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He remembers the first time he saw him, the man who would change him, the man he would tumble head over heels for before he quite knew what’d hit him.

Hazel eyes that saw too much and a frowning mouth that he’d been helpless to resist.

It seems like so long ago now and he’s almost stunned to realize that it’s been five years since he knew a world without his Alexander.

His own mouth turns down as he reminds himself, Alec. Not his Alexander, not his anything.

Not anymore.

Still, that long ago memory wraps around him, makes him wish that he could go back to that Karaoke bar in Queens and start over.

Well, he thinks with a faint grin, that first night had been perfect.

He’d been in town for a few months working on his next record and his friends had taken him out for his birthday. The karaoke bar had been hilarious to them and he’d been deep enough in his cups to humor them.

He forgets the song he’d chosen now. All he knows is that he’d looked up during the instrumental bridge and lost every single goddamn thought in his head except who are you?

Meeting those thrice-damned hazel eyes had left him speechless and the man had noticed. Even from a distance, he’d seen Alec’s expression turn equal parts surprised and coy and it had seared into him, the invitation and challenge blatant in his stare.

Finishing his song in a rush of mumbled words and off-key notes, he’d jumped off the small stage and hadn’t even winced as his shoes tried to stick to the grimy floor.

No, he’d made his unerring way to Alec and the two of them had spent the rest of the night together. And boy, he thinks now with a shake of his head, he’d never heard the last of it from his exasperated friends.

He remembers having a drink or six at that final bar and dancing clumsily in a space the size of a doormat. He hadn’t minded, though, not with Alec pressed so close against him so that they stole each other’s breath.

That had been the beginning and what a start it had been.

Opening his eyes to see fields pass him in a blur, he feels like he’s suffocating. The past three months weigh like slabs of cement on his shoulders and it’s taking everything he’s got to keep going.

If only he could go back. If only that was allowed.

Sighing, he turns to his song book and tries his damnedest to forget about the one man he can’t stop remembering.

 

Blinking up at the pitch black ceiling, he sighs before sitting up. He reaches over and turns the lamp on and the light is harsh in the quiet room, makes him wince.

He scrubs his hands over his face before he lets them fall between his knees. Staring down at the floor, he feels empty.

The hotel carpet is an infuriatingly neutral shade of beige and it makes him want to break something. It makes him want to grab a match and set fire to every memory that plagues him, that denies him sleep even when he’s been up for a whole day at this point and has an event in a few short hours.

He wishes fervently that he could burn every bridge that leads to him to ash until there was nothing but smoking rubble and no way back to the man he can’t stop thinking about.

Maybe then he would know peace. Maybe then he could move on.

Instead, he stands up on unsteady legs and goes over to his suitcase that’s propped open. He snatches his song book and goes out to the balcony that overlooks a city he can’t quite remember the name of this late.

London, he thinks with a yawn that cracks his jaw. Maybe Edinburgh.

Sneering, he tosses his song book on the little table and sits down, barely registering the chill. It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that it’s not New York and he’ll carry that conviction for a few months more until he can’t any longer.

He writes his feelings out. The gnawing ache of where Alexander used to be, the regret that he pushed him away-- that he was too much or not enough or, fuck, he’s still not sure.

This whole song book is a requiem to their relationship and it makes the back of his throat burn, the jeering realization that Alec’s still his biggest muse no matter that they haven’t talked in six months.

There was a time his boyfriend would’ve found him when he was in one of these moods-- when writing was his only focus, when he could ignore everything if only he wrote one more line. If he concentrates, he can feel the phantom sensation of arms wrapping around his neck from behind, stubble scraping his throat in a gentle move that made him shiver with want, with the knowledge that he was never safer than when he was in Alec’s arms.

That’s over now, though, and Magnus has no one to blame but himself. He has no right to Alec now, not after everything he’d done.

Tears sting his eyes but he blinks them back with furious desperation. Turning back to his song book, he writes another song about his love and runs from his demons until the sunrise burns them away for another day.

 

Stepping off stage, he hands his mic pack to a crew member. He still hears the fans screaming for another encore and it’s a rush like no other to know that on the other side of the stage are thousands of people, each desperately wanting a piece of him.

It’s everything. It’s all he needs.

Before he goes back to his room for the night, he goes out. He has a favorite bar in this city and he finds his way there by memory. The velvet rope is released as soon as the bouncer catches sight of him and his mouth curls into a cocky grin.

