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Learning to Be

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Max couldn't sleep. He blinked his eyes, adjusting to the soft glow of his nightlight. His heart was racing from the nightmare that disturbed his sleep. He frowned, looking at the door.

He was four years old and being four meant having his own room. But the only problem with having his own room was that he was all alone when he woke up scared. Unconsciously, he stuck his thumb in his mouth, contemplating his options.

He could go to his parents room…but he wanted his parents to know that he could handle big boy privileges. Hodge wouldn't tolerate the interruption. Izzy would just treat him like a baby and Jace was not an option. Jace was the toughest person he knew and he wanted to be tough like his adopted big brother. Crawling into his bed because of a nightmare wasn't tough.

He swung his legs over the side of the too-big-for-him bed, deciding to go to his oldest brother, Alec. Alec was acting weird lately. He hadn't spoken to anyone in months. Their parents tried to get him to talk to them. Izzy even punched him in the arm to try to get a reaction out of him and Jace relentlessly annoyed and teased him. Even the shadowhunter from Alicante staying with them, Mr. Manson, offered to play chess with him. But nothing worked. Alec would just brush it all aside and walk away, locking himself in his room. He heard Hodge saying something about kids his age being moody. Max wondered if there was something different about being 13.

The only person Alec seemed to tolerate was Max. If Alec was in the library, Max would sit by him and read his picture books and his brother wouldn't move away. He would just continue reading his big-boy books and nodding in encouragement as Max read his out loud.

Max slowly padded towards Alec's bedroom, his witchlight balanced on his open palm, giving him just enough light to make his way down the hallway. He stopped at Alec's door, feeling the eeriness of the silence creeping over him. He gripped the doorknob and swung it open. Immediately, the witchlight illuminated the room and a rush of sounds hit him abruptly, like he had broken a silencing rune by opening the door.

Max gasped, his eye blinking rapidly. All he could properly make out was a large figure moving over Alec's significantly smaller body under his sheets. Alec's face was turned away from the door but Max could hear him making these horrible whimpering noises and the man above him making sounds Max had never heard. It was terrifying.

He stumbled back, letting the door swing slowly towards the doorframe. He started running down the hallway towards his parents' room.

He burst into his parents' room, panting loudly.

"MOMMY! DADDDY!" he yelled, running towards them and jumping onto the side of the bed by his mother.

He shook her urgently.

"Max, by the angel. What is going on?" Robert said, sitting up, as Marsye struggled to untangle herself from the sheets and her youngest child.

"Alec," he exclaimed.

"What about Alec?" Maryse asked groggily.

"He's hurting him!"

Marsye seemed to snap out of the daze. "Who?" she said as she swung herself to her feet, rushing to grab her stele and a weapon.

"Mr. Manson…he's in Alec's room…he's hurting Alec!"

Robert was already out the door and Max had to scramble to keep up with his parents. He accidentally dropped his witchlight in front of Jace's door as he ran by. From the corner of his eyes, he could see the blonde boy stepping into the hallway.

"What's going on?" Jace muttered, scratching his head.

Max didn't stop to explain anything. Soon he was in Alec's doorframe, Jace just behind him.

They arrived as Maryse yelled out. Each second seemed like a minute. Robert seemed to be frozen, blinking dumbly at the scene in front of him. The man looming over Alec stopped moving, his head swinging back at the noise.

"Fuck!" Mr. Manson's voice was hoarse.

"Get off of him!" Robert yelled as he finally moved forward.

Jace somehow made it passed everyone, flying at the man in a fit of pure rage and pushing him over the side of the bed. Max knew Jace, at 12 years of age, wasn't strong enough to knock over a fully grown man but Mr. Manson was obviously startled by the arrival of four people in the room.

Alec cried out in pain and scrambled backwards to the headboard, his knees immediately pressed against his chest. A streak of red stained the sheets under his brother. Alec wrapped his arms protectively around his bare legs, holding his knees tightly to his body, his blue eyes glassy and wide as he watched everything unfold around him.

"Jace, take Max and leave," Robert instructed harshly, his eyes never leaving the offending adult. Maryse had already rushed to her son. She was seated on the side of the bed, her arms wrapped around the child. She was whispering soothingly into his hair but Alec did not relax, continuing to sit tensely, curled into himself.

"No!" Jace exclaimed. "I'm not leaving Alec!"

"Do as I say now!" Robert turned to the two standing boys, his eyes ablaze with fury.

Max knew Jace did not want to listen to him but surprisingly, he took a hold of Max's hand and pulled him out of the room.

Jace stopped against the wall beside Alec's door and Max immediately wrapped his arms around his leg, tears finally rushing over his face. He didn't understand what was going on except that Alec was really hurt.

Jace unconsciously stroked the little boy's hair comfortingly even though his full attention was on the words coming from Alec's room.

"Put your fucking clothes on, you sick bastard," yelled Robert.

"Robert, please." Mayrse's voice floated into the hallway, desperate and pleading. Max imagined his mother holding her palms over Alec's ears, trying to shield him from the coarse words.

"Fuck you, Lightwood." The man laughed harshly. "Oh right, that's what I did with your son."

There was a scuffle and the sounds of a struggle.

Max tipped his head enough to see into the room from the side. Robert was towering over Mr. Manson, who was crumbled against a wall, a blade held under his chin.

"You're not going to kill me," he taunted. "Besides, your son enjoyed it, isn't that right, blue-eyes?"

Alec immediately shut his eyes, his lower lip trembling before burying his face into his drawn knees. Maryse hissed but remained on the bed, holding her son tighter. "You're going away for a long time…it'll be worse than death."

The man ignored his mom and kept his eyes trained on his dad. "Really, Robert? You're going to report me to the Clave? You're going to explain how you didn't know what was going on in the Institute that you are responsible for? Or better yet, you're going to drag the brat through this? Think of your reputation, Robert. Hasn't it suffered enough with your association with the Circle?"

"Maryse, get Alec out of here," Robert said, his eyes never leaving Mr. Manson.

"Sweetie..." Maryse started but it was obvious to Max that Alec had no intention of moving. It was like he was frozen in the position, knees drawn and face hidden, desperate to disappear but having nowhere to disappear to.

Instead of pushing Alec further, Maryse addressed Robert. "You get that...you get him out of here, Robert."

Robert didn't argue, grabbing the offending shadowhunter by his shirt collar, which he must have hastily put on during the confrontation and started dragging him towards the door.

Max quickly swung his head back, stumbling into Jace, who also had his head tilted so that he could see what was going on.

"What did I say?" snapped Robert, as he manhandled Mr. Manson out of the room. "Why are you still here?"

"You told us to leave the room." Jace hissed the words through clenched teeth, his eyes glued on Mr. Manson. He looked like he was ready to pounce on him again and tear him to shreds with his bare hands.

"Take Max to your room and stay there."

"What about Alec," Max finally spoke, his eyes wide with worry.

"Mom has Alec. I need you both in Jace's room."

"What about him? Are you reporting him to the Council? He needs to be punished!" Jace said angrily.

Robert tightened his grip on the man's shirt. "Go to your room."

Jace glared at the older Lightwood. "Alec hasn't spoken in months."

Robert ignored the pre-teen. He pushed his temporary prisoner towards the staircase.

"Jace?" Max murmured. "Will Alec be okay? Why was Mr. Manson hurting him? I saw blood." He tried to blink away the tears. He wanted to be angry, like Jace but he was scared and confused. "Did Mr. Manson cut Alec?"

Jace watched the two adults disappear out of sight before looking down at the small boy. Without saying anything at first, he scooped Max into his arms, allowing the little arms to wrap around his neck. Jace glanced into Alec's bedroom as Max buried his head into his shoulder.

"Alec's going to be okay." Pause. "Alec will be just fine, Max."

He didn't sound very convincing, even to a four-year-old.

Chapter Text

The darkness was suffocating. It seemed to hang around Alec heavily, blinding him and forcing him to place his hands in front of him, trying to find his bearings. His heart was pounding in his chest and he didn't know why. He stumbled forward. A strip of light suddenly appeared in the distance, glowing near the ground. Alec drew himself near the light, his hands finally finding a hard surface.

It was a door. The light was shining through the gap between the door and the floor. He groped for the doorknob and swung the door open. He was suddenly flooded with light. Alec's hand unconsciously flew up to shade his eyes. He squinted, adjusting to the light. He was in the training room at the Institute. It didn't make any sense. The training room was at the top of a flight of stairs, not at the end of a hallway.

In the center of the room stood Jace. His blond hair framed his face in messy curls. He was wearing black Shadowhunter trousers. His bare chest glistened with sweat, muscles stretched perfectly over his arms and chest. His reflection bounced between the mirrors, making an infinite number of images. Alec blinked his eyes. He looked away, feeling a fluttering sensation at the same time that his stomach twisted with self-hatred.

He looked back into the room. Oddly enough, his own reflection did not appear in the mirrors.

Jace just stared at him, his golden eyes cold and so unlike his parabatai.

"Jace?" Alec's voice was hoarse, like he had been screaming but Alec didn't remember straining his voice.

"What did you expect, Alec?" Jace said. His voice as cold as his eyes.

"What do you mean?"

The lights flickered, Jace coming in and out of focus. Alec didn't know if it was a trick of the light but for a moment Jace looked five years younger. Alec looked down at his own hands, noticing them becoming smaller. He blinked his eyes. When he looked back at his hands, they were their normal size. He looked up. Jace was back to his normal teenaged self.

"You're disgusting."

Alec felt his eyes watering. He willed the tears to remain hidden. "Jace."

Suddenly, hands grabbed at him from behind and Alec yelled. He tried to twist around to see what was going on but for some reason, he couldn't.

Jace started laughing, an unnatural, inhumane laughter. The hands were large and rough and they wouldn't let him go. Alec struggled. His heart was racing dangerously and tears finally spilled down his cheeks.

Jace continued to laugh.

Lips pressed against his neck, teeth biting into his skin as the unwanted hands traveled down his body.

"Jace, please, help me," Alec pleaded. He hated feeling so weak but he wasn't able to get away from the hands and teeth. His chest hurt. He wondered if this was how a heart attack felt.

"It's what you want, right?" Jace said, still laughing. Alec continued to scream as Jace seemed to get further and further away from him, the training room disappearing along with him, leaving him in darkness once again but not alone.

"You're so beautiful," whispered a voice in his ear.

Alec's stomach twisted painfully. The teeth were nibbling at his ear now. The hands had traveled passed his waist. He wanted to throw up. The voice, the hands, the lips, he would never forget them.

"Let me go."

"You love it, Blue Eyes."

Alec closed his eyes. He was trapped.

He felt himself giving up when he heard a loud snap. His eyes flung open and the hands keeping him hostage disappeared. Light flooded around Alec once more and in front of him stood a tall, lean man, his hair spiked with gel and his eyes outlined in charcoal glitter. He was wearing jeans and a black shirt covered in metal buckles. His hand was lifted, as if he had just snapped his fingers.

Magnus Bane.

He smiled at Alec and winked. "Call me."

xxxxxx

Alec shot up in his bed, his heart beating relentlessly and his nightclothes drenched in sweat. He ran his hands through his black hair and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He had been having variations of the same dream for years. Sometimes, he woke up before he was forced to relive the memories but other times, he was forced to experience things he tried so desperately to forget. This was the first time that Magnus Bane had entered his dreams, seemingly saving him from the inevitable.

He didn't know what that meant. He tried to push it away. It didn't matter. His mind and body were his enemies. He was constantly betrayed by them and he didn't trust them. Almost every moment of his life was spent being trapped and feeling out of control.

It was 4:30 in the morning and Alec knew he wasn't going to get anymore sleep...not that the sleep had been very productive. Residual images flashed behind his eyelids. He clenched his stomach, feeling nauseous. He grabbed his witchlight from his nightstand. He found a towel and a change of clothes and rushed to the bathroom.

His room was a few doors away from the nearest occupied room but he still placed a silencing rune on his door before heading for bed each night. He had no control of his nightmares and how he reacted to them in the middle of the night and he definitely did not want anyone to know that he was still having them.

The bathroom was right beside his bedroom and he was the only one who used it. He slipped in quietly and was immediately greeted by his reflection in the mirror. His hair was plastered to the side of his face with sweat. His blue eyes stood out in stark contrast with his pale skin. He squeezed them shut. He hated his eyes. His stomach twisted again and he fell to his knees in front of the toilet bowl, his body immediately expelling his dinner from the night before.

He wiped the side of his mouth, cursing under his breath. He couldn't even control his digestive system on a regular basis. He flushed the toilet and slammed the lid down, his hands shaking. He fumbled aimlessly as he removed everything but his boxers. He sat on the top of the toilet, his eyes falling on the faint marks on the inside of his thighs. Unlike the curving, silvery lines of his runes, these lines were short and straight, the scars slightly raised and just a hint darker than his skin. He didn't have many. He'd learned long ago when he had to apply an iratze to avoid scarring.

He reached out to the sink, fumbling within the drawer and grabbed a razor. It was an old fashioned razor, the blade tucked into the handle. Alec flipped it open, holding it carefully. It belonged to his father at one point. It was the only thing that seemed to bring him control and calm. Alec chuckled humorlessly. There was an irony in it all.

xxxxxx

Izzy walked towards the kitchen, tying her long black hair into a high pony behind her. Her parents and Max where supposed to be back tomorrow and she thought she would make pancakes one last time before her mother shooed her out of the kitchen once she arrived.

She was surprised to see that the kitchen light was already turned on. As she neared the kitchen, she saw her older brother seated in a high stool at the steel island, nursing a cup of coffee. He was wearing a faded pair of black jeans and a brown, baggy sweater. He was aimlessly playing with the holes in the sleeve of the sweater with his unoccupied hand. He looked sad and lonely and it broke Isabelle's heart. Sometimes she caught herself just watching her brother when he wasn't aware, wondering when he had become so melancholy.

She remembered when they were younger. Alec had always been the quieter one but he had enjoyed spending time with her. He used to enjoy teasing his baby sister and once Jace arrived, he often followed Jace's lead with teaming up on her. She remembered the two of them getting to know Jace when he came...how excited Alec was to have a friend after his initial reluctance at Jace's arrival. The three of them would get into all sorts of silly trouble at the institute, constantly driving Hodge mad.

But then something happened and it all changed. Alec seemed to slowly draw away from social contact, only engaging in it as a means of going through the motions. And then when he was 13, he had refused to speak for almost a whole year. She remember punching him in frustration. Screaming at him. Demanding that he said something. But he had ignored her and everyone else for a full 10 months.

When he had finally spoken, everyone had gaped at him in shock and he had fled the room, locking himself in his room for hours.

She had tried talking to him about it over the years but Alec would brush it aside and acted like he didn't know what she was talking about. So she stopped asking. She knew that Alec was struggling with his sexuality. She saw the way he looked at Jace sometimes and she saw the intense look of self-hatred that always followed. It broke her heart and made her hate the Shadowhunter world for hurting her brother.

She loved her brother so much that it hurt to see him fading away like this.

Wiping away the sad look from her face, she finally entered the room. "Morning Alec," she greeted brightly.

Alec looked up. "Hi Izzy. What are you doing up so early?"

"I thought I'd make pancakes. I'll make you a stack first."

"Oh joy," was his only response, though Izzy could tell it was in good humor.

Izzy leaned onto the kitchen island across from Alec. "Why are you up so early?"

Alec just shrugged, sipping the hot liquid.

Izzy reached forward and pressed her hand against his forehead, brushing aside the strands of hair that were falling into his face. He moved away slowly, looking at her wearily.

"Are you feeling all right? Do you still feel pain from when Abbadon attacked you?" she said, worriedly.

"I'm fine, Izzy. I've been fine for a while now. No crutches, no pain, perfectly healed."

"Hmm, yes, Magnus Bane certainly did a good job, didn't he? I like him," she said in an overly cheerful voice.

"I guess. I don't know. I barely know him."

"And yet he came all the way here and cured you. Free of charge. And he's expensive! Didn't ask for a penny." She smiled at Alec. "He's cute, isn't he?"

Alec cast his eyes down to his coffee. "I wouldn't know, Izzy," he snapped.

"Oh Alec, don't take that tone with me," she said, not fazed by his reaction. "Don't you think you should thank him?"

Alec shrugged. "I don't have his number."

"You know where he lives."

"Do you really think that's necessary?"

"Alec, where's your manners!" Izzy said, knowing she was being purposefully dramatic. "The least you can do is thank him in person."

Alec didn't respond.

"Besides, I think he likes you," she said, softer, kinder and without the teasing tint to her voice. She looked at him carefully, gauging his reaction.

He flinched and closed his eyes. "Wh-why would I care if that were the case. And besides, you don't know that." His voice was barely a whisper.

"Jace mentioned it too."

His eyes snapped open and he looked at her fearfully. Izzy's stomach twisted. She needed to thread carefully. "I only mean that he mentioned that Magnus had asked if he was 'the one with the blue eyes'."

There was a sudden cracking sound and Izzy jumped back. Alec hissed in pain and both Lightwoods looked down at Alec's hands. Somehow, he had broken the mug in his hands, piping hot liquid and shards of ceramic spilling over his hands.

"By the angel! What did you do?" Izzy cried, rushing to Alec's side and gently taking his hands away from the mess. Alec just kept staring at his hands in a daze.

"I-I was holding it too tightly."

"Holding it too tightly? Alec, this is not some stress ball! Damn it, your hands." The hot liquid burned his hands, the skin blistering.

"I'm fine Izzy, I can fix it." He tried to draw his hands away but Isabelle held onto them.

"Don't Alec. I'm doing this," she instructed, giving him no room for argument. She took out her stele and gently traced an iratze into his palm. Alec gritted his teeth. Izzy finally let go of his hand. She watched the blisters slowly disappeared. "You have to be more careful, Alec."

"I didn't mean to."

"I know," she said, kissing him lightly on the forehead as if he were a child. "Now I'm going to make you pancakes."

"Do I have to eat them?"

Izzy scowled. "Do you love me?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"Do you love me?"

"Of course I do."

"Then you'll eat my pancakes."

"That doesn't seem fair."

Izzy smiled cheerfully, bouncing off the stool she was resting against and heading for a pan. "I know."

Fifteen minutes later, Izzy placed a stack of pancakes in front of Alec, who had made another cup of coffee and was carefully sipping it. The top pancake had a large heart with a smiley face in the center made out of chocolate chips.

Alec looked down at the pancakes and couldn't help but chuckle.

Izzy beamed. "I love you too, big brother."

Chapter Text

Magnus propped his feet up on his coffee table, sighing contently. He flicked his hand toward the TV and settled into a mindless episode of Real Housewives of New York. Chairman Meow sprang onto the couch and nestled in beside him.

"Oh, now you want to get all cuddly, when just 30 minutes ago you were hissing at me," he said fondly, stroking the cat softly.

He had just snapped a glass of wine into his waiting hand when he heard the loud buzzing for the front door.

He groaned. Really? He was just getting into the episode. He motioned to the TV and the image on the screen froze.

"WHO CALLS UPON THE HIGH WARLOCK?" bellowed Magnus. He smirked at his own dramatic flair.

A hesitant voice came through the speaker. "Er. It's me. I mean, Alec Lightwood.

Magnus paused, an eyebrow raised. The blue-eyed Nephilim? Well, this was a surprise. Chairman Meow jumped off the couch as Magnus buzzed the shadowhunter into the building.

He opened the door and leaned against the doorframe, listening to the teenager's footsteps coming up the stairs. He definitely looked better than he did the last time he saw him, practically dying on a bed in the Institute infirmary.

He wore faded black jeans and a shabby brown sweater, like he was trying very hard to hide his attractiveness and disappear into the background. But it was hard to do.

"Alexander Lightwood," he started. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Alec glanced into the apartment. "Um, are you busy?"

Magnus raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "Depends."

He boy shifted his feet. "Can I come in and talk?"

Magnus stood silently for a moment, his eyes roaming over the boy. He was tall and wiry but with lean muscles hidden underneath his clothes; maybe an inch shorter than Magnus and slightly narrower. Alec looked at him nervously. He had these long black lashes that framed his large eyes, the irises a perfect mixture of different shades of blue. His thick black hair framed his face, stopping at his defined jawline. He was beautiful.

"Well, why not," he decided aloud and abruptly turned away and into the loft. He settled into his previous spot and Alec sat down in the golden couch opposite him, sitting at the edge, like he was readying himself to bolt if necessary.

"Do you want anything? Coffee, tea?"

Alec just nodded.

"Both?"

"Um, right, um tea would be nice."

Magnus smiled when Alec jumped as a piping hot cup of tea from Joe's appeared in his hands.

"What the...did you steal this?" he said, staring at the cup of tea, in total bewilderment.

"Adorable."

"What?"

"So, what did you want to talk about?"

Alec slowly sipped the tea. "I...um, I wanted to thank you for what you did."

"You came all the way here to thank me?"

"You saved my life. Izzy said you didn't accept any payment. You didn't have to come, but you did and I don't know if I thanked you properly, so yeah, thank you."

Magnus watched the teenager carefully. Did he come all the way here just to thank him? Magnus had known many Lightwoods over the centuries. Most Lightwoods he knew where arrogant and sly. He wouldn't trust them. But Alec exuded the opposite--honesty and innocence. "Well, you're welcome."

Alec bit his bottom lip and placed his tea on the coffee table. "I should go."

"So, you came all the way to Brooklyn just to thank me?"

Alec blinked his eyes. "I...I mean, I didn't have your number."

"Now you do."

"What?"

Magnus smirked. "Check your phone."

Alec dug into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He fiddled with it for a moment and then looked at it startled.

Magnus couldn't help but grin. His expression was so endearing. Definitely not a typical Lightwood.

"Magnus, the Magnificent?"

"It has a certain flair to it, wouldn't you agree?"

Alec chuckled softly and smiled.

"You should do that more often."

"What?"

"Smile, it looks good on you."

Alec frowned, his eyes suddenly downcast. Magnus leaned forward and brushed his fingers against the younger boy's cheek. He instantly felt a spark but Alec immediately drew back and stood up, looking away.

"I'm sorry," Alec muttered.

Magnus frowned at his reaction. "What are you sorry for?"

Alec forced his eyes up. "I don't know. I..." He was wringing his hands.

"Does anyone know?"

Alec immediately tensed. "Know what?"

"That you're gay."

He flinched. "I'm not...I'm not gay." The poor boy could not lie to save his life.

Magnus sighed. This boy was so far in the closet, he was lost in Narnia.

Magnus should have just let him go. He didn't need to get involved with a Nephilim. And he definitely didn't need to get mixed up with a confused teenager that was so terrified of his sexuality that he couldn't even admit it to himself. He was not unsympathetic to the struggle but he was too old to get involved.

But there was something about him that drew him in and he couldn't quite place it.

"You don't have to be afraid of your sexuality, at least not here."

Alec shook his head. Chairman Meow walked over to the standing shadowhunter and rubbed against his leg, purring happily. Startled out of his discomfort, Alec looked down at the cat.

"The Chairman likes you."

Alec crouched down and buried his fingers into the cat's fur, as if he was glad for the sudden distraction. "Is that a good thing?"

"He's an excellent judge of character."

Alec sat on the floor. He crossed his long legs and allowed the cat to jump into his lap. Chairman Meow nestled into the nook and Magnus watched as Alec concentrated on stroking the cat's fur, his eyes fixed down.

"Maybe...I don't know, we could be friends?"

Magnus raised an eyebrow, surprised. "You and the cat, or you and me."

Alec looked up, his cheeks flushed slightly. "You and me."

It was adorable. "Well, if we were 12-year-old girls, we'd make friendship bracelets and call it a day but I have to wonder if you're asking because you don't know how to make friends that your family hasn't adopted or because you want to make it clear that you only want to be friends."

Alec blinked, looking almost bewildered. "I...I don't know."

Magnus leaned forward, watching the Nephilim play with his cat. It had been a long time since he spent any time with shadowhunters. "I don't like to make a habit out of making friends with Nephilim but you intrigue me."

"I'm not that interesting."

"I'd rather disagree, young Nephilim. You're different."

"From other shadowhunters?"

"From other Lightwoods."

Alec raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were so acquainted with my family."

"I've known more Lightwoods than you probably do."

"And how am I different?" His question came out bitter, like he didn't want to be so far removed from his kin.

"Less arrogant and cunning."

"I don't know if I'm supposed to take that as a compliment or an insult."

Magnus smiled. "I'm not partial to the snobbish, arrogant type that thinks they are better than others because they have the blood of Raziel running through their veins."

"And you are not arrogant?"

Magnus tilted his head, enjoying the banter. "Confidence does not equate to arrogance."

"And how do you know I don't think I'm better than you?"

"Because you are honest without even saying any words. And at the party, you told me that I can't help the way I was born." Alec bit his bottom lip. Magnus was sure he was trying to convince himself as much as the warlock when he had said that. "And you are sitting here right now, playing with a warlock's cat."

"I should be offended on my family's behalf."

"And yet you know I'm right."

"My siblings are not like that."

"Well, then there is hope for the future generations of your esteemed family," he said grandly, sweeping his hand in the air.

Alec's eyes twinkled with laughter as he got up. "I should really go. They will be wondering where I am. I told them I was going on a walk."

Magnus stood up and walked the teenager to the door. Alec turned around and looked up at the warlock. Magnus really wanted to bend down and kiss the Nephilim. His bottom lip was slightly swollen from where he had bit it. His lips would be perfect for kissing, Magnus thought absently. But he refrained himself, not wanting to traumatize the confused teenager.

"Well, dear shadowhunter, we'll see where this goes."

Alec nodded, almost too seriously. "Thank you."

"For saving your life. I got it."

"For everything," Alec said quickly before turning around and disappearing down the stairs.

Magnus stood in the doorway, wondering what else he was being thanked for.

Chapter Text

Jace was seated in the main living room, right off the elevator. His legs were propped up on the coffee table and he had a demonology book sprawled open beside him. He had been texting with Clary for the last hour but she had to go and Jace had no motivation to continue with his reading. Instead, he mindlessly played Tetris on his phone.

Jace was annoyed. It was a Saturday night and he had nowhere to go. Isabelle was upstairs getting ready to go out with some Faerie boy she met at Taki's and Alec was nowhere to be found. He had said he was going for a walk but that was two hours ago. When did he become the one that had no plans on a Saturday night?

Just as he lost another game of Tetris, he heard the elevator door open. He sat up, assuming it was Alec coming back from his "walk". His brother walked into the living room, a tentative smile on his face, as if he was thinking about something and wasn't sure if he was supposed to be happy about his thoughts.

Alec still hadn't noticed that Jace was in the room, so Jace just watched him. He realized that he did that a lot. Alec wasn't the most communicative person and Jace always felt like he needed to make sure that everything was all right. Sometimes he wished he could read his mind, just to make sure that he was okay. He frowned, not wanting to think about it.

"Had a nice walk?" he finally said.

Alec jumped, startled. "By the Angel, Jace! I didn't see you there." He looked at him, annoyed.

"You were deep in thought. Too much thinking and you'll cause an injury," he said lightly.

"Haha, very funny."

"One day, you'll find jokes funny."

"Just because I don't find your jokes funny, doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor."

Jace smiled. "I know many who would disagree."

"What are you doing in the living room?"

"I'm bored and I have nothing to do," he whined. "Where were you for the last two hours?"

Alec cheeks reddened slightly and Jace raised an eyebrow. Was his brother blushing?

"I went for a walk."

"That must of been some walk!"

"It was...nice...I think."

"You think?"

"I mean, yeah, good. Good walk. Where's Izzy?"

Jace noticed that he was changing the subject but he decided to let it go. Alec wasn't upset, so he would let it go for now.

"She's getting ready for some date."

Alec fell into an arm chair beside Jace and leaned forward, grabbing the book. "Who is it this time?" he asked as he mindlessly flipped through the book.

"Some Faerie boy from Taki."

Just as Alec was about to say something, Jace heard the elevator door open once more. Both boys looked at each other before making their way to the elevator, just as Izzy came bounding down in a tightly fitted black dress and impossibly high heels.

"Who's here?" she asked, peering over the boys.

"Mom?" Alec said as Maryse walked in, dropping a travel bag on the bench by the elevator.

She looked up at the kids and smiled, although the smile did not reach her eyes. She looked from Isabelle to Jace to Alec, her eyes lingering on her oldest son.

Isabelle pushed passed the boys and hugged her mom. Alec and Jace followed suit, hugging the older woman.

"Going somewhere, Isabelle?" she asked.

"I was going to go out with a friend but I can cancel."

"No, no, that's okay. You have fun. And you boys?"

Jace grumbled. "No plans." Alec shook his head.

She nodded, looking almost relieved.

"Where's dad and Max?" Alec asked.

"Dad still has business to attend to in Alicante and Max stayed with him."

"Max must really like Idris," Jace said.

Mayrse just hummed in response.

After Isabelle left, Maryse looked at the boys, her expression unreadable.

"I need to talk to you both," she finally said.

Jace frowned, her request seeming ominous.

"Is everything okay?" Alec said. Jace could here the apprehension in his voice.

"Let me put my bag away and change. Meet me in the kitchen in 15 minutes."

xxxxxx

The two boys sat in stools at the kitchen counter, waiting for Maryse.

"Maybe she's upset about Clary?" Jace started.

"Why would she be? She's Nephilim, so it's not like we did anything wrong, bringing her here."

"Maybe she's upset about us going after Abbadon. I mean, you almost died!" Jace's stomach twisted just thinking about it.

Alec shrugged. "But I didn't and we were just doing our job."

"Maybe this is about Hodge. I mean, he just disappeared. I don't know how it's even possible."

Alec nodded. "That could be it."

They sat silently for a few more minutes before Maryse entered the kitchen. She quickly busied herself with putting the kettle on the stove and pulling out three teacups and teabags. She placed the cups in front of the boys. Finally, the kettle whistled and she poured the hot water over the teabags in each cup.

"Mom?" Alec started.

She sat down in front of her sons. "I have...," she sighed. "We'll be having a shadowhunter staying with us for a while. The Clave has appointed him to deal with a specific task in New York, so he'll be staying with us. He arrives tomorrow."

Alec and Jace looked at each other, confused, not understanding why she looked so upset.

"Do we know this person?" Jace finally said.

Maryse closed her eyes, not speaking for a moment. "Benedict Manson," she finally said.

It was like every sound was sucked out of the room at that moment. Like the room was now frozen still. Jace stared at his adoptive mom, his eyes unblinking but the fury building so rapidly inside of him, he was sure he would explode.

There was a loud screeching sound as he got up, the stool dragging against the floor before tumbling on its side at the force at which Jace stood up.

He looked at Alec. The older boy was frozen in place, his hands gripping the edge of the counter tightly, as if it was the only thing preventing his hands from trembling. It probably was.

"No," Jace started, the sound escaping passed clenched teeth. "He is not coming here."

"Jace, there is nothing I can do."

"NOTHING?" he finally screamed, his voice bellowing through the otherwise silent room. "NOTHING?"

Alec flinched but didn't do anything.

"THIS IS YOUR FAULT! YOU AND ROBERT!" Jace couldn't control the anger. His whole body shook with it and he felt angry tears stain his cheeks. For five years that night had haunted him. He remembered his brother's silence for so many months. He remembered the happy boy from before and he remembered the sullen one that was left behind. And he remembered the helpless kid dwarfed under a monster, the memory permanently etched in his mind.

"Jace, listen," Maryse started, her own eyes glistening with wetness as she watched Alec but spoke to Jace.

"NO! YOU LISTEN! WHY DIDN'T YOU SEND HIS ASS TO THE COUNCIL? HE SHOULD BE LOCKED UP, NOT COMING BACK HERE!"

"Jace," Maryse tried again.

"You're a coward," Jace hissed. "Both of you are cowards!"

Suddenly, Alec stood up. Jace turned to him. "Alec," he said softy. Alec refused to look at him, his face hidden from Jace's view. "Alec, please, look at me."

He lifted his head, his eyes trained on his mother. His face was stony and expressionless. "Is Max staying in Alicante while he's here?" he asked, tonelessly.

Maryse nodded.

Alec turned away and walked towards the doorway. "Good," was all he said before leaving the kitchen.

Maryse dropped her head into her hands, defeated. Jace didn't care. He stormed out of the room, following his brother.

xxxxxx

Alec collapsed to his knees as soon as he entered his bedroom. His body shook violently as he sat against the door. He felt dizzy and sick and he felt like he would pass out. And at the same time his whole body felt numb and lifeless, like he could run through fire and not feel the burn. His mind was foggy. He couldn't think. He squeezed his eyes shut, burying his head into his knees, his hands pulling at his hair, like he could pull out the memories with the motion.

xxxxxx

Five Years Earlier

Alec held the bow up and pulled back the string, his eyes trained perfectly on the target before releasing the arrow from its rest. The arrow zipped through the air, hitting the center of the bullseye. Alec smiled. It was late at night and everyone was probably in bed. He liked to come up to the training room at this time to practice. He enjoyed concentrating on the target and not thinking about the feelings and emotions that swirled around in his mind most of the day.

He quickly placed another arrow against the bow. Just as he was releasing the arrow, he heard a sound. Startled, his aim shifted slightly and the arrow landed on the edge of the target.

Alec swung around to face the sound.

"I'm sorry I startled you."

Alec relaxed slightly, silently cursing at himself for being so jumpy. It was the new shadowhunter that was staying with them, Benedict Manson. He'd arrived two days earlier and mostly kept to himself. He was tall and wide, with a solid build like most grown shadowhunters. He had buzzed brown hair and a trimmed beard.

"What are you doing up here so late, shouldn't you kids be sleeping at this time?"

Alec scowled. "I'm not a kid," he said, even though it just made him sound younger.

"How old are you?"

"13," he said, trying to sound older. He'd just turned 13 last week.

"Well, I guess you aren't a kid then. You're a teenager. And quite a good archer from where your first arrow sits."

Alec shrugged. "It's the one thing I'm good at."

The man moved closer to him. "Why would you say that?"

Alec shrugged again, moving to the wall to pull the arrows out of the target. "Jace is good at everything else."

"Hmmm, that's the blonde one?"

Alec felt himself blushing, thinking about Jace and his perfect golden hair. He pounded his fist against the wall, trying to ignore the treacherous thought.

"Did you come up here to train?" he asked, ignoring the man's question.

"Yes, I thought it would be unoccupied."

Alec turned around. The man watched him, his eyes moving up down as if he was assessing him. Absently, he licked his lip.

Alec looked away, feeling uncomfortable. "Yeah, okay, I'll let you train then. Good night."

The man grabbed the boy's wrist as he passed by. Alec tried to pull away instinctively.

"Don't go. I'd rather enjoy the company while training"

Alec looked at him doubtfully. He dropped his arm. Why would a grown shadowhunter want to train with a puny, not-so-talented kid?

"Come on, I'll show you how to throw a dagger as well as you shoot an arrow."

"That's okay, Mr. Manson. I'll let you train."

"It's not a bother. And call me Ben."

Alec contemplated the offer. He could go back to his room but he was terrified of his thoughts and his dreams. Why couldn't he just be normal like Jace? His stomach twisted.

"Okay," he said finally, stepping back into the center of the room in front of the target.

The man smiled broadly, jogging to the equipment and pulling out a few daggers.

When he returned he passed one to Alec. "All right, show me how you throw a dagger."

Alec looked down at the knife. He had never tried throwing daggers. He'd seen his mother do it and she was really good. He narrowed his eyes and focused on the bullseye, letting the dagger fly. It flew through the air but landed short, tumbling to the floor just before the target.

Alec blushed furiously, humiliation heating up his cheeks. He shifted his feet, trying to think of an excuse for his pathetic performance.

Ben came up behind him and handed him another dagger. "Don't be embarrassed. You obviously have the right aim but you just need to put more force into the throw. Here, let me show you."

The man pressed his body against Alec, grabbing his waist with one hand and holding the hand gripping the dagger with his other. The man pulled the boy flush against him and held his arm up, positioning it for a throw.

Alec felt the discomfort coming back. He didn't like being this close to other people, let alone someone he barely knew.

"Mr. Manson," he started, trying to pull away.

"I said to call me Ben," he said gently before guiding Alec through the motion of throwing the dagger.

The dagger flew swiftly towards the target, hitting just outside the bullseye and staying lodged in the target.

Alec wanted to be proud but all he could think of was that something hard was jutting into his back. He squirmed away from the man and quickly went to gather the knives.

"Good job, kid," came the man's voice. "Or should I say, young man."

Alec turned around and tried to smile, but failed. He was confused. "Thanks," he muttered.

"Try one on your own this time."

Alec almost sighed with relief. "Okay," he said before returning to his original spot.

xxxxxx

Present

There was a persistent pounding in Alec's head, pulling him out of the memory. It took him a moment to realize that the banging was coming from the other side of the door and not from inside his head.

"ALEC! LET ME IN! I swear to Raziel, I'll use a unlocking rune and break this door down if I have to!"

It was Jace.

"Go away, Jace," he managed to reply, the fogginess in his minds dissipating, leaving him with the feeling of pain and shame weighing him down like he was being buried under an avalanche of rocks.

"I won't," came a determined voice. "I don't care what you say or do, I'm not leaving." His voice was hoarse from all the screaming he had done earlier. But he sounded desperate.

Alec didn't think he had the energy to get up, so instead, he shifted his body to the side and reached up to unlock the door.

Almost instantly, the door swung open and Jace came barging in.

"What do you want?" Alec said, flatly, trying not to completely fall apart in front of his stronger parabatai.

Alec's back was pressed against the wall, his arms wrapped around his knees, which were drawn protectively to his chest. He stared at the blonde boy.

Jace looked absolutely wrecked. His hair was disheveled and his body still radiated with anger.

Jace shut the door and slid down to the floor beside him, stretching his legs out in front of him. Alec knew he looked pathetic, practically curled up in the fetal position.

"I'm so sorry, Alec."

"You didn't do anything," Alec managed to say.

Jace tensed, like Alec had said something that hurt.

"I...I..." Alec wouldn't look at Jace. "I don't know if I can do this, Jace," he finally said, his voice small and vulnerable. He cringed at his own weakness, as tears finally escaped and rushed down his face.

He started breathing erratically, losing the little bit of control he had left. Jace grabbed him gently around the shoulders and drew him towards him and despite the desire to appear strong; despite wanting to reject the comfort, he knew that it may be the only thing keeping himself from totally unravelling.

