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“Would you please stop squirming so I can fix you and get your dumb ass back on the field?”

“Hey! My ass is pretty decent.”

“Let’s agree to disagree. Ready? One, two, three – pull!”

“SHIT!”

Magnus exhaled loudly and allowed himself a moment to let the pressure roll off his shoulders. He ignored the screaming protests of Jace’s teammates clamouring outside the door and inhaled wearily.

Gone were the days of dealing with children and their simple scrapes, bumps and bruises. He sighed again. Sometimes he found himself missing the small plasters and sympathetic mothers.

Today was definitely one of those days.

Especially when it meant dealing with a certain blonde-haired captain of the New York Warlocks.

Damn cricketers, Magnus thought with some degree of fondness.

Without them, his salary would decline rather drastically. Was Magnus ready to admit this? Most definitely not.

Looking down at the injury bench, Magnus waited patiently for Jace Wayland, the talented, if not mildly irritating, cricketer, to cease his moaning. After a moment, Jace pushed himself up onto his elbows and stared down at his leg with widened eyes. “Holy shit. It’s…fine.”

“You’re welcome.”

Jace’s mouth hung open and Magnus sensed that the other man was biting back a retort.

“You sure you’re not a real warlock, doctor?”

Magnus grinned and offered Jace an arm, carefully pulling him to his feet. He checked again for swelling, gently prodding at where the bat had collided with his ankle. 

“I think you’re good, Wayland. Be on your way.”

Jace made to stand and began a few brief stretches. He turned to Magnus again. “Thanks.” He said with a genuine smile.

“Don’t thank me until you’ve kicked their asses.” Magnus winked. “You hear me?”

“Loud and clear.”

“Knock ‘em dead, captain.”

“Yes, doctor.” Jace turned to the door, where his teammates had been impatiently awaiting the news. “OI! WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING? GET BACK ON THE BLOODY PITCH!"

In the corner of the injury room, another man dumped a handful of bandages into a bin before offering Magnus a fresh glass of water. “Bien hecho, my friend. Good work. I thought you were going to rip the boy’s foot off for a moment there.”

“I debated it.” Magnus admitted. He accepted the glass from his co-worker with a nod and drained it quickly. “But I doubt his adoring fans would’ve approve.”

“Unconventional as always. You relied on your instincts, completely ignored protocol and succeeded anyway.”

Magnus narrowed his eyes. “And?”

“You’d be perfect for the Lightwood Prince-“

“Raphael, I swear to god, if you mention that case again I will slap you so hard you’ll forget your mother tongue.”

“Magnus, come on. Please!”

“Take the damn case yourself if you want to suck the prince off so badly.”

“Besame el culo!”

“’Kiss my ass’, seriously, Raphael? Rather lacking in originality, aren’t we?”

“How the hell did you understand that?”

“It’s nice that after all this time you still underestimate me, my friend. Anyway, why don’t you take the case? What’s stopping you?”

“Simon.” Raphael said miserably. His shoulders were slumped in defeat.

“What about your lovely husband?”

“That’s just it, Magnus. We’ve been married for three months now and I’ve had to postpone our honeymoon over four times! There are limits even to Simon’s patience. Look, I’ll even take care of all your patients here, I promise. Just do this for me.”

Magnus sighed. Truthfully, he had nothing against taking on a difficult case. In fact, he’d had many patients who had proven difficult. At first. He always won them over in the end. There was something enjoyable about helping a person to find their drive again, to watch them unfold and grow into whatever they chose to become.

He loved people, and all their strange, bemusing wonders.

“I’ll think about it.”

But the case of Robert Lightwood was infamous in clinics all around the country.

It was the story of a prince who was injured many years ago in a car accident and had refused to leave his wheelchair ever since leaving the hospital, despite every doctor’s insistence that exercise could remedy his injuries. Over thirty doctors and physiotherapists - like Magnus - had attempted to work their magic. Still, the prince refused to exercise.

Ten years later and new doctors would leave with the hope that they would be the one to break the streak. They would all return, disappointed and cursing the Lightwoods.

“How long have we been friends, Magnus?”

“Too long.” Magnus teased. His smile faded when he noted the sincerity in Raphael’s expression. “Look, I suppose-“

Roars of victory suddenly echoed around the room, making the pair jump. They turned to watch through the television as the outside game came to its inevitable victory, with the camera panning to Jace Wayland and his teammates lighting up the world with another win.

Magnus caught Jace winking at the camera and couldn’t help but smile in return.

He turned to Raphael and pointed a finger at him. “Fine, but only to save your marriage.”

“You’ll….do it? You’ll take on the case?” Raphael threw an arm around Magnus, surprising his friend and pulling him into a tight embrace. “I owe you, mi amigo.”

“Damn right you do.” He muttered, but returned the hug happily. He pulled back and patted the other man’s cheek fondly. “I’m expecting jewellery, designer boots and a fuck load of glitter, do you hear me?”

Raphael snorted. “You can settle for coffee after work.”

“Fine. Now let’s go and join those beautiful assholes. I, for one, have earned my victory champagne.”


~ ~ ~


Magnus had expected excited reactions from his best friends, and flatmates, about working for a prince, but he hadn’t anticipated what they’d focus on the most…

 

“Promise me you’ll bang a royal while you’re over there, Bane.”

His forkful of spaghetti landed directly on his lap. Magnus stared across at Catarina in shock, but she kept eating; as though fucking your way through a royal household was a normal dinner conversation.

“At least try!”

He glared at Ragnor, having hoped his other friend would change the topic.

Apparently not.

Catarina waved her fork around absently. “I’d go for the daughter, personally.”

Ragnor scoffed. “The son is hotter.”

There was a moment’s silence, and Magnus prayed that the wholly inappropriate conversation had come to an abrupt close. He scooped some bolognaise up with his spoon, and was about to devour it when Catarina suddenly perked up. “Do you think they’d be up for a threesome?” She beamed.

He groaned. “Guys, please kindly shut the hell up. And no, Catarina, I doubt you would want to share the same partner as your sibling so let’s drop that thought like a goddamn Beyoncé track.” He shook his head. “You two.”

Ragnor gave a mock gasp. “Maybe you’d prefer the old prince? He could be your sugar daddy.”

“Oh, please. You know I don’t do older guys. Or women, for that matter.”

“You did that one summer in Rome.”

"She was an exception.”

“Because she bought you a Toscanella, leather handbag?”

“Oh, and Forzieri shoes!” Catarina piped up. “Don’t forget the shoes!”

“Those shoes.” Magnus sighed happily. “That was one hell of a summer break.”

“You were the only student to return with more money than you went with. Even the professors were pretty impressed.”

“Back to the issue at hand; I will not be sleeping with any of the Lightwoods. Mixing business and pleasure can be agreeable, I’ll admit, but this time I can’t see it happening.” He grinned when Ragnor and Catarina’s smiles dropped. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“So, what do they own again? Like half of Hawaii?”

“No, they’re just connected to that state through their family ties to the last Kingdom of Hawaii. One of their relatives were married to the last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, I believe.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know all the facts but I think, after the government did their whole overthrowing act, the family money was passed down through generations and it’s still here now. The Lightwoods married into royalty a few generations back, through the father’s side, and their business empire began when they started up a publishing company. Which is, as you know, one of the largest in the entire country. They’re also the owners of many historically acclaimed properties so a great deal of their money comes in via tourism and charity funds too.”

Ragnor snorted. “Basically they’re rich as hell?”

“Basically they’re rich as hell.” Magnus agreed. “They’ve done well for themselves and I believe the son is beginning to take over as head of the business within the next year or so.”

“From the dad?”

“No, the mother. Maryse Lightwood. She’s pretty badass from what I’ve been told. She’s raised two children and kept a business not only running, but growing, all the while her husband refuses to get better or help in any way.” Magnus scraped the last of his spaghetti onto his fork and twirled it around slowly. “I can’t wait to meet them actually. They sound…intriguing.”

“You can’t fix everyone you come across, Magnus. Remember that.”

“What do you- “He trailed off as soon as he noticed Ragnor and Catarina exchanging a worried look. They hid it quickly behind smiles.

“I think what Ragnor is saying, is to be careful. They might not be as welcoming as you deserve, my dear.”

“When has that ever stopped me? I’ve proven arrogant footballers wrong and made it so Jace Wayland himself could hit the winning bat in the Championships. I can do anything. I can definitely handle a bunch of snobby royals. They’ll just have to deal with housing my glittery ass for the next few months.”

“Whoa, do you really think you’ll be over that long?”

“Honestly? No clue. I’ve been warned that the prince is a little…unwilling. So however long it takes.”

They began to tidy up. According to the rota – one had been drafted up after a four day argument kicked off about who did the dishes more frequently – it was Ragnor’s turn to wash-up, but Magnus took one look at his friend’s glum face and took pity.

He gathered up the dishes and headed over to the sink, filling up the bowl and soaking his hands in the warmth. He cleared his throat. “I’ll miss you. Both of you. I’m expecting updates about hook-ups and how the novel is going.”

Ragnor perked up. “It’s going rather well, thank you. I wrote an entire sentence yesterday!”

Catarina joined Magnus at the sink and rolled her eyes. They were both experienced in listening to their friend’s complaints about writer’s block.

When the trio first met at university, no one would’ve guessed that they would be sharing an apartment together seven years later.

And yet London had brought them all together, somehow.

Magnus and Catarina had met via their school departments, where Magnus had been studying towards his Physiotherapist degree and Catarina would sometimes share classes during her Nursing degree.

The pair became fast friends in their first year, agreeing to share a house the following year if they could find a third tenant.

One night, Ragnor, studying creative writing to no one’s surprise, had dramatically and rather drunkenly gifted the pair with a reciting of a Lady Macbeth monologue on their way home from a night out.

Having walked home together that night, they had been inseparable ever since.

Now, all in their late twenties and early thirties, Magnus was grateful for their companionship. They had been together through many firsts – jobs, relationships, and even deaths, and he couldn’t imagine his life without them by his side.

Catarina grabbed a tea towel and began to dry. She waited for Ragnor to disappear into his study and then cleared her throat. “You know, Magnus, you really should take this opportunity to look for someone, you know…to be with.”

“You think I’ll find my soulmate in Galveston, Texas?”

“Who knows? The point is….it’s been three years, since…” Catarina avoided his gaze and stared fiercely at the plate she was holding.

Camille.

She was talking about the woman who had taken everything Magnus offered her, every ounce of love and passion in his entire being, and turned it into a weapon to use against him. She had come close to destroying everything he had built up. Without Catarina and Ragnor encouraging him, god knows what dark path he would’ve crawled down. They had been Magnus’ crutch.

And if Catarina was encouraging him to start hoping again, perhaps she had a point.

Magnus let out a soft laugh and turned back to the sink. The inevitable sad look in his eyes was to be kept hidden at all costs. “You must think me so daft.”

Placing the plate down on the stand, Catarina took his wet hands in her own and shook her head. “Never, Magnus.” She said, kindly. “You went through a lot. Not just with Camille, but before. And you deserve any happiness that comes your way, so please, promise me that if you see even the tiniest flickers of a new beginning, you’ll light that bastard into a flame.”

He swallowed down the tightness in his throat, suddenly overwhelmed by her kindness. He leaned forwards and kissed her cheek. “I will, my dear. And I see Ragnor’s metaphors are getting to you.”

“It worked though?”

“Maybe.”

They washed the dishes together, taking turns to tell stories about their day. They joked about life and circumstances, and Magnus was reminded, not for the first time that day, how welcoming it was to feel loved and accepted. He would miss this – his home and every simply joy it gave him – immensely.

“Oh, and don’t worry about Ragnor and I. We’ll manage, somehow, without our mother hen.”

“Good to know. I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks so I’ll sort out rent and things beforehand.”

“It’s no problem, hon.” Catarina grabbed a half-opened wine bottle from the fridge and poured out a glass. She handed it to Magnus and then poured out another for herself. “Just go and prove yourself better than the….twenty others?”

Magnus winced. “Thirty.” He accepted the glass and drained it rather quickly. “I have to be better than thirty other doctors who were probably more experienced.”

“But less charming.”

“Actually, you may have a point there.”

They shared a laugh and topped up their glasses, heading over to collapse onto the comfy armchairs in the lounge area. Ragnor joined them after a few minutes, falling into the single chair and grinning across at him. “You have to keep us updated on what it’s like to waltz around a palace.”

Magnus felt his face fall. “Shit.”

His friends sat up at once, concerned.

“What is it?” Catarina demanded.

He frowned. “I have no clue how to waltz!”

The tension broke when Catarina burst into helpless laughter, and Ragnor soon followed her lead. She wagged a finger in his direction. “You, my dear, are a bisexual failure.”

“My sexuality has little to do with my inability to do a box step.”

“You’ll be fine. Just charm them with your – what was it again – oh yes, your ‘glittery ass’”.

They finished off the bottle between them, and excused themselves one by one. Before heading separate ways in the apartment, Ragnor quirked an eyebrow. “One more question.” He began.

“Mm?”

Ragnor frowned. “What the hell is a box step?”

~ ~ ~

 

Across the other side of the country, Alexander Lightwood found himself at a hindrance.

His mother had been relying on him to secure this meeting, and here he was two weeks later and without any trace of one.

Today would be the last attempt before he accepted defeat and travelled home.

Empty handed.

“Sir, if you would come with me please? Your seat has been confirmed. Next to Theresa Gray.”

His next two thoughts fought against one another.

On the one hand, he was sacrificing his usual approach of subtly.

But Miss. Gray had left him with little choice. She had refused over a dozen meetings now and it was up to Alec to secure one before he returned home.

He stood and addressed the flight attendant with a polite nod. “Thank you.”

As he walked onto the plane, Alec hid his anxiety and tightened his tie. He brushed off imaginary dust and tugged on his suit as he was led towards his seat in the first class area.

It was a perfect fit. Why the hell was he fidgeting?

He was nervous.

The Lightwood’s family motto ran through his head, not for the first time that day.

Ab ordine libertas.

From order, comes freedom.

It was everything the Lightwoods valued; discipline, hard work and order. Everything that had built up an empire and kept its head up throughout hardship and sceptics.

Alec was just hoping to feel even a shred of that Lightwood confidence. To take the pride in his mother’s eyes every time she discussed her achievements, and direct it towards himself. He had imagined the moment countless times, for Maryse to smile proudly and sign over a great deal of responsibility to her son.

He awaited that day patiently. Or at least, tried to.

Moments like this – cases like this – reminded Alec just how quickly he could prove himself unworthy to take over the burden.

No, not a burden, he quickly corrected. A duty.

The flight attendant came to a half and gestured to his seat.

He straightened his tie again. Here goes.

“Good morning, Miss. Gray.” He said smoothly, sitting down in one fluid motion and causing both the seats to jolt with a painstaking abruptness. His travelling companion let out a startled gasp.

Alec winced. Shit.

He turned to face the slight but stern woman and continued on, quickly. “My name is Alexander Lightwood and I believe we have some business to conduct. I hope I can settle any uncertainty you may feel about joining our-“

“You mean to force me into selling my home. I hardly call that business, would you, sir? And my uncertainties are quite justified by your actions. Why in the angel’s name would I partner with a company who plans on cornering me on a plane journey?”

Damn.

He forced his expression to remain as neutral as her own, but Tessa was a marble statue of brilliant composure. She continued to stare out of the window, ignoring Alec completely.

“Miss-“

“Mrs.”

He blinked.

In all the reports and research he had read, Tessa Gray had been recorded as an unmarried woman.

She turned to him then, studying him with narrowed eyes. “Exactly my point. All you know of me is written in your mother’s records and your company record books; how much I’m in debt, the houses I own and their values. You do not know me, Mr. Lightwood. Until you do, I shall never provide any sort of partnership with yourself or your company.”

Well, Alec thought, weakly. This is going rather well.

Tessa Gray had, however, been right in her accusation.

He had done extensive research on her, the company and its history and financial situations.

He had understood why his mother desired a partnership with Clockwork Press, who not only ran a publishing business that would add to the Lightwood’s own company, but owned a handful of historically valuable houses such as Iolani Palace in Hawaii. It was where the Gray – or Grays, plural, if Tessa had been truthful – household currently resided in.

But Iolani Palace was a dream that Maryse Lightwood longed to own. It had once been a home to their ancestors, which Alec rather enjoyed looking into, but his mother viewed it with more of a numbers and figures appreciation. She saw it for the tourist attraction it could become, with less regards to the history and culture.

To partner with the Grays would be an asset to the Lightwoods, but Alec wasn’t ignorant enough to not see how their gain was greater than the Grays would be.

Unfortunately, the Grays were running low on income and offers.

Maryse wanted to work this angle, and fast, and so here Alec was.

With a very unwilling Mrs. Gray.

“I didn’t mean to make you feel trapped.” He said, quietly.

Tessa stilled, looked him over the once and sighed. “I believe you.”

“You do?”

His mother would’ve winced at his pleasure at being liked. Alec could hear her words almost crystal clear; think with your head, not your heart, in this line of work.

“I’ve been in your position, Alexander. Young, unafraid, yet burdened with family responsibility to a business you were born into.”

She was, in fact, only a few years older than Alec himself.

He had been surprised when researching into the Grays at just how much power and status Tessa had not only been given at a young age, but maintained for a long while. Especially given the financial trouble which had started before she had even been born. Yet at the age of thirty-one, Tessa was headstrong and confident in her values. Alec found her pleasant and wise, if not a little unresponsive.

“So you’ll accept the meeting?”

He waited patiently, and as the minutes ticked by and the plane began to take off, he still did not speak. There was a time for silence, and he felt this was it.

After twenty minutes in the air, Tessa Gray tilted her head and nodded.

Alec exhaled.

~ ~ ~



After arriving and reporting his success to Maryse – who congratulated her son with a split second smile as she began to dial in the number of her next business call – Alec headed outside.

Just for a few minutes, he would allow himself to simply be.

He shrugged out of his jacket and folded it carefully over his arm as he strolled around the gardens of Bishop’s Palace.

Friends of his – Jace, Aline, and his co-workers– had often scoffed at the name.

It was more of a restored castle than a palace.

If anything, it was more gothic horror than a Disney setting. More quiet charm than extravagant glamour. But Alec adored it. It was, and had been his home, since a child, and he thought fondly to the many memories he had of Isabelle chasing him around the rooftop balconies, or of he and Jace hiding and scaring the hell out of each other by hiding in the gardens and jumping out.

He sent a quick thought out to his best friend, currently touring the country with his cricket team, and made a mental note to reach out to him soon.

We’re a busy pair, he thought with a small smile.

The house also had a huge library which Alec sometimes found himself drawn towards.

Without realising it, Alec’s feet would take him into the large room, filled floor to ceiling with an array of books from first addiction Charles Dickens novels, to Chaucer, to bible illustrations that he didn’t quite understand but respected the grandness of.

There was something about holding a book between his hands; to take another world into his palms for a little while. It wasn’t quite escapism. It was an appreciation of the world he had been privileged to; a world that encouraged him to treat history as a living, breathing thing.

The Lightwoods were firm believers in tradition, but Alec himself was a little more lenient towards the modern ideas of the world, as was his younger sister, Isabelle. While the Lightwood publishing company produced texts from various cultures, genres and ideologies, his close family, save for Izzy, seemed to be stuck in a past he could find no pleasure in.

A world where deviation from the norm was considered a threat.

Alec enjoyed the freedom to be different.

He enjoyed it in modern literature and the new ways that texts played around with both old and new languages. There was always a way in the modern world to express an emotion.

If only Alec could learn from the books he read.

“Hey, big brother. How did your quest go?”

He turned, a smile already on his face, and watched as Isabelle approached from across the courtyard. She had called to him loudly, and made no attempt in hiding her joy.
The Lightwoods also valued time, just not so much for personal use. Seeing his sister, even for brief moments, was Alec’s own ongoing quest. His secret full-time job. Alec loved her with his entire being, just as Isabelle loved him with hers.

“Well enough. She agreed to a meeting, so we’ll go from there. No more business talk. Tell me about life.”

“Life?”

“Yes, life. Your studies-“

Isabelle cut him off with a groan. “Not that. Please. It’s all mom talks about, and all dad doesn’t. It’s the bane of my existence.” She laughed then, and Alec frowned. Her emphasis made no sense at all.

“Bane?”

“Oh, you don’t know. We have a new doctor coming soon.”

“I see. What number is this?”

“Thirty two.”

They made their way to a bench overlooking the gardens. It was growing cooler, despite the late spring air, and Alec offered Izzy his jacket. She took it with a smile and draped it over her shoulders as they sat down together.

“Well, I won the last bet so I’ll set the wager this time. Three weeks.”

Isabelle groaned. “No fair! You averaged out the total!”

“And here you were worrying about those exams.” He teased. “Izzy, you’re a genius!”

Isabelle poked him in the ribs. “Hilarious.” She deadpanned, but she turned to hide her grin.

It was quiet then, as it was between siblings who knew when to tease and when to relax. Alec sighed happily, leaning back into the sofa and letting the strain of that day dissolve-

Damn.

The tension in his shoulders suddenly returned as the pair watched their family manservant, Hodge, approaching.

The man was a little younger than his parents, but had been with Alec for as long as he could remember. He was a close friend of Robert Lightwood’s, and had offered his services after the accident. He approached them now with a polite smile. “Alec, your mother requests to speak with you. As soon as you are free.”

“Thank you, Hodge. I’ll be just a moment.”

“Of course you will.” Isabelle muttered. She had already stood, letting the jacket fall onto the bench beside her brother.

Alec opened his mouth to speak, but was silenced by her look of disappointment. How he wished he could lounge and enjoy her company as often as possible. But with a company soon to be transitioning into his hands, Alec couldn’t afford such luxuries.

“Izzy, I-“

“It’s fine, Alec. Go and do your thing. I have a shit ton of Latin proverbs to translate anyway. That scholarship’s not going to earn itself, you know.”

“Good luck.” He lamely offered.

“Thanks.” She raised an unimpressed eyebrow. It pierced its way through his facade, pricking a stab of guilt into his heart. “You too.”

Unsure to leave it at that, Izzy decided for him and waved once before disappearing into the house without another word.

He should’ve hugged her, at least. Why hadn’t he?

Alec exhaled slowly, pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and then headed inside; where he belonged.

~ ~ ~


“That is a sexy jet. A very sexy jet. I would invite that jet into my bedroom.”

“Uh, this way, Doctor Bane.”

“Right. Let’s see if she looks just as good inside as she does on the outside.”

The flight attendant, a tall and elegant woman in her early thirties, stared at him blankly before leading him inside the cabin.

Really? Nothing? Magnus sighed. Why were his best innuendos falling so flat today?

It was probably because the aircrew of the Lightwood’s private jet had never taken on-board a flamboyant and flirtatious doctor before.

It’s your lucky day, kids.

He hummed as he walked up the airway. Today was certainly shaping up to be an adventure. Arriving at the airport, Magnus had navigated his way to the correct flight zone only to realise he was standing quite alone in a small waiting area. The same shy woman had introduced herself as one of the jet’s flight attendants.

Yes, jet.

As in, the Lightwoods had sent him a private, slim and sexy jet to fly his cute ass over to Texas.

Magnus was in seventh heaven when he climbed on-board.

“Oh, hello. You beautiful thing.”

If glitter was a Magnus Bane aesthetic, the plane’s interior was a close second. It was everything he loved; chic, style and class. Perhaps it lacked a bit of colour – okay, a lot – but the matching crème and black colour scheme was delightful to the eye, and Magnus noted the splashes of green – cushions, bar stools and curtails – with pleasure.

His first thought was, ‘The Lightwoods have good taste’.

This thought was soon followed by, ‘Of course they do. They hired me’.

Holy shit. There’s an entire bar.

His third thought was pretty see-through. Alcohol was another aesthetic Magnus took pleasure in. Especially, as he assumed, the Lightwoods seemed likely to keep a well-stocked supply of fancy cocktails. Magnus enjoyed cocktails immensely. A thousand and one hangovers could support this claim.

“So,” He clapped his hands together and turned to the small crew. “Who’s up for Ring of Fire?”

~ ~ ~

 

“The new doctor is arriving tomorrow morning.”

“Oh.”

“Perhaps he will be…different.”

“I doubt it, my dear.”

“Robert….” Maryse halted. She looked at Isabelle, sharply. “Are you studying after dinner?”

This was a trick question.

Izzy hated this, the hidden questions behind simpler ones. This one translated to a statement of ‘do you know your duties?’.

“Yes, mom. Until eleven. And then I might read for a bit-“

“No reading tonight, Isabelle. Tomorrow, we may require your...knowledge.”

She meant Izzy’s enjoyment of what her mother called ‘common folk taste’. Pop culture, radio music, fashion of all kinds. No television, though. Her parents had a strict ban on television in which the only movies the Lightwoods had ever watched together were historical documentaries on upcoming properties for sale.

The new doctors often needed a little normalcy that Izzy was relied upon to give. She was to show them around and help them feel at home.

Which was, sadly, ironic; considering Izzy barely felt at home herself.

Her passions, like everything around here, were exploited for gain. And suppressed when not needed. She remembered how often she had caught Alec reading a book for pleasure only to bury it beneath a chair when footsteps approached. Or how Max had once…

Izzy stabbed at her plate.

“Isabelle. Noise.”

“Sorry.” She mumbled.

She turned her thoughts away from school and to Lydia.

As she often did, Lydia Branwell occupied a great deal of space in the wonderful mind of Isabelle Lightwood.

She was a childhood friend and had grown up with Alec, Izzy and Jace as their parents were close friends.

The Branwells were also future partners to the Lightwood Publishing Co. They specialised in academic textbooks and were a largely well-known brand throughout the country.
Lydia and Izzy had taken horse riding lessons together, grammar lessons at Sunday school together, and even taken up a creative writing summer workshop until Maryse found out and they were both forced to quit.

God forbid a little liberation was allowed.

She was the one person, other than blood relations – and indeed, she would always see Jace as that – who knew about Izzy’s true desires. Where her heart laid. Not in the business world at all. Other than her brother, Lydia had been the only other companion to earn Isabelle’s trust.

Lydia Branwell was passionate and strong and well on her way to being a top notch businesswoman, and Izzy was incredibly proud of her. And incredibly jealous. She hadn’t been forced down a path by her parents. They had discussed and actually talked as a family.

I wouldn’t know what that meant.

Lydia was a fresh of breath air every time she came back into Isabelle’s world of polished shoes, ironed shirts and grade As. She was the passionate woman who Izzy desired to be, and the smart and kind woman who Izzy also fought with her desire for.

And she was also engaged to her brother.

How wonderful.

It was a business alliance, through and through, born from an idea to fully form a partnership between the new generation leaders of the Lightwood and Branwell Publishing Cos.

There had never been, nor would there ever be, anything but friendliness and fondness between the pair.

But it still hurts.

Why does it hurt?

Did Isabelle hurt for her brother, Lydia or herself? Or was it a mixture of all three?

She had yet to figure it out.

“I’m no longer hungry. Please excuse me.”

“Of course. Don’t forget, lights out at eleven o’clock. I’ll send Hodge to check.”

Isabelle left the room, hungry and starved of more than just food.

~ ~ ~


To get to Bishop’s Castle, one needed to cross a freaking causeway.

Magnus looked out across the water, impressed.

He had arrived at Houston, Texas only to be quickly ushered into a private car that would take him across the causeway and to Galveston.

That was where Bishop’s Gate stood tall and proud in the East historic District, or as Magnus had dubbed it, the ‘posh, beautiful area for posh, beautiful people’.

Basically where a ton of rich people own houses and do rich things together.

He couldn’t wait to arrive.

“Sir, will the entire Lightwood resident be there?”

His driver, a stern-faced, older man with a grey tuft of hair and sharp eyes, gave him a brief look through the mirror. “No, doctor. The son is away on business.”

“And Robert Lightwood is home?”

“As always, doctor.”

Magnus winced. Yeah, that was a pretty dumb question.

He gave up making small talk and watched the houses rolling by.

There seemed to be a theme, Magnus noticed. All were large, surrounded by hedges and were at least three stories tall and enveloped by lovely porches and balconies. Some had hotel-like colours, rich reds and blue painted around the window frames, whereas others were soft pinks and crèmes and decorated with flowers or expensive looking lantern lights.

It was very pretty, but also rather bare.

There was no traffic or loud cries of people sharing laughter as they walked.

The loudest noise was the gentle June breeze in his ear, and the occasional car driving by lazily.

Galveston was all long roads with houses on both sides, and palm trees stretching into the skies.

There was a quiet beauty to it, with its subtle colours and quietness, but Magnus felt a little overwhelmed by the vastness. It was so empty compared to the loud, hectic nature of Brooklyn or New York. There were no flashing neon lights and street sellers and excited travellers.

It felt like he had driven into a different time, or even a different world.

Well, you have, he told himself.

“We are arriving, doctor.”

“Ah, thank you!” Magnus rubbed his hands together, excited and a little anxious, and turned to watch as they pulled around the corner to reveal the palace.

Well, hello there. It sure is posh.

“Whoa.” He exclaimed.

Three-stories high and complete with pretty turrets, Bishop’s Palace was a delight to Magnus.

It wasn’t dull, in fact, but rather a beige-golden colour with maroon railings, curtains and window ledges contrastingly beautifully. It was slighter than he had imagined, less epic Dracula castle and more quiet fairy-tale. Its Victorian stone style was elegant and welcoming, and Magnus was quite certain it would have a ballroom inside.
He ran his eyes appreciatively over the prettily trimmed hedgerows leading up to the main stairs, enjoying the rows of pink and red roses that led up to the double doors. It was sweet and grand all at once and he stepped onto the cobblestone driveway.

Magnus swung open his door, ignoring the approaching porter’s – valet? Magnus didn’t know what to call someone who was hired by posh people to do posh deeds like pick up strange doctors –protests.

He grinned to himself. Living here is going to be such a burden.

“Oh, sir, I’m so sorry. May I take your bag?”

He beamed at the young boy, who couldn’t be older than late teens, and shook his head. “Most definitely not, my dear. I am a strong, single, independent young man.”

The boy blinked. “Sir?”

“That translates to a no. Thank you.” He added, quite aware that the boy looked ready to cry at any moment.

He watched as the boy took him in, slowly. Magnus looked down at his attire; tight, black skinny jeans, a gorgeous, deep red silk shirt with muted gold swirls on it that brushed his thighs, and a handful of necklaces he never left home without. His eyeliner, he was fairly certain, was on point, as was the small dusting of glitter he couldn’t help but throw on that morning.

Magnus watched as the porter viewed him with all the subtly of watching a zoo animal.

He smirked and waved a hand in front of the boy’s face. When the boy flushed, Magnus drawled out, “This was the closest thing I had to normal, believe me.”

“Uh, come this way. Sir.”

Tough crowd.

Never one to feel insecure, Magnus shrugged and followed the boy up the stairs, hauling his suitcase with little trouble. He was slim, but Magnus enjoyed regular exercise such as yoga, weights and running. Describing him as well toned would be an understatement. He was quite fond of dancing too, having both trained for a few years in Salsa classes as well as dancing for pleasure on nights out with Catarina.

“So, how easy can I win over-damn!” He broke off with a wolf whistle. “This is quite something else.”

The porter smiled in understanding. He gestured, happily, with an arm. “Welcome to Bishop’s Palace, Doctor Bane.”

“Thank you, cupcake.”

The interior was pristine and in perfect condition. It was washed in warm light from the open door, flooding the entrance and hallway. A thick, red carpet ran across the entrance hallway, and Magnus followed it and gazed up, slowly, taking in the high ceiling, stained glass windows and the beautiful twining staircase at the end.
Numerous doors greeted him as he walked, but all were closed except for the latter, which led into what appeared to be a never-ending garden. He could see mazes and rose bushes and ponds-

“Doctor, if you would wait here…”

“Oh, yes.” He turned back and smiled sheepishly at the boy, who was looking like he may have to call for help if Magnus wandered off into the gardens. “Apologies. I shall be good, I promise-“

He broke off and gasped. “Oh my god! Is that a real knight’s armour?”

The porter flinched as he approached it. “Y-yes, but please could you not-“

Too late.
Magnus had skipped over to the armour, which was presented on a long wooden post, a little too enthusiastically. He suddenly lost his footing on the soft carpet, exclaimed and hurtled straight into the priceless piece.

“What the hell is going on here?” An approaching, and very pissed off, voice demanded.

Magnus was about to turn and look, but realised that he was not in a position to move. He had his arms locked tightly around the armour, making sure it stayed exactly where it was supposed to.

“Thomas, please help. Now.”

Magnus held his breath as the porter, Thomas, helped him steady the artefact carefully.

The tension in the room was unbearable.

“Who are you?”

He turned then, and was met by an older woman wearing one of the fiercest scowls he had ever seen. It even put Ragnor’s bitter sulks to shame. She was slightly smaller than he was, with broad shoulders and tightly pulled back dark hair.

Her dress sense was…smart. And dull, Magnus noticed a little sadly. She had a lovely hourglass figure but had settled on a formal, grey suit that screamed ‘business’. Her dark eyes were narrowed, and he suddenly recalled her question.

“Oh, hello! I’m Magnus. Magnus Bane.” He held out a hand. “Doctor Magnus Bane.”

“The doctor?” She asked crisply, staring at his hand for a moment before shaking it once, quickly, and then dropping it to fold her arms across her chest. “In future, please refrain from destroying our family heirlooms.”

Family?

Oh.

He realised with a start, and a grimace, who he had made such an awkward introduction to. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”

Maryse Lightwood inclined her head. “Much appreciated, but ma’am will do just fine, doctor.” Her lips were pressed into a thin line. “I trust your journey was pleasant?”

“Very much so.” Magnus said cheerfully. “The house is incredible. I love the…” His eyes had dropped to the floor, and to her footwear, and he couldn’t help but frown at the height of Maryse’s heels. 

“Well, then, Thomas can show you to your room. Do excuse me.”

She turned to leave.

“One moment.”

He heard Thomas’ sharp intake of breath, but he pushed down any nerves and tried to seem pleasant enough when Maryse looked back, startled.

“It is of my professional opinion that you should rethink your footwear.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Her expression was one of cold fury.

Oh, dear.

“I just-“ He reminded himself that he was here as a professional, and had every right to say as such. “Your heels are far too high, Your Highness. Uh, ma’am. While I do appreciate such shoes, they’re hardly necessary for daytime activities. I suggest you wear lower heels or perhaps loafers? There are surprisingly fashionable ones on the market at the moment. I can point you in the right direction of a stunning French brand. Otherwise it can cause plantar fasciitis, which is when there is a lack of support in the heel of the foot and-“

“Thank you. Thomas, please show the doctor to his room.” She stared at him, coolly. She was unfazed but clearly displeased. “I shall see you at eight o’clock. Sharp. Excuse me.”

Well, fuck. He winced. Telling Maryse Lightwood what shoes to wear hadn’t been his desired first impression.

Neither had almost knocking over an heirloom.

He silently followed Thomas up the staircase, head hanging in shame.

It seemed that Magnus was well on his way to becoming royally screwed after all. 

And not in the fun sense.

Chapter Text

Upon such a hideous first impression with the lady – and clear head – of the house, Magnus vowed to dress to impress and be on his best and most charming behaviour for dinner.

It was a few minutes past 8 o’clock so he began to head down, nodding to a few of the cleaners as he passed by. Magnus was still shocked every time he saw them – cleaners, porters. It felt strange to be someplace where help was required to run it.

He was definitely out of his comfort zone, but then again, wasn’t he always?

For dinner, he had tried to dress…plainly.

He had red pants on, his least vibrant shirt – a dark, cobalt blue with stripes of lighter blue – and only a single piece of jewellery on; his long knuckle ring, or as Ragnor had named it, ‘his warrior princess weapon’. It covered his entire forefinger and made him feel a little less bare at going to dinner with royals. He had kept his makeup to a minimal still, just touching up his eyeliner a little and spreading some more glitter at the corners of his eyes.

No way was he sacrificing everything he loved.

“Right. Let’s do this.”

He smiled in recognition at Thomas, who smiled in response and pushed open the door to the dining room.

The grandfather clock outside read ‘8:18pm’ and he winced a little.

Oh well. Here now.

“Sorry I’m late!” He announced to the room. As he entered, he noticed the room first, and then forced himself to meet the gazes of his new housemates. It was a long room, with elegantly carved wooden furniture and pale yellow walls left bare except for a large mirror covering one side and a fireplace on the other.

“Glad you could join us, doctor.” Maryse’s voice was, as it always seemed to be, cool and reserved. She nodded to a small door behind him, where servants began to pour quickly out and start placing foods on the table.

Magnus hid another wince, realising they had been waiting for him.

He sat awkwardly when a servant slid a chair out for him, muttering his thanks.

Could he not go an hour without gloriously fucking something up?

Apparently not.

“Isabelle, introduce yourself to the new doctor.”

Magnus looked up, pulled from his self-pity, and turned to his dinner companion on the left.

She was a beauty, smiling and tilting her head and she drank in his appearance. Dark, loose curls were pulled into a ponytail, and though her dress was simple and covered every naughty bit, Magnus noted her curves. The deep red contrasted the girl’s hair beautifully. She held herself tall, shoulders back and chin tilted with determination, but it was her smile which caught his attention; wide and joyous.

“I’m Isabelle. Pleasure to meet you, doctor.”

Magnus returned her smile. “I’m Magnus. Magnus Bane.”

Isabelle Lightwood, lifesaver and royal beauty.

He noticed how her eyes kept flickering to the corners of his own, but it wasn’t judgement he saw, but rather hidden approval.

“I have plenty more glitter where that came from.”

Isabelle’s smile grew wider and Magnus knew he had at least one person to call a friend here.

At least, he hoped so.

“Will the prince be joining us? Uh- Mr. Lightwood?”

Maryse watched him for a moment and then replied, “My husband is unwell tonight. He will request a meeting with you soon, where you can assess him and report back.” She began to eat without another word.

Magnus looked down at his plate and smiled. Salmon. Yum. It had been grilled to perfection and was accompanied by cute cuts of green vegetables and a watery but tasty sauce. He reached for some bread in the centre of the table and took a hungry bite.

A loud crunch echoed around the room and Maryse and Isabelle turned and stared at him.

Well excuse me for eating.

“Sorry.” He mumbled, mouth full. He swallowed quickly. “Sorry.” He repeated, clearly this time. Isabelle and Maryse continued to eat and he took a moment to supress the urge to run around the room or throw something, if only to bring the room to life.

It’s like a museum, he thought. Where people are put on display and act like zombies.

After minutes, the silence was unbearable. Magnus inclined his head towards Isabelle and smiled breezily. “So, do you have someone? A boyfriend? Girlfriend?”

Isabelle coughed, cupping a hand to her mouth as she spluttered. After a moment’s glance at Maryse, who looked ready to throw something herself, she looked at Magnus and shook her head. “No. No one. Not right now.”

“Oh.” He said, calmly ignoring Maryse. “When I was your age I had two.”

“How is that possible?” Isabelle’s eyes widened in surprise, her cheeks flushed. In amusement or embarrassment, he wasn’t quite sure. “Did you…two-time?”

“My dear, have you heard of polyamorous?”

Maryse interrupted his next line with a sharp look. “We do not talk while we are eating, doctor.” She said coldly. “Kindly respect that rule.”

“Oh, of course.” He shot a wink at Izzy. “Later, my dear.”

“Isabelle is studying to earn a place at Harvard or Stanford. She doesn’t have time for your kind of things.”

His smile fell. “I see.” He hadn’t missed the clear divide she had stressed. Your kind of things. As though Magnus himself hadn’t worked through hardship before. Or struggled to balance business and other aspects of his life.

Getting fired on the first day was too much, even for Magnus, so he hid his hurt and kept eating. But silence was not a friend to Magnus. As he looked around at those gathered around the table, he couldn’t help but try once more.

“Forgive me if I overstepped. I just assumed that as you all lead rather busy lives, dinner might be the only place you can all come together and talk.”

“Thank you for your observations, doctor. Again.”

Magnus opened his mouth, but Maryse’s look was colder than his wine, so he bit back a retort this time and swallowed. For the rest of the meal, Magnus kept his head down and ate. In silence.

Wondering why he had taken the case again.

~ ~ ~

“Well at least you can’t screw up even more, right?”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. I still haven’t met Robert. There’s still time.”

“Look at you. Ever the optimist.”

Magnus chuckled at that, and leaned back onto his new four poster bed as he switched his phone to the other ear. He had come straight up here after dinner and felt the need to talk to someone sane. And human. So he had called Catarina who was now interrogating him down the phone.

“God, Catarina. I can’t sit through another meal like that. Bugger the prince. He can fix himself.”

“They needs you. In all your glory.”

“No. What the Lightwoods need is a good night out and a movie marathon.”

He could practically feel Catarina frowning down the phone. “Do you really want to go clubbing with Maryse?” She laughed.

“Bugger that.” He scoffed. “No. I’ll take the girl out, though. She looks like she needs a break.”

 They chattered about the house, and then about Catarina’s shift at the hospital before going to say goodnight. Catarina’s voice lowered in concern. “Be careful, hon.” She told him. “I know you have the biggest heart out of anyone I know, and I know you want to help everyone you can, but sometimes you can’t. And it’s not your job to, alright?”

“I-“ He broke off. Deciding to protest against her genuine concern seemed too petty, even for him. Magnus understood her worries. He did tend to lend his heart out too often.

Eventually, he quietly replied, “Will do. And…thank you. I appreciate it.”

“Take care, my friend. And remember to send my love to Isabelle.”

Magnus laughed. “I told you, I’m not getting her number for you.”

“Drat.” Catarina sighed down the phone. “Whatever happened to romance these days? Goodnight from Brooklyn!”

“Goodnight from hell.”

“Magnus!”

“I meant Texas.” He corrected innocently.

Though it’s the same thing.

After they hung up, Magnus read for a while and considered his options.

If Robert Lightwood was half as approachable as Maryse then he was going to have to be careful with which angle to play.

Did he play the firm yet insistent doctor normally reserved for passionate goalies?

He considered trying the peppy ball of sunshine used to comfort children who couldn’t play soccer for at least a week, but thought otherwise.

He flopped down on the bed, throwing his arms and legs out.

It was the only acceptable way to relax, really.

He counted the spirals on the ceiling. 1, 2, 20…..27……45…..

He checked the clock: 11:35pm.

Normally he’d be chatting with Ragnor and Catarina, or exploring the town of whichever city he was in on a team’s tour.

He wouldn’t be sitting in a too big and too empty room without television either.

He began to count the stripes in the blue and black bedcovers; 4, 7, 15, 20….

He checked the clock again: 11:39pm.

Screw this.

“I need food.” He announced to thin air, pushing himself off the bed and grabbing the purple, silk nightgown that had been left out for him. He shoved it on over his pyjamas – simple chequered boxer shorts and a bright, hot pink t-shirt with a glittering bottle of wine in the centre – and padded out into the hallway.

Trying to navigate this place in the dark was worse than looking for Church in his room; his cat was never visible in the night-time except for the occasional flash of grey hair which gave him away.

In the palace, there were no cats and only the odd unused oil lamp – who the fuck do they think they are? Who actually owns oil lamps? Am I going to bump into Mr. Darcy around the corner? -  and so Magnus was left to wander blindly.

He knew his room was on the second floor, and that there was a small kitchen here somewhere. He didn’t need to go down to the main kitchen on the ground floor and risk waking up the servants in their quarters, or god forbid bump into a late working Maryse and explain his reasons for walking around the house in his pyjamas.

All I want is chocolate. Lord, let me find it. Please.

He turned a corner and bright light spilled into his vision. He rubbed at his eyes and moved forwards, grateful when a small pantry with a couple of fridges and cookers came into view.

He looked upwards, throwing his arms out. “Thank you, Jesus.”

The fridge contained usual, boring healthy foods but Magnus saw what he wanted. He forced himself not to make inappropriate gestures to the cameras that was surely around somewhere. Grabbing a chocolate bar and a carton of juice, he hummed quietly and closed the door with his elbow.

His thoughts regained some of their peace as he walked out of the door and began the quiet, slow walk down the halls.

Encouraging a prince to exercise was a new one, even for Magnus. He was going to have to take this slowly and steadily.

Beginning to unwrap the bar, he smiled to himself with renewed hope in the world.

I can be patient-

The world then descended into complete darkness.

“Bloody hell.”

The few lights that made his journey visible had plunged into blackness.

He was stuck, halfway in a corridor holding juice and chocolate, with no way to get back to his room.

Shit, shit, shit.

Apparently even royals had power cuts.

He stood still, regained his composure and focused on his other senses. He could hear people downstairs rushing about, so clearly the lights would return soon, and he could still feel his way back with his hands.

Surely.

It was only a couple more turns anyway.

I think.

Magnus turned the corners carefully and made his way back to his room, gradually.

When he reached the door he felt relieved and strangely drained.

Far too much excitement for one day.

He came to the left side of the bed, placing his snacks on the bedside table, and slid underneath the covers. The cool sheets relaxed him, and despite his hunger, he felt his eyes begin to close.

Soon he was drifting off to-

Eeeeek.

A door creaked open.

His eyes shot open, wide and alert.

What the hell?

He told himself to inhale and exhale, to try and remain calm.

But there was someone else in the room.

In his room.

In the dark, Magnus couldn’t breathe. He was curled up on his side, half coiled and ready to sprint for the door or to launch himself at the attacker.

Was it an attacker? A burglar? Maryse with a knife?

Magnus realised with certainty that he had no qualms with attacking a royal.

He waited for the attacker to walk around the bed; waited to hear the metallic drawing of a knife or the cocking of a gun.

Where is the sharpest object? He forced himself to think.

There was a pen on the desk, he was sure. He waited, but the seconds kept rolling by without movement.

Talk about lazy.

I am going to be killed by the world’s lamest assassin.

Fuck my life.

The bed creaked lightly under the added weight of another body. And then, stillness. Again.

To say that Magnus was confused as fuck would’ve been an understatement.

He was torn between sideways rolling out of the bed and crawling to the door, or stabbing the pen into the stranger. If a fight broke out, he was unsure of his odds. Yoga and dancing were rarely known as threatening sports. Especially to an attacker who had snuck past royal security.

Risking movement, he ever so slowly reached out in the dark and felt around. When his hand touched something that was definitely a real person, and not some awful Lightwood hazing ritual prank, he screamed rather loudly, reached for the pen and swung around-

Just as the lights came back on.

He squinted in the sudden light, praying his attacker would be momentarily stunned also.

When no one killed him, he assumed he was correct.

“Look, I’m not actually rich-“

Magnus broke off.

His first thought was ‘what an attractive thief’ and his second was ‘I should probably see a physiatrist’.

It would certainly make for an intriguing gravestone, he thought. Magnus Bane: grateful victim of world’s hottest axe murderer.  

But the man standing – more accurately, kneeling – before him was armed with nothing but a shocked expression that probably matched his own. Nor was he holding a weapon. Magnus shook away the grossly inappropriate thought that the stranger would look handsome holding one and remained wary.

Magnus found his voice at the same time as he did;

“Hello, darling.”

“Who the hell are you?”

He lifted his head higher. Christ, he’s tall. Must be 6ft. At least. And with deliciously tousled hair…

Magnus snapped himself back to the present and did his best to look intimidating. Which was pretty difficult in a neon pink t-shirt. “Seriously, why are you in my room? I didn’t order anyone.”

“Order anyone?” The other man repeated. “What are you talking about” He demanded, rocking back on his heels. “This is my room, I should be asking you that.”

Magnus paused, taking in his words. “Your room? Your...?”

He trailed off and looked around, taking in the bland decoration. His recently unpacked scarves and shoes and clothes were nowhere to be seen. There was also the disappearance of his phone, his laptop and stacked piles of doctor’s notes. Makeup was sorely lacking on the desk – which was empty save for a few framed photos and an expensive looking watch.

Worst of all, there was not a sprinkle of glitter in sight.

“It appears I am in the wrong room.”

Or the right room, he considered, shamelessly eyeing up the man again. He would thank his poor sense of direction later. For now, he was still uncertain as to whether the man was going to pin him to the floor.

In a non-consensual and totally unsexy way.   

Magnus watched as his new companion remained on edge, contemplating him with an intense stare. So he did the honourable thing and stuck out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Magnus. Magnus Bane. I’m the prince’s new physiotherapist.”

Still, nothing from the other.

Magnus ran a hand through his hair – which had recently been highlighted with pink tips – and sighed. “Apologies for the whole….bed situation. I normally buy my suitors a drink first, not threaten them with….”

He looked down at the object in his hands. “A chocolate bar.”

Fuck.

“Given your weapon of choice, somehow I feel a little less inclined to call security.”

Magnus looked up, ready to protest his innocence, and came to a halt. He blinked in surprise. Is he….smiling?

“I’m Alec- Alexander Lightwood. So it would seem you’re my father’s latest?”

He was the eldest. The son.

The very handsome, eldest son….

Alec’s sharp jaw and high cheekbones would’ve been the inspiration of many Greek sculptors in the olden days. Magnus was rather in awe as he noted the prince’s eyes; a rare hazel puzzle of light browns and olive greens. The way he now held himself was proper, tall and rigid like a soldier who had been thrown into a surprising field exercise.

After another minute, Alec seemed to accept the situation, no matter how awkward, and stood slowly. He watched Magnus for a few moments, an unreadable expression on his handsome face.

Magnus felt compelled to break the silence. “You don’t look like a prince, if you don’t mind my saying.”

Alec let out something that was torn between a sigh and an exclamation. Either way, it wasn’t pleased. “Should I wear a crown to bed?” He fixed a firm gaze at Magnus, but all Magnus noticed was the weary creases on his forehead, and the bags that hinted at the weariness behind his annoyance. He was tired, not frustrated. Or perhaps both.

“They’re surprisingly comfortable.” Magnus replied with a grin. He winked, hoping to lighten the mood.

Alec just stared. “Right. Uh…”

This couldn’t get any worse.

Magnus picked up his carton and turned to leave, offering the prince an awkward half-wave as he wiggled his fingers. He noticed a framed photograph of a pretty blonde resting on the coffee table and turned back with it in his hands.

He chirped, “Ah, girlfriend?” He hid his disappointment with a flash of a smile. “She’s lovely.”

Alec looked ready to throw himself off the balcony.

Which, Magnus thought sadly, would ruin his pretty face.

“Doctor, please. It’s midnight and I’m exhausted.” Alec’s voice sounded tense.

No doubt restraining a need to damage my own pretty face, Magnus thought even more sadly.

He cursed his peppy nature, not for the first time that day, and nodded curtly. “Of course. My apologies, again.”

He was about to leave – really, he was – but he couldn’t resist turning back around. “So what do I call you? Prince? Your Highness? Are you a Duke? I read somewhere that sons of princes are called dukes, but perhaps that was inaccurate.” He took a step closer. “How about Alexander?”

Something flashed in Alec’s eyes then. Something nicer than weariness or contempt. His wide eyes softened; his forehead smoothing.

“No one calls me that. Not even my mother.”

“Alec then?”

“No, no. I didn’t mean…” Alec ran a hand through his hair. Strands were already standing up in odd places; which may or may not have put inappropriately touchy feely thoughts into Magnus’ thoughts.

Magnus waited patiently, but the sentence was left open.

Alec cleared his throat and drew himself back into his full height. He looked across at Magnus from beneath full, thick lashes. “It’s late, doctor. Please go back to your room.”

Fine, that’s how it is, Magnus thought sulkily. I’m not offering you my chocolate now. Even though it’s technically yours….shit…

Still, his mood lifted when he met Alec’s gaze. It was so….focused. Intense in a way that made Magnus aware of every little movement and every small word that passed between them. He enjoyed this new sensation very much.

He smiled at the prince. “Goodnight, Alexander.”

Despite his clear exhaustion, Alec’s cheeks flushed. Ever so slightly. “Uh, yes. Right.” He fumbled.

How adorable.

Alec swallowed. “Goodnight, doctor.”

As Magnus left the room and padded back to his own – which, to be fair, was only around the next corner, his lips kept tugging into a smile.

It was past midnight, he was tired as hell, but his smile was wide.

He would have to keep an eye on Alexander Lightwood.

Chapter Text

Alec woke with a start.

Two thoughts rushed into his mind.

The first was how he needed to book a car for his meeting, and the second was how goddamn stupid he had been last night.

He had not only almost attacked his father’s new – and very young - doctor, but stumbled like a complete idiot in front of a beautiful man with a smile that turned his legs to jelly.

Alec studied him the following morning at breakfast, quietly; when no one was watching.

To say that Magnus Bane was simply handsome would be the understatement of the century.

Alec looked at him and saw vulnerable beauty.

It was in the way he smiled encouragingly at Isabelle, the soft dimples around his mouth and the never-resting gestures of his fingers and hands.

Magnus was, all at once, both an artist and an artwork.

His place in the universe was a painting waiting to be made. He was the soft palettes of biblical art and at the same time he had splashes of colour and boldness in his contemporary art. He held himself with a pride that not only struck Alec as beautiful, but as a choice. It was set in the strange clothes he wore.

Well, not strange, Alec corrected himself, but different. And not wrongly so. He was comfortable in his skin, and it took watching Magnus to realise how uncomfortable he still felt in his own.

He had also never noticed the silence before.

He had never felt the need to fill it, or ask questions. That was usually Izzy’s forte, and she used her powers now; asking Magnus polite questions about his home – Brooklyn, Alec learned – and how he had become a doctor. He not only indulged her questions, but made every word into a performance.

His entire being demanded attention, and Alec could feel himself being tugged into orbit around him.

Alec found himself wanting to know more, but he held back and ate; a quiet spectator. This continued for the next week, and he had to bite down his tongue sometimes to stop from speaking out.

As the servers began to clean away the table, Alec stood and bid a good day to everyone before leaving.

His gaze flickered to Magnus and he allowed himself to hold it steadily.

He was surprised to see Magnus already watching him.

Then his time was up.

Alec left the room without glancing back.

~ ~ ~

Magnus was fairly sure that Alec hated him.

Well, you did crash into his room. Dressed in pink. And threatened him with chocolate.

He roamed the gardens, lost in thought.

He had rebelliously granted himself free reign of the place, shrugging off any guilt by thinking that someone would stop him sooner or later if so.

It had been a week and a half and he was so overwhelmingly bored, and alone.

After breakfast, Maryse had announced that Robert was still unwell and would not be seeing him today, so Magnus hid his annoyance and turned to Isabelle.

“Are you up for playing tourist, my dear?”

“I’d love to.” She began, but after glancing at her mother – who looked at her icily – Isabelle shook her head. “But I have to work on my applications. Yes, plural.” She said tonelessly, but a flash of contempt crossed her expression. “I can have Hodge, our manservant, show you around the house? There’s plenty to see. Oh, and the gardens! They’re beautiful-“

“That’ll be all, Isabelle. You may converse at dinner.”

Magnus hid an eye roll. Yes, because dinner table conversation is always riveting around here.

So now Isabelle was off slaving over practice entrance exams while Maryse was probably taking over Russia somewhere. One cold stare at a time.

And Magnus was lost in a fucking maze.

Damn it all.

He hadn’t thought it was possible to get lost in a garden.

Until now.

But apparently there was an entire country in the Lightwood’s back garden, and Magnus had found Wonderland and was stuck in a never-ending maze. He debated trying to climb onto the top of the hedge so he could just see where the hell he actually was, and if he could find his way out. Or just walk on top of it.

At least it would provide entertainment for the servants, he debated.

He vaguely remembered some crappy online article about keeping your hand to the left to find the centre of a maze, so he stuck out his arm and walked briskly for a few minutes. The centre, at last, came into view, and he was pleasantly surprised at what was inside.

A beautiful cherry tree stood slightly to the left, with bright pink blossoms and long branches stretching out. On one of them hung an old wooden swing, with pink flowers twining up the vines of the thick cord.

He could see places in the trunk where letters had been scrawled into the bark.

He stepped closer and read;

AL+IL+ML+JW

He ran his fingers along the first two, assuming they were the Lightwood siblings’ names. As for the two latter, he frowned. Perhaps they had childhood friends or cousins they were close to.

There was something sad about the third carving, ML, which had been chipped away.

Not chipped, he thought. More like hacked. The bark had been torn away as if in anger.

Maybe an ex-boyfriend, Magnus considered. He added it to his ever-growing list of questions to ask Isabelle. He sat for a few moments on the bench and then sighed, deciding he was too old to hide himself away in a maze.

No matter how beautiful it was.

Now, if only he could find a pair of ruby slippers…

~ ~ ~

“Where have you been, doctor?” Maryse Lightwood demanded. She had caught him re-entering the house half an hour later, waiting as if to ambush him outside the music room. “I have had Hodge beside himself worrying.” She held up a hand when he opened his mouth to protest. “Around here, absences do not go unnoticed. Please inform someone if you wish to go exploring.” She smiled and there was little warmth in it. “You can tag along with a tourist group if you wish.”

Rude.

“I meant no disrespect.” He said honestly. “May I see the library? I do so love books.”

“That’s the first sensible thing you’ve said, doctor.” She sized him up once more before giving her usual nod of dismissal. “You may. If you wait here, I will find a servant who can take you there.”

“I can-“

Before he could finish, Maryse had already rushed off.

Magnus sighed. His second week was going just as well as his first had. He kept finding new ways to offend. Every outfit was met with wide eyes; every playful comment brushed aside. He was beginning to see why so many before him had quit and returned to a world where people knew how to be kind.

“This way, Your Highness?”

“Yes, Hodge. Thank you. I feel like sitting outside today.”

Magnus turned his head at the new voices, and watched as the manservant appeared, pushing an older man in a large wheelchair towards the patio doors.

Oh, good. Now here’s a first impression I can’t screw up.

He watched as the elder prince was taken down the small ramp near where Magnus stood, and Magnus drew himself taller and forced himself to smile as the man came closer.

“Good afternoon, Your Highness.” He began, stepping towards the pair. “May I introduce myself to you? I am Magnus Bane. Doctor number…thirty two?”

The prince, unlike his wife, barely paused to give him the onceover. He simply scoffed and looked over his shoulder at his manservant. “Is that correct, Hodge?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Fascinating.” Robert said dryly.

Magnus chuckled. “You’ll find that I don’t scare easily. Are you feeling better?”

A look of confusion crossed the prince’s expression, which only made Magnus feel uncertain. Maryse had told him the prince was ill, but he appeared to be in good condition.

Pushing away his confusion, Magnus dropped down to a crouch and pointed to the prince’s loose trousers. “May I? Excellent.” He transformed into doctor mode, pushed up the material and examined the scarred muscles on the prince’s lower legs, reaching out to test-

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” Robert cried.

At the same time, Hodge pulled the chair back, away from Magnus’ grasp, and stared at him in shock. “Sir!” He exclaimed.

Magnus frowned. Did they not want him to do his job?

With a look of anger that cut him to the bone, Robert said, curtly, “To the gardens, Hodge, if you will.” Without glancing at him again, he waved a lose hand in Magnus’ direction. “Goodbye, doctor.”

In a confused daze, Magnus leaned against the doorframe and watched the prince leaving.

He was beginning to question how such a large company was run by a family with such awful people skills.

“Excuse me, Doctor Bane?”

“Yes, dear?” He said absently.

“Uh, her Highness requested that I show you to the library?”

Magnus sighed, pushed himself away from the door and threw the servant a smile. “That’d be lovely. Lead on, if you please.”

~ ~ ~

Yet another week passed by in an uneventful way.

July began and Magnus spent most of his time reading in his room, eating awkwardly with the Lightwoods- except for the occasional allowed small talk with Isabelle – or doing some more research on post-accident injuries and unusual healing methods.

At the end of the third week, he had finally been given his first scheduled meeting with Robert, where he would be able to test out sensations and prod and poke to all his heart’s content.

As he waited in the exercise room – a plain, large room that had clearly been turned into the designated fitness room for the prince - he frowned. Gym equipment rested around the room but Magnus doubted it had been used in years.

Alexander, no doubt, had another place to sweat and keep those glorious forearms in check.

He must work out at least three times a week to have arms like that…

He shook thoughts of the dark-haired prince out of his mind and continued waiting for Alec’s father.

When Robert wheeled in, closely followed by Hodge, Magnus perked up. “Ah, Your Highness! Glad to see you. Let’s get started, shall we?”

He spent the next half an hour running Robert’s injured legs through a series of tests; temperature tests, sensation and vibration responses. He was rather hopeful as he rocked back on his knees in front of the prince. “Well, excellent news. Which I suspect you’ve been told before. You have a lot of sensation. There is a lot of techniques we can try and experiment with and see which creates the most improvement. I suggest starting with-“

“I don’t feel like exercising today. Good day, doctor.”

What?

He was so surprised at the prince’s dismissal that he didn’t protest, simply watching as Hodge wheeled him out of the room, leaving him once again alone in a house full of strangers.

Magnus slowly packed away his equipment.

He couldn’t very well force Robert to exercise, so again he was at a loss.

He needed new ideas.

Clearly his natural charm wasn’t going to go down so well on a Lightwood.

He took the stairs to the top floor, crossing over to the balcony that surrounded the entire floor and contained hidden alcoves with chairs and a table.

They were positioned at random points, but Magnus liked the one that overlooked the gardens.

At night, he had snuck up once and watched the sunrise.

It had been the best memory he had made since being here, yet he had made it alone. The sadness had swallowed him up, that empty ache that desired to be filled with people and friendship, and Magnus had gone back to his room and called Catarina.

Suddenly, he noticed a flash of limbs and faint music.

He walked around the balcony, turning the corner and walking into a hidden space fenced off by a railing. The music swelled, soft violins that sounded both sweet and sad to his ears. Magnus kept walking closer, and once again arms stretched into the sky and dark hair swung around, loose and free.

He rested his elbows on the railing and watched Isabelle Lightwood twirl and dance slowly, completely lost in her own world.

And what a world.

She danced like the music was inside her soul, escaping through every limb and every muscle in her body. Isabelle was more alive in her dancing than Magnus had ever seen her. She was smiling, softly, and as the music quietened, she finished with a low curtsy.

Magnus brushed away a tear and began to clap.

“So the Lightwoods have talent besides driving away doctors?” He called out. "How marvellous!"

Isabelle swung around, chest heaving. 

The look of fear on her face suddenly tamed his joy. Had he just discovered something he oughtn’t have? She looked so ready to sink into the floor and disappear forever that Magnus quickly took a step back and held up both hands. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, my dear. Honestly. I just heard the music and came to see where it was coming from...”

She remained still.

“You….you’re a beautiful dancer, Miss Lightwood.” He should’ve known better than to seek out conversation with a Lightwood, even with Isabelle, who had seemed the friendliest. “Goodnight.” He began to leave, head lowered.

“No, wait!”

Isabelle rushed around and took his hand in hers.

He hid the sharp intake of breath at her touch.

When was the last time someone had embraced him so casually?

The question wasn’t one Magnus wanted to consider, so he tilted his head thoughtfully at Isabelle and asked, “You’re not mad at me?”

“What? No.” She laughed, warmly, tugging him to the chairs in front of the balcony. “Hold on.” She gulped from a water bottle for a few moments and then gestured for him to sit. “I just forgot that a fellow wanderer lives here too now.”

He liked that. Fellow.

It was the first sense of belonging he had since his arrival.

Even Alec’s occasional stares, which he used to swear were complimentary, had left him feeling stripped naked. 

“It’s also…I shouldn’t be doing this. Not up here. It was silly, and foolish. Someone else could’ve caught me.”

“Caught you? My dear, you were dancing. Not having an orgy.”

Isabelle burst out laughter. She threw her head back, hair spilling down her back as she giggled helplessly.

Encouraged, Magnus grinned and added, “But I do expect to be invited should you have one.”

After she regained her composure, Magnus waited. He was desperate to laugh and tease and relax into his own skin once more, but she was a Lightwood, and so far they hadn’t been fond of his personality.

“Mum doesn’t like my dancing.” Isabelle began, more quietly this time. He noticed the faraway look in her eyes. “She says it distracts me from my studies. But…in fact, it's the opposite. It focuses me.”

“What’s wrong with dancing?”

“Nothing. Unless you’re preparing for Harvard and Stanford. If I fail the entrance exams I think mom will burn my entire wardrobe.”

Magnus winced. “Not the clothes.”

“Harsh, right?” Isabelle nodded in sympathy. “But she says I have no excuses. I’ve been out of high school for a few years, so I don’t have senior exams to worry about like everyone else. I just have the entrance exams to ace and I’m in, scholarship or not."

“How old are you, dear?”

“Twenty-two.”

Magnus frowned. “Why didn’t you apply straight after school? I can’t imagine your mother encouraging gap years.”

“Surprisingly, it was her idea. She did it with Alec too." Isabelle met his frown with a relaxed smile. "Told us to take two or three years and spend time with the company and learn about getting to understand the business hands-on. Alec stayed here and built up contacts and relationships with his future employees. I stayed here for a while, and then when I was twenty I went to stay in Houston to spend a year with the Branwells.”

“The Branwells?”

Isabelle looked away. “Uh, yes. The Branwells. We have always maintained a close relationship. Business.” She said quickly. “Our company and Branwell Publications are hoping to form a joint partnership in the future. In the next generation.”

“Your brother?” Magnus pressed, fascinated by the business world Isabelle had grown up into. She spoke so casually about it, but to him it was another language.

“Yes. And their successor.”

“Who is?”

“Lydia Branwell.” Isabelle said. Her cheeks were flushed now.

Probably from the Texas heat, he thought, noticing how the weather never seemed to change much.

“Do you think they’ll work well together-“

“Yes.” She said briskly. She stood suddenly. “Would you care for tea? I’d like tea.”

“Oh. Yes, tea sounds lovely.”

He waited a moment and softly said, “Isabelle?”

She paused, having bent down to collect her phone and stereo. “Yes?”

“I just wanted to say, you dance beautifully. And it shouldn’t be something you have to conceal.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

“Magnus. Please. No need for formality.”

Isabelle beamed. “Magnus. Let’s go have tea. And you can tell me all about where you bought that nail polish from. I can’t find a colour like that anywhere.”

“Oh, this old colour? I have a spare.”

The joyful look in her eyes was so welcome that he had to stop himself from hugging her. Instead, he winked. “Lead the way, my dear.”

~ ~ ~

They took tea in one of the parlours, watching the sun go down together as they chatted.

While they talked over clothes and shoes and growing up a fan of old music – Magnus unashamedly loved David Bowie while Isabelle announced her love of Frankie Valli and 1920s Jazz music – he had the feeling this was the first time she had met her match. He felt the same; recognised the feeling of falling into comfortable talk and relaxed smiles.

There was the atmosphere of old friends between them, and Magnus felt like throwing a party.

He had the feeling that Isabelle had been just as suppressed as he had been.

“I do have a shocking revelation for you.”

He scoffed, leaning back in his armchair and smirking at Isabelle. “Nothing can surprise me, my dear.”

“I’ve never seen Lord of the Rings.”

Magnus choked on his tea. After he had regained his dignity, he exclaimed, “That’s blasphemy!”

Isabelle merely shrugged. “I’d never heard of them until I went to stay with the Branwells. They live in a big city, not somewhere you have to cross a bridge to get to.”

They finished their tea and then Isabelle sighed. “I should probably get upstairs before one of mom’s minions tracks me down. I’m surprised Hodge hasn’t come looking for me.” She grinned at him. “You’re my good luck charm, Magnus Bane.”

“Why, thank you. Also, Isabelle, before you go-”

“You can call me Izzy. If you like. Alec does.”

Magnus blinked, surprised by the suggestion. His heart warmed at her smile; he really was becoming fonder of Isabelle by the minute. He liked her spirit. “Why do you hide your dancing?”

“Because if mom saw me, she’d stop it. If she saw how much I loved it, how I’ve given up study time for it, I would be watched like a hawk. In her eyes, dance is something I used to do when I was younger. She believes that ballet was my childhood passion, nothing more. But...I need to dance, Magnus. It’s the only freedom I’ve had since I was young. In fact, I’ve been thinking of…” She trailed off, gazing to the side before shaking her head and turning back to face him.

He waited for her to finish but the expression she wore was suddenly afraid, and Magnus felt his heart go out to her.

“Please don’t say anything to her.” She said quietly, chewing her lip.

He stood and placed a comforting arm on her shoulder. “Of course.” He added with a grin, “Izzy.”

Her smile returned then, in all its glorious cheer. “You’re the best.” She threw her arms around him and hugged him, happily, and he let out a laugh and returned it.

He was quite pleased to have made one Lightwood happy today.

Now he had to work on the others.

Isabelle paused at the door, turning back to add, “Don’t forget; you owe me nail polish, doctor.”

“I promise!” He wiggled his fingers at her, showing off the nails. “Goodnight.”

Magnus headed to bed that night with a smile.

~ ~ ~

Despite his budding friendship with the younger Lightwood, Magnus found himself getting no further with the elder.

In the few weeks that had gone by, Alec was like a ghost.

He sometimes joined them at breakfast, but hardly ever at dinner.

And when he was there, his presence was like a flame about to go out; no matter how Magnus tried to hold onto it, it slipped between his fingers.

Their usual exchanges were;

“Good morning, Alexander.”

“Good morning, doctor.”

“Are you well?”

“Yes, thank you. And yourself?”

“Positively chipper.” – He’d always resist adding ‘no thanks to your dear old dad’ to that reply.

“I’m glad.”

Are you? Really? Magnus wanted to yell.

He considered throwing a piece of fruit at Alexander, just to see if it didn’t sail right through him.

Perhaps he was being unfair to Alec. Magnus often saw him pacing the corridors with a phone to his ear, frowning and talking hastily with his hands always cutting through the air.

He also noted how lovely Alexander’s hands were. Their elegance was difficult to ignore and he began to wonder how they would feel against his skin. 

“Do you play the piano?” He had asked at the breakfast table one time. Maryse and Robert had both been absent that morning.

Alec looked up and blinked. “Uh, no...”

“Oh. You should.”

And then they resumed eating again, but not before he winked at Isabelle, who had hidden her grin behind her coffee cup.

Magnus wasn’t trying to piss him off, but he was curious.

There was something about Alec that intrigued him enough to risk embarrassment. So he kept trying. And observing.

He caught the younger prince hovering in the library once, when Magnus had snuck in to pick out a book.

“Oh, hey. Mind if I join?”

“I was just leaving.” Alec said plainly.

Ouch.

Alec's eyes widened suddenly. “Not because of you! I’m not leaving because you’re here. I just-I have a call waiting.” He stuck his hands inside his pockets, and Magnus thought he looked rather sweet with his cheeks flushed. Alec ran a hand over the back of his neck and sighed. “I, uh, wanted to be in here for a second.”

Magnus smiled sympathetically. “I understand. I’m sure you’re a very busy man, Alexander.”

