Magnus is making them tea, by hand, when he hears the cough. It’s the wet sort of cough, the one that makes you wince in sympathy because you remember how painful it is. Magnus turns around and sees Alec walk into the kitchen, face hidden in the crook of his elbow, hand pressed to his chest. He finishes coughing, clears his throat.
“Sorry for that,” he says, and comes closer, drawing Magnus in for a hug. Magnus allows it, of course, how could he not, lets one of his hands caress Alec’s back and the other rub the back of his neck. Alec hides his face in the crook of Magnus’ neck, his breath tickling the sensitive skin there.
“Darling,” he opens with, gently, knowing very well Shadowhunter health or injuries are somewhat of a sore subject. They walk off the small stuff, and for the big stuff, they have their iratzes. Alexander is, of course, getting better the longer they are together, allowing Magnus to heal him here and there, but still.
He can feel more than hear Alec’s answering hum. He moves his torso back, just slightly, not wanting to dislodge the hands around his waist, but wanting to see Alec’s face. He keeps his palm on Alec’s neck.
“Darling, are you getting sick?” he searches Alec’s face and doesn’t see any of the obvious signs of sickness. No red glassy eyes, no flushed cheeks and Alec’s neck feels normal to the touch, so he’s not burning up yet.
“Magnus, you don’t have to worry about me, it’s just a cough,” Alec responds, words honest as far as Magnus can tell. He moves his thumb, runs it over Alec’s cheek.
“Well then, if you’re sure,” he kisses Alec softly, squeezes his shoulder and turns back to the tea, “go ahead, I’ll bring the tea and we can start the movie.”
Alec coughs a little throughout the movie but insists he feel perfectly fine and Magnus shouldn’t worry about him.
Magnus, of course, worries about him.
He texts Isabelle, asking her to please keep an eye on her brother for the next couple of days. Her reply is a cheeky don’t I always which makes Magnus breathe easier. He is so very grateful that their families work together so well, that he was accepted by these young Shadowhunters with mostly open arms and that his own found family is slowly accepting Alec as well.
Catarina was among the first, her own dealings with Shadowhunters limited, as she usually kept to herself or to the Warlock community. But of course, Magnus is aware that even she, as far removed as she could be from any Shadowhunter business without staying at the Spiral Labyrinth, even she still had some bad experiences will Alec’s kind. She trusts Alec, something that Magnus did not expect to happen as fast as it did, but perhaps she saw in him what Magnus sees; his willingness to listen, to learn, to change. And he does, and he has. It hasn’t even been a year and the differences between the Alec he met and the man sitting next to him on the sofa are diametrical.
Alec places his hand on Magnus’ thigh, squeezes the muscle there and effectively interrupts any and all trains of thought.
“Yes darling,” Magnus turns to his husband, placing his hand over Alec’s, running his thumb over Alec’s ring.
“Mm, nothing, you were lost somewhere. What were you thinking about?” and of course Alec would notice. They’ve come a long way from the days where Magnus could, for lack of a better word, bullshit his way through a conversation without Alec being none the wiser.
Magnus looks at him, at his relaxed shoulders, the way he’s leaning into his body, their legs pressed together. They’re comfortable with each other now, comfortable in each other’s personal spaces, and it’s something Magnus cherishes beyond words. They’ve been together but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, but Magnus isn’t sure he’s ever been this content with another person. He’s opened his heart to a handful of people over the centuries, yes, but all the previous relationships have always been marred by his immortality and the other person’s lack thereof. He’s either given too much or not enough, and while he doesn’t regret any of them-- he would not be the person he is today without those experiences, without the people he loved and lost-- he is also aware just how much the immortality issue bothered him, even when he insisted it did not.
He realizes he didn’t respond to Alec when a hand rubs his leg, a soft kiss is placed on his shoulder.
“I apologize,” he opens with, but Alec’s disgruntled little noise tells him there’s no need, “I was lost in thought, it appears.”
“You can say that again,” Alec says, voice tinged with dry humour. Magnus squeezes his hand, brings it up to kiss the back of it, then keeps their fingers intertwined, hands on his chest, above his heart.
“I was thinking about how lucky we are,” he says, voice low, “to have the families we do. To have their acceptance and support, their love.”
Alec looks at him, his fingers squeezing around Magnus’.
And then he breaks into a series of wet coughs that rock his entire body.
“Yes, you are obviously fit as a fiddle, absolutely no need for me to worry about you.”
Isabelle keeps him apprised of the situation at the Institute, at least when Alec is in New York and not portalling to Alicante or wherever else his new role of Downworlder Liaison leads him.
When he gets home that evening, Alec looks more tired than usual, falling onto the sofa with his jacket still on, shoes smearing mud all over their carpet.
Magnus tuts and magics it away, ready to reprimand his dear stubborn husband about dirty shoes in their home when he looks at Alec’s face.
There’s a light sheen of sweat on it, and he looks a little flushed. His breathing has a slight wheeze to it that Magnus does not like at all, especially because he can hear it from a couple of feet away.
He waves his fingers, calling his magic, and a glass of lukewarm water materialises in his hand.
Alec makes a small relieved noise when Magnus’ palm connects with his forehead. Magnus hisses. Alec is burning up, his forehead hot to the touch. He sends a soothing wave of magic to his fingers, letting it wash over Alec’s flushed skin slowly, trying to offer him at least a little bit of relief.
“Here,” Magnus brings the water to Alec’s lips, “try to drink this. Isabelle texted me and said you didn’t have time to eat lunch, so once you’re done with the water, I’ll reheat some of the soup Maryse brought us over the weekend, mm?”
Alec takes barely three sips from the glass before he’s shaking his head, mumbling a not hungry, leaning into Magnus’ palm like it’s the best thing he’s ever felt. Magnus puts the glass on the coffee table, thinks about the washcloths in the bathroom, about cold water, about relief, and his magic supplies him with a cold wet washcloth the next second. He places it gently on Alec’s forehead and when Alec groans and leans into it, he forgets what he wanted to do next, why he’s standing up. But Alec grabs blindly for his arm, stopping him, and brings Magnus’ palm back to his burning neck and leans into the touch like a cat does into a caress.
“Am I allowed to worry now, dearest?” Magnus asks, not expecting a response beyond a dismissive noise.
He’s surprised when Alec’s eyes open and look up at him. They’re glassy, a little red, unfocused. His voice is scratchy when he speaks.
“Magnus, I think I’m sick,” he says, corners of his mouth pulling down in his unhappiness at the situation. And Magnus knows just how much this admission cost him. He moves the washcloth, which is warm now anyway, and places a kiss on Alec’s forehead.
“Oh darling, I’m sorry,” he murmurs.
“Not your fault,” Alec replies in his ruined voice.
“Let me call Catarina,” Magnus offers, because he can heal with the best of them, but he is no diagnostician, and if he doesn’t know what to heal, he could do more damage than good. Injuries are generally pretty straightforward, or to be more precise: centuries of experience with injuries has made their healing more straightforward, and the decade in which he decided to study medicine and learn the human anatomy and how the body should work was also a lot of help in this regard. The human body and its anatomy do not change. However, viruses and bacteria, one of which Alec seems to be plagued with, evolve quite drastically, as does their treatment.
His phone is in his hand and ringing before Alec can protest.
“Magnus, hello,” Catarina says after picking up on the third ring.
“Hello Cat, do you have a moment?” he asks, because he knows Cat always picks up his calls, no matter how busy she is. They have an agreement, and they have always honored it.
“I have,” there’s a pause, and he can hear voices in the background, a voice over the PA, “three minutes,” she says.
“Alec is sick,” Magnus says, and Catarina makes a surprised noise.
“And I am hearing no protests from the husband so I assume it is quite dire?” and while her words would generally be teasing or tinged with amusement, they’re serious now.
“He has a fever, a cough, there’s a wheezing noise when he breathes, he looks two steps from the grave Cat,” Magnus says, and now Alec tries to mumble something along the lines of I do not, but his voice is weak and barely audible now.
“That does sound wretched, I am so glad Warlock immunity is what it is,” she adds and Magnus has to agree. Being immortal while being able to catch every common cold or flu-- Magnus shudders at the thought.
“Okay here’s what you’re going to do,” Catarina instructs, “put him in comfy clothes, but one layer only, then into bed with him, under a heap of blankets. He needs fluids, food might not be an option if he’s feeling as bad as I think he is, but try and make him drink water or tea, or weak broth. Cold compresses for the fever, don’t give him any medicine yet, we don’t know what precisely he has so I wouldn’t want to make it worse.”
Magnus is nodding along with her speech, waving away Alec’s work clothes and putting him in sweats and a t-shirt. Alec mumbles a soft thanks, tries to cuddle closer to Magnus.
“My shift ends in,” he thinks Cat checks her watch then, or a clock on a wall, and he hears her groan, “three hours. God, I love this job but sometimes I just want to,” she makes an angry tired noise and Magnus absolutely understands. Cat takes a deep breath.
“It’s been a day. Okay, my shift ends in three hours, Madzie has a sitter who can stay a couple of minutes longer, so I’ll portal to your building right after shift change and examine Alec.”
Magnus sighs, relieved.
“Thank you, Cat, thank you so much.”
“Of course. He’s family, Magnus,” she says, voice soft. Magnus’ eyes prickle with tears. He closes them, takes a deep breath of his own.
“That he is,” Magnus tells her, just as soft.
They hang up a couple of seconds later and when Magnus looks down, he sees that Alec managed to fall asleep. His forehead is pressed to Magnus’ bare biceps, his skin apparently giving Alec some needed relief from the fever. He runs his fingers gently through Alec’s hair. He doesn’t want to wake him, but the position he’s in now would leave him with a sore neck and back.
Magnus makes an executive decision, gets up, puts his arm gently behind Alec’s back, the other behind his knees, and picks him up, bridal style. Alec stirs, makes a confused face and then his head lols to Magnus’ shoulder and one of his hands clutches at Magnus’ shirt.
He carries Alec through the loft like that, uses his magic to open the bedroom doors and carefully maneuvres them both through it.
After Alec is deposited in their bed, covered with a duvet and a blanket on top, Magnus changes from his work clothes into a pair of silk pants and, in a moment of self indulgence, one of Alec’s t-shirts. He gets more washcloths, puts a spell on them to keep them cool, and a glass of water and a mug of herbal tea.
When everything he can think of is ready, he half sits half lies down next to Alec, putting his feet into the frankly obscenely hot cocoon of his blankets. Alec immediately burrows closer to him, putting an arm around his waist and once again pressing his face into Magnus’ biceps.
Magnus reaches for a washcloth and places it on the back of Alec’s neck.
They pass the three hours before Cat’s arrival like that, Alec sleeping fitfully, being woken up every ten minutes or so by that horrible cough, and Magnus changing washcloths, giving Alec sips of tea.
He texts Isabelle to let her know not to expect Alec tomorrow, and to please make his excuses to whomever might be affected by his absence. He finds a text from Jace, a short he finally admitted he’s sick then? and chuckles at it. Like he has a leg to stand on. He texts back, tells Jace he’ll update him when Cat tells him more. Maryse has apparently been informed by someone, probably Isabelle, because the next ping is a text from her, to let her know what Cat said and to tell her if they need her to bring them anything.
He feels Cat portal in then, and opens the door for her, which lets the wards know she can come in. She’s of course keyed into them, and could probably force her way in even if she wasn’t, having known Magnus as long as she has, but they both value their privacy, so even though they both have access to the other’s permanent residence, they still follow common courtesy and don’t portal directly inside the other’s space.
Cat knocks on the bedroom door and comes in, still in her scrubs, glamour still on.
She rarely used to wear it, in private--
“Has he slept?” she opens with, breaking Magnus’ train of thought.
“Here and there, the cough always wakes him up sooner or later,” Magnus tells her, making to move away from Alec. Cat halts him with a gesture.
“You can stay with him, I’m sure your presence alone makes him feel at least 60% better,” Cat says with a smile.
“Hey, Catarina,” a tired voice interjects from under the blankets. There’s some weak kicking and then Alec manages to move himself a little up, flopping his body back against Magnus.
“Hey Alec, how are you feeling?”
Alec coughs instead of answering. Catarina, to her credit, only laughs a little bit.
“Not that great, I take it?” and Alec confirms with a shake of his head.
“Okay,” she rummages around in her bag and takes out a little machine, then a small needle and what looks like another needle, this one see through.
“I’ll do a CRP test to see if there’s any inflammation in your body, I just need your finger for this, it shouldn’t hurt,” she disinfects Alec’s finger after he gives her his hand, her own gloves on already. She pricks his finger with the needle, pressing the sides of it to make blood pool in the tiny wound, and then collects it with the other needle like instrument.
“That’s it. Magnus can heal the little wound for you,” she says, swiping away the excess blood still slowly pooling on Alec’s finger, letting his hand go. Magnus takes it in his, magic already at his fingertips. He allows it to gently sweep over Alec’s hand, looking for any other small scrapes, because there always are some, and fixing those along with the tiny pinprick.
Alec appears to be mostly out of it, but he follows Cat’s directions and lets Magnus support him when his body decides it is too tired to stay up.
Cat listens to his heart and lungs, has him breathe in as deeply as he can which prompts another bout of coughing. She measures his temperature and then checks the CRP machine.
She makes an unhappy face at the results.
“You definitely need antibiotics,” she says to Alec, then looks at Magnus. Magnus makes a face as well.
“Can’t you guys just,” Alec says, shimmying his fingers in an approximation of Magnus casting a spell. Magnus sighs and runs his fingers through Alec’s hair.
“Unfortunately, this is not something that magic is very good at healing. I could, and I will, brew a potion that will speed your recovery, but the invention of antibiotics wasn’t groundbreaking only for the mundanes,” he doesn’t know how much of that Alec processed, but judging by his unhappy expression, he got the gist of it.
“I do have some of that healing potion at hand, Magnus, if you’d prefer. You can brew me a new batch to replace it when Alec’s healthy,” Cat offers, and Magnus nods in agreement, grateful to his friend for offering. The potion is not too complex when it comes to ingredients, but it does take hours to brew and requires most of the brewing process to be supervised.
“I’ll get you the antibiotics you need, beyond that-- the potion should support the medicine and speed up your recovery significantly, but prepare yourself for at least two days of being bedridden and feeling mostly wretched. The antibiotics should also help with the cough, but I will give you something for the night so that you can sleep uninterrupted. Magnus, you’ll brew lots of that herbal tea you like, if I remember right it has peppermint and eucalyptus which should help ease his breathing,” she waits for Magnus to confirm with a nod and goes on, “other than that, broth of any kind or any sort of food, if you can stomach it, no restrictions there.”
She pats Alec’s legs over the blankets. He looks miserable, hair matted with sweat, eyes glassy, lips dry.
“You’ll get through this, let Magnus take care of you for a couple of days, I swear he enjoys nothing more than to pamper someone, and you’ll be good as new in under a week.”
He can read Alec’s lips as they form an astonished a week?! and chuckles.
“Darling, you most probably have an infection of the respiratory system, and if we waited a little longer before starting the antibiotics, you could have ended up with pneumonia. Be glad it’s only going to be a week,” Alec doesn’t look mollified, but he does sigh and nod.
Magnus turns his attention to Cat, who’s packed everything back into her bag and is just about ready to go.
“Thank you, Cat, for coming,” he says, not sure how to otherwise express his deep gratitude for her assistance. She’s always willing to help, and he sees why the calling of a nurse as a profession speaks to her so much.
“Of course, Magnus. I’ll portal the antibiotics with instructions on how to take them and the potion to you,” she checks her watch, “hopefully in under fifteen minutes. Usual place okay?” she asks, and Magnus nods his assent. He’s sure he cleared the cabinet Catarina uses to ‘drop’ things off, so she should have no trouble using it.
“Great. Magnus, you know what to do if he gets worse,” she raises her brows.
“I will call you right away.”
She smiles at him and nods, wishes Alec a speedy recovery and portals away.
Alec sighs, a small and unhappy sound, and moves closer to Magnus, hiding his face in his side.
“I’m so tired, Magnus,” he mumbles against the material of his own t-shirt.
“Oh darling,” he sighs, runnings his fingers through Alec’s hair, getting rid of the sweat in them with his magic, “Cat will send the antibiotics and the potion soon, and while the antibiotics will take a couple of days to start working, the potion should help with the cough almost immediately. You should be able to sleep after you take it,” Magnus tells Alec in a soothing voice, keeping the volume low. A fever usually comes hand in hand with a headache, and even though Alec hasn’t complained of one yet, Magnus saw his wince when Cat turned on the light.
Alec is dozing when Magnus feels the wards ping, and he reaches for the medicine and potion with his magic. Apparently, Alec should take one pill every 8 hours, with food if possible, and the potion at Magnus’ discretion.
He knows Alec won’t eat anything now, so he just refills the mug with fresh tea and has Alec swallow the pill, drinking at least half of the mug. The potion comes next, five drops of it on a spoon, followed by a little more of the tea. Alec flops down on the bed, boneless, as if he just went through an extreme physical exertion. His breathing is shallow and fast, his pulse is racing.
Magnus lies down next to him, gently arranging Alec’s body around his own, offering as much comfort as he can. Alec sighs into his neck, his hot face pressed into the skin there.
“Thank you,” Alec whispers, squeezing Magnus weakly.
“There’s no need to thank me, Alexander,” Magnus tells him, because there isn’t. Even if they haven’t made some very official promises to each other in front of their families and the Clave, Magnus wouldn’t be anywhere else but here.
“Try and sleep, love,” Magnus whispers, running his fingers slowly up and down Alec’s back. He’s going to be very very warm and very very soon at that, but nothing could keep him away from Alec right now. A little discomfort never killed anyone.
He must nod off, because when he next opens his eyes, everything is-- Oh. Well, this hasn’t happened in over two centuries, Magnus thinks to himself. For him to change into his cat form, in his sleep no less, Magnus would sigh if he was human. Like this, he just flicks his tail. Softly, so as not to wake Alec, who is asleep under him. Magnus turns his head to assess his surroundings and sees that he is indeed lying on top of Alec, his small body curled into a tight ball right on Alec’s chest.
