When Magnus opens the door, of course it’s Alexander standing there, flanked by two brutes who look like they share one brain cell.
“Alec,” he says calmly and Alec inclines his head, his eyes hard and focused on the hallway behind Magnus.
“We have reason to believe Curtis Hart is within the premises. We have a warrant for his arrest. May we come in?”
“Oh, by all means,” Magnus says, sweeping his hand obsequiously to beckon the way and sashaying back towards the bedroom, knowing he’s showing off the claw marks on his back. He still has last night’s makeup smudged around his eyes, and he can feel the marks Curt left on his neck throbbing with his elevated pulse. Petty, but he feels it speaks volumes. Warlocks were never meant to be celibate and it would be ludicrous to think that he has been in the nearly three years since he’s seen Alexander.
“Curt, darling? It seems you’ve been a naughty boy.”
Curt pokes his dark head out of the bedroom and blanches when he sees Alec and his goons. They anticipate him bolting and flank him easily, holding his struggling body like it’s a tissue.
“What exactly has he done?” Magnus asks Alec, summoning and swirling his morning martini idly between his fingers.
“Participated in the murder of three vampires and the attempted murder of two Shadowhunters.”
Magnus shakes his head sadly. “Oh, Curt. I thought you knew how to cover your tracks better than that.”
“Magnus!” Alec bites out, shocked, and Magnus grins at him, sharp.
“Oh hush, I’m teasing. You want him deposited in the Guard?” He twirls his fingers and a portal opens up behind them. Alec nods at his team and they drag a protesting and bewildered-looking Curt with them, but Alec makes no move to join them.
“Was there something else, Shadowhunter?” Magnus finally looks at Alec again, takes in the new frown lines on his forehead, the sliver of grey at his temple.
Alec looks like he’s going to say something, but then his face closes. “No. I apologise for interrupting your morning.”
“This morning is the same as all the others,” Magnus replies lightly, tilting his head to show off his bruises, watching Alec’s face lose colour. “What can I say?”
“As long as you’re happy,” Alec says with a shuddering inhale, turning to go. Magnus frowns, but can’t resist pressing on the wound.
“Of course I am. I have everything I need.” Magnus watches with a sinking triumph as Alec leaves without another word, and then collapses onto his couch, rubbing his hand over his face. Nearly three years and Alec still has the power to reduce him to nothing but the rawest part of him, a heart that only beats for one. It’s not fair, he thinks, his hand clenching into a fist. It’s not fair at all. He should be riding high. He has everything now, everything that can be freely given to him. His magic, men, women, love if he wanted it, the best alcohol money can buy – well, that can be summoned by a click of his fingers. He’s no longer the weak man who begged for Alexander to stay with him, that felt the yawning chasm of nothing open up beneath his feet, ready to accept his fall. He’s not, he knows this, but right now, he’s perilously close to forgetting.
He raises his head to survey the New York skyline, spread out beneath him, ready and waiting for all his power, and realizes he’s never felt quite so small.
It’s different, now. Now that he’s seen Alexander. Now that he knows that Alec knows he’s back. Well, Alec probably knew the moment he stepped foot in New York, Shadowhunter spies everywhere. But now when he puts on his most eye-catching clothing, as he walks through familiar streets, when he orders one more drink in The Hunter’s Moon or slides between two bodies on the dancefloor of Pandemonium, he feels a coil of anticipation low in his stomach, something hard wrapping round his guts. Something hoping to strike.
If it hadn’t been for that morning though, Magnus would have thought Alec a ghost, a figment of his imagination. He’s seen no recognizable faces at the bar, no whisper of arrogant Nephilim activity from Cat nor any word from Lorenzo, even if that old goat would love to rub salt in his wounds. Rey didn’t even reply to the courteous note Magnus sent Lorenzo to let him know he was back in town. Magnus had been expecting something from him – at the very least, some kind of baseless threat about how he was likely colluding with his father to take his position back, or possibly even take over the world. Lorenzo was prone to delusions and exaggeration. But there hadn’t been a peep out of him, and Magnus hears nothing from him, even now.