Once again, he looked surprised by his own name. Alec opened his mouth, and then turned to the books along the wall, lined on shelves with beautiful golden engravings. His long fingers brushed the tops, skimming them and…searching?

Magnus waited.

Alec hummed under his breath for a moment and then exclaimed, “Ah! Here.” He pulled a book from the shelf and turned towards him, seeming to hesitate again before thrusting the book into the doctor’s arms. “It’s a first edition.”

Holding the book carefully, Magnus didn’t take his eyes off Alec’s. He tilted his head at him, smiling playfully. “I won’t steal it. I promise.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that you would! I’m sorry-“

Magnus held out a finger, hovering just in front of Alec’s lips. “I know. Thank you for the book.”

“I just thought you might be bored.”

“With no one to speak to or princes to antagonise? Whatever do you mean?”

Alec laughed, and Magnus couldn’t help but stare in amazement. His laugh was warmer than any heatwave Texas could throw at him. He seemed to lose himself in the sound, in the low amusement of Alec’s laughter and the way he relaxed. Just for a moment. And then the prince straightened and nodded, in that brisk Lightwood fashion that Magnus had come to expect.

“Uh, good day to you.”

And he was gone. Leaving Magnus with a copy of-

Pride and Prejudice.

“No freaking way.” He exclaimed to an empty room. He flipped to the front page, and there was the first edition label too.

If Alexander was Mr. Darcy, did that make him Elizabeth?

I don’t mind, he thought happily as he left. As long as I’m not Wickham.

He left to go find a quiet spot to read.

~ ~ ~

Of all the books to choose, you gave him Jane Austen.

Not even something less mainstream.

No, you gave him the sappiest romance of them all and practically threw it at him.

Still, Alec wondered where Magnus was. And was he reading?

No, he had probably discarded the book with a scoff and laughed it over with Isabelle.

The current meeting was to discuss the import of new editions of textbooks, and Alec found it even more tedious than usual.

His mind kept returning to Magnus’ smile.

It had struck him as brilliant, and his stomach had clenched in such a way that he thought it would catch on fire.

Sure, he had felt attraction before. He’d kissed a few boys in school, and later had a boyfriend at college, but this was different. It felt…alive. Like it was something that was growing.

In the month and a half that Magnus had lived with them, Alec had grown more certain that he wasn’t going anywhere. There was an air of patience around Magnus, despite his restless nature. His gaze was always sure and steady, even when his hands would dance and his eyes would glisten.

He was charmingly youthful, but also grounded in the way he spoke.

Alec found him otherworldly.

He probably thinks you’re an alien too.

The rest of the meeting passed by, and Alec headed to lunch to meet Lydia. He hadn’t seen her in a few weeks; she had been kept busy by her own role at Branwell Publications, but they had booked a table at a nice restaurant and Alec was determined to give them both a break.

She was already waiting for him when he arrived, looking up from her phone and smiling. “Hi, stranger.”

He reached the table and hugged her. “It’s good to see you, Lydia. How’s work?”

“The usual; stressful, time-consuming and wealthy.” She teased, taking the seat opposite him and picking up the menu. “But I’m sure you’re feeling the pressure right now, so how about we talk about something else?”

His eyes scanned over the menu briefly. “I can think of nothing else transpiring between us.” He said innocently. “Whatever do you mean?”

Lydia laughed at the joke and he broke out into a grin. “Hm, that’s a good point.” She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “It’s not like we’re getting married or anything.”

“Oh, yes. That.”

“Mm.”

They laughed again, and paused to order.

When their drinks arrived, Alec watched her for a few moments.

Tall, powerful and incredibly smart and kind, Lydia Branwell was practically the perfect woman. He had no qualms with marrying her to unite their companies next year. He could think of no other woman he would feel comfortable spending his life beside, especially as they both agreed that love was off the cards. At least a whirlwind romantic love of any sorts. He couldn’t quite imagine Lydia rushing after him in the rain to profess her hidden desire.

A flash of pink-highlighted hair and a teasing grin crossed his mind, but he pushed that person away with a start.

“We’re still on for May next year, yes?”

“Oh, god, don’t tell me you’re changing the date. Mom with explode.”

It was early August now. That gave him nine more months.

To do what?  Alec thought, confused by his train of thought.

“Believe me, I wouldn’t dream of it.” Lydia looked away, briefly, and he caught something hidden beneath her calm composure. It startled him that he had never, in fact, proposed to her. He felt slightly ashamed that Lydia was stuck with him, but then she grinned and asked, “Can you imagine your mother’s face if I did?”

Alec half-laughed and half-grimaced. “Yes, I can. It’s not pretty.”

“I spoke to Jace recently. To congratulate him on his Championship win. He’s thinking about coming over in a few weeks, if you’re free to meet up at any point? It’ll be nice to have us all together again.”

Alec nodded, warm memories of childhood games crossing his mind. “I’d love that.”

He, Jace and Izzy had all practically grown up together, having lived on the same street since they were children. Lydia had moved to their area with her parents when she was twelve and through many charity dinners and dull business plans, she and Alec had bonded over their future burdens.

She was also close with Isabelle, who was closer to her age.

He had fond memories of them building a tree-house in the garden together, and a less fond one of Lydia comforting his sister after Maryse ordered it to be torn down. When Isabelle had stayed with the Branwells for a year, at their main house in Houston, he recalled her coming back with a gleam in her eyes that hadn’t been there before.

Work sure does strange things to people, he had thought amusedly.

His thoughts turned back to his dinner companion.

At twenty-five, Lydia Branwell was unstoppable. Alec had never seen someone so approachable. He had met many people in his line of work who were cold and strict, and also met others who were untrustworthy. Lydia was neither of those things. She was a capable businesswoman with plans for her company and morals that Alec appreciated.

Taking love out of the equation, Alec was pleased to marry her, and was certain she was happy with the decision.

Isn't love supposed to be a pretty big part of marriage...

He cut off that thought quickly.

Lydia held out her wine glass and smiled. “To friendship.”

“And good wine.” Alec added.

They toasted and sipped.

Lydia gave a smile of appreciation. “That is really good wine.”

~ ~ ~

Magnus had resorted to doing yoga in the garden.

He realised that unless Robert was willing, he couldn’t force him to come to therapy. So, instead, until he came up with a better plan than sulking, Magnus began to entertain himself.

He would jog around the maze, do stretches in the middle of the garden, near the pond, and then jog back up to the front to do squats and handstands. He was just working on his record of holding a handstand for two minutes when he heard footsteps approach.

“Uh, doctor-“

“Alexander, hello!” Magnus said happily, from upside down. It was early evening and the light was fading, but he could make out the dark grey stripes on Alec’s pants quite clearly.

It wasn’t the only shape he could make out, but Magnus chose to focus on his shoes instead. His tank top was halfway down his chest, revealing a great deal of his stomach to the prince. 

“Would you mind doing that inside the house? I’m trying to work and all I can see…is your legs.”

“Is there something wrong with that?”

“No, I just...” He heard Alec sigh. “Never mind. Would you do this in the daytime, please? Somewhere that’s not outside my office.”

Magnus lowered himself reluctantly and crouched for a few moments, looking up at Alec as he regained his normal colour.

No doubt he was as red as a tomato. How attractive.

“I’m sure you have plenty of free time.”

Magnus scoffed at that. “Yes, I do. Because my patient isn’t showing up!”

“Well, I’m sorry but I can’t help you with that. Good evening, doctor.”

Alec walked off before he could protest again.

Magnus grumbled under his breath about Lightwood charm, grabbed his water bottle and headed inside.

What is it with everyone throwing their problems onto someone else?

No wonder Robert has no motivation.

It had been six weeks. Six. And no sign of Robert. All this time, the prince kept refusing to turn up to his scheduled meetings. Magnus had asked to speak with Maryse, who simply said, “That is not my job, doctor. It is yours.”

He knew they were waiting for Magnus to give up and go back home.

So, of course, he stayed.

Instead, he had turned to Isabelle and offered to help her with her studying, running through practise questions and quizzing her. In-between exams, they would chat, and Magnus found himself asking about Alec again.

“So why is he so…?”

“Chatty?” Isabelle smirked. “He’s got a lot on his shoulders at the moment.”

“I know, but it’s more than that. He doesn’t seem…happy.” Magnus finished uncertainly, not wanting Isabelle to feel guilty.

Instead, she sighed and tugged a hand through one of her braids. “Happiness is a luxury around here, Magnus. The saying ‘follow your heart’ would be met with a lot of confused stares.”

“What about ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’?”

“I think that’s written on the welcome mat.”

Magnus laughed. “You know what, that wouldn’t even surprise me.”

“Aliis vivere.”

“What is that? Elvish?”

“Latin, silly. It means ‘live for others’. Which you’ll find it quite common here.”

“That’s bullshit.” He said bluntly.

Sugar-coating was never really his style.

Magnus shrugged at Izzy’s look of surprise and continued. “I don’t believe you should sacrifice your happiness for others. What kind of a life is that? Imagine laying on your deathbed and suddenly realising that everything you’ve ever done is for someone else. Who is probably now also dead, or dying. You’re left unsatisfied. I’m not ignorant, Izzy. I understand business and work. I’m sure you owe a lot to your parents, and your mother is pretty damn good at what she does, but that doesn’t mean it’s a baton for you to pass on and run around with because you feel it’s the only option for you. Because it isn’t.”

He paused, and suddenly asked, “What do you want, Isabelle?”

Isabelle gaped at him, as though he had spoken in another language or sworn. She looked around the room, glanced at the door and then lowered her voice. She leaned in. “I want to dance.”

“I know.” He said, slowly. Unsure. “You’ve said.”

“No, Magnus, I mean…I want to dance. Professionally.”

Oh.

“That’s wonderful!” He exclaimed. “Why, you’d make an amazing-“

“Hush!” She held out a hand, eyes widening with fear. “Don’t say another word, please.” She rushed to close the door and then hurried back. “You cannot tell anyone, alright? If mother found out, as I told you before, she’d freak out completely, but I’ve applied for Julliard.”

He looked at Isabelle with fresh eyes; the spark of fear, but also passionate rebellion now ablaze in her eyes. She was eager and fearful as she whispered, “I’ve already sent off the essay and application. And the recorded audition. Now I need to wait to see if I have another audition. In person, this time.”

“But….Harvard?”

“And Stanford, yes. I’m applying there. This is just…for me.”

Magnus processed this. He asked, carefully, “But you don’t want to actually go there?”

“No! Well, maybe. No, of course not. That would be insane. And impossible. I’d just like to know if I’m good enough to get through, I suppose.”

Magnus was quite sure she was. He opened his mouth to say as much, but hesitated.

Now he was always one for chasing dreams, but when that person had a billionaire mother planning a very straight and narrow future, he had to be careful.

He looked at Isabelle calmly. “Well, then. Keep me in the loop?”

“Of course! You’ll still help me study, won’t you? You make it so much more fun than staring at a screen.”

“My dear, I would be honoured.”

He watched her take the pen out from behind her ear and begin underlining phrases of the text. She was smiling, clearly happy to have confessed her secret to someone. God only knew how long she had been keeping it.

Magnus sighed.

These Lightwoods are going to turn my beautiful hair grey.

He said as much to Catarina over Skype later. She was sitting with her laptop on the coffee table, leaning back into her chair with a mug of tea.

“Look, if they’re giving you too much hassle just come back. The prince sounds like a snob anyway.”

“I think he’s rather sweet actually. Introverted, that’s all.”

“I meant Robert Lightwood.”

“Oh.”

Fuck.

“Clearly wasn’t who you were thinking about, hm?” Catarina said sweetly. “Why don’t you speak to the mother? Or your dear Alec? Surely they can shed some light on Robert’s lack of fucks to give.”

“That’s the problem. No one speaks to each other in this house. Not properly, anyway. It’s like their stuck on autopilot for Christ’s sake. The sister is secretly harbouring a desire to run off to become a ballerina, the mother is plotting my death, and the father is playing hide and seek with me.”

“Sounds like a bad soap opera. And the other prince?”

He ignored her raised eyebrow and sighed. “Alexander is…difficult. Part of me thinks he’s just shy while the other thinks he wants nothing to do with me.”

“Do you think you could speak to him about Robert?”

“Maybe.” He considered this for a moment and then sighed, decisively this time. “Screw it, why not? I’m running out of options anyway. I can’t be a doctor without a patient.”

“And you can’t be our Magnus without a little well-deserved appreciation.”

“Damn right.”

Catarina laughed. Someone called out something, and she replied back, turning back to the camera. “Sorry, sweetie, got to run. Ragnor wants me to refill his coffee. You know what his writing sprints are like.”

“Best of luck. Speak to you soon, Cat. Sending all my love. Mwha!”

She blew him a kiss in return and he smiled, closing the laptop and climbing into bed.

He vowed to speak to Alec the next morning, hoping to catch him before he left.

~ ~ ~

“Alexander, might I have a word?”

“Uh, yes. Come in, doctor.”

Alec was currently searching for a book.

Which wasn’t unusual given his business, but also enjoyments of pleasure reading.

But he was frustrated.

He’d been sure the book was on the first shelf, but apparently someone – probably Izzy, he cursed fondly – had shoved it back wherever.

He turned as Magnus approached, closing the office door behind him.

Today, the doctor was dressed in a forest green silk shirt and navy skin-tight jeans, complete with half a dozen necklace charms and a chequered red and black scarf that contrasted his pretty greenish eyes. There were flecks of gold in them, Alec was sure, but had yet to pluck up the courage and stare long enough to be certain.

“How can I help you?”

“I just wondered if you had a moment to talk.”

“Uh, not right now. I’m sorry. Really. Perhaps later? Ah ha!” His eyes had been scanning the top shelf when he caught a flash of a leather-bound hardback with ‘GA’ down the side. Great Expectations. “Found you.” He said happily.

“I wasn’t hiding, Alexander.”

He turned to see Magnus grinning like a cat at him, head tilted to one side.

Alec felt his cheeks begin to heat up, and prayed they didn’t flame too brightly.

“Can I help you with that?” Magnus asked silkily. His voice was intoxicatingly soft today. 

“Oh, no, it’s-“

“No trouble at all.” Magnus finished for him, quickly climbing up the bookshelf ladder and reaching across for the book. “Which one is it?”

“Uh, the brown leather one. Great Expectations.”

“Never read it. Seen the films.”

Alec gaped and bit back a pretentious remark about adaptions.

He watched quietly as Magnus stretched, his back arching and curving elegantly. The bottom of his shirt pulled up and Alec stared at the stretch of brown skin that revealed itself. He curled his fingers into his palms to stop from touching him.

Focus, he told himself.

“Almost there…”

Magnus groaned, stretching out his fingers to reach the book. “Almost….there…”

“Careful, doctor.”

“Got it! Ah! -”

In one sudden movement, Magnus slipped from the ladder, turned sideways and fell right into him.

Alec instinctively held out his arms and caught Magnus around the waist before he could fall, carefully holding him upright on the ladder. Instinctively, Magnus had also placed his arms on Alec’s shoulders to support himself, and was gazing down at him with those lovely eyes.

Alec’s breath caught.

There is gold in them after all, he thought. Like tiny halos, they encircled the green beautifully.

But it was the way Magnus used them that caught the prince off guard.

It was like feeling sunshine on his skin for the first time.

Warm tingles danced along Alec's forearms, spreading like liquid fire across his chest. 

He was afraid by how open Magnus' expression was; how unashamedly he was drinking Alec in with every part of his being.

Alec didn’t know anyone who could, like magic, turn everything that made them vulnerable into a strength.

Magnus’ hands on his shoulders was such a gentle touch, but Alec felt it sink through the layers of his clothes. He suddenly felt naked, but it wasn’t a bad feeling exactly.

Just…different.

He realised that he still had his arms around Magnus’ waist, encircling him. He pulled back slightly, brushing Magnus’ hips. He swallowed as he felt the strong form of muscles beneath him, carefully pushing him towards the ladder once again.

“I’m sorry.” Magnus said, quietly.

Alec was about to brush it off when he met his gaze again. The doctor really did look afraid now, his eyes widened and his lower lip caught in-between his teeth.

In fact, Magnus was the first to pull back entirely and climb down the ladder. He abruptly handed Alec the book and turned to leave, one hand wound tightly around his scarf, and the other clasping a necklace. He was strangely unfocused.

“We’ll speak later.” Alec called out in a rush. “I promise.”

But Magnus was gone, leaving Alec with a hardback book, a softened heart and a billion questions running through his head.

Chapter Text

Magnus spent the day aggressively exercising.

He had excused himself from Izzy – burying her look of disappointment beneath his confused mind – and ran from the house.

When running didn’t calm him, he did some yoga.

That lasted all but five minutes.

He kept wobbling and getting off balance, which was unusual considering the many years he’d been working out.

Since his run in with Alec, he hadn’t been able to remain still. Something about him was agitated; on edge.

He straightened his simple, black tank top and tugged at his white sport socks. Then he ran a hand through his hair. And again.

He gulped down some water.

What the hell was wrong with him?

Something, Magnus decided. Helpfully.

Approaching footsteps echoed down the garden path, and he startled when a servant’s voice called out, “Doctor, dinner is being served!”

“Thank you, Dot!” He called back. “Tell the Lightwoods that I will skip dinner. Thank you.”

He had gotten familiar with some of the servants during the time he had been here. A little over two months without a patient had left him with time to fill, and he had charmingly interrogated anyone he could find and keep company with. The servants, though busy, were always pleasant and welcomed his polite chattering. As long as he gave them a hand with washing the dishes, which Magnus didn’t mind at all.

He inhaled, exhaled, and then inhaled again, deciding that a shower and a nap would do him good.

~ ~ ~

It didn’t.

Magnus still felt the same restless energy that had been burning through him all morning. It was a want. A strange need to do something. Whatever it was, he decided to channel it into progressing further with his patient.

So he found himself walking around the second floor, where only the bedrooms were so that there was little risk of being disturbed. Pacing sometimes helped, but like with the rest of today, it wasn’t helping. There was something scratching and pushing at the surface, waiting to be opened-

“Doc- Magnus, I found you.”

Magnus looked up. Alexander.

His restlessness seemed to expand and dissolve all at once.

He just stood there, again finding himself upstairs with the prince, wearing only pyjama shorts and a navy blue tank top. Which was, fortunately, plain. He felt bare without his usual liner and glitter combo, tugging a strand of loose hair back into place. Parts of it were still wet and he protested why Alec couldn’t have waited half an hour more to search him out.

Alec stared for a moment – god knows what he finds most appalling – and then glanced away, his Adam's apple bobbing furiously as he swallowed. “Uh, earlier you said you wanted to talk. Are you busy now? You don’t look busy, but…if you are, I can come back.”

Busy? Who, me, sir? No, not at all, he imaged himself replying. Just been thinking about your hands on my waist-

Oh.

Magnus stepped back. Shock ran through his mind. He quickly covered it up with a shaky grin. “Like what you see?”

“Well, it was pretty hard to ignore.”

Magnus felt his jaw drop. Well played.

But Alec looked away first, the tips of his ears a pretty pink, so Magnus considered it a small victory also.

“Why don’t we go inside?” Alec opened the door to his room and gestured with his hand.

Magnus followed, ignoring the brush of his arm against the prince’s as he passed by.

He chose one of the two armchairs and flopped into it, wishing he could rewind time and throw on some eyeliner before he knew Alec would appear like some suited and tied angel.

His eyes wandered as Alec sat. The prince’s suit was well-fitted; a deep red jacket, black pants and a striped red and black tie that matched his dark hair beautifully. As he sat, Alec undid the top button and Magnus looked away from the way his shirt pressed tightly against his stomach.

“So, what did you-“

“I want you to use your powers.” Magnus said in a rush. He had needed to start talking else something else would catch his attention. He continued on. “Your father’s injuries are not the problem. I suspect you’ve been told this before, but hear it again. He has sensation. If he exercises, he could walk again. Why doesn’t he?”

Alec began to fidget. He toyed with one of the files on the desk, and Magnus hid the urge to tear it from his hands and refocus his attention.

“Would you speak to him? Encourage him?”

“We’re not close.” Alec said plainly. He looked up then, and Magnus recognised a dismissal when he saw one.

This time, he ignored it entirely. “So you won’t even try? How disappointing, Alec.”

Alec rubbed the back of his neck, not meeting his hard stare.

“You know, I knew this case was going to be hard. I knew that over thirty other doctors have tried and failed, and it’s pretty damn easy to see why. No one has motivated him. Why?” Magnus threw up his hands, exasperated. “You know what? It’s not important.” He exhaled loudly, trying to calm down his annoyance.

It wasn’t Alec’s fault, but it was pretty hard not to hurtle it all out at once.

He folded his arms across his chest. “You’re all so wrapped up so wrapped up in your own issues-“

“My own issues?” Alec interrupted. The look on his face was incredulous. “That’s funny.” His tone was bitter. “I can’t remember the last time I did something for myself, doctor.”

Well, shit.

A wave of guilt slammed into Magnus then, as he watched Alec rub a hand across his forehead. He did look tired. Not just tired, but drained in all the senses of the world.

“Look,” Magnus began, softer this time. “I’m sorry about that. Really, I am, but from a professional point of view I have to push you with this. Your father needs your support, not just my own. What does he care what some glittery twit says?”

“You’re the doctor.” Alec muttered.

“And you’re his son!" Magnus pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. He stood up and paced for a few moments and tried again. “Look, you have to try.”

He was considering raising his voice, but he didn’t want to add to Alec’s numerous burdens.

Magnus just wanted him to be on his side.

He sat down again and rested both hands on the coffee table, looking up at Alec openly. “If I’m busting my ass here, can you please just spend five minutes trying to get through to that man? Look, I know that family can be difficult, especially one that runs such an expansive business empire, but your father could be a hell of a lot worse than just stubborn so be grateful and try and help him. Please.”

Alec watched him for a moment, and as the seconds ticked by, he looked down at Magnus’ hands, paused, and then asked, “What’s your father like, Magnus?”

“Dead.” Magnus answered flatly.

A look of shock, and then horror tore across Alec’s expression, before settling on distress. He reached out a hand but drew it back at the last moment. He placed them inside his lap. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m not.”

Alec looked taken aback.

Get yourself together, Magnus warned himself.

“I shouldn’t have said that.” He waved a hand in dismissal. “Forget it. This isn’t about me.”

Clearly this conversation wasn’t going well, at all, so Magnus unfolded his legs and stood, ignoring the new stab of pain that had mixed with his growing frustration.

“No, wait. Please. Magnus, I…”

He turned and found Alec, who had also stood, watching him carefully. He kept curling his hands into fists, and then unfolding them seconds later. The prince looked ready to run, but to where Magnus had no idea.

“Magnus,” Alec said, so softly. His name on Alec’s lips calmed Magnus’ nerves, soothing the livewires to gentle flames. He surprised him then by asking, “What was your father like?”

You can walk away from this, a voice in Magnus’ head whispered. Just turn, and go. He’s a prince. Why would he care about your family? You’re here for his, not the other way around.

But Alec stared at him with such intensity that Magnus felt drawn to him. He didn’t feel inclined to answer, but rather he wanted to. He wanted to share.

He realised with a start that he trusted Alec.

“My father wasn’t someone you’d grieve for.” Magnus began, slowly. He didn’t move, hovering with his back to the door as he looked down at the floor. “He beat my mother, frequently, and me. That is, when she passed out and couldn’t stop him. He was a drunkard. Nothing but a bitter man who regretted his entire life. He drove my mother into such a depression that she killed herself. I was ten.” He blinked a few times, pushing back the stinging tears as he leaned back on the door for support. “A few weeks later and my father drunk himself into a bar fight and ended up on the wrong side of some very bad men. His body turned up the next day and I was at a foster home the next.”

Finally, he glanced up at Alec, who had a hand across his mouth. He couldn’t cover the look of pity in his eyes, however. Magnus saw it and swallowed. “Story time over. Goodnight, Alec.” A tear fell. He couldn’t believe he had just poured that out to Alec and expected something in return. He wrapped his arms around his torso and turned to leave.

 “Wait!”

He froze as Alec grabbed his forearm, turning him around gently, but firmly.

His hand dropped, slipping down until he cradled Magnus’ shaking hand in his own. His hands were larger, and both came up to wrap around Magnus’ own tenderly.

Shocked, Magnus felt another tear fall as he gazed up at Alec, whose own eyes were widened with something other than surprise. There was anger, which he hoped wasn’t directed at him, but Magnus saw something else. It was the same restless spark that had been burning inside him again; the kind that his hand was now alight with.

Alec held his hands gently, as though calming a wounded animal, which Magnus did admittedly feel like in that moment.

Reopening those wounds had left him vulnerable in a way that frightened him, but with Alec’s surprisingly firm gaze locked onto his, Magnus felt rather calm.

Cared for, at the very least.

After what felt like minutes, the tension relaxed from Alec’s jaw, which had been tensed in anger. “I’m so sorry, Magnus.” He said, and there was no pity there, only soft sympathy. “I’m sorry for your mother, and…I’m sorry for you. I think you are…”

“Tragic?” Magnus offered lightly, trying to hide another tear. “Pitiful?”

“Brave.”

He looked down at their hands, joined together. Then why do I feel so afraid?

It hit him then that Alec was a prince. Not just any man, but a prince. Not someone to confide in. He was here on business. Nothing could come of whatever intimacy Magnus had accidentally reached out for.

He was almost grateful when Alec took a step back. His hands felt colder without his, but Magnus wrapped them back around his torso and forced his chin up to meet Alec’s stare.

When he spoke, his voice only shook a bit, “Goodnight, Alec.”

He opened the door, making himself take a step, and then another, until he was out in the hallway and out of the room.

Alec’s voice carried down the hallway moments later. “I…I will speak to my father. Tomorrow morning.”

Without turning back around, Magnus smiled, and this time he let the tear drop down to his chin.

Thank you, Alexander.

He kept his head up and returned to his room.

~ ~ ~

No sooner had he spent five seconds in his room had Magnus left again.

He really didn’t want to be alone, or sober, or alone and sober, right now.

He headed to the smaller kitchen on his floor, not caring who he ran into.

Had he really just blurted out his parents’ story to Alexander? What kind of idiot assumed the prince wanted to know about that? He was just his father’s doctor. Not a friend or confident.

Magnus decided he definitely needed alcohol, or a gun as a fail-safe option.

He went to flick on the light, as he normally did, but found it already on. He blinked in the sudden light and saw a dozen of the servants sitting around the table with small cups.

“Uh, hey all.”

A few mumbled hellos; some friendly, others merely polite. Thomas, Dot and a woman named Sophie, who he had spent the most time with, made room for him, and he thanked them and sat down.

“What’s everyone doing up?”

“Just a small celebration. For Ben’s son, who just got accepted into university.”

“How delightful!” Magnus said, his happiness genuine. Being surrounded by good company always returned his good mood, and he really needed to forget his mistakes with Alec.

He poured out a shot of whisky and started a group cheer. “To Ben’s son! Who is…?”

An older man, with a sweet face and wide, brown eyes, smiled at Magnus and replied, “Jacob.”

“To Jacob!” Everyone cheered.

Magnus poured out another shot, and he caught Izzy staring at him with narrowed eyes. She leaned across the table, puzzled. “Everything alright?”

“Yes, dear. Fancy a shot? No? I’ll take yours then. Cheers!”

Another cheer went around the table, and Magnus felt the liquid burn his throat. It was a welcome distraction. They talked about an upcoming wedding next year, but Magnus wasn’t focused and missed the names, staring at the empty cup again and again until it was filled once more.

As the merriness rolled over the room, a few servants began singing, and Magnus’ eyes lit up when he saw one of them holding a guitar.

He cleared his throat and called out, “I don’t suppose anyone knows any drinking songs?”

Most of the servants nodded, their smiles friendly and a little shy. They called out a suggestion and he nodded in approval. 

Magnus clumsily stood on the table and swayed as the song began. Thomas laughed, beginning to strum the gentle rhythm as Magnus turned, taking in the room like a stage, and let the guitar strings calm his shaking body. His nerves needed to focus on something other than Alec's hands on his. 

They all began to sing;

If I had wings like Noah's dove
I'd fly up the river to the one I love
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

If I met your man, who was long and tall
I'd hit his body like a cannon ball
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

He began marching up the table as everyone clapped along. Izzy was laughing into her hands as she clapped along.

One of these days and it won't be long
Call my name and I'll be gone
Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well

I remember one night, a drizzling rain
Round my heart I felt an achin' pain
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well

He turned in a slow circle, taking in the room in a happy gaze. He saw a shape flash past in the door’s small window, but shrugged and turned away, finishing off solemnly;

Sure as a bird flying high above

Life ain't worth living without the one you love,

Fare thee well, my honey; fare thee well

Fare thee well, my honey; fare thee well.

He finished and took a bow to the servants’, and Izzy’s applause. He grinned, lost in the buzz of the whisky and their smiles. “So, everyone ready for round two?”

They were. They sang the song a few more times, everyone together this time, getting quicker and less organised. Magnus danced until his legs gave way and he sank down onto one of the benches again. He hadn’t had this much fun in a while. He had missed parties with his friends, and though this was different, it was definitely as enjoyable.

He was fairly certain they played musical chairs at one point but his brain wouldn’t remember that in the morning.

Izzy would, and would show Magnus the recording she had as proof.

What Magnus would remember very clearly was the following conversation with Thomas and Sophie, who had both sobered completely.

“I think I’m going to head home soon.” Magnus said miserably.

Sophie nudged Thomas and shot him a knowing look, who sighed and finished gulping down water.

Good choice, Magnus had thought absently.

“Listen, doctor, there’s something you don’t know. About the prince.”

“Which one? The old and bitter snob or the cute snob?”

Sophie coughed to hide her laugh, and Thomas simply frowned. He handed Magnus his glass of water, and he took it, grateful. “Look, you won’t know this because it was kept from the papers. Maryse kept it out of every major one, but people still knew. After a while, it was forgotten. It’s practically forbidden to speak about here. I’ve never heard Maryse mention it. Only Isabelle, on occasion.”

Magnus smiled, his head still spinning. “Isabelle is an angel.” He giggled, searching for his friend but finding she had already gone.

With a sigh, Thomas refilled his water. He sat down, closer to Magnus and waited patiently. “Doctor, please. This is a secret, but we…we want you to know. You’re different from any of the other doctors. You might be able to help. Somehow.”

“How? No one here cares about Robert getting better. They’re all too busy ignoring each other. And,” Magnus waved an arm around carelessly. “They don’t respect me. So why should I respect them? I’m pretty sure Robert is going to have me kicked out of the country sooner or later. He hates me. He hates everyone.” Magnus lamented. “Why does he hate living so much?” He groaned.

Sophie’s voice was quiet when she spoke. “His Highness is held back by his regret.”

Magnus sobered at the sincerity of her tone. He pushed himself up onto his elbows. “Whatever do you mean, my dear?”

“There is- there was, a third Lightwood child. A boy. His name was Max. On the night of the accident, Max was supposed to be in bed, but Robert had snuck him out so that he could show off his new sport’s car. He was adored by Robert, as were all his children, but Max got away with everything. He was so charming, wasn’t he, Thomas?”

Thomas nodded sadly. “Yes, he was. So sweet too.” His eyes glazed over distantly. “He was 9 years old when he died in the accident, doctor. Reports confirmed that Max had undone his seatbelt to climb into the front, and when Robert saw, he turned to tell him to get back. He didn’t see the other car coming and they collided. The boy died instantly, but Robert was left with the guilt of his son’s death and not a reason to get better."

Thomas paused and sighed, his expression sombre. "His Highness was in a coma for six months, and during that time, Maryse- Her Highness, took over. She handled everything so calmly and with such a strength I have never seen before. The children, Alexander and Isabelle, were still so young, but they were by their mother’s side whenever she needed it.”

Magnus imagined them then, all standing close but further apart than ever before.

Tears spilled from Sophie’s eyes, but she carried on. “The elder son, especially, grew up that day. He declined his scholarship and helped so that his sister could stay in school. Isabelle knew nothing of this so please, doctor, don’t let this knowledge leave the room. No one told her why she hadn’t been asked to take on any responsibilities, but we all knew it was Alec’s doing. He had sacrificed his dream for Izzy. He still is. Say what you will about the Lightwoods, doctor, but there is good in them. It’s just buried under the weight of their duties.”

Having spent more time with Isabelle, and Alec to an extent, Magnus understood this now. He felt his prejudices slipping away, bit by bit, just as their own were hopefully challenged by getting to know him.

Magnus felt his stomach churn violently, and not only because of the alcohol. He felt sick with sorrow and sadness.

Sophie nodded sadly. “Why would Robert want to get better? With Max gone, His Highness didn’t think he had the right to walk anymore. Not when his son’s life was lost forever.”

Something clicked into place for Magnus. He’d been wondering about the ML initials on the cherry tree for weeks now. He almost wished he didn’t knew the answer. What a tragic story that had struck the family. No wonder the Lightwoods were distant from each other.

But then Magnus compared their stories, his and Robert’s. Carefully, he came up with a plan. If Magnus could survive and grow from losing his parents, surely Robert could learn to forgive himself.

But first, he needed to win his trust. To show him there were other ways to live life, to gradually build himself back into the world.

Catarina’s voice flooded back to him; you can’t fix everyone you meet.

He rolled off his own issues and filled up his glass. Again, with water. Pushing aside thoughts of the other prince, whose touch still burned into Magnus’ hand more strongly than any whisky could, Magnus stood and bid goodnight to the servants.

He thought back to his talks with Izzy. What had she said? Happiness is a luxury around here.

Well, then, fine. If Robert Lightwood didn’t want to get better then Magnus had an alternative. An arguably less professional one, but definitely a human one. And hopefully, a kinder approach.

Magnus was going to save Robert Lightwood if it was the last thing he did.

~ ~ ~

“Father, are you busy?”

Alec regretted the words as soon as they were out. His father was never busy. He occupied his time however he saw fit, but he was never busy. That was Maryse’s occupation.

He tried again. “Uh, may I come in?”

Robert Lightwood was not a fearsome man, but Alec had always found something sharp in his soft face. Ever since-

He cut his thoughts off. “May I speak with you? I promise I won’t be long.”

He didn’t want to be here at all.

If he was honest, Alec was doing this mostly for Magnus. Suffering through what he was sure would be an uncomfortable talk on both ends.

Admittedly, he was driven by a personal request, not the professional one he should be caring about.

He felt guilty enough to continue.

Thinking back on last night, Alec knew he had overstepped. He had recognised the startled look of fright on the doctor’s face and knew he had made a mistake. What had he been thinking, to touch him so intimately? They were barely friends, and yet some part of Alec swore he felt Magnus respond to his touch, but perhaps that was only false hope.

He grabbed a chair and sat beside his father, wringing his hands in his lap. “Are you well?”

“As can be.” Robert said, his eyes narrowed. Only in the Lightwood home would friendly conversation be under such scrutiny. Alec suddenly wondered if this was how being put on trial felt like.

“Good. Excellent. I’m glad. I, uh, I’m here because of Magnus.” He coughed. “Your doctor. Doctor Magnus Bane.”

“You are?”

“Yes. Well, he has informed me that you are not meeting with him.”

“That is true. I don’t feel the desire to.”

His father spoke simply, but there was a trap waiting for Alec beneath his words.

Alec tried again. “Are you certain?” He asked, wishing there was something else. But it had been too long since he had spoken to his father on a subject close to the accident, and quite honestly, he was frightened to. For both his father, himself and the impact it would have on the family.

“This Magnus Bane is rather troublesome, isn’t he? Hm, never fear. I shall send him away. I think it’s about time. He’s been here far too long already.”

“No!” Alec said quickly, causing Robert to freeze. He withdrew his arm, which he had thrown out to rest atop his father’s chair, as if it had scalded him. “It’s only, he has an impressive track record. Are you sure you don’t want to-“

“No, Alec. I am done speaking about this. I believe your mother requires your support.”

And yours, he wanted to snap back. But he didn’t. Alec felt himself straighten and his chin lifted, just like he had been taught to hold to himself in harsh moments.

Whenever you feel like falling apart, Maryse had said once, hold yourself taller. Never show your weaknesses. Not to your rivals, and certainly not to those closest to you. Protect your heart and yourself.

He understood that now.

Letting your guard down was too great of a risk for the Lightwoods. Perhaps there was hope for Izzy, Alec reminded himself. The only good consequence of his own choices was that one day Isabelle could make her own freely.

Closing his own heart meant she could open up her own. Her happiness was worth it. Always.

He stared his father down. “Very well.” He said coolly, and stood. “Good day to you.”

His only regret was the stabbing reminder that he had let Magnus down. He thought of sad, wide eyes and the way Magnus held his heart in every part of his body, giving away small bits to everyone he met.

Silently, the wall around Alec’s heart groaned under a heavy weight.

Alec ignored it; he always did.

~ ~ ~

When Robert Lightwood came into the room, Magnus had chosen to sit atop the coffee table and meditate for a few minutes.

The prince scowled at his bright blue leggings and black tank top, which had a glittery kitten with large eyes on it. “Doctor, I think it’s time we drove you out of here.” Robert said firmly. “You’ve done your best, I appreciate it. I’ll have your flight arranged for you. Does the day after tomorrow sound good?”

Magnus shrugged. “Sure. No problem.”

“Excuse me?”

With a smile, Magnus nodded and unfolded his legs so that he could swing them under the table. “I’m agreeing, Your Highness.” He continued, quite happily. “It’s time the doctor left.”

“You…agree?”

“Of course. Whatever Your Highness thinks is best.” Magnus sighed loudly. He forced his smile to drop. “Before I leave, for a few days I was wondering if I could just, you know, enjoy the royal life? Teach me about wine! Show me some hidden vaults of treasure or rare editions of the Kama Sutra. Please?”

He widened his eyes a little for effect. “It’s not every day that we common folk get such an opportunity as this. If Your Highness would humour me, I would love to learn something from you before I leave.”

And then he waited, keeping his expression as innocent as possible.

Which was rather easy considering his polka dot socks.

Robert stared at him for a few moments, arms stretched out as his fingers tapped slowly against the wood. “You…really won’t protest? You won’t force me to exercise?”

“I doubt I could.” Magnus admitted, quite cheerfully. “Besides, I’m sure you have greater things to show me.”

“Maryse would not approve.”

“No one needs to know.” He tilted his chin up in challenge. “It can be our little secret, and then I’ll be out of your house in no time. What do you say?”

This was it. The moment of truth. Magnus had gone too far with the idea to take it all back now. If things went as planned, or as he had hoped, then at least they’d be spending some time together and he could work on lowering the prince’s guard. After last night, Magnus was determined to find a new and improved approach.

“Hodge,” Robert began, sharply.

Magnus winced. He waited for the inevitable anger and the demand for him to pack his bags and get the hell out of Texas.

The prince’s lips tugged upwards. “Fetch us some wine.”

Magnus grinned.

At last we’re getting somewhere.

And that was how Magnus spent four days drinking wine, chatting, and having a surprisingly genuine good time with his Highness, Robert Lightwood.

He sipped wine produced from all over the world, talked about local history and the houses they owned. Magnus quizzed him on anything and everything, from foods to books he liked, but never mentioning the accident or exercising.

As all went to plan, Robert didn’t mention his request to leave.

He actually looked relaxed, Magnus had noticed.

They were currently in a large room of the house, where a lounge area with a large television – that looked like it had never been used despite its great size and surround system – stood.

Magnus, slightly tipsy, was quizzing the prince on the many framed pictures around the room.

“Oh my god, is that Isabelle?”

“Yes. She was so pleased to have won that Spelling Bee. She cried all the way home.”

In the photo, a gappy-toothed and very young Izzy stood, clutching a golden trophy and grinning happily. She was dressed in a uniform that looked too formal for a child.

“How charming.” Magnus moved along to the next one, a lanky, tall boy holding a bow and arrow and staring intently into the distance. His hazel eyes stood out even from afar. “Oh, is that Alexan-Alec? Is that your son?”

“Yes. He won the Junior Archer’s Competition that year. We were all so proud.” Robert topped up his own wine and nodded. He smiled with the same dazed look that Magnus felt fogging up his own brain.

The next photo was different. In it, a younger Robert stood proudly mounted upon a horse, with Maryse standing beside him.

He burst out laughing at the expression that had been captured, forever, on her face. It was one of pure, oblivious delight. Maryse’s head was throw back, her mouth wide open. It was unflattering and beautiful all at once.

“What on earth did you say to Her Highness?”

“Her favourite joke.” Robert laughed at the memory, wheeling himself across the room and taking the photograph into his hands. He smiled fondly. “I loved making her laugh.” A flash of bitterness broke his smile. “But that time is gone now. I cannot ride and she…Maryse has forgotten how to laugh.”

Because you abandoned her, Magnus thought suddenly.

He was surprised to defend Maryse, but he couldn’t help it. She’d done a lot on her own and he admired that.

Drawing strength from the wine, he grinned. “Never mind. I have an idea. Something similar, but not quite horse-riding. It is a sport though, but,” He held up a hand at Robert’s protest. “No moving. I swear on my beautiful heart.”

~ ~ ~

A piercing cry echoed through the lower grounds, and Alec gasped and rushed out of his study. He heard another shout, and raced down the hallway and into one of the living rooms.

Some part of Alec thought he was dreaming when he rushed in, panting, and saw a sight more unusual than anything he had seen in the house before.

Magnus Bane was playing Wii Sports with his father. 

~ ~ ~

“This is the worst invention since microwavable popcorn!”

“Your Highness….how…..observant….you are…..” Magnus gasped out, between fits of laughter. He was curled into his side on the armchair, watching as Robert struggled in the chair beside him, his eyes glued to the television with fierce concentration.

Robert swung the remote, missing again.

He shoved the remote under Magnus’ nose. “This is broken, doctor! Give me a new one.”

Before he could take it, Robert growled and tried again, only making Magnus laugh harder as the baseball once again sailed into the backstop’s hands.

His Mii character looked just as annoyed as Robert did.

“Your Highness, you have to swing before it gets to your player. Yes, like that! No! Before it gets to the bat. Just before.”

Magnus watched as Robert finally hit the ball.

The screen read 1/30 as his final score, and Magnus forced his laughter to remain inside this time. “Good job.” He said calmly.

“Be quiet.” Robert snapped.

Magnus bristled. He waited for the prince to snap and turn to go.

Any second now.

Instead, Robert clicked a button on the Wii remote and a new game started. “I am not going to be beaten by a….”

“Wii?”

“Yes, that.” Robert scowled, and began to concentrate as the balls on-screen began to appear. “Ridiculous game. Waste of my time. How absurd…yes! It worked!”

True enough, Robert had hit two balls in a row.

Sure, he missed the next twenty, but apparently it was a victory for the prince, who waved the remote in the air and cried out in celebration.

Magnus was too shocked to do anything other than cheer with him.

He couldn’t wait to tell Catarina that he had not only played video games with Robert Lightwood, but that the prince had enjoyed every damn second of it.

He heard footsteps, and turned just in time to see a navy suit and a sweep of stark black hair disappearing from the doorway.

Magnus felt his breath catch as he opened his mouth, and then closed it.

What had been going to say?

Invite the prince to play bowling?

He doubted Alec would lower himself to that level.

But Robert is, Magnus thought with amusement. He watched the older prince swoop his arm left and right to hit the bats, his chair sliding across the floor slightly with effort.

They played for a long while as Magnus kept stealing glances at the door, hoping for Alec’s return.

Would it always be like this? One step forwards and two huge steps backwards?

Magnus was willing to lower his guard, he had hoped he had proven that to Alec, but he wasn’t willing to risk falling for – befriending, he quickly corrected - someone who couldn’t let him in.

So he turned back to his job and, reluctantly, turned away from his heart.

~ ~ ~

The next day, after Magnus refused to believe unless shown otherwise, Robert showed of his skills with a rifle. Impressed, and struggling to hide it, Magnus released balloon after balloon as Robert looked away, aimed, and hit the centre with a loud ‘pop’ each time.

“Damn royals and your hidden talents.” He mumbled, preparing the next, slightly smaller balloon.

Robert turned to him. “What was that, doctor?”

“I said ‘gee wow’, Your Highness.”

“That’s what I thought.”

But when Magnus looked across, at where they stood on a small raised patio in the garden, the elder prince was smiling. He returned it, surprised.

At dinner that night, Robert joined them for the first time. Magnus noticed the flash of surprise cross Maryse’s face, but she simply greeted her husband with a nod and continued to eat, but not before narrowing her eyes at Magnus, who smiled sweetly.

Izzy was less subtle. She kicked Magnus under the table. When no one was watching, she mouthed, ‘what the f-‘

“Isabelle, dear, how many exam papers have you practised today?”

“Two, mom.”

“Scores?”

“Sixty-seven, and seventy.”

“I expect seventy five or higher, you know that, Isabelle.”

Isabelle was silent for the rest of the meal.

Alec didn’t join them that night, and when Magnus asked about his whereabouts, Maryse silenced him with a simple answer.

“He’s meeting with a friend.”

He wanted to bite back, ‘Alec is allowed friends?’ but wasn’t willing to risk his position just yet.

Struggles aside, Magnus had slowly begun to discover something special in the Lightwoods.

Sure, they were a little snobby and prejudice, but Magnus enjoyed looking beneath the surface. And what he had found were tough-loving people with a fierce desire to protect their own. He appreciated that, even if his own views were more openly liberal.

~ ~ ~

The next night, the Lightwoods – some more reluctant than others – were summoned to the lounge by Isabelle.

With Magnus’ help, the family gathered in the room after dinner.

“Take a seat, everyone.” He told them solemnly, standing by Isabelle’s side as they stood in front of the television.

He caught Alec’s eye and winked, enjoying the way he was once again always watching him.

Magnus was surprised. He had told Izzy that the Lightwoods would likely say no, but Robert had encouraged the others to join, and eventually they had awkwardly trickled in until everyone was in the room.

“What’s this about, doctor?”

“Isabelle confessed something rather alarming to me when I first arrived here.”

A look of rare horror crosses Maryse’s face, and Magnus silently cursed himself.

He hadn’t meant the accident.

Shit.

He quickly laughed and exclaimed, “How have you never seen Lord of the Rings before?”

Maryse’s shoulders lost some of their tension but her jaw remains clenched. “This is ridiculous. I don’t have time for this.” She stood and turned to leave, but Isabelle took a step forwards. “Mom, please. I wanted us all to do something…together.” Magnus looked away from her smile, small and vulnerable and for her mother’s eyes only. “It’ll be fun…”

He thought he saw Maryse’s sharp gaze soften, just for a moment, as she took in Isabelle, and then Alec, who was already seated; at the back, but at least still there. She narrowed her eyes at Robert and then shook her head. “I’m sure you will love it, but I have work to do.”

And then she was gone.

“Two out of three isn’t too bad, my dear.” He whispered in Isabelle’s ear, and her hopeful smile was back.

He took a seat at the back, near Alec. Isabelle collapsed into the armchair beside Magnus, leaving him settled quite comfortably in the chair between the two Lightwoods. He offered a wooden bowl filled with popcorn to Alec, who stared as if it was a foreign poison for a moment.

Magnus leaned in so that his arm rested on Alec’s armchair and teased, quietly, so neither Robert nor Izzy could hear, “It won’t hurt your pretty face.”

The corners of Alec’s lips twitched as he took the bowl and settled it on his lap carefully. “Thank you. For the…popcorn.”

He was tall, but Magnus thought he looked rather young; still half-dressed in his work clothes, but he had abandoned his shirt and tie and was wearing a dark green jumper with his black trousers instead. The frayed sleeves were probably a consequence of Alec’s insistent fidgeting, but Magnus found him sneaking glances at the way his graceful fingers traced the edges. Slow circles traced around the loose fabric and Magnus felt his toes curl as he watched.

Halfway through the movie, Alec then pulled the sleeves up to cover his hands completely; resting his head on top of them as he stared at the screen in concentration. The low light of the room made his jaw sharper than ever.

Magnus turned away, shoved popcorn into his mouth and tried to focus.

Izzy and Robert made occasional comments, and Magnus watched, happy for Izzy, as her father laughed and talked with her. She handed him some of her popcorn and Robert smiled and took some.

Magnus felt a lump forming in his throat.

The simple acts of kindness in human beings always moved him to tears. It had always meant so much for him to see it, and experience it. And give it to others. Growing up in such a loveless place, all Magnus ever wanted was to love openly. Seeing others cut off from everything that was good in the world made his heart ache. If he could help these people, and help reunite a family as well as help his patient, then surely he was doing something worthwhile.

“What do you fear, my lady?”

“A cage.”

A loud clang broke Magnus’ train of thought. He jumped.

Alec had dropped his bowl on the floor and was looking as startled as he felt.

“Sorry…”

Magnus waved a hand when Izzy started getting up. “It’s fine, Izzy. Carry on. We’ve got this.” He looked up, expecting Alec to look sheepish and start helping. Instead, Alec was staring intently, his lower lip caught between his teeth.

Magnus tapped him on the knee. “Hey, you.”

Alec jumped again, but luckily there was no more popcorn left to spill. He scratched at the back of his neck and then sank down onto his knees beside Magnus, slowly picking up bits of popcorn and putting them into the bowl.

As they worked, Magnus was aware of how close they were. The chairs in front kept them in darkness, but Magnus caught flashes of Alec’s eyes. He reached out a hand, spreading it out across the floor to make sure they had collected every last bit. The servants didn’t need more work to do, he thought.

His fingers brushed something soft.

Well that’s not popcorn.

“That’s my hand.” Alec whispered.

Magnus laughed softly. “I realised that, Alexander.” His cheeks warmed when Alec laughed, so close to him that his breath blew softly onto his skin.

“Sorry.”

“For what? I touched your hand.”

“No, I mean, uh…causing the mess.”

Oh. Magnus was glad for the darkness, his cheeks were burning now. He patted Alec’s hand and then quickly withdrew it. I really need to stop touching him.

But reaching for Alec felt almost instinctive, and Magnus had to battle with every natural part of him that wanted to be close to him.

“You’re missing the film.” Magnus whispered, trying to find his eyes in the dark.

“Right. Yeah. Can’t miss Boromir’s death, can we?”

Magnus gaped in surprise. “You’ve already seen them?”

“Don’t tell Izzy.” Alec said quickly. As they sat back in their armchairs, he leaned over to carry on whispering. “I don’t want to disappoint her.”

“I doubt you ever could. You’re a wonderful brother, Alexander.”

They were back in some of the light now, and Magnus felt his heartbeat loudly in his ears when Alec smiled at him so warmly. “Thanks.”

They watched the rest of the film, and Magnus had tissues at the ready for when Sam went after Frodo at the end. Isabelle had dissolved into tears at this point.

“This is awful!” She cried. “Why are you making us watch these?”

Magnus offered her a tissue and a look of understanding. “I know, dear. I know.”

After the film ended, and it was at least eleven o’clock, everyone went their separate ways. Before Isabelle left, Robert leaned across and kissed his daughter’s cheek. “Goodnight, Isabelle. Sleep well.”

The look of shock on Alec’s face said it all, and Magnus waited with held breath until Isabelle smiled widely and said goodnight to her father, beaming as she walked off.

“Do I get a kiss?” Magnus called out to the elder prince.

He heard a stifled cough and turned to see Alec hiding his grin behind the back of his hand.

Robert gave him a stern look and said goodnight, but it was worth it to hear Alec laugh. Even for just a moment. They parted at the doorway, Magnus heading to get rid of the wasted popcorn and Alec to his study.

Magnus smiled.

He felt a change coming.

Chapter Text

Isabelle was up early the morning after the Lord of the Rings movie night.

She had gone to bed with her father’s kiss wrapped around her like an embrace.

When was the last time her father had hugged her or even spoken more than a hello and goodbye to her?

It shook her that she couldn’t even remember.

Long ago, memories of summer garden parties and even the occasional ball would occupy her. She remembered her parents dancing and dazzling their guests like stars in the sky. And Jace, Alec, Max and herself would be running around with all the freedom children wanted.

Until the accident, the Lightwoods were happy. Not only happy, they loved openly. Her parents managed the business and made time, whenever they could, for each other.

Now, it was simpler for everyone to ignore their problems.

Isabelle felt something was different around the house recently. Maryse was still tense and stern, but her father had begun to speak up at the dinner table, and Alec was stealing moments to come and go over some tests with her whenever he could.

It was strange, she noticed, how Alec started turning up more when he knew Magnus was there.

Her brother had started regularly coming into her designated study room after his morning meetings, just when Magnus arrived after his first session with her father – who she knew still wasn’t turning up. It was like they were circling each other, waiting. Alec would knock on the door, enter, and then his gaze would flicker around the room; searching. His wandering eyes then stopped on Magnus, who was often halfheartedly doing yoga or finding another question for her.

One time, the doctor had been flicking through a book, and Alec’s eyes had widened and a splash of colour had flushed across his cheeks as he smiled, and then hid it.

“Are you enjoying it?” He had asked Magnus, who had stared at him for a moment longer than was usually expected. Izzy looked at her brother; he looked ordinary enough, she had thought. He wasn’t dressed any differently. At least not to her. He looked handsome, though, in a three-piece blue suit that brought out the flecks of green in his brown eyes. Magnus cleared his throat. “I am.”

Izzy watched from her bed as they shared another look. What the hell?

“I’m sorry, Iz, but I can’t stop by today. I want to go pick up Jace from the airport. We’re still on for dinner tonight, yes?”

Magnus had gaped. “Jace…”

“Wayland.” Izzy replied. “Jace Wayland. He’s quite well known in the cricket world, you may have heard of him?”

“Is this the same Jace Wayland who scored the victory bat at the Championships this year?”

“That’s the one.”

After a pause, and a look of complete surprise, Magnus threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, this is too good.” Alec looked taken aback, leaning against the door frame and watching the doctor. His eyes were focused in a way that was usually reserved for his books; unable to tear his gaze away.

Izzy closed her book. “Do share.” She smirked, sharing a quick glance with Alec, who managed to look away from Magnus for a second.

Magnus wiped away a tear, his shoulders still shaking. “I’m guessing he didn’t tell you that a certain handsome doctor saved his ass at halftime?”

Izzy gaped, her hand flying to her mouth in surprise. “That was you? You fixed his leg so quickly? He said something about a miracle worker.”

“I’ve been called worse.” Magnus was still laughing. He shook his head. “What a coincidence. Next thing you’ll be saying is that Alexander here is secretly betrothed to my-“

“I have to be off.” Alec interrupted. “I’ll see you tonight.” His eyes were now firmly on Izzy’s, and from the corner of her eyes, she noted Magnus watching him uncertainly. He looked into his lap, at the book in his hands, before closing it firmly.

Had she just seen a flash of hurt in the doctor's eyes? Izzy frowned. She was definitely seeing things.

When Alec left, she turned back to Magnus with a smile. “So, you’ve met Jace! It’s been so long since we’ve all been together…” She trailed off. Magnus was unusually quiet, staring down at his book like it held some great truth. “Magnus?” She asked hesitantly.

He inhaled, looking up, and then his face transformed; relaxing into his usual soft smile. Frown lines faded into the smooth skin that Izzy wished she had. She’d been meaning to ask him about skin products, because damn did that man have gorgeous skin, but she noticed Magnus’ hunched shoulders and took pity. “What’s up?”

“Hm?”

“What’s up?” She repeated, pointing towards the now-empty door. “He’s not being a dick, you know. He’s just busy. You’ll get used to reading Alec soon enough.”

“Doubt it.” Magnus muttered, so quietly that she strained to hear it.

“He’s not just taking over a business, you know. He’s…”

There were many ways she could explain Alec and Lydia’s engagement. Necessary, selfless and sensible all ran through her mind, but the memory of blonde, braided hair and a supportive smile crossed her mind so quickly that she had to get rid of it, and fast.

So she blurted out, “Alec is getting married. Next year.” Izzy swallowed, hard. She ducked her head in shame, afraid that her feelings about the union were written on her face.

Feelings that she still had no clue how to work out.

But when she dared to look across at Magnus, who was leaning against the desk with his legs folded beneath him, she found him staring down at the book still. The doctor was silent, and so was she. His face was so unusually still and passive. Gone was the happy spirit that always seemed to surround Magnus. She was so scared to have broken his good mood.

All that Magnus had done for her, given her someone to talk to and trust, and she had basically told him that he deserved to be snapped at.

No wonder he looked hurt.

But why would he be hurt over the wedding? He’s never met Lydia, she thought, a mixture of swelling hurt and confusion mixing inside her. There was fear in there too, but again, she couldn’t place why she was afraid.

“I didn’t mean to snap at you. I know…we haven’t exactly made you feel welcome here, but Magnus, I’m so glad you’re here.” She slid off her bed and sat cross-legged on the floor, opposite the doctor, who looked so small now that she was so close to him. Izzy touched his cheek and he finally looked up. “It means a lot to me that you haven’t given up on my father.” She said honestly. “We Lightwoods are not very good at communicating feelings. You might have worked that out.”

Magnus rolled his eyes and she grinned. After a moment, so did he.

She tapped his nose playfully and he scrunched it up, smiling again. “Look,” She began. “I know between my parents and Alec, you feel alone, but…you have me.” She blinked back the wetness in her eyes, a combination of so many emotions that had suddenly rushed up. “I want you to know that. It’s important to me that you know that, Magnus.” She told him kindly. “You’ve been so good to me; helping me study and letting me confide in you. And…father looks happy. And do you know what? I think you’re going to be the one who gets through to him.”

Magnus ran his fingertips gently along the spine of the book.

What is it with that book? She thought, tilting her head to see the cover. She gaped in surprised. Of course she recognised it, it was her brother’s favourite copy of Pride and Prejudice. The one which he had read so many times she teased him about wanting to jump into the book.

“You really think a sparkly doctor can save a prince?” Magnus looked wistfully at the book.

Who are we really talking about here? Izzy thought suddenly. Perhaps she wasn’t the only conflicted soul in the house. She needed to get to the bottom of this, but not right now. So instead she tapped Magnus on the chest, right above his heart. “We need some of this around here.”

“Glitter?”

She grinned. Izzy looked down at her hands and realised that there actually was glitter on her hands. But Magnus was smiling, and that was all that mattered.

 “No, we need you, Magnus. We all do. You’re changing this place, and…I think we all need a little change.”

“Whatever happened to ‘from order comes freedom’ then?”

“There’s a time for order and a time for chaos. Chaos brings about change.” She thought about the freedom of dancing, and the freedom of being in the presence of someone who accepted everything about you.

“I think our family needs to wake up and accept that there are some things we can’t control. And…I think that’s okay. Just promise me you won’t give up on my father?” Then she added, “Don’t give up on us.”

Magnus hugged the book to his chest and smiled at her. “Did anyone ever tell you you’ve got a beautiful soul, Isabelle Lightwood?”

“Normally it’s the hair that gets the most love.”

“That too.”

She laughed. “Well, it’s genetic.”

“You don’t use product?”

She winked. “All natural.”

Magnus snorted. “Lightwoods.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon together until she had to get ready for dinner with Jace, Alec and Lydia. Her conversation with Magnus had left her overwhelmed and determined to sort through her own thoughts.

And then? She questioned. If only I knew.

~ ~ ~

Seeing Jace was different now that Alec knew he had met Magnus; had been in the same room as the doctor. He felt…on edge. As though someone was watching him.

It’s just Jace. Alec calmed himself. He never notices these things.

And then he frowned. Notice what?

Hell, what did Alec know? There was no explainable reason as to why he felt so agitated. But when Jace stepped out of the luggage area and beamed at him, Alec felt a rush of happiness sweep some of the restless energy out of him.

“Hey, buddy!” Jace yelled over the roar of the busy airport. He wheeled his case over and threw his arms around Alec, almost knocking him over. “You look well, mon amie!”

Alec chuckled at the foreign endearment. “Hey, yourself.” Jace had recently been in France for a friendly cricket match and apparently now thought he was fluent. His friend drew back, patted his cheek fondly. They turned to walk, side by side as they talked.

“I can’t wait to see everyone again! It’s been way too long.”

“Almost two years.”

Jace winced. “Merde. Being an all-star sportsman is really time consuming.”

His grin was infectious and Alec returned it and retorted, “As is running a business.”

“Touché.”

“Izzy and Lydia are going to meet us at the restaurant so are you good to go now?”

“What about my bags?”

“Oh, Thomas – uh, one of the porters came with us.” He scratched his neck, a little embarrassed. “He can kindly take your things back home while we head out.” He hated Jace thinking he treated the helpers like slaves. He had been willing to drive them back himself but Maryse had insisted.

“I forget you guys have a thousand minions.”

“Barely thirty.” Alec corrected quickly. “And they’re all good people who want to be with us.”

Jace turned, still grinning. When he saw the troubled look on Alec’s face he sighed and patted his arm. “I’m just teasing, Alec. You Lightwoods are always so easy to.”

“Ha.” Alec said dryly. They reached the car and packed Jace’s bags into the trunk. Thomas smiled and nodded. “Welcome back to Texas, Mr. Wayland.”

“Thanks, man.” Jace grinned, and turned to Alec. “Ready for a reunion?”

~ ~ ~

“Ma’am, Miss Branwell is waiting for you.”

“Oh! Um, please tell her I will be with her shortly!”

If I can get this damn eyeliner to go on right. 

Isabelle was a pro at eyeliner.

Besides Magnus, she was confident she could out-makeup anyone.

Her hands were always steady and sure, fluent in flicks and dips and shades and colours.

Tonight, Isabelle was powerless.

She was now applying a thin line for the fourth time, having slipped or smudged in the first few times. She was about to call Magnus in, but she’d seen him heading to the rooftop to read with a glass of wine so she thought it best to let him be.

Finally, she sighed and put away the pencil. “That’ll have to do.”

She checked her outfit once again, a tight-fitting, ankle length pencil dress, the colour of deep, red wine. Her dark hair was piled elegantly onto her head, pinned carefully. She had felt her hands instinctively begin to plait the sides, and before she realised what she was doing, she had plaited tiny braids around the side as she made the bun.

For some reason, it relaxed her. Getting ready, that was the only time Izzy’s fingers had steadied.

She had settled with a pair of low heels today, which was rare for Isabelle, but she felt a desperate, tugging urge to seem...mature. Classy. 

“Ready.” She told her reflection. Izzy’s stomach fluttered suddenly, and she tilted her head at her reflection, hoping it would tell her something. Anything.

She should be excited. And part of her was. But another part of Izzy was nervous as she dug her fingers tightly into her clutch bag.

She made her way out of her room and reached the top of the stairs.

She looked down and someone came into focus.

“Isabelle.”

Her voice was as melodic as Izzy remembered it.

She had forgotten how it felt to hear your name spoken like a secret, like someone was breathing life and meaning back into it.

Isabelle stood at the top of the stairs and smiled. “Lydia.”

Braids. She realised, pausing halfway down the stairs. She stared at the familiar side plaits she had been so adamant in copying.

She’d taken them from a memory of Lydia.

She suddenly felt self-conscious of her smaller braids, glad to have placed tiny, red flower clips over them to hide the tops of them.

One of the first things she had ever noticed about Lydia were her lips. They were slightly uneven, the lower lip fuller and thicker than the upper. There was something beautiful about the lack of symmetry. Isabelle had lost count of how many times she had wondered how soft they would be.

When they were younger, Isabelle remembered feeling strangely shy around her. No one else, just Lydia. Even thinking about it now, she frowned. There had never been a limit to her confidence before. She had always considered herself capable of taking on the world. And yet standing before Lydia now, Isabelle felt…coy.

Like she was in danger of rushing out to sea and finding out there was nothing to hold onto.

Her stomach fluttered when Lydia held out a hand to help her down the last step.

Her hands are so warm, Isabelle noticed absently. She forced herself to let go and turned to face her, drinking in Lydia’s outfit. Her chosen jumpsuit curved to her hips, flaring out down her long legs and meeting a pair of heels – short, like mine, Izzy noticed randomly.

“You normally wear heels.” Lydia said suddenly. “So I thought…” She tapped a finger against her leg, lips pressed together.

Thought what? Izzy wanted to ask. She was surprised to see that a faint pink colour had appeared on Lydia’s cheeks. Is she embarrassed by her height? It was true, Lydia often towered slightly over her as even with six-inch heels, Isabelle would just about reach the other girl’s shoulder. But Lydia normally worse heels herself.

Tonight she hadn’t, why?

Oh, god, Izzy thought in horror, trying to keep her expression neutral. Did Alec tell her to wear short heels for me?

Ignoring the bitterness that pooled in her stomach, Isabelle plastered a smile onto her face. “Are you ready to go?”

Of course she’s kind to me. Isabelle told herself, following the other girl into their car.

She would be Lydia’s sister-in-law one day and Lydia was simply being her generous self as usual.

Nothing’s changed then, she thought, a little sadly and fondly. She had last seen Lydia a few months ago but was hoping to forget that.

Lydia had travelled from Houston to announce the engagement officially. Isabelle had spent enough time small talking at the party before excusing herself and spending the evening feeling peculiarly sad.

For Alec. And Lydia. They’re the ones giving up their hearts.

But she’d spent almost over a year with Lydia during her time at Branwell Publications.

For some reason, she felt Lydia had betrayed her. She hadn’t confided in her about their plans to unite the companies by marriage. When she’d asked why the secrecy, Lydia had flushed hotly and looked away. Isabelle dismissed it as simple guilt, but she still felt this layer of hurt bubbling inside her.

Do I really mean so little to you? Isabelle had thought sadly.

Now, sitting beside Lydia in the car, she felt goose bumps on her arms. They were so close. Isabelle could reach out and –

What?

Part of Isabelle wanted to throttle her, still annoyed by the engagement. Another part was whispering another idea into her mind, but she couldn’t hear it.

Or refused to. 

Without realising, Izzy’s fingertips had begun to gently trace her braids. Her stomach soon settled and her thoughts cleared.

“So,” She turned to Lydia and smiled. “Do you want to make bets at how many times Jace will mention his victory?”

~ ~ ~

Having everyone together again was like putting pieces of a puzzle together.

Alec watched his friends and family around the table and smiled, truly relaxed, and ignored the protest at the back of his mind that it wasn’t quite complete.

Magnus wouldn’t want to be here, he told himself, and then wondered why the hell he’d even thought of the doctor.

Alec then winced, thinking back to how he had brushed him off so quickly that morning. A sudden rush of anger had snapped into him at the thought of his wedding, and he worried that Magnus had taken the brunt of it. He couldn’t even remember what Magnus had been saying.

Part of him wanted to call him, and then he realised he didn’t even have Magnus’ number.

Why would you need it?

He took a sip from his champagne, enjoying the bubbles that burned their way down his throat. It soothed some of his agitation.

He tuned back into the conversation just in time to hear Jace say, “…and then Izzy asked what a reverse cowgirl was!”

Alec choked.

“That’s the spirit, brother.” Izzy laughed, and leaned across to thump him on the back. Everyone around the table laughed with her. “We were reminiscing about how my innocent childhood was ruined by Jace’s discovery of the Karma Sutra.”

“Your parents left the library wide open.” Jace defended.

“Because they wanted us to read appropriate material.”

“Like what? Can’t expect kids to reach for Shakespeare when there’s cheesy romance novels, right, Izzy?”

Isabelle gaped. She didn’t blush, though; simple stared Jace down at the table and asked, “But who was the one who cried reading Twilight?”

“I thought Bella was going to die!”

Alec grimaced. “It would’ve been an improvement.” He shot a look at Lydia, hoping she would nod in agreement, but she was looking proudly at his sister.

She noticed him watching and blinked, a smile quickly appearing. “You’re right. That bet was one of our worst. Next time we should race to finish a book that lets Jace keep his dignity.”

“Hey!” Jace protested, but he was laughing.

Alec frowned for a moment. Lydia’s expression had been strange, but he couldn’t work it out. If he didn’t know her better, he’d think she was guilty. But Lydia has nothing to hide, he thought in bemusement. His second thought was a little more unsettling; do you?

“So I hear Magnus Bane is with you?”

“W-what?” Alec stuttered. “With me?” He turned to Jace, who glanced at him casually.

“Yes, he’s with us.” Isabelle replied, saving him from answering. “He’s the latest doctor. And probably the best so far.”

Alec drained his glass and reached for the bottle in the centre. Stop being so jumpy.

“Is that so?”

Jace was watching him again.

“Uh, yeah. He’s a good guy. A good doctor. An excellent one.”

“Excellent?” Jace was grinning. He shook his head in amusement, knowingly glancing at his friends. “He sounds like I remember.”

Oh. Yes. Magnus was the one who saved his leg during the game.

“Let’s not oversell it. He got lucky.”

Alec hadn’t realised he’d thought out loud until Jace had replied. He laughed, once, and then began to study the menu in deep concentration. He even furrowed his brow for effect, hoping they’d leave him out of this conversation.

“So, I’m guessing I’m invited to the wedding next year?”

There was a thud, and Alec looked up to see Isabelle’s cheeks a deep red as she grabbed a napkin and pressed it into the wet tablecloth, now wet from her spilled drink.

Alec was grateful for the distraction, and then guilty at using his sister’s embarrassment for his own gain.

He then frowned, a real one this time.

Izzy isn’t usually the clumsy one.

A waiter came over, waving away Izzy’s apologies with a polite smile and pouring her another glass out. She gripped it tightly, staring into it and refusing to look at anyone.

“Do you feel ill?” Lydia asked, quietly, leaning forwards. Her hand reached out to touch Izzy’s forearm, but she hesitated and placed it on the table instead. “Isabelle?”

Izzy seemed to break from her trance. She smiled at the other woman. “No, no, I’m fine.” She fiddled with one of the braids in her hair – Alec swore he’d seen the same style before somewhere – and turned back to the others. “Yes, the wedding.” She said breezily, as if discussing the weather. Lydia stared at her a moment longer and then sat back in her chair.

He was glad that she and Izzy got along. Family was everything to Alec, and it made things a lot easier knowing that his sister had a friend in Lydia. She had been by Izzy’s side at times he could not.

“Can we bet on if Maryse will cry?”

Lydia slapped his arm with a napkin. “Jace, that’s awful!”

With a smirk, Izzy raised her glass in approval. “I bet no.”

“Isabelle!”

Alec noticed that Lydia didn’t hit his sister. She turned her head and he saw the tiny braids curling around her blonde plait.

Oh, did they get ready together then? Alec puzzled. Otherwise why did they both choose the same-

Their main courses were brought out and his train of thought was lost in the conversation.

~ ~ ~

I could get used to this, Magnus thought happily.

He was on the rooftop balcony again, having found his favourite alcove and two chairs that overlooked the gardens.

A few lanterns lit the evening, and he finished his book as the sun went down.

By the time he had finished, he was slightly tipsy on wine as well as dazed from that dreamlike state of finishing a book. He closed it and sighed, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. Stars dazzled behind his eyelids, though they didn’t seem to be imagined stars. They were more round, eye-shaped. They were also slightly hazel in colour, and intense as they watched him-

“What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Shit.

