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In somno veritas (In sleep lies the truth)

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“Are you still pining and missing your Shadowhunter?” Raphael questions, sipping at the warm blood in his mug.

 

Magnus snorts in combined acknowledgement and answer. “I don’t think I’ve seen Alec more than two hours at a time in over a month.”

 

“Has the demon activity really been that high?” Catarina asks, surprised, as she nibbles on the last bites of her tofu Pad Thai.

 

Magnus sighs, twirling his chopsticks idly over his empty plate. “There’s been almost a doubling in reported demonic events since the last full moon."

 

Catarina raises a brow. Fluctuations in demon activity are relatively common around lunar cycles, but a doubling, and a sustained doubling at that, is certainly unusual.

 

Magnus shrugs in concession at the oddity - he doesn't have a theory either. "Alec's increased the Institute’s patrols as much as physically possible with the staff he has access to, but Idris won't even send him temporary aid unless the current activity lasts for another three weeks. He’s already placed some of the younger Shadowhunters training in New York as thirds with his more experienced pairs, and Alec hates putting any of his trainees in the field. That's been letting him stretch out the roster some at least, but there’s still only so much that so many Shadowhunters can do."

 

Magnus droops a little, and if there's anything odd about the High Warlock of Brooklyn being so well informed about the goings on of the local Institute, certainly no-one at this table is going to mention it. "Alec’s been back in the field on patrol with one of his teams every night since this started, and between that and his usual Head’s duties?”

 

“You’re lucky if you see him for coffee and a kiss each day?”

 

Magnus smiles at Catarina and nods wryly. Her ER schedule is sometimes just as crazy for days, although usually not weeks, at a time.

 

After a moment of contemplative silence, Magnus stands up and flicks his fingers to put away the empty dishes and clear the table, smiling at Cat and Raphael in obvious attempt to change the mood.

 

“Shall we abscond to the living room for some after dinner drinks and laughter?”

 

“That certainly sounds like a pleasant way to while away the evening, especially since I managed to get Madzie’s babysitter for another four hours. Can we expect to see Alec at all tonight?”

 

“Alas, no,” Magnus sighs as he moves to his bar cart to begin making two martinis and a Bloody Mary. “Alec is going on patrol with Jace and Isabelle tonight, and he mentioned it was fairly likely that Max would wheedle his way into going out with them too. I imagine they’ll return to the Institute this evening, especially if their patrol continues as late as has been the norm recently.”

 

Raphael took his drink with a smirk. “Don’t look so dejected that you’re left with only our company then.”

 

—————

 

A few drinks and several embarrassing stories later, Magnus sits up hurriedly as the wards ping an unusual rhythm at his senses.

 

“Magnus?” Catarina asks warily, recognizing the specific inward-turned gaze of a warlock focused on their wards.

 

“Alec is home,” Magnus starts, bemused.

 

The door to the loft opens before Magnus can continue and the occupants of the living room sit up, startled, as four weary Shadowhunters tumble dazedly through the entrance. Alec comes through first with his siblings following closely at his heels, ichor and blood dripping from clothes and weapons alike.

 

Jace and Izzy have their arms over each other’s shoulders, and it’s unclear which one is supporting the other as they drunkenly sway left to right before jerking to a bleary stop just when it appears Izzy is about to over balance and take them both down to the floor. Magnus is rather inclined to believe the balance issue is likely not helped by the fact that both their eyes are drooping heavily shut. Drooping enough, in fact, Magnus suspects Jace is following Alec mostly by bond-feel rather than sight and Izzy is just sticking with (and to) Jace.

 

Max is trailing behind the other three and is clearly upright through sheer determination and teenage stubbornness alone. His glassy gaze is locked firmly on the back of the Jace-Izzy pair and his head is following their swaying back and forth like they’re a hypnotist’s pendulum.  

 

Alec himself is trying (unsuccessfully) to force back a yawn even with the edges of two burned out stamina runes peeking out from the edge of his jacket collar. He blinks, seemingly perplexed, when he opens his eyes post-yawn and sees the group of nonplussed Downworlders in Magnus’s living room gaping in their direction, drinks forgotten in their hands. Alec shakes his head a bit, bringing a glimmer of focus back to his actions as he turns his attention back to his siblings, clearly deciding to mark whatever else is happening in the loft as unimportant for now.

 

None of Alec’s family has made any forward progress towards movement in the meantime, although the Jace-Izzy pair has managed to prop themselves up somewhat neatly against a high side-table under the jacket hooks by the door, Jace clutching the walnut surface in a vaguely distrustful manner that suggests he suspects the table may spontaneously animate and dump Jace-Izzy on the ground if he grips it any looser. Max’s eyes are now fully closed, although he, at least, is still independently upright.

