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Between The Lines

Chapter Text

Alec slowed down and pulled over to the side of the narrow street, just a block behind the crime scene. His partner and adoptive brother, Agent Jace Lightwood, immediately got out of the car as several agents of their team and the police department rushed to give them the latest information they had on the case. Alec and Jace were two of the best agents of the Bureau, them and their team were considered the best of the best in the New York City White-Collar crime division.

“What do we have here?” Alec asked, getting out of the car too and joining them.

They were outside the New York City Museum of Modern Art commonly known as MoMA. The streets had been cleared and there were members of the FBI and the NYPD safeguarding the area. According to the first police report they had received in the morning, there had been a robbery in one of the rooms used for temporary exhibitions.

“Bane.” Special Agent Isabelle Lightwood, Alec and Jace’s sister, and the most valuable member of their team, said as a matter of explanation.

“Again?” Alec wondered a little confused. This was the second time this month that Magnus Bane, renowned thief and conman extraordinaire, committed one of his heists—and that was something quite unusual. His MO wasn't like that, Bane generally struck once or twice every few months to mislead the police about his whereabouts, never twice during the same month.

Alec knew this well enough because he had been chasing Bane for five years now. It had been the first case that the Bureau had assigned him when he had joined their ranks and since then, catching him and making him pay for his crimes had become Alec’s sole purpose.

“Yes,” Izzy, as they called her for short, said, “I found glitter all over the place.”

Glitter was Bane’s signature. Whenever he committed a crime, he left a trail of glitter as a way to mark his work. Before Alec knew who he was dealing with, he used to call the mysterious thief, Tinkerbell—due to the similarity between glitter and fairy dust. That obviously changed when he finally learned his real name, but even to this day, Alec couldn’t understand why this man loved glitter so much. It was flashy, hard to clean, and if he was completely honest, a bit childish.

“What did he take this time?” Jace asked.

“A very valuable painting...that’s why they called us.” Izzy informed them. “The museum doesn’t want to make a big show out of this, it could ruin their reputation.”

“Kind of a tall order in this city, don’t you think?” Alec said sarcastically, looking around the museum.

New Yorkers and tourists alike were already gathering behind the police line, trying to catch a glimpse of what had happened inside one of the most famous museums in all New York. Alec knew that the news about the robbery would spread like wildfire in a matter of seconds.

“That’s exactly what I told them.” Izzy said. “But anyway, our team is already scanning the room to see if we can find something, but as per usual, the place seems clean. I don't think we can find any trace that leads us to catch him.”

Alec sighed. That had always been a problem when it came to trying to catch Magnus Bane. His work was always impeccable. He never left a trace except for his idiotic glitter.

“What was the exhibition about?” Alec asked, as they crossed the police line and made their way inside the museum.

“Jackson Pollock’s best work.” Izzy said. “They were hosting a temporary exhibition.”

Alec took a deep breath—another art robbery. He couldn’t say he was surprised. Magnus Bane had a soft spot for the arts. Paintings, sculptures, bonds...you name it. If it had history behind, was pretty, and worth a couple of million dollars then he would try to steal it. “Well, let’s get to work.” He said, reaching the exhibition room and looking around.

Even from the entrance, the crime scene had Bane’s name written all over it. Not because you could guess what had happened there, but exactly because you couldn’t. That was how impeccable Magnus’s work was. If you didn’t know something was missing you wouldn’t even notice its absence, and sometimes, just sometimes, Alec considered that a form of art in itself.

“What’s the painting that he took?” Alec asked.

“It’s called Lucifer. It’s an oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas from 1947.” Izzy said.

“Wait.” Jace said. “You said Jackson Pollock, right? Aren’t his paintings like super big?”

“How do you know that?” Alec inquired. It was not as if his brother were very interested in art. It was safe to say that he had...other interests.

“Clary.” Jace said as a matter of explanation. Clary Fray was Jace’s girlfriend, and as far as Alec knew she was some kind of artist. He didn’t know her that well, but he remembered his brother saying something about an art exhibition once.

“I thought that you ignored her every time she talked about art.” Izzy said, mocking their brother.

“Well, believe it or not when she’s talking her art gibberish sometimes I do pay attention. Not all the time, but I'm not a shitty boyfriend. In fact, I'm almost certain that if you asked her, she would say I'm the best boyfriend in the whole world.”

Alec ignored his siblings' conversation. “How big is the painting?” He asked instead.

“Hmmm,” Izzy flipped through her papers, “according to what the museum gave us 41" x 8' 9 1/2", so it’s around 104.1 x 267.9 centimeters.”

“How did he take it without anyone noticing?” Alec questioned. The painting was way too big not to be noticed. He couldn’t picture a man carrying a frame of half his size walking around the streets of New York without raising any suspicion.

“He didn't take the frame if that's what you're implying.” Izzy said, and Alec frowned. “He left a forgery,” Izzy continued, “it’s over here...come.”

Alec and Jace followed Izzy to the far end of the exhibition room where some agents were looking for fingerprints on a frame that had the alleged forged painting. Alec couldn't tell if it was the original or not, but he didn’t doubt that Magnus had left an exact replica. The man, despite how twisted that might sound, was very talented. He had managed to fool them more than once.

“How did they know this wasn't the real painting but a forgery?” Alec asked.

“They have a scan that helps them authenticate the age of the oils—they run it every morning as part of their security protocols. Imagine their surprise when they discovered that this painting has at most three days old.” Izzy said.

Alec looked at the painting. He liked art, he wasn't an expert at any level, but he recognized a good work when he saw one. He wasn’t very familiar with Pollock’s work, but at first glance, this painting looked like nothing but a chaotic mess of blacks, grays, greens, and oranges, all mixed together. But when he looked closely he could see how each new layer of dripped color seemed to begin by following the pattern of the previous layer, how the trails of silver and creamy white created a sense of open space, traversed by denser black filaments that established a subliminal but insistent rhythm that stood out by those strands of yellow, orange and green that seemed to come alive across the surface of the canvas. It was a brilliant composition.

“And he just took this one?” Jace asked, making Alec to focus his attention back on the case and away from the painting.

“Yes.” Izzy confirmed.

“Well, if he wanted to go big, he should have taken those.” Jace pointed to the three monumental paintings that covered the remaining walls of the adjoining room. “Why did he leave those? They are, by far, the most impressive pieces on display, this painting isn’t as good as those.”

“Maybe they aren’t as valuable as they look.” Alec suggested, taking a look at the other paintings. They were impressive, yes, but Alec felt his eyes pulled back to the Lucifer one—it was far more interesting, forgery or not. “Izzy, has the museum given you a list of everything on display?”

Izzy shook her head.

“Jace,” Alec said, “ask them if they can give you a list with the value of each of the pieces on display, maybe that will help us figure out why he took this particular painting.”

“Sure.” Jace said, immediately walking away to fetch the list.

“I’ll go with you.” Izzy said, leaving Alec alone.

Alec seized the moment he had to himself to examine the crime scene with more detail. There were markers above several paintings indicating probable fingerprints or DNA samples, but Alec doubted that these were Magnus’s. First, because the man knew how to do his job, not in vain he had been avoiding them for five years, and second, because this was a very public space and, although it was assumed that people shouldn't touch the exhibits, there was no security whatsoever that prevented them from doing so if they wanted to.

“Did you take a sample of the glitter?” Alec asked a passing-by agent. The Bureau had a collection of Magnus’s colorful glitters. This time, they would be adding indigo to their stock.

“Yes, boss. The new CSI girl gave your sister all the details. As far as I know, nothing was found in the preliminary results.”

Alec sighed. Of course nothing had been found. “Do we know anything about the security footage?”

“The IT team is currently checking it, boss, but apparently the footage was tampered.”

“This guy is getting on my nerves.” Alec said more to himself. With every crime Magnus committed Alec felt more and more frustrated. No matter what he did, he just couldn't catch him. However, he didn’t lose hope, he knew that one day in the future his day would come and when that happened, he would be more than happy to escort Magnus to his new home: the supermax prison.

“Take down the frame.” Alec ordered his team. “But be careful, we don’t want to tamper with the evidence.” He said, although he knew that the chances of finding any prints or clues on that frame or on the forged painting were of 1 to 1000, but it was better to be safe than sorry, right? He knew that when he caught Magnus, it would be because of a mistake on his part. Alec just needed to find it.

The agents started to remove the frame from the wall and place it on the floor.

“Boss, there’s something in here.” Raj, one of the agents, said, grabbing with a pair of tweezers a sealed envelope that appeared to be attached to the back of the frame.

Alec sighed. He already knew what it was. It was another of Magnus’s silly messages. He had been leaving them for Alec since they had met face to face for the first time almost two years ago, when Alec had almost caught him.

That day everything had been pretty normal back in the office. Alec had been sorting through his cases to see the one they would try to solve next, when they had received a tip that Magnus Bane was targeting some new jewelry on the Upper East Side. Alec and his team had immediately made a plan and surrounded the perimeter to catch him red handed, but unfortunately, their plan had failed and they had arrived too late. When Alec and his team had rushed into the building, Magnus had already cleared the displays and was on his way to the stairs. In a desperate attempt to fix his mistake, Alec had chased him all the way to the roof and there had been where they had come face to face for the very first time. Alec still remembered it as if it had happened just yesterday.

“I've finally caught you.” Alec had said, pointing his gun against the criminal to make his point clear. “The building is surrounded.”

“No, Alexander, you haven’t.” Magnus had replied with a smile.

“Agent Lightwood for you.”

“That sounds a bit formal, don’t you think, dear? It doesn’t suit you. What about Agent Pretty Boy, huh? That’s better. I have to admit it, it’s nice to finally put a face to the name that’s been causing me all this headache for three years now. If I’d known a pretty face like yours was the one behind all this mess, I would have considered surrendering myself to the authorities just to get a better look at those eyes. You have pretty eyes, did you know that?”

“Stop talking nonsense and turn around.” Alec had instructed him, but to his surprise Magnus had just laughed.

“What makes you think I’m going to do that? You haven’t caught me, Alexander, not now, not ever. I’m unstoppable, you won’t be able to catch me unless I want you to, which I don’t think will happen any time soon, or ever for that matter.”

“You're surrounded, Bane. There’s no place for you to run. I have agents positioned in the building and around the perimeter, you won't be able to escape this time. This is the end.”

“My dear Alexander,” Magnus had said with a smile, “you see? That’s the problem with your people. You think you can beat someone like me, but that’s not possible. You wanna know why? Because for that to happen you’d have to start thinking outside the box and that’s not exactly what you all are taught in Quantico, is it?”

“I could shoot you and kill you.” Alec had said, putting his finger firmly on the trigger.

“You could, but you won’t. That’s another feature of your kind: you don’t kill innocent people. You better than anyone know that I don’t like guns, so naturally, I’m unarmed. You would never shoot a man that can’t defend himself, would you?”

“There’s no escape.”

“Is there not?” Magnus had said, just when a helicopter had approached the building.

“Don’t you dare!”

“Now, tell me, Alexander. Am I still surrounded? Do you happen to have agents positioned in the sky as well?”

Alec had cursed in silence because of course he didn't have agents in the sky, and whether he liked it or not, Magnus was going to escape...again. He could shoot and put an end to this, but he would never dare to do it when the other man was clearly unarmed. Magnus had been right about that.

“See? Outside the box, Alexander, outside the box.” Magnus had said, running to the parapet of the building.

“Why do you do it?” Alec had asked on an impulse. After all, God knew when he would have the chance to cross words with this man again. It could be years before that.

“You want to know why I’m a thief?”

Alec had just nodded.

“Why are you an FBI agent?”

“Because my father is an agent.”

“Well, there you go. We already have so much in common.”

Alec had frowned with the answer. He hadn’t understood if Magnus had tried to say that he was a thief because his father was a thief too, or because he was a federal agent. That last part had been a bit disturbing to think about.

“It was a real pleasure talking to you, but I have to go.” Magnus had said. Someone had just dropped a rope from the helicopter. “But don’t be so sad, I’ll send you a postcard!” He had said and with that had disappeared into the air. After that Alec hadn’t seen him again.

“Boss.” Raj said, snapping Alec out of his thoughts. “I think this is for you again, sir.”

Alec sighed because he already knew it was for him. Magnus enjoyed this little postcard game as much as he enjoyed stealing valuable items from museums, if not more.

Alec took a deep breath, put on some gloves and grabbed the envelope. This one, like all the others, was also addressed to Agent Pretty Boy. Alec couldn't properly express how much he hated that nickname, so he just rolled his eyes, opened it and took out the postcard. It was a very pretty picture of the Louvre museum in Paris.

“Dear, Alexander.” Alec started to read to himself. “Guess what? You were late again...boomer! I really want to see that lovely face of yours again, but you don’t seem to want the same. What a shame! I guess I’ll have to wait and see if you have better luck next time. By the way, nice jacket, is it new? Never mind, leather suits you. XOXO M.B. P.S: This is my 13th postcard, did you know that the meaning of the number thirteen is the bonding of many into one? How awesome is that?”

Alec frowned, feeling paranoid for a second. Not because of the 13th postcard thing, but because Magnus somehow knew that he was wearing a leather jacket. Alec usually wore sweaters, black sweaters, but this week he had been wearing a leather jacket that Izzy had given him as a birthday gift.

“He left you another postcard?” Jace asked, making Alec to jump scared.

“Yeah, and I think he's been following me, although I'm not sure when.” Alec said, handing over the postcard to Jace so he could read it.

“Well, we already know he fancies you.”

“No, he doesn't. He's just playing with me, but it's not going to work. I know better than to fall for this bullshit.” Alec said, taking the postcard from Jace's hands and giving it to the nearest agent. “Take this to the labs and see if you can get something, anything from it. I need to catch this guy.”

“You know they won't find prints, don't you?”

“I know, but at least I have to try.”

Jace nodded. “And now what?”

“Now, we try to see how he managed to pull this off. I swear, Jace, this man is becoming more and more of a headache.”

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus took a deep breath and entered his loft. It had been a very long day of hard work—as he called what he did for a living—and he was glad to be back home. His best friend and partner in crime, Ragnor Fell, was already waiting for him there, watching the news and drinking some wine from what Magnus assumed was his very private collection.

“How did it go?” Ragnor asked with a smile. “You made the local news again, my friend. ‘Magnus Bane did it again, this time he went against one of the most famous museums in the entire world, the MoMA. The police and the museum have refused to comment on the matter, but we'll keep you updated as new information emerges.”

Magnus smiled happy to hear that his feat hadn't gone unnoticed. He couldn't deny that he loved the attention. He was proud of his work, sue him.

"So, where is it?" Ragnor asked.

Magnus took the storage tube where he had hidden the painting and threw it to his friend. Ragnor caught it in the air and opened it, eager to see with his own eyes one of Pollock’s best works.

“So I'm assuming that there were no incidents?”

“None whatsoever.” Magnus happily informed him. “It was like stealing candy from a baby.”

“Curious coming from you, my friend. You would never steal from a baby, not even candy."

“True.” Magnus admitted with a smile while he poured himself a glass of wine. After all, it was «his» bottle. “Anyway, what are you doing here drinking «my» wine? I thought I'd see you until tomorrow.”

Ragnor was contemplating the painting, looking at it with awe. “I was worried about you. It's not like this score was easy, it was the MoMA after all—top security museum and all that. But I'm glad that everything went well. You didn't leave the postcard, did you?”

“Of course I did, my dear friend. That's the exciting part about this whole thing.”

“I thought it was getting the painting, not wooing the FBI agent.”

“That too, but you know I can’t help it, this Agent Pretty Boy-”

“Captivated you.” Ragnor interrupted him, rolling his eyes. “I know.”

“Anyway, have you eaten already? I’m starving, you want me to order something?”

“Don't try to change the subject, my friend. You do know that if you keep doing this he’s going to realize soon enough that you’re closer than he thinks, don’t you?”

“I do, but I don’t care...that’s what makes this game exciting.”

Ragnor just rolled his eyes again.

Magnus knew that his friend was worried about him, and about them by extension. Since Magnus had started this little game with the FBI agent, Ragnor had been warning him about the risks, but Magnus thought his friend worried too much. It had been two years since then, and nothing bad had happened, they were still free and doing whatever the hell they wanted, well, figuratively at least.

“Anyway,” Ragnor said, “I guess you know what you’re doing. I’m going to call Raphe and see if we can sell this thing quickly.”

“Raphe?” Magnus inquired in a mocking tone. “Since when do you call Santiago, Raphe, huh?”

Ragnor just blushed. Raphael Santiago was a mutual friend of them. He was their most valued contact on the black market. The man was the reason why they could sell whatever they stole and the one who helped them obtain illegal stuff for their heists.

“Oh dear God, did you...?” Magnus asked surprised. He knew that his friends were friendly with each other, but he didn’t know how much.

“No! Of course not! We’re just friends!”

“We're just friends too and you've never given me a cute nickname.” Magnus smirked.

“Of course I have...asshole, idiot, dickhead, jerk, you want me to continue?”

Magnus laughed and picked up his cat, Chairman Meow, who had just awakened from his nap. “Don't listen to what your uncle is saying, he's just being mean to daddy, but he loves him even when he doesn’t call him cute nicknames.” He said, covering the cat's ears.

“It's a cat, Magnus, he doesn't understand a word of what we're saying.”

“He's not just a cat, he's my child and you should be more careful with what you say in front of him. I don’t want him to grow up traumatized because his uncle can't be careful with his language.”

Ragnor just laughed and drank the rest of his wine in one gulp. Magnus sat beside him and they stayed in silence for some time. That was one of the things that Magnus loved about his friendship with Ragnor, they didn’t have to be talking to feel comfortable next to one another. Even in silence, they understood each other perfectly.

“With this sale we’ll be closer to paying your debt, like for real.” Ragnor said, breaking the silence.

Magnus nodded because he knew. He had been trying to pay off that debt since he could remember.

“What are we going to do after that?” Ragnor asked. “I never thought about it before because let's be honest, this day seemed unlikely to ever happen, but now that we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I think we should really start to think about our future.”

“You’re right.” Magnus agreed. He hadn’t given it much of a thought either for the exact same reasons, but he was getting closer and freedom, that freedom that he had longed for so long, was so close that he could almost taste it.

“What would you like do?”

“I don’t know.” Magnus confessed because it was the truth—he didn’t know.

Although it sounded like some big irony, freedom was a concept completely foreign to him. He had never truly been free, so what would happen later in his life was a mystery to him. When he was younger he had dreamed of a lot of things he would like to do, now that he was older, none of those dreams sounded appealing. Now, he just wanted to settle down and find his happiness—that promised happily ever after that all those fairy tales talked about. “Maybe retirement.” He said.

“So young?”

Magnus shrugged. He couldn’t share with his friend why the word retirement had crossed his mind when thinking about his happily ever after, first, because there were things Ragnor simply couldn't understand, Magnus loved him, but the man had a thick skull, and second, because once he explained himself he would never hear the end of it, so he just went with a neutral response. “I’m getting tired, my friend. One day I won’t be able to pull off the stunts I do in order to get what we want.” He admitted.

“You’re thirty years old, Magnus, what are you talking about? You have at least another twenty or thirty years of activity.”

Magnus chuckled and shook his head. “Don’t mind me, okay? We’ll burn that bridge when we have to cross it, now, why don’t you call Raphe and see if he can move the painting? But tell him to be careful, the FBI is on high alert so I’m sure they’ll be checking the black market. Before you offer him the painting, make sure he can ensure a clean sale. I don't want to leave this city yet.”

“Don’t worry, I will.” Ragnor said, fishing his phone out of his pocket and immediately calling their other friend.

Magnus put the cat on the floor and went to the balcony of his loft. From there, he could get the most beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of Manhattan. Magnus loved New York City. He had been all over the world, but nothing screamed home like the city that never slept. Its streets, its people, its lights, everything felt like home to him.

Magnus once had read that there were three types of New York. There was the New York of the man or woman who had been born there. The New York of the people who took the city for granted and accepted its size, its turbulence, and its chaos as natural and inevitable. Then there was the New York of the commuter—the city that was devoured by thousands of people each day and spat out each night. And last but not least, there was the New York of the people who had been born somewhere else and had come to the city in quest of something. Commuters gave the city its tidal restlessness, natives gave it solidity and continuity, but the settlers, the settlers gave it passion. Of the three, Magnus belonged to the latter.

He had arrived to the city when he was barely a teen and since then, he had come and gone more times than he could remember, but never truly left. He had always found his way back here. That was what New York did to you. It caught you under its spell, it made you part of it. You became one with the city, and the lights—those lights that blinded most people—gave you energy, enthusiasm, and conviction that anything was possible.

Magnus’s phone rang, startling him and waking him from his reverie. The screen read Catarina Loss. She was Magnus’s second best friend and if he was completely honest, the voice of his conscience. He had met her at a hospital almost fifteen years ago and since then she had been of great support for him. She was a bit older than him, around Ragnor’s age, but that didn't bother him, when Magnus had needed her the most, she had always been there, and because of that she was part of Magnus’s list of selected friends.

“You did it again.” She said as soon as Magnus answered the call. “I saw the news.”

“I’m sorry, Cat.” Magnus said, though he knew that he was going to hear a very long lecture on the matter regardless of what he said. She was always like that with him. She tried to convince him to change his life and find a new path—a better path, she said.

“No, you’re not. You enjoy doing this, I know you too well to buy your sorry-ass apologies, but we agreed that you would stop.” She told him. “You promised.”

“Yes, I promised I would try to stop, but I also told you that I would do it when I had managed to pay my debt, and that hasn't happened, so don’t be so hard on me.”

“And when is this debt going to be paid?”

“Soon.”

There was silence on the other side of the line. Magnus could almost hear the gears in Catarina’s head turning at the speed of light. She knew everything about him, but even to this day, she didn’t know how he had managed to ruin himself the way he had done it. Magnus was just waiting to hear what she was going to say to him this time.

“There are always different alternatives.” She said.

Magnus rolled his eyes. “No, there aren’t.”

“You could get a job.”

“This is my job.”

“Stealing isn’t a job, Magnus, it’s just a lifestyle. You do all these things because it’s easy money, but you’re-”

“Cat, please...not today.” Magnus interrupted her, already tired of the conversation. “I didn’t sleep last night. I had to pull an all-nighter to finish the Pollock.”

“You stole one of Pollock's paintings!?”

Magnus sighed. He had forgotten for a moment that the authorities hadn’t shared what had happened at the museum yet. Catarina must have known that he had stolen something, but she had no way of knowing what, until now, of course.  “Yes.”

“And you made a forgery.”

“Yes, you know I do that all the time to keep my instrument sharp.”

“See, Magnus? Do you see all that potential thrown into the trash? If instead of doing replicas of other people’s paintings you did your own, you wouldn’t have to be stealing to get money. You could sell them and have the same life you have now, but without the part where you have to run and hide all the time. That’s not a life.”

“Of course it is and I love it, thank you very much.”

“Keep telling yourself that if it helps you sleep at night, but you and I both know that’s not true. What you-”

“Cat…”

“Okay, okay, I won’t say anything, but promise me that you’ll be careful, please.”

“I promise.”

“Say it like you mean it, you fool.”

“I mean it, Cat. I’ll be careful.”

“Seriously, Magnus, I don’t want to see you behind bars.”

“I don’t want to see myself behind bars either, orange isn’t my color.” Magnus joked.

“I’m serious, Magnus.”

“I’m serious too, I don’t like that color.” Magnus said, but Catarina stayed silent. It was clear that she was in no mood for jokes. “I’m sorry, Cat, I know you’re worried. I’ll be careful, I promise.”

“You’re a good man, Magnus, despite everything you've done, you’re a good man.”

“You seem to be the only one who thinks that.”

“I’m not…”

“Yes, you are, and that’s why I love you.”

In the distance, Magnus heard the unmistakable sounds of the hospital’s speakers which only indicated that the call would probably end soon. Catarina was a very busy woman. She was a nurse at the Belleveu Hospital Center and one of the best ones too, so she never really rested. She spent her life helping others. If Magnus didn't know better, he would think she was some sort of angel sent from heaven.

“I have to go, but...will you visit me soon?” Catarina asked.

“Yes, I’ll just let the waters calm down a bit, but I’ll try to visit, okay?”

“Okay, then I’ll see you soon.”

“See you.”

Magnus ended the call and took a deep breath. The day had slipped away like water through fingers and he could feel the weariness of the past few days finally taking a toll on him, so he took a look at his beloved city one last time and went back inside.

It was still early to go to bed, but he really needed a rest, so after sorting a few more things with Ragnor, ordering something to eat, and making sure that the Chairman had some food too, he went to his room and fell into a deep, deep sleep.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec and Jace stepped off the elevator and walked into the FBI Headquarters. Alec could see out of the corner of his eye Jace talking nonsense next to him, but he wasn’t paying him any attention. His mind was still on the case. They hadn’t found anything useful to get closer to capture Magnus and he was frustrated. Frustrated, as every time this particular criminal decided to attack his city. Because New York was Alec’s city—you could fight him on that.

“So, what do you think?” Jace asked.

“About what?”

“You weren't paying attention?”

“No, I'm sorry...what were you saying?”

“Nothing important, I was asking for your opinion about this thing with Clary, but I see you’re not in the mood.”

“Sorry, Jace, I’m a bit exhausted. You mind if we talk about it later? I need some minutes to myself to think and clear my head.”

“Yeah, sure, no problem...I understand. I’ll see you for lunch, okay? I’ll write the reports and send them to the captain, is that okay?”

“Yes, thank you...oh, and tell Izzy to send me the results of the lab reports as soon as she has them, okay?”

“Sure.”

Alec headed to his office hoping to have a little break, but as soon as he opened the door, he found his mother waiting for him inside.

“Mother! I didn’t know you were in town. I wasn't expecting you.” He said, trying to hide the weariness in his voice. His mother wasn't the one to blame for the day he'd had.

“Now I have to make an appointment to see my own son?”

“No, of course not. You know you’re always welcome here.” He said.

His parents, Robert and Maryse Lightwood, had moved from the city when the Bureau had promoted and reassigned Alec’s father to the Washington D.C. division. “How have you been? How’s Max? When did you arrive?”

“We're fine, thanks son. And we arrived this morning. Your father has some business to attend here. By the way, I saw the news.”

Alec sighed. If his mother had seen the news, he already knew what was coming. He could hear his mother's voice in his head. ‘Alec, if you don’t catch that criminal soon you could ruin your career!’

“Alec, if you don’t catch that criminal soon you could ruin your career! You could lose everything you've worked so hard for! When your father was captain of this division-”

“When dad was captain things were different, okay?” Alec interrupted her before she could continue with her rehearsed lecture about Alec’s incompetence. “I know what I have to do.”

“Alec, I’m just telling you this because-” she was saying when the door of Alec’s office swung open, and Robert along with Alec’s nine year old little brother, walked in.

“Alec! Alec!” Max, his little brother, exclaimed excitedly, rushing into his brother’s open arms.

Alec picked him up and kissed him on the cheeks. “How are you, little one?”

“I’m okay, but I miss you.” Max said. “Tell mom I can stay with you, Izzy, and Jace to live, pretty please? I don’t like D.C. everything is very...boring, I miss New York.”

“You know you can stay with us on vacations, but you live there now and you have to go to school. Speaking of which, why aren’t you there? Why did you bring him too?” He asked the last question to his parents.

“We thought it was safer.” Robert said, looking at Alec cautiously. “We got a tip.”

Alec frowned concerned.

“Come on, Max.” Maryse said, clearly understanding their cue to leave. “Let’s leave your father and brother to talk. Let’s go find Izzy and Jace.”

Max nodded and jumped from Alec’s arms. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

Alec smiled at his brother and took a seat next to his father. “What happened?”

“Valentine Morgenstern is on the move.”

“What?” Alec asked puzzled. “I-I...I thought he was dead.”

“That was the official statement, yes, but we always suspected that he had faked his own death, now, well...it’s been confirmed. Last week we got a tip that he was recruiting his old gang again.”

Alec sank into his chair. Those weren’t good news. Valentine had been, or was, the most wanted criminal of all time. Alec had grown up hearing stories about him and his wave of death and destruction. For decades the FBI had chased him, but the man had managed to deceive the authorities and do whatever the hell he pleased. Alec still remembered the day his father had come home almost twenty two years ago just to inform them that Valentine had died during a confrontation with the FBI and the Interpol. Alec had only been five, but it was still fresh in his mind. That day he had decided he wanted to be like his dad and catch the bad guys.

“Did you-did you come here for back up?”

“Something like that, I came here to coordinate with Hodge. The D.C. office has reasons to believe he’s in New York.”

“Why?”

“His family.”

“Weren’t they part of the witness protection security program? He can't know who they are or where they were placed. Do you know if they are here?”

“That's classified information, Alec, you know that. But if the Bureau is concerned then we should be too.”

“Well, we haven't heard anything about him. I mean, I didn't even know he was alive until now, have you talked to Hodge?” Alec asked. After all, Hodge was the captain of the New York City division, promoted when Alec's father had been sent to D.C.

“Yes, we're going to coordinate to put a surveillance team and try to find him soon.”

“I could put some of my agents at your service if you want, Jace, Izzy...”

“There's no need, we can handle this on our own. You better focus on catching Bane. He's not making you look good, son.”

Alec refrained himself from rolling his eyes. “I know, dad. I know.”

“Do you?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Alec asked offended.

“You know what it means, Alec. How long have you been chasing him? How many times have you been close to catch him in all these years, huh? One, Alec, one time in five years! That's not a good record for an alleged top agent like you.”

“And what about you, huh?” Alec exploded, standing up and heading to his desk. Every conversation with his dad usually ended up with them fighting. Alec hated that his father always found the opportunity to drill into him that he wasn't good enough. “You can't come here and imply that I'm not a good agent after the news you just dropped about Valentine. For years you threw into my face how you had helped capture one of the most wanted criminals of all time and look what happened! The man is free and has been all this time. Valentine has not only made a fool of you all, but of the justice system of this country too. So the next time you want to imply that I don’t know how to do my job, make sure you have something to back yourself up. Until then, goodbye, dad.”

“Alexander…”

“Don’t call me like that...and please go!” Alec said, letting all the anger and frustration of the day speak for him. “As you well said, I have a criminal to catch.”

“Will we see you for dinner?”

“Yes, now, please?” Alec pointed to the door.

His dad didn’t say a word and just left, closing the door behind him. Alec sank into his chair again and took a deep breath. Now with Valentine on the loose things had just complicated even more. He knew he had to find and catch Magnus Bane sooner rather than later, or else, he could start saying goodbye to his beloved job.

"Where are you, Bane? Where?"

Chapter Text

“I’m here.” Magnus exclaimed from the balcony of his loft when he heard the voices of Ragnor and Raphael calling him. He had been doing some relaxation exercises to release the tension from his body. It had been quite an exciting week and he always enjoyed doing some exercise while admiring the view of his beloved city. It was fun and it helped him stay in shape. After all, his body hadn't been a gift from heaven, he had worked very hard on it, and if he wanted to keep stealing glances from boys and girls alike on the street, he knew he had to keep it toned.

“Where the hell have you been all week!?” Ragnor exclaimed, stepping into the balcony along with Raphael.

“Good morning, my friends, yes, I’m glad to see you too.” Magnus said sarcastically. He hadn’t seen his friends since they had sold the Pollock a week ago and this hostile treatment wasn’t what he had been expecting.

“Don't be so melodramatic, and now tell us, where have you been!? I tried to reach you all week, but you never answered. I even stayed here a couple of days in hopes to see you, but you never showed up. Where the hell have you been!? You never take the Chairman with you unless you know you're going to be away for more than three days, so I know you're up to something."

"I am." Magnus admitted.

"What is it!? And why don't you answer your damn phone!? Only in the last half hour I called you at least ten times!”

“My phone is charging in my room...chill, Ragnor. What happened? What’s the urgency?”

“What happened!?” Ragnor exclaimed in disbelief, making Magnus frown in confusion.

He didn’t understand why Ragnor was so upset, it made no sense. Yes, he had been away for a couple of days, but it wasn’t the first time he had left town without telling his friends. They were not his parents, Magnus was a grown-ass man, he could do whatever the hell he wanted. “Yeah, what happened? I'm not liking your tone or the hostile treatment, my friend.”

“Did you do it?” Ragnor asked instead.

“Did what?”

“The bank...did you do it?” Ragnor insisted.

“What bank, Ragnor? What are you talking about?”

“The bank, Magnus! 270 Park Avenue? Does that ring any bells for you?”

Magnus frowned again because the more Ragnor opened his mouth the more Magnus didn’t understand a word of what he was saying.

“There was a bank robbery this morning.” Raphael intervened. “The news…”

“The news, what?” Magnus asked, now exasperated. He hated when his friends didn't go straight to the point.

“We saw the news and the police are linking your name to it, Magnus.” Raphael said. “Apparently, they found evidence that confirmed that it had been you.”

“But I didn’t do it!” Magnus said surprised. “I’ve been home all morning.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure I'd know if I had robbed a bank, Raphael.”

Ragnor immediately walked to the living room and turned on the TV; the local news were reporting the latest information about the incident. Apparently, the whole city was on high alert for what had happened. According to the NYPD and the FBI there was evidence enough to suggest that this vile heist against one of the largest banks in the city had been Magnus’s work.

“But I didn’t do anything!” Magnus complained. It was hard to believe that what he was hearing was true.

“If you didn’t do it, then someone did it for you.” Ragnor said.

“Evidently, but I didn’t ask them to do so if that’s what you’re implying, Ragnor, someone’s trying to copy me!” Magnus said offended. He knew that most criminals would find the fact flattering, after all it was an indicator that the work was so good it was worthy of imitation, but Magnus didn't. He was unique, there was only one Magnus Bane in all New York and he was currently standing in front of the TV, watching this nonsense.

“Or maybe someone's trying to frame you.” Raphael put his two cents.

“You think?” Magnus questioned.

"It is likely...I mean, if you wanted to ruin someone, a criminal like us, how would you do it?"

"By ruining its reputation." Magnus said.

Raphael gave him a knowingly look. Of course! That made much more sense and was by far, worse than having someone trying to imitate him. The person trying to use his name wasn’t making him look any good. According to the news, this fake-Magnus had killed five guards during the robbery, so it was clear that no matter who was behind this slander, he was dealing with an amateur. Magnus could have gone in and out without a single bullet being fired.

“Santiago, can you help?”

“With what?”

“With this...you know, ask around, see if you can find out who this impostor is?” Magnus asked. Raphael was their best contact in the 'underworld', if someone was trying to ruin Magnus, the only one who could find the information was their friend.

Raphael rolled his eyes but nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you.”

“You think it can be you-know-who?” Ragnor asked curiously.

“No, that man is certainly capable of doing something like this, he’s been trying to ruin my life since I can remember, but he has different methods. He is more...direct, and he doesn't like playing around. Besides, he has things on me that could do more damage than a simple armed robbery. This...” Magnus said matter of factly. “Is the work of someone else.”

“Whose?” Ragnor questioned.

“I don’t know, but we’ll find out.” Magnus assured, turning off the TV.

“And then what?”

“Then, we’ll make whomever this person is pay for this slander because nobody uses my name and gets away with it. I’ve been in this business for quite some time and no one’s going to come here and ruin everything. I have a reputation to keep and this impostor is not going to stain it.” Magnus said with determination.

Raphael and Ragnor nodded in agreement. Both knew that in the business not having a reputation was probably the best reputation, but when you had one, the best thing you could do was to keep it intact—it gave you prestige and credibility. Both terrific assets when trying to sell stolen items or land a new big score.

“Sounds good,” Ragnor said, “now, would you mind telling us what were you doing all week?” He asked again, this time without yelling, his previous anger was now long forgotten.

“Studying our new target, my friend.” Magnus said.

He had spent an entire week doing research, asking around and generally, getting everything ready for their next big score. Magnus’s reputation wasn’t something he had won thanks to his handsome face. No, all his works, even the simplest ones, had a very long process that generally required of all his physical and mental abilities. From the planning to the execution, everything, every step Magnus took, was previously studied and analyzed, with a number of escape routes just in case something went wrong. Due to what he did for a living, Magnus could not afford to make mistakes and that was why he never left anything to chance—anything.

“Already? But we are still happily spending the money we got from the painting.” Ragnor said.

“I know, but this one will require careful planning and-”

“I better go.” Raphael interrupted them. He always did that when they started to talk about ‘work,’ he said it was better if he didn’t know in what new ridiculous situation they were going to get themselves into. It was safer for everyone. In their line of work they could never be too careful. “I’ll let you know if I find something about this impostor. And I guess I’ll call you later, Rag...I mean, Ragnor.” He said, waving goodbye and disappearing from view almost immediately.

“Rag?” Magnus inquired, raising an eyebrow the moment they were left alone. “Raphe and Rag! Ugh! You two are so in love! It's disgusting!"

"We are not!"

"Of course you are, I don’t know why you keep denying it.” Magnus said. "'Oooh, Raphe said this, Raphe said that.' 'Why don't we call Raphe and ask him what he thinks?' You know I'm not lying, something's going on between you two."

“Nothing’s going on between us. We are not in love, we’re just friends.” Ragnor said, but the color on his cheeks could indicate otherwise. “Anyway, if you’re done imagining things and speculating about our lives, could you please tell me more about this new score you have in mind? Why didn’t you share it with me before? We are a team, remember?”

Magnus laughed but let the issue rest for now. He knew that his friends would share it with him when they were ready, or when they pulled their heads out of their asses—where they seemed to have them most of the time. “I didn't tell you before because first I wanted to make sure we could pull it off. This is going to be big, my friend, if we do this right, I could pay my debt once and for all.”

“What!?” Ragnor questioned, and Magnus smiled in response. “With one score? What’s the target? The Federal Reserve?”

“No, something better and less risky...bonds.”

“Bonds?”

“Yes, but these ones aren’t like any other bonds, my friend.”

“They are not?”

“No, these are special.”

“Why?”

“All in good time...now, let me take a quick shower and we can go.”

“Where?”

“To the National Archives, of course.”

Ragnor frowned and gave Magnus a look of sheer confusion. Magnus knew that his friend wasn’t following him, but that was part of the plan too, he would explain everything once they got there.

“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not crazy. I promise you’ll understand everything. I'll be right back, okay?”

“Magnus, wait!”

“What!?”

“Are you sure you want us to do this when there’s clearly someone out there using your name? Maybe this isn't the best time. You've waited long enough, if this score is really going to help you pay off the debt maybe we should wait and-”

“No, on the contrary, my friend, we can’t wait. This is the best way to make sure that this city knows that I, that we are not behind those killings. Like I said when Santiago was still here, I have a reputation that I would hate to stain. Besides, this score won't be easy, I'm estimating that it will take us at least six weeks to plan, so...”

“So we’re doing this.”

“We are.” Magnus agreed. “But don’t worry, my friend, everything will be fine, I promise. Anyway, five minutes, okay? I won’t take long.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec arrived to the bank located at 270 Park Avenue and sighed loudly. If it weren't for the fact that there were policemen and forensic teams examining the area, he wouldn’t have believed what he was seeing. There was chaos everywhere. The bank and the streets surrounding it were crowded with people wanting to see what had happened inside. Tourists, office workers, executives, reporters, everyone was there. Crimes happened all the time in New York, it was part of the day to day, but when these were acts of violence that threatened the security of the city, they always tended to cause a lot more commotion.

“We’ll have to get rid of all these people.” Alec said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that.” Jace said, walking close to the nearest police officer and requesting her to make a security perimeter to allow them to work.

Alec and his team weren’t usually part of this kind of investigations. Their division only had jurisdiction when it came to white-collar crimes, ie, non-violent crimes committed for financial gain. And although a bank robbery fell under this category, this particular attack had had a very violent nature and, therefore, the last thing they had been expected was to be called in to help with the investigation.

About an hour ago Alec had received a call from the NYPD asking him for backup for the case of the bank, as they had evidence enough to believe that this attack had been the work of none other than one of the Bureau's most wanted white-collar criminals: Magnus Bane. And since Bane was Alec's case, they had requested his presence at the crime scene, so that they could hand over the investigation to the FBI.

“Iz, what did you find out?” Alec asked his sister as soon as he and Jace walked inside the bank. In their first report, the police had notified them that they had found trails of glitter in the vault and other areas of the bank, hence why they were blaming Bane, but Alec still had his doubts that this criminal could really be him. If there was something that Alec knew about Bane was that the latter wasn't a violent person.

“It’s Bane.” She confirmed. “I had my doubts like all of you when they first called, but it’s him. I just came back from the vault and there’s glitter everywhere, there are no prints, no nada...it looks like Magnus's doing.”

“But there are dead bodies.” Alec said. That had been the part that hadn’t quite fitted since they had received the call. This attack to the bank had had casualties, something that until now had never happened before. Magnus wasn’t a murderer.

“Yeah, that was weird because it doesn’t match his MO, but it’s him, big brother.”

Alec shook his head. There was a part of him that refused to believe it and not because he thought Magnus was an angel sent from heaven, after all he was a criminal, but because even among criminals there were codes and Magnus was not the kind of person who went through life killing innocent people. He had ethics. He had moral. “It’s not him.” He said sure of himself.

“How are you so sure?” Jace asked. “Just because until now he hasn’t done it, doesn’t mean it’s not him, Alec.”

“He’s never killed anyone, Jace. He robbed a casino in Vegas and walked out the front door with 80 million dollars in cash without even setting off the alarms. His work is that clean, and this whole mess? Well, it doesn't look like him.”

“Well, then let's check it out to see if you're right.” Jace said.

Alec, Jace and Izzy entered the first secured area and looked around. Alec couldn’t help but notice that the scene looked clean enough. There were no fingerprints, no clues and he could bet that the security footage had been tampered too. He couldn't deny that at first glance it did appear to be Magnus’s work.

Alec walked past the first dead body and uncovered it, kneeling beside it. It was of a man in his early fifties—a security guard. His eyes were closed and he had a shot in the head. A clean shot. Somehow it was a relief to know that he hadn’t suffered, it had been an instant death.

“All the others died in the same way," Izzy said, kneeling by Alec’s side and putting her hand on his shoulder, "none of them suffered. At least he showed them some mercy.”

Alec sighed. “Why is he killing now?”

Izzy and Jace shared a look. “I don’t know, Alec, but we’ll find out.” Jace said.

“I never thought he would be capable of doing something like this.” Alec said, looking at the dead man and feeling a little guilty. He couldn't help thinking that if he had already caught this criminal this man would still be alive.

“You don’t know him, Alec.” Jace added.

“But I do, Jace, I do. I’ve been chasing him for five years. I’ve been after him for far too long. I know what he likes, what he dislikes, his weaknesses, his strengths. I know he’s weird and eccentric, ambitious and conceited to some extent, but up until now, I never thought of him as a killer.” Alec said, covering the body and making his way to the vault.

His team was already there doing the usual protocols; getting the reports from the police, gathering the evidence and trying to figure out how this massacre had happened.

“How much did he take?” Jace asked one of the agents.

“Just three million, the vault was almost empty when the robbery occurred.” One of the agents informed them.

Alec frowned. Now he understood even less why Magnus had taken such a risk for so little money. It made no sense, none at all.

“Did he leave a postcard?” Alec asked. He hated them, he really did since thanks to them everyone in the Bureau knew that Magnus had some interest in Alec, and that was pretty uncomfortable, but at the same time it was his best chance to see if Magnus had really done it. Maybe hidden in the message, he could find the answer he was looking for.

“No, we searched everywhere, but no postcard this time.”

“Maybe he didn’t have time...I know for a fact that one of the alarms went off.” Izzy chimed in.

“Maybe…” Alec said, walking around and analyzing every corner of the vault—there was something that wasn’t adding up. The dead bodies, the lack of postcard...something was strange. Even the glitter wasn’t spread as it usually was, as if it were part of the man committing the crime, but it looked as if it had been just thrown in there very last minute. Alec had always associated the glitter with Magnus, as if it were part of the man himself. He still didn’t know how he did it, but it was as if he went around leaving glitter wherever he went, and that trail on the floor didn’t look as part of the person who had taken the money and committed this crime.

“It’s not him.” Alec said again.

“Alec…”

“No, look.” Alec said, before Jace could say another word. “Look at the glitter.” He encouraged his entire team. “Look at it closely and tell me, what do you see?”

Alec’s team observed, but no one seemed to understand what he was asking them to see. It was blatantly obvious, he didn’t know how they couldn’t see it.

Alec was about to give up and explain what was evident to his eyes, when Izzy gasped in surprise. “Oh my God! You’re right! It looks imposed, as if someone had just thrown it there for the sake of throwing it.”

“Exactly.” Alec said, with a smile. He knew his sister was very, very smart. “Look here, do you see this?” He pointed to the floor where there was some glitter accumulated in a small mountain. “This right here is the proof that whoever this criminal is threw the glitter after taking the money. I need everyone to go and analyze all the rest of the trails and see if you can find something that can help us know who this person is and-” He was saying when out of nowhere his dad and the captain of the office, Hodge, arrived to the vault.

“Dad? Hodge? What are you guys doing here?”

“Agent Lightwood.” Robert said. He always referred to Alec that way when they were working. Yeah, they were family, but his father preferred the formality. He said it was more professional. “The office called us and we’re taking over the investigation.”

“But why? I mean, the NYPD called me because Bane is my case.”

“Yes, he is, but we have reasons to believe that he’s now colluded with Valentine Morgenstern.”

“What?”

“What you heard, Agent Lightwood.”

“He would never...Magnus is not like Valentine, their styles are very different.”

“Valentine Morgenstern is recruiting.” Robert said. “Bane is a dangerous and talented criminal, don’t you agree that he would be a great asset to his team?”

“Well, yes, but-”

“But nothing. Criminals make alliances all the time, Agent. I’m sure that you with all your years of experience are well aware of that. We’ve been investigating some crimes associated with Valentine and we believe this heist was some sort of audition for Bane, right, Agent Starkweather?”

“That’s right, Alec. These deaths and the money he took were his ticket into Valentine’s circle.” Hodge added.

Alec meditated that new information for some seconds. It still sounded improbable to his ears because he simply couldn’t see Magnus and Valentine working together, but there was something his dad had said that had had some truth in it, criminals made alliances all the time, and an alliance would certainly explain why Bane had changed his MO so suddenly.

“Do you really think they are working together?” Jace asked worried.

“Yes, and since now Bane is part of Valentine’s circle, we have to take over this investigation.”

“But you can’t get me and my team off the case.” Alec said in self-defense. He had been investigating this man for years. He had invested a lot of years of his life in this.

“We don’t want to get you off the case, on the contrary, we want you and your team to join us. This case is under our jurisdiction now, but we could still use your help to solve it. After all, you’re an expert in all things Bane, right?”

Alec sighed. Working with his father meant working alongside the Marshals of the Washington D.C. office and Alec hated that. They were just a group of conceited by-the-book agents that couldn’t see beyond their internal rules and protocols. They were all on the same team, but not all of them played by the same rules and that had always been the problem with them.

"We are on the same team." His father said, almost as if he were reading Alec’s thoughts.

"I know, but you guys have very different methods and-"

"That's why Agent Starkweather is part of the team too." Robert said. "Besides, our methods aren't that different, Agent. We all are after the same thing, make sure that the law is followed and respected. Don’t you remember your lessons in Quantico? Dura lex, sed lex. The law is hard…”

“But it is the law.” Alec completed the sentence. He knew. They had drilled that motto into him for years, but the way the Marshals interpreted the law was very different from theirs.

“So, what do you say, Agent Lightwood? Can we count on you and your team for this investigation?” His father asked.

Alec wasn’t sure. Just a few minutes ago he had found evidence that had led him to believe that this wasn’t even Magnus’s doing, and now he had a new theory that contradicted the above. His mind was conflicted. Something deep within him told him that his father and Hodge were wrong about the alleged alliance, but the other part couldn't help but agree with them.

“Alec…” Jace said, giving him a look like the ones they used to share since they were kids. “Maybe they are right about the case and this was an audition. Think about it, that would explain what you were saying earlier about the glitter and the lack of postcard. I think we should join them and see if that way we can finally catch them both.”

“Listen to your partner.” His father said.

Alec took a deep breath. Jace had a point, this robbery being an audition would certainly explain the issue with the glitter and the postcard, but he still wasn’t sold on the idea. “Izzy?” He asked.

“Do what you think is best, Alec, you know I have your back.”

“If you don’t join us,” his father added, “you know you’ll have to hand over all your research on this criminal and you won’t be part of the case anymore, so think carefully about what you really want.”

Alec looked at his father. He didn't want to leave the case and for reasons, he certainly wanted to be the one to put Magnus Bane behind bars, so he took a deep breath and made up his mind.

“We’re in.”

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus and Ragnor entered the National Archives in Lower Manhattan. The National Archives maintained the historically significant records of Federal agencies and courts in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands dating from 1685 to the present. They also kept selected microfilm publications of the National Archives, and provided access to a variety of online historical resources. It was the perfect place for a good research. Not exactly for criminals, but no one knew what they were. Both were disguised, Magnus, as an academic professor from some Ivy League University, and Ragnor as his assistant.

“Are you going to tell me what are we doing here?”

“Yes, my friend, just a second.” Magnus said, walking to the front desk and requesting a form to have access to the Spanish Victory Bond.

“The what?” Ragnor asked, when they were left alone waiting for the requested document to arrive.

“I told you we were going after bonds, and well, that’s the only official copy there is.” Magnus said.

“I’m not understanding.”

“You will in just a second, don’t be so impatient.” Magnus said.

They waited for a couple of minutes until an old man came and gave them the bond so they could analyze it. He explained to them how they should handle it and left them alone so they could study it.

“It’s beautiful.” Ragnor said, admiring the piece of paper. “Is that a...?”

“Goya?” Magnus said, looking at the miniature replica of Goya’s painting The Charge of the Mamelukes that was illustrating the bond. “Yes, yes it is. I always loved this painting. Did you know it's a companion to the The Third of May 1808 painting? It depicts one of the many people's rebellions against the French occupation of Spain that sparked the Peninsular War. It shows the beginning of the uprising when the Mamelukes of the French Imperial Guard were ordered to charge and subdue the rioting citizens. Did you know that Goya chose not to paint any single action or to have any single focal point to emphasize the chaos of the drama?"

"No, I didn't know that."

"Well, it's true. I would kill to have the original painting, but maybe someday. Anyway, it’s amazing, isn't it?”

“Yes, it is. Now, do you care to explain what are we going to do with this?”

Magnus smiled. “Of course, my friend. As you can see this is a war bond. War bonds were debt securities issued by a government to finance military operations and other expenditures in times of war. This little gem was issued during the Second World War, more specifically in 1944, by the United States to support the Spanish Underground in their battle against the axis. It is believed that very few have ever been redeemed. There’s speculation that entire boxes were captured and many of them are still hidden away in caves of Altamira.”

“How many boxes exactly?”

“Thousands, my friend.”

“Oh, I get it!” Ragnor exclaimed, suddenly understanding. “We are going to try to get those boxes!”

“Not exactly, but you’re close.” Magnus said, pulling out a camera that he had sneaked into the building and taking a couple of pictures for future reference. “We’re going to forge them.”

“But how? I mean, if as you say, this is the only copy in existence, when they come to compare our bonds, they won’t match this one. You’re very talented my friend, no doubt about it, but not even you are capable of making exact replicas of this. Look at the security seals, these are tricolor seals. Impossible to match without having the physical copy for reference. Also, we don’t even know what kind of paper is this and-”

“That’s not a problem, if you need to know, this bond was made in Spanish Press Parchment of the same year it was issued, my friend, Liam told me.”

“Who’s Liam?”

“The man who just let us examine the bond without asking any questions? He thinks I’m a professor at Yale and I’m writing a book,” Magnus said, taking out his fake ID from his pocket and showing it to Ragnor, “so don’t worry about details, I know more than I should about this baby. Forging them won't be a problem, the problem will come later, when we put in motion the second part of the plan.”

“What’s the second part?”

“Well, remember what you said earlier about this copy not matching our forgeries? Well, that’s true, even someone as talented as myself can't make exact replicas of this, so for that we’ll have to switch the original with one of our own so that when they compare them, the seals and details-”

“-match the original.” Ragnor completed the sentence.

“Exactly, and since that won’t be a problem, we’ll be rich in the blink of an eye. Instant money, my friend.”

“How much?”

“Well, their face value was of $1000, drawing a 10% interest, and compounded for 72 years it gives us around $300,000 dollars give or take.”

“How many are you planning on doing?”

“Five hundred maybe more, we'll see.”

Ragnor smiled broadly. That gave them almost $150 million dollars just for them. It was more than enough to cover Magnus’s debt and split the rest so they could have the life they had always wanted.

“Brilliant.” Ragnor said. “Absolutely brilliant.”

Magnus smiled too. He knew the plan was brilliant. He had been thinking about doing this score for quite some time, but he had never felt confident enough to pull it off until now. Forging bonds wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Bonds, unlike paintings and even bills, had more security elements that had to go through all the tests. They had to be pretty good to stand up to examination.

“When are we starting?”

“Today, my friend.” Magnus said. “There's no time to waste.”

Chapter Text

Alec was in the FBI conference room in yet another meeting about the bank robbery. It had been three days since allegedly Magnus Bane—renowned thief and forger—had walked out of the bank vault with three million dollars in cash, and they still did not have any traces that could help them find the criminal or, in Alec’s opinion, even connect him to the case.

Yes, they had found glitter all over the bank and that had pointed Bane as the prime suspect, but for Alec it wasn't enough. The theory that the Bureau had about the heist being some kind of audition for the criminal to join Valentine’s circle had sounded convincing for about five minutes, but the more Alec listened to the series of inconsistencies and conjectures that his father and boss were doing, the more he convinced himself that they were wrong about this.

They were currently discussing for the umpteenth time how they thought Magnus had done the deed. The large plasma at the far end of the room was displaying a 3D model of the bank vault, highlighting all the security sensors and the potential system failures. They had analyzed all the information that they had managed to gather over and over again, but so far no one had been able to say with certainty how the crime had allegedly occurred. Everyone gave different versions of what had really happened, and they all sounded as incredible as any fictional story. It was clear that nobody had bothered to really try to understand what had happened that day.

“Alec.” Hodge said.

Alec had noticed that his boss had lost his last ounce of patience after the last theory. Some agent from the Washington D.C. office had suggested that maybe Magnus had arrived to the bank using a helicopter and accessed through the roof—as if a helicopter arriving to a bank long before business hours didn't raise any suspicion.

“You asked me for a couple of days to try to analyze the case and give us your take on the matter," his boss continued, "I think it’s time that you and your team share with us what you were able to conclude.”

Alec took a deep breath. He had, indeed, asked for a couple of days to put together what he thought had happened. He couldn’t exactly share the conclusion that he had about the case because he was sure they wouldn’t believe him, at least not until he had enough evidence to back up his words, so he just went with the general information that he and his team had managed to collect these past days.

“Well, first, I think it’s important for this investigation to take into account that all banks in Lower Manhattan have similar layouts and use the same security system.” Alec said. “This bank in particular hasn’t improved its security protocols in ten years.”

Alec and his team had been investigating the security systems of all banks in Manhattan since the robbery, so when they found that detail, it took them less than five minutes to figure out why this criminal had chosen that bank to commit the crime.

“So if this criminal did his homework, as I’m sure he did,” Alec continued, “he discovered that small flaw and that’s why he decided to attack this bank. A quick test to the security system was more than enough for him to know its weaknesses and figure out how to break in.”

All the agents gathered there turned around to look at each other with confusion. As Alec had already anticipated, it was clear that it hadn't crossed any of their minds that in order to solve this case they had to start investigating other banks as well.

“We think he entered using the basement access.” Jace said, taking over the explanation and handing the rest of the agents copies of their investigation. “As you can see in the reconstruction we did yesterday, the lowest access to the building is not highly protected at that early hour, so it was relatively easy for him to bypass the metal detectors at the entrances. According to the first police report the robbery happened somewhere between 5:30 am and 6:00 am, so not even the trash collection service had arrived.”

Then, disguised as someone from the maintenance staff,” Izzy added, showing some visuals of the tampered footage that they had obtained from the bank, “he accessed to the security room and after killing the guard, he tampered the tape, erasing any trail of his presence there.”

“After that, the robbery took him less than ten minutes.” Alec concluded. “There was no personnel but the security guards to worry about, so he killed the second guard outside the elevator.” He pointed to the marker on the blueprints displayed on the table. “Another before the access to authorized personnel, and the last two in the vault. According to our investigation, the pass codes to the vault and other areas of the bank were changed weekly before the attack, so he probably got it a couple of days before breaking in. We’ve been checking the security footage of the previous ten days to see if we can get any visual of him, but so far we haven’t found anything to indicate that he was there before the day of the robbery.”

“Or even that day.” Alec thought to himself, but refrained himself from sharing his thoughts.

“Very good job, Alec.” Hodge congratulated him. "You and your team seem to have come to a very good conclusion."

“So assuming Agent Lightwood is right.” Alec’s father said, standing up from his chair and pacing around the room, fidgeting with his hands as if he were thinking. Alec hated when he did that, there was no need to overact the scene. “How does this break fit into Bane’s MO?”

“It doesn’t.” Alec couldn’t help saying. “The robbery at the museum earlier this month is proof of that. Bane is cynical and smart, he studies his marks in such detail that he even has the audacity to get in and out using the front door. This case with the killings, the amount of money he took, and the lack of other elements that he usually leaves every time he strikes, doesn’t fit into his profile.”

“That’s why we are inclined to believe that he’s now working with Valentine, right?” Hodge added.

Alec, very reluctantly, nodded. He didn’t believe that was true, but at the same time he didn’t have much choice. That was the main theory of the Bureau and if his boss said it was true, he had to support him. At least, until he could prove him wrong.

“Tell us more about the museum.” Robert said. “What did he take exactly?”

“A painting worth around 60 million dollars in the black market.” Alec said. “Izzy, could you please put the painting on the screen for me?”

Izzy nodded and put the Lucifer painting on the screen.

“This is Lucifer, one of Pollock’s most famous paintings. We’ve been monitoring the black market since the robbery occurred, but our CIs haven’t been able to find the painting. If it was sold in recent days, it was through some private buyer, if not, well, we’ll find it sooner or later.”

“What if he didn't sell it but gave it to Valentine as some kind of gift?” Robert suggested.

“That could be a good theory.” Hodge agreed.

Alec frowned. His father and boss were reaching way too far. This was starting to look more like a witch hunt than a federal investigation. “Unless you guys know something I don't know, I don’t think Magnus would ever give anyone a painting—or any of his scores for that matter.”

“How do you know that?”

“We’ve tracked down all his scores and believe me, all the paintings, sculptures, and even the bonds, have ended up in the black market. I already told you, he's smart.”

“All but this one.” Robert said.

“Yet.” Alec added.

“You really think it's going to emerge at some point?” Hodge asked.

“Yes.” Alec said sure of himself. “They always do.”

“Well, until then we are going to assume that he gave it to Valentine.” Robert said.

Alec rolled his eyes but said no more. It was useless to argue with his father. It was clear what his position on this matter was. He and the Bureau were desperate to find Valentine and in their desperation they had the firm belief that Magnus Bane was going to take them to him.

“Has Bane robbed a bank before?” One of his father’s agents asked.

“Not that I'm aware of.” Alec admitted. “He’s specialized in the theft and forgery of art pieces, sometimes bonds, and he was behind the robbery at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, but so far we have failed to link him to any bank robbery.”

“Until now, of course.” Hodge added.

“Of course.”

“Well, it seems we'll have to go back and study all his crimes.” Robert said. “Agent Lightwood...”

“Yes?” Alec, Jace, and Izzy responded at the same time. That was one of the drawbacks to call them by their last name since they all had the same and also shared the same profession.

Their father sighed and fixed his eyes on Alec.

“Yes, father?” Alec said. “I mean, Agent?”

“I need you to share with us whatever you have on Magnus Bane. We need to know everything there is to know about the man. If there’s a chance to capture Valentine is going to be through him.”

Alec refrained himself from laughing because his father was being either naive or stupid to think that Magnus was the answer to capture Valentine. Alec had been chasing the criminal for half a decade, and if he had learned something about the man was that he knew how to avoid them. If not so, Alec would have caught him a long time ago.

“Of course, Agent Jace will give you a copy of all the files later.” Alec said, standing up from his chair and walking out of the conference room. It was obvious that there was nothing more to discuss, at least for today. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.” He said, closing the door behind him.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus put down his brush and took a deep breath. He had been working on the bonds for ten hours straight and his back was starting to demand a break. Forging miniature paintings of one of the most important Romantic Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a difficult task. Not only he had to make an exact replica of the painting, but he had to match Goya’s perfect strokes and somehow evoke that visual protest against violence that this artist seemed to be trying to reflect with this painting. It was a very physically and mentally demanding job.

“How are you doing with the ink?” Magnus asked Ragnor, who was making tests on the Spanish parchment Raphael had gotten for them.

“Not so good, I can't find the right tone. If we could get a sample of the real ink, I could recreate it, but just with these pictures? I think it’s going to be more difficult than we believed.”

“Let me see.” Magnus said, grabbing the pictures they had taken and looking at them as close as possible. They were high-definition pictures and the details were visible to the naked eye. The ink had a soft and subtle greenish hue that got lost a little bit with the blues. It was hard to see, but noticeable. "Try adding a little yellow to make the ink more green." He suggested.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Magnus said, giving Ragnor back the pictures and walking to stretch his legs.

“Green...why is it always green? That color follows me everywhere.” Ragnor muttered more to himself.

Magnus just laughed. Sometimes his friend didn’t make much sense, but he loved him nonetheless. He was a quirky, prickly loner, but a loyal friend. They had been partners for a very long time, and no matter how difficult the situation they were facing was, Ragnor was always willing to help. He didn’t complain, he didn’t hesitate, he just helped Magnus and made sure they both got what they wanted.

“You were right about this score, though.” Ragnor said. “Is going to take us a while.”

“Perfection can’t be rushed, mon amie.”

“True, but maybe we should hurry. I don't want you-know-who paying us a visit again. If he finds out we're doing this he could ruin it and-”

“He won't come, don't worry. He's still spending the money of the painting. We won't hear from him in months.”

“If you say so…”

They fell into a peaceful silence. Magnus stretching his arms and legs, and playing with the Chairman, and Ragnor still testing the inks. It was a good day in the big old city, and Magnus seized the moment to give some thought to the future. He was more like a seize-the-moment kind of guy since the future was always uncertain, but given his current situation, he knew that for the first time in many, many years, he was allowed to think past tomorrow. In a couple of weeks he could finally get rid of that debt that had been consuming him for years. He could do whatever the hell he wanted with his life and with his time. He wouldn't have to worry about anything and for the first time in over twenty-two years he was going to be a free man.

“After we finish this, I want us to take a long break.” Magnus said out loud. “To regroup and see what we are going to do from now on.”

“You’re not really considering retirement, are you?”

“No.” Magnus partially lied. He couldn't deny that the idea had crossed his mind more often than not, but after all he had done in his life, he couldn’t exactly just retire. The life of a criminal never ended. Once you became one, it was highly unlikely to ever go back to having a 'normal' life. “I just need some time to think what I want to do after this, let’s call it a vacation.”

“Vacation? Who’s going on vacation?” A voice asked.

It was Raphael, the man had just entered the loft. Magnus still didn't know why he even bothered to have a lock. His friends always forced their way in and made themselves at home.

“According to him, we are.” Ragnor said. “After this score he wants us to take a break.”

Raphael frowned. “Are you going to retire?”

“No.” Magnus rolled his eyes. “I just want to take a break, it’s very different. Anyway, what are you doing here, Santiago? Don't tell me you came here to help? We certainly could use another pair of hands.”

“No, you know I don’t like getting myself involved in these kind of things, my job is to be as clean as possible so that if any of you gets in trouble I can help you. You make the mess, I clean it, remember?” Raphael said with a wink. “And I’m here because I have new information about your copycat.”

“What happened?”

“Well, there's a lot of buzz at the moment. Some of our friends don’t believe you’re behind the bank robbery, they've known you for a long time so when they heard you had allegedly killed five guards, they immediately knew it hadn't been you, but people are worried. Everyone is very cautious because-” Raphael bit his tongue.

“Because, what?” Magnus asked desperately.

“Well, there’s this rumor that the people behind what’s happening could be the FBI.”

“What?”

“Well, some people think the bank robbery was nothing but a smokescreen to discredit you.”

“But it was not. I mean, it was real, people died.” Magnus said. He, along with the entire city had seen the news. Five innocent guards had died that day.

“Did they really die?” Raphael questioned. “We weren’t there, the FBI could be putting this whole circus together just to corner you, to force you to make a mistake.”

“Well, that’s actually a very good theory.” Ragnor joined the conversation. “Feds play as dirty as we do. They claim to be the good guys, but we never know. They could be doing this to provoke you, to make you come out of hiding.”

Magnus frowned. Yeah, he agreed that the FBI wasn't exactly the most honorable institution in the country, but this didn’t sound like them. This was someone else’s work, he was sure of it.

“And there’s something else.” Raphael added.

“What?”

“Well, rumor has it that you are after the Hope Diamond.”

“The Hope Diamond? Is it here, in New York?” Magnus asked with surprise. “Wasn’t it at the Washington’s National Museum of Natural History?”

The Hope Diamond was one of the most famous jewels in the world, with ownership records dating back almost four centuries. It was believed that the jewel had originated in India, and was known to have been cut from the French Blue diamond, presented to King Louis XIV. It acquired its name when it appeared in the catalogue of a gem collection owned by a London banking family called Hope in 1839. Later it was sold to some Washington socialite and since 1958, it had been on display at Washington’s National Museum of Natural History, and although many thieves and mercenaries had tried to steal it, so far no one had managed to get away with it.

“Yes, it’s going to be part of some exhibition at Le Joyau Prieux.”

“Really?” Magnus asked intrigued. Le Joyau Prieux was the most expensive clothing boutique in the city.

“Yes, and according to my sources you’re going to steal it before opening night.”

Magnus meditated that information. If he had known the whereabouts of such a valuable piece before today, he certainly would have tried to steal it, but since he had been a little busy preparing his next score, he hadn’t had time to make a plan. Nevertheless, he was surprised to hear that this impostor was willing to do it. As he had already stated, stealing that jewel was a feat that nobody had achieved—at least not yet. “When am I going to steal it exactly?”

“This Friday.” Raphael said.

“Well, then we will make sure that the real Magnus Bane is there.”

“And if it’s a trap?” Ragnor asked worried.

“We'll have to take the risk, my friend. I have no other choice. I need to know who's behind all this, and if it's the FBI? Well, they will regret having mess with someone like me.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec collected all the files he had on Bane and after making sure that his brother had copies to give to their father, he began to organize them again to resume his work. He knew he had to find something, anything, that could help him solve the case. He was still convinced that Valentine and Magnus weren’t working together, so he was looking at his boards in search of clues that could lead him to find the forger. He had to prove that an alliance between them was impossible. How? He still wasn't sure, but he had to start somewhere, right?

He had three large boards with all the information he had collected about Bane: relevant data about the cases, blurred pictures of the criminal's face that they had managed to get from some security tapes, the sketch the Bureau had done after Alec had met him, the thirteen postcards, some leads about his whereabouts through the years, his alleged romantic relationships, personal information, etc.

He was looking at them when Jace entered his office and sat down in one of the chairs.

“Did you give dad the files?” Alec asked absentmindedly. His eyes were still fixed on the boards.

“Yeah, he’s going to be quite entertained for a couple of days.” Jace said. “He started to go through them the moment I walked into his temporary office, so that’s good, he won’t be breathing down our necks for some days. It’s a little weird to have him here again, don't you think?”

“Just a little?” Alec retorted. “And I wouldn't count on him not breathing down our necks, you know him, but let us hope for it.”

“Alec…”

“Yes?”

“Can we talk? It’s not about work.” Jace said, and it was only then that Alec finally detached his eyes from the boards and noticed how miserable his brother looked. Jace was usually very confident, sure of himself, but the man sitting across from him didn't resemble that Jace in the least. This Jace looked tired and worried, he had two large dark circles under his eyes and a sad expression plastered on his face. Alec wondered how he hadn't noticed it before.

“Yes, sure...what happened? Are you okay?”

“No, I'm not.” Jace admitted.

“What happened?”

“It’s about Clary.” Jace exhaled.

Of course it was about Clary. Ever since Jace had met her, his life had turned into some big rom com that apparently didn't have the happy ending that everybody always talked about. Every so often Izzy and Alec had to listen to their brother’s endless complaints about relationships and how difficult it was to love someone.

“What happened this time?” Alec asked.

Jace chuckled. “This is starting to become some sort of habit, isn’t it?”

“A bit, but it's okay, you know I don't mind. What did the little girl do this time?”

“Clary, Alec, her name is Clary.” Jace said.

In Alec's defense, he had started calling her like that when she and his brother had started dating. If he was honest, at first he had had trouble remembering her name, so he had started calling her by the only thing he did remember about her—her lack of height...and it had stuck.

“And this time she didn't do anything, it was me the one who screwed everything up.” Jace continued.

“Why? What did you do?”

“Do you remember what I told you about her?”

Alec nodded because of course he remembered. His brother had shared with him a few weeks ago that he felt excluded in certain aspects of their relationship. She was very private with some things and apparently kept a lot of things from Jace, including stuff about her family and even the address to her own home. Jace was really confused about that and didn't know what to do. He knew that the solution was to do a quick search using the Bureau’s database to find out more about her, but he had resisted the temptation claiming he wanted it to be her the one to tell him all that.

“Well,” Jace continued, “I followed your advice and talked to her about my issues with all the privacy stuff.”

“And?”

“Well, I thought we would have this real mature conversation, but it wasn't like that. Instead of actually communicating with me, she started to cry, Alec!”

“Really?” Alec raised an eyebrow. Girls sounded so complicated, he was thankful he didn't feel attracted to them in the least.

“Yes, one minute she was all, ‘yeah let’s talk,’ but the moment I told her what I really wanted to talk about, she became this crying mess and I panicked.”

“And what did you do?”

“What do you think I did? I ran, of course.”

“You ran!?”

“Yes, I panicked, okay? I don’t know what to do when girls cry. You know I’ve always been like that. You remember when Izzy used to cry out of nowhere? I usually ran and let you handle the situation. I know it's pathetic and I shouldn't have done it, but it's done and now-”

“And now she’s mad at you.” Alec assumed.

“Very.” Jace said. “She’s not answering my calls, or text, or emails. I’ve tried everything, but she’s ignoring me.”

“Well, maybe she needs time. It wasn't very nice of you to leave her if she was crying. You should have stayed with her.”

“I know! I know I screwed up! But her reaction took me by surprise, Alec. We’ve been together for six months, it’s only natural that I want to meet her family, don’t you think? She’s met you all, it’s only fair that I get to meet her family too. I don't see why asking that would trigger the crying.”

“Maybe she’s ashamed of them.”

“No, she isn’t, the few times she’s talked about them she’s said wonders about them. It’s something else, Alec, I just wished I knew what. She’s like this big unsolved puzzle that I would really love to put together, but how can I do that if I don’t even have all the pieces, huh? She’s always hermetic about certain things and I don’t know what to think of that. She says she loves me and I believe her, I want to believe her, but sometimes when she’s all secrets and mysteries with me, I really have a hard time buying her I love you’s. I don't know, Alec, sometimes I just don't know what to do. Maybe I should just give up and move on.”

Alec gave his brother a sympathetic smile. He couldn’t say he understood what his brother was feeling because he didn’t have enough experience to speak on the matter, but he could relate to the frustration he felt for not having all the pieces of the puzzle. That was what he felt every time he tried to go after Magnus. He felt as if he didn’t have all the pieces, as if he were missing some crucial information, as if-

“The pieces.” Alec whispered, when an idea came to mind. “The pieces, Jace!”

“What pieces?” Jace asked confused.

“The postcards.”

Jace frowned again—he was not following him.

“I’m sorry,” Alec quickly apologized. He understood that things with Clary weren’t good at the moment and he really hoped his brother could fix them. He wanted to see him happy and he knew that Clary made him very happy, she just had to let him in and entrust him with whatever secrets she were keeping. But with the conversation they had just had, Jace had given Alec an idea that he couldn't not say out loud. “We’ll go back to you and Clary in just a second, but you just gave me an idea to solve the case, Jace!”

“What idea?”

“The postcards are the pieces of this puzzle.”

“The postcards?”

“Yes, Magnus’s postcards. You remember the last one he wrote?” Alec asked, standing up and walking to the board to grab it. “He clearly said, ‘this is my 13th postcard, did you know that the meaning of the number thirteen is the bonding of many into one?’ Don’t you see it? He left me a message! These postcards are the message!”

“Oh.” Jace said, suddenly understanding what Alec meant. “You think he...?”

Alec shrugged. “I don't know, but it's worth the try, don't you think? Call Izzy, Jace, we have a message to decipher.”

Jace nodded and stood to leave the office.

“Oh, and Jace?” Alec said before he left. “Don't give up on her just yet and just apologize. You know my experience in this field is practically nonexistent so maybe I'm not the right person to give this advice, but if you really think she's the one for you, then be patient and give her some time, when she's ready she'll open up to you.”

“You really think that?”

Alec nodded. “I don't know her that well, we've barely talked, but I don't think she's lying when she says she loves you. I've seen the way she looks at you.”

Jace smiled for the first time since they had started talking. “Thank you, Alec.”

“Anytime, Jace. Anytime…”

Chapter Text

Magnus, Ragnor and Raphael had been outside the Le Joyau Prieux all day. Raphael hadn’t been able to find out the exact time Magnus’s impostor was going to commit the heist, so they had decided to be there very early in the morning to make sure to catch this person before things reached another level.

The exclusive boutique was located somewhere in the Upper East Side, so naturally hundreds, or better said thousands of people walked the streets at all hours, making their stake-out mission even more difficult. They had no idea how this person looked like, or even if it was a man or a woman, so anyone standing mere feet away from the store’s door immediately became a suspect.

“What about her?” Ragnor asked, pointing to a girl who was standing right outside the boutique’s front door. They had been discarding people all day, analyzing their behavior and sometimes even sending Raphael to talk to them. However, now that the sun had set the task was becoming more difficult.

“No, I don’t think so.” Magnus said, observing her. She was taking pictures of the window displays of all the stores. She looked like nothing more than a happy tourist trying to keep her memories of this city on a memory card.

“And what about him?” Ragnor pointed to the man standing a few feet away from her. He seemed to be busy making a phone call.

“I don’t think so either, he's not dressed to commit a heist. Look at his clothes, my friend. He’s wearing the brightest canary yellow pants I’ve ever seen! And that comes from someone who appreciates flashy clothes." Magnus said, pointing to his less than discreet bright purple shirt. They weren't wearing their usual clothes, they were disguised to avoid being captured by the cameras, but still, Magnus had chosen a rather flashy attire. "He couldn’t be expecting to go unnoticed wearing that.”

Ragnor and Raphael laughed out loud. That was true. To commit a heist of these dimensions, whoever this criminal was had to be very careful with the outfit selection. This city was surrounded by cameras, the more you could blend in with the scenery the better. That was why all crimes were committed mostly at night, it was easier to erase any traces when the sun was out.

“How would you do it?” Raphael questioned. “We've been here all day, so you’ve had some time to study the area and the store. If you were about to steal the diamond for real, how would you do it?”

Magnus looked at the store. It had been closed to the public all day since the staff had been getting everything ready for the event, but from his spot in the Italian coffee across the street, he had had a pretty good view of all the entrances, the security system and the general layout of the street, which was always key in any heist.

“Well, for starters I wouldn’t have made the heist today. The exhibition is tomorrow, so it’s obvious that the people responsible for it are going to be here all day making sure everything is ready for the event, so trying to break in at any time today is very risky and to be honest, quite stupid.” Magnus said. “But having said that, I think a heist such as this one requires careful planning. I probably would have found a way to be part of their staff to have access to the vault and other areas, and be able to study them better. It’s highly unlikely that they have the diamond on display without any sort of protection; I bet even the museum sent some private guards to be here 24/7 just to keep their precious gem safe and sound. But anyway, with that information on my side, I would have found the weaknesses in their security system and taken advantage of them. There’s no such thing as the perfect security system, they all have flaws.”

“And then?”

“Well, then based on that, I would have broken into the vault probably last night, taken the diamond and disappeared from the country before the FBI even had time to put a new price on my head.”

Ragnor and Raphael laughed though they knew that Magnus wasn’t kidding. A crime of this magnitude entailed a great sacrifice. Not only because of the riskiness of the action itself, but because after committing a robbery so great, you couldn’t just go back to your normal life, you had to be extra careful and stay off radar for quite a while—sometimes even forever.

