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On the Topic of Hugs

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There was a knock on the door, and Alec turned to Clary in confusion. The door being knocked on was the back one, the one that just opened onto the alley behind their building; usually, no one went back there except to access the dumpster. On a Sunday evening like this one there was absolutely no reason for anyone to be out there, and everyone who might be had a key to the door.

Clary shrugged, and picked up the long spiked tool they used to pop bubbles in the oven and smacked it against her palm. “You want me to get rid of them?”

Alec looked at her incredulously. “I think I’ve got it.” The last thing they needed was Clary threatening someone with kitchen implements. “Probably just someone at the wrong door.”

She nodded, but he noticed she didn’t set the pole down as he went to answer the door. It was almost funny that she, a short and slight person without much physical strength, was trying to protect him, a tall and muscular person with martial arts training, but he was used to it by now. Clary and Izzy were both like that.

The man standing on the other side of the door did not look lost. He did look determined, and even though he was several inches shorter than Alec the fierceness in his expression more than made up for it.

“Are you Alec Lightwood?” he asked.

Alec stared at him for a second before blinking. “Yes? Why?”

The man nodded. “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised.”

“I’m afraid I can’t say the same. Who are you?”

“You treat my brother right,” the man said, confusing Alec further. “He’s been hurt by prettier bitches than you. And tell him to call me, will you? I shouldn’t have to hear about this from our mother.” With that, the man turned and walked down the alley, seeming to melt into the darkness of the street as he moved away.

Alec stared after him before closing the door and turning to Clary. “What the hell do you think that was?”

Clary shook her head. “Some drunk, maybe? Does Magnus have a brother?”

“He looked almost frighteningly sober,” Alec said, going back to chopping peppers. “And not that I know of? He doesn’t talk much about his family. Plus this guy looked nothing like him. Probably has me confused with someone else.”

“Maybe you should ask him, just in case? I mean, you have an adopted brother, there’s no reason Magnus couldn’t. It seems like an odd coincidence, otherwise.” She shrugged. “I mean, you’re not just going to ignore the fact that some guy just came and kind of threatened you, right? You’ve got to at least try to investigate.”

“Yeah, I guess. Maybe I should call Magnus just to check in? Do you mind if I do?”

Clary snorted. “It’s not like we’re super busy. And I’m really curious. Call him.”

Alec moved into the stairwell to make the call. He’d seen Magnus just last night, and they’d talked this morning. In the two weeks they’d been dating, they hadn’t gone even one day without at least texting, although Alec felt a little weird calling him so late. It was almost eight thirty, and while he knew Magnus wouldn’t be asleep yet it still felt a call him after dark. The phone rang a few times before Magnus answered.

“Hello?” Magnus sounded frazzled.

“Hey, it’s, uh, it’s me.” Alec said.

“Alec!” Magnus’s voice brightened instantly. “How are you? To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Alec couldn’t help but smile a little. “I’m fine. Uh, something weird just happened, and I wanted to know if you knew anything about it, but if it’s not a good time…?”

“No, it’s a great time.” Magnus paused. “Actually, I was just thinking about calling you. What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Nothing specific, I guess. You know Iz and I usually do inventory on Mondays, but I can skip if you want. Why?” Monday was the only day a week they were closed.

“How do you feel about modelling?” Magnus’s voice was hopeful.

“I don’t really know anything about it?” Alec said, confused.

“You’d just have to stand there. You’re almost exactly the right size, and one of my models is on a flight that got delayed so he’ll barely make it in time for the show, and I need someone to fit the outfits on. You don’t have to, of course, but it would save me a lot of work.”

Alec frowned, but really, how bad could it be? “Okay, sure, yeah, I can do that. When do you want me?”

Magnus let out a small, relieved sigh. “Thank god. You’re a life saver, darling. Come over at eleven? You can meet the team, we can get takeout.”

“Sounds great, sure.”

“You’re an angel,” Magnus said. “Now, what weird thing did you say you wanted to ask me about?”

