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Between A Moment And the Next

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Checking the perimeter is surprisingly quick work; aside from a small number of fledgeling vampires who seem to live at the apartment more or less as Camille’s servants, the whole place is deserted, and from what Magnus can tell, there are no magical traps waiting for them either.

Alec is moving through the rooms with a single-minded focus, quick and professional. Almost too professional, Magnus thinks—since they left the others Alec hasn’t said a single word to him that wasn’t a direct order. He also won’t meet Magnus’ eye, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Sometimes, Magnus wishes he’d never met Camille Belcourt. It’s really quite impressive how much she’s single-handedly managed to fuck him over in the past two centuries.

“Can we talk?” he asks Alec, once they’ve gone through the last few rooms and Alec’s given the all-clear.

Alec busies himself with checking his bow and arrows, still not meeting Magnus’ eye. “Go ahead.”

Not exactly the response Magnus was hoping for, but he’ll take it. “I’m really sorry about kissing Camille earlier.”

“Looked to me like you didn’t have much of a choice,” Alec replies drily, and Magnus’ eyebrows rise up in surprise. “I’m not blind,” Alec continues, rolling his eyes. “You were stiff as a board. It looked terrible.”

“Alright,” Magnus says carefully, quickly reassessing the situation. “I mean, you’re 100% correct, but if you already knew that, then why are you so angry?”

“I’m not angry!” Alec snaps, to which Magnus just gives him a highly unimpressed look. “Okay, fine, maybe I am. I just—”

He breaks off, sighing deeply while pulling a hand through his hair.

“As soon as she saw me, she took a jab at the idea of us being together,” Alec says. “I’m going to take a wild guess that her being a vampire had something to do with that and that she smelled me before I even came through the door. I’m not stupid, Magnus. I know she was most likely trying to gain the upper hand in a difficult situation by fucking with my head, and I don’t really care that she did. What I don’t get is, why did you let her?”

“I didn’t let her,” Magnus protests. “Vampire speed is a little bit faster than what most other beings operate at. I wasn’t expecting her to grab me—I didn’t have time to react!”

“I don’t mean the kiss!” Alec throws back. “I mean why did you let her get away with all of it? Why did you cover for her when we walked in with that stupid ‘well this is awkward’ line and make yourself look like an asshole?”

Magnus opens his mouth to reply, then hesitates and closes it again, taking a moment to think. “I—don’t know, actually.”

“Well, maybe you should figure that out,” Alec says, sounding… Magnus would call it exasperated, except there’s a clear note of hurt and insecurity lying just underneath. “Because if you’re having second thoughts about this—us, then I think I deserve for you to tell me to my face instead of just acting like a dick.”

“Alec, I’m not having second thoughts,” Magnus replies quickly. “I’m sorry for how I acted back there. Camille just—she has a way of getting under my skin, and you could say I’m far too used to dancing on her puppet strings; I don’t want to do it, it’s just—habit, I guess.”

“Well, then maybe you should think about that,” Alec says, and there’s definite hurt in his voice now. “Because she’s getting her freedom out of this whole deal, and I really don’t want us being together to include her waltzing in and out of our life and fucking things up whenever she feels like it.”

“She won’t, I promise,” Magnus says, his heart suddenly beating too fast in his chest, the words ‘us being together’ and ‘our life’ igniting an almost dangerous level of hope in him. “My feelings for her—”

“Don’t,” Alec interrupts him. “I don’t care.”

“I’m just trying to explain that—”

“Oh my God, can you please just shut up and kiss me?” Alec snaps, and Magnus’ brain stops short.

“What?”

“Please kiss me,” Alec says quietly, stepping in close and leaning down until their foreheads are just a hair’s breadth from touching. “I know we need to talk about this more, but right now, the only thing I can think about is how fucking frustrating it is to fight with you when I just want to—”

Magnus surges up against him and takes his mouth in a desperate kiss before he has a chance to finish. Alec gasps against his mouth and his arms go around Magnus’ waist, pulling their bodies flush together. It’s a kiss that burns and consumes—a great deal more lustful than the one at the wedding—but at the same time, it’s still filled with an aching sweetness, an overly earnest quality that Magnus suspects is uniquely Alec. He wraps his arms tightly around Alec’s neck and tries to pull himself higher, get himself even closer. Alec moans into his mouth and tries to help, nearly lifting Magnus off his feet in the process.

