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Fly Before You Fall

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Magnus doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But his fingers hit the solid white of piano keys, and when he hears that first dissonant chord, something in his heart slots into place.

It registers to him, that the piano obviously hasn’t been tuned in a while. Yet, in the dim quiet of the church, Magnus doesn’t care. He brings shaky fingers forward, tinkering and slowly but surely fumbling around until he hears something that sounds right.

One shaky chord. Two.

Eventually, a progression. Short, simple, barely there. But there nonetheless.

It takes him a moment to figure out what song he’s naturally playing. But when he does indeed reach the moment of realisation, a small smile comes to his lips. It helps. It makes him forget about an angry father, and angry words, and angry faces. Here, it’s quiet and silent and simple and Magnus revels in it.

The progression flows, smoother every single time Magnus repeats it.

And tentatively, Magnus opens his mouth.

“Blue moon, you saw me standing alone.
Without a dream in my heart.
Without a love of my own.”

Magnus understands the words in a way unique to himself. There’s scope to these lyrics, scope that his youth doesn’t allow him to truly understand, but in his own world, he sees it. He gets it. Funny, how words sung decades ago can still ring true, can still resonate, to a sad lonely kid in an abandoned church all by himself, here and now.

He hadn’t meant to come here. But his dad had been so red-faced, and he’d been screaming so much, that Magnus hadn’t hesitated in running out of his grip, needing to just get away. Any other kid would never risk doing something ridiculous and dangerous like running away from your dad and promptly getting lost in the streets of Brooklyn, but Magnus has been through quite a bit more than the average 8-year-old.

Besides, Magnus has decided that he likes this church. He estimates from the layers of dust and the overgrown lawn out front that no one really uses it anymore, but the stained-glass windows look pristine as ever, shining images hanging high above him, allowing soft sunlight to filter through. It’s large, with a high ceiling, and a little area off to the side, where the small piano sits.

“Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for.
You heard me saying a prayer for,
Someone I really could care for."

Magnus’ singing is hushed, but with every word, each note grows stronger. As he grows more confident in the simple chord progression, and as he truly embraces the anonymity of loneliness in this large space, his volume, and confidence increases. It’s his favourite song, and the words have basically been imprinted into his memory by this point.

“And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms will hold.
I heard somebody whisper, ‘Please adore me,’
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold.”

Now, his words are powerful, echoing in the large space, and Magnus closes his eyes. He feels the song swirl around him, and he embraces it wholeheartedly, so lost in the music.

“Blue moon.
Now I'm no longer alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.”

Magnus has always thought of the blue moon as some sort of guardian angel. He would never tell his father this. Thoughts of guardian angels are far too ridiculous and fanciful for Magnus to focus on, according to his dad. The world is harsh and bitter, just like his father, and the concept of guardians, or anyone looking out for you, has turned into a distant dreary fantasy for Magnus at this point.

These thoughts make Magnus begin to ad-lib, humming and singing and allowing himself to embellish. His notes sweep high, ringing clear and true, and Magnus feels oddly at home like this. As if a part of himself has been missing for all this time, and singing like this is what has brought it back.

A far-off clang has Magnus yelping, practically jumping off the piano in shock as he ducks down behind it, trying to figure out what made that sound as he hides. The silence is deafening, such a sharp contrast to the sound filling the church only a moment ago, and Magnus mourns the loss of music to himself as he peers around cautiously.

“I’m so sorry,” a voice calls out a moment later. It’s quiet, somehow so young yet so remorseful. “I heard the singing from outside, and…” the voice trails off, and Magnus shrinks further behind the piano, only leaning out his head a little to try and see who’s speaking.

The speaker finally walks into view, and Magnus’ eyes widen.

It’s a boy, and honestly, he’s probably Magnus’ age, maybe even younger. How strange. Magnus keeps his position, even though he knows intrinsically that it’s a little ridiculous - if the boy had been listening in before, he surely must’ve seen Magnus sitting at the piano. Besides, it’s not like the boy is any threat to him or anything.

And anyways, Magnus can fill in the blanks. I heard the singing from outside, and it sucks. It’s annoying. Please shut up. I want it to stop.

“And it was amazing,” the boy finishes his sentence, looking dazedly around the church. He’s standing in the centre now, in the middle of one of the aisles formed between two sets of pews, and his words give Magnus pause. “I mean, wow.”

Silence. Magnus tries to process the boy’s words. Complimentary. Nice words. And he sounds genuinely impressed. Not like dad. The total opposite of dad. The few times Magnus has let a tune skitter from his lips has just led to more angry yelling about noise and other choice words that Magnus doesn't like to spend too long thinking about.

“Where'd you learn to play like that?” the boy is inching closer to the front, closer to the piano, and closer to where Magnus is hiding. The question is a bit of a shock, to be frank, and the surprise makes him answer before he has a chance to think about it.

“I didn't learn it anywhere,” Magnus admits, perhaps a touch proudly for a moment, before his hands fly to his mouth with a sharp intake of breath. The sound echoes, reverberating in the large empty space, and Magnus squeezes his eyes shut.

What’s the point in hiding? The boy probably saw him already at the piano. And he seems nice.

And so, slowly, Magnus stands up, opening his eyes properly. Rising up, he realises that the boy has come closer, only a few steps away on the other side of the piano.

The first thing that strikes Magnus is his eyes. They’re this entrancing colour of hazel that immediately arrests Magnus’ attention. The second thing that strikes Magnus is the soft awed smile on the boy’s face. Like he’s heard something amazing.

Like he’s witnessed magic.

“Wait, really?” the boy asks, quirking a brow. His question is short, but it rings throughout the quiet church, and that damned smile is still plastered to his face. Magnus doesn’t know why the guy sounds so shocked, to be honest. It’s not like he’s any virtuoso. Not like he’s ever had the chance to really explore musical interests in the first place.

“Uh, yeah?” Magnus’ tone inflects up in quiet confusion, as he takes in the boy standing before him. Magnus reckons they must be the same age. The boy has this dark messy hair that’s sticking up a little. It’s a sign of outdoor play, though Magnus has to wonder how this boy had ended up close enough to the church to possibly hear him. And those eyes. They’re large, round as they regard Magnus now, and he sees wonder in those eyes now. No one’s ever looked at Magnus like that before.

“That’s so cool,” the boy replies, taking another few steps forward. “I mean, did you teach yourself that?”

Magnus shrugs. “I guess,” he responds, voice soft and unsure. He casts his gaze down to the piano, eying yellowing keys in favour of those soulful eyes and earnest expression. It’s a little disconcerting, honestly.

Magnus doesn’t know what to think when he sees a hand enter his vision, and he sees the other boy’s hand reach out to rest on the other side of the piano. The sight of it brings Magnus’ gaze up to the boy's face, suddenly far closer than before.

“And your voice,” the boy's gaze turns distant, even though he stares at Magnus right in the eye. “It's very pretty.”

“Pretty?” Magnus can't help the way his heart lifts at the praise. He's surprised, more than anything. He's barely known of this person's existence for five minutes and Magnus already can't stop his bashful smile at the compliments. It's unlike anything he's ever really experienced before. The boy just nods resolutely, sensitivity shining through in his expression.

“And the song, it’s one of my favourites,” the boy continues, reaching to scratch the back of his neck with his other hand, eyes glancing down at the keys now. He ducks his head, which just emphasises to Magnus that the boy is a tad bit taller than himself.

“It’s old,” Magnus mumbles, sounding a touch self-deprecating. “Most people don’t know it.”

“Well, I’m not most people,” the boy replies easily, a light chuckle in his words, eyes finally connecting with Magnus’ again. They shine in the filtered sunlight streaming through, and Magnus senses nothing but pure naive authenticity in everything that the boy gives. And something about those words pins Magnus to the moment, almost enchants him. To the point where he finds that he’s seating himself at the piano again.

His hand slowly comes up, fingers resting lightly on the keys.

He hits the chord progression again, closing his eyes as he thinks back to the song. He adds embellished notes and runs, fumbling his way along but enjoying himself nonetheless. And he open his eyes again, looking up at the hazel-eyed boy who looks proud and awestruck at him, a small chuckle escaping him as he smoothly hums along.

Magnus likes making him laugh.

And so, he sings along, mumbling words and trilling along. It makes the boy laugh more.

The moment feels magical.

The boy must feel it too, as his laughter fades. And when he looks at Magnus, with deep imploring eyes that seem far too old to belong to an 8-year-old, Magnus feels like he’s being seen. It’s ridiculous, but it feels like this boy truly sees him.

That soft smile is still on his face, with Magnus’ dawdling singing voice and the music he plays fading to the background as the boy opens his mouth.

“I’m -”

“Magnus!” A loud voice bellows, almost shaking the very foundation of the church, cutting the boy off and making Magnus’ hands freeze on the piano. He recognises the voice immediately, his own voice cutting off with a hoarse gasp as he looks over the boy's shoulder. The boy also whips his head around, until they’re both staring at the same thing.

At the church entrance, in all his terrifying bluster and glory, stands Magnus’ father.

His golden eyes, exactly like Magnus’, now shine with cold fury as he approaches the two of them. He points a shaking finger right at the boy.

“You. Get out,” Asmodeus practically seethes at the boy, glowering as he stomps threateningly closer to the two of them.

And instead of immediately running straight for the hills (which, Magnus has to admit, he’d probably do in his position, with a scary threatening stranger looming ahead), the hazel-eyed boy turns back to face Magnus for a moment.

There’s a myriad of emotions playing within those eyes, and Magnus doesn’t at all know the boy well enough to decipher what they all are. But he sees fear, snuffing out the awe that had once been there. And he sees sadness.

There’s connection.

In that flash of a second, Magnus doesn’t feel so alone.

And then, the hazel-eyed boy mouths something, which Magnus would later come to realise was sorry, before he’s sprinting away. Past Asmodeus, and right out of the church. Right out of Magnus’ life.

He never even got his name.

“What kind of bullshit do you think you can get away with?” Asmodeus is far closer now, almost exactly where the (sadly) nameless boy had been standing before. “How dare you attempt to run away from me.”

He could be whispering, or he could be screaming. Honestly, Magnus doesn’t know.

But his father doesn’t seem nearly as rabid as he had been before, not nearly as volatile as Magnus had assumed he would be. Instead, the man casts a disdainful glance down at the piano, where Magnus is still seated. And against all odds, Asmodeus smirks lowly.

“I will say that you got something. Something we can work with,” Magnus doesn’t truly understand what his father means by that, but before he can question it, Asmodeus comes around, grabbing Magnus roughly by the arm and practically dragging him out of the abandoned church.

The reaction is unexpected, and in his confusion and bewilderment, Magnus’ thoughts drift back to the hazel-eyed boy. He thinks of complimentary words and amazed expressions and connection.

Magnus is young, only 8. But he knows, somehow, on a fundamental level, that this day has changed everything.

And he knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that he’ll never forget the nameless boy with the eyes of hazel, and that smile of awe.

Chapter Text

-16 YEARS LATER-

“And here, set to make some waves tonight, is Magnus Bane, today at the Alicante Music Awards in this stunning ensemble,” the peppy voice of the voice-over is paired with a shot of a certain Magnus Bane at the red carpet.

It’s a tailored suit that looks as if it were made by the fabric of the midnight sky itself, dark navy with glittering sequins attached that sparkle like stars. Alec tilts himself forward a little unconsciously, as the camera shows a close-up of his face.

Magnus Bane. Probably one of the biggest artists out there right now. Alec sees shiny cheekbones, glittery hair with navy streaks, and dark shadows across the lids. There’s a suave charisma in his smile to the press, and for a brief moment, Magnus’ gaze connects with this certain camera.

And that’s it. Those stupidly golden eyes that Alec hasn’t really ever been able to forget about, even after 16 years. Alec sees them, and for a brief moment, he’s transported. He’s back in that church, the sounds of Blue Moon almost hauntingly reverberating in his head, a pretty voice singing along. A boy, with those same golden eyes, free of any makeup and bravado. Alec just remembers a talented boy who could really sing.

“Big brother!” A loud voice shakes Alec out of his memories, jolting him backwards in his seat in an attempt to appear nonchalant. The owner of said voice, Isabelle, flies into view, jumping onto the other side of the couch Alec is sitting on. She cocks a brow when she notices what Alec is watching. “Since when are you interested in this stuff?”

Alec clears his throat, noticing how the screen has changed to show Magnus now standing with his girlfriend, Camille Belcourt, on the red carpet. “Uh, it was just on TV when I came in,” Alec mumbles. To be honest, it’s not an actual lie.

He’d come into the living room to find the television on and no one in sight. He had made a move to sit and find the remote to change the channel. But then he’d heard the name “Magnus Bane” and had subsequently given up all intention of finding the remote.

“Holy shit, Magnus Bane!” Izzy cheers, absolutely swept up in what the television is showing right now, and already forgetting about her earlier questioning. “Fuck, he’s hot.”

Alec doesn’t know how to respond to that. Should he feel weird? It’s not like Izzy is wrong. Magnus is very attractive. And it’s not like he ever told anyone about his chance encounter with Magnus in the church all those years ago, even his siblings.

It had never seemed important to mention when they were young. And when Alec had started noticing a certain golden-eyed boy by the name of Magnus rising to fame over the years, it hadn’t been difficult to put two and two together. But Alec had never really bothered to mention the encounter as the years went on, because really, what good would it do? He’d be teased about it, or accused of making stuff up, and -

And the most important thing, the real reason why he never told anyone, is that Alec never, in his whole life, has ever wanted to share that moment with someone else. Something about it had seemed so fantastical and wonderful and distant, and private, that he had never felt the need to share it. It’s dumb, a memory from so long ago that he’s probably romanticised to the point of no return.

But he remembers nonetheless. A whispered song. Fumbling chords that sounded ethereal. The earnest expression of a talented boy.

Alec never likes thinking about the last part of the memory though. An angry man yelling, which had been the only way Alec had figured out Magnus’ name, and telling Alec to leave. He never likes remembering the angry man too much. It tarnishes the memory.

He’s seen reports and the occasional news story, and he knows that the scary man is actually Magnus’ father. He had already inferred that from that day 16 years ago, and remembering how he had reacted always makes a little knot of worry grow in Alec’s stomach at what Magnus’ father is like now. Of course, on screen, he’s always all smiles and charming laughs. Alec doesn’t know what to believe about Asmodeus Bane.

“I reckon his girlfriend is a bit of a bitch though,” Izzy continues, totally oblivious to Alec’s musings. His vision comes back into focus as the television shows a close-up of Camille. “Did you hear that she threw a shoe at Raphael Santiago’s head, like, a week ago? She’s so problematic.”

Alec just nods along. He doesn’t really keep up with celebrity gossip, unlike Isabelle, though he does wrinkle his nose a little in response to hearing about Camille’s latest issues.

“A shoe?” he asks, maybe a little bit distracted.

“Yeah, a shoe. I mean, Magnus seems so cool and he’s gorgeous, but I don’t get why he’s with her, to be honest,” Izzy chuckles. “See, Jace should spill more details about him. So we can get some real dirt, you know?”

“He acts as a standing guard for Magnus occasionally. I don’t think that warrants him to know much about the guy,” Alec counters. “Besides, even if they were secret besties, isn’t there a whole… confidentiality thing?”

Izzy just shrugs, attention already captured by something else.

Biting his lip a little, Alec leans back slightly on the couch to look at his sister. She’s watching the television, a combination of amusement and interest with a touch of surprise in her expression as she blindly gropes around until she locates the remote to turn up the volume.

Alec’s phone begins to buzz in his pant pocket, the sound causing Izzy to shoo Alec away with a dismissive wave of her hand, her gaze still transfixed on the television. Rolling his eyes, Alec jumps up from the couch and walks away from the noise of the living room, moving to the kitchen as he takes out his phone and taps answer.

“Hey Jace,” Alec says once the call connects. “What’s up?

“Alec, you have to help me,” Jace’s voice rings through. “Sebastian was meant to cover for me today, but he just called me to say he’s at home with some stomach virus.”

Alec’s brow furrows. “Cover you? For what?”

“My job, obviously. I have my anniversary dinner with Clary tonight, and Seb basically exploded with excitement to fill in. But now he can’t, and I need you to do it. Is that ok?” Jace explains.

“Yeah, should be fine,” Alec thinks about how he has a free evening. To be honest, he feels a little bummed. He had hoped to be able to just hang out at home, eat some junk food and watch whatever on television. But he’s always covering for Jace’s ass, ever since they were little and the Lightwoods adopted the blonde boy.

It’s not that big of a deal. They’re cops, and they’re brothers, and there are times when Alec has needed Jace to step in last-minute as well. Besides, Jace usually ends up getting the big-shots, and Alec can’t help but be intrigued as to what he’ll need to do.

“Awesome. The job is literally the easiest thing. You could do it with your eyes closed,” Jace says.

“So, what is it then?” Alec asks, curiosity piqued.

“You literally just need to stand guard outside the door of the hotel room for a little bit. Make sure that they get into the hotel room alright, stand guard. You know,” Jace continues.

Alec tilts his head a little, curious, mind circling back to his earlier conversation with Isabelle. “They? Who are they? Who’s the person I’m going to be worrying about all night?”

“Celebrity. Big name, pretty huge artist actually. He’ll be coming from the Alicante Music Awards. Actually, probably from some crazy after party. Just a few hours, and you’re set,” Jace explains.

“And the lucky celebrity is?” Alec prompts, a little annoyed with Jace’s attempt to keep some suspense. Jace chuckles, probably hearing said irritation in his brother’s tone. Subsequently, he clears his throat.

“A certain Magnus Bane.”

~

“And the Alicante Music Award for ‘Best Record’ goes to…” there’s a short pause. Then, “the song, ‘Rock Bottom’ by Camille Belcourt and Magnus Bane.”

There’s cheering, but Magnus can’t really hear it. He feels people jostling him around. And, of course, his father half-spins him on the spot, doing a quick once-over before he lightly shoves Magnus in the direction of the overhead lights and the screaming people. He feels dizzy as he finds himself walking behind Camille, blinking as the spotlight shines on them as they walk up to the award presenters on stage.

Magnus pastes a smile on his face, knowing that a fair number of cameras are surely filming his reaction right now. Camille is basking in the glory of the moment, totally in her element. Her red dress swoops and sweeps, almost making a certain perimeter around her that Magnus can’t breach without stepping on her dress. She’s totally in her element, laughing loudly with a smile of glee as she moves forward to grab the trophy and hug the presenters. Magnus follows suit, reaching forward to quickly hug the presenters before following Camille to the mic.

The song Rock Bottom blasts throughout the arena. Magnus honestly hates the song at this point. It gets overplayed so much, and it’s honestly so repetitive. Besides, the tasteless lyrics of the joys of getting fucked is something Magnus usually doesn’t like to dwell on. The music video is playing behind them, and Magnus pointedly ignores it. It’s not like he wants a proper reminder of that video, where all he can remember doing is following instructions to take off his shirt and other moves he’s not the biggest fan of.

“Wow, what a surprise!” Camille’s tone sounds rich with emotion, but anyone close to her could tell it’s a lie. She’s abnormally confident in areas like this, unlike Magnus. “Thank you darlings, for giving us this award! It’s honestly so amazing, the impact that this song has had. It’s life-changing, really.”

Magnus ignores the urge to scoff. Honestly, what is she talking about? The song is barely there, a pounding electronic beat with the most inane senseless repetitive lyrics.

Just another generic beat pumped out by the machine, Magnus thinks. But he stops himself from further going down that path of thinking. He does that a lot.

“Thank you to our families and friends for supporting us. Our colleagues who helped us. And of course, thank you once again to the fans!” Camille gushes. She's gripping onto the mic tightly with both hands, and Magnus gets a sense that he won't be able to share his own piece.

His prediction ends up coming true, for Camille rambles for another 30 seconds before the loud music surrounding them indicates that they should wrap it up. Camille looks slightly annoyed for being cut off, and Magnus tries not to dwell too much on the fact that he never got a chance to talk.

It doesn't matter. What could he have said? He has no friends to thank. The only family he has is his father, and Asmodeus’ version of support is something so twisted and warped and overbearing that Magnus doesn't necessarily know if he'd ever genuinely thank him for that.

He would spend the whole time gushing over his fans, though. He loves every single one of them, truly. They're the best part of the job, by far. Because at the end of the day, no matter how irritating Camille is, how overbearing his father is, how tasteless the music he sings is and how disenchanted Magnus himself feels for the industry based on superficiality and transience, he loves his fans. They're the ones who cheer to something he dances to, who cry at even at the concept of being in the same stadium as him, who jump at the chance for a photo or a simple conversation.

Everything sounds muffled, far-away and distant, as the two of them get ushered backstage again during the commercial break. Camille laughs haughtily, looking at the trophy probably with more affection than she’s ever looked at Magnus with. A crowd of people meet them once they’re properly backstage, gushing and congratulating them.

Magnus isn’t going to lie. Of course he’s happy that they won. But somehow, he can’t revel in the victory at all. Record of the Year deserves to go to a song that makes a difference. A song that gets people. How in the world did their stupid song end up winning?

The underlying sense of fractured disengagement, something that seems to have lingered in Magnus’ head for as long as he can remember in his career, rears its head once again. It’s a bunch of little things that exacerbate it. Things like how much he hates the song, how he totally disagrees with the whole message of it. The idea of him, in that music video, half-naked and acting in a way that, according to Asmodeus, ‘is a great way to add the wow factor and sex appeal necessary for success.’ Guilt, because honestly, Magnus really didn’t think they’d win, when there had been other songs that definitely deserved the award more than them. And sadness, that this cultivated image of him, of this sex symbol who sings the same monotonous notes to the same ridiculous words, is so far removed from what Magnus had initially wanted when his father had first let him start singing.

“You did it,” one voice reaches Magnus, and he turns on the spot to find his father smirking at him. “Good job.” At that, Asmodeus pats Magnus on the shoulder. “This will be great buzz for the album release in a few weeks.”

Magnus just nods, painting on a smile and trying to ignore the whirlwind in his head. It’s been getting harder to ignore it, but he does it nonetheless. Voicing anything like this to his father would not end well at all.

“Awesome,” Magnus just murmurs. Before they can exchange any more words, he feels someone loop an arm within his own. Turning his head, Magnus sees Camille, properly looking at him for probably the first time tonight. Her eyes glitter with delight, and she smirks slowly.

“Come on, babe,” Camille says. “Let’s go.” Magnus shrugs, following her lead as they weave their way backstage.

Always following.

~

Even if he didn’t know it, Magnus can feel the superficiality in Camille’s kiss. They’re at the exit, where their drivers are taking them away. The fans that have gathered here cheer anyways, and Magnus can sense Camille’s joy at the attention.

When she breaks away, she blows a kiss that Magnus pretends to grab at in the air. And just like that, without really regarding the gathered fans, Camille gets into her car and promptly leaves.

The next car, Magnus’, swoops around the small roundabout. Magnus walks forward, holding a hand up to the driver, a signal to wait for a moment. Taking a deep breath, Magnus walks over to the small controlled crowd.

There’s cheering and yelling and screams of joy, and whilst he can’t get rid of that underlying listlessness in his head, Magnus can’t help but smile when he sees, he hears, and he feels the support. He signs magazines and albums, trying to ignore the images of himself, and instead focuses on the sweet words of the fans. He poses for selfies and laughs at the fans’ jokes and, for a little bit, he feels better.

Eventually, he has to leave, but he waves with a sad smile to the small crowd as he’s guided into the car.

“So, Raphael Santiago’s house?” the driver, Raj, asks quietly.

Magnus sighs loudly, before he shakes his head. “Actually, I reckon I’m just going to head to my hotel room.”

“No after party?” Raj asks, surprise obvious in his voice.

“Not feeling up for it,” Magnus explains. It’s not technically a lie. As Magnus feels the car begin to move, he fumbles around the backseat until his hand finds what he’s been searching for.

A bottle of wine.

By the time Magnus is at the hotel, all he has is an empty bottle of wine and a need to be alone. He wishes Raj a good night before he’s out, making his way warily to the lobby. Security is good here, and the paparazzi are probably scoping out after parties, so it’s thankfully dead at the front of the hotel. Stumbling a little, Magnus slowly makes his way to the elevator. It’s late, and Magnus is thankful to find himself alone in the elevator as it climbs to the top floor.

He hates himself for it. Why can’t he just suck it up and do as he’s told without wanting to smash something into his skull? Drinking probably didn’t help, because now that there’s no bright lights and screaming people and wine, he’s all alone with his thoughts.

Magnus knows that he has no right to feel so terrible. He has the life. He really does. Fancy hotel rooms, lots of money to spend on parties and people, adoring fans and an amazing career that takes him from place to place. When he was younger, this sort of existence seemed like nothing but a pipe dream. Honestly, Magnus should be happy.

But there’s resentment, something that never truly goes away. Magnus doesn’t know why tonight, of all nights, has brought these underlying thoughts to the forefront of his mind, but it has. Because, deep down, he hates it all. It’s all based on lies of who he is. Ever since he first started his career, he’s been groomed to fit the eccentric sex-crazed figure who leaves people shocked by his on-stage bravado more than by any vocal talent. He can’t deny that it hasn’t been successful. His career has flourished under the micromanagement of his father, and he can’t hate him for that. Considering where they started, he should be thankful.

But he isn’t. And that just fuels his guilt, because he should be happy. He’s so lucky, but he feels like shit.

Maybe it’s how fake it all is. Putting on a mask the whole time you’re with other people is draining to your soul. He has so many roles to play. The faithful and diligent son and follower, listening to his manager of a father. The person in a happy relationship, when really, he’s only with Camille as it’s a ploy for promotion, especially in light of their recent song. The eclectic playboy, who bangs whoever, wherever and whenever, whilst also being good enough for the press, and constantly teetering on the line between interesting-eccentric and weird-eccentric. He’s Magnus Bane, and he has many roles to play.

The one role he doesn’t have to act for is the one who cares for his fans. Asmodeus always talks about them like they’re just living breathing ATMs, always telling Magnus to be good to them to help their prospects. But Magnus enjoys being with his fans because they motivate him. When everything else is a charade for Magnus, being with the fans is a breather. A chance to be even a little bit like the Magnus from before his career blew up.

The elevator dings as Magnus makes it to the top floor of the hotel, and he drags his feet as he makes his way over to his hotel room.

At the door stands a man. Magnus is surprised to see dark hair instead of blonde on the officer. It’s not Jace, but it’s someone else, who’s currently standing and looking at his phone. The sound of Magnus’ footsteps must alert the new guy of his presence, for he hastily tucks his phone in his pocket and looks up at Magnus.

The man is tall, taller than Jace, and his dark hair is pretty messy, though Magnus almost feels that the man doesn’t really like that to be the case. And his eyes are large, wide and hazel, and Magnus gets a murky sense of recollection as he looks at him.

“You’re back earlier than I thought,” the man says. Magnus rolls his eyes, grip tightening on the empty wine bottle that’s still in his hand.

“Wasn’t feeling well,” Magnus explains. Once again, not technically a lie.

The man’s eyes flash with an emotion that Magnus could almost guess is disappointment, but it disappears quickly and the man smirks. Magnus is struck by the fact that the man is quite lovely to look at, to be honest. “Oh, and congratulations, for tonight,” the man says.

Magnus just nods, mumbling a quiet “thank you” before he moves closer to the door. The man seems to get the message, slotting the key card in and allowing Magnus to enter the hotel room.

It’s surprisingly stuffy when Magnus enters, and he walks around before he finds a bin to dispose of the empty wine bottle he’s been holding onto this whole time.

Camille is going to be royally pissed. They were supposed to go to Raphael Santiago’s after party together. Pander to the press, see people, gorge on the food and alcohol. When she contacts him, he knows she’s going to really lay into him. She’s always been talented at hitting Magnus’ weak points and hurting him with her words.

“Of all people, why Camille?” Magnus asks brokenly to himself as he moves over to the sliding glass door that leads to the balcony. He grabs the door handle, pulling it back, and enjoys the way the wind up here whips around him as he moves to stand on the balcony.

But she’s a labelmate, and she was an established artist long before Magnus. Their partnership makes sense, playing perfectly into their work collaborations and generating buzz online all the time. Even if she’s a terrible person, Magnus has to admit that, from a business standpoint, it works. It’s another part of the superficiality of it all. Magnus doesn’t like Camille, and Camille could never like someone nearly as much as she loves herself. But they play it up around people, and it makes waves when necessary, and it works. Magnus hates it.

As he stands up here, Magnus can’t help but wish he had the empty wine bottle back, for he suddenly has the urge to throw something from the balcony. He stumbles forward, clutching onto the railing as his body sags.

Fake, he thinks dejectedly. It’s all fake.

~

Alec can’t help but feel a little hurt, but then again, what was he to expect? For Magnus to recognise him? To remember something from 16 years ago? All those years ago, they saw each other for a grand total of five minutes, and Magnus has met many other faces since then. It’d be different if they had exchanged names, but they technically hadn’t. With a slow sigh, Alec quickly takes out his phone to check the group chat he has with Izzy and Jace.

Alec and Izzy had been texting regarding the Alicante Music Awards before Magnus had come, and she had been trying to weasel out any info on Magnus from Alec. Jace had entered the chat for a few minutes, and had sternly replied about the importance of confidentiality and safety, but Izzy had just sent through a bunch of emojis to convey how unimpressed she was. The last text that had been sent was Jace citing how you can’t even really get to know a person if you’re only standing guard for them, before he’d said that he had to go as Clary had returned from the bathroom.

Jace is right. If you’re standing guard outside a hotel room for some time, it’s not like you can get to talk to the guy. Your duty is to stay outside and make sure only authorised personnel get through, and it’s not like it leaves much room for conversation. So even if Alec could talk about Magnus, he wouldn’t be able to say much about him. He will admit that the guy is even more handsome in real life than on any screen, even when he had seemed quite out of it and tired. But other than that, Alec can’t really attest to much.

The sound of the elevator opening prompts Alec to shove his phone back into his pocket, turning and raising his head a little to see who it is.

It’s angry man. Asmodeus. Magnus’ father.

Unconsciously, Alec straightens even more, trying to appear more alert than he feels, as he sees Asmodeus begin to stalk towards him. Alec can’t read the expression on the man’s face, but just squares his shoulders as the older man approaches.

For a bizarre moment, he fears that Asmodeus will recognise him. But Alec is a grown man now, and probably looks different enough to how he did when he was 8. Asmodeus, on the other hand, looks much the same. Alec hadn’t really looked at Asmodeus properly 16 years ago, but Alec can tell that Asmodeus looks older, with more wrinkles, than he did before.

“Hi, Mr Bane,” Alec says. Asmodeus glances at him, cocking a brow. Alec hopes that the look isn’t as condescending as it seems.

“You’re not Jace,” Asmodeus says. “I thought Jace would be here.”

Does Asmodeus actually look like he’s suspicious of Alec? Alec shakes his head and tries not to feel offended.

“Jace has an anniversary dinner, and a man called Sebastian Verlac was supposed to fill in. But he got a stomach virus. My name’s Alec Lightwood, and I’m Jace’s brother,” Alec sticks out a hand a little awkwardly. Surely the office had sent a message to Asmodeus to let him know of the swap.

Asmodeus finally reaches out after what feels like a million years, his handshake as cold and firm as his expression. “Hello. Anyways, let me in. I have to talk to Magnus,” he says.

Alec tries not to feel too affronted by the gross lack-of manners. Seems like this guy and that Camille girl have quite a bit in common. He’d seen the video of her and Magnus’ win whilst he had been waiting here, and even now, Alec can’t help but feel annoyed that she hogged the entire speech up there.

“Well, just letting you know that he’s quite a bit out of it. I mean, he seems -”

“He’s my son. I don’t care. He was supposed to go to Raphael Santiago’s after party, and…” Asmodeus trails off, squinting at Alec in irritation.

Even if he’s pissed, Alec knows this is a job, at the end of the day. With that, he turns around and slots the key card into the reader, pushing the door open as Asmodeus all but charges in. From the way he’s mumbling, Alec infers that Asmodeus is probably going to try and drag Magnus back out to Santiago’s.

Alec blinks, remembering a red-faced man at the door of a church, and he just hopes that Asmodeus has mellowed out since then. If not, then Alec can’t help but wonder about how much pressure Magnus has been under in terms of his career, if that inkling of Asmodeus from that day so long ago is any indication of his true nature that he hides pretty well usually in terms of -

“Magnus!” the shout shocks Alec out of his line-of thought, and it sounds so shocked and stricken that Alec can’t help but be immediately on alert. “What are you doing?”

Asmodeus sounds shaken, and that prompts Alec to slide in the key card and follow until he’s in the hotel room. He’s surprised to find Asmodeus standing just a few feet away from him, eyes round with shock as he looks out of the glass door that Alec knows leads to the balcony. Alec subsequently switches his gaze to look outside, and he stills when his gaze focuses on what’s happening.

Magnus is on the balcony. Well, not technically. The railing to the balcony is wide and flat, and currently, Magnus is laying directly on top of it. He’s facing the stars, spread flat on his back on the railing.

Any part of Alec ruminating on the past or thinking about Asmodeus immediately silences, and Alec feels a steely calm settle over him, not unlike when he’s at work. He knows what the situation deserves. He, of all people, understands. Alec slowly steps forward, ushering Asmodeus back quietly, whilst he makes his way to the glass door.

No sudden movements. No loud sounds. Keep calm. Maybe he’s just playing, but he could be serious.

Alec estimates that the railing is probably less than half the width of Magnus’ body, which means that it requires a high level of balance for someone to stay on the railing the way that Magnus is. But he looks like he’s effortlessly lying there. You could almost convince Alec that Magnus is just lying in bed, ready to sleep.

Opening the glass door slowly, Alec tries to regulate his breathing. The sound of the door must alert Magnus of his presence, and he turns his head to spot Alec approaching him.

There’s a bottle of something lying on the balcony. Alec flicks his gaze quickly to it, and notes that it’s empty. More alcohol.

Alec slowly closes the glass door behind him, careful to keep facing Magnus as it shuts completely. He can’t read Magnus’ expression, but he takes cautious steps closer, unsure of how he’s going to react. Yet, for a weird moment, Alec is back in that abandoned church. Hazel meeting gold. One little boy facing another.

And slowly, he just quietly asks, “Magnus?”

Chapter Text

"You look… alarmingly familiar,” Magnus’ words are slurred, as he looks at the police officer man, just a few feet away from him.

Hazel eyes. Hazel. They’re pretty rare, but still, what are the chances?

The man looks surprised, and there’s an undercurrent of worry in the furrow of his brow. “We can talk all about it when you come down from there,” the man says slowly, and Magnus doesn’t miss the way that his arms are held up as he approaches.

Magnus stays where he is, lying on his back on the railing, his head turned to face the officer. He doesn’t feel like moving. He wants to stay here. The wind whips around him, making his frame teeter a little, and Magnus doesn’t make a move to get off.

“Magnus, please,” the man whispers, eyes boring into Magnus’ own. “Just… please get up from the railing slowly and come here, alright? And we can talk about whatever you need to, ok?”

The officer is good. Magnus wonders if he’s ever been in situations like this before. Grimly, Magnus laughs humourlessly. There’s something about the man just a couple steps away from him. Something that feels familiar to Magnus, but also so distant and old.

“I know you. But who are you?” Magnus asks, dazed. The man takes a couple of steps closer, a sad smile now painted on his face.

“I can tell you if you promise to come down from there,” the officer replies, taking another few steps closer. They’re pretty close now, and a particularly strong gust of wind rushes past them, making Magnus’ still form wobble. The officer notices, eyes wide and hands coming closer.

Magnus sits up abruptly, legs on the side of the railing opposite to the balcony. Seeing his feet dangling over the busy road below cracks something within him, and by the time he flicks his gaze back up to the officer, there are tears in his eyes.

“Doesn’t matter,” Magnus practically spits out the words, self-loathing suddenly surging within him. “I bet you’re fucking pissed at me, right? ‘Oh look, the poor little celebrity that has everything, sitting like a fucking idiot on the balcony railing and sobbing like a little kid. Why would he need to do that?’ That’s what you’re thinking, right?”

The nameless officer shakes his head immediately, expression sincere and intent. “Of course not, Magnus,” he says quietly. “I would never -”

“You’re lying,” Magnus interrupts. Another gust of wind makes him sway, and the officer’s face turns stricken for a brief moment as Magnus feels himself tilt a little bit away from the officer’s figure. “Why do I feel like this? I should be happy. But I’m not. It’s all fake, pretty nameless officer man. All of it.”

“Magnus, please,” the officer sounds more desperate, more pleading, and his eyes pin Magnus to the spot. “You’re drunk. You’re tired. You need help. Please, you’re so close. Just come back over this way, ok?”

