Chapter 1: Demons
It was painfully warm. In absolute darkness Magnus’ breath shuddered from how hard he tried to not make a sound. It was incredibly difficult to stay focused when scratching could be heard everywhere around him. Circling him. Creeping closer. He waited, almost longer than he could stand. Then, as soon as the time was right, he lashed out. Purple magic swept across the desolate landscape, wiping out a herd of at least a hundred tiny demons. All but one of them.
Darkness fell once more. Magnus didn’t have enough strength and magic left to shed light to it. Then a set of razor-sharp teeth sunk to his leg, nearly reaching bone. He screamed, despite knowing full well that no one would come to help him.
Magnus woke up screaming and bolted out of the bed as quickly as he could. A blanket seemed to trap him, and there was an arm restraining his motions. He needed to get away from them, so he could breathe, so he could think.
“Magnus?” In his panicked haze he couldn’t recognize that voice. “Magnus, baby, try to breathe.”
Alec...? His anxiety grew. What was Alec doing in Edom? Did Asmodeus get his husband, too?
Someone was moving around and Magnus wheezed when his chest area continued to tighten. Every single cell in his body was braced for a battle. For another round of a fight that never seemed to end.
Instead his companion opened a window, letting in cool night air. In a matter of seconds, with the phantom sensation of Edom’s heat fading away, breathing became easier. Then lights were switched on and Magnus realized that he was someplace impossible. Yet it had to be real. Asmodeus never created hallucinations of one specific location, because the Prince of Hell knew that it would’ve made him fight back harder.
He was home. Home, home, home...
Magnus inhaled. It was still a little uncomfortable, but his mental state improved steadily. Another experimental, cautious breath, and his mind began to clear out.
Alec stood close to him. But didn’t touch. With some trial and error they’d discovered that actual physical contact during these... fits wasn’t a good idea. Nor did the Shadowhunter ask a thing. Talking wasn’t an option when the warlock was still catching his breath. “I’ll get you a glass of water”, Alec announced. (Tea was their first attempt at a soothing drink, but they learned quickly that for Magnus any warm liquid was a trigger rather than help.) The younger man went on when retreating steps made him stiffen. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
Alec hated nights like this one. Still, six weeks after his husband came back home, nightmares and even daytime terrors struck viciously far too often. For them both, but those tormenting his beloved hurt the archer much worse. They made him feel infuriatingly useless and helpless. Only being able to fetch water when Magnus fought to breathe... It was maddening. But if it was all he could do, then he’d make sure to do at least that.
Alec waited until Magnus had settled tensely to the edge of their bed. Then walked slowly out of the room, a careful ear trained to catch signs of another panic attack. He froze at the hallway.
Rafael sat on the floor a step or two from the room’s door in a Shadowhunter pose. Very obviously keeping watch. The boy’s eyes rose to meet his as soon he emerged.
It was a sight Alec had stumbled on numerous times. But it never failed to make him feel a splash of warmth. He was amazed by how Rafael always knew when he or Magnus was having a bad night. The warlock soundproofed their bedroom shortly after Danya started asking questions about... adult noises.
“How bad?” Rafael asked quietly.
“Only a five.” As much as Alec hated it, they’d developed a scale of one to ten for nights like this. Because vague answers only agitated Rafael further. Only ten years old and the boy was already gathering the weight of the world to his shoulders. Alec found it disturbingly familiar and tried to ease the load with a small smile. “I’m on it. He’ll feel better by the morning.”
Rafael considered long and hard. Then nodded. It was touching how firmly the boy chose to believe in him.
Which was when a thought occurred to Alec. His brows furrowed. “What are you doing up at this hour?”
Rafael shrugged and looked down. Heartbreakingly embarrassed. “I... was having bad dreams, too”, the child confessed. Then hurried to continue. “They were only level three. I’m okay.”
Alec had a feeling that no member of their family was quite okay. But he wasn’t about to push the boy into admitting as much. Instead he had an idea. “Try to get some sleep. And, if you feel up to it in the morning... I could take you to the Institute’s training room. It’s high time I get to see what you can do with a bow and arrows.”
The way Rafael’s eyes lit up like two stars told that he made the right call.
In the kitchen, out of the sight of everyone he needed to stay strong for, Alec leaned his full weight against the sink. His whole tall frame trembled miserably while he held on so tightly that his knuckles turned white and gasped. One painful breath in and out at a time. A tear slipped to his cheek before he could stop it. His own bad dreams, his worst memories, filled his head.
Then Max started to cry, snapping Alec to full attention. He pulled himself together quickly but with great effort. Now wasn’t the time to break down, he was needed.
After almost an hour Alec finally returned to the bedroom with a glass of water. Magnus was still sitting on the edge of the bed, as close to the window as he could get. The warlock was painfully tense while his eyes darted around restlessly, seeing some unimaginable horrors that only existed in his head anymore. So lost in his mind that he clearly hadn’t heard their son crying. The man came back to reality with a sharp shudder and a few rapid blinks when the bed dipped under Alec’s weight.
Alec wanted to ask. More than anything, wanted to beg for answers, for an embrace, something that might’ve made them both feel a little better. The glass of water was all he could manage, so he offered it silently. Magnus accepted it with an appreciative hum. The warlock sipped he drink slowly, as though fearing that it might hurt, and a flicker of surprise was visible when the cool liquid went down smoothly.
With that some more clarity returned to the haunted dark eyes. Magnus looked towards him and frowned. “You haven’t been sleeping again.”
Alec shook his head. “We’ll talk more when you’ve stopped shaking, okay?” They exchanged a short but loving kiss, and for a few moments everything was better in the world. “Let’s try to get some sleep.” They both needed rest, even if they weren’t eager to face more dreams.
Somehow the fact that Magnus gave up without a fight was the most unnerving part of it all.
Neither of them actually got any sleep before dawn. Because it was one of the worst kind of nights. When one of them needed distance, the other yearned to be held and it was impossible reach a satisfying compromise.
In the company of far too many demons and horrible memories, they waited for the morning to come.
The next morning Magnus woke up to something that seemed too good to be true. Someone who wasn’t his husband but at least as precious lay beside him. A tiny body snuggled closer when his body shifting gave a hint that he was waking up.
Magnus cracked one unglamoured eye open to find two similar ones. Danya’s hair was sticking to all imaginable and unimaginable directions. It might’ve been adorable, if his heart hadn’t ached from knowing why she appeared disheveled. He brushed one strand off her forehead. “Hey, sweetheart”, he greeted, his voice hoarse from low quality rest. “Did you have bad dreams again?”
Danya bit her lower lip. “A little. But... I feel better, now.” Knowing that she was honest provided some comfort. All of a sudden she reached out and poked at his nose.
Magnus couldn’t help but chuckle at the unexpected gesture. “What was that for?”
Danya clung to him a little tighter. Apparently this would be one of those days when she could barely stand letting him out of her sight in fear that he’d disappear. “Just... making sure that this is real.”
After the night he had and... everything Magnus could certainly understand that need. For a little while he imagined that he lost her, in the worst way. Then he thought that he’d never get to return home to her. His heart clenching painfully, he kissed her forehead. “Feels real to me”, he announced.
Danya giggled, and for a few stolen moments everything was perfect.
It lasted until shortly after Catarina and Madzie appeared to keep the kids company while he was leaving to an important meeting. Catarina seemed amused upon entering to find her best friend and his daughter magicking blueberry pancakes while Max watched with keen fascination. Catching them all by surprise, the baby waved a tiny, chubby hand. A bowl of blueberries appeared before him and he dove in without hesitation. In seconds he’d made a mess of his face, hands and the table.
The rest of them could only stare. Before bursting to laughter. “Well, then. Congratulations on discovering magic for the first time, my little blueberry”, Magnus huffed fondly. To earn a chirp and a giggle. He reached out a hand to clean up his son’s blue face.
Two shocking things happened simultaneously. Magnus’ magic came out purple instead of the familiar blue. Max clearly noticed. The child emitted a whimper of distress.
And then Max vanished in front of their horrified eyes.
Jace could feel that his parabatai wasn’t alright. Getting first Danya, then Magnus back didn’t fix the trauma losing them for a while caused. On top of that there were lost loved ones Alec didn’t get back, along with everything else that happened. It was far too much pain, sorrow and shock to just shake off.
Alec did his best to stay strong for everyone, of course. Because it was in his very nature to put everyone else, especially those he loved, first. But if Jace really looked, he could see traces of a million sleepless nights. Along with tension no amount of rest would’ve been enough to chase away, and eyes that became haunted whenever Alec’s focus slipped.
Jace had messed up as a parabatai great many times. He couldn’t avoid admitting the unfortunate truth to himself. But he was determined to be there for Alec now.
The sight he encountered in a training room.... was very adorable, actually. With identical expressions of sheer concentration on their faces Alec and Rafael stared at a target board. Then tensed up, until relaxing the exact same second an arrow was sent flying. When it hit the center, matching smirks of triumph appeared to the duo’s face.
The two were almost creepily similar, and Jace wondered with amusement if Alec had noticed.
“Well done”, Alec praised. And patted the child’s shoulder. Rafael practically melted to it instead of shying away. Jace’s heart swell at the progress.
“That... was impressive”, Jace agreed.
Rafael grinned widely. (It was the first time he saw the boy do that, and decided that he wanted to see it again.) “Thanks. Alec’s a great teacher.”
Alec snorted. “Stop belittling yourself. You’re a natural.” The man went on before the child could protest. “Now, remember that training session Andrew promised you? He’s waiting for you in the monitor room.”
Jace barely managed to conceal his surprise. Because that... was an enormous step. “Has he decided to stay with you and Magnus?” he inquired as soon as the boy sped off in excitement. Because being introduced to the Institute properly seemed to hint towards that.
“Not officially. But... I think he’s starting to lean towards that. Or at least I’m hoping.” There was that haunted look again, along with tightly fisted hands. “I just... I don’t think I can lose anyone else”, his brother admitted barely audibly.
Jace’s heart broke. Eventually he sighed, deciding that it was for the best to just get the necessary evil over with. “Alec... Do you remember how after Magnus... left you asked me to warn you when you’re... not okay?” He gave his parabatai a look of sympathy. “You’re not okay.”
To both their surprise Alec snapped. “You think I don’t know that? I have two kids who keep having nightmares, a baby who cries through most nights and Magnus... I should just be happy that he’s back, and I am. I... I thank the Angel every night. But it... It feels like a piece of him was left to Edom. He’s... he’s suffering, and... I can’t help him, because he’s not letting me! I’m useless, because I don’t know what to do, and because... because I’m in pieces, too!” The archer ranted on, despite fighting visibly to stop himself. “Every time I close my eyes, it’s... It’s a pool of blood. Or a dead face. My head, it’s... It’s going off the rails, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to stop it! I don't know how to help anyone!”
And then, as suddenly as it began, the outburst was over. They stared at each other with wide, wild eyes, panting hard. Both exhausted from the emotional overload.
Jace didn’t know what to say. At very least he wanted to give his brother a hug. But before he could do anything something utterly unexpected happened.
A portal opened and all of a sudden Max was in a shocked Alec’s arms, wailing miserably.
Magnus comprehended very little of what was going on around him. Someone was dragging him towards the bedroom. Urging him to breathe.
He didn’t want to breathe and calm down! He needed to create a portal, to find his son! He had to get to his son! But something seemed to be binding his magic, trapping him. He would’ve screamed if he had enough breath for it.
“... going on ...?”
“... using all my magic to keep his under control ...”
“Magnus.” Despite his current state of mind his all anchored on that soothing voice. “Magnus, listen to me. Max is safe, he portalled to me. We’re all safe. And we need you to come back to us.”
There was very little Magnus wouldn’t have done for the owner of that voice.
With immense difficulty he focused and fought. Until he was coherent enough to distinguish familiar eyes looking into his. “Alexander, I’m sorry...!” He startled their son... And what horrible things did he do next...? “I’m so sorry...!”
Alec, however, shook his head firmly. “You have nothing to be sorry about. You... destroyed a set of bedsheets, but nothing else. You didn’t harm anyone”, the Shadowhunter reassured. Somehow knowing exactly what he needed to hear. “Are you back with me, now?”
Magnus nodded slowly. (Honestly, he wasn’t sure. Depending on what Alec meant by being back.) “Max is safe?”
It was Alec’s turn to nod. “He’s in the other room, with Catarina. And... Danya’s playing with Madzie. Catarina made sure that she... saw as little as possible.”
Magnus looked down in shame, feeling sick to his stomach. His own son feared his magic because Edom tainted it. He’d been rendered to a state in which his daughter couldn’t see him, again. And yet again Alec had to help him. What kind of a father and husband was he? “I’m sorry”, he tried again. Not knowing what else to say with how pathetic he’d become.
Alec took a deep breath. “Magnus, this... actually confirmed something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. We’re all overwhelmed, and... Let’s face it, we’re not really handling it well. If we keep going on like this we’ll fall apart entirely.”
Magnus’ head whirred and stomach turned. He couldn’t quite understand what was happening. Or bring himself to meet his beloved’s eyes. “What... are you saying?”
“We need a break.”
Chapter 2: Breaks
Alec has a surprising suggestion. And finds out some pretty shocking things.
It’s Thursday, which means that it’s high time to update. (rubs hands together) Hooray...?
Thank you SO MUCH for your comments and support! Working on a project that’s this long and intense is a journey. You make it worth it! (HUGS)
Awkay, before I get all sappy... And because I know that you want some answers... Let’s go! I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The moment Magnus stiffened and blanched Alec knew that he hadn’t set his words right. The warlock swallowed like someone trying to force down something particularly bitter. “I completely understand.” The man’s tone was full of pained resignation. “How long do you need me to stay away?”
Alec stared, horrified and dumbfounded. “Magnus...!” For a couple of seconds he could only shake his head. “That’s not... I didn’t mean that kind of a break!” His throat constricted at the thought of his husband leaving, even if only briefly. “I... I lost you!” In the worst and (usually) most permanent way. “So I’m not... I don’t want you to be away from me ever again.” He was horrible at explaining things like this. But he needed his beloved to understand.
Magnus looked at him, lifting his gaze slowly and warily.
Even more determined, Alec went on. “You and the kids are my world. I’d never want a break from you. Do you remember how miserable I was when we spent just one night apart before our wedding?” (He must’ve called his husband-to-be a hundred times during the lonely hours of the night. Not that the warlock would’ve fared much better. They fell asleep with a phone line still open, connecting them.)
The memory barely made Magnus relax. The man looked down, a hint of color returning to his face. “It’s just... what I’m used to. Everyone else has needed a break from me eventually, when I’ve turned out to be a disappointment.”
Alec felt sick to his stomach. “I could’ve chosen my words better. But Magnus... Promise me that you’ll never imagine that you could ever be... a disappointment. Or too much to handle.” He brushed their wedding gift rune with his hand. “Trust this. Trust me.”
Magnus sighed heavily, appearing incredibly tired. “I do. Or I try to, anyway.” The man swallowed thickly, clearly debating with himself. “It’s just... I barely recognize my own body. My magic...” The warlock scowled. “It’s... faulty, tainted. And my mind.... It’s such a mess that I can’t be a proper father, husband or High Warlock anymore.” Magnus shook his head in disgust. “I’m useless and broken. I can’t fathom why anyone would want or love me like this.”
The brutal honesty made Alec want to cry. He had to breathe in and out several times before he trusted his voice. “I was broken, too, when we first met. I tried to push you away so many times, and I don’t want to even imagine how much it hurt you. But you never once gave up on me. Instead you helped me fix myself.” He smiled when some of his husband’s unease faded. “In you I found someone who didn’t expect perfection, from me or us. According to Anna I picked up so many fights with you in the beginning because you were the only one I trusted enough to argue with.”
Magnus emitted a choked sound. It took him a while to recognize it as a chuckle. “Are you actually romanticizing our fights?” The older man’s eyebrow arched. “And since when have you referred to our therapist by her first name?”
It was Alec’s turn to look down. “I... saw her a lot while you were... away.” It was the only way he was able to function at all without his husband. While he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get to see Magnus again.
Magnus tensed up, visibly withdrawing to a shell.
It was the confirmation Alec needed. He clenched his jaw determinedly. “I think you should start seeing her again, too. You’ve been putting it off for too long.” He went on when the other’s lips parted. “Not for me, or for the kids. But for yourself. I want you to be happy again.” He wanted and needed to believe that his husband could become happy again. That those shadows in the older man’s haunted eyes weren’t permanent companions.
Magnus nodded, so deep in thought that he quite possibly hadn’t really heard the archer’s words. “If you didn’t mean... that kind of a break... Then what were you talking about?”
Alec smiled. Did his best to radiate hope and optimism. “Remember that cabin mom and Luke rented for their honeymoon? The one they called magical?” (He preferred not wondering what they meant by that...) “I think we could try it out, too, for a week or so.” He went on before Magnus could protest. “The kids, too. I know that you wouldn’t want to leave them behind.” Neither did he. Besides, it wasn’t just the two of them who needed to reconnect, it was their whole family. Max being scared of Magnus’... changed magic was the final proof.
Magnus frowned. It was impossible to tell what was going on in his head. “What about work?”
Alec shifted from discomfort. “I... may have already talked to Izzy and Catarina. They’re more than willing to help out, for as long as we need.”
Magnus stared at him in utter bewilderment. Heartbreakingly baffled by someone doing something like this for him. “You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you?”
Alec nodded. Hoping that his eyes and words conveyed just how dedicated he was. “Magnus, I love you. I’d do anything for you, I’d give you anything you need. And right now... What we all need is a break. Together.” The other didn’t seem entirely convinced, so he chose to repay what he was gifted with earlier. Honesty. “Yesterday I dozed off at work for the third time in two weeks because I can’t sleep, and I can’t focus properly.” He inhaled. “I’m a mess. We both are. We need to get away from this all for a while, so we can help each other fix ourselves.”
It was still very hard to determine what Magnus thought about anything. But a few moments later it became fairly obvious what the warlock wanted. Warm and soft, demanding lips found his. Unable to resist, Alec moaned and opened his mouth just enough to allow further access. Which seemed to add fuel to Magnus’ fire. Eager hands found their way under his shirt, making him shiver in all the right ways, and he knew that he was a goner.
Still... He needed to ask... “Are you sure?” he breathed out barely comprehensibly. Magnus went through literal hell and the last thing he wanted was the man he loved to feel pressured.
Magnus nodded, panting hard against his neck. “You... said that you’d give me anything... I need... I need you.”
How was Alec supposed to say ‘no’ to that?
They went on far more gently, slowly and cautiously than usual. Both trying to get used to each other again. Every kiss and touch was like a new, delicious experiment.
Alec moaned and threw his head back when Magnus’ lips found a particularly sweet spot. The sound clearly did funny things to the older man. There was a sigh-like sound, followed by what felt like a wind. When he opened his eyes he saw Magnus’ wings on full display.
Magnus appeared mortified and tried to hide them immediately. Alec shook his head. “They’re amazing”, he praised huskily. “Don’t hide them.” Don’t hide yourself.
Magnus seemed ready to cry. But this time they were tears of joy and adoration. While the warlock leaned down to kiss him with all his love, the wings also folded to embrace him.
In that calm in the eye of the storm they both felt safer and more loved than ever in their lives.
Three hours later Catarina gave Magnus an amused look when her best friend tiptoed out of the bedroom. He hadn’t even bothered to fix his incredibly disheveled hair. She supposed she should be grateful that he’d had the presence of mind to put on a bathrobe.
Magnus finally noticed her when he was fetching a glass of water. He cleared his throat. “I... didn’t realize that you were still here.”
Catarina snorted. “I figured out what you two were up to when you stayed so long in the bedroom. I took our four musketeers out for some ice-cream. They weren’t happy about taking a nap before seeing you two, but they were so tired that they fell asleep waiting.”
Magnus smiled fondly. “Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Catarina wasn’t sure what to make of the compliment. Everything that happened... It scarred them all. I don’t know what I’d do without you, either. “Best make sure we never have to find out.”
She noticed that Magnus was getting restless. And remembered something Alec told her. After coming back her best friend developed a routine. Every night, without a fail, he’d walk around the loft at least ten times. Pacing, and checking up on the children, as well as the archer. The Shadowhunter caught him doing it one night, when the older man stepped on a Lego and swore under his breath. Since then Alec kept watch. Fairly quickly it became apparent that Magnus had a new compulsory habit.
Catarina decided to break that cycle. Even if only once. “Ice-cream?” She shrugged at his arched eyebrow. “I’ll magic you mint chocolate.”
Magnus stared at her like she’d lost her mind. Then smirked, looking almost like the man he once was, and snapped his fingers. “In that case I’ll get you mocha.”
Catarina smirked back. In a companionable silence they filled each other’s bowls and started eating. Halfway through, she leaned her head against his shoulder. “I missed you.”
