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Wage your wars

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Alec stares around himself with a dark frown, bow still in hand, scanning the alley, making sure there aren’t any more demons to take care of.

But it looks like he got them all, ichor oozing down the wall in the alley from the last demon who had tried to run when Alec made an appearance.

He glances down, frown turning into a scowl at the sight of the blood spattered across the ground.

He had been just a little too late to save the demons’ last two victims, husband and wife by what he can see. Two bodies torn apart by the demons they were unlucky enough to come across.

Alec grits his teeth.

He hates it when he is too late, abhors when he can’t save mundanes from the very real threat they never seem to really realize is there until they are already bleeding out on the pavement.

Every mundane killed by demons or Downworlders is a failure on Alec's part. Especially now that his parents have left the running of the Institute to him while they are visiting Idris.

It’s the only thing Alec is here for, it’s his job, the thing he lives for. Killing demons and protecting mundanes. Really, what good is he if he can’t even save a couple of mundanes that are being threatened by the demons Alec is supposed to kill.

But he had been too late.

Sure, there had been no indications of demon activity in this part of town and him coming across these at all is likely only due to Alec having switched up the patrol grids two days ago. But still.

A scuffing sound.

And Alec is immediately on full alert once more.

It's quiet, a barely-there noise, so very easy to miss underneath the noise from the city surrounding this alley.

His bow is already up again, as he listens.

Another sound, a slight ruffling, a body shifting just the barest bit, too large to be that of rat or even a cat or any of the other usual critters found in an alley like this.

It's coming from behind the dumpster only a couple of steps away from him.

Three quick steps around the dumpster, arrow notched and unerringly pointed at the source of that noise.

Two large, frightened, green eyes stare up at him.

A blink. And Alec doesn’t think he has ever lowered his bow faster than he does in that moment.

Because it isn’t a demon at all, but rather a little boy who is hiding in the little gap between dumpster and wall, curled into a tiny ball of thin limbs and far too large clothing.

And strangest of all, the boy is staring right at him. Despite Alec’s very-much-active invisibility rune that should keep any mundanes from ever noticing him.

Alec blinks.

The boy blinks back at him.

Huh.

+++

“Izzy,” Alec says as soon as he hears her pick up at the other end. “I need you to track me and come to my location. Alone.”

There is silence for a moment.

“Alec,” his sister is clearly startled. “What-“

“Now,” he adds, and promptly hangs up again, eyes still fixed on the little boy in front of him.

Who hasn’t taken his eyes off Alec but also seems entirely unwilling to come out of his little hiding place.

And usually, Alec would simply call the police about the three bodies in the alley, stick around until the officers get here to make sure someone finds the little kid, and not even consider involving himself in mundane business beyond that.

Thing is, it seems this boy isn’t a mundane at all.

Because there is a shield shimmering in the air around the dumpster. A shield of magic.

It seems like this boy is a warlock, might have been the actual reason of the demons’ attack, far more of an appealing target than just two random mundanes wandering around.

Ether way, there is definitely some kind of magic and thus the boy is part of the Shadowworld which means Alec can’t very well just leave him here.

He doesn’t even know whether the kid actually belongs with the two mundanes that were killed in the alley. Compared to the clearly well-dressed couple – and especially compared to the clearly well-fed man – this boy looks like he might have been roughing it on the streets for a while.

So, the kid’y presence here might just be a coincidence, maybe just one of those warlock children abandoned by their parents once they realize that their kid is something not entirely normal by their standards.

And if that is the case, then there are Clave protocols to be followed.

Which doesn’t change the fact that Alec first has to get the kid out from behind the dumpster.

The boy is still staring up at him and Alec crouches down to be a little closer to the kid’s level.

“Hey there,” he says gently. Kids are just about the only people on the entire planet Alec can generally stand without getting endlessly annoyed within the first couple of minutes of interacting with them.

The boy blinks at him.

“I’m Alec,” he adds on gently.

Another slight pause.

“Hi,” the boy finally whispers back but doesn’t add his own name.

Alec still smiles at him. “Are you okay?” he asks, hoping the kid might have entirely escaped the demons' attacks.

Another pause. Then the boy gives a careful, slow nod, still watching him with large eyes, clearly not at all certain what to make of Alec.

Well, if he actually saw him kill the demons then Alec can't really blame the boy for his caution.

It's the reason why he decided to call Izzy. Just in case the boy turns out to be too frightened of Alec, then maybe she'll have better luck at coaxing him out of his little hidey-hole.

"You aren't hurt anywhere?" Alec asks again, just to be sure.

The boy shakes his head slowly. But Alec sees the shiver run through the kid as he tightens his thin arms around his knees.

Shit. It is really rather cold out and the kid is just wearing a sweater, as oversized as it may be on him.

Alec is already shrugging out of his own jacket, fully intending to wrap around the kid before he even considers the hindrance of the magical barrier still surrounding the child.

He pauses but in the end still holds his coat out to the kid. “Here,” he says with another smile. “It’s too cold to be out without a jacket. You’ll catch a cold like that.”

So what if having taken care of three younger siblings – as much as Izzy and Jace resent any hints at the fact that they ever needed to be taken care of by him, trust him, Alec knows better – might have turned him into a complete sucker for small children.

And this boy is even younger than Max is right now. Alec would guess he’s maybe around six or seven, although that sort of thing is always hard to judge with kids so thin they lose the chubbiness of their cheeks due to lack of food rather than aging.

That thought alone makes him clench his teeth, even as he keeps his face as free of any negative emotions as he can.

The boy eyes the jacket and then just stares at Alec’s now bare arms. It actually takes Alec a second to realize that the kid isn’t only staring at his runes – although by how his eyes keep lingering on their dark outlines he can definitely see them – but that the boy is also looking rather unimpressed at his logic of it being too cold without a jacket but Alec now only wearing a t-shirt himself.

Alec grins slightly at the non-verbal sass. “I’m fine like this," he says, still holding out his jacket. "I don’t get cold easily.”

The kid’s mouth immediately tilts down in that universal mulish expression of children that Alec knows all too well means ‘me neither’ and that has little to do with fact and much more to do with pure stubbornness.

Alec is honestly relieved to see it. If the boy is already arguing with him – even if non-verbally – it also means he likely isn't hurt. Maybe the kid didn't even see what happened in the alley? Maybe he just hid himself as soon as the demon appeared? Or maybe he’d already been hiding here before?

Still, he keeps holding out his jacket for the kid to take. Another couple of seconds before he reaches out his other hand as well, offering it to the kid and says, "Here, you can feel. I'm still all toasty warm," he lets his lips quirk up into another smile.

It promptly makes him miss the time when his siblings were still so small that using words like 'toasty' and 'snuggly' and 'cozy' was appropriate.

Another second.

Finally the kid is uncurling one of his arms from around his knees. And as the boy reaches past the magical barrier, it simply fizzles out around him. Which is a relief.

A small, far-too-cold hand against Alec's own, even if the kid himself is still very much hidden, just a thin arm stretched out from behind the dumpster to check the truth of Alec’s claim.

"See?" he asks gently. "I don't need the jacket. And it would make me feel better if you took it.”

Then, Alec decides to try his luck by proceeding to hold his jacket open as if to wrap it around the kid himself.

This time, the pause is quite a bit longer.

And then, finally, the kid comes crawling out of his little space.

Alec makes sure to keep his sigh of relief to himself as he immediately wraps the jacket around the boy's shoulders as soon as the kid is all the way out.

And he definitely doesn’t let himself react to how incredibly thin this kid is.

Well, his face remains clear. But he is most certainly scowling on the inside.