It’s hard to hear the officer when Magnus’ thoughts seem to be amplified. He hears insults, directed at himself, all swirling in his head, blocking out the soothing words of the nameless officer.

It’s layered. There’s that spite at the industry, at the way that he has to hide who he really is, in favour of conveying the image of a promiscuous performer who has no actual talent. It’s degrading and terrible, because ever since he was little, Magnus has always wanted to sing. Properly sing. Not just the same four notes with the same nonsensical lyrics, over and over. Really sing. There’s that anger, stuck with his overbearing father and his terrible girlfriend, if he can even dare to call Camille that. There’s that futility, because really, what is Magnus even contributing to the world he’s a part of now? What is he even doing? Why must he pretend for every waking hour of his life?

But then there’s the guilt, for feeling so shitty in the first place. Why isn’t he happy, hell, even just content, with the life he has? There are so many more people out there, who suffer through far worst, who struggle to get through the day. People who deserve so much more, who deserve it more than he does. Magnus doesn’t deserve to feel anything short of happiness with his life, but he does nonetheless. Instead of the happiness that he knows he should feel, suddenly, Magnus just feels empty.

“...talk to some really good therapists. Any support system for you right now is vital,” Magnus only just zones back in to hear the end of the officer’s spiel. “Magnus, please. You can do this.”

Magnus wants to believe him. Oh, how he does. But the fall is alluring, seductive. Wherever one ends up after life surely must be better than this. Even nothingness.

Because wherever he ends up, he'll be away from here. Away from a world that sees him as nothing but an airhead of an entertainer. Away from a toxic girlfriend he feels chained to, and away from a father who controls every aspect of his life. Away from the persistent buzz of guilt and self-loathing in his head. Away from the constant need to pretend, to wear a mask that's now beginning to crack apart.

The cracks dig into Magnus’ skin, and it feels agonising.

The call of the void, of emptiness, is suddenly too enticing for Magnus to ignore. One thing suddenly crystalises in his mind, and in one swift motion, Magnus swings around and pushes off the railing.

The fall lasts for a millisecond. Then, a hand grips onto his left arm, making Magnus grunt from the way his body smacks against the bottom part of the railing. Magnus squeezes his eyes shut, fighting his body’s natural instinct to hold onto the officer, and instead lets his body sag.

“No, come on. Magnus, please, you can do this,” the officer sounds distressed, and a new wave of guilt surges through Magnus at the idea of making this poor man so freaked out. “Magnus, look at me. Magnus, come on. Look at me.”

The emphasis on his words reaches Magnus despite the murkiness in his mind, and slowly, he opens his eyes. His body dangles precariously, the force of the wind up here even more apparent to him now.

The twinkling lights of the city beyond them makes the officer’s eyes glitter, and something about it totally enraptures Magnus, capturing his attention. His face seems so shocked, and he seems so against what Magnus is doing that it just messes with his head even more.

“Let go,” Magnus chokes out. The officer shakes his head.

“Not a chance,” he replies, grunting a little, trying to keep his grip on Magnus’ arm steady. His strength is the only thing stopping Magnus from plummeting 30 stories down to the road below.

“Most would,” Magnus laments. “Look at me.”

“I am looking at you. And you’re wrong. How could anyone let go?” the officer’s grip tightens, as if to reaffirm his words. “Besides, I’m not most people.”

I am looking at you. I'm not most people.

And for the briefest flash of a moment, Magnus isn’t dangling precariously over a balcony. No, he’s just a kid, sitting at a piano, tinkering around, in an abandoned church. And the officer, he’s just another kid, with those wide hazel eyes and that awed smile on his face instead of his current wince from exertion and stress, encouraging Magnus.

Just like he’s encouraging Magnus now. How the fuck did Magnus not realise until now?

I’m not most people.

Magnus’ eyes widen, and he looks at that handsome face, and he scolds himself for not having recognised him sooner.

“It’s you,” the words tumble out of his mouth on their own accord, awestruck surprise evident in those two words, and only now does it fully register to him what’s happening.

Against all odds, the officer chuckles slightly. “Yeah, it’s me,” he sighs, as if a weight has been lifted from his chest. “Now please, Magnus. Grab my other arm.”

The offered hand is right in front of Magnus’ face. The moment stretches out, long and thin and barely there. Magnus feels the gravity of it all, and for the first time in a long while, the storm of thoughts in his head quietens, until all he can hear is the wind rushing around them, and the harsh breaths of the hazel-eyed officer.

An unnamed something lingers in the air, arresting Magnus’ attention from the void below. And just like that, Magnus reaches up with his other hand.

He holds on tight.

~

Their shared grip is vice-like, and Alec uses all his strength to haul Magnus back up from over the edge of the balcony railing. It burns within him, the need to get this person to safety, to help. By the time Magnus broaches the railing and stumbles onto the solid ground of the balcony, he looks like he’s aged ten years in the span of a few minutes. His hair is a mess, his makeup is blotchy and streaky from his tears, and his golden eyes are wide with shock and fear.

“Hey,” Alec hushes him as he brings Magnus to kneel down, still holding onto him. “It’s going to be ok. You did it.” With that, he shoots a smile in Magnus’ direction that he hopes seems encouraging and supportive. Magnus wide eyes focus on Alec’s own at the sound of his voice, and his grip on Alec’’s arms just tightens.

“Who are you?” Magnus asks, sounding tired and dazed.

“I’m Alec,” he replies. It took 16 years, but he finally said it. Magnus’ mouth turns up at the corner slightly.

“Alec,” Magnus whispers reverently, almost like a prayer. “I’m Magnus.”

That makes Alec smile. As if they finally reached the point of conversation that could have happened if Asmodeus hadn't interrupted the first time.

But before either of them can say anything else, another figure immediately pushes in between them, the abrupt loss of contact making Alec shiver as Asmodeus comes forward to squeeze Magnus in a quick hug. He draws back quickly, bringing Magnus to stand up. The movement is jarring, definitely not what Magnus needs right now, and Alec himself stands up in an attempt to help.

Asmodeus, whirling on the spot, pats Alec stiffly on the shoulder. “Thank you for doing your job,” Asmodeus says cooly, before he grabs Magnus roughly by the shoulders and begins to steer him back inside. Alec follows, brow furrowing in confusion, as he shuts the glass door to the outside behind him.

“Ah, Mr Bane. We really need to get some help, for Magnus. I can make some calls and -”

“That won’t be necessary, Alex,” Asmodeus waves him off. “Magnus just needs to sit for a bit. Clear his head.”

Ignoring the fact that Asmodeus just had the audacity to call him ‘Alex,’ Alec shakes his head. “Wait, no,” Alec argues, torn between trying to remain civil and getting across how necessary it is for Magnus to get what he needs. “You see, anything like this indicates that you really should look into -”

“Is he your son?” Asmodeus interrupts once again, argumentative and brash, and Alec has to admit that, if he didn’t feel so worn-out right now, he’d feel tempted to slap the man. “No, he’s mine. He made a drunk mistake and now he’s fine. Right, Magnus?”

Alec shifts his gaze, and catches Magnus nodding meekly to the two of them, before he shuffles into his bedroom. Asmodeus promptly follows, shutting the door right in Alec’s face.

What the fuck? That was not a drunk mistake. Drunk, sure. But Magnus had seemed so sure up there. Everything he had been saying had hit Alec right in the heart, down to the core.

I bet you’re fucking pissed at me, right? ‘Oh look, the poor little celebrity that has everything, sitting like a fucking idiot on the balcony railing and sobbing like a little kid. Why would he need to do that?’ That’s what you’re thinking, right?

Alec shakes his head, mind whirling as he thinks back on it. He can’t get over the amount of pure self-loathing in Magnus’ tone when he had said that.

Or the broken way he’d whispered let go.

Bringing his phone out of his pocket, Alec taps onto a certain caller ID. It rings three times before the man picks up.

“Alec, what’s wrong?” Robert’s tone is clipped, but there’s adequate concern in his words. He knows that his son never calls on the job unless it’s seriously necessary.

“Something happened,” Alec says, running a hand through his hair as he begins to explain.

~

“So, we can’t at all talk about how we need to help Magnus? No reference at all to his mental health?” Alec asks, voice raised. Robert makes a motion to try and hush him, but it just makes Alec feel even more pissed off.

“Alec, we all need to play a part here,” Robert replies. In his pocket, Alec can see the flimsy piece of paper flapping around. The cheque’s for a lot of money, Alec has to admit. “The money can help us fund your challenge for Imogen’s seat.”

Alec bites his tongue, for fear that he’ll spiral into a rant about the necessity of throwing that cheque into a dumpster fire and getting Magnus the help he needs. But Robert gives him that look, a combination of stern fatherly leadership and weary entrapment. Because honestly, none of them are in a position to reject the money. And so, he just nods mutely.

Half an hour later, Alec stands, hands behind his back, just behind a little podium set-up.

Robert had set-up the press conference as soon as Alec had told him the story over the phone. It’s necessary to do, unfortunately, to quell any chance of rumors if anyone had seen Magnus dangling from that roof. Magnus stands at the podium now, looking so completely different to how he had just a couple of hours ago. He has a whole new outfit on, his makeup has been redone, and he wears nothing but a charismatic smile on his face.

“And so, I guess we all know the lesson now that mixing Magnus Bane with alcohol and balcony railings is obviously not the smartest idea,” Magnus laughs, somehow sounding so carefree, and it sends ripples of chuckles throughout the room. “I just regret how horribly irresponsible I acted, and I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to my fans and others alike, who observed my actions.”

With a short nod, Magnus’ statement is concluded. The room erupts, people waving notepads and pens around as they scramble to yell out their questions. Alec tenses when he starts hearing questions about suicide attempts. Magnus, Alec has to admit, keeps his cool. He turns his head to look over at Alec, and he gestures for Alec to come forward to the podium.

“When I was standing in as the guarding officer for Magnus earlier tonight, I heard his father yell to indicate his distress. I came into the hotel room to find Magnus leaning over the balcony, obviously inebriated,” Alec monotonously repeats the words he had been told just earlier. “I came outside, and saw him lean too far forward on the balcony. I assume he was feeling very unwell and unbalanced. I came to him and grabbed his arms, pulling him back up to safety.”

At the end of the prepared statement, a new wave of shouts accosts Alec’s ears. Alec hates it.

He's never been a fan of being the centre of attention, but this situation has suddenly shone a startling spotlight right on him. He tenses, trying to keep a neutral expression as he feels as well as hears people shouting from all sides.

A gentle hand on his shoulder somehow makes some of the tension seep away. Alec turns his head and isn't too surprised to find Magnus looking at him. They exchange a glance in that moment, Alec's discomfort in the situation probably clear as day on his face, because Magnus leans close to him, so his mouth is closer to the mic.

“Truth be told, I don't think I'd be standing here if not for Alexander here,” Magnus coos, smiling serenely at the crowd of people. Then, he turns his head a little, glancing at Alec warmly. “So I guess, all I really need to say now is thank you, for saving me.”

They'd never had a chance to talk properly after everything, with Magnus being immediately ushered away from him. Somehow, even though they're in a room full of gawking people, Magnus’ gaze makes Alec feel like he's the only person in the room. The only person in the world.

Alec registers Magnus’ words to be nothing short of genuine.

“Of course,” Alec mumbles, entranced by the proximity between them and the way the flashing lights of the cameras makes Magnus’ eyes sparkle. The world blurs out of focus for a moment, washed out in his peripheral, and Alec sees Magnus’ smile turn just a touch more authentic. And there's suddenly a sheen to his golden eyes that wasn't there before, and Alec knows that, in this tiny fraction of a moment, Magnus is looking at him for real.

But the moment passes all too soon, and Alec is hyper aware of the raucous sounds of the crowd, surely judging their proximity as well. More questions get hurled in their faces, but Asmodeus appears, almost out of nowhere, and ushers the two of them away from the podium, and telling the crowds that the press conference is over. The sound follows them as they get led off to a small back room, before Asmodeus sighs in defeat that he needs to go back and wrap everything up.

Of course, it leaves just Alec and Magnus alone in the room.

“Why didn't you tell me? That it was you?” Magnus immediately asks as soon as Asmodeus shuts the door. They're standing on opposite sides of the small room, and Alec doesn't know what to do with the sudden vulnerability he sees.

“I thought you forgot,” Alec admits quietly. They both know that the luxury of time is not on their side. “But Magnus, we really need -”

“How could I have forgotten?” Magnus asks, surprise evident in the tone of his words. “You were the first person that ever really supported me. You remember that?”

Alec ducks his head as he smiles. How could he possibly forget?

“Look where we are now,” Magnus continues, eyes growing the slightest bit hazy, from what Alec assumes is nostalgia. “Who would've thought we'd end up here?”

“You were always meant to be a singer. I knew that,” Alec blurts out. Magnus’ eyes widen in surprise at the blunt comment, but Alec remains steady in his stare. It's not like he's lying.

Magnus was Ariel, and Alec was Eric, holding onto that memory of that voice for so long after their encounter.

And it's not like he hasn't heard Magnus sing since then. Alec doesn't live under a rock. But in all the years that he's heard Magnus’ music in passing, he's never really heard Magnus sing the way he did that first time in the abandoned church. With nothing but pure emotional and vocal prowess far beyond what young Alec could comprehend.

Magnus was born to be a singer. Alec just doesn't know if he's the singer he was meant to be right now.

“Like I said,” Magnus chuckles lightly. “You were my first fan, basically.”

Alec quells his initial response to join Magnus’ light laughter at the joke, and instead crosses his arms. “Magnus, I know what you're doing. You're trying to deflect, but it's not going to work on me. We really do need to talk.”

“We are talking, Alexander,” Magnus’ voice sounds as smooth as honey, but his words just remind Alec of Magnus’ choked hoarse voice, telling him to let go just a few hours ago.

“You need help, Magnus,’ Alec emphasises, stating pointedly at Magnus and refusing to get distracted. Maybe another man would, but not Alec. “I'm serious. I really do believe that -”

“Alexander, promise me you won’t tell anyone about the truth of tonight,” Magnus interrupts, expression suddenly fractured, almost making Alec stumble back from whiplash at the abrupt change in conversation. And it registers to Alec now, just how worn out Magnus really is. The layers of makeup and the new glitzy outfit and the teasing jokes suddenly can’t hide that from Alec, now that they’re just in this small room, alone. “I know you were paid, but I just need to hear it from you. Please, don’t share this. With anyone. Please.”

Alec can understand the fear Magnus has. Many people in this industry would still leak this sort of information, would try and manipulate the situation to their benefit for more than just money. It’s a cruel world they’re a part of, a cruel industry Magnus is right in the midst of. It makes sense, why Magnus would be so adamant, frenzied, checking in with Alec.

He sees that worry reflected in those gold eyes, and Alec reaches a new level of understanding in this moment. It’s deeper than embarrassment. It’s the fear, of people seeing the worst parts of yourself. The ugly, fractured, broken parts to who you are. And for Magnus, it would have to be worse, what with the public life he leads.

Surely there’s some strange amalgamation of stress, shock, fear, shame and hurt that Magnus must be feeling right now.

If it were up to Alec, he would suggest that Magnus privately seek out help. Sharing this sort-of thing in public is something Alec knows is too overwhelming, but Magnus deserves a chance to figure things out privately. But there’s a sense of finality to Magnus’ words, and it hits Alec, that Magnus trusts him. That he trusts Alec would never share the darkest parts of Magnus he had been shown tonight.

“I would never,” Alec emphatically states, pouring all the raw honesty he can in those three words.

Magnus’ expression shifts into something akin to gratefulness. “Don't worry, Alec. I'll figure it out. I'm alright,” Magnus utters, a soft smile tugging on the edge of glossy lips.

Alec heaved a loud sigh, a sound that speaks of weariness and hope and concern all at once. “You say that, but Magnus, I really -”

But Alec doesn't have the chance to finish the sentence, for Asmodeus bursts into the room at that exact moment, cutting Alec off. He immediately stalks up to Magnus and grabs the man's arm roughly, mumbling about how they need to go before dragging Magnus out with him. The door shuts behind them, and Alec feels his body slump in the sudden quiet of isolation.

A part of Alec wants to run after them, but now that the adrenaline is wearing off, the weight of the situation he's been through truly hits him, making him fall to the floor in a moment of weakness. He leans against the wall and shuts his eyes for a second, thinking it all through.

He hates how affected he feels, but that can't be helped. But he lets himself have a moment, to sit and breathe and just exist.

Then, like he always does, Alec Lightwood pulls himself up, and makes himself keep going.

~

“It was a mistake, and you're going to work the angle of remorse and garner sympathy,” Asmodeus instructs, eyes narrowed in judgement. “Tell me this will never happen again. Tell me it was a mistake.”

“Of course it won’t. Of course it was a mistake,” Magnus says, though out of genuine remorse or fear over trying to stand up against his father, he doesn't truly know. However it may seem, Asmodeus seems content with that answer, and he pats Magnus on the shoulder stoically before moving away.

“Go to bed. We have more damage control to do in the morning,” Asmodeus sighs, before he steps out of the room.

As soon as the door shuts, Magnus collapses backwards until he's lying on his bed. He's still got his makeup on, and he's still wearing his ridiculous studded jacket and tight pants from the press conference. He allows himself a moment of weakness, to just lie here and exist.

Eventually, he drags himself back up and begins to get ready for bed. He goes to the ensuite, swiping at his face with wipes until all the makeup is off. Afterwards, Magnus moves back into his room to change his clothes. Feeling horribly worn out from the day he’s had, it’s no wonder that he ends up in bed pretty quickly.

By force of habit, he takes out his phone, but the stream of notifications makes him groan before he eventually puts his phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode. His phone turns blissfully quiet, and instead of going onto any social media, he opens his messages instead.

He doesn’t feel too surprised to find no message from Camille. Knowing her, she’s probably passed out at Santiago’s place right now. Still, he can't help but feel disappointed at the lack of concern. And hurt. Quite hurt. Then again, with Camille, what’s new?

With a disgruntled sigh, Magnus shuts his phone off and unceremoniously chucks it onto his end table. With the last of his remaining strength, he reaches out blindly to turn off the lamp, shrouding the hotel bedroom in darkness.

Only a few hours and a shit ton of coffee later, Magnus is up and smiling, looking at the camera set just in front of him in the living area of his hotel room. The interviewer on the other end of the line chuckles lightly at whatever joke Magnus has just said, and Magnus takes that as a good sign.

“It's good to see you feeling a lot better, Magnus,” the interviewer says after a moment. “I know you've said that this has all been one large accident, but it's still a jarring experience nonetheless.”

“I regret my actions entirely,” Magnus says. “Binge-drinking isn't a laughing matter, and the way I acted was not only irresponsible but dangerous. I apologise profusely to my loyal fans for having witnessed that, and I hope we can all learn a lesson from this.”

The interview smiles, sighing wistfully. “Amazing. So glad to hear you're alright and teaching others about what happened,” she says. “And your newest album is coming out in just over a month from now, right?”

“Yes! I'm really excited for everyone to hear it,” Magnus enthuses, smile tight and stretched as he admits another half-truth.

“It's predicted to be one of the best selling debut albums of a solo artist, what with your strong fanbase from all your previous collaboration work,” the interviewer continues.

“Such high praise,” Magnus chuckles. The interviewer laughs along, and something settles in Magnus’ heart by the time the laughter dies down. And with more conviction and authenticity, he says, “But at the end of the day, I just really want to sing.”

Magnus ignores the disdainful thumbs up his father sends to him. Asmodeus acts like any lick of sentimentality is nothing but a smart ploy to garner the favour of the fans. But it's not fake. It's probably the realest Magnus has allowed himself to be in this interview.

Times like this, Magnus wonders what kind of artist he would be if he had been in charge of his own destiny from the very start. What would he be singing about? What would he be doing?

“Well, thank you so much for your time today, Magnus. We're all glad to hear you're feeling better,” the interviewer concludes.

“Thank you so much for having me,” Magnus beams into the camera. He holds the position until the cameraman indicates that they're off the air, and the smile melts off his face as Asmodeus drags him out of his chair to come to the couch near the coffee table. Sitting down, Magnus notices the salad mixed with shredded pieces of meat sitting in a small bowl on the table. Asmodeus shoves the bowl in Magnus’ direction, indicating for him to eat as he rattles off the names of other people Magnus needs to prepare to be interviewed for.

The salad is bland and small and Magnus wishes that his father would let him eat something other than salads and meat for once. But it's the best diet Magnus is supposed to eat in order to stay in shape. Give something for the people to see, as Asmodeus has so eloquently stated numerous times whenever Magnus has wanted to buy ice cream or skip workouts for the day.

“Now, I’m securing you a bodyguard for the next few weeks, up until the album release,” Asmodeus explains as he looks over interview outlines and timetables, mouth full of pasta. Magnus ignores the pang of envy, and instead zones in on those words.

“Why? I’ve never needed a bodyguard before,” Magnus says, though he realises the mistake in that the moment he finishes speaking. There are crew members and technicians buzzing around them, so all Asmodeus can do is send a look of pure burning loathing in Magnus’ direction.

“After your recent stunt, I believe it’s imperative we get one now,” the way Asmodeus spits out the word stunt hits Magnus real deep. It’s another implicit reminder.

It was a mistake. Nothing more than a drunk stupid mistake, Magnus. Nothing more.

So Magnus just nods in agreement. He can understand his father’s thought process. It’s not the worst thing in the world, needing a bodyguard.

And besides, he already has someone he’d like to hire in mind.

Chapter Text

“But at the end of the day, I just really want to sing.”

Alec doesn't know what to do with the fire in Magnus’ eyes when he says that. He wishes that… well, he doesn't know what he wants right now, to be truthful. He settles for grabbing the remote and changing the channel.

Not that it helps much. Alec is greeted with the sight of his own face blown up on the screen, as this news channel replays footage from the press conference from last night. Alec notices the signs of weariness in his own posture, sees the prominent eye bags, and promptly just decides to turn off the television entirely.

The landline begins to ring shrilly, and Alec already has an idea about who it is. Nonetheless, he drags himself up from the couch and walks over to the wall phone close to him. He picks it up and almost immediately regrets it.

“Hello, is this Alec Lightwood’s residence? This is Lilith from Edom Entertainment, and I was wondering if I could just have a quick word?” the woman on the other end immediately says. Alec’s brow furrows. It’s dumb, but he’s never understood those people that only go by their first name.

“I have nothing to comment beyond what I said last night,” Alec says. He estimates it's probably the twentieth time he has said this to someone.

“Mr Lightwood, you haven't even heard what we'll offer you for an interview. More so for an exclusive,” Lilith presses on. Alec frowns, shaking his head lightly.

“Not interested,” he mumbles in response, and before she can say anything else, he hangs up.

At that moment, Isabelle comes into the main living area, dressed ready to go to work. She glances in surprise at Alec, still in his pyjamas and standing by the wall phone.

“Let me guess. Another offer to spill?” Izzy asks in greeting. Alec nods, and she grimaces in reply. “Man, those guys are like vultures. And you aren't even a real celebrity.”

“Ha ha,” Alec says sardonically. “I just hope they still aren't outside. I haven't looked out all morning.”

He still remembers clearly, how he'd come home at 3 in the morning after the entire ordeal, only to find his apartment building swarming with reporters and paparazzi, itching to get a statement from him.

“Oh Alec,” another voice jolts Izzy and Alec, and they both turn to find Jace strolling into the living area, dressed in his uniform and ready for work. “Don't worry. People will move on pretty soon from this. Celebrities do dumb shit all the time, and he's actually managing it pretty well, from what I can see.”

Alec has a retort on the tip of his tongue, and he's ready to lay into Jace about how wrong he is, but he stops himself at the last second. He has to play into the narrative that Magnus was just really drunk and too inebriated to stay upright near the railing. He remembers his promise to Magnus, to not share the truth with anyone. So of course, for everyone else right now, it seems like Magnus just made a dumb mistake, like any other celebrity would. Only Alec, Asmodeus, Robert and Magnus know the true extent of the events of that night.

He wants to argue that Magnus deserves no judgement, but help instead. But Izzy and Jace don’t know the truth of the situation. Even before Magnus had begged Alec to stay silent on the issue, Robert had warned Alec to not tell anyone the truth, even his siblings. But honestly, if this was all based on Robert alone, Alec wouldn’t listen, and he would tell Izzy and Jace nonetheless.

But Alec can’t do that to Magnus. He would never divulge Magnus’ struggles to people Magnus doesn’t know, even Alec’s own siblings.

Please, don’t share this. With anyone. Please.

Alec respects Magnus’ wishes, understands it down to the very marrow of his bones. And so, Alec quells the initial reaction to defend Magnus, and instead just sighs. “I hope so,” he says, maybe a little shakily, though he doesn’t think that Izzy or Jace really notice. “I don’t really want this to become a big thing.”

“Well, you saved Magnus Bane’s life. Whether you like it or not, and whether Jace gets it or not, that’s pretty big,” Isabelle says, eyes narrowed in Jace’s direction.

Jace, who’s currently holding an apple in his hand, holds up his arms in mock surrender at Isabelle’s pointed look. “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything offensive. Magnus is cool, and I’m glad that he’s ok,” Jace says. “That’s just the nature of the industry.”

“You’re not wrong,” Alec groans, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He definitely did not get enough sleep last night.

Isabelle’s look in Jace’s direction softens, and he apologetically ducks his head as he takes a bite out of his apple. Glancing at his watch, he swears quietly under his breath, before he starts to backtrack towards the front door, essentials in tow.

“I’m off. See you guys,” Jace mumbles, mouth still half-full of apple. “And enjoy your day off Alec!” With that one last raucous shout, Jace is out the door.

Isabelle turns back to face Alec with wide eyes. “Day off, huh?”

“Yeah,” Alec mumbles. “After last night and all.” He turns back to face the wall phone, almost expecting it to ring again. It’s been consistently ringing all of last night and this morning.

“Hey, don’t take Jace too seriously,” Izzy says after a moment. Alec turns back to face her, brow furrowed.

“Oh no, I wasn’t thinking about that. I know he didn’t mean anything by it,” Alec replies.

“I know, but you’re staring at that wall phone like it’s committed a crime or something,” Isabelle chuckles half-heartedly. “You do get what's up, right?” When Alec just shoots a quizzical look back to his sister in reply, Isabelle rolls her eyes.

“Jace was meant to be there last night, not you. Now, you’ve got your 15 minutes of fame and I’m betting that he feels just a little bit envious,” Izzy explains calmly. “I’m pretty sure he isn’t even really aware of it, but he’s only human.”

Alec hums a little, nodding sagely. If only Jace knew. Alec seriously wishes he wasn’t in the situation he’s in right now.

“How wise of you, Iz. If you weren’t such an amazing forensic pathologist, I’d peg you to be a good psychologist,” Alec chuckles, trying to lighten the mood a little at the sight of Izzy’s serious expression.

“That’s not my main concern, though,” Isabelle sighs, and she takes a couple steps closer until she’s right in front of Alec, brown eyes boring into his own hazel ones. “My main concern is you.”

“Iz, I’m fine,” Alec says. “I’m just seriously tired. I didn’t go to bed until, like, 4am. I’m ok, really.”

Isabelle’s eyes narrow, and ultimately, she doesn’t look convinced. She’s always been able to get a read on people, and Alec is no exception to that.

“I know the situation is different,” Izzy begins, and she looks hesitant, like she doesn’t want to risk saying the wrong thing. “But there are some similarities. You don’t think that the situation with Magnus could’ve been a bit of a trigger for you?”

Alec immediately shakes his head, pushing past his little sister in favour of heading to the kitchen to get some bread to make some toast. “I was fine, Izzy. I am fine,” he says, briskly taking two pieces of bread and putting them into the toaster. He only stops moving around after he’s pushed the bread into the toaster, turning back on the spot to face Isabelle from a distance.

And honestly, for the most part, he is fine. More than anything, he wants to get back to Magnus and make sure he gets the help he needs. But he also knows from experience that he’s not saving anyone by internalising anything.

“It was intense. I had a bit of a moment after the press conference, but honestly, I think I’m ok,” Alec mumbles quietly. “When I saw him… bending over that railing, the only thing I could think of was getting him to safety.”

Isabelle’s serious frown cracks, and she smiles slowly as she walks up to him and surprises him with a short hug. “Proud of you, Alec,” she mumbles into his shoulder, and Alec squeezes her back for a moment before they break apart. “Now, I have to go to work. But have a good day off. You deserve it. And you’re going to see Dr. Garroway soon, right?”

After this whole ordeal? A trip to see Luke is just what Alec reckons he needs, so he just nods a little wearily in response.

With that, Isabelle smiles slowly and shoots a wink in Alec’s direction before she’s heading out of the apartment. She shouts one final farewell before she shuts the front door, leaving Alec alone.

Alec can understand where Izzy’s concern is coming from. She doesn’t even know the true story behind Magnus’ intentions on that balcony. He appreciates that she checked on him, though.

He’s proud to admit that he’s grown enough that, even if he had a moment of weakness, he’s overall been able to handle the brunt of this entire case. Not just the situation itself, but the intense media coverage surrounding it. And honestly, he really just feels the need to make sure Magnus is ok.

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and Alec pulls it out only to find a text from Isabelle.

Izzy [8.19am]: yeah they’re still out here lmao, istg they’ve got no lives

That alone makes Alec laugh more than he has all morning.

~

“When are you moving?” Camille asks. Magnus sighs, rubbing his eyes slowly.

“Nice to see you too, Camille,” Magnus replies.

“Sorry, hi,” Camille says shortly. “Anyways, when are you moving?”

Magnus suppresses the immediate urge to groan. The word parasite rings through his head, and he has to admit that it’s not the first time that he’s thought of that exact word when thinking about Camille.

“Two days,” Magnus explains. “When the stay at this hotel is over.”

Camille nods, a happy smirk on her face. “Great! I can’t wait to try out the pool and the spa,” she beams, waltzing around the living area of the hotel room.

Honestly, after everything that’s happened, Magnus had totally forgotten that he was moving in a couple days. It had been set up so that, just after the Alicante Music Awards, they’d move into the new place. They, as in, him and his father.

“Oh, by the way, are you ok?” Camille asks, distractedly grabbing something from the mini fridge, and it sounds like such an afterthought to her that Magnus almost wants to scream. How does someone manage to sound so disinterested in something like this? Even if they don’t genuinely have romantic feelings for each other, doesn’t she have any sense of human empathy and decency?

“I’m fine,” Magnus lies. If he could, he would just walk out of here right now. If he wasn’t convinced before, he’s definitely sure now that Camille is a bitch, and he really doesn’t want to be associated with her, even in a fake relationship. Not only did she never get in touch with him last night, but her first priority when coming to see him today was to check on when he’s moving so she can leech off of him.

But after last night, the last thing Magnus wants to do is anger his father further by asking if he can end his and Camille’s fake relationship.

“Really? Because let me tell you, Magnus. You’re a real fucking dumbass,” the sharpness in her tone gives Magnus whiplash, and her eyes are steely as they regard him. “Getting drunk and almost falling over a railing? You truly are an idiot.”

Ok, maybe Magnus always knew Camille was a bitch. The insults, sadly, aren’t new. He hates how they still have the ability to sting, even after a year together. He just didn’t think she’d stoop low enough to make him feel bad after the harrowing experience he just went through. She may not have the full picture, but her words and her expressions are cruel, and Magnus suddenly wants the ground to swallow him up, just so he can avoid her calculating gaze and judgemental expression.

“Are we done here? There’s no camera to pander to here. You can go,” Magnus sighs. “Now you know when I’m moving in, you’ve got everything you’ve wanted.”

Camille’s eyes just narrow, and she scans Magnus up and down with what he could only describe as disdain. Seriously, of all people, why did he have to be with Camille?

“You’re right. Bye,” she replies shortly, and with absolutely no warning, she’s already out of the hotel room.

Magnus feels a certain tension seep out of his posture the second the hotel door slams shut behind her, and he subsequently moves over to the bedroom again. He sits down, gaze stuck to the floor, and the smooth wooden panels in his vision blur in and out of focus as Magnus reflects.

Times like this, Magnus genuinely wonders if Camille is a sociopath or something. There’s a detachment to her, as if she’s immune to typical human emotions and empathy. And yet, she can act it up all she wants the second a camera is trained on her. Maybe that was always their problem.

Magnus always feels too much. Camille feels nothing at all.

Funnily enough, he thinks about Alec then. About how concerned he had seemed for him, even though they were - they are - practically strangers. The concern is something that Magnus has never been the recipient of before. People don’t truly care about how you’re doing, in this industry. It’s all about how you appear. And it doesn’t take an award-winning actor to convince the general public that you’re fine.

He knows Alec is an officer. His concern is something that he feels for every person he saves. Magnus isn’t special, in that sense. But it still matters to him, how much Alec seemed to care last night.

Even weirder is thinking about the fact that Alec was the little boy from the church all those years ago. The first person who had ever complimented Magnus genuinely, who had heard and seen Magnus’ interest in music and had praised him for it. Magnus wonders how differently his life would’ve gone had they not met. Would Magnus have had the confidence to still have been playing that piano and singing along when Asmodeus had entered?

Maybe he wouldn’t have. Maybe Asmodeus wouldn’t have heard him, and Asmodeus wouldn’t have set Magnus up for fame from that very moment, and Magnus would be in a completely different place in his life right now.

Never in a million years did he think their paths would cross again. Him and the hazel-eyed boy who believed in him, even if only for a few minutes. Maybe it mattered so much because he was the first one who believed in him. Before his father, before any fans, before anyone else.

And what a way to reunite.

Magnus makes it a mission in his mind, at that point. He’s going to try and meet with Alec one more time.

After saving Magnus twice in his life, Alec deserves a proper thank you, at the very least.

~

“Alec!” Jace cheers, though there’s surprise etched into his expression. “What’re you doing here?”

“Just wanted to come and give my favourite brother a coffee,” Alec replies easily, smirking as he holds the cup out. Jace levels him with an unimpressed look, tilting his head a little.

“We both know that Max is your favourite,” he sighs. Nevertheless, he makes a motion to grab the cup out of Alec’s hands. At the last second, Alec whips his hand back, reaching out with his other hand to stop Jace from grabbing the coffee.

“Look, can I ask you a favour?” Alec asks quickly, noting the shock in Jace’s eyes. It melts into understanding quickly, and Jace’s eyes widen.

“No way, Alec,” Jace says. “You know I can’t just let anyone in.”

“Yeah I know. But you love me and I’m your favourite brother and I have your favourite coffee,” Alec says, smiling cheekily as he holds the coffee high above his head. Jace frowns, eyes pinned to the cup, and Alec appreciates that his younger brother isn’t currently jumping around trying to grab said coffee.

“Alec, you know I can’t,” Jace says as his gaze switches to Alec’s face, with a level of seriousness that makes Alec’s joking smile turn into a slight frown. “I’m only allowed to let authorised personnel in.”

“I know,” Alec says glumly. Of course he knows. He was in Jace’s very shoes last night. “I just want to check on him. Real quick.”

“You’re acting like he’s some lost puppy charity case or something,” Jace retorts, eyes narrowed. “He made a drunk mistake last night, like practically every celebrity out there. And I know that the consequences could’ve been worse, but at the end of the day, that’s all this is. He knows better now.”

Alec can’t help the shock that rattles him as he notes the harshness in Jace’s words. His tone is sharp, and Alec feels a little dumbstruck by it all. He has half a mind to lay into Jace about just how wrong he is, but he bites his tongue instead, thinking about Magnus more than anything.

The shock makes him still, and Jace quickly grabs the coffee out of Alec’s loose grasp.

“If you want to see him, you’re going to have to wait out on the curb with the rest of the groupies,” Jace says, gaze back on the opposing wall, stance rigid, as he sips his coffee.

“Besides, he’s not…” Jace trails off, and Alec frowns. “No, just go Alec.”

It seems so final, and Alec runs a hand through his hair, deliberating for a moment. He wonders why Jace cut himself off, but doesn’t have the heart to ask. With a defeated sigh, Alec briskly turns around and walks back down to the elevator.

10 minutes later, Alec finds himself standing on the curb, rubbing his hands together to stave off the cold. Considering it’s approaching the end of the year, it’s no surprise that the weather hasn’t been the best recently. He probably hasn’t dressed as well as he should have, but he honestly thought that Jace would’ve let him in.

Maybe if Jace understood the gravity of the situation, he would’ve let Alec go in to see Magnus. But sadly, that’s not the case. Still, Alec was literally Jace’s stand-in yesterday, and no matter what the story is, he saved Magnus last night. Surely that’s enough credit to allow Alec to see Magnus and check on him for a few minutes. And of all things, he hadn’t expected Jace to be so harsh.

