North Alicante High rose up before Alec, Isabelle, and Jace as they stepped through the doors of their new school. They stopped to take in the higher ceilings, the wider halls, as students milled around them, side stepping out of the way of the three newbies who didn’t seem to know to not stop in the middle of a heavily-trafficked doorway. Alec cast a quick sideways glance at his siblings. He couldn’t tell by their expressions, but he knew that Isabelle and Jace weren’t thrilled with having to start a new school in the middle of the year, though it was hardly Alec’s fault. The bullying that Alec had endured at Idris High had gotten so out of control that he’d had no choice but to leave. He never knew what had made him such an easy target, but he couldn’t finish out his senior year there, despite trying to stick it out until graduation. He hadn’t asked Isabelle and Jace to transfer with him, but they did so out of support, and he was more than grateful.
“We need to find the registrar’s office,” Isabelle said, pulling Alec from his thoughts, and they all got moving. The registrar’s office was where they would pick up their schedules, yet as they walked down the hall together, Alec felt a slight pang. Jace and Isabelle were in the same grade and therefore had a greater chance of being in the same classes. Alec was two grades ahead and it was unlikely he would see either of them during the day. There was a chance they could have lunch together, but Alec wasn’t holding his breath.
Isabelle must’ve noticed her brother’s melancholia, and she bumped his shoulder while giving him a small, reassuring smile. When they arrived at the registrar’s office, Alec noticed three students sitting in chairs lined up along the wall near the door, across from the secretary’s desk. A beefy male student with light brown hair who looked like he probably played football was leaning forward, reading a paperback book. A blonde girl sitting next to him tapped idly on her phone, not caring in the slightest who saw her with it. Alec’s curious gaze then lingered on the third student. He was slouched back against the wall, large headphones over his ears, his eyes closed as he bumped one leg up and down slowly. His hair was a messy crown of black spikes that stuck out in all directions. He had brown skin and wore a black t-shirt over rainbow colored skinny jeans. His arms were crossed in front of him but Alec could almost make out something shiny on his shirt. The student must’ve felt Alec staring at him and he opened his eyes. Alec quickly looked away, down at the class schedule someone must’ve shoved into his hands while he’d been immersed in the other student. He, Isabelle, and Jace looked over one another’s classes and, not surprisingly, Alec had none with either of them, nor did they have lunch together. He sighed.
“It’s okay, man,” Jace said quietly and slapped Alec on the back, who fumbled his schedule. “Just get through the day and you’re one day closer to graduation.” Alec only frowned.
They started to leave the office, but Alec couldn’t stop his eyes from skittering over to the brightly dressed student again, and to Alec’s surprise, he was still looking back at him, one eyebrow raised in curiosity. Alec’s eyes shot to the floor as he followed his siblings out the door and into the now mostly empty hall.
They each went their separate ways, and as Alec tried to find his first class, he wondered what the student’s deal was in the registrar’s office. At his old school, seniors often helped in the office if they had enough credits to waste on a blowoff class, so Alec assumed that’s what those kids had been doing. He wondered about the one in the rainbow jeans. The student was brave, in Alec’s opinion, for choosing to wear such loud clothing to school. Alec recalled how kids at Idris High were treated. He’d seen students wear similar clothes, and they’d end up on the receiving end of taunts and ridicule, and the occasional fist, while the faculty turned a blind eye. Alec never dressed that way, choosing instead to wear dark, monotone colors, yet still hadn’t escaped the treatment doled out to him on a daily basis. He then had to wonder how much more bullying would’ve taken place if he had dressed differently.
Alec tried not to think about Idris—he’d only been gone for about a week—but the triggers were everywhere. Just being in a new school was putting his anxiety into overdrive; he was glad to have his siblings as anchors, but wished he had them with him now, though their being in the same building helped, if only a little bit. He was in such deep thought as he walked down the hallway, though, that he almost knocked over the teacher of his first class who just happened to be standing outside the room.
“Sorry,” Alec mumbled, and backed up a step. His blue eyes were wide and alarmed, but the teacher didn’t seem perturbed by his actions.
