Magnus’ voice echoes against the stone walls and it’s the only warning Alec gets before the demon comes barreling toward him.
Alec drops his bow, now useless within such a short range. In the time it takes him to draw his Seraph dagger out of its holster, the demon is already on him, its outstretched claw mere inches from his chest.
Alec braces himself for the inevitable impact but it never comes. Something curls around his waist and jerks him back, making him lose his balance. As he falls, he hears the sound of flesh on flesh, a grunt of pain, and a heavy thud.
He rolls on himself, trying to reduce the impact of the fall and uses the momentum to stand as quickly as he can, immediately assessing the situation.
The demon is on the ground, clawing at its own throat to loosen the grip of the tentacle wrapped tightly around its neck.
The dim lighting prevents Alec to recognize the tentacle but it’s enough that he can clearly make out the trickling of a thick substance -blood? Ichor?- coming out of the deep gashes caused by the demon’s claws.
Alec notices with increasing horror that the tentacle is being torn apart. Yet, it refuses to let go of the demon’s throat.
He lifts his blade and sprints forward but another one of Magnus’ tentacles pushes him out of the way, just in time to avoid the blast of magic directed toward the demon.
It’s over in a few seconds and before Alec knows it, Magnus is there, drawing him into a tight hug.
“Alexander, are you okay?” Magnus asks, pulling back to check him over for injuries.
“Yeah,” Alec answers. Magnus’ tentacles reach out and The Slapper prods him as if to make sure he’s telling the truth.
Thank the Angel, Alec thinks as he realizes The Slapper is still in one piece. A wave of guilt rocks him to his core and replaces the relief when he remembers the poor tentacle suffering under the demon’s claws.
Alec pulls back and horror constricts his heart as he sees it hanging limp from Magnus’ side, unnaturally still. “Oh God, Magnus,” Alec says, fear sharpening his tone. “Are you okay?”
“I am fine,” Magnus says but the strain in his voice belies his words. At Alec’s raised eyebrow, he relents. “I’m not seriously hurt, Alec. I believe it’s just an echo of the tentacle’s pain.”
Once Alec is convinced Magnus is not really hurt, his attention shifts back to the injured tentacle. “Is it d-” he swallows and stops, not daring to ask the question in fear of the answer he may get. “It’s gonna be okay, isn’t it?” he asks instead.
“I don’t know.” Magnus shakes his head and reaches out toward the tentacle with both hands.
“Let me.” Alec kneels on the floor and gently takes the tentacle in his hands, holding it for Magnus’ inspection and wincing as he takes in the sight. He bites back a gasp when he realizes it’s his little Helper. “Can you heal it?”
Magnus takes his time to consider the question and Alec holds his breath. He notices that all the other tentacles are gathered around them, a somber tilt to their posture.
“I can try,” Magnus answers at last, magic already sparkling on his fingertips. It seeps into the tentacle’s flesh and the edges of the gashes start to knit back together. “Hopefully, the damage it sustained is not too severe.”
Magnus sounds really worried for one who’s been so vocal about getting rid of the “wretched appendages” but Alec guesses that saving Alec’s life is enough to score some points in Magnus’ book.
If Alec wasn’t so terrified, he’d probably crack a joke about it.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he murmurs instead, thumb brushing in a feather-like touch over one of the tentacle’s few unharmed spots.
Magnus works his magic until the tentacle is fully healed but Alec fears for the worst when the tentacle remains motionless.
“Come on, come on,” Alec says, closing briefly his eyes as The Slapper leans over his shoulder in a comforting gesture.
“Now we wait,” Magnus says, voice almost unbearably kind. He reaches out and squeezes Alec’s other shoulder. “There’s no way to know if- when it will be back to normal. We should go home.”
Alec nods sharply and swallows. “Yeah,” he says, standing and reluctantly letting go of the tentacle. “You do that. I’m gonna have to go back to the Institute and fill in the reports. Keep me updated?” he asks, glancing toward the tentacle.
“Of course,” Magnus says, already opening a portal and gesturing toward it, indicating it’s for Alec.
Alec nods his thanks and presses his lips to Magnus’s. “I’ll be home as soon as I can,” he murmurs as they pull back.
Magnus smiles and nods, leaning over for another brief kiss. “Go do your duty, Shadowhunter.”
Alec steps back and he’s about to turn around when the injured tentacle twitches and reaches forward, coiling itself tightly around his wrist.
The relief is almost enough to make Alec’s knees buckle. “There you are,” he says, lifting his arm and stroking the tentacle gently. “You gave us quite the scare.”
The tentacle loosens its grip, slides up to Alec’s palm, and squeezes it as if it’s offering a silent apology.