There’s no warm coffee in his hands now to help fight the chill in the air. Alec curses silently at his brother in that moment. Jace is up in that warm hotel, with Alec’s gift of coffee in his own hands. And all Alec has is this stupid curb, and he’s probably not going to ever run into Magnus because he’s probably somewhere far away and -

“Alec?” the quiet question makes Alec’s thoughts halt, and he spins on the spot only to find Magnus Bane peering up at him curiously.

“Woah, hey,” Alec’s words rush out of him in surprise. “Hi, Magnus.”

“I’m glad I ran into you,” Magnus smiles, and Alec tries not to dwell on the fact that it just makes Magnus look even more handsome than usual. It’s the best that Magnus has ever looked. He doesn’t look broken, like he did on that railing, or stretched too thin, like at the press conference. “I actually wanted to ask you something.”

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you,” Alec replies, maybe a tad blunt. But that’s just how he is.

Magnus doesn’t seem put off by it. Actually, his smile brightens a little, enough to make Alec mirror the expression a little. “Great. I wanted to ask you if you wanted to go somewhere. Anywhere, anything you want, and we can talk. My treat,” Magnus smiles. After a beat, he tilts his head a little closer. “Within reason, I guess.”

“What’s your idea of ‘within reason?’” Alec asks, brow arched in curiosity, and any hint of a smile on his face immediately vanishes, replaced with a disbelieving look.

“Well, I wouldn’t say no to anything within the US, maybe Canada if we push it,” Magnus begins, eyes looking up to the sky as he seems to think. Alec’s eyes almost bug out of his head at the nonchalant way he says that. “Maybe Mexico, if you really want to. I could get my private plane to take us there, and we’d be there within the hour. Ok, maybe not within the hour, but really soon, because -”

“Woah,” Alec interjects, holding out a hand to stop Magnus’ spiel. “You don’t actually mean that, right?”

Magnus brings his gaze back to Alec’s face, and Alec is struck by how prettily his golden eyes shine in the waning moonlight. He shakes his head quickly to abate any similar thoughts like that, and hears Magnus say, “I do. I want to show you how thankful I am, Alexander.”

Alec feels tempted to laugh, because surely Magnus must be joking, but there’s a sincerity to his tone that Alec can’t miss, and he’s struck by the intent in Magnus’ gaze even after he’s finished speaking. And it hits Alec. He’s fucking serious.

A part of Alec wants to decline. He can’t do that to Magnus, can’t drag him somewhere as he tries to show his gratitude. But at the same time, this would be a good opportunity to talk to him. Besides, Alec’s calling the shots, right?

And yeah. A small part of him just finds it really fucking cool that they can hang out for a bit. A weird mixture of nostalgia and starstruck surprise swirls in his gut.

So with that, Alec smirks back at Magnus, making the older man’s expression soften a little.

“Alright, fine. I’ll take you up on that offer,” Alec smiles. And he can’t help how Magnus’ resulting grin makes something small flutter in his chest.

~

“So much walking,” Magnus groans, feet starting to ache. He’d offered a million times that they get driven by Raj to wherever Alec wanted to go, but the man had been adamant in making them walk. Magnus had definitely not worn the right footwear for this sort of thing.

He’s pleasantly surprised by the fact that no one has attempted to stop him on the street. Maybe it’s because it’s so late. Still, he keeps his head ducked down when they pass other people along the sidewalks, just to be safe.

“We’ve barely done anything! You’re just too used to your chauffeur,” Alec retorts with a snicker, the laughter translating into wispy clouds from condensation. The next moment, he freezes, stopping in his tracks, and making Magnus stop too. His mouth turns into a thin line. “Sorry, that was -”

“No, you’re right,” Magnus interrupts, laughing easily. The sound makes Alec’s regretful expression turn jovial as he notes Magnus’ easy reaction, and the two of them begin to walk again. “I’ve become such a couch potato.”

“Um, no,” Alec replies. “I’ve seen some of the crazy dance moves you do. You’re definitely not a couch potato.”

“You flatter me, Alexander,” Magnus replies. And damn it, he’s smiling again.

Alec is easy to talk to, in a way that no one else is. It’s sad to admit that Magnus has no true friends. It’s not like him and Alec are exactly there yet, but Magnus could easily imagine becoming fast friends with Alec in the future.

And Alec doesn’t put him on a pedestal. That probably comes from the job he does, but when he talks to Magnus, it’s like he’s just talking to any other person in the world. Magnus appreciates that immensely.

“Ok, here we are,” Alec says, interrupting Magnus’ train of thought. The two of them turn, and Magnus sees a pizzeria and a little dessert place, both still open despite the late hour.

“Taki’s Pizzeria and Java Jones. Best combo ever,” Alec smiles at the sight before them, and Magnus can’t help but find it amusing. “Let’s get some pizza and some coffee and set off.”

“Wait, we’re not eating here?” Magnus questions. Alec shakes his head sternly.

“Which means more walking for you,” Alec laughs. “Anyway, if you want, I can just order for us so you don’t have to run into anyone.”

Magnus’ eyes widen, once again shocked by the pure consideration Alec has. And Magnus knows that he’s an officer, and of course it’s part of the job, and probably just a part of his character, but he appreciates the concern nonetheless. With that, Magnus nods, but he doesn’t let Alec go without shoving his wallet into Alec’s hands.

“My treat, remember?” Magnus reminds Alec, sensing the man’s urge to shove the wallet back in his direction.

Alec’s hazel eyes look a little disapproving, but after a long moment, he ultimately nods. “Any preferences for the pizza or the coffee?” he asks quickly.

“Just a latte for the coffee will be fine, thanks” Magnus replies. “And I don’t mind about pizza either. Maybe get some pineapple on there?”

Alec makes a face, pure disgust apparent in his expression. “Holy shit, you eat pineapple on pizza? How?” Alec says. Magnus just levels him with a look, and eventually, Alec just nods. “Fine. I’m getting half-and-half then, because Oprah herself couldn’t convince me to eat pineapple on pizza.”

Magnus puts his hand to his chest in an attempt to look affronted, but ultimately, his expression cracks, a small smirk shining through as he laughingly shoves Alec off in the direction of the pizzeria.

As Alec disappears inside Taki's Pizzeria, Magnus can't help but find that he's already enjoying himself thoroughly, even though their evening has barely begun. It had been a bit of an adventure, sneaking away from his father, and he had just been formulating a plan to find Alec when he had been blessed by the sight of the very man on the curb just outside his hotel. What are the odds?

There's an unassuming air to the man, that conveys a certain simplicity, but there's something about Alec that hints to Magnus that there's more to him than meets the eye. Like an intriguing puzzle that seems so simple from far away, only to reveal its true intricacies when someone bothers to look close enough. Magnus doesn't know why he feels the way he does, but when Alec had been up on that balcony with him, there had been something raw, some jagged edge, in the way he had so desperately tried to help Magnus.

Magnus’ musings are interrupted by the jingle of a bell, and he sees Alec exiting Java Jones, two coffees precariously balanced on top of the pizza box he carries. The sight distracts Magnus from the intensity of his thoughts, and he quickly swipes the coffees off of the pizza box to help Alec in carrying the load. The taller man opens the pizza box, a small plume of steam smoking off of the pizza. It looks like a standard meat lovers pizza, but true to his word, Alec has made sure that one half of the pizza has pineapple on top.

“I wasn't kidding when I said I'd take you anywhere,” Magnus says once Alec has closed the pizza box and they begin walking again. Alec shakes his head.

“This is where I wanted to get food,” he replies easily, glancing back in the opposite direction before turning to face Magnus with a wry smile. “And coffee, of course. Besides, the journey is not over yet.”

The playful wink from Alec with those words just prompts Magnus to groan, and he concentrates on the warmth of the cups of coffee he now holds in an attempt to distract himself from how sore his feet are and how cold he feels.

“It’s fucking cold,” Magnus grumbles. “And my feet hurt.”

Alec flicks his gaze in Magnus’ direction, giving him a once over before snorting. “It’s not cold. You’re just not dressed for the outdoors. Shoes included,” Alec’s judgement just makes Magnus huff a little indignantly. Sadly, Alec isn’t wrong. All Magnus is wearing is a loose grey shirt and tight black pants with slides. Not exactly the best outfit to brave the streets with, but Magnus had been trying to evade his controlling father, and the need for a quick escape had overridden Magnus’ need to change.

“Can you tell me where we’re heading, at least?” Magnus asks after a moment, trying to keep the whining tone out of his voice.

Alec shakes his head, smiling. “I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out already,” he says.

At those words, Magnus flicks his gaze to their surroundings. He hates to admit that he doesn’t really know his way around the city, even though he’s lived here his whole life. It’s one of the numerous drawbacks of the career he has. Ever since he was young, he’s always been ushered around by drivers and other people, never really getting a chance to just walk around.

There’s a strange sense of anonymity that clings to them as they walk. This area is not very busy at all, and it’s also quite late. Magnus revels in it, truth be told.

They’re in a pretty residential area, and they pass numerous small houses that look quite homey. It’s not too far from the bustling central business district where Magnus’ hotel is, but this area seems so different.

An inkling of an idea begins to form in Magnus’ mind, the more he thinks about it. With every step, he grows more certain in his guess.

“Here,” Alec says suddenly, walking up to a small brick wall at the front of one of the houses they pass and placing the pizza box on top of it. Quickly and efficiently, Alec stretches his arms back to take off his leather jacket, and Magnus walks up to him only for Alec to hold out the jacket to him. “To stop your complaining,” he adds with a wry smirk.

Magnus’ eyes widen. “No, don’t worry about it. My fault for not dressing up properly,” he says.

Alec shakes his head, shoving the jacket forward. “I know it’s not your exact style, but I’d hate for you to freeze on me,” he says, keeping the light joking tone that seems so different to the Alec that Magnus has been getting to know. But Magnus can tell that there are many facets to the person that is Alec Lightwood, and he rather enjoys seeing that for himself.

There’s an underlying stubbornness to the action, and Magnus can see, in the moment, why Alec is an officer. It’s clear in the way he jumps to help, no matter what. Whether it’s in the big things, like saving Magnus’ life just yesterday, or the small things, like offering his jacket to Magnus now.

Deciding that it’d be easier to just accept the offered jacket, Magnus quickly places the coffee cups next to the pizza box on the small brick wall, and gratefully reaches forward to grab the jacket. The exchange leads to the slight brush of their fingers together, and Magnus tries to ignore the way that his heart thumps hard at the contact.

“Thank you, Alexander,” Magnus says quietly, gaze totally gripped by the way that Alec’s eyes sparkle as he stares at them. Alec doesn’t tear his eyes away either, just nodding silently as he lets go of the jacket. It hangs loosely in Magnus’ grip for a second, before he shakes his head to alleviate himself from the spell that’s settled over them.

With that, he shrugs on the leather jacket, and is pleasantly surprised to see it fits pretty well, except the sleeves are a tad longer than they should be. But Magnus immediately feels warmer, which he definitely appreciates.

Whether that’s because of just the jacket or the person giving it to him, Magnus truly doesn’t know.

Chapter Text

“Alright, we’re here.”

Magnus follows Alec’s gaze, and he slows his steps as he takes in where they are.

The church looks exactly the same as it did 16 years ago - it's weathered, dilapidated, like a snapshot of something with a traditional camera on grainy film or something like that. The same overgrown lawn that Magnus hadn’t really spent much time looking at the last time. The same large swooping architecture, complete with those fancy stain-glass windows that just look black and plain, now that there’s no sunlight. The same vines and cracks and grit all along the outer walls of the church.

Magnus’ guess was right.

He just whistles, taking in the sight and the resulting nostalgia.

“You reckon we should go inside?” Alec questions, eyes glancing curiously around too, as if he's soaking in the memory as well. A strong gust of wind rips the chuckle from Magnus’ lips, and he holds himself in an effort to stave off the chill. Alec's jacket does help somewhat, but it still takes a moment before Magnus registers what Alec just said.

“You think that's safe?” Magnus questions, worry creasing his brow and slowing his steps. “I mean, what if there's a murderer hiding in there? Or we go in and the entire structure collapses in on itself?”

“Calm down,” Alec laughs quietly. “You have a police officer with you. Besides, you didn't seem hesitant in being inside last time.”

“But it was light, last time,” Magnus sighs. Alec mirrors the sound, running a hand through his hair.

“You really don't want to go inside?” Alec asks, voice concerned, turning to face Magnus properly, and Magnus is suddenly struck with the sense that his answer here will be really important. Like, could-change-the-course-of-his-life important.

Either that, or he's just really tired.

Frankly, Magnus doesn't feel that threatened. He should, but he honestly doesn't. Something about the abandoned church screams home, and Magnus doesn't want to ignore it.

“No, let's do it,” Magnus says, a strange sense of adventure rippling through him. When Alec still looks a little uncertain, Magnus chuckles. “I trust you. And I guess trust makes you do strange things.”

Alec's serious expression liquifies, and turns into a serene smile, as he marches forward, pizza box in hand, to the perpetually opened door of the church. Magnus follows, each step closer just a little bit easier.

When they properly enter, Magnus sucks in a breath.

The light of the full moon, combined with how Magnus’ sight has adjusted to the darkness, just illuminates the picture of a place forever seared in Magnus’ memory. It looks the exact same. The old creaky pews, the layers of dust upon every nook and cranny, the small wooden piano in the alcove near the front.

On the surface, the suggestion is strange, to sit here. On the outside, it would be strange to suggest that the two of them come to an abandoned church. But it’s the meaning behind the last time that the two of them were here, that makes the suggestion make sense to Magnus.

He’s surprised to find Alec walk past the pews, and instead, he seats himself at the piano. He flicks up his gaze then, those soulful eyes of his hinting at a smile.

Instead of following Alec's lead, Magnus just twirls slowly down the middle aisle in between the rows of pews, holding the coffees loosely in his hands. An abrupt laugh bubbles out of him as he gracefully moves towards Alec, holding out Alec's coffee before twirling away from him once Alec takes it. Eventually, Magnus finds himself waltzing around the elevated platform at the front of the church, unable to stay completely still.

“What has you so excited?” Alec asks as he props the pizza box up on the piano and opens the box. Grabbing a slice and taking a bite, the man chuckles.

Magnus takes a slow sip of his latte, now a little cold, and he slowly walks back over to the piano to grab his own slice of pizza. He mulls the question over in his head, and the answer comes out of his mouth surprisingly easily.

“There's no one else here,” Magnus says simply. “No father, no girlfriend, no press. I could do whatever I wanted, right here and now, and only you'd know.”

Magnus wonders if he imagines the way Alec's face falls slightly at the mention of the word 'girlfriend.’ But he smooths the expression over immediately, and he quirks an eyebrow playfully.

“Well, it's not like you can do whatever,” Alec retorts jokingly. “No illegal shit.”

“Haha,” Magnus drawls, slowly walking back to Alec as he takes another bite of pizza. He chews thoughtfully, tracking the intrigue in Alec's expression, before he swallows and he continues speaking. “I just mean… there's no one in control of what I'm doing right now.”

The statement is loaded, poignant, and Magnus realises a beat too late that this isn't the sort of thing he should be talking about, especially to a guy who he doesn't know very well. Granted, he's the person who first believed in him, and the person who saved his life, but still. Surely Alec doesn't want to listen to Magnus spiel about his life.

Yet surprisingly, Alec doesn't sigh in irritation or even in a placating manner. He nods thoughtfully as he takes a long sip of his coffee. “I think I get it,” Alec says slowly after a long pause. Like him admitting that very fact is already pushing it.

That gets Magnus to stop moving. He instead leans forward, putting his elbows on the other end of the small piano, face close to Alec's. With Alec sitting on the piano stool, Magnus seems taller for just a moment, and as Magnus looks down on him, he notices that it takes a solid minute for Alec to establish eye-contact again.

When he does, those shining eyes seem to appraise Magnus. And in the dim lighting of the full moon outside, Alec must see something he likes, for he nods to himself before he speaks again.

“I mean, I don't know the extent of your situation,” Alec says, and though his voice sounds softer, his gaze is unwavering. “But for me, at least… I've always done exactly what my parents have wanted me to. And it's worked out for the best, and I don't even really know what I want to do, so I guess that makes it ok. Familial duty, I guess.”

It's vague, but heartwarming, and Magnus finds himself genuinely smiling down at Alec as he says, “Believe me. I'm no stranger to that.”

Alec chuckles to himself before continuing. “But I guess I understand what you mean. I've never really been in control,” Alec admits. “Sometimes, I wonder if I even want any control, I guess.”

“That makes one of us,” Magnus responds far too easily. It's just too easy to admit things to Alec.

Alec snorts then, amused and surprised, and it sounds so delightfully adorable that it makes Magnus chuckle as well.

With a shake of his head, Alec grabs another slice of pizza. “Sorry, I'm rambling. It's just… something about you, Magnus,” Alec squints up at Magnus, an expression that Magnus finds quite amusing, as if squinting as such will help Alec figure out whatever something Magnus has. “I trust you. Don't know why, but I do.”

Magnus’ expression darkens for a moment, for he suddenly knows exactly why Alec trusts him, and the realisation hits him hard in that moment.

Because when Alec sees him, Alec sees that broken mess on the balcony. He sees the most non-threatening person he's probably ever come across. Alec's already seen too much of Magnus, a Magnus that the rest of the world has been blessed enough to not witness, and that, more than anything, means that Alec can trust him.

And it's a double-edged sword, too. Alec is Magnus’ hero. He saved him. How could Magnus not trust the guy in return?

But Magnus just chuckles quickly to hide the negativity of the swirling thoughts in his mind. And instead of voicing any of it, he just laughs a little hollowly and says, “Must be something in the air.”

~

Trust. And yet, why does Magnus take a step away from the piano, avoiding eye-contact with Alec for a solid minute as he twirls away?

“Magnus, I wanted to talk to you about something, remember?” Alec questions after a drawn-out moment of silence. Not awkward, but not exactly comfortable either.

“How did you end up here? That day, I mean,” Magnus says instead, ignoring Alec's question, and pointedly still looking away.

He's deflecting again, Alec thinks dejectedly.

“Magnus, you really need to listen to me,” Alec says sternly, akin to how he'd speak in a work scenario, somehow.

Magnus looks up then, eyes seeming to glow in the dimness of the church. Alec is struck by the colour. If Alec didn't know anyone better, he'd assume they were contacts. But he remembers that exact shade of amber gold from so long ago, so he knows better.

“Just humour me, Alexander,” Magnus says, and he takes a large bite of pizza. “I'm just curious.”

Something about Magnus’ demeanour has Alec nodding along. Fine, Alec thinks. I'll play into this. I just need to somehow get him to listen to me.

“I was playing hide-and-seek with my sister and brother. Izzy and… Jace,” Alec recounts succinctly. Mentioning his brother just reminds Alec of their previous encounter, and it puts a little bit of a sour taste in his mouth. He shakes his head quickly, as if physically shaking away that certain memory, and blinks slowly before he continues. “At the park nearby. I wandered a little too far, and I heard noise from inside this church. So, I went in to investigate… and I found you.”

“You found me,” Magnus repeats, as if in awe.

“What about you?” Alec smirks up at Magnus as he finishes the last of his coffee. He fiddles with the empty cup in both hands in favour of grabbing more pizza.

Magnus casts his gaze downward again, but his posture straightens imperceptibly, as if he's warring with himself as to how to answer. Eventually, Magnus just shrugs.

“My dad got mad at me, and I ran away,” Magnus explains slowly. Alec thinks of an angry red-faced man from 16 years go, and just nods solemnly. “I stumbled upon this place, and I saw that very piano there… and I just felt like trying it out.” With that, Magnus gestures vaguely in Alec's direction - or more like the piano's direction.

Alec whistles as he presses one of the keys down. It makes a sound, which definitely surprises him. Magnus cringes at the sound, mumbling something along the lines of how out-of-tune it is.

“Trying it out, huh?” Alec finds himself to fall easily into this conversation. Magnus has more substance than Alec would think most celebrities would have, and he's charmed by the thought. “So you weren't bullshitting, that day. You didn't have any lessons, and you still could play like that?”

Magnus crosses his arms, smiling softly, almost a little proudly. It's the complete opposite of how heartbroken the man had looked yesterday. It reminds Alec that the whole point of him talking to Magnus is to get him to listen to Alec, when he tells Magnus that he needs help.

But Alec bites his tongue, waiting for Magnus’ response.

“I just had to fiddle around a bit,” Magnus recounts. “It really isn't that remarkable.”

“No, Magnus, it is,” Alec immediately retorts. Fuck, how talented is this man? “Most people wouldn't be able to do that.”

“I guess I'm not most people, then,” Magnus reflects, and though there's a smirk on his lips, his words sound morose, and there's something about it that hits Alec right in the heart.

“Magnus,” Alec says, and it feels like something in the conversation shifts. Magnus looks at Alec now, gaze not moving, and for the first time since they've arrived, Magnus stands completely still. “I really think that you need to get help.”

“Alexander,” Magnus says after a pause. Is that even a hint of a laugh in his tone? “I'm fine, honestly.”

“No, you're not.”

“I am fine,” Magnus emphasises, any hint of humour now gone from his tone. “Alec, really. I was tired, drunk, not thinking straight. But I feel way better now, and I really am ok.”

The intensity of Magnus’ words leaves Alec speechless. He hates this. He hates that he’s genuinely questioning if Magnus is actually telling the truth, even though Alec knows that Magnus isn’t ok. But what can Alec do? He can’t force Magnus to get help. If Magnus is truly lost in the belief that he’s fine, Alec really can’t do much. They barely know each other, yet Alec can’t help the intrinsic need within him to help.

Alec must zone-out for a moment, for the next thing he notices is Magnus, walking up to him again and grabbing the last slice of pizza with a questioning quirk of his brow. Alec nods, and watches as Magnus takes a bite, chuckling a little as he licks his lips a little.

Is Alec a little distracted by the motion? Possibly.

“You know, I haven’t had pizza in years,” Magnus sighs, clearly indicating that the conversation has moved on. Alec flounders at the shift, only nodding a little distractedly as Magnus continues, pacing around the floor as he eats his pizza. “‘I’m technically meant to be on this diet right now that basically bans all carbs, but fuck, I forgot how good shitty New York pizza really is.”

Alec tilts his head as the words fully register. “A diet? Seriously?”

“Yeah, well… it’s not like I can really say no to it, or anything. Have to… give something for the people to see,” Magnus mumbles, sighing loudly. Alec frowns. The words sound… rehearsed, and definitely not organic.

Alec isn’t an ignorant idiot. He’s kept up to date with Magnus’ career over the years, and yes, that includes watching music videos. And maybe the occasional photoshoot or two… Long story short, Alec knows Magnus is pretty ripped. Had Magnus been one of the many little things that had culminated in Alec’s journey to figuring out he was gay? Possibly.

But hearing about a diet makes Alec frown, especially hearing of the kind of restrictive diet that Magnus is talking about. And the sense of defeat surrounding the topic, and Magnus’ insistence that he has to give something for people to see… something about that breaks Alec’s heart a little.

“A diet isn’t really necessary, right?” Alec asks, tilting his head forward to wordlessly gesture for Magnus to eat more pizza. “And Magnus… no matter what, no matter how big or small… it’s your life, and you always can say no.”

They’re discussing diets, but maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re talking about life. Control. Maybe Magnus thinks he doesn’t need help, per se.

But that won’t stop Alec from trying to help him implicitly anyway.

~

“Can I ask you something?”

Magnus prays that Alec won’t keep insisting about help. He appreciates the concern, but he is fine. He’s not weak, he’s fine.

But Alec only smirks, before he stands up, grabbing the empty pizza box and taking it off the piano. He moves away, taking away the rubbish, leaving the piano free. With his opposing hand, holding his empty cup of coffee, Alec gestures vaguely for Magnus to sit. A little surprised by the silent request, Magnus follows along, until he finds himself seated at the piano, placing his own empty coffee cup on top.

Something about sitting here makes a whole new wave of rampant nostalgia rush through Magnus.

“Can you play something? Please?” Alec asks, eyes just as wide and curious as they had been all those years ago. “Like, literally anything. I mean, if you want.”

He rambles, Magnus notes fondly. It’s cute.

“Give me something to play, and I’ll play it,” Magnus says. Alec’s disbelieving eyes widen, looking a little bewildered, and the expression makes Magnus laugh. When Magnus just nods his head intently, Alec shrugs.

“Do you know any SYML, by any chance? I mean, not a lot of people do, but I was just...” Alec asks.

Magnus smirks. He has taste too. “I know him, don’t worry,” he admits as he finds his fingers easily resting on those yellowing keys. It’s so dim that it’s difficult to discern the keys, but Magnus could play any piano with his eyes sewn shut at this point. Operating on a combination of muscle memory and chord progressions he remembers, Magnus begins to play.

It’s a song with distinct chords that Magnus is able to figure out pretty quickly. After a bit of fumbling, he finds the rhythm pretty easily. The piano is terribly out-of-tune, and it takes a moment for Magnus to properly adjust to that. But that’s alright. He’ll live.

“Cold bones, yeah, that’s my love.
She hides away, like a ghost.”

It’s not the type of music Magnus is used to singing. There’s no raging battle for volume. No, this song calls for emotion. It’s ephemeral, transient, breathless. A whispered secret.

“Ooh, does she know that we bleed the same?
Ooh, don’t wanna cry but I break that way.”

Wait, has he been singing this whole time? Fuck. Magnus hadn’t meant to do that.

Magnus clamps his mouth shut, forcing himself to dig his teeth into his bottom lip to stop the consuming need to sing as he continues to play. Alec had asked for him to play a song, not sing along. Wait, had Alec meant for him to sing when he had asked? Isn’t that a bit of a strange request, to ask someone to play something and -

“Cold sheets, oh, where’s my love?
I am searching high, I’m searching low in the night.
Ooh, does she know that we bleed the same?
Ooh, don’t wanna cry but I break that way.”

Magnus turns his head in surprise, to find Alec standing just behind him and glancing at the floor, mumbling to the melody more than singing. He can carry a tune, an insanely high tune, which Magnus is happy to hear. Alec’s voice is simple, easy to listen to. Sweet.

“Sorry. I know I’m no Alicante-award-winner or anything,” Alec admits, blushing a little, something Magnus can barely notice in the dim lighting. He bites his lip and looks a little embarrassed, and something about the bashful yet timid expression has Magnus’ fingers stilling on the piano.

“Looks like you have a pretty voice too, Alexander,” Magnus utters. Tugging Alec’s arm, he shuffles along the bench until they’re both sitting on it. It’s small and creaky, and a little bit squishy, and they’re quite close, but Magnus doesn’t mind too much.

Alexander scratches the back of his neck, smiling a little shyly.

“I’ve got nothing compared to you,” Alec says earnestly. After hesitating for a moment, he looks at Magnus directly, eyes shining. “You should sing like that more.”

Huh? Magnus wasn’t expecting him to say that, of all things.

“Sing like what?” Magnus questions, genuinely intrigued as to what Alec means.

“Like you’re singing for yourself, instead of for someone else,” Alec replies, voice unsure yet steady all at once. And yet, it reverberates in the resonant space of the church, and seems to echo in Magnus’ mind even louder.

He doesn’t know how to reply to that, so he just sighs a little dejectedly. If only, Magnus thinks.

“And how did you do that? You just hear a song, and you can play it just like that?” Alec asks, eyes wide in amazement.

Magnus takes a breath, thinking it over. It’s just like how it was all those years ago, when Magnus had been fiddling around trying to play Blue Moon. He’s never bothered to look chords up for a song specifically or anything. He’s just fiddled over the years, and it’s actually pretty easy to map out chord progressions and add subsequent embellishments for most songs.

He never really thought it was an incredible skill or anything, but over the years, he’s figured out that it’s something that usually sets him apart. Then again, it's not like the random skill has really come to light that often.

Alec sounds awestruck though, and Magnus is surprised by how proud he feels, knowing that.

“Yeah, I guess,” Magnus replies, and he finds himself unable to look away from Alec’s curious gaze.

The realisation hits him, that they’re really close. Magnus finds himself oddly entranced, and he can’t bring himself to look away. It takes him a solid moment of indulgence before he turns his head back around, and he starts to play again.

Alec’s gaze is now transfixed, watching Magnus playing the piano with intrigue obvious in the curve of his brow, the slight smirk playing on his lips. Magnus understands what he’s saying in the silence, and after a moment, he stops playing with his left hand. Instead, he directs Alec to bring his own left hand up to the piano.

The bass part of the song is fairly simple, and Magnus slows his right hand down as he shows Alec what to do with the left. The tempo crawls as Alec begins to hesitantly play the bass part of the song. It’s only singular notes, alternating octaves of notes, and Alec catches on pretty quickly.

It’s shaky, but it’s recognisable, and Alec looks so damn proud of himself that Magnus can’t help but feel proud as well.

And Alec looks amazed, a sparkle of awe shining in his eyes. That makes Magnus feel better than he has in a long time.

He’s surprised by how fond he’s already grown of Alec. Of course, their short yet potent history probably contributes to that. But something about Alec makes Magnus feel a little more whole. And the awe in Alec’s eyes makes a sense of determination grow within Magnus.

Because suddenly, it occurs to Magnus, that he can show Alec that he’s more than just a broken drunk mess. There’s more to him than the person on the balcony.

Magnus wants to prove to Alec that he’s more than that.

Alec, unaware of Magnus’ thought process, chuckles. “Look, we’re doing it,” he mumbles proudly, flicking his gaze up for a moment to look at Magnus. It makes him miss the next note, and the song pretty much devolves from that point. It shocks a small laugh out of Magnus as the sound of the piano hums away as they stop playing, and Alec chuckles along too.

I want to see you again, Magnus thinks as he hears the sound, soft yet bright.

“I need more security personnel, considering the approaching album release, and recent… events,” Magnus explains after a moment. “I was wondering if you’d be available over the next few weeks. Not full time, of course, but just… sometimes?”

Alec’s eyes widen, surprise and shock obvious in his expression.

Fuck, you’re not subtle Bane.

“I mean… if you can. I know that your job is far more important than the needs of a celebrity. But, I just feel like I’d be most comfortable if it was you,” Magnus continues. He hopes he doesn’t sound like he’s guilt-tripping, because he’s only speaking from the heart.

Magnus genuinely understands that Alec’s job is important. He does serious work, saves lives, helps people. Being the bodyguard of silly celebrity like himself is so far removed from Alec’s usual work, and he knows that. But damn it, he has to ask.

“I’m sure we need to check with the station and your management,” Alec says after a long thoughtful moment. “But I understand, Magnus. I’d be happy to be your bodyguard.”

Nodding a little as he hears the affirmation, Magnus smiles. “Alright. Don’t worry about all that, I’ll organise everything,” he hesitates for a moment, before he adds, “Thank you, Alexander.”

Maybe there’s more scope to the gratitude than just Alec’s acceptance of the job. Magnus thinks it covers a multitude of things he’s grateful for.

Thank you for being there 16 years ago. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for tonight. Thank you.

He doesn’t voice any of this out loud. He would probably sound like a lunatic. Magnus has always had a habit of feeling too much. But he looks at Alec, unable to keep the small smile off his face. And as Alec glances back, Magnus gets the feeling that Alec understands.

Not for the first time, it feels like Alec really sees him.

~

When Alec gets home, he’s surprised to find Jace still up. It’s close to 2am right now, and it’s weird, seeing his brother still awake. Alec sees the beer bottle Jace is loosely holding in his hand, and approaches the couch of the living room quietly.

“You’re still up?” Alec asks quietly. He feels an underlying annoyance with Jace still, but he has to admit that his evening with Magnus has made him feel immensely better. And he can’t help his concern for his brother.

“Magnus wasn’t in the room when you came. I should’ve just told you,” Jace admits, words slurring slightly. Alec resists the urge to roll his eyes. That fact had become pretty clear to Alec over the course of the evening. “He was with his dad, but he must’ve ran off or something. I don’t know. Asmodeus Bane was rambling about how his son needs a bodyguard or something. The man really doesn’t know how to shut up.”

Alec nods, as if taking in the information for the first time. “Well, what happened?” he questions cautiously, sitting on the opposing side of the couch to Jace.

“He sent me and a few other guys around to search for Magnus. Honestly, I kind-of just fucked off at some point,” Jace chuckles darkly. “That man takes helicopter parenting to a whole other level.”

This makes Alec frown. Magnus is a fully grown man. Sure, he may be a celebrity, but surely he can live his life without his father knowing his whereabouts 24/7. Something about the whole thing makes a chill settle in Alec’s bones. It sounds creepy, to be frank. Distressing.

“Eventually my supposed shift ended, and I just came home,” Jace explains. “I’m not some fucking babysitter or anything. I’m sure Magnus is fine.”

Alec gulps, deliberating over what to say. Should he tell Jace the truth?

But if he admits that he was out with Magnus, Jace is just going to be pissed off at him again. And Jace may ask questions as to why they met in the first place. And doesn’t that open a whole can-of-worms about Magnus yesterday on that balcony?

No, Alec isn’t going to risk it. He can’t betray Magnus’ trust. And he can’t share Magnus’ demons with people he doesn’t know. If he told Jace, he’d have to tell Izzy, by extension. Isabelle is practically incapable of keeping a secret. What if Izzy let it slip to their father? What if Robert, or Asmodeus, found out that he’d revealed the truth? What if it somehow got back to Magnus, that Alec had revealed this secret of Magnus’ against his wishes?

No, Alec can’t do that.

“I’m sorry, for acting like a dick before,” Jace mumbles, leaning a little closer to Alec on the couch in response to Alec’s silence. The smell of his breath has Alec distantly wondering how many beers the man has had thus far. “You were being nice, trying to check on him, and I just laid into you, and into Magnus, and that was wrong of me.”

Alec nods, a silent indication for Jace to keep going. Surely, he wants to say more than just that.

“And of course I know, after everything you went through, why you wanted to check on him. Even if the situation isn't the same, of course. God, I’m such an asshole,” Jace continues. “It’s just… you have people fucking clamouring to talk to you. Trying to get an inside scoop on the newest hero in town. I guess I got jealous.”

Izzy, not to Alec’s surprise, was right on the money, it seems.

“It translated into me being a dick to you, and a dick about Magnus. So yeah,” Jace throws back the last of his beer, before placing it on the coffee table in front of them. Quietly. They both know, even in Jace’s tipsy state, never to make enough noise that could awaken Iz. “I’m sorry.”

Nodding slowly, Alec whispers back quietly, “It’s alright.” With that, he reaches forward and pulls Jace into a quick hug. He’s happy to hear Jace’s apology, even if it’s only been brought forth by the alcohol in Jace’s system. Nonetheless, they stay locked in their hug for a long moment, before Alec hears Jace yawn right next to his ear.

“And that’s your cue to go to bed,” Alec pulls back, patting Jace quickly on the back. He gently takes the empty beer bottle from Jace’s grasp, and quickly makes his way to the bin to dump it. At the sink, he grabs a glass and pours some water, before padding back to his brother and handing him the glass.

“Thanks, Alec,” Jace mumbles, moving to stand up as his fingers grasp the offered cup. He takes a long greedy sip and subsequently sighs as he begins to trudge his way to his bedroom. Alec quickly puts the throw pillows back into place, tidying the area just as Jace says something, as if realising for the very first time.

“You’re home late.”

Alec’s eyes widen for a moment, before he turns back around to face Jace, who’s standing at the doorway into his room, peering at Alec curiously. Alec’s brain scrambles in an attempt to think of an excuse, but then Jace just shrugs and mumbles a weary goodnight before he turns around and shuts his bedroom door behind him quietly.

Expelling a breath in a loud sigh, Alec runs a hand through his hair before making his way to the bathroom. He shuts the door quietly before flicking on the light.

Appraising himself in the mirror, Alec notes the bags under his eyes considering the lack-of-sleep over the last couple of days. He rubs his left arm with his opposing hand in an effort to stave off the residual tendrils of the cold in his body. He’d let Magnus take his leather jacket home, because it had only gotten colder as the evening had stretched on.

Wonder how he’s going to have to explain that, Alec wonders. And man, he hates that Magnus would need to explain it in the first place. It honestly seems like Asmodeus keeps Magnus on a tight rein, which does nothing more than confuse Alec.

Magnus isn’t a vapid, simple airhead. Sure, Alec has seen how flamboyant and charismatic he is from all he’s observed in the past, online or on television. He’s never paid any real special attention though, never gone out of his way to watch an interview of Magnus’ or anything like that. But after all his interactions with the celebrity on a personal level, it seems that there’s much more to the man than meets the eye. It seems so unnecessary for Asmodeus to constantly be breathing down his son’s neck.