He considers moving - he’s light but it still cannot be helping Alec’s breathing, having a cat sleep on him for half a night. The moment he shifts, Alec’s arm shoots out to form a gentle cradle around his small feline body.
Looks like Magnus is staying exactly where he is.
He tries to go over his mental state before he fell asleep, looking for clues as to what might have prompted this absolutely unexpected turn of events. He loves his cat form, but due to how vulnerable it makes him, rarely does he indulge in actually switching to it. Thinking back, he’s sure he hasn’t used it since before Camille, even. It must have been the almost overwhelming sense of worry that carried him through the evening as they waited for Catarina to arrive and examine Alec, and then the wave of relief following her diagnosis. The knowledge that Alec will be okay soon, that he is sleeping and safe in Magnus’ arms.
Heightened emotions always make his magic come closer to the surface, but for it to decide to act out on its own… Magnus is quite baffled, and very glad that Alec slept through it. He trusts him implicitly, of course, but there is something holding him back from revealing this little detail about himself to him. Ragnor was the only one who Magnus chose to tell, and the secret died with him.
Asmodeus knows because he is a shapeshifter himself, and it was only logical his offspring inherited this trait from him.
Magnus blinks slowly, turning his face into Alec’s arm, nuzzling the warm skin. Alec makes a small noise of contentment, cradles the little cat on his chest closer, and moves to lie on his side. Magnus’ instincts almost overpower him, and Alec nearly ends up with a nice set of claw marks on his chest. Thankfully, Magnus is in control enough to stave the impulse and let his body go boneless, allowing himself to be manhandled by a half asleep Alec. When Alec settles him to his chest, keeping both arms around him protectively, he blinks his eyes open and looks down at Magnus.
His eyes are full of sleep, glassy from the fever, but Magnus sees something flash in them for a brief moment before it’s gone.
His voice is barely a whisper when he says, “Well hello there, you’re new,” and scratches at Magnus’ head very lightly. Magnus can’t help but lean into the touch. Alec’s eyes are closed when Magnus opens his own again, his breathing becoming sleep slow again.
Magnus stays where he is, his heightened senses allowing him to listen to Alec’s heartbeat and his breathing like he wouldn’t be able to in his human body. It’s calming, this visceral reminder of just how alive Alec is. Alive, and safe, in their bed, behind wards Magnus himself constructed. Nothing can touch them here.
He doesn’t realize he’s purring until Alec makes a snuffling sound from his sleep and drags the small cat body cradled in his arms even closer to his chest. Magnus settles in as comfortably as he can and keeps purring. He kneads his paws into Alec’s biceps, flicks his tail so it’s curled around his wrist. He feels warm and cozy, his small body purring steadily away.
The purring appears to be helping, Magnus thinks, as he feels Alec’s body settle into deeper sleep.
He can stay in his cat form for a little longer.
He yawns and looks at the alarm clock, realizing almost two hours have passed. Alec’s fever peaked half an hour ago and he’ll soon be woken up by the uncomfortable feeling of wet clothes and bone deep cold. Magnus licks at the arm that’s still holding him close to Alec’s chest and as it jerks a little at the foreign sensation, Magnus escapes Alec’s clutches.
He jumps over Alec’s body, getting back to his side of the bed, settles down, and thinks of his human form. He feels his magic shimmer over his fur, over his skin, and settle once more. He’s never been able to explain the workings of how he changes to Ragnor, and since so few Warlocks can actually shift into an animal form, the literature is scarce as well. Most of what Magnus read does not compare to his own experiences. He never wrote about it himself, of course, not wanting to publish even anonymously, because there is bound to be a Warlock stubborn enough to look for a source and actually find it. Ragnor accepted his short and not very informative I just think of my human body with a bemused expression and a demand for another drink, and they left it at that, Ragnor’s easy acceptance of this gift, as he called it, just one more thing that makes him miss his dear old friend every single day.
Magnus shakes his head lightly to return into the here and now. No use dwelling on such things when he has a sick husband to take care of. Alec is already stirring, shivering from the uncomfortable sensation of wet everything, and Magnus is there, fingers in his hair, shushing him, letting his magic flow over Alec’s body, getting rid of the sweat and drying his clothes. The blankets and sheets are next. Alec blinks at him, eyes sleep small.
“Mm, thank you,” he mumbles. Magnus can’t help his smile.
“Of course,” he whispers, keeping his voice low. He shifts into a sitting position, brings a cup of warm tea into the palm of his hand.
“You need to drink something, love,” he tells Alec, who makes a soft noise and shuffles a little further up the bed, his head now leaning against the headboard. He sighs, closes his eyes. Magnus brings the cup gently to his lips, tilting it only slightly. Alec takes a couple of sips and halts Magnus with a hand on his forearm.
“Thanks,” his voice is scratchy but a little louder now, “I thought there was a--” he stops himself before he finishes the thought, his eyebrows drawn together, eyes looking around the room.
“There was a what darling?” Magnus says, playing puzzled as best he can. Alec was asleep, and while he did wake a little bit and noticed Magnus in his cat form, he couldn’t have possibly recognized him while high in fever land, could he?
“Mm, I d’know, guess it was just a dream,” is what Alec says, looking into Magnus’ eyes as if searching for something, “c’mere?” his expression is pleading, tired eyes trained on Magnus.
The cup disappears, hopefully back to the kitchen counter, and Magnus is sliding back down into their bed, carefully arranging his body around his husband’s. Alec pushes his forehead against Magnus’ collarbone, sighing once more.
“I hate this,” he whispers. Magnus makes a commiserating noise, runs his fingers through Alec’s hair.
“I know, dearest, I’m sorry.”
“But I hate it a little less, because you’re here to take care of me,” Alec confesses, voice hushed.
Magnus hugs him a little tighter. He doesn’t think Alec’s unexpected moments of vulnerability, of absolute raw honesty, will ever stop feeling like this, like he’s been punched in the gut and needs to roar and bring his magic all around them just to protect this side of him, just to keep it to himself, just to not let the world destroy it.
He takes a deep breath, kisses Alec’s hair.
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, Alexander.”
º º º º º º
“Magnus,” Alec’s voice carries through their flat, “Magnus,” he repeats, impatience and worry clouding his tone.
“Yes?” Magnus is rounding the corner, entering their living room. He sees Alec go from one end of their balcony to the other, looking around.
“Have you seen Ginger?” he asks the street more than Magnus.
Magnus takes a couple of seconds to try and remember which unfortunate stray got the name Ginger here in London, and vaguely remembers a sand coloured tabby sitting in Alec’s lap, licking at his palm, looking at Magnus snootily. He might or might not have stuck out his tongue at her. He makes a small noise, searching his memory, trying to recall if he saw her this week.
“Not recently, no, I don’t think. Why?” he steps onto the balcony, coming closer to his husband and placing a calming hand on his arm.
Alec deflates, his shoulders slumping a little.
“I think we lost her,” he says, voice small. Magnus doesn’t know what to say, closes the remaining space between them and hugs him, taking some of Alec’s weight.
“She came in every morning, for food,” Alec says into Magnus’ neck.
“When was the last time you saw her?”
“A week and a half ago. She hasn’t stayed away that long since we got here,” Alec straightens, looking at Magnus, eyes a little lost. Magnus is lost for words once more. He is not one for platitudes, but the probability of the cat getting hit by a car or a different vehicle is pretty high, especially in London. It is also quite possible she just found a better source of food. Or a source of better food. Cats can be loyal, but not all are, especially not the ones who’ve lived as strays their whole life. Those ones know that their source of food can disappear from one day to the next.
He doesn’t know what it is that Alec sees in his expression, but it seems to fill him with a new wave of determination. Magnus feels apprehension filling his stomach. A determined Alec is a stubborn Alec is an Alec who won’t stop until he gets what he wants.
“We’re gonna find her,” he says, watching Magnus. Magnus waits one beat, two. When Alec doesn’t offer anything else, he nods very slowly.
“Okay?” Magnus says, voice a little unsure. He has no idea how Alec wants to accom-
“You’re gonna track her.”
“Oh no, Alec, you know it doesn’t-”
“I have her collar!” Alec interrupts his protests about how tracking animals is a completely different thing from tracking Mundanes or Nephilim. Magnus sighs. It’s been almost ten years and he wouldn’t change this stubborn man standing in front of him for anything in the world, but Gods does he wish Alec would listen to reason more often, especially at times like these.
Magnus takes a deep breath, knows that Alec is giving him time to gather his thoughts and that he already has at least seven arguments to rebuff whatever it is that Magnus will come up with. He lets his body deflate a little, brings the palm of his left hand to Alec’s neck.
“Okay,” is what he says, giving up without a fight, letting Alec have this one, because damn her but he’d miss that sandy coloured tabby too if he never got to see her smug face again.
Alec beams at him, and it’s worth it for that smile, too, anything would be worth making Alec smile at him like this, like he’s barely a twenty year old boy again, full of hope for the first time in a long time. Magnus’ heart thuds wildly in his chest. Ten years, he thinks, and here they still are.
“Thank you, I love you,” Alec says, in one breath, kissing Magnus hard and fast.
“Of course, love,” Magnus replies, his voice slightly deeper from the kiss and the onslaught of feelings.
“I’ll bring the collar?”
“Darling, you have a meeting at the Institute in,” Magnus checks the clock in the living room, “ten minutes. I, however, have the morning free today,” he offers.
“Okay, I’ll bring you the collar and you’ll see if you can track her?” Magnus nods and watches Alec dash back into the flat, probably into his study. Magnus sits down into the small chaise they keep on the balcony, brings himself a freshly made cup of coffee and looks around at the other cats.
There’s five of them by his count, which does seem to be a pretty low number. They haven’t reached the almost cult following they developed in New York - the cats loved Magnus but they adored Alec and the way he talked to them and pampered them, when they allowed it - but they have had at least ten cats here about a month and a half ago. Their numbers rarely went down, usually they had the very opposite problem. And Magnus does remember, now that he thinks about it, Alec mentioning that he hasn’t seen this or that cat in a while.
Maybe it’s not just Ginger who disappeared without a trace.
“Here it is, I bought it for her but she didn’t like it,” Alec says, appearing on the balcony and brandishing a red soft looking collar, “but!” he adds before Magnus can say anything, “she wore it for at least a day, that should be enough, right?”
It might be, but it also might not. Magnus doesn’t tell him that, because there is a plan that does not involve collars or tracking already forming in his mind. Magnus just takes the collar and places it gently on the small table, right next to his coffee, playing with the fastening.
He looks up when he realizes Alec has been silent and still for a couple of seconds. He’s playing with his wedding ring and Magnus’ heart throbs in his chest. He reaches out a hand, stilling Alec’s fingers and looks up into that worried face.
“I’ll do everything in my power to find her, Alexander,” Magnus says. That manages to bring a small smile to Alec’s lips, has him murmur a soft thank you . Magnus gets up from the chaise and kisses Alec, soft and slow. Alec sighs into it, presses his whole body as close to Magnus as he possibly can. When Magnus draws back, Alec follows him, eyes still closed. Magnus chuckles and gives him another small kiss.
“Where’s your meeting?” he asks him.
“South wing,” Alec groans, “those giant windows and lack of AC are gonna make for a fun day of meetings in this heat.”
Magnus makes a face. The south wing is indeed quite hateful, the last wing that hasn’t gone through extensive renovations yet, and while some decades ago the English Summer was mild and the Institute stayed a manageable temperature even in July and August, that is no longer the case today. The heatwaves have been getting more and more intense all over the world, and countries not used to it have been trying to catch up with the latest technology in keeping the heat out in the summer and keeping the heat in in the winter. It hasn’t been easy for anyone.
“A portal to the south wing entrance coming right up,” he waves a hand, the one that’s not around Alec’s shoulders, and a portal appears in their living room, “and a bottomless iced coffee, to make the day a little less tiresome,” he snaps his fingers, handing over a travel mug, ice clinking inside. He gets another kiss in exchange and then watches Alec slowly back up into the portal.
“Love you,” Alec says when he’s two steps away.
“Love you too, darling,” Magnus replies, completing their traditional goodbyes. A tradition it might be, but it doesn’t make the sentiment any less true.
Alec disappears, the portal closing automatically once he got to his destination.
Magnus turns around to look at the five cats on their balcony. They’re all looking back at him, as if waiting for something. Magnus narrows his eyes.
Their flat is warded, of course, but he has long since tweaked the wards he builds around their apartments to allow for feline guests to come as they please. Feline guests only, thank you for that one, Iris. Never let it be said that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes. This, however, means that he has no idea of the cats’ comings and goings. He would have gone crazy if the wards pinged every single time one of the cats crossed them, and so this new set up includes an upgrade that gets rid of said ping, for the cats only.
He wonders if shooing one of the cats away would work to reveal its route to and from the apartment. He knows the cats generally use the balcony - they rarely come inside the apartment itself because Alec taught them that food is served on the balcony, and pets are also received on the balcony, and only a select few have access to the living room on special occasions when cat cuddles are needed - so logic would dictate that it is a very good starting point.
The apartment being on the top floor of a four storey Victorian townhouse almost makes him reconsider. Then again, the cats are hardly using the stairs and sauntering in through the front door, so the balcony it is.
He looks at the cats again, takes a deep breath.
“This will be our little secret,” he says, and thinks of fur and a tail and pointed ears.
He’s on all fours before he knows it, five cats now frozen still on the balcony in front of him. He blinks slowly, waiting.
The cats sniff the air and seem to relax.
Magnus walks onto the balcony, jumping on the chaise and then the table to get a better view. He can almost see over the stone railing. His paw catches on something and when he looks down, he notices the red collar. He sniffs at it delicately. He can’t track like a dog would but his sense of smell is still much sharper than that of a human. Can’t hurt to at least get acquainted with Ginger’s scent.
He jumps on the railing and sits, starts cleaning his front paw. He’s hoping one of the other cats will jump up after him and maybe show him their way in and out. So far they’re all still dawdling on the balcony, sniffing the now empty food bowls. Magnus peeks over the railing.
He knows, intellectually, that he’s as high as he was when he was human, but to his cat self, the distance to the ground appears much greater. His cat instincts direct his gaze to the side of the building and he realizes he was right. The balcony is absolutely how the cats travel, and not just theirs but their neighbors’ as well. One thing about Victorian buildings? Lots and lots of footholds for smaller creatures, like cats, for example. He walks along the railing, cataloguing all the different ways he could make the climb down. His ear picks up a soft sound and suddenly there is a brownish cat sat next to him. It appears to be examining him, and once it makes its judgement, it jumps from the railing.
Magnus sees it land on the roof of the ornamental bay window of their downstairs neighbor. The cat walks around it for a bit, then looks up at Magnus as if beckoning him to follow. He tries to shake off his trepidation - he hasn’t used his cat form this extensively in centuries - and jumps.
His feline body does not fail him and he lands softly on all fours, claws digging into the roofing on instinct. It doesn’t seem slippery, so he retracts his claws, looks to check with the brownish cat but realizes it already went ahead and jumped another floor down, now onto the upper ledge of a window. It’s white and embellished with carvings, the stone around the windows made into such a shape that it looks as if it was supported by two pillars. He swears he once knew the name for all of these little Victorian era architecture details, but looking down at the grass and then the street below, he’s glad he remembers his own name. His Warlock and cat brain are at war, one warning him of a possible fall, the other exclaiming joyously for him to jump and go explore.
He’s a cat now, he already made one almost impossible looking jump, he can make this one too. He swishes his tail, shakes his butt, and jumps.
He lands, again, on all fours on that weird top ledge of the window. He’s now on the second floor and he sees that the tree growing in front of the next building has a branch that very conveniently reaches very close to where he is right now. He looks at it, tries to judge if it can carry his weight and realizes he probably weighs six pounds soaking wet. He lost sight of the brownish cat he was following, and he should have learned what Alec calls it because brownish cat is getting old. If he knows Alec at all, he probably calls it something absolutely ridiculous, like Buttercup. He focuses on the branch again and while it appears to be quite thick, he still won’t be able to land on it as comfortably as on this ledge or the roof of the bay window.
He narrows his eyes and makes the jump. His claws extend when he’s still mid-flight and he thanks all his cat instincts, because they’re the only thing that saves him from a very embarrassing flail and a possible fall. Three paws hit the branch and the claws sink into the wood, stopping his momentum and giving him enough time for his front left paw to also find a foothold. Pawhold? Who knows.
Climbing down the tree itself is no easy feat for a novice, but no one seems to notice him, so he isn’t worried about someone trying to rescue him, at least. He gets to a branch that seems a safe jumping distance from the ground and sees Buttercup waiting for him by the fence of the tiny yard that seems to be in front of every single townhouse in this city.
He jumps again, and trots on the soft grass to Buttercup, who makes eye contact and then starts walking.
Buttercup walks with its tail held high, body very close to the stone base of the fences that line the townhouses on this street. The sidewalk seems to bore Buttercup after a minute or two and so it jumps onto the stone part of the fence, making its way down the street there. Magnus stays on the pavement, mirroring Buttercup and staying close to the wall so as not to get trampled by the people rushing to and fro.
The fence changes, becoming a tallish wall of bricks covered in vines and Buttercup jumps to the very top of it. Magnus sighs inwardly, but jumps up to follow her, deciding that maybe Buttercup is not doing this out of sheer boredom but because that way has been proven by too many trips to count to be the fastest or safest. The top of the wall does offer him a nice view of the sidewalk as well as the small yards. Sometimes, a tiny dog barks as they pass an open window. Buttercup never flinches. Magnus cannot say the same for himself.
The vines disappear and the wall gets lower as they round a corner. Magnus does his best to remember the route, to be able to retrace these steps in his human form if needed. He’s never had trouble remembering things when he changes back, but he also never tested himself like this.
