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Alexander? Is that...

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“Awesome party, Lightwood.” A twenty-something man clapped Alec on the shoulder and grinned at him. “After party at mine?”

As Alec turned to look at him, the man waggled a bottle of champagne at him and winked, making it quite clear exactly what he meant by that. He was certainly an attractive man, all high cheekbones, dirty blonde hair and the kind of smirk that said he wasn’t used to being refused. Alec remembered a time, not even that long ago, when he wouldn't have thought twice about taking the man up on his offer. There wasn't a chance in hell of that happening now.

“Sorry, man. No can do, I'm heading home soon.” Alec shrugged, smiling at the man, after all, there was no need to be rude. He tapped him lightly on the bicep before turning and leaving without even a backward glance.

A lot had changed in the last few months, well, almost two years, now he thought about it. Alec still loved a good party, but now he had something far better to get home to. Magnus Bane.

Just the thought of Magnus brought a smile to Alec’s lips. Who’d have imagined Alec Lightwood would finally settle down and be happy to do so, even he’d never considered it a possibility. Magnus was special though and there was no way Alec was going to let him go. Ever.

“Bro, I never thought I’d see the day.” Jace appeared at Alec’s side and shoulder bumped him. “The great Alec Lightwood, totally smitten.”

One of the many things that had improved was that Jace, who had always had a tendency to drift through life, had finally seemed to find his purpose. It had started with the coffee truck, Java Jace, and had now progressed to him starting his own catering firm. Alec was more than happy to support him, not just because he was his best friend but also because it was a relief to have a caterer he could rely on so completely.

“What can I tell you? Magnus is just magical.” Alec smirked at him. Granted, he was the only one so far who got that joke. Didn't make it any less amusing though.

He had tried to explain things to Isabelle. It hadn't exactly been successful. Then again, maybe his sister hadn't been the best choice; Isabelle didn't really accept anything that couldn't be explained by science or coded in a series of ones and zeros. He hadn’t even tried with Jace, although judging by Magnus’ description of his reaction to the demon he might not take it that well.

“Oh god. You loved up is gonna make me sick,” Jace groaned, punching Alec playfully in the arm. “Just get home to your man already.”

“Don't need to tell me twice.” Alec only paused to give Jace a bear hug before striding to the door with a spring in his step. For once, he was glad to tell Raj he was in charge.

The night air was warm as he stepped outside, the New York streets still a flurry of activity and fortunately, tonight’s event was close to home. He decided to walk. Magnus would no doubt worry if he knew, but then Magnus worried entirely too much about pretty much everything. It didn't even make a difference when Alec pointed out he was almost certainly the safest mundane in the city. Not only was his boyfriend the newly appointed High Warlock of Brooklyn, but he was also on first name basis with all the leaders of the Downworld clans of New York. If that wasn't enough, he’d joined Izzy and Jace’s kickboxing class and his instructor, Hodge, had told him he had a natural aptitude for it, much to Jace’s annoyance.

The one upside to Magnus’ propensity for over cautiousness was that had made it significantly easier to convince him they should move in together. Granted, he’d had to overcome Magnus’ worries that Alec would grow bored of him, something Alec would never understand, but he’d managed in the end. There wasn't a single doubt in his mind that Magnus was it for him. For some reason, his boyfriend still found that hard to believe. Luckily his concern for Alec’s safety overrode such thoughts and, four months after the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ party, Alec finally moved in. He’d never been happier. The only thing left was to convince Magnus to marry him. That, he knew, would take more time, but Alec had always loved a challenge.

Rounding the corner onto their street, Alec’s mind was full of thoughts of epic proposals. He knew damn well he had a dopey smile on his face and, quite frankly, he couldn't care less.

With his mind occupied, he didn't even notice the bundle on the front stoop until he nearly tripped over it. Then the jumble of blankets began to scream.

………

Magnus hummed softly to himself as he decanted the glowing, gold, potion into a vial and carefully replaced the stopper. At some point he’d forgotten the amount of joy he’d got out of creating the perfect concoction, then again decades of hiding under the radar would do that to you.

The last few months had been a revelation, rediscovering sides of himself that he’d long since forgotten. Whilst a part of that was due to being forced to reawaken his magic, a lot was due to a certain Alec Lightwood.

After the Clary from the alternate dimension had crashed into his life like a whirlwind, it would've been so easy to revert to his old ways. Once the dust had settled, he probably would've done exactly that had it not been for Alec.

Instead he’d reconnected with his magic and, in turn, regained his love for it. When the then High Warlock of Brooklyn, Lorenzo Rey, had decided to give up his largely symbolic title in favour of adventures across the globe, it’d been Alec who’d persuaded him to put his name forward. It was one of his better decisions; he’d forgotten how much he enjoyed helping people. Tonight’s potion was a classic example. It was fairly straightforward, but it would dramatically speed up a sick werewolf’s recovery. Magnus smiled to himself as he sent a fire message to Luke, the pack alpha, telling him it was ready for collection.

Glancing up at the clock, he realised how much time he’d taken. Alec would be home soon; the thought giving him a dangerously warm glow in his stomach. He knew that ultimately he and Alec couldn't last. It never did with mortals. The trouble was he was powerless to resist; there was something about Alec that sailed past all his defences without even trying. In his darkest hours, Magnus hoped that finding a purpose would help him cope with the heartbreak that would inevitably come. It was something he couldn't even bear to think about, so he pushed it to the back of his mind. Instead he focused on tidying away his study, knowing that when Alec got home he’d be tired. He always was after an event, however much he tried to deny it.

He’d just placed the large bottle on the shelf, finding it comforting to tidy the mundane way rather than using magic, when he heard it; a shrill, high pitched scream that pierced the night time quiet.

Without even thinking, Magnus rushed to the front door, magic sparking at his fingertips. The cats, Chairman Meow and Church, were sitting bolt upright on the sofa and staring at the entrance.

The sound of the door knob rattling put Magnus on high alert, unsure what was about to enter his home. His only consolation was the thought that anything really bad would be unlikely to use something as mundane as the front door. In Magnus’ experience, bad guys tended to go for a far more dramatic entrance.

The door swung open sharply and Alec stepped in. Magnus let out a relieved breath. Alec looked unhurt and was even smiling softly, in his arms was what looked like a bundle of blankets. That wasn't the odd part though, Alec was cooing at whatever he was carrying so carefully.

“Alexander?” Magnus said cautiously.

Alec just glanced up and grinned.

…………

“Alexander? Is that a ..?” Magnus’ voice was barely a whisper as he peered over Alec’s shoulder.

“A baby? Yeah, isn't she beautiful?” Alec stared down at the child in his arms with open adoration.

The baby looked up at him with bright emerald green eyes and it looked like she was trying to smile. Alec didn't think he’d seen anything more beautiful in his life. Everything from her jet black curly hair to her dark mahogany skin was perfect to him. Alec stroked the little girl’s cheek with his index finger and she gurgled contentedly, wiggling an arm out of the pink blanket she was wrapped in and grabbing his finger in a vice-like grip.

“I can see that. What I don't understand is why she’s here,” Magnus said. Alec glanced over his shoulder and saw him eyeing the baby with poorly concealed suspicion.

“Well, it’s the strangest thing, really. She was left on the front stoop.” Alec looked down at the baby, now certain she was smiling at him. “Weren't you, baby? Yes, you were.”

“What?” Magnus gasped and stepped back.

“Oh sorry, yeah. There was a note addressed to you with her.” Alec shrugged, not an easy task when holding a restless infant. Carefully he extracted his finger from the baby’s grip and reached into his inside jacket pocket. The note was written on a crumpled bit of paper that appeared to be a page torn out of a book. It was roughly folded and on the front “Magnus Bane” was scrawled in blue biro. Magnus snatched it out of his hand, pacing around the room as he started to read. His brows were furrowed as he scanned the note and Alec could see the colour draining out of his face.

“What’s wrong?” Alec asked softly.

Magnus looked up at him, his expression serious.

“I need to look at the baby,” he said.

………..

Magnus had had a bad feeling the moment Alec had stepped through the door. He hadn't been able to put his finger on why exactly, but something had felt decidedly off. His anxiety had increased as he’d realised someone had left a baby on the stoop but it was only when he read the note that he fully understood why. It couldn't be possible, could it?

“Magnus.” Alec’s face was full of concern as he carefully handed the baby over. “What’s going on?”

Magnus didn't really know what to say. Instead he wordlessly handed the note over, hoping it could explain, at least in part, what he could not.