So, he leaned into his parabatai and Jace held him tightly as he let go of his emotions.

Chapter Text

Five Years Earlier

Alec decided that he had been wrong about Ben. He had felt uncomfortable that night in the training room but Alec was always on edge for other reasons. And unlike most adults in their lives, who seemed to fawn over his siblings, Ben actually found him interesting.

Max was the baby. Isabelle had so much fire and spunk for an 11-year-old. People were instantly drawn to her energy. And then there was Jace. Perfect, beautiful, Jace.

He clenched his fists. Not beautiful, he scolded himself silently.

Even though Jace was a year younger than Alec, he out-did him in everything. He was stronger, faster and a better fighter. Sure, Alec was the better archer but Jace was never interested in long-range weaponry skills. His dad always seemed to look at him with disappointment, like he was always comparing him to Jace.

And Alec couldn't even blame him. He was the oldest and yet he was this unremarkable, introverted, quiet kid who couldn't even compete with those younger than him. So, when Ben started paying more attention to him than his siblings, Alec was cautious at first but then he started to appreciate the attention.

When Jace asked the shadowhunter if he would teach him something in the training room one day, he declined and played chess with Alec instead. When Isabelle was going on about something, Ben barely paid attention but if Alec started talking, he listened.

He even asked Maryse if he could take Alec demon hunting with him one day, claiming that he was thirteen now and he would just watch. Alec was so excited, while Jace sat there with a sour face, his arms crossed angrily over his chest. Unfortunately, his mother refused to let him go.

Instead, he was in his bed, sulking, wishing he was out hunting with Ben. He flipped onto his side when the door to his bedroom opened slowly. He sat up quickly, trying to make out the figure in the doorway.

"Dad?" Alec asked, groping at his bedside table for his witchlight. The figure slowly closed the door and seemed to be drawing something on it. Alec finally grabbed the witchlight and held it up, the light framing the man now walking towards his bed.

"Ben?" Alec said, confused. "What are you doing here? I thought you were out hunting."

Ben smiled at the boy and sat at the edge of the bed. Alec instinctively moved to give him space. "I know you were disappointed that you couldn't come with me."

The man started stroking his hair. Alec's confusion turned into discomfort as he tried to draw away, only to have the fingers follow and remain buried in his hair.

Alec tried to brush the discomfort away. His mom used to came to his room and stroke his hair when he was scared or wasn't feeling well. She would even sing to him until he fell asleep.

But this wasn't his mom.

"I know how you feel?" the man finally said. His hand was now resting on his collarbone, his thumb rubbing circles into his neck and the rest of his hand just under his shirt.

"How I feel?" Alec asked. His voice was soft and unsure. He tried moving away again.

"About Jace. I see the way you look at him."

Alec's whole body went rigid. He wanted to completely disappear but he was trapped.

"I-I don't know what you're talking about."

His other hand had snaked underneath the bottom of his shirt, the cold palm pressing into his bare skin and the fingers making similar circular motions.

"Please," Alec pleaded. "I don't like this."

"Would you like it if Jace was doing this?" His voice sounded husky and strange. The hand on his belly gripped the hem of his pajama bottoms.

"No!" Alec cried. "Please, I want to go to bed."

He tried to push the hand slipping underneath his pajama pants away but Ben just gripped his side, nails digging into his flesh.

"You wanted to spend all night with me earlier."

"I wanted to go demon hunting!"

The man smiled, his face drawn in an expression of twisted pleasure. "This will be so much better. I promise."

xxxxxx

Present

"Alec! Alec get up."

Alec could feel a hand gripping his upper arm. He felt like he couldn't breathe. His eyes snapped open and he swung his free arm swiftly, his fist connecting with flesh almost instantaneously.

"Damn it," came a voice.

Alec sat up in the bed abruptly, his vision coming into focus. "Shit, Jace!"

He scrambled to his feet. Jace was leaning against the wall, rubbing the side of his jaw. "Damn, Alec, you have quite the right hook."

Alec shook his head, looking dismayed. He ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry, Jace."

"Hey, it's no big deal." He dropped his hand from his face and Alec could see the tenderness around his jaw and cheek.

"I'll draw an iratze."

Jace nodded and sat down on the bed. Alec grabbed his stele and sat down beside him, gently drawing the rune into Jace's skin. When he was done, his eyes fell on the blankets and pillow spread out on the floor beside his bed.

"Did you sleep here?" Alec asked. "I don't even remember getting into bed." He looked down at himself and noticed that he was still in his clothes from yesterday.

Jace nodded again and shrugged his shoulders. "You were falling asleep, so I dragged you to bed and camped out here for the night."

Alec didn't know what to say. "You didn't have to do that."

Jace dismissed the comment. "Have you always had nightmares? Or was this because of..."

Jace voice trailed off as Alec involuntarily flinched at the reminder. He gripped the edge of the bed, his fingers clenching at the fabric and mattress.

He felt nauseous.

His mind was spinning out of control.

Ben was coming. 

His breathing hitched.

Unwanted hands everywhere.

"I need to have a shower."

Lips bruising flesh. Teeth breaking skin.

"Alec."

'Alexander. So beautiful. So perfect.'

"Alec, you need to calm down."

Cold. Exposed. Scared.

Alec stood up, trying not to stumble. He needed to the pain to stop.

Unimaginable, inexplicable pain searing through his body.

"Alec!"

Shame. Unbearable shame. Drowning in it.

Alec ignored his brother. Grabbing a towel, he practically flew out of the room, towards the bathroom and the only form of comfort he knew.

xxxxxx

The three teenagers sat around the kitchen table, while Izzy animatedly described her night with the fey boy. Their mother was by the stove flipping pancakes and stacking them on a platter.

Alec tried to focus on what Izzy was saying but it was like white noise in his ears. He could feel the burn of the new cuts hidden underneath his jeans and instead he focused on that, his hand unconsciously pressing against them. He hadn't healed the wounds this time. He felt sick and weak and pathetic but it never stopped him.

His mother placed a plate in front of him, piled high with steaming hot blueberry pancakes. Alec didn't look at her but could feel her eyes on him. Blueberry pancakes were his favorite.

Izzy stopped talking. Alec looked up at her. She was looking between Alec, Jace and their mom. She looked down at their food. In front of Jace, there were chocolate chip pancakes and Izzy had banana pancakes.  Their mom had made each kid their favorite type of pancakes.  Something she never did.

"What the hell is going on?" she finally said. "Why do you all look like you just came back from a funeral?"

Jace just poked at the stack of pancakes.

"Alec, I need to speak to you," Maryse said, looking down at her oldest son, her eyes pleading almost desperately.

Alec pushed the plate away. "Well, I don't want to speak to you," he said.

"Alec, please."

Alec stood up. He didn't want to be surrounded by others, staring at him. And he definitely did not want to be near his mother. "I'm not hungry."

xxxxxx

Isabelle spent the rest of the day practicing her landings from the high beams in the training room. She had wanted to go after Alec after his abrupt departure from breakfast but both her mother and Jace convinced her to leave him alone for a while. Normally, she wouldn't listen to them but Jace seemed to think that this was a guy thing and he would talk to him.

Isabelle scoffed to herself as she pulled her almost dried hair into a high ponytail, having just come out of the change room attached to the training room. Isabelle didn't believe in "guy" or "girl" problems. Problems were problems and she didn't like being out of the loop just because she was a girl and they were both guys.

She frowned as she made her way down to the main floor of the Institute. She could see her mother talking to a man by the elevator. Her mother seemed agitated.

"Do you understand?" she demanded, her voice harsh and unwavering.

The man nodded. He stood a little bit away from Maryse, as if he wanted to be out of striking distance.

Isabelle walked into the foyer. Both adults stopped talking and looked at the teenager. She recognized the man.

"Isabelle, you remember Mr. Manson." Maryse's voice was clipped.

"Yeah, you stayed for almost a year one time."

Mr. Manson nodded. He seemed to have a permanent frown on his face.

"Mr. Manson will be staying with us for a while. I'm going to show him to his room in the west wing."

Izzy nodded as the man picked up his luggage and her mother escorted him towards the west wing living quarters. She didn't remember much about Mr. Manson. She never paid much attention to him. She thought it was weird that her mom was setting him up so far away from the rest of the Institute residents.

Before she could think more about it, she saw Jace bounding down the stairs and Alec following unenthusiastically behind him. Both were in their hunting gear.

"What have you boys been doing?" she asked, trying not to be annoyed with them for keeping her out of the loop.

"Alec was cooped up in the library. I was in the greenhouse. Get dressed, there's some heightened demon activity by that abandoned warehouse on 115th and Pleasant."

Izzy instantly perked up. She needed to get out. She could tell them about their guest on the way. "Give me five."

xxxxxx

Their excursion into East Harlem was uneventful. It turned out that there was only one lesser demon that Izzy disposed of almost instantly.

For once, Alec had been hoping for something more complicated. He needed the distraction. The whole day, he had sat, curled up in an armchair, aimlessly flipping through books but unable to keep his mind off of the impending arrival. Jace had joined him in the library for some time during the day but Alec had not been responsive and eventually the younger boy decided to give Alec some space.

Izzy mentioned that he had arrived as they walked back from the warehouse. Alec dragged behind his siblings so that he didn't have to try to hide his expression of absolute nausea.

Once they returned to the institute, Jace practically attached himself to Alec as they walked to their bedrooms.

"Do you want me to stay here tonight?" Jace asked.

Alec shook his head. His heart was racing and it felt like it was beating directly into his ear. "No Jace. I'll be fine." He tried to smile.

"Bullshit," Jace said angrily.

Alec stepped into his bedroom. "I need to deal with this on my own."

"No you don't!"

Alec hid his trembling hands behind the door and doorframe. "I'm not a kid anymore, Jace. I can take care of myself."

"Damn it, Alec. I don't know what to do."

"Listen, go to bed. I'll be fine and if I'm not, I'll call you."

"Promise."

Alec nodded. "I promise."

Alec stood in the middle of his room, not knowing what to do. He sat on the edge of his bed. His bedroom was entirely different from the one he had until four years ago and yet he felt suddenly trapped in the same place.

He remembered lying in his bed, absolute terror gripping his entire body and soul, waiting...waiting and knowing that at any moment, his solitude would be interrupted and he would once again be plunged into a nightmare so horrifying, it couldn't possibly be real.

But it had been real and he felt like it was happening all over again.

He knew that Ben was probably not interested in him anymore, now that he was no longer a pubescent boy. He also knew that he would be able to defend himself better now. But that did not take away the memory or the fear of having that man under the same roof as him, especially after dark.

He could feel his breathing becoming erratic, his heart palpitating and a sudden feeling of lightheadedness. He dropped his head into his hands, trying to calm down. His palms were sweaty. He felt like throwing up. It was like reality was slipping away from him and he was entirely out of control.

He tried to stand up but found himself falling to the floor instead, catching himself on his hands and knees. Tears rushed down his face. He felt like he couldn't breathe. Spots seemed to form in his vision. He looked over at his phone. Should he call Jace? Was he dying?

No. He wouldn't call Jace. He needed to get it under control. He shifted his body, so that he was sitting on the floor, cross-legged. He dropped his head into his lap and started to count backwards from 100.

Come on Alec, get it together, he pleaded to himself as he stumbled over the numbers, unable to maintain more than 5 numbers in a row.

It took him over 10 minutes to get down to zero. His heart was still racing but his breathing seemed to be more manageable. He grabbed the edge of the bed and pushed himself up.

He couldn't stay here. He didn't know if he would survive through the night if he stayed.

Grabbing only his phone, stele and a sweater, he slipped out of his room. He wasn't thinking beyond getting out of there. All he knew was that he couldn't spend the night at the Institute.

xxxxxx

Magnus was enjoying his marathon of America's Next Top Model. He had a large bowl of carmel popcorn in his lap and his cat curled up beside him.

When he heard the buzzing sound, he quirked an eyebrow up and frowned. He was not in the mood to be interrupted. If this was that damned ifrit from earlier today, he may not be responsible for his actions.

Too lazy to get up, he waved his hand and called out to the speaker. "You had better have a good damn reason for interrupting the HIGH WARLOCK at this hour!"

No sound came through.

Magnus was annoyed. "SPEAK!"

"I'm sorry...this was a mistake," came a voice through the speaker.

The shadowhunter from yesterday? Well, wasn't this a case of deja vu. Except he sounded different. Not nervous like the first time he interrupted him during a show but something was definitely off.

"Wait," Magnus called back before buzzing the teenager in. "Come up."

He waited a few minutes. He was starting to think that the Nephilim had left before he heard a hesitant knock on his door.

When he opened the door, he came face to face with a visibly distraught Lightwood. He was standing before him in entirely black hunting gear, his hair disheveled around his face. His beautiful blue eyes were bloodshot and dark circles peeked out from underneath his long lashes.

"I didn't know where else to go," he whispered. One of his hands was painfully gripping the doorknob while his other one was crossed over his midsection and clinging to the material of his sleeve. "C-can I stay here tonight?"

Magnus looked at the boy, horrified, thinking the worst.

 

Chapter Text

Magnus moved out of the way to let the teenager into the loft. Alec slipped inside and leaned against the closed door, his arms wrapped protectively around himself and his eyes avoiding the man in front of him.

The warlock feared that the poor boy had come out to his parents and they had kicked him out. He wouldn't put it past the Lightwoods.

"What happened, Alec?" he asked gently. "Did your parents kick you out?"

Alec lifted his head and looked at Magnus. "No. No, they didn't." He crinkled his eyebrows and despite his distraught appearance, it was so endearing.

Magnus reached out to guide him to the couch but Alec jerked away. Magnus raised an eyebrow. He was so jumpy.

"Come, let's sit down."

"O-okay," Alec murmured, following the older man to the couch. Alec sat on the edge of the sofa, as far away from Magnus as possible. He placed his hands on his knees and absently rubbed them. "I'm so sorry. I know I'm intruding."

"Nonsense," Magnus said, waving away the apology. "I enjoy your presence, especially in this delicious hunting gear. Much better than the baggy, faded sweaters."

Alec bit his bottom lip. "Maybe this was a mistake."

Magnus sighed. Apparently, he really needed to watch what he said. "I jest," he finally said, even if it was a lie. "Tell me what's wrong. Why can't you stay the night at home?"

Alec flinched and looked down. "I can't talk about it. Please."

Magnus didn't know what to say. A barely legal, closeted shadowhunter that he only met a few days ago shows up at his doorstep in the middle of the night, upset and unable to stay at home and he couldn't know why.

"I know I'm imposing. We barely know each other and I show up in the middle of the night and..."

"Hey, darling, it's okay." Magnus decided not to push the Nephilim.

"I'm sorry."

"You have got to stop apologizing."

Alec nodded. "It's crazy but for some reason, I feel like I can trust you even though we barely know each other."

Magnus grinned and leaned back. "I know I'm irresistible."

Alec didn't seem to register his words. "I-I don't ever trust people." His voice was a whisper. "I mean, the only people I trust are my siblings."

Magnus frowned. He didn't miss the fact that Alec didn't mention his parents.

"It's absolutely irrational. This feeling." He looked up at Magnus, his beautiful eyes swimming with confusion. "Why do I trust you?" He pushed himself into the corner of the couch, like the cushions would protect him from harm.

Magnus wanted to reach forward and comfort him but it was clear that Alec didn't respond well to unexpected touches. "I won't break that trust, Alec." Magnus didn't even know where this was suddenly coming from but he felt a strong desire to reassure the shadowhunter.

Alec frowned. "Don't make promises you can't keep."

"I never do," he stated simply. What had happened in this boy's life to make him so untrusting?

"I hope I didn't interrupt anything important," he said, quickly changing the subject.

"Well, actually I was in the middle of an America's Next Top Model marathon but it's more entertaining with some company. Popcorn?" He grabbed the bowl of popcorn and placed it between them, waving his hand towards the TV. The screen came to life. Alec scooped some popcorn into his hand and popped one into his mouth.

"I don't know this show," he said between bites.

"Of course you don't. Do you shadowhunters even own a TV."

"We have a TV," he said defensively but then looked sheepishly at the screen. "But we don't have cable."

Magnus chuckled. "Well, my dear, I shall begin to introduce you to hours of entertainment."

"I don't get it. What are all these girls doing? Why are they walking funny?"

Magnus couldn't help but smile. This boy was so cute.

"What?" Alec said. "Why are you smiling?"

"Oh nothing. Let me explain to you the world of modeling."

Alec frowned after Magnus finished his spiel. "So, you're telling me that people get paid a lot of money to wear clothes and take pictures in them? That seems like a big waste of money!"

"It's more complicated than that," Magnus said with a chuckle. "It's a form of advertising fashion and there is a lot of money in the industry. And you need to have the right look for the clothing line, the right expressions, the right walk."

Alec looked skeptical.

"You have the look for a model," Magnus continued. "Tall and lean, sharp features and stunning eyes."

Alec blushed but unlike before didn't look uncomfortable at the compliment. "Then you have the look too." His cheeks reddened some more.

Magnus grinned. "You think I'm hot?" He winked at the boy.

"I-I...no...I mean...you're..." He was flustered and confused.

"Hey, it's okay, Alec." Magnus refrained from reaching out.

Alec nodded absently and yawned.

The boy looked exhausted. "Did you bring anything from home to sleep in?"

Alec frowned. "I didn't think about it when I left. I kind of left in a rush."

Magnus was reminded that he didn't know what forced the Nephilim out of his own home.

"No problem." He snapped his fingers. Alec jumped as a pile of clothes landed on his lap. "There's a towel, some sweats and a t-shirt. There's new toothbrushes in the bathroom cabinet and feel free to use any of my toiletries. The bathroom is right through there," he said, pointing towards the bathroom.

Alec hugged the clothes to his chest and stood up. "Thank you."

xxxxxx

Alec locked the bathroom door behind him and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He ran his finger over the dark circles under his eyes, which stood out against his porcelain skin. He sighed as he pulled off his hunting gear. He turned away from the mirror. He hated looking at his body.

Once he was under the water, he could feel the weight of exhaustion sweeping over him. He found himself sliding down to the floor and drawing his knees up to his chest. The hot water sprayed over his hair as he buried his head in his knees.

His thoughts were racing all over the place and he couldn't seem to get them under control. One minute he would feel the painful reminder of who slept in the institute while he hid away with a Downwolder he barely knew and the next minute he was thinking about the warlock's captivating eyes and perfect lips.

Alec groaned. He didn't want to think about Magnus's attractiveness. He couldn't imagine somebody touching him without falling apart into a million broken pieces and yet, his mind wouldn't let it go. He dug his fingernails into his calves, willing the skin to break. He didn't bring his razor with him.

xxxxxx

He was putting away dishes the old fashioned way when Alec stepped out of the bathroom. Magnus looked up and smiled internally at the night clothes Magnus had given the teenager.

His wet hair was plastered to the side of his face. He stood uncertainly, trying to pull up the gray sweats that sat low on his hips. The top he was wearing was bottle blue, a perfect match to his eyes. It was v-necked and fitted. Magnus tried not to leer at the gorgeous boy. Alec ran his hand through his hair, his shirt rising just a bit to reveal a strip of pale skin.

Magnus bit his lip. "Did you have everything you needed?" he finally said.

Alec nodded. "Yes, thank you."

"I made up a spare bedroom for you."

Alec walked passed the couch and as his back was to Magnus, the warlock grinned. Across the seat of the sweats, the word "Bootylicious" was printed in glittery red ink. And the pants did not lie.

Alec turned to the warlock and Magnus quickly composed himself.

"Magnus, thank you. I know I'm imposing but yeah, I just, I'm really grateful."

"You have got to stop. If you were imposing, you wouldn't still be here."

"I'll be out of your hair early tomorrow morning. I should make it back to the institute before people realize I'm gone."

Magnus frowned, hating that he had no idea why Alec was here in the first place.

"I have an early appointment tomorrow, so we can eat some breakfast before heading out."

"That sounds nice," Alec said shyly.

Magnus smiled.

"Good night, Alec."

"Good night."

xxxxxx

Four Years and 10 Months Earlier

Alec wasn't sleeping. He was waiting. He lay in his bed, his small fists clenched around his sheets. He hated night. He hated sleeping. He hated his room. But everyday he went to bed and waited.

It had been two months since Ben had come to his room that first night. At first, the older man would touch him in places that made him feel uncomfortable. It would be dark and he would close his eyes, his heart pounding as unwanted hands and lips explored his body as he lay there, unmoving.

He hated it.

Then he made Alec touch him.

"Alec, you need to return the favor."

Alec shook his head, tears running down his face.

"Don't make me angry. Do you want your parents to know what a dirty little boy you are?"

He hated it.

But a month ago, he introduced a new and painful horror. Alec had broken bones. He had accidentally burned his hand when he tried to fry eggs a couple of years ago. He had come down with an excruciating virus that left him bedridden for a week. But none of that compared to the pain Ben now inflicted on him on a nightly basis. Alec always felt like he was drowning—drowning in the pain and the shame and the unwanted touches and the horrible noises he made as he did unspeakable things to him.

Ben called it sex.

Alec couldn't pinpoint when he stopped talking but he knew it was soon after Ben started having sex with him. It's not like he consciously stopped speaking. It was like he couldn't speak anymore. Like his voice could no longer form words.

The boy heard the doorknob turning. Alec squeezed his eyes shut and tightened his grip on his sheets.

xxxxxx

Magnus was jolted out of his slumber. He sat up, groggily. What was that noise? Was there someone in his spare room?

It took him a moment to remember the eldest Lightwood child showing up at his apartment, needing a place to sleep.

He listened carefully. He could hear whimpering and then a scream. He got out of his bed and hurried into the other room.

On the large bed lay the Nephilim, tangled in the sheets, his body twisting like he was trying to get away from something. Sweat glistened on his forehead and tears cut through his cheeks. Pain was evident on his face.

Without thinking, Magnus fell to his knees beside the bed and placed his hand gently on the boy's forehead. "Shh, it's okay. You're safe, darling."

Alec's body stopped moving and his head lulled to the side, settling into a magically induced dreamless sleep.

Magnus sat against the nightstand. He summoned a washcloth to his hand and leaned forward, gently wiping the sweat away from the boy's face. When he was satisfied, he leaned back, his eyes trained on the shadowhunter.

He frowned, deep in thought. What could cause this sweet, innocent boy such anguish?

Chapter Text

Alec heard the incessant beeping of his phone alarm but was trying hard to ignore it. He tried to bury himself deeper into the soft blankets. He hadn't slept so peacefully in ages.

When he finally opened his eyes, unable to ignore the annoying sound any longer, he crinkled his brow in confusion. Where was he? Instantly, all sleepiness vanished and he shot up into a seated position, his eyes assessing his surroundings.

He was in an unfamiliar bedroom. The soft colors and playful art lining the walls would never be found at the Institute. Slowly, the memories from last night chased away the confusion and he blushed. He was at Magnus's place.

He scrambled out of bed and checked his phone. It was 6am. Since they had gone hunting last night, his siblings wouldn't be up for a few more hours but he knew he should send a text to Jace in case he got up early and decided to check on him.

His fingers flew over the keypad quickly before he placed the phone on the nightstand. He pulled at the sweats riding low on his hips, frowning. Why wouldn't they stay up. He looked around for his own clothes but couldn't find them. He must have left them in the living room. He wondered if Magnus would be up. He didn't want to wake up the warlock.

Maybe he should just slip out before he woke up. He didn't want to overstay his welcome. No, that would be rude. Magnus had been unbelievably kind to him, letting him stay here and not asking too many questions. Alec didn't know what he would have done otherwise.

His heart clenched at the thought, remembering that he would soon be returning to the same situation that he fled from the night before. But at least it would be daytime. The daytime was never as terrifying as what night always promised.

When he stepped out of the bedroom, the smell of frying eggs and bacon met his nostrils and his stomach growled, a reminder that he hadn't eaten anything the day before. As he moved away from the bedroom door he was greeted by the sight of the warlock by the stove, his back turned away from the shadowhunter.

He was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and his hair pooled at his shoulders in straight strands. Alec bit his bottom lip, unable to tear his eyes away. He was long and lean, subtle muscles defining his back and arms. Alec had a sudden desire to run his hand down the man's caramel skin, feeling the definition of his back.

The warlock turned around and smiled at the teenager. "Good morning dear Alec. I hope you like eggs and bacon." He smiled brightly and Alec's heart skipped a beat. He was stunning.

Alec curled his fingers, feeling nauseous and hating himself for his thoughts. He willed his eyes closed and sucked in some air. When he opened his eyes, Magnus was looking at him with concern, his upper body now covered with a t-shirt. Alec felt inexplicably disappointed but shoved the feeling aside and smiled tentatively.

"Good morning. Eggs and bacon sounds great," he said softly.

xxxxxx

Jace got up to the sound of his phone sending him an alert. He looked over at his clock. 6:03 am. Who the hell was texting him at this hour?

He grabbed his phone and flipped it open.

Just in case you get up early and can't find me, I went for a run. I'll see you when I get back. -Alec

Jace sighed, running his fingers through his hair, hoping Alec had been able to get at least some sleep last night.

Knowing that he wouldn't get anymore sleep himself, Jace quickly threw on some jeans and a t-shirt and grabbed his stele.

He hadn't slept very well and his minds was racing with angry thoughts that he couldn't seem to get under control.

Anger at Maryse and Robert for never reporting the bastard and letting him stay here. Fuck the Clave and their mandates.

Anger at the bastard that destroyed his best friend's childhood and left a barely functioning teenager in his wake.

But most of all, anger at himself. Anger at himself for not knowing what was going on with his adoptive brother. He was practically screaming for help by staying silent for almost a year and Jace hadn't tried hard enough to figure out what was going on.

He clenched his fist as he made his way towards the west wing. He wanted to punch a hole through the wall. Instead he pressed his stele into his skin and drew a hearing-enhancing rune.

He walked slowly down the dark corridors, his ears picking up every noise from the creaking of the floorboards to the ticking of a nearby grandfather clock in full clarity.

Finally he heard the sound he was looking for and stopped. He turned to the door, listening to the snoring and breathing from within, the sounds hitting his ears ten times louder than normal. He waited a few minutes for the effects of the rune to fade away before attempting the doorknob.

It was locked. He took out his stele again and drew an unlocking rune into the door. Soon he heard a click and he quickly opened the door.

The room was small and plain. In the center, on the twin bed, a man slept. He was lying on his back with the sheets kicked to one side.

Jace scowled. Pure hatred and disgust brewed dangerously in the pit of his stomach. He stepped into the room and slammed the door as forcefully as he could, the sound resonating through the room loudly.

He stood in the center of the room and watched as the man jerked up, his eyes blinking rapidly in confusion. Finally, the man seemed to collect himself and swung his legs off the bed, standing up.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he growled. He stood in a pair of boxers. While he was taller than Jace, he was probably slightly shorter than Alec. But he was definitely wider and heavier than both teenagers. Jace's anger only grew, remembering just how small Alec was five years ago.

"What? You don't like it when people come into your room unwelcome?" Jace's voice was dangerously calm.

Ben narrowed his eyes. "You should leave."

"Or what? You'll try to rape me?" Jace didn't care how callous he was being. Images of the grown man towering over Alec danced in his vision. He moved swiftly, shoving the man against the wall so quickly, the older man did not have time to react. Jace had him pinned between the wall and his arm, which was pressed against his upper chest.

"But you're not interested in me, are you? You like young, scared, defenseless little boys, right?"

Ben smirked, not knowing the buttons he was pushing. "He enjoyed it as much as I did. Fuck, I get hard just thinking about it."

Jace saw red. It flashed behind his eyes, an uncontrollable rage exploding like thunder erupting just behind his ears.

Any common sense flew from his mind and his fist landed squarely in the man's jaw. His head went flying to the side but Jace did not stop. The older shadowhunter tried to push the teenager away and hit him but Jace was faster and stronger, holding the man while he rained punches down like the man's body was a punching bag.

Finally, Jace stopped. He blinked, staring at the man, who was barely holding himself up, Jace's arm being the only thing keeping him from sliding to the floor. His face and chest were littered with bruises and blood where Jace had managed to break skin.

Jace stepped back, his heart racing. The man slid to the ground, groaning loudly but not passing out. Jace picked up the man's steele that sat on the nightstand.

"You so much as glance at my brother, I will fuck you up so bad, even an iratze will be useless."

He threw the steele at the man's feet and turned around, quickly leaving the room and finding the nearest bathroom.

He leaned his hands against the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. He looked almost crazed.

He looked down at his left hand. His knuckles were torn and bloody. Slowly he turned on the faucet and waited for the water to heat up before he ran his hand under the water, watching the water in the sink turn pink as it swirled down the drain.

Fuck.

He closed his eyes. He needed to get it together.

xxxxxx

Alec wiped away the beads of sweat building up on his forehead as he pounded his fists into the punching bag hanging in the center of the training room. Alec didn't often pull down the bag during training, opting to hone his archery skills or sparring with Jace or Isabelle but he knew that archery was not going to help him release some of the tension that was brewing inside.

He heard the door to the room open and he instantly stopped, swinging around, his heart racing faster than he knew was normal, despite his current level of exertion. He lifted his fists to his chin, internally cursing for not being within reach of a weapon.

"It's me," a familiar voice announced.

Alec's shoulders instantly slumped and his cheeks reddened with embarrassment. It was just Jace. He closed his eyes, knowing that he was going to remain jumpy until Manson left the Institute.

"Sorry," the older boy muttered.

Jace just shook his head, dismissing Alec's behavior. "I didn't see you when you came in this morning."

"I texted you when I got home," Alec replied.

"Are you avoiding me, Alec?"

Alec shook his head. "I just needed to be alone for a bit."

"You still want to be alone or would you like a real sparring partner?" he said, nodding towards the barely-used punching bag.

Alec nodded. "Yeah, that would be good. Here, help me get this back up."

Once the boys had put away the bag and Jace had gotten into his training gear, the Parabatai circled the center of the room. Alec felt himself falling into a rhythm of throwing punches and ducking blows as the two brothers fell into their normal routine. It was comforting, sparring with Jace, like nothing had changed, like Alec wasn't silently drowning in his own misery and jumping at every turn in the place that hadn't been a safe haven to him for five years but was now just as terrifying as it had been for so many months when he was a boy.

The two teenagers continued sparring for almost two hours before they collapsed against a mirrored wall, both boys sinking to the floor and stretching their legs out in front of themselves.

Jace huffed out some air. "I don't know how you lasted this long after that run you went on this morning."

Alec bit his lip, remembering his lie from earlier in the day. He shrugged. "A lot of pent of energy, I guess."

Jace looked over at the boy seated beside him. Alec could feel his eyes boring into him, like if he stared hard enough he could pull out his thoughts.

"What? Am I growing a third arm?" Alec said lightly, running his hand through his now-damp hair.

Jace turned away, leaning his head back and sighing. "Did you sleep all right?"

"Not bad, actually," Alec said truthfully, still marveling at the fact that he didn't remember any nightmares.

Jace shifted his body, drawing his legs into a criss-cross position and looked at his brother. "You know," he said carefully. "We never talked about it."

Alec's entire body tensed. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, Alec, think about it. There's this huge, horrible...thing," he started. Alec knew he didn't have the words to describe it, at least not without causing even more discomfort. "That you know I know about and we've just pretended that I didn't know for the last four years. I mean, you remember me being there, right?"

Alec stared ahead, avoiding Jace's gaze. He drew his legs in, hugging his knees to his chest, much like he had done on that night. "I remember," he said softly. He tried to keep the water from building behind his eyes. "You...you were the one..." He couldn't say it.

He remembered Manson on top of him, his small body moving with each of the man's vicious thrusts, pain that he was now accustom to racing through him. He hadn't noticed Max entering the room the first time. His head was always turned away from the door but the second time, when he heard his mother yell, his whole world halted, including the man above him. He remembered Jace flying forward and the jolting pain of his tormenter being shoved off of him. He remembered scrambling to the headboard, ignoring the sharp agony that came with his quick movements, wanting nothing but to disappear from existence as the majority of his family filtered into the room and witnessed his shameful secret.

"I never wanted to talk about it," he finally said.

"You never talked about it to anyone? Not even Maryse?"

Alec laughed humorlessly. "Maybe if I had talked to her, he wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be jumping every time someone opens a door."

Jace clenched his jaw.

"By the time I was talking again, I think they were just happy that I wasn't silent anymore. They didn't want to talk about it and I was more than happy to keep things that way."

"I think that maybe you should..."

Alec looked at Jace. "Should what?"

"Talk about it. I mean, I don't think it's very healthy to keep all that...pain bottled up."

Alec shook his head, his jaw set. "I don't think so."

Jace sighed and they remained silent for a few minutes. Finally, the blonde broke the silence. "We were the same age but he..."

Alec tensed once more. How many times had he thought about it. Alec and Jace were practically the same age and Manson had picked him. Not once had Alec ever wished that he had targeted Jace. He loved his adoptive brother and he would take all the pain the world had to offer if it would spare the younger boy. But that didn't stop him from wondering if maybe he was chosen because he was being punished.

"I wish I could have protected you."

Alec doubted that a 12-year-old, despite all his strength could have protected him. "You didn't know."

"Sometimes..." He looked away from the older boy. "Maybe if he had picked me..."

Alec felt his whole body jerk as he jumped to his feet, glaring down at his Parabatai. "Then what?" Alec hissed. "Why would you even say that?"

"It's just, I see you now and..."

"And what? What, Jace? You think because I'm weaker than you...because I'm weak and pathetic, if he had picked you, you wouldn't have let him..." He was having trouble breathing. Tears blurred his vision. They all thought he was weak. He was shameful and dirty. Maybe Jace even thought he wanted it. He drew in some air.

Jace sprung to his feet and reached out for Alec. "Never, Alec," he implored.

Alec jerked away again. "Just stay away from me, Jace," he hissed before turning and storming out of the room.

xxxxxx

Jace stood frozen in the center of the training room, feeling nauseous. What had he done? How could Alec think that he thought he was weak and pathetic? He replayed their conversation, trying to see how he had come to that conclusion.

Deciding that thinking about it wouldn't help, he left the room and headed towards Alec's room. He barged into the room, surprised it was unlocked but when he found it empty, he groaned with frustration.

Next, he checked the bathroom. He could hear water running from inside and he sighed with relief. Knowing that the boy had to eventually come out, Jace sank to the floor beside the bathroom and waited.

He realized now that Alec had a warped perception of himself and what Jace had said hadn't helped. Jace didn't think that he was weaker than him and he wouldn't pretend to understand the fear, shame and pain that Alec endured for so long or to think that he would have somehow reacted differently to the same trauma.

The sick bastard had access to two boys of the same age and he had focused his attention on Alec instead of Jace and Jace would be lying if said he hadn't thought about it. It was easy to say that he wished that it had been him in order to take away his best friend's pain when it was in the past and he didn't have to actually be confronted with the possibility. By some trick of fate, he had been safe while Alec had suffered in silence.

He jumped to his feet when he heard the doorknob turn. Alec yelled and stumbled back.  In retrospect, Jace probably shouldn't have been hovering right outside the bathroom, unannounced. He slammed the bathroom door shut.

"Alec, damn it, come out."

"What the fuck, Jace!" he called back. He could hear him getting his breathing under control.

"I'm sorry. I just want to talk."

Finally the older boy stepped out. He was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of black track pants but Jace's eyes instantly fell on the newly drawn iratze on the inside of his lower arm.

"Were you hurt?" Jace asked, eyeing the rune suspiciously.

Alec instinctively covered the rune with his hand. "Um, yeah, from yesterday, I just didn't realize until now."

Jace narrowed his eyes, not believing him. Neither of them got near the demon. Isabelle had disposed of it in under a minute tops.

"What are you doing here, Jace?" Alec said, his voice laced with annoyance.

Jace's mind was drawn away from the lies surrounding the iratze. "Alec, how could you think that I think you're weak or pathetic? Not once have I thought that."

Alec sighed and moved away from the bathroom. Jace followed him into the bedroom and fell into Alec's desk chair. Alec sat on the edge of his bed and looked at his Parabatai.

Jace needed to clarify a few things. "Look, what I said, I said because I would want to do anything to take away your suffering."

Alec opened his mouth to say something but Jace cut him off.

"Just like you would do anything for me. Tell me Alec, do you wish that it had been me?"

Alec's eyes blazed angrily. "Never," he said fiercely.

"Exactly. I won't pretend that I could even begin to understand what you've been through, Alec. I'm sorry if you thought for a minute that I was judging you in any way. You are always protecting us, Alec. You have the purest heart I know and I just...I want so badly to take this all away from you."

Alec laughed harshly. "Pure is not a word I would use to describe me."

Jace felt like like a fist was squeezing his heart. "Alec..."

"I am weaker, Jace. He picked me because he could see it as plain as you see my black hair and blue eyes. He knew things about me. Things that I am ashamed of and he used that...I was easy, Jace. For Raziel's sake, I went silent and let him do whatever he wanted." Jace could hear Alec's voice catching. "But if me being weaker meant that he didn't hurt you or Izzy or Max, then I'm glad."

"Alec," Jace said harshly, causing his brother's head to snap up, his haunted eyes looking at him, slightly startled. "I need you to stop believing these lies you've built up in your head. You didn't let him do anything, do you understand?"

Alec just shook his head and grabbed a pair of sneakers. He stood up and tried to smile at his brother. "Thanks, Jace," he said, although it sounded more like a formality than an acknowledgment that he believed anything Jace said.

"I think I'm going to go for another run," he said, quickly slipping passed the blonde teenager. "Text me if we're going demon hunting later."

Jace watched him leave, feeling utterly defeated. He ran a hand through his hair. He felt alone and lost and he wished he had someone to turn to to help him get through to the broken teenager.

Chapter Text

Alec concentrated on the rhythm of his movements as his running shoes pounded against the cement. He kept a steady pace as he followed the curve of the path situated between the cars racing down the FDR and the lazy current of the East River. Next to archery, running was something Alec excelled at; not that running was a very useful skill as a shadowhunter.

He could out run any of his siblings but both Jace and Isabelle did not care to build up the stamina and speed that Alec had developed over years of running along the FDR or occasionally the perimeter of Central Park. It was an outlet for Alec. When he was running, he could clear his mind and focus on the beat of his heart and feet as he raced down the east side of Manhattan.