Alec had almost forgotten. It was so easy to get sidetracked when talking to Magnus. “Oh, right. Do you have a brother? Some weird guy just came by the kitchen and told me to treat his brother right and then just sort of vanished.”

“Oh, shit,” Magnus said. “Was he a tiny guy who looked like he didn’t know how to smile? Because in that case, yes, I have a brother.”

“And if he wasn’t, you don’t? I don’t think that’s how siblings work.” Although that was a pretty decent description of the guy.

“Fine, I have a brother. Actually, I have five. But I’m pretty sure only Raphael would threaten anybody for me. How did he even know?” he added, almost to himself. “We haven’t spoken since Easter.”

“Well, he said something like ‘tell him to call me, I shouldn’t have to hear about this from our mom’, if that helps.”

Shit. I’m so sorry, Alec. I should probably have warned you. I just didn’t realize Guadalupe was going to tell everyone right away.

“You haven’t told me much about your family,” Alec said neutrally. He hadn’t been sure why, still wasn't, really, and didn't want to press.

Magnus sighed. “I know. I didn't tell you about them because I didn't want to tell them about you—not because I'm not proud to be dating you, just because, well, they'll want to get involved. But I guess that cat is out of the bag.” He sighed again. “I've known Raphael since middle school. When my dad died when I was fourteen, his mom, Guadalupe, took me in. She called me this morning and I told her about us—she must have told Raph right away if he was able to find you so fast.”

“I see,” Alec said. It sounded a lot like what had happened with Jace and their family, really, although obviously Magnus wasn't as close to his brothers as Jace was to Alec and Izzy. “So, I don't have to worry that I've attracted some kind of stalker or something?”

“Not unless he starts stalking you.” Magnus snorted. “Sorry. I love Raphael, I really do, but we are very different people.”

“I get it. I know not everyone has siblings like I do. And...well, you know, I'm glad you told your mom about us. It's good that one of us can.” In not talking about Magnus's family, they had also successfully avoided the aspects of Alec's family he didn't like to discuss: namely, the fact that his parents had no idea he was gay and were established homophobes. “I mean, obviously my siblings know. But, uh, my parents…”

“Hey, I understand,” Magnus said softly. “I know how hard it can be. For what it's worth, if you ever do want to tell them, I'll be there. I mean, if you think that would help. If you want me to be.”

“Yeah, of course. I think maybe I could, with you there.” Alec hesitated. “Thank you.”

“Hey! Alec!” Clary shouted from the kitchen. “Quit romancing your boyfriend and help me make these six pizzas!”

Over the phone, Magnus laughed. “I take it I have to let you go?”

“Yeah, sorry. Duty calls.”

“But I'll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I'll be there at 11. Bye!”

“See you tomorrow!”

Alec hung up and headed back into the kitchen to do his job, smiling a little at the thought that he'd learned a little more about Magnus, something a little closer to his heart


Magnus had been having a hectic last few days. They had a show tonight, and the organization was terrible. Already they’d been forced to change half the entire lineup, given a different time slot, and one of the models was held up in London. He was supposed to be arriving in time for the show, but Magnus had his doubts. It seemed like everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. And then, of course, to top it off, he’d gotten a phone call from Guadalupe and he hadn’t been able to keep from telling her about Alec, who had then been accosted by Raphael (“How was I to know he didn’t know you had a brother?” Raphael had asked when Magnus called him about it last night, which had led to an awkward conversation about the state of their relationship). The only good thing in this whole mess was that Alec had agreed to do a fitting for him, in the place of the British model.

In fact, Alec was going to be there any minute. Catarina, Tessa, and Ragnor were supposed to be over at noon—he wanted to be able to have Alec to himself for at least a little while before they all descended on him. And he thought Alec would probably be more comfortable with certain parts of the fitting occurring while they were alone. Honestly, he didn't know what he would have done if Alec had said no to this—the world was hardly full of perfectly muscled guys over 6’3”, much less ones willing to come to Magnus's apartment on such short notice.

