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pillow talk

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“I sleep. I dream. I make up things that I would never say. I say them very quietly.”

Richard Siken

.                                                                                                              

It takes about three days for everything to fall apart. Alec is impressed. He’d been betting on two.

Unsurprisingly, his parents have been summoned to a Clave meeting in Idris. His mother doesn’t even look at him when she announces their departure, and his father just squeezes his shoulder and says that he trusts Alec to make the right choices. As if he’s ever been allowed to make the wrong ones.

After they leave, Alec slumps in his chair and rubs a hand over his face. Running the Institute is a responsibility he’s never shied away from, but with the added pressure of Valentine stealing the cup and Jace's absence, it seems that with each step they take forward, something else pushes them ten steps back.

Furthermore, his parabatai rune is acting up, burning his skin painfully. Even through their weakened bond, Alec knows that Jace is hurting. Whatever pain he’s in seems to amplify itself in Alec, which in turn sends the sensation back to Jace like some sort of twisted feedback loop.

“Alec,” calls a soft voice, causing him to startle. It’s Izzy, and although she sends him an amused smile, he can see the sadness tugging at the corners of her mouth. She perches on the edge of the desk, tapping her long fingernails against the oak.

“What is it?” Alec tries to smile back, but it ends up feeling like a grimace.

“Lydia’s back in Idris. Magnus portaled her there himself. Thought you’d like to know,”

Alec nods, thanking her. He’s glad that at least Lydia’s out of this mess, safe and healing back home. He ignores the pang in his chest when he thinks about Magnus, the image of Camille kissing him still fresh in his mind.

And yet, he still can’t help himself from asking. “Magnus -”

“Just left,” Izzy smiles at him genuinely this time. “Said he had some business to attend to back in his loft,”

“You should go visit him,” she continues. “Talk things over.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Alec -”

“Izzy, please!” he barks, voice sharper than intended. She raises her eyebrows, clearly unimpressed. Alec sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. Yelling at his sister wasn’t going to solve anything.

“I will talk to him, just not – not now,” Not when he had about a million other things to tackle, his to-do list growing longer by the second.

Izzy nods, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Whenever you’re ready, big brother. I won’t push.”

.

In the end, Alec doesn’t have a choice. They’ve found a lead on Valentine, the first one that seems promising. They need a portal to Yalta, receiving intel that a large gathering of Forsakens and rogue Shadowhunters were spotted boarding a ship to the Ukrainian coastline.

Magnus Bane is the only warlock in the city who’s been to Yalta. At least, that’s what Alec thinks. No one had been keen to approach any other warlock in the first place. Clary and Isabelle had banded together in favour of asking for Magnus’ help, easily defeating Alec’s half-hearted protests.

That’s how he finds himself, at eight in the morning, trudging up the stairs to Magnus’ loft, stomach in knots at the thought of facing Magnus. They’ve been texting infrequently, but Alec hasn’t seen him in person for two weeks. When they reach the ornate door of his apartment, Alec knocks hesitantly. What if Magnus didn’t want to see him? What if he’d realized that Alec was too jealous and easily influenced by a malicious vampire to be worth the effort?

Magnus’ door swings open, and Alec panics for a moment before he remembers that it’s always unlocked. Nevertheless, he grips his seraph, just in case. They prowl through the apartment quietly, Izzy searching the kitchen and Clary checking the living room. The lights are off, and the apartment is cast in the bluish glow of pre-dawn.

“All clear,” they say in unison, and promptly fist-bump. Alec rolls his eyes, trying to conceal the panic that’s been building inside him. Magnus wouldn’t have just disappeared without telling anyone.

As if sensing Alec’s reluctance to pry, Izzy shoves him none too lightly towards another door.

“You haven’t checked the bedroom,” she winks, and Clary snickers behind him. After a truly spectacular eye roll, they both ignore him in favour of the sofa, propping their legs on the coffee table.

Alec hesitates before the plain door of the bedroom. He doesn’t want to just barge in, but every second spent outside means less time to track down Jace. He steels himself, pushing the door open, apology ready.

Whatever he wanted to say dies on his lips. In front of him, sprawled on a frankly gigantic bed, lies Magnus Bane. He’s flat on his stomach, face pressed against pillows that are worth more than everything Alec owns, hair sticking out at odd angles.

It should be funny, the High Warlock of Brooklyn spread out like a starfish, snoring ever so slightly. If it was anyone else, Alec would’ve already snapped a picture on his phone for blackmail material.

But this isn’t anyone. This is Magnus, and Alec has already lost his breath just looking at him. The deep maroon sheets are thrown haphazardly around his hips, wrapping themselves around his long legs. He’s not wearing a shirt, and the length of his back is on display, the tawny skin smooth and unblemished. Alec can see the back of his ribs, the sure path of his spine, the shoulder blades that seem to angle outwards. Magnus is thinner than he is, of course, with no need for a soldier’s body. And yet, another light snore causes his back to rise, unexpected muscles swelling with the motion.

Alec stands transfixed, as the meagre light streaming in from the window grows stronger. He watches the sunrise on Magnus’ skin, the rosy hues dappling on his shoulders, swathes of brilliant orange across his lower back as if they belonged there. The entire room is awash with colour, with Magnus as the focal point. He’s living, breathing art, and Alec spends a few blissful moments just admiring him, forgetting about every single thing that’s been weighing him down.

“Are you going to stare at me all day, Alexander?” Magnus says slyly, face still mushed against the pillow.

Alec jolts, bow clattering to the floor. The moment is broken, and his nerves kick into hyper drive. He hastily retrieves it, sputtering his way into an apology. An ugly blush is crawling its way up his neck. It doesn’t help that Magnus is moving too, pulling the sheets off himself and padding around the room. The rustle of the sheets against his bare legs is enough to break him into a sweat. Alec stares at his feet, not trusting himself to meet Magnus’ eyes.

He doesn’t look up even when Magnus strides towards him, feet clad in fluffy bunny slippers. Alec snorts despite himself. Whatever possessed Magnus Bane to make this particular fashion choice?

Magnus, for his part, shrugs. “Zoey made them for me,” he answers, referring to the warlock child Clary saved all those weeks ago.

Alec can only gawk at him, something he finds himself doing much too often. A child made those ridiculous slippers for Magnus, and he just wore them. Just slipped on those silly shoes because a child had pushed the gift into his hands and asked without asking in the way children often do. Something sweet grows in Alec’s chest, unexpected in its arrival.

When he does look up, he’s greeted with Magnus’ bare face, devoid of any makeup or glitter. The side of his cheek is creased with the pattern of the pillow, and his thick hair refuses to lie flat. His lips are pursed, eyebrows raised, clearly waiting for Alec to say something. The morning rays are bright now, bathing Magnus in sunlight. Alec blinks once, twice. Surely Magnus isn’t actually glowing?

“So,” begins Magnus, clearly amused by his inability to speak. “How can I help you?”

“We need a portal to Yalta,” he says, staring at the ridged skin on Magnus’ cheek. “We’ve received intel that Valentine was spotted there.”

“With Jace?”

Alec nods, trying not to stare too much when Magnus bends over and searches for a robe. He pulls out a flimsy lilac one, tying the belt loosely around his waist. It hangs above his knees, and lies open in a V against his chest. Alec follows him mutely out of the bedroom, making the mistake of eye contact with Clary, whose eyebrows have disappeared into her hairline.

“My eyes are up here, biscuit,” Magnus admonishes, but there’s no heat to it. He snaps open a portal for them, the magic sparking easily from his fingertips. He dips his fingers into the portal, tightening around something and pulling it out.

“Take this with you, Isabelle,” he presses the portal shard into her palm, and she makes a fist around it. Isabelle and Clary step through it immediately, eager to begin the mission.

Alec hangs back, wanting to thank Magnus. Magnus shushes him, fingertip hovering over his mouth.

“Bring something back for me,”

Alec furrows his brow. “You want a souvenir?”

Suddenly, a bright peal of laughter fills the room. Magnus claps a hand over his mouth gently, eyes crinkling with mirth. Alec watches him for too long, trying to memorize the lines that appeared briefly on Magnus’ face.

“Not a souvenir, Alec. Something I can use to track your parabatai.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Alec starts. “We’re going to find Jace in Yalta,”

Magnus nods sagely. “I believe you.” He guides Alec towards the portal, hand on the small of his back. “But still. Do it for me, alright?”

Alec nods, and steps through the portal. He can still feel the warmth of Magnus’ hand, and he sets out after Izzy with a slight smile on his face.

.

Yalta is cold and miserable, giving to howling winds and never-ending rain. They spend a whole day simply trudging through the outskirts of the city, shivering under their meagre jackets. The only bright spot is that their intel proves true, and Isabelle plans the ambush that catches a group of Valentine’s sympathizers by surprise. With a little force, they manage to track him down to an abandoned warehouse a few kilometres from the rocky coastline.

A string of demon attacks, however, throw them off the trail, and by the time they’ve regrouped and strategized, Valentine’s men are gone.

Alec shrugs off his jacket, now ruined with the ichor that’s burned a hole through the sleeve. Every time they get close enough to Jace, something always yanks him just out of reach. He’s barely fighting off the panic that comes in waves, the sense of failure that permeates the empty warehouse. Clary leans against the concrete pillar, arms wrapped around herself protectively.

“Alec!” cries Isabelle, somewhere beyond the warehouse. Alec and Clary lock eyes, feet pounding as they race to find her.

Alec breathes out a sigh of relief when Izzy is crouched outside, unharmed. He moves closer to her, but before he can move Clary has helped Izzy to her feet and taken whatever was in her hand.

“It’s Jace’s seraph!” she says breathlessly, turning the blade in her hands. Izzy beams, wrapping an arm around her waist. Alec moves closer to inspect it.

It is Jace’s seraph. Alec releases a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. The blade is heavy in his hands, and he runs his fingers down the familiar serrations. Before he can get too happy, Alec notices there’s blood splattered on the handle. He wonders if that too belongs to Jace. His stomach sinks, and he pockets the blade, sending Clary a supportive smile. There was no reason to worry her any further.

That night, when the three of them settle into their motel, Alec tucks the blade under his pillow. He settles into an uneasy sleep, Valentine evading him even in his own mind. Jace’s fractured eyes, glassy with unshed tears, follow him as he steps into the same portal over and over again. His parabatai rune is burning now, with Jace so close. He tosses and turns, mind whirling with a dozen scenarios where he slits Valentine’s throat and brings Jace home and runs the Institute and -

And Magnus. Always Magnus. Alec dreams of him frequently, not that he would ever admit it. He thinks of the last time they saw each other, how he should have pressed a kiss to his sleep-creased cheek instead of just staring at it. The image of him forms slowly, taking its time just like Magnus does. Magnus sprawled on the bed, the sunrise on his skin. Magnus with the robe wrapped around his body, the silky material fluttering with every movement. Magnus with his curious gaze, always watching Alec as if he was some sort of puzzle to figure out.

His mind goes to the kiss at the wedding, as it often does. Alec touches his finger to his lips, the darkness soothing any embarrassment he might’ve felt. He’d only kissed Magnus once after that, an angry press after seeing Camille slobber all over him.

It wasn’t surprising, the surge of possessiveness that washed over him when Camille kissed Magnus. In his heart he knows Magnus hadn’t instigated it, and Alec vows to talk it over with him soon. And finally kiss him again, properly, maybe even sneaking a hand inside that poor excuse for a robe and letting it fall to the floor and moving his hands all over the skin he’d only had a glimpse of.

He flushes, pulling the covers over his head. Izzy and Clary were right there, snoring peacefully. He turns on his side, squeezing his eyes shut. It wouldn’t do him any good to give those two anything embarrassing to hold against them.

Alec bites his lip, ignoring the ache between his legs. Now was not the time to think about Magnus Bane.

.

The next morning Isabelle slots the portal shard back into the rotting door of an old stakeout, and Alec braces himself for the painful zap of intra-dimensional travel. Jace’s seraph is secure in Clary’s messenger bag, and it’s a testament to their newfound friendship that he trusts her enough to keep it safe. They all link arms, and Alec thinks of Magnus’ loft as they step inside.

Magnus is sitting at his desk when they return, unfazed by the three Shadowhunters in his loft. He pushes off his swivel chair, closing the portal once they’ve all come through.

“Welcome back,” he says to all of them, although his eyes are solely on Alec. “How was the trip?”

“We found Jace’s seraph!” Clary exclaims, pulling the blade out of her bag. Her excitement is infectious, and Alec smiles softly at Magnus.

“That’s good,” Magnus says, scraping off the blood on the handle and storing it in a vial. “The blood will make it easier to track Jace.”

Clary’s face does something funny at that, where her mouth trembles but her eyes harden with determination. She nods once, biting her lip. Wordlessly, she steps closer to Magnus, wrapping her arms tightly around his middle. Magnus holds her, stroking one hand over her hair and muttering softly in her ear.

Isabelle looks over Clary’s head at Alec, her expression a mixture of fondness and worry. She must be thinking about that vampire.

Alec, well, he’s not jealous per se. It’s not like Clary would ever want Magnus that way. She once confided in him that Magnus was like that crazy uncle she met every few years and then promptly forgot about soon after.

So logically, there’s nothing to be mad about.

But still, it’s not fair. Alec’s spent an entire week away, without touching or kissing or even speaking to Magnus. It should be him clinging to Magnus like a vine on a pole.

Eventually, Clary breaks away, wiping her eyes surreptitiously. Magnus explains the tracking spell he’s been looking for, sending a fire message to the warlock Catarina Loss for its whereabouts.

“How long will this spell take?” Izzy asks. Her eyes are sharp, attentive. Alec can see the barely concealed desperation behind them, how badly she wants to find Jace.

“The potion can be made in a week’s time,” Magnus answers, retrieving a mortar and pestle from his pantry. He grinds a few herbs in, mixing them in with the blood from Jace’s seraph.

“The actual tracking process is a little more complicated. The blood sample will help the hounds track Jace, but there’s no telling how my magic will react to whatever Valentine’s cooked up with all those Forsakens.”

“Wait – hounds?” Clary interjects. “Like Hellhounds?”

Magnus nods. “They’ve a hundred percent success rate when it comes to tracking. They’re our best bet if we want to find Jace in time.”

“But Hellhounds can only be summoned by a Greater Demon,” Izzy says, narrowing her eyes. “Why would they respond to you?”

“It doesn’t matter why,” Magnus replies tersely. “They will do as I say,”

A peculiar silence falls over the loft then, as Magnus refuses to elaborate further on the Hellhound summoning. Izzy and Clary shoot him a questioning look, but Alec feels out of his depth here. It’s not like Magnus is going to tell him any more just because they’re dating.

“Maybe we should go,” Clary says, sensing the awkwardness. “Let Magnus work his magic, literally.”

She tugs Izzy out, hand on her forearm. Magnus watches them leave, arms folded across his chest.

“I suppose you’d like to leave as well?” he asks, not even glancing in Alec’s direction. He looks cold and untouchable, like a statue. Alec thinks of the restless nights in Yalta, the unending rains. How only thoughts of Magnus kept him warm at night.  

He doesn’t want any distance between them. There’s already been too much of that.

“I’d like to stay here a little longer,” Alec steps closer to him. “I-if that’s okay.”

Magnus grins, widely. Alec feels his chest constrict, unused to the affection flooding his system.

“More than okay,” Magnus says, and leans up on his toes to kiss him. Alec tries not to go weak at the sensation, hands fluttering uselessly until they settle on the crook of his elbows.

They stay like that a while, trading soft kisses until Alec pulls away. He rests his forehead against Magnus’, their bodies swaying slightly.

“I missed you,” Magnus says softly, as if to himself. His eyes follow Alec as he kisses the corner of his mouth. He looks gentler now, less like a statue and more like a man. Alec recognizes the vulnerable look in his eye, the same one after Alec kissed him at the wedding.

“Missed you too,” Alec sighs. It’s not as embarrassing as he thought it would be. Or is it that being around Magnus makes him admit things he never thought he would?

Before he can even try to attempt something smooth like kiss Magnus’ neck or let his hands drift lower, Alec lets out a loud yawn. Magnus chuckles slightly, pulling away.

“Cocktails?” He’s not really asking, as a glass appears in Alec’s hand instantly. “They’ll help you relax.”

He doubts that’s what Magnus’ cocktails really do, but he takes a tentative sip of whatever is in the glass. Sweet, but not cloying. The alcohol burns slightly on its way down, but at least Alec doesn’t grimace this time.

They migrate to the living room, Alec slowly sipping his drink and Magnus flipping through a book of spells. He settles on his chaise, illuminated slightly by the sunset. Alec isn’t sure how much time slips away before he remembers to stop watching Magnus, only that the sunset has ended and the inky night spills into the loft.

Magnus conjures a lamp, angling it so he can read better. His long fingers run along the edge of the page before flicking it over. Alec bites his lip, the alcohol buzzing pleasantly in his head.

“Come here,” he says, after he finishes his drink. The hum of traffic makes its way through the open windows, twisting with the rush of night air. Magnus is too far away, sitting on the armchair facing the balcony. He sends Alec a bemused smile as he saunters over, setting down whatever book he’d been reading on the coffee table.

