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now, but then too

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Magnus doesn’t know why he thinks of it now. Perhaps the situation looks similar, with Magnus bedridden and eyes barely open, and Alec sitting by his side, having taken the day off from work to take care of him. But at this time, Magnus is only weak from the common cold, and there’s little tension between them, only the occasional weak groan and half-hearted glare when Alec chuckles at his state.

Now, they understand each other much more than they did when Magnus had collapsed so long ago, when Magnus had (temporarily) died. There is no life-altering mystery to this relationship anymore, and though that was sometimes fun, both are glad for how easy the domesticity is between them as compared to that situation so many decades ago.

Yes, truly, there’s no reason for Magnus to be thinking of such a harrowing moment, not when the room is dim and Alec is gazing at him with a playful, loving grin, sitting beside him on their bed. Not when Magnus knows these two situations aren’t similar in the slightest, that there is no danger, physical or emotional, to their current predicament.

But the thought still comes to him, and he smiles as he looks up at Alec, smiles further when Alec tilts his head in question, knowing his husband is thinking. Magnus, through painstaking effort, wrenches a hand from under the covers, shivering at the cold but making a grabby attempt to latch onto Alec’s none the less. Alec laughs and holds Magnus’ hand obligingly, squeezing as he always does.

“Do you remember,” Magnus starts, eyes turning away and crinkling as he thinks back on the memories again. “When I stayed at the Institute’s infirmary the first time?”

Alec’s brow furrows, but he responds. “Yeah,” he says. “Magnus, you died.

Magnus lets out a quiet laugh at that. “That I did, but I’m still here. Not the point.” He looks down at his belly, where both his arms have now climbed out the covers to play with the rings on Alec’s fingers, more than a few of them Magnus’, and more than a few of them Alec’s own purchases.

Magnus continues, smiling. “You know,” he says. “I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I was conscious, at least for some of it.”

Alec raises his eyebrows, surprise coloring his pretty features. “You didn’t.”

Magnus grins. “I heard some interesting things there. Things that didn’t register with how important they were until much later, what with the whole magic debacle.”

Alec nods, and Magnus notices his lips have become slightly pouty. “I’m still sorry for that. I should’ve tried to understand more.”

Magnus’ lips tick up, and he strokes his palm across the back of Alec’s hand. “You do now. And I’m very happy that you tried more and more later. It means the world to me.”

Alec clears his throat, ducks his head down, and Magnus smiles up at his husband. “So,” Alec says, voice deep and a little teasing. “What did you hear that you had to keep from me so long?”

“Well,” Magnus says, and coughs because he crescendoed a little too much in his dramatics. Alec laughs but hands him his glass of water, and Magnus spots the worried crease in his brow, however small it is. Mind made up, Magnus makes the incredible effort to sit up, just to lay a kiss on his husband’s cheek and collapse back down into the sheets with a groan that’s all too dramatic. “Well,” he says again, continuing as Alec laughs and peels the hair back from his sweaty forehead. “I heard my then-boyfriend tell me he loved me.”

“That’s nothing you didn’t already know,” Alec says, but he’s smiling, his hand still on Magnus’ forehead. Gods, it’s been decades and Magnus still isn’t tired of how gooey Alec’s eyes get under the dim golden lighting of their bedroom, how he stares at Magnus like… that.  

“Ah,” Magnus says with a grin. “But you didn’t let me finish.” His voice is hoarse, partly because of the cold plaguing his body and partly because the memory of the words sparks something. “You said you loved me,” Magnus states again, because that part is easy, that part is simple and known. He continues. “... More than anyone in the world.”

He’s not sure what he expects. Maybe for Alec to freeze, or to say he doesn’t remember that, or to say he does now.

But instead, Alec says, so simply, “I did.”

Magnus raises an eyebrow. “Yes, I know you did, darling, I heard it.”

“No, Magnus,” Alec says, smiling and chuckling. “I mean I did. Did love you. More than anyone in the world.” He doesn’t mention that he still does, because that’s not in question, hasn’t been for years and years.