Silence stretched. For a while she worried that she’d crossed a line. Until he leaned his head against hers. “I missed you, too.”
A couple of days later Jace, Clary, Izzy and Simon were helping Alec and Magnus pack up. Usually Magnus could’ve handled it with ease, but the warlock was hesitant to use his magic. And to be around Max, Jace observed with a frown of concern. His brother in law was about to pick up the baby but retreated like he’d been scalded when Max began to whimper agitatedly.
“They’re... not bonding like they’re supposed to”, Alec explained while Magnus busied himself with helping Danya.
Jace’s stomach clenched. “Do you think it’s like after Danya was born?” He remembered all too well how scared his parabatai was through that dark time of Magnus’ depression.
“Could be. Everything that came after Max's birth didn’t help.” Alec’s shoulders sagged while the weight of the world settled on them. “Maybe getting Magnus to a place that has no memories connected to it helps them relax.”
Jace gave his brother a look. They’re not the only ones in need of a chance to relax... “That’s a lot of expectations placed on one vacation.”
Alec snorted. It came out more bitterly than the archer had intended. “Trust me, I know.”
In the meantime Magnus frowned upon noticing Rafael sitting on his bed, staring ahead dejectedly. “Hey.” He approached slowly, pleased that his presence didn’t make the child tense up. “Why aren’t you getting ready? We’re about to leave soon.”
Rafael look up. The surprise in his eyes broke Magnus’ heart. “I... thought that it was supposed to be a family vacation.”
Magnus could barely conceal his emotions. “It is. And we’d all very much like to have you along. Because as far as we’re concerned you’re family, too.”
Rafael couldn’t utter anything to that. But when Magnus peered into the room some ten minutes later his eyes filled with adoration. Because Rafael was packing up, with an enthusiastic Danya giving him instructions.
The cabin... was huge. And beautiful. It stood in the middle of a forest as though someone had randomly dropped it there. A lake sparkled beside it like a field of diamonds.
Rafael inhaled, his lungs filling with fresh air. Then glanced towards his companions. Danya’s eyes shone while she took in her surroundings. Max chirped joyously in Alec’s arms. Even the adults seemed to be at ease. Rafael was too young to quite understand what was going on, what had been wrong for weeks. But it looked like they were all genuinely trying to heal from it.
Alec glanced towards him. And saw something that made the older Shadowhunter smile. “Do you approve?”
Rafael breathed again. For the first time since his parents died he felt like he could relax. The people who seemed to care about him... Usually bad things happened to them. But Magnus came back. So maybe this family would be different. He’d keep an eye on them to make sure that they would be. He wouldn’t fail them. “Yeah, I approve.”
Alec woke up with a strangled gasp, to a rainstorm beating the cabin. The whole world spun in front of his eyes while he lay absolutely still, gasping for breath. Needing comfort and reassurance, he reached out towards the other side of the bed. Only to find it cold and empty.
According to Anna he’d been doing so well, keeping it together and staying strong. But sometimes, especially after the kind of a nightmare he just had... His mind got confused. Forgot.
Panic surged, blinding and suffocating. For a few endless seconds he was convinced that it all – getting Magnus back, scarred but alive – had been a beautiful dream. That he’d have to raise their children all alone. That he’d face an immortal life without one of the four people who made his life worth living.
Then he felt a cool breeze. It brought some clarity back into his mind and he inhaled a deep, steadying breath. Getting up slowly, he noticed that the door leading from the room to a porch was open. “Magnus?” Receiving no answer, he hauled himself out of the bed. And shivered when cold air embraced him.
Magnus was sitting on the porch’s floor with a dazed look in his eyes, visibly deep in thought. Looking like someone who’d seen a ghost. Chances were that some of those had stopped by earlier that night. Alec had no idea how long his husband had been out there, but the older man was shaking and his lips were turning blue.
Slowly and cautiously, Alec approached and sat down beside his beloved. Before he could ask a thing the smaller man leaned against him, resting his head against his shoulder. Encouraged, Alec wrapped an experimental arm around Magnus. That night the touch didn’t trigger the slightest bit of tension. Pleased and relieved, the archer kissed the other’s head. “I think we should go back inside. It’s pretty chilly out here.” He didn’t like how cold Magnus’ body felt.
Magnus shook his head. “Just... five more minutes.” The man hesitated before continuing. “It never rains in Edom, so... It’s been a very long time since I last heard the sound. I’d like to enjoy it a little longer.”
Alec smiled. Until something about those words sunk in properly and a frown appeared to his face. “Magnus... How long were you trapped there?”
Magnus tensed up to an extend that had to be painful. If possible even more color faded from the warlock’s face. “Time... moves very differently, down there. Especially when he plays with things.” Apparently Asmodeus wouldn’t be mentioned by his name today.
“How long?” Alec demanded as patiently as he could, recognizing an attempt to deflect when he encountered one.
Magnus shuddered. Eyes that seemed to see something horrible stared at the rain. “A hundred years.” The words were barely audible. “That was his deal. I’d spend a century with him. Then he’d let me see if I can still adjust to the life I lost.”
The break-thing made you panic so bad! (chuckles) But seriously, poor Magnus! Imagine spending a hundred years in Edom. (shudders) Our darlings have such a tough road of recovery ahead them...!
Soooo... Thoughts? Comments? Still interested in reading more of this saga? PLEASE, let me hear from you! You have no idea how much your comments and support means to me.
NEXT UPDATE COMING NEXT MONDAY.
Until next time, folks! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 3: Memories
Alec is shocked and heartbroken when Magnus reveals some of what he went through in Edom. The family does their best to start healing. But the road to recovery is far from easy...
Phew! This chapter... was a tough little one. But here we are!
THANK YOU, so much, for your comments, love and support! It means more than words can say that you’re there for me and this story. (HUGS)
Okay, then... Are you ready? Brace yourselves for an emotional roller coaster, because here we go! I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After Magnus’ revelation silence fell for several full minutes. Alec was speechless and didn’t dare to interrupt what more might be coming. If this was when the warlock finally felt ready to talk... Then he’d listen, no matter how much it’d hurt. (He did promise to listen in their vows.)
“I don’t know how long it took before I... woke up.” The look in Magnus’ eyes suggested that his mind drifted somewhere far away. “He was there, when I did. I asked him about you. He said that you were...” The warlock couldn’t finish. “I didn’t believe him. Not when I could feel our bond, when I could feel how much you missed me. I almost killed him, right where he stood, for lying about... that. Until he reminded me that I need him to save Danya, to fix her heart when the time comes.”
Alec already felt sick to his stomach and had a nasty feeling that the worst was yet to come.
Magnus still didn’t seem to be fully there with him when the man went on. “That I couldn’t get to you... No matter how hard I tried... It was awful.” The man clenched his jaw. “I told him that I’d take my own life if he wouldn’t let me go, once. That I’d rather die than live forever where I didn’t belong. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me, then. He told me, very calmly, that if I’d harm myself, in any way...” Magnus choked on his words. “Then he’d kill every single one of you. One by one. Except for Danya. He’d make her rule by his side. He’d raise her to be his image.”
Alec emitted a choked sound. His eyes stung hellishly. “Oh, god...”
By then Magnus looked like he might crumble to pieces. A couple of tears rolled down the man’s pale cheeks. “My memory... It’s not magical. And... The worst part... It was that eventually I started to forget. It’s so easy to forget about the good things, the pure things, down there.” The warlock wiped his cheeks angrily with an unsteady hand. “Fifty years, and I wasn’t sure what color your eyes were anymore. Blue, brown...” The man shook his head. “Sixty years, and I started to wonder if I was imagining how I thought Danya sounded. The way she laughed. And Max, he... he was only just born. It...” Magnus choked on his words. “Only twenty years, maybe thirty, and I couldn’t remember what he looked like. How he felt outside my body. My clearest memory of him was the birth. The blood, that I was sure we’d both...” The man couldn’t finish. “Rafael... He’s so much like you that... that the memories of you two started to merge together. A couple of decades, and I had no idea how much of the flashes I had were of him and how many fabricated versions of you.”
Alec couldn’t keep his own tears at bay any longer.
Fortunately Magnus didn’t notice. The warlock’s frantic and exhausted rant continued. “I... I can’t remember our first date anymore. Our first kiss... I wonder if what I recall of it is just a dream. I remember breaking up with you, but I have no idea why. And I don’t know what happened after we got back together at that alley.” The man buried his face into his hands. “I’ve lost Danya’s first word. I know that she’s alive, I’ve seen her, held her, but... The last clear memory I have of her before my return is finding out that she died. I... I can’t get that out of my head.” Magnus emitted a horrible, wounded whimper. “I have no idea how much... how much more I’ve lost. How many big and small things.” The whimpers turned to earnest sobs. “I... I was finally happy, and now... Now it’s like a puzzle that has pieces missing. And... I’m never going to get any of them back. Because... Those memories weren’t stolen, they just... they faded away, and I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t strong enough.”
Alec had hard time breathing properly while Magnus’ words echoed in his head.
A hundred years in Edom... In Asmodeus’ toxic presence... How was he supposed to even start fixing the damage caused?
He didn’t realize that he’d said the final part out loud until Magnus half-snapped at him. “It’s not your job to fix me! Just...” The warlock trailed off, looking at the rain instead of him. “When I get too much... Don’t leave me, please.”
Alec wanted to lash out at his husband for imagining, even for a second, that he ever could. He reminded himself that the smaller man definitely wasn’t thinking clearly. “Magnus, I swore to always be your loving husband. And I meant it.” He kissed his beloved’s forehead. “You fought for a hundred years to make it back to us. I’ll fight for another hundred to help you recover from it, if that’s what it takes.”
Magnus took his hand and played with the archer’s wedding ring. The simple gesture had a tremendous soothing impact on them both. “That’s an awfully long time.”
Alec shrugged. “Well. We’ve got time.” He noticed with a frown that Magnus was still trembling from cold. “Are you ready to go inside, now? Because I am.”
Magnus nodded faintly. Not saying a word, Alec got up, then helped his husband to his feet as well. It was a touching sign of trust that the usually self-reliant warlock let him. In a comfortable silence they lay down on their bed. Nestled safely against him, Magnus began to warm up quickly.
Despite sharing a bed neither of them had any... amorous desires. That night all they both needed was to feel the other there. To be reminded that they hadn’t lost each other.
Once he was certain that the older man was sleeping, fitful as it was, Alec began to whisper. So softly that the rain continuing outside drowned out the words. “I’m so sorry that I couldn’t save you.” A tear slid down his cheek without him noticing. “But I’m here now. I’ll always be here beside you. I swear.”
Alec wanted to believe that he didn’t imagine the way Magnus relaxed.
The following morning Danya could tell, despite her young age, that something significant took place the night before. Her parents appeared exhausted. But the way they held hands when walking into the kitchen... And especially the way they brushed each other’s wedding bands without even noticing it before letting go out of necessity... It reminded her of before.
So did the way her papa kissed the top of her head. “Morning, sweetheart. Did you have good dreams?”
Danya nodded. Because she did, for once. Something about the cabin and the forest surrounding it helped her sleep dreamlessly. Almost. “I dreamt that we had a talking cat. His name was Chairman Meow, and he was mean.”
Rafael rolled his eyes, one corner of his mouth twitching. Max huffed. Her daddy gave her an amused look. “Nice try, Dany. But we’re still not getting a cat.”
Her papa was close to smiling. Seeing him so relaxed... She found that she’d missed it. “How long has this phase been going on?”
“For a month or two. Or something”, Rafael reported. “She’s been dropping subtle and not so subtle hints.”
Her papa grinned. She was too young to see the hurt it masked, to sense the sudden change in him. “Well. We can’t get you a cat right now. But how about an apple pie instead?”
Danya bit her lip, her shoulders slumping. The morning started so well and now she’d have to be the one to ruin it. “Papa... I can’t eat apples. I’m allergic”, she reminded him quietly, eyes cast downwards. She didn’t mind that he forgot. (She’d been told that people sometimes forgot things, even the important stuff, when they had too many things on their mind.) But she knew that it’d hurt him.
She didn’t need to look up to feel how the room’s temperature dropped several degrees. To feel how her papa deflated. To feel a wound she couldn’t understand, one that’d just started closing, tear wide open once more.
Her papa sighed. “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry...” He trailed off.
It was Rafael who salvaged the situation. “Can we make chicken empanadas?” the boy asked hopefully. “I... haven’t had any in ages. I checked, we should have all the ingredients.”
Her daddy emitted an appreciative sound. It made her feel much better. “Not a typical breakfast, but sounds good. And we have two warlocks here. I don’t think missing ingredients would be a problem.” The man mused for a moment while her papa and Rafael started an enthusiastic search for everything necessary. “I was thinking... I saw a pretty promising looking hiking path out there yesterday. Maybe we can go check it out after eating.”
While Max slept and Magnus cooked with Rafael the mundane way, Alec leaned closer to Danya. He whispered to her ear conspiratorially. “I found something amazing earlier, on my morning run. If we’re lucky, I have a special surprise.”
Danya beamed widely, all worries forgotten.
Magnus watched his family. And felt like they were a million miles away, even if they were right there in the same room. It took his all to keep ache from showing, to avoid ruining the morning any more than he already did.
He forgot allergies and cat obsessions. And while he was away, who knows how long because he hadn’t dared to ask... His family was forced to continue with their daily lives. They developed their own routines and schedules to get by without him. They formed some sort of a team dynamic. One he didn’t feel in sync with.
His family moved on. And he started to feel, more clearly than ever, like he was falling further and further behind. How was he supposed to catch up with them when they’d slipped so far out of his reach?
He hated the feeling of his father smirking, somewhere on the other side of the link they still shared.
Alec saw the subtle little change in his husband, the sudden grief and longing. He was practically able to feel the warlock’s mind sliding somewhere impossibly far away. And he was no fool. He could immediately pinpoint the cause. Determination surged inside him.
This was the most important battle he’d ever fought, and he wasn’t going to lose for as long as there was a drop of life in him.
Later they walked for almost two hours, stopping every now and then when the children needed it. Magnus wasn’t a huge fan of surprises, but at least this would be a pleasant one. He found himself growing almost as curious as the kids, especially with how clearly excited Alec was.
It felt good to see that twinkle of joy in his husband’s eyes for a change, instead of worry or sorrow.
Suddenly Alec signaled for them to stop, and brought a finger to his lips. Danya and Rafael nodded obediently. Max slept, oblivious to whatever was coming.
Magnus peered ahead and found a smile creeping to his lips. Danya gasped, her eyes widening and shining from thrill. Rafael, who usually did his best to hide how he felt, seemed almost as happy. Alec was grinning triumphantly.
On a forest opening nearby five white-tailed deer were eating. One of them lifted its head suspiciously when wind blew from an unfortunate angle, nearly giving them away. But soon food proved to be far more tempting than a threat that might not even be there.
“They’re beautiful”, Danya whispered, just quietly enough to avoid disturbing the shy animals.
While the kids were completely spellbound by the sight, Alec kissed Magnus’ cheek before murmuring softly. “I’m sorry that you lost so many precious memories. But... Maybe I can help you make new ones.”
The older man took his husband’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Magnus barely recognized himself anymore. He had no idea if he could ever be... himself again. But there, in the magical forest... He felt hope.
That evening Alec stood beside Magnus while his husband changed Max’s diaper with unsteady but safe hands. He was asked to be there in case the warlock had forgotten how to get the job done. Of course they both knew the actual reason.
As it turned out there’d been nothing to worry about. Max observed Magnus’ ministrations with wide, curious eyes, breathing fast. But neither of the two was panicking. In fact... Alec was fortunate enough to witness something amazing.
Magnus and Max had both dropped their glamour. And as they stared at each other, the baby recognizing those familiar eyes... Even the archer could feel a bond starting to reform. It was only a sad ghost of what it was supposed to be, but Alec welcomed the start.
When the diaper was firmly in place Alec wrapped his arms around his husband’s waistline. And thanked the angels. “See? You’ve still got it.”
After that Magnus purposefully let Alec put Max to a crib. Instead of agreeing to do so the archer left the room with the excuse of checking up on their dinner. Because those two definitely needed some bonding time alone. He came back to a sight that made him hold his breath.
Slowly, slowly, Magnus leaned closer to Max. With the obvious intention of giving the baby a kiss on the forehead, like he did with Danya. It seemed to be working out beautifully. Until Max began to emit cries of distress and Magnus recoiled like he’d been struck. Alec had to bite his lip to avoid whimpering, too, at the look of utter devastation on his husband’s face.
Magnus swallowed down his disappointment so loudly that the younger man heard it. “It’s... It’s alright. You just... need time. I know I’m a lot to get used to. Bu we’ll get there, won’t we?”
Oh, how Alec wished that Magnus was right – and that the sentence didn’t sound so much like a question.
In the meantime Danya had already dozed off when someone cursing under their breath roused her. She blinked her eyes open to find Rafael trying to light a candle. “Rafe?” She yawned. “What are you doing?”
Rafael tensed up, refusing to meet her eyes. “Today’s the anniversary of my parents’ death. I... felt that I should do something, even if can’t really remember them. So, I wanted to make empanadas. I think I cooked those a lot with my mama. And I’m trying light a candle but I can’t get this stupid thing right.” The boy shrugged tensely, blinking against the moisture in his eyes. “It’s... not a big deal. That’s why I didn’t say anything.”
Danya already knew a little something about ‘no big deals’ that were really ‘big deals’. But she didn’t point it out. Instead she reached out a hand and snapped her fingers. The candle was lit instantly.
The joy on Rafael’s face was one of her favorite things in the world. “Thanks, Dany. You’re a pretty amazing kid.”
Danya scoffed without any hurt or malice. Then pulled him to a hug, to which he relaxed after a shudder. “You’re a kid too, silly. And... You’re my brother. It’s my job to help you.”
She imagined that the tears in Rafael’s eyes were only those of sorrow, so she hugged him tighter.
That night the stars were incredibly bright. The air outside was cool, but at least it wasn’t raining. And the forest ground was incredibly soft.
How were they supposed to resist the temptation?
Alec let Magnus take the lead, knowing how badly his husband needed it. And he was most definitely enjoying himself. Every move the warlock made... Every little touch of hands and lips... They threatened to send him over the edge.
His moans, whispers and shivers of arousal seemed to boost Magnus’ confidence. And determination. In the end, with stars shining ethereal light on them, they went over the edge together.
Still high from it all, Alec kissed practically every spot of his husband he could find. “I’m here. And this is real”, he swore quietly, their eyes locked firmly. “I won’t let you forget this. I promise.”
Magnus pulled him close and held on tight, then groaned.
Alarm sped through Alec. He frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Magnus groaned again. And winced. “I... rolled on a freaking cone.”
For a moment Alec could only stare. Unsure if he wanted to laugh or roll his eyes. “Seriously?”
Alec couldn’t hold it in. He burst into chuckles. Seeing his reaction made Magnus crack, too. They laughed until they were breathless, the sound rumbling pleasantly in the chests that were pressed together.
“I love you, so much.”
“I love you, too.”
Magnus’ eyes flew open. To face the darkness of Edom. And his father’s smirking, smug face. “Did you enjoy the little fantasy, my boy?”
Magnus shook his head frantically, rage, grief and agony bubbling under his skin. “No...!” He had no idea what he’d planned on saying. It couldn’t be...! It felt so real...!
His father caressed his hair. “You are the source of your own suffering. The faster you let those foolish dreams go... The sooner you’ll feel better. The sooner it stops hurting.”
Magnus clenched his jaw. And hated himself for the tear that rolled down his cheek. “Alec...”
Asmodeus rolled his eyes and sighed. “How many times do we have to go through this? Alec is dead.” Their eyes locked, both pairs golden. “But you’re home, now. I will take care of you.”
Magnus reacted before he’d made an active decision to do so. Satisfaction coursed through his veins while purple magic wrapped around his father’s neck, choking the man. “Let... me... go...”, he hissed. “My family... I have to get to my family. Let me go.”
Asmodeus choked, gasped for breath. The barely comprehensible words... They made no sense... “M-Magnus... Love, let... Let go, please...! I’m here...” The man wheezed horribly. “... here ... stop ...”
Magnus blinked rapidly and squinted his eyes. His head was pounding, and everything in his line of vision was flickering. Until it all became far too clear.
He was in the cabin’s bedroom. And his tainted purple magic... It wasn’t choking Asmodeus. It’d wrapped around Alec’s throat.
Alec recognized the second his husband came back to him from the grips of the flashback. Golden eyes changed back to dark. Instantly they filled with such horror and self-hatred that it broke his heart. Magnus shuddered visibly at the exact moment the magic’s hold broke.
That look... It scared Alec. Because he had no idea what his husband was going to do – not to him, or the kids, but to himself.
