Alec Lightwood had faced off against demons, Greater Demons, and countless monsters of all different types. He’d taken on the Clave and stood tall against their bigotry and rampant homophobia. He’d faced down his parents and their disapproval, the disapproval of almost his entire Institute, and countless Downworlders who thought a nephilim not good enough for their High Warlock. He’d messed up countless times, but he’d done it.
Yet at that moment, Alec couldn’t remember ever being quite so afraid as he was sitting inside the living room of one Catarina Loss, facing her over cups of coffee.
Judging by the amused way she was watching him, she’d seemed to realize that. Though Alec didn’t doubt she had no idea why he was here, she was still enjoying his discomfort. The two of them got along rather well, all things considered. She insisted he was good for Magnus even after everything that had happened. More than that, a sign of her trust in him was that she often called on him to babysit her daughter Madzie, and Alec knew he wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the little girl if Catarina didn’t trust him.
None of that made this any easier. Alec sat there, hands curled tightly around his mug, and wondered for the millionth time if he was doing the right thing.
Catarina must’ve had enough of sitting in silence. They’d already been here for ten minutes and had maxed out their usual small talk. Now she looked at him, and she gave him an amused look over her own mug. “What is it you wanted to talk about, shadowhunter?”
For the past week or two Alec had been practicing this conversation. Trying to figure out how to bring up what he wanted to bring up. He’d thought about who the best person to talk to about this would be, and then about what he would say. Now that Alec was here, he found all of those well-planned speeches vanishing in front of him.
“I, uh, I wanted to ask you a question,” Alec said. Annoyed with his own stammering, he forced himself to take a deep breath and carefully blow it back out. He gave speeches to the Clave all the time. He faced off against countless assholes who told him that he couldn’t have what he wanted, and he’d still managed to get it in the end. He could damn well sit here and ask a question of a friend. “What kind of courtship rituals do warlocks have?”
The bluntness of Alec’s question clearly surprised Catarina. Her whole expression showed her shock, eyebrows up, mouth falling open slightly. “What?”
“I just… I know that we have our own rituals and such as Shadowhunters, and I assumed that warlocks do too.”
Some of the shock was fading from Catarina’s face only to be replaced by curiosity. She lowered her mug down so that it rested on her knee and fixed Alec with a serious look. “You do realize the courtship period is over, right? You don’t have to win Magnus over.”
Alec shook his head at her. Not because she was wrong, but because that wasn’t what this was about. Alec knew he didn’t have to win Magnus over. They were already together in their eyes, and in the eyes of the nephilim, no matter how little the Clave and other shadowhunters might like it. But – though it’d taken Alec an embarrassingly long time to remember it and pay attention – shadowhunter culture wasn’t the only culture involved in their life.
Magnus was a downworlder – a warlock. They had a culture all on their own. One that Alec had been blessed enough to witness in small ways as his relationship progressed with Magnus. But not once had Magnus brought up anything that his culture might demand in terms of dating, courtships, or anything like that. He liked to play it off like he was just a human who could do magic and live forever. Not like warlock culture had its own set of rules.
Once the idea had occurred to him, Alec hadn’t been able to let it go. Magnus had done everything possible to be respectful towards Alec. To cater to his needs and the needs of his people. The least Alec could do was grant him the same courtesy. And maybe show his boyfriend just how much he really did mean to him.
All of that was what had Alec here now, looking at Catarina across her living room with a determined gleam in his eye.
Catarina must’ve recognized the look. Her expression softened ever-so-slightly while her lips curved up into a grin that was somehow both fond and mischievous. One that was far too similar to Magnus’ troublemaking smirk. “You really are good for him.”
“I try to be,” Alec said honestly.
“Trust me, you’re already leagues ahead of anyone else he’s dated so far.” That grin grew a little, becoming just the slightest bit more mischievous, and Alec had to wonder how the hell it was that a lot of the people he talked to seemed to think Catarina was some sort of calming influence on Magnus. Didn’t any of them realize she was just as much of a troublemaker as he was? “Right. So, warlock dating customs…”
Alec pushed aside all other thoughts and eagerly focused on what Catarina was telling him. He might’ve taken a long time to realize just how ignorant he’d been, but he was going to make up for that now. Magnus was going to get the courtship he deserved. Alec would make damn sure of it.
The first stage of courtship – gift-giving
“One of the first things done in a warlock courtship is sort of a… declaration of intentions. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most warlocks do complicated spell work with what’s called a focus stone.”
“You mean like the big green stone Magnus keeps in his apothecary?” Alec asked.
Catarina grinned at him. “Exactly. Now, focus stones are extremely personal. They have to be perfect, flawless, or there’s a risk of them exploding when too much magic is channeled through them. They aren’t something that’s a casually given gift, either. The only time warlocks give them to one another is the start of courtship. They’re too personal – something that’s going to be tied to them. The intent of the person giving it makes all the difference, and if there’s true affection, it gives it a little power boost, too. Which tells the warlock being courted right from the start just how serious the other person is…”
How the hell was Alec supposed to go out and find some sort of focus stone for Magnus and find one that was perfect for him? Knowing how much pride Magnus took in his magic and his work, it was likely any good focus stone he could get he already owned. He wasn’t one to spare expense on things. Especially not matters related to his magic or his work. No matter how much it cost him, Alec had no doubt Magnus had the strongest focus stone out there, which meant Alec’s offer was undoubtedly going to be something of inferior quality than he already had. Though Catarina made it sound like the act of giving it to him gave the stone itself some sort of extra power to it.
For being the first of the courtship rituals, it wasn’t exactly easy. But then again, Alec doubted it was supposed to be. This wasn’t about doing something easy. It was about putting in time and effort to show that he cared about Magnus.
Alec had no idea what he was doing here, where to even begin to look, and he wasn’t going to ask Catarina to direct him to where he could get something like that. The fact that she’d talked him through this was already enough. She’d answered so many of his questions. But this – this felt like something Alec needed to do on his own. How could a gift like that be meaningful if someone had to tell Alec what to buy and where to buy it?
That meant he set out to try and find it on his own. The fact that he didn’t even know what kind of stone it was that Magnus had didn’t exactly help. Nor was it just something he could go and ask. Alec didn’t want to clue Magnus in to what he was doing right away. Asking about the stone might do that. And it’d take away from the whole specialness of it.
Alec could’ve asked his siblings. Isabelle, at least, could’ve directed him to specialty shops to look around in. She probably knew where some good ones were.
But Alec was determined to do it himself. Magnus deserved someone putting that kind of effort in for him. So few people ever had, it seemed.
What that meant was that Alec spent the next month after his talk with Catarina, trying to hunt down the right kind of shops to go to, then going to visit them and look around, hoping against hope that what he’d need would jump out at him. He wasn’t having any luck, though.
No matter what he saw, no matter how many stones he looked at – in all shapes, sizes, and colors – none of them felt right. He couldn’t explain why. It was just…they didn’t suit Magnus. At all.
He was beginning to despair that he was ever going to find something on his own and that this whole courtship thing was doomed before he’d even managed to get it started.
And then he found it.
Of course, Alec had to find it on a night he was out shopping with Magnus. The two of them had been wandering around some shops in Paris when Magnus dragged them inside a little store called Celestial Awakenings. It didn’t take long for him to get into a long, drawn-out conversation with the lady at the register – who Alec strongly suspected was a warlock as well – about the properties of some of the crystals she carried there.
While they talked, Alec wandered. He liked to look around the shops that Magnus dragged him to sometimes. There were always interesting things to see. It was kind of like stepping in Magnus’ apothecary – you never knew what you were going to find. Sometimes Alec picked up stuff in there just because he liked it, or because he thought Magnus might like it, and it warmed something in him to see those little things show up around the loft. Maybe the stuff he bought was good, but it was just as likely they were junk, and Magnus just kept them around for sentimental reasons.
Alec didn’t mind. He enjoyed exploring, learning what bits Magnus would share with him about what he found, and how Magnus never made him feel like he was stupid for asking. If anything, he got excited when Alec asked questions and was more than happy to share any knowledge he had at length.
As Alec wandered toward the back of the store, he kept one ear turned toward Magnus in that instinctive way he couldn’t quite help. He needed to know where he was and that he was okay. But most of his focus was on the row of little figurines on the shelf in front of him. They were in various shapes and sizes and were carved out of different types of stones.
One of them really caught Alec’s interest. A small twist of what looked like flames at first glance. The stone was red and orange, and it looked almost like real fire had been trapped and frozen into cool stone. Yet, at closer inspection, there was a sense of shape inside those flames. Bodies. Two bodies, actually, twined together in an embrace.
Alec reached a hand up and let his finger trail over the stone. The flames were so real he almost expected it to burn. Yet it was cool to the touch. He traced his finger down, smoothing over the dip of the waist, the curve of what might be a hip. The more Alec looked, the more he was sure there were two people in those flames. Lovers, twisted around one another, wrapped up together.
It was beautiful, and Alec could easily picture it somewhere in the loft. The thing was barely bigger than his hand; it’d fit perfectly on a table, or, oh, on his or Magnus’ desk.
He hesitated for only a moment before lifting it carefully off the shelf. Turning back toward the front, a soft smile on his lips, Alec was ready to go and join his boyfriend and make his purchase – while making damn sure that Magnus didn’t try and pay for it for him, something which he really liked to do – when something else caught Alec’s eye. He wasn’t sure if it was the size, or the color, or what it was. But Alec stopped, taking one step back so he could look over into the small nook in the corner of the shop, mostly out of sight of the register.
It was… it was perfect.
Alec knew even before he walked over there that he’d finally found the focus stone he wanted to give to Magnus. It wasn’t excessively large or anything like that. Nothing about it really drew the eye. It was probably about the size of a softball, definitely larger than a baseball, and was perfectly round. As Alec moved closer, he could see that it wasn’t purple like it first appeared. The angle of the light had just made it seem so until Alec was fully in front of it. There, he could see the red and blue that were mixed together, two colors swirling around one another like water, shining inside this little globe. In a way, it reminded Alec of Magnus’ magic. The reddish-orange it could be when he was angry or fighting, the calming blue when he was helping, healing, or just playing around.
“Can I help you with something?”
The voice startled Alec. He jerked back, a little embarrassed at not having realized that someone was getting close to him. When he turned, he found the woman from the front desk watching him with a curious look on her face.
Alec almost flushed under her scrutiny. She was watching him like she wasn’t quite sure what to do with him being back here. It reminded Alec of the look he got from a lot of different Downworlders in the various places Magnus took him to. Most of them weren’t all that fond of Shadowhunters. He’d come to expect it and knew better than to take it personally.
Before Alec answered her question, he looked past her, expecting to see his boyfriend. When he didn’t, he furrowed his brow and turned back to the woman.