The teacher, Mr. Starkweather — who looked the way someone named Starkweather would look, with light brown hair flecked with gray and a tweed jacket — steadied him and looked Alec over.
“Whoa, easy there, son. Are you in the right place?” he asked Alec.
“I—I think so,” Alec said and checked his schedule again. The teacher took it from him and studied it, then handed it back.
“Yup, looks like it,” he said, then shrugged. “Didn’t realize I had a new student.”
Alec wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that; he hoped it meant Starkweather hadn’t planned on making him stand up in front of the class or anything. He nodded and Starkweather let him pass. He wasn’t sure whether or not the class had assigned seats, but he took an empty one in the very back anyway. So far he’d been at school for less than an hour and it was already going down hill. He scratched his wrist anxiously under the black leather cuff he always wore, the gauze there rubbing against his skin and making it itch. He hadn’t intended spending so much time in the bathroom that morning, but his anxiety over starting a new school had won out and he’d needed something to distract him from that pain. Luckily Jace had wanted to drive, and Alec had been able to rest in the back seat by himself.
Starkweather's class, AP English, started a few minutes later, and Alec was glad the teacher hadn’t made him introduce himself. In fact, Starkweather seemed to forget Alec was even there, which Alec was more than okay with.
Alec had his head in his hand as Starkweather rambled on about the book they were currently reading, Slaughterhouse Five, which Alec had thankfully already read at Idris, when the door to the classroom opened and in walked the student Alec had seen in the registrar’s office. He looked sleepy and bored and he shuffled up to Starkweather, a small stack of narrow papers clutched in one hand. He was taller than Alec had thought, taller even than the teacher, which he rarely saw in kids his age, save for himself.
Starkweather looked at his watch, and then at the clock on the wall.
“You’re early,” he said, and the student just shrugged.
“I have a lot of rooms to get to, Mr. S.”
“All right, hold on,” he added and rolled his eyes, then went to his desk to retrieve something. A few seconds later he pulled from a pile of papers a slip the same size and shape as the slips in the student’s hand. As Starkweather began rattling off kids’ names, Alec realized his assumption had been right and that the student worked in the office and must have been collecting attendance.
“Alex Lightwood?” Starkweather called and Alec suppressed the urge to groan out loud. Teachers were always getting his name wrong; it was written as Alexander and everyone just assumed he went by Alex.
“Alec,” he corrected Starkweather after clearing his throat; several students turned in their seats to stare at him, and he glared back, wondering what on earth was so interesting. The students turned back around.
Starkweather made an adjustment on the paper, then continued calling out names. Alec’s eyes flicked to the front of the room and he saw the kid staring at him through hooded eyelids. His arms were crossed in front of him as he leaned against the teacher’s desk, his head tilted to one side, regarding Alec, scrutinizing him, it seemed like. Alec dropped his eyes to his desk and cursed to himself as he felt his cheeks flush. Finally Starkweather was done and he handed the paper to the student.
“Thanks, Mr. S,” he said, still bored, and took the paper. Alec watched as he turned to leave, and he could have sworn he saw the boy wink at him as he left, closing the door behind him. He blinked to himself, then put his head back in his hand. After that, focusing for the next hour proved to be quite difficult.
Study lab was next, which was the second hour of the day and all students spent it in an assigned classroom to study, do homework, or get help from teachers in other classes. They were allowed to travel to different classrooms to accomplish this, but since Alec didn’t know where Isabelle and Jace were, he stayed in his own room and worked on his English assignment, too afraid to take out his phone to text them. His study lab teacher, Ms. Fairchild, seemed laid back enough, but he didn’t want to risk getting his phone taken away on his first day.
Alec’s lunch followed study lab, though he was too anxious to eat. He scanned the lunch room, not really sure why; it wasn’t as if he had anyone to sit with.
The lunch room was set up in levels, with the bottom level housing the food and lunch lines, and most of the tables; a level higher had more tables; and the highest level led to the rest of the school. Large wooden benches surrounded the lunch room that students could sit on or hop over to get to the lower level instead of using the stairs. Alec spotted an empty bench and sat down, his back against a large stone pillar that connected the adjacent bench. He took Slaughterhouse Five out, and decided rereading it wouldn’t be a bad idea, and would give him something to do until lunch ended.