Alec didn’t have enough time to catch his breath to call out. He didn’t manage to twitch. Between one gasp and the next Magnus was gone.
That’s... A LOT of not good. (grimaces) We’re sailing some seriously murky waters right now. Fingers crossed that they’ll make it through...!
Soooo... Thoughts? Comments? Do you want to yell at me? PLEASE, do let me hear from you! Comments seriously mean THE WORLD to me.
IN THE NEXT ONE: Two characters have an emotional meltdown. Will things get better or worse?
NEXT UPDATE COMING THIS THURSDAY.
Until next time, folks! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 4: Breakdowns
Two people have an emotional meltdown. Will things get better or worse?
This chapter was A RIDE to finish...! But, here we are. For better, or for worse... (gulps)
THANK YOU, a thousand times, for your comments, love and support! This saga has been a long journey and you’ve made it feel worth every second I’ve spent on writing this. (HUGS)
Before we get going... ADDITIONAL TRIGGER WARNING. THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS SOME VERY, VERY DARK THOUGHTS SOME READERS MAY FIND TRIGGERING. If any of you is going through similar things, my thoughts are with you.
Soooo... Are you guys ready? Because here we go! I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec felt like he was floating outside his body. His mind was full of fog while he operated on autopilot. Years of fieldwork in life or death situations and as a leader had honed his instincts to work although he was in a state of shock.
His first impulse was to sprint after Magnus. Because he needed to find his husband, quickly. But a more rational part of him recognized that he couldn’t just leave three children, one of whom was a baby, alone.
Alec sent a message to Catarina. The kids and Magnus all trusted her. And, although even thinking about it made him feel sick, it seemed like a good idea to have someone with healing abilities standing by. Just in case.
Fifteen endless minutes later Catarina walked through a portal, a grim expression on her face. It turned out that she’d brought cavalry. Izzy, Jace and Andrew followed her, all three looking like they were ready for a war.
Izzy snorted at his visible surprise. “Did you seriously imagine that we wouldn’t come here to help you?” Her eyes softened. “Alec, you’re not alone in this.”
Those words tugged at something inside Alec fiercely. Because he’d been trying to fight alone to save his family, and it was his own fault. Magnus had been his support system for so long that he’d felt incredibly lonely when he couldn’t lean on that comfort. He loved his husband, so much that it scared him sometimes. In his need to avoid burdening Magnus with his sorrows he’d isolated himself from his beloved emotionally, partially without noticing it. He’d been subconsciously pushing away everyone else, too, because they’d all been through and lost too much.
Apparently they hadn’t been fooled, they’d just been waiting for him let them in.
Alec swallowed thickly, fighting his hardest to keep his emotions in check. He couldn’t afford to let himself lose control just yet. “Thank you”, was all he managed. And wondered why he sounded so hoarse.
Which was when the arrivals noticed the angry marks on his neck. Jace’s eyes widened. “What the hell happened?” his brother demanded, sounding horrified.
Alec’s jawline tightened. The things his husband said in his sleep... The way a pair of golden eyes glared at him... And more than anything, the look in the older man’s eyes before the warlock ran away... “Magnus... had a flashback, and I went too close before he was ready for it. He took off. I have to find him, now.”
Fortunately the others decided that getting more answers could wait. Magnus couldn’t. “You guys scatter and scan through the forest”, Andrew spoke up. Taking the lead when it became obvious that Alec was too shaken to do so. “I’ll stay here with the kids. If we’re lucky they won’t wake up before this is all over.”
Alec hoped, desperately, that the whole thing would be over soon – and that he’d have Magnus safe in his arms when it was.
Jace and Catarina sped to motion immediately. Alec was about to follow until a hand grabbed his shoulder. Before he could ask a thing Izzy had pulled him close and to a tight, tender embrace of support. Alec recalled several instances when he held her the exact same way. He stiffened for a few moments. Then melted to the hug that felt too good to resist.
“We’ve got you. Both of you”, Izzy whispered. “It’s going to be okay.”
Alec wanted to believe her while he tightened his hold on her.
Magnus ran so far that eventually he had no idea where he was. Nor did he have a clue where he was going. All he knew was that he had to go away. Before he’d hurt someone else. Before he’d do even more damage.
He harmed Alec. Of all the horrible things and bitter mistakes he’d ever committed to... That was the worst. Was it any wonder that his own son was scared of him?
He would’ve gotten away faster if he used his magic. But he refused to take any more chances, couldn’t trust his powers. It was the worst kind of betrayal, to have something that should’ve been an integral part of him work against him in such a way.
The whole time Magnus stumbled forward, almost tripping on tree branches and his own feet along the way, he heard Asmodeus chuckling in his head. He could almost feel how his father found amusement from his state of utter devastation. The need to get away from the Prince of Hell made him run faster. Even if he knew that it was impossible to shake off someone who’d wormed deep into his head.
He kept trying to get away. Until he had to stop abruptly upon reaching a cliff. Down below pitch-black waves crashed loudly against huge rocks. He found himself staring at them with a chilling amount of fascination. The kind of urges he hadn’t had in centuries began to rise in his mind, which was in a state of chaos.
Magnus stood absolutely still, defying how shaky his legs were. His whole body trembled from the strain of just being there while he glared at the dark water below. His father’s words of poison bombarded his head, over and over again. His once familiar magic, which Edom tainted, scratched him from the inside like tiny pieces of glass. And he was tired of it all, of trying to stay strong and keep fighting.
All it would take was a single step forward...
His stepfather tried to drown him, once. Because the man, drunk out of his mind as he was at the time, saw him for what he was. He’d been wary of water ever since. Now he feared himself more.
He remained frozen for a long time. One leg twitching constantly from how badly it wanted to march onward. But instead of moving, Magnus remained still.
He didn’t choose his father and to be what he was. He didn’t choose to die. He didn’t choose to be brought back. He didn’t choose to spend a hundred years in the home of his worst nightmares.
But that night he chose to live.
Because on the last possible moment he had another flashback. Of himself as a little boy, looking for his mother. To find her dead. And he vowed to be a better parent.
He was a monster. An abomination. But by some miracle he had a family he didn’t deserve, people who loved him. Children who trusted him to stay in their lives. Distant as he currently felt from them.
Magnus decided, with a degree of reluctance he didn’t like, that he needed to step away from the ledge he’d been teetering on since his return.
Magnus didn’t know what madness overcame him. He didn’t really know what he was about to do until he was screaming. Hearing the echo of his own voice made him howl louder, and louder, until it drowned out his father’s voice in his head.
It was a scream of sorrow, loss, pain, betrayal and rage. But it was also a battle cry. It was the shout of someone who’d decided to fight. Even if they weren’t sure whether they had any chance to win.
Alec was just close enough to hear the scream. Cold chills of the worst kind ran down his spine while he picked up pace. Cursing his speed rune for not making him fast enough. When he finally reached his husband he almost started to cry from relief.
Magnus was very obviously feeling incredibly cold and emotionally shaken. But aside some scratches and small wounds, the warlock seemed physically unharmed. The relief lasted until the Shadowhunter realized where, exactly, his beloved stood. Still turned towards the fall to distant unknown.
A flashback of what he once did under a spell was instant.
Alec’s heart stopped. Then started to beat again entirely too quickly. “Magnus, don’t!” he yelped, openly terrified like after the Sword had been activated. The terror rising in him was the same.
Startled, Magnus whirled around. The warlock’s lips parted but he never found out what his husband would’ve said. Because the simple motion made the older man’s balance falter. Eyes wide and arms flailing, Magnus fell backwards.
Over the cliff’s edge.
While waiting Andrew tried to focus on reading. Which definitely wasn’t working. Eventually he tossed the book to the floor with a frustrated groan and started to pace. A thousand unpleasant ‘what ifs’ went through his head.
Which was why he didn’t hear steps coming closer until Rafael spoke. “Something’s wrong, right?” Recognizing his intention to lie that everything was fine the child went on. “I saw the look on Magnus’ face earlier. I know that tonight’s a... difficult night.” The boy glanced towards the master bedroom’s door and tensed up visibly upon discovering that it was open.
Andrew sighed heavily. “Jace, Izzy and Cat came to help.” There was no point in lying when the child had already figured things out. But he also wasn’t going to spell out just how wrong things were. “Our job is to keep an eye on Dany and Max.”
Rafael accepted the task with a stiff nod. The boy had discomfort written all over his face. “Can I... wait for them to come back here, with you?” The younger Shadowhunter’s eyes were cast downwards. “I don’t think I can sleep any more tonight.”
Andrew understood immediately. Nightmares, then. He was tempted to ask but decided against it. “Of course”, he promised instead. “I could use some company.”
Rafael seemed to find some little delight from that. Neither of them felt like talking after that. First they paced together. Then, when neither had enough energy for more of that, they sat on the couch. Both listening intently to catch any sign of the others returning.
“They’ll be okay. Or, well... I hope they will be. Because... I want to stay with them. Permanently.” Almost immediately Rafael seemed embarrassed to have admitted so much. “Don’t... tell anyone, yeah? When we’re all... okay enough, I want to ask them myself if I they’ll have me.”
Andrew felt a brush of pride and fondness over the boy trusting him with something like that revelation. “My lips are sealed”, he promised. “But just so you know... They’ll be thrilled.”
There was no reply. Andrew looked to the side with a frown and discovered that Rafael had fallen asleep. His eyes softening, he draped a quilt around the sleeping child.
Andrew was terrified for his friends. But now that he didn’t have to wait for news alone he felt a little better. If the tiny smile on Rafael’s lips was any indication, so did the boy.
Jace felt his parabatai’s panic just seconds before distant shouts reached his ears. What he heard... It made him feel colder than the cool, damp air wrapping around him.
Magnus’ scream. Followed by Alec’s cry. “MAGNUS!”
Jace activated his speed rune and prayed to the angels that he wouldn’t be too late.
“MAGNUS!” someone (Alec, the warlock realized belatedly) shrieked.
Falling... Magnus realized with some startle that it felt very similar to flying. And then, with greater surprise, he discovered that he actually was flying.
His wings, which clearly had far more free will than he’d imagined and reacted quickly, were spread triumphantly. He fell for a second or two longer, then found himself being catapulted upwards. Towards the stars.
He never made it quite that far.
Magnus’ mind still barely comprehended what was going on. Fortunately his muscles had a very good idea of what was supposed to happen next. He flew upwards, until he landed. Roughly, with a groan. On his way down he crashed hard against someone’s body, which was advancing towards the opposite direction. He tackled the other to the ground with him and they lay there, dazed, in a shock and panting hard.
Slowly, slowly, Magnus lifted his gaze to meet Alec’s eyes. A startling realization occurred when he saw the look in them. He swallowed hard. “Were you... going to...?” By the Angel...! Was Alec seriously going to jump after him?
Alec’s eyes flashed while a tear rolled down the younger man’s cheek. His harsh breaths started to sound increasingly lot like sobs. “Get off me!” the Shadowhunter hissed, sounding more wounded and lost than hostile and scared. “Now!”
Magnus jolted backwards and sat up like he’d been stung. Suddenly he wasn’t able to look away from the marks marring his beloved’s neck and felt sick. The need to run again was almost overwhelming while his eyes grew blurry. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry...” No apologies in the world were enough when he’d turned into the one thing he wasn’t supposed to be. His father’s son, who hurt and tainted everything he touched.
“Magnus, don’t... I didn’t mean...” (Yes, he did. Perhaps only for a second, but he did.) Alec sat as well and grabbed a desperate, painfully tight hold of his hand. “I... I can’t breathe... Magnus, I can’t...!”
Those words helped Magnus find some much needed clarity. A purpose, something constructive instead of destructive to focus on. “Yes, you can.” He knew, with absolute certainty, after how many times he’d filled his lungs when he was sure that he’d die. Slowly and carefully he pressed himself closer to his husband’s trembling body, buried his face in the archer’s shoulder. “In... Out... Follow my lead...”
Alec didn’t seem ready to calm down yet. “You just...! You were going to...!”
Magnus shook his head, partially as a protest, partially to clear it. He’d deal with his guilt and a million other emotions later. Right now Alec needed him to be the calm and composed one. “I know... what it looked like. But I wouldn’t, I couldn’t.” He needed the younger man to hear that. “Even if I... felt tempted to, for a little while. Because you deserve better than an unstable monster. So do the kids.” This felt like a night for honesty, and he was tired of keeping these thoughts buried.
Apparently Alec shared the sentiment. The younger man’s outburst was so sudden and loud that it startled them both. “Don’t you dare tell me what I deserve! I want you! I need you! You don’t get to...!” The archer choked on the snarled words. “You don’t get to do this! You don’t get to run away from me! I can’t have you going where I can’t follow again!” By then the Shadowhunter was trembling so hard from the emotional overload that his teeth chattered.
Magnus could only stare. His husband’s agony made him want to break down, too. “Alexander...”
“I listened to you last night. It’s my turn, so please, just... Just listen.” Alec’s tone was such only a heartless fool would’ve protested. The man sniffled. “I lost you! I... I caressed and kissed your dead body! I couldn’t feel you, I couldn’t touch you, I couldn’t get to you. And... And for two weeks we didn’t know if you’d ever come back!”
Magnus closed his eyes when Alec broke down. All the emotions his husband had been bottling up for his benefit were coming out. He held on to the tall, muscular body that suddenly felt fragile, because he couldn’t do anything more at the moment.
“I lost you.” By then Alec was sobbing hysterically, clung to him so tightly that it hurt. “Magnus, I lost you, and... I won’t go through that again, I can’t.”
“Alexander, I’m so sorry.” For hurting you, for scaring you, for leaving you, for being like this. Magnus swallowed thickly. Unable to keep himself from breaking down to tears of his own. “I’m here”, he murmured.
Alec shook his head. Grief radiated from the archer in waves. “No, you’re not. Not really.”
Magnus sighed heavily. Those words were true but they hurt nonetheless. “I know.” He played with Alec’s hair and was pleased to find the man melting to the gesture. “But... I’m trying. And I promise I won’t stop trying again.” It was all he could promise at the moment, really.
Alec clung to him tighter, unable to utter words while the body and soul wrecking sobs continued.
All of a sudden Magnus sensed that they weren’t alone anymore. He lifted his gaze and tensed up. Jace and Izzy stood a subtle distance away, staring at them with baffled eyes.
The warlock was confused by the duo’s reaction. Until he realized with horror that he only wore a pair of loose night pants. And his wings were still out in the open. They’d folded around Alec, shielding the archer.
Magnus expected them to start asking questions. Or for them to yell at him. To his surprise they didn’t. He tensed up even further when they started to walk closer.
Surely they knew what he did to Alec. What were they thinking of him? He wouldn’t blame them if...
His thoughts were silenced when Izzy and Jace reached him and Alec, knelt beside them. Then pulled both of them to a tender, love filled group hug. Magnus hesitated for the longest time, knowing full well that he didn’t deserve such support. In the end, however, he couldn’t help himself. Because he needed the hug more than he’d ever needed anything.
Slowly, testing boundaries, his wings twitched before starting to move. Very carefully they shifted so that they were shielding Izzy and Jace as well. At first the two jumped from surprise. Then, instead of running away or pushing him away, they pulled him closer. Took him in, wings, mental scars, volatile magic and all. Their unconditional acceptance made Magnus want to cry. (He didn’t realize that a few tears did slide down his pale cheeks. That all four of them were weeping.)
They stayed like that for a very long time. Tangled together in a manner that made it impossible to tell where one person ended and another began. As one.
Hours later Jace, Izzy and Andrew all stood up stiffly when Catarina emerged from the bedroom where she’d left Magnus and Alec. She appeared utterly exhausted. “I sedated them to make sure that they’ll get a lot of dreamless sleep. And I called their therapist. When they wake up she’ll have a long talk with them both. She... didn’t sound happy when I told her about today.”
Well. It was safe to say that none of them was particularly happy about that day’s events. “They’ll be okay.” Jace’s eyes were begging for a reassurance. “They’ve been through so much already. They’ll make it through this, too. Right?”
Catarina sighed heavily, her shoulders slumping. “Honestly? I have no idea. But... We’ll make damned sure that they know we’re fighting through this with them.”
Sooooo... Is everyone okay after that? Let’s hope that our poor boys, especially Magnus who is going through horribly dark times, will be okay, too. (sighs) At least they’ve got support, thank gosh!
Was that any good, at all? PLEASE, do let me hear from you! It ALWAYS means the world to me.
Btw... I recently found an official theme song for this saga. Sam Riggs’ ‘Bulletproof Heart’ fits like a glove. (grins)
IN THE NEXT ONE: Tensions linger while Magnus and Alec both fight to get emotionally back on their feet. Will their therapist manage to help?
NEXT UPDATE COMING NEXT MONDAY.
Until next time, folks! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 5: Talks
Emotions run high while Magnus and Alec both struggle to recover from their breakdowns with the help of their therapist.
This chapter turned out longer than I imagined. (chuckles) BUT, hopefully it’ll turn out good.
First, though... THANK YOU, a million times over, for the absolutely amazing comments and support! Writing this isn’t always easy, and I’m sure that reading this isn’t either, so it means a lot that you’re all there. (HUGS)
Awkay... Are you ready? Because here we go! I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Alec began to wake up, with Magnus’ familiar body curled up beside him, for a few moments of bliss it felt like any morning before. He smiled when strands of the warlock’s hair tickled his chin. Sweet drowsiness almost took him under again.
Until he smelled a night-time forest, sweat and tears.
The memories rushed back in with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Alec’s eyes flew open while his throat constricted, making drawing in proper breaths nearly impossible. His hold on Magnus tightened, enough to make the man emit a tiny mew of protest in his sleep.
“Alec, calm down.” A familiar voice helped ground him. Even if he had no idea how the owner of said voice could possibly be there. “Magnus is safe, he’s just sleeping deeply because he needs rest. You’re safe, too, and so are the kids. Do you remember where you are?”
Alec nodded very slowly. It took him a moment to realize that a verbal response was expected. “I’m at a cabin. We’re on a... family vacation.” He wasn’t able to keep some bitterness from sneaking into his tone. So far the whole plan hadn’t worked out the way he’d been hoping...
“Hey.” Anna’s genuine sympathy managed to snatch him back from those thoughts. “The idea of coming here? It’s brilliant. I wouldn’t have given you an okay to do this if I didn’t think so.”
Alec focused on Magnus, who seemed incredibly relaxed. He liked to imagine that the peace was genuine, not something caused by whatever was used to help achieve the state. “Getting dragged here almost cost him his life last night”, he pointed out barely audibly.
“Alec. Eyes on me.” Slowly, unwilling to look away from his husband when he still needed reassurance that the man was there, Alec complied. Anna’s hazel eyes were firm and comforting. The petite therapist moved a strand of dark hair behind her ear. “Magnus would’ve reached his breaking point eventually anywhere. We’ve been bracing ourselves for this since his return, remember? Now it happened. And we’ll get through this like we decided to. Together.”
Alec nodded. A Shadowhunter on duty once more. “What can I do?”
Anna smiled tenderly. “Right now, you have three kids who are getting pretty worried because they know that something’s going on with their parents. Have breakfast with them.”
Alec tensed up. Letting Magnus out of his sight... He wasn’t sure he was ready for it just yet. Or if he’d ever be.
Anna clearly understood. “I’ll take a good care of him, I promise. Now go, before Izzy burns down the kitchen.”
Alec narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “You told her to cook on purpose, didn’t you? To get me to leave the room.”
Anna shrugged with a smirk. “I’m not admitting anything.”
“Alright, then. I caught that twitch of a hand. Time to stop pretending that you’re asleep.”
Magnus groaned and rubbed his face roughly with one hand. His head was foggy and pounded viciously. He would’ve suspected a rare hungover or magic depletion. But he’d been battling the urge to drink since his first pregnancy and had been using his magic sparingly...
The flashbacks hit him without mercy.
His magic choking Alec... Running away... Falling... Flying... Breaking down... Alec breaking down...
“Well.” He heard Anna’s shrug. “That’s definitely an accurate reaction. You had a pretty intense night.” She sighed heavily when he offered no comment. “I really wish you would’ve reached out to me before things got this bad.”
Magnus wasn’t going to start making up excuses. He was too tired. “Is Alec alright?” he mumbled.
“No, he isn’t. And neither are you. That’s why I’m here.” There was no accusation or judgement in Anna’s voice. “You’ve been through a massive trauma. We need to figure out how to help you deal with it.”
Magnus swallowed. With his eyes closed he could feel all his unpleasant memories creeping on him. “You’re not leaving me alone with them, are you?” He hated how much like a child’s plea that sounded. Hated that he didn’t trust himself around his own family.
“I’m not going anywhere until you’re ready for it.” Anna made her steps purposefully loud upon approaching the bed. When he stiffened but didn’t tell her to stop she sat down. Leaving a bit of breathing space between them. “Now... We have a lot to talk about, so let’s get started.”