“No more heroics, you hear me?” Alec tries to sound stern but it doesn’t last long. He lets out a low chuckle and shakes his head, extending his arm to give Magnus the tentacle back.
Alec is about to step back when the tentacle springs forth and settles again around his wrist, its hold strong enough to stop Alec.
“I think it doesn’t want to let you go,” Magnus says, lips twitching with the effort to not laugh.
As if on cue, the Slapper coils around Alec’s forearm. The other tentacles follow its lead and start to stretch out, each of them curling around whatever part of Alec’s body they can reach. The shy, smaller tentacle is tentatively wrapped around Alec’s little finger.
“Oh dear,” Magnus says, laughing openly now. “It seems none of them are willing to part from you, darling.”
“This is not funny,” Alec says but there’s not real heat behind his words because maybe it is just a little funny. “Come on, I gotta go fill in the paperwork.”
Alec tries to take a step back but the tentacles won’t budge. Even the bashful one tightens his grip around Alec’s pinky.
Magnus glances at the tentacles and back at Alec and shrugs, the amusement in his eyes betraying his apologetic smile. “I may be wrong but I do believe they are acting out of protectiveness, Alexander.”
Alec sighs and makes another half assed attempt to free himself. “Okay, okay, you win,” he says at last. The tentacles loosen their grip around Alec’s limbs but they don’t move away. “Let’s go home.”
Magnus chuckles and with a few flicks of his wrists closes the existing portal and opens a new one. “After you, darling.”
“Uh.” Alec glances at the tentacles. “I don’t think that’s gonna work.”
They end up having to step through the portal hand- well, tentacle in hand.
A few hours later and the tentacles are still protective of Alec.
Alec supposes that’s reasonable after the close call with the demon and if he has to be honest, he’s quite enjoying the affection.
They are on the couch, Alec’s back pressed to Magnus’ chest, the warmth of Magnus’ arms around his waist.
Most of the tentacles are still wrapped loosely around Alec’s limbs. A few of them-including the little Helper- are resting over Alec’s legs, ready to refill their wine glasses and occasionally handing them some finger food.
“This is nice,” Alec says, leaning back against Magnus.
Magnus dips his head and kisses Alec’s shoulder. “It is.”
“They saved your life, Alexander,” Magnus murmurs, lips still pressed to Alec’s shoulder. “I am suddenly grateful I let you talk me into keeping them around for another week.”
“Does that mean they can stay?” Alec asks, knowing perfectly well Magnus’ stance about his tentacles and not daring to hope.
The Slapper starts to swish back and forth. All the other tentacles twitch in what Alec has come to recognize as trepidation.
“I did not say that,” Magnus says, a tinge of regret in his voice.
All of the tentacles freeze and press tighter against the safety of Alec’s body.
Alec reaches out and strokes the one resting on his thigh. “Magn-”
“However,” Magnus goes on, interrupting Alec. “They’ve earned my gratitude and you seem to have grown ridiculously fond of them.”
“And?” Alec asks warily. “What are you saying, Magnus?”
The tentacles perk up, a hopeful tilt to their posture. The Slapper slowly crawls across Alec’s arm and perches on his shoulder, its club turned toward Magnus.
Magnus sighs and shifts the both of them until they’re facing each other. “I am saying that if we can reach an agreement and I can find a suitable solution, magic-wise, the tentacles are welcome to visit.”
“Really?” Alec asks, a grin already forming on his face.
“It will involve research,” Magnus says.
“I’ll help,” Alec says, laughing softly at the way all of the tentacles are swaying around excitedly.
“This is unprecedented, Alexander. We may not be successful,” Magnus warns, voice kind. “And it goes without saying that we’ll need to negotiate appropriate visiting times.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Alec says, replying to the last part and pointedly ignoring the warning. He’s aware he should try not to get his hopes up but he can’t help to think everything is gonna be okay now that they have Magnus in their corner. “Isn’t that right?” he asks, turning to look at the Slapper and ignoring how ridiculous he must look, talking to appendages.
All of the tentacles still and Alec can swear they bow in agreement before resuming their excited swishing.
“See?” Alec says, still grinning at Magnus. “They’ll cooperate.”
“I have the feeling I am going to regret this,” Magnus says, swatting a tentacle away from his face.
“You won’t,” Alec murmurs, reaching out and cupping Magnus’ cheek. “Thank you, Magnus.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Magnus says. His voice sounds dry but there’s an underlying softness to it.
What have I done to deserve you? Alec thinks, aware of the lengths Magnus is willing to go to keep Alec safe and, above all else, happy.
He doesn’t think he can properly voice how grateful he is so he dips his head and kisses Magnus, trying to pour all of it into the kiss.
Judging by the way Magnus responds, giving back as much as he’s getting, Alec is sure the message has come across.
The tentacles stay surprisingly quiet for a long time.