They stumble into one of the high book shelves that line the walls, and Magnus feels his head spin as Alec really does lift him off the ground, pressing him back against the books for support as he guides Magnus’ legs up to wrap around his waist.

“Well, well, well, what have we here?”

Alec spins around so fast, he would have sent Magnus crashing to the floor if it weren’t for Magnus’ magic flaring up and steadying him. It’s no use; before either of them has a chance to defend themselves, there’s a seraph blade against Alec’s throat, and a second circle member pointing his own blade at Magnus.

Magnus quickly weighs his odds, seeing the fury in Alec’s eyes but also the fear there, as the second circle member moves in between them and effectively cuts off any chance Magnus had to get a clean shot at the man holding Alec without Alec himself getting caught in the crossfire. Magnus lets his hands drop to his sides and doesn’t waste his energy struggling as the man grabs him and twists him around.

“Sorry to break up the party, warlock,” the man says. “Though I guess we should thank you for providing a distraction.”

“Oh, the pleasure was all mine,” Magnus replies sarcastically, relieved to see that the corner of Alec’s lips twists upwards momentarily despite the dire situation they’re in.

“I just bet it was,” the circle member says, as he and his colleague start marching Alec and Magnus out of the room and down a corridor. Magnus grits his teeth and curls his hands into fists to keep his magic from lashing out.

“Oh, how the mighty Lightwoods have fallen,” the man holding Alec taunts as they walk. “First your sister sullies your name by sleeping around with seelies, and now, you—the great Alec Lightwood, shining example to us all—turns out to be nothing but depraved downworld-loving filth. I guess that for your parents, karma really is a bitch.”

“You shut the fuck up about Izzy,” Alec says, cutting in before Magnus has a chance to get a word in himself. Or light up the circle member who just spoke like a torch, consequences be damned.

“Oh, calm down,” the man replies, chuckling. “We’re not here for her, or even you. Valentine’s picking up something that belongs to him and then we’ll be on our way. For now.”

“Whatever poor warlock you’ve managed to get your hands on, you should know that the Book of the White will most likely be useless in their hands,” Magnus says. “Maybe you should have thought of that before killing everyone with enough power to fight you.”

“You’re still here, aren’t you,” the circle member says, and Magnus feels his blood run cold.

“No!” Alec shouts, and Magnus sees him start to struggle against the hold. The man holding him presses the blade more firmly against his throat.

“Easy now,” he says. “We’re not after your—what is he to you, exactly?” He looks from Alec to Magnus with thinly veiled contempt before his lips curve into a malicious smile. “Or maybe the question should be, what are you to him?” he muses. “A mortal life is like the blink of an eye to a warlock, after all. You’ll be gone and forgotten before he’s even finished carving the notch into his bedpost.”

“You know, one of the great perks of immortality is that you pick up a lot of knowledge over the years,” Magnus says, willing himself to keep his voice even. “Medieval torture, for one. It’ll be a pleasure to introduce the two of you to some of my favourites. Should we say Tuesday next week? Five pm? I think I have an opening then, though I’d have to double-check my calendar.”

“Funny,” the man replies. “See how long that’ll last now that we have the Cup. Meanwhile, we’ve arrived at our destination, so both of you kindly shut up, will you? If you want your family and friends to keep on breathing, that is.”

Magnus quickly looks over at Alec and sees his own apprehension mirrored in Alec’s face. They’re pushed unceremoniously into a room, and Magnus’ eyes widen as he takes in the scene: Simon and Isabelle captured with blades at their throats, Clary on one end holding what Magnus assumes is the Book of the White, Jace on the opposite end with his seraph blade out, and Valentine in the middle, looking at Jace with triumph in his eyes.

Things are definitely not looking good.