The door buzzed, and Magnus let Alec in, taking the—by now almost expected—small bouquet of orange roses from him. “Why orange?”

Alec shrugged, walking in and sitting on the couch beside the Chairman. It still amazed Magnus how quickly Alec had become more comfortable in his space. “It just seems like a cheery color. You sounded pretty worked up about this model thing, and I thought something bright couldn't hurt.”

Magnus beamed at him, taking the roses into the kitchen and trimming them so he could put them beside the pink ones from Saturday. So far it had never been the same color twice.

“So,” Alec said right behind him, and Magnus startled a little—Alec moved very quietly, and Magnus hadn't expected him to follow him to the kitchen. “How is this going to work? You just want me to put on some clothes?”

“More or less.” Magnus brushed past him to go back to the living room and put down the flowers. “I'm going to take some measurements,  to double check your size compared to the model's—although Lord knows if he'll even get here, at this point—and then I'll have you put on the three different outfits and pin them, and then we'll adjust them and give them back to you for another try.”

“And who exactly is ‘we’?” Alec asked, a little nervous.

“Tessa and Cat and Ragnor, I'm afraid. They all need to see you and check the fit. Also, they've all been badgering me about when they get to meet you. Ragnor's going to kill me when he finds out Raphael met you before he did.” Magnus frowned. “Actually, he probably already knows.”

“Does it count as meeting him if he just came and yelled at me and didn't even tell me his name?” Alec asked. “And how do they know each other?”

“Oh, they’ve been friends for years. I’m a little surprised Ragnor didn’t tell him about you, but I guess he has some loyalty. Or maybe he just wanted to see Raph’s reaction when he was the last to know.” Magnus shrugged. “Well, it hardly matters now. Really, I’m almost touched he thought to threaten you. But, I suppose, after…” He trailed off. Alec knew he'd been hurt before, of course, but he still hadn't been able to bring himself to talk directly about Camille. He'd never had to tell anyone about her who hadn't been there, and he wasn't sure he'd ever really be able to.

“Hey, I get it,” Alec said gently, and then smiled wryly. “You know the next time you see my siblings they're all going to try to one up each other with threats of violence, right? It's what people do when they love you.”

Magnus threw his arms around Alec, abruptly pulling him into a hug, hiding his face in the taller man's shoulder. Alec tensed for a second before bringing his arms up around Magnus's shoulders and burying his face in his hair. Magnus felt like his heart was going to break out of his chest—here was this beautiful, gentle young man who always seemed to know just what to say, who wanted Magnus despite the mess his life was, who never pushed him to give more than he could. Who came over with no notice to do something outside his comfort zone simply because he knew Magnus needed help.

Magnus let go of him and took a step back, looking up to see Alec looking right back at him.

“What was that for?” Alec asked.

I love you, Magnus thought. “Thank you,” he said. “I'm sorry sometimes I get—well, I get like that.”

Alec shook his head and reached out to touch him, hand gentle on Magnus's arm. “You don't have to apologize. When you're ready to talk about it, we'll talk about it. For now, just know that I'm here, okay?”

Magnus nodded, pulling himself together and dragging a smile onto his face. “We'd better get started. I want to measure you before everybody gets here.”

Alec still looked concerned, but he nodded. “Let's do this.”


When he'd agreed to do this fitting for Magnus last night, Alec hadn't thought it would include this much touching. Magnus was currently kneeling on the floor in front of him, carefully measuring Alec's inseam. Meaning his hand was running slowly up the inside of Alec's thigh. Alec was trying very very hard to focus on literally anything other than those two facts, but it was proving difficult. He squeezed his eyes shut so he couldn’t stare at Magnus, but the feather-light touches on the inside of his thigh were driving him insane.

“Are you all right?” Magnus asked. He wasn’t touching Alec anymore, and Alec tentatively opened his eyes to see Magnus standing in front of him.