Buttercup stops abruptly, her head turning sharply. After a second, it’s as if nothing happened and Buttercup merrily continues on its way. Magnus looks around but can’t really see or hear anything out of the ordinary, so he follows.
He feels like they’ve been walking for ages when Buttercup finally sits, facing a townhouse not dissimilar to the one he and Alec live in. There’s a window open on the second floor, shortish curtains moving in the slow breeze. His cat eyes focus on the almost hypnotizing motion and he wants to jump . He swishes his tail instead, trying to break the odd spell the movement of the curtain put on him. Buttercup seems to be examining the yard; there is a trashcan with a lid that doesn’t quite fit, but the smell coming from it seems frankly vile, even to Magnus’ cat sensibilities. Buttercup must agree because the trashcan is dismissed and the cat wiggles its but and jumps.
The landing on the windowsill on the second floor is not the most elegant thing Magnus has ever seen, but who is he to judge.
The wall he is sitting on is quite high, and he sends a short thought to the poor people living on the first floor who can’t be getting any natural light at all through their windows, and then jumps as well.
The windowsill is covered by padding, and Magnus is very grateful for it.
He sees Buttercup lounging on a sofa.
Magnus is looking around, trying to figure out what to do next when he hears a voice.
“Oh look at you, such a cute kitty, are you Poppy’s new friend?” and Magnus looks up and sees a very old looking lady, her hair almost white with age, face lined heavily, glasses hanging on a chain around her neck. She approaches him slowly, not making any noise or saying anything else. There’s a chair placed a couple of feet from the window and she carefully sits down in it. She looks at him for a minute and then picks up a basket that’s next to the chair, puts it in her lap and takes out two knitting needles and multiple balls of yarn.
Magnus feels his eyes widen involuntarily. Crap.
She doesn’t acknowledge him, gets her needles and yarn ready and stars knitting.
The balls of yarn tumble in the basket as she pulls at the threads.
Magnus wants to jump at them.
Buttercup--Poppy is still on the sofa, but her attention is very much on the basket now too.
Magnus will not succumb to his instincts like this, he is on a mission.
That’s the moment that Ginger chooses to saunter into the room, followed by three other very familiar looking cats
Ah. Okay then.
“Darling,” Magnus is startled by the soft voice and realizes it’s the old woman, who is talking to him, calling him darling, “I don’t usually mind leaving the window open for you lot, but my Stephen got me this air conditioning unit and it works best when the windows are closed, he says. If you want to come inside, you are very welcome,” she says, and keeps knitting.
Magnus is connecting so many dots he feels like his brain will explode.
He looks at Poppy and Ginger, then at the old lady, and jumps out, hoping he’ll make it to the top of the stone wall.
He stays there, watches the old lady close the window and then a humming noise starts up. Air conditioning. Well, he wouldn’t have guessed.
He considers changing back into his human form but he’s had so much fun in his cat form today, he’s loathe to leave it behind. There are no threats in London at this time, no need for him to worry about a Warlock or an evil mastermind getting their hands on him in this form. Demons would let him be, they can smell his parentage and unless provoked, they generally choose to ignore him because they know who wins in a fight between them and himself.
He sits on the stone wall for long minutes, soaking up the sun.
When he does finally make his way into their apartment - and the way back up is much more harrowing than the way down was, he really should have just changed into his human form, hindsight and all that - he sees that they still have a couple of cat visitors.
He joins them in the shade.
He has no idea what time it is when he hears the front door open, but it must be quite late for Alec to be getting home.
The realization that he’s still a cat hits him in an instant and he panics. Which, in his cat body, means that he freezes.
That is honestly not a bad solution to the present conundrum. He is not in direct view of the living room, Alec would have to come all the way onto the balcony to see him lie here in the shade. So maybe if he doesn’t move, Alec will go look into Magnus’ work room and Magnus will have time to switch back and pretend he’s been sitting here the whole time?
He swishes his tail.
That might have worked at the start of their relationship, but he doubts he could pull it off now without Alec becoming suspicious.
He makes a decision.
Alec does come to the balcony and does see him sitting on the ledge. He greets him warmly, but he seems to be addressing the rest of the cats when he tells them he’ll be right back with fresh water and tuna. When he leaves, Magnus hears him call out for him, and jumps onto the windowsill of the living room window, and then that of their large bedroom window, which he thankfully left open a crack this morning.
He paws his way in, jumping onto the soft carpet, and thinks skin, two legs, two arms, round ears.
His magic provides him with clothes before he can even think about them, and he leaves the bedroom, answering Alec’s call.
“Hello, darling,” he leans in and pecks Alec on the cheek, “a snack for the cats, I see?”
“I was looking for you on the balcony and thought they could do with a feeding,” he replies, not mentioning the new stray he saw.
Magnus follows him and watches him sweep his eyes over the balcony, his expression flashing with something before his smile is back.
“Only two this evening?” he seems to be asking the cats. Then his eyes land on the table and the collar left there, in the exact same position as it was this morning. His eyes narrow.
“I had no luck tracking Ginger with the collar,” Magnus says, placing a hand on Alec’s shoulder, “but I did manage to follow one of the other cats as it left.”
Alec looks up at him, eyes wide. He he surveys the two cats gorging on tuna and then stands up, takes Magnus by the hand and leads him to the sofa. He squares his shoulders and goes to the drink cart they keep in the corner.
“Okay, tell me,” he says, voice resolute, prepared for the worst case scenario already.
“Let me start this wild tale with the fact that Ginger is okay and safe,” Magnus says gently, because he can’t watch Alec like this, not when there is something he can do to stop it. His shoulders slump immediately, whole body relaxing. He stirs their drinks and hands one to Magnus, keeping one for himself and settling down, their sides touching. He motions for Magnus to continue.
“I followed the brownish cat,” Magnus starts.
“Cupcake,” Alec informs him.
“Cupcake, of course,” Magnus chuckles, and mentally renames Buttercup-Poppy to Cupcake for this tale. Alec’s smile is worth it.
“I followed Cupcake when she decided to leave our humble dwelling. It was quite fascinating seeing her jump from our balcony to the roof of the bay window on the third floor and then the ornate windowsill on the second,” Magnus muses, “she used the tree in the neighbor’s yard to get to the ground and then jumped up on the stone fence that lines the street and all its townhouses.”
Alec looks riveted, he truly must have had the most boring day.
“I followed her a couple of streets down only to see her stop in front of this one open window. There was no noise coming from it and I couldn’t see inside, but Cupcake seemed fascinated. She jumped on the padded windowsill a minute later, and I lost sight of her as she went inside.”
“Oh,” Alec says, voice a little disappointed.
Magnus rolls his eyes at him.
“I glamoured myself and jumped on the stone wall to see where she went, of course,” he says, and Alec looks absolutely delighted by that turn of events.
“There was an old lady sitting by the window, knitting. Cupcake was lounging on a sofa, looking like the queen that she is and then I saw Ginger and a couple of other strays saunter in from another room,” Magnus adds softly.
“There was another cat sitting on the windowsill and the old lady spoke to it, asking if it wanted to come inside, because she got an air conditioning unit from her grandson and needs to keep her windows closed for it to work as it should,” Magnus finishes his tale.
Alec’s eyes are wide.
“I would not have guessed that in a million years, wow,” he says, voice slightly awed.
“You and me both, dearest, you and me both,” he nods and looks out at the setting sun.
They’re quiet for a couple of minutes and then Alec snorts.
“Gods, I thought she was dead, run over by a car or bus or something, and there she is, living like a queen in an air conditioned apartment,” he’s laughing before he even finishes his sentence, and Magnus can’t help but join in.
“You thought tuna and water were the height of luxury, oh how wrong you were,” Magnus teases, presses a kiss to the side of Alec’s head.
There’s a short silence.
“We are not getting an air conditioning unit to compete with an old lady over stray cats, Alexander.”
They get an air conditioning unit.
º º º º º
Magnus sighs and checks his phone. No text, no phone call. No fire message, either. He considers himself a very understanding man, but this is the third time in as many weeks that his own husband stood him up.
Alec’s workload has been insane lately, Magnus is very much aware. The frequent late nights, the way Alec can’t sleep through the night even when he is home, the way he gets testy and defensive when Magnus offers to help or asks too many questions. Any questions, lately.
They knew the Institute in Bogota would challenge them in more ways than one, but neither of them were quite prepared for the situation to be this strained, this on edge.
Alec’s efforts as the Downworld Liaison have seen great success wherever they visited. He’s trained many a Shadowhunter, given so many talks which Magnus could recite in his sleep, being the one Alec’s tests them on before he ever presents them live. He’s written guidebooks for Institutes, even for the Shadowhunter Academy, where Vampire, Warlock and Werewolf professors are once again welcome to teach new generations of Shadowhunters, to help shape their minds without prejudice and hatred.
The Shadow World is changing, slowly, but noticeably.
Which is why the reports they’ve been receiving from Colombia have been especially troubling. Rise in demonic activity and creature sightings, reports from Downworld Leaders about the fear and panic that are spreading in their communities. The Downworld population has seen an unprecedented decline in numbers, some natural, but more due to unsolved disappearances of the members of their communities. The local Institutes tried to keep the issue quiet for as long as they could, and they managed for quite some time, Magnus has to give them that. They were in fact so good at keeping everything under wraps that The Clave and the Downworld Leaders have only been made aware of this giant clusterfuck three months ago, at which point they immediately dispatched them and a Special Unit to Bogota, their stay marked as indefinite.
Technically, they had Alec relocate, but, well. Where Alec goes, Magnus goes, and vice versa.
Magnus sighs, removes the stasis spell from their dinner plates. He hasn’t eaten anything since the croissant and coffee he had at lunchtime and his patience has worn too thin for him to wait any more. He’s hungry and when he’s hungry, he’s easily irritable. Alec fell in love with the Bandeja Paisa and Magnus loves to spoil his husband, he thinks a little bitterly as he drags his fork through the beans, mixes them with the rice where the two touch. He lets the fork go without bringing any food to his lips, wincing as it clinks against the plate.
His chest is heavy with worry. He knows it to be irrational, as was his previous anger, but he can’t help himself. Shadowhunters have been disappearing as well, young ones fresh from the Academy, older experienced higher ranking ones as well. He knows the second something is not right with Alec, he’d feel it, but that’s little consolation at the moment. He runs a hand down his face, pushes his chair from the table and cleans the plates up with a wave of his fingers.
He knows he won’t be able to fall asleep, not without hearing from Alec, and so he changes course and goes into his work room. He’s been busy with clients today, portalling from New York to London and then to Marrakech. Some of the supplies of spices he brought with him to Bogota were running low, and he hasn’t seen Karim in years. Seeing Karim’s face and getting the chance to catch up was like a breath of fresh air.
He opens the box of spices and herbs, letting their scent fill the air. Cinnamon, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm. Magnus breathes them all in, letting the smells ground him. He’ll put them in airtight containers soon enough, he tells himself.
The apartment feels foreign even though they’ve been staying here since the beginning. They arrived in a flurry of activity, barely had time to drop the basics off, and it still shows, three months later. Leaving his work room, Magnus feels like he’s in a hotel. He can see the rush, the trepidation, the stress and frustration they both feel reflected all around their living space.
There are no photos of the two of them. No photos, period.
Magnus hasn’t brought a single magical tome with him, choosing to leave them behind in New York (in their physical form) and London (in their metaphysical form). He wanted to create a copy of his library here, as he did in London, he truly did. He surveys the empty shelves, the bare walls, the utilitarian furniture, and shivers.
The whole place screams sadness and despair, smells of abandonment and loneliness.
He knows the previous inhabitant was one of the higher ranking Shadowhunters that disappeared, knows that the Institute moved her things out not even a day before he and Alec got here. They had no idea, weren’t told. He thinks back to when they found out, recalls the expressions on the faces of the Shadowhunters when Sofia mentioned where the two of them were staying as she introduced them to the Institute at large. They didn’t know Mireya, and yet in some misguided attempt at preserving her memory, they decided, without even speaking about it, to leave the apartment as it was.
Magnus realizes he’s holding a small bag of lemon balm, wandering around this tiny apartment like a lost soul. He returns to his work room, waves both hands, fingers working in a well known pattern, and his spices are in their rightful places.
He conjures up a drink on his way to the living room, and then a plush armchair because he refuses to sit in the monstrosity that Mireya left here, not today, not anymore. He rotates the glass carefully with his fingers as he settles in, watches the whiskey slosh around.
He’s no stranger to melancholy, to depression, and he realizes he’s missed all the signs, managed to ignore them in both himself and his husband. They’ve been too focused on work, got dragged so far into the depths of this seemingly unsolvable mystery that they’ve barely exchanged more than two words in the last week. The only time they do communicate is when Magnus is at the Institute.
They’ve been together for eighteen years, Magnus thinks. Eighteen wonderful, complicated and sometimes painful but no less beautiful years. They’ve struck by their vows, even if the line through thick and thin wasn’t really included in their version of them. Magnus has never doubted, no matter what situation they found themselves in, that they will survive it. Even if the terrible situation was of their own creation, he knew they’ll get through it and be the better for it, be that much stronger, together.
This is just another hurdle, just another hoop they have to jump through to reach the happy times, the times of lounging on balconies, of watching sunsets and of kisses which their lips sting.
Magnus takes a sip of his whiskey, folding one leg over the other.
He wants to call Alec, ask him to please come home now. He chastises himself, knows that calling him and interrupting a critical mission or a debrief is the worst thing he could do right now.
He throws his head back, finishes the whiskey in two gulps.
He hailed the scientist who discovered antidepressants, happy for all the Mundanes who suffered as he did but did not have the magical remedies available to him. Sleep is still out of his reach, and so he has his magic change his clothes into his brewing gear, as Alec teasingly calls his thick leather apron and thick long sleeved shirt as he walks. He sweeps his magic over the surfaces of his work room, the only room that looks even remotely lived in, Magnus now realizes, and starts gathering ingredients.
The brewing process is quite fast compared to some other potions, but the liquid needs to be kept at just below boiling for 20 minutes, the saffron and hypericum perforatum added when the potion turns a dark midnight blue and a bright purple, respectively.
He pours the carefully measure mix of liquid ingredients into a small cauldron and opens the window, letting the breeze carry the soothing smell already wafting from it through the apartment.
He gets lost in the brewing process, his magic singing with the familiar steps, as if it was happy he finally noticed what was going on. Which, Magnus has to say, is quite possible. His magic can’t boost his mood long term, can’t cure him of all ailments, and while it can present as what the mundanes call a gut feeling, it has its limitations in that department as well. It has learned, over the years, over the centuries, that Magnus is stubborn, and no matter how many gut feelings he gets about something, if he chose to ignore that something in the first place, there is nothing his magic can do to make him see.
The potion is finished in under an hour, and Magnus lets it sit in the cauldron to cool.
He’s tired, both physically and mentally, and his mind supplies him with the tempting image of their London bed. He closes his eyes for a moment, uses the work surface for support and lets his head hang forward.
There’s a soft knock on the open door followed by quiet footsteps.
Alec doesn’t come close enough to touch him.
Magnus’ heart aches.
“Hey,” Alec says, voice tinged with a bone deep tiredness Magnus is very familiar with. He doesn’t have the strength to reply.
“I opened the front door and I could smell it right away,” Alec says, voice soft. Magnus looks up at him, and sees the wetness in Alec’s eyes. He sees how close they are, the both of them, to crumbling. Magnus covers his eyes with one hand, reaches the other out to Alec.
Alec, who takes his hand and uses it to bring Magnus close, to bring him into a warm familiar embrace. His forehead finds a place to rest against Alec’s shoulder, and he feels Alec hide his own face in Magnus’ neck, in his hair.
“I hate it here,” Alec whispers, voice wet.
Magnus shakes his head.
“No, Alec,” he tells him, “you hate that we’ve been here for three months and made no headway. That Downworlders and Shadowhunters still keep disappearing. That we’re powerless,” his voice breaks, “powerless to stop it.”
Alec holds him tighter, doesn’t say anything.
“The potion should be ready soon,” Magnus tells him, clearing his throat, and moves back, wanting to see his husband’s face. Alec refuses to let him go, brings him even closer, both arms now around Magnus. He feels him shake slightly, feels wetness on his neck and his heart shatters into a million pieces. One of his hands finds Alec’s nape, the other runs soothing patterns on his back.
“Oh darling,” he whispers, his own voice trembling.
“We lost a kid today,” Alec says after a moment’s pause. Magnus freezes. The interval is getting shorter.
“The parents swore up and down that he was there one minute, gone the next. We couldn’t find-- There wasn’t any--” he shakes his head, stopping the flow of words. No magical residue or demon signatures present at the scene. A lot of witnesses, but no one saw anything. Everyone swears the person was there one moment and gone the next, in the blink of an eye.
Magnus keeps making soothing noises, holding his husband as he cries tears of frustration and sorrow, shedding his own alongside him.
Alec takes a deep breath some minutes later, moving so that he can look at Magnus.
“I missed you,” he confesses, like a secret, into the empty space between them.
“I love you, Alexander,” Magnus tells him, because he missed him too, he missed them , but they have broken one too many of their customs, this being one of them, telling the other how they feel, sharing what burdens them.
“Love you too, always,” Alec replies, kissing Magnus softy on the forehead. He sighs, leans his face against Magnus’, staying close.
“We have to do something,” Magnus says, and means about them, about this city, about the crisis they have been sent to deal with.
“I called Jace,” Alec tells him, pausing as if to gather his thoughts, “told him to search through the library in Alicante, at the Academy, to go over everything in there once more, to have someone with experience do it so that nothing is overlooked.”
Magnus nods, “I can send for information within the Warlock community tomorrow. All High Warlocks are aware of this situation but the community at large has been mostly kept in the dark. I’ll task Tessa with the search in the Spiral Labyrinth,” Magnus considers his next words, but chooses not to censor himself or his feelings, “I don’t trust Lorenzo to do a good or thorough enough job, not with something this important.”