Alec raised an eyebrow and then began to read. Magnus stared down at the child now in his arms. She was looking up at him with her bright green eyes as she grasped the lapel of his cardigan in her little fingers. The mother of this child was frightened of her, that’s what the note had said. Magnus looked into her innocent eyes and felt his heart breaking.

“I don't understand,” Alec murmured, eyes still scanning over the hastily written note. “She can't be more than …”

“Ten months, seventeen days old,” Magnus said distractedly, bringing sparks of magic to his fingers with a click to scan the baby.

“You can tell that with your magic?” Alec dropped the note and rested his chin on Magnus’ shoulder as he watched him work.

“No,” Magnus muttered. Waves of blue magic flowed over the little girl.

Then the strangest thing happened and Magnus’ suspicions were confirmed. The baby clapped her hands together delightedly before reaching them out. Her fingers glowed and suddenly the magic surrounding her coalesced into a blue ball between her tiny palms.

“Did you do that?” Alec gasped.

“No, she did.”

……….

Magnus was still looking at the baby, an unreadable expression on his face, as Alec reread the note.

I don't know where to go and I don't know what else to do. I heard her talking about you once and it was the only time I heard her scared. I hope that means something because I know she won’t stop looking for her now I’ve managed to get away.

I can't think of anything else to do.

Please look after her because I'm sorry but I can’t. Every time I look at her I remember and all I feel is fear. She scares me, I'm ashamed to even write this down, but it’s true. I will always love her but I can't keep her with me.

Please protect her.

It hadn't made sense the first time Alec had read it, as if whoever had written it had panicked and only had time to write down a jumbled message. Now, having seen what the baby could do, it did. Sort of.

“She’s a warlock.” He smiled, almost proudly, as he watched her play with Magnus’ magic. “A baby warlock”

“I think so.” Magnus was frowning, looking at the baby with a mix of horror and awe.

“Okay,” Alec said slowly. There was something bothering Magnus that went way beyond having a baby unexpectedly dumped on them, “so what’s the real issue here?”

Alec sat down on the sofa and patted the spot next to him. Magnus joined him, lowering himself down carefully, still cradling the baby in his arms. He seemed reluctant to let her go.

“Do you remember what I told you about warlocks?” Magnus said softly, looking Alec straight in the eye.

“Half human, half demon, I remember….” Alec paused mid sentence as he realised the problem. He’d been so concerned with the baby he hadn't even stopped to consider the wider implications. “So how…?”

“Exactly.” Magnus turned his attention back to the baby who was happily oblivious to the crisis her appearance had caused.

“Ok. Let me think.” Alec rolled his neck, frowning as he worked the problem through in his mind. “She shouldn't even exist, should she?”

Magnus shook his head.

“Because there are no demons in this world,” Alec continued, realising that saying it out loud helped to clarify his thoughts. “But there has to be for her to be here. So how could that happen?”

Alec scanned over Magnus’ face as if he could somehow find the answer there.

“In theory, there was a crack, that night when I opened the portal. It’s possible if someone tried a summoning then…” Magnus looked unconvinced. It didn't go unnoticed that he was rubbing his forefinger and thumb together, a gesture that Alec knew by now meant he was feeling anxious. It didn't exactly fill him with confidence.

“Is that likely?” Alec asked, springing to his feet and starting to pace around the room. Ever since he was a boy he’d always found keeping mobile helped him think.

“Not really.” Magnus sounded defeated.

The baby clapped her hands together and the magic disappeared. Alec couldn't help but smile as she chatted happily away to herself. At least one person in the room seemed perfectly content.

“I mean, are we sure she’s actually a warlock?” It was the only thing that made sense to Alec. Then again, if she wasn't a warlock, what the hell was she? “Don't they usually have a mark? Should we check?”

“Actually, that’s a good idea.” Magnus shook his head as if waking from a dream. Alec knew that feeling well, there was something mesmerising about looking at the baby.

“Okay then.” Alec crouched down in front of Magnus, feeling substantially better for having at least the start of a plan.

Slowly, he peeled back the blankets, pausing only to tickle the little girl on her belly. She was irresistibly adorable. The baby seemed to approve, giggling happily and kicking her legs free of the loosened blankets.

“Well that answers that question,” Magnus said with a sigh.

There was no doubt what the child was now. Her legs shimmered as she wriggled them, both covered with iridescent turquoise and purple fish scales.

“Our own little mermaid,” Alec gasped in awe.

“We should call you Ariel,” he added with a laugh.

“Alexander..” Magnus warned, looking at him with concern. The baby, however, just giggled happily.

“We have to call her something apart from ‘the baby’,” Alec said. He didn't want to admit that he was more than a little attached already. “She seems to approve.”

“Alexander, listen..” Magnus began to speak and Alec was pretty sure he didn't want to hear what he was about to say.

“So what do we do now?” He interrupted, reaching forward and stroking the baby’s cheek with the back of his finger.

“We need to notify the Warlock Council. In all likelihood they’ll want me to bring her to the Spiral Labyrinth before finding her a foster place and ..” Magnus said, seeming to hesitate as he spoke despite his outward appearance of organisation. There was something else there too. He never once stopped rocking the baby and Alec was sure he could see a sadness behind his eyes.

“No,” Alec snapped, surprised at the certainty in his voice.

From the second he’d picked up the baby, he’d been filled with an almost overwhelming desire to protect her. It was a connection he couldn't even begin to explain. All he knew was the thought of giving her away when she could be in danger was unbearable.

Magnus looked at him, eyes wide, as if in shock at the harsh tone from his normally placid boyfriend.

“We can't do that,” Alec muttered, standing once more and running his fingers through his hair.

God, he had to think, formulate a strategy, it was just how he was. The irony was that to people who didn't know him well, it would come as a surprise that the seemingly impulsive Alec Lightwood thought things through at all but he was, by nature, a planner. He just hid it beneath a veneer of sass. You didn't become New York’s premier event coordinator without the ability to think of every eventuality. Now he needed that skill set more than ever.

“We can't do that,” he said again, this time more softly. Magnus started to speak but Alec just raised a hand to stop him. “We don't know who we can trust. All we know is that it’s more than possible there’s another warlock involved. Until we can figure it out, we need to be very careful who knows.”

“That does make sense,” Magnus said distractedly, waggling his fingers in front of the baby, much to her delight.

“So we keep this amongst the people we know and trust,” Alec said, the certainty he felt adding a layer of authority to his voice. He just knew it was the logical thing to do, the only thing that made sense. At least that’s what he told himself. The truth was somewhat more complicated.

It wasn't just the connection he felt to the child. A large part of it was the cold feeling he got in the pit of his stomach at the word foster. Logically he knew that the foster system often worked out fine, but you didn't grow up with Jace as a best friend without having a degree of concern about how things could go. Jace’s experiences, since losing his parents in a car crash at the age of ten, had been hit and miss at best. It didn't leave him full of confidence in the system, warlock or mundane.

There was, Alec knew, the small problem that Magnus, no doubt, would be afraid to take on the role of protector, not that he didn't understand his reasons. It was more that he wished Magnus could see himself as those close to him did, could see the unswerving belief he instilled in those around him without even trying.

“It’s not that I don't understand what you're saying,” Magnus said, a small smile playing at his lips as he played with the baby.

The cats, who had disappeared when they’d seen what Alec was bringing into their home, had reappeared, one sitting either side of Magnus, watching the child with interest. Alec was pretty sure Church was purring. It was a peaceful scene. It didn't last long.

“Alexander, someone is after this child.” Magnus looked up at him, his expression hardening. “The note said so. It’s just not safe, for her or for us.”

“The note also said that whoever it was, they were afraid of you,” Alec pointed out. Magnus laughed derisively.

“That may have been true decades ago, but now..” Magnus shook his head sadly. There it was, the self doubt that Alec had expected. The voice of a warlock that still worried that he’d let his magic go dormant too long.

Alec crouched down, placing his hands on Magnus’ knees and looking straight at him.

“We can do this, Magnus. We can call in help if we need it but, you and I, we can do this,” Alec said as Magnus just blinked at him. He’d never stop trying to convince Magnus of his own worth, of how much faith he had in him.

“You’re not going to give up on this are you?” Magnus sighed.

“Not a chance.” Alec smiled brightly.

“Fine, but we can't stay here,” Magnus said. Alec smiled a little at how easy it had been to convince him, clearly the baby had worked her charm on him too.

