything.

Magnus mentally slapped himself. Of course, he would forget that Jace and his siblings were pure city kids through and through, “Well, yes, but—”

“Can you sense the animal’s emotions? Will you be able to tell when one nearby is hungry or something?”

“Not really, animals’ emotions are too fleeting and rarely solidify enough to get a read on them, far too instinctual in motivations you know. It's actually part of the reason that Ferals are the most difficult of the mutant types to get a decent read on—”

“Magnus, please stop,” Jace begged quietly, his gaze flicking around the grove they stood in nervously, as if at any moment they would be surrounded by a pack of wolves.

Magnus winced, but acquiesced to the request with a small nod of his head. Digging in to his pocket he pulled out his phone to check the time, internally groaning when he saw they still needed to wait another five minutes. It was agonizing, every minute that passed this day since Luke had called them to rush over to the National Park had been spent in pure torture for Magnus. Each new minute was spent imagining some other misfortune that could have befallen Alec and Madzie.

And now he had bears and mountain lions on the brain to take part in this seemingly never-ending agony. It didn’t help that the universe today seemed all too happy to provide him with new nightmare material to keep his mind occupied for at least a years’ worth of sleepless nights to come. That radio transmission would have been more than enough to keep Magnus from closing his eyes for a month alone. While he hadn’t seen the helicopter go down with his own eyes, his brain certainly didn’t see that as an obstacle. Instead it was just coming up with even more terrifying and increasingly dramatic images to fill in what Magnus missed.

Then of course there would be the dreams about Alec in the hands of Valentine. And then would come the ones of Alec in one of those repulsive pods being kept like a frozen bag of peas in the back of a freezer. The ones to close out his year’s supply of nightmares would be of Alec and that poor little girl being hunted down, chased in to a corner all the while wondering where Magnus was to save them.

Magnus’ body shivered.

“How much longer?” Jace asked suddenly.

Magnus glanced back down at the illuminated screen, “Four minutes,” he said bitterly, ready to fall back in to his personally made pit of despair when Jace spoke again.

“Are you okay?”

Surprised, Magnus sputtered for a moment before replying, “I’m fine, just a bit impatient to get this started.”

“No, I mean…Are you okay otherwise, with Alec being lost and all,” Jace corrected.

Magnus’ eyes squinted in confusion, “Oh that, I’m worried out of my mind, but that should be a given. Why do you ask?”

Jace shrugged casually, but Magnus could feel the slight uncomfortable nature of it, “I just thought I’d make sure you weren’t a few seconds away from a mental breakdown. I know I am. When we find Alec I’m going to apologize for probably an hour straight for all the times that Izzy and me disappeared on him. I never truly understood why he was always so freaked out every time me or Iz took off for a little bit and Alec had gone looking for us. Not till now anyway.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow, “What’s changed?”

“Well, now Alec’s the one who’s missing. I spent all that time teasing him for freaking out, but now I’m like the mom at the mall ready to have them make an announcement over the loud speaker. Hell, I’m even thinking of buying one of those toddler leashes for him. And I’m now pissed that I can’t pull off his little acorn trick, not practically anyway. Somehow, I don’t think he’d be okay with carrying around an open flame at all times,” he said, bumping an elbow into Magnus’ side.

Magnus chuckled, “Yes, I don’t think he’d be very amicable to that.”

“But with or without that little acorn trick, we’re going to find him, I know we are,” Jace said with finality.

“You seem pretty confident about that.”

Jace’s voice dropped low, “That’s because even if this is a National Park or whatever, I will burn down everything in my way to find him.”

Magnus nodded, sharing the same sentiment as he glanced down at his phone again, his heart leaping as he saw the time, “Okay, let’s do this. Ready?”

Jace nodded, his right hand flaring to life as the flames shot from his fingers.

“Ready.”


 

“What’s that? Is that fire?”

“I see it, it may be them trying to stay warm, we should check it out.”

“Aren’t we supposed to be searching the river?”

“We’ve been looking for an hour, they’re obviously not here anymore and the Feral freaks can’t find anything to track. That fire is the first sign of anything in hours. Either it’s them or we’ll just have to hope one of the other teams bumps in to them tonight. Let’s move out!”


 

“Anything?”

Jace watched as Magnus kept his eyes clenched shut as he concentrated, waiting for the first hint at anything crossing his mental radar. It had already been five minutes since Jace had sent up the first surge of flames that he quickly rescinded after a few seconds. A few more moments passed before Magnus’ eyes popped back open, in relieved surprise.

“They took the bait, let’s move!”

Both mutants tore away from the grove, sprinting as fast as their legs would take them until they hit their second stop, a quarter of a mile in the other direction. There they bounded up to the pile of pinecones, birch tree branches and evergreen branches that they had made earlier, Jace tossing a fireball in to the pile as soon as they were near.

With another nudge of Jace’s power, the little flames sprung up to an inferno within the span of a heartbeat, his worry and fear for Alec feeding it. Then he quelled it down in to embers, slowly smoking the materials inside.

Steadily, the area around the fire filled with a heavy smoke, but the two mutants were already gone by the time several confused Circle agents ran in.


 

“They’re moving away, think we’re good to go?” Isabelle asked as she scented the air for what felt like the millionth time that day.

Luke shrugged next to her, “Only one way to find out.”

Slowly the two Ferals crept closer to the river banks, both of them stretching out their super senses in every direction to try and catch notice of any humans nearby, but so far it seemed clear.

Luke let out a relieved breath, glad to have finally caught some kind of break after a very stressful day that wasn’t even over yet. Magnus’ plan seemed to have worked well though, the agents and the Ferals with them all heading towards Jace’s fire and leaving the river unguarded behind them.

Luke had thought that maybe they had left behind an agent or two, but there didn’t seem to be anyone left. It was a bit odd, but then again if they hadn’t found anything then there wouldn’t be reason to hang around. The thought was a bit worrying, seeing as how they had come to the river to try and find something to track as well. If the Circle agents and the Ferals had been unable to find anything, was there even going to be anything for him and Izzy to find?

He didn’t voice his thoughts out loud yet though, wanting to let Isabelle scan the area first. Even now she was prowling around the large boulders, her feline eyes glowing so she could see even with the sun set. For a few hours now Luke had felt like she was on edge, and not just because her brother was missing. Though they had many training sessions together now, she continued to hold back her inner animal to the point of almost strangulation just so that she felt like she was in complete control. Her hesitance had endured still, and Luke worried that it was holding her back now from effectively finding her brother.

“Isabelle,” he called out to her, making her freeze halfway in a crouch near the water, “Do you sense anything?”

She looked sad and a little lost as she looked down at the running water by her feet, “No, I don’t even know if they even made it to the river. What if we were wrong? What if Alec didn’t bother hiding their scent this way? We could have come all this way for nothing while Alec had been running in the complete opposite direction!”

“Hey, hey, hey….calm down. It’s okay. Alec and Madzie still haven’t been found, otherwise those agents wouldn’t still be searching. There’s still time to figure all this out. It’s true, they may not have come this way, or could maybe be up or downstream…but, let’s talk this through. Remember, you know Alec better than all those Ferals who were here before. What would he have done if he was here? Where would he have gone? What would be his next step?” he asked gently as he kneeled next to her.

Her eyes seemed to search the darkness, as if the shadows would be hiding the answers. She was trying, oh she was trying so hard to search her brain and her heart, but noting was coming to her no matter how hard she tried to think. She could feel her chest start to feel tight.

“I don’t know, we thought he’d come here to try and hide his scent, but there’s no way that just water would hide it this well! Sure, it would make it so a Feral wouldn’t be able to smell them from far away, but it wouldn’t mask them completely. He probably wasn’t here,” she said with frustration, standing up and kicking at a loose stone.

Luke sighed and stood up as well, his eyes scanning the area around them again. It was true, water wouldn’t mask them this well, but he had hoped that maybe Isabelle would have picked up something that the others wouldn’t. He was disappointed, not with her, but that the small glimmer hope they’d been running on had faded all at once.