Alec rolls his eyes.
“Oh don’t tell me you’re still--”
“Alexander, I am immortal, I can hold a grudge with the best of them,” Magnus interrupts him, making his expression especially imperious, his goal achieved when Alec laughs.
Magnus checks the clock on the wall and does a quick timezone calculation. The Spiral Labyrinth is currently in Europe, he knows, so he should be fine. He shimmies his fingers, and a piece of paper appears, the text writing itself as he thinks it. He sends it on its way a couple of seconds later.
“Tessa should already be awake,” he tells Alec, who smiles at him softly and says a quiet thank you.
“We’re in this together, no matter how hard it gets,” Magnus says, keeping his voice gentle.
“I don’t think I would have lasted a month here without you, Magnus,” Alec tells him, voice dripping with his personal brand of honesty that always hurts Magnus deep inside. Eighteen years, and he still hasn’t gotten used to it. He doesn’t think he ever will.
“And I without you, Alexander.”
“We’ve made quite a mess of it though, haven’t we.”
“A little bit, yes,” Magnus says, voice betraying the small smile that’s trying to form on his lips, “but we’ve survived worse, and we’ll survive this, too. And we will figure out what is going on here, and stop it.”
“I know we will,” Alec sighs, “I just wish we stopped it already. So many lives have been lost, Magnus,” and Magnus feels the corners of his mouth turn down, sorrow filling him up to the brim.
It started slow, one disappearance a month, different races and ages and genders and backgrounds, so it took almost a year for the Institute to link them together based on the similar circumstances of the disappearances. It’s been two years and four months since the first person disappeared, and the interval between abductions has been getting shorter and shorter. They are down to four days now, the entire community of Bogota on edge.
“Let’s try and get some sleep, we both need it and Tessa will wake us with a firemessage if she finds anything before we’re up,” Magnus suggests, freeing Alec from their embrace, taking his hand. Alec squeezes it, tangles their fingers together.
“Potion first, though?” he asks, looking at the small cauldron.
Magnus nods, conjures up a vial with a stopper and carefully pours the potion into it. Next, he makes two cups of chamomile tea appear, measuring out three drops of the potion into each of them. Alec takes one before Magnus can hand it over, leaning into Magnus’ side, sipping the tea slowly. Magnus takes the second cup and breaths in the steam.
“It hit me, y’know, when I opened the front door,” Alec tells him. Magnus makes an inquisitive noise.
“I didn’t realize until that moment, until I could smell the potion, what it was that was happening. I just thought I was tired,” he confesses, looking somewhere into the middle distance.
“Sometimes, the signs are there, but we’re too blind to see them.”
“Or too busy ignoring them,” Alec challenges. Magnus raises his eyebrows but has to give this one to Alec and nod. They have both been ignoring a lot of things, these past few months.
“I’m sorry,” Alec says, making Magnus turn his head sharply to look at him. Alec’s face is already turned his way, his eyes downcast.
“Everything?” he says, voice dripping with emotion, “It’s my fault we’re here, for one thing. I’m also pretty sure I’m the one who started almost living at the Institute, who stopped talking to his husband, who stood him up the last three times he tried to have dinner with me--”
“Alec,” Magnus jumps in, trying to stop him.
“Don’t, Magnus. You know I’m ri--”
“You’re not, though, darling,” Magnus interrupts him once more, not willing to listen to any more of this, “it is true that you have been called here, but we have long ago decided that wherever one of us goes, the other follows. This was a mutual decision, you haven’t dragged me here against my will. I went, and happily, in hopes that I could help with stopping the disappearances.”
Alec is looking down, hooking the forefinger of the hand not holding his cup of tea through Magnus’ belt loop. Magnus places his own hand on Alec’s forearm.
“Communication is a two way street,” he says in a soft voice, “and you weren’t the only one who was busy,” today was a typical day for him, portalling across the globe to clients, getting home irritable and exhausted, more mentally than physically. Some clients think he’s their therapist, and while he loves to gossip and is always more than happy to offer a fresh perspective, it has been beyond taxing, especially now, when he himself felt like he had no one to talk to.
“As for the standing me up three times, you are correct. You are fully at fault and should be grovelling at my feet,” he says, voice mock serious. Alec shakes his head. Magnus’ expression softens.
“I might have been angry for a time, I might have prepared a very long and winding speech each time, but do you know what the overwhelming feeling in my stomach was in those moments?” he asks Alec.
“Disappointment?” Alec suggests, voice small.
“Oh darling, no, never, not the way you think, anyway,” he corrects Alec, tries to reassure him, “it was worry. I was so very worried about you,” Magnus confesses, voice shaking slightly, betraying the truth of his words. He can still taste the bitterness of the concern sitting heavy in his stomach.
Alec, of all things, looks confused.
“But you could feel that I’m alright,” he says, brows drawn together.
“All I could feel is that you weren’t hurt, Alec, those are two very different things,” Magnus points out. Alec has the good sense to look chagrined. Magnus takes his face into his hands, cup disappearing somewhere, and just looks at him. He feels like he hasn’t seen him in weeks, not like this, not from this close, not with his expression so open.
“Let’s go to bed,” he repeats. They finished their teas, Magnus thinks, his already empty before he sent it off to who knows where to free his hands. He thinks about their bed in London, lets his magic crackle around himself instead of fuelling it with his usual gestures. Alec startles at the light thud that comes from their bedroom. His eyes widen.
Magnus smiles, coy.
“Oh Magnus, you shouldn’t--”
“Love, I’m okay, it was barely a strain, I promise you,” Magnus reassures, squeezing Alec’s hand as he leads him through the tiny apartment. The bedroom is small, their London bed taking up most of it, leaving only scant inches of space on each side. The closet is gone. Magnus doesn’t have the energy to worry where it went right now, the light blue silky looking sheets calling his name.
“Oh god, I never thought I could miss a piece of furniture this much,” Alec sighs after he faceplants on the piece of furniture in question.
“It is a very finely crafted piece. It did take us a couple of months to figure out the right firmness of the mattress, but I think we did a wonderful job of testing each and every one,” Magnus winks at Alec, who swats an arm at his stomach, then leaves it there, the weight of it settling something inside Magnus.
“It feels like eons ago,” is what Alec says in response, words muffled by his pillow.
“It feels like yesterday,” Magnus counters.
Alec chuckles, shuffles so that he’s lying on his side, facing Magnus, half of his face buried in his pillow still.
“I think we’re both right, it somehow feels like both.”
Magnus places his ringed hand over Alec’s, keeping them both on his stomach. He closes his eyes, waves his other hand in a familiar pattern, hears Alec sigh in contentment. His own pyjama pants slide across his skin, the material soft and cold in the late night heat.
“You’re welcome, darling.”
It’s Magnus’ turn to shuffle closer to his husband, then. Their knees are touching, hands still held together between their chests.
“I missed you too, Alexander.”
It feels like something he can say, here, in the privacy of their tiny bedroom, in the comfort of their familiar bed.
And Magnus never needs to be asked twice.
The kiss is soft, their lips moving slowly together, breaths warm, noses pressed close. The simple affection, the ease with which they fit together, Magnus suddenly feels like his heart is being squeezed by an invisible force.
“We have to do better,” he says into the scant space between their lips.
“We will,” Alec’s voice is full of conviction, “you know we never make the same mistake twice,” he pauses, looks at Magnus, who can’t help his smile.
“Oh but we are experts at making new ones,” he continues one of the exchanges they have repeated numerous times over the last eighteen years.
“And we always get through them. Together.”
“That we do, mi corazón, that we do.”
Magnus wakes up to an arm draped across his abdomen, hair tickling the side of his face. He turns his head, presses a kiss into the unruly dark hair. He knows the potion doesn’t work this fast, that he’s on a high because of their talk, because they’re okay again. Still, Magnus thinks, it’s nice to wake up in the morning and actually feel like you want to get out of bed and do something.
He feels the wards shift a second before the fire message pops into existence right above his face. He knows it’s from Tessa before he even opens it, feels Alec stir and groan next to him.
“Wha’?” he says, face scrunched up against the bright flash of light from the fire of the message. It takes him a second to register what he’s looking at and when he does, he’s alert immediately.
“From Tessa? Yes,” Magnus confirms, letting his eyes run over her neat, familiar handwriting.
“She went further back, as I asked her, almost gave up when she couldn’t find any mention of anything even vaguely similar going a thousand years back, but she powered through her disappointment, her words, not mine, and-- Alec, she found something,” Magnus sits up, turning to face his husband.
“What did she find,” Alec says, already leaving the bed, knocking his knee into the wall, and sitting back down when he realizes he can’t actually walk in the tiny space between the bed and the wall, “shit.”
“Wait, let me just,” Magnus waves a hand, shrinks their bed to give him some space. He can’t fit the closet in here so he just conjures up Alec’s standard uniform of an outfit, thigh holster included.
Alec looks down at himself, at the thigh holster, and back at Magnus.
“We don’t have time for--”
“I know I know, sorry, it’s just - I haven’t seen it on you in a while. Brings back fond memories,” Magnus says, trying to keep the smile off his face, getting up and dressing himself. If he leaves an extra button undone, has his magic bring him all his ( Alec’s ) favorite necklaces and bracelets, well.
Alec eyes his outfit, an eyebrow going up, almost touching his hairline.
Magnus widens his eyes, opens his mouth a little, places a hand over his heart. He’s the absolute definition of innocence and Alec isn’t buying a second of it. Magnus is delighted.
Alec circles the now small bed, takes Magnus’ hand and reels him to his chest. The kiss is hard and fast and Magnus follows Alec’s lips when he ends it.
“Thank you, I love you,” Alec tells him, looking into his eyes.
“Always, and I love you too.”
Tessa’s message said to open a portal for her when they’re ready, she’ll bring the old as balls tomes, again, her words, not Magnus’, in person and will help them defeat whatever it is they are apparently facing. Magnus does as she suggested, opens a portal to the location from which her fire message was sent. Two seconds later, five large tomes are pushed through the portal on a cart, Tessa following behind them.
“Alec, Magnus, thanks for so rudely interrupting my downtime,” she greets, her warm tone betraying the lie of her words.
“Sugar plum!” Magnus exclaims, taking the three steps separating them to hug his old friend.
“Magnus, we talked about that,” she says, voice mock offended.
“Have we? You know how old I am, my memory is not what it used to be,” Magnus tells her, kissing her cheeks, “you look well,” he says, keeping his voice quiet, searching her eyes.
“I am,” she confirms, squeezing his arm.
“Tess,” Alec interrupts, bringing Tessa in for a hug as well. Alec murmurs something into her hair that Magnus can’t quite hear and he sees her arms squeeze around him. Magnus closes the portal, bringing the cart of books closer to their small excuse for a sofa. He flicks his wrist, pushes out with his hands, and there are three chairs and a table in its place. He flies the old tomes gently to it.
“Okay so: let me start with, what the hell,” Tessa says, looking around and waving her arms, Magnus guesses in indication of the impersonal space they’re inhabiting. Magnus shakes his head.
“I see, so we’re not talking about that. Okay then, let’s dive right in,” she points to one of the tomes, its cover opening, pages flying by until they stop close to the end of the book.
“You can look at the original, it’s a text from the 5th century, you heard me right, 5th , and it’s written of all things in Classical Armenian. I’ve taken the liberty of having it translated properly by Narine, who thank the gods was at the Spiral Labyrinth today,” Tessa monologues. Magnus doesn’t point out that Narine hasn’t left the Spiral Labyrinth in over a century, and lets Tessa continue.
“The translation is on the left, you can move it aside to see the stunning depiction of the creature you guys are apparently facing here.” Magnus does as she suggests and--
“Why does this look like a Dementor from one of those Harry Potter books?” Magnus asks, keeping his voice carefully emotionless.
“That’s what I said!” Tessa exclaims, pointing at the drawing of a tall shadowy ghost like figure, with a black space where its face should be. “I told you all that the Rowling woman has to have the Sight but nooooo, no one believed me.”
Alec is looking between them, mouthing Dementor? at Magnus. He clears his throat, apparently deciding to bite the bullet.
Magnus opens his mouth to explain but Tessa cuts him off before he gets the chance.
“Not quite. A Charaphagus,” Tessa says, and Magnus rolls the word on his tongue. Charaphagus, why does it sound so familiar.
“No one’s seen one of these in well over a millennium, just so you know. They’re created by a tragic and untimely death of a human. A human, mind you, who was at the absolute height of their happiness at the time of their death. The injustice of their death binds them to the mortal world as nothing but shadows of themselves. They’re only visible when they feed.”
“When they feed?” Alec asks, voice cold.
“After their deaths, all they know is loneliness and despair. Their souls are stuck here, can’t leave unless someone banishes them. But there is a deeply rooted belief in them, that if only they could be as happy as they were when they died, they would be able to pass on to the Afterlife,” Tessa’s voice is hushed when she finishes, and she takes a deep breath, steadying herself.
“Oh no,” Magnus says, knowing what’s coming. Alec’s eyes are closed, his thumbs pressed into his eyes. Magnus sees him take a breath, let it go in a harsh exhale.
“They feed on happiness, don’t they,” Alec says into the silence of the room.
“They whisk away their victims into what is essentially a pocket dimension, and because they don’t use a spell for it and the feeding happens in the pocket dimension, they leave no trace of magic behind.”
Alec is studying the drawing and the translation of the Armenian text.
“How did we not know about this, how did no one catch this sooner,” he asks the room at large.
“Alec, you have to understand -- I wasn’t joking when I said this creature hasn’t been seen in more than a thousand years. There’s more to the death of the human than just what I told you as well, a very specific set of circumstances need to be met for one of these to be, well, for lack of a better word, born. There’s more about it in some of the other books, you can study those later.”
“Still,” Alec insists, “it’s been stealing away people for more than two years now!”
“And it won’t steal any more,” Magnus tells him, looking at Tessa, seeing her nod in agreement, “we know what it is, we know how to defeat it now, Alec,” he tells him, watching his expression shift between a myriad of emotions. Magnus wants to touch him, to comfort him, but-
Alec takes his hand, looks Magnus in the eye.
“What do we have to do,” he asks.
They spend the next hour doing prep work, Alec calling in to the Institute, getting a team assembled. They will need werewolves and vampires to make the banishing work, so Alec contacts the leaders of the local clan and pack, asks for a team of three from each. In the meantime, Magnus and Tessa get the necessities for the banishing spell and for the trap they will lay for the Charaphagus. It should be bound to the city the place of the human’s death, so they choose a location within its limits. They settle on an abandoned warehouse, because of course, Magnus thinks.
They portal in, the three teams already waiting for them.
“Lightwood,” Sofia nods at Alec.
“Lightwood-Bane,” he corrects her for the umpteenth time and she just smirks. Magnus knows she’s teasing, knows she means well, but this is something Alec is very touchy about, that the both of them are touchy about, and he wishes she could see that. He shoots her a look before she can call him Bane, and she thankfully just nods.
“Tessa, this is Sofia, the head of the Bogota Institute,” Magnus introduces, “Sofia, this is Theresa Gray, one of the Keepers of the Spiral Labyrinth,” Magnus shoots a quick look around himself, at all the faces surrounding him, and claps his hands, “but there will be time for introductions later. I’m sure we’re all eager to get rid of this creature once and for all.”
Alec gets everyone in formation, a large circle with the different races present dispersed around it. He and Tessa are facing each other. Alec is on his right.
He makes eye contact with Tessa and nods.
They start chanting at the same time. What they’re creating, essentially, is a bubble of pure happiness and joy, very carefully not linked to either of their memories or emotions.
After a minute, the Shadowhunters grow antsy, start looking around. The Vampires don’t move an inch.
It’s the Werewolves and he and Tessa who first notice the slight shift in the air. A second later, everyone else freezes too.
“It’s here,” he hears Alec say.
Magnus can see it now, moving closer to the trap they set. It doesn’t even look in their direction, faceless head trained on the glowing bubble of yellowish light directly in the center of their circle, already syphoning the energy from it. When it gets even closer, he looks at Tessa and they both snap their arms down at the same time. The bubble of light stays put, as does the Charaphagus, but there is now a barrier surrounding them, containing them within.
“Link hands,” Magnus commands, and everyone takes three steps forward, closing in on the creature, linking hands when they’re within touching distance. He and Alec are the last ones to link theirs. They look at each other, an echo of an old memory in their eyes.
Their palms connect and the energy crackles in the air.
Magnus and Tessa start chanting once more.
The creature shrieks, falls on its knees, its long skeletal fingers scratching at where its face should be. When he looks around and sees no one is wincing, Magnus realizes he and Tessa are the only ones who can hear the shrieks. And then they turn into a voice, a sweet deep voice, and screams and sobs fill the air.
“Please, please help me, please,” and Magnus knows that the only way to help is to banish this creature, to allow the human’s soul to hopefully pass on, he does, but he feels himself hesitate.
Alec’s grip on his hand tightens, almost makes Magnus wince. New resolve suffuses his blood.
The creature is stripped of its ghost like appearance, a young man now on his knees in front of them. There are tear tracks on his face, his arms have scratches on them, there’s blood on his obviously bespoke shirt.
His voice is quieter now, and Magnus realizes he must know what’s happening.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, please, I never wanted to hurt anyone, I never wanted to--” his mouth keeps moving but his voice is gone, his whole body now translucent.
Magnus pours more magic into the spell, and then the circle is empty for one second.
The next, it’s filled with bodies.
Magnus and Tessa dispel the barrier, Magnus sending his magic to check on the victims.
“Three survivors,” he says, letting his magic settle over the ones whose hearts are still beating, “two are in a coma, take them to the Institute, Tess will go with you,” Magnus says in Sofia’s direction, “Valeria, Oscar, thank you both for your assistance,” he tells the Alpha and the clan leader and opens a portal for each of them.
“Magnus?” Alec asks, because this wasn’t the plan, Magnus is aware.