“Fair enough. Well, no one really knows about the cabin. We can go there.” The very first night they’d met, Magnus had taken Alec to his cabin in the woods, largely to help dispose of a very dead demon. Since then, they’d had several memorable weekends there. Alec was starting to think of it as his favourite place in the world and he knew damn well it was the place Magnus would retreat to when things got too much.

“I'm not promising anything. I'm just saying I’ll make some calls, see what everyone else says.” Magnus rolled his shoulders tiredly, not an easy action when you were holding a wiggling infant.

“I know,” Alec replied seriously before breaking into a grin as he looked down at the baby. “Looks like I need to pack, doesn't it, Ariel?”

Magnus raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone needs a name and it suits her.” Alec winked, before heading off to get some clothes together.

“It does,” Alec heard Magnus say when he was nearly out of ear shot.  

Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Magnus gently stroking Ariel’s hair. Alec smiled to himself as he left the pair alone.

Chapter Text

The logical part of Magnus’ brain told him that he’d only had his magic back for less than 2 years. He had, with encouragement from Alec, used it fairly regularly during that time but never in a difficult situation, never to defend himself or those he cared about. He was nowhere near full strength, he hadn't had to be. Until now. All that logic, however, flew out of the window when he looked at Ariel’s smiling face. It hadn't taken much persuasion on Alec’s part to convince him to look after her.

Despite everything, she seemed like a happy child, clapping her hands delightedly as Magnus opened a portal. It brought out all of his protective instincts.

Unlike Alec, Ariel seemed to take to portal travel like a duck to water. She was still giggling as Alec doubled over on the other side, trying to get his stomach to behave.

“You can go off people, you know,” Alec grumbled at her goodnaturedly. Ariel only laughed more.

Magnus couldn't hide his own smile.

“I can see you two are going to be trouble together.” Alec waved a hand at the pair of them without even looking up.

“Right, we should get inside.” Magnus cleared his throat, trying to get the image of the three of them as a family out of his head. Those sort of thoughts were far too dangerous.

“Yeah.” Alec stood up straight and grinned. Magnus ushered him inside.

Just being in the cabin relaxed him, the gentle thrum of his wards as they passed through them, comforting. So few people knew of this location it was the safest place they could be.

Ariel was chatting away, a collection of sounds and garbled nonsense, but she seemed happy to be here. Not that Magnus really knew, his experience with children, let alone babies, wasn't exactly extensive.

Alec dumped his bag by the front door and flopped dramatically on the patchwork sofa sitting in the middle of the room. The cabin wasn't big; downstairs was a large open plan living space, filled with mismatched furniture and bare wood walls. Upstairs was a bedroom and a small bathroom, Magnus had never needed more. This place had been his getaway when he’d built it, well conjured it really, towards the end of the 19th century. He’d kept it small intentionally, ignoring the trend for more elaborate styles at the time. Magnus remembered how he’d just casually thought at the time that could always add more rooms if he needed to. Back then, he hadn't had a clue what he’d become, a shell of his former self.

Ariel wiggling in his arms snapped Magnus back from his memories. He’d barely looked down at her when she started to cry, an ear splitting sound as she scrunched up her face. Magnus froze. He tried bouncing her softly as he’d seen Alec do earlier and all it seemed to do was make her more upset. God he’d been a fool to think he could do this.

“I got this babe.” Alec smiled walking over to retrieve the child, leaving Magnus feeling more than a little useless.

“Is she sick?” Magnus asked, berating himself for not even thinking to check.

“Not exactly,” Alec said, seeming remarkably comfortable all things considered, “but I think we might need some supplies. Definitely some diapers.”

…….

When Alec woke up it was still dark. As he rubbed his eyes the events of the evening came back to him and he realised he was alone in bed. Sitting up, he scanned the room, trying to find Magnus and noticed the sliver of light creeping under the bedroom door. Crawling out of bed he dragged on a pair of jogging bottoms. They’d had a good night. It hadn't taken long to contact people and everyone had agreed to meet them at the cabin in the morning, leaving them the rest of the evening to focus on getting everything a young baby could need. Alec freely admitted he may have gone a little overboard, but he still stood by his assertion that Ariel needed the adorable little mermaid onesie he’d found. Magnus, whether he liked to admit it or not, had been just as bad. He’d even conjured a small nursery off the bedroom just for Ariel. It’d been fun to see the excitement in his boyfriend’s eyes as they’d sorted out the decor.

As he padded softly to the door he heard the sound of singing from Ariel’s room and realised, as he’d suspected, that’s where Magnus was. As quietly as he could, he pushed the door to the nursery open and leaned on the door jam. Magnus had his back to him and was rocking Ariel in his arm and was singing to her in a language Alec couldn't quite place.

As he continued to watch, Magnus gently placed Ariel back into the crib. He couldn't really see her but he did see her pudgy little arms reaching out as Magnus conjured dancing cats to float above her head like a magical mobile. Magnus crouched down by the side of the crib, twisting his fingers to keep the magical cats moving. His voice was soft and lilting as he continued to sing.

Alec cleared his throat softly, unable to resist joining them any longer. Magnus stopped singing and glanced over his shoulder.

“I didn't want to wake you,” he said, almost apologetically.

“I don't mind.” Alec smiled. “You’re good with her.”

Alec moved to crouch next to Magnus. Ariel looked up at him, blinking her eyes sleepily.

“I just..she was hungry,” Magnus said, seemingly uncomfortable with the compliment. “I'm not, well, it doesn't come naturally like it does with you.”

“Not natural. I basically looked after Max when he was a baby. Mom was working a lot.” Alec shrugged his shoulders. It was strange to think back to those days, to remember Max, now a gangly pre-teen, as the sweet baby he was. “You certainly seem to be picking it up quickly. Look, she’s asleep already.”

Alec pointed down to where Ariel had closed her eyes, holding a soft toy flounder closely. It was possible he was taking the mermaid thing too far. He wasn't even sorry. He knew how Magnus felt about his mark even after Alec had reassured him multiple times that his real eyes were beautiful. He was determined Ariel would never feel the same stigma.

“C’mon, let’s get back to bed. Big day tomorrow.” Alec looped an arm around Magnus’ shoulder, pressing a kiss to his forehead.

Magnus just nodded, his brow furrowed.

“It’s gonna be fine,” Alec added. Magnus looked up at him wide eyed. “I can hear you thinking from here.”

….

The smell of bacon cooking woke Magnus up as the morning light crept through the heavy drapes. Grabbing his robe he made his way downstairs, pausing briefly to check on Ariel and finding her room empty.

The scene that greeted him downstairs was almost painfully domestic; Alec was at the stove cooking and Ariel sat in a high chair chatting away to herself and reaching out her hands. It was the sort of life Magnus had always dreamed of and he had to remind himself it was only temporary.

“Morning.” Alec grinned over his shoulder, having heard him come downstairs. “Bacon and French toast coming right up.”

“I should check on the wards first.” Magnus shuffled from foot to foot. It would just be too easy to sink into the beautiful illusion in front of him. He had to get some distance.

“Okay, but don't take too long.” Alec turned round and wagged a spatula at him. “Don't want you ruining the one thing I can actually cook.”

“Wouldn't dream of it.” Magnus stepped forward and pecked Alec on the cheek. Ariel reached towards him as he past her. Gritting his teeth he resisted the urge to cuddle her, it just wouldn't do to allow himself to get attached. It hurt more than he’d expected to see the disappointment in her little face.

“Won’t be long,” he said as casually as he could manage.

He only got a few paces before turning back to Ariel, unable to resist her.

“You’re in charge, little lady.” Magnus kissed her forehead. Ariel giggled happily and grabbed his cardigan. “Don't let him burn down the kitchen.”

“Hey, I heard that,” Alec said, pouting as if he was truly upset. The laughter in his eyes said otherwise.

“You were meant to,” Magnus replied, winking at Ariel before he left.

…..

Alec tidied away the plates as Magnus cleaned up Ariel’s face with a magical flick of his hand. Feeding her breakfast had become a pretty messy affair. After much trial and error, they’d discovered that the best way to get her to eat was to magically float the spoon towards her. It wasn't an exact science and Ariel had managed to get about as much food on her smiling face as she’d eaten. It had been a great start to the morning and it warmed Alec’s heart to see Magnus bonding with the little warlock. Granted, he was biased, but he couldn't think of a better mentor for her than his boyfriend.

“So when’s everyone arriving?” Alec shouted out from the kitchen as he placed the plates in the sink and started the tap running.