“It’s okay, don’t be too frustrated, there’s still time to find them. But, I need you to be honest with me on something,” he said, waiting for her to look at him before continuing, “Are you holding yourself back?”

He watched the emotions play out on her expressive face, first confusion, then anger, then regret all danced through her eyes in a matter of moment, “Yes…I’ve been…struggling to keep my animal instincts under control. The forest and the hunt seems to make it so much more difficult than usual,” she admitted.

Luke nodded in understanding, “I get that, I do, but your animal instincts aren’t the enemy. They’re as much a part of you as your human side. When I talk to you about control, it’s less of a master and slave relationship, and more of a healthy marriage type relationship. There’s balance and compromising, and realizing when your other half may be the better half in certain situations. Don’t let fear be your anchor, fear has never been the center stone of any healthy relationship. You need to find a different anchor to rein in either part of you, finding that will help you, but you first have to let go of this fear you have of yourself.”

Isabelle nodded and she took slow steadying breaths, “I’ll try. It doesn’t really help that I’m worried about Alec and now we have to start all over on how to try and find him.”

Luke snorted, “I definitely understand that, but don’t feel like you’re alone in this. We’re all doing our best. Now, let’s go meet Jace and Magnus at the rendezvous point and we can talk about our next step. It’ll be nice to get away from here, this pine scent is strong enough to make my nose itch,” he said as he started to walk away. After a few crunching steps amongst the gravel, he realized he didn’t hear Isabelle behind him.

Frowning he turned around to see her standing at the bank, her eyes laser focused on the woods.

“Isabelle?”

She didn’t move.

“Izzy, you okay?” he tried again.

This time, she turned to him, her expression contemplative, “That pine scent is really strong, isn’t it? Like…a lot stronger than it should be?” she hedged.

Luke shrugged, “It’s a bit concentrated, but this is a forest after all. Why?”

She didn’t reply, instead she started towards the woods, her pace picking up with each new step. The glimmer of hope grew again in Luke’s chest as he took after her, his own pace increasing after Isabelle started to sprint through the branches.

He chased after her until he heard her finally stop short, only a quarter of a mile away from the river. He slowed his own run as he approached her, noting the boulder that she stood in front of. He was about to ask her what she had found when she turned back around to him, a bright smile on her face.

“Luke, he was here! They both were!” she said, happily, “And look, he must have used this boulder to grind up pine needles to make them smell like trees! Oh my god, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before! They’d practically be invisible to Ferals scent that way!”

 They could both see the crusty green mess that was left on the boulder, the smaller rock used to grind it laying forgotten on the ground next to it. Lifting the smaller rock she could easily smell where Alec had gripped it, the familiar scent making her feel a thousand times better.

Luke nodded, pleased as well to see how resourceful Alec was being. This was probably the only reason those two hadn’t be found yet and he couldn’t help the proud grin on his face for both of the siblings progress.

“You did amazingly well, Iz. Now let’s go find Jace and Magnus.”

Chapter Text

Magnus leapt to his feet from the boulder he and Jace sat on as he felt the approach of their other teammates coming closer. His heart was beating so quickly that he could feel it in his throat as their combined feelings of hope and relief flooded his own senses. He could barely keep himself calm as they got closer, the anticipation almost tangible in the air around him. It was like wondering if Santa was going to bring him that kitchen aid mixer he wanted or if he’d just get coal.

He felt Jace stand up next to him, the Elemental’s curiosity flittering about like a bird, “Magnus, do you feel them coming? Is it…are they all there?” he asked even as he felt Jace continually try and smother the little leaps of hope that kept popping up around the blond.

Magnus couldn’t answer, unsure of the number of people approaching until they were in a closer range to them. With a strength he didn’t know he possessed, he stretched his mental reach out further than he had ever before, the fingertips of the tendrils licking the air around the incoming people for any information. Only a few more yards…

Only two entities entered where his mind was reading, and Magnus had to physically swallow back the disappointment that threatened to choke him.

“It’s just Luke and Isabelle, I’m afraid,” he told Jace, his body feeling colder as he felt Jace deflate beside him, “but they feel happy about something.”

After another couple minutes past they both heard soft footsteps brushing through the leaves as the two other team members emerged from the trees, both with small smiles on their faces. As thrilled as Magnus was to see them both unharmed and unfollowed, he couldn’t help but feel bitter that they didn’t have Alec with them. It was an enormous case of wishful thinking on his part, but the tiny bit of hope that Magnus had been nurturing ever since he came up with this plan was squashed like a bug on the windshield as soon as he saw it was only Luke and Isabelle returning.

Still though, he wrapped his arms around Isabelle in a tight hug as she reached them, feeling the remnants of distress hanging around her. Jace followed suit right after him, glad to see his sister return to them.

“We’re glad to see you both made it back, any trouble?” Luke asked.

Jace shook his head, “Nah, smoke will cover our scents and tracks for a while. It’ll give us time to be a few miles away from here by the time they find their own asses. You guys find anything?”

Isabelle nodded eagerly, “Yes! We found out that Alec and Madzie were both at the river, but they were able to mask their scents using crushed pine tree oils. We didn’t find any footprints leaving the one spot we confirmed them being at, so we know that they have also figured out a way to hide those. So, wherever Alec is taking them, at least he’s doing a good job of covering their tracks, literally.”

“Were you able to figure out where he was headed next at least?” Magnus asked.

Both of the Ferals shook their heads sadly.

“We found a spot with cell phone reception at least,” Isabelle muttered, but was met with little to no enthusiasm. Alec’s phone would have been destroyed by the cryo-pod anyway.

Magnus wanted to be happy at the news that at least Alec was still undetected for the most part, but hearing that they were once again without a lead was like a blow to the gut. It was like all at once the day caught up to him, the weight of it all making his knees weak and his legs feel as heavy as stone. Wearily, Magnus sat back against the large boulder behind them, slouching over with his elbows crushed against his knees.

It was barely nine pm, but it felt like it had been a week since he had woken up in bed, Alec warm, content and soft next to him. Now he felt nothing but the chill of the night creeping in to his weary bones, his anxiety eating away at his skin, and the hard stone beneath him.


 

Alec woke suddenly, a soft gasp escaping his lips as something tickled the back of his mind. It felt like when the potted plants back at the house called out to him for water. It was a strange thing, to have a completely different life form trying to communicate with him, but at the same time it felt as familiar as Isabelle’s and Jace’s touch. It wasn’t as obvious as spoken words, or as translatable as emotions, seeing as plants possessed neither. Instead it was more of tactile thing. It was as if the plants and him were blind and deaf, and this was the only way they could talk to one another. Just, small nudges full of intent.

As he tried to calm his racing heart from being woken so suddenly, he reached out to whatever seemed to be calling him. Then he felt it, the grass grumbling from being pressed in to the earth and a few branches smarting from being snapped off of their tree.

They weren’t alone in this grove anymore.

Alec was about to try and sit up to take a look around when he heard the voices heading towards them, too muffled to make out words yet, but terrifying nonetheless. He froze where he was, his face turned up to the sky, unable to see what was happening below them. He hugged Madzie closer to his body, trying not to squeeze too hard and wake her from her deep sleep.

They were getting closer, their words clearer.

For a moment, Alec let himself hope that he would recognize the voices, that he would hear Magnus calling out his name and he would emerge to Jace teasing him about hiding in a tree while Izzy hugged the air out of his body. But no, he didn’t recognize these voices. He shouldn’t have been surprised though, this after all, had not been his best day.

“Okay, doggy, what do you smell?”

“I don’t smell anything besides trees, I told you that! I’m trying my best.”

A slap against skin rang out in the darkness, “Don’t talk back to me, freak! Just find them already so we can all go home.”

Alec’s hands, though almost frozen stiff, started to sweat as he heard them get closer. His heart was hammering against his chest like an anvil, even as he tried his hardest to calm himself.

“Wait…I think I can hear a heartbeat…maybe even two! I think it’s coming from over here.”