Alec brushed some hair out of his face, tucking a strand behind his ear and frowned. He was finding it very hard to keep his focus on the mechanics of running. His thoughts quickly wandered into dangerous territory.

Alec sat in the library, trying to read the chapter Hodge had assigned him. He had been reading the same sentence over and over again and he had no idea what it said. Occasionally, he would lift his eyes and see Jace flipping through the pages quickly. He was sprawled out in an armchair a few feet away. His curls framed his face and he had his eyes scrunched in concentration. He felt the familiar flutter in his stomach and squeezed his eyes closed, feeling like he was going to puke. He just wanted it all to stop.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and his eyes flung open, his entire body jerking at the touch. He shifted away, his heart suddenly pounding, the familiar smell of  cologne giving away the identity of the hand without looking at him. 

"You really should concentrate on your studies, don't you think, Alexander?" Manson said in a hushed voice. He slid into the chair beside him and dropped his hand to Alec's knee. 

Alec stared at the words on the page, trying to control his breathing. 

"Let me help you."

Alec gripped the edge of the table tightly as the hand moved up his leg and the man started roughly massaging his thigh. Alec raised his eyes, keeping them hidden under his lashes and looked at Jace, hoping that he wouldn't notice. 

Jace looked up and smiled at Alec. "This is riveting stuff, isn't it?" Jace said, sarcastically.

Alec managed to nod, before looking down and allowing his hair to cover his face. 

"A necessary evil," Manson replied to Jace, jovially, while his hand ventured further up underneath the table.

Alec closed his eyes. This was his punishment for his treacherous feelings.

Alec stopped abruptly, bending down slightly, resting his hands on his knees. He sighed loudly before moving to lean against the fence that separated the pathway from the river. He looked out into Queens across the water. He knew why he had been drawn to that particular memory. It was the first time Alec had realized that he wasn't safe anywhere. The torture wasn't limited to his bedroom. Manson could get away with anything because Alec deserved it. Jace had sat across from him, an image of light and purity with his blonde hair, bright smile and carefree voice in stark contrast to Alec with the darkness and silence that consumed him.

The teenager moved away from the fence and started running again. He began reciting the names and characteristics of different demons in his head as he picked up the pace, pushing himself harder than before, wanting to feel the burn in his thighs and calves. He had covered five miles when he felt the buzz of his phone in his pocket. He stopped once more to dig out his phone.

It was too early to go demon hunting. He flipped open his phone and looked at it, surprised.

Magnus the Magnificent: How are you feeling, dear Nephilim?

Alec couldn't help the smile from forming. He knew the feelings that came up when he thought about the warlock terrified him but he found that the fear wasn't strong enough to deter him from seeking the comfort that he felt when he was around him.

All right. Just going for a run.

Magnus replied almost immediately.

Magnus the Magnificent: Whereabouts are you?

Alec glanced to his right, looking at the street signs.

About two miles from Brooklyn Bridge.

Magnus the Magnificent: Perfect. I'll meet you on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

Alec blinked, surprised at the impromptu invite to meet up. He bit his bottom lip, not knowing what to do. He had left the Institute to be alone but he wasn't opposed to spending time with the eccentric warlock.

Magnus the Magnificent: Start running Shadowhunter. I'll be there in 15 minutes. If I get there first, I'll make you wear a scarf of my choosing.

Alec stared at the text, slightly mortified. He couldn't make him wear one of his ridiculous accessories, could he? He could have just turned around and returned home but instead he raced along the East River, deciding he did want to meet up with Magnus.

By the time he made it to the pedestrian entrance to Brooklyn Bridge, Alec was totally out of breath, perspiration running down the side of his face in beads. He wiped away the sweat as he scanned the busy intersection. Leaning against the gate by City Hall, was the tall Warlock, dressed in tight burgundy pants, combat boots and a bedazzled top. He caught Alec's eyes and grinned, waving a bright purple scarf in his hand.

Alec groaned and jogged across the street to the older man. "You said 15 minutes. It's only been 10!" Alec said as he steadied his breathing.

Magnus pushed away from the gate and sighed, wrapping the scarf around his own neck. "You, my dear, are splitting hairs but I concede. I'm impressed." He looked him up and down before continuing. "At the time and what all this sweat is doing to your clothes."

Alec looked down and noticed his damp t-shirt clinging to his chest and blushed. "I don't have a change of clothes."

Magnus just grinned. "You'll air dry."

Alec tried to smile but ended up tilting his lips awkwardly. He shifted his feet. "So, were you in the area?"

"I don't live too far away by subway. But you know, I thought it would be nice for us to meet in the light of day like normal friends."

Alec's face reddened some more. "Yeah, about that...I'm really grateful."

Magnus lifted a hand. "I know you're grateful, Alec. Come on, let's cross this lovely bridge."

Alec nodded mutely before falling into step beside the warlock. The bridge was crowded, the majority of the pedestrians avoiding the bike lane while other spilled over into the less occupied lane, including Alec. Alec didn't like crowds and felt slightly overwhelmed by the hordes of tourists.

There was a loud honking sound coming from behind him. "Get out of the way!" yelled a biker.

Before he could react, Magnus grabbed a hold of his waist and pulled him out of the bike lane. Alec's immediate reaction was to jerk away but Magnus's hand held him tightly, pulling him further into the walk lane before letting go.

"Are you all right?"

Alec looked away, embarrassed. "I'm fine." His heart was racing and he didn't think it was because of the near collision with the angry biker.

"I could give him a flat tire," he said, mischievously.

"Magnus!"

"I jest. Though let me tell you about this one time. It was a few decades back when I was in Paris..." Alec listened to Magnus's elaborate story that seemed to be too surreal to be all true but he found himself laughing more than he had in a very long time.

"And then he blamed me for his flat tire! Can you believe it?"

Alec laughed lightly, his eyes dancing with amusement. "I don't know what parts to believe."

"I never lie, dear Shadowhunter."

"Does embellishing constitute as lying?"

"Not in my books."

Alec smiled. "Of course."

Magnus looked at him carefully.

"What?" Alec asked, shifting his feet.

Magnus smiled softly. "Nothing." He stopped walking and gestured Alec to the side. They were at the Brooklyn tower of the bridge. "Turn around."

Alec turned around to face Manhattan and found himself sucking his some air. The sun had started setting over the city, draping the skyline in vibrant yellows, oranges and purples that framed the city landscape like an artist expertly painting strokes with a brush.

"Sometimes we forget the beauty that was there all along."

Alec leaned against the ledge, soaking in the sight and nodding absently. 

xxxxxx

Magnus leaned against the ledge beside the teenager, watching him carefully. The lights of the setting sun framed the beautiful but melancholy boy. Alec was mesmerized by the sunset and it gave Magnus the chance to just watch the boy without him feeling self-conscious. Magnus wanted so badly to drape his arm around Alec but he refrained from any unexpected touches. Even when he had pulled the teenager away from the biker's path, he had immediately tensed at the touch.

Looking at him now, he looked almost peaceful, a soft smile gracing his stunning features and his blue eyes gazing into the distance. They stood in surprisingly comfortable silence for a few minutes before Magnus finally spoke.

"How do you feel about pizza for dinner?"

"Pizza sounds good."

"Have you heard of Grimaldi's?"

Alec shook his head.

"For a New Yorker, you know very little about the city."

Alec frowned. "Is it a mundane's pizza?"

Magnus chuckled. "Yes it is. It's become quite a tourist trap but it's close by and half decent. Maybe if we're in East Harlem sometime, I'll take you to get some truly astounding pizza. It's this little hole in the wall but the cook is an old warlock from Italy."

The unlikely pair continued to walk the remainder of the bridge before settling in a secluded part of the park right off the bridge.

"What about the pizza?" Alec asked.

Magnus smiled as Alec jumped slightly as a warm box appeared in the grass. Magnus opened the box and the smell of sizzling hot pizza wafted into the air.

Alec looked at it suspiciously. "Did you steal it? Wouldn't they notice it missing?"

Magnus dismissed the concern, pulling a slice away from the pie and handing it to Alec. "I left enough cash for the cost of the pie and a very nice tip. Don't worry."

Alec gave the warlock a skeptical look before biting into the pizza. Magnus raised an eyebrow. Even the way he bit into the pizza was sexy.

"Well?"

"It's delicious," he finally concluded.

Magnus smiled and grabbed a slice for himself.

"So how goes the sleeping arrangements for tonight? Is whatever prevented you from sleeping at home resolved?"

Magnus watched as the boy's entire demeanor shifted, his body tensing immediately. Magnus frowned. What was going on at that Institute?

Alec's eyes dropped to his lap and he frowned. "I..."

"You are welcome to spend the night at my place again," Magnus quickly interjected, feeling the boy growing more and more uncomfortable and distraught.

Alec closed his eyes and tilted his face away from Magnus. "I..." He drew in some air and placed the half eaten slice back in the box. "I would really appreciate it Magnus."

Magnus didn't know why he was willing to offer up his place so readily but he was inexplicably drawn to the Nephilim. "You can stay as long as you need."

Alec nodded slowly, still unable to make eye contact with the older man. "I don't know how I can ever repay you."

"Alec, look at me, please."

It was almost like it was painful for him to lock eyes with him. When he finally looked at him, Magnus held back a gasp. All the lightness that he saw for the last hour was gone, leaving behind stormy and anguished blue eyes.

"Hey, you don't have to repay me. This is how friendship works, all right?"

"Somehow I doubt friends of just a couple of days offer up their place as a crash pad."

"Well, I guess you're just special, then."

Alec shook his head, as if he was denying it. He was about to respond when his phone buzzed loudly. He fumbled through his pocket for the flip phone and quickly read the message.

"It's Jace."

"The annoying blonde one?"

Alec nodded absently. "There's some demon activity somewhere in Tribeca. They're headed down there now." He bit his lip. "It might be late by the time I'm done." He sounded so vulnerable when he said it, as if Magnus was about to take back his invitation.

"Just buzz when you get to my apartment and I'll let you in."

"But what if you're sleeping."

"Don't worry about it. You go do what you shadowhunters do best."

Both boys got up at the same time. "Thank you for this. It was really nice," Alec said shyly.

Magnus smiled broadly even though his thoughts were far from happy, watching the way Alec's mood had spiraled downwards once he brought up sleeping arrangements.

"I'll see you soon, Alec."

Alec stood awkwardly for a moment as if he was deciding whether or not to hug Magnus. Seeming to decide against it, he nodded and turned around, jogging back towards the bridge.

Magnus watched as the shadowhunter disappeared into the distance, feeling oddly helpless and lost. He closed his eyes, hating that the teenager was eliciting these emotions.

xxxxxx

Alec got out of the subway and walked towards the intersection Jace had texted him. The sun had fully set but the city was still alive with groups of people making their way through the streets. After a few turns, Alec found himself in a deserted area of the neighborhood. All he had with him was his stele. He had applied some routine runes but he was starting to think it would have been wiser for him to wait at the subway station for his siblings. Jace said he would bring his seraph blade and bow and arrows.

He cautiously walked down the street and was soon greeted by a shape-shifting demon. The demon was disguised as a woman. It was wearing a tight, low-cut blouse, torn jean shorts that barely covered it's backside and bright blue heeled boots. It sauntered towards Alec and he internally groaned. The demon didn't know he was a shadowhunter but at the same time, he didn't have a weapon to kill it.

"Hi there blue-eyes," the demon drawled, smiling seductively at the teenager.

Alec held back a flinch at the nickname. He would not show any weakness.

"What brings you to my humble little alley?" The demon leaned forward, inches away from Alec and dragged it's fingers along his cheek. Unable to control his body's reaction, he shuddered visibly and stepped back.

"I guess I got lost," he replied, hoping he would be able to stall until his siblings arrived.

"Well, don't be shy. I'm sure I can entertain you for a bit." It cupped the sides of Alec's face and claws suddenly extended from the manicured fingers. Alec immediately locked his arm around the demon's neck and flipped it back before kicking it swiftly in it's gut. The demon was crumbled against a wall, hissing softly.

"You're strong for a little boy," it hissed, the voice no longer seductive. It got up, eyes blazing like fire. Scales seemed to appear all over it's exposed skin. "But I'll enjoy devouring you, blue-eyes."

The demon flew at Alec but he quickly ducked and flung his fist into it's face. Greenish liquid spilled from the demon's mouth.

"Didn't your mother teach you not to hit a woman?" The demon's voice was sounding less and less human.

Before Alec could reply, he saw a flash of something pass between him and the demon. The end of a long whip curled around the demon's neck and the demon was instantly jerked away from him.

"Catch," Jace called and Alec raised his hand just in time to catch his seraph blade at it's hilt. He lunged forward and plunged the blade straight through the demon's chest and watched as the monster slowly grew smaller, disappearing all together within seconds.

His siblings jogged towards him. Izzy was drawing in her whip as they approached the older boy. "What the hell were you thinking, coming out here alone?" Izzy scolded as Jace handed over his bow and arrow.

"You should have waited at the subway station," Jace added.

"I can take care of myself," Alec muttered annoyed, even thought he knew they were right.

"I know that," Isabelle said gently. "But you didn't even have a weapon."

"I was doing a pretty good job stalling."

"Two days in a row and I've seen no action," Jace complained as the trio turned away from the street.

"In more than one way," teased Izzy.

Jace frowned. "Clary is just busy."

Alec ignored the two, his thoughts consumed with figuring out how he would slip away from them. It would be out of his way to go back to the Institute and then sneak out and go to Brooklyn. He contemplated just staying at the Institute for the night but instantly felt nauseous.

"You okay, Alec?" Izzy asked, looking at him with concern.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I was just thinking."

xxxxxx

With no other option that didn't involve telling his siblings where he was going, Alec ended up returning to the Institute. He had just showered and was getting ready to sneak back outside. He had told Jace and Izzy that he was heading to bed.

He changed into a clean pair of jeans and a grey sweater and threw some night clothes and toiletries into a bag.

He grabbed his phone and sent a quick text to Magnus, saying that he was on his way before storing it in his pocket.

Alec snuck out of the Institute without bumping into anyone. He was walking down 92nd Street towards the 96th Street train station on Lexington when he felt his pocket vibrate. He paused and fished out his phone.

Magnus the Magnificent:  Looking forward to your arrival :)

Alec smiled and an unfamiliar warm feeling swept over him. He was just about to respond when he felt someone else's presence. He snapped his head up and noticed a man approaching him.

It took him a moment to register the identity of the man and by then the man was standing in front of him.

"Alexander."

Alec stared at the man, his mind unable to comprehend what was happening. He was frozen, the man from his nightmares standing in front of him. He was nearly as tall as Alec but he was significantly broader than the teenager. His brown hair was slicked back and he wore all black, the tips of runes peeking out from underneath his collar and sleeves. To anyone else, he looked like an ordinary man. To Alec, he was a monster; a monster far worse than the most terrifying demon imaginable.

Despite being taller, Alec felt dwarfed as the man stood in front of him. Alec wanted to move. He wanted to ignore the man and keep walking but his body wasn't responding to his pleas. His chest hurt and his breathing was coming out in ragged breaths.

"Hey, Alec, you need to calm down," the man said, his voice laced with false concern. Alec saw the hand reach for him and yet he still couldn't move. The hand clamped onto his shoulder and it was like his entire body was unraveling. He didn't even register his body moving. He jerked away so violently, he felt his neck straining at the quick movement.

He stumbled backwards until he was leaning against the window of a bakery. The moon illuminated the man as he approached him. Alec was trapped. He wanted to say something. He wanted to yell and scream at the man but his voice was stuck, like something was keeping it hostage.

"Alexander, you've grown so much," Manson said, standing in front of him, with only an inch between them.

Alec turned his face away from him, his cheek now pressed against the cold glass. He felt fingers brush against his neck and Alec felt like he wanted to dissolve on the spot, disappear like the demon he had killed earlier.

"You're still so beautiful."

His body was shaking, the tremors vibrating through his body. He clenched his eyes shut, unwanted tears trailing down his face.

"How I wish you were still young, though." The voice was a whisper, hot breath brushing against his ear.

A thumb pressed against the corner of his eye, catching his tears. "Do you still not talk, Alexander? You were always so obedient, weren't you? You kept our little secret. If only your brother hadn't ruined everything."

He stepped away from Alec. "And now you are too old."

Alec's body was still trembling and he kept his eyes closed. It hurt to breathe and his heart pounded relentlessly behind his ribcage. Any faster and it would explode from within.

"I still dream about our time together."

The man was still talking.

"I hope you dream about us too."

Alec felt his body sinking to the ground.

"Good night, Alexander."

xxxxxx

The wind howled, biting into Alec's face and arms. He didn't know how long he had sat on the ground in front of the bakery. He felt numb. His skin did not register the cold air. His face was dry. The tears had dried and left stains that traced down his cheeks. He stared blankly forward, his legs sprawled in front of him and his fingers digging into his thighs. Something wet seeped into his pants but he didn't register that either.

He could hear a ringing sound from nearby but he tried to ignore it. It continued to ring insistently and it was like something pounding in his head. He just wanted it to stop and leave him alone. He grabbed at the source of the sound and flipped his phone open.

He could hear a faint sound coming from the phone that lay beside him.

"Alec?"

Stop, Alec thought. Why hand't the sounds stopped. He picked up the phone and pressed it to his ears.

"Alec, where are you? It's been almost two hours since you texted. One does not keep the High Warlock waiting, dear Nephilim."

"Go away." Alec's voice was barely a whisper.

There was a moment of silence and Alec felt relieved.

"Alec, where are you?"

Alec didn't say anything.

"Are you at the Institute?"

"No," Alec replied, as if on autopilot.

"Are you near my place?"

"No."

"Alec, listen carefully. Tell me exactly where you are."

"Will you go away?"

"Yes Alec. If you tell me where you are, I will hang up."

Alec paused. It was hard to think. Where was he?

"I'm on 92nd between 1st and 2nd."

"Okay, Alec. I'm hanging up now."

"Thank you," was the teenager's simple reply.

xxxxxx

Magnus paced the length of his living room. He had called the shadowhunter to scold him for making him wait but when he finally got a hold of the boy, he was greeted by a broken, barely audible voice. Something was definitely wrong. Despite only receiving a little information, Magnus knew something was terribly wrong.

He could get a hold of Alec's siblings, as they were probably at the Institute and closest to Alec but somehow, Magnus knew that this would devastate the already fragile teenager. He didn't know how he knew this but it was a feeling he couldn't shake whenever he thought of the option.

He could just leave it. He shouldn't be so invested in this shadowhunter anyway. He barely knew him and he was obviously too complicated to deal with. He dismissed the thought immediately. Despite everything, he was already invested and besides, any decent person would know that something was terribly wrong.

That left him with two options—take the train or portal to Alec's location. He paused from his pacing and lifted his hands, blue sparks jumping from his fingertips. If something was seriously wrong, he couldn't wait for the 45 minutes it would take to get there by train.

He stumbled out of the portal and allowed it to close before registering his surroundings. He had landed at the corner of 92nd and 1st and quickly made his way down the street. Under the faint glow of the moon and the streetlights he could see a figure seated against a storefront and he found himself jogging towards him.

When he reached the figure, he gasped, unable to hold in his shock. Alec was seated against a large window, his eyes barely open. His phone was laying beside him along with a backpack. It was opened and beside it was a razor, lined with blood. His arms were draped over his legs, long gashes littering both his forearms. Magnus looked down carefully and noticed that he hadn't nicked any major arteries but blood had still soaked into his pants and had started to stain the sidewalk.

Alec's eyes fluttered open, his blue eyes staring at him blankly. "Go away," he muttered.

"My dear Alec, what have you done?" Magnus didn't know what to think but he knew he needed to get the boy out of the street and stop the bleeding.

Magnus grabbed the razor and closed it. He grabbed Alec's phone and dropped both items in his pocket. He zipped up the backpack and slung it over his shoulder before he opened up a new portal. Thankfully, he hadn't used much magic today and would have enough energy to heal the boy but first, he was going to get him back to his loft.

He bent down and placed one arm behind his back and another under his knees.

"No," moaned Alec. "Leave me alone."

"Hey, it's going to be okay," Magnus said, soothingly as he picked up the shadowhunter. Magnus could feel the blood starting to seep into his shirt as he turned to the portal. He held the teenager tightly and stepped into the portal, disappearing from the quiet neighborhood, leaving behind only the dark stains in the concrete.

Chapter Text

Magnus braced himself as he stepped out of the portal into his spare bedroom with Alec in his arms. He carefully placed the shadowhunter on the bed before depositing the backpack on the floor.

Alec's eyes fluttered open and he looked around, dazed and confused. Magnus sat in the chair by the bedside as the teenager tried to sit up.

"Alec, you need to lie down," Magnus instructed. He placed a hand gently on his shoulder to keep him from sitting up but Alec immediately pushed him away, his eyes widening as he tired to move out of his reach. He was breathing heavily and looking at the warlock with distrust.

"I need you to breathe slowly, all right Alec? It's just me, Magnus. I promise, I'm not going to hurt you." His voice had never been so gentle and soothing. But it had been a long time since he had seen someone look so vulnerable and scared. He was suddenly reminded of his own reflection soon after he accidentally killed his father while he was trying to drown Magnus.

Alec just shook his head, grabbing at his arms, his fingers becoming slick with blood. Magnus reached his hand out once more and the teenager flinched before he even touched him. Magnus sighed and pressed his fingers to Alec's forehead and watched as the boy's eyes fluttered shut and he slumped against the headboard.

Magnus knew he was taking the easy route but he needed to heal the teenager and temporarily knocking him out was the easiest way to keep him still. He quickly repositioned the unconscious boy into a lying position and snapped his fingers, removing his shirt and pants. This was the second time he was seeing the Nephilim half naked and he was still unable to appreciate the beauty in front of him. Instead he went straight to accessing his body for injuries.

He started with his arms. He grabbed a wrist and frowned when he noticed just how many times he had cut himself. They looked like they were made frantically and without any thought. Blue sparks crackled from his fingers as he healed the cuts on both arms. Once they were gone and he had cleaned away the blood, Magnus noticed that there were still a spattering of scars that were not runes.  Not enough to notice them if you weren't looking for them but after how Magnus found him, they stood out as if they were bright, glittering lines. What was this Nephilim doing to himself? Or maybe the more important question was why.

He went to examine his legs just in case and he again noticed a few faint scars that disappeared under the bottom of his boxers. He let out a loud sigh of frustration before snapping his fingers again. Alec was clad in the sweatpants and tank top Magnus had given him the previous night.

After the boy was fully dressed, Magnus brushed his fingers against his forehead once more before leaning back and watching as Alec's piercing blue eyes were visible. At first, he just blinked, his head turning from side to side as if he was trying to figure out where he was and how he got here. Finally his eyes settled on the warlock and he could see the hint of panic creeping into him.

"You're at my loft, Alec. You're safe here."

Alec's eyes widened and he scrambled into a seating position. He grabbed at his arms, staring at the healed skin intently. "How...how did I get here?"

"I brought you here through a portal."

"A portal? How did you know where to find me?" He was rubbing at his arms, staring at them like they were foreign to his body.

"I asked you over the phone."

"My arms..."

"Were a bloody mess when I found you." Magnus tried to keep the anger out of his voice. What could compel Alec to do this to himself?

Alec squeezed his eyes shut, his body shaking slightly. "I..."

"What were you thinking?"

Alec swung his body to the side so that he was sitting with his legs over the ledge of the bed. "I should go."

"Go? Go where? You were on your way here when I found you."

Alec dropped his head into his hands, his body still trembling. When Magnus reached out to comfort him by placing a hand on his knee, Alec immediately flinched.

"I'm sorry," Alec mumbled, his face still buried in his hands.

Magnus closed his own eyes for a moment, trying to center himself. "Alec, look at me," he said gently.

Slowly Alec lifted his head. His eyes were bloodshot. Just a few hours ago, Magnus had spent a splendid evening with the shadowhunter and now, he was an absolute wreck.

Magnus placed his hands, palms up, in front of the younger man. "I want you to take my hands."

Alec looked at him with confusion. "Why?"

"Remember how you told me that you felt like you could trust me even though we barely knew each other."

Alec nodded.

"Do you trust me?"

Alec's bottom lip trembled. "I want to," he whispered.

"Take my hands, please, Alec."

Alec lifted his hands but hesitated for a moment. Finally, he placed his hands over Magnus's.

"I'm going to hold your hands, okay?" Magnus said.

Alec nodded tentatively. The teenager tensed as Magnus curled his fingers around the slightly smaller hands but he didn't pull away.

"I want you to know that I will not hurt you." He squeezed his hands lightly. "You are safe with me, okay?"

"I'm scared to believe that, Magnus. If I believe it to be true and it ends up being a lie...I...I don't think I'll recover. It's safer to not trust."

Magnus nodded. He related to having trust issues. The two people that he was supposed to trust implicitly broke it when he was a little boy and building that capacity afterwards had taken Magnus more years than Alec had in his lifetime.

"You don't have to believe it now but that doesn't change the fact that you are safe with me."

Alec slowly withdrew his hands, pressing them against his thighs, his eyes downcast. Magnus could see him biting his bottom lip, deep in thought.

"But Alec, we need to talk about this," he started gently.

Alec closed his eyes. "There's nothing to talk about," he muttered.

"I found you on the street, half conscious and your arms littered with self-inflicted cuts."

The teenager was now rubbing the base of his palms up and down his thighs, the material of the sweats gathering and separating with each stroke. "I should go," he repeated.

Magnus shook his head. "Go where? Back to the Institute?" Magnus knew he was being slightly cruel, but the conversation had to happen and he knew Alec did not want to spend the night at the Institute, even if he had no clue as to why.

Alec looked up, devastated eyes roaming the room before settling on his backpack. "Can I have my bag?"

Magnus reached to the side and grabbed the bag before passing it to Alec. The boy instantly started rummaging through the contents. Not finding what he wanted, he looked up at Magnus and he could see more panic creeping into his expression.

"What are you looking for?" Magnus knew exactly what he was looking for but he needed Alec to acknowledge it so they could talk about it.

Alec looked at him desperately. Magnus dug into his pocket and took out Alec's phone. "Are you looking for this?" he asked.

He frowned, taking the device in his hand. "Magnus, please."

"I'm not going to just let this go, Alec. A few hours ago, we're having a great time. Then you go back to that damn Institute and this happens," he said. Magnus spoke softly, trying to keep the anger from creeping into his voice.

Alec stood up abruptly. "I need to go to the bathroom."

Magnus stood in front of him and snapped his fingers. "You won't find anything sharp in there."

Alec flinched. "I...I wasn't going to..."

Magnus leaned against the bathroom door. "How long have you been hurting yourself?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"I saw the old scars when I healed you."

Alec tensed and instantly wrapped his arms around himself protectively.

"But from what I saw today, you've done this more often than your scars may insinuate. I'm assuming you started using an iratze to heal them before they left scars. So, Alec, how long have you been doing this?"

Alec sank to the ground, leaning his back against the wall and drawing in his knees, defeat and exhaustion mingling with the pain evident on his face.

Magnus sank down beside him. Very few people could make him sit on the floor but he didn't even think about it.

"A few years," Alec murmured. He avoided looking at Magnus.

"Does anyone know?"

Alec shook his head. His fingers played with the hem of the sweatpants.

Then Magnus asked the hardest question. "Why do you do this, Alec?"

Alec squeezed his eyes shut as his fingers formed into fists around the material.

"I don't know."

"I think you do know."

Alec opened his eyes and finally looked at the warlock. Magnus never wanted to see those beautiful eyes look at him with such excruciating emotions. "You think I want to do this?" Angry tears ran down his face as he raised his voice. "You think I want to be this fucked up. You would think carving runes into my skin would be enough self-infliction for one person. You think I don't know how pathetic I am?" Alec was digging his nails into his calves as he yelled, bright red crescents becoming visible in his pale skin.

"You're hurting yourself, Alec."

Alec's hands flew away from his legs like he had burnt them, his face turning red.

"I just...it's better...I control this pain. I can deal with it."

Magnus doubted that the boy had any control over the behavior but he kept that to himself. "Deal with it as opposed to dealing with what, Alec?"

Magnus could see him shutting down again.

"Nothing," Alec muttered.

"Alec..."

Here was a boy who had major trust issues.

Who could barely handle other people touching him.

Who was scared of his sexuality.

Who didn't feel safe in his own home.

Who hurt himself.

'Nothing' was as far from the truth as possible.

"I'm tired Magnus." He sounded emotionally exhausted.

Magnus nodded slowly, knowing that he was reaching the boy's limit and that he would have to wait before getting more out of him.

"I know, Alec."

"Are you going to keep my razor?" Although it was a question, Magnus knew that Alec had already resigned himself to the only obvious answer.

"Yes, Alec. I'm keeping it."

He looked away sadly.

"I don't see the point, Magnus. You can't keep everything away from me. Please, can I have it back."

"Listen, I'm no therapist but I'm pretty sure you need to replace this with something else."

"Replace the razor?"

"No, Alec. Replace this self-destructive behavior. You said you control this pain. It's easier to deal with than whatever other pain you're feeling at the time. Things get overwhelming and this is your way of getting back that control."

Alec just stared at him like he was speaking a foreign language. Magnus knew that Nephilim did not have any form of therapy or counseling in their society, whereas Magnus had lived enough years amongst mundanes to know something about it.

"When you feel overwhelmed or unable to handle your emotions, you need to do something else besides hurting yourself."

"Like what?"

"You could call me. Even if it's just to chat about something else." Magnus knew he was in deep now and that there was no point in denying that he cared enough to make this level of commitment.

Alec looked at him startled. "Why do you care so much, Magnus? I mean, you barely know me and I'm Nephilim."

Magnus looked at the teenager carefully. He wondered about that himself.

"If this is about pity...I don't want it," Alec said, sounding almost aggressive.

Magnus knew that there was an attraction between them, even if Alec could not acknowledge it but that wasn't the only reason that he cared as much as he did.

"It's not pity, Alec. I know what it's like to feel so much pain that you don't know what to do with it...how to handle it. There are many ways to be self-destructive."

Alec looked at him sadly. "Because of your parents?"

Magnus shifted, starting to feel fatigue himself. "It was a long time ago. But I had people who helped me and I want to help you. You should call me. And if I can't pick up you need to talk to someone else. Is there someone else you can talk to? Even if you don't tell them about this."

Alec nodded. "I can talk to Jace and maybe Izzy, I guess."

"Good. I know this doesn't mean that everything is magically solved but it's a start."

Alec looked at him doubtfully but nodded nonetheless.

Magnus stood up and held out his hand. "Come on, I think we both could do with some sleep."

Alec looked at the hand and after what seemed like a long time, he took hold of the hand and allowed the warlock to pull him up from his seated position.

Magnus smiled at the Nephilim and squeezed his hand. He wanted so badly to pull him close and hold him but he refrained from initiating that much contact with the jumpy shadowhunter.

"Good night, Alec," he said, squeezing his hand one more time before leaving the bedroom, knowing that at least tonight, he was safe.

Chapter Text

At first, all he could register were the sparkles. They twinkled above his hairline, dancing just beyond his line of sight. Then he felt soft fingers brushing against his jaw and cheeks. Alec felt himself leaning forward and capturing the lips in front of him with his own and draping his arms around the taller man's neck as he drew him in, his tongue probing for access.

Magnus moaned contently, his hands moving to the shadowhunter's waist and dragging him forward as he stepped backward until the back of Magnus's knees hit the edge of a bed and he collapsed into it, pulling Alec down and on top of him.

Finally giving Alec access, he allowed his tongue to dart forward, exploring the warlock's mouth, feverishly matching the more experienced man's movements. In an attempt to get more comfortable, Magnus shuffled deeper into the bed and Alec adjusted his body so that he was straddling the older man at the waist and leaning down, their chests flush against each other, so their lips did not need to part. 

Magnus's hands rubbed up and down his back, pushing his shirt up and exploring the pale skin underneath. Alec's heart was pounding and he wondered if Magnus could hear it. He started to explore the beautiful man below him, his own hands finding their way under the man's tank top. He felt Magnus buck his hips up and he blushed, feeling his pants getting tight as Magnus's clothed arousal jutted against his thigh. He closed his eyes.

Suddenly, Magnus grabbed at his waist and he felt himself being flipped over, so that his back was buried into the soft duvet and the man's weight was on top of him. 

"You're so beautiful. Let me see those perfect blue eyes."

Alec's whole body froze as his eyes flung open in horror. The man above him did not sparkle. He had thin brown hair and hard lines on his face. Cruel eyes seemed to bore into his skin as the man smiled evilly. 

Alec tried to scream but no sound came out of his mouth. He struggled underneath the man but he was too strong. He pushed Alec further into the mattress, smiling maliciously.

"I see that you are  hard for me."

Tears ran down Alec's face as he shook his head. His heart raced violently and his breathing was coming out ragged. Hands pinched and grabbed at his flesh, moving downwards until one slipped underneath his pants. Alec's fingers clawed at the duvet, gripping at the material tightly as unwanted hands roughly grabbed at him.

He squeezed his eyes shut, praying that it would all stop. Where had Magnus gone?

He felt a rush of cold air and he reluctantly opened his eyes. He was no longer in Magnus's spare bedroom. He was seated on the sidewalk, leaning against the front of the bakery, dazed and confused. A man loomed over him. Although he couldn't see him properly, he knew it wasn't Magnus. The man leaned forward and grabbed him by the chin, pulling him up until he was on his knees. Unconsciously, he grabbed at the man's calf to steady himself and he noticed the blood dripping from cuts on his arms. How did that happen? He thought Magnus healed him.

He registered the sounds of the man unbuckling his jeans. In the distance, he saw the sparkles again. The tall warlock walked forward until he was fully visible. 

He felt the man grab at his jaw and push his fingers into his cheeks, forcing his mouth open.

Alec stared at the warlock, his eyes glistening. Help me, he silently implored.

The man pulled his face forward and he immediately gagged as the man pushed his arousal into his mouth.

"Come on, blue-eyes, I taught you how to make me happy."

Tears spilled down Alec's cheeks.

Magnus just leaned against a lamppost, watching him. "I don't want used goods," he said nonchalantly before turning around and walking away.

xxxxxx

By the time Alec got up, his entire body was drenched in sweat, his borrowed tank top plastered to his chest. He sat up, instantly feeling the urge to vomit. His heart was still racing and his eyes were puffy and red. He banged his head against the wall violently and didn't even seem to feel the pain.

Flinging the sheets aside, he rushed to the bathroom and collapsed in front of the toilet before regurgitating the pizza he had eaten last night. He continued to heave into the porcelain bowl long after his stomach was empty, his midsection still spasming painfully.

Finally, he stood up, flushing the toilet and grabbing for the sink. He splashed water into his face and tried to gargle the taste out of his mouth. His whole body was shaking and his skin crawled with the phantom touches. He pulled open all the drawers and cupboards, his hands and eyes searching for something to help him take away the feeling. He cursed under his breath. Magnus had really hidden any sharp objects.

He went back to the bedroom and grabbed his bag. He had his stele but he knew he could never use it for anything but making runes. He looked at the clock. 5:00am. He could go talk to Magnus, like the warlock suggested but the thought made his stomach turn, thinking about the dream he had just had. He was so tired and confused. Why did his mind have to do this to him? He didn't want to kiss Magnus, he tried convincing himself. Even if he did, he knew he couldn't. Just the thought brought horrifying memories rushing forward. Even in his dreams, the idea of something consensual suddenly twisted into a nightmare that left Alec feeling nauseous.

He held back the tears as he grabbed his mouth roughly, remembering what his mind forced him to do in front of that bakery. How many times had he been forced to do that as a kid? Tears clung to his eyelashes. He needed to get out. He grabbed the clothes he had packed and quickly switched into his own t-shirt and sweats. He made the bed and neatly folded the borrowed clothes. He quickly scrawled a note saying that he was needed back at the Institute before putting on his sneakers.

He quietly made his way through the loft, knowing that his could easily sneak by without waking up the warlock. As he got to the door he felt something brush against his leg and it took everything to keep silent. He looked down, to see Chairman Meow rubbing against him, purring softly. Alec sighed and bent down to stroke the cat before slipping out into the dark city. He adjusted the backpack on his shoulders and broke into a run. If he couldn't have his razor, at least he could run.

xxxxxx

Maryse sat at the kitchen island, stirring her tea mindlessly. Since coming home, she had barely seen her children. She did have a chance to spend some time with her daughter but both boys actively avoided her.

She knew she shouldn't expect less. Alec could barely look at her and Jace was such a steadfast defender of his adoptive brother in a way that Maryse knew she was failing her son. She clenched a jaw, wishing she could drag the despicable man that currently resided at the Institute into a pit of raveners with no weapons and watch as the demons devoured him. But instead, she had followed Clave instructions and provided him with shelter at the Institute, forcing her son to live with the man that had stolen her son's voice and innocence.

She was a coward. There was no other way to describe her actions. She remembered standing in the doorway, seeing the naked man towering over her terrified and exposed child. She remembered the fear etched on his innocent face and the pain in his soft whimpers. To this day and even after going through the Uprising, what she had seen that night was the most painful thing she had ever experienced. And yet, she had stood by while her husband sent him away without reporting him to the Council and now, she actively allowed the man back into Alec's home.

She dropped her head into her hands, trying to chase away the memories but all she saw was Alec's expressive blue eyes staring at her, accusingly, telling her that she had not protected her child.

A hand landed on her shoulder and she jerked up.

"Mom, are you all right?" asked her daughter, who was standing just behind her.

"You startled me."

"Sorry."

"I'm fine," she said, sweeping some hair behind her ear and forcing a smile on her face.

"Are you sure?"

Maryse sighed, knowing that the concern she was showing her would not exist if Isabelle knew what Manson had done to her brother and that her mother had done nothing and continued to do nothing.

If she knew, she would treat her as badly, if not worse than Jace was currently treating her. Jace refused to acknowledge her unless forced to in order to keep up pretense in front of Isabelle. He ignored her if they were in the same room and replied in short, curt responses if Maryse addressed him before leaving the room. Maryse was sure that her daughter was starting to notice.

"Have you seen Alec?" Maryse asked, ignoring Isabelle's question.