Magnus drops down next to him, their knees pressed together. He isn’t close enough. Alec winds an arm around his waist, thinking of how to say what he wants without imploding.

“Could you, um, s-sit here?” he mumbles. Magnus looks at him and then looks down, where Alec is patting his own knee awkwardly. For what must be the most mortifying second of his life, Magnus just stares at him.

“Oh,” he says, when he finally gets it. He grins wolfishly, and moves even closer. “In your lap, you mean?”

Alec nods, shutting his eyes. He’s blushing hard now, and he’s ready to stammer his way out of this mess and apologize to Magnus for asking him to sit in his lap like some sort of perverted grandpa.

Before he can do any of that however, Magnus swings his legs over in one smooth motion, straddling Alec. His knees lock against his hips, and he wraps his arms lazily around Alec’s neck.

“Is this where you want me?” Magnus all but purrs. The new angle has Magnus looking down at him, his throat at Alec’s eye level. His Adam’s apple bobs as he speaks, and Alec barely resists kissing it. He nods, hands resting lightly on Magnus’ hip.

Magnus leans forward, close enough that Alec can feel his breath against his cheek. He rests his forehead against Alec’s. He doesn’t move, eyes locked on to Alec’s own. For a brief second, Alec swears he can see a flash of gold in Magnus’ eyes, but it’s gone before he’s really sure.

Then Magnus’ eyes drop to his mouth and Alec is gone, surging up to kiss him. Magnus opens his mouth obligingly, tightening his arms around his neck. His blood roars in his ears, and Alec slides his hands down to grip hard at the back of his thighs. Magnus has one hand tangled in his hair, the other scratching aimlessly at his nape. When Alec moves to kiss him deeper, their lips part with an obscenely wet sound. Magnus does something akin to a shudder, and he turns away, perhaps to compose himself.

Alec drops kiss after kiss on his cheek, his neck, his shoulder. It’s something he finds himself doing often, although it had taken a painfully long time to admit he wanted to. Magnus had coaxed the tactile affection out of him one smile at a time, and now it’s hard to imagine a time when he looked at Magnus’ face without kissing every square inch of it.

“I dreamt about you,” he mumbles, face tucked safely in Magnus’ shoulder. His collarbone pokes Alec rather sharply, and he undoes a button on his shirt to kiss it. He pushes back the fabric gently, mesmerized by how easily it pulls off.

“What was that?” Magnus whispers, squirming slightly. The shift makes their groins brush together, and Alec holds back a moan. Magnus’ breathing hitches, and they lock eyes again.

It would be so easy to pull Magnus down, to give into the lust that’s been brewing between them for weeks now. Alec’s been half-hard since Magnus crawled into his lap, and he could see that Magnus was getting there, too.

And yet, despite the heat coiling in his gut, Alec is floundering. It hits him, almost cruelly, that he doesn’t know a single thing about what to do next, what to do if Magnus removes his shirt entirely, if he should kiss him there, too. Does Magnus even like being kissed on the chest? Does Magnus like how hard Alec is holding on to him, or does the drag of blunt nails hurt and he’s just humouring Alec?

Magnus pulls away, and Alec lets him. The moment is broken, but Alec still misses the heat of his body.

“What do you want?” Magnus asks softly. He holds himself still, unnaturally so. As if Alec’s hesitancy siphoned out all of his natural grace. He waits patiently for Alec’s answer.

It feels wrong to see Magnus like this, hesitant and unsure. He scoots back even further, creating a respectable distance between them. Something ugly coils in Alec’s gut. He doesn’t want to be respectable with Magnus. He fights the urge to yank Magnus back into his lap, to seal their bodies so tightly there isn’t a millimetre of space between them.

What do you want?

The question hangs between them, and Alec tears his eyes away from the strip of golden skin he can see between the rich maroon dress shirt. The tiniest sliver of Magnus, a hint of what he could have if he’d been braver, sets Alec on edge. Before he can stop himself, he reaches out, smoothing the wrinkled collar and letting his fingers rest on the junction of Magnus’ neck and shoulder.

His skin is warm, and his pulse jumps considerably when Alec drags his fingertips down to the jutting collar bone. Alec wonders what the rest of his bones are like, what the knobs of his spine and curve of his sternum would feel like under his lips.

What does he want? Alec closes his eyes, suddenly overwhelmed.

He wants to press Magnus down into the couch, pin his pretty wrists above his head and watch him squirm. He wants to trace the tendons of his throat, lave over the jugular vein and Adam’s apple, hear Magnus whimper and moan in that honeyed voice. He wants Magnus in his lap, closer than they were a few moments ago, wants to clutch at his back and hold him by the hips like those ridiculous romance movies Izzy forced him to watch, wants to kiss his plush lips until neither of them can breathe or think or do anything but hold each other.

He wants and wants and wants, but the words die in his throat. Instead, he shyly reaches for Magnus’ hand, twining their fingers together.

“Can we nap?” he blurts out. Magnus looks at him, eyebrows raised, a flash of hurt crossing his face until it settles back into a smirk.

“After all that, you’re sleepy?”

“I-” He starts, but ends up nodding. He is tired, the week in Yalta draining him more than he realized. Magnus understands, he always does, and he lets out a ridiculously loud yawn that makes Alec giggle. He stretches his arms, which pulls his shirt up, giving Alec a glorious view of his taut abdomen for a good thirty seconds.

“Well, I could use some rest too,” he says, moving to get off the couch. Alec panics, grabbing at his arm and pulling him down abruptly.

Magnus doesn’t say anything, just watches with that curious expression. Alec bites his lip, curling his fingers around Magnus’ bicep as he struggles to explain what he wants.

“Could we sleep together?” he mumbles, ignoring the flush on his cheeks. “I mean, just take a nap here?” He closes his eyes, waiting for Magnus to make some joke at his expense, to murmur something that would undoubtedly set Alec on fire.

Instead, the joke never comes. Alec opens his eyes and finds Magnus smiling softly at him, that half-smile where his lips quirk up and his eyes crinkle.

“Of course, darling,” And there it is, darling, the pet name which means Magnus is back, whatever awkwardness between them finally dissipated. He pulls off his socks gracefully, wiggling his toes and settling into the couch.

Alec watches him, the spark of desire burning low and steady now, the rush of affection overtaking it. He wraps a tentative arm around Magnus’ waist, pulling him back until he’s between Alec’s legs. He’s leaned back enough, head resting comfortably on the armrest. The couch isn’t big enough for the both of them, and Magnus is still obviously trying to respect his space by kneeling. His shoulders are tense, and he startles a little when Alec places his hands on them. Gently, he pulls Magnus down, reveling in how easily they fit together. Chest to chest, Magnus tucks his face into Alec’s shoulder. His soft hair brushes Alec’s nose, and the shell of his ear sticks out adorably. One day, Alec will work up the courage to bite it.

However, the tension in Magnus’ shoulders remain. That won’t do. Alec roves his hands aimlessly around Magnus’ back, securing his arms around Magnus’ waist until he relaxes.

“Not too heavy?” Magnus asks, voice light and teasing. But Alec can hear the slight tremble behind it, and he realizes that Magnus is afraid of messing up just as much as he is.

“No,” he mutters, pressing a kiss to Magnus’ hair. Magnus is a welcome weight above him, present and solid in a way that grounds Alec. “Never.”

And if he wakes up with his arms numb, well, it’s worth it to see the High Warlock of Brooklyn curled up on his chest like a cat, snoring peacefully. It’s the best sleep he’s had in years.

.

From then on it becomes a ritual of sorts, just like how Saturdays are takeout nights and Tuesdays they sit together on Magnus’ comfortable couch and watch reruns of the interior decorating shows Magnus seems to love so much.

It’s a Monday, however, which means they spend the entire day searching for a tracking spell that will help them find Jace. Magnus must know his parabatai rune is bothering him, and sends him sympathetic glances every now and then when he thinks Alec isn’t looking.

Alec traces his fingers over several worn books in Magnus’ collection. Some of them have gilded text on the spine, running over ancient names and symbols. One of them catches his eye, and he tugs the book gently out of the shelf. It’s huge, thicker than the dusty tomes in the Institute, bound in old leather with a thick clasp over the pages.

18th Century Potions and Spells, Intermediate Demonic Energies and Summonings reads the long title. Alec takes note of the inscription on the bottom, brows rising in the surprise when he sees the author. By Magnus Bane.

“You wrote a book?” he calls out to Magnus, who’s poring over a manuscript Catarina sent over yesterday.

Magnus looks up, setting aside the delicate manuscript and collecting the other books they’d been reading. Magnus moves past him, getting on his tip-toes to push them back on the shelf. His loose tunic rides up as he stretches, and Alec catches sight of twin indentations carved on his lower back. Perfectly symmetrical, they curve gently to the path of his spine and further down to his waistband. Alec’s mouth goes dry, and he barely snaps his eyes back to Magnus’ before he catches on.

“I had a lot of time on my hands,” Magnus takes the book from Alec. Their fingers brush, and Alec pretends that it doesn’t cause his heart to skip a beat or two.

“Strange how you found this,” Magnus murmurs, undoing the clasp gently.

“Should I not have?” Alec panics, wondering if he’s touched some sacred warlock artifact and doomed them both to Hell.

“No, it’s just that I’ve glamoured the book quite well. It’s the original copy, you know. Nephilim aren’t supposed to be able to see it,”

Alec raises a brow. “What does that mean, then?”

“I’m not sure,” he admits, running his finger slowly over the page. The blue of his magic reacts instantly to the crinkled page, sparking every which way until the looping text reveals itself. Alec moves closer, not trying to hide his growing interest. The sheets fill themselves with rows of meticulously taken instructions and neat diagrams.

His boyfriend is a scholar, Alec realizes giddily. It’s such an endearing concept, Magnus hastily scrawling down notes for all his spells, carefully measuring ingredients for his potions like some magical scientist. By the Angel, what if he wore glasses? Alec flushes, not sure what to do with that mental image.

“Eureka!” Magnus exclaims, tapping a bejeweled finger to the page. “This must be the one.”

He moves quickly after that, darting around the loft and returning with an armful of supplies. He waves off any of Alec’s attempts to help.

“You call up your sister and Clary,” Magnus orders, laying the book on his work table. “Tell them I’ve found the spell.”

Alec pulls out his phone, excitement growing in his chest. He can’t help the wide smile spreading over his lips. They were going to find Jace, after all.

.

“This last ingredient is perhaps the most important one of all,” Magnus gestures widely, almost knocking off the empty vials collected around their workshop.

Alec dubiously watches the green smoke rise from the honest to God cauldron centred in Magnus’ living room. It curls thickly on the ceiling, muting the already dim lights of the loft until Alec can’t see any further than Magnus’ shoulders. The room itself seems to warp inwards, the heavy oak bending towards the murky concoction.

Alec feels as if he’s stepped into a different century altogether. Magnus’ complicated outfit certainly helps add to his theory.

“Any guesses?” Magnus still has his arms spread out wide, speaking to an invisible audience. He glances at Alec out of the corner of his eye, grinning widely. Despite the uneasy feeling the potion gives him, Alec grins back. It’s an indulgent one too, brought on by how unexpectedly adorable Magnus looks – twirling around his loft and teaching Alec about how to extract magic from herbs and dirt and animals, voice animated and airy.

“Rat’s tail?” he asks, recalling Magnus’ earlier lessons. Magnus shakes his head and moves towards the pantry, briefly disappearing from Alec’s vision.

“Slimier,” he calls out, disembodied voice carrying through the fog. Alec can hear jars clinking together and shelves being thoroughly rummaged. He’s excited to see what Magnus pulls out, and eager to guess it right.

“Tentacle of a giant squid?” Magnus snickers, a throaty sound that shouldn’t be so endearing. Magnus, centuries old warlock that he is, shouldn’t be so endearing. Alec ignores the sudden constriction of his heart, the strange flip-flop it does whenever he hears Magnus laugh.

“Not that slimy, Alexander,” Magnus reappears from the haze, holding a small jar in his hands.

He unscrews the lid, plucking the mysterious ingredient out and dropping it into the cauldron. Alec moves closer, fascinated by how the potion surrounds and disintegrates it.

“What was that?” Alec wrinkles his nose at the acrid smell of the preservative.

“Goat’s eyes,” Magnus replies, peering into cauldron.

“You just keep that lying around?” Alec asks, and Magnus shrugs, never taking his eyes off the cauldron.

“It’s handy,”

He must be waiting for something important to happen, perhaps a puff of smoke or an ominous bubbling. In the end, it’s nothing Alec’s untrained eye can catch, and Magnus simply claps his hands together and tells him it’s done.

“You have all that you need?”

Magnus tilts his head and looks at him, a wicked smile growing on his lips. Alec knows that look, knows Magnus well enough to anticipate something that will undoubtedly embarrass the hell out of him. He stares back, fighting the flush that blooms across his cheeks.

“One more thing,” Magnus says sweetly, and Alec can’t stop staring even if he tried. He raises his eyebrows and moves closer, causing Alec to stumble against the cart of supplies. Magnus looks up, eyes round and soft, and bites his lip.

“How about a kiss?” he murmurs, never once taking his eyes off Alec. For a while, Alec can only gape at him. Magnus has never asked before, seemingly content with the glacial pace Alec’s been setting in their relationship. He must interpret Alec’s gawking as reluctance, and turns his neck, offering his cheek instead. A simple, chaste demand. “For the potion to work, of course,”

Alec clenches his fist in frustration, not willing to lose the chance to kiss Magnus because of his own stupidity. Boldly, he places his fingers on the sharp bend of Magnus’ jaw, brushes his thumb against the striking curve of his cheekbone and pulls gently until Magnus is facing him again. Before he can overthink it, Alec ducks down, pressing his lips to Magnus’.

Perhaps Magnus had wanted something quick, a light peck that felt like all the other ones they’d shared since the wedding. A gentle press of mouths.

Instead, Alec licks into his mouth immediately, swiping his tongue over the silky seam of his lips. His grip on Magnus’ jaw tightens, the sharp bone unyielding against Alec’s fingers. The pressure draws an involuntary gasp from Magnus, and Alec takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss further. He doesn’t stop kissing Magnus until he’s pressed him against the wall, the hand not gripping Magnus’ jaw pressed flat against the small of his back, pulling him flush against Alec. The heat of their bodies, combined with the heavy air of the potion, makes time melt slowly around them.

It’s Magnus who ends the kiss, their lips parting with a soft smack. For a while, Alec can only pant and stare as he disentangles their limbs and reluctantly creates some distance between them. It’s such an intimate thing, watching Magnus Bane pull himself together, watch him run a shaky hand through his hair and exhale slowly through his nose.

There’s a slight discolouration under Magnus jaw, a finger shaped bruise purpling rapidly on the bronze skin. Alec files away the fact that Magnus bruises easily in the back of his mind, and tamps down the urge to suck on it until it blooms under his teeth.

“Well,” Magnus says, voice noticeably higher than it was before. He clears his throat, and it dawns on Alec that Magnus is having trouble speaking because of him. It sends a pleasant little shiver up his spine.

“We should - we should get back to the potion,” Magnus mutters, stepping past Alec. His voice has returned to the same silky quality, but Alec can see the tips of his ears are bright red, and he can’t control the wide smile spreading on his face as he follows Magnus back to the potion-making.

(Later, at night, when he’s locked the door and shut the window, Alec stares at the shadowy blobs moving on the ceiling. He knows that he should probably go to sleep, that there’s training and paperwork to do tomorrow, but his eyes won’t close no matter how tired he is.

One of the dark shapes near his bookcase looks like the bruise on Magnus’ jaw. Alec slips his hand guiltily down his sweatpants, the afternoon forming so easily in his mind. Magnus biting his lip in concentration. Magnus dropping the eyeballs into the cauldron. Magnus’ body, firm under his hands, arching slightly when Alec brushed their tongues together. The sound of his back hitting the wall, the small oomph that Alec swallowed, the crinkling of his silken shirt against the brick.

The room is too hot all of a sudden. It feels like Magnus is here, waiting to make some smart-assed remark. Alec can almost see the curve of his eyes, the way they flutter shut when he’s pleased, the burning amber of his iris.

There’s nothing he doesn’t want when it comes to Magnus. The image of him sprawled on the bed morphs into one of him lounging on a chaise, legs spread like a king. The lazy smirk on his face whenever he says something terribly filthy shifts to the almost-shy smile whenever Alec presses kiss after kiss on his face.

He wonders, not for the first time, if it’s even possible to want one person this much. If his heart and his body haven’t somehow defied the laws of nature, tripping over themselves to reach Magnus.

Funnily enough, it’s the image of Magnus’ ears that sends him over the edge. Something about the tips flushed bright red with embarrassment has Alec biting his fist to keep from moaning.

He digs his heels into the thin mattress, coming with a wordless cry. He shudders, all the tension in his spine melting until he’s loose and boneless on the bed. Alec cleans himself up wordlessly, throwing his sweatpants across the room with far more force than necessary.

His phone lights up with one unread message, sent nearly two hours before. There’s no use replying now, so Alec vows to just read it once and finally go to sleep.

Goodnight, Alexander. Sleep well. :)

It’s from Magnus, and Alec smiles so widely it hurts his cheeks. One goodnight text out of a dozen shouldn’t make his heart swell with so much affection, and yet it does. He reads the message over and over again, and falls asleep that way, phone clutched to his chest. It’s the closest he can get, he thinks, to having Magnus in his bed.)