“Alec, I need you to go, the boy is waking up and he is in distress. He’s a Warlock and he’s traumatised, please,” Magnus begs him, sees him draw a breath and let it go. Alec nods, joins Sofia and disappears.
Magnus is left alone with the small Warlock boy, who wakes up an instant later and shrieks when he sees Magnus.
“It’s alright, it’s gone, it can’t hurt you anymore,” he switches to Spanish, knows the boy is local, hopes it will help him identify Magnus as someone who isn’t a threat. The boy stops shrieking but his whole body is shaking from fear and shock. Magnus runs through his options.
He’s in his cat form before he knows it, eyes blinking up at the boy from this new perspective. The boy looks startled, but considerably less scared.
Magnus still approaches him very cautiously. He flicks his tail. The boy’s eyes follow his every step, and when he gets close enough, the boy reaches out and allows him to sniff his fingers. Magnus butts his head against the boy’s palm.
He’s being hugged very tightly before he knows what’s happening, rapid fast Spanish leaving the boys lips, words bleeding together. He was at a friend’s birthday party and then he woke up in a dark, dark place and heard screaming, so much screaming, and the monster, every time it approached him, it hurt.
The boy keeps babbling and Magnus stars purring, hoping it will bring his heart rate down, calm him enough that he’ll be willing to face Magnus in his human form.
They stay like that for long minutes, the boy babbling about different things now, distracted a little bit by the cat in his lap.
The whoosh of the portal startles them both.
Magnus turns his head sharply, seeing Alec turn back towards the portal, stepping partially back through it. How many times has Magnus told him not to do that, and yet.
Magnus jumps from the boy’s arms, sitting down next to him, and he’s human before Alec turns back, holding the hand of a young woman.
The boy screams a high pitched Mom! and runs into her arms.
Magnus gets up from the floor, approaching Alec, who’s looking at him, eyes searching his.
“Alright?” he asks, taking Magnus’ hand, running his thumb over Magnus’ wedding band.
Magnus squeezes his fingers.
º º º º º
Magnus wakes up, shooting from the bed before he’s even fully awake. He’s halfway to Tavi’s room before he notices the shrieks are not those of terror but more those of delight. He slows his hurried steps, leans against the doorway of the already occupied room.
“Hi baby,” Alec coos, kissing Tavi’s cheeks, smiling a huge smile before he throws him in the air, catching him a second later. He lets the shrieking baby experience the swooping motion of the downwards fall while holding him with his two big hands.
“Did you and papa have fun when I was gone?” he asks Tavi, the question sounding genuine, as if he was really expecting an answer. What he gets is a series of giggly babbling and a hand smack to his cheek. He seems quite delighted by both.
Alec turns around, holding Tavi to his chest, and his smile softens when he sees Magnus. A smile only ever directed at him, Magnus knows, full of the decades of shared moments and love. A smile Magnus missed a great deal.
“Hi baby,” Alec repeats, and Magnus groans.
“I thought we talked about that, pup,” he shoots back, laughter coloring his voice.
“Hi, Magnus,” he says instead, and the way he says his name is an endearment in and of itself. Magnus feels himself melt a little, as he always does, and reaches out to take Alec’s hand.
“Hello, darling,” Magnus greets in turn, and looks at the bundle of joy in Alec’s arms, “and hello to you too, Peanut.” He tickles one of Tavi’s tiny feet, shrieks of joy returning.
“I missed you both,” Alec says, leaning his side against Magnus, who chuckles.
“You were barely gone for two days,” he doesn’t add how much he missed Alec and his soothing presence, doesn’t tell him about the horror of the first night when Tavi realized dad will not be coming to tell him one of his stories. They managed, and he doesn’t want Alec to feel guilty for doing his job.
“It felt like much longer,” Alec confesses, kissing Tavi’s forehead.
“Well, we’re both glad to have you home at,” Magnus checks the clock on the wall, and groans, “1 am, what the hell Alec.”
“I wanted to sleep at home,” he says, voice full of apologies. Magnus tuts.
“Did you get any sleep last night?” he knows how these short trips go. Alec leaves in the morning, works till god knows what time of night, naps for three hours tops and works again, and then he comes back home. The trips barely last 40 hours and Alec’s usually on his feet or in the field or teaching for 36 of them. Magnus offered to portal him home, still does before every trip, making it yet another little ritual of theirs, but Alec refuses, saying the bonding during night missions and downtime is crucial. It’s when the young ones who were too scared to ask about something in class come to him and talk.
“I napped?” Alec offers and Magnus rolls his eyes.
“I don’t even want to know how many coffees and stamina and awake and whatever else runes this trip took,” he waves Alec off, keeps his hand in his and has him follow after Magnus through their apartment. He opens the fridge, taking out a small vial with an iridescent liquid inside.
“You didn’t have to,” Alec murmurs against Magnus’ shoulder.
“I wanted to,” Magnus tells him, turning around and giving him a small kiss. “Drink it, put the little one to bed and then sleep?”
“Yes and yes and yes,” Tavi’s already dozing off in his arms, so he carefully leans into Magnus’ space and gives him a slower, more thorough kiss. When they part, Magnus chuckles.
“Y’know Isabelle would say we’re codependent.”
“She doesn’t have a single leg to stand on.”
Alec’s not wrong.
He’s almost asleep by the time Alec crawls into bed, shuffling as close as he can to Magnus and kissing the nape of his neck.
“Gods, I’m so tired,” he whispers, voice already sleep-heavy.
“Goodnight. Love you,” Magnus says as he settles back into Alec’s arms, against his chest.
“Love you too.” Are the last words Magnus hears before he falls asleep.
He’s woken up by soft sniffles and realizes they must be coming from their upgraded baby monitor. Alec is dead to the world, his arm heavy when Magnus removes it from around himself. He pads softly to Tavi’s room and sees the toddler is standing up in his bed, holding on to the rails and rocking from side to side.
“Are you dancing, Peanut?” Magnus asks him, running his fingers gently through Tavi’s wispy hair. He checks the clock and barely suppresses a groan. 3 am.
“Dearest Peanut, your papa loves a good party, but he also values his sleep. What if we left the dancing for the morning, hm?” he tries to keep his voice soft and soothing, melodious the way he knows Tavi likes. Tavi just makes grabby hands at him. Magnus sighs and picks him up, rocking him in his arms, walking around the room. Tavi is restless, still making grabby hands.
Oh, Magnus thinks.
He puts Tavi back into his little bed prison and in the blink of an eye, is on all fours and jumping up and in. Tavi makes a cooing sound and pets him, keeping his hand as steady and gentle as a one year old possibly can. Alec introduced him to a couple of the “strays”, which made them once again rehash their years old argument about what constitutes a stray -- they can leave whenever they want, Alec keeps insisting, to Magnus’ often repeated why would they, they get the best cat food here, they get pets whenever they want, you got them scratch posts and embroidered pillows, they are no longer strays Alec, face it, we have seven cats now -- making sure Tavi was not scared of them or they of him. He taught him how to pet the cats, softly so as not to hurt or startle them.
And Tavi is good at giving pets, Magnus found out last night.
It wasn’t the first night they’ve been alone together, but it was the hardest on both of them. Tavi was unwilling to fall asleep, waking up the moment Magnus crept out of his room, startling himself into soft cries. Magnus was exhausted.
The brilliant idea to change into his cat form came to him at 3 am, almost exactly 24 hours ago. He put Tavi in his bed, sang to him, and then changed, waiting for Tavi’s reaction.
Tavi’s eyes were wide with awe.
Magnus is not sure if his brain fully processed what he saw, but Tavi didn’t seem frightened or about to start crying, or like he was scared Magnus has disappeared forever, so Magnus counted that as a win and jumped onto the bed right next to Tavi.
Tavi, who extended his small hand slowly towards him and petted him gently on the head.
Magnus butted his head against Tavi’s chest softly, trying to make him lie down, which Tavi did after a couple of minutes of petting Magnus and playing with his tail. Magnus lied down right next to him, purring away happily.
Tavi was asleep five minutes later, his baby snores filling the room.
Magnus fell asleep right next to him, only waking up two hours later to stretch, gently disentangle his tail from Tavi’s grip, and move to his own bed.
But today, Alec’s home and Magnus is not sure if he should-- He doesn’t know why he hasn’t told Alec about his cat form yet. He’s not scared of the way Alec would react, he’s shared much scarier parts of his self and his history with Alec and has never been judged or rejected. In the 23 years they’ve been together, Alec has never betrayed a single confidence, never once told anyone a single thing Magnus shared with him in secret. And yet.
It sometimes feels like the last thing he has, just for himself, which is absurd and he very well realizes it. He loves sharing his life and his memories and his secrets with Alec, loves the way Alec soaks them up, hoards them like precious gems. Ragnor would tell him to stop being stupid and for Satan’s sake, tell the boy already. And he wanted to, he did, so many times, but something always stopped him and he veered into a different tale instead.
Tavi takes that moment to tug at his tail, and Magnus is back in the present, in the crib with their son, who now apparently won’t sleep without his favorite kitty. Magnus lies down close to Tavi’s chest, purring softly, hoping it will work just as quickly as it did last night.
To his absolute delight, it does, and Tavi is fast asleep in minutes. Magnus moves away carefully, watching for any signs of wakefulness, but doesn’t see any. He jumps over the railing of the bed and pads out of Tavi’s room on all fours.
He changes before he reaches the bedroom.
It doesn’t look like Alec moved even an inch, and so Magnus does his best to return to the position he was in before he got woken up.
Alec is a warm weight against his back, and Magnus falls into a dreamless sleep.
Magnus blinks his eyes open, searching for the sound that woke him up. The baby monitor is quiet, he notices with a relieved sigh, but his phone is vibrating and flashing, emitting a beep every couple of seconds.
And then he feels it. A stab in his side. He hisses, picking up the phone.
“Everything’s okay, I’m fine,” Alec opens with.
“You’re not,” Magnus tells him, his voice still deep and scratchy from sleep.
“I’m not,” Alec agrees grudgingly, “I know I should be staying in Tokyo for another day but Magnus, I don’t trust their local Warlock to heal me properly, he’s--”
Alec stops talking and Magnus searches his mind for the Warlocks currently stationed in Tokyo. He thinks Alec mentioned a Sora, a younger Warlock who’s still in training at the Spiral Labyrinth.
“A portal, then?” Magnus asks, sitting up in bed.
“Yes, please. Give me a minute, I’ll grab my things and say goodbye to Meiko.”
Magnus’ hums instead of answering and hangs up.
He feels the bracelet on his arm warm up and taps it with two fingers, letting his magic complete the spell to show him Alec’s precise location.
He opens a portal right there in their bedroom, hoping it won’t wake the little ones up.
Alec jumps through, wincing only slightly as the motion makes the muscles around his wound contract. Magnus is holding his own side without even realizing it. He blocks the sensation, sighs and gets out of bed.
Alec is already heading into their ensuite, turning on the light and shrugging off his jacket. He’s wearing a black t-shirt, so the stain only appears wet. Magnus knows it’s blood, doesn’t need to see the color to have it confirmed. The coppery smell that permeates the air is proof enough.
Alec closes the lid of the toilet, crumpling down on it and looking up at Magnus, finally making eye contact.
Magnus runs the back of his fingers down his cheek softly, letting his hand fall only for it to be caught by Alec’s own.
He crouches down, uses Alec’s leg for support to maneuver his body so that he can reach Alec’s wound without straining anything of his own. He ends up on his knees, both of Alec’s legs to his left.
He peels the t-shirt away with magic, focusing on separating the material from the wound without leaving any threads or small bits of material in it. He banishes the t-shirt once it’s lifted above the wound.
Alec’s side is covered in dried and fresh blood, the wound still slowly oozing. Magnus conjures up and already wet washcloth and cleans the skin under his fingers, applying only the gentlest of pressure. Alec doesn’t flinch, but he does move the hand that was resting on his own leg to Magnus’ shoulder. Magnus pauses his ministrations, turns his head and kisses the back of Alec’s hand.
Once the skin around the wound is mostly clean, Magnus prods around the area with his fingers, still keeping them gentle, and with his magic, which he uses more aggressively. He knows prodding with it doesn’t hurt, precisely, but it’s not very comfortable either. Alec still doesn’t budge. Once he’s satisfied that there are no shards or fragments of a weapon left in the wound, he sits back on his feet and looks up at Alec.
“Want to tell me how this happened?”
Alec makes a face.
“Don’t tell me this was another training incident,” he says into the silence of the bathroom and sees Alec shake his head before he finishes his sentence.
“No, a Shadowhunter in training made a mistake during a mission. He would have been killed if it weren’t for the rest of the team.”
“Anyone else hurt?”
“A couple of flesh wounds and minor burns, everything healed with an iratze before I even left Tokyo,” Alec tells him, squeezing Magnus’ shoulder.
Magnus nods, looks at the still open wound on Alec’s side.
“An iratze or--?” he offers, shimmying his fingers, making them glow blue with his magic.
“You, please,” Alec says. He’s been leaning towards Magnus healing him slowly but surely for the decade, saying that an iratze feels like turning back time, that it’s like feeling the wound un-happen in the same amount of time it happened. With just about the same amount of pain. Magnus has never had the pleasure of having an iratze used on him, but comparing Alec’s description of it with how healing with Warlock magic feels, he’s pretty sure he would prefer Warlock magic as well.
Magnus brings his palm above the wound and focuses on its deepest point, knitting the flesh and muscle and sinew back together. He goes slow, much slower than he would on himself or anyone else, honestly. He made sure to numb the area as well. Alec shouldn’t feel anything but the warmth of his magic.
When he’s done, Alec’s side is unblemished, no scar or mark left behind. Well, apart from the runes forever etched into his husband’s skin, of course.
Magnus runs his fingers softly over the newly healed skin, once again looking up at Alec, who knows the drill and raises his arms, turns his torso from side to side. Magnus watches him for any sign of discomfort, anything that would indicate the wound is not fully healed. He doesn’t see anything but general fatigue. Alec drops his arms and sighs.
“Will you let me go to bed like this? I think I’m too exhausted to shower,” he says, looking at Magnus, searching his expression.
Magnus sniffs him delicately.
“I’ll allow it,” he tells him, keeping his voice and expression serious. Alec cracks one of his half smiles, the one that makes him look like the boy Magnus met and fell in love with all those years ago.
“Come on,” Magnus says, offering Alec his hand, helping him stand up from his seat on the closed toilet. Alec hugs him, tight, their whole bodies touching. He notices Alec breathing him in and is helpless against the smile that he feels on his own lips.
“Kids asleep?” Alec mumbles into the skin of Magnus’ neck.
“I doubt your phone call woke them up, and there were no feet thudding down the hallway so they slept through the portal as well. I’ll check on them when I get you to bed,” Magnus assures him.
They shuffle their way back into the bedroom, Magnus sitting Alec down on the side of the bed, undoing his belt and helping him out of his patrol gear. Alec’s still wearing his combat boots, laces done up tight, and Magnus doesn’t have the patience for that at this time of night.
Alec chuckles, “Hope you didn’t banish those to the moon.”
“They’d deserve it,” Magnus shoots back, because they would. No matter how good they make Alec look.
Alec is still lying on top of the covers, but that’s something he can hopefully deal with himself.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Magnus says before he leaves to go check on Ellie and Tavi. He can never keep his footsteps light enough, and switching into his cat form in these moments has become a habit. He’s on all fours, ears pricked up, before he knows it. They’re both breathing steadily, their heartbeats sleep slow, no signs of them waking up any time soon. He jumps on the armchair and then the dresser to get a closer look at Ellie.
As is usual, her stuffed bunny has been kicked aside. She always falls asleep with him, but as she tosses and turns, he ends up out of her reach by morning.
Magnus jumps into her bed, trying to jostle the mattress as little as possible, and drags the bunny closer to her reaching hand. Her tiny fingers close around its ear instinctively. At least this time she didn’t get Magnus’ tail, he thinks to himself. He jumps back out and gets a closer look at Tavi, who has now declared himself too old to be sleeping with stuffed toys. He’s clutching his blanket to his chest instead.
Magnus surveys the room one last time and walks out.
Alec is already asleep when he gets to their bedroom, his arm reaching towards Magnus’ side of the bed.
Magnus misses the days when the only thing that could wake him up was the sound of the alarm from his wards. Having two kids really changes a person, he thinks. He doesn’t want to open his eyes, knows he’ll have trouble falling back asleep if he lets himself wake up fully. He hears the thunder a second later.
Ah, so that’s what woke him up.
Alec is fast asleep, having only gone to sleep hours after Magnus himself did.
He wants to wake him up and have him deal with this so that he can stay in this warm spot and sleep till morning.
He groans and gets up instead.
Alec was on storm duty last time, anyway, and he would be sure to remind Magnus of that fact.
He pads into Tavi’s room on all fours and immediately sees that he’s fully awake, lying in his bed with eyes open wide as saucers, watching lightning flash and cast shadows on the walls. He jumps on the bed and as any other cat would, very rudely walks on his legs and stomach and chest to reach his face. He butts his head against Tavi’s cheek. Tavi’s hands are already in his fur, petting him gently. Magnus settles down, curling himself up into a little ball of fur on his son’s chest.
He knows Ellie doesn’t mind storms, actually enjoys watching them very much when she has the chance, is fascinated by the way lightning never looks the same twice, how it splits the sky with light. She’s also aware that her fearless big brother would do anything to make storms not happen, ever, but especially during the night.
And so the soft sounds of footsteps from the hallway are no surprise.
Ellie tiptoes into the room, her decrepit old bunny clutched in one hand. Thunder seems to rock the room as she’s opening the door, and Tavi nearly jumps out of his skin.
“It’s me,” she whispers, trying to find her way to Tavi’s bed without the lights on. She does a good job, only stepping on one or two forgotten toys. She sits on the bed and notices the cat.