Isabelle frowned and shook her head. Maryse could see the instant worry that swept over her face when she mentioned her oldest brother. "I think he's in his room."

Maryse nodded, stood up and pulled out Alec's favorite mug.

xxxxxx

Alec sat on his chair in his room, rubbing at the iratze hidden underneath his pants, feeling so utterly ashamed, it was all consuming. It had taken under an hour to run home from Brooklyn and the ache in his thighs and calves from the fast and long run was not enough, like he hoped it would be. He thought about talking to Jace but he wasn't going to admit the things that were going on with him to his parabatai, no matter how much he already knew. He didn't know his deepest secret. He didn't know that what Manson did to Alec for so many months was Alec's fault. If only he could have normal thoughts and feelings, Manson would have left him alone.

So instead of talking, he had found another razor and while the familiar action gave him relief in the moment, afterwards he only felt more ashamed and weak then ever before.

xxxxxx

Magnus was feeling particularly crabby in the morning. Not only had he gotten very little sleep but when he went to go check on Alec, he was gone, leaving behind only a note on top of the neatly folded clothes he had borrowed. The note simply said that he needed to get back to the Institute and ended with a thank you for last night.

Magnus groaned, crumpling the paper and tossing it into the trash bin. The least the Nephilim could have done was say goodbye in person. More than his annoyance, he was worried. He wasn't able to give him a dreamless sleep last night, as he was being cautious of overusing magic on the fragile teenager's mind and he wondered what nightmares he had and if that somehow resulted in him ducking out so early.

He noticed that things had been moved around in the bathroom drawers and could only come to one conclusion. Alec had been looking for something. Probably looking for something sharp.

Chairman Meow brushed passed him and Magnus looked down at the cat. "Damn it, Chairman, why do I care so much about this damned shadowhunter?"

The cat purred in response.

"No I don't want to just get in he pants," he mumbled.

Yes, the shadowhunter was gorgeous. He was also kind and when he wasn't sad, his smile and laughter was contagious. But he was also so terribly sad and scared and Magnus knew the last thing he would be doing with the younger man was getting into his pants.

He knew that there was more to Alec's sadness, self-destructive behavior and low self-worth than an inability to accept his sexuality. The internal struggle with sexuality could without a doubt result in these behaviors and feelings in the harsh, homophobic society Alec was a part of but it didn't seem to explain the way he reacted to simple, innocent touches or the intensity of the screams from his nightmares or his distrust in others or how he feared that Magus would hurt him.

It also didn't explain why he suddenly couldn't stay at the Institute even though nobody forced him out and why he suddenly felt safer at a downworlder's loft instead of his own home, despite all his trepidations.

xxxxxx

Jace entered the kitchen and frowned when he saw Maryse at the coffee machine. Before he could turn around and leave, Izzy bounced off a stool and greeted Jace.

"So, did you finally get a hold of lover girl?" Izzy asked, teasingly.

Jace groaned and rolled his eyes. "I was talking to her last night."

Izzy smiled. "She knows how to play the game, I'll give her that."

"She's not playing any game," Jace said indignantly.

Izzy smirked. "That's what you think."

Maryse turned to face the two teenagers. "Jace, would you like some coffee."

Jace tensed and tried hard not to glare at the woman. "No," he said curtly.

Izzy frowned. "What is wrong with you?" she hissed quietly into his ear.

Just as he was about to answer, he saw Alec enter the kitchen. Alec paused, frozen in the doorway, looking at his family gathered in the room. It was obvious to Jace that the older teen was hoping for an empty kitchen.

"Oh Alec," Maryse said, trying to sound cheerful. "I was making you some coffee."

Izzy, ignoring Alec's hesitation, grabbed the boy by his upper arm and pulled him into the kitchen.

"Sit down brother. Eat breakfast with us and stop being a stranger," she demanded.

Maryse looked on nervously and Jace just wanted to yell at her. She had no right to be nervous.

Before Alec could say anything, the noise of the elevator opening traveled into the room and all the occupants looked towards the doorway that led to the elevator. Alec's whole body tensed. If Manson walked into the kitchen at that moment, Jace wasn't sure if he could control himself.

"Jace! Alec! Izzy! Mom!" came a high-pitched excited voice before little feet scurried into the kitchen followed closely by Robert Lightwood.

The youngest Lightwood flung himself at Jace, who was the closest to the doorway. "Are you surprised?" he exclaimed happily as he is eyes darted from sibling to sibling. Izzy went to hug her dad before coming over to Max and ruffling his hair happily.

Jace wrapped his arms around the nine-year-old but his eyes were fixed on Alec.

Alec's face was turning red as he stood up and his whole body shook with what seemed like anger. Jace had never seen Alec look so angry. He had seen sadness, fear, pain, despair but rarely had he seen anger.

"What are you doing back?" asked Maryse, alarmed.

"We were no longer needed at Alicante and had to return," Robert explained.

Alec gripped the edge of the counter, his eyes swinging between Robert and Max.

Max frowned. "Alec, are you mad at me." He untangled himself from Jace and approached Alec.

Alec tried to smile and knelt down to hug Max. "Of course not, Max."

"Alec, what's wrong," Izzy said, who was also watching Alec carefully now. Alec released Max and he ran over to his mother.

Alec stared at his father in disbelief. "How could you bring Max here?"

Chapter Text

The Lightwoods seemed to be staring at each other, Alec's question hanging in the air. "How could you bring Max here?"

Isabelle didn't understand what was going on. She looked at her older brother, trying desperately to understand what she was missing. Everyone in the room besides Max and herself seemed to know what's going on and it infuriated her.

"Izzy, honey, can you take Max to his room?" her mother said softly.

Izzy turned to her mom angrily. "I will not! I want to know what the hell is going on. And Max can go up to his room without an escort."

"No!" Alec snapped. "Max can't go up alone."

"Why are you trying to get rid of me," Max said, his little eyes bouncing between his siblings and parents. "And I'm not a baby!"

The Lightwoods stood at a standstill, no one wanting to be the one to take Max upstairs but no one wanting to talk with him there.

Izzy noticed Alec's hands shaking. She walked towards him and grabbed his hand. "Alec, what's wrong? Please talk to me?"

Alec tried to pull his hand away but when she just held on tighter he looked at her, his blue eyes swimming with unshed tears.

"You didn't answer my question," he said, turning his attention to their dad. "How could you?"

Robert sighed, looking at his oldest son with a frown. "We couldn't stay longer at Alicante then required."

"Bullshit!" Jace yelled. Izzy snapped her eyes to the blonde, only to see anger radiating from her adoptive brother. "If you gave one fuck about your kids, you wouldn't give a shit about the damn Clave's rules!"

Maryse instantly covered Max's ears. It was obvious she wanted to stay but she grabbed Max's hand and started ushering him out of the room.

"You'll stay with him the whole time?" Alec asked.

Their mother nodded, the little boy protesting as they disappeared up the stairs leading to his bedroom.

"Jace," Robert started, his voice low and serious.

"It's one thing not to care about what happens to me but Max?" Alec sounded utterly defeated.

"Max is four years younger than you were, Alec," he hissed. "And you're five years older than you were then."

"So?" Alec yelled. "Do you know what's going on in that mind? For all we know, age doesn't matter to him!"

"Alec, listen," his voice was getting slightly desperate.

Izzy couldn't figure out who they were talking about.

"You have no right," Jace yelled. "This is all your fault. All you had to do was send that bag of shit to the Council and he wouldn't be here right now."

Izzy stared at Jace. "Are you guys talking about Mr. Manson?"

She felt Alec flinch and she realized that she was still holding Alec's hand. Her mind started putting some pieces together. What had her dad said? "Max is four years younger than you were and you're five years older than you were then."  So, they were talking about the time Alec was 13 years old. She would have been 11. That was when Manson was here the first time. He had stayed for about 9 months and left abruptly.

Her heart started pounding. That was also the same time that Alec had stopped speaking.

"Alec, what did he do to you?" she asked, desperately, fear gripping her heart.

"Listen, son," Robert repeated as he moved forward and reached out for Alec.

Alec jerked backwards. "Don't," he hissed. "Please, just leave me alone."

He looked almost sad.  "I won't let anything happen to Max, I promise," he said before he left the kitchen, defeated.

Alec's breathing was starting to get heavy and Izzy could hear his rapid heartbeat. She held him around the waist and led him to a chair. He grabbed for it desperately and collapsed into the chair as he tried to control his breathing.

Jace was soon by his side. "Hey, Alec, come on, just breathe slowly. Izzy, can you make him some tea?"

Izzy reluctantly left her brothers and rushed to the sink, grabbing a mug and tea bag from above the sink. By the time she brought the tea to Alec, his breathing was more regular and he attempted to give Izzy a soft smile as he took the tea. He sipped it slowly before looking up at his sister. "Thank you, Izzy."

Izzy grabbed a chair and dragged it in front of Alec. Jace was already seated beside him.

"Please Alec. Tell me what's going on."

Alec sighed, the tea swirling slightly within his shaking hands.

"Talk to her," Jace said.

"I...I don't know if I can."

"Yes you can."

"You tell her."

Izzy wanted to scream but remained patient.

"No, I think you need to talk about it and with me, you've never had to actually talk about it because I already knew."

So, Jace knew why Alec had stopped talking five years ago.

Izzy carefully took Alec's hands into her own and squeezed them gently. "Hey, Alec, you know you can tell me anything. I love you so much and it hurts to see you so sad and not know what to do."  She felt tears gathering in the corners of her eyes but didn't pull her hands away to brush them aside.

Alec looked at her and Izzy felt nauseated to see such sorrow in his beautiful blue eyes.

"Okay," he said, softly. He bit his bottom lip.

Jace stood up. "I'm going to go see what Max is doing, okay. I'll be in his room."

"You don't have to leave," Alec said, almost desperately.

It was almost as if Jace didn't want Alec to depend of him to tell his story. Jace squeezed his shoulder. "You can do this, Alec. It's Izzy we're talking about."

Once Jace had left, Izzy squeezed Alec's hand again. "You trust me right."

Alec nodded.

"I love you so much," she repeated.

"I know, Izzy."

"Just start at the beginning."

"O-okay. Umm, so, you know when...when Manson came to stay with us."

Izzy nodded. "I was 11. You were 13."

"He...one night...he came into my room."

Tears had spilled over his cheeks and Izzy's heart was now racing.

"He came into my room and he..." Alec closed his eyes, forcing more tears to run down his face. "He put his hands under...he started t...touching me." Alec gasped and now he was squeezing Izzy's hand as if it was the only thing keeping him together.

Izzy could hear her own heartbeat blaring in her ears. She wanted to scream. This was not happening! This couldn't have happened. Tears escaped from her eyes as she found herself shaking her head.

"At first, he would sit on the side of my bed and put his hands...down my pajama pants but...then he started doing more."

He bit his bottom lip and opened his eyes. "Izzy?" He sounded scared.

Izzy felt like she couldn't talk but she had to know. "What do...what do you mean by more?"

"He...he touched me...sometimes with his hands, sometimes with his mouth and he forced me to..to do the same."

Izzy was crying now, soft sobs escaping passed her lips. She could feel the anger growing in the pit of her stomach. How could anyone do this to her sweet, innocent brother.

"But...he also...he...he...had sex with me." He blurted out in a rush, as if saying it quickly would mask the horror of what he was saying. He gasped, trying to get air into his lungs. His eyes were glazed over, like he couldn't really see her. "Every night," he said. "It hurt, Izzy. It hurt so much. I wanted to die."

Izzy's whole body was shaking now, the rage ready to explode. No one was allowed to hurt her brother and she wanted nothing more than to find Manson and...violent thoughts raced through her mind and she pushed them aside because right now, she had to be here with her brother.

"Izzy?"

"Alec," she said. She pulled her hands away from his and placed them gently at the sides of his face, brushing away tears with her thumbs.

"Do you hate me?"

Her heart skipped a beat. "I could never hate you, Alec. Why would you ever think that?"

He moved his head to the side, closing his eyes again. "It's my fault," he whispered.

Izzy gently moved his face back. "Look at me Alec." Her voice was shaky but she had to remain composed for her brother's sake and not show her anger.

Reluctantly, he opened his eyes.

"Why would you say that?" She had to know what he was thinking.

"I can't..."

"Yes you can. Alec, you can tell me anything."

"I was being punished." His voice was so soft, she could barely hear it. "M-maybe I deserved it."

She tried to keep the confusion from gracing her face. What could a 13-year-old boy think he was being punished for? How could he think that he deserved being raped? She sobbed involuntarily as she thought the word. Her brother had been raped. Her brother had been raped repeatedly as a child. This couldn't be happening.

"No," she said firmly. "Why would you even think that?"

"I can't tell you."

"Yes, yes you can."

He sobbed. "Because...he knew things."

"Who knew things? Manson?"

Alec nodded. "I...my thoughts..."

Suddenly, Isabelle knew exactly what he was thinking. Although Alec had never told her, she knew that he was struggling with his sexuality. She had seen the way he sometimes looked at Jace and how he was immediately consumed by self-hatred. She felt a pang of heartache, wondering how this trauma must have complicated his already confused thoughts and amplified his self-hatred.

"Alec, listen to me. I know that you may not be attracted to girls."

Alec shook his head violently, dislodging her hands from his face. "No, no, no..."

She grabbed his hands. "Hey, Alec, it's okay if you're gay."

"No!" he hissed, pulling away from her and standing up abruptly. He wrapped his arms around himself protectively.

"Okay, okay," she said softly, standing up herself but being careful not to crowd his space. "It doesn't matter. I love you either way. And no matter what, he had no right, do you understand?" she said firmly.

He was still shaking his head, more slowly now, like all the energy was being drained from him. Izzy approached him and gently drew him into a hug. She could feel his heart beating against her.

"What he did to you is not because of your sexuality and your sexuality is not a result of what he did to you. You may not believe me now but I won't stop telling you that until you do."

She slowly drew away from the embrace so she could look at him.

"You were an innocent child. This is his fault, not yours. No matter what you think or anyone says, you did not deserve this. This was not your fault."

Alec just stared at a spot above her shoulder, that glazed look in his eyes again.

"I know that this was hard for you to tell me." She was rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb. Her head pounded...like she was in so much shock and couldn't fully process everything she had learned. It was like thousands of memories of Alec were flooding back to her within a totally new context. Suddenly, things made sense and it was the kind of sense that was so horrifying it was hard to comprehend. Sadness and anger and hate swirled in her heart and she pushed them aside, trying to show only her love.

When she was alone, she knew that she was going to fall apart or explode. Questions swirled around in her mind. She wondered how Jace knew if Alec hadn't told him. She wondered how her parents could let that man back in their home if they knew what that man had done to their son and she wondered if she would be able to control her anger around Manson. She felt her unoccupied hand curl into a fist by her side. She didn't know if she wanted to control her anger.

xxxxxx

Alec followed his sister up the stairs. She was holding his hand as if she would lose him if she let go. Alec felt like he was in shock. For so long he held his secrets close to his heart, never revealing them to anyone. Sure, people knew his secrets. His mom, dad, Jace and if he remembered, Max, knew about Mr. Manson and Magnus knew about the razor but only because they stumbled across them. Alec never gave away his secrets willingly until now.

The thought always terrified him but talking to Izzy was like unloading a burden he didn't know he was carrying. For so long, Izzy was the one person who didn't know that he was disgusting and damaged. She was the one person who hadn't seen him in such a horrifically compromising position. And for so long he had cherished that. But it was obvious that despite not knowing, she had worried and sometimes handled him like he was made of glass without even realizing it. Izzy not knowing had just distanced them because unlike Jace, Izzy didn't have any context for his behavior.

Now Izzy knew more than Jace. His heart was pounding so loudly, it echoed in his ears. She had said that she didn't care if he was gay. He closed his eyes. He wasn't gay...he didn't want to be gay. He wanted to blend into the background, to go unnoticed and in the Shadow World, being attracted to men was not blending in. And despite what Izzy insisted he couldn't help but think that if he had blended in, Manson wouldn't have noticed him.

Izzy squeezed his hand as they reached the door. Without knocking, Izzy opened the door and Alec pulled his hand away, suddenly feeling silly. Max was sitting on his bed, legs crossed, a book open on his lap. Jace was sprawled in a chair nearby, seemingly deep in thought, his gaze directed towards the younger boy but his attention far away.

As the two Lightwoods entered the room, Jace and Max looked up. Alec immediately tried smiling at his youngest brother but he couldn't quite get his lips to curl properly and he ended up giving him an apologetic half smile. "Hi buddy," Alec said, stepping into the room.

Max crossed his arms over his chest and looked at his brother suspiciously. From the corner of his eye he could see his sister motioning to Jace.

"Hey, Alec, we'll be right back," Jace said, getting up.

Alec knew that they were going to step outside and talk about him but he didn't have the energy to care at the moment. He nodded absently and made his way to Max's bed. He kicked off his shoes and scooted into the bed. Max shuffled to the side so that both boys were seated on the bed, their backs leaning against the headboard and their legs stretched out in front of them.

xxxxx

Izzy shut the door to the adjacent room and quickly drew a silencing rune against the doorframe before spinning around to glare at Jace.

"All this time you knew!" she yelled, moving forward and shoving him angrily.

"Izzy, listen..."

"Listen? You want me to listen now? Fuck, Jace!" Her eyes were red and puffy but the tears were relentless. She wiped them aside angrily. "For years, I've watched my brother fade away and you never said anything!"

"And knowing would make a difference?" Jace said, angrily. "I've known all this time and you think seeing him like this is easier because I knew?"

"YES! It would have made a difference! I wouldn't let him spiral out of control...deeper and deeper into this depression."

Jace's face went red. "What do you think I've been doing? Just sitting back and enjoying the fucking ride? You think I haven't tried?"

Izzy tried to calm down. She knew that Jace didn't know that Alec blamed himself or if he did, why he blamed himself. By the angel, he thought he deserved it.

"How? How did you know?"

Jace sighed, running his hand through his shaggy locks. "Max, he had a nightmare."

"Max?" What did Max have to do with this?

"Four years ago, Max was almost five. He had a nightmare and he went to Alec's room."

Izzy stared at him horrified.

"He saw...he saw Manson hurting Alec..."

"What?" Izzy said in disbelief. This was only getting worse.

"He got Maryse and Robert. I heard the commotion of them rushing to Alec's room and followed them. I...I was so angry, Izzy. I just charged forward and shoved him off of Alec. Alec was catatonic. There was blood and...and other stuff everywhere...on him...on the bed sheets."

Izzy felt sick. "What did mom and dad do?"

Jace looked at Izzy angrily. "Maryse stayed with Alec. Robert made us leave the room and we watched as he dragged Manson out of the room and down the stairs."

"But they didn't report him." It was more of a statement than a question.

Jace shook his head anyway.

Izzy slammed her fist against the wall. "I'm going to fucking rip his balls off with my bare hands and shove them down his throat."

xxxxxx

Max glared at the door angrily, his arms still crossed over his chest. He had been so excited to come home. He had missed his mom and his siblings and he had so much to talk about. But the moment he arrived, it just seemed like everyone wanted him gone, especially Alec.

"Why don't you want me here?" he finally asked. "Don't you like me?" His voice sounded more vulnerable than he wanted it to. He hated sounding young. He hated being the youngest in the family.

"I love you, Max. So much."

"Then why were you upset that I was here?" he asked stubbornly. Max frowned and looked at his brother. Only then did he notice how red and puffy his eyes were.

Alec sighed. He didn't speak for a while and Max wondered why he was so sad. Well, his brother was always sad...it was like a constant state for him a lot of the time but he was extra sad at the moment.

"Alec?"

"It's not safe here right now, that's why," he finally said.

"That doesn't make any sense. Why wouldn't it be safe? And if it's not, how come you and Izzy and Jace and mom are here?"

Alec smiled ruefully. "You've always been so logical."

"But why Alec? Home is safe."

Alec laughed harshly and Max looked at him alarmed.

"Home isn't always safe, Max."

"Okay," Max said, still confused. "Why isn't it safe?"

Alec bit his bottom lip. "There's a man staying with us right now and...and he isn't a good man, Max. And I don't want him to hurt you. I won't let him hurt you."

"Why would a bad man be staying with us?"

"Because he's a shadowhunter and it's our duty to provide shelter to traveling shadowhunters."

"Even bad shadowhunters?" Max asked.

Alec closed his eyes. "Not everyone knows he's bad."

Max was just feeling more confused.

"Who is he? What's his name?"

Alec tilted his head back and looked at the ceiling. "It doesn't really matter who he is, Max."

Max narrowed his eyes. "Do I know him?"

Alec was clawing at his knees with his fingers. He drew them in, wrapping his arms around his legs and rested his chin on the top of his knees, deep in thought. Max frowned again, watching his older brother carefully, his mind feeling a sense of deja vu. An image flashed in his mind of a younger Alec in a similar position, with a terrified, glossy look in his eyes.

He turned to look at Max. "You may have been too young to remember him."

Max shook his head. A bad man living at the Institute...it felt so familiar. "Sometimes I have nightmares about a bad man," he said, thinking hard. Usually he didn't put a lot of effort into remembering his nightmares.

"You do?" Alec asked, sounding startled.

Max's lower lip started quivering. "He's hurting you."

"In your nightmares?"

Max nodded.

"You never told me."

"I...sometimes I go to Jace's room if it's really scary."

Alec frowned and leaned his head back, regret written all over his face. "I'm so sorry Max."

Max didn't understand why Alec was sorry. It wasn't his fault. "What's his name?"

"Benedict Manson." The way Alec said the name, it was like something painful on his tongue.

Max could instantly put a face to the name. He was a bad man. The kind of bad man that hurt his brother. Max remembered that night. Sometimes it showed up in his nightmares and sometimes he got flashes...maybe a sound or a smell or an imagine and it was all so horrible. But he never once talked to Alec about it.

Suddenly, he flung himself at his brother, leaning into him and burying his face in his chest and wrapping his arms around his midsection. Alec made a startled sound but after recovering, he wrapped his arms around the boy and drew him closer.

"I was so scared."

"I know, Max," Alec said, pressing a kiss into his hair. "I'm sorry you had to see that."

"I don't like it when you're sad."

Alec didn't say anything so Max pulled his head back and looked up at his brother.

"I want to get better, Max."

"Can I help?"

Alec smiled. Not a beaming smile but a small, genuine one. "You saved me, Max." His voice was so serious. "You may not realize it, but you saved my life."

xxxxxx

Even as Isabelle yelled, Jace felt a sense of relief knowing that he wasn't alone anymore. For so long he felt like he watched Alec spiral deeper and deeper into a state of despair and nobody else paid attention or knew why. The adults in the Institute were always too preoccupied to truly pay attention to what was happening to their children, Max was too young and Izzy was in the dark.

So many times, he wanted to just spill everything to Izzy but he wouldn't betray Alec's trust. Alec, from a young age, had no say in what was happening to him and Jace never wanted to take away Alec's control, including his control over his secrets.

"Just yesterday, I gave him directions on how to get to the subway. I feel sick." Izzy seemed to be oscillating between thoughts of violence, sadness and nausea.

"I beat the crap out of him early yesterday morning. I...I couldn't stay away," Jace said. "But it didn't feel like enough."

Izzy ran her hand through her hair and sighed, brushing away more tears. "For so long, I've felt so helpless, first with the silence and then the way he distanced himself from everyone. Fuck! I'm going to find that bastard right now."

Jace grabbed her arm. "And do what?"

Izzy looked at Jace with disbelief. "Do what?" she said angrily. "I have lots of ideas. Maybe too disturbing for your delicate male ears."

Jace sighed. While he had years to process what had started five years ago, Izzy only had minutes. And even with those years, he was still unable to control himself with the sick pervert back at the Institute. He knew that he had to keep Izzy away from Manson...give her some time to process before she did something that would get her locked up while Alec was left feeling guilty for his sister's actions.

Jace was surprised at his own self-control, considering the many vicious fantasies he had about destroying Manson. "I get it, Izzy. You know I do but right now, Alec needs us. He's with Max, probably terrified for our little brother and I don't want to leave him alone with that responsibility."

Izzy tried to relax her tense body but failed. She curled and uncurled her fingers but nodded reluctantly. "Let's go see what they're doing."

Chapter Text

Alec sat on his bed, his cell phone in one hand and his other hand tapping mindlessly on his knee. Jace and Izzy had returned to Max's room and Alec stepped out to change his clothes and get ready for bed. He was going to sleep in Max's room. He didn't think he was actually going to get any sleep. This would be the first time that he would be forced to sleep in the Institute since Manson arrived but he wasn't leaving the Institute as long as Max was here.

He picked up the phone and quickly dialed the last number listed.

"Well, dear shadowhunter, fancy hearing from you."

"Hi Magnus," Alec said, cringing slightly. He had just abruptly left that morning.

"So, you're an expert at sneaking out. Sneaking out of the Institute and sneaking out of my place without so much as a goodbye." There was a lightness to his voice but Alec could hear a hint of annoyance.

"I'm sorry Magnus. I had a bad dream and I needed to get out...go running...it's what I do."

"Run or hurt yourself?"

The bluntness was not unexpected but Alec didn't know what to say.

"I told you to come to me. You could have woken me up."

Alec shivered, just remembering the dream and the role Magnus had played in it.

"I'm trying Magnus but it's not going to happen over night."

Alec heard the warlock sigh. "I know that Alec but you need to start somewhere. Did you do anything you shouldn't have?"

Alec bit his bottom lip and knew that his silence was giving Magnus his answer. He didn't think he could lie convincingly after Magnus had found him bleeding on the street.

"Oh Alec..." The voice was soft and barely audible through the cellphone. "What did you do?"

"Why are you asking me that? You know."

"I want to hear you say it. I want you to hear it. You need to hear what you are doing to yourself."

"I don't want to," Alec said stubbornly.

"Then tell me about this dream."

Alec blanched. He gripped the sheets below him. "I cut myself." Saying the words made him nauseous. It made him feel weak and pathetic. But it was better than talking about the dream.

"Where?"

"On my thighs."

"How did it make you feel?"

"Magnus, please."

"I'm sorry Alec. I just want you to think about these things. Think about what you can do differently."

Alec knew he had good intentions but he wasn't ready to talk about it. "I called because I wanted to tell you I can't come over tonight."

"Has something changed?"

"What?"

"Did the person that you've been avoiding leave?"

Alec blinked, surprised. "I...I never mentioned anyone."

"You didn't have to. You're avoiding someone. Someone who has recently arrived at the Institute. A visiting shadowhunter, I'm guessing."

Alec's heart was pounding loudly.

"And you don't feel safe at the Institute with this shadowhunter there...especially at night."

Alec couldn't speak. Everything was unraveling quickly. First Magnus found out about his habit, then Izzy found out about Manson and now Magnus was trying to figure things out.

"Alec?"

"Yeah."

"Has this person left?"

"My dad and little brother have come back from Alicante."

"You didn't answer my question."

"I won't be able to get out tonight."

"Alec..."

"Goodnight Magnus."

xxxxxx

Blankets were spread out on the floor of Max's bedroom. The door was securely locked with a rune that would counteract an unlocking rune. Jace lay on his side on the edge of the blankets. Beside him, Max slept curled up, his back to Jace and his head laying against Alec's shoulder. Isabelle lay on the other side of Alec. Her eyes were closed but she wasn't sleeping and she guessed that neither was Alec. She could see the glow of a light from behind her eyelids and the faint sound of someone clicking away at keys on a cellphone cutting through Jace's soft snores.

She cracked her eyes open to see Alec holding his cellphone low against the ground in an attempt to shield the light as he punched away at the keys.

"Who are you texting?" she asked softly.

Alec looked up, startled. He quickly snapped the phone shut, plunging the room into darkness. "I was just playing a game. Couldn't sleep."

Izzy looked at Alec skeptically even though he couldn't see her expression. It definitely looked like he was texting someone.

"I thought you were sleeping," Alec said.

"Couldn't sleep either," she replied.

She moved closer and lay her head on his shoulder, similar to how Max was sleeping. Alec's body shifted slightly but he relaxed quickly. "How are you feeling, Izzy?"

Izzy blinked, surprised at the question. "How do I feel?"

"I mean, I've had a lot of years to process all this...you've had an hour."

Izzy sighed. She pulled away and sat up, leaning her back against the wall. Alec carefully lay Max's head on a pillow and shifted so he was sitting beside her.

She grabbed his hand and pulled it into her lap, her thumb absently rubbing the back of his hand. "I'm feeling a lot of things, Alec, if I'm being honest."

"You can be honest. You don't have to treat me like glass."

She turned and looked at Alec. Their eyes had adjusted to the darkness and they could see faint outlines of each other. "I'm angry. I'm upset. I'm sad."

Alec nodded. "I'm sorry."

Izzy squeezed his hand. "You have to stop being sorry about things that are not your fault."

He tried to pull his hand away but Izzy held onto it tightly. "Let me tell you a hypothetical story. You cannot interrupt until I'm done."

"All right."

"When I was 14 I had a crush on that Clearwater kid that stayed with us for a few days but he thought I was a silly little girl. He was almost of age and had a girlfriend in Alicante. He told me so."

Alec was about to say something but Izzy hushed him. "Now imagine that his father was more interested in me than his kid."

Izzy felt his whole body tense and she squeezed his hand. "None of this happened. But if it did...if his father had come into my room and forced me to do things...if he talked about the way I looked at his son and that he knew I wanted it...would you think that it was my fault?"

"No, by the angel, no. Izzy, I would want to kill him."

"And I want to kill Manson. Because he hurt my brother. Because he made you think that somehow this is your fault...that you deserved this."

Alec shook his head.

"Alec, he took so much from you. For so many years I watched you fade away. He took your voice...your childhood...your happiness...that spark in your eyes...I know the list goes on but Alec, he doesn't have to keep them."

"Easier said than done, Izzy."

"I know, Alec. I know. But you're so brave...you've always been so brave."

Alec laughed harshly, slapping his hand to his mouth so that he didn't wake up his brothers. "Brave is as far from reality as possible."

"You've had to deal with so much and you're still here, always protecting us. Always making sure we're all right. Even now, protecting Max. And I know it was hard to tell me what happened but you did. You're a fighter. You may not see it now but I know that that's who you are."

Before he could reply, Izzy shifted herself and leaned her head onto his shoulder, keeping his hand within her grip. He wrapped his arm around her and held her close. "You have so much faith in me, Izzy." He leaned his head against her head and sighed. "I want to live up to that but it's hard."

She squeezed his hand. "I'm here for you."

xxxxxx

Benedict Manson sat on the edge of his bed, his hands gripping the sides of his thighs. On his lap he had a wooden box with a latch. He ran a hand along the edge. He was so tempted to open it and savor the contents within. Being back at the Institute brought back the memories more vividly than ever before and they were becoming harder and harder to ignore. And last night, seeing Alexander, it was exhilarating. Watching him become putty in his hands after all these years caused his heart to race with the surge of power he had over the boy. It was almost as exciting as having him the way he used to when he was younger.

He was about to open the box when a loud banging interrupted his thoughts. His head snapped to the door and he quickly shoved the box under the bed.

"Manson, open this door," came a demanding voice that he quickly recognized as belonging to Robert Lightwood.

He sighed, knowing he wouldn't be able to keep the man out, much like he wasn't able to keep that annoying Wayland boy from barging into his room. At least this time it was not unannounced.

He got up and opened the door, stepping aside as the Lightwood came into the room, his face red and angry.

"Why the fuck are you here?" Robert hissed, pushing him against the wall just as Wayland had.

Manson stood there cooly, staring at the man with an unconcerned expression. "I didn't know you were back from Idris. Did you have a good trip?"

Robert pushed his forearm into his neck. "Why are you here?"

"I'm here on Clave business. That's all I can tell you."

"Bullshit! You're here to fuck with my kids."

Manson laughed at Robert's poor choice of words. "I already fucked the one I wanted to. Those damned blue eyes were always irresistible...even when they'd lost their innocence."

Robert growled angrily, pushing his arm further into his neck. His eyes were wild and enraged.

Manson gasped for air but used his own strength to push against the weight, alleviating the pressure on his airway just enough. "Do you think killing me is a wise choice? How do you plan to explain it to the Clave?"

Robert released him and pushed him down to the ground roughly.

Manson just laughed. The man was so pathetically bound by Clave law and yet he had been too cowardly to report him after he found out what he was doing to his son. He wondered if Robert would have reported it if he had fucked the girl instead.

Robert glared down at the man and sent a vicious kick into Manson's ribs. Manson groaned and tried to get up but Robert just kept kicking, his foot landing in the same spot over and over again. Finally, Manson was able to grab the leg and Robert tripped, falling back. Robert didn't seem fazed. He just lunged forward and grabbed him around the neck. Manson tried to struggle free but Robert was stronger.

"I might not kill you," Robert hissed. "But I would watch my back if I were you." He tightened his grip and Manson's vision was becoming blurry. "You just don't know what could happen the longer you stay here. So, I'd advice you to get the fuck out of here and to stay away from my children."

Robert finally let him go, throwing his head back so that it banged against the wall loudly. Manson gasped for air desperately, pain racing through his body. From the corner of his eye he saw Robert reach out for the bedside table and take his stele.

"You won't be needing this tonight." He twirled the tip of the stele against his fingertip, holding his only chance at an iratze. "And I'd advice you to stay in this bedroom for the night. I'll help you out." He lifted the stele up into the air. "A locking rune with no stele to undo it sounds appropriate."

Once Robert had left, Manson groaned loudly as he dragged himself to the bed. Lifting his shirt, he could see the angry bruises forming, hiding away the broken ribs he was sure he had. He slowly lowered himself into the bed, cringing in pain. The pain was unbearable and breathing was nearly impossible.

xxxxxx

The sun beamed down on the East Meadow. The meadow, tucked away on the northeast side of Central Park was alive with families and groups of friends, picnicking, reading and playing games.

Jace had insisted that the Lightwoods spend the afternoon at the park like they used to when they were younger and he had invited Clary and Simon to join them as well. Alec was originally reluctant but anything that would get Max out of the Institute was better than the anxiety of the constant alertness he kept up within the walls of the Institute. He hadn't slept at all that night and neither had Izzy. He had leaned against Izzy for the majority of the night, his eyes trained on the door as his brothers slept.

Izzy had held his hand the whole night, occasionally whispering into his ear about how much she loved him, how it wasn't his fault, how it was okay if he was gay, how he was strong. It was hard to listen to or believe. He had spent months believing the things Manson had told him, over and over again as he did whatever he wanted to him. But sitting with Izzy yesterday, just letting the words wash over him, it made him feel different this morning, almost like he could try to believe something else.

Max was sitting under a tree with Clary and Simon. They were looking at a book he had picked up at the airport and it looked like Clary was showing him how to read it.  

"Alec, pay attention!" Jace yelled as a frisbee came whizzing passed him. Jace threw his hands up in frustration and Izzy laughed. Alec gave him a sheepish smile and jogged over to the fallen frisbee before letting it soar in the air towards Izzy. The three siblings were tossing the frisbee around and it felt good to be outside spending time doing something mindless and entertaining for once. Chasing after a plastic disk definitely fell into that category.

Just as he caught the frisbee being returned to him, he felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He tossed it to Jace before calling out. "You two continue." He jogged to the side of the meadow and pulled out his phone.

Magnus, the Magnificent Calling.

Last night, before he started talking to Izzy, he had been texting with Magnus. Magnus had texted him soon after their tense call with a lighthearted joke and they had bounced back harmless texts to each other until Izzy noticed Alec texting. It was nice.

He flipped open the phone and held it to his ear. "Hi Magnus."

"How are you this afternoon, my dear Nephilim?" came his silky voice. Alec couldn't help the fluttering in his stomach but he tried to ignore it. Izzy's voice floated into his mind. "It's okay if you're gay."

"I'm all right."

"Did you sleep last night?"

Alec sighed. "Not much, talked to my sister instead."

"Well, I just finished with a client in your neighborhood and was wondering what you were doing."

"I'm at the park with my siblings and Clary and Simon."

"And I wasn't invited?" Magnus joked lightly.

Alec blushed. Could he invite him over with everyone around? Would they think they were more than friends? Alec bit his bottom lip. They were just friends. And nobody but Izzy thought that he liked boys. Alec shook his head. He wasn't going to think about it.

"Want to join? We're at the East Meadow off 5th avenue and 97th street." Alec hoped that he sounded nonchalant.

"I think I will take you up on the offer, if only to see you."

Alec's blush depended and his heart raced. "Okay, see you soon." He couldn't keep the nerves out of his voice.

Once he hang up he looked over at his family and their friends. Max was now seated between Izzy and Simon and Jace and Clary were lying on their stomachs on the grass a few feet away, their feet in the air, knocking against each other playfully while Jace traced his finger against a rune on Clary's arm.

Alec thought he would feel a pang of jealously but thinking about it only drew him into memories that made him remember that if he hadn't have longed for Jace, Manson may have left him alone. How many times did he mention the blonde while he hurt Alec?

"Shh, stop crying. I know you like it, Alec. I see the way you look at Jace."

Alec snapped his attention away from his adoptive brother and looked out into the street. He wrapped his fingers around the wire of the fence and tried to force his mind away from unwanted memories. He felt a hand on his shoulder and he jerked away instantly.

It was Izzy.

"Sorry."

Alec shook his head and returned his attention to the runners jogging passed them.

"Who were you on the phone with?"

Alec untangled his fingers from the fence and turned around. He hadn't really thought through what he would say about Magnus.

"I was talking to Magnus," he said honestly.

Izzy's face instantly brightened. Alec shifted uncomfortably.

"How did this happen?"

"I went to see him the other day to thank him like you suggested."

"And?"

"We've been talking ever since."

Izzy practically squealed and Alec's eyes widened, darting towards the rest of their company.

"Izzy, calm down. We're just friends."

Izzy nodded absently. "Yeah, of course."

"Izzy...please, we're just friends." He thought about his feelings for Jace. They were so tied to the horrors of his childhood.

"You would like it if Jace was doing this to you, wouldn't you, you pathetic little brat."

His face blanched. He thought about his confused feelings about Magnus. The way his heart raced and the fluttering feeling in his stomach when he was around him. Would he be punished for these feelings too?

"It's okay if you're gay." 