“Magnus, do you think that this criminal is going to disappear after this?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because,” Magnus sighed, “this person doesn’t have to worry about keeping a low profile. It’s not their name the one on the front page. If for some reason the FBI tracked down the sale they would get my name, not theirs.”

Ragnor gave Magnus a sympathetic smile. It was obvious he hadn’t thought of that little detail until now. Using someone else’s name could be used not only to try to ruin someone's reputation, but also to protect oneself—it was a selfish act of self-preservation.

“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.” Raphael said. “If this impostor isn’t someone from the FBI playing at being a criminal just to catch you, then I don’t know how they intend to move that piece. It’s virtually a suicide mission to try to sell it. No one in the black market is going to agree to do it. It’s too risky.”

“But isn’t it worth?” Magnus asked.

“Hmmm, not so much when you consider how difficult the sale is. The commission must be high, no doubt about that, but there are way too many things to consider before taking the risk. The chances of getting caught before closing the sale are 8 to 10, so only someone very desperate would agree to do it.”

“How much is it worth in the black market?” Ragnor asked.

“A rough guess? I'd say about 500 million dollars. Technically, its value is only 250 million, but after being stolen, these items tend to double in value, so who knows? It could even be more—it depends on the buyer.”

“Why didn’t we go after this diamond instead of the bonds, huh? We would have gotten twice the money with little to no work.” Ragnor said.

"I'm not so sure about that."

"Why?"

“Because, as Raphael said, is practically a suicide mission to try to sell a diamond like this one and, besides, I didn’t even know they were going to move it here. If I had known, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to resist the temptation to go after it. It’s very valuable after all.”

“I would have never gone after it...you know what they say about it.” Raphael said.

“Don’t tell me you really believe in those stories, Santiago.” Magnus laughed.

“You don’t?”

“No, those stories tend to be just a figment of someone’s imagination to enhance the mystery and appeal of the stone. Having fantastic stories surrounding these pieces always helps to increase their newsworthiness and thus their value, you better than anyone should know that. You sell stolen goods for a living.”

“But the stories are real.” Raphael said.

“No, they are not.”

“Yes, they are.”

“No, as I have said-” Magnus was saying when Ragnor interrupted them.

“Stop arguing and better tell me, what stories are you talking about?”

“People say that the diamond is cursed.” Raphael said. “Está maldito.”

“Really?”

“Allegedly,” Magnus argued, “they say it brings misfortune and tragedy to the people who own it or wear it, but I don’t buy that for a second. According to the stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the original form of the Hope Diamond was stolen from an eye of a sculpted statue of the goddess Sita, the wife of Rama, the seventh Avatar of Vishnu. It is said that the people in possession of the gemstone suffered from the goddess' revenge and were destined to have bad luck and die. Of course, there is no evidence whatsoever that something like that has ever happened.”

“Of course not, just a long list of people who have died when they've had the diamond in their possession.” Raphael added with sarcasm. “You can google that fact if you don’t believe me.”

Magnus rolled his eyes, but Ragnor immediately fished his phone out of his pocket and started googling it.

“Ragnor, please don’t believe all that bull-” Magnus was saying when out of the corner of his eye, he noticed some movement in the boutique—a man was leaving the store through the front door.

Magnus frowned. All the employees of the store had left about an hour ago, so only the guards were inside. And this man didn't look like one, he actually looked a lot like Magnus—at least from afar. He was tall, and well-toned. He was wearing a very elegant dark red suit and his hair was black with dyed colorful locks like the ones Magnus usually wore.

The alarms hadn't triggered yet, but somehow Magnus already knew this was the person he had been waiting for all day.

"It's him!" He exclaimed.

The man was walking calmly across 79th street, well, as calmly as someone can walk in New York, and making his way to Central Park, one of New York's most famous landmarks. It was clear that he was trying not to draw a lot of attention, but he was failing miserably, he looked nervous and in a hurry; Magnus knew that if he managed to get to the park before they could catch him, he would never find him again.

“Come on!” Magnus told his friends. “We have to catch him before he reaches Central Park!”

Ragnor and Raphael rose to their feet and headed for the door. The impostor was now half a block ahead of them.

"He's dressed like you!" Ragnor pointed out.

"I know!" Magnus exclaimed, already running to catch up. “We have to chase him and catch him! I need to know who he is!”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was obsessed with finding the secret message behind the postcards, but so far he hadn’t had any luck. For days he had tried everything, but neither he nor his siblings had found anything. All the postcards were from different places around the world and had been sent over the course of two long years, so their leads went from a series of unrelated dates and numbers to different places located on a map.

So far they knew for a fact that there was no connection between the dates written on the postcards and any other major event that had happened on the same day in history; the dates coincided only with the crimes committed by Magnus. They also knew that the message wasn't hidden in the different locations. They had tried to use the coordinates of the places to find a crossing point and even connecting with lines all the sights to see if they formed anything, but neither the coordinates nor the lines had yielded conclusive results. They had turned out to be just a bunch of random lines and markers on a map with no connection whatsoever.

“Maybe if we shared this with the rest of team they could help us solve it.” Jace suggested.

Alec had decided not to share his theory with the rest of the team because even though he was confident about it, he knew that it did look a little crazy to think that one of the most wanted criminals would leave a message to one of the top FBI agents through a series of silly postcards.

“Jace, no one’s going to believe me. How many times have I suggested that Valentine and Magnus aren’t working together?”

“I don't know, enough times.”

“And how many of those enough times have they believed me?”

“None.”

“Exactly.” Alec said. “We can’t just tell them that I think he left me a message. I don’t want dad to think I'm crazy and get me off the case. This is important for me.”

“Fine.” Jace sighed, making it loud enough to show his discomfort and frustration.

Alec couldn’t blame him, though, he better than anyone understood how his brother felt. He was tired and frustrated too. It seemed that try as they might they were unable to make even a little progress in the case. This theory of the postcards had sounded good at first, but now even Alec was starting to think he had made a huge mistake. He had thought he knew Magnus, he had hoped that in his arrogance the criminal had been bold enough to leave something there for Alec to find, but apparently that hadn't been the case.

“Alec?” Izzy said.

“Yes?”

“Hmmm, I was wondering if you’d mind if we call it a night?” She asked tentatively. “I know you want to find this message and we want it too, but it’s Friday, big bro, it’s late and we sort of already have plans.”

Alec looked at the clock for the first time in hours. It was indeed a bit late, 7:42pm to be precise. He hadn’t even noticed how quickly the day had slipped away. It happened to him all the time, though. He started to work a case and lost track of time, that was one of the symptoms of being a chronic workaholic.

“Okay, yeah...you can go.”

Izzy and Jace breathed a sigh of relief, and Alec rolled his eyes. Working late on Friday wasn’t that bad, was it?

“You don’t have any plans for tonight?” Jace asked.

Alec refrained himself from rolling his eyes for the second time in a span of less than ten seconds and just shook his head. What kind of question was that? Of course he had no plans, when did he ever have any plans? His siblings knew him well enough. Alec was what might be called the epitome of a hermit.

“Well, you can come with us if you want.” Izzy suggested. “Thanks to your wise advice, Jace is now on speaking terms with Clary again and we’re going to see Simon’s band. They have a gig in Brooklyn. It could be fun.”

“Simon? The goofy friend? Why are you going to his concert? Are you dating him now?” Alec asked, his overprotective big brother self speaking for him.

Simon was Clary’s insufferable best friend and since day one he had shown some sort of interest in Alec’s sister. Alec didn’t like the guy much, but then again, he didn’t like any of the guys who were trying to woo his sister. Yeah, he was a jealous older brother. The same had happened when Jace had introduced him to Clary. He couldn't help it, he just wanted the best for them. And sue him, but he didn't think anyone could ever be good enough for his younger siblings.

“Not yet.” Izzy said. “We’re just hanging out.”

Jace burst out laughing and Izzy shot him some killing eyes.

“They are dating, aren’t they?” Alec asked his brother.

“Yeah, you could say that.”

Izzy rolled her eyes at them and just gathered her things, deciding to ignore them. “We’re not dating, but think whatever you want, I don't care. Now Alec, are you coming with us or not? I still have to go get ready and I don’t want to be late.”

Alec shook his head. “No, thanks. I'd rather go home and catch up some sleep.”

“Are you sure?” Both his siblings asked.

“Yeah, go have fun, you know that concerts aren't my thing.” Alec said. “I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch and you can tell me how bad it was.”

"You can count on that." Jace said, high-fiving him with a smile. He didn't like the Simon guy either, though, as far as Alec knew, it was for very different reasons.

“You two are just jealous of him.” Izzy said. “When he’s famous and his band is giving concerts at the Madison Square Garden we’ll see if you keep making fun of him.”

Alec and Jace just laughed again.

“It’s good to know that at least he'll have one groupie when that happens." Alec said. "Now go, I thought you didn't want to be late.”

Jace and Izzy said their goodbyes one last time and walked out of Alec’s office. Alec took a deep breath and sank into his chair. Without his siblings there, it was easier to realize how late it really was. The FBI headquarters were completely empty. No one was left, not even the coffee guy.

“Great.” He muttered under his breath when he realized that that meant he'd have to go fetch his own cup of coffee.

Resigned, Alec walked out of his office and headed for the coffeepot. However, the damn thing was empty. He hated, and loved, when that happened. He hated it because he didn't have time to waste, he just wanted to go back to work, but he loved it because that meant he could actually prepare the coffee as he liked it—very strong. So he put enough scoops of coffee grounds and leaned against the wall to wait for the coffee to be ready.

While he waited, he used the time to think about Magnus, about the new case connected to him, and about the Bureau’s theory of the alleged alliance between him and the most wanted criminal of all time.

He knew they were wrong about that, there was no way that Magnus and Valentine were working together. First, because their styles were completely different, and second, because they weren’t after the same things. Yes, both were talented and liked money, but Alec knew they were exact opposites. Magnus also liked art, and overall all pretty things, and he did what he did because he liked to have a good life. However, Valentine was just obsessed with power and he thought money could bring him the glory he craved. Two minds with such different ways of thinking, despite how brilliant they could be if they joined forces, could not work together.

Both criminals were egocentric, they liked the recognition that doing what they did brought them, so Alec simply couldn’t see them making an alliance. It was impossible, like, who would be the boss? Magnus would never agree to work for someone else, let alone for someone like Valentine, and Valentine would never let a young criminal to take away his ‘rightful’ place at the top of the criminals pyramid. Maybe the Bureau refused to see that, but Alec didn’t. He wasn’t as familiar with Valentine as he was with Magnus, but he knew neither would agree to work for the other.

“If only I could prove it.” He whispered, pouring himself a cup of coffee.

This case had proved to be more difficult than anything he'd ever done. For years he had gone after Magnus without much success, but that hadn’t stopped him from becoming one of the best agents in New York, however, now with Valentine in the mix, his career was at stake. The Bureau couldn’t afford another failed capture mission, this time they wanted both criminals alive and behind bars no matter the cost, so if something went wrong Alec knew he could lose everything.

“What a mess.” He sighed and returned to his office to obsess over the series of postcards again.

He couldn’t explain why he was so sure that Bane had left something for him there, but something within him told him he was right. Call it intuition, or something else, but he knew he had to find it.

“What is it, Bane? What?” He whispered, rereading for the umpteenth time all the messages that Bane had left for him through the years.

None made any sense at all, generally, they just mocked Alec’s inability to catch the criminal or were flirty innuendos or compliments that had managed to make Alec blush and get mad more than once, but nothing out of the extraordinary. They were just a bunch of words written with the sole purpose of driving Alec insane. He couldn't expect to find anythi-

“Wait.” Alec said, feeling the beat of his heart quickening.

Magnus’s handwriting was irregular, it had always been. He tended to randomly capitalize some letters throughout the text, but up until now Alec hadn’t even considered that little detail as something important.

“Could it be that easy?” He wondered.

Maybe those capitalized letters weren't just a happy coincidence, maybe, just maybe, they were the key to the message.

“Of course!” He exclaimed. And with a renewed enthusiasm, he grabbed a piece of paper and began to copy the letters. He knew he had just found the message, now he just had to figure out a way to read it.

o-o-o-o-o

It turned out that following the impostor hadn’t been as easy as they had first thought. When the man realized that Magnus, Raphael and Ragnor were approaching him from behind, he ran down the street and tried to get to the park as fast as possible. They tried to keep up with him, but it was very dark and the man was fast, so when they realized, the impostor was already on the edge of the park.

“We have to split up!” Magnus shouted, while still running. “If he gets deeper into the park we’ll never catch him! If you find him knock him down or do whatever you have to do to immobilize him! I need to talk to him!”

Raphael and Ragnor nodded and ran to opposite sides.

There were a lot of people walking around the park, so Magnus kept running, following the main path and trying not to tear his eyes away from his impostor. Because now he was certain that this man was actually an impostor and not an undercover FBI agent. He had known it from the moment the man had decided to flee rather than to catch him. If this had been a trap, Magnus would already be handcuffed and on his way to jail. So now, he only had to catch him to discover who he was and why he was doing all this.

“Stop! Stop!” Magnus exclaimed, in an attempt to stop the man or distract him. He was gaining advantage over Magnus. “Please stop! I need to talk to you!”

The man turned around and let out a laugh. “Good luck with that, Magnus Bane.” He said, running faster and significantly increasing the distance between them.

“Great.” Magnus muttered, quickening his strides and trying to catch up. Not only his plan hadn’t worked, but this man, whoever he was, had recognized him, even with the disguise. So he had to catch him or come up with something else to stop him pronto. It was incredible, but this man ran like a freaking cheetah and dodged people like a snake. Magnus knew that if things continued the same way in the next couple of minutes or so, he was going to lose him. Where were Raphael and Ragnor when he needed them the most?

Fortunately for Magnus, the universe conspired in his favor and something got in the way of his impostor, making him stumble over his own feet. Magnus seized the opportunity to finally catch him and face him.

“Who the hell are you!?” Magnus asked, grabbing the man from his coat and pushing him against a tree, preventing him from escaping. “Who are you and why are you copying me!?”

The man didn’t reply and just let out a mocking laugh.

“Tell me who you are!” Magnus said again. “Speak!” He demanded.

He needed to know who this man was and why he was doing what he was doing. Now that they were face to face Magnus was one hundred percent sure that he didn’t know him. This was the first time he ever saw him. And he was sure of that because Magnus was very good at remembering faces, and no doubt he would have remembered a face like this one.

The man was handsome, not Magnus’s type, but he couldn’t deny the appeal. He had a very pale face with high cheekbones, strong jaw, green eyes and long eyelashes. He was tall and muscular, and his hair was black, so black it didn’t even look natural. It was as if he had put coal in his head or something.

“Why are you trying to ruin me!?” Magnus asked, pressing his arm against the man’s throat, choking him and forcing him to speak.

“Ruin you?” The man said, coughing but using the same mocking tone he had been using. “I’m not trying to ruin you, on the contrary, I am making you look good for once. You should be grateful that we have decided to use your name for this.”

“We!?” Magnus inquired. “What’s this!? Who are you!? And who are you working with!?”

The man just smiled and Magnus lost his patience. It was clear that he wasn’t going to cooperate. “Where’s the diamond?” He asked instead, looking into the man’s pockets with his free hand. But apparently the impostor didn’t have it with him. There was no trace of the stolen piece.

“You won’t find it.”

“Where did you hide it? I know you have it!”

“I’m not going to tell you.”

“Fine, don’t tell me, but you’ll have to tell the feds.” Magnus threatened.

“Are you going to call them?”

“Yes.”

The man laughed again, but this time his laughter was diabolic—evil. Magnus felt chills all over his body. “And what exactly are you going to do after you call them? Surrender yourself? Don’t be stupid! You and I both know you can’t call them, and do you wanna know why? Because you, unlike me, are on their blacklist. I have nothing to lose.”

Magnus wanted to kill him, but he took a deep breath and tried to calm down. The bastard was right, he couldn't call them, but what he didn't know was that there were always different alternatives. “I could always tie you to this tree and then make an anonymous call to let them know that you stole the Hope Diamond. I can assure you that they will be more than happy to add you to their blacklist and put you behind bars.”

“All that sounds very good, but there’s a little something you’re forgetting.”

“What?”

“I didn’t steal the diamond.” The man said, feigning an innocent tone. “You did.” He added, taking Magnus a bit off guard and throwing glitter into his eyes.

Magnus closed them as fast as he could, but it was too late, the glitter was already in his eyes, and the man was seizing the moment to escape.

“Damn it!” Magnus exclaimed, trying to open his eyes to catch the impostor again, but they burned as if someone had thrown salt or pepper on them.

He had never thought of glitter as some sort of weapon, but today, thanks to his impostor, he had discovered that it was actually very powerful. It could incapacitate an enemy for a couple of minutes. Minutes that were more than enough so that anyone could run away.

“Are you alright?” Raphael and Ragnor asked. They had just arrived to where Magnus was. Both were still trying to catch their breaths.

“Yes, I just need water for my eyes, the bastard dared to throw glitter at me.” Magnus complained.

“Did you catch him?” Ragnor asked surprised.

“I did, but he managed to escape.”

“Did you find out who he is? Do we know him?” Raphael asked.

Magnus shook his head. “But I know something, my friends, he’s not working alone.”

Chapter Text

Alec sighed. He had just finished copying all the capitalized letters he had found, and so far he only had a bunch of random letters that made no sense to him. From each of the postcards, he had obtained a combination of four or five letters; they weren’t words, they weren’t coordinates, just random pieces of a puzzle that he still couldn't solve—WOUSE, LDVEN, YOOH, ULEI, IKGH, ETTT, OGOHI, ONRD, ADAV, ATEN, EWEW, ITYO, and HMERK. He knew there was a message hidden there somewhere, the problem was that he had absolutely no idea how to read it.

He started by trying to find anagrams in the different combinations, but apparently the letters weren’t combinable among each other, so then he tried reading only the first letter of each combination from the first to the last and vice versa, in order to see if a message popped up, but it didn’t work either. No matter how he saw it, the message simply made no sense.

Frustrated, Alec went back to the postcards, perhaps he had missed something there, a detail that could help him find out how to read the message. He looked at them, paying attention to the small details, and it was only when he was about to give up when he noticed that, indeed, he had missed a crucial detail.

Magnus had only capitalized letters in two sentences of the text—the first and the last. That discovery changed everything. The combinations were not only letters but groups.

From the first postcard the capitalized letters of the first sentence were ‘W,' 'O,' 'U,’ and ‘S,' 'E,’ of the last, so Alec quickly added a small dash to separate them and did the same with the rest. Soon he had thirteen different combinations divided into two groups—WOU-SE, LD-VEN, YO-OH, UL-EI, IK-GH, ET-TT, OGO-HI, ON-RD, AD-AV, AT-EN, EW-EW, IT-YO, and HME-RK.

What he had to do next was pretty obvious to him, so he read just the first group of letters in order from the first to the last, and a sentence began to form.

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO ON A DATE WITH ME?”

“Are you kidding me right now?” Alec exclaimed, unable to believe what his eyes were seeing. This was certainly some kind of joke, right? This man couldn't be serious about this. A date? For real? And although Alec knew that the criminal had left this message only to mess with his head, he couldn't stop the sudden flush that turned his pale cheeks a gorgeous pink. Truth to be told, no one had ever asked him on a date before, of course he had gone out a few times with his siblings and met people, interesting people, but his work had always been first and that had kept him away from the dating market, so in jest or not, this was a first.

Alec shook his head to keep his mind from thinking too much about his nonexistent love and social life, and better focused on the second group of words.

“SEVEN OH EIGHT THIRD AVE NEW YORK.”

Alec didn’t take long to realize that it was an address somewhere in Midtown East, so he quickly typed it in the Bureau’s database, but found nothing of significance to the case. Not that he were really surprised by that, after all this was Magnus Bane he was talking about. The man always knew what he was doing.

The address was of an abandoned building owned by some 35 year-old Swedish entrepreneur named Hans Axel Von Fersen who apparently had disappeared a couple of years ago. He had last been seen in Vienna, and was expected to return to his home in Paris, but he had disappeared and no one had ever heard from him again. It was strange, yeah, but there was nothing there that could tell Alec that his disappearance had had anything to do with Magnus.

Alec frowned. Why had Magnus given him this address? Why had he left him this message? The part about the date was definitely just a joke that the criminal had come up with to once again make fun of Alec, but the second part? The second part could mean something. It was an address after all. Alec knew it was a long shot and had all the potential to be nothing but a trap, but what if it was not? What if this address actually helped him find and finally capture Magnus? He couldn’t miss the chance to find out.

Normally, when he found himself in these kind of situations, he called his partner to ask him to go with him, but since his also adoptive brother, Jace, was very busy at that concert being the good boyfriend of the little girl, Alec had no choice but to go alone. Not that it bothered him. He was sure this was nothing but a prank from Magnus, so there was no need to make a fuss just yet. He could go find out what all this nonsense was about and then share his findings with his brother.

Decided, Alec grabbed his gun, his phone, his jacket and left the office.

The place wasn’t that far from the FBI headquarters, so Alec arrived at the address in less than twenty minutes. It was late and although there were still people around, he couldn't help feeling a little anxious. The place looked really abandoned, and the anticipation of what he might find inside was making his heart beat faster and his hands sweat like crazy. For years he had been waiting for an opportunity like this one and now that he had it before him, it didn’t seem real—behind that graffitied door he could find the man he had been trying to catch for years, behind that door he could find the answers to his endless questions.

Alec took a deep breath and got out of the car. He walked to the door and glanced down at the lock. There was an old, rusty padlock holding a chain around the handle of the door, preventing any access to the place—inside or out.

Alec sighed. He knew that it was a long shot to think that Magnus Bane was going to be there waiting for him, after all, the criminal had started to send this coded message two years ago, but he couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. He wanted to catch him and put him behind bars, but apparently that wasn’t going to be the case tonight, so for now, he would have to settle for just finding out what this place was and why Bane had led him to it.

Alec looked around cautiously and did the only thing he could do in such situations—he shot the padlock to force his way in. Technically, to enter any private property he needed a warrant, but given that he hadn’t had time to request one, he had to improvise a bit. The message on the postcards had given him probable cause and therefore the authority to break into the building and proceed to conduct a thorough search for evidence of a probable crime. According to the Fourth Amendment, probable cause existed when there was a fair probability that a search will result in evidence of a crime being discovered. So if he managed to find something to incriminate Magnus, he could easily get the required approval with a simple in-court testimony after the search.

Confident that he was doing the right thing, Alec opened the door with a kick and stepped inside, pointing his gun into the darkness. The place seemed to be empty at first glance, there was nothing there but heaps of garbage littering the floor. There was no furniture, and definitely no sign that anyone had used the building in years. Alec tried to turn on the lights but there was no power. He took out his phone and used it to light the way. He walked holding his gun firmly, and started to search every corner. The building had four floors, so he made sure to check each and every room just in case.

When he reached the top floor, he was surprised to discover that unlike the other ones, this floor wasn’t covered in trash, on the contrary, it was almost clean, a bit dusty, but in better condition than the others.

Alec looked around. In the other end of the room there was a large mahogany desk. He frowned and walked up to it.

There, above it and in a sea of silver glitter, he found what appeared to be a disposable phone—a burner—and a note. The note, like the postcards, was addressed to Agent Pretty Boy. Alec rolled his eyes already anticipating what he would find there and read the note.

“If your answer to my question is yes, then use the phone and speed dial 1. M.B.”

Alec looked at the phone and then at the note. He wasn’t there for a date. He had come here to catch Magnus, not because he was interested in participating in whatever game this criminal thought they were playing. He had one goal and one goal only, to put him behind bars.

“Don’t even think about it.” Alec said, putting the phone back where he found it and walking out of the room.

He wasn’t going to play Magnus’s game, he knew better than that. Tomorrow, even when it was Saturday, he would bring his team in the morning and see if there was something there that could help them with the case. But just as he was about to close the door and walk down the stairs, he found himself stopping dead in his tracks.

A part of him knew that this was one of those rare opportunities that only happened once. He had the chance to face Magnus again after all these years and he couldn’t waste it. It was risky, and probably the stupidest thing he had done in years since he was on his own, but he had to at least try it. If he did things right, maybe, just maybe, he could catch the criminal distracted and finally put an end to all this.

“God, I’m so going to regret this…” He whispered to himself as he walked back to the room and grabbed the phone.

Alec took one last deep breath and without thinking it too much for fear of losing his courage, he dialed 1.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus was pacing around his loft. The encounter with his impostor earlier that night had left him a bit uneasy. Not only had he been unable to identify him, but he hadn't even found out why this man was trying to sabotage him, and that had been his mission from the beginning.

He had made a quick sketch of the man's face so that Raphael and Ragnor could ask around and see if anyone in their world recognize him, but Magnus knew it was highly unlikely. This man wasn't working alone and he knew that whoever was behind him, was certainly protecting him. Magnus had a long list of powerful enemies, but none with the ability to pull the stunt this young man seemed to be pulling.

“Who are you working with?” Magnus wondered out loud, sitting on the couch with a loud thud and scaring the Chairman who seemed to be sleeping peacefully there.

“I'm sorry I woke you, Chairman, go back to sleep.” He told the cat, but the small ball of fur and claws just sent him a murderous look and wandered off to some other place in the loft to resume his nap.

Magnus laughed, but not even the laughter provided by his four-legged son could help him to stop thinking about his current situation. There was another criminal—an evil and very dangerous criminal with no fear of killing—using his name and getting away with it. Yes, to some extent, having someone adding for free a couple of heists to his list of achievements wasn’t so bad; it could certainly help him improve his ranking among criminals, but at what cost? This man was ruining his blood-free reputation. Innocent people were dying because of this and that wasn't right, it wasn't fair.

He couldn’t deny that the Hope Diamond heist had been a major feat, something that anyone should feel proud of, but even now Magnus was still trying to understand how his impostor had done it; they had never seen him entering the store. Magnus and his friends had been watching the door all day without even blinking, they had identified almost everyone, they had-

"He was already inside." Magnus concluded softly.

Of course! That made more sense. He and his friends had only failed to identify the last three guards who had entered the boutique to take the night shift, so either his impostor had been one of those guards, or he had been hiding somewhere inside the store just waiting for the right moment to strike.

“Clever.” He murmured. “Very clever.”

If his theory was correct and his impostor had been inside all along, then, figuring out the rest of what had happened wasn’t rocket science. His impostor must have killed the remaining guards, deactivated the alarms and entered the vault with his eyes closed.

Magnus was distracted thinking about how cynical this heist had been when somewhere in his studio one of his many disposable phones started to ring. It was late, so Magnus wondered who could it be. Being a criminal was a dangerous profession and therefore it was a requirement to have multiple forms of communication 24 hours a day. Different email accounts, PO boxes all over the world, and several untraceable phone numbers, were the minimum necessary. Magnus never gave the same number twice and for this reason, he had to keep a very detailed list of the contacts he had and the numbers he had given them. It was annoying because he had to always make sure all phones had battery and were running properly, but it was better than going to jail for using a private line. Of course that hadn't stopped him from having a personal phone, but that number only a few selected ones had it.

He walked to his studio and opened a drawer to look for the phone. It didn’t take him long to find it and he couldn't help but smile in surprise when he saw who was calling him. That phone in particular, the one he had marked with a golden star, had been reserved for a single purpose. He had bought it two years ago when he had decided to start a game with the annoying FBI agent who had been breathing down his neck for years.

“Alexander!” He answered with a smile on his face. He couldn’t believe that a day that had been so bad could have this particular ending. He had planned this moment for two long years and never in his wildest dreams had he thought that today, of all days, he would receive this call. “I knew you’d figure it out someday. I’m glad to see you’re starting to think outside the box. Well done, agent. You passed my test.”

“Where are you?” The agent said.

“Eager much? I knew that deep down you weren't indifferent to me. I mean, I’m quite a catch, don't you think?” Magnus joked. He had planned this for far too long not to enjoy it properly.

“Stop saying nonsense, and better tell me, where are you?”

“If you must know, I’m home, Alexander.” Magnus said, walking towards the balcony. For some reason he couldn’t stop smiling. They had barely crossed a few words and this was already the most entertaining thing that had happened to him in a very long time. “I would love to invite you over, but well...we haven't even had our first date, so it’s kind of weird, don’t you agree? Maybe on our fifth date we could change that. I could invite you over and even cook for you.”

“Yeah, right, while I arrest you.”

“You are bringing handcuffs?” Magnus teased. “Uhh, I like that. I like that very, very much. I didn't know you had it in you, Alexander, but I’m always open for a little role-play.”

Alec didn’t reply and Magnus seized the opportunity to keep making him feel uncomfortable. “But I have to warn you about one thing, though. I know I look irresistible and whatnot, like I’m hot, I know, but I’m not a sex-on-the-first-date kind of guy, Alexander, you’ll have to wait a bit to taste all this deliciousness. But know that I’m looking forward to it.”

“You’re completely insane.”

“Like Edgar Allan Poe once wrote, ‘Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.’”

Alec didn’t reply.

“You haven’t read Eleonora? Well, I have to admit that I’m quite surprised by that little detail about you, Alexander, I always thought you were an intellectual, I guess I was wrong. But anyway, when you have some time give it a try. I’m sure that even important agents like yourself enjoy reading sometimes. Now, are you ready for our date?” Magnus asked.

He had meant what he had left in the postcards, not because he were interested in pursuing a relationship with the man who wanted him behind bars, but because he wanted to show that man that no matter where or how close they were, he would never be able to catch him. It was a game of power and control, and Magnus had it rigged so those factors were always in his favor. “You caught me a bit unprepared tonight. It’s none of your business, but today wasn’t a very good day for me, but don’t you worry. For you, I can always improvise.”

When he didn’t hear any sort of response, he continued. He knew the agent well enough already to know he wasn’t going to say anything, he was just going to listen. He knew for a fact that Alexander was a good listener. Since Magnus had met him in that unfortunate incident on the rooftop of the jewelry store two years ago, he had tried to learn as much as possible from him. First, because, well, the man had made quite an impression on him, not only for his handsomeness, which was evident, but because he seemed to be very, very smart, and Magnus liked smart. And second, and most importantly, because he represented a major threat to Magnus and his lifestyle. Alec was a couple of years younger than him and he was already one of the best agents of his jurisdiction. He was dangerous in every sense of the word and Magnus had concluded that the only way to neutralize him was if he learned to know him better, so he did.

“Listen carefully, okay? I’m assuming you’re still on the address I gave you, right? So leave your car there and walk to the 42nd street, and then head toward the Bryan Park. It’s not far so it’ll take you less than 10 minutes to get there. Meet me at the fountain, okay? Oh, and Alexander? Don’t you dare bring any company. This is a date and people don’t bring company to their dates, unless we’re talking about polygamy, which I don’t fancy, so...”

“This is not a date.” Alec said firmly.

“Then goodbye, Alexander.”

“No, wait!” Alec said, and Magnus smiled when he heard the sheer panic in his voice. He knew that the agent wanted this meeting as much as Magnus wanted it, for different reasons, but still. “Fine! It’s a date.”

“Good, then I’ll see you there in a bit. Can’t wait to see you!” He said, ending the call and not giving the agent time to say anything else.

“Well, Magnus.” Magnus exclaimed to himself, quickly texting his friends to let them know what had just happened and asking for some help. “It seems that tonight's your lucky night, it's time to see your favorite FBI agent again.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was very, very nervous. He knew this was a great opportunity that he simply couldn’t waste. The chance to capture Magnus once and for all was there, it was palpable. It wasn’t going to be easy, of course, but it was a real shot that he couldn’t afford to throw away. He wasn’t really prepared for it, though. He would have loved to have with him a couple of those GPS gadgets they had in the office to be able to pinpoint Magnus’s exact location, or at least a recorder to have evidence of their encounter, but since this had been very last minute, his phone would have to be more enough. It was either that or going back all the way to the FBI Headquarters and lose his chance to meet with Magnus.

Alec walked two blocks down to the 42nd Street and headed to the Bryan Park. Alec would never admit this to the criminal, but after Central Park and the Battery Park, the Bryan Park was actually one of his favorite places in all New York. Since he was a little boy, he had always loved going there and just playing around. Then over the years he had discovered that going to the Public Library was his favorite thing in the world, so more often than not, he had found himself lost in as many books as he could get his hands on. Bane hadn't been mistaken about him, Alec was indeed an intellectual, and had probably read more books than he could remember, including all the poems and short stories of that American writer, editor, and literary critic that Bane had mentioned, but of course, he would never admit that to him either.

Alec arrived at the park and looked around. It was late, but it was Friday, so people were still there drinking coffee or just having a good time. Alec walked over to the fountain and sat down to wait for 'his date.' If he was completely honest, he didn’t even know what to expect of tonight. First, he simply couldn’t believe that Magnus Bane was going to meet him there, it was too public, too open. Magnus was smart, he knew that coming to a place like this put him at high risk. And second, the criminal had said he would see him there in a bit, meaning soon, so... how soon was soon? Did he live nearby? Commute time in the city was a headache, and not because the city was too large, there were largest cities in the world, but simply because there were too many people moving around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Did criminals use the subway as the rest of them? Did they prefer taxis? Alec wondered, fidgeting with his hands. He wasn’t very good at waiting. The more time passed, the more he started to feel anxious. Was all this a trap? Was Magnus going to show up? Or, was he going to stand him up?

“Agent Alexander Lightwood?” A man asked.

Alec looked up, it was the man from the coffee stand beside him—not Magnus.

“How do you know my name?” He asked surprised.

“Hmmm...there’s a man who's calling you on the stand’s number. He said that a man would be waiting for him here at the fountain and you seem to fit the description he gave me. He’s waiting on the line. I’m...I’m supposed to take you to him.” The man said tentatively.

Alec frowned but followed the man to the coffee stand. “Do you have caller ID?” Alec couldn’t help asking. If Magnus was using a public phone he could trace it and find out where he was.

“Yes, but the phone isn’t displaying...it’s an unknown number.”

Of course it was, Alec thought and just answered the call. “Bane.”

“Alexander...I’m glad to see you followed my instructions. You see my new friend Michael? Well, he’s agreed to help me with our date.”

“Why did you call here? I have that phone you left for me, remember? There was literally no need to make all this circus. This is ridiculous.”

“Well, bad news Alexander, but that number stopped working the moment we hung up, so yes, this was necessary. Anyway, as I was saying, Michael is going to help us with our date. He’s very nice, you should thank him for me. He was very excited when I shared with him what I had in mind for you tonight. I think he’s a romantic.”

Alec rolled his eyes. He had no time for this nonsense. “Where are you?”

“Already waiting for you, darling.”

“Where?” Alec asked, looking around. Perhaps Magnus had been there all along, Alec just hadn’t seen him. “I can’t see you.”

“I’m not there to be seen, Alexander. Did you really think this was going to be that easy? That park is a very public place, I’m not stupid, darling. You’re disappointing me, I thought you knew me better by now.” Magnus said, and Alec rolled his eyes in exasperation. Of course he had thought about that before, believe it or not, he knew the criminal almost as much as he knew himself. “But anyway, there’s already a car waiting for you there, so just let my friend Michael put you the blindfold and take you to the car.”

“Are you trying to kidnap a federal agent?”

“No, I’m just trying to take him out on a date, but given that our lines of work are completely opposed, I figured that we would have to be a little bit more creative. Play along, okay? I won’t do you any harm. I promise.”

“I’m not afraid of you.” Alec blurted out, because well, he wasn’t. He wasn’t afraid that Magnus could do anything to him, in fact, it should be the other way around. Magnus should be afraid of Alec. After all, when Alec finally captured him, he wouldn’t have mercy on him.

“That’s good to know, now...please?”

Alec hesitated, but he didn’t have much of an option, did he? He was already there. He could play along as Magnus had asked him to, and maybe, if he played his cards right, he could finally know where Magnus’s secret lair was.

“Fine.”

“Then I'll see you soon, Alexander. I can’t wait to see you again! Oh and, darling? Turn off your phone, okay? I don't want us to start with the wrong foot.”

“And what if I don't want to?”

“Well, in that case I’d have to cancel our date.”

Alec hesitated, his phone was his only chance to find Magnus again. He couldn't turn it off. “Okay, fine.” He lied, he could always say he had turned it off and do exactly the opposite.

“Good...and Alexander? Don't even think about trying to trick me, okay? I'll know if you haven't turned it off.”

“How?”

“I have eyes everywhere, darling.” Magnus said, hanging up the phone.

Alec rolled his eyes and very reluctantly turned off his phone—he couldn't risk it.

The guy from the coffee stand immediately put him the blindfold and carefully guided him through the park to some car parked on the sidewalk. All the way there, the man went on and on, talking animatedly about how he thought this city was perfect for romance. He shared with Alec how he got to see almost every day people doing crazy things for love and how excited he was to be able to help them with their romantic date. Alec just smiled at him and tried not to talk. He didn't want to be the one to tell this poor man that this wasn't exactly the definition of a romantic date.

“I’ll take him from here.” A different voice said. “Agent, if you please? I’m going to help you get to the car.”

“Who are you?” Alec asked, intrigued. He didn't recognize the voice.

“No one of importance, just your driver.” The man said, helping him to get in the car.

Alec immediately tried to uncover his eyes, but the man stopped him.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” He said before closing the door. “I have instructions to drop you at the FBI Headquarters if you try to uncover your eyes before you’re specifically told to.”

Alec rolled his eyes internally, but left the blindfold in his eyes. He had already made up his mind. This wasn’t going as he had planned it at all, but he wasn't going to back out. He was going to get to the end of this no matter what.

The driver started the engine and they drove for around twenty minutes. At first Alec tried to memorize the turns they were taking to try to figure out where they were heading, but he stopped after the first ten minutes. He knew New York City like the back of his hand, but he suspected that the driver had taken unnecessary turns just to deceive him.

“We’re here.” The driver announced after some time. “Please don’t move, agent, I’ll help you out.”

Alec wanted to complain and tell whoever this person was that he could do it alone, but ultimately decided not to say anything, and just wait for the man to open the door for him and help him out.

“Now, agent, if you don’t mind? I have to ask you to empty your pockets.”

“Why?”

“Let’s say it’s some kind of security protocol.”

“And what if I don’t want to?”

“Then I’ll take you back to the FBI Headquarters.”

Alec sighed and emptied his pockets. By now he knew that capturing Magnus tonight was going to be almost impossible, besides, it wasn't like he had a lot of things there anyway, just his phone, his wallet and badge, some mints, a pair of handcuffs, his car keys, and the receipt of the salad he had had for lunch—nothing important.

“Your gun too, please.” The driver requested.

Alec hesitated. He felt naked without it. His gun was part of him, it was his only safety, without it he felt helpless, but considering that the criminal with whom he was about to meet wasn't known for his penchant for guns, he took a deep breath and handed it over.

“I need your watch too.” The driver said.

“Why?”

“We know you feds have all sorts of gadgets for tracking and recording, and you know what they say, better safe than sorry. But don’t worry, agent, everything will be returned to you when the night comes to an end.”

“Fine.” Alec sighed, getting rid of his watch too.

“Good, now I’ll just check that you’re not bugged and I’ll take you where your date is waiting.” The man said, passing some device around Alec’s body, looking for covert listening devices.

Alec couldn’t help but admire Magnus’s intelligence. He was making sure that this game was played on his own terms and also ensuring that when they met Alec was completely powerless to do anything against him.

“All clear, let’s go.”

Alec was lead by the man through what he assumed was some sort of open space, probably in one of the many docks of the city. He couldn’t see where he was, but he could feel the wind hitting him hard in the face. He assumed he was somewhere in the outskirts of Manhattan where the tall buildings of the city couldn’t block the wind currents.

They walked for a few more minutes until Alec heard a door being opened. He was about to ask if they were there yet, when he was escorted inside a very warm place. It smelled of chlorine and sanitizer, like hospitals usually smelled, but it was in complete silence and he could hear the echo of his own footsteps, so he ruled out the possibility of being in one right away.

“When the elevator stops.” The man instructed him. “Take off your blindfold and you'll find the one you've been looking for. Just a warning, though, don't try anything stupid, okay? This elevator only goes to that floor.”

Alec frowned, but nodded. What could he try anyway? He was completely powerless. They had made sure of that well enough.

The door of the elevator closed and Alec took a deep breath. The moment of truth had finally arrived, and he felt his hands shaking with anticipation. He didn’t know what to expect from this meeting. The last time he had seen this man, he had almost caught him, and since then they had been playing this cat and mouse game, where sometimes Alec didn’t even know who was the cat and who was the mouse.

The elevator slowed down and Alec took off his blindfold. The doors opened and he was finally able to absorb his surroundings. Ironically, he was on the rooftop of some building like the first time they had met. He still couldn’t see where he was exactly in the city, but he knew he’d figure it out soon enough. So he stepped off the elevator and looked around.

The entire roof looked like a scene plucked from a Hollywood movie. It was decorated with colorful Christmas lights, and garlands with flowers hanging from random places; there was music enlivening the atmosphere and a single table in the middle of the setting with candles and all sorts of food. For something very last minute, Alec couldn't deny that it was really nice.

“Welcome Alexander!” A familiar voice said, stepping out from the shadows.

Alec looked at him and his heart raced. There, after two long years, and dressed in a very stylish, but quite fitting blue suit, was Magnus Bane in the flesh.

Chapter Text

“Are you going to stand there all night?” Magnus asked with a smile when he saw the FBI agent standing like an ice sculpture in front of the elevator door. Alec was staring at him intently, surely not quite believing that they really were standing mere feet away from each other after all these years. “Please come join me, do you want something to drink? How about a glass of white wine? I even got your favorite…a moscato.”

“How?” Alec asked frowning.

“How what? How do I know you prefer white wine instead of red? Or, how do I know that moscato is your favorite?” Magnus arched an eyebrow in amusement. “The same way you know everything about me, Alexander, I did my research on you. Confession time? I know more about you than you can imagine. Also, you look like the kind of guy who enjoys the sweet taste of a good white wine. It’s nothing strange, you know what my favorite wine is, don’t you?”

“Red wine, cabernet sauvignon. You have expensive taste, so probably a bottle of Le Grand Vin from Château Latour.”

“Correct...see?” Magnus smiled, pouring Alec a glass of wine. “Knowing details about each other is part of our jobs. I’m a threat to you, you’re a threat to me...we both are clever guys. Like Sun Tzu said in The Art of War: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If-”

“‘If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’” Alec completed the sentence.

“Very good, Alexander. I knew you didn’t just look smart, you are smart. See? Nothing weird here. Now, please take this…” Magnus said, handing the agent his glass of wine. “I know you’re used to, let’s say, cheaper bottles, but I hope you still enjoy this 2011 Bouchard Pere et Fils Chevalier Montrachet la Cabotte Grand Cru, I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.”

Alec didn't reply, but accepted the glass. For Magnus, that was considered a great progress given that the agent had moved exactly two steps since he had first arrived.

“Someone gave it to me as a birthday present,” Magnus continued, “clearly they didn’t know me as well as you do, but I decided to keep it anyway. I’ve heard that the 2011 white wine from Le Cabotte is a very intensely flavored wine with impressive notes of fruit and fennel leave. I guess we’ll see. Here, let’s make a toast...to us.”

Alec frowned and made no attempt to clink his glass against Magnus's, so Magnus did it for him, making them collide softly in the air and taking a quick sip of the wine. It was really good, it truly had a unique wave of flavors.

“It’s not poisoned, you know?” He added, when he saw Alec eyeing the golden liquid suspiciously. “It’s actually a very expensive bottle, so you better not waste it.”

Alec frowned again, but took a sip of the wine. He was still hesitant, fearful, but Magnus saw his face changing completely the moment the sweet notes of the wine touched his lips.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” Magnus said, trying to start a conversation. He wanted to break the ice, but Alec wasn’t helping much. “The seductive dense flavor of the wine is probably a result of the handpicked grapes. Did you know that they tend to let this kind of wines have a very slow fermentation in barrels that allow the wine to age gracefully and produce a rich and strong taste?”

Alec just looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“What?” Magnus questioned. “I know lot about wine.”

“Another one of your passions?” Alec finally said.

“Guilty as charged.” Magnus said with a smile.

“So, art, money and wine.” Alec concluded.

“Don’t forget pretty people...I’m passionate about pretty people too.”

“Of course.” Alec said, and Magnus saw the ghost of a smile appearing on his lips.

“But come, our dinner's getting cold.”

Magnus walked to the table and pulled a chair for the agent to sit down, but the man was still awkwardly standing a few feet away from him. “I don’t bite, darling, you can come closer.”

Alec rolled his eyes, but finally walked to the table and sat down. He was looking at everything with suspicion, there was a funny frown plastered on his face, and Magnus couldn’t help smiling. It was clear that the agent was lost in thought, probably trying to put all the pieces together, trying to find the crack in Magnus’s plan. Magnus wished he could read minds just to be able to know what the man was really thinking, he looked very, very distracted.

“I hope you like Italian.” Magnus said in an attempt to regain his attention.

“What?”

“I said, I hope you like Italian. I didn’t have much time to properly prepare this date, but I hope the food selection is good. You liked the wine, so I only hope you like the food too.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You can’t leave me eating alone, darling, that would be very rude. Besides, knowing you and considering that you found the message today, I bet you haven’t eaten anything all day.”

“I had a salad for lunch.”

“A salad is not enough food, Alexander, so please eat.” Magnus said, removing the cloches covering both their plates and revealing the Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata he had ordered for them. Sometimes it was good to have so many friends who owned restaurants in the city. “Bon Appetit, Alexander.” Magnus said, digging into his own food and waiting until the agent did the same to continue the conversation. “Now, tell me, how did you find out the message on the postcards? It took you a few weeks.”

“My brother.” Alec said, between mouthfuls.

“The little one or your partner?” Magnus asked, and Alec’s eyes widened with surprise. “Yeah, I know about your family too.”

“Hmmm, Jace, my partner.”

“He solved it?”

“No, he made me see that your postcards were pieces of a puzzle.”

“It's always the small pieces that make the big picture.”

“Did you really wait two years for this?”

Magnus smiled and nodded. “I know it’s surprising, but there are things worth waiting for. Though, you could have solved it much earlier, you know? Around the ninth or tenth postcard. The first part wouldn't have made much sense, but the address was almost complete, so...”

“Had the note been there for two years?”

“Yes, I put it there after leaving the first postcard.”

“So, is the building yours?”

“Alexander…” Magnus smiled knowingly. “Don’t tell me you didn’t run the address through some of your databases? That’s not how the FBI proceeds under such circumstances, agent. Didn’t your teachers at Quantico teach you that the first thing you do with an address is to check it and find out as much as you can about it?”

“Of course they did.”

“Then, why didn’t you do it? Aren’t you like the top agent there is?” Magnus asked, smiling playfully at him.

Magnus didn’t need an answer to know that the agent had lied and already knew everything there was to know about that place and its owner. It was plain obvious that he had done his homework, he was just trying to see what he could get. They were playing by Magnus’s rules, so this silly attempt of lying was the agent’s way to try to break them. From the moment he had arrived, Magnus had noticed that Alec had been trying to find a way to incapacitate him in any sort of way, but it was going to be practically impossible—Magnus was always one step ahead.

“I didn’t have time.” Alec said.

“Yeah, of course, a busy man like yourself very rarely has any time. You know what? You’re a terrible, terrible liar, Alexander.” Magnus said, still smiling. A federal agent trying to trick a trickster was to some extent almost endearing. “In fact, I can say with all certainty that you're the worst liar I’ve ever met.”

“Okay, fine. I lied, I did run the address.” Alec admitted with a soft smile. “Who’s Axel Von Whatever? Your friend? An alias?”

Magnus laughed, this man was truly something else. “It’s Von Fersen, dear, and no, it’s not an alias, he’s hmmmm...an old friend.”

“What happened to him?” Alec asked curiously.

“Didn't you read it yourself? He disappeared.” Magnus said simply. He really didn't want to talk about any of that.

“Did you have anything to do with his disappearance?”

“No.” Magnus hesitated, partially lying. What had happened with and to Axel was something he didn’t like to talk about much. “But enough about that, let’s eat before our food gets cold.”

Alec frowned, but thankfully stopped with the police interrogation. “Where did you buy this?” He asked instead.

“I cooked it.” Magnus lied.

“Yeah, right. You aren’t a very good liar either.”

Magnus laughed. “Okay, fine. I didn’t cook it, but I’m not going to tell you where I bought it, Alexander, that’s too easy. I know why you want to know, but I’m not going to help you find me. If you want to know where I got this and if I was the one who went to the restaurant to order it personally, then you’ll have to go to every Italian restaurant in the city and see if they serve Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata as good as this one.”

“There are over five hundred Italian restaurants in the city.”

“Then, good luck in your quest.”

Alec sighed and just continued eating. Magnus smiled and allowed himself a few seconds of indulgence just to look at him. Alec was completely different from the man Magnus had created in his mind all these years. Yeah, he knew a lot about him and tonight he was confirming all those things, but now that they were face to face and having some sort of real conversation, he realized he really didn’t know him. Magnus knew Alec was handsome, smart, noble, but up until know he hadn’t seen how intriguing this man could also be. Magnus was completely mesmerized by him. Alec was one of those people you had to discover layer by layer, slowly, gradually, digging into the depths of his core to reveal the great mystery that lay behind the charming and charismatic man presented before you. And for some reason beyond him, Magnus wanted to do just that. He wanted to meet that man. He wanted to know him, if only for one night. That hadn’t been the original plan, but sometimes things just...changed.

“So tell me, Alexander...what do you like to do when you’re not out there chasing me?”

“Don’t you already know?”

“No,” Magnus admitted, “I know your routine, stuff about your family, your job, but I want to know the real you, not the agent. What do you do for fun? As far as I know, you aren’t a very social man, so I’m curious, what are your hobbies? Do you, I don’t know, play an instrument? Do you collect something? It’s clear that you’re in...hmmm, very good shape, so, are you a gym’s guy? Or, do you practice any sport?”

“I don’t.” Alec said, all flushed. “I mean, I don’t practice any sport, I just go to the gym every now and then. And I don’t collect anything or play any instrument, I’m talent-less.”

“I sincerely doubt that, darling. A man like you surely has one or two talents hidden up his sleeve. You’re by far the smartest guy I’ve ever met, you’re the only one who’s been close enough to actually catch me, and that’s saying something.”

Alec chuckled. “And am I supposed to feel flattered by that?”

“Very.” Magnus joked. “It’s like the biggest compliment there is, Alexander. We wouldn’t be having this lovely dinner tonight if I hadn’t considered you a worthy adversary. When I first heard there was a new agent going after me, I was intrigued. I knew I’d been under the FBI’s radar for years, but nobody had ever been able to connect my cases to my name—you were the first. You burned down all my aliases and discovered my real name. That was surprising. The day I saw my name on the front page of the New York Times, I knew that you weren’t just a rookie, you knew what you were doing, so yes, if it makes you feel any good, the fact that you’ve been close enough to catch me is a high compliment.”

“It wasn’t easy.” Alec said. “Discovering your name, I mean.”

“Can I ask how you did it?” Magnus questioned. Very slowly, Alec was opening himself up to him, and even though Magnus knew he shouldn’t be doing this, he couldn’t help but feel drawn to the agent by some force he couldn't explain. The man was like a giant magnet, drawing Magnus closer, pulling him into his orbit. “I’ve always been curious to know what gave me away.”

Alec meditated for a few seconds, taking his time to chew and take some more wine. “I found a storage unit with stuff.” He confessed.

“At the Hester's Storages?” Magnus asked, and Alec nodded.

Of course! That made more sense. A few years ago, three to be precise, Magnus and Ragnor had acquired a small storage unit under a false name to secure some of their personal belongings when things started to get a little rough. Later, when they moved them away, Magnus left a few things there that he wasn’t interested in seeing ever again. He had made sure not to leave any traces that could connect the content to him, but well, apparently, he hadn’t been that careful.

"People had already ransacked it, so I did not find much."

“But you found enough to get my name out of it...what was it?”

Alec remained silent. He was staring at Magnus, his face was motionless.

“You aren’t going to tell me, are you?”

Alec shook his head.

“Alright, no problem. I understand...a magician never reveals the trick, but at least tell me it wasn’t easy. I’m trying to remember what I left there, but I cannot figure out what could have given me away. Before you told the world who I really was, I had never used my real name for anything related to my work.”

“It wasn’t easy, nobody believed me when I told them that place was yours. My boss said it was just a dumpster, but I found...well, I found something and connected it to one of your cases and the rest is history, I tracked you down with the leads of that investigation and figured out your real name.”

“What was my nickname?”

“What?”

“Alexander, it’s not a secret. I know every case gets a nickname before you can identify them, what was mine?”

Alec took a deep breath before replying. “Tinkerbell.”

“What!?” Magnus exclaimed not knowing if he was surprised, amused, offended or all of the above. “Are you serious?”

Alec nodded. “The glitter was our only reference to you, what did you want us to think? You were as much as a myth as fairies are, so...”

“Well, good point. But I still can’t believe you gave me that nickname! It’s so...lame. Someone as magnificent as myself should have had a more impressive nickname.”

“Like which one?”

“I don’t know, that’s your job.” Magnus shrugged. “Tinkerbell...I’m starting to think you aren't as clever as I thought you were.”

“It wasn't that bad.”

“If you say so…”

They fell into a deep silence until Alec started to laugh out loud, surprising Magnus with how beautiful his smile really was.

“What’s so funny?”

“This.” Alec said, pointing between them. “I, a federal agent, am really having dinner with one of the most wanted criminals of all time.” He said, not leaving the irony out of his voice.

“Yeah, and you think that's funny?”

“Of course.”

“Why?”

“Because...despite our shared history together, well, I’m...I’m actually enjoying myself.”

Magnus refrained himself from responding that he, too, was having a great time and just raised his glass. “I propose a toast to that, then.”

Alec grabbed his glass, and they clinked them in the air. Magnus took a sip of his wine and as the sweet liquid traveled all the way down his throat and into his stomach, he couldn’t stop his mind from thinking that if Alec weren’t the man trying to imprison him, he would certainly have a great, great interest in him.

Oh, crap.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec hadn’t lied earlier when he had admitted out loud that, despite their shared history together, he was actually enjoying himself. This meeting, date or whatever they were having, had been like nothing he had originally expected. Magnus Bane had managed to, in less than two hours, show him that he was more than the criminal Alec had known for years. He was an intriguing, mysterious man, with a great charisma and quite impressive conversation skills.

From the moment Alec had stepped off the elevator, he had been caught in Magnus’s spell. He had tried to stop himself from letting his walls down, but Magnus had found a way in and now they were actually having a great conversation, talking about their lives, their jobs, their love for the city. Something that Alec hadn't done in a very long time.

“Speaking of New York…” Alec said, looking around the rooftop. “I know this city like the back of my hand, you know I’m going to find this place, don’t you?”

“I’m sure you will.” Magnus said calmly.

“But you won’t be here when that happens.” Alec concluded.

“That’s correct.”

Alec sighed. He already knew that. Magnus had always been very careful with what he did, and this impromptu dinner was just another proof of that. It hadn’t escaped Alec’s eyes that everything around him was strategically arranged so that at any moment Magnus could make a run for it. The table, the chairs, the other decoration, everything was disposed to help Magnus at some point during the night. Magnus always had contingency plans, and Alec was sure he had a way to escape if he dared to try something against him.

Not that he could, though. Alec had nothing with him to even consider trying to do something, his only ‘weapon’ so far was the silver plastic knife he had used to eat, and it wasn’t even strong enough to act as a weapon, Alec was certain it could break very easily.

“What are you thinking about?” Magnus asked.

“What?”

“Your mind went somewhere else for a second, is everything alright?”

“Yeah, I was just thinking.”

“About what?”

“How smart you are.”

“My goodness, Alexander, you’re making me blush.” Magnus said, smiling coyly.

“I didn’t mean it like that.” Alec immediately said. He hadn’t considered that his words could be taken out of context. “I mean, you’re a very smart criminal. I noticed that everything in here is arranged so that you can escape if you want to.”

“You noticed?”

“Yeah...for example, that garland over there is hiding something, and since it’s ‘tied’ to a wire, I assume it's some sort of zip-line? Am I right? I don’t know, I could be wrong.”

Magnus looked at him intently and smiled. “You are not wrong. It is a zip-line. I know I made sure you couldn’t do anything against me tonight, but quoting Sun Tzu’s The Art of War again: ‘He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.’ It’s important to never underestimate your opponents, especially if they are as clever as you are.”

“Are you a big fan of The Art of War by Sun Tzu, or can you just quote books at random in every conversation?” Alec couldn't help asking. He had noticed how schooled Magnus sounded when he spoke.

“I can quote many books. I read a lot, I like to know things, Alexander.”

“I noticed.” Alec said, because that much was evident, and it kind of made sense. After all, Magnus was an art forger, and of all criminal acts, it was one of the most difficult ones. It required absolutely incredible artistic talent, technical skills, attention to detail and a lot of knowledge about artistic movements, painters, and history. Not everyone could do what Magnus did.

“Do you like reading?” Magnus asked.

“What?” Alec said distracted. “Oh, yes, I do. I love reading.”

“What’s your favorite book?”

“I don’t have a favorite book, but I love the classics—Shakespeare.”

“Really?”

Alec nodded. He didn’t know why he had shared that detail about him, but he had done it and now there was no way to take back his words.

“I once read that you either loved Shakespeare or you hated him.” Magnus said. “For someone who has been around for four centuries, he has certainly sparked a lot of debate and controversy, but there’s no doubt that he changed the English language like no other. He is, in my opinion, the most inspiring writer in history. The depth of every play and the complexity behind each poem reveal a profound truth to each reader. His stories portray the ends to which humans are willing to go for love and that’s amazing. The climatic sounds of battle, the clash of swords, and the greedy violence all are a constant in his writing. Ambition, fight for justice, corruption, no theme is left untouched by the Bard. He was actually one of a kind."

Alec nodded because, what else could he say, really? Magnus had already said it all. And much to his surprise, Alec discovered that he could actually listen to this man talk for hours without even bothering to blink. Being around Magnus Bane was really like being under some kind of spell. The man was like a hypnotist when he talked, and that explained why he had managed to get away with so many crimes for years. He was extremely charming, cultured and easy on the eyes, a simple smile and the world was at his feet. It wasn’t really fair. He talked and behaved like a good man, he even seemed innocent sometimes, as if he had never done anything wrong in his life, but was that really true, or was it just an act?

“Did you do it?” Alec asked, changing the subject abruptly.

“What?”

“The bank.” Alec said. All night he had been wanting to ask him that, and after his new revelation about the man, he needed to know. He thought he already knew the answer, but he wanted to be sure. “Was it really you?”

Magnus looked at him for a long minute without even blinking. “Do you think it was me?”

Alec held his gaze and for the first time in almost two hours, he really looked at him. He had been observing him all night, of course, from his flashy clothes and glittery makeup, to the way he moved and acted, but it was until now that he was really having the chance to look beyond all that, to look at just the man behind the glamour and not the criminal.

“No.” Alec said confidently. “You’re not a killer.”

“I’m not.” Magnus smiled satisfied with Alec’s answer. “I don’t know who’s behind the attack on the bank, but it was not me, I can assure you that. This person’s just trying to ruin me.”

“Some enemy?” Alec asked intrigued. He couldn’t share what the FBI thought was happening, but he wanted to know what Magnus knew.

“Perhaps…” Magnus said absentmindedly. “But don’t worry, I’m working on finding out who this person is. It’s just a matter of time before I know it.”

“And...what are you going to do when that happens?”

“I still don’t know.”

Alec felt silent and just looked at Magnus again. They had finished eating a while ago, but they hadn’t moved from their chairs. Magnus had been talking very animatedly since then, but now he seemed lost, distracted, worried. As if the mention of this false accusation against him really troubled him, which Alec supposed it did, after all, now thanks to this person Magnus Bane besides being a known thief and forger was also a murderer.

“Sorry.” Magnus said, shaking his head as if to clear his mind. “I zoomed out a bit.”

“You’re worried about this person, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, and you should be too, after all, he’s making your job a lot harder.”

“I guess...but not really. Believe it or not, I can tell between you two.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Hmmm,” Alec hesitated. “The glitter?”

Magnus frowned, but there was a smile back on his face. “Really?”

“Yes...glitter is part of you.” Alec pointed to Magnus’s hair, makeup and clothes. “I can’t tell you exactly why, but it’s not part of this other criminal.”

Magnus laughed, and inexplicably Alec felt more relaxed. He hadn’t noticed it, but the atmosphere had severely strained in the past few minutes.

“You’re truly something else, Alexander.” Magnus said out of nowhere. “Did you know that?”

“Well, you are truly something else too, but despite that I should be arresting you.”

“You should, but you aren't because you can’t. You’re powerless...I made sure of that.”

Alec smiled. “Yeah, you made sure of that.” He said, recalling that the criminal had taken everything from him, his phone, his badge, his wallet. “But you know that I will someday.”

Magnus burst out laughing. “Are we going over that again, Alexander? I told you when we first met...when I want you to catch me, you will, otherwise you won't. Sorry, darling, but that’s how this works. You’re pretty smart, and I admire that from you, but I’m always one step ahead of you, so don’t even think about it.”

Alec rolled his eyes. This man could be as arrogant as he was charming. “Why did you ask me out?” He asked before he could stop the words from his mouth.

“Because I like you?”

“No, that’s not true, you hate me...I want the truth. Why did you ask me out?”

Magnus sighed. “I don’t hate you...I actually like you. Yes, you are annoying like all feds are, and sometimes I really want to kill you, figuratively of course, for sticking your nose in my business, but despite all that, I actually like you. You’re...hmmm different.”

“Different how?”

“I don’t know, just different.”

Alec frowned. “You were testing me, weren’t you?”

“No.”

“Trying to prove me something?”

Magnus laughed. “I like an inquiring mind. Okay, yes, Alexander, I was trying to prove you something, happy?”

“What?”

“Nothing important, I changed my mind the moment you arrived here.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know...I just did.”

“What were you trying to prove? That you’re smarter than me?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“Nothing important, okay? Don’t try to over-analyze this. I invited you because I like you. As I told you when you arrived, I consider you a worthy adversary, I wanted to meet you, okay? I know we’re on opposite sides of the line, but tonight I'd like to think we’re just two men enjoying a meal together, can you live with that?”

Alec sighed. He couldn’t, but it was clear that Magnus wasn’t going to reveal his true intentions no matter how much he asked. “Fine.” He said, looking away to avoid keep asking questions.

“You aren’t happy with that answer, are you?”

“No.”

“Well, I’m not lying, Alexander, I really like you, and I don’t know about you, but I'm actually quite surprised with how things turned out tonight.”

Alec looked at him. He was surprised too, nothing had been as he thought it would be. The place, the food, the company, everything had been...unexpected. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“If I hadn’t been the one behind your case, would you have left the postcards anyway?”

“No.” Magnus said. “I started to leave the postcards because I promised you I would, remember? When we first met? I think something happened between us on that rooftop that day, don’t you agree? We both acknowledged each other’s abilities and I think that created a bond. The postcards were always just for you.”

“In your last postcard you mentioned my clothing.” Alec said, recalling how paranoid that little detail had made him feel. “Have you been spying on me?”

“Maybe…”

“Why?”

“Well, to drive you insane, of course.”

“It didn’t work.” Alec lied.

“It didn’t?”

“Well, maybe a little…”

Magnus laughed. “You see, Alexander? What we have, this cat and mouse game, is quite entertaining, but every now and then, it’s really good for a change to reverse the roles.”

“I never know what I’m supposed to be when it comes to you. I like to think I’m chasing you, but sometimes it feels like it’s the other way around.”

“Well, that’s because sometimes it is.” Magnus admitted. “But don’t worry, believe it or not, you’re most of the time in control.”

Alec chuckled. He didn't believe that for a second, and the fact that the one saying it was no other than Magnus just reinforced his belief. In this game, Magnus was the cat—he had always been.

“It’s getting late.” Magnus said.

“I couldn’t know, you have my watch...but I guess”

“I don’t have your watch.” Magnus smiled. “My people have it.”

“Isn’t that the same?”

“It is...what do you say if we have one last glass of wine before we call it a night?”

Alec nodded again because he didn't really have a say in the matter. He didn't know Magnus's plans at all. He didn’t even know what would happen after this dinner ended. He had left his car at the abandoned building on Third avenue, and had arrived here in a different car. How was he going to get home? He had no idea.

“Here’s to the pleasure of having spent a wonderful time with you, Alexander.” Magnus said, raising his glass and handing his to Alec. He had just filled them with what was left of the wine. “I know we are but natural enemies, but as your favorite author said in one of his best works, ‘and do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.’"

Alec laughed at the reference to ‘The Taming of the Shrew,' but clinked his glass against Magnus’s, drinking its content in a single gulp.

“You were thirsty.” Magnus pointed out.

“I was.”

The criminal smiled and handed Alec a new blindfold.

“Seriously?” Alec inquired, eyeing the piece of cloth with hesitation.

“It’s part of the mystery, darling. I know you’ll find this place probably tomorrow, but I need to make sure you won’t come back here tonight once you’re fully equipped. I really don’t want to go to jail, I’ve heard it's not the greatest place on earth.”

Alec rolled his eyes and grabbed the cloth. “It is not, but you’ll find out soon enough.”

“Is that a challenge? I already told you, you won’t catch me unless I want you to.”

“No.” Alec said, covering his eyes with the cloth. “It’s a promise.”

“Bring it on, agent.” Magnus laughed.

Alec laughed too, but not for the same reason. He knew that probably his words had sounded empty, but he was dead serious about them. He was going to catch him. When? He wasn't sure yet, but one day he would.

“I like your confidence.” Magnus whispered, standing behind him. “It’s...hot.”

Alec couldn’t see him anymore, but he could feel him, and for some reason he stopped breathing, feeling suddenly very, very nervous. He had played the game surprisingly well all night, but now he felt at a disadvantage. He was completely at the criminal’s mercy. The date had officially ended, so...what was Magnus going to do to him? Was he going to do what Alec thought he wanted to do? And if so, how was Alec supposed to react? Should he allow it? Should he push him away? His mind kept asking questions, Alec didn't know how to answer.

“Alexander, relax…” Magnus said, placing both hands on Alec’s shoulders. “Everything is fine, I’m just going to walk you back to the elevator, okay?”

Alec just nodded. He didn’t trust his voice at the moment. What was wrong with him?

Magnus guided him until they reached the elevator and helped him in. Alec could smell the strong notes of the criminal’s cologne rapidly filling the air of the small cabin. Alec didn't know what it was, but it smelled very much like sandalwood.

“I will find a new way to send you a message again,” the criminal whispered into his ear, sending shivers all over Alec’s body, “that is, if you are interested in a second date. Have a good night, Alexander.” He said, placing a soft kiss on Alec’s right cheek.

The doors of the elevator closed, and despite how cliche and unrealistic that might sound, Alec released the breath he didn’t know he had been holding until now.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus watched the door of the elevator shut, and put his hands on his face to try to hide the smile that refused to leave his lips. When he had first planned this date, he had never thought he would have such a great time. He had imagined it would be a night full of bickering and stupid remarks, but it had turned out to be quite the opposite. Alec had let him see a side of him that Magnus didn’t know existed, and with that, the agent had completely bewitched him.

The date had gone better than he had ever imagined. In fact, it had been the best date he'd had in years, and for some reason, the fact that it had been with his natural enemy, the man who not long ago had promised to put him behind bars, didn’t manage to ruin his good mood. On the contrary, it was precisely the fact that his date had been with no other than Alexander Lightwood, FBI agent extraordinaire, that had him in such good spirits. The man had managed to rock his world completely in only two hours and that was a new record.

“You’re smiling, so I take it was a good date?” A voice said, coming out of the elevator. It was Ragnor. Magnus had asked for his help the minute he had hung up with Alec a few hours ago, and as per usual, his friend hadn’t even hesitated to help him get everything ready, even when he wasn’t so thrilled with the idea.

“It was.” Magnus admitted.

“I still can’t believe he has actually come.” Ragnor said, quickly helping Magnus to clean the place, putting everything in boxes. “I was hoping he decided to stand you up in the end.”

“Why?”

“You know why, but anyway...how was it? What did he tell you? Did you manage to get something out of him? Or did you just waste the precious opportunity?”

“I didn’t waste it, but I didn’t get much either. He asked me about the bank, though.”

“Really? Does he think you did it?”

“No, he doesn’t.” Magnus smiled, remembering how sure Alec had sounded when he had admitted that.

“And?”

“Well, I told him it hadn’t been me.”

“You didn’t tell him what happened today, did you?”

“No, of course not, my friend. I’m not an idiot. I just told him I was going to take care of it.” Magnus said. “Speaking of which? Have you heard from Raphael?”

“He texted me...apparently, your sketch did raise some red flags in the underworld.”

“Really?”

“Yes, he went to see some of his friends, don’t ask me about them because even I don’t know who they are, but apparently they are going to tell him what they know about your impostor.”

“That’s good.” Magnus said, exhaling in relief. This issue with his impostor had been causing him a terrible headache and although the date with Alec had helped him forget about it for a few hours, he was still worried.

They started to work in silence, cleaning the place and packing everything until Ragnor broke the silence. “So, aren’t you going to share what else happened in these few hours you spent with the fed?”

“There’s not much to share, we just talked.”

“About what?”

“Life, work...stuff like that.”

Ragnor stopped what he was doing and looked intently at him. Magnus couldn’t see him since he had his back to his friend, but he could feel his piercing eyes leaving marks on his back..

“I know what you’re going to say, Ragnor.” Magnus said. “So please, save us both the trouble.”

In that moment the doors of the elevator opened again and Elias walked in.

Elias was one of Magnus’s trusted men. He had started to work for him a long time ago, and although Magnus didn’t trust him as he trusted Ragnor or Raphael, he considered him a useful asset. That was why tonight he had asked him to be Alec’s driver.

“If you’re here, I assume he’s safely back home?” Magnus asked.

Elias nodded. “I left him near his place, as you ordered.”

“Did you give him his stuff back?”

“Yes, after dropping him here, I went back to the other building and took his car back to his house; I left all his belongings in there. Well, everything except this.” Elias said, pulling the disposable phone Magnus had left in the building for Alec from his pocket. “I thought you might want it back.”

“It’s useless, I burned it after hanging up with him, so it’s okay.” Magnus said, grabbing the phone and throwing it into the garbage bag they had there. “But good job, Elias, did you make sure he arrived in one piece to his building?”

“I did, boss. I followed him until he closed the door of his apartment, there’s nothing to report. He arrived, took his things from his car and entered the building immediately. I stayed there a few minutes just in case, but there was no movement.”

“Good, good.” Magnus said, closing one of the boxes and putting it on the elevator along with the rest. “Can you take all this stuff back to my place, please?”

“Sure, anything else?” Elias asked.

“No, we’ll take care of the rest. I’ll see you at my home in a while to give you your money.”

Elias nodded and disappeared as quickly as he had first appeared.

“Did you really ask Elias to take the fed back to his home? I thought he was taking him back to the park or the building.” Ragnor said.

“I couldn’t leave him alone at night in that place, this city can be dangerous sometimes.”

“He’s a fed, Magnus, not some fairy-tale princess you have to protect.”

“Believe me, I’m well aware of that, but he wasn’t armed, and he had been drinking; it was the responsible thing to do.”

Ragnor rolled his eyes, but laughed. “And to think people say that chivalry is dead.”

Magnus laughed too, and just gathered the rest of the stuff. Now the rooftop looked like nothing but what had been in the first place—an empty canvas.

“Are you going to tell me what else happened? Did you...kiss?”

“No.” Magnus said, shaking his head. “Although this was a date, it wasn’t really a common date, my friend. We both were here for very different reasons, but I have to confess that at the end I did want to kiss him, but I resisted the temptation. I know it’s a bad idea.”

“Of course it’s a bad idea, kissing or fucking feds is always a bad idea.”

“Language, Ragnor, language.” Magnus smiled. “And I know, okay? So don’t worry.  Now, did you bring what I asked you?”

Ragnor nodded, pulling out a single red rose from his bag. “Here.”

Magnus smiled, grabbed the flower, tied a note around it, and placed it on the floor, right where the table had been a few minutes ago.

“That’s it?” Ragnor questioned.

“Not yet.” Magnus said, grabbing a pair of his gloves, the ones he used to commit crimes, and putting them on to leave his distinctive signature. His gloves weren't just simple gloves, they were special. They were black with glitter nets sewn into them. He had designed them by accident in an attempt to make his criminal outfit more fashionable, and now he had a pair for each color of glitter he found. They were very flashy, but he loved them.

"Red?" Ragnor questioned.

"What? It matches with the flower." Magnus said, rubbing his hands rapidly above the flower and making red glitter rain on top of it.

“You’re ridiculous, did you know that?”

“I know.” Magnus smiled, winking at his friend. “I've never claimed not to be."

Chapter Text

Alec opened his eyes and a series of images of the events of the night before started to flash before his eyes like scenes from a movie. The message on the postcards, the note on the abandoned building, the rooftop, the food, the wine...the company. Everything was so vivid, so fresh in his mind that he could swear he could still smell those hints of sandalwood from the criminal’s cologne and taste the notes of fruit and fennel leaves from the wine.

And there, in the privacy of his apartment and fully aware that no one could see him, Alec allowed himself to smile—to truly smile. He was well aware that this date hadn’t been what people out in the world would call a real date. It had been more like an unexpected reunion of two people on opposites sides of a line that had, despite everything going on between them, enjoyed their time together. But well, he had gone out on a Friday night and with a guy, so in Alec’s world that was the closest thing to a real date he could get.

For years Alec had been putting his work first, prioritizing his career and his duty to his country above everything and everyone, and once again, this hadn’t been the exception. The only difference now was that ironically, this time it had been his work and his career the ones that had given him the opportunity to well...have some fun for a change.

What he had experienced the night before had been completely unexpected in every kind of way, and now that his mind wasn’t fuzzy with all the wine, the delicious food and the interesting conversation, he realized that he had screwed up—big time. He hadn’t followed the usual protocol for which he had been trained. He hadn’t asked for backup, he hadn’t set up a perimeter, he hadn’t taken the necessary precautions, nor had he equipped himself with the proper devices used in such situations. He had let his desperation and eagerness to catch the criminal take the best of him and now, thanks to that, he was in big trouble.

He couldn’t share what he had found on the postcards and what had happened after that, because, well, he would be placed under supervision and removed from all his cases indefinitely. He was a respected federal agent with a name that went back several generations, but when it came to things like these the name or prestige didn’t matter. He had agreed, under false pretenses or not, to go on a date with a criminal and that had been all kinds of wrong. If the outcome of the evening had been different, meaning with Magnus behind bars, then he wouldn't have had a problem, but Bane had escaped, and now because of that, Alec could even be accused of complicity and his career would be over.

“I hate you.” Alec whispered, because it was until now that he was realizing that Magnus had known that all along. He had known that by agreeing to meet him under his terms, Alec had unknowingly signed a non-disclosure agreement. He was bound to keep their encounter under wraps or he would lose everything he had been working on for years.

Alec rolled his eyes not quite believing his level of stupidity. He had, voluntarily, given Magnus what he had wanted from the get-go: the satisfaction of knowing that despite all, he was still more powerful and clever than the FBI.

“Well played, Bane, well played.” Alec said, laughing in astonishment and dragging himself out of bed.

He had been conned by none other than Magnus Bane, and despite how annoying and frustrating that was, he was laughing because he couldn't deny that it had been quite impressive to watch him work. Now he knew why the man was at the top of the list of most wanted criminals. He had the charms, the intelligence and the skills to subdue anyone who stood in his way—including Alec.

“Unbelievable.” Alec whispered, stretching and feeling all his joints cracking at once. He grabbed his phone from the nightstand to check the time, but soon realized that the device was still off. He had forgotten he had turned it off the night before as requested, so he turned it on and the moment the small apple disappeared from the screen, the device started to blow up with thousands of messages and calls from the office, his boss, and his siblings.

Alec frowned, wondering what had happened. It was Saturday, they didn’t work on Saturdays unless an emergency occurred, and even so, the white-collar division was very rarely called into action, their presence was never required. They were the nonviolent crime section of the Bureau and therefore, any 'emergency' could wait until the next business day.

“Alec, call me as soon as you see this. It’s important.”

Alec read the last text message he had received, it had been from his sister, so without wasting any more time, he called her.

“Alec! Finally!” She exclaimed as soon as she answered the call.

“What happened, Iz?”

“We’re in the office, we have a new case.” She said.

“But it’s Saturday.” Alec complained.

Normally, he wouldn’t be the one complaining about working on Saturday, he loved to work no matter the day or time, but today he was very, very tired. Besides, now that he knew he couldn't share what he had discovered about Magnus, he wanted to investigate the place where he had met with the criminal on his own and see if out of the book, he could find a way to catch the man and fix his mistake.