He didn’t even have to ask. “Magnus is up at the counter picking out the best of the crystals. I told him I was going to see if I could help you with something. You looked like you might need it.”
That worked out perfectly. With Magnus up there, out of the way, Alec straightened up, a little more confident. “How much for this stone right here?”
The woman’s eyebrows went up when she looked to the stone he’d gestured at. If she had questions about it, she didn’t ask them, instead just watching him while she rattled off a number. One that Alec was pretty sure was a bit higher than most would have to pay for it. Not that it mattered. Money wasn’t an issue here.
“Is there any way I can pay for it and have it delivered somewhere? Um… preferably without Magnus knowing about it?”
That last bit came out hesitant. Alec knew he was taking a risk here. If he could’ve been confident that it’d still be here later, he would’ve simply come back and bought it without Magnus around. But Alec didn’t want to run the risk of it not being there when he finally got back.
The curiosity in the woman’s eyes grew a little. Yet, it was also tempered by something else. Something warmer. She stood there with her hands on her hips and studied him for a moment. Whatever she saw had her smiling at him. “I believe that can be arranged. Would you like it sent to the New York Institute?”
Alec relaxed a little and smiled. “If that’s possible.”
“Of course. Come up to the front with me, and we’ll take care of payment.” She paused and then winked at him. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t pay attention to how much I’m charging you for that little sculpture.”
Alec felt a grin light up his face. “Thanks.”
The two of them were most of the way to the register when Magnus looked up. His eyes sought out Alec’s the same way they always did, and he grinned the instant he saw what was in his hands. “Well, what did you find this time?” Magnus asked. As they got close, he winked at his friend and chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe the treasures Alexander manages to find. I’m tempted to take him on all my shopping trips. He always manages to pick out the best things without even seeming to realize it.”
“I can see that,” the woman said, smiling at Alec over Magnus’ head.
Thankfully, Magnus missed both the smile and Alec’s blush, too caught up in the statue in Alec’s hands that he finally noticed. The little “Oh” he let out was soft, but it was followed up by a much clearer “That is absolutely stunning. Would you look at those colors?” and then Magnus was lost, hands running over the statue while he took it carefully from Alec’s hands.
While Magnus looked it over, exclaiming over the colors in the stone and the skill required to shape it this way, Alec took advantage of the distraction to pull out his wallet. He’d already slid his card over and was signing the receipt when Magnus took notice of what he was doing. The side-eye glare he gave Alec made it clear what he thought of his sneakiness.
Alec smiled, cutting off any protest by leaning in to kiss him.
The woman took the statue from Magnus and started to wrap and bag it for them. While she did, Magnus leaned in against Alec’s side. “Where were you thinking of putting that? It’d look lovely on your desk, or on the mantle above the fireplace.”
“I thought it might look good on your desk,” Alec told him.
No matter how many times he saw it, the way that Magnus’ eyebrows went up, that way his lips parted just a little, just the sheer surprise that he always so quickly tried to hide, it broke Alec’s heart a little. It also firmed his resolve to continue to buy random gifts until Magnus learned that it wasn’t meant to be some rarity that someone wanted to give him something.
“Alexander.” The press of their bodies became a little firmer. Magnus pushed himself up that half-inch so that he could kiss Alec, warm and soft.
Their moment was cut off by the woman at the register. She held the bag out to them, smiling as she did. There was none of her curiosity or caution present anymore. Just open, honest kindness. “Here you are, boys.” Her eyes drifted to Alec as she said, “It was a pleasure doing business with you. Please, come back anytime.”
He was definitely going to. Something told Alec there were quite a few things in that shop he could gift Magnus in the future.
The package arrived at the Institute that night. Underhill sent him a text to let him know. Apparently, the box had appeared on their front step – where any packages of magical origins that were unknown ended up, instead of just blocking them entirely, something that Alec had asked Magnus to implement in the wards after too many random deliveries that weren’t getting through. When Alec came in in the morning, he brought it to his office with him and opened it up to take a look.
The stone was just as beautiful as Alec remembered. He held it in his hands, felt the stone warm under his touch, and knew he’d found the perfect one. Magnus would love it. The woman – the little note in the box said her name was Ayanna – had even included a gift box to hold it, with velvet inside to keep it cushioned so that it wouldn’t break. The whole thing was perfect, and Alec couldn’t wait to give it to Magnus.
Alec kept it bundled up in a protective bag at the bottom of his quiver. The safest place to store something until he got it home. Putting it in his jacket wasn’t smart; too much risk of demon attacks on the way to the loft that night. Alec didn’t want to test how sturdy it actually was. Though he hadn’t seen a single flaw in it.
The whole day it was all Alec could think about. Not just because he wanted desperately to give it to Magnus, but because this was going to be the official start of things even if Magnus didn’t realize it right away. This was going to be the start of their courtship. A time for Alec to finally be able to show Magnus just how much he loved him. How important he truly was in Alec’s life.
Alec mostly held it together throughout the long day. He even got a bit distracted when he went to the loft after work. Then again, it was hard not to when he was greeted at the door with a deep, hard kiss, and then dragged back to the bedroom.
It took a little while for them to come out. Eventually, however, the need for food one out and they went out to the main part of the loft. He and Magnus had dinner, taking a little time to catch up on their days, a ritual that Alec was coming to adore. Ever since their breakup and reconciliation, they’d been working at communicating more. Not just about the big things but about the little things, too. For them, that meant trying to make a point to share dinner together and talk about their days.
Getting lost in it and the relaxing atmosphere of the loft was easy. Anymore, Alec always felt like his troubles started melting off him the minute he came through the front doors. More so when he set his eyes on Magnus.
It wasn’t until they were curled up on the couch for their usual even tv show/movie watching that Alec finally remembered the present. Unfortunately, not even his relationship with Magnus had erased Alec’s tendency to blurt things awkwardly – a fact Isabelle often jokingly lamented.
They were nicely cuddled up together when Alec remembered the present, and he didn’t even think before blurting out, “Oh shit, I forgot!”
Magnus twitched a little against him. He looked up from where his head had been resting against Alec’s shoulder and gave him an amused look, one eyebrow up. He rarely got frustrated at Alec’s inability to talk like a normal person. Unlike the rest of the people in Alec’s life, for some reason, he seemed to find it endearing. “What did you forget, Alexander?”
The warmth in Alec’s cheeks told him he was blushing a little. Even knowing that Magnus didn’t mind didn’t stop Alec from being a bit embarrassed by his own mouth sometimes. “I, uh, I brought something home for you.”
Now that perked Magnus up. He sat up a little more, both eyebrows up now, and that pleased/surprised look on his face. “Two presents in two days? Is there an important holiday or anniversary I’ve missed?”
Alec smiled and shook his head. “No. I just like getting you things.”
Those candid words were worth any vulnerability that came with them when Alec got to see the rare sight of Magnus blushing. He lifted himself up to brush a kiss over Alec’s lips. “You ridiculous man.”
“You always tell me to let you spoil me. I just want to do the same.” Alec smiled and kissed him back, then bumped their noses together in a gesture that was stupid and cute and was probably one of the sappiest things the two liked to do. At least according to his parabatai. “Now, are you gonna let me up so I can go get it out of my quiver?”
Really, he shouldn’t have been as specific as he was.
Magnus grinned at him and snapped his fingers. When Alec’s quiver appeared in his lap, he gave Magnus a dry look that got him a soft laugh.
“Really?” Alec couldn’t help but ask. “You couldn’t just let me get up and walk the few feet to go get it?”
“Why should you when we’re both so comfortable, and you have a loving boyfriend who is willing to get your stuff for you?”
There was no point in arguing it. Not really. Magnus would continue to do things like that no matter what kind of protests Alec gave about wasting magic on frivolous things. In the end, Alec just shook his head and used his free hand to reach down into the bottom of the quiver and pull out the box waiting there.
A large part of Alec was desperately nervous as he held the box out to Magnus. It didn’t matter how many gifts he got his boyfriend, or how well received they were, there was always going to be a part of Alec that worried that he hadn’t gotten the right thing. More so with something as important as this. Because this wasn’t just any gift. This was something so much more.
Magnus sat up just a little bit and reached out to take the box. “What is it? It’s surprisingly heavy.”
“Why don’t you open it and find out?” Alec asked.
He watched with bated breath as Magnus reached out to flip the little metal hook on the front side of the box. He balanced it with one hand while using his other to lift the lid open.
The soft gasp Magnus let out the instant the inside of the box was visible didn’t exactly help Alec’s nerves. He wasn’t sure if that was a good sound or a bad sound. All he could do was sit there in the silence and wait.
Alec watched as Magnus carefully set the box down in his lap. Was it just a figment of his imagination, or were Magnus’ hands shaking just the slightest bit when he reached in and picked the orb up? “This… where’d you get this, Alexander? It’s stunning.”
“I got it last night when you were up looking at crystals,” Alec said. His words were a bit stumbled, he knew. Nerves. As always, he found himself rambling as his nerves grew. “I don’t know if it’s something you’d like or you could use, but I saw it and I just, I thought of you. It reminded me of you and your magic, and so I wanted to get it, but if you don’t like it you don’t…”
His words were cut off when Magnus twisted and surged up to kiss him. The kiss was hot and just this side of hard, almost as much teeth as it was lips, and when they finally broke apart, Alec had forgotten entirely what he was rambling about.
Magnus, however, had not. He looked at Alec with that bright, shining look in his eyes, the look that was solely for Alec. “It’s wonderful, Alexander. And so are you.”
Tension bled out of Alec at those words. He smiled easily once more. “I’m glad you like it.”
“I love it, though not near as much as I love you.”
Another kiss, and then Alec watched as Magnus carefully put the stone back down into its case. His touch was gentle, almost reverent, and Alec felt his heart swell a little more. He’d done it. He’d done the first step, and Magnus hadn’t just accepted it, he’d loved it. Alec couldn’t have asked for a more perfect reaction.
It didn’t escape Alec’s notice that Magnus gave him a little sideways look, something curious and a bit longing flashing through his gaze. Maybe it was cruel to give him what he would recognize as something important without confirming that, yes, this was actually what Alec was doing. But…Alec wasn’t going to state his intentions out loud. Catarina had said that some did and some didn’t. Some let their gifts and actions speak for themselves.
They’d both agreed that that would probably be the way to do this for Alec. If he just quietly did the rituals, it would make sure Magnus didn’t have a chance to try and talk him out of it. By the time he really caught on, Magnus would either speak up and say something if he was really upset, or he’d be too curious for his own good and want to see what else Alec would do.
Alec was banking on the second option.
He didn’t say anything about the look. Just waited as Magnus schooled his expression until there was nothing but love and thanks on his face when he looked back up. “It really is beautiful, Alexander. Thank you.”