“He’s here already,” she says to Tavi as she makes him budge and make room for her on the edge of the bed, sneakily having him shift closer to the wall and making him focus on her instead of the moving shadows on the walls.
“He came in a minute ago,” Tavi tells her, letting Magnus settle in the small space between their bodies. They both pet him gently, Ellie playing with the end of his tail, then pressing one of his paws to see the claws come out.
They don’t say anything else, their hands growing heavier until they fall away from his small body. He gets up carefully and only then notices that Ellie is not asleep yet.
“It’s okay,” she whispers and takes Tavi’s hand, “you can go, I’ll keep him safe.”
He wants to change right then and there, kiss her on the forehead and tell her how much he loves her. He meows at her softly instead, kneading his front paws into her hand, making sure not to scratch her, then jumps off the bed and leaves Tavi’s room.
He changes before he enters the bedroom, slides back under the sheets and lets his body go boneless. Alec grabs his hand, nearly giving him a heart attack.
“Gods, I thought you were asleep!” Magnus whispers furiously, clutching at his chest. Alec has the gal to laugh at him.
“I woke up when you got up,” Alec tells him when his laughter subsides.
“Of course you did.”
“Am I not supposed to wake up when my husband decides to leave our bed in the middle of the night?”
Magnus rolls his eyes.
“I was trying to be quiet and let you sleep,” he clarifies. Alec looks at him in the dark of their bedroom, lightning illuminating his expression for a second.
“You didn’t wake me,” he says, keeping his voice hushed, “the fact that you were no longer here did.”
“Oh love,” Magnus searches for Alec’s hand, brings it to his lips to kiss the back of it. Alec hums.
“Tavi was awake, of course, but Ellie beat me to him. She was already in his bed when I looked in and seemed to have the situation well in hand,” Magnus whispers, hoping the darkness hides any tells that might show on his face. Alec hums once again, the pitch slightly different, more considering.
“We got ourselves some great kids, didn’t we,” he ends up asking.
“We got very lucky in that department, yes,” Magnus agrees, because they have. Tavi’s going to be nine years old soon and Magnus barely remembers a time when he wasn’t with them. Ellie is six and the bravest of them all, a little firecracker, already so intelligent Magnus can barely keep up with all the questions she asks.
“She was holding his hand,” Magnus tells Alec, his heart clenching at the image once more, “telling him she’ll keep him safe.”
Alec tightens his fingers around Magnus’.
“I never knew one person could hold so much love in their heart. I never hoped I’d get to have this, that I’d get to be this happy,” Alec says and Magnus understands the sentiment. Finding Alec, getting to be with him? Magnus thought, that’s it, I cannot possibly want anything more, I can’t allow myself to be greedy for more happiness, more love, lest I lose what I already have. But here they are, together, with two beautiful troublemakers sleeping down the hall.
“Remember the time Tavi took Ellie’s hand when we visited the Moscow Institute and people stared at her? Even though not a day before he said he was too old to hold hands with her? Or when Ellie told someone off for teasing Tavi when she saw it made him uncomfortable. Those are the moments when I think my heart will burst, the moments when I think this cannot possibly be real and I’m bound to wake up any second, bound to open my eyes and realize I’m alone” Magnus confesses, knows he never told Alec about that particular recurring nightmare.
Alec moves closer, kisses his forehead.
“You’re not,” he says, lips moving against Magnus’ skin, “you’re not alone and you never will be again, not unless you decide you want to be,” his voice is full with absolute certainty, words imbued with that Alec brand of honesty that still makes Magnus hurt inside. He wonders if it will ever stop, if he can ever possibly get used to the man lying in front of him. It’s been more than thirty years and he hasn’t yet. Alec, even after all these years, still continues to surprise him.
Alec draws back, makes a small noise.
“I should send Clary a gift basket.”
Magnus’ confusion is absolute and he must make a noise because Alec elaborates without any further prompting.
“As a thank you for going to Pandemonium on her 18th birthday, realizing she had the Sight, making an absolute mess of the New York Institute and my life and then bringing the two of us together a couple of days later.”
Magnus snorts, “Should it be a fruit basket or a flower basket?” he asks.
“Well you know if it’s food, the boys are gonna eat all of it… And flowers die.”
Magnus rolls his eyes, not willing to take the bait and be drawn into yet another one of their frequent arguments.
“An art supplies basket it is.”
º º º º º
Magnus is reading a fire message from Ellie when his phone rings. Only the fact that it’s Alec’s ringtone has him putting the frankly hilarious missive down and reaching for his phone. He picks up and before he can take a breath to greet his husband, Alec is already speaking.
“We might need you at the Institute.”
“Well, hello to you too,” Magnus teases.
“There’s a situation,” Alec continues as if he didn’t hear Magnus, “a Warlock has stolen an ancient book from the Spiral Labyrinth,” Magnus’ eyebrows hit his hairline, “and he portalled to Chicago because he believes the lake will make it easier to summon Satan.”
Magnus lets that sink in for a couple of seconds.
“To summon,” he pauses, “Satan.”
Alec expels a loud breath. Magnus’ eyebrows are still somewhere in his hairline. He’s glad he’s sitting down.
“Well I guess that means date night is cancelled?”
“Was it Jace who called you in on this?”
“Gods, it’s been, what, forty two years? And he still somehow manages to cockblock us at least once a month. That boy has a gift,” Magnus can’t help but say because it is a running joke between the three of them now, Jace’s absolutely terrible timing. You can either hate him or love him, and it’s not like Magnus could ever hate any part of Alec, so love it is, even if Jace makes it incredibly hard sometimes. Especially in moments like these.
Alec is full on laughing, and Magnus hears someone speak, their tone indignant.
“I’m on speakerphone? Of course I am,” Magnus says, resigned to his fate of being the laughing stock of the Chicago Institute.
“It’s just me and Jace and Clary, we’re in her office,” Alec clarifies and Magnus perks up.
“Hi Biscuit!” he shouts into the phone.
“Hi Magnus!” she shouts back, smile evident in her voice.
Magnus takes on a more somber tone, says, “Jace.”
“Magnus,” Jace replies, keeping his voice just as serious. Magnus breaks into a smile.
“Guys,” Alec interrupts, and Magnus would bet all his fortunes that he is actually facepalming, dragging his big palm down his face in exasperation at their antics.
“Yes dear,” Magnus asks, as if there wasn’t a Warlock ready to summon Satan himself probably not even twenty minutes from where his husband and his posse are.
“The Warlock?” Alec points out.
“Okay?” Magnus says back, because Alec still hasn’t told him what he needs from him, and Magnus is not in the mood to be offering to help out, he’s all settled in, ready to watch the newest episode of Law & Order and cuddle with his husband. He’ll take the tv show over battling a crazed Warlock any day. Especially because Chicago has a highly capable High Warlock who could easily take care of the situation.
Jace and Clary are laughing at them now, so the situation cannot be that time sensitive.
“Magnus, will you please portal to Chicago and help us,” Alec breaks and says through gritted teeth.
“And why, pray tell, isn’t Madzie the one to be dealing with this?” he asks. He has a suspicion but he wants Alec to confirm it.
“Because she refused to work with the three of us,” Alec confesses, voice strained. Magnus full on laughs now.
“Oh, I do love her, truly,” he says through the dying chuckles. She is forced by circumstances to work with Jace and Clary often, and keeps telling Magnus they surely will be the reason why she will go grey before she even turns a hundred. They’re still so reckless! You’d think being a parent would have helped but no! Magnus has to laugh just remembering her expression, the way she had to get another glass of wine and take a couple of deep breaths to calm down. She cares for them so much, he thinks, smiling softly. His reverie is interrupted by the drumming of Alec’s fingers which he can imagine in his mind’s eye as if Alec was in the room with him.
“Does Madzie have a game plan?”
“She has a couple of suggestions, yes,” Alec confirms.
Magnus waits. There’s another sigh from Alec and more laughter from the Dastardly Duo.
“She said you should bring your spell book, the one from mid-18th century. She has everything else you might need.”
Magnus summons the book and opens a portal, only hanging up when he steps through it and sees Alec in person.
Clary is on him like she hasn’t seen him in a decade. He loves her enthusiasm, always has, returns her hug just as tightly.
“How’s Isabelle and the boys?” he asks, and Clary lights up even further.
“Great, she’s great. She loves the Institute in Barcelona and thanks to its proximity to Alicante, she doesn’t have to go through a bajillion portals twice a day, just, like, three,” she tells him, waving a hand, the only ring she ever wears catching the light, “I mean, the time zone changes are a killer but since all Institutes operate 24/7, we usually manage to match our schedules. And the boys are doing good, last I heard from them,” she chuckles.
Magnus squeezes her hand, “I’m glad to hear that,” he breaks eye contact with her and looks at Jace, whose arms are crossed over his chest, the hip leaning against Clary’s oak table at odds with the rest of his very serious and threatening posture. Magnus lets his hands fall to his sides, spreading his fingers as if he’s about to call his magic to them.
Clary bursts out laughing and Alec is covering his eyes with his hand.
Jace breaks first, letting his arms fall, his face split in a wide grin. Magnus laughs.
“Magnus,” Jace greets him, voice warm, fist extended, ready for their customary fist bump.
“Jace,” Magnus bumps his fist against Jace’s, who opens his on the way back and makes a sound to mimic an explosion. Magnus copies the motion, but instead of imitating the noise, surrounds his fist with magical fire. He extinguishes it a second later, still smiling.
“I can’t believe you guys still do this,” Clary tells them, wiping tears from her eyes.
“You and me both,” Alec tells her, “you and me both. Are you done now?” he asks, exasperated.
Magnus shrugs, so does Jace.
Alec closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and steels himself.
Magnus raises his eyebrows and looks at Jace.
“How’s Meliorn?” he asks, expression innocent, voice teasing.
Jace turns red and looks down at his boots, mumbling something that could be a he’s good or I’m food, Magnus cannot be sure. He looks at Alec, who’s shaking his head once more.
“Satan summoning, can we maybe get back to that now?” he tells the room at large.
Magnus brandishes his mid-18th century book of spells, places it gently on Clary’s table.
“Do I get to see Pumpkin today or did she leave you with instructions?”
“She told us everything we might need to know, but we are to call her if we need anything.”
“Okay then,” Magnus claps his hands, opens the spell book. He flips through it and thinks he might have an idea as to why Madzie said to bring this one specifically. It contains a binding spell, not for a demon or Satan himself, but for a Warlock. The spell is not very well known, Magnus never shared it with the Spiral Labyrinth, fearing it might fall into the wrong hands and be misused. Ragnor knew of it, of course, and Catarina and Tessa as well. And then Madzie found it a couple of decades back when she was perusing his private spell books, having grown bored of the tomes at the Spiral Labyrinth, her thirst for knowledge making her seek out Magnus after she read through Catarina’s personal stash.
He doesn’t actually need anything for the spell itself, although his spell book does contain a note to make sure to boost one’s magic or bring items that would help channel more magic before attempting this, especially if one does not know the strength of the Warlock they are about to bind.
Magnus might not know the Warlock who is about to summon Satan himself, but just the fact that they are about to summon Satan himself speaks volumes.
Magnus won’t need a magic boost, he might actually have to hold back most of his strength.
He wonders what dumb young Warlock let their ambition cloud their teachings.
“Do we know who the Warlock is?” he asks, looking from Clary to Jace to Alec.
Clary nods, taps her desk and a panel reveals a big screen which projects a photo of a young man and his profile in the Common Database.
Ah yes, Magnus thinks, forty years old, powers have barely settled, and there is a note from a Keeper, tried to access tomes way above his pay grade, watch out, which makes Magnus chuckle because he’d recognize Tessa anywhere.
His name is Marlon Bardo.
Magnus does a double take.
“Marlon Bardo? Seriously?” he asks no one in particular, shaking his head in disbelief, and hears Clary snort. Jace is, as always, confused, and Alec is shaking his head, mirroring Magnus.
“Madzie said the tome he stole thankfully has been part of the Preservation Project, and Tessa has already sent us a copy of it,” Clary says, tapping on the hologram and opening a file, manipulating the image until there’s a holo of a book laid out on her desk. She gestures to turn it right side up for Magnus to read. He flips through the virtual pages, raising his eyebrows at the different outrageous spells he sees.
“That bad?” Jace asks, eyebrows draw together. Magnus snorts.
“The opposite. This book is 90% nonsense.”
There’s silence following his statement and when Magnus looks up, he sees three very confused faces watching him.
“Not all spell books are created equal,” he starts explaining, knows full well he’s going into what Alec would call his lecture mode, but can’t help himself as he spreads his arms expansively over the hologram of the book, “and this one was written by a Warlock I had the misfortune of encountering a couple of times before his untimely demise. He was, let’s say, not all there. It was one of the spells in his book which ended up being his undoing.”
Jace looks like he has about a million questions, Alec’s eyebrows are up, Clary sits down heavily in her chair.
“So, what you’re saying is: Marlon,” she tries to control her expression at having to say the name, “is more likely to hurt himself than to summon Satan.”
Magnus is about to nod and then pauses, staring down at the page he just flipped to.
Everyone else in the room freezes.
“Shit,” Magnus says, reading over the spell. The summoning circle looks, unfortunately, very competently assembled and drawn. The spell itself is a bit rough, but thanks to the support it gets from the summoning circle, it might actually do something. It will absolutely not summon Satan, of course, but it might summon someone. And there is nothing worse than summoning an unknown entity.
Alec looks like he’d rather be having dinner and watching Law & Order, and Magnus can’t say he disagrees.
He wants to say they’re, all four of them, too old for this, which wouldn’t technically even be a lie. They are, on paper, way too old for this. Unfortunately for them, everyone knows none of them age the way other Shadowhunters do, and everyone also knows Magnus is a Warlock who just doesn’t age, period.
“We’re too old for this,” Jace says, and Magnus can’t stop the bark of laughter from leaving his mouth. Clary pats Jace’s shoulder, Alec snorts.
“Please,” he tells him, ”you look like you did when you were twenty five,” and Alec is not wrong. They found out, when Jace turned thirty and looked particularly well preserved still, that the Angelic blood in his veins has slowed down his aging considerably. He and Clary are both awfully spry for a pair of 60 year olds.
Jace makes a face.
“I might look it, but I sure don’t feel it,” Jace shoots back, bending a little to make his back pop in clear demonstration.
“You should tell Meliorn to take it easy on you, old man,” Magnus teases. Clary’s amused snort is worth the death glare Jace shoots him.
“Magnus,” Alec interrupts again, looking pointedly at the holograph of the tome.
“Ah, yes, of course,” Magnus clears his throat, “bad news: the summoning spell is not among the 90% of the nonsense that fills this book.”
“And the good news?” Jace asks.
“Should I first tell you more of the bad news or do you want me to use the sandwich method, but in reverse,” Magnus asks.
Alec throws his hands up in the air, “Oh my god, now I understand why Madzie refused to work with us,” he exclaims. Magnus manages to hold in his laughter. He knows the spell, for the best result, should be done at midnight, so they still have hours to kill before they need to get going. Alec is certainly aware too.
Jace looks at Magnus, considering Magnus’ earlier offer.
“More bad news, good news at the end?” he asks and Magnus nods. Alec sits down into the chair facing Clary’s desk, putting his face in his hands.
“The other bad news is, the spell absolutely cannot summon Satan.”
Clary looks confused, “That sounds like good news.”
“Ah,” Magnus puts his hand on the back of Alec’s chair, leaning on it, “it does, doesn’t it. There’s a catch, of course. The spell does have summoning power, not inconsequential summoning power at that, but it does not have enough of it to even tickle Satan’s awareness.”
Jace makes a get on with it motion with his hands which makes Magnus roll his eyes at him.
“Marlon,” Magnus can’t help but look heavenward at the name, “will think he is summoning Satan, when in fact, he will be summoning an unknown entity.”
“Well crap,” Clary says, placing her hand over her Wedded Union rune, a subconscious gesture she’s been doing for decades now. Magnus’ heart aches every time he sees it, reminded of Alec and the way his fingers stray to his wedding ring. Those small involuntary gestures speak volumes about the depth of their love. Here Clary is, trying to shield Izzy from harm even though Izzy is half a world away.
“The good news?” Jace prompts.
“The good news is that Marlon is a youngling in Warlock years and has nowhere near the power to summon a too dangerous unknown entity.”
“So he’ll summon a what, like, your dad?” Jace asks and Magnus sees Alec shoot him an incredulous look. Clary tenses.
Magnus can’t help his snort. Asmodeus used to be a sore subject, yes, but thanks to Alec and their entire family, Magnus has been able to slowly accept his parentage, to appreciate the power it gives him. The fact that he’s known Jace for four decades and the boy wouldn’t known tact if it smacked him in the face also helps.
“Nowhere near someone as powerful, thankfully. At best, our best, it will be a single minor demon, at worst Marlon might manage to tear a small rift to Hell which we might have to close.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Alec says, turning his head to look up at Magnus.
“Famous last words,” Jace points a finger at Alec in warning.
“The four of us should be enough to stop him then?” Clary asks, “I haven’t assembled a team yet, but I can if you think we’ll need more bodies.”
Magnus shakes his head, “I’m fairly sure we’re going to stop him before he even starts casting. Do we know where he portalled to?”
Clary moves the hologram of the book aside, bringing up a plan of the city. There’s a pulsing dot near the lake in the East Chicago area, which Clary zooms in on, the plan now a 3D rendering of the area surrounding the pulsing dot. She lets Magnus examine it.
“Why does it always have to be an abandoned warehouse,” Magnus says under his breath.
“Probably because they don’t want their apartment to be trashed, like when we trashed yours while summoning that memory demon,” Clary points out quite reasonably. Magnus makes a face. That certainly was a disastrous summoning. He still remembers the moment Alec took his hand, though, remembers the current of magic that shot through them at the contact.
He turns his head, looks at Alec who’s leaning in, looking at the hologram in front of them. Alec reaches out, zooms in even more. The hologram won’t show him but a crude rendering of the warehouse. He makes a face.
