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Chapter One


 

 

 

This was a mood that Magnus was familiar with. He both loved and hated it in equal measure. It was good and reassuring that his feelings hadn’t changed, that he still had the capacity to love and remember those who he had outlived even after all these years. It still hurt though, the way he was occasionally masochistically drawn to do this to himself. To test himself with the pain just to make sure that he still cared.

Magnus’s reverent hands sifted through the mementos in his box. His emotions had been so intense lately and, despite his desperate attempts to stifle them, had been almost frightening. Hurt that defied logic. Pride that nearly ruined. Sadness that left him cold.

Pain that spoke the truth.

He could not ignore it any longer.

To ignore Alec was to ignore his own heart. Impossible. Foolish. Selfish.

He had spent every minute since the one where he crushed Alec’s heart telling himself that he didn’t feel any differently about Alec than he did any of the others. That Alec wasn’t special. That there would be others who came after him, or possibly that there was someone he would cross paths with soon that would fit him better, that would be easier to love.

Lies, all of it.

Touching these little piece of the people he had loved proved it to him once and for all.

He had loved them, really and truly.

He loved Alec more.

It felt wrong to quantify such a thing. Love was love, how could it be measured? He couldn’t put it into simple terms, there was no easy way to express how desperate and deeply he was in love with Alexander Lightwood but it was true all the same. This boy had walked into Magnus’ life and rearranged everything Magnus thought he knew about what he wanted with a sweet smile and a grumpy pout. Seeing him blossom as he became more sure of himself had been a gift. Watching him choose Magnus, again and again, had been everything.

Though they were so different, though Magnus had so much baggage and Alec had no experience at all, their relationship had been so easy. Startlingly so. All the rough edges that had cut his heart in other relationships just didn’t exist with Alec.

Though being with Alec was easy, their relationship outside of themselves was not. Alec was still a Shadowhunter and Magnus was still a warlock. There were many people who didn’t want to see them together.

And Magnus had bowed to them.

He promised Alec his love and devotion and then he flinched when the going got tough. Alec had been put in an impossible place and hadn’t immediately reacted the way that Magnus wanted. He had been remorseful and Magnus genuinely believe that given more time to wrap his head around the enormity of the Clave’s duplicity, Alec would have chosen to tell Magnus himself. Not only that, he knew whole heartedly that even while Alec had been keeping the Clave’s secret, he had been doing everything in his power to find the sword and protect the Downworld himself. He had taken the weight of all of their lives onto his own shoulders without hesitation. 

Instead of acknowledging all that, instead of remembering Alec’s loyalty to him, Magnus had lashed out and let his own fears poison his mind. How could things have gone so wrong so quickly?

He had to make this right.

In protecting his own heart he had broken Alec’s and he needed to figure out how to earn forgiveness for that indefensible sin.

Gently, Magnus shut his box and ran his fingers one last time over the lid before his magic floated it back to its resting place on a shelf.

The decision was so stunningly simple that Magnus was taken aback by the rush of feelings he was subjected to the second he made it. His fingers almost tingled with the shock of pure need he felt. Need to find Alec, need to finally have the conversation with him that they should have had when Magnus found out the truth, and the overwhelming need to kiss Alec and ask for his trust one more time.

Alec hiding the truth from him had been wrong but Magnus’ reaction to it had been wrong as well. It had been a reaction born of time with Camille and of a heart broken too many times. None of that was Alec’s fault though and it wasn’t fair to bring those reactions into their relationship, especially when Alec had no experience of his own to draw from.

Magnus slid his phone from his pocket and hovered his thumb over Alec’s name in his contacts. Would the Head of the New York Institute have a few moments to give to the man who had hurt him so badly? There was only one way to find out.

Before Magnus could connect the call, he felt a presence on the edge of his wards. Nephilim at his gates.

He froze, had Alec come to him? Then he realized he felt two people hurrying their way through his wards and to his door and his heart sank. Something must have happened. With the way this war was going, it wasn’t likely to be anything good.

His door was open when the two reached it. He didn’t want to waste time.

“Magnus?” Jace called and Magnus turned to see his former houseguest with Izzy hot on his heels.

For a split second, he thought something on their regular scale of catastrophes had happened. That Alec wasn’t with his siblings because of their breakup. Magnus couldn’t blame him for not wanting to come near him, for sending Jace and Izzy to ask for his help instead.

Then, he saw the wild look in Jace’s eyes. He saw the way Izzy’s mouth was twisted as though she was trying to keep a stoic face against horrible emotions trying to get free.

They were scared.

“What’s happened?” Magnus asked urgently. He walked up to the two of them and noticed immediately the way Jace’s hands shook.

And then Izzy said the words that terrified Magnus to his core.

“Valentine has taken Alec.”

 

---

 

Alec woke up abruptly to a world of furious pain.

His head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton and his limbs felt like lead. Moving ached. Thinking was almost impossible.

Alec rolled from his back to his belly in an attempt to get up and the room swam around him sickeningly. He groaned and felt his stomach clench in protest.

“I was afraid you were going to sleep through this and that would have been such a disappointment. Surely Jace picked a parabatai made of stronger stuff that this.

The lazy, arrogant drawl of the man’s voice – so similar to the mask Jace put on when he felt insecure – jolted Alec’s brain awake. He felt rough concrete under his cheek and his hazy vision cleared enough to see metal bars penning him in.

Alec pushed himself to his knees and the room slowly came into focus.

He was in a cage. He was on his knees in front of Valentine.

Immediately he struggled to get his legs under him, to stand and face the madman in front of him on his own two feet. He wanted to demand answers but the only thing he managed to get out of his mouth was a slurred, “What?”

Valentine laughed, “Well, you’re more coherent than any of the others. That’s encouraging, Lightwood, it really is.”

Alec managed to get to his feet but he had to grip the walls of the cage to manage it. The room lurched around him and Alec felt bile rise in his throat. Holding it back would have been more dignified but with only Valentine in front of him, he saw no point. He felt the black coffee and toast that Izzy had forced on him hours ago make their way up and out and he aimed his gasping mouth towards Clary’s bastard of a father.

Valentine stepped back again and just laughed, like Alec was amusing and no threat at all. To be fair to the man, he didn’t feel like much of a threat. “You’ve got fire, I like that. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”

“What’s going to happen is that he’s going to die, just like the others.” A woman’s voice said from somewhere to Alec’s left.

Alec tried to find her but the motion of moving his head sent the room spinning again. He looked down instead and clenched his eyes shut. He had to get it together, he needed to think.

A trap…he realized slowly, all of it was only a trap. A trap for him.

“Eula, you’re being a bore.” Valentine said with disappointment. He looked over to where the voice had come from when the woman didn’t walk over to them. “He’s standing, he’s talking, he’s got my strong son connected to him. Not to mention his association with Magnus Bane. I really think we’ve picked a winner here.”

A man’s voice came next, “He’s just a boy. A boy who’s vomiting black sludge.”

What? Alec’s eyes snapped open and he stared down at the ground. There was a pool of something thick and black on the ground. It dripped from the bars that Alec had tangled his hand in and he yanked his hand away and stumbled back in horror. “What… what have…” He tried to pant through the pain and string the words together. Instead he just leaned against the back of the cage and stared at Valentine.

“What have I done?” Valentine finished for him. “I’ve started the process to make you the greatest weapon for the Angels that I’ve created since Clarissa’s birth.”

Considering what Valentine had done to Clary, that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

Valentine’s experiments went wrong more than they went right. The Institute had found too many of them, deformed and ruined, to study at once. Izzy had been in the lab more than she had been in training some days.

Jace and Clary were happy accidents more than anything.

Alec felt the fear ramp up as he realized that he was probably already dead. He just hadn’t finished the process yet.

Valentine was studying him with shrewd but insane eyes and a small smile on his face. “Are you ready to become more than you ever dreamed, Lightwood?”

Before Alec could get any words out of his lips, Valentine gestured two men forward and Alec’s eyes were immediately drawn to the circle rune on their necks. He didn’t recognize them, he could barely aim his eyes up at their faces.

The door to his cage creaked open and Alec tried to stumble back from them. The dark haired man on the left just laughed at him, “Don’t make this harder for yourself, kid.”

Rough hands grabbed his shoulders and pushed him forward, out of the cage and into the main room. Alec was barely walking, the Circle members were doing most of the work. It gave Alec a chance to look around and what he saw didn’t make him feel any better.

A strange metal machine was in the center of the room. Alec had never seen anything like it, not amongst Shadowhunters or even in his limited dealings with Mundanes. There was a low table on the center and five lines with prongs on one end leading outwards. With dread, he traced one of the lines and found a woman staring back at him with fear and pity. Her skin was covered in blackened lines and her hair was green. A warlock, under Valentine’s control.

As the Circle members harshly threw him down onto the cold metal, Alec found the other five warlocks staring down at him. Three men and two women. They all looked scared except for one of the women with a warlock mark he couldn’t see. She looked stoic and she stared at him without any fear in her eyes. She grounded him.

Metal cuffs pinned him down to the table and then Valentine came back into his field of vision.

“I wonder how much of this Jace will feel?” He mused as he pulled up Alec’s t-shirt enough to see the parabatai rune on Alec’s hip. He patted it gently, as if he had never harmed a hair on Jace’s head before.

“Don’t… don’t do this.” Alec struggled to get the words out. He wasn’t sure what this was, he just knew he didn’t want it.

Valentine looked up at him and he tilted his head to the side as he considered Alec. “The only chance you have to live is to go forward. Don’t you want to live, Lightwood?”

He did, damn Valentine, Alec did want to live. Maybe the determination had gotten muddled along the way but Alec wanted to live desperately. He couldn’t protect his siblings if he was dead. He couldn’t turn the Institute around if he was dead…

And he couldn’t be with Magnus if he was dead.

Even if they were broken up, Alec still had hope.

Valentine nodded softly at him, like he was a proud father glad to see his son finally getting the lesson. “I knew you would.” He leaned in close to Alec, “Hold onto that. Hold onto everything that just made your eyes go distant. Be strong. Be worthy of Jace. I believe in you.”

The words were strangely comforting. Alec suddenly understood how Valentine managed to twist Jace into knots so frequently.

Valentine patted his hip again and then grasped his shoulder, “Press the first button, please.” He called up to someone Alec couldn’t see.

Immediately, there was a groaning metallic whine and five needles pieced his skin – two on one side, in his thigh and his arm, and three on the other, his hip being included. Alec bit back a grimace.

“There’s nothing being injected, don’t worry. That’s already happened. I’m just providing a path into you.” Valentine told him conversationally.

Into him… what was Valentine putting into him and what did the warlocks have to do with it?

Alec opened his mouth to ask but a strip of leather was shoved between his teeth instead. His eyes met Valentine’s again and he saw the return of the man’s crazy smirk, “Trust me, Lightwood, you’re going to need that.” He patted Alec’s shoulder again and walked away.

Wait! Alec tried to scream. The word came out to muffled and just drew a laugh from Valentine.

The warlock to Alec’s right called down to him, “It goes fast, okay? The pain won’t last long.”

Alec knew immediately what he was trying to tell him. He would be in pain but he would die quickly. It was meant to comfort him.

Alec tore his eyes away from the warlock and stared up at the ceiling instead. He tested his bonds half-heartedly but he already knew there was no give in the metal tying him down. Wild plans formed in his head but the sound of the machine powering up washed them away like they had never been.

I’m sorry, Alec thought without meaning to. He was sorry though. Sorry he had taken the mission alone. Sorry that he hadn’t told Jace, Izzy and Max that he loved them nearly often enough. Sorry that he hadn’t made things right with Magnus.

He felt Jace blazing with worry and fear through their bond, he must have realized that something had happened to Alec. As best he could, he tried to center his feelings and push back only love though their connection. He thought about them, all of them, and he let how much he loved them fill his entire being. If he couldn’t say goodbye, if he couldn’t say he loved them one last time, then this was all he had left to offer his family.

I love you.

Then the pain hit.

Oh god!

Alec’s back arched from the table and his jaw clenched down around the leather.

Please, please, I can’t!

The metal screamed, or maybe that was him? The warlocks around him screamed too.

Facilis descensus averno… Facilis descensus averno…

Swirls of red formed around the stoic woman and slid down the line. Towards him, into him. It felt like fire on his skin and in his veins.

Alec felt his eyes roll back into his head, the room going dark around him.

Help me, please, please help me.

And then he was no more.

Chapter Text


Chapter Two


 

 

 

“The CCTV footage showed him turning at a café with a black cat on the sign,” Izzy shouted to Jace and Magnus as they ran down the darkened street. They hadn’t been able to track Alec with runes or magic so they had taken a quick portal to the Institute to track him a different way – the surveillance that Shadowhunters kept over the city.

It had taken too long for Magnus but then anything that took longer than thirty seconds would have.

Jace’s panicked explanation had done nothing to ease the terror that Magnus felt.

Back at the loft, the two of them had unloaded the situation to Magnus. Jace and Izzy had been called on a mission in a completely different part of the city than the one they were in now. There had been a flurry of demonic activity that had happened all at once. Then rogue Downworlder sightings, suspicious mundane deaths… more and more reasons to pull people from their usual patrols and duties. They had thought that it was Clary at risk and she had been forced to stay behind in the Institute. To be fair to them, he would have assumed the same thing.  

Alec had stayed behind as well so that he could coordinate who went where… until yet another report came in.

This time of a warlock child blasting people who tried to help him. Alec had decided to take that one personally.

It had been too perfect.

Magnus’ heart ached knowing why Alec had chosen that to be the mission that drew him from the safety of the Institute. Even worse, he knew with all his heart that before Magnus had broken up with him Alec would have called him to handle that mission himself. It was well within the High Warlock’s duties. If there had actually been a warlock child Magnus would have been grateful to get the call from the Institute to go after the child and get them to safety. That Alec hadn’t felt comfortable enough to call him was yet another failure to throw onto rotting heap he was building.

The reports were coming from an area not too far away from the Institute. Alec had insisted he could handle it himself and if it was false, as so many of the missions were turning out to be, then he would be back soon.

He said that to Clary as he walked out with his bow in hand. He made her promise to stay inside the Institute.

That was the last anyone had seen him.

Across town, as Jace finished off the last of the Circle members that he and Izzy had been fighting, a man used his dying breath to ask Jace about his parabatai. An earpiece had been found in all of the Circle members’ ears – something to coordinate their own mission.

A trap. The whole thing had been a trap for Valentine to get his hands on Alec. Why didn’t matter, not with a madman like Valentine. Alec was the son of two traitors to his cause, he was the Head of the New York Institute and he was bonded to the boy Valentine tried to call son. Any one of those could have been the reason why Valentine wanted Alec. Worrying about why now when Alec was in danger wasn’t high on Magnus’ list of priorities.

“There!” Jace yelled and pointed a few buildings down at a sign with a black cat advertising Superstition Café. The sound of his voice roused Magnus from his panicked thoughts and he put an extra burst of speed on to dart the final distance to the alleyway that Alec had last been seen.

He skidded to a halt at the entrance to the alleyway and panted as his eyes swept over the scene.

“He’s not here.” Izzy said with audible heartbreak. Magnus felt the same way, even though they had all known in their hearts that Alec wasn’t just unconscious in some street somewhere.

Jace had his hand pressed to his parabatai rune. “He’s still out cold.”

“But not hurt?” Magnus pressed.

The look on Jace’s face was familiar, although he had only ever seen it on Alec’s. Apparently the both of them weren’t very good at translating what the bond felt like to other people.

“He doesn’t feel… right.” Jace said slowly. He sounded as though he wasn’t sure of the words he spoke even as he was saying them. “He’s hurting and he feels, I don’t know, heavy?”

“That sounded like a question, not a statement.” Izzy pointed out for the both of them. She did it with more patience than Magnus would have been able to manage. “I know it’s hard, Jace, but please explain better.”

“I can’t.” Jace answered with obvious frustration. “He’s never felt like this before. I can’t say it feels like that time he got stabbed or something because this is weird.”

His voice cracked on the last word and Izzy instantly backed down. She wrapped her arm around Jace’s back and said as soothingly as she could, “Okay. Okay, Jace. Just tell us if anything changes?”

Magnus didn’t wait to see Jace nod because he knew the boy would. Instead, he started scanning the alleyway. A flash of red caught his eye and he walked around a dumpster to find one arrow on the ground. “He fought.” Magnus said and held it up to the other two.

“There must have been too many.” Izzy looked around them as she spoke, “I don’t see his bow, do you?”

Magnus waved his magic towards a dim light overhead and instantly it glowed far beyond what the bulb inside had ever been capable of. Things got easier to see and Magnus was instantly grateful to notice there were no pools of gleaming blood.

“Another arrow,” Jace pointed.

It was further down the alley and Magnus walked towards it, hoping to find some sort of clue. That he couldn’t track Alec was stressing him out tremendously. After this alley, they had no way of knowing where to go next. Valentine’s men had to have portalled Alec out, there was nothing on the cameras, which meant the trail went cold.

Before Magnus reached the arrow, he heard Jace grunt.

“Jace!” Izzy said as her brother stumbled into the brick wall with one hand pressed to his rune again.

“He’s awake.” Jace said unsteadily.

That news, at least, was good. As worried as Magnus was for what Alec being awake might mean in terms of Valentine’s next move, long stretches of unconsciousness were never a good thing.

Magnus raced back to Jace, “What else?”

Jace breathed in sort of a slow pant as his unfocused eyes stared at nothing, “Hurts worse now.”

That wasn’t the report he had been hoping for.

“He’s… confused. He just feels really out of it. Sick.” Jace explained in halting sentences. A sheen of sweat started heating Jace’s skin. He looked unwell and all he was getting was the echo of how Alec felt.

Magnus turned away from him, more frantic than ever to find something to point them in the right direction. He went back to the last arrow they had found and searched around it. “There aren’t any more…” He realized with dismay.

There had to be something. There had to be. Something left behind, something that would give them some sort of next step. This couldn’t be it.

As he went to the wall at the end of the alleyway and turned around to get new perspective, a flash of light caught his eye.

No, not light, just the reflection of it. Magnus dove towards the phone on the ground and scooped it up reverently. It was in a familiar black case, scuffed up from being thrown around on too many missions. As soon as the screen lit up and Magnus put in the code to open it, he was greeted to the sight of the two of them.

His heart swelled as he remembered the night he and Alec had taken the picture. They were on the balcony after a date in Rome. He had been trying to convince Alec to coming dancing with him at Pandemonium. Alec had laughed and told Magnus that he didn’t know how to dance so Magnus had wrapped his arms around him and started swaying in a slow dance. Alec had snapped the picture while they were clinging to each other as the sun set. There was a lightness in Alec that hurt to see. It was nothing like those last few moments as Magnus had pushed him away. None of the devastation or sudden wariness or disbelief. Just happiness.

Tears welled in his eyes. Alec hadn’t changed the picture, no matter what Magnus had said or done to hurt him. Even though Magnus had walked away, Alec hadn’t. And though that made his heart sing with the possibility of a future where they found their way back together, it made the guilt burn hotter in his gut.

Though some part of him wanted to wallow in it, he knew he couldn’t. Alec needed him to focus, to figure this out and find him. Magnus pulled in a deep breath and tried to think out what the scene might have been.

What was his phone even doing on the ground? Alec usually kept it in his pocket when he was on a mission. Had he realized something was up and he had been calling for backup? God, had he been trying to call Magnus for help?

“Magnus!”

Izzy’s worried voice pulled his attention away from the beloved picture. He looked over at them and found Jace pale and sitting on the ground. He rushed back to them, “I found his phone, wha- ”

“He’s scared. Magnus, he’s terrified.” Jace blurted out.

Magnus swallowed heavily, “If he’s been drugged then he’s not thinking clearly. You said yourself he’s out of it and…”

“No,” Jace’s voice sounded half strangled, “No, he’s really scared.”

“Jace, I know it’s hard but we have to get up, we have to keep searching. I have the whole Institute looking for him, we have to be ready to run if they find something.” Isabelle said soothingly. She tugged on Jace’s arm and helped him stand again.

Once Jace was up, Magnus held Alec’s phone out a little, just to show them what he had found. His hand was clenched tight around it though, unwilling to part with the only piece of Alec he could currently hold. “I found this.”

“So we can’t use it to try to track him either.” Izzy sighed and pulled her own phone out to start texting someone, “I’ll tell them not to bother. Relocate those people at least.”

Jace’s gasp caught their attention again. Magnus looked over and saw him pressing his hand to his rune with a look of awed confusion on his face. “Jace, what is it?”

“It’s…it’s… love?” Jace said softly, “He’s still scared and hurt… but he’s just radiating love.”

Oh god…

“No, please.” Magnus breathed out.

He and Izzy instantly reached out for Jace, waiting for what he knew in his heart was coming. Alec was sending a message and the one he had chosen scared Magnus beyond any pain or fear Jace might have felt before it.

Alec thought he was going to die.

Seconds after Magnus’ hand curled around Jace’s arm, the blonde screamed as his back arched and his knees buckled. The pain on his face felt like a vise around Magnus’ heart.

“Alec!”

 

---

 

The pain was unrelenting. Alec could not think. He could not move.

He was nothing.

 

---

 

Alec came back to himself slowly.

Every time he started to surface, the pain sent him back under.

He was grateful for it.

 

---

 

It could have been hours or days or years before he opened his eyes again. He blinked up at the metal bars overhead and shook on the ground like he was too cold, except he wasn’t. He felt like he had been struck by lightning. He was too hot, his skin was tingling like he was covered in a current of electricity and every molecule of his body couldn’t cope with it.

Alec… look at me, Alec.”

Alec didn’t have the strength to move his head. He blinked again and tried to remember how he had gotten here. Where was here?

There were footsteps beside him and then the sound of rough skin against metal. The walls were bars too?

As the person got closer, Alec felt the electricity slipping over his skin build up even stronger and he gasped.

“Now that’s an interesting response.”

He wanted Jace. He wanted Izzy. He wanted Magnus. He wanted anybody who would talk to him kindly and pour some water on top of him. He needed to get rid of this feeling on his skin. He needed… he needed…

“Come on, Alec, look at me. You’ve come too far to fail me now.” The voice coaxed.

Alec managed to tilt his head to the side ever so slightly. His eyes strained to focus on the figure in front of him.

“That’s a good boy.”

Valentine.

The memory came back to him with a blistering speed that made his eyes shut against the onslaught. The little warlock who probably didn’t exist. The trap for Clary turning out to be a trap for him. The cage and the black sludge that had come out of him. The warlocks, the machine…

“What… did you d-do?” Alec rasped out.

Valentine gave him a huge grin, there was such genuine pride and delight in it for all that there was also an insane glint in his eyes. No one had ever looked at Alec like that in his entire life. “I’ve forged a whole new species.”

Alec could only stare at him. He didn’t understand. With every ounce of strength left in his nearly empty reserves, Alec pushed his aching body to turn onto his side. His eyes immediately caught sight of the monstrous machine he had been strapped into. There were no more warlocks at the five points.

“Where…?” Are they? What have you done to them?

Valentine knelt down so Alec could see him better. Or maybe so he could see Alec better. His eyes travelled over every inch of Alec’s body like even he could see the electricity.

“I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t entirely sure it could be done.” Valentine admitted. His voice was so soft. He whispered to Alec like he was confiding secrets. “I thought perhaps I truly was being too ambitious. There were a few minutes there when I thought you wouldn’t pull through for me.”

Alec wasn’t entirely sure that he had pulled through.

“But you proven yourself stronger than I could have ever hoped for.” Valentine praised him. “The four Nephilim that came before you weren’t.”

“They’re…?”

Valentine nodded but didn’t seem even remotely bothered that he had killed four Shadowhunters in whatever crazy pursuit he had thrown Alec into.

“I don’t… I don’t understand.” Alec whispered.

“What was it that saved you, do you think?” Valentine asked him seriously. “I didn’t try using a parabatai before you. Was your connection to Jace what pulled you back from the brink? Or was your body already receptive towards magic because of your unfortunate liaison with Magnus Bane?”

Alec’s hand dragged along the concrete in an attempt to get it in a position to brace himself so he could sit up. His whole body rejected the thought but Alec needed to get off the ground. He couldn’t lie in front of Valentine like a weakling. He had to get up.

“You’ve been out for a full twenty-four hours. Twenty-seven if I’m being precise.” Valentine told him and all Alec could think about was the sheer terror still radiating from Jace. His rune practically throbbed with it.

What could Jace feel? Did he think Alec had been set on fire? Did he think that Alec was breaking into a million different pieces?

Did Jace know that Alec was probably still dying?

His eyes started shutting and he forced them back open. He forced himself to meet Valentine’s gaze, to actually focus.

“Look at you,” Valentine marveled. He grinned at Alec like he was something fantastical.

His scrutiny sent another lance of electricity up Alec’s body and though it made Alec’s eyes water it only made Valentine laugh.

His eyes shut again and this time Alec didn’t have the strength to keep them open.

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Three


 

 

 

“… need to know… if… Jace?”

Jace. They were talking about Jace.

… been keeping watch on Jace Herondale and Isabelle Lightwood as you requested.”

Focus.

“And Clarissa?”

“She hasn’t been out of the Institute that we’ve seen.”

“She hasn’t been on the streets, you mean. I have no doubt that she’s gotten out.”

“Perhaps, Sir, but we haven’t seen her.”

“Tell me about Jace and Isabelle.”

“They’ve been scouring the city. Sometimes they’re joined with other teams of Shadowhunters, sometimes with Magnus Bane.”

“Hmm, Magnus Bane. He would be a lovely addition to my collection. I might finally have the bait to lure him in.”

“Probably. He seems… particularly frantic.”

“Anything else?”

“Sometimes Lucian Greymark is with Jace and Isabelle. Searching for Lightwood.”

“I suppose a wolf’s nose is worth a try.”

Laughter.

“They haven’t gotten close to us.”

“Of course they haven’t. I’m not worried about that.”

“Are we going to start procuring warlocks for another test?”

“Not yet. We need to see how our Alec is getting on. He hasn’t been conscious for over five hours.”

Alec’s fingers twitched as he listened to Valentine and whoever talk about his family like they were just pawns in a game of chess. Everything still ached and his brains still felt scrambled, but he felt slightly less like his body was about to break apart on an atomic level. That had to count for something.

“Do you want us to grab one of the warlocks we’ve already got?”

“To heal him? I don’t think that’s an option.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“To teach him, on the other hand… well, that’s going to take some careful consideration. Beryl will take over when it’s time but perhaps the first steps should come from someone else.”

“Do you think he’s going to be capable of actual spells?”

Footsteps, just alongside him. Boots moving across concrete as someone came to stand outside his cage. The creak as he knelt. Valentine’s voice was close to his ears.

I think he’s going to set the world on fire.”

 

---

 

“Damn!”

Magnus slammed his hands down on his workroom table and relished the snap of pain that came from the harsh contact.

“Magnus, you have to calm down.” Cat’s voice was calm and soothing but Magnus could barely stand the thought of letting himself be gentled down.

They had been trying increasingly more powerful and experimental ways to track Alec and the latest attempt – scrying, which was a slightly dangerous and wild avenue of magic – had yielded absolutely nothing. Whatever was shielding Alec from all angelic and magical attempts at tracking was working too well. The idea that Valentine Morgenstern was thwarting his magic and blocking his path to Alec was infuriating.

“How can I calm down, Cat?” Magnus asked through a clenched jaw. He did lower his voice though, sorry solely for the volume of his frustration. They had only just gotten Jace to sleep.

“Because you won’t find him if you’re not thinking clearly,” She answered him frustratingly rationally. She was wearing her scrubs from work, having portalled straight over after her shift to check in with him. He appreciated her support, he appreciated it every moment they had been together, but right now her calm and logical words weren’t what he wanted. He was looking for more fire and brimstone thinking. “You need to get some sleep before we try something else.”

He looked up at his oldest friend with incredulous eyes, “Are you out of your mind?”

“No,” Cat drawled, supremely unimpressed with him, “But you are.”

“Alec has been missing for over two full days.” Magnus said as if she didn’t know. At this point, the entire New York Shadow World knew. “How can I sleep knowing he’s out there, badly hurt and completely vulnerable to Valentine’s cruelty?”

Catarina softened ever so slightly. She came around to his side of the table and wrapped her arm around his back. “Because he wouldn’t want you to burn yourself to ash for him. Because you need to get your head on straight and you can’t if you don’t recharge. Because you’re exhausting yourself at a time when you need to be ready to wage war to get him back. What if one of these spells work and you’ve used nearly all your magic?”

Her words made sense and Edom knew he had spent enough time saying similar things to Alec. Actually stepping away from the search for him, though – that was another thing. An impossible thing. His heart broke at the thought of it.

The door to his workroom slid open and Clary’s head popped in. “Is this a bad time?” She asked.

Magnus shook his head, “Come in, Biscuit.”

Clary slid inside the room and shut the door behind her. In her hands, she held a plate with a grilled cheese on it and a glass of whiskey. Three fingers of it. He knew he liked her for a reason. He held his hand out for the glass.

Clary passed him the plate instead, “Have at least half and you can have the glass.”

“You realize I can just snap my fingers and have the whole bottle in front of me?” Magnus asked with what he hoped was clear annoyance in his voice.

In return he got a sunny grin, “Then I’ll start keeping a list. All the ways you didn’t take care of yourself. And I’ll give it to Alec when we get him back.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes at her.

Clary just grinned wider and pushed the plate out so it nudged his arm.

He grabbed half the sandwich and took a bite with a glare.

Cat laughed, “I like this girl.”

“I don’t.” Magnus mumbled.

“Jace is still sleeping,” Clary set the plate down and leaned against his table. She looked tired, they all did, but her mood hadn’t shifted into the might blow something up accidentally place that Magnus felt like he’d been trapped in for hours. “Izzy just got a call from the Institute. Maryse has taken over in Alec’s absence so Izzy won’t need to try to run it and search for Alec. Maryse has given the three of us leave to focus entirely on looking for him.”

There had been some concern that Aldertree would be sent back to New York, which was what no one wanted. Maryse with Izzy overseeing was the lesser of the evils but it wasn’t particularly reassuring to anyone in the Downworld, least of all Magnus.

Catarina made a face of grudging respect, “Maryse Lightwood doing something helpful for once? What a world we’re living in.”

“Before Jace finally fell asleep, he was making noise about using their rune to track Alec but Izzy’s mostly talked him out of it.” Clary continued her update report.  

Well, thank goodness for small favors. “Because that went so well last time.”

“And like Alec could take it if something went wrong.” Clary added. “That was Izzy’s argument.”

Jace’s rune was the only way they had to monitor Alec. At least, according to Jace, the horrible pain had stopped. Or eased off from the horrific level it had reached before, at the bare minimum.

Jace had been completely unable to function when the blast hit, after Alec sent love down the bond. All they had been able to do was carry him back to the loft and watch him writhe and scream. Magnus and Izzy had knelt over him for some of the longest hours of his life, eyes glued to the rune on Jace’s hip. It had gone gray at one point like it was going to fade out but it had held on through the agony.

Alec had been inches from death and Magnus had been powerless. Feeling helpless wasn’t ever something he dealt well with but this, his love’s life on the line, made it all even worse. The twist of the dagger in his heart was that Alec might die thinking Magnus was still angry with him or hated him. The idea was devastating. It was his fault, he deserved this pain, but it was torture all the same.

“Did the Institute have any leads whatsoever?” Magnus asked to shake himself from the memory of last night. He could push it away but he knew those hours would stay with him the rest of his life. Centuries from now, they would still be able to steal his breath away. He knew that without any shadow of doubt.  

Clary shook her head, “Nothing new.”

“This wait is unbearable,” Magnus clenched his eyes shut.

“I know, Magnus.” Cat patted his shoulder, “But we’re going to get him back.”

“You don’t know that!” Magnus felt the words being pulled from him with physical pain. It was the truth and it hurt beyond all measure. They couldn’t know that Alec would be returned to them alive. He might never see him again.

A soft hand pressed against his cheek, “Hey,” Clary said with another calm smile. Her optimism was so incredibly unshakable and Magnus couldn’t be angry in the face of it. It wasn’t born of innocence or a lack of experience, although she both was and had. It was just a lightness she had inside that was coiled around a spine of steel and a determination that burned like flames within her. “We’re going to find Alec.”

He took a deep breath in the face of her certainty.

“Thank you, Clary.” Magnus said nearly inaudibly.

“You’re welcome. Now finish your sandwich,” Clary said with a firm nod. “And then you can have your whiskey.”

 

---

 

The doors to Alec’s cage grating as the metal was dragged open jerked Alec from his sleep. His eyes took a few seconds too long to focus but when they did, he could see the same men from before coming back into the cage.

“Time to play, Lightwood.” Valentine called to him. Alec turned to stare at him and saw the man standing with his arms crossed over his chest and a grin on his face.

He pushed himself back, his back dragging on the ground as his legs did nearly all the work. “S-stay back.”

The electricity slid over his skin, making his hair stand on end and his body tingle. The men froze even though Alec was sure he was a pretty pathetic sight.

Stay away from me, he chanted in his head almost feverishly. As though if he wanted it hard enough, it would just happen.

“We’re just going to test you out a little.” Valentine knelt down beside the cage again. “Don’t you want to come eat something?”

Alec’s stomach felt hollow and burning, like he hadn’t eaten in too long and he knew he hadn’t. He didn’t care. The only thing he really wanted was water but not from this man. He didn’t want anything from Valentine – he wouldn’t even want water from him if Alec was set on fire and was burning alive.   

“Get away from me.” Alec pushed himself further back along the ground and wrapped a hand around the bars of the cage to try and pull himself up. Then, he caught sight of the hand gripping the bars.

My hand is glowing.

Alec stared at his own hand, except that it couldn’t be his? There was an almost clinically white light swirling around his fingers and the bar. It wasn’t like his skin itself was glowing but it was undeniably tied to him all the same. The longer he stared, the tighter his skin felt and the faster the tendrils of light moved.

“Yes, you see now, don’t you? You understand.” Valentine breathed out.

Alec shook his head, “What – what is that?”

“Magic.” Valentine answered with something like wonder, “Your magic.”

Five warlocks, trapped in a machine.

I’m just providing a path into you.

I’ve forged a whole new species.

Alec’s other hand was glowing just the same and the intensity of the lightning dancing over his skin – his magic, by the Angel – grew almost unbearable. He yanked at his sleeve and found his runes still dark against his skin.

“I already tested them.” Valentine watched him so carefully, like he was fascinating and every second was worth documenting, “They still work.”

Alec sucked in a breath that was half a gasp. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

He didn’t know what to do, what to think. Never before in his life had ever been so… so paralyzed.

“You can feel Jace, can’t you?” Valentine asked him. It wasn’t really a question. It felt like Valentine already knew and he wanted Alec to notice and acknowledge it. Like he needed to prove that he’d actually done to Alec what he said he did.

Alec could feel Jace, he didn’t even need to search for the bond. It was right there like it always was, a presence inside of his soul that he wasn’t ever truly able to explain. Jace was… sleeping? Resting, not afraid anymore, finally. Alec was, though, he was terrified.

Valentine glanced back and nodded and suddenly Alec remembered the men come to drag him out for another of Valentine’s sick experiments… but no… he was the sick experiment. How could he ever go back to the Institute? To his home?

Rough hands grabbed his shoulders, staying far from his skin.

“Shit, it’s like touching a light socket.”

“He can’t control it… yet.” Valentine sounded completely unconcerned, “We’re going to work on that and then he’s going to help me do the Angels’ work.”

They pulled him half upright and Alec’s head started swimming. His eyes got hard to focus, the world in front of him turning into a blur as it moved too fast around him.

Stay away from me. Let me go. I want to go home.

He tripped over his own feet, boots half dragging on the floor. His head didn’t clear, not until they dropped him into a chair and he doubled himself over and just breathed.

I want to go home. I want to go home. Don’t touch me. I want to go home.

The sound of a cap cracking free from a bottle sounded like gunfire and Alec shut his eyes against the attack. Everything was too much.

“Drink this, it’s just water. It’ll help.” Valentine said. The bottle nudged Alec’s knee.

His eyes opened. He wanted that water. He still wanted to pour it over his whole body. He wanted to sit in a tub, he wanted to lay on the bottom of the ocean.

The second that Alec’s hand curled around the bottle, Valentine let go. He took care to make sure Alec’s skin didn’t touch his, that the light didn’t touch him.

He tipped the water into his mouth and didn’t care when half of it trailed down his neck to soak his shirt. Once he had drained half the bottle, he poured the rest over his head.

“Why did you do that?” Valentine asked, nothing but curiosity in his voice.

Alec tipped his head back and tried to catch his breath properly. The water hadn’t made the feeling on his skin go away. He knew why but the failure was strangely crushing.

His sense of Jace roused up slowly. His parabatai was waking up. Find me. Don’t hate me. I want to come home, Jace, please.

That wasn’t how the bond worked though. Alec had never wished for it to transmit thoughts more than that second.  I don’t know where I am. Jace, please come find me. Bring Magnus if he’ll come, bring Izzy. I want to go home.

What would Jace say if he could see what Valentine had done?

“Stay calm, Alec.” Valentine said evenly.

Alec didn’t move his head but he strained his eyes down to meet Valentine’s.

“You have to take a deep breath.” Valentine tried to coach, like Alec was just a stupid little child.

He felt like one.

He shook his head. The air was too thin and his chest was too tight and Jace was starting to panic again and he wanted to go home and he wanted them to get away from him and what had happened to those warlocks and what would Magnus say and what was he supposed to do with magic and…

“Breathe, Alec.” Valentine said, firmer this time. He sounded stern, like Alec was disappointing him.

Jace’s anger built and Alec’s built along with it.

He sensed the movement behind him before he heard it. Don’t touch me.

Valentine shook his head, “You’re not doing yourself any favors doing this.”

I’m not doing you any favors, you mean. I’m a weapon. I’m just not yours.

The lights started flickering high above their heads.

“Sir?”

“Alec, stop this.”

How?

He wanted to laugh the question out, maybe even wanted to scream it. How? How was he supposed to do anything?

His fingers curled in and clenched. His muscles ached and he could feel the magic that still swirled around his hands start to expand. Was he doing that? He couldn’t be. He wasn’t Magnus, built up of so much power that he could do anything he wanted.

All Alec could do was explode.

The bulbs above him blew in a shower of sparks. The glass rained down like glitter but it turned to embers before it ever hit Alec’s skin. The room went darker but Alec could still see Valentine’s eyes staring at him.

“Sir, what’s happening? What should we do?”

Alec didn’t know. What should they do?

He tugged on his connection with Jace and felt his brother flare in the back of his head.

Where are you? Jace, please…

No answers, just fear. Jace couldn’t do anything for him and he knew it. They both knew it.

“I said calm down.”

Don’t touch me.

Valentine jerked his head towards Alec. They were going to put him back in that cage. He was going to get locked up again, Valentine’s ruined experiment.

Don’t touch me.

Footsteps, coming closer.  

Stay away from me.

Hands grabbing his shoulders.

DON’T TOUCH ME.

Screaming.

More embers raining down. Burnt flesh.

White.

I want to go home.

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Four


 

 

 

When Jace woke up it was with a yell so loud that he shocked Magnus awake too.

Clary moved faster than Magnus could, not with how quickly he had gone from completely unconscious to startled awake. By the time his head caught up with what Jace’s shaking might mean, Clary had already tugged his shirt up to show his rune was still as dark as ever.

“Jace, what’s wrong?” Clary asked as Izzy skidded into the room.

“What happened?” She stopped to stand in the center of the living room between the couches that Magnus and Jace were stretched out on.

“Alec is awake.” Jace was almost panting.  He had startled himself nearly as badly as he had startled them. His hand pressed tightly against his rune and he wasn’t looking at any of them. Not even at Clary, which was hard to manage considering she was practically sitting in his lap.

Magnus pushed himself up and ignored the way his whole body protested consciousness. “What are you getting?”

Jace didn’t answer right away and Magnus tried not to bark at him for it. Izzy came over to sit beside him and her hand found its way to his.

“He’s freaked out.” Jace reported finally, “There isn’t any pain? Something else. I don’t understand.”

Someday he was sitting the two of them down and putting them through some battery of tests so he could write down the results. He wanted to understand this stupid bond better. He wanted them to understand it better. How could Shadowhunters let their teenagers share souls and not have any real guides for them to learn to articulate any of it?

“Should we try to track him again?” Izzy asked Magnus cautiously.

He wanted to. Sleeping hadn’t been his idea, after all.

Practicality said he should wait until something actually happened or until he had recovered more of his strength. While Magnus was thrilled that Alec wasn’t in horrendous pain anymore, much of what Jace was reporting were the same things he had said for the last two days. Nearly three.

Nearly three days without Alec would have been awful enough but Magnus hadn’t seen him or heard his voice in over a week and that was entirely his own choice. He had been such a fool.

“Text your Mom,” Clary said to Izzy when Magnus said nothing. “If Alec is awake then maybe something is about to happen? Whoever is monitoring the streets should know.”

And Maryse probably wanted to know that her son was still alive. Probably.

Izzy took her phone out and started tapping out a report to her mother.

His own angry and helpless frustration was mirrored in Jace’s face. Jace Herondale was not someone who dealt well in idleness and he made his brother look like a paragon of patience, which Alec was absolutely not.

Magnus wanted to ask him again what he felt but doing it was only poking a caged tiger ready to devour everything in his path. If there was something to say, Jace would say it. Until then, they were left with nothing.

Alec’s bow, found under a dumpster in the alleyway when Izzy sent a team to scour the area better and more thoroughly than they had gotten to before Alec’s torture had begun, sat silent and purposeless on his coffee table. It was, perhaps, the physical item that Alec had the strongest connection to and not even it had yielded any better results in their attempts to track its owner. Though he had performed what felt like hundreds of different tracking spells in various formats since Alec had been taken, Magnus was compelled to try again. He reached out and grasped the grip of the bow and used a little spell just to try.

And he got nothing… again.

“He’s panicking.” Jace said. “If Valentine is gearing up to…” His jaw clenched as the sentence stopped. Magnus could feel his rage and he wasn’t even the one Jace was bonded to.

“Jace, maybe you should try to keep calm. Send Alec chill vibes.” Clary suggested hesitantly.

Jace shook his head and spoke with rage simmering, “No, let him feel this. I want him know that when I find him I’ll rip anyone apart who tries to stand between us.”

That was only comforting if Alec was with it enough to understand. Although, who really knew? Alec was probably more used to feeling Jace’s rage than his chill vibes.

The panic that Jace felt building though, that was worrying. Whatever Valentine had done last time had sent Alec into a disturbing stretch of unconsciousness. To torture him again so soon after he regained consciousness was cruel and brutal and absolutely something that Valentine would do.

And Magnus was powerless to stop it.

“Mom is going to redirect anyone she can to patrols, see if there’s any new activity.” Izzy read off the return text from Maryse.

Before Magnus could say anything to that, probably something snappy and impatient, Jace jolted out of his seat.

“What?” Magnus asked instantly. He felt his heartbeat start to pound.

Jace just stood there standing, hand glued to his rune and eyes distant. His breath started coming in labored pants like he was running except that he was eerily still.

Isabelle stood and cautiously laid a hand over his, “Jace, you’re scaring me.”

“Try and track him again.” Jace said to Magnus without looking at him.

Magnus grabbed the bow again with desperate hands. His magic was already swirling around his hands, ready to track, to find Alec. Hour after hour, he’d felt a devastating nothing after he cast each spell. Those few seconds he waited after the spell was complete and he prayed to feel the tendril of magic that connected to his target were their own form of torture. Then the ultimate pain, failing each new attempt – his magic connecting to nothing.  

This time, he got a hit.

“I have him!” Magnus felt the relief so deep down into his bones he nearly collapsed. Instead, he grabbed Alec’s bow up and made a portal with his other hand. Clary ran to the doorway where they had all stored their weapons and started tossing Jace his seraph blade while she grabbed her own daggers. Izzy’s whip was already halfway down to the ground.

Hang on, Alexander, we’re coming for you.

 

---

 

“He’s still moving!” Magnus shouted behind his back to them as they ran close to his heels. “I’m not getting a lock but his signal isn’t getting weaker.”

“Do you think Valentine is with him?” Clary asked, although who she was directing the question to wasn’t clear.

Magnus couldn’t answer and not just because he didn’t know. No, his entire focus was on tracking Alec and trying to keep his eyes out for any Circle members. They were in a more industrial area close to water, there were lots of abandoned buildings in various states of disrepair and any one of them could hold Valentine’s new base of operations.

As they ran, constantly changing course as Alec’s direction shifted, Magnus’ thoughts narrowed down to the rhythm of his feet hitting the pavement, the pounding beat of his heart and the spell tugging him towards his Shadowhunter. Not yours, something inside him reminded, he still thinks you don’t want him.

I’ll prove myself, Magnus silently promised Alec.

He would find his boy and he would make things right.

“I think he’s going to pass out soon.” Jace warned them, “But he’s not really in pain.”

So then why would he pass out? Magnus turned a corner and darted down the alleyway in front of him. The ground was littered with broken glass and trash and his heart ached knowing that Alec was stumbling through this mess, completely terrified and out of it.

“If he passes out then at least he’ll stay still.” Even Clary had begun to pant as they kept running. With Alec’s direction changing so rapidly portalling again wouldn’t work. In the seconds that it would take them to get to the next location, if Magnus got enough of a lock on one, Alec could have already turned a corner.

“Valentine wouldn’t move him like this. He has warlocks, they can portal. This is just erratic.” Jace said and Magnus supposed he would be the expert. His thoughts aligned with Magnus’ own though – Valentine was his own kind of erratic but this was different. Knowing Ale was likely alone made the need to get to him even stronger. “Alec got away somehow. He’s running blind, just trying to get away.”

“Maybe now it’s time for those chill vibes?” Isabelle suggested.

Jace said nothing and that meant he was at least considering it. Magnus wasn’t sure he could force his emotions to shift like that. Jace was anything but chill.

They reached the end of the alley and shot out into a mostly deserted street. The streetlights were half out and it made seeing where they were going even harder. Magnus stood still for a second and the rest of them came to an abrupt stop beside him. He tried to calm his breathing and focus.

The thin thread of the spell that connected Magnus to the thing he sought tugged him left, so left Magnus turned. He didn’t run though, not when it seemed they might duck into another little side street.

I know you’re scared, Alec, but please just stay still. We’re close. We’ll keep you safe.

Magnus felt another tug and this time they were in a dim, narrow little alleyway with not a soul inside. Nothing but a broken card table, a beat-up crooked dumpster and, he squinted further down, a bright white light?

Magnus stopped for a second, unsure what he was looking at. There was some sort of light emanating from behind the dumpster but it was too pure white to be any sort of streetlight. It was close to the newer LED lights that had always seemed too harsh to Magnus. This was somehow brighter but also warmer. He couldn’t articulate why but he knew in his heart that it wasn’t Mundane in nature.

“What’s that?” Clary asked behind him.

Jace didn’t wait for answers. He darted past Magnus and crept closer, his blade out and glowing its own – incredibly similar, now that Magnus was seeing it – light. “Show yourself!”

For a long moment, there was nothing but the sound of their own breathing and the distant noise of cars and people. Then…

“Stay away from me.”

Alec!

Magnus knew that voice, he knew it in anger, in pleasure, in teasing, in sorrow. It was Alec.

Jace knew it too. He dropped his blade and rushed to get closer to Alec. He reached his parabatai before Magnus even got close enough see him. All he could see was Jace’s face, bathed in white light, turn ashen pale. The blonde’s mismatched eyes went wide with shock and Magnus braced himself for the worst.

The first thing Magnus saw of Alec was his long legs curled up and partially hidden by the dumpster that he had wedged himself half behind.

The second thing Magnus saw was his hands, swirling with a white light that looked… that looked like magic.

Then he saw the pale terror so clear on Alec’s face, something that said he was far beyond rationality. He wasn’t really even looking at them and he wasn’t looking at his hands either. Whatever he saw wasn’t really there and that was only going to make it harder to truly reach him.

He heard Izzy’s gasp as the girls caught sight of Alec and he knew they were all seeing the light and coming to the same impossible conclusion that Magnus had.

How could Valentine have done this? Alec’s runes were still intact, his connection to Jace was all the proof they needed, but he somehow had magic as well? The idea that the swirling light was anything else was immediately discarded. It felt like magic. The air felt heavy and charged the way it did when a warlock was losing control – Magnus knew it well. Applying that feeling to Alec though… Never in Magnus’ life had he heard of such a thing. Not in a Shadowhunter who had never possessed magic before.

What had Valentine done?

Now wasn’t the time to figure it out, Magnus knew that instantly. This dirty alley wasn’t the place to untangle any of this. Now, he needed to get Alec home and safe.

He knelt down slowly and tugged on Jace’s sleeve so Alec’s shell-shocked parabatai sank down beside him.

“Darling, can you look at us?” Magnus said as soothingly as he could.

Don’t touch me.” Alec mumbled with a voice that sounded like he had been screaming for too long.

Just the sound of it made the dagger in Magnus’ heart twist. “I won’t, Alexander, I promise.” Magnus said.

“Alec, buddy, it’s okay.” Jace said shakily. Slowly, he reached out a hand and held it in front of Alec, not touching, just offering.

Alec didn’t see it, he didn’t even look. Jace held it there though, waiting for the moment when he would.

“Let’s go home, Alec. Please, darling, let us take you home.” Magnus encouraged. That he meant the loft went without saying. Alec could not go back to the Institute, not like this. Not with magic that he didn’t know how to use or control.

Depending on the Clave’s reaction, Alec might never be able to go home.

Something flickered on Alec’s face and it was heartbreakingly hopeful. Finally, they were getting through to him.

“Home?” He asked and this time, he looked up and locked eyes with Magnus.

Magnus gave him a watery smile, “Yes, Alec, home. Let’s go home.”

He reached out again and moved his hand slowly. He wouldn’t grab Alec, wouldn’t tug or put too much pressure on him. Now that Alec saw him though – really saw him – it was probably safe to reach out. He didn’t think that Alec would panic if he knew with certainty that it wasn’t Valentine reaching for him, that it was Magnus.

The second his fingertips connected with Alec’s knee, the white magic swirling around Alec’s hands lashed out and zapped Magnus’ fingers with a snap so loud that it sounded like a gunshot. Magnus was shoved back and he fell against Izzy’s legs. His fingers felt strangely numb and he gaped up at Alec.

“Don’t touch me, don’t touch me. I can’t… I can’t please, don’t touch me.” Alec started chanting the words over and over; a desperate, broken litany that flowed into itself over and over again. His legs scrambled back but he was pressed as far behind the dumpster as he could get so he didn’t actually go anywhere. He was terrified, Magnus realized, and not just of Valentine. He was terrified of himself, of this new magic that was reacting without any conscious input from Alec.

In seconds, Magnus was back centuries in time, standing in front of his step-father with a power that frightened him.

He would not let Alec do this alone.

Magnus curled his numb fingers into a fist as best he could, taking them from Alec’s sight. “Shh, love, I’m sorry. That was my fault. It’s all right, you didn’t mean to.”

“That’s the point, Magnus,” Clary whispered above him, “I don’t think he can stop it.”

Magnus looked Alec over with a clinical eye, his feelings pushed as far to the side as they could be. What he saw didn’t reassure him. Alec’s clothes were dirty and torn in some spots, his skin was pale and clammy, and he looked like he hadn’t gotten a single mouthful of food or water in days. His hair and the collar of his shirt were wet like he’d gotten a bucket of water thrown at him or something. He had run here but did he have the strength to stand again and walk through a portal? Could they convince him to follow them through one?

Jace’s words from earlier, that Alec was about to pass out, rang in his ears.

If Alec passed out then they didn’t need to worry about talking him into it but how could they touch him if his magic was reacting violently to any perceived threat?

And how much time did they even have to coax him? They still had no idea how Alec had gotten away, although this new magic gave Magnus some hints. Valentine might be closing in on them even as they knelt here and tried to talk to Alec.

While Magnus was thinking, Izzy had come around his side and knelt so that her brother could see her better. “Can you stand up, big brother?”

Alec’s gaze had slid away from what was in front of him to stare at his hands with horror. The magic was swirling in an agitated way, building up until it enveloped his forearms. That wasn’t what they wanted to happen. “Alec, please take a deep breath.”

And just like that, Magnus watched Alec slip away from him.

“Stay away from me,” Alec pushed himself up into a half crouch that only made the trembling in his limbs worse. His hands stayed curled into his chest, like he thought he could keep his magic contained that way. The result left him unbalanced and he slid down, collapsing down onto his side with a gasp.

“Alec, my parabatai, look at me.” Jace called to Alec softly. He braced himself on his elbow and stretched out so he was lying in a near mirror of Alec.

Alec’s eyes met Jace’s but he didn’t say anything, he just tried to pull in a full breath that he seemed incapable of.

“We’re okay,” Jace whispered to him, “We’re safe.” Even though Jace was just as stunned by this as Magnus was, he kept his voice steady and his expression clear from the turmoil they were all feeling. He was, Magnus knew, trying his absolute best to project the safety that Alec was desperately seeking.

“Jace,” Alec said raggedly, “Jace please…” His hand reached out for Jace before he yanked it back and gasped in horror. “Sorry, please, please…”

“Shh,” Jace tried to calm him, “It’s okay. We’re okay, Alec.”

“Jace,” Izzy said softly, as unwilling as Magnus to break this moment of lucidity for Alec. “You share souls. Maybe his magic will recognize that?”

If Jace had thoughts about that, he didn’t say. His whole focus was on Alec. “Close your eyes, Alec. Rest. Trust me, I’ll protect you.”

A tear tracked its way down Alec’s temple into his hair, “Home, Jace, please?” His voice sounded so small, so completely defeated. Whatever Valentine had done to him had Alec out of his mind with some combination of pain and shock. Pain and shock if they were lucky. Those could be healed. His complete disorientation could be something far beyond.

“I’ll take you home.” Jace breathed out the promise. The words were said softly to be comforting but any of them could hear how strongly Jace meant it. “Just rest, leave it up to me.”

Alec’s eyes flickered shut but despite the exhaustion shining on Alec’s face they stubbornly opened again. He was too afraid but oh so tired and tempted to give in to what his parabatai was asking of him.

“That’s it, Alec, just sleep now.” Jace gave Alec a smile that transcended the terror and the dirty alley that surrounded them.

Alec’s eyes slipped shut again and Magnus waited with baited breath to see if he would let himself go under. All four of them watched silently as Alec’s breathing finally evened out.

Jace moved first but of course he would. He didn’t need to rely on his eyes to know if Alec was truly asleep or not. He crouched next to Alec and let his hands hover close to Alec’s shoulder, “Open the portal.” He said quietly.

Magnus threw his hand up, opening a portal to get them the loft with barely a thought.

Jace’s hand lowered slowly and before he had even connected Alec’s magic licked at his skin.

It touched him… but it didn’t throw him back.

The second Alec’s magic seemed to accept Jace, the blonde rolled Alec onto his back as best he could and slid his arms under his back and knees. He stood, Alec wrapped securely in his arms, and turned without another word. He went through the portal first and Magnus felt something loosen inside of him.

Whatever happened next, they had Alec back. As long as they were together, they could figure anything out, even impossible magic.

Magnus went through last, leaving the dark street behind.

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Five


 

 

 

Magnus watched Izzy hover over Jace’s shoulder with a swell of pity born from a shared pain. While Jace could hold his brother’s hand and wipe his face clean with a wet cloth, Magnus and Izzy couldn’t touch him without risking a painful attack from Alec’s magic. And though he knew in his heart that both of them would risk that and more to actually be able to finally touch Alec and reassure themselves that he was safe, the repercussions of Alec’s magic attacking them were greater than just the potential for a little pain.

There were a lot of concerns, not least of which was Alec’s fear of this new power. If it kept hurting his loved ones, who knew how Alec would react. Would he fear himself? Would he push them away to protect them? Would he come to hate his new part of himself? All of the above?

They couldn’t risk it.

So, until Alec’s lucidity removed the problem or he managed to learn to control it, they had to keep their hands to themselves.

He wanted to be grateful that at least Jace could touch Alec and he was but a bigger part of him was jealous in a familiar way. Again, Jace got parts of Alec that Magnus longed for.

“He feels kind of feverish,” Jace reported, his voice worried. “And he needs water.”

“You don’t think Valentine went to all this trouble to do this to Alec and then like, starved him… do you?” Izzy asked. Though her voice was skeptical because that was, of course, illogical, she wasn’t especially sure. Valentine wasn’t known for sane, rational actions.

Jace could only shrug, “He was out for so long and if they couldn’t touch him either then maybe unintentionally that’s what happened. It doesn’t really matter why though, he’s really dehydrated and it’s giving us both a wicked headache.”

Drinking required consciousness unless Jace was well versed in getting liquids down an unconscious person’s throat. Even then, the process of it could trigger Alec’s magic into thinking someone was trying to hurt him. Magnus didn’t think that would happen, especially while Alec was unconscious, but he couldn’t be sure and didn’t particularly want to risk it. “Why don’t we get these clothes off him and see what we’re dealing with. If there’s an infected wound, that could be part of the fever.” Magnus suggested.

“And then what?” Clary asked from her spot around the back of the couch, “Do we heal him with a rune or with magic?”

Jace shifted down the couch and started unlacing Alec’s boots, “I’ll draw a rune.”

“Are you sure, Jace?” Izzy asked as she glanced back and forth between her brothers like she couldn’t bear to take her eyes off of either of them.

“Honestly, no.” Jace sighed and leaned back, staring at Alec. “But our rune works and, no offense Magnus, his runes are what he’s going to care about more. I’d rather find out if the rest still work before he wakes up.”

As if Magnus would take offense to Alec caring more about the runes he had been born for than the magic that had been forced on him. “I agree with Jace.”

“Okay,” Izzy breathed out slowly, “Okay, you’re right. We should try them before he wakes up.”

As Jace started wrestling Alec out of his shirt, an act cut short by Jace deciding it was a lost cause and just tearing it instead, Izzy’s phone went off.

She grabbed it from her pocket and then groaned, “It’s Mom, what do I say?”

“Nothing,” Jace answered her firmly, “Let it go to voicemail. She’ll think we’re out of service or something.”

“I think she’s heard the ‘we were in the sewers’ excuse about a thousand times, Jace,” Izzy said while they let the call ring out.

Clary shot Magnus a look, “I’m sort of glad I wasn’t around for when they were younger.” As if she had any room to comment.

Little Alec would have been a sight to behold but Magnus agreed with Clary quite a bit.

Once Alec’s shirt was off, they could clearly see a series of gashes on his arm that looked like they must have been from when he fought the Circle before they kidnapped him. The wounds weren’t fresh but they were angry. There were two marks that Magnus wasn’t sure what to make of. One on his bicep and the other lower on his side. They were circular and bruised, sort of like cigarette burns but not.

Jace drew out his stele and paused for only a second before passing it over Alec’s iratze.

Instantly, the wounds started to heal and all four of them relaxed ever so slightly.

“They work.” Izzy gripped Jace’s shoulder as she half slumped over the two of them.

Next up, magic. Magnus stood over Alec’s stretched out form and waved his hands quickly, waiting to see the result.

Alec’s magic didn’t react, thank goodness, but the spell worked. In seconds, Alec’s body was cleaned of the sweat and grime and he was dressed in sweatpants that were Magnus’ modified for longer legs and a dark blue thermal shirt that Alec had left behind and Magnus hadn’t had the heart to return.

“So what, it’s only the touching that’s the problem?” Clary asked in confusion. “I mean, your magic could have hurt him too.”

Jace shook his head. His blonde hair, already mussed, flopped even more into his eyes and he pushed it back impatiently. “He kept saying stay away from me and don’t touch me – that was probably to Valentine and the Circle. If he was out of it, maybe that’s kind of where he left off? Like, that’s what his magic was trying to make happen for him?”

“That does make sense.” Magnus admitted, “Wild magic like this tends to focus in on literal intent, it’s not sophisticated enough to ward him completely.”

“If you can cast spells on him,” Izzy looked at Magnus, “Can you scan the magic? Like, see if it’s hurting him or if it’s really tied to him or…”

“If his body is rejecting it?” Magnus finished grimly.

“That’s a thing?” Clary asked when Jace and Izzy seemed stuck dumb by the idea. 

Magnus nodded and bit back the wince as he thought about what still might happen to Alec because of what Valentine had done. “Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a half-warlock, half-something else. Demons don’t usually pick non-Mundane partners, so it’s rare and even if they do there’s no guarantee that the baby will end up with magic.”

“I’ve read records of it,” Izzy confirmed.

The look on Jace’s face said that he had too. Magnus knew the serious set of his face was largely because of what the Clave thought about such a person.

“And there’s also such a thing as a transfusion of magic, but that’s reserved for warlocks that are having issues with their own magic.” Magnus continued, “I’ve never in all my years heard of a successful transfusion of magic into a body that never had it and wasn’t meant to.”

“A successful transfusion,” Jace seemed to instantly catch on to where Magnus was going with this. “So there have been unsuccessful attempts?”

Magnus sighed and fell back onto the daybed behind him. He needed to explain this better before he scanned Alec, just so everyone was on the same page. Truthfully, his mind was spinning. There was so much to consider about Alec’s new magic and Magnus barely knew where to begin.

Actually, he did know where to begin. They needed to understand and he needed to know… was Alec’s body generating this magic itself like Magnus’ did with his own magic or was it a temporary thing? Everything else was only hypothetical until they understood where they were in this moment. “There have been. Mostly Mundanes who want magic for themselves. I’ve never heard of a transfusion being attempted on a Shadowhunter before.”

“And what happens to the Mundanes?” Izzy asked with a face that said she could guess.

It had been so long since Magnus had been involved in the clean-up after an attempt. It was illegal for a reason but some foolish warlocks still tried. Either because they honestly wanted to help a Mundane who wanted magic or because they wanted the money that trying would earn them – the results were always the same.

“They died.” Magnus said simply.

They died in pain would have been a more accurate answer.

Clary reacted more viscerally than Jace or Izzy, “There wasn’t anything you could do?”

 The idea was probably inconceivable to her considering she never took ‘impossible’ as a deterrent but if there was a way to save a Mundane given magic, Magnus didn’t know it, “Nothing that any warlock has ever found.”

The redhead turned back to Izzy and Jace with fire in her eyes, “That’s not what’s going to happen to Alec,” She said fiercely, as though she herself could prevent it.

Jace seemed barely able to look at her, let alone agree, “This has never been done before, Clary, and there’s probably a reason for that.”

There was no point in starting an argument born of fear and a lack of information. “A warlock’s body generates magic. It’s not like we have a finite amount or something. The first thing we need to know is if he’s somehow generating his own magic or if this is some sort of temporary transfusion.” Magnus tried to explain it as best he could without getting into terminology that none of them were in a mental place to process.

Magnus gestured Jace to stand back and the blonde reluctantly stood.  Instantly, he had Clary and Izzy on either of his sides. Clary to wrap an arm around his back and Izzy to tuck in close to his side and clutch his hand.

Magnus wanted to sit on the couch close to Alec but he knew better. There would be too little space between them, as if such a thing could ever truly be a problem. Instead, he moved the coffee table closer and sat down on that, leaving a clear strip of nearly four inches between him and Alec.

He summoned up his own magic to hover over Alec’s body, towards his stomach since Jace had arranged his hands to rest there. His hands that were still swirling a beautiful white.

His magic reached out for Alec’s tentatively, just licking at the edges of Alec’s. He didn’t want to go too quickly, to rouse the magic up to defend Alec. So far, it wasn’t reacting negatively and Magnus had to wonder if that was partially because his magic was so familiar with Alec, so comfortable with him. Not only that but Alec was so comfortable with Magnus’ magic. He had always liked the sensation of it, had never feared his warlock mark or shows of his power. Magnus had marveled at how open Alec was in his admiration of Magnus’ abilities.

And now Alec had magic of his own.

Another Shadowhunter might have killed themselves from the dishonor of it. Maryse and Robert Lightwood came to mind. Valentine himself even.

Alec, though, had a chance of truly coming to embrace his magic.

He was getting ahead of himself. So so far ahead.  

Once Magnus was sure that Alec’s magic was comfortable with this more invasive scan of him, not just a quick change of clothes or some superficial spell, he dug deeper. He looked over Alec as thoroughly as he knew how.

And all the while, Alec and his magic rested.

Magnus had his eyes clenched shut in the attempt of visualizing the information he was receiving. Jace was right, Alec was dangerously dehydrated and hadn’t eaten in days. He was exhausted, his body put through the ringer. There was some damage from the magic, but Magnus slowly became more confident that it was from the transfusion process, not from the magic being there at all. The iratze that Jace had drawn was slowly healing him.

The minutes dragged on and Magnus kept looking for some sign that Alec was in serious trouble. His shoulders started to slump in relief as he came to accept that there wasn’t any sign of rejection or irreparable damage.

He wasn’t sure how Valentine had done it and he absolutely would call Cat to confirm, but near as Magnus could tell, Alec was going to be okay.

Physically, at least.

Even more than that, Alec now had a magical core. He was generating this magic. It was his, not some temporary infusion that would go away with time.

Magnus was completely and utterly stunned. How had Valentine done this? Why had Valentine done this?

“Magnus?” Izzy’s voice sounded like she was possibly near tears and Magnus’ eyes snapped open as he realized how long he had left them to wait.

“My apologies,” He said quickly, “I was simply double checking myself. I’m still going to call for a second opinion and I’m definitely going to keep checking him over the next few weeks but… I think he’s going to be okay.”

Izzy released a breath that seemed to deflate her. She sank down into a crouch and looked up at Magnus with shining eyes, “You really think so?”

“I won’t lie to you, this put his body though a lot. He’s going to need time to recover and that’s before I’ll start to try to teach him to control this,” Magnus reached out and cupped her cheek with a gentle hand, “But yes, Isabelle, I really think that so far, his body is adapting as well as can be expected. The magic is his, his body is generating it the same as any actual warlock.”

“This is wild,” Clary breathed out. Her arms wrapped around Jace better and he leaned against her in a similar relieved slump as Izzy.

Jace laughed and though there was no joy in it Magnus couldn’t help but smile at Alec’s brother as he said, “Valentine is a fucking idiot.”

“What did he think?” Izzy reached up and held Magnus’ hand in hers, “That Alec would turn against the Clave because they’re probably going to turn against him? That he would be grateful to Valentine? That he would actually become Valentine’s weapon?”

“That’s exactly what he thought,” Jace answered as he shook his head just thinking about it, “He thought he could endear himself to Alec, to show him the Clave’s hypocrisy, as if Alec doesn’t already know, tell him that the Clave hates him, as if they weren’t already pretty pissed at him for the gay thing and the warlock boyfriend thing, and then he would use Alec to lure me in and he would have us both. He would use us both against each other until he managed to get us onto his side, because he doesn’t think he’s wrong. He just thinks if he tries hard enough and waits long enough, we’ll realize he’s right.”

“Well,” Clary laughed softly, “He’s never really met Alec then, has he? He’s way too stubborn for that.”

That he was. Magnus looked back to Alec and smiled softly as his intractable, grumpy boy.

The smile dipped, though, as he remembered again that Alec wasn’t his anymore. They still needed to talk and now Magnus wasn’t so sure that asking for Alec to forgive him and take him back was the right idea. Not yet at least.

He absolutely needed to ask for his forgiveness and to explain himself better than he had when he had broken things off with Alec.

But to ask for a second chance?

It was too soon, maybe. Alec had so many other things to worry about and he was going to need Magnus’ help more now than ever before. Could Magnus really be so selfish as to twist that into pushing his way back into Alec’s heart?

“It’s Mom again.” Izzy said and Magnus was rudely jolted back into the present as he realized that he heard a phone buzzing.

“Answer it now I guess,” Jace said grudgingly, “Tell her we haven’t found anything yet.”

The two siblings shared an intense look before Izzy rose to feet and darted out onto the balcony to pretend like she was outside actively looking for her brother… her newly found brother.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Jace?” Clary asked. “Maryse has been worried about Alec and if she finds out…”

“We need more time.” Jace insisted. “Alec needs more time.”

Magnus’ first thought was that Jace didn’t realize just how much time Alec was actually going to need if he wanted to actually learn to properly control and utilize his powers but there was a tension in Jace’s spine that made him reconsider. Jace wasn’t saying it in so many words but he knew enough about warlocks to know that their power wasn’t easily harnessed.

Clary didn’t know all that Jace did but she knew how to read him better. The considering way that she looked between the three of them – stoic Jace, overwhelmed Magnus and unconscious Alec – said that she understood enough.

At the very least, they needed time to figure out how to move forward. “You’re all exhausted,” Magnus said gently, “I can watch over Alec, you should get some sleep. Isabelle too, when she’s finished pacifying Maryse.”

“I’m not leaving him.” Jace said, “And I’ve slept longer than you lately. You go get some real sleep and I’ll stay with Alec in case he wakes up.”

The memory of Jace promising to protect Alec while he slept rose up in Magnus’ mind. He knew better than to force the issue. Still, if Alec’s magic started getting out of control… “If he wakes up and his magic…”

“Then I’ll calm him down again,” Jace cut Magnus off as politely as he could. “Or I’ll start yelling for you. Please, Magnus, go get some rest. He’s going to need you.” This part was said almost as gently as Jace had been talking to Alec back in the alley and it made a surge of affection for this usually frustrating boy well up in Magnus.

How had he gotten so entwined with these strange Shadowhunters?

How had he ever thought that it was a bad thing?

Izzy opened the balcony doors and walked back inside in a tense but simultaneously relieved way that Magnus recognized as Alec’s default whenever Maryse was around. As a child of a difficult parent, Magnus could relate.

With her phone waving in her hand, Izzy said, “I’m not sure Mom bought it.”

“What did you say to her?” Jace asked.

“Mostly what you said you were feeling before we were actually able to track him and about the spells that Magnus and Cat did before that I just hadn’t mentioned yet. I made it sound like they had tried more recently.” Izzy explained as she laced her fingers behind her neck and stretched. “I can’t imagine that Mom is going to ask Cat or that Cat would even bother to talk to her.”

That was very true. Cat was no more a fan of Maryse than he was and that was saying something. Although, considering Alec, Magnus had been hard pressed to work on that lately. Cat most certainly had not been working on that lately.

“Well, it’s going to have to be good enough.” Jace sighed, “If anything, she thinks we have a lead we don’t want to share yet. She won’t think that we’ve got him.”

Or at least, she hopefully didn’t think that they had found Alec. The last thing they needed was Maryse Lightwood pounding on his door.

How do we have him though?” Izzy looked between all of them and then back down at her sleeping brother, “Did Valentine do all this and then just let him walk out of there? Is this don’t touch me thing that his magic is doing something that started with Valentine and… and it just made it so he got to leave? Did he escape? Does Valentine know he’s gone?”

They didn’t have any answers to that.

“We can ask him when he wakes up.” Jace said.

The confidence that Alec was going to wake up able to give them some big report about how he had potentially escaped Valentine’s lair anytime soon was optimistic in Magnus’ opinion.

“It doesn’t really matter at the moment,” Magnus said instead of squashing Jace’s hope, “He escaped or he got released for some bigger plan. We have him though and that’s all that matters. We can figure out the rest later.”

His words didn’t seem to pacify or please any of them but then he didn’t love any of it either. Not knowing Valentine’s gameplan could literally be fatal.

Their answers though… they were in Alec. Alec who very much needed rest, to the point that he was half out of his mind with exhaustion.

“You and Clary go get some sleep in the guest room. I’m going to stay with Alec.” Jace took charge. To drive the point home, he sat down on the couch by Alec’s feet and leaned over them to he could rest his shoulder against the back of the couch. “I’ll let you know if anything changes, promise.”

“Wait,” Isabelle instantly protested. She turned to Magnus, “I just want to understand. Alec’s body is generating his own magic, he’s always going to have it?”

He simply nodded.

Izzy seemed to take a second to digest that before she continued, “Someone doesn’t learn how to wield magic in a week.”

Forget wield, Magnus was worried about control.

Her question wasn’t a question but Magnus knew what she was getting at without her having to actually ask, “No and, even more importantly, his control over the magic is going to be a problem for a long time to come. What he’s doing now is typical of a young warlock. This isn’t a spell he’s consciously cast. It’s wild magic.”

“It’s a young warlock thing.” Jace repeated as though he had any real concept of what he was talking about. He thought he knew but he couldn’t possibly understand the depth of it.

Well, not yet anyway.

He had a feeling all of them were about to become well-versed in the topic.

“It’s an all warlock thing. Technically, even I could lose control of my magic and have something like this happen. The situation would need to be extreme because I’ve developed tight control over it but we’re all the possessors of human emotion which means there can be no absolutes.” Magnus corrected. He let them take that in for a second before continuing, “With magic as young as Alec’s now is and the fact that he has literally not taken even the first step at pulling it under his command, this is going to keep happening. I can guarantee it. I realize you’re all over a decade battle hardened by now so the idea that any of you are young is foreign but you are – he is. A warlock his age wouldn’t have control even a fraction as good as mine. Honestly, my mind is spinning right now with all the ramifications of this. When his emotions overcome him, when he feels something strongly, his magic is going to respond. As his control becomes more solid, the more extreme those emotions would need to be. Until then… wild magic. Maybe not this particular iteration of wild magic but wild magic in general.”

He watched Jace and Izzy shoot looks at each other. Even Clary reacted to his words and he knew they were all thinking the same thing.

Alec was a young man who felt things deeply and internalized them. He had truly only just begun learning healthy coping methods for when his emotions were intense. He held himself to impossible standards.

This was going to be hard.

All of this was exactly what he meant about his mind spinning with ramifications. Every second, his mind replayed one of the moments when things had become intense for Alec since Magnus had met him and then he let himself throw magic into the mix. Magic that, Magnus couldn’t emphasize this enough, Alec didn’t know how to control.

There was so much work ahead of them.

“There’s nothing we can do right now.” Jace broke the silence. “Everyone needs to get some sleep.”

Though Magnus hadn’t seen Jace and Clary having any discussion over it, the redhead immediately stepped forward so that she could wrap an arm around Izzy’s shoulders and gently try to steer her towards the guest bedroom that the three of them had been sharing. Isabelle seemed to sense that she was outnumbered and tried to take it gracefully. She hesitated by Jace but he only nodded again to her. It was the same promise that the Lightwoods seemed to always make to each other, that they would take care of whichever sibling needed it at that moment. He had long admired their trust in each other.

Once the girls were gone, Jace’s attention immediately went to Magnus.

“You regret it, don’t you?” Jace asked. Magnus knew what he meant immediately and he was frankly shocked it had taken him so long to taunt Magnus over his foolish mistakes.

It hadn’t been so long ago that Magnus had sat out on the balcony, half offended and half amused as Jace attempted to give him some vague shovel talk. Magnus hadn’t taken him very seriously. One, he hadn’t any intentions of ever hurting Alec and two, Jace seemed to do that perfectly well himself.

What wouldn’t he give to go back to that sunny morning after having just spent an amazing night with the man he had been falling so deeply for? How had things gone so wrong?

The question was foolish. He knew how – fear, a lack of trust, the whole world working against them, Magnus working against them.

“You don’t have to answer,” Jace said as the silence dragged. “I can see it. Alec will see it too.” He added the last bit like it wasn’t anything revelatory. As though he didn’t know how incredibly desperate Magnus was for that to be true. His eyes said he did though and Magnus felt transparent.

“I do.” Magnus admitted softly. He wasn’t sure why he was bothering to, not when Jace so clearly knew.

It seemed to be the right thing to say. Jace seemed satisfied with it at any rate. His intense scrutiny eased off and he looked at his brother instead. “I don’t think I need to worry about you breaking his heart again.”

“I don’t want to.” Magnus felt the words being dragged out of him. “I never wanted to.”

Why he was saying it, he didn’t know. He didn’t owe Jace any explanations, especially considering how often he himself had let Alec down. That wasn’t important, he supposed, nor relevant. He just wanted to say it out loud and to anyone that loved Alec.

What he wanted more than that was to say it to Alec himself.

Soon, he promised. When Alec was more centered, they would talk.

“Go get some sleep.” Jace said again, “I’m staying with him.” His promise to Izzy was a promise to Magnus as well and he knew it.

Still, it was almost impossible to stand and walk away from Alec when he had been so desperate to find him just hours before.

His eyes were drawn back down to Alec’s hands, still swirling with a magic that had been forced on him. It was still so bright, so pure. It seemed almost criminal that it wasn’t born of goodness.

Jace couldn’t teach his parabatai to wield magic. He could calm him, he could make him feel safe and he could make him feel accepted. Important things. Izzy could give him the same.

But only Magnus could teach him what he needed to know to harness this new power.

And to do that, they needed to trust each other again.

So it would probably help if Magnus wasn’t seconds from keeling over. More than anything, he wanted to lay down with Alec but that wasn’t possible yet. It might not even be welcome. Just because Alec had welcomed his touch before didn’t mean he would now. Magnus didn’t have the right to presume anymore.

He stood and felt his exhausted body protest the movement. Muscles pulled and bones creaked. He felt worn, maybe not all his years but certainly older than he looked.

He could only take a few steps before he had to stop again. Now that he wasn’t sitting by Alec’s head, he could see him better and his eyes drank in the sight that he had feared he might never be privileged enough to witness. Alec, trustingly asleep in Magnus’ home. There were dark circles under his eyes and a paleness to his skin that worried Magnus but he was still so breathtakingly beautiful.

“You look like you want to write sonnets in his honor,” Jace said dryly, “I get it, my parabatai is very pretty. Moon over him later, sleep now.”

Magnus sighed, “You’re hard to like.”

Jace just grinned.

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Six


 

 

 

The second that Jace felt Alec starting to surface, he got up and filled a glass of water.

He’d been tense and watchful beside Alec for three hours, waiting for him to wake up. Izzy, Clary and Magnus were all still asleep and Jace had been on a steady rotation between all three rooms. A quick check on Clary and Izzy was especially important so he could keep an eye on Izzy’s phone and try to field anything he could by text so that she wasn’t bombarded with work when she woke up. It wasn’t the first time he had answered his siblings’ messages without letting on that the person answering the question wasn’t the Lightwood the message was intended for and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

It was easier to answer as Alec because he knew better what his parabatai would say. Izzy sometimes got science-y questions and Jace had to leave them alone lest he start an unintentional plague or something. Hopefully no one who got an answer mentioned it to someone who didn’t because then Izzy was going to have to deal with questions about favoritism.

Once he was reassured that Izzy’s workload wasn’t going through the roof and that Maryse wasn’t texting to say she’d be over in ten minutes, he tried to make sure that his sister and his not sister – that was still a massive relief he gave thanks for every day – were okay. He left them glasses of water and a plate of crackers and came back at one point to find some of it missing, so he refilled it.

From there, he went to Magnus.

That was harder. He knew what Izzy needed – food and quiet – and what Clary needed too – lots of blankets, especially cuddled up to a blanket hog like Izzy. 

He didn’t know Magnus nearly as well. For all that Alec was in love with him and Jace had actually lived with him, he didn’t know the guy all that much. Judging by the way Magnus had been so frantically trying to find Alec and how much Alec was going to need him, Jace should probably start working on that.

In the end, he mostly just checked that the warlock was breathing and left him the same plate of snacks and glass of water he gave the girls. For Magnus, he went ahead and left a glass of whiskey too.

Each circuit, he only left Alec for ten minutes max. Even though he knew his parabatai was still out cold, he didn’t like to be away too long.

Part of that was just the leftover fear from when he literally couldn’t be by Alec’s side. That had been excruciating. The other part wasn’t something he was going to say out loud anytime soon.

What if the bond had been altered by what Valentine had done to him?

Every time he sank back down in the chair he had pulled up close to the couch, Jace tried to get the fear to settle. He still felt Alec the same as before. Their rune was still dark on his skin. Their bond was still pulsing between them in the way it always did when neither of them had any blocks up to keep the other out.

Nothing felt different, he tried to tell himself over and over again, because nothing was different.

He was still anxious about it. He probably would be for a while until what the bond told him and what his eyes told him matched up enough times that he knew it was still okay.  

Whenever he got too worked up with it, he got up and walked around. Sitting for so long wasn’t something he was built for. He needed to move, to fight.

Except there wasn’t anything to fight right then, so he was left pacing and making a steady circle around Magnus’ loft before checking on Alec again for the seven hundredth time.

He promised himself that soon there would be someone to fight. Jace felt it down to his bones. The knowledge thrummed through his restless limbs. He could hear it ringing through the silence of the loft.

The Clave. Valentine. Their own people. Maybe even the warlocks. 

Fighting came as easy as breathing to Jace and fighting for Alec was an honor. He would end anyone who came for his brother’s blood or his magic.

As Alec slowly started to surface, Jace made sure to keep all of that as far away from the front of his mind as possible. He didn’t want any of his anxiety or anger to bleed over to Alec. When they had the bond wide open their emotions tended to get muddled up and he wasn’t going to let Alec wake up any more freaked out than he was going to be on his own.

He set the cool water onto the coffee table and pushed his chair aside. If Alec was actually going to wake up, Jace wanted to be the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes. There wasn’t going to be a single second that Alec thought he was still in Valentine’s hell, not if Jace had anything to say about it.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jace wasn’t great at just talking. He knew what to say when he had to and he was definitely better at it than Alec but still… just talking to talk, talking about nothing in particular, that wasn’t so easy for him.

He had Alec wrapped up warm and safe on a Magnus’ ridiculously plush couch and all of it smelt like a place that Alec was familiar with and comfortable in. He pulled Alec’s tingling hand into his and held it tightly. The last sense that Jace could use to convey home to Alec was sound and Jace wasn’t going to not give him that too.

So he started talking.

“I’ve never paid loads of attention to watching warlocks do their thing.” Jace said softly. He was sitting so close to Alec that he didn’t need to be loud. Soothing wasn’t a tone Jace aimed for often but when he did it was always for Alec, Izzy and Max. Clary now too, especially now that they were settling back into being together after Valentine had tried to tear them apart.

“I’ve watched them do spells before, obviously. We all have.” Jace continued. Alec’s magic still swirled around his body but over the last hour or so it had started to seem almost… lazy? Content? He wasn’t sure what any of it meant. “But I realized I’ve never stopped and really paid attention to any of it. Warlocks are always either fighting us or they’re grudgingly doing what we ask for payment. Neither are really opportunities to watch and see the... I don’t know, the artistry of it? It feels like a silly thing to say.”

It did feel silly to say such a thing. Alec wouldn’t judge him for it though, not when he knew his parabatai felt the same way.

“Can you even imagine sparring?” Jace laughed softly. He could just hear Izzy’s snort in his head. Of course that’s where your mind goes, you idiot.

Sparring against Alec’s magic wasn’t the first place his mind had gone. That was reserved for the shock and disbelief. It wasn’t the second place either. That had been the anger for what Valentine had done. No, sparring was a realization that had come to him nearly two hours ago.

“Is it wrong that I’m excited?” Jace leaned in closer to whisper. “It feels maybe wrong, but I don’t care. We’re gonna have so much fun once Magnus gets you trained up. I almost feel bad for him. You’re such an obnoxious student. Tell me why, show it to me again, let me practice longer, I won’t stop until I do perfectly a hundred times in a row.

He saw Alec’s brow scrunch up and Jace tried to keep his tone even as he spoke. No reason to throw anything extra across their bond.

“Don’t tell me that wasn’t you. Your ass will burst into flames if you even try.” Jace teased.

There was so much more that would have to happen before they could spar with Alec’s magic as his weapon. So much – more than Jace was probably even considering yet. Alec needed to recover from this, he needed to learn to control this wild magic that was acting on his subconscious instead of what he actively wanted. That was just the physical. What would Alec think of magic he hadn’t asked for?

If there was one thing that Alec was amazing at, it was hating himself for things out of his control.

He looked down the length of Alec’s body and let his eyes track the tendrils of his magic. “It’s like a lit seraph blade, Alec.”

Alec’s reaction was so small, just a tilt of his head, and Jace knew he hadn’t surfaced enough to truly hear that but he would say it again someday. Alec might have magic but he was a Shadowhunter first and always. Even his magic knew it.

Jace.” Alec mumbled almost inaudibly. His fingers latched onto Jace’s, returning his grip for the first time in hours.

Jace squeezed back. He always would. “I have some water, Alec. I know you want it.”

Alec’s tongue poked up and swiped over his chapped lips, “Jace.” He said again. This time it was stronger but Jace knew he was still mostly asleep.

Jace shifted on the couch, sitting higher up by Alec’s shoulder. He pulled his hands out of Alec’s with a careful tug and tried to ignore the way Alec’s fingers struggled to keep a hold of him, “I’m not leaving, Alec. I’m never leaving. Aren’t you thirsty? I have water for you.”

He slid his arm under Alec’s shoulders and pulled him up enough that he wouldn’t choke. Once he was braced against Jace’s chest, he pressed the glass to his parabatai’s lips and tilted it just enough that the water wet his lips. “Have some, Alec.”

There was a few seconds delay before Alec’s lips opened up enough for Jace to pour a small sip into his mouth. He wasn’t sure Alec was with it enough to know what to do with it but instinct kicked in. Or maybe the water made Alec remember that he was ridiculously thirsty. Either way, he struggled to pick his own head up so that he could get at the glass. “Shh,” Jace gave him another sip before he pulled the glass back, “If you drink it too fast you’ll make yourself sick.”

“Please,” Alec’s eyes cracked open and he looked up at Jace blearily. “Please, Jace?”

Well shit.

Jace let him take another two desperate sips before he completely moved the glass away. “Hey,” He said when Alec made a heartbroken noise. “You can have more in a few minutes. You haven’t any water in days, if you drink too fast you’ll puke.”

“He gave me some.” Alec whispered in a voice that Jace could barely hear. There was a note of something surreal in it. Jace wasn’t sure if that meant that Alec wasn’t sure it had actually happened or if he knew it had and couldn’t believe it.

No matter if it was true or not, Jace wasn’t sure what to say back. What wouldn’t send Alec back into a spiral of incoherent panic? “Did he?” He said with no particular inflection.

Alec’s head pressed closer to Jace’s chest, “He did but I poured half on my head.”

The laugh that Jace let answer him was forced. That answer wasn’t funny and it didn’t make much sense but he didn’t know what else to do. “How does your stomach feel?”

“Empty.” Alec answered like that didn’t tear a hole in Jace’s heart. “It feels like static. All over.”

The pain that had slammed through their bond flashed through Jace’s memory. Pain beyond anything he had ever felt and all he had gotten was the echo along the bond. What if that pain had done something to Alec’s mind? He felt his heart start to pound.

“The water didn’t help.” Alec was still talking like it was nothing.

Jace cleared his throat and willed his voice to stay even, “You’re still thirsty?”

“Yes,” Alec picked up his head higher again and Jace obligingly held the glass to his lips again. Even inwardly freaking out, he still had the presence of mind to pull the glass back after Alec had drained it to the halfway mark.

The disgruntled noise Alec made eased some of the worry. That was his brother through and through.

“The water didn’t help.” Alec repeated. “It won’t. It’s not static. Still want to pour it everywhere.”

The words were still soft and they had started to slur. Alec was barely awake and he was edging back towards sleep every second that went by. Jace tried to tell himself that it was the exhaustion and dehydration talking, both of which would get better with time. “It’s okay, Alec.”

“I already puked,” Alec’s arm shifted and he reached his hand up to grasp Jace’s arm. If he noticed the magic clinging to his fingers, he didn’t let on. “Black. I didn’t notice. The warlock did.”

Jace’s eyes slipped shut in a childish attempt to keep the tears in. What he said out loud was, “What warlock?” Alec was quiet for a long minute and Jace opened his eyes to look down at his brother. “Alec?”

“I think they’re dead, Jace.” Alec’s voice wavered.

They’re? Like, more than one warlock? “There were warlocks there with you?”

Alec just made a soft humming noise in response.

“Think your stomach is up for the rest of this water?” Jace changed the conversation over to the more pressing need. Of course, they needed to know more about what had happened. Where Valentine was holed up was a great start but bigger than that was the need to take care of Alec.

When all he got was another hum, Jace took it as a yes please and he held the water up for Alec again. Though Jace could still feel the effects of dehydration through the bond, Alec went at the glass less desperately this time.

Once the glass was drained, Jace set it on the coffee table behind him. One glass of water wasn’t nearly enough but for now, in the effort to keep Alec from getting sick from having too much, it was okay. Hopefully Alec would surface again in a couple of hours, a little more coherent and ready to drink some more.

“You tired, Alec?” Jace asked a little needlessly. He laid Alec back down onto the couch and shifted so he could see his brother’s face better.

Alec’s eyes were already closed. Jace felt his eyes sting again and he pressed his hand to Alec’s cheek. Instantly, Alec pressed his face closer to Jace’s palm.

“Get some rest, okay?” Jace said softly.

“Stay?” Alec breathed the request out like he was too exhausted to even fully form the word.

Jace laughed and sniffed a little, half in tears, “Of course, Alec. Always.”

The corner of Alec’s mouth quirked up just enough for Jace to see it. Then it smoothed out as Alec’s face went slack as he fell back asleep.

Once Alec was back under, Jace dropped his head into his hands and tried not to cry. Or scream. Or throw something. Jace grit his teeth and his hands curled into fists that he pressed so hard to his closed eyes he saw colors behind his lids.

I’ll make you pay for this, Valentine.

 

---

 

“Shh, Alec, come on. We’re going somewhere more comfortable, okay?”

He was already laying on something soft, which shouldn’t have been so jarring. He usually slept on soft things. His back had no business aching like it did.

Warm hands slid underneath him, curling around his shoulders and under his knees. His body didn’t even tense. They might as well have been his hands. Close enough, at least.

There were no thoughts in his tired head puzzling out who was gathering up him. He knew who’s chest he was resting against, who was moving him so carefully. It was his parabatai, so he was safe. Alec wasn’t sure where they were going or why but it didn’t matter. Jace could take care of them until Alec felt like himself again.

“You awake, Alec?” Jace asked softly. He said the words against Alec’s forehead and he could feel Jace’s breath against his skin. There was something there, something the bond was tugging on Alec to fix, but whatever it was wasn’t in Jace’s voice at least. He didn’t feel wounded. What else was there?

Except there was something. The bond tugged him again and Alec reluctantly opened his eyes, squinting against the light coming in through the windows.

Magnus’ windows?

“Close the blinds, Izzy. It’s too bright.” Jace said.

Izzy came around from behind them and she starting pulling Magnus’ velvet drapes shut. She had one of Magnus’ sweatshirts on and her hair was up in a bun that looked more like a way to hide messy hair than the slicked back style she used in the labs.

Something was wrong. Something was wrong with both of them. “Okay?” Alec asked. He blinked in surprise as Jace took two full steps back so Izzy could get to the bed and turn down the covers. His own voice was so soft and that was weird but why was Izzy staying so far away from them?

“Magnus is right, it’s safer to hide him in here.” Izzy said to Jace.

His brother snorted quietly, “The guy has other guest rooms.”

Hide him? “Jace?”

“You’re okay, Alec.” Jace reassured him nearly instantly.

Izzy stepped back out of Alec’s field of vision. Then it was just Jace setting him down in the bed that Alec hadn’t ever thought he would be in again. “Where’s Magnus?”

“Safe,” Jace said, “He’s with Clary.”

“Jace,” Izzy said nearly inaudibly from behind them. He almost couldn’t hear her over the sound of the blankets being straightened up over him. “He’s slurring his words.”

Who was?

Alec started to turn onto his side so he could see Izzy better but the motion was hard. Jace had him propped so high on the pillows. “Izzy? Okay?”

“I’m okay, big brother.” Izzy said. She came around from behind Jace’s back and gave him a big smile from the end of the bed. She was still so far away.

“You thirsty, Alec?” Jace asked and out of nowhere he had a big mug of water in his hands. It was one Alec recognized, one of Magnus’. It was charmed to hold way more than it should have. He remembered being fascinated by it, trying to figure out why Magnus could drink the same cup of coffee for hours.

Magnus had laughed at him when Alec had finally given up guessing and had asked. No, darling, I’m not just refilling my cup every time you turn your back, I promise. Magnus had thought Alec was so strangely interesting for noticing and caring about something as small as a cup.

“Alec?” Jace said again and this time when the bond tugged him he understood why. He hadn’t meant to go missing in his own head like that.

He turned and gave his parabatai a lazy smile, “Sure.” His hand were stuck under the blankets and he tried to drag them up and out. When had Magnus’ blankets gotten so heavy?

“Hey, it’s okay,” Jace said. He smoothed down the covers, undoing any progress Alec had made, and used his other hand to press the rim of the mug against Alec’s bottom lip, “Just drink.”

Under the covers, his hands tingled.

“Jace?” Alec asked slowly. His head was stuffed full of cotton and the memory of Magnus changed slowly into another warlock looking at him. Just staring. Her eyes were so steady…

“Alec, focus on me, okay?” Jace gripped his shoulder.

Something teased at the edge of his memory. A voice, proud and cruel…

I’ve forged a whole new species.

“Jace?” Alec repeated. He wasn’t sure what he was trying to ask.

Jace shifted on the bed and pressed close to Alec. His legs stretched out alongside Alec’s own. “You’re okay, Alec. We’re okay.”

Alec slowly shook his head, “I don’t feel right.” Under the blankets, his hands curled into fists and a familiar tingle of electricity crawled over his skin and made him cringe. “Jace, I don’t feel right.”

“Hey,” Jace said, “You’re okay. You’re safe. We’ll figure everything else out later. What I need you to do now is drink some of this water.” His voice was so solid and soothing it was hard to disobey. It felt just like before when he had been so ready to turn the reins over to his brother, to let him take over for the first time in a long time. Jace could, when he wanted to. Apparently he wanted to now.

Alec let his brother bring the cup back up and he pulled in a long drink of the water. The second it touched his tongue, he realized he was thirsty. Incredibly thirsty. Jace let him have more and for a second Alec was surprised. Jace hadn’t let him have so much last time.

When was last time?

Jace pulled the water away and Alec tried hard not to make any noises of complaint. He could feel Jace tensing, waiting for Alec to whine about it.

“Let’s wait a few minutes and see how that sits, okay?” Jace said softly, like he knew even without Alec letting on.

He nodded in response and regretted it instantly. Every single inch of his body felt wrung out and wrong. His nod made his brain feel like it was sloshing around in his skull. What the hell had happened? As much as he wanted the water, he wanted to check out even more.