To say that Magnus jumped visibly would be an understatement. Half the wine sloshed over the side as he let out a cry and coughed in surprise, sitting up and staring as Alec ducked under the low cover and leaned against the pillar, watching him. He was smiling.

Magnus tried to scowl, but he was sure it looked like a childlike pout instead. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Sorry.” Alec grinned, not looking a bit sorry in the slightest. “At least now I know who’s been draining father’s wine collection.”

“This was a gift. And a bribe. To keep me from nagging him to exercise.” Magnus sighed. “It’s not as though that’s my job or anything.”

Alec continued to stand, his fingertips rubbing in circles.

Is he waiting for an invitation?

“Uh, sit down?”

Alec did.

Unsure, but still running off his book and wine high, Magnus offered Alec his half glass of wine and picked up the bottle for himself. He chinked their glasses together and gulped straight from the bottle.

The night air hummed around them, slipping over him like a cool, thin coat. It was pleasantly cool in comparison to the heat burning into his head.

He heard Alec clear his throat.

“I wanted to thank you, doctor-“

“Magnus.” He interrupted. They were past that point, surely.

Alec paused and folded his leg over the other. “Magnus,” He said the name slowly, as if it held weight. “I wanted to thank you…for bring happiness back into the home- to my father, I mean. I’ve never seen him happier. Thank you.”

Magnus felt a softer heat flicker in his stomach; the pleasure of being appreciated was beyond even his humble nature. He liked being liked, he always had. “Just you wait.” He winked. “I’ll have the whole royal household on karaoke next.”

Before he could rethink it, he asked, “How’s the fiancé?”

Alec was silent for a few moments, and Magnus feared he had crossed some sort of line. Surely if they were becoming friends, one could talk about marriage, but somehow it felt taboo. He cursed himself for blurting it out.

“She’s well, thank you.”

That was it. And then, “D-did you like the book?”

His stutter was back, Magnus noticed curiously. It seemed to occur when he was sharing something, some kind of hidden part of him that rarely made an appearance.

“Honestly?”

Alec nodded seriously.

“I preferred the film.”

“Which version?”

“Joe Wright’s version. With the beautiful Matthew-“

“Macfadyen, yes, I know.”

Magnus grinned and raised an eyebrow. “Ever the surprise, Alexander.”

“It was the only way I could get Isabelle to read it. She said there was, and I quote, ‘nothing enjoyable about watching the same two idiots fall in love again and again’. I bought her a copy of the film, without mom’s knowledge, obviously,”

“Obviously.” Magnus snorted. Only the Lightwoods would sneakily buy Austen adaptions behind their parent’s backs as if they were hoarding drugs.

“I hoped she’d be inspired, but my plan backfired.” Alec’s expression was open, clearly remembering the memory fondly. “She fell in love with the film and still hasn’t read the book.”

The prince’s expression was so forlorn that Magnus couldn’t help but break into helpless laughter. Fortunately, Alec laughed too, and for a couple of seconds, magic filled the night.

“I did like it.” Magnus admitted. “I noticed someone had highlighted a few bits.” He said innocently, not wanting to force Alec to admit anything. Forcing trust, Magnus had learned, broke it before it had begun. “’I have not the pleasure of understanding you’, I liked that one.”

Alec’s head turned sharply. His eyes seemed so much larger then, in the soft darkness of the night. It must’ve been midnight at that point, Magnus assumed, and there was that fairy-tale feeling in the air of staying up later than usual. “Does that make me Mr. Darcy?”

Now it was Magnus’ turn to blink in surprise. He felt taken aback by Alec’s bluntness. It was so often up to him to be forward with others. “Hm, no.” He said sadly. He tried to keep his face straight. “I don’t think you’re rich enough.” He looked at the palace pointedly. “Your house is too small.”

Alec grinned, his full lips beautifully lit underneath the nearby lantern. Magnus wondered if they would fit-

“Does your sister want to go to Harvard?” He said suddenly, making Alec lean back again. He hadn’t even realised the prince was leaning forwards until he’d blurted that out. Magnus cleared his throat. “It’s just, I get the impression that she’s doing what Maryse wants. Not what she wants.”

Alec sounded curious, not judgemental when he replied. “Has she said as much?”

“Perhaps.”

Wait, does he know about….?

Alec seemed to read his thoughts. “I know about her dancing, Magnus. I’ve kept an eye on the servants for her for a while now. Making sure mom doesn’t know.”

That warm feeling returned to Magnus, slipping into his chest. He smiled. The Lightwood siblings are wonderful, strange creatures, he thought fondly.

“So why doesn’t she talk to Maryse?”

“It’s not that simple. Izzy understands that. I know that mom might seem forceful, but it’s what’s best for Izzy, and she’ll see that one day when she has every opportunity at her fingertips.”

Magnus frowned. “There’s a fine line between discipline and fear, Alexander.”

“Izzy’s not afraid of anything. You know that. This is about honour; family honour. We stick together as one. It would be irresponsible of Isabelle to-“

“To what? Live?” He said bluntly. He sighed, watching Alec as he clenched his jaw in frustration. “Look, I know I haven’t lived here for long, but I know that happiness comes from choices. And you should be free to makes those choices.”

“Do you have…someone?” Alec asked suddenly. He inclined his head towards Magnus and waited, lips pressed tightly together as if preparing for the wrong answer.

“No, not right now. In fact,” Magnus unfolded his legs and swung them up onto the coffee table carelessly, spreading out and ignoring Alec’s little tutting sound.

Damn royals.

“In fact, I’m considering staying single for life. The endings are never quite worth the good times. It hurts more than it gives. It’s like…” He paused, searching for the right expressions. Alec watched him attentively. “I love being in love. I used to give my heart away without a second thought. Over time, I realised that although we were all born with a capacity to love, there was a limit to how much love a person could carry. My heart used to be filled to the brim with it. So whenever someone walked out of my life, I had to pick myself up and put my heart back together again, but…there were always little parts missing; parts that had left with them.”

His chest ached, but he plucked up his courage and relaxed into the feeling of being vulnerable. “I thought the last one would kill me.”

“But it didn’t?” Alec finished. His tone was full of such admiration that Magnus felt a small smile tug at his lips. “And after it all, you still believe in love?”

Magnus considered this. Did he? “Being in love is a journey, and I sometimes wonder if I’ve taken it too many times.”

“Surely…” Alec paused. “Surely each love is a different journey.”

“That’s the beauty of love. Different ones don’t discredit the others.”

Alec’s chest was heaving now, as though he was fighting against himself. His next comment caught Magnus by surprise; he said it so bluntly, so straightforward. ““I don’t love her. Lydia.”

Why do I need to know that?

The look in Alec’s eyes told him that for whatever reason, it was vital that Magnus knew this. So he nodded. “Alright. Then why are you marrying her?”

“To secure our company partnerships. It’ll make the financial components easier.”

“Business, blah, blah, business. That’s all I heard.”

Alec looked at him, wide eyed and incredulous.

“What?” Magnus shrugged. He wasn’t going to apologise for the truth. “Do you not fear waking up one day and realising you’ve missed out on real romance? On a once in a lifetime love? I would rather wait forever than give myself up so quickly.”

“You’re so…”

“Stubborn? Irritable?” Magnus offered cheerfully. “Unreasonable?”

“Compelling.”

What the hell?

When Alec gazed at him, all Magnus could think about was whether his makeup was still intact. He really, really hoped it was. He resisted the urge to fiddle with something. His skin felt too tight as Alec drank him in slowly, from his grey leggings to the baggy jumper he’d worn when he hadn’t been expecting a prince to appear and start spouting poetic shit like that.

He felt entirely naked.

Softly, Magnus asked, “So…you think there’s someone out there for me?” His whisper stretched around the balcony and back again, hovering around Alec, waiting.

He was slightly ashamed at his eagerness, but Alec had turned in his chair and was facing him when he replied. “Yes, I think so.” And then, as if catching himself, he smiled casually and quickly added, “Besides, there must be at least one other person in the world who stands and sings on kitchen tables. With the servants.”

Magnus choked on his wine for the second time that night. He gasped. “That was you?!”

The tips of Alec’s ears turned pink enough to see in the dark. “Uh, yeah. I went to get a drink, but apparently you’d beaten me to it.”

“It was really fun actually. You should’ve joined us!” He felt stupid as soon as he said it, watching as Alec frowned and looked away.

Why would he want to party with the servants? And you?

We’re from completely different worlds.

But he thought back to when Alec had caught him on the ladder, or when he had smiled when their hands brushed the other day.

Was the distance between them worth overcoming?

Alec sighed. “It would make them uncomfortable.” His voice was dripping with remorse now. “Not me. I wouldn’t want to disrupt the only space that is truly theirs.”

Magnus was desperate to get the prince’s smile to reappear. He stood and made his way out to lean over the balcony, looking into the garden below. “No time for dancing?” He teased.

“No, that’s not it.”

Alec’s voice was suddenly beside him, and Magnus felt his gaze go to his hands spread out against the railing. Their shoulders brushed ever so slightly. So close.

“I…I, uh...”

He waited.

“I’ve never danced in my life.”

Magnus didn’t hide his shock that time.

He leaned onto his elbow, turning to face the prince with a half teasing smile and a playful look. “What about all those charity balls and posh people events? You must have danced then.” He tilted his head playfully. “I’m sure many eager suitors were lined up for a chance to dance with you.”

“Only when necessary. And sometimes with Izzy, or mother. Never for fun.”

“I’m sure lots of men and women were clamouring for dances.”

Alec’s laugh was brief but genuine. He shyly ducked his head. “Well, I suppose I always felt that dancing ought to be with someone you truly care for."

Magnus sobered suddenly and felt his eyes fill with hope. “One day, Alexander, I shall have you dancing in my arms.”

Alec was so incredibly silent for a while that Magnus feared he had overstepped. He cursed his hazy mind.

Just when he was going to apologise, or take his leave, Alec turned towards him; a genuine smile flickering over his features. “I’d like that.”

Chapter Text

Over the next few days, Magnus felt his plan settle into motion.

Finally, he felt ready to make his next move in the ‘help Robert Lightwood’s stubborn arse’ plan.

Then, in a spontaneous moment of happiness, all hell broke loose.

He later thought that wheeling a royal around the garden - in a wheelchair - wasn’t such a great idea. Perhaps. Especially hurtling full speed around the patio.

“Watch out for the flowers, doctor!”

“It’s fine, sir! I am an excellently qualified wheelchair driver. Ask anyone! Well, anyone except your charming wife. Or the rest of the world.”

Robert was laughing and Magnus was laughing too, rushing in circles and wheeling the prince around like two kids on a playground. They came to a still after a few minutes, Magnus dropping into a crouch in front of the prince. He grinned up at him.

“You are completely mad, doctor.”

Magnus risked a wink. “You love it, sir.”

“Hm.” Robert said, but the joy in his eyes made them wide and delighted. His shoulders were relaxed and his arms were loosely thrown onto the armrests of the chair as he regained his breath.

Magnus took a deep breath. “Your Highness, I know.” He kept his tone gentle, as if approaching an unknown animal trembling in the woods. When Robert frowned, Magnus calmly continued. “I know about the accident, Robert, and I know it wasn’t your fault either. It was tragic and a terrible loss, I understand, but you’re living in the past. You have an incredible family waiting for you to come back to them. If you just try, if you can forgive yourself, I promise you I will do my best to have you up and having fun like you used to."

He then let his expression turn vulnerable, his voice kind and soft. "It isn’t just a job to me, sir. I believe I can help you, if you’ll just let me try. Please. The journey to move on from the past is not an easy one and I respect that. But throughout my work, I have also come to respect people, and I have come to respect you, sir. You have the fight and the drive, you just need the direction. I can give you that. If you let me.”

Silence.

He had expected different reactions, but not that.

For a moment, the prince’s expression was so vacant that he thought the man might be, in fact, asleep.

Robert jerked his hands away from Magnus so quickly that, from his crouch, Magnus dropped onto one knee.

It collided painfully on the pavement with a dull thud.

His eyes began to sting; even more so when he looked up at a face full of pure, livid, hot-white anger.

“How dare you speak to me in such a way?” Robert didn’t raise his voice. He didn’t need to. His tone dripped with enough venom to poison all of Magnus’ present and future lives. It was fury, and guilt, and hurt mixed in with shame and surprise. “You could never understand. You don’t belong here, doctor. You never have, and you never will. So leave me be.”

He turned and wheeled away before Magnus could protest.

He was still blinking back tears from where his knee had dropped to the floor. It throbbed now, quite painfully enough that he told himself to wrap it in ice soon. The pain was nothing compared to his heartache. He wanted to hit something; to beat the stone patio until his knuckles were broken and his skin was stained an angry, bloody red. He was furious and distraught with himself, Robert, and the entire situation.

He was pissed off at himself for getting in too deep; at Robert for being too defensive and unwilling to cooperate, and at the Lightwoods themselves for dragging him down with their sinking ship.

He stood, taking deep breathes until his eyes had stopped stinging and his knee was bendable. Applying as little pressure as possible to his left leg, Magnus walked slowly back into the house to await his fate, and likely departure.

He was barely inside when Hodge came rushing around the corner, his eyes wide. “Doctor! Uh, Her Highness has requested, quite urgently, that she see you. Now. As in, right now.”

All Magnus could do was nod as he walked into a large study room. He felt like a prisoner awaiting execution.

He sat down on a large armchair, opposite Maryse, who was staring at him with enough rare emotion to frighten him into silence. His chest clenched shamefully when he saw a familiar head of dark hair and hazel eyes take a seat beside his mother. He avoided Alec’s gaze, not wanting to see any expression of anger or, even worse, disappointment. He felt he had aggravated enough Lightwoods for one lifetime.

“Doctor, when you were invited into our home,” Maryse emphasised this so deliberately, and Magnus flinched in his armchair.

The shame was churning his stomach unbearably.

“We trusted you to do your job. This position of trust has been completely and utterly violated in your unorthodox and quite frankly disturbingly common methods. You have mentioned an…incident that has been kept at bay for over nine years. Do you realise that?”

Magnus swallowed.

“Of course now you are silent. How appropriate.” Maryse wielded her sharp tongue like a weapon, firing into Magnus’ pride like a thousand knives. “What possible reason do you have to explain such vile actions?”

He not only felt remorse, but fear; that he had breached into a family’s heart and cut off their oxygen supply. For good.

And yet, a small part of Magnus still clung to his virtues. A small part of him still believed that confronting Robert had been the only decision left to do. He couldn’t very well stay and drink wine with his patient forever now, could he?

Magnus gathered up the shredded remains of his pride, and his confidence, and lifted his chin to meet Maryse’s gaze with a steady one of his own. “With all due respect, Your Highness, but the prince is my patient. Part of your husband’s diagnose is physiological; driven out of the guilt he feels in his contributions to your son’s death. His guilt is the reason he cannot, and will not exercise.”

When Maryse said nothing, he risked a brief glance at Alec, who met his eyes steadily. Alec nodded; such a slight gesture that Magnus almost missed it, but he caught it and felt it lift his chin higher. His confidence steadied. “Your Highness, I cannot do my job without the prince’s consent. Therefore I need to conquer this guilt before I can help your husband with his physical injury.”

The tension in Maryse’s jaw was noticeable from opposite the table. Her teeth were clenched until she spoke. “What qualifications do you have to educate me on my husband, doctor?” She asked icily, her stare intense. “Have you lived here for the past ten years? No. You know only what your limited mind allows you to. You cannot possibly comprehend the enormity of your reckless and irresponsible actions.”

“Perhaps you are right. Let’s say you are.” He folded his hands calmly in his lap. “But there is one thing I do understand with perfect clarity.” He held her stare. “Your Highness, you will never believe in me. You never have. Whatever prejudices you have against me were confirmed the second I walked through the door. I can’t change that. What I can change is your husband’s condition, if I can get through to him. While I am here, I will not stop trying to do my job; both as a doctor and a human being.”

He stood, ignoring the alarm bells ringing in his mind that told him to freaking sit back down, shut up and act apologetic.

Magnus decided, in that moment, he was done suppressing everything he was proud of.

The Lightwoods would have to accept him completely.

His gaze flickered across to Alec, who was watching him with a different, but no less powerful, intensity to his mother. His lips were pressed firmly together and yet…Magnus couldn’t help but feel encouraged by Alec’s attention; unlike Maryse’s, who seemed to be taking his measurements for a funeral suit.

He levelled off with Maryse for one more moment, deciding to take a leaf out of the Lightwoods greetings and farewell starter pack. “Good day.” He said coolly.

~ ~ ~

Alec silently watched Magnus leave.

Part of him was completely thrown, and yet there was also another part that had been waiting for this.

He had begun to understand Magnus, and appreciate the doctor’s unfamiliar approaches and techniques. He had seen happiness in his father’s eyes, and in Izzy’s, too. Differences in status had been overcome by respect. Alec only realised with a sudden start at how much he respected the young doctor when his mother stalked over to the phone and announced down the receiver, “Put me through to Dr. Santiago. He will be replacing Dr. Bane as soon as possible.”

“Mom-“

“Not now, Alec.”

“Mom, listen-“

“Booked up for three weeks? That’s absurd! Well then, there must be another doctor to cover for him.”

Alec watched his mother for a moment. She was untamed in all her anger. He had often seen her lose her temper but this was something else. Maryse was curling her hands so tightly around the phone that he waited for it to break in half under the pressure.

He stood, running a nervous hand through his hair.

Where did Magnus go?

He had another thought and panicked. To pack?

Standing by the window, Alec looked out into the garden; at the warm, late August summer sunshine beating down over the flowers and grass. A thousand colours shone back at him but none as bright as the flash of dark hair and fading pink highlights that stalked across the lawn.

He watched as Magnus made his way over to Robert, who had been sitting with Hodge in one of the garden pavilions, with a look of determination set in his handsome face. His brows were furrowed, his lips pressed tightly together.  

Oh, god-

Alec left his mother’s anger behind and exited the room quickly.

~ ~ ~

Magnus felt ready to set the entire garden alight, but he would settle for throwing heated words at the elder prince.

He marched over to Robert, unable to keep from trying.

He was past the point of caring about treading carefully. Maryse was ready to fire him. In fact, she was probably now doing so.

Nothing left to lose.

He placed his hands firmly on either side of Robert's chair and silenced his protest with a glare. “You can’t run away from me, so you can listen. I understand what it is to lose family. One day, I can tell you about it, if that’s what you want, but this is about you. I’m sympathetic but only to an extent." Magnus added some warning into his tone. "Do not test my goodness, Your Highness. It only goes so far. Your world ended when your son was killed, but you have two other beautiful children who I’m sure would love to have their father back in their lives. Do it for yourself, Maryse, or your children; I can’t choose that for you. Let yourself live again, Robert. Believe me, there is so much to live for if you give yourself that chance."

He removed his hands and stood up proudly. "So, until then, or until Maryse drags me kicking and screaming onto a jet, I will be waiting every day at ten o’clock. I became a doctor to help people like you. Stubbornness is in my blood as well as you Lightwoods. So when you’re ready, come join us in the present. I’m not going anywhere, Your Highness. I am not giving up on you, Robert. I’ll see you soon.”

And with that, Magnus stepped back, turned on his heels and left the stunned prince alone.

He was too preoccupied to see Alec watching from around the corner.

~ ~ ~

The younger prince approached his father, resting his hands gently on top of his father’s shaking arms.

Alec smiled sadly. “Magnus is right, dad. You know he is. If…Max was alive,” Saying his little brother’s name grieved him. Even now, after so many years, it was a wound growing and growing. In everyone’s denial of it, the wound had refused to heal. He took in a shaky breath and tried again. “If Max was alive, he’d say the same. Only with wider, puppy dog eyes.” Alec laughed once, quietly but hopefully. “Max would say exactly the same, and you know that. It’s time, dad. It’s time to let it go. For all of us.”

He knelt down to his father’s level, watching sadly as tears fell from Robert’s eyes. His father gripped Alec’s hands tightly and cried. Alec waited patiently, his fingers tracing soothing circles on his father’s frail wrists.

“Alec...” His father’s voice was soft. “Please take me inside.”

Alec nodded, nodding politely for Hodge to move aside.

For the first time in years, he wheeled his father into their home with a hopeful glint in his eyes.

Surrounded by colourful flowers, Alec looked at them as if seeing them for the first time. In them, he saw a warm smile and yellow-green eyes with golden flecks. He saw playful, dancing fingers in the red roses; a pair of soft, curving lips in the pink tulips. He caught a glimpse of musical laugher in the yellow daisies and felt his spirits lifting.

Alec’s own heart reflected back the song, humming it around the garden until it became a melody soaring into the sky.

It sung one word.

Magnus.

~ ~ ~

“Magnus Bane, you are so unbelievably fucked.”

“Thank you for your unwavering support, my dear. It’s duly noted.”

“What the hell possessed you to yell at him?”

“I didn’t yell! It was….persuasive talking.”

“Of the raised voice kind?”

“Maybe.” Magnus sighed, tempted to close the laptop down and start packing. He had missed his friends but speaking to them regularly over Skype or calling them had made it bearable. Catarina was currently staring through the webcam with a look of shock on her lovely face, and he was waiting for some advice to take before he completely freaked out.

“Are they rich enough to have you arrested?”

Magnus felt the blood drain from his face. “Oh my god.” He said weakly. “I wouldn’t survive in prison. There’s no room for an Asian smartass with an obsession for glitter.”

“Don’t forget bisexual.”

“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Catarina hid a smile. “Okay, hon. Deep breathes.” She instructed, holding up a hand. “They won’t have you arrested. And if they do, I promise to come and bail you out or murder the entire family.”

Magnus placed a hand over his heart, smiling. “That’s so sweet. You’d die for me?”

“Partially.”

“What do you mean, partially?” He scowled. “How can you partially die? You’ll let them chop some of your limbs off but not properly lay down your life and-“

Catarina interrupted his ramblings. “Breathe.” She said, holding up both hands this time. After a few seconds, she sighed. “Look, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Even if they fire you, you’ve got a job waiting for you back home anyway so why are you so freaked?”

It was a good point.

Why was Magnus so anxious to not leave Bishop’s Palace?

His thoughts went to Isabelle, who was still secretly applying for her dream school and learning to follow her own heart. He thought of Robert, who he had begun to understand, and he thought of Alec, who he had not only begun to understand, but begun to respect and even care for.

There were so many sides and depths to the young prince, and Magnus welcomed each new surprise. It had been a while since he had wanted to share so much with someone. Alec seemed to be a little reserved, but there was a confidence and charm beneath his surface insecurities. He felt safe and dangerous all at once.

“Because I rather like the Lightwoods.” He admitted finally.

“Oh.” Catarina paused. When she spoke again, there was no teasing in her tone, only curiosity. “Any in particular?”

He shrugged, picking at one of his nails. “These need trimming.”

Magnus.” Catarina warned. “Don’t change the subject.”

“Fine. What do you want me to say, Cat? That I actually care about this dumb, rich family? Because I think I do. And no, I couldn’t help it. Maybe you were right. Maybe I do have a tendency to want to fix broken things and broken people, but the thing is…they’re changing me too. I used to look at their ways of life and see business and false smiles, but now…I can see how dedicated they are to each other. I see a brother who is willing to give up everything for his sister, for her chance to live without preordained responsibilities. Alexander has sacrificed so much…”

He broke off and took a moment to refocus. “The Lightwoods may be snobs, but Cat, they’re remarkable. All of them. They’re intelligent and stubborn and torn between their hearts and heads every damn day.”

“Sounds like someone I know.” Catarina said softly. Her gaze was steady, her smile tender. “An amazing doctor who can’t turn away from helping others. You have given the Lightwoods your all, Magnus. Now it’s up to them to return the favour.”

~ ~ ~

It, officially, took Robert Lightwood eighty-nine days to quit being a dick.

Magnus gave a dry laugh to himself and rephrased the sentence.

It, officially, took His Highness eighty-nine days to grace his presence to thy humble ass.

He had been sitting cross legged on a chair in the exercise room the following morning after his final stand with the prince. Having reached new levels of glumness, and readying himself to hear a servant announce his plane trip home, Magnus had begun to play chess by himself.

And then Robert Lightwood was wheeled into the room.

“Why, hello. My two favourite princes.”

He perked up quickly when he saw Alec was the one helping his father.

The younger prince smiled sheepishly, his hair messy and beautiful and positively sinful. Magnus shifted on the chair when Alec met his gaze. He was looking at him so intently and Magnus prayed that his makeup had remained spotless. He had gone for a simple gray eyeshadow today, complete with navy eyeliner and a comfortable dash of turquoise glitter at the corners.

It usually calmed his nerves, applying makeup and experimenting with colours, but Alec’s stare cut right to the bone and he longed to check a mirror and make sure everything was in place.

“Has my fate been decided then?” He asked the princes cheerfully. If he was going to be kicked out, he was going in his preferred style; fabulous and righteous. “Death by execution, hanging or the stake? Personally I’d rather avoid fire as it doesn’t mix too well with hairspray.”

“Doctor, my father is ready to begin his exercises.”

Magnus froze.

The hell?

“Come again?”

He presumed that Alec looked as lost as he himself felt. The younger prince looked at Magnus uncertainly. “Uh, I said my father would like to start his exercises. Is that…is okay with you?”

Magnus opened his mouth, looked at Robert who was looking pointedly at him, and then closed it again.

He tilted his chin up to Alec, who had his head cocked. Magnus forced himself to shrug and keep his tone casual. He looked at his fingernails, painted a brilliantly bright blue, and looked bored. “I suppose I can find a space in my busy schedule.”

The corners of Alec’s lips tugged into a hidden smile. He relocated his father’s chair in front of Magnus and took a step back, his arms formally by his sides. “I have an event to organise so I shall bid you both good day.” He tapped Robert’s arm awkwardly. “Uh, father, listen to the good doctor. Mag- uh, doctor, good luck.”

His left hand gave a little wave to Magnus, who felt his grin widen at the sweet gesture. He sat up straighter. “Thank you, Alexander. Have a good day!” He called, watching Alec walk out the door. His smiled faded a little when he saw Robert narrow his eyes.

Before the prince could say anything, Magnus stood and clapped his hands together. He placed them on his hips, looking down at Robert and smiling. “You just couldn’t stay away, could you, Your Highness?”

Robert grunted.

“See? True love.” He winked. “I won’t tell the lovely Mrs. Lightwood. It’s our secret, dear.”

Robert glared at him.

Magnus held up a hand in surrender. “Okay, line crossed. Sorry. Now,” He looked around the room, at the tons of unused equipment waiting to be taken advantage of. “Let’s get those legs working again, hm?”

~ ~ ~

For the next two weeks, Magnus developed Robert’s basic exercise routine.

They would begin with one hundred leg stretches, supported by Magnus’ careful hands, and then add on five or ten more with each passing day. Ten years was a long time without moving and he had to be careful.

All the while Maryse kept to herself. He would see her at dinner or breakfast and exchange the occasional greeting, but she no longer looked at him with ice in her eyes.

There was a shared neutrality between them, as though a new slate had been given.

Izzy, on the other hand, was another case entirely.

“Magnus!”

“What?” He asked, looking up.

He had just finished his morning session with Robert and had been looking forwards to finishing Great Expectations to discuss with Alec later. It had seemed to be a thing they shared; reading and discussing books, or simply talking in the evening on the balcony. 

Isabelle half-ran, half-skipped into the room, closing the door and rushing over to him in the library. Her eyes were lit up and her smile was wide. “I got through to the next round!”

It took him a moment to catch up.

“To Julliard!”

His book was discarded in a second. “Izzy, that’s…”

“Amazing, right? I had been waiting for a month now and Hodge gave me this letter this morning and, oh, Magnus! I have no idea what to think. Part of me wants to rush out of this house, fly to New York and never come back.”

Jesus Christ.

“Okay, okay. Just…sit down for a second, Izzy.”

She did, but her leg was bouncing up and down and she couldn’t stop smiling.

Magnus held out a hand and placed it gently on her shoulder, turning her around to face him.

“I’m proud of you, my dear-“

“Thank you! I had been so worried, but you really helped me believe in myself. I’ve watched you with my father and…you inspired me, Magnus. I want to do something with my life that makes me that happy. I think…I want to audition for the next round. In person. I’ll have to fly to New York, but I can work that out…”

As she continued excitedly on, Magnus tried to find an argument.

There were so many wrong things to say and so few right ones. It wasn’t as simple to congratulate her and tell her to drop everything. She had her education to consider, and the Lightwoods clearly had plans for Isabelle’s future that had been considered long before he arrived and encouraged otherwise.

No one else even knew about Izzy’s dreams, he realised with a worried start.

He looked across at Izzy and grew concerned.

Following your own path was difficult in this family, Magnus had discovered. But then he recalled Alec, and how he had given up his future for Izzy.

If this is what Izzy wants, who am I to stop her?

He had seen her dance a few times now, covering her sometimes while she practised. He had helped her study, too, and seen the exhaustion it brought upon her. She was clever beyond her years, but there was a struggle behind Izzy’s every move, as though her limbs were being constricted by the very pen that was supposed to enhance her.

She was born to dance, and love, and Magnus knew better than to take away her hope.

Perhaps the best he could do was keep an eye on Isabelle.

Why am I always looking after the Lightwoods?

“Have you spoken to anyone else about this, Izzy? What about Alec?”

Izzy bit her lip. “I would, it’s just…he has so much on his plate right now. You know about the charity ball, yes?”

He shook his head.

“Our father wants to throw a charity gala, a ball, and Alec will make his first decision as to which company we raise money towards. On the night, Maryse- uh, mom, will announce the date of when Alec will become the company’s president next year. So yeah, he’s under a lot of duress what with the wedding stress on top of that.”

Magnus groaned. “Why are you Lightwoods so freaking noble?” He shook his head fondly, staring at one of the bookshelves. “You’re all looking out for each other and not even realising it.”

Izzy was quiet. “You think I should talk to my parents.”

She didn’t say it as a question because she already knew the answer.

Magnus turned to her and nodded. “I do. But, Izzy, you’re an adult. If you wish to keep this a secret, you have my word that I will not say a damn thing to anyone. You have given me your trust; I won’t break it.”

“Thank you, Magnus.” She smirked. “What would I do without you?”

“Your nail beds would suffer severely, that’s what.” He grimaced and pointed at her bitten nails. “Isabelle Lightwood, there is no excuse for that kind of behaviour.”

She surprised him then and threw her arms around him, pulling him into a tight hug. He returned it, trying to supress the bubbles of worry spreading into his stomach. All he could do was be there for Izzy. If a hard decision was approaching, it was up to her Isabelle to conquer it. If she was armouring up for a big fight ahead, Magnus decided he was going to be there beside her. If she needed him.

He really hoped at least one of the Lightwoods were not going to bite him in the ass.

“I have my own secret.” Magnus admitted.

Izzy’s eyes widened as she leaned in. “Tell me?”

“I think I need to learn how to waltz.” He said solemnly.

Chapter Text

I literally do not care.

I do not care.

They all look the same.

No, Izzy, that tie is hideous.

I would rather wear nothing at all.

In fact, if you make me wear that tie I will hang myself with it.

Half an hour shopping with his sister and Alec was ready to purchase the whole shop just to make sure they left soon.

“So...red?” She said, for what felt like the hundredth time. She held up three ties.

Alec went into autopilot response. “Whichever you think best.”

“And we’ll have a three piece suit, I think.”

“Good choice.” He said distantly. He was already thinking about if he could catch Magnus on the roof that night and see what he thought about his latest book.

“Do you like Magnus Bane?”

“I completely agree, Izzy- what?!”

“That wasn’t a no.”

“Of course I like the doctor.” Alec said quickly, recovering from the surprise. “He’s a smart man and has done wonders for our father.”

“Me too. He’s really quite something.”

“I agree.” He replied, this time meaning it.

Izzy seemed to have finally chosen his suit for him, and gestured happily for the tailor to have it wrapped up and ready.

She was rather excited by the prospect of a ball, even if it was a charity one that would be filled with business partners and their parent’s circle of upper class friends. But Alec had used his power and allowed Jace to be given an invite, and as Lydia was invited with her parents, they would all have each other at least.

Perhaps even Magnus, Alec reminded himself.

Their father had surprisingly offered the doctor an invitation to join them, if he wished to, and Magnus had been unusually quiet as he thanked him.

Alec also noted he’d neither agreed nor declined the invite.

“Do you think Magnus will come to the ball?”

“Well,” Izzy tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Cinderella came to the prince’s ball.” She smirked at her brother.

Alec shot her a glare. “Hilarious. I doubt the doctor is clumsy enough to lose his footwear.”

“Oh, so you agree? You think Magnus would be Cinderella in this situation?”

He ignored the flush spreading onto his cheeks and turned away to examine a row of striped ties lined up. He ran his fingers over them absently, searching for a certain colour…

“I’m real proud of you, big brother. You'll do so well at the presentation, I promise."

Alec smiled to himself, still with his back to Izzy as he traced patterns on the ties.

“I’ll meet you in the car.”

His fingers froze and his eyes adjusted, noticing the colour he had landed on.

Green and gold.

The colour of the doctor’s eyes.

Without thinking too much, Alec slipped it onto the counter and added it to the other clothes, hiding it under his own suit as he took the bag.

~ ~ ~

The night before the ball, Magnus was given the details by a very willing and excited Izzy.

She was sitting cross legged on the grass while he went through his daily yoga routine and burned through his nerves.

“So there’s a sit-down meal first, it’s kind of boring but it’s mainly for the adults to do their adult things.”

“Ah, those.” Magnus commented dryly.

“After the meal is finished, the guests will head on into the ballroom where dancing will happen.”

“And drinking?” He asked hopefully, now looking at her upside down from his stretch.

Izzy grinned. “Yes, that too. My brother will have a less enjoyable time. He’ll have to do some mingling and hand out thank yous constantly to our company members and partners in business too."

She plucked at some strands of grass and sighed. "He’ll then be invited up onto stage by mom and she will announce his date of presidency and talk a bit about his chosen investment – uh, which publishing company he’s donating tomorrow night’s money to.”

“Which company has Alec chosen?”

“Beats me. Probably a dull publishing press which hoards renaissance literature.”

He frowned, bringing one arm up over his head and stretching to the side. “That doesn’t sound very Alec.”

Izzy shrugged. “Maybe not then. Who knows? But he’ll have to explain his decision and how it benefits the company, etcetera.”

“I hope he’s ready.” He came to a stop, feeling his brow furrow as he considered Alec alone onstage; bombarded by curious questions and vacant faces in the crowd.

Izzy interrupted his thoughts. “I’m worried too.”

“I didn’t say I was worried.” He denied quickly. He began to stretch to the other side. “Alexander seems like a capable young man.”

“That he is. But, Magnus, he could do with a friend right now.”

A friend.

His heart warmed at the thought.

Did Alexander really consider him as someone he trusted and even cared for? When someone was reserved as Alec, Magnus considered it a great respect and honour that the prince might feel comfortable in his presence.

He was also frightened by how quick his pulse now raced at the thought.

“What can I do? I’m just…me.”

“Magnus!” Izzy looked at him in disbelief for a moment, as though his words had shocked her.  She folded her notebook and tapped her highlighter thoughtfully on her two front teeth. “I think Alec needs your courage.”

He mirrored her sitting position, folding his long legs and watching Izzy quietly. “How…how do you mean?”

She blinked and drew in a slow breath to steady herself. “For as long as I can remember, Alec has always been the careful one. Even before…Max’s death,” She looked down, hesitated, and looked up again. “Alec was always the one picking up the pieces; the one who kept us together. As much as I want to be there for him, he’ll never let me all the way in because I’m part of the reason he’s doing all this. I know that. We all do.”

She smiled across at him and Magnus blinked, surprised by the tenderness in her expression. “But, Magnus, you came into our house and made it a home again. We’re changing because of you, because of what you’re inspiring us to achieve. We can be ourselves and follow our hearts as well as remaining loyal to our family. I know that now, but I think Alec needs a little help with it. He’s still too driven to realise what he might lose."

She inclined her, nodding to Magnus. "He needs someone like you. A friend, not to guide Alec, but to stand beside him while he guides himself. And, if my senses are correct, I think you respect Alec. I think you understand him in a way that no one else can. Somehow. Sometimes people come along, the strangest ones, and bring us to life in a new way. They unlock something; only if we have the courage to pursue it.”

They were silent for a moment as Magnus took in the full weight of Izzy’s kind words.

He had felt his pulse quicken at the thought of spending more time with Alec, and he knew there had been something worth pursuing when Alec had caught him that day in the study.

Standing and staring down into the prince’s wide eyes had frightened Magnus beyond belief because he realised something. His heart had leaped into his throat for the first time in years. It had been the groundwork of a flame set to ignite, if, as Izzy encouraged, they both took those steps together.

Friendship is the most worthwhile pursuit, part of Magnus persuaded.

Another part of him argued; but could you prevent any further feelings from developing?

Instead of answering directly, Magnus smiled and brought Izzy’s hand up to his lips. He kissed the back of her hand and she laughed. “When did you get so wise, Isabelle Lightwood?”

Her smile suddenly wavered. She shifted, swinging her legs to the side so that she was now perched and ready to leave. When he waited for her to go, she suddenly said, quietly, “December 2015.”

“Hm.” He said teasingly. “Did you have a Christmas epiphany or something?”

“Or something.”

Realising that Izzy was clearly thinking about something seriously – her eyebrows were knitted together as her expression become distant– Magnus reached out to her. “What-“

“Enough about me.”

He sat back again, confused.

No, Izzy, he wanted to say. Five seconds of confusion is not an in-depth conversation. 

But he wouldn’t press her. Not today, at least. He kept the conversation in the back of his mind and made a mental note to gently quiz the princess-

His thoughts suddenly snapped to attention.

“Shit, Izzy, you’re a princess, right?”

“Technically, yes. Most people just called me Lady Isabelle though, and Alec is Lord or Prince. We’re not exactly flaunting our royal heritage though, we’re a business family.” She grinned and added, “In case you didn’t figure that out already.”

“Funnily enough, yes. Lady Isabelle.” He said happily. “Suits such a wonderful woman.”

She ducked her head, swiping a hand at him playfully. “Shush, you.”

“So, princess, tell me, do you think you could teach me a few dance steps before tomorrow night?”

“Are you kidding? Of course I can! Okay, first we have to teach you the square, box step basics and then I can teach you chasses and locke steps and oh! A double reverse spin would look lovely with your long legs. Magnus, this is going to be so much fun!”

Magnus was already regretting the decision. He stuck to yoga and salsa for a reason; freedom. He wasn’t used to controlling and restraining his limbs. Waltzing felt like a prison for someone so active and energetic.

“Yes. Fun.” He mumbled, reluctantly standing as Isabelle began moving across the grass happily, dancing and calling out what sounded like Latin to him.

He stretched out, sighed, and began to pay attention to her footwork.

~ ~ ~

That evening, Alec was sure he now had half a dozen gray hairs.

His lower lip was numb from having been bitten so often. Absentmindedly, he had chewed it while talking to his mother, and then father, and then Izzy, before realising there was a wetness dripping down his chin. He had reached and his hand came back stained bright red. Damn.

“Hey, go easy, big brother.” Izzy grabbed a tissue and dabbed at his lip with wide eyes. Her own lips were formed into a slight ‘o’ of surprise. “We need those beautiful lips to speak tomorrow night.”

He rolled his eyes. “Ha. You done?” But before he left, he brought her in for a quick hug and kissed the top of her head. “You always have my back, Iz.”

Izzy placed her hand gently on his cheek. “You’re going to do great, Alec. I promise.” She grinned. “You can just look at a certain beautiful face in the crowd.”

He hid his gasp of surprise. “W-What? Who’s?”

“Mine, silly.” Izzy laughed, winking as she left.

He ignored the fact that his mind had gone elsewhere.

Now was not the time to be distracted. Turning back to the table placements, Alec made sure to memorise a few more names of where important representatives would be sitting tomorrow.

Why was he nervous? This was his time to take charge and make a strong first impression to his future employees. This was what he had been waiting for; the chance to take advantage of the position he had been born into and shape it to his will.

He thought of the risk he was taking tomorrow; the company he had chosen to raise money for.

Anxiety struck him to the bone as he thought of the hundreds of different ways his ideas could be received.

Some might hate it, hate his first act as future president.

But, Alec decided, he wasn’t going to hide who he was.

If these few months had reminded him of anything, it was that. Magnus’ arrival, his father’s new decisions, and the family’s revival had all shaped tomorrow's decisions. He was ready to be a leader. One that would help others and also reflect his own morals and beliefs.

If anyone disliked that, it was their prerogative.

His gaze caught something reflecting like a jewel.

On the armchair, his fingers reached out and came back sparkling.

Glitter.

Alec smiled.

~ ~ ~

“I have a fairy godmother!”

“Come again, hon?”

“Someone gave me a free suit! Well, I mean, I’m assuming it’s free because it came with a lovely handwritten note that said ‘for Magnus Bane’ which, personally, I interpret as being made for me. It makes sense.”

“I knew you would win over the snobs.”

“They’re not snobs. They’re hardworking and dedicated…” He trailed off, realising he had been caught when Catarina gave a happy burst of laughter.

Magnus flipped her off over the webcam but she only laughed harder.

He sighed. “Are you quite done?”

After a second or two she was.

“In all seriousness, that’s the least they could do for you. You’re their saviour.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.” He snorted. “I’ll settle for beautiful, ethical warrior princess. The suit is stunning though, so clearly Maryse has grown to like me enough to notice my measurements.”

“Are you excited for tomorrow night? I still can’t believe you’re attending an actual ball. Waltzing and everything. I’m proud of you, hon.”

“Oh shit.” Magnus winced. He rubbed a hand across his forehead and sighed. “I have to go and practise.”

“It’s almost midnight! You can’t waltz around the house at this time of night.”

“Sure I can, mom.” Magnus teased, unable to hide his smile. Catarina’s worrying was always something that had calmed him. It was inspiring to have a friend so open to her feelings. He had often modelled himself after that aspect.

Even after what seemed like a dozen heartbreaks, Magnus was desperately hopeful to love and be loved.

He said his goodbyes, with promises to call after the ball and relay every single detail to his eager friends.

The breeze that greeted him on the rooftop balcony made Magnus glad he had thrown on a scarf before coming up – his favourite dark green one with bejewelled golden studs.

He had dressed in simple black leggings and a baggy, purple jumper with sleeves that almost reached his fingers if he curled his hands into fists. He felt snug and comfortable and ready to nail this freaking dance once and for all.

Izzy had gone through a bunch of moves that now became a jumbled mess in Magnus’ mind. He remembered a few basics but that was it. He had some music on, playing quietly even though he was three stories up and the only people who could hear were the occasional garden attendants who didn’t look annoyed, but rather smiled up at him.

He tried to ignore the panic creeping into his body.

He was going to look like an idiot in front of royalty and upper class business who were going to laugh and glare at his awkward footwork and point fingers-

Okay, stop, he told himself quickly. Magnus took a deep breath and closed his eyes, relaxing as the melody of Izzy’s waltz playlist washed over him, calming his restless nerves.

With his eyes still closed, he held his arms out to an invisible partner and exhaled slowly, taking his first step as he did.

He made it thirty seconds before coming up blank again. He stopped, still with his eyes closed, and listened. There was the whistling of a quiet wind whipping around his ears, and the music. He relished the stillness and let it sooth him. He could do this. He was Magnus freaking Bane, curer of stubborn princes and arrogant cricket captains.

This waltz is going to kiss my pretty ass.

He stepped forwards on his left foot and-

“I thought Cinderella had to leave by midnight.”

Magnus opened his eyes with a start.

Alec stood in front of him, his hands shoved into his pockets as he smiled sheepishly. His gaze was softer than usual, still intense but gentler, as though a little of his worries had been left behind as he ascended onto the rooftop. His shoulders were relaxed too, Magnus noticed, as Alec casually leaned against one of the posts and watched him with a smile.

A handful of cute comebacks came into his mind but all Magnus blurted out was, “Alexander, I’m a failure. How can I be beaten by a dance? I excel at dancing. Usually.” He said grumpily.

He knew he likely sounded like a petty child but he was beyond caring.  “Izzy taught me the basic box step but I can’t remember the difference between a chasse and a lock step. Oh, and I fell over and practically almost died trying to do a double reverse spin!”

Alec cleared his throat.  “Uh, and she taught you the wrong steps.” His smile was apologetic.

Magnus froze and then exploded. “What?!” He demanded. His hands had found their way onto his hips as he felt frustration bubbling quickly under his skin.

“I mean, not the wrong steps per se…” Alec hesitated, rubbing the back of his neck in his usual display of anxiety.

He held out a hand, hesitated again and drew it back to his side. “She, uh, taught you the lady’s steps.” Alec watched as Magnus’ face fell and rushed on. “Only because she only knows those parts, but not to worry, the man’s steps are basically the same as the lady’s, except….reversed.”

“So completely different?” Magnus said dryly. “Shit.” He turned away from Alec and paced up and down. He was just about ready to call it a night - and not turn up to the ball at all – when Alec cleared his throat.

“It’s easy. Look.” His tone was commanding in that leader-like manner, but Magnus didn’t feel threatened by it. Placing his trust in Alec, he walked back towards him; stopping just in front of him.

Alec nodded to Magnus’ feet. “So, you stepped back with your right. Now, as a man, you’d step forward on your left…yes, that’s it. Just like that.”

He managed to do the three-step box waltz and breathed a sigh of relief.

He looked up at Alec and felt his eyes widen in a soft plea. “Show me. With me. Please?”

His skin felt so much warmer all of a sudden. Standing so close to Alec was doing strange things to him. Magnus broke away from the stare first. “I don’t want to look like a fool.”

“I doubt you ever could.”

The softness in Alec’s voice melted away any remaining anxieties.

Magnus tilted his chin back up as Alec slowly unfurled his right hand and murmured, “Step to me, Magnus.”

And then, without hesitation, he stepped into the prince’s arms.

The night air hovered, as if creating a tiny bubble in which the pair could savour time. Alec placed his left arm on Magnus’ right forearm, so gently. His right hand slipped into Magnus’ left and he felt the touch with every fibre of his body.

He nodded and Magnus suddenly remembered where they were and what they were even touching for.

Keeping his breath steady as he placed his right arm around Alec’s waist was the hardest thing Magnus had ever forced himself to do.

He could feel his heart ready to leap out of his throat. He swallowed it down, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment.

If whatever he was feeling was written on his face then Alec might abandon his lesson in an instant. He would not take advantage of Alec’s kindness and push his luck. So, instead, he opened his eyes and willed his expression to remain neutral as he gazed up at the prince. “Shall we dance?”

They danced then, slowly at first, and then built up to what Magnus assumed was a proper waltz pace.

Soft music continued to play, a sweet instrumental of piano and strings. The singer's voice was sweet and mournful.

Magnus realised that he was supposed to be leading. After all, he was supposed to be the man in this situation.

But the dance didn’t feel so simple.

He felt partially in control and partially led, as though they were working together and creating the steps as one.

Magnus was at once a leader and a follower, as was Alec.

All through the dance, he kept his gaze steady and focused on Alec’s enchanting eyes; lost and found in their strange, beautiful mix of colours. His lips were also far too close for Magnus’ pulse to remain calm, but as they waltzed for a few more moments, all he was focused on was the fact that he was holding Alec in his arms, and Alec was holding him in return. As the song quietened and eventually silenced, Magnus and Alec drew away from each other and smiled.

“Thank you, Alexander.”

“It was my pleasure.”

Magnus took a breath in and smiled, trying for a friendly tease as he quipped, “I told you I would have you dancing in my arms.”

Bugger. Do I really sound so breathless?

After all, there was no excuses for getting breathless in a waltz, he thought worriedly.

He was surprised when Alec chuckled. “And I believe I said I would like that.”

He looked up at the prince and found a wide, carefree smile on his handsome face. It was so endearing that Magnus couldn’t help himself. “You also said ‘very much’ if I recall correctly.” He winked.

Alec blinked at that. He took a step back and gave a quick, polite smile. “Just doing my part.” He cleared his throat, gesturing awkwardly with his hands. “Well, now you can dance with any man or woman you desire.”

“Just the way I like it.” Magnus said honestly, silently cursing his mouth running away with itself. He kept his tone casual and asked, “Can anyone dance with anyone at these balls?”

Alec cocked his head to one side. “What you mean is can men dance with men and women with women?” Alec asked. He reached out again, lifting towards Magnus. His fingers ghosted Magnus’ cheek before he dropped it suddenly, looking out into the garden. “It’s not normally an issue.”

“So you’ve danced with men before?”

Alec flushed. “Perhaps.”

He ignored the stab of jealousy that hit him. Covering it up before it reflected onto his face, Magnus felt his curiosity overtake him. “Boyfriend?”

“In college, yes. N-not now, if that’s what you meant. Obviously.”

“Obviously.” Magnus repeated with a grin. It was pretty damn hard to forget that Alec was engaged to be married.

A large part of him felt glad that Alec had discovered his sexuality and wasn’t harbouring it as a secret while dealing with such a large business. He imagined that would be the stuff of nightmares, having to keep yourself shielded from the world.

Alec folded his arms across his chest, turning back slightly as he leaned on the post. Magnus watched him struggle for a moment, his brow furrowed. He had learned well enough to let Alec battle his demons rather than force him to speak.  

“I take it you have…attire for the occasion?”

Oh, was that it?

Magnus relaxed and nodded. “Wait, you mean this isn’t acceptable?” He gestured to his baggy clothes. At Alec’s wide eyed look of shock, he laughed. “Fear not, sweet prince. I have posh people wear. In fact, strangely enough, Maryse gifted me with this beautiful suit. Please tell her I said thank you. For some reason I don’t think she wants me to acknowledge that she did something nice for me.”

Alec hesitated. “Uh. Did mom give it to you?”

“What? No.” He laughed, imagining the ever-loving Maryse delivering the suit in person and confessing how much she adored him. “It was hanging up on my door, but there was no name on the note so I assume it was her. Or your father, most likely. Who else would buy me a suit?”

Magnus pictured a rush of swooning suitors all lining up to present him with their fineries.

“Uh, yeah. I’ll…tell her thank you. From you. For the suit.”

“Are you alright, Alexander?”

The prince’s cheeks had suddenly flushed a pale pink.

Strange. It’s not that warm out tonight…

“Yeah. Uh, it is very late, doctor.” Alec clasped his hands firmly together and nodded, as though convincing himself of something. “We should- I should probably go to bed. I will see you tomorrow evening. Or sooner.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow. Oh, really? It seemed to tease.

“I mean, if I see you around. Everyone will be busy rushing around tomorrow so you’re probably going to want to stay away and avoid all the chaos…” He trailed off, looking around uncertainly. He looked very small in that moment.

Magnus took pity on him and yawned. “You’re right. God, it’s late.” He smiled and danced a few fingers in the prince’s direction, who was clearly hovering and waiting to be dismissed. “Don’t wait up for me, I have to put away Izzy’s speakers.”

“Goodnight, doctor.”

Really? Doctor? Again.

He waved and turned, not wanting Alec to see the look of hurt on his face. When he heard the prince’s footsteps retreat, Magnus sighed.

Was Alec uncomfortable by the thought of his mother buying him clothes?

A terrible thought hit Magnus. Oh, shit, what if I borrowed one of his suits? No wonder he felt awkward.

He made a quick note to ask Izzy to check out the suit and reveal if it was new or not.

He also ignored why it was so important to him that Alec felt relaxed around him.

Of course it matters. I’m living with him.

That thought suddenly warmed his cheeks and sent goose bumps over his arms. Even under his jumper, Magnus felt the prickles and swallowed.

Why was he suddenly so aware that Alec was living under the same roof?

It hadn’t crossed his thoughts in such a way before, but now he couldn’t erase it.

In fact, it seemed to magnify, and Magnus went to sleep restless and yearning.

The ball was going to be a night to remember.

Chapter Text

The day of the ball was as Alec as forewarned; chaos.

It was a last minute rush of decoration replacements and a hell of a lot of urgent whispering in case Maryse overheard the problems.

Magnus kept far away, only walking around to get to the exercise room when Robert was due for his sessions. After then, he would take to a quiet spot in the garden – just behind the maze and near the rows of rose bushes – and do some yoga.

He had his headphones in and was stretching into a handstand, holding for a few seconds and then slowly coming back to a stand before going back up. He realised someone was hovering as he went into the next handstand and saw a pair of smart, black shoes appear in his eye line.

“Your Highness, how lovely to see you!”

It really wasn't. 

He inhaled, still holding his upside down pose. “Please bear with me just a moment.” He then pushed away his nerves and fell back and up onto his feet in one, fluid movement. Pleased with himself, Magnus smiled up at Maryse, whose expression was anything but impressed.

“Doctor.” She said coolly, glancing down at his orange tank top with distaste. “As you know, tonight will be an important event for us. Alec will be announcing his first company contribution and I would like for you to remember that you have been invited per my husband’s invitation. Therefore you will respect that and stay out of trouble.”

Translation, he thought, dryly: Alec is saying stuff and you should not be saying stuff.

He resisted the urge to salute. “Yes, ma’am. One silent doctor coming right up.”

Maryse narrowed her eyes but didn’t say anything else. She walked away without a goodbye and marched back into the house with vigour. Magnus feared for the servants’ lives today.

He sent a few prayers in their direction.

His thoughts turned to Alec, then, and the pressure he must be under.

And you’re out here, hiding away. From what? You’re not dealing with anything.

Magnus was suddenly frustrated with himself. He grabbed his water bottle and bravely stepped into the madhouse.

~ ~ ~

"Please don't stand so close to me
I'm having trouble breathing
I'm afraid of what you'll see right now..."

“Any chance I can steal the man of the hour for a few moments?”

Alec looked up from his desk and felt an easy smile tugging at his lips. “Magnus, hey.” He gestured for the doctor to come inside, shifting slightly in his seat as he watched Magnus walk slowly and take a seat. His long fingers stroked the armchair, dancing along the small groves.

Alec was at once fascinated and distracted by the graceful movements.

“So,” Magnus begun, breezily. His tone was airy and practised. “Izzy laughed when I showed her my steps earlier and now I feel I’m in need of another practise. Are you game?”

Your dancing is faultless, Alec wanted to dismiss. Graceful, elegant and catlike.

He reluctantly shook his head. “Apologies but I’m rather busy. I have a few more names to memorise and my speech to finalise before tonight. And it’s….three o’clock already. Damn.”

“Such language, sweet prince.” Magnus teased. The laugh that followed was musical and warm to Alec’s ears. “I forgive you.”

“Thanks.”

“I just…” Magnus tapped a scarlet painted fingernail on the chair, and Alec could see his knee bouncing as though he was unsure. “I also thought you might want someone to talk to?”

Alec stared at the doctor’s lowered eyes, the soft golden eyeshadow and glitter accentuating his dark colouring beautifully. A little on edge, Alec’s own feet threatened to tap.  “Have you read The Song of Achilles?” Alec asked suddenly.

His mind had gone to the one thing he felt comfortable with: books.

Magnus cocked his head, highlighting the strong, sharp lines of his jaw and cheekbones. Alec was staring again but the doctor didn’t seem to mind the attention. “Hm, let’s see. ’Name one hero who was happy’.” Magnus quoted, finally relaxed in the chair as he leaned back.

It both pleased and surprised Alec that Magnus had not only read the book, but enjoyed it enough to remember a line. His gaze grew distant as he finished off the quote, “’I’m going to be the first’.”

He felt his smile widen, mirroring Magnus’ happy one.

There was nothing quite like shared passion.

Alec suddenly felt the true weight of Magnus’ attention as the doctor’s eyes bore into his. He needed to say something, anything, so he opened his mouth and asked, “Did you enjoy it? Did you find it happy or tragic? Both? Some find it pathetic how Achilles threw away his life because he lost his love. He was a god and yet his heart was human.”

“My, my, Alexander.” Magnus folded his arms across his chest, drawing the prince’s attention to his bare arms and lovely, defined forearms and-

“Have you ever thought about being a teacher?”

Alec blinked. “Hm? Oh.”

Magnus laughed again, and saved Alec from the embarrassment of explaining his staring. “I enjoyed it because it was a bit of everything.” Magnus tapped his chin, his eyes thoughtful. “It was poetic and the language was very pretty and epic. But no, it wasn’t a tragedy in my eyes.”

Your beautiful eyes...

Damn it.

Alec cleared his throat and looked at him questioningly. “But…they both died.”

 “Don’t we all?” Magnus laughed. “They were together in life and death. How is that tragic? Also, not that I’m complaining, but why are we discussing gay Greeks?”

“I like hearing your views, that’s all.”

He had spoken before his brain had time to scream out a protest. It felt like a reveal, but Alec himself wasn’t quite sure what he had hinted towards. The doctor was an intelligent man, why did it sound daring to admit that Alec enjoyed his company and opinions?

Magnus drew back in surprise. His gaze softened as he opened his mouth. “Alexander-“

“Alec, mom wants to speak to you- oh!” Izzy paused, midway into the room. She looked apologetic but his sister’s hurried entrance meant there was something urgent that needed doing. “Hey, Magnus. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“It’s fine.” Alec said quickly. “We were just discussing tonight.” He stood and fastened the top buttons on his formal, navy jacket. “Uh, I’ll see you later, doctor?”

“Of course.” Magnus smiled in encouragement and stood to leave.

In a way, Alec was glad to have been summoned. There was only so much control he had around Magnus and he seemed to have already thrown most of it away through blatant staring at his eyes, arms and lips.

As he walked to his mother’s office, Alec thought back to the rooftop; how it had felt to dance with Magnus and lose all traces of time in his eyes. He had looked at the doctor and realised how easy it was to lose yourself in someone like that: someone warm and open and full of enough love to last many lifetimes.

If he had switched places and lived through his life, would Alec have been brave enough to love so deeply?

Even now, he struggled with his emotions. Being reserved and confident was a strange combination, but Alec had always felt determined in his work and softer and unsure in his personal life.

He was a walking contradiction.

Maybe someone, one day, would accept that.

And then, suddenly, with a shockingly painful reminder, he remembered. He was getting married. There would never be a chance for that someone to search and find him. Alec felt his hands began to shake with nerves as he pushed those thoughts aside, quickly.

It had never bothered him before, that he was marrying Lydia and giving up that chance.

Why the hell does it matter now?

~ ~ ~

For the special evening, two adjoining rooms had been opened up to create a large space; half the side arranged into dinner tables and a place for the orchestra, and the other half filled with pretty, low lights and a large stand for a full set of musicians for the dancing later on.

The dinner area and dancing area were separated by a thick ribbon of bright blue, chosen and placed by a grinning Isabelle as she spent most of the day measuring and taking her task as ‘ribbon chooser’ quite seriously.

She had been indecisive on a colour until Lydia called.

Blue, she had suddenly decided.

Flashes of gentle skies and the calming sound of the ocean had rushed into her mind as she spoke to her friend. It calmed her; the colour, and she was grateful that Lydia had so randomly inspired it.

She felt her nerves settle as she talked over the phone, asking Lydia about what she was wearing tonight and teasing her about wearing low heels for her sake. The other girl had stammered out an apology at that and Izzy had felt her stomach flutter with happiness.

Tonight is going to be so much fun. We need a little fun.

She thought of her father, now exercising regularly and paying more attention to the family. She thought of Alec, and of his upcoming changeover and position causing him stress. Surprisingly, her brother had looked rather calm and collected when she burst into his office earlier.

It was better than when she had last seen him; bloody-lipped and wide eyed.

“I’m so excited we’re matching like we used to!” Izzy said happily, turning to face Alec. He was standing in the bedroom doorway – still not dressed, she realised with a worried look – and smiling as she twirled, showing off her lovely, velvet gown. “Do you remember when I wore that yellow and white polka dot dress and mom made you wear the matching tie?”

Alec sighed. “Yes. If I recall correctly, Jace called me a ‘spotty lemon meringue with a tomato face’. How charming he was that night.”

But for tonight, it was Alec who had suggested they matched colours.

He had asked her a few weeks ago and she had looked up in surprise and grinned happily. Rare moments like this, where Alec stepped out of his comfort zone and allowed her to lead him, reminded Izzy of how much she adored her brother. He was so different in so many ways; quieter where she was bolder, and grounded where she was energetic.

Matching colours had been a thing between the siblings, including Max. They hadn’t done it since their brother passed, Izzy realised, and she turned to Alec with a sad look on her face. “Max would have looked so handsome in a red suit.”

“Yes.” Alec agreed, simply. His voice was quiet. He stepped into the room then and drew his arms around Izzy, pulling her into his arms tenderly. “You look beautiful, Iz.” He murmured into her up-do hairstyle. He drew back and wrinkled his noise. “Jees. How much hairspray is in there?”

“Never question my style, big brother.” She blew him a kiss before he turned to leave. “Now go and get ready! It’s your big night tonight!”

~ ~ ~

“You look sharp, buddy!”

“Thanks, Jace. And it’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Clary.”

“You too, your…Highness?”

“Please, none of that. It’s just Alec to friends and family.”

When Clary beamed, and Jace smiled at him in appreciation, Alec felt his nerves fade.

He had been on edge as soon as he walked into the ballroom.

Immediately, he had scanned the faces of the few people who had already arrived and found Jace with a sweet red-headed girl dressed in a green halter neck dress and smiling widely at him.

He had heard a great deal about Clary Fairchild, the young artist from New York who had stolen his best friend’s heart, and was, if not impressed, understanding. He looked at the pair, with their sharp smiles and playful gazes, and was quick to see why they had fallen for each other.

“So, do we sit down?”

“Feel free. I have to…mingle.” The word sounded like a nightmare on his tongue. Alec had to plaster a smile onto his face as he added, “I can do this on my own.”

It was early, but Maryse had told – more like demanded – that he arrived early and greeted many of the guests as they arrived.

A quick look passed between Jace and Clary. Jace turned back to look at Alec. “I can stick with you for a bit. Besides,” Jace smirked. “The guests might approve of a little sporting talk when they get bored of you.”

“Ha.” Alec said dryly. But he was glad that Jace was here and…being Jace. His best friend would often travel with his team across the country, but Alec never questioned his loyalty and friendship. Tonight was proof of that.

He must have missed someone’s arrival as Jace was waving across the room. Alec worried for a moment that it was Maryse, coming to check up on him, but he turned and relaxed when Lydia walked across to the trio.

Jace whistled as she reached them. “Someone looks like royalty tonight, Lady Branwell.”

Lydia shook her head and laughed, meeting Alec’s eye roll with one of her own. She tapped his forearm. “Not a lady yet.”

They laughed and Alec tensed. He really needed to get used to the casual mentions of their wedding. Sure, it had been talked about before, but the closer the date arrived, the jumpier he was getting.

She really did look lovely, though. Her dress was simple and flawless; a black and white floor length gown that had a V-neck front and crossover straps at the back. The material was soft and flowed into an elegant skirt. Lydia’s hair was down, softening her sharp angles and high cheekbones as the blonde curls fell gently to her shoulders.

Despite the confident aura she radiated, Alec noted the way that Lydia’s fingers clutched onto her purse. He linked his arm through hers, squeezed gently and smiled. “You look lovely.” He said honestly, and Lydia shot him a grateful smile.

If marriage was this – trust, loyalty, comfortableness –then Alec would be glad to share it with Lydia. Although, part of Alec still demanded something more; something unpredictable, passionate and intimate. He doubted that the two kinds of love could ever merge together.

If it could, that love would be unstoppable.

“Is Magnus here yet? I’ve been dying to meet the famous doctor.”

Alec’s hand tightened on Lydia’s arm, and she cast him a worried look. He quickly loosened it and smiled, hating that it felt as fake as his breezy voice. “I’m sure he will turn up somewhere. Now, I do believe that’s Mr. Blackthorn, the co-president of Cloverdale Press. Lydia?”

She cleared her throat, smoothing the lines of her worries into a smile. He mirrored her persona as they turned, walking away from their friends and heading towards their future.

~ ~ ~

Izzy walked into the half-filled room.

With her head held high, she stood tall and cast a powerful look over the crowd.  

She looked beautiful and was quite pleased to have this confirmed when nearly every man, and woman, noticed her entrance.

Still, Isabelle didn’t need anyone’s approval.

She might have been taught by her parents to be proud and driven, but Izzy had taught herself self-love.

There was no way in hell she would ever silence her beauty.

Her dress for the evening was velvet, burgundy-red and flattered her curves. Around her neck rested a large necklace with sparkling red jewels on a thick, silver chain; regal and deadly in its sharp beauty, much like Isabelle. It was a necklace one wore to a war. In that moment, Isabelle felt like a queen, and not at all like a young girl who was too anxious to tell her parents about how much she wanted to dance.

She made her way through the awestruck faces, nodding to the occasional familiar face or company acquaintance, until an angel stepped into her pathway.

Not an angel, but it was quite hard to tell.

“Hey!” She cried, covering up her surprise at seeing Lydia so suddenly. The weight of the necklace was worth it to cover up the random bruise she had probably obtained during one of Magnus’ yoga sessions. She adjusted it slightly, and then stopped, hand hovering in mid-air. She had checked her appearance plenty of times before leaving her room; she looked fine.

She was startled when arms reached around her waist as Lydia pulled her into a hug, just for a moment, and then released her. The touch ghosted Isabelle’s skin, burning through the velvet dress and marking her with strange awareness.

“And just whose blood are you wearing on your lips tonight, Isabelle?”

Isabelle swallowed as Lydia’s low, alluring voice washed over her. She brought a hand up to her scarlet lips, watching as Lydia’s bright eyes followed her every move. “I’d tell you, but then I’m afraid you’d suffer the same fate.”

Dangerous electricity sparked around Isabelle as she gazed at Lydia.

How she longed to smirk and tease her friend until she blushed or laughed.

But then she caught sight of Alec standing a few feet behind, talking to Jace and a few men she didn’t recognise – probably other company members – and took a step back. She remembered that Lydia was bound to her brother and something inside her fizzled out.

Why was her friendship so threatened by their engagement? She had spent nearly a year with Lydia, shadowing her and learning from her and taking breaks in-between their work. Did she feel betrayed that the other girl hadn’t mentioned the discussions of a union between their companies?

Well, I am supposed to be joining the company after university. I had a right to know.

Her thoughts had turned bitter. If she was angered by the engagement because of that, then it didn’t matter anyway. She was planning to go to Julliard, whether she had to escape through hell to get there. Lydia’s engagement to Alec affected none of that.

As she and Lydia walked over to the group, Izzy’s arm brushed hers slightly; the skin tingled long after they moved apart.

There’s something wrong with my heart.

She still felt like a queen, but stripped bare; without armour and without hope.

As they sat down for dinner twenty minutes later, Izzy made sure no one was watching and switched the name cards on the table so that she was sitting further away from Lydia.

~ ~ ~

Where is he?

Where is Magnus?

Why do you care?

I don’t.

Ignoring that he was arguing with himself, Alec still thought he had raised a decent point.

The doctor was nowhere to be seen and they were well into their main course.

He kept glancing towards the name card opposite him: Magnus Bane.

There was glitter on the edges of the paper and it almost made him smile.

He distracted himself and made conversation with Lydia’s parents, Bridgette and Colin, as well as indulging Jace in his adventures in the mad wide world of cricket.

To give his best friend credit, Jace was charming and had a natural flair for storytelling, and Alec was glad to have the attention away from him for a little while. He ate dessert quietly as the others laughed with Jace and Clary as they retold a story about their first meeting. Apparently Jace had insulted her graffiti outside his apartment and then Clary had decided to spray paint his leather jacket in retaliation.

“And then he threatened to call the cops unless I returned it in its – what was it again, babe? – ‘full badass glory’.”

“Hey, now, I considered that a fair deal. Graffiti is illegal, my little firecracker.”

“I was painting my own van!”

Jace shrugged. “Still.”

Clary shook her head fondly and grinned. She looked around the table, at the eager faces waiting for the end of the story. “And then I returned his jacket with my number inside the front pocket. In case he was brave enough for a rematch.”

“I called and we’ve been together ever since.”

Alec looked at the pair and couldn’t help but smile. They were so well suited to one another, it was pretty hard to feel hopeless when there was love like that around you.

Clary must’ve noticed his staring at the glittery name card as she patted his arm, drawing his attention to her smiling face. “Maybe he’s stuck in traffic?”

Alec stared at her blankly. “He’s literally living above our heads.” He deadpanned.

Jace laughed loudly. He quickly tried to cover it with a cough but Clary had already shot him a fierce look.

After that, thank god, she didn’t try again.

As they headed into the ballroom, ready for an hour of dancing before the announcements began, Alec considered excusing himself.

A stab of worry had been slowly growing and now his stomach felt sick. It was like he had forgotten about an open flame or left the oven on.

You don’t even cook, Alec cursed himself.

The ballroom that greeted them was beautiful.

It held even his worried gaze for a few seconds.

The carpet was Egyptian, exquisite in its rich colours – reds and golds. The large windows were draped with beautiful dark gold curtails, pulled back and held with gold and red velvet sashes. The space was entirely clear for dancing, except for the raised platform towards the far end of the room; where an orchestra had already begun to trickle sweet-sounding instruments across the room.

There was a magic to the night as servants offered sparkling wine on tiny trays and the grand chandeliers above their heads twinkled with a wink.

Alec spent ten minutes navigating his way through repetitive conversations. After a while, it all became the same; shake hands, introduction, thank you for being here and donating, I look forwards to working with you in the future.

And then, as the conductor announced the first waltz of the evening, Magnus Bane walked through the double doors at the other end of the ballroom.

"I give you everything I am
All my broken heart beats
Until I know you'll understand..."

Only a few heads turned as couples had already begun making their way to the dance floor, but Alec looked up and locked onto him immediately. He was directly in his eye line and yet so far away. A roomful of people separated them.

The soft introduction of a waltz swept Alec’s heart into a gentle stirring.

Because there Magnus stood. Beautiful and breathless and looking like an angel.

Of all the beautiful stories Alec had read about, he thought, in that moment, that he would exchange them all in for Magnus’ smile. He would give up the classics and throw away religious texts and rare volumes of medieval cookbooks to frame how angelic he looked standing there, lit up by the warm lights of chandeliers.

Magnus found his gaze, held it for a moment, and then began to step through the crowd; towards Alec. He walked closer, cutting a line carefully through the crowd as he walked with purpose towards him.

Alec’s gaze took him in, hungrily; unable to keep from doing so.

The dark green suit shaped the doctor’s elegant figure beautifully. Magnus’ sleeves were tight and flattered his muscular arms, and his longer fingers were bejewelled with a few simple, elegant rings and one long, full cuff one that gave the outfit a very Magnus feel. It was edgy and charming. His eyes had been dusted with grey, and his eyes lined with pale gold that brought out the flecks in his bright eyes.

