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Live and Learn

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It’s not that Alec doesn’t like Magnus’ makeup and ever-changing hair and amazing sense of style. He does. Magnus is so hot that he’s practically on fire, and he clearly takes a great deal of pride in his appearance. Even when they need him on short notice, he somehow manages to look more refined and fashionable than Alec has ever been on his best day.

So Alec has to admit that he’s just flat out fascinated when Magnus emerges from the shower, completely sans makeup, hair damp and limp around his face, wearing nothing but a bathrobe. Of course, it’s a silk bathrobe, or actually Alec thinks it’s a silk kimono, but it’s still the most casual that he’s ever seen Magnus. He wonders if it’s rude to be grateful that the demon they fought got Magnus all slimy and disgusting, thus necessitating the shower.

“Oh, I didn’t realize you were staying,” Magnus says, but he doesn’t seem self-conscious about his appearance. Quite the opposite; he heads towards the bar and says, “Drink?”

“Yeah, uh, maybe just one.” Alec watches him go, tries not to watch the shift of his back and his ass under the robe. “Sorry if I startled you.”

“Not at all. I’m glad you stayed.” Magnus turns with two little glasses and hands one to Alec.

Before he can think better of the idea, Alec asks, “Why do you wear all that stuff all the time?”

Magnus looks genuinely confused by the question. “Well, because I like to.”

“Obviously, yeah, but I mean – do you think you don’t look good like this? Because, uh, you do. I mean, not like you don’t look good the other way, too. It just seems like a lot of work, that’s all.”

Magnus gives a little shrug. “I enjoy it. If one can look fabulous, one has an obligation to.”

Alec snorts. “It’s just like, you wear it almost like a mask, did you know that? Like you’re an entirely different person underneath it all. Like if you can just show the world how smooth and polished and, and invulnerable you are . . . then nobody can touch you.”

“I suppose we all have our public faces and our private ones,” Magnus says, “but really, honestly, I wear the makeup and do my hair because I enjoy it.” He reaches out and touches his finger to Alec’s lips. “And I’ve never been anything other than one hundred percent myself when I was with you.”

Alec smiles involuntarily. “Okay. Me too. I mean, even when I was still figuring out who I was. Anyway, I like seeing you like this.”

“Well, get here early in the morning and you can see me like this every day. I don’t roll out of bed looking flawless, more’s the pity.”

Alec pictures Magnus, mostly naked, free of makeup, hair mussed from sleep. It’s a terrible idea. He has to clear his throat and look at the ceiling for what feels like several minutes, and blurts out the first thing he thinks of. “Well, if you wanted to, you could do my hair. That might be fun.”

Magnus looks surprised. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, sure. Give me the Magnus Bane look.”

It looks like Magnus is about to clap with glee. “I’ve been waiting for you to say that since I met you. Come here, I have something for you to wear. I bought it the day after we met – ”

“Uh, how?” Alec asks.

“Live as long as I have, Alec, and you learn to measure with your eyes. Come on. Nothing too flamboyant, I know, it wouldn’t suit you anyway. Silver and steel blue for your hair, I think – ” Magnus tugs Alec into the bedroom while he continues to talk.

Alec winds up in black pants that are just a shade tighter than he’s comfortable with, and a black mesh shirt. It’s the kind of thing Izzy has tried to dress him in constantly, so he doesn’t really have a problem with it. He thinks that under normal circumstances, he would feel awkward in it, but every time he turns around, he catches Magnus trying to check out his ass, so he can’t bring himself to have a problem with the pants. Add some silver jewelry and the dark makeup, and he feels like a kid playing dress-up. Magnus has done his hair with silver-blue streaks, the exact same color as the power of his stele or arrows.

“There!” Magnus turns him so he’s facing the mirror. “You look absolutely divine. Pun intended, of course,” he adds with a wink. “Now just let me get dressed and then we can hit the club.”

“Oh, are we - are we going out?” Alec feels like he hasn’t thought this through.

“Well, obviously. We can’t dress like this to just hang around the house. Be right back.” Magnus winks before disappearing through another door.

Alec tries not to fidget, feeling eager and awkward and excited all at the same time. He’s getting used to that combination of feelings around Magnus.

The warlock emerges a few minutes later wearing black pants and a black and purple jacket over a black shirt that’s unbuttoned way too far. Alec keeps staring at the last button and then trying to tear his eyes away. Magnus just laughs and spins in a slow circle before turning to a chest of drawers to pull out some jewelry. He does his makeup with quick, practiced strokes and then pushes both hands through his hair. Purple streaks appear in their wake. He turns and offers his arm to Alec. “Shall we?”

“Yeah,” Alec says, and he’s smiling despite himself. He has no idea why Magnus’ outrageous flirting always makes him smile. It’s just a fact of the universe, no different from the meaning of runes or that the sun will rise in the east.

The best thing about clubbing is that he doesn’t have to talk much. The music is so loud that it’s basically impossible. It’s mainly just dancing, and he feels like he could waste an eternity dancing with Magnus. A lot of the people there know the warlock, but they don’t know Alec, so he gets a lot of admiring stares and envious looks.