“Hey, Alec, stay awake, okay?” Jace shook his shoulder a little.

“Tired,” He answered, as if Jace couldn’t feel it.

“Thirsty too, though, right?” Jace pressed the cup back to his lips and helped Alec drink.

“Jace,” Izzy hissed from the end of the bed, “He’s going to get sick if we give him too much too fast.”

Jace didn’t pull the cup away, “It doesn’t feel like he’s going to puke and if he falls asleep again we’re going to have to wait even longer.”

“I can try to get him an IV,” Izzy said quickly before she stopped and sighed. “Although I guess if you poke a needle in him that might be bad.”

There’s nothing being injected, don’t worry. That’s already happened. I’m just providing a path into you.

Alec choked, the water spilling down his front and he started coughing.

There’s nothing being injected, don’t worry.

“Alec, hey, it’s okay!”

That’s already happened.

“Breathe, big brother.”

I’m just providing a path into you.

Alec flinched when the sound of glass shattering hit his ears. The lights? Again? When… when had the lights exploded?

“What’s happening?”

I’ve forged a whole new species.

“Alexander, you’re safe.”

“Everyone get out.” Not Jace though, Jace’s arms just went around him tighter.

“Alec, match me.” Jace was suddenly behind him and Alec wasn’t sure when he had moved. Everything was happening so fast. His eyesight had narrowed into a single pinprick and Alec could hear himself gasping. Why couldn’t he feel it? Shouldn’t that be what he noticed? What’s wrong with me?

“Hey, don’t do this okay? We’re safe. We’re together.” Jace’s arms were like steel bands wrapped around him and Alec could feel Jace’s pounding heartbeat pressed against his back just the same as how it throbbed through their bond.

This time, when Alec’s eyes got too heavy to keep open, Jace didn’t stop him from going under.

 

---

 

When Alec surfaced next, it wasn’t so disorienting. He blinked his eyes open and understood where he was and that meant more to him than he could put into words.

The light that had been streaming through Magnus’ windows painfully bright before wasn’t so bad anymore. The sky had darkened and Alec knew he had slept for too long already. Somehow, the knowledge didn’t shake the bone deep exhaustion he still felt.

“Are you with me, darling?”

The words were achingly gentle and Alec felt something in him relax when he found Magnus uncurling in an armchair set beside the bed. He almost tensed back up when he remembered that they weren’t together anymore, that Magnus didn’t want him and his messy Nephilim heritage, but then he saw Magnus’ eyes – eyes that he loved more than he could express – and they were filled with so much concern and care that Alec was humbled by it.

Something awful must have happened for Magnus to be looking at him the way he was even after everything had gone so wrong between them.

And then, Alec remembered what that something awful was.

He wasn’t sure he had ever actually forgotten.

Slowly, he dragged his hands out from under the soft blankets he was wrapped in and saw the light before he saw his actual flesh. Bright, incredibly white light made physical and nearly tangible, coiling around his hands.

Magic.

“Magnus?” He could hear the fear in his own voice and he knew Magnus could hear it to.

“I know, Alexander.” Magnus’ legs dropped down onto the ground and he braced his elbows against his knees to lean in closer. Alec couldn’t tear his eyes away from his own hands so he could only see Magnus in his periphery but he could see the way Magnus was carefully watching his face not the magic.

Alec curled his hands into fists, “Tell me?” Tell me what happened, tell me what to do next, tell me you won’t leave me again…

Tell me how to be okay.

If Magnus heard even half of that, he didn’t let on. Why should he? Alec wasn’t his responsibility anymore. Him being here, in Magnus’ loft, in Magnus’ bed, was only because Magnus was a good man and Jace and Izzy sure as hell couldn’t take him to the Institute. Alec couldn’t read into it any more than that and he definitely couldn’t take advantage anymore than his siblings already had.

Not even if he wanted to. Not even if Magnus’ voice and just his presence soothed the ragged fear inside of him.

“You’ve been asleep nearly a full day, Alec.” Magnus said quietly. His eyes were still staring at Alec so intently, “You’ve woken up a few times and we’ve given you water. You weren’t yourself though, so I’m not sure how much you can remember.”

He remembered some of it. Jace mostly, feeding him water and talking softly. Somewhere in all of that, he was pretty sure he had told Jace that the magic felt like static electricity that he couldn’t escape.

Magnus didn’t wait for an answer, either because it didn’t really matter or because he could read it off Alec’s face. Hiding his feelings from Magnus was more than Alec had in him at this point.

“Do you remember what happened?” Magnus asked carefully.

Alec nodded slowly. He wasn’t sure he would ever be able to forget. There were parts that were hazy but what memories he did have would crystallize in his memory for the rest of his life. “I was ambushed by Circle members because I went out to check a report of a warlock child by myself like an idiot. We fought but they had a warlock. I got knocked out.” Alec reported woodenly. “When I woke up, I was in a cage and everything hurt. They strapped me into some kind of machine somehow connected to five warlocks. They knew more about what was happening than I did.”

“Oh, darling.” Magnus breathed out softly. Alec finally turned to look at him for real and saw tears welling up in Magnus’ eyes. After everything that Alec had done wrong, how could Magnus still care about him enough to waste tears on him?

“I don’t think the warlocks made it, Magnus.” Alec admitted. He felt so guilty, whatever this was that Valentine had done he was almost sure those warlocks had died. “They were trying to talk Valentine out of it, they said that he’d killed others doing what he was trying to do to me. They… they…” Alec’s voice broke and he shut his eyes tightly to keep his own tears from coming, “They tried to make me feel better, telling me that it was going to be quick. They thought I’d die with them.”

“It’s not your fault, Alec.” Magnus said so firmly that Alec couldn’t help but open his eyes and stare into Magnus’ sure face. “You didn’t ask for any of this.”

“They didn’t either.”

Magnus pulled in a shuddering breath and Alec couldn’t help but wonder, if he tried to describe the warlocks, would Magnus know them? Had any of them been his friends?

“This is Valentine’s fault, full stop. Maybe you shouldn’t have gone out yourself but that doesn’t equal out what he did. It was a mistake, not a crime. If the warlocks did die it’s not on you.” Magnus’s eyes were heartbroken but everything else about him was so sure.

It was so tempting to believe him.

They stared at each other.

“Alec…” Magnus started and stopped abruptly. “Alec, you can tell me to stop talking and I will. This isn’t the time, this is selfish but... but I’ve been terrified I would never see you again and that I’d never get to say any of this and I feel like I’m going to explode if I can’t say it now.”

Alec’s first thought was that Magnus wanted him to go. That now that he was awake, he needed to figure out someplace to be that wasn’t Magnus’ loft. He felt that dagger of pain sitting in his heart, where it had been since Magnus had walked away from him, twist and wrench him apart even worse. Still, he owed Magnus the chance to get anything off his chest that he needed to, “Say whatever you need to say.”

“I’m sorry,” Magnus said and Alec fists clenched until he could feel the bite of his nails in his palm. “Alec, I’m so sorry for what happened between us. You were put in an impossible situation and you needed more than a moment to figure it out. You would have told me about the soul sword yourself if I had given you more than a day to wrap your head around it. I know that now. I’m sorry I lashed out before.”

“What?”

What was Magnus saying?

Magnus laughed and it sounded more like a sob. He reached out and smoothed his hand over Alec’s blanket covered side and even just the weight of his hand felt glorious. “I was a fool. I was hurt and my mind went to extremes. Yes, sometimes I will have to make hard decisions that benefit my people more than my lover. You’ll have to as well, I’m sure. We’ll both be put in impossible situations.”

The warlock glanced up at him, his eyes still not going to the magic, “Alec, you will be my friend for the rest of time. This magic… the road will not be easy. I want to help you for as long as you’ll let me. I’ll teach you everything I can. No matter what happens between us, you can stay safe here and I will help you.”

“Thank you.” Alec could barely speak.

Magnus looked at him and his eyes were so… they were searching. Anything Magnus wanted to know was right there.

Alec was so done.

I love you. I’ll always love you. I’m sorry. I want to be more than your friend, I want to be even half of what you are to me.

“I thought I had to choose between you and the Downworld and I’ve realized that I don’t.” Magnus said with a shake of his head. “I meant what I said, I will be your friend no matter what. You don’t have to… Alec, I know that if we work at it, if we communicate and trust each other, we can make a relationship work.” He leaned in closer, “That is, if you could find it in your heart to give me another chance.”

 Alec couldn’t form a coherent thought for a good long minute. Magnus wanted him back? He didn’t think Alec was too much work or too much a Shadowhunter? “I don’t understand,” He heard himself say faintly.

“When Jace and Izzy came to ask me to help them find you, I was getting ready to go to you and say all these things.” Magnus revealed and Alec felt a piece of his heart click back into place when he realized Magnus’ request for another chance wasn’t born of pity. “I pursued you, Alec. Knowing you’re a Shadowhunter and I’m a warlock. Knowing that you haven’t got any experience in navigating a relationship. Knowing that we come from very different sides of a centuries old conflict. I asked for all of you and promised you my devotion and then I flinched first. Even worse, when I flinched I hurt you even worse than I had to in an effort to protect my own heart.”

“You don’t have to… to say all of this.” Alec said sort of helplessly. “I was the one that messed up.”

Magnus shook his head quickly, “No, darling, don’t you see? Mistakes are allowed! They’re expected, they’re inevitable. That’s how relationships work. Your mistake wasn’t maliciously done. It can’t all be playful arguments about where we go for dinner or little spats that we resolve in moments. Of course that’s what everyone would prefer but we’re two very different people from very different worlds. By pledging myself to you, I was promising you that I understood that and was willing to put in the hard work that we would need to reconcile our differences. Then I got angry and lashed out when you stumbled.”

They could go on like this for hours, Alec realized. His first thought after Magnus said all that was to explain his actions from the soul sword revelation better but if he was understanding Magnus right, the warlock was telling Alec that he got it. If Alec explained, Magnus would counter and they would just go on and on apologizing.

Wasn’t the most important thing that they wanted to apologize? That they wanted to be together again?

“I’ll try to talk more.” Alec said instead. “I’ll try not to keep things from you.”

Magnus froze, “And I’ll try to be more understanding if you can’t.” He hesitated, “Alec… is this you saying that you’re willing to give me another chance?”

“I don’t want to live without you Magnus. I don’t even think I can.” Alec confessed. The words were heavy but they were so easy to say. It was strange that they would be considering this was Alec handing someone the weapons to hurt him but the look in Magnus’ eyes kept him from being afraid. There was such regret in the warm brown eyes that he so loved. Regret and hope and love. How could Alec not trust Magnus with his heart when he looked at him like that?

“I’ve missed you more than I can say, Alexander.” Magnus shifted himself so he was sitting on the edge of the bed instead of in a chair. Alec could feel the warmth of his body through the blankets and it almost made him shiver.

More than anything, Alec wanted to kiss Magnus. He reached his hand out, ready to curl his fingers around the back of Magnus’ neck to pull him down before the sight of the magic made him snatch his hand back.

“I… I hurt you.” Alec gaped at his own hand. He could remember now. In the alley where they had found him. Magnus had tried to touch his knee and, by the Angel, please no…

Alec shoved himself up and away, halfway across the bed from a gaping Magnus. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Magnus.”

Magnus pulled his knees under himself so he was kneeling on the bed. When he his hands braced against the covers, Alec curled his legs in to put more distance between them. “Alec, it’s okay!”

“I hurt you! That’s not okay!”

“Darling, just breathe, all right?” Magnus held a hand out to Alec but didn’t reach for him. Alec didn’t want him to but seeing him careful to not touch him only made Alec feel worse. This magic that Valentine had forced on him was doing nothing but causing pain. Literal pain.

Alec had to look away from Magnus. He stared down at the swirls of magic emanating from his hands and saw how it had started to move quicker, more awake now than before. “I attacked you.”

“You didn’t, Alec.” Magnus insisted, “Your magic is in its infancy. It’s not sophisticated enough to parse out who means you harm and who doesn’t. It’s operating on base needs. You needed protection. You wanted people to stop touching you. Your magic provided.”

Your magic. The words didn’t make sense.

Most of what Alec could remember from his escape from Valentine was the overwhelming need to be left alone. What Magnus said made sense but he couldn’t risk hurting him again. “How do I make it go away?”

When Alec looked back up at Magnus, he saw the warlock relax just a little. “I can’t give you a step by step set of instructions that’s going to work in ten minutes, Alec.”

“You don’t just glow with magic all the time, Magnus!” Alec said with more frustration than anger. “And Madzie doesn’t either. She’s practically a baby!”

“Don’t let her hear you say that.” Magnus joked. When Alec didn’t laugh, he sobered up. “I think a large part of this is how you got this magic. It was a traumatic event. Even now, you’re afraid, you’re tense, you’re defensive. Your body is still recovering from the magic being forced on you. I think once you relax and heal it will settle down.”

“I was asleep.” Alec reminded him, as if Magnus was likely to forget Alec’s near twenty-four hour coma. Then, something came to him, “Wait… Jace carried me.” A lot. Jace had carried him a lot. He pushed the embarrassment down and tried to replay some of his fuzzy memories to see if he had been touched. Like skin to skin touched.

Magnus shifted on the bed yet again, seemingly restless. Nervous energy, probably. Alec could relate, except he currently felt as strong as a limp noodle and just his move to the other side of the bed had made his arms ache.

As Magnus curled his legs up so he was sitting cross-legged, he nodded, “Jace hasn’t had any issues touching you. We think your magic is reacting, or rather isn’t reacting, to the bit of your soul that Jace has. Or maybe the other way around or both. The important part is that your magic recognizes him as same enough to you that it didn’t react.”

“That it didn’t attack him, you mean.” Alec corrected a little bitterly. He was glad that he hadn’t hurt his own parabatai but that didn’t make any of this better. Would he hurt Izzy if she tried to touch him? Had he? “Have I hurt anyone else?”

“Alec…”

“Have I, Magnus?” He needed to know.

Magnus shook his head, “No, darling, you haven’t. We’ve been very careful, because we knew you would feel like you had actively hurt us. This isn’t you purposefully stabbing one of us or something. This is a something you can’t yet control.”

“Then teach me how to control it!” Alec demanded. He pulled in a deep breath and clenched his eyes shut. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry Magnus. Please, just please teach me how to control this.”

There was a long moment of silence as Alec tried to steady himself. He felt like more than just the magic was out of control. His entire life was suddenly thrown off kilter and Alec didn’t just not know how to fix it, he wasn’t even sure it could be fixed.

“You’re panicking again,” Magnus said softly. Alec opened his eyes and found Magnus watching him closely. “Listen to me, Alec. You have to let go of everything surrounding us. There is no tomorrow to worry about, there is no past to hurt you. There’s just me and you and this room and this moment, okay?”

“I wish I knew how to believe you.” Alec whispered.

Magnus smiled at him, “I want you to close your eyes and match my breathing. I’ll count you through it, all right?”

Alec did his best to listen, closing his eyes and waiting for Magnus to tell him what to do next. The warlock pulled in loud, exaggerated breaths, held them and then let them out too slowly for Alec to manage. Magnus didn’t get frustrated with him though, not even when Alec was getting frustrated with himself. He just kept encouraging him, try again, darling, we’re okay.

Slowly, Alec felt his heart start to obey. He hadn’t realized that it was pounding in his chest until it started to ease down. Breathing got easier too. His lungs obeyed him instead of sucking in another breath too soon.

“That’s good, Alexander. Very good.” Magnus whispered almost sibilantly. He sounded like he had gotten closer but the mattress hadn’t jostled or groaned. “Hold your hands out palms up.”

Alec had never been more aware of his hands in his life. The tingly static feeling still clung to his hands and Alec hated it. It was everywhere but it was worse on his hands. He knew hating it wasn’t going to help anything but the feelings were still there. He wanted it gone.

“Shh, whatever you’re thinking about, let it go. That’s for later. It’s just you and me right now.” Magnus reminded him. “Can you put your hands out for me?”

Slowly his fists uncurled. They hadn’t really been clenched, not like before, but he still wanted to make them as small as possible as if that would make the magic coiling around them somehow less. He held them out though, fingers straight and palms up, because Magnus asked him to.

“My magic has always felt warm to me. Did you know that different warlocks feel their magic in their own unique ways?” Magnus continued. “Catarina has always said that her magic feels light but she’s never in all our years together managed to fully express to me what she means by that. Ragnor said his felt icy but in a refreshing kind of way. I’ve known warlocks who said it felt wet or soft or anything really. Whatever yours feels like is right for you.”

“It feels like electricity. Like static.” Alec’s steady breathing shuddered, “Magnus, I hate it.”

There was no pause, no hesitation from Magnus, “That’s all right, Alec. You’re allowed to feel that way.”

Hearing that from an actual warlock, from a warlock he loved, felt cleansing in some way. That he wasn’t awful for hating something that other people loved – something that Magnus loved. He felt his breathing go even again without Magnus guiding him to it.

“Turn your hands so your palms face each other,” Magnus directed him next. When Alec obeyed, he said, “Good, that’s good. You’re doing so well.”

The praise was undeserved. He was sitting, breathing steadily and moving his hands. Those were such small things. Things he had never been praised for at any point in his life. Yet hearing Magnus tell him he was doing a good job felt so right. It relaxed Alec in ways he couldn’t understand.

“I want you to focus on the feeling of static on your palms. I’m sure you feel it all over, but we’re only worried about what’s between your hands right now.” Magnus said. He sounded closer still and Alec ached to lean his head forward and rest it on Magnus’ strong shoulder. “Focus, Alexander.”

Alec felt a smile quirk at his lips and it felt easier than he had imagined would be possible. Instead of apologizing, he tried to obey. It wasn’t hard to focus in on the sensation on his palms, but it was harder to ignore the rest of it.

“Try pretending that it’s all coming to rest between your hands. Imagine it moving down your forearms, down your wrists, sliding around the backs of your hands to rest on your palms.” Magnus said softly. “It’s yours to command.”

Alec was good at pretending. Not just in the way he acted, pretending to be straight or just pretending to not be gay, but in other ways too. He, Jace and Izzy used to make pretend battles complete with demons and fire and all sorts of obstacles. When he was younger and getting reprimanded, he used to disappear into his own head for some adventure that his mother couldn’t take away or tear down. Mostly he would insert himself into stories from Shadowhunter history but sometimes it was just simple things. If he could fly, if he could lie in a cloud, stupid kid stuff.

This was sort of like pretending he was holding a cloud.

“That’s good, Alec,”

He could almost feel it, the way the wisps of magic slid down his arms and around his hands until they all coiled up into one big ball in the space between them. It got easier to ignore the static sensations everywhere else on his skin.

“You’re doing such a good job, darling.” Magnus sounded so incredibly pleased with him.

Alec’s fingers twitched and he realized his skin felt right for the first time in days. It felt so good. So much more right. There was only the static between his palms and a new warmth on the backs of his hands.

“Open your eyes.” Magnus whispered the command.

Alec blinked his eyes open. Instead of being on the other side of the bed, Magnus had worked his way over so he was sitting right in front of Alec. His face was lit up by the white light of Alec’s magic and his eyes were crinkled in the corners he was smiling so hard. Once Alec’s eyes met his, Magnus winked and looked down.

When Alec looked down too he pulled in a soft gasp.

He had actually done it.

His magic was pulled into a ball between his hands, all of it together. Even better, the warmth on the backs of his hands was real.

It was Magnus’ hands pressed gently to his.

“Your magic is under your control, Alec. You did this. You’re doing this. I’m so proud of you.” Magnus was laughing like he was genuinely delighted.

For just a second, with his magic sitting between his hands obediently and Magnus touching him for the first time in too long, Alec didn’t feel so hopeless.

Chapter Text


Chapter Seven


 

 

 

Alec’s magic was just as bright and stunning by the light of day.

Magnus hadn’t thought it would be possible but it was. His light was a different sort than natural sunlight, whiter for sure, so the two played off each other well enough for Alec’s magic to be clearly seen.

He hadn’t missed the way Alec’s shoulders had hunched when he had come to the same conclusion.

After their magic lesson, the first of many to come, Magnus had managed to convince Alec to get some more sleep. It hadn’t been a hard battle, not with the way Alec’s eyes had been drooping and heavy. He’d woken up hours later and had shakily gotten into a bath Magnus had drawn him. From there, Magnus set him up on the balcony with a plate of toast and a cup of water charmed to be lighter than it actually was.

Things between them had fallen back into place so seamlessly. He had expected it to be harder, that they would be more hesitant or awkward. That they would be afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing something wrong. He certainly was afraid of those things but somehow it hadn’t yet come up. It was probably because of what had happened to Alec and what was still happening. Alec needed support, especially with his siblings getting roped into “searching” for their brother with teams from the Institute. Alec hadn’t yet seen them since he had woken up more himself which wasn’t ideal. It would be better for all involved if they could get the I don’t hate you because you suddenly have magic conversation out of the way as quickly as possible.

It was also because, Magnus knew, they both wanted to be together again so badly. He hadn’t meant to dive right into that conversation with Alec. Offering his unwavering friendship, yes. Apologizing for his role in their breakup, absolutely. They couldn’t move forward even as friends with so much left painfully unsaid between them.

But asking for a second chance? He hadn’t meant to do that literally the moment Alec woke up coherent.

The way his boy looked at him though… he had been powerless. The only thing to do had been to give them what they both so desperately needed.

“I got a text from Izzy about an hour ago,” Magnus said from the chaise opposite Alec’s. “Maryse is forcing some breakfast on them before she lets them out again. They’ll be here in a couple of hours or less.”

Alec seemingly subconsciously patted his parabatai rune, “Jace is annoyed.”

“And that’s noteworthy?” Magnus teased.

His little joke got a small laugh out of Alec and it was music to his ears. Alec had been so quiet and still that seeing any real joy or life in him was to be cherished even more than usual. “It means he’ll be here in less than an hour, I bet.”

“I don’t know,” Magnus said, “Maryse is a formidable woman.”

Alec just shook his head and pressed harder to his rune. He was, after all, the authority on interpreting Jace so Magnus took his word for it. Besides, he had other things to worry about, “That toast isn’t going to eat itself, darling.” Magnus reminded gently.

Alec sighed and looked over at the plate that Magnus had set up for him, “I ate some.”

“You ate four.” Magnus was distinctly unimpressed and did his best to sound it. What Alec had actually eaten was four quarters, so one slice of bread. That was hardly enough, not after having nothing for so long, not when he was recovering from what had been done to his body and not when he was probably expending a lot of energy acclimating to his new magic. “You said your stomach doesn’t hurt.”

Alec shrugged and said, “It doesn’t, I just feel… off? Like I’m aware of every part of my body and I don’t want to upset anything.”

Magnus felt as confused as Alec looked, “All right,” He said slowly, “But nothing hurts?”

“No,” Alec promised, “I don’t really feel sick either. I can’t really explain any better. I just feel weird.”

“You realize that could be because you’ve been essentially starving for days, right?” Magnus asked him as gently as he could. They both hadn’t really had an in-depth conversation about what had happened when Alec had been held captive, only the bare bones that he had given Magnus before their first magic lesson. Magnus was skirting around it carefully but soon they wouldn’t be able to leave it any longer. They needed to know what had happened. 

“I know, but I’m not really hungry.” Alec answered. There was something so set in his eyes, like he wouldn’t be moved on the point. Magnus hesitated again, so much of Alec’s bodily autonomy had already been violated he was loathe to make it worse.

Again, he looked at the heaping pile of lightly buttered toast that he had prepared Alec – toast because it was the only thing that Alec showed even the vaguest interest in, not because it was what Magnus wanted to give him – and fought the urge to sigh. There were much better alternatives to be had, especially if Alec was going to eat so little.

Hopefully, Jace and Izzy would arrive soon and they could be the bad guys in this equation.

“Can we…” Alec said slowly before breaking off. He looked down at his own hands and instantly Magnus knew where this was going. He waited patiently, giving Alec the time to figure out how he wanted to ask.

After a few seconds, Alec continued, “Can we try to make it all go together again?”

His expression stayed in place and didn’t fall in disappointment when Alec didn’t call his magic by name, just as it. Small steps, he reminded himself. “Of course, darling.”

“And then you can show me how to make it stop swirling around like this?” Alec pressed him. His eyes seemed to bore into Magnus, trying to divine if there was secretly some reason why his magic wasn’t going invisible like other warlocks.

There wasn’t any major reason why, at least that Magnus could tell, “I think it’s more an issue of time rather than control. Your magic has just been formed and it and your body are still acclimating to each other. I think it’ll happen on its own rather than through something you consciously do, Alec.”

“I don’t think baby warlocks are born like this.” Alec countered stubbornly. His hands stretched out in front of him, fingers spread and visibly tensed.

Thank goodness newborn warlocks weren’t swirling with visible magic. Magnus wasn’t entirely sure he would have made it out of infancy if that were the case. “Their bodies are meant for magic, which is no small factor. Besides, we hardly know what’s going on in the womb. It could be a rave in there for all we know.”

The joke coaxed another small smile out of Alec but it was gone almost as fast as it had appeared. Magnus hopped up from his own seat and straddled the end of the chaise Alec was sitting atop with his legs crossed instead. Any win that Alec had with controlling his magic would soothe this worry about when his magic would stop this visible swirling and his Shadowhunter had always responded beautifully to praise, so let there be something to praise. Well, something worthy of praise in Alec’s eyes. They certainly didn’t need to do a little magic practice to give Magnus something to wax poetic about. He could do that about pretty much anything to do with Alexander.

Once Magnus was sitting in front of him, Alec straightened up and let his legs fall to the sides of the chaise as well, mirroring Magnus. They both held their hands out, Alec’s turned inwards with about eight inches of space between them and Magnus’ hovering outside of them.

“Close your eyes, Alexander.” Magnus directed softly.

Alec hesitated, “Shouldn’t I try to do this with them open? I can’t always…”

“Shh,” Magnus cut him off soothingly, “This is your second time trying to do this. Let’s be certain you’ve mastered this step before we go rushing into the next one, hmm? Especially since now you know what I’m guiding you towards so there might be more resistance this time.” Resistance in Alec’s own head, not from the magic itself – that was a key point.

For a long second, there was silence. Alec, slowly absorbing what Magnus was saying and deciding if he should call Magnus’ words proof of some sort of failure on his part. Then, thankfully, Alec seemed to decide that it was wisdom and not condemnation because he silently shut his eyes.

They worked through the same exercise as last night, slowly going through the steps of visualization and calming anxiety – contrary to Alec’s belief about young warlocks, Magnus’ methods weren’t invented for Alec, these were definitely things developing warlocks did as they learned to master their magic – and slowly Alec’s magic was starting to obey.

There were a few moments when Alec snuck a peek and saw not as much progress as he wanted. Each time, Magnus reminded him that it would be harder the second time because his head was going to get in the way. The words barely mollified Alec.

After about twenty minutes of slow, steady practice two things happened. One, there were two Shadowhunters at the edge of his wards requesting to be let inside – Alec’s siblings, ahead of schedule, were granted permission. Two, Alec was getting pretty close to coalescing his magic into one sphere between his hands.

The door opened and Magnus snuck a glance to see Jace and Clary entering the loft. They hadn’t seen him and Alec out on the balcony yet so Magnus sent a quick burst of sound to his doors with the message, Alec is practicing controlling his magic, come in and be as quiet as you can.

Though Magnus wasn’t cross to see them, Clary wasn’t the Shadowhunter he would have preferred arriving at his door. No slight to Miss Fray but she and Alec weren’t particularly comfortable with each other. Though the blame for that was almost entirely Alec’s but he was also the one who might react badly to having Clary watching him practice magic.

Still, this was going to have to happen and sooner was better than later. Jace especially needed to be included in what they were doing and Magnus knew it.

He just wished it was Isabelle at his door instead.

In only a moment, Jace and Clary had crept to the open balcony doors to watch with avid eyes as Alec finally managed to pull his magic completely between his hands.

“Perfect, darling,” Magnus was layering on the praise heavily but it made them both feel better to give and receive it so he hardly cared. “What we’re going to do next is a little different. I’m going to touch your hands for real now and then I’m going to move them. As your hands move, I want you to keep the magic between them.”

This was something that Magnus himself still practiced to keep himself sharp. Alec had seen him do a much more complicated version of it many times before. Hopefully, he would see the connection because Magnus was sure that it would ease his mind at least a little.

Alec nodded ever so slightly, so Magnus gently cupped his hands around Alec’s. He waited a few seconds, just to see if Alec or his magic flinched back from Magnus’ firmer touch but he was humbled when neither did.

Then, he slowly moved Alec’s hands upwards and saw the perfect sphere between Alec’s palms falter, losing shape and a few tendrils of light escaping the group. Their hands froze and a crease appeared between Alec’s eyebrows as he worked to make the magic obey him.

After a moment the ball of magic reformed, as perfect as ever.

Magnus moved their hands again, this time to the side so Alec wasn’t perfectly centered and the magic again lost shape as Alec lost some of his control over it. It took him just as long as the first time to set things right but the important thing was that he did.

And so it went, Magnus moving Alec’s hands and Alec trying his best to keep his control over his magic. His reaction times started to get better, whittling down the amount of time it took him to get his magic back under control. Then his control itself started getting better until the ball just went a little lopsided during the move instead of letting some of it leave the formation.

“Excellent, my love.” Magnus said softly, repeating the words over and over again. All the while, Jace and Clary stood perfectly still and silent, watching eagerly but not interfering.

As he made the final move, dropping Alec’s magic down low and pulling it forward so it was between Magnus’ knees, he made eye contact with Jace to warn him what was coming next. They were honestly lucky that Alec was so focused on his magic that he hadn’t noticed Jace’s proximity.

“I think that’s enough for now, Alec.” Magnus gently let Alec’s hands go, “You can open your eyes.”

For a second he worried that Alec wouldn’t think he had put in enough practice but apparently that argument was not for today. Instead, Alec’s eyes fluttered open, blinking a few times as they grew used to the bright sun again. He looked down at his magic still between his hands and sighed, “All you did was move my hands and I’m…”

Tired, Magnus realized. Now that Alec wasn’t holding himself so taunt, he sagged in on himself and there was something tense in his face like he was trying hard not to lean back and fall instantly asleep.

“All Magnus did was move your hands around,” Jace said from the doorway with something fiercely proud in his voice. “You did a lot more than that. It was amazing, Alec.”

Alec jumped a little and Magnus saw Jace’s eyes widen just a bit. They didn’t often get the drop on each other. “Jace!”

Jace and Clary, actually, although the redhead had the good sense to stand still and quietly beam at Alec.

At the sight of his parabatai the last of Alec’s control over his magic snapped and it broke free from the sphere to swirl around his hands again. Alec flinched almost violently as he looked between his brother and his hands and before Magnus had even registered Jace’s movement, the blond was standing in front of Alec with his hands pressed to Alec’s cheeks.

“Hey, hey,” Jace’s smile hadn’t toned itself down at all. He was still grinning widely and proudly at his parabatai, “What are you freaking out about? That was amazing, Alec.” He repeated.

Alec bit his lip and tried to shake his head but Jace held it fast.

“No, I’m being serious. You’re controlling magic. Magic, Alec!” Jace said, “It’s been less than three days since you got home,” And good job Jace, pretending that of course Magnus’ loft was home because for the forseeable future – or forever, that was fine too – Magnus’ loft was going to have to be Alec’s home. “And you’re already doing all of that? That’s way more than I could have managed.”

Magnus could clearly see that Alec was still unswayed by what Jace was saying to him. And Magnus understood why, he really did, but he so badly wanted to make Alec understand how extraordinary he already was. Adding magic did nothing to tarnish his shine. It only made him more.

There was a little shift in the doorway that caught Magnus’ eyes and he saw Clary staring now at him instead of their silver and gold parabatai. She jerked her head back to the living room and gave him significant look.

Oh, well he did suppose that he should give Alec and Jace a few moments alone.

Magnus stood as quietly as he could, unwilling to break Alec’s concentration on Jace as the blonde started saying something else to him. He backed up out off of the balcony and flicked his finger at the doors so they would close until they were only open a crack. Just enough to let sound through if something went bad or they needed him.

“Magnus, Alec was doing it! Like literally controlling magic!” Clary was on him the second he turned back around to face her. Her excitement was a relief, because it matched his own so seamlessly. Alec wasn’t excited, not like they were, and while that was okay it also meant that Magnus needed to temper his own joy so he wouldn’t upset his boy.

Now, with a gushing girl gripping his shoulders to use as a balance point while she jumped up and down in front of him, he didn’t have to tone himself down anymore.

His smile for Alec – encouraging, careful and true – broke away into something so wide it almost ached. “He’s doing it, Biscuit, he really is.”

“Izzy’s going to die when I text her and tell her what he was doing and that we got to see it and she didn’t.” Clary said but even the risk of Izzy’s sisterly wrath didn’t dim either of their smiles.

Isabelle, Magnus knew, was going to get a lot more opportunities to watch Alec practice with his magic. There were so many more lessons to come that Magnus felt the strangest thrill run down his spine. He knew he was getting so far ahead of himself but he couldn’t help but wonder. What avenues of magic would Alec be interested in learning? Would his very hit or miss record in cooking translate across to potions? Where would the portals he conjured lead? Would he be adept at transformations? Or healing? The only thing that Magnus was fairly certain Alec wouldn’t want to learn was how to summon demons, considering his main purpose in life.

“She’ll see it herself,” Magnus said to Clary, “Tell her she’ll see it herself.”

 

---

 

Even though Jace was touching him solidly and smiling at him as though he was something amazing, Alec still felt tense and off center. Everything inside of his body felt that way, not just the magic.

As Jace straightened up and let go of Alec’s face, he felt a wild stab of fear, like Jace was going to leave him because he too could sense that something was wrong with Alec.

“Stop that,” Jace said before Alec had even registered the frantic way his heart had started beating, “What’s got you so panicked?” He took Magnus’ spot on the chaise and sat cross-legged. The smile hadn’t really dimmed, at least not in his eyes, and seeing Jace so happy when there wasn’t a battle being won wasn’t rare but it wasn’t common either.

Alec wanted to feel as loose and easy as Jace did. “There’s something wrong with me, Jace. This is wrong.

His parabatai shook his head, rejecting Alec’s words as though he couldn’t even wrap his head around the idea, “No.” Jace’s voice shifted into something that sounded more himself. Hard and ready to fight. Fight with Alec, even, if he didn’t bend to Jace’s way of thinking. “Listen to me, Alec, you’re here and you’re alive and we’re together. Nothing in that is wrong.”

Wordlessly, Alec held his shining hands up.

“I don’t care.” Jace said.

Alec felt a weird laugh bubbling up, “I have magic and you don’t care. Valentine killed five warlocks to put it in me and you don’t care. The Clave is going to kill me and you don’t...”

“Whoa!” Jace cut in by literally putting his hand over Alec’s mouth. “Let’s get off that ledge and breathe, shall we?”

Only Jace could dismiss all of that and act like Alec was the one who was talking crazy.

“Let’s break it down before you give yourself a heart attack.” Jace continued without taking his hand away. “You’re alive and I do care. If Valentine had turned you into a fae, or a warlock, or a weird green bog creature – all of that is fine by me. You’re still here and our rune is still intact and fuck the rest of it, Alec.

Even as Alec’s mind shied away from what Jace was trying to make him believe, he knew deep down that he understood it. If Jace or Izzy or Max got taken away from him and returned different but still themselves, he wouldn’t care either. Even if they were weird green bog creatures, he would love them. It wasn’t fair to pretend that Jace wouldn’t feel the same.

So Alec nodded against Jace’s hand and Jace relaxed a little. He pulled his hand back, at least, and said, “I love you. Shadowhunter you, warlock you, grumpy you, bitching you, snoring you, any way I can get you, okay?”

“I don’t snore.” Alec said a little petulantly, “And I love you too.”

Jace smirked a little at him, “When you sleep on your back, you snore. Just a little. Try and see if there’s a spell for it though and maybe next time you say you don’t snore you won’t be a liar.”

His parabatai was going to kill him if he didn’t stop throwing out little mentions of his new magic casually like that. This was not a causal thing.

“Okay,” Jace continued, “As for the rest of your freak-out. Whatever Valentine did to those warlocks isn’t on you. You didn’t ask for it. And the Clave isn’t going to hurt you because we’re not going to let them. Full stop. That’s all there is to it.”

Except Jace couldn’t promise something like that. How could they keep this a secret forever? If Valentine or any of the people who were following him were captured and questioned, the truth would come out. “They’ll find out, Jace. You know what they’ll say when they do.”

Jace’s jaw visibly clenched as he thought that over, “It’s just another weapon for you to use when you fight for them.”

“They won’t see it that way.”

Jace stubbornly shook his head, “We’ll make them.”

Alec stopped fighting him. There wasn’t any point when Jace got this stubborn. If Jace didn’t want to see reality, then Alec wasn’t going to be able to force him to.

Before Alec had to think up something else to say, Jace’s phone buzzed and he pulled it out of his pocket quickly. Relief flooded their bond, “It’s just Izzy. She’ll be here soon.”

“I should,” Alec pulled in a deep breath, “I should tell you… you know, I should report…”

“If you can,” Jace said as he laid his hand over Alec’s, “Then that would help a lot. If you can’t, we can try again tomorrow.”

Except they couldn’t really. Alec didn’t have the luxury of hiding and cowering, not when Valentine was still out there. If he had intel that they could use then he needed to be man enough to give it. “Some of it’s, um, jumbled I guess.”

“We get it, Alec.” Jace promised, “Even if you just give us the basics today, just so we know where to start looking and that kind of thing. That would be a huge help.”

Where to start looking.

That meant that Jace was intending to go find Valentine and of course he was trying to do that but Alec desperately didn’t want him to. What if Valentine tried to do something like what he had done to Alec to Jace? What if something happened to his siblings because Alec wasn’t there to watch their backs? “If you go looking, I want to go too.”

There was a beat of silence and Alec could feel how unsure of what to say Jace was.

“Buddy,” Jace started slowly, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I won’t let you go alone.” Alec said and meant it.

Jace’s eyes watched Alec carefully. “No one is going looking for anyone today. Let’s talk it over with everyone else and see what the plan is.” That just meant that Jace wanted back up when he told Alec no again. He opened his mouth to argue but Jace took the opportunity to change the subject. “You hungry?” He leaned forward and snagged the forgotten toast from the side table. “You should eat some more.”

He wasn’t hungry, honestly. Compared to the static, everything felt muted. Still, he wasn’t stupid. He hadn’t really eaten in days. That wasn’t going to have him fighting fit anytime soon. He took a quarter of the still warm (spelled that way, definitely) toast and took a small bite.

“You’re eating like a rabbit.” Jace looked at him critically.

“Rabbits don’t eat bread.” Alec replied semi-confidently.

Jace looked down at the still heaping plate, “Apparently you don’t either.”

Explaining again sounded exhausting.

“Alec,” Jace put the plate down between them, “Did Magnus tell you that he already scanned you when we got you back? The magic is going to take a while to settle but it will. Your body is getting used to it. Nothing’s actually wrong.”

Jace couldn’t say that because he didn’t know. And he didn’t know how wrong his skin felt, how wrong everything inside felt. The only things that made any of it even slightly better were sleeping and focusing his magic into one space. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

His brother huffed out a frustrated breath. “Tell me how to make you feel better.”

Take this magic away. Bring those warlocks to life. Undo all of this, except the part where Magnus wants me again. “I don’t know.”

“Alec…”

The doors to the balcony burst open and Izzy stood there with pure giddiness on her face. “You controlled your magic!”

Behind Izzy, Clary was looking unrepentant and just to her side was a sheepish Magnus. “Good news travels fast?” Magnus shrugged.

Izzy was on him in seconds, wrapping her arms around his shoulders in a solid hug that should have felt right but instead panicked Alec into shoving his sister back.

Alec shot up from the chaise on the side opposite Izzy, putting the chair and Jace between them. The second he was standing, the floor lurched to the side and Alec felt his knees go weak.

“It’s okay, Alec!” Jace reached out for him but for once he wasn’t moving quickly enough. “Whoa, whoa, calm down okay?” Jace’s arms went like steel around Alec, pulling him back up to stand straight. He’d nearly dropped right down on his ass. “You didn’t zap Izzy. Look at her, nothing happened when she touched you.”

And he wanted to look at her, to make sure he hadn’t hurt his little sister, but there were black spots swimming in his vision.

“Alec, I’m fine. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.” Izzy’s voice was steady and didn’t sound hurt but he could hear the upset and that only made everything worse. Had he ever, in Izzy’s entire life, pushed her away?

Jace shifted him around, adjusting his grip on Alec better so they could slowly walk forward. Where, Alec wasn’t entirely sure. He blinked rapidly as his parabatai walked him back into the loft. He was half afraid, half hoping that Jace was leading him to a bed so he could stop fighting the tug of sleep but they didn’t go far enough for that. “Sit,” Jace said as he eased Alec down onto the couch.

Alec smelled Magnus before he saw him. He was close and as Alec finally managed to get his vision to clear, he realized that Magnus was scanning him with his magic and frowning. “Alec, you need to actually eat something.”

That’s what that was?” Jace asked worriedly.

Magnus’ lips were pursed into a thin line, “One reason of a few. The largest. After food, you need rest.”

“Just woke up.” Alec dragged a hand down his face and tried to pull in a breath deep enough to steady himself. Jace pulled away and stood. Alec saw him dip his lips near Izzy’s ear, whispering something to their pale sister. “Don’t whisper like I’m not here.”

Jace shot him an exasperated look, “Fine. Izzy, Alec thinks there’s something fundamentally wrong with his entire body because everything feels different and despite the fact that Magnus and I have promised him it’s just him settling into this magic thing, he’s convinced it’s bad and he’s afraid of it. He’s on a weird hunger strike.”

“I am not…”

“Alec,” Izzy interrupted him, “You probably feel shaky from not eating. I know you don’t want to upset the balance inside of you but I honestly think if you ate and got some more rest you’d feel steadier.”

Magnus finally stopped reaching out with his magic to find something in Alec to fix and instead sank down so he was crouched in front of Alec. His hand curled around Alec’s calf, ostensibly to steady himself but he just rubbed up and down Alec’s leg distractingly, “So what’ll it be, darling? Some chicken soup, perhaps? I can conjure some up from that café in France you like so much. You remember, the one just past that charming book store?”

Tearing his eyes from Magnus was hard but Alec looked back around up at Jace, “Have to report first.”

Jace sighed, “Of course that’s what you want to do.” He muttered. Then, a little louder, “Alec, it can wait until later. We have the whole day.”

“Report?” Clary asked from behind Magnus.

“He wants to try to give us a basic report about what happened. It’s still a little jumbled for him, though.” Jace explained to the group. “If we have to do this now, you can drink some soup in between telling us what happened.”

In seconds, Magnus had a mug filled to the brim with steaming chicken soup, “I thought a mug would be easier than a bowl.”

It was hard to say no to the soup when Magnus was looking at him like that. Alec carefully took the handle of the mug and realized that, again, Magnus had spelled it lighter. He wanted to feel offended or annoyed but even he could see the way his hands shook and feel the weird weakness in his limbs. Better to just have Magnus know than spill all over himself in front of everyone. Once it was in his hands, he took a small sip of the broth and smiled tightly at Magnus, “Thank you.”

“Think nothing of it,” Magnus said. He rose up from his crouch and shifted so he was sitting beside Alec.

Alec locked eyes with Jace and his brother sighed, “Okay, but seriously, you’re drinking that while you talk.”

Jace and the girls came around to find spots to sit across from Alec and Magnus. The tension was obvious and Alec fidgeted in his spot, suddenly anxious for reasons he couldn’t really understand.

“Take your time, Alexander.” Magnus said softly.

Alec cleared his throat, “So obviously, I left the Institute to look into the report of a warlock child with out of control magic.” The irony was not lost on him. “I genuinely thought that having so many reports flood the Institute was a ploy to get Clary out onto the streets.”

“We all did.” Jace said darkly. The first thing Alec thought to say when he felt the mix of guilt and regret coming off Jace in crashing waves was you couldn’t have known. The words got caught in his throat though, because they were true. They were so true.

“When I got there and the alley was empty like I figured it would be, I didn’t think anything of it. I did a lap to the end and back just to be sure. I thought that unless Valentine got word that Clary had left the Institute, these things would just keep being mostly false alarms. Just enough legit situations to justify sending teams out and nothing more.” Alec said. The decisions he’d made that night still seemed right. What could he have done differently? Not gone out, of course, but Valentine would have figured out the right way to get Alec if that was what he wanted.

Izzy looked over at Jace and sighed, “We realized too late. Our mission, going after Circle members seen near a warlock’s potion shop, that one was designed for you too. I didn’t even think about it at the time but while we were fighting, they kept glancing up at the fire escapes, even on the rooftop surrounding the parking lot we were in.”

“Looking for the archer.” Magnus realized. “Of course they assumed he would have gone out with you.”

“Except I had to stay back at the Institute to coordinate all the reports coming in and send out teams. Who did they think was going to handle all that if they flooded the system?” Alec said. Letting Jace and Izzy go without him hadn’t been fun but he trusted them – trusted them to watch each other’s backs and trusted them to handle a warlock mission without prejudice or loss of life. Him going with them had never been the plan.

“I didn’t notice anything until I ran the last one through with my blade.” Jace said with no remorse at all, “He asked me where my parabatai was, just giving me this huge grin even while he died. Taunting me.”

Izzy added, “We tried to call you but you didn’t answer. By the time we got through to Clary, she said you had gone out on your own.”

“They had a warlock,” Alec said slowly, the memory still strangely hazy. “A woman, not one of the ones… the ones who…”

Magnus turned in his seat so he was facing Alec instead of sitting beside him. “Breathe, Alec. One step at a time.”

“Have some more soup.” Jace said.

Alec lifted the cup up almost mechanically and pulled in a big gulp that nearly made him cough. “She knocked me out. I barely got a few arrows out before I was hit with whatever spell that was. I woke up in a cage.”

Izzy made a soft sound and Alec finally refocused on his siblings in front of him. Where Jace was grim with anger, Izzy was nearly on the edge of her seat waiting for each new horror to come to light. Even Clary, though she was obviously trying to project as much calm as she could, looked like she was bracing herself.

“I don’t know what Valentine did while I was unconscious.” Alec said and the knowledge made his skin crawl. “I know there were injections because he said so but I don’t know of what or if there was anything else.”

“I didn’t sense any foreign substances in you when I checked you over with my magic.” Magnus tried to reassure him. “Whatever it was had to have run through your system by the time we found you.” And that was great but it didn’t change the fact that it had been inside of him.

“I should have thought to get a sample of your blood.” Izzy said regretfully. Her inner scientist was probably weeping. As it was, her outer sister was getting a little teary.

Alec shook his head, “I don’t want anyone to ever figure it out.” I want it to die with Valentine. He didn’t say that part but he knew they understood.

“I could feel it, feel you.” Jace stared hard at Alec, “I could feel how much it hurt.”

It had hurt worse than anything Alec had ever felt. “I could barely think when I woke up. I, um… I puked up this black stuff. Like sludge. Valentine just laughed.”

Jace stood up abruptly and went around the back of the couch to pace back and forth. “I’m going to kill him.” He said with feeling.

“The other warlocks knew what he’d done.” Alec said, “Even when I didn’t. There were four other Shadowhunters that he tried this on and they died. He made it sound like I was the only one who had even woken up and started talking. He said…” Valentine’s excited voice came back over Alec and made a shiver run down his spine. “I really think we’ve picked a winner here. Because of Jace. Because of Magnus.”

Magnus reacted almost violently, jerking in his seat to sit up straighter. “What do you mean, because of me?”

“It makes sense.” Clary said a little cautiously before Alec had a chance to answer. “I mean, Alec has Jace to anchor him and he’s more used to magic than the average Shadowhunter. If he’s around you…” She shrugged. “It makes sense.”

It did make sense. If they added up all the casual touches of Magnus’ magic against Alec’s skin, he was probably the recipient of more magic than the next five Shadowhunters combined. Had that made his body better suited to deal with all of this?

“Clary’s right,” Izzy said after a second of silence, “If any Shadowhunter was going to make it through something like that, it would definitely be someone with a soul bond and who’s spent a lot of time around magic in a positive way.”

“So he did target you because of me.” Jace said hollowly. He’d stopped his angry pacing and he was just standing there, looking like he did when his father’s rules about love echoed too loud in his head.

“And me.” Magnus added. “Darling, I’m so sorry.”

Their guilt was stupid. “I’d rather have magic and both of you than not. I would have felt that pain for a century before I would wish away either of you.” How could they think he wouldn’t?

“And we love you for it, Alec, but you’ll have to forgive Jace and me for not being happy to know that you were targeted because of who you are to us.” Magnus said gently. His fingers reached out to slowly trace over the back of Alec’s hand until Alec turned his palm around to wrap his hand around Magnus’s.

Alec nodded, even if he didn’t like their guilt. “I get it.” He said shortly.

“What happened next?” Clary asked. “Did you see anyone there you recognized?”

He knew who she meant specifically – Jonathan. If Clary wasn’t going to mention him by name then Alec wasn’t either. “No. I only saw a few Circle members but it wasn’t anyone I recognized.”

“Keep going,” Izzy encouraged.

“They took me out of the cage, over to this… this big metal machine.” Alec tried to describe it properly. “It was huge. There was a table in the middle that they strapped me down on and I was surrounded by five warlocks. They were standing up, but locked in too. Then these five needles got shoved into me.”  He gestured down his side, although he wasn’t sure that gave much of a clue.

Five needles, five warlocks. Alec could see that he didn’t need to spell it out for them.

Oh,” Magnus said, like a puzzle was being solved, “You had these circular bruises, I wasn’t sure what had caused them but I didn’t ever imagine it was anything like what you’re describing.”

“Valentine said he was just creating a path into me. He was talking to me about… about stuff.” Alec stumbled over it. He didn’t know how to explain that conversation or how weirdly reassuring it had been.

There wasn’t any need for that either. Jace knew all too well what Alec was struggling with. “And somehow,” His parabatai said gently, “He knew exactly what to say to make it a little better. To make you want to try harder.”

Alec met his brother’s eyes, “Yeah. Yeah, he did.”

“He’s good at that.” Clary agreed with something dark in her own voice. What a strange club of the manipulated to join.

“Then it started.” Alec shrugged, “The warlocks thought I would die with them. They tried to tell me it would go fast, that the pain wouldn’t last long.”

“I felt what you did.” Jace said abruptly. His hands were clenched in fists and his eyes were distant. Remembering something that Alec wasn’t sure he remembered in turn.

He looked at his siblings and saw the way Izzy closed her eyes. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Magnus shifted beside him, “By then Jace, Izzy and I were in the alleyway you were taken from looking for clues. I found your phone and arrows. Jace kept telling us you were unconscious and that something was wrong. He felt your fear when you woke up.”

“And then he said you felt like you were radiating love.” Izzy finished as she opened her glassy eyes to look at Alec. “Magnus and I knew what it meant right away, before Jace even understood why you would do that.”

The memory came back to him, his last ditched attempt to say goodbye to his brother and family. “I remember,” Alec breathed out, “I had to try to…”

“Don’t say it.” Jace cut him off. “Please, Alec, don’t say it.”

Magnus cleared his throat and when he started speaking his voice sounded strangely thick. “Jace collapsed then and we thought… well, you know what we thought. We took him back here and kept watch over his rune for hours.”

“I don’t remember anything after the machine started up.” Alec said quietly. “I don’t know how long I was out for. I drifted for a while. I felt the magic way before I knew what he’d done. Valentine said he thought at one point I was going to fail him.”

“It went gray. Jace’s rune started fading.” Izzy bit her lip and let out a long breath that sounded like she was still in pain just from seeing it.

He couldn’t imagine their hours of fear, waiting to see if he was going to die or not. If the situation had been reversed, Alec would have been in hell.

He had never been able to bear her sadness.

Alec opened his arms and Izzy flew across the few feet separating them to throw herself onto his lap. He couldn’t lie and say that he wasn’t bracing himself for his magic to lash out at her but once their skin touched and Izzy didn’t flinch in pain, Alec relaxed. The idea of hurting Izzy made him want to throw himself back until she was safe. That wasn’t fair to her though, not after everything.

If Valentine had taken her from him, he would have let someone press red hot metal to his skin while he held her in his arms, just to reassure himself he had her back. He couldn’t deny Izzy the same.

Her breathing was shaky against his neck and he could feel the way she shook just a little. “I’m okay,” He whispered into her hair, “We’re okay, Izzy.”

Isabelle shook her head against his shoulder, “When Jace’s rune started fading… By the Angel, Alec, I thought you were gone. Magnus and I…” Her voice broke.

“I’m here,” Alec squeezed her tighter, “I’m still here.”

His sister pulled back reluctantly, shifting back just enough that she could frame his face with her hands, “I don’t care about the magic, Alec. We’ll figure all of this out, okay? You still being here is the only thing that matters to me.”

Alec tilted his head up and pressed a kiss to her forehead, “Okay.” He said, because that was all there was to say. Well that and, “I love you.”

“I love you too, big brother.” Izzy answered back as she slid down his lap to wedge herself between his side and the arm of the couch. Apparently she wasn’t willing to go back to sitting with Clary away from Alec.

Magnus obligingly shuffled back a bit to give Alec room to make his own shift so Izzy wasn’t squashed. Now that he could see beyond Izzy’s hair, Alec realized that in his haste to comfort his sister he had completely let go of his mug of soup. Magnus, of course, had saved it for him.

The warlock passed the mug back with a teasing raised eyebrow, “You didn’t think you could get out of a mid-morning snack that easily, did you?”

Contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t on a hunger strike for the sake of being on one. If they had any idea how strange he felt, they’d get it. Alec took the mug back and took another sip, getting a couple of noodles this time. So far, the food was settling okay so he’d give it a better shot.

“Valentine was happy when I woke up. He said he thought maybe he’d been too ambitious.” Alec continued. As much as he wanted to stop, he also wanted to just get it all out. He wanted to believe that if he did this now, he wouldn’t have to again. That probably wasn’t going to be, not if his parents or the Clave found out. Still, it felt kind of cleansing to tell them. “At first I still didn’t know what he did. When I asked he told me he had forged a whole new species.”

Was that what Alec was now? His own species, weird and unique and alone?

Jace jerked back angrily, “That bastard. You’re not… you’re not…”

“I am, though.” Alec couldn’t deny it. “There’s no other w… Shadowhunter with magic.” Warlock Shadowhunter, that was what he’d been about to say. Calling himself a warlock seemed like a step too far. A warlock was something more than just their magic. He wasn’t a warlock, it wasn’t his identity to claim.

If Magnus heard the slip, he didn’t let on. Alec wasn’t even sure he would care. “That’s not entirely true but you’re definitely the only being I’ve met who didn’t have magic and then received it later.”

Alec filed that first bit away to ask about later. Way later. “That what Valentine made it sound like. Most of what he said is so hazy. I do remember he said he was watching you search for me.”

That got their attention pretty spectacularly. “He had eyes on us?” Jace asked Alec intensely.

The conversation he’d overheard was spotty but he remembered hearing their names well enough. “You and Izzy. They didn’t see Clary but Valentine was sure she wasn’t still in the Institute. Magnus and Luke too.”

Jace swore, “We’ve got to figure out how he’s keeping these tails so hidden.”

“A problem for another day.” Magnus said, “But a problem all the same.”

A big problem, honestly. Valentine’s ability to evade all means of tracking was frustrating enough, add in being so good at keeping track of them and it was insulting on top of problematic.

Clary caught his eye as Alec thought the tracking problem over and she said, “How did you get away, Alec?”

“He took me out of the cage to play, he said.” Alec remembered his skin crawling as those Circle members dragged him out. “He gave me water but I poured it on my head instead. This magic feels like static and it’s driving me crazy.” And that hadn’t changed.

“You’ll get used to it.” Izzy said supportively. She carefully pressed a few fingertips to the back of Alec’s hand, letting his magic touch her while she watched avidly. “It kind of makes my fingers tingle? Not enough that I’d notice if I wasn’t looking for it, but I can definitely feel something.”

“I wish it was like that for me.” Alec admitted. “I can’t not notice. I literally feel like I’m covered in an electrical current or something. All I wanted back in that cage was for someone to pour water on me. I thought it would make the feeling go away but obviously…” He shrugged.

Obviously it was never going away.

“Define play,” Jace asked.

Alec realized they were all visibly bracing themselves for something awful. “I don’t know what he had in mind. Whatever it was didn’t happen. I started freaking out. I-I don’t… I don’t really remember what happened. I think I made some glass explode? The lights or maybe, maybe the windows? Maybe all of it?” The memory was so strange and disjointed. “Valentine was on the ground.”

“Wild magic, maybe.” Magnus considered, “When we found you, you kept telling us not to touch you. That’s what zapped me when I tried to touch you. Perhaps you just kind of let a wave of that intent out and it knocked Valentine down?”

It was more than knocking them down. Valentine’s eyes had been shut, he’d been out cold. So many people had been, he realized now. His wave of intent or something had gone far beyond the people that he’d been able to see. “I could have killed him,” Alec realized with a wave of crushing guilt. “I could have ended all of this.”

“No,” Jace insisted immediately, “You were in a bad situation and hurt. You don’t know if he was really out cold or not. What if you’d gotten close to do something to him and he attacked back?”

Alec shook his head, “I could have tried. If he really was knocked out, I could have killed him.” The extent of his failure felt like a gaping wound in Alec’s chest. All the pain Valentine had caused, all the pain he was going to cause in the future, all of that could have been ended and Alec had focused on himself. He had run away like a child.

“Listen Alec,” Clary leaned in closer, “I want to get Valentine so badly. I want him dead for what he’s done. I dream about it sometimes, I want him gone that much. You did the best thing you could have done. We need you more than we needed him dead right that minute.”

She said it so earnestly, like she believed herself. Like she wasn’t mad that he’d turned tail and ran like a coward. It wasn’t even like Clary liked him that much, not like Jace and Izzy and Magnus. Hearing her say it made a bigger impact than Jace but in the end it didn’t matter. He had still run away.

“Alec, you did the right thing.” Izzy shook his arm a little. “Okay? You did the right thing.”

Alec sighed and tipped his head back against the couch to stare up at the ceiling. “I didn’t even think of stopping.”

“Good,” Jace’s voice was hard. Alec could feel just how strongly he meant it.

“Can you tell us more about where you were?” Magnus asked.

The memories of running were even hazier. Just another failure. “Industrial, abandoned. I didn’t look around. I should have…”

“Can we please not jump from perceived failure to perceived failure?” Jace’s frustration was obvious, even if Alec still wasn’t looking at him. “You got kidnapped and injected with some crazy shit. You got magic forced into your body. You were in pain like I’ve never felt before and all I got was the echo of it. You used the magic to knock everyone out and you ran until we found you. You did exactly what I wanted you to, so can you stop please?”

Alec jerked his head back up and almost gaped at his brother.

“Jace is right, Alexander,” Magnus said with a great deal more warmth in his voice, “You’re holding yourself to standards that are impossible. You weren’t in your right mind.”

Their insistence that Alec wasn’t really to blame for failing twice over didn’t soothe the anxious feeling in his heart.

The conversation picked back up around him with Clary suggesting she get a hold of some maps of the area they’d found him in and see what sorts of buildings there might be. At the very least, they knew he couldn’t have gotten miles away in the state he had been in.

Alec wanted to be glad that at least they had something to go on but the gnawing feeling of having failed didn’t ease. Not even when he tried to add in what little he remembered of the building Valentine had been in or the number of people that Alec had seen. Add in the stall out with learning to get his magic under his control and Alec was feeling more useless than he knew how to cope with. He couldn’t tell them where to look for Valentine and he couldn’t go look for the man himself because he was lit up like a Christmas tree.

He had to start doing better, working harder. Hiding in Magnus’ loft wasn’t going to end Valentine.

Even as Alec refocused on the conversation around him, he vowed to himself that he would make up for his stupid mistakes.

He’d do it no matter what.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Eight


 

 

 

The second Magnus felt Cat at the edge of his wards, he went to his door to open it.

There was no hiding the jittery feeling that Magnus couldn’t shake. Hours ago, after Clary, Jace and Izzy had headed back to the Institute and Magnus had practically forced Alec to bed, he had decided to bring Cat back into the situation. It was long past time to get a second opinion on Alec’s new magic and his body’s struggle to adapt to it.

Of course he had texted her once they had gotten Alec back, he wouldn’t have left her in the dark worrying like that, but explaining Alec’s new circumstances was better done in person so she still had no idea that Magnus’ Shadowhunter was newly infused with magic.

The second she came round the corner and saw Magnus at his door waiting, Cat raised an eyebrow, “Hello?”

“He’s asleep,” Magnus explained quietly. “And it’s desperately needed. I’m just antsy.”

Nurse Loss needed no further explanation. Or at least, not one about the restorative properties of sleep. “He’s doing okay? Do you want me to check him out?”

“That would be lovely, my dear.” Magnus hesitated before stepping back to let her inside. “I’ve got wards up, so he can’t hear us but we can hear him. His sleep is already uneasy, I don’t want anything disturbing him further.”

Cat looked worried, “What did Valentine do to him?”

The words seemed caught in Magnus’ throat. This was huge to Shadowhunters but in a different way it was just as huge to warlocks. What had been done to Alec was unprecedented and he was honestly unsure how other warlocks would react. Cat wasn’t just some random person with no ties to Alec but she would still have interesting insight into the problem. “Valentine experimented on him. His goal has never been done before and he killed four other Shadowhunters before trying. And, at least five warlocks in this attempt alone.”

“My god,” Cat winced.

Magnus braced himself, “Cat, Valentine managed to transfuse Alec with magic.”

There was a long moment of stillness between them, Cat not moving at all. Then, her eyes narrowed in confusion, “What are you saying, Magnus?”

“I don’t understand how he’s done it but Alec’s body isn’t rejecting it. He used five warlocks to do it, so this isn’t one warlock’s magic being added into another body. With whatever process and mix of magic from the other warlocks, he’s seemingly created a magical core entirely Alec’s own.” Magnus tried his best to explain, “It’s like he’s turned Alec into some sort of warlock/Shadowhunter hybrid. His runes still work, he’s got magic. Both at the same time.”

Cat took a few steps back, her lips parted as she tried to come to grips with what he was telling her. “I’ve never heard of anything like this.”

“You and me both.” Magnus said ruefully. “When we found him, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

Magnus watched as Cat walked around to one of his chairs and dropped into it heavily. She still looked a little shell-shocked, so he went to his bar cart and started mixing up a lemon drop, one of her favorites.

“You said he got away?” Cat asked. His text had indicated that Alec had escaped as opposed to them mounting a rescue mission.

He passed the glass over to Cat and watched her take a grateful sip, “Valentine took him out of the cage he was being kept in and Alec’s magic blasted everyone around him. Wild magic, which is about all he’s managing so far. Once Valentine and the other Circle members were out of commission, Alec ran. He was half out of his mind when we found him, Cat. All the pain he had been through, the injections of whatever drug combo Valentine cooked up, not to mention the trauma his body is still going through trying to acclimate to his magic…” Magnus sighed and dropped into his own seat, exhausted in more ways than one.

Cat held her hand up, “Wait, explain this whole thing to me.”

Magnus obliged, going back over the story more slowly. There were still blanks, both because Alec couldn’t remember and because he just plainly didn’t know, but they had a good enough timeline of events to work out the basics of Valentine’s crime.

Once he was done, Cat leaned back in her chair, utterly shocked, “That absolute bastard.”

“Understatement of the year.” Magnus said.

“And Alec says he feels strange? More than just the static feeling of his magic?” Cat pressed.

Magnus nodded, “He’s tried explaining it a few different ways. As best I can understand, he’s just very aware of every single part of his body right now and everything has been through the wringer. He seems afraid of upsetting anything or letting anything else change.”

“I can imagine,” Cat said simply. She threw the rest of her drink back and stood, “Well, let’s go see him. I’ll be quiet, I promise.”

The two of them crept into the bedroom. Alec was sleeping on his side, one arm curled under his head and the other stretched across to Magnus’ side of the bed as though he was looking for him. It made Magnus’ heart ache in a way that he didn’t think possible. His heart already ached for Alec in about a hundred different ways, how could there be more? And yet, every day there seemed to be.

If Cat was struck by the sight of Alec in Magnus’ bed reaching out in his sleep, she didn’t say. He didn’t think it would escape her notice though, not with how she knew Magnus and how deeply their breakup had affected him. He hadn’t mentioned Alec and him being back together and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that once they had discussed Alec’s health and new magic, she would bring it up.

Instead of commenting now, Cat just stood over Alec with her hands hovering over him by a good foot. She went slowly, her eyes closed and her hands unwavering. Her magic scanned Alec slowly and she seemed in no rush to open her eyes and give him a report. On the one hand, that was exactly what Magnus wanted – a thorough scan from someone even more familiar with healing than he was.

On the other hand, Magnus didn’t have much patience left in him. At least not for anyone but Alec.

“There’s only one magical signature.” Cat mumbled to him without breaking her stance above Alec.

He understood instantly what she was saying. She agreed with his assessment.

Again, Magnus’ breath caught as she reinforced his belief in Alec having his own magic. It was so unprecedented he felt like it hit him over and over again. How had Valentine managed to do this to Alec? To anyone for that matter?

A few more moments ticked by before Cat stepped back from Alec and dropped her hands. Instead of turning to Magnus, she just stared at Alec as though that was part of the exam. Her face was blank but her eyes were so incredibly fascinated.

Then, she tore her eyes from Alec and gestured to Magnus that they should leave him to his rest.

“That,” Cat said with feeling as Magnus shut the door quietly, “Is insane.”

“Is Alec the that?” Magnus asked, a little offended on his Shadowhunter’s behalf.

Cat just waved her hands around, like everything even tangentially connected to the situation was insane. “Magnus, that boy has magic.

“I noticed.” Magnus said dryly.

“No,” Cat shook her head, “Like he’s actually got magic. You know as well as I do that when one warlock transfuses magic to another, it’s still the first warlock’s magic. It won’t feel or look the way it used to. Alec doesn’t have threads of five different magical signatures, he’s not going to deplete that magic and then be his old self again. That magic is literally one with him.”

“And what do you think about his body acclimating to it?”

Cat started walking ahead of him, back to the couches and her cocktail. Magnus followed with a pounding heart.

Once they were both sitting again, Cat gave him small smile, “I think he’s okay. Like you said, this has and is still putting his body under a lot of stress but it’s going to get better, I think.”

“He already seems better,” Magnus admitted hesitantly, feeling oddly superstitious like he’d jinx Alec or something. “And I’ve been walking him through some focus exercises. The barest of basics, of course, but he’s managing to pull the magic into one cohesive ball.”

“But he hasn’t been able to absorb the magic into his body yet?” Cat asked. “I’ve never really seen that before.”

Magnus shook his head, “It’s infuriating him. Honestly, I think it will happen as his body recovers and accepts the magic fully but I’m in no rush. The minute he doesn’t have to hide here, he’ll want to go out and hunt Valentine himself.”

The thought of it was almost terrifying to Magnus. Alec was too vulnerable right now to be running around the city and he didn’t just mean in terms of his newly born magic. Obviously Alec could protect himself without it. That said, he had a target on his back possibly bigger than the one on Clary’s. The Clave was going to need to be involved at some point and if they got any hint of what had happened to Alec who knew what they would do to him? Valentine was going to want his prized creation back and Magnus had no doubt he’d stop at nothing to regain control over Alec.

And, perhaps trickiest of all, Alec’s magic being within him and no longer clinging to his hands did not mean that he would have control over it. Those things were entirely unrelated.

The control issue was further exacerbated by the fact that Alec’s emotional reserves were obviously a little sapped and his wild magic had already proved potent. Magnus couldn’t be sure what would happen if Alec was truly threatened. Complete control took years to accomplish and that was with frequent practice sessions and lessons.

“I can talk to him too, if you like.” Cat offered seriously.

“About the wild magic?” Magnus asked. He did consider her offer sincerely though. He was wary of making himself into Alec’s jailer. The very second Alec’s magic stopped being visible, his boy was going to want out of the loft and Magnus knew without a doubt that he wasn’t going to listen to reason about it. He would very much prefer Cat be the bearer of bad news there.  

Cat shrugged, “About as much of it as you’d like. Wild magic, letting his body recover, magic transfusions…”

Her offer was more generous than she realized. “I’ll probably take you up on that, my dear. Let me think on the best timing for the conversation, though. Perhaps if you brought Madzie over as well, he might like that.”

“Madzie is a hell of a lot more advanced with her magic than he is. Yes, she’s not even close to working actual spells but still.” Cat laughed, “Are you sure his ego can handle that? Being shown up by a little girl?”

Alec wasn’t particularly driven by ego. He was proud but that didn’t extend to being angry about the accomplishments of others. Being parabatai with Jace would have been impossible if that were the case. “No, I don’t think it would bother him. I think they enjoy each other’s company.”

Cat scoffed but the sound of it was fond, “I know she enjoys his company. At first, back when she was barely speaking, about half of what she said was about her friend with the black marks who was nice and thought her gills were cool.”

“Well,” Magnus said with a small smile, “Perhaps in another couple of days, we can arrange something. I want to give him a little more time to settle.”

“Keep trying to get him to slow down and recover.” Cat advised, “He needs food and rest. As little stress as you can manage, and yes, I know that Alec isn’t a particularly mellow kind of guy but do you best.”

Mellow was definitely not in Alec’s emotional make-up but Magnus would try to keep him as relaxed as possible, “I’ll try. I used to find making out to be one of the best strategies for distracting him but I’m not sure if that’s… allowed yet? If it’s a good idea yet? I…” He sighed, breaking off.

“So I take it you two are back together?” Cat asked with a smirk that she didn’t even bother to hide.

Magnus could help the smile that broke free. “He’s agreed to give me another chance. We both apologized and acknowledged what we did wrong. We even identified where we can do better in the future. Considering how incredibly stupid and childish, on my part, our breakup was, our reconciliation was possibly the most emotionally mature one I’ve ever had.”

Cat’s eyebrow rose suggestively, “And by reconciliation, you mean…?”

“Please, he’s barely up for walking to the bathroom unassisted and you think we’ve had wild make-up sex?” Magnus snorted. That he wished they could have had wild make-up sex went without saying. Both because he wanted it and because he wanted an Alec strong enough for it. Seeing his love so weakened was upsetting. “I wasn’t sure if I should even bring it up to him. He’s going through so much and to throw my feelings into the mix when he had only just woken up coherent for the first time in days…” He sighed.

“I think you did the right thing.” Cat tried to reassure him, “It’s obvious that you two are the real thing. The realest thing you’ve ever had. Why torture yourselves dancing around what you both want?”

The realest thing you’ve ever had.

That was certainly the truth.

Magnus wasn’t sure if anyone outside of Cat and Ragnor had ever seen him as clearly as Alec did. If anyone had cared for him as Alec did. If anyone trusted him as Alec did.

“I said that to make you feel better, not to lose you down a sappy rabbit hole.” Cat said wryly.

Magnus laughed and ducked his head a little without even meaning to, “Apologies, Cat. I’m still so… there’s so much going on, his entire life has been rearranged, Valentine is gaining power and we’re possibly about to go to war with the Clave for Alec and yet my heart is wrapped up in marveling how lucky I am that he instantly wanted me again.”

“Of course he did, have you seen the way he looks at you?” Cat was maybe marveling at how much of an idiot he was.

He had. He understood her point but the little voices inside had been whispering that Magnus had broken their relationship irreparably – it was hard to shake off.

“I apologized, I promised him my friendship no matter what, that I would keep him safe and teach him. I could see in his eyes what he truly needed from me though. What he wanted for me to say. He was practically screaming it even though he was sitting there nearly silently. I couldn’t deny either of us.” Magnus explained quietly.

“The timing of this is pretty incredible.” Cat said with a smile that seemed slightly more sappy than Magnus expected. Notable for Cat, especially after she had just accused him of being sappy. “I mean, I am so happy for you, Magnus. Having Alec back and knowing there’s a very large chance that he’s immortal now? That’s got to be incredible.”

Immortal.

Something in Magnus’ brain shut down almost entirely. That one word echoed before the pounding of his own heart seemed to drown it out.

“Magnus?”

If there was magic in Alec now, was he immortal? How could they test for that? What would Alec say? Would he be upset? Would he want Magnus for life if life meant hundreds and hundreds of years?

“Okay, clearly you hadn’t considered that yet.” Cat said and Magnus jerked in his seat when he realized she was crouching in front of him, touching his knee with a look of fondness on her face. She looked happy for him.

Magnus shook his head, “I hadn’t… you don’t actually think he’s… he’s immortal, do you?”

“I think there’s a strong possibility. I mean, those rare warlocks who have lost their magic also lost their immortality, haven’t they?” Cat pointed out so reasonably, “Which means that immortality is tied to magic and not demon blood. Alec’s got magic, therefore Alec is probably immortal.”

“How… how do we know for sure?” Magnus asked faintly. His heart had leapt up into his throat and he literally didn’t know how he was going to walk around not knowing if his lover was mortal or immortal.

Cat stood back up and gave him one of her firm let’s get this done nods, “I’ve never tested for immortality magically. I mean, I’ve never done it medically either, since it’s sort of a you’ve got it or you don’t kind of thing, but I think if we take a few samples from him we can see if there’s any aging happening on a cellular level.”

Samples… experiments…

“We should wait,” Magnus said, even though the words hurt physically. “Alec should know what’s maybe happening and he should get to decide if we take samples and test him or not.”

Almost instantly, Cat’s determined posture shrunk back down into something nearly as dejected as Magnus’, “You’re right, of course you’re right. We should wait to talk to him.”

The words he was about to say burned but he knew in his heart they were right, “Not yet. He needs time. This magic has just been thrown onto him and he can barely speak the words out loud.”

“Magnus…” Cat hesitated.

He knew what she was going to say. That Alec deserved to know either way – and he did. That keeping the potential for immortality a secret between them was wrong – it was. That it would be nearly impossible for him to live in wonder – oh, it would be.

“He is terrified.” Magnus nearly whispered. “Of this magic, of his lack of control over it, of what this means for his future. We’ve barely spoken about it but it’s all right there in every word he says. He’s terrified, Cat. He’s been experimented on and fundamentally changed. Forcing him to accept his magic and what Valentine did to him? Putting him through what learning to use it will be and all the work that’s going to entail? Telling his parents, figuring out what to do with the Clave? Fighting Valentine? And now we’re going to tell him he might be immortal? It’s too much Cat. We would be asking too much of him. You haven’t spoken to him yet, sometimes he looks so lost, like he’s going to shatter. He’s afraid of letting anything else change because he’s trapped in this maelstrom that he didn’t ask for. I can’t put this on him too.”

Cat was silent for a moment. He could see the war still raging within her. She wasn’t wrong in wanting to tell Alec but she knew Magnus wasn’t wrong either.

“Maybe Isabelle could help?” She suggested. “I completely understand that he’s been through something violating with all of Valentine’s experiments. I think he’s a lot more used to her doing these kinds of things than anyone else.”

How could Alec be used to Isabelle doing these kinds of things when she had never tested anyone for immortality, let alone her own brother? And my god, having to talk to Isabelle and Jace about the potential for Alec’s immortality felt impossible.

Infinitely worse, having to tell Alec that he might be looking at hundreds of years without his beloved sister and parabatai.

“Hey,” Cat said gently. She pressed a warm hand to his cheek, tilting his face up to look at her better, “Don’t freak out yet. I’m sorry I brought it up before we could do anything to figure out if it’s true or not. I honestly thought it had occurred to you but you’ve got so much going on with getting him back and dealing with this whole magic thing, I should have known that your head hadn’t gotten a chance to go that far yet. We might be wrong. We might be right. Either way…” She sighed and Magnus knew he had won. What a pathetic victory. “Either way, you’re right. Until his magic is more under his control, throwing something else emotional at him isn’t fair. We’re asking a lot of him and we can’t undo what’s already on his shoulders but we can control this. We don’ have to figure it out right this second.”

Except they did. Magnus didn’t just want to know, he needed to know right down to his marrow.

Cat knew it, of course she did, so she just patted his cheek sort of sadly and sat back down opposite him. “We’ll figure it out, Magnus. No matter what, we’ll figure this out.”

 

---

 

“Mom is getting suspicious.” Izzy said seriously.

She, Jace, Clary and Magnus were all sitting round his dining room table, ostensibly to eat breakfast but things were a little too tense to make anything more than a show of eating. Honestly, Magnus had conjured the spread more to give them something to do with their hands than eat.

“And what exactly happens when Maryse gets suspicious?” Magnus asked just as seriously.

Izzy and Jace traded looks that were no doubt born of hundreds of things kept from Maryse’s watchful eyes. He didn’t doubt that she had been an exacting mother – she was one even still – but he was also sure that the three of them had been trying children.

Jace stepped in with the answer, “She’s going to start trying to figure out what we’re hiding from her. It’s going to start small, just surveillance in the Institute or trying to question us separately, but if she doesn’t get answers that satisfy her she’s going to do more.”

“Speaking of, Clary,” Izzy gave the redhead a hard look, “Do your best to never be without me or Jace. If Mom corners you alone, we’re screwed.”

Clary looked vaguely offended, “I’m not going to tell her anything.”

Almost instantly, Jace shook his head, “You don’t know Maryse. Not really. She’ll twist it out of you. You’ll think you haven’t given her anything but really you’ve given her everything. She picks up on the smallest things.”

“Trust me, Clary, keeping secrets from our mother is an art.” Izzy added.

“Okay, fine,” Clary agreed gracelessly, “I’ll stick you to both as much as I can.”

“All the time.” Izzy countered.

Clary raised an eyebrow, “I have to pee eventually, Izzy.”

“We’ll pee together.” Izzy answered, comically serious for what she was actually saying.

Though it was absolutely not a joke nor the moment for it, Magnus had to fight the urge to laugh. “What if Biscuit stayed here next time you both go home?”

“If we don’t all check in she’ll think something is up.” Jace shot the suggestion down.

“We’re lucky that I’m such a good actor as it is.” Izzy added, “And that Jace is nearly as upset having to leave Alec’s side here as he was when Alec was missing, so it’s not a hard sell on his part.”

Jace gave his sister a look, “Are you saying I’m not a good actor?”

“Not for this, you wouldn’t be.” Izzy didn’t seem remotely repentant for what Jace seemed to be taking as an insult. “You’ve never been great pretending when you’re really worried.”

Before the siblings to descend into an argument, Magnus held his hand up, “All right, Maryse is suspicious. Eventually she’s going to start digging around. What are we going to do then?”

“What about telling her?” Clary suggested hesitantly, “I mean, she’s your mom. What are the chances she’s going to sell him out to the Clave?”

Izzy and Jace traded loaded looks. Clary, bless her fierce little heart, had grown up with a devoted mother. A mother who put her before anything and everything. That wasn’t to say that Maryse hadn’t done good for her children because Magnus had heard straight from Alec’s mouth that she had, she was just also a supremely practical woman. Alec had once angrily recounted to Magnus her attitude regarding Jace when he had been taken by Valentine.

Maryse had been willing to sacrifice one child to save her other three. Would she still be willing to do such a thing? Would she be willing to work directly against the Clave?

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Izzy answered when Jace hesitated.

“It might be.” Jace said slowly, like he was trying to decide how he felt about the words even as he said them, “If we had someone close to the Clave on our side, we could do a better job of keeping Alec’s secret from them. She could keep any leaks from getting too far and keep us updated if she thinks they’re going to make a move against him.”

And that was true but… Maryse was Maryse.

Clary threw out another option, “What about your Dad?”

That seemed to be instantly shot down. “No way.” Jace said immediately.

Isabelle followed it up with, “We can’t trust him.” She looked a little upset about it and Magnus knew that was because she and Robert were closer than the she and Maryse. No one was closer to Isabelle than her brothers though and her loyalty to them would always outweigh her bond with her father.

“He seemed nice at the wedding?” Clary looked between the two. “Like, he didn’t really seem angry with Alec.”

“Oh sure, he’s easier to deal with.” Jace answered, “He’s not big on yelling at us or punishing us. But he’s also not as loyal as Mom is. We can’t trust him not to tell the Clave.”

That was also the impression Alec had given Magnus. He spoke less about his father than he did his mother but it was clear that Robert hadn’t been a particularly present father. Honestly, from the way Alec spoke, it seemed like he’d been raised about a third by Maryse and then mostly by himself, with perhaps an honorable mention to Hodge Starkweather.

That Isabelle, possibly Robert’s favorite child, was ruling him out entirely said something. Magnus trusted Izzy. “So then we’re back to Maryse.”

“She’s… gotten better.” Izzy said reluctantly. “Now that we know she used to be in the Circle, she’s been less… she sees us as a little more equal to her.”

Magnus could hardly believe that to be true.

“He’s the heir. She could totally turn her back on him and put it all on Max but,” Jace sighed, “But that’s big. That would be hard to keep people from asking questions about, it would spread and even if she completely cut him off, the taint would still be on the Lightwood name if we let this come out without any spin on it. Strategically, it makes more sense for her to work with us on this. She’ll think strategically first.”

Izzy nodded in agreement which was depressing, “She loves Alec. If she hated him, if she was going to disown him or something, she’d of done it after the wedding. No one in Alicante would have blinked twice. That she didn’t is because she loves him.”

From a warlock perspective, this was all fascinating and slightly sickening insight into how Shadowhunter families operated – so cutthroat – but Magnus was mostly just sad. Sad for Alec and sad for all of them really.

Jace leaned back in his chair and tipped his head over the edge of the seat. He looked somehow nearly as tired as Alec. “We should ask him.”

“I thought we just said no to…” Clary started.

The blonde shook his head, “No, Alec.” He said reluctantly, “We should ask Alec.”

“I don’t want to stress him out worse.” Izzy hesitated and Magnus felt the wave of what he had been drowning in over the immortality question rise up again.

Jace shook his head, “It’ll stress him out worse if he thinks he can’t trust us completely.”

Those words were like a dagger in his heart but they didn’t sway Magnus from his decision about holding off on figuring out Alec’s possible immortality. He would take any blame Alec wanted to lay at his door when that conversation came in the future. He was doing what was right for Alec now, even if it was hard.

Judging by the look on Isabelle’s face, she agreed with Jace for all that she didn’t like it.

“When?” Clary looked between the three of them slowly, trying to see who had an actual answer.

Good luck to her because it was obvious none of them did.

“Maryse will have to be told here.” Magnus felt the plan slowly taking form. The parts of it he could account for, at least. “And I’m warning you right now, I’ll be ready to take the memory of you telling her the truth straight from her brain if she doesn’t react well.”

Something relaxed in Jace and Izzy both and it didn’t add anything to Magnus’ level of trust in Maryse.

Jace caught the look on Magnus’ face and gave him a tight smile, “I don’t think you’ll have to do it but it’s good knowing you can.”

“Alec’s been asleep a few hours now.” Magnus said slightly reluctantly. “I was planning on waking him up to eat something soon anyway. I can go get him while we’re all already at the table.” Because if they were all sitting around eating, perhaps they would inspire Alec to do the same.

A warlock could dream.

Isabelle glanced back to his shut bedroom door, “Did you end up having Cat come over?”

Though he had already decided not to tell Alec’s siblings about his potential immortality, the question made his stomach clench with some twisted mix of fear and awe. He felt like they would be able to read what his whole soul was screaming right off his face.

Calm down, Magnus tried to right the smile that had fallen off his face. Jace’s eyes were watching him so closely and he could see the rising concern in Alec’s parabatai.

“She did.” Magnus answered as evenly as he was able. “She agreed with much of what I had thought. That this magic is somehow entirely his own, no matter how he got it.”

“And what about…?” Izzy raised her hands up and used her fingers to mimic the swirls of magic around her brother’s hands.

Magnus’s smile widened and that at least wasn’t false. “We’re in agreement there too. It will come with time, he just needs to rest. Sleep, eat, low stress. As he recovers, his body and his magic will acclimate to each other.”

“She didn’t have like, a timeline or something, did she?” Clary asked.

That would have been lovely but alas… “This is entirely too unprecedented for that, I’m afraid.”

“What aren’t you telling us?”

Magnus’ eyes jerked from Clary to Jace’s intense stare. He saw Izzy shut her mouth in surprise, clearly ready to ask her own question before Jace had barked his own at Magnus. There was a challenge in Jace’s eyes, almost daring Magnus to lie to him about his parabatai.

Before Magnus could figure out what to say, the door to his bedroom slid open slowly, Alec standing behind it wearing a black hoodie that Magnus immediately recognized as his own paired with the sweatpants he’d fallen asleep in.

Though Alec had tugged the sleeves down as best he could, his magic was still visible and seemed more agitated than usual.

“All right, darling?” Magnus started to stand but Jace hopped up from his seat before he could properly get up.

Jace wrapped a hand around Alec’s elbow and suddenly his abrupt questioning of Magnus made more sense. He’d known Alec was waking and he wanted to ask while he still had the chance. Hopefully he wouldn’t resume the conversation while Alec was with them. Magnus hadn’t been kidding about that whole low stress thing.

If Jace did ask again, he would say that he and Cat had discussed what the warlock community’s response to Alec might be when they someday found out. That wasn’t untrue, they had briefly touched on it before Cat left. It still wasn’t something he wanted to put on Alec’s plate right now though so he’d prefer Jace do any further questioning when they were alone.

Magnus lowered himself back down into his seat as Jace led Alec to the table. If Alec disliked the support he didn’t say anything, which was unusual enough to worry Magnus.

“Good timing, Alec.” Izzy said cheerfully, “We were about to wake you up. We’re having breakfast.”

Alec eased himself down into his chair as though he were the one who was centuries old. Magnus was braced for yet another argument about eating, but Alec reached out and grabbed an apple from the bowl of fruit and bit into it without complaint.

Once Alec was settled, Jace seemed willing to take his own seat again. He did so without a word or even a glance at Magnus so hopefully the crisis was averted and would stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, they all seemed to come to a silent agreement that they wouldn’t ask about Maryse until Alec had gotten some food into him. Clary gave Alec her sunniest smile, which was saying something, and asked, “Are you and Magnus going to work on your magic again today?”

The question, Magnus felt, was a pointless one. Had she ever even met Alec? Still, he knew she was doing the best she could think of on the fly.

If Alec thought similar, he didn’t let on. Instead, he just turned his attention to Magnus, “After breakfast?”

Magnus reached for the plate of French toast he had been keeping magically warm and fresh. “Certainly, Alexander.”

“I think this will come as a surprise to literally no one, but Jace is already excited to spar with you and your magic.” Izzy said to Alec with a grin.

Alec visibly faltered but when he looked over to Jace, the blonde was grinning unrepentantly. “It’s going to be amazing, Alec. Don’t even try saying it won’t.”

With his brother’s eyes flashing like that, Alec seemed to think better of saying anything against what Jace wanted but that he was unsure was obvious.  Magnus jumped in with a teasing smile, “Excellent to hear that, Jace. When Alec needs to start practicing throwing offensive spells, I’ll know who to call to be his moving target.”

Jace laughed, seemingly not at all bothered by the prospect of running around while Alec threw spells at him. “I’m not sure if that will be better or worse than when I did the same thing for Izzy while she was still learning to use her whip.”

“I know for a fact you guys have training rooms with like holograms or something.” Clary seemed skeptical. “Why were you the target?”

“Those are only so good,” Jace scoffed as though he thought pretty poorly of that kind of training. He probably did, if Jace’s idea of playful sparring was anything to go by. “After a while, they get stale. You learn the patterns. If you really want to practice, you need something with a mind of its own.”

While Jace talked, Magnus kept an eye on Alec. He would have liked to have him sitting closer, but beside Izzy wasn’t so bad. He was working through his apple slowly but steadily. Again, it wasn’t the food Magnus would have chosen but Alec had selected it himself and was eating it without protest, so he wasn’t about to complain. If it sat well, maybe Alec would be willing to have something a little more substantial. An omelet with veggies might work. The protein would be helpful. Somehow, he didn’t think Alec was up for his personal favorite magic steadying meal – steak and booze.

Patience, don’t push him, don’t stress him.

His mantra was all well and good except Alec had eaten only a mug of mostly broth, a few pieces of buttered toast and now an apple and this was across over more hours than Magnus was comfortable with.

His boy was lucky he had a nourishment rune. At the rate he was going, considering his height and the stress his body was under, without one he would have hit some sort of blood sugar meltdown by now.

Izzy and Jace kept Alec mostly entertained while he finished his apple.

Magnus supposed they were just lucky he’d gotten down to the core by the time Jace’s phone rang.

The mood at the table immediately shifted. No more easy banter between Izzy and Jace while Clary and Alec watched amused, adding their own bits and Magnus mostly just scoffed at his pack of semi-feral Shadowhunters. At the first note of Jace’s ringtone, all five of them went hushed.

Jace made a good show of not being bothered by the call, pulling his phone out of his pocket after a couple of rings and glancing at the screen before sending it to voicemail. It was a master performance of causality. If Magnus hadn’t seen the way the Lightwood siblings were reacting to their phones – which thus far had only been calls from Maryse and just once from Robert – he might have believed it.

How well Jace was fooling Alec remained to be seen. Outwardly, Alec didn’t seem particularly affected but he still immediately asked, “Who was it?”

“Mom.” Jace answered before taking another bite of his, by that point, mostly abandoned French toast.

Alec leaned back in his seat and Magnus saw his hands gripping the arms of his chair so tightly his knuckles went white. “Darling?”

“Alec,” Izzy said, “We want to run something by you.” She looked over at Jace, apparently waiting for him to jump in. When he didn’t Izzy faltered. Had he changed his mind or was he just getting something from Alec that said to stop?

Except they didn’t really have the time to stop and if they’d come this far into the conversation, stopping would only stress Alec worse. If Jace wouldn’t speak, then it was up to Magnus. “Alexander, what do you think of telling Maryse?”

The play of emotion over Alec’s face was interesting and heartbreaking to watch. It was so completely obvious that he wanted to tell his mother but that he was also truly afraid to do so.

“This isn’t like… like before.” Alec said, jerking his head towards Magnus. This isn’t like when I came out, was what he was trying to say. “If she… if she hates it…”

If she hates what I am now, like she hated it when I came out, she could literally get me killed.

“Which is why we’ll ask her to come here.” Magnus said gently, putting Alec out of the misery of having to figure out how to say those words out loud. “If she reacts badly or if we get even a hint that she’s not trustworthy, I’ll take the memory right out of her head.”

“I don’t think she will, though.” Izzy said, “We wouldn’t even consider it otherwise.”

Jace nodded seriously, “We’re going to need help on the Clave end. Maryse will know what to do.”

“What to do?” Alec let out a shaky breath, “We hide this. We keep it a secret. I never use magic outside of this loft.”

Magnus’ heart ached. It was Alec’s sexuality all over again. Hide it, bury it down deep, don’t ever embrace it. And where had that gotten Alec? Repressed to the point that he had been about to explode.

Jace shook his head so fast Alec had barely finished speaking. Magnus could see his own pain reflected in Jace’s eyes. How long had he felt Alec’s pain before and hadn’t know what to do to help his parabatai? And now, after all that Alec had gone through to live his life openly and happily without apologies to the people who told him he was wrong, here they were again. “No, Alec, that’s not how this is going to go.”

Alec’s laugh was brittle, “Then I’m dead.”

At first,” Izzy pressed her palm to Alec’s hand, “Yeah, we need to hide this. You need to train and we need to plan. And we need to show the Clave that you’re still totally on our side. Once it’s safer, once Valentine is gone, then we tell them.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” Alec said incredulously. He turned to his sister with pity, “You can’t honestly be naïve enough to think they’ll ever accept this.”

Clary chimed in, “I bet you would have said that about being with Magnus but you run the Institute now! They’ll need time but it’ll get better, Alec.”

“They’d need a hell of a lot of time.” Alec said dismissively.

“Maybe -” Jace started before Alec cut him off.

“Okay great, I’ll reveal it all on my deathbed. They might be okay with me then and it’ll make things easier for the next poor bastard that gets pumped full of magic.” Alec spit out with some cross of bitterness and hysteria in his voice.

Isabelle opened her mouth to say something but Jace laid a hand over hers and she stayed silent.

“Breathe, Alec.” Jace said softly.

It took everything Magnus had not to stand up and go to Alec’s side. Between the barely concealed fear in his eyes and the way his already pale skin had gone almost ashen, he looked nearly ready to lay down and give up.

The mood was tense. They were all silent, waiting for Alec to manage a breath that wasn’t shuddering.

“I promise,” Magnus said though he was wary of breaking the silence and pushing Alec further over whatever edge he was currently hovering over. “I promise, I will not let her leave with the knowledge in her head if any of us get even the hint she’s going to betray you.”

He managed to catch Alec’s eyes and held his gaze unwaveringly. Alec’s fear was understandable. In a twisted way it was perhaps even reassuring that Alec was actually afraid for his own life.

What Alec wasn’t truly comprehending though, was how serious Magnus and his siblings were about protecting him. Magnus and Izzy had knelt at Jace’s side for hours, waiting and sure that they would witness the breaking of the parabatai bond from Alec’s death. They had been sure. And that wasn’t even taking Jace’s hell into consideration.

Impossibly, Alec had come back to them. They were not going to take this gift for granted.

Alec’s eyes shut and he breathed out a sigh that seemed to expel all the fight from his body. He practically collapsed down into himself, getting smaller and smaller until he was nearly doubled over with his head in his hands.

Okay,” He said softly into his palms. “Okay.”

 

---

 

It was Isabelle who called Maryse. Jace was too keyed up, some cross between his own worry and Alec’s making his voice sound too tight to lie properly. Although, technically Isabelle wasn’t lying to Maryse. They did have important information about Alec that they wanted to tell her in person. It just wasn’t the information that Maryse thought it would be.

Alec hovered around the edges of Magnus’ living room hiding in shadows that could no longer provide any safety for him and his bright magic. Alec hadn’t seemed to have thought that through and no one dared remind him.

It was as though he thought that Maryse would burst into Magnus’ loft unannounced with no warning and he would need to hide in seconds. They would know before she was even in the building, thanks to the wards. Alec knew that, he knew all about the layers of warding Magnus kept his home safe with, but that knowledge didn’t seem to be penetrating the panic he was in.

Magnus had already set up his bedroom for Alec to hang out in while they talked to Maryse. His magic had created what was essentially a television screen for Alec to watch what happened in the living room from the safety of their bed. Technically that was all he had gone in there to create but he had felt almost powerless to stop himself as he conjured up a big glass of water, a little tray of snacks and a few extra blankets for him to make a nest for himself out of if he wanted. Just in case this took longer than anticipated.

