It took five days of texting, of random brief phone calls when the two could manage it, for Alec to make the stuttering suggestion that maybe he and Magnus could go get drinks sometime? Magnus hadn’t been the least bit shy about letting Alec know that he’d love to see him again, but life had gotten in the way of that. Between some clients that Magnus had to deal with, and an uptick in demon activity, and one false start where they’d tried to go out only for both of them to get called away for an emergency before they even met up, it felt like they might never get the chance.
But finally, Alec had a free morning where nothing was going on, the night had been easy, and Isabelle swore she’d keep Jace from going out and causing trouble. So Alec had text Magnus to see if he might be up and maybe wanted to get coffee with him, and Magnus had agreed within minutes, surprising Alec. One thing he’d learned so far was that Magnus was definitely a night owl who was rarely in bed before three am, and even more rarely up before noon.
Alec had mostly asked him because Isabelle had insisted. Now that he had a positive reply, and they’d agreed to meet in twenty, he had no idea what to do with himself.
“Calm down, Alec,” Isabelle said teasingly, linking her arm through his. She started to tug him down the hall, away from where they’d been talking in his office. “Did you really think he’d tell you no?”
Alec followed after her, mostly because he knew better than to resist. “I didn’t think he’d actually answer. He’s never up this early!”
“Well, too late to back out now. You’ve got twenty minutes to get ready and get over there, and that might be just enough time to get you ready.”
There was no point in arguing with her. Alec knew she’d just steamroll right past any objections he had. Plus, there was a small part of him that didn’t really mind her helping him get ready. Isabelle knew how to dress Alec without pulling him outside his comfort zone.
Alec talked himself in and out of the date more than once while he changed into the clothes that Isabelle set out for him. She gave him his nicest pair of black jeans, and a button up denim shirt that she rolled the sleeves up on, because “People appreciate a nice set of arms, and you’ve got ‘em, hermano. Don’t be afraid to show them off!”
“I don’t’ know why I’m doing this,” Alec said as he watched her roll up his sleeve. “I’m not… I should just cancel and tell him I’m busy, I can’t make it.”
Isabelle’s head snapped up. She fixed him with a sharp glare that cut off his words. “Don’t you dare,” she practically hissed at him. There was enough threat in her words that Alec felt his eyebrows shooting up. Isabelle didn’t stop glaring at him. “Watching you the last few days – I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy before. You like him, and he clearly likes you, judging by how often you two text and talk. Don’t ruin it just because you don’t know how to take something for yourself.” Isabelle moved her hand from his sleeve to rest her palm over his heart. The sharpness on her face faded away to the kind of gentleness that only her brothers ever got to see. “Be selfish for once in your life, Alec. You deserve to be happy.”
“What if I screw it up?” The words were soft, almost a whisper, and dredged up from the place inside where Alec always felt like he was screwing up. Where he’d internalized all the snide remarks from his parents over the years, the comments about being not good enough, the disappointed looks they’d sent every time he made a mistake or did something that made him seem less than human.
Years of being each other’s only strength, only support, meant that Isabelle knew how to read him better than anyone at times. Even better than Jace. Isabelle had been there by Alec’s side right from the start of her life, and she would always be at his side. She knew his fears, and she knew his doubts.
“Listen to me.” Isabelle pushed her palm a little firmer against Alec’s chest in a grounding touch. Her scent grounded him even more. Isabelle had a natural woodsy-sweet scent to her that Alec had no real name for, mixed in with a sharp tang of metal from her whip that was almost always on her, and a slight bite of chemicals from her work in their morgue. But laced through it all was a scent of smoke and embers – his scent.
Isabelle kept her hand on him, not the least bit bothered when he inhaled deeply, drawing that scent in and letting it take the edge off his nerves. She just smiled up at him and kept on talking. “I’m not gonna lie and say that you won’t screw something up. Everyone does, especially on their first date. It’s just a fact of life. But, who cares? You and Magnus have been talking nonstop these past few days. If he hasn’t figured out what a nervous dork you are already, he’s not exactly observant.”
Alec snorted at her. “Thanks, Iz.”
A bright grin lit up her face. “You’re welcome. Just be yourself, and you’ll be fine. He’d be crazy not to care about you.”
“I don’t, I mean I just…” Cutting himself off, Alec blew out a harsh breath. He didn’t know how to put his thoughts into words.
A soft smile ghosted over Isabelle’s lips. “Don’t overthink it. Just go, have coffee with a cute boy, and enjoy yourself. The rest will figure itself out later.”
With Isabelle’s advice ringing in his ears, Alec made his way to the coffee shop. He was a bit surprised to find that he’d gotten there before Magnus did. After his private little freak-out, Alec had been sure that he was going to be late. Yet he walked inside and didn’t see any sign of Magnus, unless he was back in the bathroom.