“Any minute.” Magnus was suitably occupied rushing around arranging things, all under Ariel’s watchful eyes.

“So, no vampires then.” Alec nodded to the window where the bright morning light was flooding in.

“No, Camille’s away travelling the world and I didn't want to disturb her. Raphael’s busy running the clan, although he did offer to help if needed,” Magnus replied, plumping a cushion for the umpteenth time.

“Makes sense,” Alec said as he made a start on the washing up.

If he was honest, it was a relief. Camille had never been anything but polite to him but there was a hardness to her that set his teeth on edge. Alec prided himself on being an excellent judge of character and he couldn't help but feel it wouldn't take much to send Camille down a dark path. Fortunately her husband, an ex-werewolf now vampire, was one of the most laid back people he’d ever met. Even after over 200 years together, the pair were very much in love. Alec very much hoped it would stay that way; a heartbroken Camille wouldn't be something he ever wanted to see.

Alec was shaken out of his thoughts by a whooshing sound on the front porch, closely followed by a sharp rapping on the front door. As Magnus rushed to the door, Alec retrieved Ariel from the high chair and cuddled her close. He knew these people, he trusted them and yet he still felt nervous. He wasn't sure why.

…..

“Well I, for one, agree with Alec,” Ragnor declares as soon as Magnus had explained the situation. Magnus wasn't surprised. Ragnor was notorious for his misanthropic ways and Magnus wasn't sure he trusted anyone. Except the people in this room, although sometimes he doubted even that. He didn't miss how Alec seemed to relax at Ragnor’s words.

“It does make sense,” Luke agreed, placing the note back on the table and carefully putting his reading glasses back into his top pocket. Magnus knew it was largely an affectation designed to create a harmless image, although werewolf close vision wasn't anywhere near as acute as their hearing or sense of smell.

If he was honest, Magnus did feel better for his friends’ support. The only one who hadn't said anything yet was Catarina, although currently, her attention was entirely focused on Ariel.

“She’s around seven months old and perfectly healthy,” she finally announced having finished her examination. Catarina had always been more proficient at healing magic than Magnus so he wasn't surprised that she’d reached a more accurate answer. It hadn't helped that Magnus had been somewhat distracted when he’d tried to check. The arrival of an unexpected baby warlock on your front doorstep would do that.

“She’s also very happy with the pair of you. She seems to have bonded with you both already.” Catarina continued with a smile.

“Well, I am naturally charming, so I'm told.” Alec grinned, raising a cheeky eyebrow.

Magnus, largely for his own sanity, ignored the latter part of Catarina’s statement and focused on the former instead.

“Seven months. You’re certain?” he mused, not sure how to vocalise his worries.

“Yes,” Catarina replied simply. “Which means there is a demon out there, or at least there was a demon around for some time.”

“And yet none of us have heard anything about it,” Luke added, his natural calming influence in full effect.

“I'm guessing demons aren't exactly quiet.” Alec glanced between all of them.

“Not usually, no,” Ragnor replied, his brows furrowed. “There’s also the small matter of the sensing spell we ran after the portal incident. Magnus was rather adamant we check the portal was sealed correctly.”

“Which it was,” Catarina added. “Not a trace of demon energy anywhere in the city.”

“Which makes no sense right?” Alec said.

It was a constant surprise to Magnus how easily his boyfriend accepted everything about the Downworld. Arguably his Shadowhunter blood and natural sight helped but there was more to it than that. Alec seemed to accept every new revelation as if it were just another piece he’d been missing all his life. It made him wonder if other Shadowhunter descendants had the same sense of something lacking.

“Is there any way someone could mask the presence of a demon?” Alec asked.

“An excellent question.” Ragnor nodded in approval. “To which the answer would be yes, theoretically. If a warlock had a demon behind wards, it is possible we could've missed it.

“Which would explain the lack of demon-related chaos,” Luke added

“So it’s possible there’s still a demon out there somewhere,” Alec observed. “I'm not sure I understand why someone would go to all that effort though.”

“Warlock breeding program,” Magnus said. The thought had been floating around his head for a while before finally crystallizing. Everyone turned to look at him.

“You don't think..?” Catarina began to ask, seemingly unwilling to finish the sentence.

“It is the most logical conclusion, given the evidence we have,” Ragnor agreed.

“Okay, I'm missing something here,” Alec said, turning to look at Magnus for an explanation.

“The note said ‘she’ was afraid of Magnus” Catarina began to explain. “So we can safely assume we’re talking about a female warlock. Honestly, there aren't many of us left in the city but there is one who would fit the bill perfectly.”

“Iris Rouse. That women has been obsessed with warlocks dying out for centuries,” Ragnor said, his voice dripping with obvious contempt for the woman in question.

“We need to be sure,” Magnus said. It did seem the logical answer but he wasn't prepared to accuse anyone, even someone he disliked as much as Iris, without proof.

Luke held up a hand and reached for his phone.

“Ollie, you busy?” he said as soon as the call connected. “Get Maia and Alaric to help but no one else.”

Luke in full alpha mode always made Magnus smile. Ever since he’d decided the police force wasn't for him, he’d taken on the persona of mild mannered book shop owner even down to the glasses and the battered tweed jacket. Only someone who’d seen him with his pack would realise the quiet authority he’d always had was still very much present.

It did help that Luke still had extensive contacts in the NYPD. Two of his wolves were still on active duty, his ex-partner Alaric and Ollie, who had been turned two years previously following an attack at the docks as a rookie cop.

Luke held a hand over the phone and turned to look at Magnus.

“Do you still have the blankets she came in?” he asked.

“Well, yes, but any attempts at tracking haven't exactly been successful,” Magnus replied. It’d been the first thing he’d thought of and had failed spectacularly.

“You can't block a nose,” Luke grinned, tapping the side of his own to accentuate his point. Magnus berated himself for not even thinking of that.

“Where are you right now?” Luke returned his attention to the phone call as Magnus handed the pink blanket over. “Okay. I'm sending you something. I need you to track where it comes from.”

Luke handed the blanket to Ragnor, taking a second to explain where Ollie was. With a flash of green magic, it disappeared.

“Ollie, I just need a location, nothing more. Do not engage, that’s an order.” Luke rolled his eyes as he listened to Ollie’s reply.

Magnus was fond of Ollie, but he knew, as was often the way with newly turned Downworlders, she had a tendency to be over enthusiastic. Nonetheless, he and Alec got on well with her and her girlfriend, Sam. Alec and Sam were particularly close, which made sense with both of them being mundanes thrust into the Downworld.

“No excuses,” Luke continued firmly. “You find the location, then you go back to the precinct and find out who lives there. Do I make myself clear?”

“You think she’ll listen?” Alec laughed.

“She’d better,” Luke growled, in true alpha style. A split second later he smiled and the good natured Luke Garroway, book shop owner, was back again.

“So what now?” Alec asked, handing Ariel to Catarina so he could loop an arm around Magnus’ waist. Magnus shook his head slightly, he knew Alec hated to be doing nothing. His boyfriend was very much a man of action.

“Now we wait,” Luke grinned.

“And Magnus makes us all tea, to compensate for interrupting our plans,” Ragnor teased as he settled himself into a battered armchair.

“Like you had anything else to do,” Magnus said rolling his eyes before heading towards the kitchen area.

“Exactly my point. I could be at home, happily reading. Alone,” Ragnor retorted and Magnus had to stifle a laugh as he filled the kettle and placed it on the hob.

Even when he’d had his magic, he’d always found it more satisfying to brew by hand. The ritual was calming and he knew damn well that was why Ragnor had suggested it.

“Which reminds me. I found something you might find interesting,” Luke said, raising an eyebrow and smiling as he turned to Alec.

He reached into his messenger bag and settled on the sofa, indicating for Alec to join him. Magnus glanced over his shoulder, curious as to what Luke could've found.  Alec sat down on the sofa, the excitement obvious on his face as Luke produced an ancient looking tome and handed it over. Alec took the book carefully, his brows scrunched in confusion.

“It’s called the Gray Book,” Luke said softly. “It’s where Shadowhunters recorded all the power runes they used.”

Magnus went cold. It wasn't so much that he didn't want Alec to know about his ancestry, he just didn't want anything to encourage  Alec to put himself in danger to protect those he loved.

“From what I understand, Shadowhunters used to draw runes on with a tool called a stele. It would give them an extra boost in battle,” Luke continued, looking every inch a benevolent history teacher.