Jace watched Alec sitting on the cabin’s balcony, facing the forest spreading outside. A troubled look took over his face while he felt his parabatai’s emotional turmoil. It occurred to him that he knew, perhaps better than anyone, what his brother was going through.
He lost Clary for a while, too. And got her back as a slightly broken version of herself. The day they were reunited was one of the best in his entire life. But the memory of losing her... The fear of it happening again... It never really went away, after. He was almost certain that if it’d ever happen again it’d actually kill him. And last night... He felt Alec’s determination to follow Magnus down, short-lived as the impulse was. He’d experienced that determination firsthand, too. Jace needed to make sure that he got the archer back from the brink.
In the end they didn’t need words. Their bond and the look they exchanged when Jace stepped outside spoke loudly enough. Slowly but not hesitantly the blonde sat down. Not quite touching, but so close that their elbows nearly brushed together.
It was a beautiful morning, and they enjoyed the calm after the storm together.
Content with the knowledge that Anna was there for support, the rest of their guests left one by one because they had their busy schedules to return to. They also understood that both Magnus and Alec felt overwhelmed by having so many people around them. Especially when they were feeling vulnerable. They swore to call often and visit whenever they were needed.
Alec had just placed Max to a crib for a much-needed nap when Anna approached him. He barely managed to contain himself until they were out of the room before speaking up. “How is he?”
The solemn expression on Anna’s face promised no easy answers. “I’m not going to start lying to you. In nine cases out of ten, I’d recommend hospital care for someone in Magnus’ condition. But considering that being isolated from those he loves is a part of his trauma, I think it’d do him more harm than good. At least for now. I’ll try a new cocktail of medication and a lot more of those talks I know he secretly loves.” She didn’t try to hide her fond sarcasm.
Alec knew that she was trying to break it to him gently. But hearing that the love of his life was suffering so badly, had been hiding most of that pain since his return... It was a bitter pill to swallow. To avoid showing the tears he couldn’t blink away he looked through the window, towards where Rafael and Danya were playing right outside the cabin.
“Magnus did mention something that made me cautiously optimistic.” Anna radiated the kind of hope that soothed him a little. “Before you found him, Magnus had made a conscious decision to not jump. Because he wants to stay with you and the kids.”
That... actually did make Alec feel better. Knowing that Magnus wanted to stay, wanted to keep fighting for them... It gave him a new spark of fight, too.
“Now, since Magnus is sleeping soundly... I think it’s time to focus on you for a moment.” Anna’s eyes narrowed at his frown. “Don’t you dare ask me what I’m talking about! Yesterday was a traumatizing experience on you, too. You have bruises around your neck and last night you had such a bad panic attack that Catarina had to sedate you. So let’s start with talking about those.”
Magnus had no idea how long he slumbered. At some point he stirred briefly upon sensing someone caressing his hair. Alec wasn’t quite able to disguise his concern, even in the room’s dim light. “Hey, Sleeping Beauty”, the Shadowhunter murmured. “You’ve been dozing for quite some time. Do you feel like trying to eat something? We’re about to have dinner.”
Magnus shook his head, hating himself for the disappointment the simple gesture caused. “I’m not hungry yet”, he mumbled, already halfway asleep once more. Unable to put into words what, exactly, he wanted to say he squeezed Alec’s hand gently. Hoping that the gesture spoke the rest.
He was still fighting... this, he just needed a little more time to catch his breath and get back on his feet.
Alec’s fingers tightened around his, and it was all the answer he needed. His husband was fighting, too. Magnus drifted to a dreamless sleep with the comfort of that knowledge.
A little later the kids were atypically quiet during dinner. Aside Max, who was whimpering more than usual. Because no matter how hard Alec tried to make it all seem normal and casual, they were intimately aware of the fact that one of them was missing. Rafael and Danya both had horrible memories of the time when Magnus was last away, in the worst way.
Bedtime came soon after. Danya stared longingly at the door behind which her papa was. Every little bit of her wanted to go to him, but she’d been told that he was tired. And she didn’t want to bother him. She knew that it was important to get rest when one wasn’t feeling well.
So the girl started a search for her daddy instead. When she found him, standing outside the cabin with Anna hugging him, she froze instead of running to him like she usually did. Because she’d never seen him cry the way the way he did then. (At least fate was merciful enough to spare her from having to see his bloodied knuckles and fingers.)
Danya felt like crying herself. She rushed to the room she shared with Rafael. Apparently it was one of those nights when he needed the safety of sleeping under his bed. Neither said anything when she crawled there as well and curled up beside him.
It wasn’t until the following night the couple got a real, proper chance to talk. Alec lay wide awake beside his husband when Magnus’ eyes opened to meet his. They stared at each other for a long time in a silence. One convincing himself that it wasn’t all a dream, the other reminding himself that his beloved hadn’t slipped away from him again.
“You scared me”, Alec whispered, like it was a secret.
Magnus swallowed thickly. “I... scared myself, too.” The older man’s eyes locked on his injured neck and a haunted look filled them. “What if it was one of the kids? What if I...?” The warlock trailed off.
Alec shook his head. “Magnus, it wasn’t your fault. You weren’t in control over yourself.”
“But I was. That I didn’t know who I was using my powers on doesn’t change that.” Magnus gulped, appearing nauseous. “Alexander, you’ve seen how dangerous I can be, when I let myself loose. What if I lose myself again?”
“It’s called PTSD.” Alec remembered Anna mentioning that it was important to give the problem a name, so it felt more tangible, more tolerable. “And Magnus, you’re not facing it alone. Any of it, no matter how bad it gets before it gets better.” He held on to his husband a little tighter. “We’ll find a way to keep your head in the here and now.”
Magnus didn’t seem convinced. A troubled gaze darted restlessly from left to right. “How am I ever going to trust myself around any of you again?”
Alec kissed the older man’s forehead. “You will”, he promised. “We’ll figure out this whole thing. Just...” His voice cracked. “Just stay with me.”
Magnus pressed himself closer to him. The pressure and warmth of another body worked like a balm on open wounds. “I will”, the warlock murmured against his neck.
Alec hoped that a day would come when he’d dare to trust that promise.
Catarina stopped by for a visit the next day. Afterwards Alec found her chopping onions viciously, the mundane way. His brows furrowed. “Catarina?” He went on when she didn’t react. “Did... something happen?”
“He asked me to restrain his magic. Permanently.” Catarina’s chopping motions intensified after she’d wiped her eyes. “I reminded him of how much it hurt to lose it, once.” Possibly not with the kindest wording. “He shouted back that it’d be far more painful if he’d accidentally hurt the kids. Or you.”
Alec swallowed thickly. Worry squirmed in the pit of his stomach. “So... Did you...?” He couldn’t even finish the thought. Remembering how much Magnus suffered without his magic... He never wanted to watch the man he loved go through that again.
Catarina scoffed. “Of course I didn’t. I smacked him upside the head.”
Alec almost smiled. Almost. His face twisted while he made his way to the table. “Pass me an onion, will you?”
They kept chopping in a companionable silence. Whenever they ran out of onions, Catarina magicked more. Both found some little comfort from the other’s close proximity.
The thing with little ears is that they’re everywhere. Usually where adults don’t want them to be. And Rafael caught the conversation between Alec and Catarina.
An hour later he sneaked into the room where Magnus rested. The man was still in bed, but the boy had an inkling suspicion that he hadn’t been sleeping. Rafael hesitated, there. It was such a long time from when he lost his parents, and since then no one had taught him how to care for people properly. He hoped that he was about to make things better, not worse.
Magnus’ body jolted a little when he sat on the bed. But the man accepted him with a familiar air of warmth, if not a little warily. “Rafael? Is everything alright?”
The child felt tempted to point out that the warlock wasn’t alright and he could tell. Instead he put a plate carrying two sandwiches between them and started munching on one of them. “Alec’s cooking something that’ll have a lot of onions in it.” Somehow that was all the explanation needed.
A few minutes of pleasant silence followed. Rafael frowned when he noticed that Magnus wasn’t making a move to touch his sandwich. “You have to eat something. You haven’t in days.” Then, almost like inserting an afterthought, he said what he’d really wanted to. “And, if you’re worried... I’m not scared of you, or your magic.”
Not much later Alec entered the room, intending to try and coax his husband to a dinner table. When he discovered the empty plate, along with Magnus and Rafael sleeping contentedly side by side... He felt better than he had in days. He didn’t even care if the whole display was an obvious sign of distrust towards his cooking skills.
That evening Alec also rubbed soothing circles on Magnus’ back while the smaller man threw up what little he’d consumed in a bathroom. “I’m never...”, his beloved managed through dry heaves. “... eating anything... any Shadowhunter cooks again.”
Neither of them was exactly feeling well. Worry squeezed Alec’s throat hard. But when their eyes met some of the tension that’d sneaked between them without either noticing evaporated. They burst into a fit of slightly hysterical giggles, because under those circumstances it was all they could do.
Early in the following morning Anna peered through the cabin’s window when she heard thuds. A fond grin appeared to her face at what she found. Alec and Rafael were practicing archery, with identical expressions of intense concentration on their faces. Their words just carried to her ears.
Alec’s nod of approval was more affectionate than any smile or caress. “You know... A few years of training, and you’ll outmatch my skills.”
Rafael’s whole being lit up at the praise. “Really?” The boy hesitated. “You’d... actually train me for so long?”
Alec launched an arrow of his own. Despite not looking towards the child, the archer recognized how important the question was. “Of course. I’d like to have you around for a very long time.” They clearly weren’t talking about training anymore.
Rafael mulled over those words for two arrow launches. “Does Magnus think so, too?”
“I know he does.” Alec gave the boy some time to digest and accept that. “What fool wouldn’t want a kid like you around?”
Anna stopped intruding on the private moment, there. But not before catching a glimpse of Rafael’s eyes shining in a way that had nothing to do with sunlight. And not before seeing the child take a tiny but deliberate, loudly speaking step closer to Alec.
Almost anyone might’ve assumed that nothing special just took place. But the three of them all knew that a life just changed dramatically. For the better.
Anna decided that it was high time she stopped by at her home. So the family would have a chance to be with just each other. She’d been a therapist long enough to recognize when it was safe to take a step back and see what would happen.
At the same time Magnus woke up to someone crawling to the bed. “Papa?” Danya settled down next to him. From the way she pressed herself against him it was easy to tell how much she’d missed him, and it broke his heart. “Are you still sleepy?”
Magnus nodded, discovering with dismay that it was one of those days when it was hard to find enough energy to talk.
“That’s okay.” Danya leaned her head against his chest. Clearly figuring out that he needed some type of comfort, but too young to fully understand it. “I still feel tired, too. Can I stay here with you?”
Slowly, tentatively, Magnus wrapped his arms around her. Magic tingled under his skin but wasn’t unleashed. It didn’t harm her. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Of course you can.” He kissed the top of her head. “I’m... sorry that I’ve been so sleepy lately. And that I haven’t been able to tell you how much I love you.”
Danya gave him a surprised look. “I know you do. You don’t always have to say it with words.” She nestled against him once more, utterly relaxed. “I love you, too, papa.”
Magnus was startled by how intensely glad he was to be alive.
The following morning Alec woke up and panicked when the other side of the bed was empty. Once he was more coherent fear transformed into hopefulness. Because it was the first time in days Magnus left the bed for more than a trip to the bathroom.
Alec got up and stretched when his muscles screamed due to the horrible position in which he’d been sleeping. When he left the room he discovered that Rafael and Danya were chatting happily while eating a breakfast a grownup had obviously prepared. “Morning, daddy”, Danya greeted joyfully. “Papa’s outside. He said that you needed sleep, so we didn’t wake you.”
Magnus sat on the porch. The warlock didn’t quite smile, but the man’s eyes filled with warmth upon recognizing him. “The kids were hungry. And I wanted to get some fresh air.”
Alec was about to comment. Until he decided that no words would’ve done the sensitive situation justice. He sat down, then pressed a long, tender kiss to the other man’s lips. It lasted until Magnus pulled away with a gasp.
Experiencing a sting of concern, hurt and confusion, Alec opened his mouth. Magnus interrupted him with placing a finger to his lips. Curious, the archer faced the gestured direction.
Less than eight steps away a lone white-tailed deer stood, eating calmly. Perfectly at peace with the humans it had to know were watching. There in the morning’s mist the incredibly beautiful creature was like something out of a fairytale.
Mesmerized by the magical sight, the two men joined hands and held on tight.
Let’s all take a deep breath. Oh, this was an insane ride...! And we’re not quite at the end yet... We’ll see how the healing process continues.
How was that? Any good, at all? What do you think of Anna? PLEASE, do let me hear me hear from you! It ALWAYS means the world to me, especially when I’m publishing something this emotional.
IN THE NEXT ONE: The family enjoys spending some more stolen time at the cabin. But it turns out that their escape from the harsh reality is coming to an end...
NEXT UPDATE COMING THIS THURDAY.
Until next time! I really hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 6: Steps
The family continues to heal in the safety of the cabin. But their escape from the hectic, often cruel world outside may be coming to an unwanted end...
This was another one of those chapters that I IMAGINED would be a short one, until... BOOM! (chuckles) Whether this turned out to be any good at all... We’ll see.
THANK YOU, a thousand times, for your absolutely amazing comments, love and support! You have no idea how much it means to me that you’re all out there. (HUGS)
Awkay... Here we go. I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec and Jace watched with identical, intensely focused facial expressions while Magnus and Clary sat on the cabin’s porch, their backs towards them. “I hope that it wasn’t too soon to bring her here.” Jace sighed. “I think out of everyone, she understands the best what Magnus is going through. And... She’s missed him, a lot.”
Alec’s eyes softened. “He’s missed her, too”, he revealed. She was her husband’s Biscuit, a little girl he watched grow up to become an amazing young woman. The bond between them was something special.
They both stiffened when Clary took Magnus’ hand and leaned her head against his shoulder. Bracing themselves for a... negative reaction. And for a moment it looked like their fears might be realized when there was a shudder of startle. But then the warlock kissed the top of her head, like with his kids, and relaxed slowly.
“He seems to be doing better”, Jace commented with a tiny smile.
Alec nodded, the tension in his muscles melting away. “He is. The good and bad days both keep coming, but... There are more and more of those like this. This was the perfect moment to come.”
The parabatais stood there in a companionable silence. Just enjoying the view of the loves of their lives being at peace in each other’s company. Alec was the one who spoke first. “We’ve talked about Magnus and me since you got here. Are you going to tell me why you’re so nervous?”
Outside the cabin Magnus’ eyes obtained a fond look while a few pieces clicked into place. “So... When are you going to share the news officially?”
Clary’s eyes widened. Her hand flew instantly to her stomach. “What are you talking about?” she sputtered.
Magnus wasn’t sure if he wanted to roll his eyes or hug her. “Biscuit, I’ve been pregnant twice. You may be able to hide it from just about anyone else, but not me.”
The next couple of days Alec kept a close eye on Magnus. And decided that he was very much allowed to, after everything that’d happened. Besides, it wasn’t like he would’ve stopped being unable to look away from Magnus much since they first met.
The traces of healing were there, small as they were. Every smile, no matter how tiny and fragile, was a promise that one day Magnus would be genuinely happy again. Every casual, easy touch, no matter how brief, reminded him that the bond between them was healing, too. Alec himself was a man on a mission. Determined to get the man he loved back from Edom’s and Asmodeus’ grasp, no matter what it’d take.
There were also different kind of signs, those Alec had to pay attention to despite not wanting to see them. Magnus was far from alright, he had to acknowledge that much for both their sakes. One of the most painful worrying things was the way the man kept his distance to the rest of them. Magnus was so crafty that it took a while for Alec to notice. He caught on when one evening Danya asked if papa was coming to put on a nightlight with her and the archer was left to admire her doing it.
Afterwards Alec cornered Magnus to the bedroom. He hoped dearly that he’d manage to stay calm enough to not make things worse. “Magnus, I love you, and I know you. I can tell how hard it is for you to be around the kids.” And me, was left dangling on his tongue, not quite making it out. He went on when the other froze but offered no explanation. “Whatever it is, please... Tell me. Let me be there for you. Help me understand.”
Magnus’ mouth opened for lame excuses. But in the end the older man decided on honesty instead, and looked down in embarrassment. “I’m... not sure how to put this to words, despite Anna’s help. It’s just...” The warlock trailed off, frustration written all over his face. “For me a century went by, and... Since coming back, it’s felt like you all moved on, accepted a world without me. Because you had to.” The man shook his head. “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m the problem. I’ve felt like a stranger, intruding on something beautiful and delicate. Like I’m no longer a part of it all.”
Alec stared in horror. Hearing something he’d already suspected being expressed with such brutal honesty... “Magnus...!”
Magnus lifted a hand to cut him short. “I know how foolish those thoughts are. I know. But...”
“... knowing isn’t the same as feeling it.” Sadly, Alec understood all too well. To feel like a misfit, like you’re not enough for those you love the most...
Magnus ran a hand through his hair. (Which, the Shadowhunter realized with some dismay, was uncharacteristically flat.) “Anna’s been trying to help me see the difference between when it’s depression talking, and when I’m thinking straight. I’d like to imagine that I’m getting better at it. But, those particular thoughts... They’ve proved to be particularly hard to shake off.”
Alec’s thoughts whirred while his instinctive desire to fix and help his beloved sought answers. Until he remembered what might be just the thing. “I’ve... been waiting for the right moment to show you something. That’s why I took them along even here. And... I think this is the perfect time.” He checked under the bed, and grinned triumphantly upon discovering a box his husband hadn’t seen yet. He offered it to Magnus, who arched a slightly suspicious eyebrow. “Don’t worry, it’s not another... toy. I learned from the previous time.” Painfully, for both of them.
Amusement flickered in Magnus’ eyes at the equally sweet and humiliating memory. Then, still a little skeptical, the man inspected the box. And frowned upon digging out a pile of papers. “What...?”
Alec swallowed thickly. This seemed to be making him far more emotional than he’d known to expect. “While you were... away... We all had our ways to cope. And... This was Dany’s. She drew to you every single day.” He had to wipe his eyes. “She asked me how to send them to you. I swore to her that I’ll make sure you’ll get them. So...” He shrugged, not knowing what else to say.
Not that what he said or didn’t would’ve mattered much. Because Magnus very obviously couldn’t hear. The man’s eyes were full of moisture while he started to go through his daughter’s drawings with unsteady hands. The topics of pictures varied from terribly sad to happy and hopeful. But the main messages Danya was trying to get across were clear.
‘Come back home soon.’
‘Daddy’s sad without you, and so am I.’
‘I miss you.’
‘I love you.’
Alec wrapped an arm around the smaller man to pull him close. “We never stopped waiting for you. And... We’re still waiting. No matter how long it takes for you to find your way back to us properly.”
It took a while before Magnus managed to produce speech. “Thank you”, the warlock murmured. “For not giving up on me.”
Alec shrugged and nuzzled his head against his husband’s. “Well... Thank you, for not giving up on us.”
Danya woke up and frowned upon realizing groggily that there was someone beside her. She peered over her shoulder and smiled sleepily upon discovering her papa. She closed her eyes again and snuggled closer to him.
After him having been away she needed this. And maybe he did, too. She had a feeling that sometimes even adults needed a sleeping buddy for comfort.
During the most fragile time of recovery Anna spent a lot of time with the Lighwood-Bane family. She got to know each of them and their mannerisms quite well. Rafael proved to be the biggest mystery, because he spoke the least and kept his distance from her. Anna understood well. From what little she’d heard, she’d gathered that he’d had a traumatic childhood and didn’t trust people easily. She got the closest to knowing the emotionally closed up boy when she started to pay careful attention to the tiny details.
Rafael kept a close eye on the other kids. From the corner of her eye she saw him sneaking to motion whenever Max so much as whimpered. If the adults (usually Alec, she noted) didn’t appear immediately the boy stayed with the baby until someone else got there. He clearly enjoyed spending time with Danya, although upon first glance they seemed like opposite personalities. And he was very protective of her.
There was an occasion when Danya went a little too close to the lake by the cabin. Anna held Magnus back when he intended to interfere. Because someone had already reached the little girl. They couldn’t hear what Rafael shouted, but they saw the tears filling his eyes. So did Danya. Instead of being startled by the boy’s intense reaction she hugged him and didn’t let go even when he eventually returned the embrace hesitantly. The adults were almost sure that the girl said ‘I’m sorry I scared you’, which made the older child actually cry. The duo came back to the building holding hands tightly and pretended that nothing happened. Anna and Magnus let them.
The closest eye, however, Rafael kept on the household’s adults. It took some time, but eventually Anna realized that the boy was keeping tabs on Magnus’ eating. Whenever the warlock was having a... bad day Rafael was tense and remained close in his own, subtle way.