Alec smiled when he approached and noticed the emerald green glitter at the corners of his lids. The colour shimmered when Magnus smiled, crinkling his eyes and igniting a warm heat in Alec.

All in all, Magnus looked like he had stepped from a fairy-tale book.

He had the elegance of Belle sweeping into the ballroom in Beauty and the Beast, alongside the sharp charm of Prince Phillip as he dashingly slayed the dragon.

Alec wondered if that made him the hero or the princess in his story, and found himself hoping he could be both.

I wonder how he sees me…

~ ~ ~

The Lightwood prince sure knows how to dress up, Magnus thought, with a coy smile tugging at his lips. He had seen Alec in many suits before but this was something else entirely and he wasn’t quite sure how to process it, or him.

Alec looked intelligent and lost at the same time. Of all those gathered in the ballroom, Magnus had walked in and sought out his kind eyes immediately, somehow following an invisible cord that linked him to the prince. He was commanding and shy, tall and hunched; a contradiction that kept Magnus on his toes.

And I rather like dancing, he thought dumbly.

The dark red of Alec’s suit contrasted his dark hair wonderfully, and the small golden patterns twirling over his shoulders added a little character to the overall look. He probably owed that credit to Isabelle, Magnus thought. He slowly drank in Alec and all his beauty; his full lips, smiling and looking soft in the low light; his intense eyes, slightly widened.

Magnus felt empowered and defenceless as he returned Alec’s gaze.

Some part of him felt so protective of the prince, as though he wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around Alec and save him from all his burdens. But Alec was a mature, young man, just like he was, and Magnus respected him and felt like having the prince’s arms around him, instead, would make for a lovely warmth as well.

A frighteningly truthful thought – no, a question - popped into his mind. He tried to dismiss it but found his fingers had begun to shake with the confession.

Is this what it feels like to associate home with, not a house, but with a person?

Someone whose eyes drew you in even across a crowded room.

He never wanted to stop that feeling of finding someone, and grew worried that Alec’s appearance had spurred on those thoughts. He thought, with another surprising realisation, that every time he saw Alec it would be like finding a part of himself too.

If it’s a crush, let it go. He warned himself quickly, taking the last final steps towards the prince.

It won’t end well.

~ ~ ~

“So sorry I’m late.”

I’m not, Alec almost said.

Watching Magnus walk in had allowed him to rein in whatever the hell his pulse had decided to do. It had leaped into his throat as soon as Magnus entered and had only now started to settle. Instead, he shrugged and gestured for a waiter. Anything to avoid staring at Magnus further. “It’s fine. The dinner was dull without you, though.”

“Sorry. Again.”

“You’re here now. Was everything alright?”

“I got lost.” Magnus said simply. His fingers did their usual dance, tapping against his pant legs and revealing his hidden anxieties.

Alec frowned. “And you didn’t think to ask one of the umpteen servants?” He was clearly missing something here.

Magnus Bane missing out on the attention?

Although he could easily picture Magnus charming everyone at the table, Alec also knew the doctor well enough to sense he was unusually quiet; much like when he was discussing his past. He wouldn’t even hold his stare for a few moments, before glancing away as if admiring his surroundings. Really, he was stalling.

Finally, Magnus replied, “It’s a big house.” He protested weakly. When Alec’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, the doctor sighed, exasperated, and ran a hand across his forehead. He rubbed, as if trying to remove his worries, and then held up a hand and admitted, “Fine, I got scared. It happens even to the best of us.”

You got scared?” Now Alec really was confused. “Why?”

“Because, Alexander, I realised something.”

“And what’s that?”

The doctor’s voice grew soft. “Maryse didn’t give me this suit, did she?”

Alec tensed in an instant. He opened his mouth to stumble out a lie but found himself coming up short.

What good would it do to deny such a simple gift?

Was there even a good reason he had covered up his offering in the first place?

Izzy had simply said one afternoon that Magnus ought to the real star of the ball and Alec had felt at once guilty. He realised how right his sister had been. Magnus had basically saved his father’s life and had asked for no reward. 

If it was a simple gift, why did Alec feel the need to hide it?

Before he could excuse his behaviour – and he honestly had no idea how to – Alec was saved by a man’s voice speaking out from the orchestra.

Everyone turned as he cleared his throat and loudly announced into the microphone, “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to our evening of celebration. The Lightwoods would like to thank you for coming and supporting their charity event, which will be discussed later on by the future president of Lightwood Publishing.”

Polite clapping echoed around the ballroom and Alec smiled at Isabelle, who caught his eyes as she stood with Lydia a few feet away. The pair, though he was unsure why, seemed just as tense as he felt. He mouthed, ‘are you okay?’ to his sister, who nodded once and looked away.

“If everyone could find a partner, we would like to, par His Highness, Robert Lightwood’s request, announce a special dance; The Merry Widow Waltz. Ah, yes,” He smiled as murmurs filled the room. “A great number of you may know of this dance; an exquisite piece taken from the operetta of the same name. If you all may form into small groups of three partners, invite a friend, family member or lover to dance and we may begin. And fear not, we shall give a simple demonstration before we start.”

Alec watched as Magnus’ face paled slightly, his hands beginning to tap once again. Wanting to calm the doctor, he leaned forwards and said, “Do you know the story? Of the waltz?” He had been hoping to sound cheerful and relaxed, but his voice was husky and low. He flinched when Magnus gazed up at him with wide, hopeful eyes.

“No.” Magnus said softly.

They moved back with the group, who had opened up a space on the floor for the three couples who were about to demonstrate the dance. There was an older couple, one of Maryse’s old friends and her husband, and a slightly younger couple who smiled nervously at the watching guests.

The last couple was a pair of middle aged women, dressed charmingly in contrasting black and white dresses. It was clear they were very much in love and Alec looked away from their endearing looks and watched for signs of disapproval in the crowd. He relaxed when all he saw was nervous excitement.

Why would it matter who danced with who? Alec told himself. This is the twenty first century.

As the dance was demonstrated, Alec continued to murmur across to Magnus, keeping his voice low and quiet and only for him. “The waltz is sad and hopeful at the same time. It tells the story of a lover who died young and waited in the spirit world for her beloved to pass over. Alas, when he died, a jealous demon kept the pair separate; unable to reunite and move on.”

The couples were halfway through the dance, their movements simple and working as a group, yet each couple were firmly focused on their partners, just as the lovers were in the waltz.

“Please tell me there’s a happy ending.” Magnus whispered softly.

Alec swallowed and looked away as he finished. “The lovers waited for each other for many years, but were unable to meet again and cross over. Demons are immortal, as are spirits and ghosts, and so the lovers will wander the realm forever, waiting for a love that is so close but always torn apart. They dance alone, with the memory of each other as their ghostly partner. Sometimes you can see them waltzing at graveyards.”

“Alexander, we must work on your definition of a happy ending.” Magnus said, his voice strained. He kept his narrowed eyes on the dancers, clearly paying attention and memorising the steps.

Alec watched him. He already knew the steps and the ending. It was one of the only dances he genuinely enjoyed. It started with three couples facing each other and ended with single pairs dancing in each other’s arms. “It is a beautiful dance, Magnus. The lovers endure eternity just for the hope of seeing one another again.”

Magnus turned to him then, and his eyes flashed with remorse. “I’m tired of tragedies, Alexander.” He said. “I-they deserve a fairy tale. The lovers.” Although he was only a year or two older, he seemed eternal in the light; the golden depth of his eyes lit up like a halo. The weight behind his gaze hit Alec with a shocking force.

“The story is left open for a reason, doctor.” Alec was surprised at how confident he sounded. He was about to speak again when applause interrupted his thoughts, signalling the end of the demonstration and the starting of finding other pairs.

Izzy walked over briskly, and was about to speak when Lydia followed after her and smiled at the pair. “Doctor, I’ve been dying to introduce myself to you. I’m Lydia Branwell, it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you. You’re a miracle from what I’ve heard.”

Magnus shook her hand politely. “Thank you, dear. And may I say, what a stunning dress.” He winked at Izzy, whose expression was forcibly neutral. “Isabelle, you should’ve told me why you really enjoyed that year away.”

Magnus had spoken teasingly, but Izzy flinched. If he hadn’t been so in tune to his sister, Alec would’ve missed the quick look of fear that passed over her. But he did, and was quick to jump in. “So, we need another couple.” He caught Jace’s eye, who was also scanning the room for them, and beckoned the other pair over.

“Dance with us?” Alec asked, grateful for his friend’s arrival. He had felt a little unsteady with Magnus and Lydia standing together and needed to clear his head.

Let’s get this over with.

Now they had six.

Realising they were a little behind everyone else, the six of them hurried onto the floor and settled into a space near the centre. Instead of feeling watched, it was busier near the centre and therefore Alec relaxed a little. Less people would be able to see if he tripped or stumbled over.

The dance worked in a way that required the couples to face opposite each other, three on one side, and three dancers on the other. The dance was simple and elegant and Alec thanked the gods that he could get this over with and return to his world of statistics and books.

Alec looked up, having taken a moment to look down and re-button his cuff links, and felt his eyes widen.

It wasn’t Isabelle, or even Lydia, standing opposite him; it was Magnus Bane.

The doctor quickly looked to his right, at where Izzy stood. She looked equally as startled as he did. She hesitated, looking opposite at Lydia, who Alec caught smiling timidly at his sister.

In Izzy’s hesitation, the music had started and it was too late to change partners without drawing unwanted attention.

Friends, Alec reminded himself, can dance together.

Surely Magnus and he had earned the friendship card by now.

He ignored a smaller part that protested in favour of wanting something more, but he couldn’t put his finger on what he actually wanted, and so ignored it completely.

The dance began.

~ ~ ~

She wanted to dance with me, Isabelle realised as they curtsied to each other. Why?

She had felt a shoulder brush hers as they walked onto the dance floor, and was only aware that Lydia had slid into Magnus’ place when she looked up.

Maybe the queen wanted to dance with her equal.

The violin started, a sweeping melody that roared in Izzy’s ears and sailed into her heart.

And then they were dancing.

~ ~ ~

Magnus bowed to Alec and felt the world slip away.

He was vaguely aware of Isabelle beside him, curtsying across to Lydia. Her appearance had filled Magnus with a strange bitterness. He knew there was no love between she and Alec, and something had clicked into place when he watched Lydia usher Alec to the right. She and Izzy were now the leading, middle couple, with Clary and Jace on Lydia’s left and he and the surprised prince to her right side.

The dance started.

It was simple enough to follow.

In fact, it was frustratingly simple enough that Magnus could focus on other thing, like sensing Alec’s every movement with intimate awareness.

Those on the left, Clary, Izzy and Magnus, first moved around their partners, circling them slowly but not touching. How Magnus longed to reach out and run a playful arm down Alec’s forearm, to wait and see if he flinched or melted into the touch.

He composed his thoughts as they stood in front of their partners once again.

Now, Alec and his row stepped forwards and offered a hand out, palm facing up. It was such a simple gesture, but as Magnus rested his own hand on top, the warmth of bare skin on bare skin was almost too much.

He sucked in a breath. The intimacy was overwhelming. A crowded room faded to black and white. In his mind, Alec's hazel eyes were the only colour. 

With their hands together, they rotated in a circle again, a full three-sixty. A solid seven seconds of Magnus holding his breath and savouring Alec’s hand under his own.

They repeated the circling again, with the opposite hand and moving in the other direction. It seemed to last longer this time. Had Alec been standing so close before? Magnus could hear his breathing, even over the loud, sweeping brilliance of the orchestra, which was singing out a melody that was both haunting and epic.

He remembered the rest of the dance and felt his pulse quicken.

Soon, they would have to take up a traditional ballroom hold and waltz together for the remaining minute. They would be surrounded by many other couples, no one would pay attention, and yet Magnus’ heart leaped at the thought of Alec holding him this time, unlike how he had held the prince on the rooftop that night.

For a moment, both lines stepped back, and then, as the music grew louder and tugged Magnus into a place caught between a fairy-tale and a nightmare – of eagerness and fear – Alec stepped forwards and drew him closer.

He thought of the story, then; the tale of the lovers destined to be apart.

Was it worth it? To wait for eternity just for the chance to see someone one last time?

In Alec’s arms, Magnus no longer felt like a tragedy.

If he had suffered through a lifetime of heartbreaks and self-doubt, Magnus began to believe that perhaps it had been worth it. Just for this one moment. One dance. One minute. That minute was a lifetime condensed into a prince holding him with great care and smiling contently.

They waltzed around the room with everyone else, gazing at each other softly and forgetting about the dance’s tragedy.

Why did you give me the suit?

“You deserved it.”

Magnus blinked and hesitated. Fortunately, despite his accidental speech, he was being led by a graceful partner and didn’t slip. He really hadn’t meant to ruin the moment. Alec now watched him with that intense stare, as though he was desperate to remain locked onto Magnus until someone dragged him away.

It's too much.

“Then why did you hide it? I don’t understand, Alexander. I thought we were friends and yet you cannot look me in the eye and-“

“Are we friends?”

Magnus was glad for the music then. For the distraction. He was quite certain he had felt a piece of his heart chip and crack onto the ballroom floor.

After all their time together, all their conversations and all that Magnus had offered and given so freely, and Alec would throw it all back as if it meant nothing? His tone had revealed nothing. It was simple curiosity, childlike and without thought. It also held little emotion.

If Magnus had only looked up, he would’ve seen the surprise, and also warmth, in Alec’s expression. The prince was surprised, not dismissive.

But he didn’t.

He was too hurt to think of anything else. His heart had latched onto those words; those three words that questioned everything Magnus had previously read as tolerance towards him.

Once again, his humanity had made him reckless.

Magnus had let himself feel something for someone who would barely acknowledge a simple friendship.

They finished the dance and Magnus quickly stepped back. He joined his hands together in front of his body, as if protecting what was left of his good mood. Unable to meet Alec’s eyes, he turned and applauded the musicians alongside everyone else, hoping that the flush in his cheeks would fade soon.

Merry Widow, Magnus thought sadly. How ironic.

He glanced at Alec, who was still staring at him, his gaze now worried, and looked away again.

How could something die if it was never alive to begin with?

You are here as a doctor, not a friend. Or anything else. Alec Lightwood can break his own heart but he won’t break mine too.

The fierce hurt inside Magnus now built up a wall. Alec’s ignorance had cost him a friendship, though he didn’t quite realise that now, and Magnus was determined to leave the prince alone with his arranged marriages and his kind eyes and intelligent conversations about good books and-

Maryse Lightwood stepped onto the stage, dressed smartly in a floor length black gown. She gestured towards him, smiling, and it took Magnus a moment to realise she was inviting her son to come and join her.

Magnus stepped backwards, watching Alec take to the limelight; where he would always return.

Fairy tales belonged in the mind, Magnus decided. He wiped away a lone tear that had fallen.

Real life was inescapable.

~ ~ ~

A thousand thoughts rushed into Alec’s mind as he stepped away from Magnus, who was looking crestfallen.

What had he said wrong? Had he missed something completely?

He imagined throwing himself at Magnus, back into his arms to dance another waltz. The dance had felt so alive, so raw and vivid with colour. He had never enjoyed dancing before then.

And then he had hurt Magnus, somehow. He also imagined scoffing, rolling his eyes and telling Magnus to return to his place and quit appearing where he appeared all the damn time. It would save his confused heart a lot of time if he could push Magnus away completely.

But I don’t want to.

He liked Magnus. A great deal.

But walking onto the stage and adopting his business persona – shoulders back and chin tilted up – had transformed Alec.

The dance had been a dream. A beautiful dream, but a dream nonetheless.

Suddenly, a book line popped into Alec’s mind; distance is nothing when one has a motive.

The second he stood onstage, Alec looked over the crowd until he found Magnus.

He was watching him with a small smile now, and when the doctor nodded in encouragement, Alec found his voice and smiled at the guests.

“Thank you for all being here tonight. I would like to discuss, briefly, where your money will go tonight, and why. My mother has led this company with an esteemed wisdom that I would like to grow from. Not mimic, but grow.”

He took a breath. This was it. “Recent statistics and media outlooks have shown how young readers are the future. They enjoy diversity and old and new material; new genres, new styles and old ones too. The company I have chosen to donate tonight’s money are a smaller company called Insomniac Press. They are an incredibly diverse company that encourage representation of minority groups; disabilities, racial and LGBT movements.”

For some reason, he had expected some sort of protest. An uproar of sorts.

When he was met with simple interest, Alec relaxed and continued on, his confidence only growing when Magnus’ smile appeared to be a little wider. “We need to pay attention to the new world unravelling around us. By supporting companies like this, we can not only create successful marketing and gain high sales, but change lives too. We can use our advantages and spread them across the globe. We can give voices to those who have been silenced far too long.”

Magnus’ smile was brighter than any star he had ever seen.

Alec found himself smiling happily as he nodded to the crowd. “Thank you for your attention.”

There was a moment of silence, and Alec feared he was about to bolt from the stage when the guests erupted into pleased cheering and clapping. Many faces were smiling, and some simply looked content, but Alec kept gazing back at Magnus.

His strength was like a mirror; showing Alec how to be brave and stand up for what you believed in.

“And now, for the second announcement.” Maryse’s cool voice silenced the crowd. She smiled at Alec, briefly but pleased, and spoke with quiet command. “As you are all aware, my son shall be stepping up as the company’s new president soon. I can now confirm that the date will be the first week of January of next year. We will also be creating a company partnership through the wedded union of my son, and Lydia Branwell.”

Alec bristled at that, and tried to keep his expression pleasant. He didn’t look at Magnus, afraid by what he might see.

Maryse smiled and gestured for the orchestra to start up again. “Thank you for your time, everyone, and please, enjoy the rest of the event.”

Alec shook many hands as he re-entered the crowd.

Where was Magnus? Had he gone back to his room already?

Without a goodbye…

He exchanged polite conversation with different men and women until their faces blurred together and their words repeated in his ears.

He made a quiet escape through a small set of double doors, closing it firmly behind him and rushing out into the night.

He was standing on the small raised patio that encircled the ground floor, and he stepped down and walked for a minute, stopping at a large fountain with rows of orange and blue tulips surrounding it.

The gardens were truly beautiful at night, lit by the moonlight and bringing the flowers and their colours to a magical shimmer.

It reminded Alec of glitter…

“Looking for your fiancé? I believe she’s inside charming the in-laws. Sorry, future in-laws.”

Alec spun around.

Magnus stood before him, his green jacket discarded and carelessly thrown over his arm. His hair looked dishevelled, some strands loose and wild; as if he had been running his hands through it over and over again. The moon hovered directly above him, casting the doctor in a silvery light that gave him the edge of something ancient and powerful. Alec shivered, his eyes helplessly flickering to the way the doctor’s white shirt was taunt against his biceps. He licked his lips and looked away, his heart pounding as he heard Magnus stepping closer.

When he had spoken, Alec had flinched at the coldness, but he was finally focused enough to recognise it as hurt.

“Did I do something wrong?” Alec said abruptly.

Even Magnus hesitated then, standing only a few feet away now. His tie was loose as well, and Alec remembered running his fingers along it in the shop. How differently would it feel with Magnus’ warm body breathing beneath his hands?

To his surprise, Magnus’ expression softened. He sighed. “No, Alec…”

Alec flinched.

When had he gotten so used to being called something else by the doctor? He had always enjoyed and longed for those moments, for when his full name would whisper off of Magnus’ tongue like the promise of something more. Something only they knew. 

“It was my own fault. I expected…never mind.”

Expected what? Alec wanted to cry out, frustrated. What is it you want from me?

“Alexander…you were amazing back there.”

Alec swallowed back the tears threatening to form. More than a dozen people had congratulated him, including his mother and father, and yet the doctor’s words tugged at his heart the most.

Magnus was standing so close that Alec could count the individual flecks of glitter on his eyes. He wanted nothing more than to trace his cheekbones, to gently follow the path from his eyebrow to his chin; to feel his skin and just…feel.

On Magnus' finger, he suddenly envisioned a different sort of ring...

Stop this.

Stop this now.

Something inside him snapped then. 

Whatever he had been about to do – the line Alec had been seconds from crossing – was to be stopped now.

It was too much to ask for, this friendship; this tenderness of two yearning souls.

He would not offer hope to Magnus where there was none.

He could, and would not, break the doctor’s beautiful heart.

He would not be the cause of yet another scar. Knowing all the hardship that Magnus had been through, and all the hardships that their feelings towards each other could bring, Alec realised what he had to do.

“You’re right, doctor. I should return to my fiancé.”

Magnus’ soft smile faded in the blink of an eye, and Alec’s heart cried out.

He buried the pounding in his chest and levelled his chin with the best coolness he had seen his mother create. He hoped Magnus didn’t hear the crack in his voice. “As for whatever you expected, I cannot offer anything you deserve. I cannot be a friend to you. For your sake, mine and my family’s sake, I must always look to my responsibilities first and foremost.”

He was speaking like his mother and he hated it.

The garden seemed to fade, a little of its magic draining alongside Alec’s happiness. He then realised that he was giving something up. Was he giving up Magnus? The joys of his companionship?

It was worth it. If protecting someone he had grown to care about came at the cost of Alec’s own joy, he was willing to pay it. Just as he had done with Izzy.

“Why are you saying this?” Magnus asked. His gaze was steady, despite the quiver that his lip gave. The expression on his face was so strong; so heated with anger and frustration. “Who am I to you that you feel the need to defend yourself?”

“I have come to respect you a great deal, doctor.”

Magnus scoffed. “Respect.” He took a step back and placed his hands on his hips, daring Alec to challenge his anger. “I see.”

Alec closed his eyes, pained by the slow destruction of whatever he was surrendering. When he opened them, Magnus had been turning to leave, his eyes glistening with what Alec was distraught to realise were tears.

How could he have hurt someone like Magnus?

And why had he not realised there was even something here to break?

From inside, tauntingly sweet music whispered out into the garden. As he watched Magnus leave without a goodbye, Alec fought back the tears until he had re-entered the house.

In another life, perhaps they had shared a dozen more dances. Perhaps it was why holding Magnus had felt like a second home.

He now understood the romance of the lovers.

At least they had memories of their time together, to keep them company in oblivion.

In the garden, Alec had nothing but faded tulips and mocking melodies to keep him company in the darkness.

~ ~ ~

Isabelle gracefully played another few notes on the piano, enjoying the simple sound after a night of whirlwind orchestra pieces.

There was a gentle tap and Isabelle turned to see Lydia leaning against the open door, smiling at her friend. “Just thought I would come and say goodnight to my favourite Lightwood.”

Isabelle grinned. She loved when Lydia smiled at her like that, like she was waiting to whisk her off on an epic adventure.

“I won’t tell Alec.” Izzy promised, battling against the instant reaction to scoff at the wedding. She was training herself to bring it up more and more until, hopefully, one day, it would prepare her for the day itself. There always seemed to be a nerve it pressed against.

“Are you ready for your entrance exams next month?”

I think I’d rather talk about the wedding after all.

Izzy shifted on the piano stool, making room for Lydia as she sat beside her. Her friend’s fingers grazed a few keys, her gaze focused solely on them.

“I am, but I wish I wasn’t.”

“Explain?”

Izzy smiled. She loved this about Lydia. There was no hedging and cunning trickery on her part, just a genuine desire to be a good friend and try to understand others.

“Lydia, you’ve known what you wanted to be all your life. And you found a way to have everything you ever wanted.”

“Not everything.” Lydia said softly. Her fingers hesitated, playing a simple melody on the higher notes. “Not love.”

“You and Alec made a choice.”

Izzy winced. Her words had come out a lot sharper than she’d intended. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so…”

“It’s quite alright, Isabelle. And you are right, you know. Your brother and I did make a decision; one with our heads, not our hearts. We felt it was a sensible way to reassure our respective companies of our partnership.”

“Sensible. Heads. Companies. Lydia, this is marriage, not a job interview. I can’t understand why you would throw away a chance at real happiness and real love. What if you meet someone in the future and fall for them?”

Lydia’s head turned sharply. “It won’t happen.” She said firmly.

Izzy frowned, not understanding how her friend could dismiss love so quickly. “But…surely you can’t know that.”

“I loved someone once, you know that. John.”

Izzy swallowed and nodded. He had been Lydia’s high school boyfriend, a sweet and caring man who had passed away from leukaemia. It had taken Lydia a while to talk to her about him, but she was grateful to have been entrusted with the story. Only she, Alec and a few others knew.

“Imagining giving someone your heart, and planning a future with them – even planning the names of your three children – and losing them before you even get to say an ‘I love you’. I was so scared to live again, after John passed.” Lydia swallowed, struggling with something.

Izzy waited patiently, continuing her little melody to keep the mood relaxed.

“Isabelle, you came into my home that year and…you gave me some of your strength; your compassion was so liberating.”

Izzy’s fingers shook slightly, but she battled on and kept playing, smiling at Lydia kindly. The other girl didn’t meet her eyes though, and continued on quietly, “I loved having you there. Your friendship gave me something I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I missed you – I have missed you, a great deal.”

Isabelle had few words to describe the warmth enveloping her.

Lydia’s words mirrored her feelings so perfectly that all she could do was nod. “I missed you too. The year I spent with you was the closest I had ever felt to enjoying the family business.” She said honestly. It was a year of learning but also friendship and the spark of a bond she had come to think of as special.

Her thoughts unhappily turned back to another issue. “Lydia, what if I can’t be happy on this path?” Her voice cracked then. “Mom wanted this for me – university and then a placement here – but…I can’t see myself doing what Alec does. I’m not a leader in that way.” She sounded so miserable and worried that her friend would think her childish. To her surprise, Lydia placed a hand over hers and squeezed it in comfort.

She rushed on, thinking of Alec to ignore the gentle contact of their hands against the cool piano keys. “He enjoys the work, you see. I know my brother acts distant and reserved, but he loves reading and is incredibly passionate about the history and exploring the cultures behind it all. You saw how his eyes lit up earlier, on stage. He will be an amazing new president. Once he believes in himself as much as I do, Alec will be unstoppable.”

Her thoughts moved on, filled with sadness now. “If that’s not me, Lydia,” She placed her elbows on the piano, frustrated, and ignored the random explosion of keys. “Where do I belong?”

How she longed to confess her secret to Lydia; how she longed to dance and live in New York and ground herself at her own pace. Beside her, Lydia was so still and quiet for a moment that Izzy feared she had lost her attention. However, her friend angled herself towards Izzy and gently tapped her shoulder.

Lydia waited for Izzy to look back up and then gently ran a thumb under her chin, tilting her head upwards.

“Do you want to know what I think?” Her voice was huskier than Izzy had ever heard it. “I think you belong to yourself, Isabelle. You always have and you always will. Alec may be the future leader of your family’s company, but you could lead something else, something even more valuable.” Lydia smiled. “Lead yourself, Isabelle. Have faith and believe in your heart, which I know to be a good, strong and passionate one.”

Lydia’s thumb ghosted over her cheekbone, stroking her jaw before pulling back to rest on her bare shoulder. The touch was ice and fire all at once, calming and exciting at the same time.  ‘She was a wanderess, a drop of free water.” Lydia quoted softly. “She belonged to no man and to not city.’”

“The Wanderess, right?Izzy breathed. She had read the book a while back but didn’t feel the weight of its words and thoughts until Lydia had given them a new life. She willed her mind to remember the one quote she liked. “’Mankind has legs so it can wander’.”

The sentence was alive in the air, hovering and offering an alluring freedom.

Izzy found herself leaning in, closer to her friend, and was equally surprised when Lydia seemed to move with her and slowly tilted her head. Izzy mirrored the movement and-

Thud.

She jumped a mile when her elbow slipped onto the piano and produced a loud array of tuneless, low notes.

It shattered the anticipation immediately, the now lost moment tainted with awkwardness.

“I’m so clumsy!” Izzy laughed shakily, trying to hide how breathless she sounded. She turned to Lydia, hoping she would laugh and they could move on from whatever had been about to happen.

Lydia’s face was flushed bright pink as she suddenly stood and grabbed for her clutch. She wrapped her arms around her torso. “It’s really late, I-I should be going.” She kept her eyes trained on the floorboards, refusing to meet Izzy’s worried expression.

“Oh! Yes, of course! Let me walk you out-“

“No!” Lydia cried. She cleared her throat and added, “That won’t be necessary, Isabelle, but I appreciate the offer.”

I appreciate the offer? Izzy repeated to herself, feeling the hurt bubble up inside. My friendship isn’t a business deal.

She was once again offered the painful reminder at how Lydia’s head would always overtake her heart, whereas Izzy’s was forever bound to her heart.

No matter how reckless or excitable it was, Izzy refused to overlook the things her heart wanted.

Lydia’s words earlier had seemed so genuine as they reminisced on their time together last year. Was it all a façade to win over her future sister-in law?

Izzy flinched at the term. We will be family soon, of course. She sighed and watched as Lydia mumbled a hasty apology and fled the room.

She sat back down on the piano stool and sighed, feeling defeated all of a sudden. Her friendship with Lydia used to be easy. They would often play together and share things. Since their year together working, and since the engagement had been announced, Lydia had acted strangely towards her; sometimes warm and caring and other times awkward and abrupt.

Isabelle’s heart cried out in confusion. She was hurt, angry, upset and bitter all at once. Maybe she had misread the entire situation wrong and Lydia was simply being friendly and lending her a kind ear to rant to.

She suddenly felt stupid, her cheeks flaming as she thought of how she had almost leaned in and-

And what?

What had she been about to do?

Something instinctively had pulled her towards Lydia in that moment, but without the girl beside her, she was left feeling a slight tug towards a now empty spot.

The dance earlier now felt a lifetime ago.

Izzy stood, walked out of the room and headed upstairs. She hurriedly changed into a pair of pyjamas – white t-shirt and patchwork bottoms – and threw herself in surrender onto the waiting bed.

She sighed.

“Someone’s feeling dramatic.”

She sat up quickly, only relaxing when she saw a familiar, tall figure with a friendly grin and glittery eyes. “Hey, Magnus.” She noticed he was dressed in pyjamas also; baggy boxer shorts decorated with an array of cats and a heather-gray cotton shirt. “Are you retiring early from the ball too?”

He ran a hand through his now lose hair and nodded. “Guess I am.” There was a tiredness in his eyes that went beyond needing sleep to fix.

“Come sit with me for a bit?”

Magnus hesitated. He looked down the corridor and then back to Izzy, who playfully beckoned him with both hands. “I don’t offer my bed to just anyone, doctor.”

“Pretty sure there’s a porno that starts with that sentence.”

She laughed and he joined in, finally relaxing and entering her room. He closed the door carefully behind him and padded over to the bed. Magnus laid down beside her, keeping a comfortable distance, and turned to face her. “Hello.” He grinned.

“Hi.” She whispered back, feeling like a kid at a sleepover again. Unable to resist, she poked him in the ribs and laughed when he yelped; her laughter only ceasing when he returned the favour with merciless tickling.

After a few minutes they stopped laughing and sighed, both on their backs and staring up at the lilac ceiling.

Izzy flicked off the main light and turned on the bedside one, casting Magnus in a low light that made him look like a muse for a painting. He was all sharp lines and thoughtful eyes, but Izzy couldn’t quite read his expression, and so she poked him, lightly this time, in the ribs.

“Care to share what’s making your eyes do that squinty thing?”

“Your brother. What’s making your eyes do that doe eye thing?”

“Lydia.”

“Ah.”

“Ah.”

“Don’t repeat my ahs, Isabelle Lightwood. Be original, please.”

“Ohhhh.” She sighed dramatically, throwing her hands over her chest.

Magnus snorted. “I don’t appreciate the sarcasm, but I’ll take it.”

“I learned from the best.”

“Aw.” He sounded genuinely touched. 

He turned to her then and shyly kissed the top of her head. Isabelle felt a quiet murmur in her heart, the first happy feeling she had since leaving Lydia in the piano room. She was so glad for whatever fates had brought Magnus Bane into her family’s world. Though she was pleased that her father was recovering after so long, she was also selfishly happy for his friendship.

“Sorry about my brother. Whatever he’s done.”

“Sorry about Lydia. Whatever that beautiful bugger has done.”

Isabelle giggled. “Do you think she’s pretty?” She almost added ‘too’ but quickly stopped herself.

“She is very beautiful indeed. And nice, damn it.” Magnus rolled his eyes, as though he would rather have preferred Lydia to have been a hell beast.

Against her wishes, Izzy yawned, unable to suppress it. “Sorry.” She mumbled, hoping Magnus wouldn’t think she was bored. Tiredness was washing over her all of a sudden and her lids felt rather heavy…

“Goodnight, my dear.” Magnus said kindly. He drew up her covers and helped tuck her into the bed. The weight lifted as he stood to leave.

She quickly held out a hand. “No, no, no. You’re staying right here, doctor. I have a bad case of sadness and you’re the cure.”

“Are you quite certain you haven’t been watching bad pornos?”

A small giggle escaped her lips, but she felt the mattress creak as Magnus laid down next to her once more. She rested her cheek against his shirt, the material soft and cool against her flushed cheek, and whispered, “I don’t think either of us should be alone tonight, Magnus.”

She felt him tense, and feared he would pull away.

After a moment he relaxed and began to run gentle fingers over Izzy’s hair, his fingers dancing and weaving in and out of her lose waves. The movements were soothing and Izzy felt her body begin to unwind and shut down; her eyes closing.

“Goodnight, Magnus. Best doctor ever. No,” She corrected herself, half awake and mumbling. “Best friend ever.”

His chuckle vibrated in his chest as she felt him prop up a pillow and shift a little closer. “Sleep well, my little dreamer.”

Chapter Text

As the height of summer begins to fade into early fall, Magnus dedicated his time solely to Robert’s exercises, reading, helping Isabelle study and keeping his friends back home in the loop.

Catarina had joyfully announced that Ragnor’s book had not only been completed, but had several offers from different publishing companies. They celebrated one late September night over Skype, toasting from different countries but feeling as close as ever before.

Though he did still miss his friends greatly, and his regular patients and work colleagues – hell, he even gave Raphael a few texts to ask how his honeymoon had gone– Magnus had settled into the Lightwoods’ home and felt a part of it.

He was used to the natural, busy rhythm of the house; seeing Maryse often on the phone or buried in paperwork in her office. She always had the door half opened and he had begun to feel brave enough to knock and occasionally offer her a drink. She would always decline, but politely.

The ice queen is melting, he thought slyly. Pity the ice prince hasn’t.

Magnus had avoided Alec since the ball. Though they had returned to some sort of polite acquaintance, the next few weeks just felt awkward and forcefully polite. He didn’t ask any personal questions, and Alec didn’t probe any further than a greeting.

It was a stalemate of the worst sorts; neither one wanted to challenge the other.

Izzy kept to herself as well, much to Magnus’ surprise and yes, even a little hurt. Their time together had often been his crutch, and he had hoped that he was encouraging her as well. But apparently not.

He was aware that her entrance exams were in October, the next month, and so Magnus understood she was likely stressing over those.

No doubt Maryse hasn’t offered any motherly wisdom other than ‘don’t fail’.

One afternoon, he was in the exercise room with Robert, who had now reached over 300 stretches per day. Magnus had also been re-checking the strength of sensation and vibrations that the elder prince could feel, and was delighted that it was slowly improving. Ten years without exercise was a long time and yet the prince’s dedication was proving beneficial.

“I’d like you to stay until Christmas, doctor.”

Magnus froze.

He had, in a way, been waiting for this.

Robert clearly relied on his regular sessions as motivation, and Magnus wasn’t sure that if he left, the prince would slowly abandon his progress. He hoped that as the family had grown closer, the Lightwood siblings could continue in his footsteps, but he had yet to talk to Izzy or Alec about that.

“No need to worry about payment. You will be paid continuously.” Robert’s chest heaved as he lifted his leg again. His expression now softened. “I only ask that you stay a little while longer, for my family’s sake as well as mine.”

“How sneaky of you.”

Robert had the good graces to look sheepish.

Magnus sighed. The prince had played to his humanity, to the natural instinct in his heart; to feel loved and wanted, and Magnus could feel his resolve slipping. He thought of Alec and hesitated. Did he really want to stay for another two months if it meant walking around on eggshells? He longed to recover that happy friendship they had once shared, but then Magnus recalled the prince’s words at the ball and winced.

Are we friends? The prince had asked so blankly. And then ‘respect’ had said it all. Alec had barely given their time together another thought, and Magnus was damned if he was going to open himself up again to a closed off snob of a prince.

If Magnus considered it further, he knew deep down that Alec was neither a snob or thoughtless. He had seen the man’s kindness and his leadership and respected that too, but he was sure that something had begun to shift. And before he could work it out, Alec had shut him out completely.

It’s pretty clear I’m temporary for him.

“I will think it over.” Magnus said, finally answering Robert’s invitation to stay.

“Excellent. Oh, and you must definitely come to the wedding next year!”

Magnus felt his toes curl. “Ask your son first.” He said coldly.

He pictured it then, travelling back for the happy couple’s day. Lydia in white, Alec handsome in a suit and rigid like a solider. The Lightwood parents beaming as their son and Lydia signed away their chances at happiness. Only Isabelle’s expression, Magnus imagined, would be as hurt as his. He knew she cared for her brother and her friend and considered attending just to comfort her.

“…I hope you do not mind, doctor.”

Magnus blinked. He had completely zoned out.

“Mind what?”

Robert looked annoyed for a moment but then dismissed it. “I was just saying how-“

He lifted his leg a little too quickly and winced, but Magnus was there waiting to support it.

He hissed between his teeth and Magnus patiently waited for the prince to continue. “My son has a meeting this weekend, with an old colleague of mine, Jeremy Pontmercy, and as I have been boasting of your skills, he has asked for you to come up and examine him. He is concerned about a constant ache in his shoulder and I, well, I may have got a tad carried away and-“

“You offered my services?” Magnus finished dryly. He was pleased as well as irritated. It was clear from Robert’s guilty smile that he had been genuinely proud to show him off.

“Yes. Forgive me if I overstepped.”

Was the prince apologising to him, a lowly doctor? Magnus thought, ready to tease him. But he had risked too much with the prince’s progress to push too far with Robert’s personality.

They were very different and Magnus sometimes forgot this.

Unlike with Alec, who he always felt able to push and challenge, Robert was more fragile and required a little more tiptoeing around.

“As long as you swear to continue with your exercises? I will be asking Hodge.” Magnus warned, wagging a finger at him.

Robert held up his hands defensively. “I promise, doctor.” His smile widened. “And you will be staying at one of our lovely properties in Austin, I think you will find it simply beautiful.”

Simple? Magnus hid an eye roll. The Lightwoods did dramatic and extravagant, but never simple. He half expected another three story palace like this one, but decided that the surprise would be better.

“The pair of you will drive up to Austin on Friday, reading for Alec’s meeting on Saturday. And then you shall return home on the Sunday. See? No trouble at all, and then you’ll be back before you know it.”

No trouble at all? I doubt that. Magnus kept his gaze trained on Robert’s legs, his arms going through the motions of lifting and lowering as his head spun suddenly.

Something had struck him then.

Alec and I. Alone in a house together.

He wanted to curse Robert for putting him in such an unbearably close position to his son.

As if things could get more awkward…

Also, the journey from Texas to Austin was at least three or four hours. And Magnus couldn’t picture Alec as the fun, road trip type of guy. There would be no singing at the top of their lungs, or sharing secrets and playing silly games to pass the time.

I’m going to need a lot of reading books, Magnus thought grumpily.

“The property is often rented out to families for holidays, but it is currently unoccupied so I have asked for a cook to come in for the morning and evening and make food for the both of you. I hope that will be satisfactory.”

Magnus shook his head firmly. “No need for that, sir, I can cook. And I promise not to poison your son.”

Robert looked at him in surprise. “Oh, well…if you’re quite certain.”

Part of Magnus argued that having someone else in the house would ease the tension, but the mere thought of sitting opposite Alec and eating in silence was even worse. He could cook and prepare food so that they could eat at different times.

Petty but effective.

“I’m sure you’re running low on money.” Magnus muttered, unable to keep his frustration in check. Fortunately the prince didn’t recognise it, and merrily said, “Excellent! Then it’s all settled. I shall call Jeremy and tell him to expect my son and a magnificent doctor.”

Magnus smiled a little. “Appreciated.”

“Also,” The prince’s voice quietened. “Please do let me know about when you wish to leave.” He had stilled his movements and wistfully looked down at Magnus, who was struck by Robert’s sadness. “I…feel as though I will need a little time to prepare. As will the rest of my family.”

“You can’t escape me just yet.” He tried to tease, but his own voice dripped with regret, as though he had already made up his mind to leave.

~ ~ ~

It’s just three days and two nights.

Three days. Two nights.

Alone. With Magnus Bane.

And a meeting, Alec reminded himself, surprised that he had first thought of the doctor and then his work.

Since the ball, something had been missing.

He no longer felt as relaxed as he had been before. It was as though every little thing rubbed him up the wrong way, or didn’t seem to go as quickly or as smoothly as he wanted it too.

Even Maryse had suggested that he was working too hard, and told her son to extend the Saturday meeting to a short weekend break.

That was before Magnus had been invited along, and now Alec felt more stressed than ever before.

He had thrown a wedge between himself and the doctor and the desperation to fill it was tugging Alec’s heart away from his head. It was a dangerous feeling and it threatened his decision to stay away. He was clever enough to understand that something had been stirring inside him, and Magnus was vulnerable and brave enough to express his feelings.

Yet Alec knew the second he considered his feelings, he would have to reconsider his entire future. It wasn’t a simple case.

If he challenged everything, his plans and his engagement and how his family would look at him, Alec was going to need to be braver than any hero or heroine he had ever read about. He would need to be as courageous as Matilda; as rebellious and thoughtful as Robin Hood.

Could he become his own hero?

Alec’s thoughts then went to a Swedish play he had read recently, A Doll’s House. The protagonist, Nora, had made a shocking exit and abandoned her family in selfish pursuit of her own happiness, provoking controversy at its time of publish and questioned gender roles in the family.

Alec couldn’t bear to picture his family’s disappointment. If he ended his engagement with Lydia, Izzy might be dragged further into the business. He knew Maryse and feared she would turn her sights to his sister if Alec threatened disobedience.

A small, niggling part of Alec reminded him that he was soon to be company’s president. He would have the power and the choice of direction. What could his mother do then?

He couldn’t very well risk that position in the quest to follow his heart. Hearts had always seemed reckless and frightening to Alec, and yet every time his eyes gazed at Magnus, all he felt was wanted and alive.

He felt like Patroclus, ready to follow his Achilles to the ends of the world.

But I’m not a hero. I’m not a legend. Alec thought sadly. He was human and humans were messy and complicated and he was too confused to think clearly. The doctor’s smile entered his mind, so sweet and loving.

Alec gripped his fingers into his desk, pain shooting up his arm as he squeezed tightly.

Magnus is the treasure and I have no map to reach him.

I never will.

He needed to busy his mind.

He stood, left his study and quickly walked up to his room. Packing seemed like a sensible distraction to Alec, until he realised how close he was to Magnus’ room and had to force his legs to stay on their path. Alec then locked the door behind him, leaning his forehead against the door for a few moments as he gathered his breath.

Music. He thought desperately. I need music.

Turning to his old record player – Izzy was always teasing him for not installing a CD player or docking system for his phone – Alec grabbed for some of his records, flipping through them in frustration. Nothing seemed to suit his mood. He didn’t have many to begin with, only whatever his father had or what Izzy recommended him to listen to.

Alec growled and tugged out his phone instead, plugging in headphones and clicking on a playlist.

When they were younger, he and Izzy had borrowed a bunch of Bollywood films from their local library without telling Maryse or Robert, and Alec still remembered how the songs had struck a chord with him. Whether they were in English or Hindi, or a mixture of both, Alec loved researching the translations in his spare time.

Now, as he slowly packed, the lyrics to a song washed over him anew. He translated him without effort, having grasped a few languages growing up around books of all cultures and languages. He wasn’t an expert in Hindi, but he remembered the song with painful clarity.

He translated, and then wish he hadn’t:

I wish to clinch this dark night;

And hold this cold moon.

I wish to change the way there is a difference;

Between the day and the night.

It sung of change, and the impossibility of it. Alec continued to pack, the song haunting him.

So that there is just one work, love, for me;

My work be love, love be my work.

Alec pinched his nose between his fingers and exhaled. The music was toying with him, its rhythm slow and teasingly driven by tragic love. It was two lovers, pulled apart by family and chaos and blood. He shoved a set of pyjamas into his case and busied himself with packing far too many pairs of socks. Anything to keep from focusing on the lyrics alone.

This red coloured love; this sorrowful love.

This flawed love, this an adversary-like love.

My name is love, your name is love.

My name, your name.

Alec pulled out his headphones and threw them onto the bed angrily.

Fine, no music.

~ ~ ~

On the Friday of their weekend away, Magnus reluctantly made his way downstairs to wait for Alec.

He never thought he’d wish to avoid the prince. Until now. He had tried to finish Great Expectations in his room the previous night but found himself unable to read a page or two without his eyes glazing over. He would find himself taking none of the words in and have to start all over again.

By midnight he was exhausted and fell asleep to dream of faraway waltzes with far away princes.

Texas in the fall was still warm so he was dressed in an oversized tie dyed sleeveless shirt – in his favourite colours of purple, blue and pink. He paired it with dark grey leggings and his usual handful of long, charm necklaces. He’d picked out only a single scarf to wear, a skinny grey one with elegant, dark swirls on it.

No doubt the prince will be in a suit, Magnus thought in amusement.

How was it that Alexander never sweated or looked as red as a tomato? Guaranteed, it was growing cooler now, but he had spent the entire of the summer with the Lightwoods and had begun to wonder if they had superpowers that held the temperature at bay for each of them.

When Alec came down the stairs a few moments later and joined him in the hallway, Magnus hid a smile.

He was indeed wearing a suit, but it was a little more casual than his usual ones; instead of perfectly ironed pants, Alec wore a pair of slim, dark jeans paired with a pale blue shirt and a black waistcoat. A slim tie of dark blue was almost as slim as Magnus’ own scarf and he couldn’t help but feel they matched slightly in their array of blues and neck attire. Over the prince’s arm was a navy blazer jacket and Magnus found his gaze drifting over Alec’s muscular form and the way his chest pressed firmly through the soft material of his shirt-

“Are you ready to go, doctor?”

Magnus quickly reigned in his roaming eyes. He looked up at the prince and managed a polite smile. “Yes.” He said, praying his voice was as neutral as his expression. Inside, he felt anything but. He was on edge at the idea of spending three hours in a car with the prince; unsure if they were to spend it in awkward silence or friendly companionship.

Oh, well, Magnus thought as he opened the passenger seat to a smart-looking car, a Maserati Lease that looked as elegant as Alec. I did bring four books in case.

He hoped they could at least talk about books. Or his father. If they were to maintain a professional relationship, Magnus was at least going to try and make small talk. Even if it stabbed at his insides with the pain of wanting more.

Alec had pushed him away, for whatever reason, and Magnus couldn’t cross a line and risk even the smallest flicker of heartache again.

As they pulled away from the palace, Magnus sent a prayer up to whatever god was listening.

He prayed to understand why he had been given someone like Alec only to have him unavailable. Was he being punished?

Since the ball, Magnus had realised with slight horror that the prince had an unwavering power over his heart.

Taking everything else out of the equation, Magnus wanted to sing with delight. He had found a new possibility; a new person for a new him. But Alec was not just Alec, a man who laughed and whose eyes lit up when talking about reading and his family. Alec was also Prince Alexander, soon-to-be president of a large company. He was someone with responsibilities, like Magnus.

What do you do, Magnus thought, when the very someone who unlocked you then refused to turn the key all the way?

~ ~ ~

Five minutes in a car with Magnus Bane had already driven Alec somewhat mad.

He was frustrated with the silence. Why couldn’t they talk like they used to? He had changed something between them and he was so angered by his own decision to hurt the doctor.

Magnus reached into the bag by his feet and pulled out a book-

“Are you far into it?” Alec asked, so quickly that he gripped his hands into the steering wheel to keep from adding more. He winced at the desperation in his voice. Surely Magnus must’ve heard it. He kept his eyes trained on the road.

After a moment, Magnus cleared his own throat. “I’m not. And it’s really difficult to read so I hope it’s worth it.”

Alec bit his lip, wanting nothing more than to debate and discuss with passion. But as he focused on the long road ahead, he hesitated. Would it be fair to be as open as before? To lead Magnus down a path he had no intention – or no hope – of following?

But he felt too aware of Magnus, at how close they were, and felt the need to make the journey comfortable for the doctor.

“It’s not an easy book, you’re right, but it grows on you. Well, me…it grew on me. And I think there’s a lot of aspects we can all relate to.”

“Hmm.” There was carefully concealed amusement in Magnus’ voice, and Alec hoped it was positive rather than scornful. He bristled at the thought of Magnus looking down at him and then wondered why he even cared so much. He shouldn’t care, but he did.

“It’s only…I’m not actually reading Les Miserables, Alexander.”

“Oh, what- oh!”

Magnus had switched books when he wasn’t looking. Instead of a large hardback telling the story of a tragic revolution, the cover in the doctor’s hands was a black and white with the title ‘addicted to you’ written in bright, seductive pink. A couple was entwined tenderly on the front.

“We can all relate to sex addictions, hm?” Magnus raised an eyebrow at him, and Alec was glad that he was driving and couldn’t meet his expression, which was no doubt teasing.

“You tricked me.” Alec muttered, but he felt the corners of his lips threaten to pull into a smile. For a second there, the real doctor had reappeared and his Magnus had returned.

Alec tensed. He’s not my anything. He rid himself of that thought immediately and returned to the road.

“It’s actually really good so far, and there are real issues discussed; sex addictions, alcohol addictions, and healthy relationships between addicts.” He laughed then when Alec didn’t reply, but there was a tension in it and Alec feared it was annoyance. “Is it too beneath you to read an erotic novel?” Magnus asked coolly.

“N-no! Of course not. It’s just, uh, I’ve never actually read one before.”

Alec pictured reading an erotica novel around the house and cringed. Explaining that to his parents would be a nightmare. He may not look down on those types of books, but Maryse definitely would, despite the fact that their company had sold quite a few.

Business was business until it wasn’t, Alec thought.

He cleared his throat, ready to try at another conversation. He couldn’t let silence fill the air when his mind was still on erotic novels and sex. Especially when Magnus was sitting barely a foot away from him and smiling that enchanting smile.

“Oh, what’s this?”

“What?” Alec looked down as Magnus reached into the glovebox, his fingers closing around a plastic case…

“No.” Alec shook his head firmly. “We are not putting that on, doctor.”

“Your sister made this, right?” Magnus was laughing again, and if Alec didn’t like the sound so much he would’ve thrown the CD out of the window. “’Songs that Alec should know but doesn’t: an emergency mixtape made by Izzy ‘saviour’ Lightwood’. This sounds incredible. And oh, would you look at that; it’s almost three hours long!”

Alec cursed.

His sister had happily handed it to him the night before and he had forgotten to remove it from the car. Damn his thoughtless mind, because now Magnus was smiling across at him and waving the CD in front of his face like a kid at a candy store. He sighed and looked across at his passenger, watching as Magnus cocked his head and widened his eyes.

“Please, sweet prince?” Magnus begged. His voice was as sweet as honey, if honey was laced with the alluring aftertaste of whiskey. “Humour me?”

At least it won’t be silence.

“I surrender.” Alec took the case from Magnus, ignoring his cheer of delight, and shoved the CD into the surround system, closing his eyes and waiting for the worst mistake of his life to begin.

The first few songs were decent enough.

There was a classic rock song that Alec drummed along to on the steering wheel as Magnus threw his head back and forth, singing loudly. Alec suppressed a guilty grin as soon as Magnus began belting out ‘Summer of 69’.

Magnus was an incredible dancer. He could do stretches so obscure that Alec would fall over even attempting them. He had a lovely laugh and a sweet, wide smile, but Magnus Bane could not sing. Not even in the slightest.

He was musical in every aspect of his body; his fingers danced and he moved to the music with confidence and natural rhythm, but his singing technique lacked a bit of…finesse. His go-to style was to shout out the lyrics or hum along in a monotone.

It was so entertaining and charmingly innocent.

Alec caught himself stealing glances and smiling endearingly at the doctor throughout the journey, unable to help it. Magnus was so lost in the music and Alec was just as lost in him. In his unashamed happiness and playful gestures. He would point at random objects that caught his eyes outside, describing them to Alec and making up stories about other drivers during long, boring traffic hold ups.

Alec listened and nodded, not trusting himself to speak and ruin the doctor’s good mood.

He made a reluctant mental note to thank Izzy, who had clearly put together a mix that would keep them in good spirits. Though he had indeed not heard of some songs, he enjoyed the different styles. Some were contemporary pop, catchy and repetitive. Others were slower and tender, and he swallowed and fidgeted and ignored a great deal of the lyrics. They left him feeling awkward and flushed and was glad that Magnus was too busy dramatically miming them to pay attention to Alec’s nerves.

‘Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.

Take a sad song, and make it better…’

“You don’t know The Beatles?” Magnus asked, astonished.

Alec rolled his eyes. “Of course I do. I live in a palace, not under a rock. Izzy has a strange sense of humour. In fact, when we were younger, Jace and I once tried to make a music video to this song…“

He broke off in sudden realisation. Izzy, you minx. You planned this.

“Do go on, Alexander.” Magnus laughed, leaning over the gearbox and staring up at him with wide eyes. They twinkled with amusement as Alec lost all other thoughts for a moment as he gazed back.

Finally, he tore his eyes away and carried on. “Uh, we were about seven years old and Jace’s parents had gone out for the day, so we decided – we being he and I – to take one of his father’s many cameras and make our own music video.”

He laughed at the memory and then stopped suddenly. He hadn’t spoken about that day for a while and he realised why.

“Max was with us too.” He said quietly, wondering if the feel of his brother’s name in his mouth would ever feel normal. “We had to babysit him that day and we thought it would be fun if we filmed Jace dressing up as a woman and singing to Max, his pretend child. We wrapped Max in a blanket, found one of our old prams in the nursery and then walked around the gardens. Izzy came over later that day and she became Jace’s wife for the video.”

“Poor girl.” Magnus chuckled, and Alec nodded in agreement.

“Mom was so furious with us for stealing a pram, but it was worth it. Jace still has a tape of the video I believe. We hid in the garden for an hour afterwards, laughing and re-watching the video back again and again.”

He closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. It had been a lovely day but the memory was fogged by loss. Max had been young, following them all around and eagerly lapping up the attention, and Alec thought back to those days with fondness but also regret. “We carved our names into this cherry tree before going back inside. Our initials, I mean.”

Magnus gave a little gasp, as if something had clicked into place. “Oh,” He said, softly. “I had wondered who ‘ML’ stood for. I saw the carvings when I arrived but I never realised…” He looked across at Alec, his expression earnest. “I never offered my sympathies, Alexander.”

“Thank you, Magnus.” Alec replied, his voice hoarse. With the song playing in the background, his throat felt tight and scratched. He carried on, wanting to share this with the doctor. “We were always together and that was our mutual promise to each other. Wherever one of us went, the other would follow. We would always have each other’s backs.”

“You’re a wonderful big brother, you know that, right?” Magnus said.

Alec blinked against the sting of forming tears. He didn’t reply. He simply reached out, took hold of one of Magnus’ hands and squeezed, hoping he could convey his thanks silently. Fortunately, the road then grew busy and he allowed his concentration to return to driving for a few minutes.

The next few songs were upbeat and folkish, and as the mood lifted once more, Alec realised how clever his sister had been. Her song choices were no mistake, he had realised. She had purposefully ordered the slower ones in-between faster ones, giving them time to talk and time to relax and dance. Or for Magnus to dance and Alec to smile.

He didn’t know whether to curse her or praise her.

The next song began and Alec burst out laughing. Magnus turned to him in surprise, gaping at the sound.

Alec waved a hand as he laughed, trying to apologise for seeming like a madman. They had come to a slow part of the highway, giving him time to wipe away a few forming tears and laugh the surprise out of his system.

“There is nothing greatly amusing about Queen, Alexander. I rather like this song.” Magnus sounded partly amused and slightly offended.

As ‘We will Rock You’ continued to play, Alec tried to stifle his laughter.

“It’s…not that.” He said between laughs. “I was really stressed out over my final year of high school.” He began to explain, his shoulders still shaking. “Exams were coming up and I was practically ready to fling myself out of a window rather than sit them. Max decided that the best way to get me up for exam days was to change my alarm to a good song. He chose this one. Unfortunately Izzy then managed to accidentally connect it to the surround system in every kitchen and bedroom in the entire house, so everyone was jolted awake to Queen at six in the morning one day.”

 “When was this?” Magnus was laughing too now.

“Uh, it was just a few months before…the accident.”

He felt Magnus tense beside him and winced. He hadn’t meant to deflate the good mood, yet again.

Neither one spoke again for a handful of seconds, and then Magnus said, softly, “And then you gave up your future for the sake of your family.”

Alec inhaled sharply. Of course he had always been aware of the choices he had made, but the way Magnus said it was different. It wasn’t pity, or admiration, just complete respect and recognition of Alec; of his decisions and priorities. Acceptance flowed through every part of Alec, warming him all over.

“Thank you.” He said simply. “What’s the next song?”

~ ~ ~

The second the few notes started playing, Magnus smiled. He had lost count of the times he had played this during study sessions with Izzy. Perhaps she hoped he could share that story with her brother.

He listened;

Stealing kisses from your missus;

Does it make you freak out?

Got you fussing, got you worried;

Scared to let your guard down.

Magnus realised, in that moment, what Izzy had been doing. She was inviting them to open up to each other. She had chosen songs that would trigger memories and feelings, if they were willing and open enough to share them.

He almost didn’t, but he was still surprised by how much Alec had shared so far. He had talked about his brother and his childhood and the hard decisions he stood by. Would it not make sense to return the favour?

The song was quite clear in its lyrics, and Magnus turned his head and asked, “When did you realise you liked boys?”

“Random.” Alec chuckled. He ran a hand over the back of his neck but didn’t look too shocked. He then raised an eyebrow as the chorus kicked in;

Saw your face, heard your name.

Got to get with you.

Girls like girls like boys do;

Nothing new.

“Oh.” Alec said, dryly. After a moment, he relaxed into the question. “Maybe in high school? Because of how we grew up-“

“Poor?” Magnus offered cheekily.

Alec snorted, a delightful little carefree sound. “Busy.” He turned a corner on the road and carried on. “I guess I was never keen on anyone. I didn’t really have any childhood crushes or have access to celebrity crazes. I thought Jace was handsome but never really thought about why I didn’t think the same about Lydia, or my friend, Aline. Until high school began and the hormones kicked in, I just thought I was different. That my heart didn’t work like everyone else’s.”

Magnus thought about chiming in with words like ‘demisexual’ and his ‘sexuality is a spectrum, not black and white’ ideas, but he didn’t want to interrupt.

Maybe later, he thought.

“So I was partnered with this guy in biology, Elias, and that was the first time I felt attraction. Over time, it blossomed into something else. First love, perhaps.”

“Perhaps?” Magnus repeated slowly. He cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think it counts as real love?”

Alec just shrugged. “We dated for a bit but the year ended and we drifted apart. My next relationship was in my second year at university. Uh, his name was Lancelot…”

“You’re kidding.” Magnus gaped at him.

He waited for Alec to laugh and scoff at him for believing it, but instead he grinned across the seat and met his eyes. They danced with glee. “No, I’m completely serious. I fell for a boy named Lancelot. He lived in the dorm opposite mine and we passed each other a lot, until we spoke properly one night. My roommate, this irritating burden called John, threw a huge party in our room without telling me. So I grabbed a book and got the hell out, finding a quiet spot outside the building in the park outside. Next thing I know, Lancelot is standing in front of me, grinning and asking if he could have the seat next to me. Turns out he hates parties just as much as I did. So we spent the night talking and fell asleep on the bench. We got together pretty soon after that.”

Did you love him? Magnus wanted to ask. He wasn’t jealous – and if he was, what right did he have to be? – but he felt a strange tenderness towards the story, as though he had sensed a tragic ending and wanted to protect Alec from repeating it.

Alec drove quietly, waiting for the next traffic lights before leaning back in his seat and sighing. “I think I might have loved him, if he let me. But Lancelot was ironically unlike his namesake. He didn’t have a lot of faith in his dreams. He dropped out and I ended things a month or so later. My workload was increasing and he was moving to work halfway across the country, but…I remember his kindness. I remember the love he tried to give but couldn’t quite manage to. I hope he’s happy, wherever he is now, because I spent that first year falling in love for the first time.”

Magnus was captivated by Alec’s story and the way he told it. He spoke about people so carefully and lovingly, as though he was touched by those who had entered and given him some of their time and attention. He lit up, Magnus noticed, whenever he let himself open up.

“And no one since?” Magnus asked quietly.

Alec shook his head. “Uh, no. No one else. I…find it difficult to trust, I guess.”

“No, I don’t think it’s that, Alexander.” Magnus mused thoughtfully. He looked at Alec, really looked at him, and smiled. “I think you’re wisely selective.”

“I wish I could love like you do.”

Magnus sat back in surprise. “Whatever do you mean?”

In comparison to the prince, his love life felt exaggerated and unnecessarily complicated.

Alec had given his heart away twice, and both times ended it with good memories. Magnus had handed his heart out like pamphlets on the street, forever lost in desire and passion and having to pick himself up after the abrupt end.

“Love is my greatest challenge, Magnus. I crave it, I yearn for it more than anything in this world, and yet I’ve chosen to cut myself off from it. I chose the coward’s way out because I convinced myself that I could live without love if I had my family. You love with so much hope, Magnus. You once told me about your parents, and I haven’t been able to shake it. Anyone else in the world would use that as an excuse to turn against the world, and away from their humanity.”

Magnus couldn’t tear his eyes away from Alec. His words were spoken with a softness that was beyond his understanding. The fact that he had once thought the prince snobbish was shocking. He had always been proud of his capacity for love, but hearing Alec repeat it was…different. It held a different kind of weight; an intimate meaning.

The next song suddenly interrupted the silence.

It was a slow ballad, one by Journey. It took Magnus a moment to place it, and he was then confused at why Izzy had picked it.

‘Faithfully’? He frowned. He liked the song, sure, but it didn’t hold any significant memory for him at least.

It started, all slow and yearning lyrics and pretty piano notes. Magnus relaxed into the ballad, resting his head back against the headboard.

“Two strangers learn to fall in love again.”

Magnus kept his eyes closed as Alec’s voice flooded into the car. He didn’t say anything, or move. He just remained still and listened to his gentle singing.

“I get the joys of rediscovering you.”

Magnus felt his pulse quicken. Alec’s voice was so relaxed and tender, and he was sure the prince believed him to be asleep so he kept still. He listened as Alec sung along, glad his face was turned away as he smiled to himself.

Without meaning to, darkness began to close around him and he fell asleep to Alec’s singing.

~ ~ ~

Alec watched Magnus’ sleeping form at the next traffic light. He had worried that the doctor was fake sleeping to avoid talking to him, but when soft snores broke through his thoughts, Alec chuckled to himself and shook his head fondly.

He turned the CD off, switching it to some classical instrumental pieces that wouldn’t wake Magnus up. They only had about half an hour left till they reached the house, so he spent that time going over everything in his mind.

Overthinking had always been Alec’s best friend and he reunited with it now.

They had spent the past hours talking like friends and yet Alec’s stomach had been unhelpfully sensitive to certain things. When Magnus laughed, his stomach sent waves of pleasure throughout him, and when the doctor smiled and teased him, those damn butterflies came back.

He had even sung, something he only did in front of Izzy sometimes.

He had shared things about his past that only Jace or Izzy knew. Magnus made it so easy to do so. He was a good listener and knew when to comment and when to be silent. Alec was filled with questions to ask Magnus in response, and felt the childish urge to jolt the car and wake the sleeping doctor just so he could talk some more.

How mature, Alec scolded himself.

When they pulled up at the house, he turned off the engine and simply took a few moments to gather up his courage. What for? He didn’t know. But he looked at Magnus again and felt like the following weekend was going to test every ounce of his strength.

“Wake up, Magnus.” He leaned in and whispered. Touching him would’ve been less intimate. “Wake up.”

~ ~ ~

In his dreams, Magnus was surrounded.

He was in a castle and all around him danced ghostly figures.

He heard far away instruments, a haunted song without words, and turned to try and find it. He ran straight into Alec, who had a golden crown rested atop his raven hair. He looked like a king and Magnus bowed to him.

Dream Alec lifted his chin and brought his lips down, hovering just above his as he whispered, “Wake up.”

~ ~ ~

Magnus sat up with a startled cry.

His nose brushed something soft and hard and when he opened his eyes, they were staring directly into Alec’s hazel ones. He had sat up in the passenger seat so quickly that his nose had bumped into Alec’s, and they were now breathing each other in and frozen in place. Alec hovered over him, clearly having been about to shake him awake, but now he was careful not to press his body further into him.

Magnus was so close to Alec that he could count his eyelashes. They were full and beautifully long, and he counted them until he felt sane enough to breathe at a normal rate again.

Alec had clearly come around the other side of his door and was leaning in. He now pulled away and stood outside, offering a hand to help Magnus out of the car. He took it quickly, ignoring once again how much he enjoyed touching him, and allowed Alec to tug him out of the low car. They kept apart this time, but Magnus could still feel the ghosting touch of dream Alec’s lips, and the real impression of Alec’s nose pressed firmly against his own.

He was suddenly glad to be out of the car.

Needing the distraction, Magnus turned and examined his surroundings with a whistle of appreciation.

The house was, in a word, ginormous. It was even larger than Bishop’s Palace, but Magnus had been told it was used for joint family holidays and business retreats so of course it would be huge.

“Think of the parties.” He whispered happily, hearing Alec chuckle from behind. He heard the boot door open and realised that Alec was recovering their bags from the back of the car.

I should probably help, Magnus thought weakly, but he was still staring up at the beast of a house. He was going to need a map to navigate the ground floor alone.

It was a three-story, peach-coloured house with large windows and elegant, long columns. They had parked outside the front, and when Magnus stepped closer, he could see a large pool in the grounds below.

“How much is this worth?” He called out to Alec.

“Around nine million.”

Magnus whistled again, already snapping a few pictures to send his friends later. Alec cleared his throat and nodded for them to enter.

“Oh, sorry, let me take my bag.”

Alec shook his head. “I’ve got it. Could you open the front door though? Oh, uh…” He had the grace to look sheepish as he gestured to his front jean pocket.

Magnus bit back a flirtatious remark about foreplay and slid his hand into Alec’s pocket, quickly fishing out the key and ignoring how close he was to-

Don’t go there.

He turned away, pressed the key firmly into his sweaty palm and opened the door with his back to Alec. He swung the door open and stepped inside, his desire cooling as he took in the grand interior.

The entrance opened up to reveal two, fairy tale-worthy twining staircases, leading up into the first floor. It was all cream and gold and soft oranges and Magnus felt them calm his nerves instantly. The furniture was all dark wood and he ran his fingers across a piano in the corner and enjoyed the feel of its smooth oak cover.

He followed Alec, who had clearly been inside enough to treat the interior as normal, and felt his eyes widen again.

They passed through a lounge area, with enough space to fit his entire apartment, completely with a long white chair, golden-framed mirrors and large windows. The wooden floorboards contrasted the white walls charmingly and Magnus walked slowly up the stairs, appreciating the bird’s eye view of the lower ground until they reached a bedroom.

“Would you like this one?” Alec asked.

Magnus grinned, taking in the large space and beautiful double bed. “It will have to do.”

He took his bag from Alec and danced into the room, running his hands over the soft quilt and looking around. He knew he probably looked like an idiot, gazing around like a child, but when he caught Alec’s eye, the prince was smiling knowingly. “I’ll let you take it all in. The place has been stocked with food so I can make us something if you’re hungry?”

Magnus checked his phone. It was almost eight o’clock and he hadn’t even realised. He nodded at Alec. “That sounds lovely.” He was tempted to repeat what he had said to Robert, that he was willing to cook, but Alec cooking was an offer too good to pass up and so he remained silent.

As soon as Alec left, Magnus threw himself back on the bed.

He spread out, fanning his fingers against the cool sheets.

His skin was burning up and he hated why. All he could think about was how Alec had felt pressed against him in the car and in every other moment. He thought of the ball and how the prince’s hands had felt like precious objects he wanted to treasure forever. He thought of that day when he had swept popcorn off the floor and touched his hand in the dark, a gentle moment with small smiles and growing emotion. He thought back to that time when Alec had caught him, in the study, and he had gazed into hazel eyes and realised he wanted to keep doing so. He had walked away quickly, unsure and unsteady on his feet.

Too many months had passed by for Magnus to dismiss it all.

Too many moments and touches and smiles had passed between them for him to ignore and twist into something insignificant. It was definitely something when someone left you breathless just by reaching for their hand. It was worthwhile when someone opened up to you and made you want to return the favour. Trust and fondness had stolen Magnus’ heart from him, yet again, and he thought of Alec, downstairs and oblivious, and groaned.

Why was this fever so hard to burn out?

If only it was easy to dismiss and suppress.

The best solution was to run, Magnus knew this, and yet he didn’t want to leave. Part of him wanted to fight, but Alec’s pathway was clear. He had chosen to marry and chosen to cut out love – and even the chance of it – from his life completely.

Magnus knew then that he was in danger of offering up his heart to Alec.

He was so close to abandoning his fear and surrendering himself to whatever fate Alec condemned him to.

Be it heartbreak or not, Magnus was at the cusp of yielding.

He was on the battlefield, slowly taking off his armour as Alec rushed towards him. Now it was up to the prince to be his saviour, or his undoing.

Please don’t break me, Alexander.

~ ~ ~

Why won’t these damn eggs break already?

Alec growled in frustration. He enjoyed cooking. Well, he usually did, but his food was proving most unhelpful as he crashed around the kitchen and prepared their meal.

He was halfway through whisking when Magnus appeared in the doorway, looking tired but smiling.

Always smiling, Alec thought fondly.

“Do you need a hand?”

Alec almost dropped the bowl. He felt his cheeks redden, for no reason other than his brain making dumb connections that were more suited to a hormonal teenager.

“N-No, I don’t need a hand. My own are fine.”

He flushed again and resisted the urge to stab himself with the knife. Why was his brain being as unhelpful as the eggs?

“Very well.” Magnus leaned across the counter on his elbows, looking so angelic that Alec felt even more guilty that his thoughts were still being led by his crotch. He was glad there was a kitchen island between them. He definitely needed a moment to calm himself.

“Uh, can I ask you a few questions? I feel like I burned you out in the car.”

