Alec loved the library
For being in New York this library was a quiet one with hardly any patrons beyond the older ladies and gentlemen quietly drifting around to find something to catch their attention. Hodge let Alec have his escape as long as he kept up with his studies. Alec flew through the lessons like he was drifting through a gust of wind. He was smart, though he was quiet. His mother often worried at the fact that he had never had another boy to call his friend. He always insisted that Izzy was his best friend anyways, and who could want a better friend than Isabelle Lightwood? His sister had grown up quickly to be a gorgeous girl, though less focused than her brother. She was vivacious, could sing like an angel, and made friends with whoever she met. She always wanted to go out and see the world around them while Alec was happy doing that through stories.
The only other person he could call a friend was someone his parents didn’t exactly know about since they never stayed long enough to ask. The old librarian that ran the children’s section of the library had become his very unlikely, but very close, friend. Every morning he was sitting at the desk and greeted Alec warmly. (Good morning Mr. Lightwood, how are we this morning?) His hair was already white, but his smile was kind and made him look years younger. He always knew exactly what book Alec would like and often had a pile waiting for him to read. (These came in this morning Alec, and as our best customer I thought you should get first pick. The three on top you should like a lot) He had sweets in his pockets for the children that came in, and Alec dared to think he might be his favorite of all the other children with their loud and bright personalities. Mr. Gamberly was the kind of man that always made you feel as if you mattered, no matter how small you were They talked quietly through the afternoons every Friday. Fridays were the slowest day at the library and the older librarian, Mr. Gamberly, had the time to sit and talk with him. Alec told him everything, even when he was too old to still be sitting on the tiny chairs around tiny tables. Mr. Gamberly never minded when Alec rambled about the latest book he had read or ranted about an awful ending an author had done. He never had anyone listen to him the way the librarian did. Mr Gamberly, or George as Alec was told to call him after a few years, quickly became his best friend in the tiny world Alec lived in.
When Alec was eighteen he walked in the library on a Friday morning, dropped off his due books and greeted the front desk ladies before making his way to the second floor in the back right corner where the colors were brighter and the stories much more fun, to see a woman sitting at George’s desk. She looked stern, and was snapping at the kids on the story mat to be quiet when there was nobody else on the floor. Alec bit his lip and wondered just what had happened to George. It wasn’t as if the man had never taken a day off, but it was never on a Friday.
“Excuse me,” Alec said softly as he approached the desk. The woman looked up at his tall frame and narrowed her eyes. “Can you tell me what happened to Geo – I mean Mr. Gamberly? He normally runs this desk every day.”
“Why are you so concerned what happens in the children’s section?” The woman’s voice had a tone of accusation to it as she tucked a piece of her thinning and frizzy red hair behind her ear. She wore thick glasses and had sprayed perfume that nearly made Alec gag. “Aren’t you a little old to be skulking around here?”
“I was asking about a book for my brother,” Alec snapped, not liking the older woman’s tone. When her expression didn’t change from the wrinkled, disgusted expression donning her face he felt the impulse to add. “My very sick, dying from cancer, brother.”
“Mr. Gamberly has taken ill.” The older woman’s expression cleared suddenly. “I’d be happy to help you.”
“No thanks,” Alec said snarkily and stalked away and out of the building. No use being there with such a toxic woman. George would be back soon, of course he would. He must have caught a cold, or maybe the flu. Alec would be sure to bring him some of the really nice teas they had in the pantry. He felt awful lying about his perfectly healthy brother, but that woman could use a major attitude adjustment. He couldn’t wait for George to start feeling better.
It had been a month and George hadn’t been seen since. Alec had no claim to the older man so he knew nothing about his condition or what was wrong. All he could get from anyone was that George was ill. No return date, no information, nothing. It was maddening to him. He had lost his safe haven and it had been taken over by the old woman who obviously had great distaste for children.