Thinking about Magnus reminds Alec of the man’s earlier question about Alec being his bodyguard. He’s surprised that Magnus has never had a bodyguard before - then again, with the way that Asmodeus acts, maybe a bodyguard used to be unnecessary. Now, of course, it seems that they have no choice. Something about that all really grates on Alec’s already-frayed nerves.

Truth be told, if it were just any celebrity asking Alec about this, he would be a lot more hesitant, and would more likely lean towards declining. Alec really enjoys his job. He likes being on the ground, making tangible differences. It may seem small, but Alec loves both the thrill of pursuing lawbreakers, and the regularity of paperwork, belying the organisation behind something as integral to their society as the NYPD.

But Alec can see this as a chance. A chance to help Magnus, even if he’s not fully aware of it. Any sort of way to support him, somehow get him the help he needs. A chance to explore the connection they already seem to share. A connection that spans a matter of years, a matter of life-changing moments. A chance to understand Magnus better. A chance to figure out why Alec’s heart skips a beat when Magnus sings, or why he can’t help but smile at the idea of seeing Magnus more.

Woah, slow down Lightwood, Alec thinks to himself, brow furrowing. With that, he busies himself with brushing his teeth and washing his face.

After that, he quickly and quietly crosses the hallway to get to his bedroom, shutting the door before making a move to change in his pyjamas. Strangely, he suddenly feels far more alert, just as he’s settling into his bed. Thinking about everything has just made him feel more awake. Still, he shuts off the lamp light in an attempt to get to sleep.

It doesn’t really work.

Tossing and turning for who knows how long, Alec eventually gives up after what feels like hours. He knows it’s dumb to do this, but he can’t help it as he reaches out to grab his phone from his end table, as well as his earphones. Plugging them in, Alec turns his phone on, blinking for a moment as his eyes adjust to the sudden brightness.

Clicking onto YouTube, it’s almost feels like he’s in a bit of a haze as he types two words into the search bar.

Magnus Bane.

Chapter Text

“Hey Alec,” Luke smiles as Alec enters his office. Alec shuts the door behind him before turning back.

“Hi Luke,” Alec replies, slowly making his way to the little couch just across from his therapist’s desk, where the man currently sits.

Dr. Luke Garroway is probably the nicest person Alec has ever met. He doesn’t know whether he thinks that because of Luke’s job and their subsequent relationship, or because he’s genuinely just a really kind person. Either way, Alec’s grateful that he can easily set-up a meeting with him whenever he wants to. It’s been good for him.

A few weeks ago, Alec had finally gotten the courage to ask if he could refer to him as Luke instead of Dr. Garroway. As per usual, Alec had over-thought the entire thing, wondering if his therapist would feel disrespected by being asked such a question. Luke had, of course, easily agreed.

Lots of people actually prefer that. If it makes you feel more comfortable and more liberated to talk, it’s fine by me.

Of course, that had led Alec to wondering why he had spent so long agonising over such a simple question in the first place.

Moral of the story? Alec dwells on dumb shit far more than he really should.

“The superstar has come to grace me with his presence,” Luke cheers as he stands up from his desk chair. “Should I bow?”

Alec snorts, waving his left hand in a joking dismissive manner as he reaches forward with his right hand to shake Luke’s hand. “Not necessary, but thank you,” Alec sighs.

With that, the two of them properly seat themselves, Luke at his desk chair and Alec at the opposing couch. Luke laces his hands together in front of him, smile melting into something more serious. More professional.

“In all seriousness, I'm sure that recent events are what led to you asking to meet today?” Luke asks, arching an eyebrow as he looks at Alec. His gaze is warm and sympathetic, but also serious and measured. Silently, Alec just nods. Luke holds a hand out, gesturing for Alec to elaborate.

“I mean… it's been absolutely crazy,” Alec begins. He's got an hour, and he doesn't mind talking about the easy stuff first to ease himself in. “All the coverage and the reporters… the past few days have been hectic.”

“And how do you think you've been handling that?” Luke immediately questions, bracing his elbows on the desk in front of him so he can easily link his hands together in front of his face, peering curiously at Alec.

Alec takes this as an invitation to lean back on the couch, comfortable as they come, in an attempt to avoid Luke's searching gaze. Facing the ceiling, he finds it easier to admit things.

“Honestly, I think I've been handling it alright. It's just… there's so much. People just itching to hear me repeat the same things I said at that press conference,” Alec recounts.

“I saw that. You did well,” Luke commends with a small smile. “Which leads us to the events preceding the press conference.”

Alec nods, eyes drifting shut. Yes, the crux to the reason he's here today.

In the middle of his haze of staying up watching every video result yielded from the search of Magnus Bane last night, Alec had also been thinking about what to tell Luke. Should he tell Luke what he's told everyone else, that Magnus had just doubled-over that railing in a drunken stupor and nothing more? Should he admit the truth?

Fuck, Alec's always been good at confidentiality. But something like this, something of this magnitude, that hits so close to home, feels like something he needs to talk through with someone. Anyone.

“Anything I say here is entirely between us, right?” Alec asks in confirmation.

Luke looks offended, though Alec knows he's only teasing, and the look only lasts for a moment before he speaks. “Of course, Alec. As long as no one is in immediate danger, anything said in this space is legally kept between us. Even if it has to do with some big shot like Magnus Bane. You wouldn't be the first person divulging about a celebrity, to be honest,” Luke explains, his chocolate brown eyes earnest and serious. Alec nods, feeling a little more assured, and he blows out a loud breath, as if to steel himself.

And so, it feels like a dam breaks apart, as Alec explains every little detail about how he saved Magnus three nights ago. Everything from the empty bottle on the balcony, to the words Magnus had said, to the strange nostalgia wavering between them as Magnus had remembered their previous encounter. The way Magnus had begged Alec to not tell anyone the truth in that tiny room after the press conference. And Magnus’ continued reassurances that he was - he is - now fine.

When he’s finished, Alec feels as if a weight has been graciously lifted from his tired shoulders. Guilt swirls in his gut, at war with the relief of telling someone the entire truth.

Luke is Alec’s trusted confidant. He’s been a licensed therapist for over 20 years, and furthermore, he’s separate from the entire thing. Luke has no link to anyone in Alec’s life. And of course, their conversation is protected legally.

Nodding sagely, Luke leans back on his desk chair. He doesn’t look too surprised, but rather thoughtful, mouth in a thin line. “I’m glad you told me the truth. It hits a lot closer to home than I originally thought,” Luke says.

“You’re not going to, like… I don’t know, send someone to tell Magnus or advise him or something, right?” Alec asks, suddenly feeling nervous that he’s said something that could breach therapist-patient privilege. Luke is quick to shake his head.

“No, of course not,” Luke quells Alec’s absurd concerns. “Anyways, now that you’ve told me all this, I want to know how you feel. Truthfully. Do you believe that this entire ordeal has acted as a trigger for you, at any point?”

Running a hand through his hair, Alec shifts on the couch, so that he’s leaning further forward in his seat. “On the whole, I feel like I’ve been alright. Though I had a bit of a moment after the press conference. I think it was just all very overwhelming, at that point,” Alec recounts.

“That’s understandable. After the whirlwind of everything from the incident to the press conference, it makes sense that the moment you took a break from all the action, your tiredness and empathy for Magnus would culminate in you feeling overwhelmed,” Luke assesses, somehow hitting it right on the head whilst not sounding clinical, but rather, understanding. “But on the whole, you've felt secure and well?”

“Personally, sure,” Alec nods. “But I really want Magnus to seek out help for himself. He thinks he's fine, and I can't change that or force anything. I just want to be there for him.”

“Hence, your acceptance at the proposal of a bodyguard job,” Luke surmises. “Might I ask, what's prompted you to feel so strongly about being there for Magnus? Supporting him?”

Reaching out to scratch the back of his neck, Alec stares at a fixed point on the floor as he thinks.

“Basic human empathy?” Alec retorts after a long moment.

Luke nods. “Sure,” he says, but he quirks a brow, looking curiously at Alec, as if waiting for him to continue.

Alec doesn’t know how long he just sits there, reflecting on everything that has happened. Every thought, every feeling, that he’s experienced since this whole thing began. He thinks about all the reactions of everyone around him. People who don’t know the full truth, like Jace with his dismissive behaviour, but also people like Robert, who know everything, but still seem to not even give a shit. Like Asmodeus.

An errant burst of anger surges through Alec at the thought.

“He… reminds me of me,” Alec admits quietly. Because that's the truth to it all, right? Alec sees Magnus, and he sees someone so eerily similar to his past self, that it rocks him on the spot.

Luke smiles thoughtfully, nodding assuredly, and Alec bets that Luke already knew that. He just wanted Alec to say it himself.

“He's calling out for help, whether he realises it or not,” Luke explains. “Just like you just over a year ago. You want to help him, because you yourself understand what he's going through. It's almost like you're helping yourself.”

Alec nods, everything seeming to make perfect sense. “Well, what do I do then? I can't ignore the fact that he needs help. But I also can't force him into something he thinks he doesn't need. None of this matters if he himself believes he's ok.”

That begs the question as to how Magnus has been so quick and adamant in denying everything. After the balcony, Magnus has fervently been telling Alec that it was a mistake, that he is fine. It sounds rehearsed and rigid, and Alec can't help but wonder if other variables, such as the people in Magnus’ life, may have something to do with Magnus’ denial.

It's far too early to make assumptions, but Alec can't help the gut feeling he has when he reflects on all of this.

“You mentioned that he asked you about the possibility of a bodyguard job over the next few weeks,” Luke continues. “Has that been finalised?”

“The station is finalising it tomorrow, getting me hours off work and all that,” Alec replies.

“So you're definitely doing it.”

“Of course I am,” Alec says, eyes wide with determination, and he leans slightly forward in his seat.

“Would you have accepted the job under normal circumstances?”

Alec thinks of the dynamic pace of his ordinary job as an officer. He reflects on the strange nostalgia he's felt, observing Magnus’ blossoming career over the years.

He thinks of how he hadn't gone to bed until 4 in the morning, embarrassingly absorbing as much Magnus Bane content as he could the night before.

“Probably not,” Alec admits.

“You’re looking out for him,” Luke smiles softly. “That’s wonderful to hear, Alec. I just want you to be aware. If, during any time as you’re working for Magnus, you feel distressed or uncomfortable, I want you to quit.”

Alec’s brow furrows, surprised by the sharp tone of Luke’s as he says that last part. Luke just sends a pointed look in Alec’s direction as he adds, “You have to prioritise your mental health Alec.”

Shaking his head, Alec scoffs. “I’ll be alright, Luke,” he says, eyes downcast and gaze fixed on his shoes.

“I know you will,” Luke’s encouraging words and softer tone allows Alec to look back up. He spies Luke nodding his head slowly as he glances at the clock next to him.

“Time’s up?” Alec questions.

“Yeah,” Luke sighs. The two of them stand up, and Alec takes a few steps forward, reaching ahead to shake Luke’s hand.

“Thank you, Luke,” Alec whispers as they shake hands. Luke grins warmly, in the way that feels surprisingly empowering to Alec.

“Just doing my job,” Luke replies. “And please don’t hesitate if you need to book another appointment.”

“I won’t,” Alec says as he lets go of Luke’s hand. With one last small wave of his hand, he turns around and makes his way to the door to exit Luke’s office.

Just as he’s opening the door to leave, Luke’s voice catches Alec’s attention. “Remember what I said. But hey, you’ll be alright. You can do this, Alec.”

Hesitating for a brief moment, the encouragement swirls in Alec’s head, mixing with a million other thoughts churning in his mind. But instead of voicing any of that, Alec just turns his head back around.

And with as much strength as he can muster, Alec says, “I know I can. And I will.”

~

Is there anybody out there?
Is there anybody here?
Don't leave me alone with my demons,
For how they feed off my fear.

Magnus is half awake, eyes having been jolted open a moment ago by a ferocious dream he can barely recall, and the words almost seem to write themselves. Lit up only by the measly lamp on his bedside table, Magnus eyes his own handwriting in his journal. The way it swoops and sweeps lazily on the page as the words burst forth.

Is there anybody out there?
Please pull me out of my mind.
A nightmare of my own making,
How cruel, unfair, so unkind.

Blinking rapidly, Magnus feels the beckoning call of sleep reach out to him, and he only has enough energy and sense to turn off the lamp before he's back under.

He awakens a few hours later to the sound of someone's footsteps walking down the hallway, the sound growing louder with every passing second. There's only one other person living in this house right now, and it sounds like he's about to come barreling into Magnus' bedroom.

As if ice cold water has been dumped all over him, Magnus immediately jolts as he realises that he's still holding his songwriting journal loosely in his hand from last night, when inspiration had struck him. Magnus doesn't even have the time to check over what he wrote, instead opting to shove the journal in between the bedframe and the bottom of the mattress. He's only just shoved it in place when his bedroom door bursts open.

Please don't tell me you saw. Please don't. Fuck, please don't say you noticed it.

Asmodeus looks irritated, though Magnus has to wonder if his father is capable of expressing any other type of emotion. He scans Magnus critically, but he doesn't say anything or make any gesture towards the mattress. Nonetheless, Magnus holds his breath.

“What're you still doing in bed? You have a full day ahead, and your bodyguard has been finalised,” the mention of the bodyguard has Magnus immediately straightening, though if Asmodeus notices, he doesn't say anything about it. “He'll be here in an hour and we go from there. Get ready.”

With that, Asmodeus turns on his heel swiftly and leaves, allowing Magnus to expel his breath in relief. He didn't notice the songwriting journal. Thank heavens.

The relief is short-lived, and in record time, Magnus puts on his outfit for the day, brushes his teeth and does his makeup. He's proud to admit that he's downstairs in the kitchen with twenty minutes to spare.

Asmodeus has already made Magnus’ protein shake for the morning, and Magnus grimaces before he grabs it and chugs. It's disgusting. It barely goes down, but Magnus powers through.

Expelling a harsh sigh as he finishes his breakfast, Magnus glances around the kitchen, taking in the sight. It’s sleek, black and white and full of marble accents. Just like the rest of the new place.

Magnus really does like his new residence. It's just hard to enjoy when he's out of the house all the time, seemingly doing everything whilst not doing anything that actually matters.

Enough of that, Magnus. Alec will be here soon.

He has to admit, the thought of seeing Alec again has a smile blooming on Magnus’ face. He hasn't seen the officer since their evening out at the church, and he has to admit that he's looking forward to a day with him. Granted, his father will be there too the entire time, and they'll be surrounded by a bunch of other random people throughout the day. Not nearly as private and nice as their last meeting, but Magnus is amazed to admit to himself that he'll honestly take all the time with Alec that he can.

“What're you smiling about?” Asmodeus’ calculating question melts the small smile from Magnus’ face immediately, and he flicks his gaze up to see his father glancing suspiciously at him. Magnus gulps, schooling his features into an impassive expression.

“Excited for the day ahead,” Magnus replies sweetly, though he knows by the look in his father's eye that he doesn't believe him. Nevertheless, Magnus just keeps his gaze steady, looking at his father right in the eye.

A shrill ring averts both of their attention to the front door, and Magnus is off his kitchen stool in a matter of seconds, leaving Asmodeus' stunned by his speed. Quickly, Magnus makes his way to the front door and clicks a button on a little intercom monitor just by the front door.

A live feed of the front area of the house flickers on and shows Alec, standing straight and tall with his hands behind his back, at the front door. He's biting his lip as he waits, eyes glancing around in what Magnus assumes is Alec's attempt to discreetly check out the new place. Something about the shy way his hazel eyes glance around has Magnus smiling again. He holds down on another button and speaks.

“Nice to see you again, Alexander,” Magnus speaks into the intercom. And damn it, he can hear the smile in his own voice alone. Granted, Alec immediately smiles upon hearing Magnus’ voice, which Magnus considers a pretty big win.

“Likewise,” Alec chuckles, soft and light and sweet. “Except I can't actually see you.”

With that, Magnus lets go of the button, instead opting to reach for the handle to the front door and swing it open. When it's fully opened, Magnus beams up at the man standing just before him. Alec's still in that stance of his, head high and hands behind his back, but he's chuckling as he observes Magnus now. Swooping his arm in a grandiose gesture, Magnus hums.

“Now you can,” Magnus utters, eyes wide as he looks at Alec properly. He looks tired, but he also looks ready to take on the world, and something about that hits Magnus deep.

“You're early,” another voice, disdainful and low, cuts through everything, and Magnus stops smiling as he moves out of the way to see his father barge forward.

Alec looks decidedly unfazed. “I like to be punctual, and on-time really means late, so -”

“Wait,” Asmodeus interrupts, squinting at Alec suspiciously. Magnus stands still, confused about his father's behaviour. Just as he's about to speak up, Asmodeus' mumbles something before dragging Magnus by the arm until they're a considerable distance away from Alec and the front door.

Once he wrenches his arm free, Magnus furrows his brow. “What was that for?” Magnus questions incredulously. Asmodeus just glances behind Magnus, in Alec's direction, before flicking his gaze back to Magnus. He looks somehow angry and bewildered all at once.

“You fucking idiot. You chose the balcony man to be your bodyguard?” Asmodeus seethes, anger radiating off the man.

I’m a fucking idiot. The thought flashes by, quick as light.

Instead of thinking about that, Magnus finds himself standing a little straighter as he replies with, “His name is Alec, not balcony man. And he saved my life.”

“I know, I was there,” Asmodeus shoots back. “Besides, balcony man's name was Alex.”

Magnus shakes his head, though frankly, he's strangely happy that his father made the mistake. If he had correctly remembered Alec's name, Asmodeus probably would've terminated Magnus’ request for Alec to be his bodyguard, judging by his visceral reaction right now. Now that everything's been finalised with the station, Magnus knows that Asmodeus has enough sense to not request a new bodyguard entirely.

“His name is Alec,” Magnus says, and damn, he's surprised by how steady his voice sounds. Usually, when he's facing the cold fury of his father, he finds himself to be a little too wobbly, a little too scared. But something about defending Alec has Magnus planting his feet firmly in the sand. He's going to defend the man that saved him with all he has.

Asmodeus seems surprised too, confusion warring with anger on his face, before he just shakes his head and growls. “Fuck. You know how dumb you're acting right now? Getting your little knight in shining armour to be your bodyguard?”

Dumb. I’m acting dumb.

When Magnus doesn't say anything, Asmodeus laughs cruelly. “You shouldn't stay linked to him, Magnus. You have to have the public put the whole balcony fiasco behind them, and this won't help.”

“Thought the whole point of the bodyguard was to put the balcony thing behind us,” Magnus mumbles, looking to the side and somehow unable to call it a fiasco.

Asmodeus’ eyes seem to glow with anger as he steps a little closer to Magnus. “What did you just say?” Asmodeus whispers, suddenly far too close and sounding far too calm.

Instincts take over, and Magnus ducks his head as he takes a step back. “Nothing,” he mumbles, voice sounding meek and quiet and somehow too young.

It's alarming, how easy it is to fall back into line.

Sniffing indignantly, Asmodeus crosses his arms. “If it wasn't such a hassle to reorganise, I would fire him right now. But we can't afford to lose time at this point, so he can stay.”

He sneers that last bit, as if even the thought of Alec's presence is too off-putting to even verbalise. Something about the sound has Magnus standing straighter, a need to defend Alec burning within him. Considering all Alec's done for him, Magnus is prepared to speak back, but Asmodeus is dragging him back to the foyer area before he can do such a thing. Alec is still standing at the front door, having not been properly let in yet.. Magnus has to give him credit - he doesn’t look put off at all.

Magnus has an apology on the tip of his tongue, but Asmodeus pushes past him instead. “You’re early, so you’re just going to have to wait here inside,” Asmodeus says, reluctance as clear as day in his tone. Alec doesn’t look unsettled, which Magnus appreciates. In fact, Magnus wonders if Alec’s smirk in Asmodeus’ direction has a hint of spite in it as he crosses the threshold to enter the house.

But when Alec turns to look at Magnus, the smirk turns into something sweeter and happier, a smile that makes Magnus forget his father is there, if only just for a moment. There’s some kind of underlying determination in his posture, and Magnus can’t help but distantly wonder why that’s the case.

Asmodeus shuts the door, not even trying to hide the disdainful look he sends Alec’s way. But Alec isn’t even looking remotely in Asmodeus’ direction, eyes focused on Magnus.

Magnus feels the sudden urge to reach out to Alec. To pull him close. To hold onto him.

A loud sound captures their attention, and Asmodeus groans as he pulls out his cell phone from his pocket. He mutters a million curses under his breath before he brings the phone to his ear and presses answer. “Val, give me some fucking good news,” Asmodeus says as he begins to stalk away, probably in an attempt to go somewhere private to prepare for a yelling match with whoever Val is.

With the two of them alone in the foyer, Magnus feels a weight get lifted from his shoulders as he finds Alec’s eyes again.

“I’m really sorry about all that, before,” Magnus says, and he tries to keep his voice steady. A sudden rush of guilt surges through him. “And thank you so much for agreeing to this. I know, it’s dumb, it’s not your usual job, and I’m not nearly as important as -”

“Woah, Magnus. It’s ok. I agreed to this remember?” Alec gently interrupts, holding out his hands a little warily. “And don’t say you’re not important. That’s just not true.”

Magnus nods, trying to absorb the nice words, and he smiles up at Alec. “Ok,” he sighs. “Sorry. Ah, I’m being a terrible host. Let me get you something to drink. You’ve had breakfast, right?”

“Eggs and bacon with toast,” Alec says with a giddy smile as he pats his stomach lightly. “As for the drink… does the fancy celebrity even know how to make a cup of tea?” The question is teasing, light, and Magnus chuckles.

“Of course he does,” Magnus replies, and he begins to walk to the kitchen area, Alec following behind him. When he gets to the kitchen, he opens the cupboard and begins to rattle off every tea flavour he finds inside. Once Alec voices how partial he is to English Breakfast (which Magnus reckons is an excellent choice), he grabs the tea bag and moves to turn on the kettle.

As the kettle boils, Magnus walks over to the kitchen island, where Alec is seated on a stool on the other side.

“Thank you,” Alec says, though he has to speak up a little to be heard over the sound of the kettle boiling. Magnus chuckles.

“No worries,” Magnus replies at the same elevated volume. “I’m not just a simple celebrity who can’t do basic shit.”

Alec’s gaze turns a little faraway, and his smile turns a tad bit dopey, and even though Magnus had been half-joking, Alec sounds dead serious when he replies, “I never thought you were.”

Something about that makes Magnus feel surprisingly happy. He doesn’t know why he cares so much, but he doesn’t want Alec to think of him as the stereotype of the dumb disconnected celebrity. He’s glad to hear that Alec never thought that.

That’s because he first saw you drunk and broken on a balcony ledge.

To be fair, the first time they truly met was all that time ago. Doesn’t that count for something?

“Magnus,” Alec’s voice sounds clearer, louder, and it registers that Magnus had been so lost in thought that the kettle is off now because the water’s boiled. Magnus shakes his head a little, clearing his head, before realising that Alec’s gaze is now fixed on the large empty glass on the counter.

Magnus’ leftover glass from his protein shake.

“Please tell me you ate actual food,” Alec says, peering at the glass and looking personally offended.

Magnus waves the statement off as he moves off to the other side of the kitchen to prepare the tea. He keeps his eyes fixed on what he’s doing as he airily replies with, “I had breakfast, don’t worry.”

“A smoothie isn’t breakfast,” Alec says. “I know you mentioned a diet, but I didn't realise that -”

“Alec, it's just -” Magnus cuts himself off as he spins around to give Alec his tea, only to spot his father walking back towards them. Fear clutches his heart, and he immediately says instead, “Nothing. Drop it.”

Magnus keeps flicking his gaze over Alec's shoulder to get across the message of his father approaching, but Alec just frowns. “Magnus, you -”

“Please drop it,” Magnus whispers harshly, just as his father comes back into earshot.

“Val can fuck himself,” Asmodeus sighs, irritated as ever. “Anyways, Raj is up front, so we need to go.” With nothing more than a cursory glance in Alec's direction, Asmodeus frowns as he grabs Magnus by the arm and pulls him out of the kitchen.

And for a fraction of a second, Magnus imagines wrenching his arm free and punching. Screaming. The intrusive thought barely forms, but Magnus feels that urge for the briefest of moments. But then it passes, and Magnus sighs to himself, resigning himself to the busy day he's going to have. He contents himself with the fact that Alec will be there at least.

As if summoned by this very thought, Alec appears between Asmodeus and Magnus. Firmly, he says, “I'm the bodyguard. I'll stick next to Magnus.” Something about the tone brokers no argument, and Magnus reckons that his father is in no mood for more yelling, for he lets Magnus go and marches ahead.

Alec's serious expression softens as he switches his gaze to Magnus, and though he can't say anything, Magnus tries to convey his gratefulness in his gaze as they follow his father out of the house. There's an underlying concern in Alec's returning stare, but Magnus is just happy that they can't continue the smoothie conversation now. Technically, it was a protein shake, but Magnus feels that mentioning that probably isn't going to help anyone.

Alec looks like he wants to say something about it, but then his expression shifts, and he just nods shortly before he walks a little bit ahead as they head outside. Magnus likes to think that this means he's dropping it, but he honestly doesn't know.

Don't hate me, Alec. It's dumb to think, but the thought forms in Magnus’ mind nonetheless. He always has a habit of catastrophising.

Alec mumbles something about missing out on his tea, and Magnus likes to think that it's a passive aggressive comment against his father.

The atmosphere between him and Alec is… different. Magnus doesn't know what to call it. Not bad necessarily, but not the same.

It's because your father is here.

Magnus dislikes that. Is it strange, that he wants to spend proper alone time with Alec? Is it weird that he wants to hear Alec try to sing more, listen to more stories of him and his siblings, or learn more about his life? Learn about the control he doesn't have, sometimes doesn't want. Figure out how there's so much depth and understanding within those hazel eyes.

Because Magnus isn't blind. There's something about Alexander Lightwood, police officer and official bodyguard, that seems so intriguing and interesting. He's a bit of an enigma, somehow so strong and tough, but also so warm and tender. And all the while, Magnus can't help but think that there's something just a little bit broken to the man.

With his ability to relate to Magnus so much, and with this hollowness Magnus has rarely caught in his eye, surely there's so much more to Alec Lightwood, the person. The brother. The curious boy, and the heroic man. And Magnus, now faced with this whole new dynamic with his father in the mix, suddenly realises that he wants to get to know Alec properly. Be alone with him, tease out all the twisty bits that make Alec who he is.

How can Magnus think like this when he doesn't even know Alec that well? The answer is suddenly clear to him. With the impact Alec has had on his life, from childhood to now, and with the intriguing connection that they already seen to share, how could Magnus not be interested?

Magnus wants Alec to himself. Wants to learn who he is, wants to puzzle out the pieces that make up Alexander Lightwood.

And is that really so wrong?

Chapter Text

If Alec had not figured it out before, he definitely does by the time the three of them are leaving the house - he hates Asmodeus Bane.

Now, hate isn't a word that Alec uses lightly, but seeing the horrendous way he interacts with Magnus, on top of the blatant disrespect he seems to have for others, has resentment and bitterness churning in Alec's gut. The strength of his dislike is what allows him to shove in between Asmodeus and his son, citing a need to stick next to Magnus as his bodyguard.

He's not wrong, by any means. But maybe Alec sticks a little closer than necessary, keeping a wary eye out for the older man ahead of him.

Security is good in this area, almost alarmingly so, and Alec is happy to see that nothing has changed from when he arrived - there's somehow no paparazzi or the like hanging out beyond the main gate to the house. The three of them briskly walk out of the confines of the house's fence, and Alec spots a sleek black car out front. A man stands in front of the vehicle, and he nods in their direction as they approach.

“Alec, this is Raj. Raj, meet Alec,” Asmodeus quickly states, but he's already rushing to the passenger door. Raj reaches out and Alec meets him halfway for a quick handshake. With no time for proper introductions, judging by how Asmodeus is already sitting inside the car with an irritated expression, Alec settles with smiling politely before the three of them get inside the car.

It's fancy. It's very wide and spacious in the back, with room on the inside of the car doors to fit numerous things. Remembering Magnus’ inebriation from before, Alec thinks about the likelihood of Magnus fitting a whole bottle of wine in the car door compartment, but his thoughts are interrupted by Asmodeus’ grating voice.

“So, first up this morning, we have a photoshoot today for Idris Apparel. We're already running ten minutes late so step on it, Raj,” Asmodeus' groans.

The whole reason we're late is because you were yelling at who knows who on the phone before, Alec snidely thinks to himself. If Asmodeus wasn't in earshot, he probably would've voiced the thought. Magnus probably would've chuckled at that.

Speaking of Magnus, Alec is surprised as he realises that Magnus hasn't said a word for quite a while now. Half curious, half worried, Alec glances to his side and spots Magnus, staring at his hands which are clasped tight in front of him, and expression looking somehow so disconnected. He looks lost in his head, trapped in thought, and Alec can’t help but wonder what in the world he’s thinking about, when Asmodeus sighs harshly.

“Magnus, listen,” Asmodeus groans, the words immediately snapping Magnus back to the present, eyes almost wide in worry as they focus back on his father. Alec gets the impression of a skittish type of fear, somehow clear as day on Magnus’ face.

Alec recognises the expression. He’s felt it too many times himself.

“After that, we have meetings with the board to finalise some details for the marketing for the launch,” Asmodeus continues. “The album is set for release in exactly 38 days, and in the next couple of weeks, we need to amp up the surrounding hype.”

Alec notices the mechanical way Magnus nods, as if accustomed to the onslaught of information. And it hits him, that of course Magnus is used to it. This is his life.

“And then in the afternoon, we'll need to head to Edom Entertainment HQ for your live interview and performance. Oh, but Camille won't be able to make soundcheck,” Asmodeus finishes. Alec admits, his eyes widen at the prospect of the day Magnus is facing. It sounds exhausting, to say the least.

But Magnus just whispers, “Got it,” because for him, this is normal. It's crazy and busy and it sounds to Alec like they're going to be pulled in a million different directions today, but for Magnus, this is all just a part of his reality. And frankly, Magnus doesn't sound excited. The monotony in his tone and the slight slump of his shoulders indicate his resignation, more than anything.

Then the name Camille registers, and Alec jolts as he realises that he's never actually met Camille Belcourt in person before. Alec remembers the selfish way she had hogged her and Magnus’ speech at the Alicante Music Awards, recounts the numerous scandals Izzy has always relayed to him, and above all, recalls the joy in Magnus’ voice that night in the church when he'd been talking about having control. How giddily he had embraced being alone, not having to deal with his girlfriend.

All in all, he's not exactly looking forward to meeting her.

Ok, and maybe a part of him really doesn't want to witness Magnus and Camille interacting in his face. Alec isn't afraid to admit that to himself internally.

Externally, Alec just frowns. “That's jam-packed,” Alec points out. He's about to continue but Asmodeus just sighs, rolling his eyes unkindly in his direction.

“Don't worry, Alec, you'll get paid for the overtime,” Asmodeus says.

“No, that's not it,” Alec grits his teeth. Seriously, it seems the only thing this man is interested in is himself and money. “But what about Magnus? Where's the time for food? How late are we getting home?”

“That shouldn't concern you,” Asmodeus says, words sharp and harsh. A lesser man would cower at the tone, but Alec thinks about Magnus’ well-being and finds strength in that alone.

“It should. I'm Magnus’ bodyguard, remember?” Alec's words sounds just as sharp, and he squints at Asmodeus, barely trying to hide the disgust he has for the man. Asmodeus returns the intense state, a slight twitch in his sneer, and in this moment, Alec figures out that, unsurprisingly, Asmodeus hates him too.

Alec wonders how long they would keep up the glaring if not for the uncomfortable position of Asmodeus’ in turning his head to face the backseat, and eventually, Asmodeus turns back around to look out the front window again. The tension in the car is stifling, thick enough to physically feel, and Alec is ready to tear into Asmodeus again. He's not actually expecting Alec to just drop this, right?

But just as he's about to open his mouth again to say some more passive-aggressive - or perhaps just straight-up aggressive - things to Asmodeus, Alec feels someone grab his shoulder. Instinctively, Alec turns his head to face Magnus, who's holding onto his shoulder gently.

Looking more present than he has ever since they entered the car, Magnus gazes at Alec with an expression Alec cannot name. But he catches Magnus mouth something, and he watches the way his mouth forms four words.

Don't worry, it's ok.

That alone, along with that nameless expression in those bottomless eyes, releases the irritation, maybe even anger, from Alec's posture. He exhales silently, and instead tilts his head to the side, as if quietly asking if everything really is ok. And somehow, Magnus is able to figure that out, for he smiles softly and nods slightly. Alec doesn't even know what to think.

And he definitely doesn't know what to think about the fact that Magnus doesn't let go of his shoulder until they arrive at their first destination.

~

Alec has to admit, he doesn’t know the extent of Idris Apparel. He’s not the most fashion-minded person on the planet, so he can’t help the way his jaw drops when he sees Magnus’ first outfit for the photoshoot.

Magnus’ fashion sense is already quite eclectic to begin with, but this definitely pushes it. The only thing he’s wearing on top is a sheer mesh grey shirt. It’s so see-through that Magnus may as well be shirtless. And the pants are tight, ripped and… well, tight. Did Alec mention that they’re really tight?

He has enough sense-of-self to close his mouth, lest he do something ridiculous like drool all over the floor.

Technically, Alec has seen Magnus shirtless before. Both before and after that crazy night of binge-watching anything to do with Magnus Bane. He’s done the occasional photoshoot before, and Alec may have stumbled upon that at some point. So yes, he knows that Magnus is crazy fit. But seeing that is a totally different thing.

Stop being a creepy weirdo, Alec.

And so, Alec sweeps his gaze up, and that’s when he sees Magnus’ face. And fuck, he’s more transfixed by that than anything.

Magnus’ hair is gelled, but instead of sticking high up like usual, it’s swept more to the side. The makeup he’s wearing is more sultry than the usual boldness Alec is used to. He’s not smiling, as instructed by the photographers, and instead wears a serious look with a hint of a smirk.

Alec has to admit, he thought that posing for a million photographers would seem really stunted and awkward, but of course, this is Magnus he’s talking about. Magnus moves with the same air of grace and fluidity that he normally does, effortlessly switching from one pose to another, adapting to whatever instructions get yelled out to him. He looks incredible.

Entranced as he watches Magnus move, it’s only the loud hoarse shout of the head photographer that snaps Alec out of his daze.

“Shirt off, Magnus! Come on, give us something good.”

Something about the way he says that rubs Alec the wrong way immediately. Like Magnus is just some thing that does whatever they need him to do. But Magnus doesn’t seem put off by it, and he makes a motion to take-off the measly fabric that apparently constitutes a shirt, so Alec holds back from saying anything defensive.

Any thoughts of saying anything immediately fade away when Alec is faced with a shirtless Magnus in the flesh. Surely this guy is the hottest person Alec has ever seen.

The last thing Alec wants to do is come across as a perv, and he turns around and walks to a nearby table to grab a glass of water. He downs the glass all at once, and only when he’s confident that he can at least act unaffected by seeing a shirtless Magnus Bane up close does Alec turn back around.

But as soon as he turns around, he sees gold eyes directly trained on him. And Alec realises that Magnus is looking right at him. And in that moment, Magnus smiles. It’s so cute and adorable and sweet and a direct contrast to the (lack-of an) outfit Magnus has, that it feels like a shared secret between them. Alec reflects back the expression, and for just a second, it feels like no one else is even in the room.

The moment shatters when Alec hears that grating annoying voice of the head photographer again.

“No smiling. Look over here, Magnus.”

The smile melts off both their faces as Magnus follows the instructions, maybe a tad reluctantly, and that’s when Alec notices everyone else in the room, eying Magnus intently.

It’s not in a way that Alec appreciates. Everyone is looking at Magnus so clinically, appraising him to make sure he’s doing everything necessary for the photoshoot. The realisation dawns on Alec, that nobody sees Magnus for who he is in this room. It’s not just the head photographer. Everyone is looking at Magnus like he’s just some thing for them to do as they all please.

Then, he zones in on what everyone is saying.

“Bite your lip. Bite it!”

“Turn this way. No, idiot, this way.”

“Look here, look over here!”

It’s a million different instructions that surely would have Magnus’ head spinning, but Magnus just takes it all in his stride. Alec can’t help the admiration that swells within him as he sees the way that Magnus handles the stark objectification he’s facing right now. He focuses on that admiration, instead of the strangely protective part of him that wants to just grab Magnus and get him out of here.