Alec waited for a few minutes, but eventually, he felt awkward just standing around, so he made his way up to the counter. He and Magnus had talked about their favorites of various things a few different times. He remembered the older man telling him: “I’m a huge fan of tea. It’s one thing that’s always been around in some form or another since I was a small child. But I have to admit, I rarely start my day without a cup of coffee anymore. Though I admit, Catarina likes to tease me that it’s the one area I’m boring, as I don’t order anything in it. She finds it funny.”
Alec, on the other hand, could drink his coffee either black or extra sweet, depending on his mood. On the mornings where he was free to go to a coffee shop like this and order his coffee before anyone could see it? He liked to go with sweet. No one could ever see inside his cup to judge him on what he got.
Not that he thought Magnus would judge him on what he ordered. Still, he went just a little less sweet, just in case, because their drinks were served in actual cups here. Pretty much any drink with cinnamon in it was good, so Alec went for the cinnamon twist drink, and he took both it and Magnus’ plain coffee over to a corner table to wait.
He’d barely had his second drink when the café doors opened, and Magnus came strolling in.
One look at him stole Alec’s breath away. It wasn’t that he’d forgotten just how attractive Magnus was – it was just that he hadn’t really been faced with it since that first night, ad it was easier not to think about it when they were on the phone. The only thing that Alec could focus on then was the warm, smooth tones to Magnus’ voice. The way he spoke so properly sometimes, and so vulgar at others.
He got an occasional picture, sure, as Magnus was preparing for the day, but pictures didn’t hold a candle to real life. Being face-to-face like this, finally meeting up again, there was no avoiding just how unbearably attractive Magnus was.
He hadn’t even dressed all that fancy, Alec could see. Judging by what he’d seen last time, and the pictures he’d sent of his outfits, how he looked today was much more laid back, though still sharp. He looked good in a pair of form-fitting jeans, heeled black boots, a silky black shirt, and a purple and pink sequined blazer over it all that should’ve been too much, or too bold, yet somehow worked for him. He looked amazing – and barely even awake.
With lightly made-up eyes that still held a hint of sleep-heaviness at the edges, Magnus scanned the room, and it warmed Alec to see the way that those eyes light up when they found him.
Magnus crossed the room quickly. He didn’t give Alec time to rise, stopping him with a hand on his shoulder and a quick kiss on his cheek, which left Alec quiet and stunned as the other man sank down into the seat across from him. “I’m sorry I’m running late.” Magnus flashed Alec a smile that was a bit amused, and not the least bit ashamed. “I was out rather late last night, and it took me a moment to get myself up and at least halfway presentable.”
“I think you look amazing.” The words slipped out without Alec even intending to say them.
He flushed, and Magnus’ smile grew wide enough to put little crinkles at the corners of his eyes. “Thank you.”
In an attempt to hide the flush in his cheeks, or at least distract from it, Alec went to fiddle with his coffee, only to see the cup he’d ordered for Magnus beside him. He let go of his mug long enough to slide the other one across the table. “Here, I ordered you a coffee. It’s just plain, no cream or sugar.”
“You remembered.” Reaching out, Magnus curled his hands around the cup, the fingers of one hand brushing against Alec’s before he could draw away. The move was deliberate and had Alec looking up, only to find that Magnus’ expression had shifted to something softer. “Thank you again, Alexander.”
Alec flushed yet again. But he didn’t look away this time. Instead, he smiled back. “You’re welcome.”
Sitting back in his seat, Magnus drew his mug up in front of him and inhaled the aroma, making a happy sound low in his throat. “Oh, this smells heavenly.”
“They do some of the best coffee here. I’ve been coming for years now whenever I can.” He hesitated for only a second, and then, because this was Magnus who had so far judged Alec for nothing, he added on: “I’ve been working my way through their drinks. The owner likes to bring out new menus each season, and they’re always adding new drinks, so I’ve yet to run out of things to try.”
Magnus took a sip from his mug, and then he made a noise that was almost enough to have Alec blushing all over again. “I can see why you continue to come back. I might have to start ordering from here. This is some of the best brewed coffee I’ve had, at least in the United States. Though there is this quaint little shop down in New Orleans that makes an absolutely fantastic café au lait. I’ll have to take you there to try it sometime. It’s amazing. And the beignets they serve with it are exquisite.”
“That sounds nice.”
“It is. Then again, there’s also a little pastry shop in Nice where they make the best almond croissants…”
As Magnus launched into a story about his favorite pastry shops and bakeries throughout the globe, Alec was content to sit there and watch him, sipping on his coffee and enjoying being able to not only listen to Magnus but watch him as well. He’d forgotten just how much the other man liked to move as he talked. A wave of his hand, a gesture with his cup for extra emphasis, fingers always moving in some way or another.
Even with Magnus’ eyes still slightly heavy with sleepiness, there was a light in them that Alec loved to watch. He spoke so animatedly about everything. Alec found himself caught up in it, his nerves forgotten until he was drawn in.
Any worries Alec had had about this, about being together face-to-face once more instead of over the phone, all those fell away. Alec happily lost himself in the warmth of Magnus’ eyes, the easy comfort of his voice, and the happy scent of him that curled around them both.