.

On the day of the summoning, Alec arrives ten minutes early to help Magnus prepare. It’s not like the warlock needs his help, but Alec likes feeling useful.

When he walks in, it’s Clary he finds putting the final touches on the pentagram. Her fingers brush over the magic-infused chalk, perfecting the sharp lines of her design. Isabelle and the mundane turned vampire were conspiring in the corner, standing too close to one another.

Magnus orders them to join hands around the pentagram. The magic, as always, sends a jolt of electricity down his spine. This time, it’s welcome. Alec tightens his grip on Magnus’ hand, his other hand in Isabelle’s. It’s only the vampire that looks nervous, looking between Clary and Isabelle.

Magnus pulls out a tall glass, filled to the brim with the potion. It bubbles ominously, and Alec eyes the concoction warily.

“Is that for Jace?” Simon asks. Alec resists rolling his eyes, because how can this mundane turned vampire be so dense?

“Of course not,” Magnus replies, unperturbed. “It’s for me,” he says, and downs the potion like a shot. He grimaces, muttering about some sort of briny aftertaste. Alec is momentarily distracted by the bob of his throat.

“How’s this going to help us?” Clary cuts in.

“It’s going to unlock my magic,” Magnus stretches his arms. “I’ve had to tamp it down to preserve the magical integrity of this realm. To summon the Hellhound however, I’ll need all the power I can get.”

“Won’t that raise suspicion?” Alec wonders. “Such powerful magic being used all at once?”

“Not if it’s from me. The Institute has graciously offered me some magical liberties in exchange for my compliance with the Accords.”

Magnus, seemingly done with explaining such a complicated spell, moves to begin the summoning. He chants something lowly in Latin, and Alec grips his hand tighter. The pentagram begins to glow, and a swirling wind carries through the loft.

“Now remember,” Magnus murmurs, voice nearly lost in the wind. “We must not let go of each other’s hands.”

It’s the last thing Alec hears before his vision turns pitch-black.

.

Chapter Text

When he comes to, Alec sees his sister and Clary slumped on the ground, Simon sprawled between them.

“They’ll be fine,” comes a voice from behind. It’s Magnus, sitting with his legs crossed. His hands move slowly over a black mass, stroking gently. Alec walks towards him, fighting off the vertigo of a room with no floors or ceilings.

“Where are we?” he asks. He’s not walking on anything, feet pulled towards Magnus by some other force. Everything is dark save for the tiny twinkling lights around Magnus’ frame. Are those stars?

“The void, I believe.” What a terrifically vague answer. Magnus rises, whatever he was stroking moving with him. Alec takes a step back.

He’s never actually seen a Hellhound before, only heard of cautionary tales from the older Shadowhunters in the Institute. Even their stories were more about the aftermath, how mundanes and Nephilim alike were torn apart by their giant claws and gnashing teeth. As a child, Alec imagined some colossal mutt, frothing at the mouth and snarling incoherently. If it was a good dream, he’d slay the beast with his heavenly arrows. If it was a nightmare, well. He always woke up before the beast got too close.

The creature before him is nothing like he’d expected. Huge, sure, coming up to Magnus’ shoulder. But not solid, the massive form shifting with smoke. It almost disappears in the pure blackness that surrounds them. The only thing that is unchanging is crimson eyes focused straight on him. The beast breathes heavily, hot puffs of air against his shoulder. It snarls when he steps closer to Magnus. White fangs too, Alec can see them hanging over the wrinkled mouth.

“Easy, now,” Magnus murmurs, running a hand over the hound’s back. Alec had been taught that all demons were uncontrollable, even by those that summoned them. Yet, this demon seems to listen to everything Magnus says, obediently shuffling back. It doesn’t stop snarling at Alec, though.

Magnus pulls a small blade from his pocket, twirling it between his fingers. With his other hand, he squeezes the beast’s maw until it opens wide. A long tongue flops out of the corner of its mouth.

“This spell is different from any you’ve seen so far,” Magnus begins conversationally. He drags the blade against his palm, blood welling up instantly. Alec watches, enraptured, as rivulets of blood trail from his elbow down into the Hellhound’s mouth.

A blood oath. Alec’s mind whirls with long-ago lessons at the Institute. A blood oath was irreversible, and came at a great cost to the user. The price of their soul, in some cases. Or whatever the demon deems to be most valuable. What was Magnus willing to lose?

“How so?” His mouth feels stuffed with cotton. Magnus’ hand is slick with blood now, coating his knuckles. The Hellhound laps at his fingers patiently.

“Usually, tracking spells form a bond between the owner of the object and whoever uses the spell. When Clary gave me Jace’s seraph, I tried tracking him right there. But my magic was instantly repelled. That means either he’s being kept over a large body of water, or that he’s dead.”

Alec gulps. Could Jace be dead? Would he even know, given the weakened state of their bond?

Magnus holds up a blood-stained finger. “I don’t believe it’s the latter, Alec. That’s why I knew I needed something stronger to find him.”

Alec stares at the beast, lying sated near Magnus’ feet. “The Hellhound -”

“Requires blood. And unlike magic, blood travels with you. This is the only way I could think of to return Jace as quickly as possible.”

Magnus spreads his arms far apart, nudging the creature up. “Now Alexander,” he warns, voice dropping lower until he’s rasping in Latin. “You mustn’t be afraid.”

The wind picks up, a dark hurricane swirling at Magnus’ feet. The beast begins to stir, but Magnus raises his un-cut palm and orders it to heel. It feels as if all the air has been sucked out of the room. An unknown pressure rises around them, and Alec’s ears begin to pop. His heart is thudding in his ribs, but Alec clenches his fists and focuses on breathing.

When Magnus speaks again, he’s almost unrecognizable. The warm yellow of his iris has rolled back to the whites of his eyes. Magic is sparking from his fingertips erratically, tightening itself around the neck of the animal. The space around him pulses with energy, and Alec barely stands upright when a particular blast is shot his way. Around his feet is a ring of Hellfire, cobalt blue flames climbing higher and higher.

“Bring me the Wayland boy,” Magnus commands. The beast whimpers, tugging at the restraints. “Alive.”

With a flourish, he removes the restraints. The Hellhound grows tenfold in size, towering over them both. After a roar that nearly bursts their eardrums, the beast is off, claws tearing at the darkness of the void. Alec watches the fabric of their surroundings disintegrate, the twinkling stars and pitch-black nothingness disappear until they’re back in the loft.

He blinks slowly, eyes adjusting to his surroundings. Isabelle, Simon and Clary all rouse quickly, rubbing at their eyes.

“What the hell happened?”  Izzy asks.

“The Hellhound has been released,” Magnus helps her up.  “It’s after Jace as we speak.”

Simon pushes his glasses up his nose. “Did we miss the entire summoning?” he frowns.

“It seems you did.”

“But,” Clary sends an accusing glare at Alec. “Why didn’t Alec pass out like the rest of us?”

“There had to be a witness for the summoning. Alexander was the right choice.” Alec flushes at the subtle praise.

“That’s not fair,” Simon moans. “I wanted to see the Hellhound too!”

Magnus scoffs, picking at the dried blood on his sleeve. “I’m fairly certain you would have passed out then if you hadn’t already. Not many mortals can bear to see a Hellhound and live to tell the tale.”

Simon huffs, stepping away from the pentagram and gathering his jacket. He brushes past Alec. “Your boyfriend just called me a wimp, dude. Uncool.”

Alec bites his lip to keep from grinning. And maybe shoves the vampire out the door with more force than necessary.

Isabelle’s phone rings, and she picks up instantly. Her brow furrows as the call goes on.

“Dad wants me back at the Institute,” she says. “Says high demonic activity reported in Manhattan.”

“Probably awakened from the Hellhound,” Magnus pinches the bridge of his nose. “That mutt is worth more trouble than he’s worth.”

“No, Magnus,” Clary steps forward. Her eyes are bright and glassy. “If it weren’t for you summoning the Hellhound, we’d probably never find Jace. It’s not your fault.”

Magnus’ eyebrows raise slightly, like they always do when he’s pleasantly surprised. He thanks Clary, and she and Isabelle leave the loft together. For a while, Alec just stares at the pentagram under his feet, now ruined from the wind.

The loft is silent without his friends. Magnus wiggles his fingers, wincing slightly when the cut reopens on his palm.

“Let me fix your hand,” Alec says. He tugs Magnus gently by the wrist, inspecting the long gash.

“You know I have magic for that, Alexander.” Magnus reminds him, but doesn’t move his hand away. He leans heavily against Alec, obviously drained. Alec pulls him to the washroom, turning on the sink and running the warm water over the entire length of his arm. The blood washes off easily, swirling in the sink and disappearing down the drain.

Alec dries him off silently, wrapping a large Band-Aid over the gash. He drags his thumb over the bump of bone on Magnus’ wrist.

“Thank you,” Magnus murmurs. He’s looking at their joined hands, tracking the circular motion of Alec’s thumb.

“Thank you,” Alec echoes. “If you hadn’t summoned the Hellhound, we’d never find Jace.”

Magnus shrugs. “Anyone would have done it.”

Alec shakes his head. “Anyone would have given up when they realized they couldn’t track with regular magic. You summoned a Hellhound and sent it after Jace.”

When Magnus tries to protest, Alec crowds him against the sink. He’s distantly aware of their lower halves being sealed together, but he desperately hopes that he doesn’t pop a boner relaying this important piece of information to Magnus.

“You may have fooled my sister and the others, Magnus, but not me. I know a blood oath when I see one, and I know the consequences of pledging to one are enormous. What did you offer the Hellhound?”

Magnus shakes his head. “Nothing.”

“Magnus –”

“I’m not lying to you, Alexander. I owe the hound nothing.”

Magnus swallows, looking at him. He’s asking silently, if he can trust Alec. Alec nods.

“It’s the same reason I can summon one in the first place. I don’t owe the Hellhound anything because it’s mine.”

Alec feels his mouth go slack. “You own a Hellhound?”

Magnus frowns, hand rising to toy with his ear cuff. “It’s like a pet, in a way.”

Alec gawks at him. His boyfriend has a pet Hellhound and just casually never mentioned it to him until now.

“It was a gift from my father,” Magnus admits, surprising both of them. “On my sixteenth birthday, he gave me the hound as a source of protection.”

His father. Who was that? Why did Magnus never mention him? Furthermore, what had happened to a sixteen year old Magnus that he needed a demonic hell beast for protection?

Alec’s head spins with more questions, but Magnus’ mouth has settled into a tight line. He tries to lighten the mood.

“What’s its name?” he asks, hoping Magnus will see his question as an out. Magnus huffs a laugh, placing his bandaged hand on his chest.

“Officially speaking, something sinister in an equally sinister language. But between you and me, I’ve always called him Barkley in my head.”

“Barkley?”

 “Barkley Ruffington the Third.” Magnus says with a straight face. Alec bites his cheek to keep from laughing until he sees the corner of Magnus’ mouth twitching with mirth.

“You’re ridiculous,” he snorts. Magnus is laughing too, shaking slightly. He doesn’t stop laughing until Alec presses their mouths together, teeth clacking all the way.

.

(Another dream, now. Magnus the young boy, sleeping peacefully on the forest floor. The Hellhound is curled protectively around his feet, their chests rising and falling in sync. The forest around them is lush and vibrant. There are no lines on Magnus’ face, and the morning dew collects sweetly on his lashes.

He’s struck by a longing for this boy. Magnus in his first life-time, his first century of existence. Alec wants to know everything about him. The worst part about dreams is that he can only watch.

And that’s what he does, for two weeks in a row, watching thick vines creep around the boy and his beast. Coiling themselves firmly and tugging until they both sink into the earth, still snoring.)

.

Their first date had been a bit of a disaster. Alec spilled his drink on himself and managed to sound like a complete ass to the fae waitress serving their food. And yet, Magnus still laughed at all of his jokes and stole fries off his plate and held his hand as they walked back to the loft.

And now, when he should probably get back to the Institute and remind everyone that their lunch break wasn’t two hours long, he’s being led by the hand into Magnus’ bedroom.

The last time he’d been here, Magnus had been wearing nothing but tight black briefs. Alec briefly wonders what kind of underwear Magnus has on now before another idea forms in his head. He walks them both backwards until Magnus’ knees hit the bed. Alec shoves him playfully, and Magnus lands on the mattress with familiar grace.

Magnus props himself on his elbows, moving languidly. His eyes rake up and down Alec’s form. Alec crawls between his legs, gripping onto Magnus’ biceps for support.

It feels surreal, sometimes, that Alec can have this. A boy in his bed, kissing him back. Magnus trails his finger down his spine, snapping at his waistband before digging his nails in his shoulder blades. Alec slides his hands up from his biceps to wrap his long fingers around Magnus’ wrist.

Magnus tenses underneath him, but not uncomfortably. He’s dropped the glamour, the vertical slits of his eyes blown wide. This is his favourite part, Alec thinks. The push back. He can feel the bones of Magnus’ wrist grinding against his fingers.

“You’re always doing that,” Magnus muses thoughtfully. Alec leans down and kisses him briefly, just because he can.

“Doing what?”

“This,” he flexes his arms against Alec’s hold, but he doesn’t try to get free. Not yet. “Holding me down when we kiss. Why is that?”

Alec exhales, burying his face in the crook of Magnus’ neck. Of course he would notice.

“I like having you close,” he admits. It’s more than just the proximity that Alec likes. It’s the constant reminder that Magnus wants him back, wants him enough to allow himself to be pinned and jostled under Alec’s clumsy touch.

Magnus hums softly. Suddenly, without warning, he flips them over so that Alec is flat on his back on the bed. The sudden shift has Magnus’ thigh pressed against his crotch, and Alec rubs against it unconsciously.

“I’m not going anywhere, Alec.” he says, looking into Alec’s eyes intently. Alec stares back, getting lost in the flecks of green of his eyes. “I’m right here.”

He says it so sincerely that Alec pushes up to kiss him, winding one hand around his neck.

“Good,” he mumbles, fiddling with the buttons on Magnus’ shirt. “You better not.”

Alec swallows whatever Magnus was going to say with another kiss, this time rolling his hips upwards until they both groan.

It’s another challenge, distracting Magnus with kisses and touches until he drops whatever subject Alec doesn’t want to talk about. He thinks he’s become better at it, sliding a confident hand down Magnus’ trousers and nipping at his bottom lip.

Despite his best efforts, Alec realizes that Magnus probably knows. The bottomless pit of affection Alec trips into whenever he’s near. The constant desire to be closer. There’s no use denying what he feels.

Soon, Alec thinks, as Magnus keens over him. I’ll tell him soon.

.

Magnus tracks his beast regularly, texting updates to Alec and Isabelle. After months of searching, the Hellhound has tracked Jace down to a ship in the Atlantic. For some reason, however, it can’t get past the wards on the ship.

Worse, the Institute is being bombarded with demon attacks constantly. Despite Magnus coming over every week to replenish the wards, they seem to be failing against safe-guarding the demons. The demons themselves are nothing like Alec’s ever seen before, moving with speed and grace previously unheard of.

“You said the Hellhound has a one hundred percent tracking rate!” Simon shakes his head. “How come you can’t just give it some magical mojo to bust through those wards?”

“Yeah,” Izzy chimes in. Her hair is a mess, plastered to her forehead with sweat. She’s angry at herself for failing to kill the Shax demon that burst through the Institute this morning. “You promised us it would work, Magnus.”

Magnus crosses his arms over his chest. “I didn’t promise you anything, Shadowhunters. Whatever magic Valentine’s used to ward his vessel repels my powers.”

“How?” Clary demands, hands balled into fists. “You’re supposed to be the most powerful warlock in the city. How can anything repel your powers?”

The three of them start arguing amongst themselves. Alec sighs, wanting very badly to tell them all to shut up. Magnus watches them shrewdly, jaw clenching.

“My blood is not pure,” Magnus grits out. “The wards are fueled by Angelic magic, and they repel anything that isn’t blessed by dear Raziel himself.”

 Simon’s jaw shuts with an audible clack.

Everyone shuts up after that, really, because this…this isn’t something they talk about.  Alec becomes all too aware of the situation, three Shadowhunters in the loft of a Downworlder, crowding him with accusations. Alec remembers when he was young, how one of the first lessons he learned in Idris was to be wary of the half-breed monsters known as warlocks. How his mother’s face fell flat when he kissed Magnus at the wedding. How Valentine’s crazed rhetoric about maintaining the supremacy of the Nephilim by destroying the entire Shadow world was gospel at one point.

Magnus now, with his eyes streaked with colour and rings adorning each tanned finger. How different he is from every single person Alec has ever met.

The purity of blood. Alec feels his stomach roil.

“Magnus -” Izzy starts, but he cuts her off with two fingers. He isn’t looking at any of them, eyes focused on a spot behind Alec’s shoulder.

“I’ll need to rejuvenate the oath with Nephilim blood. Since Alexander is Jace’s parabatai, his blood will be enough to pass through the wards undetected.”

Magnus turns to him, eyes hard. Alec wishes he would drop the glamour, but they remain a stubborn brown.

