The pain searing through Alec’s body is unbearable, doubled by his and Izzy’s bond. Her pain is sharp and bright, echoing his own, as his tunes are burned off his body. He can’t hold back the screams anywhere, his voice resounding loudly across the stone room. The technician looks at him with empty eyes, the eyes of a cruel torturer who sees a sort of beauty in the pain they inflict on others. With more effort than anything he has ever done before, Alexander Lightwood closes his mouth and forces himself to be silent. His hazel eyes bore into the technician, and the silent defiance seems to enrage the technician. Good, Alec thinks viciously, let him be frustrated and angry with how it is going. With each rune removed, it takes more out of him, takes away the part of him that made him who he is. The pain becomes so hard to resist he finds himself retreating deeper into the bond he has with Isabelle, his parabatai, his sister, his bonded soul. He loses himself in her, and passes out.
It had started when he was 12. When his body had started to change, to match the one of the girls around him. Then he had realized what was wrong. Mind full of the righteousness of the angels, of the imperative to follow the Shadowhunters Laws, he told his parents immediately. He hadn’t understood their anger back then. They had tried to make him change, forbidding to ever speak of it, but Alec had a stubborn streak he inherited from them.
When it had become evident that this wasn’t going away, this was never going to change, Robert had left the family house and had only brief, succinct interaction with him. His mother, Maryse, had reluctantly accepted it, repeating to herself over and over again that the Angels did not make mistakes when crafting Their children, and that, if this was Their will, then who was she to go against it? However, she had known what the Clave would do to Alec if that became known. She had seen it with her brother Maxwell, and he had only loved men. She had not dared to think what they would do to her child if he spoke of it. So they had struck an agreement. She would help him with the changes, find him help the mundane way, and in exchange he would pretend that he was a girl whenever a Clave Envoy was there, or any important family. Some people knew, the Penhallows amongst them, but few people were granted that trust.
But of course, it could not last forever. Alec’s body, whose feminine curves he had hated, had started becoming more and more masculine over the years, until he was almost not recognizable as Maryse and Robert Lightwood’s first born daughter by the time he was in his early 20s. So the deal had shifted. When a Clave envoy came by, he pretended he was not a Lightwood but rather just a lowly Shadowhunter. He hadn’t minded that freedom. He explored New York more, in those times. His mother wasn’t watching his every step, afraid that their scheme would be discovered.
It was when Max had come to visit from their father’s estate that it had all blown to pieces. Max had no memories of him before he was Alexander, a fact Alec was infinitely grateful for. To Max, he had always been the big brother, the comforter and the helping hand, just as much as Jace was.
The boy had thrown himself in Alec’s arm in front of a Clave Envoy, not realizing what he was doing. It hadn’t taken long for Victor Aldertree to figure out what was going on. After that, it had been a quick and easy decision by the Clave to cast him out and derune him, which had led him to the unfathomable pain he is in now.
When all his runes have been removed, they don’t allow him any time to recover. Earlier they had strapped him to the table with only his underwear, a bra two sizes too small that digs into his chest and a pair of comfortable men’s boxer he bought at a mundane shop. Now, they toss him some clothes, clearly not his fit, too large and too small at the same time, an odd combination that gives him the impression of being a in a giant dwarf’s clothing. They barely wait for him to finish getting dressed before two guards escort him outside of the Institute, and he finds himself thrown on the ground, blissfully soft with the beginning of summer. He gets back up slowly and turns to face them. His eyes are still defiant and angry, but he doesn’t give them the satisfaction of his pleas. The fathom feeling of Izzy’s heartbeat is still there in his chest, and despite knowing he has lost this forever, it reassures him. The guards stay at the door, their hand on their seraph blades. Their stances are as defiant as his glare is; they are daring him to come closer, to come attempt to go back to what has been his home for the last fifteen years.
He doesn’t. Instead, he salutes mockingly and, without turning his back on them, fades into the darkness of the evening’s shadows.
Strangely enough, the fear and panic he had expected to take hold of him as soon as he was thrown out don’t come. The anger, yes. Anger isn’t even the right word. Fury is closer to it, and even then there is something so casual about it. The feeling inside him is powerful and vast, oceans forming and dying in his chest. He is the universe in that moment, creating a world within himself, bringing life and destruction. Life has no meaning beyond breathing, a life of emptiness and liberty.
He is wandering the streets of New York, the night dark and heavy around him, when he hears the scream. He runs towards it without thinking, instinct kicking in despite all that he just went through. He should be exhausted, was until a few moments ago, but the fear in the scream, the terror, he can’t go against that.
He arrives in a dark alley and sees a little girl, skin dark and eyes like galaxies with golden sparks around her face and hands, facing a large demon. It’s instinct again that has him throwing himself in front of her as the demon strikes, reaching for a blade that won’t be there. He pushes the little girl away, shielding her with his body. He hopes that, if he can protect her long enough, she might get to escape and find refuges in places demons like this one dare not to go too often.