Not that he had any illusions that Alec would manage to relax enough to both watch his mother potentially choose the Clave over his life and snack but the need to do something had been too strong to fight.

It didn’t take long for Maryse to reach his building. Isabelle’s message was dire enough that not even a stoic woman like Maryse would delay.

“She’s downstairs.” Magnus said softly.

For a moment, Alec didn’t react. Jace’s pacing had stopped and Izzy sank down onto the couch but Alec didn’t even flinch. Magnus reached for him but before he could even brush his fingertips across Alec’s shoulder his Shadowhunter turned on his heel and made for the bedroom. In seconds, before Maryse had even gotten into the elevator or his siblings could say anything to him, Alec had slid the door to the bedroom firmly shut.

“It’s going to be okay.” Clary said to Jace but just loudly enough that she was offering the words of encouragement to the rest of them as well.

Jace took a second to press a kiss to her cheek before he went to the door. He opened it and waited like some grim sentry into the Underworld. His face was that expressionless.

The sound of Maryse coming down the hallway almost struck Magnus physically.

She was running.

Maryse practically burst into the room, going right past Jace and getting about halfway to the couch where her stone faced daughter was sitting before stopping cold. She took another step before she visibly faltered, pausing again.

“It…” Maryse started before stopping. She cleared her throat before starting again, “It was a good idea calling me here. But Isabelle… if… if he’s dead then just tell me. Don’t make me…”

Maryse’s face fell and Izzy looked a little startled. She hopped up from the couch and wrapped her arms around Maryse in a hug that looked more than a little uncomfortable. Isabelle shot a look at Jace over their mother’s shoulder that seemed to be something between what the hell and help me.

Jace came around behind Maryse, wrapping an arm around her back and guiding her away from Isabelle and towards the couch. Once she was sitting, he sat down in front of her on the coffee table and said, “He’s not dead.”

The second the words were out of his mouth, Maryse dropped her head into her hands and pulled in a deep breath. “I thought that was why you called me here to tell me something in person. Why Isabelle called me instead of you. I… the whole way here I thought you were going to tell me you had found his body or your rune disappeared or… By the Angel, I was so sure.”

For a woman that Magnus personally thought wasn’t a particularly loving mother, he still felt a stab of pity for her pain. That she was so visibly affected by the idea of Alec dying was humanizing.

Hopefully, with the pain of Alec’s loss fresh in her mind, she would do whatever it took to keep him safe once they told her what had actually happened to him.

And, if she didn’t, hopefully this moment would be of some sort of comfort for Alec later. His mother might not care enough but at least she cared a little.

Maryse gave herself only a moment to get it together and neither Jace nor Izzy said a thing until she raised her head back up. The barely held together devastation was gone. This was the Maryse that Magnus knew, collected and harsh.

She straightened her back and looked down at Jace with determination blazing behind her eyes like fire. “Tell me then. Whatever it is you found that you don’t want the rest of the Institute to know about.”

“How do you know we called you here for that?” Isabelle came closer but didn’t sit down beside her mother. She stood behind Jace, thankfully not blocking Magnus’ view. He wanted to be able to watch her expression and her eyes himself. He would never be clouded by any affection or duty towards Maryse Lightwood. If he thought even for a moment she wasn’t trustworthy…

Now, there was only impatience in Maryse’s eyes. “If you aren’t calling me here to tell me privately of my son’s death then you’re doing it so no one overhears us. You’ve called me every other time and given me reports over the phone. This is something else. Stop stalling, Isabelle.”

“Valentine experimented on him.” Jace said abruptly. Maryse had barely managed to get the last syllable of Izzy’s name out before he started speaking. If there was something else that Maryse was planning on barking to her daughter, it was lost as she refocused on Jace with rapt attention. When she didn’t say anything else, Jace kept talking, “We don’t know all the details but Valentine injected him with something. That was the first wave of pain I felt through our bond. That was also him waking up confused. When I said he was sick, he was apparently puking up black sludge.”

Maryse’ expression didn’t change, she was waiting and letting Jace finish. That made sense at least. Magnus had witnessed Maryse demanding a single word of Alec – Report –and waiting silently until Alec obediently recounted whatever situation in a monotone voice. She would wait for all the details before she reacted, even while she was being told of her own son’s torture.

Jace didn’t pause even though Magnus could see his fist clenching with still potent anger. “Then he took Alec to some sort of machine where five warlocks were strapped in. They knew more about what was happening than he did. Apparently Valentine has killed other Shadowhunters attempting his plan. It was when the machine started that I felt his pain again.”

His pain felt like so small a thing to say about such a horrific agony.

“And what was his goal?” She asked with a tight voice. That she wouldn’t say her former leader’s name was interesting.

“To make Alec into a weapon for his side.” Jace answered and that barely simmering rage burned brighter. “To make Alec into something the Clave would reject so he would hate them enough to join Valentine’s side.”

“Magic, Mom.” Izzy said finally. “Valentine somehow gave Alec magic.”

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Nine


 

 

 

“Magic, Mom.” Izzy said finally. “He somehow gave Alec magic.”

Magnus watched Maryse like his life depended on it except that Alec’s life did depend on it, so in a way Magnus’ did too.

Not even someone as disciplined as Maryse Lightwood could take news like that and not react. She flinched, visibly so, and leaned back away from Jace and Izzy as though she could physically move away from the truth.

Each of them stayed silent. They gave her a moment to let Izzy’s words settle in.

“How…?” Maryse breathed the question out and it trailed off before she could get into anything more specific. How was technically an excellent question but Magnus didn’t think she was asking for a literal accounting of the process.

Her posture eased and she evened out the way she had leaned back from Izzy and Jace. Her face stayed slack with some sort of suspended shock.

For all that she was affected, there was no disgust welling on her features. Nothing to suggest she now hated her firstborn son.

That might have just been because there wasn’t time for it yet but Magnus wasn’t willing to risk it.

It was time to up the ante.

“I’ve examined Alec myself, and I’ve called in a friend to do the same.” Magnus finally spoke, stepping forward so Maryse’ eyes would be drawn to him – and they were, almost helplessly so. Her lips were parted as though they were waiting for her brain to figure out what to say. “Magical transfusions are possible, from one warlock to another. Sometimes that is enough to jumpstart the recipient’s magical recovery. Sometimes not. It’s important to know, that in those situations it is still the donor’s magic. The color will be the donor’s, not the recipient’s. It will feel different and it is not a permanent solution. One and done, if the warlock in need of the magic doesn’t start replenishing their own supply then eventually it will run out. This is not what’s been done to Alec.”

“Magnus and Catarina say that this magic is entirely Alec’s. The… signature…” Isabelle looked at Magnus for confirmation she was using the right word and he nodded to say she was. “Is entirely unique to Alec. His body is making this magic. It’s his. It’s not going to run out or go away.”

“His runes still work too.” Jace added and though his hand didn’t go to his parabatai rune it was obvious that was where his relief lay. “He’s got both.”

When Jace went silent, Maryse didn’t rush to ask questions. Her eyes went distant for a moment as though she was entirely lost in her own thoughts.

The wait was painful. And if he thought so then Alec must be in hell.

“If you know all of this, if you’ve checked him over,” Maryse’s voice was strong for all that she was speaking slowly. She seemed to be bracing herself although for what Magnus couldn’t be sure. “Then you have him, don’t you? You got him away from Valentine?”

“And what if we do?” Magnus asked before Jace or Izzy could react. “What would you do, if you could see him? If we said to you that he and his magic are still acclimating to each other and that he can’t hide it right now. Would you flinch away from your son?”

Maryse stood quickly, stepping around Jace to stand right in front of Magnus to glare at him. “He is my son and you think you’re going to keep me away from him?”

“Of course I will.” Magnus answered calmly. “If away from you is safest for him.”

She looked like she would dearly like to backhand him, “What exactly are you accusing me of?”

“You were willing to sacrifice me once.” Jace stood too, twisting around to look at Maryse even while he reached out for Izzy’s hand, “To protect Alec, Izzy, Max and the Lightwood name, you were willing to leave me to Valentine. And I get it, I’d pick them too. But you were still willing to lose one to save the rest.”

His words landed like a physical blow, Maryse reached for him and didn’t let the way he was looking at her stop her from pressing her hand to his cheek, “I panicked. The situation was my worst nightmare. That one of my children would make the same mistake that I had, that Valentine could have gotten his claws into one of my own. I panicked when I should have dug in harder and that weighs on me every single day, Jace.”

“So?” Izzy asked as Jace bit his lip, unable to speak, “Are you panicking now? We just told you Alec is some part warlock, something you hate.

Maryse sucked in a shocked breath and Magnus almost laughed, “I don’t hate warlocks. I don’t hate vampires or werewolves or seelies. I hate demons. I hate that they kill innocent people. I hate that they kill our people. And once Valentine’s grand speeches about demon blood being evil made sense. I was young and afraid and I let it twist my morals around.”

“Spare us your wounded outrage. I think you lead enough raids on those with demon blood at Valentine’s side to make the question valid, Maryse.” Magnus spit the words out. She dared to stand there as though they were accusing her of heinous crimes. The accusations were just and she knew it.

A pause. A decision, possibly.

Then, “I did.”

Jace and Izzy were watching her so closely, so avidly. Magnus couldn’t help but remember Alec telling him that his parents had never really talked about those years to their children other than to explain it away as a mistake.

They had gone to the Clave when they realized Maryse was pregnant with Alec, to save their own skins.

That wasn’t much of a change of heart.

“And those first few raids felt right. They felt good. I thought I was doing the best thing for Shadowhunters and for Mundanes.” Maryse held her chin high when she said it, even when Izzy’s face hardened. “The demon blood will out itself eventually, I told myself. Even if those people hadn’t done anything wrong yet they would. If I hesitated, who would they kill? Would it be an innocent Mundane? A fellow Shadowhunter? My husband, maybe? How would I feel standing over an innocent person’s body, knowing I could have saved them if I had only gone to the fullest extent of the Angel’s mission for us, if I had fully and completely rid the world of the taint of demon blood?”

A taint that she had once thought Jace had. A taint that might now be Alec’s, depending on exactly what Valentine had done to give him his magic. Probably not, in Magnus’ professional opinion, but he knew bigoted Shadowhunters’ minds would go straight there.

“The longer it went, the more extreme and cruel Valentine got, the more the haze of righteousness fell away. At first I thought I was being weak. That I was letting my emotions cloud my judgment.” Maryse continued. It almost seemed cathartic for her to explain. “It was almost like Val sensed my wavering commitment and went harder to try and reel me back in. All it did was widen the gap between us. There was one raid… It was awful. There was a woman there…” She let out a shuddering breath, “I’ll never be redeemed from what we did. I couldn’t silence my doubts anymore. I couldn’t ignore their humanity or mine any longer. From there I had to work on Robert and try and figure out how to get out of it with our lives as intact as I could make them. Especially after I realized I was pregnant.”

Maryse turned back around to Magnus, “Alec is my son. All right, fine, he’s got magic now. We’re going to have to figure out how to keep his life as intact as we can make it. The Clave is not going to be accepting and this is a dance we must plan carefully. I’m going to help. Even if you won’t let me see him, I’m going to help.”

She went back around to her seat and sat down almost primly, like they were about to start a business meeting. Her arms went wide, encompassing Magnus at one end, Clary by the balcony doors and her children in between, “Sit, please. We need to work through what the immediate plan is.”

Izzy collapsed into one of the chairs Magnus had scattered around the coffee table, “Immediate plan?”

Once Jace sat, Clary went next to him. That left only Magnus standing and though the thought of obeying Maryse’s command grated on him, he also recognized her value in this situation. Fighting with Alec’s mother wasn’t helping him.

He perched on arm of Izzy’s chair instead of sitting. That was all the compromise Maryse was getting.

“You said Alec can’t hide his magic currently?” Maryse asked and there was no hesitation in her voice as she said his magic.

Isabelle nodded, “It swirls around his hands all the time.”

“How long do you think that will take to stop? Before he can walk around like any warlock could?” Maryse posed the question to Magnus earnestly. Respectfully, surprisingly so. She was apparently willing to compromise for Alec’s sake as well.

No matter how he wished otherwise, he had no answer for that. “This is an unprecedented situation. I’ve got no timeline to offer. Cat and I both believe when he has recovered from the trauma of what Valentine did and he and his magic are steadier, it will happen without him doing anything.”

This seemed to bring Maryse up short, “Is something wrong?”

“What do you mean?” Jace asked.

Maryse looked between them, “You said he needed to recover. Is he not okay?”

“I’m fine.”

Magnus spun around and found Alec standing halfway between the bedroom and his mother. Jace and Clary didn’t react, which meant they had seen him coming. Maryse froze for a split second before standing and turning in one wild movement. In seconds, she had crossed the space between them and pulled Alec into her arms.

Alec had changed from Magnus’s sweatshirt into something with no sleeves to hide his magic. He had probably intended on shocking his mother with the sight, to see firsthand if this was too much for her loyalty. Some masochistic plan he had dreamt up alone in their bedroom.

Except Maryse hadn’t even seemed to notice. She pulled Alec’s head down to her shoulder and stood on her toes to meet him in the middle. One hand went to cradle the back of his head and the other held his back as though she was about to be ripped from him. Maryse pulled in a shuddering sob, “I thought I had lost you.”

Slowly, Alec’s hands came up around her back to lightly wrap around her. He kept his fingers angled straight out and away, like he wanted to touch her as little as possible. His mother was clinging to him but Alec was still afraid. It was heartbreaking to watch.

“I’m here.” Alec said softly into the fabric of her dress.

Maryse pulled back and cupped Alec’s cheeks, “You look pale.” She said as she searched his face. Her thumb traced over the dark smudges under his eyes. “Are you okay?”

And still, she wasn’t looking at the magic.

“I’m fine.” Alec promised again.

“He’s tired.” Jace’s voice called out, “Come sit.”

Maryse seemed willing to believe Jace over Alec and Magnus couldn’t disagree with the impulse. She tugged gently on Alec’s arm before curling her arm around his back to help him walk to the couch.

Except Alec stood his ground. He refused to be moved. Instead, he raised his hands up so Maryse had to finally look at and acknowledge the bright coiling magic emanating from his hands and wrapping around his forearms.

Maryse stared down at it for only a few seconds. Then, she took his hand into one of hers. She looked up at Alec, “Does it hurt?”

“No.” Alec answered softly, “Not anymore.” Not even someone as determined to push away and ignore his own pain could deny what he had gone through.

When Maryse tugged him towards the couch this time, Alec went with her.

Maryse was turned in her seat so she was sitting nearly sideways to face Alec. One hand was curled just under his elbow and the other held tightly to his. “People saw me leave. When I go back, I need to say that you’ve been found.”

“What?” Isabelle hissed incredulously, “That’s the worst idea!”

“And how long should we pretend he’s still with Valentine, Isabelle?” Maryse shot back just as firmly, “Weeks? Months? Long enough for the question of Alec’s loyalty to come into the Clave’s minds?”

Jace nodded slowly, “She’s right.” And he knew because he had lived it.

“If they know I’m here…” Alec trailed off worriedly.

“You’re hurt, you need healing.” Maryse said firmly, “I’ve seen you. I’ll tell them you’re half out of your mind delirious. Too weak to be moved. Too weak for visitors. Magnus is handling it, there’s no need to bring in the Silent Brothers yet. They don’t tend to make house calls to a warlock’s home anyway.”

“And what if Dad asks to see him?” Isabelle asked.

Maryse hesitated but that was for Robert’s favorite child more than for Alec.

Alec shook his head, “Mom can say the same to him. He’ll let it go.”

“It is imperative that we minimize the Clave’s suspicions about this.” Maryse continued.  

“You don’t want to report this in to your superiors?” Magnus asked her idly, as though he wasn’t particularly bothered either way. Sometimes that was better. The unconcerned princeling was a role designed to threaten and frustrate at the same time and Magnus knew Maryse wouldn’t like it.

Sure enough, she glared. “The Clave cannot know.”

Jace and Izzy traded looks. “Mom, we can’t hide this forever.” Izzy said.

The look that Maryse shot her daughter was cold. “Obviously not, Isabelle. Too many people on the wrong side know the truth. Eventually, either before Valentine’s death or after, someone in the Circle is going to be captured and tortured for information. Alec’s magic is going to be a key piece of intel in their minds if they’re desperate to bargain.”

Alec wilted as she said that. As she forced him to see that hiding this forever wouldn’t work. His boy was as strategic as his mother, he would see she was right.

It was Clary who spoke next but then Magnus wasn’t surprised. She didn’t know enough about how delicate this was, even though she thought she did. “You just said they can’t know and now you’re saying they have to know?”

Maryse took that question as gracefully as Magnus figured she was able. As patiently as she was able. “This isn’t something we can blurt out, Clary. We have to play this very carefully.”

“Or I’m fucked.” Alec exhaled.

His mother said nothing.

Izzy looked between them all, “Then when?”

“Not yet,” Maryse said. “Not until after Valentine is dead. And no matter how that happens, even if Alec isn’t even there, we need to tell the Clave that he was either the one who did it or was an integral part of his defeat.”

There was a full beat of silence after this. It wasn’t at the idea that the one who killed Valentine would be one of them. They had all long assumed the showdown with Valentine Morgenstern would be between them and him. Magnus couldn’t imagine any other group of Shadowhunters being capable of taking him down. Honestly, Magnus’ money was split between Jace and Clary with maybe a small possibility of Luke.

No, it was the idea that they needed to tell the Clave that Alec had done the deed himself.

“She’s right,” Clary said first, “Otherwise they’re always going to look at Alec with suspicion.”

Maryse sighed, “It doesn’t matter if Alec cuts Valentine’s heart out in front of the Consul himself. They’re going to look at him with suspicion his entire life now. Between his relationship with Magnus and now this, the idea that he would put Downworlders ahead of Shadowhunters will follow him around for life.”

“So then how does Alec killing Valentine make anything better if they’re never going to really trust him?” Clary asked.

Maryse squeezed Alec’s hand and ducked a bit to catch his eyes when he couldn’t lift them from his knees. “We know you and we know you’ll always try to do the right thing. Your team at the Institute has been running themselves ragged trying to find you. I’m so incredibly proud of the loyalty you’ve earned yourself after such a short time being the official Head of Institute.”

“The Clave is going to take the Institute from me, aren’t they?” Alec said woodenly.

“They might,” Maryse admitted. “We’ll fight them, of course. But right now, the most important thing is that they trust you enough to let you live freely.”

“As opposed to what?” Magnus almost laughed at the absurdity of that. The Clave were fools if they thought that they could imprison Alec and he would do nothing.

Jace’s jaw clenched, “The City of Bones. Permanently being put the custody of the Silent Brothers.”

“Deruning.” Izzy added as she shut her eyes tightly.

Magnus couldn’t stand the distance from Alec for a moment longer. He went to kneel at Alec’s feet and reached out for the hand Maryse wasn’t holding, “That’s not happening, darling. We’ll leave New York before it does.”

“Then we’ll be on the run for the rest of my life.” Alec said softly. His gaze was on Magnus’ hand in his but his eyes didn’t seem to be connecting with anything. “I don’t want that. I want to be here, doing what I’m meant to be doing. I want to stay with my family.”

“We would go with you, duh.” Izzy tried to give Alec an encouraging smile.

From the couch, Jace nodded only once but it looked as close to a vow as he could make it without words.

“I wouldn’t drag you away from your lives here.” Alec said but he flushed a little and something in the tense line of shoulders relaxed.

“If we play this right, no one will be getting dragged from their life here.” Maryse promised him. “Life might not be what you envisioned but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure you’re allowed freedom. You were already prepared to weather a lifetime of Clave hostility to be yourself and be with Magnus, this is just more of that.”

She said it so matter-of-factly, like it wasn’t horribly unfair that Alec was constantly under scrutiny just for being himself.

Magnus so hated the Clave.

“When they find out about this, they’ll know Valentine did it.” Alec said slowly as he worked through the thought in his own head. “They’ll know I’ve had it a while.”

“Exactly,” Maryse said, “And you’ll have been a loyal Shadowhunter that entire time. What we need is time to establish that and to buy you the goodwill and political clout to push our agenda.”

There was silence for a moment. Buying goodwill with the Clave was near impossible.

“Listen to me,” Maryse pressed her hand to Alec’s cheek, “We can’t say anything about this yet. We can’t hide it forever either, that’s impossible. What we have to do is control when this comes out. We need to pick our moment carefully. We have our family name to back you, we have Jace’s family name to back you. Those are powerful even now but it’s not enough. We need a win to cement your position. A show to prove that you fully reject Valentine and that you work for the Clave. When everyone knows and you’ve just helped save us all, everyone’s eyes will be on them. The Clave will give in, we’ll make it so they have no other choice.”

Alec shook his head. Though Maryse’ plan wasn’t a bad one, it was technically the best they had so far, his boy didn’t seem like he could even begin to process the idea that this might not be his death warrant, “They’ll know that I lied to them. They’ll know that all of you lied to them. Even if I tried to tell them that I hid this secret alone, they won’t believe me. They’ll know that all of you knew.”

And every single one of them knew how petty the Clave could be, how petty they were. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, darling.”

No, I can’t let you all put yourselves in that line of fire for me.” Alec shook his head stubbornly. Though Magnus could not blame him for his fears for them they were, ultimately, stupid. What was he advocating for? That they abandon him? Obviously not and Alec knew that. Right now, this was just him torturing himself over it.

Jace actually scoffed, “Don’t be an idiot.”

“If this were any of us, you wouldn’t let us tell you to back off and leave us to our fates,” Izzy’s voice was gentle for all that she was also rolling her eyes at Alec. “So don’t sit there and pretend that we wouldn’t do the same for you. You’re not asking, we’re telling.”

Alec pulled in a deep breath and Magnus could see the way his eyes seemed to go glassy with tears. He was touched, certainly, but he was also desperately afraid that he was going to lose them to a situation tied up in protecting him.

“Trust us, love.” Magnus said softly “We’re stronger together.”

Alec’s watery eyes looked down at Magnus and he smiled tightly. The attempt didn’t look particularly reassuring but at least he didn’t seem interested in fighting them. Magnus had absolutely no doubts that the conversation would be revisited but they could have that battle as frequently as Alec’s fears demanded because the answer wasn’t changing.

They were in this with him until the end.

 

---

 

“What do you think?”

Izzy had sought him out but he had known she would. After their conversation about the intricacies of when to tell the Clave, Maryse had started speaking quietly to Alec and Magnus let her. He didn’t go far, just to the balcony doors, but he gave the illusion of privacy.

Jace didn’t. He sat right there with them. If Maryse was cross, she didn’t say anything. Maybe she knew better than to try.

“You know her better.” Magnus posed the question back to her.

The look on Izzy’s face suggested that after some of the things Maryse had said today her daughter wasn’t entirely sure on that point.

“We can let her leave.” Izzy said finally. She looked between her brothers and Magnus but she spoke softly.

He agreed. Trusting Maryse Lightwood was not in his nature.

But he agreed.

 

---

 

She didn’t hate him.

Alec genuinely hadn’t been sure. He wouldn’t ever say that to his mother, especially since she’d chosen him, but the uncertainty had been there all the same.

It was maybe funny that she’d taken to him having magic faster than she had him having Magnus has a boyfriend.

It wasn’t funny enough to laugh but when he got out of the bathroom he’d maybe tell Magnus and he would laugh. The idea that he was in Magnus’ home, about to go out to Magnus’ bedroom to get in his bed and to tell him things that would make him laugh…

It was all surreal still. Wonderful, the only part of this mess he was grateful for, but surreal all the same.

Alec splashed some water on his face in some attempt to wake himself up as though he wasn’t about to go to sleep. He wanted to go out there, get in bed with Magnus and actually stay awake to talk to him for more than three minutes. Today had been so much. They had so much to talk about and though Magnus told Alec already that he agreed with his mother’s plan Alec knew they should talk more. They should... he should…

He didn’t want to.

He wanted to lie down beside Magnus and forget all off this for a while. It wasn’t smart or strategic or productive but right now he literally couldn’t care.

When he opened the bathroom door he found Magnus sitting at his vanity taking off rings.

His warlock looked up and smiled at him from the mirror reflection, “Ready for bed, love?”

There was no possible way that Alec could list out all the differences between Magnus and literally anyone he’d grown up with but this was such a massive one. In the Institute, even if he fell to his knees, put his hands over his ears and begged, no one would let him bow out of a necessary planning meeting just because he felt like maybe he’d explode.

Magnus would. Magnus did. Bringing all of that into the bedroom didn’t even occur to him.

Alec walked over, “I am if you are.”

“Makeup removed, jewelry safely stored, skincare applied.” Magnus listed off, “Ready for bed.”

Once he got close enough to touch, Alec pressed himself to Magnus’ back and laid his hands over his shoulders to rest his hands against Magnus’ warm chest. The magic licked at his skin but it didn’t zap him again.

He didn’t know how – he barely knew anything about how to have magic – but Alec was determined to find a way to teach it that this man should never be hurt. It should never lash out at Magnus again. Right now, all he could think to do was to touch Magnus and love him and hope that whatever connected the magic to his emotions would notice and learn accordingly.

“I love you,” He said to Magnus in the mirror.

Magnus tilted his head up so he could see Alec himself and not his reflection. “I love you too, Alexander.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Ten


 

 

 

It was beginning to feel like the very moment they sorted a temporary stopgap solution to one of their many problems, something else that they had frantically solved got pushed back to the forefront.

Isabelle and Maryse were working together right that moment to buy them time with the Clave and move forward with their plan. Alec was sleeping in, finally managing some rest that didn’t look painfully tense.

Now, Valentine.

Again.

Magnus felt a headache building as he stared down at the maps he had just pulled from his shelves. 

He, Jace and Clary were holed up in his workroom. When Alec started coming to stay at his place regularly, Magnus had warded the room to make things safer for the non-warlock moving freely about his loft. Nothing that kept Alec out of course, not with his boy’s penchant for watching him work, rather, spells to keep any accidents from spilling out into the loft and that kind of thing. One was an alerting spell that let him know when someone was coming, meant so that he would know when Alec was on his way so he could make sure things were safe by the time he entered.

This was the best room he had to offer for the discussion they were having. Full privacy, no matter who came into the loft for whatever reason. Their work was vital, even if it was only in the beginning stages.

The goal?

Finding Valentine.

Based on what Alec had told them and the location both of where the tracking spell had first picked him up and where he was eventually found, including the direction that he seemed to be running, they had managed to narrow the area to search fairly decently.

Jace drew a careful circle around the widest possible area that they figured could have held Valentine. “All of this is more industrial, not much housing, not many people around outside of working hours.”

“Half of those buildings looked abandoned.” Clary added, “Maybe not even lots of people inside of working hours.”

“This would be easier at the Institute.” Jace groused, no doubt longing for his pretty holographic display tables.

“This would be dangerous at the Institute.” Magnus reminded somewhat unnecessarily. Jace didn’t need to be reminded of just how badly giving this narrowed circle to the untrustworthy Clave or the unprepared Shadowhunters at the Institute could go.

Every one of them had proven that they were no match for Valentine Morgenstern.

“At least Magnus has a lot of maps of New York.” Clary said as she started sifting through the contents of a charmed hollow book labeled New York. “Actually, Magnus, why do you have so many maps of New York?”

To be fair to her, he did have a rather impressive collection. He tried to remember to grab some sort of printed map of the city once a decade or so. There were certainly decades that were missing, he sometimes didn’t enter New York for large gaps of time, especially before he was High Warlock. “I’ve got lots of maps of lots of different places,” He said, which was true. If his map collection of New York was slightly larger than that of say, Mombasa, then she and Jace didn’t need to know it. “New York has been my… home base if you will, for quite some time. You never know when you need to trace the changes in the city through the years.”

Clary was slowly empting the hollowed out part of the book, setting aside the maps that were hand-drawn and yellowed with age. She made another stack of more modern, mass produced maps. Things that had either been sold to the masses or were meant for workmen that Magnus had gained through less capitalist means. “I can work on this.” She volunteered. “While you work with Alec’s magic and Izzy and Jace help Maryse keep the Institute running and the Clave out.”

“We’re looking for abandoned buildings with sewer tunnel access, changes in the tunnels themselves, buildings like the ones Valentine has hidden in previously.” Jace listed off to her. He had his hands braced on Magnus’ worktable as he surveyed the map they had started with. “Anything that looks unusual. Even better if there’s something on an older map that’s not on a current one.”

Even if they had access to the Institute’s technology, this would be a mammoth task. And then, when they had their list of places to investigate, that would open a whole new slew of problems. It would take a lot of time and caution to sweep the buildings Clary identified as possibilities.

And the risk of finding Valentine at the wrong moment was incredibly high. If they were going to confront him, they needed an ironclad plan and all hands on deck. Two or three of them stumbling into his base and being discovered could be a fatal mistake.

“I understand,” Clary nodded with determination, “As much as possible, I’m going to try to stay here and work on this. The Clave has been watching me though, so we have to figure out how to keep them from getting too suspicious about what I’m doing.”

“I’d say stay here with Magnus and Alec, they can’t bother you if you never leave Magnus’ wards.” Jace clearly wanted it, “But I know that won’t work.”

That Clary was tempted was obvious. Magnus held up a hand, “While I understand the merits of the suggestion, I don’t know if we want to make the Clave that much more suspicious about what’s happening inside of this loft.”

“You’re right.” Jace swore under his breath and dragged a hand over his face tiredly, “The less interested they are in this place the better.”

The Clave coming to his door because they wanted to see Alec and Clary both would be catastrophic, especially if it was before Alec could absorb his magic under his skin.

“We’ll figure it out.” Clary tried to reassure Jace, “If this starts taking me too long, then we’ll change the plan but for now, I’ll just have to use what time I have here as best I can.”

To be fair, it wasn’t as if they were currently spending most of their time in his loft. Although now that the Clave was about to be informed that Alec had been found, that would likely be cut down. Or maybe not, depending on how Isabelle and Maryse spun the story of Alec’s condition.

Clary sighed with audible worry and frustration.

“What?” Jace asked curiously.

“Alec said that Valentine told him he’s killed other Shadowhunters trying to give them magic.” Clary started slowly, “So if Alec’s the only one who survived, he’s going to want him back.”

“Of course he will,” Magnus agreed bitterly. The thought of Alec being hunted by Valentine and the Clave both was horrible. He would do everything in his not inconsiderable power to keep Alec safe, but were one warlock and three Shadowhunters enough?

Jace looked just as worried about it as Magnus felt. “He’s going to be looking for Alec like we’re looking for him.”

Clary shook her head then paused for a second and said, “Well, yeah, but think about it. We have no idea where he is. I mean, we’ve narrowed it down, yeah, but we’re not sure and we’ve got to search so many buildings before we figure out where he’s hiding. But Alec…” She glanced at Magnus, “Alec is going to be easy to find.”

“You’re right Biscuit,” Magnus felt his heart start to pound a little harder. “My wards can withstand a lot but with Valentine’s numbers and the experimentation he’s been doing on warlocks, I can’t say for sure that I’ll be enough to keep him out.”

“And Mom and Izzy are about to tell everyone where Alec is.” Jace realized with slowly dawning horror. “Shit, how didn’t we think of that?” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and then set it to speaker. The call rang twice before Izzy’s voice came through.

“What’s wrong?”

“Who have you told about Alec?” Jace asked urgently.

Izzy’s voice sounded puzzled, “We reported it in to the Clave. That’s it so far.”

“Don’t tell anyone else where he is.” Magnus said. “If it works its way back to Valentine…”

Guys,” Izzy cut in gently, “Of course everyone is going to think he’s in the loft. We can’t avoid that.”

Magnus felt the truth of her words like a fist to the gut. “She’s right.”  Valentine didn’t need a mole in the Clave to tell him where Alec was. The best they could have ever hoped for was Valentine thinking they had moved him to one of Magnus’ other properties. An idea he liked, certainly.

“Then we should move him.” Jace looked ashen at the thought of his sort of-not really father getting his hands on his parabatai again. He more than any of them knew the depth of the pain that Alec had felt while he had been in Valentine’s tender care and how close Alec had been to death.  

Izzy sighed, “The Clave is forbidding it. Mom and I already thought of this and mentioned Magnus taking him away somewhere secluded to recover. They’re insisting that if Alec is that bad off then he needs to go to Alicante. Remember, we said he couldn’t be moved. They’ve trapped us, pretty much. I have no doubt that they’re going to start watching us, because they’re seriously suspicious.”

“Or Valentine has infiltrated deeper than we thought.” Jace said with a grim voice. “I’m not sure I care about the Clave’s suspicions if it means keeping Alec away from Valentine.”

And if it gets to that point, I’ll agree.” Izzy said carefully. “But a big part of this plan is trying to keep Alec’s life as intact as we can. If we run, we risk ruining that. Of course if it comes to the choice between his life and his life in New York, we’ll do what we have to but until then?”

“Valentine could be coming here as we speak.” Magnus grit his teeth. Playing politics with the Clave was the very last thing he was in the mood to do. How dare they cast suspicion on one of their most loyal, genuinely good Shadowhunters? Now they had to dance to the Clave’s tune when healing and protecting Alec from Valentine should have been the priority.

As always, in every situation, the Clave was a waste of time. They offered nothing of value. They were hindering true good from being done. They were useless.

“To come here to your door is big, Magnus.” Jace said and for once Magnus’ ego didn’t perk up to hear a Shadowhunter call him formidable. “It’s public. It would be a huge step for him.”

Valentine Morgenstern was nothing if not willing to make the grand gestures to get what he wanted. He loved grandstanding, especially if he thought he had the advantage. “But not an inconceivable one.”

What kind of warding do you have on the loft? And what defensive spells do you have up to deter attacks?” Izzy asked.

Magnus sighed, “My warding is extensive, old and has many layers. I’ve activated them to the third level at the moment, which is the highest they can reach before I completely shut the building down. That is visible, however.”

“We should hold that in reserve.” Jace said, “If you keep the strongest wards up, Valentine’s warlocks get too much time to study them, find ways to weaken them – better hold something back until we really need it.”

“I agree,” Magnus said sincerely, “In terms of defensive spells, there are few. My days of doing battle on a King’s dime are long gone, there’s been no need.”

Clary gave him a grim smile, “There’s a need now.”

And she was right but the type of spellcrafting they were suggesting wasn’t an easy undertaking. It took a lot of power and quite a lot of thought. “There are some fortifications I can do without expending too much power but I’m wary of doing too much. If I drain myself for a defensive spell over the building and then Valentine or the Clave come calling, I might be too weak to protect Alec.”

“Could Catarina help?” Clary asked, “Or could one of us give you our strength?”

The ideas had merit but still… “I’ll need to do some research, put together a plan.”

“Sooner rather than later.” Jace said softly, as though Magnus was willing to procrastinate with Alec’s safety.

He raised an eyebrow in the blonde’s direction. At the very least, Jace had the grace to flush a little.

We’ll keep Alec’s location a secret from the Institute but it’s not going to be much help. If there’s a mole in the Clave…”

“Then Valentine will have confirmation of exactly where Alec is.” Magnus finished grimly.

 

---

 

“Very good, love,” Magnus said softly as his eyes flickered between Alec’s determined face and the ball of magic between his hands. Well, ball was maybe the wrong word. Alec’s bright magic looked sort of like it was halfway through some sort of mitosis cycle, a wide blob with an indentation in the middle. His task was to separate his magic out into two different spheres this time.

Progress was slow.

Or rather, Alec thought the progress was too slow and so his frustration was rising, making the task even more difficult than before. Magnus was perfectly happy with the pace of Alec’s magical training.

Truthfully almost any other Shadowhunter wouldn’t have made it even this far. He could think of quite a few that he had met through his many years that would have already killed themselves to be spared the ‘shame’ of it. Just by accepting his new magic, no matter how tentative Alec’s acceptance was, he had already made one of the hardest steps in learning to control it. And yes, Alec’s acceptance of his magic was still wavering but Magnus could already see him settling more and more each day. There would still be hard moments ahead, moments where Alec might truly hate himself and what had been done to him, but Magnus would be right there beside him to guide him through them best he could.

“This shouldn’t be so hard.” Alec said through a clenched jaw. “It shouldn’t, Magnus!”

That Alec had not yet even begun to grasp the connection between his emotional state and his magic went without saying.

“Controlling two different spheres of magic is entirely different than just one, Alexander. To have your focus split is difficult.” Magnus tried to explain what he meant but from the still angry expression on Alec’s face, he wasn’t making headway. So, he tried a different tactic. “Think back to when you were first learning archery. Weren’t there occasions when you were so focused on one hand’s aiming that you didn’t pull the string back as well as you could have? Or that you had the shot lined up perfectly but then when your other hand pulled the string you were so focused on that it threw your aim off? You had to learn how to coordinate each hand separately to do what was needed.”

Alec looked barely convinced by the argument.

“This is similar, Alec. Your magic is an extension of yourself. It is you. When you fight, you control each of your limbs, the position of your body and countless muscles with barely a thought. That was hard won, though. You had to train to be so in tune with your own body to accomplish what you now consider as simple as breathing.” Magnus continued, willing Alec to remember the few times that he had witnessed Magnus truly fight with his magic. They hadn’t been in many actual battles together but when they were, Magnus hadn’t just had one spell being cast at a time. The ways they fought were different but the mastery of it, the ease of it, was the same. “Our aim is to have your magic become the same to you. Beginning the casting of one spell as you throw another, maintaining wards and protections all the while. Doing all of that while throwing up a shield. This,” He cupped his hands around Alec’s where his misshapen ball of stubbornly cohesive magic hovered between his hands, “Is the first step to accomplishing that.”

The frown on Alec’s pursed lips didn’t ease. “So a child should be able to do this.”

Magnus nearly dropped his head into his hands, “A beginner needs to learn this. To master it before the lessons can progress. You are a beginner, not a child.”

Although the pout on his face didn’t lend much to Magnus’ last point.

With a harsh exhalation full of frustration and anger, Alec jerked his hands apart and threw them behind his back, as though he couldn’t bare the sight of his magic or his hands. “This is useless, Magnus!”

“It’s not,” Magnus said as evenly as he could. He reached out and laid his hand on Alec’s cheek, stroking his thumb under Alec’s eyes where the dark circles seemed to have taken up permanent residence. “You’re just frustrated and overtired.”

“I sleep all the time!” Alec almost shouted at him.

Magnus shushed him softly, “You do not. You sleep a bit more than you did before this and it’s not as though you were getting the recommended eight hours then, were you?” He raised an eyebrow.

If Alec wasn’t in such a mood, he might have flushed at the point. Instead his hands just clenched into fists behind him.

“The workouts you did as you were learning to fight tired you out, didn’t they? Even though the same things are nothing to you now?” Magnus asked. He purposely didn’t use the word child.

“I’m not five years old anymore Magnus.” Alec said through a clenched jaw.

Goodness, was that when Shadowhunters started training their young in earnest? Magnus took the split second to again marvel at how absolutely lucky Shadowhunter children were to make it to adulthood before he refocused. “The point still stands, darling. You were learning, thus the skills were tiring to attain. Muscle had to be built, your body needed to learn the motions, your mind needed to memorize them. All of those things take energy. All of them are difficult. Each step takes each person a different amount of time to master.”

Alec’s expression didn’t ease.

“Think of it this way,” He said, switching tactics. “If I were teaching you to speak French, would you be upset with yourself for not being able to speak in full sentences within a week?”

Silence.

“Alexander?” Magnus prompted.

Alec sighed, “No.”

“Even though there’s a French toddler somewhere in the world giving his mother a detailed account of what he and his imaginary friend did today at this very same moment?” Magnus pressed. “A toddler out-speaking you, an intelligent, adorable, intensely stubborn adult?”

Alec closed his eyes and, if Magnus’ eager eyes weren’t deceiving him, a ghost of a smile had begun to form. “No.” He said again, less angrily this time.

Magnus leaned forward and let his lips ghost over Alec’s, “I could, you realize, apply this same idea to any number of things.” He pressed a kiss to Alec’s mouth, quickly pulling back when Alec moved to return it, “For instance,” He whispered, “You certainly didn’t know how to do that thing with your tongue that I love when you gave me your first ever blowjob. Think of how tired your jaw was that first time, Alexander. Think of how good you’ve gotten at it since then.”

“Magnus.” Alec’s voice was the barest whisper and this time, when he leaned in to kiss Magnus back, he allowed it.

Magnus’ other hand curled around the back of Alec’s head as he carefully tipped Alec backwards to sprawl onto the ground, cushioning any impact Alec felt. He kissed Alec more insistently, his tongue eagerly claiming Alec’s mouth.

Alec’s back arched and one of his hands, the hands he had been too angry to look at only moments before, grabbed onto Magnus’ hip and tugged him down so their bodies were pressed more firmly together.

Magnus was careful not to let their hips connect too closely. He didn’t think they were ready to reclaim that part of their relationship just yet, especially not with Alec’s emotions where they were. This though, this was an excellent first step.

And, as he had just told Alexander, each step forward was important. No matter what journey they were on.

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Eleven


 

 

 

When the conversation of Cat coming to check him over again came up, Magnus asked Alec if he would be okay if Madzie came too. There had been some hesitation on Alec’s face but he had agreed firmly in the end. What that hesitation was, Magnus couldn’t guess. Normally he might have pressed Alec to make sure he was truly all right with the visit but this time he let it go. Seeing Madzie, he thought, would help.

The more people Alec encountered that didn’t hate his magic the better.

There was still the concern of Alec feeling upset because he was being shown up by a child but Magnus honestly didn’t think it would be a problem.

Madzie, Cat said, was incredibly excited that her favorite playmate had magic now. None of this was dramatic to her.

“If anything gets too much, promise me you’ll tell me? If you need a few minutes alone or if Madzie gets too overwhelming…” Magnus said to Alec as a knock came at their door.

Alec rolled his eyes up at Magnus, “She’s little, Magnus. She’s not overwhelming.”

“Still,” Magnus insisted as another knock came. This one was coming from further down the door but was just as loud, if not louder, as Cat’s.

“Yes, I promise.” Alec said from his spot on the couch. Normally he went to about halfway towards the door with Magnus because Madzie loved to take running leaps at him so he could swing her up but Magnus had insisted Alec sit for this visit. The last thing they needed was some sort of emotional meltdown because his arms started shaking with fatigue while he held tiny little Madzie.

“Welcome, my dears,” Magnus started to say as he opened the door with a flourish.

Madzie pushed past him before he could even get the words out. “Alec!” She called in a sing song voice while doing a bustling little walk/run as though she was a society matron in 1842 trying to get over to the source of the exploding scandal so she could give the best gossip but didn’t want to be seen as doing so.

“I told her she couldn’t run to him.” Cat said with a laugh as she came inside.

“I suppose that’s not a run.” Magnus mused as he and Cat linked arms and followed behind Madzie.

Alec’s little sorceress nearly skidded to a stop in front of him. “Show me!”

“Madzie!” Cat scolded.

Alec shook his head just a little, telling Cat it was fine. Magnus braced himself just a bit. Alec didn’t like letting people see his new magic. He didn’t even like seeing it himself.

Still, he gamely brought his hands out from where he had them clenched into fists at his sides and held them in front of Madzie for inspection.

Madzie squealed.

Madzie. Squealed.

She didn’t know how unique Alec now was or what the price of this magic was. She had no idea what jeopardy it put him in. And that was okay. Not everyone needed to be bogged down in those harsh realities. What Magnus wanted from her was exactly what she was giving Alec.

Her unbridled joy. Her enthusiasm. Her excitement.

“I can’t… I can’t do anything yet.” Alec stammered out quickly, as though Madzie was going to start demanding the sorts of things that Magnus did for her from him instead.

Madzie nodded very seriously considering the smile on her face. “I know. Cat told me. You’ll get better though! You’ll practice and practice and practice and we’ll play and I’ll help!”

Those were a lot of words all at once from normally silent Madzie and that they were loving words of encouragement made Magnus’ heart skip a beat.

Alec bit his lip for a second, just as affected. “Thanks, Madzie.” He shifted in his seat a little before bringing his hands together the way that he did when they were practicing. He was getting pretty quick at bringing his magic together into the ball between his palms and he no longer needed to close his eyes to concentrate.

This time he did it the quickest yet.

Madzie clapped as though this were the best thing she had ever seen. Then she opened her hands and made her own ball to match Alec’s.

It was immediately obvious that this wasn’t her magic. Instead, she made a ball of light that looked nearly identical to Alec’s in color and size.

Then, with a little giggle and a grin, her ball of light went neon pink.

“Don’t be upset you can’t have hot pink magic too,” Cat teased Alec as she draped herself on the couch opposite.

Alec quirked a small smile and Magnus took that as enough of a reassurance that Madzie wasn’t inadvertently upsetting him. To keep himself from hovering, he went to his drink cart instead and started mixing up something for him and Cat. Maybe a Shirley Temple for Madzie.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Madzie change her ball into a square with crisp clean edges and he inwardly cringed.

Alec still hadn’t managed to split his magic into two balls that he could control simultaneously. Granted, they hadn’t tried to play with shape but he still didn’t want there to be a rush of frustration so soon after they had gotten over the last.

If Alec was thrown by Madzie’s challenge, he didn’t show it. His focus went wholly onto the ball in front of him. While Magnus stirred Cat’s drink, he tried hard not to make his attention obvious.

Slowly, Alec’s ball started flattening into corners.

Admittedly, it looked more like a beach ball that happened to be square, bowed sides and no sharp lines, but still – that it was no longer a perfect sphere was undeniable.

“Flat,” Madzie said as she brought her hands closer to Alec’s so he could see what hers looked like as though he was iffy on how squares looked and needed a reference.

Magnus went to sit by Cat and leaned out to the side just enough so that he could see Alec’s magic going flatter like Madzie demanded. Once the sides were flat, the lines and corners got better.

“Yes!” Madzie jumped up and down for Alec’s success. Her square was still better than his but Alec’s square was definitely a square so that was apparently good enough.

Madzie’s light then shifted into a pyramid – a green one, she had evidently gotten bored with pink – and Alec started trying to copy it.

“He seems incredibly willing to try.” Cat said softly at his side. “That’s something.”

Magnus sighed, “Oh, he’s very willing. It’s getting him to do anything else that’s the problem. If I let him, he would be practicing twenty hours a day.”

“I’d tell you to remind him that the faster he recovers, the faster his magic should settle but I can’t say that giving him the ability to leave is great so walk that line how you think best, my friend.”

That was supremely unhelpful and Magnus shot a look at Cat to make sure she knew it. Judging by her snort, she did.

While they had been talking, Alec’s pyramid had been taking shape. It nearly looked like one, except the top remained stubbornly rounded

“I hadn’t thought of shapes,” Magnus admitted. “I’ve been trying to have him split his magic into two spheres.”

“It’s, I think, a game that Iris used to play with her.” Cat was familiar enough with speaking about Iris Rouse kindly for Madzie that she no longer sneered her name. “I suppose she would know quite a bit about training young warlocks.”

The point grated on Magnus – that Iris might have helpful tricks for teaching magical control – but he couldn’t argue with the results.

That said, he wasn’t heading to the City of Bones to get any more pointers.

 

---

 

The minute Magnus and Madzie happily skipped off to his workroom to play, Alec knew he was in for some sort of lecture.

Cat had her feet propped up on Magnus’ coffee table with a fresh cocktail in her hands. She was looking at him with something between a smirk and a smile – not cutting enough to be one of Cat’s smirks but still with an edge of teasing that was kind of her default. Cat was wickedly sarcastic and while Alec loved it normally he was a little bit braced for why she had arranged a private conversation with him.

“What?” He asked finally, fighting the urge to fidget.

“What?” Cat repeated with a purposefully innocent shrug.

Cat.”

Cat laughed softly, “How are you feeling, Alec?”

Was this a medical exam? Everyone had told him that she had checked in on him when he had been laid up early on. It made sense she would ask, he guessed. “Okay. Better.”

“I hate patients like you.” Cat rolled her eyes, “You’re worse than the hypochondriacs.”

“This isn’t like a wound is getting better or something.” Alec answered. He was getting a little frustrated with the question honestly, and if there was anyone out there that he could safely take that out on it would be Catarina. She would just think he was like, amusing or something. “I can’t say the bleeding’s let up or it’s hit that itching stage or something.”

Cat took a slow sip of her drink with a raised eyebrow, “Like I said, the stoic ones are the worst patients to deal with. Let’s go top to bottom, shall we? You had a mild head injury to start. How’s that doing?”

“Better. Way better.”

“Any headaches?”

Alec shrugged, “Yeah but I think those are like tension or something. Not Valentine related.”

“Have you been telling Magnus when they happen?” Cat questioned with the air of a woman about to be disappointed.

He shook his head.

“Tell him, you idiot.” Cat shot back immediately, “If you think it’s not Valentine related then I’ll believe you. That means that they’re one, because you’re dehydrated. From what Magnus has been telling me that’s definitely likely. Besides, stupid boys never drink enough water and you’re a quintessential stupid boy. If it’s not that then it’s option two like you said, tension. You’re putting a lot of focus into learning a new skill that is unlike anything you’ve ever had to do before. Your brain isn’t aware of how to do this, so you’re straining it even with ‘light’ practice. Sleep. Take breaks. Do activities that are less mentally taxing to compensate before and after you start a practice session. And remember, having an existential crisis or panicking about your future and the future of everyone you love is not a less mentally taxing activity, no matter how good you are at it.”

Alec blinked.

I’m not in love with you so don’t expect the gentle approach, Lightwood.” Cat winked at him.

“I’m trying, Cat, I really am.” Alec admitted with a sigh. He leaned back into the couch, “But Valentine is going to come after me. He will. If I’m not prepared then people could get killed.”

Cat’s teasing expression fell away. “I know, Alec. But forcing this isn’t going to make progress happen faster. If anything you’re going to set yourself back.”

Magnus had been saying the same thing lately. It was hard to believe. If he wasn’t good enough, people he loved might die. So, to keep them safe he had to be good enough.

And if he gave himself headaches along the way, then that was a small price to pay. Nothing at all really.

“Hey,” Cat said louder, “Worrying is mentally taxing. Quit it.”

“Easier said than done.” Alec shrugged.

Cat tilted her head to concede the point. “Let’s move on. How are you coping with the feeling of your magic?”

Badly.

He looked down at his hands, at this magic that never stopped moving. Magnus said it didn’t even stop when he slept.

“I know Magnus has said this to you but I’m going to back him up,” Cat said softly. “It’s okay if you’re finding the sensation of your magic to be hard to deal with. What you need to do is learn the baseline of your magic and separate that sensation out with the baseline of your body. There are points where the two intersect but it’s important to recognize that magical health and physical health are two different things.”

The baseline of your magic and the baseline of your body.

Alec turned the phrase around in his head. He hadn’t considered it that way. Maybe the wrong he couldn’t stand was actually just the magic? Maybe it had nothing to do with how his body felt?

It took him a second to realize Cat had stopped talking.

When he looked back up at her, she seemed like she was quietly letting him think. Once he focused on her, she said, “Sleeping okay?”

Alec snorted, “That’s going great. If I’m even vaguely horizontal, I fall asleep.”

“That’s good.” Cat finally seemed pleased with him. “Take the message your body is sending and get plenty of rest.”

Alec knew better than to do anything but agree so he just nodded.

“Last thing before I release you to Magnus’ tender care.” Cat downed the last of her drink and used a tendril of magic to return the glass to the drink cart. “How much have you and Magnus talked about wild magic?”

“I know what I was doing in the beginning. Zapping people who touched me, I mean.” He still felt badly about that too.

“Okay, good, what else?”

He wasn’t sure what else there was. “He just explained why it was happening. That my, um, my magic was trying to help me.”

“Wild magic can technically happen to anyone, even a centuries old warlock with strong control over their magic. The circumstances would have to be pretty intense granted, but it’s certainly been known to happen.” Cat explained.

Alec wondered what exactly she considered to be pretty intense circumstances.

“The younger the warlock, the more likely it is to happen. At your age, even if you were born with magic, you would still have occasional bursts of wild magic. Now, you’ve got adult stress magnified by a war combined with newborn magic, which isn’t an easy combination unfortunately. You should absolutely be prepared for more instances of it – big dramatic ones and little every day ones. You’ve got virtually no control over your magic right now. You’re on the right track of course, but you’re still at the very early stages of learning to control this.”

“So I’m going to hurt people again.” Alec shut his eyes when they started to burn. He didn’t want to hurt anyone but Valentine. Instead, he zapped Magnus’ fingers and who knew exactly what he had done back in the warehouse with Valentine?

He was dangerous until he learned to control this.

“Not necessarily.” Cat said shook her head, “Wild magic does tend to come up when a warlock is threatened more than any other time but that doesn’t inevitably mean the spell will be offensive. For instance, sometimes Madzie has nightmares about when she was trapped with Valentine. To counter those feelings, her magic opens all the doors and windows while she’s asleep. Not always violently, although she’s also shattered all the glass doing it, sometimes they just open as if I was physically doing it myself.”

“And the only way I can stop it from happening is by learning to control this?” Alec held his hands out as though Cat didn’t know what he meant. He mostly did it out of frustration though, because his magic couldn’t have been any less under his control.

Cat shook her head and a spark of hope built in Alec, “That’s going to be a major factor but not the only one. You have to remember, it’s not necessarily the threat that makes the wild magic appear, it’s often what you yourself are feeling internally. In your case, you wanted people to stop touching you. We obviously didn’t test it but I’m almost positive that someone could have done something else to you – like shot an arrow at you – and that wouldn’t have triggered the wild magic because that’s not what you wanted. If warlocks had wild magic that would respond to any little threat, none of us would ever be murdered. It’s not like that.”

That made a lot of sense. Alec had battled warlocks many times before and never once had he been hit with wild magic, although he had certainly sunk a killing arrow into them. “So…” He said slowly as he worked through the problem, “If I… if I don’t want to hurt anyone, it won’t? No, that can’t be though, because I just didn’t want people to touch me, I didn’t want anyone hurt.”

“You can’t know how the wild magic will manifest.” Cat said with an apologetic shrug. “What you can do is keep working with Magnus to gain control and try to stay as calm as you can. Your emotions are a massive piece of this, Alec. In some ways, emotional control is just as important as magical control. That’s also what I meant by your age. The brain isn’t fully developed until twenty-six and people in their early twenties and teens aren’t known for being the most emotionally stable group. Keeping yourself calm even when you’re under emotional strain will help. If something does happen that triggers the wild magic, try to regain composure as quickly as possible. I know all of this is so much easier said than done but it’s unfortunately all there is to it. You should ask Magnus to walk you through some mediation techniques, they might be a big help.”

That was actually something Magnus had offered him before, usually when he came home with hands that were sliced to hell from his bow. Alec hadn’t ever taken him up on it because exercises meant to calm the mind had seemed too unattainable for him. He could just imagine the frustration of it.

Now though, when the risk was hurting one of his siblings or Magnus instead of just hurting himself, it seemed like he was going to have to try.

Between that and mastering control over his stupid magic, Alec felt the steady pressure of hopelessness crank up.

A gust of air smacked him straight across the face.

“I said quit it.” Cat said unrepentantly. “You’re so impatient. You don’t think he became Magnus Bane in a month, do you?”

“I’m not looking to become Magnus Bane!” And he wasn’t. Magnus was so far beyond what Alec could ever be both in power and in skill. Hell, in knowledge as well. “I just don’t want to accidentally blow people up via uncontrolled magic.”

The door to Magnus’ workshop slid open and Alec heard little footsteps running towards them.

Madzie raced up to him with a steaming vial in her grasp. She held it up to him with a mischievous grin.

“Um…” He took it gingerly. It was worryingly room temperature considering all the smoke.

Magnus came up behind Madzie and winked at him. Clearly, he was meant to not ask questions and get some sort of surprise. “This isn’t going to turn me into a toad, is it?”

Madzie’s grin widened but she shook her head.

“Be brave, Shadowhunter.” Cat called.

Alec sniffed the potion… “Pineapple.” He said, pleasantly surprised. Then he downed it in one gulp.

Ugh, it didn’t taste like pineapple! It tasted more like what he imagined bark would. Dirty bark. Dirty, wet bark towards the bottom of the tree where there may or not be mold. He opened his mouth to say so, except instead of the words, a stream of multicolored bubbles floated out of his mouth.

Madzie’s almost silent giggles erupted into peals of laughter.

Cat and Magnus weren’t far behind her. Alec figured it was more her reaction that caused their laughter than his bubbles, although he was sure his face had been pretty good.

It turned out the bubbles came out even when he laughed.

 

---

 

Hours later, Alec couldn’t help himself.

His magic was a square. It was perhaps a more precise square than he was capable of even drawing. If it were real, the corners could have taken someone’s eye out.

“On the one hand,” Magnus said as he came out of the bathroom and saw what Alec was doing, “I’m grateful that Madzie had such good ideas for magic practice even if that’s not what we invited her over for. On the other, I do not love practice in bed.” Then, he stopped. His hand held his side of the blankets but he made no move to get in. He winked at Alec, “Well, at least not that kind of practice in bed.”

Alec laughed quietly and let the magic go. He could barely suppress the flinch when the static crept up his arms again but managed to hold it back, “I know you’re all for that kind of practice.”

Magnus slid under the covers beside him and Alec still couldn’t believe that they were living together now. It was all so much. This wasn’t how he had wanted it to happen, living together hadn’t even been on his radar even before they had broken up, but he wasn’t mad about it.

“You look pensive, love.” Magnus’ words were said playfully but Alec could see the underlying concern.

It was hard not to notice. It felt like everyone was walking on eggshells around him.

“Nothing bad,” Alec said with as easy of a smile as he could muster up. He wanted to reassure Magnus. “Just thinking about being here.”

“Here as in the loft?” Magnus asked as he turned on his side to face Alec better. Though Alec was wearing a t-shirt to bed, still a little too insecure for anything less, Magnus had forgone his in favor of just wearing a pair of pants. The low light from the bedside lamps cast shadows over his muscled chest that made Alec’s throat tighten.

He nodded, “Yeah,”

Magnus smiled, his so much more relaxed than Alec’s weak attempt. “It is lovely, isn’t it? Starting and ending every day with you sleeping beside me is a joy. I can’t wait until we can move some of your things over here. I’m having irrationally delighted thoughts of your mug in my cabinets or your clothes in my closet.”

The idea of that sort of knocked Alec breathless. “I hadn’t even thought about that.”

Almost instantly, Magnus froze. His smile went a little fixed in place, not nearly as easy as before. “I… I mean…”

He’d created yet another minefield without even meaning to. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I just… I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of things. There’s some stuff I definitely want to keep here with me, but eighty percent of the stuff in my room isn’t important to me. I hadn’t really considered it.”

He hadn’t considered a lot about moving in with Magnus.

Abruptly, he turned onto his side so they could face each other, “Tell me something that you hate when people do it in your home.”

“I… what?” Magnus asked.

“I’m really grateful you’re letting me live here, Magnus. I don’t know if I’ve said that yet. I love being with you and I know you like being with me too but I still just kind of showed up out of nowhere. I mean, I don’t even have my own things to contribute, you have to keep loaning me stuff or buying me stuff and I feel bad about that. There’s got to be some sort of ground rules you want me follow or something.” The idea of it sent a rush of energy through him. “Please, I know I’ve been kind of a mess but I really want to talk about this.”

Magnus was silent for a moment but Alec didn’t mind. Maybe that was even better. More reassuring at least. It meant that Magnus didn’t have some list of pet peeves that he had been mentally building while Alec just bothered him over and over again. He would have hated if Magnus immediately came out with a bunch of things that Alec had been annoying him with.

“Let’s slow down a moment, darling.” Magnus said finally. “You’ve just said a lot. Let’s break it down piece by piece, all right?”

He didn’t feel like he’d said a lot but however Magnus wanted to have the discussion was fine by him so he nodded.

“You’re welcome for taking you in but I don’t want you to feel as though you need to be grateful or indebted to me. Or even that you need to think about it as taking you in.” Magnus insisted with a shake of his head.

Honestly, he looked about as uncomfortable with Alec’s gratitude as Alec felt at the idea of him not being grateful. “I don’t even know what Jace and Izzy would have done if you weren’t here, Magnus. I mean, we all have our own money, we get paid, but it’s… complicated. It’s all tied to credit cards and accounts the Clave has some sort of connection to. Even our family money would be a problem. It can be traced or taken away. If we’d had to run, we could maybe get enough cash for a hotel for a while but we def-”

A finger went against his lips, “Remind me to someday discuss with you opening your own accounts that have no connection to the Lightwoods or the Clave or even to me. Money management and the security it brings are important, Alexander. Let’s just be grateful that it never came down to that and never would.”

“Okay,” Alec agreed as he flushed. “I’m just saying, of course I’m grateful to you because I would have been completely screwed without you.”

Magnus sighed, “I suppose you would have been in a different, perhaps not as ideal situation, but I hate the idea of some sort of debt between us, Alec. I want to believe you’re just saying thank you so I can just say that you’re welcome and we can just leave it, but I’m genuinely concerned it’s more than that to you.”

Alec shrugged, he wasn’t sure what to say. It was more than that but not in a bad way. “I’d do the same for you.”

“I know you would, darling.” Magnus gave him a soft look, “And that’s the point. When you love someone, not even when you’re in love with someone just when you love someone in general, you help them. It’s truly one of the most important things in the world to me, having enough resources to keep someone I love from having to endure any sort of poverty or homelessness. Even if we weren’t together any longer, I wouldn’t have let you live in some cheap motel without any money.”

Somehow, the money part didn’t bother Alec like the housing part did. He had no idea how to articulate that without sounding like a brat though. “This is your home though. This is where you’re safe.”

“And now, this is where you’re safe too. It’s your home.” Magnus said firmly.

“But it’s really yours and that’s okay. I don’t mean like… like…” Alec stopped, utterly frustrated. These were things he hadn’t ever even contemplated before and now he was having to figure out how to say them on the fly and not offend Magnus in the process. “If we broke up or if you wanted me to leave and I still couldn’t go back to the Institute,” Somewhere in the back of his mind, a little voice inside of him kept poking at the idea that he was maybe never going back to the Institute and that he had to stop pretending but Alec pushed it away yet again. At least he had a good reason this time. “I just… I don’t ever want you to think you have to let me stay here. I’d leave. This is your home, even if I love it here.”

Magnus didn’t look even remote reassured by any of that. “I understand what you’re trying to say, I think. This is my property, yes, but I love having you here, Alec. I want this place to be ours. That means your things throughout, if you hate a wall color we can change it, if there’s someone who makes you uncomfortable then they’re not welcome. Some things I own have to be off limits for safety’s sake but other than those, there are no places you’re not welcome. I want you to feel at home here.”

“I know.” Alec promised him, even though he still felt a bit like that was a dream, “But if you didn’t one day, I want you to tell me. I could figure something out.”

“I suppose this is my fault.” Magnus’s voice was low and angry and for a second, Alec tensed up. Then, he continued, “I’m the one who introduced you to the idea that I could easily walk away.” He sighed, “There’s so much tied into this, Alec. I don’t ever want you to feel that we’re in any way transactional. I don’t want you to think you have to do something for me to repay me for this or any other nonsense like that. When you love someone, you take care of them. Sometimes that means you use your resources for them when they need it. It’s not unbalanced to take care of someone in that way when they’ve hit some sort of rough patch. The Clave has what I’m beginning to understand is an abusive financial relationship with each of you and that’s a problem we’ll someday solve but not right now. I understand this conversation is important to you. Can we, for now, just say that we’re happy living together and we intend to keep it up for the foreseeable future? I’m not going to ask you to leave.”

Alec nodded quietly. He wasn’t sure how to get around any of it either.

“All right.” Magnus didn’t look any happier. “You live here and I love that, Alec. Before, the way you said that was… it’s not true, okay? It’s not that you love being here with me and I only like it. I love you. My foolish attempt to walk away has only driven home the truth of how deeply you’ve become a part of my heart. To send you away would be to break myself.”

When Alec leaned in for a kiss because words sort of failed him, Magnus allowed it for only a few seconds. One second he had the pressure of Magnus’ lips against his and the next they were gone and Magnus looked no less serious.

“We’ll figure out how to get your things here, Alec. No matter what, okay? If things start getting tense with the Clave, I can easily portal in to the Institute and start magically packing you up. I’d be in, out and gone before the alarms even sounded. Until then, we can make do with my clothes, some of the clothes you left here and a few pieces I buy for you. You must realize that’s absolutely no burden to me, yes? In fact, it’s an utter joy.”

Alec couldn’t help but breath out a quiet laugh. “Yeah, I know.” And he did. Magnus seemed outright giddy about it sometimes.

“Excellent. When the day comes, I’m incredibly excited to welcome your things in with mine. We’ve had to do this a little backwards but we’ll get there.” Magnus continued. “And you asked about ground rules. I don’t really know what kinds of things you mean. I’d say please don’t be a slob but you’re not and I know you aren’t, so that’s kind of pointless.”

“There has to be something I do that you want me to stop.” Alec insisted.

Magnus shook his head, brow furrowed, “Not really. I think people being slovenly is my main complaint in terms of roommates. You aren’t. You don’t leave toothpaste smeared around the bathroom,” Alec wrinkled his nose in disgust and Magnus laughed, “You pick up after yourself. You don’t fold the corners of my books. There’s not much left for me to be cross about. I’d maybe like it more if you relaxed a bit and really started embracing this space as your own, but that comes with time. We discussed my workroom and the storerooms a long time ago and those requests still apply to keep you safe but otherwise, no. Is there something I do you’d like to discuss?”

God no, Alec thought instantly, “No.”

“Are you sure?” Magnus’ more relaxed smile was back and it was a relief. “Do I take too long of showers?”

And then he just paused there, like Alec actually needed to give a real answer.

“You have other bathrooms.” Alec pointed out, “I could use those.”

“Or you could join me.” Magnus practically purred. “Hmm, not that then. Does the frequency that I redecorate the loft bother you?”

It was actually kind of fun. The Institute was so unchanging. Magnus moved things around here so much yet it always felt like him, like safety, “No, I actually kind of like it.”

“Is there a smell here you don’t enjoy? A candle you wish I’d get rid of?”

Alec laughed, “I mean, some of the smells that come out of your workroom aren’t great and that time the Chairman had that litter box um… issue wasn’t wonderful - ”

The issue had been a cling-on that he ran around the loft trying to get rid of. The Chairman had been so humiliated by it he’d hidden for a full day.

“Alexander!” Magnus exclaimed in mock-outrage, “The three of us swore we’d never speak of that again.”

They actually had. Magnus had forced him to very solemnly swear it to the Chairman while he knelt beside the bed the cat was hidden under. It had been a couple of months ago and they had dutifully never mentioned it again.

“Sorry,” Alec apologized through a barely suppressed laugh.

“You’re forgiven but don’t think the Chairman would do the same if he had heard you.” Magnus said before his joking smile slid off into something a little more serious. “Does that reassure you at all?”

Yes and no. The Institute had a million rules, both unspoken and literally written into a handbook. Alec loved the freedom of the loft, the ability to be whoever he was, but those rules had sort of grounded him. Not having them was strange. “Will you tell me if something does end up bothering you?”

“I will.” Magnus promised. “And will you tell me if I do something that you don’t like?”

“Yes.” Alec said, although he’d only do it if there was a real problem. He couldn’t really imagine anything.

“Then I think we’re okay.” Magnus concluded, “This will get easier. New living arrangements can be a little tentative until everyone settles and that’s all right. As you said, relationships take effort. As long as we communicate, we’ll be okay.”

This wasn’t really what he’d had in mind when he said relationships take effort but Alec believed in it now more than ever.

Chapter Text


Chapter Twelve


 

 

 

The conversation they’d had the night before sort of weighed on Magnus.

It shouldn’t have, really. He should have anticipated pretty much every single part of Alec’s concerns. He knew his boy, so none of it should have been a surprise.

Yet, it sort of had been.

Magnus knew that Shadowhunters had a strange relationship with money in comparison to Mundanes or Downworlders but he perhaps hadn’t been aware of just how strange. Shadowhunters are rich was the general consensus among the Downworlders. He hadn’t looked much further than that.

Money didn’t matter to him that way. Not anymore. He’d never spared a thought about how much Alec made in a year or how he did his banking. He had a credit card, thus he had money. That it was all tied up in family and the Clave was unsurprising for all that he had given it no thought before. Magnus had visions in his head now of Izzy and Jace rushing to the nearest ATM to get out the max allowed amount of cash from their accounts before the Clave froze it in a desperate attempt to keep a roof over their heads and how close that might have come to being reality was haunting him.

He and Alec had enough power imbalances between them as it was. Age and experience made their relationship occasionally fraught and adding in some sort of wealth dynamic wasn’t what Magnus had been anticipating.

His first thought last night to reassure Alec about the idea that he had to live with Magnus and that he wasn’t keeping Alec here out of pity or obligation or something was to offer to put money in an account that only Alec had access to that he could use to get himself an apartment or something. The idea had been distasteful almost immediately but as Magnus got the problem fleshed out for him both through Alec’s words and the expressions he’d been making, he dismissed it firmly. He meant what he’d said to Alec – this relationship was not transactional. All Magnus had meant to do with it was give Alec the reassurance that they both knew he had another option and that he could choose it at any time and he would also have the guarantee that Magnus knew he had that other options, so when he said that he didn’t want Alec to leave it wouldn’t be clouded with ideas about obligation.

So then how else to make Alec comfortable here? To help him begin to see it as his home?

They had only just gotten back together and Magnus knew that healing the wounds of their breakup would take time more than anything else. Time for Alec to trust him again, time for Magnus to reassure him. Time to solidify as a couple again and as, if he dared even think it, a family.

While Alec slept in their bedroom, Magnus stood in his living room and the full weight of the problem hit him.

How could Alec truly embrace this place as his own when he currently had about two days worth of clothes, a bow and a cell phone to his name? Stuff wasn’t everything but it did go a long way towards making a space feel like home. Magnus had moved enough times in his life to know that it wasn’t the walls around him that made a place feel safe and welcoming, it was how he built that space for his own life, how he decorated it, the memories he filled it with. Alec had some good memories here, he was obviously comfortable, but everything around them screamed Magnus.

Before their breakup, Magnus had been considering installing some sort of weapons rack by the door for Alec to use. Right now, the whole troop of them just sort of propped their weapons up by the door as they came in.

That was as good a place as any to start, he supposed. He grabbed Alec’s bow and held it up to the entry wall before sending a wave of his magic over it. Wooden pegs appeared in support and when Magnus let go, the bow was safely cradled up on the wall. In a way, it was almost artistic.

To go along with it, Magnus set up a wall rack for blades and then a few hooks for that delicious thigh holster Alec sometimes wore in addition to anything else he might need to hang.

“That works,” Magnus mumbled to himself as he took a few steps back to admire his handiwork. Nothing said a Shadowhunter lives here like weapons on the wall being prominently displayed, did it?

The bow hanging on the wall sparked the next idea – an archery range. Alec liked to train. He was steadied by it, it was part of his every day routine. Giving him a space to do it that wasn’t just the balcony seemed the next best idea. Maybe he could even incorporate magical practice into the idea? He had enough spare rooms, he could certainly do a little magical re-jigging of the loft to sort something out.

Hmm… this will take some thought.

 

---

 

“What’s wrong, grumpy pants?” Izzy said as she dropped down beside him on the couch and curled into his side.

Alec shot her a look. Why was she even bothering to ask?

Izzy laughed, “Was that supposed to be an I’m not grumpy? Because if so, it just made you look even grumpier.”

Luckily Magnus was still puttering around in the kitchen getting dinner ready because he would have had something to say about it too. Alec had offered to help but after his disastrous magic practice session he had been relegated to the couch.

He didn’t answer because he was too frustrated to explain.

They had spent days trying to get his magic separated into two entities and he still couldn’t manage it. Yesterday he had even asked Magnus about meditation like Cat had suggested. And yeah, sitting quietly with his eyes closed while Magnus spoke in a low, hypnotic voice guiding him through a visualization exercise hadn’t been bad – it had actually been pretty relaxing – it also hadn’t done anything for his magical control either.

He was tired of this. He wanted out of the loft. He wanted to be with his siblings hunting for Valentine.

Contrary to what they thought, he wasn’t stupid. He knew they were looking for Valentine and weren’t including him. At the very least Clary constantly secreting herself away in Magnus’ workroom was a dead giveaway that something was being planned.

He wanted in on it.

At the same time, how many times had he scolded Jace and Izzy – and now Clary too – about acting without a plan just for the sake of being able to feel like they were doing something? It was stupid. He would be stupid if he left the safety of Magnus’ loft right now. People who made rash decisions just to prove they could or that they were the bravest were people who died idiots. He understood why he needed to lay low right now. He wasn’t a child.

Understanding and accepting were two different things.

As the minutes dragged on, he found himself getting more frustrated instead of less.

“Are you ready to talk to me?” Izzy said softly.

Alec sighed and threw his head back against the couch, “No.”

“Oh, words!” Izzy said with a teasing smile. “We’re getting somewhere.”

“That’s just it, Izzy, I’m not.” He and Magnus had spent hours on this very simple task and yet he still had nothing to show for it. It wasn’t just infuriating, it was dangerous. What good would he be when Valentine came calling if he couldn’t do anything?

Izzy poked him in this side, “You are, Alec. And if you’ve hit a stumbling block then it’ll just take a little more time to get through it. Some things are going to be easier than others. That’s no reason to make yourself miserable.”

Alec lifted his hands, “It’s separate now. Why can’t I separate it myself?”

“I don’t know,” Izzy answered honestly, “I’ve never had magic before. A few weeks ago neither had you.”

“Don’t remind me,” He mumbled under his breath.

Izzy sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder, “I think maybe you’re just stressing too much. You’re trying to force something that can’t be forced. This is different than anything you’ve ever done before, Alec. Based on what Magnus has been telling us, this is literally the opposite of mind over matter and that’s kind of what Shadowhunters are best at. You can’t do this the Shadowhunter way.”

“I’m not trying to do something complicated, Izzy.” And that was maybe the worst part. The utterly basic level of what he was trying to do grated on Alec worse than anything else. “I’m not making portals, summoning demons, healing anyone. I’m not doing anything that requires lots of study and time. Magnus keeps making these comparisons about how I wouldn’t expect to be speaking in complete sentences in a week if he was teaching me another language. Or any other hobby and yeah I get it. I’m not expecting that I’ll be even a hundredth of what Magnus is anytime soon. I’m not even sure that I want to be. But this is easy. This is little. This is so basic warlock babies are born able to do it and I can’t!’’

“And you’re not a warlock baby. You weren’t born with this!” Izzy countered as though that made it better. “This isn’t going to go as easily for you as it would for someone who was made for it, Alec!”

“That’s not helping, Isabelle!”

Izzy sighed, “Big brother, stressing yourself out…”

He cut her off, “How can I not? I’m sitting here taking naps and you and Jace are out there looking for Valentine and Mom is running my Institute.”

That seemed to bring his sister up a little short. She hesitated, clearly unsure what to say next.

“I’m not blind, Izzy, or stupid.” Alec said a little quieter, “You three are working on something. Four, if we count Magnus and I know we can. What if something happens and I’m… I’m…?” Sitting here, instead of at your sides protecting you like I’m meant to be? He couldn’t get the words out.

“Alec, we’re being careful.” Izzy said gently. “We’re just trying to narrow down where Valentine is. No one is planning any missions right now.”

“But you will.” Alec insisted because they had to. “You will and if I’m not there…”

“There’s time.” Isabelle said and that wasn’t the same as telling him that he would absolutely be there to guard their backs like he had for years. It wasn’t the same as promising him that he wouldn’t be left to twiddle his magical thumbs while they went head to head with the man who had done this to him. It was none of those things and they both knew it.

Izzy sighed again and she pressed against him tighter, “Alec, you’ve taken care of me my entire life. You’ve had Jace’s back since he was given to us. You’ve been at Magnus’ side since your first kiss. And you’ve grudgingly kept Clary alive like a dozen times. We want to take care of you. We want to protect you.” She lifted up his hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it. When she pulled away, she looked up at him with the same eyes that she always had – the eyes of a little sister who adored her big brother.

“Let us, please?” Izzy asked.

If she had looked at him with pity or concern, he might not have been able to answer her at all. It was only because her eyes said that he was the same as before that he was even able to nod.

“We’re trying not to stress you out because one, you’re already stressed, and two, that’s only making this magic stuff harder, we think.” Izzy explained. “But I promise, no one is going to make major moves against Valentine without even telling you. We’re just making little plans right now, gathering intel, doing the groundwork. The stuff you usually complain we don’t do enough of. I promise you Alec.”

“Okay,” He tried to make his voice sound a little less tight than it felt. “But Izzy…”

“I promise.” She said again, knowing without behind told that he needed to hear it more than once.

Izzy stayed silent for a second, giving him a chance to either get himself more together or ask another question. She was good at knowing when to back off and he had always, always appreciated that.

“Magnus must have dinner ready.” Izzy said finally as she glanced behind them.

Magnus was good at knowing when to back off too. He was probably scrolling through his phone in the kitchen, waiting for them to finish their talk.

“Let’s go see.” Alec said as he stood up.

Izzy hovered for a second, hands out as though he was likely to faint again. He tried not to snap at her about it, considering what she had seen that first morning she had the right to doubt his ability to stand and not fall on his ass.

“Magnus?”Alec called.

“Come sit,” Magnus called back as he came in the room carrying a pitcher of water.

Alec smiled as he saw the fully set and complete table. His warlock was pretending that he had been just putting together the finishing touches when he had definitely been ready and waiting while he and Izzy talked.

“This looks awesome, Magnus, thank you!” Izzy said as she sat down opposite Alec.

The table was loaded up with all sorts of Italian dishes that made Alec’s stomach growl. He was doing his best to follow Cat’s advice about separating out how his body felt versus how his magic felt. That meant trying to figure out when the sick feeling in his stomach was because his magic was restless or the static was getting to him – or when it was because he actually had a stomachache or just that he was hungry and the burning feeling was his stomach protesting that. He knew that was a lot of or but it really all boiled down to magic or body?

It was sort of hard to figure out the differences but he was doing his best to do what she had told him to do.

He was also, he had come to realize, a little freaked out about throwing up again. What if it came up black like the last time? What if there was something really wrong?

It was stupid and childish that he should still be so nervous and he knew it. Not only that but what kind of dumbass avoided revealing a problem in the hopes that it would… what? Not kill him? Go away on its own?

“Alec?” Magnus said carefully and it jolted him out of thoughts.

They were staring at him, he realized too late.

“Would you like something else for dinner?” Magnus asked.

Even though Magnus hadn’t cooked all of this, he had still put thought and energy into putting together a meal Alec would like. And here he was, sitting and staring like an ungrateful asshole.

He smiled up at Magnus, “No, this is perfect. Thank you, Magnus.” And he reached out for the nearest dish, chicken marsala by the look of it, and heaped some onto his plate.

“Are you sure, darling? It’s no hardship to conjure you up something else.” Magnus pressed as he hesitantly sat down instead of standing beside him worriedly.

Alec shook his head and grabbed some sort of tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, “I’m good, I promise.”

“Jace and Clary are going to be jealous.” Izzy didn’t sound particularly put out by that either. “They’re stuck in the cafeteria and we get this.”

His mother was forcing everyone to make appearances at the Institute before or after patrols. She had pushed for before and after patrols but Jace had firmly put his foot down. If any of them had a reason to be at Alec’s side while he was desperately ill post Valentine kidnapping, he said, then it was his parabatai. And of course he and Clary were a package deal so she got out of it as well.

Jace would be by after their patrol. Maybe even in the middle of it, if their route took them close enough to Magnus’ place.

“I’ve never had the misfortune of dining at the Institute but it sounds – and smells – horrific.” Magnus said with a theatrical little shudder.

Alec rolled his eyes, “It’s not that bad.” If Jace were here, one of them would have made a comment about Izzy in the kitchen.

His sister shot him a look anyway, like she knew where his thoughts were going.

Alec took a bite of chicken marsala and found he was more eager for it than he had anticipated. Not even the sight of his magic swirling around his hands and fork could wreck the rich taste for him.

“I avoid heading towards the cafeteria at all costs. I simply can’t understand how they expect the lot of you to subsist on that… muck.” Magnus hadn’t ever really mentioned his thoughts about the Institute cafeteria before so hearing him so passionate about it was a little funny.

“New York is getting absolutely shortchanged in that department, I might add. The Shanghai Institute cafeteria had smells coming out of it that were actually not half bad. I was rather surprised. And when I went to - ”

The building jolted, as though something was being thrown against the whole thing.

Alec gripped the table reflexively, even as some of the plates slid off and things crashed around the loft.

“Magnus, what was that?” Izzy stood up with wide eyes.

Another hit landed and this time they could hear it.

Everything seemed to go sideways. He, Izzy and Magnus got thrown to the ground as the walls went golden around them.

Magnus scrambled to his feet and he pulled Alec to stand beside him. “I’ve thrown my battle wards up. This has to be Valentine.”

Valentine, coming for him.

Magnus was already making the familiar movements that meant a portal was coming.

Izzy came around to his other side, one hand reaching for his while the other already had her whip out and ready, “We need to get out of here.”

“I’m trying!” Magnus said as his magic strained against whatever spell was keeping the portal from forming. He threw his hands out again, trying desperately to make a portal to get them out of here. “He must have brought warlocks with him. They’ve created an anti portal spell to keep us in.”

A figure flickered into being on the balcony.

Valentine.

He was smiling through the windows. He said something that Alec couldn’t hear through the glass before the doors suddenly swung open so violently that the glass shattered as they hit the walls.

“Hello, Alec.”

 Just the sound of his voice sent Alec’s heart pounding. His smile, the way he was staring at him…

Magnus tried to portal again. It still didn’t work.

“Don’t bother, Bane. I have a team of warlocks down here, chipping away at your wards, keeping you from portalling out.” His grin went sort of feral, “Save your strength.”

Magnus drew together a ball of power that glowed red and threw it at Valentine.

And it just sailed right through him.

Valentine laughed, “Projection spell. Surely you’ve heard of them?”

“Just living out a fantasy,” Magnus gave him a savage smile, “Deepest apologies.”

There was a flash of amusement in Valentine’s eyes before he turned his gaze onto Alec again. There was always something hypnotic in the way that Valentine stared at people. The way he seemed to assess them, seeing them deeply in a way that others didn’t seem to. It was hard to look away from, even as Alec’s heart started to pound.

“Have you been practicing with your magic?” Valentine asked with something dark and paternal in his voice. It was as though he had claimed Alec as his the same way that he claimed Jace and Clary. It made Alec feel dirty and shaky at the same time.

He didn’t answer. He didn’t think he could.

“It’s time to take your place at my side.” Valentine said softly. His gaze was unwavering and his voice didn’t lose that note of possessiveness.

“Never,” Isabelle took a step out in front of Alec.

She might as well not have been there for all the attention Valentine paid her.

Another booming noise seemed to explode out from the walls but this time it was from within. Magnus had just done something and the projection of Valentine flickered.

“Is that the best you’ve got, Bane?” Valentine taunted. “Don’t you love him more than that?”

A wind whipped up, sudden and fierce. Which side was creating it, Alec didn’t know.

“Listen to me, Alec.” Valentine dropped the taunting smirk and refocused on Alec. “It’s time to return to me. Jace will follow, you don’t need to worry about anything. If you leave with me now, I swear to you on Jocelyn’s memory that I and my team will portal away and your sister and Bane will be completely unharmed.”

“Don’t listen to him, Alexander.” Magnus demanded. Another red ball of magic grew between his hands, bigger than anything Alec had ever seen him throw. In seconds, it disappeared and a thundering crash echoed from down below.

Valentine disappeared.

“Try to portal again!” Izzy shouted needlessly over the unrelenting wind that had picked up inside of the loft too. Papers fluttered around the room and the howl of it echoed in Alec’s ears.

She hadn’t needed to demand a portal though, not when Magnus was trying again.

For one brief shining second it seemed that it would work… and then the shimmering circle disappeared like all the others.

Magnus swore violently.

Izzy took out her phone and started calling someone.

And Valentine reappeared on the balcony.

“You killed one of my warlocks, Bane.” Valentine shook his head as though Magnus was the monster.

“I’ll try harder next time.” Magnus promised.

“I’ll repay the favor first.” Valentine said before he refocused on Alec, “Unless you want to stop this right now, Alec. Come with me and they won’t be hurt.”

Izzy wrapped her hand around his wrist, as though she was worried he would say yes. Should he? Should he go with Valentine? If it kept them safe…

“Jace!” Izzy’s voice was barely audible over the still fierce wind. “Jace, we need you now. Valentine is attacking Magnus’ loft. He’s trying to convince Alec to go with him!” A split second’s pause, “We can’t portal out. We’re trapped.”

Trapped.

Alec felt hollow. He wanted to protect Magnus and Izzy, he needed to protect Magnus and Izzy. He needed to end this before Jace showed up and got himself hurt or worse.

If he let Valentine take him back though, he risked adding to the threat against the Downworld. Giving in   to Valentine put more than just his family at risk.

He didn’t know what to do. If he chose wrong, he could get people killed, he could get his family killed.

Think… there has to be a way out of this.

Could Magnus’ wards hold until backup came? They needed more than just Jace and Clary and Alec didn’t know if his brother was going take the second to call the Institute before he came running. If Jace was on his way here, he could be walking into a trap. If Valentine had Jace, he had Alec. If Valentine had Alec, he had Jace.

Worse, he knew it.

How many people had he brought? How could they make any plan if they didn’t have any information? The number of Circle members and warlocks was the minimum Alec needed to know.

His heart was thundering and it only got worse the more frantic his thoughts became. Valentine standing there smirking at him like he knew the mental calculations Alec was trying to do blind would come to nothing.

Go with him, you save your family for now and possibly condemn the Downworld – Valentine made you a weapon for a reason.

Stay here and you risk Magnus, Jace, Izzy or Clary being hurt or killed trying to save you.

His parabatai rune radiated out Jace’s fear and it only made everything worse.

There had to be another way. Something he wasn’t considering. A plan that would work.

His limbs felt frozen in place, like the utter fear was welling up inside his hollow body until he was nothing but a dull mess of terror inside. His breath caught, his ears were ringing…

Suddenly, everything stopped.

The sudden absence of the howling wind was almost viscerally upsetting. He didn’t know why. The silence echoed and it did nothing to ease the way he felt.

It took him too long to notice that Valentine wasn’t just staring at him, he was frozen.

His eyes were still locked into place on Alec. His lips were still twisted in a mockery of a father’s smile. Though he wasn’t saying a word, his expression said everything and he was just staring and staring at Alec.

“Magnus,” He whispered, unable to turn away from Valentine.

Magnus didn’t answer and though it almost physically hurt, Alec turned to see Magnus standing still as a statue not four feet away from him. Magnus was frozen in place like Valentine.

Alec twisted around, heart thudding so hard he couldn’t pull in a full breath.

His sister was just as still as Magnus and Valentine. Her phone was pressed to her ear and her whole body screamed how ready to do battle she was. Her stance, her expression, everything.

What was this?

His chest felt too tight. Like he was about to freeze too.

“Izzy, Izzy, please.” Alec almost choked on the words.

His legs went like jelly underneath him and he went down onto the floor. He was the only thing moving in this loft.

Nothing made sense. He didn’t understand.

Alec pulled in a shuddering breath that wasn’t deep enough and reached out for Magnus.

Magnus didn’t reach out for him. His hand hovered in the air halfway between them… alone.

He tried to suck in another breath but his lungs just wouldn’t. Dark spots started to swim in his vision.

When he passed out, he was still reaching for Magnus.

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Thirteen


 

 

 

“Wake up, Alec. Come on, buddy, I’m here. You’re safe.”

When Alec blinked his eyes open, he was in Jace’s arms.

“That’s it, Alec,” Jace wasn’t looking at him but he didn’t need to. His hand rubbed Alec’s back almost painfully hard, the friction making the skin underneath his shirt burn a little. He was shaking so hard, he felt like ice that was about to shatter.

The loft was a mess, broken things littering the ground and some of the glass in the balcony doors was shattered. Alec couldn’t see too much, not with how he was huddled against Jace, but the sight of Magnus’ home destroyed made his eyes burn.

“Shh,” Jace whispered to him, “It’s okay. We’re okay. I need you to take a deep breath Alec.”

Jace pulled in a slow, deep breath that Alec could feel and hear. He let it out in a measured way that Alec would never be able to copy. Still, when Jace pulled in a second breath, Alec tried to mimic him. Within seconds, he exhaled.

“Good,” Jace said even though Alec had just failed. “Try again.”

His second attempt didn’t last any longer than his first.

Footsteps caught his attention and he let out a strangled noise.

“It’s Izzy,” Jace said quickly, “Alec, it’s just Izzy.”

His sister’s heels came into view for a second before she crouched in front of him. “Alec, he’s gone, okay? Everyone is safe.”

He.

Valentine.

Izzy reached out, wiping away a tear he didn’t realize he’d let fall. “When did he wake up?” She said quietly to Jace.

She looked okay. Alec tried to focus on that. Izzy wasn’t hurt. She wasn’t frozen anymore.

“Just a couple of minutes ago. Is Magnus still downstairs? I think he’s is in shock.”

Izzy made a worried face and stood, disappearing from sight.

“You’re okay,” Jace said to him in a way that made it sound more that Jace wanted it to be true than anything else, “Nobody is taking you away from me, I won’t let them.”

But Valentine might take Jace away if Alec didn’t do what he wanted.

“Shh,” Jace said again. His voice was a little more insistent this time. “I’m okay. Izzy’s okay, Magnus is okay and Clary too.”

Voices were coming from the hall, getting closer.

“…I only know one of the two that are dead. Thankfully it’s the one I killed, instead of Jace’s Circle member. We don’t need to throw in any Shadowhunter/Downworld issues into this mess.”

“Valentine’s back up team was already there by the time Jace and I made it here. They were pulling people out of range of the anti-portal spell as fast as they could.”

“I don’t know what’s luckier, Biscuit. That Isabelle had time to call you and Jace before Alec’s wild magic lashed out so we had protection and a deterrent to Valentine’s people coming into the loft and taking advantage of our frozen state or that people who weren’t in the initial blast were unaffected. If Alec’s magic froze everyone continuously and he woke up still trapped in that loop…”

Magnus’ voice trailed off as he came closer. As much as Alec wanted him close, he could still remember reaching for him and Magnus not reaching back.

Stupid, stupid, you froze him solid. How could he reach for you? Why would he? You could have gotten everyone killed.

“What?” Jace asked and Alec realized he had their bond blown wide open to feel anything and everything he could. “Why are you mad at yourself?”

Magnus knelt down on his other side, hands already tinged blue with his magic as he scanned over Alec, “Hello, darling.” He wasn’t hurt either. Not frozen, not injured, not bleeding.

“I think he’s going into shock.” Jace explained, voice low and worried. “I tried to activate his iratze but it didn’t make anything better.”

“That’s interesting,” Magnus said with a frown, “Because he’s not in shock, he’s severely magically exhausted. Apparently, his runes can’t do anything for that.”

“What does that mean?” Izzy asked from behind Jace.

Magnus hesitated a second, “I’ll explain, but I would rather get Alec in bed first.”

In seconds, Jace had an arm under his knees and was lifting him up without even asking him if he could walk himself. His limbs felt like jelly though and when Jace turned, the room spun. He groaned.

“Sorry, Alec.” Jace gripped him tighter, “What did Mom say?”

The question made him flinch, a motion that was lost in the way he was shaking, but for once it wasn’t for him. He realized that when Izzy answered, “She’s trying to coordinate stories before it ever even makes it to the Clave. We’re saying it was Magnus, of course.”

“Thankfully the Clave has no desire to ever hear warlock testimony because literally any warlock could tell them that what just happened isn’t possible. Or at least, isn’t possible via spell. Wild magic doesn’t follow established magical laws, generally.” Magnus darted ahead of Jace to open the door to his bedroom. He went to snap his fingers to fix the state the room was in but Jace purposefully used Alec’s boots to knock into his elbow.

“Don’t,” Jace ordered. “We have enough magical exhaustion happening already. You just did a lot of magic. We can clean up by hand, Magnus.”

Magnus sighed , “I suppose you’re right.” And he and Clary went over to each side of the bed, working together to straighten the blankets and get them back onto the bed.

Once that was done, Magnus drew down the covers and Jace laid him down. Izzy went to his shoes, pulling them off as she said, “How impossible are we talking? In a situation like this, I don’t want to leave it to chance that the Clave won’t ask another warlock if what we’re saying you did is even possible.”

“Clary, can you go see what kind of juice we have in the fridge please? I think there’s some left over steak as well, from the night before. Could you heat it up?” Magnus drew the covers over Alec and ran a tired hand in his mussed hair. “There are spells to freeze select people in a small area. The bigger the area, the more power the spell takes. It was actually used it on the lot of you when I was fighting Iris after Max’s party.”

Clary’s eyes went a little wide but she still left to go do what Magnus asked.

“Did we know that?” Jace asked Izzy, who looked a little surprised herself.

“But to do what Alec did,” Magnus reached for his hand and held it tightly, “So many people, spread so far apart… that isn’t anything I’ve ever even heard of that spell accomplishing. Calling anything with magic impossible is actually impossible but it’s never been done before like Alec just did, so it’s as close to impossible as it gets. He’s powerful and he nearly drained himself dry doing it.”

Clary came back in with a tall glass of orange juice. “Steak is heating up. Your fridge is, um, a little bit of a mess though. I’ll clean it up.”

Magnus reached out for the glass and sighed, “Thank you, Biscuit.” He slid his arm around Alec’s shoulders and drew him up to lean against his chest, “Can you drink some of this for me, darling?”

 The request seemed too much. Following their conversation alone made his head ache. His whole body felt wrung out and shaky… and this time, he knew it was the magic and his body all at the same time.

Magnus tipped the glass against his lips and Alec took a sip even as some dribbled out the side of the cup. Swallowing took even longer, like he couldn’t make the muscles of his throat work right. The delay of it startled him. “Magnus…

“I know, love, I know.” Magnus said soothingly. He used his sleeve to wipe the bit of spilled juice from his face. “It’s a lot but once you eat and rest you’ll feel better, I promise. It’s happened to me.”

“Is there anything else we can do?” Jace asked as he restlessly shifted behind Magnus.