“Alright, next one,” the head photographer eventually says, putting down his large camera for a moment. When Magnus tilts his head in confusion, the photographer groans. “Come on, we have one more set to do.”

“Wait, we do?” Magnus questions, eyes darting between the head photographer and his father, surprise evident in his body language, which immediately closes up, as well as the inflection in his voice. Asmodeus laughs airily, but Alec doesn’t miss the harsh edge to the sound.

“Oh, sorry Magnus, I forgot to inform you of the last set. It’s nothing crazy, but let’s head on over to the back so you can change,” Asmodeus says, almost sickly sweet.

Alec knows how organised Asmodeus is, knows how precisely he timetables Magnus’ schedule, and immediately Alec figures that he’s lying.

Nevertheless, Magnus just nods. “Alright,” Magnus replies quietly, and he picks up the discarded shirt from the floor before he moves off the the sectioned off area in the back. Asmodeus makes a motion to follow, but Alec is suddenly there, standing in front of him.

“I’ll go. Need to do my job, right?” Alec asks, sarcasm practically dripping from his words. He knows he has Asmodeus trapped, because frankly, they have at least ten other pairs of eyes on them, and no sane person can deny that a bodyguard has more jurisdiction in sticking next to a celebrity than their overbearing father. With that in mind, Alec doesn’t even wait for Asmodeus’ response, spinning on his heel before he follows Magnus to the back.

Magnus is already in his changing room, and Alec knocks quietly before he quietly informs Magnus that he’s just outside.

It takes an alarmingly long time for Magnus to finish changing, and Alec is just about to knock on the door again and ask if everything’s ok, when Magnus opens the door abruptly. He doesn’t look nearly as confident as he has been looking this morning, and Alec is surprised to see him wearing a robe. Surely Magnus isn’t here to take photos in a robe, right? Maybe Alec is more disconnected from the fashion world than he thought.

But Alec doesn’t have a chance to ask any questions, because Magnus immediately bustles past him, walking back out to the main area where everybody else is. Alec follows, and he resumes his previous position, standing behind all the camera people, as he tries to puzzle out Magnus’ strange behaviour.

“What in the world are you wearing, Magnus?” Asmodeus asks, his teetering the line of public-appropriate anger. “Get that shit off now.”

“But this isn’t what I had expected,” Magnus sighs. “I just -”

“We don’t have all day, Magnus,” the head photographer groans. “Get the robe off, now.”

Alec furrows his brow as he hears more people urge Magnus to get the robe off. And Magnus is flicking his gaze around, eyes just a touch desperate, somehow looking cornered even though he’s the one standing in the middle of the room.

They lock eyes once again, and Alec suddenly feels powerless as he notices the way that the panic in Magnus’ eyes turns into something distant, a mask of resignation settling over him as he slowly shrugs the robe off.

Ok, so obviously, Alec had no clue that Idris Apparel does underwear too. If it were any other scenario, Alec would fully admit to ogling Magnus right now, because he’s currently only wearing a tight pair of black boxers. But there’s something so fake in Magnus’ expressions for the camera now, and his movements, whilst still fluid and graceful, are slower now, belying his level of discomfort.

Alec glances around, and doesn't know whether to feel more confused or revolted by the hungry gazes of everybody looking at Magnus. And not in any empowering kind of manner. It's clear as day, how much they all find Magnus to be a commodity in their eyes.

And Magnus? There's a thin veneer to his posing and expressions now, but it's the eyes that catch Alec's attention. Unlike before, when his gaze had been focused, Magnus’ gaze now seems to float around the room, decidedly avoiding Alec's own concerned expression.

But he looks at his father. And Alec can see it, can see the silent plea for help in that expression. Do I really need to do this? I'm not comfortable, his eyes seem to scream.

Alec can't see Asmodeus’ resulting expression, but the way that Magnus’ face slightly falls is telling enough.

And that's the moment Magnus finally looks at Alec. And the urge within Alec, to grab Magnus’ arm right now and run away from here, grows exponentially as Magnus shrugs slightly, seemingly in response to the worry that is surely etched on Alec's face right now. As if silently telling Alec, this is my life. What can I do?

And Alec thinks to himself, resolve building within him like a force of nature, and what can I do?

~

Alec and Magnus aren't able to get any moment alone together after the photoshoot like Alec had hoped for. When the four of them from before, Alec, Magnus, Asmodeus and Raj, are pulling up to the Downworld Records building, Alec has half-a-mind to just wait until Asmodeus clears out before making Raj drive them somewhere far away.

At the end of the day, both he and Raj have jobs, and so he doesn't end up following through with the plan. He seriously wants to, though.

Raj easily deposits them at the building, and the three of them enter with no preamble. Magnus seems to have recovered from the photoshoot incident, but Alec is sad to admit that Magnus has been avoiding eye contact with him ever since. Nevertheless, Alec makes a motion to stick near the man, letting Asmodeus guide their way through the intricate building.

They breeze past reception and take a couple of elevators, and Alec already knows that, if he were asked to do this whole journey through the building on his own one day, he would probably end up getting lost. When they reach the room that Alec assumes is where the meeting is being held, that's when Asmodeus turns and stops walking.

“Business meetings are strictly confidential. No security necessary, let alone allowed, inside,” Asmodeus sneers. “I'm sure you understand.”

If it were up to Alec entirely, he'd charge in there nonetheless. He doesn't trust Asmodeus one bit, and something about Asmodeus playing such a key role in Magnus’ work life rubs Alec the wrong way. But, at the end of the day, Asmodeus is right. Alec technically has no right to be in the room.

“Oh, but surely it'd be ok for him to come in,” Alec has to admit, he's surprised to hear Magnus standing up for him. Not because he believes Magnus is meek - on the contrary, Alec knows that Magnus is actually quite determined when he wants to be - but because he's fighting to stick with Alec too. Despite everything, that really does warm Alec's heart.

The warmth turns to ice the moment Asmodeus laughs gratingly. “He can wait outside,” Asmodeus frowns.

Alec sighs, accepting his fate from his employer. He's going to have to pass at least a couple hours on his own out here. He's still technically at work and getting paid, considering that he'll be needed for when they all head over to Edom Entertainment HQ later in the day. He's just thinking about which games he has on his phone that'll help pass the time when he surprisingly hears Magnus speak again.

“He's my bodyguard, and I say that he's allowed, if he wants,” Magnus says, voice soft yet brimming with conviction. There's a slight edge of defense to his tone that Alec has never heard Magnus use with his father before. The determination in that one sentence allows Alec to stand just a little taller and smirk down at Asmodeus.

Because, really, now that Alec thinks about it, Asmodeus isn't his employer at all. It's Magnus.

With that, Alec reaches past Asmodeus and opens the door. It's so quick that it gives no time for Asmodeus to react, or even retort in any way, and with that, Alec shoves past, bringing Magnus with him into the room.

Maybe Alec catches the slightly triumphant smile on Magnus’ face. And yeah, maybe he finds it incredibly adorable.

Asmodeus files into the room a moment after, a cordial smile pasted on his face as he greets everyone in the room. Alec doesn't even zone in on whether he gets introduced or not, and he just closes the door from which they all entered through before he stands right in front of it, hands clasped behind his back.

“And who is this?” someone sitting at the head of the table asks.

“Alec. He's my new bodyguard, and he'll be sitting in for today,” Magnus explains quickly.

The man does a quick once-over of Alec, spiels for a moment about confidentiality, and then just nods shortly when Alec agrees to everything.

“Have a seat, son. This is going to be a hell of a long meeting,” the man eventually offers. Alec nods, a tad surprised, but he's not going to turn down the offer to sit down if this truly is going to be a hell of a long meeting. He seats himself at the other end of the table, so as not to interfere with any business talk, but in a way that he's still able to track what's going on.

A lot of the discussion is relayed in marketing jargon that Alec has to admit he's not very well-versed in. But he gets the general idea about promotions tactics. More interviews, more teases, more social media engagement. It makes rational sense and Alec finds the conversation to not be the most stimulating, but still intriguing to hear about nonetheless.

But as time goes on, the contents of the discussion fades from Alec's focus as he realises something.

Magnus can barely get a word in.

Anything directed towards Magnus seems to be immediately answered by Asmodeus instead. And with no prior consultation either.

When one of the executives points out how Magnus needs to post more promotional material and less 'random shit’ on his Instagram, Magnus looks like he's about to shake his head.

Instead, Asmodeus leans forward in his seat, smiling as he replies with, “We can easily arrange that. I've been telling Magnus for so long that no one wants to hear about his random stories and musings so much anyway.”

It's such an unnecessarily harsh thing to say about something as trivial as social media, that Alec has to wonder if Asmodeus is even capable of saying something genuinely kind. Magnus just shrinks in on himself, nodding along to what his father says, and Alec has to admit that he hates it.

Where's the determination? Literally before this meeting had begun, Alec had seen it. That defiant spark in Magnus’ eyes when he'd argued to let Alec in on this meeting. Oh, how Alec wishes Magnus could reignite that spark now to stand up for himself.

And if this is how Asmodeus is in meetings for superficial things like marketing, how much sway does he have in key managerial aspects? Things like album content, financing, and other business aspects that build the core of Magnus’ career. Surely, everyone else can see the issue that poses. Having a family member (and especially a family member like Asmodeus Bane) play such an integral role in their celebrity child's career is a recipe for disaster, in Alec's eyes.

Remembering the dreamy expression on Magnus’ face as he had spoken about control that night at the church, Alec's stomach churns at the prospect of this life for him.

Magnus deserves better.

Eventually, the meeting ends, and Asmodeus and Magnus are immediately standing up to leave, citing the need to go to make it to Edom Entertainment HQ on time. Alec immediately stands as well, quickly following the two of them, and the three of them leave the room almost as quickly as they had originally arrived.

Asmodeus has his hand wrapped around Magnus’ upper arm, tightly. It's a common theme Alec has noticed, not just today, but ever since he's witnessed Magnus and Asmodeus’ interactions, and even in the occasional press photo Alec has stumbled across. Asmodeus’ constant need to be holding Magnus close to him unnerves Alec. Like he's trying to keep a physical rein on his son all the time.

Alec is breaking it up before he really registers it.

“It's past 2 in the afternoon. We all need to eat,” Alec says as a buffer to the way he breaks up Magnus and his father.

Asmodeus glances at his watch with a shrug. “Alec, you're on lunch break for 20 minutes. Grab something from the Downworld Records cafe and meet us back at the car,” Asmodeus instructs, sounding annoyingly dismissive.

“And what about Magnus?” Alec questions, purposefully not asking about Asmodeus’ lunch plans at all. For all Alec cares, the man can go hungry.

“We have lunch in the car,” Asmodeus explains. Alec sees a vivid flashback of an empty smoothie glass from this morning, thinks about discussions of diets, and he has a retort on the tip of his tongue, but Asmodeus is dragging Magnus away before Alec can argue.

Alec turns the corner to try and follow, but the maze that is this building means he ends up losing them. He initially thinks about rocking up to the car anyway and spouting his anger, but his stomach grumbles in protest.

He's not afraid to admit that he's seriously hungry.

A new plan forms in his mind, and smirking to himself, Alec finds himself breaking into a jog to try and follow the haphazard instructions in the building to locate the cafe.

Fuck that pompous asshole, Alec thinks to himself.

~

Cheers to more protein, Magnus thinks solemnly to himself as he gulps down the last of his lunch. He tries to ignore the sound of Asmodeus eating his curry in the front seat from him.

This is necessary, Magnus. For the fans. To give people what they want.

That thought process just makes Magnus reflect on the photoshoot this morning. And he hates himself for how he reacted, to be honest. This is all part of his job, so why can't he just accept that? Revel in that? Magnus is lucky, that he can make money in such relatively lazy ways like that.

And so, Magnus had put up the mask. He had just gone with the flow. And he doesn't like thinking too much about it, beyond that. Besides, he'd ended doing what he had been expected to do. What everyone had expected. Everyone except…

“Alexander, hey,” Magnus immediately greets as he sees the car door open. He makes a subtle motion to hide the protein shake cup in the compartment attached to the car door as Alec settles into the seat next to him in the back of the car.

He can't help the way he immediately brightens when Alec turns to face him, two paper bags in hand. Alec smiles back, adorable in the way he waves the bags in front of him, and Magnus tries to ignore the pang of want for a lunch that isn't totally liquid.

Wait… bags? As in, multiple?

“Took you long enough,” the voice is low and harsh, and Magnus turns to see his father, appraising the sight of Alec in the rearview mirror with thinly veiled irritation. Hearing and seeing that makes some strange sense of defensiveness rise within him. Like when his father had tried to lock Alec out of the marketing meeting.

Magnus has never allowed himself to feel like that with his father. Doing so would only lead to more angry biting words, or maybe even worse. But something about Alec makes Magnus want to fight. Even if just for a moment, over something small.

Alec, to his credit, does nothing but squint a little in what Magnus interprets as irritation back at Asmodeus. “I would've been done sooner, but there was an issue with the sandwich press. Anyways, as compensation, they gave me another toastie.”

At that, Alec turns back around to face Magnus, expression shifting from irritation to that cute half-smile of his that is quickly becoming a favourite for Magnus. “But their toasties are huge, and I'm not too hungry. So, Magnus, do you want it? That is, if you're still hungry,” Alec explains.

Magnus is half-reaching for the bag before he thinks better of it. Maybe if they were alone, he'd feel more free to grab it. But his father is literally right there.

“Magnus has already eaten, so if you really don't want it, I'll take it off you,” Asmodeus says, unsurprisingly.

Alec only glances at Asmodeus for a moment before he subtly rolls his eyes. “You look like you've got more than enough with your curry,” Alec counters, and Magnus has to admit, he almost snorts at that.

In fact, Raj does indeed snort, and immediately silences upon receiving a blistering glare from Asmodeus.

“And besides, Magnus can speak for himself. So, Magnus, you want it?” Alec asks, quirking a brow as he holds out one of the paper bags.

That's when Magnus spots it. The mischievous, defiant glint in the hazel of Alec's eyes. As if pleading for Magnus to accept this. And Magnus can't help the way that his admiration for Alexander Lightwood grows in the face of his determination.

He remembers this morning. He wants you to eat something properly.

That's reassuring, that thought alone. And normally, Magnus would never dare disobey his father.

But that look in Alec's eye… it inspires him.

And so, Magnus grabs the bag and immediately opens it. He can't stop himself from biting down on the toastie, and man, it tastes so much better than a protein shake. In comparisons this tastes like heaven.

“Time to head off, everybody,” Raj says as he begins to pull out of the Downworld Records carpark, jolting all of them as Alec himself takes out his own toastie.

“Thank you,” Magnus mumbles even with a mouthful of food.

“No worries,” Alec mumbles back, smile so earnest and warm and excited, though Magnus can't help but wonder why.

And Magnus turns to look at Asmodeus, expecting him to yell or seethe or groan or something. But instead, Asmodeus just looks shocked beyond words, mouth agape in surprise.

Magnus has never directly disobeyed Asmodeus before. Not explicitly, not like this. It's strange, the day that he stood his ground with his father being the same day that he outright ignored an order from him, even over something as trivial as lunch.

He knows he'll feel terrible about it later, feel guilty, and that he won't hear the end of it. But for now, that doesn't matter. Because what was the common denominator to all this? Or, more specifically, who?

He looks at Alexander, licking his lips as he eats his lunch, and for just a moment, Magnus doesn't care about anyone else at all.

Chapter Text

How I hate you,
How I love you,
Don't know what to do.

Finally hit rock bottom
But I'm glad I hit rock bottom,
Rock bottom, with you.

Alec has to admit, he didn't like the song too much upon first listening to it. And it's not like it's his favourite now or anything. He's just gaining a newfound appreciation for the song now that Magnus is performing it for his soundcheck right now, on the small stage set-up where Alec only stands off to the side.

Magnus is only marking when it comes to the dance moves, and he's singing quietly in what Alec assumes is an effort to save his voice for tonight. On top of that, Magnus’ makeup is slightly smudged from what Alec assumes is the wear and tear of a long day, and he's wearing the most casual clothing Alec has ever witnessed him in, with just a white t-shirt and workout pants as he goes through his run-through and soundcheck.

It's barely a fraction of any true Magnus Bane performance, but it entrances Alec as he watches nonetheless. And Alec is immensely grateful, that he's one of the few people lucky enough to see something like this.

Furthermore, watching Magnus easily converse with the crew and adapt to the tech team's numerous instructions and seeing the way he somehow owns the stage with his charisma even for something simple like a rehearsal has Alec swooning from where he stands.

Magnus Bane is gorgeous, but there's so much more to him than that, and it incites curiosity in the very depths of Alec's soul.

Lost in thought about the man he's watching, Alec can't help the slight grunt that escapes him as someone roughly shoves past him. The physical jostling startles Alec out of his musings, and he's so shaken that he's too slow to voice his irritation with whoever rudely collided with him. The person moves past Alec, charging onto the stage in the middle of Magnus’ rehearsal.

It's a woman. Alec sees her back and notes raven hair flowing from behind her as she rushes up to Magnus and practically tackles him.

Camille Belcourt.

The band members grind their playing to a halt as Camille attacks Magnus with a large hug, kissing him loudly on the mouth. Alec has to admit, he had been gearing up to facing this. In fact, he had tried to convinced himself that he'd feel fine because… well, sure, his thoughts about Magnus haven't been entirely platonic, but he'd tried to convince himself that he's not in that deep.

But the second Alec sees Magnus kiss Camille back, even from this distance, he feels anything but fine. He feels confused, tired, angry and envious. It's a firework of emotions, exploding so suddenly and reverberating within Alec's chest for a moment before he remembers himself and subconsciously straightens in an attempt to convince himself that he really is fine.

Camille coos over her boyfriend, somehow speaking far too loud and gratingly for Alec to properly interpret. All the tech and crew members smile warmly at her as she greets them all, her presence somehow commanding the room. Alec is approaching before he properly realises it, and that’s when he catches it.

It’s Magnus’ smile. It’s small and plaintive and… ingenuine. Alec recognises the tell of the mask slipping on, and a deep want within Alec to comfort Magnus sweeps through him.

Reaching up with his arm to scratch the back of his neck, Magnus’ gaze flits around until he locks eyes with Alec as he approaches. Alec looks back, trying to smile in a reassuring manner as he comes closer.

Camille turns back to face Magnus, pressing in close, but Magnus twirls out of the way and instead, approaches Alec.

“Camille, this is Alec. My new bodyguard,” Magnus introduces, turning to wave a hand in Alec’s direction. There’s a thin sheen of sweat covering Magnus’ whole body from the long rehearsal that Camille just interrupted, and Alec tries really hard to not zone in on that fact.

Instead, he keeps it civil, smiling politely as he reaches out a hand to the woman who literally shoved past him two minutes ago. Camille properly looks at Alec for the first time, eyes widening in an eerily predatory manner as she reaches out with her own hand to shake Alec’s.

“Alec,” Camille says, drawing out the second syllable uncomfortably as she scans Alec up and down. Her grip is strong and her hand feels cold as they shake hands, and when they let go, Camille smirks. “I’m Camille Belcourt, though I’m sure you already know who I am. I’m Magnus’ girlfriend.”

Like I need the reminder, Alec thinks.

“Lovely to officially meet you,” he says instead. “Far nicer than someone practically shoving past the other person, and with no proper apology either.”

Camille takes a half-step back, as if she hadn’t expected Alec to call her out on her previous rudeness, but she recovers quickly, smoothing on a sweet smile on her face. “My apologies. I was in such a rush to see my boyfriend after so long. I’m sure you understand, if you were in the same situation with your own girlfriend.”

Alec winces slightly at both the brashness and the assumption. “Well, I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten manners,” he counters. Camille looks affronted, possibly a little confused, and Alec ignores the urge to roll his eyes. He knows, logically, that he shouldn’t be so argumentative. But he doesn’t like Camille Belcourt, he’s decided, and he doesn’t like how the life seems sucked out of Magnus’ lungs when she’s near him.

Camille appears ready to argue, but then she glances subtly around the room, noting the numerous tech members and other crew people milling around the visible space, and she visibly shifts, painting a smile on her face that Alec could almost convince himself is sincere. “I’m sorry, Alec,” she says. “I mean, but I didn’t even really see you, and you were in the dark so really I -”

“Camille!” a raucous call stops Camille’s terrible attempt at an apology, and the three of them turn around to see Asmodeus approaching. Surprisingly, he looks quite jovial, grinning at Camille. The smile on his face dims significantly when Asmodeus notices Alec, but he smooths it over quickly by the time he reaches them.

“Asmodeus,” Camille greets, smooth smile on her face once again too. “Sorry I couldn’t make it to soundcheck before. Had some serious meetings earlier, but everything’s been sorted.”

Asmodeus keeps smiling, and Alec is pretty sure he’s smiled more in this conversation than he has every other time Alec has seen the man, combined. “No worries, Camille. We’re glad you’re here. We’ll need to whisk the two of you off to hair and makeup now, so the timing is perfect,” Asmodeus explains.

Camille beams, latching onto Magnus’ arm and clinging on tight. “Let’s go then,” Camille says with a sense of finality, not even sparing a glance at Alec before dragging Magnus with her, away from the middle of the stage area. Asmodeus quickly follows behind them, not looking at Alec either.

But Magnus turns around as he’s dragged off, eyes connecting with Alec’s for a moment. There’s something new to the look, something in his eye that Alec hasn’t seen before. It glimmers in the flecks of those golden eyes, and only once Magnus disappears as he’s taken to hair and makeup does Alec think of how to describe it.

As he follows the three of them off the stage, Alec can’t help but wonder if he had simply imagined the sense of possibility in Magnus’ stare.

~

I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years.

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

The words play on repeat in Magnus’ mind, even after his hair and makeup are completed. Sitting in the green room and waiting to be called up for the interview portion gives Magnus lots of time to think.

There’s no one else in the green room, except a crew member standing by the door, who will eventually let Magnus know when it’s time to go up.

He hasn’t seen Alec since the whole conversation on the stage. Magnus had been whisked to place after place to get ready, and Alec had probably been stuck on door duties for everything. It’s probably part of the reason that Magnus keeps clinging to those few words.

I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years.

It’s a telling phrase. It indicates to Magnus that, unless Alec was joking, he likes guys. And frankly, the seriousness of his tone and the emphasis he had placed on the word boyfriend has Magnus thinking that Alec wasn’t joking. And furthermore, the phrase indicates that Alec Lightwood is somehow currently single.

The information was an ambush, in Magnus’ opinion, and even now, he doesn’t know how to process it. He should just let it go like a normal person, but he can’t.

Now, there are possibilities. Which is stupid, because surely it’s not like Magnus likes Alec like that anyway, right? But he keeps clinging to those words, unhealthily, and it plays like a constant mantra in Magnus’ head as he sits and bounces his leg in the green room.

I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years.

The flitting thought of filling in the role of said boyfriend almost makes Magnus yell out from feeling so overwhelmed with his own traitorous thoughts, but he stops himself at the last moment when he remembers the crew member standing by.

Magnus thinks of the supportive stare and the encouraging words of a young hazel-eyed boy. Magnus reflects on the strength and defiance of a hazel-eyed man. He thinks of inky hair and broad shoulders and that cute half-smile. Magnus thinks of an adorable Alec Lightwood, excited at the prospect of playing the simplest thing on the piano, but also of a determined Alec Lightwood, saving Magnus just over a week ago, and also of a generous Alec Lightwood, offering Magnus lunch just hours earlier.

I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years.

And when he’s practically alone like this, that’s when he finally admits it to himself - maybe Magnus Bane might have just a little bit of a tiny crush on Alexander Lightwood.

~

“Everyone, give it up for Magnus Bane!”

Alec has never been the most avid fan of late-night television, but he admits that he does enjoy the atmosphere. Everyone is cheering and clapping as Magnus walks out beyond a small curtain. He looks stunning, as per usual, and he waves cheerfully to everybody as he moves over to where there’s a small couch set, just opposite from the host.

Lilith, whom Alec recognises as one of the numerous people who had hounded him for an interview a while ago, now sits at her seat, leaning forward on the desk as she waves Magnus over. For the life of him, Alec still can’t figure out what her last name is, and it’s shaping up to be one of those secrets no one really knows. Magnus walks over and hugs her, before he seats himself down.

“Welcome to Late Live with Lilith, Magnus,” Lilith says, smile wide and dazzling. “We’re so excited to have you here, considering it’s your first time.”

A new round of applause erupts at that, and Magnus chuckles and ducks his head graciously. Alec smiles as he takes in the sight. Magnus deserves to feel the love and attention, and seeing him smile makes Alec’s heart lift at the sight. He can’t see too much of the audience, considering where he’s standing off to the side of the stage, but he can hear the support and see Magnus’ obvious appreciation for it.

“So, everyone is really excited about your debut album, which is coming out in a few weeks. Any teases for the audience here tonight?” Lilith questions, her tone light and airy.

Magnus bites his lip and turns to the audience, as if internally grappling with himself about revealing anything. “Well, I can’t say too much. But I will say that there will be some exciting stuff for all of you guys. Some really cool and different things that I’m trying out,” Magnus says, a joking undertone in the conspiratorial way he says it, and people chuckle upon hearing it. It’s annoyingly vague, not really revealing anything, but the adorable way in which Magnus says it makes everyone not even bat an eye at the lack of detail.

Well, everyone except Lilith that is, for she just squints a little at Magnus. “Oh come on, you need to give us something more to go on,” she counters, and even though she’s nothing but a jovial late night host, Alec gets the sense that she’s essentially prodding Magnus for something more substantial.

Picking up on that, Magnus sighs. “Well, I’m not supposed to tell you all this but…” pausing for dramatic effect, Magnus smirks. Alec obviously doesn’t immediately think of how hot he looks. Obviously. “If you enjoy the vibe and genre of 'Rock Bottom,' you're going to have a field day with this album.”

A chorus of “oohs” echoes throughout the studio, and Lilith claps her hands. “Well, I for one, am very excited. After your well-deserved win at the AMAs recently for ‘Rock Bottom,’ we all know that your album will be nothing short of epic,” she says, locking her hands together in front of her and resting them on the table in front of her.

Magnus’ expression darkens for a brief moment, but it quickly turns into a small smile, though he shakes his head a little nonetheless. Alec doesn’t miss it though. “I don’t deserve such praise, but thank you so much,” Magnus says, before turning to face the small audience again. “And thank you all for coming out today!”

A new raucous round of applause and cheers. Alec himself joins, clapping a few times, absolutely besotted by the casual yet genuine manner in which Magnus regards his fans, and his modesty in relation to Lilith’s comments. It’s so utterly endearing, and Alec doesn’t even realise that he’s smiling like an idiot until he catches the wary eye of a crew member.

Shaking his head, as if to physically jolt himself back into the proper appearance of a serious (and definitely not infatuated) bodyguard, Alec clears his throat quietly as he zones back into what’s being said.

Lilith looks serious, more serious than Alec would ever deem necessary for late night television, and she leans forward in her seat a little. “It’s been just over a week since your recent accident. How’re you holding up?”

Alec ignores the urge to wince. He knew, intrinsically, that this would somehow get brought up. Magnus, to his credit, waves off Lilith’s serious expression with a casual smile of his own, though Alec doesn’t miss the way Magnus leans back in his seat to provide a small semblance of distance.

“I’m more than fine. I’ve learnt a lot from the experience, and I hope I’ve been able to educate others as a result of my mistakes,” there’s a layer of self-deprecation in his words that hits Alec deep, but superficially, it’s the perfect answer, as a new round of cheers erupt around the room. Magnus’ fans are lovely, loud in their support but respectful and appreciative of their favourite singer. It’s a testament to the kind-of person Magnus is, in Alec’s opinion, to have such wonderful fans like that.

Lilith seems happy with that response, nodding as that smile returns to her face. “Glad to hear! Anyways, back onto the AMAs… you and Camille Belcourt’s win for ‘Record of the Year’ has been historic in its own right,” Lilith says. Alec arches a brow when he hears that, and he has to admit that he’s a little curious as to what she means.

“I mean that in saying that it was a true victory for Asian-Americans. Not only is Camille half-Chinese, but with you as an Indonesian man, many Asian-Americans surely were incredibly excited to hear your name as a winner,” Lilith continues. Alec nods to himself as he considers that. He had never even thought about that, of how much of an inspiration Magnus would be for so many Asian-Americans out there, interested in the music industry in future.

Magnus looks down for a moment, expression nothing but bashful, and it occurs to Alec that maybe Magnus had never really considered the magnitude of his impact until now. People clap and cheer, a few people whistling and shouting, and Alec feels a burst of pride in his chest upon witnessing it all.

Once the cheering has died down, Lilith chuckles. “So, how does that make you feel?” she asks, eyes wide.

Brows knitting together in clear thought, Magnus seems to think about it for a solid moment. It’s obviously a question he hadn’t expected, and Alec doesn’t recall Magnus ever really talking about this stuff in previous interviews. Usually, people ask about typical things - Magnus’ clothing and style, Magnus’ dating life, and Magnus’ music.

Alec must really be ignorant to late night television culture. He didn’t know it got this deep.

Taking a measured breath, Magnus flicks his gaze back to Lilith. “Whilst I was always aware of providing representation, it’s only recently that I’ve felt that I’m actually making a contribution. I’m just doing what I love,” Magnus explains, and Alec notices the subtle movement of Magnus twisting the rings on his fingers as he speaks. “And I admit, there have been difficulties for someone like me, in an industry as superficial and transient as music. But it’s just motivated me and my management to work harder.”

“I feel honoured, to be contributing even a little bit to the Asian representation in the Western music scene of today. Growing up, I don’t remember anyone who looked like me, doing what I’m doing now. I guess I just want anyone out there, Asian or any other minority, who is considering music but is unsure due to their ethnicity, to know that your dreams are possible,” Magnus’ voice is brimming with determination, his tone steady as he speaks. “We’re not here to fill in a poorly-thought stereotype. We’re all here to be ourselves, to do what we wish to do. Whether that be music, or sports, or academics. And a person’s ethnicity or culture alone shouldn’t dictate that. So, yeah, I’m absolutely stoked that I’m able to convey that message to people.”

More cheers. In fact, there’s a standing ovation. Alec really doesn’t register it though, not when he can’t stop staring at the man in awe.

Because Magnus is right. And he phrased everything so beautifully, his words both articulate and sincere. Magnus does an adorable and tiny bow in his seat, and Alec grins, not really caring if that judgemental crew member notices anymore. He doesn’t care, because he’s so awestruck by Magnus. Not just his gorgeous exterior, but the surprising sharpness of his mind and his genuine appreciation for his fans.

There’s no way Alec can deny it now - it seems that somehow along the way, he’s developed a tiny bit of a crush on Magnus Bane.

~

Trying to ignore how much he hates the song, Magnus throws all he can into his and Camille’s performance of ‘Rock Bottom.’

He’s done the moves to death a million times, has sung the words so much that he could probably sing them in his sleep. He tries to ignore the way the cheers erupt when he and Camille are thrown particularly close from a certain dance move, and lets the mask settle as he performs. He loves singing and he loves dancing, and he loves music. That’s the feeling he holds onto as he performs.

Occasionally, he’ll glance over to the side and spy Alec, arms crossed and stance tall, even as he bops along to the music, a soft smile never leaving his face. In those moments, Magnus ignores the sight of his father, because all he sees is Alec, those eyes of his glittering with an emotion that Magnus doesn’t feel privileged enough to be the recipient of.

After the performance, Magnus and Camille are left breathing heavily on the stage as the fans below them cheer. Camille beams, launching herself right into Magnus’ arms for a giant hug. Magnus keeps the smile on his own face as he returns the hug, closing his eyes as he falls into the role before they pull apart. Lilith walks on out, grinning as she comes between the two of them, and Magnus can’t help but feel a tiny bit appreciative that she now stands in between him and Camille.

Camille is right in her element, absolutely eating all this up. Magnus resists the urge to roll his eyes at the thought.

“That was ‘Rock Bottom,’ also known as the ‘Record of the Year’ from Camille Belcourt and Magnus Bane! And remember, you guys will be able to catch them in a few weeks at the Edom Video Music Awards, where the new music video for ‘Rock Bottom’ has indeed been nominated for - you guessed it -  ‘Best Music Video.’”

As Lilith closes the show to more applause, Magnus spares a second to look back at Alec. He finds himself unable to stop sparing glances at the man, and when he sees Alec clapping along now, that’s when it finally registers to Magnus. That this whole time, Alec has been looking at him with pride.

Magnus doesn’t know if he deserves it, to be truthful. But he accepts it gratefully, smiling back at Alec for a second for turning back around to face the small crowd and the cameras.

“This has been Late Live with Lilith. Goodnight everyone!” Lilith finally cheers as ‘Rock Bottom’ plays throughout the small studio. It all devolves into a swirl of noise and music and colour after that.

As the adrenaline wears off, Magnus can’t help the wave of exhaustion that hits him as he and Camille are ushered backstage. Today has been a particularly long day, and he hasn’t eaten since the crew had given him food hours ago. He really just wants to have a nap once he gets into the car.

Camille doesn’t spare much more of a glance at him, immediately citing a need to leave due to a sudden headache. Frankly, Magnus doesn’t care too much, and would honestly rather have her out of his sight right now.

Of course, by the time all of them are preparing to board the car, there’s a small crowd of dedicated fans waiting just beyond the curb. Camille ignores them, pecking Magnus on the cheek to a round of cheers before boarding her car and leaving. A small part of Magnus really wants to just get in his own car and leave now too, but he knows deep down that, no matter how tired he is, he could never be too tired to thank his fans and say hi to all of them. It’s late, and Magnus admires their dedication. As he walks up to the small crowd of them, he hears a chorus of cheers. He feels a boost of invigoration as he greets everybody, signing whatever is shoved in his face and smiling for numerous selfies.

Everyone’s encouraging words about the performance, or their laughs at the numerous stories Magnus had relayed, make him feel happy. But it’s hearing people speak of their own empowerment from Magnus’ little speech that hits Magnus the hardest.

Making even a little bit of a difference is something that Magnus feels a flare of pride over.

They do clamour quite a bit, and there are a few times Alec cuts in, or steps in between anyone being a little too hands-on. But overall, it's always a good experience to meet his fans. They're the only reason that he's here today.

By the time he’s being properly ushered to the car, Magnus feels a bone-deep tiredness at the long day. Surely it’s approaching midnight at this point. They have another long day tomorrow, and Magnus has to admit that this is going to be difficult - the next few weeks really are going to be quite gruesome. As he settles into the car and buckles himself in, he lets out a long sigh, as if releasing the weight of the day in the exhalation alone.

“Are you alright?” the voice is gentle, achingly soft, and Magnus turns his head to the other side and spots Alec. He’s also leaning his head back against the seat, a sign of his own sleepiness, and Magnus feels a wave of guilt that he’s been working so long.

“Don’t worry about me. Are you alright?” Magnus questions, settling properly in his seat as Raj pulls out and they begin the drive home. “I know this is far later than you would usually finish work.”

Alec shakes his head lazily. “It’s fine. I’m getting paid for the overtime, as Asmodeus has continuously repeated to me,” he remarks, and Magnus smiles a little at the comment. Thankfully, Asmodeus seems far too invested in whatever is on his phone to have heard it. Their voices are hushed, a testament to their tiredness and the late hour, and the atmosphere in the car feels heavy as honey.

“Besides, isn’t it legitimately in my job description to worry about you?” Alec teasingly questions, but there’s an undercurrent of authentic concern in his words that seems strange to Magnus. He’s not used to people worrying about him, frankly.

“I never really thought about it like that, I guess,” Magnus whispers back. He can’t help the way that his eyelids flutter as he says that, and he tries to stifle a yawn in an attempt to appear alert. Alec shakes his head a little at that, though Magnus notices that he’s smirking.

“Sleep, Magnus,” he gently urges. Magnus doesn’t want to appear rude in any case, but the kind instruction is his immediate trigger, and before he knows it, he’s out.

~

If Alec feels tired enough from that day, he can’t imagine how terribly exhausted Magnus must feel. It’s no wonder that the man practically knocks out by the time they’re on the way back to his house.

To be honest, it’s not ridiculously late, by Alec’s standards. He’s always been the type to be able to operate on less sleep than most, and that would usually translate into him doing reports into the early morning any way. And he’d hate to make Magnus feel guilty over how late it is, when it truly doesn’t phase Alec that much.

But Magnus looks so peaceful, asleep in the car now, and Alec doesn’t want to wake him up just to tell him that.