Even harder to spot was that Rafael kept checking up on Alec’s hands, inspecting for damage. Whenever there was none the boy relaxed a little. Every time Alec was sad or overwhelmed the child seemed to sense it and asked for an archery lesson, or just was there.
It was adorable, but eventually all three adults decided that it was unhealthy and couldn’t go on forever.
They were making dinner when she brought up the subject, noticing that the child was very obviously on guard. (Food, she’d found, made it a little easier to talk about difficult things.) “Rafael... You do understand that it’s not your job to look after them, don’t you?”
Rafael chewed the inside of his cheek. Pointedly not looking her way. Several moments ticked by before he voiced what was on his mind. “They’re... getting better, right? For real.”
Anna nodded, her heart breaking for the sheer terror and worry radiating from him in waves. “They are, I swear. And I wouldn’t lie about something so important.”
Rafael nodded. Visibly fighting hard to believe her. “I just... They’re my family, and... I don’t want to lose them, too”, he confessed quietly. And almost immediately seemed horrified by what he let slip.
Anna went on before he got the chance to overthink and shut down further. “Well... In families it’s the parents who look after their children. Not the other way around. Alec and Magnus would love to do that, if you’d let them.” She smiled. “Your heart’s so big that you want to look after everyone around you, and that’s an amazing thing. But remember to let others take care of you from time to time, too. Because sometimes we all need a little comforting. Whenever I do, I talk to my closest people. Or...” She snapped her fingers and a chocolate cake appeared. “... I do this.”
Rafael was a Shadowhunter. One who’d been raised for years by Circle members. He could’ve reacted in a lot of bad ways to a near stranger’s magic. Of all imaginable possibilities Rafael lit up to a blinding grin. “I’ve never had chocolate cake before.”
That same evening the family lay on the ground outside the cabin. The weather was surprisingly warm and the forest floor felt soft under them. Max slept peacefully, curled up like a kitten on Alec’s chest. Danya lay between Magnus and Alec, her limbs stretched out like those of a starfish. Rafael sat nearby. All of them had their eyes fixed on the stars shining incredibly brightly up above. Their little girl listened intently while Rafael told everything he knew about constellations. Which was so much that it surprised them all.
Alec gave Magnus’ hand a gentle squeeze. “You know...”, he whispered, not wanting the kids to hear. “This was a great idea.”
Magnus shrugged like something beautiful wasn’t just taking place. “Well. I decided that it’s time to start making new memories.”
Alec didn’t say a thing, only tightened his hold.
A few days later it was time for a test Magnus wasn’t sure he was ready for. He couldn’t stand the idea of his own child being afraid of him. So, when Danya and Rafael begged for a hike to see if they’d spot some more deer, Magnus announced that he’d stay behind with Max. The baby had started to develop a low-grade fever over the night before and couldn’t be taken outside.
Alec had a frown of worry on his face just before the trio’s departure. “Are you sure?” the Shadowhunter whispered. “We don’t have to go now if you need support.”
Magnus did his best to smile bravely. (He’d had a lot of practice on that over the course of his long life.) “We both need this.” And they did. He knew that his husband loved the two of them so much that it was terrifying. But the archer’s nervous energy wouldn’t do him or Max any good. This was a battle the warlock had to face alone.
Alec rewarded his courage with the kind of a kiss that made Magnus feel like he could do anything. He returned the favor with a squeeze to the archer’s rear that almost kept the young man from leaving. An hour later Magnus was convinced that he was an idiot.
The second Max woke up and sensed that Alec wasn’t around the baby started to cry. Loudly and miserably. The sound tore at Magnus’ heart and soul. Especially when nothing he did seemed to make the cries stop.
It went on torturously long, until a thought occurred to Magnus. His face, his touch and the feel of his now altered magic... They were unfamiliar to Max. Enough so to trick the child into believing that he was in the presence of a stranger. But there was something Magnus could offer that was familiar, had to be.
Praying to angels that it’d work, Magnus started to sing. Quietly and softly at first. When Max stopped crying and listened intently instead, breathing fast, the warlock dared to add volume. He wasn’t entirely sure where he’d heard the song but they both seemed to like it. He couldn’t resist a smile when eventually Max began to emit chirping sounds. Almost like attempting to sing along.
Slowly, making sure that he wouldn’t startle Max by moving too fast, Magnus approached the crib and peered down. His cat eyes were on display, and they met a pair of identical ones. His heart swell and warmth flooded through his whole body when the baby didn’t seem scared, instead hung on his every word.
Encouraged, and hoping that he wasn’t making a huge mistake, Magnus reached down. He brushed his son’s slightly too warm cheek with fingers that had no nail polish. It elicited a sigh of contentment that made the man’s eyes fill with moisture. “... I’m giving you all my love ...“, he sang tenderly, their eyes still locked on one another. “... I’m still looking up ...”
Magnus was humming that very same melody while making dinner the mundane way when Alec returned with Danya and Rafael. His body leaned closer instinctively when Alec wrapped a pair of loving arms around his waistline. “That song, huh?” the archer murmured and kissed his cheek.
“Hmm.” Magnus lost himself to that moment of utter bliss. To the regrettably fleeting moment of imagining that everything was alright in the world. “I don’t know why, but... It feels special.”
It was a rare act of mercy from fate that Magnus didn’t see how Alec’s face crumble momentarily. That he couldn’t even imagine just how important that song and the now lost memory attached to it were. That he didn’t realize he’d forgotten their first dance as a married couple.
That night Danya had a strange dream, almost a nightmare.
She was in a dark, terrifying place. It was far too warm, and the sky was red. Everywhere around her creatures that scared her flew and crawled. Circling her. One of them looked at her straight in the eye, long and hard. And started to purr loudly. The others followed soon after and practically bowed down in front of her.
A ring decorated hand was laid on her shoulder. “Do you see that, child?” Asmodeus sounded very pleased. “They recognize you as royalty. Because that is what you are.”
She lifted her gaze, hating the way her eyes stung. Hating that he got to see her weakness. “Please”, she whimpered. “Let me go home.”
Asmodeus chuckled. “But you are home.” The man’s hand brushed her chest, making her feel incredibly cold all over. So cold that she could barely breathe. “This is where your heart belongs. One day you will see it. So will your papa. He left me once, but he will come running back. He won’t have any other choice.”
Danya woke up with a gasp, her heart racing so fast that it hurt and her head spinning. She wasn’t sure if she’d made some sort of noise and checked quickly to make sure that she hadn’t disturbed Rafael. Relieved to discover that her brother was sleeping soundly, she took several deep breaths. Willing her heart to calm down.
That was when she noticed that a light was on outside the room. Still reeling from the dream she just had, she decided that she had to make sure her parents were alright. Her steps were soundless when she left the bed, then headed towards the light.
Getting closer, she heard quiet music. She couldn’t recognize the song but decided immediately that she liked it, a lot. Especially when she peered towards the cabin’s living room and saw the impact the melody had.
Her parents swayed softly to the song, holding each other tightly and lovingly. (In a way Danya suspected people hold the things they value the most.) Both men seemed more relaxed than she remembered seeing them in a very long time. All worry lines and traces of agony were gone from their faces, replaced by small but genuine smiles. They looked like nothing else in the world existed, especially the evil things, and it made her feel safer, too.
At some point her daddy whispered something she couldn’t hear. Her papa smirked before responding, his lips very close to the taller man’s ear. Whatever was said, it provoked an immediate reaction. Her daddy’s eyes flashed in a way that made her want to giggle. And suddenly he’d picked up her papa, so quickly and suddenly that the smaller man wrapped his legs around the archer with a gasp. Her daddy carried the cargo in his arms like it weighed nothing at all. It didn’t take long before the two got lost into the kind of a long, languid kiss she was possibly too young to see. Almost immediately breathy giggles ensued when her daddy began to head towards the bedroom.
Danya tiptoed back to her room with a smile on her face. She had no more dreams that night. Good or weird.
Unfortunately a couple of days later fate decided that their little escape from the rest of the world was over.
Instead of recovering Max seemed to be getting worse. Since Magnus’ magic only succeeded in agitating the baby first Catarina, then Anna tried theirs. Herbal mixtures, put together with hundreds of years’ worth of knowledge, were their next shot. Nothing made any difference.
“What’s wrong with him?” Alec demanded, perhaps more sharply than he’d intended. Not being able to do anything when a member of his family suffered... He hated facing that kind of helplessness over and over again.
Catarina sighed and ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “I don’t know”, she admitted reluctantly. “We’ll have to take him to the Institute for some tests.” She did her best to give the fretting parents a comforting smile. “We’ll know more soon. It might be something harmless.”
Alec fought the urge to chuckle bitterly. Because, seriously... Since when had they ever been so lucky?
So... Yeah. I can practically feel you guys coming at me with all sorts of weapons. And I may deserve it. (winces)
Soooo... Bring it on! Thoughts? Comments? PLEASE, do let me know! Hearing from you is ALWAYS the highlight of my day. And here’s your chance to rant. I can take it. I think...
IN THE NEXT ONE: More of what happened to Magnus is revealed while a desperate battle begins to help Max. What, exactly, got him so sick?
NEXT UPDATE COMING NEXT MONDAY.
Until next time, folks! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 7: Families
A desperate battle begins to save Max. In the meantime his parents receive some much-needed support.
Here we are again, folks! It’s Thursday. (grins and rubs hands together)
THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for all your comments, love and support! You guys make this LONG project feel every little bit worth the time I invest on this. (HUGS) I vow to do my best to make this worth your time in return.
Awkay... Are you ready? Because here we go! I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec really, truly hated the Institute’s infirmary. Never mind the times he’d been scooped up there, injured and useless. The worst were the times when those he loved were there, and there was no telling if they’d be alright. And this time it was his child, just a baby.
Alec was grateful that his mom offered to babysit Danya and Rafael for as long as was necessary. Because he didn’t think he would’ve been able to hide his fear and sorrow from the older children. As it was he clung to Magnus’ hand like it was a lifeline and his husband did the same.
“Max will be okay”, Alec murmured. He hated how his voice broke towards the end of the sentence. He rubbed soothing circles to the back of Magnus' hand with a thumb to avoid the desire to harm his own hands.
Magnus caught the Shadowhunter’s distress, of course. He didn’t want to hurt his beloved even further with ill-chosen words. So he lay his head against the taller man’s shoulder and tried to focus on breathing. Which was hard to do with the weight of the world pressing on his whole being.
He really needed a drink, and this really would’ve been the wrong time to give in to those urges.
“Hey.” Alec nudged at him gently. “Are you okay? You’re shaking.”
“I’m fine.” He wasn’t the one sick with an unknown illness. There was no point in worrying about him. “Just a little cold.”
He remembered waking up to the infirmary’s cool air twice, and both times led to something horrible. First they almost lost Danya right after she was born and Alec summoned Asmodeus in effort to save her. Then, very shortly after Max’s... unpleasant birth he died and...
“Hey.” Simon would never know how close he came to stopping what was escalating towards a panic attack. The vampire held up a paper bag hesitantly. “Izzy’s busy with a meeting. She asked me to make sure that you two eat something.” It wasn’t far-fetched to suspect that ‘ask’ was the politically correct descriptive word.
Alec managed to huff a small laugh. Magnus did his best to smile. “Thank you.”
Simon shrugged. Then glanced towards the room where a medical team was working on Max. “So... Do you have any idea what’s wrong yet? He’s gonna be okay, right?”
Magnus rummaged through the paper bag, just to have something to do. He felt a splash of warmth upon spotting a couple of burgers, obvious comfort food. He used as little magic as possible while discreetly disposing of one. Even the thought of consuming anything made him feel sick. He then watched with some heartbreak how Alec forced himself to eat.
Alec’s shoulders were incredibly tense while the man shrugged. “Right now we know about as much as you do.” Frustration sharpened the Shadowhunter’s tone.
Simon nodded slowly and shifted with discomfort. Under different circumstances the vampire’s continued fear of Alec might’ve been amusing. “If there’s, you know... anything I can do to help... Let me know.”
At that moment something borderline miraculous happened. (It succeeded in startling Simon.) Alec gifted his brother-in-law with a tiny and tight but genuine smile. “Thanks, Lewis.”
“I think you broke him”, Magnus scolded with slight mirth once Simon had dashed away.
Alec smirked and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
It was a sweet moment. One doomed to not last long. Because just then inside the room containing Max the activity became far more frantic.
Something was happening, and it wasn’t anything good.
Alec found himself unable to breathe while he caught a glimpse of their baby’s tiny body convulsing. Magnus grabbed his hand, almost tightly enough to make it hurt. “Alexander...!”
They watched. Knowing painfully well that there was nothing they could do. And unable to look away, no matter how much they wanted to.
It seemed to take a lifetime before the chaos of activity eased. The whole time the couple sat frozen, hanging on to each other for dear life. Until finally Catarina stepped out and approached them. The expression on her face made Alec feel like the ground had been vanishing from underneath him.
Maryse Garroway had suffered through immense losses over the course of her life. She was cheated on by her first husband and her marriage fell apart. No matter how hard she tried to keep it together for the sake of her children. She lost Robert, too, in the most permanent way, and it hurt far more than she’d known to expect. (She should’ve expected it, really. The way their relationship ended didn’t erase the years they shared.) She was deruned due to mistakes she made in her youth. Losing her son... It very nearly killed her, too. Luke along with her remaining children and grandchildren kept her going.
Sitting in Izzy’s room, Maryse found her mind straying back to the day her son died. Over and over again the memories tortured her. Now baby-Max was fighting for his life. Even the thought of losing him, too...
Maryse was so consumed by her dark thoughts that she shivered when someone sat down beside her. She blinked with surprise upon finding Rafael. “I thought you were asleep.” Danya woke up briefly when the Lightwood-Bane family entered the Institute. She was too young and tired to ask a lot of question. Rafael’s fears weren’t soothed as easily.
Rafael shrugged. “I wanted to wait for news with you.” His hands moved restlessly. Much like she’d seen Alec’s do far too often. As soon as he noticed her look he stiffened. “What?”
One corner of Maryse’s lips twitched. “Sometimes it amazes me how much like Alec you are.” She would’ve caressed his hair but feared that it would’ve crossed a line. (As a child her oldest didn’t usually like being touched. But he loved it when she combed her hand through his hair.) “I’m so glad you found us and chose to be a part of our family.” He hadn’t announced it officially yet, but she saw it.
Several emotions, from shock to hope, flashed in Rafael’s eyes. “But... I’m not a part of it, really.”
“Of course you are. Even if not by blood.” Maryse’s eyes softened. For a moment she saw a lost, self-destructive and emotionally scarred orphan with blonde hair in Rafael’s place. “Usually families are given to us. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we find them. Just like Jace found us.” She was ashamed of how long it took her to accept the golden boy as hers. She was willing to spend the rest of her life to make it up to him. And to show Jace how glad she was that he decided to stay, in more ways than one.
Rafael mulled over her words, long and hard. (Like Alec always did when he was processing something important.) “I know that I’m too old for them, but... Can you tell me a bedtime story? I heard the one you told Dany. You’re good at them.”
Andrew found Alec roughly half an hour later. Along with what little was left of the archer’s office. Countless of items had been tossed to the floor. The man himself had slumped down and sat in the middle of the chaos, as though finding no strength to do anything else. Alec wasn’t crying, but the man’s eyes were suspiciously red and he was trembling miserably.
Andrew looked around cautiously, then focused on his friend. “Alec?” Dread swell deep within him. “Is this... about Max?”
Alec swallowed like someone trying not to throw up and wouldn’t meet his gaze. “He... started seizing. Catarina had to sedate him and put him on life support.”
What could one possibly say to that? Andrew’s mouth opened twice before any sound came. “Alec, that’s...”
“I know.” Alec sounded like he’d done a lot of screaming. “Whatever word you could possibly come up with... I know.” The man ran a hand through his hair, which was already a disaster area. “So far we have no clue what’s wrong with him. His body is fighting something but no one knows what.”
Andrew had next to no knowledge on medical care and even less on the possible ailments of warlocks. (Well, half-warlocks who were also half-Shadowhunters.) But he did know his friend, with years of experience. “Here’s what we’ll too.” He took a breath to stem down his own emotions. “Unless Catarina pages you we’ll train for half an hour, so you can blow off some steam. Then you’ll take a shower before going back to your son and husband.”
Alec didn’t exactly smile. But something about the archer’s expression changed, softened. “Magnus asked you to check up on me, didn’t he?”
Andrew shrugged, utterly shameless. “He may have hinted where to find you.” He sighed. “Look... Life’s treating you two like crap. But you’re not alone in this, remember? Whatever insanity may come, we’re facing it together.”
“Don’t say ‘crap’”, Alec scolded automatically.
“You’re seriously on a Daddy Mode.”
“So Magnus keeps telling me.”
Magnus paced, paced and paced. In the next room Catarina was still fighting to save his youngest. In his head Asmodeus was roaming, without a doubt enjoying this new... unfortunate turn of events. His head was crowded – with thoughts, people and feelings – and throbbing so badly that he feared he’d go out of his mind.
And, apparently, his body was as much in a state of chaos. Because the nausea that’d been creeping in for a while struck with full force. Magnus made a desperate dash towards the toilet and barely made it there before it was too late.
While dry-heaving Magnus came to several realizations. Shadowhunters believed in unisex toilets. He wasn’t alone. And his unfortunate companion in the stall next to his was someone he knew. “Morning sickness?”
“Yeah”, Clary groaned. “What first revealed the pregnancy. I don’t know why they call it morning sickness, though. For me nights are the worst.”
“I’ve had two, and I have no idea, either. What a lousy myth.” Magnus wiped his mouth, pushing back the urge to use magic for it. “Remind me to prepare you an herbal mixture that may help.” At least there was something he could do for her.
“Thanks.” Clary flushed. “Are you okay?”
“Just stress. Nothing to worry about, Biscuit. I’m fine.” That might’ve been convincing. If his voice didn’t crack somewhere along the way.
Of course Clary caught it. “Hey...!” He blinked twice with surprise when a hand reached out for him from under the thin wall separating them. “I know that it’s hard to accept support with how long you’ve been looking after yourself. But you’ve been looking out for me all my life. Let me be there for you now.”
Magnus didn’t say anything, because he didn’t want to give away how close to tears he was. He hesitated. Then, slowly and very gently, he took her hand and tightened his fingers around it. She mimicked the gesture.
Nothing needed to be said.
It took another couple of hours before Max was stable enough for his parents to see him. Catarina was there to support them through it. She could only imagine how hard and painful it was for the two to see their youngest in such a condition.
Catarina had to clear her throat before she trusted her voice. “Max is still under light sedation. And there’s quite a bit of machinery around him. He’s connected to some of it all, just in case. Don’t let that startle you.”
Both parents nodded very slowly. Visibly bracing themselves. “Is he in pain?” Magnus asked quietly.
Catarina’s heart ached for him. She shook her head. “As far as we’re able to determine, no. He’s just sleeping. However, no one knows him as well as you two do. If you have even the slightest suspicion that he may be in some type of discomfort, let me know.”
Alec nodded gratefully. Equally speechless, Magnus hugged her, held on tight. She returned the embrace with every bit as much feeling. Trying not to feel like she was holding on to someone who was drowning.
Seeing Max in the child’s current state was something the parents had no way of bracing themselves for properly. Magnus shuddered like he’d been struck. Some moisture shimmered in the warlock’s eyes.
Alec seemed to take it even harder. To Catarina’s surprise the archer affirmed why while she was still around. (Even after several years of friendship, it warmed her heart that the Shadowhunter trusted her so much.) “I just... This reminds of the time right after Dany’s birth.” Of when he had to see his little girl in a horrible condition. Of when he was told that he’d lose both his child and his husband.
The reaction those words triggered was so subtle that it would’ve been easy to miss. Catarina would’ve, if she hadn’t seen movement from the corner of her eye. Gently, as though handling the most precious china, Magnus took his husband’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. A thumb that had a large ring on it caressed the old, already light bruising marring the Shadowhunter’s knuckles. (Catarina noted with dismay that apparently Magnus still didn’t trust his magic enough to use it for healing Alec. She decided to talk about it with her best friend. Later.) For a few seconds the younger man held back, with such gratitude and devotion that it made her want to cry. (Not that she would’ve admitted as much to anyone.) Then, as though out of some silent agreement, they let go simultaneously. Focused on supporting their son instead of each other. The brief exchange had been silent, but a thousand words had passed during it.
“Can I hold him?” Alec asked after composing himself for a little while, hoarser than usual.
Catarina smiled. “I think he’d enjoy the feel of it.” She grimaced apologetically. “But only briefly. He’s still weak. I’ll help you do it without jostling the tubes and wires.”