Magnus brought the juice up to help him take another sip, “As he’s never dealt with magical exhaustion before, I’d like someone to stay with him. I imagine between repairing the wards, dealing with the Clave and everything else going on we’re all going to need to rotate to make that happen, but I want us to be on the same page about it.”

“Of course.” Izzy nodded determinedly.

“Yeah,” Jace agreed, “But I was more asking about something to make him feel better now.”

Clary came back in with a plate in her hand and Jace immediately took it from her. “I cut it up into little pieces.” She said and Alec was pretty sure he wasn’t capable of fully dealing with that sentence.

Right now though, swallowing the juice was hard enough. The thought of swallowing something he had to chew made him want to curl up and fall asleep. Everything was taking too much effort.

Jace came around his other side, kneeling on the bed next to him. “Alec, have some of this, okay?”

 He held out a tiny piece of steak speared on a fork and Alec had never wanted anything less.

“Darling, please, it’ll help. Trust me.”

Alec opened his mouth as best he could and Jace fed him the bite carefully but the metal tines of the fork still clanked against his teeth from the way he was shaking. Chewing was the nightmare he thought it would be. Focusing on working his jaw and then actually getting his jaw to obey were two entirely different tasks. Alec felt like he was half-dead.

“That’s it,” Magnus encouraged softly, whispering the words in his ear. “Protein helps, I promise.”

In the comparative hush of the loft after the roaring winds, Izzy’s cell phone made Alec flinch with its shrill ring. It even seemed to startled Izzy herself as she pulled it from her back pocket and fumbled it a little in her rush to answer it. “Mom?”

“Can you swallow, Alec?” Magnus asked.

Izzy was focused on whatever Maryse was saying and he was focused on her. What was she saying?

“Alec?”

The second prompt made him realize he had been chewing for a really long time. It took a few seconds but he managed to swallow the bite and the second it was down Jace was offering him another bit of steak.

“He’s Magnus fucking Bane, Mom! Tell them that!” Izzy half shouted into the phone. She looked back at Alec, huddled against Magnus’ chest, and hastily grabbed Clary as they retreated into the living room.

“They don’t believe you did that spell,” Jace said quietly. Izzy’s words had ramped up the worry on Jace’s end of the bond.

Magnus pressed a kiss to Alec’s forehead, “We’re not worrying about that right now.” He said pointedly.

The two of them alternated sips of juice with some of the steak and Alec did his best to manage the food. About three quarters of the way through the plate of steak and the entire glass, he started to feel less like he was going to shake himself apart and more like he was going to fall into a coma.

Alec wasn’t sure if it was because Magnus had been through it before or if Alec was just slumping even more of his weight against him, but Magnus knew how fast he was fading. While Alec’s eyes fluttered shut, Magnus laid him back down onto the bed. He missed having Magnus’ warmth against him, but laying horizontal was too good for him to get too upset.

“Sleep, Alexander, we’ll be here when you wake up.”

With that promise, Alec let go.

 

---

 

As Magnus looked around his trashed home, he felt like a fool.

It went without saying that he should have had better contingencies in place. Alec was a huge target and even without the Clave knowing where he was, it was obvious that Magnus would be sheltering his lover. Anyone with half a brain would have known where to find him. Magnus should have been better prepared for that event.

Yes, his wards had held. Yes, his own offensive spells had been getting the job done. Yes, even without Alec’s wild magic he was sure he would have won or at the very least, held on until reinforcements could arrive.

But he could have done better.

Next time, he would be ready.

It wasn’t only that, though. The feeling of bitter failure was built of so much more.

It was what had happened with Alec’s wild magic.

That Magnus hadn’t realized that the screaming wind was coming from Alec was nearly unforgivable. He had been right there beside him, he knew that Alec had to have been scared. Hell, Magnus had been scared and he wasn’t being confronted with the madman who had recently tortured him come to demand he either return for more torture or have his loved ones suffer the consequences. Add in the weight of the entire Downworld, the protection of which he knew Alec took onto his own shoulders, and the stakes had only been more dire.

Alec’s wild magic had been building up before exploding out and freezing them like he himself felt frozen. Paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. Magnus was sure that was what the magic manifestation meant.

And Magnus had let it get to that point.

He needed to drastically overhaul his wards. It was time to call in favors. To reinforce his wards, boost their power and add a whole new level of offensive spells at his disposal. What he had been able to accomplish on his own was no longer enough, not in the timeframe they needed.

The timeframe wasn’t just important for making the loft safer, it was also because he very badly needed to have time to continue to work with Alec. His show of power had been massive. Beyond anything that Magnus had ever seen anyone accomplish. Wild magic did that – big impossible feats – but…

Alec was powerful.

Power and no control made for a dangerous combination.

Dangerous for other people and dangerous for Alec himself. Magical exhaustion wasn’t something to play with. Draining himself dry like that could have killed him and it wasn’t even a choice he had consciously made.

It was all made even worse by Alec’s roadblock with separating his magic. Madzie’s game had bought them time, giving Alec something else to work on, but they couldn’t do much by the way of continuing their lessons until Alec got over whatever was holding him back.

It was mental, he was nearly positive.

As soon as Magnus got his wards repaired and added to their offensive capabilities, he need to focus as much of his attention as he could on Alec’s lessons.

The sound of boots crunching over the broken glass on the floor caught his attention but it didn’t pull him out of the feeling of utter failure that was welling up inside of him.

“We’ll get him next time.” Isabelle said. Her voice was soft but there was, as there almost always was, a core of steel to it.

He waved his hand, clearing out the broken glass from the floor and vanishing it away. He knew they didn’t want him to expend the magic when they could clean it by hand but the glass seemed enough of a health hazard to justify using his admittedly depleted magic. “I should have been ready this time.”

“Without your wards we would have been ambushed. Alec would be in cage by now and Valentine would be using us against him.” Isabelle countered. She came around Magnus’ back and laid her hand on his shoulder, squeezing hard. “You were ready.”

“Valentine projected himself onto my balcony, blasted open my doors and taunted us. He provoked Alec so badly he lashed out with wild magic the likes of which I’ve never seen before.” Magnus said angrily. The balcony was about to undergo a warding that Magnus had never even contemplated before. Never again would he allow Valentine Morgenstern’s voice in his home. Never.

Izzy just sighed and Magnus could hear the frustration and stress, “That’s kind of a problem, because the Clave did ask another warlock and they said what Alec did couldn’t have been from you. Couldn’t be any warlock, even.”

Magnus shut his eyes. He had been afraid of that. Of all the times for the Clave to give a damn what limits there were for a warlock’s power… “What do they think happened?”

“If they have any ideas, they’re not telling us.” Izzy’s voice was bleak.

That was what he had been afraid of when Izzy had shouted to Maryse about how he was Magnus fucking Bane. He wasn’t sure that the Clave would go straight to assuming that Alec one, had magic and two, had used that magic to stop the attack when even Magnus couldn’t have done that spell. Still, they would be interested in what was happening in this loft, far more than they had before.

“What are the chances that they’ll demand to see him?” Magnus had to ask. They had to know.

Really, they had to decide.

Stay in New York and try to keep Alec’s life intact? Run to keep him safe and risk the Clave’s wrath?

Magnus knew what he would choose. Hell, he knew what Isabelle and Jace would choose too, if it came down to it, but he also knew what Alec would choose and that made it agonizingly difficult.

“Growing higher all the time.” Izzy admitted. “Mom is trying to do damage control. She’ll probably be here soon to talk it over.”

Perhaps the first time ever that Magnus welcomed the idea of speaking with Maryse Lightwood. Though his personal dislike was still as present as ever, he was eager to hear whatever news she brought.

No decisions could be made without the updates she would bring.

“What are the chances Alec will be up to joining the conversation?” Izzy came around his side and started picking throw pillows up from the ground.

Magnus sighed and went to his overturned bar cart, righting it as he said, “Zero. He has an extreme case of magical exhaustion. Not the worst I’ve ever seen,” Those had led to death, “But certainly on that end of the scale. He’s going to be asleep for hours yet. The only thing I can justify his health to wake him for would be food.”

“Why steak and orange juice?” Izzy asked curiously.

“I’ve always found something high in protein like red meat to be particularly helpful.” Magnus explained, “Others swear by different remedies and in time I’m sure we’ll figure out what works best for Alec but for now I went with what I do. I usually pair my steak with alcohol but Alec barely drinks. I figured the juice would help his blood sugar at the very least.”

Izzy looked like she was filling the information away for later. “Is there anything else we can do for him?”

Jace had asked a variation of that question about two dozen times already. Alec’s parabatai was keeping watch beside him as they spoke, probably itching to come ask him the question yet again. “Not much, unfortunately. Sleep is the best help. No using his magic until tomorrow at the earliest.”

“If we tell Alec to rest much more he’s going to stab someone.” Izzy laughed but her voice sounded deadly serious.

Magnus shut the balcony doors by hand, assessing the holes where the glass had shattered and thinking through some sort of solution for the night. They weren’t wrong to be stopping him from using magic. He had more to give but if Valentine came back for round two tonight then Magnus needed to be as prepared as he could be. Cleaning up the loft just wasn’t the priority right now. That wasn’t even factoring in the Clave and what their next move might be. For the moment, he pushed aside those worries to answer Izzy. “I’ve been contemplating setting him up some sort of gym or practice room here in the loft. On the one hand, I think having that work out time back in his routine will help ease his nerves but on the other hand, I don’t want to give him another thing to use to overwork himself.”

“Alec and ‘taking it easy’ are like, incompatible.” Izzy said with a weak sort of laugh. A laugh that was more going through the motions instead of actually feeling it, “But I still think you should do it. I mean, if you’re okay giving up a room for him.”

If Magnus were one of his cats, his hair would be standing on end for what Izzy had just said. The mere idea that Magnus might not be okay giving up a room to Alec was offensive. “What does that mean?”

He had tried to hide the anger from his voice but the way that Izzy whirled around and held out her hands said he had failed miserably.

“Hey, I didn’t mean anything badly by it.” She tried to smooth the anger over. “I just meant… you know, this is still your loft and you’ve already done so much for him. I mean, Magnus, you broke up with him a month ago.”

He had been waiting for this. Jace’s little comment the night they had gotten Alec back couldn’t have been all Alec’s protective siblings had to say about their breakup. “It was a mistake.” He sniffed.

“I’m not saying you weren’t justified to feel the way you felt.” Izzy gave up any semblance of pretending to straighten things up. She turned to Magnus and though he heard the thread of pragmatism in her words, he also knew without a doubt that he wouldn’t like what she said next. “But justified or not you stomped all over Alec’s heart. I know you guys have made up and I’m really happy about that because I truly believe you’re good for each other but I just want you to be careful.”

“Careful of what Isabelle?” Magnus had to fight to keep his voice lowered. The last thing he wanted was to alert Jace to their discussion or to wake Alec.

“Of hurting yourself again. Of hurting my brother again.” Isabelle answered steadily.

And maybe if she had just said hurting Alec again, he might have been able to keep hold of his anger.

Instead, she easily included his own pain in her concern and Magnus just… deflated.

“You’re doing a huge thing for him Magnus,” Izzy said gently when she seemed to read the emotions in his eyes. “Taking him in, teaching him, taking care of him, helping him deal with all of the stuff that goes into him processing what Valentine did to him. I just don’t want you to be doing all of this unless you’re so, so sure. And I know,” She held her hand up when he opened his mouth to tell her that he was sure. “That you feel like you are. But you felt like this before, Magnus, and he got one thing  - a big thing, granted, but still – one thing wrong and you bailed. I’m not asking you to start planning his eightieth birthday party right here right now, but just think about what I’m saying, okay?”

The thought of Alec’s eightieth birthday party – one where his boy would either be gray and wrinkled or still eternally young – gave Magnus the push he needed to end the conversation. Isabelle was entirely too good at reading people, a skill she had no doubt been forced to perfect because of her reticent brother. If she saw the still simmering anxiety about Alec’s possible immortality, she would pounce.

The need to know about Alec’s immortality felt selfish right now. There were so many more important things happening, so many more immediate things going on… and yet…

“Can I think about it and also make him a practice room?” He asked her with a purposefully meek voice and a small smile. It was a joke, one hopefully designed to bring them out of this half fight they were in.

Thankfully, Isabelle seemed willing to take Magnus’ rather transparent olive branch. “Sure, knock yourself out. Or join him in there and see if he can knock you out.”

“I can’t say pain is one of my kinks, my dear, but I’m sure I’ll join Alec in there eventually. Getting up close to Alec during a work-out is worth a little pain.” He winked.

“Angel,” Isabelle laughed for real this time though it seemed like a particularly bad time to be invoking the heavenly host above them. “Thanks for sharing.”

The little ping of a notification from Izzy’s cell caught both of their attention immediately.

Izzy pulled her phone out and seemed to go instantly pale as she read the message.

“What?”

Izzy looked up at him, “My parents are coming to see Alec. Both of them.”

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Fourteen


 

 

 

Opening his door to Maryse Lightwood was one thing…

Opening his door to Maryse and Robert Lightwood both was quite another.

Even in the best of times, he would have been hard pressed to hold back his sneer at the sight of the fairly useless Lightwood parents. Now, with Alec at risk if his father saw something he shouldn’t or said something to the wrong person, it was everything Magnus could do to not shove them through a portal bound for some remote island where outsiders were hit with poison darts on sight.

He had no gracious thing to say as they entered, although he did nod as he took half a step back to allow them in.

Maryse came in first, looking far more put together than she had last time she had darkened his doorstep. Only because he was looking for it did he see the worry in her eyes. Would Robert notice? Did he even care?

Alec’s father didn’t look particularly concerned about anything at all as he entered the loft… until of course he caught sight of Izzy.

Magnus had seen him interact with Alec only a handful of times but even so the difference between how he treated his eldest son and how he treated his daughter was stark.

Izzy rushed into Robert’s opened arms and Magnus heard him murmur into her ear, “Are you all right?”

It was already far more concern than he had shown for Alec, who he had not visited once since he had been returned home from being tortured.

“I’m okay.” Izzy assured him. She glanced over at her mother from over his shoulder, “Alec and Jace are too.”

“I’m glad,” Robert said as he pulled back and held Izzy’s shoulders in place. He seemed to be inspecting her but it quickly over and superficial at best. Certainly he wasn’t noticing how tense she was holding herself.

“Where are they?” Maryse asked, making a show of looking around Magnus’ still mostly trashed loft.

Magnus answered, “Alec is still in bed. He woke during the attack when Valentine’s warlocks were throwing their power at the building but lost consciousness again shortly after. Jace is with him.”

“Having Valentine get so close to Alec, ah,” Izzy paused and pretended to flounder for words, “Upset him a little. Don’t be surprised if he’s not, um…”

“We understand.” Maryse saved Izzy, her smile gentle and exclusively for Jace, the favored child. “We won’t disturb them long.”

That seemed to remind Robert that he had other children besides Izzy. Some of which that were, in fact, far worse off than his shaken daughter. He let her shoulders go and turned to Maryse and Magnus as if to ask for a tour of his sons’ whereabouts.

Maryse took the lead, ostensibly to prove that she had in fact checked in on Alec previously. Still, having her so familiar with his home was upsetting to say the least.

When they entered the bedroom, Jace was sat tense and watchful on the bed beside Alec. He gave off a vibe that said if anyone made a sudden movement in Alec’s direction then he would snap their necks with his bare hands.

Magnus didn’t know Jace nearly as well as he knew Alec, even despite the fact that Jace had briefly lived with him. Still, he had seen the boy in battle enough times to know that not only was he physically capable of it, he was emotionally capable of it too. It was hopefully something that Robert was picking up on.

Alec himself was sleeping. The violent shaking had died down a little, but by no means did he look well. It felt perverse to think it but the pale shaky place that magical exhaustion brought Alec to made him look every bit as sick as they were claiming he was.

“Jace,” Maryse said softly as they entered the room.

Jace turned his head to acknowledge Maryse but didn’t stand up to hug her.

Maryse came around and smoothed his hair back from his face, seemingly accepting that he was sitting when normally he would have stood. It put her closest to Alec and she fussed over Jace for a good thirty seconds before acknowledging that her other son was right beside her.

“He looks a little better,” Maryse said softly. She brushed her hand over his forehead, “Fever is down?”

“It is.” Magnus confirmed the lie, “I’m still using potions to manage it but it’s gotten easier to keep him comfortable.”

Robert shifted as though he might have liked to get closer but was unwilling to ask Maryse or Jace to move, “You said he woke up?”

“Briefly,” Magnus answered shortly.

“Did he say anything?” Robert asked, “We still need to debrief him about his time with Valentine.”

Isabelle nudged his side, “The entire building was shaking, magic was flying and we couldn’t portal out, Dad. Do you really think he woke up to all of that and just started talking about the master plan that Valentine conveniently monologued about in front of him?”

Robert had the grace to laugh a little and duck his head down, conceding her point, “Of course not. I was just wondering about how coherent he was.”

“Not very,” Isabelle answered, “But then it wasn’t a very coherent situation.”

“And speaking of debriefing, I assume that’s your main reason for coming?” Magnus asked smoothly. He gestured to the still open doorway.

“We can’t keep telling the Clave that Alec is asleep.” Robert stubbornly refused to move, “You say what Val… what Valentine did made him sick but the Alec I know would manage to open his eyes long enough to give us at least a preliminary report.”

The Alec I know.

Magnus’ jaw clenched, it was the only thing that kept him from saying what he truly wanted to say to Robert Lightwood.

What did this selfish, weak man know of Alec?

Nothing.

“He was tortured, Dad.” Izzy said and even she sounded displeased.

“And that’s something that happens in the line of our Angelic duty.” Robert waved the word torture away like it was nothing. “Alec isn’t exempt just because you want him to be.”

“Robert,” Maryse started.

“No, Maryse,” Robert held his hand up to silence her and Magnus saw, with no small amount of his own private pleasure, that Maryse’ eyes narrowed at the gesture. “This has gone on long enough. I never thought I would see the day that you coddled him but that’s what you’re doing. Lightwoods are stronger than he’s acting.”

“Acting?” Izzy’s voice was incredulous, “Do you hear yourself, Dad?”

On the bed, silent and unnoticed by his parents, Alec’s brow furrowed like he could hear the raised voices even though he was deeply asleep.

Magnus felt his heart drop. If Alec felt threatened, especially when his emotions were already recovering from what had happened, would his magic answer his need? Even if Robert wasn’t standing right there, if his already dangerously depleted magic let out another uncontrolled burst it could do serious damage to his health.

“If you require,” Magnus said with a voice made of ice. “A detailed accounting of Alec’s condition, I will provide one in the living room. What we will not do is fight at his bedside.”

Robert had been steadily ignoring Magnus but at this turned to him with venom in his eyes, “I think you’ve provided enough shame to this family, thank you.”

“Dad, Magnus saved our lives.”

“After he’s kept Alec under lock and key!”

“Robert, we have to discuss…”

“I’m not letting you stand there and…”

Enough.”

Jace’s voice wasn’t loud but the barely held together rage was enough to capture the attention of any creature that valued its life.

He was standing, although when he had moved Magnus wasn’t sure.

Jace’s eyes were locked on Robert, “No one is waking him up.”

Magnus waited for Robert to push back. Jace was his surrogate son, after all, and Robert seemed a father who demanded obedience.

The silence was deafening.

Robert didn’t move and that in and of itself was noteworthy. He held Jace’s gaze but seemed unwilling to challenge him.

Why?

“Let’s take this into the other room.” Maryse said quietly.

For a long moment, no one moved.

Then, Jace sat back down beside Alec.

The move was simple but masterful and Magnus barely managed to school his face into something less gleeful.

Jace had just dismissed Robert and Maryse both. Turning his back on Robert, showing that in no way did Jace think that Robert was a credible threat. Then the total disregarding of Maryse’ order. Between the two, Jace was being potently disrespectful for what Magnus knew of Shadowhunter culture and yet he was still somehow coming out the victor in the encounter.

Isabelle reached for her father’s arm, pulling him away only a few seconds after Jace was seated. Quickly enough to help him save face but not so quickly that the power play that he had just lost could be ignored.

Once Robert and Maryse were out of the room, Magnus waved his hands and put up a silencing spell.

“Keep him calm.” Magnus whispered to Jace, trying to infuse his voice with enough wild magic panic that Jace would get what he meant without having to actually use those words.

“I know.” Jace answered.

That was going to have to be enough. Magnus closed the doors behind him and locked them for good measure. Jace would be able to get out but no one save Magnus would be able to get in until he removed the spell.

Which he would hopefully be doing soon. As soon as he could get Robert out of his loft.

Robert and Maryse were almost pointedly sitting with enough space for a whole person between them. Isabelle sat opposite them and Magnus draped himself into an armchair, his own island. Not that he would have minded sharing with Izzy, but the visual was a good one.

“What does the Clave want to know?” Magnus asked with impatience in his voice.

Izzy sighed, “I’m sure they want to know what exactly happened start to finish.”

“Of course,” Robert confirmed, “How else can they find a way to use this against Valentine and the Circle?”

“Magnus had just conjured up dinner for the two of us.” Izzy started, “Alec was sleeping. We were at the table. We had barely started when it seemed like… almost like when Max was little and he would build towers just to knock them down. Like there was a giant outside shoving the building.”

“I activated my wards to the highest level immediately and attempted to open a portal but none were successful. Valentine had warlocks create an anti-portal spell around the building before their attack.” Magnus added. “The wards held through the next volley of spells hurled at us but I hadn’t anticipated him essentially projecting himself onto my balcony. That will, of course, be rectified.”

And it would, Magnus vowed. Never again would he let Valentine taunt Alec in their home.

“What did he say?” Maryse asked.

“He wanted to know where Alec was and made it clear that he knew Alec was here. He wasn’t asking in a ‘where in the world’ kind of way.” Isabelle likely threw that in to point out that the Clave’s determination that Alec stay in New York was making him a sitting target for a madman. Whether they actually gave a damn about that or not remained to be seen. Magnus was, obviously, leaning rather heavily towards not.

“When we wouldn’t bring Alec out, he started yelling for him. Telling him that if he came out and went with him, we would be spared.” Isabelle explained. “By then Magnus and the warlocks outside were in a full out battle, throwing spells at each other and I called Jace. He promised he would get here as quickly as he could. I went to Alec and saw he was awake, he was trying to stand to come out and help but I got him to lay back down. I don’t know what else happened outside but all of a sudden everything just stopped. It all went quiet, I’ve never felt anything like it.”

Robert pointedly turned towards Magnus.

“It’s a feature of my wards.” Magnus said grudgingly.

“Explain better.” Robert neglected the please and its absence was glaring.

Magnus waited a tense beat before saying, “When the wards take a certain amount of damage, the spell was designed to activate. It’s not something I did myself in that moment. It’s something I’ve spent decades building into my wards. A sort of… reserve of power fueled the spell, because it’s not simple magic. I will have to rebuild it but Valentine need not know that.”

That explanation was carefully designed and Magnus knew without a doubt that no other warlock could counter it. Warding was one of his specialties and few other warlocks were nearly as good as him. Not to mention, spells that relied on a well of previously fed in power were rare but not unheard of. Between the murky nature of the spell and his own reputation he knew that there was no warlock who could call him out on a lie.

Whatever warlock had been asked about the freezing spell had been able to confidently answer because there was an answer. There wasn’t here. If the Clave went back to that warlock to ask and whoever it was pressed for more information and heard his name, they wouldn’t dare definitively tell the Clave it wasn’t possible and risk being wrong. Magnus had pioneered too many new spells. 

It also neatly answered any questions about repeating the occurrence for anyone else to confirm it had come from him. So sorry, the spell cannot be duplicated anytime this year. The magic must be built back up.

“It froze the intruders attempting to break through my wards.” Magnus continued, “An amplified blast of a simpler spell. Unfortunately, the range wasn’t far enough to encompass a secondary backup team of Valentine’s little minions that he had waiting in the wings.”

He hoped the phrase Valentine’s little minions burned Robert and even Maryse.

“Jace and Clary arrived as the secondary team was portalling out the ones who were frozen still. Jace fought to get to Valentine, he took out one of them but Valentine got away. By the time Magnus and I got downstairs, it was over.” Izzy finished for Jace since he wasn’t with them.

“Once the frozen got time and space from the initial blast, they should have woken right up.” Magnus added.

They stopped speaking, the two of them just stared at Robert awaiting his cross-examination.

Robert just sighed, “We need a full written report, Isabelle. From Jace as well.”

Truly, Magnus was impressed by how low-effort Robert was. Perhaps he just really trusted Izzy but even still… wow.

“We’ll work on it tonight.” She promised.

Magnus loved that he was relaying this order through Izzy.

“I need to return to Alicante.” Robert said and this was finally something Magnus could eagerly supply to him.

Without flourish, Magnus rose up from his seat and used his tired magic to conjure up a portal.

Robert leaned in closer to Maryse and whispered something that Magnus couldn’t make out. Then, he gave Izzy a kiss on the forehead and the barest of nods to Magnus before he strode through the portal, not a single backwards glance given to his daughter or a thought towards his sons.

Magnus closed the portal happily. Good riddance.

The second the portal was closed, Maryse slumped in her seat. “I don’t know whether to be proud of Jace or to throttle him.”

“I rather liked the implication that Jace might start throwing punches.” Magnus admitted unrepentantly.

Maryse shot him a look that was just shy of chiding, thankfully for her, “That wasn’t what Jace did at all. Robert has the Clave behind him, right now at least, and Jace knows it. But Jace has just been revealed to be a Herondale. He’s practically untouchable in Alicante, just by being a member of what is essentially Shadowhunter royalty. Not to mention he has Imogen. Robert challenged Jace with the Lightwood name and Clave support and Jace countered with Herondale power and the Inquisitor. He had the winning hand and they both knew it.”

Never once had Alec given him the impression that Jace liked playing political games. Although, he supposed like didn’t have much to do with any of this. Jace might not like it but he also knew that he didn’t have much choice at the moment. “And that means what for us?”

“In the immediate sense, he got Robert out of the room and asserted his claim to Alec as superior to Robert’s. It is anyway, being parabatai trumps everything else, but it’s not something Jace has ever made a point about before.” Maryse explained, “Long term, Robert isn’t going to make a big deal of any of this to the Clave, of course because he lost, but if Jace is going to throw his weight around in Alicante then Robert is going to have to decide if we’re with him or against him.”

“Dad would never choose to be against Jace.” Isabelle protested, “And I don’t mean sentimentally or something. I mean, having Jace be ours has always been a big win for the Lightwoods. Having Jace be ours and be a Herondale?” She shook her head, letting those words speak for themselves. Magnus would have preferred she spelled it out a little more but he understood well enough.

Maryse looked less convinced, “Can he hear us?”

Magnus raised his hand as though he were about to remove the spells on his bedroom, “Would you like him to?”

“It’s all right,” Maryse shook her head, “I’ll speak with him before I go.”

“What do you think?” Izzy asked, “About how that just went, I mean?”

Maryse pulled in a deep breath, “Well, I think. You did well laying the groundwork about Jace feeling overprotective. Having him at Alec’s bedside was smart, both to keep Robert from getting too close and to keep the blankets pinned over Alec so no one could see his hands.”

There was actually a sticking charm in place over the blankets, just to make sure that no one accidentally brushed an edge up and revealed a white glow from under the blankets. Magnus was taking no chances.

“Letting him see Alec was inevitable but this was a good moment for it.” Maryse continued, “And Magnus, your explanation for the wild magic was perfect. Robert was frustrated with it, I could tell. He doesn’t necessarily believe you but I don’t think there’s enough suspicion there to prompt anyone looking into it further when you explained it away so masterfully.”

Receiving praise from Maryse left Magnus’ skin prickling but he still nodded to her to acknowledge it. “Why was he frustrated?”

“I think the Clave truly thought there was more to that story. That they bothered to look into it surprised me.” Maryse answered, “I’m genuinely concerned that someone within knows what Valentine did to Alec and they’re trying to subtly push the issue.”

“Why would they want that though?” Izzy looked between the two of them. “If the Clave freaks out about Alec and does something, Valentine loses his chance to get Alec back.”

Magnus knew why, “Remember, Valentine thinks that the Clave turning against Alec will help turn Alec against them. I don’t think his aim is to force a confrontation between the Clave and Alec just yet but I’m sure he wants the groundwork laid.”

“So whoever this is stirring up bad feelings about Magnus’ ability to cast that spell will probably let it lie because it’s not time yet and Magnus has given a good explanation that they can’t counteract without overplaying their hand.” Maryse sighed, “A blessing and a curse. Valentine always has contingencies on top of contingencies. He knows how to play the long game.”

Jace himself was living proof of that.

“And we will do our best to foil him at every turn.” Magnus said.

It was Izzy who said what they were all thinking, “I just hope it’s enough.”

 

---

 

It was far too many hours later before Magnus could finally lie down beside Alec and rest. There was so much to do. Strategizing with Izzy and Maryse, then later with Jace as well when Clary returned and could sit with Alec for them. The plans that he needed to put into motion for his wards, then tending them himself just to get a sense of security back. Cleaning the loft, taking a shower to rid himself of this disaster of a day.

Then, sending out the letters to old friends who specialized in warding and also either owed him favors or were friendly enough to be willing to help. He needed to be ready tomorrow to restore the warding that Valentine had managed to smash through.

And now, finally, he could lay down and rest his head on Alec’s shoulder and breathe.

“We’re going to get through this together, darling,” Magnus whispered in the darkness even though Alec was still deeply asleep and hopefully would stay that way for hours to come. “I won’t ever let him take you again.”

He wouldn’t say Valentine’s name aloud, not in the peace and safety of their bed.

His eyes fluttered shut as he breathed out a deep sigh and pressed himself just a little closer to Alec.

For tonight, at least, he had done all he could.

Tomorrow was a new day.

 

---

 

“Your boy is going to explode soon,” Cat said as she popped her head into the kitchen, jacket already in hand to head out, “Just a fair warning.”

Magnus guiltily looked towards the group of warlocks he had in the living room. They were old friends, all of them, and they were here helping on his request. They were here because he trusted them.

But he still wasn’t telling anyone about Alec’s magic. The smaller that circle stayed, the safer Alec was.

To keep that circle small he had to keep Alec from being seen. Just as importantly, he needed to rebuild his wards and strengthen their offensive capabilities quickly while not draining his own magic. That meant bringing people into his home.

Yesterday, the first day after Valentine’s attack on his loft, that had been easy. Alec had spent nearly the entire day asleep and Jace was more than willing to stand guard while he slept or ply him with food when he briefly woke.

Today though, Alec was awake and not thrilled to be sequestered to the bedroom.

That workout room he had mentioned to Isabelle was going right at the top of his priority list once the wards were completed.

“Dare I ask if the magic practice helped at all?” Magnus asked.

It was strange and honestly a little upsetting to be having Cat guide Alec in a practice session but Magnus had learned from many others in his lifetime. It wasn’t fair to keep Alec’s magical learning restricted to him.

Besides, Cat was an excellent teacher and she and Alec got along surprisingly well.

“Helped his mood?” Cat asked, “Not really. He’s taking a shower now, my suggestion, so you have about a half an hour to come up with something to keep him happy while he’s locked up in your bedroom.”

Alec locked up in my bedroom is the start to many an amazing dream, this reality is just disappointing.” Magnus admitted a little petulantly.

What wouldn’t he give to erase all of this and just have a fun evening with his Shadowhunter?

“Well, you can send them home,” She flicked her fingers towards the group as though they weren’t her friends too, “And not tell him. A little kinky fun with none of the risk? Make a little wild magic?” Cat winked.

Magnus rolled his eyes, “I don’t think sex magic is going to solve anything, Catarina.”

Cat came around the counter and laid a hand on his forehead, “Are you all right? Quick, tell me your name and the year.”

“Sex, sadly, doesn’t solve everything.” Magnus pushed her hand away, “No matter how much I might wish it.”

“Wow, I think sex solves everything was your philosophy for a good hundred and fifty years there.” Cat laughed in a way that suggested she was teasing but also quite serious.

“Alas,” Magnus shrugged. He knew he needed to go back out there any complete the last of their goals for the day but he still needed to know, “Be serious a moment. Did you and Alec make any progress?”

Cat’s teasing expression dropped from her face and Magnus wilted a little, already disappointed. “Not much. We did a little more of Madzie’s game. He’s getting quicker at making the shapes, but he didn’t manage to separate his magic out into two spheres.”

Magnus wasn’t sure what else to try to help Alec get past this roadblock he was having and every day that went by with no new progress was infuriating to Alec. Even when Magnus tried new techniques or meditations before practice sessions or even to teach him a new skill, Alec forced everything back around to his failed attempts to break his magic into separate parts.

He had made it clear to Alec that his progress was still good for where he had started but Alec believed it less and less every day, which was saying something because it wasn’t like he had believed it much beforehand.

“He’ll get there.” Cat said when she saw his face fall.

“Of course he will, but this just upsets him so much.” Magnus sighed. “I know you have to get back to Madzie, so I won’t hold you up any more. Thank you for working with him.”

Cat leaned in and gave him a quick hug before stepping back to create her portal out. “Anytime.”

In seconds she was gone and Magnus reluctantly went back out to continue working on the wards.

 

---

 

Despite Magnus’ best efforts, it was another hour before he could bid goodnight to the group helping him and go to Alec.

He opened the door quietly, just in case Alec had fallen asleep. They hadn’t gotten to talk most of the day, so he was hoping Alec was still up about as much as he was hoping that he was getting some more sleep.

“Don’t ask me how I’m feeling.”

The words came in a steady, heat-free voice before Magnus even had the door open all the way.

Alec was in bed, which Magnus appreciated on any and all levels, but he definitely wasn’t dozing. Instead, he had a book open on his lap while he lounged in the dead center of Magnus’ bed wearing nothing but a part of loose athletic shorts.

He stopped a little short. Staring was rude, he knew that, but who would blame him for staring at an Angel in his bed?

Thankfully, by the time Alec looked up, Magnus had managed to get himself together.

“How did the warding go?” Alec asked, as though determined to be the one who asked about the other’s day first.

Magnus went to his vanity and started divesting himself of all his jewelry by hand. Yes, it would be easier to just snap his fingers and have his magic do the job but this moment? This moment was a dream. It was a gift.

So rarely were Magnus’ relationships solid enough for moments like these. Once, he would have almost sneered at how delighted he was by something so mundane.

He was getting ready for bed by hand, sliding off rings and grabbing a makeup wipe. Alec was already in bed and reading a book. They were talking – not flirting, just talking about their days.

It was so beautifully, heartbreakingly domestic.

“The wards are coming along nicely,” Magnus said quickly, trying not to have a lag in conversation because he was too busy marveling at his luck like a fool. “I think we’ll finish tomorrow, so you won’t be trapped in here for much longer.”

Alec smiled a little tightly, “I’m trying not to be annoying about it. I’m sorry if I’m grumpy.”

Magnus flicked the makeup wipe away to vanish it and sat up, “It’s all right, Alec. I know you felt cooped up enough when you had the entire loft. Going down to just a bedroom isn’t fun at all.”

“I feel so useless in here,” Alec said as he tipped his head back against the headboard as he toss the book to the far side of the bed.

Magnus came around the side of the bed and sat down facing Alec. He snapped his fingers and a mound of throw pillows in colors best suited for an Arabian-themed boudoir appeared just in time for him to lean against. “I know you’re used to being in the thick of it, but-”

“I know,” Alec cut him off quietly, “If I were Jace or Izzy, I would be saying all of this and more to them. I know I’m suddenly one of the best weapons for both sides and if it’s better for us if I’m not in the middle. I also know that the rest of you wouldn’t be able to focus on your responsibilities if you were worried about me. But Magnus…”

Magnus sat silently, giving Alec a few silent seconds to gather his thoughts.

“If I was making progress,” Alec held his hands up, “I could feel like I was accomplishing something, even if it’s small and probably won’t be helpful for a while. And I know what you and Cat say, that it’ll take time and that time will go faster if I just chill out about it but I can’t. I just can’t.”

“I know, darling,” Magnus said as gently as he could without sounded patronizing. “None of us deal well in idleness. We’re just not wired that way. Imagine what a nightmare Clary would be if this were her.”

The joke got a small smile out of Alec, much more genuine than the one before.

“I think,” Magnus reached out and rested his hand on Alec’s thigh, letting his fingers trace a pattern on the warm skin below his fingers, “That we should try to set aside an hour each day where we don’t think about any of this. No Valentine, no magic practice, no wards, no Clave, definitely nothing about how for that moment when Jace was standing up to your father I thought he was vaguely kind of attractive and now I’m questioning my own sanity.”

And finally, Magnus was rewarded with an actual grin and a laugh. It was even worth admitting that Jace had been the most attractive he’d ever managed to be when he was defending Alec from Robert. He was playing it up – Jace wasn’t his taste in the slightest, even if he wasn’t painfully straight – but since he’d told Alec that before he figured it would make him laugh to be put out by it now.

“By the Angel,” Alec’s laugh had been so sorely missed.

Doubling down, Magnus pouted, “You know blondes don’t usually do much for me, which only makes that moment even more bizarre.”

“You should tell him that.” Alec said as he shifted around and crooked the leg that Magnus was stroking, offering more skin to touch.

Magnus had been taking the physical aspect of their relationship so slowly, wary of making any missteps with something as important as getting them back on solid ground. Now though, with Alec smiling and relaxed and gorgeous, it was hard to tell himself to go slowly and keep his hands to himself.

His voice dropped down an octave, “His ego is big enough. Besides, how would that sound? ‘Normally I think you’re quite average and not my taste at all but for one brief moment you were actually not half bad to me? Not hot, of course. You still didn’t come close to your stunning brother.’”

Alec’s tongue poked out to swipe over his bottom lip, “Stunning, huh? I’m nothing compared to you.”

“Is this what we’re going to do with our relaxation hour? Argue over who’s more beautiful?” Magnus let his fingers inch up Alec’s thigh.

Alec shook his head as he surged forward and kissed Magnus. It was maybe a little forceful and maybe a little needy but it was also exactly what Magnus wanted. He groaned, his hands going up to trace along Alec’s sides.

Having Alec so alive and so eager was a gift Magnus wasn’t sure he would ever have again. In those hours when they had still been broken up and Alec had been kept away from him by Valentine, Magnus had barely let himself dream of this moment.

As though Alec sensed the direction his thoughts were going, he moved again, this time coming to straddle Magnus’ thighs and sit in his lap. His Shadowhunter jerked his hips forward, bringing their clothed cocks into delicious contact.

When Alec threw his head back at the pleasure of it, Magnus had to trace his lips over that sinful deflect rune. It wasn’t optional.

“Magnus,” Alec moaned in a voice that made Magnus just want to wreck him.

Magnus pulled away and nipped little kisses along Alec’s collarbone while he asked, “Tell me what you want, my love.” His lips trailed down Alec’s chest until he licked over his nipple.

Alec whined low in his throat, “You.”

“You have me,” Magnus promised. He meant it more in this moment than he ever had before. Perhaps his stupid attempt to break up with this boy who was so vital to his heart had a silver lining. It renewed his dedication and he knew deep down to his core that his love would be unwavering.

Gods and Angels be his witness, he would light the world on fire for Alec Lightwood.

For all that Alec was such a leader in his job and with his siblings, Magnus wasn’t unaware that Alec quietly liked it when he took the lead in their physical relationship. They hadn’t ever talked about it. It wasn’t a conversation Magnus would open unless he thought it was truly necessary so unless Alec came to him to talk or make requests, then Magnus was happy to read his silent signals and let that be the guide.

Alec needed to relax. He needed someone else to take care of him. He needed to let go.

Magnus was happy to provide.

 

---

 

The second Magnus heard Alec calling his name, he jolted into wakefulness before his brain had even processed what was happening.

It took him a few extra seconds, just laying there blinking rapidly against the light, to register that they were in bed, not in the middle of some fight, and that the world beyond the window was still dark and hushed.

So then what was the light stinging his eyes?

“Magnus, look.” Alec said again in a voice that Magnus had almost forgotten the sound of.

Happy and triumphant.

Alec was laying beside him, propped up and arms out from the covers. His hands were held up in the usual way they were when he was practicing coalescing his magic.

And there between Alec’s hands were three spheres of magic. Separate. Independent of each other. Three perfect spheres under Alec’s total control.

Magnus took in the sight but when his eyes darted up to Alec’s face he took in the true magic.

Alec looked proud of himself.

He was grinning, bathed in the light of his own magic. His shoulders had eased from that tense, lost sort of weight. “I woke up and I wanted to try. I just… I try all the time. And it just happened. I wanted the ball to split into two and it did. I don’t know why this time was different. Then I just wanted to see if I could do three and it took a little longer but it worked.”

Magnus pressed a kiss to Alec’s bare shoulder. “I’m so proud of you, darling.”

Alec tore his eyes from the sight of his own success to give Magnus a wide, delighted smile and Magnus almost felt his eyes burn at the sight of it.

 

---

 

It was only later that Magnus had the realization and laughed quietly to himself. He could chalk it up to relaxation, to feeling more stable in their relationship and thus himself or even to the opportunity that Magnus had given Alec to let it all go and fall back into his hands knowing he would be safe.

But that wasn’t any fun. It wasn’t what he’d tell Cat later.

Apparently sex really did solve everything.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Fifteen


 

 

 

“Can you juggle them?” A grunt of pain, then, “Jeez, Izzy, quit it.”

Izzy looked pretty unashamed for having just elbowed Jace in the gut. In fact, she looked closer to pleased with herself than she did to sorry.

Today, Magnus promised, was the last day that he was going to be trapped in the bedroom while work on the wards happened in the rest of the loft. Being stuck in their bedroom was a whole lot better today though.

Four. He could now separate his magic into four balls.

Magnus’ new task for him was to try to shape each of them differently at the same time. So far Alec had managed to shape just one different from the others. He didn’t have the focus for more than that but he was a hell of a lot more hopeful than he had been the day before.

They were all sprawled out on the floor by the bed. Jace was draped over like six different pillows and Izzy was using his leg as a headrest.

Ever the science lover, Izzy’s question was a lot more practical than Jace’s, “What gave you your breakthrough?”

“I don’t really know.” Alec answered truthfully, although he could guess for all that it sounded so stupid. “I’ve been trying to do it constantly and when I woke up last night I tried again. It was just so much easier, like the magic wasn’t fighting me anymore.”

Izzy rolled her eyes, “So what you’re saying is that you were in bed, relaxed and semi-well rested, maybe peacefully laying curled up with Magnus – just really content – and then you tried and it worked.”

“Um,” Alec said slowly because this felt like a trap, “Yes?”

“Gee, so it’s what Magnus and I have been saying all along? That if you chill out this will go easier?” Izzy said with exaggerated shock in her voice.

Jace just laughed, the traitor.

“Easier said than done, Isabelle.” Alec couldn’t help but point out. He wasn’t sure how people could actually tell him to chill out and say it with a straight face. He couldn’t help which direction his feelings went in. Being calm and happy all the time sounded great but he just wasn’t wired that way.

Izzy looked a little repentant, “I know, I’m sorry. Still, let this be a reminder to you that relaxation is important.”

Under no circumstances was he going to tell them just how relaxed he had been when he and Magnus had finally fallen asleep. If they knew that sex with Magnus had gotten him to what the magical relaxation point apparently was, he would literally never hear the end of it.

“So,” He cleared his throat and hoped that his cheeks weren’t going red, “I’m hoping that since my control is getting better I won’t, like, freeze everyone again or zap people or anything else.”

“I don’t know, Alec, freezing Valentine might come in pretty handy,” Jace drawled. “I wish I could have gotten here even two minutes quicker. Then he’d be headless and we would be done with this shit.”

Izzy patted Jace’s arm sympathetically, “Between narrowing down where he’s hiding and also tracking Jonathan, we’re going to find him.”

It was everything he could do not to ask for more details but he knew they would be hesitant to give them and then he’d get mad and they would feel guilty. It was better, for now, to let it lie. As long as they were just looking, it wasn’t a huge deal. It was when actions started coming into play that he would have to force the issue.

He let his magic bleed back into three spheres and started shaping one of them into a square. It was harder to do while still holding the other two spheres in formation but he was pretty good at shaping squares by now. It needed to be more of a challenge.

“How are things going with Imogen?” Alec asked Jace without looking up from where he was trying to tame his stubborn magic.

There wasn’t any big jolt of emotion from their rune, which was reassuring.

“Awkward, honestly.” Jace reported, “I know she’s happy to have like, found me or whatever, but otherwise I think she had no idea what to do with me.”

“If she’s smart she’ll give up any dreams of you following in her Inquisitorial footsteps.” Izzy laughed.

Jace almost snorted, “I think she’s already let that dream go. I mean, giving my parabatai the Institute in less than a day should have been a big hint.”

“How likely do you think it is that she’d give us intel on what’s going on in the Clave?” Izzy asked, which was maybe bolder of a question than Alec would have asked. Jace hadn’t known this woman who was his grandmother for long at all.

“Maybe,” Jace didn’t sound very sure though and when Alec chanced a glance up from his magic he saw that Jace was staring at the ceiling thinking about it. “I mean, she hates Valentine so if she thought the Clave had been infiltrated by him enough, she might be willing to work against it. Also, I don’t think she really likes Alec loads but she’s asked about him enough times now that I think she really gets the whole parabatai thing.”

“She’s asked about me?” Alec was more than a little surprised. Jace’s assessment of she doesn’t really like Alec loads was honestly his impression too.

Jace sounded maybe only slightly less shocked than Alec himself did, “Yeah, like multiple times. I thought the first time wasn’t that weird. Just polite concern small talk kind of thing. But she asks every time we talk.”

“Makes sense,” Izzy said with a lot less surprise in her voice than theirs, “She doesn’t want anything to happen to Jace and if something really bad happens to Alec then it’s going to affect Jace negatively.”

Alec relaxed a little. Imogen Herondale being concerned about him was unsettling. Imogen Herondale being concerned about Jace and thus grudgingly willing to keep Alec alive was easier to digest.

The conversation wasn’t doing much for his focus, though. That didn’t stop him from trying – he couldn’t and wouldn’t have a perfectly silent environment to cast spells during battle so he had to get used to having other things pulling at his attention while still getting the job done. Talking to Jace and Izzy was a good way to practice even in this early stage.

“It’s good though,” Izzy continued, “With Mom dealing with the Institute so much now that Aldertree is gone she’s not in Alicante as much and we can’t trust Dad to warn us if something is going to happen.”

Alec raised an eyebrow, “We can’t?” He knew that, of course. He never put this siblings’ safety in his father’s hands but Izzy had never said the same.

Izzy swatted Jace and his parabatai yelped. It was the guilty feeling emanating from Jace’s end of the bond that was more noteworthy though.

“You were here for hours yesterday and you didn’t tell him?” Izzy hissed at Jace.

“Tell me what?” Alec separated his hands and let the magic go back to swirling around him. This was more important, he could tell just from the looks on his siblings faces.

Jace sighed, “I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Then Izzy will talk about it.” Alec said with a voice that Izzy knew better than to protest against. “Besides, Magnus mentioned something I think.” He hadn’t really thought to pursue the topic at that particular moment. He’d thought it wasn’t nearly as important as Izzy was making it out to be.

Izzy sat up, “While you were unconscious after Valentine’s attack on the loft, Mom and Dad came here.”

“Dad?” Alec repeated skeptically. “Dad came here?” For whatever reason, he had thought that whatever Magnus had mentioned had happened at the Institute or over the phone.

His sister nodded seriously, “I just about died when Mom texted me to say they were on their way. We knew we needed to let him see you so we had to plan a way to make sure that he didn’t get too close. Like, what if he brushed the blanket and then noticed the white glow?”

“Back up,” Alec said, “Do we know why he even wanted to come?”

“Definitely because the Clave wanted him to.” Jace said a little apologetically, although why he was bothering to feel bad about telling him that his father was only there on Clave orders was beyond Alec. It wasn’t like he and his father had a close relationship. Not like Dad and Izzy.

“I figured,” Alec assured him, “But why? What made them decide now was the time to get eyes in the loft?”

“We – Mom, Jace, Magnus and I – think that someone in the Clave is aware that you have magic. We pretty much know they don’t believe that Magnus did that spell but Magnus explained it really well to Dad so there’s not much else they can do to force the issue.” Izzy explained.

Before Alec could ask how Magnus had explained it, she added, “He told them that it’s a spell that has some sort of reserve of power that he’s been feeding for years so that’s why it was way more powerful with a bigger range than has ever been seen. Because the reserve has now been used, he can’t prove it to them anytime soon.”

That was a pretty good answer – unless Alec did it again. Then Magnus’ answer would be called into question.

Alec resisted the urge to call the magic between his palms again to start practicing again. Instead he waved a hand at Izzy to tell her to keep going.

“Before we started getting in depth about the spell though, they came in here to see you. Magnus, Jace and I were prepared. We had decided that I was going to mention to them that Jace was feeling really overprotective so to like, excuse his rudeness or whatever.” Izzy continued, “Then Jace stayed sitting right on the bed next to you. He was barely paying attention to the rest of us, or at least that was how it looked to then. Dad started in on his usual soldier crap and wanting to debrief you and was arguing about it.”

Here was where Jace cut in, “With a raised voice just in case he thought he could wake you up like that. You reacted to it though and that freaked me out. What if you felt threatened or something and the wild magic started flying right in front of his face?”

“So Jace said ‘Stop!’ in a really deep voice,” Izzy said as she mimicked Jace. For his part, Jace just looked vaguely embarrassed. “And stood up and he and Dad had a serious staring contest. It was intense.”

“And?” Alec asked a little incredulously. How had he slept through all of this? How had no one told him about this yesterday? He’d thought Magnus’ comment about thinking Jace had been attractive was a joke but if Jace had been challenging their father and defending Alec then Magnus might have actually meant it.

Jace shrugged but it was obviously forced, “Mom tried to step in. Suggested we all go in the living room. I just sat back down next to you.”

“You dismissed him.” Isabelle said and she looked like she had a lot to say about it too but Alec quickly caught her eye and gave her a look.

“Thank you.” Alec said to Jace. “I know it wasn’t easy.” Standing up to Robert or Maryse when he had been so grateful to them for so long was a big deal for Jace. He rarely liked to overtly rock the boat like that.

There was some part of Jace that would always be afraid that he could be kicked out of the Lightwoods. It was one of Alec’s life missions to prove to him that it could never happen. Once, he had made a pointed attack against Jace by emphasizing that Izzy was his not their sister and the look in Jace’s eyes when the hit had landed shamed Alec to his core. It was possibly the cruelest thing he had ever said or done to Jace and he’d done it on purpose.

So he knew what it took for Jace to do what he had done.

Except the look that Jace gave him said differently.

Defending you is always easy.  

What Jace said out loud was different, “Don’t be an idiot.”

 

---

 

While Alec and his siblings caught up in the bedroom and the warlocks working on his warding took a break, Magnus took the opportunity to drag Cat into his workroom.

“You’re going to die.” He said as he warded the doors to keep any of their conversation from slipping out. One way, of course, just in case he needed to get back out there in a rush. There was a lot happening in his loft, including the harboring of his secretly magical Shadowhunter, and keeping a watch on all of it was technically more important than this conversation but he simply couldn’t resist.

Cat snorted before she even heard what he wanted to tell her. He had been bursting with it all morning, had even wanted to text her at dawn, but he wanted to see the look on her face when he told her.

“Last night, after you left…” Magnus trailed off significantly.

It all of two seconds for Cat to get where he was going.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She burst out laughing. “Magnus Bane, if you tell me that you fucked that boy into a magical breakthrough I will die right here right now.”

He grinned, he couldn’t help himself, “I feel terrible for what I said yesterday. My dedication to my life’s philosophy has been renewed. I will begin solving all my problems with sex once again. I feel like a fool for ever doubting.”

“Only you.” Cat shook her head. She leaned back against his worktable, “I cannot believe you.”

Magnus just shrugged, “He needed to relax. We all agreed on that. Alexander isn’t very well-versed in how to relax so it’s not a surprise that he needed some, ah, outside assistance, shall we say?”

That earned him an eye roll that was truly well deserved.

“Not only that,” Magnus continued, “When Alec woke me up to show me, he had managed to break his magic into three. He got to four just after breakfast. It’s the first bit of progress he’s had in building control in days.”

“Do you think he’s ready for more?” Cat asked a little more seriously.

Magnus was relieved to be able to nod at her. “We’ll work with elements as soon as I have a day free from this warding. I have to finish the wards and his practice room… well,” He tilted his head to acknowledge that he was being a bit extra, “I don’t have to finish his practice room for this but I think the timing would be nice. I want to let him play around with what he’s just achieved as well. Within a couple of days though, we’ll try.”  

“It’s more… tangible, I guess. It’ll really make him feel like he’s getting somewhere.” Cat mused, “But it’s also more magical. It’s him doing actual magic, for all that it’s still obviously basic, not just him moving the magic that he can see around.”

Both points were true and something Magnus had been thinking a lot about. “I think feeling like he’s doing something real will overshadow any trepidation about moving forward with his magic. I think he needs it.”

Cat bobbed her head in a slow nod, “I agree.”

His name was being called from beyond the doors and Magnus knew that break time was over.

“At least if he has any setbacks again, I know how to get him through them.”

Cat smacked his arm. Deserved perhaps but Magnus was entirely unrepentant.

 

---

 

It was maybe childish but Alec was standing by the bedroom door listening in as Magnus said goodbye to the friends who had helped him with his warding so he could get out of here the second they were gone.  

He’d been at the door for a while, silently waiting and mentally begging them to just get out so he could finally get the rest of the loft back. They came so early in the morning and left so late that Alec wasn’t really getting any chance to leave. Sure, he could have gone out there at like three in the morning but one, he didn’t like leaving the bed when he finally got the chance to be with Magnus after a day of mostly not seeing him at all and two, Magnus was exhausted usually and getting up and wandering would probably wake him up.

The sound of yet another portal closing caught his attention. If he knew how many warlocks had come, that would make it easier to…

“You can come out now.”

Magnus had barely finished the sentence before Alec was eagerly pushing the door open to find Magnus already coming to get him.

“They’re done? Like completely done?”

Magnus smiled at him knowingly, “We’re totally and completely done. The wards are back up to their previous strength and we build up the offensive side of them.”

Stepping out from the bedroom felt sort of like he was getting out of time-out. When Magnus leaned in to kiss him, Alec returned it happily. Not seeing Magnus most of the day after having gotten to see him almost constantly since he had escaped was kind of upsetting.

When they pulled away, Alec made a noise of complaint that he swore hadn’t meant to let slip out.

Magnus only smiled at him, not annoyed at all about him being needy or greedy or something. “Are you up for a late dinner, perhaps?”

There were endless snacks in the bedroom because Magnus worried too much but Alec hadn’t touched any in a long time. He had waited for Magnus. “Yeah, whatever you want.”

He wasn’t unaware that all of his favorites had been on the menu lately. Eating was a little easier after he had really started to understand Cat’s philosophy about magical health being different than physical. Some days were better than others. He also wasn’t unaware that when he felt stressed out, he didn’t like to eat. How could he not know when his siblings had been harping on it for a decade? Still, he was trying his best.

But tonight, he wanted Magnus not to worry about him. He wanted the warlock to have a night where he could relax.

When Magnus tilted his head back to start thinking, Alec pressed a kiss to his throat, “I mean it, I want what you want. Pick anything. Even something I’ve never tried.”

Alec walked forward, which meant that Magnus had to walk with him because they were still wrapped around each other. Once they hit the kitchen, Magnus was laughing, “Goodness, you really were cooped up in there, weren’t you?”

He just hummed agreement back.

Magnus turned them around at the last second before grabbing Alec’s hips and lifting him up onto one of the barstools around the kitchen island. And yeah, it wasn’t much of a lift in terms of height but damn.

Instead of staying for more kisses, Magnus just sort of twirled away from him while his seat swiveled in as though they were dance partners in a ballet. He went to one of his cabinets and pulled out two dishes that looked like something someone had handmade nearly a hundred years ago. The paint was faded but the design was still visible and colorful.

“Do you have any feelings about Bangladeshi food?” Magnus asked him seriously.

Alec smiled, a bit bemused, “No.”

It was interesting to him how Magnus always waited for an answer to those types of questions even though Alec almost invariably said no.

“There’s a restaurant a little off the beaten path in Dhaka that I adore.” Magnus started explaining as he grabbed them utensils and napkins. Unless Alec was reading this wrong, Magnus was about to snap his fingers to make food appear from this far away restaurant, so that that he was taking the time to make them place settings was interesting. “They have mughlai paratha that I dream about. I simply can’t believe I haven’t brought you there yet.”

And then came the snap of his fingers, followed by a flourish to reveal their plates heaped high with fragrant, delicious smelling food that Alec had never seen before in his life. Well, he took that back. He had eaten biryani before, he recognized it.

Magnus quickly grabbed up a little square bread looking thing and held it up to Alec’s lips. Obediently, he took a bite and found it to be a soft sort of bread filled with meat and egg and onions then fried.

He chewed slowly, keeping Magnus waiting. Or rather, he would have been keeping Magnus waiting except the corners of his lips were turning up at seeing Magnus so excited.

“It’s good,” He said finally. “I like it.”

And it was true, he did like it, but even if it was gross he would have said he liked it. He wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted what Magnus wanted. Everything had been wrapped up in Alec himself for so long, Magnus absolutely deserved a night to be about him.

Magnus looked thrilled to hear that Alec liked it and he finally hopped onto his own barstool. “I hope this is an acceptable impromptu date night.”

They hadn’t been out on a date in forever it felt like. Even before they had broken up, things had been so crazy.

“I can’t wait until this is done, you know?” Alec said, “Like Valentine and just all of it. Shadowhunter life is always kind of crazy and I’m assuming High Warlock life is too but I want regular crazy for a while. Forever, hopefully. I want us to have more time.”

Magnus gave him a sweet smile that made Alec feel warm inside. “A lovely sentiment, Alexander. I too am looking forward to things calming. I would very much like to go back to whining about frustrating clients instead of all of this.” He ripped a piece of flatbread off and held it out for Alec to take a bite. “And I think it goes without saying that I would like it if the Institute would calm itself down enough for us to be able to take a few days away.”

Alec nodded, although vacations weren’t something he really knew how to take. Still, running around the world with Magnus sounded amazing.

“And where would we go?” He asked curiously after he swallowed the bite of flatbread.

That seemed to light a fire within Magnus, “Oh, darling, I have a list. The order changes constantly, but there’s a ranking thirty places deep. I want to show you the whole world, of course, but a man has to prioritize.”

“Of course,” Alec agreed playfully.

“Have no fear, though, I would absolutely consult with you before I just whisked us away.” Magnus promised as though Alec had ever been disappointed with any of his choices before, be it country or restaurant or anything really. How could he when Magnus always seemed to take Alec’s preferences into such heavy consideration?

He shrugged, “You don’t have to. I trust you. You know more about it too.” And he finished that by taking another bite of his food to remind Magnus that Alec was eating and enjoying something he had picked.

“But what if your heart was set on something tropical and I took you to a snowy mountain?” Magnus said as if that would be the end of the world.

“You would be there, so it would still be okay.” Alec answered honestly.

Magnus looked as though he was gearing up to say more about the topic but at Alec’s simple answer, he stopped and just smiled softly at him. “My sweet boy.” Magnus’ voice was almost a whisper.

Alec blushed, “Tell me about somewhere?”

The warlock’s warm brown eyes just kept staring at him like he was special. He was so far from it that he felt a little like a fraud but having Magnus look at him like that kept any bad feelings away. Not even the sight of his magic clinging to his hands could have wrecked the moment.

After a second, Magnus seemed able to speak again. “Well, Bavaria is high on my list.”

Alec thought for a second, “That’s in… Germany? And they’re famous for a cream or something?”

Magnus laughed, “It is in fact in Germany. It was once its own kingdom. There’s a gorgeous, romantic castle there called Neuschwanstein – I know, the name doesn’t sound very gorgeous or romantic – and it’s something out of a fairytale. But then, poor Ludwig was such a dreamer.”

Magnus held his hands out. Between them, his magic made a blue image of what the castle looked like.

If Alec had to describe where a princess would live then he would have outlined something like this place. “Wow.”

“Indeed,” Magnus agreed before letting the image disappear. “Think of the kind of night we could spend there.” He said a little wistfully.

Alec raised a skeptical eyebrow, “They let people sleep there?”

“Let?” Magnus seemed to have not even considered that, “Of course not. Once the tours ended for the day we would have the place to ourselves.”

If possible, Alec’s eyebrow went higher.

Magnus just scoffed, “I have an invitation from King Ludwig himself, I hardly think him dying nearly a century and a half ago invalidates it.”

He had to laugh, there wasn’t anything else to do.

Magnus leaned in with a smirk, “Just think what sort of fun we could have with a backdrop like that. I could be the King and you could be the captain of my guard… oh! Or you could be my Prince Consort! That would be lovely.”

The idea of Magnus on a throne was doing things to him.

“Hmm,” Magnus laughed, sounding quite pleased, “I think we’ve found a winner.”

They had mostly finished their dinners but Alec took an extra bite, just to give himself something to do that wasn’t imagining what Magnus was suggesting.

That just made Magnus laugh even harder, even as he stood up and pressed a kiss to Alec’s forehead, “I picked dinner, you must pick dessert.”

He was maybe too stuffed for dessert. Dessert was more Magnus’ thing than Alec’s but if Magnus wanted something, then Alec wasn’t going to beg off. Especially since Magnus liked it if Alec let him ‘share’ the last of whatever he had. “What about that chocolate torte? From that fancy bakery?” That narrowed it down like ten percent but luckily Magnus knew what he meant. What he would have said was what about that chocolate torte that makes you moan but that would make Magnus think Alec was only picking it for him. He was but he didn’t need to make it obvious.

“Sounds delightful,” Magnus assured him, as if there had been a doubt in Alec’s mind. “Why don’t you go into the living room and we can eat while we snuggle on the couch?”

That sounded better than the torte did but Alec didn’t say that. Instead, he stood and headed towards the living room while Magnus vanished away dinner’s remnants and conjured dessert. Alec would have offered to help but he got the feeling that tonight wasn’t a clean up night to Magnus so there wasn’t much work to actually be done.

The sun had gone down since Magnus and the warlocks had been out there so the room was dark. Alec went to the nearest lamp and clicked it on, even though his hands lit the way well enough. The thought and the truth of it made him scowl.

Once the room was lit, Alec looked up and…

The balcony doors reflected him back and Alec felt his heart sink a little. Valentine wasn’t there anymore but he had been. He’d been there and Alec had done absolutely nothing about it.

“Alec?” Magnus called as he came into the room, “Are you in the mood for a movie, you think? We could watch – what’s wrong?”

He felt his heart pounding with remembered panic and it only made him angrier with himself.

Alec pulled in a ragged breath as Magnus came to stand in front of him. The warlocks hands went to the sides of his face and he tilted Alec’s head down to look at him better.

“Darling, look at me.” Magnus’ voice was encouraging, but firm. Alec couldn’t help but finally stop staring at the glass to look into Magnus’ concerned eyes instead, “That’s it, love, tell me what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Alec insisted. “Let’s have dessert.”

Magnus didn’t believe him, “Alec, please talk to me?”

When Alec said nothing because he didn’t know how to deflect without lying to Magnus, his warlock turned around and looked at the room like there was some boogeyman in the corner that Alec was reacting to. Not quite. Actually, he’d prefer that. At least that could be fought, at least it was real.

He knew the exact moment Magnus realized how pathetic he was.

“No one is here but us.” Magnus promised softly, “And I changed the warding on the balcony, Alec, he’ll never be able to do what he did last time again. You won’t ever see him in this loft, I swear to you.”

“Ignore me. It’s fine.” Alec said again.

Magnus turned around again but this time he clapped his hands. A fire lit and started crackling like it had been going for hours. Soft music started playing, something with bright violins.

The changes were so small but they did something to the room. Lightened it or something. Made it feel like the loft again, not a battlefield Alec had just lost at.

“I’m sorry.” Alec finally managed to relax his muscles enough to slide an arm behind Magnus.

“Shh,” Magnus said as his hand came up to stroke the back of Alec’s head, “Don’t be silly. You haven’t been out here since everything happened. We barely got a moment to speak about it.”

Alec knew they should talk about it but that wasn’t what tonight was meant to be. This was for Magnus, not for him.

“Let’s take a few moments to talk before we eat our torte.” Magnus said. He curled his hand around the arm that Alec had around his waist and used it to steer him to the couch.

That was the last thing he wanted to do but he let himself be led all the same. When he sat down beside Magnus, he held himself stiffly and he knew it. It wasn't really something he could help.

“Alec, talk to me. What’s wrong?” Magnus said again and hearing his voice sounding so good and loving just made Alec feel even more like a failure.

“I wreck everything, Magnus. We were… tonight was so good. Dinner was so good. I wanted tonight to be about you and not all this shit and I wanted you to relax and be happy and I came out here and…” Alec felt his chest going tight, “I wrecked it. I fucked up with Valentine.”

Alec,” Magnus said, voice genuinely sad. He wrapped an arm around his back, pulling him in tighter, “You didn’t wreck anything, Alec. And tonight is wonderful and I’m so happy to have gotten to spend it with you.” Magnus promised him, “I love you so much.”

“I love you too.” Alec promised. The words came out easily, they were simple truth, but the rest took him a moment to articulate. “I can’t go anywhere and I can’t do anything.” He said through a clenched jaw, “The only way I can help anyone is to stay inside and that’s… I’m the Head of the New York Institute, Magnus, I’ve been going on missions since I was thirteen. I had our enemy right in front of me and I fucking froze. One man and I couldn’t make a plan, couldn’t figure out what to do. Worse, I lost control and I froze everyone else too. I could have gotten everyone killed. I’m such a fucking coward, Magnus.”

Magnus moved so fast Alec jerked back. In seconds, Magnus shifted from the couch to the coffee table so he and Alec could face each other. His eyes flashed gold, “That is not true, Alexander!”

“It is.” Alec pulled his hands from Magnus to clench them into fists so hard his fingers ached and his nails cut into his palms.

“I have known cowards and weaklings and craven traitors, you are not one.” Magnus insisted with a passion in his voice that took Alec aback. “Every minute of the day, you’re pushing yourself to the brink to try and get yourself back in the game, even though you deserve all the time in the world to recover and come to terms with what happened. That is not how a coward behaves.”

There was some part of Alec that would never truly believe Magnus and he saw the very moment that Magnus saw that truth in his eyes.

The fire drained out of Magnus’ eyes and he sighed.

“Darling, I wish I could make you see how extraordinary you are.” Magnus pressed his forehead to Alec’s.

Alec didn’t know what to say.

There was possibly nothing to say, since Alec didn’t see either of them convincing the other any time soon. It wasn’t a conversation that Alec wanted to have.

It wasn’t a conversation Alec wanted to have tonight especially, not when tonight was supposed to be Magnus’.

“Do you still want torte?” Alec asked and he regretted not clearing his throat first almost immediately. His voice had come out too meekly.

Magnus let out a surprised laugh, “I do.” He said, either because it was true or because he saw the overture for what it was. Or both maybe, Magnus really did like that torte.

Tonight wasn’t for him to tear himself down and overanalyze every second of when Valentine had attacked. He wanted to. He wanted to figure out what he could have done better and what choice he could have made that would cause the least amount of damage. He needed to.

And his magic, he needed to keep working towards his control so this wild magic bullshit ended. It was unforgivable how bad he was at this.

Tomorrow though.

He’d work on all that tomorrow.

Magnus was putting himself through all of this right alongside Alec and he deserved tonight. Alec had nearly fucked it all up but he could fix it now. He could get them back on track and finally do something right.

While he made that decision, he realized that Magnus had turned towards the balcony doors to look at them decisively.

“Magnus?”

“They’re warded, of course, but…” Magnus trailed off. He held his hand out and then hesitated a second like he was thinking. After a few seconds of what Alec thought was contemplation, he sent a pulse of magic towards the doors.

Alec watched with wide eyes.

The clear glass panes that made up the doors darkened and the wood casing bowed. It all happened within the span of thirty seconds, fast and slow at the same time. The balcony doors that he recognized were gone. In their place, the doors had been transformed into these ornate, rounded things made up of a red glass that had an iridescent sheen on it that couldn’t have ever been made by a Mundane.

Magnus sat up beside him and looked to the doors with a more critical eye, “I was aiming for something in the art nouveau style. The red glass is a little off for a straight interpretation but I think they work well with the loft’s aesthetic.”

“Wow,” Alec said in answer, which he knew was inadequate but he wasn’t really sure what else to say. He knew what Magnus was doing, redecorating to try and keep bad memories from sparking, and it was a gift for all that he felt silly feeling that way. Thank you would be brushed aside and it wasn’t like he was really sure what art nouveau was so he couldn’t really contribute more there.

“Wait until the light hits them tomorrow,” Magnus said with gleaming eyes, “They’ll be magnificent. I may need to set you in front of them for a few photos.” He leaned in close to Alec’s ear and practically purred, “You know how I love seeing you on a scarlet backdrop.”

Alec did know but then there weren’t many colors Magnus hadn’t said something about when he laid against them.

A snap of Magnus’ fingers later and one plate of torte appeared in Magnus’ hands. There was also only one fork.

He knew where this was going.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Sixteen


 

 

 

The tense looks his siblings were giving him was enough of a hint that he was about to be unhappy with whatever they were here to talk to him about. Even Magnus and Clary looked wary.

How much of that was because they didn’t want to upset him and how much of it was fear of him losing control of his magic?

Alec couldn’t help but feel a little ambushed. He’d come into the kitchen to grab a glass of water, turned around and there the all were gathered by the dining room table. He hadn’t even known that Izzy was coming over but Jace and Clary had been holed up in Magnus’ workroom and… oh. His heart sank.

“We’ve done as much research as we can.” Izzy opened the conversation and instantly, Alec knew what she was saying.

They had done all that groundwork that Izzy had mentioned. Gathering intel, researching maps to figure out where Valentine might be hiding…

Now it was time to actually go out there and look for him.

“I’m going with you.” Alec did everything he could to make his voice as unwavering as possible.

“No, parabatai, you’re not.” Jace said it gently and he said it regretfully but those things didn’t ease the sting of being rejected by the other half of his soul.

Jace’s face fell and Alec knew he could feel the hurt coming from Alec.

“Alexander,” Magnus came to stand beside him, “They’re just talking about the next steps of tracking Valentine. Stake-outs, that sort of thing. No one is suggesting attacking Valentine the minute they find him.”

He wasn’t going to let himself be gentled down. He stepped away from Magnus even though it felt like a punch to the gut. “Valentine has already proven that he’s tracking you, even when you don’t know it. You think he won’t know when you’re coming? You’ll be out there thinking you’re staking out a building when really you’re walking into a trap.”

“We’ve been working on that, Alec,” Clary earnestly tried to reassure him, “Magnus has been layering spells over us to make us harder to track.”

“You said the Seelie Queen has been making trouble!” Alec had heard them, no matter if they thought they had been quiet enough, “You can’t hide from her outside of warded buildings!”

Izzy shook her head, “We’ve got no proof that she’s aligned herself with Valentine, Alec.”

“You’ve got no proof she hasn’t!”

“So what? We just do nothing? Let Valentine do whatever he wants?” Jace asked him with frustration evident.

“That’s not what I’m saying, Jace.” Alec didn’t like this angle Jace was trying to play. Like he was the rational one calling out Alec’s idiocy.

Before one of them could start talking again, Alec continued, “I’m controlling the magic better. It’s going to do whatever it’s supposed to soon, then I can go with you. I’m not saying never go look for him, I’m just saying give me more time.”

“Alec…” Izzy started before she hesitated.

“What?” Alec demanded. When she just looked at him, he said, “Say it Izzy!”

“Even when your magic stops being visible,” Izzy stopped again. Her eyes went to Magnus’ sort of helplessly.

What she was implying sent a bolt of something like panic straight into his heart. It felt like a physical blow.

The vase on the table next to him exploded.

Shards of glass went flying and the flowers broke into pieces that fell down to mix with the pooling water. Alec flinched when it happened, the sound of the glass breaking sounded more like a gunshot than it did shattering.

Izzy yelped, she and Alec were closest to the vase. Her hand went to her bare arm and Alec was horrified to see blood before her hand covered the wound.

The ornate glass chandelier above the dining table shattered behind Clary and Jace’s backs, raining glass down onto the empty table underneath.

Alec staggered back even as Magnus’ arms closed around him. “All right, darling, all right. Let’s sit down, shall we?”

When Alec sat straight down onto the floor, Magnus went down with him. “Fix Iz… fix I-Izzy’s, she’s… I h-h…” He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t breathe. Instead of letting Magnus hold him, he pushed the warlock towards his sister.

Jace already had his stele out and he quickly activated Izzy’s healing rune.

“It’s nothing, Alec.” Izzy moved her hand and he watched the inch long cut seal up until only a little smear of blood was left. “Really, big brother, that was like nothing. I’ve given myself worse paper cuts.”

“Izzy’s okay,” Magnus said soothingly. “You need to breathe, Alec. It’s all right. This isn’t bad. This is expected. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

He had blown up a chandelier and a vase, how was that not doing anything wrong?

Izzy came around to crouch at his side, arms going around his shoulders and her cheek resting against his head, “We can’t let the Clave get their hands on you and we can’t let Valentine take you again and we can’t let anyone else see that you’ve got magic, Alec.”

“Izzy,” Jace said with a note of warning in his voice.

“Let’s just do this all at once,” Izzy’s soft voice was in complete contrast to how tightly she was holding him. “Alec, you’re not ready to go running around the city even if your magic goes invisible. It’s not safe. Not yet.”

Alec felt each of her words like a crack of her whip.

Jace knelt down in front of them. “Think of it as protecting me, Alec. Valentine gets you, I go turn myself in to him. The Clave arrests you, I use my right as your parabatai to stand beside you wherever they take you. The safer you stay, the safer I am.”

The idea of Jace purposefully letting Valentine take him again was horrifying. Jace’s words did nothing to ease the panic inside of him.

And his parabatai felt it, “Hey, I’m not threatening anything, okay? I’m just saying, you’re pissed because you can’t be out there with us protecting us like you always do. That’s not true. I’ll protect Izzy and Clary and you’re protecting me. You staying safe is you protecting us. Valentine knows that once he has one, he has the other.”

Valentine had already said that to Alec and the words were still haunting him. Having Jace echo them so matter of fact like it wasn’t one of Alec’s worst nightmares to have him just walking straight into Valentine’s hands again only made it worse.

A cracking noise came out of nowhere and Alec wasn’t sure he had heard anything like it before.

Everyone reacted but Izzy, she just kept holding him tightly as if she wasn’t so much smaller than him. They started rocking a little and Alec wasn’t sure if that was him or her.

“What do you have against glass, parabatai?” Jace tried to joke.

Alec felt Magnus take his hand, “Glass is usually the first thing to break when unrestrained magic emanates from a warlock. Or an Alec, in this case. I could get technical but I don’t think it’s an appropriate time for a lesson.”

“Even when it goes invisible, I’m still screwed because I can’t control it.” Alec said hollowly.

“You’re learning to control it, Alexander,” Magnus insisted. When Alec wouldn’t turn to look at him, he ducked his head down closer to him to try and catch his eye. Alec wanted to resist but he felt sort of powerless. If a man like Magnus Bane wanted his attention, how could he not give it to him?

“Exactly,” Izzy agreed, “You’re learning to control it and you’re going to emerge from this a badass warrior. It’s just going to take time.”

Jace watched him with serious eyes, “And while you do that, we have to look for Valentine.”

There was nothing else to say. He was a liability right now, no matter how much he didn’t want to be.

What if they agreed with him and waited until he was ready? All the lives lost would be blood on his hands.

But if anything happened to them because he wasn’t there…

“Trust us, Alec.” Izzy said quietly.

There wasn’t anything else for him to do.

“Okay,” He said.

What he wanted to say was promise to be careful but he knew they both would and wouldn’t be. Promise you won’t get hurt was equally as impossible.

So he just gave in and repeated, “Okay.”

 

---

 

When Magnus woke that morning, he knew that he would need to do something to distract Alec.

He had quietly been working on Alec’s new workout room for the last few days anytime he could slip secretly away, usually when Jace or Izzy were there with distracting Alec. It took a little doing, because the room that had been there before wasn’t long enough to offer any sort of target practice capabilities. Magnus had been bending this loft to his will for decades though and the rooms reconfigured themselves obediently enough.

“I have a surprise for you, sayang.” Magnus said when Alec emerged from the bedroom fresh from the shower.

Alec looked a little taken aback by that, although Magnus couldn’t easily guess why. Then again, he knew neither he nor Alec were entirely comfortable with the idea of receiving random presents.

Magnus took Alec’s hand and led him down the hall to the more unused half of his loft. Well, unused in the sense that it housed storerooms that people were warded away from and guest bedrooms that Alec had little cause to enter.

Yesterday, before the conversation that had prompted Alec to shatter every piece of glass in a ten foot radius, Magnus had shown the room to Jace to get a Shadowhunter’s perspective. Jace had been quietly impressed and he had promised Alec would love it.

When Magnus reached the doorway, he stopped and turned back to see Alec looking generally bemused.

“I want your honest thoughts,” Magnus said seriously, “Jace took a look and he made some suggestions but if we’ve gotten something wrong or you’d like to add or subtract in some way, I won’t be hurt. I want you to be happy.”

“I am happy with you.” Alec looked almost worried that Magnus wouldn’t believe him.

He couldn’t help but lean in for a kiss that Alec returned eagerly.

And then he opened the door, walking backwards to lead Alec in to his new little oasis.

Workout rooms didn’t generally have a design scheme but Magnus couldn’t help but throw in some zen to the space. Jace might have laughed but Magnus thought the waterfall in the corner was a divine addition.

The room was longer than it was wide. Magnus didn’t really bother making it too long though because he knew that if Alec chose to practice with his bow here it would be more for relaxation than actual skill work. His lover was beyond a simple practice range.

Still, Magnus had pinned various targets to the far wall. Some were tiny, some were more standard. Alec didn’t know it yet, but they all lit up and let out a little tone when they got hit like his own archery version of a xylophone.

Between the target wall and the opposite wall with the waterfall in the corner, there were weapons hanging from the walls between the windows. The floor was shock proof in case Alec and his siblings ever got into anything acrobatic – Lilith knew Jace loved a good unnecessary flip – and there were wooden forms and rubber dummies to serve as punching bags. He had gone heavy on the bamboo for a natural look to complete the zen vibe.

“You made this for me?” Alec asked incredulously as he spun in a slow circle taking everything in. His eyebrow arched as he caught sight of the selection of throwing stars hung on one wall. Magnus hadn’t ever seen Alec use throwing stars, in fact he wasn’t sure that he had seen any Shadowhunter claim them as a signature weapon in quite a long time, so he had thought they might be a fun challenge for his target wall.

Magnus grinned, “I thought you needed someplace to yourself to train or practice. Do you like it?”

Alec stopped his circling to face Magnus, “Do I like it? By the Angel, Magnus, I can’t believe you did this for me.”

“I would do anything for you,” Magnus said the words with a laugh even though he and Alec both knew how serious they were, “Besides, this is slightly selfish. You know I love seeing you shirtless going hard on a punching bag.”

That got him a heated kiss. Thankfully when Alec crashed into him he didn’t push Magnus against a wall because the one behind him was dedicated to daggers.

Hmm, he should have thought that through more. What better way to end a workout then some steamy wall sex? Magnus called himself a wall sex aficionado and yet that hadn’t ever occurred to him during the planning stage? For shame.

Just as quickly as Alec had come to him, he pulled away and went back to marveling at his new space.

Magnus came around his Shadowhunter’s back, rubbing a hand down Alec’s arm and leaning close to his ear to whisper, “And this is only the first half of your surprise.”

“What?” Alec almost sputtered, “Magnus, you didn’t have to do all of this…”

“Sit down with me.” Magnus said as he lowered himself to the floor.

Alec went down easily enough, sitting opposite Magnus with his legs crossed.

Mangus waved a hand and four little jars appeared between them.

Each of the glass jars held an element in them. One jar of water, another of dirt, one with charmed wood chips to be used for fire and another that seemed empty but contained wind Magnus had long ago captured from a mountain in Indonesia for just this purpose.  

Well, not the purpose of teaching his Shadowhunter lover how to control his new magic – that would have been a truly amazing feat of prophecy – but training in general.

Alec looked up at him hesitantly, “What are they?”

“Boring magical theory lesson time.” Magnus prefaced. “I think it goes without saying that magic is a complicated thing. I’m going to explain in as basic a way as I can, but if you ever want a more in-depth explanation either from me, a book or another teacher, I can arrange that for you.”

“Why would I ever want another teacher?” Alec asked with genuine confusion in his voice.

It was sweet and the question made Magnus smile but he had to give Alec the answer that he deserved, “I learned from many different warlocks, Alec. I would be happy to teach you anything and everything but you might find that the way I do magic and the ways that work best for you aren’t entirely compatible. You might gravitate towards a method or topic that I’m not incredibly familiar with,” While this was true, Alec would have to go pretty far off the beaten path to find something that Magnus couldn’t teach him about, “Or you might find another warlock that explains things in a way that really connects with you. I don’t want you to ever feel that you can’t reach out to multiple sources as you learn. Even now with your magic a secret, you can always work with Cat if you like.”

The explanation barely mollified Alec. His eyes were narrowed and he had his lips pressed together in a thin line that said he understood but he still didn’t like the idea. “Books might be nice. And I’m okay with Cat sometimes, so I’m not always bothering you. I can’t see myself ever wanting anyone else though.”

Magnus leaned in and pressed a finger to Alec’s lips, “Teaching you is an honor, Alec. Grumpy days aside, this is a delight to me. Connecting with you on this level, one that I never expected we would share, is incredible. As you progress, it’s only going to get better. Please never feel like you’re bothering me.”

Alec flushed a little when Magnus mentioned his grumpy days but otherwise seemed pleased with the reassurance.

“Now,” Magnus said as he straightened back up, “As I was saying, magical theory is a lot less fun but still important. I can absolutely procure you some books on the subject but for now, just listen and ask any questions that come up as I explain what we’re going to do today.” When Alec nodded, Magnus continued, “Level one is manipulating your magic itself. That’s what you’ve been doing thus far. We’re going to start including intent in what you’re practicing there, but that’s for another day. The next level is raw elements.” He gestured at the bottles.

“Earth, water, wood and air?” Alec asked as he pointed at each one.

“The wood is charmed to react to air when we open the bottle to create fire.” Magnus explained. “So it’s earth, water, fire and air but yes, essentially you’re correct.”

“All right,” Alec said.

“These are the base elements, thus the easiest to manipulate.” Magnus continued.

Alec shifted on the ground, “Dare I ask what level six is?”

Magnus laughed, “There aren’t formal scales, I’m just explaining it this way to make it easier, but that’s probably when we start incorporating actual spells.”

“Actually, I’ve always wanted to ask that.” Alec admitted with a small smile, “Why sometimes do you guys use words and then other times don’t?”

It was a good question and it hadn’t really occurred to Magnus that Alec might not know the answer. “Spells with words are ones that require a draw of power from something other than the warlock. Sometimes those spells draw on multiple sources. That can be for power or because different energies are needed. If you don’t need to draw from anything else, then you don’t need a formal spell although some warlocks do find them helpful in a grounding and focusing kind of way.”

Alec nodded easily enough at Magnus’ basic explanation. “So what if I tried to do a spell with only my magic that normally requires an actual spell?”

Magnus considered how to best explain. Alec was unknowingly asking a very important question. “There are two answers to this. For spells that require specific draws of energies, then a warlock before you had to have taken the time to unlock the correct… combination, if you will? The right words to coax out the desired result, the right incantation to coordinate it all together. That kind of spellwork is actually quite tricky and finicky. If you tried to cast that kind of spell improperly most likely nothing would happen. Occasionally you might mess up just perfectly enough to create a different effect, which is dangerous in and of itself. Luckily, the usual result is a big old nothing.”

“And the other kind of spell?” Alec asked.

Magnus leaned in a little to make sure that Alec was really listening, “If you try to cast a spell that requires more power than you have and more power than you’re calling upon to compensate for that, then you’ll deplete your own magic. If you can stop it, then you might be able to save yourself and just endure magical exhaustion. If you don’t, you’ll die.”

Alec’s eyes widened a little, “Really?”

“Really,” Magnus confirmed, “I’ve seen many a too proud warlock drain themselves to nothing because they didn’t properly power a spell. Don’t ever do something so foolish, darling.”

“I wouldn’t.” Alec assured him quickly, “I don’t know that I see myself ever getting that far with magic, honestly.”

Magnus merely hummed, because he didn’t entirely believe that himself. Alec was both curious and had an insatiable need to fix things. Fix problems for others, fix injustices, fix situations others called impossible. Eventually, Magnus was sure that the idea of not being able to help someone would push Alec to learn more and more about this incredible new resource he had.

And though Magnus’ own magic would of course be forever at Alec’s disposal, he knew his Shadowhunter occasionally felt badly about it, as though he were taking advantage of Magnus. Magnus himself didn’t see it that way at all but he figured that would be a factor for Alec as well.

Now everyone else in this city… that was another story. A demanding story.

He didn’t say any of those things about Alec learning more magic though. Alec had to come to those decisions himself. “If you do decide to advance to that level, just remember what I’ve said.”

“I will,” Alec promised.

Alec was just reckless enough that Magnus wasn’t entirely reassured by the promise – this felt incredibly similar to when Alec had tried to use the parabatai bond to track Jace – but it wasn’t going to be a problem anytime soon.

Although, he did make a mental note to lock up his spell books for a while. The last thing anyone needed was his dream team of heroic bad planners getting some smart idea.

“Back to what we were discussing before.” Magnus said without mentioning where his thoughts had gone, “Level one, manipulate your own magic. Level two, manipulate base elements. From there you can start manipulating things that are very basic combinations of the base elements. As you get better, the item you are manipulating gets more complicated. As you learn more about intent and spells, what you can do to those things will get more complicated. Do you follow what I’m saying?”

“Yes,” Alec said and he even seemed confident about it. His eyes kept darting to the little bottles and Magnus barely dared to think he seemed excited to see how his first try with magically manipulating elements would go.

“Just as the combinations will get more complicated, so too will the things you can do with each raw element.” Magnus said, “To start with, we’re mostly going to look for you to move them with your magic. See if you can command them. This is actually a very special moment for some warlocks. They claim special affinity for the element that comes easiest to them and some let that be a particularly important thing.”

Alec’s eyes went to Magnus’ face before quickly going back down to the bottles.

If he was looking at the bottle for fire then Magnus couldn’t see it.

“Let’s start here,” Magnus said as he uncorked the bottle of water. He conjured a simple glass bowl and poured the water into it. “Just reach out with your magic, don’t try to do anything right away. Get a feel for it. When you’re ready, see if you can move it.”

Alec hovered his hands over the water and Magnus could see he was directing his magic to touch the surface. There was concentration on his face but no strain like he was trying overly hard to do much of anything.

Perhaps the lesson about relaxing and not forcing progress was getting through to him.

A warlock could dream at least.

Magnus made sure to watch silently. Without warning, the water shot up from the bowl like a fountain spout and rained down in and around the bowl.

Magnus clapped his hands, “We have success!”

Alec laughed though he was obviously a little surprised. “I guess I have to be more specific?”

“How so?”

“I just kept thinking that I wanted it to go up. I didn’t mean one big geyser though.” His surprise didn’t ease, instead morphing into something tinged with happiness, “That was easy. That was way too easy.”

Alec eagerly hovered his hands over the water again and this time it only took a few seconds before the water rose up from the bowl and formed into a single ball between his hands. It was like his magic and that first step Alec had taken in their bedroom.

Gently, Magnus poked his finger into the perfect orb Alec had shaped it into. It broke the surface tension easily and Magnus playfully wiggled around in the ball before pulling his finger back out. When a single drip formed at the tip of his wet finger, he held it over the ball of water until it fell back down and rejoined the rest of the water.

The whole thing seemed to delight Alec. Seeing something finally come easy for him was a revelation. Since moving the water was coming so easily to Alec, they might as well dip in to the next stage and see how it went.

“Make it hot.” Magnus whispered.

Alec’s eyebrow rose but he didn’t refuse. He just stared at his ball of water until it started to bubble within itself. Steam formed quickly, rising up from the water to disperse in the air.

“What you’re doing right now isn’t just manipulating the water,” Magnus said as the bubbles died down, “You’re also infusing your magic with intent. Intent, Alexander, is incredibly important.”

There was another lesson that Magnus had been planning that he silently moved up the timeline for. Once he spoke to Jace, they could give it a try.

Magnus noticed a thin layer developing over the water. Ice, he realized with a smile.

He gave it a few more seconds until the layer looked more solid before he reached between Alec’s hands and plucked up the perfect circle of ice. “Very good, love. I’m quite impressed. Shall we try another?”

Alec gave him a flushed smile, like he was so pleased with himself he was almost bashful about it.

It was new.

It was adorable.

Magnus set the circle of ice back down into the bowl, moved it aside and conjured a new one for earth. Once he had it, he poured the dirt out.

If Alec was eager before, it was nothing like how he was now. This was absolutely wonderful to Magnus, to see Alec finally enjoying some part of having magic.

After a moment, the concentration intensified on Alec’s face and Magnus resisted the urge to say anything. He had already warned Alec that not every element would come easily to him. Some would have to be worked on harder than others.

Still, Magnus worriedly watched the little pile of dirt for any activity. He did so a safe distance back, unwilling to get dirt shot up into his face.

Slowly, much more slowly than the water, the pile of dirt leveled off. Magnus watched a little bemused as an indentation came into the dirt. From that indentation, a line seemed to be magically drawn.

Alec’s hands were almost trembling from where he was trying to force his magic to do his bidding. It was working, so Magnus wasn’t going to interrupt, but it was obvious that Alec wasn’t nearly as easy with earth as he was water. He shouldn’t force it but he would learn that soon enough.

Magnus was pulled from his thoughts as the line started making its way around, closing the circle that was being drawn.

Except, it wasn’t a circle.

It was a heart.

Alec was drawing him a heart in the dirt with his magic.

It felt like a gift, which made absolutely no sense at all.

When the heart completed itself Alec let out his breath in one heave. “That was harder.”

He said that like what he had just drawn for Magnus was nothing. To any other lover he had ever had, it would have been nothing or it wouldn’t have existed at all. It made no sense to be so choked up by what Alec had just done but Magnus was.

“Some will be harder than others.” Magnus said in an even as possible voice.

He picked up the bowl and set it aside. Then he conjured a flat plate for the air. Alec raised an eyebrow at him. The air was charmed, which Alec likely didn’t realize. Before Magnus uncorked it, he brought a ward around the plate to keep the wind in place.

Once he opened the bottle, nothing visible happened and Alec’s eyebrow just went higher. Magnus conjured some blue sand and threw it into the warded area. The particles got caught in the fierce mountain wind and finally, Alec could see the air he was working with.

“How do I…?” Alec trailed off before seemingly deciding to figure it out himself.

This attempt went even worse than earth did. Alec managed to change the direction of the wind once and wilted as he dropped his hands back down.

“It’s all right, love, you’re still doing well. Not every element is going to respond as readily as water did.” Magnus tried to quell Alec’s rising disappointment.

They had one element left, fire, and Magnus was sincerely hoping that Alec would have better luck with it. He banished the air back into its bottle and used the same plate for fire, pouring out the wood chips and watching as the blaze started instantly.

He wasn’t sure which one of them was more startled when Alec’s magic touched the fire and seconds later a cyclone of flames shot up a foot off the ground.

Alec yanked his hands and magic back, visibly shocked, “Sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make it go so high.”

“Go a little more gently, love.” Magnus instructed. “Fire and water are opposites, but sometimes opposites attract.” He winked. He couldn’t help it.

The blatant and bad flirting brought a smile to Alec’s face and that was reward enough.

Alec brought his magic back to the fire and it reacted to him immediately. The pleased smile from before returned and Magnus had to marvel at his luck. He hadn’t put any thought into how he arranged the bottles. There wasn’t some rule of magic that said water was easiest and wind was hardest. That was merely down to Alec and his magic.

How incredibly lucky was he that he had put the two easiest at the start and the end? The start to give Alec confidence and the end to ease the sting of the two that were harder so Alec wasn’t dejected.

“Does it mean anything?” Alec asked without looking at Magnus. His eyes were focused on the fire and that was the right choice. Fire was an element that required caution.

“Does what mean anything?” Magnus asked.

Alec’s eyes flickered to his before quickly looking back at the flames he was coaxing into another orb. “You said finding which elements I’m good at is a big thing to some warlocks. Do fire and water mean anything?”

“It’s generally thought that fire means an affinity to summoning demons. Water speaks to power. This isn’t a definitive science though. In my opinion it’s one step up from a mood ring.” Magnus admitted.

Alec wrinkled his nose, “I don’t want to summon demons. Ever. We have enough problems in New York without me bringing more in.”

Magnus laughed, “You never know, darling.”

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Seventeen


 

 

 

As each day went by and Alec’s magic didn’t go invisible, Alec got more and more tense. At first it was just him. He knew the others were sort of grateful for it, because then it meant he couldn’t even entertain the idea of leaving the loft.

Now though, with the Clave breathing down their necks, the lie got harder and harder to sustain.

His mother had come yesterday and the tight, pinched look around her eyes said more to him than her reassurances that she was handling the Clave and feeding them just enough lies about his condition to keep them satisfied. She said he had more time.

She was lying.

He knew his family had high hopes that Alec could be forgiven for this by the Clave. Well, his blood family did. He wasn’t sure Magnus felt the same. Though he tried not to, he sometimes wondered if Magnus wouldn’t rather have Alec say goodbye to everything about being a Shadowhunter to be a warlock at his side. Away from the Institute, away from the Clave and all their laws…

He could see it in Magnus’ eyes sometimes. His warlock never said anything, but every time the threat of the Clave came up, Alec could see the truth in him. 

The only way he could see coexisting with the Clave working was if they didn’t know about his magic. To accomplish that, he needed to get this visible magic settled.

Alec practiced his magic as much as he could. The elements and shaping and separating his magic like in the beginning. He was hoping the more he practiced, the more he was saying to his magic and his body see, we’re all getting along, just join up before we’re in real trouble.

Even now, Alec had eight wine glasses of water arranged in a circle around him.  He was making the water hop between each glass with him in the center. He was pretty sure he looked like some sort of demented fountain.