Alec turns, and all his defiance of the day is back in his bones. He may not be a shadowhunter anymore, but he had dedicated himself to being a protector, for his family or for his city. He was born a protector, and he might have chosen a name that meant warrior, but it was out of desire to protect.
Despite his weaponless and weakened state, Alec is still lethal. He moves swiftly, almost gliding on the air as he distracts the demon, who is attracted by its new pray. It almost feels he is using runes again, moving like this and grabbing some pipe he finds on the floor to hit. It’s not overly effective, but it does the job of pushing the demon back slightly. If he can just wait until other shadowhunters arrive...
He doesn’t have time. The second strike he attempts is slower, and the demon avoids it easily, before attacking again. It hits Alec in the chest and knocks him on the ground. Claws are digging into his chest, tearing him apart, poison is infiltrating his veins slowly.
A blue spark runs around the demon’s body, and at first it doesn’t seem to notice it, but then the spark gets stronger, stopping his movements and burning him slowly, becoming a fire.
Strange, Alec thinks slowly, his eyelids heavy and his brain falling quiet, warlock magic is usually stronger in the first few seconds.
He hears steps and feels a touch on his brow, but his eyes are already closed, and the last thought he has before falling into darkness is that he never had the opportunity to be fully himself.
A gentle light filters through the blinds when he wakes up. Underneath him, the mattress is just firm enough, but he can still comfortably melt on it. Definitely not at the Institute then. He looks around, trying to sit up, but a sharp pain pierces at his chest. He looks down, and there is an asymmetry there, a strange flatness on the left side while the right side is still showing the same hated curves. Bandages are also tightly wound around him, some cream oozing off as he tries to move.
His groans of pain must have brought his host to the room, because the door on the left side springs open and the little girl from last night step back inside again. She smiles shyly and he does his best to answer it as she walks closer. Behind her, a tall man appears in the doorway, skin tan and expensive clothing adorning him. Alec has the feeling he has already met him or seen him, and it takes him a few seconds of squinting before he remembers. The man in the doorway is Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn.
He tries to straighten up again but Bane tuts and glowers slightly, unhappy with him for that.
“Please don’t move, you’ll tear open the stitches if you keep trying. Healing magic isn’t my specialty.”
“That’s Catarina Loss’, right?” Alec croaks out, his throat stinging painfully with dryness.
Bane waves a hand and a cup of water appears near his hand. “A shadowhunter then.”
At Alec’s grimaces, both from the pain of drinking on his own, although the little girl attempts to help him, and from the reminder of his new fallen status, the warlock looks a bit surprised.
“So it’s not simply a glamour. You have been deruned. What’s your name?”
Alec sighs. “Alexander Trueblood.” It may be safer to use his mother’s name for now. Plus... he has been thinking about it, and maybe using it, when his mother is the only parent who helping him, even in her own misguided way, is not that that bad of a thing.
There is a strange gleam, calculating and curious, in the warlock’s eye. He must be aware that the last Trueblood male was his uncle Maxwell, who was deruned years ago.
Magnus Bane is, after all, a very wise and old warlock who has crossed paths with many a shadowhunter along the years. Alec knows the Lightwoods have a history with him, so it would make sense the Truebloods do as well. But still. It’s potentially less dangerous to use that name and despite Magnus’ look, he doesn’t say anything.
So Alec turns to the little girl and smiles as best as he can. “And who might you be?”
“I’m Eve Galivant.” She smiles back shyly and gives him water again. “Thanks for helping me yesterday. That demon was really big!”
He nods, again noting like the previous night her galaxy eyes, and her golden spots around her nose and mouth. He notices also the way her hands seem to shimmer in the light, rainbow like scales adorning her knuckles. She hasn’t mastered her glamour yet, he supposes that she’s too young. She’s beautiful, and when he compliments her she giggles and comes closer to him. Magnus observes them without saying anything, but when Alec glances at him he notices the ready to fight stance he has. He can’t even blame him, doesn’t even think about it; Alec has heard the tales of the Circle and the Clave before them. He has seen trophies in manor of old families, horns and claws proudly shown, and patriarchs boasting of their kills. It had seemed so normal back then, so ingrained in the culture despite the Accords having outlawed them years ago. Alec had always been slightly uneasy at the sight of them, wondering whether it would be him at some point, when they learned about him.
He looks back at Magnus and nods, thankful. “Thank you for healing me. Is Eve your ward?”
He has heard of downworlders taking younger members in, helping them reach their potential and grow safely away from the mundanes. And from the shadowhunters, it would seem.
Magnus nods curtly, clearly wary of the deruned shadowhunter in his guest bedroom. So Alec only smiles gently to Eve and makes sure she wasn’t hurt in the attack.