 

Alec surveys the motley trio in dismay and crosses his arms against his chest, making a definitively displeased noise that his siblings appear to be both familiar with and wary of if the sudden coming to attention is any hint. Jace-Izzy pulls away from their table, stumbling briefly in a very un-Shadowhunter like manner until they tighten their overlapped arms even further and straighten up sharply, blinking suddenly at their surroundings in obvious surprise. Max jerks into a hauntingly familiar parade-rest, so like his oldest brother that something twinges in Magnus’s chest, although the littlest Lightwood’s eyes don’t quite open all the way.

 

As imperiously as one can manage whilst having trouble getting his gaze to focus, Alec gestures sharply at the empty weapons racks and the shielded box that Magnus had made months ago for Alec to dump any ichor contaminated clothing in after patrols until he was ready to deal with it.

 

Jace-Izzy sways in confusion, turning their gazes from Alec to the weapons area. Once. Then twice. Max lets out what Magnus would generously describe as a soft snore, but he doesn’t budge from parade rest.

 

Jace blinks, peering at the loft in vague stupefaction. “This,” and Alec’s parabatai’s voice sounds like he’s dragging each noise out from his exhausted mind and forcing it out before he can forget what word he just discovered. “Isn’t the Institute?” The final phrase comes out as a question.

 

Alec tilts his head in puzzlement, glancing at his brother as if wondering how he could possibly consider that Alec had taken them there instead of here. “No?”

 

Alec’s head moves back to level and he narrows his eyes instead. “We said we were going home after patrol.”

 

The ‘ergo, we are home nowwasn’t said, but it was obvious in implication. Jace-Izzy considers this.

 

In the living room, Raphael’s lips twitch as he settles back to enjoy the show.

 

Alec gestures again at the ichor-box and weapons hooks, clearly disgruntled at their lack of movement. Jace-Izzy pause for one more moment before yawning in unison and sagging a bit at the prospect of disentangling themselves and losing their respective handy, moveable support structures.

 

Finally, under Alec’s expectant stare, the two gracelessly unwind arms and start tugging weapons out of holsters without seeming to care if it’s their own weapon or just the one closest to their wandering hands that they grab. Izzy somehow manages to get Jace’s largest seraph blade caught by the edge of its pommel on a tiny hat hook, so it hangs, swaying, like the sword of Damocles above them. Jace meanwhile tries for the third time to get Izzy’s seraph dagger on the actual blade rack correctly, lips pursed in concentration.

 

Alec beams and makes a happy noise in response, obviously pleased that at least two of his siblings are making forward progress, and turns to Max just as the smallest boy lets out another little snuffle-snore. Alec slumps.

 

Sighing, the eldest brother steps over to the youngest and begins adeptly disarming him and placing Max’s weapons carefully on the nearby racks. In the midst of unbuckling Max's thigh holster, Alec reaches behind him without looking to precisely nudge Jace’s arm so that Izzy’s seraph dagger doesn’t fall to the floor, but is balanced where it belongs. Jace makes a pleased exclamation at his success and Magnus isn’t actually sure if he even noticed Alec’s assistance.

 

Max startles at Alec’s first touch, but Alec murmurs something softly in his ear and the youngest Shadowhunter goes right back into his sleeping while standing pose, moving arms and shifting at Alec’s soft nudges as needed. The ease with which Alec maneuvers around his exhausted little brother, quietly stripping off Max’s ichor-soaked jacket without letting a drop touch any of his brother’s newly bared skin suggests this is far from the first time this has happened. The filthy jacket gets dumped unceremoniously into the shielded bin for Alec to deal with later, right on top of the already discarded leathers from Jace and Izzy.

 

“Boots,” Alec prompts his siblings as he efficiently strips off his own soiled leathers and closes the bin.

 

There are a few moments of failed attempts on Jace and Izzy’s part to bend down and untie laces, each attempt quickly aborted when the drunken tilts almost sway into overbalanced falls. Finally, Jace huffs and gives up, dropping haltingly to the floor in a loose criss-cross to tug off his boots.

 

Izzy and Alec glance at each other and then at Jace, blinking, before deciding that not falling is clearly the better part of valor and joining Jace on the floor.

 

Alec tugs at Max’s pant leg when he doesn’t move. “Boots,” he prompts emphatically.

 

Max, eyes still closed, drops to the floor with all the grace of a two-legged elephant.

