"All right, good hustle out there today. A few more practices like that and we'll be in good shape for the game next weekend. Now, get your sorry asses off the field before your professors send me emails bitching about your attendance before classes even start!"
Coach Starkweather's booming voice echoed over to Alec like a message sent straight from the angels above, and he flopped onto the ground, closing his eyes as he fought to catch his breath. Practice had started that morning at five o'clock, just as hints of pink and orange were beginning to tint the sky. Judging by how high the sun was at this point, it had to be mid-morning at least and Alec's muscles were screaming at him.
"Let's go, dude. I don't want to listen to Maryse flip if you miss the first class of the semester," came a voice from above him. Alec opened one eye, squinting up at his adopted brother as Jace nudged at his thigh with a muddy cleat while tilting his water bottle back to take a deep drink.
"She won't know if you don't tell her," Alec pointed out, closing his eye again. Jace barked out a laugh.
"Oh, she has her ways, you and I both know that," he responded, chuckling. A stream of water suddenly landed on Alec's face and he abruptly sat up, sputtering and wiping at his eyes.
"God, I hate you," he muttered, glaring up at Jace even as he grasped his brother's outstretched hand, allowing himself to be hauled to his feet with a groan.
"You knew we had practice this morning. Why the fuck did you go as hard as you did at the gym last night?" Jace asked as the two of them trailed after the rest of the football team towards the locker rooms. Alec shrugged.
"Go hard or go home, right? I want to be in the best shape I can be if I'm starting this season," Alec told him, wincing at the twinging muscle in his hamstring.
"You need to learn limits, bro. Going hard is great until you fuck something up and get sidelined until it heals."
"Yeah, yeah. Don't jinx me," Alec retorted, sighing as they entered the relative coolness of the locker rooms. He scraped a hand over his face, grimacing at the layer of grime and sweat caked to his skin as he opened his locker and grabbed his towel. He tapped his phone to check the time and swore under his breath. Practice had run long and he now had just under forty-five minutes to shower, head back across campus to pick up his backpack, and grab something to eat from the dining commons before making it to class.
He showered quickly and yanked on his jeans and a New York Yankees t-shirt before waving a quick goodbye to Jace as he hurried out of the locker room. Jace was right - his mother would kill him if he missed the first class of his sophomore year; grumbling a bit to himself, Alec picked up the pace, his gym bag bouncing off his hip as he jogged halfway across campus, slowing only when his hamstring tightened painfully. He gritted his teeth at his idiocy as he settled back into a brisk walk marred by a slight limp. He'd pulled the muscle a month before returning to school, but, terrified he'd be told he wouldn't be able to play, he hid the injury, hoping it would go away on its own. A dumbass move, but the starting quarterback had graduated and Alec was next in line. This was his time to shine and he wouldn't let anything get in his way.
From the moment he was born, Alec Lightwood had been raised to follow in his parents' footsteps and expectations. Be a star athlete, earn straight As, boost the family's reputation by volunteering and being seen in the community, and continue the Lightwood legacy of attending Alicante University.
Robert and Maryse Lightwood's expectations were sky high and, as the eldest, he was expected to perform at even higher standards than his siblings. Alec knew this and he constantly pushed himself further and harder to make his parents proud. He thrived in making his parents proud and he bent over backwards to be the best he could be.
The hours of studying, endless football practices, the sleepless nights, it all paid off the day he was accepted to Alicante. His parents had been thrilled when he signed the paperwork and sent off the deposit, especially since he had been recruited to join the football team to play quarterback. It was the perfect moment for Alec, surrounded by his parents, his sister Isabelle, Jace, and his youngest brother, Max, made all that much better since Jace was signing right along with him.
He had made it through freshman year relatively unscathed and had returned for a sophomore year that he was determined to make even better. He just hoped this injury wouldn't be the thing to derail all of his plans.