“I love you,” Alec said, like the simple truth it was.
Magnus leaned in to kiss him, and then he tucked himself back against Alec’s chest, snuggling back into the position they’d been in before. Alec smothered a smile against Magnus’ hair when he saw his boyfriend fiddling with the little box.
Step one was a success. Time for step two.
“The second gift is given to those closest to your intended. Most warlocks have little to no family, but what friends and family they do have, they’re often important to them. Our relationships last so much longer than most because of our immortality.”
“So, it’s like that mundane thing Clary jokes about, the whole ‘asking permission’ thing?” Alec asked. She’d mentioned that as a joke when her and Isabelle started to get serious, saying that she’d have to go get permission from Luke before they went any further. Despite what others thought, it wasn’t common in Shadowhunter culture, but that was mostly because people either fell in love and loved passionately and fully, or their marriage was arranged long before they ever decided to make the choice.
Catarina laughed at him. “Not quite. Of course, the warlock’s family is going to speak up if they don’t like you, but they’ll do that anyway. This is more about you showing them that you love your intended and that you’re going to take care of them. Some do this by showing off their skills, what they bring to the table. Cooking things to hand out, making potions that are rare, gifting magical items. But always, always, the items are personal, expensive, and more often than not, rare.”
Now, there weren’t a lot of skills that Alec had that he could think of to fill this one. What did he have that he brought to his and Magnus’ relationship? Alec was a warrior. What he knew how to do was lead his people and fight. Neither of those things were skills that Magnus needed from him. Nor were they things that Alec technically brought to their relationship.
He wasn’t a good cook. While he wasn’t as bad as Isabelle, making lunch or dinner wasn’t really something Alec was all that great at. Not unless it was cheap and came from a box with easy directions. Breakfast, he could do that, and Magnus often loved it. But that wasn’t exactly something Alec wanted to represent himself to those closest to Magnnus.
What skills Alec hadn’t weren’t really transferrable here. Not like warlock skills were.
Trying to figure out something he could do to prove himself worthy to Magnus family wasn’t easy. As far as Alec knew, it was only three people he needed to think about, which was nice. But not only were those three people the most important people in Magnus’ life, they were people that Alec knew and respected. It didn’t make things any easier.
He focused on Catarina first. When he did, Alec found it was actually a little easier. Getting something for Catarina that was personal, expensive, and rare only took a little bit of thinking. After that, Alec had his stuff ready in a day.
When he showed up at Catarina’s with a large wooden case in hand, the woman grinned brightly at him, knowing exactly what it was he was there for. She didn’t hesitate to open the door and gesture him inside. “Come in, Alec.”
Alec was barely two steps in the door when a cry of “Alec!” echoed around them. He had just enough time to shift the box to rest under one arm and squat down so that he was braced and ready when Madzie reached him. He caught her up with one arm, holding her to him while her small arms wrapped around his neck in a tight hug. It didn’t matter how often Alec saw her; Madzie always acted like it’d been years. Magnus had said it had to do with the life she’d lived so far. People who left her often didn’t come back.
Grinning, Alec ran a hand over her hair when they pulled back. “Hey there, Madz.”
Like any child that Alec had ever met, Madzie’s eyes immediately found the present under his arm, and her eyes lit up. “Ohh, what’d you bring? Did you bring presents?”
“I sure did. I’ve got some things in here for you and your mom.” Alec tapped a finger against the tip of her nose and smiled when she wrinkled it at him while still grinning. “You wanna go hop up to the table so I can show you guys what I brought?”
In a flash Madzie was racing off in the direction of the table. Catarina and Alec followed at a much slower pace. “I take it your first gift went over well?” Catarina asked, slanting an amused look his way.
Alec couldn’t quite help the way he smiled as he remembered Magnus unwrapping his present. Or how he’d seen the stone sitting in its open case on Magnus’ shelves in his apothecary in a blatant display of the stone that showed it off while keeping it nearby to use and away from potential touches from any wandering hands. “Yeah.”
They reached the kitchen to find that Madzie was already up in a chair, her eyes bright with the childish glee at getting a present. Seeing it melted Alec a little the same way it always did. He remembered the quiet, reserved little girl he’d first met who’d hidden her gills and tucked her wings in close like there was something wrong with her. Now she sat there with her gills proudly bare of any scarf and her wings lifted high and excited behind her.
Alec set the box down on the table. When Madzie made to reach for it, Catarina put a hand out to stop her, giving her a chiding look. “We wait patiently, Madzie.”
Madzie gave her a look that made it clear just how hard that was. It had Alec smothering a snicker.
“Don’t worry, little fish. I’ve got a couple things in here for you that you’ll get to see soon enough,” Alec promised her.
Again, he was nervous about handing out these gifts. Alec liked getting things for people. He really did. Isabelle and Jace could both attest to that. If allowed, Alec would shamelessly spoil his family on every holiday and special occasion, and random in between times, too. But this was bigger than just an average gift. This was important. Far more important than anything else he’d ever done.
When Alec opened the box, he made sure to keep the open side toward him. Then he reached in for the two bundles on top that were specifically for Madzie. One was larger, and wrapped in tissue paper, while the other was smaller and in a little wrapped box. When he set the two down in front of her, Madzie was immediately alert, her eyes wide as she looked at them. Naturally she went for the biggest package first, grabbing it with both hands.
Then she froze, going still for a moment before lifting her eyes to Alec and then to Catarina. “Can I open it?”
A smile softened Catarina’s face. “Go ahead, sweetheart.”
The two adults watched on as Madzie tore away the tissue paper to reveal the soft blue/green material inside. Her gasp was audible, and Alec enjoyed the way her eyes lit up as she pulled the dress out of the pile of paper and held it up in front of her.
It was probably a bit fancy for a small child, and maybe not exactly her style, but Isabelle had always told Alec even back as a child that every woman needed to have a pretty dress to wear.
“I don’t know if it’s your size or not, I kind of had to take a guess,” Alec said, watching as Madzie held it in front of her and wiggled a little, making the layered bottom half swish and swirl. “I figured your Mom could help make it fit right if I got it wrong.”
“Alec, that’s stunning,” Catarina said. She squatted down beside Madzie to help hold it out for the girl, smoothing it so they could admire the belted ribbons and the different layers. It was what the clerk had called a ‘mermaid princess dress’ and Alec had easily pictured Madzie playing in it.
Madzie looked up at Alec and beamed brighter than he’d ever seen from her. “Thank you, Alec!”
He crouched down in time to accept the hug she gave him, the dress squished between them. “You’re welcome, little fish.” Pulling back, he tugged at the bottom of one of her braids. “Every princess needs a dress to play in, right?”
A snort came from Catarina’s direction. When Alec looked up, she was shaking her head at him despite the smile still on her lips. “Judging by that label, that’s not exactly a play dress. I get the feeling that cost more than my entire wardrobe, and hers, put together.”
Alec shrugged as he straightened back up. “It’s no big deal. It’s just clothes. If she ruins it, I can get her a new one.”
“No wonder you and Magnus get along so well. You both have an appalling concept of money.” Catarina’s words were fond, which took any real sting out of them.
Again, there wasn’t much Alec could do except shrug. “Money isn’t exactly hard to come by.” Not for someone like him, at least. The amount of money the Lightwoods had was something Alec was coming to realize wasn’t the norm for most people. Especially not when translated to mundane standards. They were a very old, very affluent family. Not to mention, Shadowhunters got paid the same as anyone else out there, and the higher ranking they were, the more money they made. Alec was the Head of an Institute. His paychecks weren’t what one would call small. Judging by the way Clary’s eyes had bugged out of her head when she got her own paycheck, Alec had a feeling his would give her a stroke.
Their side conversation was cut off when Madzie, who’d magicked her dress on almost the instant Alec let her go, opened up the box that had come with it. Her gasp was loud enough to almost be a shriek.
There, nestled inside the box, was something Isabelle had once called a hair broach. It was a blue and green fish that could easily sit in the palm of Alec’s hand. It was decorated in multiple little stones that made it sparkle and glitter. Alec knew Madzie was a fan of that kind of stuff – she adored when Magnus dressed her up in his jewelry and clothes when they babysat. He’d known she would love to have something like that.
“Look, Mom. Look!” Madzie turned and thrust the box up toward Catarina, looking every inch the excited young girl that she didn’t always let herself be.
Catarina’s eyes seemed like they were sparkling almost as much as the broach was. “That is very beautiful, Madzie. And very, very precious. You’re going to have to be careful not to break it.”
“I won’t,” Madzie promised immediately. “I’ll keep it safe! Can I wear it the next time we go out to dinner?”
“I think that’s a lovely idea.” Pulling the clip from its case, Catarina gently hooked it into Madzie’s hair, smiling when she drew back. “Why don’t you go take a look in the mirror?”
Like a flash the little girl was off through the apartment toward her bedroom.
Catarina straightened back up and turned her full attention to Alec. The way she was looking at him, he had a feeling he’d done good, at least so far.
“I won’t trivialize your gift by talking about how much it cost,” Catarina said warmly. “But I will say that you’ve definitely done a good job here, Alec. She clearly loves them.”
He ducked his head a little. “I, uh, I hope you like your gift half as much.”
For this, Alec took a deep breath and stood up straight, his shoulders going back as he shifted from fun uncle to business. Maybe Madzie didn’t understand the significance of what was going on – Catarina did. She was the one he needed to impress here. He wanted to honor not just Magnus, but her and her place in his life. With that in mind, Alec took hold of the box and twisted it around so that she was free to look at the insides on her own.
As soon as Catarina’s hands touched the box, her eyebrows went up. “Oh, well now.” She momentarily ignored what was inside to run her hands over the wooden lid, down the sides, and over the box itself. “This is a beautifully done ward on here.”
“It’s meant to key to you and you alone, if you prick your finger and bleed on it here,” Alec said, reaching out to tap a finger just above a little divot on the lid. “You won’t have to do it every time – just the first. Once the wards are keyed into you, you’ll be the only one who can access it. No one else should even be able to tell the box is warded at all.” From what Alec had gleaned from the person who’d sold this to him, that wasn’t a simple ward. He really, really hoped it fit in the category of rare.
Catarina kept running her hands along the wood while her eyes sparked with just a hint of magic. “You’re not wrong. This is… it’s beautifully done. I can see so many uses for it.” She looked up at him and her grin lit up her face. “This is a perfect gift, Alec. Thank you.”
“There’s more inside.”
She blinked a few times while looking at him. Then her expression went a bit soft. “The box alone would’ve been a good enough gift.”
That was what Alec had expected. Still… “One of the things in there was what I’d originally gotten you, before I found the box, and the other…I saw something when I was shopping for Madzie that I couldn’t quite resist buying. I hope it’s okay.”