“I know, but this is top priority. Hodge called us all.” Izzy said. “We knocked on your door before we left, but you never answered. We thought you'd already gone.”

“I was asleep.” Alec said, because well, that wasn’t a lie. It had been so long since the last time he had slept that well. He wasn’t used to drinking and yeah, the wine he had drunk the night before had made him sleep like a baby.

“Did you go out last night?”

“What?” Alec said, walking to his closet and choosing some clothes.

“I think I heard noises very late in the hallway. We arrived past midnight from the concert and saw your lights out, so we assumed you were already asleep, but then I heard a door, so...was that you?” His sister asked.

Izzy, Jace and Alec lived in the same building and on the same floor. It was the closest they were to each other and so far it had worked. They were practically living together, but each had their own space. It was convenient for everybody.

“What are you, my mom?” Alec said, suddenly feeling a bit defensive.

“Oh my God!” Izzy shouted over the phone. “It was you! You did go out last night, didn’t you!? Why didn’t you tell us!? Where did you go? And with whom? Is there something you haven’t shared with your favorite sister in the whole world? Speak, Alec! I want details! Juicy details!”

“Izzy, stop freaking out, okay? I didn't go out last night, alright? I just stayed working very late at the office, that’s all.” He lied.

“Really? Again?”

“Yes, I stayed there trying to find something on the postcards and lost track of time.”

“Big brother, I think it’s time we do something about your lack of life outside the office, you’re missing all the fun, but anyway, tell me that at least it was worth it, did you make any progress?”

Alec felt bad about lying to his sister, but he didn't have much of a choice, did he? “No, I didn't. I think the postcards are a dead end.”

“I’m so sorry, Alec. I know how confident you were about that lead.”

“Yeah.” He said, feeling like the worst human being on the planet for lying so blatantly. “But it’s okay, we’ll find something else. Anyway, I’ll see you soon, okay? I’ll just take a quick shower and head to the office. See you there in a bit.”

“Okay, don’t take long, Hodge’s been waiting for you. Oh, and dad is here too.”

“Okay, yeah, bye.”

Alec hopped into the shower and in less than five minutes he was ready to leave and on his way to the FBI headquarters. He lived in the Upper West Side, so getting to the office took him some time, not because it was that far, but because the traffic in this city was, even on weekends, a real headache.

“Morning, boss.” Raj said, smiling at him as soon as he saw him stepping off the elevator. Alec didn’t know how the agent did it, but he was always there to greet him when he arrived. “The captain is waiting for you in the conference room.”

“Thank you, Raj.” Alec said, making his way in. The office was as crowded as it was on any other business day. Several agents, mainly from his team, were walking around like busy ants, rushing to their respective destinations and bumping into each other. “Could you please come to my office when I’m done with Hodge? I need to ask you a favor, it’s kind of personal, so I'm gonna need your discretion.”

“Of course, boss! No problem. I’ll be more than happy to help.” The agent exclaimed.

Alec just nodded and without stopping to say hello to anyone else, walked to the conference room. Alec had been expecting to see more special agents working together on whatever the case was, but the place was empty, only his dad, his boss, Jace and Izzy were there.

“Sorry for the delay. I stayed up very late working on something.” Alec said, quickly taking a seat in one of the empty chairs. “What do we have now?”

“A boutique store.” Izzy said, handing Alec the case file.

“Le Joyau Prieux?” Alec questioned, reading the location of the robbery. “Is it an important store or something?”

“No, only «the» most exclusive boutique in the whole city.” Izzy said, sounding almost offended by the fact that Alec didn’t know that important piece of information.

“I’m sorry to break your bubble, Iz, but not all of us go waste our paychecks on exclusive boutiques.”

“Evidently.” She said, looking at Alec’s worn out sweater with disdain.

“But anyway,” Alec said, trying not to pay her any attention, sometimes his sister could be really annoying, “what happened?” He asked.

He could probably read the file and see it for himself, but it was already late, so an abridged version would probably be better. Besides, he didn’t know what could be so valuable in a clothing store that required their presence on a Saturday.

“We got a call this morning.” Hodge said. “The boutique was going to host a very important event this weekend, they were going to exhibit the Hope Diamond, one of the most valuable diamonds in the world. This morning-”

“Let me guess…” Alec interrupted, already guessing what his boss was going to say, “the diamond was gone.”

“That's right, the thief killed the guards and took the precious stone.”

“The boutique doesn’t know how it happened, though.” Jace intervened. “Their security system is top-notch. The Washington Museum was in charge of installing it personally.” He said.

“The Washington Museum, why?”

“The diamond was part of their collection, valued until yesterday at about $250 million dollars. They agreed to lend it for the exhibition.”

“A terrible mistake.” Alec said with sarcasm. “Okay, well, what else do we know? When did this happen? Has anyone been at the crime scene?”

“No, we could have sent a team an hour ago, but we were waiting for you.” Hodge said. “We want you to take care of this investigation personally.”

“I’m guessing that's why you called me and nobody else is here, but can I ask why?” Alec asked, scanning the file.

“Because…” Hodge said, “according to what the people from the boutique said. This was Bane’s doing again.”

Alec looked up from the file the moment he heard Magnus’s name. “Come again?”

“According to the people from the store there’s glitter all over the vault.”

“When did this happen?” Alec asked.

“Yesterday, they’re guessing sometime around 7pm and 5am, they don’t know for sure.”

“It’s not Bane.” Alec said sure of himself. Not only because he had been with Magnus at least three of those ten hours, but because the criminal had told him himself that he wasn’t a murderer. And if this man had killed the guards, then Alec was sure that the culprit of this heist was the other criminal, the one that according to Magnus, had been trying to ruin him.

“Agent Lightwood, are you going to keep insisting on the same thing?” His father said. Until now he had remained completely silent, just reading the files, and looking at Alec occasionally. “We've talked about this, Bane’s MO has changed. He's not the same criminal you've been chasing for years, he's corrupted now, he's a killer.”

“He’s not, just trust me on this one, okay? I’m going to prove it.” He said, standing up and opening the door of the conference room. “We leave in five minutes.” He informed his siblings, not giving anyone time to question him any further.

Alec hadn’t lied to his father, he was going to find a way to prove them all that this person wasn’t Magnus, not because he wanted to help the criminal or anything, but because it was the right thing to do. His job was to solve cases and put the criminals responsible for those crimes behind bars, and he was going to solve this huge mess. First he was going to prove that Magnus and Valentine weren’t working together, and then he was going to catch them both and put an end to all this. That much he could promise.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus walked to his living room, turned on the TV and looked for the news. He had tried to avoid watching them all morning because, well, he didn’t want to hear just yet what he already knew would be the breaking news of this weekend. He had woken up in a very good mood and the idea of hearing that his name was being connected to yet another heist that he had clearly not committed hadn’t sounded like the best idea to start a Saturday, but in the end he had decided to watch them. He knew very little about what had happened, and although he’d rather just keep daydreaming about the date he had shared with the FBI agent the night before, he had to know what he had ‘allegedly’ done this time.

Magnus waited until the news lady started to talk about the attack on the boutique store to turn up the volume. As Magnus had already guessed, the robbery had only been reported this morning, and according to early reports no alarms had been triggered and no one could explain how it had happened.

“Do the police have any leads?” The news lady asked the reporter who was at the crime scene waiting for more information to emerge.

“Yes, Susan.” The reporter said. “The NYPD preliminary report states that the well-known forger and thief, Magnus Bane, is behind this heist again. The FBI has just arrived with a team of experts, and they are already working on collecting all the evidence, so we'll keep you posted."

"Were there any casualties?"

"We don't know for sure, it was originally reported that they had found some bodies, but so far no one has denied or confirmed that information, Susan.”

“Well, we’ll get back to you later to see if you have any more information.” The news lady said, and Magnus turned off the TV—he had heard more than enough.

Although it was not confirmed yet, Magnus already knew that his impostor had killed the guards to get the diamond. He had already tried to analyze what had happened. They hadn’t seen him enter the store all day, so the most likely scenario was that he had already been waiting inside. For how long? Only God knew, but Magnus guessed that at least a day.

Magnus sighed loudly. He had to find out who this man was as soon as possible. He couldn’t let him and whoever he was working with, to keep smearing his name like that. Magnus wasn't a killer, and watching all those innocent people dying under his name was as infuriating as it was depressing.

Magnus had always based his criminal life under the principle that the greatest thrill was not to kill but to let live. Criminals were often put in that position in which they had to choose whether they were willing to cross certain lines or not, and since day one Magnus had clearly marked his own limits. He had decided that wherever his life took him, he would never, ever, take an innocent life just to get away with whatever he was doing. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair—there was no need to make others pay for his decisions.

However, now there was some random criminal using his name and completely ruining everything Magnus had done for years. As he had already said, having someone adding achievements to his already impressive list was good, but never at this price.

“Who do you think he is, Chairman?” Magnus asked the only other living being in the loft. The little creature was lying on the arm of the couch, watching him with his big eyes.

“We don't have powerful enemies.” Magnus continued, trying to think of someone, anyone, who might be behind this. “Well, we do, but they don’t want to ruin us, they just don’t like us because we’re better than them, so maybe it’s not an enemy, but a crazy fan...what do you think, Chairman?”

The cat ignored him and closed his eyes, making it very clear that he didn't care about the problems Magnus might be having.

Magnus laughed and for a second wished he could do what his cat did, close his eyes and not worry about anything. But he couldn't, this was a serious problem. His prestige and reputation were at stake. And, what was a criminal without those?

"Free." A voice in the back of his head whispered.

Magnus shook his head, took a deep breath and better closed his eyes to stop thinking nonsense.

His mind immediately went back to the date he’d had with Alec and how different things had been from what he had originally planned. To begin with, he had never expected to have such a great time, much less discover a completely different person from the man he had imagined all these years. Alexander Lightwood was like no other person he had ever met. He was smart and very handsome, charming and charismatic, but he was also compassionate and funny, noble, loyal, and above all responsible. Qualities that nowadays were very difficult to find in a person.

Magnus had spent all his life meeting all sorts of people, good and bad, but never in all his thirty years had he met anyone who had made such an impression on him. Alec had, within a few hours, put Magnus in a tight spot. The agent had managed to discover sides of him that until now Magnus had thought were well hidden under all those layers he used to protect himself, and that had been equally fascinating as terrifying.

Magnus’s only intention with the date had been to make a statement of power and control, and although he had achieved that, the evening, at least for him, hadn’t been just about that. Alec, perhaps unknowingly, had shaken Magnus to his core and now, he couldn’t stop thinking about him.

His smile, his eyes, his lips, his hands—everything about him had fascinated him. The way he frowned when he was confused or uncomfortable, how he rolled his eyes to pretend not to be affected by whatever Magnus was saying, how he licked his lips before speaking, how, when not knowing what to do, he fidgeted with his hands or with the rebel strands of his hair that dared to cover his beautiful eyes. The man had completely captivated him, and sue him if he had enjoyed more than he should what had happened between them.

“If only you weren’t the one chasing me.” He sighed, wondering how it would have been if he had met Alec under different circumstances. How it would have been if they had really been just two guys getting to know each other, enjoying an evening together on some ridiculous rooftop in the city that never slept.

Magnus was so lost in his own thoughts that he never noticed when Ragnor and Raphael entered his loft, so when his friends cleared their throats to make their presence known, Magnus jumped so high that he almost fell from the couch. “For the love of God! Knock the damn door before entering! I almost had a heart attack!”

“Why are you so jumpy? Did the fed find you?” Ragnor immediately asked, using that tone Magnus hated so much. “I told you it was a bad idea, Magnus! I told you this could go wrong, but of course you didn’t listen because you never listen to what I’m saying! You think you know what you’re doing, but you’re fooling yourself, sometimes I swear-”

“Shut it, okay!?” Magnus exclaimed, to keep his friend from talking nonsense. He hated when Ragnor tried to lecture him. He really hated it. “He didn’t find me. You know I always take extreme precautions, so he won’t find me unless I want him to. And I was jumpy because, well, I was thinking about some personal things and I didn't notice when you two entered. I’ve told you both that there’s a lock in there for a reason, but you keep forcing your way in, so don't blame me for being alarmed when someone walks into my house without permission.”

“Then leave you door unlocked.”

“You know I can’t leave the door unlocked, you fool.”

“Then give us a key.”

“I’m not going to risk anyone else having a key to the only place I can be myself, I chose this place for a reason and-”

“Dios mio! Can you two stop arguing for a second?” Raphael intervened. “There are more important things to discuss than whether you should give us a key or not, like for example, why are we here.”

“Speak.” Magnus said. With the small disagreement, he had failed to notice that both his friends looked worried.

“We know who’s behind the last two heist committed under your name.” Raphael said.

“Who!?”

Raphael and Ragnor shared a look.

“Valentine.”

Magnus frowned. “Valentine? Who’s Valentine? Ragnor, do we know any Valentine?”

“Valentine Morgenstern, Bane!” Raphael said.

Magnus frowned even more confused—that simply couldn’t be true, Valentine had died years ago, when Magnus was just a kid. He didn’t remember exactly when it had happened since, well, he hadn’t even been in this country when the criminal had been at the height of his career, but he had learned about him when he had grown up. There was no way to be a criminal and not know who Valentine Morgenstern had been and how the FBI had taken him down.

“That’s impossible, he’s dead. Besides, the man I met is about my age, if Valentine were still alive he would be much older. I don't know much about him, but I reckon he'd be about fifty.”

“Well, that’s because the guy you met is just one of his henchmen.” Raphael said. “But he's very much alive.”

“And behind all this mess.” Ragnor added.

“And why does he want to ruin me? I don’t even know him!” Magnus asked confused.

“No lo sé, but this is worse than we imagined.” Raphael said. “If we aren’t careful this man could-” His friend bit his tongue.

“Could what?”

Raphael didn't answer, but Ragnor slid his finger across his neck, and somehow that was the only answer Magnus needed.

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh."

Magnus gulped—he couldn’t believe it.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec, Jace, Izzy, and their team were at the crime scene. The NYPD had already given them all the information they had managed to gather, and now they were trying to match it with their own. Both the CSI unit and the forensic team were currently processing all the evidence and taking all the samples of the dead guards they had found to determine what had really happened. A crime scene investigation was the meeting point of science, logic and law, and therefore 'processing a crime scene' was a long, tedious process that involved purposeful documentation of the conditions at the scene and the collection of any physical evidence that could possibly illuminate what had happened and point to who had done it.

Alec already knew that determining how the crime had happened wasn't going to be easy, it would probably take them a couple of days, but knowing who had done it was pretty obvious to him, with the dead guards and the glitter, it was evident that this wasn't Magnus's work.

“Let’s recap.” Jace said, standing right where Alec and Izzy were looking at the glitter trails. “No alarms were triggered, we don’t have any prints, nobody knows what happened, we only have glitter and three dead guards, is that all?”

“And, no security footage.” Izzy added.

“How is that even possible?” Alec questioned. “Wasn't it supposed to be top-notch or something?”

“It was, but well, this criminal knows how to tamper with most of them.” Izzy said. “You know what they say, there’s no such thing as the perfect security system, they all have flaws.”

Alec nodded, kneeling next to the glitter. As it had happened before on the bank's crime scene, this trail was completely different from the ones Magnus usually left. It looked out of place, and as Alec had told the criminal himself, it was very easy to see that this person wasn’t Magnus, so the real question was, who was he?

“Iz?”

“Yes?”

“Have you checked the surveillance cameras on the street?”

“Our team is working on that, but I don’t think we’re going to find anything. When the bank robbery happened, he made sure most of the cameras weren't working and the ones that were, weren’t of much help. We couldn't find anything.”

“I know, but this city has more than 10,000 surveillance cameras, he has to be in at least one, we just need to find it. So make sure we get footage from each and every camera around the block. Ask the other stores for their security footage too, we have to find out who this criminal is.”

Izzy nodded and moved away to take care of what Alec had asked for.

“Do you really think this isn’t Bane’s doing?” Jace asked.

Alec nodded. “The MO is very similar, I can’t deny that, but the murders and the glitter are big tellers, at least for me.”

“Are you sure? Maybe he changed it. All criminals do it, why would he be any different?”

“Because he is.” Alec said. He couldn’t exactly share with his brother why he was 100% sure that Magnus would never kill anyone. “Just trust me, okay?”

Jace sighed, but nodded. “I’ll go check with the team to see if they found anything, maybe if we found the postcard?”

“It’s not him, Jace.”

“Okay, fine, but we have to be sure, don't we? I’ll be right back.”

Alec sighed and just thanked for the time alone. He needed space to think and come up with a way to prove the Bureau that he had been right all along. That Magnus wasn’t behind all these recent bloody crimes and that he wasn’t working with Valentine. Well, he wasn’t so sure about that last part, since the criminal hadn’t mentioned Valentine during their date, but either way, the Bureau's assumptions didn’t make sense.

Magnus wasn’t the person they were trying to make them believe—the cold-blooded murderer who killed to please a crazy boss. Even before spending more time with him, Alec had already known that, not in vain he had spent almost a quarter of his life studying him and learning to know how he thought and how he acted. Magnus was egocentric, yes, cocky, that too, but never a killer.

“Alec!” Izzy exclaimed, running from the lobby of the boutique. She was almost out of breath.

“What happened?”

“We got him?”

“What?”

“On camera...we got him on camera. As I told you, the cameras in the area weren’t working last night, but the one in the corner caught something. It’s not much, but we can see someone coming out of the store a little after 7:30pm. We think it’s him, you have to see it.”

Alec ran as fast as he could to where the team was examining the evidence. They were watching a black and white video frame by frame. “Play it from the beginning.” He requested.

The agent on the computer nodded and replayed the video. The image wasn’t very clear, the shot was from afar, and it didn't help much that it was so dark and that the lights of the store were off, but the silhouette of a man walking down 79th street and heading to Central Park was very visible.

“Is that all?” Alec asked when the video stopped.

“From this camera yes, but now we know he’s out there, we just need to get the footage from other cameras around the area to try to find the route he took.”

“Can you zoom in?” Alec asked.

The agent nodded and zoomed in as far as he could. The image was even less clear than before, but the silhouette of the man was more visible, at least shape-wise, and now that Alec had seen Magnus twice face to face—and this time really close—he was even more sure that this person wasn’t him. He looked like him, even seemed to be even dressed like him, but this man was shorter and not as fit as Magnus was. Not that Alec had analyzed Magnus's body in detail, no, of course not, but it was something hmmm...pretty obvious. The man wore very tight clothing.

“Well, there you have it.” He pointed to the man. “That’s not Magnus Bane.”

“How can you tell? It’s super dark.” Izzy said.

“That man is shorter.” Alec pointed out. “Look at that payphone next to him, those things aren’t so high and he's barely taller than it, so he must be, at most, 5’8’’ tall; we know for a fact that Magnus is at least 5’11’’ so...”

“I don’t know, Alec, it’s very hard to tell.” Izzy said, analyzing the image.

“What do you think, Jace?” Alec asked, his partner was just joining them. He was filling up some reports.

“About what?”

“Is that Magnus or not?” Alec asked, pointing at the frozen image on the screen.

“I don’t know...it looks like him.”

“But?”

“I don’t know, he looks...shorter than him.”

“See?” Alec exclaimed. “If Jace can see it, why can’t you?”

Izzy frowned, but analyzed the scene in detail. Alec was waiting for her opinion when his phone buzzed, notifying him of a new incoming message. It was from Raj, the only agent of his team that Alec had asked to stay in the office.

The text message was just an address—the address Alec had asked him to find.

Before leaving for the crime scene, Alec had given Raj a detailed description of the buildings he had seen during his date with Magnus and asked him to find the rooftop. Of course he had omitted the actual date and the reasons why he wanted to find that particular place; he had given the agent a silly excuse about having seen that rooftop in some commercial and wanting to find it for a birthday party, and surprisingly the agent had bought it.

“I have to go.” Alec told his siblings.

“What? Why?” Izzy asked.

“I have some things to do.” Alec lied. “Can you cover me for an hour? I’ll be back in the office as soon as I can, I promise.”

Izzy and Jace shared confused looks. Alec could see how much they wanted to ask what was that thing Alec had to do, but he couldn’t let them ask. It was too risky. “Can you do it or not?”

“Yes, but-” Jace said.

“Thanks, then I'll see you back at the office later.”

“Alec, but-” Izzy started to say, but Alec just turned around and walked out of the boutique.

Ten minutes later he was parking outside a building in the East Harlem. It was an eight-level abandoned beauty clinic, it was in very good condition even though it looked like it had been out of business for a while now.

“Hello?” Alec knocked on the door. “Is anybody in there?” He peered through the window, but the place looked empty.

Alec looked around and meditated what to do. Unlike yesterday with the postcards, this time he didn’t have anything to justify his behavior but his sheer curiosity. If someone caught him forcing his way in, they could accuse him of trespassing like any other civilian. Was it worth it? No, but he couldn't just leave. He had to enter and find out what was inside, so taking a deep breath, he kicked the door and walked in.

The lobby of the place was huge, but he could see the elevators at the far end of the room. One was clearly out of service since the machinery was all over the place, but the other one was working, the small screen indicating the floor number was on.

Alec frowned, realizing one thing. If the elevator was working that only meant that there was power in the building and therefore someone came here frequently.

“Oh crap!” He murmured under his breath.

The chances of being caught were very high, but he wasn’t going to stop now. He was already there, so he took a deep breath and walked toward the elevator. As soon as he was inside, the first thing he noticed was that the man who had brought him there yesterday hadn’t lied, that elevator could only go to the rooftop, so he pressed the single button on the panel, and waited.

When the doors opened, Alec couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Nothing of what had been there yesterday was there now, no Christmas lights, no garlands, no nothing—the magic was gone. But there, in the middle of the now empty space and where Alec remembered that the table had been, was a single red rose.

Alec rolled his eyes and walked to it. There was red glitter all around it, and out of habit, Alec took a few seconds to analyze it. The trail matched perfectly with all the previous cases he had had on Magnus, and for some reason that made him feel good with himself. He had been right, the criminal of the bank and the boutique couldn't be Magnus, this was Magnus.

He picked up the rose and read the attached note.

“Thank you for a lovely evening, Alexander, I’m looking forward to our date number two. XOXO, M.B.”

Alec brought the flower to his nose, looked down at the glitter, and smiled.

Chapter Text

Magnus didn’t know what he was going to do now that he knew Valentine Morgenstern was the man behind the slander against him. It had been two weeks since his friends had shared that information with him and still, Magnus couldn't wrap his head around it. The criminal had managed to trick the FBI into thinking he had died all those years ago and since then, he had been laughing at theirs faces, making fun of their sacred system, and showing them why he was the best criminal to ever have existed. Magnus didn't like his bloody methods, of course, but he couldn't deny that what he had done was worth admiring. Valentine had managed to stay off the radar for more than twenty years doing whatever he pleased, and that was just as brilliant as it was unbelievable.

Raphael’s contacts had been trying to track him down for days, but so far they hadn’t found him. The man was nowhere to be found, it was as if he were indeed...dead. He was invisible, like a ghost. Nobody knew where he was, where he was hiding, what he was doing, or where had he been all these years, but it was rumored that he had been all over the world having the time of his life, and now he was somewhere in New York City planning his next big score. Why was he here and what was he planning? Magnus wished he knew.

“But why New York, though?” Magnus voiced his thoughts to his friends. Raphael and Ragnor had been there with him almost every day since they had discovered that Valentine was still alive. They had been trying to find the other criminal, trying to figure out why he was doing what he was doing. After all, three heads thought better than one.

“Maybe he just likes this city, you're here for that reason.” Ragnor suggested.

“No, it has to be something else.” Magnus said. “There are no records of him being here before he started to use my name, so I'm going to assume something or someone brought him here.”

“I agree with Bane on this one.” Raphael said. “He had already managed to stay completely off the radar for decades, why come out of hiding now and in one of the busiest cities in the world? He must have a very good damn reason, and bagels can't be it.”

“Maybe there's something here that he wants.” Ragnor suggested.

“Yeah,” Magnus agreed, “but what?” He questioned. It was really hard to try to think like someone he didn't even know.

“I don't know, but it could be anything.” Ragnor said.

Magnus sighed. His friend was right, it could be anything. This city was a treasure in itself, a global power city with a significant impact upon commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment. New York was an important center for international diplomacy and was often described as the cultural and financial capital of the world, so if Valentine wanted something, guessing what that it was was almost as hard as getting tickets for that Broadway show that everyone was talking about.

“It doesn't matter what he wants.” Raphael said. “What matters is to know why he's trying to ruin you and us by extension. Are you positive you haven't done anything to upset him?”

“How could I?” Magnus said. “Until two weeks ago I thought he was dead.”

“I know, but maybe in one of your heist you did something against him without knowing it and that's why he's trying to ruin you.”

“Like what? I always go after museums and stuff like that, never against people. Besides, all my scores are always planned down to the smallest detail, there's no room for mistakes.” Magnus said.

“I know, but no one is perfect, perhaps you missed something.”

Magnus shook his head. “Impossible, we always check everything twice—you know that.”

“I don't.” Raphael admitted. “Remember that I try not to ask about what you're going to do and how you're going to do it for all our safeties.”

“Well, Ragnor can confirm you that we leave no room for mistakes—ever.”

“He's right.” Ragnor said. “It's practically impossible for Valentine to be after Magnus for something we've done, but…”

“But what?” Magnus asked.

“Maybe he's after you for something someone else did.” Ragnor said.

¿Quién?” Raphael asked.

Magnus gave his friend a knowingly look. He didn't have to say who out loud, he already knew it, they all knew it.

“Oh.” Raphael said when realization hit him. “You think?”

“It's a possibility,” Magnus admitted, “but I don't think so either. As far as I know their paths never crossed.”

“So if he's not after you because some stupid revenge, or because you-know-who made him mad, then the only other reasonable explanation would be that he's using you as some sort of distraction.”

“I agree.” Magnus said. “But the question remains, why me? There are plenty of other criminals out there that he could have used. I know I should feel proud or something, because after all he chose my name, but I just can't. He's ruining my reputation and killing innocent people. I can't let him keep doing that, I have to stop him.”

“But how?” Ragnor asked. “We know nothing about him. We haven't found anything that could lead us back to him.”

“That's true.” Raphael said. “How can we stop someone who's not there to be stopped in the first place?”

Magnus took a few seconds to answer that question. He knew his friends were right, but he had an idea, well, more like a plan. He had been thinking about it for days, trying to weigh the pros and cons, analyzing whether he had lost his mind or not. It was stupid and risky, and probably the craziest thing he had ever done, but it seemed to be his only choice. Time was ticking and if he didn't act right away, Valentine was going to destroy him.

“We are going to need some help.” Magnus said.

“From whom?” Raphael and Ragnor asked in unison.

Magnus looked at them. “From the FBI, of course.”

“From the...wait what!?” Ragnor exclaimed.

“You're not being serious, are you?” Raphael inquired.

“Of course I'm being serious, Santiago. What better way to catch that bastard than by teaming up with the FBI, huh?”

“Are you out of your mind!?” Ragnor exclaimed. “In what world teaming up with the feds is a good idea? Do you want to end up in jail, is that what you want? Because if so, please go on and team up with them. I can assure you that in less than a day you'll get what you want, just be sure to ask them for a cell with a view or else you're going to rot in some morbid corner for the rest of your life.”

“Why do you always have to be so melodramatic, my friend?” Magnus told his best friend. He loved him, but he couldn't deny that Ragnor had a tendency to blow everything out of proportion. “Of course I don't want to end up in jail, I'm not an idiot. I just want to put an end to this and given that we haven't been very successful on our own I thought maybe we could use a little help.”

“Well yes, but from the feds?”

“Why not? I mean, they have the resources, the equipment. Besides, it's not like I'm going to turn myself in. I'm just going to help them catch Valentine in exchange for them clearing my name.”

“And, how are you going to request that without ending up cuffed against a desk?” Raphael asked.

Magnus smiled knowingly. He knew exactly how. He had wanted to save this card for later, to use it only in case of emergency, but well, desperate times called for desperate measures. “I guess it's time to ask Agent Pretty Boy out on a date again.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was working on the security footage they had managed to gather over the past two weeks. They had several tapes that had led them to believe that fake-Magnus, as they were calling the criminal for the sake of this investigation, had run all way down 79th street until reaching Central Park, so now they were trying to figure out what had happened after that. They knew he had entered the park, but they had more than 843 acres of land to cover, and so far they hadn't been that lucky. Alec had shared with the rest of his team his theory about Magnus’s body complexion compared to the man captured on camera and they all had agreed that Alec might be onto something, but until they had solid evidence to backup that statement, they couldn't confirm or deny anything.

“This is the last material we could find, boss.” An agent said, playing a ten-second video where it was clear that the criminal had run through the park and stumbled at some point, but what was strange about the footage wasn't that, but the fact that fake-Magnus had disappeared from the frame in the blink of an eye, as if he had just evaporated.

“Replay that again.” Alec demanded, standing up from his chair and walking until he was right in front of the plasma. “Slowly, please.”

The agent replayed the video and Alec analyzed it, trying to see every little detail. “There, stop.” Alec said. “What does this look like?” He asked, pointing to a small spot on the bottom of the screen.

“A glitch?” Raj suggested.

“No, no, no, no, no, look closer. Please, replay the video one more time.” Alec asked.

“It's a hand.” Jace said when the video replayed for the second time.

“Exactly.” Alec smiled. “Someone pushes him out of the frame.”

“To protect him?” An agent suggested.

“I don't think so,” Alec said, “it's very fast and it looks...abrupt, so I'm more inclined to believe that someone is dragging him by force.”

“Another criminal who was after the same diamond?” Jace suggested.

“Possibly, or maybe just someone who saw what he had done and wanted to stop him. This city is full of anonymous heroes.” Alec said. “But either way we have to find out what happened here, I don't know why, but I think whatever happened after this video ends is key to find out who this criminal is. I know it's late, but tomorrow I want everyone looking at every camera to see if there's a different angle that can help us see what happened, okay?” He ordered his team. He knew that what he was asking for wouldn't be easy, since it was very dark and the footage wasn't of the best quality, but at least they had to try it.

“Okay, see you tomorrow, boss.” His team said, quickly grabbing their things and leaving Alec, Jace, and Izzy alone.

“Sometimes you really surprise me, big brother.” Izzy said, turning off the plasma.

“Why?”

“It took you one try to see that the spot on the screen was a hand, you have a very good eye.” She pointed out.

Alec chuckled. “I don't, I just know nothing is what it seems.”

“Either way, big bro, if we manage to prove that this man is not Magnus Bane, dad is going to be very, very mad.”

“He's already mad.” Alec said.

He had had an argument with him a few hours ago because they hadn't found anything about Magnus or Valentine in all the time he had been there, and that had led him to believe that they weren't working hard enough, especially since Alec kept insisting on the same thing—that Magnus wasn't the one behind the last two attacks and that there was no way he could be working with Valentine.

“I saw him storming out of your office,” Jace said, “what did you tell him?”

“Nothing new, but he keeps saying that I'm coming up with things to not see the truth, but like I told him, I'm the only one who's seen Magnus Bane in the flesh, I've been studying him for years, I know what I'm talking about. That of course doesn't matter, according to him I'm losing my mind, and we aren't working hard enough to catch both criminals.”

“We aren't working hard enough? Yeah, right...that's probably why he left at five and we're still here.” Jace said.

“Precisely my point.” Alec agreed.

“Besides, he can't expect us to catch them just because he's here.” Izzy said. “We haven't had any leads about Valentine since they told us he was still alive, how do we know that's even true? The Marshals turned down our request to see their files on the criminal, dad said it was because of national security, but we know it's because they probably don't have much. The man knows how to avoid us, he's been doing it for two decades. I bet they have the same things we do.”

Alec nodded. He agreed wholeheartedly with what his sister had just said. The fact that the D.C office had decided to take over the investigation didn't mean they were going to catch them any sooner, yes, their presence there meant more heads trying to solve this mess, but what they were forgetting was that they weren't facing amateurs, these were Valentine Morgenstern and Magnus Bane they were talking about, and although Alec was still sure that they weren't working together, they both were extremely clever and skillful on their own, and that made them very difficult to catch.

“What Valentine did, tricking the FBI into thinking that he had died, must be the reason why they all are so eager to catch him. If we're honest, he made them look pretty bad.” Jace said.

“He made us look bad.” Alec added. “Whether we like it or not, everything that happens to this institution happens to us, so their mistakes are ours.”

“Yes, but-” Jace started to say, but Alec stopped paying attention because in that moment his phone buzzed, distracting him completely. It was a text message from an unknown number. He frowned as he never gave his personal number to strangers, but unlocked the screen to read it.

“Roses are red, violets are blue, Alec Lightwood...what about date two?”

Alec couldn't contain the chuckle that escaped his lips. This had been undoubtedly the most ridiculous thing he had ever received on his phone, and that included those nights in which Jace and Izzy, more often than not, had texted Alec under the influence of alcohol telling him how much they loved him and admired him.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Alec said distracted. A new message from the same number had just arrived. It was a simple address. And although Alec didn't recognize the number, he knew who was behind these messages: Magnus Bane. So he quickly ran the number through the Bureau’s databases to see if something useful popped up, but the number was untraceable and the address was just from a restaurant. At first glance this looked like nothing but a normal date, but somehow Alec knew it wasn't.

A new text arrived.

“7:30pm, don't be late.”

Alec glanced at the clock. It was 6:47pm, he barely had time to get ready and... what? Alec shook his head. No, this time he would not fall into Magnus's game. The criminal was doing it again, luring Alec into his game board, but this time Alec knew better, this time he was prepared. This was his chance to fix what he had done wrong the last time, this was his chance to change the rules and make them play in his favor. He got this.

“Who texted you that made you smile like that?” Izzy inquired.

“What?” Alec said distracted.

“Who texted you? Your boyfriend?”

“What!? I don't have a boyfriend.” Alec said, quickly locking his phone and putting it in his pocket.

“Then who was that? You had a 1000 kilowatt smile on that serious face of yours.” Izzy said.

“No one.” Alec said, rolling his eyes at her, but he could feel his cheeks getting hot, not because he had lied about the boyfriend, he didn't have one, but because he had been caught red-handed, receiving texts from the criminal he was supposed to have caught a long time ago.

“You're seeing someone.” Izzy teased.

“No, I'm not.”

Jace and Izzy shared a knowing look. “Alec is seeing someone! Alec is seeing someone!” They sang in a mocking and rather irritating tone.

“I'm not, what are you, five? Stop! I think Max is more mature than the two of you together.” He said, but his siblings were still whistling and smiling like idiots. Why were brothers and sisters so annoying?

“Who is he?” Izzy asked.

“No one, okay?” Alec said, getting up from his chair. “I have to go.”

“Can we go with you?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I have some personal things to do.”

“Oh, so you’re going to do someone, I see.” Izzy said.

“Isabelle!” Alec exclaimed, almost horrified.

“What? It was about damn time, was it not Jace?” Izzy asked, and Jace nodded.

Alec rolled his eyes again. “You two are impossible.” He said, grabbing his jacket and walking out of the conference room. “I'll see you tomorrow.”

“Say hi to your mysterious boyfriend for me, okay?” Izzy said.

Alec resisted the urge to turn around and flip her off, after all, his mother hadn’t raised him like that, but sometimes his sister really drove him nuts, she could be a real pain in the ass.

“Have fun and be safe,” Jace added, “wear a condom, be responsible.”

This time Alec did turn around and flipped his brother off. “Goodnight.” He said, closing the door behind him and walking away, but even when he was already near the elevators, he could still hear Jace and Izzy’s laughter across the hall.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus glanced at his watch, 7:23pm, that meant that Alexander would be there any minute now. Well, only if he had agreed to their date, of course. Magnus knew that the agent must be really confused about it, first because the address he had given him was from a very public place, and second, because well, Magnus had asked him out again.

Magnus had told him that he would do it, of course, but he had meant it as a mere formality, as a false promise. They both knew that what had happened that night on the rooftop had been a one time thing, but there they were, repeating the feat again and on yet another rooftop. It was becoming kind of their thing.

Magnus's phone rang and he immediately took the call.

“He's here, boss.” Elias said through the phone.

Magnus had all his men positioned strategically around the restaurant just in case something went wrong. “Is he alone?” He asked.

“Yes, he's walking in.” Elias said. “He's a bit hesitant. He's looking around as if looking for someone.”

“He’s probably looking for me, what is he doing now?”

“Talking to the hostess, your friend Tessa.”

Magnus smiled. Tessa was one of his best friends and although they didn't hang out as often as they wanted, she was always willing to help and be there for Magnus. So it always came in handy that she and her husband Jem owned so many restaurants in the city.

“She's guiding him inside.” Elias reported. “The agent just asked who made the reservation.”

Magnus laughed. Of course Alexander would ask that.

“Now she's taking him upstairs, they are almost there, boss. Good luck and be careful, he's armed.”

“Thank you Elias, be on your guard, just in case, okay?”

“Yes, boss.”

Magnus hung up and put his phone back in his pocket. He was very nervous, he very rarely got nervous, but this man had something that managed to turn him into a bundle of nerves. Magnus didn't know what to expect from tonight, but he knew that everything was going to depend on the agent and his willingness to listen to what Magnus had to say, so he took a deep breath and tried to calm down, standing next to the parapet of the rooftop, just looking at the street to calm his breathing.

Magnus heard the door being opened and took a deep breath. “Alexander, right on time. I like that.” He said, smiling with ease at the agent.

“So I made the reservation?” Alec asked, looking around the place.

“Of course, dear, you didn't think I was going to be so stupid to do it myself, did you?”

Alec shook his head. “You know this time I have my gun, my badge, and a pair of handcuffs with me, I could arrest you.”

Magnus smiled. He knew that although technically that was possible, the agent was giving himself too much credit. Magnus hadn't chosen this restaurant at random, he had chosen it because it had an escape route. The agent hadn't noticed it yet, but it was there, hidden in plain sight. “You certainly could, but you know me better than anyone, I can disappear at any given moment. Besides,” Magnus added, taking a seat at the table and motioning Alec to sit down too, “we're on a date, Alexander, you don't want to ruin it just yet, especially when I have a proposition for you. So why don't you sit down and wait until you hear what I have to say and then decide?”

Alec looked at him intently. Magnus could see the gears in his mind spinning at the speed of light, reflecting on what to do. Magnus knew the agent wanted to arrest him, but the curiosity to know what Magnus had to say was bigger. “Okay, fine.” The agent finally said, taking his place at the table. “But this time I'm not falling into your trap, any funny business and the FBI will be here in less than it takes you to say my name. Oh, and I'm recording this meeting.”

“I can say I would be very disappointed if you didn't.” Magnus said with a smile. “Anyway, I ordered for you, I hope you don't mind.”

Alec shook his head, and Magnus took a moment to just look at him. The agent looked slightly different than the last time they had seen each other, not physically, his gorgeousness was intact, but he looked more confident, and not as uncomfortable as the last time. Magnus supposed it probably had to do with the fact that, well, he already knew what to expect from his meeting with him, and also because he was carrying his gun. Magnus could see it beneath that leather jacket, which incidentally fit him perfectly. It made him look...badass.

“I like your jacket.” Magnus said out loud. “I've already told you this, but leather suits you.”

Alec ducked his head, and Magnus couldn't help noticing the flash of crimson that was turning the agent’s cheeks a tone darker. It was sweet that something as insignificant as complimenting a jacket could have that effect, but Magnus couldn't help wondering why. Surely this man was accustomed to receiving all kinds of compliments, a mention about his jacket should be nothing, right? But before he could ask and satisfy his curiosity, their waitress arrived with the food.

“I hope you're hungry.” Magnus said. Alec didn't respond, but the way he was eying his plate was a big sign that he was indeed hungry. “This time we're eating meat, so I asked for a red wine, but don't worry, I know you don't like the bitter taste, but this one has a very sweet bouquet, I'm sure you're going to like it.”

They started to eat in silence, but Magnus couldn't help making small talk after a while. He hated eating without speaking, especially when he had such good company, Alec might be his natural enemy, but they had common interests, they had discovered that during their first encounter, so when Alec started taking too, Magnus just smiled and enjoyed the moment. They could talk about everything and nothing, art, music, life, history...books.

“Oh, and speaking of books.” Magnus said, standing up from his chair and walking to the corner of the roof, where he had left a little something he had brought with him tonight. “I got something for you.”

“I'm not accepting anything from you.” Alec said firmly.

“Don't be like that, Alexander. You don’t even know what it is.”

“I don’t care.”

“It's nothing bad, I promise. Here.” Magnus said, handing him the bag.

Alec grabbed it hesitantly, as if he were expecting for it to explode at any second.

“Go on, open it!” Magnus encouraged him, taking a seat again at the table.

Alec rolled his eyes, but complied, opening the bag. Magnus was watching him intently, trying to see his reaction when he saw what was waiting for him inside. And he had to admit that his reaction did not disappoint, Alec's eyes lit up the moment he saw the content.

“Are these?” The agent asked. He was having trouble speaking.

“First editions? Yes, they are.” Magnus said. He'd had those books dusting on his bookshelf for years.

“I can't accept this.” Alec said, putting the books on the table.

“Why not? You said you loved the classics, Shakespeare to be more precise. These are the Bard’s first editions, anyone else in your place would be thrilled to have these in their collection.”

“Perhaps, but I'm not like anyone else.”

“Of that I am fully aware, dear, but please just accept them.”

“I can't.”

“Alexander, I didn't steal them, okay? These were actually a gift from someone very dear to me and that's the only reason why I've kept them all these years. I like Shakespeare, but I'm not a fan, those books have been gathering dust in my place since I got them, don't you think they deserve to at least be read from time to time?”

“Who gave them to you?”

“The man who raised me.”

“Your father?”

“No.” Magnus said simply.

“I can't.” Alec insisted.

God, if this man was stubborn! Magnus thought. “Please, they're just books, Alexander, accept them. You can even donate them to a museum if that makes you feel more at ease with yourself, but please take them. I want you to have them.”

“Why?”

“Because you like Shakespeare.” Magnus said. He didn’t know why this man couldn't just say thank you and leave it like that. “Please?”

Alec looked at Magnus and then at the books. Magnus could see the resolution forming in his eyes, the agent was already reading them even though they were closed.

“Okay, fine...thank you.”

“See?” Magnus smiled relieved. “That wasn't so hard.”

Alec rolled his eyes and put the books aside, just in time for the waitress to come back in and pour them more wine.

“So...are you going to tell what was that proposition you had for me? Because let me tell you, a couple of books aren't going to stop me from arresting you tonight.” Alec said.

Magnus smiled and nodded. This was it. Whatever happened after this would change his life forever. He was either going to team up with this man to bring down one of the most dangerous criminals of all time, or he would have to flee to avoid being caught by the agent and escape Valentine's reach.

“Do you remember what we talked about the last time we were in this same situation? About this impostor trying to ruin me? I know who he is. Well, not exactly who he is, but who he's working with or for, I'm not sure yet.”

“You do?”

Magnus nodded. “He's working for-”

“Valentine.” They said in unison.

“You knew?” Magnus asked, really surprised. Of all the possible scenarios he had pictured in his head, this had been the least likely to ever happen.

“We had reasons to believe that he could be behind all this.”

“So the FBI knew he was alive?” Magnus asked, and Alec just nodded. That was certainly something really unexpected, and Magnus was used to the unexpected. “When did you learn he was still alive?”

“Almost two months ago.”

Magnus frowned really confused. He couldn't understand why the FBI had gotten the news first. That never happened, it was usually the other way around. The criminal world, the underworld, always knew everything first, so if the government had learned about it first, that meant th-

“They also think you two are colluded.” Alec added.

“What?” Magnus asked even more surprised. “They think we?”

“Are working together? Yes.”

“We are not.” Magnus said in self defense.

“I know.” Alec said with a tiny smile on his face, and somehow that was all Magnus needed to share his plan. Maybe the agent was going to tell him he was crazy and try to arrest him, but he had to at least try it.

“I will help you.”

“What?”

“I'll help you catch Valentine, that’s my proposition. I know people, I know things, with my help and your resources, we could catch him faster.” Magnus said.

Alec looked at him intently. Magnus had expected a 'no' right away, but the agent was actually listening to his idea. “You want to help me catch a criminal?”

“Yes.”

“You’re joking, right?

“No.”

“What's the catch?”

“There's no catch.”

“Of course there is, you're a-”

“Criminal, I know, but I'm being completely honest here. This man is ruining my reputation, and putting innocent people of this city in danger. You want to catch him, I want you to catch him...it's the perfect plan.”

“I want to catch you.” Alec said.

“I know, but we could make a truce...we capture this bastard together and then we go back to how things used to be. You chasing me, and I running away from you.”

Alec looked him straight in the eye, and Magnus could see that he was really considering the idea. “And what do I win with all of this? Are you going to surrender?”

“No, Alexander, but you will catch the most wanted criminal of all time. Something not even your dear father could do. Plus, you'll get to spend more time with me and if I'm honest, I think that's the best part of it all.”

Alec chuckled. “And how do you expect this to work, huh? I can't have you under my custody if you don't surrender. Half the states in the country want your head on a stick, if they know you are working with us in some way I won't be able to stop them from arresting you. I'd have to give them your head...on a stick.”

“I know that, and well, the thing is that for this to work we'd have to do it off the books.” Magnus said. “I know you FBI have CIs everywhere, and some aren't even legal, so I'll be your unregistered informant. Think of all the things you could win with this. You would be the man behind one of the greatest captures of the century.”

“And you want to help me achieve that...why?”

“I am a charitable soul."

“I know you, Bane, you never do anything out of the kindness of your heart...what do you really want from this?”

Magnus smiled. He was glad Alec knew him well enough, that would make this a lot easier. They wouldn't have to hide under false pretenses, they could be open and honest from the beginning. “For you to clear my name.”

Alec burst out laughing, and Magnus got lost in that vision for a few seconds. Alec looked really handsome when he smiled, he should do it more often. “You really want me to clear your name?”

“Yes, when this is over and that man’s behind bars, I want you to clear my name. I'm a criminal, and my name is everything to me. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty proud of what I've accomplished so far. My work is pretty good, you better than anyone know that, and what this man is doing is making me look bad. So yeah, I want you to return my name to its former glory.”

Alec eyed him suspiciously. “That's all you want?”

Magnus nodded. “Plus a truce between us for the duration of this, let's call it mission, so what do you say agent Lightwood, do we have a deal?”

Alec took a sip of his wine without breaking eye contact with Magnus. Magnus didn't want to move, this was it, the moment he had been waiting for all night.

Alec reached into the pocket of his jacket and Magnus flinched, mentally getting ready to make a run for it if the agent drew his gun, but Alec just took a fancy pen from there and put it in the glass of water that was in front of him.

Magnus frowned, not understanding what that meant for a second, but then realization hit him and his eyes widened. That wasn't an ordinary pen, it was one of those devices the FBI used to record conversations, and Alec had just ruined it by putting it in the glass of water.

“I can't believe I'm saying this, but deal.”

Chapter Text

Alec was at home doing what he used to do every weekend—paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. Usually at the end of every week he had a pile of unsolved cases, reports, and other office stuff to go through, and although it was not his favorite part of the job, he never complained. This task, as menial as it was, always helped him to distract himself, but especially to appreciate the opportunity he had to be in the field. Not many agents had the same luck, most of them were confined to their desks and offices, and some even to the basement of the building, where they never saw beyond the thousands of files they had and the most exciting thing that happened during the day was when the printer stopped working. So yeah, he was one of the lucky ones. Spending a few hours of his life doing a little office work was really nothing.

Alec was so lost in the task that when his phone started ringing somewhere in the living room, he jumped scared, almost spilling his coffee on the table.

He rushed to get his phone and when he noticed that the call came from an unknown number, he quickly ran the digits through the database on his laptop before answering. He already knew who this was, Magnus Bane, and although technically they were in some sort of truce that prevented Alec from arresting him, he still wanted to know everything he could about the criminal. Finding information about Magnus while they worked together had been one of the reason why he had agreed to this madness in the first place.

“I bet you just ran this number through some of your databases, you’re so predictable, Alexander.” The criminal said the moment Alec accepted the call.

“No, I didn’t.” Alec said, suddenly feeling very exposed. Was he really that predictable?

“I think we have already established how a terrible liar you are, dear.”

“Okay, fine, I did.” Alec said, rolling his eyes in defeat.

“And?” Magnus inquired. “Did you have better luck this time?”

“No.” Alec sighed. This had been the twelfth number that Magnus had used to communicate with him, and so far Alec hadn’t found a single thing that could be useful to determine where the criminal was or from where he was calling.

“Well, I cannot say I’m disappointed, you know I don’t like it when you stick your nose in my business, but do not despair, Alexander, maybe the thirteenth will be the charm.”

Alec chuckled. Since they had agreed to work together almost two weeks ago, they had been communicating non-stop almost on a daily basis. First, trying to find some sort of connection between the first two cases—the bank and the boutique—and this week, trying to solve the new case. A few days ago fake-Magnus had decided to attack a museum in Queens. He had stolen a sculpture from a contemporary collection valued at about $100 million dollars. As expected, the criminal had left a trail of glitter, automatically making Magnus the prime suspect in the robbery. Alec knew that it hadn’t really been Magnus, since by the time the attack had taken place, the man had been actually on the phone with him, but the Bureau didn’t know that and with the glitter and the similarity between their MOs, Alec had had a really difficult week trying to convince them all that they were, once again, facing the criminal’s impostor and not the real Magnus Bane.

“So...any leads so far?” Magnus asked.

“None. I’m trying to find security footage of the cameras on the streets.” Alec shared. “I want to see if his complexion matches with the one we got from the other attack.”

“Will you ever let me see that security footage you claim to have?” Magnus asked.

Alec had just shared that information with the criminal a few days ago when they had been talking about how slick this criminal could be. Alec had told him that no one was perfect since thanks to a video they had obtained from the security cameras on the street, they had been able to determine certain aspects of his physiognomy that had led them to believe that this man couldn’t be Magnus.

“Maybe...”

“I confronted the man, you know?” Magnus said.

“You, what!?” Alec exclaimed surprised with that small piece of information. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I don’t know, it slipped my mind.”

“Were you testing me?”

“No...well, maybe.”

“I thought we had agreed not to hold back any information.”

“You just told me about the footage you have of him three days ago.”

“Fair enough.” Alec admitted. “Hmmm, if you saw the security footage, do you think you could identify him?”

“Well, I’m not sure how good your material is, but I saw him face-to-face, I even made a quick sketch of his features, but it was very dark, so I’m not sure.”

“Wait, very dark?” Alec questioned.

“Yeah, when that bastard went after the Hope Diamond I was there.”

“You were there!?”

“Yes, but not inside the store if that’s what you’re implying with that tone of surprise, Alexander.” Magnus said, sounding almost offended. “I was across the street, hoping to catch him before he entered the store, but he was already inside. I saw him leaving, though, and I decided to follow him.”

“Of course, you’re the guy who chased him through Central Park and dragged him into the woods.”

“Yes...wait, how do you know I did all that?”

“The footage.” Alec said. “The footage I told you about is from that day. We have a few tapes from outside the boutique and the park. We saw him running down 79th street. At first we thought it was because he wanted to get away from the boutique as fast as possible, but then we noticed that someone was chasing him and we assumed it was the same person who later in the video drags him into some part of the woods after he stumbled, but all that's irrelevant right now, if you were there, why did you let him escape?”

“First of all, I didn’t let him escape, he attacked me with glitter, and then escaped. And while I appreciate the irony of that, it wasn’t pleasant, it hurt—a lot. And second of all, did you catch me on camera and you didn’t recognize me? I’m very disappointed, Alexander. I thought you knew me well.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “It was very dark, we could barely make out the shape of another person, we didn’t know if it was a man or a woman.”

“It was a man, and it was me.”

“I need you to tell me what happened there.”

“I pushed him against a tree and demanded an explanation, but the bastard attacked me and ran away. The only useful information I got that day was that he wasn’t working alone, and well, thanks to that we were able to find out that the real man behind the curtains was none other than our dear Valentine Morgenstern—the dead man who wasn't so dead after all.”

“You know what?” Alec said. “We have to find a way for this alliance to actually work. So far we’ve just been playing pretend, but this can’t go on like this. What you just shared about that day could be important—key—for the investigation, so we will have to make a few changes if we want this to work. For starters, I need a way to contact you at any time of the day, so either you give me a phone number that you aren't going to burn in the next five minutes after hanging up with me, or you get us a pair of walkie-talkies so we can talk. We can’t keep things from each other, it’s important that we are in touch and well informed. If we want Valentine to go down, we really have to team up.”

“Okay, fine, you've made a valid point, I’ll see what I can do, and as per usual, I’ll be in touch.”

“Busy Saturday?” Alec asked, sensing that this conversation was coming to an end.

“Something like that.”

“Are you planning some new heist?”

“Alexander…” Magnus said, and Alec could hear in his tone that the criminal was actually smiling, “we made a truce, remember? You don’t ask, I don’t ask. What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”

"You're planning something, aren't you?"

“As the Anglo-Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith once said, 'ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no fibs.'”

“Right, well...just for the sake of leaving everything clear again, know that my part in this agreement doesn’t give you immunity. If you do something and I learn about it, make sure I’ll catch you.”

“Yeah, keep dreaming about that, pretty boy.” Magnus said.

Alec rolled his eyes again, but smiled in spite of himself.

“Well, even though you know I love talking to you, I really have to go.” Magnus continued.

“Okay.”

“Talk to you later, Alexander.”

“Yeah, bye, Bane.”

“When are you going to start calling me by my name, huh? I think we’ve reached that point, don’t you agree? After all it’s not as if we've just met, we’ve come a long way together.”

“I don’t feel comfortable doing it.” Alec confessed. He called the criminal by his name all the time back in the office and in his mind, but he hadn’t uttered his name once in all the times they had spoken either in person or on the phone.

“Well, someday you will, and I’ll make sure to record it so I can make sure you don’t forget it.” Magnus said laughing, and Alec laughed too. “But until then, goodbye, Alexander.”

“Bye...”

Alec hung up and almost dropped his phone when he saw Jace standing there in front of him. Alec had been so distracted that he hadn’t even noticed that his brother had entered his home without even knocking. Alec usually left the door locked, but sometimes he forgot to put the latch on and that’s when his siblings seized the opportunity to enter his home and either steal his food or almost kill him from a heart attack.

“Who was that?” Jace asked, raising an eyebrow in a playful way.

Alec panicked, but tried to keep his emotions at bay. “The old man from the library.” He lied. “Have you been here long?” He asked, trying to figure out how much of his conversation with Magnus his nosy brother had heard.

“No, I just entered. Quick question, do you always laugh and smile like that when you talk to him?”

“I...me? No, I...I...no, I wasn’t smiling.”

“Yes, you were, and you laughed too, please tell me you’re not into old dudes.”

“I’m not, he just said something funny about me not returning the books on time.” Alec said, turning around to hide his flushed cheeks and pretending to take his now cold cup of coffee to the sink. “That’s why I laughed.”

Jace just shrugged, but didn’t ask any further. Alec took a deep breath to compose himself and joined him back in the living room. “And...what happened? Why are you here, anyway? Don't you usually spend the weekends with Clary exploring the city or whatever you two do?”

“Yes, but well, I’m actually here because of her.” Jace said.

“You guys had a fight again?”

“No, I think things are finally changing for the better. I’m actually here because I need to ask you a favor.”

“I’m not going to lend you money again so you can take her to see some art exhibition on the other side of the country.”

“It’s not that, I just need you to come with me to this party.”

Alec frowned.

“Clary invited me.” Jace continued. “She wants me to meet her family, but it’s going to be at some formal event. Her mom just got engaged to her boyfriend, so they're going to celebrate with a family lunch at this fancy place in Lower Manhattan and I really don’t want to go alone. She said it was okay if I asked you to come with me.”

“Why don’t you ask Izzy? You know she’s better at socializing than I am.” Alec said, quickly trying to find someone who could go instead of him. He wasn’t very good at parties or family events.

“She’s already going as Simon’s plus one and you know what that means, she’s going to ignore me all day, that’s why I’m asking you, please, Alec! Come with me!”

“Jace, you know I’m not very good at large gatherings or just gatherings for that matter.”

“Please? Just this time?” Jace begged. “I’m really freaking out, Alec. I don't want to go through this alone.”

Alec looked at his brother. He really looked scared and that was so weird. Jace was generally very confident and sure of himself, it was strange to see him so nervous about something as simple as meeting his girlfriend’s family, but apparently, his brother was more afraid to meet his mother-in-law than to catch criminals.

“Please?” Jace asked.

“Okay, fine, but I won’t stay there all day, okay? I have laundry and paperwork to do.”

“I’ll do both for you if you go with me.”

Alec smiled. “I’m holding you to that.”

o-o-o-o-o

“Who were you talking to?” Ragnor asked, entering Magnus’s loft and taking a seat on the only couch available at the moment. Magnus had rearranged the space to make room for the oven he was using to age the bonds he'd finished forging the night before.

“Alexander.” Magnus said, throwing the disposable phone he had used into the oven and watching it melt. “I was catching up with the investigation, but there’s nothing new. Well, he told me about the footage again, and now I know it’s from the night that bastard took the Hope Diamond.”

“We were caught on camera?” Ragnor asked alarmed.

Magnus shook his head. “Just me, but he still couldn't recognize me.” He said. “He told me they could barely make out the shape of a second person, so we’re safe.”

“Did you tell him it was you?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“He deserved to know.”

“Did he ask you what happened?”

“Yes.”

“Did you tell him?”

“Yes.” Magnus said simply.

He knew that Ragnor wasn’t very happy with his new alliance with the FBI, so it was better not to elaborate too much. Ever since he had shared the idea with him and Raphael, his two friends had expressed their concerns and opinions about the plan, but Magnus hadn’t listened to them. Well, he had, but he had ignored their warnings. He had a good hunch about this.

“What did he say?”

“Nothing concrete, he just wants us to have a better way of communicating.” Magnus said. “I told him I would see what I could do.”

Ragnor just sighed and remained silent. Magnus knew what his friend was thinking, that Magnus was holding back information, but he wasn’t. Alexander hadn’t told him anything concrete yet.

“How much longer?” Ragnor asked after a while, pointing to the oven.

“They are ready.” Magnus said, taking the two identical bonds he had been ‘baking’ for the past few hours from the oven. Aging paper to make it look like it had existed for decades instead of days was a very exhausting process, since it required extra-careful attention throughout the process. Paper, especially parchment, was very sensitive to heat, so the baking had to be slow and in stages—it couldn’t be done in a single take. Matching the age of the original bonds with the forgeries wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

“And now what?”

“Now we let them cool while I change clothes and then we go to the National Archives to make the switch.” Magnus said.

As he had told Alec, today was a very busy day for him. He had to go to the National Archives before they closed for the day and switch the original Spanish Victory Bond with one of his own. Today he would finally be taking a substantial step towards his next big score and that would bring him closer to his longed freedom. He wasn’t there yet, since he still had to print the bonds he would redeem to get the money and find a way to make the transaction without attaching his name to it, but he could worry about that part later, now he could just enjoy the moment and celebrate this small victory.

“Do I really have to go?” Ragnor asked.

“Of course, you’re my assistant, remember? What’s an academic professor from an Ivy League University without his assistant?”

“An assistant-less professor?” Ragnor joked.

“Very funny, but seriously, you can’t leave me on my own, I need you there to help me. Switching them isn’t going to be easy, there are cameras everywhere, we’ll have to cause a distraction to get away with this.”

“I was afraid you would say that, and I suppose that’s why you need me there, don't you? I’m the distraction, that’s my job, isn’t it?”

Magnus smiled. “You’re the best actor of the two of us, you can pull this off, my friend.”

“When has boosting my ego ever helped you win a discussion?”

“Is this a discussion?”

“It could be…” Ragnor said. “Why do I always have to be the distraction?”

“Because you’re talented.”

Ragnor rolled his eyes. “This is going to cost you something extra...how about one of those bottles of Le Grand Vin from Château Latour that you’ve been saving all these years?”

Magnus sighed. “Fine, help yourself.”

Ragnor smiled and ran to Magnus’s cellar to get a bottle and pour himself a glass of that expensive wine. “Go change, meanwhile I’ll meditate what we should do, I was thinking that maybe we could try with a Blind Chicken.”

Magnus shook his head. “Impossible, my friend, there are too many people.”

“What about a Cannonball?” Ragnor said, naming another of their patented distraction techniques.

Magnus shook his head again. “We can’t have the sprinkler system running, Ragnor, this is the National Archives we’re talking about.”

“What about an Audrey Hepburn?”

“Wait Until Dark?”

“No, I was thinking more about a Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“I like that one,” Magnus grinned, “well thinking, my friend. Now just let me change real quick and we’ll be on our ways in less than five minutes, okay?”

Ragnor nodded and just as Magnus had promised, in less than five minutes they were on their way to the National Archives. It wasn't really that far from Magnus’s place, only three stations away, so they got there in literally no time.

“Ready?” Magnus asked, before they made their way in. As in the last time, they were disguised as academic guys, with serious clothing and exaggerated accessories—glasses, berets, scarves...briefcases.  

“Ready.” Ragnor said.

They casually entered the building and quickly requested the document in question, making small talk with the lady at the reception desk and later with Liam, the old man in charge of that section of the Archives. When they were left alone with the original Spanish bond, they both looked at it and smiled broadly.

The copy that Magnus had forged and which incidentally was hidden under a false lid in Magnus’s briefcase was virtually identical to the original. The seals and the details were made to perfection. The work was impeccable, completely out of this world.

“You've outdone yourself this time, my friend.” Ragnor said. “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

“Thank you.” Magnus smiled, quite proud of the work he had done. It was a shame they couldn’t put the two copies side by side to compare them because it was clear that Magnus’s forgery was as good as the original.

“Such a beautiful, beautiful work that somehow you managed to recreate.” Ragnor said.

“I missed some details, but nothing too obvious just in the brushing, so I don’t think anyone will notice.”

“No, you didn't...you’re just being modest.” Ragnor added. “But anyway, we don’t have much time, so just tell me when you’re ready and I’ll put our plan in motion.” Ragnor said.

Magnus nodded and took a deep breath. Once Ragnor created the distraction he would have less than twenty seconds to switch the bonds before some employee from the Archives approached them and asked Ragnor to either lower his voice or leave the premises. It was a risky move and if something went wrong both would have to use a contingency plan to get out of the building in one piece, but it was worth it.

“Okay, I’m ready.” Magnus said, pretending to make some annotations in a notebook he'd just grabbed from his briefcase.

Ragnor nodded and, as planned, put the 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s' distraction move in motion. It was a silly plan that included a scene from Audrey’s famous film, to be more specific the last one. It worked best when it was made live with another person playing the actress's acclaimed role, since it helped amp up the drama factor and draw more attention, but they had done it a couple of times faking a phone call and it had worked so far.

“Hello honey, how’s your day going?” Ragnor said, pretending to take a call from his wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend, it changed depending on Ragnor's mood, and speaking loudly enough to make himself be noticed.

“Really? What's that so important you want to talk to me about? I’ll be home next week, can it wait?” His friend continued, showing with how well he was acting the fake call why he was always the best choice for this kind of stuff. “I’m listening...you, what!?

Magnus took a deep breath. That was the line before hell broke loose, and Magnus's cue to get ready. Once his friend started yelling and pacing around the room, pretending to fight with his significant other, Magnus would have very little time to make the switch.

“Lucy.” Ragnor said.

Magnus could recreate the dialogue in his mind. This was the part where ‘Lucy’ had to say she wasn’t going to let him do that.

“You’re not going to let me?” Ragnor asked, raising his voice an octave. “Lucy, I’m in love with you.”

So what? Magnus thought in his mind, following the dialogue.

“So what!? So plenty!” Ragnor shouted. “I love you, you belong to me!”

Magnus took a deep breath. He had always agreed with the answer to that part—people didn’t belong to people.

“Of course they do!” Ragnor said.

“Nobody’s going to put me in a cage.” Magnus mouthed to himself as he pretended to ignore his friend and examine the bond.

“I want to love you, and don’t you dare say it’s the same thing because it’s not! It’s not, Lucy!” Ragnor exclaimed, and that did the trick because in that moment Magnus felt all eyes around them fixing on his friend, so he took advantage of the chaos that was starting to form and as discreetly as he could, switched the bonds.

“Sir?” A guard approached Ragnor. “Could you please lower your voice?”

Ragnor ignored him and just kept yelling. “You now what’s wrong with you!?”

“Richard.” Magnus said, calling his friend by the fake name they had chosen for the operation. “Lower your voice, please.”

Ragnor ignored him too. “No, you listen! Do you know what’s wrong with you miss whoever-you-are? You’re a chicken! You got no guts! You’re afraid to say, okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness; you call yourself a free spirit, a wild thing and you’re terrified somebody’s going to stick you in a cage, well, baby, I got news for you, you’re already in that cage! You built it yourself!”

“Sir!” The guard said again. “If you don’t lower your voice I'll have to ask you to leave the building.”

“Richard…” Magnus said, pretending to be terribly ashamed of his assistant’s behavior.

“Sir!” The guard insisted, but when Ragnor continued to ignore him, the man had no choice but to take him by the arm and not so kindly, escort him to the door.

Ragnor, still on his role, kept the act going, yelling and saying nonsense until Magnus could no longer hear him.

“I’m terribly sorry for what just happened.” Magnus told Liam, who, like the rest of the people there, had come over to see what was happening. “Usually, he's very calm and reasonable, but he’s been having trouble with his wife for a while now and that has had him under a lot of pressure. I really don't understand them, they fight and then make up...it's a never-ending game.”

“Married life.” Liam said with a sympathetic smile. “Are you done with that?” He asked, pointing to the bond.

“I am.” Magnus said, giving Liam the bond back and trying not to show his nervousness when the old man, following the usual protocol, examined it before putting it back in its glass case.

“I guess I won’t see you around here anymore?” Liam asked, storing the forged bond as if it were the original. Magnus had told him when they had arrived that they would be returning to Connecticut this weekend. “It was a real pleasure meeting you, I can’t wait to read that book you’re writing.”

“Likewise, Liam, and don’t worry, I’ll send you a copy as soon as I have it.” Magnus lied, putting on his best poker face. He was a conman, so this part was relatively easy.

“I’ll be looking forward to it.”

Magnus gave the man a warm smile and after another round of goodbyes, walked out of the building. Ragnor was waiting for him outside, sitting on a bench.

“So?”

“It’s done.” Magnus said, slightly touching the false lid of his briefcase. “Now ours is the only bond in existence, by the way...you did great back there!”

“They cut me off before I could start yelling about the cat, I love that part, especially when we’re doing it over the phone. People usually freak out because they really think my ruthless wife is throwing our nameless cat out on the street.”

Magnus laughed not only because his friend was funny, but because, as incredible as it sounded, they had done it. They had successfully switched the bonds and now it was just a matter of time before they could finish this score and get as much money as they wanted.

“And now what?” Ragnor asked.

“Now we hail a cab and head for East Harlem.” Magnus said.

“Are we going to see Raphael?” Ragnor inquired. “What for?”

“We need to start getting all the parts for the printer, my friend. The sooner Santiago starts looking for them, the sooner we can start printing the other bonds and finish this job. Besides, I need two untraceable, but not disposables, phones.”

“You already have one of those, why do you want two more?”

“Alexander asked me for a better way to communicate.”

“Right...so this means you’re really going full force with your alliance with...hmmm, them?”

“Yes, but stop saying it like it's a bad thing."

"But it is."

"Well, maybe, but it’s done, Ragnor, get over it, okay?”

“I can’t...I’m worried. What if he betrays you and you end up in jail?”

Magnus sighed. He knew it could happen, of course. He had thought about it more often than not, but well, after they had sealed their agreement with a handshake during their second date, the agent hadn’t tried to catch him, that was a good sign of his willingness for this to work, right? Besides, Magnus couldn't let paranoia get the best of him, if he allowed it, this would end up badly for everyone.

"What are you going to do if that happens, huh?"

"Assume my mistake and hire a good lawyer." Magnus joked.

"I mean it, you idiot! That could happen and you know it, what's the plan if things go wrong?"

"There's no plan, Ragnor, if that happens then that's it, I'm ruined for life, so you'll have to visit me from time to time and take care of my cat.”

“You’re risking a lot, Magnus, are you sure it’s worth it?”

“I know, and it is. I can’t let Valentine keep doing what he’s been doing, and the only way to stop him is if we put him...well, where he belongs.” Magnus said. “And since neither of us are qualified to do that, I don’t see how to do it without a little help from someone who is.”

“Do you trust him not to betray you?”

Magnus meditated, did he? Alec had proved himself to be a man of his word but, would he be able to keep their truce intact? After all, Magnus was one of the most wanted criminals in the city and putting him behind bars was his job. So the real question was, what was more valuable to the agent, Valentine’s head or Magnus’s? And somehow Magnus already knew the answer to that—Valentine's. Alec was a good man, noble and fair, the death of all those innocent people would not go unpunished even if that meant sealing a pact with devil himself. That was how Alexander Lightwood worked, always thinking of the greater good.

“I think I do…” Magnus whispered. “I think I do.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec had been at Clary’s mom's engagement party for nearly two hours and he couldn’t exactly say that he wasn’t, at the very least, having a good time. The food had been great and the company hadn’t been that bad once he'd gotten to know them. All in all they all seemed like very good people.

Simon and Clary, he already knew, but all the others gathered there were complete strangers to him. Clary’s mom, Jocelyn, was sweet and affectionate, as most mothers were, Luke, her fiance, was kind, gentle, and very calm, one of those men whose presence automatically made you feel safe; Dot, Jocelyn’s best friend, was very funny though a bit eccentric, Amatis, Luke’s sister was noisy but still adorable. The only person Alec hadn’t liked that much from the small group had been Clary’s older brother, Sebastian.

He seemed nice, plus Alec couldn’t deny that he was also very handsome with his platinum blond hair and captivating green eyes, but there was something about him that made Alec felt a bit uneasy in his presence. Maybe it was the fact that he tried to please people so much that it seemed a little fake, but for some reason he felt like he couldn't trust him.

Unfortunately he seemed to be the only one who thought that because Jace seemed genuinely happy to have finally met him and had been talking to him non-stop since Clary had made the awkward introduction. At first Sebastian had given Alec's brother the ‘don’t you dare hurt my little sister’ speech, but after that the two had become almost inseparable, sharing stories about their lives and their common interest: Clary. Alec had stayed with them for some time, trying to join the conversation, but ultimately had decided that he couldn’t be there anymore and had excused himself saying that he would go get another drink.

And that was how he had ended up in some corner of the small deck, just watching them all from afar, trying to make his own opinion about all these people.

Sebastian’s laughter echoed in the room and Alec frowned, not quite understanding why this man had the need to overact everything, even something so simple as laughing. What could be so damn funny that required such a performance? That didn't make him look cool or interesting, on the contrary, it made him look suspicious. Was he hiding something under that cool guy facade? He wondered, but immediately shook his head. He had to stop thinking like a federal agent all the damn time—not everyone was hiding things, not everyone was a bad guy.

“He isn’t that bad once you get to know him.” A man said, startling Alec. It was Luke, Jocelyn’s fiance.

“Who?” Alec said, feigning innocence. He didn’t want this man to think that he had been criticizing his future stepson.

“Sebastian.” Luke said. “He’s a nice kid.”

“Oh, no, I…I...I wasn't.” Alec stammered, but decided not to lie. It was clear that this man already knew what he had been doing these past few minutes. “I’m sorry, I couldn't help it.”

Luke laughed warmly. “Don’t worry, I understand. You’re a federal agent, you wouldn't be a good one if you weren’t good at reading people. Sebastian is different from the others, he's hard to read, that’s why most people either love him or don’t like him at all.”

“How do you know that?” Alec asked. “About reading people and stuff?”

“Once, I was a federal agent too.” Luke admitted.

“What!?” Alec exclaimed, because that he hadn’t seen coming.

“I was a CD agent.”

“Counterintelligence Division?” Alec asked in surprise.

Luke nodded.

“Why aren’t you there anymore? Or, are you? I thought you mentioned working at a bookstore or something.”

“It’s a long story,” Luke said, “but well, we had this case, it was a good one the kind that every agent wants to have on its resume. We were after this dangerous group of terrorists, we had been studying them for months, following every step they took, you know how that is. The day we were going to take them down we discovered that someone had warned them about our attack and we had to move ahead of schedule. During the confrontation I was shot in the back. The bullet injured my spine and although I’m lucky to be alive and able to walk, I could never go back to being a field agent again.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, it must have been really hard for you, but why quit entirely? You could have stayed in the force, you were a CD agent, your brain was more useful than any physical disability.”

“It wasn’t by choice.” Luke said.

“No? What happened?”

“My partner.” Luke said, and Alec could see that although this seemed to have happened a long time ago there was still sadness in those brown eyes. “I can’t tell you much, but he made the wrong decisions during that case and when they discovered that, I was sent away to witness protection.”

“The Marshals.” Alec assumed. They always had the last word when something like that happened. Having a partner meant committing to that person and its actions for life, if they did something wrong and someone discovered them, you either ended up in jail with them or the Marshals sent you away for your own protection.

Luke nodded. “Since then I’ve been having a modest life, selling books and raising these kids.” He added, pointing to both Clary and Sebastian. “I can’t complain, I’m happy with my new life and the family I got with it.”

“You never thought about coming back?”

“At first, but I knew I couldn’t.”

“It must have been very hard.”

“It was, but Jocelyn was there to help me get through it.”

“You guys have been together a long time?”

“Officially? Almost two years,” Luke said, “but we’ve been in love for a very long time. We met when we were young and we were always very good friends. I always loved her, but she married someone else, and although that made us go separate ways for a while, life always managed to bring us back together. We tried to fight what we felt, you know? For years I was just the best friend who was there for her, but when the kids started to grow we realized that one day we’d just have each other and that's when we decided to give it a try. At first we didn’t tell anyone, we met in secret and pretended to be the same old friends in front of the kids, but one day Clary discovered us and when we saw that she was okay with it, we decided to tell Sebastian too, and then the rest of our family and friends.”

“And now you’re engaged.”

“We are.” Luke smiled, and Alec realized how happy that thought made this man feel. He was practically glowing, as Jace had been since they had arrived there. He wondered if that was what love did to a person, made them glow and look like the happiest version of themselves.

“Your brother told me you’re in charge of a specialized team of agents in the white-collar division, you must have done pretty well back in Quantico to get that title at such young age.”

Alec blushed. He always had a hard time receiving compliments. “I wasn't that bad.”

“Who was your teacher there? Did you do the Hogan’s Alley simulation?” Luke asked. “They opened that facility when I was about to graduate, so I never got to experience it.”

“I did.” Alec smiled, and with that he spent the rest of his time there talking with Luke, sharing stories about their time at the academy and what it was like to be an agent in the real world. Alec shared some details about the cases he was trying to solve at the moment and took with gratitude all the tips and advices that this man so kindly offered him.

When the day started to turn into night, Alec said his goodbyes and after receiving a bone-crushing hug from his brother as a thank you for going with him, Alec went home.

He entered his apartment and, after dropping his keys, he took off his jacket and proceeded to take out his wallet and badge from his pocket. He was about to put his gun down when a strange sensation sent shivers all over his body. He had lived alone long enough to know when he wasn't exactly alone.

He was certain there was someone standing somewhere behind him. He couldn't see it since he hadn’t turned on the lights yet, but he could feel it, so careful not to alert the intruder, Alec grabbed his gun and turned around as fast as he could so as not to lose the element of surprise. “Freeze! Don't move!” He exclaimed, cocking his gun.

“Don't go all Law & Order on me, Alexander, you know I'm never armed.”

“Magnus.”

Chapter Text

“What are you doing here!?” Alec asked, lowering his gun and turning on the lights of the apartment. Magnus had purposely left them off to add mysticism to the scene, he had wanted to see Alec's first reaction when he realized that he had broken into his home, he had wanted to take him by surprise, but it had been Alec the one who had managed to surprise him.

“You said my name.” Magnus said, still in shock from what he had just heard. Alec had finally said his name.

“What?”

“You said my name, just now.”

“No I didn't.”

“Yes you did, I heard it clearly, you said ‘Magnus,’” Magnus said, mirroring Alec's voice and adding his own dramatic twist for effect. “I know I promised to record it, but you took me by surprise, dear. I knew it was bound to happen someday, but I'll be honest, I never thought it would be so soon. My God, Alexander, this is a very important milestone in our story, it's a shame I don't have physical evidence of it, but know that I have it here in my memory forever. And please, feel free to keep calling me by my name, I like it. I like it very much.”

“It was a mistake, I wasn’t expecting you, but it won't happen again, I can promise you that.” Alec said. He was completely flushed, Magnus could see his cheeks getting redder by the minute. “What are you doing here anyway?”