Alec hiked his heavy gym bag further onto his shoulder as he hurried across campus, glancing down at his phone to check the time again. He pushed his hand through his curls, still damp from his shower, and wiped his hand on his shirt. He inhaled deeply, the cool breeze dancing across his skin refreshing after the morning workout, and he glanced around at the undergraduates lounging around the quad as he walked along. Suddenly, his legs screeched to a halt on their own accord as his eyes froze on a clump of students stretched out in the shade of a large oak tree, his jaw dropping open and his gaze zeroing in on one of them, a surge of memories wrapping around his mind.
"Alec. Alec. Pay attention!"
His mother hissed at him, glaring at him as she jerked her head towards the tour guide. Alec barely suppressed the eye roll that demanded to be released as he caught up to the tour group with a few quick steps. As if I don't already know the name of every building, every dorm, and every class taught, he thought. His parents had dragged him and his siblings to the Alicante campus several times a year for as long as he could remember; it's not like he was in unfamiliar territory here.
As they strolled through the campus, Alec let his mind wander again, tuning out the chipper tour guide as she pointed out the dining halls and campus center. His eyes drifted over the athletic building in the far distance, the domed roof glinting in the late spring sunshine. He squinted, straining for a peek at the football stadium where he knew the team was preparing for a spring scrimmage. His fingers twitched as he thought about joining the team on the field, eager to run plays and celebrate well-deserved wins.
He turned back around to once again catch up with his family and slammed straight into - holy shit. Alec's mouth dropped open as his hands automatically flew up to steady the other person and found himself staring into features worthy of a Greek statue. The other boy was tall, nearly as tall as Alec himself, with eyes the color of molten chocolate lined in gold glitter. The arms under Alec's palms were lean, lithe, and clad in a blue and grey patterned silk button down. The corner of the boy's mouth was curled upwards into a tiny smirk as he gave Alec a very obvious once-over.
"You know, if you wanted to get your hands on me, darling, you could have just asked me to dinner," the boy drawled, tilting his head as his gaze raked over Alec's frame. Suddenly realizing his fingers were still tight on the boy's firm biceps, Alec snatched his hands back, stammering out an incoherent apology, blushing furiously as the boy's smile grew.
"Magnus, stop fucking with the high schoolers, we're going to be late," another boy called out sourly, waiting with two other students several feet past them.
"Oh, but it's so much fun," the boy - Magnus - commented, crossing his arms and playfully cocking one hip, twinkling eyes never leaving Alec's.
"Magnus, if you make me late again, I'm going to shove your script so far down your throat, you'll learn all your lines by osmosis!"
He sighed heavily and rolled his eyes at Alec, leaning in as though he were about to divulge a deep, dark secret. "Never befriend a theatre major, darling. We're all a bunch of overdramatic spoilsports," he stage-whispered. He reached out and patted a hand against Alec's chest, the warmth of his skin through Alec's t-shirt like a line of fire as Magnus's fingers brushed across the fabric.
Alec turned to watch him walk away, eyes wide and unable to shift his gaze for even a second. His heart hammered as Magnus spun to face him, walking backwards to keep pace with his friends. He lifted one finger, crooking it towards Alec in a lazy wave goodbye and throwing him a cheeky wink before whirling back around and disappearing around the corner of the arts building.
Alec's eyes widened as, from across the quad, Magnus's meandering attention landed on him. Even from a distance, the brief flicker of shock was evident on Magnus's face before it settled into a look of pleasant surprise. His mouth curled into a playful smile and he lifted one finger, crooking it towards Alec once again, this time in a clear greeting.
Alec felt his skin flush in a way that had nothing to do with the morning's practice and he abruptly turned away, his eyes wide as he walked quickly to the edge of the quad and ducking between the student center and the admissions building. His mind raced as he hurried as quickly as he could back to his dorm. Alec had known for most of his life that he was attracted to guys and he'd come to terms with that when he was a freshman in high school, although the only people who knew were Jace, Isabelle, and Jace's girlfriend, Clary. His relationship status was the only thing lacking in his life - his mother was constantly bemoaning his lack of a girlfriend. He always squirmed and changed the subject, avoiding the pity and sympathy in Jace's and Izzy's eyes. He'd had small, quiet crushes in the past, never saying a thing, never changing his behavior, but he'd never once wrangled up the nerve to do anything about his feelings, and they soon drifted away, his heart closing back up until the next fleeting fancy had made himself known.