This irks him, especially when the latest gossip is about Downworlders disappearing. Names he recognizes, a few people talking about how this is how Valentine started. But they can’t be returning to that, not again. For one thing, Clary hasn’t been knocking at his door. He doesn’t care how they dealt with Jonathan. He hadn’t looked back since he’d agreed to stay with his father for two years in return for his magic back. He’d helped his father expel Lilith from Edom and hadn’t made an effort to find out where she’d made her final stand, choosing to spend his energy in defying his father. Closing his ears to the poison he’d dripped into them, day by day, week by week, until the only thing to do was to create his own oasis in the middle of Hell. Left alone with his memories and impotent wrath, burning away until he’d thought it had burnt itself out into some kind of acceptance. That he was only good as Magnus Bane, the famously fun Warlock. Good for power and parties, good for a night or sometimes two. Chewed on and chewed over until it had lodged somewhere behind his ribcage, wriggled its way into his heart like an icicle through the heat of his anger.
He carries it now proudly, like a totem of what he’s been through. A medal of war. Another shiny badge that invites attention and then deflects the eye. He finds it entices people and then ensures they aren’t surprised when he doesn’t want to stay. He uses it indiscriminately when he prowls the floor of his club, luring Seelies in with pretty lies that fall off his tongue as he’s unbuttoning their clothes, seducing werewolves with small signs of his own scars. In the crowds he catches glimpses of runes, stark on skin, and always turns away. He buries himself in others in the knowledge he won’t find himself in them. That he won’t find Alec in them.
It works and he’s so close to not looking anymore, so close to not scouring every location for messy dark hair and equally dark clothing. So close until he reaches up and plucks a fire message out of the air just as he’s about to turn in for the evening, the first rays of dawn cutting through the Brooklyn air. He frowns, trying to read the handwriting. When he’s deciphered the scrawl, his frown remains, and he’s tempted to crumple the parchment in his fist. But his phone trills as well and he knows it’s Clary before he even reads the text. If both Jace and Clary are reaching out to him – well, it’s probably just more family drama knowing them. Except Jace’s message said nothing about needing his help. Only that there was something Magnus had to see – and he had to come now before the crime scene was destroyed. Magnus can’t ignore that.
He grabs an energy potion and waits until he feels restored, changes his outfit to something a little more suitable for seeing people he absolutely has no desire to sleep with and summons a portal. He sets his shoulders and walks through to a street in Chinatown. He can hear low murmurs around the corner, can see a small crowd of store owners and delivery boys gathering, and gently nudges them back to what they were doing before they got interested in whatever the hell is going on. He walks through them without hesitation and turns to see familiar black-clad figures clustered around what looks like spilled paint. Only as he gets closer he sees it’s not paint, it’s blood, of course, because why else would they be here. And what he thought might be a mannequin is in fact a person. Used to be a person. Parts of a person. He turns and rolls his lips together, trying not to gag. He hasn’t smelled fresh blood for eight months, not since Edom, and by god he has not missed it.
“Magnus,” Clary says in a low voice and as one, they stop what they are doing and look up at him with varying degrees of hostility and caution.
He watches as Jace, Isabelle and Clary all move instinctively closer to Alec, forming a protective barrier. Though why Alec needs protection from him, he doesn’t know. Alec wasn’t the injured party. Alec was the perpetrator in their little drama and Magnus is steadfastly ignoring his presence. As if he can sense it, Alec turns back and crouches next to… he thinks a leg. Even dismembered body parts are more interesting than he is.
“Scooby gang,” Magnus says in a level voice, ignoring the duel quizzical frowns that appear on Jace and Izzy’s faces. “What is it that’s so desperately important you dragged me from my beauty sleep?”
They look at each other and on some silent sign, Clary moves out of the way and pushes the dumpster that’s next to her away from the wall.
On the grey brick, scrawled in thick, rust-like letters are the words: ‘Magnus was it good for you too?’ The last letters are fresher red – fresher blood.
Magnus’ stomach turns.
“What?” he asks faintly.
“Kinda what we wanted to know,” Jace says, coming to stand closer and mercifully blocking the sight of his name. Magnus stares through him.
“Magnus,” he says in a kinder tone. “Magnus, we’d like to know if you can identify her.”
“Her?” he echoes, and finally focuses on Jace’s mismatched eyes which hold sympathy, so unexpected Magnus nearly tears up.