“I came to see you, of course.”

“How did you enter?”

“The window.” Magnus said simply, pointing to the opening. “It was relatively easy, this isn’t a very safe building, the emergency stairs lead to an alley and there's no surveillance, you should consider moving somewhere safer.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “Why didn't you call? I thought that's how you wanted things to work out between us.”

“Really? If I recall correctly, I told you that one of the perks of this agreement was that you would get to spend more time with me. Besides, I'm here because you asked for a better way to communicate and I got it.” Magnus said, handing the agent the phone he had gotten for him. “One for you and one for me. It's not a burner like the ones I’ve been using to call you, but you won’t be able to track it either. You can try, of course, but you will only find disappointment in your path. I took the liberty of adding the number I got for this one-time-only agreement, so now we have a very direct way of communicating with each other. That’s what you wanted, right?”

“Is this a regular phone?” Alec asked, inspecting the device.

“Yes and no.” Magnus said. “It works like one, it even looks like one, but besides being untraceable, it can also be destroyed with a button, you know, for safety.”

Alec frowned, and Magnus just smiled. “These are custom made, Alexander. They have the same things regular phones have, they just come with some extra additions that make them very useful for people like me, and for this kind of clandestine calls and stuff.”

“And how do you pay for it? Is it a plan or something?”

“No, it’s prepaid.”

“And the minutes, how do you-?”

Magnus interrupted him, placing a finger in front of the agent’s mouth to shut him up. “Don’t ask things you know I won’t answer, just know that you will always have minutes to call me, always.”

“Fine.” Alec sighed. He was clearly not happy with that, but he seemed to have stopped with all the questioning. “You said it could be destroyed...how?”

Magnus smiled. “I’m glad you asked, we have to set that thing right away. Here, gimme.” He added, grabbing the phone again and typing the code Raphael had told him to enter. “Now, just say your name after I ask you, okay?”

“What?”

“Just say it…” Magnus said, rolling his eyes. Why couldn’t this man just do what he was asked to do without asking? “Now.”

Alec rolled his eyes too, but said his name anyway. “Alec Lightwood.”

“Done!” Magnus smiled. “Now, if things go wrong and for some reason you need to get rid of this thing, you just press the on/off button for ten seconds, give or take, and say your name. The self-destruct system will trigger and the phone will literally explode.”

“Literally?”

“Kaboom! You won’t want to be near that thing if that happens. You have ten seconds before it blows up, so if you have do it just make sure you have a place to run and protect yourself. The explosion is quite powerful, even deadly if you're not careful, so don't go messing with it if you don’t have to, okay?”

Alec nodded, now looking at the phone with wariness, as if he were holding a bomb. Magnus just smiled and started to walk around the living room, trying to have a better look at everything there was to see. He had arrived early, when there was still daylight, but he had decided to stay outside until Alec was there as a way respect his privacy. However, now that both were there nothing was stopping him from snooping around Alec’s stuff and finally satisfy that curiosity that had only grown with the hours.

“What are you doing?” The agent asked. He seemed nervous that Magnus was walking around his apartment, looking closely at all his personal things.

“Exploring.” Magnus said. “I’m curious about your place, my mother used to say that you could learn a lot about people based on their homes.”

“You already know more about me than you should, so...”

“Does that bother you?” Magnus asked intrigued.

“Surprisingly?” Alec said. “No.”

“Good.” Magnus said, and resumed what he was doing, stopping only until he stumbled across a picture frame. “Who are these?” He asked, pointing to the photo. It was a group of several people, all agents by the look of it.

“My class in Quantico.”

Magnus picked up the picture and smiled at the sight of Alec. He was younger and his hair was shorter, but he hadn't changed much. “There you are! You haven’t changed a bit, dear. And...are these your siblings?” He pointed to the blond guy and the dark-haired woman standing right beside him. “I thought they were younger than you.”

“They are.”

“Then, how come they graduated with you?”

“Well, they are very smart, they got into the academy two years earlier.”

“So your father’s influences had nothing to do with this?”

“No, well...maybe.” Alec admitted.

Magnus put the picture down and resumed his walking, now standing in front of the large bookshelf that decorated the living room. There were hundreds, more like thousands, of books there, and he was happy to see that the first editions he’d given him almost two weeks ago had gotten a spot there at the top of it.

“I’m glad you didn’t give these away, they are a great addition to your collection.” He said, but Alec ignored him, so Magnus just kept walking. There was something hidden under a black curtain at the far end of the living room that had piqued his curiosity the moment the lights had come on.

“Don’t.” Alec said, but it was too late, Magnus had already drawn the curtain, revealing a large blackboard, covering most of the wall, completely dedicated to Magnus.

“Alexander!” Magnus gasped, feigning shock and surprise. “I’m very flattered, my dear. I had no idea that I was so important to you, you have a wall dedicated to my magnificent self.”

“It’s not dedicated to you.” Alec said, rolling his eyes and letting out a huff of clear desperation.

“I think it is, I don’t see anyone else in here but me, darling. Look, you even have my favorite picture of myself, gosh, I look so good in here. Red is definitely my color.” Magnus said, appreciating the picture. He wasn’t lying, he liked that shot, although from afar, it captured his best angles.

“Well, I put that together to catch you.”

“I can see that.” Magnus said, analyzing what Alec had so far.

It was definitely more than he had imagined at first, but luckily nothing that put him at immediate risk. Alec had figured out the names of some people from his past life, locations where he had definitely been at some point, aliases he had used, but nothing really close to who he really was, so he was safe...for now. “Well,” he added, covering the blackboard again, “you’ve done your homework, I can give you that.”

Alec chuckled. “I suppose I can’t ask how close I am to finding you, can I?”

“You just did,” Magnus smiled, “and given that we’re in the same room and a few feet away from each other, I would say that pretty close.” He said, taking a seat on the nearest couch. It was very comfy and cozy, perfect for a movie night with fluffy blankets and wine, why was he thinking about that? He had no idea.

“But tell me, Alexander, where have you been, huh? I arrived here early, but didn’t feel comfortable coming in when you weren’t home.”

“Now you have respect for privacy and boundaries?”

“I’ve always had respect for them, darling.” Magnus winked. “And well?”

“I don’t have to tell you where I was, that’s none of your business.”

“Were you with someone?” He asked, not knowing where that need to know that detail about Alec’s personal life had come from. The agent was right, that was none of his business.

“Maybe.” Alec said, and though Magnus knew the agent was lying—he really was a terrible liar—that didn’t stop that strange feeling of discomfort from forming in the pit of his stomach.

“Is he as dazzlingly handsome as I am?”

Alec frowned, as he did every time Magnus either caught him off guard or said something that made him feel uncomfortable. “What gives you the impression that I think you’re handsome?”

“The way you look at me.” Magnus said with a grin. He knew he was playing with fire, but he had never been afraid of getting burned.

“I don’t look at you in any way.” Alec said in self-defense.

“If you say so…” Magnus shrugged, and just watched the agent walk to his kitchen and pour himself a glass of water.

“You want a glass?” Alec said, apparently not forgetting his good manners.

Magnus shook his head. He wasn't wearing any gloves at the moment, he had already been careless enough to grab a couple of things without them, he certainly wasn't going to leave a clean set of fingerprints on a glass of water for the agent to collect and add them to his file, he wasn't that stupid. “So...do you know anything new about my impostor?” He asked instead.

“I told you this morning,” Alec said, shaking his head, “there's nothing new, this is all we have.” He added, showing Magnus a very short file about last week's new case.

Magnus grabbed it and began to read it. It was a detailed report of the crime scene at the Queens Museum. It detailed the exposition, the evidence found on the scene, the cause of death of the four guards, and, like all the rest, it pinned Magnus as the prime suspect.

“I'm ordering Chinese for dinner, do you want to stay?” Alec asked casually.

Magnus's first reaction to that question was to almost drop the file he was supposed to be reading, but fortunately for him he caught it before he could embarrass himself in front of the agent and just pretended to close it. “Your treat?”

“Evidently.” Alec said, rolling his eyes...again.

Magnus smiled, wondering if one day this man would stop rolling his eyes at him, but realizing he really didn't want that. It was part of who Alec was, and he liked him—rolling eyes or not. “Okay.”

Alec didn't say anything else and just called to order the food, not even asking Magnus what he wanted. Magnus didn't complain, though, the last two times they had dined together Magnus had ordered the food without asking, he supposed Alec could have this one for a little change.

“So...the cases.” Alec said after hanging up. “For us it's clear there's no obvious connection between the three, but do you think there could be one?”

Magnus shook his head. “Just that they were executed by the same man.”

“What about the diamond and the sculpture, could they be connected somehow?”

Magnus shook his head again. “Impossible, both are very valuable pieces, yes, but they have no connection whatsoever.”

“Okay, so if there's no connection then to be able to solve this mess we’ll have to take each case and isolate it.” Alec said, grabbing his laptop from the coffee table and opening it to take some notes. “The first two cases, we've already discussed them over the phone, so let's focus on the last one, why steal that sculpture? What's so important about it?” He asked, and Magnus smiled, it was clear that when the agent was working on his cases he was in his element.

“Well, for starters this sculpture isn't just an ordinary sculpture, Alexander.” Magnus explained. “‘L’Homme qui marche I’ or ‘The Walking Man I,’ in English, used to be the most expensive sculpture ever sold in an auction until May 2015, when another work by the same artist, Alberto Giacometti, more specifically ‘L'Homme au doigt’ or ‘The Pointing Man,’ supplanted it.”

“Okay, so it's safe to say that thanks to the robbery the piece probably increased its value on the black market, so we're talking about almost $300 million dollars or so, but as far as we know this criminal isn't selling anything yet, so that's of no help right now, what else do you know? What makes this piece so interesting?”

“It could be a lot of things.” Magnus said sincerely.

“Like what?”

“Well, I don't know if you knew this, but this piece has five twin sisters, and four older brothers.”

Alec frowned, and Magnus couldn’t help but laugh.

“There are six limited edition copies of the sculpture and four artist’s proofs.” Magnus explained. “That makes a total of ten cast bronze sculptures, six completely identical and four slightly different, hmmm more...rustic. The artist’s proofs are the first castings to come out of the mold when an artist decides to make a new piece, so they aren't that valuable, but the limited editions always are, especially if you have them all.”

“But he only got one.” Alec said.

“I know.”

“Do you think he’ll go after the other ones?”

“I don’t know.”

“Would you have gone after the other ones?” Alec rephrased.

“It depends, if all I wanted to get out of this score was money, then yes, I would have tried to get them all, even the artist's proofs,” Magnus admitted, “but if I had been after this just for the aesthetic value of it, then no, I wouldn’t have tried to get the others, but I would definitely have gone after the one this bastard took.”

“Why?”

“Of the complete set of six, the second edition was the most valuable one since it was sold to a private collector.” Magnus explained.

“Who, by the way, paid over a hundred million dollars for it. Seriously, what is it with rich people and art? That piece wasn’t even that good.”

“Excuse me!?” Magnus exclaimed, almost offended on behalf of the Swiss artist.

“What? It’s true, it's just a silly bronze sculpture of a walking man, what’s so special about it?”

“That silly bronze sculpture, as you call it, represents more than a walking man, that piece depicts a lone man in mid-stride with his arms hanging at his side in a brilliant way. The piece is often described as both a humble image of an ordinary man, and a powerful symbol of humanity. The world's best art critics say that Giacometti managed to capture the natural equilibrium of the stride and represented it as a symbol of a man's own life force.” Magnus explained. “Did you know that in 1960, Giacometti was asked to be part of a public project by the Chase Manhattan Plaza which consisted of planting bronze figures outside the building? He created several sculptures for that project, ‘The Walking Man I,’ included, but later he struggled with the project and eventually abandoned the commission. However, in 1961, he cast the life-size work in bronze and exhibited it at the Venice Biennale a year later. This piece was created at the high point of this artist’s mature period, Alexander, and it represents the pinnacle of his experimentation with the human form. The piece is considered one of his most important works and one of the most iconic images of Modern art.” He concluded.

Alec was looking at him with a funny expression on his face. He was smiling, but not in a common way, he looked bemused? Surprised? Magnus wasn’t sure.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I was wondering...do you just happen to know all there is to know about literally everything?” Alec asked, and what surprised Magnus the most wasn’t the question, but the fact that it was genuine, the agent did want to know the answer to that.

“I like to know things, Alexander, I already told you that once, I’ve always been like that. Since I was a little boy I always had a book in front of me, then with the internet and stuff, well, I just had more sources to get information that interests me.”

“Well, I'm impressed, you’re like, hmmm like-”

“Like what?”

“Like a human version of Google.”

Magnus burst out laughing as he hadn’t done in years, and the best part? Alec joined him, laughing with him or at him, Magnus wasn’t really sure, for what felt like hours but was probably only a few minutes. When the laughing fit ceased, Magnus’s stomach hurt and there were small tears in his eyes.

“Well, darling," Magnus said, still trying to control his breathing, "I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but never of resembling a human version of a powerful Internet search engine, you can add that fact about me to your little blackboard, I’m sure your boss will be very impressed when you mention that detail about me.”

“I will.” Alec said, still smiling.

Magnus was going to say something more to keep this light conversation going, but in that moment the food arrived, and Alec stood up to open the door, quickly paying for it and handing Magnus the bag while he went to the kitchen to get something to drink.

“Here, it’s not the best wine there is,” Alec said, placing a bottle of white wine on the coffee table and offering Magnus a glass, “but I think it will do. It’s not like we’re going to eat gourmet or something.”

Magnus hesitated, eying the glass cautiously, not because of the clearly cheap wine, he really didn't care about that, but because grabbing that glass meant giving Alec something he'd wanted for years.

“Just grab the damn glass, okay? I’m not going to run your prints, I’m not stupid.” Alec said, when he realized that Magnus had no intention of accepting the wine. “How do you expect me to explain to the Bureau that you just happened to be at my home? I can’t do it, I’ve been very vocal with my refusal to accept your involvement in the last three cases, if they discover that you’ve been here, they are going to think that I’m trying to protect you. And I’m not—just for the record.”

Magnus smiled. “Good point.” He said, finally grabbing the glass. “So you’ve been very vocal, huh? May I ask why?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do...you’re a criminal, yes, but you’re not a murderer. Those deaths aren’t yours to pay.”

Magnus smiled shyly, trying to drown with the wine that funny feeling that was forming, for the second time in the day, in the pit of his stomach. “You're the most honorable man I’ve ever met, Alexander, did you know that?”

Alec blushed and busied himself with his food, suddenly finding the lid of the food container quite entertaining.

“Why is it so hard for you to accept a compliment?” Magnus dared to ask. It had happened repeatedly during the times that they’d been together. Magnus said something nice about Alec's physical appearance or personality and the agent, without fail, blushed like a tomato, a cute tomato, but still. “Surely a man as handsome and successful as yourself is used to them, be honest...how many hearts have you broken in this city so far, huh?”

Alec laughed nervously, but didn’t answer.

“That many, huh?” Magnus said. “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised, with that face and the important position you have in the force, I bet you get a lot of dates, there must be a long list of people waiting for an opportunity to be with you.”

Alec chuckled.

“So...how many?”

“I’m not going to answer that.”

“Right...a gentleman never tells.” Magnus smiled. “Are you with someone right now?”

“No.” Alec said. “Why do you have to ask such personal questions?”

“Because I don’t like to eat in silence and you never talk unless I ask you something, and since we were talking about your problem with accepting compliments, I don’t know, the topic just seemed appropriate.”

“I don't have a problem accepting compliments.”

“Yes, you do.” Magnus said. “And I think you shouldn't, people often mean what they say when they are complimenting someone, at least I do.”

Alec blushed again and just kept eating to avoid responding. That shyness was adorable to some extent, but it worried Magnus that this man, who he found so interesting and intriguing, thought so little about himself.

“Can I ask you something?” Alec asked.

“Of course, I'm just not sure if you'll get an answer, you know how this thing between us works, but by all means...ask away, darling.”

“Earlier, when you arrived, you mentioned your mother, I couldn't help noticing the past tense you used when you talked about her, is she...dead?”

Magnus just nodded.

“I'm sorry.”

“No reason to be, it happened a long time ago.” Magnus said, trying not to show much emotion. He didn't like to talk about his mother. It was a part of him that he liked to keep locked up.

“Do you miss her?”

“No.” Magnus said.

“You don't like to talk about her, do you?”

“That’s correct.”

“It's okay, we can talk about something else, I could, I don't know, ask you random questions and put your knowledge to the test.”

Magnus frowned in confusion. “Is this your way of proving that I'm not as smart as I claim to be, or are you just trying to ask me stuff to avoid answering my questions about your life?”

“Both…?” Alec said tentatively.

Magnus laughed. “Okay, shoot, but just for the record, I'm even smarter than I claim to be, and like it or not, one day you'll answer all my questions in full detail and without even blinking, you’ll see.”

Alec rolled his eyes with a smile, but didn't refute the statement, he just started asking random questions about science, history, art, literature, and whatever thing came to his mind. Magnus answered each and every one of them without failing, giving him as many facts as he could—how’s, when’s, where’s, whatever Alec asked, he had an answer for it.

Time flew by and the night slipped away like water through fingers. One hour, two, three...six, by the time Magnus realized, the sun was already seeping through the windows and casting shadows on the floor—they had been up all night just talking, well, drinking and talking.

“I didn't know that.” Alec said after Magnus ended his explanation about color wavelengths and why the sky changed of color throughout the day.

“Well, now you do.” Magnus said, falling into a peaceful silence. They could hear the city starting to wake up, the birds singing to the new day. “Does this count as a third date?” He asked, attributing his boldness to the fact that he hadn't slept at all and had had one too many glasses of wine.

Alec didn't reply.

“I'll take your silence as a yes,” Magnus said, smiling at the agent who was as red as a cherry. “Well, I had a great time, really, but unfortunately I have to go. I'm like a vampire, daylight is dangerous for me. Besides, your siblings might come looking for you at any moment and that would be extremely awkward, don’t you agree?”

“How do you-”

“Relax, okay, I know they live in the same building, next to you to be more precise. Anyway, feel free to use your new phone whenever you want, either way I'll be in touch, and thanks again for a wonderful night.” Magnus said, waving goodbye and climbing down the window.

“Bye, Alexander.” He added, dramatically blowing the agent a kiss and rushing down the emergency stairs.

Magnus was so distracted and out of himself that he failed to notice the man in the black cloak who had been following him since the day before and who, by the way, had seen everything he had done—when he had arrived, how long he had spent there, and most importantly, which apartment he had visited.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec closed the window after Magnus disappeared down the stairs, and flopped on his couch with a loud thud, using his hands to cover his face and conceal the silly smile that he was certain was gracing his face at that very moment. He had had the best of times with Magnus, and although overall it had been a very good day with his siblings and Clary's family, he couldn't deny that what had him smiling like a fool was the evening he had just spent with the criminal.

Magnus was really something else, and after these weeks they’d spent talking almost non-stop and the ‘dates’ they had had, it was stupid to keep denying that he found the man completely fascinating and utterly irresistible. He kind of liked him, well, not kind of, he liked him. Period. They had a lot in common and yet they were complete opposites, and that made their time together feel like a roller coaster ride—scary, uncertain, thrilling, surprising...breathtaking.

Alec had never felt comfortable with anyone before the way he seemed to feel with the criminal. Maybe it was because with him he didn't have to meet any expectations or pretend to be someone he was not, none expected anything from the other, they were who they were and it worked. It worked to the extent that tonight Alec had not only invited him to stay for dinner, which incidentally he had never done before, but he hadn't even thought about arresting him, not even once—not to mention that, by accident, he had called him by his name.

He was so screwed.

He was losing focus and letting that attraction, interest, or whatever to cloud his senses, to take control of the situation, and he couldn't allow it, he had to stop it before it was too late.

The problem, however, was that he didn't know how. How could he stop something he didn't even know what it was? He had no idea what was happening to him. He just knew that there was something about that man, something Alec couldn't explain that drew him in, like a moth to the light. Magnus was so smart and schooled that every time he spoke Alec was caught under some sort of spell in which all he could do was listen, listen to whatever this man had to say—good or bad. He was so different from the people he'd met in his life and from the bad guy he thought he was that he-

A knock on the door pulled Alec out of his reverie.

Absentmindedly, he rose from the couch and opened the door without even bothering to check who it was. It was his sister, Izzy, who greeted him with a broad smile on her face that died all too soon.

“Alec, what the hell?” She questioned, pointing to Alec’s body. Alec was still wearing the same clothes as the day before. “Why aren’t you ready? And, why are you still wearing yesterday’s clothes?”

Alec flinched. He had momentarily forgotten that every Sunday, almost without fail, he and his sister went for a run through Central Park. Sometimes Jace joined them, but he never seemed to have the energy to wake up so early on Sunday mornings.

“I...I…” Alec stammered as his sister made her way inside his home.

“Wait a second.” Izzy said, stopping dead in her tracks after crossing the threshold. “Did you have someone over?” She asked, staring at the bottle of wine, the two empty glasses, and the food containers that were on the coffee table.

Alec panicked, trying to come up with an excuse to deny what was obvious, but there was no point, was it? There were two empty glasses and two food containers, saying that he had been alone all night would be worse than admitting a half truth.

“Maybe.”

“Oh my God!” She squealed with delight, quickly leading Alec to one of the couches and practically forcing him to sit down. Alec was twice her size, but his sister was a very strong woman. “Today we’re going to skip the running thing and instead, you, big brother, are going to talk to your favorite sister and give her all the gossip about this man. After all, it’s not like we really need to go exercise, right? We’re hot! But come, on! Spill the beans! I'm impatiently waiting.”

“There’s nothing to spill.” Alec said. He was already regretting having somehow accepted that he had had someone over.

“Of course there is! For starters you just confirmed what Jace and I had suspected for days, you’re seeing someone!”

“I’m not seeing anyone.” Alec said alarmed.

“Yes you are, stop denying it! Don’t think we haven’t noticed your sudden change of mood, especially in the last two weeks, you’ve been acting different, Alec. Besides, you never invite people here! So if you invited him then he’s not just some random guy you found on the streets. Come on, Alec! Speak! I wanna know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!” She said, clapping excitedly. “Who is he? And don’t you dare say no one because then I’ll put you through a polygraph test and we both know how bad you are at it!”

“Okay fine, I’m seeing someone, happy?” Alec admitted, knowing that although it wasn’t exactly true, he had to give her at least something or she would be all over him every hour of every day of every week until he admitted it. She could be quite stubborn when she wanted to know something. Not in vain she was primarily responsible for conducting the interrogations back in the office.

“Ahhhhhh!” She screamed, almost deafening him.

“Really?” Alec said, covering his ears of the annoying sound. “Was that really necessary? You just woke up the entire building, the whole neighborhood, Isabelle!”

“You know I never hold back, I’m happy and excited for you, and I was just expressing it, so tell me...who is he? What’s his name? Do I know him? Please tell me he’s not someone from the office.”

“From the office?” Alec frowned, really confused by that. Who could like him from the office? Except for his team, everyone in there either hated him because he was the boss after the captain, or because they thought he was just some spoiled brat who had gotten his position because daddy had pulled a few strings for him. He knew what people said about him behind his back.

“Alec, you'd be surprised to know how many agents, men and women alike—if I may add—would be willing to give up their badges just to be with you in a more...intimate way.”

“Well, I don't like women, you know that and please...stop lying.”

“I’m not lying, but I’m not going to give you names either because then you’ll just start acting all weird and stuff around them and make work really awkward, but if you pay attention, you could probably notice it, it’s actually very obvious.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say, Izzy,” he said, pretending that the fact that there were people who found him attractive in the office didn’t intrigue him in the slightest, “I’ll go take a shower now.”

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” She said, practically climbing on top of him to keep him from moving. “You aren’t going to move from this couch until you’ve told me every last detail there is to know about your secret boyfriend, got it? If you don’t start talking like right now, then I’m going to go wake up Jace and ask him to come over too, and then you’ll have to deal with the two of us together, so it’s your choice, mister!”

Alec sighed, having Izzy was more than enough already, he didn’t want to add Jace to the mix. Sometimes his partner was better than his sister at reading him and discovering his darkest secrets. “Just to make things clear, he's not my boyfriend.”

“Okay, but you're seeing each other, so who is he?”

“I can’t tell you who he is.” He said, resigned.

“Why not?”

“Because…” Alec said, trying to come up with something convincing to tell her. “Because we just started seeing each other and I don't want to jinx it.” He lied.

“Okay fine, I didn’t know you were superstitious, but okay, I can understand that...just tell me, do I know him?”

“Yes.” Alec thought, but quickly shook his head. “No.”

“Where did you meet him? How old is he? What does he do for a living?” Izzy started to ask, bombarding him with question after question, but Alec had stopped paying attention after the third one. If he were really seeing Magnus in the context his sister was imagining, he wouldn’t be able to tell her the answer to any of those questions anyway, especially not what he did for a living.

“So…?”

“You asked a lot of questions at once, Iz, you can’t expect me to answer them all right away, can you?”

“Of course! Come on, start talking, we have all day...I’ll put the coffee.”

Alec sighed and started to share with his sister a twisted version of his last three encounters with Magnus, sharing a bit of information about the dates and how they had gone, but leaving the criminal’s name and the details about their agreement completely out of it. During his story, Alec allowed himself to get excited about certain things that until now he had just kept to himself, like the flower that Magnus had left for him and the books he had given him. His sister, as per usual, wasn't holding anything back and was jumping up and down, showing how excited she was. And although, technically, what he had shared was not classified as a lie, Alec still felt bad about ‘omitting’ the truth to her. They had always been very open and honest with each other. He would never forget that Izzy had been the first person he had come out to and that she had been very nice and supportive about it, but still, he couldn’t tell her the whole truth, at least not yet. So when he finished with his story, he just smiled at her and hoped she’d settle for that.

“Alec, I'm so happy for you!” She exclaimed, hugging him tightly.

Alec returned the smile and closed his eyes, wondering at what point of the road his life had become this big mess full of lies and complications.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus arrived to his home feeling as light as a feather. Maybe it was because of all the wine he had ingested or the amazing company he had had during the night, or maybe both, but he really didn’t care, he was happy as he hadn’t been in a very long time and that was all that mattered. He had had such a great time with Alexander that he could hardly believe it, not that the last two times that they had been face-to-face hadn’t been great, but tonight everything had been very different. Perhaps it was due to the new familiarity between them product of all those phone calls and texts in the past weeks, or simply because the agent seemed to have been in a very good mood when he had come home, but either way, Magnus had loved every minute of all the hours he had spent at the agent’s house and felt that nothing and no one could ruin his mood. Not even his best friend, who by the way, had been waiting for him at his place when he had arrived.

“Did you give it to him?” Ragnor asked, the moment Magnus entered the loft.

“I did.” Magnus said, hanging his coat by the door.

“It took you longer than I expected, I was starting to worry. I thought I’d have to go look for you in the nearest supermax prison or something.”

“I stayed for dinner.” Magnus said with a smile.

“It’s 7am.” Ragnor pointed out.

“And then for some drinks.” Magnus added.

“At his place?”

“At his place.” Magnus confirmed. “He invited me.”

“Really?”

“Yes...I think he likes me.” He added with another smile.

“Careful, Magnus.” Ragnor said in a cautious tone. “Those are very, very dangerous waters. He’s still a fed, my friend, and not just any fed. He’s the one who’s been going after you for years. Maybe you’re right and he likes you, but he still wants you behind bars.”

“I know.”

“Do you?” Ragnor inquired. “Because I think you’re starting to forget that.”

“Okay, you’re worried, I get that, but don’t be, okay? You know I can take care of myself.” He said calmly. He had been serious about nothing ruining his mood, not even Ragnor's endless lectures about safety, mistakes, and risks.

“I just don’t want you to ruin yourself because of him, that’s all.”

“I know.” Magnus smiled. He knew that Ragnor’s concerns came from a very good place in his heart. They had been friends for years, Magnus knew that if the roles were inverted he would be probably lecturing Ragnor as well. “And I really appreciate your concern, my friend, probably more than you can imagine, but everything is fine, okay? You don’t need to worry about me or Alexander. I know what I'm doing.” He said, trying to reassure his friend, and himself too.

“Do you remember when we first learned that there was a new fed following your every step? Do you remember what you told me about him?” Ragnor asked.

“Of course I remember, that if we weren’t careful, this agent could be the bane for Magnus Bane.”

“Well, be careful because at that time we laughed at the silly reference to your name, but now? If you're not careful, I think it could really come true, my friend.”

Magnus didn’t reply because he knew that his friend was telling nothing but the truth, but unfortunately or not, that advice had come a day late.

“Oh dear God!” Ragnor exclaimed when realization hit him. Magnus was one hundred percent sure that there was something on his face, eyes, or whatever that was giving him away. “You like him, like him, don’t you?”

“No.” Magnus said, but he didn’t sound convincing even to his own ears.

He had always admired Alec not only for what he had already accomplished at such a young age, but because he was smart and driven, responsible and determined, and he admired those qualities, but getting to know him, to really know him in these past weeks had made him realize that the agent was much more than what he had imagined he would be. And yeah, maybe there was some kind of truth in what Ragnor had just said. He liked him. How much? He still didn’t know, but there was definitely something there and it was growing...rapidly.

“You’re so screwed, did you know that?” Ragnor said, looking at Magnus intently.

That was some of the good things about their friendship, they knew each other so well that they didn’t need to have full conversations about certain topics. A look, a silence, a word, or a simple expression, and they already knew what the other was thinking, or in this case, feeling.

“I know, my friend, I know.”

“And?”

“And nothing...I’ll be careful, okay?”

“And you’ll tell me if something happens between you two, right?”

“Of course, you know that, but don’t worry, nothing's going to happen. And now...how are things going with the printer for the bonds?” Magnus asked, trying to change the subject as subtly as he could.

“I got us a place near here. It’s not in the best of conditions, we'll have to clean it and things like that, but it’s big enough for the printer...it used to be an old fire station.”

“Uhhh, I like that. Who told you about that place?”

“Malcolm...we could go see it today if you want. Oh, and the printer? Raphael got one already, we’ll have to assemble it and probably fix it, but they assured him it’s from Spain and from the same year that the bonds were printed, so we won't have any problems.”

“Excellent news, my friend!” Magnus exclaimed with a huge smile. This day was just getting better and better. “Do you know when will the pieces arrive?”

“In the next couple of days.” Ragnor said. “Well, that’s what Raphael said. We ordered it yesterday. It’s going to costs us a lot of money, I had to clear some of our assets to pay for it, but it will be worth it. We’ll make ten times more than what we have ever had.”

“Freedom is never cheap, my friend, but you’re right, we’ll make more than we have ever had. Now, I would love to go see the place you got for us and start cleaning it, but I’m really tired, so I’m just gonna go to sleep, okay? Thanks for stopping by and checking on me, I really appreciate it, but you've seen it yourself, I’m back and in one piece. I’ll call you later, okay?”

“Okay.” Ragnor said, walking to the door.

Magnus watched him go, but quickly got distracted when one of his phones started to buzz in his pocket. He fished it out and smiled when he noticed it was Alexander’s phone. Well, not exactly Alec’s phone, but the one he was going to use to communicate with him.

“My sister is here, so naturally I can’t go to sleep, but we started watching this documentary about art, did you know that the only painting sold by Vincent Van Gogh in his lifetime was The Red Vineyard which was bought by the Belgian artist Anna Boch?”

Magnus laughed. What was this? Was this man really trying to educate him? Hadn’t he learned anything from their night together? Magnus knew a lot about art, of course he knew that fact about Vincent Van Gogh.

“Alexander, my area of expertise is art, are you seriously trying to educate me on the subject?” Magnus was typing when he felt Ragnor’s eyes on him. “Did you forget something?” He asked his friend, looking at him after sending the text.

Ragnor just shook his head. “No, but I meant what I said earlier, be careful, okay?”

“I will.” Magnus said, trying to ignore the look that Ragnor was sending him.

“Okay, well, I’ll see you later.”

“Sure. Bye, my friend.” Magnus said, distracted—Alec had just replied.

“Of course not! But did you know that in 1961, one of Henri Matisse’s paintings, Le Bateau, was hung upside down at the MoMa for 46 days before anyone noticed?”

Magnus laughed. He didn’t know that, but he suspected that Alec had just googled 'curious facts about art' to try to impress him after his failed attempt with the information about Van Gogh, but either way, he let him know that he had succeeded.

“See? You don’t know everything.” Alec replied.

Magnus laughed again, typing yet another text. Apparently, going to sleep wasn't going to happen any time soon.

Chapter Text

Alec was at his office sorting through some old cases and trying to analyze which one to take next. The investigation about Valentine, Magnus, and their possible alliance was still open; in fact, a few days ago they had had another attack and the Bureau had linked it to them, but even with everything that was happening they still had to work on other cases. Yes, finding Valentine and solving this mess was undoubtedly their top priority, but there were other cases that required their attention and that they had to try to solve. The world didn’t revolve around Valentine, Magnus, or any other criminal for that matter.

“Alec, can we have a word?” Hodge, his boss, asked, knocking on the door and poking his head through it. Alec and Hodge's offices were practically one next to the other.

“Sure, come in.” Alec said, setting aside the pile of files he had been examining and waiting for his boss to take a seat.

“Am I interrupting something? Were you working on something important?”

“No, just picking another case from the pile, you know? We cannot let work to accumulate or else the review board is going to kill us when they read the annual report.”

“True.” Hodge smiled, seemingly pleased with Alec’s commitment to his work.

“What did you want to talk about?”

“About Valentine and Magnus, actually.”

“Oh.” Alec said. It had been weeks since the last time his boss had talked to him about that in private. All reviews on that topic had been in the presence of the entire team of agents from both the D.C. and New York City offices.

“I wanted to know what were your thoughts on the cases. With the attack to the private collector three days ago now we have four cases in which unfortunately innocent people have died. We haven't talked about that recently and although in front of the others you have refrained yourself from sharing your opinion, I know what goes through that head of yours. I know that you think this person is not and cannot be Magnus Bane, but have you considered, I don't know, that maybe you could be wrong?”

“I'm not.” Alec said sure of himself.

“Why are you so sure about it?”

“Because I'm not.”

“Arrogance doesn't suit you, Alec.”

“It's not arrogance, Hodge, I know what I'm talking about, you just don’t want to hear it. I’ve been telling everyone since we had the robbery to the bank that Magnus Bane is not behind those deaths, he's not helping Valentine, but no one wants to believe me. And while we waste our time chasing a simple white-collar criminal, we’re letting Valentine to keep laughing in our faces and worse, we're letting the real killer to walk free on the streets.”

“You seem very convinced about Magnus’s innocence in all this, can I know your foundation for that statement?”

“Experience.” Alec said. “I've known Magnus for years, Hodge, not in vain he was my first case. I've been studying what he does and how he does it for half a decade. I think it's safe to say that I know him better than anyone in the Bureau. And that's precisely why I can assure you that he's not the killer we're looking for. The man behind those last four cases is not him—of that, I'm one hundred percent sure.”

“Well, so far you haven't been able to prove it, have you?” Hodge said, and Alec noticed that his boss was smiling, as if he found that fact quite entertaining.

“And that's entertaining for you?” Alec asked a bit hurt.

“No, no, no, no, no...listen, Alec, don’t get me wrong, you are one of our best agents. I know what you're capable of, I know that you and your team have the highest efficiency record in the New York City White-Collar division, but what you’re doing with this case? Hmm, well, you're not actually helping, you’re just making things more complicated. We need you, we need that top agent of our division to solve this case, but you’re not doing it. You’re focusing on proving us all wrong instead of actually catching this criminal. We've told you this, Magnus Bane is the key to catching Valentine and you’ve done nothing to help us imprison him. Maybe, if you stopped making this something personal and-”

“I’m not making it personal.” Alec interrupted, trying to defend himself.

“Of course you are, I know you, Alec. Don't forget I was your teacher back in Quantico. I know who you are and I know what you think of this criminal. I know that in some kind of way you admire him, and it’s okay, we’ve all been there. The way these people think, the way they act, it's fascinating for us. Criminals represent a mystery and we love mysteries, we wouldn’t be agents if we didn’t, but it’s important to draw a line between what you think of them and what they truly are. I know you think Magnus Bane—that criminal you've been studying for five years—can't be this cold-blooded murderer working with Valentine, but here’s the thing, Alec, he’s not a good person. He’s a criminal. He’s done terrible things in the past, why is it so hard for you to believe that he could be responsible for this too, huh?”

“Because not all criminals are the same, Hodge. Magnus, Valentine, whoever you want to name, all of them are different, and yeah, they aren’t good people, but we aren’t good people either, we all make mistakes, we all have our things. And ultimately, this isn’t about believing if someone is good or not, it’s about discovering the truth and doing justice, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my job and trying to put the people responsible for those murders behind bars, and maybe this will sound redundant, but Magnus is not that person, he's not guilty of those murders.”

“Alec, if you keep refusing to see what’s there in front of your eyes and accept the truth, you'll ruin yourself and drag your team with you. Don't let this criminal take away everything you've worked so hard for.”

“I'm not letting anyone do anything, I already told you, I'm just doing my job. I’m doing what I learned from you, actually. We are special agents and our job is to make sure the law is followed and respected. Yes, Magnus Bane is a criminal, a thief and a forger, and one day he will have to face the law for that, but he's not a murderer. I'm not going to imprison a man and charge him with something he didn't do just because some people here refuse to listen to the facts and do what they're paid to do. I know it's easier to blame a well-known criminal for all this than to think there's someone new and dangerous out there killing innocent people, but I'm not like other agents, Hodge. I was trained to be fair and make sure justice was done, and whether you like it or not, that's what I'm going to do.” Alec said firmly.

Now, more than ever, he was adamant to defend Magnus. He knew him, he really knew him, for weeks they had been talking non-stop and it was safe to say that he had come to know the man behind the criminal mask. Magnus was noble, sincere, and to some extent even compassionate, a man like that couldn’t be a murderer.

“I know, Alec, I know.” Hodge said. “I just want you to open your eyes.”

“What if it's not me, but you the one who has to open his eyes?” Alec asked back, trying to keep his emotions in check. He knew his boss was just saying all this because he cared about him. He had always had Jace, Izzy and Alec's best interests at heart, but the fact that he kept insisting on the same thing infuriated him.

“I have more experience and knowledge than you, Alec.” Hodge said, getting up from his chair and walking toward the door. “I opened my eyes a long time ago, so my advice? Focus on the investigation we have and stop with all this nonsense. Magnus is working with Valentine, and that’s the end of it. If you keep digging where you're not supposed to dig, you could discover a thing or two that could put everything and everyone in danger.” He said, walking away.

Alec frowned. What was that even supposed to mean? He thought, but shook his head, exhaling wearily. His boss was just acting like an overprotective parent. He had always been like that with them, but Alec was going to prove him and the rest of the agents in the Bureau that he was right about Magnus.

“You'll see.” He said, picking a random file from the pile and opening it quickly. He had a lot of work to do.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus and Ragnor had been these last few days at the old fire station that Ragnor had gotten for them assembling, or better said trying to assemble, the printer that Raphael had found for them. Unlike the modern ones that were very simple and hardly occupied any space on a desk, these old printers were very complex and as massive as small cars. They required three times more pieces to operate, and assembling them and understanding how they worked was a real challenge that required a lot of patience and very good mechanical skills.

Fortunately, both Magnus and Ragnor knew what they were doing, and although the whole process was taking them more time than originally planned, they didn’t let the lack of progress to frustrate or discourage them. They had a lot of experience with these sort of things and knew that no matter how much they wanted to rush things, some processes in their heists couldn’t be rushed. The printer would be ready when it had to be ready.

“I have a question.” Ragnor said. He was currently oiling some pieces while Magnus tried to put together the two cylinders that according to the manual, would be some sort of paper feeding roller, as the ones used in plotters.

“What?”

“During the war, the American government issued a lot of bonds as a way to finance the conflict, right? But why didn't they just print more money and used it? It would have been easier. Printing bonds is much more difficult than printing bills.”

“The problem with printing money was that during war time it meant voluntarily devaluing your currency and causing inflation. Printing money was a method of last resort for a nation, and it was never seriously considered to fund a war, much less a war as costly as the Second World War. Of course, the alternative would have been higher taxes and enforced borrowing, but instead, they opted to print bonds because they offered a propaganda advantage."

"Really?"

"Yes, they made people feel like they were actively participating in the war and that their sacrifices were voluntary. Bonds were available in small denominations, so individuals could buy them, rather than relying on borrowing in large amounts from the wealthy. I agree with you that printing bonds is more difficult than printing bills, but without bonds they wouldn't have been able to engaged people in the war.”

“So they tricked them into thinking the money went to fund the war?”

“No, the money did go to fund the war, the thing is that many of these bonds were never redeemed. After the war ended, many people forgot that they even had them.”

“So that’s why they are so valuable now.”

“Indeed.” Magnus smiled, focusing on the task at hand again. He had always been very good at building things, but this printer was being a real challenge and he couldn’t get too distracted or he risked breaking something. The pieces were old and in very poor condition, so he had to be extremely careful when trying to make them fit.

“Do you think there are more bonds out there that we could forge and redeem?” Ragnor asked, distracting Magnus again.

“I don’t know.”

“But if they were, we could use the same printer, right?”

“Yes. Oh, shit!” Magnus exclaimed, frustrated. The piece that was supposed to keep the two cylinders together had just broken into a million pieces.

“What happened?”

“I tried to force it into place and it just broke. I mean, it was a bit rusty, but I don't understand how it broke like this. Look at it, it's torn to pieces!" Magnus exhaled.

"We can fix it."

"No, I think we're going to need a new one, I don't see how we could fix this mess, some parts even turned to dust.”

“Okay, don’t worry, I’ll add it to the list of missing pieces and replacements that we’re going to ask Raphael.”

“Okay, and speaking of Santiago...did he say something about the paper and the ink?”

“Yes, that he was going to send them to your place as soon as he had them.”

“Good, good.” Magnus said.

“Why did you ask him to send them there instead of here?”

“Look around, Ragnor.” Magnus pointed to their surroundings. The fire station was a real mess. They hadn’t finished cleaning it yet and all the pieces they still had to assemble were scattered all over the floor. They couldn't risk having the paper and the inks there. If some oil spilled or some accident happened while trying to make the printer work, they would lose a lot of money. The old parchment and the inks were very, very expensive. “We can’t have the paper and the inks in here, at least not yet. We have to clean the place first.”

“I could bring some men to help us with that.” Ragnor suggested.

“I don’t want to compromise the location just yet, my friend.” Magnus said. He had already thought about it to speed up the whole process, but the more people knew about this place, the more they risked someone finding out what they planned to do and ruining everything. This heist was key to defining their future, and Magnus wasn't going to let anyone jeopardize it.

“But we will need help when the time comes. This thing can't be operated by two men, you know that. We'll need at least three more pair of hands.”

“I know, but until we are ready to start printing we’re going to keep this place and its location just to ourselves. We can’t risk someone betraying us and alerting the FBI that we went into the National Archives and stole a war bond that we plan to duplicate wholesale and redeem for hundreds of millions of dollars, can we?”

Ragnor shook his head and sighed. It was clear that the idea of having to clean up all that mess on their own wasn’t very appealing to him, but they had no other choice. Part of their success so far had a lot to do with the fact that they were very careful and discreet when it came to the planning of all their heists. The people they trusted and the ones they chose to include in their plans were always carefully selected. They never included more people than was strictly necessary. Yes, that made everything more complicated and slow, but their safety always came first.

“Should we start then?”

“No, no, no, I think that's it for today.” Magnus said, calling it a day and admiring what they had accomplished so far. The printer although still in progress, was starting to take shape and look like something more than a huge pile of rust and metal. And although they still need to assemble a lot of pieces and change a few that weren't working properly, they were making progress and that was all that mattered.

“You have no idea how glad I am to hear that.” Ragnor exclaimed relieved.

Magnus laughed. He shared that feeling, though, being locked up in this stinky place wasn't the best way to spend a day, and they had been there for quite a few.

They tried to organize a bit all the tools and things they had been using, and left the place as fast as they could. To their surprise, the day was just starting to turn into night and the moon was making its way up to the sky. It was amazing how quickly time could pass when they were busy doing something.

“What are you going to do for the rest of the day?” Ragnor asked as they closed the door and put the locks back in place.

“I'll go home to take a shower and then head to Alexander’s place.” Magnus said. He would have loved to just go to the agent’s house without having to go all the way back to his loft, but he was all covered in grease and dust, he couldn’t go see him in such deplorable conditions, could he?

“Did he invite you?” Ragnor inquired.

“No, but we have to start working if we want to put Valentine behind bars. You know there was another case this week, that makes four so far.” Magnus said. He and Alec had been communicating non-stop, but since the last time, they hadn't had time to sit down again and try to solve this huge mess. “We can’t let this man keep using my name.”

“Okay, well, I'll go change too, and then I'll bring the list of the pieces to Raphael, maybe he can start ordering them. I don’t want to be that person, but we need to hurry with the bonds, you-know-who won’t take long to contact you again to ask for more money.”

“I know, but don’t worry, we still have time. Clear some of our assets if you must and tell Santiago to hurry up, okay? Especially with the pieces that are essential to make that thing work.”

“Will do.” Ragnor said.

“Okay, then, I’ll see you later, my friend.” Magnus said, walking away.

He could sense that his friend wanted to add something, probably about the risks of Magnus going to Alec's place, but luckily he bit his tongue. They had discussed the subject enough times already, Magnus knew what his friend thought, and Ragnor knew what Magnus thought, there was nothing more to discuss about it.

“Magnus, wait!” Ragnor exclaimed.

“What?”

“Are you really going to your fed’s place?”

“Well, he’s not my fed, but yeah, I’m going to Alexander’s apartment, and before you start to lecture me about it, know that-”

“It’s not that, I already told you what I think.” Ragnor interrupted. “I just thought of something.”

“What?”

“Well, maybe you should seize the opportunity and ask him if he can give us access to all the files the FBI has on Valentine. I was talking to Raphael the other day about this and he said it would be easier to ask around if we had more information about Valentine’s old glorious days, you know? In theory, the man’s been dead for more than two decades, so all the information we've been getting about him are just rumors, ghost stories, but maybe if we had real information about the man, we could track him down more easily, don't you think?”

“Good idea, my friend!” Magnus said. That was actually something he hadn’t considered yet. He had figured he would learn what the FBI had on Valentine eventually, but asking for copies sounded like a better plan. “I'll ask him tonight.”

“Okay, then I’ll see you around.”

“See you around.” Magnus said, and with that he left, smiling at the prospect of ending his day in very good company.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was working from home. The case he had chosen earlier was giving him a real headache and he wanted to make some progress. All day he, Jace, and Izzy had tried to solve it, but they hadn't been very successful.

It was a family feud over an inheritance. A wealthy old man had left a series of five wills in which he had named different members of his family as his rightful heirs. Naturally the five people involved in this case claimed to have the original one and wanted to receive the money they were entitled to, the problem was that since there were five wills, the bank refused to give them access to the money, and now the FBI had to try to solve this mess as fast as possible and in the best way they could.

Alec had been looking at the wills for hours and he still didn’t know what to do. The forensic team had already determined that they all were authentic, so Alec was trying to find something, anything, that could help him refute that statement. There was no way that the five wills were legitimate, but then again, he had them before his eyes, so he literally had no idea what else to do. If he didn't solve it quickly the case would probably end up in court and most likely all the money this man had left for his family would be lost in lawyers and administrative expenses.

Alec rubbed his temple to try to relieve that pang in his head—he was so frustrated. How was it possible that he couldn’t solve this? This case wasn’t even half as hard as catching Valentine was proving to be. Actually, this case was nothing compared to that, catching Valentine was the most difficult thing-

A noise coming from somewhere outside the window distracted him, so very carefully, Alec grabbed his gun and got ready to stop the intruder, but the moment he looked at the window and recognized the man trying to break into his home, he lowered it—it was Magnus. One of these days that man was going to give him a heart attack.

“Good evening, Alexander.” Magnus said, flashing a big smile.

“You can't keep showing up at my house without letting me know first. I could shoot you by accident, or worse, Jace or Izzy could discover you! They don't know about our agreement.”

“Because you decided not to tell them.”

“Well, I can't tell them, what we're doing isn't exactly legal, is it? I don't know how they are going to react, so until you prove yourself useful for this investigation, this is going to stay just between us.”

“I'm more than okay with that.” Magnus said, making himself at home. “So...were you working on the case?”

“No,” Alec admitted, “I have some other work to do, cases that I have to solve. You and now Valentine have made me waste my time more than enough in the past few months...and years in your case.”

Magnus just smiled and walked to the table. “What's the case about?” He asked, picking up the file. Alec wanted to stop him because, well, that was classified information, but Magnus was already reading it, and he was showing interest.

“Can I see the wills?” Magnus asked curiously.

Alec hesitated for a second, but ultimately handed Magnus the wills. He had already read the file, hiding the wills wasn't going to be of any help, right?

Magnus took some gloves from his pocket and put them on, making golden glitter to rain on top of the table.

“So that's how you do it.” Alec said, smiling and looking at the gloves with wide eyes. Since the first time he had heard of the criminal, he had deduced that glitter was more than a signature for Magnus, but up until now he hadn't figured out how he managed to throw glitter all over the crime scenes without making it look like something done on purpose.

“You like them?” Magnus asked, winking at him. “I designed them myself, I have thousands of pairs, I change them to match my clothes and hair.” He added, pointing to his red shirt with shiny gold stripes and the dyed locks in his hair.

Alec refrained himself from laughing. All these years he had wondered how Magnus left the glitter and now he had an answer to it, and it was as idiotic as the glitter itself. “And you always have a pair of those things in your pockets?”

“Yes.”

“Isn't it hard to clean? I mean, afterwards.”

“You get used to it.” Magnus said, now pulling a loupe from his pocket too.

“Do you always carry one of those too?” Alec wondered in confusion. He didn't know how many more curious objects the criminal could have in his pockets. His pants were not exactly loose, on the contrary, they were very, very tight.

“Yes, I’m always prepared, Alexander, it’s part of my job.”

“Right.”

Magnus just smiled and proceeded to examine the wills. Alec tried really hard not to look at him while the criminal worked, but he found the task almost impossible. His eyes betrayed him every few seconds and ended up fixing on the criminal more often than not. And, who could blame him? This was the first time Alec had a chance to see him work, and he didn't want to waste it. It was fascinating to see how Magnus grabbed each will and looked at it closely, analyzing the ink, the paper, the content, making it very clear that he knew what he was doing. Alec knew that that attention to detail was part of Magnus's success as a forger, but even so, it was truly astonishing to attest.

“They are all fake.” Magnus announced after a while, looking up at Alec.

“What!?”

“They are all fake.”

“How do you know?” Alec asked surprised.

“The signature of the witnesses.” Magnus said, handing Alec his loupe. “Look here?” He said, pointing to the signature on one of the wills. “If you look carefully you will notice that it was made with a different ink. When these kind of documents are made, it's a legal requirement that all of the signatures are made with the same pen. And well, all the signatures of the witnesses in these wills were made with a different ink, I can't believe that your team missed that. I mean, it's not that easy to see, but it's not that hard either.”

Alec observed. The ink used for all the signatures did look alike, but Magnus was right, if he looked closely at the signatures of the witnesses he could see that the ink was different, the tone was a bit lighter—meaning that they all were fake.

“What's the point of leaving five fake wills?” Alec wondered out loud.

“I don't know, but the original must be somewhere and I bet it’s for the same amount of money or even more, who knows, right? This man clearly wanted to mess with his family.”

Alec looked at the wills, now thanks to Magnus's little help, he was even more curious about this case and was determined to solve it. “Where do you think it is?”

“Am I imagining things, or are you asking for my help?”

Alec felt the blood rushing to his cheeks. “I wasn't asking for your help, just for your opinion.” He said quickly.

“Well,” Magnus said with a smile, “I don't know for sure, but judging by the material, the ink, the amount of money and what your file says about this old man, I’m guessing that the answer to that question must be hidden somewhere in here.” He said, pointing to the five wills.

Alec knew that Magnus was right, the problem was that he didn’t know how he was going to figure that out. He had been analyzing and observing those wills all day and he didn’t remember anything that could lead him to believe that there was some secret code hidden there. For him, they were just five useless pieces of paper that apparently weren't worth a dime.

Alec sighed. He would have to find a way to solve this mess later, but now he had to find out what the criminal was doing in his home again. “I'll try to solve it later, but tell me, why did you come?”

“To work on the new case, we haven't discussed it yet, so I figured we could do that and see if we could find a way to connect it to Valentine, you know? We have to find something that can get us closer to him. I’ve tried asking around, but the man’s been dead for two decades, there’s nothing about him. And speaking of which, since this is kind of getting serious and all, I was wondering if you could, I don't know, give me access to the information you guys have on him? That would probably help me see if I can find out more stuff about him in my world. My contacts could run his old aliases to see if he's made any noise in the underworld.”

Alec was taken aback for a second, why hadn't he thought of that before? That was actually a brilliant idea. The FBI had run Valentine's aliases in all their databases, but so far nothing had popped up, but Magnus had access to other resources and perhaps if they used them, they could actually make some progress. “I'll make you a copy of all the files tomorrow.”

“Okay, then I guess we'll start tomorrow.” Magnus said, walking toward the window again. “I'll leave you to work on your other case.”

“Magnus, wait!” Alec exclaimed. He didn't know what he was doing, but the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. “Would you like to stay? To help me, of course.”

Magnus smiled. “So I wasn't imagining things, you «were» asking for my help.”

Alec just rolled his eyes. “Do you want to stay or not?”

“If you insist,” Magnus said, closing the window, “it'd be my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Magnus was spending the night in Alec’s apartment and although they had already settled that whenever they were together they always had a really great time, he still couldn’t believe that this was happening for the second time in such a short time. Alec’s invitation had caught him completely off guard, and although he had agreed as quickly as the agent had invited him, he was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that, well, things were changing between them at the speed of light.

A few weeks ago they were nothing more than two strangers who had decided to team up for the greater good, and today they were, what? Some kind of friends? Acquaintances? Magnus wasn't really sure of their official status, but they were definitely not in the same terms as they had been a few months ago. They felt comfortable around each other, they hadn't known one another for long, but now there was definitely an understanding and trust between them that hadn't been there before. They talked and shared things as normal friends did, but there was something else blooming between them, something dangerous that as hard as they had tried, they hadn’t been able to stop.

They liked each other.

Magnus had tried to fight against that feeling, he had tried to control himself in front of the agent, but Alec hadn’t been making it any easy. He was actually, making it very, very complicated. Magnus knew that the two times that he had been in Alec's place had been because he had decided to crash without a proper invitation, but those same two times the agent had been the one who had asked him to stay and, how could Magnus say no to that face? He was really trying to resist the temptation, but at the end of the day he was only human and Alec was, with his good looks and amazing personality, the embodiment of the serpent that had deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. He was like that glass of water you wanted to drink when you were thirsty, like that piece of chocolate cake you craved to eat when you were on a diet—the man was simply irresistible.

“There's nothing here!” Alec exclaimed in frustration, slamming his hands on the table.

They had been working on the case for hours without any rest. At first they had been laughing and joking about the stupidity of the situation, wondering what they would have done if they had been in this man’s shoes, but now it was very late and that good mood had long since died. It was past 3am, and although there was plenty of fresh coffee and the company was more than perfect, the frustration of not finding anything useful was starting to take a toll on them. Alec had been grunting non-stop for the past twenty minutes, making clear with his attitude how desperate and frustrated he was, and Magnus’s butt was starting to feel numb from all the hours that they'd been sitting there in the same position. They needed a break.

“Okay, enough!" Magnus exclaimed, standing up from his chair. “Let’s take a break! We need to rest our minds and stretch our legs, I can't keep doing this!"

"But-"

"Listen, we both are tired and we won't achieve anything if we continue like this, let's rest for a little while and maybe then we’ll see this case through different eyes.”

Alec looked down at his clock, surely to count down the hours they still had until he had to head back to the office. They were still getting to know each other, but Magnus already knew that this man was a workaholic. “No, you take a break, I need to find something before dawn.”

“Alexander, I'm serious, we both need a break! You won’t find anything in the mood you're in. You’ve been grumbling for half an hour without stopping, I know you're frustrated and desperate to find something useful, but obsessing over this won't help you solve it. You have to rest, stretch your legs. I don't mean to be rude, but your chairs aren’t the comfiest in the world, I bet your ass is as numb as mine, come on, stand up!”

“What?”

“Stand up.”

“I don’t want to stand up, I’m good here.”

“Well, you have to.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re going to dance, you can’t dance if you’re sitting.”

“We what? Are you crazy? I’m not going to dance.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t dance.”

“Well, you will with me.” Magnus insisted. “Dancing is a great way to distract our minds, Alexander. We haven’t found anything useful in hours and I’m tired of reading this nonsense, and since we can’t go out for a run because it’s late and this city is full of dangerous criminals, we are going to dance.”

“Well, I don’t care if it’s a great way to distract our minds or whatever, I’m not going to dance.”

Magnus loved a challenge, so he decided to ignore Alec’s apathetic attitude and just walked to the record player and put on some music. He wasn’t familiar with the artist, but he decided to give it a try, after all, this was something Alec enjoyed listening to and Magnus wanted to know as many details of the agent as were possible—likes, dislikes, everything.

“This is nice.” Magnus said, when a soft tune started to play and a melodic voice echoed in the room, sending chills all over his body. He liked it. The song was slow and melodic, ideal for dancing, so Magnus immediately began to spin around the room, absorbing the notes and letting them determine the way his body was going to move.

“You have good taste, darling.” Magnus said, but the agent ignored him. “Come on, Alexander. You’re not going to let me dance alone, are you?” He asked, winking at him.

Alec shook his head, rolling is eyes in exasperation and just pretending to go back reading the files. Magnus laughed, swirling around the room, enjoying the music and just trying—maybe a little too hard—to get Alec’s attention.

“I’m not going to dance.” Alec said, without looking up.

“Come on, Alexander!” Magnus insisted, getting closer to the table and gently pulling him, trying to lift him off the chair, dragging him with him into the living room where there was more space to move. But Alec was putting up resistance, practically gluing himself to the chair, and pretending he wasn’t laughing at Magnus’s antics.

“I’m not going to dance.” The agent said between giggles.

“Yes, you are,” Magnus said, smiling, “you may be strong, but I’m stronger than you, agent.” He added, finally making Alec to stand up.

“I'm still not going to dance.” Alec stated.

Magnus ignored him again, and tried to make him move, to make him dance. At first the agent resisted, rolling his eyes continuously to show his annoyance, but slowly, oh-so very slowly, Magnus felt him relax, the muscles of his back finally yielding to the soft twirling of their bodies, and soon they were moving in synchrony, slow dancing to the rhythm of the music.

Alec was taller than him by a couple of inches, so Magnus let the agent take control of the dance and guide them, and God, if that was a good idea! Alec could dance, he had clearly lied about it. He knew where to put his hands and how to move Magnus around the small space.

“You lied earlier, you know how to dance.” Magnus pointed out.

“I didn’t lie.” Alec said. “I said I didn’t dance, not that I didn't know how to do it.”

Magnus laughed. This man was something else entirely. The English language, or any language for that matter, lacked the words required to describe him. “Who taught you?”

“My sister.” Alec said, making Magnus spin and not just with their bodies.

Magnus’s mind and heart were literally spinning out of control. He had never felt so damn attracted to anyone before the way he felt with this man. Alec was everything, and having him so close to his body was causing him all sorts of emotions.

The song kept going and they kept dancing. Alec had closed his eyes at some point in the middle of the song and Magnus had been watching him ever since, taking full advantage of the proximity to commit this man’s features to memory. He was so handsome and so sweet—Magnus had trouble breathing just by being in his presence.

The song came to an end and their bodies stopped. Alec opened his eyes and the moment their gazes met, Magnus lost what little self-control he had left. He didn’t know what was leading him to do it, but the next thing he knew, he was closing the small gap between them and placing his lips against Alec’s, kissing him as he had been wanting to do since their first date.

The kiss started out soft, hesitant, just a brushing of lips, but in a matter of seconds it turned passionate, hot. Alec kissed as well as he danced, and Magnus’s entire world was, like when they were dancing, spinning out of control. Kissing Alec was intoxicating, addictive, he knew there was no turning back now. Alec was a drug, and Magnus was already addicted to it.

They broke the kiss to take a much-needed breath.

“We should-” Alec said. His breathing was ragged and labored, his eyes were burning with something that looked a lot like desire. Magnus was almost certain they reflected his own. “We should go back to work.” The agent added, trying to compose himself, but failing miserably. Alec was a complete mess, and Magnus was proud to have that effect on him. The agent was always so composed, so still, that seeing him so damned affected was equally rewarding as it was hot.

“Of course.” Magnus said, trying to suppress the smile on his face, and simply taking a seat again. He could still feel Alec’s lips on his, so he ran his tongue over his lips, savoring the taste and sensation that that kiss had left him.

o-o-o-o-o

It had been barely a couple of hours since he and Magnus had kissed, and Alec still couldn’t think straight. Well, he had never thought straight anyway, but that was not the point. That kiss they had shared had left him all kinds of confused. Yes, Magnus had initiated it, but Alec hadn’t stopped him, in fact, he had done quite the opposite, he had kissed him back with a passion that until now he hadn't felt before. He had practically forced himself to stop it because his body was reacting in a way he hadn’t expected.

Alec knew he had no experience in the dating sector, no one before Magnus had invited him on a date before, but that didn’t mean he was a saint either. He had hooked up with random strangers in bars on those nights when he had felt particularly alone, but truth to be told, he had never been kissed the way Magnus had kissed him. And what was worse, he had never kissed back the way he had kissed the criminal.

He couldn’t deny that he had found Magnus attractive since the first time he had laid his eyes on a picture of him, the guy knew how to exploit his looks, but so all the models in those magazines his sister loved to read. The problem with Magnus and Alec’s evident lack of self-control in his presence was that the man had turned out to be completely different from the person he had thought he was. These past few weeks Alec had discovered something about him, something new that had made him change his perception of him. A new Magnus that didn’t match at all with the description written in the file that the Bureau had of him. The number of layers in his personality almost matched the number of layers that the man loved to wear, and Alec had been discovering them all little by little, learning to like and understand them. And as a result, he was finding it almost impossible to get away from him.

Magnus was as intriguing as he was sexy, and Alec had a weakness for that. The connection they seemed to have didn’t help either. All his life Alec had struggled to open himself up to people, hence his lack of experience in the love sector, but then Magnus had stepped into his life, turning his world upside down and showing him that what everybody said about the 'understanding of souls' wasn’t just a myth, but something that happened in real life, and from that moment on he had completely lost himself. Alec loved control and order, but since Magnus had arrived, he had lost both and now, well, he didn’t know how to handle it.

For weeks he had tried to put that feeling aside, pretending that what was happening between them was nothing more than a cordial agreement among two parties to get a benefit from a situation that was affecting them both, but the truth was that he had just been fooling himself. All those calls, text messages, and invitations to stay over had been, at least on Alec’s part, nothing but a silly excuse to spend more time together and get to know the criminal.

Alec was aware of how wrong this whole situation was, he was an FBI agent and this man, despite his recent changed opinion about him, was still a criminal, but, well, apparently that hadn’t been enough to stop him from getting caught under his spell from day one. Magnus had bewitched him, and now that they had kissed, Alec didn’t know what to do with himself. This game they were playing was dangerous and even life-threatening, and he knew he couldn’t get lost in it; he had to think with his head and not with other parts of his body, but the problem was that he no longer had a say in that. The man had kissed him and completely melted his brain, making any-

“Of course!” Magnus exclaimed, snapping Alec out of his thoughts.

“What? What is it?” Alec asked. They had barely talked since the kiss, both lost in their respective thoughts, trying to figure out what that little lip-action between them had really meant for them and their agreement.

“It’s so clear!” Magnus continued, looking at Alec as if whatever thing was crossing his mind was plain obvious.

“What’s so clear?” Alec asked confused.

“Don't move.” Magnus said, ignoring Alec’s question and just standing up from his chair and walking toward him.

“Why?” Alec asked a bit alarmed. Magnus was staring at him as if he had something on his face. Was there a spider walking on his head? Maybe this wasn’t the best time to confess that he was a bit afraid of spiders, or any bug for that matter.

“What-what are you doing?” Alec managed to ask. Magnus was now standing behind him. Alec could feel the criminal's body right behind his chair. Having him in such close proximity was causing Alec’s brain to short-circuit, and he didn't know why, but suddenly the air in the room wasn’t enough to fill his lungs.

Magnus ignored him again and just leaned over, carefully passing his arms around Alec’s body—without touching him—and rearranging the five wills that were spread on the table. He was placing them in some sort of circle, but Alec’s eyes weren’t fixed on whatever Magnus was doing with the sheets of paper, his eyes were fixed on Magnus’s hands, on the way they moved around the table, on those rings that gleamed in the dim light, wondering if they would feel cold against his skin. What?

Alec took a deep breath and looked to the front, trying to regain control of his body, but it was impossible, he couldn’t stop thinking about how close their bodies were. He could feel Magnus’s breath against his neck and that was waking things up in him that he hadn’t felt before.

“See?” Magnus said.

Alec took another deep breath and forced his eyes to look down at the arrangement Magnus had made with the wills. “Oh my God…” He whispered the moment his eyes landed on the table.

The wills formed some kind of pattern. Alec didn't know what they were exactly, he had never seen anything like it, but the five corners of each sheet completed and complemented the other one, creating a funny-looking circle.

“It's a map.” Magnus whispered into his ear. “All the corners have a different symbol, see?” He pointed to the symbols in question. “I bet they lead somewhere, and I dare say that they probably lead to where the real will is."

Alec gasped, but not because Magnus had, single-handedly, solved this whole case, but because despite the more than good news he had just received, all he could think about was that kiss they had shared a couple of hours ago. Magnus had made him see stars, and Alec wanted to see them again, he wanted to kiss him and feel those lips in every pore of his skin, so almost as on an impulse, Alec turned his head around and clashed their mouths together.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus pushed the papers from the table, making them fly all around them and guided their bodies there. He and Alec were kissing, they had been kissing for what felt like an eternity. At first it had been just lips, then lips and tongues, then lips and tongues and hands, and now things were getting hotter and reaching a different level, a level that was clearly making the temperature of the room to increase by the second.

Alec was so damn sexy and Magnus was no longer in control of himself. How could he be when the man currently pinned beneath him was already trying to unbutton his shirt? He had already said it, he was but a mere mortal and this man was the embodiment of temptation—the devil in the flesh.

“Eager much?” Magnus teased, feeling Alec’s desperate, cold fingers touching his very much heated skin. It was like ice on fire. Magnus had never felt so damn aroused before. Yeah, he had had pretty hot make out sessions and wonderful sexual encounters with past lovers; Imasu was very good in bed, and then there was Camille, but he had never felt like he was feeling at that precise moment. Every cell in his body was on fire.

“Shut up.” Alec said, making Magnus’s shirt to fly across the room.

Magnus seized the opportunity and took off Alec’s shirt too, admiring with pleasure what he found under that piece of dark cloth. Alec had an incredible, mouth-watering body and Magnus wanted to worship every inch of it—his arms, his abs, his chest, his neck.

They kissed again and their chests touched, the skin-to-skin contact was almost unbearable.

“Dear God, Alexander.” Magnus whispered, kissing the agent’s neck and marveling at the sounds the man could make. Alec had a spot on the left side of his neck that made him moan loudly, and Magnus was pleased to use it to his advantage. “You’re so sexy.” He whispered, now traveling down his body, leaving a trail of wet kisses around his chest, and losing himself in the man’s chest hair. It was so damn masculine, so damn sexy—he wanted to spend the rest of his life there.

Magnus's hand trailed down Alec's muscled back at the same time as he captured one of his nipples between his teeth and gave it a tentative bite, sucking on it slowly, not taking his eyes off the agent, watching with awe how he arched his back and cried out in sheer pleasure.

“Alexander…” Magnus said, for that had been probably the hottest thing he had ever seen and heard in his life.

Alec grabbed his face and brought him to him, pushing his tongue deep into Magnus's mouth and giving him the best kiss he'd had so far. Alec's lips moved slowly, but surely, exploring Magnus's mouth gently and with that same urgency that had reigned between them all night. Magnus couldn't help wondering if the agent had wanted this to happen as much as he did.

The answer to that came almost immediately when Alec bit his lower lip and grabbed his ass. Magnus moaned and let his hands travel further down until they reached the hem of Alec’s pants. He was just unbuckling his belt when out of nowhere there was a knock on the door.

“Alec, are you there?” A voice said.

“Shit! Izzy!” Alec exclaimed, sitting up with a jolt. Magnus didn’t have to ask who Izzy was to know that it was Alec’s sister, Isabelle Lightwood, the other federal agent, who by the way lived next door.

“She can’t see you here!” The agent said, quickly picking up their discarded clothes from the floor and buckling his belt back up. “You have to hide!”

Magnus just stood there laughing at the situation as quietly as he could. He felt like a horny teenager who had been caught making out with his high school sweetheart in the backseat of a car.

“Stop laughing and move!” Alec said, practically pushing Magnus into one of the rooms and then into the closet.

“Seriously?” Magnus questioned, raising an eyebrow at the agent. “I was never in the closet, just so you know.”

“Well, I was, and I remember it was a very nice, cozy, and safe place, so...please?” Alec asked, almost pleading.

Magnus sighed, cursing the power that those beautiful eyes had on him, but stepping into the damn closet. He had no choice, did he? Alec was right, his sister couldn’t see him there.

“Thanks.” Alec said, closing the door and disappearing from the room.

Magnus rolled his eyes playfully and just took a deep breath. He was in Alec’s closet, so the scent emanating from the clothes immediately made him smile. They smelled like Alec, an unusual blend of cologne and mint mixed with the crisp unmistakable scent of fresh laundry, and something so faint and sweet that it made him want to bottle it just to be able to preserve it.

“Oh, Magnus…” He murmured to himself. He was falling for this man, he knew it. He knew himself too well to recognize the symptoms, but unlike the other times, this time he felt that what he was feeling for Alec had the potential to completely destroy him.

He sighed. As Murphy's Law said, 'anything that could go wrong would go wrong,' so there was no point in worrying about it just yet. For all he knew, Alec’s sister could walk into the room at any moment and put him behind bars.

Though now that he thought about it, a couple of minutes had passed since the interruption, and he hadn’t heard her enter the apartment yet. All he could hear was Alec walking around the living room, surely getting rid of the evidence of his presence there.

“You took forever!” A high-pitched voice exclaimed. Magnus immediately knew that Alec had finally opened the door.

“What do you want?” The agent said in a not-so-friendly tone.

“Good morning to you too, it’s good to see you’re in such good spirits, big brother. Did you fall out of bed or what?”

Magnus chuckled, little did she know she was the reason her brother was all grumpy. Alec hadn’t fallen out of bed, he had been interrupted by a very annoying sister when he was about to get some action—her timing had been terrible.

“I didn’t sleep last night.” Alec justified himself. “But what happened, what do you want?

“My car broke down.” She explained. “I need a ride to work.”

“What about Jace?”

“I went to him first, I thought you had already left for work, but he didn’t sleep here. Can you believe it? I called him and although he didn’t say where he was, I know he was at Clary’s. I could hear her talking in the background. But anyway, I was on my way to hail a cab when I saw your car parked outside and that’s why I came, I thought we could go together and...wait, why aren’t you ready for work? Are you okay? Do you feel sick? Do you have a fever or something? Now that I think about it, you do look a little flushed.”

“No, I’m fine, Izzy. Why didn’t you take the subway instead, huh?” Alec said, and Magnus chuckled again. Alec’s grumpiness was adorable, especially since it meant he did not regret what had happened between them.

“I haven’t taken the subway in years, Alec! You know that. Not because I’m a New Yorker means that I’m going to live like one.” She exclaimed, and Magnus had to press his lips into a hard line to avoid laughing out loud. He didn’t know Isabelle, but he already liked her. “But anyway, we have to hurry, it’s late and I know how much you hate being late for work. So go take a shower or whatever you need to do and I’ll wait here.”

Magnus sighed, that was his cue to leave. He knew his time there was over for the day, so as quietly as he could, he came out of the closet—the irony, right?—looked around Alec’s room and grabbed the notebook that was on the night table to leave him a message.

“I’ll call you later, okay? I hope you can solve your case and we can continue what we started. XOXO. M.B.”

He left the piece of paper stuck to the closet door and disappeared through the window before anyone could see him.

Chapter Text

Alec walked to his room to change his clothes and tell the man who was currently hiding in his closet to leave as soon as he could, but to his surprise the man in question was not where he had left him. Magnus had left, leaving just a note stuck to the closet door as only evidence of his presence there.

Alec looked around, wondering how he had escaped, and noticed that one of the windows was open. Was that man some kind of Spider-Man, or what? That window, unlike the one in the living room, had no emergency stairs.

He chuckled, why did he even care? This was Magnus Bane he was talking about, the man was skillful, he surely knew how to escape from buildings without the help of any stairs, so he just read the note and quickly put it in a drawer. All that fear of being caught by his sister that had been eating him alive in the past few minutes was rapidly dissipating from his body.

“Hey, Alec?” Izzy yelled from somewhere in the living room. Alec was just taking out his clothes for work, he had told his sister that he didn’t have time for a shower.

“Yeah?” Alec said, putting on a clean shirt and changing his pants.

“Why is there glitter all over your table?”

Alec flinched. The stupid glitter! He had completely forgotten to clean it. Magnus had used his silly gloves to examine the wills and not just that, that thing was all over him—clothes, nails, hair. Alec had picked up the coffee cups, the dirty dishes, and collected the papers scattered on the floor, but not the glitter. Sometimes it was hard to pay attention to it when it was everywhere, as Magnus had said, you got used to it.

“I hmmmm...I was trying to recreate what Magnus does.” He lied, looking at himself and making sure he wasn’t all covered up in the damn thing too. And he was, how his sister hadn't noticed it was beyond him, but he quickly ran to the bathroom and rinsed his arms, hands, face, neck, and every part of his body that was exposed. Maybe a shower wouldn’t have been a bad idea after all.

"And why would you do that?"

“For research, you know?” He said. He didn’t know how he had come up with such a perfect excuse, but he didn’t dwell on it too much and just went on. “The trails we’ve found in our last four cases match among each other, but not with Magnus’s previous cases, so I was trying to throw it around to see how this other criminal was doing it.” He said, finally joining his sister back in the living room.

“This looks like Magnus’s trials.” She said.

“Yeah, that was the idea. The only way to get this kind of trail,” he said, “is if you have the glitter on you.” He added, wondering when he had become such a good liar. He had always been very bad at it, telling lies had never been his strong suit.

“Like an accessory or something?” She inquired.

“Yeah, something like that, I just hmmm, put it in my hands and started grabbing stuff.” He lied, well, partially. Technically, Magnus just grabbed things with his hands and made glitter rain. He wore those gloves, but it was pretty much the same.

“This is good, Alec!” Izzy exclaimed, smiling excitedly.

“Yeah, I was going to share that with you guys later. Also...” He said, quickly picking up the wills from the table to distract his sister. Maybe she hadn’t noticed it yet, but the glitter was not just on the table, it was all over the apartment. He would have to vacuum it later. “I found something in the wills.” He added, quickly showing his sister what he, well, actually Magnus, had found. “It’s a map, see? Look at the corners, they form a pattern, and there are some symbols there too, I'm sure they lead to where the real will is.”

“Oh my God! Jace is going to go nuts! He loves maps!”

“I know, well, let’s go!” He said, trying to get his sister out of his home as quickly as possible.

“But wait, aren’t you going to take anything for breakfast?”

“No, we’ll get something on our way to work.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, come on, let’s go! I’ll even pay for it.”

“Okay.” She shrugged.

They walked out of the apartment and Alec looked at the table one last time before closing the door behind him. If his sister hadn’t interrupted, God knew what had happened there.

A flash of crimson colored his cheeks.

He knew what had happened there and the worst part was that he wanted it, he wanted it badly.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus arrived in a cloud to his apartment. He could still feel Alec’s lips all over his body and he couldn’t help smiling at the memory of what had just happened between them. He was tired, after all, they hadn’t slept at all, but his body was still very much awake to even think about going to sleep. So after pouring himself a cup of fresh coffee, changing into more comfortable clothes, and giving the Chairman something to eat, he walked to his studio and grabbed an empty canvas.