“I’m sure it’ll be…” Catarina’s voice trailed off, and Alec knew that she’d found her gifts. First, she pulled out a spell book, one that Alec had actually gotten from Ayanna’s store. Typically he’d gift spell books to Magnus, especially ones as old and clearly powerful as this one was, but it wasn’t typical spells – it was medical spells.
The reverence with which Catarina pulled the book out told Alec that he’d done good in getting it.
“Alec. Where did you find this?”
“A small shop in Paris.” One corner of Alec’s mouth ticked up. “I put the shop’s card in the front so you could go if you wanted. I told Ayanna to expect you. She’s got a lot of treasures in there.”
“I’m definitely going to go.” With a visible effort, Catarina made herself put the book aside and turn back to the box to take out the last package. This time what she pulled out was something that wasn’t really a gift he was sure about, but he’d thought it went well with the one that he’d given Madzie.
Alec watched her pull out the long silky dress that was just a few shades darker blue than Madzie’s dress. It was long, and, if it was anything like the ones Isabelle wore, would kind of flow over her like water. Alec was pretty sure it’d not only go with her glamoured skin, but her natural skin as well. “I figured if Madzie got to wear a pretty dress somewhere, her mom should be able to do the same. There’s a matching tiara in there that the shopkeeper told me would go well with it.”
“Magic. Alec.” When Catarina looked up, her eyes were sparkling again, but it wasn’t because of magic this time. She looked like she was ready to cry. She set the dress down and then walked around the table straight for Alec. Her hug was strong and tight, and he smiled a little as he hugged her back.
Drawing back, he smiled down at her. “I’m glad you like them.”
With one hand she reached up and cupped his cheek. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to him. If there was anyone out there who deserves him, Alec Lightwood, you’re it.”
A blush warmed Alec’s cheeks. He didn’t look away, though, didn’t break her gaze. “I don’t deserve him, but I’ll work every day of my life to try to.”
“You already do, sweetheart. You already do.”
The gift for Raphael took Alec almost a week and a half to come up with. When it finally hit him, he could believe it’d taken that long.
Unfortunately, the gift Alec wanted to give him meant talking to someone else, and that meant that Alec was going to have to explain the why behind it all. Which was going to be awkward. Especially with how off things had been lately since they’d taken down Valentine.
But Alec was determined. He kept reminding himself over and over that this was for Magnus. He was doing this for Magnus. That helped him to gather his courage and go to the one person who was going to be able to help him do what he wanted here.
When Alec knocked against the familiar door, it only took a moment before Jace opened it. He was dressed down to just a pair of shorts and with his golden white wings out, clearly ready for bed, but he smiled the same way he always did whenever Alec came to see him. “Alec! Everything okay? You need something?”
“Do I have to need something to come see my parabatai?” Alec asked him, making his voice as dry as possible.
It got him a snort from Jace, and that little nose crinkle of amusement and wing quiver that Jace didn’t do around anyone but family. “I don’t know. Been a while since you stopped by like this. A guy’s got a right to wonder.”
Alec rolled his eyes. “I saw you literally twenty minutes ago after we finished patrol together.”
“See – you’re just proving my point. If you’d wanted to talk, you could’ve talked to me out there. But you’re here, at my door when I should be going to sleep, looking a little more constipated than normal.” When that only had Alec scowling at him, Jace let out a laugh and gestured him inside. “Oh, get in here and ask whatever it is you wanna ask that you couldn’t do in front of anyone else, brother.”
Following Jace into his room was easy. Far easier than Alec could ever remember it being. For so long, there’d been so many awkward feelings between them – on Alec’s part only, he knew. Then once Alec had discovered that he didn’t feel that way about Jace, and he had Magnus in his life, there’d been so much else going on that strained their bond. They’d only really recently gotten to the place they should be. Not back to what they were, but someplace better.
Alec leaned against the desk on the far side of Jace’s room. He hadn’t figured out how to ask this quite yet. Not that he thought Jace would refuse, but really, it was a strange request and Alec couldn’t be sure what Jace was going to think about all this.
This was Jace, though, and where Alec had a hard time finding words sometimes, Jace had always had plenty of them. It was another way they’d always balanced one another out.
“Hey.” Jace walked over, some of the amusement fading away to a look of real concern. His eyebrows drew down, and his eyes were so much sharper on Alec’s face, watching carefully at whatever it was he was seeing there. “What’s going on, Alec? Is everything okay?”
“I have a favor to ask, and it’s… it’s going to be weird. I know it is. But I’ve got a really good reason behind it.”
Jace came to a stop right in front of Alec. “What is it?”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t mind giving up a small vial of blood so I can give it to Raphael. As a gift.”
Jace’s mouth actually fell open at that. He stared at Alec, eyes wide. “You want to make Raphael a daylighter? As a gift?”
“It’s part of a warlock courtship ritual, to give expensive and rare gifts to their friends and family,” Alec said, crossing his arms over his chest. He was grateful he had his wings glamoured away or they’d be showing his discomfort. This kind of conversation wasn’t something he’d ever wanted to have to have with anyone. Doing it with Catarina was one thing – Alec had had to just to get the information. But it felt awkward as anything to do it here with Jace. “I know it’s a weird thing to ask, but I already took care of Madzie and Catarina, and this was the only thing I could think of to give Raphael that would show just how important Magnus is to me.”
With no one else would those words have come out. Not even Isabelle. As much as Alec shared with her, and all the things that he shared with her that he might not with Jace, trusting his parabatai with these vulnerable parts of himself was something that came easier to Alec. At least, it was recently.
Jace softened through Alec’s explanation. By the time he was done, Jace was smiling again, and his wings were lifting and puffing up behind him in a display of happiness. As soon as Alec finished talking Jace nodded his head. “Of course, Alec. I’d be happy to.”
This time it was Alec who was surprised. He tipped his head, catching Jace’s eye. “Just like that?”
“Just like that,” Jace repeated.
Silence fell over the room as the brothers stared at one another. Alec felt himself softening; knew his typical glare was melting off his face. Moments like these reminded Alec of what had first drawn him to the angry, sullen boy that had moved in with them. This was the brother that he’d agreed to become parabatai with. The one who was cocky, arrogant, way too brash for his own good, and the biggest softie anyone could meet. The only words Alec could think of to say were a soft “Thank you.”
Jace gave him a small, crooked grin. “You’re my brother, Alec. Thy people will be my people, remember?”
Pushing off the desk, Alec reached out for Jace and felt Jace reach out in return, the two of them wrapping up in a tight hug. Their bond felt like it was humming with all the things that neither one of them needed to say.
Once Alec got the vial of blood from Jace, it was just a matter of pinning down Raphael for a meeting that wasn’t work related. He had to get ahold of the vampire, which wasn’t the hard part, and convince him to meet up somewhere at night without him immediately messaging Magnus about it.
Of course, Alec really should’ve thought about the fact that Raphael really was a part of Magnus’ family, as was Catarina, and the two clearly talked to one another.
Alec got a reply back almost immediately for a meet up in the Hunter’s Moon, a decent neutral ground for the both of them.
When Alec arrived at the bar, texting Magnus that he was running just a little late tonight, he found Raphael already there and waiting for him at a table tucked into the back corner. There was a dark glass in front of him that was undoubtedly full of blood, and a bottle of beer set in front of the seat across from him.
Alec walked up to the table, trying to steel his nerves as he went. He and Raphael didn’t always get along the best. They had a lot of random issues with one another. But working on the Downworld Cabinet together had taught them how to work with one another as professionals. They even managed to get through simple conversations when Magnus did family dinners. But meeting alone like this? This wasn’t how they worked.
As Raphael was one of the people in the world that Alec knew was just as blunt as he was sometimes, and far more deadpan about it, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when Raphael greeted him with “I expected to see you carrying something in with you. What, am I not good enough to get a big gift like Catarina?”
Alec stumbled a little by his chair. He reached out, taking hold of the back of it, and drew in a breath before slipping down. “Catarina told you.”
“Of course she did. Why do you think I agreed to meet you?”
Right. Alec nodded his head. He could understand that. They weren’t exactly what each other would call friends.
If Raphael wanted to be blunt about this, Alec could be just as much so. He reached down into the inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out the vial of Jace’s blood. Then he set it down on the table in front of them. When he looked up, Raphael had one eyebrow up in a look that was so much like Magnus it almost made Alec laugh. “You brought me… blood?”
“I heard you’ve been trying to figure out how Simon became a daylighter,” Alec said. His tone was straightforward, yet pitched low enough for just the two of them to hear. This wasn’t something Alec wanted getting out. He watched the way that Raphael’s eyes briefly widened, how they darted back down to that little vial and then back up to Alec’s face, and he knew Raphael was more interested than he wanted to let show. Alec didn’t comment on that. He kept talking as if he hadn’t seen anything. “This is going to be a one-time gift. For you and no one else. I won’t hand it out to other vampires, nor am I going to tell you where it came from. What I will tell you is that, according to what Isabelle’s been able to discover, what’s in this vial is enough to turn one vampire into a daylighter. One. If you choose that to be you or someone else is up to you.”
“That is quite the gift,” Raphael said slowly.
Alec nodded at him. “Yes, it is.” They both knew how important this was to Raphael. He’d asked them all about it after Simon’s transformation, and Alec knew that Raphael had quizzed Simon more than once about it, too. It wasn’t hard to figure out just how much Raphael wanted to have the knowledge of how to do this. Being able to change any vampire into a daylighter would be quite the coup for vampires. It’d take them out of the dark and give them back parts of their lives they’d been denied.
In all honesty, Alec didn’t have a problem with vampires being able to go in the sun. Sunlight was the easiest way to hurt them, yes, and it was effective when fighting against them. But there were more good vamps than there were bad ones. They didn’t deserve to be banished only to the night.
Raphael watched him for a long moment. His eyes were dark, and just a bit wary, but there was something growing in there that Alec thought might be grudging respect. “He really means that much to you, to take a risk like this?”
He didn’t have to voice what that risk was. The both of them knew it. If anyone found out that Raphael had gotten this from Alec, it would send them after him. Simon’s change had way too many variables to it for vampires to try and hunt down just one part of it. But this? Alec deliberately giving Raphael a vial of blood that would guarantee he would be a daylighter? This was a different story. Alec was putting his neck on the line, and his parabatai’s at the same time.
Yet, even knowing all of that, Alec still met Raphael’s eyes and nodded without a hint of hesitation. “Yes.”
“Hm.” The hard lines of Raphael’s face softened into a small, barely-there smile. “You might not be all that bad, Lightwood.”
From anyone else that might not have been the most glowing of recommendations. But Alec knew it was a big concession from Raphael. He nodded his head at the other man, offering him a smile in return.