The lunch room filled up quickly and Alec found himself wondering what classes Isabelle and Jace were currently in. He thought again about texting them, but didn’t want their phones to accidentally sound during class. A few students sat down on the bench near him, but didn’t pay him any attention as they talked and ate with each other. Alec had the sudden urge to try to speak to them, but changed his mind just as suddenly.
He finished a chapter and slung his arm over his hitched up knee, his foot flat on the bench. Looking out into the lunchroom, his eyes roamed over the students buying food and eating and laughing and Alec was envious, wishing it wasn’t so hard for him to make friends. It always struck him as odd how alike Isabelle and Jace were, when Alec himself was the one that was actually related to Isabelle, their family having adopted Jace when he’d been around ten. Alec and Isabelle had similar features—some people had even mistaken them for twins—yet while Isabelle had been popular at Idris, Alec had been singled out for ridicule. Jace had also been popular, yet apparently having popular siblings didn’t keep someone from becoming a loser themself.
Alec leaned his head against the column behind him, and suddenly there he was and Alec lifted his head up and blinked. His rainbow colored jeans stood out against the other students’ drab clothing. He stood with a group of other kids, and while they all talked and laughed, he regarded them with boredom, or so it seemed to Alec. Alec couldn’t help staring at him, wondering what his name was. The kid must’ve had some kind of power that alerted him he was being stared at, because his eyes immediately flicked up to Alec for the third time that day. Alec pretended not to see, shifting his eyes around the room again, yet when he looked back, the kid was still staring at him. Then to Alec’s surprise, he unfurled his crossed arms and began walking to the staircase, his eyes never leaving Alec.
Alec’s heart hammered in his chest. Why was he walking up the stairs? Was he coming to beat Alec up? Why did Alec have to keep staring like he’d never seen a guy before? He shoved his book into his bag and abruptly stood and walked in the opposite direction of the stairs, searching for a bathroom, or any room he could quickly duck in to. But as he rounded a corner, he slammed into another student who just happened to be holding a lunch tray. The tray fell out of the student’s hands and to the floor with a clatter, the remnants of his lunch now on the front of his shirt, and Alec stood there, stunned. The student, who wasn’t quite as tall as Alec, looked down at his ruined shirt then back up at Alec, his face turning redder by the second.
“I—I am so sorry,” Alec stammered, his hands held out in front of him. A few students walking by stopped to watch.
“You fucking idiot, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” the guy said gruffly, then grabbed the front of Alec’s hoodie. He reared his arm back and Alec held his hands in front of his face, bracing himself to be hit.
“Sebastian,” someone said, and when Alec didn’t feel the blow, he peered through his fingers to see the very person he’d been running from.
“The fuck do you want, Bane?” the kid, Sebastian, said, and Alec could practically hear him sneer, his fist still held high in the air.
“Bane” was the kid Alec had been staring at all day, and appeared surprisingly calm about the whole situation.
“You know you can’t hit him,” he said, and he shook his tilted head a little, as if speaking to a small child.
“Who fucking asked you?” Sebastian spat, his eyes wide and angry. They were dark brown, almost black, and stood out alarmingly against his light blond hair and pale skin.
“Well, he probably would, if he could,” Bane said and pointed at Alec. Alec only blinked through his fingers, and when nobody moved, Bane rolled his eyes, took his wallet out of his pocket, and shoved a few bills into the fist Sebastian still had poised in the air.
“Go buy yourself a new lunch…and a new shirt,” he said and wrinkled his nose. Sebastian finally let go of Alec’s hoodie and shoved him away. Alec stumbled back as Sebastian stalked past him, leaving his tray and spilled food on the floor for someone else to clean up. Bane watched him go, then turned back to Alec who was busy readjusting his hoodie. The students who’d been watching the altercation take place were now walking away, uninterested, and disappointed a fight hadn’t broken out.
“You know, if you hadn’t run away from me, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” Bane observed, looking back at Alec. Alec’s head whipped up; he hadn’t been expecting the guy to talk to him.