Alec felt the back of his throat burn as tried to keep his breathing quiet, but it seemed that no matter what he did it just sounded ten times as loud as it normally did. They were going to be found all because Alec was scared and it would be his fault that they took Madzie away. His panic was beginning to crescendo as he heard footsteps getting closer, almost under their nest. What could he do now?

He glanced down at Madzie’s sleeping face, the thought that this would be what she would look like in that pod flashed in his brain making him feel ill. And then he heard another noise.

The leaves.

All around him the leaves had started to stir and rustle, the crisp sound filling the air around them seemed almost deafening in the stillness of the night. It sounded as if a strong wind was blowing through the valley, the kind that rode on the tip of a storm.

“I…I can’t hear any heartbeats anymore. I don’t know where they went, the wind is making the trees too noisy to hear anything.”

“Lousy mutt! I bet there weren’t any fucking heartbeats in the first place. What use are all you freaks if you can’t even track down one of your own? Let’s move on and meet up with Delta team, maybe their pet Feral is more useful.”

Alec held his breath until the voices faded into the night and his head ached, and even when he was sure they were out of hearing range, he still tried to gasp in air as quietly as possible. He couldn’t believe it, he couldn’t believe that the leaves had saved him. He hadn’t asked them too, they just…did it.

Logically he knew that there was no way that leaves could possibly know that making noise would save his sorry ass, that they were just trembling because of Alec’s own agitation, but still it almost felt like…they were protecting him.

He knew he shouldn’t risk the waste of energy, but he couldn’t hold it back. In one big surge he sent the surrounding grove a resounding pulse of his own energy in thanks, all the trees, flowers, bushes and grass trembling in excitement as he did.

After his heart and breathing had calmed, Alec finally let his stiffened body relax back in to the branch he lay in, his head leaning back once more to look at the stars above. He couldn’t seem to get his mind to shut off enough to fall back asleep, the pitiful few hours that he had gotten before he had been woken up seemed to fuel him enough along with the copious amounts of adrenaline he just produced thanks to nearly dying of fear. Tired as he was, he couldn’t sleep. Closing his eyes also seemed a little too risky, even though there wasn’t much he could see in the dark.

There was the sky though. His eyes seemed to be magnetized back to it, it’s magnificence out here made Alec shudder in awe. It still astounded him, just how much his life had changed in the last month. Even lost, shivering from the cold, and being hunted down like an animal…he still couldn’t believe how lucky he was. If Magnus and the Circle agents hadn’t come for him that night at the flower shop, he’d still be stuck in that shit house sharing a dirty mattress with his siblings. All of them desperate for money, scared every time they walked around a corner, constantly hungry, constantly lonely.

Even if he was captured tomorrow and shoved in a pod…this last month had been worth it. He’d gotten to experience a purpose greater than just personal survival. He’d found people who not just accepted him for who he was, but liked him enough to call him a friend. He’d met the most incredible human being in the world, someone so beautiful inside and out…and that person had chosen Alec to be his.

Alec wasn’t sure what love truly felt like, but he hoped that it felt a lot like what he’d been feeling lately every time he thought of Magnus. And he did think about Magnus a lot, even now looking at the sky above him he couldn’t help but compare the stars to the glint in his eyes whenever he smiled at Alec. Gazing up at that moment, Alec had to think to himself, did the sky always look this incredible?

Living in the city for so long, Alec had rarely seen more than the occasional light pollution glazed star and of course the moon. They’d been pretty, he supposed, nothing that matched up to some of the more poetic books he’d read when they described the night sky though. He’d thought that maybe the writers were just overblowing a simple thing, just like they did with love. How many books, movies and songs were based on love? How many authors would write long winded prose on the alluring sight of the sky?

He used to think to himself as he ran across yet another paragraph droning on about stars or their lover, was the sky really that grand? Was love really that potent?

Now though, it was like he truly was seeing the sky for the first time. Being taken from the dingy cityscape and finally seeing the stars above was like nothing he could have ever imagined. Those authors and poets may have tried their best, but there was truly no way to capture the night sky in words. You simply had to see it for yourself, but Alec had to come out from hiding to finally see it.

How could he have known how grand the sky was without truly seeing it himself? How could he possibly know how incredible love is without being in love?

Perhaps, Alec was only now beginning to understand why there was a whole section of the library dedicated to nothing but romance novels, and why every movie and song had some mention of love, if not entirely based on it. Perhaps…Alec was experiencing love for the first time. Just like he was seeing the night sky for the first time. But how could he know for sure?


 

With a weariness that Magnus was not used to experiencing, the team had chosen to continue to move further in to the forest in hopes of avoiding any of the Circle teams still scouting the area as well as to maybe find something of use in finding where Alec was headed next. Despite this goal, they were moving much slower than before, Luke reasoning that Alec probably tried to find shelter for the night since he had a child with him and they didn’t want to walk too far out of their possible travel radius.

Even though his body screamed at him to rest, he was glad to keep moving. He knew that stopping would only make him more anxious, more useless, more afraid. So, they continued to stumble along in the dark. Jace and Magnus tripping every few feet on some other unseen thing in the dark while Isabelle and Luke continued on as smoothly as if it were the middle of the day, rather than the middle of the night.

The momentary alleviation they had all experienced since learning how Alec was keeping himself off the radar was just that…momentary. The reality of still not having any idea where to go next had come crashing back down on their slumped shoulders only minutes after the relief, bringing with it a heavy weight in Magnus’ heart.

Of course the very thought of a four year old out here in the dark being chased down was horrifying enough to Magnus to make his blood boil, them still being unsure of Alec’s whereabouts almost fully eclipsed that.

It amazed Magnus how quickly Alec had found is way in to his heart. Every day he spent with the Elemental he just found Alec sneaking deeper and deeper past his defenses, and for once Magnus found himself not scared, nervous yes, but not scared at the idea of letting someone that close again.

It was also a shame though, that someone as pure as Alec found himself attached to someone like Magnus, tainted and damaged and carrying enough baggage to need his own personal airport security team.

Alec felt emotions so strongly, not just because he was an Elemental but because that was just who he was, and if he ever did fall in love with someone, it would be a force to be reckoned with. Magnus just didn’t know if he would ever fully deserve something so beautiful, but he would try his damnedest to love Alec back as fiercely as he was capable of.

He just couldn’t believe that after all these jaded years of never feeling like anyone would ever trust him enough to even get close to real love, and after all these years of never feeling like he could believe that someone would trust a Psychic like him…he had found that perfect soul that sang out to him.

Every time now that the hordes of emotions threatened to overwhelm Magnus, Alec had been there in moments without prompt offering his help to share the burden, despite whatever weight it may add to Alec himself. Alec was smart and knew fully that having that kind of connection to Magnus would make it amazingly easy to hurt, overwhelm, or even manipulate him. He was an Elemental for heaven’s sake! Someone who’s entire basis of his abilities relied on control of his own emotions, but here he was offering himself freely to Magnus as if it were nothing. No, Alec was not stupid. He just…trusted Magnus wholly. And because of that, Magnus trusted Alec wholly.

Where they stood now in their fledgling relationship was at the bottom of a step that Magnus was afraid to put a name to just yet. For while he may be ready to start climbing up, Alec may need more time to find his footing. Magnus would wait though, as long as it took.

It was a nod towards his concern for Alexander that Magnus was barely aware of his struggle to make their way through the unmanaged parts of the forest. Every step was another effort that he wasn’t used to dealing with. It reminded him of the first time that Alec had led him to his favorite spot in the forest.

He had made a fool of himself by tripping several times over sticks and rocks, tearing his sleeve on an errant branch, soaking his shoes and sock in an unseen mud puddle, and getting a cobweb stuck in his hair from not ducking down low enough under some leaves. Although, the cobweb thing had turned to a sweet memory of having Alec smiling fondly as he pet through Magnus’ hair to remove it.

Even now the memory brought a small smile to Magnus’ lips, despite the growing anxiety in his gut.