“Yeah,” Alec said. His voice sounded strangled, and he cleared his throat. “Yeah, uh, sorry.”

Magnus smirked. “Really?” He stepped closer, into Alec’s space, so close that their chests were almost touching. “You seemed...distracted.”

Alec could feel Magnus across the gap between them, like an electrical current running through their bodies. He'd spent the last twenty minutes trying to ignore the way Magnus's hands were all over him, and now, this was too much. He leaned down and pressed their lips together.

Magnus smiled into the kiss and shifted closer, putting a hand on Alec's shoulder and going on his toes to improve the angle of the kiss. Alec's hands went around Magnus's back, pulling him closer still until they were entirely pressed together. Magnus licked at Alec's lips and Alec opened his mouth obligingly, reveling in the sensation of Magnus's tongue in his mouth. He was so keyed up already—they hadn't done more than this before, they'd barely done this, but Alec was seriously considering throwing caution to the wind and finally finding out what Magnus's bedroom looked like. Magnus seemed to be having a similar thought, pushing him gently back towards the hallway, when the buzzer sounded loudly, startling them apart.

Shit,” Magnus said emphatically, lifting a hand to check his hair. “I forgot everyone was coming over. How debauched do I look?”

Alec shook his head, still dazed. “Well, I can see why you wanted to do that part before they got here.” He tugged his shirt down self-consciously. “Your hair looks fine.”

Magnus smiled. “I do aim for more than fine, but I'll take it. Yours is a wreck, but that's no different than any other day.” He pushed the button to let whoever was outside up. “You do look like you've just been kissed rather thoroughly, but that's not a bad thing.”

“It's not a bad look for you, either,” Alec said before he could stop himself.

Magnus grinned and went to get the door. Alec watched him walk away, still a little lost in his head. Had they really been about to...?

“So this is the Alec you’ve been blathering about!” a man said, and Alec blinked, looking up at the newcomer. “I’m Ragnor, Ragnor Fell. I’m sure Magnus has told you all about me.”

“Uh, yeah,” Alec said, holding out a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“And good to meet you as well,” Ragnor said, giving him a firm handshake. “I’m sure Magnus would have tried to keep you to himself a good while longer if this complication hadn’t turned up, and I can’t say I blame him. You are gorgeous.”

“Thanks?” Alec said uncertainly.

Ragnor waved a hand. “Oh, don’t worry, I won’t try to steal you away. God knows Magnus has needed someone to take care of him.”

“You could do me the favor of not talking about me like I wasn’t here, you know,” Magnus said without much heat.

“And where would be the fun in that?” Ragnor draped an arm around Magnus’s shoulders and drew him forward. “Now, I take it I’ve beaten the girls? What are you putting him in?”

“Yes, you’re the first,” Magnus said, and Alec watched as the two of them bent over a pile of designs on the table, discussing what Alec assumed were outfits in language he didn’t really understand. It was strange to see Magnus with a friend, he thought, but not in a bad way—he was different around Ragnor than he was when it was just the two of them, and it was nice to see a different side of him.

It wasn’t long before Catarina and Tessa arrived (together, and with food), and they sat around the table in the kitchen to eat.

“So, Alec,” Catarina said, swallowing a bite of bbq pork. “What do you do, other than make delicious pizza to sustain us?”

Alec shifted uncomfortably. All three of Magnus’s business partners were watching him with an intensity that made him feel remarkably like a bug under a microscope, and he felt like if he said or did the wrong thing they’d attack him like a pack of wolves. “Well, you know, running the shop really takes most of my time. I mean, I’ve always loved cooking, and it’s kind of, you know, been my life for the last two years.  I don’t really...get out much.” He shrugged. “I’m really pretty boring.”

“Magnus clearly doesn’t think so,” Tessa pointed out.

“Well, the do say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” Ragnor said, somewhat dubiously.

Alec laughed anxiously. “Um, yeah.”

Magnus took pity on him, resting a hand on his shoulder briefly. “Don’t interrogate my boyfriend. He’s here to do all of us a favor, not get grilled or threatened.”