“I—I wasn’t… I mean I didn’t—”
“Magnus,” Bane said and stuck his hand out before Alec could embarrass himself further. Alec stared at the outstretched hand. “See this is the part where you take my hand and tell me your name, and then we shake,” Magnus added and quirked an eyebrow. Alec shook his head, still slightly disoriented by both the altercation with Sebastian, and the fact that someone like Magnus was speaking to him.
“Sorry, uh, Alexander, Alec, I mean…my name is Alec.” He took Magnus’s hand, mentally kicking himself in the process. Magnus's hand was smooth, his grip firm. Alec didn't want to let go.
“I know,” Magnus smirked. Alec pulled his hand away and readjusted his shoulder bag.
“Th—thank you, for, uh, for that,” he said, indicating Magnus saving him from a black eye on his first day at a new school. Magnus just shrugged.
“Don’t worry about Sebastian. He probably would’ve dropped the tray on the way to the lunchroom anyway.” Alec laughed lightly at that. He noticed then that the sparklyness on Magnus's shirt was "Brooklyn" picked out in rhinestones. “So I take it you like what you see?” Magnus added, and Alec’s eyes widened.
“W-what?” he stammered.
Magnus gave Alec a wry smile. “Well you’ve been staring at me all day.”
Alec sputtered something incoherent, his cheeks flaming.
“It’s okay, I tend to stand out,” Magnus added.
“Yeah, kind of,” Alec agreed, then sputtered again, trying to apologize for the gaffe. Magnus held up a hand, and Alec shut up. He leaned against the wall, his arms crossed in front of him, and looked Alec up and down.
“So, Alexander, this must be your first day.”
Alec blew out an exasperated breath and fell back against the wall himself.
“What gave it away?” he wondered, ducking his head and trying to hide the small grin playing on his lips.
“Just a hunch,” Magnus said and tilted his head. He smiled at Alec and it was genuine and his teeth gleamed a pearly white, and Alec found himself trying to fight off yet another blush as he looked back up at Magnus.
“Uh, let me pay you back for that,” he waved his hand vaguely, then rummaged in his bag for his wallet if only to keep his red face from view behind his hair. Magnus scoffed and waved his own hand dismissively.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“No, really, here,” Alec insisted and thrust a wad of bills at Magnus.
“I’ll tell you what—why don’t you buy me a soda and we’ll call it even?” Magnus suggested and then pointed to a pair of vending machines on the opposite side of the alcove they were standing in.
“Oh. Ok, sure,” Alec agreed. They walked to the machines and he handed Magnus the money, who stuck it in the one with soda.
“Surprise me,” Magnus said, so Alec hit the button for orange. The bottle tumbled into the holder and Alec picked it up, then reached to hand it to Magnus.
“Oh, I don’t drink soda,” Magnus said, and waved his hands in front of himself. Alec blinked at him like he was crazy for suggesting he buy him one then, but then smiled in understanding. Ducking his head again, he put the bottle in his bag.
Magnus crossed his arms again and leaned against the machine, regarding Alec once more.
“You’re cute, Alexander,” he said and Alec’s head whipped up. Before he could stammer another incoherent sentence, Magnus was asking him for a pen. He furrowed his brow, then rummaged through his bag again and found one. The other boy took it, then reached for Alec’s left hand. Alec pulled it away quickly, sticking out his other hand instead. Magnus just quirked an eyebrow, but took his right hand anyway, then began to write something on Alec’s palm, and Alec silently berated himself for his hand being so sweaty.
When Magnus was done, he leaned into Alec’s personal space, and tucked the pen into Alec’s jean pocket. Alec’s breath hitched in his throat and he praised whatever higher being existed that there was no one else around.
“Call me,” Magnus breathed into his ear just as the bell rang, then stepped back and stalked off as students started milling into the alcove. Magnus’s breath had sent a shiver down Alec’s spine, and he stood rooted to the spot until someone had accidentally bumped him.
Alec’s breath whooshed out of him in a gust, and he ran up the stairs to his next class.