Magnus had been as lost in those woods as he was now, not having a single clue which direction to go next, but at least Alec had been there last time. Alec, not having the slightest doubt to which direction to head that would bring them to that special place.

Magnus had asked him, while they lay together on that flat boulder with their hands entwined and their lips still swollen from sweet kisses, how did Alec find that place. He could remember the soft smile that Alec had when he turned to Magnus and told him that it was where the forest told him to go when he got lost once, when he was trying to get home.

Magnus had no idea how a forest could tell Alec where he should go, but at that moment, laying there with Alec in that stunning grove…Magnus felt happier than he could ever remember feeling before.

Magnus stopped suddenly, his hand froze halfway in front of his face as he was about to move aside a branch, his eyes widening before he called out to the others frantically.

“Wait, stop! I may have an idea of how to find out where he’s going!”

Chapter Text

Backtracking all the way to where Isabelle and Luke had found cell reception had taken far too long in Magnus’ opinion, his legs aching from the half jog they had kept up for over an hour. The sun would be rising soon, just about to crest over the mountain ridges and casting the valley below in a rose gold hue. The search helicopters would be coming back soon, so they had to move fast to find their lost friends before any of them were spotted from above. It was an even more uncomfortable race against time now, each second that passed without Alec in his arms was one second far too long in Magnus' opinion. 

Unfortunately, with now it being a whole active and strenuous day since any of them had showered, the other team’s Ferals would be sure to pick up their scents sooner rather than later at this point. So they had to move fast, Alec was counting on them! This was a deadly game of hide and seek, and their enemy was quickly narrowing down places to look.

They had finally reached the spot when the sun had just appeared between the two mountains, orange and warming. Magnus didn’t even wait to catch his breath before whipping out his phone and hitting speed dial for Clary’s number while the others were next to him bent over trying to breathe.

It only rang once before she picked up.

“Oh my god, Magnus! Are you guys okay? Do we need to come get you? Have you found them?”

“Clary, there isn’t time for twenty questions. I need you to do something for me fast,” Magnus gasped out, “I need you to portal back to the house right now and find a pair of pants in Alec’s laundry basket.”

“…uh, sure? Any pants in particular?” He could almost hear her inner thoughts wondering if they had maybe found a scantily clad Elemental somewhere. If only, Magnus mused.

Magnus nodded to himself, as he pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers as he tried to think back, “Yes, the olive green cargo pants that he was wearing when Underhill came to visit. Alexander has a habit of forgetting to empty his pockets before changing clothes, so I’m certain that Underhill’s card with his personal phone number is still in one of the pockets. I need that number now, Biscuit.”

“Okay, give me a minute.”

Magnus waited, his fingers nervously tapping on the edges of his phone as the seconds ticked by. Next to him the others seemed just as eager, all of them not daring to make a noise until Clary’s voice broke the silence.

“Wow, it was right where you said it would be. I’m going to text you the number now. In the meantime, what should Simon and I be doing? How can we help?”

Luke leaned forward over Magnus’ shoulder, “Just be ready with the chopper nearby. We’ll be needing a quick escape once we give you the signal. And trust me, you’ll know the signal.”

“Gotcha, good luck and we’ll be heading out soon. Be safe you guys.”

Magnus and the others said their goodbye’s as he hung up the phone, immediately going to the message Clary had sent and typing in the numbers, having to try a few times before getting it right, his hands shaking too much from the rush of hope he was reveling in.

This time the phone only rang twice before Underhill’s groggy voice answered. Magnus felt a little apologetic when he remembered that it was literally sunrise, far too early for most people.

“Hello? Who is this?”

“This is Magnus, from Luke’s team, remember me? I got your number from Alexander,” Magnus asked with a wince, hoping that Underhill hadn’t thought him rude at all during their brief first meeting.

“Oh, yes I remember. Alec talked about you a lot, are you calling about him now? Is he okay? Does he need me to come help with something?”

Instead of feeling jealous at the genuine concern in Underhill’s voice, Magnus only felt a rush of fondness knowing that Alec’s mentor seemed to truly care about him. He’d have to tell Alec when all of this was over.

“Alec’s in trouble and we need to find him before Circle agents get to him first. I was hoping that you could help us figure where we can find him,” Magnus said in a rush, noting the confused looks on the others as they listened in. Magnus hadn’t taken the time to explain his idea earlier to them, too focused on just getting back to this spot as fast as possible. Besides, Alec had probably never told any of them about his special spot in the woods back home, “Alec mentioned that he took you to his favorite spot in the woods, did he happen to tell you how he found it?”

There was a pause, “Um, yes he did. He told me he had gotten lost and the forest led him there.”

Magnus’ heart started to pound even faster, “Yes, excellent! Now as an Elemental, would you know why the forest led him where it did?”

“You know, we actually did talk about that a bit. Alec said that he had been led to the oldest part of the forest because the trees had thought that him wanting to go home was really him wanting to feel safe. Fascinating, really, seeing how plants have to translate these things without words—”

“Yes, it is fascinating. I just have one more question,” Magnus said, hating to have to cut Underhill off, “If say, Alec had been dumped in the middle of a forest he’d never been in before, no map, no signs, nothing to help him find his way…do you think he’d be led to the oldest part of the forest again?”

“I would think so, yes. Consciously or unconsciously, he’d be inclined to head in that direction.”

Magnus nearly cried out in joy, “Okay, thank you! Yes, thank you. That’s all we needed.”

“Of course, please call if you need anything else to help find him. And please, let me know when he makes it home safe.”

“Of course, thank you,” Magnus said and quickly hung up the phone, already hearing Luke on his own phone behind him calling up Maureen for a geological survey of the forest.

They had a direction again, Magnus could barely believe it.

We’re coming, Alexander. Just hand on a little longer!


 

Alec watched as the sky turned from black to purple, then from navy to orange as the sun slowly crept back in to the sky, clouds and birds replacing the stars and moon. While he wanted to remain in their little nest for a while longer, just to let Madzie catch a few more hours, the instinct to keep moving won out over the temporary comfort he had found here the night before. He didn't know what it was, but it felt like a distracting caress in the back of his brain that wouldn't let him forget it's presence. It was infuriating and comforting at the same time.

As gently as he could, he woke the younger mutant up using a leaf to tickle her nose. She had woken with a smile on her face that chased away the morning chill that had clung to him. He let her have the last power bar and more water before they both made the climb down from their tree, only after Alec had scanned the area for any threats.

With their feet now back on firm ground, Alec took a moment to try vainly to orient himself even though he still had no idea where they were or where they were going. Patiently, Madzie waited by his side, her little hand clutched around two of his fingers. He held back a sigh as he set his sights on a direction that seemed a little more welcoming than any of the others and walked purposefully forward.

He didn’t want Madzie to think he was as useless as he felt. She didn’t need any more reason to be afraid right now.

“You hear or smell anyone this morning?” he asked her softy.

She paused a moment, her nose wrinkling as she scented the air making Alec chuckle of memories of Izzy doing the same thing.

“I don’t hear anyone nearby, but I think I smell some people sort of,” she said, not overly alarmed.

“Sort of…like the people smell is kind of old though, like from last night?” he prompted.

She nodded, “Yeah, it’s old. Did your flower magic keep us safe from them?” she asked.

Alec smiled even as he thought of the horror it would be if Jace ever heard her refer to his abilities as flower magic, “Yes, it kept us safe. We’re going to keep walking today so we can find my friends and go home, but we have to stay really quiet so we can listen for anyone nearby. Can you tell me if you think anyone is getting close?”

She nodded again.

“Thank you. You’re so amazing, you know that?”

She smiled brightly, her little hand squeezing his fingers even tighter, “And so are you.”


 

“Wait, I found something!”

“Better be something good this time.”

“I swear if it’s another random hiker I’m going to personally shove you back in that pod.”

“It is good, look! If you brush away these leaves you can see some footprints! One set is small enough to be a child’s it must be them. And they’re fresh, probably made this morning.”

“Good dog, now lead the way.”