So Alec turns his head to look out the tinted windows, and he watches New York fly by. It’s a bustling place, a place that never sleeps, and the restless energy is something that Alec connects with. They pass billboards, boasting neon lights of fancy products and ads, and large skyscrapers and monuments that any tourist would snap up immediately. But it’s just part of the landscape to any local, a whirlwind of colour and vibrancy and life even at midnight.

Electric yet familiar all at once, the sights allow Alec to reflect on the day he’s had. To be honest, it probably wasn’t the best work day in the world, but he honestly doesn’t mind too much.

Sure, Asmodeus is a monster and Alec hates him. Sure, meeting Camille had turned out just as great as he had suspected. And sure, the hours had been long and there had been lots of jumping from place to place. But honestly, it was also quite an experience. Things that Alec had never considered that interesting or cool had ended up being quite the new experience for him. As he closes his eyes, he can’t help but smile softly as he recalls the day.

There’s almost a childlike joy, in being in exclusive places for a celebrity. Watching things like late night television tapings from the exclusive wings. Getting to observe the business meeting for an album that hasn’t even been officially released yet. And there’s more to it.

Because for Alec, there’s a certain magic to observing the intricacies of Magnus’ life. Seeing the way Magnus’ eyes glitter under the harsh lights of the stage during soundcheck. Witnessing the way hair and makeup would transform him into another stunning iteration of himself. Catching his eyes every few moments as he had sung and danced for a crowd of adoring fans. Catching Alec’s eye in a way, as if Magnus was singing and dancing for Alec and Alec alone.

Opening his eyes and shaking his head a little at that last thought, that’s when Alec reflects on the flipside of everything - there’s a certain magic to watching Magnus’ life unfold, but there’s also a certain pain associated with it too. He’s witnessed only one day of his life, one of many, but Alec can already fully empathise with Magnus when he had cheered at the concept of no one in control. It makes sense, because after everything Alec has observed today, of course Magnus would, deep down, yearn for control.

Everything, from the lack-of breakfast (a topic which Magnus had told Alec to drop once his father had appeared, Alec had noticed), to the obvious discomfort at the photo shoot that was just shoved under the rug. The lack of breaks and food, as well as the pressure of having fans practically surrounding him at any possible public moment. Magnus’ schedule, if today is any indication, will be absolutely packed in the lead-up to the album release, and that level of activity, combined with the constant presence of a control freak like his father, has Alec fearing that Magnus will eventually be unable to shoulder all the pressure on his own.

Magnus Bane’s life is difficult in a way Alec would’ve never imagined for a celebrity of his status. It’s a sobering thing to witness.

Turning back around to face Magnus again, it’s easy to forget the trials and tribulations of his unorthodox life, as he sleeps. His features have softened, making him look younger than Alec has witnessed before with Magnus as an adult.

What had Magnus said, when Alec had asked him last week at the church, as to why he was so excited?

There’s no one else here. No father, no girlfriend, no press. There’s no one in control of what I’m doing right now.

And yet, a part of Alec feels like Magnus can’t help but submit to the control. Reflecting on how angry Asmodeus had seemed on the very first day they’d met all those years ago, and remembering how Magnus had come to the church in the first place because his father had yelled at him… it doesn’t take a genius to understand that, obviously, Magnus has been trapped in this dynamic where he holds none of the cards, ever since he was young.

So even if he wants control, it’s like he’s working against himself to get it. Because that’s how life has always been for him. Alec can understand, and once again, he’s reminded of how similar Magnus is to an Alec Lightwood of the past.

Damn, Luke would be proud of me, Alec thinks to himself as the car jolts into reverse for a moment. Eventually, the car stops and the lights inside flicker on, indicating that they’re back at Magnus’ house. Alec has to admit, the trip went by in the blink of an eye for him. Funny, how easily time passes when you’re trapped in your head, thinking.

“Magnus, you’re home,” Alec says quietly after noticing that Magnus doesn’t immediately rouse from the lights turning on in the car. Met with no response once more, Alec reaches out and gently shakes Magnus’ shoulder. Alec hates the fact that he has to wake him up at all, but he also reckons that Magnus’ nice bed is probably a better place to end up sleeping than inside this car, no matter how plush the seats are or how fancy the interior is.

To his credit, Magnus does slowly blink himself awake at the movement, rubbing his eyes a little, and smudging a bit of his eyeliner under his left eye. Alec finds the site oddly endearing, and he retracts his hand only once Magnus looks wide awake. He seems reinvigorated by the nap, and he stretches a little bit with a slight yawn as he blearily regards Alec.

The car door on Magnus’ side opens, and Asmodeus rolls his eyes. “Magnus, get up. Get ready for bed. We have a later start tomorrow but it’ll be another busy day,” Asmodeus grunts. “Alec, you’re off for the day. Come back tomorrow at 9am and no earlier tomorrow.”

Alec ignores the urge to roll his eyes (the urge has struck him every few minutes he’s with Asmodeus, to be honest), and instead, he follows Magnus as the two of them get out of the car. Somehow, even though it’s already past midnight, Asmodeus is once again on the phone with someone, and Alec is pleasantly surprised to see Asmodeus charge into the house, to probably start another yelling match. Raj says goodnight to them with a small bow and a smile, before he’s driving off too, and that leaves Alec and Magnus alone, standing at the front gate to Magnus’ house.

Alec himself is about to say goodnight, when his stomach makes an obnoxiously loud sound. Considering the relative silence of the night, it sounds even louder than it probably is. Magnus laughs, totally caught off-guard, before his hand flies to his mouth as Alec squints at him in mock irritation.

However, Magnus’ smile shifts into a frown of concern after a moment. “Oh, you probably haven’t eaten in hours. You must be starving. Tell me, how far is your house from here?” Magnus questions, eyes wide.

Alec shrugs. “Probably a 40 minute drive to my apartment. If you haven’t noticed, you sort of live in the fanciest part of Brooklyn, which is literally in the middle of nowhere,” Alec responds jokingly, though he has to admit that he doesn’t know why Magnus needs this information, all of a sudden.

Magnus shakes his head, as if the information upsets him. “You’re hungry and a while from home. Are you really tired right now?” he asks again, concern never leaving his voice, and Alec admits that he doesn’t mind being the recipient of his doting. It’s alarmingly cute.

“Uh, not really?” Alec replies, though Magnus just frowns at that. Wishing to reassure him, Alec chuckles as he shakes his head. “No, honestly. Normally, I’m up until around 2am anyway. So I’m fine.”

Peering at Alec with an expression that Alec can’t truly figure out, eventually Magnus just nods. “How about you come inside for a bit, just to eat something? You won’t be sent home starving, and it’ll help you stay awake for the ride home,” Magnus proposes, and Alec can’t hide his surprise at the prospect, eyes immediately widening. Magnus must notice, for he holds out his hands a little warily, ducking his head a little. “I mean, if you want. I just don’t want you to get too hungry or tired on the way home.”

“I wouldn’t want to burden you. You must be tired, after today,” Alec immediately replies. Magnus waves off the words, literally, and the movement of his hands lets the soft moonlight glint along his rings.

How is everything about him inherently pretty? Alec tries not to fidget as the thought flashes in his mind, quick as light and just as transient.

“Don’t worry about me, Alec. I feel infinitely better after that nap. And it looks like I’ll be able to sleep in a little bit tomorrow,” Alec probably doesn’t look too convinced, because Magnus takes a small step forward after a moment, leaning forward. “And I’ll feel better, knowing you’ll be getting home ok.”

Rationally, Alec knows he should probably head home. Grab some take-out somewhere at a drive-through and make his steady way back to the apartment. It means Magnus will be able to sleep more, and that they’ll hopefully be more refreshed for what’s shaping up to be a busy day tomorrow.

The refusal is on the tip of Alec’s tongue, until he properly looks into Magnus’ eyes. It’s so dark out right now, that Alec can barely see him, and yet his eyes glimmer with something deeper than concern and worry. It’s almost like...

Alec can almost convince himself that Magnus wants him to stay longer.

Plus, imagine how annoyed Asmodeus would be about the whole thing.

Seeing the hope in Magnus’ shadowed expression just unleashes a mixture of emotions in Alec’s own heart. For of course he wants to stay longer. He’s wanted to have a chance to talk to Magnus, one-on-one, ever since this whole day started. Besides, he enjoys Magnus’ company. Especially when there’s nobody else in the picture.

Alec admits to himself that it’s a little selfish. But that doesn’t change the way the two of them smile slowly at each other as Alec says, “I’ll take you up on that offer, then.”

Chapter Text

“You sure you’re not tired?”

Magnus nods his head as he leans forward on the kitchen island, watching as Alec eats some of Asmodeus’ leftovers on the other side.

“For the last time Alexander, I’m alright. Truly,” Magnus replies. Alec stops chewing, looking up at Magnus and raising a brow, as if he still doesn’t believe him. “Ah, no more asking.”

Alec pouts a little, swallowing his final mouthful of food, and Magnus admits to himself that the expression is adorable. Funny. You wouldn’t often associate a tall, sturdy-looking officer-turned-bodyguard with the word adorable, but Alec Lightwood is shaping up to be a bit of an unpredictable wild card to Magnus.

Once Alec has finished his plate of leftovers, he glances up at Magnus, also leaning forward and bracing his forearms on the kitchen island. His head is bent quite close, Magnus realises, though neither of them seem tempted to draw back. “What about you? Are you hungry?” Alec asks.

Magnus shakes his head, a small smile on his face. “I’m actually alright, thanks,” he says, and he grabs Alec’s plate from the kitchen island before taking it to the sink and rinsing it. By the time he’s put it back into the dishwasher, he assumes that Alec will be ready to leave.

Pleasantly surprised to see Alec not moving from the kitchen island stool, Magnus sighs slowly. “I wanted to thank you, for today. I knew you’d be the perfect fit for the job,” Magnus had meant for his tone to be light, but even to his own ears, he can hear the admiration belying his infatuation. “And thank you, for the toastie. It was really good, actually.”

Alec smiles. “Hey, I’m just doing my job,” he replies. “And I actually wanted to thank you, too. I had a really interesting first day on the job.”

Chuckling a little, Magnus walks forward again. Instead of just standing across from Alec with the kitchen island in the way, Magnus moves to the end of the kitchen island and easily vaults himself up to sit on top. It lets him sit close to Alec, who’s already sitting sort of on the end of the kitchen island in the first place, and Magnus looks down at him with a teasing smile.

“You enjoyed the performance, I assume,” Magnus laughs. When Alec nods, Magnus chuckles. “Why, thank you.” With that, he does a little dramatic bow with a flourish of his hand, which leads to Alec snorting a little.

“I did, true,” Alec answers. “But, I actually really enjoyed your interview too.”

“Really?” Magnus says, genuinely a little surprised. “There’s not much to interviews. No razzle-dazzle, no flashing lights, no dancing or singing. Just me. I honestly reckon interviews aren’t my strong suit.”

Interviews are raw, and they require a level of surety with yourself that Magnus isn’t quite sure he’s reached yet.

But Alec scrunches his brow, bafflement obvious in the curve of his frown. “What are you talking about? Today was just another example - I think you’re great at interviews.”

Something about the phrasing has Magnus leaning closer, a smirk on his face as he pieces it together. “Are you saying you’ve watched… quite a few of my interviews then?” he questions after a moment, laughing even as he asks the question. It’s a heart-warming thought. Alec ducks his head in response, leaning further back in his stool as a result, and yes, the word adorable crosses Magnus’ mind once again. Easily.

“Well, I’m a good researcher,” Alec replies after a solid moment, and Magnus can tell that the other man is trying to keep his expression neutral. “Yeah. Research. Before this job.”

“No wonder you've been doing such a good job so far,” Magnus teases, swinging his legs a little as he sits on the kitchen island.

They lapse into a comfortable silence for a moment, and Magnus wonders if Alec wants to leave. Not that Magnus would fault him for that - the man must be exhausted. But he doesn’t want Alec to leave, not just yet. He wants Alec to stay for as long as possible.

“Did you know that I’m actually a quarter Spanish?” the question from Alec is so left-field, that Magnus almost believes he misheard it.

“Um, well, no?” Magnus replies, still reeling from such a dramatic shift in conversation. Maybe Alec is more tired than Magnus had originally thought. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Alec shakes his head, as if he himself doesn’t have a real clue as to why he brought it up. “No, it’s just that… your speech today, during your interview,” Alec says, as if that’ll explain everything.

But Magnus is patient, and he waits silently as Alec seems to try and gather his thoughts into something more coherent.

“My mom. She came to the States when she was a little girl, with her parents. She only learnt English in school, and to this day, she’s fluent in both Spanish and English,” Alec keeps gesturing with his hands, as if the motion will help his brain to string together what to say. “And, well, she met my father and they had me, Izzy and Max. And Jace, we adopted.”

“Quite the family,” Magnus comments. So different to Magnus’ own family life. All he’s ever really known is his father.

“Yeah,” Alec chuckles. “Anyways, I remember, since I was little, that Izzy always wanted to learn Spanish from home, even if there was no real need. She’s really determined, you know. My mom taught her. And she really wanted me to learn from home too, but I just… didn’t want to. At the time, I thought it was stupid. ‘We’re only a quarter.’ ‘Dad can’t speak it, or Jace.’ ‘We can all speak English, so why bother?’ I made a lot of excuses, to be honest.”

“As I grew older, though, I came to regret that. Iz, she's able to always chat to our relatives on my mom's side. Her and mom sometimes have secret conversations right in front of the rest of us. And they taught my youngest brother, Max, as well,” Alec continues. “It connects the three of them. And now, they hold this connection to our heritage that I'll never truly be able to.”

Alec frowns, staring pointedly at some fixed spot on the kitchen island just beside Magnus. Truly, Magnus doesn't exactly know what point Alec is trying to make, so he just waits quietly and patiently as Alec sits.

Eventually, Alec flicks his gaze back up to Magnus’, his gaze fathomless as he tries to articulate his thoughts. “I think that the reason I was so stubborn, about not wanting to learn, was because I didn't want to be seen as different. I didn't want to be even more weird than I already was,” Alec says slowly.

“You're not weird, Alec,” Magnus immediately interjects, unable to stop himself. Alec himself smiles a little solemnly, shaking his head.

“Weird isn't the right word. But I was already so different to everybody. I was - am - shy, unable to make connections easily. I'm bad with strangers,” Alec admits. “And on top of that, I knew since I was little that I wasn't attracted to girls. So, I figured out that me trying to ignore my background was some way for me to try and hold some semblance of 'normal.’ I felt shame.”

Magnus opens his mouth to object, but Alec holds a wary hand up before any words leave Magnus’ lips. “My point is that… your speech today, I think, was really important. You said that a person's culture or ethnicity alone shouldn't dictate what they do, and that we should be ourselves, despite what others may think,” Alec rambles.

There's a reverence to the way that Alec paraphrases what Magnus had said earlier that warms Magnus’ chest. He truly doesn't think that what he said at the interview is worth that kind of reverence in Alec's tone.

“I wish someone had told me that, when I was a little kid. That I could look up to someone who's proud of being a minority, and could hear them say something like that,” Alec grins then, and it's brilliant. His eyes crinkle and his whole face lights up in his delight. “So, that was a really long winded way of me saying that I think what you said was amazing. And it'll touch people. Who knows? It could even change someone's life. So, thank you.”

Left absolutely speechless for a moment, Magnus can't help but just stare in wonder at this man. Alexander Lightwood, who's quickly proving to be more than just a pretty face.

So much more.

“I'm glad you think so,” Magnus eventually sputters, and it doesn't even cover the breadth of Magnus’ adoration for Alec. For those encouraging words of his. For his profound story. For Alec, being himself - complete with earnest words and unending gratitude.

Alec just shrugs sheepishly, and he reaches around to scratch the back of his neck shyly. “Sorry, that probably didn't make much sense,” Alec mutters, glancing down.

“No, it did,” Magnus whispers back, having realised that their volume has steadily decreased over the course of this conversation. The two of them are strangely close, but Magnus personally isn't complaining.

Silence settles over them, heavy yet calming, and for a bizarre moment, Magnus imagines leaning forward just a little more. Imagines the way that Alec's eyes would flutter shut, as he leaned up. Imagines a soft kiss under the dimmed light above the kitchen island.

But the thought passes, Magnus shaking his head a little to himself. He knows that this… thing he has for Alec will remain only as this - a crush. A fleeting feeling. It hurts to admit, but it's true.

How could Alec ever grow to like Magnus in the same way?

“Magnus,” Alec whispers. “I want you to know something, alright?”

“Ok,” Magnus replies, mind whirling, wondering what in the world Alec wishes to tell him.

Alec sighs, eyes set in that determined way of his that Magnus is quickly growing fond of. “If you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable at any point, I want you to tell me. Alright?”

Magnus nods quickly. “Of course,” Magnus says. Isn't that something a person would hope to be able to do? Tell their bodyguard if they felt unsafe.

But Alec winces slightly, as if Magnus misheard him and replied as such. “I mean, anything. If you're doing something you don't want to. If you feel trapped in any extent of the word. Even if you think no one else will listen… please, tell me. Because I will.”

There's an indescribable depth to Alec's words, and they pierce right through Magnus’ heart when he hears it. There's something unspoken in it, a reassurance that Magnus intrinsically knows Alec isn't voicing.

Thinking back through the day, Magnus recalls, with newfound clarity, the look in Alec's eyes today at the photoshoot. He hadn't known what to call the emotions churning in those hazel eyes at the time, but now, Magnus knows what they were.

Concern. Worry. Compassion.

“I should go,” Alec says with a sad smile. And Magnus knows, rationally, that he should. But he really wishes he didn't have to.

Nonetheless, Magnus launches himself gracefully off the kitchen island. Walking with Alec up to the front door of the house, Magnus finds himself at a loss for words. The events of today revolve in his mind, as well as Alec's words from tonight.

“Magnus,” Alec says just as he's about to leave. Grabbing a pen from his pocket, he gently taps Magnus’ exposed wrist, silently asking a question. Still unable to form a word, Magnus just answers the unspoken question by nodding a little and bringing his wrist closer to Alec. With that, Alec scribbles down something onto the soft skin of Magnus’ inner wrist. He writes gently, as if he's afraid Magnus will break from the weight of the pen alone, as if he fears the ink seeping into his skin will slice right through.

“That's my personal number. I want you to call me if you're ever in trouble, like what I told you before. And don't worry about hours, ok?” Alec says. Magnus just retracts his arm, nodding dumbly as he absorbs this new information. That Alec just gave him his phone number.

“Ok. Goodnight, Magnus. I'll see you tomorrow,” Alec utters quietly. His mouth quirks up on one side as he waves shyly. By the time Magnus has regained his ability to speak again, Alec's already gone.

“Goodnight,” Magnus mutters to the empty air, and he's surprised by how choked-up he sounds.

The routine of preparing and getting into bed blurs, and Magnus finds himself lying in bed not even fifteen minutes later, looking at the messily-scrawled numbers on his wrist and feeling a torrent of different emotions. It leaves him feeling raw and unhinged, as he continuously traces the number on his wrist, and as Alec's words seem to resonate within his very skull.

Even if you think no one else will listen… please, tell me. Because I will.

Hasn't this been the case since he and Alec met? It seems like Alec is always pushing for Magnus to reach out. And there's almost a desperate edge to it, almost like it hurts Alec to say.

Finally deciding to turn off the bedside lamp, Magnus is left in a bedroom shrouded in total darkness. Even then, he rubs lightly along in the skin of the inside of his wrist, where he knows the number is.

Magnus has always wanted to be someone's first priority. It's one of those deep, dark and melancholic wishes, primal and intrinsic to his very soul. Something he's wanted for as long as he can remember. No matter where he's been in life, no matter how many people he's come across, he's never had someone who he could wholeheartedly lean on. Someone who would wholeheartedly be there for him, someone that Magnus himself would wholeheartedly support. It's the fantasy of a soulmate that Magnus, deep down, feels too undeserving of. He doesn't deserve to be anyone's first priority.

He knows this is all a part of Alec's job. Alec is a protector. It's his job, to fight for justice, to help others, to protect. He's just doing his job, Magnus understands.

But he likes his little fantasy, of someone prioritising him.

Even if you think no one else will listen… please, tell me. Because I will.

He knows he's fooling himself, but for a brief moment, Magnus doesn't care. For a minute, he can halfway convince himself that he's more than just a job for Alec - that he, Magnus Bane, may be worthy of being a priority for the noble Alexander Lightwood.

Magnus can only trick himself for a moment, but maybe, for tonight, that's enough.

~

“I had wanted to say so much more, but in the moment, I couldn't,” Alec admits hastily. “I wanted to be more… upfront, I guess? He obviously wasn't comfortable at the photoshoot, and I wanted to talk about it more explicitly, but in the moment, I couldn't.”

Luke leans forward, eyebrow quirked in that amusing way of his, even though it actually belies how deeply he's thinking.

“Maybe it's because you subconsciously understood that you… couldn't,” Luke says after a drawn-out moment of quiet. “Magnus is clearly in the throes of denial. If you straight-up confronted him, I fear he would've closed himself off completely.”

Alec doesn't know if Luke is right, even if he appreciates the man's attempts to make Alec feel better.

It's been a week since Alec started this new job. Every day has been long, but that first day still sticks out to Alec the most, and it'd been the first thing to fly out of Alec's mouth when he had arrived in Luke's office today.

He had wanted to be more blunt with Magnus, but something akin to vulnerability in Magnus’ late-night gaze had stopped him. Alec is used to being blunt. Straight-laced. But an outpouring of support had burst forth from him, a fountain of compassion that Alec marvels at even now, for he's surely never felt this protective about someone before.

Magnus is different. He's special.

Being Magnus’ bodyguard whilst harbouring a deep-seated fascination for the man is both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing, for he sees Magnus more often than most could say about their crush. He sees Magnus, eyelids heavy, when they're off to do something in the morning. He observes the fluidity, the grace, of Magnus’ movements as he practices a dance or two. He enjoys the sight of Magnus, joyfully bending over a stack of fan letters and genuinely looking forward to reading them. There are many facets to the man, and part of the job means that Alec gets to fast-track his way to discovering them all.

But it's also a curse. Because every day, the notion of being with Magnus is waved in his face, only for it to be cruelly swiped away. Any reminder that Magnus has a girlfriend, or any sobering thought that Magnus is probably straight, quickly quells whatever fantasy Alec dreams of even before it fully forms. And it hurts, to see how busy Magnus is, and to see how much he submits to control. Not just from Asmodeus and his work, but Camille. And even, to an extent, Magnus’ own fans.

Magnus would break his own back before he would let down anyone. It's a little endearing and far more alarming.

“You know it's not your job to fix him, right?” Luke says, and only then does Alec realise that he hasn't said anything in who knows how long, lost in the thought of Magnus. When Alec doesn't respond immediately, Luke frowns. “Remember what I told you, Alec. Prioritise yourself.”

It's been 24 years, and even with help along the way, Alec still hasn't exactly figured out how to do that.

“I sure can try and help at least,” Alec murmurs quietly, though Luke leans forward, fingers steepling as he appraises Alec.

“I know that look, Alec,” Luke frowns. “What are you planning?”

“It's barely a plan. I don't know,” Alec mumbles, the wisps of the idea in his head already beginning to float away.

But Luke, surprisingly, squints curiously at him. “Tell me about it.”

So Alec does.

~

“Alec, we need to talk to you,” the words immediately meet Alec once he enters the apartment. Barely holding back from rolling his eyes, Alec turns around to shut the door properly behind him before turning to face the owner of the voice.

Maryse Lightwood stares levelly at her son, a slight frown on her face, which Alec fully believes to be her default expression. Next to her, Robert is standing with his arms crossed, also frowning in irritation.

“What’re you guys doing here?” Alec questions, voice terse with tiredness. He seriously doesn’t want to deal with his parents right now. The drive home had taken more than double the time from Magnus’ house, due a terrible combination of torrential rain and an accident that had occurred earlier, resulting in traffic as far as the eye could see.

Alec whips out his phone from his back pocket, glancing at the time. “It’s past midnight. And shouldn't you guys be home with Max?”

“Max is at a sleepover,” Maryse explains shortly.

“And yes Alec, it is indeed past midnight,”  Robert says curtly, condescending sarcasm clear in his voice. “This seems to be becoming a regular occurrence now, with this new job.”

Alec scoffs, crossing his own arms and straightening a little under their combined scrutiny. “I don’t know what to tell you. Magnus Bane suffers long hours, and I’m just doing my job,” he replies. Alec’s been acting as Magnus’ bodyguard for nearly two weeks now, and he actually doesn’t get home too late, most days. His hours certainly aren’t too different to the hours he has usually as a cop.

Maryse stalks forward, squinting a little, though her expression doesn’t seem too outwardly malicious. “Alec, this job is good. You’re getting paid rather handsomely, and it’s generating lots of media buzz for you. But what good does any of that money and buzz do for you if you don’t take advantage of it?” she asks, words harsh and calculating.

“You guys should go home,” Alec responds, dodging the question wearily as he shrugs off his leather jacket. It’s the same leather jacket that he had offered to Magnus a few weeks ago, that time they went to the church together. The two of them had finally remembered the jacket tonight, and Magnus had profusely apologised for holding onto it for so long before handing it back. Remembering makes Alec feel a tiny bit better, and he can almost pretend that his parents aren’t even in his apartment.

“We’ve tried getting ahold of you over the phone, but you never answer,” Robert explains. “So we thought it’d be better to tell you in person. We’re organising a meeting for us in two weeks time with some members of The Institute. The local parish.”

Frowning, Alec takes a weary step forward. He would hardly consider his family to be the religious type.

“Mingle, make connections. Use your 15 minutes of fame to your advantage, and we can funnel the extra money you're making into more advertising,” Maryse continues. “Church connections are seldom emphasised these days, but they are powerful allies and form an integral part of the council.”

Again, Alec is struck with the need to question why he even needs to be going after Imogen Herondale's seat in the first place. But he's far too exhausted to uphold what would surely be that draining conversation, so he just dumbly nods along to whatever his parents say.

“Great, text me the details and I'm there,” Alec states firmly, finality apparent in the set of his brow and the tone of his voice. “Is that all?”

Maryse just nods, and she smiles a little wearily up at Alec before taking a few steps forward. She pauses for a moment, as if hesitating, before she decides to just go for it, and she leans the rest of the way forward, squeezing Alec in a quick hug. With that, she nods a short goodnight, before she opens the apartment door and walks out.

Robert looks set to follow her out, but at the last moment, he backtracks, walking back to Alec.

“Don't let that man distract you from your job, and from your goals,” he says quietly, and before Alec can gather the strength to shoot back a reply, his father has already vacated the apartment.

That, more than anything, confuses Alec. It's disconcerting, that Robert can't even bring himself to say Magnus’ name, as if the name is now tinged with shame and embarrassment. And the way Robert had said it too… does he truly believe Magnus to be that bad of an influence?

Shaking his head to himself and deciding that this is something he can puzzle out in the morning, Alec makes his way down the hallway, all set to quickly get ready for bed and sleep. But unfortunately, he doesn't even make it halfway through the hallway before he hears a harsh whisper of his name, coming from Jace's room.

Alec has half-a-mind to ignore the voice, but then one voice turns into two. Both of them frantically whisper-scream Alec's name repeatedly, until Alec finds himself stuck with no choice but to enter Jace's bedroom and shut the two of them up.

His two siblings are sitting on Jace's bed, neither looking ready to sleep in the slightest. Noticing the two pairs of equally wide eyes appraising him, Alec quickly puts two and two together as he seats himself on the edge of the bed.

“I assume you heard all that,” Alec sighs, and his assumption is proven true by the slow nods he receives in response.

“Those two never shut-up about Imogen Herondale,” Izzy groans, rubbing her eyes a little tiredly.

It's nothing but fact, that both Maryse and Robert have primed Alec for ages to take the elderly woman's seat in the local council. And that would only be the springboard to more adventurous political endeavours. The thought leaves a bitter taste in Alec's mouth.

“And all that stuff about Magnus… they're acting like he's a criminal or something,” Jace adds.

Alec has to admit, ever since their argument a while ago and Jace's subsequent apology, he's been far more understanding and accommodating in relation to Magnus Bane and Alec's job with the man. He's also the one who understands Alec's need to keep confidentiality up. That's something that Isabelle decidedly refuses to comprehend, often needling Alec with questions about everything to do with Magnus Bane every time Alec returns from work.

Except, it seems, for today. “And a stuffy meeting with those old guys from The Institute… I can't imagine sitting in a room with those guys for more than a few minutes, much less a whole day,” she remarks tersely, nose wrinkling in that way of hers, indicating a mixture of disgust and irritation.

“Alec, is that really something you want?” Jace questions, his multi-coloured eyes now squinting questioningly up at his older brother.

Frowning, Alec sighs shakily as he stares at the two people he's supposed to be supporting, not the other way around. He's their older brother.

And again, Alec is hit with a feeling of… tiredness? Resignation? No, it's something else. There's an empty space in his chest, not a feeling but, rather, a lack of a feeling. A lack of drive. A lack of creativity. A lack of a dream.

In startling clarity, he recalls what he had told Magnus a couple weeks ago at the church.

Sometimes, I wonder if I even want any control, I guess.

Even now, Alec truly doesn't know what he wants. He loves his job, sure. But he also knows that he does indeed enjoy the political sphere, to a degree. He's always been told that he'd be a good politician - steady, reserved, the kind of person that buckles down to work hard on something that requires the effort. And his parents have practically cleared the path for him to follow this trajectory that they've set upon him for who knows how long.

And with a lack of drive, it's too easy to just follow what he's been told.

“Yeah. I'll be fine,” Alec says. With that, Alec considers himself far too mentally and physically drained to even keep this conversation going, for he stands up brusquely and leans his head back to stretch his neck slowly. “Anyways, I'm off to bed. Goodnight, guys.”

“Goodnight, Alec,” they both mumble back, although both of them have that determined set in their eyes that indicates that they want to talk more. Their expressions seem almost mirrored, and it hits Alec that, even if they may not be biologically related, Isabelle and Jace are siblings, through and through.

That thought lingers and clings to Alec's mind as he quickly and quietly goes about his night time routine. He's in bed in record time, and takes out his phone so he can double-check his alarm will wake him up at 7am tomorrow.

It's only then that he notices a text message from an unknown number. Alec usually just ignores these, but something within him compels him to check it before he click off his phone and heads to bed.

Needless to say, his breath gets caught in his throat once he reads the message.

Unknown [12.11am]: Alexander, it's Magnus. I know I'm only meant to contact this personal number in case of emergencies, but I wanted to check that you made it home safe. The weather this evening was terribly unsafe and I heard about the accident too. This may seem unprofessional, but please reply to this message so I know you're safe.

Touched doesn't even begin to describe how Alec feels, seeing that message. He doesn't care about professionalism in the slightest. Not when Alec thinks of Magnus, concerned for his safety, and going out of his way to check on him. A burst of energy surges through him as he rereads the message, before he adds Magnus as a contact on his phone and replies.

Alec [12.42am]: hey magnus. thanks for checking in. got home safe, tho the trip did take way longer than usual

Content with thinking that Magnus must be asleep by now, Alec moves to put his phone away, until it buzzes. Buzzes with a new text from Magnus.

Magnus [12.43am]: Thank goodness. I'm glad you're safe. I was really worried…

“You were?” Alec asks aloud, nothing more but a surprised whisper to himself, and amazement clear in his intonation. A giddy joy at the realisation seems to sing in his veins, and his heart seems to thud loud in his chest, resounding. His eyes are wide now, his energy renewed, as he replies.

Alec [12.45am]: no need to worry now :)

After thinking about it for a moment, Alec sends a follow-up text.

Alec [12.46am]: shouldn't you be asleep? don't you have a business meeting at 8 tmr morning?

Magnus [12.47am]: Well, forgive me for being concerned about my friend's wellbeing!

There's something about Magnus’ use of proper grammar and spelling in his texts that simultaneously amuses Alec and makes his heart warm with affection. Laughing out loud for a moment at the term of endearment, Alec finds himself fixating on the use of that word. Friend. He's friends with Magnus.

Well, he already (kind of) knew that. But something about the validation makes Alec sit up properly in his bed, a combination of nervous energy and rich excitement coursing through him.

Isn't it strange, how they barely knew each other a month ago, and yet now are at this level of friendship? But considering the depth of the moments they've spent together, and the recent long stretches of time they've spent together now with this job, maybe friendship was inevitable. It's part of the reason that Alec feels so protective. He cares about Magnus, and his big-brother complex comes into play with things like that.

But, intrinsically, Alec knows it's more than that. The two of them have been through far more than most. They've experienced the lowest of lows together, but also have enjoyed hearty lengthy discussions and breathless moments set over a piano, both in childhood and adulthood. It's unconventional and unrealistic, but their story is a turbulent and heartfelt one.

Maybe that's why Alec likes Magnus as more than just a friend. He's experienced a lifetime of profound moments with Magnus, has seen him at his lowest. And the more he witnesses his life now, the more he sees Magnus at his highest.

It's Magnus, kohl-lined eyes shining as he patiently teaches a simple bass part to a song they both love on the piano. It's Magnus, eloquence spilling from him as he reaches out to every ostracised soul out there, telling them that dreams are possible no matter who you are. It's Magnus, being the last one to leave an event, to say hi to every fan and interact with all of them with fresh and genuine interest and curiosity.

It's Magnus, sweetly texting Alec to ask if he made it home safe.

As Alec types out a reply, he can't help the deep yearning within his heart, to be more than just Magnus Bane's friend. And then Magnus replies again, and there's a strange tug in his heart, pulling him closer to staying awake. He wonders, if there could ever be a possibility that Magnus would want that too.

For them to be more.

Chapter Text

And I drown in the darkness,
Of the silhouette you cast.
Oh, how I pray for something,
For something to finally last.

Magnus jots the words down quickly on his phone, and even types in a haphazard chord progression that could fit with it. It's four lines, but Magnus likes the sound of them. The words kind of just flitted into his mind now, encouraged by the blurring view of the lights in the dark as they drive through the bustling streets of a place Magnus has known his whole life.

He wishes to write it down in his songwriting journal, but unfortunately, he'll have to wait until they get home to do so.

Today's been a relatively good day. It wasn't alarmingly busy, and they’re heading home pretty early for once. It’s only just past 6 in the evening, and to top it all off, Asmodeus is in a great mood. He’s smiling snidely to himself as he tinkers on his phone.

“I still can’t believe we managed to secure it,” Asmodeus muses, seeming to speak to no one in particular, except maybe to himself. Magnus just sighs, clicking his phone off and putting it back into his pocket.

It’s the reason behind his father’s jovial mood now - as they had left their last appointment for the day, a last-minute wardrobe fitting for the upcoming Edom Video Music Awards, someone had contacted Asmodeus to let him know that Magnus had just been locked in for being a new face for Duduael, arguably the largest cologne brand in the world currently. Magnus has to wonder if part of the reason he got it is only because of his father’s long-standing friendship with the man who owns the company - a stoic man by the name of Azazel. It would be the only way to explain how Magnus, someone who hasn’t technically released a solo album yet, would already be chosen for a brand as influential as this.

With the confirmation of this came discussions of payments - considering this is the biggest advertising investment in Magnus’ career, it’s only natural that there’s lots of money involved. That’s the thing that surely has Asmodeus in such high spirits - even after all this time, everything revolves back to money.

Sometimes, Magnus wonders if the focus on money is a result of his father being a first-generation immigrant. He remembers the woeful stories of how his father had come from Indonesia, to this new place - he’d only been fresh out of high school, and whilst his father had luckily been taught English well in his school, there were still language, as well as financial, difficulties in relation to him being here. And Magnus can’t forget how their lives had been before all this. How they’d huddled in a tiny apartment, always barely scraping through to pay rent, wondering how they were going to budget enough to make it through the month.

So Magnus wonders, if his father’s fascination with the money that Magnus makes now is a result of knowing a life without money. Of knowing how to struggle without much to your name.

Other times, Magnus just reckons that it’s something intrinsic to everybody - money makes us happy, and gives us the capability to be happier. More money means more things, and more experiences, and just more. And who wouldn’t want more out of life?

Either way, Magnus isn’t complaining. Asmodeus is rarely in such a good mood, and that, combined with the early finish today, has Magnus feeling lighter than he has in a while. That, in itself, is a pretty amazing feat, considering it’s only Monday.

Glancing to his side, Magnus catches Alec, who also seems to be fiddling around on his phone. He’s noticed that quite a bit, to be honest. Alec flips his phone on at random intervals a lot more, but Magnus doesn’t know if Alec has always done that and he’s only just beginning to notice. He catches himself looking over at Alec more and more these days.