 

All boots finally untied and off, the quartet stagger back to their feet, boots in hand. Alec carefully places his own pair under the side-table on the edge farthest from the door, frowning in disquiet before bending down to nudge his left boot so that it’s better aligned with the right boot. Alec nods, pleased.

 

Izzy yawns, again, and hands her pair of boots to Alec for proper under-table placement before taking Jace’s from his hands and holding them out next. Once those are exactingly aligned, Izzy nudges Max’s shoulder. He blindly thrusts his boots out in front of himself and Alec reaches back to take them and set them at the next spot in line.

 

Alec tilts his head and stares consideringly at the row of footwear, not standing back up yet, unhappy with some nebulous aspect he can’t yet put his finger on. After a moment, he tucks the loose laces away into the top of each boot and then switches Jace and Izzy’s pairs so that the four are all in size order. Something is still off.

 

A lightbulb goes off. Alec peers around, clearly searching for something specific and makes a soft, delighted cry of triumph when he discovers Magnus’s favorite pair of house slippers tucked into the corner between the wall and the door. Eagerly grabbing for them, Alec carefully makes a place for the pale pink velvet slippers in the midst of the dirty combat boots, tucking them happily in between his boots and Jace’s.

 

In the living room, Magnus elbows Catarina much more harshly than she feels is necessary after Cat snorts in amusement.

 

Alec smiles blissfully and, with a last precise nudge to move Max’s left boot tip back into alignment with the rest of the shoes and a quick, loving pat to the velvet of Magnus’s slippers, he nods firmly and stands back up.

 

Stripped of protective gear, weapons, and shoes, Alec’s three siblings cluster in front of him looking like nothing so much as a group of bedraggled children, exhaustion softening their features into something so much younger than usual. The Downworld sometimes forgets how very young most Shadowhunters are, their lives often hard and fast. The childlike appearance is only furthered by Izzy determinedly keeping her right hand behind her back, her attempt at stealth shining a spot light on the odd position. Alec narrows his eyes.

 

“Izzy,” he says, a big brother’s intuition and experience deepening his voice.

 

Izzy blinks at him guilelessly, not saying anything even as she shoves her arm farther behind her back, a child with her hand caught still in the cookie jar.

 

“Izzy,” Alec warns again. “No weapons past the front door.”

 

Izzy pouts, but Alec is unmoved. Sadly, Izzy brings her arm in front of her, the electrum snake twining around her wrist in careful twists. She holds out her arm next to Alec’s racked bow and the snake slithers off her wrist and twines around the quiver until it’s curled in a comfortable spiral. Izzy pats its head consolingly before lowering her arm.

 

Nudging Max into movement, Alec begins herding his little flock of Shadowhunters further into the loft, prodding gently at backs and shoulders to steer them past such hard to see obstacles as tables and walls. Magnus notes that Jace and Izzy’s eyes are both drooping once more and Max has yet to open his again in the first place.

 

When the siblings make it to the living room proper, Alec finally sees Magnus and a broad smile drifts onto his face, his eyes lighting up in sleepy contentment. Alec moves away from his trio of dead on their feet hunters and picks his way across the living room, either not noticing or not acknowledging the presence of anyone else, to stand in front of his boyfriend.

 

“Hey,” he breathes out, blinking happily at Magnus’s face, his grin widening.

 

“Hey to you too,” Magnus returns, a little bemused at the sudden invasion of his loft by punch-drunk and exhausted Lightwoods.

 

Alec doesn’t seem to notice anything off with the situation and leans forward to, presumably, give Magnus a light kiss on the cheek per his typical greeting. Alec misses Magnus’s cheek by a not insubstantial amount, however, and drops a soft peck to the corner of Magnus’s left eyelid instead. Alec doesn’t seem to notice and Magnus pointedly ignores Raphael’s snort of amusement as he smiles up at his boyfriend.

 

Alec doesn’t seem to have anything else to say and continues staring adoringly, and adorably in Cat’s opinion, at Magnus for a few moments longer. Finally, he brings his hand up as though to cup Magnus’s face in his palm. Alec seems to realize he doesn’t have sufficient coordination to continue safely though and instead brushes his fingers lightly over Magnus’s chest-shoulder area before doing an about face and picking his way back to Jace, Izzy, and Max. The trio had all paused in the absence of the directing nudges from their determined shepherd and looked to be falling asleep standing up.

 

Resuming his self-directed herding duties, Alec prods everyone back into movement and guides them forward and through the door to his and Magnus’s bedroom. Lacking enough thought to close any doors behind them, the living room occupants hear the shower start soon after the group disappears into the en suite. Without the door closed, the quiet murmurs of Alec’s voice soon come through clearly enough to distinguish most of the words even over the white noise of falling water.