 

If Magnus thought that they had run fast getting back to make those calls, it was nothing compared to the sprint they all found themselves in after Maureen had sent the coordinates to where it was assumed the forest started over 10,000 years ago. It was a far too broad of a range for Magnus to fathom at first, but as Isabelle marked up the map that showed the hundred or so square acres that Maureen had found it was obvious that there was a at least a direction to head in. If they moved quickly enough they could cut off Alec before he reached the giant black box that Izzy had drawn and changed direction to find a spot that even modern geologists would never be able to find.

They had a small window depending on how fast Alec was moving, and there was no way that Magnus was going to let them miss it.

“I think we’re on the trail that one of the teams must have taken, I’ve been smelling remnants of them for a few minutes now. I think they’re going the same direction as us,” Isabelle called out to them as they fought their way through branches and roots.

Luke called back from where he led the group, “I smell it too, we’re going to have to keep up the pace if we want to reach Alec before they do.”

“If we can’t smell or track Alec, how are we supposed to find where he is? Magnus’ range is only a few dozen meters, our chances of finding him just through that is puny!” Jace said through gritted teeth, “We all saw that map, we’re talking about at least a five-mile radius that he could be in!”

He was right, but none of them wanted to admit out loud that their best hope was completely reliant on luck at this point, and nothing else. Their haystack had just gotten a lot smaller than it was before, but their needle was still lost inside.

While Magnus was busy cursing the small range of Psychic abilities, he could feel the same resentment coming from their team’s Ferals for their inability to track even though it was usually one of their greatest talents. And as impressive a range as Elementals had, Magnus doubted that Alec would be holding a fire in his hands for Jace to get a read on, the blond also busy berating himself for his uselessness in finding his brother.

They only had a direction, and hopefully enough good karma saved up at this point to tip the scales in their favor for once.

If only luck could be my secondary mutation, Magnus thought miserably to himself as they all continued to surge onward.

Chapter Text

 

It may have been the ominous rustling of the leaves, or the hair raising on the back of his neck, but Alec could feel that someone was getting closer to them. Madzie hadn’t raised any alarm just yet, but Alec wouldn’t take any chances at this point. Wordlessly he hoisted her up on his shoulders as he upped the pace, his long strides taking them faster in the direction he had chosen. He didn't want to rely on just her sense of smell to alert them of any unfriendlies, who knew what kind of mutants Valentine had in his clutches. 

It was getting late in the morning, and Alec was beginning to truly feel the last thirty hours in his bones, each new step seemingly a monumental effort. He knew he was nearing exhaustion. His hands had been shaking continuously for the last half hour now, the first sign that he was in desperate need of some kind of sustenance, but the very thought of opening one of those smelly cans squashed any hunger pangs he might be having. He did take a long drink from the canteen though, letting Madzie finish the rest. He hoped it would be enough to keep them going for as long as it took for Magnus and the others to find them.

He had toyed with the idea of climbing another tree so that he could scan the horizon for any landmarks, but the idea was quickly thrown out as soon as he heard the first helicopter fly overhead, making him dive under a shaded tree, Madzie held tightly against his chest, until it passed. He hated feeling so cornered, but there was nothing he could do at this point beyond moving forward to wherever the hell he was going.

He vaguely recalled that annoyingly perky park ranger telling the children that if they got lost they should stay in one spot and wait to be found, but what the hell did she know? Alec doubted that scenario included lost individuals who were being chased down by a sadistic corporation’s private military that was using mutant Ferals as hounds.

“Alec, are we almost there?” Madzie asked him, sounding about as tired as he was. With a suppressed sigh, he lifted her up and over his shoulders, willing to take on the extra weight if it meant she could rest a bit more.

He cursed himself silently, hating himself more with each passing moment that Madzie was stuck out here, “Just hang in there, okay? I’m sure they’re getting closer, we just have to keep moving until my friends find us. Okay?”

He felt her sigh into his hair as she rested her chin on his head, “Okay.”

Alec was about to move on when her chin suddenly left his head and her whole body tensed up, “Alec, I hear something! There are people coming closer, I can smell them too!” she said, her arms clenching around his neck tight enough to make him gag.

Shit. Was it his team or was it Circle agents?

“Madzie, do you smell anything like sandalwood?”

“What’s sandalwood?”

So much for that idea, he thought to himself, “Never mind, can you hear anything they’re saying?”

She closed her eyes as she listened for a few moments, “I heard them say ‘freak’,” she said finally.

That was all the evidence Alec needed to make his choice, “Alright, we’re not sticking around. Jump down for a sec, okay?” he said and she quickly got down from his shoulders only for him the bend down to have her wrap her arms around his neck, chest to chest, her legs around his torso.

As soon as he felt her arms and legs clench around him, he started to sprint as fast as he could, holding Madzie tightly against himself. All his exhaustion made his legs feel like lead blocks pumping beneath him, but he did his best not to let it slow him down, as he was already running slower with the precious burden clinging to him.

He had no plan at this point besides to run for as long as he could, but even with his normal human hearing he was beginning to catch sounds of people getting closer. He didn’t dare waste time turning around to look, he knew without a doubt now in his mind that they were being pursued by agents. He could hear their radios crackling as they called in to the other teams that they had found the targets.

He heard Madzie whimper in fear in his arms, he sound pushing his legs to carry them even faster than before. He was running so hard that he was beginning to feel dizzy and nauseous, not having enough fuel to keep up this pace for much longer. He knew he was waning fast, but he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t let them get Madzie, he couldn’t let another innocent child down.

With the pitiful remains of his energy reserves, he sent out a pulse to the flora around him, trying to find anything that could help him.

He pushed a few roots up from their beds in the dirt, and took a breath of relief when he heard a few people trip, but that wouldn’t keep them down for long. He had branches fly towards the incoming agents, loud thwacks heard through the trees as they hit home. Again though, that would only hold them off so long and Alec didn’t have a whole lot left to give before he would find himself unconscious and he refused to pass out leaving Madzie to face these men alone.

With one last desperate pulse, he scanned the area once again for anything that could help.

And then he felt it. So small, yet so familiar.

With the last diminutive scrap of energy he had left to spare, he sent out his call.


 

Magnus had no idea how close or far away they were from Alec at this point, all he knew was that they were nearing the section Maureen had pointed out and that they had yet to find anything to hint at where he might be.

All they had encountered thus far was evidence of a team of agents headed in approximately the same direction, so they had followed a parallel path to them, just far enough that they wouldn’t sense Magnus and his team, but close enough to catch up to them in case the agents were on to something that they had missed.

It was mind-numbingly hard for Magnus to keep himself from screaming out Alec’s name in one last desperate attempt to find him. While it would probably help in alerting Alec, it would also be very helpful in alerting the agents as well.

They continued to race on, even though they had no idea where to turn next. Magnus and Jace just did their best to keep up with the two Ferals ahead of them.

Magnus’ arms were pumping at his sides, jostling his jacket in a very distracting way. It hadn’t been the slightest bit annoying until this moment, and Magnus grunted in frustration as he tugged at the jacket lapel, hoping to set it right from whatever was making it bounce around like that. But, as he grabbed at the fabric, he felt a vibration that was not in sync with his running. His pocket was moving.

No, something inside his pocket was moving.

The acorn, it was bouncing around like a jumping bean in there and it could only mean one thing.

“Alec’s close!” he shouted out to the others, their heads turning back to him with guarded happiness.

“Do you know which direction?” Jace asked as he gasped for breath.

Magnus shook his head, “No, but if he’s this close to us then it’s almost certain that those agents have been following their trail somehow. We have to hurry, they may have already found them.”


 

Alec ran as fast as he could towards where he felt that acorn rattling inside of Magnus’ pocket, like a moth drawn to a flame. He’d given that small gift to Magnus over a month ago, and it had become a favorite activity of his lately to hone in on it’s location from time to time, just content to know where Magnus was at any given moment. The warm feeling that made him smile when he felt Magnus sneaking in the kitchen late at night for a snack, the giddy excitement when he felt Magnus walking towards wherever Alec was, the longing he felt when Magnus moved away…

He had never asked Magnus why he kept it, or why he seemed to always carry it with him. He was too afraid that Magnus would stop and realize he didn’t want to carry it around if he was questioned, so he kept his mouth sewn shut on the matter. Even so, that acorn had become as familiar to him as his own hand at this point and there was no mistaking it’s presence nearby and it made Alec’s heart leap.

