“Alexander!” Alec turns from the book in his lap to look at Magnus, sending a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes in Magnus’s direction.
“Hey--” but Magnus can’t wait for Alec to finish his sentence, he has things to say and he needs to say them now, or else he isn’t going to be able to say them at all.
“Jordan saw the video and he wants to offer me a contract at the record company and they want to sign me!” he exclaims, tapping out an excited pattern on his arm.
“That’s amazing, Magnus,” Alec murmurs , his eyes dropping to his book. A span of silence stretches between them, and for the first time it feels awkward and heavy. It’s like there’s a road block between them, pushing them in opposite directions.
Magnus is well aware that Alec’s fingers are running along the back of his book and that his eyes barely skim the words; his exhausted mind decides that Alec doesn’t care enough about what this could mean for him. An unwanted (and possibly unwarranted?) feeling of dread settles in his stomach, the voice in the back of his head telling him that no matter what he did, it will never be enough--his father’s voice. All Magnus wants is to prove his deadbeat dad wrong, to show his mom that his dreams are worth it. All he wants is for Alec to understand what this deal means . Jordan is finally giving him the chance to express himself and share his music on a wider scale than Ragnor’s YouTube channel. Isn’t this exciting? he wants to say.
But what actually comes out is, “Aren’t you happy for me?” The words are aggressive and guilt joins the dread in his stomach--he’d never before spoken to Alec with such blatant contempt.
That’s made clear enough when Alec’s head snaps up to look at Magnus, and the deer-in-the-headlights quality to it makes him want to take it back immediately . But it’s too late, and Magnus can’t un-say it.
For a brief moment, his mind flashes to a moment few weeks ago, when he came back to Alec sitting on his bed with Magnus’s favourite Indonesian food. He was wearing sweats and he had looked so unbearably soft. Most notably, he told Magnus all that matters is that he was happy .
It makes Magnus halt for a moment before he looks at the Alec sitting before him now. But then again, people change. He’s learned that that hard way. “Do you even care that this could be huge for me?” He doesn’t want to sound so broken… so heartbroken .
“Magnus, of course--” There’s a gentle desperation in Alec’s voice and rather than serving its purpose of telling Magnus to back off, it burns in him, boiling throughout his veins.
“Oh? You care ? Why don’t you tell me what you’re really thinking?” he says it venomously, green eyes narrowing in frustration.
Alec closes his eyes, closing the book at last and running his fingers over the cover to ground himself (another sign that looming back on the moment, Magnus had missed).
“I--I don’t know,” he mutters dumbly, cerulean eyes looking anywhere but Magnus’s, “Everything’s changing. Fast . My hearing--that video blowing up-- it just feels like everything happening too fast. Like everything’s going right.”
“ Exactly ,” Magnus drawls, rolling his eyes, “Everything is going right. What’s wrong about that?”
Alec shrugs lamely, “It’s just... I don’t know, Magnus.” His growing frustration is evident and Magnus clenches a fist.
“Are you jealous?” Magnus inquires slowly, drawing out the last word.
Alec looks at him, and rather than Alec’s normal stoic face, it’s ridden with emotions that Magnus can’t place.
“Jealous?” Alec questions, and his voice sounds just as hurt. “Magnus, why would I--“
“Oh, come on! ” Magnus snaps. “You finally get something that everyone’s always had around you--including me--and I get—” Alec visibly flinches back--“ You’re jealous that I benefitted more than you did, aren’t you?” He rubs at his forehead, wrenching his eyes away. His fingers stilled long ago, the turmoil of emotions halting their incessant movements.
When his eyes return to Alec, Alec’s palms are placed against his ears, index fingers placed against the still raw scar of the cochlear implants.
“Alec?” Magnus asks hesitantly.
He takes a few steps nearer, closing what little space was left between them, before Magnus settles himself down onto the the bed at Alec’s feet. Alec immediately coils up his lithe frame into a tight ball, arms wrapped around his shins; careful to avoid touching Magnus.
“I’m not jealous,” and though his voice is even, it teeters dangerously on the edge of cracking, “You deserve this.”
And then it comes crashing down on Magnus, like a wave set on drowning him ; he’d just insinuated that that his Alexander didn’t deserve to hear. “Oh-- God , Alec I didn’t--”
“I need some air,” he says calmly, the perfect mask of disinterest.
And just like that, Alec is off of the bed, passing Magnus without even a phantom of a touch.
He slips open the door to the small fire escape ledge just past the edge of Magnus’s bed and behind the black out curtains.
Magnus gives Alec thirty minutes, but it’s then that he comes to the realisation that he must have cut more deeply than he meant to with his implications.
“Everything’s going right.” The words flutter through his head like a butterfly. A small, acrid butterfly that makes him want to rip his hair out. A bitterfly, if you will.
It’s this thought that allows Magnus to process that Alec thinks things can’t go right all the time- and while there is truth to the notion, Magnus’ heart breaks.
He sighs, pushing the window up, a blanket tucked under his arm. He climbs over the sill and sits next to Alec, close but not close enough to touch.
“I didn’t need to be able to hear, you know,” Alec says quietly, though his voice bares a detached quality, “I can read lips.” When he turns to Magnus, his eyes are glassy and red rimmed. Despite his best efforts, his cheeks are still ridden with old tear tracks.
“Oh, sayang . I know that,” Magnus reassures him softly.
Alec nods, looking back out over the city, tracing a finger over the ridges of the rusted fire escape. His body tremors from the cold and Magnus reaches over to cover him, but Alec shakes his head.
“You know I’m proud of you, right?” Alec’s azure eyes are staring into Magnus’s with an intensity that startles Magnus at first. “I’m so happy for you--I just--”
“You don’t think things can be good forever?” Alec is waiting for the other shoe to drop and Magnus didn’t want him to be worried, didn’t want him to focus too hard on a future that neither of them can control.
There’s a moment of hesitation, prior to Alec allowing a reluctant nod to pass. “Things just always seem to find a way to go wrong, y’know? And everything being so amazing in such a short span of time...” Alec closes his eyes, taking in a deep breath before slowly releasing it. “In my head it just spells trouble.”
“Sometimes we have to take chances, bare the risks,” he says wisely, sounding much older than he is.
Electric blue eyes startle open. “Did you think I would tell you to not do it?”
“Oh--I.. Yeah,” Magnus admits sheepishly.
“Magnus, you have to do this,” Alec says, voice firm and more sure than it’s been all night. “This could do so much for you--your career. You have to.”
“You weren’t going to discourage it?”
“My feelings should never interfere with your dreams. I would be a horrible boyfriend if I--Magnus. Nikita Gill is a poet--um and she has this poem...” Alec pauses for a long moment, closing his eyes as he gathers his thoughts. It takes a long moment for him to start again. “She said, ‘ Still, your home does have a heartbeat. But it isn’t one locked inside anyone else’s chest .’” He quotes . “And yeah, while that may be true I think you can find your world in someone else. Either way though, I think what matters most is that the world is evolving for itself, not for its inhabitants.”
Magnus blinks, once, twice, three times before extending the blanket to Alec once more. This time, Alec takes one corner, wrapping it first around Magnus and then himself.
After a long moment, Magnus manages to speak, his voice hoarse. “And is it?”
“Is what?” Alec asks, dark eyebrows furrowing. Once again, his gaze returns to Magnus and the deer-like look is back in Alec’s eyes, only scattered remnants of trepidation remaining.
“Is your world evolving?” Magnus asks, concern and a hint of amusement in his voice.
Alec smiles, leaning towards Magnus. “It’s learning how to live for itself.”