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Always.

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Alec knew he was going to regret it. Ever since that incident, he didn’t feel comfortable in crowded places, especially when alcohol lowered inhibitions and control. But he knew he couldn’t avoid it today. It was Izzy’s birthday after all and she had been begging him for weeks for them to celebrate at Pandemonium together. After a lot of puppy eyes, he relented, knowing that he couldn’t say no to her.

 

As he looked at his mostly monochrome wardrobe, he didn’t know what to wear. Maybe he needed to take Izzy up on her shopping offer. He preferred black of course and his Chef aprons tended to be white. Finally digging out a navy-blue long-sleeved shirt, he set about getting himself ready. Izzy’s only request tonight (besides pushing his boundaries and begging him to go to a club) was for him not to wear black. Once he was ready, he quickly left to meet them outside the club.

 

Once he arrived, it wasn’t difficult to spot Izzy’s red dress and Jace’s booming laugh. Izzy was the first to notice him.

 

“Hey look at you big brother! All dressed up for once!”

 

“Well. Being a chef doesn’t really require you to dress up you know. Everything is covered up anyway.”

 

“Well you look great,” she said beaming at him.

 

“Thanks Izzy,” he said, smiling at her.

 

“Even though you found the closest thing to black you could wear,” she muttered.

 

“Hey!” he exclaimed, “blue is a totally different colour!”

 

The closer they got to the bouncer checking their ID, the louder the music became. Alec felt his nerves start to increase again. He kept telling himself that it was going to be okay. It was still early and it wasn’t so crowded yet. All he had to do was get to his seat at the table and stay there the rest of the night on the pretense of taking care of the table.

 

As they made their way in, they were quick to find their friends, Simon and Clary already seated at a VIP table with drinks.

 

“Hey Si” Izzy shouted over the music reaching up to hug him. “VIP table huh?”

 

“Hey Izzy,” he said, blushing, “Well I told them it was your birthday and they managed to get us upgraded.”

 

“Thanks baby,” she said, reaching up to kiss his cheek.

 

“Alright. Let me get everyone some drinks. Jace, Alec. Beer or whiskey? Iz a cosmo?”

 

Izzy just smiled as Jace asked for a beer and Alec a whiskey.

 

Magnus sat at his VIP table sequestered away near the back. He saw Isabelle of course, with Simon, looking gorgeous and grabbing the attention of so many around her. Her exuberance naturally drew people to her. Jace and Clary were regulars as well. They seemed to be in an upbeat mood tonight. His eyes drew to the rest of the group and he was enthralled by someone sitting with them. The dark-haired man with a smile that was just captivating. Who was he? A friend? A brother perhaps? He and Isabelle seemed to share the same colouring. He suddenly threw back his head and laughed loudly at something Jace said and Magnus knew he needed to find a way to speak to him tonight.

 

As the rest of his group left to dance, Magnus saw him relax and take a sip from his whiskey. Magnus immediately called a waiter over and told him to bring him another, on him. As he was brought the drink, he saw him sit up, with his eyes wide, surprised that someone would get him a drink. Why was he surprised? Surely people got him drinks all the time. When the waiter gestured towards Magnus’ direction, his head swung to him, taking him in for the first time. Magnus really didn’t know how he’d react but was pleasantly surprised when he gave him a small smile before nodding a thanks in his direction.

 

Alec took a sip from his whiskey from that stunning Asian man. He wore a red top, open almost all the way to his navel, with many necklaces in between. He also seemed to be glittering gold around his eyes. In short, he was impressively beautiful. But Alec was scared. It’d been too long since he managed to be physically and emotionally close to someone and after THAT first time, he didn’t think he would ever be ready to be intimate or find someone willing to put up with his issues. He couldn’t even let someone who was not his family touch him for god’s sake. Well except for Simon and Clary. But even that had taken about a year. He missed it though, the emotional intimacy you have in a relationship. But even if he met someone, so far, he seemed to be a burden, a hassle. Once they knew what they were getting into, they usually ran. Fast. So he'd stopped. 

 

“Hey!” Jace exclaimed as they all came back to the table, snapping him out of his thoughts, “You got another without me!”

 

“Well I had to entertain myself somehow while yall were off dancing” he taunted back.

 

“Speaking of dancing, Alec, this is Raj, the friend from work I was telling you about!” Izzy said excitedly.

 

And just like that Alec’s mood soured. “Hey man,” he nodded in his direction, not saying anything else. He knew he was being awkward, but he didn’t know how to get out of it without explaining himself. He just couldn’t tell them why he didn’t want to dance with him- they didn't know the full story. When he first met Simon and Clary, everyone just assumed that he was terse and not easily approachable since he didn't know them or that he wanted to seem scary, and he'd let them think that. 

 

He let the conversation carry on around him while he just drank his drink silently.

 

When Havana came on and Izzy squealed, he knew they would be going to dance again. As they stood up, Raj looked at him before asking, “Hey man, you wanna dance?”

 

“Sorry dude. I don’t dance,” Alec quickly said, hoping that Izzy didn’t hear his reply.

 

But she did. “Don’t let him fool you! Alec’s a fantastic dancer!”

 

Crap Izzy. He knew he couldn’t get out if it now without being rude to her co-worker. Damn it. He shouldn’t have come.

 

He stood up and Raj gestured to the dancefloor in an “after you” gestured. He picked a spot nearest to the table, that was the most open and had the most space so that he didn’t have to get close.
He kept it simple, moving his feet from side to side and having his hands in front of him, seemingly relaxed in his movements. Alec knew however, that his hands were there as a way to keep distance, to prevent Raj from coming too close to him. Raj didn’t mind though. He kept his distance, smiling at Alec, copying his movements. When Pink’s ‘Raise your glass’ came on, the crowd when wild and Alec found himself jumping and singing along to the lyrics. He was having fun after a very long time.

 

He didn’t realise that the song drew in more and more people and soon he and Raj were standing closer to each other.

 

It struck him when the song ended and he stiffened. He wanted to make his excuses and head back to the table when the song changed to Majik’s closer. It was a slower beat and Raj moved closer to Alec, raising his arms to put it around Alec. He saw the arms coming and he panicked. He couldn’t move. But when they touched him, he jerked.

 

He couldn’t breathe. He felt too caged, too enclosed. He jerked out of his grasp and ran.

 

Magnus watched the reluctance from the dark-haired man as he went to dance with the new person who joined their group. Izzy’s friend. He was looking forward to seeing if he could move. He was a little tense at first but when he got into it, he knew how to move along to the music and that was something he truly appreciated. Maybe because he was staring so intently that he noticed the abrupt change. The sudden tenseness. The panic-stricken face before he jolted and ran. The friend he was dancing with didn’t react- he just made eye contact with someone else before moving in. His family and friends also didn’t notice him. He thought he might be heading back to the table but he saw that he was stumbling out the side door, into his little garden. Before he even questioned it, he was on his feet, heading after him as quick as he could.