Alec tore through the woods, leaping over roots and rocks as best he could while still carrying Madzie. He was getting closer, he knew it, but he could also hear his pursuers getting closer too. It wouldn’t be long now before he would start to hear the zing of stunner blasts going off behind them. He didn’t know a whole lot about physics, but he was pretty sure that Madzie’s ‘magic’ didn’t work against stunners, otherwise they never would have gotten their hands on her in the first place back at the cabin.

He had to keep going, he was so close! Even though his vision was starting to gray at the edges, he refused to give in just yet. He had to reach them first, he had to reach Magnus. Each footstep he heard from behind them and each scared cry that escaped from Madzie were all that kept his legs from crumpling beneath him.

So close, just hold on…There!

“Magnus!” Alec shouted as soon as he saw the Psychic, only a dozen yards away and racing forward with the others at his side. That was when the first stunner blasts whizzed by his ear, but he didn’t dare slow his pace, not until he could be close enough to touch him.

Magnus couldn’t believe his ears when he heard Alec call out his name, the disbelief only dissipating when his eyes caught the familiar tall figure cresting over the small hill in front of them. The overwhelming joy at the sight was quickly squashed like an overripe pumpkin when he saw what was snapping at Alec’s heels as he ran.

One team of the agents was hot on his tail, and with a quick scan Magnus could detect several others moving in, only a few minutes behind. He knew that Luke and Isabelle could sense their approach as well, their claws already extended and eyes glowing as a wave of protectiveness poured out of their team at the sight of one of their own racing towards them.

In unspoken coordination, they all moved at once. Both Ferals taking lead and leaping forward past Alec to cut off the agents as they halted in their pursuit as soon as they saw the group of Valentine’s most wanted mutants. Jace flicked his lighter and barely a second later he shot a huge burst of flames in to the sky that looked like a dragon had been hiding in the Acadian forest. The Elemental then dove after the Ferals, already tossing fireballs at any agent that dared lift their weapon as Luke and Izzy squared off against the agent’s Ferals. Soon the sounds of fists meeting flesh filled the air alongside the smell of burnt clothes and skin.

Simultaneously, Magnus stood his ground arms extended to catch an armful of exhausted and relieved Elemental as Alec half collapsed against him.

“I found you,” Alec gasped out, sounding as if he couldn’t quite believe it.

Magnus couldn’t quite believe it either as he took in the condition of the two mutants he held, noting how Alec’s whole body seemed to be on the verge of collapse, cold, hungry, dehydrated, and utterly spent. From what he could feel from the small bundle that Alec seemed to refuse to let go of, Madzie was in much better condition, no doubt thanks to Alec’s sacrificial efforts, but she was terrified.

Then Alexander’s knees finally buckled under him as he continued to gasp for air and it took most of Magnus’ strength to gently ease him to the ground and lean him against a tree. Worried that he might have missed an injury, Magnus started to frantically pat Alec down, looking for any blood, but Alec shook his head wearily when he realized what it was that Magnus was doing.

“We’re okay,” he wheezed out, “We’re okay now.”

Magnus eased back a bit at that, but still reached forward to brush back the sweat damp hair that had fallen over Alec’s eyes.

“Please don’t let them take us again,” came a small whisper, and Magnus peered down in to Alec’s arms where Madzie’s face had finally pulled back from where she had kept it pressed against Alec’s chest.

Magnus wanted to scream, he wanted to make those who put that fear in to both of them suffer.  They obviously weren’t okay, neither of them were. If Magnus and the others were even a few minutes later Alec and Madzie would already have been taken down, put in to pods and already on their way to Valentine. The very though of losing Alec when they had been so close was enough for Magnus to see red.

Behind him he could hear the fray as his team fought against their enemy and fellow innocent mutants forced to do the Circle’s bidding. He could feel the approach of even more coming their way, their sick minds focused and dangerous.  He could hear Alec still struggling to breath, feel his whole body tremble from a mix of exhaustion and fear.

Never before had Magnus felt such anger and hatred. It was if every moment of suffering caused by Circle Corp had been saved up inside him, his mother’s death, all the pain at the facility, being rejected by his own kind because of a mutation he couldn’t control, Ragnor’s death, almost losing the most precious person to have ever fallen in to his life…and now watching that person cling desperately to a child scared out of her mind while he fought to remain conscious…it was boiling over in his head, the last drop that set his equilibrium into a violent chemical reaction.

He would never let them get their hands on Alexander. He would never let them hurt him again. He would never let them put someone with so much life in him into a frozen pod. He would protect Alexander no matter what the cost.

Alec’s eyes widened as he looked at Magnus, feeling something close to liquid fire brushing against his mind, the place where he often felt Magnus’ senses brush against his. Normally it was cool and comforting, nothing compared to what was radiating from the Psychic right now. He knew that something was happening in Magnus’ head, he was losing control of something, but Alec wasn’t sure what.

Without thinking, Alec reached out to grab Magnus’ arm, his thoughts turning more fearful when Magnus barely seemed to notice him.

“Hey, Magnus, please look at me,” he pleaded, but the Psychic’s eyes remained unfocused, “Mags, please. Use me, I can help you, you just need to let go. Do the sharing thing, please!” he didn't know what it was that he was trying to save Magnus from, he just knew that everything about this felt wrong

Slowly Magnus stood, Alec’s hand falling limply at his side as the Psychic started to walk away. Alec was too weak to try to follow, all he could do was watch as Magnus made his way in to the small clearing where his team still fought back the agents.

“There’s more coming,” he heard Madzie’s muffled voice say as she tucked her head back against shirt, and he glanced around them to see small figures getting closer and coming in from all around them. They’d be completely surrounded in moments. Magnus was now standing in the middle of it all, and Alec could feel bits of whatever was consuming him leaking into the area around them. While he was no Psychic, Alec had been tied to Magnus enough times to know something was going to happen, something big, something dangerous.

Desperately he called out to the others, “Fall back! Iz, Jace, Luke, get over here, now! Now!” he cried.

It was a miracle that the others didn’t even question him, all three of them immediately sprinting back to where Alec sat at the bottom of the tree, his eyes still fixed on Magnus’ form.

“What’s he doing?” he heard Isabelle ask, her own senses going crazy from whatever was happening. There was no wind, but it sounded like it was billowing past their ears.

The other Circle teams were closing in, Alec could hear their shouts.

“Magnus!” he cried out fearfully when he saw dozens of stunners raised in the Psychics’ direction, but he didn’t even flinch. Alec heard an incoming chopper above them.

He screamed again, “MAGNUS!”

And then suddenly they all were pushed back by some unseen force, Alec’s back slamming against the trunk of the tree while he heard his teammates scrambling to keep their footing on either side of him, their arms held over their eyes as debris flew around them.

Then they heard the screams all around them.

Alec cracked one eye open against the gale, as saw all the agents and their captive mutants screaming in pain or terror, he wasn't sure which, their hands clutching at their heads as if to try and block whatever was attacking them. The screaming continued for a few moments, but then it was like watching the strings cut from their marionettes as they all suddenly collapsed to the ground, their eyes and mouths hanging open.

Alec and the others lay there gasping, their minds trying to catch up with what they just saw. An eerie silence had fallen over the clearing after only moments ago having been full of the clashing of the fight. The sudden change brought with it the chill of walking in to a graveyard at night.

“Are…are they dead?” Jace asked, his whisper sounding like a shout it the sudden silence.

Luke shook his head, “I can hear some heartbeats…I think.”