But this… That even then, Alec─

“Alexander,” Magnus starts, brow furrowed and suddenly a little vulnerable. “I know you do now, and I certainly love you just as much, no one could compare, but that was so long ago, we were still─”

Magnus,” Alec says, and Magnus shuts up immediately, looking up at his husband. “I did, and I do. I know it was early but you have to know,” he pauses, takes a breath. “Look, when someone changes your life completely, when choosing to be with that person makes you a newer, happier person? That’s… And it’s you, on top of all that, someone brave and kind and loyal and so beautiful and─ Magnus, just because that’s the first time I said it out loud doesn’t mean it wasn’t true for far longer.”

There’s a long pause then, and Alec hums and takes the time to place a new cold towel on Magnus’ forehead. He picks up the water glass, grabbing Magnus’ hand tightly so he doesn’t even think about refilling it with magic in his state. Magnus watches him walk to the kitchen, giving his hand a tight squeeze before he goes, and remains on the bed, thinking, letting Alec’s words sink in.

When Alec returns, Magnus is immediately looking at him, feeling something pull behind his eyes, something like awe, a new realization, and maybe even a bit of gratitude.

It’s truly one of the best things about being together. That no matter how long it gets ( forever ), they’ll never stop learning new things about each other, that they’re just as eager to discover as they were the first night Magnus made them drinks.

“I loved you like that then too,” Magnus said, eloquence suddenly leaving him. He’ll blame it on the sickness later. 

Alec smiles. Magnus almost expects to have to say it again, to emphasize it while Alec tells him he doesn’t have to say it just because Alec did. But Alec just smiles the smile Magnus has grown to love so much, shake his head a little, and say, “I know.”

“You know?”

“Yeah,” Alec says, helping Magnus sit up and lifting the glass to Magnus’ lips even though Magnus can definitely do it himself. “I think I figured it out a few years after we married.” As if on instinct, Magnus’ eyes go to the band around Alec’s left ring finger. “By the time I knew you loved me like that, I realized the way you look at me hasn’t changed in years.”

“Oh,” Magnus says.

Alec chuckles. “Yeah, oh,” he replies, and leans in to kiss Magnus’ lips.

“Stop,” Magnus protests unconvincingly. “You’re going to catch my cold.”

“I could use a few more days off,” Alec replies playfully. Magnus grins and swats a hand at him.

“So,” Alec says after a while, after Magnus has convinced him to crawl under the covers with him and cuddle instead of doing anything vaguely productive (‘Whatever happened to being worried I’d catch your cold?’ ‘Shut up Alexander, I’ll hold my breath’). “What made you think of that now of all times?”

“I’m not sure,” Magnus says, head tucked into Alec’s shoulder. “Maybe it was the whole ‘being bedridden’ thing.”

“Magnus you’re hardly bedridden.”

“You know, darling, that’s what I said to you this morning and you forced me back under the blankets.”

“How dare you use my honest actions to take care of my husband against me,” Alec says, and Magnus giggles.

“Truthfully though,” Magnus says. “I really don’t know. It just came to me all of a sudden and I had to say it ‘cause it made me smile.” Before Alec can tease him about it, he says, honestly, “You make me smile.”

A curve takes Alec’s lips them, creasing his face and responding to the comment in kind, and Alec leans forward to nose along Magnus’ jaw, hiding his face.

“Youmakeeshmiletoo.” Magnus laughs around the vibrations at his neck and he cradles Alec’s head.

“What was that, darling?”

“I said you make me smile too,” Alec murmurs, and Magnus has to kiss him for that.

“Okay,” Magnus says decisively, once that’s done. “Sleepy time now.”

“Magnus, it’s late afternoon.”

“Sleepy time now,” Magnus repeats, and Alec huffs but snuggles closer and helps Magnus pull the blankets up further around them. 

“Shall I wait for you to fall asleep first and say it to you again to recreate the moment for you?” Alec says, grinning.

Magnus closes his eyes and huffs, smiling. “You can just say it now without me being asleep. I’m not sure I heard you right the first time after all.”

Alec smiles impossibly soft and places a kiss on Magnus’ nose. “I love you,” he says, and Magnus hums, grinning. “More than anyone in the world.”

“And I love you, husband,” Magnus says, leaning even closer to let butterfly kisses fall across Alec’s cheekbones, relishing the giggles that burst from Alec’s lips. “I love you, Alexander, more than anyone in the world.”

“Mm,” Alec hums, and despite his earlier reluctance, Magnus can see his face get softer, eyes and smile droopier like honey. “Always.”

Magnus grins again and nods, settling down with his husband. “Always, my love.”