“I think I have one of those somewhere. I really should try and find it,” Ragnor added, naturally being keen to stir things further.

“I'm not sure that’s a wise idea,” Magnus said hurrying over with the newly brewed tea in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

“Don't worry, babe, I'm not really the tattoo type.” Alec smiled reassuringly as he flicked through the book. “Although there are a few here I can definitely think of a use for.”

Alec winked at Magnus as he tapped one of the pages with his finger. As Magnus looked down he saw the intricate rune drawing with the word ‘flexibility’ inscribed below. He felt himself flushing, not really with embarrassment but more with the ideas that Alec’s comment had conjured up.

“I think we can safely file that under far too much information,” Ragnor grumbled.

“I have no idea what you mean.” Alec batted his eyes in mock innocence.

Chapter Text

In the end it hadn't taken long to get confirmation of what they had suspected to be the case. Luke’s pack had managed to track the baby back to a large brownstone; Ollie hadn't even had to check who lived there, not when there was a large brass plaque outside the door advertising ‘Iris Rouse MD Fertility Clinic’. Luke hadn't been at all happy that she’d got that close, but at least she hadn't tried engaging Iris, which was something. There was, of course, now an added urgency, as in all likelihood Iris had more than a sneaking suspicion that they were coming. Hence the cabin had become a flurry of activity, everyone making plans to go to the house as soon as possible.

Magnus had disappeared to finalise plans with Catarina and Ragnor, while Luke was constantly on the phone coordinating with his pack. All of which meant that Alec was left alone with Ariel, something ordinarily he’d have enjoyed. He wasn't happy at all.

Logically Alec knew that he’d be more of a hindrance than a help going up against a rogue warlock. Logic and emotions, however, rarely agreed and not being involved went against every instinct he had. Just the thought of people he cared about putting themselves in harm’s way without being able to look after them made his blood run cold.

The trouble was Alec, by nature, was a protector. He was the one who got into a fight with a group of boys in high school who were trash talking Jace and took his subsequent detentions without a word of why the fight had happened. It wasn't that his best friend couldn't take care of himself, but Alec couldn't bear the thought that he’d hear what they’d been saying; how they’d laughed at his mother’s history with mental health issues and had joked about the car wreck that had taken his parents’ lives. It had been Alec who’d broken the nose of the guy who wouldn't take no for an answer from Izzy and accepted his sister tearing strips off him for daring to think she couldn't take care of herself as a result. Alec knew himself well enough to know he wouldn't hesitate to do it again if needed.

This time every instinct screamed at him that he should be helping but he knew he couldn't. He’d never felt so useless in his life.

Ariel tugged his shirt and it was with some degree of guilt that he realised he’d been so caught up in his thoughts he hadn't even realised she’d woken up.

“I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm not paying you enough attention, am I?” he said to her seriously. Ariel just smiled back at him as she snuggled in closer. There wasn't a single doubt in his mind that in the space of two days she’d become someone who he would happily protect with his life.

Before he had a chance to think further, a flurry of activity at the top of the stairs caught his attention. Catarina and Magnus both came into view.

“Wow,” Alec gasped, without even thinking. Even Ariel seemed impressed, clapping her hands together gleefully.

It took more than a few seconds to process that it was in fact his boyfriend standing at the top of the stairs. He looked so different, no sign of his usual attire of comfortable slacks and cardigans. Magnus looked stunning. There was no other word to describe it. He also looked more than a little uncomfortable as he followed Catarina down the stairs.

“You look, um, different,” Alec managed to stutter out as he looked Magnus up and down. It wasn't nearly enough to express just how damn good his boyfriend looked. Honestly, Alec was lost for words. Alec Lightwood was never lost for words.

“Catarina’s idea.” Magnus plucked at the bottom of his perfectly-tailored burgundy, velvet frock coat.

“Iris needs to see the Magnus she remembers,” Catarina replied with a shrug.

“You used to dress like this all the time? How did anyone breathe around you?” Alec grinned as he slowly checked Magnus out.

“It’s okay then?” Magnus asked, chewing on his lip as he waited for the verdict.

“Understatement,” Alec grinned, twisting his wrist to indicate that Magnus should spin round. Smiling, Magnus did exactly that.

There was a lot to take in. Magnus’ muscled thighs were encased in sinfully tight black pants, complete with a stripe of satin down the sides, which were tucked into patent leather black boots adorned with multiple straps and shining silver buckles. The velvet jacket was a perfect fit, accentuating Magnus’ lithe body in a way that had Alec’s mind straying to incredibly indecent thoughts. Underneath he wore a burgundy silk shirt with a ruffled neckline and an intricate pattern of gold thread worked into the fabric. The shirt itself was open right the way down to the black velvet vest that highlighted Magnus’ trim waist. The amount of toned bronze skin on display was distracting to say the least but to make it worse, or better, Alec really wasn't sure, Magnus was wearing multiple necklaces; Alec had to fight the urge to grab them in his fist and drag Magnus towards him.

“It’s been a while since I’ve worn anything like this,” Magnus laughed, clearly pleased with Alec’s reaction. “Maybe I should do it more often.”

Alec settled Ariel securely in one arm and reached out with the other to tug Magnus towards him. There was no doubt that his boyfriend looked stunning like this, but there was something that didn't quite feel right to him. It was only when he looked into Magnus’ dark eyes, skillfully lined in kohl, that it struck him. He loved Magnus dressed as he was, but he wasn't his Magnus. The outfit, whilst undoubtedly stunning, felt like a costume, a shield against the world. It made Alec wonder what Magnus had been hiding from when this was his normal style.

“You look amazing. Doesn't matter what you wear, you're always perfect to me,” Alec whispered as pulled him into a chaste kiss. Magnus smiled up at him as he pulled back.

“Well, touching as this is, we should get going,” Ragnor grumbled, effectively breaking the mood. Magnus nodded but didn't look exactly enthusiastic as he conjured a portal.

“I'll be back before you know it,” he said, patting Alec’s arm before turning away.

It was then Alec realised that not only was he not involved in the mission in any way, which he’d fully understood, but he was expected to wait in the cabin like some pining wife waiting for her husband to come back from war.

“No!” he said, grabbing Magnus’ arm as he tried to move away. “You cannot be expecting me to wait here.”

Magnus turned to him with a sigh and placed his hand over Alec’s where it grasped his arm tightly.

“Alexander, we’ve been through this,” he said gently.

“I know I can't come with you but I need to be closer,” Alec said, trying to fight down the anger and frustration at being left behind. “It makes more sense for me to wait at your place. At least there‘ll be people around there. If something happens here…”

Alec could tell by the way Magnus’ eyes widened that he’d hit his mark.

“Your place has wards, it’s not as isolated. I know not many people know about this place, but what if they found out?” Alec continued to push the point home. He needed to be close, granted he wasn't sure what, if anything, he could do to help, but nonetheless it was what he needed. He’d recently got back into his childhood hobby of archery and if necessary he’d go on the attack with his goddamn bow and arrows.

Magnus hesitated, wavering as if unsure what to do for the best.

“I can get the pack to guard the house.” Luke came up to the pair of them.

“See,” Alec said, relieved that at least one other person was on his side.

“Okay,” Magnus said softly, finally conceding defeat.

………….

Alec was glad he had Ariel with him; entertaining her was pretty much the only thing stopping him from wearing a hole in the carpet with anxious pacing. He’d been a fool to think that being physically closer to Magnus would make the waiting any less agonising. A frantic knocking at the front door had Alec rushing to answer without even considering the potential consequences. As soon as he opened the door, he regretted his lack of forethought.

Izzy came barrelling into the hallway before Alec even had a chance to protest.

“Oh my god, Alec, where the hell have you been? Your phone’s been off for over 24 hours. I’ve been worried sick,” she said in a rush, her thick plait bouncing off her shoulders as she gesticulated wildly.

“I've just been at the cabin, Iz,” Alec replied, trying to sound as calm as possible while shifting his position in a vain attempt to hide Ariel from view.

“Oh..oooh.” Izzy huffed, pausing as she pushed her thick glasses up her nose distractedly. “So it’s possible I may have panicked a bit.”

“Looks like.” Alec shrugged.

“Well, it’s not my fault. You've been acting really odd recently and Jace said he hadn't heard from you since the party.’ Izzy pouted, hands planted firmly on her hips.

“Well, as you can see, I'm fine.” Alec rolled his eyes as he grabbed her by the arm to usher her out of the door. “I'm just busy.”

