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like the stars chase the sun

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Magnus Bane had never been to a funeral before.

Green-Wood Cemetery positively glowed in the early summer. The carved gothic arch over the entrance glowed pink in the sunlight; the tree canopies above painted dappled shadows on mourners’ heads. Trampled dandelions, still golden yellow, stood out against the surrounding green grass.

Magnus stood over his mother’s grave and willed some feeling to come, but he was numb.

Catarina Loss stood on his one side, gripping his hand so fiercely it should have hurt. She’d come straight off a rotation at the ER and still had the top of her scrubs on, peaking out underneath her black sweater. When she’d arrived, the sight had almost made Magnus smile. 

On his other side was Clary Fairchild. Her pale skin was washed out by her charcoal dress, her red hair popping against the dark colour and shining almost gold in the sunlight. It wasn’t right for the weather to be so cheerful today, the sun so bright and full of optimism and hope on a day when Magnus felt nothing. 

All that was left was emptiness.

Next to Clary, Ragnor Fell stood solemnly, completing Magnus’ line of friends in attendance at the funeral. Opposite the four, across a gulf much greater than the grave they stood by, was Magnus’ step-father, flanked by his sister and best friend. Every time Magnus glanced across, his step-father’s face was tight with rage and grief, and his fingers twitched sporadically into fists and then relaxed. 

Magnus dropped his gaze to the ground. How could it be that the area below their feet held a box that held his mother’s body? 

Blocking out all other noise in the area, Magnus found himself focusing solely on the small golden plaque on his mother’s coffin that bore her name. After a moment a lily was thrown down, obscuring the writing, but still Magnus stared at her coffin through his tear-blurred vision. It was as if he could hold onto her by not looking away from her name; because if he did, even for just a few seconds, everything that she was would be gone. Dustings of soil covered the plaque, and Magnus looked and looked until he could no longer make out the lettering.

He blinked, letting a tear fall, and knew that she was gone. 

It was unusual for Magnus to take so little pride in his appearance, but on that morning he could not bring himself to care. He’d dressed simply in a black button-up with swirls in a metallic thread and black jeans, a smudge of eyeliner.

Now Magnus rolled the sleeves of his shirt up, leaning heavily against the back of the couch.

He was sat on the floor, knees tucked up to his chin. To his right was a bottle of scotch, to his left a half empty glass, and Ragnor sat opposite him, leaning against the sideboard and ignoring Chairman Meow, who kept butting his head against Ragnor’s hand.

“Don’t make me regret my duty-free purchases,” Ragnor said, watching Magnus drain his glass.

Magnus winced as the liquor chased down his throat and waved a hand distractedly. 

“Details,” he said, and then sniffed heavily. “She’s only gonna miss my 21st by a few months.”

Ragnor nodded. Silence fell between them, broken only by Magnus unscrewing the bottle lid and pouring more amber liquid into his glass.

Magnus’ phone beeped across the room from where it had been tossed carelessly on the side when he’d got back to the house earlier. The place no longer felt like his; he was a guest, a trespasser in the childhood home that had his step-father’s name on the property deeds. Most of his stuff was in his room at NYU, anyway, and even before his mother had died he’d felt out of place returning home for vacations. Perhaps it was part of growing up; perhaps his step-father was getting more used to the idea of having Magnus out from under his feet. Whatever had happened, the first time Magnus had come back for winter vacation, he’d felt like something wasn’t quite right.

Spending the evening with a bottle of scotch wasn’t going to make it feel more wrong.

“It’s Cat,” Ragnor said, indicating his own phone. Catarina must have put the message on their group chat. “She wants to know how you’re doing.”

Clary’s father Luke Garroway had given Magnus and Ragnor a ride home, stopping to let a reluctant Catarina out along the way. She’d been on a shift for too many hours and yawned through her protestations that she was fine, so Magnus told her to go home and sleep on the promise of meeting her for breakfast at some point in the next week. He knew it was only to get him out the house; he was on summer vacation from his penultimate year of college, and his boss at the shoe store where he worked downtown had given him a few days off for bereavement. With nothing to do, and only his step-father for company, Magnus knew Catarina knew he would spiral, and she wasn’t going to let that happen. 