It was another few months before Alec made himself go back to the library, and this time it really was for his little brother. Max skipped along at his side, completely oblivious to his brother’s distress. The smell of the library was as familiar to him as his mother’s perfume, and yet the safe feeling he had always gotten from it was gone. The quiet settled over them like a blanket as they passed through the main lobby. Alec kept his gaze down locked on the white tiles that decorated the floor. He never would have seen it had the stranger not roughly hit his shoulder and caused him to stumble. Alec looked up and felt his breath completely leave him.
On the table where new releases sat each and every week sat a picture of George Gamberly with a tiny plaque that read, “in remembrance of a beloved librarian serving us for over fifty years.” The rest of it was already things Alec knew years before from their Friday chats. George had passed away three weeks before and Alec had never even gotten to say goodbye.
“Are you coming, Alec?” Max was bouncing on his toes at the foot of the stairs. “We gotta hurry or we’re going to miss Mom and Dad. Hodge said they’d’ be home at six.”
“Hodge always says they’re coming home,” Alec said numbly, not being able to tear his gaze away from George’s picture. “They never actually do. Mom and Dad aren’t coming home, Max. They never come home anymore.”
“Hodge promised they were,” Max stubbornly insisted. “You might not like Dad, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t coming home. I want to be there, let’s go!”
“Fine, I’m coming,” Alec forced his feet to move towards the large staircase. He felt a keen sense of loss, and yet as if he had no right to feel such loss. He hadn’t known George all that well after all. They had always spent so much time talking about him and his life that he had never bothered to really learn about his closest confidante. George was the first person he told about liking boys, even before his sister. George had helped him find books he could relate to, and he helped him to stop hating himself quite so much. The old librarian listened to his complaints about his father without ever putting his father down once, and even encouraging him to find forgiveness for him.
He fought to keep his emotion under control as they entered the children’s floor with the familiar posters and pictures lining the walls. Alec braced himself for the quiet morgue-like feeling that had come over the place since George had been gone. The place hadn’t been the same and Alec had kept wishing it would go back to the place of his childhood.Now he knew it never would, not without Mr. Gamberly.
At the first giggle Alec stopped dead once more. He looked around to see who had actually gotten away with laughing out loud with dragon lady in charge. Max had already abandoned him in favor of seeking out a few books to keep himself busy with. He shook his head and told himself he must have imagined it. He wandered through the shelves with memories assaulting him relentlessly.
George was the father to him that his own never could have been. He had helped him after his father had torn him to pieces and told him he was unfit to be his son because of things he couldn’t control. It was the first time Robert had discovered his son’s sexual preferences via a library book titled Aristotle and Dante discover the Secrets of the Universe. It had been talked about in the news recently or something, and somehow Robert knew exactly what it was about. He had demanded to know why his son was reading a book like that. Alec had not known better than to just tell him the truth. He had no clue Robert would proceed to start tearing pages out of the book and screaming that no son of his would ever be gay. No son of his would dare to like men and be so disgusting. Alec wasn’t living up to being a Lightwood, and that wasn’t acceptable. His feelings were unnatural and wrong. There was something wrong with him, and Robert refused to speak to him until he fixed it.
Alec remembered meticulously gathering each and every page to put back in the book. He had cried walking to the library to return it in pieces. George had found him at the front desk trying to explain to the ladies at the desk what happened through his tears. The older man had paid for the book without being asked and led Alec to a private back room to calm him down. He had hugged Alec the way his father always should have and told him that there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. The way he felt was natural and love was always a beautiful thing. He wasn’t sure he would have made it through the fall out with his father without George.