“Grooming is a big part of our courtship. As you know, our wings are different than yours but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do things to help care for them. They’re just, a lot harder to damage. But that means they’re also not as easy to clean. This is a big step, though. It’s the point where you get to know whether or not they really accept your suit. So far, it’s you offering them things. And here, you’ll offer your own wings for grooming. If they offer their in return, in means they accept your courtship, and you get to move forward.”
Grooming was actually something that they hadn’t done yet. Alec couldn’t exactly say why – it wasn’t intentional or anything like that. It was just, their lives had been hectic, and far too many things had happened since they’d gotten together, and there hadn’t been time. Alec was so used to going to Jace or Isabelle to get it done anyway. It was habit for two or all three of them to get together in one of their rooms at least once a week and groom one another. Not even Clary was invited to come to those. It was for them and them alone. Plus, Alec had always kept his wings glamoured more often than not. Life was just easier that way.
But it was definitely something that Alec had thought about. Doing this now would be a big step for them. Not just in their warlock courtship, but in nephilim society, too. No one but family or spouses touched their wings.
Thinking about it left Alec nervous. He wanted it – he knew he did. He just couldn’t seem to get up the courage to say it.
Judging by the way Magnus had taken to looking at him lately when he thought Alec wasn’t looking, he knew it was coming, too. There was a light in his eyes that Alec liked to think was hopeful. He’d no doubt either seen Catarina and Madzie’s gifts, or heard from Raphael, though he hadn’t said anything. Alec wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad sign. He chose to take that light he saw as a good sign.
Though, the longer it took Alec to do this, the more he was worried that light would go out. That Magnus would think Alec didn’t want to do this, not really. But before he could do it, he had to talk to his siblings first.
Isabelle presented him the perfect opportunity Wednesday afternoon when she and Jace came to poke at him and eat some lunch – a weekly check-in as family that they insisted on after recent events had tried so hard to pull apart their lives on so many different levels. She was watching as Jace and Alec bickered over the last of the eggrolls on the plate, laughing and rolling their eyes at them before darting in to steal it first.
“Hey!” Jace cried out indignantly.
At the same time, Alec rolled his eyes, far too used to it. Though that didn’t stop him from swatting at her wing with one of his while she smugly took a bite. If it had the bonus of almost making her miss her bite, all the better.
She swatted back at him and turned to scowl at him. “Rude.”
“Says the girl who stole the eggroll,” Alec pointed out.
Instead of retaliating as Alec had expected, he watched as Isabelle furrowed her brow and tilted to better look at his wing. “Damn, hermano.” Isabelle let out a low, disbelieving whistle. “What the hell did you do to your wing?” Her grin turned a little bit devious. “Or do we even want to know?”
“I don’t want to know,” Jace said quickly. He shot a look at Alec that was a quick no offense with a small shrug and everything.
Alec scowled at the both of them. “It wasn’t because of that.” Neither one of them had pulled their wings out during sex. That made the logistics of it a whole lot harder and they’d agreed not to deal with that when Alec was still so new to the whole experience as it was. Then, well, life got in the way, and what little time they’d stolen together hadn’t given them the time to really indulge, and after a while it became this quiet thing between them that they just hadn’t addressed. Especially not after their recent breakup and reconciliation. While they were both comfortable having their wings out at home, neither one kept them out while sleeping, and sex often happened in snatches of time before bed or upon waking up.
Sighing, Alec pushed those thoughts down and focused back on the conversation in front of him.
Isabelle was grinning at him like she didn’t quite believe him. Thankfully, she let it go and moved on easily enough. “Either way, we should get together and groom. Your feathers are all over the place.”
Alec went still, his chopsticks held loosely in front of him. He’d been worrying lately about doing this and here was the perfect opportunity to bring it up just dropped right in his lap. Still, knowing that this was what he wanted didn’t take away Alec’s nerves. Not at doing it or at telling his siblings. But he’d made the decision that this courtship was something he wanted, and he trusted Magnus. More than that, he loved Magnus. Alec wanted to make damn sure Magnus knew it, too.
Resolve straightened Alec’s spin. His grip firmed on his chopsticks, and he reached out for a piece of chicken with far more calmness than he really felt. He looked down at the food in lieu of looking up at his siblings when he told them, “Actually, I was thinking about asking Magnus to help me.”
The office fell quiet after those words. Alec had said them in a steady, straightforward voice, without a bit of the stuttering that often happened when he was nervous. Yet he knew these two more than any others would recognize the signs of nerves on him.
When they said nothing, Alec dared to finally look up.
What he found wasn’t at all what he’d expected.
Jace was staring at him with a stunned look on his face that was slowly morphing into a smile, while Isabelle had a hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes. “Oh, Alec.”
“I’m happy for you, buddy,” Jace said, his smile getting bigger still.
They meant it, the both of them. Their happiness was clear for Alec to see. They knew what this meant in their culture, what it meant for Alec to open himself up in such a vulnerable way to anyone, and they were treating it with the respect it deserved. No mocking, no jokes, no nothing except honest love and support.
That made it so much easier for Alec to smile at them. “Thanks.”
While most people might not expect it from them, especially how often they all liked to tease one another – or how much they liked to use his relationship with Magnus to try and make Alec blush – this wasn’t something they were going to joke about. Nor was it a thing they needed to really talk about. The fact that Alec told them was enough. They shared their love, their support, and that was it.
Alec left work that day feeling a lot more settled in his decision. It was the right one, he knew. For both of them.
When he got to the loft, he was grateful to see that Magnus actually wasn’t home. A note was left floating in the entryway, though, which had Alec grinning. Magnus liked to do that when he was going to be out and he thought Alec might stop by. Or if he had to leave while Alec was sleeping. He’d charm a piece of paper to float in the air where he knew Alec would find it. Because angel-forbid Magnus do anything as boring as just leaving a paper sitting somewhere.
The note just said last-minute client, I should be back for dinner. Hope to see you! – xoxo and then an actual kiss pressed into the paper in dark purple lipstick.
Alec took the note and folded it up, slipping it into the inner pocket of his coat so that he could put it away later with all the others he kept in a little box in his desk at the Institute.
Not having Magnus at home left Alec the perfect opportunity to set up his plan for the night. He didn’t waste any time in stripping off his jacket, hanging up his weapons, and getting to work.
By the time Magnus portaled back home an hour later, Alec had everything in place. He’d been careful about setting the whole scene. It had to feel natural while at the same time giving off the air of importance that something like this deserved. Alec had thought long and hard all afternoon about how to blend together the necessities for warlock-courtship in with the importance of this in nephilim relationships.
In the end, what he settled on was something simple – because that was who Alec was – with just a bit of Magnus to make him a part of it, too. Something for the both of them.
He chose the rooftop to get set up on. It was the most spacious place with minimal risk of hitting something that was also easy to make comfortable. There was already a couch and chairs out there, and an area rug, all of which somehow never got wet when it rained. The wooden pergola that curled around them with its dangling fairy lights made the setting a bit more romantic. He and Magnus had shared plenty of meals up here often enough that Magnus wouldn’t find it too odd to come home and see Alec up there with the lights on.
When Alec felt Magnus arrive, it was with a shiver of magic through his wings that he hadn’t told Magnus about. It wasn’t something that was typical for a nephilim to feel. They didn’t sense magic with their wings. But Alec sensed Magnus’ magic. Felt it reach out and brush over him the instant the warlock was home.
Alec stood at the edge of the tallest section of wall with his wings extended and his gaze off in the distance. He wasn’t the pro at setting a scene that his boyfriend was. But he has some flair. With his body leaned forward, arms resting on the wall, and his wings out, he knew he’d paint a picture Magnus would appreciate.
He wasn’t disappointed when, a moment later, he heard the swish of the door, the click of Magnus’ heeled boots, and then the soft, sucked in breath when Magnus caught sight of him.
Alec turned to look over his shoulder and smiled at the look of pure delight Magnus was giving him. It was a heady thing, having someone look at him that way when no one else in his life ever had. Alec felt the low swoop of his stomach like he’d just taken a dive off the roof. It was a feeling he hoped never went away.
“Well, well, well,” Magnus said, smile growing as he walked forward. “What a beautiful image to come home to.”
“Welcome home.” Grinning, Alec lifted one wing, making clear space for Magnus to join him. The warlock had his wings out as well, the dark leather of them looking so very sleek and soft, though Alec knew they were far tougher than they looked.
Magnus didn’t hesitate to hurry into the space that Alec made for him. He stepped right up to his side, one hand on his hip, and stretched up for a kiss as they always did when they’d been apart. His wing made as if to draw down, to make room for Alec’s to settle on top, but Alec playfully nudged his until he could slip his wing under Magnus’. The gesture was considered submissive, not just amongst downworlders but nephilim, too, though they’d never really held that much stock in it when at home.
Though they both were always courteous about it when in public. Magnus deferred to Alec inside the Institute, and Alec deferred to Magnus when he was with his people. Otherwise, they kept their wings pretty even, or in whatever position they found most comfortable at that moment.
If Magnus was surprised by the gesture, he didn’t say anything. He just smiled up at Alec when they broke apart. “You look ravishing tonight, sayang.”
“You’re not looking too bad yourself, Mr. Bane.”
Once, Alec wouldn’t have been able to flirt like that. He would’ve been far too flustered. It was a sign of how far they’d come in their relationship that Alec found it easier and easier to say or do things like that.
Magnus slid his hand in so that his arm was wrapped around Alec’s waist. Then he snuggled in close. “Aren’t you charming tonight?”
“Are you saying I’m not charming any other time?”
The grin that got Alec was big enough to crinkle the corners of Magnus’ eyes. It only made him look all the more beautiful. The gold of his cat eyes sparkled even more than the glitter on his face. “You are always charming, in your own way, Alexander.”
“That’s a cop-out if I’ve ever heard one.” Still, Alec grinned to show that he didn’t mean it, and he bent in to steal another quick kiss. Then he reached up and brushed at the glitter on Magnus’ cheek. “Stop by the club?” Usually Magnus got this made-up when he was going out to Pandemonium.
The scowl that crossed Magnus’ face probably shouldn’t have been as cute as it was. “No. I had a rather ostentatious client who seemed to believe that all warlocks should be wizened old men with long beards.”
A laugh bubbled up in bright splashes of joy in Alec’s chest. “So naturally, you had to go as opposite that as possible.”
“Naturally.” The scowl vanished up an impish grin. “I’m quite sure he’ll think twice before coming back to the High Warlock…”
It hurt to watch the way that Magnus trailed off. The loss of his title as High Warlock was still far too recent for him. He didn’t slip often, but when he did it was always like this. A brief, painful thing that hurt to see. Almost as much as it hurt to watch Magnus shove it all down and try to go on like it didn’t matter.
Alec didn’t let him get too lost in it. He’d gotten pretty good at trying to distract Magnus, and at glossing over these moments. He’d discovered quickly it was only harder on Magnus if Alec tried to openly comfort him.