 

“Pants off, Jace- no, no - keep your underwear on - Izzy, you too. Dress off, under things on.” There's an aggravated noise from Izzy before they hear Alec again. "I know," he soothes, "zippers are hard." A moment later the shower door opens and closes, and it sounds like Alec has shoved two people in under the spray.

 

“Izzy," Alec calls. "There’s ichor in your braid.” There’s no change in the water sounds to indicate any movement to address said issue for several long moments.

 

Alec finally sighs and changes tactics. “Jace, there’s ichor in Izzy’s braid. The shampoo bottle to your left- no, no, your other left- has enough hellsbane to get ichor out of hair. Max, stay awake.”

 

Catarina raises an eyebrow and turns to face her friend because she knows for an absolute fact he hasn't changed his sandalwood shampoo recipe in over two centuries. “You added hellsbane?”

 

Magnus shrugs. “Shadowhunters.” The word is explanation enough. “They get ichor everywhere.” He ignores Raphael’s muted snickering and takes another sip of his drink.

 

From the rustling and the muted snuffle-snores coming from his bathroom, Magnus is guessing Alec has given up on getting Max to undress himself and is repeating the scene from the door. A few moments later, they hear the shower open and close one more time and they can’t make out any more words for a bit.

 

Home after patrol?” Raphael eventually asks quietly.

 

Magnus’s cheeks warm, but he doesn’t respond and just smiles softly into his cup.

 

The group looks back towards Magnus’s bedroom as they hear the shower door open and close even though the water stays on. A moment later, a briskly towel-dried Alec in dripping wet boxer-briefs strides out of the bathroom and past the door in the direction of the wardrobes on the other side of the bedroom.

 

Catarina leans back on her side of the couch. “Dinner and a show?” She murmurs, sotto voice.

 

A few drawers open and close and Alec trundles back past the open bedroom door and disappears once more into the bathroom, a pile of soft clothing in his arms.

 

The water shuts off and there’s the sound of Alec shoving towels and clothing at his siblings. The quartet shortly comes shuffling back into view and Alec pushes his three siblings to sit on the bench at the foot of Magnus’s bed.

 

Max and Izzy are both comfortably swamped in two of Alec’s faded black T-shirts, but while Max’s shirt has been pulled on over one of Alec’s old pair of work-out shorts, Magnus blinks as he recognizes the hot pink leggings Izzy is wearing as one of his own older pairs, the fabric worn and cozy from use. The corner of Magnus's lips twitch, the sight oddly endearing.

 

The warlock tilts his head curiously though when he sees that Jace is wearing Alec’s favorite rainy day sweatshirt and it fits him perfectly, even though Alec’s clothing should be too long in the sleeves and too loose across the chest and shoulders. After a moment of thought, however, a delighted grin creeps up on Magnus’s face as he realizes that Alec must have stolen one of Jace’s old sweatshirts for his own when he first started squirreling away various pieces of clothing in the loft.

 

Alec goes back into the bathroom momentarily and returns with one of Magnus’s make-up wipes and a wide-toothed comb for wet hair. He sets the comb on the bed and moves to kneel in front of Izzy, placing a light hand on her chin to tilt her face down towards him. Izzy moves easily at her brother's directions and her eyes are already closed when he gently moves the wipe over her face, raccoon mascara and traces of foundation and blush disappearing under his hands.

 

“I always wondered where he learned to do that,” Magnus whispers softly, a tender look in his gaze as he watches Alec take care of his family.

 

The wipe is quickly discarded and Alec moves to sit cross-legged on the bed behind his sister. Jace and Max look to have fallen asleep sitting up on either side of her. A palm is held on her crown to avoid any tugs and Alec slowly moves the comb through Izzy’s tumble of curls, smoothing the hair down behind him as he goes. The repetitive, almost meditative movements seem to be calming Izzy as her breaths visibly deepen and even out. They seem to be lulling Alec too if the increasingly drooping eyelids are any indication.

 

Hair eventually tamed, Alec finally sets the comb down and deftly divides Izzy’s curls into three equal sections. His movements are obviously swift and well-practiced as a neat braid takes shape under his hands. Alec slips a black elastic that Magnus hadn’t noticed he’d been wearing from his wrist to tie off the end of Izzy’s hair before setting the heavy length down softly on her back.