He was broken suddenly from his thoughts by peals of laughter from the mat in the corner that was used for stories on Friday afternoons. Alec himself had read a few to the assembled children when George had had extra tasks to do. He wondered what had changed the old woman’s mind, but then he saw the man reading the story to them and a smile grew over his face. The man looked just like a character out of a storybook himself. Every inch of him was covered in color, bright and vibrant. His hair glimmered under the lights with glitter shining in it and also across his eyelids every time he bent his gaze down to peer at the book he held in one hand. He was leaping around and acting out parts as he read them to make the kids giggle at parts and gasp at others. He was the perfect person to be acting out stories to a bunch of kids on a Friday afternoon.
Alec couldn’t help the smile spreading across his face. The story ended shortly after Alec started observing to scattered, enthusiastic applause from the children amidst whining for another story. Alec saw the man laugh and say something to the tiny kids whose heads barely reached his knees before gesturing his way. Alec froze in place and felt his face heating up as the man transformed from a fairytale character to the most attractive man Alec had ever seen. Despite having known he liked boys for years now, he had yet to attract the attention of any sort of man. The gold glimmer across the man’s eyelids made his eye smolder as they gazed at Alec curiously.
“Hi, can I help you out with something?” The man wore a small smile and an earnest, open expression.
“I-um,” Alec struggled to find words as his brain seemed to turn off completely. “I’m here with my brother.”
“Were you two looking for something in particular?” Alec’s eyes focused on the man’s hands next as his rings glittered when he moved a hand to straighten a few books next to them. Alec couldn’t say what was wrong with him as he found himself incapable of forming sentences.
“You’re gorgeous,” Alec heard the words but couldn’t recall saying them. It was the only thought he could make sense of in the last five minutes, but it wasn’t something you ever said out loud to a complete stranger. The man looked a little taken aback, but before he could say anything a tiny voice piped up to save Alec from combusting out of embarrassment.
“Can you help me find these?” Max appeared at the man’s elbow shoving a list towards him. His tiny arms were fit to burst with manga and comics already.
“You do know you only get these for about a week or so, right?” Alec asked his brother with a smirk. Max glared at him through his large frames.
.“You do know I read one or two of these a day, right?” Max returned his attention to the gorgeous man who was watching them with a smile.
“Follow me, I know right where we can find these,” The man led Max away in the maze of twisting shelves. Alec leaned against a wall and tried not to let his face heat up. He had never met a man so intriguing as the one now apparently in charge of the children’s section. He wandered over to the desk that had now changed hands three times. All traces of the horrible lady were gone and replaced with colorful items and pictures One was the man holding a tiny white kitten as he wore an adoring expression. Another was the man standing in the middle of another man with green hair and a girl with shining white hair tumbling down her back. The three of them were standing in front of the empire state building. The frame was a cheesy one from a gift store reading ‘Welcome to NY’. The man was apparently new in town, and also called Mr. Bane as the plaque read that glimmered with faint traces of glitter as well somehow.
“Are you gonna get it soon? My tutor wants me to read these by next Friday!” The two had returned from their journey with only two books in hand instead of the required three.
“I can order it, don’t worry. I’ll have that book here by Monday.” Mr. Bane easily settled behind his desk and pulled up his computer. Max stood impatiently waiting and nearly dropped the books he was balancing.
“You need to put some of those back,” Alec told him firmly. “We’re going to have to come back Monday anyways. You’re never going to read all of those.”
“Fine,” Max said with a huff as he stalked back to where he had found so many treasures.
“He’s adorable,” Mr. Bane commented now that they were alone at last. “How old is he?”
“Nearly ten, as he keeps reminding everyone he can. He’s way too excited to be in double digits if you ask me. That’s when it all starts going downhill.” Alec was immensely proud of himself for getting through all of that without stuttering or saying anything stupid. He ran a finger over the plaque with the glimmering name. “Are you new to New York Mr. Bane?”
“Oh God, that sounds so weird coming from you.” Mr. Bane wrinkled his nose. “It’s one thing when kids do it, but you’re far too attractive to call me Mr. Bane. Call me Magnus.”
“R-right, well, um, are you new to New York, M-Magnus?” Alec was back to stuttering at the unexpected compliment. Magnus followed his gaze which had drifted back to the photo of the three friends.