Hiding his own inner ache, Alec smiled, soft and low, and leaned in against Magnus a bit more. “Well, I have to say I prefer you like this. It’d be weird to see you in wizard robes. Or a beard.” The thought really hit him in that moment and Alec blinked a few times as he tried to picture it.
He felt his lips twitch at the mental image of Magnus with a beard. No, not just a beard. A big, long one like the wizards in those movies Magnus liked to show him and mock. All long and crinkly and trailing toward his knees. He’d probably decorate it, knowing him. Dye it. Put jewelry in it.
Alec felt the first giggle bubble up and couldn’t quite get his hand up in time to muffle it. Magnus turned to look at him, eyebrows up at the sound he’d made, and all Alec could picture was Magnus giving him that look with the giant beard, and oh, Angel, he couldn’t help it. Another giggle broke free, and another one.
The curious look Magnus had shifted to one of exasperation. “You’re picturing it, aren’t you?”
There was no way Alec could answer that. Not without giving up and laughing completely. All he could do was nod and keep his hand pressed firmly over his mouth.
Magnus sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. Yet there was a clear twitch to the corner of his mouth, and his eyes were nothing but fond. “You’re ridiculous.”
Whatever sound came out of Alec’s mouth was somewhere between a giggle and a snort. It failed utterly at sounding like a word. And that was it. He lost it.
He had to clutch at Magnus to keep upright while he was laughing. He ended up turning in toward him, burying his face against Magnus’ neck while his boyfriend held him, keeping him upright even as he scolded Alec. “Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up, shadowhunter.”
“I’m sorry,” Alec stammered out, hiccupping a little as he tried to get his laughter under control. He drew back and worked to smother his smile, though he knew he was failing miserably.
Magnus didn’t help matters. He was grinning now too and shaking his head. “You’re a menace.”
Somehow even those words came out sounding so full of love Alec was hard pressed to find the insult in them. He shook his head and grinned at Magnus. “Just promise me you’ll never grow a beard. I don’t think I could handle it.”
“I can and will absolutely promise you that,” Magnus swore immediately. He eyed Alec, smirking just a bit. “At the risk of setting off those adorable little giggles again, I’ll have you know I attempted a beard only once.”
“I feel like there’s a story to that.”
“Get me drunk enough and I might tell you, angel.”
Laughing, Alec ducked in and kissed him. “I’d still love you, even with a hideous beard.”
Magnus tipped his head up to brush their noses together. “Your devotion is duly noted.”
They stayed as they were for a few minutes longer, just trading kisses and enjoying one another, before a small stretch of his wings had Alec bumping them into the wall and jostling some of his disheveled feathers. The sting of it had him drawing back from Magnus’ lips to give a little hiss.
“Are you all right?” Magnus asked, brows furrowing down.
Alec looked at him and realized this was the perfect in that he needed. Instead of some awkward conversation that he still hadn’t quite figured out how to start, this right here was the perfect lead-in for him to say what he’d come up here for. Of course, he did it in his usual straightforward way. Playing coy was more Magnus’ style, not his.
“Actually, that reminds me why I came up here.” You can do this. Just ask him. The worst he’ll say is no, and then you’ll know he’s not ready for this. Alec reminded himself of that and tried to ignore the part of him that wanted to worry anyway. He instinctively stood up a little straighter and drew his wings in against his back in a pose he knew looked defensive, yet he couldn’t quite help it. It was his default pose when nervous. “I was, uh, I must’ve knocked a few feathers out of place on our last mission. I was hoping you’d… help me with that, maybe?”
What had started out strong had shifted into something far more cautious than Alec had wanted to be. Yet as soon as he saw the awed look that crossed Magnus’ face, any nerves Alec felt fled.
“You… you want me to groom you?” Magnus asked slowly, almost hesitantly. Like he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
Alec smiled at him, a whole lot more confident than he’d been moments ago. “Yeah. If you wouldn’t mind.”
“Oh, of course not!” Magnus hurried to reassure him. Then he softened in that way that was private and theirs. The warm, loving man that was under all the masks came out, looking so stunned the same way Magnus always did anytime Alec offered him something nice, and his smile was bright enough to put the stars to shame. “I’d love to, Alexander.”
They ended up on the ground near the couch in a pile of blankets that Magnus summoned from downstairs. He had Alec get comfortable and then stood in front of him, hands on his hips and looking down. “I know the general idea behind this, but I’ve never done it before so you’ll have to walk me through it, darling.”
“Guess it’s my turn to teach you something,” Alec said teasingly. He enjoyed the bit of color that put into Magnus’ cheeks. Chuckling, he gestured toward his back. “Most of them need done from the back. There’ll be some left in the front, but just a couple. You can get most of it back there.”
Magnus quickly ducked down under Alec’s lifted wing and came out behind him. The blankets were moved around so that he could get comfortable back there on the stool Alec had insisted he snap up. He’d warned Magnus that it could take a while, and he might want to be comfortable while he did it.
“Okay, first what you need to do is simply try and straighten out the feathers. You just, comb your fingers through like you would with your hair, in a sense,” Alec explained. It was the best way he could think of to describe it. This was the first time he was going to have to tell someone what needed done.
For the first time he realized what that was really going to mean. He wasn’t worried about his feathers around Magnus, or even the vulnerability of his wings. Like this, attacking the wings was easy and likely to cause serious damage. But that wasn’t a concern that even crossed Alec’s mind. No, what he realized and what had him flushing so much suddenly was the realization that he was going to have to explain to Magnus about wing oil and how to get it.
A low “Oh, Raziel” slid past his lips as he dipped his head forward and buried his face in his hands. How had he not thought about this beforehand?
Magnus’ voice was concerned and just a bit hesitant. Like he was worried that Alec was suddenly changing his mind.
That might’ve been the only thing that could’ve pulled Alec up from his embarrassment. The last thing he wanted was for Magnus to think he was regretting this or anything like that. “I’m an idiot,” Alec said, the sound just a little muffled by his hands.
One of Magnus’ hands settled into the space between Alec’s wings, warm and steady and so very close to where he actually needed to be. “I highly doubt that, but what makes you think so?”
This was Magnus. He could do this. Yes, it was embarrassing, though likely not as much as he was making it out to be. This was a natural part of his body. It wasn’t anything dirty or naughty. His siblings did it for him every time they groomed his wings. There was no sexual edge to it. It was just… very, very intimate, far more than anything else Alec had done with Magnus, and he needed to say it.
“Okay, so.” Pausing, Alec blew out a breath. Quit beating around the bush. You can do this! “I didn’t exactly think about the fact that you haven’t had any experience with this, or that your experience with your own wings is going to be different than mine.”
Closing his eyes, Alec snapped at himself for being ridiculous and just blurted out what he needed to say. “You’re going to need to get the oil before you work out the feathers. It makes the process smoother and keeps them protected.”
“Oh! That, actually makes sense. You don’t have magic to maintain things like that,” Magnus said slowly, his tone a bit contemplative. Like maybe he hadn’t thought about that before either. “What kind of oil do you guys use? I imagine it’s something rather particular, not just any old oil. I have countless kinds, though I don’t think those would work.”
Alec could feel his blush burning his cheeks. He took another deep breath and then twisted one of his arms around behind himself. He caught hold of Magnus’ wrist and dragged his hand to the side, to that spot that was set up in just the perfect place for Alec to reach without straining too much. “Here.”
He felt Magnus’ hand go still. Then it slid up, brushing underneath the screen of small feathers with a hesitant touch. Alec added his own pressure against Magnus’ fingers to show him how to do it. When he felt the oil seep out, he drew his hand away, letting Magnus take over. The sound of a soft “Oh” was the only thing that Magnus said. His hand lingered there just a second longer, long enough for Alec to worry just a little, and then he was pressing in again to gather a little more over his hand. “Where do you usually start?”
The casual tone to Magnus’ voice was clearly a deliberate choice, yet Alec was so very grateful for it. “At the base, and then work outward. The marginal coverts and secondary coverts are easiest to do first. Then you move to the alula and the primary coverts. After that, the primaries and secondaries are usually straight, but they still need oil, and sometimes they’ll still need a little adjustment.”
Magnus was already moving before Alec finished his explanation. He started to work his way carefully through Alec’s feathers. His touch was gentle yet firm, though not as firm as he could’ve been. He’d realize soon enough just how firm or gentle to make his touch, though. Most shadowhunters went through that phase when they started grooming themselves or their siblings.
Little by little Alec felt any signs of tension start to drain out of him. When Magnus started talking, sharing stories about his clients of the day, Alec happily lost himself in the low hum of Magnus’ voice and the feel of his hands in his feathers. He couldn’t believe he’d been so worried about this. It was… it was amazing. Wonderful. Everything he could’ve wanted.
By the time Magnus finally finished, a process that took quite a while, Alec was a blissed out lump in front of him. He heard Magnus laugh when he came around and knelt down in front of Alec so that they were face to face. “I see why this is usually something done only with those close to you,” Magnus said, smiling a little. One of his hands came up to cup Alec’s cheek. “You’re quite out of it, aren’t you, darling?”
“Mm.” He hummed happily and nuzzled against Magnus’ hand. “It’s like… like a really, really good scalp massage in a warm bathtub.”
Smile still in place, Magnus bent down to give Alec a soft kiss. Then he tilted his head a little so they could nuzzle their noses against one another. “Thank you for trusting me with this.”
“I trust you with every part of me,” Alec murmured.
Magnus kissed him again, a little bit harder this time, and his wings lifted up and curled in, brushing against Alec’s as they did. It was a playful, teasing touch that felt extra good with the grooming-buzz that Alec was riding. “Come on, let’s get you inside, sayang. You look like you’re going to fall asleep where you sit.”
The idea of having to go inside and put his wings away had Alec wrinkling his nose. While sleep sounded nice, especially the part where he’d get to curl up with Magnus, he didn’t really want to have to move to do it. “Do we have to?”
Magnus huffed out a soft laugh. “No. No, we don’t.”
A snap of his fingers brought them fresh blankets and some pillows to their little nest they’d made. Alec happily let Magnus drag him back to lay down with him. When he did, he didn’t think about how he was moving, how he curled his body in so that they were nuzzled face to face, or how he tucked his wings in close and used one to nudge Magnus’ wing up over them.
He might not have thought anything of it, but if Alec had looked up, he would’ve seen the awed look on Magnus’ face just moments before the warlock wrapped his wing protectively around Alec and used it to cradle him close. Alec fell asleep wrapped up in wings and magic of one he knew would keep him safe.
When Magnus came to him the next night, wings out and a couple special clothes in hand, Alec’s smile was the brightest it’d ever been.