Was it okay? Did he believe Manson or Izzy? But what could his younger sister possibly know about it all? The Clave was very clear on their thoughts about it and his parents would side with the Clave. Besides, Manson had stripped him of any possibility of feeling comfortable or safe or worthy of somebody else's affection. He shuddered just thinking about it. Magnus would be disgusted if he knew the things that he had done.

"Alec, are you listening to me at all?"

"Huh, what?" Alec said, snapping his attention to his sister.

"I was saying that I see Magnus coming here now," she said, pointing down the path lining the Meadow.

Alec looked in her direction and bit his bottom lip. Magnus was wearing deep purple skinny jeans and black high tops. He had on a black belt with a grey tank top tucked in and a black leather jacket. His hair was spiked and glittering subtly in the sunlight. He was gorgeous and Alec realized that he had missed seeing him after a night of not being at the warlock's loft.

"Hi Magnus," Izzy said happily as the man reached the two Lightwoods. "It's so nice to see you again!" She gave the warlock a big hug and grinned widely as she pulled away.

Magnus chuckled lightly. "Nice to see you too Isabelle."

"Thank you so much for saving my brother. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't showed up."

"This world would be too drab of a place without this gorgeous Nephilim."

Alec blushed and tried to protest but Izzy nodded enthusiastically.  

"I'm going to go talk to Simon and Max. I'll see you in a bit," she said before jogging away without another word.

"So, you had a client in the area," Alec said, awkwardly.

"Yes, an infuriating ifrit that is always in need of something. But I can't complain, not with my price tag. How are you enjoying the park this fine fall afternoon?"

Alec looked back at his siblings and friends. "It's nice."

Magnus's eyes roamed over Alec and Alec shifted uncomfortably. "What are you doing?"

"Making sure you're okay. You look tired."

"I'm fine. You don't have to worry."

"Oh, my dear nephilim, I don't know what you have done to me, but I worry nonetheless."

Alec blushed.

"As a friend, of course," Magnus added, his eyes twinkling mischievously. "Now, are you going to introduce me to your youngest brother?"

The two boys walked over to the rest of the crew. Jace and Clary had joined Izzy, Simon and Max under the tree and Jace was talking softly to Izzy. Once they approached Jace looked up and narrowed his eyes at Magnus.

"Bane," he said with an even tone.

"Magnus, it's nice to see you," Clary said brightly.

Simon looked at him suspiciously. "I'm not going to turn into a spider or something, am I?"

Magnus laughed and Alec felt the same butterflies in his stomach. His laugh was perfect. "Only if you drink things you're not supposed to."

"You're hair is sparkling," Max said, looking up at the stranger.

Magnus smiled. "I like things that sparkle."

"This is Max, my youngest brother. Max, this is my friend, Magnus."

Alec and Magnus sat down on the blanket they had spread out.

"Nice to meet you little man," Magnus said, putting his hand out. His nails were painted black except for his index fingers, which were painted in a bright purple. Max shook the his hand.

"Are you a warlock?" he asked, looking at him in awe. "Is that why your hair sparkles?"

Magnus laughed and Jace snickered. "I am a warlock. But my hair sparkles because I put glitter in it."

"Oh," Max said, still slightly confused. "I've never met a warlock before."

"Well, I'm glad to be your first encounter."

"That's all great and everything, but when did you and Alec become such good friends?" Jace said, not too kindly.

"Jace," Izzy said warningly.

"Do you have a problem with us being friends?"

Jace narrowed his eyes, looking at the warlock with distrust. Jace stood up. "Let's talk."

"Jace," Alec said, warningly. "This isn't necessary." Alec's heart was beating rapidly. Why was Jace acting so hostile over him being friends with Magnus?

Magnus got up. "Don't worry Alec, if alpha-male here needs to chat, we can chat."

Alec groaned, feeling defeated. Suddenly he thought it was a very bad idea to invite Magnus to the park.

xxxxxx

Magnus followed the blonde teenager to the far end of the meadow, slightly amused at the boy's reaction to his presence.

"So, to what do I owe this indignation?"

Jace turned around to look at Magnus angrily. Magnus narrowed his eyes, becoming more annoyed than amused.

"I don't know what your plan is, Bane, but I'm not going to let you mess with my parabatai," he hissed.

"And why exactly would you think I am trying to mess with him?"

Jace gripped the fence with one hand as he continued to glare at Magnus. "I saw the way you looked at him at the party. And you were hoping it was him when I returned to your place."

"And is that a problem? Are you telling me that you have a problem with me because I like men?"

Jace rolled his eyes. "I don't give a rat's ass who somebody wants to be with but I will skin you alive if you mess with him."  His voice was hard and deadly.

Magnus replied calmly.  "I highly doubt that you would succeed in skinning me alive but how exactly do you think I'll mess with him?"

Jace looked back at Alec, who was watching them from a distance. Jace was visibly upset and Magnus felt like there was something he was missing.

"I don't know anything about you. All I know is that you throw wild parties and that you're a powerful warlock. Maybe you sleep around, maybe you don't but either way, if you hurt him...if you do anything he doesn't want...if you make him upset in any way, I will find out, Bane. I will find out and you will regret it."

Normally, Magnus would be furious, having someone address him the way the Nephilim was but watching Jace's agitation and his genuine fear for his brother's wellbeing, Magnus could only look back at Alec, worriedly.

"I have no intentions of hurting him."

"Intentions and actions are two very different things, Bane."

"I'll keep that in mind."

xxxxxx

The group sat around in a circle playing a card game that Simon had taught them. Alec was seated between Jace and Magnus and wasn't really paying attention to was going on. Ever since Jace and Magnus had returned from their conversation, Jace had attached himself to Alec's side and occasionally glared at Magnus. Alec felt his face heat up, just wondering what Jace had said to Magnus. He knew Jace could be harsh but Magnus didn't seem to be scared away.

"So, my mom just invited you all over for dinner," Clary announced after they finished the game. She looked at Max. "There's a great manga store by me that we could check out first, Max."

Max beamed excitedly and looked at his siblings. "Can we, can we please?"

Clary looked at Jace expectantly. "I'm in. Izzy? Alec?"

"You guys go. I still need to go for a run and stuff," Alec said lamely. He didn't feel like spending the rest of the day with Clary and her family but with Max all the way in Brooklyn for a while with Jace, he would feel better.

Jace hesitated, looking between Magnus and Alec.

"You guys go, I'll stay here with Alec," Izzy said, nonchalantly.

Alec scowled but didn't voice his annoyance at his siblings acting like he needed a babysitter.

"All right, then, let's go," Clary said happily, before saying goodbye to Alec, Magnus and Izzy.

Once half the party had disappeared down the street, Izzy got up. "Well, I'm actually going to meet up with a friend."

"That fey boy?" Alec asked.

"Maybe. Magnus, can I talk to you for a moment?"

Alec groaned. "Not you too, Izzy. Leave him alone.

Magnus stood up and smiled at Alec. "I'm a big boy, Alec. Don't worry about me."

xxxxxx

"So, are you going to read me the riot act as well, dear Isabelle? You know, I was actually present when the Riot Act was passed in in Great Britain in 1714 but that's a story for another day."

Isabelle gave him an odd look. "Look, I know that Jace probably warned you sufficiently but Jace doesn't know everything and I think that you're a good person and I think you could be very good for Alec."

"Sister's intuition?"

"Yeah, something ike that. But that doesn't mean that if you hurt him..."

"You'll skin me alive. I love how you Nephilim think you could actually succeed in such a task but I get the sentiment."

"Look, just be careful with him, okay."

"Why are you so protective of him?"

"I'm his sister."

"It's more than that." Magnus was slowly putting the pieces together but he just didn't have everything he needed to figure out the puzzle that was Alexander Lightwood.

Izzy looked over at Alec. He was now walking towards them.

"Look I'm done with you guys terrorizing Magnus. Can we put a stop to this?"

Izzy smiled. "Of course, dear brother." She hugged Alec tightly and whispered something into his ear. Alec blushed and turned away slightly. Izzy gave him one more squeeze before jogging away.

"You have an interesting family, Alec," Magnus finally said.

Alec sighed as they walked back to the blanket under the tree. "I know."

"They love you very much."

"I know. But I'm sorry. They were being too much."

"Especially because we're just friends, right?"

Alec blushed again. It was so endearing. "Right," he muttered.

Magnus sat down on the blanket and stretched out his legs, patting the spot beside him. As Alec settled into the sheet, Magnus snapped his fingers and a basket appeared in front of them.

"I hope you like cheese and crackers. There's also some jam and a bottle of sparkling cider."

As if on cue, Alec's stomach growled.

Magnus smiled. "Perfect. Let's eat."

xxxxxx

Alec hadn't felt so content in such a long time. Magnus kept pulling out different cheeses and explaining where they came from before making him try them. Sometimes he coupled them with a story from the places the cheese originated from and Alec found himself laughing on more than one occasion.

"I love your laugh, Alec. Beautiful, like a rare gem."

"Why do you say that?" he asked, his cheeks flushed.

"Because I don't hear it often enough but when I do, it practically sparkles."

Alec's cheeks reddened and he looked away.

"You have some jam on the corner of your mouth," Magnus said. He lifted his hand and made sure Alec saw it before slowly reaching out for his lips. Alec watched the fingers carefully, willing himself to stay still and not flinch when Magnus touched him.

Magnus paused just in front of the corner of his lips. When Alec didn't move away, he brushed his thumb against his skin, the stickiness of the fig jam coating Magnus's thumb.

Alec felt a tear spill over his cheek but he didn't back away. He had let him touch him without flinching. He could feel the pattering of his heart and the way it seemed to swell with desire for the affection. He was terrified.

He remembered what Izzy had whispered into his ear just before leaving. "There is nothing wrong with your feelings, Alec. They are pure and beautiful. Just like you."

More tears spilled down his face.

"I'm sorry, Magnus."

"Shh, it's okay."

He didn't know what to say. "I'm just so tired."

"Come here, Alec." He held his arm out.

Alec blinked, feeling unsure.

"You can trust me."

Tentatively, Alec shifted closer and let the arm curl around him. He sat, tensely, waiting for something bad to happen.

"You should sleep. I'll make sure nothing happens."

Just thinking about sleep made him feel drowsy, remembering how he had not slept at all last night.

"What if I have a bad dream?" He hated sounding vulnerable.

"You won't."

Alec nodded, even though he didn't really understand.

xxxxxx

Ten minutes later, Alec's head was resting on Magnus's lap, the rest of his body curled perpendicular to Magnus, fast asleep. Magnus ran his fingers through Alec's hair, looking down at the beautiful shadowhunter, his long eyelashes sweeping over his cheeks and sighed. He was in so deep. All he wanted was to make this Nephilim feel safe and loved. What had he gotten himself into?

Chapter Text

Alec blinked his eyes drowsily. He buried himself further into the surface he was resting his head on, feeling reluctant about getting up. A light breeze brushed passed his skin and he groaned, feeling just slightly too cold. He opened his eyes properly and was instantly greeted with the green expanse of a lawn. That's when he noticed a hand lightly resting on his arm.

Suddenly realizing that he was outside and the surface he was lying on was Magnus's thigh, he shot up, his eyes wide and horrified. His pale skin deepened into a harsh shade of red as he looked over at the warlock.

Magnus smiled. "Hey darling."

Alec was seated a few inches away, his legs tucked to the side as he sat up awkwardly. "I fell asleep in your lap?" he asked in a hushed voice.

"You were tired."

"I...I...I'm sorry, by the angel..." He looked around the meadow. There were less people around and most were settled into their own blankets, eating, reading or just chatting.

"Hey," Magnus started, gently placing his hand over Alec's hand that was pressed into the blanket. Alec's hand twitched but he didn't pull away. "It's okay. You did nothing wrong."

Alec only blushed deeper. "How long was I asleep?"

"About four hours."

Alec gaped. "Shit, you should have woken me up."

"I was sufficiently occupied," he said, patting a book that lay to his side.

Alec ran his fingers through his hair and flipped open his phone. It was just past 7pm and Jace had texted him a couple of times.

"Anything interesting?" Magnus asked.

"Jace texted. Max fell asleep at Clary's place. They might stay there for the night."

Magnus laughed. "Jocelyn is allowing boy-wonder to spend the night with her daughter around?"

"He's with Max, Magnus. They're not going to do anything," Alec replied. He had a strong feeling that Jace was purposely staying at Clary's with Max because Alec didn't sleep last night. He frowned, feeling anger brewing within. It wasn't fair that Jace felt like he had to keep their baby brother out of his own home to protect him and so that his other brother would sleep easier. Of course, Jace didn't know that Alec had not been staying at the Institute until Max arrived at home.

He picked at the hem of his jeans absently. Magnus squeezed the hand that he had covered with his own and looked at Alec questioningly. "Where are you planning to sleep tonight?"

Alec looked up at Magnus, trying to chase away his anger. "I don't know," he said honestly. "If Max is at Clary's..."

"You stayed at the Institute last night because Max was home?"

Alec wrapped his arms around himself, slipping the hand out from Magnus's grasp. "It's complicated."

"I see that," Magnus said, a contemplative look on his face.

"I need to go home for a bit but can I come over later?" Alec asked tentatively, still feeling like the safety of Magnus's place would be taken away even though Magnus had been nothing but generous despite being kept in the dark.

Magnus smiled. "Of course, Alec."

xxxxxx

Alec sat on the edge of his bed, rubbing his palms against his knees, staring mindlessly at the wall. He felt confused and scared and a feeling that was so unfamiliar to him. Happiness. It was hidden underneath all the painful emotions but Alec couldn't deny its existence or the root of its existence. In the midst of Manson once again living at the Institute, Max coming home and Izzy finding out some of his secrets, Alec had also sought out safety somewhere else, leading him to Magnus. When he was with Magnus and when his mind wasn't drawn to his past, he felt safe and warm and happy. And the feeling terrified him because he didn't want to think about why Magnus made him feel this way.

He jumped up and quickly changed into training gear before heading up to the training room. He would get some training in before calling Jace to make sure they were staying there and then he would go to Magnus's place. Because Magnus was a friend and he felt safer there than at the Institute, he told himself.

When he reached the entrance of the training room, the door was opened just a sliver and Alec could hear the sound of someone training from within. Jace and Izzy were both out and his parents were unlikely to use the room at this time.

His heart was pounding. He stood, frozen by the door, his hand grazing his stele by his hip. He thought about turning and leaving. He could go for a run instead. Then he remembered the moment two nights ago when he had bumped into Manson on the street and Manson instantly had control of him. He clenched his teeth, hating himself for his weakness. Hating himself for allowing the man to continue to control him.

He curled his hand around his stele and quickly etched a soundless rune into his forearm.  He wasn't going to be weak.

He pushed the door open just a little bit more and peeked in. He was right. It was Manson in the room. He had his back turned to Alec and he was throwing daggers at a target on the wall opposite him.

Alec nearly gagged out loud but kept it in, knowing that a soundless rune would not silence his voice. He remembered being in the training room, Manson finding him there before he started hurting him and trying to teach him how to throw daggers. It was like he could feel the man pressing himself against his body, one hand on his waist and the other around his wrist. He closed his eyes, remembering the man's arousal pressed against his back and not understanding what was happening. He remembered feeling relieved when he let him throw the daggers without his  guidance. At the time, he had no idea that that moment had been the beginning of it all.

Alec pressed his hand against the fortitude rune on his shoulder, hidden underneath his gear. He wondered if he would have had more strength to bear the torment as a child if he had that rune when he was younger. He squeezed his shoulder harshly and opened his eyes, willing himself to be stronger than he had ever been before.

Izzy's voice floated into his head again. You are so strong. Alec wanted to prove that he actually did have strength. He needed to know that this man didn't control him anymore. He needed to do this.

Alec waited by the door, watching Manson and talking himself into moving forward. He waited until Manson moved to the wall and started dislodging daggers that were buried in the target and dropping them into a bin by the wall. Sucking in some air as quietly as possible, he pushed the door open silently and walked in, standing beside the case of daggers where Manson had stood while practicing his throw.

For a moment Alec thought that he was frozen. All he could do was stare at Manson's back, the pounding of his heart blaring in his ears and a tremor taking hold of his hands. Suddenly he realized that he hadn't thought this through and he might end up stuck here with his worst nightmare and a bunch of weapons.

No Alec, the teenager screamed in his mind. Manson didn't need to control the weapons. Alec was just as good at using daggers as Manson. As if on autopilot, Alec bent down and picked up a few daggers. He placed all but one in his belt. He held the last knife in his hand, gripping the handle tightly. Manson had removed the last dagger from the target and dropped them into the bin.

Alec cleared his voice loudly, although it didn't seem loud enough to overpower the sound of his beating heart.

Manson spun around, his back against the wall and stared at the teenager, surprise clear in his expression.

"Alexander," he said calmly, a horrible smile gracing his face. The man had the beginnings of a black eye and a bruised jaw. Alec didn't have the capacity at that moment to think about who gave the man those bruises. He would have to think about it at a later time.

Alec raised his hand, positioning the dagger. He hated that smile.

Alec saw the twitch in Manson's foot, like he was about to move forward. Without thinking about what could happen next, Alec allowed the dagger to fly through the air. The dagger moved so fast, Manson did not have a chance to move. It landed just beside his left eye, the blade parallel to the floor, the sharp edge of the dagger grazing against his skin. The man flinched. Before he could move, Alec threw another dagger, landing right beside his right eye, the blade nicking at his skin as it lodged into the wall.

"It's a good thing I got so good at throwing daggers," Alec said. His voice was so calm and deadly that it didn't sound like him. "Any less precision and you may have lost an eye."

"Careful Alexander," he said, his voice condescending and demeaning. Alec hated him. Even with his head between two blades, he thought he could speak to him like he was still a child.

Manson lifted his left hand to grab the daggers but Alec moved faster, trapping his wrist between two daggers, the blades similarly positioned so that the sharp ends pressed against his skin.

"Move your other hand and I'll aim for your wrist," Alec said.

"What is it that you want, Alexander?"

"Stop calling me that," Alec screamed.

"Would you rather I call you Alec?"

Alec flinched, not wanting the name to be similarly tainted.

"No," he whispered, feeling less and less sure about this confrontation. He held another dagger but his hand had started shaking again.

"What is it that you want from me?" The man was so calm.

"What do I want?" Alec hissed. "What do I want?" Alec's mind buzzed. What did he want?

"Why?" Alec finally said

"Why what?"

Alec's unoccupied hand clenched into a fist. "Why did you do this to me?"

"Do what?" the man said, fake innocence dripping from his voice.

"Don't fucking play games with me," Alec yelled, letting another dagger fly through the air. It lodged deep into the man's right shoulder. Manson screamed, his voice shrill and so unfamiliar to what Alec was used to. He immediately moved his free arm to grab at the blade.

"You might not want to take that out right now. You'll bleed out if you don't fix it quickly and I don't think you're going to have the opportunity anytime soon." Alec was so surprised at his ability to speak and not stutter or just shutdown. Maybe he was running on pure adrenaline. Maybe it was the fortitude rune.

Manson hissed, his breathing coming out ragged. He clutched his shoulder but left the dagger in. "Listen Alexander."

"No, you listen. I don't think I even want to know why. What could you possible say that I would want to hear. That I was an easy target, weak and pathetic. That you knew that I was different and would keep quiet."

"I couldn't control myself, Alexander. And you wanted it."

"NO!" Alec screamed, shaking his head. Tears gathered in the corner of his eyes.

"You were just so beautiful, so perfect."

"No!"

"Your blue eyes." He hissed in pain. "Your perfect, flawless body."

"SHUT UP!" Alec threw another dagger. It landed between his slightly parted legs, the sharp end of the blade dangerously close to his crotch.

"Please, Alexander. Just let me remove the daggers and we can talk."

Alec laughed, the sound coming out almost deranged. Tears spilled over his cheeks and he wiped them away angrily. "Did you ever stop when I asked you to? Did you ever pay attention to my pain? Did you care that you were destroying me?"

Manson was becoming desperate. "Alexander, I had no control."

"You had all the control," Alec yelled angrily.

There was silence.

"I had nothing," Alec said softer, his voice wavering. "You took everything away from me. You destroyed my life." Alec could feel his emotions becoming unmanageable. He had one dagger left. He held it in his hand, his hand shaking so much, he thought he might drop it. He was unraveling quickly. The illusion of strength and calm quickly slipping away.

He stepped back and his foot bumped into something. He looked down and saw a jacket crumpled on the floor and a box half hidden by the material. There was something familiar about the simple wooden box. He bent down, his eyes still trained on Manson and picked it up in his unoccupied hand. Why was it so familiar?

Manson's eyes widened. "Alexander, please, let's talk."

Alec looked at him once more and he knew he had to leave or he would come apart in front of the man and left totally at his mercy. With the box in one hand and the dagger in the other, he turned and fled the room.

He didn't stop until he made it to his room. He slammed the door shut before he collapsed against the wall. The box fell to the floor beside him but he held on tightly to the dagger. His chest hurt. His heart was racing uncontrollably. His hands shook and his eyes blurred with tears. He felt nauseous. His breathing was ragged and he couldn't get it under control. He tilted his head back, pressing the back of his head against the wall. He grabbed the blade of the dagger with his other hand, allowing the metal to cut into his palm, ignoring the dampness and metallic smell that quickly followed.

xxxxxx

Magnus lounged on his sofa with his legs propped up on the coffee table. He had a glass of wine in his hand and his phone lying on his sofa beside him. He didn't want to get plastered tonight. He was expecting Alec any minute.

"I'm swearing you to secrecy, Catarina," Magnus said, leaning towards the phone.

"Of course, Magnus. He sounds like he has struggled with a lot but you are obviously taken by him." The voice of his friend, Catarina, floated through the speaker of the phone.

"He's a shadowhunter! A closeted Nephilim"

"Yes, this is new for you but he doesn't sound like most shadowhunters we know."

"He's a Lightwood."

"He definitely doesn't sound like any Lightwood I've met but it's understandable that you would be wary."

Magnus sighed. "I'm not wary. I'm worried. What am I getting myself into? I mean I think about him all the time. I let him sleep in my apartment. I make portals to go find him."

"Do you enjoy spending time with him?"

"Yes," Magnus said without having to think about it.

"Then I don't think you should think too much into it."

Just as she was finishing her sentence, the phone lit up announcing an incoming phone call.

"He's calling now," Magnus said, his lips turning upward unconsciously.

"Well, pick up then."

"All right, I'll call you back."

He picked up the phone and tapped the talk button. "Hi darling," he said, pressing the phone to his ear.

A hitched breath sounded through the speaker.

Magnus pulled his feet off the coffee table and sat up. "Alec, what's going on?"

"Magnus." His voice was raw and weak. Magnus heart was pounding.

"Talk to me Alec."

"I'm sorry, I...you told me I could call if..." His voice trailed off and Magnus closed his eyes, knowing that Alec was hurting somehow.

"Of course, darling."

"I couldn't control myself. I tried, Magnus."

Magnus held back a curse. "Where are you?"

"At the Institute."

"Is Jace or Izzy there?"

"No...I..."

"I'm coming over." Magnus was already standing. Yet again he found himself deciding to make a portal. In the last week he would be making more portals than he had in the last few months.

"You don't have to."

"Where in the Institute are you?"

"In my room."

Magnus knew where that was from when he came to heal him. Izzy had asked if he would take him to his room after Magnus had rested because she didn't want him to wake up in the infirmary. He could make a portal directly to his room.

"Can I make a portal to your room?"

"Okay," he whispered, sounding more vulnerable than before.

xxxxxx

When Magnus stumbled out of the portal, he felt an unwanted sense of deja vu. Alec was seated, with his legs stretched out in front of him, on the floor against a wall. He was not wearing a shirt and any other time, Magnus would indulge in his beauty. But now all he could see was the pain. A bloody dagger lay over an undamaged hand. His other palm was blood-soaked and more blood outlined multiple new wounds running along his arm. Beside him was his stele, a phone and a wooden box, the latch smeared with blood.

Alec looked up at him with bloodshot eyes. "I tried to stop, I wanted to stop," he whispered.

Magnus rushed forward and knelt beside the teenager.

"I can't draw an iratze," he murmured looking at his bloody hand. "It doesn't come out right with this hand." He lifted his undamaged hand. He looked utterly lost, like he had in front of the bakery the other day.

"It's okay. I've got you."

He picked up the damaged hand carefully and encased it with his own. Within seconds, his palms seeped with blue light and he felt his magic healing Alec's wound.

Alec gasped as he let go of his hand. He reached forward for his stele but Magnus stopped him gently. "I'll fix all your wounds."

"You don't have to."

Magnus shook his head. The thought of Alec carving into his body at the moment, even if it was natural to the Nephilim, made him nauseous. He quickly started healing the rest of his cuts, which luckily were not as bad as the one on his hand.

When he was done he leaned back, settling down beside the shadowhunter.

Alec was staring at his unblemished hand, curling the fingers absently.

"I'm sorry."

"Hey, I told you to call me, remember?"

"But it's so pathetic."

"No, Alec, it's not."

Alec laughed, the laughter sounding unnatural. "I'm pretty pathetic, Magnus. Why do you even bother with me?"

"Alec," Magnus started.

Alec's eyes had turned almost wild. They were wide and unfocused. His body was trembling and tears ran down his face. Without any warming Alec turned so that he was on his knees, facing Magnus.

"Do you like me?" His voice was detached and hollow.

"Of course I do."

Alec moved forward and suddenly the teenager was straddling his legs, his knees on either side of his thighs and his torso pushed towards Magnus.

"Alec," Magnus exclaimed.

Alec pressed his crotch into Magnus's crotch.

"He liked me too." There was a hitch in his voice.

Who was the 'he'? Magnus thought, fear gripping his heart. Magnus tried to detach the Nephilim from him gently but Alec pressed one hand between his legs, massaging him.

"You can do whatever you want to me," Alec said, his voice as foreign as his behavior. Tears still traced down his face.

"Alec, stop, you don't want this."

Alec laughed wildly, continuing to press his body forward, thrusting his lower half against Magnus. "It doesn't matter what I want," he hissed angrily. "Don't you get it? You can do whatever the fuck you want to me." He continued to laugh, sobs breaking through it occasionally. "You can hold me down and do whatever you want? Or you can lay back and tell me what to do, let me do all the work."

Magnus felt his heart practically breaking into pieces as the boy in front of him fell apart. He pressed his hands firmly against Alec's shoulders and pushed him back gently. "Alec, listen to me, you never have to do something you don't want to do, not with me."

Alec wasn't listening. He was sitting on his thighs but no longer pressed against him. Instead he started undoing his own jeans, his fingers shaking so aggressively, he could barely grip the button. "Come on, I know you want to fuck me. You don't have to pretend," he yelled wildly. "I'm good, I promise. I've had lots of practice."

Magnus tried to hide the horror that crept into his face.  

Alec was physically stronger than Magnus and Magnus didn't want to use magic to control him in any way but he couldn't let him continue down this path of self-destruction. Alec had finally unbuttoned his jeans and started pushing them down. Magnus instantly gripped his wrists.

"Stop Alec." He tried to be gentle and firm.

"Why?" Alec whispered, his voice so broken, it hurt to hear. "It's what you want, right?"

"No, Alec, I don't want this." From Alec's behavior since getting to know him, Magnus had figured that Alec may have experienced some sexual trauma in his past. At the time, he didn't want to believe it. Maybe his behavior was a reaction to his sexuality within the Shadow world. Everybody copes differently. But now it was obvious that the teenager had experienced some form of sexual abuse.

"Of course." He pulled his hands away, his whole body still trembling violently. "I'm dirty. Used goods. I'm a whore. Of course you don't want me."

Magnus reached out and held Alec's hand. The boy flinched and looked away. "Alec, I don't want this because you don't want this."

A sob escaped Alec's lips. "What I want doesn't matter.  It's never mattered."

"It's all that matters, Alec. No one has the right to do anything you don't want."

Alec sobbed again. He collapsed against the warlock, his face buried into the older man's neck, hands gripping his shoulders. Heart wrenching sobs racked his body. His breathing was ragged and tears soaked into the collar of Magnus's shirt. Instinctively, Magnus wrapped his arms around the boy and pressed his lips into the top of his head.

"You're safe with me. I promise you that."

"I'm not safe," Alec whispered. "I'm never safe."

Magnus glanced at the bloody dagger. "Alec..."

"He's always here. In my head...in my dreams...in...in my home."

Magnus flinched. He felt so helpless, holding this precious but devastated boy in his arms. He felt anger coursing through his body. He wanted to rip the Institute apart looking for this man. He needed to push it aside for now or he would scare Alec and he never wanted to scare Alec. He needed to know more.

Before he could say anything else the door to his bedroom swung open. Alec didn't seem to register the change but Magnus's eyes went to the doorway.

Jace stood in the room as if about to greet Alec before he registered the scene in front of him. And it was an image that Magnus knew Jace would interpret incorrectly. Here was Alec, half naked, with his jeans undone, wrapped around a fully clothed powerful warlock with a bloody knife lying by Magnus's side.

His reaction was instantaneous. "Get the hell away from my brother," Jace screamed, moving forward rapidly. The rage on his face was almost unfathomable. Magnus quickly drew his hand up and a flash of blue blasted into the room. Jace slammed against an invisible wall separating him from them.

Alec was still falling apart, totally unaware of his surroundings. Glancing back at Alec's phone, he now saw the numerous missed calls from the Nephilim's brother.

Jace slammed his fists against the forcefield. "You fucking downwolder! You are fucking dead," he screamed. "Get your fucking hands off of him!"

"I'm not hurting him, Jace," Magnus said calmly before addressing Alec. "Alec, darling, Jace is here."

"He's fucking half naked you bastard." His eyes fell on the dagger. "What have you done to him?" Jace was starting to hyperventilate. He was pounding his fists helplessly. His face was already red and tear-stained. He started oscillating between pleading and threatening Magnus. "Please. Please. Let me in. Don't hurt him. Oh god, please, don't hurt him," to "You're fucking dead, Bane. Let me in! I'm going to kill you, you fucking bastard!" The blonde teenager was unraveling quickly.

"Alec, angel."

Alec pulled back as he tried to stifle his sobs. Once he untangled himself from the warlock he seemed to register his surroundings, the sound of Jace's wild voice seemingly reaching him in a rush. He flung himself away from Magnus and spun around.

"Alec!" Jace called out, his eyes wide with horror.

Alec stood there, tear tracks running down his blotchy face, shirtless and his jeans open. His healing cuts and old scars stood out on his arms and chest. Jace's eyes instantly went to them. Alec was frozen on the spot.

Magnus stood up and looked at Jace. "I'm going to let the wall down but you have to stay calm. I didn't hurt him."

Jace nodded, his eyes transfixed on the scars. "He hurt himself," he whispered, the devastation in his voice palpable.

Chapter Text

Jace could feel his own heart pounding violently behind his chest as he desperately pounded against the invisible barrier keeping him away from his brother. It was becoming hard to breathe. His mind couldn't seem to reconcile the image of his brother, his body exposed and racked with sobs, tangled with an older man, with anything but what he had witnessed in Alec's room as a child. The horrors of that night seemed to intermingle with the image of his brother on the floor collapsed against the warlock.

Jace barely heard Magnus say, "Alec, angel." But Alec had finally responded to the voice and he pulled away from the warlock, stood up and spun around to see the blonde teenager.

Alec stared at Jace, a look of absolute shock and terror burning in his eyes.

And then Jace saw the cuts that traced across Alec's body; scars that were set apart from the silvery lines of old Marks.

"Alec!" Jace found himself exclaiming, his eyes only widening even more in dread.

Magnus stood up and looked at Jace. "I'm going to let the wall down but you have to stay calm. I didn't hurt him."

Jace nodded, suddenly realizing that Magnus hadn't used the bloody dagger that still lay on the floor...Alec had. "He hurt himself," he whispered, his eyes fixated on the scars.

There were not many but Jace knew that didn't mean that there hadn't been more over the years. He was suddenly reminded of the iratze he had seen just a few days ago, applied to Alec's skin despite not being harmed during their demon hunt. Some of the scars were almost the same color of his pale skin, only distinguished by their slight raised appearance while others were pinker, as if they were more recent and still in the healing process.

Suddenly, Jace felt a wave of energy disappear as Magnus snapped his fingers, allowing Jace's hand to pass through the air that was moments ago blocked by Magnus's forcefield. He stepped forward, ready to rush towards his brother when Alec finally spoke.

"Please," Alec said. "Stay there." His voice was hoarse and desperate. Every bone in Jace's body told him to ignore Alec's plea and drag the downwolder out of the room before demanding answers from Alec. But ever since that horrible night, Jace had done everything in his power to honor Alec's requests, though they were few and far between. Jace knew that for so many months when he was a child, Alec's control had been taken from him. A part of him wondered if subconsciously, not speaking during that time had been a way for Alec to take back some control in his life.

"Alec," he started.

Alec looked at Jace, pleadingly. His face was turning redder as they stood there and he quickly turned around, so his back was facing Jace. Jace could see his hands moving to his waist to fasten his jeans.

"Where's Max?" he asked, still facing away from him.

"He's sleeping at Clary's place. Her mom said she'd watch him. You weren't answering your phone."

"I'm sorry," he muttered.

"Alec..."

"Please leave." Alec looked at Magnus. "Both of you."

"Alec," Jace repeated desperately at the same time that Magnus also called out his name in protest.

"Please, just give me a few minutes at least," he whispered, his head bowed.

Magnus bent down and picked up the stained dagger. "Okay Alec," he said gently. "But I'm not leaving."

Jace could see Alec nodding his head. Magnus made a move like he wanted to grab his hand as he passed the teenager but he curled his fingers away and stepped towards Jace. "Let's give him a moment," Magnus said.

Jace glared at Magnus. "Don't tell me what to do, Bane."

"He didn't hurt me, Jace," Alec said softly, his body still turned away. "Please, I need a minute."

"Okay," Jace finally said. "I'm going to be right outside."

Alec sighed. "I know."

Jace followed the warlock out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Magnus immediately turned around and waved his hand, letting sparks fly.

"What did you just do?" Jace hissed.

"I don't want Alec to hear us if you decide to raise your voice," he snapped, all his gentleness gone.

"Are you stupid? What if he does something and we don't hear him!"

Magnus rolled his eyes. "We can hear him, he can't hear us."

Jace nodded. He turned away from the door and examined the warlock in front of him. Surprisingly, his hair fell loosely around his face, absent of gel or glitter. He wore dark red jeans and a black shirt that had BLINK IF YOU WANT ME written across the front in silver sequins. It was the most muted look Jace had seen on Magnus, like he had left his apartment in a rush.

Jace felt his stomach twisting. He probably did leave in a rush. "Why are you here?"

"Alec called me."

The teenager growled. "And why would he call you? He's known you for what? Under a month?"

Magnus watched him carefully. "You said it in the room just now."

Jace felt his voice catching. "Because he hurt himself." He clenched his fingers into fists and turned to face the wall. He slammed the side of his fist into the wall. How long had Alec been cutting himself? Why did he trust this stranger when he didn't even tell him that he was hurting himself. Jace didn't think he could feel like more of a failure until witnessing the scars on Alec's body.

He spun around, trying to push his emotions aside and think objectively. "Why did he call you? Why does he trust you with this?"

"It's obvious that you really care about Alec, Wayland," Magnus started.

Jace's eyes blazed angrily. "Did you expect less, warlock? He's my parabatai, my brother. But you? I know nothing about you. How can I trust you? The way I found you both..."

"I will never hurt Alec," Magnus finally said.

"That means nothing to me," Jace hissed. "Do you like him?"

"What?" Magnus asked suspiciously.

"Does he like you?"

"Jace..."

"He thinks that I would disown him if I knew but I don't care if he likes guys," Jace said firmly. "I don't know why he thinks I would think of him any differently. But I will not tolerate anyone forcing him to do anything he did not consent to and what I saw...I know he said you didn't hurt him but what do you expect me to think Bane?"

"I wasn't going to do anything to him." His voice was placating. "Alec was struggling..."

"Struggling with what? I mean, I know he's physically stronger than you, Bane but you are a fucking powerful warlock and he's..." Jace stopped himself. What was he going to say? That Alec was vulnerable and emotionally fragile? Alec was strong and brave and selfless...always selfless. But that didn't change the fact that horrible things had happened to him and that he was never given a chance to recover from the trauma.

Before he could continue, the door to Alec's room crept open and Alec stood in the doorway. He had pulled a baggy sweater on and buried his hands in the front pocket.

"Magnus, I'm sorry for the way I behaved," he started. He looked at Magnus but it was like it took all his effort to make eye contact with him. "You don't have to stay. I'll be fine."

"You need to stop apologizing. I'm not going anywhere, Alec. I'm going to give you a moment with Jace and then we'll talk."

Jace wanted to say something but Alec seemed to be deliberately avoiding his gaze. "You really don't have to. I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to see me again."

Magnus stepped forward and grabbed his hand. Alec flinched and turned his head away, his face flushed. Jace instinctively wanted to move towards them but he held back. He had to remind himself that Magnus was not going to hurt him, at least not in front of him.

"You're pretty much stuck with me, Alec," he said softly before squeezing his hand and stepping away. "I'll be back in fifteen minutes."

"Where are you going?" Alec said, his voice soft and unsure.

"I'm going to browse the books in your extensive Nephilim library. It's not everyday that a downwolder finds himself in one of the Institutes without being hired. Unless that's going to be a problem."

Alec shook his head mutely. 

Jace waited until the warlock was gone before walking up to his brother and wrapping his hand around the doorknob. "Are you going to let me in?" asked the younger teenager.

Alec stepped away from the doorframe, giving Jace space to enter the room but continuing to avoid eye contact with his brother.

Jace sighed. "Alec, we need to talk."

"I'm sick of talking," Alec snapped. He shut the door behind him and leaned against it, his head bowed and his hands clenched in fists.

"What talking?" Jace retaliated. "We've barely mentioned any of this for the past four years."

"What the fuck is "this", Jace?" Alec said. He snapped his head up and glared at him with bloodshot eyes. "Why are you so eager to talk about "this"? You want to hear the gory details? You want to relive that night or every fucking night I lived before that?" His whole body was shaking and he slammed his fists against the door. "You want to hear about the pain and humiliation and self-loathing? Guess what Jace, talking doesn't help!"