“Ah, yes I am. My friends insisted I needed the classic picture complete with the frame.” Magnus hit a button with finality and leaned back in his chair. “I have your book all ordered for your brother…”
“Alec,” It took him a few extra moments to force his attention past the captivating eyes once more focused on him. “I’m Alec.”
“Alec Lightwood?” Magnus sat up straight once more and looked at him with rapt attention.
“Actually yes, that would be me.” Alec was lost as to Magnus’s sudden sharp interest as he inhaled sharply and dug around in the bottom drawer of the desk. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to him.“This is for you. I heard it’s from Mr. Gamberly, the guy who used to work here.” Magnus watched as Alec’s hands shook while taking it. Alec could hardly breathe as he stared at his mentor’s familiar handwriting. He no longer felt Magnus’s gaze as all his attention went to the envelope he held in his hands. His breathing had become short and tears burned the back of his eyes.
“Were you close with him? All the ladies downstairs didn’t seem surprised he had left you something.”
“Yes, he was a very close friend of mine.” Alec got out somehow and only hoped it sounded clear enough to be understood. He opened it hastily and found a check inside along with a letter. He glanced at the check long enough to see that it was a fair amount of money before focusing on the letter. The last words he would ever hear from the man who had raised him more than his own father had.
I’m sorry I have to be writing this. I’m even sorrier you’re finding out like this. You’ve been like a son to me, and I loved you as much as I ever would have loved any child I may have had. I have had testicular cancer for years, and it looked like things were squared away and that it was never going to haunt me again.
Then I went to the doctor for some routine scans and discovered the worst.It came back violently and without relent.
I had no time to tell you what was going on so I hope you forgive me for finding out this way.I wanted to let you know that you made the last twelve years of my life absolutely wonderful. Through days of frustration and pain as only adults feel you made them better, so much better. You’re so kind, thoughtful, and bright. I hope you never let Robert bring you down.So in fear of rambling on I just wanted to tell you one thing while I still can.
Be happy Alexander. Please find someone or something to make deliriously happy. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If you find what makes you heart sing, then you chase it with everything you got. I know you love your family and want to make them happy. But let me tell you it isn’t worth it Alec if you aren’t happy. They will learn to be happy for you, I promise you that lad. If they don’t, then please learn to respect their opinion but don’t let it dictate your life. If the thing I refer to above is a man, well he’s a lucky guy I can tell you that much. There is nothing wrong with the way you love, remember that always. Your heart is so big and so pure that it could fill up the library a few times over.
Thank you for everything Alexander Lightwood. You changed my life in so many ways, and made it so much better. Don’t cry over me, please. I have lived a long, happy life. You made the home stretch the best it could be.
Alec felt his cheeks grow wet as he read through the letter a few times. He tried to choke back his tears, all too aware that Magnus was peering at him intently. He turned away to gather Max and get the hell out of there when he felt an arm come around his back and hold him to a firm chest. Alec let himself give into the sadness as he hid in the stranger’s shirt for a few moments. He pulled away and gazed into Magnus’s beautiful, captivating eyes and somehow knew that Magnus Bane held the possibility of making him very happy indeed. He may not yet know him well, but he felt like he knew the parts that truly mattered. Magnus was full of the love, light, and joy that George had had and that he had told Alec countless times he also had. Maybe two people with those kind of qualities could make something beautiful.
“Would you like to get coffee sometime?” Alec asked as he carefully wiped his cheeks with the sleeves of his worn sweater. His heart leapt in his throat in the few seconds pause it took Magnus to answer.
“I would like that. Will you be okay?” Magnus looked concerned about letting him leave with tear tracks still drying on his cheeks.
“I will, I promise.” Alec left with a smile and wave as he tucked the letter away, hoping that he was taking the steps towards being the kind of happy George wanted for him.