Weariness starts to fall on him quickly, his body still exhausted from the attack and the older warlock ushers the girl out gently as he fades back into darkness.
He comes back to himself again in the evening, the light almost completely gone. He sits up and when no pain is forthcoming, he looks down and sees that the bandages around his chest are new and more even. He guesses Bane is not the one behind those bandages.
Slowly, he stands up and paddles away from the bed. His body is tired from fighting against the demon’s poison, but there is a bone deep exhaustion he can’t identify. He doesn’t think too much about it for now; he just wants to find something to eat, or someone that will be able to help him with his quest for nourishment.
When he opens the door, he hears soft voices coming from a bit further away. The conversation becomes clearer as he walks toward it.
“— in no way or shape a danger to Eve, Magnus,” a feminine voice say, calm and poised.
“Still, they are a shadowhunter, deruned or not. They could still be a threat.” Bane answers in a slightly less calm voice. “I can’t believe I took them in, after everything.”
“Eve asked you to. They saved her.”
“That might be the first time a shadowhunter willingly sacrifices themselves for a Shadow Child.”
“It’s uncommon, yes, but this one did. Give them the benefit of the doubt.”
“They lied about their identity. There is no Alexander Trueblood anywhere in the Clave records.”
It’s then that Alec steps in the room. “Who did you ask?”
He ignores the surprised startles of both persons in the room, only looking at Bane. The warlock turns to him, brown eyes looking through Alec’s very soul. It sends a shiver down his spine, and he doesn’t know if it’s in fear or in admiration.
“I asked the local Head of Institute.” He answers, a bit haughtily, but mostly defensive. He crosses his arms to mark his point and his biceps bulge the satin shirt he is wearing.
“Yes, and she assured me there is no more Truebloods. And she would know, she’s the last one in the Clave.”
Crossing his arms as well, Alec glares at the warlock. “You spoke to my mother then.”
Understanding dawns slowly on Bane’s guest, who tugs on his sleeve and gives him a hard look. There is a few seconds of silent communication between the two, before Alec’s host relaxes in his seat.
“Fine, I’ll overlook your little identity mishap, mister Trueblood. Mister, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Alec retorts, aware of his chest still in bandage and fully visible, “Alec is enough.”
He turns to the woman sitting next to the warlock and recognizes from the Clave’s files Catarina Loss. That explains the lack of pain and the better applied bandage. She’s more beautiful in person, parts of her glamour down. Her hair is a beautiful white that reminds him of freshly fallen snow. He extends a hand to her, which she takes and shakes softly.
“An honor to meet you, miss Loss,” he says and means it.
She gives him a brief smile. “I’m glad to see you’re back on your feet, Alec.”
He nods, “Thanks to you and Magnus, I believe.” He turns to Magnus at that point. “Thank you for saving me last night, I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t burned that demon.”
Magnus frowns, a bit surprised. “You’re welcome, but I didn’t burn it. Neither did Eve, for that matter. When I arrived, the fire was leaving and the demon was dead.”
Alec frowns as well. There hadn’t been anyone else in the alley. Or maybe he simply hadn’t noticed them, and they had left before Magnus could see them. The magic had been so strange, unlike any Alec had seen before. It had worked so differently, but it had felt so natural, so peaceful, as the monster had burned. He doesn’t dwell on the mysterious stranger who apparently rescued him.
“You were deruned recently?” Catarina asks, noticing the tension in both men’s shoulders.
Alec winces and nods. “Yes. Yesterday.”
“May we ask why?”
With a scoff, Alec points at himself. “Have you seen who I am? A freak. A monster. The Clave can’t have a trans shadowhunter running around. I’m going against the wish of the angels or some bullshit.”
They both look horrified now. The two warlocks exchange a glance before Bane stands back up smoothly, his gestures full of an innate grace that Alec begrudgingly admire.
“If that’s the case,” he says and waves a hand, a glass of water appearing for Alec in his hand, that he extends to him, “you’re welcome here anytime. You can stay here until you find a place on your own as well. Eve has taken a liking to you and she would dislike for me to kick you out.”
Alec accepts the glass and drinks it slowly. “Where is she?”
Cat smiles a bit and points to the corridor. “Blue door. She wanted to wait for you for dinner. Would you mind going to get her?”
He shakes his head and leaves the room. As he walks away, he hears her saying to Magnus, “See, he can’t be that bad, can he?” He doesn’t hear the warlock’s answer, knocking on the blue door, which flies open quickly enough.
The room inside is beautiful, decorated carefully with models of planets and an aquarium shines on the side. Eve is coloring a book on a bright blue carpet, and when she turns her whole face lights up as she sees Alec.