“The final gift is usually something made by our magic. A piece of us, as it were, gifted to the one we’d like to be ours. It’s our way of showing how serious we are, how much we care, and that we’re willing to be vulnerable by exposing a part of ourselves that could be used against us. It’s our way of saying we trust the other person not to do it.”
This was the one part of the whole thing that Alec had known from the get-go what he would give. Catarina had offered to help him, and Alec knew he’d surprised her when he’d firmly turned her down. As soon as she’d said what was necessary Alec had known what he was going to do. It was the only thing he really could do. He didn’t have magic to make something for Magnus. Nor did he have the typical type of magical signature that he could offer up to show his level of trust in him. Not in the typical way, at least.
What Alec did have was something he hoped would work equally well.
He took his time to do it. After all, this gift was the most meaningful of all, and from what Catarina said he got the impression that he really, really needed to get it right. Since Alec couldn’t do it the traditional way, he had to work extra hard to make sure it was good enough to do the same.
Alec knew that Magnus would probably understand if Alec didn’t do this one. After all, it wasn’t exactly something that someone who wasn’t a warlock could do. But that only made Alec all the more determined to do it.
He was pretty sure that Magnus was beginning to suspect something. The sideways looks he kept giving Alec when he was sure Alec wasn’t looking made it clear Magnus knew something was up. But he didn’t ask and Alec didn’t say. Not yet.
It took days for Alec to do what he wanted. He didn’t want anyone’s help on this, which meant he couldn’t even go to his sister or his brother. But what he wanted to make wasn’t easy, and it took time, a bit of research, and a few messed up attempts. Most of which Alec had to burn so no one would be able to get their hands on them.
In the end, Alec finally had to settle for buying part of his gift and working from there. He justified it to himself by saying that warlocks would likely have to purchase parts of their gift, too, or at least the supplies with which to make it. Alec wasn’t cheating or anything like that. Magnus would still like this. So he bought the supplies, changed his design around a few times, and did his best to put everything he had into making this perfect for Magnus. He deserved nothing less.
Once Alec was done, he boxed it up in another box made to match the first one he’d used, and then he spent another day trying to plan out everything he’d need. Three days off from the Institute, to make sure they’d have time to properly celebrate if this went right, or that he’d be able to go to ground and lick his wounds for a while if it didn’t. To his siblings, Alec played it as just wanting to give Magnus a surprise vacation, and that guaranteed they were kept quiet.
After that, the only planning Alec really needed to do had to be done at the loft, and for that Alec called Catarina to have her get Magnus out of the loft for a while. That left Alec free to come in and set things up before Magnus got home.
Alec took his time doing it. Despite what others said, he wasn’t unromantic. He knew how to set up a beautiful evening for him and his boyfriend. Even if he hadn’t had ideas of his own, time spent with Magnus had helped him to get a general idea of not just what was romantic, but what suited both him and Magnus.
Of course, having money helped. Some of it Alec was able to do on his own. He chose the spot – up where they’d had their little wing-grooming nest – and he was the one to get the furniture up there. A circular table up there, one that Alec very much did not want to try getting up there again without Magnus’ magic to help. Then the fairy lights were turned on, a few candles laid out around them and on the table, and flowers were set up in a beautiful assortment in the middle of the table. A few deliveries from the local flower shop helped provide Alec with the necessary flowers to decorate around them as well.
Alec didn’t try and cook. He was far too nervous to not end up accidentally screwing something up. That was one of the ways that money came in handy. Alec ordered out from one of their favorite Italian places here in New York, and when the food arrived, made sure to use the special charmed dishes Magnus kept around that would keep things warm for them until they were ready.
As Alec looked around him, he had the absent thought that this was almost like he was setting up for a proposal.
In a way, wasn’t it? Wasn’t this just as big, and just as important, to a warlock? Maybe more so, even, considering the length of their lives and the fact that marriage by mundane means was probably a whole lot simpler than a final courtship with a warlock and their magic.
Alec didn’t give himself time to think on it or to get too nervous. There was no time and no room for those kinds of things tonight. To keep himself occupied, he went downstairs and showered, and then spent a little time in the closet picking out something to wear. A few of his own bits of clothes had migrated their way from the Institute to the loft over the duration of their relationship. Plus, there were things that Magnus had bought for Alec in the hopes of getting him to wear them. He was always trying to introduce better quality clothes to Alec on top of a bit more color.
Rubbing his fingers over the material of the shirt in front of him, Alec couldn’t help but smile. For most of Alec’s life he’d listened to teasing about how he needed to wear more colors, dress better, look better. Even Isabelle said it. Though Alec knew she was only doing it because she cared about him, and she wanted him to look good, it drove him a little crazy that people couldn’t just accept him for how he was. Dark clothes, holy sweaters, and all.
Magnus… Magnus wanted to add color to Alec’s wardrobe, yes, but he didn’t seem to mind that they were darker colors. Nor did he try and completely erase Alec’s own sense of style. He bought Alec things, but they were often things that were still dark the way Alec liked, still practical. He just bought them in a higher quality material. Alec had learned to love the softer things that Magnus liked to get him.
For tonight, however, a bit of color was actually exactly what Alec was going for.
He pulled out a dark green button up that was way more fitted than any of Alec’s other business clothes, and a much softer material. Tight black jeans went with it, and a pair of his nicer black shoes.
Alec didn’t bother trying to tame his hair down. That was a battle he knew he wasn’t going to win. Not to mention, he knew just how much Magnus seemed to love the messiness of it, even going so far as to deliberately mess it up a few times when Isabelle tried to tame it down with product. Anytime she did, Alec would inevitably find Magnus’ hand in his hair at some point, little bits of magic weaving between his fingers while he casually stroked out whatever product Isabelle had put in.
By the time Alec had finished getting ready and made his way back up to the roof, the sun had set, and lighting the candles gave the space a beautiful little glow.
He’d just finished lighting the last candle when Catarina text him. Her message was short and sweet, letting Alec know that Magnus was preparing to portal home. That meant he was going to be there any moment.
The nerves Alec hadn’t been letting himself feel came out full force in that moment. This was it. There was no turning back after this. Magnus would know something was up the minute he saw the whole setup. Alec couldn’t hide from it. All the work he’d put into this courtship, all the efforts he’d made to try and repair their relationship after all the recent troubles, all of that was culminating in this moment.
Alec felt the shiver of magic down his wings that told him Magnus had opened up the portal. He drew in a deep breath and then let it out slowly. You can do this. You can. It’s just Magnus. No matter what happens, whether he accepts this courtship or not, you know he’s not going to walk away. Even if this wasn’t what Magnus wanted for their relationship, if he didn’t want this extra layer of things for them, Alec had no doubt that Magnus would still stick around. He didn’t question Magnus’ love for him.
Then there were footsteps on the stairs, the door to the rooftop was opening, and Alec was out of time.
Where Alec had stationed himself meant that he got to watch Magnus’ face and see his reaction even before Magnus got to see him. He could see the way that Magnus’ eyes went wide as he took in the table, the decorations, the food, the flowers. Alec watched the way that Magnus’ lips parted on a surprised breath, yet how they also were already curving up in a smile of pure delight.
Alec was smiling as well when Magnus’ gaze finally landed on him. The delighted look on Magnus’ face only grew when his eyes ran over Alec. By the time they settled on Alec’s face, his glamour was gone, not just on his eyes but on his wings, and Magnus looked like Christmas had come early. “Well now, if this isn’t a wonderful surprise to come home to.” He walked toward Alec, stopping only when he was close enough to stretch up on his toes and give Alec a kiss. When they pulled back, he smiled. “To what do I owe the pleasure of such a lovely looking evening? We don’t have any important dates I’ve forgotten about, do we?”
“Like you’d forget any of those.” Alec rolled his eyes and almost snorted at the idea. He was pretty sure Magnus kept track of any sort of moment in their relationship somewhere in his office or on his phone. He liked to celebrate little anniversaries. Even ones that Alec hadn’t thought of.
Grinning, Magnus stroked his fingers over Alec’s bicep. “There’s a chance. But if not an anniversary or something like that, what prompted all this?”
“Can’t I just do something nice for my boyfriend?”
Watching Magnus’ eyes light up at the use of the term boyfriend never failed to make Alec smile. Magnus pushed up to give Alec another kiss. “Of course, darling.”
Alec slid his arm around Magnus’ shoulders, getting Magnus’ arm around his waist in turn, and he began to lead them over toward the table. “I hope you’re in the mood for Italian.”
“Always. Though I must admit a preference for Latin.” Magnus slid his hand down from Alec’s hip to give his ass a light squeeze to clearly emphasize what he’d meant. As if the leer in his tone and the smirk on his face hadn’t made it clear enough.
Though Alec couldn’t stop the hint of color from warming his cheeks, he also rolled his eyes. Then he used his arm and wing to nudge Magnus away from his side and toward his chair. “You’re terrible.”
“We both know you don’t mean that,” Magnus teased back, adding in a wink for good measure. He was clearly in a playful sort of mood tonight. Alec could only hope that stuck around after everything was said and done. This mood was one of Alec’s favorites. He adored a playful Magnus. It usually meant over-the-top flirting, some light teasing, plus bright smiles and warm laughter that always carried over into the bedroom with them. Alec hadn’t known laughing with sex was possible until Magnus.
If Alec wanted any of that they had to get through this first.
Thank the angel he’d made the decision to do the gift first and get it out of the way. There was no way he’d be able to sit through the whole dinner wondering and worrying about what was going to happen. Neither one of them would’ve enjoyed that, and it would’ve inevitably ended up ruining Magnus’ good mood.
Still, that didn’t mean that Alec’s nerves didn’t grow when Magnus looked down at the table while reaching for his chair and he caught sight of the box sitting there. His whole face lit up with a grin. “Presents, too! Alexander, you’re spoiling me!”
“You deserve it.” The words were a blunt truth Alec had no shame in admitting. Magnus deserved so much more than anything Alec had ever offered him. He deserved the world. He just hoped that what little he was able to offer his boyfriend would be enough.
Alec pulled back Magnus’ chair, getting another smile and a quick kiss before Magnus sank down into it. However, he waited until Alec took the chair beside him to reach for the box. Alec felt like he was holding his breath as he watched Magnus untie the ribbon, gently setting the bits off to the side, and then Magnus was reaching forward to lift the lid. There was no turning back now.
The awe on Magnus’ face eased some of Alec’s tension. Still, he found himself speechless for the moment. All Alec could do was sit there and watch as Magnus reached down into box and pulled out the carefully crafted necklace Alec had put inside. Magnus’ eyes were wide while they seemed to take in every single detail.
For most people the necklace probably didn’t look like that much of a work of art. It was nothing in comparison to some of the beautiful silver and gold pieces that Magnus had, with countless precious jewels that even Alec’s untrained eye knew were expensive. This was more… personal. Yet priceless in a way the others wouldn’t be.