Alec nodded obediently. It was easy to tell how much he ached from having a limited access to his child. As it turned out he didn’t need help. With the sureness of an experienced parent, the archer picked up the lightly sleeping baby and held him close. Max emitted a tiny whine and nuzzled his head against Alec’s chest, finding the exact spot where his daddy’s heart was beating. The little one then settled down once more, deciding that he was safe. Magnus stepped closer slowly, hesitantly. (For Catarina it was bizarre to see her friend, who most often oozed at least feigned confidence, so timid.) Fortunately Max gave no negative reaction. Instead a tiny smile appeared to the slumbering infant’s face.
At that moment Catarina decided that it was time to give them some privacy. The couple barely noticed the moment she left. As it was, all they were able to concentrate on was Max.
Magnus pushed all negative, terrifying and chaotic thoughts to the back of his mind. Even if only for a moment. To drown out the cacophony in his head, he started to hum softly. If the barely audible noises Max made as a response were any indication, the baby enjoyed it. Found something so simple soothing.
Alec, on the other hand... Magnus’ brows furrowed when he noticed the lone tear rolling down his husband’s cheek. Although he’d witnessed such vulnerability before, it still baffled him how fragile the tall, fierce warrior could be. “Alexander?” he tried to coax the younger man into talking.
Alec swallowed thickly. “I just... I can’t...” The younger man shook his head. “I can’t lose him, too.” He’d already lost too many – Danya’s twin, his brother, his father... – and only one of them came back to him.
Magnus pressed himself against the archer, so that his body-heat could provide additional support. He weighed on his next words carefully. Reliving horrible memories was always a dangerous gamble and he didn’t want to burden his beloved with his own. “The day Max was born... He chose to fight instead of giving up. He’s still fighting now. And we’ll keep doing so with him, no matter what.” He risked brushing his son’s cheek with a tender finger, and was pleased to discover that after a whimper the baby continued to sleep. “He’s stronger than his parents combined, our Little Blueberry.”
Alec’s eyebrow bounced up. “Little Blueberry? Does that come with a story?”
Magnus gave the other an amused look. He knew how Alec felt about pet names. “Do you hate it?” he teased.
“Surprisingly... No.” Alec then watched their youngest with sad and pained but determined eyes. “Listen to your papa. We’re right here to help you through this. So don’t give up on us.” Those words made the man lose whatever self-control he’d had.
Jace felt his parabatai’s anguish, of course. Terrified that things had turned from bad to worse, he dashed towards the infirmary. To find a sight that was equally beautiful and heartbreaking.
It was impossible to tell if Magnus knew that his wings had come out. As it was, they were hugging Alec and Max with the same adoration as the warlock’s arms. Alec had his head buried in his husband’s shoulder while the archer’s body shook. Max slumbered peacefully. Both accepted the centuries old man’s care.
Sensing him watching, Magnus lifted his head. There was a moment of startle, until the man’s features eased. The mirthless smile they exchanged was that of mutual understanding and gratitude.
Jace would look after Magnus’ Biscuit. Just like Magnus would look after Jace’s brother. They were both more than at peace with that knowledge.
Eventually they had to break the embrace, because Max needed to be placed down for his medicine. When a nurse from the medical team left Alec looked towards Magnus. A tingle of alarm went through him. “Your nose is bleeding.”
Magnus waved a dismissive hand and instead of magicking away brushed off the tiny trickle of red. “It’s just the stress. I think we should both try to get some sleep. It looks like we’ll be stuck here for a while.” It didn’t take a lot of effort to notice how uncomfortable the warlock was at the Institute.
Alec knew that his beloved had indeed sometimes suffered from stress related nosebleeds since his first pregnancy. Still, after everything they’d already gone through... He held Magnus a little tighter when the man made himself comfortable on his lap.
“Don’t look now...”, Magnus whispered in his ear. His tone was fond and touched. “But we have audience.”
Curious and apparently uncharacteristically unable to follow instructions, Alec peered towards the room’s door the next time it flew open. His heart swell at the sight outside. His mom was still babysitting Danya and Rafael. But the rest of their nearest and dearest were there. Not entering to avoid overwhelming them and especially their ailing son, but close enough to be felt. Clary, Jace, Andrew and Luke were sitting, playing cards. (Obviously bracing themselves for a long wait.) Simon and Izzy were standing a subtle distance away from the others, and seemed to be in the middle of an important conversation. Upon realizing that they’d been seen Izzy offered a sympathetic smile and Simon waved. The whole group’s message was clear.
Alec and Magnus weren’t alone in their personal hell.
The seemingly endless day dragged, on and on and on. After Magnus had retreated to stretch his legs and stop by at a toilet Alec was about to doze off. Until he spotted Catarina approaching him.
Alec blinked away all fatigue forcibly. His brows furrowed. “Is something wrong? Magnus should be back soon...”
Catarina’s jawline tightened. “Actually... I’ve been waiting for a chance to talk to you alone. Because the latest test results revealed something. And I don’t know how Magnus is going to take the news.”
Alec’s mouth went dry. A million horrible possibilities sped through his head. “What is it?”
Catarina sighed heavily. She appeared exhausted, apologetic and frustrated. “We’ve been trying to figure out what Max’s body is reacting so negatively to. It’s Magnus. And... I’ll need to run some tests on him, too.”
Ooooh, boy... We’ll see just how bad this gets. (whimpers) Poor Max! And everyone!
Sooo... How was that? ANY good, at all? PLEASE, do let me hear from you! Your comments mean more to me than I can say.
IN THE NEXT ONE: The nature of Max’s illness is revealed. Is it something that can be cured? A difficult decision must be made.
NEXT UPDATE COMING THIS THURSDAY.
Until next time! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 8: Flames
The nature of Max’s illness is revealed. Is it something that can be cured? A difficult decision must be made.
Phew! Editing this took longer than I expected. Buuut, here we are. For better or for worse...
THANK YOU, a million times, for your amazing comments and support! They mean more than you can imagine. (HUGS)
Awkay... Are you ready? Because here we go. I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
/ Magnus was nine when his stepfather attempted to drown him after his true eyes made their first appearance.
Centuries later, Asmodeus still remembered the day when he saw his son for the first time vividly. Magnus was so small and defenseless, back then, while his stepfather attempted to end his life. Snarling threats and insults the whole time.
A lowly mundane, trying to kill Asmodeus’ son. The Greater Demon saw red. But he didn’t interfere directly. Instead he whispered, breathed out an ancient spell and sent it Magnus’ way. And the little boy lived up to every single one of his expectations.
Flames rose. They engulfed the screaming man, who was finally suitably terrified in the presence of a young demonic royal. Magnus didn’t attempt to stem down the fire, instead stood there and watched the man who nearly claimed his life burn.
When Magnus was eleven and far stronger he saved two Shadowhunter children, not much younger than he was, from being killed by a rogue warlock. The older mage succeeded in getting away and injured the smaller one in the process. The villagers needed someone to blame for the incident and tried to do that by dragging Magnus to a stake.
Asmodeus was there to save his son on that day, too. Whispering poisonous words. While they watched people burn the demon lay a possessive hand on his son’s shoulder. “Do you see what happens to those who wrong us, my boy?” Cat eyes flashed. “We feed them to flames.”
Magnus swallowed. The young warlock’s eyebrows furrowed. “Are we monsters, father? Like they said we are?”
Asmodeus snorted. “Perhaps to them. They fear us because they recognize themselves as inferior.” He glanced towards the orange flames, which were slowly transforming to blue, dancing around his son’s hands. So young, and so powerful...! “Your magic is a great gift, Magnus. Treasure it, use it well. And never be ashamed of it.” He lifted his chin, feeling proud of someone he’d sired for the first time ever. Maybe this one would be worthy. “We’re royal, you and I. One day you will rule the demonic realm by my side.”
Magnus looked at him, emotional conflict clearly visible in his golden eyes. “You mean Edom? What is it like?”
“It’s a home.” Asmodeus smiled in a way that had no warmth in it. “Why don’t we go and see it?”
Magnus had nowhere else to go. No one else to look after him, no one else who cared. So he took his father’s hand and nodded.
A very long time later Magnus died after fighting until his final breath for those he loved. Asmodeus came for him then, too. He couldn’t let his chosen son remain dead, after all.
Bringing someone back to life was a complicated, taxing affair. Even for a Prince of Hell. Asmodeus worked tirelessly. Poured in his magic and the fire of the darkest kind. Until a pair of massive, black wings appeared. Exactly like the ones Asmodeus himself possessed, once upon a time, before he fell. Soon after Magnus inhaled greedily.
With a smirk on his face, Asmodeus inserted his final gift. Locked the invisible cage now containing his son. He focused on the warlock’s face just in time to see a pair of hazy, barely comprehending eyes looking back at him. “I don’t wish to harm you. But after all the times you’ve walked away from me and cast me aside... I intend to do what’s necessary to keep you with me. Even if it’s only in spirit. You see...” He leaned closer. “If you leave Edom again... It will be the death of you, and those you treasure the most.” He touched his son’s face with the treacherously gentle hand of a loving parent, making Magnus shudder. The touch left a mark. “Welcome home.” /
No warlock could possibly feel comfortable under the Institute’s rooftop. Especially one as old as Magnus, who’d seen times that were incredibly dark for his people. With his son at his most vulnerable and he, himself, not feeling a hundred percent well... The man wondered if he might suffocate of the building’s air. Especially under the weight of the looks he got from those Nephilim who still hadn’t quite embraced the reality that Downworlders were allies. Things had improved more than anyone would’ve dared to hope over the past few years. But it’d take far longer before the two once warring sides could co-exist without any discomfort and tension.
Magnus wanted to plead with Alec that they should go home. Or better yet, to the cabin where breathing finally started to feel easy. But he could see how at ease the archer felt in their current surroundings. True, for his husband the Institute represented many memories of judgement and having to hide who he was. But it was also Alec’s home long before the archer knew that a man named Magnus Bane existed. It was where the Shadowhunter grew up, learned his skills and reached his current high position, where his people lived. For great many years it was Alec’s world, far longer than they’d been together. The warlock wasn’t going to taint all that, all those fond memories, with his own insecurities.
Fortunately, Magnus had the best distraction in the whole world. Making as little noise as possible, he sneaked into Izzy’s room, where Danya and Rafael were sleeping. With Izzy, who snored as she lay on her back. Danya emitted far softer sleeping noises while she slumbered in a position identical to her aunt’s. As usual Rafael had taken his place at the foot of the bed. A subtle distance away.
Simon was the only one awake. The young vampire had made himself comfortable on an armchair he’d placed strategically so that it was impossible to leave the room without him noticing. Clearly he was determined to not lose the kids this time. (Magnus didn’t have the heart to point out that there was nothing Simon could do about portals.) It was also entirely possible that the younger man had been admiring the view and dreaming of the future.
Simon had been playing some game with his phone to pass the time but looked up upon noticing his new company. “Hey. You okay?” The vampire grimaced. “Sorry, stupid question. How’s Max?”
Magnus answered with a frustrated shrug, because it was the best he could offer. “The same.” He nodded towards the kids. “How about those two?”
“Rafael’s... quiet. I mean, quieter than usual. I think he’s worried. A training session with Underhill helped a bit.” Simon smiled proudly. “And I can’t wait to rub into Jace’s face that I’m officially Dany’s favorite uncle.”
Magnus snorted fondly. One eyebrow rising. “Do the hot chocolate stains on her chin have anything to do with that?” Seeing the look rising to his friend’s face, he decided to have some pity. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell Alec.”
Simon relaxed marginally. “Thanks for that.” The musician’s phone then started to ring. “I’ve... gotta take this.” A supportive hand squeezed his shoulder. “If there’s anything, and I mean anything, Izzy and I can do... Let us know.”
“We will”, Magnus promised softly. Usually he abhorred asking for help, but he was willing to grow up past that for his children. “Thank you.”
With Simon out of the room, Magnus focused his attention on the kids. And felt his eyes soften. “You can drop the act. I know that you’re awake.”
One of Rafael’s eyes opened halfway. “I couldn’t sleep with Izzy snoring”, the boy muttered. Refusing to look his way. “And... I had a bad dream of my parents.”
Oh, how well Magnus knew what it was like to have nightmares of one’s own parents...! “You know... I came to see you two because I kind of need a hug. Maybe you do, too?”
Rafael didn’t need further coaxing. So quickly that it surprised Magnus the usually reserved boy was embracing him. He didn’t hesitate for a second before hugging back. Clearly he’d been right to assume that this was something they both needed.
Danya didn’t exactly wake up. But for a brief moment she became aware enough to realize that he was there and snuggle closer. Magnus felt the warmth and comfort of his children in every little part of his body. And for a stolen moment it was easy to believe that everything would be alright.
Not much later Magnus made his way back to the infirmary. It was a good thing that he had the recent happy memory’s support. Because otherwise seeing the looks on Alec and Catarina’s faces would’ve made his knees give out. “What’s going on?” he managed.
Alec swallowed thickly. “Baby...” The rare use of that endearment was a loud testament to how badly wrong things were. As was how tightly the archer grabbed and held his hand. “You really should sit down for this.”
Alec couldn’t look at Magnus while Catarina started her explanation. He didn’t want to see how much it’d hurt his husband. He could already practically feel it.
“When Asmodeus... brought you back... He couldn’t do it with his magic and spells alone. So he resorted to something only the most powerful Greater Demons are capable of handling. And disguised it so well that I only just discovered and identified it.” Catarina paused. “He used hellfire.”
Magnus shuddered. “What? That’s impossible...!”
“Not for Asmodeus.” Catarina sighed heavily, clearly hating that she had to tell this to her best friend. “Over the time you spent in Edom’s influence it seeped deep into your very being. Into your soul, into your...”
“... magic”, Magnus muttered. Sounding horrified and nauseous. “So that’s why it’s felt... different. That’s why...” He trailed off, but it was easy enough to fill the blanks.
That was why it hurt Alec. The archer had wondered why his beloved’s magic was capable of harming him all of a sudden. At the moment, however, there were more pressing concerns. “I know what’d happen to Nephilim who go to Edom. Hellfire... Does it affect Max the same way?” It was one of those questions he had to ask although he didn’t want to.
Catarina nodded grimly. So the worst was yet to come... “Max’s angelic Shadowhunter side is very strong.” She looked at Magnus. “That’s why he’s felt the fire’s impact every time you’ve been together, every time you’ve touched him. The side he inherited from you hasn’t been enough to prevent the damage caused.”
“And, this... damage... How bad is it?” Magnus demanded hoarsely. It was painfully easy to see and feel him shrinking into himself, pulling away emotionally.
Catarina’s facial expression revealed everything necessary.
Alec shook his head. In as much denial as shock. “I don’t understand. Magnus has been back for weeks. Why is this only just happening now?”
Catarina gave her best friend an apologetic look. “They’ve been getting closer lately. Spending more time together.” And that, was the worst of it. Magnus and Max had finally done some proper bonding. Now it was literally killing the baby.
Magnus slumped. Emotionally and physically. Then buried his face into both hands, dragging in laborious, shuddering breaths. When Alec reached out a hand the warlock shook his head sharply. “Don’t...! Not... Not now. I don’t want to...” ... hurt you again, make this worse, have even more things to regret. That was when a thought struck them both simultaneously. “Danya, and Alec... Are they affected, too?”
Catarina sighed. “To a far lesser extend. Alec’s a grown man, and I think the rune you share has helped keep him safe. As for Danya...” She hesitated. “When Asmodeus saved her shortly after her birth... It’s highly likely that he left something similar hiding into her. Only, it's making her thrive. We all know that she’s abnormally strong.”
That was another shocker. That their innocent little girl, who shone like the sun itself, might have something so dark lurking inside her... It was sickening.
Alec anchored his mind on the present moment forcibly. It took all he had to not grab the older man’s hand. “You can... take it away, right? There must be a way.”
Catarina nodded slowly. “I didn't share all this with you until now because I’ve been researching. There’s a spell. It’s a long shot, and hellfire is so volatile that there’s no telling...”
“Just do it.” Magnus’s voice and cat eyes were full of despair. “I... I can’t be around my family without hurting them. My son is sick and dying, because of me. I’d rather die than live like that for the rest of my immortal life.”
Alec felt incredibly cold. The possibility of losing the only man he’d ever fall in love with again... “Magnus...!” he cried out.
“Alexander, please!” Magnus looked at him, and it was easy to tell that there was no changing his mind. “We have to do this, for our children.”
Ten minutes later Alec barged into his office, and obviously interrupted something. Luke and Maryse broke their embrace, and she wiped her eyes before turning to face him. She frowned the second she saw his face. “Alec? What’s wrong?” Horror filled her gaze. “Oh, no...! Please don’t tell me Max took a turn for worse.”
Alec shook his head. “No, no, nothing like that.” He wanted to tell her everything.
Only, he agreed with the two warlocks that this was something they didn’t want to draw the Clave’s attention to. The spell Catarina planned on using was among the forbidden ones, and warlocks contaminated by hellfire... It might re-spark hostility they’d spent years fighting against. They’d tell those who needed to know. For now, the fewer people they got involved, the better.
Luke clearly understood that this was a private moment. He kissed Maryse’s cheek. “I have a report to go through. Then I’ll go see Clary. She sent a message that she wants to talk about something important.” The man gave Alec’s shoulder a squeeze upon passing by. “Anytime you or Magnus needs me, let me know. I’m right here.” His tone was full of fatherly support. It gave Alec a hint of comfort in a moment when he found himself missing his dad fiercely.
The second Luke had left, Alec did something that shocked both him and his mom. He closed the distance between them with a couple of long strides. Then wrapped his arms around her, tightly, desperately.
A few moments later Maryse managed to respond. The worse he trembled, she more tenderly she held on. “Alec? By the Angel, what’s wrong?”
Alec shook his head, closed his eyes and swallowed back the tears the time wasn’t right for. “Don’t ask”, he pleaded. “Just... Just hold me, please.”
She did just that.
Magnus trembled slightly while he lay on his own bed. Aside those minuscule, involuntary motions he was still, like a statue. Was he breathing? He had no idea, didn’t really care.
He... was making his own son sick? His son, who he’d been willing to do anything to protect? His baby boy was suffering because of him?
First he harmed Alec. Now this. He went to hell, and now he was bringing it up with him, to torment those he loved the most.
This was entirely his fault. He made the selfish decision to come back. And now his family was paying the price.
Things were made infinitely worse by Asmodeus’ voice taunting him. ‘Do you finally see it now, son? This is where you belong. Because that terrestrial nonsense of yours is only going to bring pain and misery on those you claim to care about.’
Magnus shook his head, fighting with all his might to try and drown out those vile words.
“Alright, then.” Catarina sounded scared and reluctant. He would’ve given a lot to have the words to comfort her. “I’m ready to get started. Are you absolutely sure about this?”
Magnus nodded firmly. Because he was, he couldn’t go on another second endangering those he loved. He had Catarina. Along with ten warlocks he trusted with his life outside the room, ready to interfere if something went wrong. That was enough support. Had to be. Because he didn’t like the only other option a different alternative left.
A hand he knew like his own, carrying a ring he slipped into place, caressed his hair tenderly. “It’ll be okay”, Alec murmured softly. “I’m right here. And I’m not letting you go anywhere, no matter what happens.”
Asmodeus wasn’t letting go, either. ‘Did you honestly imagine that you could ever adjust to a life back there, after I showed you a glimpse of your full potential? You belong by my side. And Danya belongs here, too.’
Magnus wanted to beg Alec to leave, for the hundredth time. To go someplace safe. But knew that he would’ve been wasting his breath. “I love you.”
“I love you, too”, Alec whispered, sounding painfully young and scared.
Catarina started to chant. Magnus did his best to focus on Alec and the familiar bed instead of the spell and what might go wrong. It worked. Until he felt like he’d been set on fire. The burning spread from somewhere deep inside him until it consumed his whole body. Long ago repressed memories of people he’d burned flooded in. Eventually he saw his stepfather sneering at him while the man’s face melted away.
“Magnus?” Alec’s frantic voice registered only faintly. “Magnus, can you hear me? I need you to breathe.”
Magnus wanted to answer. To reassure that he was fine, that Max was the one his husband was supposed to worry about. But he couldn’t speak when fighting Asmodeus’s tugging took all his energy.
‘We are bonded irreversibly, the two of us. So stop fighting me. You’ll only bring harm on yourself if you keep doing so.’
Magnus had absolutely no intention to give in. To let his father get what the monster wanted. But his head... It was killing him. He pressed the hand that wasn’t holding Alec’s tightly against his temple in a desperate and futile hope of making the agony stop.
“Magnus!” Alec’s call seemed to come from somewhere incredibly far away. “Catarina, stop!”
“I can’t, the spell’s already doing its job!”
Magnus gasped and started to cough. It wasn’t enough to bring up all the blood filling his mouth and throat. More red meandered from his nose. “My head...”, he choked. Never noticing which language he was using. The whole world spun in front of his eyes. “Please help me.”