“Don’t mind them,” Magnus says right into his ear, when he sees Alec looking at a crowd of gawkers. “They just think you’re stunning.”

“They’re looking at you, not me,” Alec says.

Magnus arches an eyebrow. “Problem?”

“Maybe. I kind of want to tattoo my name on your forehead.”

“A possessive streak!” Magnus leans in and just barely brushes his lips over Alec’s. “I like that.”

Alec feels his knees go a little weak, which is just, honestly, pathetic. But then Magnus kisses him again, for real, and he sort of forgets about that, and later he’s not even sure how, but they definitely wind up tucked away in a dark corner, making out. It’s ridiculous. He feels like a teenager again, except for the part where he had never done this as a teenager. But Magnus is just so . . . irresistible. The scent of him, the warmth of his body, the feeling of his fingers lingering on the rune on Alec’s throat. And his mouth. His mouth is everything Alec had ever dreamed it would be, and there had been a lot of dreams. He loses himself in it, in the feeling of Magnus against him and the beat of the music and the rush of blood in his ears.

When the music stops, it’s an abrupt jarring back to reality. He blinks around the club. “What - what’s going on?”

“It’s closing time, darling,” Magnus says, amused.

“Shit, really?” Alec looks at his watch. It’s just past three AM. “Oh, man. I had no idea we’d been here so long. I’d better get home before the others send out a search party.”

Magnus tactfully doesn’t mention that Izzy and Jace are definitely not going to ask questions about where their brother has been, if the last place they saw him was going into Magnus’ apartment. “I suppose I’ll head home as well. Catch up on my beauty sleep,” he adds with a wink.

“Yeah. But, uh. We should do this again.” A lot, immediately, his brain supplies, but for once he manages to stop the brain to mouth pathway before he embarrasses himself.

“Obviously,” Magnus says, tapping him on the lips. “I’ll look forward to it.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Alec’s hope that he can sneak back into the Institute unnoticed are dashed the moment he comes through the door. His mother is pacing back and forth, and sets into him so quickly that she’s already yelling before she stops and does a double take at his outfit. “Where have you been? I have been calling - oh my God, what are you wearing? You’re dressed like a common prostitute!”

“I was out, at a club, wearing an outfit that was appropriate for the venue,” Alec says, and walks past her.

Izzy is waiting up, too, and as soon as she sees him, her eyebrows go up and she bites back a smile. “Nice! Magnus do your hair?”

“Magnus did all of . . . this,” Alec says, waving vaguely at himself.

“I like it!”

“Isabelle, not now,” Maryse says through gritted teeth. She takes a deep breath. “Alec. Where have you - never mind, I can see where you’ve been. Why were you not answering your phone?”

“Didn’t hear it ring,” Alec says. “The club was loud. I told Izzy and Jace I’d be out, and where they could find me if they needed me.”

Maryse shoots Izzy a look. Izzy studies the ceiling innocently. Then Maryse turns back to Alec. “I understand that you’re upset with me. But this behavior has to stop.”

“What behavior? Having a boyfriend? Going out to a club?”

“Not answering my calls - ”

“If there was a mission, again, Jace and Izzy knew where to find me. Anything else, you can leave me a voice mail and I’ll call you back when I’m free.”

“Alexander Gideon Lightwood!” Maryse sounds appalled. “I do not leave messages for my son. I expect your prompt attention when I need something from you - ”

“Because that’s what it’s about, right?” Alec shoves a hand through his hair. “It’s late. I’m going to bed.”

Maryse folds her arms over her chest and stands in his way. “You know, I’d expect this sort of behavior from Isabelle, but not from you.”

“Oh, yeah, really?” Alec glances over at his sister, whose lips purse in that terrible hurt expression she gets whenever Maryse is being judgmental. “That’s a good point, Mom. Maybe I should have taken a leaf out of Izzy’s book earlier. Then I might not have been so repressed that I finally lost it and started making out with a warlock at what was supposed to be my wedding. Live and learn, I guess.” He shoulders past her and keeps walking while she sputters behind him, incensed.

Izzy follows him, laughing so hard she can barely stand. “Mom’s gonna need an ice rune for that burn,” she says, as Alec goes into his room.

“Good night, Izzy,” Alec says, and closes the door.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Breakfast at the Lightwood table is strained and awkward the next morning. Maryse has packed Max off for his lessons early, which is a clear signal that she’s not happy and intends to talk about it. Robert is eating while staring at his plate. Jace keeps looking around the table as if he’s not sure why he has to be here for this. Alec, for his part, is eating with a healthy appetite. Several hours dancing in a club is a lot of exercise, and he’s hungry.

After the first ten minutes, Maryse puts her fork down with a decisive click. “So. Apparently we need to talk.”

“We really don’t,” Alec says.

Maryse’s mouth tightens. “Alec. I have put up with your disrespect and your attitude long enough. This is going to stop.”

“What do you want me to say, Mom? I’m sorry that I’m dating Magnus? I’m not. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up my phone last night? Maybe, if I had known that I would hear something other than an outraged rant about my boyfriend, I would have.”