Magnus had requested Alec only work with fire when he was around and Alec knew enough about his warlock’s past to honor the request as seriously as he could. Alec didn’t doubt that his practice room was warded for all sorts of magical calamities but Alec’s wild magic had already proven that he wasn’t obeying all the usual laws of magic. Even if Magnus didn’t have a history of fire, he would have been right not to entirely trust Alec with it alone yet.

The worst he could do with the rest of them was get himself wet or dirty.

Earth was getting easier. It took a little more concentration than the water did, but he was getting there.

When Magnus had brought out the bottles the first time, Alec had almost been sure that he would connect easily to air. Between compensating for wind with his archery and what had happened when Valentine attacked, he had figured air was going to be the obvious winner.

He could manipulate it but it took more effort than the rest of them combined. He didn’t get why.

The door opening behind him didn’t break his focus on the water. He had his eyes closed, today’s challenge, and he could sense the water hopping without any faltering in the pace of it. He didn’t even need to touch water anymore. His magic expanded out without him connecting with it first. Magnus said that was good. Alec understood why but he felt like he probably looked ridiculous.

“Don’t laugh,” Alec said quietly. He knew without looking it was his parabatai.

Jace had paused at the door, obviously unsure about coming in and breaking his focus. When Alec spoke, he seemed to take it as a sign that it was okay to come closer.

Alec had figured Jace would come around in front of the circle and sit down or something. He hadn’t expected Jace to squeeze into the circle right in front of him so their knees were pressed together.

He opened his eyes.

Jace did look like he was going to laugh, but more in a delighted little kid kind of way. Not making fun of Alec. Good enough, he guessed.

“You’re doing this?” Jace asked.

Alec flicked his ear, “No, you are.”

That did make Jace laugh, “Dumb question I guess. This is crazy, Alec. Crazy in a good way, I mean.”

“I don’t think making water hop around in wine glasses was what Valentine had in mind.” Alec couldn’t help but laugh too.

“You should learn to conjure flowers or something. If he ever demands any magic out of you, just keep handing him orchids like that’s all you’ve figured out to do.” Jace was cracking himself up.

It was funny though. Even though Alec usually flinched away from the idea that he might ever be near Valentine again the image of him just endlessly conjuring useless things while Valentine seethed was pretty funny.

Jace was clearly on a roll, “This is actually good too though. Can you make like a cyclone of water and trap him inside?”

Alec reached for the matchbox beside him leftover from practice with Magnus earlier and lit one in front of Jace. The water settled, he couldn’t do two at once yet, but once the water stopped bouncing between glasses, he had the little flame from the match grow like a mini-inferno.

Jace’s eyes went wide, “That’s even better.”

He directed his magic away from the flame and dunked the match in one of the glasses. “Don’t tell Magnus I did that. I promised not to do anything with fire if he wasn’t here.” Normally he’d feel bad about keeping secrets but this had been a tiny little flame and it wasn’t like Alec had done it alone.

“I won’t, but could you imagine? You could just incinerate him in a minute or less. Even if you couldn’t sustain the spell, all it would take was a few seconds for him to catch well enough and that would be it, game over.” Jace was clearly having fantasies.

Alec laughed, “I’ll keep it in mind.”

Jace opened his mouth to say something else but a shrill noise blared from his phone and their attention immediately went to that.

Alec tensed – that was an Institute wide alarm. Someone was calling all hands on deck.

All hands but Alec’s, that was.

“Jonathan.” Jace said grimly as he stood and read off the screen, “There’s been a sighting, he was heading towards the bridge to the fae realm.”

“Go.” Alec said even though telling his parabatai to run to battle without him went against every instinct he had. “Be careful.”

Jace looked up at him and nodded. Thank the Angel there was no pity in his brother’s eyes. Even in pity’s absence, Alec could see that Jace knew just how much those words cost him.

“I will be. Stay safe here no matter what.” Jace said. It wasn’t a demand, Alec had already promised and there wasn’t time to press him to say it again.

And then Jace was gone out the door…

Leaving Alec behind.

 

---

 

Magnus was doing literally everything he could to keep Alec calm. He had soft music playing, he bribed Chairman Meow with treats to sit on Alec’s lap for stroking, he had even offered him a little alcohol to take the edge off.

While he did all of that, he eyed Alec’s magic warily. It seemed as agitated as his Shadowhunter was. No more gentle swirling, it was doing the equivalent of pacing – all jagged turns and harsh movements. There hadn’t been any glass broken yet but as time dragged on it got more and more likely.

Magnus had already moved a vase he was partial to into one of his storerooms.

Discretely, of course, he didn’t want to make Alec feel self-conscious. Especially since he had been holding himself together admirably. Yes, he was alternating between sitting restlessly and pacing anxiously, and his magic looked as chaotic as his mind must be, but there hadn’t yet been any wild magic. Alec also wasn’t rushing to his bow and arrows to make his hands bleed or something along those lines.

He hated that they couldn’t do more. That Magnus himself couldn’t do more. Almost all of Alec’s anxiety was for his siblings’ safety. If Magnus were there with them then he could do a lot to ease Alec’s mind.

He couldn’t be there with them.

They couldn’t count out the idea of Valentine planning some sort of trap with that very aim in mind. Lure all of Alec’s protectors away from him then attack. Capture one of them to force Alec into a trade. Both were options in Valentine’s arsenal and Magnus could not play into his hands. Even if something happened to Jace, Izzy or Clary, even if Alec begged him – he had to stay here. Alec had to stay here.

He knew Alec was aware of all of that too, which only made the mood more grim.

“It’s only been a couple of hours, darling. That’s barely anything. You’ve been on missions twice as long as that.” Magnus tried to point out.

Alec just looked at him.

Magnus sighed, “I’ll bet they’ll be hungry when they get back, why don’t we cook dinner?”

That suggestion went nowhere.

The best thing that Magnus could tempt him with was magical practice because Alec seemed always up for it. He was wary of making that offer though. If Alec was too agitated to make any progress he would come out of it only more upset. If he lost control he would be beyond angry with himself.

Considering the state of his magic the idea seemed a bad one.

“Alexander, you’re only torturing yourself. Come sit by me, just for a few minutes?” Magnus asked.

Alec let out an angry huff of air but Magnus knew it wasn’t directed towards him. He stopped pacing, a minor miracle, and dropped down onto the couch beside Magnus as though he weighed five hundred pounds.

It felt a little like sitting with an angry tiger he needed to befriend. His hand rubbed Alec’s back a little harder than necessary and with his other hand he traced over Alec’s tightly clenched fist with barely there grazes of his fingertips. “My love, we cannot do this every time your siblings go on a mission.”

“Sorry.” Alec said though nearly grit teeth.

“You don’t have to be sorry. I understand why you’re so upset, we all do, but torturing yourself like this helps no one.” Magnus’s lightly dancing fingertips got Alec to ease up the pressure he was clenching his fist shut with, his knuckles flushing with color again.

“I hate this.” Alec sighed.

Magnus pressed a kiss to his cheek, “I know.” He answered simply. They all did. “What do you think will happen if they get Jonathan?”

Alec was a strategist through and through. Where his brother was perhaps better in planning battle strategy, Alec played the political game far better. He saw the ripples that each action would make and adjusted the plans accordingly.

If he could turn Alec’s attention to helping his siblings with the behind the scenes stuff that came after, Alec might feel better about his contributions.

Alec sighed again, tilting his head to grudgingly start considering what was going to happen after this mission, “Depends on if they take him alive.”

“Do we know if that’s the aim?” Magnus asked with genuine curiosity.

“The Clave hasn’t given official orders. I think alive is the goal because he has important intel and we might be able to use him as bait against Valentine but I don’t think anyone’s going to be broken up if he’s killed.” Alec answered. There was a little twinge of something close to regret in Alec’s eyes and Magnus couldn’t lie and say that he didn’t feel it too.

This was, after all, Clary’s brother that they were talking about here.

Magnus didn’t comment on that, “So let’s say he’s taken alive.”

Alec softly shook his head, “Too hard to know. The Clave is playing this so close to the chest.”

Resisting the urge to scoff took a herculean effort. When did the Clave ever do anything else?

Now was not the time to get into it.

“The Clave will send their own people to deal with him. No chance will they leave it to New York to handle him.” Alec said decisively. “Clary will be watched closely. She’ll deal with that badly enough but if they try to use him as bait for Valentine, I don’t know how she’d react.”

“I don’t know how enticing of bait Jonathan would make, Valentine doesn’t seem-”

His words were cut off by Alec’s hiss of pain.

That was alarming on its own and Magnus immediately sat up straighter trying to figure out what was wrong.

Then, Alec’s hands went to his parabatai rune.

Magnus felt a sick coil of dread wind up inside of him. If something happened to Jace, Alec wouldn’t be able to cope with it. “Alexander, what’s wrong?”

“Jace,” Alec said through a clenched jaw, “He’s hurt.”

Don’t ask me to go to him, Magnus chanted in his head as he reached for Alec. His boy allowed the comfort but he didn’t seem aware of Magnus’ hand rubbing his back. Alec’s eyes focused on something in the distance as he panted through whatever echo of pain he was feeling.

The very last thing they needed was a fight about Magnus going to Jace and leaving Alec. He wouldn’t – he wouldn’t because he would not leave the love of his life unprotected but he also wouldn’t because he knew it wasn’t what Jace wanted – and he knew that Alec knew that but fear for one’s loved ones didn’t lend itself towards rational thought. Magnus was terrified of the ramifications of something unfixable happening to Alec’s parabatai that he chose not to prevent.

Not only that, but Alec’s magic looked as upset as Alec himself. He had no desire to throw wild magic into this mess.

“Breathe, love.” Magnus encouraged softly.

Alec stood abruptly and Magnus saw him start towards his practice room where all the weapons were before stopping again.

Sit still and think darling, please don’t make me your jailor.

Magnus watched him worriedly.

Though Clary and her portals were slightly vexing to Magnus and his carefully crafted wards, when a portal in her signature shade of blinding gold appeared in the middle of the room Alec and Magnus both crowded towards it with relief.

Clary and Izzy each supported a stumbling Jace as they came through the portal into the loft. All three of them looked tired and bloody but they were here and whatever had happened was over – right now, that was all that Magnus cared about.

Magnus moved even faster than Alec, reaching for Jace to put everyone out of this misery. “Where are you hurt?” He asked the question even as his magic reached out to answer him itself.

“I drew a rune,” Izzy said.

In the same moment Jace grunted out, “I’m fine.” Because of course he did. Magnus’ magic had already found the healing wound though so his answer wasn’t necessary any longer.

Alec looked at all of them wide-eyed, “What happened?”

“Jonathan’s dead.” Izzy answered him with a voice that carefully lacked any of the satisfaction her eyes said she felt, “Jace and I killed him.”

Absolutely nobody looked at Clary.

The story tumbled out between the three of them as Jace got deposited on the couch so Magnus could work on his half-healed wound. The bridge, the taunting, Jace’s wound and Izzy’s whip. Alec hovered between all of them but he listened intently.

“If Valentine has aligned himself with the Seelie then that’s going to be a massive problem.” Alec pronounced grimly.

Magnus kept his expression carefully neutral but inwardly he agreed with Alec quite a bit.

“Report it in to the Clave.” Alec said to his siblings, giving orders as though they were standing in the Institute. It was nice to see that facet of Alec emerging again. “We don’t need to alter any of it.”

The stakes were rising and he knew deep down to his bones that things were only going to get worse from here.

 

---

 

When Maryse came to Magnus’ door the next morning, Magnus knew she came bearing bad news. Not that Maryse Lightwood ever looked especially cheery but the frown on her face was impressive and he could see the stressed look in her eyes and interpret it well enough.

“Dare I ask?” Magnus said instead of letting her immediately in. Alec was on the balcony with his siblings eating breakfast and he wanted to know just how bad her news was before she got out there. If they were risking wild magic, he wanted to prepare. 

Maryse didn’t seem pleased to be stopped at his door and interrogated but she knew better than to fight with him. “We’re out of time. Alec has to say something to the Clave.”

Honestly, that wasn’t much of a shock. Magnus had been waiting for this for days now. He opened the door wider for her to actually enter. “Last night didn’t buy us any time?”

“Last night made it worse if anything.” Maryse answered. “His absence was glaring.” She spotted her children through the open balcony doors and headed that way. The glass was still charmed red, although now that Alec was getting more comfortable with the balcony again, perhaps Magnus could change it back. The red was a statement piece but it didn’t lend itself to a calming interior and that was really a priority at this point.

“Mom!” Alec jumped out of his seat as soon as he saw her. His eyes traced over her face, likely reading the same expression as Magnus had, before they darted to his uncertainly, “Everything okay?”

Maryse gave Alec a kiss on his cheek before working her way to Jace and Izzy to do the same. Even Clary got a friendly pat on the shoulder. While she did that, Magnus made sure to reclaim his seat next to Alec and conjure her one between Jace and Izzy.

She sat down without comment about seat placement and announced, “I have news from the Clave. Well, not officially from the Clave. A contact of mine has told me that the Clave is thinking about demanding a Silent Brother be brought here to examine Alec.”

“When?” Jace’s voice was a barely controlled demand. It was pretty much only that the person he wanted the answer from was Maryse that kept him from getting especially aggressive about it.

“Imminently.” Maryse replied. Her voice made Magnus think she meant within the next couple of days. “They feel there’s two options at this point and apparently the squabbling is what’s delaying this demand. Either we’re hiding something or Alec is truly as sick as we say, at which point Valentine has definitely done something new and awful and they need to be involved in it.”

Alec didn’t look particularly surprised but then, none of them really did. “So what, they want to study me or something?”

“Essentially. My contact said they’ve been arguing over this next step so there’s not much fleshed out in terms of what happens when either option is proven.” Maryse explained.

Now that sounded like the Clave. No forward thought, no long term plan.

“I personally think it’s a trap either way. Valentine has clearly done something to Alec. If we’re hiding him and deceiving them, we have a reason. If he’s actually ill, then that’s interesting to them too. Either way, they want Alec.” Maryse continued without staring at her hunted son. It was maybe a little cowardly but perhaps not. She looked around the table at each of them instead and that could be decorum if Magnus was being generous.

Jace let out a short, angry breath, “It’s a clever way of not condemning Alec without the facts but also not allowing this continue. They say it’s for his own health and they get their answers either way. The Silent Brothers aren’t the Clave so if Magnus refuses to let them in, they’ll use it against us. They were compromising out of concern and then suddenly we’re the aggressors.”

“We’ll look bad. Any sympathy we’ve gained will be lost.” Izzy concluded quietly.

“So I have to make a statement.” Alec said. His eyes were locked on his magic, shining brightly and putting his life in jeopardy.

This time, for the first time, Maryse nodded to him, “You do. That doesn’t mean that we say you’re fit for duty though. We can merely say that you regained enough consciousness to give a preliminary statement.”

“To Jace,” Izzy interjected with a nod towards her brother, “If a Herondale co-signs what he says, that would mean a lot more than you or I.”

For his part, Jace shifted in his seat. He looked uncomfortable but whether that was with the idea of his name being worth that much now or just the general plan. Magnus could certainly relate on that last point.

“And then what?” Magnus asked seriously. This plan might save them a Silent Brother attempting to invade his home but they would be as foolish as the Clave to not look beyond step one, “What if he’s called to Alicante? What if they want to send someone anyway?”

“This isn’t us saying I’m in perfect health, it’s like Mom said. I woke up, I spoke, we’ll give them whatever intel we think we can safely. It’s not like I’ve got loads anyway but they would definitely like to hear that I didn’t run free from a boat or something.” Alec suggested. “That gives them something to go on with their own investigations.”

Magnus sort of doubted the Clave’s investigation was an actual thing. He wanted to put air quotes around the words.

“We give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.” Jace said. He did a decent job of not staring at Alec’s hands but they all knew what his fears were. Clary reached over and laid her hand his arm. The touch didn’t ease any of the tension from Jace’s shoulders, which said quite a lot because generally he went stupid in the face of Clary’s affection. “We have no guarantee that they’ll be respectful if we say you’re still recovering and need more time. They might just hear that you’re awake and talking and decide that it’s time for you to be fully debriefed in person.”

Alec only shrugged and Magnus hated that.

“There’s nothing to be done for it. We’ve stalled as long as we possibly can.” Maryse insisted. Now, finally she made eye contact with her son, “We’ll prepare a statement that you and Jace can sign your names to. We say you woke up in a cage, that Valentine did not attempt to torture you for information. He was experimenting on you and you were frequently incoherent or unconscious. You don’t know what he did and don’t remember him telling you. It gives a reason why you’re so bad off without using torture. It’s imperative that they don’t think you could have even mistakenly given up any information. Valentine wasn’t asking and you weren’t in any condition to be telling.”

That part, in Magnus’ opinion, was the easy bit. Random experimentation was Valentine’s passion and everyone knew it. Not opening the door to a discussion on what Alec might have revealed under torture was as well. The true problem was how to explain Alec freeing himself without revealing magic, “And his escape?”

Maryse faltered here, predictably.

“Can we say a warlock helped him?” Izzy suggested. “Created a distraction and Alec ran?”

“Hmm,” Magnus tilted his head to consider. “I do like that.”

Clary turned to him, “Would any of the missing warlocks agree to lie to the Clave about that?”

Magnus couldn’t help but snort. That was apparently answer enough for some of them. Alec said nothing, only ducked his head to hide his smile from his watching mother.

His answer clearly wasn’t enough for Maryse though, “This is important, Magnus.”

“I’m sorry, have I ever once given you the impression that Alec’s safety wasn’t my paramount concern?” Magnus drawled as he turned to look at her clearly.

Maryse looked barely chastised. “He’s your concern, not some other warlock. Besides, we don’t yet know how the Downworld will react to this, the warlocks especially.”

“I would put a hell of a lot more trust in the Downworld embracing Alec over the Clave. I mean that both in the general sense and in this particular situation. Lying to the Clave is a joy, Maryse.” Keeping his voice fairly even was a chore but seeing her flush when his point scored made the effort worth it.

Magnus turned to the rest of them, “There is a significant portion of the kidnapped warlocks who would be willing to lie about this if I ask them, if it even comes to that. We can say Alec wasn’t sure who it was. It’s not like the Clave cares about individual warlocks anyway. One of them came in, saw him, perhaps even recognized him as mine and created the diversion. Alec ran. Once he was out of the bounds of the wards we can continue with the actual story. We tracked him, found him, and brought him home.”

There were nods all around the table and while Magnus was as pleased with their cover story as he could be, he still didn’t like the plan in general.

“Are you certain we can’t delay this any longer?” Magnus asked Maryse.

“I’m certain.” She was stiff in her reply, probably annoyed with him but he hardly cared.

The suggestion of perhaps even recognized him as mine likely didn’t sit well with her but that only made those words sweeter to Magnus.

Alec nodded firmly, “I am too. I know this isn’t ideal but we’re only taking a baby step forward. I’ll keep practicing with Magnus, I’ll ramp up practicing even.”

His boy took a deep breath, “My magic has to merge soon. It has to.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Eighteen


 

 

“I just sort of wish that taking back my power and pairing up with Jace to take out a massive player in this war didn’t also involve killing Clary’s brother.” Izzy sighed heavily. There was a little bit of guilt in her voice but not loads and what was there was only for Clary.

They had all gone to bed with constantly turning thoughts last night. Even Alec himself, currently enjoying the best and easiest sleep of his life due to how exhausted all the magical practice left him, had difficulty shutting his brain down enough to actually rest. The full story had come out but discussing it in depth had seemed pretty cruel considering what Clary was dealing with. Besides, they had been exhausted. This morning, his mother’s visit had stolen any chance to really check in with how Clary was doing with what had happened.

“Have you talked to her?” Alec asked as hovered the pen he held over the place Izzy had left for his signature. He wasn’t sure he had ever signed something so important before, which was self-centered and not actually true. He had signed plenty of more important things before from an objective point of view.

This though, this was something that might change Alec’s entire life. Ruin it probably. Fix it possibly. That was a hell of a lot less likely and they all knew it, him most of all.

He and Izzy had started working on his statement to the Clave directly after their mother left. They used all the points that had been already agreed on during breakfast but had struggled to flesh them out without giving too much away. Each sentence had to be analyzed and looked at through the eyes of someone suspicious of them. What would invite more questions? What might be misconstrued? It was a game Alec had played many times before, usually trying to doctor mission reports so he didn’t get reprimanded for being too lax on Downworlders. This was different but not. More nerve-wracking.

Izzy shrugged in an uncomfortable way. “A little. She wanted him dead like the rest of us but… she also wanted a brother.”

That only made Alec feel guilty. There was nothing left for Clary’s blood to offer her in terms of family… but Alec was a big brother. He prided himself on being a pretty good one even. “She has us.” He said and though he meant it the words came out as uncomfortably as Izzy’s.

Izzy nodded like she hadn’t noticed Alec trying to come to terms with what he had just said with his own lips. She had absolutely noticed, she was just being nice not making a big deal out of it. “Of course she does. We’ll be there for her but this still sucks for her.”

He didn’t know what else to say to that. None of them did probably. In less than a year, Clary had lost her mother, the brother who would never have been someone she could trust and her father had turned out to be a madman. It was a lot to put on anyone let alone someone who had already found out she was part of a world that she knew nothing about.

Clary was frustrating, she was impulsive and she drove Alec crazy… but she didn’t deserve all of this. She didn’t deserve losing her entire family.

With a deep breath, Alec finally stopped stalling and signed the statement Izzy was going to submit to the Clave.

He knew they had no choice. His father wasn’t the worst the Clave could send here. A Silent Brother wasn’t either, although that could be disastrous too. Even still, this opened such a can of worms and though they could guess what the Clave might do in response to this, they couldn’t know. He had as many marks against him as he had factors in his favor.

If he was awake enough to speak to them, wasn’t he awake enough for a Clave representative to come and question them himself? Wasn’t he recovered enough to be moved? Couldn’t he go to the Silent Brothers for treatment or, even better in the Clave’s eyes, Alicante for debriefing?

Alec knew this statement wasn’t going to be enough for them, it just wasn’t. He didn’t let on to Magnus but he knew their excuse that he was too sick to leave the bed wasn’t going to hold up. Shadowhunters just didn’t operate that way. They were going to gloss over that.

Was he conscious? Was he talking? Good enough.

This was the only move they had left to make. Everything after this would just be a reaction to whatever the Clave decided to demand.

As if Alec hadn’t been in a dangerous enough position before.

 

---

 

“He’s making water move like a living fountain,” Jace pointed out for the third time, “You really can’t predict when his magic is going to quit refusing to merge into him?”

Yet again, Magnus found himself standing in his workroom having an impromptu little planning session with the world’s worst planners. Although, planning session was perhaps not the right term. This was more Jace questioning Magnus out of nerves as though he was desperate to unearth good news.

Magnus did not have good news for them.

He sighed, “You’re asking me to predict something based on an unprecedented situation. To be completely honest, I can’t even say if his magic is ever going to stop being visible. For all we know, that’s his warlock mark or something.”

Jace froze and Clary’s eyes widened.

Welcome to his frantic two in the morning thoughts, children.

“Warlock mark?” Jace repeated with no small measure of panic, “You literally think the visible magic could be his warlock mark?”

“My best guess is no.” Magnus answered wearily, “No one else’s warlock mark is anything to do with their magic itself so his shouldn’t be, if he even ends up with a warlock mark which obviously he won’t if nothing has shown itself yet.” Sometimes Magnus mourned that a little. Alec would have looked stunning with wings. “My point is that I can’t know. None of us can. I wouldn’t even believe Valentine has a firm handle on every consequence of what he’s done to Alec.”

That didn’t seem to relax Jace but that was unsurprising. It didn’t relax Magnus either.

“Let’s say it is Alec’s warlock mark.” Clary said slowly as she looked between the two of them, “Is there any way we can hide it?”

Magnus had already started to consider that as well, “Theoretically he could glamour it, like I do my eyes or Cat does her skin. But no warlock has tried to glamour away their magic so I can’t say for sure if it can even be done. It would take experimentation and a level of magic skills that Alec isn’t anywhere close to attaining.”

Jace opened his mouth and Magnus held up a hand, “If he continues at his current pace, which is quite good no matter what Alec believes, then the very earliest I could see teaching him how to glamour wouldn’t be any time this year. And that’s regular glamouring at the most basic, short-term level. I don’t know how to glamour magic, you must realize. We would need to experiment and that would be a much slower process than I’m used to because I would need to work on the theory myself, translate out what I want him to try in a way that he’ll understand, teach him to do it even though I don’t know how myself, then if it doesn’t work – and pioneering new spells never happens on the first few tries – he’ll need to explain to me what he feels and then we’ll have to start all over again.”

He knew he had made his point when Jace just tilted his head back and let out a gust of air that sounded nothing but frustrated.

Clary winced, “And I guess there’s no chance of teaching him glamouring first then swinging back around to the foundational stuff after?”

“There’s a reason small children don’t glamour their warlock marks.” Magnus said ruefully.

“Can you glamour it for him?” Jace asked more like a man waiting to be disappointed than one having a lightning strike of inspiration.

“I could certainly try working out if magic even can be glamoured invisible but it’s still risky. Even if I figure it out, if I’m not with him maintaining the spell then it could wear off or be cancelled by other means.” Magnus wanted to believe that he would be at Alec’s side no matter what but the reality they were living in prevented him from feeling any degree of surety on that. It burned him to admit it but doing otherwise was foolish. “I don’t think I need to explain why all of that could be a massive problem.”

Jace nodded and dragged a hand down his face, “And with the statement Alec and Izzy are writing now, it’s way too big a possibility that the Clave will want to see him in person. I can demand to go with him if it comes to a debriefing in the Institute or Alicante but Magnus can’t.”

And oh, how that burned…

“Is that a parabatai thing?” Clary asked curiously.

“Yeah, the Clave can’t deny us anything that’s in the vows. Whither thou goest, I will go. So if Alec goest to Alicante, no one can tell me I can’t too.” Jace answered her with a small smile that seemed a bit more forced than he was probably aiming for. Stress all around. These ridiculous children needed a vacation badly.

Magnus idly traced his finger over the map Clary had spread on his worktable. On it she had marked the three locations she had narrowed down in her search for Valentine’s hideout. “All of this brings us back around to the original problem. How can we say he’s too weak to be in the Institute or hopefully even seen by his fellow Shadowhunters while also saying he’s been instrumental in Valentine’s downfall?”

“We can’t.” Jace said with audible regret.

“Maryse said that was bad.” Clary needlessly reminded. “If he doesn’t make some move against Valentine then the Clave will punish him or something.”

“Technically, we don’t know that Alec being a huge part of killing Valentine is going to sway them in any major way.” Magnus couldn’t help but point out, “We’re just hoping.”

Jace braced his arms over the worktable, “I hate going into battle without him but we can if we have to. It’s not him literally being there that’s the problem. The only way I can think to make that work is if we bait Valentine in some way to come here and we’re ready to ambush him. Then we can say Alec was already here and drew on some well of strength to get in a killing blow when everyone had already dismissed him as a threat so he wasn’t being restrained or something.”

Silence greeted that plan.

“I hate it.” Magnus said flatly.

Jace nodded to him, “Me too.”

“But it could work?” Clary looked between the two of them with hopeful eyes, “If Valentine thought he could get Alec back, he would come here. We could try to set it up.”

Jace and Magnus said nothing at all. Though there was no soul bond between them Magnus was absolutely certain they were on the same page.

Clary took a small step towards the workroom door, sort of dancing in place, “Should I go tell Alec and Izzy to hold off sending in his statement?”

“No,” Jace said shortly. He wasn’t even looking at Clary. His eyes were distant in a way that said he was envisioning the absolute nightmare of the plan. “The only way we could delay the Clave any longer is if we could get Valentine here tonight with a guarantee of success. We can’t rush into something like that. Let him send the statement, it’s the only way.”

It felt like there were threats coming from every angle, Valentine, the Clave… well, he supposed that was only two angles and technically they were the same – Shadowhunters.

Not for the first time, Magnus wondered what his own people would say about this. Would they welcome Alec and his magic? Would they reject him? A Shadowhunter given magic by one of their greatest enemies was no small thing.

It was getting more and more obvious that they needed more allies but trust was difficult to give when it was Alec’s life on the line.

 

---

 

The world felt a little bit like it was coming down around them but all of that needed to pause for a moment.

A decree had come from Princess Madzie. She wanted to check in on Alec’s progress.

The text made Magnus laugh when he’d gotten it. It made him feel a little bit like some Victorian governess – the Lord and Lady were returning to the Manor finally, he must show off his charge’s progress in his lessons. Except instead of deportment and horseback riding, Magnus was trying to teach a Shadowhunter magic and instead of the Lord and Lady coming to inspect their child, it was a tiny little Sorceress coming to gush over her favorite playmate’s new powers.

Close enough.

At the very least, Madzie would be a lovely distraction for an hour or two while they waited to hear what the Clave thought about Alec’s statement.

“I still don’t really have anything to show her.” Alec said, sounding genuinely worried about it as they waited for Cat and Madzie to arrive.

Magnus shook his head, “You doing anything magical at all will delight her, I’m positive. She’s been nothing but excited and you heard her last time. All encouragement.”

Alec flushed slightly, “Yeah, that was really sweet.”

It had been. Magnus had nearly been melting and he knew that Cat and Alec hadn’t been much better off.

Alec had already unearthed a big serving bowl from Magnus’ cabinets and had filled it with water so he’d have something to show Madzie. It was sitting on the coffee table waiting, although Magnus didn’t doubt that eventually they would shift over to Alec’s practice room.

His boy’s constant focus on having progress to show for all his practice was a distinctly Shadowhunter mentality. Warlocks were far more… forgiving? Realistic? Students progressed at different paces, some skills came faster than others, sometimes progress came at a swift pace and sometimes it stalled out for a while. It was all acceptable and not a big deal in the slightest.

Thank goodness Maryse knew better than to even attempt to sit in on a magic lesson. If she asked, Magnus would be hard pressed not to hex her.

This time, a portal appeared. Alec stood and came to stand a good distance from it to give Madzie a runway of sorts.

Sure enough, the very second Madzie stepped through the portal she took all of three seconds to glance around before she spotted Alec and started rushing towards him with a grin.

“My favorite teacher!” Alec greeted her as he gently tossed her in the air.

Cat came through behind Madzie far more sedately. She wasn’t looking to get tossed in the air, after all – although that would be hilarious and Magnus would pay Alec in whatever sexual favors he wanted if he agreed to actually do it.

“Did I hear him call her his favorite teacher?” Cat asked Magnus as she leaned in for a hug. “Should we be jealous?”

From over Madzie’s shoulder, Alec shot them a look.

Magnus laughed, “The competition is steep.”

The very second Alec set Madzie down, she grabbed his hand and pulled him down to her level. She held out her hands in the same way that they had done before, her own pyramid of yellow light already formed.

Alec held his hands out too but instead of copying her again, he brought his hands up to either side of her head, spaced out fairly wide, and pulled his magic into what looked like five spheres that he made circle around her eyes.

See? Shadowhunters just had to prove themselves to be progressing leaps and bounds.

Madzie thought it was wonderful and she clapped her hands. “Good job!”

“I think,” Cat said as she sat down and nudged the bowl of water with her shoe, “That Alec has something else he can show you.”

Madzie, for all that she was a fraction of Alec’s size, ushered him over to the bowl like she was the governess and he was the child. Alec fell to his knees in front of the bowl and didn’t reach his hands out. Magnus had already noticed both that he’d stopped needing that for water and that Alec was pleased about it.

The water started swirling in the bowl, moving faster and faster until a vortex formed in the center. Madzie watched eagerly until the bottom of the bowl came clear of water and she got to reach her hand in to poke the porcelain.

Magnus thought that would be Alec’s big trick before he stopped to let Madzie join in and play in the water .

He should have known better.

A little shoot of water came steadily rising from the center of the bowl, the width of a pencil. Alec’s smile dropped as his concentration grew. Noticing, Madzie went still and quiet – not a difficult task for her – and she watched, giving Alec space to do whatever it is he was aiming for.

Slowly, the little line of water reached some sort of point and started down at an angle. Then went back up. Then down again.

An M. Alec was making an M with water.

But no, it wasn’t just an M.

Bemused, Magnus watched as Alec spelt out MADZIE made of one stream of interconnected water like a neon sign or something.

When the final line of the E formed, Madzie started jumping in place.

When Alec glanced up at Magnus he had to mouth show off.

 

---

 

“He thinks out of the box more than I would have expected a Shadowhunter to.” Cat mused after Alec and Madzie went to the practice room. “I mean, magically. I’m not saying he’s some shortsighted idiot like the most of his people are.”

Magnus knew what she meant. “I know most of his motivation is to reach complete magical control but I agree. You should have seen him when we were first going over the elements. When water and fire came easily for him he was so proud of himself. I could have cried.”

“Any more wild magic?” Cat asked.

“Some broken glass.” Magnus shrugged. Compared to the other things Alec’s wild magic had done, broken glass wasn’t even the slightest bit noteworthy. “We had to send a statement into the Clave.”

Cat frowned, “They’re pushing it still?” Then she frowned harder, “Sorry, dumb question. Of course they are.”

“Of course they are.” Magnus agreed grimly. “The pressure does nothing to help with this visible magic issue,” He waved his hands to indicate he meant the way Alec’s magic stubbornly clung to his hands.

She sighed, “I can check him over again but he seems fine. The Clave is going to have questions even without that problem though. How are you saying he got away from Valentine? If they think he’s as bad off as you’re saying, they won’t believe he had the stealth to just slip out of Valentine’s base.”

Magnus gave her a brief rundown of the plan and their hopes that Jace’s co-signing coupled with internal squabbling would give them a little more time. “Maryse had the gall to question whether a warlock would be willing to lie to the Clave on the High Warlock’s request.”

“I don’t know how you put up with her.” Cat said only because Alec wasn’t in earshot.

“I fantasize about portalling her to terrible places when she gets too annoying. A cave filled with spiders, a harpy’s den, a mall in New Jersey.” Magnus grinned unrepentantly. “She is, I suppose, getting better. She knows better than to push me too far. We both know who would win if push came to shove, although I wouldn’t ask Alec to give up his mother and she doesn’t want to lose so the question will hopefully never come up.”

Cat gave him a sidelong grin, “She might be at home in a harpy’s den.”

That made Magnus laugh. “Very true.”

“So long as you don’t pick one of your mortal enemies to be the one, anyone would lie to the Clave if you asked. Most would do it without pressing for details.” Cat said leadingly and Magnus knew instantly what she was getting at.

“I do think about it.” Magnus admitted. “Telling them, I mean. The warlocks.”

She seemed pleased, “I think you really should consider it. Even the ones who didn’t want to welcome him wouldn’t go so far as to sell him out to the Clave.”

In his heart, Magnus knew that was true.

“For now though, you know the Clave is going to want a description or something. You should pick a warlock. Maybe buy yourself some time and pick someone who can’t speak English? Jinha maybe?” Cat suggested, naming one of the warlocks they knew had been taken by Valentine. Aside from being heartbroken that any of their friends were in that madman’s clutches, the idea of Valentine having control of someone with Jinha’s prowess with poisons was deeply troubling. “Obviously they can get someone to translate but that buys us time to talk to him ourselves. Make sure we get him up to speed while they fumble through matching him to Alec’s description, discovering he doesn’t – well, won’t, I guess – speak English and then getting someone who can communicate with him.”

Before Magnus could reply, a tone sounded from the distance and then there was a cheer.

“You have some new doorbell?” Cat asked in confusion.

Magnus stood and held his hand out, “I spelled his target wall to let out notes when hit.”

His answer solved only half of the curiosity though. He could explain what the sound had been but not why.

“They’re throwing things?” Cat stood.

There wasn’t any point in answering. He didn’t know but thirty seconds of walking would clear up the mystery. The two of them went in that direction, slipping inside the practice room quietly.

Alec knelt beside Madzie far closer to the wall than Alec usually got. That made sense in theory, Alec didn’t need to be close to anything to hit it with an arrow and Madzie certainly didn’t have much by way of long range weapons capabilities but it also made no sense because why were they throwing things at it in the first place?

“Feel how it’s weighted?” Alec murmured to Madzie. 

Madzie said nothing.

Then she hurled a dagger at one of the targets.

It didn’t stick but another tone sounded.

This time, it was Alec that grinned at her. “That was great!”

Madzie ducked her head down, clearly pleased with herself.

“Is he teaching a six year old to throw daggers?” Cat asked him faintly. She stared at the two of them with a slack jaw.

It wasn’t like Magnus was doing much better. “It appears so.” He said before grasping for something coherent to say, “He looks like an experienced teacher?”

“Experienced at teaching a six year old how to throw daggers.” Cat repeated, completely flat.

They watched Alec hand Madzie another dagger, this time having her balance the handle and feel for… something, apparently. Magnus wasn’t well versed in throwing daggers, he would have to be forgiven for not have comprehensive knowledge on how it was done.  

Alec’s comment all those days ago about learning combat at age five felt even more absurd than it had before. He hadn’t yet seen a picture of Alec as a small child – although that he very much wanted to went without saying – but Madzie was serving as a perfectly good stand-in to give him nightmares.

Cat turned to him with no anger in her eyes. They both trusted Alec, of course. He obviously knew how to teach a small child about throwing sharp things. He seemed patient and startling unconcerned about the tiny fingers that held a blade worryingly close to his head. 

“Shadowhunters are fucked up.” Cat said to him.

Magnus had nothing to say.

 

---

 

Emerging from his shower to find no sweet boyfriend lounging in bed waiting for him was no surprise. Despite the fact that Magnus had made Alec his practice room with his own magic and visited it regularly, he still sometimes forgot it existed. It made little sense, they were in there every day, but it was still so new within a place that was so familiar. Alec would go missing in the loft and Magnus would stand there genuinely wondering where his Shadowhunter had gone before the obvious answer would pop into his head.

As Magnus had feared, Alec used the room when resting would have been the better choice. Their constant reminders about the importance of self-care kept the problem from growing into anything major but he wasn’t going to hold his breath for things staying that way.

He quietly padded down the hall towards the slightly ajar doorway, picking up Chairman Meow on his way. His stalwart companion gave him a little trill of a greeting. “Have you seen Alexander, my dear?”

The Chairman was both curious of and disdainful towards the waterfall in Alec’s practice room so he liked to go in and glare at it at least once a day. As they got closer to the door, his cat wiggled just enough to make it known that he wanted to get down. Magnus obliged and watched fondly as he silently slipped inside, probably to get his daily glare in before bed.

Magnus peeked into the gap in the door and found Alec sitting in the center of the room on the floor. Magic practice, then.

He slid into the room soundlessly and passed Chairman Meow predictably sitting just out of the radius of any accidental splashes from the waterfall giving it his best stink eye. Which, Magnus felt a rush of pride for his wonderful feline, was truly quite good.

Sneaking up on a Shadowhunter was generally not the best idea but Magnus was curious what kind of practice Alec was choosing on his own so he crept up behind him as quietly as he could. Thankfully he didn’t smell any telltale burn so at least he knew it wasn’t fire. Thus far, Alec had been obeying his request not to practice fire without him, which was a relief.

Magnus couldn’t help the soft smile that broke free at the sight of Alec essentially playing with mud on the floor.

“Combining elements so soon?” Magnus asked as gently as he was able.

Alec jumped just a little, which only happened because he was so focused on what he was doing. Magnus wasn’t generally able to sneak up on his solider.

“Magnus!” Alec said as he twisted around to see him.

Magnus came and gracefully dropped to his knees beside Alec, “Show me.”

Alec flushed, “I’m literally just messing around in mud.”

He couldn’t resist leaning in and brushing a kiss to Alec’s red cheek. “With your magic,” He murmured into Alec’s ear. “Combining elements effortlessly without me teaching you a thing.”

A little shiver ran through Alec and Magnus wasn’t sure if that was for his words or his proximity. Both, possibly. Either way the result was delicious.

It was all the prompting Alec needed to show Magnus what he was practicing. He understood why Alec wasn’t particularly proud to show off the tower he was making of mud, Magnus was aware that this was a technically childish activity, but it wasn’t the mud that mattered. Mud just happened to be one of the few things Alec could create with the elements Magnus had started him off with. It was as he said, Alec was now combining elements and effortlessly controlling them. This was step two and Alec didn’t even realize it.

“Mud today, an amulet made of gold and rubies soon enough.” Magnus said as he rubbed his hand down Alec’s back.

Alec’s first instinct was definitely to deflect the praise. Maybe even say something self-deprecating about the slow pace of progress and how Magnus shouldn’t count on jewelry anytime soon. Magnus could clearly see the words forming but they warred with all that Magnus had already said and the attention he had just been shown.

And so Alec just flushed again and smiled.

Lovely.

In what was likely embarrassment, Alec nudged the plate away and went back to shaping his magic. Almost instantly he had a fairly large hollowed circle that he alternated making thick like a donut and then thin like a hula hoop.

“Look at you,” Magnus couldn’t help but marvel, “Easily switching between different types of magic. I’m impressed and proud, darling.”

Alec quirked an eyebrow at him, “I’m not doing anything impressive.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.” Magnus said with a playful edge of sternness in his voice. He leaned in for a kiss that Alec tilted his head up to receive. The angle was a little off, from the way they were sitting, but that just made it easier for Magnus to pull back just enough to start trailing kisses down Alec’s neck. The breathy, barely there moan he got in response made him grin against Alec’s bared skin.

“Magnus…” Alec whispered.

“Come to bed?” Magnus nipped at Alec’s earlobe. He rose to his feet and held out his hand for Alec to take.

Alec didn’t hesitate, letting Magnus pull him up and abandoning his plate of freshly made mud.

There were lots of ways to get Magnus’ Shadowhunter out of the training room and into bed but this was, by far, his favorite.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Nineteen


 

 

 

Everyone was on edge waiting for the Clave’s response to Alec’s statement. As each hour crept by with no reply from them, no summons to Alicante or a representative banging on Magnus’ door, the mood only grew more tense.

Normally Magnus would hesitate to introduce a new magic lesson in such a mood. In this particular case though, he was sure that Alec’s worries would channel themselves well.

Besides, sparring with his brother always soothed frazzled nerves.

This was essentially sparring. Close enough. Even Jace agreed.

“Today,” Magnus said as he circled around the parabatai standing opposite each other in the training room. “We are going to infuse your magic with intent.”

Jace already knew what was coming, Magnus had discussed it with him. Alec, however, did not. He could tell Alec was slightly confused as to why his parabatai had been requested for this particular lesson.

Magnus stopped and stood between them with a grin, “The intent to knock Jace on his ass.”

Alec let out a startled laugh, “What?”

“Your brother and I thought starting with a defensive spell might be best. Besides, the two of you love knocking each other about and you know how eager Jace has been to start sparring with your magic.” Magnus explained.

That last part was incredibly true. It wasn’t that Magnus had doubted Jace’s offer to be the target for Alec’s magic practice but Jace had responded to his idea with a level of enthusiasm that was honestly kind of sweet.

“I’ll even be nice and stand still for the first few tries.” Jace smirked at Alec.

Alec just looked at Magnus. Whether that was for instruction or to silently ask what the hell, Magnus wasn’t sure. Jace laughed though so it couldn’t have been too bad.

Magnus stepped closer to him and prodded his hands up in his usual magic gathering stance. Alec obediently pulled his magic into a ball that he held between his hands, “You’ve seen warlocks do battle, so I don’t think I need to explain the concept of throwing spells?” He asked. When Alec shook his head, he continued, “Excellent. So what you need to learn is two steps. One, infusing your magic with intent. Then, throwing the infused magic out at Jace.”

“How can I throw it when it doesn’t ever leave me?” Alec asked with a skeptical look at his stubbornly visible magic.

Magnus laughed, “What we can see isn’t all the magic you have, Alec.”

“If it were that easy, we would have just had you throw it away at the start.” Jace teased him. Goaded him, maybe.

Alec only rolled his eyes at his brother.

“This is the same principle as separating out your magic into different pieces. Today, you’re just going to be tossing one of those pieces at Jace.” Magnus explained. He waited while Alec considered those words. There was still a little skepticism there but Alec seemed to have a game plan for something he’d like to try so that was good enough for Magnus. He continued, “The second part is infusing your magic with the intent to knock him down. This is similar to how you made the water get hot or freeze, just slightly more abstract.”

For someone else, that might have been a particular challenge. For someone as intimately familiar with training physically as Alec was, knowing what pushing someone else down or even falling himself felt like was easier. Not that a warlock needed to know what a sensation felt like to infuse their magic with it – warlocks were generally not a masochistic lot – but that made it easier for these early steps.

“Okay,” Alec said slowly, “I think I get it.”

Magnus simply stepped back to give them space.

For his part, Jace was silent. That was apparently all the help he was willing to give. Though Jace stayed quiet, he was grinning and standing incredibly loosely. No part of him was treating this like Alec was a threat to him which Magnus could see from the look on Alec’s face was annoying in its own right. Jace was either choosing to gently antagonize his brother into results or he was too giddy to pretend at seriousness.

Then Alec glared and Jace’s grin went wider.

Interesting. Perhaps Jace wasn’t being as silent as it appeared to someone not connected to his soul.

Alec widened his stance almost instinctively and brought his hands up to chest level. It made the glow of his magic illuminate his face and cast delicious shadows.

Rein yourself in, now was not the time.

Magnus suppressed a sigh. Alec had no right to be so handsome during magic practice with his brother.

He watched eagerly as Alec seemed to take a second to center himself before he threw his magic out. Thankfully, a perfect sphere shot out from the main gathering. That part was wonderful.

Unfortunately, the magic did absolutely nothing to Jace.

“Excellent!” Magnus said before either Shadowhunter could call that a failure. “Perfect first throw, although of course I didn’t doubt your ability to hit a target.”

Alec didn’t look nearly as pleased. He narrowed his eyes at his brother, “Did you even feel anything?”

“No,” Jace shrugged, “But you still hit me. Try again.”

“Remember darling, you have to actually want the spell you’re casting. Intent is important.” Magnus said again.

Jace just shifted his weight lazily, “Don’t get soft on me now, Alec. Throw it like you mean it.”

Well, he supposed throw it like you mean it was essentially the same as intent is important. Leave it to Jace to boil the principle down to its barest meaning.

Alec stared down at the magic between his palms like it had personally offended him. In a way he supposed it had but they were looking for intent to defend himself from Jace, not anger towards the magic itself. Magnus braced himself and Jace purposefully did not.

The second throw hit Jace with more speed and this time, Jace stumbled.

“Huh, it’s like the wind is mad at me or something.” Jace laughed a little.

“That’s what it felt like?” Magnus asked him, “That air is pushing you?”

Alec sighed, he obviously got where Magnus was going with that. “I wasn’t trying to use air to do it.”

That might have been why Jace had been pushed so gently. Alec’s command of air wasn’t nearly what his command of water was. “It’s all right, just try to focus only on your magic.”

Double failure never boded well for Alec’s mood.

The third volley did nothing to Jace.

“Should I throw something at you first?” Jace drawled out the offer like this was boring him, “So you don’t have to feel bad about knocking me down?”

“I don’t feel bad. In fact, it sounds wonderful.” Alec groused back.

Jace raised an eyebrow, “And yet, I’m still standing.”

Did they normally trash talk during sparring? Somehow, that seemed more Izzy and Jace’s style than Alec’s but he supposed he hadn’t seen much of Jace and Alec sparring together before. He just heard about it all the time.

“Your magic is yours to command, Alec.” Magnus interrupted the brothers, “But you have to mean it. Think of your wild magic and how it responds to you on a deeper level than even you fully understand in that moment. Your magic is tied with every part of you, your emotions are absolutely included.”

“Pretend I’m Valentine if that helps.” Jace said and this time, his voice was a little grimmer.

Alec glanced up at Jace with a look on his face that was hard to read. Chiding, maybe, except not even that. Jace didn’t say anything but the tense set of his shoulders eased a little.

If Magnus knew he would get to see them actually behaving like what he thought parabatai might during a sparring session, he might have sat in before now. Was this because they were in a battle based moment or were they normally just better at hiding their silent communication?

Alec took longer to prepare this time. He and Jace waited silently although Magnus could see Jace’s jaw clench as though he wanted to say something.

Then Alec threw his magic lightning quick, almost abruptly breaking the silence of the room.

The magic connected and though it didn’t knock Jace down, it did force him back a few steps.

“Now that’s more like it!” Jace crowed almost immediately.

“Did it feel different?” Magnus very carefully did not ask if it felt like being pushed by wind.

Jace came closer, going back to his original spot. This time, he braced himself, “Like magic.”

The next throw of magic came before Magnus could say anything else. Again, Jace stayed on his feet but it looked like a struggle.

“Do it, come on!” Jace shouted at Alec. “How are we going to get to anything fun if you can’t even knock me down when I’m standing still?”

Either Alec was getting more relaxed after he started getting the hang of the task or Jace’s enthusiasm was catching. Both maybe but the small almost cocky smirk that came over Alec’s face was adorable.

“Charge me.” Alec demanded.

Jace didn’t hesitate. There was no countdown or anything, just Jace rushing Alec at full speed. The magic connected with Jace’s chest so hard the light seemed to flare out around him.

And this time, Jace was thrown onto his back laughing all the while.

Jace rolled back until he was kneeling in front of them. “Took you long enough.”

Instead of answering his brother, Alec turned to Magnus playfully, “Can I infuse the magic with the urge to piss?”

Jace snorted, apparently not very threatened by getting hit with magic that would make him wet himself.

“Eventually, yes.” Magnus smiled back at him, “Manipulating someone’s body is another day’s lesson. Jace, are you all right? Any lingering pain or weakness?” He knew Alec would have felt it if there were but he still wanted to check. Technically, Alec had no real idea what he was throwing at Jace.

Jace stood up easily and Magnus couldn’t see him favoring anything like it was causing him pain, “I’m good. He’s shoved me harder physically before. That’s all it felt like, honestly. Like the magic was shoving me.”

That was exactly what Magnus wanted to hear.

He watched as the two of them started back up, this time with more trash talking. It felt absolutely right that they were starting this infuse your magic with intent journey with a defensive spell. This might not pack the punch of Alec’s wild magic but it was still something to give Alec a few seconds head start if something were to happen and they were only going to build on these skills.

As usual, Alec was making brilliant progress and Magnus was beyond proud.

 

---

 

It felt like they were kids again.

He and Jace sparred all the time. They challenged each other – in fact, there were very few other people who actually gave them any sort of challenge at all anymore - even while they sank into a place where the dance of it got restful. This shouldn’t have felt so different.

It was though. It sent fire through Alec’s veins in a way that he had forgotten.

Different might have been the wrong word. Familiar was better.

Jace wasn’t willing to stand still for him anymore. He ran, he circled around Alec and ducked and rolled out of the way. Alec had to work for any hits he got. Occasionally he tried to use Magnus as a shield just to be funny. Magnus reacted like an indignant cat but Alec knew it was an act.

The closest thing that Alec could compare how he felt right now was when his bow had truly begun to click for him. That rush of I can do this and the thrill of getting better. It wasn’t the same, not even close, but the connection and familiarity of it soothed something inside of him.

 

---

 

“Your magic is yours to command, Alec, but you have to mean it. Think of your wild magic and how it responds to you on a deeper level than even you fully understand in that moment. Your magic is tied with every part of you, your emotions are absolutely included.”

It was long after midnight and Magnus was sleeping peacefully beside him. The loft all was silent but Magnus’ words from earlier kept echoing.

For what felt like the thousandth time Alec held his hands in front of him. The magic glowed brightly in the dark room like it always did.

They all told him that when his magic and his body settled, the magic would stop this visible clinging to his hands. He would look like any other… warlock.

What if that wasn’t true?

What if it was Alec that was keeping his magic from taking the final step in integrating with his body?

There was still a not so small part of himself that wanted this to go away. He wanted the life he’d had back. He wanted to be the Shadowhunter he had been. This hybrid he had been forced to become put a target on his back from everyone around him, the Clave, Valentine, maybe even the warlocks. It kept him from being there for his siblings like he was meant to be. It made him vulnerable in ways he wasn’t comfortable with.

Was his magic responding to that? Was it doing what Alec truly wanted even now?

Alec let out a shaky breath as he finally admitted to himself that he was afraid that his magic settling meant this became irrevocable.

He knew it was irrevocable. They would have figured out how to get rid of this magic if they could have. Cat and Magnus said the same thing and he believed them. This wasn’t going away.

But it still frightened him.

What if the last thing that needed to happen was Alec accepting his magic?

Was that even possible?

He’d thought he was learning to accept it. All the magic lessons, all of the meditating – he’d thought it was him coming to peace with what Valentine had done to him.

Alec’s hands closed into fists. He hadn’t accepted it. He hadn’t come to peace with what had happened.

How had one mission gone so wrong?

What was done was done, he knew that. He couldn’t go back in time even if he wanted to. The only way through this was forward.

Finding the positives or looking on the bright side of things wasn’t his forte, he could fully admit it. Still, he knew there were many, many, people who would have done anything for what he had been given. Maybe not Shadowhunters but there were definitely others who longed for the power Alec now had at his fingertips. And though it had come from a bad event, Alec could use it for good. He could learn to heal with it, he could keep learning defensive spells and protect his siblings even better. If one of them did get hurt in battle, Alec could portal them away or erect a ward around them so they stayed safe. He could do good things with this magic.

And his Downworld cabinet was about to get a lot more real to the Downworlders themselves when he showed up doing spells.

Most of all, this connected him to Magnus.

There was always going to be a little twinge of doubt in Alec that he was annoying Magnus with the lessons and his questions but not even his own insecurities could have him deny how absolutely delighted Magnus was to share this with him. He could see how Magnus’ eyes lit up when Alec accomplished the next lesson. This was a level of connection that he had never ever thought they would share.

Even as he tried to embrace all the things he was gaining, the looming fear of what he might lose terrified him.

What if the Clave arrested him? What if they took his Institute?

What if they took his runes?

That fear rose up inside of him and took his breath away.

It wasn’t even the terror of losing his parabatai bond, although that was horrifying, it was the idea of being stripped of the last thing that had made him who he was. His runes meant everything to him.

Beside him, Magnus shifted a little closer to him, just enough that his forehead pressed to Alec’s bare shoulder.

Alec clenched his eyes shut against the sting of tears.

Did his runes really mean everything to him?

What was the most important thing in his world? What would choose to keep, if he had to lose all but that one thing?

It wasn’t his runes.

It wasn’t his Institute.

It wasn’t his family name.

It wasn’t even his life.

It was them.

It was his three siblings and Magnus.

And he would have them no matter what. If the Clave stripped him of his runes and exiled him, Jace, Izzy and Max were technically not allowed to speak to him anymore. They wouldn’t listen, he knew that deep down to his core.

The punishment for that was exile themselves but virtually no one enforced that anymore. And if they did, was the Clave truly willing to exile a Herondale? Jace wouldn’t let Izzy take a punishment that he was being exempt from either. His refusal to play their game of favoritism would protect her. Max was still too young to be truly at risk either.

Jace’s status in Alicante brought up another layer of comfort for Alec. Deruning a parabatai was unheard of. The sacred bond being broken by mortal means just wasn’t done.

The Clave wouldn’t risk a Herondale’s life to take a controversial, unpopular and sacrilegious step like breaking a parabatai bond. Alec hadn’t ever heard of a partial deruning. It was kind of an all or nothing thing.

So that meant that, in the absolute worst case scenario, Alec kept his life, his family, Magnus, and at the very least his parabatai rune but likely all of them.

That left his status as an active duty Shadowhunter, his family name and his Institute.

He could lose those.

He would hate it and he would be angry. The losses would be real…

But he could still live a happy life without them.

Breaking it all down like this helped ease some of the fear that he had been avoiding all this time. He was afraid of losing his life, but seeing that even the worst case scenario wasn’t unlivable helped.

Reputations could be rebuilt, careers could change or be put back on track and being a Lightwood was important to him but his actual family were more important than the lineage of his name.

The things he might lose weren’t more important than the things he would lose if he stayed out of the game like this. If the Clave found out the wrong way, he was in far more trouble. If Valentine got his hands on Alec again, it would be a nightmare come true and not just for him.  

If his family was hurt because Alec wasn’t there to protect him, he would never forgive himself.

He needed to let it all go. All this fear, all these worries, everything that kept him from accepting his magic.

It didn’t matter how he had gotten this magic. He had it now and he needed to embrace it.

Intent was important.

Alec had tried everything he could think of to force his magic to fully join with his body. Over and over again, even though he didn’t really want it. Even though he cringed away from it.

This time Alec invited it within. It was his, it belonged to him now. His to command, his to use to protect his family, his no matter how he had gotten it.

Alec’s eyes stayed shut and he did his best to keep his breathing even and steady.

I want this. It’s mine now.

A sob broke free when the static feeling eased.

The absence of it after so long almost felt wrong. He had endured it for so long the tingling had almost become his baseline.

Alec knew before he opened his eyes and was greeted by absolute darkness.

He raised his hands in the dark and for the first time in so long, they were only his hands. He couldn’t even see them. There was no bright magic lazily dancing over his skin,

He’d done it.

He would probably never know when the magic shifted from having settled and being ready to fully integrate with his body to when it had been Alec himself keeping that from happening. It didn’t really matter. He’d needed this, he knew that. He couldn’t continue hating something that was unchangeably his. Once, he had hated his sexuality and had tried to keep it separate from everything else even though it was an intrinsic part of who he was. He never wanted that pain back.

In the darkness, Alec turned his hands in towards each other and he called his magic into a sphere.

It answered him instantly.

The room lit again with the pure white glow that announced his magic to anyone and everyone. When he pulled his hands apart and dismissed the magic, it went away just as quickly.

How could something be so devastatingly easy yet also so incredibly difficult?

This was like leaving Lydia and all his fears behind at the altar and walking towards Magnus.

Easy. Just turn away, take a step off the dais and then walk towards Magnus.

Terrifying. Risk his entire world, face his fears, put his heart in someone else’s hands and accept who he was.

Worth it.

“Magnus,” Alec said softly.

It was sort of upsetting how quickly Magnus woke up at Alec’s quiet call. He knew why but he still hated that Magnus was holding himself so on guard.

“What’s wrong?” Magnus asked him with a sleep roughened voice. He rolled away from Alec and clicked on the bedside lamp before freezing and realizing what he had just done. He turned back around to look at him, “Alec?”

Alec held up his hands silently.

Magnus stared back blankly.

“Intent is important. The magic knows me deeper than I realize. That’s what you said. I didn’t want to accept it. I was the thing holding it back.” Alec whispered his revelation.

Understanding dawned on Magnus’ face, “Oh darling.”

He wanted badly to smile or say something excited. This was a massive step forward.

But between him confronting all his fears to bring himself to this point of acceptance and Magnus now being confronted with a boyfriend who wasn’t automatically confined to the safety of the loft, neither of them were emotionally in a place to grin at each other.

Instead, he reached for Magnus with his bare Shadowhunter hand and his warlock came to him in seconds. They kissed and Alec was sure Magnus would be able to taste the tears that had streamed down his face before.

Magnus pulled away and his eyes met Alec’s. There was fear there but it was outshone by the stunning love and true sincerity.

“I’m so proud of you.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty


 

 

 

“Do you plan on always having your magic breakthroughs in bed in the middle of the night?” Izzy teased Alec with a playful smirk, “I’m asking for Magnus. I know he loves basking in how wonderful you are but the poor guy needs his sleep.”

Magnus shot her a look for even jokingly suggesting he minded being woken up. Yes, he didn’t love Alec’s Institute alarm but otherwise, he was happy to be woken up if Alec needed him.

“I’m trying all the time. Maybe it’s the peace and quiet away from the chaos of you three that finally gives me a chance to get the job done.” Alec shot back at his sister.

Clary gasped, “Me? Chaotic?”

Once, Alec would have glared at her joke. Magnus considered it extreme progress in their relationship when Alec just quietly sort of laughed.

His laugh seemed equally stunning to Jace, who gaped at Alec for a second before leaning in and giving Clary a kiss on the cheek, “To be fair, our lives were a lot more boring before you slammed into me at Pandemonium.”

Clary’s mouth opened in what seemed like mostly genuine outrage, “I slammed into you? You walked into me and didn’t even bother to apologize because you thought you were glamoured! And even if you hadn’t of rudely walked into me, Valentine would have shown up with or without me. You can’t blame me for-”

Jace kissed her, solving that problem pretty neatly.

That the light mood of breakfast didn’t shatter when Clary mentioned Valentine was a relief to Magnus. Alec didn’t like to even hear his name usually and Magnus couldn’t blame him. He knew his Alexander was made of stronger stuff than that but it was hard to relax.

Breakfast with his pack of Shadowhunters had opened with Alec saying absolutely nothing to anyone about the lack of magic swirling around his skin. His poker face had been admirable and it was probably mostly that which had given him his win of one minute and twenty nine seconds. Izzy had noticed first but that was probably only because Clary was wearing a slightly lower cut shirt than normal and Jace was… distracted.

Of course Alec’s siblings and Clary had been excited for him, they had jumped around and eagerly celebrated his achievement as they should have.

But Magnus could see the same disquiet that he was feeling reflected in them.

None of them dared show it to Alec.

This was a good thing. If the Clave came calling, with a little makeup, a glamour and some acting on Alec’s part and they were likely to be able to keep this ruse up at least a little longer. Those things were doable. Hiding Alec’s magic wouldn’t have been.

Now though, Alec had no tangible thing holding him back from leaving the loft if he felt so inclined. And yes, Alec said he understood why he couldn’t, but his boy was also heroic to a fault. He knew it, Alec’s siblings knew it… it was worrying.

What happened next time Alec knew Jace was on a mission and then felt him being hurt? Would he pace the loft with Magnus or would he go out there himself?

“Sometimes,” Magnus cut in to the Shadowhunter snarking instead of falling into that worried abyss he had been teetering over all morning, “Solitude leads to excellent breakthroughs. I’ve spent many a year alone working through the creation of some spell or potion.”

“I find that hard to believe.” Jace finally detached from Clary to look at Magnus a little skeptically.

Magnus raised an eyebrow, “You think I can’t spend a year engrossed in my work?”

“Celibate?” Jace smirked at him.

The question made Alec blush, even though it had technically nothing to do with him. Maybe it was just the implication that his siblings knew how much Magnus liked sex. That was hardly a secret though. Alec’s parents right on through to every single person he worked with was aware of it. Hell, from what he had heard the Clave straight out listed it in his database bio.

That was a point of pride, honestly.

“Perhaps you haven’t hit the point in your life where you realize how amazing things can feel if you wait.” Magnus said unrepentantly. “But allow me to educate you. It can’t all be month long warlock orgies.”

Alec’s blush went deeper. The look Magnus gave him was not… decent.

“Moving on,” Clary cut in. She was the only one who would have. Izzy and Jace were unrepentant and liked embarrassing their brother and Alec seemed incapable of speaking. “Alec’s statement is all anyone from the Institute can talk about. They’re all freaked out by what Valentine did, or the version we’re telling them.”

That version included some sort of experimentation but not magical infusion.

“Why would they be especially freaked out?” Magnus asked in confusion, “It’s not like they were unaware of Valentine’s penchant for torture and experimentation.”

Izzy glanced to Alec, “Of course not, but when Alec says it’s the worst pain he’s ever felt, that’s something. He’s not known for being a whiner.”

Well, that made more sense, he supposed.

“Anything from the Clave?” Alec asked quietly.

Jace shook his head, “Not officially. I think they’re half waiting to see everyone’s reactions. It’s not often we get people back from Valentine. Obviously they called me a traitor from the start but that backfired on them. I wasn’t a traitor and it turns out I’m a Herondale. Trying to imprison me for being kidnapped is a bad look for them now that we know the truth.”

“Who knew the Clave understood caution?” Magnus asked sarcastically. He could only hope that caution and seeing which way their people went emotionally was why the Clave hadn’t said anything yet. If there was something more sinister being put together behind the scenes…

Magnus wasn’t going to relax his guard anytime soon, that was for absolute certain.

“Anything from Maryse?” Magnus asked before remembering their other connection and adding, “Or the Inquisitor?”

“Mom says there’s been a lot of unofficial discussion about it.” Izzy answered. “Apparently the hot topics are speculating what Valentine’s experimentation on Alec was actually supposed to do, since we said that we got him back before he could complete whatever it was. Obviously a lot of people are thinking that Alec got picked because of Jace,”

At this point, Jace’s jaw clenched.

“But there’s also a lot of whispers that maybe it was revenge on Mom and Dad. That freaks people out because either they or their kids might be on his hit list if they had association with him before. That’s very good for us.” Izzy continued.

Alec seemed surprised but pleased. “I hadn’t thought they would connect it like that. Mom is playing that up?”

“She is.” Izzy confirmed.

“Wait,” Clary asked, “Why is that so good?”

“Because if Valentine picked me because of my parents, then he could have picked the child of anyone who used to support him but then left him. That’s a long list, depending on how far back Valentine is counting. If they come for my blood now and then their child is next…” Alec trailed off but his point was clear.

“Oh, that is good.” Clary agreed with a pleased smile.

Even if that was the only reason public opinion might not turn against Alec – self-serving concern for their own families – Magnus would take it gladly.

“How far do you think that will extend?” Magnus asked, “Would it encompass Alec’s magic?”

“Not immediately calling me a traitor just because I was in Valentine’s custody is one thing. It’s logical. People are quick to do anything they can to prove that they’re not connected to Valentine so they don’t stop and think. This is just making them look at it more critically.” Alec reasoned aloud, “I wasn’t with him long. My statement says I was immediately experimented on and have been mostly unconscious and in pain since. There’s not a lot of time for conversion there. They can reasonably say that I’m not a traitor and not have it blow back on them if it turns out later that I am. Jace taught them the virtue of thinking it through before they decide. Accepting my magic is a big step beyond of just making a logical observation.”

“Unless Valentine does it to someone else. Or something like it. Shadowhunter Vampires or something.” Clary looked between them all to see what they thought. “More like Alec than Luke, I mean.”

That might be excellent for their cause but none of them would wish it on anyone else. Even as Clary said it she squirmed a little uncomfortable with the thought. She might not be dealing with all that Alec was dealing with, but she knew what it was to think yourself one thing your entire life only to get thrown into a whole new world without any warning.

“Mom’s still convinced that we need to stick with the original plan as best we can.” Izzy said. Her voice was still uncomfortable and Magnus knew that a decent part of that was because no one had talked to Alec yet about how that plan was getting less and less likely.

Magnus let go of his fork and took Alec’s hand instead. “We have to take this day by day. Any plans we make now should be in regards to what the Clave might do next.”

“Option one, nothing.” Alec started sort of flatly, “Unlikely. Two, send in a more official representative than Mom and Dad to come to the loft and question me. I stay in bed, I look pathetic, no matter how we prepare for whatever they might ask, we won’t know and I’ll have to do my best. It’s the sympathetic choice but they’ll see it as making them look soft. It’s unlikely they’ll pick it unless public sentiment really shifts in my favor and even then they might double down just to throw around their power. Three, they call me to Alicante for questioning-”

“And Jace goes with me.” Jace cut in instantly.

Alec shot his parabatai a look but continued without comment, “It’s the same as option two but it’s a harder sell on my part and involves having less backup. It’s the most likely with everything that is currently happening. This is what we need to plan for. Fourth choice is they come here and arrest me. Nothing we can really plan for there.”

Magnus sent incredulous eyes to his self-sacrificing Shadowhunter, “Excuse me? We don’t plan for that?”

“We don’t,” Alec said steadily, “Because if they come to arrest me, I’ll go with them.”

“Absolutely not.” Magnus said. What Alec was saying was literally insane and Magnus’ entire body tensed in some sort of defensive rejection of the mere idea.

In that same breath, Izzy said, “No way, Alec.”

Jace only glared. “You go to the City of Bones, I go too.”

The two of them stared at each other and Magnus had no doubts that an intense rush of emotions was flowing between the two of them. Silent communication of some sort although Alec consistently said that they didn’t actually speak telepathically.

“That’s stupid.” Alec said after a tense moment. “You’re no use to anyone stuck in the City of Bones.”

Jace practically sputtered at that, “Neither are you! And besides, I would be useful to someone if I were in the City of Bones – you, you absolute idiot.”

“You and Clary are our best weapons against Valentine.” Alec said fiercely, “We can tell the Clave I helped. We can set up battle plans that involve a hundred Shadowhunters and a hundred Downworlders. Izzy, Magnus, Luke and I will do whatever we can to be there to help you, but we all know this is going to be the two of you against him at the end. You’d leave Clary to do that alone just to stand with me a cell?”

Alec’s words landed like a blow. Jace stared at him with an expression somewhere between rage and devastation.

“Not only that, Valentine’s already proven he can get into the City of Bones if he really wants to. They’ll have beefed up security but he’s smarter than them. You and I, trapped in a cell together? That’s us begging him to come, Jace.” Alec insisted a little more gently in the face of Jace being upset.

Silence.

“I won’t let them take you from me.” Jace said with a voice like ice.

“And I won’t let you come to the City of Bones with me.” Alec said just as stoically.

“The Clave isn’t going to arrest Alec,” Izzy cut in with authority in her voice, as though she could make it so just because she wanted it enough, “Alec is right, that’s a stupid plan on their part. They failed spectacularly with arresting Jace. They strong armed without all the information and it blew up in their faces. They won’t do that a second time, especially with people talking the way they are. Alec might not be a Herondale, but he’s parabatai to one, our parents are in the Clave and he’s been running one of the key Institutes in the world, either with the title or without it. He has support. Alicante is a more secure place to take him. That’s what they’ll do.”

The idea of someone demanding Alec leave Magnus’ side sent a sick tendril of dread through every inch of Magnus’ body. His magic seemed to swell inside of him, angrily demanding to be unleashed in defense of his beloved.

“We’ll be ready for everything.” Clary said supportively even though she clearly had no real plans for the how.

“Alec, are you really willing to let them arrest you?” Izzy asked a lot more evenly than Magnus or Jace could have managed.

Not letting them arrest me is the nuclear option, Izzy.” Alec countered. “If I run, I’ll be running for the rest of my life.”

Jace shook his head, “You don’t know that. We have Imogen, we have Mom and Dad. They can work from the inside to get you cleared.”

“We can say that I took you away.” Magnus suggested quietly. “That I felt you weren’t strong enough for the City of Bones and so I spirited you away. We could say that you didn’t know you were meant to be arrested.”

It was clear that Alec hated that suggestion pretty immediately, “No.” Alec said with force in his voice. “Absolutely not.”

“The Clave can’t demand satisfaction for a crime that you and your family don’t wish me charged for.” Magnus pointed out reasonably. The words were only to calm Alec. No part of Magnus believed they were true.

“Dad would demand it.” Izzy said and Magnus immediately shot her a glare.

He was aware of that, thank you.

“I could take him out of New York.” Jace cut in, “No one would fault me for protecting my parabatai.”

Magnus could see that was the worthier plan in Alec’s eyes, if only by the tiniest bit.

Even still, he said, “I’m not letting anyone commit a crime for me.”

“How does you going to jail solve anything, Alec?” Magnus asked more than a little heatedly. He wanted to be cool and calm, to rationally talk Alec out of whatever this was to him, but those feelings weren’t possible. Not when the conversation that had started out sweet and teasing veered into this insanity.

“It shows I’m being compliant. There’s no crimes for them to find.” Alec answered. There was no fear in his eyes, nothing that suggested he thought this was nearly as asinine as Magnus did. “I wouldn’t be there forever.”

Magnus flinched. Forever was possibly so much longer than Alec was aware of.

“So what’s the cut off then?” Isabelle asked with an unimpressed flip of her hair, “We let you go to the City of Bones,” Jace made a noise of complete protest, “Quiet, Jace. Alec, if you want to try it their way first, fine. We let you go and Jace won’t go with you. How long do we give it before we break you out?”

Alec stared at her sort of blankly. Then, after a few seconds delay, the wheels started turning in his head. He knew his family better than Magnus did and he knew Magnus strikingly well. That they wouldn’t let him rot in prison went without saying.

If this were anyone but Alec, Magnus might have agreed with such a compromise. If they were ready to break the law and run, they might as well give it a few days to see if they could play the Clave and keep their names clear. If not, well, they had been willing to run before. Pulling a prison break in wasn’t a massive deal.

But this was Alec. His Alexander.

“Twenty minutes.” Magnus said with a low, barely controlled voice.

Alec turned to look at him and instantly his face fell a little. “Magnus…”

“If you had any idea the things I’ve seen the Clave do to warlocks, you wouldn’t dare even contemplate this.” Magnus said to him. Their hands were still linked but Magnus felt like he was oceans away from Alec.

Alec faltered, his mouth opening and closing twice before he said, “I’m not a warlock,”

“Yes, so they might be less inclined to kill you… or they may be more inclined to kill you.” Magnus answered.

Alec stared at him and Magnus stared steadily back. He put no masks up, letting Alec see everything in his eyes.

“Thirty-six hours.” Alec said finally. “If I don’t get released in a day and a half, come and get me. Jace can come to Alicante with me for questioning but not the City of Bones. Not again, not with that much risk involved.”

There was a ripple of unease that went through all of them. Alec was compromising which was what they had been hoping for… but they hated his compromise.

It felt churlish to throw it back in his face. Alec was agreeing to their terms when he hated them. He had been in this loft for nearly three weeks, not leaving no matter how much he wanted to.

“All right.” Magnus said even though it went against every instinct he had.

Jace turned to him with visible betrayal in his eyes. “Magnus…”

“Thirty-six hours alone in the City of Bones before we come, break you out and run. While you’re there, you play up being sick, weak, whatever you have to. We’ll make Jace the face of our plan to get you free as much as we can to minimize the legal ramifications. When we’re free of the City of Bones, you and I at least leave New York. You’re done with the city until Valentine is dead. We can plan the rest from there.” Magnus listed it all out as dispassionately as possible.

Alec clearly wasn’t expecting the clause about leaving the city but then he couldn’t have expected to just return to the loft afterwards. “Agreed.”

Jace let out an angry breath, “It’s not going to come to all this.”

“I don’t think it will.” Alec said honestly, “But we need to be on the same page.”

“We do,” Izzy said, “Which is why we’re going to sit down together and go over the story again and again, work out every point that might get questioned and we’re going to memorize the same answers.”

They were all a little tense for what she was asking but no one protested. They knew that the time for a public show was coming and they needed to be on the same page. Any discrepancy in what one of them said versus the other could be catastrophic.

This all felt like a frustrating waste of time.

Magnus wasn’t advocating lawlessness but in the face of something like Valentine the fact that the Clave was wasting the time of their strongest weapons against him was infuriating. They were coordinating stories when they should have been planning battles.

He could only hope that this would all work out in the end.

 

---

 

When Magnus finished tending to the wards that night, he wasn’t surprised to find Alec in his practice room. That was getting to be a regular thing.

What wasn’t regular was finding him with a staff practicing against one of the wooden forms.

Physically training, not magically.

He hadn’t even really noticed until then but other than a few rounds of archery, something Magnus found Alec mostly did to calm his nerves more than to actually train, he hadn’t seen Alec using any of the physical weapons in the room. He had only used it for practicing his magic.

He wanted to not think this was a big deal but the timing of it, right after Alec’s magic had reconciled with his body and thus Alec was technically able to leave the loft again…

“What a lovely sight.” Magnus murmured just loudly enough to be heard as he walked in. There was no need to let on how he was feeling and worrying to Alec. The timing might be coincidental, he might be panicking himself for nothing.

Alec was wearing a sleeveless black shirt and sweatpants, a pity, but he still looked delectable.

His compliment had Alec whirling around to face him, “Hi,” He said with a playful sort of smile.

It melted him, honestly, “Hello. Ready for bed soon?”

Alec was panting and sweat had dampened his hair into messy spikes. Magnus mentally calculated how long it had been since they had went their separate ways. Maybe an hour? Surely no more than two. Alec had to have been going hard with no real warm-up time for him to be at this point already.

“In a bit.” Alec answered. He turned back to the wooden form, now adorned with various dings from the force of the blows he was raining down upon it. “You can go ahead if you’re tired. I won’t wake up you up when I come in.”

Magnus’ smile went a little fixed at that. Alec wasn’t facing him so he didn’t see it, just as well because Magnus was fairly certain he wasn’t being very convincing, “Perhaps I can stay and watch?”  He asked with all the dirty intent he could force into his voice.

“How could I focus then?” Alec asked with just as much flirtation in his voice.

Then he turned away from Magnus, executing a quick sequence of moves that would have broken ribs if he was fighting against an actual opponent.

Magnus wasn’t sure why he felt so upset by that. Alec was allowed his time to do what he wanted. Training was in his blood, there was no reason why he couldn’t switch it up with the magic practice.

All of that was true… except Magnus was upset.

“Fine, I’ll go to bed.” He said and there was some more rational part of him that winced. He sounded angry for all that he was agreeing.

Alec caught it, of course he did. He was someone who analyzed every nuance of a person’s body language, facial expression and voice inflection just in case they were angry or disappointed in him.

His stance changed, falling out of the battle ready posture in a second. “What?”

“Nothing.” Magnus said a little more sincerely. His eyes flickered down to Alec’s grip on the staff. His magic-less hands.

Alec tensed, “It’s not nothing.” He could clearly see where Magnus was looking, “Why did you give me all these weapons to train with if you didn’t want me to use them?”

Magnus sighed, “I do want you to train with them. Or spar with your siblings. Whatever you want to do.” There was regret starting to well up inside of him. He hadn’t meant to start a fight but even more importantly, he hadn’t meant to imply that Alec couldn’t use this space for whatever he wanted.

“Apparently not.” Alec dropped the staff onto the ground, “Just say it, Magnus.”

“Say what, darling?” Magnus tried to ask calmly.

That didn’t seem to help. Alec was wound tight with whatever this was. It seemed almost disproportionate to what Magnus had said.

The next words out of Alec’s mouth made it all clear…

And left Magnus cold.

“Say that you would rather I stopped being a Shadowhunter to be a warlock at your side.”

Magnus’ froze at the accusation Alec had just hurled at him.

Now that the words were out between them, Alec seemed to deflate a little. The righteous anger drained out and he was left in that weird space in an argument where regret had started to take over but there was just enough anger and pride still there that backing down wasn’t yet an option. He slouched into himself for a few seconds before straightening up better than even before he’d said the words. His jaw clenched but his eyes betrayed him.

He wasn’t angry anymore, not really, but he wasn’t alright either.

“Is that what you think?” Magnus whispered the question.

Alec’s whole body seemed like it wanted to turn away from Magnus, to retreat, but that he wouldn’t let himself. He shifted in place uncomfortably. “Sometimes. Your eyes light up you love it so much. I know you have to be thinking that it would all be easier if I stopped being a Shadowhunter.” A little more of that challenge flashed in his eyes, “Don’t lie to me.”

Magnus couldn’t, “Then I won’t. Sometimes I do wish it.”

It was Alec’s turn to stare at him. For all that he had made the accusation, apparently he hadn’t anticipated being told it was true.

“Alexander, you must realize that you and your siblings are still very much the exception to my feelings about Shadowhunters. Yes, the people you work with are warming to what you’re building and that humanizes them to me, but the Clave is still the Clave. Valentine is still Valentine. The prejudices and the brutality and the hatred are all still there. It’s being a Shadowhunter that’s putting you at risk right now.” Magnus tried to explain with no judgment in his voice, for all that his words were condemning. He shrugged helplessly, “Is it so wrong that I wished we didn’t have to do all of this to keep you safe from your own people?”

Alec listened, thank the Angel. They argued so little, Magnus still wasn’t sure what his style was on that front, for lack of a better term. The people who wouldn’t listen when he spoke to them were intolerable. Nothing could be solved with them, because they weren’t even hearing what he said to them.

But Alec was listening.

The harsh, tense set of his shoulders eased. “I understand.” He said quietly.

“And I understand why this is important to you. Why your people are important to you.” Magnus promised him. He stepped forward even though he wasn’t sure of the reception his touch would received. He reached for Alec slowly, letting him move away from his hand well before it landed on Alec’s cheek, “I fell in love with a Shadowhunter. Yes, running away and teaching you magic and living our lives as warlocks would be easier and in some ways wonderful, but I would never ask you to give up what you are.”

Alec’s eyes fell shut, “I know.” He breathed out.

The admission reassured Magnus more than he could express. He felt himself almost sag in relief. “I’m sorry if I made you feel as if I don’t accept your Shadowhunter side.”

“You didn’t,” Alec shook his head ever so slightly. Mostly he seemed to take the motion as an opportunity to nuzzle Magnus’ palm, “It’s me.”

That made all the sense in the world, especially for how quickly he had inadvertently raised Alec’s hackles.

“We’ll figure it out.” Magnus promised him. “All of this. The Shadowhunter parts and the magic parts.”

 

---

 

Alec had thrown punches at his baby sister. He’d shot arrows at Jace’s head. He’d used a staff to smack Max across the back when he wasn’t paying attention, knocking him flat on his front. When he was eight, he’d landed a roundhouse kick on his father that knocked the wind out of him. He and his mother had sparred rarely but when they did it was always with blades and he only got a smile of pride from her when he drew first blood.

Not once had any of those things made him blink twice.

This though…

Somehow, knocking Magnus down felt wrong.

He knew Magnus could hold his own, that he was strong, that he had fought in battles before Alec’s great great grandparents had breathed. Hell, they’d fought beside each other. Nothing major but enough that Alec had gotten to see him in that element.

Jace was at the Institute, putting in his time. Magnus insisted that they could practice themselves and Alec had been all for it until he actually had to throw magic at Magnus that was designed to knock him onto his ass.

“Darling, I’m not sure whether to be offended or flattered.” Magnus drawled, having cottoned onto the problem first.

None of his throws were doing more than making Magnus stumble.

Alec sighed and looked down at his magic, “Both probably. I’m sorry.”

“You know, you only asked me how many people I’ve slept with.” Magnus was wearing a loose sleeveless shirt that was almost all arm-hole. His sides were completely exposed and if Alec made him stumble too much he flashed a nipple. It was in contrast to his second-skin spandex pants. “But there are other numbers I could give you.”

He was serious but it wasn’t helping. Alec was either stuck feeling too bad about hitting Magnus with his magic or he was horny. Even now, Magnus was offering a very serious number and Alec was utterly distracted by the way the clingy fabric hugged his thighs.

“Are you offering me your kill count?” Alec asked, still braced for a volley that he didn’t want to throw.

“I admit, I haven’t kept nearly close a count on that but I can certainly supply a ballpark if that would get you over this apprehension.” Magnus said.

Alec bit back a sigh and shut his eyes. This was stupid. He was being stupid.

He had that thought and then he was in the air.

It was jarring.

Alec knew how to fall though and he landed hard but unharmed. Almost instantly, Magnus was on top of him, perched over his chest and grinning.

“Shall we play?” His warlock asked. His glamour was down and the pupils of his golden eyes were blown wide. The effect was different than anything Alec had ever seen of them but he loved it.

Before Alec could answer, Magnus leapt over his head and Alec had to roll fast to avoid another blast of magic. Not that he was afraid the magic would do anything to him beyond pushing him but still…

He didn’t want to lose.

“Oh there we are, darling.” Magnus cooed, pleased for reasons Alec didn’t care to figure out. For reasons he also didn’t have time to figure out because Magnus had him running the second those words were out. Volley after volley of magic barely missed his heels as he ran around the room.

While he ran, Alec brought his hands together and prepared. He was in the perfect spot to get a little revenge for all this dodging Magnus had him doing.

The second he thought he had it, Alec threw the magic. It went sailing past Magnus but that was the point.

It hit the waterfall and water practically exploded out, showering down on Magnus and his carefully tousled hair.

“Clever brat.” Magnus shook the water off himself and tried not to look miffed about it. Mostly he just seemed amused.

Alec’s next throw actually connected with his slightly damp warlock and it sent him staggering back.

“Surely you can do better than that.” Magnus called. He came rushing around Alec’s side, trying to use one of the wooden forms to avoid getting hit with any magic.

That only worked for the top half of him. Alec ducked down low and sent enough magic at Magnus’ feet to send him stumbling to the ground. “You mean like that?”

Magnus scoffed, “No.”

Alec thought he had a moment while Magnus got himself up again so he dared to run. It ended up only lasting about two seconds because Magnus didn’t bother standing and Alec went flying.

He turned the fall into a one armed handstand and twisted in the air so he was facing Magnus when he was on his feet again. Another throw of magic went back to Magnus lightning fast and it was clearly not expected.

Magnus flew through the air. Alec’s magic took him straight off his feet and sent him flying backwards. He landed with a thud and Alec winced.

Running over and checking on him would be demeaning so Alec didn’t but he stood there panting, waiting for Magnus to get up.

When he did, Magnus was grinning. “Much better.”

 

---

 

The fire message raced to his fingers and Alec felt his heart skip a beat.

Magnus had been mid-sentence, telling him a story that Alec both doubted and knew was true while they ate lunch after their morning of flinging each other across the room. At the sight of the little scrap of flaming paper he stopped talking instantly.

“Alexander…” Magnus said with audible concern in his voice.

Alec caught the paper and started reading before it had even stopped moving. “It’s from the Clave.” He said when he saw the crest at the top of the page. His eyes scanned the page.

It was a summons.

“I am required to present myself to the Clave in Alicante to give testimony. Jace is requested too.” Alec summed up the little lines of text that were so innocently threatening. “If I don’t show, I will be removed from active duty and as Head of Institute. If I ever want to return, I will need to be fully vetted and cleared by the Silent Brothers.”

He looked back up at Magnus and met his eyes steadily. They had been waiting for this but there was still fear in them. Fear that was probably in Alec’s eyes too. He couldn’t help it. This had the potential to ruin his entire life and everything he had been working towards.

“When?” Magnus asked with a tight voice.

Alec pulled in a deep breath, “Tomorrow morning. That’s a good thing.”

“I hardly see how.” Magnus let out a laugh that sounded closer to a sob and Alec ached for him. This went against every instinct he had and Alec knew it. After their conversation in the training room last night, he knew it even better.

He leaned in closer and caught Magnus’ hands in his, “It is a good thing,” He tried to explain, “They’re not demanding right now, they’re not beating down our door. This is a sign of respect. They’re being accommodating, which means they believe us when we say I’m still recovering from whatever Valentine did to me. They’re giving me time to prepare, which also means they think that I’m going to go quietly. This is good, Magnus. Or it will be when it’s done.”

Magnus squeezed his hands so hard it almost hurt but that hurt was welcome. “I’ll have to trust your judgment then because this feels catastrophic to me.”

“I’ll call Jace and Izzy, make the arrangements. Jace will come with me and you know how he is.” Though Alec couldn’t say he was entirely comfortable with pretending or hiding behind his brother, he wanted to offer Magnus any comfort that he could. “This is going to be okay.”

He just hoped he wasn’t lying.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty One


 

 

 

The stares started the second Alec and Jace stepped out of the portal.

No one was looking at Jace, of course. It was Alec they were staring at. That virtually never happened to them.

Jace held tightly to Alec’s arm, one hand under his elbow and the other gripping his bicep in a clear attempt to provide support without actually throwing Alec’s arm over his shoulder. The dignified way to keep Alec upright. They had planned it in advance but no one here knew that.

There had been a whole planning meeting on how to make Alec look worse than he actually did. Dark circles and hollowing his cheeks out more, something to tint his skin to make it look paler and sallower. If they used a glamour, it could be cancelled. If they used makeup it could be wiped away. Magnus had decided that they would use makeup that he would then enchant to stay in place until the specific spell was cancelled. It was unlikely that anyone would think to do that since it wasn’t a glamour, just a sticking charm. Between the two, they hoped no one would be able to prove it was all fake. It would take way longer to wear off on its own, magic and makeup both, than he needed if everything went to plan.

Magnus and Izzy had done him up to look pretty gross and exhausted. He looked like he’d had the plague recently or something. He thought he looked silly but judging on the faces of those who had been lucky enough to be around when he arrived, it looked pretty convincing. Some of the expressions he was getting from people who were doing their best to pretend they weren’t reacting made all the time he’d spent sitting there getting his first ever makeup application worth it.

When they had stepped out, they’d stopped walking immediately. Alec had shut his eyes and clenched his jaw and leaned ever so slightly away from Jace. Jace reacted to his “dizziness” by stopping instantly and using the hand on his elbow to reach for his opposite side in a weird little side hug to keep him standing.

They’d practiced.

This was the closest Alec had ever come to outright acting.

They only let the ruse linger for a few seconds. Alec wasn’t someone to make a fuss, it would look suspicious if he wasn’t stoic about all of this. It was Jace who was going to have to sell it better because one, he was known for wearing his heart on his sleeve more than Alec and two, this was his parabatai they were forcing out of bed to be questioned and that wasn’t something any bonded pair would be happy about.

Luckily, acting wasn’t something that Jace was bad at and he was already kind of in that headspace anyway.

There were a good forty people gathered around looking busy. Few people had known he was coming but now that he was here, they were open season for staring. 

A man with black hair slicked back stepped forward.  His suit was nearly to a quality that matched Magnus, although his was a lot more subdued than Magnus’ usual styles. “Mr. Lightwood, Mr. Herondale, thank you for coming in.”

Alec nodded tightly.

Jace only glared.

The man didn’t acknowledge that, too well trained probably, but he also didn’t force them into any more small talk. “I’m Cassius Blackwater and I work for Inquisitor Herondale. Please follow me.” He turned and started walking away but Alec noted that he was walking slowly.

Alec took the first step because he knew Jace wouldn’t. His brother was right there putting actual effort into holding him up even though Alec felt stupid letting him. There was no way to fake that kind of walk perfectly though, not if he wasn’t actually putting weight on Jace. He’d tried. He’d tried for twenty minutes before Izzy put a stop to it.

People were whispering all around them and Alec tried not to pay them any mind. He held his head up high. He wasn’t ashamed, not of the things they knew about and not of the things they didn’t either.

While he walked, he did his best not to openly meet anyone’s eyes. He let himself look unbothered.

He wasn't unbothered.

Unashamed was different than confident.

The faces around him were mostly unfamiliar. The general mood was quiet. Alec tried to get a feel for how hostile people were, if anyone was angry or disgusted. If public perception was still on his side, that was a relief. It meant the Clave had to play nice, especially if people thought he looked sick enough that forcing him to come here was overkill. That would help a lot.

If they could just do this once, it would be a relief.

His parents weren’t there and that was probably not a coincidence. They couldn’t be seen as coddling him. Not his father and especially not his mother.

The Inquisitorial wing was two floors up and towards the far side of the building so Alec was surprised when instead they were led to side hall that looked like it was mostly used for overflow. There was a heavy wooden door that shut behind him, instantly cutting off much of the bustling noise of the main hall.

“We’ve arranged for a closer office to talk in so you wouldn’t have to walk so far, Mr. Lightwood.” Blackwater said over his shoulder before he reached for a doorknob to open one of the offices.

Alec only said, “Thank you.” They kept heading towards the office in question.

He relaxed ever so slightly. That they weren’t bringing him to the heart of the law enforcement section of the building was somewhat reassuring. At the very least they didn’t think he was worthy of having the Inquisitor’s people around in case he or Jace went rogue in some way. That lent itself to the idea that they didn’t think he had actually joined up with Valentine. He wasn’t a threat in their eyes.

That, at least, grated on him least of all. He wasn’t a threat. He didn’t want to be, no matter what Valentine had tried to make him.

Blackwater gestured to a seat behind a not so elaborate wooden desk. This looked like some sort of glorified junior clerk’s office or something. No personal items around though, so it wasn’t currently being used? In a place as busy as the Clave? Unless this was just space for visiting employees, which made some sense.

Jace eased Alec down in the chair and then squatted down beside him, “Okay?” He asked quietly. Their bond thrummed tense between them.

Alec nodded to him, “I’m fine.” He said, giving Jace a small smile. Izzy had informed him that when he smiled with this whole costume on he looked particularly tragic.

Jace didn’t seem very reassured and Alec knew that wasn’t an act. None of what Jace felt right now was a deception. He stood and then looked around for a chair to drag closer so they could sit beside each other.

And that was when they both realized that there were only two chairs. Alec’s and the one behind the desk that Blackwater was already sitting in.

The door was still open and a middle aged woman with her hair pulled back into a severe bun that would have made Maryse proud even at her most critical stood waiting. “Mr. Herondale, would you please come with me?”

Alec felt Jace’s anger at the idea that they would separate him from his parabatai’s side. “I won’t leave Alec.”

Blackwater smiled as though this was all friendly. “Mr. Lightwood, are you comfortable? Can I get you anything to drink? Eat?”

Trying to force himself to feel a certain emotion was hard. It was times like these that he wished he actually could send thoughts to Jace. He gave Blackwater a tight smile, “No thank you, I’m all right.”

“Mr. Herondale, the Clave wishes to get each of your statements separately. Since you co-signed Mr. Lightwood’s initial statement we have questions we feel you’ll be able to give insight into. You’ll be just down the hall from us, not far at all.” Blackwater said with a placating voice. Not condescending, because that would have set Jace off even worse, more like he was aware he was asking a lot but he still needed to do it anyway. “If Mr. Lightwood needs you at any point, I will of course pause the debriefing and send for you.” He gestured outside the door and Alec saw that there were a few other people milling around. Guards probably. “He’ll be quite safe in my care.”

They were serious about this. Fighting wouldn’t do any good. They were only delaying the inevitable.

Alec prodded Jace’s side and when his parabatai gave his attention, although that didn’t involve actually looking at Alec, he said, “Go with her. I’m okay.”

Jace didn’t move for maybe a full minute. The guards outside shifted a little nervously, almost imperceptibly. It gave Alec a good idea of the mood. These guys knew who Jace was and how he fought. They didn’t want to go up against him. Alec had seen it a thousand times before, he recognized the cocky stance and worried movements. Trying not seem nervous and failing to anyone who knew to look for it. Alec did.

He’d seen this standoff before too. Jace knew what he was doing. They all knew he could take any of them out. All of them out at once, if he was properly motivated. As far as they knew, he was standing at his vulnerable parabatai’s side, so anyone with a brain would know he was very motivated.

By not moving but not doing anything either, Jace was making sure that everyone in the room felt just the tiniest bit threatened. He wanted them aware that he knew he was the most lethal person in the room and he wasn’t concerned in the slightest. Not so long as to be overtly threatening and no words because this wasn’t the time for cocky trash talk, just silent intimidation.