“Can we send drones to scout the place?” he asks Clary, who zooms the plan out once more and shows him the five green dots that are slowly making their way to the pulsing one. Alec smiles at her raised brows.
“The drones should be sending us better images in under ten minutes,” she says, which has Alec relaxing back into his chair. Magnus sits down into the other one, summoning a chair from Jace’s apartment and pushing it into the back of his knees, making him fall into it.
“Ah yes,” Magnus says, voice pensive, “that Shadowhunter elegance, no one can quite compete with it, can they,” and Jace shoots him a glare. He does settle into the chair, though, bringing one leg up and slouching a little.
“Dinner?” Magnus asks and sees Clary tilt her head in consideration.
Alec reaches out and takes Magnus’ hand, twines their fingers together and brings them both to rest on his leg. Clary watches the gesture and smiles.
“When does Isabelle get back?”
“That’s a shame, she’ll miss all the fun,” Magnus says and Jace laughs. Magnus raises his eyebrows, “Meliorn?”
Jace shuts up real fast, shooting out a quick No before Magnus can elaborate. The last time Jace brought Meliorn along, he almost died of mortification. He’s never been shy about his significant others, or sex talk for that matter, but something about Meliorn’s brand of honestly strips him of his cockiness, unearths the well hidden fragility in him. Magnus is careful with him, in those moments, knows his history and knows how monumental what he and Meliorn have truly is. This teasing is a game they both know and find comfort in, a well rehearsed play which they act out for their audience.
Alec squeezes his fingers, drawing Magnus’ attention.
“Satan summoning first, dinner after?” he suggests, and Magnus sees the look in his eyes. Yes, dinner after, just the two of them, safe in their living room, hopefully not getting cockblocked by Jace again.
“Everyone who agrees say aye,” Alec says, and a chorus of ayes fills the room.
The rendering from the drones shows up a couple of seconds later, ahead of schedule. The warehouse doesn’t look too run down, most of the windows are undamaged but not tinted, offering a good view of the inside.
They can see the beginnings of the summoning circle and a figure crouched by it, painting the rest. In the middle of the warehouse. Which has two access points, one at the front, one in the back.
“Marlon really isn’t the smartest, is he,” Alec says, and Magnus can’t help but agree, “I mean he portalled right out of the Spiral Labyrinth to the place where he wanted to do the summoning, that’s just-- I thought it was common knowledge that portal travel from the Spiral Labyrinth is monitored?” he looks up at Magnus, seeking confirmation.
“It is something everyone is told upon their first visit to the Spiral Labyrinth, or first visit after that particular safety measure was established,” Magnus tells him. He wasn’t too fond of this new rule, seeing the way it could be abused, but after a lengthy discussion with Tessa who explained the safeties put in place to prevent exactly what Magnus feared, he agreed it had merit.
“So he’s just--” Jace looks at Magnus, baffled.
“Generally very uninformed and forgetful? It appears so,” Magnus looks at the warehouse again and a plan forms in his mind.
“Well, that’s good news,” Clary says, “makes our work that much easier.”
“That it does, Biscuit, that it does. I would like to take him in unharmed, if you all agree.”
“Of course,” Alec and Clary say at the same time.
Jace widens his eyes and shrugs his shoulders, “Clary’s the boss,” is all he says.
Like he ever listened to an order in his entire life, Magnus thinks.
“Do you have a plan?” Clary asks him.
They portal right to the front entrance of the warehouse, making quite a bit of noise. Jace, Clary and Alec keep moving noisily while Magnus casts a subtle but powerful protection charm on each of them. They have a myriad of runes activated, of course, but a little extra protection never hurt anyone. Magnus kisses Alec, whose expression sours when Magnus opens another portal. He grabs Magnus’ arm and stops him from stepping through it.
“Of course, darling,” Magnus matches the low quality of Alec’s voice.
“Love you,” Alec says before their lips connect again. Magnus hears exaggerated gagging, courtesy of Jace.
“Love you too, see you soon,” Magnus says and steps through the portal, appearing at the back entrance of the warehouse. If he studied the half finished drawing of the summoning circle correctly, Marlon’s back should be to him.
It seems like the trio took their be as big of a distraction as you can role seriously, because Magnus can hear the big industrial doors bang open all the way to where he is, almost 700 feet away.
Marlon couldn’t have missed that.
Magnus changes into his cat form anyway. He didn’t mention this in his explanation of the plan and he hopes the three are going to be busy with distracting the other Warlock to actually look for the one that’s on their side.
His cat form gives him a very unfair advantage here. The warehouse has not been connected to electricity for years at this point, and Marlon only needed to use five candles for his summoning circle, making visibility very poor. It being 9 pm, there is no natural light now either.
On all fours, Magnus can see as clear as if it was midday.
The warehouse door is old, as is the building itself, and while well preserved in general, the big steel door has rusted, part of it so much so that there is now an opening big enough for Magnus to push his way through and get inside.
A bit of his fur gets caught on the edge of said door and Magnus hisses.
He pads softly to the left, hiding his small form behind one of the numerous columns spread around the big space. Looks like he’s right on time for the Big Villain Speech. He perks up his ears and sits down, flicking his tail from one side to the other.
“They only sent three of you?” Marlon asks, voice dripping with derision.
Magnus wants to facepalm. He hoped Marlon would have no idea who the three Shadowhunters in front of him were, judging by his lack of other common knowledge, but actually having it confirmed is making Magnus question the general education of the Warlock populace.
The three don’t say anything, but make good use of their body language. Magnus sees the way Alec adjusts his posture none too subtly, the way Clary’s hands shake, the way Jace’s face looks uncertain now.
Magnus wants to applaud their acting skills.
He sees Marlon notice all these telegraphed details as well and sees him puff out his chest, his ego visibly growing at least two sizes. Magnus flicks his tail, wishes he could snort instead.
“Once again, I have been underestimated,” he says, voice booming in the empty space, “you, Shadowhunters, just like the Warlocks, shall learn how powerful Marlon Bardo is, and shall rue the day you dismissed him!”
Magnus sees Clary fight her laughter.
The plan was to let Marlon talk, but frankly, Magnus doesn’t have the patience to listen to whatever he has to say. He uses the dark to his advantage, sneaking from one column to the next, getting closer and closer to Marlon. When he stops, a pillar away from Marlon now, he notices Alec narrowing his eyes, looking into the dark, focused on the spot Magnus just vacated. A moment later his eyes return to Marlon’s very much non threatening figure.
“The Warlock community tried to keep me away from higher knowledge, tried to shield these tomes from me,” Marlon continues his Big Speech, “but they failed!” he throws his head back and laughs.
Magnus sees Alec break character and let his shoulders and arms slump, the arrow nicked in his bow pointing to the ground. He shakes his head once and gets back into position. Marlon is still cackling, none the wiser.
Magnus despairs. They have faced a lot of villains, although he’d hesitate to call Marlon that, some more incompetent than others, but this is bordering on absurd.
His eyes catch something, and he focuses on Marlon’s hands. He’s moving his fingers subtly, but no magic is visible yet. He can’t do the summoning without actually reciting the spell out loud, but there are other nasty things he could throw at the Shadowhunters without the use of words.
Magnus looks at the trio and is happy to note that at least one of them is looking at Marlon’s hands at all times, ready to jump or deflect if Marlon chooses to attack.
“I will summon Satan and you cannot stop me!”
Marlon’s confidence is enviable, Magnus thinks to himself.
His cat ears perk up at a low noise coming from his right. He startles a little and his claws are out and scratching against the concrete floor before he can stop them. A rat scurries away, disappearing in the far corner of the warehouse.
Marlon doesn’t notice anything, of course, but Alec is looking straight at him, as if he could make out the small feline body half hidden behind a pillar. Magnus is frozen, and Alec’s eyes move away, scrutinizing the rest of the warehouse which is full of ever shifting shadows.
Magnus realizes he is very much testing his luck here, their luck. It’s time, he decides.
He runs to the last pillar, the one closest to Marlon, who’s still droning on about how he’ll make everyone see and that they will forever remember his name.
Magnus thinks of two legs, two arms, painted nails, glowing eyes.
He’s standing behind the column, magic surrounding his hands.
Clary must notice the shift in the atmosphere, she always was very sensitive to the magic around her, and draws Marlon’s attention solely to her. She’s begging him not to do this, telling him he can make his mark on the world in a peaceful way.
Magnus steps out from behind the pillar and in six long strides, takes Marlon’s wrists in his.
The slight downside of this binding spell is that it needs physical contact.
He can see Alec’s eyes widen, and as realization hits, his expression darkens.
Okay, Magnus should have probably told him about that.
At that point, Marlon is covered by Magnus’ magic from head to toe, unable to move. The three Shadowhunters approach the two of them, looking from one to the other.
Magnus finishes the spell, the glow around Marlon dissipating. He can breathe and blink, but that’s it, Magnus knows.
“Done?” Jace asks.
Magnus nods and opens a portal to the Tribunal holding cells. A Guard steps through and his eyebrows hit his hairline when he sees the five of them.
“Uh,” he says, looking from Clary to Alec to Magnus to Jace. His eyes stop and settle on Marlon.
“Marlon Bardo?” he asks and receives four nods.
“Uhm, yeah, I need verbal confirmation from the person or some form of identification?” he says. Jace takes two steps forward and starts patting Marlon down. Magnus wants to tell him Warlocks generally don’t carry their physical wallets with--
Marlon’s wallet is in his back pocket, cash and identification present.
Jace hands it over to the Guard.
“Thanks?” the Guard says, pulling the out ID and comparing the photo to the man standing in front of him, frozen to the spot.
“Okay, that checks out I guess?”
“The paperwork will be sent through within the hour,” Clary informs him.
“That’s-- yeah, thank you, Miss, uh, Fr-- Lightwo-- uhm,” the Guard fumbles for words, face red.
“Clary is fine, please,” she tells him, voice kind.
“Sure, yeah, uhm, Madame, uh, Sirs?” Magnus tries not to laugh. The Guard takes a hold of one of Marlon’s arms but Magnus stalls him, puts a hovering spell on Marlon as well, making it easier for the Guard to transport him.
“Here you go, the binding spell should wear off in under fifteen minutes, please place Mister Bardo into one of the cells designed to contain a Warlock of level 1.”
Magnus notices the Guard’s already confused expression shift into absolute bafflement but doesn’t feel like explaining why four of the most famous figures in the Shadow World decided to contain a Warlock that is barely a threat.
“Okay, uhm, bye?” the Guard says and pushes Marlon through the portal, following right behind him.
Clary looks around, considers the giant drawing of the summoning circle, and asks the warehouse at large, “Do you feel like cleaning this up?”
The three sour expressions she receives are answer enough.
“Yeah, me neither. Perks of being the boss though, I’ll send the trainees to do the dirty work,” she winks, “it builds character,” she adds.
Alec takes Magnus’ hand, looking at him with the we’ll talk about that later eyes. Magnus squeezes his fingers in silent apology.
He looks at Clary, “Your office okay?” and at her nod, opens a portal. She waves goodbye, sends Magnus an air kiss, and steps through.
Jace is looking at Magnus as if daring him to ask out loud. Magnus winks, and opens a portal to Meliorn’s place in their realm. Jace half hugs Alec and punches Magnus in the shoulder with a closed fist.
Magnus looks at Alec, who’s already looking at him.
They step through the portal together.
º º º º º
Magnus is adding the finishing touches to the ragù when he hears Alec groan. His hand freezes above the pot but when no other sound follows, he throws in the pinch of chili powder, giving the sauce the signature kick that the kids like so much.
Alec comes into the kitchen when Magnus is covering the pot, ready to let is simmer while he starts preparing the béchamel sauce.
“Got a text from Tavi,” Alec says, voice strained around the edges.
“What did our darling son have to say,” Magnus asks him, already having a good idea what the text might be about.
“He says he’s giving us fair warning, he will arrive in approximately 45 minutes and hopes everyone will be decent ,” Alec quotes, eyes pointed heavenward.
Magnus can’t help but throw his head back and laugh.
“He was an hour early!” Alec exclaims, throwing his hands up in the air. Magnus keeps laughing, pats him on the shoulder. When he can finally catch his breath, he smacks a kiss on Alec’s lips.
“Well it wasn’t the first time he caught us in flagrante delicto, and it most probably won’t be the last,” he tells Alec, who lets his head fall forward, resting his forehead on Magnus’ shoulder. Magnus hears and feels a sharp intake of breath and before Alec can raise his head and look at him, Magnus is laughing again.
“No,” he says through his mirth, “no, Alexander, we can’t possibly traumatize him again so soon.”
“And the lasagne is not done,” Magnus points to the simmering pot, the empty one that’s about to be used for the béchamel sauce.
“Need any help?”
“If you’re offering actual help,” Magnus looks at his husband, eyebrows raised, “then yes, please.”
Alec puts a hand on his waist, kisses him soft and slow.
“I’ll get the cheese ready and grind nutmeg for the béchamel, then” Alec says against his lips. Magnus chases them, licking into his mouth. Alec just finished his coffee and he tastes like dark bitter sin with hints of sweet chocolate. Magnus’ arms are around his neck before he knows what he’s doing.
He moans when Alec pushes him against the counter, his hands under Magnus’ shirt, clawing at skin, one thigh between Magnus’ own, putting pressure just where Magnus wants it.
The chime of the wards and the following swoosh of a portal startle them both. Magnus sighs into the gentled kiss, letting his hands caress slowly down Alec’s arms until he has Alec’s hands in his.
Alec’s eyes are soft, lips stretching in a big smile.
“Ellie,” he greets, letting go of one of Magnus’ hands and stepping back a little, motioning for Ellie to join them.
She does, allowing them to hug her at the same time, the way they used to when she was little.
Magnus’ eyes are closed, his nose in her soft curls. He smells rosemary and peppermint and his heart swells.
“You’re still using the shampoo I brewed for you?” he can’t help and ask.
“It’s the best damn shampoo I’ve ever had, why would I not use it?” she shoots back, slightly baffled.
“You haven’t asked for a bottle of it in years,” Magnus tells her, combing his fingers through her black hair, “did you change your hair?”
She looks up, as if she still had the fringe she hated so much, and scrunches up her nose when she sees her black curls. She keeps her nose scrunched up when she shakes her head from side to side. Her hair’s the lovely shade of mint-seafoam when she looks up at him. The glamour bleeds away from her face and eyes too, and Magnus kisses her cheek.
“You know, you can keep the glamour on if it makes you mo-”
“Dad,” she looks at Alec, “I had to stop by a Mundane coffee shop to grab the pie I promised to bake,” she grimaces, “sorry, I didn’t have time. And while Mundanes do love their crazy hair colours still, we’re six months away from Halloween so,” she motions to herself now, “all this might not have gone over well.”
Alec puts his hands up, “okay, just making sure you know.”
Ellie rolls her eyes, “Believe me dad, I am well aware,” her eyes soften then, and she looks up at Alec again, poking a finger in his stomach, “thank you, though.”
Alec kisses her forehead.
“Drink?” Magnus asks, and Ellie nods gratefully.
“Y’know, dad never said Shadowhunting could be so boring,” she says as she sits down on one of the bar stools by the kitchen island.
“That’s because, in our experience, it rarely is,” Magnus tells her, looking away from the melting butter in the pan. Alec is grinding nutmeg right next to him, hiding his smile from Ellie.
“I,” she says, gesturing dramatically, “have been stuck doing research for weeks,” she bemoans. Magnus and Alec both know she loves research, but they’re also aware that she is one of the first Warlock Shadowhunters. They know how hard she worked and trained and studied, how proud she was to be a member of the first Joint Task Force.
“It hasn’t even been two weeks, Ellie,” Magnus tells her gently, “they’re giving you time to--”
“I’m fine!” she exclaims, tone suggesting she’s been repeating this exact phrase ad nauseam for the last two weeks.
Alec puts the nutmeg down and turns around, hands on the countertop behind him.
Ellie looks above his head, not making eye contact, “Dad, please, I don’t need a lecture from the legendary Alec Lightwood right now,” she says.
“Lightwood-Bane,” Alec shoots back, reaching for Magnus, pulling him to his side, and almost ruining the béchamel in the process. Magnus manages to salvage it, letting his magic stop the butter from burning. So much for cooking without magic.
Ellie has that half smile, the one Magnus swears she got from Alec, on her lips.
“Like I don’t know that,” she says, rolling her eyes.
Alec shrugs, “Just making sure.”
Magnus shakes his head at them both.
“Where’s Tavi, anyway,” Ellie changes the subject none too subtly. Magnus snorts. Ellie looks from him to Alec and back, her confused expression clearing into one of understanding. Then she breaks into giggles.
“I almost forgot about that,” she says, her shoulders shaking, “ahh, I was so glad I was on time and not early like I usually am, honestly.”
“Yes, yes, yes, please wait for Tavi with the teasing so we don’t have to go through it twice,” Alec tells her, turning back to the counter to get the cheese ready.
“I mean,” she ponders, “I know you guys have sex. Like, obviously. But,” she pauses for dramatic effect, Magnus would guess, “it’s one thing knowing about it, it’s another seeing it.”
“We weren’t really even doing anything!” he says, voice exasperated.
Magnus looks at him, eyebrows up. That’s not what he remembers.
“That’s not what Tavi said,” Ellie tells him.
Magnus claps his hands. “Okay,” he turns to Ellie, winking at her, “please stop teasing your father, you know he’s an old man and his heart is weak.”
Alec sputters in indignation. “My heart is perfectly fine, thank you very much,” Magnus gives him three seconds and is not disappointed, “and if anyone’s the old man here, it’s you!”
Magnus gasps, hand over his heart.
“Oh my god you guys, please stop, I swear,” Ellie moans into her arms, where she hid her face. Magnus looks at Alec, who winks at him. Mission accomplished. Ellie’s shoulders are relaxed, the sudden brightness and bounciness of her curls betraying just how tense she was before, when her thoughts were still on the accident.