“Tell her I’m fine,” Magnus mumbled, “but next time, I’d appreciate a scotch that’s older than I am.”

Ragnor gave him a flat look. “You’ll have to take that up with Heathrow airport,” he said, tapping away at a reply on his phone. 

Magnus closed his eyes and tipped his head back against the couch.

“I know you’re not fine,” Ragnor said later. “But you’re quite within your rights. It’s okay to not be okay - we’re here. We’ll be here.”

Magnus swallowed the lump in his throat, blinking furiously. He petted Chairman’s head, searching  for something to distract him.

He didn’t speak for a long time, but Ragnor seemed to understand. Eventually, at half past nine, Ragnor crouched in front of him and placed a hand on his shoulder. 

“Go home,” Magnus said, not ungratefully. “Your parents will be wondering -”

“They know where I am,” Ragnor said, interrupting. “Do you want me to stay?”

Magnus took a couple of heavy breaths and then shook his head. “Go,” he said. 

Ragnor patted Magnus’ cheek and stood. It was only when he was halfway out the door that Magnus spoke.

“Ragnor?” 

He pulled himself up off the floor, a little unsteady, and clutched onto the back of the sofa. He cleared his throat. 

“Thanks.”

Ragnor’s eyes softened. “Don’t mention it, my friend. Now go and eat something or you’ll be puking your guts up later.”

Magnus half smiled for the first time that day, the rawness in his heart easing the tiniest fraction. 

A month later, the reminders of his mother hurt less. Magnus would still turn to her to mention something and remember that she wasn’t there, would never be again, and at first it had bulleted him through with pain. But now it was a little lighter, a little easier. 

His chest would still constrict, but now he wouldn’t double over. He would keep breathing.

At breakfast, Magnus’ step-father dropped an envelope on the table beside him. Collecting the mail had always been Magnus’ mother’s job, and he could feel the brush of her fingers against his cheek as the mail plopped down; the tender gesture was forever linked with the sound. 

“Thanks,” Magnus said. His step-father just took his own seat and began to eat. The silence between them was how it had been since Magnus’ mother had been discovered dead.

He tugged the envelope towards him; noticed it felt heavier than usual. The address inked on the front was in cursive, the paper postmarked from outside the USA. 

Magnus frowned and flipped it over. He traced a painted nail over the back and then slipped his finger under the fold, ripping the envelope open. He pulled two sheets of thick cream paper from within and scanned them. 

Magnus, the letter began, and then -

Magnus, my son.

He scrambled up from his chair and stumbled, unsteady, over to the kitchen window. In the light of the late summer morning, he gripped the letter in shaking fists and, heart pounding, read on.

Magnus, my son.

Terrible news has reached me, and I must offer you my most profound condolences. Your mother was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met; her passing has devastated me. 

My sincerest wish is that I could meet you, that we could share our grief - and, I hope, our recovery. If this would be your wish too, arrangements will be made with haste.

If you would prefer to wait, I understand. However, in the circumstances, it would be wise for us to meet before long - I am surely your legal guardian, and will be the one to take care of you during this awful time. 

I will hear from you soon.

Your father,

Asmodeus, His Royal Highness

Magnus had hardly breathed reading the letter, and exhaled in a rush of air. He read the letter again, flipped the paper over, and then scanned it once more.

“My father,” he muttered, and then, louder, “my father. Did you know?”

He shoved the letter towards his step-father, who looked at him with eerie slowness. 

“Did you know who he was? It says -” Magnus jerked the letter back to himself so he could point at the salutation with an indignant finger. “- It says ‘His Royal Highness’. What the hell does that mean? He’s - I’m - ?” He broke off, running a hand through his hair. “Did you know?”

“I know nothing,” came the reply. “Your mother knew not to mention him.”

Magnus let out a confused noise and fell back into his chair. “I don’t get it. ‘His Royal Highness’ - does that mean? Mom never said…” he trailed off, mumbling mostly to himself. “Why didn’t she say anything?”