“Not at all.” Magnus smiled, watching quietly as Alec whisked the eggs and folded in the cheese and milk. “I enjoyed listening to you.”

Alec focused on the ingredients, reaching for a chopping board and starting to slice the tomatoes. The frying pan was already heated up and ready for the eggs, so he started on the vegetables and began with the questions he had promised to ask.

“Who is Camille?”

Magnus flinched automatically and Alec ceased his chopping to look up in concern. He quickly looked apologetic. “Forgive me, I…heard you mention her name once to Izzy. The door was open and I was walking by, but you…you sounded upset and I wanted to…” He stabbed at a tomato and juice splattered onto his hands. “Sorry.” He repeated lamely. “That was careless of me.”

He was interrupted when Magnus relaxed again and held up a finger to silence him. “You just caught me by surprise, Alexander. No harm done, I promise.”

Alec chopped the tomatoes more slowly now.

“She was the last person I loved. So far, I mean.” Magnus looked down at his hands, his voice quiet and laced with emotion. “I gave her my all and she said ‘no, thank you’ and walked away. That particular breakup took me a while to heal.”

Magnus paused and when Alec looked across at him, there were tears in his eyes. “I thought I was going to marry her, you see. I had a ring and a plan for the future and someone I wanted to always have beside me. But I wasn’t enough for Camille. She didn’t believe in love, or wouldn’t let herself believe in it. It was a weakness she was never brave enough to explore.”

Alec gripped the knife tightly, picturing Camille’s face in the next onion. He sliced it angrily, ignoring the stinging as his eyes watered. He rubbed a sleeve over his eyes and looked at Magnus. “Please tell me if you still love her.” He was upset at the thought. His voice cracked. “Please tell me you’re not wasting a single part of your heart on her.”

Magnus blinked in shock at the fierce emotion in his expression. He shook his head and looked down again. “No, but I did for a long time afterwards.” He had walked around to join Alec, now standing by his side and washing his hands in the sink. He grabbed another chopping board and began to chop the cucumbers as he spoke. “I thought if I changed, she could love me.”

Alec flinched. The thought of Magnus changing even the smallest part of himself for someone else filled him with horror. He said as much to the doctor. “Don’t.” He said quietly.

“Don’t what?”

“Change.”

Magnus smiled warmly then, and it did something to Alec’s knees that made it so he had to grip the edges of the counter. He looked away before the feeling spread to any other parts of his body that was less easy to control.

“What other questions do you have for me, Your Highness?”

Alec smiled. The use of his title had been sneered at and laughed about, but never used for such fondness before. It led quite nicely into his next question.

“Why do you call me Alexander? No one else does.”

Magnus dropped his knife so abruptly that Alec gasped. The doctor spun around, his hands on his hips. “You don’t like me calling you Alexander? Why didn’t you say anything before now? Damn it, I’ve been calling you that for months and you’ve hated it this whole time? Why, Alexa-Alec?”

Alec took one look at Magnus and the look of horror on his lovely face made him laugh out loud. He looked so anxious and he felt guilty then, and sobered quickly. He chuckled once and grew serious. “I don’t hate it, Magnus. I rather like it.”

“Oh.”

“Oh.” He repeated teasingly, nudging the doctor until he returned to his chopping.

“Well, then. I call you Alexander because it’s a beautiful name. It means ‘defender of men’ and I thought that rather appropriate.”

“And who is it that I defend, other than books?”

“There have always been incredible Alexanders in history. Alexander the Great, Alexander Hamilton, the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.”

“You expect greatness from me also?”

“No.”

Alec quickly hid his disappointment.

“I’ve already seen it.”

His cheeks warmed with pleasure. He turned to take the chopping board from Magnus and hesitated, sharing a quick look. As they worked alongside each other, Alec was surprised at how relaxed he felt. Here he was, without servants and cooks and even his family, and yet he had never felt so…right.

“Did you have any more questions for me, Alexander?” Magnus drew out his name slowly, the sounds rolling of his tongue with deliberate care. He said it like he now understood the meaning.

Alec shook his head and quietly asked, “How do you feel about eating outside, on the patio?”

~ ~ ~

Before they headed to bed, Alec asked him one more question, and Magnus couldn’t hide his unease.

“What will you do afterwards? When you’ve completed my father’s care?”

“Well, Robert could need years of therapy, but the routine I have worked out will allow him to completely his exercises with anyone now. So far, he can stretch for a good amount of time without weariness and I have high hopes that he can walk again one day. We haven’t tried testing his strength to stand, but I would like to before I leave.”

“Which will be…?”

“Before Christmas, probably. Robert asked me to stay until then but…I’m anxious to return to my clients. And my friends.”

“Do you miss them a lot?”

“Yes. They are my family, in a way, so though I do not fear losing their love, I do fear losing their memories. Sometimes I forget how Catarina grins at a bad joke, or how Ragnor struggles for minutes to pop the cork off a wine bottle. But I talk to them a lot so it makes it easier.”

“Sorry.”

Magnus frowned then. “What for?”

“Well, you’re over here and not with them. I always forget you are…”

Alone. Magnus felt the word whisper around him. He knew that Alec hadn’t meant it in a cruel way, he was simply observing.

“I do like it here.” He said honestly. They walked up the stairs together and paused at the corner of the first floor. Magnus’ room was here and Alec’s was on the floor above. Magnus thanked whoever had assigned those rooms. It would limit the number of stupid decisions he found himself dreaming about.

“I’m glad. Oh, and I’ll be heading out all morning but I’m meeting Jeremy at four o’clock, so I’ll pick you up a little before then?”

Magnus nodded. He was getting tired now, and was ready to retire for the night. Alec hovered and he wondered why the prince was acting so jittery. Was he waiting for a goodnight hug?

“Sounds good.” He managed to smile and gave a small wave of farewell. “See you tomorrow!” He winced at how sing-song his voice was, and quickly closed the bedroom door before Alec heard his groan of embarrassment.

He really needed to stop with the peppy friend act. It was only going to make the prince more uncomfortable.

The truth was Magnus had no idea how to act around Alec anymore, and the prince was offering no signs of pointing him in the right direction. He had tried flirty and friendly and passive. He was now stuck in that awkward middle ground.

Whatever they were, Magnus realised, was unfolding.

~ ~ ~

Jeremy Pontmercy was a friendly man, and Magnus shook his hand the following afternoon and quickly examined his injured shoulder so that the meeting could begin.

Turns out it was a simple muscle knot that Magnus diagnosed with a simple couple of physical therapy sessions to fix it.

“A few massages will sort that out.”

“Wonderful! Robert was right to boast of you, doctor.”

Magnus grinned. “Why thank you.” He nodded to Alec, not wanting to disrupt his meeting any further. “Good afternoon, Alec.”

“Are you heading into the market?”

Magnus nodded. “I can make my way back to the house, take your time here.”

“We normally head out for drinks afterwards,” Alec added. He felt awkward, torn between the man he was with Magnus and the business leader he was for work. “Do you need money for a taxi or…?”

Magnus felt a small stab of annoyance. “I’ll manage.” He knew the prince hadn’t meant offence but bringing up their differences always left him feeling frustrated.

“I, uh, only meant…” Alec cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “I will likely be home late then. Good day, doctor.”

Magnus walked out without looking back, feeling his heart protest a little too strongly for his liking.

~ ~ ~

The market was colourful and chaotic and just what Magnus needed to bury his thoughts into. He walked around the many stalls and just soaked in the busy early evening. He exchanged a few polite greetings with street seller and performers.

One in particular caught his eye; a group of dancers.

They had ribbons and powdered paint and were performing throughout the market on corners. Some would disappear into nearby alleyways and reappear at opposite corners a few moments later. He was fascinated by them and also thought of Isabelle, and that she might like to see their movements for herself.

He took out his phone and recorded them. He was so lost in his observations that he missed a tall, angry man stomping towards him. The man roughly lowered Magnus’ arm and snatched his phone.

“No recordings of the dancers!” He snapped coldly, the phone still in his hands.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any harm, it’s just my friend is a dancer and I thought-“

“I don’t care. Delete the recordings. Now.”

“Is this how you treat royal guests?” Magnus muttered, but he had already taken the phone back and was locating the recordings.

The man grabbed his hand again. “What did you say, sir?”

“I’m staying with the Lightwoods, you may have heard of them?” Magnus couldn’t help but let a hint of arrogance roll off his tongue. He smirked at the man, who now looked at him with wide eyes. His realisation filled Magnus will pride. “Ah yes, you know?” He boasted. Some of his embarrassment had turned into reckless arrogance, but he didn’t care. “I’m an esteemed guest of theirs, so I doubt they’d like to hear of how you just treated me, hm?”

The man looked at him thoughtfully and smiled, his teeth stained a sickly pale yellow. His eyes gleamed with something that wasn’t there before. Magnus dismissed it as excitement.

“Sir, please forgive me. I had no idea. If you are after a recording, why don’t you come around the corner to our dance studio? I can have my dancers show you a routine?”

Magnus smiled in delight. “That would be wonderful! Lead the way.” He thought of Izzy as they rounded the corner and headed down a few smaller roads. How pleased she would be that he had brought her back a little gift.

He was so lost in thought that he didn’t realise where he was.

Or how far from the market he had been led.

“Uh, how far is it-“

Darkness suddenly overcame him as rough hands pressed a cloth into his face. He struggled for a minute or two, kicking and flailing like a madman. But strong waves of dizziness won out, and the last thing he thought of, before passing into unconsciousness, was strange;

I wanted to dance with you again, Alexander.

~  ~ ~

“Look, you heard what the prince said on the phone-“

Magnus blinked, slowly coming to.

His head felt like a swarm of bees had relocated inside his brain.

He heard voices –arguing – and tried to catch snippets.

“This could still go dangerous wrong! What were you thinking, kidnapping someone without a plan? We never do stunts like this without a day’s notice.”

“But the Lightwoods. C’mon! This was too good to pass up.”

Magnus kept as still as he could. He was sitting on a chair, or what felt like a chair, and his hands had been tied behind his back and there was still rough material covering his eyes; likely a bag.

“One million, Valentine. One million! This will work, I promise.”

“It better.” One man grumbled.

Magnus heard footsteps pacing up and down and suddenly realised that Alec was the prince in question. He had been contacted, somehow, while Magnus had been blacked out.

Surely he won’t be stupid enough to come.

Even if they only wanted money, Magnus was certain that Alec wouldn’t accept any sort of deal with thieves and kidnappers.

He relaxed at that. At least one of them was safe.

Panic flooded his system then, as he realised the full extent of what had happened to him.

He was alone in an unknown place with unknown men, who might be murderers or crooks or criminals.

I’m not being paid enough for this, Magnus thought helplessly.

He wanted to laugh and then wondered if he was going mad. Perhaps he was. It made sense. It was the only thing that made sense in that moment.

Alec, don’t come for me. He silently begged. Please.

~ ~ ~

The money was easy to get.

Alec had it in under an hour and was ready and waiting at the location he had been given by the callers.

He thought of Magnus, tied up and bloody and beaten, and had smashed his fist into the hood of his car. His knuckles were bruised and a few were bleeding but Alec didn’t feel any pain.

Magnus.

His entire body was numb as he glared his way through busy streets, bought a duffel bag and stuffed the money into it.

He climbed in his car and headed out onto a long highway, finally pulling up at the location: a small highway far away from any civilisation.

Magnus.

It was five o’clock in the morning.

The kidnappers should have delivered the doctor half an hour ago.

Alec balled his hands into fists and let the tears pour out.

Magnus. Magnus. Magnus.

He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, trying to erase the entire day and start again. If he could just go back to that morning and….

What? Make sure Magnus didn’t leave the house?

Tell him….tell him….tell him that you…

Of course the Lightwoods had been threatened before.

They had had the occasional aggressive complaint or angry threats when they had purchased houses, but nothing like this.

Alec could hear his mother’s voice, warning him against being hasty. But he hadn’t even called his family. He had been at the bar with Jeremy when his phone went off.

He heard the words ‘Magnus’, ‘hostage’, and ‘money’ and his heart had leapt into overdrive.

That was at midnight.

It was raining now. Pouring. Alec cried until his eyes were red and watched the rain hit the car windows with loud, painful slaps.

It stopped. A car approached.

Alec forgot how to breathe when a man stepped out of the car, pushing out Magnus.

He stepped out of his own car, kicked the duffel bag towards him and called out, “The money is there. Take it and return my guest to me.” His voice was dangerously low and he feared for the kidnappers’ lives if they had as so much scratched the doctor.

It had stopped raining now. 

Magnus stumbled over, his eyes a little dazed but otherwise unharmed, and fell into Alec’s arms. He clung tightly and Alec let him, keeping his eyes trained on the car as it pulled away and disappeared back up the road.

The sun was about to rise.

Alec held Magnus for a moment and then gasped, suddenly feeling his breath return to his body in a sharp, agonising realisation that Magnus was alive.

He gently pulled back, tilting the doctor’s chin and examining him with wild movements and wide eyes. He had stopped crying but his voice was still hoarse. “I will kill them. I will find whoever they were and make them wish they were dead for what they did to you.”

Magnus seemed uninjured, but Alec knew he was going to damn well check all over and beat the shit out of the kidnappers. He would find them.

For now, he hugged Magnus tightly and listened to the stillness. All was calm. Quiet. They were both soaked with rain but Alec didn’t care, clinging and shivering with Magnus as they refused to let go of each other.

~ ~ ~

“My hero.” Magnus heard himself say.

His voice was weak and he winced at how much he was trembling. He pulled back and tried to stop shaking. He couldn’t look at Alec. He felt so stupid and ashamed at how arrogant he had been, and the dangers he had put Alec in.

He winced, not wanting to even consider at how much he’d just cost the Lightwoods.

Alec looked at him with surprising gentleness for someone who had just surrendered a million dollars for an ignorant doctor with a big mouth.

“They didn’t give you anything? Any drug you can remember? Your pupils seem healthy…”

“Other than chloroform?” Magnus laughed. It sounded like a breathless sound of manic relief. 

Alec suddenly reached with trembling fingers and pushed up Magnus’ sleeves. He held them in his hands so carefully, as though they were made of delicate china. He stopped, lowering his head and staring at his bare arms, breathing heavily. Seeing no sign of whatever he had fearfully been searching for, the prince exhaled shakily and whispered, “Fuck.”

“My sentiments exactly.” Magnus tried to joke, but he felt ready to pass out. Or cry. He had enough of passing out for one night.

Alec dropped his wrists then, as though he had been burned. He didn’t look at Magnus. He only stalked away and ran a hand through his damn hair.

How long did he stand in the rain waiting?

His attention suddenly snapped back to the money. And what he had risked the Lightwoods.

“Shit. Alec, I’m so, so sorry. I can’t even….” He apologised, his voice filled with misery. He wanted to sink onto his knees and cry, partially for himself and partially for the hundreds of different ways this could’ve gone wrong. “You should’ve just let me there. I’m not important. All that money-“

Alec spun around so quickly that his words faded away. There was a wild look in his eyes. He had never looked so dangerous and beautiful. “You think I care about the money?” A strangled laugh escaped his lips. “I really don’t. I would have given them a lot more than a million if it meant getting you back to me, Magnus.”

“I guess it would be pretty awkward if you returned home with a dead doctor.”

“Magnus, please,” Alec choked. “Don’t joke around with your life.”

He looked across at the prince, his heart racing with a mixture of fear, tenderness and confusion. The emotion on Alec’s face was like cracked glass; it was like Magnus had broken something inside him by insulting his own worth.

The rain had completely stopped now, leaving the road glistening and gleaming with small puddles.

Magnus stared down at one of them and then looked up at Alec.

The prince wore only his white shirt, unbuttoned to the collar bone as though he hadn’t been able to breathe and had furiously ripped it open. Magnus stared at the way his wet shirt clung to him. Heat sparked him, burning him from the inside out.

He counted the small water droplets on Alec’s lips, his fingers longing to gently touch them.

“Why?” Magnus whispered.

Alec cried out in exasperation, “Why what?”

It took him a moment to remember what he had asked. The prince’s messy hair longed to be touched, Magnus thought. It was an unhelpful thought and only made his mind even dizzier.

“Did you at least put some sort of tracker on the bag?” Magnus asked. He was regaining some of his logic now, and he was not only embarrassed, but remembering what Alec had done for him. “I feel like you got the wrong end of the deal here. A doctor for a million dollars?”

“Are you really going to stand there and-“

“And what, Alexander?” Now it was Magnus’ turn to raise his voice. “Act like I didn’t just lose you a shit load of money and not only risked my life, but yours too?”

He was angry – no, pissed – at himself, at the world and at everything unspoken. “What if this was a trap, hm?” He demanded.

Reason told him that he was being unfair to the man who had saved his life, but Magnus was so frustrated and burning up like a fever. A thousand godawful possibilities flashed into his mind as he stared at Alec.

“What if you had come in, without backup, I might add, and they had simply shot me in the head and then turned the gun on you too? You’re lucky they were just thieves in the right place at the right time otherwise…”

He shut his eyes tightly then. Images of Alec lying dead on the highway made him feel sick. He dug his nails into his thighs and winced at the pain.

“I didn’t care.” Alec replied. His voice sounded so far away, as though he was in a dream world and unafraid to speak the truth. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“Clearly.”

“Are you…mad at me?” Alec looked as shocked as Magnus had ever seen him, but he didn’t care. He threw his hands into the air and shouted, “Damn right I am! I’m fucking furious with you, Alexander. You risked yourself for nothing.”

He knew he sounded insane, but images assaulted Magnus’ sanity; Alec bleeding, Alec shot, Alec stabbed and beaten and dragged-

He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. How could he convey to the prince how important his life was?

“For you.” Alec said quietly.

“What?”

“I risked myself for you, and I would do it again without another thought.”

Magnus flinched.

In the back of his mind, somewhere, he ought to celebrate. Alec was opening up once more.

But he was still stuck on the thought of Alec being hurt because of him. He couldn’t let it go and felt tears prick at his eyes. “Why? I’m not worth as much as you. I don’t have a legacy to live up to. I don’t have a company to lead, or a family to depend upon. If I disappeared? The world would never know, or care.”

He knew he sounded bitter and frustrated. All he wanted to do was curl himself into a ball and weep for a year, but his heart was bleeding out into the road. And all because Alec had rushed to save him without a care for his own life.

“Alec, how could you have been so stupid?”

You’re the stupid one, he told himself. He had been the one to get kidnapped for god’s sake.

“Do you really think that low of yourself?”

Magnus paused.

The sky was growing lighter, turning from sad gray and beginning to transition into the colourful morning approaching. Pale blue and purple bruised the sky. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds.

“No.” He said finally, and truthfully. He sighed. “But I learned a lot time ago that knowing your own value is the most important thing in this world. And in the grand scheme of things, the world cares more about you. And that’s fine. So it’s not up to you, someone who is about to take over a publishing company, get married and change the goddamn world-“

“Be quiet.”

Magnus gaped.

Alec took a step closer and the sky seemed to take that step with him.

It was warmer now, and faint pinks traced the sky, teasing the approaching sun.

There was maybe ten or eleven feet between them now.

Alec held out his hands in confusion. “How can you see yourself as so worthless? Magnus, look at you. Here, helping to save stubborn princes and saving the lives of everyone you meet by showing them that the best thing in life is to embrace what makes you unique.”

His voice was raised, but not angry anymore. It was soft and begging for Magnus to hear him, to really hear Alec. “You smile more than anyone I have ever met, and I hope you never stop. You have suffered enough for many lifetimes and yet…you never give up. You are an inspiration, Magnus Bane. Your past has never defined you and…the world is a better place with you in it.”

He stepped closer and Magnus could see the muscles clearly beneath his wet shirt. “And don’t you dare say that you are worthless, don’t you bloody dare, because you are worth everything to me, Magnus. Everything.”

Alec gasped and froze. His cheeks were red and his eyes were wide.

Magnus reached out a hand and stepped closer.  “Alexander…”

His heart was consumed by all of his words.

Everything he had confessed was a prayer he had been longing to hear, and he repeated it over and over again and readied himself to return the favour.

Alexander..,”

The prince stepped back a few paces.

He turned around at the same time as Magnus; both needing a moment.

~ ~ ~

"But if we're strong enough
To let it in
We're strong enough
To let it go."

Two figures stood together on a rain-soaked highway.

The sun is seconds from appearing.

The sky is pink and purple and ready to burst into colour.

With their backs to each other, they both breathe heavily for a couple of seconds.

They are battling demons, desperately trying to shake them off and let go of all the fear and doubt forever.

Alec turns around.

Magnus turns around.

And as they walk towards each other, meeting in the middle, the sun comes up and out of hiding; spilling warm, golden light over the highway and the pair.

They share a kiss as sunlight pours and spills over the sky, painting it with every colour of their freedom.

There is passion in the pale pinks underlining the fierce loyalty of the blues. Hasty orange streaks the top of the sky, mirroring the way their lips chase each other’s, over and over again until they shake and tremble beneath each other’s hands.

Magnus clings to Alec’s open shirt, and he pushes away all the quotes about a kiss feeling like a desperate man drowning.

Because this feels like rebirth.

Alec’s hands are in his hair and his are on the prince’s waist as he tilts his chin up, eagerly kissing him again and again as they stand in the early morning light.

His teeth tug at Alec’s lower lip and the gasp he releases feels like heaven. Warmth seeps into his bones and his skin, both from the sunlight and Alec’s firm hands; now wrapped tightly around the back of his neck as they press closer together.

It is red and yellow and gold.

All distance is banished as their two souls become one.

Magnus will feel this kiss in the next life.

~ ~ ~

Alec could count on one hand the number of people he had ever kissed.

Adding Magnus to that count felt like a betrayal.

How did you count something that freed you from your own prison? Something that brought you joy and fear and dizzying bliss.

Alec had felt Magnus’ lips on his and all had made sense. Every small, strange piece of him that hadn’t quite fitted before now seemed to slide into place.

If people were mysteries, Alec decided that he had found the answers to every riddle in Magnus’ touch.

He wanted to touch him until the world burned down.

They had kissed on that highway for what felt like a lifetime.

Time had danced around them, allowing them a portion of time to simply exist and live in the same space. 

Alec had sat down on the car hood and pulled Magnus into his lap; kissing him slowly and quickly and desperately.

There was no hesitation or confusion.

They both understood, in that moment, they needed to be as close as possible.

When the first car appeared in the distance, they realised, sadly, that they needed to return to the house.

During the ride back, Alec drove slowly as Magus rested his head against his shoulder and traced slow circles over his bruised knuckles. The doctor brought them up to his lips and brushed tingling kisses on each one, the tenderness bringing tears to Alec’s eyes.

They hadn’t spoken a word until they reached the house.

Alec had turned off the engine and waited. For something. He waited for Magnus to laugh and make a remark about the hero stealing a kiss from his damsel. He waited for the doctor to shout at him again, to cry out in frustration or fear for his life again.

Instead, silence.

They walked into the house, side by side, and Alec felt too tired to do anything other than reach for Magnus’ hand and slip his own into his.

As long as he could hold Magnus’ hand, he felt he could get through whatever was coming.

They slept for most of the day, curled up on the sofa together, with Magnus’ back pressed against his chest as he held him tightly.

There was no way in hell Alec was letting go of him for a damn long time.

Chapter Text

Magnus was woken to the sound of his phone ringing.

It was gently playing Belle and Sebastian’s ‘there’s too much love’ – the assigned ringtone for his other favourite Lightwood.

He lazily reached for it, realising that he was back in his bed.

How did I get here?

The last thing Magnus remembered was falling asleep to the peaceful rhythm of Alec’s steady heartbeat, pounding through his shirt and echoing around his chest.

He had felt warm and solid and safe.

Now he felt…

To avoid thinking about a certain kiss that had stolen his heart, Magnus answered the phone.

“Hey, you! Thanks for keeping me in suspense.”

He winced against Isabelle’s peppiness. He felt tired and drained still, despite spending the entire day in bed. He assumed this by looking outside and watching the sun begin to set in the early evening sky.

“Sorry, Izzy. Long day. Actually two long days.”

“You sound tired.” She giggled. “Have you been…in bed all day by any chance?”

“I protest against your tone, Isabelle Lightwood. Little minx. I have been sleeping. So has your brother." He groaned at his own accidental implication. "In different beds, I might add. In different rooms.”

She didn’t need to know about their sofa spooning, Magnus thought quickly.

He still felt Alec’s arms around his torso as they slept together, clothed and naked all at once.

Glancing around, Magnus realised that there was a post-it note on the vanity table.

As Isabelle asked what he thought of the house, he padded over and read it;

Magnus,

You seemed fast asleep so I moved you somewhere comfortable and didn’t wake you.

He smiled at that, and wondered what Alec had been thinking as he carried him to his room like a guardian angel.

He read on;

Please don’t worry about my absence. I have headed out to meet with Jeremy again and we are working out a plan as to locate your assailants.  

You are safe here. I promise. I have the house being watched by two security teams as well as every alarm set in the house. You know my number. Call me anytime and I will return as soon as I can.  

Stay safe.

Please.

-Alexander.

Magnus ran his fingers over the note, noting how the ‘please’ had been added in haste, as though part of Alec’s soul was dripping onto the page; slipping past his mask.

“Magnus? Are you there still?”

“Oh, shit. Sorry, Izzy. I’m just a little distracted.”

“Is everything alright? Mom said Alec didn’t call last night when he said he would.”

Magnus paused.

If Alec had deliberately not told his parents about the kidnapping, perhaps there was a reason why.

And who was he to make matters even worse?

“Just a busy day for Alec, that’s all.” He hated lying to Isabelle, so he tried to simply remove some of the truth without having to lie. “We both did. I’m sure someone will explain it soon.”

“That sounds cryptic. And not romantic.”

“Romantic?” He frowned. “Does this have to do with that CD you made? Which, by the way, I figured out was a little scheme of yours to get us to talk again. Clever.”

“Thank you.” He could practically hear Isabelle grinning down the phone, not in the least bit apologetic or guilty.

“Did he sing then?”

Magnus sat down on the edge of the bed, still holding the post-it note. “Hm?”

“Did Alec sing along?”

He thought back to yesterday, and how just before he had fell asleep, Alec had softly sung a few lines of a Journey song.

“Uh, yes. Yes, he did. Why?”

Isabelle was quiet for a few moments, and then she said, softly, “He hasn’t sung since Max passed away.”

Magnus said goodbye, with the promise of calling later on or before they left, and gently sat the phone down on the table.

He looked at the post-it note again.

Stay safe.

Safe: protected, out of anger, free from harm.

Safe was more dangerous than anything Magnus had ever experienced.

He was caged in safety, unable to breathe.

Safety had left him with a heart ready to burst and tears ready to fall.

If Alec wanted him to be safe, he would be asking him to die.

~ ~ ~

Alec hovered outside the door.

It was evening now, and he had spent his time from midday till now speaking with the police, the FBI and even the Lightwood family’s private security. He didn’t care about getting the money back, he told them. He only wanted the men found and locked away so they couldn’t do this to anyone else.

He then pulled rank and made sure the incident was kept out of every paper and out of public ear.

He needed to handle this without a press meeting and act like a leader.

Luckily, he had the entire day free of meetings and he was glad to have agreed to extend the trip to a weekend break after all.

When he walked inside, he didn’t expect to see Magnus up and cooking dinner.

For some reason, Alec had assumed that people who had been kidnapped the night before liked to laze around and enjoy being alive.

But maybe that was what Magnus was doing.

“Hi.” Alec said quietly.

Magnus looked up at him. He smiled. “Hey.”

They stood like that, watching the other, and then Magnus broke the moment and sighed. “So I have a rather important question for you, Alexander.”

Please don’t ask if I regret kissing you.

Kisses. He reminded himself. Plural...

Alec placed his bag on one of the kitchen stools and busied himself with looking at the ingredients Magnus had begun to prepare.

“What is it?” He stared at the assorted onions, tomatoes, minced beef and spaghetti and worked it out quickly.

“Do you like spaghetti, Alexander?”

Alec felt a smile tug at his lips for the first time that day. “I do.”

There was a weight to those words that he hadn’t meant to add, but he did anyway, and Magnus must have heard it too.

The doctor looked across then and Alec noticed the worry lines on his forehead had smoothed out. The circles under his beautiful eyes were gone too.

“Then get your cute ass over here and help me with the sauce.”

~ ~ ~

Izzy felt restless after speaking to Magnus on the phone.

She had felt a change in the air and her friend’s unusual secrecy brought it to life even more. Things were happening and she longed to make her own decision.

So she went to the one person who frightened her the most.

“Hi, Mrs. Branwell. Is Lydia home?”

Mrs Branwell, a tall and pleasant woman who Izzy had grown to like over their year together, smiled at her from the doorstep and nodded. “Yes, she is, dear. But I’m afraid she’s a little preoccupied.”

“Oh, I can come back.”

“Let me see if she can spare you a moment. One second, sweetheart.”

Izzy waited patiently, drumming her fingers against the handrail. She had wanted to come here but wasn’t quite sure why now that she was here. She wanted to speak to Lydia about her upcoming audition. And about the exams she had sat last week and was sure she had passed with flying colours.

She had been quizzed by Maryse as soon as she returned home, asking her about all the questions she could remember and the answers she had given.

Izzy realised how disappointed she was to have passed.

She would get into both Stanford and Harvard and begin in one of their January term programs. Studying business or classical literature or something else that required her full concentration and zero freedom.

She was caged, or about to be.

Another woman came to the door, a house attendant, and asked Isabelle to follow her through to Lydia’s room. She left Izzy at the door, who hesitated and knocked.

When it swung open, she stepped inside.

“Uh, one second!”

It was too late. Izzy was already inside. She stared as Lydia stepped out from behind her dressing screen.

She had always thought Lydia was beautiful. She had compared her to a fairy-tale princess, and to a warrior ready to save her kingdom as well.

But this was too much. Too many waves of emotion hit Izzy at once. 

“Is that…the dress?”

“Yes.”

The gown was simple and elegant, narrowing slightly at the waist and dipping into a simple sweetheart neckline. It was white, with golden swirls etched prettily into the bodice.

But it wasn't what had taken Izzy’s breath away.

What frightened her was how heartbroken she was that Lydia would be walking up the aisle towards the wrong person.

“What do you think?” Lydia asked softly. Her eyes were wide and she seemed to hang on every move Izzy made.

If she was waiting for permission, Izzy thought, she was not going to give it to her friend. Not now, and not ever.

“Oh, and also...while you're here. I must ask you; will you be my maid of honour, Isabelle?”

She stared at her friend.

There was no honour in what came next.

“No.”

“Oh. I just thought…you are special to both me and Alec, so I thought…”

“Thought what? That I would support you and Alec throwing away your happiness? Do you know he has feelings for Magnus?”

Lydia flinched. A look of shock crossed her features, but her next words surprised Izzy. “Of course I know that. I’m not blind, Isabelle. But Alec is an adult, as am I. We know what we are giving up.”

“How can you sound so…so pragmatic about this?” Izzy cried. She was so frustrated that Lydia was just standing there and arguing without emotion. “You two are so similar. You’re both willing to throw everything away and for what? Making a work commitment? It’s not worth it, and you know it, Lydia. Please…”

Don’t do this.

Isabelle had never begged in her life. She had never wanted to. Until now.

She wanted to beg for herself, and for her brother and for her friend too. She wanted to curse at how unfair the situation was. And how easy it would be to hurt someone she cared about in her selfish words.

Izzy straightened and pursed her lips stubbornly. “Fine. Marry Alec. And the two of you can be a happy couple with happy lives and happy children-“

“Children? Isabelle, no one said anything about a family.”

“Is that not what married people do? Have babies.” She sounded bitter now. Stubborn and bitter and so cruel. Her tone was cynical and dripped with distaste. “I’m done wasting my time and I will not waste my life how you and Alec are so intent on doing.”

She was quiet now, and sad. “I told you once that I didn’t know where I belonged. Is it here, Lydia?”

If Izzy was honest, she didn’t really know what she was asking.

Was she asking for time? For Lydia to realise the mistake she was making and thank her?

Isabelle was just a confused soul, and when Lydia didn’t reply, she stormed out of the room and rushed out of the house.

She heard Lydia cry out her name, but she didn’t turn back. She simply walked and walked, ignoring everyone and everything until she had made it home half an hour later.

She locked herself in her room.

The dress she had worn the night of the ball was still hanging over her wardrobe.

She had taken to staring at it and smiling as it filled her with warm memories and dancing with Lydia.

She tore it down now and wept. She wept for the life of happiness that was slipping from her reach. She cried for her little brother, who had died before he knew what it was to love someone so passionately. She cried for Alec and for Lydia and her parents too.

And then she wept for herself.

How many tears does a body hold? A thousand? A million? An infinite amount?

As she held the dress to her, Izzy believed that she was made up of only tears.

Pieces of her heart swam around inside her body, carried along her bloodstream as she cried.

Perhaps she could drown in her tears.

~ ~ ~

On the car ride home on Sunday, Magnus asked all the questions he had been too scared to ask before then.

“Did you kiss me because you felt bad?”

“No.”

“Do you think I was in shock and kissed you because I felt grateful?”

“No.”

“Do you know that I want to kiss you again?”

“Yes.”

“Can I?”

“On a speeding highway? I’d like to see you try that, doctor.”

“Tease.”

They both laughed and Magnus had never felt so happy to laugh.

He laughed out his anxieties and the shock of the kidnapping and the kiss. He hoped Alec was laughing because he was happy too. He looked over at the prince and caught him staring, his cheeks flushed as he smiled.

He was laughing because I was.

He grew serious, knowing that other questions couldn’t be avoided.

Communication was key and Magnus didn’t want to avoid anything that would bite him in the ass later.

“Why didn’t you involve your parents?”

“Because they were there and I was here.” Alec replied simply, as though his answer was obvious.

Magnus gestured for him to carry on.

“Because I was responsible for you and I didn’t need any distractions. You were gone and I was ready to hire an army to find you. But I thought it through and decided a million dollars was easier to extract than risking your life. And yes, there was a tracker on the bag that I’m sure the police have already tracked down. I wanted this kept quiet, for you.”

Magnus swallowed. “For me?”

He wasn’t used to this side of Alec, the side that spoke surely and confidently and without restraint. He hoped it wouldn’t go away anytime soon.

“Do you want your name in the papers for others to connect you to the family? For any other criminal to make the connection between you and the Lightwoods and take you hostage again? You see, Magnus,” Alec’s voice was strained with emotion. “I really don’t want a repeat of that.”

“Sorry. Again.”

“Only you would apologise for being kidnapped.”

“I was boasting. About you. It was stupid and irresponsible.”

“Rule number one.” Alec suddenly announced. “No blame on either sides for the incident.”

For once, Magnus was silent. He nodded.

“Rule number two. Let me deal with my parents. I have to tell them myself and take whatever they throw at me. It will not be your burden to bear.”

“Uh, no. No can do.” Magnus shook his head. “If Maryse wants to behead me, I can’t say I blame her. I put her son in danger. She will be pissed and I will take it. Agreed?”

Alec’s hands tensed on the wheel.

“Family is everything to you Lightwoods. If I’ve learned anything since my stay here, it’s that. So please, let whatever needs to come out, come out.”

Magnus winced at his dumb choice of words.

He opened his mouth to stumble out an apology when Alec chuckled.

“Very well.” The prince said. “I’ll let Maryse come at you with all her anger.”

“I’d accept a shield, though.” Magnus said quickly. “Or some armour will do nicely.”

“A shield. I can arrange that.”

“Good.” He was quiet for a moment and then turned to Alec in his seat and solemnly asked, “Anymore rules, Alexander?”

“Just the one more.”

Alec paused at a stop light and turned to face Magnus. His eyes were vulnerable but his expression was fierce. “Do not ever question your worth again. Not to me, to yourself, or anyone. The world needs you. I need you.”

Magnus squirmed under the intensity of Alec’s gaze.

He was never one to look away first, but this time he did. It was all too much and he thought he would burst into colour and slip into the sky if he stared at the prince a moment longer. He felt so alive and warm, and frightened too.

“I need you too.” Magnus whispered.

He didn’t look back, but he heard Alec’s sharp intake of breath.

~ ~ ~

It was still light when the returned to Bishop’s Palace, and a valet took Alec’s car around the side of the house.

He walked in with Magnus beside him.

Neither of them spoke but it didn’t feel right to fill the air with words they already knew.

Something was happening. They both knew that. But they were mature enough to understand that time apart was needed. Especially now that they had returned to the house, and would have to settle back into a routine that was new and old at the same time.

Alec was a thinker, and he knew that Magnus was too.

He just hoped that their thoughts would eventually co-align.

~ ~ ~

Telling his parents about the event didn’t go exactly as planned.

Alec invited them into his study and planned to calmly listen to their anger and shock and hopefully convince them he had done enough to ensure Magnus was safe and that their money could be returned.

But after he had retold the story, of everything – the police, the kidnapping and the money – Maryse simply nodded. “I see you handled the situation.”

Alec stared.

Whatever he had been expecting, it was not that.

His mother hadn’t moved from her seat, nor had her expression changed. She had widened her eyes a little when Alec said he had gone out without backup, but apart from that, Maryse listened carefully.

“You’re not…angry?” He asked plainly.

He was surely missing something here.

His father had gasped a little and looked positively green, but he was waiting on Maryse, just like Alec was.

“Alec, you will face many decisions after you become president of the company. And when you become a husband. You are twenty eight years old, not a child. I have never treated you like one, and I will not now. Would I have made a different call? Yes.”

She fought against something then, but carried on for a moment. “But you made a decision and all is well. The doctor is alive and well, and our money can be taken care of soon. Once those men,” She hissed the word. “, are found, we can put this incident behind us.”

She stood and came around to Alec’s side, briefly cupping his cheek and smiling. “Do not scare me like this again.” She said quietly.

He nodded, unable to speak and smiled at his mother.

They had not always seen eye to eye, but he had always believed his mother loved him. She, like he, found it harder to express that.

When they left, and Robert had hugged him, Alec sat back in his chair and let out a huge sigh of relief.

Now that he was back home, his mood had shifted. Alec had felt like he was in transition, being on the road with Magnus and then at the house, alone together. Now that he was home, he realised how different he had begun to feel.

He thought of Magnus. He thought of desperate kisses and of softer ones. How it had felt to hold Magnus in his arms and kiss the top of his head while he slept.

He had carried him into his room and felt more like a newlywed than he would ever feel in his entire life.

He thought of Lydia then.

Of course he had to.

Alec sat like that for a while, with his head in his hands and his eyes burning into the study desk.

He needed time.

Time. Time. Time.

He was running out of time.

He had too much of it.

I need to prepare for a meeting, he finally thought.

In a way, he was glad for the focus. It drove him into a quiet peace and kept his confusion at bay.

There would be time to question where his heart wanted to go, but for now, he stuck with what he knew best; his head.

~ ~ ~

Robert arrived for his daily exercises the next day with such a wide smile on his face that Magnus almost cried.

“Magnus Bane, you little devil. How dare you risk that beautiful brain of yours?”

He swallowed back the tears and greeted the elder prince with a grin. “Sorry to worry you, sir. I told you I was hard to get rid of.”

Robert shook his head fondly. “I am glad you are safe and back in one piece, doctor.”

“Me too.” Magnus admitted. He was still a tad shaken up, but he was comfortable with what Alec had told him about the police and their ways to track his attackers down.

“Oh, and where is the lovely Isabelle?” Magnus added, having arrived the night before and been too tired to track her down and say hello.

Robert shrugged, a little guiltily.

It was mid-October now and Magnus was certain the Julliard auditions were fairly soon. He had been told that Izzy was likely to pass both her entrance exams for Harvard and Stanford and begin school in the New Year.

It was the first time he had seen Maryse truly talkative at dinner, as she proudly boasted of her daughter’s intelligence and future.

He watched Izzy pick at her food and wished he could comfort her.

Magnus squeezed her hand under the table but she pulled away.

Alec didn’t join them for a few nights, and he feared that the prince was avoiding him.

One night, Magnus had wandered into his study to speak with him and found copies of his engagement photos with Lydia. The couple stood close together, civil and polite; looking every bit like a power couple. Their smiles were relaxed, but that was it. They didn’t share loving looks or blush when they looked at each other.

He left the room with a sudden sick feeling in his stomach.

It was November the first when Alec spoke to him again.

He was in the exercise room with Robert, discussing his leave and how far he had progressed in their time together.

“I’m so pleased.” Magnus had been smiling.

Robert had looked pleased too and thanked the doctor. “I also think we should arrange your flight home soon.”

The elder prince looked a little sad now. “We’ve kept you here long enough.”

Magnus felt his smile fade.

Of course he needed to leave soon. He had been for over five months now. That was nearly half a year. He had laughed and cried and grown to care for the Lightwoods as though they were his own family, and Magnus shyly hoped they felt the same way.

He knew there would always be differences between himself and the Lightwoods, but Magnus believed they had overcome a great deal of them.

“I still insist you must join us for the wedding next year. And visit! Do visit, doctor. Your presence round here has been rather needed. For all of us. I only hope we have not treated you badly.”

“Not at all. I rather like some of you.”

Some a great deal more than like, he thought unhelpfully.

As if on cue, Alec walked into the room, dressed handsomely in a dark red suit. His hair was combed and his expression was focused.

“Good afternoon, dad, I…” He paused when he saw Magnus kneeling by Robert’s chair.

His smile widened. “Magnus. Hi.”

Alec hesitated and watched them for a moment or two, before coming around to face his father. “Father, I have the meeting with Theresa Gray this coming weekend. I just wanted to let you know I was leaving tomorrow.”

“Oh, yes! I completely forgot. You’re hoping to buy Iolani Palace, is that correct?”

“Mother would like that, yes.” Alec said slowly. He glanced at Magnus, who looked down at Robert’s feet, focusing on the repetitive lifting and lowering. There was something in Alec’s eyes that sought out an answer. An answer Magnus didn’t know himself.

“That’s in Hawaii, isn’t it?” Magnus heard himself ask. He had been shown photos by Isabelle during one of their study sessions and he had gasped at the size. No wonder Maryse wanted it.

Robert suddenly perked up. “Would you like to see it?”

“Uh-“

Before he could reply, or work out what Robert was suggesting, the elder prince beamed and clapped his hands together.

“What an excellent idea! Doctor, I think you should go with my son on this trip.”

“Because the last one went so well.” Magnus said dryly, earning a fierce look from Alec.

He sobered in a second.

Robert, oblivious to the shared moment, carried on. “If you are leaving soon, you deserve to have a bit of a break. Magnus, go and see the palace with my son. It is a delightful architecture and would be a lovely reward for your time and patience. I can think of no greater way for you to leave us. What do you say, doctor?”

Magnus stilled.

He wanted to go, sure, but he was also unsure if Alec wanted him to tag along. He glanced at the prince and studied his handsome face. His usual walls were lowered, letting Magnus in to see his approval. His lips pulled into a small smile as he nodded to the doctor.

“At least I can keep an eye on you this way.” Alec said good-naturedly.

“It’s settled then!” Robert was smiling widely, and Magnus couldn’t help but return it. He enjoyed the elder prince’s eagerness to provide him with a parting thank you gift. It was endearing.

When Alec left, Magnus quickly checked something else. “Sir, I need you to promise me something. Well, I can’t make you but…”

“What is it? Anything. Name it. It’s yours.” Robert’s voice was sincere.

“Please keep this up. Not just the exercising, but that too. Keep talking to your family and spending as much time together as possible. I have watched your children blossom into amazing people and I am so scared that…”

He sighed. He didn’t want to sound arrogant, but Magnus was worried that if he left, things would return to the old ways. Secrets would be kept hidden for years and family time would become only a thing of dreams.

Robert surprised Magnus and placed his hand over his. “I promise. I do not take the gift of life lightly anymore. Because of you, Magnus.”

The elder prince rarely said his name and Magnus fought back tears of happiness. “My children deserve a father who can love and support them with all his might, and you have given them that man back. You have saved my life in many ways, Magnus Bane. I can only hope that we have earned your friendship.”

Magnus blinked in surprise. How strange this was. That he had spent time with a family of royalty and was now the one feeling honoured and esteemed. “Of course you are. Your whole family has snuck into my cold, cold heart.”

Robert looked at him. “You have the biggest heart of anyone I know, doctor. I hope we have earned a place in it. It would be our honour.”

“Lightwoods and their honour.” Magnus chuckled, but he was smiling, and so was Robert. “What’s the motto again?”

The elder prince smiled fondly. “Ab ordine libertas. From order, comes freedom.”

“Do you know what I think, sir?”

He released the other man’s leg without warning and Robert gasped when his leg didn’t collapse.

He was lifting it on his own.

Magnus looked at him, smiled, and finished, “I think order comes from freedom, not the other way around.”

~ ~ ~

“Izzy, what’s up, my dear?”

“Are you referring to my brother still being engaged to my friend and making them both unhappy? Or the fact that I have to study somewhere instead of follow my dream?”

Well, shit.

Magnus wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

All he had wanted for Izzy was for her to be happy, and he knew from personal experience that one had to let it all out to move forwards.

But still, watching her look so miserable was hurting Magnus too.

He laid down next to her on the bed, as they had done the night of the ball.

An ironic thought came into his head; that he had sort of slept with both the Lightwood siblings at some point.

I’m not telling Maryse that, he vowed.

“Distract me, please.” Izzy said flatly. She was staring up at the ceiling as if an answer was going to appear at any moment.

“Hm. Okay. I’m likely leaving next week.”

Izzy’s sweet face crumpled.

“Oh, my dear, I’m sorry.” He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly, kissing the top of her head as she grumbled at him to stop. “It worked though, right?”

She mumbled a curse and he grinned. “That’s not very royal of you, Isabelle.”

She then rudely offered another place he could shove his comments.

After a moment, she pulled away and asked, “What else?”

“Hmm, let’s see. Oh, your brother and I are going to Iolani Palace together to meet with the Grays. Your father said I could go, as a weird going away present of sorts.”

“He literally handed Alec to you for the weekend? Damn.”

Magnus gaped, feeling a blush spread across his cheeks. Though the thought had indeed crossed his mind – in fact, many times – it was something else hearing it from the sister. “How naughty of you, Izzy.”

She shrugged, a little smile finally tugging at her lips. “It’s nice that one of us could be getting some.”

She sighed and sat up, leaning her back against him as they talked.

“I’m going to miss you so much.” She said quietly. Her hand reached up and found his, linking them together. “Who else will do my nails and tell me to follow my heart?”

“You can.” He murmured. “Live, Isabelle. You have so much waiting for you, I promise. I’m older than you, I know these things. I’m wise.”

“Oh, really?”

He nodded seriously. “It’s the law. The Magnus Bane law.”

A thought crossed his mind that he was scared to voice out loud, but he feared that he was responsible to ask it.

“Izzy, what are you going to do about Julliard?”

“I won’t go.”

Magnus winced. He closed his eyes tightly.

It was everything he wanted her to say and everything he feared she would. Guilt and shame washed over him. Who was he to crush Izzy’s hopes? To admit his sympathies and tell her to move on? To tell her that dancing was not important and that the family business was more worthwhile?

“Why not?” He asked eventually.

Izzy’s voice was so small when she finally replied, “Because no one believes in me anymore.”

“But you love to dance. And you’re incredible. Give me one good reason-“

“One? Magnus, I can give you many. My parents would disown me for disobeying them. My brother would be disappointed and ashamed. Lydia would hate me…”

Her voice cracked and she shook her head, soft curls falling over her shoulders and tickling his face as she leaned back.

“I was born a dreamer, Magnus, but my dream is over now.”

He held her tightly and considered his next words carefully.

If anyone knew heartbreak, it was Magnus, and as he felt Izzy shake, on the cusp of making an important decision, he realised what he had to do, and say.

“Whatever you do, Isabelle, do it for you. Your brother has given up a great deal for you to live your own life. I think…times are changing around here. Your parents might listen now. I think, and this is just my opinion, that you should try. That you should fight for what you want.”

“It that what you are going to do? With Alec?”

He inhaled, surprised at how much Izzy had worked out without him realising it. He bopped her nose fondly. “Guess I’m not the only smart and beautiful one around here, hm?”

They talked for a few more minutes and then Izzy offered to help Magnus pack, both for the journey home and the short trip to Hawaii.

He would be leaving the day after they returned, so he had to have his bags packed and ready.

It was ironic. When he arrived, he couldn’t wait to leave. Months later and he was fighting back tears with every item he packed back into his case.

His heart had once again let everyone in.

And now he had to say goodbye and leave pieces of his heart scattered around; in the garden, in the library and even with the Lightwoods.

He stroked the suit he had been given for the ball.

Was Magnus supposed to leave it here or take it back home with him? It felt silly to ask.

He then thought of Alec.

Could he say goodbye to him?

The answer was painfully clear: never.

Chapter Text

The plane that flew Alec and Magnus to Hawaii was beautiful; all reds and rich browns and dark colours.

It had a few tables, a lounge area with its own television, and a bedroom at the back.

Alec stammered out that they could take turns and Magnus grinned in response, hiding that his own cheeks felt like they were on fire.

There was a small cabin crew who mostly kept in a separate room unless they announced how far they had left to fly.

When they sat down on the sofa, Magnus had been unable to help himself. He fidgeted for a moment and then opened his mouth. He was nervous and therefore let his mouth run away with him. “I went to the market and bought…”

Alec glared at him.

“What? It’s a waiting game where-“ He broke off, realising what he had accidentally referred to. “Oh. My bad.”

He had forgotten how touchy Alec was about that little kidnapping.

Inside, Magnus was secretly pleased that Alec hated him bringing it up. It reminded him that the prince cared, even if he showed it in less obvious ways than he did.

“I went to the store, and bought…”

Alec sighed. “Peace and quiet.”

He ignored Alec’s self-satisfied smirk and carried on. “I went to the store and bought peace and quiet, and a puppy.”

“Any kind in particular?”

“Hm. A springer spaniel. Called Woody.”

“Like from Toy Story?”

Magnus grinned in delight. “You aren’t as culturally repressed as you pretend to be, Your Highness.”

Alec smiled at that, and smiled even wider when Magnus swung his legs around on the sofa and placed them on top of the prince’s. He leaned back and sighed happily as Alec ran his fingers along his long legs, making Magnus shiver. He wondered how a simple touch could fill someone with so much pleasure. He watched when Alec’s fingers paused at his knees, as though he was following his curves and tracing the dips.

The prince looked up and his eyes were wide, his pupils dilated. His voice was quiet now; a little sad. “I went to the store and bought peace and quiet, a springer spaniel called Woody, and a way to say goodbye to someone I care about.”

Magnus looked away. “You can’t buy that in a store, Alexander.”

“I know. Help me then.”

“Can we talk about this on the way home instead?” Magnus asked quietly. It was rare of him to be the one avoiding subjects, but this one he feared greatly. He hoped Alec could see how unprepared he was to have that conversation right then.

Alec rested his palm on Magnus’ thigh. “Very well.”

Wanting to change the subject as quickly as possible, and distract himself from the tightness straining against his crotch, Magnus shifted slightly. “Tell me about why you’re harassing the Grays into selling a very nice house.”

Alec hesitated and then rested his head back against the wall, clearly giving in. “They cannot afford it anymore. Unfortunately Mrs. Gray’s father left her with a lot of debt that even her intelligence couldn’t get around. She is an incredible woman but she has no choice other than to sell. Given time, she’ll go completely bankrupt otherwise. Mom wants to turn it into a hotel-“

“Shocker. Trust Maryse to be a fan of cultural destruction.”

Alec looked uncomfortable for a moment. “They haven’t left us with much of a choice, I’m afraid. At least this way, they can keep their other properties and maybe buy back the palace one day. I’d like that.”

Magnus frowned. Here was a man who would become a leader soon and didn’t seem happy by the choices he was carrying out.

He said as much. “You’re certain there’s no other way around?”

“None that mother would like. She wants the palace for her, our, own.”

“I see.” Magnus said coolly. He folded his arms over his chest and sighed. “I do think you should be a little more sensitive though. Mrs. Gray is selling her home. It's not just a property to her.”

“Sensitivity isn’t the business way, doctor.”

“Bullshit.” Magnus rolled his eyes. “Imagine if I said that about my patients. If I thought with my head all the time, I wouldn’t take chances. I’d be predictable. I wouldn’t have helped your friend, Jace, who went on to win the match and the championships. I would not have bothered to come here and help your father either…”

I wouldn’t have met you, Magnus wanted to add.

Alec sensed he was annoyed and softened his voice. “Hey, Magnus…I…thank you. I like it when you share things like that.”

“And yell at you?” Magnus felt his smile return. “I think you have a kink there, Alexander.”

He was delighted when the prince blushed and looked away.

After that, they spent the rest of the flight watching a film and sleeping.

Separately. Much to Magnus’ disappointment.

But he was also partially relieved. He didn’t think it was easy to woo someone on a place. Especially a prince who was hard enough to woo in general.

Magnus suddenly realised he had thought of himself as wooing Alec and blushed furiously.

Why was it that Alec could make him feel so full of youth? And so wise and ready to settle down at the same time?

He enjoyed the feelings and how strangely well they went together.

~ ~ ~

In his dreams, Alec found himself on a highway.

It was morning and the sky spilled into the sky. It was black and white until he turned around and saw Magnus standing there.

He smiled and Alec smiled back. It was that simple.

“I’ve been looking for you.” Dream Magnus whispered.

“I thought you’d never find me.” Dream Alec whispered back.

They kissed and colour flew into the world around them.

~ ~ ~

The lowest temperature in Hawaii was still warm for early winter. 

Magnus was dressed in smart-casual wear, a pair of black jeans and a plain white shirt with a baggy cardigan over the top. A few colourful scarves rested over the top, alongside his usual handful of long necklaces.

He had freshened up his gold eyeliner just before they stepped off the plane, and he had liked how Alec watched him and quietly said, “I always think of you when I see gold.”

Those words stuck with Magnus for the rest of the day.

~ ~ ~

Iolani Palace was, in a word, magnificent.

It was surrounded by bright green grass and a dozen palm trees that Magnus had to stretch his head very far back to see the tops of. It was very clean and pristine; white with golden windows and balcony railings. It was two stories but very wide, stretching out across the lawn elegantly.

Only a single woman greeted them. She was petite, with her chestnut brown hair piled onto her head neatly, and wore a lose-fitting purple sundress. She smiled at the pair but shook Alec’s hand first. “A pleasure to see you again, Mr. Lightwood.”

Alec returned her smile. “And you too, Mrs. Gray.”

Theresa Gray smiled knowingly then, as if Alec had said something that pleased her.

She turned to Magnus and shook his hand also. “You must be Magnus Bane. I’ve heard quite a bit about you.”

“Robert likes to boast.” Magnus apologised with a lazy grin. “I adore your shoes.” He said before he could stop himself.

She had on small-heeled, lilac kitten heels with pretty golden buckles.

Theresa looked a little surprised but smiled, a carefree one this time. “Thank you. Might I offer you both a tour before we get down to business?”

“I’d love that!” Magnus said quickly.

He looked at Alec as they walked in but was surprised to find him looking even tenser.

Had he already slipped up?

He tried to catch the prince’s eye but Alec was staring straight ahead.

As Theresa showed them around, Magnus learned a great deal about the palace and how Tessa – she kindly invited him to use that name instead – had lived with her family here. Her mother had passed away when she was younger – leukaemia – and her father had died a few years ago. She had taken over the family business and kept things running smoothly. Until now.

“Finance has caught up with me, as Mr. Lightwood may have told you.” Tessa had told him as they headed towards the gardens at the back of the house. The whole house was lovely, filled with wide spaces and high ceilings and warmly lit rooms.

When they spotted two men outside, laughing and smiling and drinking tea on the lawn patio, Tessa’s smile became tender. She walked Magnus and Alec over to them and Magnus narrowed his eyes as they interacted.

One of the men was Chinese, with lovely gray eyes and curling black hair with strange yet beautiful, natural gray streaks. The other was pretty, with jet black hair and brilliant blue eyes that flickered between Tessa, and his companion, with equal adoration.

“This is James, and this is Will.” A little smirk crossed Tessa’s features as they shared a look.

She turned to the both of them and Magnus enjoyed the way her expression had turned into a challenge. “They are my husbands.”

Magnus decided then that he definitely liked Theresa Gray.

He had been seconds from realisation. It wasn’t difficult to figure out. Hell, he was sure even Alec would have realised by the end of the day.

But James, Will and Tessa looked at each other like they held parts of the other inside their hearts.

They were not whole unless they were together.

Magnus liked the way Will and James stood, proudly and happily, and he liked the way Tessa stood with her shoulders straight, ready to challenge everyone for the men she loved.

“An excellent delivery, Tess.” Will spoke first. He was grinning now and held out a hand to Alec, and then Magnus. “Almost, but not quite, as dramatic as the time I introduced Jem as my husband to the mayor.”

James, the silver-eyed man, moved gracefully, and he shook Magnus’ hand with gentleness. “Call me Jem, please. And do forgive my partners. They do so enjoy their dramatics.”

Alec, who had been silent until then, simply smiled at Tessa. Understanding smoothed out his features into a peaceful expression. “Now I see, Mrs. Gray.”

Tessa looked at him for a moment.

She seemed to decide something then and threw her head back and laughed. “Forgive me, Alec. It’s just, these men are my heart and soul. I couldn’t bear the papers to discard our love as something they could not ever hope to understand.”

A wave of happiness, and then sorrow, washed over Magnus. He had many friends in polyamorous relationships. Some had worked out and other had not, but there would always be trouble coming from outside forces; people who turned their noses up at what they didn’t care to understand.

Alec shook his head fiercely. “Love is love.” Was all he said.

Magnus wondered if it was possible to feel such tenderness towards someone. He gazed up at Alec and was grateful that the prince was distracted. He was sure that tiny hearts were visible in his eyes right then.

“Now that you know everything about me, and about my home, should we discuss business?”

Will and Jem had returned to their afternoon tea, and were talking animatedly about something.

A few ducks waddled past in the garden and Jem laughed, a delightful, musical sound, when Will screeched.

Tessa watched them fondly and turned back. She looked a little resigned then, and Magnus once again was torn between understanding Alec’s duties and wanting the prince to change his, and others, fates.

“Oh, but Tess, my love, let them have a shot first!”

Magnus frowned, but turned to see Will had retrieved a large rifle while Jem was setting up a clay pigeon shooting machine.

“Oh.” Tessa rolled her eyes. She looked apologetic. “Do you shoot, prince?”

“Uh, yes. My father taught me.”

“Please humour them and then we can go.”

Magnus was so wrapped up in the moment that he jumped when Alec rested a hand on his elbow and tugged him towards the patio.

He noticed that Tessa’s eyes kept flicking between the pair of them.

Magnus flushed and took a careful step back, away from Alec, as the prince aimed his rifle and nodded for Jem to release the clay target.

A loud bang went off and Magnus watched as Alec’s shot aimed true, hitting the target and exploding it into a dozen pieces.

Will cheered. “Good lad!” He cried, and Jem shook his head, smiling.

The silver-eyed man looked at Magnus and smiled in encouragement. “Doctor, would you care for a try?”

“Oh, uh. I’ve never…”

“Your prince can help you, I’m sure.” Tessa said dryly. She was standing to the side, watching the shooting with a cocked head.

She was a playful troublemaker, that one, Magnus thought, as he stood next to Alec.

He handed him the gun and stood to move behind him, leaning in close to Magnus and adjusting his gun butt. His hands curled around Magnus’ as he helped him to aim, his breath gentle and warm against his jaw. The feel of Alec so close behind him, and with his voice whispering how to aim in his ear, was too much, and Magnus swallowed against the pulse of desire rushing into his blood.

They were standing so close, and Alec now rested his hands on Magnus’ waist, gently angling his body in the direction of the clay target.

When he fired, all Magnus heard was Alec’s gasp as he brushed his jaw, ever so slightly, with his fingertips. He quickly lowered the gun and looked away, uncertain if he could handle another second of being so close to Alec and not tugging away at his clothes.

“That was quite something.” Will’s smirk crept into his tease, and Magnus turned to see him waggle a quick eyebrow in Tessa’s direction.

He wasn’t sure what they were referring towards, and he didn’t care to clarify.

“So, business.” Alec quickly said. His voice was low and husky.

He brushed his hands against his trousers and Magnus did the same, trying to stop them from trembling.

“Yes. Business. Excuse me, dears.” Tessa dropped a quick kiss onto Jem’s, and then Will’s cheek, and said a quick goodbye to them. She led Alec and Magnus inside and into a small study, settling herself into the head chair with a sigh that spoke volumes.

She’s surrendering, Magnus realised, as he stood by the window and watched. He couldn’t quite keep his disapproval at bay and he was sure he wore a sour expression.

“Are you ready to steal my house away, Mr. Lightwood?” Tessa said. Her voice was as calm as ever, but Magnus winced at the sadness in it. He knew what it was like to leave a home. In fact, he was likely having to leave a new one soon.

Thinking of Bishop’s Palace as his home was surreal, but Magnus realised how strongly he had grown to love the place, and the people who lived there.

He looked at Alec and then looked away. He stared out of the window, watching Jem comb his long fingers through Will’s hair as they sat together on the patio steps. He wondered how many memories had been made in this home between the three of them.

“No.” Alec said, finally.

Magnus turned back around.

“I have an idea, Tessa.”

Tessa was quiet. Her lips was pressed into a firm line. “Alec, please. Do not mock me.”

“You know of my mother’s plans to turn this place into a hotel, yes?”

Tessa bristled, but nodded.

“I have another idea. A better one, hopefully.” Alec’s voice softened. “I do not want to take away you and your husbands’ home. That is not the kind of leader I care to become. Not if I can help it.”

He leaned forwards. “Enter a partnership with me, Tessa. Not my mother, but with me. Under my direction, I promise you that my company save your home.”

Magnus noticed with pride that Alec had said ‘my’ company. Not his family's, or his mother’s, but his own.

“How do you propose such a miracle, Alec?”

“We can open the house up as a tourist attraction. Not all the time, of course, but times of your convenience. Many people of all classes and demographics, are interested in this house. Artists are. Historians are. You will raise a lot of money simply by opening this house up to the public as well."

He smiled, his expression determined. "I will personally buy the property until you can pay it back. You can live here for as long as you like, Tessa. I will see to that. In the meantime, join Lightwood Publishing and pay us back over time. You have a few hotel properties here that I think could help you pay off some of your loans also. I can help you, Tessa. If you join my company.”

There was a pause then, and Magnus watched Tessa.

She looked hopeful, and afraid; afraid to be hopeful and scared to dream. She searched Alec’s face, as though deciding whether or not he was being genuine.

And then she smiled. “Very well. It's settled. I will partner with your company. Under your leadership, Alec, I have hopes for this partnership.”

Her expression softened with her smile. “Thank you, Alec.” She said quietly, shaking Alec’s hand and holding it for a moment.

Magnus, who had till now been holding his breath, exhaled loudly, making Tessa laugh and grin at him.

“Why do I feel like you had something to do with this, doctor?”

Magnus frowned. “Me?” He shook his head and looked at Alec. “This was all Alexander.” He said proudly, and the prince met his gaze with a small smile.

Alec scratched the back of his head and looked away from Magnus. “Actually, it was Magnus who sparked the idea.”

“Well, you both make a good team.” Tessa announced with a grin. She didn’t say anything else. She didn’t need to. It was all in her hopeful smile and the playful glint in her eyes.

“I think this calls for some champagne, don’t you both agree?”

~ ~ ~

And that was how Alec found himself intoxicated with a bisexual doctor and three people in a polyamorous relationship, who were all intending to do something he was unaware of.

They kept glancing at Magnus, and then at Alec, and then looking away when he caught them.

As they drank, Alec worried that Tessa, Jem and Will disapproved of his feelings. They kept testing him in ways he didn’t understand.

“So, Alec, how did you and Magnus meet? Properly?”

Magnus sat up and gasped. “Do tell!”

“You were there!”

“But I want to know how you saw me.”

Alec’s head was buzzing wildly now. He waved carelessly and began. “He tried to kill me!”

Magnus gasped again. “Actually, that’s true. I thought he was an assassin!”

Then he started to giggle helplessly, burying his head into Tessa’s shoulder as she laughed with him.

“Oh my.” Jem slurred. “That’s quite romantic.”

They were lying on the floor of the lounge, some resting against chairs and positioned near the fireplace to keep warm.

Will was laying in Tessa’s lap, who had her hand in Jem’s.

“Romantic?” Magnus snorted ungracefully. “Alexander here told me to leave. So rude. All I wanted was a little conversation with a pretty prince.”

“At midnight, I might add. Wait.”

Alec paused. A dopey smile crossed his face. “You think I’m pretty?”

“No.”

Alec huffed. “Whatever.” He sulked.

Magnus crawled over and knelt over him. He swayed slightly as he leaned down and kissed Alec’s cheek a little sloppily. Alec didn’t mind. His cheeks flamed when Magnus whispered into his ear, “I think you are beautiful, Alexander.”

Will made a noise in the back of his throat. He snorted. “Damn homos.”

Alec burst out laughing and everyone joined in.

~ ~ ~

It was almost midnight when they retired to their rooms.

Magnus half carried and half fell on Alec as they stumbled upstairs. He had lost count of how many glasses they had and he wasn’t sure who was helping who.

Either way, they made it to the room Tessa shoved them in.

And then they realised there was only one bed.

“Screw you, Tessa.” Alec slurred, and then swore. He groaned. “I did not mean to say that out loud.”

Magnus giggled. “Or you can screw me.”

I said that in my head, didn’t I?

Please tell me I said that in my head.

“You didn’t.”

“Fuck.”

Alec laughed. “Still out loud, doctor.”

“That one was deliberate, Alexander.”

“Oh.”

Magnus stumbled but managed to stand upright as they stared at each other for a moment.

Alec was wearing only his white shirt, his thin tie hanging around his neck and his hair was deliciously messy.

Did I play with his hair earlier?

“Yeah, you did. It was nice.”

Magnus giggled again and buried his head into Alec’s shoulder, laughing.

He felt Alec’s chest vibrate with laughter too and they stood like that for a minute, swaying and laughing and regaining some of their breath.

After a moment, Alec pulled back and gently pushed him towards the bed. “I’ll sleep on the sofa. Or things could….happen….” He whispered it like a secret and Magnus bit back another giggle.

He’s adorable.

“Kittens are adorable. Not princes.”

“Shh.” Magnus murmured, holding a finger up to Alec’s lips and gasping when their softness surprised him. “You’re adorable. And beautiful. And…and…”

“Please don’t finish that sentence, doctor. You need to sleep. And so do I. Go to bed. I'll go..." His brows furrowed in concentration. His next words were spoken so surely that Magnus didn't even realise it was a drunken slur. "I’ll…go to sofa.”

“Go to sofa.” Magnus repeated and giggled.

He placed a hand over his mouth, trying to suppress his laughter, and turned around to face the bed.

He climbed into it, still clothed, and closed his eyes.

Without meaning to, the alcohol burning through his system sent him to sleep before he could say goodnight.

~ ~ ~

Alec wanted nothing more than to tackle Magnus onto the bed.

But he’s already on the bed.

Alec cursed the sensible side of himself that was slowly returning.

It had been a few hours since they had retired and it was maybe half two in the morning.

But he wasn’t tired anymore. Or drunk.

All he wanted to do was to just abandon any ounce of self-respect and kiss Magnus senseless. But he didn’t.

Because he's sleeping. That would be creepy.

Shut up, brain.

Okay. Rude.

With every bit of his strength, Alec had kept his expression neutral and his gestures to a minimal as Magnus climbed into the bed. Revealing his intentions would be crossing a line they could never step back from. It would make the doctor's departure unbearable. 

Suddenly, the risk of losing Magnus hit him with such a force that he threw off the blanket and slowly stood up.

Magnus was still fast asleep, but he was still careful to make as little noise as possible.

The problem was that there was still a little alcohol burning through Alec’s system, heightening his awareness and refocusing his desire in a direction that was quite impossible to ignore. He shifted and grabbed a blanket, wrapping it around his torso. He closed his eyes and wished the problems away.

Surprisingly, his plan failed.

He heard gentle snores and let out a sigh of relief. If Magnus was asleep, then Alec could…do what exactly? Lament about his attractions out loud?

He was still tipsy enough that thinking out loud seemed like a decent idea.

Perhaps some fresh air.

Alec stood and shrugged off the blankets.

He undid a few buttons on his shirt. He loosened his tie before sighing and ridding of it completely, tossing it to one side and running a hand through his unkempt hair. Strands of black hung limp across his forehead, whereas others stood up at odd ends as he worked it to some sort of style that didn’t scream ‘mental patient’.

He was a dishevelled mess in that moment; staring at the sleeping form of Magnus and wanting nothing more than to curl his body around his.

The alcohol was fading fast, and he was left with the sober need to hold Magnus in his arms and never let go. He wished it could be blamed on the drinks, that it was some childish whim to feel needed.

But it wasn’t, and he both hated and loved the feeling of desire burning through his skin like wildfire.

He headed outside, onto the bedroom’s small balcony overlooking the front of the place. It had a little railing and a lantern dangling overhead.

After a few minutes, he heard a quiet voice.

“Can’t sleep?”

Alec’s body tensed.

The doctor appeared on the balcony, to his right, and Alec begged his body to restrain itself and keep still. His fingers twitched, wanting to reach out and wrap around Magnus’, but he stared outwards into the night and fought against his yearnings.

Their kiss had been electric, and ever since that night, Alec had wanted more.

He had wanted Magnus, wholly and completely without restraint.

He wanted his passions and his touches, slow and quick. Alec wanted to treasure him; until tracing Magnus’ skin with his fingers felt like second nature.

His soberness did little to sooth his restless energy.

The cool breeze of the night soothed him, until Magnus laughed and the hairs on his arms lifted; attentive to his musical lilt.

Alexander.”

And that was enough for Alec. The softness in his name; the hundreds of words it secretly spoke. 

Magnus was braver than he was, and his voice was gentle and said more than Alec could ever hope to.

Magnus was gazing at him without concern of the future. As though they were simply two souls reaching out towards each other and begging to be invited inside.

“I have always hated my name.” Alec said then. It was the truth. He had always disliked his full name.

Had.

“Until I heard it from your lips that first night.”

Magnus swallowed.

There was danger in truth, Alec realised in that moment. It cannot be taken back.

But…I don’t want to.

And there the whole truth was.

Magnus watched him silently, searching his whole face and waiting for the moment he would inevitably pull back and disappear inside.

But Alec was done dismissing his heart.

His head would always be an integral part of him, but if Magnus had taught him anything, it was to open up his heart and listen to its calling.

If there was a thread between them, it would be a multi-coloured array of dazzling reds and golds, also threated with softer colours, and until he accepted it, Alec hadn’t realised how much he was repressing. How much of Magnus he had shut out.