Then, finally, Jace nodded slow and tense. He turned back to Blackwater, “If he gets upset, I’ll be back here whether you send for me or not.”

And I might make you bleed for it.

He didn’t say it but Blackwater inclined his head like he’d heard it.

And then without another word, Jace left. The woman shut the door behind him and he and Blackwater were alone.

Alec turned to him without comment.

“I meant what I said, if you need a moment please do stop me. We’re aware you’ve been through quite an ordeal.” Blackwater said not unkindly. He seemed as sincere as a Clave official got. That didn’t actually mean much, he was operating on a scale that was virtually non-existent, but it further proved Alec’s assumption that this was the Clave attempting to be decent. If anything, it was beginning to feel like overkill. He’d take it though.

He didn’t wait for acknowledgement from Alec before he started rustling in the drawers of the desk. Out came a small tripod and then he put a camera on top of it, adjusting whatever settings he needed to get Alec in full clarity looking like microwaved death.

It was a small surprise but not a massive one. His voice alone would have been sufficient so he wasn’t sure why they were bothering with video unless the higher ups wanted to judge how he looked with their own two eyes. Joke was going to be on them because he could honestly say he had never looked shittier.

“Please state your full name for me?” Blackwater requested.

Alec couldn’t decide whether he was meant to be looking at the camera or at Blackwater but decided that the man was safer. He wasn’t sure if he wanted the entirety of the Clave to be looking straight into his eyes. “Alexander Gideon Lightwood.”

Blackwater then started listing off some of the pertinent stats, the day and time, his own name and the date that the events had started. Alec listened evenly and made sure to keep his body tense as though he were in pain.

Magnus had given him a potion before they’d left that he had warned would kick in at about the twenty minute mark that would give him a minor tremor. It had been meant to discourage the Clave official from going too hard on him but now that Alec was on video, it was only going to encourage their ruse.

“Mr. Lightwood, can you please explain what caused you to leave the Institute that night?” Blackwater asked him.

“The n-night…” His voice broke and he stopped to clear it, “The night started early, before the patrol units even went out. Reports of rogue Downworlders and demons in random locations across the city. Some were false alarms but enough weren’t that we needed to continuously send teams out. Regular patrols were called in to help with the missions. We assumed that the influx wasn’t random.”

Blackwater nodded, “You reported to the Clave that the New York Institute was of the opinion that Valentine was behind the situation.”

This was all easy to talk about because none of it was a lie. Not yet at least, “We all came to that conclusion early, within a couple of hours. The false alarms tipped us off and the fact that the activity wasn’t abating only solidified our assumption.”

“And did you have any thoughts as to the reason why Valentine was doing this?” Blackwater led him.

“Clary.” Alec said easily, “Clary Fairchild was meant to stay in the Institute as much as possible. We thought he was attempting to force her out one way or another.”

“Force her out?”

“Either that I would send her on a mission with Jace or that she would go of her own volition.” Alec allowed a rueful look to break his otherwise calm façade, “Clary is recklessly determined to do the right thing and help. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for her to sneak out and join a mission. She’s developed enough of a reputation for it that I was sure Valentine knew about it and was attempting to use it against us. I had expressly forbade her from helping or leaving the Institute and kept her close to me while the other teams went out.”

He knew the Clave would like that part.

“We were stretched thin. I was sending teams out again as soon as they returned to the Institute. The false alarms weren’t helping. A report came in about a warlock child, alone and frightened into throwing spells at people who tried to help. There were no available teams and I had no one else to pull onto one, unless I wanted to start taking people from Medical and I deemed that a bad decision. I decided to take it myself.” Alec could feel the potion that Magnus had given him start to work. His fingers were trembling ever so slightly, so he reached up and rubbed the side of his face, near his temple. Just enough to show the camera the slight tremor. If all went to plan, he’d be able to show the decline as his hands shook worse and worse.

“Why alone?” Blackwater asked without making comment about his hands or that he was rubbing his temple as though he had a headache.

Alec asked himself that question constantly.

He let his eyes close, showing that frustration with himself. “I assumed it was a false alarm, frankly. I’ve never once even heard of a mission in New York that was related to a warlock child alone on the streets. I thought I would get to the location, scout around enough to determine it was a false alarm and then return to the Institute. If there was a child, I could handle it alone. I’m comfortable with children, I thought I could reassure the child and bring them back to the Institute to sort out after things calmed down.”

Blackwater stared at Alec a moment and he knew why the question was important to them. If he was a spy, arranging a solo mission – something generally frowned upon – for his disappearance and then returning days later claiming a kidnapping was an excellent way to cover his tracks.

“Set the scene for when you arrived?”

The shaking was getting stronger so Alec rubbed his head again. This time he saw Blackwater’s eyes zero in on his hand. “There was no one there. No damage either, which didn’t reconcile with the reports of the spells the child had been throwing around we had been getting.”

“Would you like to take a break, Mr. Lightwood?” Blackwater asked, “I could get you some water?”

Alec shook his head ever so slightly, “No thank you. I investigated the alley but I had already decided that it had been yet another false alarm. I wanted to do my due diligence but I also wanted to get back to the Institute quickly. I admit my search of the alley was cursory at best, so I can’t give many details about any set up on the Circle’s part. I didn’t notice anything glaring, however, otherwise I wouldn’t have dismissed it as a false alarm.”

 There was a jolt of displeasure through the bond and Alec could feel Jace’s annoyance. They’d clearly started questioning him and he wasn’t pleased with whatever he had just been asked.

“I assume this was when the Circle members attacked?”

Alec clenched his fist and curled it down by his side, as though he was trying to hide it. “Y-yes,” He cleared his throat again, “Yes.”

“Did you recognize anyone?” Blackwater asked evenly.

He wished he had, “No, they were unfamiliar to me.”

There was a thudding noise outside the door and Alec frowned, puzzled by it. Blackwater paused as well but no other noises came. Alec focused on his bond for a second but found Jace to still be annoyed and tightly wound. He wasn’t outside the door about to force his way in, near as Alec could interpret.

“Do you remember enough of their faces to look through some pictures we have of suspected and confirmed Circle members?” Blackwater asked, seemingly dismissing the sound outside the door.

Before Alec could agree, the door burst open.

Two people in black hooded jackets with balaclavas covering their faces charged inside with brutal efficiency.

Blackwater was already raising his stele to activate whatever runes he could for battle. His reaction times were too slow. This man had led the life of a Clave official too long, he wasn’t nearly as well versed in battle as Alec... and Alec had taken potions to make himself weaker. Not only that, but he had a camera on him recording everything. He had no way of knowing if it was transmitting live or backing itself up to a cloud. The footage may or may not be destroyed.

He sent as calm a burst of warning to Jace as he could. He didn’t want his parabatai to think he was scared, but he needed backup right that second.

It all happened so fast. In mere seconds, the two were in the room with blades drawn.

“By order of the Clave, I-”

A choked, bloody noise.

Blackwater was dead, his throat slit with ease.

The Circle. This had to be Valentine.

He had told them. Alec and Jace together outside of Magnus’ wards was too tempting.

But how he had gotten into Idris? There was no way he could have done this alone, so who had helped him? The Seelie queen? Someone within the Clave? It had to be more than the Queen. How else could they have known about the random office that had been chosen, especially since Blackwater obviously wasn’t with them?

Alec had no weapons… but he had his magic. He could try to blast his way out of this. He could…

The camera watched.

“Don’t move.” One of them said, a cold woman’s voice. Her blade was still bloody. “Come quietly or we’ll kill your parabatai.”

“Valentine would never let you.” Alec tilted his chin up in challenge.

None of them touched him. They stayed a good foot back from him.

They knew.

“Valentine is done with him. He’s the failed son, failed experiment.” She said the words with such confidence that Alec felt his heart sink.

He didn’t think that was true. Valentine wasn’t loving but he was possessive. He’d worked too hard molding Jace just to give up when the going started getting tough…

But he wasn’t sure.

He couldn’t be sure.

Alec stood.

The second he was up, one of them moved towards him lightning quick. Alec braced himself to be grabbed now that he had agreed to cooperate and, the silent implication, control his magic.

Instead, he felt a tiny prick in his neck.

No, please not again…

Whatever it was worked quickly. Two of the Circle members reached for his arms as he faltered and kept him upright.

Darkness started encroaching on the edges of his vision, narrowing it all down until there was nothing left.

The last thing he heard before he went under was Jace yelling. His brother’s battle cry.

Too late.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Two


 

 

 

When Maryse came to his door, Magnus had known.

Not the details, not which threat had made their move against his beloved, only that someone had.

“Tell me.” He demanded at the sight of her.

“Let me come in.” Maryse replied instead.

He turned as though made of stone but it was enough for Maryse to slip inside. He shut the door and warded it. He didn’t know what was coming but he wasn’t going to be caught unaware. Not anymore.

As each hour had dragged without Jace and Alec returning, the tension within Magnus had grown. Izzy kept telling him that the questioning wouldn’t be some quick thing, that it was going to take time and that it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that the two of them would return well after midnight tonight. Though Magnus had believed her, something inside of him was screaming that it had been too long and something had gone wrong.

“Mom? By the Angel, what’s happened?” Izzy raced over to them with Clary at her heels.

Now that Maryse was behind his wards, her perfect Clave mask cracked and Magnus could see the emotion underneath.

Fear.

“The man in charge of questioning Alec met them when they portalled in.” Maryse started and Magnus cursed her need for efficient reporting. He would want to know everything after he knew what had happened to Alec specifically. “He brought them to a quieter area, not in the Inquisitor’s department. I knew they were doing it that way because they wanted to be seen as accommodating of Alec’s recovery.”

“Get to the point, Maryse!” Magnus half shouted at her. Her stalling and justifications were intolerable.

Maryse only sighed like all of this was just some regrettable error. He knew that wasn’t true, he could see the emotion welling inside of her but what his head was telling him wasn’t what his heart was willing to accept.

Then, she said the words that Magnus had feared the most, “Valentine’s people infiltrated. The Circle killed everyone was there with them and took them both.”

The rage simmering in Magnus’ veins boiled over and he could only throw his arm out behind him to let it out. The crack of the wall behind him was deafening and made Maryse take two large steps back from him before she gathered herself.

Magnus didn’t turn to look but he knew he’d just left a blackened crater in the wall.

“How could you let this happen?” He hissed at her.

“How could I have known?” Maryse protested instantly.

Magnus surged forward, “It was your responsibility to know! What good was it risking Alec’s life to tell you what your former leader did to him if you can’t even do the one thing we asked of you – protect him from within the Clave! You should have been going through every aspect of this! Who knew, Maryse? Who is our mole? Did you research everyone and their possible connections to Valentine? Did you vet the team who would be with them? Who made the decision to put them in such an unguarded spot instead of within the Inquisitor’s office surrounded by her battle ready minions under the guise of giving a damn about Alec’s health when they never have before? Why is it that Shadowhunters are the root of every problem we keep having?”

Though he had shouted most of that in her face by the end he was almost spent. He staggered back away from her, lip curled in disgust. Even though he had just thrown that massive volley of magic, he felt yet more building inside of him. It was meant for Alec. His magic wanted to protect his love.

It could not. In this moment, Alec was beyond his protection.

“This isn’t helping.” Izzy said softly, she looked at Maryse with disappointment in her eyes but she didn’t say anything condemning. The way she glanced at Magnus gave him a clue for why.

Maryse opened her bag and, with a hand he wasn’t ashamed to see was shaking, she pulled out a flash drive, “There’s video. We can go over it and see if there’s any we can use.”

“Izzy and I will watch it,” Clary said as she took it out of Maryse’ hand, “Could you please write us up a list of every single person who knew in advance that Jace and Alec were coming? And tell us if they’re dead or not too.” Then she turned to Magnus, “Go try and track them. Maybe we can get a hit before Valentine has had them too long.”

Without a word, Magnus walked away from them. Either he was going to explode at someone who didn’t deserve it or he was going to waste more time screaming at Maryse.

His magic shut the doors to his workroom behind him and Magnus immediately fell to his knees. His head fell into his hands and he let out a slow, shaky breath.

I will find you, Alec. Hang on for me and I will find you.

 

---

 

 

What happened?

Alec felt so cold and exhausted that surfacing even enough to think nearly took more effort and strength than he actually had. There were metallic sort of thudding noises all around him but no one spoke. It didn’t take much brainpower to know that he wasn’t in Alicante anymore.

His limbs felt half numb. Nothing hurt, but nothing felt right either. He was shaking, trembling even with his eyes still shut. He’d been shaking in his unconsciousness.

It felt like… it felt like magical exhaustion.

How? He hadn’t done any magic. He couldn’t, not with that camera on him.

That thought, remembering the Clave’s camera being trained on him hunting for his lies, hit like lightning through his body. It reignited a flood of leftover adrenalin that hadn’t had anywhere to go before.

The ambush at the Institute, Blackwater’s murder and the threat to Jace all came rushing back.

In his panic, he latched onto the bond with Jace. He put everything he had into trying to use it to figure out if Jace was okay or not, if he had been injured back in that office. Feeling Jace at all was a relief but Alec needed more.

It took a few breathless moments but slowly the bond told him what he needed to know. Jace felt muted like he was asleep or even drugged like Alec had been. His parabatai was alive though. Alive and at least not hurt badly.

Even though he was relieved that Jace was relatively okay, the guilt overpowered that relief. It was his fault that Jace had been captured. He knew it without any doubt. Right now, Valentine wanted him. Jace was a happy extra.

Alec forced his eyes open. Feeling like shit wasn’t something he could indulge in. What he needed was any information he could get.  

He was in a small metal room with pipes running over the ceiling. The air was dank and damp, as though he was in a basement. For a split second, he almost thought he was on a ship, another ship of Valentine’s, but the air wasn’t salty and there wasn’t that gentle rolling feeling that came from being on a boat.

He was lying on a cot bed that he was too tall for. His feet were hanging off the end of it. There was a thin looking blanket folded over the end of the bed and Alec wanted it spread over him desperately. He was so cold. How much of that was this room and how much of that was him he wasn’t sure.

There were two doors. One was shut and made of thick metal. The other was opened and showed a tiny washroom. Otherwise the room was bare.

He turned his head, trying to see as much as he could.

That was when he realized there was something tight around his neck.

His blood froze in his veins.

No, no, please no…

With one shaking hand, he reached up. Metal, wrapped around his throat but not a necklace.

It was a collar around his neck.

His fingers traced over it, searching for a seam. Get it off. I have to get it off…

There was no seam.

There had to be, his panicked mind insisted on it. To get it on him, there had to be a seam, a lock, something. His fingers slid over the metal and though he could feel marks engraved on the surface, none were perfectly wrapped all the way around.

The sound of groaning metal made him stop, though his hand was still on the collar clinched tight around his throat.

The other door swung open and Valentine stood in the doorway.

His eyes glittered as he took in Alec lying before him.

Everything in Alec wanted to flinch back. The impulse shamed him and he pushed it away viciously. Maybe he couldn’t stand, not when he felt like this, but he wasn’t going to cower in front of this man. He forced himself to glare. He was defiant. Valentine would not break him.

“No hard feelings about knocking me out last time but you’ll have to forgive me for taking better precautions this time around.” Valentine gestured to his neck.

Alec stared at him silently. 

“Think of it as a magical dampener, so we don’t have any… incidents.” Valentine explained as though it were nothing. As though putting a collar around Alec’s throat was barely noteworthy. “I was disappointed when you left so early last time, but that might have been better in the long run. You’ve had time to settle into your magic, the Clave learns just how pathetic and weak they’ve become and Jace gets to stand beside us as he’s meant to be. It’s really fallen into place perfectly.”

Valentine stepped closer to Alec, the first one cautious and then when no wild magic lashed out at him he took two more with an air of triumph. He sat down on the cot beside Alec and reached for his hand.

Valentine gently untangled his fingers from where they had been searching the collar and held them in his own hand. He turned it around, examining Alec’s magic free skin, “Some part of me is disappointed, I’ll admit. I loved that your magic was always visible. No one could forget the threat you make. But you’ve taken such pains to hide it from the Clave, the reveal will only be better.” He looked up at Alec and grinned with genuine excitement, “Just imagine their faces, Alec. You with your magic, standing beside me with my two Angels… the world will bow before us.”

“I won’t.” Alec whispered to him.

Valentine set his hand down onto his stomach gently and patted it almost comfortingly. “You will. I might not be willing to kill Jace, not yet at least, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make him pay if you disobey me. I’ll say the same to him but,” He reached out and hooked a finger between Alec’s neck and the collar dead center of his throat, making it just tight enough that Alec half-gasped, half-choked. “I think this will keep either of you from getting very far.”

The question was in his eyes, he knew it was. Valentine smiled at him, reading it easily, “It’s carved with an ancient Edomai languages. Took quite a bit of trial and error to work out, but I think I’ve perfected it. You can access surface magic but nothing that requires any deep wells of power to be channeled. It’s tied to me. It responds to my command. You’ll be able to do more powerful spells if I allow it and you won’t get it off unless I want it off. I can give you everything or I can take everything.” The words were said like a teacher giving a lesson but there was a threat under the surface of them that Alec heard clearly.

While Valentine spoke, he reached out and straightened the collar out from where Alec had been frantically tugging on it. It was as though he wanted Alec to look his best while he wore it.

Then, when he was finished, he smiled down at him. “I hope Bane has been teaching you lots of magic.” He stood up and just that little extra bit of distance made it easier to breathe.

Valentine went to the door and pounded on it once. Whoever was on the other side opened it instantly but Alec wasn’t so naive to think that it would work like that if he knocked on it. He looked back at Alec.

“Rest up, tomorrow is going to be a big day.”

 

---

 

Though he had known instantly that tracking wouldn’t work, each failed attempt was the bitterest defeat.

As each hour went by and Magnus felt the anger and worry grow inside of him. Somehow it was more potent now than it had been when Maryse had stood in front of him telling him what she and the Clave had let Valentine do.

Why had he ever allowed this to happen? He had known the Clave was weak and couldn’t be trusted. Even Alec himself had said that he and Jace out of the loft’s protection was too great a temptation for Valentine and he’d been right.

After Maryse had left, Magnus had come back out to watch the interrogation video with Clary and Izzy. The girls were on their second viewing but he knew it was no easier for them the second time around.

Magnus could only bear to watch it the one time. Seeing Alec threatened, seeing him drugged then dragged out of sight and not being able to do anything about it was torture.

He should have pushed harder. He should have demanded the Clave come to the loft for their questioning or even the Institute so Magnus could go with them. Instead, Magnus had given up his greatest treasure to the Clave without protest. Alec had lost so much and he was being forced to accept more and more of his life changing so quickly for something that wasn’t his fault and that had made Magnus hesitant to force Alec to defy the Clave.

Except in doing that, he went against his own instincts and put Alec at risk. Now Alexander was in Valentine’s hands once more after Magnus had promised him it would never happen again.

The weight of that broken promise was heavy on his heart.

The sound of a portal opening did nothing for the pain he was dealing with but he knew without a doubt that it was Clary and Izzy and that they might be coming with news.

He was on his feet and in the living room before Clary was even out of the portal. “Biscuit?”

Clary stepped immediately aside for Izzy and when both girls were through the portal their frustrated expressions said everything.

“The Clave is investigating.” Izzy spat the words out like Magnus would have if he had been the one to come with news. “That’s code for internally shitting bricks and outwardly doing nothing serenely.”

“They were broken into, that doesn’t concern them at all?” In another situation, Magnus might have asked that question incredulously but now? He was too tired and too afraid.

Izzy dropped down onto the couch with a gust of air that seemed too big for her body to have contained, “It’s worse than I thought.”

“What do you mean?” Clary asked, and Magnus wished he could live as oblivious to the Clave’s failures as she did.

“The corruption.” Magnus answered her wearily.

“I looked over Mom’s list. The only people on it who knew Alec and Jace were going to the Institute that aren’t also dead are too high up to accuse of anything without ironclad proof.” Izzy explained to them. “I think we can eliminate Imogen Herondale from the list outright but everyone outside of her? They’re all suspect and they’re all incredibly powerful.”

“The type of powerful that could squash any worthwhile investigation into how Valentine gained access to Alicante or any plans of rescue for two of their most prominent sons?” Magnus asked as he went to his drink cart – the need for something bitter and burning was too strong to ignore. He felt like he was being flippant but he wasn’t. This was just so predictable it was infuriating. They were being hamstrung by these traitorous Nephilim and Alec was the one paying the price.

“Okay, who else besides Imogen?” Clary asked as she sank down into the chair opposite Izzy. All three of them were exhausted from spending so many hours essentially helming this by themselves with no Clave support at all.

But they wouldn’t stop. They wouldn’t rest until they got their boys back.

“Consul Malachi and his right hand, Jia Penhallow.” Izzy started.

Magnus poured himself a too full glass of scotch, “Break them down as you go.”

“Consul Malachi is a horrible man.” Izzy said succinctly, “He’s been in charge for years now and he’s been a jerk for every single one of them. He’s very strict and his head so far up his own ass he thinks he’s the voice of the Angels.”

“And what about Jia Penhallow? I feel like I know her name?” Clary seemed like she was trying to remember herself but was clearly drawing a blank.

Izzy sighed, “You’ve probably heard us talk about her daughter Aline. She’s a friend of ours. Jia isn’t really a warm and fuzzy person but I think she’s a lot more fair than Malachi. Or at least she has been so far, she’s a little hard to read. Near as I can tell, she likes Alec.”

“As a person or as Head of Institute?” Clary asked and bless her little heart for keeping a straight face. Magnus was never unaware of how… prickly his Alexander could be to anyone he was uncomfortable with, which was most people.

“Both, I think, but I meant as Head of Institute. She’s given quiet support. Even before, when Mom and Dad were in charge and Alec was doing three quarters of the work.” Izzy answered. “I honestly don’t think she would be involved with Valentine at all.”

“Who else?” Magnus asked.

Izzy listed off a few names that were familiar to even Magnus. All people within Malachi’s innermost circle. It would be as she said – impossible to accuse and expose them without real proof.

“There has to be someone in that list we can actually use to help us!” Clary threw her hands up in frustration. “This is ridiculous, Izzy. They can’t just do nothing!”

“Officially they aren’t doing nothing.” Izzy had the look on her face that Alec sometimes had when he was particularly irate about some new bit of obstinacy from the Clave. “They’re investigating, they’re patching security concerns. Some of it is lies but not all of it. They’re just not willing to work with us on any of it and near as I can tell they’ll be ready to go after Valentine sometime in 2026.”

“Then they’re useless.” Magnus said flatly, “Same as they always are.”

“I haven’t been able to get Imogen to answer me.” Izzy added. The Inquisitor was powerful but Magnus didn’t really trust her. That she hadn’t immediately swooped in to rain fire down for her grandson’s kidnapping said to him that she either didn’t care or was being stonewalled like them.

“Me neither.” Clary even took her phone out to check.

Izzy met his eyes and said nothing.

“We need allies.” Clary said as if they didn’t know. “We can’t do this ourselves.”

“We can hope that when we find them, Alec and Jace can help us help them but we can’t count on it.” Izzy said as stoically as she was able.

The answer was obvious and Magnus was angry with himself for letting them rely on Shadowhunters for as long as they had.

“It is time to turn to the Downworld.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Three


 

 

 

The plan was slow to form.

Well, Magnus supposed that wasn’t entirely true. The plan was easy because it was obvious. They had a good idea of where Valentine had hidden his base of operations. Step one, confirm the location. Step two, storm it. Step three, find and rescue Alec and Jace. Step four, kill Valentine on their way out.

It was the details that were slow to be filled into that plan. How to do recon when the three of them had massive targets on their backs, for instance. Who would storm it with them when they found it? How to counteract all of the little surprises Valentine undoubtedly had in store for whoever tried. Finding Alec and Jace within that battle, finding Valentine to finish the job once and for all…

And doing all of that without losing one of them along the way.

It was impossible to do any of that with no allies, so securing them had to be the true first step. Izzy had some sort of plan regarding some Shadowhunter allies she wanted to bring in and if she was successful that would be great but Magnus wasn’t putting any faith in it. There was no part of the plan they were starting to build that Magnus was willing to entrust to them.

Some small part of him knew that he needed to let some of this utter hatred go. Alec wouldn’t like it and not every Shadowhunter deserved it.

It was so hard. He just was so bitterly angry.

Just when he had begun to ever so tentatively think that Shadowhunter society was reforming, that he could begin to trust at least some Shadowhunters – beyond their family, at least – this happened. Betrayal. Cowardice. Self-serving, short-sighted bullshit.

Magnus tilted his head back against the couch and let out a sigh that was less cathartic than he needed. He was even sighing angrily. If he didn’t get himself together, he’d be the one shattering glass.

There was a silver-lining to this rage though. It would serve him well when battle came. He could just imagine channeling it through his power and utterly crushing Valentine. In his heart, he still knew it wouldn’t be him but he was allowed the daydream.

The ring of his phone broke him out of it but Magnus wasn’t put out by that. He knew who was calling.

“Cat,” He said in greeting.

The invitations to the warlocks had gone out hours ago. Cat was tasked with making the calls to confirm who was coming and talking those reticent into showing up. Magnus had no Deputy or official right hand. He didn’t need or want one. On the rare occasion that something like this came up where he couldn’t do something himself – like now, for instance, when Magnus would reveal nothing until everyone was together in Pandemonium and if he made those calls himself people would waste time trying to wheedle out information out of him to see if it was worth their while to come – Cat and Ragnor had always been (occasionally grudgingly) willing to step in. It was something he did occasionally for other High Warlocks if they needed help.

Also, browbeating people into doing the right thing was well within Catarina’s talents.

Everyone you wanted has promised to show up.” Cat said with an undercurrent in her voice that said it had been a little hard won on her part.

If the situation were different, Magnus might have been pleased or excited to hear that. In this, he didn’t feel those things. Couldn’t perhaps . In their absence he was cold and prepared. Still, he gave Cat the answer she deserved.

“Excellent.”

 

---

 

Alec had been badly injured enough times to know what dying felt like.

Those moments when the pain faded but so did all warmth and sensation. When things went sort of gray and fuzzy and focus got hard. When his body got heavy and weightless all at the same time.

He felt like that now.

His heart was still beating and he could still breathe, so he knew he wasn’t actually dying – or at least he thought he wasn’t – but his body didn’t seem to entirely believe that.

It was hard to know how many hours it had been.

No one had come to him after Valentine had left, not even to make threats or gawk at the Shadowhunter with magic. He wasn’t sure if that was because Valentine had forbidden it or because they were afraid of him.

He knew Jace was awake but he didn’t know where. Not long after Valentine had left him, he had felt his parabatai come aware again with blistering rage. The kind of rage that promised blood.

And then that rage had changed.

It was still there, Alec knew it would be until Valentine was cold in the ground. It became tinged with a fear that made Alec’s heart pound with the echoes of it. Then came a rush of calm calculation – the sort of thing that Alec felt from him when they were deep in a battle.

At least one of them was ready for whatever came next.

Even as the fogginess from the drug faded, the collar kept Alec from being any threat to anyone at all. Just the way Valentine wanted.

The skin underneath had gone sore and raw from how much Alec has spun the tight fitting metal around and how he had scraped his fingers over every inch of it to find a seam or some sort of hint on how to get it off.

Everything in him screamed at him to get up and investigate the room, to see if there was a weak point or something he could use. If he didn’t feel like this, he would, even though he knew it was useless. Valentine wasn’t a man who left things to chance. This room would have been specially prepared for him – his reputation and his magic both. Wasting energy pounding on each section of wall or trying to pry open the pipes above was frantic, shortsighted and overall dumb.

But he wanted to. Angel, he wanted to do something. Anything to get to Jace and get the hell out of here.

The groaning of the metal door being forced to open had Alec tensing. Valentine again? Or was this whatever he’d meant when he said that tomorrow would be a big day?

In the open doorway, two men stood with black tactical gear on and livid red Circle runes on their necks. They stared at him for a few seconds and Alec could see the caution in their eyes.

He let his magic out to lick at his hands again. This, at least, Valentine hadn’t taken from him.

Their eyes took in his magic and he could see on their faces that though they had known he had it they hadn’t entirely believed it.

“Get up.” One of them said roughly.

Alec couldn’t, even if he wanted to.

He very much did not want to, not for them at least.

For a few seconds, they only stared at him. He could almost see the gears turning in their heads, the way they looked at his hands, then the collar, then back at his hands.

Did they trust their boss’ handiwork? Actually, which of their boss’ handiwork did they trust more? The collar or Alec’s magic? Alec was supposed to be his great masterpiece, after all. Right up there with Jace and Clary.

The other one stepped forward aggressively, “He said get up, Lightwood!”

This time they only gave him about thirty seconds to show he wasn’t going to comply before the second one, apparently the braver of the two, stalked forward angrily and grabbed his arm.

“Fuck,” He said, dropping it before he started shaking his hand out as though Alec had outright shocked him, “It feels like…”

He stopped and didn’t elaborate.

At least it bugged someone else besides him.

Alec watched him steel himself to grab him again and this time he didn’t let go. He hauled Alec up to his feet.

Even with the support, his knees buckled and the room swam around him sickeningly. He groaned. If he had eaten anything lately, he would have puked.

The two of them talked above him and another set of hands grabbed his other arm. They started walking and the movement only made it worse. His stomach lurched and he gagged.

“Don’t you fucking puke on me, kid. I’ll make you regret it.”

His legs scrambled underneath him, trying to keep up with them or even just push himself away. Each time he started to manage to stand upright, they turned a corner and he lost any progress he had made.

The metal grates on the floor reverberated as they stepped on it and the sound only added to the cacophony in his head. By the time they dumped him on the ground he had to curl up in a nauseous ball to pant through it.

“I thought I told you to get him in here without violence.” Valentine’s voice sounded unamused in a way that promised discipline. Bloody discipline.

“We didn’t do anything to him.” The bolder of the two said, “He wouldn’t get up, so we dragged him in.”

Valentine just sighed like they were all disappointments, Alec included. “Leave us. You have your orders.”

The footsteps walked away, echoing in the space. This place was big and industrial but he knew without a doubt that it was more than a warehouse. Some sort of old factory or something?

“Alec, get up.”

He opened his eyes and looked up at Valentine without moving his head.

The man stood above him with his head tilted to get a better look at him. He looked as fascinated as he ever did, like Alec was some new exotic toy.

The worst part? In a way, he was.

“You’re not doing yourself any favors.” Valentine said gently when he saw Alec looking at him.

Alec rolled onto his front, getting his knees underneath himself as he went. His arms shook as he tried to brace himself from going flat onto his face.

Black spots swam in his vision and he had to blink rapidly to clear them. Everything in him wanted to just stay where he was for a few minutes until the room felt more stable but he knew he couldn’t afford it. And besides, no matter how shitty he felt, kneeling at Valentine’s feet was never something he wanted to do.

When he was finally standing, he stumbled over nothing for a second until he managed to stabilize.

Valentine still wasn’t happy.

He looked at Alec critically, “Do you think I’m as stupid as the Clave?”

Alec said nothing. That was a trick question in every possible way.

“You didn’t look this bad when I came to Bane’s loft.” Valentine circled around him and Alec knew he was seeing every detail. The way his knees were locked to keep himself upright. The way his hands shook and his back kept wanting to curl in. The sway he couldn’t entirely get rid of. “What game are you playing, Alec?”

“Where’s Jace?” Alec asked his own question instead. His parabatai was literally the only thing he wanted to discuss with this man.

Out of nowhere, a fist flew at his ear, boxing him on the side of his head and sending him crashing back down to his knees.

“You answer me when I ask you a question.” Valentine said and though his voice was louder, he wasn’t shouting and he didn’t even seem particularly angry. Not the way the blow would have said he was.

His ear was ringing.

“Magnus used makeup and a sticking charm to keep it in place.” Alec answered him. He didn’t see much point in lying.

“Cancel it.” Valentine demanded.

“I don’t know how.” Alec answered simply.

“Get up.”

Getting to his feet the second time was harder but Alec was more determined than ever. The collar might have been sapping all his strength but that didn’t mean he was going to cower in front of this madman.

Once he was standing, Valentine circled around to his front. Their eyes met and Alec glared.

A rough hand reached for his chin and yanked his face around, looking at the painted shadows under his cheeks in different angles of light. “Take it off.”

“I don’t know how.” He repeated.

Valentine let him go, “Then what has Bane been teaching you this whole time?”

“Elements, mostly.” Alec answered him truthfully. If he could, he would rather hold the lessons about intent back. He wasn’t sure if the collar would allow him to throw magic designed to knock someone down – or maybe even something better, if he could work out how – but he wanted to have the option be an unknown. It wasn’t like Valentine could know much of anything about how warlocks trained so how would he even catch Alec out?

“Explain.” Valentine barked as though he were Maryse displeased after a mission hadn’t gone perfectly.

The comparison didn’t help anything.

“He’s taught me to connect my magic to the four main elements and manipulate them.” Alec answered. Saying my magic out loud to someone who wasn’t family was already off-putting enough but saying it to Valentine was something else entirely.

There was something coolly calculating in Valentine’s gaze, more than there should be for what Alec had just told him. He was still looking for the lies maybe, or it was just that he was generally fascinated by Alec.

“Jacobi!” Valentine shouted, “Bring me a glass of water!”

At least he picked the one Alec was good at.

“I was hoping for more.” Valentine said to him seriously. There was paternal disappointment in his eyes.

“So was my father.” Alec answered evenly.

Valentine laughed, “Robert has always been a fool. Weak. If he didn’t have Maryse leading him around by the balls he would have accomplished about a third of what he’s managed. All he’s ever been able to bring to the table is a good poker face and his family name.” He reached out and clasped Alec’s shoulder, “You’re better than him. You’re Maryse’s son.”

His assessment of Alec’s father was interesting and pretty unsurprising. Him calling Alec Maryse’s son was even more interesting, “Is that a compliment?”

“From me, in this moment, it is.” Valentine answered him.

The bolder guard, Jacobi apparently, came in holding a plastic glass with some logo written on it in chipped red paint. Valentine took it from him and held it out to Alec.

He held his hand out in front of it and instantly he knew this would be different than before. This wasn’t the effortless task it had been back in his practice room with Magnus. It was as though there was a barrier keeping his magic within him.

Refusing to fail, Alec pushed harder.

Nothing happened.

“Good.” Valentine said with a smile. “Now try again.”

Alec didn’t dare glance at him because he knew the man’s eyes would be fixed on the collar. When Alec reached out again, the barrier was still there but it felt almost like a single sheet of paper or something. Something he could poke a hole in with little effort but a barrier all the same.

The water spun up in a lazy cyclone from the cup. He felt sort of like he could have pushed it if he wanted, done something more elaborate or even shoved it in Valentine’s face like Jace had once laughed about. As good as that would feel in the moment, it was a short-sighted impulse. Valentine had Jace somewhere in this place and the threat wasn’t one Alec could take lightly. Being thought incompetent burned Maryse’s son but any advantage he could get holding back his abilities was worth it.

“Jacobi!” Valentine shouted again, “Bring her in!”

Her?

The doors opened and Alec saw the guards marching a woman in with about as much care as they had shown him, although she was able to walk herself. No collar around her neck but there were sick black veins spread across her skin. She was small and skinny with pale hair and her shoulders didn’t just seem hunched in now – the look in her eyes said it was sort of a permanent state.

“Beryl!” Valentine held his hand out and gestured for her to step forward. “I’ve got your pupil here.”

Alec looked between her hopeless eyes and Valentine’s grin with a sick feeling of dread.

Valentine looked back at Alec with clear excitement, “It’s time to learn real magic now.”

 

---

 

“You know I trust you.”

Magnus didn’t turn to face Isabelle. His focus was on the potion he was brewing. The wheels of his part of the plan were in motion. The invitations were sent, Cat had collected the replies and guaranteed him the turnout he needed. Soon the three of them would meet with Raphael and Luke to gather who they could from New York’s two other main Downworld factions.

It wasn’t just the main groups that Magnus was reaching out to though. He had plans that were broader. So many decades Magnus had spent doing favors and building relationships. He was calling in whoever he believed he could trust.

Soon, more than just their circle would know about Alec’s magic.

In this moment, he needed an outlet for his own magic that was productive. He needed to clear himself of the rage and get the awful visions of Alec being tortured out of his mind. It was mostly impossible, both counts. This potion he was brewing, a potent healing elixir, was the result of his restless mind and magic. Not a bad result but when his true desire was using his magic to implode Valentine’s skull it was a poor substitute.

He did it anyway. In this moment, if he didn’t do something useful he would lose his mind.

“But?” He prompted as he stirred the frothing concoction in his cauldron.

Isabelle came closer, entering his field of vision when she came to stand on the opposite side of his worktable from him. She lifted her hands and hovered them above the wood before laying them down and gripping the edge. “But nothing. I trust you. I just… can you please walk me through what you think the warlock response to this will be?”

He understood her fears. They had been keeping this such a secret that revealing it to anyone was worrying. What Magnus was proposing was far beyond a single person.

They were going to tell the entire Downworld. They were going to build their own army.

“Alec has become decently well known throughout the warlock community.” Magnus began calmly. His voice was near to monotone but he dare not infuse any more emotion in it. Not right now when he felt so painfully close to the edge. If he didn’t keep himself together, he was going to become his father’s son. There was temptation there but he knew he needed to play this slowly, play it smart. Say the right words to the right people, plan for the future, make this a collaborative effort. His father’s son did not do those things. Asmodeus’ blood demanded retribution and Magnus could not allow himself to fall into those impulses.

He continued, “That means that people other than me can vouch for him. That’s good. Though I have no wish to share Alec’s vulnerabilities with people who do not have his trust, I am prepared to say quite a bit to secure their sympathy. I truly believe they will embrace Alec. Of course every faction of the Downworld is protective of their own, that is not unique to the warlocks. That said, because we have our powers from birth, we are very protective of young warlocks because of how vulnerable they are. Though Alec is very different from us, his journey will not be. Learning magic isn’t easy. Facing persecution from the Clave isn’t easy either. Each of us have done those things and I plan on emphasizing both. When they see that Alec is embracing his powers, that he’s trying to learn and he’s dealing with wild magic the same as all of us did, they will embrace him.”

Izzy was quiet a moment. Taking his words in, perhaps. Or maybe she was reflecting on how different her own people were. In terms of embracing Alec, her own people were failing and had been long before he’d gotten his magic.

“So you’re sure.”

“I am sure.” Magnus promised her. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure if it was something he could completely promise but he knew his people.

He also knew his Alexander’s heart and he would make sure they did too.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Four


 

 

 

Alec shook on the floor of his cell, sure he had never been so wrecked before in his life.

“He’s powerful, yes.” Beryl said above him in her soft voice. She sounded like his grandmother had before her death. Like she just never had enough air in her lungs for volume. Instead of yelling, anytime she scolded him and Izzy as small children she just spoke quieter to make him lean in closer to really hear her.

“Then why is he on the floor?” Valentine asked. Though his voice was equally as quiet as hers it was only an intimidation tactic.

Because your guards dropped me here, Alec thought. He would have said it but he was shaking so hard his teeth were chattering. The floor felt icy cold under his cheek and that didn’t help anything. His bones ached.

His first lesson with Beryl hadn’t gone great.

“I don’t know.” Beryl’s voice was nearly a whine. Every moment she spoke, she sounded like she was at the end of her rope, “He’s reacting worse to the magical dampeners than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Valentine made a low humming noise but said nothing. He took a few steps closer and nudged Alec with the toe of his boot. “Get up, Alec. You have another lesson today.”

This time he couldn’t. Not even to keep himself from being the one cowering at Valentine’s feet, he couldn’t. There was nothing left in him.

Beryl wouldn’t give him a name of the spell he was learning. She wouldn’t explain what it was. Couldn’t, probably. She brought him little quartz crystals like the ones littering Magnus’ workroom and asked him to shatter them. He didn’t know how. When his magic tried to connect with the crystal it went… strange. He couldn’t explain to her what he felt, other than the idea that the crystal didn’t want to shatter and thus his magic didn’t want to shatter it.

She told him to channel his Angelic power through the magic to the crystal.

What did that even mean?

The collar warred with her demands. Even though Valentine had said he would allow Alec use of his deeper magic, the collar fought with him.

Between forcing his magic towards the crystal and forcing his magic through the collar and all his strength being sapped by whatever powered the thing, he was done.

And now Valentine said there was another lesson? A different teacher than Beryl?

What was this one going to be? Learn to manipulate lava while also wrapping it in a cloud? Turn a toad into an immortal living statue? What new impossible thing did Valentine expect Alec and his brand new magic to master?

Valentine seemed more than displeased with the way he shook. “Guess for me, Beryl.”

She was silent for a few seconds, “He’s not a warlock.”

“No,” Valentine said softly, “He is so much more.”

“The collar was meant for a warlock. He isn’t one.” Beryl elaborated.

“He will have to do better than a warlock ever could.” Valentine said and Alec knew nothing was going to convince him to take the collar off of him. He said those words like they would be true merely because there was no other choice. He would make it be that Alec had no other choice.

Valentine continued, “He said he can manipulate elements. He moved water when I asked. Crystal is an element. Was he lying to me?” There was an undercurrent of violence in his voice.

Alec wished he could lift his head and watch better. To see the threat in front of him properly. Every bit of battle strategy that had been hammered into his head was ruined lying down on the ground like he was.

He shifted his legs, just to see if he could. The movement was jerky at best.

“Crystal isn’t an element.” Beryl corrected him though it was clear she didn’t want to. Valentine had apparently picked the shyest, least threatening warlock of the bunch to be his teacher, which didn’t seem productive at all. Valentine had known Hodge, Alec’s chief tutor. Not even time could soften any memory of how exacting Hodge Starkweather could be.

Valentine knelt down beside him and stroked his hair back from his clammy forehead, “Beryl is an expert at working with crystals. I picked the very best for your teacher. I think we’re about to listen to a lecture.”

“Crystal is more than just something else the earth creates. There are a different set of rules for crystal entirely, and subsets within those rules for the different classes.” Beryl said more plaintively than in a lecture style. “No one starts learning magic by working with crystals.”

Valentine sighed and stood in one fluid motion designed to spook Beryl. It worked. Alec watched her take a single step back before bumping into the wall. If there was space in his little cell, she would have stepped back more.

“I’m hearing excuses.” Valentine said shortly. His voice was flat and unimpressed.

Beryl drew in a shaky breath, “It’s the truth. There’s a reason why so few warlocks specialize in crystal work. They’re temperamental and difficult. They have a mind of their own. It’s hard.”

Valentine took that in quietly and though Alec couldn’t see it, he knew his eyes were boring into her. “Hard isn’t an excuse. Tell me what progress he made.”

None.

Beryl said nothing.

“How many hours were you in there failing me?” Valentine asked him seriously, “Five, six? Be sure, because that’s how many hours Jace will bleed for your failure.”

“No,” Alec said through bitten lips.

“You have more lessons today. Get up!” Valentine shouted at him.

The words echoed around the metal room but they didn’t cover the sound of Beryl’s frightened gasp.

Alec pushed his arm against the ground, got himself up a few inches before his strength gave out and he fell back down in a crumpled heap.

“He was trying!” Beryl said quickly, “He moved the crystal! He just couldn’t crack it but it was only the first lesson-”

Get up!” Valentine shouted again, cutting her off.

 The thought of Jace being punished for his failure hurt. It hurt worse because he knew his brother would take the beating and would never blame him for it.

This entire day, the only comfort he’d had was the feeling of Jace through their rune. If he had to feel Jace’s pain and know that he was responsible...

He forced himself up onto his knees. The only thing to hold onto or use to lever himself up onto his feet was the bed frame and Alec’s hand struggled to grip it tightly. It was like when he was a child and hours of jarring blows in sword practice meant his muscles spasmed for ages afterwards, like when his arm was too spent to do more than curl his hand up half-heartedly when he demanded it close into a fist.

His legs scrambled underneath him, trying to find purchase. Then his arm gave out and he was back on the ground.

Try again. Get up. Don’t let Jace down.

He tried again, panting and shaking.

And he went down again, his elbow clipping the metal bed frame on the way down. The pain bloomed immediately but he didn’t let that stop him.

Get up for Jace.

Valentine said nothing as Alec kept falling and kept trying.

Rough hands grabbed at his sides and hauled him up onto the bed. Valentine.

Alec looked up at him just in time to see him turn away with a blank face. Valentine grabbed Beryl’s arm and pounded on the door.

“Wait, please…”

They left, the door slamming behind them.

Alec pushed himself up with everything he had left. He made it two steps before his legs buckled and his knees went crashing to the floor. “No, Jace… please, please…”

He was condemning his parabatai all because he was too pathetic to stand up.

His eyes went over the room frantically, as though there was something in there he could use that hadn’t been there before. Water from the tiny sink was all he had and by the end of practice his magic had been barely working. He would try again. If he could get them to open the door, maybe if they thought something was really wrong with him then…

The door opened again.

“Alec!”

He barely had time to register the flash of gold before Jace was kneeling in front of him pulling him into his arms.

“Jace,” Alec gasped as the door closed, “Jace, I’m sorry. I can’t do what he wants. I tried, I tried so hard, I swear. He’s going to hurt you. I’ll… I can do it. I can. I’m sorry…” Even while he said that, his head dropped down to lean against Jace’s shoulder. He was a liar. A weak liar and now Jace would pay the price.

“Shh,” Jace said quietly, breaking through his frantic words to shush him. “Shh, breathe. It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.” Alec said again. He felt like all he did anymore was apologize for his failures.

“By the Angel, you’re shaking so hard. This is worse than the magical exhaustion after he attacked the loft. What happened?” Jace’s hand rubbed his back briskly, like he was trying to warm Alec up. Just being pressed close to something that wasn’t cold metal made Alec feel a little more human.

“I can’t break the crystal.”Alec said a little hysterically as he eyed the door. How long would Valentine let them have this before he tore Jace away again? Would he come in here and torture Jace in front of him?

“I don’t understand, Alec.  Just breathe, okay? I’m here.” His hand trailed up and Alec felt him freeze the moment his fingers glanced over the collar. “What…?”

Jace pulled back from him and his skin flushed red with anger when he saw the metal wrapped around Alec’s neck. “What the fuck did he do to you?”

Alec’s eyes dipped down. He didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t,” Jace said, his hands going to Alec’s face to force him to look back up, “Don’t let him make you feel ashamed and especially not with me.”

Jace didn’t wait for Alec to nod. He didn’t seem capable of it. He let Alec go only to start the same frantic tracing that Alec had already done for hours.

“It doesn’t come off.” He said dully. “There’s no clasp or lock.”

“It has to come off.” Jace insisted. Though his fingers brushing over Alec’s irritated skin stung, he still let Jace do it.

He couldn’t see the collar. There was no mirror anywhere in the small bathroom Alec had managed to walk to before magic practice. He was only going by what his fingers told him.

He watched Jace’s defeat come slowly, the same way it had for him.

There was no way to get the collar off.

“What does it do?” Jace asked softly. “All these symbols, they must mean something.”

“It means he controls my magic.” Alec answered him equally quiet. He knew the conversation was important. Jace needed to know their limitations if escape ever came up. Still, his eyes strayed to the door every few seconds like a compulsion.

How much longer did they have?

Why was Valentine giving them this?

“Explain better.” Jace demanded.

“I woke up with it.” Alec didn’t think he would ever be able to forget what that moment of realization had felt like. Some echo of it must have crossed their souls because Jace’s jaw clenched, “It feels… I’m so cold and I feel like I haven’t slept in days. Everything feels so numb. He says it dampens my magic and makes it so anything more than tiny surface spells are only if he allows them but he can lock it all down if he wants.”

Jace listened carefully and Alec knew he was thinking about strategy too. “Okay,” His brother said slowly as he thought. “Anything else?”

“The warlock, there’s a warlock he has trying to teach me something. Her name is Beryl. She says she’s never seen anyone react like this and she thinks it’s because I’m not a warlock. He says there’s going to be more. Teachers, I mean.” Alec finished. He didn’t think he had any answers left for Jace. He drooped a little and Jace pulled him back in to lean against him.

“He’s got some sort of demonic language on a magical collar and he hung it around a Nephilim’s neck.” Jace said bitterly, “And he’s wondering why you’re this sick?”

Alec’s eyes shut against his will and he shuddered, “He’s going to come back and hurt you. I failed.”

“I don’t think so.” Jace’s voice went hushed, like this was something he didn’t want any potential cameras to pick up on. “When they took me out of my cell, I knocked the first guy out. I demanded to see you. He had a lot of guys with him, Circle members. I went after the next one – they were stupid to put me in such a small room. They have to come at me one at a time. I didn’t know Valentine was there until he called to me to play nice because I was getting what I wanted, so I let them lead me here. I think he’s realizing that the collar isn’t going like he intended. I think I’m here to help you.”

Maybe, but Alec didn’t think that was all. It couldn’t be. The only way that Valentine would give a shit about his wellbeing was if he really had some major use for Alec. Something beyond just standing at his side during battle to show off what Valentine had at his disposal.

Out of nowhere, Jace’s arms went tight around his waist and he stood, pulling Alec’s dead weight up with him. Once he was halfway to standing, Jace ducked under his arm to help him over to the bed.

He eased Alec down onto the thin mattress. “When was the last time you drank something?”

Alec didn’t answer.

“Shit.” Jace said and he stood up to go towards the tiny bathroom. There was a single metal cup in there along with the world’s most basic toiletries. Magnus would be horrified to see them.

The thought of his warlock steadied Alec. Even if it was only a daydream about Magnus’ offended sniff and a lecture about low quality ingredients.

Jace came back with the cup and slid an arm under his shoulders to pull him upright. “Magnus said juice and protein are good for magical exhaustion. Next time they come in here, I can try to ask.”

“Don’t piss them off.” Alec half begged. That, at least, felt familiar. He felt like he had been begging Jace to behave and not piss anyone off since they had met. 

Alec reached for the cup but gripping it was hard enough without the numb fingers and shaking. Jace held it too and Alec spilled more than he got down, but it helped ease the dryness in his throat if nothing else.

Once Alec had drank his fill, Jace put the cup on the ground and grabbed at the thin blanket Alec had been left with. He spread it over him and even tucked it around him, trying to make it do more than it was capable of.

“Get some rest, okay?” Jace said while he worked, “I’ll be here. If they come for me and you’re asleep, I’ll start yelling so you wake up.”

Everything in Alec wanted to stay awake. He wanted to watch Jace’s back like Jace was watching his. He wanted to talk to him, to figure this out and set up a plan. He wanted Jace to work on the collar more so they could get it off even though it seemed more and more that it wasn’t going to be that simple.

But he was so tired.

The second he let go and shut his eyes, he was under.

 

---

 

Magnus wished he could have called some massive assembly of the Downworld so he could give a rousing speech and then lead them into battle. He wished he could trust them all that much. He wished they didn’t still need to keep the Clave in mind even as they started to subvert their corrupt decisions.

He could not.

They had to start small.

They had to play this smart.

Cat stood beside him and Magnus saw the worry and sympathy in her eyes. Maybe even pity. Magnus had finally found the love of his life and his Shadowhunter kept getting ripped away from him. They wanted nothing more than to love each other in peace and yet the world kept fighting them.

That wasn’t what mattered right now though. Magnus needed to focus.

This meeting was the first step they were making towards the Downworld and tomorrow night would be the second. First, their closest allies. Then, his own people.

Raphael came with Simon, mostly because Clary wanted desperately to tell him the truth finally. At first Magnus balked – Simon wasn’t known for closed lips. He reconsidered almost instantly and realized he was doing the vampire a disservice. If nothing else, Simon was loyal to a fault. Though he and Alec were not friends, that wasn’t because Simon didn’t want them to be.

The second Raphael was through the doors of his loft, Magnus saw him narrow his eyes in his direction. His dour little vampire had known him for decades and it didn’t take that much history to know something was off with him.

While Simon, Isabelle and Clary spoke to each other, Raphael came to Magnus’ side, “¿Qué está mal?” What’s wrong?

“Te lo diré pronto.” Magnus murmured back. He would tell him soon but only when Luke arrived as well. He only wanted to do this once.  

Raphael scanned the room quietly, then, “¿Tu chico está dormido?”

 Is your boy asleep?

God, how he wished Alec was only resting in their bedroom.

“Basta, Raphael.” Cat said softly.

That was chastisement enough, apparently.

Luke came through the door next and there was already a grim look on his face. He, at least, had some sort of idea why they might be having an unofficial Downworlder Cabinet meeting. 

If he thought he knew then Magnus was about to blow his mind.

They had decided that while they trusted Meliorn far more than they trusted his Queen, they could not trust or involve the Seelie.

So, all the players had arrived.

“Please sit,” Magnus said. Normally he might have offered refreshments or treated this like some sort of party. This time, he did not. He could see his mood reflected back in their eyes with unease.

“What’s happened, Magnus?” Luke asked as he took a seat on the arm of the couch by Clary.

“You all know that Valentine kidnapped Alec.” Magnus started and didn’t wait for nods. The whole of the Shadow World was aware of it.

“What did Val do?” Luke looked angry already.

Magnus took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “He somehow managed to give Alec magic.”

The words were strange to say aloud after they had worked so hard to keep it a secret. It was easier to say them to these people than it was to Maryse but it was daunting nonetheless.

They stared at him.

“Magic?” Simon repeated.

“We don’t know how, only that it involved a lot of, for lack of a better word, drugs in Alec’s system and the death of five warlocks. It was torture and it nearly killed him. It did kill other Shadowhunters that Valentine attempted it on before Alec.” Magnus said as dispassionately as he was able. Time wasn’t healing those wounds.

Luke stood up angrily and had to turn away from them.

“Cat and I have already examined him. The magic, though somehow it involved other warlocks to create, is entirely his own. It’s not something that will run out or go away. He will have magic for the rest of his life.” Magnus explained. “I’ve been teaching him.”

“A Shadowhunter is allowing himself to be taught spells?” Raphael asked skeptically.

Alec,” Magnus answered with a heavy look at his adopted son, “Is allowing himself to be taught spells. Although we’re not quite at spells yet. He’s only at the basics and he will be for a while.”

“Wow,” Simon said quietly. He looked at Clary with wide eyes.

Magnus continued, wanting to get the rest of it out, “The Clave is unaware, of course. We cannot trust them. The plan was originally that Alec would be present when Valentine was killed so we could say that he had been instrumental in his death. Then we would reveal his magic and use the victory to ease reactions. Alec and his magic were having issues, however. It remained visible as they acclimated to each other,” No need to explain the details of Alec’s journey of self acceptance, “It forced us to lie about his condition, which put pressure on him from the Clave. He can absorb the magic into himself now, so he can walk around like any other warlock. We sent his statement to the Clave and they demanded he go to Alicante for questioning.”

“And Jace went with him and Valentine just couldn’t resist.” Luke finished for him.

“They were betrayed,” Izzy said with a hard anger in her eyes.

Clary wrapped her arm around Izzy, “We talked through all of the options the Clave would have in reaction to Alec’s statement. When arresting him came up, Alec said that Jace couldn’t go with him. He said it was too much of a security risk. We all thought Alicante would be more secure though, so when they demanded he come for questioning, Jace went with him for backup in case the Clave got suspicious or went too far.”

“We’ve always known that people in the Clave are secretly allied with Valentine.” Luke said sort of gently. Carefully, at least. An admonishment he didn’t want to give.

Izzy only nodded, “Yes, so Mom tried to make sure that only top level people knew about it. Whoever betrayed them, whoever is allied with Valentine, they’re high up.”

“How high?” Luke asked with narrowed eyes.

“Consul Malachi’s direct people. Imogen Herondale too and some people in her office but they’re all dead and we obviously don’t suspect Imogen.” Izzy said steadily.

“Fuck,” Luke swore under his breath.

“So now Valentine has Jace and Alec, his two homemade weapons?” Simon asked as he looked between the group as though he was very much hoping to see that they saw what a problem this was too. When he only got stony looks in response, he turned to Clary. “You have to be extra careful, okay Fray? We do not need him collecting the set.”

“I’m being careful, Simon.” Clary promised.

It was a wonder she didn’t explode into flames saying such a thing.

Luke apparently agreed, “Simon’s right, Clary. I know you want to be in the thick of things but you need to be smart here. No running off with half a plan, understand?”

“So what is the plan?” Simon asked, “Like, we’re all here for a plan, right?”

“The plan is us.” Raphael answered flatly. He looked to Magnus, “That’s why you’ve called us. The Clave is, as it always is, a lost cause. Valentine has nearly all the pieces in place for whatever his plan to eradicate the Downworld is. So we are the ones who must fight back.”

“I don’t think there’s enough of us,” Simon said with wide, skeptical eyes.

Luke let out a harsh sigh, “It was a huge thing, calling in the Downworld for the Soul Sword. And it went so wrong. To ask again?”

“Would they prefer wholesale slaughter?” Magnus asked with a deceptively calm voice. He was anything but calm but lashing out at his allies wasn’t going to do any good. “For all that I loathe most Shadowhunters, they at least understand battle and the cost of war still. Our ties with the Mundanes make us weak. Three hundred years ago every able bodied Downworlder would be shouting their approval for what I am asking. They understood honor and sacrifice.”

“This isn’t the War of 1812, Magnus. These are people’s lives.” Luke protested. His hands were clenched into fists, probably some mix of worry and anger. He used that closed fist to emphasize the word lives as though Magnus was unaware of the gravity of what he was asking.

He was not unaware.

An answer from him was spared when Cat shook her head, “Magnus is right. It’s easier to throw everything we’ve got into one battle that might save future generations than it is to stage a revolution after everything has gone to shit and we’ve been thrown in the dirt. And, if Valentine does what he’s been saying he’ll do from the start, then we won’t even make it to a revolution. We have no choice. The werewolves have no choice, the vampires don’t, the warlocks don’t and no other faction does either. We have to do this. It isn’t about rescuing Jace and Alec, although of course we all want to do that too, it’s about stopping him before he has all the pieces in place to kill us all.”

The room felt heavy as silence met her pronouncement.

“I will speak to the Clan.” Raphael said quietly.

Luke tilted his head back. He let out a slow sigh, “I’ll talk to the pack.”

“And I to the warlocks.” Magnus finished.

 

---

 

Hours later, when Magnus was alone again, he began to mentally plot what he would say to his people.

It was delicate, he knew that. Their feelings about Shadowhunters were negative, justified and deeply ingrained. Alec had slowly been earning the trust of the warlocks in New York and some friends that Magnus had introduced him to, but a few months of proving himself not a monster wasn’t enough to overcome centuries of distrust.

What Magnus needed to do was prove to them that Alec wasn’t so different than they had been when they too were learning magic.

There were ways to do that. It was just which to choose and what Alec would say about that choice after that Magnus worried about.

Though he was wrapped up in his planning, the sound of footsteps behind him didn’t alarm him.  His magic was so primed and ready, if it were a foe he would be able to incinerate them in a moment – his magic was feeling that touchy.

It wasn’t a foe, though. He knew that. Only three people were freely moving about in his loft right now and all of them were his.

“Magnus?”

Izzy’s voice was tremulous.

Magnus turned and the look on her face was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Stunned but not. No pain but deep resignation and just… there was so much and Izzy was feeling all of it hard. Her jaw was slack, her eyes were lost.

“We have news?” Magnus braced himself.

She shook her head but then paused before nodding. She took a step towards him and then just stopped again. “Not about Valentine…I… I have something to tell you and now isn’t the time and there’s so many more important things going on but I can’t keep it a secret from you and I need to talk to someone about it and…”

Magnus cut her off with a hand to her shoulder. He led her to a chair and knelt down in front of her once she was sitting. “I am here for you always.” He said simply.

 Those words seemed to cut her. She sagged in on herself and in that instant Magnus felt himself freeze.

It couldn’t be…

“Magnus,” She said once before she visibly shook herself and straightened back up. She saw the look on his face and sighed, “You suspected it too.”

It wasn’t a question.

There were so many emotions and thoughts running through Magnus he barely knew what to say. Helplessly, he started a sentence that he had no idea how to finish, “Isabelle…”

“Jace and I wondered.” Izzy started the story while Magnus’ heart began to pound. “We weren’t sure, we didn’t even know how to be sure. We didn’t want to ask you because if we were wrong it would be cruel to crush you like that. We weren’t sure that Cat would keep it a secret from you and we didn’t have any other warlocks we could trust. So I tried to do it myself. Jace took some blood while he was asleep once, just to make sure I didn’t upset his magic. I’ve been testing it. When it started to confirm what we thought, I double checked with a cheek swab. With everything that’s happened, I hadn’t gotten a chance to stop in the labs and check but I went tonight and it says the same as his blood did.”

All of these things she was saying were important. He wanted to know. He needed to know.

But he couldn’t focus.

She saw it. Her face softened and that alone had Magnus’s lips parting in a hope that he could barely endure.

“I’m pretty sure Alec is immortal, Magnus.”

There were hours since Cat had first put that thought into his mind where Magnus had been consumed by the possibility. It had eaten at him as nothing ever had before. The not knowing had nearly driven him insane.

And then, after he had lain there beside Alec with his soul screaming with the need to know, he had locked those feelings down deep because they weren’t important. Not now, not yet. They had to survive first.

Hearing Isabelle say what he had so obsessively wanted to know should have… it should have been an explosion. The world should have stopped turning.

It didn’t.

Someone honked down below them and it was so long and insistent that Magnus could hear it through his shock from all the way up here.

Izzy was still there, staring at him like he was the one with the answers.

And Alec was still in Valentine’s cage, wherever and whatever that was.

He shut his eyes and let out a slow breath. “We can have Cat confirm.”

“I’d like that.” Izzy said, voice small.

When he opened his eyes again, Izzy was staring at him. There was so much in the air between them. Questions and answers both. This felt like something that needed so much more than either of them were capable of giving right now.

You’ll take care of my brother long after I can? Her eyes asked.

Yes. Magnus promised her.

Izzy leaned forward so they could wrap their arms around each other.  

 

---

 

It took hours for the shaking to die down after his first lesson.

Each time Alec woke up, Jace was still there and he felt a little less like a hollowed out shell. They weren’t sure if he was feeling ‘better’ because his magic was getting a chance to regenerate, the sleep was helping his body recover or if it was some combination of the two.

They had to operate as if they were being watched all the time. It didn’t look like there were any cameras but that didn’t mean that they weren’t hidden or that Valentine had a warlock cast some sort of monitoring spell on them.

So they had to get creative to talk.

The two of them were lying on the single bed on their sides facing each other. The thin blanket they’d been left was tucked around them both but being pressed against Jace was doing a hell of a lot more to keep the cold at bay.

For just a few seconds, Alec allowed himself to long for the bed in the loft. It felt like he was sleeping on a cloud. The blankets were always warm but never too hot, as though Magnus had enchanted them to always be perfect.

And of course, he would have Magnus beside him.  His missed Magnus so badly it hurt. Not even just because Magnus would be able to get him out of here and get the collar off him. Though he would never wish capture on Magnus, he would still love to have him here beside him. Even if they couldn’t get away. Even if Magnus couldn’t get the collar off. If he could just be here, talking softly to him and keeping him sane.

He was more grateful than he could say that he had Jace beside him. If he was alone…

“I don’t think it’s like before.” Jace whispered into his ear and through the bond, Alec felt an echo of the pain of separation. “This.”

They were doing the best they could to talk without giving too much away to whatever cameras were listening to them. Alec might have been mostly useless if an escape ever came up but that didn’t mean he couldn’t help Jace plan for it.

Now, they were trying to work out where they were based on Clary’s guesses. Jace was saying he didn’t think they were on a boat again. He didn’t think it was like when they had been separated before when Jace had been forced to go with Valentine.

“No.” Alec said and he tried to focus on the way boats made him kind of nauseous. How exactly that was different from how he felt right now he couldn’t really say but Jace huffed out the smallest laugh and Alec knew he had gotten it.

“Water.” Jace said, as though he were offering some to Alec.

Alec nodded, “Sounds nice.” The pipes above them had to be filled with water. That’s all it sounded like. 

“Tastes okay, you think?” Jace asked him. “Tastes clean.”

A water treatment plant. That was where Jace thought they were. He let the understanding flood the bond so Jace knew he’d gotten it.

“Maybe,” Alec said, although the bond let Jace know he agreed.

“I miss Clary.” Jace told him and though Alec knew that was true, he also knew why Jace was choosing to say it now.

This place, if they were right, was on Clary’s list.

That was potentially a massive help for them and any hope of rescue.

Jace pushed a wave of hope at him.

Alec let it warm him for a moment. Even though they were still trapped, even though Alec felt so weak he could barely walk, even though Jace was being used against him…

They had hope.

It also helped them in terms of escape. If Jace knew where they were, he knew the best route home. He knew how close they were to allies and places they could hide. There wouldn’t be any of the frantic, aimless running of Alec’s first escape.

But all of this was only if they were right. They were guessing. It wasn’t even like they were getting to hash it out in depth to really decide.

A water treatment plant did make sense though. Especially in terms of Magnus being unable to track them. That much water, in addition to the spellwork of the captive warlocks and Valentine’s creative use of Angelic runes and demonic languages, would do the trick.

It put them one step closer to successfully getting away from Valentine, either on their own or because Magnus, Izzy and Clary came for them.

He had no illusions that the Clave was coming. He knew they weren’t.

They heard a creak outside the door and Jace’s arms went tighter around him, as though if his parabatai held him close enough he could save Alec from being torn away from him.

The bond hummed anxiously between them, waiting for the door to open.

When nothing came, they relaxed but not by much. It wasn’t a question of if the guards came for Alec. It was when.

Valentine wanted this spell mastered and he wasn’t willing to take any delays or excuses. Nevermind he had locked Alec’s magic down with a demonic language that was maybe killing him. Not knowing what he was working towards didn’t help either. Beryl certainly couldn’t explain anything – both because she obviously wasn’t allowed and because he wasn’t sure she was actually capable of making loads of sense.

Whoever or whatever the other lessons Valentine mentioned were, he hadn’t yet been forced into them. After Beryl’s lesson had gone so badly, he was and wasn’t surprised.

If he had to pair up a lesson of Beryl’s with some other lesson – and he would, he knew that, this little break of Valentine’s wasn’t going to last forever – he wasn’t sure how he’d come out of it conscious.

Magnus’ warning about draining himself to death in pursuit of more power was beginning to make sense.

When he had whispered that to Jace, his brother had gone pale.

The door burst open and Alec shut his eyes tightly.

Jace jumped up and covered Alec protectively, “I want to talk to Valentine.”

“Valentine doesn’t want to talk to you.” One man said with a mocking edge to his voice. “Get up, Lightwood.”

A firm hand kept him pressed down to the thin mattress. Jace said nothing but Alec knew he was challenging them.

He moved, even though Jace was silently demanding he stay. He didn’t doubt that Jace could take these men out but he also didn’t want to give Valentine any reason to separate them again. Worse, he didn’t want Valentine to decide to arm his men better to come in and get him.

He wouldn’t let Jace get hurt.

“Alec,” Jace said in a voice closer to a growl.

“Good boy, Lightwood.” The man praised him with a grin, “Take it like a man.”

The other guard snorted.

“Shut your fucking mouth.” Jace stood and took a challenging step towards the man who had made the ‘joke’.

And that man took a step back from Jace.

“I’m ready.” Alec said firmly. Even though every inch of his body ached, he still levered himself up and standing without any help from Jace or without the guards grabbing him and dragging him away.

“Alec.” Jace started.

Stop, Alec sent to him as best he could.

Jace’s jaw clenched but he didn’t do anything else.

Alec dreaded the magic lesson that was to come with every cell in his body but there wasn’t any way around it. He had to do this. Valentine was going to have something to say if he kept making no progress.

All he could do was hope that when the opportunity for rescue or escape came it was before Valentine realized that Alec wasn’t capable of what he was demanding.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Five


 

 

 

Magnus surveyed the crowd that had slowly gathered in Pandemonium with a cool eye. There was some part of him that had started to feel detached from the emotion of what was happening and what he was about to do. Though only hours ago his entire world had been rocked once more, Magnus’ focus had again narrowed down. This moment was what mattered, not what his life might be in two hundred years.

All of this was necessary and he knew that. A battle was building and that battle might change literally the entire landscape of the Shadow World. Magnus had planned battles before. He had been the secret weapon, he had been the tide turning. He knew war.

He knew he could not do this alone.

But a bigger part of him than he was perhaps comfortable with found this all so small and tedious.

The love of his life was torn from his side, was vulnerable and needed him.

And he was here, in his nightclub, giving rousing speeches to warlocks who might choose to turn their cheeks to the war coming. They might choose to bury their heads in the sand.

Keeping his magic within the confines of his body got harder and harder with each beat of his broken heart. He wanted to burn it all away and set the city on fire until he had his beloved in his arms again.

“Magnus?” Catarina asked in a voice that Magnus didn’t often hear.

Cautious. Aware. Worried.

Wary.

She knew him too well.

“I’m here, my friend.” Magnus assured her with a deceptively even voice. His eyes didn’t connect with hers though and she knew that he only half meant it.

“He’s got his brother with him.” Cat reached out and squeezed his arm tightly. “He’s strong. You got him, physically and magically, to a good place before this happened and that will carry him through. We’re going to get him back.”

Magnus’ glamour flickered as he turned to finally look at her. There was such love and concern in her eyes.

“For the world’s sake, I hope so.” Magnus said simply.

Cat didn’t smile. That wasn’t a sentiment that warranted a grin. Still, her hand and her grip didn’t waver.

“I think we’ve got everyone now.” Cat’s eyes left him to survey the group. “Are you ready for this?”

“No.” Magnus said, “But I’ll do it anyway.”

There wasn’t really anyone else who could.

Cat squeezed his arm one last time before letting go and taking her seat.

And Magnus stepped onto his platform where his throne usually sat. He’d vanished it away for this. The look of the indolent warlock surveying the mass of writhing bodies was suited to a throne. His blood always meant that he was welcome to one. He could go to Edom now and have a kingdom if he wanted it.

These people knew it. He did not remind them of it, he did not need to. Being overt would only put them on edge. There were always whispers about him.

Standing before them was more than enough.

“Thank you all for coming.” Magnus started because that was how someone started these things. First respect. “I chose all of you because of your ability to see the bigger picture and your abilities as leaders. I cannot invite every warlock in the world here and give them this information but between us, I hope we can reach as many of us as we can.”

First respect, then flattery.

“I don’t think I need to explain Valentine Morgenstern to anyone here? We know his aims… and we also know his uncanny intelligence.  He is not the first threat the Downworld has faced, but he might be the most credible one we’ve been up against in centuries.” Magnus let his glamoured eyes trace over each face in the crowd. The intent ones, the skeptical ones, the ones who seemed afraid. All of them.

For the skeptical, he said, “I know that paying the respect of believing to any Shadowhunter grates. I know many wish to denounce him as a madman. He is a madman… but that doesn’t mean he isn’t brilliant. The things he has created proves that many times over. The plans he creates and the decades he layers over them… we cannot dismiss this.”

“Valentine has created four weapons for whatever this final plan is that he’s working towards. The first was his son, Jonathan. He gave his unborn son demon blood. We thought that Jace Herondale was Jonathan but we were misled. Jonathan lived and Valentine eventually sent him to Edom.”

There were flinches in the crowd, those who hadn’t known that full truth. “Valentine stole the unborn son of another couple and gave him Angel blood. This is Jace Herondale. He raised them concurrently but separately and used all of these lies to trick Jace into touching the soul sword. The boy thought he was deactivating the sword to save the Downworld and knew he was committing suicide in the process. What actually happened was the activation of the sword, the reveal of his true parentage and the death of all the brave Downworlders who tried to help that day.”

Magnus looked through the crowd. He knew Jace was a sore point among the Downworld. They accused him of having known what was going to happen. Magnus might have been one of them had he never met Jace or the Lightwood siblings. “I know everyone thinks I’ve become soft or too close to the situation but I don’t care. Believe me or not. Jace feels the weight of those deaths keenly. He’s fighting against Valentine. He always will.”

“The first son, his biological son Jonathan, was recently killed by Jace, Isabelle Lightwood and Clary Fray. That brings us to Clary herself. I think everyone should have gotten at least some gossip about her?” Magnus asked with a tired smirk. “She, like Jace, also has Angel blood.”

He saw nods across the room. Clary wasn’t some huge revelation anymore. Not to whispering warlocks anyway.

“That brings us to Valentine’s newest… creation.” Magnus hated that word but he hated the alternatives even worse. The idea of calling his Alexander an experiment turned his stomach.

“Alexander Lightwood is the Head of the New York Institute. He has been attempting to mediate difference between the Downworld and the Clave. Those in New York can attest to his dedication to this cause. He recently created a Downworld Cabinet with the leaders of all major local Downworld factions so we could talk through issues and keep things transparent. I make no secret that I love him, but I admit I nearly laughed at him when he brought the idea to me before instituting it.” Magnus said to them freely. He wanted them to know Alec’s heart as best they could before he told them the rest.

“The first meetings have gone wonderfully. Trust is being built. Not with the Clave, never with the Clave, but with Alec as a person. You can talk to the Alpha of the werewolf pack, you can talk to the vampires… it’s true. I’m not blind because I care for him.” Magnus assured them. “Any of us who know Raphael Santiago know that warm and fuzzy emotions aren’t his forte. He wouldn’t suffer the meetings if they didn’t produce results.”

Lorenzo Rey, a long time sarcastic asshole and persistently obnoxious ‘nemesis’ of Magnus’ – he didn’t truly think Lorenzo was much of a nemesis but he was aware that the warlock probably had a dart board with his picture on it in his gaudy mansion – opened his mouth to speak but Magnus smoothly countered the point he was about to make, “And though Raphael is close to me, I assure you, he and Alec aren’t particular friends. Raphael and Alec’s sister had a bit of a thing and Alec nor Raphael have warmed to each other. I might have twisted an arm to get Raphael in the first meeting but he is no child. Nor is he a fool. He can recognize the closest thing to an ally the Downworld has had in a Shadowhunter in decades and he can put aside his own feelings to do it.”

And that neatly shut Lorenzo up… for now at least. Magnus had no doubts the odious man would have more commentary if Magnus gave him an opening.

“I tell you this not because I want to make you love him like I do. I love him for many reasons but I trust him because he has earned it. Because he saw my warlock mark and he said it was beautiful. Because he risked his entire world to be with me. Because he stands up for me literally every day he goes to work. It would be so much easier for him if he walked away from me. I wouldn’t even be angry with him, truthfully. I would understand.” There was no part of Magnus that wanted to reveal such intimate details about his love to these people, even to his friends, but he knew the words he needed to speak. “I tried to walk away from him because I thought we were too different. Because I thought he was too much of a Shadowhunter and I too much a warlock. But he never flinched. He loves me with his whole heart. And I’ve seen the truth, that we can be together because we want to be and to hell with the rest of it.”

Magnus looked around the room again and went a little more quiet, “I don’t say this lightly or because I want your approval. I don’t care, frankly. I’ll love him no matter what anyone says. I tell you this because I want you to understand his heart as much as you can.”

He took a deep breath.

“Because Alec is Valentine’s fourth weapon. Alec is Jace’s parabatai, they share a soul bond. Because of that anchor and because Alec is so comfortable with my magic, Valentine decided that he would be the perfect choice for his newest goal. He killed other Shadowhunters trying. He killed warlocks too.”

Everyone in the crowd, even Lorenzo, looked rapt now. They knew this was going to be big, although Magnus was quite confident that none of them were going to shout that they had known it all along when he was done.

Magnus continued, “He kidnapped Alec. He pumped him full of some sort of potions or drugs or both. He put him in a cage and almost killed him with the pain and sickness of those drugs. Then, he brought Alec to a machine that we don’t yet understand. Strapped into it were five warlocks. Alec is barely able to speak of those moments. He doesn’t know how to process it all. The only things he can tell me with certainty is that he thought he was going to die and that the warlocks thought he was going to die as well. He said that they tried to comfort him. They knew what was happening even though he was too sick to figure it out.”

“They died.” Magnus said softly. He left a pause here in respect for the brothers and sisters that they had lost, although they did not yet know their names. “And Alec nearly died with them.”

It felt like there should be some weighty sigh before Magnus spoke their reveal. He did not. Instead, his voice was as dispassionate as he was able to make it, void of any of the complete shock that he knew was going to come in a moment, “Valentine gave Alec magic.”

Silence.

Complete ringing silence.

After a few beats he heard a muffled gasp and he saw people looking to each other in disbelief. This wasn’t like telling other people. He didn’t need to explain the basics to them. They understood. They knew.

“The magic is coming from within him. It is entirely his own. He has a magical core now. His runes still work. He is both.” Magnus said to the silent crowd.

“That isn’t possible!” Someone shouted from the back.

“And yet it is.” Magnus said simply.

“Why would Valentine turn a Shadowhunter into something he hates?” Yulia, a warlock that Magnus hadn’t seen in decades, called to him from her seat behind Cat.

“I wish we knew for sure.” Magnus said truthfully. “I’m sure that Alec is meant for some greater plan. In the meanwhile, if he can get Alec on his side – which will not happen – then he has a Shadowhunter with the gifts of a warlock, something he has made free use of in the past. He has a threat against the Clave. And he has something to drive a bigger wedge between Shadowhunters and Downworlders but not only that, he believes that your reaction to Alec will further cement the lines of division between our people. Any young Shadowhunters who have started to believe in Alec’s vision will be proven wrong when the warlock community rejects Alec.”

“So that’s what this is about then?” Lorenzo drawled up to him, “That we should be nice to your boy or we’re playing into Valentine’s hands? That we should embrace him when he will not embrace us?”

Magnus fought the urge to glare, “Why do you think he won’t embrace the warlocks?”

“Where has he been? Hiding in disgust from his new magic? Where is he now? Letting you speak to us for him?” Lorenzo raised his voice purposefully. He wasn’t asking Magnus, he was asking the rest of them and trying to sway their opinion. That was one thing Lorenzo was entirely too good at.

At these accusations Magnus didn’t bother keeping the coolness from his gaze. “I’ll take those questions one at a time, shall I? Where has he been? In my home, recovering from what Valentine did to him and trying desperately to keep the Clave from finding out the truth or Valentine from getting him back. Alec escaped on his own, half out of his mind he was so sick. Do you suggest he shake that off and immediately storm the Clave to share his new abilities with them? Valentine attacked my loft in an attempt to force Alec to return to him. He’s been in hiding for his life.

Lorenzo crossed his arms and seemed like he was one step away from rolling his eyes.

“You say he’s disgusted by his magic.” Magnus cocked an eyebrow as he waved his hand towards the floor in front of him.

Suddenly, a ghostly vision of Alec appeared sitting on the ground. He was see-through and tinted blue but was solid enough. Before him was a familiar bowl of water.

Magnus’ heart ached. He could barely look at Alec from that wonderful day. Not knowing that right now Alec might be in pain and crying out for him. And especially not knowing how badly Magnus had failed in his promise to keep his love safe.

The vision of Alec held his hands over the water and that familiar expression of concentration came over his face. The warlocks went hushed, watching him.  Some in the back stood.

There was only silence when the water shot up from the bowl and his own voice echoed the room saying “We have success!”

Alec’s laugh came next, so pleased and surprised. There was no hatred in it. There was no disgust. He had been so proud of himself that day. Magnus tore his eyes from the echo of Alec and found Lorenzo watching, his narrowed eyes relaxing.

“I guess I have to be more specific?”

“How so?”

“I just kept thinking that I wanted it to go up. I didn’t mean one big geyser though. That was easy. That was way too easy.”

They watched how Alec immediately formed the water into a ball and how genuinely delighted he looked. The tinge of pride that brought a flush to his cheeks.

“Make it hot.”

That gorgeous concentration again and then the bubbles that signified yet another win.

“What you’re doing right now isn’t just manipulating the water. You’re also infusing your magic with intent. Intent, Alexander, is incredibly important.”

The ball of water disappeared but it had clearly solidified before invisible memory of himself plucked it away.

“Very good, love. I’m quite impressed. Shall we try another?”

Magnus had to turn away here. He couldn’t look at that bashful smile again. Not when Alec wasn’t by his side anymore.

Earth came next and Magnus took the few seconds of Alec concentrating quietly to pull himself back together.

The warlocks were leaning forward to try and see what Alec was doing. They saw the focus and the effort he was putting into it. They saw the way his hands were shaking he was trying so hard.

And they saw him not giving up.

“That was harder.” Alec finally said.

And that was where the memory cut off.

“What was he doing?” Lorenzo asked quietly. There was something softer in his eyes. For all that Lorenzo was an ass, he also liked to take on young apprentices. Indoctrinate them to his glory, usually, but teaching was a calling Magnus felt as well so he could hardly speak too poorly of Lorenzo, especially when he consistently taught his warlocks decently well.

Magnus didn’t want to explain. “Drawing something in the dirt.”

“Drawing in the dirt?” Another warlock asked. Magnus couldn’t see who it was fast enough.

He sighed and snapped his fingers, conjuring the transformed pile of dirt from that day. He hadn’t had the heart to vanish it, so instead he had turned the dirt into something like clay and had hardened it. His own little secret.

A secret he was now showing a room of people who had barely ever met Alec.

The dish was long gone, so Magnus was able to hold the dirt in his hand facing out towards the crowd.

“A heart?” Yulia asked quietly.

He couldn’t answer. His entire being would break down into shattered pieces if he had to articulate it.

They heard it though. They all did.

Alec drew a heart in the dirt with his magic… for me.

Magnus waved his hand and sent it back to his workroom to its hidden spot.

“He’s very careful not to call himself a warlock. I think he’s still feeling out what being some sort of hybrid means for him but even more than that, he knows that being a warlock is more than just the magic. He doesn’t want to be disrespectful. Still, he is hungry to learn. He’s fearful of wild magic, the same as any young warlock is. He has a great affinity to fire and water. More than once I found him sitting in a circle of wine glasses making water hop around him. He’s learning.” Magnus said instead of answering her.

“And, like any other young warlock, he is afraid. He is desperately afraid of what the Clave might do when they find out. We’ve taken great pains not to tell them the truth and I need you all to know that any one of you can go to the Clave now and ruin his life if you wanted to. Depending on their mood, you might even get him sentenced to death.” Magnus said the words stoically but the idea of such a betrayal from his own community physically hurt.

That was why he was phrasing it all like that. Why he was telling them in this order even. He wanted to endear Alec to them. Then he wanted to remind them of their own younger selves. Alec and his fears weren’t so different, even though he had runes on his skin.

“They still don’t know?” Lorenzo asked. The derision had faded away. Magnus did not dare guess that he saw concern in Lorenzo’s eyes but certainly Magnus wasn’t seeing hatred. “Is that why you’ve called us here? You need help guarding him from Valentine but you can’t rely on the Shadowhunters?”

Magnus stared steadily back. “You had one final accusation I believe. Why isn’t he here beside me?”

Matthias, one of Lorenzo’s lackeys and a former student, was sitting beside Lorenzo. His face fell. Lorenzo was too polished for that but Magnus could see an understanding beginning to dawn.

“When we could no longer hide Alec away, he agreed to go to Alicante to give testimony about his time with Valentine. Being his parabatai gave Jace the right to go with him.”

Lorenzo sighed, “The Clave sold him out.”

Magnus tilted his head, “Someone within the Clave did. Few knew he was coming in advance. Only those quite high up.”

He let that implication speak for itself.

“Valentine infiltrated. He took Alec and Jace both, two of his homemade weapons.” Magnus finished, genuinely tired.

“Weapons against the Downworld or weapons against the Clave?” Matthias asked grimly.

“Both, weapons against anyone who stands between him and his ultimate goal, the eradication of the entire Downworld.” Magnus answered just as grimly. “I don’t know what his plan is but I know he’s in the end stages of it. If we don’t act swiftly, we risk every single Downworlder’s life. Walking away and washing your hands of this is suicide and murder both.”

He waited for one of them to call him dramatic. He waited for someone to scoff with an angry huff meant to cover up their fears.

But no one did anything at all.

“What you all decide to do about Alec and his magic after this is up to you. Of course I want you to embrace him both because I love him and because I know there is virtually no chance that the Clave will. At best they’ll let him live outside of a cell. I want to prove to them that the warlock community is better than them. I want to prove it to young Shadowhunters who believe in Alec and the harmony between us all that he is trying to make possible. And I hope that having the weight of the warlocks watching the Clave might convince them against making moves against him.” Magnus laid it all bare. “But this cannot just be about rescuing Alec and Jace. This is bigger than them.”

He looked across the crowd and tried to make eye contact, even a second of it, with each and every warlock. “I’ve seen many Shadowhunters come forward through the centuries with plans to somehow kill all those with demon blood. I’ve listened to their hateful speeches, I’ve fought in battles against them. Some were credible threats and others mere annoyances. Never before have I been truly afraid. Never before have I thought that we were really at risk.”

“If anyone is going to manage this horrific act, it will be Valentine Morgenstern.”

And then Magnus stopped speaking.

It was their turn.

He knew he’d had some of them before he even started speaking. He had seen others become more determined the more he spoke.

But there were some who still looked afraid.

It was Lorenzo who broke the silence.

The pompous warlock sighed, “And do you have a plan, Bane, or must we figure that out for you?”

Magnus smiled.

 

---

 

Alec truly couldn’t tell if Beryl was just a horrible teacher or Valentine’s rules were to blame. Or maybe Magnus was an amazing teacher and he was unfairly holding everyone to that standard.

He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he and Beryl were speaking English but somehow it was still two different languages.

“Disrupt the flow of the crystal.” Beryl said as she set down another small hunk of quartz in front of him. She could easily do what Valentine wanted. She demonstrated for him only when she had to because it upset her to break the crystals.

Those demonstrations should have helped except this wasn’t like Hodge going through the motions of a new block with seraph blades or something. Alec’s eyes couldn’t do anything to understand what she was doing.

Sometimes Beryl made the crystal shatter. Sometimes she made it explode. Sometimes she held her hands out and sometimes she did it without any motion at all. The hands thing was a suggestion to him, she didn’t need it, just like how Alec didn’t need his hands to connect with water anymore.

The farthest Alec had gotten was connecting his magic to the crystal. The quartz still didn’t want to shatter. It felt like it was refracting Alec’s magic away from itself. Water didn’t do that.

“I don’t know what that means,” Alec said again. Each lesson he tried so hard not to give in to the frustration that wanted to explode inside of him. He had to try. “I don’t even feel a flow, so how can I disrupt it?”

Beryl’s lips pursed and her eyes darted to the guards watching them with predatory gleams in their eyes.

He and Beryl were sitting on the ground in some empty room away from that massive one that Valentine seemed to have claimed. There were pipes running above their heads and Alec wished for the thousandth time that he knew how to manipulate metal so he could access any of that massive quantity of flowing water. All he and Jace had in their room was a sputtering little sink.

It was Beryl who insisted that they sit directly on the cold floor. She said it would ground them. All it did was ramp up the aches in his body and make him shake from the cold even harder.

“Access the vibrations.” Beryl said yet again.

What vibrations?” Alec was nearly to the point of snapping at her.

Her hands reached for his. It was a pretty big concession from her because he had already noticed that she didn’t like touching or being touched. Still, she gamely put her hands over the backs of his and held them about three inches from the crystal. “Connect your magic to the crystals.”

He had mastered step one. If she were Magnus, he would have gotten some sort of praise for that. Beryl barely blinked.

Not for the first time, he got the feeling that before Valentine she had maybe not spoken to another living being for a good decade or two.

Although, she considered crystals to be living beings so that was maybe not a worthwhile point to her.

“Focus, Alec.” Beryl pleaded.

He sighed and got to work. He let his magic lick against the crystal, more cautious now than he had been in the beginning. Going in full barrel with his magic only made his magic and the crystal’s energy fight each other.

“You and the crystal are grounded to Earth.” Beryl said, as though the two of them were sitting in a fae forest and not some possible water treatment plant. “The crystal is always bound to Earth. They are connected.”

Alec did his best to try and feel what she was asking him to feel. The crystal just kept deflecting him. It had maybe gotten harder if anything.

Although…

Intent was important.

“Do you think the crystal senses that I want to shatter it?” Alec asked Beryl cautiously. “Like it knows my intent?”

Beryl only nodded and then bit her lip.

Great. So not only did it seem like this was getting harder, it actually was. The crystal somehow knew he wanted to break it so it was fighting him.

He was getting a better sense of what Beryl meant back in his cell when she said that nobody started with crystal work.

“You can never sever the connection between crystal and Earth.” Beryl said instead of touching the whole intent thing. “But you can corrupt it.”

“So I have to corrupt it first?” Alec asked before he had to lean away to cough. It only made his head ache even worse.

Beryl sighed, “There is no first. Sense the flow. Access the vibrations. Corrupt the connection. Redirect. Ground yourself.”

“All at once?” Alec asked incredulously. How did that even make sense?

“You have to be sure. You have to breathe and do.” Beryl said.

Instead of wasting time whining about how absolutely unhelpful those instructions were, Alec pushed aside how tired he was and how his head was aching and tried to figure it out himself.

He brought his hands back into position over the crystal and started slowly. He tried to tell himself, his magic and the crystal that he really only wanted to understand, not to shatter. Just understand.

Between the crystal fighting him and the collar fighting him he felt like he was losing the battle in every direction.

The crystal rejected him immediately. He wasn’t even really sure how he knew. If Jace asked for an explanation on any of this, Alec wasn’t going to be able to say anything worthwhile. He was going to sound about as rational and tied to actual reality as Beryl did, which was not much.

Alec took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

The key to everything for him, time and time again, was relaxing and letting his magic do its thing without his fears and worries getting in the way. Contrary to what everyone thought, he was aware of that.

He literally dared anyone to tell him that he was being grumpy and pessimistic while he was kidnapped and wearing a demonic collar.

Magnus’ voice came to him like a hushed whisper in the back of his mind.

Relax darling, breathe.

Angel, how he wished it were Magnus trying to teach him this.

Alec refocused and pushed his magic back out towards the crystal. Not to shatter, just to understand.

The second his harder push connected with the crystals energy, the thing went shooting off to the side like he and it were magnets that didn’t like each other.

“What the…” Alec looked wide eyed over to where the crystal had ended up, a good ten feet away.

Beryl stood and rushed over to retrieve it. “Go gently!” She admonished like he was an asshole.

“I should shatter it gently?”

She set the crystal down and her hands hovered over it as though she wanted to give it a reassuring pat. “Be respectful.”

“Beryl…” Alec sighed, “I’m trying but I don’t understand anything.”

“You have to focus.” Beryl said, as though that were the problem.

He shivered and took the break to give him a couple of minutes with his arms wrapped around himself. He wasn’t sure it helped but it didn’t hurt and it made him think he felt better, so whatever.

“I am focusing but if I don’t understand the goal then I can’t visualize what I need to do.” Alec tried to explain. “Have you ever worked with Magnus Bane before?”

Beryl hesitated before she nodded. “I wouldn’t really say we worked together but I’ve worked with Ragnor Fell before and Magnus helped.”

That she would be a better friend of Ragnor’s instead of Magnus’ was not a surprise in the slightest.

“I’ve only ever learned any magic from Magnus. Can you try to explain like you think he might? If you give me all the steps at once, I might get it better.” Alec tried. He didn’t dare mention he had learned from Catarina. He was pretty sure that Beryl and Cat were not friends.

“Crystal doesn’t tolerate steps,” Beryl protested, “It’s not like potions or something.”

“Can you try? I can’t do this in one swoop.” Alec was doing his best not to get frustrated.

After a few seconds of thinking, Beryl shrugged, “I’ve never heard him talk about crystals before. He just does it.”

Alec bowed his head as much as he could without the collar choking him and tried not to start screaming.

“Hey!” One of the guards called to them, “I’m not seeing a lot of magic practice.”

With a frustrated sigh, Alec held his shaking hands out and tried again.

 

---

 

By the time Alec was dragged away from Beryl, he wanted to sleep for twenty years.

Not just because he was tired, although he was, but because his head was aching. She was so confusing. He felt like they’d been speaking in tongue twisters to each other.

“Time for your next class.” Jacobi grinned at Alec.

Wait, not back to Jace?

Alec didn’t give him the satisfaction of reacting. He just tried to keep his legs underneath him. Valentine had already said that Alec was going to have more than just lessons with Beryl. Whoever this was, he was praying they weren’t going to give him a line of nonsensical instructions.

The next door opened and a wall of heat that felt like it was melting his face off hit him. Alec got pushed inside with enough force that he was back down on his knees again. Great. He groped at the wall to get himself upright.

“I had heard rumors.” A woman’s serene voice said.

Alec looked into the corner the voice had come from. A woman was sitting there, dark skin and a stained white t-shirt.

Her face was familiar but it still took him a minute to recognize her.

“You’re Cleophas. You’re Luke’s sister.” Alec realized. He stood but didn’t make any move closer to her.

She nodded, “I am. And you’re Alec Lightwood, Head of the New York Institute and newly made warlock.”

“I’m not a warlock.” Alec protested quietly, “But I do have magic.”

Cleophas took that in silently. She looked at him carefully but he couldn’t read a single thing from her face. She seemed like she was trying to read his soul or something.

While she did that, he didn’t bother trying to read her soul back. She was a Circle member, even if she wasn’t a particularly good one. She was also an Iron Sister, although not a particularly loyal one. He didn’t think very highly of her either way so if she was expecting the reverence Iron Sisters usually got from Shadowhunters, she was about to be disappointed.

Instead, he looked over this room. It wasn’t as bare as the room he practiced with Beryl in.

A wall of tools lined one side, a thick worktable in the center.

In the corner, there was something blazing hot and made of hulking metal. The word sort of floated up in the back of his mind – foundry.

“You’re making weapons for Valentine?” Alec asked her angrily. He didn’t know much about her history, if she had become an Iron Sister as a punishment – some part of him doubted it, being an Iron Sister was an honor not a punishment but the Clave did what it wanted – or if she had believed in it or not. If she had ever believed in the mission and vows then she was betraying all of it now.

The anger turned to confusion when Cleophas shook her head.

“It can’t be done here. There are many reasons why the Iron Sisters work where we work.”

Alec didn’t understand. Honestly, it sounded like convenient bullshit to him.

“This is here for you.” Cleophas gestured to the set-up.

“I don’t understand. I’m not an Iron Sister.” Alec said even though he had a momentary stab of panic. Who the fuck knew what he actually was at this point?