Izzy narrowed her eyes and dug in her heels, For someone so short, she was remarkably difficult to move when she didn't want to be. Isabelle Lightwood, at first glance, looked like a stereotypical nerd, saggy jeans, glasses and an almost cliched Star Wars t-shirt, the only thing missing for the full effect was a pocket protector, but underneath all that, Alec was pretty sure she was the toughest of all of them.

“We’ll arrange lunch soon, I promise, but now’s really not a good time,” Alec said, trying once more to encourage Izzy toward the door. He nearly succeeded, he probably would've done had Ariel not chosen that exact moment to start grousing.

“Alec?” Izzy glanced at him briefly, before ducking past him with remarkable speed and striding into the living room. With a sigh, Alec followed; he didn't really have any other choice.

By the time he caught up with her, Izzy was already crouched in front of Ariel, who was sitting up in her crib. Alec was pretty sure she was grinning mischievously, if babies could even do that. He was certain she was enjoying the attention.

“I can explain,” Alec said, pretty convinced that he couldn't, at least not in a way his sister would believe, “I'm on babysitting duty.”

Izzy looked at him briefly before pointedly examining the rest of the room. All of Ariel’s things had been transported with them and, with Alec’s subsequent worry about the situation, he hadn't had a chance to sort it all out. He seriously regretted going so overboard with his shopping.

“Don't lie to me, Alec,” Izzy said and Alec was surprised to see a look of concern on her face as she turned to him. “I know she can’t be yours but..”

“Seriously?” Alec glanced at her wide eyed, rapidly realising what she was implying and deciding to stop that train of thought as soon as possible. “No, she’s not Magnus’ either. We’re sort of fostering her. Temporarily. There is, um, a situation that needs resolving.”

“Alec, what aren't you telling me?” Izzy glared at him. Alec ignored her and moved to pick up Ariel instead. The little girl seemed more than a little pleased with that decision.

“Nothing you need to worry about. You wouldn't believe me if I tried to tell you.” The second part Alec added under his breath. Judging by the way Izzy gave an exasperated sigh, he hadn't said it quietly enough.

“Alec. What is going on?” she said, her voice going up in pitch ever so slightly, a sure sign she was losing her patience. “It’s just one thing after another since you met Magnus.”

“Don’t!” Alec raised a hand. Ariel had gone remarkably quiet in his arms, apparently watching the altercation closely.

“I didn't mean it like that,” Izzy snapped back. “You know I like Magnus, he’s great. I'm glad you're happy, it’s just..”

With a sigh, Izzy slumped down on the sofa, the anger seeming to seep out of her as rapidly as it had arrived.

“You used to tell me everything, Alec, whether I wanted to know it or not. Now, it just feels like you're holding me at arm’s length. Jace feels it too,” she said, tilting her head up to look Alec straight in the eye. There was no mistaking the sadness behind her dark eyes.

“Iz, it’s not like I haven’t tried,” Alec grumbled, determined to not let his sister’s doe eyes get to him.

“When? Literally the only thing you've said to me was some nonsense about magic and legends being true, which I know is rubbish. I’m a scientist, Alec, I know that’s not true and I also know you were just trying to distract me.”

“‘Cos science knows everything, right? I thought the whole point of science was to discover new truths. Clearly I was wrong,” Alec said with more bitterness in his tone than he really meant.

“Okay, I’ll give you that,” Izzy conceded. Alec looked at her with suspicion. It really wasn’t like her to give in so easily and it made him realise that she was more worried than he’d realised.

“You really believe it, don't you?” she said.

“It’s not a question of belief,” Alec sighed as he sat down beside her. “ I wish you could see what I've seen.”

Izzy stayed silent beside him, her eyes scanning over his face as if looking for any signs of deception.

“I just wish you’d trust me on this,” Alec said, exhaling softly.

Izzy chewed on her lip as she mulled things over before squaring her shoulders and declaring, “Okay, I'm listening now.”

“You want to know what’s going on? Fine, I’ll tell you. I'm worried sick, Iz. Magnus and his friends are off, god knows where, trying to find the warlock that’s looking for Ariel and there’s not a damn thing I can do to help them.” Alec’s words came out in a rush, leaving a temporary relief in their wake that he’d been able to get his thoughts off his chest.

“Oh, Alec,” Izzy sighed, putting an arm around him and resting her head on his shoulder.

She didn't say anything else. Alec was grateful, with his mind occupied with concern about the others, he really didn't have the energy to explain further.

They sat there for some time, neither of them moving much, his sister’s presence warm and calming on his frayed nerves. Izzy was waggling her fingers at Ariel and smiling softly, clearly falling for the little warlock’s charm. After what felt like a lifetime, Alec heard the distinctive sound of a portal opening in the backyard. He didn't even stop to question why Magnus hadn't simply appeared in the living room.

 

Chapter Text

“That was too easy,” Magnus said as stared down at the demon corpse lying on the floor of the dingy basement.

“You call that easy?” Ragnor grumbled as he brushed down his clothes with an irritated huff. “I’ve got ichor on my jacket. Do you have any idea how hard that is to get out, because unlike you, I haven't forgotten.”

Luke snorted out a laugh beside him as he buttoned up his shirt. Catarina was still upstairs dealing with a group of traumatised mundanes, some with newborns and others in various stages of pregnancy. It’d been worse than Magnus had imagined; Iris had been running her breeding programme for far too long. What made it worse was that she’d done it right under his nose.

“You know what I mean,” Magnus snapped back.

Granted, Iris’ wards had been extensive but with three warlocks working together it hadn't taken them long to break through. From there it had been relatively straightforward to track down the demon. Therein lay the problem. As soon as they’d stepped into the house there had been no resistance and, worse still, no sign of Iris Rouse.

“I'll put a call out. There’ll be packs all over the world looking for her. She won't get far, I promise.” Despite Luke’s attempts at reassurance, Magnus couldn't shift the niggling feeling in his gut. Until Iris was caught, Ariel wasn't safe. The thought was like ice running through his veins.

“We need to get back to Alec and Ariel. Right now,” Magnus said, fighting down the rising panic.

“It's fine, Magnus. Maia and Bat are on look out and you have your wards.” Luke looked remarkably calm. Ragnor, however, hadn't said anything for once, already conjuring a portal. That alone seemed to be enough to gain Luke’s attention, the smile fading off his face to be replaced by a frown. “What am I missing?”

It was Ragnor who responded, Magnus being too anxious for words.

“As High Warlock, Magnus’ wards now accept people who are in need and mean no harm,” Ragnor said. Magnus felt sick.

Luke nodded in understanding. They all knew what that meant. If Iris was convinced what she was doing was right, if she genuinely felt she needed to find Ariel, she’d waltz straight through Magnus’ wards as if they weren't even there. Magnus was still berating himself for not even considering that loophole as he hurried to the portal. He’d never forgive himself if something happened to Alec or Ariel.

……

The woman rushed through the back door and into Magnus’ living room, looking instantly relieved as she scanned the room. Her auburn hair was piled up into a messy bun and she was dressed smartly in wide legged trousers, a deep maroon top and a fancy black cardigan. The whole effect could best be described as bohemian, middle aged professional.

“Oh thank goodness,” she declared, smiling brightly. Alec felt his hackles rise.

There was just something about her, despite her seemingly harmless facade, that put all his senses on high alert. Judging by the way Ariel tensed in his arms and gripped onto his shirt almost desperately, she felt it too.

“Magnus just popped out. He’ll be back in a minute,” he said as casually as he could, even adding a smile in for good measure. “I'm not sure I’ll be much help, if I'm honest.”

“Oh but you will,” the woman said eyeing him closely.

Alec tried to ignore the chill that look sent down his spine. Magnus had wards, he knew that. He was just being paranoid.

“I'm not sure how,” Alec replied smoothly, falling easily into the persona he adopted when dealing with particularly difficult clients.

The woman stepped a little closer and Alec fought the urge to step back, reluctant to show any weakness in front of her. Beside him he felt, rather than saw, Izzy tense. He flashed a warning look in her direction.

“I think you know.” The smile faded from the woman’s face as she spoke and it felt like the temperature had dropped several degrees in the room. “I need the baby.”

“You’re Iris Rouse.” He’d known that really, suspected it at least, but now his worst fears were realised.

“Why, yes, I am.” Iris stepped forward. This time Alec did step back, holding Ariel closer.