Maryse sighs. “Alec, you just - you just don’t understand. I don’t see how you can throw away everything we’ve worked for - ”

“Who’s throwing what away? Last time I checked, I was still in charge of the Institute, as much as I ever am. Oh, are you out of favor with the Clave again? I don’t think that can be considered my fault, and I really don’t think it’s because I’m dating Magnus.”

“But for - for a Downworlder!” Maryse nearly chokes on the word. “You’re gay, fine. I accept that. It’s not - optimal, but - there are still political alliances that can be made. There are other gay Shadowhunters, I’m sure we can find you someone suitable.”

Alec shakes his head and pours himself more juice. The rest of the table sits in tense silence. “See, the thing is, Mom, every time you talk about how much Downworlders are beneath us, all I hear is Valentine. All I hear is you being in the Circle.”

“Alec!” Robert interrupts at that. “Your mother and I - we made some poor choices, we can’t deny that, but we never - it was never about that. Not for us.”

“You know, I believe that about you,” Alec says, “but I’m still on the fence about her.” He turns back to his mother. “So when did you leave the Circle, anyway? Was it before or after Valentine started murdering warlocks right and left?”

“That is enough!” Maryse chokes out. “You’re acting like a child. I’m ashamed of you, Alec.”

Alec shrugs. “Yeah, well, I’m started to get used to that.”

“Not so bad, is it,” Izzy murmurs under her breath.

Maryse rubs her temples for a few moments. “Well, Alec, would you like me to explain my concerns, or would you like to simply wave them off with that ‘I know better than you’ tone of voice?”

“Enlighten me,” Alec says.

“You don’t understand the way warlocks are. The way they - that Downworlder is hundreds of years old. You do understand that, don’t you? To warlocks, mortals are just - just the blink of an eye. He doesn’t really care for you. You, you’re an amusement to him, a shiny new toy that he’ll entertain himself with and then wander away from when he gets bored or when you’re too old to be pretty. I’m not even saying this to insult him, it’s just - it’s just the way warlocks are.”

“That’s exactly the prejudice I’m talking about. You’re talking about Magnus like every warlock in the world is alike. You don’t know him. You don’t know that he’s like that. Did you have a conversation with him about how hard it is to love someone and then lose them, over and over again? Because I did. So maybe you can just stop generalizing, stop presuming that Magnus is a certain way because of what he is, and keep your opinions to yourself.”

“He has a reputation – ”

“And we all know that someone’s reputation is all that matters, right?”

Maryse’s mouth is compressed into a thin line. The room falls into another awkward silence. Alec dishes himself up more scrambled eggs. After a moment, she lets out a breath. “Alec - honey - what do you want me to say? We’ve been hard on you. I know that. And you - you’ve done a wonderful job. I know that I can’t control what the Clave does, but just - tell me what you want. And if it’s within my power, I promise that you can have it.”

This is what I want, Mom. You just can’t see it. Or you don’t want to. I want to do my job, run the Institute, and date Magnus. That’s it.” Alec puts down his fork. “Is that really so much to ask for?”

“Then I guess - it seems you really don’t care about the Lightwood name at all, do you.”

“At the moment? I really don’t.” Alec pushes back from the table. “I’ll create my own reputation. I can do it without any help from you. And I won’t take any of your calls or follow any of your orders until you’ve decided you can talk to my boyfriend and use his name.” Alec frowns briefly and then turns to Jace. “Sorry about the times I called Clary ‘that girl’ or whatever. It really is fucking insulting; I realize that now.”

“No problem, bro,” Jace says. “Apology accepted.”

“Thanks.” Alec turns back to his parents. “We’re done here. I have work to do.”

He pushes back from the table and heads out of the room. Jace and Izzy hasten to follow him, neither of them wanting to be left alone with their parents after what just happened. “How long do you think it’s going to take Maryse to get used to this?” Jace wonders aloud as they head into the main room.

Izzy gives an elegant shrug. “We’re coming up on seven years of her not being used to me, so I think Alec is probably in this for the long haul.”

“Yeah, but when you and Maryse fight, it’s different. I mean, Maryse is all . . . frowns and disapproval, and you feel hurt and upset. Alec . . . seems to be enjoying this.”

“I’m not,” Alec says. “Honestly, I’m not. I just can’t be something I’m not anymore. Mom will disapprove until her dying breath. I can’t do anything about that, so why bother worrying about it?”

Izzy looks thoughtful. “So this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”

Jace, for his part, seems dubious. “It sure as hell seems like you’re enjoying it.”

“Arguing with mom? No. Just . . . I’m enjoying being open. Being myself and not worrying about anyone’s opinion of it. It’s like . . . you can’t understand what sort of weight that is. I felt like I was being crushed, and now I’m finally free.”

“As long as you’re happy, we’re happy,” Izzy says firmly.

“Right,” Jace agrees.

Alec gives them one of those rare smiles that typically only Magnus sees. “Thanks.”

“But next time Magnus takes you clubbing, we get to come along,” Izzy adds.

“Over my dead body,” Alec laughs.

Izzy just arches an eyebrow. “We’ll see about that.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~