 

Slipping off the bed, Alec takes the comb and used make-up wipe and moves out of view from the doorway to put them back in the bathroom. Max lets out another snuffle-snore and his head falls onto Izzy’s shoulder. Izzy doesn't react, her breathing still deep and even.

 

Alec comes back into view, stumbling a little bit with his eyes blinking, the earlier exhaustion seemingly returned now that his siblings are mostly asleep, cleaned of blood and ichor and safely under Magnus’s heavy wards with fresh iratzes half-visible behind cozy pajamas.

 

Making his way further up the bed than the bench where his siblings are resting, Alec shuffles the pile of pillows at the head into a cozy rather than decorative arrangement with easy familiarity, turning to push the plush coverlets and sheets as far down the bed as they go. Alec returns to the bench and shakes Jace awake first, pushing him onto the bed and nudging him gently, ignoring Jace’s wordless protests until his parabatai is positioned precisely where Alec wants him- a hair off from center on Alec’s side of the bed. Max is next, heavier pushes necessary since he still refuses to open his eyes, but he ends up nestled happily against his brother, face pressed into Jace’s chest. Izzy gets the far end of Alec’s side of the bed, her head curving over Max’s to press forehead to forehead against Jace with her arm reaching across Max to rest protectively over him, a mirror image of her blonde brother.

 

Alec stands back and peers at the trio, obviously happy with their placement, before pulling the golden top-sheet over them and patting it down lightly, his hands clumsy with sleep.

 

Alec pulls back though, a light frown gracing his features as he ponders the bedscape in front of him. “No Magnus,” he murmurs sadly, before perking up when he clearly remembers that Magnus is indeed home, but is just in the next room.

 

Catarina glances at Magnus softly as his Shadowhunter begins the arduous trek from bedroom to living room.

 

“It appears you are about to be summoned to bed, my friend.”

 

Magnus swallows, blinking his eyes against a light shine of moisture. “It appears so.”

 

Magnus watches his beautiful nephilim make his way across the distance with the careful steps of the truly exhausted. His beautiful nephilim who brought his family home to Magnus’s loft and Magnus’s bed when he was so tired he couldn’t think straight. His beautiful nephilim who has apparently claimed Magnus as one of his little clan and wants him tucked safe and warm with his sister and brother and parabatai before he finally allows himself to let go and sleep.

 

Raphael stands up silently, joining Magnus and Catarina. “I am beginning to like your Shadowhunter.”

 

Magnus nods, but doesn’t take his eyes off Alexander to face Raphael.

 

When Alec finally arrives in front of the trio in Magnus’s living room, he only has eyes for the warlock in the center. Magnus meets Alec’s tired gaze and Magnus lets his glamour fall. Even through his sleepy haze, the sight makes Alec’s grin turn goofy and adoring.

 

“I love your eyes,” Alec declares, blissfully happy. “And you,” he continues softly, earnestly. “Mostly you.”

 

Magnus blinks harder to clear his eyes from a few droplets of traitorous liquid. “And I love you as well, Alexander.”

 

Magnus snaps his fingers and his sharp, glittering outfit is replaced with the soft, highlighter green match to the pair of leggings Alec placed Izzy in and yet another of Alec’s oversized T-shirts. He takes his make-up off magically because he’s fairly sure Alec is about to drop if he doesn’t actually get into bed soon.

 

In the background he hears Catarina open a portal and usher herself and Raphael through, calling out soft goodnights as they go. Magnus will have to remember to thank them later.

 

Alec keeps his gaze on Magnus and the warlock is both charmed and amused as Alec blinks up at him softly for a few more moments before bringing his arm up gently to Magnus's shoulder, or, at least, the vague direction of Magnus’s shoulder. Alec does his best to keep his gaze locked on Magnus while nudging him in the direction of the bed. Magnus laughs tearily and and takes Alec’s hand instead, letting his nephilim guide him where he will.

 

When they reach the bed, Alec releases Magnus’s hand and prompts his lover to climb in under the sheets on what is apparently going to be their side of the bed tonight. The warlock shuffles himself backward obediently at Alec’s prompting until his back hits Jace’s. Alec smiles and Magnus watches as his Shadowhunter finally gets into the bed himself. The nephilim adjusts his position until he’s curled up against Magnus, face tucked securely against his neck and lips resting lightly on his collarbone. Alec's arm is moved to lay over Magnus’s waist, the tips of his fingers just brushing against his parabatai's back.

 

“Good night, Alexander,” Magnus whispers softly. He gestures lightly to turn off the lamps and pull the coverlet up over the sheets, blanketing the five of them under its comfortable weight.

 

Alec is asleep before the blanket settles.