But Magnus... Magnus.
Alec had exchanged the briefest handful of words with the older boy (it can't even be called an 'exchange' when all you did was stutter and stare, his traitorous brain reminded him), but for some reason, that interaction had sunk its claws into Alec's mind. Over the last two and a half years, it replayed at the slightest provocation, until Magnus was more myth in Alec's world than reality. Alec hadn't seen him around at all last year, and he'd convinced himself that Magnus had graduated before Alec ever enrolled in AU as a student.
The clock tower in the center of campus rang out, signaling the hour, and Alec glanced down at his phone again, biting back a sharp obscenity as he sprinted into his dorm. He bypassed the elevators entirely - the Institute's elevators were notoriously the slowest and most unreliable on campus - and instead took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor, thankful once again that the dorm room he shared with Jace was right next to the stairwell door. He winced at the shooting pain in his leg as he unlocked the door, hurling his gym bag to the floor in front of his desk, scooping up his backpack, and slinging it over his shoulder as he locked the room again. He took a shortcut through one of the academic buildings between his dorm and the dining hall and hurried into the cafeteria right as breakfast was ending for the day, hoping beyond hope that there would be at least one breakfast sandwich available that he could inhale on his way into his first class. His stomach growled when he saw the already-wrapped sandwich brandished by one of the dining hall managers and he accepted it gratefully.
"Running late already, Lightwood?" George asked, grinning at him as he crossed his arms. The burly man had a thick, unruly crop of tawny curls and had taken a liking to Alec and Jace last year after they had gotten into the habit of spreading out on a corner table between mealtimes to study and do their homework. George would always bring them mugs of scalding coffee heaped with enough cream and sugar to cause a mouthful of cavities, just the way Alec liked it.
"Yeah, you know me, man, gotta live on the edge," Alec responded with a roll of his eyes, digging in his pocket for his student ID to pay for the food. George waved him off.
"It's on me, kid. Stop being such a damn delinquent and get an education, will ya?"
Alec unwrapped a corner of the sandwich and took a bite as he held out his fist. "You're the best, Georgie," he mumbled around his mouthful of egg, bacon, and bagel as George bumped his fist with his own. "I'll see you later!"
His mind still full of the Magnus mystery, he absently side-stepped a tour group and hurried out of the building, his destination on the other side of the parking lot. He finished his breakfast as he entered the academic building and popped a piece of gum in his mouth as he walked down the hallway. At least the room is on the first floor. No damn stairs, he thought.
He'd filled his schedule with the general education requirements and core classes, still undecided as of yet in which direction he wanted to take his education, but he'd managed to squeeze in one elective - creative writing. His high school freshman English teacher had given their class an assignment - write a story, any story. Most of his classmates had done the bare minimum, but Alec, always eager to impress, had written over twenty-five pages and found, to his great surprise, that he thoroughly enjoyed it. His teacher had supported and encouraged his writing, even after the assignment had been completed. Jace and Isabelle had teased him relentlessly since then for being an all-star jock with a flair for words, but for whatever inexplicable reason, Alec loved writing, loved pouring his imagination onto the page, loved creating new worlds and characters and adventures. His writing was just for him, the only thing that was just for him. This writing elective was only offered once every fall and always booked up quickly - Alec was surprised he'd even managed to get a spot as a sophomore.
