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Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

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“Five attacks have been made in total. Mrs. Hardwright has put together a presentation detailing each incident so we are all on the same page before we make our final decisions.” Alec cleared his throat, gently tapping his papers to straighten out the pile, before sitting back into his seat. The heavy wooden chair scraped the marble floor and Alec restrained a wince. He may hold pride in his newfound position, but Head of the New York Institute held more meetings and less fieldwork than he preferred. The room, being full of shadowhunters, was particularly unreadable and this did nothing to abate his nerves as thirty sets of eyes stared back at him, but he squared his shoulders and refused to allow it to unnerve him. 

Luckily the sixty eyes now turned towards Mrs. Hardwright, a young woman who had transferred just last week from another Institute into the position of Alec’s second in command. He realized at this rather inappropriate moment that he had never asked for her first name nor the Institute she had transferred from. She had come rather suddenly just as the Institute was swept up in the news of a coming coup. 

“Thank you, Mr. Lightwood.” Mrs. Hardwright stood and smiled amicably as she gestured gracefully to the slide show behind her. “I assume that you are all aware in varying degrees of the misfortune that has fallen upon an alarmingly large group of Institute leaders.” 

The slide show changed from the logo of the New York Institute to a world map with five cities marked with a star. “These stars each correspond with a major city from which their head of Institute was either killed or disappeared under mysterious circumstances within the past year.” She paused for a moment to allow the thirty eyes to take in the data before changing the slide. A photo of a stern, older Chinese man filled a corner of the screen with various information filling the rest of it. “Head of the Shanghai Institute in China. Cui Hong. Fifty years old. Killed in a failed mission to infiltrate a demon nest in March of last year. At the time this was not looked at with suspicion but rather as an occupational hazard,” Mrs. Hardwright explained. The sixty eyes showed no emotion. 

The slide changed to a younger, African woman looking out at the room with similarly stern eyes. “Head of the Abuja Institute in Nigeria. Esther Adoti. Thirty-four years old. Captured in a mission May of last year in which she was separated from her teammates and not heard from again. No body was recovered. This was also looked at as a death via occupational hazard and very little investigation was done.” 

The slide changed once more. “Head of the Brasilia Institute in Brazil. Michel Esteves Branco. Forty-one years old. Disappeared July of last year without a trace in broad daylight while at the market with his family.” 

Next slide. “Head of the D.C. Institute in America. Maria Walker. Thirty-two years old. Disappeared on her way home at four in the morning in September of last year after a night at her second in command’s house. A thorough investigation turned up that the two were having an affair, but nothing more came of it. Her wife held a solid alibi and there is no indication as to what may have happened to her. In footage from a traffic light, she is seen walking along the road when she suddenly turns into an alley and never emerges. Her disappearance was originally believed to be the result of a hate crime, due to the nature of her personal relationships with women, coupled with her position of power. However, her strange behavior at the moment of entering the alley decided that this was likely not the case.” 

Alec restrained a wince. There were days when he desperately wanted to shed the weight of hiding his closest personal relationship and come out to the world of shadowhunters. Magnus insisted that he didn’t care either way and that he is content to keep their relationship hidden forever if that’s what Alec needs, he knows how shadow hunters are. But Alec saw it behind his glamoured eyes when he brushed Alec’s fingertips in public and quickly put his hands in his pockets instead. If anything, Alec kept their relationship hidden to protect Magnus. Sure, Alec would be discriminated against, but as the Head of the New York Institute, he enjoyed more privilege and protection than Magnus who, despite his status as Head Warlock of Brooklyn, was still a downworlder. 

“Our final victim is the head of the Brisbane Institute in Australia. Olivia Wilson. Twenty-nine years old. Seen entering her home one night in November of last winter, never to emerge. She, like the others, disappeared with no trail. Her disappearance was originally believed to be connected to a local gang due to her particular political affiliations, however, mundane intervention was ruled out after a thorough investigation as these five disappearances were realized to likely be connected.”