‘That pathetic Nephilim of yours won’t be able to help you.’ Asmodeus also sounded pained. (Had Magnus been the slightest bit more lucid, he would’ve found some grim satisfaction from the fact that this was hurting the Prince of Hell, too.) ‘Only I can make that pain go away. From you, and your son. I can save him. So give in, and let me help.’
It was far too much. Emotionally and physically. Magnus choked and coughed up even more blood. “It hurts.”
‘Give in. Surrender to your true calling. Or you will be the death of Alexander.’
First Alec heard Catarina’s heartbreaking update... Then he had to witness Magnus’ reaction to the news... And now... Now Magnus was coughing up blood and mumbling something in a language he couldn’t understand.
Everything happened far too quickly for Alec to process the events properly. Only a state of shock kept him from falling apart. It wasn’t until then, with all of his husband’s defenses and glamours down, he saw something Edom left behind. Something among a million other... souvenirs he’d never discovered before.
A pink scar on Magnus’ cheek. The shape of a hand that’d had rings decorating it. It looked sickeningly lot like Asmodeus had intended to burn-mark his son. Moisture filled Alec’s eyes. “Oh, god...”
“Alec!” Catarina’s voice caught his attention with difficulty. “You need to leave the room, right now!”
Alec didn’t have the time to ask why. Or protest. Because all of a sudden Magnus’ whole body was glowing with almost black fire. A split second later it lashed out. Catarina received the first hit, which hurled her to the floor with enough force to render her unconscious.
Hellfire slammed at Alec without a shred of mercy. It littered his skin with tiny scorch-marks and slammed him against the wall. He fell, and didn’t get up, move or open his eyes. He wasn’t even breathing.
On the bed Magnus had stopped breathing, too.
/ “So you’re just letting me leave?”
Asmodeus shrugged. “A hundred years. That was the deal I agreed on. I’m letting you choose.” The Greater Demon tilted his head. “Will you stay? Or will you leave, risking the lives of yourself and those you hold dear?”
Magnus stiffened. Very faintly, he remembered his father saying something like that when he came to life. The demon had never explained himself. His eyes narrowed. “I’m going home. And if you harm someone I care about ever again... I will come back here and kill you myself”, he hissed.
Asmodeus rolled his eyes. “Always so dramatic...” A menacing gaze clashed with his. “This is your true home, this is where you belong. Very soon you’ll come running back. And I’ll be waiting for you with open arms.” The Prince of Hell snapped his fingers in a manner that reminded Magnus disturbingly of his own. An opening formed to the wall beside them. Nothing but utter darkness could be seen through it. Hisses, growls and howls of agony echoed everywhere in the abyss. “You wish to go back to that pathetic place and play house with a lowly Nephilim? By all means, go. The little ones will be happy to see you off. Don’t mind their bites, sometimes they get overly excited.”
Magnus went with an air of defiance that made Asmodeus look back on the warlock’s youth. There were no words of parting. His son marched determinedly into the pitch-black unknown, without a backwards glance. It took longer than the Greater Demon had anticipated before Magnus finally screamed.
Asmodeus sighed. Raising such a willful son was a tedious task. “I will see you soon”, he murmured almost gently. /
So. Yeah. My hiding place is calling my name, because that was MEAN. (grimaces) Poor Lightwood-Bane family!
Soooo... How much do you hate me? Was that ANY good, at all? PLEASE, do let me hear from you! Every comment makes my day.
IN THE NEXT ONE: Is there any hope for the Lightwood-Bane family? Help arrives in the possibly most unexpected of forms.
NEXT UPDATE COMING NEXT MONDAY.
Until next time! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 9: Angels
Is there any hope for the Lightwood-Bane family? Help arrives in the possibly most unexpected of forms.
Quite the cliffhanger I left you on last time, wasn’t it? (grimaces) We’ll see where this new addition leads things. (gulps)
BUT, first... THANK YOU, a thousand times, for your comments, listings, love and support! They seriously mean the world to me. (HUGS)
Awkay... Are you ready? Because here we go! I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy this strange ride.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The pathway was dark and full of thick fog. Magnus took a cautious step forward, then another. With every inch he advanced forward a growling sound that seemed to be everywhere around him intensified. As did the darkness.
Until he saw a red light. A few more steps forward, and he learned that it was glowing on Asmodeus’ hand. The Greater Demon watched him eagerly, expectantly, and reached out his other hand towards him. “Come now, my boy. It’s time to go home.”
Instinctively Magnus took a step closer. Then he saw another light from the corner of his eye, white as fresh snow and almost painfully bright. He couldn’t explain why or how, but it seemed to call out to him.
Feeling dazed and breathless, Magnus outstretched his arm and took in the scars Edom left him with. And then he saw the ring Alec gave him. “No.” He shook his head, feeling eerily calm all of a sudden. Like someone who knew exactly what the future held and was at ease with it. “I will come to Edom, one day. And it will be the end of you.” He met Asmodeus’ cat eyes with identical ones. “But not today.” He turned and began to head towards the white light. By then it was beckoning him so strongly that he could barely stand it.
“You will regret this”, Asmodeus hissed.
Magnus didn’t dignify that with an answer. All his emotions were muted, mere phantom ache. He kept following the light, ignoring the growling noise that continued to grow louder. All of a sudden he stepped into water. It was as pitch-black as everything else around him and so cold that it sent a shockwave through his system. Yet he didn’t slow down or hesitate. Because the light was right there, below the surface.
Eventually Magnus went under and didn’t come back up.
The pathway was dark and full of thick fog. Alec knew that he was looking for something, or someone. But he couldn’t remember, for the life of him, who or what it was. Everywhere around him growling intensified but it didn’t scare him like it should’ve.
Nothing made sense...
Until he saw a red light, somewhere in the distance. It was hostile and uninviting. But for some reason his feet began to lead him towards it, anyway.
Until a hand, achingly familiar somehow, grabbed his. “Alec, don’t. He wants to hurt you.”
Alec was about to ask who that someone wanting to harm him was. Then he turned his head and all words froze into his throat. Suddenly he felt entirely too much instead of nothing at all. Tears filled his eyes and his hand tightened to what might’ve been a painful extend around the one in his. “Max?”
His little brother smiled at him. “Let’s go. You’re not supposed to be here.”
Alec nodded. Struck completely speechless. Seconds later a bright, blinding light swallowed them.
“Catarina? Catarina!” The terrified voice was more than enough to catch her attention, no matter how badly she was aching all over. “Please, we need your help!”
Catarina opened her eyes with an infuriating amount of difficulty, to find the face of a young, Hispanic warlock. She was one of her and Magnus’ youngest charges, already incredibly powerful at the age of eighteen. But clearly whatever happened was out of the girl’s league. “Naomi? What...?” She made the mistake of looking around.
Hellfire had left marks all over the room and its unmistakable stench was heavy in the air. The beautiful room would need a lot of fixing. Slowly, because she already knew that she’d hate what she’d find, Catarina forced herself to focus on the people. There was a frantic amount of activity around Alec and cold filled her when she recognized a magical equivalent for CPR. Several parts of his body had been battered by the volatile fire. Similar effort was poured into bringing Magnus back. Unfortunately her best friend didn’t seem to be responding any more than his husband did.
“I don’t understand.” Naomi’s eyes were full of sorrow. “Asmodeus... He brought Magnus to life. Why would he let something like this happen?”
Catarina’s eyes darkened. If only she had the kind of power to summon the Greater Demon and end him herself...! “You’re too young to have ever met the kind of a person who’d rather burn down his village after a lost war than leave it for a conquer to take.”
The next time Magnus opened his eyes, he was in a place he recognized.
It was like one of those dreams that’d plagued Magnus a thousand times over. He entered a chillingly familiar house in Indonesia, his bare feet not making a sound. Following a ridiculously alluring scent, he made his way to the kitchen and found a woman cooking. She was humming a melody he’d heard so many times that he remembered every single note.
Magnus froze. For the longest time he just watched her, not even daring to breathe out of fear that it’d shatter the illusion. (He didn’t notice that he wasn’t breathing at all, neither of them was.) In the end he couldn’t hold himself back. “Mama?”
Hearing his voice, she whirled around. Then laughed. “Sweet pea, you startled me! Why don’t you sit down? Dinner is almost ready.”
Being there with his mother, having her alive and loving him... It felt so good that Magnus had to fight the urge to cry. He’d been dreaming of it far longer than he could accurately remember.
But he also knew that it was a sweet illusion.
“It’s your birthday tomorrow. And since you are such a big boy already... I think we could get you something special.”
Magnus remembered that day vividly. Just like people always remember the worst days of their lives. His mother would take him to a marketplace and tell him that he could choose a pet lizard, because he was finally old enough to handle the responsibility. And he’d get so stupidly excited that he’d reveal his cat eyes. The rest... was unfortunate history.
Finally he understood why he’d found her, of all the people he’d lost.
“Mama?” It was easier to continue when she was so focused on cooking that she didn’t look his way. “It’s been hard, without you.” Harder than he should’ve been able to cope with. “A lot has happened lately. But... I’m getting back on my feet. I’m trying to be happy again. And to do that I need to go home, to my family. Because I have three children who rely on me, and I can’t bear the thought of causing them the kind of pain you cased me.” He paused, wanting to say so much and knowing that there wasn’t a lot of time. “I forgive you, for not being able to love me. Maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive myself, too.”
His mother still didn’t seem to hear him. And Magnus could feel himself being tugged away fiercely. This was the last time he’d get to speak with her, and even if she wasn’t exactly real the thought brought tears to his eyes. “I love you, mama.”
That, she very obviously heard. For the final time he felt her familiar scent when she leaned close and kissed the top of his head. “I love you, too, sweet pea. You’re pure magic.”
Magnus closed his eyes, unable to stand the thought of watching her fade away. And whispered what he once didn't get the chance to say. "Goodbye."
When Alec was able to see once more he recognized his surroundings after a delay. It was a cabin where his family used to spend some brief but precious vacations. Back when Max hadn't been born yet and Jace wasn't a part of their family. Back when his parents were still married. Way back before his dad and Max...
His dad stood on the cabin’s porch, serene eyes watching the calm lake spreading ahead. Max moved first, heading towards the man. Alec followed far more slowly, dazed and confused.
This couldn’t be real, but felt far too real...
Robert didn’t look his way but sensed his presence. “I saw some white-tailed deer in the woods this morning. You know how much Isabelle hates hiking, but I’ll take you there tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll catch at least a glimpse of the deer.”
Alec was so choked up that he needed a moment to compose himself. He focused on the water, too. “I always loved it here”, he confessed. Had he ever said it?
“I know.” His dad’s tone was fond and melancholic. “This is the only place where you wake up early willingly. Don’t tell your sister, but our morning chats here on the porch are my favorite moments of these vacations. I hope we can always talk about anything.”
Tears blurred Alec’s eyes and his whole body shook. Once more a hand took his gently. “Don’t be sad, Alec.” Max sounded far more mature than he ever got the chance to be. “We’re both okay. You don’t have to worry about us anymore. And... It’s my turn to watch over you, now.” His little brother seemed incredibly proud while lifting his chin. “They said that I’m your official guardian angel.”
Alec... had no idea what to say to that. Talking in general was nearly impossible from how tight his throat felt. He wasn’t ashamed of the tears that continued to fall. He could feel himself being pulled away and he wasn’t ready to leave yet. “I... I miss you”, he whispered. “And I love you, both of you.” He focused on his dad. “I’ll do my best to make you proud.” Once upon a time it was everything he wanted, all he craved for. That his parents would be proud of him.
Robert, however, shook his head. “You don’t have to do that. I’ve always been proud of you. And I always will be.”
Alec closed his eyes, unable to stand the thought of watching them fade away. And whispered what he once didn't get the chance to say. "Goodbye."
In reality Catarina led a group of frantic warlocks while they continued their fight to save the couple’s lives. But no matter how little she liked to admit defeat, no matter how much even the possibility of losing this battle hurt... She was a medical professional and had to admit that things didn’t look good.
Shadowhunters couldn’t survive hellfire any more than they could survive the air of Edom. And it got Alec badly. Hit him without a shred of mercy.
And Magnus... He was strong, incredibly so. But even Asmodeus was forced to use hellfire to bring him back to life. Dark and dangerous as it was, it also kept her friend’s heart beating and blood flowing. Without it Magnus’ body wasn’t able to function.
The joined forces of eleven warlocks proved to be enough to keep the pair connected to the world in some small way. At least for a little while. With each passing second they were slipping further and further away.
They’d known the risks from the beginning. Yet Magnus had deemed death better than living a life where he brought pain on his family every single second. Catarina knew her best friend well enough to muse sadly that he’d hate himself if he saw what the extraction process did to Alec. And now...
“Come on, you two”, she hissed. Not even ashamed of the moisture filling her eyes. “Don’t you dare give up like this. I’m not going to tell your children that they’ve lost you.”
Unfortunately Catarina knew that Magnus and Alec had drifted too far. And so, after another frustrating half an hour with no improvement... She faced one of the most difficult decisions of her life.
She’d been forced to let go of people she cared about deeply before. No matter how much time passed, decades or even centuries, it never got easier. It never got any less heartbreaking.
“Cat, I can’t...” One of the other warlocks shook her head desolately, sorrow filling her silver-colored eyes. “I can’t feel them at all anymore.”
Catarina swallowed thickly and hated the lump in her throat. When she finally spoke her voice didn’t come out right. “You can stop, now”, she declared softly. All fight having left her. I’m so sorry, you two. “I’ll...” She trailed off when she noticed something that absolutely shouldn’t have been happening.
The pair’s wedding gift runes, given by Clary and thus the angels themselves... They were shining a nearly blinding, golden light. The marks pulsated like they had a heartbeat of their own, furiously determined. Seeking, demanding. It didn’t take a lot of thought-work to put together what they were searching for.
Catarina’s eyes widened when a ridiculous possibility came to her mind. “By the Angel...! Move Alec to the bed, quickly!”
The others were confused, but didn’t dare to question her. Or perhaps they simply decided that at that point they’d do pretty much anything to make their leader and his husband feel more comfortable. In the middle of the process the pair’s hands brushed together. Which made the pulsating light practically explode.
The warlocks shielded their eyes when the golden glow engulfed the whole room.
The next place Magnus and Alec found themselves in was the most surprising yet. They were in their very own living room, swaying softly to the melody of a song. They were tangled together so tightly that it was hard to tell where one man ended and the other began. Neither felt even the slightest desire to be anywhere else.
“Are you ready to wake up yet?” Magnus inquired.
“I’m scared”, Alec admitted out of the blue, and squeezed his husband tighter.
“Of what?” Magnus murmured, sounding half asleep and incredibly worried at the same time.
Alec swallowed thickly and buried his face in the other’s shoulder. “That I’ll open my eyes, and... You’re not there. You’ll never be there again.”
“Alexander.” The warlock kissed him in a way that very nearly swept him off his feet. “I’ve only ever felt like I’m home twice in my life. Once when my mother was still alive. And now with you. I’ll do whatever it takes to fight and stay with you. As long as you’re not letting go... I’m not letting go, either.” Magnus nuzzled his head against him. “I know that you’re scared. But when you wake up, I’ll be right there beside you.”
Alec tightened his hold still. It was so hard to believe, when his beloved seemed to be slipping away from him. “Promise?” He needed to hear it. Perhaps then he’d believe it.
“I promise.” Yet Magnus’ voice was already vanishing. “And when we make it back, there’s something I need to ask you...” And he was gone.
Alec was left dancing alone. His whole being filled with sheer terror. “Magnus?” Of course there was no reply. “MAGNUS!”
And then he faded away, too.
But not for long. When Alec woke up again, he was in that very same room. With Catarina and other warlocks looking down on him. “... hear me ...?”
Alec blinked as slowly as he nodded. What...? Then it hit him. With a painful amount of force. “Magnus...!” No, no, no...! He began to struggle to a sitting position, ignoring the pain flaring from several parts of his body.
Catarina stopped him, gently but firmly. “Easy, easy...! We got the hellfire out. It got you, too.” She was solemn, but also relieved. (It brought a spark of fool’s hope into his aching heart.) “You two didn’t make it easy. But you made it.”
Alec relaxed marginally. So Magnus was okay? They’d both be okay? “Thank you”, he croaked.
Catarina scoffed. “Don’t thank me. Thank the angels.” Seeing his confusion, she went on. “It looks like the angels have officially blessed your union.”
Alec’s head was too fuzzy to even start processing those words. Besides, he had far more important things to mull over than why he was alive. Because slowly yet steadily he was becoming aware of the body pressed against his. Not heavily enough for it to be painful, but with enough pressure for it to be comforting. Turning his head eagerly, Alec found a sight that was well worth the discomfort screaming in his neck.
Magnus was curled up right next to him. Whatever the warlock dreamed of, it had brought a tiny smile to his lips. The smaller man was visibly drained and a little colder than usual while his body recovered from the absence of the fire. But he was breathing. Safe and alive.
Alec was utterly transfixed by his husband. Which was why he missed the fond look Catarina gave them. “Magnus needs a while to recover, physically and especially emotionally. But he’ll be alright. You both will be.”
Catarina left out the part that there was no telling what permanent damage hellfire did to Magnus’ magic and psyche. Or if the extraction might have some delayed repercussions. Nor did she feel like discussing what lasting changes and damages Alec’s body may have suffered from the fire’s devastating blow. Now wasn’t the time for any of that. So she signaled the other remaining warlocks to follow her and they left the room soundlessly to give the couple some much needed privacy.
Alec didn’t notice their departure. He was busy, in the best way, with stroking his husband’s cheek tenderly. He needed the contact for the sake of his sanity, to convince himself that Magnus was solid and real.
Alec did his best to not rouse the warlock who obviously needed sleep. Guilt shot through him when his beloved began to stir, sensing either his touch or emotional turmoil. “Shh...”, he shushed the same moment a pair of bleary, barely open cat eyes met his. “Go back to sleep. We’re okay. Everything’s okay.” That might’ve been a great deal more soothing if he didn’t sound like he was on the brink of tears.
Magnus tugged him closer. Then whispered in his ear, the man’s voice so feeble that he barely heard. “... like you said ... always find our way back to each other ...”
After everything that just happened... Alec couldn’t contain a tiny, slightly hysterical chuckle. Magnus was fast asleep once more before he could think of anything to say. The archer didn’t really mind. He was about to drift off himself. Until he noticed something.... peculiar.
There were two feathers on the bed. One black, with tiny hints of golden and dark blue now decorating it. (The Shadowhunter and mage colors combined, he realized with curiosity.) The other feather was pure white, with just hints of dark blue on it. The feather’s edges shone triumphantly in gold.
Alec frowned. Where did...? He never managed to finish that thought before it hit him. Barely believing it, he turned his head. His breath caught for a second or two when he saw massive, nearly completely white wings sticking from his own back.
Alec blinked once, twice. “Well...”, he whispered. “This is new.”
In Edom Asmodeus was seething. The hold he had on his son’s soul was severed. By angels themselves. By those who were once his brothers and sisters.
Oh, they were fools if they imagined that he’d give up so easily.
The Prince of Hell closed his eyes and focused. Called out to another, far more gullible soul. “My precious Danya... You are going to help me teach your stubborn papa a lesson.”
Everything was too big and terrifying for Danya to handle. Her baby brother was getting sicker, she could tell from the faces and sharp, hushed voices of the adults around her. She wanted her parents and no one would tell her where they were. Eventually she locked herself into a bathroom, sat to the bathtub, pulled the shower-curtain to conceal her and vowed to stay there until the whole bad dream would be over. Or at least until she’d stop feeling sick.
She didn’t know how long she’d been there before something like scratching came from the room’s door. She tensed up, until Rafael called out. “Dany? Are you here?”
Danya contemplated. “Yeah.” She pulled aside the shower curtain. “How did you get the door open?” She locked it, didn’t she?
Rafael shrugged while sitting down beside the tub. “I know a lot of stuff I’m not supposed to.” Which was clearly all he’d say about the matter. A brief pause followed. “I’m... not really good at this stuff, but... I want you to know that you’re not alone. I know what’s it’s like to be alone, and I never want you to feel like that.”
Danya let those words sink in. Then gave him a tiny, tentative smile. “You’re great at this stuff. And you’re a great brother.”
Delight lit up Rafael’s eyes. Not many people had complimented him. “Really?”
Danya nodded firmly. “Really. I don’t lie, especially about important stuff.”
The moment of bonding ended sharply. As though cut by a knife. Because all of a sudden Danya cried out and brought a hand to her head.
Rafael tensed up immediately, a Shadowhunter and a brother on duty. “Dany? What’s wrong?”