Magnus’ father had been a thorny issue in the family for almost as long as he could remember. There had been a time, long ago, when Magnus had thought he lived with both his biological parents. Then he’d overheard a hushed argument which concluded in ‘that brat is not and never will be my son!’ and the slam of a door. His mother had rushed to wrap him in her arms, and later he’d been given a bag of sweets by the man he’d thought was his father and told that it would be better to not call him Dad anymore, but to use his first name, and that they could still be friends.

Once, when Magnus had accompanied his mother to the market, she’d stopped by a crate of limes, brushing her fingers across the dimpled green skin. She said to Magnus that she was happy, because she was remembering a good man. Magnus asked if she still knew him, and whether he might be coming to tea, and she smiled sadly and reminded him that promise doesn’t always deliver.

Sometimes, when the two of them were in the kitchen, Magnus doing homework and his mother preparing dinner, she’d laugh and come out with a story about his father, or their romance. Whirlwind, that was always the word she used to describe it. Like a thunderstorm, she’d say. Intense. Powerful. Short lived. And after that, she’d say, she got her sunshine: Magnus. 

He’d protest and push her kisses away in thirteen-year-old ignorance, but her melodic voice whispering goodnight, sunlight  always lulled him into the calmness of sleep. 

The dramatic romance of his parents’ story always appealed to Magnus; often he wished that the man who featured in these rare-told stories would come and whisk he and his mother away, that he could have a father who loved him. 

Magnus knew his step-father loathed him for being a physical embodiment of his mother’s relationship with another man, but he couldn’t forgive it. His step-father didn’t own his mother; she wasn’t his possession. She was a person before and during their relationship. She had chosen to be with him - wasn’t that enough?

And, as much as Magnus might hate it, whatever he thought of his step-father, his mother loved the man. He’d peered round the doorframe at them slow-dancing in the kitchen, witnessed her mother humming happily as she arranged a surprise flower bouquet from him; countless little gestures of love and affection that made Magnus burn with guilt over his wish to be a family with both his parents. 

Magnus’ mother loved and lived with a man who hated her son, and it was the one source of contention in their relationship. Silence was Magnus’ step-father’s preferred way of communicating with his step-son, and, true to form, when Magnus looked up at his step-father, he saw he was eyeing the envelope with badly hidden interest, saying no words at all.

“Can I go and look through Mom’s things, please?” Magnus asked politely. Magnus knew his mother kept her private files in the top drawer of her vanity table, which was in the room she shared with his step-father. 

He received a grunt of affirmation in reply, and, in spiteful response, he gathered up the letter and envelope and took them through to the bedroom with him so his step-father couldn’t look at them. They were addressed to Magnus, after all.

Magnus wasn’t sure what he was looking for as he rifled through the drawers - his fanciful side yearned for a hidden bundle of love letters, or a locket with a tear-stained photograph. But he couldn’t find anything, not even anything as mundane as financial confirmation of child support payments. Magnus sighed heavily and sat down on the vanity stool, pulling his phone from his pants pocket and opening Google. 

He typed in Asmodeus HRH, and, fingers shaking in anticipation, pressed Search.

A score of articles popped up, the top hit being his Wikipedia page.

Magnus’ father had a Wikipedia page

Jesus Christ.

Magnus skimmed the article - late forties, king of a small European country called Edom, widowed, and later divorced, with no children. He locked his phone then, staring blankly at the black screen. It was too much to take in and he forced himself to take a couple of measured breaths.

He looked at the now slightly crumpled letter and read it again. My sincerest wish is that I could meet you…If this would be your wish too, arrangements will be made with haste. 

Magnus swallowed. His stomach was a maelstrom of emotions: intrigue, anticipation, bitterness, fear. Somewhere underneath, hope swum against the tide of negativity, just clinging on. What harm could it do to write Asmodeus back? To meet him, even? Magnus didn’t have to stay with his father. It wouldn’t change his life that much.

He let out a shaky breath, slowly coming to a decision. Tapping onto his text messages, he opened his group chat with Raphael Santiago, Catarina, Ragnor and Clary, and wrote out a message.