He wanted to do some random painting just to let off steam and keep his instrument sharp, but with the first stroke of his brush, he found his hand taking on a life of its own and creating something completely new. It started out as a light background with blues and yellows, like those found in a sunrise, but with each new stroke that mixture of colors began to take shape and by the time he finished it, he had a beautiful abstract painting of...well, he didn’t know exactly of what, but it looked good. It was some sort of landscape, a forest of dense trees of very dark colors that were only visible thanks to those small glimpses of light that peeked between the lines that represented the leaves. It gave the impression that if you just kept making your way through it, you would eventually find the place where the light was coming.

“Well, that looks good...who did that originally?” A female voice asked, startling Magnus.

He had been so caught up admiring his own work that he hadn't noticed when someone had entered his loft.

“Cat!” Magnus exclaimed, recognizing his friend and rushing to give her a bone-crushing hug. No one but them knew it, but Catarina was the only living person who owned a key to Magnus’s place. “I’m so glad to see you!” He added, kissing both her cheeks.

"If the mountain won't come to Muhammad..."

“I’m so sorry, I know I promised to visit you soon, but things got a bit out of control around here.”

“I heard, Ragnor told me something about it.”

“You saw him?” Magnus asked.

“Yes, yesterday. He came to visit me at the hospital and then we went for dinner, we talked about a lot of things.” She said with a smile. “But we'll get back to that later, now tell me...the painting, who is it?”

“Mine?” Magnus said, smiling sheepishly. She had been one of the few people in his life who had always encouraged him to make his own work, so admitting that he had done it made him feel a bit insecure about his abilities.

“You did that?” She asked, unable to hide the pride and excitement in her voice.

“Yes?”

“It’s beautiful, Magnus!” She exclaimed, clapping excitedly. “All those light colors and edges contrasting with the darkness of the landscape...what is it? Some kind of forest? Never-mind, it’s amazing! You know I know nothing about art, but this piece is absolutely beautiful! Worthy of a famous museum!”

Magnus smiled widely, quite pleased with that reaction. This had been his first original work in a very long time and he liked the result. It reflected how he felt in that moment and in a way, how much his life had changed in such a short time.

“You look happy.” Catarina pointed out. “It’s been so long since the last time I saw you smiling like that.”

“I guess I am.” Magnus confessed. He hadn’t noticed how happy he felt lately, but yeah, he felt the happiest he had been in a very, very long time.

“It’s good to see you like that.”

Magnus smiled at her. “You want something to drink?” He asked, remembering that he hadn’t offered anything to his friend yet. Where were his manners? “Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No, I was hoping you could invite me something, I have to be in the hospital at noon, so…”

Magnus nodded and went to the kitchen to fetch something so they could both have breakfast. He was hungry too, so he started to take out the ingredients and busied himself in the kitchen while his friend just sat there on one of the stools and talked to him.

“Ragnor told me about your alliance with the federal agent.” She said as she poured herself some orange juice that Magnus had just put on the counter.

“Of course he did, and do you also think I’m crazy?”

“No, I think you’re stupid.”

Magnus looked up from the frying pan where he was cooking some scrambled eggs and glared at his friend.

“What? Don’t give me that look, you know it’s true. Have you thought about the consequences that this insanity could have for everyone? You? Your friends? That boy? If something goes wrong, and I’m not saying he's going to betray you because he hasn’t done it yet and I’m sure he’s not going to do it, but if for some reason someone else discovered what you two are doing, then things would really get ugly for all of you. You would ruin each other, Magnus. Alec? That's his name, right?" She asked, and Magnus just nodded. "Alec could lose his career and you and your friends could end up in jail.”

Magnus sighed. He hadn’t considered all the possibilities so far, of course he had thought about what could happen to him and his friends if things didn’t go according to plan, but up until now he hadn’t stopped to think about what could happen to Alec.

“Thank God you two aren’t sleeping together because if that were the case, that poor man would not only lose his career, but could end up in jail accused of obstruction of justice or complicity.” She continued.

Magnus turned around as fast as he could to try to hide his flushed cheeks. They weren’t properly sleeping together yet, but if what had happened a few hours ago served as a reference, well, they were clearly on their way to it, that was for sure.

“Magnus Bane!” Catarina questioned, raising her often very sweet voice a few octaves. She sounded like a mother who was two seconds away from lecturing her errant child. “Are you having sex with him?”

Magnus took a deep breath before answering. No matter what he said, he knew what was coming. Catarina would tell him what he already knew—that what had happened between them had all the potential to go wrong. “No, but we kissed?”

“Oh my God, Magnus! Are you out of your mind!? Why did you kiss him!?”

“How do you know it was me the one who kissed him and not the other way around, huh?”

“Because I know you, Magnus, we've been friends for a very long time. I know you have a thing for danger and everything that has the potential to ruin your life. All the bad things that have happened to you so far are because of that and you know it. Besides, Ragnor warned me that you liked this boy more than you should.”

Magnus rolled his eyes. “That loudmouth who claims to be my best friend shouldn’t have said anything.”

“He’s just worried about you, but tell me, is it true? Do you like him?”

“Yes.”

“Magnus…”

“What, Cat? It just happened, okay? I couldn't exactly control it. I tried, but I couldn’t and last night...well, we were tired of working on his case and we danced, and..."

"And?"

"And I kissed him. It just happened, okay?”

“It didn’t just happen, you kissed him because you wanted to!”

“Well, of course I wanted to, and I don't regret it in the least. What happened between Alexander and me has been the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time. What can I say? He’s different, Cat.”

“Oh dear God…” She whispered, covering her mouth with her hand. “You just don’t like him, do you? You’re falling in love with him!”

Magnus sighed. He couldn't hide it, not in front of Catarina. This woman knew him better than anyone. “Like an idiot.”

“When did this happen?”

“I don’t know? We've been talking for weeks, getting to know each other, and I...oh, Cat! There’s so much I have to tell you!”

“Well, start talking, mister, you have until noon.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec and Jace were on their way back to the office after successfully solving the case of the multiple wills. It had turned out that they had been right to suppose that the five wills were just a map to find the actual document. The moment the family had seen the circle that formed with the five corners of the wills, they had gasped in shock and quickly walked to one of the rooms of the house where there were sculptures of the five symbols illustrated on the sheets of paper. The sculptures were around some mosaic on the floor that incidentally, was a more elaborated version of the funny-looking circle in the wills, so it hadn’t taken them long to realize that the actual document had to be hidden beneath it.

After a lot of arguing and bickering, the family had decided to just smash the beautiful piece of art to look for the will, instead of having it removed. When they found it, Alec and Jace quickly examined it and let one of the lawyers read it. To all their misfortunes, the document clearly stipulated that only a very small part of the money would be distributed among all the members of the family and the other, which was a more considerable amount, had to be donated to different charities.

It had been one hell of a conflict after that, with the whole family looking for ways to invalidate the last will of their late father and grandfather, but Alec and Jace had already done their job, so they just filled out the reports to complete the file and said their goodbyes.

“It was really fucked up what that man did to his family, don’t you think?” Jace said, once they were inside Alec's car.

“I don’t know, I think he was in his right to do whatever he wanted with his money. You saw them, they only cared about him because he was rich, if I had been in his place, I would have probably done the same thing.”

“Would you have left us fake wills making us believe that we were suddenly rich to later find out that you were only playing with us and that you had left us almost nothing of your money?”

“Well, you are not like them, but if I had had a family like his, then yes, I would have done the same.”

“Well, that’s good to know. I’ll make sure to always make you believe that I am with you because you’re the single most incredible person in the world, and not because I’m interested in getting money from you, it's not like you are the one who best manages its salary of the three of us, right?” Jace said jokingly.

Alec laughed, and they fell into a comfortable silence while they skirted through the always clogged streets of New York.

“I still can’t believe how you noticed that all the wills were fake, though,” Jace added after a while, “yesterday we spent all day studying them together, I read what the forensic report said. And the map? I would have never seen that thing even if they had told me it was there!”

“It was just a lucky find.” Alec said, trying not to take too much credit for that case. After all, it hadn’t been him who had actually solved it. Magnus had been the one who had found all those things.

“I don’t think it was just a lucky find...give yourself some credit, Alec, you’re smart and very good at what you do.”

“I’m not...but anyway,” Alec said, trying to change the subject, he was starting to feel very uncomfortable, “I didn’t have time to ask you this in the morning with the case and all that, but Izzy said you didn’t sleep at home, did you stay at Clary’s?”

Jace nodded, blushing a bit.

“So I take that things are better between you two?”

“Much better, I think that after meeting her family we kind of exorcised all those demons that were coming between us. There are still things that she has to tell me, secrets she hasn’t shared with me yet, but she asked for time and I'm giving it to her.” Jace said with a smile. “As I told her, we have a lifetime to be honest with each other."

"A lifetime? Those are very serious words, Jace."

"I know, but I think she’s the one, Alec.”

“Do you think or are you sure? Because you can't go around saying that if you’re not one hundred percent sure.”

I'm five hundred percent sure, Alec. She’s it for me.”

“How do you know?” Alec asked intrigued because well, how could you know when a person was «the» person for you? Was it something obvious?

“I don’t know...I just look at her and I know. Like, when we’re together there’s no place I’d rather be, when we’re apart she’s on my mind the whole time, when something happens she’s the first person I want to talk to. I don’t know, it's not something I can explain, it’s-”

Alec stopped paying attention after that. The only name that had come to mind when his brother had been trying to explain himself had been Magnus’s and that worried him. Why was he only thinking about him? Was it because of that kiss? Or, was it something else? He wondered, but quickly shook his head to get rid of those thoughts and tried to pay attention back to what his brother was saying.

“So yeah...it’s her.” Jace was saying.

“I’m happy for you, Jace.”

“Thanks.”

Alec smiled. All worries and internal struggles aside, it was good to know that his brother was happy. All his life, the only thing he had wanted was to see all his siblings being happy, and although he sometimes became a real headache when it came to the boyfriends and girlfriends his siblings chose, that didn’t mean he wasn't happy to hear they had found the right one.

“What about you?” Jace asked.

“What about me?”

“Yes, what about you...how are things going with that mysterious man you’ve been seeing?”

“What!?” Alec asked, almost slamming his foot against the brake. They were just around the corner from the FBI building, looking for a place to park.

“What you heard...how are things going with him?”

“I-I…” Alec stammered. He hadn’t talked about any of that with Jace. Izzy knew something about it, of course, because she had discovered him the other day, but she knew how to keep a secret, at least when Alec asked her to do it—and he had asked her to do it. “You-you know?”

“Of course I know, Alec, you’re my partner and my brother, I think I know you pretty well. Izzy and I talked about it a few weeks ago, we suspected you were seeing someone, but well, I’m sure of it now. You’ve been acting weird and distracted, besides, I couldn’t help noticing that you're checking your phone almost twenty-four hours a day, and you and I both know that that's very un-Alec.”

Alec sighed. Apparently, his secret wasn’t much of secret after all. He had seriously underestimated his siblings, they knew him better than he had thought, and although that was comforting, it was also a bit alarming. He didn’t know how long he would be able to keep Magnus’s name out of all this, especially not after what had happened between them that very same morning.

“I know you don’t want to talk about him, or else you would have done it already, but I really need to ask you something, Alec...are you happy?”

That question took Alec by surprise. Nobody had ever asked him that before. It was such a simple question, but yet so difficult to answer. Was he happy? He wondered. “Yes, I am.” He answered sincerely.

“Good, that’s all that matters. And well, when you’re ready to talk about him, just know that we're here, okay? Maybe we'll tease you a bit and even get jealous of him, but remember that we just want to see you happy, okay?”

Alec nodded and just parked the car, suddenly feeling that the air was too heavy to breathe.

“You think we can go home early today?” Jace asked as they climbed down the car and headed to the building. Alec was grateful that his brother had decided to change the subject, they were getting too deep and he was not ready for that kind of conversation, especially after the day he'd had. “I need to go do some grocery shopping.”

“If we hurry with the reports I don’t see why that would be a problem...but only if we hurry, you know how Hodge is with that, he loves having all the paperwork ready as soon as we close a case, and with dad patrolling everything is like Quantico all over again, the reports have to be-”

“-finished before the sun goes down.” Jace completed what their teachers had taught them back at the academy.

“Exactly.”

They laughed and entered the building. The moment they stepped off the elevator, their father, who seemed to have been waiting for them, emerged from his temporary office and without saying a word, signaled Alec to go to his office.

“He used the two fingers signal.” Jace pointed out in a whisper. It was a very common signal used by those with more power to call their subordinates to their offices. It was like a physical representation of the words: You. Here. Now! “Well, that can’t be good. Good luck with the old man, you're going to need it, just by his expression it's easy to tell that he's not in a very good mood.”

"Thanks." Alec said sarcastically.

His day had started with an unforgettable kiss and would probably end with a heated discussion with his father—there was no doubt that life was full of contrasts.

Chapter Text

Magnus was studying all the files Alec had given him about Valentine. As he had promised, the agent had made him copies of every file the Bureau had on the criminal, and since the federals had done their homework, Magnus had more than three boxes to go through. He had started two weeks ago when Alec had texted him to inform him that he could go pick up the files, and he was still in the first box—this was proving to be more tedious and time consuming than he had imagined.

“Do you know what I find curious?” Magnus said out loud. Ragnor was there with him, helping him read all the information about Valentine.

“No, what?”

“Alexander told me that all the boxes were sorted by year.”

“I know, they're even labeled.” Ragnor said, pointing to the side of the box where the agent had written down the years of the files contained in that box.

“Exactly, look at all the others, what do you see?” Magnus said. There were four boxes stacked there beside them.

Ragnor looked at the boxes, but didn't get Magnus's point.

“We started with the box containing the oldest files,” Magnus explained, “there's nothing here about Valentine before he became a criminal.”

“Oh.” Ragnor said, looking back and forth between the files he was holding and the rest of the boxes.

“It's odd, isn't it? The FBI is very meticulous about this kind of stuff, they usually do background checks on all the criminals they are after. We have to find out who this man was before he became Valentine Morgenstern, maybe if we knew a little bit about his past, we could find out where he is and what he’s up to—what's past is prologue.”

“William Shakespeare.” Ragnor said, recognizing the quote from the famous author.

“Very good, my friend. But seriously, we all have a past and if the FBI couldn't find his, then we will.”

“Okay, I'll ask Raphael to start digging around. The first file we have of him is from 1986, so I'll see if that can help us track him down. Perhaps with the year and based on what happened back then we could try to see what his beginnings as a criminal were and thus determine who he was before he became, well, who he became. It won't be easy, though, if the feds couldn’t find anything in all these years, I don't see how we will.”

“We have something the FBI doesn’t have.”

“What?”

“A Raphe.”

“Don’t call him like that.”

“I'm sorry, I forgot you were the only one who could call him like that.” Magnus teased.

“Very funny, have you considered a career change, you would be a terrific comedian. By the way,” Ragnor added, obviously trying to change the subject, “the last pieces for the printer arrived this morning, Raphael texted me, we can start printing next week if you want.”

“That’s great! I’ll ask Elias to move the oven there today.” Magnus said, pointing to the object in question that was still occupying half the space of his living room. “It’s better if we set everything there, it would be very risky to bring the bonds here just to age them.”

“Yeah, we can’t bring them here. You should also ask him to take the paper and the inks, the place is ready, I even made some space in the small office to store them.”

“Yeah, I will.” Magnus said, pulling his phone out of his pocket and quickly calling his henchman to give him instructions. Ragnor simply took another file and resumed what he had been doing.

After that they fell into a peaceful silence as they continued to make their way through all the information they now had on Valentine. It was a menial task that required little to no effort, not Magnus’s favorite thing in the world, but it wasn’t so bad after all. It was helping him to distract himself and not think about...well, other things.

“How are things going with the fed?” Ragnor asked after a while.

“Same.” Magnus said, not really wanting to talk about that. “He’s busy, I’m busy, Valentine's on the loose using my name to cover his ass—same old, same old.”

“Have you...you know?”

“Kissed again? No, I’ve barely seen him.” Magnus confessed.

It was true. He hadn’t seen Alec that much in these past two weeks. The man had been practically enclosed in the FBI Headquarters working almost 24/7. Apparently his father, who was in charge of the Washington D.C. office, had locked up all the agents in an attempt to rush things with the investigation. They had started to receive threats or something, so they were really desperate to find Valentine and all his alleged collaborators—Magnus, or better said, fake-Magnus included.

“Why?”

“I told you, his father ordered all the agents to be locked up until they made some progress on Valentine's case, some national security thing or something like that.” Magnus partially lied. That had really happened, Alec had explained so himself when Magnus had gone to pick up all the files about Valentine, but the truth was that Magnus hadn't really tried to see the agent much in the last few days. If he was honest, the timing of this whole situation had been perfect for him.

“And you’re just okay with that? After what happened between you two? Really? Don’t you wanna see him?” Ragnor inquired.

Magnus shrugged, avoiding eye contact with his friend. Of course he wanted to see him, not seeing the man was turning out to be a real torture, but ever since they had kissed, Magnus had been doing some introspection and well, he had concluded that he needed some distance to clear his head and be able to do what he «had» to do.

“You’re avoiding him.” Ragnor exclaimed, suddenly understanding.

Magnus sighed. After all these years of friendship, he still marveled at how easy his friend could read him. “Maybe.”

“Why? I thought that after that kiss you wouldn’t be able to stay away from him.”

Magnus just chuckled, little did his friend know that it was being terribly difficult to do what he was doing.

“So?” Ragnor insisted.

“I’m not what he needs.” Magnus said, trying to sound as if that thought didn’t matter to him at all, but he knew Ragnor would be able to read beyond the facade. Magnus wasn't very good at lying to his friends.

“And suddenly you're concerned about that because?”

“Because I care about him, okay, Ragnor? I care about him a lot.” Magnus confessed.

“You’ve cared about him since that stupid first date, I saw it in your eyes that night, Magnus, this is something else.”

Magnus sighed. “I don’t want to ruin him.” He said. The conversation he'd had with Catarina after the kiss had left him thinking.

“Cat.” Ragnor guessed.

“Yeah, you sent her to me, remember?”

“I did not. I talked to her about you, she came to visit you because she wanted to, she probably got worried about you.”

“That doesn’t matter, I appreciate her visit, she made me understand that...well, things between Alexander and I are very complicated and thanks to that I realized one thing.”

“What?”

“I knew the risks I was taking when I proposed this alliance, and I know the risks I would be taking if I decided to...well, if I decided to have something else with him, but he doesn’t.”

“What makes you think that? I don’t even know how many times you’ve said that the man is very smart, I’m sure he’s already figured that much out.”

“Are you seriously giving me relationship advice?” Magnus asked amused. He knew that his friend hated anything that had to do with Alec, since Magnus had suggested the alliance with the federal agent, his best friend had clearly stated his opinion about it and made sure Magnus knew how stupid, risky, and dangerous this whole situation was, so hearing him trying to advise him on anything related to Alec was as surprising as it was funny.

“Maybe…” Ragnor said.

“Why?” Magnus couldn’t stop asking—that really intrigued him. He didn't know what had made his friend change his mind.

“Because although you know what I think of that alliance and how stupid it would be if you became romantically involved with him, these past few days I couldn’t help noticing that you-that you stopped smiling, my friend. It had been so long since the last time I'd seen you so happy, and now look at you, you try to hide it, but I know you're unhappy. You can try to fool the world, but I'm your best friend. I know you, and I know he's the reason behind those sad eyes. So yeah, maybe he’s a fed and therefore a real headache for us, but at least he made you happy.”

Magnus smiled. He never took Ragnor’s friendship for granted, but every time he saw how good of a friend Ragnor was, he couldn't help but feel his heart swell—knowing how much his friend cared about him made him extremely happy. Ragnor was able to put aside whatever personal opinion he had about this situation just to see him happy. “I appreciate your words, my friend, and that you care about my happiness, but I'm fine."

"No, you're not."

"Well, I'm not, but I will be."

"Why are you doing it?"

"Because I can’t do that to him, I thought I could, but I can’t. I can’t drag him with me into the mud that is my life. He’s a good man, Ragnor. He doesn’t deserve any of the bullshit that usually comes with people like me."

“But you could ask him, I mean, what if he doesn’t care about that? What if he wants you regardless of the risks?”

“I don’t think so…”

“Would it kill to ask?”

“No.”

“Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but then do it, you have nothing to lose.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was very tired. He had spent two weeks practically locked up in the Bureau and, so far, he hadn't made any progress in the case. He had been working like a machine, going through all the reports and cases they had without even taking a break, and his body was starting to show signs of extreme tiredness. He was used to this kind of hectic pace, not sleeping, barely eating...he had done it on more than one occasion in the past, but this time it wasn't really his job what was draining him of his energy, no, it was the fact that he hadn't been able to stop thinking about Magnus.

Since that make out session Alec couldn't get out of his head, he had heard almost nothing about the criminal. Their text messages and daily phone calls had become almost non-existent, and Magnus's visits to his home had been so brief and sporadic that Alec wasn't even sure if they had actually happened. He didn't know what had gone wrong between them, but thinking about it had been keeping him awake on those nights when he had the privilege of catching up with some sleep.

He didn’t understand how Magnus had managed to get under his skin so fast, but the criminal had done it, and as unbelievable as it might sound, Alec missed him. He missed talking, laughing, and spending time with him. The two times they had seen each other in the last few days had been because Alec had texted him. The first time to inform him that he could go pick up the copy of all the files regarding Valentine, and the second to ask him for some help with the authentication of a painting that they had found on the black market and that could be related to their last case. And although both times Magnus had gone to his place without hesitation, the criminal hadn’t stayed for long, and what was worse, he hadn’t even mentioned what had happened between them and had treated Alec in a very professional, and even, distant way.

Alec couldn’t deny that that attitude had disappointed him greatly, he had held onto the note the man had left for him after their passionate encounter, but to his misfortune nothing had happened between them since then—they hadn’t talked about it, much less continued what they had started. Alec was so frustrated. He wanted to ask him why, to question him about his sudden silence and cold treatment. They were adults, and adults talked, right? But he didn’t know how to do it, he had never faced anything like this. The uncertainty of not knowing what had gone wrong between them and why he cared so damn much was killing him.

“You have your head in the clouds.” Izzy said.

“What?”

“Precisely my point.”

“Sorry, Iz...I’m a bit distracted.”

“Is it because of that mysterious man you’ve been seeing these weeks?”

Alec nodded, sighing. He hated being so easy to read.

“Are you still seeing him?”

“No,” he said, “well, I don’t even know.”

“You want to talk about it?” She asked, carefully taking a seat in front of him. She had only gone to his office to give him copies of some old files.

“There’s not much to talk about, you already know most of it. We kinda went out a couple of times, three...I’m not sure if the last one really counted as a date, but let’s say four, and it was great, Iz. We had, well, have a connection, you know? Something I hadn’t had with anyone before. We’re from very different worlds, literally, but putting that aside we have a lot in common, and well, the last time we saw each other something happened…” He said, blushing a little. It was so weird to talk about this with his sister.

“Did you…?” She asked curiously.

“Almost.” Alec confessed. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. He was a 28 year-old man, yes, he didn’t have a lot of experience, but he wasn’t a teenager—he was an adult.

“And?”

“Well, since that happened I’ve only seen him two times and for like five minutes, and he hasn’t mentioned anything, you know? As if it had never happened and-”

“When did this happen?” She interrupted him.

“Two weeks ago.”

“Oh.” Izzy said.

“That’s bad, isn’t it?” Alec asked, because he had figured that much out. Experience or not, when you didn’t get a call or a text message after something as intense as what had happened between them, it was a clear signal that something had gone terribly wrong.

“Well, I don’t know him, but yeah, it doesn’t sound good. I mean, these two times you saw him since then, did he call or did you?”

“I did, but I didn’t call, I just texted him. He had asked me for some hmmm...books, so I told him he could go to my place to pick them up, and the other time I hmmm...asked him to help me with-with some stuff about my laptop, and he did, but he left as soon as we finished.”

“Well, if he went that’s good, I mean, he’s still interested, right? If he didn’t want to keep any contact with you, he would have just ignored you, but he didn’t, so...”

“But don’t you think he would have said something about what almost happened? Like it was hot, Izzy.” Alec said, because what his sister was saying made sense, if Magnus didn’t want to keep seeing him he would have just ignored him; but Alec wasn’t fully convinced yet, he knew something was off.

“Maybe he’s shy…” She suggested.

“He’s not shy, believe me, he’s the opposite of a shy person, I wish he were a bit shy every now and then. This is something else, Iz, this is because I suck at this thing and he wants out.”

“I don’t think you suck at anything, you’re the single most compassionate, most committed person I know, those two qualities are key to any romance.”

Alec chuckled. He had never thought of his relationship with Magnus as a romance, but maybe it was, or deep down he wanted it to be.

“Maybe he’s waiting for you to make the next move.” She continued.

“He knows I’m not going to do that.”

“Why not? Are you suddenly a damsel in distress who can’t fight for the man you like?”

Alec rolled his eyes. “No, but he knows I’m not the kind of guy who does that.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know how to do it, Iz!”

His sister smiled. “Big brother, I think you’re over-analyzing things as per usual. If you’re interested in this guy and you think you two really have a chance to make it work-”

Alec chuckled, that was the problem between them. How could they make it work? They were the opposites of the opposites—like ice and fire, day and night.

“-then I say you call him and ask him out.” Izzy continued. “If he was the one who asked you out the last three or four times, then it’s your turn. You know what they say, the fifth is the charm.”

Alec hesitated. He could call, right? Pretend it was something related to Valentine's case and invite him over. “And if he says no?”

“Then you’ll know for sure that he’s not interested and you can move on.”

Alec sighed, his sister was right. If Magnus didn’t show signs of being interested in Alec, he could move on and keep this thing between them strictly professional. “Thanks, Iz.”

“Anytime, big brother.” She said, getting up from her chair and leaving Alec alone.

Alec pulled out the phone Magnus had given him from his pocket and looked at it. He had been carrying it with him these past days in hopes of hearing from Magnus, but the phone had remained eerily silent.

He looked at the only number saved there and his finger hovered over the call button. He took a deep breath and just when he was about to call, the phone rang and Magnus’s name flashed on the screen.

Alec answered on the first ring. “I was about to call you.” He said.

“Well, I won.” Magnus said in that joking tone Alec liked and had missed so much.

“I-I...”

“Are you busy? Can I see you tonight?” Magnus asked.

“No, I mean, no I’m not busy, so yeah sure...you want to come over to my place or something?” Alec asked, hoping he wasn't sounding so desperate.

“No, I kind of want to talk to you about something important, but not at your place, hmmm, I think this time a public place would be better.”

Uh-oh.

“Oh, okay…” Alec said, not really knowing what else to say, “...then where?”

“Brooklyn Bridge, 9pm? Meet me on the Manhattan side.”

“Okay, then I’ll see you there.”

“Okay, goodbye, Alexander.”

“Bye.” Alec hung up and sighed. He didn’t have much experience, but this? This couldn’t be good.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus was a bundle of nerves. He was waiting at the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge for Alec to arrive. He usually had a set of security protocols to follow when he found himself out in the public, but since he didn’t want to share any of this with anyone yet, he was on his own, hoping that Lady Luck was on his side again and he didn’t have to make a run for it before he finished saying what he had come to say.

He wasn’t nervous about Alec betraying him or something like that, he trusted him, but it was always strange to be so unprotected in the public eye. Scarf season was there, so that helped him mingle with the rest of the New Yorkers who were walking the city, but he couldn’t help but feel a bit uneasy when someone stared at him for more than what was strictly necessary. He agreed that there was nothing that a good scarf and a beautiful coat couldn’t conceal, but he couldn’t just forget that this city had millions of security cameras, and tonight he felt very, very vulnerable.

He was almost certain that that feeling had very little to do with the fact that he was out in the public eye, and everything to do with the conversation he was about to have with Alec, but there was nothing he could do to control it. His hands were shaking as they hadn’t shaken in so long and he even felt a bit dizzy. It was so-

“Hi.” Someone said in a timid voice, startling him.

It was Alexander. He was standing right in front of him. He was wearing a beautiful black coat and a red scarf, his hair was combed a little different from his usual style and Magnus could smell the soft notes of some sweet cologne. Alec looked simply dazzling, and Magnus wondered if the agent had dressed up like that just for him.

“Hi, you look very nice tonight.”

“Thanks, you do too.” Alec added, fidgeting with his hands. He was clearly as nervous as Magnus was.

“Shall we walk?” Magnus suggested, pointing in the opposite direction of the bridge.

Alec nodded.

They walked awkwardly side by side, slowly getting away from the island they both loved and heading to Brooklyn. The elephant was in the room, Magnus could sense it walking right next to them—and it was the size of the freaking bridge!

“I probably owe you an apology.” Magnus started to say. “I’ve been a bit distant in the last two weeks, but I don’t want you to think that I’m backing out on my word. I’m still going to help you catch Valentine, but well, what happened the other day-”

“You regret it.” Alec interrupted.

“No!” Magnus immediately said, shaking his head vigorously. How could Alec think that? That kiss had been the best kiss in the entire history of kisses.

“Let me finish, please.” Magnus added, stopping so he could look Alec straight in the eye. “Look, Alexander, I like you, I really do. I’ve liked you since the first time I saw you on that rooftop almost three years ago. How could I not? I mean, I’m sure you look yourself in the mirror every morning, you’re gorgeous. But these past months, since we started with this, the calls, the texts, the dates...I’ve learned to really know the person behind the pretty face and-” Magnus took a deep breath. This was harder than giving himself up to the authorities. “And you make me feel things, okay? Things I haven’t felt in a very, very long time. What happened between us—kissing you—it was like being born all over again, you completely rocked my world upside down and, of course I don’t regret it, how could I? We can agree that that kiss was more than perfect, but after I went home I kind of realized of one thing. I can’t change who I am, Alexander. I’m a criminal, and this thing that we’re doing is risky and if we're honest, also pretty stupid. We could ruin each other. We made a truce, I know, but we can’t forget that it’s your job to put people like me behind bars and my job not to allow it. What’s going to happen when this is over and Valentine is either dead or trapped in a supermax prison, huh? You can’t ignore who you are, and neither can I. Are you just going to pretend I’m not the criminal you’ve been wanting to catch for years? Are you going to pretend I’m a good person? Because I’m not, Alexander. I’m not.”

Alec remained silent, so Magnus just continued before he lost his nerve. “Let’s say we do explore whatever this is, when this is over there will come a time when you will have to fulfill your duty and hand me over to the authorities, are you going to do it? Are you going to pretend that nothing ever happened between us? Are you just going to put whatever we have yet to live behind us and simply sweep it under the rug?”

“I don’t know the answer to any of your questions.” Alec said sincerely. “I...this happening between us was never part of the plan. If I agreed to go on the first date was for the sole purpose of catching you, all the other dates were never part of what I had in mind for this alliance, but they happened.”

“I know and believe me when I’m saying that I never expected to feel what I feel. I was attracted to you and I started sending you those postcards as some sort of game to drive you insane, but that night on the rooftop I met a different Alec and that’s when I lost control of myself. Then we started playing around, joining forces to catch Valentine, and in doing so I got to know you, the real you, and I lost focus. I met this incredible, sexy, funny, smart man who always manages to make me smile and you know what? I can’t do this to him, I can’t do this to you. What we are doing is bad enough already to add a relationship to the mix. If people knew that you’ve been with me enough times to arrest me already and you haven’t moved a finger, you could lose everything you’ve worked so hard for and I would never forgive myself for that. You understand, right?”

“So you don’t want us to keep doing this?”

“No, listen, if you want to, I want to. I’m a bad guy, I've learned to live with the consequences of my actions since I was very young, what I want is for you to be fully aware of our situation. I can’t change who I am and I won’t ask you to change for me either, but I do want you to keep in mind everything that could go wrong between us and with our respective lives. If we are discovered having an affair, we both are going to end up in the same place, and not exactly together.”

Alec took a deep breath. He seemed so lost in his own thoughts that Magnus wasn’t even sure if he had heard the last thing he had told him.

“I can’t speak for the future,” Alec said, “I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to catch Valentine, or even if we’re going to make it out alive, the man is a mass murderer so anything could happen, but what I do know is that despite how wrong this is, despite how I know I shouldn’t be doing this...I want you. I don’t know why, I must be out of my mind or something, but I want you.”

Magnus’s stomach knotted and that funny feeling he felt whenever he was with Alec just intensified. “Risks and all?” He asked, just to make sure he had understood correctly.

“Risks and all.” The agent said.

Magnus smiled. They were standing in the middle of the bridge, the city gleaming behind them like a beautiful poster from a movie that was yet to be seen. “Then I’m all yours.” He said, barely standing on his tiptoes and kissing him again.

People passed next to them, but no one was paying them any attention. They were just another of the thousands of couples who shared passionate kisses on that bridge every day.

“Do you want to go to my place?” Magnus broke the kiss to ask.

“What?”

“Remember our first phone call? It’s our fifth date, I told you I would invite you over.”

Chapter Text

Alec couldn't see where he was going, after Magnus had invited him to his place and Alec had agreed, the criminal had put a scarf around his eyes and prevented him from seeing anything. And although at first Alec had complained—he hated not being able to see where he was going—Magnus had asked him to trust him and that had left him with no choice but to nod and let himself be guided by him. He had just told the man that despite everything that might happen in the future between them, he wanted to be with him, it would be contradictory and very stupid of him to pretend that he didn't trust him. He did, he trusted him like he never thought he would trust anyone, much less someone with Magnus's line of work.

"Are we still far from wherever your place is?" Alec asked for the umpteenth time. They had been walking for at least fifteen minutes without stopping. He didn't know how much longer he would be able to keep going without wanting to remove the scarf from his eyes.

"I already told you that we're almost there, Alexander, have a little patience." Magnus said.

Alec let out a snort. He wasn't very good at this kind of thing, first, because he wasn't a very patient person, he seemed to be, but it was only in appearance, his inner reserves of patience were very, very limited. And second, because he really got nervous when he didn't have control of situations, with Magnus he had been getting used to it, but still, it wasn't something easy for him.

“You’re not making me walk the entire city, are you?”

Magnus chuckled. “Of course not, dear, just Brooklyn.”

“You’re joking, right?” Alec said, stopping dead in his tracks. He wasn’t wearing comfortable shoes, he had actually decided to dress for the occasion and had chosen to wear some very nice shoes that his sister had given him last Christmas.

“Of course I’m joking.” Magnus whispered into his ear, and Alec shivered.

Up until now, the criminal had been keeping a safe distance from Alec’s body, barely touching him to guide him through the crowded streets and prevent him from colliding with other people. So this new proximity had really taken Alec by surprise, causing his brain to short-circuit and his lungs to stop working properly. If this was what was going to happen to him every time Magnus was near him, then Alec was completely and utterly screwed. It wasn't possible that the closeness and warmth of Magnus’s breath against his neck could have such an effect on him.

“Okay, we’re here.” Magnus announced. “I need you to stay where you are for a few seconds while I go open the front door, can I trust you not to take off the scarf?”

Alec rolled his eyes inwardly but nodded. “Yes.”

“Okay,” Magnus said, leaving a soft kiss on Alec’s cheek and taking him by surprise for the second time in less than a minute. “I’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere, okay?”

Alec nodded and just stood there praying that he didn't look as flushed as he felt, and not really knowing what to do with himself. That kiss had been such a sweet and natural thing to do that he didn’t know how to react. He was practically forcing himself not to touch his cheek—where he could still feel Magnus’s lips—in fear that the criminal might notice how much that little thing had meant to him.

“Okay...are you ready?” Magnus asked. Alec noticed that he sounded weird, as if he were equally nervous as excited.

Alec limited himself to nod. He didn’t trust himself at the moment—to say that he wasn’t really ready was a big understatement.

Magnus led him into the building and then into the elevator. Alec took a deep breath and tried to calm himself down. He didn’t understand why he was so nervous all of a sudden. He had never stopped being nervous, after all, this was all new to him, but right now he felt as if every nerve in his body had just...come to life.

The elevator stopped, and next thing Alec knew, Magnus was ushering him out of the cabin and placing him in front of what Alec assumed was the door of his place.

“I’m going to take the scarf from your eyes, but I need you to keep your eyes closed for a little longer, okay?” Magnus said, and Alec nodded again.

The criminal very slowly began to remove the intrusive piece of cloth from his eyes, and Alec really had to resist the urge to just open them and end with the uncertainty once and for all.

“Open your eyes on the count of three, okay?”

“Okay.” Alec replied.

“One.” Magnus said, and Alec heard the door being unlocked. “Two.” The criminal added, placing his hands on both of Alec’s shoulders and making him walk. “Three...”

Alec opened his eyes and his jaw dropped at the sight of the beautiful place displayed before him. Magnus’s apartment, or better said, loft was huge, like those advertised in real estate brochures, with high ceilings and large windows that sent the light sprawling across the polished hardwood floors. The whole place was finely decorated with a mix of antique and modern furniture, it was very eclectic, but quite beautiful—just like the owner of the place. If this loft had belonged to someone else, Alec would have found it very strange, but it belonged to Magnus, so he could not help but love every corner of it.

“It’s beautiful…” Alec said almost out of breath as he took a step inside what Magnus called a home, but Alec would have mistaken for a museum.

“You like it?”

Alec nodded, immediately looking around and trying to absorb his surroundings—the colors, the sounds, the smells, the textures.

“May I take your coat?” Magnus asked, and Alec absentmindedly let him take off his coat. A huge door right in the middle of the living room, which he assumed led to some kind of balcony or terrace, had already caught his attention and he wanted to get closer to take a look and see why this place was so special.

“Can I?” Alec asked, pointing to it.

“Be my guest.”

Alec smiled and quickly got closer and opened it. The view from there was simply spectacular—like that of a postcard. He couldn't pinpoint Magnus's exact address just now, but taking into account the angle of view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the fact that he could see the Bureau’s building as part of the Manhattan skyline, he knew he was somewhere in Brooklyn Heights. All these years Magnus had been closer to him than he had imagined—literally right across the river.

“Why am I here?” Alec suddenly asked because it hadn't dawned on him that he was in Magnus’s secret lair, the place where every time the criminal committed a heist he used to go into hiding. For some reason Magnus had decided to share this place with him and Alec needed to know why. “Why did you invite me over?”

“Well, because you’re willing to give it a try to this thing between us and I want you to know that I am too, and this,” Magnus pointed around himself, “this is me, the real me, Alexander. No secrets.”

Alec smiled. He wanted to go kiss that man and get lost in him, but he restrained himself and better started exploring the place. There was so much to see that he didn’t even know where to begin. His eyes landed on something interesting and intriguing every time he blinked, so he just walked to the impressive bookshelf that served as a wall to examine the books Magnus had. If he had had Shakespeare's first editions to spare, he couldn't even imagine what other literary treasure could be hiding in there. And just when he was about to start reading the titles a little something, or better said, someone, got in his way.

“Oh, hello there.” He said, looking at the adorable munchkin cat currently demanding his attention.

“That’s my son, his name is Chairman Meow.” Magnus said.

Alec frowned not quite getting the name. It was original, he couldn’t deny that, but he suspected that it had some sort of random meaning behind it.

“It's a parody of the former Chinese leader,” Magnus explained, “Chairman Mao Zedong, get it?"

Alec chuckled, rolling his eyes playfully and picking up the ball of fur. It was absolutely adorable. “You’re a very cute kitty, Chairman.” He said, scratching behind the cat’s ears and making him purr.

“I’m glad he approved you because that would have been a deal breaker, dear, if my son hadn’t liked you then I would have had to stop seeing you.”

Alec smiled and put the cat down, but the Chairman kept rubbing against his leg.

“I guess he’s marking you as his own now.” Magnus pointed out. “I’m not entirely sure if I like that, is it valid to be jealous of a cat?"

Alec laughed.

"What? I really want to know. I have the feeling that this is going to turn into some kind of love triangle from which I won't come out victorious. I know my son and what he can do. I know that he makes pretty boys such as yourself to fall in love with him, but let me tell you something about him before you make him your favorite. He is cute and adorable, yes, but he's the devil in disguise. He's a drama queen, a diva...he's very difficult to please, I, on the other hand, don't need much to start purring." Magnus said, winking.

"You just didn't..." Alec said, laughing and turning around to avoid looking at that man in the eye. Sometimes he really couldn't believe him.

“Are you hungry?” Magnus asked as Alec resumed his exploration of the bookshelf. There were so many titles there, classics, contemporaries, science books that he got easily distracted. Now he knew why Magnus was so cultured and educated.

“Alexander, are you hungry?” Magnus asked again.

“Oh, I'm sorry...yeah, a bit.” He said, although now that he thought about it, he was more nervous than hungry. There was something he had been unable to stop thinking about ever since he had set foot in this place: he was at Magnus’s home and here, well, here he doubted that anyone could interrupt them if they decided to continue what they had started back in Alec’s apartment.

“I wasn't really prepared,” Magnus continued, “but I have some lasagna leftovers in the fridge that we could reheat and pretend I just cooked it. I don't know if you remember, but during our first phone call I also promised to cook for you.”

“Weren’t you just bluffing?”

“No, I really like to cook and I’m good at it, but well...I never thought the night would end like this.”

“You thought I was going to say no.” Alec said, realizing the meaning behind what Magnus had just said. The criminal hadn't been expecting Alec to agree to this new turn in their relationship.

“I was hoping you'd say no.” Magnus confessed, and that broke Alec's heart a little.

“Why?”

“Because I care about you and I know I'm not good for you.”

“Shouldn't I be the judge of that?”

“Well, yes, but I had to warn you.”

“And you did.” Alec said, getting closer to the criminal and smiling at him. That had been so sweet and considerate that he couldn’t stop himself and just took Magnus’s hand, interlacing their fingers together. It was so easy for him to feel comfortable around Magnus that he still managed to surprise himself from time to time. “Now, are you going to reheat the food or what?”

Magnus smiled and after giving Alec a quick kiss on the lips, walked to the kitchen and started taking things out of the fridge—a bottle of wine included.

“Could you help me fetch the glasses? They are over there.” Magnus said, pointing to a cabinet at the far end of the kitchen.

Alec nodded and quickly grabbed two glasses. Magnus poured some wine into them and proposed a toast.

“To us.” He said.

Alec smiled and clinked his glass against the criminal’s. “To us.”

Alec took a sip of the sweet red wine and resumed his exploring of the place while Magnus put the food in the microwave. He wanted to see every inch of this place, first, because he wanted to know all there was to know about Magnus—the man, not the criminal—and second, because this place really looked like a museum. There were no picture frames, but there was an overwhelming amount of paintings and they were absolutely beautiful.

“Is that a Degas?” Alec asked, pointing to the painting of a dancer hanging on the wall. His knowledge of art wasn’t as extensive as Magnus’s, but he knew that Degas was best known for his paintings depicting dancers. And this painting showed a solitary ballerina on a stage completing an arabesque.

“A reproduction of a Degas, but yes. Good eye, Alexander. That paint is called ‘L'Etoile’ in French or ‘The Star’ in English.” Magnus said.

“An official authorized reproduction or a forgery?” Alec inquired, eyeing the criminal from where he was standing.

“Do you really want to know?”

Did he? He wondered. “No.” He said, Magnus had already said more than enough.

Magnus laughed, and Alec just kept walking around the living room. He had noticed a canvas on the extreme corner that worked as a studio and his curiosity had piqued. It was a beautiful painting, hard to understand at first because of the great amount of dark colors that prevailed in it, but so beautiful once you understood what it was. It was a landscape, a forest to be exact, it was gloomy and a bit sinister, but it reflected...hope. It had some flashes of light between the leaves that had so much power within the composition that Alec felt the need to delve into the painting just to explore where that beautiful light was coming from.

“You did that?” Alec asked. He had never seen one of Magnus’s original works, he didn’t even know if he had them, but there were some brushes by the easel that indicated Magnus's possible involvement in the creation of the painting.

“Yes.”

“Reproduction or original?”

“Original…”

“It's-it's beautiful.” Alec said.

“You can keep it.”

“What?”

“You can keep it if you like it.” Magnus said.

"No, I can’t. I mean it's yours, I couldn't...I-”

“No, it's not mine.”

Alec frowned in confusion. Magnus had just told him that he had painted it and that it was an original work, he didn’t understand why he was now telling him that it wasn’t his.

“I painted it thinking about you,” Magnus continued as a way of explanation, “so technically, it's «your» painting.”

“You...?” Alec said, unable to articulate something coherent. He was speechless, looking at the piece of art with new eyes.

“Yeah, I painted it after that day at your apartment. I came here and well, I was very much awake to go to sleep.”

Alec blushed. He could imagine why Magnus had been very much awake to consider going to sleep. He himself had had a very hard time trying to calm down after what they had almost done.

Magnus got closer, picked up the painting and turned it around, showing Alec the title he had scribbled back there: The light out of the woods.

“I wasn't very clever with the title.” Magnus admitted.

Alec didn't know what to say. He understood the reference to his last name in the title, and if what he had gotten from the painting was partially accurate, the meaning behind it was beautiful, more so than the painting itself.

“Am I really that for you?” He asked.

Magnus looked at him intently. There was something in his eyes that Alec hadn't seen, or noticed before. “Yes, Alexander, I think you are.”

Alec's heart skipped several beats and he couldn't control himself any longer, so he just grabbed Magnus from the lapels of his shirt and kissed him frantically.

“The food.” Magnus said when the annoying sound of the microwave broke the silence that until now had only been slightly disturbed by their ragged breaths.

“I'm not hungry for food right now.” Alec said. He wasn't sure where all that boldness was coming from, but he wasn't interested in finding out either.

“What are you hungry for then?”

“You.”

“Well, then serve yourself, darling, like I've told you before, I'm all yours.”

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus led Alec into his room. Their lips had barely detached from each other’s since they had started kissing again, both too eager and too desperate to connect with each other in every possible way to even stop for a much needed breath of fresh air. They were panting, desperately trying to get rid of all the pieces of clothing that were still getting on their way. Their shirts and shoes had landed somewhere in the small hallway that separated Magnus’s room from the living room, but their pants? Their pants were becoming a problem—a real problem—especially with the lack of lighting in the room that prevented them from really seeing what they were doing.

“Alexander…”

“Uh-huh?”

“I need to turn on the lights,” Magnus said, “I can’t see anything and-”

Alec didn’t let him finish and just stretched out his arm, turning on the lights. They were standing almost by the door, now looking into each other's eyes with the new light.

“Problem solved.” Alec said.

“How did you know where-”

“The lights were? Common sense.” Alec said, not wasting any more time and kissing him again, taking partial control of the encounter and pinning Magnus against the wall.

Magnus lost himself in the kiss. Little did the agent know that he could make Magnus turn into liquid just with a touch. The man had a power over him that was almost terrifying, but Magnus didn’t dwell on it for long; he just closed his eyes and leaned his head back, letting Alec take him as he wanted.

Magnus wrapped his legs around Alec’s waist, bringing their hips together and making their very much aroused members slam into each other in a painful, yet pleasurable way.

“Magnus…” Alec murmured, clearly taken aback by the proximity of those delicate parts of their bodies.

“Say it again.”

“What?”

“My name,” Magnus said, between ragged breaths, “say it again, I like how it sounds when you say it. Say it, Alexander. Say my name.” He asked.

Since that time Alec had said his name by accident, the agent had stayed true to his word and had avoided saying his name, not even once, so hearing it come out of Alec’s mouth when they were about to take the final step on their way to knowing each other was even more arousing than the act itself.

“Magnus.”

Magnus melted at the sound of his name being voiced by Alec and lowered his legs, slowly leading the agent to the bed, and gently throwing him onto it. The new position presented a lot of advantages, so Magnus took advantage of each and every one of them, and climbed on top of him, leaning over him and kissing him again, exploring with his tongue every corner of that addictive mouth of his.

“Tell me how you want it, darling.” Magnus whispered, kissing his way down Alec’s neck and softly nipping at his nipples. Alec’s response to touch was the most beautiful and arousing thing he had ever witnessed. The sounds that came out of his mouth were sinful and so loud that he was almost certain that all New York could hear them.

“However you want it.” Alec managed to say.

He truly seemed lost in the ecstasy of the moment, and Magnus took some seconds to admire this version of the agent. Alec was completely flushed, his lips were swollen from all the kissing and his hair was going in every direction—he was a gorgeous mess.

“Tell me, Alexander...do you want to top or do you want me to do it?” Magnus asked, leaving a trail of wet kisses all over Alec’s abdomen, starting where Alec’s amazing abs began and ending just above the hem of his pants.

“I-I don’t know.” Alec said, arching his body in sheer pleasure. Magnus was enjoying immensely how responsive and sensitive Alec was and that was why he was painfully teasing the agent, taking his time to kiss every inch of exposed skin and not really getting rid of the last piece of clothing standing between them.

“How do you like it?” Magnus asked, biting his lip very deliberately as he looked at the agent straight in the eye.

“I-I…I don’t know.”

“How’s that?”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.” Alec confessed.

At first Magnus thought that Alec’s response had had to do with the fact that he was too far gone to make any sense, but then it dawned on him that Alec was being honest when he said he didn’t know what he was doing. Magnus hadn’t noticed it before because the man could fool anyone—he really was an excellent kisser—but now that he thought about it, there was something in the way he moved and even touched Magnus that although it could be mistaken for innocence, it was only a sign of his apparent lack of experience.

“Are you...?” Magnus asked, not quite believing what he was implying with his question.

Alec just nodded.

“Impossible.” Magnus gaped. “Why? I mean, you’re the single most handsome man I’ve ever seen, men surely throw at you all the time, right? You can’t be-”

“I’m not a saint,” Alec interrupted him, “I’ve done other stuff, I just haven’t gone all the way, you know?”

“Why?”

“I never felt comfortable with anyone before.”

“I-I…” Magnus was speechless for a moment. What Alec had just said was a big deal, and he didn’t know if he was worthy of such trust. “Are you sure you want this? Are you sure you want us to continue? I don’t want to force you into doing something you don't want to or feel ready to do, I mean-”

“If I didn’t want this I would have never initiated it, I already told you, I want you...I want to do this with you.”

Magnus completely lost it after that. Who was he to deny anything to this man? He was just realizing that if Alec asked him for the moon, he would give it to him without second thoughts. How? He didn’t know, but he knew deep within his soul that he would find a way, even if that cost him his own life.

“Oh, Alexander.” Magnus said, reaching for Alec’s mouth and kissing him again. This time he made sure that the kiss was softer and sweeter. Now more than ever he wanted to make this special for Alec. He wanted the agent to feel in every touch, in every kiss, how much this vote of confidence meant to him. The fact that Alec trusted him enough to do this with him for the first time was more than he could have asked for. He had been the first man in the lives of some of his former lovers, but if he was honest, he hadn't cared for any of them the way he cared for Alec. This man was special in every way.

“I’m going to take off both our pants, okay?” Magnus said.

“Please.”

Magnus got rid of their pants and underwear in a quick and expert movement, and leaned down to kiss Alec again. They were completely naked and although the agent seemed to be comfortable in his own skin, he didn’t want to freak him out by staring at his amazing body for far too long. “I have to ask you.” Magnus said, between kisses. “What do you want us to do? Do you want to-”

“I want to feel you.” Alec said, not even letting him finish.

“Okay.” Magnus managed to say before Alec’s hands started to explore his naked body, taking him completely by surprise.

“I want to feel every inch of this wonderful body.” Alec whispered.

Magnus smiled, blushing a little with the sudden compliment about his body and just reaching out to grab a condom and some lube from his nightstand. “If at any moment you want me to stop just-”

“I know.” Alec said, shutting him with a kiss.

Magnus reacted to Alec’s touch and moaned, losing his self-restraint and kissing him everywhere—his neck, his chest, his arms, his abs. He was stopping at certain places for a couple of minutes to mark Alec’s pale skin. He had never been a fan of hickeys, they could be quite revealing and not very esthetic once they were disappearing from the skin, but after seeing those purple-ish marks against Alec's skin, he completely changed his mind about them.

“You’re a piece of fine art, Alexander.” Magnus said, tracing with his fingers each and every line of Alec’s body and committing them to memory. “And I’m an art expert, so I know what I’m talking about.”

Alec tried to chuckle, but the sound that came out of his mouth was more like a moan than anything else, so Magnus seized the opportunity and continuing the trail of marks and kisses that he had started at the base of Alec’s neck, he put his lips on the tip of Alec’s erected member and gave it a tentative suck.

“Magnus…” Alec panted out, drawing his fingers through Magnus’s hair and tugging a little, sending a wave of new sensations through Magnus’s body. “Please.”

Magnus smiled satisfied with the reaction and used his expert mouth to please Alec in every way he could. He started slowly, just playing with the length of the agent’s member, licking and sucking it up and down, but soon, he found himself almost gasping for air, taking it all in as if he couldn’t have enough of him.

Alec was a hot mess. His breathing had become increasingly shallow and ragged, and the sounds coming from his mouth were like a melody that Magnus wanted to hear for the rest of his life.

“Magnus, please! I don’t want to come yet, I want to feel you!” Alec managed to say between moans.

Magnus would have happily stayed there just sucking him until he had dried him out, but Alec had made a valid point, if they kept doing what they were doing neither of them would last for long, and he wanted this to last for as long as they physically could.

Magnus grabbed the bottle of lube and coated his fingers, rubbing them to warm the cold substance before pressing the tip of one of his fingers into Alec’s tight entrance.

“Oh, shit!” Alec cursed.

“Are you okay?” Magnus asked alarmed. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Alec for not taking things slow.

“Yeah, I’m fine, it’s just that...well, that felt sooooo good, I wasn't expecting it...keep going.”

Magnus smiled and continued, opening Alec slowly and delicately, using his fingers to soften the rims of his entrance and make the experience as painless as possible.

When Alec started babbling nonsense and thrusting his hips against Magnus’s fingers, clearly asking for more, Magnus put on the condom, coated his length with enough lube and positioned the head of his cock at the agent’s entrance. “Are you ready?” He asked.

Alec nodded, looking straight into Magnus's eyes. That look of absolute trust mixed with lust and care was all Magnus needed to push himself inside the agent and make them both cry out in sheer pleasure.

“Is this okay?” Magnus asked. He had stayed very still to let Alec get used to the foreign feeling.

“More than okay, move, please!” Alec demanded, and Magnus obeyed, quickly finding a pace that worked for both of them. Thrusting in and out of Alec for God knows how long, and using his free hand to stroke the agent’s aching member up and down, while leaving soft kisses on his neck and shoulders. Alec was so far gone, he was grasping the duvet to have something to hold onto.

“Magnus…” Alec said, when Magnus changed the pressure of his hand and stroked him just a bit harder.

“What? You don’t like it?” Magnus teased. “Do you want me to stop?” He said, stopping altogether just to see how Alec reacted.

“No!” Alec cried out, hooking his legs around Magnus’s waist and using his hands to pull him closer and pick up the pace.

It wasn't a surprise for Magnus to discover that their bodies matched perfectly, like two pieces of the same puzzle. They worked and moved in perfect synchrony, taking and giving, driving each other closer to the edge. Alec dug his nails in Magnus’s back and captured his mouth, biting his bottom lip.

“Dear God, Alexander.” Magnus said, because this man was going to be the death of him. His sweetness, boldness, and passion were qualities for which Magnus hadn’t been prepared in the slightest.

The air in the room grew thicker and harder to breathe, and soon the sounds coming from both of them turned more hectic, erratic, their bodies desperate for some kind of release.

“Magnus I…”

Magnus stroke Alec’s cock, riding him to the edge. Alec was losing it, barely breathing and repeating Magnus’s name as if his life depended on it. “Come for me, Alexander.” Magnus whispered, and the agent obeyed, arching his back in absolute pleasure and coming hard against Magnus’s hand, leaving white stripes of cum all over his chest and the recently-washed-but-now-completely-messed-up duvet.

“Fuck!” Magnus cursed, thrusting one, two, three times, but it was already too much for him. Alec’s muscles were clenching around his cock and the feeling was overwhelming; the agent was so tight, so perfectly tight, that Magnus came without warning, sinking into Alec with each wave of pleasure that hit him and trying not to pass out from the incredible orgasm he had just experienced.

“Alexander…” He whispered, trying to catch his breath and letting himself fall on top of the agent.

Alec was smiling, trying to ease his breathing and still shaking with the aftershocks of his orgasm. “That was…”

“Unreal.” Magnus completed Alec’s sentence and pulled out of the agent, discarding the used condom and snuggling closer to him, leaving lazy kisses all over his chest. “You are unreal, darling.”

“I’m not,” Alec chuckled; the smile in his face was so big, Magnus feared it might break his skull, “but you certainly are.” He added.

Magnus laughed in contentment and used the already dirty duvet to finish cleaning them both and quickly throwing it to the floor. “Was that any good?” He asked coyly.

“Are you kidding?” Alec exclaimed, grabbing Magnus’s face to bring him closer and kiss him. “That was amazing.”

Magnus smiled and just rested his head in the crook of Alec’s neck, enjoying the closeness. He liked it there, it smelled nice, of sweet cologne, sweat, sex, and Alec.

Alec...

He still couldn’t believe that he'd have had the privilege of being Alec’s first. It was such a powerful and overwhelming concept, it made him feel honored and special, but also a bit possessive. He didn’t want any other man to make Alec come undone—this man was his...at least for now.

“What are you thinking about?” Alec asked. He was playing with Magnus’s hair, messing it even more.

“Hmmm, you...us…” Magnus confessed. “Thank you for choosing me to be your first, I-I don’t even know what to say.”

“All my life,” Alec started to say, and Magnus was aware of the sudden shift in his voice, he knew this was going to be serious, “I’ve had a hard time connecting with people. At first, because I hadn’t come to terms with my sexuality; I’ve already told you this, I was in the closet and without any plans to ever come out of it, but then, well...then I did it, I embraced who I was and for a moment I thought my life would change and that I would be more like my brother and sister, but that didn’t happen. I was still the same old awkward me and not many people seemed to find that attractive. I tried, I let my siblings introduce me to people, but I couldn’t let my walls down and that became a problem. Then I entered the Academy and that was when I decided to focus completely on my career. My parents hadn’t taken the news about my sexuality well, so becoming the best agent in the division sounded like a great way to balance things with them. I didn’t want them to look at me differently, so I closed myself to...well, to any of this.”

“Really?” Magnus asked, turning his head slightly to look at Alec.

“Yes...there were times, especially when my siblings were head over heels for someone, that I really felt alone, so I used to go to this very famous bar in Lower Manhattan and hooked up with random guys. There were times when I almost gave in to the pressure of going all the way, you know? But I always found myself stopping and fleeing from there without looking back. I love to read, books have been my only friends on innumerable nights, and the version of sex that those books had sold me for years didn’t match with what used to happen inside the stalls of that bar, so I never agreed.”

“You like romance.” Magnus stated.

“I do.” Alec chuckled. “It’s stupid, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not.” Magnus admitted. “Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah.”

“You said you closed yourself because of your parents and work, but you became that top agent you wanted to be five years ago, why didn’t you date someone in the last few years?”

“Because there was no one who wanted to go out with me.”

“What?” Magnus asked surprised. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, it's true, I don't know why it happens, maybe because I’m a federal agent and that scares them, but for years no one invited me out. In fact, this is going to seem funny to you, but you were the first one to ask me out with your silly postcards.”

Magnus couldn’t believe what he was hearing, dating a man like Alec should be considered a true honor, and he just couldn't understand how nobody had tried to ask him out. If their paths had crossed earlier in life, he would have certainly tried to date him and if he had been lucky enough to have Alec's heart, he would have spent the rest of his life trying to make him happy. “Well, I’m disappointed in the male population of this city, but ultimately it was their loss, they didn't know what they missed, and I’m very glad I got to be the first to ask you out too.”

“Me too,” Alec confessed, “my sister always says that I’m like a book written in a different language that not many can read, but since the first day we met you proved yourself to be fluent in it, you seemed to know me in ways I wasn’t expecting. I don’t know how or why it happened, but those walls I told you before have never been there when it comes to you. At first realizing that really scared me, it made me feel vulnerable, but in these past weeks I've learned to live with it and I like to feel this way. I suppose that’s why I agreed to this in the first place, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore what can be, you know? I don’t want to lose this connection we have, I-”

“Say no more.” Magnus said, kissing Alec’s jaw. “I understand, I don’t want to lose it either.” He said, hugging him tightly. Somehow, he wanted to merge with this man and become one.

“Now you tell me something about you.” Alec said.

“What do you want to know?”

“Hmmm, I don’t know...why did choose Brooklyn to live? I mean, this place is absolutely amazing, but I can’t help wondering...with the amount of money you make with each score you could easily be living in one of those over the top buildings in the city, so why here?”

Magnus chuckled. “First, because I love the neighborhood, it’s safe, quiet and very picturesque, but mostly because believe it or not, I do not have that much money to move somewhere in the city.”

“You don’t? Why?”

“Because even I have to pay stuff, Alexander, bills, debts...”

“You have debts?”

“Everyone has debts.”

“I don’t…” Alec confessed.

“Of course, you don’t.” Magnus laughed. How had he dared to include Alec with the rest of the mortals? This man was the definition of perfection, of course he had no debts.

“What are you paying for?” Alec asked curiously.

“My mistakes.”

“Did you buy something and later regretted it?”

“More or less, I did buy something, but I never regretted it.”

“What did you buy?”

“Time.” Magnus confessed without meeting Alec’s eyes. He could already see the agent’s frown of confusion, but he wasn’t ready to share that part of his life yet.

“May I ask for what?”

Magnus shook his head and took a deep breath. Someday he wanted to tell him about his life, but he needed time. “Not yet, okay?”

“Okay.” Alec said, but Magnus could hear the disappointment in his voice.

“Hey, hey,” Magnus said, lifting his head to look Alec straight in the eye, “don’t take this the wrong way. I promise that one day I’ll share with you everything there is to know about me, just give me some time, okay?”

“Okay.” Alec said, giving him a soft smile.

Magnus leaned over and kissed him, wanting to seal the promise he had just made with something more than empty words.

Alec immediately deepened the kiss and rolled them over, positioning himself on top of Magnus and pinning him against the mattress. “Can we...?” The agent suggested, smiling mischievously.

Magnus hummed approvingly, both for the change of subject and for what Alec was suggesting. “I thought you’d never ask.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec opened his eyes as slowly as he could and immediately felt the weight of all the activities of the night before falling on him. Every inch of his body ached, like back when he was in the Academy and his tutors forced him to make those deadly training sessions that left him in bed for days, but unlike those times when he felt heavy and unable to move so much as a finger for fear that his body would fail him, this time he felt light as a feather and fully aware that his body was in more than perfect condition. Yes, his body was sore, but it was a good kind of sore, not the painful kind, just a sweet and torturous reminder of the good time he had had not so long ago.

He turned his head to the side to see the man sleeping peacefully beside him. They had fallen asleep embracing each other after their second round of sexual activities, but somehow during the rest of the night they had managed to get entangled in some sort of mess of blankets and limbs, so he couldn't do more than turn his head to his left so as not to disturb and wake Magnus.

“Magnus…” Alec whispered more to himself.

The man looked so beautiful right now even with his makeup all smeared that Alec had trouble believing he was even real, so tentatively, he pulled his hand out from under the sheets and brushed away a lock of loose hair from Magnus’s face and smiled, taking a few minutes just to admire his beauty. A part of him still couldn't believe that he had spent the night with him. How had that happened? For years, Alec had tried to imagine how his first time would be like, but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined it would be so...perfect.

“Stop looking at me like that.” Magnus murmured under his breath. “I can feel your eyes leaving permanent marks on my face.”

"Am I not allowed to do it?” Alec asked with a smile. Magnus had just caught him blatantly staring at him, and he wasn't even sorry. The sun was peeking through the windows and revealing a lot of tiny details of Magnus's face that up until now Alec had failed to notice.  

“It depends,” Magnus said, opening one eye and looking at him, “are you trying to memorize my features to improve that not-very-good sketch of my face that you have in my file? Or, are you just admiring my beauty?”

“So self-conceited!” Alec exclaimed with a chuckle, playfully throwing a pillow at Magnus and hitting him right in the face.

“What!?” Magnus complained, throwing the pillow back to hit Alec, but sending it flying across the room. “I know what I have...the question is, do you?” He asked, climbing on top of Alec and looking him straight in the eye.

“What? You want to know if I know that you’re stupidly handsome? Yeah, I do.”

“Well, thanks for that, but I was actually wondering if you knew what you have because you’re even more beautiful to look at than I’ll ever be.”

“I guess I’m not bad, but my siblings are way more better looking than me.” Alec said, wishing Magnus wasn’t looking at him like he was doing. He could feel the blood rushing quickly to his cheeks and not just because he had the man currently on top of him, but because he hated talking about these things, they always made him feel uncomfortable.

“Are you crazy?” Magnus said. “For starters, that blond who follows you around isn’t half as handsome as you, I mean, I guess he’s fine, but he's not my type...and your sister? Well, I can’t deny that she’s absolutely gorgeous, the black hair is certainly a feature I like, but I guess my eyes were caught by one Lightwood already, so no, you’re the most handsome, most beautiful of them all.”

Alec smiled and tried to hide his flushed face in the base of Magnus’s neck.

“You'll have to learn how to take a compliment, Alexander,” Magnus whispered into his ear, “because I’m planning on telling you as many as I can, every,” he kissed him, “single,” another kiss, “day. You deserve to know how absolutely amazing you are.”

Alec rolled his eyes. He doubted he could ever get used to that, but he appreciated the intention. He couldn’t deny that since the first time they had seen each other three years ago Magnus had always managed to make him feel different, attractive, sexy, and even interesting.

“Are you hungry?” Magnus asked, messing with Alec’s hair. Alec was certain he was trying to comb it into submission, but Alec’s hair was hopeless, it always looked like a big mess in the mornings. “We kinda skipped dinner last night.”

Alec blushed because, well, he clearly remembered why they had skipped dinner last night.

“I could make pancakes,” Magnus suggested, “the Chairman loves them.”

“Well, if your cat loves them,” Alec joked, “then I guess pancakes are okay.”

Magnus smiled and leaned over to give him another kiss that Alec was more than happy to deepen. Since last night, both had been unable to stop kissing each other at every chance they had. It was as if they couldn’t get enough of one another.

“As much as I'd like to continue with this.” Magnus said, breaking the kiss. “I'm famished! Someone wore me out last night, I need to eat before you completely kill me.”

Alec laughed. “For what it’s worth, I’m famished too.”

“Then let’s have some breakfast first, and once we've recovered our energies, we can continue with this little thing we have going on.”

“Okay.”

Magnus quickly took out a pair of clean shirts and sweatpants from a wardrobe and tossed one of each to Alec. They dressed quickly, and Alec followed Magnus to the kitchen. He tried to help, but the man insisted that he just ‘put his cute butt there’ and let him spoil him, so Alec had not choice but to smile and take a seat on one of the stools while Magnus started to prepare breakfast for both of them.

“Did you know?” Magnus started saying as he took out all the ingredients. “That the Ancient Greeks made pancakes? They called them tagenias, which derives from tagēnon that means frying pan.”

Alec laughed with amusement. Even after weeks and weeks of hearing him throwing random facts in every conversation, he was still amazed at Magnus's extensive knowledge of things. “No, I didn’t know that.”

“Well, the earliest attested references to tagenias are in the works of two poets from the 5th century BC. Tagenias were made with wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk, and were also served for breakfast. They had another kind of pancakes, but I can’t remember the name, those were topped with honey, sesame, and cheese, they were-” Magnus was saying when a noise coming from the door startled them both.

“Magnus, you’re not going to believe what-” The person who had just entered the loft without even knocking, said, pausing mid-sentence at the sight of Alec.

Alec looked at him. He didn’t have to ask who the newcomer was to know it was Magnus’s partner in crime—Ragnor Fell.

“My friend!” Magnus exclaimed, as if the sudden tension in the room weren’t palpable.

“You invited the fed over?” Ragnor asked in disbelief, looking back and forth between them. “Are you an idiot or have you completely lost your mind!? I told you to fix things with him, not to bring him here! What about all that bullshit you once said of choosing this place to be yourself, huh!? You screwed up, Magnus! The FBI will be here any minute now! You have to run! We have to run!”

“No, you don’t have to run.” Alec said, standing up and walking toward the man to try to calm him down. He understood why he was reacting like that. If he had been in his place, he would have probably freaked out too. “No one's going to be here—ever. Hi, I’m Alec.” He added, offering his hand to the other criminal in a friendly way.

Magnus’s friend just eyed it suspiciously, as if pondering whether or not to take it. “I’m...hmmm, Magnus’s friend.” He said, shaking hands with him.

Alec nodded in acknowledgement. He knew this man was smart enough to hide his name from him, not that he needed to, Alec already knew who he was, but it was still fascinating to see how protective they were of their identities.

“What are you doing here so early?” Magnus asked.

“I-I...well, we discovered something about what we talked about yesterday.”

“What is it?” Magnus asked intrigued.

Ragnor looked at Alec suspiciously. It was clear he didn’t want to talk about whatever they had talked about yesterday in front of him.

“He’s with us, Ra-I mean, my friend.” Magnus said, rolling his eyes at his friend. “Do I need to remind you that the whole purpose of this alliance is to help «him» catch Valentine?”

“Okay, fine.” Ragnor sighed. “But if he betra-”

“If you keep talking nonsense, I swear I’m going to tell him who you are.” Magnus said, interrupting him.

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“Try me.”

“Okay, fine...whatever, I’m not going to say anything else, you know what you're doing.”

"I do, now talk, please."

“Well, you know what you told me yesterday about the lack of information on Valentine before he became a criminal?” Ragnor asked.

“Yes?” Magnus said, and Alec paid close attention to the conversation. He had already thought of that before too, and just like Magnus, he had found that lack of information very, very strange, but he hadn't been able to find anything in the Bureau's files.

“Well, you were right, that’s not a coincidence.”

“It’s not? What did you find out?”

“Well…” Ragnor said, fidgeting with his hands. “...the reason why there’s nothing about Valentine before he became a criminal is because...because…”

“Because, what!?” Magnus snapped, and Alec thanked the intervention. This man knew how to make a dramatic moment even more dramatic. He would be very good at announcing the winners on those television game shows.

“That’s because Valentine was like him.” Ragnor pointed at Alec.

Alec and Magnus looked at each other, not quite understanding what Ragnor had meant with that.

“Really?” Ragnor said, rolling his eyes. “Then let me spell it out for you, Valentine Morgenstern was a fed!”

“What!?” Alec and Magnus exclaimed in unison—that couldn’t possibly be true.

Chapter Text

“What you heard.” Ragnor said, answering Magnus and Alec’s question. “Valentine Morgenstern was a federal agent.”

“But how?” Magnus asked confused. It was hard to believe that what his friend had just said was true, but at the same time it made perfect sense and explained a lot of what had happened since they had heard from the criminal again.

“How? Do you really want me to explain how?” Ragnor said. “Well, I might be wrong, but I suppose he went to the Academy for a few years, graduated, got his badge, and all that Jazz—probably your fed here knows the process a lot better than I do.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Magnus said, rolling his eyes at his friend. This wasn’t the right time for Ragnor’s smart-ass remarks, this was a serious matter. “How is it possible that we hadn’t known this before?"

“Isn’t it obvious? The feds made sure to wipe out all the details about Valentine from the records. All the information about him before he became a criminal must be in their classified files.”

“Well, that makes sense, but what exactly did you find out?” Magnus asked, still confused. “I want to know everything!”

“Well, I told Ra-I mean our source, what you told me yesterday about the lack of information prior to Valentine's criminal years, and he found it strange too, so he decided to do a bit of research on that. He tracked down the first case we had of him, the bank fraud? And well, something unusual came up. According to the official FBI report, when Valentine committed that crime, he defrauded five people, but the file had only four statements.”

“Who was the fifth victim?”

“An old lady.”

“Why wasn’t her statement added to the file?”

“Because of what she said, she referred to the man who deceived her as a very educated and charismatic man who, with his position and rank, had convinced her that he was protecting her when in fact he was only taking advantage of her.”

“How do you know that?”

“We found her statement, the one she gave to the police when she first reported what Valentine had done to her. It wasn’t easy, but when our source noticed that her name was on one of the statements and was mentioned as a potential victim, he followed that lead and discovered a copy of what she had said all those years ago."

"Where?"

"In the archives of an old police station here in Brooklyn. After that it didn’t take long to put two on two together. There are old reports of a local corrupt federal agent before Valentine was known as a criminal, so we matched the dates, the reports, the locations, and everything fits perfectly—it’s him. Valentine is that federal agent, there’s no doubt about it.”

“So it’s true.”

“Yes, we don’t know much, at least not yet, but as far as we know, he did something, something pretty bad a little after leaving Quantico. Rumor has it that he went completely crazy, he betrayed his partner and team during a very important mission resulting in a real tragedy. We don't know much about it, but according to what we found many agents and innocent people died during that confrontation. After that he got tired of playing the good guy and started a path of crime and murder, well, at least until the FBI ‘got him,’ although we know that’s a lie and he’s stayed active all these years.”

Magnus listened carefully. Hearing that Valentine had been an special agent somehow explained why the FBI was so adamant on finding him and having someone else—like Magnus—to blame for what they couldn’t cover up. It also explained why they had known about Valentine’s fake death even before them—something that didn't happen regularly. The underworld usually learned everything first, rumors spread like wildfire among criminals...that was how it worked. So it was practically safe to say that Valentine had thousands of double agents spreading rumors (and fake rumors) to deceive both the authorities and fellow criminals.

“Do you think the FBI knew he was alive all these years?” Magnus asked no one in particular. He would have loved to hear Alec’s opinion on the matter, but he doubted that the agent would utter a word, the man had remained silent since Ragnor had shared the news with them. In fact, now that he looked at him closely, he noticed that it seemed as if someone had sucked the air out of his lungs and he had trouble breathing; he was standing by the couch, holding the back as if he needed support.

“Of course they knew!” Ragnor exclaimed. “Haven’t you heard what I’ve been saying? He was one of them, they have to know, my friend. In fact, I bet whatever you want that there must be someone protecting him from within the Bureau right now. He’s gotten away with how many murders already? Twelve? Thirteen? Of course someone’s covering his ass from within the system. The question is, who?”

“I have to go.” Alec suddenly said, walking toward the door.

“No, Alexander, wait!” Magnus said, trying to stop him. He knew the agent all too well already to read his body language and know that he wasn’t thinking clearly and only reacting on impulse. He could see the rage practically emanating from his pores—he had to stop him.

“Magnus, don’t you see!?” Alec snapped. “Your friend is right! There must be someone protecting him from within the FBI. He was one of us! He was a special agent! I need to know who knew about this! My father, you know who he is! He must know! And my boss? They both were part of the team that ‘took him down’ all those years ago. I’m sure they knew he was alive! They are about the same age, if Valentine was in Quantico then they must have met back then! I need answers, Magnus! I need to know why they hid this from me!” The agent said, grabbing his coat from where Magnus had hung it the night before.

“No, wait!” Magnus said, placing his hand on Alec’s back to stop him from putting on his coat. He knew how dangerous and disastrous this situation could be if Alec shared the tiny bit of information they had just discovered before they could investigate more about it. “You’re too upset right now to think clearly. If they didn’t tell you about this is because maybe they couldn’t.” He tried to reason with him. “Your people aren’t exactly very honorable when it’s one of your own making the mess, please don’t go just yet. We need to think this through and make a plan, we can’t blow this opportunity, Alec, please.”

“Listen to him, fed.” Ragnor intervened. “This is very valuable information and we can’t risk you spoiling everything just because you’re angry that your daddy and boss lied to you. If you want to get to the bottom of this then you’ll have to start playing by our rules.”

Alec ignored him and walked to the door. Magnus sent his friend a killing look and rushed to stop Alec. What the agent least needed at the moment was someone trying to antagonize him.

“Alexander, please.” Magnus said, grabbing the agent’s hand and interlacing their fingers together. “I promise you that we’ll get to the bottom of this and find out everything, but wait. I know you want answers, but if you act rashly, the only thing you will get is to warn Valentine and his people that we're right after them.”

Alec didn’t reply, but took a deep breath and stopped trying to free his hand from Magnus’s grip. The criminal knew he was on the right track to win this battle. “Please, Alexander…” he begged, “...trust me.”

“Fine.” Alec said, exhaling defeated.

Magnus looked over at Ragnor. “I’m assuming our source is trying to find out more information as we speak?”

“Yes, he just sent me here because he thought you’d like to know right away, you know he’s never trusted phones, especially when it comes to sharing such valuable information.”

“Okay, well...you’re right, this is very valuable information and we have to be very careful about it. If we manage to learn more about Valentine’s past as one of the good guys, then maybe we’ll have a real chance to bring him down. As I told you yesterday, his past may be key to solving this.” Magnus said.

“Yes, we’re working on that. Our source agrees with you, he’s positive that if we find out a bit more about his past we’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where he’s hiding. After all, we all tend to go back to our roots.”

“Indeed.” Magnus agreed.