The music is loud and the sea of strangers are friends waiting to happen. He dances with a dozen people, sliding through embraces, never staying with one person for longer than a single song.

He drinks. He loses track of how many shots he does but when he looks up, the breath is stolen from him. His glass lands on the bar with a thud that’s inaudible through the bass of the DJ and he starts toward a figure that towers over everyone else.

In his haze, he bumps into people but he pays their indignant expressions no mind. He has one focus and his eye can’t leave this particular prize.

When he catches up to the man, he grabs his arm and spins him around.

Bile squeezes his throat.

Because it’s not Alec. The stranger has the same build but his eyes are green and he’s wearing a shirt that his Alexander would never be caught dead in.

Apologies spill from his mouth as he stumbles out of the club, nausea suddenly building.

He has no idea how he makes it back to his hotel for the night and he doesn’t much care. The room itself is almost too much for him and he’s struck for the millionth time-- the goddamn billionth-- by a memory that brings him to his knees.

He and Alexander in a hotel room that looks suspiciously like the one he’s in now. He remembers neon lights flashing through the window and how they could barely kiss because they were smiling too much.

They were so damned happy.

Alec had visited him on tour and he’d been so fucking surprised to see his love when he’d walked off stage after a sold-out concert. He’d barely registered what was happening before Alec had hauled him close for a searing kiss that had made his toes curl in his designer boots. He’d grabbed the lapels of Alec’s blazer and hung on with everything he had.

With a sardonic laugh, Magnus makes his way to the drink cart by the window. He pours a few inches of whiskey and throws them back with a harsh swallow before pouring another.

His everything hadn’t been enough.

Fury lights him up from the inside out and he feels like a supernova that’s imploding on itself. The crystal glass shatters against the wall, leaves an ugly brown stain dripping down it’s perfectly mundane visage.

He doesn’t spare a thought for his neighbors. They can go fuck themselves.

His head hurts but it’s nothing compared to his heart.

Alec broke his heart. He crushed it under his goddamn heel and as he rubs a hand over his chest, he wonders if it’ll ever start beating again.

It’s been nine months tomorrow since he walked out, since Alec left him.

It’s for the best, he thinks but he doesn’t even believe it.

Falling into bed, he hopes tomorrow is better.

He doesn’t believe that either.

 

Hailing a taxi, his mind spins with memories and plans and the little speech he’d rehearsed. He’d left all of his things at his apartment. Not even taking the time to change or unpack, he’d immediately darted down to the street to get a cab.

His tour wrapped up two days ago and it’s been hell waiting to get back to the city.

The past few months have been hard-- harder than the first nine months and that’s something he’s loathed to admit.

It’s been a year since he last saw Alec and his resolve is thick as iron.

On the road these past months, he’s realized something and he wants to run himself over for not knowing it sooner.

None of it means a damn if he has no one to share it with. He was so empty before Alec and the man after Alec is a stranger, brittle and cold with his heart locked under the most steadfast of keys.

The only person who can unlock it is in this city, probably working on his legal briefs or depositions or whatever other paperwork it was that got him hot under the collar.

Their last fight rings in his ears and as he watches his favorite city pass in a blur, he tries to get a grip on the wave of regret that squeezes his throat until he feels like he’s choking.

He’d been so busy with his own commitments, with plans for his next tour. He remembers thinking it would be the biggest yet, his best yet.

He’d come home from an impromptu dinner with label executives where they’d had a few too many celebratory glasses of champagne to find Alec in a suit-- Magnus’s favorite with the silk accents.

His bow tie was undone and the first few buttons were too, so that a delicious sliver of skin was revealed.

Magnus had been so focused on the image of one of his favorite Alecs that it had taken him far longer than it should’ve to notice that his boyfriend wasn’t smiling in greeting, that he wasn’t leaning in for their usual kiss.

That he had a bag packed and sitting quietly next to his feet.

“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” he’d murmured and moved close to kiss Alec and lure him to their bed.

“I’m done, Magnus.”

The words had sent an icy shiver up his spine and he’d suddenly felt unmoored.

“What,” he’d asked dumbly and he’d felt two inches tall as his boyfriend leveled his infamous stare on top of him.

It was cold and felt like a dagger to the heart. Magnus had never thought he’d be on the receiving end of such an expression.