 

To: [are you there god? it’s me, magnus]

From: [Magnus]

09:37 guys i have News

 

To: [are you there god? it’s me, magnus]

From: [Biscuit]

09:38 new eyeliner news or getting tweeted by tyra news?

 

To: [are you there god? it’s me, magnus]

From: [Magnus]

09:38 tyra

09:38 can we all meet?

 

To: [are you there god? it’s me, magnus]

From: [Rafa]

09:39 you know today’s my day off

09:39 it better be good for you to have woken me up this early, bane

 

To: [are you there god? it’s me, magnus]

From: [Magnus]

09:40 that’s ‘your royal highness’ to you, santiago

 

To: [are you there god? it’s me, magnus]

From: [Biscuit]

09:40 SRS ?? WHAT !!!!!

 

That afternoon Magnus met his friends at Java Jones for coffee. Ragnor, Raphael and Clary were already seated when he arrived, and five minutes after he’d ordered his drink Catarina appeared.

She waved at them and spoke as she happened past another table.

“Sorry for making you guys wait - no, not you -” Cat answered the people sat at the table’s confusion with a look of her own “- I don’t even know you.” 

She plumped down in her friends’ booth with a bemused expression on her face.

“I went into Medicine to help people, but some of them make me wonder.” Cat shook her head “Anyway, what’s this royal thing, Magnus?”

Magnus smiled at her. “Get a drink, darling, and then I’ll explain.”

Once Cat returned with a latte and espresso shot, Magnus’ unloaded everything he’d found out that morning to the disbelief and amazement of his friends. He started with the letter’s arrival, reading it through, trying to trace any mention of his father within his mother’s belongings. He told them about trawling the Internet after the search turned nothing up, freaking out about finding the website of the Edom monarchy. 

“So, you’re a prince?” Clary asked slowly, after the story was finished.

Magnus shrugged and stirred his coffee idly. “I think so. I mean, it would make sense, right?” 

There was a mutual hum of assent around the table. Raphael raised an eyebrow. 

“I thought if any of my friends turned out to be secret royals, it’d be Ragnor,” he said, lips twitching teasingly. 

Magnus shot Raphael a look and pulled a piece of paper from his bag. 

“He’s welcome to it,” Magnus said. He smoothed the sheet before him. “Do you think this reply is okay?” He read it aloud to them, scribbling their amendments and alterations onto the paper as they gave them.

After a couple of hours, Ragnor, Raphael and Clary left. Remaining at the table, Catarina eyed Magnus shrewdly.

“You’re doing this, then?” she asked him. 

He glanced down at the table. “I have to, Cat. It might not be perfect, but he’s got a point, hasn’t he? He’s my guardian - my step-father doesn’t want anything to do with me.”

“You’ve both lost someone close to you,” Catarina pointed out gently. “Look, I know your situation. Your step-father is awful. But I also know you. You don’t know anything about Asmodeus, and I know it seems like the perfect solution, but I don’t want you to run headfirst into it and find it’s not all it seems.” She laced her fingers through his, dark brown skin patterning against his light brown. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Magnus squeezed her hand. “I know. But it’s just one meeting, right?”

Catarina didn’t look convinced but said no more, and they moved onto another topic of conversation. 

By the time they left the coffee shop dusk was drawing in. Magnus hugged Catarina tightly before he walked home, and she made him promise to be careful. 

The next day he mailed his reply to his father, agreeing to meet with him as soon as they could and giving his contact details. That evening, he received an email to the address he’d given: Asmodeus was staying in New York on diplomatic business and would be available for lunch over the coming week, if that suited Magnus?

Magnus swallowed hard. He replied, suggesting a time and place, and then lay back on his bed, heart pounding. This was really happening. 

He hugged Chairman close to his chest and buried his face in Chairman’s fur. 

“It’ll be okay,” he said, more to himself than the cat. “It’s just one meeting.”

His email alert pinged and he dragged in a ragged breath. Asmodeus had confirmed Magnus’ suggestion and said he was looking forward to meeting him. 

Magnus rubbed a shaky hand over his face. This was really happening.

In two days time, he was going to meet his father. A King.

Holy shit.