By then Danya was shaking from pain and fear. “Asmodeus, he... He’s here.” She held her head tighter to signal what she meant. Her golden eyes were full of sheer horror when they turned to him. “Rafe, he’s here! He’s in my head, and I can’t...!” Coherent words transformed to a shrill, animalistic shriek of agony and terror while she squeezed her eyes tightly shut.
Rafael felt similar fright when furious and uncontrollable red magic began to rise from Danya’s hands, soon taking over her whole body.
Oh man...! Just when things were getting cute. (POUTS) These poor darlings! Let’s hope that they’ll all be okay.
Sooo... Rants? Thoughts? Comments? PLEASE, do let me hear from you! Every single comments makes my day brighter.
IN THE NEXT ONE: The family battles Asmodeus’ hold once more. And a couple of important questions are asked.
NEXT UPDATE COMING THIS THURSDAY.
Until next time! I REALLY hope that I’ll see you all there.
Chapter 10: Sons and Daughters, Fathers and Mothers, Brothers and Sisters
The family battles Asmodeus’ hold once more. And a couple of important questions are asked.
Phew! Honestly? It’s so late that I should update tomorrow. But I don’t want to keep you waiting, so here we are. (grins)
THANK YOU, a million times, for all the comments and love! (HUGS) It means that world to me that you’re all still sticking around.
Awkay, here we go. I REALLY hope that you’ll enjoy the ride!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Magnus didn’t know how long he’d been sleeping. He woke up to a very disturbing sensation of someone tugging at his mind. Tension flared for a moment when he imagined that it was Asmodeus. Until... ‘Papa...!’ Danya sounded scared and pained. ‘Grandpa... He’s in my head, it hurts...!’
Danya heard Rafael screaming from fear and agony. Others screamed, too. She howled until she was hoarse, until she couldn’t produce the slightest sound. And then... it was quiet, unnaturally so. Her heart hammered from sheer terror when she opened her eyes. As soon as she did, she wished that she would’ve been able to shout again.
Pretty much the whole Institute... It was gone, burned down. On what was left of the floor, in front of her horrified eyes, what used to be Rafael’s body lay. Reduced to nothing but a pile of ashes.
“You truly are remarkable”, Asmodeus praised. He approached her until he was far too close and stepped purposefully on Rafael’s ashes on his way. “One day, when you’re older and properly educated, you may even surpass your papa. I’m very proud of you.”
Tears ran down Danya’s cheeks while her whole body shook. The building around her... All the people inside it... They were gone. She destroyed them.
She was a monster.
“I... I did this”, she whimpered. She burned them all. Her brothers, her grandma and grandpa Luke, he aunts and uncles...
“Yes, you did.” Asmodeus sounded pleased and her trembling worsened when he lay a hand on her shoulder. “And when you grow up, my child... You will do so much more.”
Danya shook her head. By then she was close to tears. “I don’t want to”, she cried out, her voice and aching heart full of despair. She looked towards the Prince of Hell pleadingly. “My magic... If... If this is what it does... Take it away, please. I don’t want it.”
Their identical cat eyes met. Asmodeus tilted his head. “Are you giving your magic to me freely?”
Danya nodded frantically.
Asmodeus sighed heavily. “Even if I did that... It wouldn’t erase what you have done, now would it? Your papa, and your daddy... You’ll be a monster in their eyes, now. They won’t love you anymore after this. But to me... you are magnificent.” A hand was held out for her. “Come with me, to where creatures like the two of us belong. I will give you a new home.”
There was no telling what Danya would’ve done in that moment of despair. How tight of a grasp the darkness swelling inside her would’ve obtained. If it wasn’t for a voice, seconds before it would’ve been too late.
“Hundreds of years... And you imagine that you have my daughter where you once had me.” Her papa had never sounded so furious. “My mother couldn’t protect me from you. But I’m not letting you manipulate Danya into going to Edom with you. And I’m not letting you harness her magic so you could twist what makes her who she is into a tool. Because I love my children more than anything else in this world.”
Danya felt her heart skip a beat. Her papa still loved her? After what she’d done?
She turned her gaze slowly, hesitantly. To find her papa watching her with nothing but adoration on his face. “Danya, I need you to close your eyes. And try not to listen.”
As soon as Danya had complied Magnus focused on his father. The kind of rage that bubbled through his veins... He had hard time keeping it in check. “I should tear you to pieces”, he hissed. “Right here, right now.”
Asmodeus shrugged. “We both know that you can’t. Because whatever you may do... Her heart is still going to need me eventually.”
Magnus’ cat eyes flashed. “You kept me there for a hundred years. The things you made me do... The things you let happen to me... They almost broke me. They should’ve broken me. But they didn’t. And I won’t let you break my daughter, either.”
Asmodeus could’ve reacted in a number of ways. He laughed. “Oh, but I already have.” The Prince of Hell’s eyes gleamed ominously. “Her heart will need me. And until the day you bring her to Edom the seed of darkness I planted into her will continue to grow. Stop pretending that you don’t know where you both belong.”
Magnus saw red. “We belong right here, with people who care about us. And you... will never come topside again. You will never whisper in my daughter’s head again, or mine.” He lifted his hands, to see pure white magic glowing on them instead of the usual blue.
Asmodeus was visibly surprised as well. And repulsed. “Angelic magic?” them man spat like it was something terrible. “Is that travesty actually possible?”
“Apparently yes.” Magnus lifted his chin. “Your brothers and sisters, those you abandoned... I suppose they’re sending their regards.” With those words he let the magic flow.
Asmodeus twitched, but Magnus was faster.
The light intensified, further and further, while he tore through Asmodeus’ mind. He didn’t only cut the mental connection the man had on him and Danya. He destroyed every last hint of it, without any mercy. When it was done, rendering his father to a panting and wheezing mess, he opened a portal and sent the Greater Demon back to Edom. And ensured that the pathway was firmly sealed.
Of course Magnus knew that one day they’d have to meet again. A threat like Asmodeus couldn’t be erased permanently so easily. But his mind was clearer without a vile creature from hell whispering inside it. That knowledge alone was more than enough to help him breathe easily. At least for a little while.
Danya jumped slightly when a pair of arms wrapped around her, until she recognized her daddy. “Did you feel that? Asmodeus is gone, now.”
Danya whimpered. She wanted to be soothed but after what she was just manipulated into doing... “I’m sorry”, she sobbed. Her heart hurt so much that it seemed to be breaking. “Daddy, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
“Hey, hey!” Her daddy kissed the top of her head. “Danya, listen to me. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Whatever you imagine that you saw... None of it was real. It was just Asmodeus playing his tricks. And I don’t ever want you to be afraid of your magic.” Her papa placed a gentle hand on her temple. She could’ve sworn that she saw a faint hint of bright light. “Because instead of all the bad things you can do with it... You can also do a lot of good. For all the people you care about.”
He offered her memories. She accepted them eagerly, trusting him without a hint of hesitation. The force of what she saw took her breath away.
In one flash after another she saw her papa helping people. Healing them, creating potions, opening portals... And true, those displays of power were incredible. But the most amazing thing was the warmth and love he used his gift with. Even when radiating from just memories it made her feel safe.
“That’s what magic is supposed to be, sweetheart. And those things you just saw... While I was... away, I kept repeating them in my mind every day. To make sure that I never forget who I really am. Who I want to be.” Her papa wasn’t touching her, but she could feel a soothing phantom sensation. “We can do incredible things. I will teach you how.”
Danya nodded slowly. The thought of helping people... It brought her some comfort. “Okay”, she murmured.
“Now, open your eyes.” As soon as she did, she saw her parents. Her eyes widened at the sight of their wings. She was further shocked when she discovered that the bathroom had suffered some little damage but was fully intact. As was the whole building. And her daddy and Rafael were embracing her, both unharmed. Her daddy was shielding the children with his massive, breathtakingly beautiful wings.
“Do you see?” Her daddy combed his hand through her hair calmingly. “It was all a nasty trick, nothing more. You didn’t hurt anyone.”
She wanted to ask about the wings. But at the moment something else felt more important. She clung more tightly to Rafael. “I... I thought you were...”
“Your magic refused to hurt me. And, even if it did hurt...” Rafael shrugged. “I still wouldn’t have let you go. I’m never giving up on you.”
Her papa didn’t manage to offer words. So he simply made his way to them and joined them on the almost frantic hug. When he finally was able to utter a few words she couldn’t understand the language. Not that the content would’ve mattered in the safety of her family.
Danya was confused, traumatized, overwhelmed, in a state of shock and relieved beyond comprehension. There was only one thing her whole system was able to do. She broke down to sobs.
Alec would’ve been more than happy to soak in the embrace of his family forever. But unfortunately the world came demanding his attention. Running steps approached. Looking up, Alec tensed up when he saw their audience.
“There was an alert. A demon attack...” Finally taking in the sight, Jace trailed off. His eyes widened while he stared at Alec’s new wings. “What the...?” The blonde lost words.
Clary and Izzy watched with blatantly obvious awe. Simon, who saw both their wings for the first time, was clearly impressed and excited. “They're so cool!” The young man’s hand started to reach out for the feathers. “Do they...?” The question was never completed. Because that was when his hand got too close. Alec narrowed his eyes in a manner that was enough to make Simon jump backwards like he’d been scalded.
“They’re beautiful”, Izzy admired sincerely. “But how did you get them?”
“Why don’t we continue this discussion at the infirmary?” Catarina glared at the now wing-wielding couple with unimpressed eyes. “Since these two are supposed to be in bed.”
Alec and Magnus both smirked sheepishly, like kids who’d been caught with their hands in a cookie jar.
Slowly yet surely the whole group, Maryse and Luke included, gathered to an infirmary room that was getting crowded.
“So you’re... what, angels, now?” Jace sounded disbelieving. Alec could definitely relate. The whole thing was surreal.
“We’re... not sure what happened yet”, Alec explained. Wondering how to put into words something even he couldn’t understand. “Catarina’s still doing some tests. On all of us.” It was terrifying to know that there might still be something wrong that they didn’t know about. They’d been through so much. He just needed his family to be happy and healthy.
As though reading his mind, Magnus tightened his hand around his. The warlock’s eyes softened when they found Clary’s. “Turns out those wedding gift runes you gave us were even more special than we imagined. Thank you, Biscuit. For saving our lives.”
She leaned her head against the centuries old man’s shoulder. “After everything you’ve both done for me... I’m glad I was able to return the favor. Besides...” She exchanged a glance with Jace, asking a silent question. She went on once he’d answered with a tiny nod and a love-filled look. “Our little one is going to need their godparents.”
For a while everyone stared. Until the room exploded to a round of loud congratulations and questions, which were accompanied by a million hugs. In the middle of the chaos the others barely noticed the look Simon and Izzy shared.
“I... guess this is the day for big news, huh?” Simon shifted nervously. “We’ve had that adoption process going on, and... Yesterday we got a call.” The vampire showed them a picture from his phone. It was of a beautiful baby who could’ve easily been mistaken for Izzy as a child, with how similar their features were. “This little Shadowhunter girl? If everything goes according to plan, she’ll come home with us soon.”
Another bout of chaos erupted. “This definitely calls for a party.” Magnus was about to snap his fingers. “Let me...”
“No!” Alec and Simon chastised almost simultaneously. Surprisingly the vampire went first. “I think there’s been enough magic for one day. I’ll go and get us something.”
‘Something’ turned out to be a massive paper bag full of cheeseburgers. No one complained. They were together, and for the time being Asmodeus’ shadow had been chased away. New memories were starting to fill the gaping holes left by the lost ones. New little ones would soon enter their lives, from which too many had been stolen.
Pressing a kiss on Magnus’ cheek when no one was looking, Alec dared to hope.
Without anyone noticing Maryse slipped out of the room. Well, almost no one noticed. Luke followed, to find her watching the display inside while wiping her eyes. He frowned. “Are you okay?”
Maryse nodded. For a long moment she was speechless, as she watched her three children glowing in the presence of their families. They’d all found their place in the world and partners who gave them all the love they deserved. Her heart was so full of pride and joy that she could barely take it. “These are happy tears, Lucian”, she whispered at last, a smile on her face.
For the first time in very long she believed that perhaps the angels were watching over her family, after all.
Rafael was quieter than usual through the whole unofficial party. Magnus and Alec exchanged frown-filled looks, wondering what was wrong. In the end they came to a silent agreement that they’d have to wait for him to be ready to share.
Which he did, once everyone else had left and Danya had fallen asleep. “There’s... I’ve been waiting for the right time to ask you something. And... This feels like the right time.” The boy swallowed laboriously, appearing heartbreakingly scared. “You... said that I could stay with you for as long as I want to.” The child’s gaze dated back and forth between the two of them. “What if I want to stay with you guys forever?”
Alec was so touched and surprised that he couldn’t bring himself to react. To his relief Magnus stepped in and wrapped his arms around Rafael. “You don’t even have to ask such a thing”, the warlock murmured. “Because, as far as Alexander and I are concerned... You’ve been ours as much as Danya and Max since you found us.”
Rafael clung to Magnus in a manner Alec had never seen the boy hold anyone, face buried in the man’s shoulders. It took a mighty while before the child found a tiny hint of his voice. “Thank you.”
Magnus shook his head. Alec spoke for his husband. “No, thank you. For choosing us.”
Nothing more needed to be said – from that moment on, Rafael was a Lightwood-Bane.
Some time later Alec was keeping an eye on sleeping Danya and Rafael when Izzy sat down next to him. He sighed and shook his head. “I can’t believe that my baby sister is going to be a mom.”
Izzy smiled fondly. “I guess we all have to grow up eventually.” She pursed her lips, musing. “Do you know who I’m going to use as a role model for parenting?” His sister nudged at his shoulder. “You. You’re an amazing dad.”
If Alec’s cheeks gained a hint of heat at the praise, no one would have to know. “Well... You’ll be an amazing mom. And... Simon’s going to be a great dad.” He grimaced. “Don’t ever tell him I said that.”
Izzy rolled her eyes with a smile. “I know, I know, you have your precious reputation to uphold. Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.”
Nothing more needed to be said. They sat there, holding hands while watching the sleeping children. And marveled how far they’d come from the angry, self-loathing boy and the lost, addiction-prone girl they once were.
In the meantime Jace felt nervous tingling while sneaking into another infirmary room with Magnus. “According to Catarina Max is still recovering. It’ll take a while before the hellfire’s full impact wears off. But... He’s improving steadily.” His tension didn’t ease when he saw how Magnus’ steps falter slightly. “Look, if you need to sit down...”
Magnus gave him a warm, if not a little exasperated smile. “I’m fine. I just... I need to hold my son.”
Jace hoped dearly that the warlock wasn’t lying. By then they’d reached Max’s tiny bed. Seeing the baby placed into one instead of an incubator clearly relieved Magnus. Slowly and tentatively the man reached out, then picked up the child like the most precious china. Max sighed happily before opening his eyes slowly. Jace held his breath while the baby clearly considered, eyes locked on his papa’s. And then, his mind finally made up, Max smiled properly for the first time.
Jace looked away when a tear slid down Magnus’ cheek, and busied himself with dreaming of his own child while the father and son bonded.
Elsewhere in the building two women were going through several pieces of paper with identical frowns on their faces.
“These test results...” Helen shook her head. “We have to tell them.”
Catarina clenched her jaw. “I know.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “But not yet. We can afford to let them breathe and relax for a couple of days.”
Alec woke up from a much-needed fifteen-hour power nap to an empty bed. Quite understandably he panicked, fearing that something had gone horribly wrong again. Until he found a hand-written note from Magnus.
‘You looked so adorable and peaceful while sleeping that I didn’t have the heart to wake you. Don’t worry, I’m fine, and I fear Catarina’s wrath too much to leave the building. I simply needed to stretch my legs and take care of something. Meet me on the balcony at eight o’clock.’
Alec didn’t even try to stop the smile that made its way to his lips. He checked the time and was pleased to discover that he had an hour left. Slowly, grimacing at how stiff his muscles were, he hauled himself out of the bed.
He’d scold Magnus for being out of the bed before he should’ve been later, after finding out what his beloved had planned.
Alec had expected a simple dinner. What he found... was definitely more than that. More candles that he could count lit up the whole space. Flowers, of which there also were plenty, provided their nearly intoxicating scent. On the table what promised to be a delicious dinner was waiting.
The whole thing oozed magic.
“Well.” Magnus sounded amused, and so in love that it made the archer’s heart skip a beat. “It’s good to know that I still manage to impress you like that.”
Alec snorted. “You’re kidding me, right? I’m impressed every morning I wake up next to you.” He turned to face his husband. And froze from surprise of the best kind.
Magnus was still a little pale and visibly tired from everything that’d happened lately. But his makeup was flawless. And he was wearing the same outfit that was on him the day they got married.
Alec stared, helpless to do anything else. And if his mouth watered a little... Then so be it. “Magnus, what...?” He trailed off.
“I’m... not okay yet. But I’m trying to get there, I’ve even booked therapy sessions. And, when I’m well enough for it... There’s something I’d love to do, if it’s something you want, too.” Magnus looked at him in a way the Shadowhunter once imagined no one ever would. “It feels like we’ve gone through several lifetimes in a span of months. All that, the good and the bad, has changed us. Permanently. Body and soul.” There was a brief pause while a million memories went through both their minds. “But if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed... It’s how much we love each other. How we always find our way back to each other. So...” Slowly, slowly, Magnus got down on one knee. “Alexander Gideon Lightwood-Bane, will you marry me again?”
It was a new start. A new chance. To love, to be happy, to get to know each other again. They were both alive to enjoy it.
Alec went down on his knees as well and cradled Magnus’ face between his hands. Such flawless face, despite his tenderly stroking finger sensing the glamoured scar. “Only if you’ll marry me again, too.”
Magnus smiled. It was the pure, effortless kind that hadn’t been seen in far too long. “I would’ve bought you another ring, but I already got you to wear one...”
Growing impatient and needy, Alec interrupted Magnus by crashing their lips together. First hard and a little clumsily, then far more sensually. It was like no other kiss they’d ever exchanged. The perfect symbol for a new start.
Neither noticed that their shared runes’ triumphant, golden glow filled the whole room.
“I love you. To heaven and back”, Alec whispered, his eyes closed while he breathed in the man he loved. “Forever.”
“I love you, too. To Edom and back.” Magnus held him a little tighter. “Forever.”
Aaaw! Not a PERFECTLY happy ending, with some dark shadows still looming. But we finally got some fluff! (smiles)
How’s that for an ending for this part? Any good, at all? PLEASE, do let me hear from you! Every comments makes my day.
THIS STORY WILL RECEIVE A SEQUEL. And like with the parts thus far, I’ll announce its publishing date with a small taste a couple of days prior. The sequel, ‘Asmodeus’s Curse’, will most likely start next week.
For now... THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for reading this, and especially for the comments, kudos markings and listing! You guys are fantastic. (HUGS) Who knows. Maybe I’ll see you again?
Chapter 11: SEQUEL PROMO / SNEAK PEAK
Yes, this insane journey continues!
To the friends of this saga... Good news! It continues, and soon. The first chapter of part four will be published on Monday, August 12th.
Part 4 - Asmodeus's Curse
The story of the Lightwood-Bane family continues. In flashbacks we get to witness how the children grow over the course of sixteen years. Unfortunately Asmodeus's hold on Danya is still strong, and eventually her heart needs the Prince of Hell to keep beating. The events following a mission's horrific end reveal that their days of bliss are over. Will the whole family make it through? Or will Asmodeus's curse and the pull of Edom prove stronger?
Here are some sneak peaks:
Catarina had an unnervingly solemn look on her face. “I’m so sorry that I have to share this with you. But... You need to know.”
Alec tensed up and it didn’t ease at all when he felt how tightly Magnus squeezed his hand. Like someone who was drowning and trying to stay afloat. “For what?”
Catarina took a deep breath. “Helen and I did some tests, and... We found something that gives cause for concern.”
Dancing with Magnus to the melody of ‘What a Wonderful World’, Alec tightened his grip on his newly re-married husband. From the corner of his eye he saw their friends and family gathered to celebrate. They all looked so happy that it made his heart clench.
Alec swallowed thickly. He felt stupid, but couldn’t stop the emotional overload. “I just... I wish we could freeze time to this moment.” Where he had his whole world, everyone he loved, in one room, safe and content.
Achingly gently, Magnus placed both hands to his cheeks and ensured that their eyes met. Very few, if any, of the things the archer had ever seen were as beautiful as the smile he was gifted with. “Then let’s stop time. At least for a little while.”
The kiss they exchanged did just that.
Their lives had been good, close to perfection, for years already. It scared Alec. Because after over sixteen years of immortality he’d learned all too well how fleeting perfection was.
A fire message proved him right.
Alec read the words twice. It took some time before they sunk in. When they did he sought support from a wall. Which was ironic, because he felt like the walls were closing in on him. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think...
‘Something went wrong on the mission. Rafael was injured. It’s bad.’