Cleophas looked amused which Alec didn’t appreciate. She stood up and came to stand opposite him at the table, “No, you’re not. You won’t ever forge weapons in the Angel’s name.”

“Then what is this, Cleophas?” Alec asked and didn’t bother to keep the frustration from his voice.

“I’m not entirely sure.” Cleophas admitted, “But Valentine wants you to shape the liquid adamas with your magic.”

Alec stared at her.

Magnus was teaching him how to move water and said he wouldn’t be ready for spells for months.

Valentine wanted him to use his magic on crystals and liquid adamas? One thing no warlock started with and another that no warlock had ever done before?

“I can teach you about adamas but I cannot teach you how to use your magic with it. I can’t even tell you if it’s possible. The adamas shouldn’t react to demon blood.” Cleophas explained.

He resented the way she said demon blood. There was a point to make here but he didn’t even really want to do it. If she thought so poorly of demon blood then that was her problem, not his. Still, learning these lessons protected Jace. “He’s never said I have demon blood, just that I have magic.”

“Then I truly don’t know how this will go.” Cleophas said simply. “Let’s begin.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Six


 

 

 

Alec guessed that he had been with Valentine a little more than a week but he felt as though he had been in the cold room with Beryl and the melting pot with Cleophas for months. Just trying and failing over and over again while Beryl said words that did not combine into actual coherent sentences. Then trying and failing even more while Cleophas watched him not manipulate the metal that she melted for him over and over again. His head was swimming.

The cell door groaning open was followed by his brother calling his name. Then the guards dropped him and Jace caught him and the door shut again and all of it felt maybe five minutes ago. He felt like he wasn’t here now. As though he was just watching a playback even though it was all happening right now.

“Alec,” Jace said and there was fear in his voice, “Alec, talk to me.”

Jace half dragged half carried him over to the bed. The guards hadn’t dropped him carefully and Jace had been more concerned with catching him at all, not catching him perfectly. The second he was on the bed, he curled onto his side and drew his legs up to make himself as small a ball as possible.

He was so done.

“Alec, buddy, say something. Do you have a fever or did you just come from Cleophas?” Jace pulled the blanket over him before he got into the bed behind him. The thing was too small for the both of them and it always groaned ominously under their weight but if they pressed close together it worked well enough. Alec’s feet were always hanging off the end if he laid straightened out.

“C-Cleophas.” Alec said through chattering teeth.

“Every time you come back shaking like I’ve never seen anyone shake before. Fuck.” Jace wrapped an arm around him and pulled him back so he was pressed to Jace’s chest. The warmth of his brother’s skin – warm without burning – felt so good he felt his eyes start to burn with relieved tears.

The concern and the fear that had been Jace’s half of the bond for hours now didn’t dial down now that they were back together. If anything, it was maybe stronger and that made no sense. Alec was here now, Jace knew he was as safe as he was going to get anytime soon.

So why was he so afraid?

“O-okay?” Alec asked him, “You’re okay?”

Jace huffed out a laugh, “Yeah, I’m great. How are you?”

“Tired.” Alec said as if Jace couldn’t feel it. His brother was probably asking for a better assessment but the thought of having to talk it all out was more than he could deal with. He felt like shit and he meant that mentally as well as physically. Failing over and over again was wonderful. “St-still can’t do it.”

“Beryl explain any better?” Jace asked.

An explosion of frustration went off inside of him.

Jace laughed, “Guess not.”

“If I u-understand right, and I don’t,” Alec stopped to cough here and it hurt so badly he flinched in Jace’s arms. There was a burst of unhappiness down the bond. “I need to c-connect my magic to the crystal, sen-sense the flow of the connection between the crystal and Earth, corrupt it somehow and t-then shatter the crystal. All at the same ti-time. Except the crystal doesn’t want to b-break and knows what I’m trying to do. And the c-collar,” He stumbled over the word and this time it wasn’t because he was shaking. It was just talking about the collar at all. “Doesn’t really let me do a l-lot. Somewhere in there there’s vibrations and channeling my A-Angelic pow-power… I don’t…” He coughed again, “I don’t know w-where… and…”

“Okay, okay, shh, I understand.” Jace shushed him. “Or I guess I don’t understand but you don’t either so I’m still right there with you. How about Cleophas?”

Telling Jace about Cleophas’ involvement after his first lesson with her had been ridiculous.

Jace sighed, “Tell me.”

“Cleophas.”

He felt Jace go tense from where he sat on the edge of the bed next to Alec. “Luke’s sister? She’s here? What the fuck is she supposed to teach you?”

“H wants me to move melted adamas.” Alec tried to explain something he didn’t understand.

“He wants you to move melted adamas?” Jace repeated and there was a world of skepticism and confusion in his voice, which was great because it just meant they matched. “Why? I mean, I know you don’t know but… what the fuck does that accomplish? What does any of this accomplish? You don’t have the sacred runes, is he considering that?” Then Jace flinched and started tugging up Alec’s shirt, “Did Cleophas rune you? What happens if a guy gets those runes?”

“No.” Alec couldn’t help but laugh. “He doesn’t want weapons.”

Jace pulled his shirt back down, “He does, just not blades.”

Well, that was true. Or at least probably true.

“So he thinks Nephilim magic, which I guess is your own class, can manipulate the Angel’s metal?”

Alec hadn’t had the answer then. He still didn’t have one now.

He hadn’t known what to make of Beryl and Jace didn’t either. Cleophas though, she made even less sense. Alec just groaned.

He couldn’t move metal. If he could, he would have torn a hole in one of these pipes and gotten control of enough water to drown Valentine by now. Adamas wasn’t just metal though. It was something onto itself. Alec couldn’t move metal and he definitely couldn’t move extra special metal.

Alec was the first person to admit that he didn’t understand his magic. He simply didn’t know enough to actually understand it.

Valentine understood it even less. The man did impossible things and he expected them back. Sorry, but Alec was tapped out of impossible feats right now.

Jace knew what his groan was supposed to mean. No progress with Cleophas either. Heating up metal didn’t make anything easier, even though Valentine had apparently decided that if Alec could move water, he could move liquid metal too. The regular, solid adamas was the same. 

Even when he tried to apply what little he was learning with Beryl to the adamas, he wasn’t getting anywhere. Adamas wasn’t conscious and fighting him like the crystals were but it wasn’t responding to his magic either.

“Alec…”

This isn’t going to work.

You can’t do any of these things.

Angel, how Alec knew.

Jace ducked his head close to Alec’s ear and whispered, “I broke two pieces of metal from the bed. If I strike them hard enough, I get a spark. Could you make that into flame?”

Alec wanted to say yes instantly. He wanted them to start working on the plan and get out of this place.

But his body felt like it was failing him. The collar was sapping every bit of strength he had. If he set this into motion with Jace and then couldn’t actually control fire…

He could get them killed.

He hadn’t tried to manipulate any elements since the water for Valentine. The water hadn’t felt difficult – after Valentine had allowed it, of course – but it wasn’t as effortless as it had been before. Fire came to him as easily as water but he practiced with it less.

If they timed things for when he wasn’t exhausted and wrecked? If they worked quickly before Valentine got a chance to clamp down on Alec’s magic with the collar? Maybe? He was too tired to think.

“O-only have a few seconds.” Alec answered Jace quietly, willing him to understand without him having to spell it out. He nudged the collar.

“I know. Make it count though.” Go straight for him. Though Jace’s voice was still hushed there was an extra bit of savage excitement there. He probably had visions of a smoldering heap of Valentine in his head.

The idea was solid but again, he hadn’t really done much with fire yet. Even with water, the most he’d really asked it to do was sit in a ball or circle around him in wine glasses. He had to connect to fire and he had to do that through the resistance from the collar – those things took more than a few seconds.

Alec nodded all the same and tried to ignore the way the motion made the edge of the collar dig further into his neck. “Not after…” Not after magic practice.

He could feel how strongly Jace agreed through the bond.

If they tried after a session with Beryl or Cleophas then Alec would be a wreck that Jace would have to haul out of here almost entirely on his own. He would be nothing more than a liability.

And that was before Valentine used the collar to punish him or smother his magic.

The days were random. They had no way to tell the time other than meals. Sometimes Alec was in a marathon session for hours but then he was left alone for hours and sometimes he was called out for short little bursts again and again. It was hard to know what was coming and that meant it was hard to plan.

If it was a day where Alec did a marathon session, he would need hours to recover before they made the attempt. If it was a short bursts day then they had lots of chances early in the morning and not so many by the end of the day when he was run ragged. Morning wasn’t an ideal time to make an escape.

“I’ll work something out.” Jace promised him. “Sleep now, okay?”

Alec exhaled slowly. He was exhausted but all these thoughts had him amped up.

There was one that haunted him.

“If we…” Alec nudged the collar again, “How can we…? He can use it. If we can’t get it off…”

“Hey,” Jace’s arms squeezed around him tighter, “We’re going to get it off. Magnus is going to get it off. Don’t freak yourself out.”

Easier said than done. There was so much they didn’t know about the collar. If they got free but Valentine could still control him through it…

“Shh,” Jace said again, “You need to sleep.”

Between his body begging for rest and his parabatai demanding he give in to it, he was powerless.

With a worried sigh, he let go.

 

---

 

For the first time since Alec had been stolen from him nearly two weeks ago, Magnus forced himself to eat a hearty breakfast.

After that, he would eat a full lunch and even dinner. He would rest his magic. He would recharge.

He would be ready.

Though the food tasted like ash and he wanted nothing more then to let his magic explode out of him and making everyone and everything around him suffer the rage he felt inside, now was not the time. He needed to be strong and at his peak.

Because tonight was the night.

If everything went to their plan then by the time the sun rose again he would have Alec in his arms.

Magnus tilted his face up towards the sun and shut his eyes, letting a deep breath out that was meant to ground him but really only made clear how close he was to tears or a magical explosion.

By morning, he could – he would – have Alexander back.

He let the certainty behind that thought settle under his skin and warm him. It did little to soothe the roiling emotions within him but if he repeated it enough perhaps that was its own manifesting magic.

By morning, he would have Alexander back. He kept repeating the vow in his mind.

He made pretty speeches to the people who needed to hear them. He recruited more and more people to their cause. He told them this rescue mission wasn’t for Alexander, it was for the whole of the Downworld.

And that was true.

But it was also not.

The balcony doors behind him opened and the sound of high heels announced Izzy. “I just got the call back I’ve been waiting for. We’re set.”

Magnus nodded his head but didn’t open his eyes. The sun felt warm and calming.

“That’s all the pieces confirmed. Everyone else that decides to help is just extra.” Isabelle came to the railing and boosted herself up so she could sit on the cement beside him. If she were her brother, he would have already reached for him to make sure nothing happened as if he had forgotten all the extra warding around the loft he had put up after that night. But Izzy, though wonderful, was not Alec and Magnus didn’t move.

“The plan is good.” Magnus gave her the reassurance he knew she wanted. He, Izzy and Clary had been trading it back and forth constantly. “The best we can make it with so little intel.”

Another voice joined them, Clary calling out and sounding pleased, “Awyr just came to my bedroom window.”

Awyr was a Sylph. One of the air spirits who had been watching over the water treatment plant that Valentine had taken over. It was the Sylph who did the sorely needed recon to determine where Valentine had holed up.

“What did he say?” Izzy asked before frowning and turning to Magnus, “He? She?”

They would be a better choice.” Magnus answered her, “The Sylph don’t quite operate in a typical binary way.”

Izzy nodded and turned back to Clary, “What did they say?”

“They, all the Slyph I mean, have been counting faces. Near as they’ve been able to determine, Valentine has about seventy-five people in the plant with him.” Clary reported as she sat down on one of the loungers.

Valentine was warding the water treatment plant to the gills against as many beings as he could…

But the Sylph belonged to the air. The air couldn’t be warded against and thus it was almost impossible to keep out the Sylph unless someone specifically took the massive amount of time necessary to do it. Considering the air spirits kept mostly to themselves and rarely left the Fae realms, few people bothered. Magnus was one of them, although that was only within the confines of his loft.

Valentine, apparently, was not.

Asking for their help had been a challenge and it had taken calling in more than a few favors to get one of the Sylph to agree to even brush against Valentine’s wards to see if anything would happen as they narrowed in on the plant. It was hard to hurt them, they were diaphanous beings made mostly of air and shadow, but they could still be killed. It had been a risk to them, but that risk had paid off.

Valentine hadn’t warded against the Sylph, so they had one nearly invisible race that were able to do recon without being detected. That was massive.

“We’ve got three times that confirmed,” Izzy said gleefully. “So even if the Sylph are really bad at counting human faces, we’re still ahead.”

“Was that one night’s tally?” Magnus asked Clary.

She nodded, “That was how Awyr made it sound. It’s still a little hard to understand when they speak, but I think I got it.”

Talking to the Sylph was sort of like talking to wind. Easier in theory than in practice.

“We have to assume he can send a call out for reinforcements any time he needs them.” Magnus cautioned. “Especially with warlocks available to portal.”

“We’ll hopefully be able to put a stop to that early.” Izzy said with a sidelong glance to him, “Between both teams of warlocks, I mean.”

One team was in place to find the warlocks Valentine was controlling and knock them out as humanely and quickly as possible. They were too powerful to leave as tools in his arsenal.

The second team, the one Magnus would be on, was going to be breaking through the warding to get them in.

“We’re prepared.” Magnus said, “Each of us has taken the name of one of the missing warlocks suspected to be under Valentine’s control and we’re going to try to counter their usual methods of warding.”

“Who did you get?” Clary asked curiously.

Magnus waved his hand and showed them the image of a woman who appeared to be in her mid-fifties, all grace and elegance even in this still image, “Christabel was an old friend of Ragnor’s. She’s very renown for her work with demonic languages. Her wards tend to be riddles more than anything else.”

“Anyone else we should be especially worried about?” Isabelle asked as she studied the picture of severe but wickedly funny Christabel.

“It’s hard to know exactly which warlocks he actually has and of them, which are still alive.” Magnus said as dispassionately as he was able considering he was talking about the deaths of old friends.

Magnus turned the image of Christabel into an image of Jinha, a Chinese warlock that Magnus hadn’t spoken to in a good hundred and fifty years. He was a kind man, but he was sort of the polar opposite of Magnus. Very quiet, very studious. “Jinha works with poisons. Mundane and magical. About three hundred years ago he caused quite the stir by managing to essentially create a ward that involved spraying aerated poison. Think a very big, very deadly perfume bottle.”

“Oh god,” Clary sort of groaned, “That sounds really not good.”

“We have his best friend on our team. If anyone can counteract whatever poison might be in the wards, it’s Junjie.” Magnus tried to reassure them.

Neither girl looked especially comforted but Magnus wasn’t eager to go against Jinha himself so he could hardly blame them.

Izzy studied Jinha’s face the same way she did for Christabel. “Who else?”

“There are some whose specialties seem strange to Valentine to have any interest in, which is worrying.” Magnus said before he changed the image again. This time it was to a younger looking woman with fine blonde hair, “For instance, this is Beryl. She specializes in crystal work. None of us can really guess why he would bother with her.”

Clary’s hand went to the pendant of her necklace, “Like amethyst and stuff?”

“Amethyst yes, actual jewelry grade gemstones, not really.” Magnus explained even though he wasn’t particularly interested in getting into discussing crystal work, “Crystals are extremely temperamental. If you can get them to do what you want, they’re powerful. They’re especially good for cleansing and channeling the Earth’s power because they maintain a continuous connection. Mostly, they’re just frustrating.”

The redhead grinned, “Does that mean all those Mundanes who think that like rose quartz heals them or something are right?”

Magnus raised an eyebrow, “Decidedly not. Crystals are far beyond them. At best, they’re doing a very, very, light job of cleansing a space. At worst, they’re pretty decoration.”

“Maybe Valentine has something he wants cleansed?” Izzy guessed in a voice that said she was skeptical of her own words even as she said them.

“That’s not generally the direction his plans go.” Magnus said wryly. “Besides, Beryl might be incredibly accomplished with crystals, but she’s nearly reclusive and she’s not really a people person. If she didn’t have a ward on her cottage that alerted a colleague to the trouble, we probably would have never known she had been taken.”

The girls traded looks. Clary finally just shrugged, “So he went out of his way to kidnap her and we’ve got no idea what he wants with crystals?”

“There’s nothing else he could have wanted her for?” Izzy pressed.

Magnus shook his head, “She’s dedicated her life to their study.” He cancelled the image so they weren’t being stared at by a line up of warlocks.

“Is there something that could be in the warding to do with crystals?” Clary questioned.

“Nothing I can think of,” Magnus said honestly, “That would be truly revolutionary to the point that I would be shocked.”

Izzy looked slightly relieved by that, “The most important thing is us getting in. If there’s going to be a revolutionary magic happening, I’d rather it be something we can all fight against, not just the ward breaking team.”

“The Sylph will keep watch until we all portal in as a group.” Clary started the rundown for the fiftieth time in the last twenty four hours. “The ward team will portal in first while the rest of us arrive.”

“We will work on fighting any first waves of attack Valentine has that can be readied in moments and breaking through his wards.”

“While that’s happening, the other teams will get into position.” Izzy picked up, “The elves, the vampires, the werewolves, the pixies, the fire sprites, the Drow, and the goblins are the biggest groups. There are other species who volunteered a few warriors to help.” They could only reach out to the Fae groups who held an uneasy relationship with the Queen or fell into the Unseelie category and thus didn’t bow to her at all. Otherwise, they risked the Queen warning Valentine.

Gathering these allies had taken them longer than Magnus’ heart could be comfortable with. The numbers were important but it had taken days.

Magnus took over again, “Once the wards are down, the true battle begins. Each group will join forces to fight except for a few groups who have special jobs. The healers. The warlocks looking for the other warlocks. The Sylph to keep watch for any large group of outside reinforcements Valentine calls for but can’t portal in.”

“And then us.” Clary said grimly.

Us was Clary, Isabelle, Magnus and Cat. Luke was going to do his best to keep close to them as well, but as Alpha he couldn’t abandon his pack.

Their objective? Find Valentine. Find Jace. Find Alec.

There wasn’t much doubt in Magnus’ mind that they would find them all together.

“I don’t think Valentine will make himself hard to find.” Magnus said with no small measure of satisfaction. He wanted no delays.

“If Jace or Alec gets any heads up of what’s happening, they’ll do anything they can to help.” Isabelle said with certainty before her face fell a little, “If they’re capable, that is.”

And the truth was that they might not be.

That was one of the reasons they had Cat with them. Their objective and their opponent meant that they needed a dedicated healer with them the entire time. Magnus and their steles could give some help but in the middle of battle it couldn’t be guaranteed that they would have a moment to pull out a stele or that Magnus could stop fighting to help someone. That would be where Cat came in.

Everything was in place. They had tried to think of everything they could.

All that was left was whatever Valentine decided to throw at them.

Magnus sighed quietly and tried to center himself.

By morning, he would have Alexander back.

 

---

 

When Alec found himself wondering exactly how many days he had been here, he knew it had been too long.

His eyes fluttered open to the sound of a weak sputtering of water in the little closet of a bathroom he and Jace had been given next to this room. His first thought was must be morning but a quick glance at their dinner trays still stacked by the door waiting to be taken told him that wasn’t the case.

Alec cautiously stretched out and flinched when he felt the cooler parts of their pathetic mattress. Even still, stretching out felt good. He’d been sleeping curled up for awhile now and the hours of unconsciousness had done him some good. Not enough good, but some.

The metal bed frame groaned at his movement just like it always did and the sound had Jace popping his head out of the bathroom, “You up?”

“Yeah,” Alec said with a yawn.

Jace grabbed a shirt, some long sleeved t-shirt that was a little ragged around the cuffs, and pulled it on over his damp skin. There was no shower in the bathroom, no tub either, but they did what they could with the sink. Neither of them really felt clean after but the longing for it had Alec saying, “Do you think it’s close to breakfast? I want to take a shower.” Sponge bath, whatever. The main point was that he did it before the guards started showing up to drag him out of here.

“You’ve got a little more time, I think. They came by hours ago and dropped off more clothes.” Jace said. The laundry service here left a lot to be desired. Every couple of days they got clothes but they were tenth-hand and had smelled better years. Honestly, they would have rather kept their original outfits and just worn them day after day. Alec wasn’t sure what Valentine was playing at by doing it. Some sort of weird paternal mind-game?

“Yay?” Alec joked halfheartedly as he sat up in bed. He blinked a few times against the head rush but for once he was pretty sure he could stand up on his own. Between the sleep and the distance from the last magic practice plus the fact that he was sort of getting used to living with the collar. That was its own bit of messed up but he’d take what he could get.

Jace laughed and that made Alec feel even better just to hear it.

“You need help?” Jace asked and Alec knew that if he said he did, he’d be getting a sponge bath from his parabatai no hesitation. Things, thankfully, weren’t that bad yet.

He didn’t shake his head, his neck wasn’t allowed to do that easily anymore. “I got it, thanks. I’d ask if you saved me any hot water but…”

It was lukewarm at the best of times. That sucked right now.

Alec stood and Jace went tense from where he was standing, but he didn’t rush over to get him up. It was appreciated. He shrugged out of his shirt and felt a jolt through their bond, “God, what?”

Jace was beside him in an instant. Warm, careful hands trailed down his arm, “Shit, Alec, they’re getting worse.”

Oh, the bruises.

He looked down at himself and found that Jace was right. He should probably be more alarmed about it. “They look worse than they feel.”

They had noticed them pretty immediately. Jace had even accidentally caused a few of them in the beginning when he was hauling Alec off the floor he kept getting dumped on after magic practice. His skin was littered with bruising, bruises on top of bruises, a mess of purple across his arms and torso. Especially his knees from all the time he spent crashing to the ground. He’d never been someone that bruised especially easy before so this had to be the collar.

It freaked Jace out. It freaked out Alec too but at least he knew how he felt wasn’t just in his head.

“Really? Because they look like you lost a fight with a Forsaken.” Jace said gruffly.

“I wish,” Alec said with feeling, half a joke but not really. This time, Jace didn’t laugh.

Jace’s jaw clenched, “Not perfect but we have to be all the time. You need Magnus.”

I know the plan isn’t perfect yet but we have to be ready for any opening that comes up for escape.

As codes went, it was pretty easy to crack. Anyone would know they were plotting but then, who wouldn’t  assume they were plotting for escape? As long as Jace didn’t say anything about the metal loudly, they wouldn’t know exactly what to expect.

That Jace was saying this at all was fear talking but he wasn’t wrong.

Every day, the collar took a little more from him. Every day, it got harder to get to this point where he could stand on his own two feet.

Neither one of them said it but Alec knew it in his heart.

If he didn’t get out of here soon, get out of this collar soon, he was dead.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Seven


 

 

 

They knew it was morning when they got their breakfast trays. A single piece of old, dry toast each and eggs that were somehow both runny and overcooked. The smell turned Alec’s stomach. Jace gave him all the bread and tried to get him to eat some of the eggs but Alec managed about two bites before he gagged and Jace reluctantly gave up. Better to have two slices of bread and two bites of eggs in him and the rest of the eggs for Jace then have Alec puke up his portion and Jace have to split his in another attempt to get him to eat.

That no one had come for Alec earlier hinted that today was going to be another long session of practice. After yesterday, Alec wasn’t sure he could bear it.

But he would.

Of course he would. Valentine hadn’t made good on his threat to hurt Jace yet but Alec knew he would eventually.

No one came for hours. It was tense in their cell. Jace paced and Alec tried to sleep. He reached out with his magic for the cup of water on the floor by the bed and made it spin like a tornado, just to make sure that elements were still within his grasp. He needed to be ready to build fire.

Lunch came late to the point that they were pretty sure it wasn’t coming at all. When it did it was two dry turkey sandwiches that were literally just turkey on stale bread.

Valentine was playing with them, he was pretty sure. The food hadn’t ever been amazing, but today was a new low.

No one came for Alec.

“What do you think it means?” Alec asked Jace.

His brother’s jaw had clenched and he said nothing.

It was late when the door slammed open.

The harsh clang of the metal door swinging violently into the metal wall of their cell made Alec’s brain rattle. He flinched even as he sat up in the bed. No part of him wanted to be dragged out of bed like some pathetic child yet again. He had gotten enough rest today that for once he could walk out of here on his own two feet. Even if he had to be dragged back later, he wanted to walk out of here himself.

He stood before the guards were even inside. Both of them held blades that they pointed at Jace.

“Let’s go.” The bigger one grunted at Alec.

Alec gave a quick glance at his brother, silently telling him to stand down. He walked to the door and the other man grabbed his arm and tugged him through the doorway.

And then, instead of closing the door and locking it behind them to keep Jace trapped, the first man said “You too.”

Jace too?

Angel, please no.

Valentine was angry that Alec wasn’t getting anywhere. He was going to torture Jace in front of him for his failures.

Jace came through the door with no expression on his face. There wasn’t any fear in the bond, in fact Jace felt… not excited, but ready?

They were crowded between the two guards and the blades were crossed around them, one in back and one in front. Meant to cage them in, probably, although Alec didn’t doubt that either of them could have gotten out of this if it weren’t for how weak he was.

As they walked, Alec felt something cold and sharp poke his hand. He almost made a noise of surprise before he realized what it was.

The metal pieces Jace had broken off the bed. He had them with him.

Jace was telling Alec to be ready.

He let out a deep breath to center himself. There was no way of knowing what was going to happen next – if Valentine was going to hurt Jace, if Jace was going to see an opening or, least likely, if Alec was about to have a magical breakthrough – but he had to be ready for any of it.

Even though that plan was only half formed, unless Jace had done some major plotting while Alec had been asleep, and even though an escape attempt was a massive undertaking in this ridiculously large building filled with Circle sycophants, Alec felt some of his fears ease. They had a way out, if they could survive it.

As they neared those same hanger doors, Alec let the idea of seeing Magnus again soon wrap around him and warm his tired body. If they ran tonight, he might even get to see Magnus again before morning.

When they entered the large room, they found Beryl and Valentine already there.

His teacher looked sick and Alec didn’t just mean the black veins covering her skin. She looked so afraid she was ill with it. He got why Cleophas wasn’t invited – Beryl’s task had easier set up – but he wished she was. She, at least, wasn’t so afraid of Valentine she was likely to pass out.

“You’ve been working so hard,” Valentine sneered at him, “I thought we should have Jace here to show him all of your accomplishments. After all, he’s the one who will bleed if you fail, so I thought we could let him watch and be honored by how you’ve worked so hard for him.”

Jace opened his mouth instantly and Alec tried to push a wave of caution towards his brother.

“Maybe if that goddamned collar wasn’t making him so sick, he could have done it by now.” Jace spat out at Valentine.

“Is that so?” Valentine asked in a voice that was deceptively calm.

His parabatai’s anger seemed uncontrollable but Alec could feel what was simmering under the surface and he hated it. This was Jace bringing attention to himself instead of Alec. There was too much cool calculation thrumming between them. Maybe these were things that Jace wanted to say anyway, but he was still doing this on purpose.

“You fucked him up bad enough the first time and now you’ve got that collar on him like he’s a dog!” Jace took a threatening step forward but the guard tugged him back none too gently.

Valentine only laughed, like this was just amusing to him. It was, they knew it was, but it was still so frustrating to see the complete lack of humanity in him. “I know a lot about turning one half of a parabatai bond into a dog.”

He said those words so easily, so casually. Like what he had done to Luke was an amusing thing to throw around.

While they stood there for a second sort of thrown, Valentine gestured to the guards. Rough hands dragged Alec forward and pushed him down to his knees in front of Beryl.

“Do you need anything for the lesson, Beryl?” Valentine asked her like he was a father concerned with his son’s lack of progress. It was a tone Alec was incredibly familiar with. “A table, some chairs, more crystals? How can I help you get the lesson through his thick skull?”

Beryl hesitated like she knew all the answers would be wrong. “T-the floor is best. To feel the vibrations and the connection between earth and crystal.”

Valentine nodded like that made any more sense to him than it did to Alec. “Go ahead.”

Beryl looked at him with terrified eyes as she sank down to sit with him. She opened her mouth but Alec shook his head. He was too keyed up to listen to her tell him some random stream of words like they came together to make perfect sense.

Instead, Alec focused on the little crystal on the ground in front of her. He held his hand over it and the second he connected with it, he knew it wasn’t going to happen.

“Can I have a different one?” Alec asked her as quietly as he could.

Beryl nodded quickly but Valentine cut in angrily, “Don’t be rude, Alec. Speak loud enough for us to hear you.”

Alec did everything he could to keep his voice in check, “It’s strong, it won’t break. I asked her for a different one.”

“The crystal is strong?” Valentine asked from where he loomed over the two of them. “Stronger than you? Stronger than your dedication to your parabatai?”

A single flick of his fingers then a sharp burst of pain from Jace.

Alec turned just in time to see Jace half bent over from a guard’s punch straight to his gut.

“You want me to do this, don’t you?” Alec turned away from Jace with every ounce of strength he had left. He glared up at Valentine, “You have no idea what you’re talking about. You’ve never felt the magic in a piece of quartz so how the fuck do you know why I’m asking what I’m asking?”

Valentine’s eyes jerked up to the guards and Alec heard the solid thud of another punch landing.

“That’s a tiny little crystal.” Valentine nudged it with his boot. “And you can’t even break that?”

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that size doesn’t matter?” Jace laughed through a groan.

Valentine looked less than amused. “You had best hope it doesn’t, Alec. What you’re destined for is a lot bigger than that little thing.”

“Like what?” Alec asked without thinking.

Whatever plan Valentine had for them was a closely guarded secret. No questions or keeping their ears out for hints gave them any ideas of what Valentine was planning to do with this spell he wanted Alec to learn.

Valentine’s eyes gleamed, as though he was truly tempted to tell them what his plan was.

“Does it ever frustrate you, Alec, when the Clave gives some decree from the safety of Alicante that you know will put the lives of the Shadowhunters under your protection at risk? Sometime so thoughtlessly stupid and so removed from the reality of the fight against demons that you have to stand there for a moment and just try to get your head around it?” Valentine asked him.

Yes.

The answer was yes.

Alec couldn’t even pretend otherwise.

And Valentine saw it. He grinned, “What if we take that away from them?”

“You want to overthrow the Clave?” Alec asked him. That was obvious but he said it to prompt Valentine all the same.

Valentine shook his head and stepped back from them, finally giving Alec and Beryl some space. He opened his arms wide, “You’re thinking too small!”

Alec could feel Jace’s confusion. No part of him wanted to take his eyes from Valentine but he still glanced back at his parabatai. Jace’s eyes met his and it was clear that he had no idea what Valentine was talking about. The guards holding Jace back only grinned though.

“Say it, Alec. Both of you. Tell me that it doesn’t enrage you that the Clave can dictate how you fight demons. They’ve got no blood on the line, yet they give out these stupid laws to hinder you. All that useless paperwork. All those lies they tell. The way they never take responsibility for their messes.” Valentine looked between them with eager eyes. “Tell me.”

“Of course it does.” Jace said slowly, “It frustrates everyone in every Institute. It’s common knowledge. I’m sure even the Clave knows what we think of some of their regulations.”

Valentine grinned, “Some of their regulations? Name me one that actually does anyone any good. Name me the report they make you do that actually helps you save lives.”

Though Alec had only been Head of Institute for a short while, he was already building himself a reputation for locking horns with the Clave… and not even he could so blatantly give voice to such anti-Clave sentiments.

If the Clave could hear this conversation, Alec and Jace could be arrested for treason and sedition.

Alec didn’t dare say anything.

Valentine’s face fell a little. Not in a sad way, but in a way that said he was disappointed they weren’t playing the game. “You won’t say it, but I know it’s true. The Clave have become too isolated, too removed from the battle that their soldiers wage every single day.”

It was more painful than Alec could admit to know that in his heart that he agreed.

The older man came closer and squatted down at Alec’s side. He grabbed the crystal and held it up between them, “Shatter this, Alec, and we can end that. Learn from Beryl how to break the connection between this and the earth, learn from Cleophas how to manipulate adamas, commit yourself to mastering this, and we can force the Clave to see the truth.”

Alec looked between the crystal and Valentine uncomprehendingly.

Then, understanding flooded his bond with Jace. Understanding and a sick wave of dread.

“The demon towers.” Jace almost moaned. “You want him to bring down the demon towers.”

That was… that was impossible.

A little voice in Alec whispered… Impossible like your magic?

Alec shook his head, “Only demon blood can deactivate the demon towers.”

Then he froze. He’d been so sure, but all those injections…

When Valentine started speaking the truth was somehow worse.

“I’m not talking about deactivating them.” Valentine’s voice was a soft whisper, low and steady as though he wanted to ease the truth into their hearts. He looked between them and stood again slowly, “I’m talking about shattering them. Demolishing them. Obliterating them. Knocking them from the sky so the Clave can never hide behind them again. Think! Think, Alec! You can force the Clave out of their safe little city and push them into the real world. How many lives could you save if you didn’t have to toe the Clave’s line?”

Unbidden, the vision of what Valentine was planning started playing in his mind. Him, walking into Alicante because he didn’t have demon blood and so he could freely enter the city. Standing in the center of the demon towers and using his magic and his Angelic power to shatter the towers that kept his people safe from demons.

Alec didn’t think he had that kind of power. It didn’t seem possible that anyone had that kind of power. He was pretty sure the attempt would kill him but the fanatical gleam in Valentine’s eyes said that wasn’t much of a worry to him.

Maybe he was frustrated with Clave and all their pointless rules. Maybe he did wish he could force some sense into them.

But this?

It wasn’t just the Clave in Alicante. It was children. It was retired warriors who had given their all to the battle against demons and who had earned their quiet and safety. And Valentine was going to sacrifice them just to force the Clave to see his way of thinking.

“You think that once they’re no longer safe from demons, they’ll give you everything you need to summon the Angels and ask the favor.” Alec said hollowly.

Valentine just smiled.

“I won’t do it.” Alec vowed. Even if it meant his death. Even if it meant Jace’s death. They would face the afterlife together but they would not condemn every Downworlder just to save their own skins. He knew without any shadow of a doubt that if it came down to that, if there was no other way left, Jace would agree with him.

Valentine’s head tilted slowly, “Has Magnus ever told you about his father?”

The abrupt change threw him. Valentine was suggesting that Alec commit the greatest sin against his own people that he could think of to help him eradicate all demons and Downworlders… and now he wanted to talk about Magnus’ father?

The answer must have been clear – that Magnus had never told him about his demonic father – because Valentine only smiled wider.

“Do you know of Asmodeus?” Valentine asked him.

The room felt charged, “No.”

“He isn’t just a demon. He isn’t just a Greater Demon.” Valentine said slowly, “He isn’t just the most powerful Prince of Hell. He’s a fallen Angel, Alec.”

Magnus’ father was a fallen Angel?

The information was interesting but Alec found that, like so many things about dating a warlock, he was just instantly okay, and? about it.

It was Jace who spoke and asked the question that Alec couldn’t. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Valentine reached out for Alec, palm pressing to his cheek. Alec flinched but Valentine just held him tighter. His thumb traced over Alec’s bottom lip. The only person who had ever touched him that way was Magnus.

“I know what holds you back. The weakness of love. Magnus’ father is an Angel, the fallen part doesn’t really matter, does it? He’ll be safe when demons are eradicated. You can keep him. I promise you. Do this for me, do this for everyone, and I promise you can keep him.” Valentine whispered to him.

Something in Alec turned to ice. Even if Alec was willing to do it – he wasn’t – and even if he survived – he wouldn’t – the thought of what Magnus would say to him after…

The doors slid open and slammed against the walls.

“Sir! There’s warlocks outside. They’ve opened five portals and Downworlders are streaming through.”

Magnus.

The man hadn’t said it but Alec knew it in his heart. This was Magnus. This was Izzy and Clary.

He met Valentine’s eyes and he could see that Valentine knew it too.

“I won’t do it.” Alec said again, voice hard.

Valentine stood. “Get the warlocks into position.”

A woman with dark curly hair pulled into a tight ponytail in a starched black uniform came running in next, “The warlocks are attacking the wards. There’s at least twenty of them.”

“I don’t suppose anyone has spotted my darling daughter?” Valentine asked as though this wasn’t so major a problem to him. “Has she come to join her brothers?”

“She’s out there with Isabelle Lightwood. Magnus Bane and Luke Garroway as well.” The woman reported.

Valentine strode over to the guards who had Jace and grabbed one of their swords…

And then he came to Alec and rested the broadside down on Alec’s shoulder. “Take Beryl back to her cell, she’s too valuable to lose. Get the warlocks into position to reinforce the wards. Secure the room.”

“I’ll stay with you.” The woman said as the guards rushed to obey.

Valentine shook his head, “Prepare for our departure. We won’t be here much longer. I’ve got the boys in hand.”

Because he had a blade to Alec’s neck and he knew Jace wouldn’t risk it.

She didn’t hesitate a second time, Valentine trained his people too well.

As she walked away, a distant thud echoed.

“What timing.” Valentine said to him and Jace with a little laugh.

“You’re dead.” Jace said with a grin.

Valentine shrugged and the motion moved the sword against the collar. The sound it made right next to Alec’s ear was like a spike being driven into his skull. “We’ll stay just long enough to lure in Clarissa. And when it’s time to leave, Alec will use his magic to protect us.”

How? Valentine was continuously operating under some seriously misguided ideas about how fast someone learned to harness their magic.

Alec knew what Jace was going to do the second before he did it. The very instant that the decision slotted into place, Alec braced himself.

Jace pulled two bits of metal out from under his belt. Without a word, he struck them together.

Valentine seemed to realize why he was doing what he was doing just a second too late.

It was Alec who moved faster, although he didn’t dare move an inch with Valentine’s blade pressed to his neck. Instead, he reached out with his tired magic and latched onto the sparks.

Fire was as easy as water, it was almost like they wanted to obey his magic. The destructive force of the fire did half the work for him. The collar kept Alec from being able to access much of his magic, but he didn’t need much for this.

A wall of flames circled around them and the heat was instantly oppressive.

Now that Alec had flames instead of sparks, he redirect them to Valentine. To fulfill Jace’s fantasy. The circle wasn’t really his idea, it was just what his magic knew how to do. It was only when he brought those flames to Valentine’s flesh that this would be over. A section of the circle faltered as Alec’s magic latched onto it.

It had only taken Alec seconds to build the fire up from nearly nothing. He was two seconds ahead of Valentine’s plans for once.

But once those two seconds past, Valentine caught up viciously.

The binding in the collar was pain unlike anything Alec had ever felt. It was as though a fist wrapped itself around his heart and squeezed. Alec screamed and any hold he had over the flames was gone.

There was a reason why Magnus was afraid of Alec practicing with fire alone. Flames fed themselves. Air fed them. Flames didn’t need magic to keep them burning brightly.

The wall didn’t fall but Alec did.

He panted on the ground, his back arched and black spots danced in his vision. The vise around his heart didn’t let up.

“Alec!” Jace shouted for him.

In one minute, everything changed.

Valentine laughed.

“Impressive, Alec. Finally impressive. Now get up.”

 

---

 

Once they had breached the wards, the alarms had started blaring. No one thought that they were surprising anyone inside but Magnus was still reassured by it. If there was any chance that Valentine had Jace and Alec hidden away completely unaware of what was happening, now they knew. As long as they were conscious, they would have to know what this was.

Everything had quickly descended to the chaos of battle. Smoke clogged the air and all the high ceilings and metal surfaces made the noise build until Magnus’ ears were ringing.

The four of them cut their way through the maelstrom. Their goal wasn’t to engage with anyone but if something came to stand in their path, they dealt with it. Clary’s kindjal blades were already soaked in blood.

It had been a long time since he had done battle like this.

Vasya, a vampire who had come on Magnus’ invitation instead of Raphael’s, shoved a Circle member into Magnus’ path with enough force that the woman with black hair fell to the ground and cracked her head against the concrete. Blood flowed instantly.

“Do you know where Valentine is, mertvetz?” Vasya crooned to her as she pounced onto her chest. She called her dead thing like it was a sweet nothing whispered into a lover’s ear.

“He’ll end you!” The woman spat out.

Vasya glanced up at Magnus and winked… and then she leaned in and ripped the woman’s throat out with her fangs.

Magnus didn’t stop to watch the rest.

Something high above him caught his attention and he looked up to find a pack of the Sylph had entered the building. Searching above the fray for anything to help them.

“Should we go up?” Clary shouted above the cacophony of sound. She was pointing with one of her blades to a ladder that lead to series of catwalks above this main open space they were in.

Magnus didn’t think that Valentine was in this first area. He would be hidden away better than this. There was no way to control the situation out on the main battlefield. “He won’t be here!” Magnus shouted back. “We need to go further in.”

An arrow came flying for Izzy, although it was sloppily shot and though it was likely aimed at her neck it would have barely grazed her shoulder. Magnus didn’t hesitate before he incinerated it mid-air. Then he threw a bolt of cutting red magic back up the trajectory it had come in at. Hopefully, the archer who had shot it was writhing on the ground that very second.

The four of them started moving again, fighting their way through the crowd to reach the perimeter. Izzy’s whip cracked and Magnus’ spells flew. Even Cat spilt a little blood along the way.

Magnus’ magic slammed open a doorway in front of them that led to a cavernous hallway. It was quieter here but as the Downworlders streamed in the Circle was being pushed further and further back in the onslaught. It wouldn’t stay quiet much longer.

Smoke billowed from one end of the hall. There were huge hanger doors that were partially slid shut. Magnus could hear flames ahead.

Beside them, a Circle member was thrown into the wall with a bloody crack that could be nothing but his skull caving in under the pressure.

“Let’s go before we get slowed down having to fight our way through.” Izzy said as she started running.

Magnus followed her. He was still sure that Valentine was deeper in the complex and he wasn’t going to waste his time with the man’s peons.

He reached out his hand and made a motion like he was throwing a curtain aside towards the massive metal doors. As they flung open on his command, more smoke escaped the wider gap.

There were people inside. People and a ring of fire.

Magnus’ heart leapt into his throat.

He ran. Full speed, no grace, he ran. The others trailed behind him but Magnus only had half an ear for them. Though he was too far away to make out who was behind the wall of flames, he knew in his heart who it was.

Alexander

Please be okay, Alec, please.

The second he reached the threshold, he slammed into something that felt like a piece of invisible silk woven over the open doorway. It didn’t hurt but it didn’t let him through either. He was pushed back and he stumbled into Clary, knocking the both of them down.

They watched the same thing happen to Cat and Izzy. Now that Magnus was watching for it he could see the surface ripple outwards nearly invisibly, or it was more that the image of the room through the ward rippled.

Izzy kept her feet even as Cat fell down beside him. She jammed the head of her staff into the barrier but it didn’t give.

Magnus scrambled to his feet and held a hand out to Clary to pull her up as Cat followed suit. The four of them approached the barrier and Magnus held his hands out, scanning the thing with magic.

“It’s strong.” He said angrily, “Woven thick. No defensive capabilities, nothing wasted on anything but being impenetrable.”

“Can you get it down?” Cat asked him with a low voice as they waited for the ripples to stop distorting the image.

He dropped his hands. Anything they did made the room beyond go too altered to make out. Though his heart was sure he knew who was in that room, he wanted to be sure before he wasted magic trying to tear down the ward.

Instead of answering, he watched barely able to breathe as the image stabilized.

A circle of fire, like Magnus had seen before they smashed into the ward. The flames were nearly six feet high and the heat was visible above.

Two figures stood within the circle.

Valentine and Jace.

Magnus’ heart stopped. Where was Alexander?

“We found them,” Izzy let out a breath of relief that was weeks in the making, “It’s Jace and Alec!”

“Where? Where do you see Alec?” Magnus asked her frantically.

Izzy leaned closer to him and tried to point, “He’s kneeling, I can only see him when the flames part enough.”

Magnus’ eyes swept over the lower portion of the circle, waiting for any break in the flames to see beyond them. Please…

He heard footsteps behind them, four paws turning into two feet.

Clary called out, “Luke!”

A wash of Cat’s magic flared at the side of Magnus’ field of vision. Pants for the wolf. “Don’t touch the barrier.”

Still Magnus couldn’t see Alec.

“Are you sure?” Magnus whispered to Izzy.

She said nothing and he knew then that she wasn’t sure.

He listened to Clary catching Luke up on what they were hoping to see.

Valentine was saying something to Jace but they were too far away to make it out.

And Jace was so, so angry.

The flames parted just to Valentine’s side.

A figure knelt at his feet.

“There!” Izzy breathed out in relief, “Did you see him, Magnus?”

The glimpse of Alec had lasted a fraction of a second. Not long enough to assess his condition. Not enough to see if Alec noticed them.

But Magnus didn’t need more than a split second to see someone to know if it was him. And it was. It was Alec, still alive.

“I saw him.”

“I did too.” Luke said grimly, “Val is saying something to Jace about the Clave but I can’t hear him well enough to understand much.” It was only his werewolf hearing that was giving him even that. He reached out a hand and hovered it over the ward, “It’s warded against Downworlders and Shadowhunters? Should I try to touch it too?”

Magnus wanted to shake his head because he didn’t want to miss another glimpse of Alec but he knew there was no place for emotion here. “I have to assume Valentine would include werewolves in any ward he built just for you but try anyway.”

Luke gently pushed his hand forward until the ward rippled. It was a much smaller impact than it had been when they had slammed into it and the room quickly smoothed out.

Another parting in the flames revealed Alec for a single second.

Valentine had a sword to his throat.

Magnus raised his hands angrily, magic flowing out to meet the ward head on. He cursed when he felt the how resilient the thing was. The silken weave of it made it hard to find purchase.

“Did Alec make those flames?” Clary asked as she stared inside too.

“If he did, why is he keeping them up?” Izzy shook her head, “He must know we’re here. Why won’t he let them down?”

“Maybe Valentine is forcing him?” Cat suggested, proving she too had seen Valentine’s sword.

Or there was a more sinister reason.

Isabelle took the hilt of a blade out from her thigh holster and held it tightly. Magnus instantly realized that she had brought Jace’s seraph blade with her. Alec’s bow was too big to be easily carried as an extra thing during battle but Jace’s blade could do them good. Even better if they had Jace to wield it.

“We have to find a way through,” Izzy said with the same frustration in her voice as in Magnus’ heart.

“Near as I can see, there are no other doors.” Luke said as he scanned as much of the perimeter as he could from the huge doorway. “No windows either.”

“Any ceiling grates?” Cat said.

The two of them worked on that while Magnus kept up trying to undo the ward around the room.

They heard Jace yell something from within. Everyone’s attention went to Luke.

You’re insane. You’ll kill him.” Luke reported grimly.

Clary let out a half scream of frustration, “Valentine is right there! If we could just get through this fu--” She slammed her hand against the ward…

And it let her hand go right through.

Clary stumbled with the momentum of it. She clearly didn’t think she was actually going to get through the barrier. With wide eyes, she stuck her whole arm through it, pulled it out and stuck it back in. “I can get through!”

Magnus immediately tried the same, only to have his hand hit the same ward as before. “Why you?”

“She’s Valentine’s daughter.” Luke said grimly, “Maybe he didn’t ward against his own blood.”

If that was true – and they had no other explanations – then Clary was the only one who could go to Jace and Alec until Magnus could get the ward down.

“Here,” Izzy said as she slipped Jace’s blade into Clary’s waistband, “Get that to Jace. He can help you. The two of you can take down Valentine even if Alec can’t help. We’ll get to you as soon as we can.”

The idea of letting Biscuit go without them made Magnus’ heart drop but there wasn’t any other way. With Valentine using Alec against Jace, there was no one to end their stalemate. That would have to be Clary.

Clary nodded and her eyes blazed with determination. Some part of Magnus had always known that it would be Clary to end Valentine. That only she could continue made some sort of perverse cosmic sense.

“You can do this, Clary.” Magnus said quietly.

She looked at them all and turned, walking through the ward without any trouble at all.

Wasn’t this moment everything that they had been trying to keep from happening?

Valentine and his three weapons reunited in a circle of flames.

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Eight


 

 

 

“Clarissa.”

Valentine’s voice was so darkly pleased. It was as though he had planned this, even though Alec knew that was impossible. The man made everything feel that way. Like they were playing against the impossible chess master, five steps ahead of them while they were left unraveling the destruction he left in his wake.

But maybe he had planned this whole thing. How better to get Clary to come to him than to take Jace and Alec?

If Clary was here… if the alarms were blaring and the Circle guards said there were Downworlders fighting their way inside…

Was Magnus here too?

They’d said that before, hadn’t they? That Magnus had come? His head was spinning but heart latched on to the possibility.

Alec lifted his head even though it was so heavy he was nearly dizzy with it. When Valentine had taken control of his magic with the collar, he had sapped Alec of any strength he had left. Even staying upright while he knelt on the ground after Valentine had hauled him out of his nearly unconscious sprawl on the ground was an almost impossible task. His chest ached from the wicked punishment Valentine had almost immediately inflicted for the flames and everything was taking too long to clear.

His eyes quickly found Clary through the flames. Even without Alec’s magic – or maybe because of the force of his intent – the fire raged. Was magically created fire more powerful than regular fire?

Clary held her two kindjals out in front of her and Alec saw they were coated with blood. Her clothes were spattered with even more of it. Whatever was happening outside of this room was big.

The flames obscured most of her body. The highest points went taller than Clary’s head.

He couldn’t make out anything beyond her. Alec needed to know where Magnus was. If Izzy was safe. If someone was coming to help Jace and Clary because Alec couldn’t.   

“Finally we’re together,” Valentine called to her over the roaring of the fire, “All of my children.”

“Alec isn’t your son.” Clary called back, absolutely defiant, “And neither is Jace.”

Valentine only laughed and his hand stroked through Alec’s hair like he was a small child to be soothed, “I raised Jace and I transformed Alec. They’re mine just as much as you are.”

“We don’t belong to you!” Clary’s voice rose with anger. She practically bared her teeth at Valentine.

Alec couldn’t lift his head high enough to see Valentine but he could see Jace. His parabatai stood opposite Alec and Valentine, half tilted towards Clary. He was trying to keep them all in his sights and Alec could see in his eyes how desperately he was trying to figure out a plan that didn’t involve Alec being slit open by the sword or torn apart by the collar.

He was holding them both back.

If they kept Valentine talking, maybe his concentration would falter and Alec would have enough control over his own magic to take command of the flames again. Now that he had them, all it would take was a single second to light Valentine on fire. One single second and they could be done with this.

“I raised myself. Alec and Izzy raised me. Maryse and Robert.” Jace shook his head, “You trained me but so did other people. You aren’t my father.”

No matter how this ended, at least Jace got to say these things that had been burning inside of him.

“You’ll see the truth,” Valentine said, not even hearing Jace. That wasn’t new. “We are going to fulfill the Angel’s will.”

“By bringing down towers they gave us?” Jace quickly countered.

He could see Clary look between them confused. She knew little about Alicante so Alec wasn’t sure if she even knew what the Demon Towers were.

“Should we ask Clarissa? Should we explain to her about the towers the Clave hides behind?” Valentine asked.

“Go ahead,” Jace said, “But she already knows you’re crazy so I don’t know that it’ll make any difference.”

The second the last word was out of Jace’s mouth, the vise went around Alec’s heart again, squeezing and demanding and agonizing. He might have cried and he might have screamed. He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he fell to the ground in a slump, twitching.

“Stop! Stop it!” Jace raged at Valentine.

Alec’s heart beat weakly, not strong enough to fight much longer. His chest heaved for air that wasn’t enough no matter how much he sucked in.

“Jace!” Clary shouted.

The sound of a blade cut through the air.

Then the meeting of two swords.

The world swam above him and the heat of the flames did him no favors. He had been so cold for so long and now he was beside blazing heat and it only made it harder for him to clear his mind. The pain ebbed but it didn’t disappear. The vise around his heart stopped squeezing but it didn’t let go.

His head lolled to the side and he saw Jace and Valentine facing off. The flames kept them penned in too close to each other.

“Alec?” Jace called again as he blocked Valentine’s blow.

He couldn’t speak. His mouth opened and so words came out, only a low groan of pain.

“Alec!” Clary called to him from his left. “Alec, look at me!”

The air was too hot. Breathing in hurt.

“Please, please, Alec,”

He could barely hear her over the flames and the crashing of swords.

Distract him Jace. Push him to his best. Force him to pay attention to you and not my magic.

“Alec!”

He pulled his eyes from his brother doing battle to look at Clary. She was crouching outside of the circle as close to him as she could get without being burned. It was hard to see her well through the fire and she was probably having the same problem with him.

“Alec, let the flames down. Let me come in and help him!” Clary begged him.

I can’t, he wanted to say. There was no way she would understand. Unless…

He reached up to tangle his fingers in the collar and he watched her eyes study the thing for only a few seconds before realization dawned.

A fresh lance of pain erupted but it wasn’t from the collar, it was from his rune.

Jace was hurt. Valentine had hurt Jace.

“Jace!” Clary screamed. “Leave him alone! How can you call him your son and then hurt him?” She was grasping at straws and they all knew it but what else could she actually do?

“This is his choice, Clarissa.” Valentine said steadily. “This is all his choice.”

Jace roared then and Alec knew that sound down to his bones. When he was angry and he was done playing, that sound was the last thing that demons heard.

Alec turned his head as Valentine grunted, just in time to watch the two of them fall to the ground. Jace scrambled back up but it took Valentine an extra second.

Jace, with blood freely gushing from a wound on his chest, stood over Valentine with a sword.

Valentine, knowingly in a bad position on the ground, pulled a dagger from his boot.

If he thrust up just right, at the right second, and Jace didn’t move fast enough to block him…

Alec reached for his magic. Valentine was more at risk than Jace had ever managed before, he had to be focused on his own life…

And he was.

Alec felt his magic, weak and sluggish as it was, answer his call. He reached for the flames with everything he had left in him. His arm was outstretched, fingers curling in to point.

His magic sent the fire straight for Valentine.

The man realized his error the second the flames leapt for his arm, catching on his jacket in a second.

Valentine took his revenge before Jace or Clary could do anything.

The collar went burning hot and tight against his throat. The vise around his heart squeezed until he felt his own heartbeat stutter out of its rhythm. Pain flooded every nerve in Alec’s body. His arm dropped.

His back arched and his eyes clenched shut.

He was unconscious before he even finished screaming.

 

---

 

Magnus couldn’t tear his eyes away from the scene playing out before them. It felt as though this should have been a nightmare. He should have been waking soon, wrapped up in bed with his Alexander and letting his boy’s soft snores soothe away the panic that was stealing his breath.

This wasn’t a nightmare. It was reality.

A reality where Magnus’ magic wasn’t working quickly enough, where he wasn’t strong enough to blast through this damned ward. Multiple warlocks had built it, he had Cat had realized when they analyzed it once Clary walked away. To break it with only a pulse of magic would take everything Magnus had. There would be nothing left to do any battle after. To heal Alec or Jace. To protect any of them.

He would do it if he had to but not a second sooner.

The decision nearly broke his heart.

They could only stand there and watch as they worked.

This was torture.

They were speaking beyond the ward, although none of them could make out what any of them were saying. Magnus kept his eyes trained on Alec’s kneeling form. His boy was the only one not saying anything and that only worried Magnus worse.

“Why isn’t Alec doing anything?” Izzy whispered to Magnus.

He shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. I’m trying to look for injuries as best I can when the flames part enough for me to see him.”

A rush of air came at their backs. Then, “A contingent of Shadowhunters have come.”

Magnus couldn’t turn to look away from Alec but he felt a potent rush of relief to hear Raphael’s voice. He reached his hand behind him and he felt Raphael take it into both of his for a second. They both squeezed tight in the same instant and Magnus took what comfort he could get.

“That’s Aline,” Izzy was quick to explain. Her eyes darted back and forth between them and the scene in front of them, “She’s an old friend, we can trust her. Her mother is Consul Malachi’s second in command.”

The flames parted and Magnus’ focus narrowed down to the three seconds he was allowed to see Alec. The flush of his cheeks from the heat, the paleness of his skin…

The circle wrapped around his neck.

“That bastard…” Magnus breathed.

“What?” Izzy asked, turning back around to try and see what Magnus was seeing. “What’s wrong?”

“Valentine put a collar on Alec. Magical dampener, I’m sure of it.” Magnus felt his lip curl into an angry sneer. “I’ll kill him for it.”

Luke shifted his weight restlessly beside Magnus, “Is that why he can’t do anything about the flames?”

Magnus shrugged, “He might have made the flames on Valentine’s command or he did it himself and Valentine punished him. Either way it’s restricted his magic in some way.”

It was as though his words cast some jinx on Alec. The very second they were out of his mouth, he got to watch, shaking with helpless rage, as Valentine did something with the collar that had Alec collapsing out of sight screaming in pain.

Clary took the opportunity to throw Jace his blade and though that was a good thing, Magnus could spare it no mind. Not when Alec was in agony on the floor. Those collars could kill a warlock and Alec was not a typical warlock. Even worse, Valentine was a man who liked to put his own vicious spin on anything and everything.

They watched Clary run to Alec’s side after she threw Jace his blade. Though they couldn’t hear her Magnus knew she had to be begging Alec to bring down the flames. There was no way she could safely jump through them, which meant that until something was done about them she couldn’t help either of them beyond what she had already done.

Unbidden, Magnus’ hands rose up, magic rushing forth to meet Alec’s need.

“Not yet,” Cat grabbed his wrist, “Jace is fighting Valentine. Clary is right there. Wait.” Her voice was low and urgent but her hand was steady.

“Izzy!” A woman’s voice called.

“Aline!”

A young woman with dark hair came rushing up to Izzy, giving her a quick embrace that felt out of place for what they were doing, not least of all because her arm had a massive blood spatter decorating it.

“We just found Consul Malachi.” Aline reported with an incredible lack of surprise in her voice. Magnus barely spared her a glance. He didn’t recognize her but she gave off a vibe that screamed no-nonsense efficiency, which he generally found to be rare in Shadowhunters. He’d welcome it, if she could actually do anything to help them. That she had come at all said something good for her character, so Magnus was cautiously optimistic. “He’s dead but there’s no question he was aligned with Valentine.”

“Dead and exposed a traitor.” Luke said with audible pleasure in his voice, “I’ll take it.”

That solved the question of who had alerted Valentine to Jace and Alec being in Alicante.

“That means your mother is Consul now,” Izzy said to Aline.

“She doesn’t know it yet.” Aline replied. “Tell me what’s happening.”

“Valentine is in there with Jace, Alec and Clary.” Izzy explained.

Aline came closer, standing beside him and looking through the ward with calculating eyes. He appreciated that she didn’t bother asking stupid questions about why they were all just standing here. Obviously, something was holding them back and the idea of having to explain it again grated on him.

“This place is a water treatment plant, can we find some way to get a hose through here or break a pipe or something? Get those flames doused?” Aline asked.

“Nothing but Valentine’s bloodline can get through this barrier.” Izzy explained, “Don’t touch it, it’ll make it ripple.”

All talk stopped when Jace got Valentine to the ground.

Was this it? Was Jace, obviously injured in some way, going to end Valentine?

Through the flames, they watched Valentine stare up at Jace. If he was planning something, they couldn’t see what. Beside him, Izzy went tense.

They were so close.

Then, Alec threw out his hand…

And the flames answered.

A whole section of the wall flew to Valentine. Any chance they had of the newcomer in their midst not seeing what was happening was ruined by the section of wall that had answered Alec’s call and how instantly it had happened. There were few other ways to interpret flame moving magically and Alec pointing directly where he wanted it to go, especially if there were no other barriers obscuring their vision.

Aline gasped and Magnus knew with a sick welling of dread that now a Shadowhunter knew their secret. Maybe not the specifics, but she knew.

Alec screamed. It was unlike anything Magnus had ever heard from his love before. Then the screaming just stopped.

Clary went flying through the gap in the flames, dagger outstretched.

Fire climbed up Valentine’s shoulder to attack his face.  

Clary, like a vengeful Angel, brought down her dagger straight into Valentine’s heart.

In seconds, it was done.

Magnus pushed his hand forward and finally, finally, the barrier was gone. It was tied to Valentine and now Valentine was dead.

He ran.

His magic reached out for Alec’s flames and he extinguished them quickly. The heat in the room was oppressive, the ground utterly scorched. “Alec!”

So much was happening at once. Valentine was dead and smoldering on the ground. Jace fell to his knees, his hand over a wound that was gushing blood. Cat ran for him and Clary was already there, pressing her own hands to the wound. Luke was pulling Clary up and away to give Cat room, pulling his daughter into his arms as he stared down at the ruin of his former parabatai.

And Alec wasn’t moving.

Magnus’ knees fell to the ground beside him with a crack that should have hurt but he was too frantic to notice. “Alec, Alec, open your eyes.” He pulled Alec into his arms. Alec’s skin was flushed red and covered in a thin layer of sweat from heat of the fire. “Alec, please.”

His hands traced over Alec’s face. This was what he had been dreaming of since Alec had left the loft the morning of his supposed statement for the Clave but there was none of the relief he had expected to feel. Alec was unconscious and seemed thin in a worn down way. As though he had been gone from Magnus’ side for months. He was shaking in Magnus’ arms. His hair was dull, his skin was grayish as the too-hot flush started receding.

This was the collar. It had to be.

Magnus stared at the vile thing wrapped around Alec’s neck. His skin was bruised and irritated underneath it. It was too tight and too wide to be worn safely for more than an hour or so. Instead, Alec had been wearing it for nearly two weeks.

“Darling, please, I’m here. Wake up for me?” Magnus knew he was begging but he couldn’t help it.

“Can you get it off him?”

Magnus turned to find Jace healed but nearly as exhausted as Alec. He was sitting on the ground with Clary’s arms around him and Luke standing at his back with a hand on his shoulder.

Now that Jace was healed, Cat came rushing to check on Alec. She sat opposite Magnus and started assessing him with her magic.

“Tell me everything you know about it,” Magnus practically demanded.

Jace shook his head slowly, like didn’t know what to say. “It’s covered in some sort of demonic language. Valentine told him it would let him have his surface magic but nothing strong as a default but he could also control it so Alec had none or everything. It’s killing him. Alec doesn’t say it, but I know it is. You have to get it off him.”

Cat looked up at Magnus then, her eyes filled with genuine fear. To see her assess a patient and look truly afraid after was perhaps something he had never seen before and that was terrifying. “I’ve never seen someone react to a magical dampener like this, Magnus. It’s straining his heart and siphoning off his own energy and vitality to help fuel itself.”

“This is perhaps not a good conversation to have now.” Raphael cut in from where he stood behind Aline, watching her every move.

“No,” Aline turned to glare a little at Raphael, “I think now is when we have to have this conversation.”

Jace dropped his head into his hands. “Aline…”

“Jace, you know I trust the three of you. I’m not looking to hurt Alec but to help him I have to know what’s going on.” Aline said. Her voice was still steel, but she seemed like she meant what she said about not wanting to hurt Alec.

“It’s a long story.” Izzy said before she stopped and caught Jace’s eyes when he looked up at her, “There’s no other way, Jace. Any Circle member that lives is going to be questioned. We need to get in with our truth as quickly as we can.”

A low moan caught everyone’s attention.

Alec’s eyes started fluttering open.

Magnus’ attention shifted instantly, “That’s it, love, come back to me.” He pulled Alec a little higher into his arms so he was sure to be the first thing Alec saw when he woke.

Even when Alec managed to keep his eyes open, there was a bone deep exhaustion in them that took too long to clear enough for him to truly connect with Magnus. “Mag-Magnus?”

“I’m here, Alec. It’s over, Valentine is dead.” Magnus promised him. Tears burned his eyes and he didn’t care who saw them.

Alec pull in a breath that was far too shaky and shallow, “Is everyone okay?”

“We’re okay. Cat healed Jace. Tell me how you feel?” Magnus asked, hoping Alec might shed more light on what the thrice-damned collar was doing to him.

“Tell us as much as you can, Alec,” Cat added, “It’s really important.”

“Cold,” Alec whispered, as though he wasn’t flushed and sweating. “Tired.”

“What about when he was punishing you?” Clary asked from her spot beside Jace.

It felt strange that they were talking about Valentine when his corpse was still smoking not ten feet away. When Magnus glanced at it, he realized that Izzy and Aline had retreated to the side with Raphael hovering beside them.

Hurt,” Alec said with feeling. “Felt like…” His hand was lying on his stomach and Alec curled it up into a fist, squeezing as hard as he had the strength for.

Magnus and Cat traded worried looks.

He could pray that Alec’s condition was only a result of the collar limiting his magic and that his body – already not made for magic – was just responding badly. Once Magnus got the thing off of him, he would be better.

Cautiously, Magnus reached for the metal around Alec’s throat with his magic. Just a slight brush to test the waters. None of them would put nasty surprises past Valentine. The last thing he wanted was to trigger some sort of defensive spell designed to punish Alec.

When nothing bad happened, Magnus let a little more of magic seep into the collar. He frowned, pressing deeper.

He had never felt something like this before.

It felt… nonsensical. Abstract in a thrown together way. There was no clear line of a single spell to follow but he didn’t mean it was layered. It felt sort of like the layers were being tugged down through each other, breaking and melding and hopelessly mixing themselves up, although that made no practical sense at all.

If someone had brought this to him before it had been closed around Alec’s neck, he would have said it couldn’t actually do whatever it was designed to do. The spellwork was too convoluted. Too strange to accomplish much of anything beyond an explosion.

He did not like those implications considering whose neck it was currently welded to.

“Can you get it off him?” Jace asked again with more desperation in his voice this time. Though Magnus wasn’t sure how much of his utter confusion his expression was betraying, some must have been getting through because Jace sounded genuinely worried.

“I’ve never felt anything like this before.” Magnus murmured as he cautiously investigated, “I have no idea how it works, and I mean that in the sense that I have no idea how it’s actually working.”

“It is.” Alec assured him with a ghost of smile on his face.

Cat reached out with her own magic, trailing behind his own. She withdrew quickly, “I don’t want to set it off, but Magnus right, I have no idea how Valentine could have created that thing.”

It was almost impossible to know where to begin when all of the threads of the spellwork were interconnected. How to disarm it, how to unlock it… all of those answers were tied up within each other and any one of them could be interwoven with some sort of failsafe that would punish Alec for the tampering.

But it couldn’t stay on Alec either.

Magnus sifted through the magic, trying to find a weak point. When he finally found something he thought he could use, his magic tugged gently.

Instantly, Alec’s body went rigid with a choked sort of gasp, “Stop, s-stop, please, please stop!”

Magnus withdrew his magic as quickly as he could. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry darling. I’ll stop. I’m so sorry.”

Alec’s mouth was open and his harsh panting sounded painful. As though he couldn’t get enough air.

Cat dove back in with her own magic, “Don’t do anything else.” She said instantly, “I can try to ease some of what just happened but he is dangerously exhausted. His entire system is stressed and battered.”

He cannot take another attempt.

She didn’t say it, but Magnus heard it.

“Shh, love, I’m sorry.” Magnus said again as he pressed a kiss to Alec’s forehead.

“Clary got through the wards, maybe she can open it.” Luke suggested in a voice that was worried in a restrained way that said he didn’t want to let on just how much he was worried.

“There’s no seam.” Jace told them.

Magnus could imagine Jace waiting until Alec succumbed to sleep to trace his fingers around the thing again and again, looking desperately for a way to pry it off of him. Jace spoke with the authority of a person who had been disappointed again and again.

Clary hesitated before she stood and came closer. “I can try?” She offered.

They both look at Alec. It was his choice.

It took a few seconds before Alec shut his eyes and nodded. Only then did Clary put her hands on the collar. She was incredibly gentle, probably noting the same irritation to Alec’s skin as Magnus had. Her fingers ran around the whole thing, searching for some hidden catch that only someone with Morgenstern blood could unlock.

Aline and Isabelle stepped closer, apparently done revealing all of Alec’s secrets.

“I heard him when you tried to get it off.” Izzy said with worried eyes, “It’s fighting you?”

“Very much so.” Magnus said simply. “Luke suggested that Clary try since she got through the wards.”

“I’m not finding anything.” Clary said sadly. She looked down at Alec and gave him an apologetic smile, as though she was trying to put a brave face on bad news.

It was clear that this wasn’t going to be solved quickly and that left Alec to suffer in the meanwhile.

Magnus strained his ear to listen for the sounds of battle beyond. Things were quieter and, though he had not realized it, someone had finally silenced the alarm.

They had won.

He didn’t yet know the final cost, but they had won.

“Izzy explained,” Aline started without preamble, “Right now, I think the best plan is that Magnus portals Jace and Alec out of here. Clary, Izzy and I will stay behind to deal with the Shadowhunters and I know Raphael and Luke have to return to their clan and pack. Healer Loss, if you could stay a while as well and help tend the wounded, it would be much appreciated.”

Cat glanced to Magnus. She was asking if he needed her more but there was also a tinge of something between who is this girl and thank goodness someone is stepping in to lead this shit show.

Magnus nodded to her, “I can get Alec and Jace settled. If you can come to me afterwards to give me as much of an update on our people as you can, I would appreciate it.”

“I’ll act in your stead.” Cat agreed. Her offer was generous. Technically speaking, he needed to stay with the warlocks but, although he took his responsibility seriously, there was no chance of that.

“After I got Izzy’s message that you had started here, I spoke to my mother. We could not find Consul Malachi and that was troubling to her. She authorized my team herself. I’ll be the one to report directly to her before anyone else gets the chance.” Aline said once Cat staying was sorted out, “I’ll do everything in my power to find a way to spin Alec’s magic to her in a way that protects him.”

“Now is the time to reveal it.” Izzy said in the face of Magnus and Jace’s darkening expressions.

From his place lying in Magnus’ arms, Alec said, “I trust you, Aline.” It was the clearest and the strongest voice he had managed since he had woken up. That he had mustered the strength to say it so strongly even as he laid in Magnus’ arms completely wrung out and limp said quite a lot.

Aline gave him a small smile. “My mother likes you and Inquisitor Herondale has major cause to want you alive.” She said with an unnecessary glance to Jace, “Between the two of them, the plan Izzy and I have, your family name and what you just did to take down Valentine, I think we’ve got a really good shot at spinning this the right way.”

It was Luke who spoke next, his voice halfway to commanding, “The Downworld knows. We stand behind him.” He said these words not to Magnus, who had received the promise before, or Alec, but to Aline.

It was a threat and a promise both and Magnus felt his composure crack just a little bit more.

Aline only nodded before she turned to Magnus, “Until we know he’s safe though, you need to get him out of here.”

Taking orders from someone he didn’t know wasn’t Magnus’ favorite thing to do, especially when the someone was a Shadowhunter, but at this moment her orders and his wishes were completely aligned.

“Izzy…” Alec said worriedly.

“I’ll stick close to her and Clary.” Luke promised Alec before he could really begin protesting leaving his sister behind.

Raphael stepped forward and silently nodded. His reassurance meant less to Alec considering the poor state of their relationship but the added layer of protection wasn’t a bad thing.

“They’ll be safe, love.” Magnus whispered to him, “Let’s go, please. Let’s go home.”

Alec said nothing, he was maybe incapable of giving any sort of word about leaving Izzy, but he didn’t protest anymore. Instead, he just turned his face into Magnus’ chest.

Magnus slid his other arm under Alec’s knees and gathered him up. When he stood, Cat conjured a portal for him, the wards against it dismantled now that the battle was won.

It took Izzy and Clary both to get Jace up to his feet. Instead of coming over to stand beside Magnus and Alec, Jace turned to Luke and murmured something that had the werewolf’s eyes widening.

Then, Jace was ready. Both of them were in a sorry state and Magnus knew they were going to both need care when they got back to the loft.

When Magnus walked forward through the portal towards home with Alec in his arms, he felt like he could finally breathe again.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Twenty Nine


 

 

 

So much had happened since Magnus had left the loft only hours earlier that it felt almost foreign as he walked into the living room with Alec in his arms and Jace at his back. If he felt that way, the two Shadowhunters had to be dealing with that feeling three fold.

Without any words, they all went to Magnus and Alec’s bedroom.

Though Jace was practically swaying in place he was so tired, he still rushed ahead to turn down the blankets for Magnus. He hovered worriedly as Magnus laid Alec down. That he was still so frantic said nothing reassuring to Magnus. Either their time with Valentine had been so awful that Jace was still feeling protective even in safety or their bond was giving him a lot of worrying information about Alec’s condition… or both.

Magnus turned to Jace and put his hand on his shoulder, “How do you feel?”

“I’m okay. Worry about him.” Jace said without looking at Magnus.

Worrying about Alec was beginning to feel like Magnus’ default. “I am but I want to make sure you’re okay too.”

“Just tired.” Jace sort of grunted. It was a massive understatement. “I want to take a shower.”

The both of them looked like they needed it. Not in a disgusting way but definitely in a way that suggested they were given the bare minimum in terms of bathing facilities. That said, Jace very much looked like he was close to passing out and Magnus had no desire to hear a thud then find that he needed to go fish a naked, wet and unconscious Jace Herondale out of the shower. He made a gesture up Jace’s body and sent out a spell designed to magically clean him as he went. “That should hold you over.” Magnus said. Then he snapped his fingers to change Jace’s clothes into a pair of sweats that he left in the loft for times when Alec needed him to stay.

Jace just sort of blinked at him and that said more than any words could have. “Go rest. Your usual room is ready for you. I’ll take care of Alec.”

Though Alec seemed to be nearly asleep himself, some part of him was clearly still paying attention. His eyes were half shut but he still turned his hand out his hand for Jace.

Jace went to him as though powerless to deny that small gesture. He sat down onto the bed and leaned his head in until their foreheads pressed together. Neither of them said anything but Jace let out a shuddering sort of sigh that told Magnus that they were communicating in some sort of unseen way.

When Jace stood he nearly stumbled over nothing. An adrenalin crash was coming for him hard. “Go, Jace. I promise I’ll take care of Alec. I’ll come check on you when he’s settled.”

Jace nodded tiredly and leaned into Magnus for a second, as though they were hugging without actually putting their arms around each other, “Thank you.” He said and Magnus knew he meant it for so many different things.

Magnus wrapped an arm around Jace’s back and steadied him, “No thanks needed.”

Once he was sure that Jace could walk to bed without falling, he released him and watched him trudge towards what would hopefully be at least a few hours sleep before whatever the aftermath of all this was came to their door.

Now that Jace was sorted, Magnus could finally focus fully on Alec.

He sat down beside the Angel in his bed and even though there was still so much left to deal with, he felt some of the tension that had been holding him taut ever since Alec had been taken ease. No matter what came next, they were together again. He felt a smile stretch across his face so wide it almost hurt. “Hello, my love. I’ve missed you.”

Alec smiled back at him, a slow sleepy thing that was no less radiant for all of Alec’s pain and exhaustion. “Hi. I missed you so much.” His voice was barely a whisper but there was such warmth in it that Magnus felt his throat going tight.

He couldn’t help but reach out for Alec. Not touching him sounded like a punishment that no God could believe Magnus had earned. Alec’s cheek was cold and clammy now that he was away from the fire and Magnus had to fight to keep the frown from his face at how cool Alec was to the touch.

“How does a hot bath sound?” Magnus asked him quietly.

“As long as I’m with you.” Alec answered just as hushed.

If Alec was going to keep saying sweet things when Magnus was so close to an emotional breakdown then he wasn’t sure how he was going to continue to function. It was really only the knowledge of Alec’s condition that kept him together. Alec needed him. When he was stronger and that collar was off of him, Magnus would have time to fall to pieces.

It should have been impossible to ignore that this was the first time he was truly reunited with Alec after Isabelle had come to him with the news of Alec’s immortality.

For the first time, Magnus sort of just didn’t care.

He cared, of course he did, but the now seemed so much more important than the someday.

Almost losing Alec, again and again, had a way of clarifying his priorities.

Normally he might have gone into the bathroom and started drawing Alec a bath by hand. Tonight he was incapable of stepping away for even those few moments. Instead he had it ready with a flick of his wrist. Just nearly too hot, the way Alec liked it. He might like it even more if the way he was trembling and how he had told them he felt cold was anything to go on. He added some soothing lavender oil to the water for good measure. He didn’t think Alec needed something peaceful to drift off to sleep – he seemed barely awake as it was – but his boy deserved pampering.

While the bath cooled just enough, Magnus got to work getting the clothes off of Alec, “What are these disgusting things?”

Alec and Jace were both in graying and dingy hand-me-downs that looked like they had seen better generations let alone years. “Hmm… too gross even for me.” Alec said as Magnus started attacking the buttons on his top, “You can banish them, if you want.”

“You know me too well, darling.” Magnus said with a smile that was maybe a little strained but was true enough. Alec knew how much Magnus liked replacing his old worn out clothes and these were on another level.

Now that he’d gotten a good look at them, since before he had been more focused on Alec and not his outfit, he decided there was no point in undressing him by hand. These clothes needed to be sent to the nearest hell dimension, even if any of them had originally been Alec’s.

With a snap of his fingers, Alec was naked on their bed.

It took everything he had to only give Alec a playful little smirk, like this was as it always was. As though he was only giving Alec a once-over because he was a delicious vision.

And he was, he always was but…

Jace was right, the collar was killing him.

The realization hit Magnus like a punch to the gut. Another snap of his fingers and a blanket covered Alec. He leaned in and whispered, “Stay awake for me. I’m going to check the temperature and add a little magic to the water. I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,” Alec said quietly. His eyes drooped but they didn’t shut.

Magnus stood, even though it hurt. He walked away, even though it tore his heart.

And then, as soon as he was alone in the bathroom, he threw up a spell to keep all sound from escaping and sobbed.

It was the collar. It had to be.

Alec was sick. There were bruises on his arms and sides, like someone had taken to manhandling him. Bruises on top of bruises, too many to be mark of a healthy person. Alec wasn’t impossible to bruise but nor did he bruise easily. And he was so, so pale. He had lost weight, more than anyone should have been capable of in two weeks. It was as though the collar was consuming him. Eating him up until there was nothing left and Magnus couldn’t get it off him and…

Stop.

He had sunk down to his knees and he hadn’t even really realized it. He felt like he was falling to pieces when there wasn’t any time for it.

It was as though Alec’s magic and life were both fueling the collar, like Cat had suggested before. Magnus hadn’t understood what she meant, not the true cost of it at least. Or perhaps now the two were so intertwined that the collar locking down one was also affecting the other?

He didn’t know. He didn’t know how to solve any of it.

He didn’t know how to save Alec’s life.

Thoughts of the spellbooks he could look in swirled in his head. There was so much to be done.

Magnus stood and his eyes caught sight of the bathtub, still steaming. The smell of lavender filled the air. He let out a shaky breath.

He could research later. Alec needed him right now. He needed comfort and care.

The spell to erase any signs of recent tears was one that Magnus was more than used to. It took barely a thought to cast it now.

Then, he magically teleported a vial from his workroom apothecary. It was a single dose, more than enough for the bath. He uncorked it and poured it in, waving his hand above the water to mix it in. Just something to promote healing. Something for Alec’s bruises and general weakness.

And then he squared his shoulders and went back to Alec.

 

---

 

It was nearly three hours later when Cat portalled into his living room.

Jace and Alec had been asleep that entire time, but Magnus hadn’t. Even if he had been capable of it, he dared not. Not when Alec was otherwise alone and definitely not when the Clave might show at their door at any miserable moment.

He had received a few updates via text. Nothing entirely notable. Things were still too chaotic. There were no official lists of the dead yet. No word from the Clave about anything, let alone the revelation of Malachi’s betrayal.

It had been a long time since he had done battle on that scale. Somehow, he had forgotten how long cleaning it all up could take.

Seeing the portal forming had sent his heart pounding. Any news, anything at all, would be welcomed. Even something bad. Better he know and start working around it than sit here stewing and terrifying himself with his own imagination.

Cat looked fairly put together for what they had just done and what she had spent the last three hours doing without him. She sighed when she saw him, “I need a drink.”

“You’ve come to the right place,” Magnus gave her a tight smile.

She sat down and Magnus got to work mixing her a cocktail by hand. The familiar motions settled him. He could make Cat’s favorites in his sleep.

“I never thought I would live to see the day but that plant or whatever it was is a model of Downworlder/Shadowhunter cooperation.” Cat shook her head as though she still couldn’t entirely believe it, although Magnus understood why perfectly, “Everyone working together to get the last living Circle members rounded up and restrained. The wounded are being tended to with no division between them besides the people with Circle runes and the people without. No one is starting fights we can’t afford. They’re all just… working together.”

Her incredulity was justified. Magnus felt similarly and he hadn’t even gotten to see it in action.

“Aline, the one Izzy called, contacted her mother, the new Consul,” She put a sarcastically fancy accent on Consul, “To tell her about her promotion. This time, instead of sending a mostly secret team led by her daughter under the authority of a second in command who couldn’t find her boss, she involved the Inquisitor.”

“Jace’s grandmother.” Magnus reminded her.

“Poor kid.” Cat said fairly sincerely, “Anyway, she sent over a full team. They’re efficient as fuck, I’ll say that.”

Magnus hadn’t ever been particularly impressed with Imogen Herondale but she did seem to run a tight ship. Besides, he was fairly certain she was gleeful to send a team in. Hopefully someone would get some video footage of Valentine’s smoking corpse to show her. She’d like that.

“I like Aline.” Cat admitted, “A little standoffish maybe but she’s not an idiot. She’s not prejudiced either. She and Izzy seem tight. I think she’ll do her best for Alec.”

Magnus had already whispered a thousand promises into Alec’s ear that he would not let the Clave touch him. That he would protect Alec. This time, there was nothing keeping them in New York. Alec’s secret was exposed. If it came to it, they could be gone in a sixty seconds or less.

“I still don’t have a full list of the dead yet but a lot more survived this than with the Soul Sword.” Cat continued. “Most of the people who were killed were Circle members and no one is particularly broken up about it.”

“Can you confirm who of ours is alive?” Magnus said as he handed Cat her drink. He sat opposite her with a generous measure of brandy.

Cat nodded, “I saw Jinha, he’s fine. I mean, he’s covered in those black lines and he’s going to need serious purification, but he’s okay. Lorenzo, Eva, Matthias, Yulia, Beryl, Cosimo, Kaira, all fine. I don’t have a full headcount yet but we did lose Fritz.”

Any loss weighed heavily on his heart. Fritz was a good man, younger than Magnus by quite a bit but he had a vibrant personality that should have never been extinguished.

“Anyone else lost I should be aware of?” Magnus asked.

She shook her head, “A couple of vampires but younger ones I didn’t know. You can get their names from Raphael. A fire sprite was killed. From what I’ve heard the werewolves, Drow, goblins and Sylph had no losses.”

“That’s a relief.” Magnus sighed and leaned back, tilting his head to rest against the back of the couch. “Shadowhunters?”

“You mean the ones who weren’t with the Circle?” Cat asked then answered him without waiting for his reply. She knew he gave not one single shit about the deaths of Circle members. “A couple from Aline’s team but I don’t know names.”

It had gone better than he had hoped. They had suffered losses, yes, but they had also won.

“Anything else I should know?”

Cat gave him a wicked grin, “Other than the fact that I got to give Malachi’s corpse a little kick? No.”

He let out an abrupt laugh that felt good for all that Magnus had thought he was too wrung out for laughter. “I very much needed to know that. Thank you, Catarina.”

“It was truly my pleasure.” Cat said graciously. Then, her smile dimmed, “How’s Alec?”

Keeping his face from falling was a true feat. “Sleeping.”

“This feels eerily familiar.” Cat tried to joke. She stood, “Let’s go take a peek?”

It did feel eerily familiar but Magnus would trade even the death of Valentine to go back to the last time Cat arrived to look Alec over while he rested after being rescued from a madman. He wished he had all of this to do again. A second chance to be smarter and protect Alec better.

They should have run. To hell with the Shadowhunters – Magnus, Alec and his siblings should have run.

That wasn’t true. He didn’t really believe it… but his heart was harder to convince.

The two of them walked silently into their bedroom and found Alec still sleeping deeply. He had fallen asleep in Magnus’ arms in the tub after about five minutes of soaking. That Magnus didn’t particularly mind. Alec did so desperately need sleep and if being warm and pressed against him had given his boy the comfort he needed to drift off less tense then Magnus was glad for it.

It was just that he was so worried.

“Well, he already looks better.” Cat said and she sounded genuine enough that Magnus turned to her with wide eyes. She caught the expression and elaborated, “A scrub, a change of clothes… they did wonders. He looks comfortable at least.”

“He would be so much more comfortable if we could get that collar off of him.” Magnus grumbled.

Cat didn’t say anything to that. They would discuss the collar, but she had barely gotten to inspect it before. Now that Alec was asleep and resting, she could scan him over better. Before things had been too chaotic for anything more than triage.

Magnus flicked his fingers to pull back the covers on one side. Then, by hand this time, he pulled up the edge of the shirt Alec was wearing, bearing a mess of bruising covering him. The riot of colors against Alec’s too pale skin was alarming by itself, let alone paired with the knowledge of why.

“Shit,” Cat whispered as she trailed a gentle hand over Alec’s skin, “Doesn’t feel hot to the touch, at least. Bruising like that usually says there’s some internal injury going on.”

“I don’t think it’s because of an actual beating.” Magnus said tightly.

Cat just sighed and lifted her hands to begin.

Magnus had been almost terrified as he got Alec in and out of the bath before. What if he caused a bruise? The thought of it was intolerable. To his knowledge, he hadn’t – but with so many of them, how could he possibly be sure?

The wait for Cat to give her pronouncement while he silently waited for her to finish scanning Alec only made his mood worse. He wanted her to get a good picture of what was happening, but it was hard to allow her that time to truly work.

Focusing his attention on Alec instead of Cat was hardly helpful. He had Alec under three quilts and yet he still trembled like he was cold.

It was only the change in Cat’s expression that gave Magnus any clues. When she went from inquisitive and worried to focused and determined, he knew she had moved from assessing to healing what she could. Magnus had done what he could as well, but all of these things were temporary fixes. Once the spells wore off or the collar broke their progress back down, Alec would be right back to where he had been when Magnus had portalled them home.

Well, maybe not that bad ever again, Angel willing. Now that he wasn’t in Valentine’s tender care, hopefully things would be better even if he was still collared like a dog.

It took another ten minutes – or ten years, as far as Magnus was concerned – for Cat to drop her hands and take a deep breath. He reached out for her to steady her and she didn’t immediately shake him off, which said more than words could.

While she gathered herself, Magnus couldn’t help but look at Alec more closely.

Dare he say there was a bit of a flush to his cheeks?

It was Cat that fixed Alec’s shirt and blankets before she jerked her head back out towards the living room and Magnus shook his head.

He hadn’t spoke to Cat about the immortality yet but he wanted to determine if it was true before he told Alec. He needed to be sure before anyone spoke to Alec about it.

“We weren’t the only ones who connected the dots regarding immortality.” Magnus told her quietly.

Cat knew what he was saying instantly, “Isabelle?”

“Yes, and Jace.” Magnus said, “Izzy wasn’t nearly as reticent as us about trying to figure out if Alec was immortal or not. She tested his blood and a sample from his cheek.” He took a deep breath and said words that he’d not yet fully accepted. “He’s immortal.”

His friend merely smiled at him. This was so different for her. Izzy and Jace would have complicated feelings but Cat could only be happy for Magnus.

In some ways, he needed her smile.

“Would you like me to confirm?” She asked knowingly.

Magnus could only nod.

Cat conjured up some supplies and Magnus watched dispassionately as she drew blood.

There was nothing for Cat to say, not yet. Congratulations wasn’t quite right and I’ll tell you as soon as I know was unnecessary.

Once she was finished, they went to the door.  

“It’s moments like these,” Cat said quietly as they walked back towards the couches, “That I miss Ragnor all the more. You know, one of my first thoughts when I saw that collar was that we needed to contact Ragnor? I don’t know how long it’ll take for that to fade.”

Magnus’ drop back down in his original spot was more like a slump. He put his head in his hands and sighed, “It is often the same for me. It’s like a fresh dagger gets thrust into my heart each time.”

“He would be fascinated by that thing.” Cat said with a sad but fond smile, “Honestly, he would have to keep reminding himself to look less gleeful while he worked out the riddle of it.”

That drew a laugh out of him that he honestly needed. Both because of where his emotions were right then and also because of where he was in the never done process of grieving for Ragnor. “I could just imagine him starting to do that little tittering laugh that said he was flummoxed and ecstatic about it before catching himself and having to dial it down.”

“Valentine couldn’t have created that himself.” Cat shook her head, “No way could he have done that. Most of the symbols on there aren’t even something that I recognize. And yeah, I’m no scholar of Edom but still.”

“I recognize some, but nowhere close to all of them. There’s more than one language that he’s drawn on.” Magnus admitted.

“Then how?” Catarina asked.

Magnus looked at her steadily, “I had hoped you would list Christabel as still among the living.”

Realization flooded Cat’s eyes, “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. You’re right, he had to have forced her to help.”

“I’ve looked over the list of warlocks that Valentine had in his arsenal dozens of times. Christabel is the only one who makes sense.” Magnus said.

Cat snorted, “Well it certainly wasn’t Beryl. And brace yourself because I have some news there.”

“News about Beryl?” Magnus asked, genuinely surprised. “I couldn’t even tell you which decade I last spoke to her in. Is she all right?”

“She was halfway to hysterical.” Cat said with a little less humor in her voice. “Just babbling and sobbing. She kept talking about broken crystals, because of course she was, but in all of that mess she kept talking about Alec. About teaching Alec.”

Cat had told him to brace himself but the warning hadn’t been sufficient. “Teaching Alec? Beryl?

“If it’s true then I really pity that boy for a whole new reason. Could you imagine getting magic lessons from Beryl?” Cat asked with comically wide eyes.

The curiosity of it was killing him and he hadn’t even known for a full minute yet. “I’ve rarely heard of her taking on pupils. Only someone truly dedicated to furthering their knowledge of crystalwork would endure lessons with her.”

Anyone else would have been a better choice and I’m even including Jinha in that and he stubbornly refuses to learn the only language Alec speaks.” Cat said.

“Alec speaks Spanish.” Magnus said absently as his mind spun with this new information and the implications of what it might mean.

Cat looked surprised, “He does?”

“Maryse’ maternal family is Hispanic. Alec and his siblings speak Spanish but generally only to each other, interestingly enough.” Magnus explained before getting them back on track, “You’re right though, even Jinha would have made a better teacher through examples and gestures than Beryl with English words. So why would Valentine match them up?”

“We’ve been wondering why he would target her specifically.” Cat shrugged, “This must be it.”

“For that to be true, he must have wanted her to teach Alec something about crystals.” Magnus said the words aloud even though he would have argued against them if anyone else had spoken them.

Cat snorted, “I’m positive that went great. Alec is doing really well with his magic but he’s years off from incorporating crystals into his repertoire. Add in having to be taught by Beryl and I’m sure lots of progress was made.” Sarcasm dripped from her voice.

“What could Valentine have possibly wanted with crystals?” Magnus wondered aloud.

Cat only shrugged, “No point in trying to figure it out. When Alec wakes up, he can tell us. Or Jace could probably tell us too.”

Easier said than done, although technically correct. “You’re right. Tell me then, other than the fact that we both agree that collar is a complicated mess and that Christabel might be the key to unlocking it, what do you think?”

“He’s stuck in a really vicious circle. His magic seems to be fuelling the power of the collar, but not only that, it seems like it’s… I don’t know how to even explain it… like it’s tethering him down at the same time. There’s some sort of connection to Edom in that thing and it’s almost like it’s weighing him down.” Cat said.

“Before, when I first was examining it, it was almost like the spells…” Magnus trailed off and decided verbal wasn’t the way to go. He spun his magic out into three flat circles that were hollow sort of like the collar. “I’m picking three arbitrarily. I have no idea how many layers of spells are within it.” He cautioned before he used his hands to drag the top layer down through the others, creating a sort of tornado funnel in each spot where he had done it. The points where each layer met was lost in the process, hopelessly mixing them together.

Cat’s eyes took it all in and though she clearly understood what he was showing her, the worried pinch between her brows didn’t ease. If anything, it got deeper. “So his magic and the connection to Edom fuel the collar and in the meanwhile, it’s eating him up. That’s without any of the nasty surprises that Valentine might have built in to protect it.”

“It was barely two weeks and he’s literally lost weight.” Magnus let the image fall away and he rubbed his hand over his face. “He’s constantly cold. He’s bruised up and down when he’s never come home from missions so covered. Unless he was taking violent beatings that somehow didn’t break the skin or a bone, then that’s from regular manhandling.”

“Like I said before, this is stressing out his heart. The cold feeling might be a result of poor circulation. Or the collar is just making him feel cold, or both.” Cat added.

“The only thing that’s made him feel even a little warmer was being in a nearly scalding bath but obviously I can’t keep him in the tub until we figure this out.” Magnus had to resist the urge to get up and pace. It wouldn’t do any good and moreover, he was tired. Too tired to waste energy on something so useless.

Cat watched him sympathetically, “He’s exhausted and malnourished again. Vitamin deficiencies across the board, although I did what I could to ease that. He’s not dehydrated, which is nice.”

“I assume we have Jace to thank for that.” Magnus said.

She nodded, agreeing with the guess, “Probably. He’s not injured, other than the bruises, and that’s also something to be happy about.”

Magnus shut his eyes, “I want him to get as much rest as he can. Even more than I want him to eat. I can’t imagine this quiet little interlude will last long. I don’t plan on letting the Clave come here but there’s a likely chance that someone somewhere is going to need to talk to him.”

“That’s wise.” Cat said, “I did what I could for the deficiencies, like I said, and Jace can activate his nourishment rune when he wakes up. That will tide him over. Sleep is the most important now. He’s going to need to keep his strength up while we work on this. In the meanwhile, I’m heading back out to check in our people. I can ask Lorenzo or Kaira about Christabel, if I don’t find her first.”

“That would be incredibly helpful, my dear,” Magnus gave her a smile that was equal parts thankful and weary.

“I also think we should reach out to others in the community, whether we have Christabel to help us or not. There’s a good chance she only helped with parts of it, or that she is too injured to help at all.” Cat said, neatly stepping around the possibility that Chistabel was dead.

The idea of bringing other warlocks in to help Alec was one with merit and also many, many complications. Magnus still wasn’t sure what exactly Alec’s reception would be with the warlocks nor what Alec’s feelings about them would be either. It was emotionally fraught all the way around. “I’ll think about it. And I’ll speak with Alec about it.”