He was sobered completely as soon as Magnus reached out and ran a gentle hand over his cheek. The doctor, in that moment, was simply someone he wanted to reach out and touch. Their stations and paths in life had been erased completely.

In that moment, they were two men standing on a balcony a little while after midnight; unafraid to hope and ready to bridge the distance.

“I think I’m falling for you, Alexander.”

His breath caught.

His entire existence had pinpointed to this second.

Hearing those words felt like coming home, and Alec wanted to crawl under the covers and make a home out of white, glitter-stained sheets and soft touches.

Alec hesitated no longer.

It was as natural as breathing to cup Magnus between his hands and stroke his face tenderly.

He was no longer holding back and it was divine.

He held him for a moment, simply drinking in his wide eyes and parted lips, tracing the slight traces of purple glitter that still remained on his eyelids.

He touched, slowly and carefully; aware of the powerful gift of vulnerability he was being given by Magnus.

He was aware that a wetness had dampened his cheeks, and Alec only realised he was crying when Magnus gently wiped them away with a shaking hand and mirrored his hold. They cradled each other and waited, listening to the whispering wind and savouring whatever this moment was building into.

They both leaned in together; Alec tilting his head down to meet Magnus’ lips. It was gentle and soft and had no need to be rushed.

This was a night that belonged to them and them alone.

If Alec could freeze the moon and hold it high in the sky, he wondered if he would, just to have Magnus in his arms a little longer.

I would, he vowed solemnly.

They pulled away and exhaled in unison, before pressing together again, more firmly this time.

Magnus was all around him; his legs pushing between Alec’s, and his arms slipping down to wrap around Alec’s broad waist, and Alec responded instantly. He wound his trembling hands around Magnus’ neck, cupping it and tugging him even more closely. His skin was hot and his pulse leapt with desire.

Alec felt his body respond to his own yearning as the tightness of his pants became even more taunt and pressured.

“Magnus.” He moaned softly, unable to keep silent as his lips met his again, and again; gentle and soft, then harder and firm and passionate, before growing slower again.

This torturous cycle continued until Alec had backed Magnus up against the column, pressing his back against the wall and kissing him senselessly. His tongue flickered out, as if by instinct, and ran along his lower lip, tasting the alluring mixture of sweetness and bitter, alcoholic aftertaste.

He was toothpaste and champagne; tenderness and fire.

Alec was consumed, wildly. If he was being lead to the flames, he was a willing participant; as was Magnus, who was gripping him tightly and moaning just as loudly into his lips.

“Too many clothes.” Magnus breathed, in-between kisses, and Alec agreed completely.

Layers of shirts and pants and even socks needed to be discarded and he felt the desperation burning out his patience.

He opened his mouth and asked, “Are you sure?”

Magnus gazed at him for a moment. As if providing an answer, he reached out and spread his palm over Alec’s chest, his hand hovering just over his heart. The touch was a clear answer; yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

Magnus sung it into Alec like a prayer. His hand on his chest; his green-gold eyes firmly gazing into his own, both shining and wet and so, so happy.

And so, as they finally turned onto the same page, Alec reached around Magnus’ waist and lifted him into his arms completely.

Magnus gasped against the prince’s, nibbling at his lower lip in such a teasingly slow rhythm that Alec’s knees almost shook so hard that he dropped him.

“I’ve got you.” Alec murmured against his jaw, kissing Magnus ever so softly on the nose.

Magnus moaned in appreciation, his gentle humming vibrating down Alec’s chest and reaching his lower body.

Heat was spreading in the most delicious form of agony; anticipation. His arms then encircled his waist tightly as Magnus wrapped his legs around his torso, locking their bodies together like a secret journal which only they knew the passcode for.

With Magnus’ legs wrapped tightly around his waist, Alec gripped his back and carried his lover into the large room; placing him gently on the bed and kneeling before him. It was cooler in the room and yet still Alec’s cheeks were burning with feverish desire.

He stripped Magnus out of his black leggings, leaving him in short, tight purple boxers that had Alec moaning and surging forwards for another, fierce kiss.

“Mm.” He murmured softly.

His hand had reached down, of its own accord, and began to stroke Magnus over his boxers; enjoying how Magnus trembled and buckled beneath his slow embrace. They kissed for a few more minutes, and Alec stood quickly to shed his own trousers before kneeling before him again, his head level with Magnus’ chest.

The doctor had to lean down and kiss him, but Alec liked this as it meant he could run his hands along Magnus’ thighs and legs. His skin was mainly smooth, but the short hairs just below Magnus’ belly button sent shivers into Alec’s skin.

Once again, that delicious torture of waiting was burning into him.

Half of him wanted to rid them of their clothes completely and press their bodies close together, and yet another wanted something gentle and tender. He wanted their night to stretch into the night like stars; refusing to fade until they were forced to.

Magnus slowly unbuckled Alec’s belt, tugged off his shirt and tossed it onto the carpet and staring at his bare chest.

Alec, under any other circumstances would’ve felt embarrassed or uncertain, but Magnus’ gaze was insatiable and left his chest heaving for air.

He waited patiently, resisting the urge to capture his lips in a kiss again and power on. Instead, he watched as Magnus trailed both hands across the planes of his chest, exploring him so softly as if he were memorising his every detail.

Perhaps he was.

Alec found himself recording every single second of this moment, so why would he be surprised if Magnus was?

Magnus leaned forwards, lowered his head and kissed the place above Alec’s heart.

His breath was warm and Alec gasped, the sound slipping from his lips as his eyes fluttered closed.

It was a sensation unlike anything he had felt before. Magnus’ lips were marking his flesh with every kiss that he pressed into his skin; above his heart, across his collar bone, and then sucking around his nipples with a slow tenderness that drove Alec into a wild lust. His eyes were closed, brilliant white dazzling behind his lids as Magnus sucked and nibbled.

After a few more moments it was too much, and Alec forced himself to open his eyes and gently push Magnus away from his chest.

“I’m sorry, did I…?”

Alec felt his throat tighten as Magnus gazed down at him, his hands still wrapped around his neck as he looked down apologetically.

Alec shook his head, smiling a little. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Magnus. I just...I need….”

“What do you need, Alexander?”

“I need you. I need to touch you.”

“Then touch me.”

And so Alec did.

He stood, waiting for Magnus to shift back onto the bed so that Alec could crawl on top of him and settle comfortably. His long legs were on either side of Magnus’ as he straddled him passionately, his elbows resting on either side of his head.

They kissed for a few more minutes until Alec’s hands began to wander again.

This time, he pushed further; slowly slipping beneath the waistband of Magnus’ boxers and tracing circles into the tops of his thighs.

Magnus shook and buckled his hips, moaning against Alec’s lips. “Tease.” He laughed breathlessly, and Alec silenced him with a tauntingly slow kiss, pulling back and sucking on his neck hard enough to bruise.

He had never felt so confident before. So desired.

Alec pulled back, his entire body alight, and watched as Magnus gazed up at him with wide-eyed wonder.

“I want you, Magnus.”

Alec wasn’t sure why he had said it, but he said it anyway.

I want you. I want you. I want you.

He whispered it into Magnus’ chest, once he had tugged his tank top up and over his head.

He whispered it into the crook of his shoulder; tenderly kissing the sensitive spot under his right ear and watching him squirm happily.

He then leaned in and whispered it directly onto his lips, sucking at Magnus’ full, lower lip and stroking him beneath his shorts.

“Do you have anything?” Alec whispered, his breath hot against Magnus’ ear.

He shivered at hearing how husky his voice sounded, and he felt himself harden further when Magnus winked and reached across into his desk drawer and brought out a small tube of lubricant. His eyes never left his and Alec felt Magnus stiffen beneath his hand when he readied his hands and spread some of the lube over his fingers, massaging them slowly and carefully.

He leaned down for another kiss, enjoying the way Magnus tugged at his hair.

He placed the tube back on the bedside table and once more reached inside his boxers, gripping him gently.

Magnus gasped, a strangled sound of pleasure.

Alec smiled and brushed one hand over Magnus’ damp forehead as his other stroked Magnus’ cock, his fingers settling into a slow rhythm that drove himself as well as Magnus into a maddening lust. They kissed slowly and heatedly as Alec sent him into overdrive.

His fingers were teasing and gentle, unable to keep from enjoying how the build-up was driving Magnus into a mess of gasps and moans. His skin seemed to burn bright with fever and Alec wanted to devour him completely.

And so he did.

“Alexander, please.” Magnus moaned loudly, his nails scraping at the back of Alec’s neck.

The sensation of nail on skin bucked Alec’s own hips into Magnus, causing them both to groan against each other.

“I’ve got you.” Alec said softly, kissing him gently as he picked up the pace and sent Magnus completely over the edge.

He kept his lips against his lover’s quivering ones as Magnus’ entire body trembled with passion. Alec slowed his strokes but kept his grip firm. A few moments later, Magnus came, and he cried out, burying his face into Alec’s shoulder and whispering his name over and over again.

In that moment, Alec was destroyed and saved all at once.

He looked at Magnus, at how his brown skin was lit under the low light like a beacon; navigating his lost soul home. He smiled, unable to contain his happiness as Magnus laid beneath him, breathless and sweaty and so human.

And then, as though his strength and resolve was being tested even more, Magnus pushed upwards and lifted himself onto his elbows. He pulled Alec into a quick kiss, teasing his tongue over his slowly, and then pulled back and grinned.

“So,” His voice was husky and sent tremors of pleasure down Alec’s spine.

“I believe it’s payback time, Your Highness.”

~ ~ ~

Magnus had sky dived before.

He had petted the sweetest puppy and helped the homeless and won a poetry contest.

He had tasted strange and spicy foods and woken up in new places, ready for new adventures.

But nothing made him feel as alive as Alec.

He had thought his body was consumed by light when Alec’s hands had wrapped around him, his fingers slipping and gentle and then building to a rhythm that drove him into an orgasm fit for kings. He wondered if others had made him feel like this, men or women or anyone in-between. Alas, his mind was blank.

All he saw was Alec. Eyes open; Alec. Closed; Alec.

He was now completely naked beneath the prince, his clothes having been discarded one by one in a slow pace that left no room for worry.

It was intimacy, plain and simple.

“Let me touch you now.” Magnus whispered.

He was used to words. He took pleasure in teasing and in truths and cheeky misleading. But with Alec, every word he spoke was a truth unlike other. It was simple desire and so human and vulnerable. He feared it and blossomed in it.

Carefully, he urged Alec to sit up and turned them over, so that Magnus was now straddling Alec’s hips and leaning down to kiss his bare chest.

He had learned earlier that the prince was sensitive in certain areas, and took detail in his gasps as he pressed kisses around his nipples; not quite touching but teasing him slowly. His fingers danced along his ribs, tracing them one by one until he circled his belly button, once. His pants had been discarded, but his boxer shorts remained, and Magnus lowered himself and slowly, teasingly, pulled them down.

He watched as Alec’s erection sprang upwards, finally free, and licked his lips. A new pool of heat spread into his stomach, but he was too sensitive from his orgasm to consider touching himself. For now.

Until he had Alec underneath him, Magnus considered this was all a dream.

But now Alec was spread out and looked so angelic; a mess of shaking limbs and wide eyes and strong, sharp angles as Magnus stroked his thighs and kissed a slow line down his abdominal muscles. They tensed and quivered as his lips pressed against them, teasing them with his tongue before moving lower.

All the while, Magnus stroked his thighs until he reached the waistline of Alec’s boxers; finally giving into Alec’s begs and lowering them.

Alec kicked them off with his feet and helplessly bucked his hips.

“Magnus, please.”

Alec’s whispers once again unlocked something inside Magnus. He no longer felt unsteady.

They had time, and Magnus was going to revel in every breathless, beautiful second of it.

Carefully shifting to make sure his weight was balanced comfortably, Magnus gazed up, locked his gaze with Alec, and slowly licked a gentle strip up his length.

He watched for a reaction, and was delighted when Alec threw his head back and groaned. It was a loud cry for mercy, unashamed and lost in pleasure, and Magnus watched with a grin as Alec’s hands lowered until they had tangled in his hair.

“Good.” Magnus murmured into Alec’s thigh. His right hand danced up the prince’s thigh as he finished his teasing, “You’re going to need something to grip, Alexander.”

“What- oh!”

Alec broke off with a gasp as Magnus once again grazed his tongue over Alec’s cock, before taking in a little of his length with deliberate gentleness.

He winced a little when the prince’s hands tugged at his hair, but the pain was welcome and Magnus flushed at the desperation in the sounds Alec made.

His entire body was on fire, responding instantly his lover’s gasps and moans. As he teased Alec with his tongue, and nipped occasionally with his teeth, Magnus savoured every moment. He ran his other hand up Alec’s thigh, gripping tightly at his hipbone as he took Alec further into his mouth. He slowly pulled back, moaned helplessly, and circled the head with his tongue slowly, working Alec into a pleasure he couldn’t describe.

As he continued to take Alec’s cock in a little further each time, Magnus’ hands kept busy. One reached lower and ran up the prince’s thigh. The other travelled upwards and brushed across Alec’s erect nipples, teasing them in torturously slow circles.

Beneath him, Alec groaned and his chest heaved helplessly. “Magnus.” He said. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last time that night.

A wave of satisfaction washed over Magnus at having Alec so succumbed to his touch.

He was a livewire of pure energy; his body sparking heat into Magnus’ own body, and Magnus couldn’t help but mirror Alec’s groan as he felt the prince buckle underneath his touch.

“Are you close?” Magnus teased in a whisper.

He paused, whispering into the sensitive spot just above Alec’s navel. “You look royally flushed, Alexander.”

A laugh escaped Alec then, and it was so wrecked with passion that Magnus took mercy on him.

“I’ve got you, my love.” He tenderly repeated Alec’s words from earlier and lowered himself once more.

Again, his lips closed around Alec’s cock. He didn’t stop this time, keeping his hands steadily stroking below as he teased Alec into orgasm.

Keeping his rhythm steady, Magnus grazed his nails down the prince’s thighs as he took all of Alec in and then slowed, pulling back and waiting. When Alec bucked his hips and groaned loudly, Magnus knew he was ready. With one final, long lick, Magnus added a little pressure and circled the tip of Alec’s head once more; flicking his tongue out and teasing the tip of his cock with his teeth.

It was too much for Alec, who gasped like he had forgotten how to breathe entirely. His long fingers dug into Magnus’ neck, as though he needed him even closer, and his moans grew uneven and unsteady. He shook and trembled and threw his head back again, almost colliding with the headboard.

“Magnus.” He begged. His fingers now stroked desperately across Magnus’ neck, the touch gentle, soft and fierce all at once.

Magnus kissed the tip of Alec’s cock once, and then pulled back and bit the insides of his thighs as he came.

He pressed gentle kisses into his thighs, soothing him into a post-orgasm haze and waiting until Alec’s chest no longer heaved like it was seconds from exploding with raw pleasure.

After a few moments, Magnus crawled back up to Alec and simply gazed down at him. The prince still had his eyelids half-closed, looking dreamlike and innocent as well as positively wrecked and sinfully desirable. His dark hair was standing up in every direction.

I take pride in taking the blame for that.

Magnus ran a hand across Alec’s forehead, his forefinger tracing the dampness and enjoying the way his skin was still burning from pleasure.

“Please tell me you didn’t fall asleep on me.” He murmured, his voice still husky. His finger traced over Alec’s lips as the prince lazily opened his eyes. “It could be seen as a compliment, but-“

Alec suddenly lunged forwards and captured Magnus’ lips with his own. He kissed him forcefully, hands cradling either side of his face as he kissed him, the taste of him mixing with his own orgasm. They kissed for a few moments, and Magnus pulled back, swaying slightly.

“Definitely not asleep.” Alec promised with a wicked grin. His cheeks were flushed a bright pink, and his lips were bruised and damp, but he had never looked more alive.

Magnus simply lowered his forehead until they were pressed together, enjoying the quiet moment of their two bodies, naked and vulnerable, together and patient.

A wave of tiredness swept over Magnus then, and without warning, he yawned.

His eyes widened in surprise and he guiltily clapped a hand over his mouth.

Not at all surprised, Alec simply laughed, gazing up at Magnus with adoration. He kissed his cheek, once, and then pulled back to smile at him. “You, on the other hand, are. You’re the doctor here. What do you remedy for sleepiness?”

Magnus exhaled slowly.

Part of him wanted nothing more than to ravish Alec for at least another hour, but he deserved to be ravished by eyes that didn’t threaten to close at any moment. He kissed him again, briefly but sweetly, and then sighed. “The remedy is sleep, I’m afraid. But I have good news.”

“Do tell.” Alec murmured, nuzzling into his shoulder as he kept Magnus upright in his lap.

Magnus sighed blissfully. “We can most definitely continue this in the morning.”

“I like the sound of that.”

“Me too.”

And with that, Magnus pushed Alec down onto the bed and gently slid off his lap; moving to lay beside him. He wrapped his arms around Alec’s torso, only shifting when Alec tilted his head towards him for one last kiss. They were inches apart and Magnus could feel their breathes mingle together.

“Goodnight, Alexander.”

Alec’s lips twitched into a smirk. “Good morning.”

“Smartass.”

He was going to comment that Alec, in fact, was not only a smartass, but also had a great ass.

Again, he kept that compliment for later on.

Alec pulled him closer and rested the top of his head against Magnus’. He exhaled slowly, and Magnus exhaled with him; the pair relaxing as one.

It was strange to feel so passionate and comforted at the same time. Magnus felt seconds from being set alight, but also seconds from being carried out of the burning house. Alec was holding him, and he was exactly where he needed to be.

Before he fell asleep, he heard Alec murmur, “Amor vincit omnia.”

“Dork.” Magnus muttered. He paused and then asked, “Translation?”

Alec was quiet for a moment, and Magnus realised he had already drifted off to sleep.

Whatever the words meant, Alec had said them with such a quiet tenderness, as though he were afraid of the meaning slipping out into the rest of the world, that Magnus felt his heart ache.

"Tomorrow then." He whispered into Alec's chest.

Sleep washed over him as he relaxed to the sound of the prince's heartbeat; steady and peaceful.

Chapter Text

It was midday when they awoke.

At first, Magnus was confused as to why they hadn’t been awoken by others, but then he smirked and imagined what similar activities Will, Tessa and Jem had gotten up to last night.

I’m sure they’re equally exhausted, Magnus thought.

He was lying on his left side, his face pressed gently against Alec’s chest as his arm was flung loosely over his torso.

As far as he knew, the prince was still asleep, so he didn’t move.

Closing his eyes, Magnus listened to Alec’s heartbeat and smiled.

There was something so vulnerable and beautiful about listening to another’s heartbeat. The fact that you had been given the privilege of hearing it was a magic of its own. Alec’s was like a drum, desperately beating and glad to be alive.

He raised one arm and gently traced circles around where his heart would be. His fingers brushed dark hair and he remembered the pathway his lips had followed last night and flushed. The taste of Alec was still in his mouth, on his lips.

Last night, Magnus felt he had been stripped, drained of colour and coloured in with new, brilliant colours that only they shared.

It was like his world had been introduced to new colours. To a new language.

He pressed a kiss against Alec’s chest, like how he had done last night, and let his lips stay there for a moment longer.

“That’s a thoughtful way of waking someone, doctor.”

Magnus grinned into Alec’s chest, not feeling the least bit guilty. “Good morning, Your Highness.” He whispered.

The prince yawned. “I’m fairly certain it’s past midday.”

Magnus shrugged. Well, the best one could shrug with a taller man pressed closely to your side.

“Oh well.”

“Did anything interesting happen last night? I had the strangest dream…”

Magnus froze.

After a moment, Alec burst out laughing.

Ha.

Magnus slapped the prince’s chest, ignoring the little jump of fear his heart had just done. “That was mean. Very mean. I may need to punish you for that. And not in a sexy way, I can assure you.”

Alec captured Magnus’ hand in his own and brought it up to his lips. “Forgive me.” He apologised and kissed the back of Magnus’ hand again, kissing each finger and toying with it in his hands.

Still a little grumpy, Magnus pressed a nail into Alec’s chest and grinned when the prince stopped laughing and winced. “Ouch.”

Now satisfied, Magnus kissed where he had dug his nail in, reaching out with his tongue and flicking it across the bare skin of Alec’s chest.

Alec froze, and he could feel the prince’s gaze on him as he kissed and nibbled across his ribs; slowly and lazily making a trail across his chest. His teeth grazed across his ribs.

Alec’s body was a map, and Magnus wanted to explore the entire world. If he could.

He reached his midriff and was practically lying on top of Alec now. He settled his legs on either side of Alec’s waist and continued to kiss his chest, enjoying the way the prince had started to gasp a little.

“We need to talk, Magnus.” Alec said softly. He moaned when Magnus began tracing his nipples with his tongue.

“Do we?” Magnus asked huskily. He switched to toying with Alec with his hands, reaching up and lowering his lips onto the prince’s waiting ones. As he traced circles with his hands, Magnus kissed Alec slowly, flicking his tongue over his lower lip and then biting down, gently. He sucked Alec’s lower lip into his mouth and moaned himself, the intimacy too hard to push away.

Alec pulled away. Just a fraction. “Wait a second.”

Magnus ignored the disappointment and sat back, still straddling Alec’s waist. He watched, waiting for Alec to inevitably shift them and get up and walk away.

Instead, the prince took something out of his bag and brought out a small packet. He took out a small, white sweet and offered one to Magnus with a sheepish look. The tips of his ears had turned pink.

Magnus smiled and popped the mint into his mouth.

“How thoughtful.”

Alec’s eyes suddenly widened in fear. “Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s not you. I, uh…sorry…it’s a habit, that’s all.”

Magnus watched Alec’s cheeks flush a deeper pink and finally took pity on him. “No offence taken. I meant what I said.” He said with a smile.

To prove his point further, Magnus leaned forwards and left an open-mouthed, sloppy but firm kiss right over the vein on Alec’s lovely long neck. His pulse seemed to leap as Magnus hovered over it, lazily sucking on it and enjoying the small moans he was electing from Alec.

Alec mumbled something then, almost sub-consciously, and Magnus pulled back, his desire flaring as he stared at Alec with surprised pleasure. “Please repeat that.” He whispered.

Alec gave a small smile and softly repeated his quote. “I am half agony, half hope. It’s a quote from-“

“I know, I know.”

After a moment, Magnus couldn’t take it any longer. The words had left his shaken and wrecked and the prince had barely touched him.

He closed his eyes and sighed. “Stop doing that, though. Or give me a warning. Fuck.”

 “What?” Alec asked innocently.

Magnus re-opened his eyes and glared down at him. “Quoting Austen like it’s the damn morning paper. It does things to a man.”

“Oh.”

Magnus raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Oh indeed.”

He expected Alec to blush, or turn away. Instead, the prince looked up at him with surprising confidence, and Magnus was pleased he hadn’t frightened him with his forwardness.

You literally just slept with him last night, Magnus reminded himself dumbly. You can’t get any more forward than that.

He was suddenly reminded of the fact that they were both very naked. He was straddling a very naked and flushed Alec whose lower body seemed to be just as responsive as Magnus’ was.

For some unknown reason, Magnus felt a small part of him – and definitely not his lower parts – panic.

He suddenly asked, “In all seriousness, I’ve never asked why you enjoy reading so much.” He tried to keep his voice steady and forced his hips not to rock any further. “I understand. I love books too, but I want to hear you say it. If you’d like.”

“Is now a good time?” Alec’s eyes flickered down to his hardened length.

Magnus winked and rolled his hips slightly, unable to help himself that time. “Did you have something else in mind?” He teased.

Alec suddenly gripped his waist and hissed. “Fuck.”

“Later.” Magnus promised. He leaned in slightly and nodded for Alec to answer his earlier question.

With an eye roll, Alec sighed. “Fine. I grew up surrounded by books, so I guess it taught me to listen. To everything. And everyone. I internalised a lot as a child because of it. In fact, I’m likely still doing it now. I’m…not good at verbalising how I feel…”

Oh, yes, I remember. Magnus thought wickedly. Definitely an action man instead...

The prince looked up at Magnus, shyly, and ran a hand over the back of his neck.

Magnus gently caught it and brought it up to his lips. He kissed the palm of Alec’s hand and then released it, gazing down at the prince and smiling kindly. “Makes sense.” He said quietly. “I can’t imagine your parents having a ‘feelings time’. You read to find the words you needed to say.”

“Perhaps.” Alec said thoughtfully. He looked lost in thought, and then seemed to refocus, his eyes drinking in the man straddling his lap. His pupils began to dilate as he gazed up at Magnus with renewed desire. “Can we reschedule book talk?”

“But we haven’t even gotten to the good ones!" Magnus teased. "Let’s talk Shakespeare! Or Tennyson-“

Magnus broke off with a laugh as Alec growled, pushed himself up onto his elbows and swung his body around to shift them. He turned them over and Magnus soon found himself trapped under a very heated stare and a very aroused prince.

“Well, well, Alexander. Restless today, are we?” He tried to tease, but his voice was a little out of breath from Alec’s passionate display, and it didn’t have the exact effect he had wanted.

Alec’s weight was a little carelessly balanced, and Magnus winced.

Immediately, Alec sat up and the weight was gone in a split second.

Worry clouded the prince’s handsome face. “Did I hurt you?” He whispered in fear.

Magnus quickly shook his head. “You’re perfect.” He murmured, running a fingertip across Alec’s stubbled jaw. Honestly, the slight pain had been worth it. Anything to have Alec gazing down at him like he was the best discovery since chocolate.

They kissed for a few minutes then, no more words spoken.

~ ~ ~

The thought that he had hurt Magnus had slightly thrown Alec.

For a moment there, he had been overwhelmed by the fear of how easy it would be to damage such a wonderful gift. The gift of open affection that Magnus had given him, over and over again, was important to Alec in a way that he would never be able to explain.

It was like voicing feelings in a language he didn’t know.

All he knew was quoting other people’s words; others’ experiences and emotions.

He hoped with all his might that Magnus would be able to decipher the things Alec saw in himself as strange and complicated.

Gazing down at him now, at the way Magnus would pull back and pause every minute and wait, Alec was certain that he knew how to complete Alec in the way he needed to be completed. He was so aware of Magnus’ dancing hands and soft expressions. In turn, Magnus was so intent in reading Alec’s sighs and head tilts; asking him to kiss certain places, or stray away from others.

One thing Alec couldn’t take was the doctor’s patience.

After at least ten minutes – or maybe fifteen, Alec had become lost in a timeless place as soon as Magnus kissed him – Magnus was still pressing gentle kisses everywhere.

He was unbearably hard to rattle.

Incapable of stopping, Alec grew desperate; more heated. He hurriedly rolled his hips then, bucking into Magnus and pressing their chests together firmly. He groaned as their bodies pressed together, smiling a little when Magnus finally gripped him a little tighter; a little less carefully.

Alexander.”

Magnus spoke his name like a prayer and a curse all at once and Alec could hardly take it anymore. He pulled back slightly.

Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “Do you want to get food?”

Of all the things he had opened his mouth to say, why had he asked that?

Alec was seconds away from groaning, and not from pleasure this time, but at his nervous energy. Because he was. Nervous.

And he wasn’t quite sure how to politely ask Magnus to screw him into oblivion.

He waited for Magnus to laugh. It wouldn’t be a bad thing, Alec considered. He did so adore Magnus’ laughter. But he feared that his anxieties were spread out in plain sight, and he was never one to invite others into seeing the smaller, hidden parts of him. The parts that couldn’t handle affection very well.

But with Magnus, he wanted. He really wanted to. And Alec hoped that that counted as something.

“Uh, I mean…are you hungry?”

A moment passed. Magnus regarded him with a playful look.  “Very.” He said huskily, his eyes lazily drifting over Alec’s naked form.

Alec felt his body ease up on the tension. He realised then that he had been asking Magnus if he wanted to stop. There was still a part of the prince that feared their time together could come to an end at any second. Although he hadn’t intended to stop, Alec wanted to be sure that Magnus wanted this. Wanted him.

Just as much as I want him. Need him.

“Alexander, you seem so far away.” Magnus’ voice had softened. “Come back.” His gaze was still intense with desire, but Alec cursed himself when he saw a flash of uncertainty there now.

He had done this. Made Magnus question their kisses and their touches, and everything that was magical to Alec.

Quickly, Alec shook his head. “Sorry.” He mumbled. “I was just…thinking.”

He felt his skin flush again when Magnus grazed his fingers across his jaw, tilting his head back down towards him.

“Then stop.” Magnus whispered.

They kissed briefly, and Alec felt it wash over him soothingly. It not only pushed aside his worries, but reminded him that there was too much trust between them to act shy or unsure.

He felt Magnus, hard and aching beneath him – mirroring Alec’s own body – and completely pushed away any last thoughts of stopping.

He had one last thought;

So this is what the books mean.

~ ~ ~

Magnus had never considered himself a selfish lover, but he had never considered himself a selfless one either.

With Alec, he was in control and submissive at the same time; wanting to touch, and be touched.

They took turns exploring the other, sometimes gentle and other times firm and passionate.

When Alec’s lean finger – and later, fingers – had gently curled inside him, Magnus had thrown his head back and gripped the headboard so tightly he feared it would snap.

Alec had a sinfully steady rhythm to his hands, and Magnus was left a trembling mess of sweat-soaked limbs as he muttered obscenely dirty words to a man of royal birth.

Alec didn’t seem to mind.

In fact, Magnus noticed with a smirk that his words worked Alec into his own state of feverish desire.

Later, as Magnus worked the prince into overdrive with his fingers and mouth, Alec bit Magnus’ shoulder as he came. His body trembled underneath him as his teeth marked Magnus’ skin.

Magnus shivered in pleasure at the stab of pain. It was raw desire and it burned him from the inside out when Alec grazed his teeth up towards his neck, kissing and nibbling.

It was going to bruise and Magnus couldn’t care less. He would wear the marks of passion with pride.

I can now check ‘royal hickey’ off my bucket list, Magnus thought drowsily, as the prince lazily kissed a path up his throat and jawline.

After heading to the bathroom to clean up, they both dressed – slowly, with a lot of shared kisses stolen in-between – Magnus and Alec headed for the door.

When his stomach growled, Magnus glanced apologetically at Alec. “I could definitely go for food now.”

The prince looked amused. “Clearly.”

His smug expression faded when his own stomach groaned from neglect.

Magnus tossed his head back and laughed loudly. How delightful it was to laugh.

When he looked back at Alec, the prince’s smile was so affectionate that Magnus quickly crossed the room, pushed himself onto tiptoes and kissed him.

“Please stop.” Alec begged, pulling back quickly.

Magnus felt a stab of hurt as the prince stepped back, putting a distance between them.

But then Alec grinned. “If you kiss me again, we won’t reach the kitchen.”

“Food. Then sex.”

Alec flushed at his bluntness, and Magnus winked at him. He found it endearing that after sharing such intimacy, Alec was still prone to blushing.

He knew there was much to talk about, but for now, Magnus allowed himself the pleasure of taking Alec’s hand in his own and walking through a house that didn’t ask them to be anything other than their best selves.

~ ~ ~

Isabelle sat in her room.

 A couple of small bags rested by her feet as she contemplated her next move.

In her hands, she held a photograph.

It was a captured memory of Lydia and Isabelle when they were younger. They had just built a treehouse in the garden, using rope to make a ladder and wooden planks and blankets to create the floors and roof.

Later, Maryse would shake her head and demand that the servants take it down, but for that moment, Izzy had a home. A home she had built herself. With people she loved and wanted to be around forever. Alec and Jace had leaned in at the last minute and stuck their tongues out, with Max hovering in-between she and Lydia.

Isabelle ran her thumb gently over Lydia’s face in the photo and felt tears spring to her eyes. She wished things could be that simple again, but then she wouldn’t be doing what she was about to do.

Chase your dream. She told herself for the fourth time that morning. Do it.

She felt herself straighten and her chin lift in determination.

She left the note for her parents – or Alec, or whoever discovered it first – on the bed, and carefully lifted her bags. She made sure she had her passport and Julliard audition invitation before heading out of the house. She tiptoed, taking the back exit to avoid the servants and anyone else who might be up and about at four o’clock in the morning.

She was doing this.

As she climbed into the taxi she had ordered, Isabelle smiled.

Right or wrong, she was ready.

~ ~ ~

On the way home, neither Alec nor Magnus mentioned what would happen when they returned.

Magnus was aware of how delicate the situation was.

He had a lot to lose, and so did Alec. There would be time for talking. At least, he was hopeful there would be. 

They had bid goodbye to Tessa and her husbands, who were friendly and a little smug as the pair walked out holding hands. Magnus made sure to exchange his number with the group before heading back onto the plane with the prince.

For now, he enjoyed the simple gifts he had been already given; to touch and hold Alec as he had done, and to touch him as casually as he now was on the plane.

They were sitting side by side on the sofa reading, and though Magnus was trying to concentrate on his book, Alec kept shifting and brushing against him. His thigh would press firmly against his, or with slow ease, his fingers would gently rest on the doctor’s forearm for a moment.

It was likely absentminded but it was driving Magnus wild.

Magnus growled. “Alexander, please.”

Alec looked at him innocently. “What?”

Aggressively turning a page, Magnus lowered his voice and whispered back, “I cannot ravish you on a plane.”

“Says who?” Alec said, quite casually. “I own the plane after all.” He returned to his book, grinning and very pleased with himself.

Magnus clicked his tongue against his teeth.

He was unsure whether to bite Alec or kiss him.

His eyes flickered down to the prince’s elegant neck, the vein straining deliciously.

Magnus licked his lips.

Maybe both.

He answered when his cock stopped twitching. “I think I preferred my Mr. Darcy. Can I have my awkward prince back please?”

Alec snorted, but when he glanced across at Magnus, he was smiling. He leaned forwards and kissed him, softly but sure. His hand came up to caress Magnus’ cheek, which made the doctor smile.

“You do that a lot.” Magnus murmured.

“Do what?”

“Touch my cheek. Why?”

“It’s the only place I can touch without getting glitter on me.”

Magnus looked offended. He pulled back a little and folded his arms across his chest. “You don’t like glitter?”

“I didn’t say that.” Alec said calmly, still reaching for him.

Magnus let him, and relaxed as Alec cradled his face in both hands and kissed him gently again.

When he pulled back, Alec’s expression was tender. “I like glitter. I like you, Magnus. And I like touching you here,” Alec traced his thumb over Magnus’ cheekbones. His touch was cool, but Magnus felt a fever growing again. “, because it reminds me that we are the same. We are both flesh and bone and more the same than we are different. I like the softness here,” Alec lowered his thumb until it reached Magnus’ lips, brushing over his upper lip and edging to the corners. “You are so alive, Magnus. I swear your heart is right here, and here, and here.”

Alec’s thumb dipped lower, circling under Magnus’ chin as he smiled. “Your heart is in your lips, and your smile, and your eyes.” He flushed, suddenly a little shy. “That’s why I like touching you there.”

Because you’re touching my heart.

Alec let his hand hover above Magnus’ lips for a moment and Magnus was glad. He needed a moment to take that all in. He was having a difficult time remembering how to breathe after that.

“Well.” Magnus laughed breathlessly. “That is the sexiest dentist appointment I’ve ever had.”

~ ~ ~

Alec watched Magnus reading and smiled.

His fingers still tingled from where he had traced earlier, and it felt like a dream. Not this, but how he felt. He felt like he was floating, but on the ground, and he’d begun to feel like heaven on earth wasn’t a complete myth after all.

When a cabin crew attendant came into the room to announce that they had an hour left till arrival, he felt Magnus tense beside him. He did too.

Without meaning to, a timer had been set, and Alec felt every second tick away after that.

“This can stay here, Alec.”

Alec froze.

He turned to Magnus, surprised by the doctor’s outburst. It was usually he who was the uncertain one; the one pushing Magnus back and holding back. His heart cried out in outrage when Magnus’ expression had turned to one of forced calm. He was trying to hold back for Alec, and Alec knew it.

“This will need a lot of work, whatever it is. And I want you to know that you don’t owe me anything. We never promised each other anything.”

Alec blinked. He swallowed. He blinked again.

It would be so easy to once again laugh it off and say that their time together had been fun but that was it. To say goodbye or ‘see you around’. Alec knew he still had a lot of confusion to work past. But over the months that had passed, Alec hoped that there was a stability in his home now.

His parents and Izzy would be waiting as usual.

His would be the only change in the house.

Alec would finally be allowed to be selfish. Perhaps. He could let himself take centre-stage in the house and ease into the future slowly. 

He looked at Magnus and hoped that ‘perhaps’ could become a ‘try’ and eventually a ‘yes’.

“Let’s get home first.”

“Home.” Magnus repeated. The word held so much weight then, and Alec realised they were in that strange state between something and everything.

Once they were back at Bishop’s Palace, Alec thought, they could ease into everything. In control, Alec hoped he could finally have his time. For himself, and for Magnus. For the both of them. Perhaps Magnus could stay a few more days and they could take thing slow and-

“What are you thinking about, Alexander?”

“You.” Alec replied, simply and truthfully.

Magnus cupped his face and kissed him gently, pulling back only to place a quick kiss to Alec’s jaw. He smiled. “I like that. I like you, Alexander.”

They returned to their books and read for the rest of the hour, with Magnus sometimes pausing to gaze across at him.

And when he looked, Alec was always already watching him.

~ ~ ~

Arriving into New York was like stepping into another world.

Isabelle walked off the plane and stepped into a dream of colour, chaos and hope.

She walked slowly to the audition, having left her bags at the hotel and checked for directions beforehand.

She knew the way. She was ready.

All other thoughts flew from her mind as she stepped inside Julliard’s large, glass and brick building. Music echoed through the walls and she caught glimpses of dancers and singers and actors alike, all rushing and performing with their entire being. Izzy’s eyes were wide as she took it all in.

She checked into the reception and was ushered in with a small group, also waiting to audition. She held her music piece on a CD, and was surprised to see that her hands were not trembling.

I want this.

I deserve this.

She thought about her family back home, and a brief stab of guilt hit her. She quickly buried it and it was overcome with stronger waves of excitement and nerves.

“Auditionee number thirty five. Isabelle Lightwood?”

Isabelle stood.

“I’m ready.”

As she entered the large open audition space, she inclined her head and greeted the judges at the far end with a polite smile.

Not too wide and exaggerated, Izzy reminded herself. She didn’t want to seem fake.

There were two women and two men sitting behind a table, giving her a large space to work with for her dance.

She stood in the centre, shoulders back and head held high.

Part of the audition was to sell yourself, not just your dancing ability, and Izzy was ready to give them everything. The form said to introduce yourself and time it between a minute and two.

Izzy kept hers brief and truthful.

“I’m here today because I was told not to.” She began, voice ringing clearly throughout the hall. “Dancing has always given me a freedom that I cannot find anywhere else. My family do not know I am here. My friends don’t. Only I do. This dream is the one thing I will always stand behind, and my audition for you today is a combination of who I am, and who I hope to be should I earn a place here. Thank you.”

She turned her back to the judges and closed her eyes, welcoming the only sound of her ballet socks gently tapping against the floorboards.

As always, dancing became the only important thing in that moment. The realisation that she was actually here, in New York, buzzed across Izzy’s skin. She channelled it into adrenaline and energy and waited.

The music began.

Everything washed over Izzy and she powered it into her every move.

All the anger and frustration.

All the love and hope.

She poured Lydia’s smile into her twirls, and her brother’s hugs into her pirouettes.

She crafted Max’s giggles into her outstretched arms and felt his spirit rush into her embrace.

It was ballet and contemporary.

It was soft and forceful.

More importantly, it was Izzy’s soul on a canvas, bared for all the world to see.

The lyrics sung out as Izzy danced and danced and danced:

 

Riding the storms that come raging toward us, we dive.

Holding our breath as we break through the surface.

With arms open wide, with arms open wide...

 

As the instrumental section built up to the ending, Izzy felt a shift.

Her imagination spun out the people she needed to see most of all.

As she turned, she saw Magnus, Alec and Lydia standing and watching her.

They were ghosts, and yet so visible to her as she pictured their smiles with perfect clarity. They gave her strength. Alone, she was confident. With their presence, she became something else entirely; a product of love and hope and memories filled with the best and worst of life.

The music rushed through her, breathing life into every arm she stretched and every leap she flew into.

And when Max appeared, as young and happy as he had been, Isabelle allowed the tears to flow freely as she danced for herself, her brothers, and everything she had ever dreamed to pursue:

 

This is who I am inside.

This is who I am, I’m not going to hide.

Because the greatest risk we’ll ever take is by far;

To stand in the light and be seen as we are.

 

The music quietened as she began her final pirouette, slow and steady as the last line closed her routine:

 

So stand in the light and be seen as we are.

 

The music finished and Izzy dropped into an elegant curtsy.

She was breathless and panting, but she had never felt more alive.

Every move had been executed exactly as she’d hoped.

Her heart was drumming and her eyes were stinging with tears and yet she couldn’t keep from smiling as she nodded once to the judges, thanked them quietly, and walked out of the room.

The visions of her loved ones had faded, but Izzy carried them in her heart now.

Thank you, she prayed; hoping they could all hear her. Wherever they were, Izzy hoped they knew how important they were to her, and how much she loved them.

She could almost feel little Max’s hand tucked into hers as she left the audition.

~ ~ ~

Something is wrong…

As soon as they drove into Bishop’s Gate, Alec was on full alert.

A few security cars were parked outside and a few local officers loitered around outside, speaking to servants and talking in hushed, urgent voices.

Something was wrong.

He rushed into the main house Magnus quickly following, and was met with a shocking sight.

He had seen his parents together quite a bit over these past few months, but the sight before him shocked Alec to the core.

Maryse was sitting on the sofa, and Robert had wheeled his chair beside her, and was gently comforting her and stroking his wife’s back while she looked ready to burst into tears.

She looked up, her eyes widening. “Alec!” She cried, rushing to stand and stepping towards him. “It’s your sister. She…” His mother broke off with a choked sob.

Alec looked down at the piece of paper in his mother’s hands:

I have to do this.

I’ll be back in a few days, I promise.

-Isabelle.

“She’s run away, Alec. She’s gone, hasn’t she?” Maryse said quietly, her voice strained with emotion. She stared at the letter with trembling hands. Alec had never seen his mother like this before. Worry gnawed at his stomach until Magnus cleared his throat.

“I believe I know where she went.”

Three pairs of fierce, Lightwood eyes pierced the doctor.

“Do share.” Maryse said coldly.

She narrowed her eyes at Magnus, who straightened his shoulders and replied, quietly, “She’s in New York." He announced quietly. A look of guilt was mixed into his surprise. "Auditioning. For Julliard, the dance school.”

Everyone was silent for a moment.

Alec exhaled, running a hand through his hair as he took in the information. Izzy had fled to dance? He knew Izzy was passionate about it, of course, but why was this the first time he was hearing about an audition?

A rush of guilt came over him then. How could he have missed something that meant so much to his sister? Had he selfishly swept the signs aside?

He was torn between frustration, anxiety and guilty and it was tearing him apart as he gazed at Magnus and asked, “How do you know this, doctor?”

“Izzy confided in me about wanting to dance. Professionally. I knew she wanted to audition, but I didn’t realise she would…”

Magnus looked away, paused, and then turned back. There was a determination in his expression that refused to claim blame. His voice was calm as he continued, “Izzy is a smart woman, Your Highnesses. If she says she will be back, I believe that. And when she returns, perhaps you can discuss her future-“

A strangled sound came from Maryse. She gaped at Magnus with an angry expression that put thunder to shame. “How dare you.”

She was flushed an angry pink as she glared at Magnus. She took a step towards the doctor so quickly that Magnus stepped back in alarm.

“You are greatly overstepping, doctor.” Maryse hissed. “I suggest you choose your next words carefully. Are you a father? Do you have a family? Do you have any idea how to raise children while juggling a business? And yet you dare to lecture me on parenting.”

Magnus swallowed, but met Maryse’s stare with his own. “I did not mean to insult you, ma’am, but I stand by what I said. The problem is that Isabelle did not feel as though she could talk to you. That is not my problem, no matter how much you wish to place the blame on me. Which you will, I see that now.” He looked down sadly and then shook his head.

Magnus was surrendering, Alec realised, but had the will of someone desperate to go out with a lesson.

Alec froze. Whatever was about to happen was happening so fast. He needed a moment. But he didn't have one. There was no time to prepare as he watched his parents and a man he cared for stand on opposite sides of the battlefield. 

What do I do? He thought helplessly.

The doctor looked around at all of them then, smiling a little at Robert, barely glancing at Alec, and then returning his gaze to Maryse. She stood with her hands on her hips, breathing heavily as she glared at him.

Magnus ran a hand through his hair. “Isabelle is an adult, Your Highness, and this was her decision. I have no power or control over that. I earned your daughter’s trust and I respected that. I am her friend.”

Maryse curled her hands into fists by her side. “We hired you.” She snarled. “We hired you, let you live in our home, and you repay this by encouraging our daughter to run away and go against our wishes?”

“I did not encourage anything.” Magnus snapped. "Certainly not for her to run away and cause your family any worry." He held up a hand in defence. “I simply listened to her. I know, a rare concept around here.” His bitterness was clear, and Alec winced at the truth of it. He was on a dangerous path, however, and Alec feared there was something unfolding that would damage whatever was happening between them.

Alec looked at his mother, and then at Magnus, and felt his feet freeze.

What did you do when two pieces of your heart were at war with each other?

His father had been silent up until now, and ducked his head, refusing to meet the doctor’s gaze. If he was looking for support, Robert wouldn’t be a friend to Magnus. Not now, at least.

Alec felt a stab of anger then. At how easy his father, and yes, mother too, could discard everything Magnus had done for them. 

But aren't you doing the same thing right now? He asked himself. Otherwise, do something. Before it's too late. Do something...

Maryse balled her hands into fists and said sharply, “You are not being a friend to Isabelle by allowing her to make this reckless decision. You encouraged her to lie and sneak around.”

“With the greatest respect,” Magnus said slowly. There was absolutely no respect in his angry expression. “You did that all by yourself.”

Maryse growled, looking like a snake coiled to lunge out at Magnus. She turned her back on his instead and handed the phone to Alec. “Call security. Have them contact the private branch in New York and find Isabelle. Now.”

Alec hesitated. He had felt on the outside looking in, unable to find the right words that would stop the situation becoming a nightmare.

But it already had.

He looked at Magnus, overwhelmed. Everything that had happened so recently now seemed to drift into a faraway land. The memories had been fogged over by Izzy’s disappearance, and Alec struggled with his heart and head. Again, they were armed and facing each other on the battlefield.

He wanted to reach out and hold Magnus and shout at his mother for being unfair.

There was truth in both arguments and he hated that he wasn’t doing anything.

So Alec did what he always did.

He obeyed.

~ ~ ~

Magnus watched as Alec took the phone and left the room without so much as glancing in his direction.

Was it that easy for Alec to dismiss everything that had happened between them?

The times they had shared were making Magnus dizzy with emotion. He was upset and concerned for Izzy, and yet he knew she was an intelligent woman who had obviously planned this trip and was ready to take matters into her own hands.

Also, he also understood Maryse’s anger, and why it was directed so fiercely at him. 

But Magnus had enough self-respect to draw the line at being a scapegoat. He would not sit and take it anymore. 

“This is beyond your simple understanding, doctor.” Maryse snarled.

That’s it.

“No.” He said firmly. The look of fury that Maryse gave him barely concerned him anymore. “You’re upset, I understand. But would you prefer to return to how things used to be? Suffering in silence? God forbid someone should want something for themselves."

He let the anger and frustration seep into his voice. "Isabelle will return. If you know her in even the slightest way that I have had the pleasure of doing so, you’d know that she will return. Do not bother asking me to return. I’m done here.” He looked at Robert and tensed when the elder prince opened his mouth, hesitated and closed it again.

Hurt flickered inside Magnus and he let it show on his face. He let it drive his next words. “I have enough self-respect to know when I’ve been beaten. I will not tolerate degrading myself for a family who refuses to open their eyes. You will never consider me an equal, I realise that now. I've been foolish to think otherwise. I hope one day you can change, if not for yourselves, then for your children. Who are growing up be bloody amazing.” He coldly added, “Good day.”

Magnus couldn’t believe it was ending like this.

After so many months together, becoming friends and learning from each other, he was leaving the Lightwoods in such a sour, miserable departure.

He felt tears prick behind his eyelids and blinked them away.

He wouldn’t cry here. They didn’t deserve so much as a goodbye handshake.

His bags were already in the car.

All Magnus had to do was walk away.

From a house that had become a home, and strangers who had become friends and family.

From a prince who had become something more.

Where was Alec?

He had to say goodbye. 

I can't. I can't. I can't...

Could he ask him to choose between him and his family?

Magnus groaned in anguish as he stepped out of the room.

He could never ask that of Alec. If he had even an ounce of compassion - and Magnus had almost too much - there was no way he would ask Alec to leave. 

~ ~ ~

"If you don't mind, I'll walk that line
Stuck on the bridge between us
Gray areas and expectations
But I'm not the one if we're honest..."

 

 

Alexander.”

Alec was outside, standing outside his car.

He held a phone to his ear and held up a hand, asking Magnus to wait. His expression was desperate, his eyes wide with the words he couldn’t say.

Wait.

Please wait.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

So Magnus waited. They were alone on the long cobble path leading up to the front gate of the house.

When Alec hung up, he sighed and slowly turned around. His expression was unsure as he searched Magnus’ face. He didn’t step forward and Magnus flinched inwardly at the sudden wall that had been thrown up between them.

Not an hour ago they had been kissing on a plane. Happy.

What had Alec said again?

We are both flesh and bone and more the same than we are different.

Now they were inches apart, and yet miles apart.

Magnus wondered if he had betrayed Alec, or if he was the one who had every right to feel hurt.

Knowing it was both did not make Magnus feel any better. It made him feel worse, as it meant there were no easy options. He had encouraged Isabelle - intentional or otherwise - and her brother had every right to be worried and angry. 

So Magnus braved the first words. 

“I have to leave, Alec.”

Alec deflated.

There was no other word to describe it. He seemed to shrink and dissolve, his eyes closing and his lips quivering. Still, he was silent, and made no attempt to reach for him.

If Magnus had surrendered to his fate indoors, Alec was doing so now.

In fact, it was Alec’s acceptance that tore into Magnus. It stung and bit at him, cruelly whispering that he wasn't worth fighting for.

Because Alec really didn’t seem like a man about to fight for someone he lo-

“Do you have anything to add?” Magnus asked quickly, distracting himself from that thought. He couldn’t throw words like that around. That one word.

If this was goodbye, it was about to destroy him.

Magnus swallowed before continuing. “Your mother has made it pretty clear that I’m not welcome anymore. I’m going to catch the next plane out of here.”

He waited.

Magnus was always waiting.

Alec hesitated.

“Exactly.” Magnus said sadly. He was quiet for a moment and then forced himself to speak. “Alexander, you are always pausing to think of a family whose honour only relies on secrecy and suppression.”

He watched as Alec raised his arms a little. Was he going to embrace him? He hesitated. Again. Perhaps he wanted Magnus to step to him.

I won’t. Not this time.

Alec lowered his arms to his sides. “Magnus, I…I have to think about my family.”

Magnus felt his stomach flip. Not this again. Please.

He watched as Alec reverted, hurtling back to whatever he had clung to long ago that tricked him into hiding his heart away.

He watched, helpless and heartbroken, as Alec’s mind slipped back into the old ways.

Back into before he had danced with a brilliant doctor at a ball.

Before he had kissed him and clung to him like a lifeline and pulled them both to land.

Before they had slept together in peaceful passion in Hawaii.

Magnus watched, tears forming, as those moments rewound backwards like a broken film reel. He felt them getting buried and desperately reached out with his fingers to save them for just a little while longer.

Alexander.” He half-whispered, half-begged.

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Magnus accepted that he would never say Alec’s name again. Not like this.

He would never let himself fill the word with hope and tenderness.

He would bury that special name and keep it hidden in his heart.

“Do you have another reason for me to stay?” He managed to ask. “Otherwise I will leave. Right now. And I’m not coming back.” One of Magnus’ hands was lifted to his neck, tracing small circles onto his neck to sooth himself. The other was wrapped around his torso, uncertain.

Alec stared down at him. His hands hovered by his sides. One came up to rub his forehead in frustration. “Izzy is all I can think about right now.” He whispered in anguish.

“She is twenty-two years old, Alec!" Magnus cried. His voice was painfully raw. "She knows what she is doing. It’s her life. Why can’t anyone see that? You’re all expected to be leaders and yet your parents won’t even let you lead yourselves!”

He sighed in aggravation and tried again, softly this time. “Look. I was eighteen when I went to London to study in a new country. I lost my parents and made myself a new family and a new home. She is not a child, Alec. This is perfectly natural-“

“Not in this family, Magnus.” Alec interrupted. His voice was higher than usual, panicked and unsteady. His gaze flickered back down to the phone in his hands, as if waiting for it to give him the answer. “It isn’t as simple as-“

“As what?” Magnus snapped. “My life?”

“I did not mean that.”

“What did you mean?”

Alec threw his hands up in frustration. “You just…act, Magnus! You do things without consequence because you have no responsibilities. No one to think about…”

Alec cut off abruptly. His eyes widened in fear.

I have no one, Magnus finished Alec’s sentence as tears began to form behind his eyes.

He wanted to turn and leave and forget this entire conversation. His arms tightened around his waist, clinging for comfort.

Alec looked at Magnus in sorrow. A tear fell down his cheek. “Magnus, I…I’m so sorry….I didn’t mean-“

“I understood you perfectly, Alec.”

Magnus wanted to wince at how cold his tone had become, but he looked up at Alec and only felt regret and yes, disappointment.

He was bitterly heartbroken and he pushed it into his next words. “You’re right.” He said quietly. “I have no one in this world. I see that quite clearly now. No one here, at least.”

If, in that moment, the power to time travel presented itself to Magnus, he would’ve leapt into the past in a heartbeat.

How far back?

To the beginning.

He squeezed his eyes closed, willing it to work. To erase everything and never accept the case in the first place.

But would it be more tragic to erase every memory he had made within the last year? To banish friendships and new love?

Magnus looked up at Alec and realised that he could never erase him.

And honestly, he didn’t want to.

Even now, as the first tear fell and Alec looked ready to break down as well, all Magnus wanted to do was find a small corner of the world and live there with the prince forever.

“But I’ve worked my ass off to get this position and I am not going to stay somewhere I am no longer appreciated.”

He heard his own words and felt a small nudge, lifting his chin and kicking his heart back into restart.

Gone were the days where he gave up without a fight.

“You’re not…” Alec’s voice became a desperate whisper. “I appreciate you.”

“Really? Prove it. Because you’re right, I have less to consider than you. I respect that, Your Highness.”

He hated how sarcastic the title sounded, dripping from his lips like poison.

How could something that was once an endearment so quickly become a weapon?

He pushed away his guilt and carried on. “But I am your equal, Alec. Regardless of rank. I know you feel that too.”

“What does it matter?” Alec cried. He pressed a hand to his forehead and sighed, closing his eyes against the pain. He sounded so wrecked; hopeless. “The divide between us is just too wide. We would spend our life together erasing that. We were fools to think otherwise. It was nice to dream for a while, but even if I, we, wanted to….I just…”

The prince was breathing heavily, his chest heaving against his whispers. “I don’t know anymore.” He looked so small, and Magnus hated how desperately he wanted to embrace him and murmur that they had time. “All I can think about is Izzy right now, Magnus. I need her back before…before…”

“Don’t hide behind your sister, Alec. You know that you are.” Magnus warned him gently.

He couldn’t hide his hurt any longer and let a tear slip down his cheek. “I’m done tiptoeing around your family. And as for Isabelle. She is an artistic genius. She’s compassionate and sweet and beautiful, and an incredible dancer. Which your parents would see if they gave her the chance.”

Magnus paused, gazing up at Alec for a sign of hope. When the prince said nothing, he rushed on, partially angry but mostly saddened by what was about to happen.

He could see the end in sight; he had seen enough to realise it approaching.

“You’re taking over a company, Alec. So you have no excuses about not being able to change your future, or your sister’s. You can change the world, Alexander Lightwood. I believe that.”

He let himself be tugged towards Alec then, and cupped his cheek tenderly with one hand. “But you’re just not letting yourself step into the light.”

He felt another tear fall as he softly finished. “And I won’t hide in the shadows with you, Alec.”

Alec was silent but trembling beneath his hand. He felt the prince shake and gasp, but still he was silent as Magnus gently stroked a finger over his cheekbones.

If it was the last time he was going to be here, Magnus was going to memorise every line and curve of Alec’s enchanting face.

The face of the man he had fallen in love with.

Magnus.” Was all Alec could whisper.

This time, it wasn’t enough for Magnus.

He closed his eyes tightly, pushing back with all his strength and dropping his hand to his side.

He stepped back.

This time, Magnus stood his ground.

He was crying openly now, tears dripping down his cheeks and his chin. They scared his face with reminders; of the pain cutting into his heart like a knife. It was hell, and Magnus knew it would be a hundred times worse later. But it was the right path. He knew this.

“When Izzy returns,” Magnus said. “Tell her that she is welcome to visit me anytime. And…she should fight for her happiness.” His voice cracked at the last part. “Even if her brother refuses to.”

Magnus looked at Alec, one last time.

He remembered how soft his lips had felt, how firm his muscles had felt underneath his gentle fingertips.

He remembered kisses and laughs and smiles and wrapped them into a gift box of memories.

Magnus kept them close to his heart, clinging like a child to the last remaining Christmas present.

It would have to be enough.

He would make the memories be enough.

Opening his mouth to say goodbye, a tear dripped onto his lips and Magnus felt the salty bitterness against his tongue. He wanted to sob and sob until those tears slipped into his bloodstream.

Saying goodbye would break Magnus’ heart beyond repair.

So he turned, and walked away; cupping a hand around his mouth to stop the words slipping out.

Goodbye.

Goodbye.

Goodbye.

“Magnus, please….wait.” Alec’s voice grew quieter as Magnus continued to walk away down the cobble driveway, not looking back. “Don’t…”

Goodbye.

Agonisingly, he heard Alec choke out, “Don’t leave me.”

His word changed then.

The goodbye became something else. Something he had wanted to ignore with a burning passion.

It grew and magnified as Magnus climbed into the car and felt it pull away, leaving the prince behind.

His goodbye became a tragic truth.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

If only it was worth something.

It was too late.

Alone once again, Magnus wept.

Chapter Text

Watching Magnus leave was like hacking away at Alec's heart until it was a mess of bloody ribbons and broken muscle.

Sharp pain splintered tears into his eyes, and Alec didn’t realise he was crying until his chest heaved.

A broken sob escaped his lips then. He turned away from the empty road, physically unable to look at where the doctor had once stood.

What just happened?

Alec bent forwards, hands on his knees as he gasped for breath.

His hands would not stop shaking and the tears burned a hot pathway down his cheeks.

He realised then his mistake. What he had cost the both of them.

You just broke your own heart.

As he lifted a trembling hand to his cheek, he heard himself give another wretched gasp when his fingers came back shimmering.

Strokes of purple glitter had left marks on his fingertip like a bruise. It glistened in the early afternoon sun.

Not so long ago, Magnus’ trademark would tug his lips into a smile, but now Alec stared helplessly at the last remainder of the doctor.

From the last touch he would ever feel.

He couldn’t bring himself to wipe it away. He simply stared.

As seconds became minutes, Alec stared and cried out tears of frustration, anguish and fear. Frightened for his sister, and shaken by Magnus’ sudden departure, Alec wondered if he was going mad. So much had happened in such a short time.

How did one deal with losing your heart and your head at the same time?

His loyalty to Isabelle suddenly sent shockwaves through Alec, and he pulled himself into a stand, wincing as his knees shook.

How could he have forgotten?

Izzy was out there, somewhere, alone.

There were a thousand terrible, awful thoughts that burned into Alec’s mind. Images of his sister’s body flashed into his mind, twisted and broken limbs beneath a white sheet.

He gasped again. Izzy.

The assault of images refocused his attention. The glitter on his fingertips shimmered, and as a tear dripped down onto it, Alec inhaled a deep breath and slowly curled his hand into a fist, dissolving the glitter.

Ignoring the tiny protests begging to be heard, Alec dismissed all thoughts of his own, selfish desires and headed inside the house.

As he walked, with each step he rebuilt a wall around his heart.

Memories of Magnus would overwhelm his desperation to find his sister and help his parents. They had to be his number one priority.

How foolish he was to believe he could be selfish.  

Halfway up the stairs, Alec paused. He hesitated and closed his eyes, trying to filter out the feeling of Magnus’ limbs curled around his own; and his soft lips kissing his.

Was there an alternative reality when they were together, and happy?

He wondered that now. Were they living like kings somewhere? Or perhaps they were thieves; poor and skinny but filled with enough love to live forever? He pictured gold rings, promises and Magnus holding a child as he looked on tenderly.

He pictured a life that was not his to choose.

Alec dreamed. He could feel the ghosts of other lives whispering around him.

As he took another step into the house, they screamed and begged to be heard. They wanted his heart to hope, but his head had demanded his attention first, and it had been too easy for Alec to turn his back on what he truly wanted.

You can change the world, Alexander Lightwood.

Magnus had begged him for something so simple; for just one reason to stay. Yet Alec had crumbled and reverted back behind his walls without realising it.

He remembered the doctor’s words. A stab of pain broke through his walls. It pierced him with regret as it looped again and again in his mind;

He said I lived in the shadows, Alec remembered. And that he wanted to step into the light.

As he took the final step up to the house, a tragic response came to the prince.

Light is for dreamers.

Alec stepped into the cool shade of the house and brushed away the last tear.

I cannot afford to dream anymore.

~ ~ ~

After the audition, Izzy found herself at a small café on a corner of a small street, watching people - old and young alike - walk and go about their daily routine.

Her thoughts had left the dance and helplessly returned to her family. Surely they would soon notice her absence.

If they haven’t already.

She had left them a note that, upon reflection, now seemed silly.

In her head, she had worked out the details and would not cause a fuss. Her parents would read the note, place their trust in her, and welcome a sensible discussion when she had returned.

How ignorant she had been.

Izzy finished her coffee and sighed. She imagined having her own children, and one of them rushing off into a big city.

Alec’s face, wide-eyed and worried, flashed into Izzy’s mind. She groaned, picking up her pace as she walked back to her hotel.

She thought of Magnus then.

Her friend had always been supportive and listened to her so sweetly. And how had she repaid him? By disappearing without a word? Confiding in someone had seemed pointless in her mind at the time. She feared someone would talk her out of going, or force Izzy to speak to her parents instead.

Lydia’s soft smile once again haunted Izzy.

Visions of her friend in a wedding dress pursued her, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was running away, instead of facing her problems like a true Lightwood would.

Her thoughts lingered on the doctor. How he had challenged the Lightwoods and everything they stood for. How he had encouraged them all to reunite with one another. Magnus had travelled so far from his home and yet, he had found the courage to fight for them.

He was a good, kind-hearted being and Izzy felt the guilt shame her into moving.

I want to go home.

~ ~ ~

Maryse Lightwood hid another yawn behind her hand.

She had been up long into the night, waiting for a phone to ring, and now it was almost morning and gentle light had begun seeping in through the lounge curtains.

Come home, Isabelle. She prayed again.

Similar prayers had kept her awake all night, and so she had found herself resting on the sofa downstairs instead, needing to be alone.

Losing control and losing her family had been two of Maryse’s recurring nightmares.

She had been faced with both of them in the last twenty four hours and now found herself drained and fighting against collapsing.

The last year had been a strange one. So much had happened, and much of it Maryse couldn’t begin to describe to an outsider.

How did you explain the indescribable joy of watching your children come back to life?

Or the quiet ways that the house had seemed to breathe again?

A house that had once again become a home.

She had forced her thoughts away from the doctor, who she had so firmly dismissed the previous day, but kept returning to him.

How angry she had been. How hurt and fiercely worried she had been; misdirecting it at the only person who connected the events.

In the spur of the moment, Maryse had loosened her tongue, and her fury, on the very same man who had fixed her broken home.

There is nothing else to be done about it now.

How simple that would be; to dismiss it as a mistake and think no more. Because of Isabelle, Maryse found it easy to. She ignored how hurt the doctor had looked. She also ignored that the only time she had felt this unsteady was over Max’s death.

For so long now, all Maryse had instructed herself to do was to keep the business striving while raising a family. Alone.

While she was pleased that Robert was indeed healing, part of Maryse still felt angered by her husband’s lack of support for years. Her resentment had sharpened into a tough exterior as her broken heart had struggled to remain open.

All Maryse wanted was her children’s happiness. For their options to be limitless.

If it meant that Alec and Isabelle would have successful careers, she would sadly accept their resentment towards her.

It was her job as a parent, and one she took very seriously.

Letting Magnus Bane into their world, and for him to have changed so much, had left Maryse a little shell-shocked.

And now the doctor was gone, leaving her to once again pick up the pieces of an unintentional mess.

Granted, Isabelle’s audition was no comparison to the accident. Yet it carried the same weight in Maryse’s heart.

She felt at a loss.

“Hi, mom.”

Maryse sat up quickly.

Her heart leapt into her throat as she turned to see Isabelle standing quietly in the doorway, a suitcase by her side.

“Oh.” Maryse said, barely a whisper. A flood of relief washed over her, springing tears to her eyes. “Isabelle…”

She hesitated before reaching for her daughter and pulling her into a timid embrace.

After a moment, Izzy’s shoulders released their tension and she hugged back, tightly, burying her head into her mom’s shoulder. “I’m okay, mom. I promise. I’m okay.”

Maryse hadn’t realised she was crying until she pulled back and felt Izzy brush away the tears, gently with her fingertips.

“I suppose this was that doctor’s idea, hm?” Maryse muttered. She was checking Izzy for any sign of injury, hating how her tone had already slipped into a defensive remark. Her daughter was alive and well. That ought to hold back her anger for a while at least.

“No, mom…”

“You don’t have to defend Magnus. I understand if he persuaded you-“

“Mom, listen. It was my idea. My idea alone. I’d been considering it for a long while and I promise it had nothing to do with Magnus. In fact…”

Maryse waited.

“I came back because of him.”

“What?” Maryse frowned. She had been ready for excuses and defences, but not this.

Izzy wrung her hands nervously, peering up at her mom with wide eyes. “Look, I know I shouldn’t have done this. Left so suddenly, I mean. But…I don’t regret going, mom. I wanted this, for myself, but after the audition I realised something.”

Izzy lifted her chin with honour. “We Lightwoods do not run from our problems. I remember how strong you were, for all of us, after Max’s death. I never once remember asking if you were okay, mom…”

She swallowed. “But Magnus would tell me to come back and fight for my dreams. So here I am, willing to talk this through. If you’ll let me, please, I’d like to talk about my future, mom.”

Maryse ran a hand over her forehead, taking it all in. Isabelle was safe and back at home, but something had clearly changed. She stood with a new kind of confidence, an admirable one that Maryse recognised as someone ready to not only fight, but to negotiate and win in whatever way they chose. She couldn’t help but smile.

She leaned forwards and kissed Izzy on the forehead. “Very well, Isabelle. Please go and get some rest and then we can talk.”

Isabelle blinked in surprise. “Wait. That’s it? No…protests?”

“Oh, I can promise you there will be protesting. Lots of it.”

Maryse sighed, already feeling the defeat. “But I look at you and I see myself. I see my parents telling me to walk away from your father. I see the company advisers demanding that one woman cannot solely run an empire. I see that compassion in your eyes; and that strength. The Lightwood strength.”

“What about ab ordine libertas?”

Maryse almost rolled her eyes. Almost.

Instead, she replied, “I think it is about time we change that motto.”

She looked at her daughter, so brave and beautiful, and smiled. “Alis volat propriis.”

Izzy beamed, her eyes shining. “She flies with her own wings.” She translated softly.

Maryse nodded and brushed a strand of hair away from her daughter's smiling face. “A new motto.” She said quietly. 

“And…a new start?” Izzy asked timidly, not meeting her mom's gaze. 

There were a thousand questions in that one sentence. Maryse knew this, and so did Isabelle.

She was asking what this meant for a family who had spent many years hiding from the truth.

What did it mean for a girl who wanted a different life?

Maryse herself was no longer sure, but she was certain of one thing.

“I love you, Isabelle.”

Izzy’s eyes filled with tears. “I love you too, mom.”

~ ~ ~

Heaving her suitcase back up the stairs, Izzy found a hopeful smile tugging at her lips.

A great deal of drama had swept her away these past few weeks, but after speaking with her mother, she hoped that a new groundwork was being made.

A new start.

She was no longer afraid to fight for her future. Out loud. Not in a whimsical, childlike fantasy. She was willing to prove to her parents that the path she wanted was worthwhile.

The school would let her know if she had a place within the next couple of weeks, to begin in the January term, so Izzy would wait. She had time, after all.

She rounded the corner and-

“Oof!”

“Ouch!”

-collided straight into her brother.

“Alec!” Izzy cried. She threw her arms around him and tried to convey her apology with a tight embrace. She was good at that, or at least she hoped she was.

Her smile fell as she pulled away.

Alec looked completely wrecked. It was as though someone had taken the floor from beneath his feet and turned his world upside down.

“Oh my god, Alec…I’m such an appalling excuse for a sister-"

She gasped as tears fell down her brother’s cheeks. He was watching her with wide eyes, as though she had appeared like a ghost.

Isabelle clasped a hand over her mouth, ashamed. “I am so sorry. If I could do this again-“

“You would still go, Iz.” He said quietly. His voice was cracked and raw, like his throat had been painfully scrubbed with sandpaper.

Isabelle had the good grace to look sheepish.

Looking down at her feet, she felt her heart sink with remorse. Hurting her family had never been a part of the plan. Never in a million years would Izzy intend for her brother to suffer because of her impulses.

“Alec, I really am sorry. I was just…”

“Following your heart.” He finished. His arms were still around her waist, and he gently tugged Izzy back into his arms for another hug, not wanting to let her go so soon this time. He sniffed, and she realised with horror that he was crying again.

Tears formed in her own eyes. “Big brother.” She murmured soothingly.

“There is nothing to forgive. Surely you know that, Iz?” Alec smiled at her. It was a confusing smile. One that seemed to mix sadness and relief all at once.

She nodded, her throat still tight with emotion. “You are too selfless for your own good, Alec. Surely you know that?”

But she was smiling now, and so was her brother.

“Where’s Magnus?” Izzy changed the subject quickly, rubbing her hands together. “I believe I owe our dear doctor an apology as well.”

She really, really wished she had chosen another topic.

Alec’s face fell so quickly that a wave of dread came over her.