“I think we have the right to ask him a few questions, Magnus,” Cat said. “Mr. Mysterious Tall Dark and Handsome waltzes in and steals away all your free time, it stands to reason we’d be curious.”

“I’m really not that mysterious,” Alec protested. “I grew up less than a mile from here and I live with my siblings above our restaurant. I don’t know how much less mysterious you want me to be.”

“What are all your tattoos?” Ragnor asked.

“You can’t just ask him—” Magnus started, but Alec put a hand on his knee to cut him off.

“It’s fine. Um, they’re sort of a family tradition, I guess? They’re runes from an old language—it’s supposed to be the language of the angels, but I don’t know if I buy into that. Everyone in my family has them. Even Clary—my brother’s girlfriend—got some when she turned eighteen. It’s where we got the idea for the logo for the restaurant, too.” He turned his arm over to show them the angelic rune on it. “This one basically just means ‘angelic power’, and we all have it somewhere. It’s the most generic rune, I guess.”

“What does the one on your neck mean?” Tessa asked curiously.

“Oh, uh.” Alec could feel his face getting hot. “It’s actually a, uh, a deflection rune. My sister suggested it.”

“That sounds like a story,” Cat said, eyes gleaming.

Alec shrugged. “Not really. You’d understand if you knew her. And I—well, I do like the way it looks, she was right about that.”

“I certainly like it,” Magnus agreed. “It’s very lickable-looking.”

Ragnor covered his face with his hands. “There are things we do not need to know, Magnus.”

Magnus smirked. “And here I thought you three wanted the answers to all of Alec’s mysteries.”

Tessa rolled her eyes. “Maybe not all of his mysteries. And certainly not all of yours.”

Magnus laughed. “Don’t worry, darling, no one knows all my secrets. Now, can we talk about what we’re going to do about the show tonight? Or are we just going to play twenty questions with Alec?”

They all sighed, but apparently they were concerned enough about the show that they allowed the topic change. Or maybe they’d simply gotten enough answers from him. Either way, Alec was relieved. He tuned out a little—most of the talk about outfits and models went over his head, and he wasn’t going to be involved in that part anyway—and ate his food. He liked Magnus’s friends well enough, he supposed, but he felt very out of his depth, and he was sort of hoping this would all be done soon so he could go home.


Magnus had been filled with nervous energy all afternoon, trying to navigate introducing Alec to his friends—who he loved, deeply, but who were also the worst—and get everything ready for the show that night. He currently had Alec changing into his third outfit in the bedroom (really not how he’d envisioned the first time Alec saw it, but some things couldn’t be helped) while he tried to convince Ragnor that Alec’s measurements really were close enough to their model’s that the fit would be fine. Catarina was on the phone, arguing with one of the people in charge of the show, and Tessa was sewing the adjustments into the last shirt Alec had tried on.

It was such chaos that it took Magnus awhile to realize that Alec had been gone for quite a while, and that perhaps that meant something was wrong. When it struck him, he cut Ragnor off mid-sentence, not quite running back to the bedroom and knocking on the door.

“Alec? Are you all right?” Magnus called through the door.

“You can come in.” Alec’s voice sounded small.

Magnus shoved the door open to see Alec sitting on the floor by the bed in nothing but his boxers, arms curled around his drawn up knees. He let the door fall shut behind him as he rushed forward, stopping short of touching Alec’s bare skin as he crouched in front of him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked gently.

Alec shook his head. “Nothing. I’m sorry. It was just—too much. I’ll be fine in a minute, sorry.”

Magnus shook his head, even more concerned. “I’m the one who should be sorry. I should have realized…”

Alec lifted his head and met Magnus’s eyes. “You should have realized what? That I was going to have a panic attack because I couldn’t figure out how to get these pants on?” He flapped a hand half-heartedly at the outfit on the bed. “I don’t do well with lots of loud people who I don’t know. You had no reason to think your three friends would be too much for me. It normally wouldn’t be, but, well.” Alec sighed, looking back at his knees. “God, I was hoping to avoid having to have this conversation with you so soon. I’m just—I get—”

“Shh,” Magnus said softly. “You don’t have to explain, if you don’t want to. Take your time.”