“Well, then I think I'd better go.” Ragnor said, giving Magnus that look they always shared with each other when they couldn’t talk in front of other people, but that communicated everything. It was clear for Magnus that Ragnor wasn't very comfortable with Alec there. “I’ll send you more information later, we'll be using that old fax machine, so turn it on...okay?”

“Yes, thank you, my friend.”

Ragnor just nodded in acknowledgement and after taking, or better said, stealing a bottle of wine that Magnus had just bought a couple of days ago, disappeared from the loft in the blink of an eye.

“Valentine’s an agent.” Alec said, exhaling loudly once they were left alone.

“He «was» an agent.” Magnus corrected him.

“It’s the same…”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is, Magnus.” Alec said, finally looking him in the eye. “He was part of the system, that’s why he knows all our moves, that’s why we can’t stop him. He’s a criminal with the training of a fed, we’re never going to catch him.”

“Hey, hey, don’t talk like that.” Magnus tried to reassure him. “We will.” He said. He knew that this wasn’t the real Alec talking, the Alec he knew and respected wasn’t a defeatist. On the contrary, he was stubborn and tenacious, he didn’t give up so easily.

“How are you so sure?”

“Because of what you just said, silly. He’s a criminal with the training of a fed. I’m a criminal, you’re a fed—we’re the perfect team, don’t you agree? If we keep working together, I’m sure we’ll catch him sooner rather than later. We have something he doesn't...we have each other, Alexander. Just trust...okay?”

Alec looked at him and smiled. Magnus knew he had said the right words. “You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right, now, why don’t we go back to what we were doing before my friend arrived?”

“I know his name.” Alec confessed. “Ragnor Fell, 38, born in London. He’s been under our radar for quite some time, but we haven’t been able to connect him to anything. He's pretty slick, he always manages to evade us, but I know he's worked with you for many years.”

“He’s not going to be very happy to hear that.” Magnus said. He could already see the face of sheer panic of his friend when he found out that the FBI knew his real name.

“You don’t have to tell him if you don't want to.” Alec said with a half shrug. "I noticed he's a bit...intense."

"You could say that." Magnus laughed. "So...pancakes?" He added, trying to change the subject and lighten the mood.

“I’m not very hungry.”

“But we have to eat, Alexander, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Besides, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to try my pancakes, I promise you they’ll be the best ones you’ve ever tasted.”

“Cocky much?”

“A bit…” Magnus confessed, placing a soft kiss on Alec’s lips. “I told you that I’m a very good cook, you’ll see. Come on, let’s go eat and then, well...we’ll see.”

“Okay.”

“By the way, have I told you how much I like it when you call me by my name? I didn’t like it when you called me Bane, it sounded so formal, so...distant. Please feel free to keep calling me just Magnus...I like it. I like it very much.”

Alec blushed, and Magnus just laughed, pulling the agent with him to the kitchen and kissing him.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was still in Magnus’s loft. He was leaning against the parapet of the balcony, watching the city skyline and just letting his mind go over everything that had happened in the last few hours. It was so much that he still had trouble wrapping his head around it.

He had, despite what he knew could happen, decided to explore and give it a try to what was happening between him and Magnus; he had had sex for the first time in his life, he had been invited to Magnus's secret lair, he had met Magnus's partner in crime, Ragnor Fell, and to top it off, he had discovered that Valentine Morgenstern had been a federal agent just like him.

It was a lot to take in and he would be lying if he said he was okay—he wasn’t. His mind and heart were at war.

On the one hand, he felt different, relaxed, more confident and even happy after what he had done the night before. For years he had worried about his first time and what it would mean to him to have sex with someone, but the criminal had made his experience so perfect, he had made him feel so special, so cherished, that just by thinking about it, he felt chills all over his body and his heart raced again. But on the other hand, he was really conflicted. The new information they had found about Valentine had made him question many things that up until now had never crossed his mind. For years he had regarded the FBI as some sort of honorable and incorruptible institution, but now? Well, now he didn’t even know what to think. Knowing that the most wanted criminal of all time had been one of their own had shaken him to his root. The image he had created of his beloved institution had shattered in a matter of seconds and now he didn’t know who to trust and how to proceed.

Magnus was confident that if they kept a low profile and continued to do what they had been doing, they would catch him sooner rather than later, and although Alec wanted to believe him and hop onto the optimism train with him, he wasn’t that sure they were going to succeed. It was true that combined he and Magnus made a pretty good team, but they couldn’t underestimate Valentine and his powerful reach. For years the criminal had been laughing at the authorities, hiding in plain sight and outwitting the system. They didn’t know who his allies were or who was helping him, for all Alec knew, the Secretary of Defense himself could be protecting him. Knowing who to trust and who not to, was now a real challenge.

“Are you alright, darling?” Magnus asked, startling Alec. He had been so engrossed in his thoughts that he hadn’t realized that Magnus had walked into the loft again. The criminal had gone downstairs, to some storage rooms in the basement of the building, to collect some things that according to him, would help them to continue with their investigation.

“Yeah, I was just...thinking.” Alec confessed.

In theory, he had stayed there to continue reading all the information that Magnus’s contacts had been sending since very early in the morning, but the truth was that he hadn’t even read a single file. He had just stayed there trying to clear his head a bit, enjoying the beautiful view that Magnus's place provided.

“About?”

“All this mess.” Alec confessed. “I can no longer trust anyone, I mean, at work. Valentine’s men could be working right next to me, pretending to help me catch him, but actually only protecting him.”

“Well, yes, that’s a great possibility.”

“I won't be able to go back to the office and look everyone in the eye as if I trusted them.”

“You’ll have to, Alexander. This new information we have is crucial, I already told you, we can’t risk Valentine knowing that we discovered his big secret, so you’ll have to be very discreet and try not to raise any suspicion. Our safety and the case will depend entirely on how you handle yourself in the office.”

“I know.” Alec exhaled resignedly. “It’s just that...how am I going to know who to trust?”

“You’ll have to trust your instincts.”

“Easier said than done.” Alec said. “But anyway, what do you have in there?” He asked, noticing for the first time the things Magnus was carrying.

“These old things?” Magnus said, with a smile. “Well, I got a little inspired by that wall that you have dedicated to my magnificent self back in your place and I thought we could do something similar for our dear Valentine. Let’s go back inside so I can show you.”

They walked back into the living room, and Magnus immediately placed three blackboards on some easels right in the center of the room. “There’s a lot of information we need to sort out and I thought maybe we could, I don’t know...organize it like you guys do, pinpointing the most important stuff and trying to find a way solve the case.”

“Good idea!” Alec exclaimed excitedly. Now they had a lot of information that needed to be organized, so it was better if they started trying to put some order in all this mess.

“We could start with the things we know about him that are confirmed as true.” Magnus suggested. “Like the fact that he faked his own death almost twenty-two years ago. I saw a copy of his death certificate in the boxes that you so kindly gave me.”

Alec took the document from one of the boxes and pinned it on the second blackboard. “We’ll take this point as the end of our second stage in Valentine's timeline. I was thinking that we could organize his life in three stages. The first one since he was born to the moment he left the Academy and betrayed the system. Then when he went astray and became the dangerous criminal until he faked his own death, and finally-”

“-when he resurfaced, until the last case we have on him.” Magnus completed the sentence.

"Which is the private collector." Alec added, smiling pleased that he and Magnus were so in sync that they could practically read each other's minds.

“So in short, we have Good Valentine, then Evil Valentine, and Ghost Valentine.” Magnus concluded.

“Something like that.” Alec agreed with a smile.

They started to pin everything they knew so far about the man, being careful to put everything under their three main sections. All the information—past cases, aliases, whereabouts, people linked to him—was classified carefully. It seemed as if they were making progress, but no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't make sense of the information they had. It was as if they only had a few pieces of a very large puzzle.

“What about his family?” Magnus asked when they finished pinning things. It was obvious that the section dedicated to Valentine’s early years was virtually empty.

“Well, if he had any, when he faked his own death, the Marshals must have taken them to witness protection. I could try to see if I can find out something about it in the Bureau, but I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. The Marshals have full control of that, besides, if I start asking around, Valentine's allies could start to suspect that we already know who he was or is...I don’t even know.”

“You're right, you can’t request access to those documents, it’s too dangerous, but…”

“But what?”

“But you could always steal them.” Magnus suggested with a joking tone.

“Ha, ha...very funny.”

“What? I could teach you how to do it without getting caught. It would be like stealing candy from a baby.”

“Don’t even think about it.” Alec warned him. He could be dating a criminal, but he wasn't going to become one—that was a line he wasn’t willing to cross.

“Why not? I mean, you would be learning from the best.” Magnus said, teasing again. Alec could see the criminal was well aware that Alec would never dare to do something like that, he was just messing with him—as per usual. “Wouldn’t you want me to teach you a couple of my secret tricks?” He added, winking and grinning mischievously.

Alec wasn’t very good at catching innuendos, much less the sexual ones, but he was already getting used to understanding the ones that this man sent whenever he found the slightest opportunity. “I think you already showed me enough of your tricks last night.”

“Well, quite a few, yes, but I haven’t shown you the best ones.” Magnus said, approaching him and wrapping his arms around Alec’s waist to bring their bodies closer together. “Would you like me to show you some more?” He asked, slowly kissing his neck.

Alec would have gladly nodded and let himself get lost in this man again, but those blackboards in front of him and the constant noise of the fax machine notifying them of a new incoming file was enough for him to realize that they had to concentrate on this matter first—though he'd rather do otherwise.

“Magnus…”

“Uh-huh?” The criminal replied, still kissing his neck.

“Ple-please be-behave, we have...we have work to-work to do.” Alec managed to say between stutters. In his defense, it was really hard to concentrate on uttering words and forming coherent sentences when Magnus was kiss-sucking his neck and touching him practically everywhere.

“Are you sure that's what you really want to do? Work? Because there’s something else, or better said, someone else you could do...”

Alec had to gather every last drop of self-control he had within himself to reject that tempting sinful proposal and concentrate on what they had to do. “Ple-please? This is important.”

“Okay.” The criminal said, quickly pulling away from Alec and turning around as if nothing had happened. “So the family is unknown,” he added, placing a huge question mark on the blackboard under the family section, “but we’ll find out who they are sooner rather than later.”

“It really isn’t fair, you know?” Alec pointed out, his breathing was still a bit ragged.

“What, darling?”

“What you do to me...the effect you have on me. You-you start kissing me and-and then you just turn around as if nothing had happened, and I don't even know what to do with myself. It's like-”

“But you didn’t want me to continue, you want us to do this, don’t you?”

“I do, but...”

“Then let’s finish it. The sooner we end with this, the sooner we can do something more...interesting.”

Alec blushed. “You’re impossible, did you know that?”

Magnus just nodded with a mocking smile.

Alec rolled his eyes and took a deep breath, concentrating on the task at hand again. “Okay, so...we have past locations, aliases, criminals linked to him…”

“We know that there are people helping him outside and inside the FBI and-”

“We need to know who his partner was.” Alec interrupted, placing another question mark under that section. “Maybe he or she is still helping him.”

“You think?”

“I would never turn my back on Jace,” Alec confessed, “no matter what.”

“Even if he became...?”

“Even so.” Alec admitted. “He’s my partner, every time we go out on a mission, I trust that he’ll have my back even if that costs him his own life. Having a partner is like giving a person a part of yourself, it's a partnership that involves a closeness, a sharing of things big and small. I'm sure you understand the concept, although a bit different, I think Ragnor is for you what Jace is for me. Now think about this...Valentine used to have one, he used to trust someone unconditionally, so that means that there’s someone out there who knows him better than anyone else, and until we don't know more, we have to consider this person as a suspect of complicity.”

“But remember what Ragnor said…” Magnus added. “He betrayed his partner and team.”

“I know, but it could be a setup, right? We don't know how close they were, so we need to know who he or she was.”

“Okay.”

They continued for a couple of minutes, adding the last bits of information that Magnus's friends had sent and trying to sort it out. They looked at their finished work and smiled.

“Look at us!” Magnus exclaimed, smiling proudly at their handiwork. “Teaming up for the greater good!”

“You'd be a great agent.” Alec couldn’t stop saying. He had already thought about that since the first time Magnus had helped him solve a case. “You’re very smart and perceptive, I always admired that about you. Figuring out how you planned and executed your heists has always been the most entertaining part of going after you.”

“Really?”

“Yes.” Alec confessed.

“Well, Alexander...I would love to hear your theories.”

“The Picasso you stole two years ago, did you really use a parachute to jump off the building and escape?”

“I think I’ll have to plead the fifth on that one.”

“I want to know!” Alec complained. “It’s been eating me for years!”

“I’m sorry, dear, but to answer that, I’d have to confess a thing or two that I’m sure you don’t want to know. Besides, I don’t want to give you any more reasons to go after me someday, so…”

“Can I persuade you?” Alec asked hopefully.

“I don’t know, can you?”

Alec meditated, could he? “I don’t know…” he said, getting closer to Magnus and doing exactly what the criminal had done not so long ago and leaving a series of kisses down his neck, “but I could definitely try.”

“Then try, Alexander, then try.”

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus was watching Alec sleep. The man had fallen deeply after their very intense round of persuasion activities. Magnus couldn't deny that the agent had really stayed true to his word and tried to make him talk, but well, he hadn't been very successful. Not because he wasn’t good at persuading, little did he know that he could make Magnus do whatever he wanted with just one bat of his beautiful eyes, but because Magnus knew how risky knowledge could be in this situation. What they had, this new twist in their relationship, was complicated enough already to add more secrets and confessions to the mix. He didn’t want to force Alec to bear the burden that Magnus's criminal life represented, so the less the agent knew about his past crimes, the better.

“Chairman...don’t you dare!” Magnus whispered, pointing a menacing finger to his cat who was eying the tiny spot on the bed between Magnus and Alec to take his next nap.

The cat ignored him and, as graceful as he was, climbed onto the bed and snuggled close to the sleeping body, closing his eyes immediately.

Magnus thought about moving him before he could wake up Alec, but the agent hadn’t even flinched when the cat had jumped right next to him, so he let them be. After all, it was a pretty cute sight to have them both sleeping next to him.

Alec rolled over in his sleep and hugged the cat, as if this were nothing more than a stuffed version of the little animal. It was so cute that Magnus couldn’t stop grinning like a fool.

“You’re going to be my undoing, did you know that?” He whispered to the sleeping agent, as he continued watching him with pure admiration. Alec looked so much younger when he was asleep that Magnus couldn’t take his eyes away from him.

The rays of the setting sun were brushing against his pale skin, giving it an amber tone. Magnus wanted to touch it just to see if it felt as warm as it looked like, but he didn't want to disturb him. It was so strange to see him so calm and relaxed. Since they had met that was something that Magnus had noticed about Alec—the agent didn’t seem to know how to take it down a notch. He was always on high alert, working 24/7, functioning like a perfect robot ready to go into action when needed, but it was at times like this that Magnus could see all those layers that made the agent who he was—his Alexander.

His Alexander...

A wave of a warm and strange feeling filled his heart and he immediately knew that what he felt for this man was stronger than he had originally thought, and with the days and those little moments that they had been sharing together it was just growing—growing like a small plant well nourished and watered.

His friends had warned him about this, Ragnor, Raphael, Tessa, Catarina, apparently they all had seen it coming. Catarina had even advised him to stay away from him for a while so he could focus and keep this alliance between them strictly professional. But well, he hadn't followed her advice, in fact, he had done the opposite and had ended up not only sleeping with the agent, but inviting him over to his secret lair.

He smiled. Who could blame him, though? One look at the man sleeping beside him and he knew he had made the right decision.

Making sure he didn't wake Alec, Magnus got out of bed, grabbed his phone from the nightstand drawer, and walked into the living room to make a call.

“Should I be worried that you called so soon?” His friend said as soon as she answered.

“I don’t know…maybe?” Magnus smiled. “How are you, Cat?”

“Fine, working...and you?”

“Fine, well, actually more than fine, but...can you talk or should I call later?”

“It’s okay, I have some time, what happened?”

“How do you know that something happened?” Magnus asked, bemused.

“Because I saw you just two weeks ago and you don’t call so soon unless you’re in trouble or something has happened, and since you say you're more than fine and you sound pretty relaxed, I’m assuming you’re not in trouble, so...”

Magnus chuckled—this woman could practically see through him. “Well, you’re right a lot of things have happened, but let’s say that the reason for my call is because I didn’t follow your advice.”

“You never follow my advice." She said, sounding not so surprised.

“I know, but this time I’m not lying when I say I had every intention of listening to your always wise words.” Magnus confessed.

“Continue…”

“Well, hmmm...yesterday night things kind of took an interesting turn,” Magnus said, “I had one of those moments that Van Booy describes as the paradox of now or never and-”

“Get to the point, Magnus!”

“Okay, fine. I’m with Alexander.” Magnus admitted. “Like really with him. I tried to keep this completely professional as you advised me, I swear, but well, we talked and things...changed. I warned him about the risks of being with someone like me and he said he wanted to be with me anyway, and I couldn’t tell him no, like how could I? I've been head over heels for him for weeks! So I invited him over to my place and we slept together. We both are aware that this is risky and crazy, and overall, could end badly for either of us, but there’s no turning back now. We’re together.”

“And you’re calling me because?”

“Because I need you to do something for me...just in case this ends badly.”

“So I’m your contingency plan?” She asked.

“Yes.”

“Is it illegal?”

“No.”

“Okay, then I'm all ears.”

“Hmmm...could you come over tomorrow before work?” Magnus asked. “I don’t want to talk about it on the phone, he’s still here.”

“Have you been together since last night?”

“Yes.” Magnus admitted with a smile.

“Okay, well, I could try...it’d be very early, though, is that okay?”

“Yeah, don’t worry…”

“Okay, then I guess we’ll see each other tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Cat.”

“For what?”

“For not lecturing me…”

“I already told you what I think, I have nothing against that boy, on the contrary, I think he’s a great man and you deserve to be with someone like him, I’m just worried about you, like always. But if you’re sure about this, and so is he, then I suppose I have nothing left but to be happy for you and ask you to be careful. I don’t want to see you suffer.”

“I love you, Cat.”

“Love you too.”

“See you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay...bye.”

“Bye.”

Magnus hung up and took a deep breath. The sun had already settled down on the horizon, transforming the city skyline into a velvet canvas of purples, pinks, and dark-blues all mixed together. Those minutes before the darkness covered the sky were his favorites. He wanted to grab a brush and just capture that beauty in a painting, so he could see it every day at all hours.

“Hi.” Alec said, making him jump a bit.

“Well, hello there, sleepy head, did you have some rest?” Magnus asked, smiling at the mess of hair and wrinkled clothing that Alec was at the moment.

“As a matter of fact, I did.”

“I didn’t want to wake you, but I had to talk to a friend.”

“It’s okay…” Alec said, looking down at his own feet.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, I was just wondering,” the agent said, tentatively, “will I ever get «that» phone number?” He asked, pointing to the phone Magnus was holding. It was the one he used to call his friends—his private phone.

“Why do you want a phone everyone has when you have your very own private and personal line, huh? Be sure of something, Alexander, this phone? I can ignore it, but yours every time it rings, I’ll answer it no matter what I'm doing.” Magnus said, “But having said that, if you want this phone too, I guess I could give it to you...I mean, you’re in my home—a phone isn’t going to be of much difference now, don’t you think?”

Alec smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his ears. It was clear that there was something else wandering in that head of his.

“Can I ask you something else?”

“Of course, anything.”

“When this is over and if this thing between us doesn't work, you’re going to run away, aren’t you?” Alec asked.

Magnus took a deep breath. They had brushed the delicate subject during their conversation at the Brooklyn Bridge, but they hadn't spoken of it directly. They were aware that the future was uncertain, but Magnus wanted to be honest, he owed that to Alec after what had happened between them. “You know I will, and you’ll try to catch me, will you not?”

Alec sighed. “I guess I will.”

“Don’t worry about the future, okay, Alexander?” Magnus said, wrapping his arms around the agent’s waist—they fit perfectly there. “Nothing is written yet, for all I know, Valentine could kill me tomorrow.”

“I wouldn’t allow that.”

“Would you kill him first?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve never killed anyone.” Magnus pointed out.

“How do you know that?”

“Because you still carry your gun with the innocence of someone who hasn’t killed anyone.”

“Have you killed anyone?” Alec asked, intrigued.

“No.”

“Then how do you know that?”

“Because I’ve been very close to people who have their hands completely covered in blood.”

“Who?”

“Alexander…” Magnus said, looking at the agent straight in the eye. Why was he always so curious about everything?

“Sorry, bad habit.” Alec said, with a soft smile. “I can’t stop the agent in me to take over from time to time.”

“I’ve noticed.” Magnus said, kissing him.

He had recently discovered that kissing Alec Lightwood was a total bliss, he could spend hours and hours just making out with him and taking advantage of his excellent kissing skills.

Magnus pushed his tongue just enough to intensify the kiss a bit and felt Alec's passionate reaction to it, but it all ended too soon—the agent pulled away abruptly.

“I'm sorry, I want to, believe me that I want to, but I really have to go.” He said.

“You can stay.”

“Thanks, I’d love to, but I really, really can’t.” Alec explained. “I don’t have any clean clothes, besides, if I don’t get home tonight, Izzy and Jace are going to start suspecting about us. I mean, they already know that I’m seeing someone, but they have no idea it's you and they can be really smart when they want. I don't want them to connect the dots.”

Magnus smiled understandingly. He didn’t want that either, he doubted that the other agents would be okay with this alliance/truce/relationship they had going on, after all, Magnus was who he was and they surely wanted someone better for their brother. “Okay, but we’ll see each other tomorrow, right?”

“Yes, we have to keep working on Valentine's case.”

“Of course.”

“And we could, I don't know, have dinner?” Alec suggested.

“I’d love that.” Magnus smiled.

“Then it’s a date.”

“It’s a date.” Magnus said, sealing the deal with another kiss.

Chapter Text

Alec was in his office, rummaging in his drawers trying to find some Advil or Tylenol to ease the pain in his head. It was barely ten o'clock and he already had a throbbing headache. It wasn’t strange, though, he had had a rather difficult week with a lot of work and almost no free time.

A few days ago, fake-Magnus had attacked again, this time targeting the New York City Public Library, where he had taken part of the private collection of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich that had been purchased to the Soviet government in 1931. It had been a pretty significant score, the value of that collection surpassed thirty million dollars, but that wasn’t what had Alec breaking his head trying to solve the case. No, it was the fact that this time the criminal had killed eight innocent people during the attack—the highest number of murders recorded so far in the last five cases connected to him.

“I don’t know about you, but I feel that this case is only getting more complicated with each passing day.” Jace stated, taking a seat on one of the chairs in Alec’s office.

“You don't say.” Alec said with a sigh as he swallowed two pills with a gulp of water.

All morning he had been looking at the pictures of the eight victims that hung on a blackboard in his office—all innocent men who had been killed in cold blood while doing their job—wondering how many more people would have to die before they could finally catch this man and the mastermind behind this massacre.

“Would you like us to reevaluate the case to see if we missed something?” Jace suggested. He knew Alec too well to know that he wouldn’t rest until he had made at least some progress with this case.

“Yes, please.”

“Okay, then let’s start from the beginning...according to the police report and what our forensic team concluded,” Jace said, reviewing the report in his hand, “and taking into account the time when the security system went off, it’s safe to say that the criminal entered the building around 9:45 or 10:00pm, then he-”

“I’m not sure that information is completely accurate.” Alec interrupted. He had been analyzing with Magnus all the reports and security footage they had obtained from the scene, and that was something they had both agreed upon—that statement didn’t match with the evidence they had. “I think he was already inside the building when the attack took place, he was just hiding somewhere, waiting for the right moment to come out.”

“You think?”

“Yes, there is no evidence to indicate otherwise, the street cameras were working all day, there’s no footage of him entering the building. In fact, there’s no footage of anyone entering the Library after 5:17pm.”

“He could have used one of the blind spots on the cameras, like the one right next to the park.”

“He could have, but why bother when he could wait inside all along. It wouldn’t be the first time, he did it when he stole the Hope diamond. Besides, we know getting in isn’t the problem, thousands of people visit the Library every day. He could have entered pretending to be a curious tourist and found a place to hide. Criminals are very, very patient.” Alec said confidently. After all, now he had a lot of experience in understanding how criminals thought.

“Okay, let’s assume you’re right and the criminal was inside the building all along, that still leaves us with the same time frame. He came out of hiding sometime around 9:45 or 10:00pm, and headed to the security room where he killed a guard and disabled the security system.” Jace said.

“Then he went to the stacks and killed four more guards.” Alec continued.

“He took the books-”

“Which he already knew where they were since it took him just a few minutes to steal them.” Alec interrupted, adding that piece of information as he considered it important.

“True, and then he went up to the ground floor and killed another guard, finally heading to the 42nd street entrance where he killed the last two guards before leaving the building at 10:43pm and disappearing through the 5 Avenue subway station.” Jace concluded.

“So the entire heist took him less than 45 minutes.” Alec said, standing up and looking at the board again, trying to put all the pieces together. Their theory of how things had happened made sense, it followed the time frame the police and the forensic team had reported, and matched with the time of death of the guards. “A very long time if we consider the location of the heists, but very short if we take into account that he was carrying almost a hundred books on his way out.”

“I know,” Jace agreed, “how did he do that?”

“No idea. The forensic team tried to recreate the escape scene with some bags full of books and the conclusion was that this man is stronger than average men.”

“Very useful information.” Jace said sarcastically. “Do we know what’s so special about these books?”

“Nothing.” Alec said. He had asked Magnus that same question the night before after dinner, when they had started to discuss the case. “The entire collection was one of the largest acquisitions of Russian books and photographic materials at the time, and was considered an almost impossible purchase since the Soviet government had a policy of selling its cultural collections abroad solely for gold, but the books he took are not a big deal. Yes, they are worth more than thirty million dollars altogether, but it’s not a collection that someone would be interested in purchasing, the books he took have no historical or cultural value, they are just important because they were part of the Grand Duke’s collection.”

“So he just stole them for the sake of stealing them?” Jace asked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It doesn’t…” Alec agreed, “but-” he started to say, but stopped abruptly. Hearing his own words out loud and his brother’s conclusion had given him an idea, so he quickly grabbed all the other blackboards they had about the previous cases and placed them side by side to compare them.

So far there had been five cases, the bank, the boutique, the museum, the private collector, and the library. In all of them there had been murders, five, three, four, one and eight respectively—twenty-one murders in four months give or take. But so far nothing seemed to be connected, each case seemed to be isolated from the other. “The scores are not connected,” Alec murmured more to himself, “nor are the killings.” He added.

“Maybe he wasn't planning on killing anyone, maybe these people were there in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Jace suggested.

“No, the guards had to be there in most cases." Alec said. “This man is smart and so is the one behind the curtain, they had to know they would be there. The private collector might have been a coincidence, though, as far as the investigation goes, he was supposed to be out of the country the day he was robbed and murdered, so his death may have been a miscalculation, but either way, I don’t think the answer lies in the murders.” He added. “I think the answer is in the scores.”

“Go on…” Jace encouraged him.

“Look at all the cases together and tell me what do you see in them.”

Jace looked, but it was clear he wasn’t following Alec’s idea. It was so obvious to Alec now that he wondered why he hadn’t seen it before. “These attacks aren’t about money or how many innocent people a single person can kill,” Alec continued, “they are about the prestige that committing them would bring the perpetrator, their purpose is to prove something.”

“What?”

“That something that was considered impossible is possible. Think about it...the bank? He targeted a bank in Midtown Manhattan, those banks are considered the safest in the entire city. The Hope diamond? I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one. The Queens museum? He took the most valuable sculpture of the six replicas in existence. He’s not playing around, Jace, he has a pattern. Valentine, with some help from his henchmen, is showing us that he can do the impossible.”

“But using another criminal’s name?” Jace wondered. “That doesn’t fit with his profile.”

“I know, but that’s exactly what he needs us to believe, he needs us to think it's not him. He’s creating an illusion,” Alec concluded, “he’s taking advantage of his status as a dead man to make us go after Magnus and distract us.”

“For what purpose? What good would that bring him? It’s not like we don’t know he’s still alive.”

“I don’t know, but the only thing I can think of is that if he doesn’t mind not attaching his name to all these impressive scores, then what he’s planning is ten times worse.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I have no clue, but we have to find out before it’s too late. I have the feeling that his next score will be even more violent.”

“Okay, then I’ll call the team so we can start investigating following this line.” Jace said, standing up and quickly heading for the door.

“No, wait!” Alec stopped him.

“What?”

“You can’t tell anyone but Izzy about this yet.”

“Why?”

Alec hadn’t told his siblings what he had learned about Valentine for fear of putting them in danger. He had half the people in the office on his list of suspects and although he had already ruled out some names, he still wasn’t sure who he could trust and who he couldn’t. “Be-be-because you know people always take this kind of information with a grain of salt, they don’t believe it until they have solid proof, so let’s wait until we have more evidence to support this theory.” Alec said.

“I think you word is more than enough to support anything, but if that’s what you want...” Jace said with a shrug.

“Thanks.”

“Then, now what?”

“Now we focus on finding something that can lead us to them.”

“Okay.” Jace agreed, and together they began to review all the cases, sharing facts and theories, looking for something, anything, that could help them get to this man and Valentine.

“You know what’s not adding up?” Alec said, after studying the cases for half an hour.

“What?”

“The damn glitter again.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s not strange that these trails,” he pointed to the pictures of the trails found in the library, “don’t match with Magnus’s, but what it's strange is that until now this criminal had been very careful to leave traces of glitter all over the place. Look at the other cases.” He added, pointing to the pictures of the glitter trails of the previous cases. “He left glitter everywhere, in the hallways, in the vaults, offices and even where he murdered the guards, see?”

“Your point?” Jace asked.

“My point is that he’s being careless, in the last case, he only left glitter in two places...here and here,” Alec pointed out the location of the stacks and the security room in the blueprints that they had on the desk, “but he murdered guards here and here as well.” He pointed out two more places.

“Maybe he wasn’t expecting so many guards and he ran out of glitter.” Jace suggested.

“I don’t think so...but maybe he was expecting a free path, you know?”

“You mean someone was helping him from within?”

“I wouldn't rule it out...it could be, right? People do a lot of crazy stuff for money. Has Izzy finished with the interrogations to the rest of the guards and the staff?”

“She was working on that, you want me to go see how she's doing? I-”

“Speaking of the devil,” Alec said, when his sister poked her head through the door. “I was sending Jace to get you, are you done with the interrogations?”

“Kind of, there’s only one guard left to interrogate, I was about to do it, but then Hodge asked me to come and get you,” Izzy said, “there’s going to be a last-minute meeting or something.”

“A last-minute meeting?” Alec questioned with a scowl. He'd been having meetings with Hodge and his father all week, he didn’t know what else they could discuss about the case. Alec had already said what he had to say and if he was honest, it hadn’t been a pleasant experience. Like the last couple of times, Alec had unwittingly become Magnus’s alibi, so he had had to control every fiber of his being to not explode and say why he was so damn sure that Magnus couldn't be the person who had killed all those innocent people.

“Yes, he said he'd be waiting for us in the conference room.” Izzy informed them.

“Now?” Jace asked.

“Yes, now, so come on, let’s go see what he wants...the sooner we finish with this, the sooner we can all go back to work.” She said.

Alec sighed resignedly. His head was still killing him, but he figured that having another meeting couldn’t make it much worse. “Fine, let’s go.”

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus was at home, trying, but failing, to calm his nerves a bit. He had been putting cash in bags all morning and getting everything ready to put in motion the second stage of his plan to freedom. Everything was going well, but even so, he was very, very nervous. He had been waiting for this moment for so long that now that it had finally arrived, he didn’t know what to do with himself.

In the past couple of days, he and Ragnor had finished printing the Spanish Victory bonds and used an intermediary that Raphael had hired to redeem them, getting, in one fell swoop, hundreds of millions of dollars. They had split the profits equally between them and paid Raphael his more than deserved share, but even when they had generated more money than they could count, Magnus hadn’t seen a single penny of it—every last dollar of his part was going to serve him to pay that debt that had been tormenting him since he could remember.

Magnus grabbed one of his many disposable phones, sent a quick text message indicating a time and place, and threw it out the window, watching it crash and shatter in pieces against the sidewalk. It was done.

“Deep breaths, Magnus, deep breaths.” He reminded himself.

His cat walked beside him and rubbed against his leg, demanding attention. Magnus picked him up and started petting him. “After today, Chairman, we’re finally going to be free.” He shared his excitement with his furry son. “I know I promised that when this day came, we'd both take a long trip around the world, but well, there’s someone new in our lives, so that’s not going to happen any time soon, you don’t mind, do you?” He asked.

The cat kept purring, so Magnus took that as a sign that the little animal was okay with the new change of plans. “Thank you for being so understanding.” He said, putting the cat down and walking to the coffee table to continue what he had been doing before his cat decided he wanted attention.

“Such a waste.” Magnus whispered, looking at the original bond and the rest of the forgeries they hadn’t redeemed. He would have loved to frame the original and perhaps one of the forgeries to put them on some wall at his home and always remember the incredible work he had done, but even getting rid of all this was part of his plan, so he quickly put them inside the last bag he had there and after securing everything with strips, he called his best friend to coordinate with him.

“It’s in motion, my friend. Now I just need you to do what I asked you to do.” Magnus said as soon as Ragnor answered the phone.

“Are you sure about this?” Ragnor asked hesitantly. Magnus could hear the worry in his voice.

“Yes, I’m sure about this, trust me, okay?”

“Okay, fine...just-just be careful, okay? And-”

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. I promise. See you later, my friend.” Magnus said, hanging up the phone and grabbing the bags he'd stacked by the door.

“Time to go.” He said, taking a deep breath and stepping out of his home.

He couldn’t walk around the city carrying bags with cash and evidence that would put him behind bars in the blink of an eye, so he quickly hailed a taxi and in less than twenty minutes he was at the meeting place.

He was a little early, he had set the meeting at noon and it was barely past eleven o'clock in the morning, but as soon as he got out of the car, he noticed that the place, although closed, wasn’t locked, so that only meant that the person he was expecting was already waiting for him inside.

Magnus glanced at the building and took another deep breath. Meeting with this man had always made him feel extremely anxious and he hated that—he hated that with all his soul. But this would be the last time, so that thought gave him the courage to open the door and step in.

The place was exactly as he had left it the last time he had been there to leave it ready for this day and make sure there was no evidence of someone else’s presence there, so he walked sure of himself and made his way straight to the last floor.

“I’m here.” He said, announcing his presence. The place seemed to be empty, but he was certain he wasn’t alone.

“Curious place you chose for us to meet,” A tall figure said, emerging from the shadows, wearing a huge smile, “should I take this a sign of your resentment, or are you just being sentimental?” He asked, but Magnus didn’t answer.

“It’s good to see you again,” the man continued, “how have you been?”

“Like if you’ve ever cared.” Magnus said, trying not to show any emotion in his voice. “Here’s your money.” He added, throwing the bags with cash to the floor right at the man's feet.

“How much is in here?” The man asked, opening one of the bags with the help of a hunting knife and taking out the money to count it.

“More than I owe you, that’s for sure.” Magnus said, with a hint of irony in his voice. “But I brought you these too, just in case.” He added, handing him the last bag containing the original bond and the rest of the forgeries.

“What’s this?” He asked.

“A bonus.” Magnus said. “I printed more bonds than originally planned, so now they are yours. You can redeem them whenever you want.”

The man smiled broadly and opened the bag with enthusiasm, pulling out the bonds with the care that only someone who knew what he was doing would use. “You’ve always been very, very talented.” He said, admiring the perfectly crafted forgeries. “I’m proud of you, I can’t deny that there was a time when I thought you’d never make it, but you've proved me wrong, you actually made it. You made the perfect score—no witnesses, no motive, no evidence.”

Magnus just rolled his eyes to avoid answering. Yeah, he had made it, the so-called perfect score, but that didn’t matter anymore, especially after what he had in mind for today. “Where’s the document I signed for you?” He asked.

“On the desk.” The man said absentmindedly, he was still lost examining the bonds.

Magnus walked to the desk and grabbed the envelope, opening it to verify that it contained that document he had signed all those years ago. He had been so naive and stupid, in his desperation he had trusted this man and the latter had done nothing but betray him and-

“Is this the original?” The man asked, interrupting Magnus’s train of thought. He had just taken out a plastic case where Magnus had put the original bond for safekeeping.

“Yes, I thought you’d like to have it as some sort of trophy.”

“You know me so well...so, so well.” The man said, smiling approvingly.

“Yeah, whatever, my debt to you has now been paid. Please don't ever call me or look for me again, I’m done with you.” Magnus said, putting the contract safely inside the pocket of his coat and walking toward the door.

“You can’t ask me that, we both know you can’t get rid of me that easily.”

“I paid you!” Magnus exclaimed, stopping dead in his tracks and trying not to lose his temper. “I have the contract now, you have nothing against me that can force me to do anything. I’m free!”

“For now.” The man said simply, but Magnus knew him well enough to know that every word that came out of his mouth had all the potential to be a threat.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Magnus asked, but the man didn’t answer and just busied himself counting the money and making sure it was authentic. Magnus sighed—things had always been the same with this man. He wondered why he had even bothered to ask. “Anyway, I must go, I have important things to do...good riddance.” He added, resuming his walking and heading for the door.

“I’ll see you soon.”

“I don’t think so.” Magnus said, trying not to be intimidated and just rushing down the stairs to try to escape the building as fast as he physically could. There was a feeling of freedom mixed with relief and some sort of disbelief growing inside his chest and it was very overwhelming.

He stepped out of the building, took a deep breath and smiled not quite believing that everything had gone according to plan. There was no doubt that today was his lucky day, but he wasn't going to take any risks, so he grabbed the chain and padlock he had brought with him from inside his coat and closed the front door, locking the man with whom he had just met inside.

“Goodbye.” He whispered, looking one last time at the door and walking away from the street without looking back.

It was over—now there was just one thing left to do so that he could completely be free, so he pulled out his phone and called the only person he knew would put an end to all this once and for all.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec, Izzy, and Jace entered the conference room a couple of minutes later and looked at each other in confusion—the place was packed from corner to corner. Meetings, even last-minute ones, never required the presence of every active agent in the Bureau, but apparently this one was a bit different because the whole office was assembled there; from the newbies to the special agents from D.C. who had been working with them—every last agent with an active badge was there.

“Alec, please, have a seat.” Hodge said, pointing to the head of the table opposite to where he and Alec’s father were.

“What’s this meeting about?” Alec asked as he sat down with Jace and Izzy, occupying the chairs beside him.

“You’ll find out in a moment.” Hodge said.

“We were in the middle of something.” Alec complained.

“Me too.” Izzy chimed in.

“Don’t worry,” Hodge said, as a way to reassure them, “this won’t take long, I just need to make a quick announcement. Please, all of you who can, sit down in the remaining chairs, if there's no room, distribute evenly around the table so everyone can hear what I have to say.” He added, waiting a couple of minutes before continuing. “Thank you. Now, I know that many of you are wondering what are we doing here, and well, I’m afraid I have some not very good news to share with you. Given recent developments in Magnus Bane and Valentine Morgenstern's case, the Criminal Investigative Division has decided to intervene and send an agent from the National Security branch to review our work and assess whether the case remains under our jurisdiction or not.”

“What!?” Alec exclaimed, at the same time as a general clamor filled the room.

“What you heard, Agent Lightwood.” A woman said, entering the room with an air of authority that left everyone speechless. “Hello everyone, my name is Lydia Branwell, special agent from the CID, National Security branch in D.C.”

“You’re here to take over the case!?” Jace asked incredulously.

“Not yet, Agent. I’m here to review your work and analyze the case.”

“But why?” Izzy asked, offended.

“Why?” Lydia said, almost smiling at Izzy's audacity to ask such question. “Because it seems that this office is incapable of stopping Valentine and his gang of criminals. How many agents are currently working on the case? If what Agent Starkweather has informed me is correct, there are twenty-five special agents from this office and twelve from D.C. working together with the sole purpose of resolving this case…and how close are any of you to catching Valentine?” She asked, but nobody dared to answer. Alec couldn’t deny that she was intimidating. “Just what I thought, so if you, Agent Isabelle Lightwood, are still questioning why I’m here, then I suggest that you review the progress you've all made in four months and tell me if twenty-one murders is a number of casualties the white-collar division is used to having.”

“You have no-” Izzy started to say, but Hodge cut her off immediately.

“I understand that this decision took us all by surprise,” he said, trying to reassure all the agents—the entire office seemed concerned, “but let’s try to be good teammates and make agent Branwell feel comfortable among us for the time she stays here. I ask you all to give her full access to all the information we have about Valentine Morgenstern and Magnus Bane. Her final evaluation of the case will be key in determining whether the Bureau will allow us to keep this case or not.”

“Also,” Lydia added, “from now on, and until I send the report back to CID, any progress on the case will have to be reported to me first. I know things work differently in the white-collar division, but for as long as I’m here we’ll do things my way, understood?” She asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. “Now go back to your work stations and make sure to make copies of all the files you have about these criminals. You’re dismissed.”

The agents around the room nodded frantically and walked away, but Alec, Jace, and Izzy just looked at each other and stood there, waiting for the room to empty so they could have a word with their captain.

“You can’t let CID to come here and do whatever they want.” Alec complained, as soon as they were alone with their boss.

“I don’t have control over that, Alec, this last case raised some red flags and Criminal Division is concerned. We’re part of the non-violent crimes section of the Bureau, we shouldn't be going after a mass murderer, that’s not our job and you all know that.”

“Is she going to stay long?” Jace asked.

“I don’t know, maybe a few days...she needs to see that we have enough grounds to keep this case here, we have full support of the Marshalls, so we just need to show her that despite the unusual number of casualties, this is still a case that’s under our jurisdiction.”

“You think we have enough?” Izzy asked worriedly.

“Yes, so far the crimes have been committed by Bane-”

“Allegedly.” Alec interrupted.

“Okay, allegedly committed by Bane, so as far as the Bureau is concerned this is still a white-collar criminal we’re talking about, we just need to prove her that. It’s not going to be easy, Agent Branwell isn’t exactly very...open-minded, but I'm confident that we'll manage to convince her and win her approval, and if we do, then we'll have nothing to worry about. She’s a pretty big deal back in D.C., if she says the case is ours, then it will be ours no matter what.”

“Well, I don’t care who she is, or if she’s some very important agent in D.C., I’m not going to let anyone take this case away from me.” Alec said, sure of himself. Not in vain, he had spent months working on this and in recent weeks, wasting precious alone-time with Magnus just to go over every damn case and try to find Valentine. “I don’t care if I have to go and ask the case to the director of the Bureau himself.”

“Relax, Alec, we won’t let that happen, I’ll try my best to keep the case here.” Hodge said, “But please, don’t give Agent Branwell any trouble, okay?”

“If she doesn’t get in my way, we won’t have any trouble.” Alec said, a little annoyed. His headache had finally subsided, but he wasn’t in a very good mood after the meeting.

“Alec…”

“Don’t, Hodge, just don’t.” Alec said. “This is my city, this is my case and as I've told you enough times already, I’m going to solve it.” He said with determination, walking out of the conference room and slamming the door behind him.

Alec entered his office and sank into his chair, taking deep breaths to try to calm himself down. Just the idea of having someone trying to take the case away from him made him furious. Valentine had turned his life upside down and he was determined to make him pay for it. If there was an agent who would catch him and put him behind bars, that was going to be him—no one else.

“No one.” He whispered and jumped a bit scared when Jace knocked on his door.

“May I come in?” His brother asked.

Alec nodded.

“A bit shocking the news about the CID agent, don’t you think?”

“A bit?” Alec said ironically.

Jace laughed and Alec laughed with him, he was glad they were on the same page about the new agent.

Alec understood why the CID had decided to intervene, but having someone new, especially after what he now knew about this institution, wasn’t something he liked. He couldn’t just trust her, she seemed responsible and very committed to her work, and Alec liked that, but if there was something he had learned since all this chaos had started was that he couldn’t trust anyone.

“I was going to suggest that we go out for lunch, but-” Jace was saying when the phone Alec used to communicate with Magnus rang.

Alec frowned. Since they had started with this, Magnus had never called him without texting him first and asking him if he was free to talk, the criminal was well aware of the risks Alec was taking and never put him in any kind of uncomfortable situation. “I-I-I’m sorry, I have to take this call.” He told his brother, grabbing the phone and walking to the side of his office to have some sort of privacy.

“Hi.” He said, trying not to sound too worried. He didn’t want the criminal to notice how much he cared already. “Are you hmmm, alright?”

“Alexander, hi. Yes, I’m fine, why do you ask?”

“Hmmm, because you never call without texting me first, I thought you needed something.”

“Well, you’re right, I do need something...I need some of your hmmm, services.”

“What?” Alec asked, surprised. He couldn’t believe Magnus had called him just to ask that, this man knew no limits. “Did you really just call to ask me «that»? You do realize I could get into serious trouble if they find out I’m-”

“What?” Magnus asked confused. “What are you talking about?”

Alec frowned. “What are «you» talking about?” He asked equally confused, apparently they weren’t talking about the same thing.

“What am I…? Oh!” Magnus exclaimed in understanding. “You thought I was asking for your sexual services, didn’t you? Well, darling, you know I'm always in need of those, but that’s not why I’m calling you. I’m actually calling you because I need your hmmm...federal agent services.”

“Oh.” Alec said, blushing like a tomato. They were definitely not talking about the same thing. “Wh-what-what for?”

“Do you remember the address I gave you with the postcards?”

“Yes, why?”

“Well, you should go there right now...there’s something waiting for you there.”

“You left me a surprise there?” Alec asked in a very low voice. After all, his brother was still there and he didn't want him to realize that even though all his life Alec had said he hated surprises, now he was learning to appreciate them.

“Is there someone there with you?” Magnus asked amused.

“Yes?”

“And you still answered the call? We’re getting a bit bold, aren't we, Alexander?”

“Shut up! I thought it was an emergency.”

“Awww, you’re killing me, darling, you really are, but we’ll talk about that sweetness of yours later, right now I really need you to go to the address I told you.”

“Why?”

“You’ll know why when you get there.” Magnus said. “Take your team with you, okay? You can tell them about the postcards and use them as a ticket to get a warrant to open the building.”

“What’s in there?” Alec asked worriedly. He was getting used to Magnus’s cryptic-ness, but this whole thing was very different from what he had done so far. “You’re scaring me.”

“Just trust me, okay?”

“But-”

“Please?”

“Okay, fine.”

“Thank you...and hurry up, okay? My surprise could get ruined if you don’t move fast.”

“Okay…”

“Oh, and did you get the tip about the fraud with the Spanish bonds?”

“How do you know that?” Alec asked in surprise. Not so long ago, in fact, just before entering the conference room for the last-minute meeting, Raj had informed him that they had received a tip to warn them of a fraud committed with a Spanish War bond that used to be in the National Archives. Alec still didn’t know all the details, since he hadn’t had time to review the report, but he doubted that the case was already out in the news for Magnus to know about it.

“That doesn’t matter, but if I were you I'd bring an expert in forgeries, just in case. I'll talk to you later, okay?”

“No, Ma-” Alec bit his tongue to keep himself from saying the criminal’s name. “No, wait!”

“Bye, Alexander.” The criminal said, ending the call.

Alec looked at the phone and frowned deeply confused. He didn’t know what to do, that call had been all kinds of strange, but he trusted Magnus, so he knew he had to come up with something quickly to justify going over the postcards again and do what Magnus had asked him to do. The criminal very rarely asked for a favor, so this had to be important.

“Everything alright?” Jace asked, when Alec took his seat again.

“Yes, yes...I hmmm, yeah.” He said, not really knowing what else to say. “You were saying something about lunch?”

“Yes, I wanted us to go out for something, but with Lydia here I think that won't be possible, will it?”

“I believe it won’t...we have to make copies of all the files.” Alec said, suddenly realizing how he was going to bring up Magnus’s postcards again.

“Really?”

“Yes, you heard Hodge, we have to give her full access to all the files regarding Magnus and Valentine.”

“It’s going to take us forever.”

“Then we better start.”

Alec and Jace started to take out all the files and make copies of them. Alec deliberately focused on Magnus’s files to be able to review the postcards and reveal the hidden message on them when the opportunity presented itself. He was a bad liar and even a worse actor, but he had to at least try it.

“Oh my God!” Alec exclaimed, when he was photocopying the postcards. He knew that he sounded exaggerated and false, that was why he had his back to Jace, so that his brother couldn't see through him and discover the lie.

“What?”

“Of course!” He exclaimed again, pretending to ignore Jace.

“What?”

“It’s so clear.” Alec said, putting all the postcards on his desk and writing down the code. “He left a message.”

“Who?” Jace asked confused.

“Magnus...look.” Alec said, showing Jace what he ‘had just found.’

“Are you freaking kidding me?” Jace exclaimed, rereading the message and looking at the postcards. “He asked you out on a date!? Is he nuts? Never mind, you were right all along, Alec! The key to this puzzle was in the freaking postcards!”

Alec just smiled. He didn’t dare to say much, he feared that his voice might betray him.

“We need to go there right away!”

“Of course.”

“I’ll go get a warrant!” Jace said, rushing out of the office. “This is huge, Alec! Huge!”

“I know…” Alec said, as Jace walked out excited. “I know.”

When the door closed behind his brother, Alec exhaled and covered his face with his hands. Since he'd hung up with Magnus, there was a sense of anxiety growing inside him. He didn’t know what he was going to find there or what to expect from all this, but he was worried.

“Is it true?” Izzy asked, knocking on the door and entering Alec’s office. “I just ran into Jace and he told me about the postcards.”

Alec nodded.

“Do you think he’s there?” Izzy asked excitedly.

‘No,’ Alec thought, but shrugged. “I don’t know, but it’s worth making sure, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I can’t bel-” Izzy was saying when Lydia also entered the office, taking full advantage of the fact that the door was open.

“Your partner is requesting a warrant to open a building in Midtown East, why wasn’t I informed about this beforehand?”

“Because it’s a very new lead in the case?” Alec said, he really didn’t want to argue with anyone right now. He was anxious enough about the surprise Magnus could have left for him in that building to add a discussion with Lydia to the mix.

“As I recently informed you, Agent Lightwood, any further development on the case has to be reported directly to me.”

“You just said it yourself, new development, this is just a lead, if we find anything useful for the case you will be informed immediately.”

“Is this the way things are going to be between us?” Lydia questioned.

“No, I’m sorry, I-I’m not used to having to inform someone about what I do or don't, you’ll have all the information on this lead as soon as we’re back.”

“Okay, fine...I’ll be expecting a full report, Agent...and next time? Inform me first of any leads.” She said, walking out of the office.

“She’s going to be a headache, isn’t she?” Izzy questioned.

“It seems.” Alec said with a sigh just as Jace entered the office announcing them that he had gotten the warrant and they were ready to go.

So without wasting any more time, Alec and his team rushed to the address, and after carefully setting up a security perimeter to keep any curious New Yorker away from there, they approached the building.

“Open the doors.” Alec ordered his team. Just like that time when he had come on his own, the building was locked with a padlock and a chain, so he waited until his team forced the entrance to step in.

The place looked exactly as he remembered it, dusty and abandoned, there was nothing there but heaps of garbage littering the floor.

“There’s no power, sir.” One of the agents said, though Alec already knew that.

“Use flashlights, and check each and every room.” He ordered them.

Slowly, the agents began to check all the rooms, indicating Alec that the place was clear. Alec was desperate to find something, he knew that Magnus would have never made him come all the way here if there wasn't something or someone important hiding in here. They just had to find it.

"This floor is clear too." Jace informed him.

Alec was aware that there was only one floor left to check, so he cocked his gun and held it firmly in front of him, climbing up the stairs that led to the top floor.

And there, standing in the middle of a pile of bags with cash, was a tall man. He was wearing a long black cloak and a top hat. His hair was a bit gray, so Alec assumed he wasn't very young, but there was no way to be completely sure, the man had his back to the door and there was not enough light. “Turn around slowly.” Alec ordered him, pointing his gun at the man’s head, while the other agents quickly filled the room and started to examine the evidence.

“These are the bonds reported today, boss.” Raj informed him. “According to the tip we received, someone stole and forged the Spanish Victory bond that was in the National Archives, and using that replica, printed more bonds to commit a fraud. We haven't fully investigated the case, but we know that a few days ago the government redeemed more than a thousand bonds, so there must be more than a billion dollars in cash here, boss.”

Alec quickly looked at the bonds and the money. It wasn’t surprising at all that they were there, Magnus had warned him about them.

“I said, turn around!” Alec ordered the now alleged criminal again.

The man sighed and turned around, making everyone in the room to gasp in surprise. They knew who this man was, there was a most-wanted poster of his face everywhere.

“Asmodeus Brown…” Alec whispered in surprise. He didn't know what he was going to find when he first agreed to come to this building, but he certainly never expected it to be this man. Asmodeus Brown was one of the most wanted criminals in the world, the Interpol had even put a price on his head. He didn’t know why Magnus had given him this man on a silver platter, but regardless of that, this was a great achievement for Alec's career.

“I’m glad you know my name.” The man said with a smile.

“Shut up.” Alec said. “Put your hands in the air where I can see them.”

The man obeyed and Alec approached him, putting the criminal’s hands on his back and handcuffing him. “Asmodeus Brown, you are under arrest for the possession of stolen and forged property. You have the right to remain silent. Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, then one will be appointed for you by the court. Do you understand?"

The criminal just limited himself to nod, but looked at Alec with a mocking smile on his face that sent shivers all over his body. “Take him to the station.” Alec ordered one of the agents, who quickly escorted Asmodeus out of the building.

Alec sighed and looked around. The rest of his team was already examining the place and collecting the evidence, Izzy was looking for prints, Jace was putting a knife in one of the evidence bags, and the expert on forgeries that he had brought with him was sampling and examining the bonds.

“Are they really the bonds reported today?” Alec asked.

“They are.” The agent confirmed. “And this is quality work, sir. I’ve never seen something quite like it before.” He added, handing Alec a pair of gloves and two of the bonds. “This is the original bond, printed, I’m guessing, seventy or eighty years ago, and this is the forgery, which, if I’m not mistaken, was printed no less than two weeks ago.”

Alec took both and proceeded to examine them. The agent was right, this was quality work, there was no easy way of determining which one was the fake and which one was the original, but unlike him, Alec had seen this kind of good work before.

‘Magnus…’ He thought.

He knew the criminal had done them, he had no way to prove it, of course, but he knew he had some sort of involvement in this.

“Good job, Agent Johnson. Do what you have to do here and take everything back to the office.” Alec said, handing the agent the bonds back. “I have to head back to the office to make sure this criminal pays for what he's done, but I want a full report on these bonds. Oh, and Agent? See if they have any signature on them, specifically Bane's signature, okay? But don’t share your results with anyone but me, understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Chapter Text

After finishing his conversation with Alec, Magnus hung up the phone and continued walking through the city, getting as far away from that building as possible. He would have loved to stay and see how things turned out in the end, and be there when Alec finally put that man behind bars, but given his connection to the place and his involvement in the fraud with the bonds, he figured it was safer for everyone if he just stayed away from there.

He walked and walked, observing in detail all the sights of the city—the Empire State building, the Flatiron, the Washington Square Arch...the World Trade Center. It had been so long since the last time he'd allowed himself to fully appreciate and enjoy the city he loved so much that he almost felt like a tourist, experiencing New York City for the very first time. The city was so beautiful, so radiant...that even in broad daylight, it managed to take Magnus’s breath away.

He walked to the City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan and stayed there, sitting on an old bench and using that time to think about what he had done and how he felt about it. This was the first time he had trusted the system and had used it for his own benefit, and although a large part of him felt good about it, there was this small part in the most hidden depths of his being that couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty too.

“You did the right thing.” He tried to reassure himself.

Everyone who knew his story and what he had gone through thanks to that man would agree with him, but even so he couldn’t help feeling a little remorse for what he had done. After all, he had betrayed the man who, under false pretenses or not, had helped him when he had been all alone.

Magnus sighed, shaking his head to get rid of those thoughts. He had to stop being so sentimental and see things as they were—that man had hurt him and used him for years to do terrible things, jail was the least he deserved.

“Get a grip, Magnus.” He murmured to himself, standing up to finally head home and making his way to the Brooklyn Bridge, smiling at the sight of the beautiful structure.

He'd always loved that bridge, that had been one of the reasons why he'd bought a loft with a beautiful view of it, but he couldn’t deny that now he loved it even more. As cliche as it might sound, this bridge was now part of his and Alec’s story. The last time they had been there they had had a conversation that had completely changed their relationship, so now that iconic landmark had an even more special place in Magnus’s heart.

He passed next to the spot where they had kissed and smiled fondly. If he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could almost feel the heat and wetness of Alec’s mouth against his own, he could feel that jolt of electricity he felt every time he kissed Alec. Because kissing Alec was a dangerous and intoxicating experience in itself. The agent’s kisses were sweet and tender, but also hungry and passionate, they were paradise and hell, salvation and damnation; that handsome man possessed in his mouth the most powerful and lethal weapon known to mankind.

Magnus smiled. He had no idea, why he was fantasizing in the middle of a bridge and with thousands of people walking around him, but he quickly shook his head and resumed his walking, this time heading straight home.

By the time he arrived to his building that tiny speck of remorse he had felt before had completely dissipated and although he still had a whirlwind of emotions within him, he was at peace with himself.

He opened the door to his loft and smiled at the two people waiting for him there. He hadn’t been expecting them, though, but he wasn't surprised that they were there either. His two friends had learned of his plan a few days ago and had expressed their concern that something bad could happen, so it was only natural that they were there to check on him.

“Magnus!” Raphael exclaimed. “Gracias a Dios que estás bien!” He said.

Raphael very rarely called Magnus by his name, since they had met his friend had called him Bane just because he knew how much Magnus hated that, so the fact that he had used his pile name when he had seen him come in, was just a reflection of how worried he had been for him mere seconds ago.

“Awwww...you were worried about me.” Magnus said, smiling teasingly at his friend. “I knew your apparent lack of concern for my well-being was just an act to keep up appearances.”

Raphael just rolled his eyes.

“And well?” Ragnor said. “How did it go? Did you do it?” He asked, looking expectantly at Magnus.

“I did.” Magnus confirmed. “I’m sure Alexander is imprisoning him as we speak.” He added, hanging his coat by the door and taking out the contract he had stashed in one of the pockets.

“Is that the-?” Ragnor and Raphael asked at the same time, eyeing the envelope Magnus had pulled from his coat in disbelief.

“It is.” Magnus said, giving his friends the document so they could see it for themselves. They had talked about it so many times in the past that he was sure they were very intrigued by it.

“So it’s official.” Raphael said, when he finished scanning the five pages long contract. “You’re a free man.”

“I am.”

“Well, I have to say it, I wasn’t completely sure you’d be able to pull that off, Bane.” Raphael said sincerely. “The idea seemed crazy from the beginning, but well, you just proved me wrong and turned over a criminal to the FBI, and not just any criminal, you turned over your-”

“He deserved it.” Magnus said, interrupting his friend mid-sentence.

“I agree, but still,” Raphael said, “you have to admit that the chances of this plan actually working were very few, if not nil.”

“I know.”

“Are you sure this was the right thing to do, though?” Ragnor asked. “I mean, yeah, now that man’s going to spend the rest of his days locked up in a cell and that’s great and all, but well...for that to happen you had to expose that stupid message that you left for the fed and the address of one of our security buildings, have you considered that maybe thanks to that the FBI could connect the bonds to you...to us?”

“How?” Magnus questioned. “The building is still under Axel’s name and Santiago here made sure that the transaction with the bonds was clean, there’s no way for them to connect that score to any of us. And yes, I know they got the address of the building thanks to the postcards I left for Alexander, but they know criminals hold quarrels against each other all the time, I’m sure the always very-wise FBI will come up with some stupid theory to justify that man’s presence there without having to connect it to me. Besides, the place was spotless, remember that I got rid of any evidence of our presence there, plus, I gave him the rest of the bonds and even the original, and he grabbed them without gloves, so don’t worry, he’s the one who’s going to end up in prison for that crime.”

“You know your fed is going to realize that you made those bonds, right?” Raphael said.

“I don’t think so…”

“Él no es estúpido.”

“I never said he was, but there’s no way of knowing that I made them. I didn’t sign those bonds, it’s the first work I haven’t signed in years.”

“And yet it’s your best work.” Ragnor chimed in.

“That doesn’t matter anymore, what matters is that for the first time in more than two decades, my dear friends, I am free!” Magnus said, feeling those words finally sinking in. “And this time is for good.”

Raphael and Ragnor looked at each other and finally allowed themselves to smile.

“Then I guess this calls for a little celebration.” Ragnor said, already walking to Magnus’s fridge and taking out a bottle of champagne.

“You bought champagne?” Magnus asked surprised.

“Of course!” Ragnor exclaimed. “I was worried that something might go wrong, of course, but also very confident that you would succeed.” He said, opening the bottle and pouring three glasses, passing them around so they could make a toast. “So here’s to...to…” he hesitated, “to...fulfilled debts.”

“To perfect scores.” Raphael added.

“And to freedom.” Magnus said.

“To freedom.” They all repeated, clinking their glasses in the air.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was in his office filling in the reports about the criminal he had captured early that day. As soon as he had returned to the Bureau and presented Asmodeus to the authorities, the Interpol had sent him a statement informing him that the criminal was now in their custody and that they would be transferring him to their facilities in Lyon, France, in the next few days, so now Alec was just finishing up the reports that he had to deliver not only to Lydia, who had been pressuring him since they had returned, but to his boss and father as well.

There was a lot of paperwork to do and even more loose ends to solve, he had to not only list all the evidence found at the crime scene and wrap up the case about the Spanish Victory Bonds, but he had to make sure that Magnus’s name stayed clean and out of the final records. Because yes, Asmodeus Brown had been caught in one of Magnus’s secret lairs, but that didn't mean that both criminals were colluded, and although Alec still had to ask Magnus a lot of questions, including why he had turned over that man and what was his involvement in the elaboration of those bonds, he wasn’t going to let the Bureau link him to another criminal who clearly had nothing to do with him.

“Alec...can I come in?” His father said, poking his head through the door.

“Of course, I’m almost done with the reports.” He said, just in case his father was there to pressure him about them too.

“Okay, yeah, but I’m not here for that, I’m here to ask you a couple of questions that have been bothering me since you came back from capturing that man.”

“Okay...”

“Don’t you think that the timing of you figuring out that message and Asmodeus getting trapped in that building was too perfect to be just a coincidence?” Robert asked, taking a seat on one of the chairs. “I mean, Bane stopped sending you those postcards months ago, right? We know for sure that Asmodeus exchanged those bonds last week...then, why was he there today of all days? It was a great coincidence, don’t you think? The day that you discovered that message was the same day that one of the most wanted criminals ended up locked in the same place. I’m sorry, but this sounds too good to be true.”

“Well, I thought about that, too,” Alec lied, trying to stay calm, “but coincidences do happen, dad, I know it’s weird, but they happen and we were lucky that it happened to us.”

“I know,” Robert said, “but I still find it strange.” He said, and Alec tried not to panic. This had been the part he had been dreading since he had called the office to inform them that he had captured Asmodeus Brown in one of Magnus’s secret lairs: the moment someone began to ask the right questions.

“Was there any evidence of Bane’s presence there?” Robert asked.

“Nothing.” Alec informed him. “Just fingerprints and evidence against Brown. The only connection Bane has with all this mess are the postcards, but nothing more.”

“So just a lucky coincidence?”

“It seems so, yes.” Alec said.

“What about the money from the bonds? I heard that you only found a percentage of the profits that this criminal got.”

“Well, we’re assuming that Brown has the rest hidden somewhere else or used it to pay his accomplices, but ultimately that’s not our concern anymore, remember that the Interpol has him in their custody now, so as far as the Bureau is concerned, that’s no longer our problem. They’ll have to figure out what happened to the rest of the money all by themselves.”

“Well, hmmm...make sure to include this information in the reports, okay? I’m certain I’m not the only one who's wondering about this.”

“It’s already there, dad.”

“Okay, fine. Hmmm, I’ll go back to my office and wait for your final report.” Robert said, awkwardly standing up and heading for the door. “You did well today, Alec, I’m-I’m proud of you.” He said, and walked out of the office without even giving Alec a chance to say anything else.

Alec stood there looking at the closed door and not knowing what to do. Robert wasn’t the kind of father who went around saying that sort of thing, in fact, this was the second time in his life that Alec had heard him say those words to him. The first time had been when Alec had graduated with honors from the Academy, but even then he had felt that his father's words had been a bit forced given the circumstances, however, this time he had felt that his father had been sincere, as if he had really meant what he had said, and Alec didn’t know what to do with that. It was so unexpected and disconcerting that he-

“Alec, I'm sorry to bother you.” Izzy said, entering his office and snapping him out of his thoughts. “But they want you in the interrogation room.”

“Why?” Alec asked confused. “I thought the Interpol had taken care of that. Wasn’t the agent who would be interrogating him supposed to arrive an hour ago?”

“Yes, Agent Dieudonne arrived on time and after he did all the paperwork he tried to interrogate him, but the criminal requested to speak with you first.”

“With me? Why?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t there when he asked him, I just know he told Agent Dieudonne that he would cooperate if and only if he could talk to you first. I guess he just wants to see the man who captured him before opening his mouth and spending the rest of his life in a cell.”

Alec frowned. “Okay, well, I’ll be there right away, could you finish the reports for me? I just need to add the statement from the National Archives and that's it.”

“Sure, don’t worry.”

Alec stood from his desk and headed for the interrogation room. The area had been cleared, probably following the usual protocol they had when handling dangerous criminals and international affairs, so there were only two guards by the door and the Interpol agent.

“Agent Lightwood?” The agent asked.

“Yes, Alec Lightwood, nice to meet you.” He said, extending his hand to the other agent in a polite way.

“Malachi Dieudonne,” the agent said, shaking hands with him, “I know this is unusual.” He added, pointing to the door on which Alec assumed Asmodeus was waiting for him. “But he refused to cooperate unless I granted him a meeting with you.”

“No problem.” Alec said. “He’s in there, I presume?”

Malachi nodded. “He asked for a conversation off the records with you, so I’ll clear the room so you two can have some privacy. Don’t worry, he’s handcuffed to the desk so he won’t give you any problems, however, if you need something, the guards and I will be waiting in the hallway.” He said, taking the guards with him and leaving Alec alone with just a door separating him from the criminal.

Alec took a deep breath to prepare himself for what awaited him inside and opened the door. And there, handcuffed to the desk just as Agent Dieudonne had told him, was Asmodeus Brown. He was smiling broadly, as if he found this situation extremely entertaining.

“I’m glad to see you again, Agent Lightwood, please feel right at home.” He pointed to the empty chair in front of him. “I apologize for being such a bad host and having nothing to offer you, but as you can see, there’s little I can do with these things on my wrists.” He said, showing him the handcuffs.

Alec frowned—this man was very weird. “Why did you ask to see me?” He asked, approaching the desk, but not sitting down.

“Because I wanted to see the man who finally managed to capture me,” Asmodeus said, “well, at least the man who’s taking credit for it, because we both know you didn't work alone, agent.”

“I don’t have time for this.” Alec said, walking toward the door. He had a hunch that if he stayed there, this conversation would not end well for anyone.

“Did you really think I wasn’t aware that you and my son were working together?” The man asked.

Alec stopped dead in his tracks. “Your-your son?” He asked, not quite believing what he had just heard.

“Oh, he didn’t tell you!” Asmodeus exclaimed amused. “I can’t say I blame him, I haven’t been the best father in the world, but I’m sure even you can see the resemblance.”

Alec turned around and looked at the criminal, noting with horror that what this man had just said was true. The resemblance was striking. Magnus did look a lot like his father—same olive skin, same dark hair and same intense brown eyes. They were very, very similar and that vision made him feel sick for a moment.

“What does it feel like to capture your boyfriend's father?”

“Magnus isn’t my boyfriend.” Alec said immediately.

“And yet, you know who I’m talking about.” The man said with a grin.

Alec cursed under his breath. He had been stupid for a minute and fallen right into this man’s trap. Asmodeus hadn’t mentioned Magnus’s name, not even once, and now Alec had given him what he had wanted to hear—that it was true and they had worked together. He’d have to be more careful from now on, he was just realizing that just like Magnus, this man knew how to play with people’s minds.

“What do you want?” Alec asked.

“Just to chat with you for a bit.” Asmodeus said. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for some weeks now, you intrigue me, agent.” The man added, watching him closely.

Alec could feel those oddly familiar eyes scanning him from head to toe, and although he felt insecure and really exposed, he kept his head straight and held his gaze.

“I followed my son one day, you know?” Asmodeus continued. “To keep an eye on him and see what he was up to. I was in the city on business and decided to stop by his place, but unfortunately he was on his way out. That’s not strange, though, he’s always on the move, planning new heists and driving you all insane, but he was dressed too smart to go to work, so instead of greeting him and telling him I was in town, I decided to follow him, and do you know what happened?”

Alec shook his head, he didn’t dare to speak.

“He went to you apartment, agent.” Asmodeus said with a smile.

Alec tried not to show his sudden panic, but it was hard to contain. This man knew about them and not just that, he knew where he lived!

“At first I didn’t know it was «your» apartment, of course. I had no clue who you were, I thought you were just one of those one-night stands he tends to have from time to time, but a few days later I realized that he kept coming back to you...every, single, day.” Asmodeus said, taking his time to utter those last three words and give them a more dramatic emphasis. “So that really piqued my curiosity and I had no choice but to do some research on you, agent. I asked around to see who you were and to my surprise I discovered that my son had involved himself with a federal agent, and not with any federal agent, but with the one who had been trying to catch him for years.”

Alec took deep breaths—his worst nightmare was coming true.

“Don’t worry, agent, I won’t tell anyone here what I know.”

“Wh-why?”

“It’s none of my business what you two do with each other.”

“Then why are you telling me all this?”

Asmodeus shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess I just wanted to see your reaction and learn to know you better.”

Alec frowned.

“My son has a past, agent, and so far all his previous lovers have shared the same characteristic: they were with him not because he was someone they thought was worth it, but because they wanted to get something out of him—money, jewelry, prestige. So that made me wonder what a renewed federal agent such as yourself could possibly want from someone like him, but I didn’t find the answer.”

“I don’t want anything from him.”

“I know, I can see that now.” Asmodeus said with a smile. “It’s curious, you know? I didn’t know what he saw in you, but now I kind of do. You’re handsome, more handsome than the last men he’s been with and much more interesting than any other girl he’s ever dated, but that’s not what has him following you around like a lost puppy, no, it’s something else...something that’s always managed to get him into trouble.”

Alec clenched his jaw. He was dying to ask what, but he wasn’t sure it was the best idea. This man already knew too much about them and he certainly didn’t need to know that Alec was very intrigued to know what Magnus liked about him, he knew it could be counterproductive for everyone.

“Is that all you have to say?” Alec said instead. He figured that pretending to be unaffected by this man’s words was the best strategy to deal with this strange and somewhat creepy conversation.

“Aren’t you wondering why Magnus turned over his own father to the authorities?”

“No, he must have his reasons.” Alec said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“You aren’t a very good liar, agent.”

“Think whatever you want.”

“Would you believe me if I told you that technically he’s been working for me all these years?” Asmodeus asked.

Alec wanted to shake his head and tell this man that that couldn't possibly be true, but for some reason he couldn’t.

“Well, he has.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. Why would I need to lie to you, agent? We’re practically family, with you dating my son and everything. Families don’t do that to each other, they don’t lie to one another.”

“We’re not family, we will never be, but if what you’re saying is true, then I’m sure you forced him to do it somehow.”

“You have too much faith in him, agent, does he know how much you believe in his innocence? I have to admit it, your naivete is kind of adorable.” Asmodeus said smiling. “But well, I have to give you this one, agent, I did force him. Do you want to know how?”

Alec shook his head and walked to the door. He had had enough of this man’s nonsense, he wasn't going to stay there any longer to hear him making fun of them or trying to tell him some twisted story about Magnus.

“Are you quite sure, agent?” Asmodeus asked when Alec was already by the door. “Because it’s a pretty good story, in fact, I’m sure that you among all people will appreciate it...it’s about a boy, his sick mother and his father.”

Alec would have loved to have the strength to just walk out of that room and stop listening to this man, but curiosity overcame him and he stood there, looking at the doorknob, but not daring to grab it.

“Maybe you’ll want to sit down for this one.” Asmodeus said.

Alec could hear the triumph in his voice, so just to make very clear who was in command here, he turned around and stood near the desk, crossing his arms in front of him and just waiting for whatever this man had to say.

“I like you, agent, I really do.” Asmodeus said, smiling approvingly at him. “But anyway, back to the story...a long time ago, there was a boy whose mother was very sick. They were very poor and had many debts, so the boy couldn't take her to the doctor. Desperate and not knowing what to do, the boy went to see his father and asked him for help. The father, out of the kindness of his heart, gave his son some money and that's how their story began.”

“Are you being serious right now?” Alec asked when he noticed that Asmodeus was telling the story as some sort of bad bedtime story.

“Yes, now stop interrupting or I won’t finish it and you’ll have to go ask my son for an explanation and never know if he told you the truth.” Asmodeus said. “As I was saying, with the money his generous father gave him, the boy took his mother to the doctor, but soon he found himself in need of more money. His mother’s health was just getting worse and there wasn’t time to lose, so the father, seeing the potential of his son and the situation in which he was, offered him a deal—an unlimited amount of money to pay for whatever treatment his mother might need in exchange for some assistance in his hmmm...illegal jobs.”

Alec gasped, he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

“So, of course, the boy said yes. Despite how she had treated him, he couldn't see his mother suffer, so he agreed, and father and son began to work together. Over the years, the expenses of the boy’s mother started to increase and since money doesn’t grow on trees, both father and son had to come to a new agreement to make things work for both of them. The boy wanted to stop working for the father, but the father needed some kind of assurance that his son would still pay him the debt he had acquired with him, so he made him sign a contract.”

Alec’s eyes widened.

“Long story short,” Asmodeus continued, “the boy’s mother died anyway and the father made sure that his son spent years and years paying him for every penny he had used to try to save her life. When the son finally managed to pay his debt, the bastard betrayed his own father and set him up, so that he ended up being arrested and charged for a crime he didn’t commit. The end.”

Alec was silent for a moment. He knew that perhaps nothing of what this man had said was true, but somehow it made sense. Magnus had mentioned a debt once, he had said something about buying time, and although he didn’t have all the details about that part of Magnus’s life, it kind of fit with what this man had said. He could see a young Magnus asking his father for money to save his mother—he could see it clearly.

“Why did you share this story with me? It doesn’t make sense, you should be trying to make me hate him, not-” Alec bit his tongue before saying something that he wasn’t ready to say out loud yet.

Asmodeus smiled. “Why would I want you to hate my son?”

“I don’t know, so that I do what I have to do and put him behind bars?” Alec asked confused. This conversation made no sense at all.

“He’s a very good asset, it would be a shame if he ended up in jail so soon. Besides, if I wanted him behind bars, I would just have to open my mouth and say that I had nothing to do with the bonds. I’m sure he didn’t sign them, he’s too smart for that, but you know that every artist has its own unique style, I’m sure you have enough material in your possession to match any of his previous works with the bonds and prove that he did them, but we want to protect him, so you're not going to do that and I'm not going to open my mouth either.”

“So you’re willing to pay for a crime you did not commit?”

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

Alec frowned, he didn’t know what to say.

“Look, agent, we all have our reasons, okay? You protect him because you care about him and believe he’s not the bad guy you’ve been chasing for years, I do it because it’s convenient for me at the moment.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing,” Asmodeus said, “so just take this conversation and what I told you about him as a gift for the future.”

Alec frowned again.

“My son only makes sacrifices for the people he truly loves, all the rest? He just uses them and then disposes of them like garbage. It’s in his nature, so when you two are at that point and have to prove your loyalties to each other, remember this story.”

“Why?”

“Because only then you’ll know what he really feels for you and if what you’ve been doing for him was worth it. You’ve been protecting him for months, and we know you’ll keep protecting him because you have feelings for him, but is he worthy of that sacrifice on your part? You’re risking too much for him, agent, is he doing the same for you?” He asked. “Don’t answer that, I don't need to know, but remember my words, okay? We all have our weaknesses, don't let him be yours. Because it doesn't matter if you want to believe it or not, he’s a criminal, he isn’t a good person.”

“You don’t know him.” Alec said, walking toward the door.

“Oh, but I do...I do. After all, I made him who he is.”

Alec rolled his eyes and opened the door.

“I’ll see you soon, agent.”