“I had my annual gala tonight. I won lawyer of the year for my work on the Valentine case. I was late to the goddamn event because I was waiting for you and I sat by myself at a table of couples making your excuses.”

As soon as Alec had started talking, Magnus had closed his eyes in awareness. Jesus Christ, he’d thought to himself.

The biggest night of Alec’s year. His biggest honor yet in his career. His biggest achievement to date and the person he'd wanted by his side was Magnus but he'd been too busy listening to executives sing his praises to check his phone, to see the missed calls and texts as they changed from confusion to concern to bitter resignation.

He tries to ignore the knowledge that simmers between them about Magnus's preoccupation lately. All the missed dinners, the canceled dates, the rushing away from the apartment on Alec's days off come crashing down on them, plopping right in the middle of the two of them, a chasm Magnus can't cross and one Alec won't.

Not now it seems and Magnus tries to stave off the devastation that realization brings, that he's too late and that he took Alec for granted in a way he never meant to, in a way he couldn't barely conceive.

“You knew,” Alec says quietly and Magnus will give him credit, it’s not accusatory. It’s just fact. “You knew how important this was to me and you promised you would be there. And you weren’t.”

Magnus remembers stepping forward in a rush, grabbing Alec’s arms and sliding his hands up until they came to rest on either side of his neck.

“Darling, I--”

“No, Magnus.” Alec had cut him off and gazed at him with eyes that Magnus only now saw were brimming with so much hurt that it was a wonder they both didn’t collapse under the impact.

Alec’s voice had been quiet yet firm as he’d continued, “No. You promised. I’ve been with you for four years. I’ve been with you every step of the way since that fucking bar in Queens but when I needed you, you weren’t there. Your work was more important and I respect that--”

Breaking off, Magnus’s heart had broke as he’d seen his boyfriend close his eyes and try to get his breath. “I do. Your career is important to you and you’re loved by millions for it. But none more than me, Magnus. I respect you putting your career first but I can’t be with someone who cares more about their label than they do me.”

Moving closer to Magnus for the first time all night, Alec had cupped a hand over Magnus’s cheek. Swallowing hard, he’d continued, “I love you, Magnus Bane, but I’m not enough for you. And right now-- and for longer than I'd like to admit-- you haven't been enough for me, either.”

The words had been a blow and Magnus had reeled at the truth in them. Hanging heavy in the air, he’d looked up to meet Alec’s eyes and felt his heart being crushed to powder.

“I can’t do this anymore. Maybe later, when you have time for me. Call me when the guy who sang so off key to One Direction because he couldn’t stop staring at me is back. Until then, we’re over.”

Alec’s mouth had ghosted over his in a pathetic parody of a kiss as he’d whispered, “Goodbye, Magnus.”

Magnus had been left standing in their apartment, alone, as Alec grabbed his bag and left without a backward glance.

Magnus had left for tour the next day and it’s been the worst 365 days since.

Now he’s back in town, though, and he’d promised himself weeks ago that he would stop wallowing. Alec hadn’t left his side the entirety of the tour and tour itself had been nothing but an inconvenience.

His heart hadn’t been in it. He felt empty, used, and a piece of him wonders if he won’t still be less than enough for Alec.

He has to try, though. He needs to take a chance and hope that Alec’s feelings haven’t changed in the last year, that they haven’t soured from bitter acceptance to anger or God forbid, apathy.

Magnus doesn’t know how he’d go on if that was the case.

The cab pulls up to the curb and Magnus looks down at a text from his second favorite Lightwood to confirm he’s at the right place. He’s granted access to the fourteenth floor and knocks on door 1453.

The wait is only a few seconds but it feels like an eternity passes before the door sweeps open to reveal a sight for sore eyes.

The best damn sight in the world.

When they’re eyes meet, electricity singes between them. Neither one says anything for a moment, Magnus finding his voice gone, all those pretty words vanishing now that the weight of reality has descended upon him.

He’s startled when Alec clears his throat, when he takes a single step back in a move that makes Magnus grieve for lost opportunities.

Instead of slamming the door in his face, however, he opens the door wider and jerks his chin. He’s sporting a faint grin but it’s mocking-- both of them, Magnus thinks-- and it’s overwhelmed by the shadows under his eyes.

Still, his words make his heart seize in hope and he promises himself-- both of them-- that he won’t waste this chance.

“Welcome home, Magnus.”