Alec made a frustrated sound and rubbed at the back of his head. “I know I’m good-looking,” he started, and the cut himself off with a shake of his head. “I don’t mean—well, you know. It’s not that I think I’m ugly or anything, but I—I don’t feel, I don’t know, comfortable, showing off my body like you guys have had me doing. It’s starting to sort of be okay with you—you distract me from my, my self-consciousness, I guess.” He looked up with a tiny smile. “I’m not really thinking about what I look like when I’m thinking about how ridiculously hot you are. But your friends—and you’re all so loud, which, like I said, would be fine, except for the fact that what you’re being loud about is how I look.” His voice cracked, and he took a deep breath. “I’ll be okay in a second. You don’t have to keep looking at me like you just killed my puppy.”

Magnus tried to smile. It didn’t feel like it was working. “Alexander, I am so sorry. You don’t have to be fine. You don’t have to do this—you didn’t have to agree to it, and you don’t have to finish it now.”

“I know, but.” He took a deep breath. “I wanted to. I want to. You asked me to help you and I didn’t even think about saying no, because—because I want to help you. I like being useful. And I should be able to do this. I can do this. I just—needed a minute.” He pushed himself up to a standing position, crossing his arms over his bare chest. “See? I’m fine.”

Magnus stood up and reached for him, but Alec fliched back slightly and Magnus dropped his hand. “Alec,” he said, as gently as he could. “Put your regular clothes back on. We can do the rest of this from measurements. Do you want to stay here for a bit until I get everyone to leave, or do you want to just go home?”

“Don’t you have to go to the show tonight?”

Magnus felt like his heart was going to break in half. “Not if you need me. Tessa and Cat have it under control, and the whole thing was a mess anyway.”

“Can I stay, then?” Alec’s voice was barely audible. “I don’t know if—I don’t know if I can go outside right now.”

Magnus nodded, grabbing the clothes from the bed. “That’s perfectly fine. You can stay in here as long as you need to—I’ll come check on you as soon as everyone is gone, okay? It might be a little bit…”

Alec shook his head. “Take your time. You guys are all set up here, don’t make them leave because of me, please.”

“Feel free to read anything on the bookshelf,” Magnus said. “Or maybe take a nap. I know I’m usually exhausted, coming down from an anxiety attack. Can I get you anything?”

“I’m fine, Magnus, really.” Alec did not look fine. He was hugging himself and shaking, like he was standing on his own two legs by sheer force of will, but Magnus knew better than to push.

“I’m right in the living room if you change your mind. You can text me if you need to.” Magnus backed towards the door. Alec didn’t look up as he left.

Back in the living room, Cat had finally gotten off the phone. All three of his friends stared at Magnus as he came back alone, outfit in his arms, and for once he didn’t really know what to say.

“Is he all right?” Tessa asked.

Magnus shook his head, pasting on a smile. “Alec just isn’t used to this kind of thing. He’ll be fine.”

Cat frowned. “Did we do something to upset him? Because, honestly, Magnus, I like the kid, even if he is a little jumpy.”

“Thanks,” Magnus sighed, letting the fake smile slip from his face. “It wasn’t anything you did. Please, don’t worry about it.”

“Are you all right?” Cat asked with the belligerence of someone who already knew the answer.

“Can we just finish this, please?” Magnus said, holding up the clothes he was holding pointedly.

“If he’s done something to upset you…” Ragnor began.

Magnus shook his head, practically throwing the outfit onto the design table. “He didn’t do anything, okay? I’ve fucked this up like I fuck everything up and as soon as you all leave I’m going to go and have the same conversation I’ve had so many times before about how we’re just not really compatible, and then I am going to get very very drunk and probably get a second cat. Any other questions?”