The slide show returned to its display of the world map, this time with months labeled at each star. “I’m sure you gathered this as I was giving the details of each victim’s disappearance, however, I believe it is important to point out that the only continent that has not had an attack is Europe. Additionally, the attacks have been regularly spaced out with two months in between each. The specific date appears to be random. This is particularly concerning as tomorrow is the new year and we are entering a month in which it is highly likely we will experience another disappearance.” With her presentation completed, Mrs. Hardwright sat back down, sliding her chair seamlessly back into the table. 

Alec steadied his heart rate, briefly considering the irony that he didn’t even get this nervous when faced in battle, and stood once more, “Since we have reason to believe the next attack will be on Europe, and likely in an Institute housed in a capital city, backup is being sent into Europe capitals from all over the world. The Head Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus Bane, portaled to Paris exactly two weeks ago to offer his services. He will remain there for the duration of January, barring an incident in New York. Now that everyone has been caught up, we will move on to the main purpose of this meeting. Decisions must be made on how much more backup we will send to Europe. They will likely need our help, but we cannot ignore the possibility that we are being thrown off thinking that Europe will be attacked next. We cannot leave ourselves completely unprotected.”

As the other shadow hunters occupying the room began to discuss strategies, Alec, still listening carefully, turned to make a move towards the table holding coffee and food. It was nearly eleven and he had found himself exhausted. This meeting had been pushed further and further back in the day until they finally convened at ten p.m.. He was quickly intercepted by Mrs. Hardwright, who touched his arm amicably and said, “Mr. Lightwood, please allow me to get you whatever you need. You are too important to this situation to be distracted by a task I could be completing.” 

Alec hesitated, hating to have someone waiting on him, but conceded. “I’d really appreciate a black coffee, thank you.” He hesitated momentarily once more, before turning back to the table and sitting down. 

“The attacks do not seem to be connected in any way besides their timing and locations. We have no way of knowing how the next victim will be attacked.” Maryse Lightwood spoke. 

“Except the failed missions, they all seem like they could simply be caused by mundanes. If it weren’t for the timing and locations, I would suggest that this is an overreaction. But the fact that only the Head’s have been taken indicated a possible coup coming.” Marion Lakewood, head of mission planning, spoke, jabbing a pen at the table for emphasis. 

Mrs. Hardwright deposited a cup of steaming dark coffee in front of Alec, who thanked her and quickly downed the mug. 

Alec was listening attentively to the suggestions, knowing it was ultimately his stamp of approval that would decide their next move, but the thoughts in the back of his mind drifted to Magnus. 

Magnus had been highly disappointed that they wouldn’t be able to spend New Years together, so he insisted on having their own the night before he left. “If I don’t celebrate the years passing, they’ll all eventually blur together and I want to stay with the times” was how he had defended himself, but Alec suspected he was just coming up with a reason to dress Alec in a suit, take him out, and tumble into bed at the end of the night. Not that he needed an excuse for that. Alec felt a faint blush growing on his neck as the mottle of purpling on his collarbone, legs, and chest, hidden well by his shirt, tingled gently with the familiar feeling of Magnus’s leftover magic. He pulled himself from his thoughts, now wasn’t the time, and returned his full attention to the matter at hand. 

It was eleven forty-five when the meeting adjourned and Alec stood, stretching, and debating whether to simply return to his old room at the Institute. Exhausted seemed to grip him to his bones, despite the caffeine he had ingested, and walking more than just down the hall seemed too much for him. He already missed Magnus dearly though, and the desire to be in their bedroom at the loft seemed to somehow outweigh his exhaustion. The promise of being in a bed that smelled like him dragged Alec out the door of the Institute and towards the subway. 

As he went down the stairs into the underground, he found he could barely keep his eyes open and it took all his willpower to stay aware enough to not tumble down the stairs. That would be an embarrassing way to go, he thought vaguely, local Head of Institute who kills demons for a living trips down subway stairs and dies. Alec reached his platform and leaned against a pillar, not trusting himself to stay awake if he sat on a bench. Despite this, he felt his world growing dark as he slumped slowly to his knees. His last thought before he succumbed to the darkness was that he wished he had the willpower to roll onto his back and not have half his face pressed against the subway floor.