“Oh dear,” Iris chuckled, the sound like fingernails down a chalkboard. “It seems Magnus has been talking poorly of me. He never did see the bigger picture. I promise you I mean no harm.”

Alec didn't respond, surreptitiously glancing around the room for anything he could use to defend Ariel and Izzy and finding nothing. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of movement in the backyard. Turning to look, he saw two large wolves about a metre from the back door. They couldn't come any closer though, seemingly held back by some sort of invisible barrier.

“I did, however, place some wards of my own. I really didn't want us to be disturbed. It seems to have been a wise decision. I realise you are relatively new to the Downworld but I'm sure even you understand the presence of wolves isn't exactly conducive to a civilised discussion.” Iris looked pointedly at the wolves before turning her attention back to Alec. “I'm not a monster, you know, but there’s no limit to what a mother will do for her children. I couldn't save the rest, but this one, I can.”

If she hadn't sounded so deranged, despite the polite tone, Alec might have felt a little sorry for her. She clearly believed every word she was saying, seeing the mundane women she had used as little more than incubators for her to use and discard. As it was, his mind was occupied with ways of stalling her for as long as possible. It was all he could do and he prayed it would be enough, that Magnus would be back soon. Back soon enough.

“Do you know what it’s like to know your people are facing extinction? Of course you don’t,” Iris continued, arms held out as if pleading for understanding. Alec nodded in what he hoped was a sympathetic manner, determined to keep her talking. “There will be no more of us, there can't be. This world is shut down so completely we can no longer even summon demons. I know you think poorly of me, but one day you will perhaps realise, the lines between good and evil are not as solid as you think. Sometimes there is only what needs to be done.”

“I know,” Alec said softly, schooling his features to mask the abhorrence he felt at everything she’d said.

“I think you’re just trying to placate me now, cheekbones.” Iris narrowed her eyes as she looked at Alec.

“A little, perhaps,” Alec admitted, shrugging tightly despite his best efforts to remain calm. It had become clear to him that honesty was probably the best policy when it came to Iris.

“Finally he speaks the truth, how refreshing. You’re not an ordinary mundane, are you?” Iris looked at him so closely that Alec had to struggle not to flinch. Izzy, she largely ignored, apparently not bothered by the fact that his sister had got to her feet and edged round the room to position herself behind her as they’d been speaking.

“That demon was a gift from Lilith herself. For decades I’d tried in vein to break the seals on this world and then, finally, I succeeded. It was a miracle. To not use that precious gift would have been a crime. Surely you understand that.”

Alec nodded. In a strange way he did understand, he didn't condone what she’d done but he did understand.

“Then you’ll hand over the baby,” Iris said with a smile as she reached out her arms toward Ariel.

“I'm sorry, I can't do that,” Alec gritted out. Ariel was holding onto him so tightly her knuckles were turning white. There was not a single doubt in his mind what she wanted and it wasn't to go with Iris.

At his words, all pretence of civility left Iris’ face and Alec knew his time was up.

“I really hoped things wouldn't go this way.” Iris shook her head almost sadly before looking back at Alec, her face a stony mask.

“And I’d stay where you are, young lady,” she added, throwing a dagger-like glance at Izzy before turning her full attention back to Alec and Ariel. Izzy froze to the spot, her eyes wide as she saw the sparks of amber magic dancing on Iris’ fingertips.

“A child should be with her mother,” Iris hissed, a wild look in her eyes.

“You are not her mother,” Alec spat out, angling his body away from her in a futile attempt to shield Ariel. He braced for impact.

Everything seemed to happen all at once, over in a heartbeat and yet, also in slow motion. Iris lashed out with her magic, throwing her whole body behind it, Izzy moved and Ariel reached out her hands. Instinctively Alec closed his eyes and then, nothing, nothing but silence.

Alec blinked his eyes open, mentally checking himself over, surprised to find nothing amiss. Ariel giggled in his arms, the sound strange considering the seriousness of the situation. Glancing down, he saw the reason. There, glowing between her palms was a large ball of amber magic.

“No one messes with my family,” Izzy declared victoriously. Looking across, he saw her standing, a smile on her face, as Iris lay unconscious on the floor.

“I can't believe you closed your eyes,” she pouted, her eyes twinkling. “That was the best roundhouse I've ever landed and there was no one to see it.”

Alec rushed over, pulling his sister into a one armed hug, still cradling Ariel in the other.

“I know, I know, I'm the best sister ever,” Izzy laughed, her words muffled by his shoulder.

“You are,” Alec agreed. Judging by the way Ariel grasped Izzy’s t-shirt and chatted away happily as Iris’ magic danced on her free hand, she agreed too.

A crash by the back door had them both turning to look just in time to see two wolves come barreling in. One of them disappeared behind the sofa, reappearing as a young looking Latino man. He was totally naked.

“You weren't lying,” Izzy gasped. Alec looked back at her, expecting to see shock on her face but instead her eyes filled with excitement. She was taking this remarkably well and Alec had to a stifle a laugh. He shouldn't have expected anything else really.

“Um,” the young werewolf cleared his throat. ‘We should probably secure her.”

He nodded towards the prone from of Iris Rouse as the other wolf prowled towards her and placed a large paw on her chest.

“Oh, and if you have some spare clothes, that’d be great,” he added, blushing bright red and shifting awkwardly behind the sofa that was currently shielding him.

“I have an idea.” Alec grinned, feeling almost giddy as relief and adrenaline flooded his system. “Ariel, how about you go to your Aunty Izzy for a while?”

The words slipped out without any conscious thought on Alec’s part. Ariel looked up at him with her big green eyes as if she understood every word. Letting go of Izzy’s t-shirt, she clapped her palms clumsily together, dissipating Iris’ magic. Carefully, Alec handed her over. Izzy took her almost nervously, relaxing only when Ariel settled happily in her arms. Alec was still smiling at the pair of them as he hurried towards the stairs.

Minutes later Alec reappeared, a bundle of sweat pants and t-shirts in his arms and a pair of fluffy handcuffs dangling from his right hand. Izzy just raised an eyebrow at him.

The young werewolf took the clothes gratefully, leaving Alec to stride purposefully towards Iris. As Alec placed the cuffs on her wrists, she murmured softly as if coming round a little and Alec spent a moment admiring his sister’s fighting skills. The wolf who’d been on guard duty chuffed softly before moving to join her packmate.

“I'm not sure those’ll do much good, you know,” Izzy chuckled, nodding towards the handcuffs.

“I wouldn't bet on it,” Alec smirked as he manhandled Iris into a chair. “They’re magic dampening.”

“Oh god, Alec, I really didn't need to know that,” Izzy groaned as she settled on the sofa with Ariel.

“You asked.” Alec shrugged unrepentantly, adding a wink for good measure.

…….

Adrenaline was coursing through his veins to such an extent that it took Magnus a few seconds to process the scene that greeted him as he stepped out of the portal. Izzy was holding Ariel, who was hugging her plushie flounder tightly. Next to her sat Maia and Bat, both dressed in t-shirts and sweatpants far too large for them. Alec was sitting on an armchair, a mug of coffee cradled in his hands as if he didn't have a care in the world. That wasn't the oddest part though, no that prize went to the inhabitant of one of the dining table chairs, Iris Rouse, fluffy handcuffs in place and scowling at everyone.

“Magnus, you’re back.” Alec smiled at him in relief. Izzy didn't even seem surprised to see the three grown men emerge from a portal, which was strange to say the least.

“So that’s a portal,” Izzy gasped excitedly, tilted her head and narrowing her eyes as she looked closely at the glowing oval. “How does it work? Is it some sort of space-time manipulator?”

“I'm sure Magnus can explain, can't you, babe?” Alec was practically glowing with happiness and pride. “He helped invent it.”

It seemed no one wanted to address the elephant in the room, or rather the Iris in the room, just yet. Magnus supposed it made sense. He knew how close Alec was to his sister and how hard it had been for him to keep such a big part of his life from her. He knew that Alec had been increasingly frustrated when all his attempts to explain things to her had been met with stubborn disbelief. Now here they were, sitting together, with Izzy apparently taking everything in her stride. Of course Alec was happy.

“Amazing!” Izzy’s eyes were almost comically wide. “ I don't suppose there are calculations? Could I see them because that would be increible?”

“I'm sure I can fish them out for you,” Magnus replied distractedly, his eyes flitting over to Iris.

“As soon as all this is sorted out ,” he added as he  waved a hand towards Iris and Izzy, although looking a little disappointed, nodded in understanding.