“Nope,” Cat said, exchanging glances with the other two. Magnus did not care what they were glancing about. It wouldn’t matter soon anyway.

They got to work finishing the last outfit, and Tessa and Cat assured Magnus they had everything they needed for the show. No one brought up Alec again, and he didn’t come out of the bedroom, even though it was more than an hour before they were finally done. Catarina left first, and then Tessa with her serger, which left Ragnor, who lingered by the door.

“Magnus,” he said, in his serious voice.

Magnus closed his eyes. “Can we not, this time?”

Ragnor smiled, shaking his head. “Don’t give up before the end, my friend. If you love him, fight for him.”

“I’ve only known him for two weeks.”

Ragnor looked unimpressed. “That’s never stopped you before.” He waved a hand, cutting off Magnus’s response. “Talk to him. Don’t assume it’s over until you’ve discussed whatever went wrong today. He seems worth it.”

Magnus was a little touched that Ragnor was so invested in this, although it didn’t improve the situation any. “I’ll talk to him.”

Ragnor smiled and left, and Magnus tried not to slam the door behind him. He leaned against it for a second, trying to prepare himself for the conversation he was going to have to have with Alec. It was past time for him to explain his own insecurities, especially now that Alec had been so vulnerable in front of him. Provided Alec didn’t just bolt the moment he knew the coast was clear, of course. He couldn’t believe he’d driven his boyfriend to a panic attack and almost hadn’t noticed. How could he be so stupid and self-absorbed?

He knocked gently on the door to his bedroom, and then opened it more cautiously than he would have thought possible, given that it was his door. Alec didn’t protest, though, and when he stepped into the room he saw why: Alec was curled on top of the covers, asleep. There was a book open on the bed next to him, although it didn’t look like he’d read very far.

Magnus’s heart clenched as he took in the sight of Alec’s lovely face relaxed with sleep. He looked so very young, lying there on Magnus’s bed, and Magnus couldn’t believe he’d ever thought they had a chance together.

Alec stirred, eyes opening slowly. A warm smile spread unconsciously across his lips as he recognized Magnus standing in the doorway. “Magnus?”

“Alec,” Magnus said. He tried to find a smile, but there wasn’t one on hand, and he settled for a neutral expression, taking a step closer to the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Alec said, and stretched. Magnus watched his shirt ride up with a good deal of regret. Here was Alec, on his bed, for what was perhaps the only time, and he couldn’t even touch him. Alec sat on the edge of the bed, looking up at Magnus. “I’m sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean to ruin everything.”

Magnus shook his head. Deciding this conversation would probably go better without him looming over Alec, he sat next to him on the edge of the bed. The space between them yawned like an uncrossable chasm. “You didn’t ruin everything. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize you were uncomfortable sooner.”

Alec shrugged and looked down at his lap. “It was honestly kind of sudden. I just—you should know that this happens to me sometimes. I used to take meds for my anxiety, but I haven’t been for a while, and maybe I need to again. I don’t know. But even with the pills...I have anxiety. Most of the time, it’s just little things like not being able to get my words in order. But sometimes, like today, it’s worse. I’m sorry.”

“Alexander,” Magnus said, squeezing his hands together in his lap to stop himself from reaching to touch him. “You don’t need to be sorry. Your brain is working against you, it isn’t your fault. And believe me when I say I know what it’s like to not be able to control your own brain.”

“You do?” Alec looked over at him.