Alec ignored him and just closed the door behind him. This encounter had left him all kinds of confused and with a lot of questions, and there was only one person who could give him the answers.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus was putting the glasses and dishes away after the celebration dinner he had had with his friends when his doorbell rang, startling him a little.

“Alexander, what a pleasant surprise!” Magnus said when he opened the door and found the agent standing there. He usually called or texted before arriving, as Magnus did when it was the other way around, but apparently today they had ignored all their rules. “I wasn’t expecting you, it's not that I’m not glad to see you, of course, you know you’re always welcome in my home, but what are you doing here? I thought you’d be celebrating.”

“Why did you give me that man?” Alec asked, entering the loft.

“Well, because you’re a federal agent and he’s a criminal. As far as I know that’s your job, right? To stop and put criminals behind bars. Besides, I thought you’d like to catch a big fish while we find Valentine. Is the FBI going to give you a medal or something?”

“No.” Alec said simply.

Magnus looked at him closely. The agent was acting strange. Usually he was very effusive when they met after a long day of work, but tonight he hadn’t even kissed him when he had come in. Not that it was some sort of obligation, but usually they were very affectionate with each other and the fact that Alec looked so uncomfortable standing there, was starting to worry him.

“Are you okay? You’re acting a bit weird.” Magnus said.

Alec took a deep breath before answering. “I’m not sure...I-I-I want to-I...there’s something I need to ask you, but I want you to be completely honest with me, okay?”

“Okay...what is it?” Magnus asked hesitantly. He didn’t know what to expect from this conversation. When he had pictured what it would be like the next time he saw Alec after giving him Asmodeus, he hadn’t pictured this serious and quite uncomfortable scenario.

“The bonds that Asmodeus Brown had with him...you did them, didn’t you? They weren’t signed, but I saw them, I’ve seen what you can do.”

Magnus felt trapped for a second, he had seriously underestimated Alec’s observation skills. He had hoped that with the lack of signature and the prints on the bonds, Alec thought that that man had been behind the fraud all along, but apparently he had been wrong.

“Please tell me the truth.” Alec pleaded.

Magnus took a deep breath. A few weeks ago he would have lied to him right on the spot and without thinking twice, but so much had changed between them since then that now he couldn't do it anymore.

“I did.” He said.

“Why?” Alec asked. He sounded a bit hurt, so Magnus just shrugged in response. He knew there was nothing he could say that would make Alec feel better about this.

“Did you redeem the bonds too?” Alec continued asking, even though he seemed very conflicted with all this.

“Alec…”

“Please tell me.”

“I did.”

“Okay, so help me understand. You redeemed more than a thousand bonds,” the agent said, “but the money found in that building was only a percentage, did you keep the rest?”

“No.” Magnus said sincerely. He wished he could tell him the whole truth, he wished he could be honest for once in his life and tell him why he had done what he had done, but he couldn’t. “You know I don’t work alone.” He said instead.

“Did you keep any money from that score?” Alec asked.

“No.”

“That man had in his possession exactly 45% of the total amount generated by the fraud. The money we found there, that percentage, was it yours?”

“Yes and no.”

“Explain.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

Magnus didn’t answer.

Alec took a deep breath. “You were paying a debt to that man, weren’t you? You told me about a debt once.” He said.

Magnus just nodded.

“A debt to your father.” Alec added.

Magnus felt the air in his lungs being ripped away from him. What was he supposed to say? For starters, Alec shouldn't know that information. He had made sure there were no traces of his blood connection to that man. He had avoided telling anyone but his friends who that man was. First, because he wasn’t proud of the blood running through his veins, and second, because his father, though not as violent as Valentine, was also a very, very dangerous man.

“How do you know that?” Magnus asked.

“He told me.” Alec said.

“Well, now you know…” Magnus exhaled, “that man is my father.”

“Is that why you became a criminal? Did you want to be like him?”

“He told you that?” Magnus asked, appalled. He couldn’t believe that man had dared to say that. “No, Alexander, I didn’t want to be like him, on the contrary, that was my greatest fear, to end up being like him.”

“Then why did you become a criminal?”

“Because I had to!” Magnus exclaimed. He wasn't sure when, but this conversation had turned into some kind of interrogation, and he wasn't liking that.

"To help your mother?" Alec inquired.

Magnus opened his mouth in surprise. He knew that Alec knew way more than he was sharing, but he never imagined he knew «that» much.

“He told me that too.” Alec added.

“Then you already know all there is to know, there’s nothing else to talk about.” Magnus said, turning around and heading for the kitchen. He didn’t want to have a disagreement with Alec over this. It wasn’t his fault that Magnus's father had shared information with him, but they couldn't have this conversation, not now, not ever.

“No, wait!” Alec said, grabbing his arm to stop him. “I want to hear it from you.”

“That can’t happen, you already know way more than you should. What I did in my past, what I did not so long ago, wasn’t exactly legal and I don’t want to add more charges to my sentence. That’s why we agreed to never have this conversation, Alexander. I know you want to know, but I can’t tell you anything. Especially not after seeing how conflicted you are with how little you already know about me, so please do us both a favor and stop asking what you clearly don’t want to hear.”

Alec took a deep breath and released him.

Magnus thought that that would be the end of the discussion, but the agent reached inside his jacket and pulled out his gun, making Magnus to panic for a second. He knew they had a truce and that Alec had agreed not to arrest him while they worked together, but God knew what his father had told him and if any of that had made Alec change his mind. “What are you doing?” He asked hesitantly.

“Giving you immunity for the next ten hours.” The agent said, putting his gun and badge on the table.

“What!?” Magnus asked confused.

“What you heard, for the next ten hours, or until I have to go back to the office, you can tell me everything you’ve ever done and I won’t be able to add anything to your file. That man said a lot of stuff about you, your mother and that debt you had with him, and I don’t want to keep asking you things and not getting answers. I understand that in your life you've done a lot of illegal stuff, but I'm willing to listen and not judge if you're willing to share.”

“Are you serious?” Magnus asked, not quite believing this man.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if I weren’t serious.” Alec said, now taking off his jacket and tossing it on the couch.

“You could hear things you probably won’t like.” Magnus warned him.

“I know.”

“You could end up hating me.”

“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. You already told me that you haven’t killed anyone, so whatever you’ve done can’t be that bad.”

Magnus sighed. “Why do you want to hear it from me? It's not very different from what you already know.”

“I don’t know, I just  need to hear this from you.”

“But, why?”

“Because I need to! Please?” Alec said, and Magnus finally understood the meaning behind that conflicted expression on the agent’s face. Alec wasn’t conflicted because he knew some bad things about Magnus’s past, he was conflicted because he thought Magnus didn’t trust him.

"You think I don't trust you." Magnus said aloud. "How can you even think that, huh, Alexander? You're the person I trust the most in the world! If I haven't shared my life with you it's because I was trying to protect you, I didn't want to put you in this situation."

"And you didn't, I did." Alec said.

"Okay, fine." Magnus said resigned. "If this is what you really want, then let's go sit down. This is going to be a very long night, so it's better if we're comfortable."

Chapter Text

Alec sat down on the couch and waited patiently for Magnus to take out a bottle of white wine and pour two glasses for them. The criminal looked nervous, as Alec had never seen him before, and although he tried to conceal it with a smile, Alec knew him too well already to be able to see through the facade and know that the expression on his face was more false than a thirteen-dollar bill. It was clear that this wasn't easy for him, but well...neither was it for Alec.

When he had first decided to come here to talk to Magnus, he hadn't known what to expect from all this. At first he had had many doubts, many questions that even now he didn't know if the criminal would ever answer, but of one thing he had been certain: one way or another they had to talk. Their situation was quite complicated and he was aware of what it meant for both of them that he, a federal agent, knew of Magnus's criminal past, but the only way they could make things work between them was if they trusted each other completely.

"Everything's going to be fine." Alec said, trying to reassure the criminal that what he had said before, that nothing would make him hate him, was nothing but the truth. "It's just me."

Magnus smiled—this time sincerely—and sat down on the opposite side of the couch, handing Alec his glass of wine.

As usual, the amber liquid tasted delicious, like nothing Alec had tasted before.

“It all started when I was eight.” Magnus began to share his story.

“Wait, you started to be a criminal when you were eight?” Alec asked in surprise. He had been expecting to hear a young age, after all, Asmodeus had spoken of a boy, but Alec had imagined a boy of about twelve or thirteen years old, not an eight-year-old. Magnus had literally been a kid when all this had started.

Magnus nodded. “Maybe I should go back a bit in the story so you can have the whole picture.” He said. “I was born in Indonesia-”

“You were born in Indonesia?” Alec interrupted again. “Do you speak Indonesian?” He asked. There were so many things he didn’t know about Magnus that it was hard for him to hold back and not ask.

Magnus limited himself to nod.

“Can you tell me something in Indonesian?”

“I can, but do you want me to tell you the story, or are you going to keep interrupting me every two words?” Magnus asked with a smile.

“Sorry, you're right, please ignore me and just go on.” Alec said a bit ashamed of his insatiable curiosity.

“I don't know my parents’ story,” Magnus continued, “I don't even know how they met, all I know is that somehow thirty years ago I was conceived. My mother was young when she met my father, very young, or at least that was what she said. The truth is that I'm not sure about any of this, she almost never talked about him and the few times she did it was to curse him for ruining her life, so I don't know exactly how things happened between them or what went wrong. Maybe the age difference was a determining factor or something else, who knows, but the thing is that when she found out she was pregnant, they were no longer together and so she never told him about my existence.”

“She had you on her own?”

“Yes.” Magnus nodded. “Then, when I was four she met a guy, a writer or that was what he said he was, I never saw him grab a pen or write a full sentence, but never mind, she was happy with him, he was kind to her and treated her well. They started dating and shortly after, they got married. It’s not a secret that I was always a big burden for my mother, she never wanted to have me in the first place, but well, I was her son and she couldn't get rid of me that easily, so despite how much she wished I didn’t exist, she had to take me to live with her and her new husband. The problem was that his guy didn’t like me, he didn’t like me at all.”

“Why?”

“I never knew for sure,” Magnus said with a shrug, “but I figured it was because I was my father's son. He said it all the time, he said I was the living image of my father and that I would surely end up like him." He added with a sad expression.

“I know I said I wouldn’t be interrupting, but I have to ask you something...do you really remember all this?” Alec asked. “Because so far it seems as if you were sharing your memories of that time, and well, you were only four, most kids have no vivid memories of their childhoods.”

“I know, but I had a rough introduction to life, Alexander, so almost all those bad things I once went through are still here.” He said, pointing to his head.

Alec put his glass down on the coffee table and got closer to Magnus. He wanted to wrap this man in a blanket and hug him until they became one, but since that was physically impossible, he just grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly.

“My step-father was a nightmare, he despised me with every fiber of his being,” Magnus continued, “when for whatever reason he got angry, he always used me as his personal punching bag and beat the crap out of me.”

“What!?” Alec exclaimed appalled.

“Yeah, and a couple of times he even...well, he even tried to get rid of me. That was how much he hated me.”

“Get rid of you as in-?” Alec asked, not even daring to finish that question. He couldn’t believe that Magnus had been treated like that by his own family—it wasn't fair, he had been just a kid.

Magnus didn’t answer, but nodded, confirming what Alec had asked and breaking his heart into a million pieces.

“Magnus, I’m so sorry…” Alec said, not really knowing what else to say. “This is so...horrible! God! And your mother? Didn’t she try to stop him? To help you?”

“The first time it happened, yes, I was her only son, she had a little love for me somewhere in her heart, but the second time...well, she just pretended she wasn’t there and let him do whatever he wanted with me.”

Alec gasped in horror. Knowing all this about Magnus was helping him to understand and even admire those mysterious and complex layers of Magnus’s personality. “I’m so sorry you had to go through all that.”

“Don’t be, it’s in the past.”

“Still…” Alec said.

Magnus just smiled softly and continued. “Then my mother got sick. At first she was only tired, but soon after she started to complain of a pain in her bones. We didn't have any money, so we couldn't take her to see a doctor and know what was happening to her, instead we tried some home remedies, ointments and teas, but none of that really helped. She was tired all the time and the pain was getting stronger and stronger. Our lives gradually became a real hell, Alexander, you have no idea.” Magnus said. “One morning, when I woke up, I discovered that my stepfather had left us. He was a coward, so I wasn't surprised that as soon as things started to get complicated he ran away, but nonetheless it was very shocking to me. Suddenly I was left alone with a very sick mother and a long list of debts to pay. My stepfather was a gambler, in fact I can tell you he was more of a gambler than a writer, so when people in town heard that he had fled, they came to my house and demanded that we pay them.”

“And what did you do?” Alec asked.

“My mother told them that we would try to find a way to pay them, but she just said it to reassure them, we didn't have any money, there was no way that we could pay them any time soon. So I did what any other kid in my situation would have done, I tried to get a job. It didn't work, though, no one wanted to hire a kid, and that was when I decided to look for the only person I thought could help me.”

“Your father.” Alec said.

“Yes, I was eight when I met him. I didn't even know who he was or what his name was, I just knew that somewhere I had a father and that maybe he could help me."

"And how did you find him?"

"One of our neighbors had met him once, when he had come to visit my mother, so she offered me some help to find him.” Magnus said. “It took us a few days, but eventually I found out who he was and I went to him. He was surprised to see me, of course, he had no idea who I was or what I was doing at his home, but when I told him who my mother was and how old I was, he smiled. I thought he was happy to have a son, I thought that despite the circumstances this was going to be a good thing for everyone. Any kid wants to be with their parents and have a family, but well, it wasn't quite like that.”

“What happened?”

“At first he helped me, he gave me enough money so that I could take my mother to the doctor and pay some of our debts. I felt relieved, she and I didn't have the best of relationships but I loved her, she was my mom, and although the fact that I had accepted my father's help only distanced us more, I didn't care—I had to save her. So I accepted my father’s money and took her to the doctor...that's when everything fell apart.” Magnus said, taking some time to continue. Alec could see how much it still hurt him to talk about this part of his life.

“It turned out that she was dying,” Magnus continued, “she had cancer—bone cancer. Her situation was very delicate, but the doctors were hopeful that with the right treatment she was going to be fine. The problem was that, as in any part of the world, the treatments for that type of disease were very, very expensive.”

“So you went to your father again.” Alec assumed. It made sense, Magnus had no one.

“Yes, I had no choice, I was desperate." Magnus said.

"And what happened?"

"My father offered me a deal," Magnus continued, "he would pay all of my mother's expenses if I agreed to do some small jobs for him. He told me that he was only doing that so that I could learn to earn the money he was giving me, and I said yes—I was a kid, I trusted him. Anyway, after that I took my mother to the doctor and we started the treatment. A couple of weeks later the man showed up on my doorstep and asked me to go with him to do one of those jobs that he had told me about.”

“And you went?”

“Of course I went, I had given him my word.”

Alec didn't know what to say, the story was so cruel and wrong on so many levels. There was no doubt that Asmodeus had only shared a part of it, the whole story was more heartbreaking than Alec had been expecting, so he just squeezed Magnus's hand tightly to reassure him that he was there, and listened intently.

“He took me to this fancy building in Jakarta. He said I had to sneak into one of the offices and get a key for him. He said it wasn't a bad thing, just a prank for his friend who worked there, so I did it without a second thought.” Magnus confessed. “It was easy, I was a kid, so naturally no one raised an eyebrow when, pretending to play hide and seek, I snuck into one of the main offices and took the key. I didn't know it then, but that was the moment that all this crap started.”

“Oh, Magnus…”

“Things went on like that for a few months, he asked me to take things from people and always told me they were his friends. When I started to realize that he was lying and that what I was doing was called stealing, I got scared. I was terrified that the police could come and get me, so I told my neighbor that we needed to hide from my father because he was a bad man and she helped us escape. She had a brother who lived in Spain, he was a monk, so she told him about us and he offered us refuge in his monastery. I saved some money and when I had the chance, I took my mother and fled from my country.”

“You went to Spain?”

“Yes, I was terrified of my father and in my innocence I thought he would never find us there, but I was wrong. It took him some months, but eventually he found us.” Magnus said. “When he came to the monastery he tried to make me work for him again, but I refused. I was eleven by then, I knew better, but my mother's health hadn't improved with the trip, on the contrary, she was worse, we had interrupted her treatment, so I had to swallow my pride and accept his help again.”

“And the monks?”

“The monks tried to help us, but they didn't have much money, they could only offer us food and shelter.” Magnus said. “Anyway, from that moment on my life changed, I started working with my father again and he started teaching me stuff—how to pick locks, how to steal someone's wallet without being noticed, how security systems worked, etc...all the basics to be a criminal, but at the same time the monks were teaching me everything about history, science, literature, the arts; Brother Abraham was very skilled with the brush, he was the one who taught me how to paint. My formative years were difficult to say the least, more than once I found myself wondering who I really was. The boy the monks were teaching him how to be good, compassionate and to do good deeds, or the boy my father was turning into a replica of himself."

“You’re nothing like him.” Alec couldn’t help saying. He had met Asmodeus, he had talked to him, and that man had nothing to do with Magnus—nothing. They were complete opposites.

“You think?”

“I’m sure.” Alec said confidently. It was important that Magnus knew that despite the influence his father had had on him, he didn’t resemble him in the least.

“It’s good to hear that.” Magnus said with a smile.

Alec smiled back. “And then what happened?” He asked. “How long did you stay in Spain?”

“A couple of years,” Magnus said, “my mother wasn't quite right, but she was still alive, I had no reason to want to move from there, but then I heard about some new health treatments here in the States, so I asked my father if we could bring her here to cure her once and for all, and he agreed.”

“Did you come to New York?”

“No, to Boston. The Cancer Institute was in Boston's Longwood Medical Area.”

“How old were you then?”

“Fourteen almost fifteen.”

“You were still so young.” Alec couldn't help saying.

“I was, but not so much in criminal terms. I was growing up, so obviously I couldn't keep using the innocent-kid stunt I had exploited for years, and that was when my father forced me to get involved in other stuff...more dangerous stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Well, robbing banks, participating in millionaire frauds, forging valuable paintings...that sort of thing.”

“Was he still paying your mom’s expenses?”

“Yes, although technically I was doing it because I was the one getting his hands dirty.” Magnus said. “I was pretty skilled, with all my years of experience I could go in and out of buildings in record time and without even triggering the alarms.”

“Tell me about it.” Alec said laughing. If there was a person in the world who knew about the brilliant set of skills that Magnus possessed that was Alec.

“I've been a headache, haven't I?”

“Yes you have, but please go on.”

“Well, then I turned sixteen and like any teenager, I rebelled against my parents. I was tired of my life, I was tired of having to steal in order to survive. I didn’t want to be a criminal, I wanted to be something else, so I ran away.”

“You ran away?”

“Yes, my mother was in remission, so I told myself, why not? And I left. I came here to New York, I changed my name and started working in a coffee shop. It was good, my salary wasn’t the best, but I was finally having the life I had always wanted...and that's when I met Ragnor.”

o-o-o-o-o

Sharing his life with Alexander had turned out to be harder than he had thought it would be, and not because he didn't trust the agent, he had already told him that he did and he had meant it, but reliving all his past, despite all the time that had passed since then, was still very painful for him.

“Where did you meet him?” Alec asked.

“In the coffee shop, he got a job a few weeks after I started working there.” Magnus said. “He had just arrived from London and he needed money, the owner of the place was a very good person, so she didn't hesitate to give him a chance too."

"Did you guys become friends right away?"

"Yes, we did.” Magnus said with a smile. “From the moment we met, there was an understanding between us that we couldn't explain. We were two young boys trying to make it big in the city and although he's older than me—eight years older than me—that age difference never mattered between us. We had no one, we were both alone in this intimidating city, so we became each other's family. It was nice, we rented a very shitty apartment in Washington Heights and we became full-time New Yorkers. It was a great time, those days were the best of my life, unfortunately a few months later the bubble burst.”

“Your father.” Alec tried to guess.

“Yeah, that man was worse than the cancer that had been eating my mother.” Magnus confessed.

“He found you?”

“Yes, and he even brought my mother with him. He knew it was the only way I was going to do something, but even with her here I refused, I refused because I didn't want to go back to that life, I was done with all that. But then he showed me stuff…” Magnus said, remembering that day as if it had happened just yesterday, “videos and pictures of me stealing all those banks, jewelry shops and museums. I didn’t know that he had done that, it took me completely by surprise, and well, he...he-”

“He blackmailed you.”

Magnus nodded, thanking Alec’s quick mind and taking a deep breath. “So I quit my job and started working with him again.”

“And Ragnor?”

“Ragnor didn't know what I did at first.” Magnus confessed, recalling all those days when he came home and tried to avoid Ragnor for fear of being discovered. "For weeks I avoided him, pretending to be asleep or arriving when I knew he wasn't home so he couldn’t start asking me about my new mysterious job, but it was hard to hide it from him, we lived together, so sooner or later he discovered me.”

“He discovered you?”

“Yes.” Magnus laughed, remembering that day. “I was saving money from the scores I was being forced to do, I was getting a lot of cash and I wanted to save a little just in case I might need it in the future, but since I couldn't just go and open a bank account to put it there, I started to hide it in a box under my bed. One day when I arrived home after having stolen two diamonds from a private collection of this very famous jewelry located on Fifth Avenue, I was surprised to see that Ragnor was waiting for me inside my room. It was late, so I thought he would be asleep, but well, he was not. He was very much awake, sitting there on my bed and looking at me as if I were his errant son coming home way past his curfew."

Alec laughed.

“He had the box where I had been putting all my money next to him, so he demanded an explanation.” Magnus continued. “I tried to come up with something to explain what that box was doing under my bed, but there was no way to justify that amount of money, much less in cash, so I had no choice but to tell him the truth—the whole truth. He listened to me without judgment and when I finished my story, he just looked me in the eye and said he would help me, not only with the upcoming scores, but to find a way to retrieve that evidence that my father had against me. I told him that he didn't need to do that, I didn’t want to get him into any of this mess, but he insisted, saying there was no way he was going to let me keep doing any of this on my own. So after that we became a team. He has the mind of a strategist and knows a lot of people, so he became the brains behind the operation and my right hand man. He helped me plan the next scores and made sure everything went well for us. It was a good thing, you know? With him by my side I wasn't so scared anymore, I knew that if something bad happened he would be there, having my back as he'd had it from the first moment we met.”

“He's like your big brother.”

“In more than one way.” Magnus said with a smile. “Then, well...my mother's cancer came back. I had some savings, but I didn't have enough money to pay for the treatment, so I told my father to give me a higher percentage of what we were getting from the scores and he agreed, but only on the condition that I signed a contract to make it official that I would be working for him for a while. I was eighteen by then, a legal adult, so I did it, I screwed up and I did it. I signed without knowing what I was getting myself into. So when my mother died and I no longer needed the extra money, he showed me what I had signed and well, it turned out to be my own death sentence.”

“Why?”

“By signing that stupid contract I had promised to pay him all the money he had given me through the years with a very high and quite insane interest rate. The document said that if I could pay him in a year, then the contract would be canceled, if not then for each year I couldn't pay, he would add a zero to my debt. I owed him a lot, he started lending me money when I was eight, so...”

“So...you've been paying him all these years?”

“Yes.”

“He said that you had signed that contract because you wanted to be free and he needed a guarantee that you would pay him his money,” Alec said, "I thought it had been a conscious decision on your part, not that he had deceived you to do it. He’s worse than I thought he could be, I mean, you are his son...his blood runs through your veins, why did he do that to you?"

“Because he hates me? I don’t know, Alexander, I stopped asking myself those questions a long time ago. Anyway, what he told you isn't true, he always twists the stories to make himself look good, but I signed that contract just to have enough money to pay for my mother's treatment, I had no idea it was a hoax.” Magnus said. “But never mind, after he showed me what I had signed, I knew I had no choice but to become a real criminal. It was the only thing I knew how to do and I was good at it, so I took the easy way out and decided to become independent. I wanted to do it under my own terms, so I told him that I would no longer work for him and that I would find a way to pay him.”

“And that's when you started working on your own.” Alec assumed.

“Yes, I embraced what I had become, and Magnus Bane, the criminal you know, was born. I told Ragnor, ‘if I have to be a criminal then I'll be the best criminal in the world,’ and I started to study more and to be better at what I did, do you want to know what was my first big score as Magnus Bane?”

Alec nodded enthusiastically.

“I stole from my father all the evidence he had about me and burned it.” Magnus said, smiling at the memory of that glorious day. “Then, with the ashes, I wrote him a little message on the wall—a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci.”

“What did you write?”

“Tristo è quel discepolo che non avanza il suo maestro.” Magnus said in perfect Italian. “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.” He translated it into English.

“You mocked him.”

“Yes, I hated him for what he had done to me and I thought it was funny,” Magnus confessed, “I’ve always had a slightly twisted sense of humor. Anyway, after that I tried to pay him in the year he had given me, but I failed. Ragnor and I didn't have much experience working on our own, so our first attempt to rob a casino in Las Vegas didn't go as planned.”

“The Mandalay Bay casino, eleven years ago.” Alec said, much to Magnus’s surprise.

“Yes, how do you know that?” Magnus asked intrigued.

“They teach us that one in Quantico.” Alec confessed. “The FBI has always suspected that you were behind that attack.”

“Well, they got that right, it was me, that casino was my first big epic fail.” Magnus shared with a bit of bitterness. The ghost of that failure would follow him all his life.

“Then what happened?”

“We met another friend and he convinced us to go to Europe. He said that the real money was there, so we followed him. We moved there and started to make a name for ourselves.” Magnus shared. He avoided naming that other friend because, unlike Ragnor, Raphael would never forgive him if he shared private information about him with a federal agent. “It wasn't hard, there were a lot of valuable things there—Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Greece, all countries had something we could steal.” He confessed. “And well, that was what we did, we were all over important countries, stealing paintings, jewelry and important things of great cultural value, making a business out of it. Ragnor and I planned the heists and our friend sold whatever we stole—we made a lot of money like that.”

“And with that money...did you start to pay your debt to your father?”

“Yes, sometimes I paid him in cash, some other times I gave him the stolen piece and he deducted the value of it from my endless debt, it all depended on how the market was at the moment. He was well known over there, so it wasn’t like he needed me to do all the dirty work.” Magnus said. “Anyway, long story short, I became quite famous in that part of the world, people knew that there was a criminal who was stealing all kinds of things without leaving any trace but my glitter, but no one knew who I was, the Interpol could never put me under their radar. It was easier to avoid the authorities when I could move around fast, I could commit a crime in Germany in the morning and be in Italy at night. It wasn't until I got here that you all could put a face to what I had done.”

“Then why did you return to this country?”

Magnus sighed. Of all the things he had done in his life, this part was the one he regretted the most. “Because I fell in love.”

o-o-o-o-o

“Oh.” Alec said, trying not to show emotion in his voice. He knew a bit about Magnus’s past lovers, over the years he had managed to find out some names of people who had been involved with the criminal in a romantic way, but this was the first time he was going to hear Magnus speak of them openly and that made him feel a bit anxious.

“Yeah, but that love turned out to be a big mistake. In fact, the moment I arrived here with her my life became a series of mistakes—one after the other. Everything I’d done up until that moment, all the things I had achieved crumbled down before my eyes.”

“What happened?” Alec asked.

“She used me.” Magnus confessed. “She was a swindler, a wolf in sheep's clothing, but I didn't know that when I first met her. She was mysterious, yes, but I thought it was all part of her charm. Anyway, she made me fall in love with her like a fool and I lost myself, I lost sight of who I was and what was important to me.”

“Was her name Camille? Camille Belcourt?” Alec couldn't help asking. He was remembering a note, a note he had found a long time ago and that had led him to discover Magnus's real name.

“How do you know that?” Magnus asked, genuinely surprised. “Did my father tell you about her? That’s weird, he never liked her.”

Alec shook his head. “He didn't mention anyone from your past, in fact, he didn’t even mention your name...I...I-” Alec hesitated. “Do you remember when you asked me how I had found out your real name? Well, I told you that I had found something and connected it to one of your cases. It was a note...addressed to her.” He confessed.

“Oh.”

“I know it’s weird, but I found it on the floor of that storage unit and recognized your handwriting, I had been following your case for some time by then and well, the FBI had some samples of your-”

“Wait,” Magnus interrupted him, “I do remember that note, I left it inside one of the boxes I didn’t want to see again in my life, but I didn't sign it, how did you-”

“I know,” Alec said nervously, “I know you didn't sign it, but you-you you left a map for her hidden between lines, that map led to a place in Central Park.”

“You figured it out?” Magnus asked, surprised.

Alec nodded. “And not just that...I-I-I also found the necklace.” He confessed. “It was camouflaged as part of a sculpture there and well, I took it. The moment I saw it, I knew it was the same necklace that had belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France and that you had stolen at some point during your time in that country. There were rumors that the mysterious glitter-obsessed criminal who had been causing chaos all over Europe had stolen it, so I requested to see what the Bureau had on that case. In the file there was a picture of the necklace and the first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t engraved like the one I had in my possession, so I assumed you had added that detail for her. I knew there weren't many places in the city where you could do that kind of work, let alone in such a valuable piece, so I asked around until I found the man who had helped you. I told him I was looking for you to give you back the necklace. He asked why and I told him that because the person to whom you had given it had passed away a few weeks ago. He believed me and looked in his files to see if there was anything on the record of that work that could help...and your name popped up. At first I thought it was just another one of your aliases, but when I tracked you down, I realized it was your real name.”

“See? Mistake after mistake.” Magnus said. “Even without knowing it, she gave me away." He added amused. "I can't believe you've actually deciphered the map I hid in the note and found the necklace.”

“You tended to underestimate the FBI, but I was not, I am not your average special agent.” Alec said with a soft smile. “But never mind that, you never gave it to her, why?”

“She left me.” Magnus said, as a matter of explanation. “She was just using me as a means to climb faster in the criminal world, so once she met someone more experienced and powerful than me...she left.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I was really in love with her, but she didn’t feel the same way about me. I learned the hard way that when love is a one-sided affair things end badly. Anyway, after she dumped me, I decided to stay here for good. Ragnor, who had decided to step away from me because of her, found me again and together we bought another place and returned to what we had been doing before I screwed up. We went to several cities in the country and did a couple of scores, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington D.C., Miami, San Diego…Las Vegas—Vegas truly is a magical place, we stayed there for some time.”

“To plan the Bellagio casino heist?” Alec asked just to be sure. He knew that Magnus had the Bellagio casino heist on his long list of misdeeds.

“Well, of course! I've never been into gambling for reasons that I’m sure now you understand, so why else would a man like myself spend half a year in a city like Vegas if it wasn't to steal a casino, huh?”

Alec laughed. “So it’s true...you were behind the attack to the Bellagio casino.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Was it a way to make a statement of your new abilities after your failed attempt to rob the Mandalay Bay years ago? Because between the two, the Bellagio had the best security system and you still managed to get into their vault and take the money without triggering the alarms.”

“Kind of, yeah, you could say that.” Magnus confessed.

“How did you do it?” Alec asked curiously. That had been eating him for years. “You walked out the front door with 80 million dollars in cash hidden in four suitcases.”

Magnus laughed. “Do you really want to know?”

Alec nodded.

“I didn't.” Magnus said simply.

“What?”

“I walked out the front door with four suitcases, yes, but they weren’t full of money, they were full of clothes.”

Alec frowned in confusion. “But the money wasn't in the vault when the police arrived.” He said.

“I know, because I had taken it, but I didn't take it with me, I left it in the casino and came back for it a couple of days later. I hid it in plain sight.”

“What!?” Alec exclaimed in disbelief.

“Patience, my dear Alexander, is a virtue I'm very good at...in case you haven't noticed it yet.”

Alec chuckled. “So the footage of you walking out of the casino-”

“Was just me being cocky.” Magnus admitted.

Alec couldn't help laughing. “I can't believe you, you could have avoided linking your name to that heist, but no, you had to walk around the casino pretending to carry the money you had just stolen.”

“What can I say? I was in my arrogance stage, I wanted the attention.”

“Have you done something similar since then?”

“Yes, do you want to hear all about my misdeeds?” Magnus asked.

Alec nodded—he had given him immunity for a reason.

“Very well.” Magnus said, and with a smile started to share in detail some of the things he had done in his life as a criminal, the places where he had been and the things he had stolen. He didn’t hold back anything, he shared everything, even things Alec doubted were completely true or at least as astonishing as the criminal had described them.

“And well,” Magnus said when he finished confessing all his misdeeds. “The rest of the story you already know. In the last three years, I tried my best to avoid the irritating FBI agent who was following me and trying to catch me, but well, I think it's safe to say that I failed in that since I'm telling all this to said irritating but surprisingly sweet agent.”

Alec smiled at the sudden compliment and looked around, realizing that time had flown by and it was already dawning. He didn't have much time left to ask before he had to head back to the office. “I need to ask you something before I have to leave.”

“Ask away, dear.”

“Did you finish paying that debt to your father?” Alec asked. Asmodeus had told him that he had, but Alec had decided the moment Magnus had started to share his version of the story that he was going to put aside what the other criminal had told him and only take Magnus’s word for it.

“Yes, the bonds were my ticket way out.”

“Then why did you hand him over to us?”

“Because he isn't a good man and he deserved it.”

“You haven't forgiven him.” Alec stated.

“Can you blame me?”

Alec shook his head. Of course he couldn’t, Asmodeus had literally ruined Magnus’s life.

“Now you know the full story of Magnus Bane.” Magnus said.

“You don't use your father's last name, was Bane your mother's maiden name?” Alec asked out of curiosity.

“No, do you remember those books I gave you? I told you that the man who had raised me had given them to me, well...that man was Brother Abraham, his last name was Bane.”

“Oh.”

“When I decided to reinvent myself, the first name I came up with was Magnus because of the similarity my life had with what is described as the Magnus effect, but I couldn’t decide on a surname. I didn’t want to use my father’s or my mother’s because that person wasn’t who I wanted to be, so I decided to use Brother Abraham’s because at the end of the day he was the one who made me the man I am today, my father made the criminal, but the man? That was all Brother Abraham doing.”

Alec smiled. “I like that man.” He said sincerely.

“Do you?”

Alec nodded.

“And the criminal?” Magnus asked.

“This may surprise you,” Alec said, looking him straight in the eye, “but I like him too.”

Magnus smiled. “Well, Alexander, the man and the criminal like you too. You'd be surprised to know how much.”

“Is that so?” Alec asked playfully. After the intense conversation they had had both deserved a break, and changing the mood seemed like the best way to do it. Alec didn’t have much time, but he had a minute or two to spare that he could certainly use with this man.

“Yes, would you like me to show you exactly how much?” Magnus asked seductively, already leaning over to kiss him.

Alec smiled and closed the small distance between them, kissing him back and just enjoying this new closeness that this conversation had given them. Because there were no more secrets between them, for better or for worse, nothing stood between them.

Magnus was starting to push him against the couch so they could be more comfortable when Alec's alarm started ringing, breaking the spell and snapping him back to reality—he had to go to work.

“Crap!” Alec exclaimed, reaching into his pocket for his phone and trying to turn it off. “Magnus, I-I...” He said between kisses. “I-I have to go.”

“Are you sure you want to go, darling?”

“No, I mean, yes.” Alec said, pulling away just a bit to look Magnus in the eye. “I have to go to work.”

“Always so responsible,” Magnus pouted, “but okay, go...go save the world one criminal at a time.”

Alec just rolled his eyes playfully and started gathering his things, picking up his jacket and grabbing his badge and gun from the table—putting an end to that limited deal he had given the criminal. “I...hmmm, I want to thank you for sharing you life with me.” He said.

“It was my pleasure, Alexander, but thank you for listening.”

“I’m a good listener.”

“And I’m a good sharer...I guess we’re the perfect team.”

Alec smiled rather pleased with that statement. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He said. “Hmmm, I'll call you later, okay? When I’m off from work.”

“Okay.” Magnus said, giving him a quick kiss that Alec made sure to prolong for as long as he could before he had to stop for a little breath.

“Are you sure you can’t call in sick and stay?” Magnus asked. “I really don't want you to go. We could have breakfast together and then get some sleep, order takeout, watch some movies…have lazy sex. I know you like that.”

“I...I do, but I can’t,” Alec said, though he would have stayed without hesitation had it not been for what had happened in the office just yesterday, “the CID sent an agent to review our work.”

“The Criminal Investigative Division is reviewing your work?” Magnus asked surprised.

“Yes, they sent an agent from the National Security branch to see if Valentine’s case and your case are still under our jurisdiction.”

“When did this happen?”

“Yesterday morning.”

“Well...I'm not an agent, but that can’t be good, right?”

“It’s not, but don’t worry, I have it under control. I just need to prove the new agent that we have enough to keep the case.”

“Well, then go...we don’t want this agent taking over our investigation.”

“That’s not going to happen, I promise.” Alec said. “Anyway, I really have to go, it’s a little late and I still have to go home to pick up some clothes. Please don’t hand me over any other criminal today, okay? I have enough work as it is.”

Magnus laughed. “Okay, don’t worry...I won’t.”

“Bye.” Alec said, giving Magnus a quick good-bye kiss before heading for the door.

“Alexander?” Magnus said, when Alec was on his way out.

“Yes?”

“Aku cinta kamu.” Magnus said.

“Excuse me?” Alec asked confused.

“You wanted to hear something in Indonesian, well, that's Indonesian.”

“Oh, and what does it mean?” He asked, now intrigued.

Magnus smiled softly. “You'll find out soon enough, but know that I mean it.”

Alec frowned. He wanted to know what that meant, but he really had to leave, so he just gave Magnus a look that said that he would be asking about this as soon as he had more time and walked away, closing the door behind him—the echo of those words still ringing in his head and sending a swarm of butterflies to his stomach, as if deep down, he already knew the meaning of them.

Chapter Text

After Alec left, Magnus had some cereal for breakfast and immediately went to bed to get some rest. When he woke up, he looked at his phone and realized that although it seemed that he had slept for a whole day, it was just a little after noon, and since he had nothing better to do, he decided to go and visit his old friend Catarina.

It hadn’t been that long since the last time they had seen each other or talked, but he had promised her—a long, long time ago—that when he finally finished paying his debt to his father and was free from the shackles of his past, she would be one of the first people to know. She knew Magnus’s story and was well aware of everything he had gone through since he was a child, so he couldn't wait to see her reaction when she found out what he had done and all the things that had changed in such a short time.

Magnus knew that Catarina was probably working, that woman was more addicted to work than Alexander and that was saying something, but fortunately the hospital where she served as a nurse wasn’t that far from Magnus’s place. In fact, it was within walking distance, so without wasting any more time, Magnus took a quick shower, grabbed his coat and walked out of his home, arriving at the hospital in almost no time.

Visiting her at work always brought him many memories, since he had been old enough to remember, hospitals had been a very important part of his life. The whiteness, the coldness, the cleanliness, everything was familiar, and although it was still hard for him to visit them, over the years the task had become easier, never easy, but definitely easier.

"Magnus! What are you doing here? I'm so glad to see you so soon!" She exclaimed, the minute she spotted him in the hallway walking toward her.

“Cat!” Magnus said, hugging her with the same love and affection as always. “I came to see you, I have some very good news to share with you, are you free anytime soon?” He asked.

She looked at her watch and smiled. “Give me ten minutes and I’ll be," she said, "my lunch break is about to start, so if you don't mind waiting, we can go get something to eat at the cafe across the street, they have very good food."

"Sure, no problem." Magnus said, taking a seat on one of the chairs in the hallway. "I'll wait for you here, don't take too long, okay?"

"I won't." She said.

Twenty minutes later, they were crossing the street and entering the small cafe. The place was packed, many people seemed to be on their lunch break too, but they managed to find an empty booth at the far end of the small establishment and sat down, quickly ordering something to eat. They knew that Catarina didn't have much time before she had to go back to work, so burgers and a salad were the best option.

“So...what are those very good news you had to share with me, huh?” She asked, as they waited for the food to arrive.

“Well, hmmm...I...I finished paying my debt to my father.” Magnus informed her.

“What!?” She exclaimed loudly enough to draw some attention to their table. “Sorry,” she quickly apologized, lowering her voice, “are you being serious right now? Are you really done with that? Are you...free?”

Magnus nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me before!?”

“Because it happened just yesterday?” Magnus said, trying not to laugh. His friend’s enthusiasm was contagious.

“That’s not an excuse!” Catarina said, playfully punching him in the arm. “You must have been planning this for months, you could have told me before! How dare you!?”

“Well, of course I planned this months ago, you know me, I plan everything well in advance, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have liked to hear what I had to do to make this happen.” Magnus said matter of factly.

Since they had met, that had been something that had defined their friendship. Catarina understood the reason why he had been forced to become the criminal he was today, but she preferred not to know more than was strictly necessary when it came to Magnus’s heists—as they said, sometimes ignorance was bliss.

“Was it that bad?” She asked cautiously.

“No, just the usual.” Magnus admitted. “You know there are some lines that I never cross no matter what.”

“Then tell me.” She insisted. “You know that I usually prefer to stay...how is it that Ragnor calls it? Hmmm, ‘blissfully ignorant’ about these things, but this time I really need to know what you did. As far as I knew, you still owed him a lot of money, so I’m very curious to know how you managed to pay that stupid debt. It seemed impossible, I mean, I’ve seen how hard this whole thing has been for you, you've done the impossible for years to get that money, so don't worry, you can tell me, I’m a big woman...I can take it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, now tell me...what did you do to pay him?”

“Okay, well, I hmmm, I committed a fraud with some war bonds,” Magnus admitted, “and in fact, it’s really strange that you haven’t heard anything about it, it’s all over the news.” He said, showing her the copy of the newspaper he had bought on his way to see her. “Dangerous criminal is captured after committing millionaire fraud with World War II Spanish War Bonds.” He read her the headline.

“Captured?” Catarina asked in confusion. “You mean that…?”

Magnus nodded. “I paid him what I owed him and after I got the contract back, I framed him for what I did, yes.” He confessed more proudly than he should probably feel after betraying his own blood.

Catarina gasped in shock, looking back and forth between the newspaper and Magnus as if she couldn't believe what she was reading and what Magnus had just said.

Magnus knew what was going through that mind of hers, if there was a person in this world who had witnessed firsthand what Magnus had gone through with his family and especially with his father that was Catarina. After all, they had met when Magnus’s mother’s illness had returned. She had been the nurse who had taken care of her until her last day.

“How?” She asked, clearly not knowing what to say. “I mean, I can’t believe you actually did this. Don't get me wrong, he deserved it, he deserves all bad things that happen to him, but, oh my God, Magnus, this-” she said, running out of words, “please tell me how this happened before I lose my mind.”

Magnus smiled and as quickly as he could, started to tell her everything he had done, from the planning of the heist and how he and Ragnor had switched the original bond with a forgery, to the redeeming of the bonds with Raphael’s help and the framing of Asmodeus just the day before.

“Okay, let me see if I got this right.” Catarina said. “You robbed the National Archives and committed a millionaire fraud, then with the money you got from that you paid your father the money you owed him and later incriminated him for what you did?”

“Yes, that would be correct.” Magnus said with a smile.

“And you’re telling me that that man you’re seeing, Alec...he-he helped you? The federal agent really helped you put Asmodeus behind bars? Does he know who he is?” Catarina asked, even more surprised—if that was even possible.

“When he captured him? No, he didn’t know who he was, now he does.”

“You told him?”

Magnus shook his head. “No, actually «he» told him, I don’t know why he did it or what his intentions were, but he told him everything.”

“Everything!?”

“His version of it, but yes.”

“And!?”

Magnus made a small pause to continue, the waitress had just arrived with their food. “Well, last night Alexander came to my place and we talked about it.” He said, taking a small bite of his burger. “To be honest, I was very surprised when he told me what he knew about that man and me, I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about that possible scenario. I never imagined that my father was going to reveal Alexander of all people our history together, but anyway...long story short, I told him everything about my past.”

“Your past as a criminal?” Catarina asked in disbelief. “Why did you do that? Are you crazy? You just put that poor man in a very complicated situation because whether you like it or not, he’s still a federal agent, Magnus, he has a duty to this country and-”

“He gave me immunity, Cat, he wanted to know, I didn’t force him to hear anything he didn't want to hear. You know that I’d have never told him my story out of selfishness, no matter how much I wanted him to know me—the real me.”

“Wait, he gave you immunity?”

Magnus nodded firmly.

Catarina looked at him in astonishment. She was scanning him with her intense brown eyes. “You do realize what that could mean, don’t you? If he went that far to-”

“I know.” Magnus interrupted her. “Believe me that I know, he hasn't said anything yet, but I want to believe that what I feel for him is mutual."

"Of course it is," she said, eating some of her food, "and deep down you know it, otherwise you’d have never asked me to do what you asked me to do.”

“By the way, is it done yet?”

“Yes, it’s done.” Catarina reassured him. “Everything is in order.”

“Good, good.” Magnus said, smiling. “It’s better to be prepared.”

“Don’t you think you’re anticipating a bit too much here?”

“No.” Magnus said sincerely. He knew that in his line of work he could never be too prepared.

“Well, you know what you’re doing.” Catarina said, being the supportive and good friend she had always been. “And what’s going to happen to you now, huh? I mean, now that you’re free and everything.”

“I don’t know,” Magnus admitted, “I think I’ll take a break—a long break—and just think what I want to do with my life. I’ve never had this much freedom to start with, and to be honest? I don’t even know what to do with it...it’s strange.”

“I say that you should go on some vacation away from here, this city holds so many sad memories and-”

“I can’t.” Magnus interrupted her.

“Of course, how silly of me, you have Alec know.” She said.

Magnus smiled in response.

“You're really in love with him, aren’t you?”

“I am.” He confessed.

Catarina smiled. “I’m happy for you, you deserve to be loved and have something good in your life for once.”

"Hmmm, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

“Do you really think he could love someone like me?” Magnus asked genuinely intrigued. A part of him knew that Alexander had shown him enough times already that he cared about him, but there was still a part of him that refused to believe that someone like Alec could really love him.

“Well, I don’t know him, so I can’t really answer that question, but I do know that he'd have to be very blind and stupid not to, so you tell me...is he blind and stupid?”

“No, he’s not.” Magnus said smiling.

“Well...then, there's your answer.” She told him with a wink, and Magnus didn't complain because he liked that answer.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Magnus since he had arrived to the office in the morning. He had attended some meetings and tried catching up with some old cases while still working on trying to catch Valentine, but the truth was that his mind had been absent all day—lost somewhere in Brooklyn.

He had been thinking about those Indonesian words that Magnus had told him and generally just trying to wrap his head around the story he had heard about the criminal’s life. Knowing why Magnus had become the man he was today had given him a new perspective on many things, it had helped him to understand all those layers of Magnus’s personality that until yesterday had been a complete mystery to him. He had discovered things that, as a federal agent, should have made him wonder what he was doing with someone like Magnus, but that as Alec, had only made him treasure more what they had. Because despite what Magnus had done in the past and what he still did for a living, he was a good man with such a big heart that could only be compared in size with his unparalleled talent.

“Agent Lightwood? Can I come in?” Lydia asked, knocking on his door and snapping him out of his thoughts.

“Of course, but just call me Alec, Agent Lightwood is usually my father, I’m just Alec here.” Alec said, trying to be friendly. They had had a rather intense start, and Alec was still upset about the fact that the CID had decided to send an agent to review his work, but that didn't mean he had to be rude to her. Ultimately she was just doing her job and he certainly could show some good manners and be a good coworker.

“Okay.” She said, sitting down on one of the chairs. “I’m here because I wanted to talk to you about the case.”

“Sure…you have questions about it?” He asked trying to be helpful.

“Well, yes...one, actually.” She said. “I’ve been reading your files on Bane and the last five cases that the Bureau has linked to him and Valentine, and...can I ask you something and you promise to be completely honest with me?”

“Of course.”

“You don’t really think Bane’s behind the last five crimes, do you?” Lydia asked directly.

Alec panicked for a second because well, his relationship with Magnus was now too close and he feared that Lydia might have discovered it by reading his files, but then he calmed down a bit. That was virtually impossible, first, because he was a professional and knew how to do his job, and second, because if his siblings, who knew him better than anyone else in the world hadn't discovered it yet, he doubted that this agent who knew him for a day and a half would have managed to figure it out, so he just took a deep breath and nodded. “I’ve been studying him for years,” he said as a matter of explanation, “he has a code, Lydia, he’s a criminal yes, but he’s not a murderer. So no, I don’t think he’s behind the last five crimes.”

“Do you have evidence to back up those words?” She asked.

“Solid? No.” Alec admitted. If he had had it, he would have detached Magnus’s name from this mess a long time ago. “But I have enough to classify Magnus as alleged suspect and not as our prime suspect.”

“Explain yourself.”

“Look at the trails of glitter found in the last five crime scenes and compare them with the others we have from Magnus's previous cases.” He said, encouraging her to look at the files she had in her hands. “You see? The trails don’t match. Magnus’s signature is that idiotic glitter, it’s part of him, and this killer isn't him. Also, open the report on the Hope diamond.”

“You have video footage of the thief, right?”

“Yes, and although the Marshals dismissed it claiming that the source of the material wasn’t of high quality and therefore it didn’t help with the investigation, it is very clear, at least for me and my team, that the body complexion of that man doesn’t match with that of Magnus.”

“I believe you.” Lydia said, taking Alec completely by surprise. So far the only people who had believed him without question had been his siblings and they were genetically programmed for that—well Jace wasn’t since he was adopted, but still.

“Are you serious? Because that would make you the first person besides Jace and Izzy to say that.” Alec admitted.

Lydia nodded. “Bane has ethics,” she said, “or as you call it a code. He’s not a common criminal, his scores are always clean and never against innocent people. His targets are very, very specific. This may sound strange because we’re talking about a criminal, but I like to believe that in spite of everything he’s a good person.”

“You-you really believe that?”

She nodded again.

“Why?”

“Well, you’re not the only who’s studied him.” She said.

That piqued Alec’s interest.

“I’ve always admired his work,” Lydia continued, “he was actually part of my thesis at Quantico.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I tried to crack the robbery of the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, I didn’t have much luck, but it got me a 93.”

“Not bad.” Alec smiled. He would have loved to ask Lydia more about her theory of that heist and see how close she had come to what had really happened, but he knew how dangerous that could be and he didn’t want to put Magnus or himself in danger, so he bit his tongue and didn’t inquire any further. They were already exposing themselves enough by being together to add more confessions to-

He stopped his train of thought abruptly, realizing for the first time what he had just done—the confession he had just given.

"Why did you come to ask my opinion about Magnus's involvement in the case?" Alec asked, trying not to lose his temper...yet. "You're going to take the case from us, aren’t you? I just admitted that I don't think Magnus is involved in this, and you know that if he's not tied to the case then there’s no way that we can keep this in the white-collar division. That's why you came here, isn't it? You wanted me to admit that Magnus wasn’t involved so you could take the case from us!” Alec exclaimed, not quite believing how stupid he had been. Hodge had told him that while Magnus was still part of the case they had a real chance to keep this under their jurisdiction, but Alec had just given Lydia a full confession stating that Magnus's involvement in all this case was practically non-existent.

“What? No, listen, Alec,” Lydia said, “I just came here to talk to you as two fellow agents, that's all. I read your reports on the case and I was intrigued by your conclusions. I’m not here to set you up, this is not an official evaluation. Your evaluation is next week, so everything we've talked about today will stay out of the records.”

“Really?” Alec asked, somehow relieved, but still a bit worried.

“Yes, really. You don’t need to worry about me, Alec, I’m not the enemy.” She said. “I know you want this case and believe me that I want you to have it. I think you’re really good at what you do and I’m sure that if there’s an agent in the Bureau who’s going to solve it that’s going to be you.”

“But?”

“My hands are tied,” she said, “I have to report back to the CID next week and inform them of my conclusions on the case.”

“So we’re screwed.” Alec said resignedly.

“Not necessarily. Listen, what you have on Bane isn’t enough to detach him from the investigation, the MO of the last five cases matches with what he’s been doing for years, and although I agree with you that the glitter trails don't look like his and that the footage obtained could point to a different suspect, they aren’t enough evidence to completely rule him out of the case.”

“So?” Alec asked, not really understanding what she was trying to say.

“Prove me that Bane is still part of this case," Lydia said, "hand me a full report explaining why your division has reason to believe he’s colluded with Valentine. He’s a white-collar criminal and the CID knows that you’re the only agent who’s been close enough to catch him, so help me show them that, and this case will remain under your jurisdiction.”

“Even though we just agreed that he’s clearly not involved?” Alec asked confused.

“Did we?” Lydia questioned, with a smirk. “Look, I believe in justice as much as you do, and I’m sure that Bane will have to pay for what he's done at some-” Lydia was saying when there was a knock on the door and Izzy came in, interrupting them.

“Sorry for entering this way, but hmmm...there’s been a development in Asmodeus’s case and I’m not sure if you two have been informed of it yet.” She said.

“What happened?” Both, Alec and Lydia, asked in unison.

“His transfer to Lyon was rushed.”

“Why!?” Alec asked confused. The Interpol had notified him just yesterday that Asmodeus would be transferred to their headquarters in Lyon, France, until next Monday—and it was only Thursday.

“I don’t know,” Izzy shrugged, “I was in the files making some copies of the cases for the monthly reports when I heard that the Interpol had decided to rush Asmodeus's transfer, so I went to ask, and yes, it’s true. In fact, he’s already on his way to the airport.”

“Who authorized that?” Alec asked, looking at Lydia for an explanation.

“I haven’t signed anything.” She said.

“It was Hodge.” Izzy informed them.

“But why? I mean, he wasn’t part of the case.” Alec complained. “He has no authority.”

“Well, he wasn’t part of the case, but he has authority, he’s our boss, remember?” Izzy said.

“Yours, but not mine.” Lydia said, standing up and heading for the door. “I need to talk to Agent Starkweather immediately. He’s forgetting that this entire office is under supervision and nothing can be done without consulting me first. The CID will hear about this insubordination. We'll resume our conversation later, Alec." She added, walking away and closing the door of Alec’s office behind her.

“Why didn’t Hodge consult this with me?” Alec asked his sister once they were left alone.

“I don’t know, but who cares, the good news is that that criminal won’t be our responsibility any longer.” Izzy said, getting more comfortable in one of the chairs. “By the way, you didn't tell me what he said to you yesterday when he asked to see you. I knocked on your door last night to talk, but you didn't open...weren't you home or were you sleeping?" She asked.

“I was asleep.” Alec lied. It was clear that his sister was in the mood to chat and if he told her that he had spent the night with the man he was seeing, he knew she wouldn't stop asking questions until he told her everything. “And he just wanted to meet me, that’s all.”

“Did he explain why he was in one of Bane’s secret lairs?”

“To me? No, but I read his statement this morning.” Alec said because it was true, he had found a copy of Asmodeus’s statement on his desk when he had arrived to his office, and as the man had promised, he hadn’t said anything that could put Magnus at imminent risk. “He said it was just a coincidence that he was hiding there when we arrived.”

“Did he really go with the old tale of being at the wrong place at the wrong time?”

“You don’t believe him?”

“Do you?”

Alec took a deep breath to keep from responding. He couldn't really say what he thought of any of this without giving himself away.

“But anyway,” Izzy added, “that’s no longer our business, is it? We have other things to worry about, such as preventing the CID from taking the case. And speaking of that, what was Lydia doing here? She’s calling you Alec, are you friends now or what?”

“We are not friends, we are coworkers.” Alec said, trying not to roll his eyes at his sister. “And you're right, we have to make sure that the CID doesn't take the case from us, and that's exactly what I was discussing with Lydia just minutes ago.” He added. “She told me that she doesn't think Magnus is involved in the last five cases.”

"That's bad." Izzy said.

"Not really," Alec said, "because she also thinks we can solve this case."

"So is she going to let us keep it?"

"I still don't know, but I think so? She told me that the evidence we have to prove that Magnus is not behind the latest attacks isn't enough to get him out of the case and that's a good thing, I mean, he's a white-collar criminal that means he's ours by default, so we just have to give her a report explaining why our division has reason to believe Magnus is behind this and she can help us keep the case.”

"For real?"

"Yes," Alec assured her, "so let's call the team so we can work on that. I need all hands on deck, but we'll need to make some sacrifices and assign a special team to solve some old cases. The year is about to end and I don't want the review board to sanction us for lowering our performance when they see our annual report, last year we had the best numbers in our division, and I want that trend to continue. It won't be easy, the fact that the CID is evaluating us isn't good, but I'm confident we can do it." He said, giving his sister the cases he had chosen in the morning.

"Okay." Izzy said, taking the files but not getting up from her chair. She was acting strange...pensive.

“Are you okay?” Alec asked.

“Yes.” She said.

Alec looked at her intently—his sister wasn't a very good liar. "Are you sure? Because you seem like you want to ask me something." He said. He knew his people too well to know when they needed something.

“Hmmm...well, yes, I do kind of want to ask you something,” she admitted, “but it’s not work-related.”

“What is it?” He asked, putting the files aside.

“What do you think of Simon?” Izzy asked.  

“What do you mean, what do I think of him?”

“Well, that...do you like him?”

“Like him as if I think he’s handsome?” Alec inquired in confusion. “Because if this is where this conversation is heading, then don’t worry, he’s not my type.”

“No,” she said with a laugh, “although now that you mention it I’m curious, what’s your type, huh, big brother?”

“Unusual.” Alec confessed without elaborating.

“Okay, I can live with that...for now.” She said. “Anyway, back to Simon, what do you think of him as a person?”

“Hmmm, I'm not sure if I'm the right person to answer that question, I mean, I barely know him, but if you want my opinion, I guess he’s alright...why?” He asked, now intrigued. His sister was usually very direct when she wanted to ask something, so seeing her hesitating so much about something was definitely new.

“He asked me again if I wanted to have a formal relationship with him.” She confessed.

“And...do you want that?”

“I don’t know, I mean, yes, but-”

“You’re afraid.” Alec guessed. He was a bit familiar with that feeling.

Izzy nodded.

“Well, if he makes you happy, I say you should give him a chance.”

“You think?”

“Yes, but only if it’s really what you want and makes you happy.”

“You don’t like him much, do you?”

“I don’t like any of your boyfriends, you know that, but that’s just because I'm biased and I think there’s no one in this world good enough for you. I know, it's childish and stupid, but it’s part of my job as your big brother to always want what's best for you.”

Izzy smiled. “If I say yes, are you going to intimidate him with your gun and badge like you did with Clary?”

“I didn't intimidate her!” Alec exclaimed in self-defense.

“No, of course not, you just made sure she knew you were the best agent in town and that you had gotten a perfect score on your shooting test.”

Alec laughed. There was a huge chance that what his sister had just said were true and he had said something along those lines when the little girl had been introduced as Jace’s official girlfriend, but in his defense that night he had had one too many glasses of wine and that always made him speak his mind more freely.

“I still remember her face,” Izzy said, “she didn’t know if you were joking or-”

“We have a problem.” Jace interrupted their conversation, opening the door without even knocking.

“What happened?” Alec asked concerned. Jace looked worried, he was paler than usual and his breathing was ragged, so that only meant that he had run all the way from wherever he had been to get to Alec’s office and to talk to them about this problem.

“There was an accident when they were transferring Asmodeus to the airport.”

“What!?” Alec asked, not sure if he had heard correctly.

“Someone ambushed the convoy,” Jace continued, “and...and-”

“And what!?” Both Alec and Izzy asked exasperated—anything could have happened.

“Asmodeus escaped…” Jace said, “he’s gone.”

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus entered his loft and put all the bags he was carrying on the couch and coffee table. He had gone shopping and judging by the number of bags currently cluttering his living room, it seemed as if he had bought the entire city.

In his defense, it was very hard for him to have some control when it came to buying clothes and accessories in the Big Apple. He had always loved shopping, it was fun and entertaining, but shopping in this city was definitely a unique experience. He had visited the best fashion capitals of the world, Milan, Paris, London, but no place had ever managed to beat the experience of shopping in New York. Maybe he was biased by his love for this city and its people, but it was true that New York was unique, there were exclusive boutiques and flea markets everywhere...there was no corner in all five boroughs that did not offer something new and innovative—and Magnus loved everything new and innovative.

“Look what I got for you, Chairman.” Magnus told his cat when the latter came to the living room to see what his human-father had bought. There was no doubt that that old proverb saying that ‘curiosity killed the cat' was nothing but the truth.

“Do you like it?” He asked the little animal, showing him the new sweater he had bought for him. It was red with a white turtleneck, very Christmassy, and although there were still a few weeks left before the holidays, he was sure the Chairman would look fabulous in it.

The cat ignored him and just began to sniff around the other bags, trying to see if there was something more interesting in them. Magnus took the opportunity to pick him up and try to put on his new sweater. He did not succeed, of course, the Chairman hated playing dress up, so Magnus only got a couple of scratches and a snarl as a punishment for his audacity to attempt such a thing before the cat leapt out of his arms and hid under the couch.

“Why do you always have to be so dramatic?” Magnus complained, looking at his now annoyed son before he left and went to hide somewhere else in the loft.

Magnus took out the rest of the clothes and things he had bought from the bags, and after taking them to his bedroom, he went to the kitchen to make some dinner. He had bought an Italian cookbook that looked quite interesting and he was curious to try some of the recipes. He had always wanted to learn how to make gourmet meals, and Italian food was one of his favorites, so now that he had enough free time to do it, he figured it was the right time to start.

He skimmed through the pages, trying to find something that looked easy to cook and delicious but at the same time that it didn't require him to go out again to get ingredients. When he found something he liked, he took out what he needed from the fridge and the cupboards, and started to prepare it.

Originally, he was just going to cook for the sake of cooking, but when the smell of a well-prepared meal started to hit his nostrils, an idea came to mind: he could turn this impromptu dinner into a romantic date with Alec. He knew that maybe the agent was busy working his ass off at the Bureau or dead asleep at home—Magnus had gone to bed after their conversation while Alec had gone straight to work—but he could try, right? After all, any excuse to be with Alec was good, especially now that there were no more secrets or lies standing between them.

Magnus quickly added some salt and pepper to what he was cooking and went to the living room to grab his phone, immediately sending Alec a text message.

“Hey, hot stuff, are you coming over tonight? I know you’re probably tired, but I went a little crazy and cooked some fancy Italian dish I found in this book I bought today, what do you say, you wanna come and have dinner with me? I promise it's good, you know I'm not such a bad cook.”

The answer arrived within seconds. “I’m sorry, I can’t tonight.”

“Busy night?” Magnus asked.

“Something like that.”

Magnus sighed. He wasn't disappointed, he knew Alec had a lot of work, he had told him so himself before leaving this morning. He knew, even before asking, that this was a long shot, but he had to at least try. “Well, I guess we can reheat it tomorrow. I hope you don’t have to stay too long in the office and you can get some sleep. Good night, Alexander." He texted.

He thought of adding a 'dream about me,' or something just as cheesy as that at the end of the message, but then decided not to, he didn't want to scare Alec with unnecessary cheesy lines.

“Night.” Alec replied simply.

Magnus wasn’t expecting more, though, Alec was a man of few words—at least in text, because they could spend hours and hours talking over the phone—so he just took a deep breath and instead called Ragnor. There was plenty of food and he didn't want it to be wasted.

“My friend, long time no see,” he joked, as soon as Ragnor answered the phone, “are you free tonight? Would you like to come over to my place for dinner? I made Italian, I know you love Italian.”

“Sounds good, and what about your fed? Is he going to be there too?” Ragnor asked.

“No, he’s busy tonight.”

“Okay, then we’ll see you there in a minute.”

“We? Are you with Santiago?” Magnus asked, but didn’t wait for his friend to reply. “Of course you are with him, you two spend a lot of time together to be just friends.” He added.

“You and I spent the same amount of time together, and tell me, are we dating?”

“Good Lord, no!” Magnus exclaimed horrified by the idea. Ragnor was like his brother, not like, he was his brother. Period. “We are like brothers, Ragnor, that would be incest! How dare you even think about that! Besides, I have better taste—good taste.” He teased.

“Ha ha, very funny.” Ragnor said in his usual sarcastic tone. “And let me tell you that your ‘good taste’ is not that good, I mean, a federal agent? Really? That was low even for you, my friend.”

“He’s hot.” Magnus said in self-defense.

“Arguable.”

“Excuse me? Alexander’s hotness can’t be questioned! He’s hot and that’s a fact, learn to live with it, my friend.” Magnus said because it was true. He wasn’t just biased, Alec was the most handsome man on Earth, right? Right? Well, okay...maybe he was a bit biased after all.

“You are the most ridiculous person when you’re in love, but whatever...we’ll see you there in a bit.” Ragnor said.

“Who said I was in love?” Magnus asked, although it wasn’t strange that Ragnor already knew, they had talked about it, Magnus had even confessed that he was already on his way to fall in love with the agent, he just hadn’t made it official yet.

“I did because you are, we all know it...anyway, see you soon. Bye.” Ragnor said, hanging up the phone.

Magnus just looked at his phone and laughed, apparently his feelings had never been a secret, Catarina, Ragnor, Raphael...they all knew. Perhaps that old quote from Torquato Tasso that said, 'true love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor can it be denied where it does,' was more certain than he had thought.

Chapter Text

One of Alec’s phones rang, startling him a little. He had had 24 hours of pure and utter stress and because of that he was a bit jumpy. Since Asmodeus had escaped the day before, both the FBI and the Interpol had been trying to find him without much success and Alec felt as if his life had suddenly gotten out of control—his team back in the office was going crazy, he had no idea where Asmodeus might be, he hadn’t slept in more than 48 hours and to top that, he had been forced to look after his little brother over the weekend because his parents apparently had some problems that they had to solve. Alec knew that they had been having some disagreements since they had moved to Washington D.C. and that these had only intensified when his father had moved back to New York, but his mother's timing to try to solve them couldn’t have been worse. They all were crazy busy, and the proof of that was that Alec's phones hadn’t stopped ringing all day.

Alec sighed, pulling the ringing device out of his pocked and staring at the screen—it was Magnus...again. The criminal had been calling him and sending him millions of text messages all day, but Alec had been ignoring him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk to the criminal, no, it was just that he didn’t know how to do it. He didn’t know how to tell Magnus that his father, that man who single-handedly had ruined his life, had escaped and that Alec had been unable to do anything to stop him.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, holding the phone firmly in his hands as Magnus’s name kept flashing on the screen.

Alec really wanted to answer that call and tell Magnus everything, he wanted to share with the criminal his frustration over what had happened and how he felt about it. These past few hours had been a real nightmare for him, and there was nothing he wanted more than to be in Magnus’s arms and hear that everything would be fine, but the very thought of facing him terrified him to the bone. Alec didn’t want to see the disappointment reflected in Magnus’s eyes when he found out that the system had failed him, that Alec had been unable to keep that man away from his life; and although he knew he would have to face Magnus eventually and inform him of what had happened, he wanted to postpone that meeting for as long as was possible. Alec still had some hours to find Asmodeus before it became public knowledge that he had escaped and he was going to use every second of that time to do everything in his power to fix this mess.

His phone finally stopped ringing, but almost immediately a new text message arrived. Alec opened it and read it in silence. “Alexander, Alec...please answer the phone, this isn't funny, you’re worrying me. Are you alright? Is everything okay? Call me.”

Alec didn’t reply and just sighed, putting the phone face down on the table to avoid looking at the screen. He knew that probably he should have turned off that phone hours ago to stop receiving all those calls and messages that were just driving him crazier than he already was, but the simple fact of receiving them was a way to know that Magnus was fine. As long as the criminal kept trying to communicate with him, Alec could be sure that Magnus wasn’t in any imminent danger—at least for now.

Because Asmodeus was very dangerous and Alec was well aware of that, and although he didn’t think the man was so stupid as to try something against any of them mere hours after escaping, he wasn’t taking their safety for granted and that was why he had assigned two teams of special agents to patrol not only his neighborhood, but also Brooklyn Heights—just in case the criminal decided to pay his son a quick visit. After all, neither of them were safe now that Asmodeus was out and about in the streets of New York. The criminal could decide to go after any of them—Magnus for what he had done to him, and Alec, because in the end it had been him who had put him behind bars.

“Alec...the door?” His little brother, Max, said, snapping Alec out if his thoughts.

“What?”

“The door.” Max said, poking his head from over the back of the couch where he had been watching movies since they had arrived from Alec’s office. “The pizza is here.”

“Oh, yeah, of course.” Alec said, standing up from the table and heading for the door to pay for the pizza. Max loved pizza and Alec knew he missed the peculiar taste of a good New York-style pizza now that he lived in Washington with their parents, and since he was too busy to cook anything, he had decided to spoil him a little bit by buying him his favorite food.

“Give it to me!” Max practically demanded the minute Alec closed the door. He was a very impatient boy, so Alec just rolled his eyes and handed his brother the pizza, walking to the kitchen to fetch some paper plates and glasses so they could have dinner.

“Here,” Alec told his brother, giving him a plate and a glass of soda, “and don’t grab the couch with your greasy hands, okay?” He added, handing him a stack of napkins—too many were never enough.

“You sound like mom.” Max complained, rolling his eyes.

“Well, I don’t care if I sound like mom, just use the napkins.” He warned his brother, who just rolled his eyes again and started eating.

Alec smiled in amusement over his brother’s antics and just sat down, grabbing a slice for himself and trying to watch the movie Max had been watching. He had no idea what it was about, but his little brother couldn’t take his eyes off the screen, so he figured it was quite entertaining.

Five minutes passed and Alec really tried to pay attention to it, but as it had been happening lately, his mind quickly wandered away, and Magnus, Asmodeus, and that conversation he had had with the fugitive criminal filled his thoughts.

Magnus’s father had said a lot of things during their talk and a lot of the details of that conversation were a bit fuzzy in Alec’s mind at the moment—probably due to sleep deprivation—but there were things that had stuck in his head, like the fact that Asmodeus had truly shown no interest in revealing the true nature of Alec and Magnus’s relationship, or the fact that the criminal had wanted to protect his own son even though it was clear to Alec, especially after what Magnus had shared with him, that he didn’t care about his son in the slightest. Alec wondered what his true inten-

“Aren’t you going to answer?” Max asked, bringing Alec back to reality for the second time tonight.

“What?”

“Your phone's ringing—again.” Max said. “Aren’t you going to answer?”

Alec shook his head, glancing briefly at the device he had left on the table.

“Is it work?” His little brother asked. He was very much like Izzy in that sense, both had very inquisitive minds, they just had to know everything.

“No.”

“Is it your boyfriend?” Max asked again.

Alec almost choked on his pizza. “I-I...I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Izzy said you had one.” Max said as if that statement weren’t such a big deal.

“Well, Izzy has a very big mouth.” Alec said, already plotting in his mind all the ways in which he was going to murder his sister the next time he saw her—which would probably be tomorrow morning when she came to pick up Max to take him to the park.

“She didn’t tell me exactly, so don’t get mad at her, I overheard a conversation between her and Jace earlier when we were at your office.” Max explained. “I don’t know what they were talking about, but I heard when she said, ‘especially since now Alec has a boyfriend,’ was she lying? You don’t have a boyfriend?” He asked.

Alec thought about lying for a minute, but for some reason he still couldn't understand, he couldn't do that in front of his little brother. Lying had never been his forte that much was true, but omitting the truth from his other siblings had never been a problem, however, with Max things were very different. His little brother was special, he was very perceptive, he could see through people and know when they were lying, and Alec didn’t want to hurt his feelings by lying to him blatantly. “No, I do have one, well...he’s not my boyfriend, but we’re seeing each other.”

“Do you like him?”

“I do.” Alec confessed, because there was no point denying the obvious.

“Do you want him to be your boyfriend?” Max asked, completely knocking the air out of Alec’s lungs.

“I-I…” Alec couldn't formulate a coherent answer. Did he want Magnus to be his boyfriend? Of course he wanted it, but he knew that things between them were complicated—a formal relationship had never been on the table. However, he found himself nodding in response.

“Then ask him to be your boyfriend.” Max said, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world to do.

Alec laughed. “It’s not that simple, Max.”

“Why not?” Max asked in confusion. “Doesn’t he like you?”

“No, I think he does, it’s just that...it’s complicated, okay? You’ll understand when you grow up.”

“Why do adults always say that!?” Max complained, rolling his eyes dramatically.

“Because it’s true, now let’s keep watching the movie, that bizarre dude looks like he’s up to something.”

“Voldemort.”

“What?”

“He’s not a bizarre dude, his name is Voldemort, and he’s the most powerful and dangerous dark wizard of all time.” Max explained.

“Of course he is, let’s keep watching then.” Alec said, not having a clue of what his little brother had just said. Sometimes it was as if he were speaking in a different language. “This looks interesting.”

“You haven’t been paying attention...you’ve been working since we got here.” Max pointed out.

“Well, I am now, so shhh...let me watch.” Alec said, putting an end to the conversation.

They fell into a peaceful silence and although Alec actually tried to watch the movie to finally stop thinking about Magnus, he couldn’t concentrate. The criminal was there, tattooed on his mind, and staring at him with disappointment in his eyes. It was so real, so vivid, that Alec had to shake his head to get rid of that awful image. He could handle almost anything, but not that...never that. Maybe a few months ago he wouldn't have minded so much, he would have just brushed it off and kept going, but now the thought of disappointing Magnus, even in the slightest, made him feel sick to his stomach.

In a really short time, well not that short, but still, Magnus had become more important to him than he dared to admit out loud. The criminal had become that person Alec wanted to protect, that person Alec wanted to make happy, that person Alec wanted to...love.

Shit! He cursed in silence. The truth about his feelings was becoming more and more evident with each passing day and that made him feel a bit vulnerable. All these feelings and emotions were completely new to him and although he had heard of them, well, he had never imagined that they would feel this way.

Alec took a deep breath to try to compose himself and looked at his little brother. Max had fallen asleep, the movie was still going, but apparently the three slices of pizza that he had eaten had finally done the trick and had knocked him out.

“Come on, Max, let’s get you to bed.” He whispered, carrying him to his bedroom and carefully tucking him into bed like a father would with his son. Max had come into their lives when Alec had been old enough to be his young father, so in a way, he looked after him as if he were more like a son than a brother.

“Good night, Max.” He said, kissing his brother’s head and turning off the lights of the room.

Alec walked back to the living room to clean up all the mess his little brother had left and keep working. His body was begging him for some sort of break, but with how complicated things were at the moment, he knew that even five minutes of self-indulgence were completely out of the question, so he just sighed and started cleaning up the dishes. He was picking up the dirty glasses to take them back to the kitchen when out of nowhere, a voice broke the silence.

“Good evening, Alexander.” Magnus said, stepping into his apartment.

“Magnus…” Alec said, turning around in surprise and dropping the glasses he had been holding.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus would have laughed at Alec’s surprised reaction when he saw him stepping into his apartment, but for some reason the look on the agent’s face wasn't helping to ease his mind. All day he had been going crazy trying to think of possible reasons why Alec wasn’t answering his calls or responding to his text messages. The last time they had seen each other, Magnus had revealed an important part of his life and now he feared that that would have been a big mistake. Alec had seemed fine when he had left Magnus’s loft the other day, but perhaps after sleeping on it, he had realized that he couldn't be with someone like Magnus, that he couldn't be with a criminal.

“What are you doing here?” Alec asked, not looking at him.

“Well, you weren’t answering my calls and I was worried.” Magnus said simply, though the word ‘worried’ couldn't even begin to describe how he had felt all day.

“I told you I was busy.” Alec said, picking up the pieces of glass from the floor. The glasses the agent had dropped had completely shattered with the impact.

“That was last night, darling.”

“Well, I’m still busy.” Alec said, still avoiding looking at Magnus's face.

“Yeah, I just saw...there’s another man in your bed.” Magnus said, and noticed how Alec just rolled his eyes. “He’s cute, though, how old is he?”

“Nine...almost ten.” Alec said, finishing picking up the broken glass and just walking to the kitchen.

“May I ask why you’re avoiding me?” Magnus asked, following Alec into the other room. At first he had thought he was overreacting and imagining things, but after seeing how the agent was acting—doing everything in his power not to look him in the eye—there was no doubt in his mind that something was wrong.

“I’m not.” Alec said, walking back to the living room, but still avoiding any kind of face-to-face conversation. “I was just busy, my family is in town and-”

“Don’t use them as an excuse, Alec.” Magnus said, stopping him by the arm. “I know you’re avoiding me, so be honest with me, okay? Is this because of what I told you the other day? Was it too much for you? Was-”

“What!? No!” Alec immediately exclaimed, turning around and looking at Magnus for the first time. “Of course not.”

Magnus was relieved, but Alec’s response had only confirmed that, indeed, there was a reason for this new behavior. “But there’s a reason then.” He said, voicing his conclusion.

Alec took a deep breath and ducked his head in defeat.