“Will you partake in the blood oath?” Magnus asks. He sounds old, ancient even. Like Alec is nothing but a blip on his extensive radar.

Alec nods immediately. “What is the price I pay?” he asks, hoping Magnus will send him a cheeky smile and say ‘you’ again.

“It will be the parabatai bond itself. If this works, the Hellhound will bind itself to Jace and bring him back to me, Angelic wards notwithstanding.”

“If it doesn’t?”

“Your parabatai bond will be completely obliterated.”

Izzy shakes her head. “Alec, you can’t go through with this. We’ll find another way, right Magnus?”

Magnus shrugs. “It is completely Alexander’s choice. There is no alternative tracking spell that will find Jace in time.”

Clary steps forward, a strangle gleam in her eye.

 “Alec, it’s your decision. We don’t want to push, but if it means finding Jace, maybe you should -”

“It sounds like you’re pushing, Clarissa.” Magnus interjects. “Perhaps you should leave so Alec can make a clear decision without you all yapping at his heels.”

Simon makes a noise of protest, but Magnus snaps his fingers and teleports them out of his loft. He locks the door, too, and they both wait until the banging has died down.

“I’m sorry,” Alec says once they’ve really left. Magnus’ mouth is still in a tight line. “They’re just a little strung out these days. Demonic activity has only spiked since we started tracking Jace.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Magnus replies. His eyes have softened. “They don’t understand what we’re up against.”

“Now, are you really going to partake in the oath? I know I was being a bit harsh before, but that was only to make Biscuit and crew stop talking.”

Alec takes a deep, shuddering breath. He’ll do anything to find Jace, endure any sort of pain. But the risk of having their bond destroyed if the spell doesn’t work terrifies him.

We break noses and accept the consequences. Alec repeats it in his head like a mantra.

“Yes,” he nods, straightening his spine. Magnus looks shocked, as if he hadn’t expected Alec to agree. “I’ll do it.”

.

The blood oath itself is not so complicated. Magnus doesn’t even need to summon Barkley again, simply slicing Alec’s palm and letting the blood drip into his own gashed hand. When their blood mixes, smoke curls from their hands and shows them the world through Barkley’s eyes.

“He’s underwater,” Magnus breathes. The view is murky, but Alec can clearly see the hull of a giant cargo ship.

Morning Star, Alec notes. The name written on the side. Jace was in there, somewhere, hurt and alone.

“We’ll get him back,” Magnus promises, squeezing his hand. Alec squeezes back, trying to quell his nerves. He doesn’t let go long after the vision fades, focusing on Magnus’ steady pulse under his fingers.

They stand there in the darkness of the loft, hands still clasped together. Something akin to relief washes over him. He’s done all that he can to find his parabatai. Now all he has to do is wait.

.

Magnus had warned him that the oath would amplify the parabatai connection, but Alec hadn’t thought it would be so much.

He’s in the middle of a routine hunt when a sharp pain in his abdomen has him on his knees. Isabelle wraps her whip around the Kuri demon, choking it off just in time.

“Alec!” she cries, crouching next to him. It feels as if someone’s plunged a seraph blade into his stomach.

“It’s Jace,” he croaks, clutching his side. “H-he’s hurt.”

Izzy nods, helping him to his feet. “We’ll get you some painkillers at the Institute.” she says. Alec shakes his head frantically. His head is spinning, and bile is rising steadily in his throat.

“Magnus,” he tries hard not to scream. “I want Magnus.”

He’s distantly aware of how embarrassing he sounds, childishly repeating his boyfriend’s name over and over. But Magnus is the only one who makes him feel better, makes him feel at home. Just thinking about the grey walls of the Institute make him want to throw up.

“Okay,” Izzy relents. She dials Magnus, speaking with him briefly before hauling Alec towards the loft. It’s only a block away, but each step has him swaying dangerously.

When they reach the loft, Alec nearly collapses in the doorway when strong arms catch him. He knows it’s Magnus by the scent of cinnamon and the drag of polished nails across his chest.

“I’ve got him,” Magnus says, voice strained. The three of them shuffle awkwardly until he’s spread on Magnus’ couch. Alec would laugh if he didn’t feel like ripping himself apart to make the pain stop. Fat tears roll down the sides of his cheeks, unbidden. Alec can’t even blink them back, it hurts so badly.

Magnus waves his pretty fingers over Alec’s side, the cobalt sparks sending comforting bursts of hot and cold into Alec.

“This will take the edge off,” Magnus says soothingly, brushing his sweaty hair from his forehead. The magic burrows under his skin, coursing through until it congregates on his side. Magnus traces his fingers over the parabatai rune, chanting softly.

Alec strains against the couch, gripping one of the decorative pillows until the pain starts to ebb away. Magnus’ cool fingers rest against his stomach, and he weakly grabs at them. He knows he must look ridiculous, tear tracks on his grimy face and sweat dripping down his back.

“Hey,” Magnus says, smiling gently. Alec loves that smile.

“Hey yourself,” he says. Magnus brings their hands together and kisses his knuckles. There’s an unmistakable spark between his lips and the skin on Alec’s knuckles. Alec’s throat seizes up, everything he wants to say stuck in his throat.

“Rest now,” Magnus tucks a lock of his hair behind his ear. His face looks unbearably gentle, like any betrayal of emotion would hurt Alec.

“Kiss me?” Alec asks. He knows Izzy is still in the room, but he’s too tired to be embarrassed. Magnus complies, leaning forward to press his mouth against Alec softly.

He falls asleep soon after, mesmerized by the way the dying light bounces off the sequins of Magnus’ shirt.

.

Something changes after that, imperceptibly. Alec is powerless to stop it.

Magnus had seen him at his worst. Magnus had taken care of him, and hadn’t blamed him for being in pain.

Alec can count on one hand how many people have done all three. His mother isn’t one of them.

.

On their second date, Magnus tells him about Angola. On their third, Peru. On the fourth date, Spain. Alec goes home after all those dates and stares at the globe in his room. He spins it, closing his eyes and selecting a country at random. Magnus the explorer, traipsing across the world, leaving a trail of blue sparks in his wake.

Each story is better than the last. Every date they have together seems to stretch on for longer, Magnus talking and listening in equal parts. Smiling when Alec makes a bad pun, rebutting with an even worse pun of his own.

Is he falling too fast? Is it too early to think of years with Magnus, walking into his loft and kissing him hello?

For the first time, Alec finds himself uncaring about the consequences of his actions. For the first time, he doesn’t mind the falling. Magnus is always there at the end to catch him.

.

On the fifth date, Magnus pushes him carefully against the wall of the bedroom and sinks to his knees. Alec’s brain almost short-circuits when he looks down, Magnus’ eyes fixed on him, glowing brightly.

It’s the only thing he can see in the darkness of the room. He tangles his fingers in Magnus’ hair and bucks his hips greedily. Magnus’ lips are swollen and slick when he kisses them, and it’s a different sort of thrill when he tastes himself on Magnus’ tongue.

Alec turns the lamp on as they undress, content to watch and be watched. When they crawl under the covers, he kisses Magnus deeply, only pulling away when his own mouth feels raw.

Magnus rests his head on his pillow, face turned away from Alec. He sleeps differently when Alec is there, curled to the side. Alec wraps his arms around him, pulling back only to make sure of one more thing.

The tips of Magnus’ ears, flushed bright red. Alec presses a kiss to his jaw and turns the lamp off.

.

“Magnus,” he says one day, when they’re both curled on his canopy bed. “Can I ask you something?”

“You already have,” Magnus murmurs, brushing his hair off his forehead. His voice is slurring, which means he’s about to fall asleep again. Alec has to act fast.

“What was your name?” Alec asks, and he feels him laugh against his chest.

“Have you forgotten already?” Magnus teases. “I didn’t think memory loss was a side effect of sleeping with me.”

“No,” he mumbles, pressing his face to Magnus’ hair. There’s no use getting embarrassed when they’re wrapped around each other like vines. “I meant – what was your name before you met the Silent Brothers in Madrid?”

It’s been gnawing at Alec for days now, ever since he’d read Magnus’ frustrating sparse file from cover to cover. For a warlock with nearly four centuries under his belt, there was surprisingly little information about him in the Institute’s database. Combined with Magnus’ natural aura of mystery and suspense, Alec finds himself desperate to learn anything about the man he was falling for.

Magnus stiffens under his touch. Subtly, the long lines of his body grow harsh and rigid. He’s going to bolt, as he often does whenever Alec asks him about his past. As if the ugly details of his life are going to scare Alec away. (They aren’t. If anything, every little piece of Magnus feels like a gift. Drawing him in, hook line and sinker.)

“I didn’t have one,” Magnus says it so quietly, almost to himself. His breath hitches slightly, and he moves his head so that Alec’s lips aren’t touching his nape any more. “They – my parents – didn’t think I deserved to have a name.”

Alec lets out a shaky breath. Magnus says nothing, does nothing. Alec isn’t sure if he even breathes, the only sign of his presence is his drooping eyelids.

Alec tugs at his shoulders until they’re facing each other, the rustle of the sheets the only sound in the room. There’s no way he’s letting Magnus sleep after dropping this particular bombshell. Magnus meets his gaze, but his eyes are somewhere far away. Alec brings one palm to his cheek, nudging his sight back on him.

For a while, Alec just cups his cheek and stares. The clock on the wall ticks slowly, but he’ll wait as long as he has to.

“How was your hunt?” Magnus asks abruptly. He’s looking at Alec shrewdly, as if he’s waiting for him to fumble.

The question throws Alec off guard. Magnus usually doesn’t care about any Shadowhunter duties, only listening to Alec griping about his daily shifts out of respect.

This is a test.

“It was good,” he replies quickly, not willing to lose whatever chance he’s been given. “We got three Eidolon demons right near the Hotel Dumort, destroyed their entire nest too.”

“Three Eidolon demons,” Magnus echoes. His eyes are focused on Alec with the sort of laser intensity that would usually make him blush.

“What were their names?” Magnus asks, and the cadence of his speech would have led one to believe he was joking. And yet, his eyes are molten gold, dripping with anger and something else Alec recognizes all too well. Shame.

Slowly, what Magnus is implying starts to dawn on him. Immediately, he shakes his head.

“That’s not the same thing!” he cries, desperate to make him understand. “Those- those things are monsters.”

There’s a pause then, a heartbeat shared between them. Magnus’ mouth twists into a wry smile.

“Exactly,” he says. Alec feels like he’s been slapped. Magnus turns, presumably to fall asleep. Alec doesn’t let him, gripping him tighter. It must hurt Magnus, his soft skin bruises so easily under Alec’s rough fingers.

It’s not the same thing. It’s not. Alec doesn’t know what to say, how to convince Magnus that the only thing that binds him to such evil is blood, that everything else he is makes his heritage irrelevant.

Instead, he talks with his body, a language both of them know well. He straddles Magnus, pinning his arms above his head and lacing their fingers together. He kisses him deeply, pouring all the affection that’s been welling up inside him for weeks (months, if he’s being honest) into the kiss.

After he pulls back reluctantly for air, he stares at the man underneath him. Magnus looks wrecked, hair a mess and bare chest heaving. Alec’s barely touched him, but the front of his pajama pants are tented. Magnus’ head stays turned to the side even as Alec sucks a bruise on his throat, biting him just as hard as he likes it. Magnus clenches his jaw when Alec tilts his head so that they’re looking directly at each other.

Magnus’ eyes are glassy, lashes wet from the tears he refuses to shed. Alec understands it intimately, the fear of crying in front of another. Angel knows how many times he’s swallowed down his own misery because he didn’t want to be embarrassed. He rests his forehead on Magnus’, simply breathing him in.

 “Don’t -” Magnus’ voice is rough and uneasy. “Don’t pity me,” he growls.

Alec shakes his head, kissing him again. Of all the things he feels for this man, pity isn’t one of them.

“Never,” he whispers, kissing the corner of his eyes. The skin there is especially delicate, a golden membrane barely concealing the thin capillaries.

 (There’s a part of him that just wants to take, now, while Magnus is looking so vulnerable and small. The ugly, selfish, horny part of him that’s been repressed for as long as he has. The part that wants him to flip Magnus over and order him to spread his legs, lick a searing stripe down his spine and watch him shiver. To fuck Magnus so hard he sobs, tears leaking out of his eyes and staining his stupidly expensive pillowcase. Alec can see in his mind’s eye how good he would look then, face mashed against the pillow, his thin fingers clutching at the sheets uselessly. That defiant look in his eyes, always challenging Alec, even as he’s getting fucked.)

Alec destroys the thought before it even forms. Magnus needs his affection, even if he won’t ask for it. He sucks him off as an apology, drawing out the pleasure even as Magnus twists his hands in his hair and tugs harshly.

Afterwards, he insists on cleaning them up. The washcloth is damp and warm, and he drags it slowly across Magnus’ skin. The air around them feels softer now, tender.

“Thank you for telling me,” he breathes into Magnus’ skin. They’ve settled into the original position, Magnus’ back pressed against his chest. Their legs are tangled together, and Alec digs his cold toes into Magnus’ calf, just to hear him laugh and push back.

“I didn’t tell you anything,” Magnus protests. Alec knows him well enough that he’s recovering his mysterious aura, draping it around his shoulders like a beloved coat.

He hums noncommittally, locking his fingers over Magnus’ stomach. Alec holds him tightly, reveling in the gift he’s been given. Another piece of Magnus’ past. He tucks it safely into his heart, and closes his eyes, drifting off into a calm sleep.

.

They exist in that perfect bubble of Alec and Magnus for another couple of weeks, until Isabelle bounds into the loft with a frown etched on her face. She waves away Magnus’ offer of a cup of tea.

“What is it, Izzy?” Alec looks up from his paperwork. He’s taken to doing it here, in Magnus’ study.

“Mom’s back,” she says, shaking her head. “She wants to see you.”

Just like that, Alec feels his stomach sink.

.

Chapter Text

Maryse Lightwood walks into the Institute with her back straight and a huge chip on her shoulder. Alec watches the other Shadowhunters skitter away from her, suddenly invested in staring at the pristine floor.

“Mom,” he says, hands folded behind his back. He can already feel his shoulders slumping when she doesn’t respond to him, instead scrolling on her tablet.

“What have you gathered about Jace’s whereabouts?” she asks, not looking up from the screen.

“We’ve tracked him to a cargo ship a hundred kilometres from Calais. He’s alive.”  

“What about the intel gathered from the Yalta mission? Shouldn’t he still be in Ukraine?”

Alec shakes his head. Through Barkley, they’ve learned that the Morning Star has picked up Valentine and Jace from Yalta and is currently headed towards the northern French coastline, presumably to pick up more rogue Shadowhunters.

“Ukraine was just the starting point. Valentine’s moving Jace and his army west, across France and towards Britain. If we retrieve Jace before the ship docks in Calais, we can slow them down before they reach the London Institute.”

“That’s good,” Maryse says, finally looking up. “I expect a report in by tomorrow, nine sharp. Put it on my desk.”

Alec nods, grateful she didn’t ask how exactly they found Jace. The less she knows about Magnus’ involvement, the better. He heads for the door, eager to finish the report. But before he can move, his mother places a hand on his shoulder.

“Are you going to work on the report now, Alec?”

“Yes, mom.”

“Isn’t it in your room?”

Alec stills, cursing himself silently.

“It’s um - it’s at Magnus’ place,” He can feel the shame clawing its way back up his spine. There’s no way his mother is going to let this one go.

She turns her head slowly to look at him. Her hair is pulled into a severe bun, strands slicked down with gel. When he was younger, he’d always watch her dip her lean fingers into the tub and set each hair into perfect, unwavering position.

Maryse exhales sharply. “You’ve left your confidential documents in the warlock’s home?”

Alec doesn’t respond to that, because how can he? She wouldn’t understand how comfortable Magnus’ loft is, how secure. How he let Alec use his study because Alec’s room in the Institute doesn’t even have a desk and he can’t bring himself to sit in his mother’s office. How Magnus doesn’t disturb him or pry into his work, just brings him perfectly brewed coffee and sometimes sits in his lap and kisses him just to relieve the tension that seeps into Alec’s frame as he writes report after report.

She wouldn’t understand it at all.

 “Can you trust that the warlock won’t look through your papers? Perhaps contact his friends in the Downworld and plot against bringing down everything we’ve worked for?”

“Magnus wouldn’t do that.”

“How do you know?

Alec clenches his fist, trying to squash the overwhelming urge he has to stomp and throw something until she just listens.

“Magnus is the one that helped us track Jace. Without him, we wouldn’t even know about the ship or how large Valentine’s army has grown. While you were away in Idris bullshitting with the Clave, it’s Magnus who invoked a blood oath to find him. Any day now, Jace will be brought back because of him!” Alec snaps, the words tumbling out his mouth before he can stop them.

Maryse glares at him, eyes burning with fury. Alec tries not to balk, although internally he’s a second away from completely falling to his knees and groveling for forgiveness.

“Your infatuation with that Downworlder is getting out of hand, Alec,” she says coolly.

Alec can feel his nails digging into the skin of his palm with how hard he’s clenching them. Strangely, for a moment, he considers telling her that whatever he feels for Magnus has moved far past infatuation. That he’s so far gone that even thinking about Magnus makes his blood sing and heart pound with affection.