Magnus nodded. “A few years ago I—” he broke off, looking down. “Sorry, I've never really talked about this before, and I want you to understand. When I was your age, I was a lot less guarded than I am now. I wore my heart very much on my sleeve, and I had a whole succession of lovers, both male and female. I thought I loved all of them; maybe I did, in a way, but it was nothing like what I felt when I met Camille.” Now that he was talking, it felt like the words were rushing out of him. “At first, it was wonderful—I wanted to be with her, all the time, and she indulged me, appreciated the untempered adoration. But I couldn't think except to think about her, and I did whatever she wanted of me, because I wanted her to love me, needed her to stay. We were together for six months, and lived together for five of them. I had a ring I was going to give to her, because I couldn't imagine living one day of my life without having her in it. I was completely, unhealthily infatuated. And then one day she came home from a trip to Moscow with a boy on her arm and told me to start looking for my own place. I was completely destroyed. I'd given her everything, and she didn't want any of it. I threw the ring into the Hudson and went to stay with Tessa. I didn't leave the apartment for three weeks—I didn't see the point. I couldn't see the point of anything, without her. My friends were all worried about what I would do. I don't know what I would have done, without them. Eventually Raphael convinced me to check myself into a mental health facility. I stayed there for a week and got on antidepressants and I slowly started to rebuild my life, without her in it. It’s been three years, and I still—every time I see her, it's like I can feel the hold she used to have on me threatening to tighten like a noose around my neck. I hate her for what she did to me, but I still can't get her out of my head.”

Magnus felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Alec staring at him in concern. “Magnus, I am so sorry.”

Magnus shook his head. “I didn't tell you so that you'd be sorry, I told you because I want you to know: I understand. I know it's not the same, at all, really, but. And I have panic attacks, too, even if the cause is a little different.”

“Thank you for telling me,” Alec said. “Can I—can I hug you? I feel like we could both use it right now.”

Magnus nodded, and gave a little half-laugh as Alec pulled him into an embrace. “I was trying not to push you. I didn't know how you'd react to being touched.”

“Thank you,” Alec said, pressing a kiss into Magnus's hair as he held him close. “I don't like to be touched during an attack, but I'm usually okay after. And I think it'll be better, with you, now that I know you know. Half of this attack was because I was trying so hard not to have one, honestly.”

Magnus chuckled into Alec's chest. “It’s funny how that works, isn't it? For future reference, being touched by someone I trust always helps ground me.”

“And I take it I'm on the trusted persons list?”

Magnus pulled away enough to be able to look at Alec's face. “Do you really need to ask that? In the three years since Camille, I haven't talked about what happened with anyone who wasn't there. And I haven't gone out with anyone when there was even a chance of an emotional attachment. And yet here you are.”

“You make me sound pretty special.”

“You are.” Magnus sighed and rested his head on Alec's chest again. “I don't want you to leave.”

“I'm not going anywhere.” Alec rubbed a hand down Magnus's back. “If we do something like this again, I'll be better prepared, that's all. It was really just that it was a lot of emotions one right after the other in an environment I was unfamiliar with, combined with a lot of stimulus.”

Magnus sat back all the way, letting Alec's hands slide down to his waist. “You'd do this again? Even after all of that?”

“Well, I mean, I hope you don't need me to, because it sounded like this last minute nonsense had you guys going crazy, but yeah. If you did need me to. Or if—” he cut himself off and blushed.

“Or what?”

“Well, I guess, I was thinking—not that I want you to, or anything, but since that's what you do—if you wanted to make me something. It would need to get fitted.”

Magnus grinned, and he felt warmth bloom in his chest. “I just might do that. Something that isn't black, maybe.”

“No glitter,” Alec said, but he was smiling too.

“I make no promises,” Magnus said, and Alec laughed, tugging him back into a hug. Magnus leaned to the side, tipping them so they were lying next to each other, and cuddled into Alec's chest. Alec surprised him by wriggling them around until his head was on the pillow and tangling his legs around Magnus's feet.

“Hey,” Alec said gently after a few minutes of lying there together. “Thank you again for telling me.”

Magnus shook his head against Alec's chest. “Thank you for listening.”

“Anytime,” Alec told him, carding his fingers through Magnus's hair. “This is nice, isn't it?”

“You make an excellent pillow, my dear.”

Eventually, they'd need to get up and do things; it wasn't even five, and Alec needed to go home to prepare for work the next day. But for now, curled against his boyfriend's chest, Magnus was content.