The others still frozen in place, Alec was the first to move as he slowly loosened his grip on Madzie, letting her move off from his lap. Suppressing a groan, Alec used the tree to help him stand up again, his legs feeling like jelly beneath him. As much as his body screamed at him to rest, his heart was what propelled him to his feet and pushed him towards the figure still standing in the center of the calm.

The ocean still roared in his ears, the last thing Magnus’ had heard before it had swept over him was Alec’s frantic call of his name. He had sounded so scared, Magnus didn’t even have time to think before his mind had lashed out at any threat surrounding them. He had no awareness of what he was doing, he only had presence of mind enough to think how he didn’t want anyone to hurt Alec.

His vision had become red, and he saw and heard nothing of what happened around him. He just felt like…he was releasing a deep seated pressure from within and it felt wonderful and horrifying at the same time. As the pressure finally died down, Magnus started to feel slightly more aware of himself. Like the sunbeams slowly creeping in to his room in the morning, the fractional increase of light pushing back the darkness. He didn’t want to wake up though, he didn’t want to see what he had done. With awareness came the dread.

Magnus’ back was turned towards Alec, the only thing the Elemental could see was the fierce tension of his broad shoulders straining against his jacket as he cautiously approached. Alec glanced back at the others for a brief moment, seeing their eyes still fixed on Magnus with awe and apprehension in their gazes.

Slowly, Alec came around Magnus’ side, facing him head on. Magnus’ eyes were clenched shut, his face broken out in a sweat, a grimace on his lips as if in pain. Alec hated seeing that look on his Psychic, so without even thinking he reached up to caress the side of his face as he gently whispered to him, “Magnus? Magnus, are you okay?”

Magnus’ eyes shot open, startling Alec when all he saw was solid gold behind those eyelids.

Wow, they’re beautiful, was all Alec could think before the worry set in when Magnus only seemed to stare blankly ahead over his shoulder, “Magnus? Hey, can you hear me?” he tried, gently shaking the Psychic by the shoulders. A cold sweat broke out over his body when Magnus didn’t respond.

“Magnus! Come back! Please, come back! Mags?” Alec pleaded, shaking harder this time.

Magnus wanted to remain hidden in his little cave of nothingness, but there was a voice calling out to him and it sounded scared. Alexander? What was he scared about? Was he hurt? Slowly Magnus felt himself emerge from the dark.

His eyes opened, all red seemingly gone from his vision and all he saw before him was his Alexander, looking quite frankly a mess with his hair sticking up all over the place with sticky bits of pine gunk in his hair, his face smudged and covered in scratches, his clothes torn and filthy…and still the most beautiful sight Magnus had ever seen.

“Alexander, are you alright?” he asked as he brought his hand up to cup the side of Alec’s face.

Alec saw as the gold shifted back to the warm brown eyes he’d come to adore and the focus return to them, and Alec’s body sagged with relief before pulling Magnus forward in a crushing embrace that the Psychic eagerly returned.

“I’m fine now,” Alec whispered in to Magnus’ neck, drinking in his presence. Magnus was here now. They had been found. They could go home.

Then the sound of helicopter blades sounded above them.

“Fuck!” Jace growled out as the others groaned. They had forgotten about the helicopters!

Luke was about to order them to run when a shout came from above, seemingly out of the empty sky.

“Hey, somebody call for a lift?”

“Simon?” Luke shouted back.

“Damn straight! Let’s get the hell outta dodge! Or whatever that means!”

Above them the sky shimmered for a moment before the glamoured helicopter came in to focus for a brief second before becoming invisible again, Simon and Clary both waving to them from above. They had seen the signal and come! Alec couldn’t believe their luck!

A rope ladder cascaded down in front of them, looking alarmingly like they were climbing in to nothing.

“Let’s go, the Circle choppers are probably a few minutes out!” Clary called down.

Luke nodded and leap in to leader mode, “Send down the basket too!” he called up before turning to the others, “Izzy, Jace, I need you to find the unconscious Ferals and bring them over. We’re going to drop them off with Cat for treatment, hopefully she can cure them of whatever Valentine has done to their systems. Alec, Magnus, don’t you dare take one step towards that ladder, you’re taking the basket up and no arguments. You both look like you’re seconds away from kissing dirt. Madzie, you can ride with Alec. Let’s move people!”


 

The flight back was blissfully uneventful. Once they had landed the chopper back at the tiny airport, Luke had Clary portal the unconscious Ferals to Catarina’s clinic before they all boarded their plane back to the mountain. Back to their home.

Luke couldn’t stop himself from glancing back from the cockpit every few minutes, his eyes taking in a mental head count of his people where they lay in the back. The last day had been quite the test on his aged heart, and he just needed the visual confirmation that all his pups were where they should be.

Izzy had taken up residence on Simon’s shoulder, her long hair tickling his nose occasionally, but neither mentioned it as Simon continued to type away at his computer, making sure that no trouble had been left behind with Maureen beyond Iris still locked away in their safe house. Isabelle seemed on the edge of sleep, not wanting to give in to slumber until they had all safely reached home.

Jace and Clary had pushed back the armrests on two seats, turning it in to a small bed that they squeezed on to together, Jace’s arms pulling Clary tight against him so she didn’t fall to the floor. Her own leather gloved clad hands were firmly gripping his arm. From what Luke could tell, they hadn’t fallen asleep either, but were whispering quietly to each other so as to not wake their neighbors, their neighbors being the three figures in the seats across the aisle from them. The sight was enough to pull all the chill from the last day away from Luke.

Alec and Magnus sat slumped against each other in their seats, Alec’s head tucked into the crook of Magnus’ shoulder and neck, his long legs stretched out as far as the seat in front of him would allow. Meanwhile Magnus had his chin resting on top of Alec’s head and one of his arms draped possessively over Alec’s shoulders, as if keeping him from slipping away while they all slept. His other arm was pressed alongside Alec’s where the Elemental kept a small figure cradled against him. Luke couldn’t help the smile that passed his lips each time he looked at Madzie, contently snoozing away with a small smile on her face as she was held by both older mutants. All around them were empty snack wrappers and water bottles, courtesy of Magnus’ initial instinct to feed the two as much as their stomachs would take before finally letting them rest.

It was days like this that reminded Luke that it was all worth it. Each small life they saved was worth all the heartache and pain.

With a satisfied sigh, Luke turned his eyes back to the sky before him. They were almost home.

Chapter Text

Of course, Alec logically knew that their lives were far too hectic and dangerous to raise a four-year old girl properly, but even so, saying goodbye only a few hours after arriving home still felt like he had been gutted. He waved goodbye sadly as Clary guided her through the portal that would take her to Catarina’s, refusing to look away until the portal swirled shut behind them while Magnus held his other hand comfortingly.

Now that the healer had finally set up all those Ferals on sedation, she had accepted Luke’s request to take the young Psychic Feral under her wing. The medical team at the safe house would be perfect for making sure Madzie was kept healthy and happy, surrounded by people like her. It didn't mean that Alec had to be happy about her leaving though. For the short time he knew her, it felt like the raw wound left behind by Max's absence was numbed slightly. For the first time in years he didn't flinch at the mere mention of his little brother.

“You’ll still be able to visit her whenever you want,” Magnus consoled him as he felt the sadness roll off of Alec in waves.

Alec sighed as he nodded, “I know, I’m still going to miss her though.” He didn’t mention how much having her around had helped him cope with his anguish over Max, but he was sure that Magnus had figured that much out on his own. He was brilliant that way.

“I know you will,” Magnus replied warmly as he gently started to tug on Alec’s hand, “Now, we should get you to a real bed. Perhaps a real shower first though. As much as I love your new parfum de bois, I think you may not want to get it all over your mattress.”

“Yeah, a shower sounds nice,” Alec said as he let Magnus lead him back to his room.


 

Alec’s nose crinkled as the finally started to take stock of his condition as he slowly started to peel off his clothes. A cloud of dirt falling each time he moved slightly, pine needles sticking to everything, burrs clinging to his pants and shoes…not to mention all the cuts and scrapes he had from bumping in to various branches on his sprint to find the others. Even Magnus winced as he helped Alec out of his jacket and then his shirt, noting the large bruises over his shoulders and arms.