The top of the necklace was a choker, with one long bit that would hang low, breaking off into three pieces at the bottom.
Most of the necklace itself was leather that Alec had very carefully acquired, cut, braided into the shape he wanted, and then carved with a small knife. There were runes and protective symbols put into the leather that were almost unnoticeable unless one looked closely the way that Magnus currently was.
Though Alec was proud of the leatherwork he’d done, it wasn’t that part that made the necklace so special. Nor was it the gold and silver beads he’d so carefully chosen and added. No, what made the necklace so special, so very priceless, were the feathers.
From the front of the choker dangled one of Alec’s smallest feathers. No larger than Alec’s index finger, the feather was dark black, with the lightest of flecks in it that Magnus often compared to the hint of stars hiding behind clouds in the night sky.
Three more feathers dangled down the longer bits of leather on the back. The middle one being the largest, though not the largest Alec had, with two on either side of it that were about half its size.
“It’s, uh, it’s a back necklace,” Alec said when the silence got to be a bit too oppressive. “The choker hooks in the back, and the other bits will, um, they’ll dangle down between your wings.”
Magnus wore plenty of backless shirts when he was hanging out in Pandemonium. But, despite all the jewelry he so frequently wore, he’d never worn any back jewelry. Not like Alec had seen Isabelle do. For the longest time Alec had wanted to see what Magnus would look like wearing something there. Just the thought of jewelry dangling down the long expanse of his back – a bit of something pretty, soft, amidst the muscled planes of his back and wing joints – Alec knew he’d be beautiful. And that said nothing for the feeling it gave Alec just thinking about Magnus wearing his feathers so boldly.
“It’s stunning,” Magnus’ voice was low and almost reverent. He knew the importance of nephilim feathers. They were almost as good as actual angel feathers. The things they could be used for in spellwork, the things a warlock could use them for, were immense. But, more than that, the amount of power that it put in Magnus’ hands – he could do so much to Alec with even just a piece of a feather. To have a necklace that held four of them was a gesture that Alec hoped was on par with the offering of magic between warlocks. It was, in a sense, giving Magnus a very piece of Alec’s soul.
The significance of that wasn’t lost on Magnus. He looked up at Alec, and his heart was right there in his eyes. The walls that he so often put up around others – even sometimes still around Alec – were all gone. In that look was the heart of the man that Alec had fallen so much in love with as well as a tentative hope that said that even now he wasn’t sure about what Alec was doing. If this was really what he was hoping for.
Seeing that gave Alec the courage that had seemed to be evading him for most of the evening. Suddenly, the nerves he felt weren’t as important. The only important thing here was Magnus and making damn sure he understood just how loved he truly was.
“Catarina said the final courtship gift needed to be made by magic,” Alec said, his voice low yet steady in the soft quiet of the evening. The sounds of the city seemed to have faded away around them. The two of them could’ve been the only people in the whole of the city at that moment. Nothing and no one else mattered. Just Magnus and the slowly growing hope in his eyes. “I know that I don’t have any magic to offer you, not like another warlock might, but I was hoping this might be close enough to count. It’s a piece of me, something I wouldn’t give to anyone else.”
‘It’s our way of showing how serious we are,’ Catarina had said. ‘How much we care, and that we’re willing to be vulnerable by exposing a part of ourselves that could be used against us. It’s our way of saying we trust the other person not to do it.’
“You’ve…” Magnus paused, emotion clogging his throat. It made his voice a bit huskier than normal even when he tried to clear it away. “I wasn’t sure if you were really doing this intentionally or not. But you… you really were, weren’t you? The gifts, and Raphael, and the grooming…”
Alec met and held Magnus’ eyes, needing him to see just how serious Alec was. Wanting him to know that this was real. “You’ve always been so considerate to me and how I feel. From the very get go, you were there for me, coaxing me out of my shell, showing me what it was like to be loved and respected for who I am, not who you wanted me to be.”
“I don’t want you to be anyone but you.”
The honesty in that had Alec smiling softly. “I know.” Reaching out, he caught hold of Magnus’ free hand, holding it in his. Neither one of them looked away as they gripped tightly to each other. “You’ve always loved me for me, Magnus. Something no one else in my life has ever offered me. In some way or another, they always want me to change. You give me the option of it, but you never make me feel like I have to just to keep you happy with me. You give me everything, and you don’t ask for anything in return. I wanted to do something to give you even just half of what you’ve given me. I wanted you to know you were loved, more than anything and anyone in this world, and I wanted to do it in a way you deserve.”
Tears built in Magnus’ eyes. He had no shame in letting them slide down his cheeks. Not when it was just him and Alec alone. He let the tears fall and kept his tight hold on Alec.
Alec reached up with his free hand and used one of his knuckles to brush away a few tears. “You deserve more than I can ever give you, Magnus Bane. I’m not always good at saying that or showing it. But I… I wanted to give you this. So I went and talked to Catarina.”
A watery chuckle burst from Magnus. He used the wrist of the hand holding the necklace to reach up and cover his mouth for a moment. When he lowered it, he was still smiling. “Of course she helped you.”
“Who else would talk me through warlock courtship rituals?”
“I can’t believe you never said anything.” Magnus shook his head, but his smile grew bigger. He wasn’t mad. More than anything, he sounded stunned and… elated. “When you gave me the focus stone, I thought maybe it was just a coincidence. But then I went out with Madzie and saw her new dress, and then the grooming…”
Alec twisted their hands enough that he could run his thumb over Magnus’ knuckles. “Cat and I figured you’d only try to talk me out of it if I said anything. Plus, it’s not like it’s something people openly discuss beforehand.” That was what Catarina had said, anyway.
Magnus shook his head, still smiling. His eyes finally broke away from Alec only to drift down to the necklace he still held. A necklace made by Alec’s own hands, with the magic of his runes and the magic of his feathers right there, freely given to the person he loved more than anything.
When Magnus looked back up, a few more tears had fallen, smearing his makeup just a little, but his smile was brighter than Alec had ever seen it before. “Will you put it on me?”
The soft words had Alec moving. He rose to his feet and took the necklace when Magnus offered it to him. By the time he got behind Magnus a quick bit of magic had already changed Magnus’ shirt and vest to a shimmering golden low-backed shirt that left almost all of his back exposed. Alec smiled at the sight of it. Then he carefully lifted the necklace up over Magnus’ head. A touch settled it against his throat, and then Alec’s hands slid to the back to close the clasp on the choker and to carefully arrange the feathers so that they dangled perfect between Magnus’ wing joints. The top of the feathers reached just below them, with the tip of the longest feather stopping just shy of Magnus’ pants.
It was… he looked stunning, just as Alec had known he would. Not just with the jewelry, but with that bit of Alec hanging there off him. A little possessive thrill ran down Alec’s spine at the sight.
“How does it look?” Magnus asked, breaking Alec’s thoughts.
There was only one answer Alec could give, and that was: “Gorgeous.”
When Alec finally dragged himself away and moved to go back to his chair, he found Magnus watched him and smiling. He had his chin up, clearly showing off the choker and the feather that dangled down in the hollow of his throat. One of his hands was up, a finger stroking over it in a way that made Alec shiver.
Alec knew what was supposed to come next, knew the words that they were to say to one another, only he hadn’t let himself think about that part. Hadn’t let himself hope. This whole thing had come to mean a lot to Alec; more than he’d expected it to.
He should’ve known better.
Magnus looked right at him with those beautiful, shining eyes, and a smile far happier than anything Alec had ever seen on him, and he spoke the words so easily, like there was no doubt in his mind what he wanted. “Alexander Gideon Lightwood, I accept this piece of you and promise to guard and cherish it, as I will guard and cherish the rest of you.”
The words had Alec’s heart swelling. He felt a lump building in his throat.
Then Magnus surprised him further by letting go of Alec’s hands and holding his own out, one palm up and the other overtop of it. A snap brought to life a bit of blue magic in Magnus’ palm. Magic that he twisted and turned to reveal a leather bracelet. Alec watched with wide eyes as Magnus drew his free hand back and held the other out Alec’s way.
Most of the bracelet was flat, and about three fingers wide. Overtop the flat part were a few twisting bands that were broken here and there by small flecks of what looked like blue-green stones.
Alec knew even before Magnus spoke what those little stones were.
“I was working on this earlier, just in case,” Magnus said. He didn’t look anywhere near as nervous as Alec had felt before. If anything, he looked at peace, and so sure of himself and them both. “I wasn’t sure if this was where we were going, but I wanted to be ready. I picked the leather because it was something I knew you’d wear, though I’m even more glad now because it means we match.”
A low chuckle slid from Alec at that. “Yeah.” Drawing in a breath, he lifted his left hand out, intending on taking the bracelet.
Grinning even more, Magnus twisted his hand the instant Alec was close enough. Instead of handing it to him, he wrapped it around Alec’s wrist for him, turning his hand palm up so that he could tie the bracelet off over Alec’s pulse point. The leather felt warm against Alec’s skin. Not just from body heat, but from something else. Something he was intimately familiar with.
Magnus turned Alec’s hand over once the bracelet was in place. He traced his fingers over the leather and those little bits of stone. “I put my magic in these stones, and I keyed it to you. No one else will be able to touch it, so you don’t have to worry about that. Even if it falls off while you’re on patrol, it’s spelled to return to you, or to my jewelry box.” The wrinkles around Magnus’ eyes deepened a little. He looked up at Alec, and he winked. “I put a few extra spells on there, too. A sort of… warning, to others.”
Possessive, over-protective brat. Raziel, Alec loved this man!
It took a second for Alec to be able to speak past the lump of emotion clogging his throat. He knew what he had to say, though. The words he needed to give back to Magnus. “Magnus Bane, I accept this piece of you and promise to guard and cherish it, as I will guard and cherish the rest of you.”
Something warm flared up in Alec’s chest at that. He felt it like a tingle deep down inside him, almost like where the parabatai bond had settled, only… deeper.
Magnus leaned in and Alec met him halfway, the two of them coming together in a kiss that said all the things they couldn’t say right then. All the feelings that they were working on being able to say more often.
When they drew apart, Magnus kept his hand where it’d ended up curled over the side of Alec’s neck. That hold allowed him to keep Alec in place so that their foreheads were pressed together. “I love you, Alexander. More than I’ve ever loved anyone.”
Alec smiled and brushed their noses together. “I love you, too.”
There was no one else in the world that Alec wanted to spend his life with. No one else that he would ever love as much as he loved this man right here. Magnus was everything he wanted, everything he needed, in ways Alec hadn’t ever anticipated. Ways that he hadn’t even know he’d wanted.
And Alec was going to spend the rest of his life making sure Magnus knew exactly how loved he was.