“Alec?” She whispered. Izzy’s eyes widened when he didn’t speak. Had something else happened in the short time she was away? Surely not-

“He is well.” Alec said quickly, noticing the look of horror on her face.

He looked away, refusing to meet her pressing gaze. “Just…not here anymore.” His voice cracked and Izzy bit her lip to stop it from wavering.

“Where is he? Where is Magnus, Alec?”

When Alec replied, his voice was so small. “He’s gone.”

And then he began to cry.

Awful, gut-retching sobs were tugged from her brother’s body as she stood, watching in shock for a few moments.

Izzy pulled herself together and wrapped Alec in her arms again, stroking the back of his neck and whispering words of comfort. She tugged him into his room and they sat together on his bed for a long while.

Whatever had happened was tearing Alec apart.

As Isabelle hugged her brother, she was overcome by sorrow on his behalf.

Over this past year, she had seen Magnus offer Alec something that no one else ever could, and Alec had bared his soul in return.

Those two belong together, she had thought. And now?

She was certain that they still did.

Looking at Alec, and watching as he cried and cried, Isabelle realised that this was another thing worth fighting for: love.

She also knew that tonight was a time for tears, and so she held Alec and gently tucked him into her bed when he grew weary.

She laid down beside him and watched him sleeping for a few minutes.

She tucked a few strands of hair behind his ear and whispered, “Alis volat propriis.”

She would not fly with her own wings unless Alec could too.

~ ~ ~

“Magnus, I am so, so sorry. Please believe me; I never meant for you to-“

“Hey, none of that.” He said down the phone, kindly.

Magnus smiled a little. Hearing Izzy’s voice alone had immediately brought him some relief.

As he loaded his bags into the taxi, he carefully balanced his phone in-between his ear and shoulder. “I’m glad you did something for you, Izzy. Honestly. It’s about time one of the Lightwoods did something to change their fate.” He climbed into the car and nodded for the driver to pull away from the airport; heading home to Brooklyn after so long.

 “But…” Izzy’s voice trailed off reluctantly. She sighed. “Are you okay, Magnus? No one here will say much, but I doubt mom went easy on you.”

He chose his next words carefully. Adding to his friend’s guilt would only make things worse.

After a moment or two, he slowly replied, “Your mother cares about you a great deal, Isabelle.”

“That doesn’t excuse her cruelty, Magnus. You are not, nor should you ever be, a scapegoat. You have to know, please.”

“I do.” He said, honestly. “But I understand that your mother was in pain. She was scared, and scared people lash out sometimes. I’ve done it, and you most likely have too at some point in your life.”

After a pause, he added, “But yes, that doesn’t make it right. Hence my leaving.”

“I…I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

The sadness in Izzy’s voice hurt Magnus. He wished he could have said a proper goodbye to his friend, and yet he doubted their friendship would be tested drastically. He hoped that they shared something beyond distance.

“Are you breaking up with me, Isabelle Lightwood?” He tried to tease. Anything to have her laughing again.

With a quiet sigh, she did. Izzy’s laughter was the first warm thing Magnus had heard in the last twenty-four hours and he clung to it desperately.

“Never.” She laughed. “And besides, you promised to teach me that Arabic eyeliner technique, remember?”

“I have not forgotten.”

“Besides, I’ve always wanted to visit Brooklyn.”

He blinked in surprise. “You want to come and visit?”

Happiness began to reappear in his heart. It was a small burst, but it was something, and if Magnus knew anything, it was to appreciate every little bit of good in the world.

“Of course. Didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily, did you?”

It was Magnus’ turn to laugh. How similar Izzy’s words had been to something he had once said. When he was filled with optimism and hope, not disappointment and fresh heartbreak.

“I’d like that, Izzy. A lot.”

“Me too.”

“Speaking of New York, how did the audition go? Do I need to arrange an emergency cheer-up sleepover party?”

He kept his tone light. If the audition had gone wrong, he wanted Izzy to feel no obligation to tell him. Sometimes people needed time to share. If he had learned anything during his time with the Lightwoods, it was definitely that.

A mixtape.

A weekend away.

A highway kiss that still shook him to the core…

Lo-

Stop. He commanded himself. He winced at how close he had been to admitting it again. That word was under a firm lock and key until further notice. Until his heart had taken the time to slowly heal.

“Well…”

Izzy’s voice brought him back to the present. He drew himself up, alert and waiting.

“Totally nailed the audition.”

He gasped in delight. “Oh, Izzy! I wish I could be hugging you right now, my dear.” He joined in with her happy laughter. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Thank you.” She said warmly. “Mom and I are having the talk soon. The big future talk.”

He gritted his teeth together anxiously. “Best of luck.”

If Isabelle could present it with as much passion as she had to him, he was certain that even Maryse’s heart would warm to Izzy’s dreams.

“Magnus,” Her voice had lowered. There was a strain to it now. “What the hell happened between you and my brother?”

Bugger.

He had really been hoping to avoid that topic completely.

“Why don’t you ask your brother?” He muttered, glaring out of the window as though searching for something to blame. Misery gnawed at his heart but he brushed it aside. Now was too soon to consider everything he had just walked away from.

“Please, Magnus…what happened? He said you’d left but that was it. I couldn’t get anything else out of him before-“

“Typical.” He interrupted, burying his hurt underneath a layer of sarcasm.

If Alec could heal so quickly, did he even mean anything to the prince after all?

His next words dripped with anger. “You pour your heart out to a man and he’s completely unfazed.”

“Who, Alec?” Izzy asked. She sounded confused. “Magnus…he’s a mess.”

“W-What?”

“He hasn’t been in the house for days. He doesn’t eat with us anymore. I’m pretty sure he’s been sleeping in the car, and driving around at night to god knows where.”

Magnus was still in denial. “Maybe he’s spending some time with his fiancé.”

He suddenly winced, remembering that he wasn’t the only one attached to someone in that union.

“Shit, Izzy, I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…” He ran a hand across his forehead. “Sorry.”

“Perhaps. Uh, about that. You don’t have to come to the wedding. I’ll tell dad that you’re busy or something. Don’t worry about it.”

A wave of relief came over him then. “Thank you. I was dreading even thinking about that to be honest.” He admitted. “But I suspect my invitation has been taken back anyway. Izzy, are you really going to go?”

“For Alec, I am.” She said firmly. “Yes.”

“But what about you and-“

“Lydia has made it perfectly clear what she wants in life. I’m not a part of that, no matter how strongly I wish to be.”

Magnus grimaced. He was listening to her words and seeing a repeat of the events he had just suffered through.

Would he and Izzy both have to lose an opportunity to love? It seemed beyond unfair.

“You deserve better, Isabelle.”

“Both of us do.” Izzy corrected firmly. “I’m sorry I never told you…”

“Told me what?”

“You know, about my…feelings for Lydia.” She had paused, and Magnus wondered if it was the first time she had voiced it out loud. He forced himself to wait in silence for her to process it.

After a long pause, Izzy sighed. “I thought it would feel good to say it out loud, but…”

“It only hurts the more?” He mirrored her sigh with one of his own, gazing out into the city he had called home for so long. Its familiar lights and colour washed over him, happily pulling him away from memories of hazel eyes and gentle hands roaming down his chest and-

“Izzy.” He quickly interrupted his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“Please tell your father something for me. His exercises are completely up to him now. He knows what to do. If he continues, he could be walking within the next year. I’ve told Robert, and Maryse this, but they may need another reminder. The point is…I’ve done my best, Izzy. I only hope I’ve made a few small changes, for the better, in your family.”

“Magnus, you changed everyone.”

He swallowed back tears. They were confused tears; both grateful and aching with sadness.

“I only wish you could have stayed and-“

“No.” He glared out at the tall buildings, the traffic a whirlwind of sound around the car. He forced himself to once again get lost in the sea of movement rather than face what he had walked away from.

“Enough is enough, Izzy. I came over to Bishop’s Palace to do my job as a doctor, and I did it to the best of my abilities. That’s it. It’s over now.”

We’re over, he had almost said; and unfortunately it was painfully clear to who Magnus was referring to that time.

Magnus angrily brushed away a tear. “Your brother has taken my heart and handed it back with a ‘damaged goods’ sign. It needs time to heal. I need time, Isabelle.” He pleaded, miserably. “Please, as a friend, I’m asking you to leave it be. I fought long and hard for my happy ending and I won’t wait around for your brother. We are not young and naïve dreamers anymore. My heart can only take so much, and I’d rather save what’s left of it for another. Someone ready to fight.”

But they won’t be Alexander…

“I need to head downstairs for dinner. Mom wants us all to have a meal together.” She laughed once, a quiet little hopeful thing. “You brought us together again, Magnus. You know that, right?”

He let his gratitude seep into his voice then, masking some of the hurt. “I do.” He said quietly. “And I’m glad. For you, and for Alec too. You both deserve that.”

“Thank you. Do you promise to call soon?”

His lips tugged into a small smile. “Yes, Izzy. Cross my heart.”

“Take care of that beautiful heart, doctor.” She instructed warmly. “Speak to you soon, Magnus.”

~ ~ ~

Magnus stepped into his apartment and took a moment to simply stop.

To stop over-thinking and replaying certain memories back in his mind, and to just pause.

He let his bags fall onto the floor and rolled back his shoulders, taking in the familiar sight of pastel coloured walls, large sofas and half-empty cups of tea from Ragnor’s late night writing sprees.

Catarina rushed in from the bathroom and came to a sudden stop. Her smile grew so wide that he felt his own lips tug upwards too, as she gave a cry of happiness before launching herself into his open arms.

“Hi honey, I’m home.” Magnus laughed into her shoulder. They swayed together as they hugged, holding each other tightly and laughing. “Gods, I bloody missed you.”

“Good.” Catarina laughed, but he saw her cheeks glisten with tears when she stepped back, still holding him playfully by the arms. “I thought you were going to miss Christmas!”

A stab of guilt pierced Magnus then.

It had been easy to keep busy in Galveston, but now that he was back in Brooklyn, he was flooded with emotion.

His friends had left a small gap in his life and though he would not trade a day with the Lightwoods, Magnus felt some of his wounds begin to knit together.

“Never.” He shook his head, gently pressing a kiss to her cheek and wrapping an arm around her. They walked to the sofa and sat together, chatting about Catarina’s plans for a nice Christmas meal, and Ragnor’s publishing deal going successfully.

“He’ll be hell to live with when his book is released, I warn you now.”

“I can imagine. Where is the little bugger?”

“Staying with Lucas.” Catarina waggled her eyebrow suggestively. She noticed when his expression soured. Her eyes widened, her hand flying to her mouth. “Oh, I’m such a fool. Forgive me. Like you want to hear anything about men right now.”

On the flight, he had called and filled his friends in, as quickly as possible, on how he had exited from the Lightwood home. They had expected him to arrive that day, and yet he felt the need to pre-warn them in case he burst into tears at random moments.

Which Magnus feared he was now about to do.

Catarina waved a hand around nervously. “Hm, let’s talk about…wine! You adore wine.”

Magnus winced again. Of all the subjects she could have chosen, wine was just as triggering. He pictured warm nights on a balcony far away, where he and a prince had talked and danced.

“Not wine.”

“Okaaay. Chocolate?”

Remember how you threatened Alexander with a chocolate bar…

He shook his head.

“Ah, I know-“

“Cat, it’s not your fault.” He looked at her steadily.

His friend didn’t meet his gaze for a few moment, and when she did, her eyes were glistening with tears. “I know.” Catarina replied quietly. “But you’re hurting, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“You can.” Magnus stood and fell into the seat beside her, leaning his head against her shoulder. “You can be you. That’s what I want right now. I need my friends.”

His voice cracked. “I need my family.”

Catarina shifted on the sofa and wrapped her arms tightly around him.

They hugged on the settee like that, with Magnus’ head resting on Catarina’s shoulder as she held him comfortingly. She was good like that; reading people and knowing just what they needed. She always had been. It was one of the many reasons the nursing world suited her so well.

“Why are you so good to me?” He mumbled, a small laugh shaking his shoulders.

Catarina looked at him and smiled fondly. “Silly doctor. Don’t you know how loved you are?”

Love. Love. Love.

It was all Magnus had ever wanted in life. To love and be loved was a freedom he cherished more than anything. He would chase it to the edges of the world and reach out with all his strength to claim it for himself. Fighting had always been one of his greatest strengths, and yet, why was Magnus now feeling regretful?

He had given Alec a chance, but the prince had not taken it.

Because of his family-

He shook that thought away. Everyone had responsibilities in life, royal or not. Everyone had a family, blood or self-made. And everyone had the opportunity to choose a path for themselves and accept the consequences of doing so.

Alec made his. And now I’ve made mine.

When Ragnor came home, they reunited, ordered take out and spent the evening watching game shows and yelling at each other. The quiz round on Disney song lyrics almost tore down the apartment. Eventually, Catarina had come out on top while Ragnor scowled and muttered about the old Disney songs having harder lyrics to memorise.

All the meanwhile, Magnus watched.

He joined in sometimes, but his friends kept their distance and provided him with the normalcy he needed. Tonight needed to be simple. He knew this, and so did they. Too much had happened for him to jump back into his usual upbeat self.

When he laid down to sleep that night, Magnus closed his eyes. He was quickly struck by an odd sensation, one he found hard to place.

And then he realised.

Alec is no longer nearby...

For so many months now, Magnus had slept in such close proximity to the prince.

Without even realising it, he had relaxed; knowing that Alec was close. He would have goosebumps on his skin that tingled if he heard Alec padding softly to the kitchen in the middle of the night. He had grown used to hearing the soft clicking of a lock as the prince headed out early in the morning.

That was all gone now.

It was a lot colder in Brooklyn in November and Magnus shivered and tugged his covers up higher; burying his cheeks under them. He trembled and shook before realising that he wasn’t actually that cold after all.

A dampness spread across his pillow.

You’re crying.

How long would he cry for? How many days and weeks and months?

To erase the memories of Alec, and the places he had scarred with his gentle touches, Magnus felt he would have to scrub away until he reached his soul.

There, would be find a hand print the colour of hazel eyes; the colour of Alec’s eyes.

Would Magnus risk destroying his heart if it meant his suffering could end?

A memory of another bed, and another room, warmed his cold sheets. Legs twined around his in the dark, and Magnus clung to the strength of his imagination. How real Alec’s legs felt, how warm his breath felt on his tear-stained cheeks.

If only the prince had cared enough to make this a reality.

Part of Magnus knew he was being unfair. Alec did care. He had always cared. But Magnus’ pain erased the thought quickly and replaced it with sorrow.

Eventually, Magnus fell asleep; lulled to unconsciousness by a ghost prince.

Chapter Text

“Honey, I know we said to throw yourself back into work but this is insane." Catarina protested. "You won’t live to see my amazing Christmas gifts!”

Magnus glared at his friend across the room. “We said single this year! One gift. Not plural.”

“But they are so perfect. Trust me.”

Magnus yawned, almost walking into the kitchen counter. “I don’t trust you.” He muttered, rubbing sleep from his eyes. It was six am and he had a client to see at nine o’clock, but he had gotten into the habit of jogging around Prospect Park and doing some reading before work.

Anything to get out of the house and avoid; well, these very conversations.

“Cat is right, my friend.”

Magnus turned his glare towards Ragnor. “Not you too. I thought you would side with me. Bromance and all.”

His friend snorted, handing Catarina her usual travel mug, filled with hot coffee. “I thought we agreed not to use that word. Ever. It rather ruins my pretentious, lone wolf author image. But yes, I am on Catarina’s side. You look…not right?”

“Nice.” Magnus remarked.

Catarina shrugged, already wrapped in a scarf and a thick, woolly coat. Her nurse uniform was freshly ironed beneath her layers. “Whatever. I’m right. End of argument. I’ll see you lovelies later. Play nice, my boys.” She chirped, rushing out of the door and blowing them each a kiss.

Magnus made a point of ignoring that. He narrowed his eyes at Ragnor. “Did you lose a bet?”

“What? No! I have no idea what you mean by that." Ragnor avoided his gaze, shoving toast into the toaster. "In fact, I’m offended-“

“When are you not offended?" Magnus retorted. He sighed and ran a hand across his forehead. He was irritated, but understood his friends' concerns. "Look, I get it. Christmas is approaching, blah blah. I look miserable and could probably turn water to wine with how sour I look.”

Ragnor’s eyes widened. “One second.” He ran from the room.

Magnus heard a desk drawer open. “You had better not be writing that down, you little plagiarist!” He called out.

Ragnor walked back into the room, an innocent expression on his face. “I would never.” He said quickly. “Back to the issue at hand.”

“My face.”

“Yes. I mean, no. Stop being like this.” Ragnor groaned. He looked like a kid, ready to stamp his feet in distress. “Cat is so much better at this, but seriously, Magnus, we are worried. And we don’t give a shit if you ruin Christmas, just…don’t ruin yourself, alright?”

Magnus zipped up his hoodie slowly. He swallowed, the tightness in his throat returning as it had done so often this past month. It was understandable, his friends’ anxieties. Christmas was soon approaching and Magnus had worn himself to the bone.

Since he returned in November, he had rushed back into work and reclaimed all his clients and taken new ones on as well. He took on stubborn customers and people of all shapes, sizes, races and genders. Anything to keep his brain occupied.

Because, if he was truthful, Magnus was still tormented by a prince who lived far away.

The tragedy was that he still hoped. There were times when he would hover at corners and search through the crowds, always looking for a tall figure with dark hair and a smile that reached his eyes.

And yet, he never found Alec anywhere. Why would he? He lived miles away, in a fairy-tale land of wealth and balls and rare smiles.

As much as Magnus enjoyed being home in Brooklyn, he missed Galveston and Bishop’s Palace. He missed Izzy and her bubbles of helpless laughter and intelligent remarks about music. He missed his time with the elder prince, Robert, and small talks that had led to genuine friendship.

And he missed Alec. He missed him a great deal more than Magnus cared to admit.

Weeks had past, and snow had begun to fall, but Magnus’ heart had yet to freeze over. He still felt the pain of every last word, and he still felt the brush of Alec’s hands in his dreams.

If Catarina and Ragnor feared he was just going through the motions, then they were likely on the right track.

That’s all I can do, he wanted to cry out. It’s all that’s keeping me going.

To say that Alec haunted him was a lie. Because ghosts were usually unwanted; undesired.

Magnus desired Alec more than anything.

The distance had been a tool he once thought would be helpful; that it would help ease the pain.

Deeper inside, Magnus knew that this wasn’t a heartbreak like any other.

It wasn’t just a breakup; an unfortunate misunderstanding or two.

It was waving goodbye to someone you had thought would remain in your life, always. It was not being able to call the man he loved. It was not getting used to the absence of his laughter and hand gestures.

It was Magnus; learning to live without Alec. Learning to force his heart to move on, even though it begged him not to. 

The way that Ragnor now looked at him reminded Magnus that his loss was probably written all over his face. He could feel his eyes burning with tears once again.

“I have to go.” Magnus said quickly. “We’ll talk later. The three of us.”

“But-“

He rushed out of the door, plugged in his headphones and headed for the park; away from friends who led him down a path of broken memories.

~ ~ ~

Alec poured himself into work.

It left him feeling too exhausted to think about….him.

To think of sparkling eyelashes in kaleidoscope colours; and shared laughter and book and scarves and painted nails-

Every day that passed was a constant battle, but against what, Alec didn’t know. He had grown so used to listening to his head that this new feeling unnerved him. Every so once in a while, his stomach would clench and his eyes would begin to burn; as though his body was remembering what his head had forgotten.

It was almost Christmas by the time he lost one of the battles.

No longer could he fight against them. The memories of being rain-soaked and desperate and kissing Magnus as the sun rose.

The one that kept recurring was how Magnus had kissed him so gently on the plane, before they had returned to Bishop’s Palace and all hell had broken lose.

He couldn’t fight with the memories of warm nights in hotels and hands on his stomach, drifting lower and-

No.

Isabelle often asked if he needed company, and she would sit and read while he filed paperwork and scheduled meetings. She was quiet mostly, and he grew used to having her beside him.

It was a comfort to him, having Izzy close. Ever since she had returned, all Alec wanted was to care for his sister more openly. If he had lost Magnus, he was going to damn well be certain that Izzy was always a part of his life.

Things had seemed to return to normal. Well, for what passed as normal in the Lightwood house. Dinners were quieter now, like they used to be, except Robert and Izzy talked more, and Maryse no longer hushed anyone. It was as though everyone was waiting. Perhaps they always would be, Alec had thought then.

He buried that thought quickly and redirected his mind to his early morning appointment on the sales of rare edition bibles.

How exciting.

That evening, Alec found himself wandering around the palace.

It was midnight, and he ought to be asleep. He had a fairly early meeting. 

Instead of sleeping – or at least, attempting to – Alec had let his feet wander as he walked around the gardens. It was mid-December now, but still relatively warm for the winter season. It always was in Galveston.

He tugged on a black, knee length wool coat and ended up standing on the top of a familiar balcony.

An empty wine bottle still rested on the table, and he wondered if it was one of the doctor’s. He could picture Magnus here clearly, see his long legs rested against the low railing; head back, smiling happily.

Beautifully.

His attention was suddenly caught.

On the back of one of the chairs, there was also a patchwork scarf with tassels that felt soft beneath his fingertips. Alec had walked over, picked up the scarf and gently played with its edges. He brought it up to his face, touching it to his cheek and inhaling the mixed scent of wine and mint and shampoo.

He sat down and began to cry.

He cried for the man he had let go; the doctor who had handed over his heart only to have it ungraciously returned.

Alec also cried for himself, and for the future he had been so close to daring to pursue.

Was it all gone? And so quickly?

All it had taken to destroy his happiness was one decision.

One hesitation, and it was over.

Gone.

Alec saw it all then. The future he had laid out for himself. Not just the future his mother had chosen, but the one he had accepted as well. He saw it all. He saw Magnus Bane and the ghost he had now become. He would haunt Alec now and forever, always lingering like a wound he had been forced to inflict.

Softer memories of a long-ago dance and late night talks on this very rooftop would ease the blow. A little, at least.

But never enough to forget.

The only good that had come of this was Isabelle’s happiness. A happy ending that he was proud to have fought for.

Alec had been proud of her, quietly. He had felt incredibly stupid for worrying so much before. His sister was an adult, like Magnus had begged him to see. So was he.

If Isabelle was talented enough to earn a place in Julliard – and Alec had no doubt about that – then why couldn’t she train as a dancer? It was a different path, and he understood that his mother would be wary of it, but it was an impressive art. An intense one at that.

It required just as much thought as business deals and financial studies at Harvard.

Once again, Izzy’s future had overridden his desires, but Alec was too far gone to realise.

Looking up at the stars, Alec ran his thumb over the edge of the scarf again. What was Magnus doing in Brooklyn at that very moment? Was he watching the stars with someone new? With someone who could be brave and desire Magnus without shame and without disappointing him?

A sudden thought occurred to him as he offered one final glance at the stars.

He had broken a heart, but Alec realised then that he also had it in his power to heal, and possibly reunite two.

The stars had shone and he had thought of the quiet anguish in Izzy’s eyes every time the wedding was mentioned.

He had then, glancing up at the light, thought of how Izzy’s eyes only shone like that brightly around one person.

One other woman.

Magnus had told him that he could change the world.

Maybe Alec could start by helping one person. Two people, in fact; both very dear to his damaged heart.

I may have lost my heart, but I can save Izzy’s.

Alec stood, and left.

~ ~ ~

Last Christmas, Magnus and Ragnor had awoken to discover the entire apartment covered in colourful balloons, confetti and ribbons dangling from every surface. Catarina had scrapped the red and green tradition and covered the place in every colour known to humankind. It was a beautiful mess and they had spent the day eating, watching re-runs of cheesy old movies, singing along to the radio and then headed out to watch fireworks in the park.

This year, Magnus was awoken by a pillow being thumped over his head. Repeatedly.

“Jesus CHRIST.” He grumbled. “Could you not?”

“Sorry. Cat’s orders. Get up and meet us in the kitchen in five. Do not fuck with her today, Magnus. I mean it.”

Magnus cursed again before realising he was yelling at an empty room. Never one to excuse a lack of contouring, Magnus quickly lined his eyes with golden liner, dabbed on a dash of pink eyeshadow and ran a hand through his messy hair.

He yawned again, forgoing his usual glitter in exchange for another string of curses.

His friends had rudely awoken him on Christmas morning and as he stumbled into a pair of black jeans and a purple jumper, he really hoped there was a reason for such fuckery.

There was a Christmas tree in the living room, with a handful of presents scattered underneath, but when he drowsily headed towards them, Cat grabbed him by the arm and Ragnor lifted his arms and slid them into a winter coat.

“What- where are we going?” Magnus cried, his voice still scratchy from the lack of sleep. He rubbed at his eyes. “I’m not going jogging on Christmas morning. Screw that-“

“Would you shut up for five seconds?” Catarina begged. She wrapped a scarf around his neck and tugged at his hand, pulling him towards the front door; Ragnor following obediently behind.

Before he had time to protest, Magnus winced against the cold bite of the morning wind and begrudgingly allowed Catarina and Ragnor to haul his ass into Cat’s car; an adorable lilac-coloured mini cooper that had a severe lack of leg room in the back. Magnus grumbled as he clicked in his seatbelt.

“The only way this is worth it is if we’re heading to a pub. Being up this early on Christmas requires a great amount of alcohol. I’m thinking cocktails, shots, pint glasses…”

Ragnor smacked him in the arm. “Shut up already.”

So he did. Reluctantly.

After all, what else did he have to do except mope around?

Magnus had planned to spend at least half of the day staring at Alec’s phone number, deciding whether or not to call him.

It can’t be any more pathetic than that, he admitted to himself.

Catarina and Ragnor smiled from the front seats, and Magnus finally returned it. It was Christmas and even if he was threatened by loneliness, he was not truly alone.

He was with his friends on a day where some people had no one.

He forced himself into better spirits.

~ ~ ~

On Christmas day, Magnus suspected there were three places filled with the most pain.

One was a graveyard. Another was an office filled with bored receptionists being forced to work overtime. 

The third, a hospital, was exactly where Magnus soon found himself.

So when Catarina and Ragnor led him quite happily into The Brooklyn Hospital Centre, Magnus was taken aback by how many smiling faces there were on the children’s ward.

There were trees of all sizes and colours dotted around the wards and even a few in separate rooms. The place was filled with small groups of families and friends laughing together and unwrapping presents with one another.

Catarina greeted her nursing team and gestured to her friends. “These two rascals are helping out today. I figured we’d need a couple of extra hands in the playroom.”

Helping out?

He looked around and realised then what Catarina had planned.

She had taken him into a place filled with children and their loved ones enjoying whatever time they had together. Some were ill and others were disabled and others were simply overnight stays, but they were all sharing their day together.

He was still unsure why Cat had thought he would be a good addition. He still felt miserable and he was certain that kids didn’t want to see a miserable man on Christmas day.

“Oi.” She waved a hand in front of his face and clipped a nametag to his jumper. Before he could protest, she pushed him into a large playroom filled with half a dozen kids. Their ages ranged from seven to fifteen and a few blinked and stared as he was pushed into the room.

Cat grinned at him. “Keep them entertained, won’t you? Thanks!”

“But-“

Catarina was already gone.

The playroom was a large space, filled with toys of all kind. It even had small goal posts and a basketball court. The shelves were lined with books, there was a TV set with DVDs piled around it, and a corner was filled with beanbags and blankets too.

Someone was tugging at his baggy sleeves.

Magnus looked down, at the small girl with pigtails tied by red ribbons. “You look real pretty, mister.” She beamed up at him. “You look like a fairy.”

Against his will, Magnus felt his heart swell.

He kneeled down until he was eye-level with the little girl and winked. “Thank you, sweetheart. I like these.” He ran a gentle hand over her ribbons and she giggled.

“I did them myself!” She announced proudly.

“Really? My, my, how impressive. I’m sure your parents are very proud too.”

Her face fell. “They’re not coming.”

“Oh. Why’s that, dear?”

“I don’t know where they are. No one does.” Her lip began to quiver. “They left me here a long time ago and I don’t know when they’re coming back. Do you think they will today?”

Magnus felt his stomach drop. He knew what it was to be abandoned by family, and as he gazed up at the little girl, it was all he could to smile. “Why don’t I give you a makeover, hm?”

She gasped in delight and a hand flew to her mouth. “Would you? That would be the bestest Christmas present ever, mister!”

Magnus fought back tears and nodded. He climbed to his feet and bowed to the young girl, making her giggle. “Anything for you, princess…?”

“Maxine.”

His eyes widened. The name, so similar to Alec’s late brother, sent a shock around his body. He stared for a moment and then forced his smile to return. He took the little girl’s hand and made a new vow.

He was going to keep Maxine smiling for the rest of Christmas.

~

And he did.

Over the course of the long day, Magnus kept the lone children entertained; the ones without family to visit and enjoy the day with. He read the younger ones stories and enlisted a few of the older ones to playact some of the sword fighting scenes. They clapped and cheered and jumped up eagerly to volunteer.

He learned all of their names; Maxine, Eden, Cassie, Thomas, James and Rosa.

The youngest was Maxine, who was seven, and the eldest was Cassie, a quiet and artistic girl whose mother was hard at work as a surgeon in the same hospital. She spent most of the day drawing and painting.

Just before the Christmas meal, Cassie quietly wandered over to Magnus and handed him a drawing. Warmth flooded his heart as he gazed at a pencil drawing of himself and the children in a circle. They had been playing musical statues – a game he insisted they all played once he learned they had never even heard of it before – and Cassie had captured them all laughing.

It was a lovely drawing and when he went to hand it back, she shook her head and pressed the drawing into his hands, firmly. “For you.” She said quietly.

They were her first and only words of the day, and Magnus treasured them with honour.

He learned from Catarina that Maxine had been abandoned when she was three years old. One of the nurses on her team was a social worker and had volunteered to keep the girl temporarily. That was four years ago, and still there were no details on why her parents had fled.

Catarina thought it was legal issues but it was enough to fill Magnus’ eyes with tears. He had grown up in decent foster homes, but looking at Maxine brought it all back, and he wished that she didn’t have to one day face the fact that her parents didn’t deserve her love.

After they had lunch, Magnus organised them into teams to play basketball. James, a young, happy boy in a wheelchair, shyly asked he could join in, and Magnus nodded in encouragement, secretly lowering the goalpost on the other end.

While they played, Magnus realised he was smiling. He had been smiling all day, and when he saw Catarina standing with her arms folded across her chest by the doorway, Magnus rolled his eyes.

“Before you say ‘I told you so’-“

Catarina shook her head and interrupted. “It’s hard to say that when you’ve made a lot of lonely children pretty damn happy on Christmas day.”

She kissed Magnus’ cheek and smiled tenderly. “I only wanted you to remember who you are.”

“And who is that?”

“Look around. You can pretend not to care to all your heart’s content, but Magnus, you will never stop caring about everyone you meet. That’s who you are. And I’m tired of watching you punish yourself for it.”

“So the point of today was…?”

“That you, Magnus Bane, are beautiful. Inside and out. Don’t you ever forget that again.”

He shook his head softly. “What would I do without you, my dear, Cat?”

She hugged him and then groaned, looking down at her bleeping pager. “Shit. Got to run. One of the kids is probably eating crayons again. Keep being you!”

She rushed out of the room again.

As Magnus watched his kids – when had he started referring to them as his? – playing together, he realised how much of himself he saw in them. In their desire to live and look at the world with joy. Childlike wonder was a wonderful and rare gift and Magnus had once believed that he could always keep it going inside him.

Recently, he had struggled to stay hopeful.

I forgot who I was.

It was true. He had been so lost in his anguish since his return from Bishop’s Gate, but he had begun to regret his own regret. He had so many good memories from the past year, and Magnus had been a fool to cloud them over with how it had ended.

He had forgotten why he had even become a doctor; what he stood for.

I’m Magnus Bane. Genius, bisexual doctor with a degree in medicine and kicking ass.

He paused.

One of those things might have been exaggerated.

As he spent the day in a hospital, surrounded by so many displays of love and care, Magnus couldn’t help but wonder how the Lightwoods were spending their day.

Hopefully, together.

He smiled at the image of Maryse playing basketball with her kids.

He then sent a prayer across the country.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re happy.

~ ~ ~

The Lightwoods tended to celebrate Christmas with a meal and no presents.

Well, Alec and Isabelle often bought each other a gift or two, but there was little excitement or rush of happiness when they awoke.

Christmas had never fazed either of them. It was simply another day.

So when Maryse invited Isabelle into the living room, and Izzy walked in to see her parents sitting side by side, she froze. Her heart leapt into her throat. Though nearly always under the same roof, her parents rarely sat together.

“Sit down, Isabelle.” Maryse said calmly, gesturing for her daughter to have a seat beside them on the sofa.

Izzy slowly sank into the seat, folding her hands nervously in her lap. She swallowed. “Is something the matter, mom?”

“Not at all.”

Isabelle couldn’t take the hedging any longer. “I already apologised for leaving.” She burst out. “Honestly, I am sorry!”

The corners of Maryse’s lips twitched, and Robert grinned.

Izzy blinked.

It was a rarer sight still when both of her parents smiled at something together. Now she was really confused.

“This is about Julliard. And your future. I believe you wanted to discuss this?”

Not on Christmas day, she wanted to protest, but then reconsidered. Why not now?

She had still not received a letter of acceptance so perhaps it wouldn’t be much of a discussion after all.

“I’ve seen you dance, Isabelle.”

Izzy froze.

She watched as her mom smiled, a small smile full of a gentle nature her mom often hid. “When you returned, I realised how much this meant to you. I contacted the school and asked them to send the recording of your audition. I have not seen you dance since ballet recitals years ago.” Maryse paused, glancing away.

Izzy held her breath, waiting.

“When you danced for them, I recognised something in you. Something I used to fight for. Passion.”

Maryse smiled fondly now. “You danced as if your life depended on it, Isabelle, and I hope now that you understand me. Why I live to work and work to live. It is what drives me. What focuses me. Work is where both my head and my heart lie, and I am sorry if it has ever made it seem like I don’t care about you and Alec. Even if my passions are less liberating than yours, Izzy…I do care.” Maryse swallowed.

Izzy knew how hard this was for her mother, so she waited patiently and smiled in encouragement.

“I am so proud of you, Isabelle. I always have been. You have shaped yourself into a powerful woman. A kind, compassion and brilliant young woman.”

Izzy felt her eyes widen. “What…are you saying, mom?” She asked, her voice barely a whisper.

“I am saying,” Maryse rested her hand gently over Robert’s and shared a quick smile with her husband. “We are saying, that if it is definitely what you want, then your father and I will support your school of choice.”

“But I haven’t been accepted yet-“

She broke off as her mom handed her a letter.

Both her parents smiled guilty, and Robert was the first to speak again. “We wanted it to be a surprise.”

She tore open the letter with trembling hands and cried out in delight. 

She had been accepted.

“We have already set up a separate account for your finances. We can sort of the details later.”

Izzy gaped at her parents. “But…you didn’t know if I would get accepted or not. Why would you risk it?”

Maryse smiled, taking her daughter’s hand in her own. She tucked a small wave of hair around Izzy’s ear, gently. “From now on, I will always believe in you, Isabelle. I am sorry if I ever doubted you before. When you get to Julliard – oof!”

Isabelle launched herself at her mom and wrapped her arms around her tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She squealed, rocking on her heels and grinning into her mom’s shoulder.

She was surprised when Maryse chuckled, once, and wrapped her arms around her daughter’s back.

“One more gift.” Robert added, handing her another piece of paper.

Smiling so widely that her cheeks hurt, Izzy scanned her eyes over it and gasped again. “Is this…for me?”

“Well there’s certainly not another Isabelle Lightwood. None like you, anyhow.”

“But…New York!” Izzy cried. She was filled with excitement and fear all at once as she stared down at the lease.

It was for an apartment, already rented out from January till September.

As she gazed at her parents, happy tears filled her eyes. “You bought me an apartment?”

“Rented.” Maryse corrected, but she was smiling. “You have earned a little freedom.”

She noticed something else in the apartment details. “Two bedrooms?”

Robert and Maryse shared another look. “We thought you might have a friend in New York who you might like to see again.” Robert said slowly.

Magnus.

“And if not, you have your choice of friends. Or you can make a new one. I’m certain you’ll have little trouble finding another sensible choice.”

Izzy closed her eyes and pressed both letters close to her heart.

All she had ever wished for was quite literally being handed to her. She had fought so hard, and now her dream was becoming a reality.

“Thank you.” She whispered, unable to say anything else.

“Now, about your brother.”

Isabelle’s eyes opened quickly. She shifted anxiously. “What about Alec?”

Maryse raised an eyebrow. “Let us not pretend to ignore how changed your brother has been since a certain doctor’s departure.”

Izzy inhaled sharply. Her fingers dug into the letters as she tried to keep a straight face. Why couldn’t her mother have been ignorant for once? Now she was at risk of getting Alec into trouble.

“I cannot speak for Alec.” Izzy said quickly. She stood. “You’ll have to talk to him yourself. Please excuse me, I want to go and call Lydia.”

It was a lie, but a lie that her parents seemed to accept. They looked ready to protest for a moment and then let her leave, turning to begin overseeing dinner preparations. They had a few close family members and friends coming over, so of course Maryse was in controlling mode.

As Izzy walked up the stairs, she felt her heart ready to burst.

Next month, she would be living in New York and dancing every day. It all seemed like a dream.

She smiled and smiled for the rest of the day, never once letting go of her letters.

~ ~ ~

Almost a mile away, Alec was secretly adding to Isabelle’s dream.

“And you’re quite certain nothing would change?”

“I am. Our plans would still be concrete. But I don’t think we need to marry to form a trustworthy partnership.”

“Well, then.” Lydia let out a deep sigh, surprising Alec with a genuine smile. It felt carefree, and he noticed that the tension in her shoulders had relaxed.  

He then realised that ending an engagement on Christmas day was a little cold, but he was certain it was the best gift he could give to his sister, and to his old friend also. He had arrived almost an hour ago and was wound up with nervous energy. 

“I understand that our families will take a little convincing, but we’re the ones who will be carrying our respective companies." Alec quickly went on. "You have my word, but I understand if you would like something in paper, something secure-“

“Alec, I trust you.” Lydia said with a firm nod.

She clasped a hand in his and smiled. ”I always have. And I know you trust me. If we’re in this together, that’s all I need; your word. And you’re right, marriage doesn’t have to secure our partnership. I’m quite happy to end our engagement if that’s what you’d like.”

“I just…” He wasn’t quite sure how to broach the topic, but he looked up at Lydia and saw her as a mirror. It was a chance to change her fate to make amends for destroying his own. “Don’t throw away your chance to love, Lydia. You deserve more.”

She leaned forward and gently cupped his cheek in her hand. “So do you.”

“It’s too late for me now. But you, you can follow your heart as well as your head. Surprisingly, they can work together. Or so I’ve learnt.”

Lydia swallowed. “What…are you asking of me?”

She spoke slowly, as though each word was a key to unlocking the truth. “Who are you referring to?”

“That’s not my place to say. Just know that sh- they feel the same way. You both deserve a chance to try, so consider this engagement as officially ended.”

A weight lifted from his heart. “You’re free, Lydia Branwell.”

“Thank you.” She breathed.

After a few moments passed, she pressed a soft kiss to his cheek and then tugged him into a hug. They embraced for a few moments, and Alec smiled.

Perhaps something could go right after all.

“Now what about you?”

Alec looked away then.

He had succeeded somewhat, but opening up to Lydia about his own tragic love life was not how he wanted to spend the rest of his Christmas.

“I have a lot of work to do.” He lied shamefully. “I’ll see you for dinner sometime this week? We have some news to share.”

“I’ll be over soon, I’m sure.” Lydia’s eyes widened as she flushed. “Uh. I mean, yes. Dinner would be lovely. Yes.”

He smiled again, watching as she bit the pen lid in concentration. Something - or someone - was consuming her thoughts.

She was lost to him then, and he took his leave, still smiling a little.

Lydia Branwell was struggling to breathe.

She had hoped and prayed for this moment and now that it had arrived, she was a little taken aback. Unnerved.

She was so used to losing love; what did one do to find it?

She thought of John, of his encouraging smile and the way he would bring her fresh cups of tea during busy filing hours.

In a strange way, she wished he was here now. To push her to be brave. 

Go to her.

“John.” She whispered, closing her eyes and pressing a hand to her cheek. She could almost feel his touch, the gentle brushing of fingertips grazing her cheekbone. His love warmed her, and Lydia realised she was ready for this again. Ready to love.

Alec had been right. She deserved this again.

“Helen?”

One of the house attendants smiled at Lydia as she chose a coat from the rack. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Fetch a car, please.”

“Of course. Where to?”

Lydia swallowed down the last of her nerves. “Bishop’s Palace.”

It was time.

~

“Tell her a story; tell her the honest truth.

When she says she loves you, tell her you love her too.” 

 

Isabelle stood in the centre of the small walkway, watching over the pond and its lilies.

It was one of her favourite parts of the large gardens; a hidden part, furthest away from the house and hidden behind the marble pavilion – which she also liked to sit and study in sometimes.

It was a large pond, filled with green lily pads and the occasional jumping toad. Surrounding the pond, aster flowers of blues, purples and yellows spread a warm, hopeful tone alongside the mid-afternoon sun. Small marble slabs cut a line through the pond, where Isabelle now stood; waiting for the unknown. Pools of light hit the pond, showering the flowers with golden light and lighting Isabelle’s own sour mood.

It was Christmas and it was sunny.

Miracles are real, she thought happily.

She had come here to think. Perhaps. Something, at least.

Her dreams were soaking her skin with warmth. 

Without realising it, her thoughts had begun to puck at a memory.

The first time she had met Lydia...

~

"Isabelle, this is Mrs. Branwell's daughter, Lydia." Maryse had introduced the two girls one early morning. "Why don't you show her around the gardens?"

Studying the pretty girl, Isabelle's cheeks had flushed. A strange feeling came over her. She was nervous as she padded softly out of the room, with the taller, blonde girl following obediently after her. 

She had taken Lydia on a tour, pointing out her favourite flowers and helplessly babbling as she led the other girl around the gardens. 

Unbeknown to Lydia, Isabelle was watching her quietly. When Lydia's lips tugged into a smile at the sight of the pond, Izzy made a mental note of it. When Lydia's eyes widened at the sight of the maze, she made sure to invite her over to explore it on another day. 

When they giggled over the sculpture of The Kiss; two lovers entwining, Izzy hid her blush and tugged on Lydia's arm, hiding her gasp when the expression of joy on Lydia's face lit a new kind of fire in Izzy's blood. 

"It was lovely to meet you, Isabelle. I hope we can be friends."

Izzy felt it too forward to hug the girl. "Me too!" She said happily. Instead, she stuck out her hand, hating how formal it felt. 

When Lydia's hand held hers, even just for a moment, Isabelle was sure that it was a hand she wanted to hold for the rest of her life. 

~

Glancing out at the pond, Isabelle closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of the flowers.

“I love it here.”

Izzy jumped. Startled, she had edged a little too close to the pond, and yelped as she felt her feet hover at the corner of the path.

Fortunately, someone caught her by the elbow and pulled her back to a standing.

Oh.

“Lydia!”

Her saviour blushed, ducking her head sheepishly. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.” Lydia murmured, her voice thick with an emotion Izzy couldn't place just yet. She had abandoned her formal attire and was comfortably dressed in jeans and a deep blue batwing top that matched her eyes. 

As always, she looked beautiful to Isabelle. Izzy forced an easy smile onto her face. “No, no, don’t be silly. It was my own fault. I was miles away.”

Lydia looked around for a moment and then dropped slowly to her knees.

She plucked a purple flower from the side of the pond and handed it to Isabelle with flushed cheeks. "Purple is still your favourite, right?"

Isabelle wanted to gasp in surprise.

Why had her friend remembered that? 

“Oh, thank you.” Isabelle grinned to hide her own burning cheeks. She then took the flower, ignoring the heat of Lydia’s fingertips, and curtsied. “My hero.”

They stood quietly for a few moments, together watching and enjoying the sun on their skin and the quiet humming of insects and birds filling the garden.

The last time she had seen Lydia was weeks ago, and she had fled from her house and refused to be Lydia’s maid of honour. She flushed and quickly brushed the memory aside.

“This part of the garden is my favourite.” Isabelle said. “It’s so…timeless. I used to pretend it held ancient magic.”

Isabelle didn’t mention how it wasn’t just the flowers, or the rare December sunshine, making this moment magical.

She bit her lower lip for a moment and toyed with the flower’s stem, twirling it around and around and around-

“Alec and I are no longer engaged.”

Isabelle dropped the flower.

It landed in the pond with a tiny splash, but it was enough to break through her silence.

“Oh! That’s wonderful news! I mean…is it? Is that what you wanted?”

“It’s what Alec wanted.”

“Oh. I see.” Isabelle began to toy with her hair, focusing intently on a random strand. She tied it tightly around her thumb.

“For me.” Lydia finished.

The humming seemed to fade into anticipating silence, as though every insect and bird and toad were awaiting.

The flowers shone into Izzy’s eyes with hopeful light.

“I don’t understand.”

“Yes, I think you do. Isabelle…”

Lydia’s hand brushed hers tentatively.

All at once every one of Izzy's senses was instantly awoken with anticipation. She turned, shakily, and faced the other woman.

It was the open expression Lydia wore that moved Isabelle to tears. There was a joy in her eyes that mirrored her own, a simple and hidden dream that had bubbled up onto the surface and was claiming its desire to be seen. To be felt and heard and turned into a story.

“I’m in love with you, Isabelle.” Lydia said, simply. Her eyes were opened wide, vulnerable. “I have been for some time.”

And there it was. Plain and simple. Love.

“Lydia.” She breathed.

The sun was calm and low in the sky when Isabelle kissed her.

Pleasant light tingled her skin as she reached for Lydia, cupped both cheeks in her trembling palms and kissed her soundly. And without reservation. Her lips were soft and tender as they met hers, joining together with a quiet gasp.

It was in that moment, with the sun shining from above and the flowers filling the moment with colour, that Isabelle felt at home for the first time in a long while.

Kissing Lydia was like taking a warm shower after work. It was like hiking up a mountain only to discover the real treasure was by your side the entire time, the companion you’d chosen to share the journey with.

She pulled back, hands still resting on Lydia’s cheeks. She opened her eyes slowly and felt the gentle tears making a slow way down her own cheeks. It was an expression of the true joy overwhelming her entirely. Lydia’s own face was wet with tears.

Both women smiled happily, widely and unashamedly happy.

They spent seconds, minutes, and then hours, in the garden that afternoon; hidden and away from the house.

They were safely tucked away in the pavilion, the maze and later, strolled through the long, rose-covered archways. They kissed as they reached the end of the tunnel-like structure, with Isabelle’s back pressed against the beam as Lydia kissed her, more and more firmly each time.

They were unafraid. Unmade, and made all over again.

Isabelle let herself unfold, piece by piece.

As she said – reluctantly – goodbye to Lydia, with the promise that a proper discussion would be had tomorrow, Isabelle strolled into the house.

She was on a mission now.

Chapter Text

“Right. Alec, listen here-“

Isabelle froze.

She had rushed inside the house with every intention to shake her brother until he was on the next flight to Brooklyn, but by the looks of it, Alec had also been tearing himself apart at the thought too.

He was hunched over on the settee in his office, face held in his hands.

When he looked up, her heart stopped. Tears had made countless tracks down Alec's face; dripping off his nose and his chin as well. His lip quivered uncontrollably as he stared up at her with a look that tore her heart in two.

And so Isabelle did the only thing that was right in that moment. She held her brother. She held him until his shoulder stopped shaking and his tears stopped falling.

Why are you hurting yourself so much, big brother? She wanted to scream at it. She also wanted to whisper that she understood. She'd always understood Alec. Right now, her brother was afraid and unsure, and he was hurting enough for Izzy to hide her frustration. 

Minutes later and they were curled up on the sofa together, with Izzy sitting behind him and cradling her brother’s head on her lap as he let it all out.

There was no doubt that he’d been piling up the emotions for over a month now. It rushed out, in hopelessness and fear, and Izzy held him tighter and closer and whispered soothing words into his hair. She didn’t tell him to stop, either. Suppressing his emotions had clearly been a cause of this in the first place. Alec was beyond holding back, and in a sad way, Izzy was grateful.

Only then could her brother move forwards.

“How…did it go with Lydia?”

Isabelle felt her own resolve crack. How can you even think to ask about me right now?

She quickly brushed a tear away. It was one thing for her brother to clearly feel so distraught, but then for his first words to be directed towards her, and her life. The selflessness of Alec’s love was too much for Izzy. She felt blessed and cursed at the same time. 

“Well.” She took a shaky breath, desperately trying to stay strong for him. “Things went well. Very well, Alec. But…this needs to be about you-“

“Please. Not tonight. Izzy, please.”

When Alec’s voice cracked on the last word, Izzy understood perfectly.

It was all due in good time, but perhaps not tonight.

Tonight was a time for letting go. For Alec to wash away his guilt and his bitterness. Izzy knew, sadly, that if she left Alec alone, he would direct his anguish inwards and blame himself for anything and everything.

So she brushed away her brother's tears and smiled. “I’m here, Alec. I’m not going anywhere. I’m here.”

We're going to be okay, Alec, she silently promised. You will be happy.

~ ~ ~

As she slowly closed the door behind her – Alec had asked her to leave so he could compose himself before dinner – Izzy turned and ran straight into her mom.

Maryse narrowed her eyes. Her mouth was set in a thin line. “I was right." She said. "This is about the doctor, isn't it?"

Her mom's voice wasn't as angry as Isabelle feared it would be.

“Magnus, yes.” Izzy corrected, quietly but firmly. She walked with her mom until they were out of earshot.

She waited. Her heartbeat was drumming loudly in her ears as she watched her mom glance between the door, and Isabelle. 

When she spoke, Maryse's expression had turned thoughtful. "Do you think Alec will go to him?"

Her eyes had softened now.

“Would that be a problem to you?” Izzy demanded. Her mom might have just handed her a ticket to happiness, but if she couldn’t do the same for Alec, she would rip it up in a heartbeat. She would stay with Alec and give up her dream in a second if he needed his sister by his side.

After a moment, Maryse simply sighed. She ran a hand over her forehead, taking in Isabelle’s defensive stance. “It wouldn’t be good for business.” She said at last, but her tone wasn’t angry, it was…surrendering.

“Mom, Magnus has done so much for our family. I know you see that, and I understand that it’s hard for you to let someone else in. An outsider. But Magnus is a part of our family now. I think you realise that."

She thought of the times they had all spent together; the ball, dinners, movie nights. Her words were true. They were like a family now more than ever because of Magnus. Isabelle smiled at her mom. "You saw them together, mom. How happy they made each other.”

“I know.” Maryse simply nodded. She sighed again.

And then, the strangest thing happened. Her lips twitched into a smile.

“Who knows? Perhaps it will be good for everyone. A little change. We have had so much of it this year, haven’t we?”

Isabelle felt a little guilty then. It was true; a great deal had been flung at the Lightwoods that year, but Izzy realised that change was a good thing, and that both her parents were beginning to see it too.

“Can we have a family night tonight? Just us?”

Maryse’s eyes widened. “And cancel the dinner? Isabelle, so much planning has gone into this evening…” She trailed off, watching Izzy’s expression turn to disappointment.

"Right. Yeah. I'll go and get ready then..."

Izzy turned to leave, her shoulders slumped.

“Isabelle….wait.”

She turned back around and found her mother smiling.

“Come with me then…”

~ ~ ~

After taking another five minutes to stop his tears, Alec willed his eyes to stop watering and turned to leave.

They had family coming over for dinner and it would be hell if someone commented on how red Alec’s eyes looked in the light.

Part of him just didn’t care anymore.

What did it matter if he cried on Christmas day? He seemed to be crying a lot recently.

It was rather quiet, Alec realised then, and just as he rounded the corner, he came face to face with a handwritten note pinned to the kitchen door.

Come to the living room!

Promise it will be fun!

-Izzy.

What was his sister up to now? Alec wondered.

He pictured his parents and Izzy waiting to interrogate him about his feelings for Magnus, or why he had been acting so distant and workaholic lately. He wasn’t really feeling up for a formal sit-down dinner though, so Alec sighed and opened the door to the living room.

“Alec, you made it! Come help me whip Izzy’s ass at Twister!”

There were numerous things that made Alec stare in shock.

It was like he had entered Wonderland.

The first was that Jace and Lydia had arrived. The second was that many board games were scattered around the floor and jazz music was quietly playing, creating a lovely sound that calmed Alec’s nerves. His parents were seated on the sofa, drinking wine and watching the others with fondness. They looked up as Alec entered and smiled.

Had he entered an alternative universe?

Izzy gave a loud laugh as she collapsed on top of Jace, the two of them groaning as they untangled themselves on the Twister mat. Lydia was sitting cross-legged and gazing at Isabelle with such open adoration that Alec had to look away.

It was going to take a little while for him to heal. Watching those two would both warm and pain him to no ends.

For now, Alec sat quietly beside Lydia and accepted the glass of wine she handed him. “So, whose awful idea was this?” He asked her.

She smiled back. “Your sister’s idea. Family game night. Apparently it’s what ‘normal families’ do sometimes, isn’t that right, Isabelle?”

“Yep.” Izzy said, grinning. She was halfway through opening another board game up, looked up, and grinned happily. It was so wide and affectionate that Alec couldn’t help but feel it mirror onto his lips.

“We thought a night together would be nice.” Maryse spoke quietly, but Alec’s eye was immediately drawn to where his mother sat. She watched him thoughtfully and he prayed that his cheeks would not flush.

He smiled and looked away, not wanting to reveal anything.

He was certain she knew something, but tonight would not be the night that Alec confirmed it.

Christmas did not mean admitting you were in love with a man who was now miles away.

A man whose heart I broke.

He noticed with a start that Robert was sitting on the sofa, his wheelchair to the side.

When he caught his son staring, Robert cleared his throat. “Magnus – uh, the doctor said I should start to move around more.”

The room was quiet now as he added, “I tried standing the other day and almost managed it. Perhaps one day I really could walk again.”

“Not that it would matter if you couldn’t.” Maryse said. The kindness in her voice made Alec’s eyes sting with tears. His parents had been through a great deal, and if their wounds were slowly healing, maybe his could too. One day.

Alec looked around the room and realised, with a painful start, that this situation was possible because of Magnus.

Izzy was looking at Lydia, and Jace was staring down at the ground. His parents looked at Alec, who met the stare carefully.

What were they hinting at now?

His heart suddenly sung a small note of hope.

Alec winced, unsure of where it had come from.

As he observed the scene, he saw family and friends enjoying each other’s company. There was music and wine and laughter, and all because of a man he had swept aside.

Was this evening a way to show Alec that the person who made it all possible was missing?

His heart leapt again.

Was it an invitation? An acceptance and an encouragement to…

To do what? He thought.

His heart was racing and he kept curling and uncurling his hands into fists.

The tie around his neck felt too tight and Alec loosened it with shaking hands as Jace and Izzy began to chat quietly.

He looked at his Lydia and shook aside his own thoughts. “Are you happy?” He asked her quietly. He needed to know. There was a mental checklist inside Alec’s head; people he loved who needed to be happy before he allowed himself to be.

Lydia shifted closer towards him and gently rested her head against his shoulder. “Very.” She murmured. Alec was certain she was watching Isabelle set up Jenga with a wide smile on her face.

He could feel her happiness radiate through him. It wasn’t just Lydia. It was Isabelle, and the carefree grins that had returned to her expressions. They had been clouded by doubt recently, and Alec was overcome with relief that his sister had found a way to achieve all her dreams.

It was also Jace, and the sense of peace his friend always gave Alec. Simply by being in the same room as Jace relaxed Alec. Here was someone who was proud of his achievements, and ready to offer him his strength at any given moment.

And…it was his parents.

Alec dared to glance at Maryse and Robert as they flicked through an old photo album. There was a relaxed quality to their movements; in his mother’s slow turning of the pages; in his father’s calm sipping of wine.

Needing a moment, he muttered that he would be back in a moment and headed for the door.

Once outside, he leaned back on the opposite wall; his head tilted back.

Just as he began to close his eyes and contemplate his next move, the door opened again.

His mother stepped out, quietly shutting the door behind her and facing him with a strange look on her usually stern face.

“Alec,” She began. Her voice was soft. “The sacrifices you have made for this family do not go unnoticed."

He sucked in a breath, suddenly nervous.

"I have always appreciated – no, relied – on you." Maryse continued quietly. "Your strength after Max’s death was…incredible. I now realise that you have been battling with your heart for a while now. Please understand that I never wanted that for you. Not ever.”

Alec exhaled shakily. Unable to speak, he swallowed and nodded. He had known this. Or at least, he had assumed it; but his mother’s words were something he needed to hear. Alec had a feeling they were something that Maryse needed to also speak out loud.

“Please forgive me if I ever took your strength that for granted. Or if I ever misunderstood your pain as determination."

She glanced towards the door, where their family and friends were. "Or if I ever questioned your loyalties."

She took a step towards Alec and took his hands in her own. "I never wished for you to prove yourself to me, or anyone. I have always believed in you. I am not, nor have I ever been, an easy woman. I am not an easy mother either, I know this." Her lips twitched into a small smile. "But I want you to know that whatever your decisions are, from here on out, as a mother and a business adviser, you have me.”

Alec was speechless as his mother smiled a small, timid smile.

He was so shocked at the vulnerability in her words. It took him a few moments to stammer out a reply.

“Mom…thank you.” He said, slowly. He felt his chin lift a little higher, a lesson she had taught him so long ago.

Perhaps it was time to start lifting it for his own reasons too.

“I’m grateful, really I am, but...why now?”

“Alec, there’s a present waiting for you under the tree.” She suddenly said, as if it answered everything he wanted to know. She slowly let go of his hands and lovingly patted his cheek. “If you want it, it’s yours. We are by your side. All of us.”

Alec waited for her to head back inside the room. He then spun around on his heels and quickly raced down the hallway, rushing into the main room.

Barely pausing to hesitate, he inelegantly dived under the large pine tree.

There, he found a large envelope with his name on it.

Something was inside.

It felt strangely heavy in his hands, and he could faintly make out a few rectangular shapes inside.

With shaking hands and a racing pulse, Alec opened the envelope and slipping his hand inside…

~ ~ ~

“You wanted to show me something…?”

“Happy belated Christmas.”

Lydia’s voice trailed off. She stared, open mouthed. She was fairly certain her cheeks had flushed to a bright scarlet, though of surprise or desire she didn’t know.

“Isabelle…” She whispered, half in shock and half in dizzy delight.

The other girl shrugged, her smile mischievous as she gave a little twirl. “Do you like?” She inclined her head like a kitten.

After a moment passed by, and Lydia still stared at her, Isabelle smirked. “Earth to Lydia Branwell! Her girlfriend wants her back on the same planet please.”

Finally, Lydia broke from her trance and closed the door slowly, keeping her back to it and she gazed at Isabelle.

A very almost-naked and grinning Isabelle.

After everyone had retired for the night, Isabelle had left Lydia and Jace talking in the lounge as her parents said goodnight.

Assuming Isabelle herself had gone up to bed – and Lydia ignored the stab of disappointment that went with it – Lydia watched as Jace left the house before heading to retrieve her coat.

Perhaps Izzy regrets our kiss, Lydia had suddenly worried.

Throughout the evening, Isabelle had been openly affectionate towards her, but Lydia’s thoughts still turned to anguish.

What if she didn’t feel the same way? Or what if their kiss had extinguished the flame?

And then one of the palace attendants, Thomas, had caught her leaving. “Lady Isabelle would like to see you. She says, and I quote, ‘she didn’t get to give her favourite girl her present’. I only assume she meant you, ma’am.”

A little smile tugged at Thomas’ lips then, as Lydia hid her blush and nodded her thanks.

She discarded her coat once more and softly padded up the stairs, heading up to the first floor where Isabelle’s room was; tucked away in the quieter parts of the house.

Alec was nowhere to be seen.

After he had popped into the room earlier, he had disappeared. Lydia hoped he was dealing with his own feelings. She worried often about Alec, who was so alike to her in so many ways.

When she knocked on Izzy’s door, Lydia felt herself hesitate.

How many times had she been in this room? Too many times to count. But it felt different, having kissed Isabelle.

She heard Isabelle invite her inside, her voice strangely low and husky, and Lydia turned the doorknob and stepped inside.

Two things stood out to Lydia then.

One, that Isabelle clearly had no regrets over their kiss.

Two, that Isabelle was stark naked save for a large red ribbon wrapped around chest, matching her underwear.

Her forwardness sent the blood rushing to Lydia’s cheeks.

As she closed the door, she felt the outside world slowly disappear; her gaze taking in Izzy’s long legs, the curve of her hips and breasts, the gentle waves tumbling down her shoulders and back.

“Isabelle…you look like a goddess.” Lydia murmured, unable to stop herself. Her voice was so overwhelmed with desire that she barely recognised it. It was the truth, however.

Isabelle took a step towards her, her fingers beginning to toy with the ribbon around her chest. The swell of her breasts heaved as she inhaled sharply. “Well, aren’t you going to unwrap your gift?” Her walk was confident, but her fingers shook slightly.

Ignoring the nervous whispers, Lydia focused on the stronger emotions; the parts that drew her closer to Isabelle and clasped their hands together. She kissed each one of Isabelle’s fingers, slowly, never tearing her gaze away from Isabelle’s wide eyes.

Lydia paused. She forced her hands to her sides, drawing on every ounce of her strength to keep from touching the other woman. “Tell me, just the once, that you’re quite sure.” She whispered. “Tell me that you want this, Isabelle. That you want me.”

Silently answering, Isabelle reached down and took Lydia’s hands in her own. She guided them up towards her chest and tugged at the ribbon; letting it slowly unfurl and fall to the floor. “I’ve never felt more certain in my life. I love you, Lydia.”

The words that Lydia had needed to hear now sung throughout her entire body, moving her into action. She smiled once, and then surged forwards and captured Izzy’s lips in her own. Her arms quickly wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer and gasping as her warm skin was pressed firmly against her.

Quickly, Isabelle pulled back and urged Lydia to lift her own arms; tugging off her shirt and then pulling her back in for another kiss.

As they collapsed onto the bed, Lydia couldn’t help but smile against Isabelle’s lips. She felt the other girl giggle and return the gesture, gently holding her before kissing her cheek. It was such a small move, so simply and affectionate, and Lydia’s smile widened.

“Merry Christmas.” Lydia murmured softly.

Isabelle grinned. “And a happy New Year.”

They kissed, slowly and quickly and then back to slowly.

Unsurprisingly, Isabelle’s gift was very well received by both parties.

~ ~ ~

New Year’s Eve.

 

“Ragnor, are you actually rolling around in the dirt? Now that, my dear friend, is commitment to the role." Magnus snorted with laughter as Ragnor dug his hands into the dirt outside the car park. "Dickens himself is smiling from heaven.”

“One of us has to. Look at you! You don't look very poor or...you know, dead. You ought to have streaked your costume with blood to be true to the character!”

“Please.” Magnus scoffed. He adjusted his neck tie for the third time that evening, watching as Ragnor kneeled down beside the pavement and rubbed dirt into his torn trousers. “Besides, blood and concealer so do not mix well together, and this coat costed a fortune. I’m not messing it up with fake blood.”

Glaring up at him, Ragnor rolled his eyes and grumbled, “Who would wear makeup to a French revolution?!”

“Me.” Magnus grinned. “I would.”

“Come on, boys.” Catarina closed the front door of the car and joined them outside the mansion.

They had arrived early and Ragnor had decided to add some authenticity to his costume. Catarina looked stunning in her Mary Poppins costume, the vivid blue coat contrasting her dark skin beautifully.

She wielded the umbrella as a weapon, stabbing it in their direction. “Ragnor, you look awful, which means you look very Oliver Twist. So get up." Her gaze flickered to him next, her eyes narrowing. "Magnus, you look…”

“Dashing? Beautiful?”

“Not dead.” She raised an eyebrow. “You look too pretty to be a soon-to-be dead French revolutionist.”

Sighing, she smirked and admitted, “But you look drop dead gorgeous so I guess that’s something.”

Magnus beamed, looking down at his scarlet costume again. He had chosen Enjolras from Les Miserables for two reasons. One, he enjoyed the complexity of the character; someone who fought for what he believed in and yet was too bold and too colourful to live. The character called out to Magnus.

Two, he looked good in red. Really good.

He had gone with a loose white shirt – low cut to his liking – and a beautiful red jacket accompanying the loose navy necktie. A red sash belt was tied around his waist and his navy pants were snug and tight, also to Magnus’ liking.

It was stylish and elegant and he had sneakily added in some black eyeliner and matching red glitter to his eyelids.

They walked side by side, the three friends, around the corner.

It was New Year’s Eve and loud music was playing from both sides of the street as they headed to the mansion.

Every year, a costume party was held by one of Catarina’s work friends, who had very rich parents and a generous heart. At least, Magnus always found her parties generous. He had never even met the woman, but there was often enough alcohol and good music to put her on his good list for many lifetimes.

This year, it was being held at the beautiful James Burden Mansion, a large, white mansion with open spaces and a ballroom that reminded Magnus of one he had danced in earlier that year. As they walked through the entrance, they flashed their invite cards and walked on inside, linked arm in arm and smiling.

Inside, they were greeted by elegant chandeliers casting the large room in a warm glow.

The party was in full swing already, despite it barely being past ten o’clock, and Magnus welcomed how easy it was to lose yourself in a crowd. He spotted many familiar characters, many Captain Americas and Disney princes and princesses. Some were dressed elegantly, others in short and tight outfits and some in-between.

It was a combination of excitement and nervous energy; the perfect way to begin a new year.

The main ballroom had been cleared for dance space, and a large DJ raised platform was in the middle. As they weaved a path closer to the centre, Magnus happily accepted a drink from one of the waiter’s trays and tossed it back, enjoying the burn it quickly made down his throat.

Soaking up the atmosphere, they danced for a while. His friends kept glancing at one another, and he worried he was missing something. But then the party properly kicked off and Magnus lost himself to the music. Ragnor soon found an eager partner – a pretty boy dressed as Hercules, his muscles fully flexed and on show for his friend.

Magnus laughed as his friend waggled an eyebrow at him and let Catarina pull him into a spin. She had taken a few salsa lessons with him occasionally and had fantastic rhythm, confidently moving her hips and raising her arms slowly.

Once in a while, Catarina would incline her head subtly at someone and Magnus would take a glance and shake his head.

Not tonight.

For some reason, he wasn’t feeling up to hooking up with anyone. There were a number of beautiful men and women and yet Magnus kept gazing to the entrance, watching as new people joined the party. The large clock on the wall told him that it was eleven o’clock.

What was he waiting for? It definitely wasn’t midnight.

Catarina grabbed his arm. Her eyes were narrowed in concern as she mouthed, ‘are you okay?’ and frowned.

Magnus nodded, but a dull feeling had started to grow.

Whenever a song changed, he seemed to pause and wait. For what, it was unclear, but Magnus didn’t feel any satisfaction as the clock ticked closer to midnight and the New Year approached. Every face in the crowd was grinning and singing along and yet…none of them were who he wanted to see.

None of them are him.

He twirled Catarina around in an attempt to make her smile, which she did, and for a moment he relaxed again, remembering that he was here with his friends, alive and well.

But was it enough to simply be managing? To cower away from whatever it was he was fighting? There was a battle raging inside Magnus, which he considered ironic considering the costume he had chosen.

At midnight, kisses would be exchanged and promises would be made. Last year, he had kissed a charming friend of Catarina’s and danced the rest of the night with her, content and ready for the approaching year.

Reflecting on the year, Magnus considered all that had happened and closed his eyes, throwing his head back as the music reached a crescendo.

Alec’s face popped into his mind. His hazel eyes bore into his closed lids.

Someone bumped into Magnus and he inhaled sharply. As they danced, he kept glancing to the clock.

He was so on edge.

Dozens of bodies pressed against him and all he could smell was sweat and alcohol and too close, too close, too close-

The music suddenly faded away as three words came into his mind. 

He recalled what Alec had murmured, almost asleep, that night they had slept together. 

Amor vincit omnia.

Magnus froze in the middle of the dance floor. 

Love conquers all.

How had he not worked that out? 

A rush of emotions came over him.

Shock. Pleasure. Anxiety. Happiness.

He gasped then, tapping Catarina on the shoulder. She turned around and he nodded to the door, mouthing, ‘I need some air’ before heading out of the dance space. The floor was packed now and he felt oddly consumed by the need to be alone.

What Alec had whispered to him that night was reawakening Magnus' heart; breaking down the walls he had so desperately tried to throw back up.

Magnus stumbled out of the main room – clumsy, not drunk – and clung to one of the tall pillars.

Why was he finding it difficult to breathe? His fingers brushed his cheeks and Magnus was shocked to discover they were damp with tears.

There were a few couples lingering in the area, and they didn’t seem to be paying him any attention.

He was outside the main room, in a small, circular foyer which contained a large, twining staircase with a wide, open, arching ceiling.

Magnus took a few steady breathes and walked over to the staircase, sitting down on the bottom step and placing his head in his damp hands. They trembled slightly and he dismissed it as adrenaline from the dancing, knowing quite certainly that it wasn’t that at all.

He thought of Alec. He finally allowed himself to. 

It came to him then. Suddenly.

Sitting on the steps at someone else’s party, Magnus realised what he had been hiding from. 

I don’t want to be here.

He drew in a sharp breath and released it slowly.

I want to be with Alec.

The last time they had spoken was the day he left, and Magnus was quickly realising that words had been exchanged that needed to be dealt with.

Running away was not going to resolve it.

And perhaps that was what they had both done; run away rather than take the harder, braver option.

For all that Magnus claimed, he was hardly a fighter if he had given up so quickly on what was possibly the greatest love he was going to have in his life.

I’m in love with Alec.

He let himself think it, and then again, until it became the only thing worth thinking.

I’m in love with Alexander Lightwood and I want to be with him for the rest of my life.

“You really ought to stop saying things out loud, doctor.”

Magnus’ eyes snapped open.

A voice behind him - a voice Magnus had come to to treasure more than any other voice in the entire world - continued to speak. “It does make this a great deal easier, however…”

He had dreamt about that voice so many times.

Was he still dreaming?

My prince...

As he stood and turned around on the step, slowly, Magnus felt his pulse quicken and every hair on his body stand on edge.

Perhaps he would find himself alone and insane, forcing a memory to become a figment of his imagination.

He was certain that his desire for Alec would be able to drive him to madness, if he let it.

Gathering up his courage, Magnus opened his eyes and looked up.

The noise faded away.