He walked into the classroom and slid into an empty desk on the left side of the room and pulled out his cell phone to check the time. Five minutes to spare. Damn, I'm good. He opened up his Instagram app and scrolled through the latest posts, liking a picture that Clary had posted that morning of her and Jace. His attention was suddenly diverted when a hand landed on his desk, nails painted black with a hint of shimmer, rings decorating several slender fingers, black beaded bracelet peeking out from beneath a black and white patterned cuff. Alec's pulse sped up as his gaze traveled up the length of the arm, sucking in a sharp breath when his eyes finally landed on the owner's face.
"I'm Magnus," he said, his lips curled into a tantalizing smile. "I don't believe we've been formally introduced."
Alec's brain short-circuited and he stared open-mouthed as Magnus smoothly slid into the seat next to him, one eyebrow lifted in expectation. "Alec," he breathed finally, blinking rapidly. Magnus's smile widened and he reached into his bag to pull out his laptop.
"Well, Alec, I must say, it was a supremely pleasant surprise to see you on the quad this morning and even more so now in class." Magnus gave him a wry glance as he typed in the password to his computer. "Although I have to admit, it's a bit surprising to see an athlete of your caliber in a creative writing course."
"Of my - my caliber?" Alec stammered, still not quite able to reconcile the fact that Magnus was sitting next to him, very real and not at all myth-like. "How, um - you know I play sports?"
Magnus grinned at him. "Darling, between that impressive spread of muscles and that limp I saw earlier, it's practically dripping off you."
Alec couldn't hide the grimace that crept over his face at Magnus's observations. "You saw that?"
"Don't worry, Cheekbones, it was very slight and likely undetectable to most," Magnus reassured him, smirking as another blush stole over Alec's face at the name. "But I've pulled my fair share of muscles in my life and know exactly how that looks."
"Welcome to Creative Writing, my budding little authors," an exuberant voice echoed from the doorway. Alec finally broke his laser-focus on Magnus and looked up to see the professor striding into the classroom. "My name is Henry Branwell. Call me Professor, call me Henry, call me Branwell, I don't really care, as long as you're all open and eager to explore the depths of your imaginations and writing skills over the course of this semester."
The rest of the class passed smoothly as the professor went over his expectations, how he ran his classes, the syllabus, and his goals for all of them. Alec paid close attention, making a number of notes on the syllabus handout the professor had given to them, but he was hyper aware that Magnus sat next to him, barely two feet away. He kept sneaking glances over at the older boy, mesmerized by the casual way in which he fiddled with his rings and earrings, the tight stretch of his shirt when he rolled up his sleeves, the slight uptick at the corner of his mouth when the professor made a sarcastic quip. Towards the end of class, Professor Branwell gathered their attention once more with a brisk double clap, looking out at all of them expectantly.
"Now, one of the most critical aspects of being a writer is feedback - giving and receiving constructive critique of your pieces and your fellow writers'," Henry explained. "You'll be expected to meet and work with your partners throughout the semester, bouncing ideas off each other, giving the other feedback, discussing the feedback they give you, and making edits as necessary. Therefore, let's meet your writing buddies for the term, shall we?" He counted off the six rows of desks, clearly pleased that there were an even number of students. "Excellent. Rows one and two are partnered, three and four, and then five and six. Whoever you're sitting next to, congratulations. Meet your buddy."
It took a moment for his words to sink in, but when they finally did, Alec stopped breathing, clenching his hands into fists to hide the tremble and keeping his gaze directed at his desk, desperately afraid of what he might say or do if he looked around.
"We'll end class here for today, so your first homework assignment - get to know your partner," Henry announced, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "You'll be working closely with them over the course of the semester, so have a conversation with them and find out a few things. Go out for coffee, lunch, a walk, whatever. But begin that relationship so it's not completely uncomfortable the first time you meet up to discuss your writing." With that, he gave them all a wave in dismissal and sat down at the desk.
Unable to put it off any longer, Alec slowly glanced over at Magnus only to see Magnus slouched into his chair, observing Alec with a glittering gaze.
"Well, darling, it looks like we'll be working quite closely together this term," he drawled, an enigmatic smile dawning on glossed lips. "Lucky me."
Oh, Alec was in so much trouble.