“Think quickly, you need all the help you can get.”

 

---

 

When Cat left to return to the battle clean up Magnus returned to Alec as though his boy had some sort of magnetic hold on him. It was as though he were powerless. He watched Cat’s portal close then turned in one neat motion and walked silently back to Alec’s side.

As he crossed the threshold of their bedroom, he wondered if the sensation of utter relief at seeing Alec safe in their bed would ever fade. Would it take years? Would it ever actually happen?

He didn’t think so. Not after this at least.

It felt as though he had been fighting to keep Alec longer than he had actually gotten to have him. Magnus had never considered himself someone who longed for peace and simplicity. He loved life, vibrant, screaming life. Solitude, quiet and predictability were nice for a long weekend in the Alps or a short island getaway, but other than a few times he had chosen to challenge himself in some way or another, he preferred to be in the middle of it – whatever it was.

Now, he wished with every fiber of his being that he could take Alec and go be quiet somewhere. A little cottage in the woods, Alec practicing his magic and Magnus teaching him and cataloguing his journals like he had been meaning to do for the last fifty years. The two of them dancing under the stars and making potions and learning and just being happy.

Everything had been so chaotic, he had barely gotten to even begin to contemplate what Alec’s immortality meant and what he would say to his boy when the time came.

Once he knew for sure, he couldn’t keep it a secret. That was wrong.

But when to tell him? Should Izzy and Jace be there? How would Alec feel about it?

After Cat confirmed it was about the only directive he felt strongly enough to latch onto. When he was absolutely incontestably certain, he would tell Alec.

A buzzing from his pocket startled him so badly he nearly flailed to grab his phone from his pocket. It shouldn’t have, he had been getting a few texted updates since they had portalled home. Izzy mostly, occasionally Cat or Raphael.

This time, he saw with eager eyes, it was Cat.

He opened the text and felt his heart drop.

Christabel is dead.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Thirty


 

 

 

“The demon towers,” Magnus repeated flatly. “Valentine wanted Alec – Alec, who has had magic for barely two months – to somehow channel his Angelic energy through his newborn magic and shatter the massive, monolithic towers literally created by the Angels?”

Jace was lying on the bed beside Alec, stretched out and still sort of limp with sleepiness even though he had just woken up from a seven hour nap. His hair was wet from the shower he had finally gotten to take and the look on his face was more relaxed but there was still something shellshocked in his eyes.

“The demon towers.” Jace said again. “Yes.”

Magnus leaned back in his chair and could only stare at Alec in disbelief. Valentine, bastard that he was, never aimed small did he? If there was only one thing admirable about the dead madman, it was his ambition.

Never had he heard such a ridiculous plan before. “And he wanted Beryl and a rogue Iron Sister to teach Alec how to do it, even though no one on this earth actually knows how? Adamas might come from the earth but it’s not crystal, although I suppose good on Valentine for trying to find a material that might behave outside of the norm for Alec to practice on. Warlock magic doesn’t have any particular edge on adamas either so what that was going to accomplish…”

“It wasn’t going well.” Jace said sort of like a joke. It would have been a joke in a different situation. Depending on how this turned out, it might become one again. Right now though, this was anything but funny.

The sun had only come up in the last hour or so. The dawning of a new day – one without Valentine Morgenstern.

It felt like a hundred years since he had been trapped outside the wards while he had to watch not only Alec but two other pieces of his heart – Jace and Clary – do battle without him. He had already downed a potion that would keep him up and alert for another twelve hours. After that, he would down another if he had to, although he did hope that it might not be necessary by then. This limbo they were all trapped in wasn’t something that could be tenable for long.

Nearly three hours had gone by since they had last gotten a text from Izzy or Clary. Not even Aline was answering, after Jace had woken up and reached out to her when Magnus told him the Shadowhunter contingent had been silent for far too long.

The silence was deafening. Magnus’ magic was itching to portal them away. He could picture it in his head so clearly. Bundling Alec up and sending him and Jace to his home in Indonesia. Waiting here himself, so he could scoop up the rest of his family when they arrived and then all of them bowing out of this mess.

His heart told him to run, his head told him to wait a little longer.

He sighed, realizing he had let the silence ring a little too long, “I can come up with twenty different reasons why it wasn’t going well. Any warlock could have told him it wouldn’t.”

“Beryl tried, Alec said, but she was really scared and Valentine didn’t care. He said he never saw Cleophas and Valentine together.” Jace explained.

“I can’t speak on Cleophas but Beryl doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She’s also happily reclusive and any conversation that strays away from her work for more than saying hello is a strain on her. Only the most advanced students who are truly dedicated to learning the art of crystal magic – which is almost no one, by the way, advancing beyond the basics is rare because crystals are frustrating – would even bother trying to learn from her. It’s been that way for over two centuries.” Magnus said, his voice quiet in deference to Alec sleeping but was no less audibly frustrated.

Jace raised a curious eyebrow, “What about you?”

“Me?” Magnus asked, “You mean how skilled am I with crystal work? I stubbornly pursued mastery, mostly because I hate not being more than proficient in any avenue of magic, but Beryl is certainly above me in knowledge. At a certain point crystal magic goes from valuable and helpful to theoretically amazing but practically useless. A great deal of the capacity of crystals cannot be accessed and I don’t wish to dedicate my life to maybe unlocking it.”

“And Valentine wanted to unlock them.” Jace summed it up, “Or really, he wanted Alec to unlock them, except not even really unlock crystals, he wanted Alec to understand how they connect with the earth or something. I don’t even know and Alec definitely didn’t. Valentine only revealed what the point of all those lessons were at the end, so we didn’t get much of an explanation. Just that he thought if Alec could manipulate adamas and the connection between it and the earth like crystals have while he channeled his angelic power he could do it.”

“He wanted Alec to do something that not even the strongest, most experience warlocks with centuries of experience in the discipline and what I have to assume no Shadowhunter, not the Iron Sisters or the Silent Brothers, could have done.” Magnus pushed the point further. He knew Jace was aware that the idea was absurd, but he wanted to make sure Jace was aware of just how absurd it actually was.

Before Jace could say anything else, a light flared over the ceiling.

“What was that?” Jace shot up in bed to stare at the ceiling.

Magnus stood, “I set a ward to alert me if anyone portalled in. That’s Cat or Clary.”

Jace was up in seconds, mussing the blankets he was moving so fast.

With a flick of his fingers, Magnus fixed them. He ran a hand over Alec’s forehead, reassuring himself for a few seconds before he followed behind Jace.

“Are you okay?” Jace was saying as Magnus entered the living room, “Both of you?”

He had Izzy and Clary in his arms, the three of them hugging each other as though they had been separated for weeks instead of hours. Although, taking into account the pitiful amount of time they’d had together before they had been forced apart, this reunion was well deserved.

“We’re okay.” Clary promised him.

“How are you?” Izzy asked her brother, “How is Alec?”

“I’m good. Tired but good.” Jace said before hesitating. Magnus could see Izzy and Clary’s faces fall, “Alec’s sleeping.”

But not good.

Izzy stepped back from Jace’s arms and watched him pull Clary into a well-deserved kiss, “Magnus, come join us. Let’s sit for a few minutes. I have a lot to update you on.”

They all moved like this was still battle and orders needed to be followed to the letter. Once Magnus was sitting beside Izzy, he waved his hand over the coffee table and summoned a meal for three exhausted Shadowhunters who weren’t done yet no matter how much rest they had earned.

Izzy and Clary fell on it, ravenous. Even Jace, who had eaten some eggs before they had come, dove in hungrily.

When Magnus made no move for it, Izzy nudged his arm, “You too, Alec.

He sighed, “Point well made, my dear. Please, tell us what’s been going on.” And then he reached for some food for himself.

Izzy already had quite the bowl of what looked like the world’s biggest parfait in her lap and she shoveled a bite in her mouth, chewed for about two seconds, then swallowed and started speaking. If she tasted much of it he would have been shocked. “Aline and I decided to bend the truth a little. We told her mother – she’s already been sworn in as Consul, by the way – that Alec has magic, but we said it’s new. Basically, we said that the first time Valentine had Alec, he laid the groundwork for giving him magic. That’s what made him so sick,” She said, harkening back to their lies to the Clave about Alec’s condition, “And then we he got him the second time, he activated whatever was inside of him and he’s had magic since then.”

“It clears us of lying, because we can say we didn’t know.” Clary added, “Not even Alec knew, as far as they’re concerned. And if a few of the remaining Circle members try and contradict the timeline, we can still say that Valentine might have given Alec the magic all those weeks ago but it was locked inside of him or something. Whatever, we’ll figure that out if we have to.”

“Add in the fact that we genuinely have no idea how he did it. Aline and I didn’t even need to pretend to be in the dark.” Izzy added gratefully. “That helped sell it, I think. I mean, it didn’t seem like Jia doubted us for even a second.”

Magnus nearly winced, “The Downworld knows the truth. The entire Downworld.”

“Are any of them going to go rushing to the Clave to tell the truth?” Izzy asked him.

The idea of it was absurd, but… “Eventually, if Alec does something that someone doesn’t like, it may be used against him.”

“I still think we’re okay.” Izzy said, although she didn’t look pleased about the possibility she also didn’t look surprised, “All we really need is time to establish Alec as loyal and not a threat. If someone in a year’s time decides to blow our cover, we can say that we were trying to protect our brother. They might still be angry but I think by then emotions won’t be running so high.”

Magnus wasn’t sure he believed that but there wasn’t any way around it. Either they lied now for Alec’s life and hoped it all worked out or they risked everything.

With the risk so high, though, Magnus fully intended to do what he could to prepare some sort of escape plan that they could activate on a moment’s notice. That would be their next goal, after they got the collar off of Alec and got through this initial aftermath.

“Imogen is at the Institute,” Clary revealed, “We’re all expected to report there as soon as possible. Alec too.”

“I hate to ask but I assume no triumphant text means you haven’t figured out how to get the collar off of him?” Izzy asked Magnus apologetically.

He sighed, “I wish but it’s not going to be that easy.”

“How is he?” Clary asked as she looked between Jace and Magnus, “Is he okay to go to the Institute?”

Magnus opened his mouth to ask just how serious this summons was but another voice beat him to it.

“I am.” Alec said from behind them.

Jace jumped up, “I felt you waking up but I wasn’t expecting you to just get out of bed and come out here.”

“I heard Izzy talking.” Alec said as Jace sort of dragged him to a seat. Magnus had to keep himself in check because as much as he would have liked to get up too, he was pretty sure that was going to be too much hovering for Alec. It wasn’t wise to push his tolerance on that point so early when there was still so much to come.

Alec’s sister seemed to have no such reservations, although she hadn’t really gotten to get her hug in with the chaos of before. The second Alec was sitting, she practically fell on him to get her arms around him.

“I missed you,” Izzy said into Alec’s shoulder, “You scared me so much, you ass. You and Jace. Stop getting kidnapped.”

Alec laughed a little and he hugged Izzy back just as desperately as she was hugging him, “We didn’t mean for any of that to happen. I missed you too.”

“How do you feel?” She said without pulling away.

Magnus wanted that answer too. Alec had been asleep for hours and waking him up just for a progress report would have been mean. Alec was still shaking like he was cold and that wasn’t reassuring in the slightest. He did look a little less ashen though and his eyes were far more alert than when they had gotten home. And, he’d actually walked out here himself. That had to count for something.

“Better,” Alec said and he even sounded like it was the truth, “Sleeping helped a lot. Poor Magnus had to pretty much give me a bath himself but that helped a lot too.” His eyes connected with Magnus’ over Izzy’s head. There was gratitude there but there was also enough love that Magnus felt like his chest might burst.

Izzy finally pulled back enough to look at him critically. She held her hand to his cheek and focused on his face before letting her eyes dip to the collar, “Well, you look less like week old meatloaf, so that’s something.”

Alec laughed and the sound was divine, “Is that how I looked?”

“Yes,” Izzy said firmly, “Maybe even two week old meatloaf.”

“Sounds about how I felt, so I guess I can’t complain.” Alec said good-naturedly.

“You’re shaking.” Izzy said unhappily.

Alec shrugged a little and it seemed like all he wanted to do was duck his head. Why was instantly apparent when he said, “I’m cold. Have been since I woke up with this thing on me.”

Izzy didn’t falter and Magnus knew how much effort that had to be taking. Instead, she tapped gently on the ugly thing around her brother’s neck and said, “Well, at least we’ve got pretty solid proof that you weren’t willing working with Valentine.”

“That and the fact you set him on fire.” Jace deadpanned.

“All I did was distract him enough to give Clary an opening.” Alec protested pretty quickly.

For her part, Clary only smiled wider.

It was Jace who shut down Alec’s dismissing his own contribution, “One, you saved me from getting possibly skewered. I saw him going for a hidden blade and maybe I could have blocked it but maybe not. He knows how I fight and I was pretty lightheaded by then. Two, Clary did an amazing job but you were a big part of that and you shouldn’t say different.”

“Three,” Izzy took over, “You need to change your tune for the Clave. Seriously, Alec, you need to tell them you did everything you could to kill him. That you intended to kill him. That you wanted to kill him.”

Alec nodded, he didn’t need to be told how to play the game, “The best part is, it’s all true.”

“Good,” Izzy encouraged. “Look thrilled when you talk about it then. Listen carefully, okay? Cat, Aline and I worked out our story and I need you to match it.”

Alec’s focus sharpened visibly. This was the Head of the New York Institute. He was exhausted and battered but he wasn’t going to let them down.

The story was laid out before them clearly and in a measured voice. The three women had clearly worked this out carefully.

“Do you have it?” Izzy asked Alec.

Alec took a deep breath, “I have it.”

“Are you sure?” Izzy pressed.

“We didn’t know I had magic. Activated later. Christabel’s diversion. I was unconscious after. Beryl and the crystals, Cleophas and the adamas.” Alec repeated back the key points.

Izzy nodded, “Cleophas got arrested, by the way. I’m sure she’ll get questioned. Is there anything you told her about having magic that contradicts anything we’ve said?”

“I told Luke she was there, he didn’t get her out?” Jace asked.

This question got fielded by Clary, “There was so much going on, she wasn’t his top priority and the Clave found her first.”

Alec didn’t look particularly broken up by Cleophas now being in Clave custody. For his part, Magnus didn’t know much about her and Jace didn’t either. He felt badly for Luke but that was about it.

For a second, Alec seemed to think that over but almost immediately he started answering, “We didn’t talk much. She does this kind of holier-than-thou serene thing as if she wasn’t twice over a traitor. I think she believes in the Angels a lot and that’s about it. She told me what she could about adamas but most of it was stuff I already knew. I didn’t really want to talk to her a lot and I didn’t. Not about anything that could mess this up at least.”

All of this was well and good and of course Magnus trusted Isabelle, but… “How sure are you that this acceptance is just a ruse to get Alec to turn himself in?”

Izzy turned to look at him and Magnus could see how seriously she took the question. He knew she didn’t blindly trust the Clave but seeing it in her eyes was reassuring. Everything inside of him was still screaming to run. “Sure enough that I’m not especially nervous asking Alec to go to the Institute. I mean, I’m not one hundred percent sure but that’s less because there’s been something off about Jia and more because I just can’t trust the Clave completely. Alec just helped kill Valentine, the eyes of the entire Shadow World are on them right now… I think this is going to work.”

While Magnus tried to let that ease his own fears, Jace checked his phone either for the time or some sort of summons from his grandmother. 

“Imogen can wait a little longer,” Magnus said with a glance at Jace that hopefully conveyed that it was his responsibility to make sure his grandmother cooperated, “You should eat something first.”

There was instant hesitance in Alec’s eyes and that felt heartbreaking. Like they were right back where they had been.

Either Alec was hungry or he saw some of those feelings in Magnus’ own eyes, because he only nodded and gently moved Izzy to the side to reach for something on the table.

It was hard to not be too hawkeyed to see what Alec chose. Anything would do, really, and the granola bar he started unwrapping was as good as anything else on the table.

“I don’t know if you heard anyone say it, but Consul Malachi was found in that treatment plant. Valentine’s lair, whatever you want to call it. He was on Valentine’s side and he’s dead now. Jia Penhallow has already been sworn in.” Izzy updated Alec.

Alec tilted his head to the side, “That should come in handy.”

Isabelle quickly gave Alec the rundown of details that he had missed while he rested. It was pretty much all information that Magnus already had, although she added some names that he hadn’t had before. There were people listed that Alec seemed to know, although thankfully it didn’t seem like anyone killed was a friend of one of his Shadowhunters.

“And the Downworld?” Alec asked, looking at him.

Magnus took over then, giving Alec all the information he had. Clary filled in a few details as well.

Some of that same old frustration came over Alec’s face – he wanted to be involved, he wanted to help. Instead, he had been asleep.

Izzy’s phone buzzed and she pulled it out, “That’s Mom, she and Dad are at the Institute and want to know when we’ll be there.”

“In five minutes.” Alec said.

“I’m coming with you.” Magnus said immediately and firmly.

Izzy nodded, “They want you there anyway.”

He let the comment go but only because they all knew that wasn’t what he meant at all.

Alec taking the last bite of his granola seemed to be the signal that everyone was waiting for. Jace, Clary and Isabelle stood and made like they were ready to go but Magnus watched Alec catch Jace’s eye and give him a look that was too blank for him to interpret. There had to be something said through their bond though because Jace only took Clary’s arm and jerked his head at Izzy, pulling the girls to linger at the front door and giving him and Alec a tiny bit of space.

Magnus came over to Alec instantly and knelt in front of his chair. To his everlasting pleasure, Alec reached out and grabbed a carrot from the table and dunked it in hummus.

Before Magnus could speak, Alec beat him to it, “Are you okay?”

That was what Alec had gotten them a little privacy to ask? “Of course, love, why wouldn’t I be?”

Alec only raised an eyebrow at him before stuffing the carrot in his mouth.

Magnus sighed, “I’m all right, Alec. It’s been… hell isn’t too small a description, I suppose. It’s been hell without you. I’d like us to be done now and I’m ready for a six month vacation at the very least. But…” He reached up and stroked the back of his fingers along Alec’s cheek, “But I have you back. Listen to me, Alec. Now that the Clave knows, now that Valentine is dead, there’s nothing else that matters but keeping you safe. I’ll do everything in my power to ensure it. If the Clave makes a move against you, we’re gone.”

He meant those words with his heart and soul, but he knew Alec might feel differently. Waiting for Alec to swallow his bite and react to that promise was short form torture.

“I understand.” Alec said finally, “If after all this they still don’t trust me…” His eyes went distant and one of his hands started reaching for the collar. He seemed to catch himself and his hand dropped back down. “I was willing to go to the City of Bones but with this? I can’t. I know I can’t. Before, it would have been a necessary evil to win back their trust but now?”

Now it would be suicide and they both knew it.

Magnus’ hand dropped down to Alec’s neck. To the deflect rune cut in two pieces by the metal collar around Alec’s neck. He traced his thumb over the irritated skin as gently as he could. He had tried to heal it earlier but it was too tight to keep from bothering Alec’s throat. “I’ll get it off you, Alec. I won’t let him win.”

“I know.” Alec said simply. “I trust you.”

“Alec,” Jace called apologetically.

Alec glanced back to his brother and nodded. Then, he turned to Magnus. “I can do this. I have to do at least try.”

Magnus pulled in a deep breath and let it out slowly, “I know. I trust you.” He echoed.

Alec gave him a small smile, “Can you magic me a new outfit? Something really warm?”

Currently, Alec was dressed in pajamas. Not really an Institute appropriate outfit even if he wasn’t about to appear before the Inquisitor. Magnus nodded and stood. He held his hands out to his love and after Alec put his hands in his, he helped pull him up to standing.

Alec didn’t sway or go paler but he was still shaking. Magnus only took a second to think over what he was going to conjure before he dragged his hand down Alec’s front and sent his magic to transform his clothes.

In seconds, Alec was in wool socks, his usual boots, black jeans lined with fleece and thick sweater with a thermal shirt underneath. He kept it all to black, which made the only color on him – the dark purple of the circles under his eyes and his various bruises along with the metallic gleam of the collar – all the more noticeable. “Better?”

“Yeah,” Alec said quietly before he leaned in and kissed his thanks instead of saying it aloud.

The contact was soothing for Magnus. It grounded him when he desperately needed it. It felt like their lives had been out of control for entirely too long and though Magnus thrived under pressure, this unrelenting slog of calamities and stakes that just kept rising was all getting to be too much.

But they weren’t done yet.

Magnus pulled back from Alec before deciding he couldn’t stop and he dove back in for another little kiss.

And then he finally pulled away though it was clear that he and Alec would have rather done anything else. He conjured a portal wordlessly.

“Ready?” Izzy asked them both as they all gathered around to step through.

“As ready as I’m going to get anytime soon.” Alec answered her truthfully.

Jace only nodded before he went through first. Clary closely followed him and then Izzy. Magnus took Alec’s hand, “Shall we?”

Alec didn’t say anything, instead he just squared his shoulders and started through the portal. In seconds, they went from the calm safety of the loft to the entry hall of the New York Institute. Magnus wanted to say that he was prepared for anything. His magic was certainly primed and ready for whatever they found in the Institute.

It turned out that wasn’t entirely true.

He wasn’t prepared to find ringing silence.

The room was full of people. New York Shadowhunters, Clave officials, people that Magnus had never seen in New York before… nearly a hundred people crammed in every available space.

And all of them were looking straight at Alec, Jace and Clary.

Magnus felt his hackles rise and he held tightly to Alec’s hand. His magic flared around him visibly. A warning and a reminder both.

No one moved.

No one said anything.

Magnus could feel how tense Alec was beside him. Jace looked even worse. Eyes had started shifting to him, which he probably preferred, but there were still a worrying amount of people staring at Jace’s lover and his parabatai.

Then, finally, footsteps came closer and the crowd started to part to admit Imogen Herondale.

She surveyed them all. Shrewd eyes went from Magnus, to Alec, then to Izzy. She lingered on Clary for an extra second before she went to Jace.

Behind her, Robert and Maryse Lightwood gathered in. Magnus’ own eyes darted between Robert and Imogen, waiting for some sort of threat to be made to justify his burning desire to portal them all away for the next decade.

Finally, Imogen spoke, “Alec Lightwood, Jace Herondale and Clary Fairchild, please step forward.”

Alec let go of Magnus’ hand but Magnus didn’t let go of Alec’s. His boy quickly noticed and gripped his hand again, squeezing once before letting it go again.

Let me do this.

Magnus let go.

Alec, Clary and Jace went between Izzy and Magnus and the firing line in front of them. The three stood in a line, Clary in the center with the parabatai flanking her, each pressed arm to arm.

“You have all been called here to give full testimony in the events that led up to the death of Valentine Morgenstern. I have received some reports, enough to give me a preliminary idea of what transpired last night…” She paused here and Magnus’ heart pounded.

“Enough to know that we owe the three of you our thanks for ridding the Shadow World of Valentine.” Imogen said.

“We didn’t do it alone.” Clary said with a voice equal parts respectful and insistent, “Isabelle Lightwood, Magnus Bane and Aline Penhallow were instrumental and we couldn’t have done any of it without the Downworld.”

Imogen inclined her head, “We will be speaking about that shortly and the Clave is fully aware of the group effort that went in to infiltrating his base. However, without your actions – all three of you – Valentine would still be alive and wreaking havoc on Shadowhunters, Downworlders and Mundanes alike. The Clave and Consul Penhallow would like me to extend their sincere thanks for what you have done.”

As one, Imogen excluded, the entire room did short half-bows to the three of them.

It was slightly creepy for all that it was going better than Magnus had hoped.

Jace nodded to his grandmother before letting his eyes encompass the room at large, “It was our honor.”

Then Alec added, “We did what was right.”

An honor indeed.

“I have prepared one of the meeting rooms to debrief in.” Imogen said before she turned on one imperious heel and just started walking. That they were to follow was heavily implied.

And so they did. It grated a little, Magnus came to heel for no Nephilim save for the one who held his heart and would never ask it of him, but the faster they finished this the faster they could go home and he could get to work on the damned collar.

Thankfully only a core group went towards the meeting room. Imogen and a few of her underlings, Robert and Maryse, and the five of them. No Downworlders but him, of course. He was probably only there because he had directly witnessed Valentine’s death, was close to Alec and thus was a good enough representative. Raphael had barely a chance at an invite and Luke even less of one.

When they entered the meeting room, they found a circular table with chairs lined around it. At the far end, Imogen was already settling down with a stack of papers in front of her. What they were, Magnus didn’t know. The rest of them were left to choose their own seats. Though he hadn’t planned it, it ended up being Imogen on one half of the circle with her entourage clustered around her, then Robert and Maryse, then Izzy, then Magnus and Alec, then Jace and Clary.

It meant that Magnus and Alec were faced opposite Imogen.

For all that he had deeply unpleasant feelings for the Clave, he fervently hoped that wasn’t some omen. The last thing they needed was to finish with Valentine only to dive into a battle against the Inquisitor.

As they all sat, Magnus watched Imogen watch them. Her eyes paused on her grandson, but it was Alec that held her attention the longest.

Magnus wasn’t sure if the tense set of Alec’s shoulders was him being aware of it or some sort of pain he was carrying. Either way, it made Magnus feel just as tense.

“Jace,” Imogen said once everyone was seated, “Please tell us what happened once you and Mr. Lightwood arrived in Alicante.”

Jace’s jaw clenched almost imperceptibly. He was steeling himself but his voice came out measured and calm as he answered his grandmother, “Alec and I portalled in. His presence was requested but he wasn’t well. We didn’t know what Valentine had done yet but we knew Alec had been experimented on and thought that alone was making him sick.”

Imogen held up her hand, “How did you know he had been experimented on?”

“Because I woke up in a cage vomiting black sludge while Valentine told me so.” Alec answered for Jace.

Silence met this information.

Imogen recovered quickly, more credit to her. “I was mistaken, Mr. Lightwood. We should not start with Jace. Your testimony for the Clave was interrupted. I watched the video. You had explained why you took the mission alone and what happened in that alleyway. Please resume the story from there.”

“As I said, I woke up in a cage in Valentine’s base. Valentine was there and there were warlocks as well. The warlocks were arguing with Valentine, saying that I was going to die like the others. He said I wouldn’t. I remember that he said he really thought he’d picked a winner.” Alec’s voice was quiet but there was a core of steel there that made even the stuffy Clave minions sit up a little straighter. “I…” He faltered here but Magnus knew Alec. It was so easy for him to see the mask. Alec was acting. “I admit that I don’t have firm memories of this time. I was in excruciating pain and nothing made sense. I have very few clear memories from this.”

Imogen studied him carefully and Magnus was worried but she only nodded, “Understandable. Given what we now know, I fully recognize the situation you were in. Tell us whatever you can remember. Impressions, concrete memory, anything.”

Alec nodded, “Valentine did mention Jace. As an anchor to me, it was an argument to the warlocks for why I would live.”

“Why did the warlocks believe you would die?” Imogen asked.

Alec could only shrug, “Because no one else had? Because they knew what he was attempting and thought it was crazy?”

“Mr. Bane,” Imogen turned her attention to him, “Has such a thing ever been done before?”

Ahh, this was why he got to be the only Downworlder invited to the party. “No.”

An eyebrow arched, “Would you care to elaborate?”

“I would be delighted,” Magnus smiled at her halfway between poisonous and mocking. He couldn’t help it. “I’ll try to explain it as simply as I can. Warlocks don’t just have magic. We generate magic. I’m assuming you’re all aware of magical exhaustion and a warlock depleting themselves of magic after, say, a particularly long battle?” He waited for nods and got a few. “Our magic can be drained down to nearly nothing but with a period of recovery, we come out of it just fine, as powerful as we were before because our bodies are able to regenerate what was lost. Just having magic in your body is fairly easy to accomplish. Another warlock can easily give a transfusion. Therein lies Valentine’s first problem. Only a person who’s body is equipped for magic can receive a transfusion. Mundanes invariably die if they attempt it. I admit I’ve never heard of a Shadowhunter being given a magical transfusion but your lack of demon blood would likely hinder this effort.”

One of the underlings, a woman with a sour face and blonde hair pulled into a tight ponytail, said, “So then Valentine gave him demon blood.”

“His runes still work.” Jace said firmly.

“Please continue, Mr. Bane,” Imogen cut in frostily. That was a bit reassuring, that she was annoyed with her own people for interrupting, especially because of or in spite of their anti-Downworld bullshit.

“No one has ever come up with a way around this first problem,” Magnus said with a little less sass, “The second problem is the matter of generating the magic. Sometimes, if a warlock is sick or cursed for instance, a transfusion from another warlock can jumpstart their own magical core. But no transfusion will last forever if the warlock doesn’t start generating their own magic.”

Imogen nodded as her eyes again drifted to Alec, “And Mr. Lightwood is generating his own magic?”

“He is.” Magnus answered, “I and another healer have examined him and come to the same conclusion.”

No new question came but Imogen still stared.

Magnus braced himself.

“Might we see?” Imogen asked finally. It felt less like a request and more like a ransom demand.

Alec hesitated. “I don’t know how to do much yet.”

Magnus jumped in again, “The first thing young warlocks are taught to control are elements.”

“Hence Mr. Lightwood’s use of fire.” Imogen concluded. At least she was quick on the uptake. Good in some ways, bad in others.

Working quickly, Magnus conjured a lit candle for Alec. Before Alec could do anything, Imogen raised her hand.

“Can’t you conjure it?” She said with a hint of something in her voice that said she was suspicious.

Jace shook his head, “I broke off two pieces of metal from the bed frame in our cell. I told Alec in advance that I had them and if I struck them together, I could make sparks for him.”

“And how did you know he needed that?” Ponytail butted in again.

“Do you remember the young warlock Valentine was using, Inquisitor? Madzie?” Alec asked. When she nodded he continued, “I babysit her sometimes with Magnus and he’s been teaching her. And there was a warlock that Valentine got for me as a teacher. Her name is Beryl.”

Imogen only sighed, “We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Mr. Lightwood, can you make fire or not?”

“I can’t make it,” Alec said as he reached his hand out. He let his magic seep to the forefront until his hand was bathed in pure white magic. Then the flame answered whatever command Alec gave, growing taller and taller until the candle had a flame nearly a foot long before he let it go. “But I can do that.”

“A great deal more than that.” Imogen corrected quietly. Whether she meant the ring of fire Alec had made or all the potential in his power, Magnus didn’t know. She didn’t clarify before she continued, “Valentine didn’t tell you what he was doing to you? Giving you?”

Alec shook his head, “If he did, I wasn’t conscious enough to hear and remember. Eventually he had me dragged from the cage and strapped into some sort of machine with the warlocks. I was lying on a table while they were being held around me. These… prongs or needles or something, got injected into me. Valentine told me that they were just to provide a pathway into me. I didn’t understand what he meant then but I guess I do now.”

“Did we find that machine?” Imogen asked sharply.

A man at her side quietly said they had not.

That was because the warlocks had obliterated it. Accepting Alec seemed to be something they were willing to do but accept that the Clave would possibly have a piece to the puzzle of giving more Shadowhunters magic if they so desired?

No.

They would not allow it.

Imogen seemed to feel similarly because she only sighed and said, “For the best, I think.”

Alec didn’t comment but Magnus knew he agreed, even though they hadn’t yet discussed what the warlocks had done. “He tried to encourage me to hang on. I don’t know if any of the others he tried it on had made to that point or not. The warlocks also tried to encourage me, but they were telling me it would be over fast. I think they were trying to help me not be afraid to die.” He continued softly.

“But you didn’t die.” Imogen said, “Tell me about when you woke.”

“I was almost incoherent.” Alec admitted. “Nothing made sense. I felt sort of like I had a charge of electricity running over my skin. Like static or something. It was almost all I could focus on. I was dragged from the cage again and Valentine was talking. I don’t… I don’t remember a lot. I just wanted them all to stop touching me.”

It was vulnerable of him to say all of that and Magnus could see the discomfort in the faces listening. Even Robert looked moved. It was a far cry from how he had been acting before.

Even Alec looked uncomfortable with everything he was saying and Magnus understood why. It was unfortunate that he needed to lay himself bare for these people but emphasizing his pain gave them a reason why he didn’t have a lot of information on Valentine and what had been said to him. It also swayed them with any emotion possible. Not that Magnus thought many of these people felt emotions like sympathy and mercy but he would take what he could get.

The mood was somber and Alec wasn’t done yet.

“It’s hard to explain the next part because I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand anything. I just wanted them to leave me alone. I wanted the static to stop. I… I was afraid. A warlock was there. A woman. I don’t know what Valentine meant for her to do. He said her name was Christabel, she’s not a warlock I was familiar with. She stared at me and didn’t say anything but when she turned back to Valentine, she attacked. There was a blast that threw everyone back. She screamed at me to run. I didn’t think. I should have gone to Valentine while he was down and ended things or helped her. I should have at least noted where his base was when I ran… but I didn’t and I apologize to the Clave for my actions. I wasn’t thinking. The only thought I had was to be left alone and I ran.”

When Alec seemed unable to say anything more, Jace jumped back in for him. “Once he left the bounds of the wards, Magnus was able to get a hit on his location. We portalled to him as closely as we could but he was running in no set direction and we were following. We eventually caught up to him and he was nearly incoherent.”

“It took pretty much every bit of strength he had.” Izzy added, “He lost consciousness shortly after we found him and regained it for only short periods of time for weeks after that.”

Imogen nodded to Izzy but her eyes hadn’t left Alec, “Do we have testimony from the warlock Christabel?”

Though he was glad of the decision to give Christabel this last victory, he hated the words he had to speak, “She was killed.”

Imogen gave him a single nod, probably meant as condolences. Christabel had deserved so much more. She turned back to Jace, “Please continue from your questioning in Alicante.”

Jace resumed his interrupted story. He spoke about being led to a different section of the building from where they expected, being separated, then the attack. Magnus listened but he was more focused on reading the faces of the Clave officials, Imogen most of all.

Ponytail looked slightly dismissive but there wasn’t anything particularly mutinous or skeptical in her demeanor. The rest of the contingent looked either similar to her or more convinced. The man who had spoken to Imogen about the machine seemed particularly aligned with them.

“Crystals?” Imogen interrupted Jace finally.

Alec sighed and took over again, “Valentine paired me with a warlock named Beryl. She specializes in crystal magic. She was attempting to teach me. He also arranged lessons from Cleophas Greymark.”

The name sent a ripple of distaste through the room.

“Beryl to teach me about shattering crystals and Cleophas to teach me about manipulating adamas.” 

“Teach you why?” Ponytail asked a little mockingly.

“Valentine eventually told Jace and I his goal before his death but not before. Cleophas’ lessons were straightforward – move adamas. It might have gotten more complicated from there, but I never made it to step two. We tried it with liquid adamas mostly, Valentine watched me manipulate water so I think he thought I’d manage that better, but we also tried it with solid adamas as well. I didn’t manage it. Cleophas tried to teach me about adamas and give suggestions for what I could try but nothing did much for me. If she had any insight as an Iron Sister she held most of it back. And I’ll be honest, I can try to repeat back to you what Beryl was trying to teach me but it makes absolutely no sense and I wasn’t anywhere close to managing it.” Alec said.

Magnus didn’t realize he was smiling until Imogen raised an eyebrow and asked, “Something amusing, Mr. Bane?”

“Very,” Magnus said as respectfully as he was able although he didn’t bother wiping the mirth from his face. “Beryl is indeed incredibly skilled in crystal work. Valentine chose well in that respect. However, she’s reclusive and… shall we just say that her head is operating on a different wavelength from the rest of us? He couldn’t have chosen a worst teacher for Alec if he tried. When Catarina Loss reported to me that Beryl was hysterically talking about Valentine and teaching Alec, she and I were shocked. We remarked that literally any other warlock would have been a better choice and that included the ones who don’t speak a language Alec speaks and would have had to teach him without words.”

Beside him, Alec said nothing but his eyes went a little wide and he just bobbed his head shallowly a few times.

Imogen’s face looked a little sour, as though she wasn’t sure which emotion to settle on and that in itself pushed her expression over to displeased. “And what, Mr. Lightwood, did Valentine intend for you to do?”

“Bring down the demon towers.” Alec answered.

Everyone – from Ponytail straight on through to Isabelle – reacted to that.

“So then you do have demon blood…” Ponytail said, clearly stuck on that point.

Alec shook his head, “I didn’t say deactivate. Crystals are apparently always connected to the earth and have a power of their own. He wanted me to learn how to break that connection and use my Angelic power to shatter them. My lessons with Cleophas had an obvious role to play in his goal. He wanted me to use my Angelic power and my magic to combine both lessons and literally shatter the demon towers. He meant for me to permanently destroy them, not just deactivate them.”

“And could you?” Imogen asked him, cutting through the murmurs around them with easy authority.

I would never.” Alec met her eyes evenly. He paused here, like he wanted to make sure it sunk in to Imogen’s mind. “But could I? I don’t know enough about magic to be sure but I don’t see any way. I didn’t ever get to speak to Beryl or Cleophas about the goal, he forbid them from telling me but I think at least Cleophas knew. She mostly seemed amused by the whole thing, so I don’t think she actually thought I’d manage it.”

Magnus added, “I am quite competent with crystal work and when Jace told me his goal I could barely believe it. I see no way that could have worked. Alec has had his magic for mere moments on a warlock’s scale. Yes, he has Angelic blood and thus can enter Alicante,” Take that Ponytail, “But the power such a thing would take is beyond one warlock, even one with Angelic blood. The attempt would kill him, I’m certain of that. That’s not even taking into consideration whatever this notion of combining his magic and Angelic energy, I have no idea what that means and don’t see it being an actual thing that can be done. Moreover, please take it from someone who pioneers new spells more than the average warlock – experimentation takes multiple tries and years of dedicated study.”

A few seconds of frowning silence met Magnus’s speech.

“You’ve yet to explain the activation of that magic.” Ponytail said, attempting to score her own point.

Alec merely shrugged, “I don’t know what he did. I woke up in his base, with magic and this.” He said, gesturing to the collar around his neck.

“If I might,” Magnus said before anyone else could ask a question. He went through a mostly truthful rundown of the collar around Alec’s neck, emphasizing Valentine’s control over Alec and the urgency in getting it off of him.

Maryse, at least, looked pale. Even Robert’s brow furrowed with concern.

He might have gone a little hard on the second point because Alec took his hand under the table and squeezed it. The gesture was reassuring, but feeling Alec’s normally warm hands so cold only worried Magnus more. The faster they finished this, the faster he could begin the truly important thing: figuring out how to get the collar off Alec.

That urgency must have been in Jace too because he immediately jumped in, “I was kept separately from Alec at first. Valentine came to see me once, mostly to spout his usual. He warned me off trying to escape, said any punishments for trying would be given to Alec, not me. Then, later, guards show up to take me somewhere and I fought them. Eventually Valentine told me I was getting what I wanted so I should play nice. They brought me to Alec. He was shaking like crazy and he had that thing around his neck. I think Valentine let me go to him because, even if he didn’t want to admit it, the collar wasn’t working like he intended.”

“How so, Jace?” Imogen asked, clearly more favorable to her grandson’s opinion than anything else.

“You haven’t gotten a good look at it yet, but it’s covered in symbols from demonic languages. It’s clearly drawing on power from Edom, like Magnus said. You can’t hang that around a Nephilim’s neck and expect it to go well. Alec’s strong but that thing has him shaking and exhausted and it only gets worse when he tries to use his magic, even if it’s something Valentine allows.” Jace explained.

Ponytail raised an eyebrow, “You’re very comfortable with talking about his magic.”

“He’s had it for two weeks and I’ve been with him the entire time.” Jace shot back coldly, “It’s new to you, not to me. Besides, he’s my parabatai. Literally nothing could make me stop believing in him. Nothing and no one.”

If Jace – a Herondale and the Inquisitor’s grandson – wouldn’t turn against Alec for anything then the Clave repudiating Alec would mean they were also moving against Jace.

That was a bold position to take…

And they all knew it. Ponytail, blessedly, shut up.

“And how do you feel about your magic, Mr. Lightwood?” Imogen asked.

Magnus squeezed Alec’s shaking hand. It felt like they were trading the support back and forth between them. Imogen thought she knew what she was asking but she couldn’t. None of them truly could. Alec had been struggling with the answer for so long.

“I don’t…” Alec stopped and shut his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he started again, “I can’t get rid of it, I can’t change it. Do I fully accept that I have magic? I don’t know if I ever will. But the most important things to me are my family and my runes. As long as I have them, I can deal with this. I can learn to use the magic the same as I use my runes and my bow. I can use it to fight demons and save people. Even if it takes time.”

Imogen absorbed that answer for a moment before nodding. “Jace, please continue.”

Jace did, taking them through the days of Alec being taken from him for magic practice and being returned a shattered wreck. How Jace was trying desperately to figure out some means of escape and then through him learning about Alec’s control over elements. He talked about how they were able to quietly plan to use the metal Jace had salvaged.

And then, he spoke about the final confrontation.

This needed no alteration. When Jace hit the alarms going off in the building, Isabelle jumped in and gave a brief statement from her, Clary and Magnus’ perspective. The Clave already had Aline’s mission reports, so they had a good idea about the plan and the coalition of Downworlders.

One by one, Jace, Clary and Izzy brought those moments to life.

Then it was Alec’s turn again.

“Valentine had my magic completely under his control and I was waiting for a single second where Jace distracted him enough for him to let up so I could pull the flames back to me and set them on him. Even when he was using the collar to punish me, I was focused on that. I knew that even if I couldn’t complete engulf him, I could distract and wound him enough for Jace or Clary to finish the job.” Alec explained.

“And did that opening come?” Imogen asked him.

Alec nodded firmly and even let a small smile play at the edge of his lips before he ruthlessly tamped it down. An act but an effective one. “When Jace knocked him to the ground and took the upper hand, he was distracted just long enough for me to act. I was able to light his arm and part of his chest before he used the collar to punish and restrict me again. The pain it causes is… unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, but it was worth it.”

“I took the opportunity to jump through the wall of fire Alec drew from,” Clary said with pleasure in her voice. It sounded a little savage for this delightful little sit down but Clary didn’t seem to care. She didn’t try to hide it like Alec. “And then I stabbed him in the heart.”

“Did he have any last words?”

Clary shook her head, “He just looked at me. I pulled the dagger out and that was it. Between Alec’s fire, the injuries Jace had already given him and the wound from my dagger, he was done in seconds.” Some of that pleasure in her voice drained out and in its place there was something smaller. Not regret. Not grief. Never those. Maybe just a little shock. Clary had killed her father, the father she had never known. She had killed the enemy she’d had since she entered this world. Months ago she had been preparing for her eighteenth birthday and art school and now she had committed patricide with determination, strength and grace. That wasn’t a small thing. As someone who had grappled with those thoughts himself, he knew it better than most.

Magnus both envied her and didn’t in equal measures.

Imogen quietly took in Clary’s words. Their testimony wasn’t as complete as it could have been but it was surprisingly truthful. There were details they hadn’t yet gone over and Magnus was sure his Shadowhunters would be writing reports for the Clave soon enough.

But this was the story. This was the demise of Valentine Morgenstern.

The only thing left was the Clave.

How badly did they want every single detail? How much were they willing to risk to get all of them? Did they even want the full and complete truth when their own Consul was dead from that final raid and, Magnus was sure, there were other dirty little secrets ready to be uncovered?

Or did they, like Magnus, want to call it a victory and be done with it?

Finally, Imogen sighed, “I sense that perhaps there are some details you purposefully don’t want to share.”

Magnus felt himself go cold. His grip on Alec’s hand went so tight they were probably both in pain.

“But no battle, no war, is won completely by the book.” Imogen concluded, “I am aware of that and so is Consul Penhallow. Is there anything left that can be a threat to the Clave or the safety of the Shadow World?”

As one, Clary, Jace, Isabelle and Alec quietly intoned, “No.

“Then I am satisfied with your testimony as it stands.” Imogen said decisively. “Mr. Lightwood?”

Alec’s gaze was solemn, “Yes, Inquisitor?”

“Will you use your magic against the Clave?”

Just say you won’t.

The first thought from Magnus was both treasonous and against every moral Alec had but he wasn’t ashamed of it.

Alec didn’t flinch. He didn’t give any reaction at all. “I vow to the Clave that I will always use my magic to do the right thing.”

“Clever phrasing, Mr. Lightwood.” Imogen said wryly. She seemed displeased but, as her eyes flickered over to Jace, Magnus knew there was little she could do about whatever her displeasure was. Alec had support, her grandson's life connected to his, and an emerging reputation for being a stubborn champion for justice - she could fight him but the Clave could ill afford it right now and she was intelligent enough to know what it was a fight that might cost both her personally and the Clave itself more than they could afford, an ultimately unattractive move when it wasn't likely Alec was going to stage an all out rebellion. “On paper you’ll look nice and obedient. I understand you, however. The Downworld will, of course, be thanked for their role in Valentine’s defeat.”

Thanked… for a battle they waged and won nearly themselves.

“Their representative was very clear regarding you, Mr. Lightwood.”

Imogen’s cool words had Magnus’ heart stopping. The Downworld’s representative? What representative?

No one had approached him about such a thing. Cat hadn’t reported anyone making any rumblings about reaching out to the Clave and especially about Alec.

Though he knew he kept his face neutral, he watched Imogen’s eyes flick to him and he felt a rush of cold run down his spine.

Please don’t let them have betrayed Alec…

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Thirty One


 

 

 

“We were unsurprised to be contacted.” Imogen said frostily. She might have been unsurprised but she was also displeased about it, that much was clear.

“A representative for the entire New York Downworld?” Alec asked and Magnus thought it was meant to be prodding. That his voice was level was a feat worthy of admiration because Magnus could feel the way his hands were shaking. In the aftermath of Alec’s return, Magnus hadn’t yet gotten to break the news about the entire Downworld knowing about his magic yet. They had been more concerned with making sure Alec knew the story to cover his magic with the Clave.

So this, out of Imogen’s mouth in front of all of these people, was the first his boy was hearing about the Downworld knowing.

Imogen raised an eyebrow, “They did not specify an area. I took that to mean all of them.”

That was patently untrue. Other than don’t kill us the Downworld had opinions just as diverse as any large group. That would be like saying the entirety of Europe contacted another country to make demands and that they were all in perfect agreement about it.

All that said though… Imogen wasn’t entirely wrong. By not calling themselves the New York Downworld, the implication was there that this message wasn’t beholden to city limits. It had to have been done on purpose.

Imogen let the silence linger a few more seconds before she spoke again, “The timing wasn’t appreciated. The threat was received.”

The threat?

“I am unaware of any threats being made towards the Clave.” Alec said, voice serious.

“I would look into it if I were you,” Imogen said dryly, “Because the threat was implied on your behalf.”

Seemingly without meaning to, Alec’s eyes darted over to Magnus’. Unfortunately, Magnus had no answers to offer Alec.

“Please explain.” Jace said.

“The Downworld is insisting that Alec Lightwood be welcomed by the Shadowhunters as a gesture of goodwill in the aftermath of Valentine’s death.” Imogen revealed.

All eyes went to Magnus. Why, he wasn’t sure. Because he was the sole Downworlder allowed at this table? Because such a message would have normally come from him as the Downworld’s representative?

Because they wished to gauge the seriousness of the Downworld’s threat in his reaction?

By declaring themselves to be not of one faction or territory, the Downworld was reminding the Clave that they had recently organized in a powerful way and that they had numbers on their side that the Shadowhunters would be hard pressed to battle so soon after what had just happened. And the timing that Imogen didn’t appreciate only folded into that.

We are together. We have just done what you could not. Shall we dance again?

“Mr. Rey wished a reply before he left but the Clave declined.” Imogen finished finally.

Lorenzo had been the Downworld’s representative?

That burned a little, if Magnus was honest, but he was well suited to such a role. Had he walked into the Institute demanding an audience?

“It would appear, Mr. Lightwood, that the Downworld’s eyes are upon you.”

“I have always believed that we can cooperate and live better for it.” Alec said in a measured voice. He was calm, or at least he sounded calm. Magnus knew him and his feelings about being claimed by the Downworld well enough to know that he had to be feeling far more than he was showing. “If the Downworld wants to make me an example of that or if they want my life spared as a gesture that the Clave rejects Valentine’s ideals then I accept that role.”

What else was there for Alec to say?

Imogen studied Alec closely. There were so many things that she could say, so many ways that this could go. Magnus’ magic was tensed and ready.

“Consul Penhallow and I have discussed this situation at length. None of the information given here – although valuable – has any bearing that would change what we had already decided. If anything, your testimonies have strengthened our conclusions.” Imogen said, “I’ll make a formal announcement with the Consul but you will receive commendations from the Clave for your roles in the death of Valentine. Provided you haven’t lied about or omitted something treasonous, if some little detail comes out along the way there will be no repercussions from the Clave. The overarching win of defeating Valentine is worth it, in our opinion.” Imogen said, giving her judgment, “And Mr. Lightwood, you needn’t worry about being stripped of your runes. The Clave is willing to… tolerate your magic so long as you make no moves against us with it. Because of your long medical leave, you will need to be cleared with the Silent Brothers to return to active duty.”

Tolerate your magic…

That meant Alec wasn’t going to be punished. Magnus tried to let that sink into his heart. Alec wasn't going to be punished. He wasn't going to be deruned. He wasn’t going to be locked up.

Imogen’s eyes then went to Maryse and Robert and though the two met her gaze stoically, there was something uneasy there. It was clear that the Inquisitor and Alec’s parents weren’t on excellent terms.

“The issue then becomes the position of Head of the New York Institute.” Imogen started.  

Alec tensed.

Jace cut her immediately off, “Alec has been an amazing leader for the Institute and he’s been doing it for years. His people are loyal to him and I don’t see magic changing that. He’s already been working on strengthening ties with the Downworld and his people support it. This won’t change that. If anything, having the Downworld willing to work with him will make it even easier.”

Imogen merely gave her grandson a look like she had expected no less of a speech from him. Considering Jace had already made his feelings about running the Institute clear, it wasn’t surprising that she was both aware and a little salty about it.

“The Clave stands by their decision that Robert and Maryse Lightwood should no longer be running the Institute, although we do understand and thank them for stepping in while their son was dealing with other matters.” Imogen intoned. The words were intensely formal and it was pretty clear they were deeply fake.

Other matters like two kidnappings and learning magical control. No big deal, right?

Magnus was maybe getting a little too close to throttling these people.

Could they go yet? Now that he knew Alec’s safety was assured every moment spent in this room was grating.

“Mr. Lightwood, I would assume that you would like to continue running New York?” Imogen asked Alec.

“I would like nothing more.” Alec said before he paused and swallowed heavily. The motion only brought the collar around his neck into more focus for the rest of the room. “Although I cannot give the Institute my full attention yet.”

“What are your plans for removing that?” Imogen asked with an understanding nod.

Magnus thought it best to take over, “It is, unfortunately, as complicated as one would expect from Valentine. I don’t know yet how to remove it but it’s my top priority.” When we’re done with you.

Imogen nodded, “I will give Mr. Lightwood another two weeks of leave before something else must be figured out. In that time, Maryse and Robert Lightwood will continue running the Institute… although I am sure that New York’s Deputy will step in now that he is returned.” She turned promptly to Jace.

There were quite a few ways to take that and Magnus didn’t know enough about the internal family politics he was witnessing to give an accurate guess as to why Imogen was so pointedly singling out Jace. Was she implying that the Clave would be displeased if Robert and Maryse worked these two weeks instead of Jace? That Imogen personally wanted to ensnare Jace into a leadership position while she had the chance? Or did she mean it in an overarching sense for after Alec took back over. Was Alec’s position as Head of Institute tenuous and Jace’s name and support were a large factor for why he was being allowed to keep it?

The questions were valid and Magnus would ask eventually but what he really cared about was the time limit.  

Two weeks…

Even if Magnus got the collar off in two weeks, and he desperately hoped he would, Alec’s physical condition and magical control weren’t where they needed to be to go back to work. The time limit felt like punishment more than anything else.

“My place is beside my parabatai,” Jace said with a respectful nod to his grandmother, “I am available for anything that the Institute needs, however.”

Decently political, for Jace at least.

“Our meeting is adjourned then,” Imogen said imperiously.

“Thank you, Inquisitor.” Alec said as though she were doing him a favor.

And then, Imogen stood and Magnus nearly went boneless with relief.

They were done. The meeting was over. The Clave was leaving New York.

The Clave knew Alec had magic and they weren’t going to lock him up for it.

Things weren’t perfect but this was more than Magnus had ever dreamed.

Alec turned to him, finally facing him clearly enough for Magnus to see his eyes. In them, he saw nothing but stunned disbelief.

As the rest of the room started standing and making noise, Magnus took the second to whisper, “You’ve won, darling.”

 

---

 

It wasn’t until the meeting ended – ended without him being led to the City of Bones in handcuffs – that Alec’s intense focus failed him. He had been so intent on projecting strength and professionalism there hadn’t been any room for anything else.

Almost the second the door closed behind Imogen and the rest of the officials she had brought with her, he felt his armor crack.

They’d done it.

Alec had been so sure he would have to hide his magic until his death. He hadn’t been sarcastic when he had said he would reveal it on his deathbed. That was literally what he thought his future would be.

Or, in his worst nightmares, he would slip up and be exposed. Those nightmares always involved things like banishment, deruning and execution.

And now his secret had been fully exposed. The Clave knew about his magic. The Downworld knew about his magic.

He didn’t know what to think, let alone how to feel.

“Are you okay?” Jace asked quietly. Alec was willing to pay actual money to know what he was sending down their bond right now. Jace probably had a better idea of how he was feeling than he did.

Pretty much the only thing left holding him together was Magnus’ hand in his. Magnus’ eyes were just as concerned as Jace’s were.

“What just happened?” He asked faintly.

Izzy gave him a smile both sweet and triumphant, “What happened is that the Clave knows about your magic and they’re not going to punish you for it. I don’t think that was on Jia’s agenda anyway but the Downworld sealed it. Moving against you starts a war they don’t want to fight and can’t really afford right now and they know it. That’s as close to victory as we’re going to get, big brother.”

They had all stood when Imogen did and Alec felt sort of like he should sit down. Sitting down meant staying though and that was sort of the last thing he wanted. It was probably not a good sign that what he actually wanted was a bed.

“Alec, you did so well.”

His mother came up behind him to pull him into her arms. He wrapped his own arm around her, but only the one that wasn’t holding Magnus’ hand. Not even for his mother could he let go and keep his sanity intact.

When Maryse pulled back, she looked at him critically. He was beginning to feel like two week old meatloaf again and he hadn’t even been out of bed for two hours.

“You’re shaking.” His mother said unhappily.

He was. He hadn’t ever stopped really. The outfit Magnus had conjured him didn’t help nearly enough but Alec wouldn’t dare say that to Magnus. It wasn’t his fault. Nothing really made him feel warm. The closest he ever came was either at the forge with Cleophas or when he’d been circled in fire with Jace and Valentine, and then later in those first few moments in the bath with Magnus when the water was still steaming and he’d had Magnus warm against his back.

When Alec didn’t say anything, mostly because he had nothing reassuring to say, Maryse turned to Magnus, “How hard will it be to get that off of him?”

“Hard.” Magnus said succinctly. He was holding himself upright and stiff with none of his usual loose grace. It didn’t take an expert in Magnus’ body language to see that he wanted to leave.

His father’s face went stony, “He’s my son, don’t you think you could elaborate?”

Magnus’ eyes cut to Roberts as though he was barely managing to contain some sort of cutting spell. “Valentine was brilliant. He also bastardized the magic in that collar, although I don’t yet know to what extent. I don’t understand how it works. I will need to extensively research to figure it out. Only then will I have any idea how to get it off.”

Robert let out a heavy breath and looked away. He reached a hand out for Alec’s shoulder and though it hovered a second above, he still touched him. His hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed, as comforting a gesture as his sons ever got from him. “Let us know if there’s anything we can do.”

“I certainly will.” Magnus said and though he managed to hold back the sneer they all heard it.

His father patted his shoulder again, “I’m happy you’re home, Alec.” He glanced at Jace and added, “You too, Jace.”

“Thank you.” Jace said a little stiffly. Their relationship was still strained and now probably wasn’t going to be when it got repaired.

“I’ll go check in on Ops.” Robert said as he let Alec go. “Isabelle, keep me informed.”

He left before she answered him.

That was sort of just how he parented. Alec wasn’t stung. He had long since stopped hoping for more.

Once he was out of earshot – barely – Magnus said, “I didn’t realize your father is a scholar of demonic languages and magical artifacts?”

“Ignore him,” Maryse said quickly. “Alec, you need to listen to Magnus, all right? And your siblings. I’ll be here handling the Institute, all you need to do is focus on getting better.”

Never did he think he would live to see the day that his mother would tell him to listen to Magnus. She really was worried if she was saying things like that.

“I will,” Alec promised.

“I’m excited to see that.” Izzy teased him.

If she had any idea how he felt, she’d believe him. It was good catching up with his mother and he desperately wanted to check in on Ops himself and show his face to his people but…

He was so tired. And so cold.

Right now, the only thing he wanted was to go home to the loft and fall into bed under twenty blankets.

Saying that made him feel smaller than it should. They could see him shaking. They knew he felt cold because he said so.

Actually saying it though? Actually telling them that he was so wrung out after sitting and talking that he felt like he was maybe getting close to passing out? That would just worry them worse and after everything he had put them through, the last thing he wanted was to make them worry more.

His mother started saying something else and Alec wasn’t even really interested in tuning back in to really listen to her.

Instead, he cut his eyes over to Magnus. Please…

The message was received instantly. “Why don’t you all stay and talk that over.” Magnus cut Maryse off without any sort of apology. “And I’ll portal Alec home.”

His mother rushed to give him another hug like Magnus was going to immediately chuck him through a portal. “Of course, you’re right. I’m sorry. You need to get some rest.”

Knowing that he was moments from leaving gave him the strength to finally let go of Magnus’ hand long enough to give his mother a proper hug.

“I love you.” She whispered into his ear.

Alec felt his eyes burn. “I love you too.”

Maryse pulled back and gave him a slightly teary smile, “Go, get some sleep.”

A hand went to the small of Alec’s back, ready to guide him out of here the second his mother let him go. With one last squeeze, Maryse did and Alec turned to Magnus and gave his siblings a tight smile as they watched him go.

In less than a moment, he was home.

The portal closed behind them and Alec felt sort of boneless with relief. “They’re not going to derune me.” Alec said to Magnus with disbelief, “They’re not even going to take the Institute from me.”

“You saved their asses. We all did.” Magnus sort of groused at him for all that his tone was soft, “I should hope Valentine’s death knocked some sense into them even if only momentarily.”

His heart was pounding so hard it hurt. Or maybe his heart was pounding and so it hurt. He wasn’t ever going to forget the sensation of his heart being squeezed by whatever the collar was doing to him. This though, this relief that had his chest aching – he welcomed this.

“Magnus…” Alec started, unsure of what he was going to say.

Magnus’s expression had been tinged with frustration for so long. Angry and utterly disgusted. Now, all of that bled away. “Let’s go lie in bed for a while, shall we?”

Alec should probably tell him how his whole chest was hurting or how cold he felt or the way his fingers were tingling, but he was so, so ready to lie in bed with Magnus. Just for a little while, he wanted to pretend that they had actually won and that it was all behind them now. “Yes, please.” Alec said quietly.

Magnus smiled at him so warmly Alec could almost feel it lick against his skin. He was powerless to stop his own answering smile as Magnus took his hand again and led him this time to their final stop.

Once they were in the bedroom, Magnus sent a pulse of magic towards him that instantly transformed his clothes yet again. He was beginning to feel like a dress up doll with how much Magnus was vanishing and conjuring outfits for him. This time he got things better suited to nights in Siberia.

He wasn’t mad about it.

“Still cold?” Magnus asked him as though they couldn’t all see the way Alec shook.

“Still cold.” Alec answered. “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

That was maybe childish but he felt like he had earned the right to check out of the heavy stuff for a while. Right now, he had a huge bed and an amazing boyfriend and he just wanted to cuddle and relax.

Considering he was pretty much never willing to just cuddle and relax when the world was still in chaos around them, he figured there was no chance Magnus would deny him.

The covers magically turned down and Alec spied something new – fleece sheets.

“I charmed them against static electricity.” Magnus said cheerfully, “Otherwise sometimes they spark.”

“Seriously?” Alec raised a skeptical eyebrow.

Magnus was undressing himself by hand and Alec sorely wished he hadn’t just sat down. If he was still standing he would have gone to help. As it was, now that he was nearly horizontal he didn’t think he had it in him to stand again in the next six hours.

“Well, only if you’re wearing the right kinds of fabrics, which you are.” Magnus said as he flicked the hand holding most of his outfit towards the hamper in the bathroom. He then gestured at himself and his attire, which was only underwear. “I will not be.”

“No fair,” Alec joked as he stretched out on the plush sheets. He made sure to sound as grumpy as he could, “You can’t look that hot when I’m too tired to do anything.”

Magnus gave him a flirty kind of smile, “I’ll still be dressed like this after a nap. We can play then, if you like.”

The blankets were magically drawn up over his shoulders and he was sure he looked like a ridiculous burrito. He had maybe never felt less sexy but Magnus looking at him like that while he was dressed the way he was always made for a good start. “You don’t have to sleep if you’re not tired. I know I’m the one we’re lying in bed for.”

Magnus slid into the bed beside him, “You’re the one we’ve got so many blankets for, certainly. I’m never adverse to cuddling though. As for sleep, I might be too keyed up for a while yet but I’ll stay close.”

The blankets, sheets, pajamas and Magnus were helping. He felt warmer but he was fully aware that this wasn’t going to get better just because he put on more layers. It was like when he had a fever and the chills at the same time. All the blankets in the world weren’t going to fix what was wrong inside of him.

“Tell me what you need, sayang.” Magnus whispered into his hair.

“I hate that all of this is going on and I’m in bed.” Alec admitted quietly. “The whole world is dealing with the fallout and I can barely sit through a single meeting with the Clave.”

“Well, to be fair, I can also barely sit through a meeting with the Clave. For different reasons, of course, but the point still stands.” Magnus waited until Alec let out a little huff of laughter, “But I understand. You’ve done so much though. Don’t think that anyone is blaming you for not being in the forefront. They know what you’ve endured and what you’ve done.”

Did they? Before the meeting, Alec had been waiting to hear if Magnus would reveal what the Downworld knew because the question kept getting stuck in his throat. Now, he knew and it felt impossible. “The Downworld?” Alec asked finally.

“I didn’t know anyone had reached out to the Clave.” Magnus said and Alec hadn’t doubted that. He had felt Magnus’ shock back at the Institute. “I told many in the Downworld about your magic myself though.”

“They weren’t angry?” If his voice was small, he couldn’t help it. The question was stupid, he knew that… but he couldn’t help asking it.

Magnus moved instantly, gently shifting Alec’s head from his shoulder to the pillow so he could slide down in the bed on his side and face him properly, “Look at me, darling.”

Alec raised his eyes and found Magnus didn’t look nearly as worried as he felt. That was heartening but he still didn’t think that good news was coming. Maybe just news that wasn’t catastrophic. He had used up all his good luck for the rest of the decade, he was pretty sure.

“I told them myself.” Magnus repeated slowly, as though he was braced for Alec to call that a betrayal. “Many factions but I think your concerns lie with the warlocks? When I was attempting to gain their support to infiltrate Valentine’s base, I told them about your magic. I… I even showed them a memory of you. When you were testing your control over the elements. I showed them water and earth. There is a warlock, an adversary of mine I suppose, named Lorenzo Rey. He was taunting me, trying to imply that you were disgusted by your magic and I needed them to understand the truth. Both for their support of our cause but also their support of you. It was very likely that the Clave might reject you, I wanted to give the warlock community the clearest picture of you I could so that they wouldn’t do the same.”

Alec digested those words slowly. Somehow, the idea of Magnus telling them wasn’t as bad as knowing they’d seen him sit there and draw shapes in dirt with his magic. He flushed, embarrassed, “Did they… I mean, they must have thought…”

A finger pressed itself to Alec’s lips, halting his attempts to get the question out. Knowing eyes watched him with enough warmth that Alec felt some of his fears ease off.

“We all learned once. Warlocks cannot have children, so we take the teaching of next generations very seriously.” Magnus explained.

Alec let out a worried breath, “Well that’s good, because I’m sure I looked like an absolute child to them.”

“You always do.” Magnus admitted ruefully, “It’s one of the frequent complaints about Shadowhunters. You’re all children to us. Children imperiously giving orders.”

That wasn’t particularly reassuring.

Magnus chuckled and the sound was warm and steadying, “It went well, Alec. They were shocked, of course, and the mood was a bit grim in the beginning but they willingly fought Valentine. I told them straight out that they could go the Clave and expose you and the consequences for you would be drastic. No one did. I can’t promise no one ever will, especially if someone decides that it would be a good way to hurt you to get back at me, but Imogen said if they found some sort of discrepancy later that wasn’t a threat to the Clave, they would leave it alone. Though I could never guarantee it, I knew there would be a number of warlocks there that would support you and turning one of our own in to the Clave is no small matter. It would be looked on with disgust and betrayal, even if you’re sort of a Shadowhunter and warlock hybrid now.”

It still felt wrong to call himself a warlock. Those experiences were not his own, even though he was starting to get a true taste of them. Fundamentally though, he would always be a Shadowhunter first. Especially visually. People would see Shadowhunter before they saw Downworlder.

He couldn’t and wouldn’t lay claim to that word.

But knowing that the warlock community – some part of it at least – might be okay laying claim to him?

“Their threat to the Clave though, that went beyond what I could have ever hoped for.” That admission from Magnus came with a relieved sigh. “They didn’t have to do that, Alec. I didn’t ask them to do that. Lorenzo is the one who went as the Downworld’s representative. He didn’t do it out of love for me and not every Downworlder would tie themselves to that for me either. They did it for you.”

Alec didn’t know what to say.

“I can’t promise you an open arms welcome from the entire warlock community,” Magnus continued quietly, “But I know there are many – most probably – who would seek friendship with you.”

“Okay,” Alec heard himself say faintly. This day was too much. He wasn’t sure he could put any new information into his brain. At least not new good things. Everything was beginning to feel unreal.

Magnus shifted a little strangely in the bed. Then he asked, “Are you angry with me?”

“What?” Alec asked in confusion.

“That I told the warlocks about you? I needed to do it to rally them to our plan for Valentine and I wasn’t sure they would consider it dire enough to risk their lives if they didn’t know the full story. And then, we didn’t know how the Clave would react. I wanted to gain you allies in case things went badly and they made a move against you… but I still told them without your permission.” Magnus talked Alec through his reasons and they were all valid but…

“It’s just a lot.” Alec answered him, “I’m not mad. You did what you had to do, I know you didn’t tell them lightly. I’m just… it’s a lot, Magnus. I feel like I need someone to yell awful things at me before I can really relax.” He had built being exposed up in his head for so long the idea that it wasn’t going to end in his death was inconceivable. This all felt like a dream.

Magnus looked as though he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. His warm hand cupped Alec’s cheek and his thumb stroked the darkened circles under his eyes, “I’m afraid I can’t do that for you, love.”

Alec laughed mostly because there wasn’t anything else left to do, “I don’t know what to say, Magnus. I don’t know what to do.”

“You don’t have to do anything.” Magnus rushed to reassure him. “Truly, Alec, you don’t have to do anything. The Clave’s given us two weeks reprieve to get Valentine’s collar off of you and that’s more for me to work through than you. What to do about your relationship with the Downworld doesn’t need to be sorted out immediately either. All you need to do now is tell me exactly what you’re feeling and rest while I work out how to do it.”

“Why is it everything keeps coming down to me on my ass while everyone else gets the work done?” Alec asked before he could stop himself. Each new thing that happened, each change that they had gone through since he had been taken the first time, went in the same cycle. Something bad happened and then Alec needed a nap. Then, just when he was getting back into the game, something bad happened and he got knocked down again.

It made him feel like a useless burden. He knew they didn’t see it that way. He knew he wouldn’t see it that way if it was one of them who had been dealt his hand instead.

But those feelings wouldn’t go away.

“You’re thinking about it the wrong way.” Magnus protested. “You keep being in the center of the storm and nearly being swept away as you give your all. The aftermath is left for the rest of us to deal with. I couldn’t be with you when Valentine put you in cage. I couldn’t protect you well enough when Valentine came here and tried to take you again. I wasn’t there when Valentine attacked Alicante.”

“No, Magnus.” Alec shook his head.

Magnus didn’t stop, “I wasn’t there when he put that damned collar on you. I was trapped outside looking in when you helped give us the victory we needed in that final battle. I nearly lose you again and again and I’m the useless one. I never manage to prevent it. I just have to try to put the pieces back together when it’s over.”

“None of this has been your fault.” Alec insisted. He tried to infuse his voice with as much conviction as he could but Magnus didn’t look any less devastated by his perceived failures.

“None of it has been yours, Alec.” Magnus countered evenly. His voice was heavy but he obviously believed it. His fingertips carefully stroked over the metal around Alec’s neck. “This least of all.”

Any hint of fight went out of him. He could argue against that point – in fact, if he had done better at planning his debriefing in Alicante he would never have been taken at all – but why bother? It was like all those weeks ago when Alec and Magnus had gotten back together. They could have argued over whose fault it was for days, neither giving ground. The point then and now was the same. They loved each other. They wanted to be together. They wanted to take care of each other. Properly assigned blame wouldn’t get the collar off of him.

Magnus watched him with understanding eyes. “I want to copy down each of the symbols on the collar so I can begin researching. Everything was so scattered before, every time I tried I got distracted by an update on the battle or I felt the overwhelming urge to check on you or my thoughts drifted. Things are settled. My entire focus can go where it’s needed.”

In some ways, it felt like Magnus had been gently leading him to this request the entire time. Alec wasn’t sure why he hadn’t just asked outright. He wanted this thing off, he wasn’t going to argue about letting Magnus copy down whatever he needed to figure out how to make that happen.

“Sure,” He said and he tried to sound as unbothered by the idea of it as he was. He tilted his neck a little but his range of motion was kind of limited with how tight the metal was. Not to mention how angry the skin underneath it was. He hadn’t done himself any favors in the beginning digging at it. Now that he had been wearing it so long it was only making those initial hurts even worse.

Magnus sat up quickly, “Wait, wait, don’t try and do something that hurts. I can move around you.”

Though that plan hurt less, it also included Magnus slipping out from under the covers and that wasn’t much better. Magnus looked alarmed enough that Alec didn’t protest though.

A roll of paper was quickly conjured, presumably so Magnus could write each symbol in the exact order with no risk of confusion.

“Does it actually say anything?” Alec asked, sort of morbidly curious. If the symbols translated out into something like Property of Valentine Morgenstern Alec was going to be hard pressed not to just chop his own head off and die free.

“It’s not one language.” Magnus answered absently as he seemed to pick a starting point and began copying. “So no. Also, most of the languages here that I recognize off the bat don’t necessarily have words that translate. It’s more of a concept kind of translation.”

Was it better if Valentine just implied that he owned him? Probably but barely.

The longer he laid in the warm bed, the more the need to sleep tugged at him. He was exhausted and he hadn’t even been awake that long. “There are languages on it you don’t know?”

Magnus sighed but didn’t slow down his transcription. “Correct. I’ll find them though. My library is more extensive than my memory.”

That was both reassuring and not.

“And I inherited all of Ragnor’s things. Between the two of us, I have to believe we’ll find everything we need. Valentine couldn’t have a more obscure language on this thing than Ragnor knew.” Magnus continued. Then he said, “Darling, can you turn onto your other side?”

Being asked to move when he had created the best little pocket of warmth he’d had in days was something like torture but Alec didn’t hesitate. Magnus needed this, he needed this. He turned and tried not to make a sound.

The covers were quickly pulled back into place over as much of him as possible. He sank back down into the mattress with a sigh.

The sound of Magnus’ pen sketching out each symbol and his own steady breathing lulled Alec under.

 

---

 

It had taken Magnus almost an hour. Demonic languages needed precision and the stakes were too high to leave to a sloppy line added in the wrong spot. He needed to be certain he had everything right.

He looked down at the full line of text grimly.

It was time to search through his library.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Chapter Thirty Two


 

 

 

When his wards announced Nephilim at his door, Magnus’ first thought had been that the Clave had changed their minds and they were going to attempt to take Alec to the City of Bones by force.

It was only after a heart pounding moment of anger and panic that he realized that his wards were admitting the Nephilim, which meant they were one of his. He’d lowered his battle wards down now that the Clave said Alec was free, so he wasn’t getting quite the information that was before but it was good all the same. He let out a shaky breath in relief and magically unlocked the door from where he was sprawled in a massive circle of books. To keep from having someone bellow and wake Alec up, Magnus sent a little message to them at the doorway so they would know where to find him.

And that was how he came to have Jace and Izzy staring in amazement at Magnus sitting on the ground in a whirlwind of what was probably nearing on a hundred books.

To be fair, he wasn’t actively using all of them. Most of them were discarded around the perimeter to be resorted later.

“Shit,” Jace breathed out, “It’s only been like eight hours.”

“Seven,” Magnus corrected, “I settled Alec and stayed with him until he was asleep.”

Jace gingerly stepped around the books to get a little closer. “Can we help?”

“Yes, be a sweetheart and go pour me some whiskey. I keep meaning to magic some in but I get distracted.” Magnus answered him truthfully.

Neither Shadowhunter moved.

“I’m taking that as a bad sign, so if it isn’t then please correct me.” Isabelle’s voice was utterly flat.

Magnus sighed and set the book in his lap down onto the ground just far enough away that he could fight the temptation to keep at it. “I don’t really know how to sugarcoat it and I hate that. I knew Valentine was using different languages just by looking at the collar but some of these symbols are spliced together messes. There’s a worrying percentage that I still can’t translate or even figure out what language they’re in. He’s bastardized so many different demonic languages… I still don’t know how it’s even working. I don’t know how to get it off.”

The half of the Lightwood siblings in front of him were dead silent for a full minute. Digesting what he’d said and, more importantly, the implications and that was absolutely fine except the implications were bad.

He wanted to offer them something better, “There is a bit of good news. There are a few different mentions of blood, so I really do think that Clary’s blood could be a key element of getting it off of him. That’s something we have on our side.”

“We knew that before. Or we thought so before. The only piece of good news you have is a slightly firmer belief in something we already guessed?” Jace was edging out of shocked numbness and into anger. Not anger at Magnus, he knew that, just more of the same white-hot rage that had been flaring up in Jace ever since Valentine had re-entered his life.

Magnus merely looked at Jace.

The clenching of Jace’s jaw said he heard the message.

Izzy crouched down in her place amongst the books, “How could Valentine have done this?”

“Do you remember I told you about one of the warlock’s he had with him? Christabel?” Magnus asked. Izzy nodded but Jace obviously didn’t, so he continued, “These kinds of areas of study were her specialty. I don’t doubt a lot of this was Valentine because Christabel was brilliant but she understood established laws of magic. Still, I think she was a huge part of creating this.”

“But we can’t ask her because she was killed.” Jace finished for him. 

“I’m sorry, Magnus. I didn’t get to say that before.” Izzy said quietly. “Let’s go - ”

“I’m not stopping.” Magnus said to them fiercely, “These are setbacks and I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface.”

Izzy sighed and put her hand on his shoulder, “You are stopping for breakfast.”

“Isabelle, I don’t know how much longer Alec can wear that collar.” Magnus’ voice cracked even though he had tried hard to keep it steady.

“Explain.” Jace demanded.

Magnus’ sigh was shakier than he was comfortable with. He ran through everything that Alec was dealing with – the cold, the stress on his heart, the weakness and everything else that went along with those things.

“Fuck,” Jace swore with feeling, “The minute I saw that thing, I knew someone with Angelic blood couldn’t wear it. What the fuck was Valentine thinking?”

“He didn’t care.” Izzy summed it up angrily, “And he also wasn’t planning on dying.”

“Everything you’ve told me indicates that he intended to keep Alec alive. At least long enough to get the towers down in Alicante.” Magnus was grasping at straws and he knew it, “That means there has to be some sort of failsafe. There has to be some way to get it off of him.”

“Yeah, great, sure.” Jace said, “We need more than a vague belief that Alec was worth enough to Valentine’s plans that he built in a way to get the collar off just in case.”

Izzy turned to her brother and laid a hand on his arm, “We know that, Jace. Calm down.”

Jace looked mutinous at that command but he stayed silent.

“Magnus,” Izzy looked back at him, “Is there anything we can do to help? More than just pouring you liquor? I know we’ve lost Christabel, but is there any other warlock who could help with this?”

Magnus dragged a hand down his face and almost had to laugh, “Ragnor.”

Izzy winced, “Anyone else?”

“Me?” Magnus shrugged helplessly. “After us, I don’t know that anyone else has a higher level of mastery, although certainly other warlocks are more than proficient with the type of demonic magic Valentine used.”

Jace froze for a second and Magnus thought they were about to get another flurry of swearing. Instead, Jace’s eyes went a little unfocused and Magnus had come to understand that it meant focusing on the bond.

“Alec is waking up.” Jace announced. “He’s still pretty tired though, so maybe he won’t.”

“He’s going to stay pretty tired until we get it off him.” Magnus reminded with a frustration that was bleeding away into just sadness.

Izzy nodded but seemed to force herself not to dwell on it. “Magnus, even if there aren’t other warlocks who are better at this than you, would it help to have other warlocks here? I mean, you can talk this stuff through with us and we’ll do our best to help you but we can’t exactly riff on this, you know?”

It was something that Magnus had considered. “They were willing to help us defeat Valentine. Going to the Clave like that was far beyond what I expected but I don’t know if any of that goodwill is left. There are many warlocks who are suffering in the wake of their rescue from Valentine, many might feel that they’ve helped Alec and now need to focus on those who need cleansing and healing.”

“Can we ask?” Jace’s voice was nearly petulant in his anger.

Magnus wished warlock social exchanges were so simple, “I’ll put feelers out via Cat. See where people are settling on the issue.”

“The issue.” Jace repeated with scorn.

“This is a big thing for them.” Izzy reminded him a little more diplomatically although she didn’t look any more pleased than he did.

Jace just turned in place for a second, like he didn’t know where to go or what to do. Whatever his momentary plan was – possibly to wring the necks of whichever warlocks might not welcome Alec – he seemed to think better of it. That only added another turn in his little dance.

Then, he let out an angry gust of air, “I’m going to see Alec. He’s not falling back to sleep.”

“Wait.” Magnus said.

Jace stopped and turned back to him.

There hadn’t been time yet for Magnus to check in with Isabelle on if she had updated Jace that her second test for Alec’s immortality had been completed. He didn’t know if Jace knew that Magnus was aware or that he’d suspected it too.

Instead of speaking, Magnus turned to Izzy and let his silence ask the question.

Understanding lit in her eyes, “I told Jace.”

“And I spoke to Cat.” Magnus said. “She’s going to test him too.”

Though Magnus was speaking to both of them, he turned to observe Jace. Alec’s parabatai had known for weeks but such news couldn’t have been something easy to absorb.

“Tell him.” Jace said to Magnus. His face was unreadable.

Magnus hesitated.

“It should be you.” Jace pressed when Magnus didn’t speak. “Right now, it’s you and him until the end, he should hear it from you.”

Right now?

Magnus didn’t ask the question aloud. His throat went tight because he didn’t need to ask.

Before all of this, Magnus hadn’t let himself think too much on what might happen to between him and Alec with regards to his boy’s mortality. He had known in his heart that he would stay with Alec for the rest of his life, until he was old and gray hopefully.

But some tiny part of him had known that theirs was a love that could span centuries…

If they found a way.

It had been too soon to say those words aloud. It had been too soon to ask that of Alec.

That possibility had just lived within his heart, ready for the day that it might be something they decided to pursue together. If Alec wanted and only then. Not because Magnus asked it of him.

Looking into Jace’s eyes, Magnus knew that the question was still there. The offer, the research and the choice.

It just wasn’t Alec’s anymore.

But Jace was right… right now it was Alec and Magnus facing the centuries together.

“Are you sure?” Magnus couldn’t stop himself from asking.

Jace only nodded once before he walked away.

Neither Magnus nor Izzy called him back when he left.

“Do it soon.” Izzy said quietly. “As soon as Cat knows. Us suspecting is one thing. There’s been so much happening that I don’t think Alec would blame us for not telling him we thought that maybe he could be immortal. If we keep knowing for sure a secret, he’ll be angry with us. He’ll think we’re lying to him because we think he’s weak or something.”

Only Alec would look at everything that he was and everything that he had survived and would see weakness.

“I will.” Magnus promised. “I hope Cat has an answer soon.”

Going to Alec with anything less than one hundred percent surety would be unspeakably cruel.

“Are you and Jace okay?” Magnus asked.

She sighed. “I mean, the chance of my brother dying just went way down. That’s great. I just hate that he’ll have to lose us. I know what that will do to him, even if we all die happy and old at ninety. I think about him decades from now missing us and I feel so sad for him. That’s not even considering his bond with Jace.”

The parabatai bond was a consideration that Magnus wasn’t capable of fully understanding. He simply didn’t know enough about it. Everyone – Shadowhunter and Downworlders both – knew that losing a parabatai meant unspeakable pain. It sometimes killed the surviving half of the bond.

Alec’s magic and his Shadowhunter abilities were two clearly separate things. His runes didn’t ease magical exhaustion, his magic didn’t interfere with the gifts his runes gave him when activated.

Magnus didn’t think magic or immortality would ease the pain of Jace’s loss on a soul level, to speak nothing of an emotional one. He didn’t even begin to know how he would get Alec through that.

Izzy came to kneel at his side, “I know what you’re thinking. Jace and I haven’t talked about that yet and I know we’ll have to but it’s not important right now. The collar is what matters. So listen, you can either conjure us a quick breakfast or I’ll go cook you one.”

Threat received. Magnus snapped his fingers and a breakfast burrito appeared in both of their hands.

She was right – well, not about breakfast, he could have done without – now wasn’t the time to figure out what was to come in the decades ahead. It was for recovering from Valentine and getting that damned collar off Alec.

Izzy paused a second and smiled down at the warm foil wrapped burrito. “We’re going to take ten minutes to eat these and you’re going to catch me up on what you’ve researched. No negotiations. No opening books while we do it. Your eyes have to be ready to fall out of your skull by now.”

They weren’t but then he had put drops in about three hours ago to guard against just such delays.

He didn’t say that, he just obediently took a bite of his burrito. He knew better than to waste time fighting a determined Lightwood.

 

---

 

When Alec opened his eyes, it was to a world without Valentine.

This wasn’t the first time, it was just the first time he had really gotten a moment to think that through.

For all that Valentine had been an overarching presence for much of his childhood, he hadn’t actually affected very much. They lived with the threat that he might come back because there had always been whispers that maybe he wasn’t really dead but it barely ranked as anything worth being actively afraid of. Still, Valentine was there. The threat of him. The aftermath of what he had done. The lingering uncomfortable silence around his name.

And then, since Clary had come into their lives, it had all ramped up beyond what Alec could have ever imagined. Yes, he knew that New York was Valentine’s home Institute and thus was likely to play a large part in whatever his plans were if and when he emerged but never had he thought it would all hit so close to home.

His connection to Jace and Clary… and now to Alec.

And then, in one single moment, all of that was over.

No matter what happened next, it was all going to be after Valentine. There were no new curveballs coming their way. They had to untie the mess he had left them, but this was it.

As if all of that wasn’t wild enough, now the entire Shadow World knew he had magic. The Clave right through to the warlocks – everyone who cared knew.

And he wasn’t in shackles awaiting execution.

It was all maybe too much for him to get past. His thoughts kept circling back around to that meeting with Imogen Herondale.

The meeting where he told them all about his magic… and then they all just parted ways and Alec went home with Magnus.

How?

How was any of this real?

He was relieved, yes. Cautiously optimistic, absolutely. Aware that he was ridiculously lucky, of course.

But he still couldn’t let all of it just sink into his head like it was a fact of his life now.

The sound of the door opening startled him out of his thoughts, which made no sense because he knew it was Jace before the familiar blonde head came into view.

He was just jumpy, maybe. It was going to take a while to ease off.

Jace didn’t say anything about it, even though he had to have felt or seen it. He just shut the door behind him and wordlessly crawled up the bed until he was laid out alongside Alec.

“This is a nicer bed to share.” Jace joked quietly.

“I like any bed where my feet don’t hang off the end.” Alec turned onto his side to face Jace.

His brother was lying on his stomach with his arms curled until the pillow he was resting his head on. It looked a lot more casual than Jace felt. “How do you feel?”

“I’d make some joke but not a joke about how I’m sick of getting asked that question but what’s the point?” Alec answered. “I’m everything Magnus says I am and everything you feel. I’m also sort of blown away by how all of this has turned out.”

Jace laughed a little, “You’re going to have to be more specific, Alec.”

That was a pretty valid point. Their lives were getting sort of ridiculous. He had never longed for boring and normal more. “It’s done, Jace. Valentine is dead, the Clave knows about my magic, the Downworld knows about my magic. It’s all done and yeah, there’s a lot to do to heal what he did and I’m stuck with this goddamned collar around my neck but it’s still done. I don’t know how to process it. I don’t even know that I trust it’s real.”

“It’s real.” Jace promised him seriously.

“I know.” Alec assured him. He hadn’t gone that nuts yet. “It’s still just hard to accept it.”

“I understand,” There was something distant in Jace’s eyes that Alec didn’t like.

He nudged his brother’s arm, “What about you?”

Jace sighed but he didn’t say anything right away. Alec waited patiently. If after all of this Jace needed a minute to get his thoughts together, that was the least of what Alec owed his parabatai.

“I’m so relieved he’s dead and it’s… I feel bad because part of that relief is that…” Jace flipped around onto his back to stare at the ceiling and the entire motion, the frustrated way he moved and how he wouldn’t meet Alec’s eyes, spoke to how uncomfortable he was with whatever this was.

“Tell me.” Alec pushed him a little. Jace had to know by now that Alec wasn’t going to judge him.

Jace covered his face with his hands and laid there silently for a beat. When he pulled his hands away, his eyes were wet. “I get it now, you know? I know you’ve always thought it, Izzy too. That he was a shitty dad. I get it now. I understand that he was abusive when I was growing up.”

That was huge. Alec didn’t think Jace would ever understand or acknowledge that Valentine had been abusive to him when he was child.

“He was.” Alec agreed quietly but steadily. He didn’t need to say anything more. Jace knew.

“But it wasn’t all bad, you know? He taught me to cook and that was never… it wasn’t like everything else, where I had to be perfect. It was like cooking was the fun thing. And sometimes we used to play piano together and do these ridiculous songs trying to one-up each other. He could be kind, sometimes.” Jace whispered the words like they were a shameful confession.

They weren’t. They just made the pain that much worse. Sometimes, kindness was worse than cruelty, depending on who gave it and when.

“And even when I came to you guys and saw how your family operated and then other families, even when I met Clary but didn’t know about Valentine yet, it got harder and harder to pretend that he wasn’t awful. I defended him against everything and then something would happen like Robert would hug Izzy when she messed up and got frustrated with herself instead of breaking her fingers for the mistake and it felt like you guys were all ripping all those things I told myself about him making me stronger to pieces. It made me cling to the good stuff even harder.”

Alec could picture Jace that way. As young as he was when he came to them with that defensive shadow in his eyes and the starved way he watched them interact with each other. In that boy’s arms was a picture of his father that he clung to and little by little they just kept ripping pieces of it away. They needed to. Jace couldn’t idolize a brutal man like that. He deserved better. He had deserved better as a little boy too.

“And now,” Jace kept going through the pain of what he was saying, “It’s been him ripping those last few good memories to pieces. I loved him. I loved my father and every minute I was around Valentine, every time he did something else, he just killed the man I idolized more and more. I’m glad he’s dead for a lot of reasons, but one of them is definitely that his memory being massacred is over. I know that’s stupid but I can’t help it.”

Even as Jace said it, he glanced over at Alec and they both knew it wasn’t quite over.

Valentine could still manage to kill whatever tiny part of Jace still loved the man he had once been.

If Valentine ended up killing Jace’s parabatai after all, that would burn that tiny bit of love into ash.

 

---

 

Even with Izzy’s stern cheerleading, Magnus didn’t leave his workroom for most of the day. When he did, it was for two minutes in the bathroom and ten minutes at Alec’s side. Jace stayed with him most of the day and Alec spent a pretty good chunk of it sleeping anyway. Magnus wanted to be at his side but staring at Alec while he slept wasn’t going to solve the problem in front of them.

The sick feeling in his stomach wouldn’t be so horrible if he actually knew how to solve the problem in front of them.

He didn’t.

Magnus had gone through countless spellbooks. He had searched through archives he hadn’t touched in decades. He cross-referenced demonic alphabets over and over again.

He still had no idea how to get the collar off of Alec.

Some things had gotten clearer. The symbols gave continued mention to one master, so there was no way that Magnus could conceive of to change the collar’s mind about who controlled it. The master of the collar seemed to hold limitless power over the one bound.

Bound to what exactly, Magnus wasn’t yet sure. Bound to the master would be the obvious interpretation, but he was still certain that the collar was directly and continuously connected to Edom.

Magnus sighed and rubbed the heel of his hand over his burning eyes. This break wasn’t supposed to be more time for him to turn his mind around the same circles for the seven hundredth time. It was meant to be dinner.

Dinner with Alexander.

That was worth actually focusing on. He had barely gotten to spend any time with him all day. Magnus pulled a tray down from the cabinet and set it on the counter. What might Alec like for dinner? He could ask but that was no guarantee for a straight answer. The last thing he wanted was to be told no thank you.

He decided on a hearty stew with warm, crusty bread for dipping. It was the sort of meal that Alec generally deemed comfort food, mostly because it was something Maryse occasionally made. He passed his hand over the tray and instantly the smells from the newly appeared meal wafted up and made his stomach growl. Hopefully it would have a similar effect on Alec.

The door to the bedroom was slightly ajar, likely from when Jace had left a little while ago. Magnus wasn’t sure what errands the Lightwood siblings had outside his loft, he didn’t really want to know, but he had no doubt they were playing the Clave’s game while the scrutiny was so sharp.

A quick peek inside found Alec already awake, which wasn’t what Magnus had been expecting. He was reading something on his phone, wholly engrossed and Magnus took the opportunity to quietly look him over when Alec wasn’t expecting to be viewed.

He tried to tell himself what he was seeing was the result of the bad lighting of Alec’s phone casting shadows and the bed being heaped with blankets. He tried to tell himself that he was being overdramatic and that no changes could be wrought so quickly.

His heart began to pound.

No matter what he tried to tell himself about tricks of the light or some other way he could rationalize away what he was seeing, the truth was that the collar was draining Alec faster than they could shore him up. He was being sapped of all vitality, he was diminished and it was going faster and faster without Valentine there to control the thing he had hung around Alec’s neck.

Magnus’ mental timeline for how long he had to get the collar off of Alec had been the two weeks the Clave had given him.

He was getting desperately afraid that two weeks was more than Alec could survive.

That stunning realization had Magnus shocked still. He stood there like a fool with a tray in his hands and he just stared into nothing, trying to process what his whole heart rejected but knew was true.

They were losing Alec. Every moment, he went further and further away from them.

Magnus turned so he could lean against the wall beside the door. Tears stung and he shut his eyes tightly to keep whatever he could in. He couldn’t keep doing this. Falling to pieces wasn’t doing anyone any good, Alec least of all.

He felt so close to some sort of edge. These last six or so months had been so full on. Everything, the good things like meeting Alec, the bad like all the pain Valentine had caused. All of the people he had lost and all the people he had gained. The hits just kept coming and coming and coming. His emotional reserves were down to nothing.

This was the sort of emotional place he hated. When he felt like this he usually ran. A few months in solitude, preferably in some remote locale where he could quietly rebuild himself, time to himself without the demands that being Magnus Bane brought to his door.

He couldn’t afford that. He wouldn’t get it.

His life was no longer his own, both by his own choice and by the hold Alec had on his heart. Decisions must be made jointly now and he knew that Alec wouldn’t agree to a restorative six months in Indonesia anytime soon.

The idea of it didn’t even matter. They weren’t done yet. He couldn’t fall to pieces.

Magnus pulled in a deep breath, counted to three and then let it out slowly. He repeated the process five more times before he felt steadier.

Get the collar off him. Help him recover. Get back to regular life.

Magnus almost snorted. Regular life. What the hell was regular life at this point?

He magicked away any evidence of tears, opened the bedroom door and put on a smile that became more real when Alec looked up at him. “Your dinner, my love.”

Alec’s smile didn’t falter but it was obvious that he didn’t want to eat anything. That he seemed willing to make an effort and pretend was perhaps more upsetting than if he just outright refused. “Smells good.”

Magnus set the tray on the bed and snapped his fingers, instantly changing his outfit into soft sleep pants and nothing else. Alec’s gaze dipped down admiringly. That should have been a good sign but in Magnus’ experience, the male libido held on the longest through hard times.

He appreciated it, of course. That went without saying.

Alec’s eyes came back to meet his again and he said, “Looks good.” Even though he hadn’t even spared a glance for the meal on the tray.

“I try.” Magnus winked flirtatiously.

They were saying the right words. It all felt right.

It was wrong.

He could see it in Alec’s eyes. They were both pretending desperately. They both knew what was coming, even if neither of them could put words to it.

Instead of letting the realization bring his stubborn tears back, Magnus grabbed the spoon and took some stew. He offered the bite to Alec and watched Alec take it without any excitement or eagerness. He was eating because Magnus asked him to, nothing more.

“We have to keep your strength up if we’re going to have any fun.” Magnus said in a voice that was failing miserably in its goal of being low and husky in a seductive way.

Alec chewed quietly but gave Magnus a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. He reached out for the other spoon and, once he swallowed, said, “You too.”

Of course he would. Most people saw the end result of all of Magnus’ fantastic saves and powerful spells but thought nothing of the toll they took on him to figure out and accomplish. Alec did. He always did.

Alec took his own spoonful as Magnus started in on his bowl. They ate silently for a moment before Alec broke it himself, “You’re tired.”

The statement sort of startled him. It wasn’t what he had been expecting. “I’m all right.”

Alec just stared at him.

He let out a sigh, “I’m tired but I’m okay.”

“I understand how hard you’re working and why. I’d do the same if it were you.” Alec said with compassion and love in his eyes, “But I