Jace wanted to stay calm and not get pulled into Alec's anger that was hiding his pain but all he could see were the scars on his body. All he could think about was how he had never stopped Manson from hurting Alec and he had never stopped Alec from hurting himself.

Jace stormed forward and grabbed Alec's left wrist and pushed his sleeve up, revealing his more recent cuts that were still healing. Alec gasped and tried to pull away but Jace was stronger and he could barely see through his anger. "So this is better than talking? Is it Alec? Does cutting yourself help? Does it?"

"Please Jace." Alec's voice was suddenly soft and scared. "Let go."

Jace felt like his hand was being burned. He released Alec's wrist immediately and stumbled back watching Alec sink to the floor, his right hand clasped around his left wrist and held tightly against his chest.

Jace stared in horror. "I...oh God, Alec..."

"Sometimes h-he would hold my wrists above my head while he...even when I wasn't fighting him," Alec whispered. He stared forward, passed Jace, his wide eyes blinking away tears caught in his lashes.

Jace felt nauseous, like he would throw up right in the middle of Alec's room. He had done the one thing he promised he would never do to Alec. He had taken away his control and in the worst way possible. He stumbled backwards until his back hit the other wall. He felt himself sink to the ground, his posture mirroring Alec, sitting directly opposite him with the span of the room between them.

"I'm sorry...God, Alec...I'm so sorry..." It was getting hard to breathe again.

"It's okay Jace," Alec murmured, drawing his eyes to the younger teenager. "I know you didn't mean it. I need to stop reacting so...so pathetically."

"It's not pathetic. I shouldn't have done that."

"You shouldn't have to treat me like glass. I hate it but I haven't really given you much choice, have I?"

"I don't want to treat you like glass. I want to help you Alec because you are one of the most important people in my life and I feel so useless."

"You're not useless, Jace."

"You've been hurting yourself."

As if just remembering that his arm was exposed, he grabbed the sleeve of his sweater and pulled it over his arm. "No one was supposed to know," he whispered, his face becoming flushed again.

"How long?"

Alec clenched his arm unconsciously. "Soon after he left," he replied. "After I...after I started talking again."

It was like Alec had replaced one form of self-inflicted punishment, his self-imposed silence, with another.

"When are you most likely to do it?" Jace asked. He needed to start thinking in action steps to prevent his brother from doing this in the future.

Alec pushed back some hair and leaned his head against the door. "When I'm feeling out of control, I guess...after a nightmare or a flashback or something that reminds me of something I don't want to think about...when things are too painful to bear..." He laughed hollowly. "A lot of the time, I guess."

Jace frowned. "And you always use a throwing dagger?"

Alec cringed and sat silently for a moment like he was deciding what he was going to say. "No...a razor usually. Magnus took away my razor."

Jace was immediately reminded of the warlock's presence. "How does Magnus know, Alec? Did you tell him?" He knew he was having a hard time keeping the hurt out of the question.

Alec absently picked at his jeans. "He's a friend, Jace and I've been spending the nights in his spare bedroom because I can't stand to be here at night. He found out."

Jace gaped at Alec. "What? You haven't been sleeping here?"

"Not since Manson showed up...except for last night when Max came home."

Jace blinked. How many ways could he fail his brother?

"Jace, stop. None of this is your fault."

"But you think it's your fault, don't you?"

Alec shrugged his shoulders and looked away. "I don't want to talk about that."

Jace wanted to protest. "Alec."

"Please Jace."

Jace sighed. He stood up and walked over to Alec and put out his hand. Alec grabbed the hand and used Jace as leverage to stand up. There was a soft rap on the door. He thought about the state of undress Alec had been in when he first entered the room that night. "If he's hurting you, Alec..."

"I promise, Jace. He never hurt me."

"But..."

"I'm the one at fault here."

Jace shook his head. "Do you want to talk to him?"

Alec bit his bottom lip.

"If you don't want to talk to him, I'll make him go away."

"No, don't do that. I have to talk to him." His fingers were back to fiddling with his clothes, this time the lining of his sweater.

"Okay," Jace conceded, even though he didn't like the idea. "I'm going to be in the living room. Keep your phone with you and text me if you need me. And I want to tell Izzy about the cutting."

"What? NO!" Alec shook his head desperately.

"Please, Alec. This is not a healthy coping mechanism and I think you need a strong support system to combat this and the people you spend the most time with...me, Izzy and apparently Magnus, need to be on the same page so we can help you."

Alec frowned.

"Come on Alec, think about it."

Alec nodded slowly.

"You're going to defeat this and you're not going to do it alone."

"Jace," Alec started, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I know being my brother hasn't been easy."

Jace laughed. "You're the one with the raw deal, always putting out the fires caused by my recklessness."

Alec smiled softly and Jace drew him into a hug. "I know you're always here for me, Jace," Alec said softly. "And when things are really bad, that knowledge keeps me going."

The boys drew apart and Jace nodded before opening the door. He could see the nervousness returning to his face as Magnus came into view.

"I'm just down the hall, Alec."

"I know," Alec said.

Jace nodded. As he walked away, he clenched his phone, knowing he was going to keep it by his side the whole time.

He hoped he was doing the right thing in trusting Magnus with his brother.

xxxxxx

Alec felt like he was trying to maintain a dam for the last five years; a dam that contained all his emotions, feelings and pain so that nobody had to know how damaged he truly was. There were cracks over the years—nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks—and the only way Alec had known to deal with those cracks was with a razor; something that could replace the pain and let him regain control in order to hide the emotions from others. But now, in the last week, it was like the cracks were too big to fix. The dam was broken and he was left exposed.

"Can we sit down?" Magnus asked. The warlock stood in the doorframe leading into Alec's bedroom. He watched the teenager carefully as Alec absently nodded and moved over to the bed, sitting at the edge.

Alec's heart sounded like thunder in his ears. Just moments ago, he had confessed to Jace that he had been hurting himself for years and given him permission to tell Izzy...Izzy, who had only found out about Manson the previous night. He sucked in some air, trying not to think about how exposed he felt, even with all his clothes on.

Magnus sat down beside him, leaving a couple of inches between them. Alec closed his eyes. And now he was about to expose himself some more to someone he had not known for more than a month. But he had no choice. Not after the way he had behaved when Magnus arrived at the Institute.

"Did you tell Jace?" Magnus finally said, breaking the silence.

Alec opened his eyes. "I didn't really have a choice, not after what he saw."

"And?"

"He's going to tell Izzy."

"I think that's a good idea."

Alec shrugged. "Maybe."

"Alec..."

Alec twisted his upper body so he was looking at Magnus. He needed to get this out before he lost the little courage he had left. "I'm sorry, Magnus. I was totally out of line earlier. I'm appalled by my actions and I don't know why you're still here."

"Alec, you didn't do anything wrong. You were confused and scared, that much was obvious."

Alec laughed harshly. "And being scared means that I'm allowed to force myself on you?" Alec's face burned. "I don't know what to say about it."

"You said some things that tell me that you are keeping a lot of dark secrets inside."

Alec clenched his eyes shut and fisted his hands in the sheets. "Like what?"

"He liked me too. It doesn't matter what I want. You can do whatever you want to me," Magnus recited gently. Alec cringed.

"Who is the he Alec?"

Alec sighed and opened his eyes. He shifted around and moved further into the bed until he had his back pressed against the headboard, his knees drawn into his chest protectively. Magnus remained at the edge of the bed, only turning his torso so that he could maintain eye contact with Alec.

"His name is Benedict Manson," Alec finally said. The name left a sour taste in his mouth.

"He's the reason you've been staying at my place."

Alec nodded. "He's staying here on Clave business."

"What did he do to you, Alec?"

Alec tilted his head up. He could just stop now and ask Magnus to leave but Alec didn't want Magnus to leave. Despite all his reservations, Magnus was quickly becoming an important part of his life, even in just a few days.

"This is not the first time he stayed here."

Magnus body was tense, even though he seemed to be trying to maintain a relaxed, encouraging facial expression.

"I had just turned 13." Alec started tracing the lines of the sheets absently as he tried to calm himself down. "I'm going to tell you things I've never voiced to anyone." Alec was terrified.

"There is nothing you can tell me that will make me think any less of you."

Alec gave him a skeptical look. That was a steep statement to make. "It was around that time that I started to realize that I am...I am...different." Alec pressed his palms into the sheets. He had never talked about this, let alone admitted the truths to himself but Magnus made him feel safe. "While Jace found the girls around our age attractive, I thought..."

He looked up at the door, his heart racing faster than he thought possible. Magnus snapped his fingers. "No one outside this room will hear us, Alec."

Alec nodded grateful. "While Jace found girls attractive, I found myself..." He closed his eyes. "Attracted to Jace," he whispered. He paused and looked at Magnus intently. Magnus smiled softly, like he was silently telling him that it's okay. "I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. I felt wrong. Like I was a bad person for liking boys."

"There is nothing wrong with you, Alec. There's something wrong with our society, not you."

Alec shook his head, clenching his hands into fists again and pressing them into the mattress. "Then he moved in and everything spiraled out of control."

Magnus shifted closer to Alec, both apprehension and encouragement written across his face.

"He...he paid attention to me in a way that my parents never did. My parents adored Max and were so proud of Jace and Izzy's fighting skills. I was that kid that flew under the radar and after I started to have feelings that terrified me, I didn't even try to garner their attention. But Manson seemed to take an instant liking to me. He would play chess with me, teach me new fighting techniques and give me his undivided attention when I spoke."

Magnus's lips twitched angrily.

Alec felt himself starting to tremble. Could he really do this?

xxxxxx

Izzy saw Jace waiting in the living room when she got out of the elevator. He was seated in an armchair, with his legs propped up over the side and his arms crossed over his chest. He had a pensive look on his face. When she entered the room he blinked blankly before acknowledging her.

"Izzy, you're home."

"Yeah, didn't you text saying you were going to be at Clary's with Max?"

"Max is still there."

"What?" Izzy asked, alarmed.

"Jocelyn said she'd watch him. He's safer there. And no, I didn't tell her what's going on here but Alec wasn't answering his phone so I came home."

"Is he okay?" Izzy dropped her bag on the coffee table, feeling nervous. She had wanted to give Alec time with Magnus.

Jace swung his legs down and planted his feet on the floor. He frowned and Izzy's face fell, her heart picking up the pace. "He's not good, Izzy." Jace's voice was so sad, it terrified the younger teenager.

"Where is he?"

"In his room with Magnus."

Izzy ran her hand through her hair, trying to understand all these seemingly disjointed pieces of information. "Jace, what's going on?"

xxxxxx

Magnus wanted to touch Alec so badly. Hold his hand or gather him into his arms. But he knew that wasn't the right thing to do at the moment. Alec looked scared and dazed. His pupils were dilated and there was a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead, even though Nephilim don't perspire easily.

Magnus was also finding it hard to maintain his calm. He knew exactly where this was going now and his emotions were everywhere, oscillating from sadness to anger and back again. The things Alec described...this man paying more attention to him, making an already scared and lonely boy feel special...were the actions of a man grooming a child so he could abuse him.

"Alec..."

"No, if I stop now I might never finish."

Magnus nodded silently.

"And then he started coming to my room at night. Not this room. My old room. I don't go into that room."

Magnus's fingers curled into fists, much like Alec's hands.

"At first, he did little things. I...I didn't want him to touch me Magnus...I swear! He kept saying I liked it but I didn't." Alec gasped for air and Magnus couldn't help it anymore. Alec needed an anchor with the present so he didn't get lost in his nightmares. He grabbed Alec's hand. Alec jerked violently but Magnus didn't let go. "I know, Alec. You're safe here."

Alec looked down at their hands. The whites of Alec's eyes were painted in streaks of red. He nodded and relaxed slightly.

"I never told my parents. He told me that they would be disgusted with me. He told me that he knew I liked it...because of how I...how I looked at Jace. I was so ashamed." He sobbed and unconsciously squeezed Magnus's hand like he was a lifeline. "He started getting bolder. Making me do things to him, removing clothes. I was so scared. I hated him. I hated night. I didn't know what to do."

Magnus felt his heart breaking, watching this beautiful angel unraveling in front of him. Alec pressed his knees further into his chest but did not pull his hand away. "I..." He looked up at Magnus, tears caught in his eyelashes. "The night...he...damn it! Jace thinks if I actual talk about it, it'll help but I don't know how that'll help."

His eyes were wide and his pupils were blown. He looked at Magnus desperately, like he held all the answers. And in all his centuries of experiences, Magnus felt helpless.

xxxxxx

Izzy wanted to scream. She wanted to break things. She stared at Jace, her hands trembling and the sound of her heartbeat blaring in her ears. Tears cut through her makeup. "Jace, please tell me you're lying. I can't...I can't..."

She sank to the floor and buried her hands in her hair, tugging at the strands angrily. Only yesterday, she had found out that her brother's childhood and innocence had been destroyed in the most heinous way possible and now, to find out that he dealt with that pain over the years by hurting himself while she lived her life clueless of the extent of her brother's pain, it was almost too much.

Jace just stared at her, like he was too numb to respond. Finally he pulled her hands away from her hair. "We have to help him now," Jace said. "We all know now and we can do something about it."

Izzy snapped her head up, her red eyes blazing with anger. "No, not everyone knows the kind of torture he's been living with." Anger dripped from every word. "But we are going to do something about it, Jace. No more keeping quiet. Not Alec, not you, not me and most of all, not Manson or our parents."

"What are you saying, Izzy?"

Izzy jumped to her feet, her hand almost violently brushing the tears aside. "Where are our doting parents, Jace?"

"I'm guessing they are already in bed."

Izzy nodded. "Let's pay them a visit."

xxxxxx

Alec looked at the older man, tears no longer just clinging to his eyelashes. As he spoke, he felt like the line between the present and past were blurring and he realized he needed the contact to stay grounded in the present. His heart was beating rapidly. He wondered how much his heart could handle, given the last few days. How much would it take for an 18-year-old's heart to give?

"Can I sit in front of you?" Magnus asked softly.

Alec nodded as Magnus shifted into the bed and crossed his legs so that Alec's feet brushed against Magnus's ankles. He pulled both of Alec's hands into his laps and squeezed them gently. "Alec, I'm not going to ask you to do or say anything you don't want to but I'm here. I'm here to listen, Alec."

Alec bit his bottom lip. He had kept it in for so long and it only led him to self-destruction. Talking to Jace or even Izzy seemed impossible but for some reason, sitting here, with Magnus holding his hands, he felt the slightest bit of agency to spill his darkest feelings.

"The night he...it was raining. I remember the rain pattering against the window." He looked at door, as if the man of his nightmares would barge through and take him back to that moment. "He came into my room and he drew a soundless rune on the door...he hand't done that before. He alway knew how to keep me quiet. The things he said, it was like he controlled my voice. I never screamed or called for help. I was so pathetic."

"No, Alec," Magnus said but Alec barely registered the protest.

"If he thought I wouldn't be able to stop myself from making a sound, he would just press his hand over my mouth. He was also good at keeping quiet. I would see him biting his lip instead. That night, he told me that we...we were..."

Magnus squeezed his hands and Alec looked at him, gratefully, like the warlock knew when he needed to be reminded of where he was.

"He told me that tonight we were going to do something different. I told him I didn't want to do anything. He just laughed, his eyes blazing with this animalistic need that terrified me. He pulled me out of the bed and told me to strip. I refused. He just smiled and...and grabbed me, tugging at my shirt. When has no ever stopped me, Alexander?" 

Alec looked at Magnus. "Soon I understood why he used a soundless rune. How else was he going to hide my screams?"

Magnus's hands twitched.

"He taught me pain that night, Magnus. He called it sex. It was like he was stealing my soul. After that, something snapped in me and I stopped speaking."

Alec lay lifelessly on his back in the bed. He knew there was wetness against his thighs, soaking into the sheets but all he could feel was the pain. It throbbed through his body, paralyzing him. Lips were pressing against the tip of ear, an illusion of comfort, but Alec couldn't move. 

"That was the best sex I've ever had, Alexander."

Hands grabbed at his hip and pushed him onto his side. "Oh dear," the man whispered as his hand pressed into the wetness on the back of his thighs. Alec didn't even  flinch. He was completely numb. "That's a lot of blood."

He felt the tip of a stele against his backside and the familiar feeling of the metal running over his skin. "This will fix the worst of it." Alec was barely listening to him. It was like there were balls of cotton stuffed into his ears.

For a moment he was left alone and Alec wondered if he could just lie here and never move again. He wished that the man hadn't applied the iratze so he could just bleed until there was nothing left to keep him alive.

But then he was back and his body involuntary jerked when the man pressed a wet cloth against him and started to clean away the evidence of what had happened that night. 

"Alec. Alec..." There were hands on his face, suffocating the tears running down his face. Alec blinked and looked at the man in front of him. "Hey, stay with me, Alec, darling. You are not there, okay. You're here, with me, Magnus."

Alec sobbed, his voice sounding desperate. His body was shaking. He gasped for air between sobs. Magnus leaned forward and pulled him closer to him. Alec allowed his knees to fall to the side as he fell into Magnus's embrace, pressing his face into his shoulder. "He never stopped, Magnus." His words were punctured with sobs. "Pleading didn't do anything, so I stopped talking."

Magnus held him tighter and Alec gripped his shirt. His words were muffled but he couldn't stop them from spilling out between gasps. "I learned how to not scream even though it never stopped hurting. I controlled my voice, Magnus. But I always cried." Like now, he thought. "I couldn't control that."

Magnus pressed his lips into his hair. It felt so different from when Manson tried to comfort him afterwards.

He always thought of Manson as a punishment. A cruel sentence sent down from the angels for his feelings. But how could this be something that was supposed to be punished when Magnus made him feel safe? Asking Manson why was his desperate attempt to believe that there was another reason.

"I was being punished," he whispered into Magnus's shoulder. "Wasn't I?" He pulled away slightly and looked at Magnus through glassy eyes. "He broke me because I'm not allowed to be happy. But why, Magnus? I only ever wanted to be good."

Magnus had tears in his eyes. He didn't want to make Magnus cry. "You are good, Alec. You are so good." He sounded desperate to make him believe.

Alec shook his head. "I was never good. And he...he made sure I will never be worth anything."

"You're worth everything, Alec," Magnus said, tears running down his beautiful face. "And I'm going to do everything to prove that to you."

Chapter Text

Magnus had shifted his body once again so that he was seated beside Alec, with his back against the headboard. The warlock had his arms wrapped around the teenager and Alec rested his head against Magnus's shoulder. It seemed like the most natural position for the two boys but it hurt Magnus to think about the kind of pain that led to it. His shirt was slightly wet from Alec's tears and Magnus's face was stained with his own tears.

Watching and listening to Alec retell the horrific trauma from his childhood was excruciating. Not only was his childhood destroyed, it had so badly distorted his perception of his own self-worth to the point that he thought that he was worthless and being punished for being attracted to the same sex.

Magnus pressed his lips into Alec's hair. He felt a small sense of hope that Alec didn't filch at the contact at the moment. "Alec, darling, do you want to come back to my place?"

"I'm so tired, Magnus," he murmured, his head not moving from Magnus's shoulder. "Too tired to run." Magnus squeezed him gently, knowing that he wasn't talking about the physical action of running.

"Will you stay here with me?" he asked softly before quickly adding, "You don't have to..."

"I'm not going anywhere, Alec. Let's get some sleep." Magnus snapped his fingers and Alec jumped in surprise. He looked down at himself, bewildered. He was now dressed in a pair of soft blue and white flannel pajamas. "Izzy got these from your room for you to wear when you were healing from the demon attack. She said she bought it for you one Christmas."

Alec chuckled. "I told her I wouldn't accept any clothes she bought me that Christmas. She was in one of her particular makeover Alec moods that season. This was her compromise. It is very soft."

Magnus smiled, enjoying their lighthearted conversation. It was almost like Alec hadn't just unloaded years of pain. Like they were just two boys that liked each other, talking about a whacky sister.

"What about you? You can't sleep in jeans."

Magnus held back his surprise. He was ready to sit in a chair beside Alec for the night. Alec looked at him shyly. "I have some clean sweats and t-shirts in that drawer," he said, pointing at the bottom drawer of his dresser. The pants might be a tad short on you but no one is going to see you."

"Except you, my dear Alec."

Alec untangled himself from the warlock and walked over to the dresser. He pulled out a pair of gray sweats and a black t-shirt. Surprise, surprise, Magnus thought fondly.

"I wore those ridiculously ill-fitted sweats at your place," Alec replied.

He placed them on Magnus's lap as Magnus chuckled. "Oh no, Alec, dear, those were perfectly fitted night ware." Alec gave him an adorably confused look but Magnus decided that this wasn't the time to explain to Alec why he liked those particular sweats on him so much. Instead, he snapped his fingers and he was now wearing the borrowed clothes, his own folded neatly on his lap.

"Do you always snap in and out of clothes?" Alec asked, bemused.

Magnus chuckled.  "No, darling, but sometimes it's nice to cut the nighttime routine."

"I don't want to leave this room right now, even to brush my teeth," Alec muttered as he placed Magnus's clothes on top of the dresser.

"Your teeth will survive one night. Let's go to bed."

Alec bit his bottom lip but nodded.

"I can just sit by your bed," Magnus suggested.

Alec shook his head. "No, I'm not letting you sit up all night." Alec pulled back the covers and crawled in.  He looked at Magnus and smiled shyly.  "I'm fine Magnus," he said.  

Magnus nodded and got under the covers beside the teenager. He could hear Alec's heart beating loudly. Magnus turned onto his side and faced Alec, who was lying on his back, looking up at the pristine white ceiling.

"You're safe with me, Alec."

Alec nodded, a pensive look on his face. "I know." He turned onto his side and looked at Magnus. "Thank you." He shuffled closer to Magnus and allowed the older man to wrap his arms around him while he settled his head against Magnus's chest.

Magnus snapped his fingers one more time, extinguishing the light. "Good night my dear Nephilim."

xxxxxx

"Wait Izzy. Stop." Izzy could hear her brother rushing to her and grabbing her arm. She went to shake it off but he pulled her near him and then let go of her arm. "What exactly are you planning on saying to Robert and Maryse?"

"That they are horrible parents and they need to get their shit together and get on board with getting rid of this bastard before I murder him, Jace. And they should know what this has done to their son."

Jace shook his head urgently. "You can't do that, Izzy."

"Why the fuck are you protecting them?" Izzy hissed.

"I'm not protecting them! I can barely look at them. But you can't say anything about the cutting, Izzy. Alec trusts you. Do you understand that? He kept this a secret for so long. I asked if I could tell you before telling you. Look, you know I am the master of the "act before thinking" mantra but never with Alec. For as long as I've known about Manson, I've been so careful. You think I never wanted to tell you? God, Izzy, there were times that I felt so fucking helpless and all I wanted to do was tell you because I thought you would know what to do. But I never did. Do you know why?"

Izzy tried to calm down. "Because he told you not to."

Jace shook his head. "Because his ability to trust others and control what happens to him was taken away from him Izzy. Because I refuse to be a part of that. I'm not going to break his trust. I'm not going to take away his control and make him feel powerless. And I'm not going to let you do that either. He trusts us, Izzy. Don't take that away from him."

Izzy let out a strangled sob, tears pooling at the corner of her eyes. "This isn't fair," Izzy sobbed, sinking to the floor. Jace sat down by her side. "I miss my brother. Do you remember Alec from before that sick bastard ever came here? Shit, I'm so selfish. For so long, I had no idea what happened to my happy, sweet big brother. I mean, I had my ideas, but this...by the angel, never this."

"I know, Izzy."

"I wasn't with a boy tonight," she said abruptly.

Jace looked at her surprised. "You weren't?"

Izzy shook her head. "I would't be able to deal with male idiocy right now."

"Lovely, Izzy," Jace said sarcastically. "Should I leave?"

Izzy grabbed his hand. "I went to a mundane bookstore. Spent hours there."

"Doing what?"

Izzy pulled her large handbag into her lap. "Read books...on...on child sexual abuse." She sobbed. "I bought two of them. I just feel helpless, you know? I needed an outside perspective."

Jace squeezed her hand. "I get that. I would like to read them."

"I don't know if I'll give it to him right now, but one is for Alec. The other one is for us."

"Okay."

"Alec telling me and from the sounds of it, telling Magnus, is going in the right direction. He's acknowledging the abuse instead of pretending nothing happened while falling apart alone. But what our parents did...what they are doing right now...it's inexcusable. Alec needs to feel safe in his home. It might be too late for him to ever feel safe here and that's...unfair isn't a strong enough word. How is he supposed to heal with that monster here?"

Jace clenched his jaw angrily.

"So, we have to talk to our parents, Jace. Because I wasn't exaggerating. If they don't do anything, I will end up doing something that's not legal." She paused. "But we won't mention the cutting. Okay?"

Jace stood up and nodded as Izzy got up. "Okay. Let's go talk to them. But I warn you, Izzy, once the dam is broken I might not be able to remain calm."

Izzy started walking towards their parents' room, Jace in step with her. "I never said this was going to be a nice little chat."

xxxxxx

Maryse had just turned off her bedside lamp when she heard urgent banging at their bedroom door. Robert, who had already fallen asleep at the other far end of the bed groaned and sat up just as Maryse turned the light back on.

"It's Izzy and Jace. Let us in."

Robert looked at Maryse angrily before climbing out of bed and grabbing the doorknob. When he opened the door, he glared at the two teenagers. "What do you think you two are doing?" he snapped.

Maryse sat up and swung her legs over the side. "Izzy, Jace, is everything all right?"

"No, mom, things are not all right," Izzy hissed. Both kids walked passed Robert until they were in the middle of the room.

"What's going on then?" Robert said, impatiently.

"Stop acting so fucking bothered by our interruption of your damn beauty sleep," Izzy yelled.

"Isabelle! How dare you use such language in front of us!"

"How dare I?" Izzy said, laughing in disbelief. "How dare you let that man sleep here!"

Silence fell over the room. The occasional creaks of the old Institute seemed to echo through the silence and Maryse's rapidly speeding up heartbeat blared in her ears.

"Izzy?"

"Oh what, mom? Thought I'd stay in the dark forever?" Izzy snapped. "After you brought Max back." She turned her attention to her dad. "He could barely hold it together."

Robert closed the door and absently ran his hand through his hair, much like Alec did when he was anxious or upset. Maryse closed her eyes for a moment, trying to steady her breathing.

"I tried to talk to him," Maryse started, not knowing where she wanted to go with her train of thought.

"You think fucking talking to him is going to do anything," Jace interjected, his voice dripping with anger. "Your message was loud and clear for the last four years. Why would he talk to you if his safety was obviously not your top priority."

Robert turned to Jace. "Now you listen, Jace, it's not that simple."

"IT IS THAT SIMPLE!" Jace screamed. "There is nothing more simple than doing everything in your power to make sure the man that raped your child repeatedly can never see the light of day, let alone step within miles of your son. IT'S THAT FUCKING SIMPLE!"

Treacherous tears slipped down the older woman's face. "You're right Jace."

"Of course I'm right! You were more interested in your fucking reputation than your kid. I mean did you see something different that night? Because what I saw..." He was shaking and Izzy grabbed his forearm, trying to steady him. "Izzy," he hissed, looking at her. "If you had seen what we saw...I just think about how that was his life for almost a year and I...you're his parents...don't you care about him? I just don't understand how you let Manson go...how you let him back in."

Maryse watched as Izzy squeezed his arm before starting to speak. "His silence...it was like he was screaming for help and none of us figured it out. And now...he's continued to live in silence, trying to deal with this past all by himself because you've created an environment that reinforces his feeling of shame...like what happened is his dirty secret when in reality, the real dirty secret here is that you cared more about keeping up appearances than your son."

Maryse couldn't hold back the sob. "You're both right. I've failed as a mother."

"This is not about you," Izzy snapped. "I don't think Alec will ever feel safe here."

"You're right," she repeated, sadly. Maryse stood and glared at her husband. "You," she hissed. "I'm weak. I'm so fucking weak that I let your wishes overrule the wellbeing of my child and I will never forgive myself for that."

Robert's face was stark white and the blues of his irises seemed to pop as he stared back at his wife. "What do you want me to do, Maryse?" Maryse could hear the regret in his voice but it meant nothing now.

"The first thing you will do is get that man out of this Institute," Izzy started. "Not tomorrow, but now. Because if you don't, I will and it won't end well for either of us."

"And if he contacts the Clave?" Robert said.

"Let him contact the damn Clave," Jace snapped. "And when they come to you, one of two things is going to happen."

"Because tomorrow morning, I'm going to see if Alec is willing to do what you should have done four years ago and report him to the Clave," Izzy said.

"If he agrees, the Clave will know their answer and if Alec isn't willing to report him, then you will just have to deal with the ramifications of not housing a shadowhunter, whatever that might be," Jace concluded.

"And if that means losing the Institute?"

"Then you'll have to deal with that because as we're not in charge of the Institute, I know we'll be able to remain here," Izzy replied curtly.

"If I lose power over the Institute and Maryse remains in charge, Manson might just return and the cycle of kicking him out and losing power of the Institute continues."

"Then I'll fucking kill him," Izzy said without missing a beat. She addressed Robert directly. "To Manson, being here is some sort of sick power play over Alec and I'm guessing, to some extent, you. And it ends tonight."

Silence fell over the room. Finally, Robert broke the silence. "I love my son," he said simply.

Izzy looked at him, void of any sympathy.

"You have an interesting way of showing it," Jace hissed.

"You're right. I prioritized our reputation over my son's safety."

Maryse shook her head. "It was never about us. It was about you. You prioritized your reputation over our son's wellbeing. And I let you."

Robert ran his hand through his hair again and turned to Jace. "I didn't see something different that night, Jace. I think I tried to block it out of my mind to make it easier to live with what I did in response. I've avoided my son as much as I could over the last four years; being in Alicante as much as allowed, keeping my distance when I'm here; because I am so ashamed of myself and because looking at him makes the things I blocked come flooding back, forcing me to face how I failed my child."

"Do you except me to feel sympathy?" Jace spat out.

Robert shook his head. "No. No, I don't. But I'm done being a coward." He looked at their daughter carefully. "Izzy, he's out of here tonight."

Maryse just looked past the occupants in the room, thinking about her son, knowing that this was all too little, too late.

xxxxxx

Robert stared at his wife as she laced up her boots, wondering when his life had spiraled so out of control.

He had followed Maryse into the Circle and ended up exiled to the Institute.

He had almost left her but then there was Max. He didn't want to think about how he had been willing to leave his 9- and 7-year-old children before he knew about Max.

And then there was Alec. He ran his hand through his hair. Alec had always been too quiet and gentle for Robert to truly understand. He never had the spunk that Isabelle lived by or the ruthlessness of Jace in battle.

When he had stopped talking altogether, Robert didn't know what to do. Nothing he said or did elicited a response out of the boy.

Robert was annoyed. No, that was too simple a word. He was frustrated, angry even. He had gotten into another fight with Maryse about Alec, among other things. All he wanted to do was nurse a drink at some shithole bar far away from the Institute but they had a Clave engagement tonight and he had to ready himself to put on a nice face and play the happy couple. 

He entered the library and found Alec curled up in an armchair, a heavy book propped open on his lap. His head was tilted down and his bangs fell into his face.

Robert approached his son and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Alec?"

Alec's reaction was instantaneous. His whole body seemed to flinch away from the touch. His head snapped up and his eyes were wide with what could only be described as fear. His cheeks instantly flushed red, as he seemed to register Robert. He snapped the book shut and uncurled his legs. He looked at Robert but didn't say anything.

The older man fleetingly wondered who Alec thought he was when he touched him to cause such a reaction.

"Alec, your mother and I have an engagement tonight. It will be a few hours. Hodge is sick. I need you to watch the others for us."

The child ran his hand through his hair. Robert almost smiled at the mannerism that he seemed to have picked up from him.

The smile fell away before it even formed as the boy just nodded in response.

"Order takeout for dinner."

Again, a fucking nod.

Robert clenched his jaw before speaking again. "How much money do you need for dinner?" It was a stupid question but he wanted to ask something that required an actual response.

It was like a game he played.

Alec shrugged his shoulders. 

Robert wanted to scream.

Alec watched him expectantly for a moment but when Robert didn't say anything else, he opened the book again.

Frustration quickly gave way to full on rage. His wife couldn't stop yelling at him and his son wouldn't say a word.

Without thinking, he grabbed the book out of Alec's hand and threw it across the room.

"When I ask you a question, you respond!" Robert yelled. "Do you understand?"

He had tried patience. He had tried just talking to him, softly, kindly. He had tried begging him to tell him what was going on. He had tried not speaking to him at all, hoping he would come to him. Nothing worked.

Alec blinked, his eyes following the trajectory of the book.

"Did you hear me, Alec?" he hissed.

Alec looked at Robert blankly.

In that moment, Robert wanted to hit him. Anything to provoke a response. Instead, he grabbed the boy by his arms and roughly pulled him out of the armchair.

"Fucking speak to me when I talk to you," he yelled, spit flying into Alec's face.

His fingers dug into Alec's arms and he could feel his son shaking. Shit, he thought. He pushed Alec back and he fell into the armchair. Alec wiped away the spit from his face. He refused to look at his father.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

"Alec, listen," he said, trying to sound gentle. "Son."

Alec just shook his head and stood up. Still not looking at the older Lightwood, he walked out of the room and left the man to his own demons.

"Robert, are you listening to a word I'm saying?"

Robert blinked and looked at his wife. "What?"

"Izzy and Jace are going to want to come with us."

"No, I'll do it," he said. "You stay here with the kids."

"Bullshit, Robert. Last time I stayed with the kids, you let the bastard walk free."

"Don't fucking act like you're damn innocent in all this, Maryse. Tell me, did you ever talk to Alec about it? Did you ever insist on going to the Clave after he left?"

"I was in shock."

"For four years?"

"Fuck you, Robert."

The door opened and their two middle kids walked in.

"No one is arguing about who's the bigger coward here. There's enough room for both of you to share the title," Izzy snapped. "So stop arguing and let's go."

"I'll do this on my own, Izzy."

Jace laughed harshly. "Yeah, because the last time, you did such a stellar job."

"Jace," Robert said warningly.

"You and me, dad. We go get him," Izzy said.

"You and me," Jace added, looking at Maryse. "We'll wait at the entrance."

Robert stared at the two teenagers. Part of him wanted to snap at them for thinking they were going to order them around but he suppressed the urge and nodded.

"Fine."

xxxxxx

Izzy marched through the East wing, her whip wrapped around her arm and her father falling into step beside her. She had no room for her father's indecisiveness. That man was not going to spend another moment in the same place as her brother.

"Here," her father said.

Izzy stared at the door. She clenched and unclenched her fingers, trying to center herself before rapping on the door loudly.

When no one answered, she quickly made use of an unlocking rune and swung the door open.

The man was sleeping on his back, shirtless. His shoulder was wrapped in gauze and faint bruises and iratzes littered his torso. Jace had mentioned taking his fist to him but that didn't explain the bandaged shoulder. Did somebody else pay him a visit?

Izzy would find out later. She continued to stare at the man and her heart started racing, like it was ready to jump out of her throat any minute. She clenched her fingers around her whip as she imagined the man hurting her brother.

"Isabelle," Robert started but Izzy wasn't hearing anything. She flicked the whip quickly and it snapped loudly as it sliced through the man's chest.

"Rise and shine, bastard," she called as the man yelped and scrambled to his feet.

"What the fuck," he hollered as he tried to adjust to the light.

He clenched the wound the whip left and stared dumbly at the two Lightwoods.

Finally registering the scene in front of him, he reached for a dagger lying on the bedside table. Izzy was quicker. With a flick, her whip wrapped around his wrist and she tugged on it violently, causing the man to go crashing to the floor.

Manson, already weakened by previous wounds, groaned but before he could get up, Izzy shoved her foot underneath him and forced him onto his back.

"He was a fucking child!" she screamed. She felt blinded with rage. "You sick fucking bastard!" She pressed the heel of her boot into his crotch, almost relishing the scream that ripped through his throat as her boot crushed into his privates.

She bent forward and drew out her seraph blade. She ripped away the bandage covering his shoulder, revealing a healing dagger wound.

"Did Jace do this to you?" she asked, smiling almost manically. She pressed her blade into the wound.

"You crazy bitch," Manson hissed.

"Hell yes, I'm a crazy bitch!" she snapped. "You think all the Lightwoods are gutless sacks of shits like my parents? You messed with the wrong fucking family."

The man's eyes darted behind her to Robert. "Don't bother looking at him. I'm the one crushing your balls."

Manson had been reduced to whimpers as she added pressure with her boot and her blade.

"So this is how it's going to work. You're going to leave the Institute and you will stay far, far away from my brother unless my brother wants to report you. And if you don't, I'll cut of your balls and shove them up your ass. And I am not exaggerating.

"Isabelle," her dad said.

Izzy mind cleared slightly. "The only reason I'm showing some restraint now is because I need to talk to my brother first. But know this, no one gets away with hurting my family. So, stay alert."

And with those last words, she released her boot and drew her blade back. She stepped back and turned to her father, who was standing there, looking almost shell shocked at his daughter.

"He might need some help getting out of the Institute."

xxxxxx

Izzy stood in the bathroom, the door slightly ajar, washing the blood off her blade when she heard a rap on the door.

"You decent?" Jace asked.

"Yeah."

He pushed the door open and leaned against the doorframe. "You okay?"

She turned around and looked at Jace, her eyes red-rimmed. "I scared myself, Jace. I don't know what I would have done if dad hadn't said my name."

Jace wrapped his arms around her and drew her in. "He's gone. You did that."

"You left him in just the right state," Izzy said, smiling slightly. "You took a dagger to him."

Jace looked at her, confused. "No, I didn't. I didn't have a weapon with me."

Izzy drew back. "Hmm, that's odd." Maybe it had something to do with the Clave business that brought him here in the first place. "What time is it?"

"Almost 6. Damn, we didn't sleep at all," Jace said. "I should go get Max from Clary's."

Izzy nodded. "I'm going to check on Alec."

"You going to be okay, Izzy?"

Izzy smiled softly. "I'll be fine." She squeezed his hand before leaving the bathroom.