“Tell me,” she says, voice clipped. “Has he ever been married? Had children? All those women crawling into his bed, he’s bound to have some loose ends.”

It’s a complete non-sequitur, and Alec tries to steer the conversation back to his paperwork.

“Mom, I’ll get the report -”

“Who was his father?” Maryse plows on, and Alec thinks of the strained expression on Magnus’ face when he talked about Barkley. “Who was his mother? Did he have siblings?”

“Why are you asking me all this?” Alec asks tiredly. “Why does any of it matter?”

“It matters, Alec.” She grasps his arm much too gently. “I only want what’s best for you. You deserve someone understands the importance of family. Someone who understands you.”

She’s looking at him with a mixture of pity and affection. Alec’s been privy to these looks before, whenever he’s disappointed her in a big way. Whatever happened in Idris must have rattled her, and she’s picked the easiest target to release her frustrations on.

“Magnus understands me,” he says, staring at her. Her face contorts into a sneer.

“Does he now?” She circles around him, snarling. “What does Magnus Bane know about family? About honour? Integrity?”

Alec can’t think of a response to that. Maryse spins on her heel, striding confidently towards her office. Alec watches her go, his head spinning.

.

Alec lets himself into the loft, drained. After his mother’s arrival, the Institute buzzes with activity as everyone hurries to implement the new orders from the Clave. Isabelle’s shift starts, and she assures him that she’ll deal with Mom as he slips out.

Magnus is sitting on the couch, socks off and feet curled into his side. His pair of bunny slippers lay on the rug beneath the couch. Alec almost misses the tiny girl tucked into his side.

Zoey.

They haven’t noticed him yet, so Alec takes a moment to just look. Magnus, in the simplest outfit Alec’s ever seen, has one arm slung over the girl’s shoulder. In his other hand is a thick story book, his pinky against the leather-bound spine.

He’s retelling some fairy-tale, using his magic to amplify the voices of the evil queen and the princess. Alec watches, mesmerized, as the living room is temporarily transformed into a beautiful ballroom. A sparkling chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and Zoey reaches out to grasp one crystal that shines the brightest.

As she curls her fingers around the crystal, the illusion breaks. Magnus sets down the book and looks at him, face splitting into a wide smile.

“Alexander!” he exclaims, eyes lighting up. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

Alec smiles back. Magnus looks relaxed, lazily beckoning Alec closer. Alec walks over to him, pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth before pulling back.

“This,” Magnus pulls back, gesturing to the top of Zoey’s head. “Is Zoey.”

“Hi Zoey,” Alec says, making sure to keep his voice friendly. “I’m Alec Lightwood.”

Zoey peeks at him shyly, brown eyes wide. Her cheeks are flushed with embarrassment, and Alec can see she’s barely fighting the urge to hide her face in Magnus’ side. Something about her bashful countenance endears her to Alec immediately.

“Hi Mr. Lightwood,” she mumbles, not quite meeting his eyes. He can see the flesh of her bare arms changing, some patches covered in opalescent scales that reflect the lights of the loft.

“We’re working on glamours,” Magnus explains, wiggling his fingers over her arm. The scales disappear, and Zoey tugs her sleeves further down until her arms are covered.

 “Your scales are your warlock Mark, right?” he asks gently. Alec isn’t sure if he’s out of line here, but Magnus is just watching him, face impassive.

Zoey nods, cheeks still flushed.

“I think they’re very pretty,” he offers. Only then does the shyness melt from her face, and she grins widely at him. Her two front teeth are missing, just like Max’s a few years ago. The scales reappear fully on her arms.

Alec can feel Magnus’ eyes on him, but he doesn’t look at him just yet. “There’s another warlock Mark that I find very pretty too, but it’s not as pretty as yours. Do you know whose it is?”

Zoey furrows her brow, looking at him inquisitively. Alec can see that beyond the initial shyness, there’s a bright mind at work.

“Well,” he spreads his arms wide. Magnus’ theatrics are rubbing off on him. “It’s your very own Magnus Bane.”

Without prompting, Magnus drops the glamour on his eyes. Zoey gasps, delighted, and Alec feels his own breath catch. The afternoon sun lights them up from the inside, and Alec can see flecks of green and brown in the pool of molten gold.

Zoey turns to face Magnus fully, looking into his slit pupils. She spends a few seconds just staring, before she lifts her hand up. Alec can see the split second of apprehension on Magnus’ face before he closes his eyes. Zoey touches a reverent hand to his eyelids, letting her fingers rest for a moment before pulling away.

Alec’s throat tightens, watching the delicate scene before him. He didn’t think that Magnus would be so gentle with children, and yet here he is, letting a young girl touch his eyes.

“Your eyes are very pretty, Mister Bane.” Zoey says, folding her hands back in her lap. She sends Alec a gracious smile.

“Thank you, Zoey.” Magnus’s voice is unbearably gentle. He smiles at her softly, and pulls her in for a tight hug. The smile he sends Alec over the top of her head is enough to make his heart stutter.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Magnus tells her, holding her firmly by the shoulders. “Do you understand it now?”

Zoey nods. Magnus releases her, and she bounds out of the loft.

“Is she going home?” Alec asks, settling next to Magnus. He nods, explaining that Zoey uses a portal to travel to Magnus’ loft for her lessons, and stays with another warlock in the meantime.

“It’s important for young warlocks to have another warlock guide them through discovering their Marks and their magic. So many warlocks lose their way simply because there was no one there for them.”

“You’re there,” Alec runs his thumb over Magnus’ knuckles. Magnus sighs, leaning into his side. Alec knows that he’s tired by the way his shoulders slump.

“I have to be,” Magnus counters, a glass of wine appearing in his hand. “There’s nothing worse than hating who you are.”

Amen to that. Alec pours himself a drink, and refills Magnus’ glass on the way back.

.

On their seventh date (Alec should really stop keeping count, but he won’t), Alec proposes a dinner picnic in Central Park. It’s been ages since he’s gone there without a mission to complete or information to extract.

“Alexander!” Magnus sends him a pleased smile. “You’re always surprising me.”

“Is that a yes?”

Magnus hums his assent, snapping his fingers. An array of sandwiches and snacks appear in a basket, along with a bottle of sparkling cider.

“A picnic,” Magnus tucks a roll of bread into the corner. “How quaint.”

“I bet you have a favourite tree to sit under,” he muses, folding a checkered sheet. Alec rolls his eyes, helping him pack the food items he’s magicked up.

He does have a favourite tree. It’s an old weeping willow situated a few metres from a small creek he’d found with Izzy when they were children. The branches hang low, and Alec remembers spending hours watching the branches sway hypnotically in the wind.

When the basket is all packed, they trek to Central Park, enjoying the comfortable silence. Alec follows the beaten path by memory, holding Magnus’ arm as they duck under the foliage. Magnus doesn’t seem bothered by the mud sticking to his boots or the last burst of heat from the setting sun.  He does, however, use magic to repel the mosquitoes buzzing incessantly around them.

“You could’ve just used bug spray like the rest of us,” Alec teases, as the force-field around Magnus wobbles a bit.

“Bug spray has an intolerable scent, Alec.” Magnus says haughtily. “It’s telling of how I feel for you that I’m allowing you to stand so close.”

Alec cracks up at that, masking how his heart thuds at Magnus’ words. How does Magnus feel for him? Is it anywhere close to what Alec feels?

When they reach the willow, Alec and Magnus make quick work of the basket. They spread the sheet on the ground, and lay each food item down. Alec pops a grape in his mouth as he sits, reaching for another one when he catches Magnus’ forlorn expression.

“You started without me,” he says, mouth still downturned. Alec plucks the grape from the vine and presses it against Magnus’ frown. It’s worth the embarrassment of Magnus’ lips closing around his finger when he smiles beatifically afterwards.

They eat slowly, backs against the thick trunk of the tree. This time, when Alec watches the sunset on Magnus’ skin, Magnus watches him right back, eyes shining. When they finish, Alec lies flat on the sheet and stares at the dark sky. Despite the light pollution of New York, he can still see a few constellations twinkling brightly. Magnus settles beside him, shoulder to shoulder.

“You needed this,” Magnus says gently. He isn’t looking at Alec, eyes fixed on Cassiopeia. Alec blinks, trying to find Orion as a cloud drifts over them.

“Yeah,” he exhales, when the three familiar stars line up in his vision. “Mom’s been on my ass non-stop about Jace and the Institute. And you.”

Magnus raises an eyebrow. Alec can’t see it, but he knows him well enough to approximate some sort of amused expression.

“I don’t know what my mom hates more, that my boyfriend is a Downworlder, or that he’s a he.” Alec gripes, resting his head on his arm. Magnus is silent beside him, arm pressed comfortably against his own.

“Boyfriend?” Magnus asks, and Alec’s stomach sinks. He realizes it’s the first time he’s ever used that word around Magnus. Has he read the entire situation wrong?

“Isn’t that what we – I mean I thought – we don’t -” Alec fumbles, whatever confidence he’d mustered fizzling out superbly.

“Alec,” Magnus rumbles. From this close, Alec can feel the words taking shape in his chest and falling out of his mouth. Magnus hovers a finger in front of his lips, not quite touching.

Magnus is grinning, sharp teeth glinting in the moonlight. Alec waits for him to speak again, unable to bear the silence before Magnus inevitably breaks up with him or says they need to have some space or whatever else will undoubtedly shatter his heart into a million pieces.

“We are,” he says, and tests the words out on his tongue. “We are boyfriends.”

“It’s just that I haven’t been anyone’s boyfriend for a long time.”

“Oh,” Alec breathes out. His body relaxes, bit by bit, as Magnus turns to kiss him. He skates his fingers up Magnus’ shirt, palms flat on the warm flesh of his lower back.

“I haven’t been anyone’s for a long time,” Magnus murmurs, nipping at Alec’s jaw. Alec digs his nails into Magnus’ shoulders, pulling him closer until his breath fans out against his cheek. They kiss again, this time Alec runs his tongue over Magnus’ bottom lip, chasing the last traces of cider from his mouth.

Alec pulls away, struck with how badly he wants Magnus to feel what he feels.

“You can -” Magnus lurches up to kiss him before he finishes his sentence. Alec’s skin burns as he settles on top of Magnus. His ornate belt buckle is digging into both of their sides, so Alec undoes the clasp and pulls it off gently. He rucks up Magnus’ silk shirt, bunching the fabric on the centre of his chest. He splays his fingers on Magnus’ stomach, holding him down when he tries to sit up.

“You can be mine,” Alec says, leaning down to kiss him. Magnus’ breath catches at that, and Alec drags his calloused fingers down his navel, hard enough that Magnus hisses. Magnus nods fervently. Alec hides his grin in the hollows of his ribs and tugs at his slacks.

Above them, the breeze shakes the leaves of the weeping willow, and its hanging branches graze the ground sweetly, gently.

.

“Barkley has retrieved Jace from the Morning Star.” Magnus tells him, when Alec rushes into the loft after getting his text.

Alec’s throat seizes. Magnus is seated on the couch, leaning over a glass sphere that sits on a ruby-encrusted stand. 

“Is that a crystal ball?” Alec asks, slinging his coat over the armchair. Magnus nods, and Alec has to crouch down to see inside.

The fog clears, and through Barkley’s eyes they can see waves rolling beneath him. Barkley doggy-paddles through the frigid Atlantic waters, unaffected by the low temperature. His maw is clenched tightly.

“Jace?”

Magnus presses his fingers insistently on the sphere. The vision shifts, and Alec can see the pinkish inside of Barkley’s tongue. A greenish lump of slime rests on the tip.

 “It seems that your parabatai is within Barkley’s mouth. An air bubble has formed around him, and should last through the trip.”  

“That’s -” Alec releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Inside the bubble of slime he can see Jace’s form, chest rising slowly. He’s alive.

“Kind of disgusting,” Magnus says, wrinkling his nose. “He’s wrapped up in the spit and snot of a Hellhound.”

Alec shakes his head. “If he can survive Valentine, he can survive some slobbering mutt.” A lump forms in his throat, and Alec fights off the urge to cry in front of his boyfriend for the second time this month.

Magnus covers his shaking hand with his own. He doesn’t need words, as Alec already knows. The finality of Jace’s return sinks in, like a stone in water.

Any day now.

.

Magnus is replenishing the wards at the Institute when it happens. In under an hour, he’s cast over two dozen protection and warding spells. Alec knows Magnus is tiring, but he also knows that his boyfriend is too stubborn to take a break, especially under Maryse’s spiteful watch.

Alec watches his spine straighten, hands stilling over whatever alarm he’d been setting. He presses a shaky hand to his forehead, eyes fluttering shut.

“We’re not paying you to dawdle, Bane!” Maryse snaps. She’s in a crabby mood today, after Robert spent yet another day held up in Idris for ‘official business’ with the Seelie Queen.

Magnus lets out a sharp laugh. “You haven’t paid me in months,” he says, removing his hands from his face. When he opens his eyes, Maryse stares at him open-mouthed. Alec follows her line of sight to Magnus, concern growing in the pit of his stomach.

Magnus’ eyes have rolled back into his head, and the ward he cast on the Institute’s eastern entrance swells with energy before bursting outwards, shattering the glass. The other Shadowhunters assume defensive position, weapons following Magnus as he walks forward.

Blood drops steadily from his hand, leaving a messy trail behind him. When had his hand started bleeding?

Alec feels something warm and wet trailing down his fingers. He turns his hand, staring at the reopened gash across his palm. His side begins to ache.

“Alexander,” Magnus warns, and at the same time his mother cries out: “Alec!”

Before Alec can decide who to respond to first, an ear-splitting roar echoes throughout the Institute. The shattered glass cracks further under four massive paws, and a huge glob of spit drips onto one of the flat screen monitors.

Barkley stands in front of the ruined Eastern wing, sniffing the air. When his gaze lands on Magnus he pounces, claws tearing through the floor. The tremors are great enough to make the marble pillars of the Institute quake.

“I need your strength,” Magnus says, and Alec grasps at his hand tightly, feeling Magnus draw from the well of his own power.

The other Shadowhunters have recovered from their initial shock, and move to charge. Maryse unsheathes her seraph, stepping cautiously towards the Hellhound. From the corner of his eye, Alec can see Izzy and Clary rushing out of their rooms.

“Aim for the eyes!” Maryse shrieks, releasing her dagger. It misses slightly, lodging itself into Barkley’s shoulder. The hound howls in pain, and Magnus too clutches his shoulder, staggering.

“Stop!” Alec cries. Barkley is enraged now, jaw snapping as he backs her against the desk. Alec can see his mother’s shoulders trembling as his fang grazes her side.

Magnus raises his hand, casting a binding spell on her and the other Nephilim, stopping them in their tracks. He whistles lowly to Barkley, trying to catch his attention. The hound’s head swivels, but he doesn’t move.

“Warlock Bane, what is the meaning of this?” Maryse growls, arms frozen. The demonic sensors installed in nearly every corner of the Institute are blaring at full volume, ringing unpleasantly in Alec’s ears.

Magnus ignores her, using his other hand to bring Barkley closer. The Hellhound bows its head, closing its scarlet eyes when Magnus’ bloody palm touches the base of its skull. Magnus murmurs something into its giant floppy ear, and Barkley rears up, stretching on its hind legs.

A great hacking sound emanates from the beast’s throat before it spits something out. Something limp plops from its mouth onto the floor.

Jace.

“Jace!” Alec cries, rushing forward. His parabatai is covered in spit and mucus, and Alec wipes it off his mouth and nose so he can breathe. Jace coughs weakly, but his pulse is strong under Alec’s fingertips.

“Take him to the infirmary,” Magnus orders Clary and Izzy, who’ve rushed to Jace’s side. He releases Barkley, and with a flick of his wrist, Barkley bounds out of the destroyed entrance. No Shadowhunter dares go after him.

Magnus releases his mother from the spell, and she reddens with anger.

“Get out!” she screams, pointing at the exit. “You are banished from the New York Institute, Magnus Bane.”

Alec tries to protest, but Magnus has already moved to the doors. He turns, giving Alec a soft look before pushing the heavy doors open and walking into the cool night. Alec wants to follow, but he hears Jace groaning on the stretcher, and rushes to the infirmary.

.

Jace is stable. Jace is alive.

Alec sits there for hours, just holding Jace’s wrist in his hand, feeling the steady push of blood in his veins. Isabelle sits next to him, and Maryse sits opposite, smoothing her palm over his forehead.

The medics hover around them, hooking Jace up to an IV. Iratzes are applied all over his body, and Alec winces at the large bruises splotched on Jace’s abdomen and thighs and arms. There’s a short but deep wound on his side, splitting his parabatai rune clean in half. Alec’s hand presses into his own rune, the phantom sensation lingering.

“Will he be okay?” Alec asks, after one iratze causes Jace to wake briefly, only to scream in pain until they sedate him. The medic nods, adjusting the valve on his IV.

“He needs rest for at least forty eight hours. Plenty of fluids and absolutely no external stressors, otherwise the iratzes won’t work. Some of the bruising is quite extensive, but there’s no internal bleeding or broken bones.”

Alec breathes a sigh of relief, glancing at Izzy. She squeezes Jace’s hand, reaching for his with her other one. Maryse remains seated, eyes welled up with tears but mouth pressed in a thin line. She meets his gaze head on, and asks to speak with him outside.