It’s been two weeks since Alec officially started this job, though it feels like he’s been by Magnus’ side for months, at the very least. They’ve grown alarmingly close, and if that weren’t enough, they’ve become those friends that text each other all the time when they’re apart now, since last Wednesday, when Magnus had texted Alec out of pure concern and worry. Magnus still remembers the brutality of the storm that had accosted New York that evening, and recalls the gripping fear when he’d seen the late-night news detail an accident on the exact road Magnus knew that Alec took home.

Magnus is unable to stop the burst of warmth in his chest as Alec pockets his phone and returns Magnus’ gaze. It’s crazy, how easily this man has become a rock, a point of solid support for him, in the storm that is preparation for the solo album release. Whenever things seem a little too hard, a little too tiring, Magnus can just look at Alec’s supportive expression, or see his adorable thumbs-up from the side, and feel infinitely rejuvenated and refreshed to face whatever he may need to.

It muddles his head a little, to be frank. His feelings for Alec have only grown in strength as their friendship has developed. It’s just too easy to be with Alec.

“You can head home early,” Magnus says quietly, though his father seems so lost in whatever he’s doing on his phone that he doubts Asmodeus would hear, or care. Not that Magnus wants Alec to leave early, but Alec deserves that chance. To go home. To eat dinner with his siblings - Magnus found out a couple nights ago over their texting that the two siblings Alec had mentioned previously, Jace and Isabelle, lived with him in their apartment.

Alec purses his lips slightly, but he doesn’t say anything else to that, and Magnus doesn’t know how to interpret the response exactly. Maybe Alec hadn’t heard him. But before Magnus can repeat his words, the car lurches to a slow stop, and the lights inside flicker on.

They're home.

And unlike his usual hovering, Asmodeus immediately vacates the car and makes his way into the house. Magnus knows what this means, and promptly feels the urge to rejoice. He can't help the smile on his face as he sees the dark silhouette of his father enter the house.

Raj gently urges the two of them to leave as well, and once they disembark, Raj bids them farewell and drives off. It leaves Magnus and Alec, standing at the front gate of the house once again.

“What's with Asmodeus?” Alec questions, leaning forward with his hands held behind his back. Magnus has fondly noticed, over time, that this seems to be Alec's default. Straight back, head high, hands behind. There's a comforting surety to the stance. It reminds Magnus of who Alec is - an immovable figure, crafted with strength.

Magnus turns his head to look to the house, as if he has the ability to see what his father is doing right now. Like he can look past the layers of brick and paint and mortar, can see the hunched figure of his father over the drink cart, clear as day. “It doesn't happen often, but very rarely, when he's in a very good mood, he sort of retires to his room and gets drunk on wine.”

It's a habit that Magnus has always known, though it did indeed used to be quite different, and a lot more frequent. It's a habit that has been a part of Magnus’ life even from back in the days when they had lived out of that crappy Brooklyn apartment. Where Asmodeus drunk in desperation and sadness rather than joy and satisfaction. Where the bitter taste of cheap beer touched his tongue instead of the expensive surreptitious flavour of the wine he is surely sipping now. Magnus used to loathe when his father would drink so often, leaving him alone. Now, when Asmodeus does indeed go off to drink for himself, Magnus marvels at the prospect of being independent, even if only for a few hours.

But it'd be ludicrous to voice any of this, so Magnus just answers Alec's slight questioning squint with a shrug.

“Doesn't sound like a bad idea,” Alec mumbles quietly, so quietly that Magnus almost doesn't catch it. The muttered words spark an idea in Magnus’ mind, and he smiles up at Alec with a question in mind.

“If you're willing to stay a tiny bit longer, I can get us some fancy wine for ourselves,” Magnus brings up the idea. Only after a moment of Alec's thoughtful silence does it register to Magnus that Alec probably wants to get home early. Truly, Magnus’ feelings for Alec really are inhibiting his common sense these days.

But when Alec breaks the silence finally, it's not with denial. Instead, there's a slight glint in his eyes, illuminated by the distant light of the moon gleaming far above. “Only if you let me make you some dinner,” he says.

Magnus feels the instinctive urge to decline, but something stops him from saying anything. In that space of a moment, he allows himself to think.

Asmodeus is going to be far too distracted for the rest of the evening to worry about what Magnus does. And Magnus surely deserves to have some nice dinner after today, right? Besides, Alec looks surprisingly determined for Magnus to agree to the condition.

And seriously, how can Magnus refuse?

“You've twisted my arm,” Magnus jabs lightheartedly, before he leads the way for them back into his house.

Ten minutes later, and Alec is whizzing around the small kitchen. The house is large enough that the noise from him milling around shouldn't reach Asmodeus in his little haven of wine and solitary contentment, and Magnus revels in the rewarding sight of seeing Alec chopping some food.

“I should help,” Magnus realises aloud after a moment of observing. Alec shakes his head resolutely, eyes still focused on whatever he's chopping.

“You're allowed to take a bit of a break, you know,” Alec says, and somehow, Magnus knows Alec isn't just referring to today. The past few weeks have been hectic, to say the least. This free evening feels like a shock of fresh air that Magnus only now realises he seriously needed.

“How about you get us some of that fancy wine you were teasing before?” Alec asks after a moment of silence on Magnus’ end, eyes finally flicking up from his chopping to look Magnus in the eye. There's a slight bass to his voice that Magnus swears isn't normally there, and he just blinks a little before nodding and rushing down to the wine cellar, lest he stay standing there and dumbly trying to decipher that lower pitch in Alec's tone.

In record time, Magnus is back in the kitchen with a bottle of shiraz he often favours, ducking around Alec's figure to grab two wine glasses. As he pours the wine at the kitchen island, he notices that Alec has brought out a wok. A sizzling sound pervades the air as Alec seems to put all his ingredients into the wok, a slight smirk on his face as he looks down.

“This'll be finished really soon,” Alec explains, speaking at an elevated volume to be heard over the ever-present sizzling.

“I'll take these to the living room, and you can bring some bowls when it's finished?” Magnus questions. Alec turns to him and flashes him a thumbs up.

Suddenly, Magnus is struck with the realisation of just how domestic this all is. Alec and Magnus, the two of them preparing to eat an early dinner after a day at work, wine glasses at the ready in the living room. And strangely enough, the concept doesn't seem weird at all. It just feels like… them. Whether that's a sign of Magnus’ comfort and security with Alec, or whether that's an indication of just how deep in his feelings he is for his bodyguard, Magnus doesn't truly know. Maybe it's a combination of the two. Maybe it's a combination of everything.

With that thought lingering in his mind as he seats himself on the couch, Magnus places the two wine glasses gingerly onto the coffee table, careful to place them both on a couple of coasters. When they're properly set down, Magnus stretches his arms up as he leans back on the couch, truly wringing out the knots in his body that seemed to have built up recently.

The EVMAs are in only a couple of weeks, and of course, the day of the the debut album release approaches. Magnus knows that he's excited about the prospect, is looking forward to the idea of having his own individual voice out there in the world. But something in him yearns for something more to it all. More what, though? Frankly, Magnus can't tell.

Life has been busy, just as one would expect for anyone in Magnus’ position. His father has been demanding and overbearing as ever. Camille fluctuates from being far too in his face when it's necessary to her agenda, and leaving Magnus abandoned for days on end. Even though Magnus never truly liked Camille to begin with, that unpredictability to her used to always still strike Magnus with a sense of forlorn sadness. Camille's flighty attitude towards their fake relationship always seemed to reiterate the same idea that Magnus would often hear from his father - that Magnus needs to prove his worth, whether it be with popularity, success, or money, in order for him to take space in the world without being a burden. To validate his existence. Magnus is used to it.

But recently, Magnus has found that his wish to matter more is indeed being answered. Not by Camille or Asmodeus by any means. But by Alexander Lightwood instead.

Over time, Magnus has found that Alec really doesn't care about any of the shit that most people in Magnus’ life care about. Alec is decidedly not a fan of the spotlight, and whilst he doesn't let that compromise his job, Magnus always finds it refreshing to see Alec behaving like a normal person in wanting to have privacy. Too often, Magnus is used to people overly shoving themselves to the closest camera, or trying to push themselves into the spotlight with unnecessary words and other desperate grabs at attention.

At the same time, Alec seems to always be there to pick Magnus up when he needs it. After a long work day, or when Magnus is doing an interview and loses his train of thought, or if Magnus needs just a quick pick-me-up, all he needs to do is look over to Alec. In the whirlwind of superficiality that is his life, Alec seems so real. He's real in a way that Magnus strives for himself, even though he knows that he's already too far gone.

But not Alec.

“So, you guys don't have too many ingredients, but I whipped up some stir-fry from what I could find,” Alec's voice jolts Magnus out of his more-than-platonic thoughts, and Magnus spies the taller man walking towards the couch with two bowls of steaming food. He's barely holding onto the bowls, wincing a little from what Magnus assumes is the heat, and the whole thing is just too cute to handle.

Laughingly, Magnus stands up and quickly grabs one of the bowls out of Alec's grip, quickly placing it on the coffee table next to their wine glasses. Alec follows the motion, and the two of them practically sag onto the couch.

It feels like the weight of his exhaustion is suddenly far too apparent, and Magnus leans forward to grab his wine glass and take a long sip of it to offset his tiredness. Alec gestures to the bowl in front of him, and after a brief moment of hesitation, Magnus places his wine glass down in favour of grabbing the bowl.

The first bite has Magnus moaning from how nice it tastes. He has to wonder how Alec managed to transform some pretty lacklustre ingredients into something that tastes this nice. One mouthful goes down, followed by another, and Magnus is nodding and closing his eyes as he chews quickly.

“This is so good, Alexander,” Magnus compliments only after he's swallowed his fourth mouthful. Alec flicks his gaze down to a fixed spot on the coffee table with a bashful expression adorning his face as he grabs his own bowl and starts eating. He squints a little, tilting his face to the side.

“I tried,” Alec mumbles thoughtfully in between mouthfuls. Magnus waves his free hand candidly.

“Don't sell yourself short. I didn't know you could cook so well,” Magnus says as he continues to eat.

“Oldest sibling syndrome, I guess,” Alec says in response. “My parents were usually too busy to make proper meals, so as I got older, I had to figure out how to make quick good food to feed everyone.”

Reflecting on the size of Alec’s family, Magnus winces slightly at the thought. “I’m sorry that responsibility was forced on you,” Magnus mumbles apologetically, for he can’t help but feel a strange connection in that moment. Thinking about a young Alec having to grow up too quickly because of his parents’ choices hits a little close to home for Magnus,

Alec chuckles, almost looking a little dumbfounded at Magnus’ words. “You have nothing to apologise for. That’s just what happens when you have parents like mine, I guess,” Alec says. “And hey, I guess I did benefit from it.”

Magnus laughs along, though he can’t contain his curiosity as he asks Alec, “What jobs did your parents have if they were so busy?”

Alec pauses from his meal, and instead reaches forward to take a large gulp of wine. “They still have them. My dad's a police captain and my mom's a lawyer,” Alec explains. Something akin to realisation lights his eyes up for a moment, and he continues. “Which reminds me. I can't come to work next week on Wednesday.”

Magnus tries not to let his dismay become too apparent by questioning Alec as to what's happening next Wednesday. Alec sighs in response, shoulders sagging as he finishes the rest of his glass of wine. As he leans forward to pour himself another glass, Magnus notes the severity to the lines in Alec's face.

He sees strength in the rigidity. Or maybe it's more like determination.

“It's a long story which I'm sure you don't have time for,” Alec mumbles as he leans back onto the couch, refilled glass in hand which he twirls absently as he sits. Without saying a word, Magnus turns his body even more in Alec's direction, placing his bowl on the coffee table before leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees, looking up at Alec.

We have time for a long story, his posture seems to say.

Alec smirks a little in response, perhaps a bit surprised and maybe even a tad amused.

“Council elections are happening soon. And my parents have been gunning for me to go challenge our local seat in the next election. Next Wednesday, my parents have set up a meeting with me and these elders from the local parish,” Alec groans even as he explains everything, rubbing his eyes not in a sign of tiredness, but maybe more in a sign of reluctance. “The church isn't exactly my crowd, so I'm not exactly looking forward to it. But my parents reckon the support will help a lot.”

Magnus nods as he absorbs the new information. Something about imagining Alec in a little office instead of working as an officer doesn't sit well with him. Which is ridiculous, because no matter what, Alec is the type to fight for the greater good. Working on the council could probably help the community more in the long run, with the right moves made. But still, it just doesn't seem right to Magnus for some inexplicable reason.

That's when Magnus realises something.

“Missing Wednesday is fine. But I’m hearing a lot about your parents. Is challenging for this seat something you want, Alec?” Magnus asks, grabbing his own wine glass from the coffee table and finishing it in one sip. Alec mirrors the action, as if the extra few seconds of drinking will give him enough time to formulate an answer.

Alec's sip is long, and he almost finishes his glass before he stops himself. He expels a breath, and it sounds harsh, almost jagged, in the relative quiet of the evening surrounding them. It feels surprisingly intimate to Magnus, to hear such a raw sound from him.

“I guess,” he says, tone noncommittal and quiet. “It makes sense. I've always held an interest in politics, and it'd be good to make some changes higher up.”

Magnus feels a little sad, hearing that, as if Alec is trying to convince himself. He thinks of how Alec had told him, back in the church all those weeks ago, that he didn't even know if he wanted control.

The lines in his face. Magnus realises with a start that it's not determination. It's resignation.

“I thought you loved your job,” Magnus says quietly. Alec chuckles again, but it sounds a little bitter this time.

“I do. I really do,” Alec mumbles, though the conviction in his tone rings true, and with that, he finishes his second glass of wine.

Magnus doesn't know what to say to that. A part of him wants to grab Alec by the shoulders, wants to shake him and tell him to fight for what he wants. He wants Alec to do something that Magnus himself is too afraid to do - take control of his life.

It's almost as if Magnus wants to tell him, fight for it. Fight for the both of us.

But that's entirely too hypocritical of Magnus to say. How pathetic, he can't help but think. How I wish for control, even though I don't do anything about it.

Then again, he still wants to yell at Alec to fight. Magnus’ mouth opens, before he shuts it again as his thoughts churn.

Because if the strong, beautiful, incredible Alexander Lightwood can fight for control over his life, then maybe, it could give the exhausted, hypocritical, broken Magnus Bane enough hope that one day, he could do the same thing.

~

The conversation lulls as they continue to eat and drink after that, and Alec finds it uncanny, how Magnus’ words seem to match the worried words from his siblings before.

It's always tiring to think about, when wondering about his future, and Imogen Herondale, and leaving the NYPD. It's easier to push thoughts like that aside. But this whole conversation has just reminded Alec that, with the impending meeting with the elders from The Institute, this future is solidifying right before his eyes. Every day sets it further and further into stone, and Alec hates how his immediate reaction is to just want to run and hide away.

The silence between them is comforting, broken up by casual chatter, though Magnus looks as if he's thinking everything through from before. Alec doesn't know why he looks so concerned. Magnus shouldn't need to be concerned about Alec. It's meant to be the other way around.

At one point, Alec notices that they've both managed to finish the bottle of wine. Magnus seems to realise too, and he looks at Alec with a slightly quirked brow in a silent question.

Maybe if he was fully sober, Alec would politely decline. But he likes this. He likes the chance to sit and relax. And yes, he can admit to himself that he likes basking in Magnus’ company. He likes seeing the way the gold in Magnus’ eyes sparkles in the low light of the living room. He finds himself enraptured by the sight of Magnus casually sipping his glass of wine, poise and grace somehow still radiating from him. He enjoys observing the way Magnus chuckles when caught off guard, eyes crinkling and smile wide and unashamed.

He deserves to feel that way all the time, Alec thinks.

And so, Alec nods all too easily with what he reckons is a slightly dopey smile on his face, and Magnus grins before he stands up from the couch. As he moves away, Alec notices that both of their bowls of stir-fry are now empty. And so, as Magnus goes to grab another bottle for them, Alec quickly takes their bowls back to the kitchen, rinsing everything and putting them in the dishwasher in record time.

By the time Alec returns to the living room, Magnus is back, already pouring both of them another glass of wine. As Alec moves closer, Magnus places the bottle back on the table, handing Alec his refilled glass.

They stay standing, and Alec is hyper-aware of their proximity, of the way that Magnus’ rings graze Alec's fingers as he's handed the wine glass. Magnus just smiles serenely, looking more peaceful than Alec has ever witnessed before.

No, that's what he deserves, Alec reflects. Peace.

“To us,” Magnus says softly, holding out his glass, prompting Alec to hold out his own glass and clink it with Magnus’.

“To us,” Alec repeats, and with that, they both take a sip of their wine. The tartness dances on Alec's tongue, but it feels meaningless, compared to the way that Magnus looks right at him as they drink.

Gazes locked, Alec almost chokes on his wine.

He yearns. In this moment, with the two of them standing so close, during probably one of the most domestic evenings Alec has ever experienced, he wishes and dreams and prays and wants, all in this one incandescent moment, frozen in time.

To us. You and me. Me and you. Us.

He could just lean forward and kiss him. He could just press his lips to Magnus’ cheek. He could even just reach forward, entwine their free hands. He could do just about anything, in this moment not bound by expectation or time. He could, he could, he could. He could just -

A shrill ring cuts through the hazy spell set upon them, and it genuinely shocks Alec out of his fantastical thoughts. It's a cell phone. Considering how Alec's phone is always set on vibrate only, he knows immediately that it's Magnus’.

Magnus seems a little startled too, a fact that pleases Alec greatly, and he's even happier when he notices an expression akin to disappointment flash across Magnus’ face. And Alec remembers, how last week, when they'd first started texting, that he had felt such a wish for him and Magnus to be more. He reflects on his crush on Magnus Bane that hasn't faded in any way like he had expected it to.

And for the first time, Alec allows himself to think that maybe, Magnus might possibly feel the same.

When Magnus checks his phone, he groans at the sight of the caller ID, before he presses a button and tosses the phone onto the couch behind him. That also secretly pleases Alec, though he can't help his intrigue as he seats himself on the couch.

“Did you need to get that?” Alec asks, a laugh bubbling out of him as he sees Magnus sit down too. He doesn't think he's imagining the way that they're sitting significantly closer to each other compared to before. Not that Alec's complaining.

But the laughter dies in his throat when he sees the simmering anger and disgust in Magnus’ expression. “Camille,” Magnus says, and there's so much venom to the name that Alec would think it's almost a curse. Magnus drinks then, practically gulping down his entire glass of wine, before he moves to pour himself another.

Alec hasn't missed it, of course. From his first observation of Magnus and Camille together, back on his first day on the job, he couldn't help but notice Magnus’ discomfort. And over the past few weeks, Alec has noticed that they don't interact in the way couples normally do.

They can go days on end without interacting in any sense. In fact, now that Alec thinks about it, the only times Magnus and Camille have met in the flesh since Alec started this job were all for business purposes. Late Live with Lilith was just one example. Beyond that, Alec has noticed that Magnus never really talks over the phone with her, and they don't even seem to text each other much. At the same time, whenever there seems to be other people around, Camille seems to be all over Magnus in a way that would be gratingly annoying to Alec even if he didn't have his own feelings for Magnus.

So of course, the thought of fake relationship had become more prominent in Alec's mind recently in relation to Camille and Magnus. It's not unheard of with celebrities. It makes sense, especially, with these two, considering their label connection and their recent collaboration. It's smart business.

He's always chalked up Magnus’ apparent discomfort to his reluctance to act as if he's in a relationship with someone he's not interested in. And Camille Belcourt is annoying and flighty and whiney, so Alec can understand that. But hearing the bitterness in Magnus’ voice now immediately puts Alec on high alert.

“Magnus, what is it?” Alec questions, and he can't stop his tone from sounding so concerned. Maybe he constantly lives in a state of concern about Magnus Bane.

Magnus rubs his temple slowly, before he places his glass down and instead begins to twist the rings on his fingers slowly. “No, it's just… she's probably calling to complain about something. Or ask for sex,” Magnus replies.

Alec's eyebrows shoot up when he hears that response, and Magnus sighs sadly.

“Really?” Alec asks, because that's all he can really think to say.

“She's parasitic, in that way,” Magnus says, and the description is brutal enough that it has Alec's eyes widening in surprise. “All she ever does is take.”

At this point, Alec's coordination is a little off, and he wavers a little as he moves to place his own wine glass back on the coffee table. They're both definitely tipsy at this point, reaching this state in between the numerous glasses of wine, and maybe that's the reason why Magnus is speaking so candidly about Camille now.

“What do you mean?” Alec asks, partly out of worry for Magnus and partly out of his own selfish curiosity. Sober Alec would feel far too intrusive asking something like this, but his inhibitions have definitely taken a hit at this point.

Magnus must be in a similar state, because instead of deflecting, the way he normally does when Alec asks about these sort of things, Magnus just sighs.

“It’s just… she really doesn't care about me at all. Like, I get it. We don't truly have feelings for each other. But she's just so mean,” Magnus says, and his voice sounds wounded when he says “mean.” He sounds like a young child, with an air of confusion and an innocent wish to understand why some people are just bullies by nature.

“She never sticks around unless she needs something, and she never minds insulting me. It's the total opposite of any relationship I've ever wanted,” Magnus solemnly explains, and just like that, he's got his wine glass back in his hand. He sips slowly, before he blinks a little, and he turns to face Alec again with wide eyes. “Sorry, I should really stop talking.”

Alec shakes his head resolutely. “No, you can keep going. It's ok,” Alec insists.

Maybe the combination of the late hour and the liquor is what lets Magnus do exactly just that. There's hesitance, but ultimately, he keeps going.

“You know, it's weird. She can play up the affection when we're with others. But when we're alone, she'll look at me and in her eyes, I'll see absolutely nothing. No love, no ounce of affection. Not even dislike. Just cold, empty nothing. And sometimes... my father looks at me like that too. And it really does make me think, that I'm... nothing,” Magnus exhales, frowning as he glances at his lap.

Alec doesn't know what possesses him to do so, but he can't stop himself from reaching forward, until his free hand is resting on Magnus’ knee. He squeezes reassuringly, and it must be enough to jolt Magnus to look Alec in the eye. Magnus doesn't look uncomfortable with the sudden contact, which Alec takes as a victory, but he knows that he'd never even consider making the move whilst sober.

“Magnus. Please listen to me when I tell you that you are not nothing,” Alec almost doesn't recognise his own voice from how determined he sounds, to get this point across. “And please try to believe me. No matter what Camille or your father may say. No matter what you say to yourself.”

“I know, Alexander,” Magnus says quickly in response. “Thank you. And sorry for laying all that on you.”

“It's ok, Magnus. Don't apologise,” Alec replies. He pauses for a moment, reaching out to top up his wine glass before he grabs it again, and takes a sip. When he stops, he hesitantly asks, “Why don't you just break up with her, if she makes you so miserable?”

Alec can already guess the answer, but it still grates on his nerves when Magnus tentatively replies with, “It's a business agreement. And my father would not be too happy if I ever broke it off.”

“When is your father happy, honestly?” the sarcastic question escapes Alec before he can stop it. Surprisingly, Magnus barks out a surprised chuckle, but he quells the sound pretty quickly.

“And what, you have a contract? A clause in your label contract?” Alec continues, and he knows he should stop pushing this, but his selfish wish to be with Magnus and his desperate need for Magnus to escape this toxic relationship spurs him on, his determination bolstered by the liquid courage in his system.

Magnus’ brow furrowed, and he tilts his head as he thinks. “Actually, we don't. There's nothing technically binding us,” Magnus says.

Fear is binding you, Alec thinks. He has enough sense to not let that thought escape though.

“I never had another person to inspire me to break it off, before. But... things are different now,” Magnus mumbles after a while, and this is when he starts to slur slightly, the words bleeding a little into one another. But his gaze is piercing, eyes somehow possessing a certain clarity to them even though Magnus is definitely tipsy at this point. They bore right into Alec, pinning him to the spot as those words swirl in Alec's head.

Things are different now.

Surely, Alec isn't imagining this, right? Magnus’ words. The way Magnus is looking at him. His hand, still resting on Magnus’ knee. Alec wants to ask what Magnus means by his words, but one look at those golden eyes answers his question, answers everything for a brief moment.

Those eyes, the eyes that have entranced Alec for 16 years, look at Alec now with such reverence and hope and admiration, and Alec feels a yearning so strong in his soul that it practically pulls him closer.

What are we? What do we do?

Bending his head a little closer to Magnus’, Alec smiles sweetly. “Your eyes are so pretty,” he compliments. He admits, it's a little out of nowhere, but Alec considers it a crime that he's known of these unique eyes’ existence for so long, and yet has never complimented them once.

Is Alec tipsy? Leaning more towards drunk? Possibly.

Magnus blushes in that moment, in a combination of what Alec assumes is bashfulness and alcohol. “You think so?” he asks, sounding genuinely shocked and pleased by the compliment. Their volume has gradually lowered over the course of the conversation, and they now speak in hushed tones barely above a whisper, heads bent close. Alec savours the closeness, savours the timelessness of this moment.

“Of course,” Alec firmly asserts, leaning back on the couch, still turned to face Magnus. Magnus follows him, also leaning his body on the back of the couch.

Magnus rolls his eyes. “Funny. Did you know that, when I first started singing, the label wanted me to wear contacts?”

Alec feels personally offended upon hearing that. “Why would they want that?” he questions.

Magnus shrugs. “They said an Asian with golden eyes would be a little too… culturally shocking to people. Weird. Freaky. So they tried to get me to wear brown-coloured contacts, but I got a really bad reaction to them. So they eventually stopped.”

“That's stupid,” Alec says. Maybe if he wasn't so tired and tipsy, he'd have phrased that more eloquently. But that's the crux of it all, right? It is stupid, ridiculously so.

“Yeah, it was. But I guess it's true, right? People don't like it when others don't fit into their box of what a person should look or be like. I guess 'bisexual Asian guy who sings and dances and wears makeup' was already seriously pushing it, so they wanted to try and do something to make me seem more… normal,” Magnus explains.

Alec knows, logically, that this all happened and was resolved years ago, but he still feels bile rise up in his throat at the thought of people trying to mould Magnus Bane into something he isn't. Into someone plain and boring when Magnus is anything but.

His eyes widen when he registers the words bisexual Asian guy. Because bisexual Magnus Bane opens up a whole new world of possibility to Alec, and that, combined with Magnus’ vague words from before, has something churning in Alec's gut.

“Normal is overrated. Your eyes… they're beautiful,” Alec firmly states. Magnus smiles softly, and the something churning in Alec's gut is what pushes him to move his hand from its position on Magnus’ knee. Instead, he brings his hand hesitantly up until he softly pushes a strand of hair away from Magnus’ face. “You're beautiful.”

It's far too much, Alec distantly registers, but Magnus beams then, smile wide and brilliant and radiant, and Alec feels the sense of possibility wavering in between them like a live wire. The flicker of almost in the air.

Magnus exhales, breathing laboured and slow, and he reaches up with his own hand until he interlocks his hand with Alec's. Their fingers intertwine, and Alec feels his own breathing slow down as he notes the watery sheen in Magnus’ gaze now, feels the smoothness of Magnus’ palm in contrast with the cool rings against Alec's own calloused skin.

“Alexander,” Magnus whispers. "Tell me I'm not imagining this. Tell me this isn't all just in my head."

“Of course you're not imagining it. This, us, we're real, Magnus,” Alec replies. And he's right, because the more he thinks back over the last few weeks, the more he realises just how real they are. From the shared poignant looks to the late night texts. Alec, somehow eternally enraptured by Magnus, always somehow in his orbit. But, now Alec reflects on Magnus, somehow also always so engaged with Alec. The give and take. Push and pull. Because this thing between them… it's suddenly too real for them to pretend it doesn't exist. Too real for them to ignore.

Magnus brings their conjoined hands up to his lips, and he places the softest kiss on the back of Alec's hand. Even then, his moves are hesitant, as if he fears that Alec will run away from this. But the kiss just makes Alec lean even further forward.

And when Magnus turns his face away from their hands, he turns his head right into Alec's. Their foreheads touch, their noses bump. It startles a smile out of Alec, but he can't tell if it does for Magnus too, because Alec's eyes have already fluttered closed. The almost, the possibility, the shared yearning and dreams and wishes and wants that have accumulated now linger in the miniscule distance between them, all coalescing now into this moment. The split second before taking the leap into the unknown, excitement and nervousness and exhilaration and need all thrumming in their shared space.

And then...

Chapter Text

“I can't keep doing this anymore, Camille.”

The shock on Camille's face is something that could almost be described as laughable, but Magnus refuses to relax his stern expression now. Not when there's a fire lit in his stomach now, pushing the words from his lips.

“What could you possibly mean, Magnus?” Camille asks, surprise and confusion and irritation swirling in her dark eyes. She stalks closer to Magnus, and it's strange, how eerily it reminds Magnus of the way a predator approaches their prey.

“You know exactly what I mean,” Magnus says, eyes narrowed. “This whole arrangement. I’m done.”

“Since when did you get a backbone?” Camille sneers, appraising Magnus as if he’s a small child. She takes another step forward, and Magnus resists the urge to take a step backwards in response. He stands his ground, feet planted firmly in place, gaze never wavering.

He has to admit that he sort of just barged into the dressing room now, mere moments after their dress rehearsal for the EVMAs that are approaching. Of course, he knows the timing is probably the worst it could be, but emotions and feelings and wants never take time into account. Emotions and feelings and wants surrounding Alec… they don't wish to make his life easier. They just wish to make his life more.

Alec… Magnus has to remember that. Alec is the only thing that matters now. Magnus sinks into the memory from last night for a brief moment, to gain strength. To refocus.

"Normal is overrated. Your eyes… they're beautiful," Alec whispered, and Magnus felt his own breath stutter as he registered the words. Always complimenting, his Alexander. And as if the words hadn't already managed to make Magnus feel as if his insides had totally melted, Alec reached forward then. The movement was hesitant, almost wavering, but then his fingers ultimately came up to brush some strands of Magnus' hair away from his face. The touch was light, barely there, but it felt branded into Magnus' skin, into his soul.

"You're beautiful," Alec said, and Magnus' heart soared higher than he ever thought possible.

Magnus couldn’t help the way he smiled then, so disarmed by Alec’s earnestness, and he felt entranced. Spellbound. And in the throes of this spell, he couldn’t stop himself from reaching up hesitantly whilst keeping his gaze locked on the man across from him and tracking Alec’s face for any hostile reaction. None, of course, came, and after what felt like years, even though it probably was only a few seconds, Magnus interlocked their hands, a tangle of fingers still resting lightly on his cheek.

It felt like pieces slotting into place. Something broken finally being fixed. And Magnus was consumed by the feeling.

"No, let me rephrase that. Since when did you care?" Camille sounds incredulous, but Magnus knows it's not due to any truly hurt feelings. Camille is probably one of the most calculating people Magnus knows. And things like this, surprises like this, always leave her feeling off-kilter.

"When did you ever care?” Magnus throws back, though he knows that it’s probably not the most well thought-out answer. In fact, this whole thing isn’t very well thought-out, if Magnus lets himself pause enough to reflect about it. This whole thing is actually quite spontaneous. Of course, after last night, Magnus had definitely planned to break things off quickly and swiftly and without much fuss. But he had originally planned on taking Camille aside somewhere private in the evening.

And yet, after their rehearsal, when Camille had thrown herself at Magnus and crushed him in a very public hug, Magnus had looked over her shoulder and seen Alec standing off to the side. The thing is, he hadn’t looked mad. He hadn’t seemed outwardly upset. Instead, his private smile to Magnus had been grim. Resigned. Sad. And something about the sight of it had propelled Magnus, until he found himself here and doing this right now.

Camille scoffs, crossing her arms as she takes another step closer. Her gaze is malicious, lip curled in anger. “You do realise how ridiculous this is, right? Your timing could literally not be worse,” she says, gaze stormy and angry. "The EVMAs, the recent AMAs win."

"I don’t give a shit about timing,” Magnus replies coolly. “This is my decision, here and now. Make it a spectacle if you want. Frankly, I don’t care. But I want you to know that I’m done.”

There’s a gravity to his statements, that fire burning even brighter in the pit of Magnus’ stomach as he watches Camille take in what he’s just said. Her brow is furrowed, and her eyes glimmer with shock and something else Magnus can’t name. There’s no volatility to her expression now, but something more akin to cunning, to tamped-down anger. And within those eyes is the calculating empty gaze that Magnus has grown accustomed to, that empty callous nothing staring back at him.

Alec’s eyes widened with emotion as they shone, bright beacons of hope, and Magnus registered the way that his breathing slowed as they kept their hands loosely interlocked. There was suddenly so much possibility, in the way that Alec faintly smiled, in the tantalising way in which their hands slotted perfectly together, in the bright gaze that radiated from Alec’s hazel eyes in that moment. The both of them were practically glowing, as if the light of a shared wish illuminated them from the inside out all at once.

“Alexander,” Magnus didn’t even recognise his voice, hoarse and tiny and almost pleading as he spoke. "Tell me I'm not imagining this. Tell me this isn't all just in my head."

“Of course you're not imagining it. This, us, we're real, Magnus,” Alec whispered back, tone the same - somehow jagged and broken, but also whole and raw and beautiful, and it sounded like a dream come true. It was, maybe. It wasn’t an explicit declaration, but it was better. Because those words felt truly tangible, shifting and innocent and unique. Shifting, like the ground beneath Magnus’ feet. Innocent, like the earnest way Alec spoke to him. Unique, like the relationship they had built over the past few weeks, filled with shared smiles and deep talks and everything in between.

Unable to help himself, Magnus gently brought their entwined hands up to his lips. He moved slowly, as if moving through honey, motions hesitant but steady. And he kept his eyes on Alec, checking even now for any sign of discomfort or hesitance or disinterest. But Magnus saw none.

All Magnus saw in Alec’s face was eagerness and earnestness and adoration and want, and of course he recognised this, because that was all Magnus felt right now. Their gazes were locked for a long drawn-out moment, intense and wonderful, until Magnus finally flicked his gaze down as he kissed the back of Alec’s hand softly.

The action was almost a confirmation, a whispered secret imbued into Alec’s skin now. A wordless way for Magnus to let Alec know that Magnus felt the same. That Magnus felt just how real they truly were.

“You met someone,” Camille surmises, and Magnus doesn’t have the heart to lie and deny it. When he doesn’t say anything, Camille squints for a moment, before she suddenly barks out a harsh laugh. “No, wait. Don’t tell me. The security guy?”

And Magnus hates it, how she says can’t bring herself to say Alec’s name. The judgement is clear in her words alone, makes a rush of fierce protectiveness surge within Magnus. And the shock and - dare Magnus say it - disgust in her tone has Magnus suddenly taking a step forward, anger suddenly spiking. The fire within him burns, burns hot with rage, at the thought of Camille judging Alec, sweet protective strong Alec, like that.

“You, Camille Belcourt, have no right to make any sort of judgement. All we have done in this 'relationship' is act, and when you feel particularly bored, have sex. Frankly, anyone would want a chance to escape that,” Magnus seethes, and he bends his head close, using his height to his advantage to loom over Camille. “I’m done being the publicity cash cow for you. I’m done with your insults, and your selfishness, and your obsession with staying in the spotlight. And if you’d rather continue this fake relationship than try and pursue something real with someone, like me with Alexander, then I feel sorry for you. I pity you.”

There’s something highly gratifying about letting that all out, over a year of irritation and resentment suddenly out in the open, and Magnus doesn’t miss the way that Camille takes a slight step back. The shock is evident as ever on her face, mouth agape for a moment. In any other situation, Magnus would laugh at the sight.

You want backbone? There you go, Magnus thinks to himself.

A rush of wild adrenaline burns in Magnus' veins, and he feels high from the uncharacteristic assertiveness he feels in relation to Alec. Camille's posture is still upright, her arms crossed, as if she's trying to cling to whatever power and authority she had over Magnus before.

"I won't shut up about it. You'll be seen as a social climber, a prick," Camille seethes, but the harsh tone does nothing to combat the power Magnus suddenly feels.

"It won't work. You and I both know that our images, in that sense, are very different," Magnus has to admit, Camille does have a point. She could play the victim. But Magnus knows the truth, and he's always fought to stay real with his fans. Despite the image in his music, he has always tried his best to remain kind and humble and truthful in his image to his fans and the public. And, snidely to himself, he can't help but remember the numerous scandals Camille has been a part of, the incidents of harsh words to fans and interviewers. The infamous shoe incident with Raphael Santiago.

Magnus trusts his fans to trust in him. He trusts everyone else to make the right judgement.