“Dare I ask where those came from?” Magnus said with a slight growl to his voice.

Alec thought back, wondering himself where those could have come from before he remembered his less than cushioned landing from the chopper crash, “Uh, I may have rolled around a bit in that pod on the way down. I was wondering why I was so sore…”

Magnus’ body tensed at the mention of those abominations, his anger still boiling at the thought of Alec having been placed in one. Barely a second after the realized how angry he was, he reeled it back still unsure of what had happened back in the forest when he had blacked out for a moment.

He had been too relieved to see Alec in front of him at the time to pay any thought to why they were all surrounded by unconscious bodies, all their faces distorted with terror. It wasn’t until Magnus saw Jace and Izzy loading a few Ferals in to the basket did he let himself begin to wonder if it was him who had done that.

Magnus felt Alec’s hand grab on to his shoulder for support as he reached down to unlace his mud caked boots, seemingly relaxed an unconcerned about anything in particular. But that couldn’t be right…

“Alexander…”

Alec paused and looked up at him with those large doe eyes that Magnus loved so much, one boot cast to the side while the other was still half laced up, “Yeah?”

“Back in the forest, after all those agents were moving in on us…what happened?” he asked hesitantly.

He watched as Alec’s eyes widened, shock, worry and fear swirling through his mind as he stuttered, “Y-you don’t remember?”

Magnus swallowed hard, his adams apple bobbing as he shook his head, “No. All I remember is seeing you suffering, and getting angry and then…I heard you yell my name…then you were suddenly standing in front of me. And…fear. I remember you being scared, more scared than I can recall you ever feeling.”

Alec absorbed what Magnus was saying, but he was still shocked that Magnus not only didn’t remember what had happened, but he had no idea that he was the one who practically wiped out an army by himself. Alec’s mouth jerked open and closed a few times as he tried to think of how to describe what he had seen, what Magnus had done, not knowing that each second he hesitated was another second that Magnus spent becoming more and more worried.

“Alexander, please tell me. What did I do?” he asked desperately.

Alec bit his bottom lip, a hesitance taking over his aura that made Magnus tense up, “Um, you walked away from us in to the center of the clearing and it felt like you were…I’m not sure how to describe it honestly, you were kind of…leaking out anger I think. I’m not sure how, but I felt like you were about to do something big and explosive, so I called the others to fall back. Then there was this big burst of energy and we heard them screaming before they all collapsed,” Alec said, trying to put words to what he saw and felt. It wasn’t easy to describe, he still wasn’t even sure what had happened.

He watched Magnus’ face, which remained blank while Alec continued to talk, “After that blast of whatever it was, I tried to get your attention, but your eyes…they were different. They were all gold and you didn’t respond right away, but then they went back to normal and you seemed fine.”

Magnus remained silent for a while after Alec finished, taking it all in and trying to match Alec’s description with his own memories, both physical and mental. He’d never heard of anything like this happening to him before, not even when he had first begun training with Luke and a few other mutants, back when he barely had any control. It scared him to think that he was capable of doing that to so many.  It terrified him to think of what may have happened if Alec hadn’t called the others back to where he was. It horrified him to think of how scared Alec had felt during all this.

“You were scared of me,” Magnus whispered, tears already gathering in his eyes. There was no way after such a display that someone as timid as Alec would ever feel completely safe around him again. He had lost control and without knowing it had probably ruined the best thing that had ever happened to him. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Alec, his head ducking down in shame. But then he felt soft fingers press under his chin, forcing him to meet his gaze.

“Magnus…I wasn’t scared of you. I was scared for you. I didn’t know what was happening, I was terrified that you would get hurt, all those agents had their stunners pointed at you and you were walking right up to them. I was so scared that I’d lose you. I could never be afraid of you. I…I love you, Magnus,” Alec said softly.

Magnus heard the words, but it was like his brain couldn’t accept that he was translating the meaning correctly. Alexander loved him? Somebody loved him? Even after witnessing him at his worst moment?

And Alec could see the doubt flicking through Magnus’ face, and knew that there was only one way he could convince him. So with gentle hands, he cupped both sides of Magnus’ face and slowly leaned down until their lips were barely touching, their warm breath mingling together as Alec quietly breathed out, “I love you, Magnus Bane,” before pushing that last centimeter closer to capture the lips he’d been missing all this time.

In his mind, he found that now familiar place where he felt Magnus often connecting too when he was sharing something with Alec, and once he reached that spot he pushed every ounce of what he was feeling at Magnus, because Magnus deserved every ounce of what he could give.

Magnus felt the urgent prodding against the tether that he kept between himself and Alexander, and hesitantly he opened the doors, leaving himself vulnerable to whatever was about to be pushed on him, expecting fear, disgust, distrust…but instead what Magnus felt was possibly the greatest and sweetest thing he’d ever felt before. There were no words to describe it. Nothing in vocabulary could do justice to emote the pureness that Alec was giving him. One simple word such as ‘love’ couldn’t even come close to being enough for Magnus to label this feeling.

This was the feeling of being loved completely by another, and it was everything Magnus had ever wanted…and it was everything that Magnus had been feeling for Alec for a while now, but had been too unsure of himself to admit out loud. The uncertainty of Alec’s acceptance of every part of Magnus had kept his tongue stilled on the word, completely unable to say it until now. Until Alec had unlocked the final bolt that Magnus had put in place after far too many hurts in his past.

Latching on to that tether, Magnus followed Alec’s queue and pushed everything he felt back at the most perfect person his soul could have ever dreamed up. He could feel the moment that it hit Alec, the soft gasp that escaped between their melded lips sent tingles racing through Magnus’ entire body.

Magnus finally broke the kiss, both of them gasping for air as they stared at each other with swollen lips.

“I love you too, Alexander.”

Such simple words for such an enormous wealth of emotions, and they felt too plain to cover what he was feeling, but he knew no other way to communicate it with words, but he felt he had to say it out loud. Alec had to hear him say it.

And he was so happy that he did as Alec’s face split in to a big grin, a light dusting of a blush on his cheeks appearing as he did. It was an image that Magnus would never forget.

And it was quite the image too.

“Um, Alexander, as much as I absolute abhor the idea of ruining the moment, I do believe that if we don’t get that stuff out of your hair soon, we may have to cut it out,” he said with a smile, loving the way Alec’s blush deepened as he looked down to realize he was still standing there with only pants and one boot on his foot. His hair very much still had an essence of porcupine thanks to the pine juices still caked in it.

“Oh, yeah. Shower, right. Um, can I borrow your shampoo again?”

Magnus chuckled warmly, “Of course, my love.”


 

“So let me make sure that I am hearing you correctly. Not only did the second gen and the scientist get away, but they also lost all the Feral specimens from my personal collection. And not only did they lose them…but they also encountered Luke and several of his team members, all of whom have also gotten away. Did I cover everything?” Valentine asked with oversweet politeness that made his spine shiver in a mix of masochistic delight as well as fear.

The man in front of him nodded, small smirk playing on his lips.

Valentine sighed and sat back in his chair, fingers steepled under his chin, as he frowned “Well that’s rather disappointing, isn’t it? I expected more from my agents and my pets. This should have rendered at least one successful acquisition, but it seems my hands remain empty. Perhaps it’s time I take off your training wheels, after all, I didn’t just let you free from your cryo-sleep just to keep me company. Now did I?”

He shook his head, a sly grin coming across his fox like features.

Regarding the tall slim figure before him, Valentine let out a frustrated breath before schooling his features once more, “All right, I’m letting you head up the task force dedicated to finding and bringing my children back to me. Use any means necessary, you have my sign off on whatever you need to get the job done. Understood?”

“Of course, I’ll get right on it.”

Valentine smiled, “Excellent, then get to it!” he said, but called out before the young man could get out the door, “Oh, and Jonathan?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“I’ll let you handle the agents who returned to us empty handed, sound fair?”

“It would be my pleasure, Father.”