“Mister Alexander!” She runs up to him and stops in front of him. Her smile is bright and and happy. She clearly wants to reach out to him and hug him, but she has her eyes on his bandage and doesn’t move instead.
“Hi miss Eve,” he answers and smiles, opening his arms slowly.
She takes the cue and comes to hug him happily. “Thank you for helping me mister Alexander! I’m glad you are better! I was very worried but Magnus said you were going to be alright once Catarina was there so I wasn’t worried as much after that!”
He smiles at the exuberance of the little girl. She can’t be much older than 7, full of childish excitement and still blind to the ugliness of the world. She doesn’t question his chest, doesn’t question that he helped her. She probably doesn’t have much knowledge of shadowhunters.
“I’m doing much better thanks to you too. I know you were the one to get Magnus so that he could help me with the big demon!” He crouches to her level and smiles. “That was a very brave thing to do, coming back when you knew what was in the alley.”
“I knew I was going to be fine! I saw you light up the demon on fire, mister! I knew you were protecting me.” She nods sagely, unaware of the effects her words are having on Alec.
Him, the cause of that blue fire? That couldn’t be. He didn’t have a stele, or anything else. She is mistaken, obviously. Probably hasn’t seen the stranger who helped them and then ran off. He can’t have started a fire with only his desire to do so. He is a Nephilim, not a warlock. He has no magic, except the one from his runes, and that one was stripped away from him the previous day.
“Did you now?” He smiles instead and pats her hair. “Doesn’t make you any less brave. Catarina said it was time for dinner, do you want to go with me? I don’t know Magnus and Catarina like you do, so maybe you can help me?”
She beams at the suggestion and takes his hand, leading him towards the kitchen. She chatters all the while, and he loses himself in her stories and opinions. Eve appears to be, despite her young age, very determined on many things in life, and most of all she wants to go see the stars from “very close, mister Alec.” He doesn’t doubt that she will.
The kitchen is a mess of pans and vegetables half cut up, Magnus and Catarina frustratingly trying to finish the meal. It seems that the two warlocks, immortal beings with magic bleeding from their veins and a cloud of grace dancing around them, are somewhat lost in the kitchen. Alec isn’t much better, to be quite honest, but he at least knows that Magnus should not be holding the potato that way to peel it. He wonders briefly why they don’t use magic to do all this, before the little hand in his reminds him why. They are probably trying to show to Eve that magic doesn’t do everything and that she should still learn to do things the mundane way. He finds it endearing.
“Do you want some help,” he asks as he lifts Eve up, who giggles slightly, and puts her on a chair. “I know how to peel potatoes, if needed.”
Magnus glowers at him slightly, but there is no real heat behind it. He accepts Alec’s help by extending to him the potatoes and the peeler. A bit tired, Alec sits next to Eve and starts peeling the potatoes. The girl asks questions after questions, and he answers them patiently as he works at his task. It’s relaxing to have something to do with his hands. He yearns for his bow to practice, but he knows it’s lost to him forever now. If he manage to find a way to get some money, he could potentially get a new one. It would never be the same quality as his own, made with adamas and blessed by Raphael, but it would be a new one at least.
He only notices that he has peeled all the potatoes because he almost peel his own skin off accidentally. Eve stops him before he can do it, her eyes big and scared for him. He doesn’t know if him helping her is worthy of all this affection, but he’ll take it gladly. He’s glad that here, no one seems to judge him for who he is. It feels relaxing.
It’s only when he is finishing cutting some tomatoes that he notices he is still not wearing a shirt. He looks at Bane and gestures to himself.
“I don’t suppose my shirt survived last night?”
“Sadly, your terribly dry and boring black Clave issued shirt has indeed passed away due to the demon attacking you.” He snaps his fingers and fabric covers Alec suddenly, a black hoodie falling on his head. “You can borrow this, however. It should be your size.”
Giving a thankful nod, Alec puts on the hoodie with some difficulty. The pain in his body is mostly gone, but his left arm is still sore and somewhat numb, and it makes dressing somewhat awkward. He manages to put it on on his own though, and then helps with finishing dinner. Eve and Catarina are chatting together and Alec and Magnus are nearly shoulder to shoulder as they cook. Alec is not a great cook, far from it. But he knows how to follow instructions, at least. So when Magnus hands him out the recipe and starts telling him what to do in a quiet voice, he obeys.
Afterward, their meal is quite good. Eve clearly enjoys it, if the way the golden specks on her face seem to sparkle is of any indication. It’s sweet, truly. Alec stays quiet for most of the meal, his tiredness catching up with him. When he starts yawning at too regular intervals, and Eve is as well, Catarina ushers them both to bed. She checks on Alec’s bandage and gives him a potion to drink. Despite the unnatural green color of the liquid, Alec listens to Catarina’s orders and drinks it. Not five minutes late, he falls into a dreamless sleep.