And yet, even if he is somehow wrongfully labelled a prick, or seen as the bad guy, Magnus suddenly doesn't care too much. Not when the prospect of being properly with Alec Lightwood is so close, he can practically taste it.

That's when Magnus registers the slight whine in Camille's voice, and he realises in that moment that she's grasping at straws. She's calculating, sure, but beyond that, she's a rude person, even if she tries to pretend she isn't. It reminds Magnus of one of the reasons this deal was made - of course, to help promote their work, to solidify the bond as labelmates and to push Magnus into the public eye. But the benefit, for Camille, was that Magnus and their relationship makes - made - her more approachable. Instead of seeming harsh, she has - had - a supposedly adorable relationship and a boyfriend.

Camille knows, that Magnus would win in a battle of image, even if she has more fans. And frankly, the thought of losing that battle has her more freaked than she seems to be letting on.

Magnus turned his head away from their hands then, and suddenly Alec was right there. Intoxicatingly close. Their foreheads touched then, glancing contact that sent the slightest shiver down Magnus' spine.

Their noses brushed, and Alec's eyes fluttered shut. It was almost too much, in that moment, when Magnus noticed Alec's small smile on his face. He was alluringly beautiful now, with his slightly tinted cheeks and his apparent earnestness. Always putting his heart on his sleeve, even now.

In the haze of alcohol and indirect confessions and pining coming to fruition, Magnus wanted it all. He wanted Alec, with his fierce loyalty, with his stubborn assertiveness, with his dry sarcasm. He wanted Alec, with his touching concern, with his unending helpfulness, with his loving compassion. He wanted Alec, with his expressive eyes, with his midnight hair, with his beautiful grin.

He wanted the man who saved him, more times than Magnus could actually count. The man who believed in him 16 years ago, the man who caught him and held on, and the man who always came to his defense, in more ways than one, since this job started.

He wanted every part of Alec that Alec was willing to give. But...

“Your father won’t let you,” Camille finally says, and though she tries to sound confident, Magnus can sense that this is the only other argument she can think of. 

And frankly? Magnus doesn’t care what his father thinks. It’s strange to admit to himself, considering that he’s always lived his life under his father’s overbearing rule. He knows that his father won’t be very accepting of this arrangement. But for once, Magnus doesn’t give a shit.

It startles him, but the second Camille finishes speaking, Magnus comes to a confounding realisation - he wants Alec more than he fears his father or Camille.

“And yet, I don’t care what he thinks,” Magnus says, the words almost foreign in his mouth. It’s a whole other sense of gratifying, in this moment. This is his choice. His decision. And no one can take that away from him. Not Camille and not Asmodeus.

Camille looks alarmed, eyes widening, and Magnus steps closer again, arms now crossed in a stance that says listen to me.

“I wish to do this respectfully and properly, Camille,” Magnus says. “This relationship, whatever it is, is no longer working. We can still be friends, and we still are labelmates working on this collaboration together. But that’s it.”

“You can’t just do this,” Camille exclaims, almost an outburst, and Magnus just smiles serenely as he takes in the irrational anger she can barely contain.

“Oh, well, looks like I just did,” Magnus grins wickedly, and following a small (and, Magnus has to admit, condescending) pat to her shoulder, he leaves the dressing room.

The two of them paused then, both so close and yet so far. There were so many things that Magnus wanted to say, and his body was practically screaming at him to close the distance and shut his eyes. But they were both in a weary state of hesitance now, and Magnus found himself unable to speak.

After a moment, Alec opened his eyes again. There was wonder and adoration, but there was also restraint and concern in those enchanting eyes of his.

"We can't," Magnus whispered, though he may as well have choked the words out. And he knew that Alec knew that too. It was heartbreaking, but they couldn't. Both of them understood that they couldn't.

“I know. You have a girlfriend,” said Alec, and it sounded so hollow. As if the words had been carved out of his throat and unceremoniously thrown out into the world. “And we’re both a little off our faces. And you have a girlfriend. Oh, fuck.”

Alec exhaled lowly, and Magnus felt it on his cheek, from the way that they were still bent close.

“I want to kiss you,” Alec hoarsely admitted, voice barely even a whisper, and it sounded like the type of thing that alcohol would coerce from his lips, for surely sober Alec would never be able to.

“I want that too,” Magnus finally found his voice again, and the yearning and sadness in his tone was crystal clear. “But you’re right. I have a girlfriend. Who I frankly can’t stand.”

“That makes two of us,” Alec chuckled, but it was still tinged with sadness. A sadness that touched Magnus, that reverberated within his own heart now.

“We both can’t stand her. But that doesn’t change the fact that…”

“That we’re together,” Magnus finished Alec’s sentence. “And I’d never cheat. Even though she’s a piece of shit.”

That made Alec snigger quietly, and a smile flashed briefly on his face before his expression turned serious once more.

“You’re far too good for her, you know,” Alec whispered. “Even now. You could… you know. But you won’t. Because you’re just… so good.”

“I’m not,” Magnus replied. “I want you, more than anything. I’ll leave her, Alec. I’d do it, for you.”

Alec groaned, waving his hand flippantly. “You have no idea, how much I want that. But you’re just saying that, Magnus. We’re both drunk,” Alec leaned away at that moment, and he ran a hand over his face and shook it slowly.

Magnus wanted nothing more than to wipe that forlorn insecurity from Alec’s face.

Magnus makes an immediate beeline for his own dressing room, and his heart lifts when he notices Alec standing in front of the door, arms behind his back, head held high. He’s powerless to stop the smile that breaks out on his face once Alec notices him approaching.

Alec’s eyes widen, and he breaks his stance as he turns to face Magnus. “I was wondering where you had ended up. That seemed like the longest bathroom break ever,” Alec says. There’s a heaviness in the set of his brow, in his motions, that Magnus has never noticed before until now. It reminds Magnus of that sad resigned smile Alec had sent him not too long ago.

Ever since the night before, things feel a little stilted between them. Magnus absolutely hates it.

Without explanation, Magnus grabs Alec by the wrist, and with his opposing hand, he opens the door to his dressing room. Quickly, he drags Alec along inside, before he shuts the door. Magnus exhales shakily, before he turns around, spying the adorably confused expression now on Alec’s face.

“Is everything ok?” Alec questions. His expression settles, solidifies, into something far more serious, and he takes a step closer to Magnus as his voice drops. “Are you in trouble? Is something wrong?”

And damn it, there’s that alluring protectiveness all over again. It’s heartwarming, to have someone that cares so much, who cares so strongly, about Magnus. Knowing that Alec is unashamed in his concern just makes Magnus smile, a giddy feeling buoyed by adrenaline surging through him.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Magnus explains, and Alec’s features visibly relax as he seems to register Magnus’ peaceful demeanour and calm words.

“I just… Look at me, Alec. I’m sober, awake and aware. And I want you to know that... I broke up with Camille,” Magnus blurts out all at once, energy pulsing through him and making him bounce on the balls of his feet as he takes in Alec’s reaction to the news.

First comes surprise. Alec’s eyes are wide with it, mouth opening in a silent gasp of shock. Magnus almost wants to cry, at the pure surprise on Alec’s face. He wants to cry, that Alec is that surprised that Magnus did what he said he would. He left Camille for him. Alec runs a hand through his messy hair, perfectly messing it up even further, and he seems to subconsciously take a step closer. Not that Magnus minds the closing distance. He himself takes a slow step forward as another emotion crosses Alec’s face.

And it’s dizzying to witness, the way that the surprise morphs into understanding, into a soft smile that matches Magnus’ own, his round eyes lighting up as they crinkle.

“You did?” Alec asks, breathless, and even now, still doubting.

“I told you. I want you, Alexander, more than anything,” Magnus emphasises.

Alec takes another step forward, and he looks like he's about to reach out, to touch Magnus' cheek. But then he freezes, hand caught in that intermittent space between them, and his smile falters.

"Wait, Magnus. Have you thought this through properly? Are you 100% serious about this? You're not going to regret anything?" Alec asks, concern intermingled with insecurity somehow radiating off of him, and it's an intriguing new side to the man Magnus hasn't really witnessed much of.

"I’m serious, Alec" Magnus emphasises, and he reiterates the gravity in his words by reaching out with his own hand to grab Alec's hand mid-air. Alec easily allows it, allows Magnus to hold on. He pulls himself closer with their shared grip, and they're suddenly so close that it feels fantastical enough to be a dream.

"I'm serious, Alec," Magnus said, but when Alec looked up at him again, his breath stuttered in his chest.

"As am I," Alec replied. "But we both know this isn't the right time." Even then, Magnus heard the slight slur in Alec's words, a clear indication of their shared inebriation. It was admirable and honorable of Alec to register, on the behalf of the both of them, that this wasn't the sort of decision you made whilst half-drunk.

It was just another reason Magnus liked Alec so much. Because Magnus knew. Alec was right.

"We're not in the right headspace, now. And you're technically with Camille. Plus, I know you Magnus," Alec exhaled then, long and slow, yet with a force too, as if the weight of his thoughts had punched the air from his lungs. His eyes bored into Magnus' then, gaze immovable and impossibly tender. There was something sad swirling in those eyes, though Magnus got the distinct sense that the sadness was not just Alec's own feelings, but a sign of his burdensome pity for Magnus.

"We both know you'd never be able to do that to your father," Alec said, with the authority of the harsh truth bolstering his words and squeezing Magnus' heart a little too tight.

Shaking his head at the apparent defeat in Alec's frown, Magnus found himself blinking hard in frustration.

"No, I would," Magnus sputtered. "I know, I know that it looks like I'm a coward, but I'm not, Alec."

Alec smiled then, and it was sad and forlorn and perhaps just a little bit heartbreaking. "I'm not calling you a coward, Magnus. It's just… as much as I can't stand your father, I know that you have to deal with him all the time. And I could never ask you to do something, to commit to something, that you would end up regretting."

And there it was, right? Because Alec wasn't blind. Of course, over the past few weeks, he'd seen Magnus' submission to his father. And here Alec was, somehow still looking out for Magnus in this strange confusing situation they were all a part of.

Magnus stared at Alec right in the eye then, determination pulsing through him. He needed Alec to know that he meant the next words he said, meant them with his whole heart and mind and soul.

"Alexander, I would never, ever, regret being with you."

"Magnus, but what about…" Alec trails off, though he doesn't take his hand out of Magnus', which Magnus counts as a victory. Despite the way the sentence drops off, Magnus already knows what - or more accurately, who - Alec is talking about. It reminds Magnus of what Alec had said the night before, in the dim of the night and in the haze of a couple bottles of wine.

Because of course Alec would doubt. Magnus knows what it looks like to someone on the outside, has seen it more and more clearly since the night of the Alicante Music Awards. His life is lived under the rule of his father. It's hard to establish authority, to flex any sort of leg room, with a man like Asmodeus Bane constantly on watch.

Before, the thought of outright defying his father, especially with something so integral to his career as his relationship with Camille, would truly have scared Magnus into ultimately not following through. Before Alec, Magnus would've just let it continue.

But Alec makes things different. Magnus remembers Alec's first day, and how Magnus had been able to stand up to his father and exert a little control, even if just for a bit. He reflects on the newfound budding strength Alec grants him, in the business of his life, over the past few weeks.

Alec empowers him in a way nobody before ever has.

"This is my life, Alexander, and this is my choice," Magnus says, and his voice almost shakes, not from fear, but rather, from the pure force of emotion coursing through him as he stares up at Alec. They're so close now, bodies pressed close together, their hands still interlocked. "I was telling the truth, yesterday. That I want to be with you. That I would never regret being with you. No matter what Camille, or my father, or anyone else has to say about it."

Alec looks like he's about to argue, but Magnus reaches up with his free hand and gently hushes him with a finger in front of Alec's lips. He gets the message, and he shuts his mouth quietly.

"I've thought about it. Believe me, I have. Yet before last night, I never wanted to push it. I didn't know how you felt. But I know now. And I know that I want you, more than I fear what anyone thinks," Magnus argues, willing Alec quietly to just believe him. 

There's gravity to this situation. They both already know how they feel about each other now, in some muddled indirect discreet manner, but they know. They’re so close, on the precipice of something indescribable, something that neither of them truly have the power to stop. Alec swallows, and Magnus tightens his hand in Alec’s as he moves his other hand away from Alec’s face, in favour of reaching out to cup Alec’s cheek.

Alec’s eyes close, eyelids fluttering as he seems to subconsciously lean into Magnus’ touch, and he lets out a gentle hum. When he opens his eyes, they are bright with a sense of resolve, a clarity, that seems to confirm every unspoken thing in the room.

Alec sighed then, eyes closing for a brief moment, and it seemed as if he was in pain, for an expression of distress flashed across his face for a second. But it was gone far too quickly, and when he opened his eyes again, Magnus found himself unable to speak, for all the emotions swirling in Alec’s gaze left him speechless.

Leaning forward slightly, Alec reached out, cupping Magnus’ cheek. He leaned all the way, lips touching Magnus’ forehead in a kiss that felt so light, that you could almost convince Magnus that he had imagined the entire thing. It was over far too quickly, had happened far too suddenly, and Magnus found himself left in a sense of bewildered sadness as he saw the dismay in Alec’s grim smile once he pulled back.

It was a smile that reflected defeat, which Magnus wished to kiss away in that moment. As if Alec had accepted that this was all they could have, that Magnus would not be able to break away from Camille or Asmodeus. Magnus should have felt offended, but in that moment, he only felt bitter, for he could understand Alec’s hesitation.

It was in this moment that Magnus decided that he would prove Alec wrong.

Magnus’ own eyes begin to flutter shut as he leans forward, and he feels the burgeoning sense of yearning they share, as the two of them move closer together.

Surprisingly, Magnus feels Alec’s lips kiss his cheek, a breath of a touch that lasts for barely a moment, before it’s gone. It’s unexpected, but it feels tender, so unlike Magnus’ dramatics and bravado from before. Magnus opens his eyes again, and he finds his gaze focused, intense, on Alec’s mouth, so close to his.

Magnus doesn’t want to settle for a forehead kiss, or a cheek peck. No, he wants all in. He wants everything.

But before Magnus could verbalise his rebellious thoughts, Alec jolted, launching himself off the couch, shaking his head and mumbling apologies. He whipped out his phone, leaving Magnus speechless at the total shift in their interaction, and Magnus realised a moment too late that Alec had just called himself a taxi to leave.

“Alexander, wait,” Magnus began to say, but Alec started to march towards the front door.

“I ordered the taxi to pick me up a couple blocks away, so don’t worry about that,” Alec said, though to Magnus, it sounded distant, far away. For now, Magnus could only think of how quickly things had changed. The evening had started off so wonderfully, but now things were disjointed, and Alec was leaving, thinking that Magnus wouldn’t fight for him, and this was all just too much to process.

“Alexander, please,” Magnus uttered once the two of them were at the front door. Maybe it was the catch in his voice, or maybe it was the word ‘please,’ but something made Alec turn around then. And against all odds, he smiled that grim smile of his again.

Magnus didn’t deserve understanding. A part of him wanted Alec to yell at him.

But all Alec said was, “It’s ok, Magnus. We’ll figure it out. I’ll see you tomorrow.” It sounded simultaneously hopeful and defeated, unlike anything Magnus had ever heard before.

And just like that, Alec was gone.

All of a sudden, a loud bang startles the both of them apart, Magnus’ eyes darting to the source of the sound in surprise. Immediately, Magnus is swept up by the scores of people who have burst into the dressing room, rushing up to him and ushering him to the door. Magnus, frankly, is shocked into silence, for he has no apparent clue as to why he’s needed now, all of a sudden. Had they not just finished their rehearsals before?

He tries to zone in on what everyone is saying around him, tries to fight his way out of the onslaught of people as they carry him away, away from Alec. So close, yet so far. It’s a morose idea, but that’s all he can think of as he finds himself swept further away, swept away by people and responsibilities and expectations.

And it’s a shock to Magnus’ system, for this is a stark reminder, a reality check, about his life, about the pressures and demands and unpredictability, and he can’t help but wonder how Alec would be able to handle that, if they truly were to be together. To push this life of difficulty and vanity onto someone as earnest and sincere as Alec Lightwood suddenly seems like a heinous crime. Magnus wonders, for he had not lied before - he has spared so many nights thinking of Alec, of his feelings, of the possibility between them, of what it would be like to be together. But has Alec thought it through? Thought of the difficulties of dating someone like Magnus? Someone with such an unconventional life and baggage to spare?

But Magnus has no time to voice any of these thoughts now, and he can barely even turn around to say the quickest of apologies over his shoulder. He sees Alec’s eyes, alight with something Magnus has never witnessed before, but his brow is set in that familiar expression of resolve. But Magnus can’t do anything else, as the hordes rush him out into the hallway, out of Alec’s hold.

And just like that, Magnus is gone.

~

There’s no chance to be alone for the rest of the working day, but Alec holds onto Magnus’ words with a renewed hope in his heart.

But it's busy, more so than ever.

It's only when the three of them make it back to the house that Alec feels like he can catch a breath. And if he feels so tired, he can't help but wonder how tired Magnus must feel.

Asmodeus raises a brow in clear irritation, as if Alec is not so much an employee as a pest. But Alec follows Magnus and Asmodeus into the house, because he fears that if he sleeps on this, he'll lose his nerve. He needs to finish this conversation with Magnus, and the anticipation almost seems to bubble just under the surface of his skin.

But when the three of them reach the door, Asmodeus abruptly turns and stands in the doorway to enter, effectively blocking Alec from entering.

"You're off shift, Alec. You should go home," Asmodeus says snidely. Magnus stands just behind him, and Alec notes that his golden eyes are wide in alarm.

Usually, Alec either heads home immediately after work, or stays back a little bit. Asmodeus doesn't seem to be the biggest fan of that, but he's never actively stopped Alec from coming in before. Something makes Alec think this has to do with Camille. Asmodeus may not necessarily think that Alec has anything to do with it, but it's been hours and Alec is sure that the news of the break up has reached Magnus' overbearing father by now.

"Can I just make myself a coffee before I go?" Alec asks, for he cannot think of any other excuse to come into the house. There's a terrible feeling in the pit of his gut, and Alec is sure that the rage in Asmodeus' gaze could burn a lesser man to the ground.

Alec dislikes that there's rage like this, directed at him, but he loathes the idea of Magnus being the recipient of it all.

"No," Asmodeus' says shortly, before he slams the door in Alec's face.

~

"Do you have any fucking clue what you've done?" Asmodeus' rounds on Magnus almost immediately after he shuts the door in Alec's face. Magnus hasn't heard this degree of venom in his father's voice in a while, and hearing it now makes him want to instinctively curl up in a ball. He ignores the urge to shrink in on himself, an urge exacerbated by the slight chill in the house.

"What do you mean?" Magnus throws back, though he doesn't sound nearly as steady as he wishes he did. Asmodeus' eyes narrow, almost to slits, and he stalks closer to Magnus in anger.

"You know what I mean," Asmodeus says. "Do you not remember the agreement that had been made? Do you realise all the hard work you have just brought tumbling to the ground?"

"My career doesn't hinge on my relationship status," Magnus replies, but he can only seem to get one sentence out at a time.

"The EVMAs are next Friday! Your debut album drops in a few weeks. The agreement was you keep your mouth shut and harness Camille's fame for yourself, and stick with her at least until the album plateaued," Asmodeus' explains, as if Magnus has not heard many variants on this lecture all before.

Then Magnus remembers something Alec mentioned before, and he says, "There was never any contract."

Asmodeus pauses then, as if he had believed Magnus to have been too stupid or too meek to notice this fact, and Magnus takes the opening.

"You know, I… I hate Camille. And I know that you do too, and the only reason you don't really act on it is because you think I need her to succeed," Magnus says.

"You do, Magnus. You can't do it on your own," Asmodeus states, as it is nothing but a simple fact, and despite it all, Magnus feels the insult like a direct punch to the heart. "Your best, sadly, just isn't good enough in this industry."

"Shut up," Magnus says, tone clipped, because he doesn't have the strength to argue against the very things he tells himself all the time. He doesn't want the conversation to divert.

His father is the last hurdle he needs to personally overcome if he wants to be with Alec. This discussion has always been inevitable.

Thinking of Alec strengthens Magnus' resolve, like it always does, and Magnus crosses his arms - both for the power behind the stance and the barrier it provides between him and his father.

"I don't need your permission to date someone I want to date. You can't play that card as my manager or my father," Magnus says slowly, and he wills himself to keep eye contact. This is the most he's ever spoken up against his father, and he feels fucking terrified. Thinking about being with Alec is the only thing keeping him from cowering right now.

"What's gotten into you? Where has this disrespect come from?" Asmodeus asks, though the questions seem rhetorical, for he snaps his fingers a moment later, a lightbulb seemingly flickering on in his head. "It's that boy, isn't it."

Magnus is almost grateful for his father's intuition, because now the idea is out in the open, and he wants to fight for it.

"I knew he was a bad influence from the start, but this? Convincing you to end it with Camille? Surely you can see this foul play, Magnus."

"He didn't convince me!" Magnus shouts, suddenly angry at the idea of Asmodeus' suspecting foul play from Alec, of all people. If only his father knew that Alec had been the one who had almost given up on their chance to be together, just so Magnus wouldn't get in any trouble by breaking up with Camille.

Asmodeus seems stunned at the yelling, and Magnus suddenly feels a burst of irrational fear course through him. He remembers his few temper tantrums as a child and his father's method of hitting him to shut a young Magnus Bane up. Not that it's happened in over a decade, but something about the manic rage in his father's eyes in the moment reminds Magnus of that all.

But he keeps going.

"Alec didn't convince me because I didn't need convincing. It is not his fault. I've wanted to break up with her for ages!' he admits, loudly. "And you know what? I want to be with him. I like Alec, alright?"

Asmodeus' shock is palpable, and the large space of the foyer and front room suddenly seems stifling, small.

"That boy is confusing you. He's messing with your head, making you think you want something you don't."

"He saved my life," Magnus replies, almost entirely tuning out whatever nonsense his father spits out at this point. "But it's more than that. He's beautifully stubborn, and he has this genuine wish to help people in need. And - and he's brave, and he acts all surly but he's the sweetest person I know."

It's not nearly as eloquent as Alec Lightwood deserves, but Magnus is already feeling jittery from a strange mixture of the nerves and the power rushing through him now.

"This isn't what you want, Magnus," Asmodeus says, but the way he says it makes it sound like a threat more than anything.

Magnus realises in that moment that he's shaking, probably from a combination of internalised fear and externalised anger and shock at himself, for saying so much and fighting so hard.

"You can't decide what I want, father. Only I can. And I want Alec," Magnus replies, and boldly, he takes a step forward. Despite his fear, he's never felt so empowered before in his life.

Think about Alec. Alec, Alec, Alec.

"And if you do anything to compromise him, then rest assured that I'll retaliate," Magnus states, a sense of finality imbuing his words. He doesn't wish for Alec to lose the job or be threatened in any sense by Asmodeus, though he has to admit that he has no idea what he would do in retaliation. But his voice shakes, full of promise and intent, and a little fear still, but Asmodeus' expression subtly shifts in some unexplainable way that has Magnus thinking that his father at least partly believes him.

The shrill ring of Asmodeus' phone interrupts any chance for him to respond, and though he looks like he wants to ignore the call, Asmodeus eventually gets his phone out. Spotting the caller ID, Asmodeus only flicks a heated glare back in Magnus' direction before he answers the call, already walking away in the direction of his office.

"Val, don't you fucking give me this shit. Not today," Magnus catches Asmodeus' few words as his figure disappears from view, before a loud bang indicates the office door has been shut. It finally allows Magnus to take a deep breath, the shock of the last few minutes still radiating through him. His head pounds, almost viciously, and his eyes water despite his best attempts to remain unaffected.

"Magnus."

Jumping in surprise despite the whispered tone, Magnus spins on the spot, and his eyes widen in shock.

Alec is still here, head peeking into Magnus' house via the large window at the front of the house. The window which, Magnus only now realises, is open, and which Magnus assumes has been open the entire time. Both he and his father had been too swept up in the conversation to notice.

Alec peers around for a second, before he walks until he's properly in Magnus' view. Pocketing his phone, he eventually reaches out with one hand to grip the window frame. His other hand wavers in the air, as if he's debating entering the house via the open window.

Magnus nods at him. "You can come in, you know," Magnus says quietly, and Alec just smiles softly before he takes the invitation, effortlessly climbing into the house without making too much of a sound.

When Alec lands in front of him, his face is soft, awe obvious in the smile on his face. Magnus, in complete contrast, rubs his hands over his face, and lets out a strangled warbled sound.

"You heard that entire thing, didn't you," Magnus says, and Alec looks sheepish as he nods.

"I'm sorry, really. I was going to go. But I heard your dad yelling, and I just… couldn't believe he would say those things like that to you," Alec's smile melts off his face, and there's a steely anger clear in the slight squint of his brow that Magnus knows is directed at Asmodeus. "You know, I actually had this whole hero moment planned out. I didn't want you to take his bullshit again. But then you put him in his place. I'm proud."

At that, Alec's frown relaxes, and his eyes convey his surprise, but his pride too. It makes a warm feeling burst in Magnus' chest, and despite the slight tremor in his hands and his watery eyes, Magnus smiles. It's small, but it's there.

"I want you to know that I meant every word," Magnus admits, because now he knows that Alec heard his entire spiel of why he wanted to be with him. "I mean, I… I wish I had stated it more elegantly. Eloquently, sorry. But it's true."

To iterate his point, Magnus takes a slow step forward.

"I want to be with you, Alec."

~

So much has happened in the span of 24 hours, and Alec feels like he needs a moment, to make sure he isn't dreaming.

The man he's been thinking of for weeks, who he's developed such strong feelings for, really means this. Magnus broke up with Camille, and stood up to his father, for Alec. For them. For the two of them to have a shot.

But Alec's pause makes a visible wave of insecurity wash over Magnus, and that tiny smile disappears almost immediately. "I mean, if you want that too."

Alec has to admit that he almost laughs, in that moment. He seriously has no idea how Magnus could doubt him after everything they've been through.

"I think I've made it pretty clear that I want that too," Alec whispers hoarsely, because he just wants so much, now that it's all in the realm of possibility. But before he can close the distance and bring them together, Magnus frowns up at him.

"You think that, but… it wouldn't be easy, being with me. You have to deal with press, and people bagging on you all the time, and intrusive paparazzi. Even intrusive fans," Magnus explains, and it sounds like a spiel that he's been thinking over for quite a bit. "You have to worry about gossip, and stupid rumours every other month, and… you'll have no proper privacy."

"I don't care," Alec says, but Magnus steamrolls ahead.

"My father won't be kind in the slightest, and Camille's fans won't be the friendliest either. People will hate on you for no other reason than because we're together," Magnus' pace increases with every word he says, and his eyes begin to dart all around Alec's face, unable to focus. "Our dates would either need to be completely private, otherwise they'll be broadcast to the public."

"I don't care," Alec repeats.

"What if they track where you live? What if they dig up some shit from however many years ago? I knew what I was getting into, growing up in this, but I don't want you to feel that you have to shoulder this responsibility all of a sudden."

"Magnus, stop for a second," Alec states, voice warm yet firm enough to finally cut through Magnus' frenzied words. His eyes finally focus back on Alec properly, his brow creased in a way that hurts Alec somehow. He hates the doubt practically radiating from Magnus right now, can't stand it.

"Remember how, earlier, you told me that you'd been thinking about us for a while? Well, so have I. I've thought about it more than I'd be brave enough to admit," Alec stares intently at Magnus, making sure that he gets it. Gets how serious Alec is about this. "I want to be with you, Magnus. No matter what. You're worth it, to me."

"What if you mean that now, but come to resent me later down the line?" Magnus asks.

"We're going to communicate," Alec reassures him firmly. "We're going to trust each other and communicate with each other, truthfully and honestly, just like we always do."

Magnus visibly relaxes, though there's still a slight crease to his brow. "Well, honestly? I'm a little scared."

Alec is unable to stop himself from reaching out and touching Magnus' cheek, his thumb sweeping Magnus' face in a gesture that seems so intimate somehow. He hadn't even realised they had moved so close during this conversation. "I am too."

Magnus takes a shaky breath, and Alec notices that his hands are still shaking slightly. Ever since the argument with Asmodeus, Magnus has appeared on edge, and Alec can't help but feel terrible, knowing that standing up to his father has left him like this. Doubtful, scared, anxious. He's so proud of Magnus, yet he feels such rage that Asmodeus has the power to make Magnus feel like this.

Alec let's go of Magnus' face then, in favour of reaching down between them and interlocking their hands. It's a subtle connection, pure and earnest. Magnus' hands stop shaking, and he grips Alec's hands so tight, as if he's holding on for dear life. And Alec, he holds on too.

It's the strangest of circumstances, a culmination of years of scattered moments and memories, happy and heartbreaking all at once. The two of them, standing here, hand-in-hand in the foyer to Magnus' house, is a picture Alec had often imagined but never allowed himself to actually believe could happen.

Magnus doesn't seem to see it, but Alec does. Because Magnus Bane is radiant, a light in a world of darkness. He's talented and charismatic on stage, of course. He's handsome and fit as hell, obviously. But Alec has grown to know, and to really like, the man off stage. Magnus, holding up a line of cars due to his genuine wish to interact with all his fans. Magnus, telling everybody to be proud of who they are, to defy whatever stereotype is placed on them. Magnus, texting Alec to make sure he made it home safe.

He deserves so much better.

But Alec isn't as bold as Magnus is, and he can't bring himself to say everything he wishes to. He doesn't have the courage to pour out his feelings, to bravely admit all the reasons he wants to be with Magnus.

So instead, Alec leans forward, until their foreheads are touching. He takes a slow breath, feeling like he can finally take his time after the whirlwind of the last couple of days. They've reached this point, and they have all the time in the world now.

"You think I'm brave? I think you're the bravest person I've met," Alec says softly. He sees Magnus close his eyes, feels him slightly shake his head, and Alec wishes Magnus could see it for himself.

Alec hasn't forgotten his mission. He wants Magnus to get the help he needs, the help he deserves. Working over the past few weeks has made it abundantly clear to Alec, even more so than before, that Magnus needs to talk to a professional. He knows a relationship isn't going to solve all of Magnus' problems, or magically heal him. But Alec can support and encourage him, and that's better than nothing.

Magnus doesn't outright deny Alec's compliment, but his body language is a clear sign of deflection. 

"Magnus, please look at me."

A few quiet moments pass, and when Magnus opens his eyes again, Alec sees that they surprisingly no longer look watery. There's a fire in his eyes that Alec has never properly witnessed before, determination and joy beginning to shine in his soft smile, and Alec finds himself entranced by the expression alone.

"We can both be scared. But we can both be brave too," Alec says, barely even a whisper, though he knows from their close proximity that Magnus can definitely hear him. "And we're in this together."

They are achingly close now, their bodies pressed together, and their lips almost touching. Alec's eyes are hooded, focusing in on Magnus' lips.

"Together," Magnus repeats, voice low and rumbling, and Alec practically feels it more than hears it. His eyes close then, and Alec knows intrinsically that Magnus has closed his eyes too.

There's a moment. It stretches out, electric and exciting. The last moment of them in this undefined haze of confusion. The split second before the jump, before the free fall. Alec had imagined this moment many times over in his mind, and he had thought his mind would be buzzing, practically bursting.

And yet, in the actual moment, his mind quietens. Because all that matters is the person in front of him. Alec finds that it's not his mind that's racing, but his heart. All the yearning and desire and hope, every moment he had stared a moment too long or lost sleep over thinking of bright golden eyes, coalesces into this charged moment.

Even compared to last night, this is so much more alluring, so much better. There's nothing holding them back from being together. No underlying fear, no doubt about their feelings, and no barriers in the way. They're both sober and yet Alec feels more intoxicated than last night, practically drunk off of feeling and closeness more than anything.

There's just so much feeling, Alec fears he'll practically explode from it all. There's not enough space in his chest to encompass every unexplainable emotion coursing through him right now. For this one moment, Alec's heart fills his entire body. It pushes him to finally close the minute distance between him and Magnus Bane, the person he hasn't been able to stop thinking about for so long now. The person he wants and likes and dreams of and… needs.

Alec needs Magnus.

And then…

Their lips touch. Their lives shift. And their world changes.

Chapter Text

Funnily enough, there’s no fireworks. Not for Magnus, at least.

Instead, when Alec kisses him, Magnus just feels complete. And it feels like chords lining up perfectly. Like lyrics easily flowing from his pen onto page. Like in-tune, in-sync harmonies. Magnus thinks of every song about kisses and firsts and chances, and he suddenly gets it.

Alec kisses Magnus like he does everything - with all his heart. It’d be impossible for Magnus to not feel it. And Magnus, he’s brimming with heart too. So much heart, almost too much to handle.

It’s sweet to begin with. As if it is the beginning of a beautiful acoustic ballad. With his closed eyes, Magnus feels like he can almost hear it. There’s hesitancy, despite everything, but it’s new and wonderful and it feels right. Magnus is grinning into that first kiss, and there’s a lightness in his mind and his heart. He feels alleviated of all the worry and fear and terror he had been feeling moments before, facing Asmodeus.

It’s the first few notes of a song. Light and pretty and airy. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air, after drowning for who knows how long, without even realising beforehand.

How had Magnus not done this before?

They pull back from that first kiss, but there’s no lost proximity. Alec’s breaths are harsh, and Magnus marvels at how affected he sounds after one simple kiss.

Magnus doesn’t have long to marvel though, for Alec swoops down again. Magnus isn’t complaining, though, as their lips connect again.

The hesitancy fades with the next few kisses. Magnus’ hands aren’t shaking now. He brings his arms around Alec’s neck, almost as if he’s trying to tug Alec as close as humanly possible, despite the fact that there’s definitely no distance between them now. Alec’s thoughts must line up with Magnus’, for he feels Alec’s arms wrap around his waist. There’s no space, and frankly, Magnus needs it to stay that way. He doesn’t want space.

He just wants Alec. He just wants to be with Alec.

It’s when Magnus licks the seam of Alec’s lips that the man shivers. It’s so faint, and if not for their closeness, Magnus probably would not have felt it. But he does feel it, and it makes something between them click properly into place.

Alec’s mouth opens, and then they truly are kissing as Magnus opens his mouth too. And maybe, if Magnus had enough room in his head to think, he would reflect on how ridiculous they both look right now, making out in the front room of his house. But Magnus has no room in his head to think, of all things. All that’s filling his head and his heart right now is Alec, Alec, Alec.

It’s the ever-present baseline, the steady beat to the song of Magnus’ life right now.

1, 2, 3, 4. Alec, Alec, Alec, Alec.

There’s giddiness, and joy, and gratitude, and need, in the way they kiss each other now. Magnus can count on one hand, the number of times he’s actually kissed someone he has genuinely wanted to, before. But this experience, here and now, with Alec, trumps every other memory tenfold.

They’re right in the thick of the music now. The swell of the melody is practically pounding, in the way that Alec mumbles Magnus’ name like a reverent prayer, in the way that Magnus sighs and chuckles in an attempt to keep breathing in between their kissing.

And all the while, the beat keeps going. Alec, Alec, Alec, Alec.

Alec’s hands travel up Magnus’ sides, skirting lightly over the thin material of Magnus’ shirt and making his breath hitch. Alec just keeps kissing him, and eventually, both his hands are cupping Magnus’ face. Something about that feels infinitely sentimental and intimate, and it coaxes Magnus to open his eyes and move back slightly.

Somehow, despite the harsh bright lighting of the house, it’s Alec’s eyes that shine brighter. They’re practically beacons, and Magnus could bring himself to look away if he tried. The smile on Alec’s face looks thankful, more than anything, though Magnus has to wonder why. How can Alec look like that, when it’s Magnus who feels so grateful that he’ll practically burst?

You somehow saved me again, Magnus thinks to himself, strangely.

“You know, after that? I feel a little braver,” Alec chuckles. And the way he speaks, the way he smiles, the way he laughs, all seems like a tangible promise. It remains unspoken, but Magnus knows it. And he knows Alec knows it.

“Oh Alexander, did you not know?” Magnus says, though his voice sounds almost foreign. It sounds too light, too carefree, almost wet with emotion. “You always inspire me to be braver.”

It sounds like… maybe not the ending of a song. Not exactly an epic crescendo, but not a fade-to-nothing either. There’s more to come, Magnus thinks giddily.

Alec beams, as if he shares Magnus’ thoughts, expression just as light as Magnus’ voice, and that’s when he figures it out. Magnus almost curses himself then, for thinking such grandiose thoughts over something as simple as a first kiss. But he’s powerless as the thought consumes him, even if only for a brief moment.

The thought that this, them together now… it sounds like the start of forever.