“Go,” Izzy says, her eyes bloodshot and watery. “I’ll watch Jace while you speak with Mom.”

Alec nods, letting go of her hand and steeling himself. He follows his mother outside the infirmary, stopping in the hallway of the briefing room.

“I’m proud of you for bringing back your parabatai, Alec.” she says, clapping him on the shoulder. Alec shrugs off her praise.

“It was Magnus who brought him back. I only offered my blood to strengthen the oath.”

“Oath?” his mother’s eyes grow comically wide. “You partook in a blood oath with a Downworlder?”

“It was the only way to bring Jace back in time,” he says, echoing Magnus’ words. His mother grimaces with disgust.

“You’ve shared your blood and Jace’s blood with that warlock?” She rubs at her temples. “The warlock that invited a Hellbeast into our sacred walls and destroyed nearly half of our Institute?”

“Magnus brought Jace back alive and all you can think about is the property damage?” Alec retorts. He’s so tired of her tunnel vision way of looking at things.

Maryse huffs. “The warlock’s interference was not necessary. Our strike team could have retrieved Jace on its own.”

“Could it?” Alec snipes. His patience is wearing extremely thin. “Because they barely reached the coastline before Valentine did.”

“Alec, you need to understand what this will look like. The New York Institute’s security has been breached by a warlock and his pet. What do you think the Clave will make of this?”

“The Clave should recognize that bringing Jace back was our top priority. That the Morning Star can only be infiltrated because Magnus sent the Hellhound through the wards. They should realize that stopping Valentine is what matters right now, and if it takes the help of a warlock to do so, so be it.”

Maryse pinches the bridge of her nose. “That warlock -”

“Magnus, Mom. His name is Magnus.”

Maryse fixed him a look that clearly told him she didn’t care. That was fine. Alec shrugs on his jacket, pushing past her towards the back door. He was tired of caring anyways.

.

When Alec makes it back to the loft, Magnus is well on his way to becoming spectacularly drunk. Magnus sits on the chaise with his feet propped up, empty glasses crowding around them on the coffee table.

“Alexander,” he slurs, lifting his head slowly to watch him come in. “You’re here.”

“Where else would I be?” Alec kicks off his shoes onto the mat.

“Tending to the every whim of your beloved parabatai?” Magnus is only half-teasing. “I thought you’d be glued to his side.”

He was. But after two hours, it was clear that Jace wasn’t going to wake up until he got proper rest and fluids inside him.

“Izzy forced me out of his chamber. I think she wanted some time alone with him. It’s Clary’s turn after that.” Alec thinks of the tears streaming down her face as she clutched Jace’s hand.

“Isabelle is pure of heart,” Magnus mutters, downing another shot. “She deserves some time with her brother. So does Clary.”

Alec snorts inelegantly. He’d almost forgotten the weird incest thing between his brother and the redhead.

“Magnus, I’m sorry,” he begins, trying to catch Magnus’ eye. He’s still furious at his mother for banishing the man that helped bring Jace back. “My mom had no right to do that.”

Magnus does look at him as he rises with his half-empty glass. His left shoulder moves stiffly, and Alec tells himself to check the wound before they go to bed.

“She banished me!” Magnus spreads his arms and twirls around, plucking a bottle from the shelf. “Like we’re in medieval times and I’m never to see the prince again.”

Alec guides him towards the kitchen for a glass of water instead. Magnus turns in his arms and tries to kiss him, missing horribly.

“You’re the prince,” he whispers conspiratorially, poking Alec’s chest with his finger. Alec just nods, walking them backwards until Magnus bumps against the counter. It doesn’t seem to hurt him, and he props himself up on the ledge.

Alec stares at him, perched on the kitchen counter, legs swinging underneath. His feet tap lightly against the cabinet underneath. Magnus giggles, drunk enough that everything he says is toeing the line between heart-stoppingly honest and outright nonsensical. The gold of his eyes are swallowed up by his pupil, blown wide with intoxication.

 “I was banished once,” Magnus says, apropos of nothing. He’s stopped swinging his legs, instead crossing them. “It was because I saved this fledgling when the locals wanted to kill her. But she was so lovely, Alexander. How can you hurt something so lovely?”

“Magnus-” Alec steers him towards the bedroom. “You should sleep now.”

“She was so lovely,” Magnus continues, as if he hasn’t heard Alec at all. “But she killed seven people in one night. I had to stake her myself before she started going after the children.”

“Magnus, you don’t have to tell me.” Alec protests. Magnus doesn’t move, intent on staying in the kitchen.

“That’s the strangest thing,” Magnus muses, taking a sip of his whiskey. “I want to tell you. I want to tell you everything.”

Alec pulls the glass away from him. Magnus is so far gone that he doesn’t resist, only pouts.

 “Strange,” he echoes, reaching for Alec’s hand. Alec relents, squeezing his fingers gently before putting the glass in the sink. He’ll rinse them later, when Magnus isn’t hanging on his side like a limpet.

“Nap time?” Magnus asks, eyelids drooping. Alec nods, leading him by the hand into the bedroom.

Magnus kicks off his slippers and socks, and slips wordlessly under the covers. His skin is damp and flushed from the alcohol, and Alec wipes a bead of sweat that rolls down his forehead. Magnus falls asleep first, and Alec follows soon after, calmed by Magnus’ steady breaths and how his parabatai rune has finally stopped aching.

.

The next morning, Alec awakes to see Magnus fully dressed and pulling on his socks. Magnus smiles at him softly, moving with the fluidity he’d lacked last night.

“Your arm?”  Alec starts, pulling the covers off. Magnus snaps his fingers in explanation, and a glass of water appears on the bedside table. Alec takes a long, thankful gulp.

“Fixed it when I woke up. Got rid of that nasty hangover too.”

Alec’s phone buzzes. He sees about thirteen messages from Izzy, most of them updates on Jace’s condition. He texts her back that he’s on his way.

“Going somewhere?” Magnus has finished dressing, leaning against the bedpost. The morning rays hit the blond highlights of his hair until they match the sheen of his unglamoured eyes.

“Institute. Jace hasn’t woken up yet, but I need to be there.”

“Of course,” Magnus says. “Jace should be surrounded by those closest to him in such a time.”

Alec pulls on his jeans and tucks his phone in his pocket. “You’re coming with me, Magnus.”

Magnus raises an eyebrow.

“Aren’t I banished?”

Alec shakes his head. “I’m the head of the Institute, remember. I decide who’s banished or not. We haven’t banished anyone in centuries, actually, and you’re definitely not going to be the first.”

Magnus hums. Alec finishes dressing and brushes his teeth quickly, not willing to lose any more time. Magnus portals them straight to the infirmary, and insists on waiting outside while Alec checks up on them. Something about only speaking to Jace when he’s not doped up on dozens of pain medications.

Alec watches Jace for a few hours, while Izzy leaves to speak with Magnus. Maryse had locked herself in her office when Magnus arrived, but other than that she offered no resistance.

When Clary knocks hesitantly on the door, Alec decides he’s stared a big enough hole into the pillow beside Jace’s head. Clary takes his seat gratefully, and Alec leaves to find Magnus leaning outside the doors in the hallway.

Medics rush in and out of the room, and Magnus draws himself in tightly to avoid brushing against them.

 “Magnus, what you did for Jace -” Magnus waves his hand, saving Alec from his long-winded thank-you.

“You’ve thanked me enough, Alexander. I’m just glad Jace is back where he belongs, and that he’s safe.”

“Careful,” Alec teases. He can’t help but smile. “Someone might get the idea you care about my parabatai.”

“Me?” Magnus scoffs, mock outraged. “Caring about a Shadowhunter? That’s ridiculous.”

They both laugh at that. Alec shuffles closer, standing chest to chest with Magnus.

“Besides,” Magnus swipes his thumb over Alec’s cheek. Alec leans into the touch, kissing his palm. “If you didn’t partake in the blood oath, we’d never get past the wards. You deserve some credit.” Alec kisses him then, while his mouth is soft and parted. Magnus sighs into it, the hand on his cheek dropping to curl around his nape.

“You’re a good man, Alexander.” Magnus’ tone dips low, the voice he uses when he really means something. Alec slides his palms over Magnus’ lithe form, drawing him close.

“So are you,” he says, pulling back so he can look Magnus in the eyes. Magnus blinks a couple of times, pursing his lips. Alec feels him tense under his hands.

Magnus doesn’t shake his head, exactly, but he stares at some spot beyond Alec’s shoulder. Alec watches him watch nothing, waiting patiently until Magnus’ eyes are back on him.

“I’m going to take a nap,” Magnus says abruptly, moving Alec’s hands off his side. “When you’re done here, you’re welcome to join me.”

Alec lets his hands drop to his sides, already missing the heat of Magnus’ body.

.

Chapter Text

.

Jace is healing quite nicely, all things considered. It takes a few weeks for the bright angry bruises to fade into a tame yellow, but it happens. The wound that takes the longest to heal is the clean line on his parabatai rune, but even that scabs over faster with his angelic strength returning to him.

He doesn’t wake up for two weeks, however, which worries Alec the most.

“It’s like Jocelyn all over again,” he says, waving a hand over Jace’s prone form. Magnus shifts in the plastic chair, watching Alec pace back and forth in the small bed chamber.

“It’s not a spell, Alec,” Magnus reminds him. “He has to wake up of his own accord.”

“I know that,” Alec pinches the bridge of his nose. “I know that he’s still healing, but I just can’t help but want to speak to him. Just hearing his voice will make me feel more confident in his healing.”

He and Jace have always spoken to each other, neither content with letting silence stew between them. Jace loves the sound of his own voice, always has. Alec needs to hear him, even if what he says doesn’t make any sense.

Magnus nods, and pats the empty chair next to him.

“I understand,” he says, truthfully, because he does. Magnus might be the only one who understands completely.

Alec slumps down, leaning against Magnus’ shoulder. It’s past midnight at the Institute, which means everyone is either on patrol or sleeping. The walls of the infirmary seem almost lifeless, fluorescent bulbs flickering intermittently. His mother must be waiting outside the heavy oak doors, waiting for Magnus to leave before she sees Jace.

 Alec wonders when this place had stopped feeling like home.

“He’ll wake up,” Magnus promises. He presses a kiss to the back of Alec’s hand.

Jace sleeps on, oblivious, as his silence consumes them.

.

“Kids,” Alec blurts out when they’re seated in the booth of an expensive sushi place, waiting on their dessert. Magnus had insisted on Alec trying tempura ice cream at least once in his life, no matter how expensive it looked on the menu. He says it with no particular grace, because apparently he can only do one suave thing a day before his brain shuts off completely.

Magnus’ eyes flick from where he’s reading the menu to Alec, and it sends a small thrill through his spine that Magnus dropped the glamour in a public place just for him.

“Kids?” Magnus’ mouth is covered by the menu, but Alec can imagine he might be smirking behind it.

What does Magnus Bane know about family? His mother’s words stick inside his skull.

 “Have you ever had children?” Alec asks, because despite his best efforts to tune out what Maryse tells him, this particular barb had lodged itself in his brain and wouldn’t come out.

Magnus sets the menu down. His mouth is set in a tight, unhappy line. Alec’s stomach sinks.

“Warlocks are sterile,” he replies. He takes an efficient bite of the salmon sashimi he said he was too full to finish. Alec watches a drop of soy sauce splatter onto the ceramic plate.

“Oh,” he says, and the word balloons in the silence of the booth. Magnus wipes at the corner of his mouth, at an invisible stain. He’s still looking at Alec, and he hasn’t put up the glamour, so Alec can’t have messed up too badly. Right?

There’s a thin line between the things Magnus can tell him with little to no coaxing, and the things that he won’t touch with a ten foot pole. There might as well be a flashing neon sign saying ‘don’t bring this up’ above his head right now.

“Have you ever wanted..?” Alec trails off, words tumbling out of his mouth before he can stop them.

Magnus huffs a laugh. “You’re not asking the easiest questions tonight.”

Alec opens his mouth to apologize, but Magnus continues, taking a sip of water before he begins to speak again.

“For the longest time, I didn’t have any interest in marriage or children. After all, those were mortal endeavours, and rarely lasted for as long as they were supposed to.”

Magnus’ rings glint in the dim light of the restaurant. Alec watches him wave his hand, as if pushing away the very thought of child-rearing.

“Children, especially, are fickle things. I might have had the time, but I didn’t have the patience to raise one even if I wanted to.”

“But Zoey,” Alec says, thinking of the young girl in Magnus’ charge. “You’re good with her.”

“I suppose,” Magnus hums. A soft smile appears on his face as he thinks about her further. “I want to be there for her, after all she’s been through.”

Alec thinks back to the fight at Magnus’ loft, how he’d stepped over the body of a fallen warlock before he killed the Shadowhunter attacking Magnus. He ignores the pang in his chest when he remembers how he’d left the body there, not even thinking about calling for help.

The waiter arrives, setting down their dessert wordlessly. Alec hands him his empty plate, suddenly thankful for the distraction.

“I want to take care of her,” Magnus says. It seems like he’s surprised by his own admission. “But I don’t think of her as my child, and I doubt she thinks of me as a parent.”

“That still sounds like family to me,” Alec argues. Magnus raises an eyebrow.

“You and I,” Magnus says, with a devious look on his face. “We understand family very differently.”

Alec doesn’t have anything to say to that, instead accepting the jab. He deserved that. Magnus takes a bite of his ice cream, wincing when the frozen dish hits his teeth.

Alec drops the subject, instead taking his own bite of the ice cream. It’s just as frozen and delicious as promised, and Alec lets it melt into a soup before sipping at it again, ignoring the pained expression on Magnus’ face.

“I’m a little insulted,” Magnus grouses. “Have you never had ice cream before?”

Alec shrugs, lifting the bowl to drink more of his soupy dessert. Over his plate, he can see Magnus wrinkle his nose.

“Nephilim,” he grumbles under his breath, and refuses to look at Alec. Alec snorts, setting the bowl down and chewing on the tempura as he stares at him. Magnus has his arms crossed, and seems to be admiring the plain brown wall.

It isn’t until Alec slides a shoeless foot up his calf that he looks at Alec again, not even trying to fight the grin on his face. Alec bites his lip, giving his boyfriend a sly smile before poking Magnus in the thigh with his toes.

“What was that?” he asks, moving his foot away. Despite his Shadowhunter speed, Magnus manages to catch his ankle, one hand darting under the table. Magnus tugs until Alec’s foot lays against his lap.

“I said,” he traces a feather-light line against the arch of his foot. “Nephilim are quite an uncivilized bunch. There’s no accounting for manners.”

Alec jerks at the ticklish touch, knee banging against the underside of the table. Magnus grins widely, eyes crinkling. Whatever tension between them has disappeared, and Alec has a playful warlock across from him now.

“Maybe you could teach me some manners?” he says, trying not to cringe. It’s not his best line ever, but it has Magnus grinning even wider, so Alec counts it as a win.

Magnus calls for the cheque, but Alec insists on paying, and neither of them can stop grinning as they walk home hand in hand.

.

Jace wakes up on a Tuesday. Alec nearly misses it, on the verge of falling asleep in the uncomfortable chair.

“Alec?” His voice is rough, atonal from disuse. Alec rushes to his side, his Balance rune fighting off the vertigo of rising too quickly.

“I’m here,” Alec reassures him, holding Jace’s hand tight in his own. Jace’s squeezes back weakly. His eyes are bloodshot, and his lips are dry and cracked, smacking together as he tries to speak.

“There was a….dog?” Jace mumbles, and Alec can’t help but grin.

“Magnus sent a Hellhound to track you,” he explains, searching Jace’s face for any discomfort. His parabatai looks groggy, but not in any immediate pain.

“Hellhound,” Jace makes a strange noise in his throat, almost like he’s trying to laugh. “Of course.”

He turns his head to the glass of water on the bedside table. Alec grabs it, helping Jace sit up and drink. Jace takes a long gulp, intent of drinking all of the water before he tries to speak again. He swallows the morphine pill with no protest when Alec places it in his palm. When he’s done, he wipes his mouth on the thin sleeve of his gown.

“I should thank him,” Jace says, moving to get off the bed. Alec barely catches him, tugging Jace back down.

Panic starts gnawing at his chest. In all his years, Alec has never seen Jace thank anyone.

“Jace, you need to rest.”

“But-” Jace tries to protest, and Alec promises that Magnus will stop by later and he can thank him all he wants then.

“Okay,” Jace relents, settling into the pillows. Their brief conversation seems to have exhausted him. Alec brings the covers over his chest, and rises to shut the lights.

“S’good,” Jace mutters, bringing the blanket to his chin.

“What was that?” Alec asks. He walks back to Jace’s side.

“S’good that he sent the dog. Came just in time, otherwise Valentine was gonna…” Jace trails off, too tired to continue.

 What did he do to you? Alec wants to ask. He thinks about the bruises and scars mottling his parabatai’s body, his newfound lethargy and skittish nature. How he averts his eyes when the nurse dresses his wounds, as if he’s ashamed for even having them.

 “Good doggy,” Jace says dreamily. The morphine has finally kicked in.

Jace’s gentle snores fill the room, and Alec starts to leave again. He turns the lights off, making sure to shut the door as quietly as he can.