Nobody messed with her family.

xxxxxx

Magnus cracked open his eyes at the sound of soft knocking against wood. He blinked, trying to chase away the sleepiness. He pulled at his arm, only to find it trapped under a boy in his bed.

No, not his bed.  

He looked over.  Alec was curled up on his side, his face buried in Magnus's chest. Magnus brushed some of the teenager's hair away and smiled sadly. He looked so peaceful, like the world had not thrown him enough pain to last him a lifetime.

"Alec," came a female voice that Magnus recognized as Isabelle Lightwood.

Sighing, he slowly untangled himself from the sleeping shadowhunter, careful not to wake him.

He opened the door. Izzy was wearing the same clothes she was wearing at Central Park the day before. She looked like she hadn't slept at all.

"You stayed the night?" she said, slightly alarmed. She looked passed the warlock to see her brother sleeping soundly in his bed.

"Yes, do you have problem with that?"

She continued to look at Alec. Feeling satisfied that he was unharmed she shook her head. "No, I think you're good for him." She stepped into the room and closed the door.

Alec moaned softly and shifted in the bed, his eyes fluttering open. He sat up in the bed slowly and ran his hand through his hair. He blinked a few times before seeming to register the two people in his room.

He looked slightly alarmed and his relaxed posture tensed.

"Hey there," Magnus said, smiling.

Alec's cheeks instantly flushed. "What's going on?"

"Well, your sister here woke me up with her ruckus."

Izzy walked over to the bed and sat on the edge. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm all right, I guess," he said, his eyes still swinging between Magnus and his sister.

Magnus moved closer to the bed and leaned against a wall.

"Jace spoke to me," Izzy started carefully.

Alec tensed immediately and he turned away, his face turning even redder. Izzy placed her hand over his. "Hey, you have nothing to be ashamed of."

Alec laughed hollowly. 

"You're not alone in this now. Okay?"

He nodded absently before standing up. His eyes fell on the pile of clothes on the floor, a dagger and a wooden box half covered by stained clothes.

"Damn it," Magnus cursed, his eyes following Alec's gaze. He had fallen asleep with Alec before getting rid off all the reminders of the horrible image of Alec lying on the floor, bleeding out with that dagger by his side. He lifted his hand to magic them away but Izzy stopped him.

"Wait, did you use a dagger?" she said, looking at the stained blade.

Alec shrugged, like there was no point in being anything but honest now. "It was there and I was…I was in a bad place."

"Did you…did you confront Manson last night?"

He looked at Izzy. "How do you know that?"

"I…he had his shoulder bandaged. It was a dagger wound."

Alec nodded absently, his eyes back on the evidence from the night before. "I went to the training room last night. But he was there. Dagger practice." He shivered, like a cold hand had run over his spine.

He looked at Magnus. "The night you found me on 92nd street..."

Magus nodded. He would never forget that night.

"I had bumped into him on the street."

Izzy growled.

"I was frozen. Like I'd been paralyzed. He was in control…again. He said some words and…and I just listened dumbly."

"Alec."

Alec shook his head. "And once he left, I couldn't stop myself and the next thing I know, I have my razor out and I'm bleeding out on the street."

Izzy gasped, tears pooling in the corner of her eyes.

"So when I saw him in the training room last night, I had to prove to myself that he wasn't going to have that control."

He laughed.

"And I did. I took back some control. So, yes, I gave him that dagger wound."

Izzy beamed at him, her eyes still glistening.

Then he frowned, looking at the pile. "And then I spiraled out of control again and well…you saw the result, Magnus."

Magnus walked up to Alec and held out his hands, close to his face. "Can I?" he whispered.

Alec nodded shyly. Magnus cupped his face with his hands and drew him close, pressing his lips into his hair. Alec seemed to melt into the touch instead of flinching away.

"I know it doesn't feel like it but you took a huge step last night, confronting him."

"Even if I proceeded to turn the dagger on myself afterwards?" he replied sarcastically, his voice muffled into Magnu's shirt.

"There isn't a magical fix to this, Alec. If there was, I would give it to you."

Alec nodded softly, his hands gripping Magnus's shirt tightly. Magnus could feel Alec's heart beating against his chest. He knew that Alec was scared. Scared that he trusted Magnus like he did…that he was starting to depend on him for emotional support he wasn't used to getting.

Magnus held him tightly. He was not going to disappoint him.

He looked over the boy's shoulder at Izzy who was still staring at the pile of clothes.

She knelt down and picked up the box half hidden underneath the clothes.

"What's this?" she asked softly.

Alec pulled away from Magnus and looked at Izzy. Horror etched across his face almost instantaneously as she opened it.

"No," he cried out as he stumbled forward but it was too late.

Izzy gasped and her hand flung to her mouth as she stared down at the content. Alec rushed forward and grabbed the box out of her hand, snapping the lid back on and clutching it tightly.

"Alec?" Magnus started.

Alec shook his head. Izzy stared up at him before speaking, her voice quiet and laced with horror. "He took pictures."

Alec grimaced and shoved the box behind him on the dresser, his hand gripping the edge of the furniture. "I don't want to talk about it."

Magnus's eyes narrowed, a deadly look crossing his face. He wanted to focus on Alec. He wanted to focus on being there for him. He had pushed aside the anger, wanting to direct all his energy on Alec but it was becoming harder and harder to stay away from the bastard that destroyed this Nephilim that he was falling quickly for.

"Where is he?" Magnus said, blue sparks flickering from his fingertips.

At that Isabelle seemed to snap out of her shock. "He's gone," she said. "I came here to tell you that...and..."

"He's gone?" Alec whispered, his hushed, disbelieving voice barely audible.

"Yes, he's gone."

"How, where? I don't understand."

"I paid him a visit...with dad. He's not coming back to the Institute, not unless he wants to lose body parts."

Alec blinked away tears, staring at his sister in disbelief. Magnus tried to approach him but Alec moved away.

"With dad?" He sounded so broken all over again.

"Alec," Izzy started.

"I don't understand, Izzy."

"Alec, listen..."

"I need...where is he?"

"Alec, he's gone."

"No," Alec snapped. "Where's dad?"

Chapter Text

Alec stood in front of the door leading to his parent's room. He could hear muffled voices inside.

"Alec, what's going on?" came his sister's voice from behind him.

Alec pressed his forehead against the door and sighed. Izzy's hand fell gently on his shoulder and Alec willed himself not to flinch. "I'm fine, Izzy."

"Come on Alec, stop saying things that aren't true."

Izzy was right. He needed to talk about the truth. He moved away to dislodge her hand and rapped his knuckles against the door. He didn't wait for someone to open the door before entering the room. His mother was seated in a chair, her head in her hands and his father was standing at the foot of the bed speaking softly.

His mother lifted her head and his father turned around at the sound of the door opening.

"Alec," Marsye said, her voice hoarse.

"Son..." Robert started.

Alec felt blood rushing to his face as he clenched his fingers into fists. He snorted out a harsh laugh. "Son? Really, dad?"

Maryse stood up. "Alec..." She started walking towards the teenager but Alec stepped back, almost bumping into Izzy who was standing in the doorway. "Stay where you are."

"He's gone, honey," she said, desperately.

"Do you want a fucking medal?" Alec snapped. "Parent of the year?"

"Alec, listen," Robert tried but Alec quickly cut him off.

"NO! You listen, father," he snapped, spitting out the last word. "If you expect me to stand here and thank you for chasing him away or something, you're both more deluded than I first thought."

From the corner of his eye he saw Jace approaching Izzy in the doorway. "Where's Max?" he heard Izzy whisper.

"With Magnus in Alec's room," Jace whispered back. "What's going on?"

Before Izzy could reply, Alec started speaking again. "Tell me," he started calmly. "You just suddenly decided that it wasn't a good idea to have that man here?"

Maryse looked helplessly at Robert.

"Let me guess. My siblings made you do it?"

Maryse looked away and it was obvious that Robert was struggling to maintain eye contact.

"You are supposed to love me," he hissed, trying not to sound vulnerable. "You have known me longer than anyone else in this world and yet, my sixteen year-old sister and a boy who has known me for less than half my life are more concerned about my sanity than you!"

He bit his lip, willing the tears to remain hidden. "Because sometimes I feel like I am going insane!" He was yelling now. "Like I'm silently drowning and no one can hear my screams even though I'm surrounded by people."

Maryse tried to approach him again.

"NO! I said stay where you are!" He flung his arm in Jace's direction. "Jace tried. He was fucking 12 years old and had his own shit to deal with and yet he tried. But you, you just pretended that nothing happened. Like you didn't just walk in on a grown man..." His voice hitched and he stumbled. Izzy grabbed him by the arm but he pulled away instinctively. "I didn't want to talk but you didn't even try. You didn't tell the Clave, you didn't make sure I was okay. I remember dad dragging him out of the room and mom taking me to the bathroom."

Alec wanted to disappear. He could feel his mother rubbing circles into his back as he continued to hide his face in his knees. The room was silent so he assumed everyone else had left. He pushed his face further into his knees. They had all witnessed his shame.

"Alec, baby, come on honey, let's get you out of here. Get you cleaned up." Her voice sounded pained. Alec felt his face flush with humiliation. He was so dirty. No amount of water would make him clean.  His mother wrapped a large towel over his shoulders and gently nudged him to stand up. Tears spilled down his face. Moving meant exposing more of himself, his nakedness, the blood, the man's fluids...his shame.

His mother moved to place one arm underneath his knees and another around his shoulders but before she could pick him up, he shifted away and slowly swung his legs over the bed, making sure the towel continued to cover him. He hissed in pain as he stood up but refused to look at his mother. He readjusted the towel so it was securely around him. He clutched the towel like it would hide his shame even as he felt wetness running down his thighs.

A part of him wanted to collapse in his mother's arms and let her carry him away from his nightmare but the part of him that was too ashamed to even look at his mother won out and he silently followed her to the bathroom, numbness taking over his body.

He stood motionlessly in the bathroom facing the shower as his mother stood behind him and gently pried away the towel. He felt his face flush some more as his mother gasped at his abused body. "Oh god," she whispered hoarsely. Her eyes seemed to burn a hole in his back.

From the corner of his eye he saw her pull out her stele. He leaned his forehead against the wall as the stele cut through his skin, over old iratzes that Manson had carved into his lower back, close enough to the worst of damage to be effective.

He barely registered her moving away and starting the shower. She had placed the towel back around his shoulders, the fluffy material stopping at his knees. He didn't move, the front of his body still leaning into the wall as the muffled sounds of water hitting tiles filled the room.

"Do you want me to stay here or wait outside?"

Alec reluctantly turned around, holding the sides of the towel together to make sure he was fully covered. He looked at the door and then back at his mother.

"Outside?" she asked.

Alec nodded.

"Okay, baby," she said as she reached out and squeezed his arms. He just stared blankly, too numb to even react.

"But that was it. You were both done. You moved my room and that it was it. You just pretended nothing happened. It didn't matter that I hadn't spoken in months. It didn't matter that you had seen him..." He closed his eyes and ran his hand through his hair, thinking of what they walked in on...of what he had endured for so long.

"He raped me," he whispered hoarsely, his voice catching.

He grabbed onto the edge of his parents' dresser. He had barely ever acknowledged the word let alone said it out loud. But he couldn't continue skirting around it anymore as he confronted his parents. They had ignored it for so many years and Alec had let them.

"Every night for months and months and months. It was like he was insatiable and my body was his all access buffet."

Tears ran down his mother's face and his father's face seemed flushed with anger.

"He would come into my room every night. He told me all kinds of things to keep me quiet...to keep me under his control. He would tell me that my parents wouldn't believe me...or that they wouldn't care."

Tears finally ran treacherously down his face. "And he was right! Sometimes I wonder how many things he was right about. Because he was right about you not caring."

"That's not true," Maryse said.

"If you fucking cared, he would be locked away," Alec yelled. "If you cared, you would have tried to figure out if I was all right all these years. If you fucking cared about me, you would have noticed that I was a terrified kid who didn't know how to escape his nightmare, who silently begged for you to notice that something was wrong. But every night, instead of being safe in my bed, I had a grown man physically and mentally tearing me apart for his own pleasure."

Maryse was sobbing and Robert's face was sheet white.

"Well, guess what, mom, dad, I'm not fucking okay." He walked up to his dad. "I'm a fucking mess. I have nightmares, flashbacks, damn panic attacks that terrify me. I'm so fucked up that I try to replace all that pain with the pain of dragging razors through my flesh." He pushed his sleeves up and shoved his arms in his father's face.

Maryse slapped her hand over her mouth and Robert stared disbelievingly down at his arms. Alec wanted to laugh. The visible scars barely scratched the surface of his problem. The rage was so deep, it didn't even register that he was revealing this secret.

Robert grabbed his wrists and pulled his arms closer, horror etched across his face.  "Alec," he whispered hoarsely.  Alec's heart was beating loudly.  He pulled his hands away, trying to push aside the unwanted memories of Manson holding his wrists above his head while he raped him.  He willed his focus back to the present.

"But instead of thinking about your child, you thought, let's bring that man that destroyed our son's childhood back into his life." He laughed manically. "Got to follow the Clave at all cost. Right dad? Show some guilt after you already decided to let him back into the Institute. Right mom? What was it that you said dad? It's okay to bring him back here because I'm too old for him to want to fuck and Max is too young. You're both so fucking pathetic!"

Maryse stared at Alec pathetically, frozen in place. "What can we do to make this better, Alec? I know we were wrong but we love you."

Alec ignored her. "I think about how destroyed I would be if this happened to Jace or Izzy or Max...I know I wouldn't be able to contain my rage. I thank the angel that they never had to experience it. I see Jace and Izzy dealing with my crap like it's their own and while it hurts to know I'm causing them pain, I wonder how my own parents didn't give a shit."

He turned away from them. Izzy and Jace stood in the doorframe watching everything unfold. He closed his eyes. "If you loved me enough, you would have pushed harder to figure out what was happening before Max stumbled upon it. If you loved me enough, Manson would have been locked away for four years now. I always felt invisible to you, but now I know that I actual am."

He felt a hand wrap around his forearm. He tried to flinch away but his mother turned him around and gripped his upper arms with both her hands.

"I know I have failed you."

Alec shook his head. He wanted nothing more than to melt into her arms. To accept her remorse like some sort of consolation prize so he could have a mother's warmth. But the cost had been too high. He pulled away from her and turned to the doorway.

Izzy stepped forward and grabbed his hand. "Let's go Alec."

Alec nodded mutely.

They walked back to his room, Alec sandwiched between Izzy and Jace.

"Thank you. For getting rid of Manson. For dealing with all my crap," he said. "I may not have mom and dad but I know I'll always have you."

xxxxxx

Magnus was playing a game of checkers with Max when the remaining Lightwood children entered the room. Somberness instantly filled the space. Max smiled at his siblings but it faltered as he noticed Alec's expression.

"You're still sad, Alec."

Alec forced a smile on his face. He approached him and ruffled his hair. Max frowned and tried to fix his hair.

"Did you have fun at Clary's?"

"Yeah, she showed me a lot of manga."

Magnus almost smirked as Alec tried not to show his confusion.

Alec looked at Magnus before addressing the room. "I think I need to get some fresh air." He turned back to Magnus and looked at him shyly. "Will you come with me?"

Magnus stood up and nodded. "Let's go, darling."

xxxxxx

Alec stood in the room silently. Everyone had filed out to give him a chance to change. He approached the dresser and his hand stilled at the edge. His body felt exhausted and drained. Had he really just confronted his parents?

Before he could venture further down that train of thought his eyes fell on the wooden box sitting innocently on one end of the dresser. He stared at it, his heart pounding and unwanted memories trying to force their way to the surface. "Fuck," he hissed before grabbing the box and shoving it deep into the top drawer, underneath layers of shirts. He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about Manson or his parents or the contents of that box.

He just needed it all to stop. His instincts had him thinking about getting a razor out of the bathroom but instead he quickly grabbed some clothes and changed into them. He had other options. Magnus was waiting right outside the door.

"Ready?" the warlock asked as Alec stepped out of his room. He was leaning against the wall, dressed in the dark red jeans and black studded shirt he was wearing when he portalled to the Institute last night.

Alec smiled wanly. "Let's get out of here."

Alec followed Magnus out of the Institute, feeling like he had to be on high alert within the walls, even though he knew the threat was now gone. Once they were on the street, Alec fell into step beside Magnus.

"Where do you want to go?" Magnus asked.

"I don't know. I just needed to get out of that place."

"Back to my place, then? Or the park?"

"Your place sounds good. Don't particularly feel like being surrounded by strangers right now."

"I could make a portal."

Alec shook his head, guiltily. "You've already made two in the last two days because of me. We can take the subway. I'll glamour myself."

"How about we take a cab?"

The shadowhunter nodded. "That sounds good."

Alec sat stiffly in the cab as they raced down the FDR. At first, the muffled sounds of the driver's radio was the only sound filling the cab.

"I can't sit in silence. My thoughts will drive me insane," Alec finally said. "But..." He looked up at the driver.

Magnus waved his hand and then placed it over Alec's hand. "He can't hear us," he said, squeezing the teenager's hand gently.

Alec nodded thankfully and relaxed, intertwining his fingers into Magnus's and smiling shyly.

"So, do you want to tell me what happened? With your parents?"

Alec shrugged his shoulders. "I told them how I felt." He turned away from Magnus and looked out the window.

"How do you feel?"

Alec sighed, closing his eyes and leaning his head back. "I don't know. It's in the open, I guess. No more secrets, right? No more pretending that we're some perfect family."

"That took guts, Alec."

Alec laughed. "Once I started going, I couldn't stop."

"Maybe I'm a little jealous," Magnus added, ruefully.

Alec looked at him. "Jealous?"

"I never got the chance to confront my parents."

The Nephilim felt his heart skip a beat. He remembered Magnus explaining his tragic childhood at his party. He squeezed Magnus's hand, empathetically.

"I'm proud of you," Magnus said.

Alec couldn't comprehend how in the span of a few days, he went from living under a suffocating cloud of pain to spirally out of control to trusting somebody with more of himself than he ever had in the past.

"I don't think I would have been able to do it without you."

"I sorry that you lived in silence for all these years but I'm here now and I think you know that your siblings are too."

Alec nodded. He had a sudden desire to kiss the warlock and it terrified him. He looked away again. "I'm going to try...I want to be more open...but it's so hard. For so long, I've learned to keep everything inside and it's all I've known. It kept me safe."

"From what?"

"Being hurt."

"But Alec, you hurt yourself instead."

"I know," Alec whispered.

Before Magnus could respond the cab driver stopped the car and looked back. "We're here."

Alec jerked his head up. "Right," he said, feeling slightly flustered. He dug out his wallet. "I got this."

Magnus started to protest but Alec shook his head and handed the man a twenty. "You wouldn't be taking a cab if it wasn't for me."

xxxxxxx

"Do you want some breakfast?" Magnus asked once they were inside his apartment.

"Sure," Alec said. "I can help."

Magnus laughed and shook his head while snapping his fingers. Takeout bags appeared on the kitchen table and Magnus immediately went to the cupboards and started pulling plates out.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to all this snapping things into existence," Alec muttered as he started pulling out containers of food.

"I'm only moving things that already exist."

"Hence the stealing I mentioned before."

Magnus chuckled again as the boys settled into chairs. "Like I've said before, I paid for it."

"And they're not confused with the sudden disappearance of food and appearance of money out of nowhere?"

"Don't worry your pretty little head over it, darling."

Alec raised an eyebrow in mock offense and laughed.

"Maybe we can actual go out for a meal sometime soon and we'll exchange goods for money the old fashioned way," Magnus said between bites of his french toast.

Alec bit his lip and looked down.

"Listen Alec, I'm not going to push you."

Alec looked up, his eyes shining. "I'm scared."

"I know."

"I...I really..." Alec gulped and forced himself to maintain eye contact. "I want to kiss you." His cheeks flushed and he dropped his fork, his hand shaking.

"You can," Magnus said softly.

Alec shook his head and pushed his chair back. "Can I use your bathroom?" he asked, feeling terrified of his own feelings.  He started walking to the bathroom but Magnus was close behind him.

"Alec, stop."

Alec spun around. "Everything I've ever known has told me that these feelings are wrong."

"They are not wrong, Alec."

"What Manson did was wrong..."

"What Manson did was more than wrong, Alec. He did things to you without your consent. He took advantage of a child."

Alec closed his eyes.

"Manson is a sick man, Alec. Don't ever compare your feelings to him."

He tried to stifle a sob. "I...I only ever felt pain and humiliation."

Magnus leaned his back against a wall to give Alec space.

"But then...sometimes...oh God..." Alec's whole face was red. "I would..."

"You were thirteen, right?"

Alec nodded mutely.

"You were going through puberty, Alec."

"I...I liked Jace...I was so scared...I didn't want to like him, Magnus. And then Manson...I...when he did things to me..."

"Sometimes you got hard...even ejaculated." Magnus spoke as gently as possible.

"DON'T" Alec screamed, turning his head away and squeezing his eyes shut, tears spilling free.

Magnus reached out and touched his shoulder. Alec jerked away.

"It was out of your control, Alec."

"H-how can you say that? It's my body."

"Our bodies are designed to react to certain stimulations, regardless of if you want it or not."

"Because I like g-guys?"

"No, Alec, straight, bisexual, gay, your body would have reacted the same way to the things Manson did."

"You're just saying these things."

Magnus shook his head. "I'll never lie to you Alec. And I could show you a lot of literature that would tell you the same things."

"I don't know..."

"It's okay, this is all going to take time."

Alec nodded and bit his bottom lip. "At first I thought...I thought I didn't want to like you..." Alec whispered.

Alec ran his hand through his hair. "But if I'm being honest, it's not that I don't want to like you...it's that I don't want to be scared to like you." He laughed harshly. "That sounds so convoluted."

Magnus brushed his hand through Alec's hair. Alec didn't move. "I get it."

"I don't want to be scared."

Magnus nodded, his piercing golden eyes examining Alec's face. "It's okay."

"I...I want to kiss you," Alec repeated his words from earlier. Alec's voice was so soft, it was barely audible. He hid his eyes under his long black lashes.

"You can," Magnus repeated his response, dropping his hand to his side and giving him space.

Alec's hands were shaking but he moved forward and quickly pressed his closed lips against Magnus's lips but pulled away almost instantly, gasping and looking down.

Magnus snaked his fingers into Alec's. "It's okay, darling."

Alec nodded and looked up again. There was determination in Alec's eyes now. He wasn't going to let some bastard ruin the good things in his life. It was obvious that Magnus wasn't going to make the first move for his sake and Alec felt overwhelmed with appreciation. He licked his lips and moved forward again, tilting his head up and parting his lips slightly as he captured Magnus's bottom lip between his and sucked softly on it. Slowly, he felt the pressure of Magnus's lips encompassing his upper lip and he relaxed his body, wrapping his arms around Magnus's neck. Magnus wrapped his arms around Alec's waist and Alec felt a tinge of terror but pushed it aside, focusing on the light sensation of being close to someone safe...someone he trusted...someone he wanted to be close to like this.

Magnus drew him closer and Alec opened his mouth, inviting Magnus further in, his tongue accepting the invitation. Suddenly there was an urgency to the kiss, tongue and teeth and lips dancing passed each other as the two boys explored each other. There chests were flush against each other and Alec was certain that Magnus could feel the pounding of his heart vibrating against his skin. Every nerve in his body seemed to be on fire, electricity racing through his body in a way that was amazing and exhilarating.

Finally, Alec pulled away, his body desperate for air. His heart was still racing. He was scared to look at Magnus. He pressed his forehead against Magnus's chest, breathing heavily. Magnus pressed his lips against his hairline.

Alec felt so free. He didn't feel pain, humiliation or terror when he was kissing Magnus. It didn't feel wrong like he had convinced himself in his mind.

"You're amazing," Magnus mumbled.

"No..."

Magnus gently held Alec's chin and tilted his head up and placed a finger against his lips. "You are amazing. That's not up for discussion."

"Well, you're pretty much perfect, Magnus."

Magnus grinned. "I know."

Alec hit him playfully and smiled.

"Don't worry darling, I'll lift your ego and you can bring mine down a notch," Magnus said, chuckling lightly.

"I don't want to do that. I like it."

"We'll see," Magnus said playfully. "Now, can I kiss your perfect lips again?"

Alec blushed and nodded.

This time Alec stood still and let Magnus bend down and capture his lips. Alec stumbled forward and pushed Magnus against the wall. Magnus's hands were on his hips and Alec pressed his hands on his chest as they kissed, Alec's unpracticed motions matched by Magnus's expert ones as the kiss deepened.

They pulled apart again and Alec didn't look away this time. He smiled shyly. "I've never been kissed before," he whispered.

Alec could see Magnus hiding his surprise quickly. Alec didn't want to say Manson's name in the moment but the one thing Manson didn't do to him was kiss him on the lips.

Magnus drew his fingers into Alec's hair and tried to tame the locks. He smiled softly but before he could say anything, Alec heard his phone ring.

"Do you have to pick it up?"

Alec nodded apologetically. "It could be an emergency." He reluctantly pulled away from the warlock and dug his phone out of his pocket.

"It's Jace."

He flipped the phone open and pressed it to his ear. "Hey Jace."

"Are you still with Magnus?"

"Yeah."

"We need you to come back to the Institute. We just got word that a werewolf child has gone missing. Bring Magnus. We might need his help."

Alec frowned. "Okay, we're on our way."

"What's going on?" Magnus asked.

"A werewolf child has gone missing. We might need your help," he repeated apologetically.

Now Magnus was frowning too. "Okay, let's go."

xxxxxx

"You shouldn't have asked him to come," Izzy hissed at Jace. Jace was leaning against a wall in the kitchen and their parents stood behind the counter, looking at the children in dismay.

"He spent all these years keeping secrets from us. I'm not about start keeping secrets from him now."

"What secrets?" Alec said as he stepped into the room, Magnus close behind him. Jace hadn't even heard the elevator.

"Alec, that was quick."

"We took a portal."

"What is he doing here?" Maryse said, eyeing Magnus suspiciously.

"This is a friend of ours," Alec said. Jace could tell that he was trying to keep his nerves in check. "Magnus Bane."

"I know who he is," Maryse said disdainfully.

Alec stared at her angrily. "He healed me after I was attacked by Abbadon. Although we've already established that my wellbeing isn't necessarily a concern of yours," he said, his words dripping with contempt.

Maryse looked away, like Alec had slapped her. Jace had to refrain from smiling spitefully at the exchange.

"Alec tells me that a child of the moon has disappeared?" Magnus said, interrupting the tense glares being exchanged by the Lightwoods.

Izzy sighed and nodded, watching Alec carefully.

"He's been missing for two days now but they only reported it to us now," Maryse started. "The pack's attempts to find him have failed."

"Okay," Alec started. "Do we have a picture of the child?"

"Alec, listen, before I show you this picture," Jace started.

Alec looked at his family, no doubt seeing the stormy expressions on their faces. "What the hell is going on?"

Jace picked up his phone and walked over to Alec. Reluctantly, he placed the phone in his hand and Alec looked down.

The gasp that escaped Alec's lips was almost instantaneous.

The photo on the small screen was that of a 13 to 14-year-old boy with messy black hair and bright blue eyes. The resemblance of the child to Alec at that age was uncanny.

Magnus slipped the phone out of his hand, his eyes turning dark as he looked at the picture. "How old is this child?"

"13," Izzy replied.

Alec let out a strangled scream and slammed his fist into a nearby wall. "Fuck," he hissed.

Jace grabbed his fist in his hands, torn skin and blood gracing his knuckles. Alec rarely displayed rage like this. "Don't Alec. Don't hurt yourself."

"This isn't about me," Alec snapped. He spun around and looked at his parents. "Are you happy? Looks like he found a replacement!" He turned and looked at his siblings. "We need to find him. Now."

Izzy nodded. "That's why we asked for you, Magnus. We're hoping you can locate him."

Magnus nodded. Jace watched him as Magnus eyed Alec's bloody knuckles, like he wanted to approach him but wasn't sure what Alec would want in front of his parents.

"Let me apply an iratze, Alec," Jace said. Alec reluctantly allowed Jace to takehis hand.

"I will need something of value that belongs to the boy."

Izzy grabbed her jacket. "I'll go talk to Luke."

"That won't be necessary," Alec muttered.

"What?" Izzy said.

"I have something that belongs to Manson."

Izzy looked at him, horrified. "No, Alec, I'll talk to Luke."

"That's a waste of time," Alec snapped, drawing his healing hand away. "I'll be right back."

Jace watched Alec disappear. "What does he have, Izzy?" he asked. He did not like the expression on Izzy's face.

Magnus expression was equally upsetting. "Izzy, can you bring me a map."

"Sure," she mumbled.

"Bane, what is going on?" Robert said.

"Magnus?" Jace said at the same time. "What does Alec have?"

Before Magnus could say anything Izzy and Alec reentered the kitchen. Izzy silently handed Magnus the map and he spread it over the table. She glared at the small wooden box that Alec held in his hand.

"What's in the box, Alec?" Jace said.

Alec didn't say anything. He silently handed it to Magnus.

Magnus held the box disdainfully and started to chant.

Jace watched Alec as Magnus performed the tracking spell. He was wringing his hands absently as he watched Magnus.

Magnus frowned. "It's not working."

"The box is not what's valuable to him," Alec muttered. "It's what's inside."

Alec took the box back and snapped the latch open.

"No, Alec," Izzy whispered.

"We don't have any time," Alec said.  Jace knew that Alec was on autopilot, like his own pain and privacy was irrelevant at the moment. He opened the box and Jace could see pieces of paper stacked inside the box. He stepped closer to get a better look. No, they were photos. Alec pulled a few out. He could hear the Lightwood parents gasping.

He looked closer before snapping his hand over his mouth to stop himself from cursing out loud. He turned away quickly but the images were already etched into his mind.

Alec's naked body against a wall, his chest and hands pressed against the surface, his face turned towards the camera. Tear stains cut through his face. His blue eyes staring hopelessly. His back, backside and legs exposed with dark, angry bruises littering his hips, backside and thighs.

Frozen images of lost innocence.

Alec, naked again, on his knees, looking up, the same blue eyes, wide, staring, almost hollow-like. This time bruises were around his mouth and jaw and neck. A thick white substance splattered on his face and down his chest.

Jace almost gagged. He stumbled back and grouped for the wall behind him to steady himself. Manson took pictures. His hands were shaking and he felt like there were black spots dancing behind his eyelids, the anger and rage building up quickly inside of him. He clenched his jaw and tried to breathe through the anger, knowing it had no place in the room right now. But when he got his hands on that man...

Magnus had taken one look at the pictures Alec had handed him and turned them over. Jace was sure he heard the warlock curse under his breath. He was chanting again. Izzy had walked over to Alec and tried to pry the box out of his hand.

"No," Alec muttered.

"You don't want these, Alec."

"They are pictures of me. I don't want anyone else to have them."

"I know, Alec. But..."

"I have a location," Magnus interrupted.

Alec nodded and grabbed the pictures out of Magnus's grasp and shoved them back into the box, snapping the latch closed.

"Thank you, Magnus," Izzy managed to say.

"I'm going to change into hunting gear. I'll meet you by the elevators," Alec announced quickly, his voice sounding hollow. He spun on his heels and fled the suffocating room, the box still held tightly in his hands.

Jace watched him go and a part of him wanted to leave before Alec returned. Spare him the pain of facing Manson.

But the part of him that valued Alec's trust would not break it.

Chapter Text

Alec arrived back downstairs, dressed in fitted black gear, black combat boots, a seraph blade at his waist and his bow and arrows slung across his back. Alec's mind was blank except for one thing. Find the boy, James, and get him home. Compartmentalizing his feelings right now was the only way he was going to be an effective shadowhunter.

"We need to call the Clave," Maryse said.

"Yes mother," Alec said. "Why don't you do what you should have done four years ago."

"I'm coming with you," Robert said.

"No," Alec snapped. "Why would you suddenly join us now when we've been doing this without you for so long?"

"We've got this, dad," Izzy said curtly.

"Are you going to be okay, Alec?" Magnus asked, watching the teenager carefully.

Alec felt his heart skip a beat at Magnus's voice. He had a sudden desire to touch Magnus...to feel his comfort but he pushed the feeling aside.

"I'll be fine."

"We've got his back," Jace said as the three siblings stepped into the elevator. Alec wanted to be annoyed at everyone treating him like glass but he didn't have the energy, so he just nodded at Magnus. Magnus approached him and placed a folded up paper in his hand just before the elevator doors closed shut. "Just in case you need to track him without me."

Alec tucked the paper into his pocket. "Thanks."

xxxxxx

"It's an abandoned warehouse by the Bruckner," Jace said as they stepped out of the subway. "While you were getting changed Magnus said that it was used by rogue Nephilim over a century ago as a rendezvous point."

Alec laughed hollowly. "Figures Manson would know about this place."

"Let's have a plan before we go in," Izzy said as they walked towards the building.

"We get in there, scope out the place. Find him and get the kid," Jace said, as if it was logical. It's not like they ever went in with a plan before, despite Alec's reservations.

Alec pulled out a folded up picture from his pocket.

Izzy stared at the back of the photo, the actually image hidden in the folds and only the white of the back showing. "Alec?"

Alec pulled out his stele. "I can track him with this."

"How?"

Alec handed the piece of paper Magnus gave him to Izzy. "It's a tracking rune." He took his stele and copied the rune that Magnus had sketched into the backside of the photo. "Let's go."

The warehouse was actually more intact then it appeared on the outside. The outward appearance probably deterred homeless mundanes from taking up residence within its walls. The main room was large, with high walls and sunlight pouring in through windows near the celling.

"This way," Alec said, pointing at a door near the east end of the room. "There's a flight of stairs leading down to a hallway. He's behind the third door from the stairs."

The teenagers swiftly made their way down the stairs, newly etched soundless runes on their arms. Once they reached the door, the silence was broken by the soft sobs coming from behind the wall. Alec's hands started shaking at the sound. His own sobs from years ago echoed in his mind.

"Alec?" Izzy whispered, her hand falling on his shoulder. He jerked away from her and drew out his bow and an arrow.

"I'm fine," he said.

Jace shot him a worried look but didn't say anything. Instead, he took out his stele and carved into the door. Within seconds, part of the door became transparent, leaving them with a clear view of what was going on inside.

Manson was seated at a chair, cutting an apple. On the floor, on a dirty old mattress, sat a boy, a sheet pulled up around his waist and a bag of McDonalds left unopened by his side. A long silver chain was hanging from his neck, leaving angry red marks against his bare chest. His wrists were also encased in silver cuffs.

"You need to eat boy," Manson said, looking at the child, annoyance on his face.

The child looked up at him with contempt and shook his head defiantly.

Before the teenagers could devise a plan, Manson pounced on the child, grabbing him by the neck, the chain swaying with the movement. He pressed the knife he was using to cut the apple against his neck. "You will do whatever the fuck I say," he snapped.

Alec's heart was pounding in his ears. Without thinking, he grabbed the knob and charged into the room, his bow and arrow drawn. "Get the fuck away from him," Alec yelled.

Jace and Izzy stood on either side of him, blade and whip drawn.

Manson held onto the boy and spun around. The were-child desperately grabbed at the sheet to keep himself covered.

Manson stood, holding James in front of him, his knife pressed against the boy's jugular.

"Well, isn't this a surprise?" he started, a smile gracing his face. "I thought you were happy to have me gone? And yet here you are, seeking me out. But like I said before, you're too old for me now, blue-eyes." He traced his eyes over Alec. "But you are still stunning."

"I will fucking tear you apart," Alec hissed, his arrow pointed squarely at his forehead.

"You let that arrow fly and I'll slice this pure silver knife through his throat as I go down."

Jace stepped forward, his grip on his blade tightening.

"You too, wonder boy."

Alec lowered his bow. He needed to take a different approach.

"Okay, Benedict. You're right. You're in control here."

"Haven't I always been in control when if comes to us, blue-eyes?" he asked sweetly.

Alec suppressed a gag. "What do you want? Do you want to run off with this boy?" Alec took a step forward.

"Stay back," Manson hissed.

"He looks a lot like me when I was that age."

Manson narrowed his eyes. Alec could see Izzy shifting her feet nervously from the corner of his eyes.

"But is it the same, Benedict?" Alec kept his voice soft and almost seductive. He felt nauseous as he willing played the part.

"Don't think you can trick me boy."

"Alec, what are you doing?" Izzy whispered, urgently.

"I'm not trying to trick you. I'm being honest with you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the photo. "I have your box. I have this photo right here. Let James go with Jace and Izzy and I'll stay here."

He heard instant angry protests from his siblings but he ignored it. "I know I'm too old but if you let him go, I'll stay here and we can talk. I'll give you this picture. I'll get you the rest of them and you can go."

"Bullshit!" Manson said, laughing.

"All I want is for James to get home safe, all right. I don't care about what you do afterwards. In the last four years, I haven't said anything, have I?"

Manson smiled. "So true. You were always so obedient," he said, reminiscently. "Not like this boy."

"That's right," Alec said, feeling almost hopeful. "He might look like me but he doesn't behave like me, does he?"

The boy was looking at Alec, desperately, tears flowing freely down his face.

Manson nodded mutely.

"I'll do what you say, Benedict. I'll even..." He paused, his heart roaring so loudly, it was almost deafening. "I'll go down on you." He suppressed a gag. "Just like you taught me. If you close your eyes, you can pretend I'm younger. Or just look into my eyes...they haven't changed."

Both Jace and Izzy yelled out and Jace grabbed Alec by his arm. "Alec!"

Manson was practically salivating.

"Both of them leaves, now. Then we can talk."

"Let James go with them."

"No, when they're gone, we'll talk."

"There is no way in fuck that we're leaving you here, Alec," Jace hissed.

"Please, Jace, Izzy. I know what I'm doing. I'll be fine," he whispered back so Manson couldn't hear.

"No, you're being a fucking martyr and I won't be part of it," Izzy snapped. "We can take him."

"And then the boy dies. Listen, I can take care of myself. I promise."

"No!"

"Please. I can't...I can't live with myself if that boy dies."

"And you think we can live with ourselves if something happens to you," Izzy implored.

"You are not...you're not going down on him," Jace whispered desperately.

Alec shivered. "I'm not, Jace. I promise."

"But..."