“C’mon,” he takes gently Magnus’ elbow and steers him to a cloth covered object – lump, his mind helpfully supplies, to his disgust. Magnus feels bile rise in his throat.
“Ready?” Jace asks, crouching, and on Magnus nod, draws the cloth back. Unseeing eyes stare at Magnus’ shoes. There’s blood spattered on her face, and she’s missing the rest of her body, but he knows who it is.
He tries to swallow, coughs instead and nods.
“That’s Adriana Drake. She’s… she was a warlock.”
“Recent conquest?” Izzy asks from behind him, just about managing to keep the sneer from her voice, and Magnus turns thankfully to glower at her, focusing on the spark of irritation instead of the cold creeping sadness that covers him like a new coat.
“Adriana was an old friend,” he says evasively, and when Izzy looks at him, unimpressed, he capitulates. “But yes. We reconnected a couple of months ago.”
Izzy snorts but writes it down.
“At the moment, our best guess is that someone’s out for revenge of some kind. An ex-lover, maybe. Or a spurned one.” Clary’s voice is gratifyingly free of judgment. “But we can’t work out if they want to hurt you, or if they want… you.”
Magnus frowns and briefly peers at the gruesome scene again. “So this might be less of a warning and more like a gift?!” What a horrifying thought.
“Yes. But we don’t have enough Shadowhunters to put protective detail on all your exes so I guess watching you will have to do.” Jace snaps his notebook shut and offers Magnus a sarcastic smile.
“Alec’s sorting out the rota now. You’re going to have shadows wherever you go.”
Magnus’ eyes open wide in alarm at the thought. “Most definitely not. I can handle myself.” The idea of being sucked into Clave business again… he’ll take his chances.
“Tough.” Alec joins them, his hands clasped loosely behind his back. His face is impassive and Magnus wonders how much he overheard. “Someone’s targeting you.”
“They could be targeting you,” Magnus points out. “If they are trying to get to me through the people I…” love is on the tip of his tongue and he clenches his fist to power through it, “...I’ve been with. Well, you’d be their crowning achievement. Wouldn’t you?” He can’t help the bitterness that spills off his tongue.
Alec’s eyes flash darker and a muscle in his jaw twitches as he finally looks at Magnus. He can’t read what’s going on in his head but he can tell Alec is cycling through various responses. Magnus arches an eyebrow, expecting sarcasm, his skin prickling in anticipation of a fight.
Jace clears his throat and Alec visibly shakes it off. “I’ll make sure my protection detail is increased as well,” Alec finally says, his eyes returning to the horizon like the good soldier he is.
“Alec,” Magnus says, frustration at Alec being his stubborn self edging into his tone. “Be sensible. You’re not going to be efficient if you’re dead.”
“I think I can manage,” Alec replies drily, and turns to walk away.
“Oh, for.” Magnus throws his hands up in frustration. “At least make sure that… one… Underhill, that’s his name. At least make sure he’s with you.”
Alec’s entire body stiffens, and he turns slowly around, his face white and carved in pain. Magnus’ stomach sinks. He knows what Alec is about to say.
“He died,” Alec says shortly. “Eight months ago.”
“Eight months ago?” Magnus echoes. Eight months is when he returned to New York. Magnus believes in a lot of things: the restorative power of a good martini, how you should judge someone by how they treat waitstaff, that women’s clothes need more pockets. But he’d never really believed in coincidences.
“I’m sorry. I know he was your friend.”
Alec nods, his movements jerky, his fingers curling and uncurling by his side. For a glorious, delusional moment, Magnus thinks he’s going to step forward to let Magnus comfort him. Instead his face crumbles before he turns away and stalks off towards a nerdy-looking Shadowhunter holding a tablet. Magnus looks at the remaining Nephilim, both Izzy and Jace staring at him challengingly and Clary, as always, smiling softly.
He sighs. “Alright then. What horrors does my protection entail? I have a life you know.”
Izzy’s face splits into a feral smile, so startling and fiercely angry Magnus actually takes a step backwards. “Oh yeah, we know,” she near growls, and runs her hand lovingly over her bracelet.
Seems like he’s had shadows since returning after all.