.

Alec likes Magnus best like this, when he’s been kissed so much he can’t catch his breath. Alec kisses him again and again, pressing his tongue against the words in Magnus’ mouth until they dissipate. He pulls Magnus into his lap roughly, causing them both to tip backwards until Magnus has to grip his shoulders to balance.

“Alec,” Magnus laughs, hand resting on his chest, not pushing. Alec kisses him again, because he can and he wants to, and for all of Magnus’ flaunted experience, he really hasn’t been kissed enough.

Their eyes meet briefly, and Alec can only see a ring of gold around the pupil. Bright heat blooms in his gut, and he leans in to kiss Magnus. Magnus meets him halfway, eyes already slipping shut.

He tugs Alec in closer by his shirt, tilting his head so their tongues can slide against each other. He pulls away only to mouth wetly on the deflect rune on Alec’s neck. Alec slides his arms until his palms mold themselves to the curve of Magnus’ ass, tightening when Magnus pushes back against his grip.

“Do you want to fuck me?” Magnus asks, without preamble. He still has one hand fisted in Alec’s collar, and his question burns on the skin of Alec’s nape.

Alec flushes, because Magnus is sometimes like this – blunt, always pushing at Alec’s limits until one of them snaps. It’s a game of sorts, one that Alec’s gotten better at. He can already see what will happen next, where he’ll stutter until the mood is broken and Magnus will pull away and whispers that it’s alright and they can take it slow and there’s no pressure –

But Alec doesn’t want to take it slow. He’s been thinking about this for a while, especially since they’ve done everything else. And there is pressure, but it’s the pressure to act on what he’s been dreaming about, pressure to take the first step and see how Magnus reacts.

“Yes,” he breathes out, moving his hand up. Before Magnus can say anything, he drags his index finger over the swell of his lower lip, pulling until the seam is exposed. Magnus’ breath gusts against his hand, heavy and uncertain. Alec slides his finger inwards, through the bowed lips and into the slick heat of his mouth.

He’s never been so bold before. Not with Magnus, not with anyone or anything that he wanted.

Magnus doesn’t do anything, just stares at him with Alec’s finger in his mouth. His tongue brushes against the pad of Alec’s finger, and it causes him to twitch until his knuckle bumps against Magnus’ front teeth. He looks a little stupid, but Alec realizes he likes that too, and wonders what else he can do to make Magnus stare at him with that dumbfounded expression.

Magnus recovers from his daze, hollowing his cheeks and pressing the tip of his tongue against the pad of Alec’s finger. Alec’s gut pools with heat, and he pulls his finger out of Magnus’ smirking mouth.

“Yes what?” Magnus is smirking so hard Alec thinks he’ll pull a muscle. Alec pushes him off into the bed, following his fall by covering Magnus’ body with his own.

“Yes,” Alec repeats, tugging at his waistband and deliberately pressing on the bruise near his hip. Magnus hisses, and arches up. “I want to fuck you.”

“Music to my ears,” he groans. Alec hides his grin in the mattress and focuses on divesting Magnus of his clothes.

Later, Magnus is out of breath for a different reason all together. It’s Alec’s turn to smirk.

.

The next morning, Alec wakes up in Magnus’ bed sore and dangerously happy, and takes a few moments to stare unabashedly at his slumbering boyfriend. Magnus is sprawled out, less so because of Alec, but still managing to take up most of the space.

Alec moves on his side, dislodging Magnus’ hand, which bends between them. Impulsively, Alec grabs at his wrist and presses a kiss to his fingertips. He’s always liked Magnus’ hands, maybe too much, and what they’d done last night has him flushing hotly under the covers.

Magnus snuffles a bit, but doesn’t wake up. He’s overheated, as usual, but Alec is in no hurry to move away from his furnace of a boyfriend. The sheets are hanging off the bed, as is Magnus’ left leg, and Alec hooks his own leg around it to pull him in.

Sunlight streams in from the window, filtered by the half-open Venetian blinds. Slats of sunrise lay themselves across Magnus’ torso, and wrap around Alec’s arm. Alec traces the pattern across his skin slowly, trying to follow the slant of the light through the blinds.

Magnus’ hair is a mess, and he’s snoring slightly. There’s a trail of uneven bruises from his neck to his stomach, concentrated on where his belly button should be, all the way down to waistband of his underwear. Alec pulls the sheets further down, smiling when he sees the cluster of hickeys on Magnus’ inner thighs. He presses his palm against them, curious, and Magnus’ hips jerk towards him.

“Alec,” he mumbles, trying to get closer. “Do something.”

Alec shakes his head. He’s struck anew by the desire to see Magnus’ eyes, to feel their molten gaze on his skin. “Look at me first.”

Magnus groans, pulling his hand over his face. “So demanding,” he gripes. He does open his eyes, if only to glare at Alec properly. A thin strip of light spills against his face, right into his eyes. His pupils shrink, almost disappearing in the dripping honey of his iris.

Alec freezes, held by Magnus’ curious gaze. He feels like a fly trapped in amber. Magnus squints, and waves his hand until the blinds close and the light disappears completely. He sits up, unaware of Alec’s state.

“I couldn’t see you,” Magnus explains, cupping Alec’s jaw. He gives Alec a half-smile, still pulling himself out of the haze of sleep. His heart starts pounding when Magnus’ smile melts into something softer.

He wraps his arms around Magnus’ middle, holding him tightly. His eyes sting with tears, and he buries his face in Magnus’ neck and fights the lump in his throat. Alec breathes him in, the scent of his sleep-warmed skin and the bright, clean smell of his messy hair. Magnus strokes one hand down his back, the other resting gently on his hip. He tightens his hold, feeling Magnus’ ribs against his forearms.

Something bursts in Alec’s chest then, a watery, fragile thing he didn’t realize he was carrying. It spills downwards, and trickles through his heart and his ribs and into his spine.

“You,” he says weakly, but can’t finish. Magnus hums, and presses a kiss to his temple.  

Alec breathes, or at least he tries to. It feels like his chest is caving in from the pressure, his lungs collapsing under the weight of his discovery. He feels like an archaeologist with the find of a lifetime, something infinitely precious in his unsteady hands.

It’s a strange feeling, to have a heart that doesn’t belong to him any longer. What’s stranger is that he finds himself not minding one bit.

“I have to check on Jace,” he says, just to fill the silence. He pulls his hands back, suddenly embarrassed by how aggressively he’d cuddled his boyfriend.

“Okay,” Magnus says, picking at the corner of the pillow. He doesn’t ask Alec to stay behind, but Alec kind of wishes he would. Alec pinches the bridge of his nose, trying to sort the scrambled mess of his brain.

“Alexander,” Magnus says instead. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Alec lies, and tugs on his jeans, the sunshine too hot on his back. But because there’s no such thing as self-restraint around Magnus, Alec kisses him again, just once, before he leaves.

He most definitely does not look back when the door shuts, or press a hand to his pounding heart and sigh heavily. Absolutely not.

.

Jace talks more now, especially since Izzy and Clary are around. He’s already given Maryse the intel she wanted, shrinking under her sharp gaze. For the first time, Alec isn’t jealous of the attention Maryse gives him, instead feeling kind of sorry for him.

“Pass me the gauze,” Clary says, and Simon fumbles with the roll of medical bandages until it tumbles on the floor, unrolling completely.

Alec glares at him, staring at the now ruined bandage. He knows there’s another roll in the medicine cabinet, but he isn’t too keen about getting up from his spot and letting Simon have a seat.

“Oh my God,” Simon stammers, hands up in surrender. “I’m so sorry. Please don’t shoot me with your arrows!”

Alec raises an eyebrow and turns to Clary, forever questioning her choices in friends. She shrugs, and tilts her head to the medicine cabinet.

“He’s totally going to shoot me!” Simon says, when Alec rises. Jace chuckles from where he sits on the bed, sleeves rolled up to the shoulder.

Alec resists rolling his eyes in front of the vampire. “I’m not going to shoot you, Simon. Despite how much I might want to.”

Simon squeaks, turning to look at Clary and frowning when he catches her laughing. Clary pats Simon consolingly on the shoulder, and suggests they give the siblings some time alone.

“I’ll fix the dressing,” Alec tells her, and she nods. He doesn’t miss the way her eyes meet with Jace’s briefly before looking away.

He does get a new roll from the medicine cabinet, turning it in his hands before looking at Jace. His parabatai looks relaxed, staring at the vine-covered window pane. A light breeze causes the leaves to tremble, and the bloomed flower petals to quiver against the glass.

Alec doesn’t say anything, instead focusing on the task at hand. Despite whatever Jace has been through, Alec knows he still appreciates the comfortable silence more than any small talk Simon might have tried to initiate.

They’re alone now, the only two people in the room, and Jace moves to secure the metal clip once Alec’s done with his left arm. Their fingers brush, and Alec waits for the tentative peace they’d established to crumble, for the uneasy desire to bubble inside him and ruin what he has with Jace for a second time. He meets Jace’s eyes, bloodshot but alert, and stares into their fractured depths.

He feels – nothing.

Well, that’s not true. He feels the familiar affection and love he’d felt ever since Jace walked into the Institute years ago, all cock-sure smile and floppy blond hair. Their bond is stronger than ever, whole from their long awaited reunion. Jace is safe and alive and healing, and that’s all Alec has ever wanted for him.

And yet, Alec’s heart beats steadily as Jace stares back. His breathing is even, and his hands don’t tremble. The world shifts into stunning focus. Jace - his brother. His parabatai.

“I’m not in love with you anymore,” he blurts out. Jace’s mouth twists into a truly infuriating smirk.

“Duh,” he replies eloquently. “You’re in love with Magnus.”

Alec’s mouth falls open, but before he can say anything, Izzy walks into the room with Jace’s breakfast.

“Who’s in love with Magnus?” she asks, setting the burnt toast aside. “I mean, apart from Alec?”

Alec sputters at that, while his siblings just snicker. “I- I don’t -”

“Dude,” Jace starts to sit up, but Izzy glares at the food he’s about to tip over. He settles back into the bed. “Magnus isn’t even here and you’re blushing.”

Izzy clutches at her chest dramatically. “Magnus,” she swoons. “Magnus summoned a Hellhound. Magnus helped us find Jace. Magnus has the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen. Magnus has such a nice butt that I just want to -”

“Oh my God.” Alec buries his face in his hands. “Stop talking. I didn’t even say half of those things to you.”

“You don’t have to say it, Alexander,” she purrs. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Jace laughs so hard he clutches at his bandaged side. “You’re so whipped. It’s hilarious.”

“It’s really not,” Alec grumbles. Izzy lifts the toast with a Magnus-esque flourish, crumbs flying everywhere. Jace keeps laughing, and Izzy keeps up her horribly inaccurate Magnus impression.

But he’s already thinking about Magnus at this point, how he’d looked in the morning, sleep warm and pliant. How he’d looked last night, back bowed and eyes blown wide open, challenging Alec to watch as he fell apart in his hands. Alec thinks about the bend of his spine and the blood on his hands and Barkley’s fur under his fingertips. How Magnus looks different every day, different colours and fabrics and jewelry, and yet he’s the most permanent thing Alec knows. The most permanent thing Alec has.

Alec fights his own grin, glaring at them half-heartedly until they settle down. Jace notices first, plucking the toast out of Izzy’s hand and pulling her down.

“You should tell him,” Jace says, suddenly serious. He stares at the sketchbook Clary left on his bedside table. “Don’t wait around on this one.”

Alec starts to shake his head, because there’s no way he can ever muster up the courage for that. Izzy stops him with a hard glare.

“Tell him, Alec.” Izzy says, and he might be her older brother but she’s definitely not above ordering him around. She’s staring intently at him, arms crossed over her chest. “Tell him soon.”

“Okay, okay,” Alec relents, trying to recover the light-hearted mood. “I’ll tell him.”

It’s only after he crosses his heart and pinky swears both of them, twice, that Izzy smiles at him again, and Jace insists on giving him a fist bump for good luck. They both wolf-whistle obnoxiously when he leaves the infirmary, and Alec flips them off behind his back before stepping out.

I’ll tell him soon, he promises himself. This time, he intends to keep it

.

Chapter Text

Alec spends the next week agonizing over how exactly to break this earth-shattering revelation to Magnus. He treats it like a mission, where the objective is Magnus and the obstacle is his own clumsy heart.

“Magnus,” he says firmly, squaring his shoulders. “I’m in love with you. Do you feel the same?”

“Yikes,” Izzy says from her perch on his bed. “Are you confessing your love or telling him his cat died?

“He doesn’t have a cat.”

“Semantics,” she sighs. Max leans against her shoulder, legs dangling off the edge of his bed.

Izzy waves her hand, patting at Alec’s shoulders to make him relax. “You need to be comfortable, Alec. This isn’t a mission report, it’s a declaration of love. Loosen up.”

“You look like you’re holding in a fart.” Max chimes in, and Alec rolls his eyes as him and Izzy start giggling.

“Neither of you are helping,” he grumbles, picking up his bow. It had been embarrassing to even ask Izzy for help in the first place, but he couldn’t say no when Max tagged along, so now he has two of his siblings ragging on him mercilessly.

They stop laughing when they see the dejected look on Alec’s face.

“Alec, we’re sorry.” Izzy bites back a laugh. “We’re not trying to make you feel bad.”

“Sorry, Alec.” Max wraps his arms around Alec’s legs, not tall enough to reach his middle. Alec caves, hugging Max back tightly as he sends Izzy a forgiving smile.

“It’s okay,” he says. He’s not actually mad at them. “I’ve just never done this before.”

“Clearly,” Max quips. “Maybe you can give him one of my comic books or something. A token of your affliction.”

“It’s affection,” he says, ruffling Max’s hair. “And I’m pretty sure Magnus has every comic under the sun.”

Max’s eyes go wide at that. “Really? Can I see?”

“I’ll have to ask,” Alec says, and shoots a text to Magnus to satisfy his little brother. He doesn’t expect Magnus to reply so quickly, much less agree. But he does, telling Alec that his afternoon has suddenly been cleared up.

“I guess we’re going.” He sends Izzy a disbelieving look. She starts gesticulating wildly, spelling out ‘love’ with her fingers. Alec rolls his eyes, and drapes Max’s jacket over his shoulders.

.

When he knocks on the door, Magnus has his phone pressed to his ear. Max runs past both of them, only quieting down when Alec shushes him. He already knows his way around Magnus’ library.

Alec drops a kiss on Magnus, feeling his cheeks bunch up as he grins. He ends the call, sliding his phone in his pocket and kissing Alec back properly. Alec links their pinkies together, letting Magnus lead him towards the shelves.

“This is awesome,” Max breathes, staring at Magnus’ impressive collection. He runs his fingers over the plastic packaging. Slowly, he tugs on a volume, gazing at it in wonder.

“Batman #2,” Max says dreamily. “In mint condition.”

Magnus smiles at him gently. “Would you like to read it?”

“But then I’d have to open the packet,” Max says. Magnus shrugs, and gives a ‘go ahead’ sort of gesture. Max stares up at him, wide eyes unblinking.

Carefully, he tears the edge of the plastic, freeing the comic from its covering. Max pulls the book out gingerly, and flips open to the centre page. He brings the pages to his face and breathes in deeply.

“What are you doing?” Magnus says over a laugh. Max jerks his head towards Alec, thumbs pointed at him accusingly.

“New book smell,” Alec explains, flush rising to his cheeks. “I – I taught him that.”

The corners of Magnus’ mouth quirk up. He’s not smiling completely, lips parted slightly instead, but Alec can feel the mirth radiating from his face. His heart thuds painfully against his ribs when Magnus rests a tentative hand on Max’s shoulder.

“Lightwoods,” he murmurs. Max looks up at him and grins, glasses slipping off his nose. Magnus shakes his head, looking between the two brothers with an indescribable expression.

“Um,” Alec says, because the air feels so heavy right now, with Max looking at him expectantly and Magnus’ lips twitching in a half-smile. “What was your phone call about?”

“Barkley. He’s causing quite a stir in Cairo.”

Alec raises a brow. “What happened?”

“When he escaped from the Institute, I assumed he would’ve used the Hellmouth by Flushing to go back to the Void. For some reason, that mutt ran himself all the way to Egypt instead.”

Magnus throws his hands up, rolling his eyes. It’s like he’s exasperated with the antics of a young child, not a deadly Hellhound running rampant across the world.

“That’s -” Alec furrows his brow. A Hellhound traveling from New York to Cairo, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, was bound to catch the attention of the Clave. Magnus could be in serious trouble if he didn’t take care of this soon.

 “Strange?” Magnus supplies, but he doesn’t look as dubious as Alec. “I would’ve asked for more details, but they said it was urgent. It’s Head of the Institute that’s asking.”

“Head of the Institute?” Alec wracks his brain trying to remember who the current leader was.

Magnus sends him a teasing smile. “You know how important they are.”

“Yeah,” he drums his fingers against his lap. But I don’t want you to go.

“It’ll only be a few days,” Magnus says. “A week at most. I just have to guide Barkley through and then I’ll be back.”

“I’ll go with you,” Alec says. At this point, he’s as responsible for Barkley as Magnus is.