Magnus is loath to mention it again, but. He nods in her direction, and Alec leaves the cheese as is, goes to sit down next to her.
“We’re glad you could make it this time,” he tells her, and she sighs.
“It was such a rookie mistake, dad,” she says, her voice wet. She turns and hides her face in Alec’s neck. His hands bring her closer, rubbing her back gently as she cries. Magnus takes five quick steps and puts a hand on her back as well, leaning closer, sheltering his baby girl from the world.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” he tells her.
“I know,” her voice is muffled, “just try to not make the same mistake twice, right,” she quotes, her voice mimicking Alec’s cadence perfectly. Magnus smiles.
“You protected the boy,” Alec says. He accessed the mission report, him and Magnus reading it from one holopad, shoulders touching, their hands clasped together tightly.
“The Healer kept telling me how lucky I was, that I could have died,” she says, bringing her head up and sniffling. Looking from Magnus to Alec, her face looks haunted, and then her expression crumples.
“I wouldn’t want you guys to go through that,” she sobs.
“Oh Ellie, baby,” Alec whispers, putting both his arms around her.
“We love you,” Magnus says, unable to hide the wetness of his own voice.
“And we’re so proud,” Alec adds, rocking them gently, moving his hand from Ellie’s back to grab at Magnus, to bring him close.
That’s when the portal swooshes open and Tavi saunters in.
“Oh god, what am I interrupting this time?” he says, eyes wide. Ellie’s arm sneaks from their cocoon and she motions for Tavi to join them.
“Are we doing family crying sessions now, did I miss a memo?” he asks, but doesn’t protest when Magnus and Alec open their arms, when Ellie grabs him by his t-shirt and drags him close.
“Hey, Bellie,” he says softly, tugging at her hair.
“Don’t call me that,” she whines.
Magnus looks up, feeling eyes on him. Alec is watching him, soft smile on his lips.
Magnus makes short work of the lasagne with the help of his magic. He did plan to do the whole recipe by hand, was looking forward to it, actually. Well, maybe next time.
Tavi and Ellie are still bickering about the pie choice, Tavi insisting pecan with caramel is superior to any other pie out there. Ellie is the classic apple pie aficionado, they all know. She shimmies her fingers, a small plate with a piece of apple pie, still steaming, appearing right next to Tavi’s elbow.
“Y’know, no matter how many times you make one of these appear and try and force feed them to me, I won’t change my mind, right,” he tells her, pushing the small plate away from himself.
Ellie shrugs, inspects her fingernails.
“You can not beat a caramel pecan with plain apples ,” he repeats a lifelong argument.
Magnus makes plates appear with a loud pop, right there on the kitchen island.
No one even startles.
Alec turns to him, eyebrow raised.
Magnus must be losing his touch.
He puts down the steaming lasagne, slicing it into even pieces and transporting those to their plates. Alec already brought the cheese, and everyone proceeds to sprinkle some on top of their pasta.
“Bon appétit, darlings,” Magnus tells them and hears hums in response, then feels a hand on his knee, fingers squeezing.
“Thank you for cooking,” Alec tells him.
“Well, you helped,” Magnus replies, letting his fingers squeeze Alec’s under the table.
“You guys know you don’t have to hold your hands under the table, right,” Ellie points out with her mouth full.
Alec’s eyes widen innocently, looking at her. Tavi is already groaning before Alec even opens his mouth.
“But his leg is under the table, Ellie,” Alec says, voice and expression full of feigned confusion.
“Oh my god, please, someone save me,” Tavi moans.
Ellie’s laughter fills the kitchen, everything around them covered with an ethereal glow for a couple of seconds.
The dinner is, as always, a loud and boisterous affair.
Everyone has a couple of drinks and Magnus feels pleasantly full and languid when they move to the living room. The kids will be staying over, using their dad’s homemade waffles as an excuse, as they always do.
They beg off to the rooms that will forever be theirs, no matter how long it’s been since they officially moved out, Ellie to call and check in with the Institute, Tavi to catch up on correspondence from his clients.
He and Alec settle down on the couch, Magnus leaning against Alec’s chest, Alec’s right arm around him, palm on Magnus’ stomach.
Alec kisses his temple once, twice.
“Our fiftieth anniversary is coming up,” he whispers against Magnus’ hair.
“Mm, I am aware, love,” he’s been thinking about it too, prone to losing himself in the fifty years of memories they share. Alec is used to the way Magnus gets lost in thought sometimes, and makes sure to be by Magnus’ side when he blinks out of it, ready to ground him in the here and now.
“I was hoping you’d let me surprise you,” Alec says, voice a little unsure.
Magnus moves his head so that he can see his face.
“Well, if you let me surprise you right back,” he suggests, and Alec rolls his eyes.
Magnus has been considering something more and more often over the past couple of years, and with the warm soft feeling in his stomach, he thinks now might be the right time.
He twines their fingers on his stomach, looking ahead, at the wall of books lining the living room wall.
“I wanted to show you something,” he tells the books, hand squeezing around Alec’s, hard. He knows Alec can feel his muscles grow stiff, and he tries to make his body realize this is not the time for fight or flight. He’s safe, he’s happy, Gods he’s so happy, and he wants to share this with Alec, finally. He sits up, turns his body so that he’s facing Alec, who looks more than a little concerned.
“I need to show you something,” Magnus rephrases. Alec is searching his face and then his expression softens. He brings their hands to his lips, kissing the ring Magnus never takes off.
“Thank you,” he says, to Magnus’ absolute confusion, “please, don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back? Just-- I love you,” Alec tells him and gets up, leaves the living room.
Magnus looks around himself like he’s seeing the room for the first time. He doesn’t know what just happened, his heart is beating wildly--
Alec is slip-sliding back, his socked feet making his usual elegant run an impossibility on their floor.
“I was hoping,” he says, voice breathless, “I mean, I was hoping that one day you would--” he stops talking and hands Magnus the small box that he brought from who knows where. It’s dusty, and Magnus recognizes the name jeweller’s name. They closed down over two decades ago.
He pops the lid open and--
Alec is looking at him, expression uncertain. He’s wringing his hands, something he hasn’t done in so long it takes Magnus a second to recognize it a nervous tick.
He takes the midnight blue leather collar from the box.
It’s small, could very well have been mistaken for a bracelet. But Magnus knows. He looks at the amber coloured precious stone dangling from the front of it, touches his fingers to it.
He looks up at Alec, has no idea what his expression must be like. He’s so good at keeping himself in check, so good at letting people see only what he wants them to see. But then, Alec hasn’t been just people, well, ever.
Alec has always been someone who strips him of all his defences.
He takes Alec’s hand, opening it on his leg, and places the collar oh so gently on his palm.
“I love you,” he says, and leans in to kiss Alec.
Then he sits back, thinks about four paws, soft fur, a tail that swishes, ears that perk up.
He’s looking up at Alec, cat eyes searching his face, his tail nervously flicking behind him. Alec’s eyes are wide, his mouth slightly open.
“I’ve never seen you from this close,” he murmurs, voice awed. He doesn’t move, looking at Magnus like he’s never seen a cat before. Magnus blinks slowly.
“May I?” he asks at last, absolutely unnecessarily, before he lets his fingers touch the soft fur of Magnus’ ear.
Magnus blinks again, and doesn’t move.
His ear twitches when Alec runs his fingers over the fur on the edge of it. Alec laughs. He didn’t think Alec would reject this side of him, but the easy acceptance in Alec’s eyes hits him hard. His eyes would be wet, if he were human now. Because he’s not, he jumps into Alec’s lap, curling into a tight ball, settling in comfortably.
Alec chuckles, sits back and starts running his fingers gently through Magnus’ fur.
He’s purring and almost asleep when a door bursts open and Ellie rushes in.
“All done!” she says, voice cheerful, and settles into the armchair, bringing both her legs up and dragging the throw from the back of it over herself. She freezes when she notices Magnus.
“Oh,” she breathes, “hi.”
Magnus doesn’t dare move.
“Long time no see,” she says, gets up and sits down by Alec’s feet, petting Magnus like she used to when she was little, her fingers oh so gentle. Magnus can’t look away from her soft expression, has no idea what Alec must be thinking.
Tavi is suddenly standing behind Ellie, saying something about how his clients are impossible and how has Magnus managed not to kill anyone in the centuries he’s been doing this.
Magnus looks at him and Tavi stops mid-sentence.
“Jellybean,” he says, and then covers his mouth with his hand, eyes wide.
Ellie shoots him an exasperated look. “Didn’t we swear never to tell him we used to call him that.”
Magnus thought he was being sneaky, that no one knew--
“We lasted way longer than I thought we would, honestly,” Tavi says, only a little defensive. He crouches down on the other side of Alec’s legs and takes one of Magnus’ paws between his fingers, squeezing gently to see his claws pop out. He gently pops out his own, too, looking into Magnus’ cat eyes.
“Hi there,” he says, and Magnus flicks his tail, circles it around Tavi’s wrist. Tavi’s eyes are a little misty.
“Jellybean?” Alec asks, his hand now still over Magnus’ back.
Ellie hums, “Because of his toebeans, see,” she says, tilting Magnus’ back paw gently to show Alec what she means.
Alec chuckles, “Of course.”
Tavi looks at all three of them, his expression vaguely confused.
“I really do feel like I missed a memo, was it a plan for this dinner to be extra emotional with a side of nostalgia?”
Ellie smacks him on the shoulder. She stops moving then, her eyes trained on Magnus, then on the collar lying next to Alec’s leg, then on Alec. Her eyes narrow, then widen. She takes Tavi’s hand, shushes him when he tries to protest, and drags him to her room, closing the door behind them.
Magnus sometimes wonders if she can read minds.
He gets up, walks around a little, kneading his paws into Alec’s leg, and then sits on one of his thighs, careful not to steady himself with his claws.
Alec is looking at him, expression slightly bemused.
“Glad to know we’ve established you are nowhere near as sneaky as you think you are,” he tells him, tapping one finger against Magnus’ front left paw. Magnus bats at it and nearly falls, unwilling to save himself by clawing up his husband’s leg. Alec’s hand is there to steady him.
“Your eyes are the same,” he says, and then he rolls his eyes, “yes, I am aware that a lot of black cats have eyes like yours.”
Magnus keeps looking at him, perking his ears to hear Alec’s heartbeat. It’s steady, regular, soothing. Magnus feels his eyes closing slowly and hurries to open them again.
Alec smiles his half smile, the one that Magnus loves so much.
“I just knew it was you,” Alec says.
Magnus tilts his head. Knew?
Alec looks at the ceiling. “It’s been such a long time, I don’t even know if you remember. I was sick, we’ve been together for, oh, barely a second and you were so worried,” Alec recounts, looking back at Magnus, smile still firmly in place.
“I was pretty sure I dreamt it, the small cat sleeping on my chest, purring away,” and Magnus didn’t forget, how could he, but he had no idea Alec remembers.
“That was the first time,” he tells Magnus, like it’s a secret.
“The next time,” he runs a finger down Magnus’ tail, and this position is really not sustainable. Magnus decides to settle into his customary small ball of fur right under Alec’s knees, at the top of his thighs. He makes sure he can still watch Alec, so it takes him a little bit to settle. Alec waits to continue his tale only after he has Magnus’ full attention again.
“The next time, I’m pretty sure was when we were in London, and our cats started disappearing that one summer,” and the vivid memories of his little cat adventure make him want to smile, “I still can’t believe I talked you into getting an AC unit,” Alec chuckles.
“The time after that,” his expression loses a little bit of its brightness and Magnus is transported back into the stifling heat of Bogota, “the Charaphagus and the Warlock boy.”
Magnus flicks his tail, stretches his paw and lets it rest gently over Alec’s hand.
“And then, of course, all the times you soothed the kids when they were little,” Alec raises a brow, as if saying you really thought you got away with that?
Magnus, apparently very foolishly, thought he did get away with it.
“And then there was the famous case of Marlon Bardo,” ah, yes, the name neither of them will ever forget.
Magnus looks at Alec, stands up and jumps to the couch cushion next to Alec. He’s back in his human form before he blinks.
“The way you change it’s, well,” Alec pauses, takes Magnus’ hand.
“It’s?” Magnus prompts.
“Like magic,” Alec says, scrunching up his face right after. Magnus looks at him in disbelief, and then laughs and laughs.
“A very apt description, Alexander,” he tells him when he’s able to speak again. Alec rolls his eyes, keeps holding Magnus’ hand.
“I can only compare it to the werewolf change, which, as you well know, is much more violent and loud and frankly, terrifying.”
“And painful,” Magnus adds, because it is. He’s been brewing a potion for Maia’s pack for a long time now. He’s been tweaking it, adapting and updating it over the years based on the feedback he got from the pack. Their changes are nowhere near painless, but they aren’t something you suffer through or try to avoid anymore.
“It doesn’t hurt, does it?” Alec looks concerned now, searching Magnus’ face.
“No, darling, not even a little bit,” he promises, and Alec relaxes back into the couch.
Magnus once again settles his back against Alec’s chest, allows himself to relax once more. He shifts and notices the collar. He brings it closer to his face, examining the fine leather, the beautifully crafted precious stone. He opens the fastening and puts it on his wrist, closing it back up one handed.
It’s a little loose, but not enough that it would bother him or slip off.
He turns his wrist this way and that, looking at the amber stone as it catches the light.
“I had it custom made,” Alec says, his mouth right by Magnus’ ear, his breath making him shiver.
“I thought Ferranti’s closed in the 30’s,” Magnus says, unable to tear his eyes away from his new accessory.
“They have,” Alec confirms. Magnus turns his head to look at him.
“Then how did you-” he stops, thinks back to what Alec told him, “-oh.”
“Oh Alexander,” he turns around and kisses Alec, hoping that somehow the press of lips will convey everything he’s feeling. When he moves back, Alec’s eyes are still closed, lips slightly parted.
“I love you,” Magnus tells him, watching his eyes blink open, “and words cannot express how much I value your patience, your understanding.”
“Magnus,” he murmurs, caressing Magnus’ cheek with his fingers, letting his palm settle there, “of course, of course.”
And how Alec doesn’t know just how extraordinary he is to Magnus, he will never understand.
“But it’s not,” Magnus says, “it’s not a matter of course, Alexander, you have to know that. You’ve waited five decades for me to tell you about this, without pressuring me or ever even bringing it up. You gave me time and space when you could have demanded explanations the first time I changed.”
“Well, to be honest, I really did think I dreamt that,” Alec tells him, shrugging.
Alec looks at him then, his expression clear of any pretense.
“You’ve always been beyond patient with me, and so very careful, letting me dictate the pace most of the time,” Alec confesses, his eyes dancing across Magnus’ face, “I thought it was time I gave you the same courtesy.”
Magnus chuckles wetly. “Well, you’ve outdone yourself, darling,” Alec shakes his head, “I truly do not think I could have waited as long,” Magnus admits.
“You would have,” Alec tells him, voice full of conviction, “you would have waited a thousand years, if it was for me.”
“Alexander,” Magnus feels like Alec punched him in the gut. There’s no air in his lungs, his heart is stuttering.
“Tell me it’s not true,” Alec commands, like he knows Magnus can’t. And he does.
“I can’t tell you that,” Magnus murmurs, gently letting his forehead rest against Alec’s.
“Told you,” Alec says, voice smug.
“I’d wait an eternity for you,” he confirms, keeping his voice hushed, “but I’m very glad I don’t have to.”
“Yes,” Alec puts his hand on Magnus’ waist, adjusting him more comfortably on his lap, “I’m right here.”
Magnus wants to kiss him senseless, take his shirt off and run his fingers over the runes etched on his chest. He wants to do a lot of things, but then he hears the door creak and remembers.
“Heeeey guys,” Ellie says through the crack of the open door, “is it safe for us to come out now?” she’s very carefully not looking into the living room just yet.
Magnus buries his face in Alec’s neck and laughs. Alec sighs and confirms they can come in.
“Yes, Tavi, all their clothes are on, I promise,” Ellie tells her brother, and Magnus feels Alec’s whole body shaking with his silent laughter.
“We’re not that bad, are we?” Magnus asks him.
Alec throws his head back and laughs.
Ellie sits to the right of Alec, so Magnus slides down to his left, patting the empty space next to himself and looking at Tavi, who’s flicking his tail behind himself, indecision evident.
Then he sighs, circles his tail around his own waist and sits down next to Magnus.
“I love you all,” Magnus says to the room at large, tugging gently at the furry end of Tavi’s tail. Ellie’s hair is bright, as if it was glowing from within and Magnus sees her settle her head on Alec’s shoulder. She stretches her arm, takes Magnus’ hand.
“Love you too, ayah,” she tells him, squeezing his hand. She hasn’t called him that in years and Magnus has to agree with Tavi, they should have been warned about this highly emotional evening beforehand, because Magnus is pretty sure his heart can’t take this.
“I mean, yeah,” Tavi murmurs, poking Magnus’ leg gently with a claw.
“Obviously,” Alec adds, making Ellie groan an exasperated men under her breath. Alec laughs at that, turns his head and kisses Magnus’ temple.
“We loved it when you napped with us, when we were little and dad wasn’t home,” Ellie tells him. Magnus remembers the small gentle hands in his fur, the way they would lie down around him in one bed so that both could pet him and keep him close. How they, subconsciously, formed a protective circle around him, shielding him from the outside world with their own small bodies.
“Yeah,” Tavi confirms, looking up at Magnus, flashing his eyes unglamoured eyes at Magnus. Magnus takes it as the gift it is and kisses his forehead.
“Anyway!” Ellie breaks the heavy atmosphere with a flourish, clapping her hands and jumping off the sofa, “has he told you about the rest of the collars yet?”
Alec looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
“The rest of the collars? There’s more?” Magnus asks her, voice delighted.
Ellie cackles and sprints towards Alec’s study, Alec hot on her heels.