Everyone he had seen and spoken to that night faded into a distant whisper as he gazed up at the staircase; at where Alec Lightwood stood halfway up, watching him with that quiet intensity he had craved since the beginning.

He was here.

In Brooklyn.

“Why?” He whispered, and then gasped as he lowered his eyes and took in Alec’s costume.

Hello, Alexander, Magnus thought; his thoughts tinged red with desire.

The prince was dressed in a white shirt, open to mid-chest and tucked into a pair of nineteenth century, period drama-style, and brown breeches. Long black boots reached his knees, shaping his calves beautifully as though he truly were William Darcy. The long coat he wore was exactly like the movie; a pale blue-green and long and elegantly fitted to Alec’s strong build.

The image of Alec dressed as Mr. Darcy was a picture Magnus wanted to keep forever.

He took in every detail without shame, staring in appreciation as the shirt revealed dark hair and Alec’s sculpted chest. Heat pooled in Magnus’ stomach, colliding with the racing of his heart.

He gaped, gazing up at Alec. Magnus felt his cheeks flush when he caught the prince drinking in his own outfit and biting his lip.

It was like a dream and Magnus didn’t know what to do next.

He had practically been begging for Alec to appear, and here he was; standing halfway up a staircase and gazing down at him with such a hunger that Magnus wondered if the prince had left part of his soul inside his body; and was now desperate to reconnect with it.

Magnus understood. He felt the same hunger now. It was desire, fear, excitement and tenderness all wrapped into one.

It was love, Magnus realised.

Plain and simple and scary as hell.

He took the first step on the staircase just as Alec took a step down.

They both paused.

“It’s almost midnight.” Magnus said suddenly. He cursed himself for speaking and ruining the moment, but when Alec laughed, he realised it was probably a good thing to create some normalcy. “How did you get in?”

Alec sheepishly ran a hand across the back of his neck and Magnus’ breath hitched. God, he had missed that gesture. He had missed everything about the prince, from the tip of his messy, dark hair to the tips of his toes.

“Catarina helped.”

“Of course.” Magnus replied dryly. He raised an eyebrow. We will be having words later.

“And the outfit?”

Alec’s blush deepened. “It seemed like a good costume at the time.”

“Oh, believe me, it is. I rather like you as a brooding Austen hero, Alexander.”

He watched as Alec reacted to his full name again.

It was in that second that Magnus realised he was going to kiss him, and soon.

Whatever happens after this night, Magnus decided then. I’m damn well kissing him one last time.

He suddenly tuned back into the party in time to hear the countdown begin.

Alec stepped down another step. “I flew here to ask you something, Magnus. Something very important.”

Magnus swallowed down his nerves and took the next step up, his hand gently moving up the railing.

They were a few steps apart and the world was pinpointing to the distance between them.

“What do you need to ask me, Alexander?”

Nearby, a countdown grew louder.

“30, 29, 28….”

“This is very important.”

“Yes, you said.”

“Well, then. Here goes.” Alec smiled and took another step.

“25, 24, 23…”

Magnus took the step, standing on the one below Alec. He gazed up, unable to do anything but nod.

“18, 17, 16…”

His heart was drumming in his ears so loudly. He could see the slight stubble under Alec’s chin and his scruff was begging to be touched. Magnus kept his hands by his side and stared up, wide-eyed.

“14, 13, 12…”

Alec’s face suddenly blossomed into a beautiful smile.

“9, 8, 7…”

Magnus’ knees began to tremble as Alec took his face in his gentle hands and cupped his cheeks tenderly.

The prince whispered, “Will you please kiss me already?”

“5, 4, 3…”

Magnus released a breath and smiled in return. “Gladly.”

And when the New Year countdown came to an end, and fireworks and cheers began to erupt, Magnus and Alec kissed on the staircase; the distance finally completely closed between them. They swayed and kissed, paused for breath, and then began the game all over again. Lips were chased and smiles were given – shakily – as they held each other and paid no attention to the rest of the party.

He kissed him fiercely, teeth tugging at his lower lip and gasping desperately into Alec's mouth. 

After what felt like hours, they pulled back; foreheads rested together.

“Whoa.” Magnus breathed, still with his arms around Alec’s waist.

The prince grinned, his cheeks as flushed as Magnus felt. He nodded upwards. “Do you think there are any spare bedrooms upstairs?”

Magnus gaped. “Alexander, who are you?" He teased. "How incredibly brazen you are, Mr. Darcy.”

“Says the revolutionist with a shirt cut to the navel.”

“You love it.”

Alec paused and brushed his fingers across Magnus’ chest. “I do.” The prince said, huskily. He swallowed and the lust in his gaze set Magnus’ body alight. “I love you.”

And there it was.

Magnus felt his smile widen. “I love you, too. In fact, my New Year resolution is to say it as often as possible.”

They laughed, and Magnus sank down onto the steps with Alec. They sat together like that for a while, simply holding one another and talking. Magnus ran his fingertips across Alec's knuckles, remembering how he had kissed them after his kidnapping. He kissed them now, softly. He never wanted to stop touching the prince. 

A warning light flashed in Magnus' mind.

Magnus suddenly gasped and smacked Alec across the chest.

The prince winced. “Magnus, what the hell?”

Magnus held up a finger in warning. “I swear to god, if you came here without ending things with that poor woman first…”

Alec's confusion cleared. His eyes lost their fear. “We ended our engagement a week or so ago. She deserved more, and so did you. If you want me, that is?”

Magnus almost gasped at the worried expression on Alec’s face.

Did the prince really believe that he had to ask? That he had ever stopped wanting him?

“Alexander.” He began, running a hand through Alec’s hair. Magnus gently turned the prince’s face so that Alec was facing him, wanting him to see every ounce of love in his eyes. “I have wanted you for so long now. Surely you know. I have waited for you long enough, and I don’t just wait for anyone, you know?”

He was teasing, but his voice was low and quiet and so full of tender love.

Alec smiled. “I know we have a lot to work out, but…I love you. And if I have learned anything, it is that sometimes all you can do is love. And hope that that love is strong enough to survive.”

“And you believe ours is?”

“Yes. I am sorry I wasn’t brave enough to admit it before.”

“Don’t apologise. I was a fool to rush you as well.”

Alec exhaled. “Now what?”

“Now what indeed.” Magnus repeated slowly.

“Izzy is moving to New York soon.”

“To study?”

“Dance. At Julliard.”

Magnus felt his smile widen. A wave of relief and happiness for his friend came over him. “I’m so pleased. She deserves that. Tell me more?”

“Perhaps that’s a story for later. We will have time, I hope.”

Magnus nodded. He hoped so too.

“As for us, I have something to show you. It’s in the car though.”

Magnus linked his arm through Alec’s and smiled. “Lead the way, good sir.”

~

Alec felt filled to the brim with happiness.

It was overflowing out in smiles that wouldn’t seem to go away. His cheeks hurt and he didn’t care at all. Magnus was beside him. That was all he realised he’d needed the entire time.

As they reached the car, parked outside the mansion, Alec reached inside the front seat and pulled out the papers he had printed out.

He quickly handed them to Magnus before he could hesitate.

“Alec, what are…”

Magnus gasped, reading the papers and glancing between him and the sheet. He swallowed. “For us?”

Oh god.

This was a mistake. He hates it.

Alec hid a groan. “Uh, yes. If you want to? I mean…”

He scrambled for the words he had planned in his head.

He had kissed Magnus on those stairs and all thoughts had vanished. Even these ones. Damn.

Ignoring the nervous flutters in his stomach, Alec stared down at his hands and tried to speak. “It's just...I was thinking of moving to Houston, as the publishing headquarters are there anyway and I’ll be needed over there after I take over, and you could, uh, if you wanted to…call it your home too.”

He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the look of horror that would soon appear on Magnus’ expression.

He had once thought that moving in together was a logical step, and a romantic gesture too.

He wanted Magnus to see that he was committed entirely; that he wanted to build a home with him as soon as possible. That he loved him.

After a few seconds, Magnus surprised him and gently pulled his hands away from his eyes, holding them tenderly in his own.

“I was offered a job recently.” Magnus began slowly. “At a larger clinic, with a higher wage and a certain benefit. A children's clinic. It's a long story, but I want to work more with kids.” 

A glint of mischievous laughter sparkled in the doctor's eyes. Gazing up at him with hopeful eyes, Magnus then smiled widely. “It’s in Houston too, Alexander.”

Alec felt tears spring to his eyes as he laughed in happy surprise. “You mean…you want to live with me? You want to move to Houston with me?”

“Yes.” Magnus breathed life into the word, and in doing so, breathed life into Alec. He wanted that future too.

It was no longer a dream after all.

“You really mean it? You…forgive me?”

Magnus cupped his jaw gently, his fingers spreading out to brush his cheeks. “I forgive you, and I love you. All I have ever wanted from you was your love, Alexander.”

Alec leaned into the embrace. “And you have it.” He whispered fiercely. “I promise. And I will gladly take whatever you can offer me in return. I know that it might take you some time to trust me again, but I am willing to wait for you.”

He was so desperate for Magnus to understand his words; to understand how much of himself he wanted to offer.

Alec’s voice grew softer and tender. “Let me prove to you that I can love you in the way that you deserve to be. I promise…I won’t hold back this time, Magnus. I’ll be brave. For you.”

Magnus hushed him with a finger. “As much as I enjoy pretty words coming from your pretty mouth, I really wish you’d shut up.” He teased, but his eyes were shining happily with tears.

“Doctor’s orders?” Alec murmured.

“Doctor’s orders, and by royal decree.”

Alec laughed then, and Magnus laughed too.

With the quiet background celebration of the party behind them, Alec gently pushed Magnus against the car and kissed him firmly. He didn’t hold anything back as he demanded something from each kiss. He demanded love, fiercely; and hopefully gave it back twice as surely.

Magnus gasped and Alec moaned and they kissed under the stars and celebrated the start of their new year together.

Surprisingly, it was not their last one together.

Chapter Text

2 weeks later

“Who chose this party theme again?”

“Isabelle.”

“Of course. I recognised her impeccable taste. Almost as good as my own.”

Magnus gazed around the room once more, his arm loosely linked with Alec’s.

Under the talented guide of the younger Lightwood, the simple boardroom had been transformed completely. Alec's company party would be a night to remember. 

The red and black colour scheme was bold and elegant. Black tablecloths covered the dozen circular dinner tables. Bouquets of red and black-painted roses stood as centrepieces, as did many tiny dice, used to hold down name cards and napkins. The attention to detail was delightful, and Magnus took note of the balloons shaped like spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs.

Magnus whistled in appreciation. “She did an amazing job.”

“That she did.” Alec agreed, a smile now on his face. He looked around the boardroom, at the dozens of employers and friends and family who had gathered to celebrate his achievement. The casino-themed party invitations were clear; suits or dresses fit for royalty.

As they walked into the room and headed over to the main table – where Alec’s family and friends had grouped – Magnus poked his prince in the ribs and teased, “I still wish you’d have let me wear a dress. I’d make an amazing Bond girl, Alexander.”

Alec chuckled. “If I remember correctly, you said you wanted to ‘go all Halle Berry’. And that means bikini. Which is not appropriate on anyone, man or woman, at a company party.”

Magnus shrugged. “Fine. I’ll settle for being the first Bond boy then.”

He gazed up at Alec and grinned happily as the prince smiled back, just as happily.

It had taken a couple of days getting used to the thought of actually having Alec back in his life. Of being able to touch him so casually, and to hold him in his arms and kiss him whenever he felt like it. But weeks later, and Magnus was once again in that space of wonderful possibility; where the road ahead was complicated but worthwhile.

He had flown out to Houston for Alec’s company party. He was both fearful and desperate to be a part of that aspect of Alec’s life. His nervous energy was spreading across his skin. He started tapping absently on Alec's arm.

Staying in the palace as Robert’s doctor was one thing, but linking his arm through Alec’s and sweeping into a room as his boyfriend was another matter entirely.

"Stop it." Alec murmured. He ran a hand across Magnus' knuckles. "I'm the one who should be anxious. Not you. You look unstoppable."

Magnus grinned, a little shakily. It was true. He did look good. And Alec was also right; he had more reasons to be nervous as he was officially being named the company president tonight. 

Fortunately, both their anxieties were discarded, one by one, throughout the night.

Everyone had made it to Houston. Jace had flown over from New York with Clary, taking time from his training sessions to be with his friend on an important day. They had struck up a conversation with Raphael and Simon, much to Magnus’ joy.

He had been both surprised and delighted when Alec offered to invite his old co-worker, and his husband, Simon.

“I was just thinking…we owe him.” Alec had smiled sheepishly then. “For everything. And...for us.”

Magnus had been just as pleased when the doctor agreed, and watched as Raphael happily swapped horror stories about sporting injuries with Jace while Clary and Simon chatted about a popular show Magnus had vaguely heard of. They were animated and smiling and Magnus couldn’t help but look around the room and suddenly realise how relaxed he felt.

Why had he been nervous again?

As dinner was served, conversation became lively, and Magnus sat beside Alec and found his heart expand even further.

It was one thing to welcome others into his life, but Magnus responded happily as they welcomed him back just as openly. Jace and Clary treated him like an old friend, asking him questions about his new job, and teasing the pair about finally getting their shit together.

“Hey, now. This one didn’t make it easy, did you, Alexander?”

Alec flushed. “Well, I, uh…”

“See.” Magnus said triumphantly. “My man agrees.”

Jace laughed at that and looked at Alec with a fond expression. “I’m glad you’ve found someone who sees right through you.” His smile turned into a teasing smirk. “You won’t be able to hide a damn thing, my friend.”

“Why would I want to?” Alec demanded.

Magnus hid his pleased smile by taking a sip of his drink.

One person he had been waiting to speak with alone was Isabelle. His dear, kind-hearted, brave, Isabelle. They had so much to catch up on. He watched her sit beside Lydia and wondered if it was possible for two people to smile so much. Lydia was more subtle with her touches; a hand resting atop Isabelle's, or a quick flash of a smile every now and then. Izzy was a little less caring. She dazzled with love; showering it over Lydia with unapologetic tenderness. 

It was endearing, and made Magnus smile even more. 

During the first segment of the dancing – normal, carefree dancing, thanks to Izzy’s request that the party have a mix of genres including disco as well as waltzing – he couldn’t wait any longer and reached over to Isabelle.

"My dear, I've been dying to dance with you." He winked at the others. "Shall we show them how it's done?"

Isabelle nodded happily, and he twirled his friend onto the dance floor.

As soon as they were surrounded by half a dozen other couples, Magnus reached down and pulled her into a hug. It was long overdue. In so many ways, he had Isabelle to thank for his happiness. She had been his first friend in the palace, and he hoped to convey to her how much her friendship had meant to him.

“Izzy-"

“Thank you!” She suddenly said.

At the same time, Magnus had burst out, “I wanted to thank you!”

They stared at each other for a moment. The song changed, and as the beat kicked in, Magnus and Izzy threw back their heads and started to laugh.

Isabelle's expression softened. Tears formed in her eyes as she kept hold of his arms and leaned in to whisper, "You know you're my best friend, right?"

Magnus couldn't hold back the tears. He sniffed, feeling his smile start to hurt his cheeks. "I'm not wearing waterproof eyeliner, Isabelle!" He muttered. He shook his head before kissing the top of her head, fondly. He whispered back, "I love you, Izzy. And I'm so proud of you."

They danced together, sharing a space where they could dance without apologies and smile and laugh without care. He danced with his friend and smiled as she lost herself completely to the beats and melodies. This was someone in their element.

Isabelle had been born to dance a million different rhythms, and Magnus was so pleased she had the chance to do so. 

When they took a break, Magnus led her to a small bench just outside the main room and sighed happily. Here, it was quieter, and they were alone. “Goodness, my dear. You certainly know how to wear a man out.”

Izzy's cheeks were flushed, bright with happiness. She winked. “And a woman. Or so I’m told.”

Magnus stared at her in shock and then felt a huge grin spread across his face. “Down girl.” He teased, but held out a fist for her to bump.

She did; laughing. After a moment, she flicked her loose curls over her shoulder and closed her eyes. A peaceful expression came over her face. “Can you really get to have everything you’ve ever wanted? Is this actually happening?" She laughed, breathlessly. "Magnus…am I dreaming?”

Magnus rested his head against her shoulder and smiled to himself. Her words had struck a chord with him; a happy, musical one of pleasure. He knew how she felt; that the world seemed too good to be true.

“I think so.” He said quietly, after a few moments had passed in quiet companionship. “But, you still need to fight for it. Every day, for the rest of your long life.”

“Oh, I will. I’m not letting that woman go.”

“Ditto.”

“You want Lydia too?” Isabelle gasped in mock-hurt. She turned to Magnus and narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not afraid to fight you. No matter how beautiful you are.” She raised her fists. “I know ballet, you know.”

“Not to brag, but I know yoga.” Magnus quipped back.

They laughed again, and Magnus pressed a quick kiss onto Isabelle’s cheek, before wrapping his arm around her as they leaned back on the bench.

“Seriously, though, I was talking about your brother.”

Isabelle snorted. “I figured.”

As they sat together, a random memory flashed back into his mind. Magnus suddenly asked, “Izzy, would you share the same partner as your brother?”

She choked, and slapped his arm. “Magnus, what the hell?!” She stared at him, wide-eyed.

Thanks for that, Ragnor and Cat.

He winced. “Sorry. My bad. Well, actually blame Ragnor and Catarina. Before I arrived, they were comparing you and Alec and this conversation came up." A bubble of laughter was tickling his throat. It made it worse that Isabelle's lips had started to twitch too. He shook his head. "It was nothing…”

“Please don’t tell me they asked about a threesome.”

Magnus kept silent.

“Your friends need therapy.” Isabelle muttered, but her shoulders shook with laughter.

“I have told them. Many times.”

After a few more moments, Isabelle tugged him to his feet. “We should probably head back. I think mom is making a speech soon.”

She paused outside the door, turning to Magnus with a careful expression. “Have you spoken to her, by the way?" Isabelle asked. "Properly?”

Magnus ducked his head, unsure. “Uh, no. It’s not a problem. I don’t want to cause any strain for Alec." He tried to keep his tone casual, but his nerves were clear. "I understand things are fairly new between us…”

“You’ve been together a lot longer than you believe.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Isabelle smiled. An understanding expression crossed her features. “Well, take Lydia and I. We’ve only been technically dating since Christmas, but…I have been in love with her for so long, and now that I know she feels the same way, it changes a lot."

Her smile grew wistful as she remembered. "So many memories have been changed. Fixed. The only thing that changed that day was the word. Our feelings didn’t change. I still love her. If anything, I love her more."

She took Magnus' hand and held it, gazing up at him with kind eyes. "The point I’m making is that what you and Alec share isn’t temporary. It started when you arrived here. It grew into friendship, and later, love. Love doesn’t have a beginning, or an end. It grows with us, and the love between you two has been building for a long time. I just don’t think either of you wanted to admit to it."

She grinned when he opened his mouth to protest. "Hey, I’m not judging. I wasn’t exactly honest.”

He nudged her playfully with his shoulder. “How does this relate to Maryse again?”

They were back in the room now.

Isabelle's eyes locked onto her mother, and then turned back to him. “Mom sees a lot more than she lets on." She said. "Just…be patient.”

~

Maryse’s speech was short, but sweet in a way that caused a lump in Alec’s throat.

She now watched him with such open pride; such warmth.

Alec was pleased that she was daring to try and express emotions a little better. A little clearer. Just like he was.

“We have had a lot of change this past year. Not just in the company, but also in the home.”

Alec felt Magnus shift beside him; unusually quiet. Alec went to reach for his hand, but worried that he would cause Magnus unwanted attention, so he simply nudged him and smiled. Magnus returned it quickly, but his expression was still not quite content.

Maryse continued, her eyes still on Alec. “For those of you who joined us at a later time, my family once experienced a tragedy. Many years ago, my youngest son, Max, passed away. In the same accident, my husband was left scared in more ways than a leg injury. We were all scared by Max’s death.”

The room was silent, listening in respectful silence.

Maryse slowly inhaled, gripping the microphone stand. “For a long, long time, we chose to lock this accident away. To focus on the business and ensure the company that our personal lives would not affect the company. Until this year, we have lived in a harmony built upon secrets, not peace. I realise this now." Her eyes glistened as she gazed at him. "And then...we had a new addition to our family this year.”

Alec realised then that Maryse had not in fact been looking at him, but at Magnus.

His heart swelled with pride, gratitude and love.

Maryse’s voice shook a little, but her gaze was focused and gracious as she spoke. “This person has not only bravely fought against our prejudices, but has helped my husband recover; as both a doctor, and a friend. Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to raise your glasses?”

The entire room stood and raised their glasses in a toast.

Maryse reached for her glass and lifted it, clearly and proudly, in Magnus’ direction.

Her voice was edged with a softness she had only recently allowed herself to show. “To Magnus Bane. An incredible doctor, and an even more incredible man.”

“To Magnus Bane.” The crowd echoed in friendly unison, turning towards Magnus.

A roomful of strangers smiled at Magnus, and he felt tears spring to his eyes at their, and Maryse’s, kindness. He swallowed them back down and smiled, raising his own glass a little. But Magnus was gazing around the room, his fingers twined around the stem of his glass as though he didn't know where else to place them.

He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing nervously, and when Magnus smiled, Alec wanted to pull him close and wrap him in his arms. It was a smile that wasn't used to praise; a smile that yearned for the love he so desperately gave away. 

You are so loved, Alec wanted to whisper. He watched as everyone in the room smiled at his boyfriend, and felt his heart swell again. 

Magnus was smiling happily now.

Maryse turned back to the microphone and turned her gaze to Alec. Her smile widened. “This year, I have had the privilege of a businesswoman watching her successor grow into a wonderful leader. But I have also had the pleasure of a mother watching her son grow into a man worthy of great respect and love."

Her expression was warm as she addressed him. "Alec, the last year had you stepping into the spotlight in more ways than one, and I could not be more proud of you. Whatever support you require will be yours in a heartbeat."

She gazed around the room and Alec wondered if she was happy to give up the spotlight; or if she was savouring the moment one last time. Her final words were proud and pleased. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you may please raise your glasses once more; to your new company president, Alexander Lightwood.”

With a smile, she quietly added, “My son.”

As she stepped down, Alec met her in the middle for a hug as the crowd cheered.

It was in that moment that Alec was certain his mother was giving her approval in all aspects of his life; business and personal.

Though the plane ticket for New Year’s Eve had been pretty clear, it was still nice to have his mom properly acknowledge Magnus, and everything that he had done for the family. He deserved it. He deserved to hear it every damn day if he let Alec say it.

He thought back to that night; how he had found his passport and plane tickets addressed to him. He had found an invite to a party - which Magnus' kindhearted friend, Catarina had gifted him with - and a clear signal as to what, or who, he was supposed to fight for. There had been no hesitation. He had rushed to pack, knowing with certainty that he was going to come back knowing that he had fought for Magnus as hard as he could. 

Alec noticed a few of his employees lingering at the bar and thought it best to say hello. He kissed Magnus on the cheek. "Back in a moment. Don't get kidnapped. Please." He tried to joke, hoping Magnus would appreciate it.

He did.

"My warped sense of humour is rubbing off on you." Magnus said, gleefully. "Oh, Alexander, I am so pleased!"

Alec couldn't help but smile. He wondered if he would ever stop smiling again. 

Around Magnus, he felt like all the kindness in the world was tugging his lips into an eternal smile. Every move Magnus made had Alec smiling, laughing or feeling the blood rush around his body with desire. 

He glanced back as he left the table, watching his father approach Magnus.

Damn it.

Part of Alec wanted to rush back over, but he knew that Magnus could handle his father.

Hadn't he proven that time and time again?

~ ~ ~

As dancing began again, Robert wheeled over to where Magnus was sitting at the table and offered him a drink with a small smile.

“I wanted to apologise. Profusely.”

“Please do.” Magnus grinned.

Robert gaped a little, and then closed his mouth. He looked at the doctor steadily, his expression serious. “Can you ever hope to forgive me? For disregarding you so quickly that day?”

“Already forgiven, Your Highness.”

“Robert." The elder prince said, warmly. "Call me Robert, please." His lips twitched, and there was a playful glint in his eyes when he said, "Until you marry my son, and then it’s father-in law.”

Now it was Magnus’ turn to gape.

Tears filled his eyes again as he finally gathered up the courage to meet Robert’s gaze.

The elder prince was smiling. “I am being sincere, Magnus. There are no words to convey how much the Lightwoods owe you. And how much we value you, not as a doctor, but as you; Magnus Bane. I made a mistake that day. I was frightened for Isabelle, but that was absolutely no excuse for our belittling of your talents. You were right to walk away, and you have every right now to cut all ties with us. Alec would understand, and so would we.”

Magnus watched as Robert’s expression grew crestfallen. His eyes were sad, and Magnus could take it no longer. His humanity was begging him to cease the torment.

Magnus reached out and patted the prince’s hand. “Oh, Robert.” He scolded, gently. “How many times do I need to tell you that I’m a stubborn bastard?”

He smiled at the man; someone he had come to call friend. “But I’m also a good person. And I understand that when a loved one is afraid of losing someone, they are prone to panic. You and Maryse have expressed your regret, and I accept them wholeheartedly. On one condition.”

“Anything.” Robert said quickly. He leaned forwards in his chair.

“This is very serious.” Magnus tapped a finger to his chin, thoughtfully. “It will need to be kept out of the papers even…”

“Whatever it is, it’s done. I promise.”

A wicked grin tugged at Magnus’ lips. “Let me paint your nails.”

~ ~ ~

Alec watched as his father and boyfriend talked together. A smile that was so wide it hurt his cheeks broke over Alec’s face as his father shook his head fondly at something Magnus had whispered.

“Winning over the in-laws already?”

Alec turned as Lydia approached him with a smile. The bar was empty now, and the pair stood quietly side by side. She looked lovely tonight, in a red gown to contrast Izzy’s black one. Black ribbons had also been threaded through Lydia’s braids; with Izzy adorned in red ones.

Lydia nudged him, a teasing smile on her face. “I guess I’ll have to ask your man to share advice.”

Unable to hide his pleased grin, Alec simply shrugged. He flushed with pleasure at Lydia’s words. Even just a few words had made Alec realise that he would never get used to being able to say it out loud.

His man.

Magnus was his.

And I’m his.

His cheeks were warm as he finished his drink and turned to Lydia. He sighed, folding his arms across his chest and hoping his expression was believably serious. “Now, I believe we should have a little talk about you and my sister, hm?”

Lydia’s eyes widened. “What? Alec, you’re joking? Right? Please tell me you’re joking because that’s really not funny…” She broke off and gulped down the rest of her drink.

Alec forced his eyes to narrow. “Did you really think you could avoid this? I take my big brother duties very seriously, you should know.”

“But…we’re friends…” Lydia protested weakly. She swallowed.

After a moment, the look of fear on Lydia’s face was too much for Alec to bear.

He snorted ungraciously and started to laugh.

It took Lydia only a moment to realise she was being teased. “Alec!” She punched him lightly in the shoulder. “That was awful of you.”

“Sorry.” Alec grinned sheepishly. He felt rather pleased with himself for that.

Lydia’s expression suddenly turned gleeful.

She glanced up at him and shrugged, looking bored now. “I won’t tell you what Isabelle and I did earlier in the cloakroom then.”

With that, she giggled and walked off, leaving Alec with burning cheeks and muttering curses.

~ ~ ~

“What did Lydia Branwell just say to you?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Are you lying to me, Alexander?”

“Yes.”

Magnus sighed. “Damn it. How can I punish you if you admit it so easily?"

“You’re welcome to tie me up whenever you’d like.”

The look Alec gave him sent the blood rushing straight from his head into his pants.

“I saw a large cloakroom back there-“

“Not there, please.” Alec cut him off with a groan, slapping his hand against his forehead. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment as if trying to erase something.

“Okay…” Magnus raised an eyebrow. He was desperately trying to remember the locations of any flat surfaces he had seen walking through the building…

“Want to dance instead?” Alec suddenly asked.

Magnus scanned his boyfriend’s face. He seemed sincere enough. Still, he couldn’t help but grin and tease, “You don’t like dancing, remember?”

Alec simply shrugged. “But you do. And…I like dancing with you.”

“You’ve come a long way, Mr. Darcy.”

“You’re never going to drop that, are you?”

Magnus shook his head, grinning. “It’s been the only time I liked you better with your clothes on, Alexander.”

His thoughts suddenly flashed to their time together after the New Year’s Eve party and now it was Magnus’ turn to flush. They had spent most of the day in bed, with the exception of enduring Ragnor and Catarina’s teasing to make coffee and later, proper food...

~

"Are you close?"

"Yes." Alec breathed out. He was a damp and delicious mess of limbs beneath Magnus, rolling his hips to meet him with each slow, lazy thrust.

"Hm, maybe I'll make you wait a little while longer."

"Fuck. Magnus, please." Alec whined.

"Soon, if you ask nicely again." Magnus hummed a little, desperately trying to push down his building pleasure as his cock slid slowly into Alec. The sight of Alec breathless and begging was almost too much for his sanity, but he kept his hip rolls steady and tortuously slow, hands gently circling and toying with the prince's nipples. 

He was in control.

And then Alec dragged his nails down his back.

Magnus arched wildly; helplessly. He cried out as he pushed deeper inside Alec, the prince gasping and digging his nails in harder.

"That...is...cheating..." Magnus hissed between thrusts.

If he was honest, he didn't mind too much. The sensation of nail against skin was sending him over the edge, and he could feel Alec teetering as well. 

Needing to regain the upper hand - and literally, in his case - Magnus lowered his hand and gentle wrapped his fingers around Alec's length; grinning when his head rolled back and a groan fit for angels escaped his damp lips. He pumped his hand up and down slowly, matching the rhythm to his own thrusts. He could feel his body start to quiver, and knew that he couldn't hold on for very much longer.

Alec was lost to him then; his head thrown back as he gasped and moaned. 

Magnus slowed his movements, but kept his strokes firm.

He leaned over Alec and angled his jaw back down to face him. Hazel eyes bore into his; lustful, beautiful, whirlwind eyes that had swept Magnus into a storm of pure bliss. He kissed him fiercely, demanding entry with his tongue as Alec kissed him back just as forcefully. It was desperate and filled with gasps as their pleasure overcame their senses. 

"Come with me." Magnus murmured, kissing Alec's pulse point on his neck. He sucked on it as he felt Alec's release warm his chest; his own desire soon following. The tremors in his body wrecked him to the core, and Magnus hovered like that for a minute or two; with Alec's hands cradling his back and his own cupping the prince's neck as he kissed and nibbled his collar bone. 

When they felt they had enough breath to speak, Alec suddenly laughed. He pushed onto his elbows, with Magnus still in his lap, and cupped his jaw gently. "Why did we wait so long to do that? I can't for the life of me think of a single reason."

"Because you're an idiot." Magnus smirked.

Alec raised an eyebrow, his cheeks flushed. "An idiot who just made you come quite spectacularly."

Magnus felt a blush creep onto his own cheeks.

H e lowered himself onto Alec and kissed him softly, pulling back to ask, " "Feeling sure of yourself today are we, Your Highness?"

"Having the love of your life beside you does that to a man."

The sincerity in Alec's voice suddenly made Magnus ache with joy. He smiled warmly, kissing him again.

When they broke apart, he rocked his hips slightly and teased, "I wouldn't say I was beside you, however. More like on top of you..."

"Is that...a no then?"

Magnus blinked back to the present. "Hm?"

A slow song had come on and couples began to fill up the dance floor, including Raphael and Simon; who looked sickeningly in love as they held each other and swayed.

The sweet ballad suddenly clicked into place.

Memories of a road trip and Alec’s soft singing brought the memory of that day into Magnus’ mind with such vivid clarity. It was like he was reliving it.

He blinked in surprise, the emotions of everything that had happened since overwhelming him. When he gazed across at Alec, the prince was also lost in fond flashbacks. He finally turned to him and slowly extended his hand, a smile almost as sweet as the song tugging at his full lips.

“May I have this dance, Magnus?”

“You can have this one. And the one after that.” Magnus said truthfully. His eyes were bright with tears as he felt his heart swell with happiness. “And the next, and the next, and the next. They’re all yours, Alexander. I never want to dance with anyone else.”

Alec swallowed, and Magnus followed the movement, and the graceful curve of Alec’s sharp jaw; all the way up to his hazel eyes; eyes that were staring at him like he was seconds from disappearing. Like he was memorised and so unashamedly in love.

They stepped onto the dance floor, taking a space towards the centre to hide away from outsiders.

Magnus felt a little shy. For some reason, he hadn’t prepared to dance with Alec tonight. He had felt that Alec might not want to dance with his boyfriend in front of all his employees and parents. And yet here they were, holding each other and swaying in time with the ballad.

Magnus closed his eyes, inclining his head into Alec’s chest as he listened to the song;

"Highway run,
Into the midnight sun.
Wheels go round and round
You're on my mind..."

He remembered hearing Alec’s soft voice in the car, many months ago.

How surprised and affectionate he had felt. As he danced with Alec, Magnus realised that the feeling had only grown stronger throughout their time together. He still felt on the cusp between passion and familiarity. He still felt like his heart pounded loudly every time Alec smiled at him, or kissed him like it was their first and last kiss all at once.

His eyes were still closed when he felt Alec shift slightly. The prince’s lips grazed his ear as he lowered his head.

“Two strangers learn to fall in love again,” Alec sung, his voice soft but steady. It was a whispering melody that Magnus clung to. His eyes still closed, he pressed closer to Alec and focused on the prince’s gentle singing.

“I get the joy of rediscovering you.”

Alec paused, leaned in to kiss his cheek and then sung the next lines with such a tenderness that Magnus felt tears well behind his closed lids;

“I’m forever yours, faithfully.”

“I’m still yours…I’m forever yours…”

As the song grew to a crescendo of slow guitar riffs and sweet vocals, Magnus forced his eyes to open as Alec pulled back, cupped his face in his hands and sung the last line as he gazed down at him.

“Ever yours…faithfully…”

Magnus captured his lips in a kiss before the song finished. He kissed him hard enough that Alec rocked back on his heels a little, a surprised groan escaping his lips. Soon they were smiling too wide to continue the kiss, but they stayed close together as the song came to a slow end.

“Doctor, you’ve made me sing and dance in one evening.”

“I told you I was talented.”

“That you are.” Alec laughed as they stood on the dancefloor for a moment, together. Their foreheads were pressed against each other’s, gently.

“I can’t sing,” Magnus teased. “But, later, I promise to kiss you hard enough to make you forget that. How does that sound?”

“I’ll take it.” Alec grinned, his cheeks flushed with happiness.

“Good. I love you.”

The words had slipped out so casually, and Magnus enjoyed the look of surprise on Alec’s face. He enjoyed it even more when the prince’s smile widened and his gaze turned tender.

“I love you too, Magnus.”

“You can show me just how much you love me later. What was it you said about tying up earlier-“

Before Magnus could finish his fantastic idea, a fast-paced song suddenly burst out throughout the room. People began to crowd the dancefloor, jumping and swaying and revelling in the joyous night.

He looked at Alec and cocked his head. “Not your thing?”

Alec winced. “I was not born to – as Izzy calls it – ‘rock out’ on the dancefloor.”

“Let’s test that, big brother!”

Just as they had turned to leave, Izzy and Jace had snuck up behind Alec and kept him firmly planted in his spot. He struggled, protesting against their sneaky team-up, but he was smiling helplessly as they dragged him into their crazy dancing.

Lydia was tugging at Magnus’ hand, dragging him into the mayhem. He smiled fondly at her and twirled her onto the floor beside the others.

As he shifted closer to Alec, Magnus let the music wash over him and sighed happily.

Realising that every tough step of the way had been worth it was a beautiful feeling.

And when Magnus felt a quick hand tug him out during a moment of distraction, he let Alec lead him out of dancers and out of the room. They stumbled into an empty office room, making sure the door was locked and the curtains were closed as they went back to kissing and stripping each other of their clothes.

As Alec pressed his back firmly against the desk, Magnus sighed in bliss. His hands were gripping the back of Alec’s neck as the prince kissed a trail of burning kisses along his now-exposed collar bone. The faint pulsing of music was still audible, and it mixed with their passionate embrace.

When Alec threw himself into the large chair and pulled Magnus into his lap with a lustful desperation, Magnus couldn’t help but smile against their clashing of teeth, tongue and lips. He placed a finger over his boyfriend’s lips and urged him to pause.

Just for a moment.

“What?” Alec asked breathlessly. His hazel eyes were wide and drowsy with desire.

Looking down at Alec then, Magnus felt his words grow heavy on his tongue. When he finally spoke, his chest heaved with emotion and he felt tears once again spring to his eyes. The tenderness he felt was almost unbearable. “Thank you.” He finally whispered.

Alec looked confused. “For what?”

“For choosing me.” Magnus stroked Alec’s face with gentle fingers, gazing down at him with enough love to power an entire planet. “For letting me love you, and for loving me in return. It’s…everything to me, Alexander. You are everything I have ever wanted. I had to tell you.”

Alec’s eyes suddenly grew wet, and his grip on Magnus changed from desperate to a different kind of hunger. It was a soft love; caring and gentle, and Magnus felt it everywhere; in his heart, in the goosebumps on his forearms; in every place Alec’s hands had grazed and teased.

“I love you.” Alec said simply, but it conveyed so much more. It conveyed a way for Alec to make a promise to love, and a promise to fight. Now and always, he would fight for the love between them.

When they kissed, Magnus drowned out the noise of the party and let himself get swept into the beautiful, chaotic and maddening love that Alec had gifted him. He lost himself in the soft caresses and fierce kisses. He lost himself in the dozens of memories that washed over him, as they reminded him of the past, the present, and the future he hoped to have with the man he loved.

Perhaps one day, Magnus would be able to meet whatever gods there were.

If any existed, he couldn’t wait to thank them for the gift they had given him.

To love Alexander Lightwood.

Chapter Text

“You promised me you wouldn’t cry!" Magnus muttered. "That was the only rule!”

“I’m…sorry….”

“It was a mean rule! A stupid rule. Why can’t we cry?”

Magnus felt his lip begin to quiver. He threw his hands up in the air. “Oh, bugger you both to hell!” He shouted, already feeling his eyes fill with their own tears. “Look what you’ve made me do!”

Without any elegance, Ragnor and Catarina lunged for him, pulling him into a group hug as they cried and laughed together.

He wasn’t too annoyed. Not really.

After all, he had spent almost the entire day crying on and off. Alec had told him not to wear eyeliner, but had Magnus listened?

He hadn’t. And he now had the black smudges to prove it.

It was moving out day, and Magnus wasn’t sure who was finding it most difficult; himself, Cat or Ragnor.

He concluded that they were all handling the situation pretty badly. They were all sobbing and smiling and acting like crazy people.

Magnus pulled back, still with his arms around his best friends, and long-term flatmates.

It was time for him to leave.

“Oh, my dears.” He said, his voice shaky.

Their expressions were a reflection of how he felt; sad, excited and nervous all at once.

Catarina’s smile was wide, and although Ragnor was crying, he still managed to tease, “I told you the son was hotter.”

“Yes, you did. Bravo.” Magnus said, dryly. Anything to distract him from the fact that he was moving away from his family.

But he was also moving towards his family. To Alec.

Catarina and Ragnor had helped him to pack, and they had laughed over the many nick nacks he had gathered over their years together, and laughed at university party photographs together. They had even found a picture of Magnus with neon green hair. He threatened to throw it away, but Catarina grabbed it.

She hung it on the fridge and smiled, tears in her eyes. “It will make us smile when you’re gone.”

They had sobered up quickly after that.

And now the time had come for one last goodbye.

In no way was he regretting his decision to live with Alec, but Magnus still felt his heart ache as he watched Ragnor and Catarina try to find the words to say goodbye.

He would let them, but first, there was something he needed to say.

“You two saved my life.” Magnus said, tears dripping down his cheeks. “You know that, right?” He exhaled, a shaky, pathetic excuse for a breath, and slowly wiped at his eyes. He met their gazes and smiled. “Thank you. For helping me become the man I am today. Sure, I would still be beautiful on the outside,” He teased.

They laughed, shaking their heads fondly.

His expression grew serious. “Ragnor, Cat…” He looked between them, reaching for their hands. “I wouldn’t be so brave today if you hadn’t loved me. I wouldn’t have the same capacity for love. I would not be strong without your love.”

“Oh, Magnus!” Catarina cried. She wrapped her arms around him and sobbed into his neck.

He held her tightly, and reached out for Ragnor, pulling him into their usual trio.

“I’m so proud of you, hon. So, so proud.” Cat murmured, her tears warm against his shoulder. She pulled back and cupped his cheek, smiling tenderly. “Magnus, you deserve this.”

“You do.” Ragnor agreed, quietly. He leaned forwards and kissed Magnus’ cheek. “Just try and miss us a little bit, alright?”

Magnus dissolved into tears again. “Are you kidding?” He choked out. Tears were burning his eyes. “You guys were my home for so many years. I feel like I’m letting go of my heart.”

Catarina smiled at him. She placed her hand over his shirt, the warmth spreading across his chest. “We’re always in here, Magnus. We’re always with you. No matter where you live, we will never be apart.”

Ragnor nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Distance has never tested what we have. Why the fuck would it start to now?”

Magnus snorted. “Way to break the mood.”

But he was grateful for what Ragnor had been doing. They had needed the reminder that their bond was unbreakable.

“Well, I think it’s time.” He tried for a breezy smile. “I have a prince waiting for me.”

Catarina smiled. “Yes, you do. You have the love of a lifetime waiting in the car outside. And you have us. Always.”

They hugged again, the three of them pressed close together, and then Magnus picked up his final suitcase.

He waved his fingers at his friends. “Farewell, my little cabbages.”

Just before he turned to leave, Ragnor burst out laughing.

Magnus turned back to him and raised an eyebrow. Catarina did the same, placing her hands on her hips and glaring at their laughing friend.

“I just realised,” Ragnor laughed. “You have a housewarming party next weekend, right? We’re seeing each other then!”

Magnus gaped at him, stared at him and Catarina, and then burst out laughing.

He laughed until his ribs hurt, and the flat was alive with happiness.

When he turned to leave, this time he was smiling.

They were going to be okay.

~ ~ ~

“Oh, Alexander, it’s almost as beautiful as I am!”

“I doubt that.”

Magnus smiled, poking Alec in the sides. “Oh, stop it, you.” He teased.

He turned back to the house, letting out a whistle of appreciation. “But, really, look! Isn’t it charming?”

“So I passed the test? I chose well?”

Magnus opened his mouth to tease him, but then reconsidered. The prince was gazing down at him with a serious expression and his eyes were slightly widened.

“You did.” Magnus said, warmly. He pushed up onto his tiptoes to press a quick kiss to Alec’s forehead, feeling a little light-headed when Alec wrapped an arm around his waist to hold him there.

The house was another small addition to Magnus’ dreams.

He had already felt like he had been thrown into a fairy-tale. After all, he had fallen in love with a prince. But as they walked hand in hand up to their new home, Magnus tried to fight back the tears.

Behind them, he could hear Maryse and Isabelle directing the moving van into the long driveway, but Magnus walked on with Alec. He sighed happily, squeezing Alec’s hand as they approached the front door.

Alec delved into his pocket and produced a small, golden key.

He held it out to Magnus, palm open. “Would you like to do the honours?” He asked, voice soft as silk.

Magnus shook his head. When Alec frowned, he then took the key; keeping Alec’s hand also holding his. He placed it inside the lock, both their hands turning the key and opening the door.

“Together.” Magnus said.

The door clicked open; revealing the house they would turn into a home.

As they walked around, slowly taking in each room, Magnus was sure about one thing. If Alec’s hand was in his, they were going to make it. It didn’t matter if they lived in a dirty cabin, or a castle or a crappy apartment overlooking alleyways.

But the house was beautiful.

What made it even more so was how soft the colours were. The walls were painted gentle greens and elegant lilacs; the furniture a warm brown and the rooms filled with objects from both Alec and Magnus’ pasts. Their hobbies came together as one. Books of theirs had filled up the small library room, an array of colours and shapes and sizes brightening up the shelves.

It felt like their souls had merged, creating one space where both could live in harmony.

It wasn’t too big, or too small.

It wasn’t too modern or unnecessarily spacious; it was only two-stories, but it was comfortable and homely, and had all the things that mattered to them.

When they reached the master bedroom – and its large, king-size bed – Magnus reminded himself that they had guests. Tackling the prince onto the bed would have to wait until later.

“I get to sleep beside you. Every night.”

Magnus felt his heart expand in his chest as Alec’s words were whispered into his ear. The tenderness in his voice was like magic, and it lit Magnus’ blood with a welcomed rush of desire.

“If you’re lucky.” He teased back, tangling his hands into Alec’s hair and tugging him down for a kiss. When his lips parted willingly, Magnus slipped his tongue inside and moaned. He would never be used to this. He never wanted to be.

Alec’s lips were swollen when he leaned back. His expression was so relaxed and open. “What’s the first thing you want to do?” He murmured.

Magnus winked. “More like who.”

The prince flushed.

“After all this time, you still blush?” Magnus said, fondly. He cradled Alec’s face in his hands and rested his forehead to his. “Never stop being you, Alec. Never.”

Footsteps rushed up the stairs, and they pulled back, not wanting to be caught making out like schoolboys.

This is your house, Magnus reminded himself. Make out all you want.

Fortunately, it was only Isabelle; her hair flying out behind her as she ran up to them.

“The house is so beautiful!” She said, happily. Her eyes were shining when she pulled Alec into a hug, and then Magnus. “Mom said she needs your help with something, Magnus.”

“Oh.” He blinked in surprise.

Ignoring the instant stab of fear, he reluctantly let go of Alec’s hand and headed downstairs.

What did Maryse need with him?

He had hoped that everything was settled between them. Her speech at Alec’s company party had brought tears to his eyes. To have finally earned Maryse’s respect ought to not mean much, but Magnus couldn’t help but let it fill his heart with joy.

His compassion, Magnus had come to realise, didn’t have an off switch.

When he stepped into the kitchen, he noticed the movers had begun unloading the many boxes still to come. Maryse was in the centre, holding out a photo album and smiling as she flicked through it.

“Please don’t tell me you found the old college album. I’m not that person anymore, I swear. I would never dye my hair such a grotesque colour.”

Maryse turned her head sharply. She smiled. “Forgive me. I did not mean to intrude on your privacy.”

“No harm done. Unless you’ve seen my yearbook photos.”

Maryse frowned. “Why’s that?” She asked.

He grinned. “They were taken during the Dark Ages. Before eyeliner came into my life.”

“Oh.” The lines of confusion on her face smoothed out when she realised he had been joking. She looked down, a little sheepish. “I don’t get teased often.”

Had he crossed a line?

Just when he was about to mumble an apology, he risked a glance at Maryse and found her already watching him; her lips pulled into a small smile.

“You make my son so happy, doctor.”

He didn’t hide his surprise this time. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t. There was a gentleness to her words that brought tears to his eyes.

Maryse placed down the photo album and focused her attention on him. “I just wanted you to know…how sorry I am. What I said when Isabelle left was inexcusable, and I understand that a mere apology would not make amends.”

“You’re right.” Magnus nodded solemnly. And then he grinned. “But a hug would?”

He held his arms out.

Maryse looked so shocked that he seriously thought she might pass out. Or throw something at him.

But then the strangest thing happened.

Maryse Lightwood laughed.

A hand covered her mouth quickly, but she still laughed. It was a quiet sound, but one that didn’t hold back from joy.

Magnus thought back to the framed photo he had seen so many months ago. Of a woman unafraid to joke and laugh at her husband’s jokes.

There were so many layers to Maryse, and Magnus felt hope for them yet.

“Am I forgiven?” She asked. There was still a hint of amusement in her smile.

He nodded. “As long as you promise never to look inside the yearbook.”

She placed a fist over her heart and nodded. “I vow to never venture inside.”

Magnus gaped.

Was she teasing him?

He actually had to pinch himself.

Before he had time to react, Maryse turned to greet another man who was juggling the last of the boxes. She was back in business mode, leaving Magnus to smile; pondering over the wonderful and complicated beauty of humankind.

~ ~ ~

“Babe, where did you put the granola bars?” Isabelle called out loudly from the kitchen.

“Uh, top shelf; third on the right.”

Finding her desired box, Izzy grabbed one and placed it beside her water bottle. “Found them!”

“And…did you just call me ‘babe’?”

Izzy grinned. She turned back, and Lydia was standing a few feet away; her back leaning against the kitchen counter as she watched Izzy getting ready to leave.

“Sorry?”

Lydia smiled. She closed the distance between them and snaked her arms around Izzy’s waist. “Don’t be sorry. I liked it.” She murmured, her voice a teasing whisper.

Isabelle groaned. “Don’t do this to me now.”

“Do what?” Lydia asked, innocently. She gripped Isabelle tighter and pressed a kiss to her temple.

Desperately trying to fight the desire overriding her body, Izzy wriggled out of her girlfriend’s arms and quickly skipped to the other side of the counter. “Save it for later. I cannot be late for my second class!”

Lydia accepted defeat. She held out the water bottle and smiled. “You’re going to be great, Isabelle. I promise, you have nothing to worry about.”

Izzy relaxed. “Thank you.” She murmured. Lydia always knew exactly just what she was feeling, and she thanked the heavens for giving her such a beautiful, smart and kind-hearted woman to love.

Lydia took a step forward, slowly, and asked, “A kiss for good luck?”

“If you insist.” Izzy smirked, letting herself slip into Lydia’s arms and envelop her lips with hers. The embrace lasted for only a few moments, but it soothed and electrified her at the same time.

Isabelle pulled away, reluctantly, and sighed. “I really do have to go now. And so do you! You have a meeting!”

“Yes, ma’am.” Lydia laughed, and the sound warmed Izzy’s heart. “Alec and Magnus are meeting us at the theatre, right?”

“Yes!” She called out, tugging on her shoes by the front door. The front door of their apartment. In New York. With Lydia, the love her of life.

She had asked Lydia to stay with her for a week or two while she settled into New York, and her girlfriend had sheepishly held up a plane ticket; already purchased.

Once again, she had read Isabelle’s mind.

Tonight, her brother and Magnus were joining them for a night out; to celebrate both of their milestones of moving.

She blew Lydia one last kiss and headed out the door; ready to dance.

Ready to live.

~

“Wasn’t it amazing?” Isabelle took the steps two at a time, her arm looped in Magnus’ as they brushed away the last of their tears. “Oh, Magnus, I thought you were just joking when you said we would all be a weeping mess. I think I cried through the whole of act two!”

“I did warn you, my dear!” Magnus laughed, pulling Izzy into a hug as they exited the theatre. Lydia and Alec were chatting behind them.

“Damn, the lights are brighter than I remember.” He muttered, throwing up an arm to block out the neon signs.

Izzy simply laughed. “I’m used to it already. I love the madness.”

Arriving in New York had reminded him of how colourful and chaotic it was, and part of him was pleased to not feel any regret about leaving. Though it would always be a place of dreams and happiness, Magnus realised that he had been ready to let it go.

He was ready to move on, and move on with Alec he had.

As they walked along the streets, tightly wrapped in scarves and long coats against the early March weather, Magnus looked around at his companions and smiled. The four of them walked back to Isabelle’s apartment, taking in the sounds of the nightlife around them.

He fell back then, joining Alec on the path and slipping his arm through his. “Hello.” He greeted, cocking his head and grinning.

Alec sighed. “Do I know you?” He said with a straight face. And then, with absolute seriousness, he said, “I swear I’ve seen you in my dreams before.”

He was glad his arm was around Alec’s, because he almost fell into the road from shock.

Lydia cracked up, laughing loudly as Alec sighed. The prince turned to her and held out his palm. “Pay up.” He demanded, and she dug out a dollar from her purse.

“That line wasn’t even worth a dollar.” Magnus remarked. He held up a finger, pointing it in accusation at Alec. “And you, sir, need to work on your pick up lines.”

Alec gazed at him, his eyes bright with happiness. “I have a lifetime to work on it.”

Magnus smiled. “That’s better, my prince.”

Lydia had walked ahead, catching up with Isabelle and giving them space.

So when Magnus leaned up to kiss Alec, the colours showering them in lights, he felt ready to burst from all the happiness inside him. His hands were warmed by the heat of Alec’s neck as he tugged him closer. Always closer. There would always be this need, and this hunger, inside Magnus that ached to be as close to Alec as possible.

“Do you miss it?” Alec asked quietly, and Magnus knew with perfectly clarity what he was referring to. He meant his friends, and his apartment. He meant the life he had built here.

“Yes.” Magnus answered truthfully. His smile tugged wider. “But I love you more. And I wouldn’t trade you in for the entire of New York.”

“You would chose me over Broadway?”

“Uh, yes.”

Alec gasped. “You hesitated!” He accused, but his laugh took away some of the hurt.

Magnus shrugged. “You’re telling me you wouldn’t even hesitate in a competition between me and Les Miserables? You’d sacrifice the barricade boys for me?”

A wicked grin spread over Alec’s face, and he unlinked their arms and said, “Well, they are already dead, so-“

He broke off, running away when Magnus started to lunge for him. “Alexander, that’s so mean!”

The prince’s laughter echoed down the road as Magnus cursed his long legs and awful sense of humour. When he finally caught up with him, they had stopped outside the apartment. Lydia and Isabelle had already headed inside, leaving them outside.

“I would hit you, if I wasn’t so fond of your beautiful face.”

Alec’s cheeks were flushed from the run, and Magnus took a few moments to regain his breath; gazing up at his boyfriend. His beauty was on full display tonight; his smile wide and his hazel eyes so alight with the happiness he was finally letting himself have.

“Gods, you are beautiful, Alexander.” He whispered, helplessly.

The words had slipped out, and they likely would again.

At so many times, Magnus would catch Alec smiling as he read, or talking to Izzy on the phone, and his heart would fill with so much love. There was so much beauty in Alec; inside and out, and Magnus was honoured and in disbelief that he was the person who could cherish it.

“As are you.” Alec murmured, his lips parted slightly. He reached out and took Magnus into his arms. The gesture was casual and tender, sending shivers of pleasure through Magnus’ body.

They kissed for a while, until Magnus couldn’t feel his toes and Alec’s lips were kiss-bruised. Magnus ran a finger across his lip and groaned when Alec’s lips placed a kiss on the top of his forefinger.

“We should head on up.”

Magnus nodded in agreement, and they headed up the stairs.

Just outside the door, Alec pressed him against the wall and kissed him fiercely. Magnus clung to him and kissed back just as desperately, his hands gripping the lapels of Alec’s coat. When he pulled back, in a daze, he asked, “And what was that for, Alexander?”

“Because you deserve to be kissed by someone who worships you.”

“Damn.” Magnus murmured huskily, running a finger down Alec’s jaw and scraping his nails across the skin. “When we get back home, I’m going to show you just how much I appreciate that. Can you wait that long?”

“What, two nights?” Alec snorted.

But then his eyes softened. “It will kill me, but yes, I will wait.”

Magnus kissed him once more, slowly; lingering for as long as he could. He smirked when Alec groaned as he pulled away.

“Come on, Your Highness. Suck it up for a little while longer.”

Alec blinked slowly, his cheeks flushing a deep scarlet as Magnus realised the accidental double meaning in his words.

“Later.” He winked at Alec, laughing as they stumbled into the apartment.

~ ~ ~

"I get to love you, it’s the best thing that I’ll ever do.
I get to love you, it’s a promise I’m making to you.
Whatever may come; your heart I will choose."

A long time ago, Alec had planned his future out completely.

He had everything sorted and scheduled; a time for everything.

He was going to marry Lydia and leave behind the small part of him that hoped to find another kind of love. He was going to make sure that Isabelle would have every opportunity ahead of her, maintain his family’s honour and separate his head and his heart.

And then Magnus Bane had arrived into his life.

He had started talking at the dinner table.

He had started smiling at the prince and asking questions about his hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes.

And Alec had fallen in love with him.

Slowly and steadily, he had fallen in love with every single part of Magnus.

Even the parts that had confused him at first; the quips and the teases and the way he covered up his hurt for the sake of others. His compassion was a miracle that Alec witnessed every day, and he felt blessed to live beside a man who loved him back just as fiercely.

Alec’s life had become something else.

He was now the company president of his family’s legacy, and he was proud to be. He was no longer afraid of living up to those who had come before him.

He was himself, and that would always be enough.

It had taken him a while, but Alec Lightwood was able to realise that his own happiness was something worth fighting for.

Thanks to Magnus, he was truly happy. As were the rest of his family.

“What are you thinking about?”

Pulled from his thoughts, Alec finished the last bite of his toast -his evening snack that Magnus had teased him about - and threw his plate into the sink. That earned a glare from Magnus, who had just finished washing up Alec’s latest round of coffee mugs.

“Sorry.” Alec grinned, only a little guiltily.

“No you’re not.” Magnus rolled his eyes.

The doctor was dressed smartly today, in a deep green blouse and dark blue skinny jeans that flattered his slim legs beautifully. His reading glasses were placed inside his jacket pocket, ready for the paperwork that had awaited him at the clinic for that day.

He only had a thin circle of eyeliner – light blue – circling his eyes today, and Alec always made sure to kiss his cheek before leaving in the morning. He now knew that make-up was a way for Magnus to express himself, and not being able to wear as much as he’d like sometimes left him a little self-conscious.

Alec didn’t know why. Magnus was, and always would be, the most beautiful man he had ever seen.

“How was…Alice?” He asked, trying to remember the names of the children who his boyfriend had been treating.

Magnus smiled in appreciation. “She’s doing alright. Her leg is still swollen, but the bandage is helping.”

A fond smile had crossed Magnus’ face as he spoke about the kids. He had told the story of how he had spent last Christmas, and Alec had listened intently and smiled at the thought of the many kids Magnus had cared for. 

“You love children, don’t you?”

Magnus froze, halfway into placing a mug back on the shelf.

Alec hadn’t meant to say anything. It was a thought he had let slip out, and he wasn’t sure why it carried a weight of sorts.

He hadn’t meant anything by it.

But perhaps he had. 

Magnus turned around to face him, and smiled. “I do. I like their enthusiasm for life. I hate that most us lose that as we grow up. We find it harder to laugh; harder to smile and make friends, and live the lives we want to live.” His expression grew distant, lost in thought. “Children love so openly. They have a capacity to love quickly and with every part of them. I admire that.”

After a moment passed, Alec nodded in understanding. But he didn’t leave it at that. He needed him to know something else.

“You make me feel like that, Magnus.” Alec said, softly. “Like I have wings.”

Magnus looked surprised, and then his smile was back; wider than ever. He came and took a seat beside Alec on the sofa, tilting his body towards him. “Do go on.”

Alec chuckled.

The words that followed were truthful, and came from Alec’s soul. “I have felt so caged in my life, and I don’t mean to blame anyone. I’m not ignorant. I know I have money, and I am privileged compared to most. I actually have some charity schemes that I want to begin soon…” He trailed off, distracted, and then shook his head. “Uh, right. Anyway.”

Magnus placed his hand on Alec’s thigh and smiled. “Take your time.” He said, quietly. He said it in that understanding way that meant he didn’t want to force Alec to say anything he didn’t have to.

Alec tried to find the words to explain his feelings. “What I mean is...I have never felt caged with you, Magnus. I always feel that you want me to be…just me. Not Prince Alexander, or a leader, but just me. Just Alec. And you make me see the world in so many different ways. And…you have taught me what it means to truly have courage.”

Magnus smiled at him.

Alec cleared his throat, trying to fight back the tears threatening to overwhelm him. His lips tugged into a teasing smile. “I only hope I have taught you something more than Latin proverbs.”

“Uh, uh. You don’t get to do that.” Magnus shuffled closer, resting an elbow on the top of the sofa and leaning in. His breath was warm and gentle as he replied, “You once told me to never again question my worth. Now I will ask you to do the same." He linked their hands together and stared at them in wonder. "Never, ever, question yourself. Or the beautiful life you have given me."

Magnus toyed with their clasped hands, toying with the fingers and rubbing circles over his knuckles. The gesture was familiar; that of old friends. When he gazed up at him, there was so much love in his expression. "Alec, you are selfless and loyal and kind. It would break my heart to have you think any differently.”

Alec closed the distance and kissed him; a slow, sweet and lingering kiss that grew into something else. It sparked heat down over his arms, spreading to his stomach and flushing him all over. Would he ever be able to understand why he had been given this? How had he been given Magnus, and all his goodness?

He stared in awe at the man he loved. Did Magnus realise how Alec's entire heart was his to keep, now and forever?

"Now, come on. You promised to watch another episode of Lost with me before bed." Magnus reached for the TV remote and settled into Alec's arms, his back pressed against his chest.

"Fine." Alec sighed, circling his arms around Magnus' waist as they sat together. "But how long does it take them to get off the island? It's getting ridiculous."

Magnus tilted his head back and winked. "No spoilers."

As the episode started, Alec paused. He reached out with a hand and gently tilted Magnus' chin up; studying him tenderly. His expression was relaxed and peaceful; his eyes shining with a light that Alec wanted to keep there forever. There was an entire world in those eyes, Alec thought. And he wanted to travel to every corner. He wanted to stop at the busy, colourful parts of Magnus' world, and the quieter, darker parts too. He wanted to protect him, always, and love him, always. 

Alec smiled, and Magnus returned it; his lips soft and flushed pink in the moonlight streaming in. 

"I belong to you." Alec whispered. He ran a fingertip down Magnus' jaw; brushing the corners of his lips; lips that were now smiling at him with enough love to last through all the fights and struggles that came with life. There was no love without pain; no good without bad. Alec realised this, and yet, he was not afraid. How could he be afraid?

He would love Magnus until his dying day.

And Magnus would be there, in the end, holding his hand and closing his eyes alongside his. 

Was there anything else he could ask for?

He answered his thoughts with a kiss to Magnus' temple.

But first, we live; and love.

 

Chapter Text

Epilogue:

2 years later.

~

The day that Isabelle married Lydia was one of the warmest days in Texas.

The gardens of Bishop’s Palace was decorated with a large white marquee. It was filled with small tables waiting to be filled with family and friends, and the flowers were in full bloom. Pink and orange roses were lined in small vases along the aisles that had been constructed.

They ran parallel to the archway they had kissed under years ago.

Isabelle and Lydia walked from opposite sides and met in the middle.

They smiled at each other; ready to spend the rest of their lives loving each other with equal passion.

There was not a dry eye in the garden as everyone watched in joy as Robert managed to slowly walk his daughter down the garden aisle. He was happily supported by Maryse on the other side.

Magnus swallowed back the tears, overwhelmed by pride. Year ago, he had befriended Robert, and now he was seeing the man walk his daughter down the aisle; wearing the widest smile he had ever seen on the prince.

Their wedding vows were simple and lovely.

Lydia took Isabelle’s hands in her own and softly said her piece. “I love you, Isabelle, for all that you are. I would like to spend the rest of my days keeping this promise to you.”

There was a tremble to her voice that was tender. She looked at Izzy like she was the only thing in the world. “That not matter how many challenges we face, separately or together, we will make it through to the other side.”

Tears fell down Lydia’s cheeks as she gazed across at her soon-to-be wife.

They looked like visions in white; two angels with bright futures and an unstoppable love.

Lydia took Izzy’s hands in hers, as if for strength. After a moment, she continued. “I want the first face I see in the morning to always be yours. I want your laughter, and your hands in mine, and your tears too. I vow to comfort you whenever I can, and help you find comfort elsewhere when I cannot. I vow to love you, always.”

Magnus stood beside Izzy; beaming with pride as her best friend, and best man. He had insisted on being called ‘bridesman’ but one look from Maryse had silenced him. He had finally agreed to lose that fight. He didn’t mind much. He was far too happy watching Izzy marry the love of her life.

Standing beside Lydia, was Magnus’ own love.

His soulmate, his best friend, and his other half.

Alec looked ravishing in his dark blue suit, and the slight distance between them was killing Magnus. He soon settled for switching between staring lovingly at Alec, and fondly at the two girls.

Isabelle’s vows were shorter, but no less wonderful. “I have loved you for so long that I forget when it began." She laughed a little breathlessly. "It began with summers spent running around this very garden. It began with study sessions and shopping trips. Sleepovers and sharing secrets.”

She lifted one of Lydia’s hands to her lips and kissed it tenderly, gazing across at her with shining eyes. “Lydia, my soulmate and my best friend, I vow to love you with all I can. I will always stand by your side, and hold your hand whenever you need me to. I will always bring you coffee while you work and listen to the complaints about that damn company paperwork filing system.”

Laughter ripped around the garden.

Magnus glanced at Alec, his breath catching when Alec was already watching him; his eyes shining with tears.

They had lived together for almost two years now, and they had never been happier.

Magnus’ new job was delightful, and though he had missed Catarina and Ragnor with all his heart, they met up quite often and once again proved that their love could cover any distance.

Magnus smiled at Alec and lost himself in the prince’s own smile; so gentle, warm and openly affectionate.

He would never get used to that; to searching out love and receiving it so instantly.

It warmed his heart every time.

Living together had only strengthened their bond. It was their own home, and a place that was completely theirs.

When Magnus was away touring with sport clubs, Alec always found traces of Magnus still around the home; traces of glitter, half-empty cups of tea, tangled necklaces.

He was never alone, and neither was Magnus.

Recently, they had been discussing a new step.

A new addition to their family.

Maxine.

The little girl who Magnus had once looked after one Christmas had, in a strange twist of fate, ended up at a foster home in Houston.

To Magnus’ surprise, he had looked up from his office one day and watched her walk in with her current social worker, a kind-hearted woman named Bethan. The young girl had injured her foot, and Magnus had been treating it with on-going physical therapy for a few months now.

Every time she walked in, he felt something inside his heart blossom; urging him to reach out to her.

She was almost ten years old now, and though she was still shy, there was a sweetness to her that Magnus wanted to protect forever.

Alec, sensing something was different, had asked him about this particular patient.

“Can I meet her?” Alec had asked, his voice quiet and gentle.

Magnus’ heart had leaped into his throat.

He tried to keep his expression neutral, but when Alec wrapped his arms around his waist and turned him around to face him, Magnus let the tears fall. Of course Alec had noticed. He always paid attention. They had grown so attentive to each other in their years together, and Magnus felt a little foolish to have tried to hide his affections.

He was even more surprised when Alec said, “You never asked if I wanted children.”

Magnus swallowed. His heart was ready to burst from all the hope he’d kept at bay; unsure about asking Alec.

Alec then had smiled a smile of complete certainty; wide and happy. “And the answer is yes.” He kissed the tip of Magnus’ nose. “What little girl could ask for a better father than you, Magnus?”

And so Alec had met Maxine.

He was smitten instantly. He loved listening to the girl talk about going to the zoo, and what books she liked to read. One time, she had shyly asked if he was a prince, and Alec had smiled fondly and nodded.

Weeks later, when the adoption papers were filled, Alec had smiled softly and held his hand out to the young girl and asked, “Your kingdom awaits, princess.”

Magnus couldn’t believe it. Soon, when Maxine was able to come and live with them, their family would grow. Not just in size, but in love.

He had never realised how much he wanted a child of his own until Alec.

Being surrounded by so much love had finally taught Magnus that he could be the father he himself never had. He would not fail where his own had.

As for Lydia and Isabelle, they had both lived together to New York.

When Isabelle begun studying at Julliard, Alec had approached his sister’s girlfriend with a whole other kind of proposal.

He had offered her a position in the company; running the New York headquarters.

Once he had become the president, Alec was quick to realise that he needed someone on his side who understood the way he worked. Lydia was the perfect choice, and she had accepted graciously and moved in with Isabelle the following month.

They were still living together happily in New York, with Isabelle halfway through her course.

She danced every day and Alec had never seen his sister so happy before.

As they were pronounced married, Isabelle and Lydia leaned in and shared a slow, sweet kiss. They wrapped their arms around each other’s waists and broke away, smiling giddily. They were glowing, and so was everyone in the garden; wrapped in the warmth encircling the lovely couple.

The reception was held inside, in the ballroom, and when the Merry Widow’s Waltz came on, Magnus, Alec, Lydia and Isabelle shared a knowing glance. They began to laugh and once again dragged Jace and Clary into the centre to dance with them.

As Alec bowed to his boyfriend, he smirked. “I’m surprised you remember this.”

“It was a pretty memorable night, Alexander.”

“The first time we danced together.”

Magnus placed his hand on-top of Alec’s and felt that rush of tenderness. He suspected he would always feel it; that leap in his heart and the catch in his breath.

Alec’s touch was a magic he would crave forever.

This time, unlike many years before, when they held each other, they danced with hope.

They danced knowing everyone in the room was an important part of their lives.

Surrounded by happiness, Magnus gazed up at Alec and wondered if this was what home truly felt like; holding someone and never wanting to let go.

“I think I realise something now. Being back in this ballroom.”

“What’s that?” Alec asked softly, as the dance ended. They stood face to face as other couples joined in with the dancing. Magnus could see Isabelle and Lydia standing together and holding hands as they watched their friends and families celebrate their union.

Magnus looked around and tugged Alec into a quiet corner, so they were no longer in the main space. He didn’t feel like being watched as he kissed Alexander senseless. Which he did. And then again.

When he pulled back, Alec blinked in surprise; dazed. “Doctor, I believe I have am having a heart attack. What is the solution?”

“This.” Magnus laughed, and kissed him again. They pulled back, laughter warm against their lips.

“Do you want to know what I realised then?” He asked again, watching as Alec tilted his head and smiled.

“What’s that?”

Sweet music made his skin tingle and his heart warm.

Magnus smiled and happily said, “We make our own home.”

The prince leaned in and whispered in his ear, “And are you happy with yours, Magnus?”

Are you happy with me? Alec was asking really.

Magnus shrugged. “I suppose so.” He broke into laughter when Alec’s mouth dropped into an ‘o’ shape, and tapped him playfully on the nose. “Really, Alexander. Don’t you know by now? I am the happiest man alive.”

Second.” Alec corrected softly. “I know someone else, a stubborn prince, who would question that. A man who you saved many years ago. He loves you so much, Magnus.”

“Good. Because I’m madly in love with his stubborn, handsome face.”

They kissed again. Magnus lost himself and rediscovered himself again and again as he clung to Alec and melted their lips together.

If life was this full of love, he was unbelievably proud to have fought for the chance to have it.

He and Alec had won.

They had love, and they had a home.

And if it indeed had taken them a while, and many challenges, then it was worth it all.

It was worth taking apart everything they had thought they knew and rebuilding it. Slowly, and with love.

Magnus then repeated his own words in his mind.

It was a tender lyric to the soft music echoing around the ballroom;

We make our own home.

~

Fin.