“Would your mother allow it?” Magnus asks. “I’m not sure she’d be too keen on sending her eldest on a trip across the world with me.”

Alec folds his arms over his chest. Max, bored with their conversation, seems fully immersed in the comic Magnus has given him.

“If she wants what’s best for us, she’ll have to.”

.

“Absolutely not,” Maryse says, crossing her arms against her chest. “I won’t allow it.”

“Mom,” Alec keeps his hands folded behind his back. “It’s the Head of the Cairo Institute that requested assistance. If I don’t go, they’ll think we don’t care.”

“The Hellhound was the warlock’s idea. He should deal with it. You don’t need to involve yourself unnecessarily.”

“What about Shadowhunter solidarity?” Alec shoots back. “We still haven’t caught Valentine. Don’t you think assuring support from all the Institutes would help with that?”

Maryse snorts. “After what you did, I doubt they’ll even want to meet with you.”

Okay, that stung. Alec bites the inside of his cheek, trying and failing to control his temper.

“Alec,” she says sharply. “If you’re really interested in saving face with other Shadowhunters, you’ll stay here. The Clave is holding a reception for its executive members and we’ve been fortunate enough to be invited once again. Your attendance is required.”

The annual Sumer reception. He’d almost forgotten. Maryse turns sharply on her heel and walks out. Alec stares at the spot where she stood.

“Alec,” Izzy says, with Jace in tow. He’s limping slightly, but he isn’t leaning on Izzy as heavily as he used to a few weeks ago.

“Hey,” he says. Jace hobbles to his side, favouring his left leg. Izzy moves to help him sit on the bench, but he waves her off.

“Mom was really going off on you,” Izzy looks at him sympathetically. “Crazy how she still doesn’t like Magnus even after he brought back her golden boy.”

“Not that golden,” Jace interjects. “Maryse doesn’t even look at me twice these days.”

“So she hates all of us, now.”

Izzy shrugs. “You get used to it. Anyway, she’s making you stay here because of the reception?”

“Yeah.”

Jace groans. “That thing was so lame. Why do we even have to go?”

“Saving face with the other Shadowhunters,” Alec parrots bitterly. It’s completely unfathomable to him how nothing but a glorified party is going to win points with the Clave.

Izzy rolls her eyes. “Typical Mom. Always kissing up to the Clave even when all they do is screw us over.”

“Repeatedly,” Jace grumbles. “In the ass.”

He looks at Alec sheepishly. “Sorry. I know you’re not getting slash giving some recently.”

“What?” Isabelle’s eyes widen. “Why does Jace know more about your sex life than me?” she shrieks.

Alec puts his palms up. “Keep your voices down,” he hisses. “I didn’t tell Jace. He just found out somehow.”

“It wasn’t that difficult,” Jace says triumphantly. “Alec just came in and told me Magnus was leaving for a week and started to look all constipated. I figured it out from there.”

He swings his seraph around, and sends his siblings a cocky smile. Alec would delight at his progress if he wasn’t currently trying to burst into flames.

“This is great,” he mutters. “Mom is making me go to some stupid party, Magnus is leaving in a day, and I still can’t tell him how I feel.”

“Alec,” Izzy reprimands. “You still haven’t told him?”

He shakes his head. “I don’t know how to.”

“So your solution is to just not have sex?”

“I don’t know!” he exclaims, hands fisted in his hair. “What if I say it when we’re, you know, doing it?” His voice drops low on the last bit. Jace’s mouth hangs open and Izzy bites her lip to keep from laughing.

“Alec,” Jace starts, but then he starts cackling, loud and bright. The other Shadowhunters milling about the Institute begin to stare.

“That’s so -” he wheezes. “That’s so fucking – by the Angel – are you serious?”

“Are you done?” he grumbles. Jace leans against the wall, shoulders shaking in amusement.

“Maybe Magnus would like that,” Izzy offers. “Heat of the moment sort of thing?”

“No,” Alec shakes his head. Magnus liked to plan things, often to an excessive degree, and although they both tried to be spontaneous it was tough to follow through. “I want this to be special.”

Jace doesn’t laugh at him for that. “Okay,” he claps his hand on Alec’s shoulder. “However you want to do it is fine. Just, do it soon. Don’t -”

“Wait around,” Alec finishes. He laughs softly. “I know.”

.

The Summer reception, unsurprisingly, is the most boring party Alec has ever been to. The air is so stuffed with pretention he finds it hard to breathe. Furthermore, Maryse decided it would be best to split him, Izzy and Jace up between the different visiting Institutes.

Alec’s stuck with the representatives of the London Institute, because of course he gets the most uptight Shadowhunters to please. Now, he’s listening to Claudius Ravenkey ramble on about how him kissing Magnus at the wedding has ruined the sanctity of all Nephilim marriages henceforth.

“Me stopping my own wedding has ruined weddings for everyone else, then?” Alec asks. He’s been strung out all evening, barely seeing his siblings but getting plenty of dirty looks from other Shadowhunters.

Ravenkey shakes his head. “You stopping your wedding for Magnus Bane. That’s more than a little unorthodox.”

“Because he’s a Downworlder?” Alec snaps.

“Nobody’s mad at you for sleeping with a Downworlder.”  James Blackwell snorts into his champagne. “We’ve all done it.”

“It’s just- you kissed him in front of everyone. The things we do in the shadows, you did it broad daylight. That’s bound to piss off the most respected members of the Clave.”

“A warlock, though?” Ravenkey scratches at his shaven head. “Do they shift or something when you’re, like -” He makes a crude gesture with his fingers that makes Alec want to throttle him.

“That’s werewolves, dummy.” Blackwell reminds him. He takes an obnoxious bite out of his (unbuttered) bread roll.

“Nah, I get it,” another Shadowhunter pipes up, taking a sip from his champagne flute. “They’ve got a lot of experience. It makes sense.”

“Plus,” he sneers, swirling the drink in his glass. “Warlocks will do anything if you pay them enough.”

Alec grips his own glass so tight he fears it might shatter. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah!” Blackwell leans forward, elbows resting against the table. “I once knew this warlock chick that used her tail to -”

Alec pushes back from his chair, the legs scraping loudly against floor. The entire table looks up at him, astonished, and he mutters something about needing to use the washroom.

When he reaches the washroom, he fumbles for his phone in his pocket. Dialling Magnus, Alec leans against the stall and tries to even his breathing.

Magnus picks up on the fifth ring. “Alexander,” he says cheerfully, and Alec feels the tension start to melt from his frame.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself,” Magnus says. He can hear something rustling on Magnus’ side. “Still held up at the function?”

“Yeah,” Alec exhales. He wants to leave, badly, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave Izzy and Jace to fend for themselves against their mother.

“What are you doing?” he asks, trying to distract himself from the rage coiling in his gut.

“Translating the rest of the Book of the White. Did you know that half of the spells in here are about transfigurations?”

“Don’t you have to be in Cairo in an hour? Shouldn’t you be packing?”

Magnus chuckles. “I’m taking a portal, sweetheart. I don’t need to pack.”

Alec hums over the phone. The sound crackles over the line, but he can still hear Magnus’ even breathing and the slight clatter of objects levitating and then falling to the ground. He wishes he was in the loft, watching Magnus read or slipping invaluable toiletries into his pocket when he does decide to leave.

“I hate it here.” he admits. I miss you.

Magnus makes a sympathetic noise over the phone. “Could I portal something over to make you feel better?”

“Yourself, maybe,” he blurts out, before he remembers that Downworlders were specifically banned from attending. Courtesy of his mother.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. Magnus makes a noise in the back of his throat, like it doesn’t bother him and it shouldn’t bother Alec. Even though it does.

“The Shadowhunters at my table are ridiculous,” he groans. “Everything they say is like a spit in the face of the Accords.”

“And you know what?” he continues, voice rising. “They insinuated that I’m paying you to date me!”

“Now that’s just absurd. My company is priceless.”

Alec chuckles, pressing his phone closer to his ear. Despite how calm Magnus’ voice made him feel, Alec couldn’t help but think back to his own words. Downworlders are slaves to their impulses. Had he really said that? His stomach twists with disgust. What else had he said about Downworlders? What had he said in front of Magnus?

“Was I – am I like that?” He knows that Magnus won’t lie to him.

Magnus is quiet for a moment, until he speaks again. “Sometimes.”

Alec’s stomach sinks. “God, Magnus, I’m so sorry.”

“You’re aware now,” Magnus tells him. “That’s what matters.”

His voice isn’t as light and teasing as it was just a minute ago. Here it is, another brick in the wall Alec keeps trying to chip away.

Before he can say anything else, someone enters the washroom. Alec says bye to Magnus, and ends the call before pushing the door open and returning to his seat. He catches Izzy and Jace’s miserable expression as he walks through the main hall, and prepares himself for a long night ahead.

.

When the reception is finally over, Alec sneaks past the disappointed Clave members and texts Isabelle that he’s heading to Magnus’ place. She responds with a series of kissy face and eggplant emojis, so Alec turns his phone off.

Magnus, despite what he’d said earlier, is packing. He slides the Book of the White into his case, and looks up when Alec stumbles into the doorway.

“I thought you’d left,” Alec says breathlessly. Magnus rises to meet him.

“I wouldn’t leave without seeing you,” Magnus admonishes. He zips up his travel case, which has his name embellished with golden thread.

Alec slides a few granola bars into the side pocket when Magnus isn’t looking.

“All done?” he asks. Magnus nods, and leans over to kiss him softly. Their lips move slowly, unhurried, like they have all the time in the world. After a while, Magnus pulls away and exhales deeply.

“Goodbye, Alexa-” Alec shakes his head. The last time he’d heard Goodbye, Alexander his heart had almost splintered in two.

“Don’t say that,” he mutters, and despite his best efforts his eyes are starting to sting. There’s no reason to be so upset, it’s not like Magnus is leaving forever, and he hasn’t even gone yet.

Magnus opens his mouth but then shuts it, instead giving Alec a helpless little smile.

“Alright,” Magnus says, pulling away slowly. “I’ll see you soon, Alec.”

He snaps his fingers behind him, a portal flickering into existence. Magnus walks backwards, the edge of his steel-tipped boot melting into the portal.

“Wait.” He grabs at Magnus’ elbow, pulling him back in. Magnus goes willingly, winding his arms around Alec’s waist and resting his head on his shoulder. His spiked hair tickles Alec’s nose. There isn’t a millimetre of space between, not a single point on his body that doesn’t connect with Magnus. They’re swaying a little, the static hum of the portal filling his ears.  

This isn’t the right time, Alec realizes. Although he might want to say it quickly, just spit it out and shove Magnus through the portal before can say anything back, it wouldn’t be fair. To both of them.

“Stay safe,” he mumbles into Magnus’ thick hair. He hands over the solitary bag Magnus is taking with him, letting his fingertips linger when they brush against Magnus’.

Stay safe. Come back soon. I love you. I love you.

Magnus steps through the portal, sending one devastating smile over his shoulder until he disappears completely.

.

Magnus calls him one day after, once he’s settled in. He’s six hours ahead, which means he’s chewing on baba ghanoush and watching the sun set between the pyramids while Alec is sitting in his bedroom in the middle of the night.

“Did I wake you?” Magnus asks apologetically. Alec has one of his waistcoats wrapped around his middle. Not that Magnus needs to know.

“It’s fine,” Alec shrugs. “I’m up now.”

“Good,” Magnus says. “I’ve got Barkley through the Hellmouth. He put up a hell of a fight, though.”

“That’s it, then? Will you be coming back soon?” Alec ignore the desperation in his tone.

“Not yet,” Magnus says regretfully. “While I was here, the local alpha approached me. She wants me to arrange a meeting with the Institute about pack borders. The Institute’s training area is cutting into their territory.”

Alec chews his lip. “How long do you think it’ll take?”

“Another day, at most,” Magnus answers. “I’m surprised, though. I’ve never seen an Institute so willing to work things out with Downworlders instead of just ignoring them.”

Alec winces. “I guess our world is changing,” he offers.

Alec settles into his pillow. Magnus hums across the line, static filtering out most of the sound. Alec can hear the steady slip of water down the drain pipes running across the sides of the walls.

“It’s raining here,” he says, because it is, and he doesn’t want to stop talking to Magnus.

“Lucky you,” Magnus says. “I think this heat is literally making me melt.”

Alec can imagine him wiping his brow with some embroidered handkerchief. A smile creeps its way onto his face.

Could he – now? They were alone, in a way, Alec’s room was locked and Magnus could always afford whatever privacy he wanted. Although he would’ve preferred face to face, maybe it didn’t matter as long as it was him and Magnus and those three little words.

A soft snore interrupts Alec’s reverie. “Magnus,” he whispers, waiting for a reply. The line crackles, and another snore fills his ears. He’s fallen asleep.

Alec smiles widely into his pillow, pressing the phone even closer to him.

“Goodnight,” Alec says, and listens to Magnus’ deep breaths until he remembers to end the call.

.

Despite being an ocean apart, the distance between them feels minimal. Magnus calls almost every day, and they chat for hours on end. When he can’t talk, he’s always texting Alec some pictures with a wry caption underneath. Alec, for the first time in his life, is practically glued to his phone.

After finally ushering the last of the Clave’s representatives out of the Institute, Alec eagerly checks his phone. There had been a few notifications during the meeting itself, but one sharp look from his mother had him pocketing his phone.

“What did Magnus send you?” Izzy asks. Magnus’ updates from Cairo have become the highlight of their days.

Alec tilts his phone towards her. “What do you call a camel with three humps?” he reads out the text. He scratches his head, trying to remember how many humps a camel had. He scrolls down to a picture of a camel with its owner, Magnus’ face barely visible in the shot.

“’Pregnant!’” He says out loud. A few Shadowhunters look at him side-eyed. Izzy wrinkles her nose.

“That’s a really bad joke,” she tells him. Alec nods, but he can’t wipe the goofy smile from his face.

“When is Magnus coming back?” Izzy zooms in on the picture of the supposedly pregnant camel. Alec checks the date in his calendar.

“Tomorrow morning. He finally got Barkley through the Hellmouth, now he’s just facilitating a meeting between the resident werewolf alpha and the Head of the Institute.”

Isabelle purses her lips, clearly impressed. “I’m glad he’s coming back.”

“Yeah,” Alec exhales. He looks at the picture of Magnus and the camel one last time before turning his phone off. “Me too.”

.

Alec ends his shift ten minutes early, which is something he’s never done before, and heads over to Magnus’ loft. Jace flips him off for good luck as his shift starts.

Alec lets himself into the empty loft, flicking on the lights. It’s eerily quiet, New York’s traffic a muted hum from all the closed windows. Alec stands fitfully near the couch, waiting for the tell-tale signs of a portal flickering into existence. He straightens when the air begins to buzz blue.

Magnus steps through the portal, looking exhausted. His hair falls limply into his eyes, and his sleeveless top is wrinkled from the collar to the hem.

“Alexander!” Magnus exclaims, smiling softly. Alec cups the back of his neck and pulls him closer, inhaling deeply as Magnus’ arms wrap around his torso.

The trip had been good for him, Alec realizes. His already bronze skin looks sun-kissed, tanned evenly from his bare shoulders down his arms. Alec can’t wait to see if the rest of him has tanned as well as these strips of skin promise.

“How was it?” Alec takes the travel bag from his hands and sets it on the table. He grabs Magnus’ elbow gently, leading him to sit on the couch.

“There was an unfortunate incident with a camel near the Institute,” Magnus says lightly. “But other than that, it was great.”

Alec smiles widely. The past week’s frustrations melt away when Magnus smiles back. His lips shine sweetly, the effect heightened by whatever flavoured chap-stick he’d put on.

“Magnus,” Alec says, and his heart is beating wildly against his ribs but he won’t stop now. “I love you.”

Magnus stares at him, eyes searching his face. His hands twitch in his lap, like he can’t decide exactly where to put them. A few seconds pass by, but to Alec it feels like an eternity.

“Sorry,” Magnus breathes, moving closer. “I was just trying to commit this entire moment to memory.”

“Say it again?” Magnus asks, a little shyly. Alec takes his fluttering hands and folds their fingers together.

“I love you, Magnus.” The words fall easily from his mouth. Now that he’s said it once, Alec can’t help but want to say it over and over.

“Oh, angel,” Magnus cups his face, palm warm and dry against his cheek. From here, Alec can smell the faint whiff of cologne, the notes of cinnamon filling his lungs.

“I love you too,” Magnus says, as easy as breathing. He strokes his thumb over Alec’s cheek.

Alec kisses him, deeply, mouth traversing the familiar path of his lips. They keep kissing until the last of Magnus’ chap-stick has rubbed off. Alec tries to kiss him again, but ends up yawning into Magnus’ mouth. Magnus giggles, pressing their foreheads together.

“Can we nap?” he asks coyly. Alec grins, and pulls him down when he tries to go to the bed.

“Here?” he asks, pulling Magnus flush against his chest. Magnus sinks into him, boneless, one hand curled over his chest.

“Here,” Magnus agrees, pressing his lips against Alec’s jaw. His eyelashes flutter closed, and his breathing begins to even out. Alec follows the rise and fall of his chest with his own, burying his nose in Magnus’ hair and slipping into a dreamless sleep.

It’s the best sleep he’s had in years.

.