“Lovely though this gathering undoubtedly is, am I the only one wondering what on god’s green earth happened here?” Ragnor asked and although his voice sounded irritated, there was no mistaking the slight quirk to his lips. “Honestly Iris, bested by two mundanes and a baby. I'm embarrassed for you.”

Iris huffed and looked away, apparently not willing to say anything.

“Hey, what about us?” Maia looked more than a little irritated.

“My apologies. It just seemed funnier that way,” Ragnor said, not sounding sorry in the slightest.

“To be fair, we were locked out,” Bat added in placidly.

“Well now, this is a story I need to here.” Ragnor grinned, summoning his favourite armchair and taking a seat.

In the end it didn't take long to explain what had happened. Iris Rouse sat in stony silence throughout.

“So let me get this straight. Ariel can take another warlock’s magic,” Luke said looking at the baby with a mix of admiration and surprise. “I take it that’s not a common thing.”

“And she can summon things now,” Alec smiled proudly. “Izzy nearly dropped her when flounder suddenly appeared.”

“Well I didn't exactly expect it. You could’ve warned me,” Izzy pouted.

“Didn't know she could.” Alec laughed, although he glanced across at Magnus who’d stayed remarkably quiet throughout.

Magnus smiled weakly back, still trying to process what was going on. Fortunately he was saved from having to say anything by another portal springing to life and a rather harried-looking Catarina stepping into the room.

“Well that was more complicated than it really needed to be,” Catarina grumbled before noticing Iris and standing stock still. “Iris! Well this is handy. You can explain all of this to the Warlock Council instead of me.”

“At least they will understand,” Iris said under her breath.

“Oh I doubt that,” Catarina said brightly. “They weren't exactly thrilled to be finding foster places for twelve baby warlocks, let alone eight pregnant mundanes.”

“That many?” Alec gasped and Catarina nodded.

“In that case, it would be my pleasure to escort our prisoner to her fate.” Ragnor rose to his feet with a flourish.

Magnus looked at him in confusion. Ragnor was notorious for his disdain for bureaucracy in any form and it was entirely out of character to actively volunteer to become embroiled in it. Ragnor smiled at him serenely before continuing.

“I was in the middle of an excellent book and an even better bottle of brandy. I rather think I shall enjoy Iris facing the Council’s wrath. At least it will be some sort of compensation,” he explained. Alec snorted out a laugh.

Ragnor grabbed Iris by her arm and dragged her to her feet.

“I'll be a hero,” Iris said defiantly, although the desperation in her voice was evident. Ragnor just laughed.

“Don't forget to bring Alec and Magnus’ handcuffs back,” Izzy giggled as Ragnor conjured a portal.

He froze briefly, glancing down at the fluffy handcuffs on Iris’ wrists and shaking his head.

“I really don't want to know,” he grumbled as he stepped into the portal.

“So, what happens now?” Alec asked, breaking the silence that Ragnor and Iris’ departure had left in their wake.

Magnus swallowed thickly. He knew Ariel would have to go to the Warlock Council and just the thought of it made his heart feel heavy in his chest.

“You mean, with Ariel? Well, the council knows about her, but as I said, they’re already stretched finding places for the others,” Catarina said, the implication in her words obvious.

“Right, I think it’s time we headed off too,” Luke said, glancing at Maia and Bat meaningfully. Clearly he’d sensed the change of mood in the room.

“Great to meet you guys,” Maia grinned, standing up. “You should check out the Hunter’s Moon. I work Tuesday, Thursdays and every other Saturday, first drink’s on me.”

“Yeah, and I'm DJing this Saturday coming so you should definitely come down. I can put you on the guest list, if you like,” Bat added with a grin.

“Really? That would be amazing. My boyfriend Simon’s a musician as well. I know he’d love to meet you,” Izzy said excitedly, launching into a detailed description of Simon’s band and their music which Magnus largely zoned out of.

He didn't dare look at Alec for fear he’d see what he was thinking. Alec could always see through his facade.

The truth was that from the second Ariel had crashed into their lives, Magnus had felt an almost overwhelming connection to her. The thought of handing her over to anyone else was almost painful. But then there was Alec. Alec, who’d had so much to deal with already. He really couldn't expect him to take on the struggles of raising a warlock child as well. The thought of losing Alec was like a knife to his gut; he knew it would happen eventually but, weak as he was, he wasn't anywhere near ready to let him go yet. Unable to resist, he glanced at Alec. As soon as he caught his eye, Alec nodded surreptitiously to the kitchen before getting to his feet and walking in that direction without looking back.

Magnus made their excuses and followed him. Alec looked uncharacteristically nervous as he stepped into the room. Magnus closed the door and faced him, arms crossed defensively in front of him.

“We can't let her go to the Warlock Council.” As usual Alec got straight to the point.

“Alec..” Magnus said softly, not allowing himself to hope.

“I know you want to keep her too. I know it and I think..” Alec said, his voice almost pleading.

“It's not that, of course I do, but it's not that simple,” Magnus replied, feeling awkward but unable to fully explain his concerns.

The silence was thick between them. Alec’s brow was scrunched as if trying to work out what Magnus wasn't saying. Finally he looked Magnus straight in the eye.

“You think I’ll leave,” he said, sounding almost hurt. Magnus shook his head slightly. “You think I’ll get bored, or it’ll get too hard, get too much. It won’t. You know it's funny, three days ago when I thought of the future, all I could think about was you and me, but now I can only see the three of us, you, me and Ariel. I know it won't be easy, kids are hard enough as is without that little monkey having magic as well.”

Magnus chuckled softly, not able to help himself. The reaction seemed enough encouragement for Alec to continue. He stepped forward and laid his palm to Magnus’ cheek, turning his face so their eyes met.

“I love you, Magnus. You’re it for me.” Alec smiled at him and Magnus dimly remembered the old story of Nephilim only loving once in their lives and perhaps, a part of him, started to believe. “You know, one day I'm going to marry you and trust me when I say the theme for the wedding will be amazing.”

“Oh Alexander..” Magnus couldn't think of anything more to say.

“Thing is, I don't think I can live without you and I certainly don't intend to find out.” Alec grinned, clearly sensing he was winning the discussion. “I'm going to find a way to stay with you both as long as I can. I mean, I’d rather not become a vampire but if I have to..”

Magnus couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. Everyone had always left before and here was Alec trying to find a way to stay forever. 

“Tell me you don't want to keep that little girl. I mean, just imagine it, her first steps, her first portal,” Alec continued and the picture he was painting was irresistible. “I know it won't be easy but you know me, I love a challenge.”

Magnus looked at Alec closely, his eyes scanning over his face, looking for any signs of doubt and seeing none.

“Ok,” he said on an exhale.

“I’m sorry, I didn't quite hear that.” Alec gave a cheeky grin as he tilted his head and cupped his hand behind his ear.

“I said, ok.” Magnus laughed as relief and happiness flooded through him.

Alec broke into a grin so wide Magnus was amazed it didn't hurt. Before he knew what was happening, Alec had grabbed him and was spinning him around, practically dragging him out of the room.

“Ariel’s staying with us,” he said as soon as they re-entered the living room. Catarina said nothing, just smiled a knowing smile.

“Oh my god, I'm going to be an aunty!” Izzy leapt to her feet, almost dropping Ariel in the process. Ariel didn't seem to mind, judging by the way she was giggling as Magnus reached to rescue her. “And Ariel’s gonna have the best dads in the world. Hmm Daddy and Papa, has a ring to it, doesn't it?”

Magnus barely listened to her as Ariel snuggled happily in his arms. He looked into her green eyes and his heart felt fit to burst as he gazed at his daughter, his and Alec’s daughter. Ariel beamed up at him, grabbing his jacket in her fist. Her brow was scrunched and her lips were moving soundlessly as she was concentrating  really hard on something. The plushie flounder fell to the floor.

“P...pa..pa..” she stuttered out before grinning as if proud of herself. Magnus couldn't speak, tears pricking at his eyes.

“Yep, that’s your Papa.” Alec wrapped an arm around him as Ariel smiled up at them.

Magnus thought back to what he’d said to the other world’s Clary Fray on that fateful night that had changed everything. He’d told her she’d given him back his life. He wished he could tell her how much more she’d given him, a life, true love and now, the family he’d never even dared to dream of.

As Alec hugged him tightly and Ariel snuggled in his arms, chatting away, Magnus felt something he’d never thought he would. Magnus Bane felt complete.