"In many ways, he thinks I'm still a child. He underestimates me. Even after yesterday, when I was throwing daggers at him, he thinks he can control me."

"You're the one who gave him that wound in his shoulder?" Jace asked.

"I'm not going to wait all day, children," Manson called out.

"Please, just go. You'll be right outside. You can barge in at a moment's notice. I'm not going to be a martyr, Izzy."

A loud whimper snapped the teenagers' attention back to James and Manson. Manson's unoccupied hand was under the sheet that James desperately held at his waist. "I'm getting impatient."

Alec's eyes widened and he felt the beginning of tears at the corner of his eyes as he looked into James's horrified eyes.

"Please," he begged his siblings. "He's ruining another child.  Jace, that was me. I can't. Please."

"Fuck!" Jace screamed.

"Alec," Izzy whispered, defeated.

Both younger teenagers retreated, walking backwards so that their backs were not turned to the scene they were reluctantly leaving behind. Once the door closed behind them, Alec knew they were standing right outside, looking in with the aid of a rune.

"Okay, Benedict. We're alone."

"Yes, we are," he said, smiling. "This is how I like you, blue-eyes. Under my control. Not like yesterday."

Alec suppressed a snappy reply and nodded.

"Remove all your weapons, boy."

Alec mutely placed his bow and arrows on the floor, followed by his blade.

"All of them. Stele too."

Alec dropped his stele.

"Don't play games with me, boy."

Alec dug out a dagger and dropped it beside his other weapons.

"Okay, now let him go, Benedict."

"Come here first."

Alec slowly approached them until he was a foot away from his nightmare. James' sobs were louder at this close proximity. Alec wanted to assure him but he knew there was nothing he could say as the man fondled him underneath the sheet.

"Let him go," he repeated.

"Put the picture on the chair."

Alec placed the picture, face down on the chair.

"Turn it over."

Reluctantly, Alec turned it over.

Manson sighed happily, looking at the picture. Alec felt sick. Manson shifted the boy, so he was at his side instead of in front of him. At least both his hands were visible now.

"Get on your knees."

"Let him go first."

"I'm not stupid, boy. On your knees first and then I let him go."

Alec looked at James. James' terrified eyes were fixated on Alec, desperation and fear radiating from his shivering body.

The teenager nodded mutely and slowly lowered himself to his knees. His face heated and his body shook, almost mirroring the younger boy's tremors.

"Come on boy, do what I taught you." His voice was low and desperate.

The man stared down at him. Alec needed to get him to close his eyes, so he tried to emphasis his growth by widening his shoulders and pulling his torso up. The man frowned. Alec shielded his eyes with his lashes, hiding the piercing blue color the man loved so much, as he brought his trembling fingers to the man's fly.

Manson closed his eyes as soon as Alec's fingers undid his button and drew down the zipper. Alec didn't lose a moment. He sprung to his feet and grabbed the wrist of the hand that held the knife. He pulled it away from the boy just as Manson yelled in surprise.

James pulled away from the man instantly, stumbling into the dirty mattress, all his energy drained from the silver necklace around his neck and silver cuffs on his wrists.

Manson lunged forward, his grip on the knife tightening as Alec retaliated by slamming him back until he was up against a wall. Alec pressed the wrist against the wall above his head.

Manson tried to fight back but Alec pressed his body against him. "Want to find out how much control you have over me now?" Alec hissed as he drove his knee up and slammed it into the man's crouch.

Alec heard his siblings rush back into the room.

Manson was screaming as Alec continued to apply pressure.

"Drop the knife."

Manson's hands loosened and the knife clattered to the floor.

As Alec withdrew his knee, Manson used the moment to flip them around so that Alec was now shoved against the wall, the larger man pressing against him. "You think you're stronger, boy?"

Alec felt his body shutting down as the muscled body he was so familiar with pressed against him. No, he thought, determinedly. He used all his strength to shove the man off him as a whip lashed out, wrapping around his neck and tugging him back until he fell flat on his backside. Instantly, his fingers gripped the rope around his neck, trying to loosen its grip.

Izzy stood a few feet away, the other end of the whip held tightly in her hand.

Alec step away from the wall and Jace tossed him his bow and an arrow.

He aimed the arrow at the man's heart, the bow drawn back.

"I could kill you right now and no one would care, Manson," Alec hissed.

"Everyone in this room will say it was self-defense," Jace said.

Alec shifted his aim lower. "But I'm not going to do that. I don't need another reason for you to take up any space in my mind." He released the arrow and it pierced the man deep into his groin.

The screeching sound echoed through the room but Alec ignored it, dropping his bow to the ground and turning to the boy on the mattress. He grabbed the photo on the chair and shoved it into his pocket as he approached the boy.

He gathered his clothes that were scattered on the floor.

"Hi James," Alec said softly. "I'm Alec."

The boy looked at him suspiciously. "I'm not going to hurt you."

"You're Nephilim," he whispered hoarsely, untrusting. "Like him."

Alec shuttered at the comparison. "I know. But I'm not like him. I don't want to hurt you."

James continued to look at him suspiciously.

"Can I remove the silver?"

"Please don't touch me. Please."

Alec felt his heart breaking. "Once I get the silver off, you should start to heal and I'll get you home, all right. I won't touch you anymore than I have to."

James looked down at the silver that made it impossible for him to remove it himself.

He nodded mutely.

Alec felt the boy's body tense as he gently pulled the necklace from around his neck and threw it to the side.

"Can you hold your wrists up?"

James lifted his wrists and Alec was careful to touch the silver and not his skin as he released the clasps of the cuffs and tossed them away as well.

He placed the clothes beside James. "I'm going to turn around so you can get dressed."

When Alec turned around, he saw that Izzy still had her whip wrapped around Manson's neck. The man was curled on his side but Jace casually held the arrow down, twisting it occasionally, while he spoke to someone on the phone.

He snapped the phone shut and looked up at Alec. "Members of the Clave are on their way."

Alec nodded.

"He's going away, Alec," Izzy said. "I wanted to see if you wanted to press charges first but after this..."

Alec just nodded again, not wanting to think about what that meant for him.

He heard the boy shuffle forward until he was standing beside him.

"I want to go home," he whispered.

Alec thought about smiling at the boy but he couldn't muster up the falseness. Besides, the boy deserved more than placating gestures. "I can take you home or my sister, Izzy, can." He wanted to give him the option of going with a female.

He looked at all three them, his eyes purposefully avoiding the writhing man on the floor. They were all Nephilim.

He looked up at Alec. "Can you take me home?" he asked, his voice vulnerable and unsure.

It was like he knew that they shared similar horrific experiences. Albeit, he guessed that his interaction with Manson gave some of that away.

"Of course. Jace, Izzy, I'm going to take him home. You'll wait here for the Clave?"

"I can come with you," Izzy said.

Alec suppressed his annoyance. "I'll be fine."

Izzy backed off quickly, as if she could sense that he was irritated with her overprotectiveness.

"Call us when you're leaving."

Alec nodded. "I will."

xxxxxx

The two boys sat on the subway silently. It was midday, so the train was relatively empty as they headed towards James's home in the East Village. They continued to walk in silence once they got off the train. As they got closer to the boy's apartment, he stopped and looked up at Alec.

"I...I don't know what to do," he said, his eyes shining with tears.

Alec nodded, looking pensively. "You need to tell your family what happened. You can't keep this in. It will destroy you."

He shivered. "Do you know what happened?" he asked. "You weren't there the whole time."

Alec sighed. Manson had him for two days. He remembered the night he bumped into him on the street. Had he been coming back from the warehouse that night? "I'm pretty sure I know what happened, James. And I'm so sorry."

"How is it your fault?" he asked, confused. Alec felt a pang of guilt that seemed all encompassing. He couldn't reply.

"Will...can you tell them?" he continued.

"If that's what you want."

"I...I don't want to talk about it right now."

"Okay," Alec said.

Alec followed James up five flights of stairs before stopping at apartment 6R.

"I don't have my key."

Alec nodded and knocked loudly on the door.

In under a minute, the door swung open and they were greeted by Clary's friend, Luke, standing in the doorway.

He looked down at the boy and let out a sigh of relief, stepping aside to let them in.

Within seconds, there was a wail and a woman flung herself at the boy. James yelped in surprise and Alec saw his body tense.

"James, baby," the woman sobbed, teary eyed. Behind her, stood a man, his hand on her shoulder, looking equally relieved.

"You're Alexander Lightwood, right?" Luke said, watching him carefully.

Alec nodded. He felt out of place as Luke examined him. "You found him?"

"Jace, Izzy and I. Magnus tracked him."

"Using what? No one came to get something that belongs to James."

Alec ignored the question and looked at the reunited family. Both parents were coddling James now. James stood there awkwardly.

"What happened?"

Alec kept his eyes on the family.

"He was kidnapped by a shadowhunter."

Luke growled.

"He's been detained."

"Who? Why?"

"Benedict Manson. He...he hurt him. At least, I'm pretty sure he did."

"What did he do?" James's father asked, looking up at him.

Everyone was looking at Alec now.

Silence fell over the room.

"He sexually abused him," he finally said.

The tension in the room was thick. The woman growled, her eyes seemed to glow yellow momentarily.

"Nephilim did this to my child!" the man roared. James flinched away.

"Alec and his siblings stopped him," James said softly.

Alec could see the man trying to calm down.

"He's being sent away. He will not go free. I promise."

"Oh, and you can make this promise? You are nothing but a boy," the woman spat out.

Alec wanted to talk to James. Suddenly, he wished he hadn't maintained the silence on the subway. "Can I talk to James? Alone? Just for a minute."

The man barked out a laugh. "You tell me Nephilim did this to my son and then you want us to leave him alone with Nephilim?"

Alec couldn't argue with the man. He looked around the room. He didn't want to say anything in front of these strangers but he couldn't leave without talking to James.

"James, I know that you're in a lot of pain right now."

"You don't know anything," snapped to the woman.

"Elise, let the boy talk," Luke said.

"I...he did the same things to me when I was your age."

Luke watched him carefully, his expression softening as he spoke. Seeing the sympathy on his face almost hurt but Alec continued.

"I kept quiet and I let it eat me up. I let him control me, even after he wasn't in my life anymore. I did things to myself that I'm not proud of and I pushed people away."

James looked at him, his bottom lip trembling.

"But James, it doesn't have to be that way. I'm not saying that it will be easy. It won't be but you can get through this. And I want you to know that I'm here for you, whenever you need it. If you need someone to talk to...if you need help...anything."

He turned to Luke. "Do you have a pen and paper?"

Luke grabbed a pen and notepad from the table behind him.

Alec wrote down his name and number and handed it to Luke.

He looked at James again. "That's my cellphone number. And if you lose that, my brother is dating Luke's friend, Clary, so you can find me that way."

James nodded mutely.

"The Clave will be in touch about Manson," he told James parents.

They nodded, equally silent.

"Okay. Um, well, James. You call me whenever you want," he said before leaving the apartment.

As soon as he stepped out, he leaned against the wall, his shoulders slumped inward and his head bowed. Exhaustion, both mental and physical, rushed over him. He ran a trembling hand through his hair.

His head snapped up as someone stepped into the hallway.

"Alexander," Luke said.

Alec quickly straightened his body. "It's Alec."

"Thank you."

Alec brushed aside the gratitude. "I did what I've been brought up to do."

"I'm not just talking about saving James."

Alec looked at him wearily.

"I know your parents well."

"Do you?" Alec said, anger creeping up at the thought of his parents.

"You are not as I imagine an offspring of Robert and Maryse to be like."

"Oh?"

"You did not dismiss James because he's a downworlder. And most importantly, what you did in there took courage, Alec. And that courage might bring James the support he needs to get through this."

Alec looked at him, surprised.

"So, thank you."

Alec nodded mutely. When he was alone in the hallway again, he fished out his phone, knowing that he also had the support he needed to get through this.

Chapter Text

Magnus stood at his door and waited for the shadowhunter to make his way up the stairs. He had just finished with a client when Alec texted and he had to admit, his mind hadn't been fully invested in his customer's task. Luckily it was a routine request and didn't require much effort, allowing his mind to dwell on the fact that Alec was charging into an unknown situation to face the man that destroyed his childhood. Considering that the last two times Alec faced Manson resulted in the teenager shredding his own flesh, Magnus felt justified in his concern.

When Alec finally arrived at his doorstep, Magnus couldn't help but allow his eyes to roam over his body, looking for anything out of place. The Nephilim pushed his hair out of his face and shifted his feet, uncomfortable under his scrutiny.

"Do I have sometime on me?" Alec asked.

Magnus chuckled and stepped out of the doorway, allowing Alec into the apartment. "Just making sure you're in one piece."

"Oh," Alec said. He shifted his feet again. "I didn't do anything stupid, if that's what you're asking." He paused. "I didn't hurt myself."

Magnus smiled softly. He stepped forward and gently cupped Alec's face in his hands. Alec tipped his cheek to one side, moving into the touch. Magnus's heart fluttered at the gesture. He quickly kissed him, closed mouth on the lips before pulling away.

Alec blushed.

"I'm glad," Magnus said.

"Can I put these down here?" Alec asked, gesturing at the bow and arrows and seraph blade that he was pulling away from his body.

Magnus took them out of his hands and placed them against the couch. "You don't have to ask, darling."

Alec blushed again and Magnus felt himself drowning in the cuteness of it all. But before he could get lost in the beauty of the young man in front of him, he had to ask, "Are you all right?"

The teenager sighed and Magnus pulled him into the couch. Alec seemed unable to move around the apartment with any agency, instead waiting for Magnus give him permission.

"James is with his family."

"I never doubted that," Magnus said, knowing that Alec wouldn't be here if the child wasn't safe.

Alec's eyes shone sadly. "It was like looking into a mirror of the past. And I don't want James to look back at me and see the mess he has to look forward to."

Magnus felt his heart breaking all over again. Since meeting Alec, his heart was being pulled between complete adoration and despair at startling speeds. "You are not a mess, Alec. You are brave and honest and I know you are going to be there for this child."

Alec buried his head in his hands, his body shaking. Magnus placed a hand gently on his shoulder. He felt Alec's body shudder under the touch but he didn't protest as Magnus drew him in, his arms wrapping around him. Alec let his head rest against Magnus's chest as the warlock rubbed gentle circles into his back.

"If I had said something before, James wouldn't be hurting now," Alec sobbed.

Magnus suppressed a growl at the burden the teenager was placing on himself. "This is not on you," he said firmly, leaving no room for argument. "Manson hurt James. Manson hurt you. This is not on you. You were a child, terrified and confused. You cannot place this on you, Alec. I won't let you." It was the most forceful Magnus had been with Alec. If anything, Magnus would love to place some of the blame on Alec's parents but he wasn't going to voice that.

Alec mumbled into Magnus's chest and Magnus drew him back. "What, darling?"

The shadowhunter brushed away tears and nodded. "I'll try."

"Good," Magnus said. "Now, where is the bastard?"

Alec leaned back, drawing his fingers through his hair absently. "He's probably in Clave custody now. I left him with Jace and Izzy when I took James back to his family."

"Excellent," Magnus said. "Now, have you eaten anything since the few bites you had this morning?"

Alec shook his head. Magnus got to his feet, thinking of what he could literally whip together when Alec stopped him. He was standing up, a hand placed on Magnus's shoulder. "Wait."

Magnus looked at him and noticed him biting his bottom lip nervously.

"What is it darling?" Magnus loved calling the Nephilim darling and watching his cheeks flush.

"Thank you."

"You don't have to," he started but Alec stopped him, stepping closer to him and brushing his lips against his shyly, his nervousness and hesitation plainly visible. Magnus's heart stuttered, his nerves lighting up at the slightest touch. He wrapped his arms around the younger man's waist and pulled him in, deepening the kiss. Alec finally pulled his lips away and Magnus could hear the pounding of the other man's heart.

"I have only gotten to know you over the last six days and yet, I have never felt safer as I do here with you. It seems so insane," he whispered, like saying it any louder would make it untrue.

"I have lived for centuries, Alec. At some point, I think I settled into the idea that there was nothing wonderful left. That I have experienced all that there is to experience. Sometimes, I feel like I put on these parties to feel alive, not calcified, like I'm frozen while everything around me continues moving."

Alec stared up into his eyes, his hands clutching Magnus's shirt. Magnus was almost terrified that he was being this open with the Nephilim.

"But you, you make me feel alive again. So, yeah, it's pretty insane that in six mere days, you have captured me but I'm just going to go with it," Magnus said, ending his speech with a smile. "Now, about food," he added.

Alec shook his head, looking at him shyly again. "I think we've done this all wrong. I mean, I know I've only recently decided to start to accept my...my sexuality but I'm pretty sure we've done this all backwards."

"Do explain," Magnus said, his arms still wrapped around the slightly smaller man.

"I mean, I spent the night at your place first, we ate meals at your place, you hung out with my friends and after all that, we kissed. I'm pretty sure these things usually start with a date."

"Are you asking me out, dear Nephilim?"

Alec blushed. "I guess I am. Maybe we can exchange money for food the traditional way this time."

"And he jokes," Magnus said, beaming, remembering their conversation from the morning about Magnus magically transporting food. "I like that idea." He paused, trying to think of a good restaurant. "We'll avoid any Nephilim-frequented joints for the first date."

Alec nodded, gratefully.

"I know this wonderful Ethiopian-Italian restaurant," he started but then shook his head. "Nevermind, they might not take too kindly to me bringing a Nephilim there."

"Why not?" Alec asked.

"Well, it's run by Downwolders."

Alec looked at him confused. "Taki's is too and we go there all the time."

"Well, dear, not all Downwolders are so trusting of your kind."

Alec frowned. "I would never..."

Magnus waved aside Alec's naivety towards his Nephilim privilege. "I know but I think we'll try a mundane place today. I know this delicious Indian place down the street from here."

The teenager nodded and looked down at his clothes. "Do you think I can use your shower before we go?" He bit his bottom lip. Magnus's heart skipped a beat again. He adored his cute mannerisms.

"Of course, darling."

xxxxxx

When Alec stepped out of the shower, he put on his black pants and top, leaving behind the leather vest and holsters that he wore when he went hunting. He felt slightly uncomfortable, wishing for his oversized sweaters and loose jeans. He was not used to wearing the fitted top without his vest and he never wore the fitted pants when he wasn't hunting demons.

"Well, you look just delicious," said Magnus, who was leaning by the door, looking stunning despite (or enhanced by, Alec thought fleetingly) the loudness of his clothes and glitter in his hair. He was dressed in a deep purple shirt with silver studs adorning the collar, tucked into fitted white jeans, a studded belt and white sneakers.

Alec felt his face heat up and it only made him flush more with embarrassment. He doubted his pale skin would ever conceal the heat when Magnus complimented him or when he thought about how beautiful Magnus was.

"All you need is a hint of color." Magnus snapped his fingers, a long navy blue scarf appearing in his hands. Alec started to protest as Magnus wrapped it around his neck. "Oh come on, it's almost black itself. But just enough blue to make your already stunning eyes pop more."

Alec instantly felt his body stiffen, his eyes snapping shut instinctively. He hated his eyes.

He felt lips brush against the corner of his left eye and then his right. "Alec, darling, open your eyes."

Alec scrunched them tighter. Magnus's thumbs brushed away a stray tear before it ran down his face. "I don't like my eyes, Magnus."

"Babe," Magnus started and Alec felt his heart stammer at the term of endearment despite his anguish. "You're eyes are beautiful."

He turned his face away. "If they weren't blue, maybe Manson wouldn't have..."

"You can't live in ifs and maybes, Alec. And you can't let him take away the things that belong to you. Open your eyes, please."

Reluctantly, Alec opened his eyes and forced himself to look at Magnus.

"Your eyes belong to you, Alec, not him. Just like your sexuality and your body and your voice belong to you. He may of held them hostage for a while but he can't anymore Alec. You are in control, not him."

Alec nodded and tried to push the unwanted feelings aside. He wanted so badly to make Magnus's words true in his mind. The rational part of him knew that Magnus was right but that didn't make it any easier to believe it.

He forced a smile on his face as Magnus opened the door leading out of the loft. "Let's talk about something else," Alec said as the two made there way down the stairs.

The mid-afternoon sun shone brightly on the autumn day and a slight gust of wind ruffled the colorful leaves of the season as some of them floated to the ground. Magnus led them down the street until they reached a small restaurant between a used books store and a Duane Reade. On the outside, the restaurant looked less than inviting but as soon as they entered, soft melodic music and an aroma of spices filled the small colorfully decorated space.

"Table for two," Magnus said to the woman standing behind the bar.

"Pick a table," she replied, gesturing to the empty restaurant.

Magnus took a hold of Alec's hand and led him into the room. Alec blushed, his fingers tingling at how nice it felt to hold Magnus's hand. The two boys settled into a booth in the far end of the restaurant and quickly ordered two lassis.

"The place is usually packed for dinner," Magnus said, as if he needed to justify his choice in restaurant. "And a lot of their business is delivery."

Alec smiled as he opened the menu. He was almost glad for the empty place. It felt like a easy first step into the world of dating. He was already used to eating with just Magnus after all.

An older woman arrived at their table after a few minutes with two sweet lassis and smiled at Magnus. "It's nice to see you, Magnus. The usual for you?"

Magnus nodded, smiling brightly. Alec was so lost in the smile that he barely heard the woman speaking to him.

"And for you, young man?" she repeated.

Alec felt his face heat up. "I'll have the lamb vindaloo lunch special."

"So, what's the usual?" Alec asked, trying to act nonchalant.

"Curried Indian tiger."

Alec blinked, staring at the warlock. "Aren't those endangered?"

Magnus chuckled. "You're just so cute!"

Alec crossed his arms over his chest, trying not to pout. "You were joking."

"Yes, darling, you are going to be a lot of fun to spend time with."

"I just don't know with you," Alec huffed, taking another sip of his lassi.

When the food arrived, Alec saw that Magnus had ordered masala dosa, a thin fermented crepe stuffed with a potato filling and small side dishes.

The two boys ended up sharing the food and Alec felt so content, even as Magnus continued to try to tease him.

Before they got up to leave, Alec left cash on the table. When Magnus protested, Alec shook his head. "You've fed and housed me on more than one occasion in the last week," he said simply.

They walked back to Magnus's apartment in content silence. Alec stopped in front of the building. "I should get home. I'm sure Izzy and Jace want to make sure I haven't done anything stupid," he said with a sigh. "I mean, I did text them but..."

"They really care about you," Magnus finished.

"Yeah," Alec said. "I wish they didn't treat me like glass but I get it."

Magnus snapped his fingers and Alec jerked at the sudden weight on him. He was back in his vest and gear and his weapons were secured in place. "Eventually, you'll get used to the magic," Magnus said, smiling.

Alec's heart raced at the simple words. It was the second time he said something that implied that he wanted to keep seeing him. He wasn't just being nice because Alec was desperate for a place to stay.

"What?" Magnus said, looking at Alec's expression curiously.

Alec smiled nervously. "Maybe..." He shifted his feet, his fingers absently fiddling with the hilt of his blade. "I mean...if you're free sometime..." Blush quickly rushed to his cheeks and he cursed internally.

"I have clients all morning and afternoon tomorrow but I'm free in the evening," Magnus said, pulling his hand away from his seraph blade and pulling him close. He brushed his lips against his.

"I can do that," Alec said. He would just bring his hunting gear in case he got a call about a demon.

He quickly returned Magnus's chaste kiss with a more urgent one, feeling exhilarated by his growing confidence. Magnus cupped his cheeks drawing him closer than he thought possible, their tongues seeming to fight for dominance.

When they pulled apart, Alec realized that they were on the street and not in Magnus's loft. His eyes darted around, noticing two woman walking by. They didn't pay attention to the two boys and Alec let out a nervous laugh.

"We're not doing anything wrong, Alec," Magnus said, squeezing his hands.

Alec nodded and smiled softly, pecking him on the lips one more time. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"I look forward to it," Magnus replied, his cat-eyes sparkling brightly.

xxxxxx

Jace sat on the bench in the greenhouse, staring absently at the still water in the small pool.

Both Lightwood parents had arrived soon after Alec left with two other members of the Clave. They took Manson away, leaving Jace feeling oddly empty, like he'd rather watch the man bleed out from his privates until he died than hand him over to the Clave. He shuddered and pushed the thought away.

He had been slouched on the bench in the greenhouse for hours now, lost in his thoughts and thinking about finding Alec when he heard the door to the greenhouse open. He looked up to see Alec walking into the warm room, still wearing his hunting gear from the morning.

"I thought I would find you here," Alec said as he walked into the center of the greenhouse, stopping across the pool from Jace.

Jace straightened his back, his eyes instantly assessing Alec even though he couldn't see any possible damage underneath his long sleeves and pants.

Alec sighed. He pushed his hair out of his eyes. "Don't worry, I didn't do anything stupid."

Jace tried to reduce the intensity of his stare. He wanted to believe Alec but after so many years of hiding secrets, he wondered how hard it would be for Alec to break the habit.

"Where have you been?" The minute he said it, he realized how demanding he sounded. "I was just wondering," he added. He tried to sound nonchalant and not give away the fact that he was about to bring Alec's favorite sweater to Magnus to track him down. Then again, he would have probably found him with the warlock, he thought absently.

"If I stay in here much longer my eyes are going to get itching," Alec said instead of answering his question. "But um...well, there's something I want to do and..." He ran his hand through his hair again. "I was going to do it alone but I'm trying to remember that I'm not alone. So, if you have time..."

"I have time," Jace said, maybe too eagerly. "What do you need to do?"

"Can you meet me outside the Institute in 10 minutes?"

Jace nodded. "See you in 10."

xxxxxx

Jace was leaning against a wall outside the Institute when Alec came out, a satchel slung across his torso. Alec didn't offer any explanation about where they were going and Jace didn't ask any questions.

Instead, Alec asked about Clary and Jace followed Alec while talking about his relationship with the newly discovered shadowhunter.

Finally, after walking for about twenty minutes uptown, Alec stopped in front of a boarded up apartment building sandwiched between a Catholic church and another, occupied walk-up.

"We should put on glamours," Alec said. After the they were sufficiently invisible to any mundanes, Alec swung his arms up and jumped, grabbing onto the bottom end of the fire escape and pulling himself up until his feet were secured on the rungs of the ladder.

Jace wanted to ask questions but instead he repeated Alec's motions and followed him up the fire escape until they reached the roof.

"Are you bringing me here to commit a crime?" Jace said lightly.

Alec laughed awkwardly and pulled out a six-pack of beer from his satchel. "Not unless you count underaged drinking," he said.

Jace stared at the older teen, flabbergasted, as he handed him a cold bottle of Coors. "I don't know what's more shocking...that you cracked a joke or that you brought beer. Have you even had beer before?"

Alec walked to the edge of the roof and used his keys to open the beer before tossing the keys to Jace. "I come here sometimes to be alone...get away," Alec said, staring out into the city below them, the setting sun draping soft oranges, yellows and reds over the concrete jungle. "It used to be a vampire nest decades ago, so there are residual glamours up that prevent mundanes from tearing it down or squatting. But vampires aren't interested in it anymore and neither are any other Downwolders or Nephilim for that matter, so yeah..."

Jace walked over to him. "How do you know this stuff?"

Alec shrugged. "I read a lot."

"Must be some obscure shit, Alec," Jace said as he took a swig of his beer.

Alec gulped down some of his own but made a face. "This stuff tastes like shit."

"That's because Coors is shit."

Alec shrugged and took another swig. "I just grabbed whatever was in front at the store."

"How the hell did you buy it?"

"Glamour," Alec said sheepishly.

"You stole them?" Jace didn't know if he could be more surprised by his behavior.

"I left money on the counter when the guy wasn't looking."

"I'm impressed."

Alec shrugged his shoulders again and turned away from the view. On the far end was a dented and rusted metal trashcan chained to the roof. Alec pulled out some newspapers from his bag and threw it into the can before lighting it on fire with a lighter.

"Are we going to sing hobo songs and drink beers by the fire? It is going to get chilly when the sun goes down," Jace joked.

Alec leaned against the shed that led into the building, staring at the fire as it licked up the sides of the trashcan.

Jace dropped the smile, watching the pensive look on his brother's face.

"I would come up here when things were really bad. I would look out into the city and think about stepping over the edge."

Jace felt like his heart was halting. He gripped the beer bottle tightly, trying not to react too strongly.

"I never did," Alec said. "Obviously. I mean, I probably would have just broken a bunch of bones and ended up in the infirmary for weeks. Instead, I'd light a fire and watch the flames and..." He paused and pulled his eyes away from the fire, looking off into distance, purposely avoiding Jace. "I would bring a razor here."

Finally he looked at Jace. Jace wanted nothing more than to grab Alec and drag him away from this place. Maybe let it burn to the ground.

"Jace, I want to close this chapter in my life," he said.

Jace nodded earnestly.

"I mean I know that I can't literally put this all behind me. There's going to be a trial. And it's not like my mind is just going to suddenly stop having nightmares or flashbacks or whatever but I guess I need to do something symbolic."

"Like what?" Jace finally said.

Alec pulled out a few straight razors and a dagger from his satchel and threw them in the fire. "Those are all the things I used to hurt myself with."

Jace walked over to the trashcan, standing just across from Alec. "I'll buy you some gillette razors," Jace said. "Much closer shave than this old-fashioned shit anyway." He tried to smile but it faltered.

Alec chuckled softly, bringing an actual smile to Jace's face. "Sounds good."

Next, he pulled out the small wooden box that Jace knew contained horrific pictures of a ruined childhood.

"Wait Alec," Jace started.

Alec looked at Jace. "What?"

Jace didn't want to be insensitive but he didn't want to take any chances. "That's evidence, Alec," he said softly.

Alec visibly flinched and looked away, staring at the disappearing sun. "They are going to use the soul-sword on me, Jace." He was shaking at the thought, his long lashes hiding his eyes. "I can't...if these are in the Clave's hands, I might never get them back and then they will never be destroyed and I'll never know who else will see them. I..." There was catch in his voice. "I don't want anyone else to see them, Jace."

The pleading in his voice was breaking his heart and even though he didn't want to destroy any evidence against Manson he knew he could not deny Alec this release. And Alec was right. Both Manson and Alec were going to be forced to reveal the truth under the sword. He would go under the sword too if that would save Alec from more pain but he knew the Clave would want to hear from Alec.

So he nodded and watched as Alec opened the box and tipped it upside down, letting the photos flutter into the fire. Jace didn't look into the can, not wanting to sear anymore images into his mind than he already had. Instead he watched Alec. His parabatai stared into the can, as if seeing the images curl up and turn into ash would somehow burn the memories out of his mind. He tossed the box in after the pictures and finally pulled his eyes away from the can and looked at the younger teen.

"There's something else I need to do before I can...before I can try to start fresh."

"What?" Jace asked earnestly.

Alec stepped away from the trashcan and walked over the the edge of the roof. He sat down, his back pressed against the parapet. Jace settled down beside him and both boys just watch the flames flicker around the edge of the can.

"I need to tell you some truths, Jace. Things that I've been too scared to talk about with you. But I think I have to say them...even though it terrifies me."

Jace felt his heart start to race. Was Alec going to actually be open with him without Jace accidentally discovering it?

Alec closed his eyes. He drew his knees up to his chest and rested his chin against them, his eyes still following the flames.

"You can tell me anything, Alec."

Alec lifted his head, shaking it softly. Finally he turned to look at Jace. His face was chalk white, his messy black hair stark against his skin and his blue eyes, shining brightly. "I like Magnus," he finally said, his voice barely a whisper.

Jace nodded. "I know."

Alec shook his head, almost frustrated by his calm reaction, as if he expected something else. "I mean, I like him as more than a friend."

Jace knew this was Alec attempting to come out to him but Jace already knew. "I know, Alec."

The older teenager gaped at Jace, his eyes wide and confused. "What do you mean you know?"

The blonde Nephilim shrugged his shoulders. "In just the two times I've seen you guys together, I can see that you like each other. And I won't lie, it scares me a little."

Alec flinched and looked away. "Because you think I'm disgusting," he said, his voice shaking.

Jace quickly realized how Alec might have taken his comment. "No!" Jace exclaimed, grabbing Alec by his upper arm and pulling him back. Alec tried to jerk away and Jace let go.

"Damn it, Alec," he said. "That's not what I meant. I don't care who you like or who you date. I'm just kinda paranoid and he's a much older, powerful warlock and you're a teenager who's dealt with a lot of bad shit and..."

He paused, knowing that Alec might take what he was about to say the wrong way. "I don't want him to take advantage of you, okay."

Alec blinked, not knowing how to react. "So, you don't care if I'm gay?"

"Of course not! My sexuality is no better or worse than your sexuality, Alec. It's our society that needs the reality check."

Alec just stared at him, flabbergasted.

"What? Did you expect me to be a raging homophobe?" he asked, feeling almost offended.

"I don't know...I'm barely able to accept myself, so how am I supposed to expect someone else to?"

"Alec, I care more about you than I care about myself, all right? You, Izzy, Max, you're my family. And if someone is going to give you shit about being gay, they'll have to answer to me."

Alec leaned his head back and stared into the moonless sky, the light pollution making it impossible to see any stars in the city. "Magnus...he's not taking advantage of me. I have never felt more alive than when I'm with him. And yeah, that scares me on so many levels but I'm not made of glass, Jace."

He sighed and looked at Jace. "If all this "bad shit", as you call it, hadn't happened to me, you wouldn't feel worried about Magnus taking advantage of me."

"You're probably right, Alec. But I can't turn off my feelings. I refuse to stand by and let you get hurt again, whether you like it or not and if that means I'm a little bit paranoid, that's something we're both going to have to accept."

Alec stood up and walked over to the other end of the roof, facing the Bronx. The parapet stopped just below his knees and Jace had the irrational desire to pull Alec away from the ledge, even though he knew that Alec wasn't suicidal or unable to maintain balance. Jace could only see his back, his muscles tense.

"There's something else I need to tell you Jace," he said. His voice was distant and scared, as if it was escaping into the abyss in front of Alec. The flicker of the fire crackled softly.

Jace sat silently, waiting.

"When we were kids...just before...just before Manson came...I started realizing that there was something different about me. I mean, I think I always felt different but I didn't know why until..."

He paused, running trembling fingers through his hair. "I..." He kicked a rock absently. "Nevermind," he muttered.

"You thought you liked me," Jace said, standing up.

Alec spun around, his eyes shining. "What are you talking about?" he said, his voice hoarse. "How...?"

"I don't think I got it back then but I put the pieces together eventually. I used to think you hated me for a little while. You would look at me and if I looked back, you would almost flinch like I'd caught you doing something wrong and look away. And then you started avoiding me."

"Jace," Alec started.

"Listen, I can't even begin to understand what it was like for you. It's unfair that I was allowed to openly develop and express my sexuality without fear or anxiety while you were not. So, you liked me. I don't care, Alec. I was safe, I get that. You could like me and not have to worry about ever having to actually deal with your feelings."

"When the hell did you become so wise?"

"I've always been wise," Jace said, smirking. "You all just choose not to see it."

Alec rolled his eyes and turned away from Jace again. "It didn't last long," he said. "Maybe if things had turned out differently, I'd still be dealing with liking you."

"What things?" Jace asked.

"Manson."

Jace's eyes darkened as he walked over to his parabatai.

"He noticed and he used it." Alec shuddered. "He...he would say horrible things about how he knew I liked it...because of the way he saw me looking at you," he whispered.

Jace felt like a cold hand was squeezing his heart at Alec spoke.

"And I started to think that what Manson was doing to me was my punishment for my feelings."

Jace wanted to scream at the cruel world they lived in. How could someone so loyal and kind be put through so much pain? He placed his hands gently on Alec's shoulders and turned him around so that they facing each other.

"Alec, you know that that's not true, right?"

The older boy's eyes shone with tears that slowly ran down his cheeks. "Rationally, I know that. And Magnus and Izzy have helped. I just, I needed to tell you. You've known about Manson for so long and I've been closed off with you about it because there were all these secrets I've kept from you."

Jace drew Alec in, wrapping his arms around the taller boy. "Alec, none of this changes how I feel about you. How important you are to me."

He felt Alec nodding into his shoulder before he pulled back. He pushed back his hair and smiled softly. "Thank you."

"There's nothing to thank me for. I didn't do anything special. I'm selfish, Alec. I could not survive without my brother, my parabatai." He shoved him playfully. "I love your sorry ass and you can't get rid me so easily. I'm like a parasite."

"More like a symbiont," Alec said, smiling more broadly, his body more relaxed.

"A what?"

"Symbionts are organisms that have a mutually beneficial relationship."

Jace rolled his eyes. "You're such a fucking nerd."

Alec laughed. "I guess parabatai works too."

"Much better," said Jace.

Alec looked back at the trashcan. The flames had died down, no longer licking up the sides and over the rim. "Let's get out of here before Izzy starts sending out a search party," he said. He grabbed the bottles of beers they drank and threw them into the trashcan from a distance.

"You're good?" Jace asked, watching his brother carefully.

"I'm better. Thanks for coming here with me."

xxxxxx

The boys silently descended the fire escape. Alec reached the ground first, his satchel significantly lighter than when they arrived. He adjusted it absently as he waited for Jace.

He felt like a massive weight had been lifted off of him.

So much had happened in the last six days.

And much of it was filled with unbearable pain.

But yet, he felt lighter. He had let go of so many secrets. He was learning to accept himself and be open to the people who loved and cared for him.

Jace landed gracefully beside Alec.

"You're not coming back here, right?"

Alec looked up one more time. He thought about the times he sat on the roof, razor in hand. He thought about the blades and pictures burning, the ash from the photos coating the razors. He thought about what they represented and suppressed a shiver.

He focused on himself instead and on the strength he drew from his siblings and Magnus and he nodded. "I'm done with this place," he said, knowing that he was referring to more than just the abandoned vampire nest.

It wasn't going to be easy but he was stronger than he ever thought possible and he wasn't alone.

The two boys walked away from building. Jace was talking mindlessly about Izzy's annoying cooking habits when Alec turned his head back quickly, the building no longer in sight. He felt a surge of hope, something he hand't felt since the first night Manson came into his room.

"Were you listening to a thing I said?" Jace asked, exasperated.

Alec shook his head absently and smiled. He was ready for a new beginning.