“What is it, Alexander?” Magnus asked, lifting the agent’s chin to look into his eyes, but Alec’s eyes were closed.

“I failed you.” Alec said, whispering so low it was barely audible.

“What?”

“I failed you, Magnus.” Alec said, opening his eyes.

“What are you talking about? Why are you saying that you failed me?”

“Because it’s true.”

“What happened?” Magnus asked worriedly. There were all sorts of scenarios playing in his mind, but none that made any sense whatsoever.

“Yesterday.”

“Yesterday, what?”

“Your-your father…” Alec continued, “your father escaped.”

“What!?” Magnus asked unable to hide the surprise and worry in his voice. Of all the things that Alec could have told him, this was definitely not what he had been expecting at all.

“My boss rushed his transfer and when some agents from the Interpol were taking him to the airport someone ambushed the convoy and-”

“-and he escaped.” Magnus completed the sentence.

Alec nodded. “I didn’t know how to tell you, I didn’t want you to think that I couldn't keep that man away from you, not after knowing what he did to you. I’ve been working my ass off since yesterday trying to catch him again. I have agents looking for him in every airport, bus terminal, and corner of this city. I still have a couple of hours before I have to make public knowledge that he escaped and I was trying to find him before you had to learn about any of this. I didn’t want you to feel disappointed, I didn’t want you to think that you couldn’t trust the system, that you couldn't trust me and-”

“Hey, hey, it's okay.” Magnus said, getting closer to Alec and hugging him. The man looked as if he were about to have a panic attack and Magnus didn’t know what else to do. The news he had given him weren’t the best ones, but none of this was his fault. “This isn’t your fault.” He added, trying to reassure him.

“But it is!” Alec exclaimed. “You trusted the system to get that man out of your life once and for all and it failed you! I am part of that system, Magnus, don’t you see? I failed you!”

“Hey, hey,” Magnus said, grabbing Alec’s face with both hands so the agent could look him straight in the eye and see that he was being completely honest. “You didn’t, okay? He probably planned his escape the same day he was arrested. I should have known better, but please don’t blame yourself.”

Alec looked down.

“Alexander, look at me.” Magnus asked him. “This isn't your fault, okay?”

Alec sighed, closing his eyes again, but resting his head on Magnus’s shoulder. Magnus could feel the muscles on Alec's back slowly relaxing as they held each other. It was as if the mere contact between them was lifting that heavy burden that the agent had been carrying since yesterday.

“I’m so sorry.” Alec whispered.

“Don’t be, Alexander. These things happen, okay? Just don’t do this to me ever again, you understand? I was worried sick that you'd have decided to dump me out of the blue, so when stuff like this happens, talk to me, okay? Don’t push me away.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry...I didn’t want to,” Alec said, “I was just afraid that you would feel disappointed and-”

“Never, did you hear me? I’ll never feel disappointed in you.”

Alec smiled softly and kissed him, allowing Magnus to breathe again after 24 hours of uncertainty and despair. All the fear that he had had of losing Alec vanished as soon as their lips touched. It was something so simple, so mundane, but at that moment it said more than a thousand words ever could.

“Alexander, I-”

“Hello.” A tiny voice said, interrupting them.

Magnus jumped apart from Alec in a matter of seconds.

“Max! What are you doing awake? I just put you in bed.” Alec said, showing an incredible amount of self-control in spite of the unexpected and uncomfortable situation in which they currently were.

“I heard something breaking and then people talking.” Max said sincerely. “Who’s this?”

“This-this...” Alec hesitated. “This is hmmm...the-the man who’s been calling,” he said, “and well, this is Max, my little brother.” He added, this time looking at Magnus to make the proper introductions.

Magnus felt nervous for a minute. This kid, Max, was staring at him with his big, big eyes, they were as beautiful as Alec’s, but for some reason they were even more intimidating than the agent's.

“What’s your name?” The little kid asked, tilting his head curiously.

Magnus hesitated before answering. It was too risky to reveal his real name, but his mind was blanking out and coming up with a new one seemed like an impossible task at the moment.  “It’s-it’s...It’s a bit of a secret, Max, I can’t tell you what my name is.” He said, to gain some time.

“I can keep a secret.” Max said. “I’m very good at keeping people’s secrets.”

Magnus looked at him and pondered what to do. “Okay…”

“Don’t.” Alec immediately said, but Magnus had already made up his mind.

“It’s fine, Alexander...don’t worry.” Magnus said, kneeling to be at Max’s height. “You can’t tell anyone unless your brother Alec says otherwise, okay?” He said, and when the boy nodded, he took a deep breath before saying his name. “My name is...Magnus.” He added, offering his hand to Alec’s little brother.

In all his life Magnus had never felt more nervous than he felt at that precise moment. He didn't know why, but for some reason he needed to have this little one’s approval.

“I like your hair.” Max said, shaking hands with Magnus in a friendly way—the tips of his hair were blue at the moment.

“Why, thank you, Max.” Magnus smiled. “I like your pajamas.”

“Alec bought them for me.” Max explained.

“Well, he has really good taste, those are really nice pajamas.”

“You could ask him to buy you ones.” Max suggested.

“I think I will.”

“Max,” Alec interrupted their little conversation, “go back to bed, okay? I’ll be there in a second.”

Max shook his head. “I’m not sleepy anymore.”

“Max, it’s late.” Alec said.

“I don’t have school tomorrow!” Max complained, rolling his eyes in such an Alec-like way that Magnus couldn’t help but smile at the striking resemblance between these two adorable human beings.

“Well, I don’t care, you have to sleep, so come on, off to bed.” Alec ordered.

“No.” Max said, taking a seat on the couch and turning on the TV—apparently stubbornness was a family trait. “I want to watch a movie. Magnus, have you seen Harry Potter?”

“Of course I’ve seen it, I love Harry Potter.”

“Alec knows nothing about Harry Potter.”

“Of course he doesn’t.” Magnus said with a laugh. In these weeks he had discovered a lot of things about Alec and that included his evident lack of knowledge of any reference to pop culture.

“Would you like to watch a Harry Potter movie with me?” Max asked.

Magnus didn’t know what to say, he knew how incredibly stupid this idea was, if Max was there that meant that Alec’s other siblings could come in at any moment and discover him there, but he had to admit that resisting this kid's charms was hard. His level of adorableness surpassed Alec’s—and that was saying something.

“I…”

“Please?”

Magnus sighed. It wasn’t really fair that this family already had so much power over him—he was only human. “Sure, okay...it’d be my pleasure.” Magnus said. “If you’re okay with it, of course?” He added, now looking at Alec. He certainly didn’t want to cross any line.

Alec just rolled his eyes in a playful way, but nodded.

“Of course, he’s okay with it.” Max added, making some room for them on the couch and patting the two spots beside him.

Alec quickly sat down on the left side and Magnus joined them, taking the right side.

“I was watching the Order of the Phoenix earlier, but I fell asleep,” Max said, “you mind if we watch it from the beginning?” He asked, looking directly at Magnus.

“Me? No, not at all.” Magnus said a bit taken aback with how easily Max had accepted him.

The kid put the movie and after telling Alec to pay attention and ask if he didn’t understand something, they started to watch it in complete silence. Magnus had seen this movie thousands of times before, so he wasn’t really paying any attention to it, he was just trying to look at the Lightwood brothers from the corner of his eye and treasure the moment he was sharing with them.

Since he had decided to try something with Alec, he had resigned himself to the idea of not having any kind of interaction with the agent's closest circle, so this little change of plans was making him extremely happy. It was nice to know that at least one member of Alec's family could accept him and-

"Magnus?" Max whispered after twenty minutes of complete silence.

"Yes?"

“Can I tell you a secret?” The kid continued whispering, though Magnus was sure that what he was saying was loud enough for Alec to hear too.

“Of course.”

“Alec wants to be your boyfriend.” Max confessed.

“Maxwell Joseph Lightwood!” Alec exclaimed appalled.

“Should I ask him?” Magnus asked, whispering into Max's ear and ignoring Alec’s face of utter horror. Things were starting to get interesting to say the least.

Max nodded and covered his mouth to drown out his giggles. This little imp knew exactly what he had done.

“Alexander, would you like to be my boyfriend?” Magnus asked, looking at Alec with all seriousness. He hadn’t asked before because he was aware that making their relationship formal was a bit pointless. They couldn't have what other couples had, they couldn't go meet each other's families, or go on a date in public, but that didn’t mean that Magnus didn’t want it and that they at least couldn't pretend it was true even for a little while.

“Magnus…” Alec said, telling him with his eyes what he clearly couldn’t say in front of his little brother.

“I know, dear, but would it really change things much between us?” He asked. It wasn’t surprising that they could communicate like this, their connection had only gotten stronger with each passing day.

“I guess not.”

“See?” Magnus smiled. “So...is that a yes or what?”

Alec smiled. “Okay, fine...yes.”

Max clapped excitedly. “Now you can kiss.” He said, covering his eyes as if to give them some privacy.

“We have to humor him.” Magnus said, winking at Alec who was as red as a tomato.

“I’m going to personally murder you.” Alec said, but leaned over and kissed him—and of course, Magnus did not believe that threat for a second.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was really trying to watch the movie, but very so often, he found himself looking to his right and locking eyes with Magnus. Both had much to say, especially after what had just happened, but with Max sitting between them talking was a bit complicated, so they just shared sweet smiles and turned their eyes back to the screen.

“I’m cold.” Max announced after a while, grabbing the blanket Alec usually had near the couch and covering them all with it.

“Don’t you want to go to bed instead?” Alec asked, hoping that his brother finally decided to go to bed.

“No.” Max replied, not even bothering to look at him.

“Okay…” Alec sighed resignedly, moving closer to his brother to help him warm up faster. The little boy was under his care and Alec didn't want him to catch a cold or anything; receiving a lecture from his mother because of how irresponsible he’d been with his little brother wasn’t something he wanted at the moment.

"Are you watching?" Max asked.

"Yes, Max, I'm watching." He partially lied. He had been watching, but with the warmth of the blanket and the soft murmur from the TV he was already beginning to feel drowsy. It wasn’t that the movie was boring or anything like that, the special effects were great and the story seemed interesting, but he was having a hard time understanding the plot of this particular installment, and that coupled with his extreme fatigue and how comfortable he felt at the moment, were making the 'staying awake' mission almost impossible.

“Okay…” Max said, immediately starting to discuss with Magnus the differences between the movie and the book.

They were talking in hushed voices, but the murmur was so peaceful that Alec couldn't keep his eyes open any longer, so with the voices of his brother and boyfriend playing in the background like a lullaby, he fell asleep.

When Alec came to himself, Magnus was at his side, shaking him gently, trying to wake him up.

“Alexander...wake up, darling.”

“How long did I sleep?” Alec asked, blinking repeatedly to try to get rid of the lingering haze of disorientation left by unconsciousness. When he had fallen asleep, the TV and the lights had been on, now the room was almost in darkness, dimly lit by a floor lamp that Alec had tucked away in one corner and almost never used.

“Two hours...give or take.” Magnus informed him.

“Where’s Max?” Alec asked—his little brother was no longer with them.

“Asleep...I took him to your bed almost an hour ago.” Magnus said. “I wanted to let you sleep more, I can see that you’re very tired, but I have to go and I need you to tell me everything you know about that man’s hmmm...my father’s escape.”

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” Alec said sincerely, rubbing his eyes to get rid of the sleepiness, “I hadn’t slept since that day at your home and-”

“Shhh it’s fine...just tell me what you know and I’ll be gone so you can go back to sleep.”

“I can’t go back to sleep, I have to work, find your father and-”

“Alexander…”

“What? I still have some hours before the details about his escape reach the news and I want to do everything in my power to find him.” Alec said, sure of himself.

“I know you want to and I’m sure that when you’re well-rested you will, but you can’t kill yourself in the process.” Magnus said, gently caressing Alec's cheek with his thumb. “What would I do without you, huh, boyfriend?” He joked, giving him a soft smile—the kind of smile that even to this day made Alec's knees go weak.

“Hmmm, about that…” Alec said. He liked the sound of the word...boyfriend. He liked it very much, but whether they wanted to or not, they had to talk about it.

“Don’t.” Magnus said, putting a finger in front of Alec’s mouth to silence him. “I know what you’re going to say. I know that a formal relationship between us is a bit pointless if not stupid. I know we can’t have what other couples have, I know things are complicated, but like I said before, would it really change things much between us if I considered you my boyfriend? This...us, it's real, Alexander, and I don’t know about you, but I'd like to give it a label even if we can’t share it with the world.”

“I'd like that too.” Alec confessed, blushing so hard he could almost feel his hair turning red too.

“Have I told you how adorable you look when you blush?” Magnus teased.

“Oh, shut up!” Alec said, hitting Magnus playfully and hiding his still-flushed face under the blanket that was still covering half of his body.

“Okay, I’ll shut up, but you still look adorable.” Magnus said. “Anyway, now that we cleared that up, do you mind sharing with me everything you know about my father? It’s important that I know what happened, so I can protect us all, okay?”

Alec sighed and emerged from under the blanket, looking into Magnus's eyes. “I don’t know much, to be completely honest nobody knows what happened.” He confessed, snuggling closer to his now boyfriend’s body. “Everything happened so fast, in the morning I was reading his statement and finishing the paperwork to close his case, and before I knew Jace was informing me of the incident during his transfer.”

“I understand and don’t worry, just tell me what you know.”

“Well, as I told you when you arrived, his transfer was rushed. My boss signed the order and the Interpol decided to move him yesterday instead of this Monday as planned. A group of special agents were assigned to take him to the airport, but when they were on their way some armed men ambushed them and your father escaped. There are three Interpol agents dead and four more severely injured in the hospital, the agent in charge of the transfer, Agent Malachi Dieudonne, is missing, we assume that they took him hostage to guarantee a free path, but we’re hoping to find him soon, after all, it’s been 24 hours since then, they no longer need him.”

“Do you know why your boss rushed the transfer?” Magnus asked.

“Yes.” Alec confessed. That had been the first thing he'd asked Hodge when Jace had informed him of what had happened. “He said that the Interpol had pressured him about it and that was why he had no choice but to sign the order without consulting me or Lydia—the agent from the CID.”

“And why did the Interpol decide to transfer him yesterday and not the other day as planned?”

“We still don’t know, the agent who could give us all those answers is missing.”

“Okay, well…what else do you know?” Magnus asked.

“That’s it.” Alec said sincerely. “There’s footage of the incident, but all the men involved were wearing masks, so it was impossible to identify them. I have to be in the office in the morning, so if there’s something new about it, I’ll let you know immediately, I promise.”

“Okay, well...I’ll try to see what I can find out about this escape from my side, my father always leaves a trace, so I’ll see what I can find out about this, but I don’t want you to worry about anything, okay? We’re going to be fine, I don’t think he’s going to try anything against us any time soon. My father is smart, he’s not going to risk ending up in jail again after just escaping.”

“I know.” Alec said sincerely. “I mean, I’m worried because your father is, well, we know who he is, and we have to be careful now that he's free, but I've already taken some precautionary measures.”

“What did you do?”

“Hmmm, I...I...don’t freak out, okay?” Alec said, already fearing Magnus’s reaction. He hadn’t given much thought to the idea when he had assigned the agents to patrol both their neighborhoods, but now that Magnus was here, he was a bit worried about his reaction to his plan.

“What did you do, Alexander?”

“I-I...hmmm, I assigned a team of federal agents to patrol your neighborhood.” He confessed.

“You what!?”

“What did I ask you? Don't freak out, remember? Like I said, it was just a precautionary measure, Magnus, to make sure you were safe. I knew your father wouldn’t dare to come near you so soon, but I had to be prepared, if something were to happen to you because of me, I would never, ever, forgive myself. And don’t worry, I didn’t give them your address, I’m not stupid. I promised that no one would ever know about your home, and I meant it, I just put them to patrol Brooklyn Heights—all of it. I know that you never leave your home without taking the necessary steps to ensure your own safety, so I’m sure no one will recognize you. Besides, it’s only for a couple of days until we know where your father is.”

“Alexander…”

“Don’t, okay? I did it to protect you and I don’t care if you get mad at me for it. It’s what I had to do and that’s the end of this.”

“I’m not mad.”

“Then stop looking at me like that.”

“I’m not looking at you in any way.”

“Yes, you are, you’re looking at me in a very strange way.” Alec said, because Magnus was looking at him like he had never done before.

“It’s not that, I’m just...touched.” Magnus confessed. “I mean, I knew you cared about me, but I didn’t know you cared so much. Hmmm, no one had ever worried about my safety as you do. It’s hmmm...weird.”

“Weird in a good way or bad?” Alec asked.

“In a good way, of course.” Magnus said. “And don’t worry about me, okay? Nothing bad is going to happen to me, I promise. And hmmm, thanks...for trying to protect me, that’s actually very sweet.”

Alec smiled softly and leaned over to kiss him. “You’re welcome.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“What else did my father tell you when you talked to him?”

“It wasn’t a very long conversation.” Alec confessed, realizing that he hadn’t shared with Magnus what had happened that day. He had been so caught up in wanting to hear Magnus’s version of the story that he hadn’t shared with him yet what Asmodeus had told him.

“It doesn’t matter, tell me everything you remember, I need to know what he’s up to.”

“Hmmm, okay.” Alec said, trying to remember everything that had happened that day. “Well, at first he just told me he wanted to meet me, but then he confessed that he knew I was working with you. He didn’t exactly say your name, but he said something about his son and well, that intrigued me.”

“Of course it did.”

“Then, well, he tricked me into saying your name and that’s when I knew he was more dangerous than I had anticipated. He knows how to play with people’s minds.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Anyway, after that he just said he wanted to learn to know me better or something like that. He said that I intrigued him. He told me that he followed you here to my apartment one day and-”

“So that was how he figured out we were together.” Magnus said, interrupting him.

“You knew he knew we were together?” Alec asked confused—he hadn’t reached that part of the story yet.

“I figured that much out when he decided to tell you who he was and what had happened between us.” Magnus said. “He wouldn’t have done it if he hadn’t known you were going to talk to me about it. He knew we were together and wanted that conversation to happen between us, why? I don’t know, but he wanted it to happen. Maybe he thought I wasn’t going to be honest with you and he was counting on that for something, but he doesn’t know that what we have is different.”

“I think he does?” Alec suggested tentatively. “He told me that I was different from the rest of the people you've been with. He said that all the people in your life have always wanted something from you, but that he knew I didn’t want anything.”

“Well, he didn’t lie about that...you are different.” Magnus said with a soft smile. “But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know how things are between us. He can try to guess, but he doesn’t know—he can’t know.”

“Why?”

“Because he doesn’t know what that is…he’s never known.” Magnus said, getting a bit lost in his own thoughts. “But anyway, what else did he say?”

“Hmmm, after that he told me that you had been working for him all these years and when I said I didn’t believe him, he told me the story about your mother. It was a very short and biased version of it, but he still shared it with me. Then I asked him why he was telling me all that when he should be trying to make me hate you, you now? And he said because he didn’t want me to hate you.”

“He said that?”

“Yeah, the conversation is a bit fuzzy in my mind right now, but I do remember that he said that he didn’t want me to hate you. Anyway, I then asked him if he was willing to go to prison for a crime he hadn't committed—during the conversation he had insinuated that you had framed him for the bonds—and he said yes. When I asked him why, he just said that because it was convenient for him at the moment.”

“Of course it was, my father never does anything without a plan...I guess I learned that from him.” Magnus said a little crestfallen. “But anyway, whatever his plan is, I’m going to find out what it is and make sure he stays away from you. Is that all he said?”

“Yeah, pretty much. Well, he also said he wasn’t going to reveal what was happening between us because it was none of his business. I don't know if he was telling the truth or not, but at least in his statement he didn't mention anything, so I guess he wasn't lying?” Alec said.

“He’s never cared about any of that, he has other ways to hurt people, so no, he wasn't lying about that. If he had wanted to expose us we would have done it already. Anyway, like I said, don’t worry about anything, okay? I’ll take care of this, I promise.” Magnus said.

“You look concerned...and sad.” Alec pointed out. Magnus might not have noticed it, but he was like an open book to Alec. His posture, his gaze, his expression, every part of his body was an indicator for Alec of the emotional state of the criminal. And tonight he looked thoughtful, worried, sad...lost somewhere in his thoughts.

“No, it’s just that…” Magnus hesitated. “I’m sorry I dragged you into all this mess, I should have walked away from you when I could. My life's always been a series of misfortunes and you don't deserve to go through any of them. If I had been strong enough to-”

“Hey.” Alec said, interrupting Magnus and forcing him to look him in the eye. “Don’t say that, okay? I wouldn’t change what happened between us in a million years, do you hear me? Yes, I know this is unusual and that things could end badly for both of us, but-but...you changed my life, Magnus, and I would never change this, us, for anything in the world.”

“You changed my life too.” Magnus confessed. “You actually turned it completely upside down.”

Alec smiled pleased with that answer. “Good.” He said, leaning over and kissing him again.

“I should probably get going.” Magnus said, between kisses. “You need to sleep and I have to see what I can find out about my dear father, I don’t want to alert my friends about any of this yet, so I have to do it on my own.”

“Why?”

“They can be very dramatic when it comes to my father, especially Ragnor.” Magnus said, trying to stand up from the couch.

“Don’t go…” Alec asked, practically clinging to Magnus’s arm. “Stay for five more minutes?”

“Since when did you become so clingy?” Magnus asked, but stayed where he was.

“It’s the lack of sleep.” Alec confessed.

“So when you’re well-rested, you aren’t going to want me near you?”

“Pretty much,” Alec joked, resting his head on Magnus’s shoulder, “so don’t get too used to it.” He said, closing his eyes and trying to synchronize his breathing with Magnus’s.

“I won’t.”

“Magnus…”

“Uh-huh?”

“If for some reason your father went after you and you had to run away, you would tell me, wouldn’t you? Before leaving, I mean.” Alec asked.

“Yes, but I’m not going anywhere.”

“Not even if your father decided to go after you?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re here.”

“But I want you to be safe, I don’t care if that’s far from me.” Alec said sincerely. That was a concept that, although it hurt to just think about it, didn't make it any less true. Magnus's safety always came first.

“And I’ll be safe—but I don’t need to go anywhere.”

“You promise?”

“I swear.” Magnus said, “I know how to handle my father, Alexander...remember that I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.”

“Yeah…” Alec agreed, because that much was true. Magnus practically had a PhD in the man. “But still promise me that you’ll be careful, okay?”

“Okay I promise, but I also need you to promise me that you’ll be careful too, okay?”

“I will.” Alec assured him.

They fell into a peaceful silence again, just enjoying each other's presence until Alec remembered something that had been bothering him since the other day when they had talked and that until now, he hadn’t had the chance to ask. “What do those words you said the other day mean, huh? The ones in Indonesian...” He asked.

“You didn’t look them up?”

“I tried, but I didn’t know how to spell them.”

Magnus just laughed.

“So?” Alec asked.

“I’m not going to tell you—at least not today.”

“Why not?”

Magnus shrugged.

“Is it something bad?”

“No.”

“Then?”

Magnus shrugged again.

“Can I torture the truth out of you?” Alec asked hopefully.

“You can try…” Magnus smiled, “but since it’s late and your little brother is sleeping in your bed, I don’t think that’s the best idea. Besides, you’re very tired for that, darling.”

Alec pouted. “Are you going to tell me someday?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“Soon.”

“When’s so-” Alec was trying to ask, when Magnus silenced him with a passionate kiss, effectively putting an end to their conversation.

“You don't play fair, did you know that?” Alec complained, trying to catch his breath after that kiss.

“I know.” Magnus said with a wink. “I know...”

Chapter Text

Magnus was standing on the balcony of his loft, trying not to freeze to death while making a call. December had just arrived and probably being out in the cold air wasn’t the best idea if he wanted to avoid getting sick, but he needed the privacy that this place provided, since both Ragnor and Raphael were inside his home and he couldn’t discuss the details of this conversation in front of any of them.

As he had told Alec, he hadn’t shared anything with his friends about his father’s escape and instead had spent days trying to find him on his own. He knew it was only a matter of time before either Ragnor or Raphael found out what had happened, but he didn’t want them to worry just yet—especially Ragnor. His friend always reacted badly when it came to Asmodeus, probably because he knew better than anyone that the fugitive criminal always went to great lengths to get what he wanted, and although Ragnor didn’t say it openly, Magnus knew that that had always frightened him a little. They both knew that Asmodeus had no limits.

“So in short there’s no news.” Magnus concluded, sighing and leaning against the parapet of the balcony. The man he had asked to investigate his father’s whereabouts had spent the last ten minutes talking and talking about Asmodeus's incredible hiding techniques, but hadn’t provided any useful information to find him.

“No, sir, none. As far as the criminal world knows, Asmodeus was captured last week and transferred to one of the Interpol facilities.” The man, whose name Magnus couldn't remember, said.

“Well...keep investigating and let me know if anything comes up.” Magnus said, hanging up the phone and cursing under his breath.

Finding his fugitive father and trying to figure out what he was up to without Raphael’s contacts had turned out to be more difficult than he had anticipated. He had called a lot of people, had dug in his father’s past to find someone who might know about him, but no one knew where he might be or what he might be planning. It was as if the man had disappeared from the face of the planet.

“Where the hell are you?” Magnus asked into the air, looking at the city and wondering if his father could still be somewhere out there.

“Who are you looking for?” A voice asked, making him jump.

Magnus turned around and found Ragnor and Raphael standing by the balcony door, staring at him with curiosity on their faces.

“No one.” Magnus said, trying to come up with something convincing to tell them instead of the truth, but he had no idea how long his friends had been standing there.

“Don’t lie to us.” Ragnor warned him.

“I’m not lying.”

“Yes, you are. We heard everything, okay? We know that you’re looking for someone and apparently there’s no news, so tell us, who are you looking for?” Ragnor asked.

“Now you listen to my private conversations?”

“Yes,” Ragnor admitted blatantly, “because you’ve been acting weird these past few days and we’re worried.”

“No, I haven’t.” Magnus said in self-defense, though he knew Ragnor had said nothing but the truth.

“Yes, you have. At first we thought it was because you had had a fight with the fed or something, so we decided to give you some space, but he was here the other day and stayed over, I saw his car parked outside, so this isn’t about him. You’re distant, mysterious, hiding things from us...so speak, Magnus, what the hell is going on?”

Magnus sighed in defeat. He had seriously underestimated his friends’s observation skills. “You don’t want to know.” He said as a last resort.

“You can’t know that, so go on...speak.” Ragnor insisted.

Magnus sighed again—he knew he would have to tell them. “Can we go inside? I’m freezing.”

“You’re not going to get away from this one, Bane.” Raphael said.

“I know, but I really don’t want to catch a cold, so can we? Please?”

Ragnor and Raphael nodded and moved from the door. They entered the loft, and Magnus immediately closed the balcony door behind him, leaving the icy weather on the other side of the glass. “You may want to sit down for this one.” He suggested.

Ragnor and Raphael looked at each other, but didn't move.

“Trust me.” Magnus insisted, already anticipating their reaction.

His friends frowned but sat down. Magnus poured three glasses of cognac to help them all warm up and handed them to his friends before sitting down too. “This isn’t easy…” He began to say.

“¡Sólo dilo!” Raphael said, losing all his patience.

Magnus took a sip of the strong drink before speaking. “Okay, here goes...last week-last week Asmodeus escaped.”

“What!? ¿Qué?” Both, Ragnor and Raphael, exclaimed respectively.

“That’s impossible!” Ragnor continued. “I mean, he was just captured last week, how is it that he managed to escape so soon? This doesn’t make any sense! How could he do it under the custody of both the Interpol and the FBI!? He’s smart but-but-”

“I know.” Magnus said. “I was as surprised as you are when I found out.”

“Surprised? I'm not surprised! I’m terrified!” Ragnor admitted. “Have you thought what this could mean for us? For you? We’re talking about the man who ruined your life! The man who used you and manipulated you for decades, Magnus! This is bad! Very, very bad!”

“I know!” Magnus said, trying to calm his friend, but it was evident in the way that Ragnor was now pacing all over the living room that he had no intention of calming down anytime soon.

“How did this happen?” Raphael asked. He was calmer than Ragnor, he looked worried and confused, but at least he was handling it better than his other friend.

Magnus took a deep breath and, as fast as he could, explained what had happened, from the moment the Interpol had decided to rush his father’s transfer, to the latest developments in the investigation.

“And why didn’t you tell us about any of this before?” Raphael asked, when Magnus finished telling the story.

“Because I didn’t want this to happen.” Magnus admitted, pointing to Ragnor who was on the verge of freaking out. “I was trying to track him down on my own and find out what he was up to before worrying you both about it. The FBI and the Interpol are working together to try to find him, so I figured I could try to keep this under wraps for a few more days, at least until I had more information about him, I didn’t want you guys to freak out.”

“Don’t freak out?” Ragnor exclaimed sarcastically. “Your father escaped, Magnus! After what we did to him, he could decide to go after all of us!”

“He’s not going to do that, okay? He’s not stupid.” Magnus said, trying to reassure his hysterical friend. “Besides, you two are going to be fine. If there’s a person he wants dead, that’s me not you, so don’t worry—your lives aren’t in any imminent danger.”

“You can’t ask us not to worry.” Ragnor and Raphael said in unison.

“You are our friend…” Ragnor added, “what happens to you, happens to us.”

Magnus sighed. “I know...and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, I thought it was the right thing to do.” He admitted.

“Has he tried to contact you?” Raphael asked.

“No, he’s been very quiet. I wouldn’t have known of his escape had it not been for Alexander. The local news haven’t been very vocal about the case, Alexander told me that the FBI pulled some strings to prevent the details about the escape from reaching the media while the investigation takes place—they suspect it was an internal affair.”

“Of course it was, it’s obvious that they let him go!” Ragnor said.

“Maybe...but it wasn’t the FBI, if someone from the inside did help him, it was the Interpol.”

“How do you know that?” Raphael asked.

“There’s a missing agent. At first they thought that the men who had helped my father had taken him hostage, but it’s been a week since then and there's no news, good or bad, about the agent, so now they think he was the one who helped them. The FBI’s been analyzing the footage of the attack and there seems to be no struggle when they took the agent, so they are inclined to believe it was all part of the plan.”

“You father has friends in the Interpol?” Raphael asked in surprise.

“I didn’t know...but it looks like it.” Magnus admitted.

“Well, that's not going to make things any easier, but don't worry, I’m going to put some of my best men to try to find him.” Raphael said. “He couldn’t have disappeared just like that, someone out there must know something about him.”

“I know, and I tried to find him by calling some of the people I know he’s done business with in the past, but nobody knows anything about him.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that.” Raphael said, already sending some text messages to start the investigation on the criminal. “And what are you planning on doing when we find him? You’re going to apologize for what you did, aren’t you?”

“Apologize? Are you crazy? Of course not! Why would I even apologize? He should be the one apologizing for ruining my life, not me.” Magnus said almost amused by his friend’s suggestion.

“I know, I know…” Raphael said, “and I’m just suggesting this because, well, you have to think about the consequences of your actions, Bane. He’s your father, and after what happened I can assure you that he's not going to be very happy with you, but maybe if you played your cards right, he could let this incident with the bonds and the FBI pass and-”

“I’m not going to do that, Santiago.” Magnus said determinedly. “I’m not afraid of him, so if we do find him, I’m just going to try to figure out what he’s up to and make sure he stays away from all of us—that’s all.”

“Okay, okay, do whatever you want...it was just a suggestion.” Raphael said, raising his hands in defeat. “And I’m assuming that this ‘all of us’ you’re talking about includes your fed?”

“Yes.”

“Muy bien.” Raphael said. “Then I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you told Cat about any of this?” Ragnor asked.

“No, and please don’t tell her, Ragnor. You know how she gets—she’s even worse than you.”

“She needs to know.”

“No, she doesn’t. She can’t do anything but worry about us, so please, Ragnor...this stays between us, okay? If we manage to figure out what my father wants and what his plan is, then maybe I can consider telling her, but until then, it’s better if she doesn’t know.”

“Okay...fine.” Ragnor exhaled resigned. “We’ll do this your way, but if your father-”

“My father won’t do anything, trust me, okay?”

“You have too much faith in him.”

“It’s not that, Ragnor, it’s just that...he’s smart, okay? And he knows I’m not alone. I didn't tell you this either, but he knows I’m with Alexander.”

“He...what!?”

“When Alexander captured him, my father asked to speak with him and seized the opportunity to tell him who he really was and everything that had happened between us since I had asked for his help all those years ago.”

“So he knows you’re screwing a fed?”

“Ragnor…”

“What? You are, aren’t you? But okay, I’ll rephrase if it bothers you that much...your father knows you’re sexually involved with a federal agent?”

Magnus rolled his eyes, but nodded. “So as you can see, he’s not going to risk ending up in jail again so soon. He knows Alexander is going to protect me.”

“And is he? Because-”

“He’s already doing it.” Magnus interrupted, without elaborating any further.

“How?”

“That’s better if you don’t know, my friend. I don’t want to make things even more complicated for him, just know that he’s making sure we all are safe—including you two.”

Ragnor and Raphael looked at each other, it was clear they were still wary of Alec, but the agent was slowly growing on them.

“Okay...then we’ll have to give this one to your fed.” Raphael said.

“He’s a good person and he cares about me.” Magnus said. “I know you two aren’t very convinced about my relationship with him, but-” He was saying when his phone rang, interrupting their conversation.

Magnus took it out of his pocket and smiled when he saw the name flashing on the screen—it was Alec. “One second, I have to take this call.” He told his friends, walking a few steps toward the kitchen to have some sort of privacy.

“Who is it?” Ragnor asked, but Magnus ignored him and just answered the call.

“Hey there, handsome!” He said, greeting his boyfriend with the same love and affection as always.

“The fed…” Ragnor and Raphael said in unison, guessing who it was, but Magnus wasn’t paying them any attention, all his attention was on the conversation that was taking place on the phone.

“Hi...hmmm, are you free tonight?” Alec asked. He sounded nervous, but not in a bad way, just as if he were unsure of Magnus's reaction to that question.

“For you, I’m always free, Alexander.” Magnus said sincerely.

“Ugh!” Raphael exclaimed from across the room. “Mejor nos vamos.”

“Hold on a second, okay, Alexander?” Magnus said, when he saw his friends grabbing their coats and heading for the door. “Let me know if you find anything, okay?” He told his friends, partially covering the speaker of the phone. “And please, try not to worry too much.”

“Si, si...adios.” Raphael said, walking away.

“Ragnor?” Magnus asked, locking eyes with his best friend.

“Yes, don’t worry. Bye.”

Magnus exhaled a little relieved—that hadn’t gone as badly as he'd feared.

“Is everything okay?” Alec asked.

“Yeah, I just told Ragnor and my other friend about my father. They didn’t take it half as bad as I'd feared they would, but they are worried—they know who my father is.”

“Do you think they can help you figure out where he is?”

“Probably, they have more contacts than I do...it’s part of the way we work, you know? They make all the negotiations and I do the dirty job.” Magnus said. “But anyway, you asked me if I was free, why? Do you have something in mind?”

“Maybe…I wanted to invite you over to my place,” Alec said, “for the weekend.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, last week I realized that you've never stayed officially and I don’t know, I thought it would be a good idea to spend some days together. You can even use the front door and everything, my siblings aren’t here.”

“They aren’t?”

“No, they went to the Hamptons for the weekend.”

“And you weren’t invited?”

“I was, but I don’t like it much there, so I thought maybe I could stay and...and-” Alec hesitated, “-I can still catch up with them if you think this is a bad idea and-”

“Don’t even think about that!” Magnus said, already running to his room to pack some clothes and leave everything ready to go to Alec’s apartment. “I’ll just pack some clothes, leave enough food for my son and head to your place. See you in a bit, okay?”

“Okay.” Alec said. “Don’t take too long.”

“I won’t.”

o-o-o-o-o

Alec was very nervous. He had officially invited Magnus to stay at his home for the weekend and now that the criminal had said yes, he didn’t know what to do to calm his nerves. This was completely new to him, and although Magnus had been in his home enough times already for Alec to feel this nervous, there was something about the idea of spending a whole weekend with him that made him feel all kinds of nervous and excited.

At first he had hesitated about the plan, having someone who wasn’t family staying at his home and sleeping in his bed was uncharted territory for him, but the more he thought about the prospect of having Magnus in his home for more than 24 hours, the more he became convinced that it was what he wanted. So when his boss had informed them that they would be having a weekend off and his siblings had started planning the trip to the Hamptons with their friends and respective significant others, Alec had immediately thought of staying in the city and spending his time with his boyfriend.

They had had a very complicated week with all the stuff about Asmodeus, and Alec just wanted to spend a couple of days without thinking about all the problems they still had and what could go wrong. He had been practically locked up in the Bureau all week, and although he had talked to Magnus every day—sometimes even into the wee hours of the morning—they had only seen each other once in over a week and he would be lying if he said he didn’t miss him, because he did...a lot. So these days off work seemed like the perfect excuse to make up for that and have some fun in the process.

“We just arrived.” His sister, Izzy, texted him. Alec had asked her to send him a quick text message the moment they made it safe and sound at their destination. “We miss you, but we hope you’re having fun with that mysterious boyfriend. Be safe, okay? We love you, see you on Sunday!”

Alec rolled his eyes, but texted her back, telling her to have fun too and come back home in one piece. This was the first time Alec missed that trip, and although he didn’t regret it at all, he still worried about the safety and well-being of his siblings.

“Yes, yes, we will...don’t worry about us, okay? Just enjoy your weekend alone with your man.” She replied, adding a series of emojis that Alec simply couldn't decipher, but that he suspected had some sort of sexual meaning hidden in them.

Alec blushed and just blocked the screen of his phone. He was already regretting having been honest with them and confessing why he had decided to stay in the city instead of going with them to the trip. He was sure that Izzy wasn’t going to let this go that easily, especially because of the two of them, she was the one who kept trying to guess who Alec’s mysterious boyfriend was.

The alarm he had set to notify him when it was time to get the food out of the oven rang, so Alec hurried to the kitchen and took out the lasagna he had prepared. He wanted them to have a nice dinner together, and since lasagna was the only dish he had mastered over the years, he wasted no time trying out other complicated dishes and just prepared it, hoping that Magnus liked it.

He was setting the table and lighting some candles when the doorbell rang. He was just waiting for one person, so he took a deep breath to calm the sudden flutter of anxiety in his stomach, straightened his shirt—the one that Izzy had insisted that he should wear after he had told her some of his plans for the weekend—and walked to the door, not without first pressing play on the record player to let the music enchant the air with its soft notes.

“Hi.” Alec said the moment he opened the door and saw Magnus standing there wearing a huge smile—and a sinful shirt that Alec planned to rip off at some point during the night.

“Alexander, you look absolutely stunning.” Magnus said, pointing at him with his mouth half open.

Alec blushed, but smiled appreciating the compliment. Little by little, he was learning to enjoy and not feel uncomfortable when Magnus told him something nice about his looks or personality; it was still weird, but unlike some months ago when all those compliments made him duck his head in embarrassment or want to change the subject, now he just smiled and tried not to show how much those nice words meant to him. “You look good too, I mean, you look great—more than great even.” He admitted, because he was 100% sure that there was no other man on the entire planet who could look better than Magnus did at the moment. Maybe it was a biased opinion, but that didn’t make it any less true. “But please, come in.” He said, stepping back from the door to let his boyfriend in.

“It’s so weird to use the front door of the building, I was-” Magnus was saying, but stopped mid-sentence the moment his eyes landed on what Alec had done with the apartment—the romantic table, the candles, the music. “Oh, wow…” He breathed out.

“Was it too much?” Alec immediately asked because well, he had never done this before and maybe he had exaggerated and ruined everything and-

“No.” Magnus said, smiling at him with a smile Alec hadn’t seen before. “It’s perfect.” He added, giving him a quick peck on the lips.

Alec smiled pleased with that—maybe he wasn't so bad with all this romance stuff after all.

“I brought some wine.” Magnus added, taking out two bottles from the bag he was carrying. “I didn’t know what you had in mind, so I brought red and white—just in case. Either way we can finish both bottles this weekend, don’t you agree?”

Alec nodded. “We’ll start with the red one...we’re having lasagna.”

“Excellent.” Magnus said, making himself at home and immediately putting the bottle of red wine on the table and the other in the fridge. “And what’s with this trip that your siblings decided to make, huh?”

“Well, it’s not something new...actually.” Alec admitted, cutting some bread and taking it to the table. “We have a house there, so we try to go every year before the holidays. We usually do it a week before Christmas, just to relax before all the family festivities, but this year we, well, they had to do it this week because it seems like this will be the only weekend off we’re going to have.”

“Speaking of that, how considerate of your boss to let you all sleep for a change.” Magnus said with sarcasm.

Alec knew that his boyfriend wasn’t very happy with the fact that Alec had barely slept all week and he was constantly reminding him how dangerous overwork could be for his health, and how if his boss didn’t give him a well-deserved break, he was going to personally kidnap him until he slept for at least twelve hours straight.

“I was two seconds away from breaking into the FBI headquarters and demand this agent Stark-whatever to let you sleep. When was the last time you didn't work on the weekend?”

“It’s Starkweather.” Alec corrected his boyfriend about his boss’s last name. “And I don't remember...a couple of months ago, maybe?”

“Well, I don’t care what his name is, he’s on my list already.” Magnus said dismissively. “And I’m glad I didn’t have to go that far, it would have been quite a novelty if I'd showed up at your work.”

Alec chuckled—just thinking about Magnus entering the FBI building made him shudder, but at the same time the idea struck him as funny. He could already see the faces of all the agents looking at Magnus without knowing what to do. “I certainly don’t want to see that happening—ever, but I'd pay a million dollars just to see everyone’s faces, like...can you imagine?”

“It would be worthy of all the headlines that's for sure, especially since we both know they wouldn't be able to catch me, not even if I were in their own facilities.”

“You really underestimate us.”

“No, I don't…well, not you anyway, but I know that your people-”

“My people?” Alec interrupted, amused.

“Yes, your people, dear, you may be prettier than them, but you're still part of that selected group. Anyway, I know you all don’t work well without a plan, so if I suddenly showed up at your own headquarters you wouldn’t even know what to do.”

Alec laughed. “True...but, that’s not going to happen, okay? I don’t want you near that building—ever. No matter what happens, you can’t be near there, understood?” Alec said. “And now, let’s eat before this gets cold.”

"So bossy!" Magnus said with a smile, sitting down on the table and opening the bottle of wine. "To us." He added after handing Alec a glass.

“To us.” Alec agreed, clinking his glass against his boyfriend’s and taking a tentative sip of the reddish liquid.

It was absolutely delicious. He had never liked red wine before, but with Magnus he was learning that maybe he did like it after all. “I hope you like the food.” He added, when he noticed that Magnus was about to try what he had prepared.

This was the first time Alec cooked for anyone other than his family and he was a bit anxious about it. He knew the food wasn’t bad, he could prepare a mean lasagna, but still, the expectation of how Magnus was going to react when he tried it was driving him crazy.

“Oh my God…” Magnus said, dropping his fork.

“Is it bad?” Alec asked already mortified. He hadn’t had time to taste it after taking it out of the oven and although he was sure he had used the right ingredients, perhaps he had gotten carried away with the salt and pepper or-

“What!? Are you out of your mind? This is absolutely delicious!” Magnus said, retrieving his fork and immediately taking another bite, moaning in sheer pleasure.

Alec blushed not only because Magnus had liked the food, but because the sounds his boyfriend was making while eating, were making him think of things he shouldn’t be thinking so early in the night—Magnus was moaning as if he were in the middle of the best orgasm of his life.

“You okay?” Magnus asked.

“Yeah, yeah…” Alec said, trying to clear his mind. “I’m...I'm just glad you liked the food.”

“Where did you learn to cook like this?” Magnus asked with his mouth full.

“I...well, don’t be fooled, I’m not the best cooker there is. I mean, I know how to cook to survive on my own, but this is pretty much the only decent dish I can prepare. I don't cook very often, only on special occasions, so I was a bit nervous about tonight. This is the first time that I cook for someone other than my family, so I didn’t know if you were going to like it or not.” Alec confessed a bit embarrassed by the admission.

“I didn't like it, I loved it, and I’m honored to be one of the few who have had the pleasure of trying this delicious meal.” Magnus grinned and reached across the table to grab Alec’s hand and squeeze it tenderly. “Thank you.”

Alec smiled and squeezed Magnus’s hand back. He had no idea how he was going to survive an entire weekend with this man if with only ten minutes of him being there his heart was already doing all sorts of somersaults inside his chest.

“Can I ask you something?” Magnus asked casually.

“Yeah.”

“Are you a Grinch or something?”

“Excuse me?” Alec asked confused.

“It’s December…” Magnus said as if that explained everything.

“And?”

“There are no Christmas decorations.” Magnus pointed out.

“Oh...that.” Alec laughed. “Well, I never have time for decorations.” He confessed. “Besides, we always spend Christmas at my parents’ house, so there's really no point in getting all the boxes out and-”

“No point?” Magnus interrupted him. “It’s Christmas, Alexander, you have to decorate. Where’s your Christmas spirit, darling? But don’t worry, I’ll help you this weekend. I won’t leave until this place looks a bit Christmassy.”

“Okay.” Alec smiled. “Just take it easy on the decoration, I’ve never been much of a decorator and if this place suddenly becomes a replica of one of those houses in Dyker Heights, Jace and Izzy will know that I had nothing to do with it.”

“Noted.” Magnus laughed. “We’ll go easy on the decoration, I promise.”

“Is your loft already decorated?” Alec asked. He hadn’t been there in a few days, so he had no way of knowing.

“Of course! I decorated it just yesterday, it looks fantastic! I put up a big tree, wreaths and lights all around the living room, and some other decorations on the balcony. Oh, and there's mistletoe everywhere for when you're there...we have to take advantage of the traditions, don't you think?”

Alec smiled. He had never been kissed under the mistletoe before, but he liked the idea. Christmas sounded different now that he had someone else to share all those crazy traditions with. “Who do you spend the holidays with?” He asked, because he hadn’t thought of that until now. Christmas was a family holiday, but Magnus had no family, at least none that counted. “I’m assuming that with Ragnor?”

“Yes, and a couple more of our friends. We’ve been doing it for many years now—we’re like a big family. It’s always fun with them, we eat a lot of food, we wear those ugly sweaters and sometimes we even sing carols.”

“You love Christmas.” Alec stated. It was a bit obvious with the way Magnus was talking about the holiday.

“Yes, it’s my favorite time of the year. I learned to love it when I was in Spain living with the monks. They always made it into a big celebration with delicious food, beautiful decorations and amazing stories. My favorite part was when we had to make the ornaments for the tree. The monks didn’t have money to buy them, so they had to make them from scratch. Brother Abraham collected garbage and stuff all year long, and when it was time to put up the tree, he would take out all these boxes and we all would sit around this big table in the kitchen and start making shiny ornamentation. We used sequins, glitter, and sometimes even small pieces of glass to make them shine, they were so pretty.”

“So that’s where your love for glitter comes from.” Alec pointed out.

“I guess,” Magnus smiled, “I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but I suppose.”

Alec smiled. He loved it when Magnus shared tiny bits of his life.

“And you? Are your mother and little brother coming here or are you all going to D.C.?”

“They are coming...technically we were going to Washington, but with how things are here, my mother decided to spend the holidays in New York instead.” Alec said. “Not that that’s going to change things much. We always do the same thing, so it’s still boring no matter where we are.”

“Christmas isn’t supposed to be boring.”

“It is with my family, believe me.”

“Well, you can come over to my place when you’re done with them if you want. You could end the night with me, I promise it will be fun.”

“Really?” Alec asked surprised by the invitation. “But aren’t your friends going to be there?”

“Yes...and?”

“Are they going to be okay with me showing up out of nowhere? I’ve only met Ragnor, and it’s clear that he doesn’t like me, so I’m guessing the others won’t be very different. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable.”

“Well, for starters I think it’s safe to say that you know more than one of my friends, you just don’t know it yet, but you will...soon. Second, they won’t mind that you are there first, because they will probably be dead drunk by the time you arrive, and second, because they care about me and they know how important you are to me, so don't worry, no one is going to feel uncomfortable. They may not be honest with you and tell you who they really are or what they do for a living, but you already know that's how it works with people like us.”

“Yes, the less I know about your lives, the better.”

“That’s correct, so what do you say?”

Alec smiled. “Okay, I guess I could stop by and end the night with you.”

“It’s a date then.”

They smiled at each other and just continued eating, talking about everything and nothing, and enjoying each other’s presence as they always did. When their bellies were full, they moved their conversation to the couch. Alec quickly turned off the record player and headed to the kitchen to fetch some ice cream while Magnus put on a movie.

“What did you pick?” Alec asked, sitting next to Magnus and handing him a spoon.

“I don’t know, they first thing that popped up,” Magnus said with a shrug, “I’m not planning on actually watching it for long anyway.”

Alec blushed, because he liked the idea of not watching the movie for long more than he dared to admit out loud. “It that so?”

Magnus nodded, snuggling closer to Alec and scooping up some ice cream. Alec just smiled and did the same, being with Magnus had always felt natural, so tonight was no different.

They started to watch the movie together in complete silence, sharing only sweet glances and the creamy dessert.

“Can I confess something?” Magnus asked after a while, stealing the ice cream from Alec’s spoon. “The first time I came here to your apartment, I thought your living room was perfect for a movie night—it’s very comfy and cozy.”

“Really?”

“Yeah…” Magnus admitted. “Now I can confirm that I wasn’t mistaken, it’s perfect for a movie night.”

Alec smiled. “Can I confess something, too?”

Magnus nodded.

“Having you here last week, when I had to take care of Max, made me realize that you had never stayed over since-since...well, since this started.” Alec pointed to the two of them. “I know it’s because here we’re more exposed than in your place, like, I’m practically living with my family and the chances of them walking in on us are huge, but I really wanted us to experience this, you know? I wanted to have you here and-”

Alec didn’t finish what he was saying because Magnus silenced him with a kiss. His boyfriend’s lips tasted of vanilla and rich red wine, and Alec found that combination extremely intoxicating, alluring, and mouthwatering.

The kiss intensified and soon what started as a soft innocent kiss turned into a very heated make out session. Trying not to part their lips and break the kiss, Alec put the ice cream pint on the coffee table while Magnus slowly tried to unbutton his shirt. It had a lot of buttons, but Magnus was very skilled at it.

“Should we move this to the bedroom?” Magnus suggested.

Alec shook his head. “Not yet,” he said, trying to speak despite his ragged breath, “I wanna do it here, on this couch.” He added, pinning Magnus against the couch and trapping him with his body.

“Fulfilling fantasies, are we?” Magnus asked playfully.

“Maybe.” Alec said, kissing him and getting lost in his arms.

o-o-o-o-o

Spending the weekend at Alec’s apartment had been the best thing that had happened to Magnus in a very long time. They’d had so much fun together just enjoying the domesticity of it all—waking up next to each other, cooking breakfast, taking a shower together, going back to bed side by side—that Magnus couldn’t stop smiling. Yesterday they had spent all day in their underwear, decorating Alec’s apartment as they had promised and just eating takeout, curled up on the couch while random movies rolled one after another on the screen in front of them.

Today was their last day together and although Magnus was a bit sad that these wonderful days were coming to an end, he was happy that they had had the chance to at least experience them, because now thanks to this time together, he was even more certain that what he felt for Alec was real and growing more and more with each passing day.

He still hadn’t confessed his feelings to the agent, the fear of scaring him away stopped him, but after what had happened during the weekend he was more confident that they could be reciprocated. Alec hadn’t said anything yet, but the way he looked and smiled at him sometimes said more than a thousand words could.

“Alexander…” Magnus said. They were in the kitchen wearing nothing but their pajama bottoms. Alec was cooking omelettes while Magnus chopped up some fruit, although he hadn't been doing that and instead he had spent the last ten minutes just staring at his boyfriend—the papaya the agent had given him lay untouched on the kitchen counter.

“Yes?”

“I want to tell you something...” Magnus said.

“What?” Alec asked, glancing over his shoulder to let Magnus know he had his attention.

“It’s about what I told you the-” Magnus was saying when out of nowhere his phone rang, notifying him of a new text message.

“You turned it on?” Alec asked, making faces to Magnus.

They had agreed to stay disconnected from the world during the weekend, and although Magnus had followed that rule to the letter, this morning he had turned it on while Alec was still asleep. “Yeah, this morning when I woke up, but I just did it to see if there was any news about you-know-who, but I forgot to turn it off again. Don’t get mad at me, okay? I’ll turn it off right now and we can-” He was saying when his eyes caught who had sent the text message: Raphael.

"What is it?"

"It's from...my friend, the one I told you is investigating my father's whereabouts."

"Open it." Alec said.

Magnus nodded and quickly opened the text message, reading it to himself.

“He hasn’t left NY. Your fed was right, it was an internal affair. Interpol is involved. That’s all I know for now, I’ll keep you posted.”

“What happened?” Alec asked worriedly.

“He-he...my friend found out something about my father.” Magnus said distractedly, handing Alec his phone so he could read the text message himself.

“So we were right...the Interpol was involved, they helped him.” Alec said, handing him back the phone.

"Yes."

“Well, that’s going to complicate the investigation. I mean, we're talking about an intergovernmental organization, they certainly know how to cover their own tracks." Alec sighed. "But on the bright side, at least now we have some sort of confirmation that they were involved in all this mess. Also, it's kind of good to know that your father’s still in the city, that means we can still find him and capture him again.”

Magnus nodded. “I wonder where he’s hiding, though? It’s not like he has a lot of friends here.”

“If the Interpol helped him, then they should have taken care of that too. I don’t know much about the agent that was with him when this happened, Agent Dieudonne, but I know he was a big deal back in France, I’m sure he had people helping him in the city. Maybe your friend could help us find out more about him, don’t you think? If this agent has connections here and we figure them out, then we could probably have a chance at finding them.”

“I’ll ask him to see if he can find out something about this agent.”

“You know?” Alec said, turning around and resuming his cooking. “Meeting you has helped me realize that there’s no such thing as a sacred system. FBI, Interpol, CIA—they all have corrupt agents in their ranks.”

“And that disappoints you?” Magnus asked, though it sounded more like a statement.

“Not anymore,” Alec said, “at first learning all these things was hard, my whole life I had thought I was part of an honorable institution, so realizing that I had been a fool for believing that was a low blow, but now I’m kind of getting used to it.”

“I’m sorry I burst your bubble.” Magnus said sincerely.

“Don’t be,” Alec said, “it’s actually better, you know? Now I can see things clearly.” He added, turning around and smiling at Magnus.

Magnus smiled back and got up from the stool. “You need help with that?” He asked, standing behind Alec and whispering into his ear. The light mood they'd had all weekend had changed a bit with that last conversation and Magnus didn’t want it to disappear completely.

“No, I have it under-” Alec was saying, but stopped when Magnus wrapped his arms around him and helped him flip the omelette.

“I know, darling, but we always work better together.” Magnus said, leaving a soft kiss on Alec’s neck, knowing full well what that simple gesture did to the agent.

“Magnus…”

“What?” Magnus asked innocently, leaving more kisses all around the agent’s neck. Alec was very sensitive, but his neck was his weak point—one kiss and the man turned into jello.

“Please…”

“Please, what, Alexander?”

“We have to eat.”

“We can always eat later,” Magnus suggested, still kissing the nape of Alec’s neck and tracing with his fingers every muscle of that strong back he was so addicted to, “your siblings will be back today and I want to take advantage of every minute we still have together. You’re very loud in bed, sweetheart, we don’t want them to find out you’re with someone.” He continued, massaging Alec’s back.

“They already know I’m with someone.” Alec managed to say. The sweet torture that Magnus was inflicting upon his boyfriend was working. The agent had trouble breathing and was trying hard to suppress his moans.

“I know…but we don’t want them to know who that someone is, do we?” He asked, now sucking the agent’s earlobe.

Alec gave up, moaning loudly and turning off the stove.

Magnus smiled triumphantly and let his hands wander down Alec’s body, touching him gently. “You’re so loud.” He stated.

“No more than you.” Alec exclaimed, turning around in a swift motion and pushing Magnus against the kitchen island, kissing his Adam’s apple and making him moan too.

Magnus laughed, capturing that sinful mouth in his own and forcing Alec’s lips apart with his tongue. Alec moaned and gripped the back of Magnus’s head, clearly overcome by need as they devoured each other hungrily, barely coming up for air.

“Is it always like this?” Alec asked, panting.

He didn’t need to specify what he was talking about, Magnus already knew—they both were as hard as a rock.

“Sometimes,” Magnus admitted, “but with you everything is better—ten times better.”

Alec smiled and without any warning started palming Magnus’s erection, taking him completely by surprise.

“Oh, shit.”

“You like it?”

Magnus limited himself to nod. He was never going to get tired of Alec touching him. The agent was very, very skilled with his hands—and his fingers.

“I want you inside me.” Magnus said.

Since they had started having sex they had been experimenting and finding what they liked, and although Magnus really enjoyed taking Alec—and Alec loved to have Magnus inside him—he had to confess that sometimes he enjoyed more when Alec was the one who took him.

“Here?” Alec asked.

“Yes, here.” Magnus nodded, because the idea of testing whether all the surfaces in Alec’s apartment could withstand or not their passionate encounters was very appealing. So far, the couch, the wall in the hallway, the bathroom, and Alec’s room had passed the test with flying colors.

“But we don’t have any condoms left.” Alec told him.

“Really?” Magnus asked surprised. Apparently they had had a very busy weekend.

Alec just nodded.

“Then don’t use one.”

“What?”

“I'm clean,” Magnus said, “and I know you're too. We’ve been together for some time now, and I know I’m the only man you’ve been with, so it's okay, forget about the condom.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I trust you, Alexander. Do you trust me?”

Alec nodded, and instead of answering, he just smiled at him and quickly took off his pajamas and underwear, leaving Magnus completely exposed.

“You like what you see?” Magnus teased, when he saw that Alec’s eyes were completely lost in his body.

“Very.”

Magnus smiled. “You can keep contemplating me all you want, but I want to see you too, and right now, my dear, you’re a bit too dressed for my taste.”

“Then do something about it.” Alec challenged him, making Magnus laugh out loud.

He loved this playful and bold side of Alec. Since they had met, Magnus had noticed the different layers of Alec's personality, but it had been until they had started dating that he had actually been able to enjoy them and even take advantage of them—especially in bed.

“If you insist.” Magnus said, getting to his knees and using his teeth to pull down Alec’s pants in a slow and torturous way.

“Come here.” Alec said, grabbing him by the shoulders and clashing their mouths together.

And soon they were a mess of limbs, urgent kisses, loud moans, and sweat—too much sweat. Magnus was pinned against the kitchen island with his legs wide open, letting Alec in as deep as he could, over and over again until they were both crying out in pleasure, finding their release together and practically collapsing to the floor.

“You are definitely louder than me.” Magnus stated, when they fell exhausted on the kitchen floor. It felt like ice against his overheated skin, but it felt so good that he didn’t even care if he caught a cold after that.

“No, you’re louder.” Alec said, smiling broadly from his position on top of Magnus.

“I guess we'll have to ask someone else because, no, Alexander, you’re louder.”

“Ask someone else? You mean...?” Alec asked, not even daring to finish the question.

“Of course, we need a partial judge who can determine who’s louder in sex, darling.” Magnus said, joking at the sight of Alec’s face of pure horror. “I’m joking, Alexander, of course not. I know a few people who wouldn't say no if I asked them something like that, but I would never, ever, dare to do that. This is too special to share.”

Alec smiled and rested his chin on Magnus’s chest. “You said you wanted to tell me something, earlier when you got that text about your father, what was it?”

“Oh yeah…” Magnus said to gain some time. He had wanted to confess his feelings to Alec, but he had gotten distracted, and now that he thought about it, he didn't want to utter those three words when they were lying on the kitchen floor covered in sweat and cum. Alec deserved something better—something special. Besides, he wanted it to be a moment they both could remember at some point in their lives—even if they weren’t together.

“Well...what was it?” Alec asked again, following Magnus’s silence.

“Something about my father...I don’t even remember what it was, you have the ability to distract me very easily.” He said, already thinking about how he was going to do it. It would probably have to wait after the holidays because of the logistics and stuff, but he was almost certain Alec would love it.

“I have the ability to distract you? Who was the one who distracted me from cooking? I was making us some really nice breakfast when you decided that you wanted sex instead of food.”

“Sex is better than food, besides, it didn’t take much convincing, you’re weak, Alexander.”

Alec just rolled his eyes and hit him playfully on the chest.

“I’m going to file a complaint for police brutality.” Magnus joked.

“I’m not a policeman, I’m a federal agent.”

“It’s the same,” Magnus said, “you hit me and like it or not, here you’re the person with authority and-”

“There,” Alec interrupted him, kissing him where he had playfully hit him. “I kissed it better, happy now?”

Magnus smiled. “What am I going to do with you, Alexander?” He asked in adoration.

“For now? Feed me, I’m starving.” The agent said, standing up and taking some napkins to start cleaning up their mess.

Magnus burst out laughing, but stayed where he was, smiling like an idiot and admiring his boyfriend's perfectly sculpted naked body, wondering at what point in his life he had gotten so damn lucky.

Chapter Text

Alec was in his office at the end of what had been his first day of work after the holidays and as it had been happening to him all day long, his mind was everywhere but where it should be: focused on solving cases and catching the bad guys. It wasn't surprising, though, he'd had such a good time with Magnus in the past days that getting back to reality was turning out to be more difficult than he had anticipated. It had been days, but he still felt like floating on a cloud every time he recalled the events that had taken place in the last few weeks.

As he had promised, on Christmas, he had gone to Magnus’s place after being with his family and had ended the night there. The evening had been wonderful in every sense of the word, not only because he had spent an incredible time with his boyfriend, exchanging gifts and sharing stories of their respective families and friends, but because he had also been officially introduced to some of the people in Magnus’s life—Ragnor, Tessa, Jem, Raphael, Will, and a few other men and women who worked with and for the criminal. Some of them, Alec had already seen them on more than one occasion, either because they had helped Magnus with some of their very first dates when they still met in random places and used a lot of security protocols to see each other, or because the FBI already had them under their radar. However, they all had been extremely cordial with Alec, no one had treated him badly or made him feel like an intruder; on the contrary, some of them had even tried to include him, sharing with him funny stories from Magnus's past and making him feel as part of group—even if just for one night.

Then, on New Year’s Eve, he had decided to skip the Bureau’s annual New Year’s party and instead, he had gone with Magnus to celebrate the end of the year. It had been the first time he'd missed that party since joining the Academy, and although it had been strange not to be with his people on such an important date, it had been totally worth it. For a criminal, Magnus had very important friends in New York’s most selective elite circles, so they had ended up on a very luxurious yacht, sailing the Hudson and celebrating the end of the year and the beginning of a new one together. Alec had never liked parties, but he had to admit that this one, he had loved. Not only because he had had the opportunity to see New York City from a beautiful yacht while sipping expensive champagne, but because he had finally crossed out the ‘to be kissed at midnight on New Year’s Eve’ from his bucket list—and it had been better than he had ever imagined. When the clock had struck midnight, Magnus had smiled and kissed him with such passion that not even the beautiful fireworks lighting up the sky could match those he had felt inside his chest the moment their mouths had touched. It had been magical.

In fact, these last few weeks had been magical, as if they had been taken from a fairytale or the most beautiful romantic movie. However, Alec couldn't afford to keep daydreaming about them for much longer. Now he was at work, and whether he liked it or not, he had to concentrate. Valentine and fake-Magnus had been very quiet in the past couple of weeks, but he knew it wouldn't last forever and he had to stop them before they decided to come back with a new attack.

And also, there was the thing with Asmodeus and his mysterious escape that had only come to complicate everything. The office had already been under supervision due to the lack of progress in Valentine’s case, but now thanks to what had happened with Asmodeus and the Interpol, the situation had become something permanent. Lydia, who was supposed to stay for just a couple of weeks, had now been assigned as part of the investigation team along with four more agents from the CID. And although on the bright side, they had managed to keep the case under their jurisdiction, now they had five new pair of eyes to scrutinize every step they took, and that put Alec in a very difficult position. Now he would have to be more careful than before about everything related to the case because not only his relationship with Magnus was at stake with so many people involved in the investigation, but also his family safety and even his position within the institution. He would have to-

“Alec, can we have a talk?” Hodge asked, poking his head through the door and scaring Alec a little. He had thought he was the only one left in the office, after all, it was a bit late for his boss—or anyone for that matter—to still be around.

“Yes, sure...I didn’t know you were still here.” He confessed. “What’s up?”

“Nothing important, I just wanted to chat with you a bit about work and stuff, we missed you at the New Year’s party.” Hodge said, taking a seat in one of the chairs. “But I heard you went to celebrate with someone special?”

Alec got a little nervous but tried not to show it. “Yeah…”

“Boyfriend?”

“Hmmm, yes.”

“Well, that’s good, I mean, I’m happy for you.” Hodge said. “It was about time you met someone, but you should have brought him with you to the party instead of ditching us for him. It would have been great if we’d had the chance to meet him, don't you think?” He added.

Alec tried not to laugh. Little did Hodge know that he could never, ever, bring his boyfriend to a party full of federal agents. “We already had other plans.” He said instead.

“But you had fun, right?”

“Yeah, it was great.” Alec answered truthfully. Just a few minutes ago he had been smiling like a fool, replaying every minute of that night in his mind.

“Good, that’s good.” Hodge smiled at him. “Have your parents met this new boyfriend already?”

Alec frowned at the strangeness of the question, but answered anyway. “No, well, not yet. I’m no longer a kid, Hodge, I don’t have to introduce them to every person I date. They will meet him when I consider it’s the right time.” He lied.

“Of course, of course...my apologies.” Hodge immediately said. “I was just curious about it because, well, this is the first time I hear you're dating someone and I didn’t want your parents to give you a hard time about it. I’ve been friends with your family for many years and I know how they are—especially Maryse.”

Alec chuckled. “Well, she’s not going to take it well anyway, ever since I came out to her, she’s been dreading the moment I introduce her to a guy, but I really don’t care—it’s not like her opinion is going to make me change my mind about the person I'm with.”

“Well said,” Hodge said, “though your mother’s approval is always important, so if you’re serious about this guy, then you should introduce him to her and your father as soon as you can. It's the right thing to do.”

“Of course.” Alec said, playing along. He knew he could never do that, no matter how serious he was about Magnus.

“Anyway, I hope everything works out with this guy, you deserve it." Hodge said. "But now let’s get back to real reason I'm here...work."

Alec smiled.

"I’m sure you've already been informed about the CID's decision to send some agents to join the investigation team, haven't you?”

Alec nodded with a sigh.

“Well, Agent Brandwell informed me this afternoon that the new agents who will be part of the team will be here tomorrow morning.” Hodge continued.

“Really? So soon?” Alec asked in surprise. He hadn’t had time to talk to Lydia about anything today, but he was hoping they still had some weeks of freedom before the new agents joined the team.

“Yes, you know that was the condition to keep this case under our jurisdiction—we have to let them work with us as part of the team.”

"I know, but so soon?"

"They are in a hurry to close the case."

Alec rolled his eyes. "As if their presence here would magically solve everything and not complicate it even more." He said with sarcasm. “Do we know who these new agents are? Because with Lydia I can work, we understand each other, but I'm not sure about the others."

“No, but as far as I understood, agent Brandwell will be in charge of supervising them, so there's no need to worry about them—you can coordinate directly with her to make things easier.”

“Nothing is going to be easy from now on.” Alec muttered.

“Don’t think like that, everything’s going to be fine, Alec, really.” Hodge said. “I know that the idea of having more people here doesn't sound so good, especially after the review we just went through, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ve worked with other divisions of the Bureau in the past, this should be no different.”

“I know, I know…” Alec sighed, “but this time isn’t just us, Hodge, the Interpol is involved too. If something goes wrong, we could be talking about the beginning of an international incident. We have no control over any of them, having the Marshals here has been hard enough because of that, now add another set of by-the-book agents.”

“I get what you’re saying, but I’m confident we’ll get through this...I promise.”

Alec sighed. He wasn’t so sure about that, but he wasn’t going to argue with his boss about it, there really was no point. Alec no longer shared the same blind faith Hodge had over some of these institutions and he knew that no matter what he said, his boss wouldn't change his mind about them.

“Anyway, tomorrow we will have a meeting first thing in the morning to clear any doubts that this new collaboration may bring and also so that we all can meet the new agents. We will need all hands on deck if we want to find and recapture Asmodeus and at the same time stop and imprison Valentine and Magnus.”

“Magnus isn’t helping Valentine.” Alec said in a tired voice. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”

“Well, even if he’s not helping Valentine, we have to stop him.” Hodge said, looking Alec straight in the eye. “He’s still a dangerous criminal who deserves to be punished for what he’s done. You of all people know that, you’ve spent years of your life trying to catch him, so regardless of his alleged involvement with Valentine, he has to pay for the crimes he’s committed, don’t you agree?”

Alec took a deep breath before opening his mouth. “Of course.” He said, even when admitting that broke his heart. His opinion about Magnus had changed a lot in the last few months, but unfortunately that didn’t change the fact that his boyfriend was who he was and that if things somehow went wrong, he would have to hand him over to the authorities.

“I’m glad we’re on the same page,” Hodge said, “and speaking of that...what’s going on with Jace, huh?”

“With Jace?” Alec asked confused.

“Yes, I’ve noticed that he's a bit under the weather these days. He was very quiet during the New Year's party and then, today, when I bumped into him on my way to evidence, he was all jumpy and distracted—very unusual of him.”

Alec frowned. He had been with Jace most part of the day and he hadn’t noticed anything unusual, his brother was tired like the rest of them, going back to work after the holidays was always difficult, but he wasn’t acting strange—at least not with him.

“Maybe it’s nothing,” Hodge added, disregarding what he had just said, “but just in case, talk to him, okay? He’s your partner and brother, I’m sure that if he’s going through something, you’ll be the first one to know.”

“I will, I don’t think he’s-” Alec was saying when his phone rang. He didn’t need to look at the screen to know who that was, only one person had access to that number and it was the same person who had given him the phone in the first place.

“I…” Alec panicked a bit. He couldn’t answer that call in front of Hodge, it was too risky, but at the same time he couldn't just ignore it—he had plans with Magnus for tonight. They were going to have dinner at one of Tessa’s fancy restaurants, so he knew that his boyfriend was probably calling him to see if he was ready, Alec was supposed to be off from work more than two hours ago.

“I…I have to take this call.” He hesitated, pulling the phone out of his pocket.

“Yes, of course, I should get going anyway.” Hodge said, taking the cue to leave without Alec having to ask more directly. “I have some stuff to do and I see you have a busy night, have fun and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Alec blushed, but nodded. “Yeah, have a great night, Hodge.”

“You too.” The agent added, winking at him and walking out the office.

Alec took a very deep breath before answering the call.

“Hello, handsome!” Magnus exclaimed with enthusiasm.

“Hi.” Alec said with a smile, forgetting all about the conversation with his boss almost immediately—Magnus had that effect on him.

“There’s been a change of plans.” Magnus said.

“Really? What happened?”

“Well, Tessa just called. Apparently the restaurant is quite busy tonight and going there would be extremely risky for us, so alas, no dinner at a fancy restaurant for us tonight. You understand, right?”

“Of course.” Alec said, a little relieved. He didn't like going out much, but they had accepted Tessa’s invitation to go to one of her restaurants on Christmas, so there was no way to turn down that invitation without being rude. “So your place instead?”

“Yes,” Magnus said, “they're still going to send us the food, so I’ll make sure the place looks nice and everything. We could go to the rooftop to have dinner, but since it’s freezing cold outside, I suppose it’s better if we stay inside and eat by the fireplace with some good wine and without having to worry about getting caught.”

“I like that plan.”

“I’m glad you approve, so now get your pretty ass out of that office and bring it here as soon as you can.”

“How do you know I’m still in the office?” Alec asked, becoming a bit paranoid for a second. He had no idea how his boyfriend had known he was still in the office.

“Relax, okay? I’m not there, I just happen to know you, dear, and I know how addicted you are to your work, so I figured you'd want to start the year by working some extra hours to make up for all that time you’ve been neglecting your duty.”

“I haven’t been neglecting anything, it just turns out that you're very distracting.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should.”

“Well, thank you about that. Now, grab your stuff and come here, so I can show you how distracting I can be.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“Maybe...why don’t you come here and find out?”

Alec smiled. “Okay, I’ll see you there in a bit.”

“Don’t take too long, okay?”

“I won’t,” Alec smiled, “bye.”

“Bye, Alexander.”

Alec hung up the phone and smiled, picking up his things as fast as he could and heading for the door. He had a dinner date with his boyfriend and he had no time to waste.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus finished setting the table and getting everything ready for when Alec arrived. He had been looking forward to that dinner at Tessa’s restaurant for days, it was a really nice place and he really wanted to take Alec there, but now that their plans had changed and that that so-promised fancy dinner had been canceled, he had no choice but to try to make the most of the night and still make it special. He knew that Alec preferred when things were more intimate, with just the two of them, so a nice dinner in the comfort of his loft wasn't a bad idea—in fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it wasn't a bad idea at all.

"Wine? Chilling. Food? Still warm. Blankets? By the fireplace." Magnus said, making sure everything was ready.

When the doorbell rang, he quickly checked himself in the mirror to make sure his makeup and clothes were still intact, looked back at the beautiful setting he had prepared for them and rushed to the door to greet his boyfriend.

“Welcome, Alexander.” Magnus said, quickly kissing the agent on the lips and letting him in. “You look great.” He said, appreciating the outfit that his boyfriend had selected for tonight.

“You do too.” Alec smiled, making himself at home, hanging his coat by the door and putting his other belongings on one of the couches. “This looks nice.” He added, smiling at the romantic spot Magnus had created in front of the fireplace.

Winter was at its highest and although Magnus’s loft had a very good heating system, he had purposely lowered it down a bit to have the excuse to be near the fire and use the blankets to warm each other up.

“Well, I wanted tonight to still be special.” Magnus said. “Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Then let’s eat,” Magnus prompted him, “the food just arrived, so we just have to take it out—it’s still warm.”

“What did your friend send us?”

“Some fancy dish I can’t even pronounce, but she promised it was good—the house specialty or something.” Magnus said, taking the bags Tessa had sent him along with a bottle of Alec’s favorite white wine to the coffee table—where they would be having dinner tonight—and quickly sitting on the floor.

“To us.” Magnus said, after pouring two glasses of wine and offering one to Alec, who had just sat down beside him.

“To us.” Alec smiled, clinking his glass against Magnus’s and taking a sip of the wine.

“So how was everything back in the office today, huh?” Magnus asked as he placed their food in front of them so they could eat. He knew that Alec loved it when they caught up on their respective days after spending the day apart.

“Boring.” Alec confessed, taking a bite of his meal. “It’s always...oh, my God, this is delicious.” He interrupted himself.

Magnus took a bite of the food too and had to agree—whatever this was, Alec was right, it was absolutely delicious. “It is, but you were saying it was boring?”

“Oh, yeah,” Alec continued, “it’s always hard to get back to work after the holidays, like, your body is there, but your mind is still absent, lost in all the fun you had, but this year it was even harder. We have a lot of work to do, cases to solve, but nobody wanted to start. It was a nightmare.”

“Nobody but you, of course.”

“Well, I didn’t do a lot of work today, to be honest.”

“Is that so? Why?”

“I couldn’t concentrate…” Alec confessed.

“For any particular reason?” Magnus asked playfully.

Alec looked at him. “As if you didn’t know already...I told you, you’re very distracting.”

“So I’m the reason you can’t concentrate at work? Well, I can’t say I’m not happy to hear that, because I am—very.” Magnus said, sipping some wine. “And if it helps, if I were in an office working for hours, I wouldn't be able to concentrate either—you’re very distracting too. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these last few days with you.”

Alec didn’t answer, but smiled—there was a small blush coloring his cheeks.

“Anyway, is there any news about my father?” Magnus asked.

“No,” Alec said, shaking his head, “but do you remember what I told you about the CID?”

“That they had decided to let you keep the case, but that they would be sending some agents to join your team?”

Alec nodded. “They arrive tomorrow.”

“So soon?”

“Yes.”

“Well, they really must be in a hurry to close this case."

"They are."

"That's good, but at the same time not so much because that means that now you’re going to be even more busy than before.” Magnus said, because he was sure that with the CID agents joining the team, Alec was going to spend more time in the office and less time with him.

“Yeah, but I can always make time to see you,” Alec smiled, stealing some food from Magnus’s plate, “nothing’s going to change between us, I promise. Besides, the whole point of this multidisciplinary collaboration is to solve the case, right? And when we’re together we try solve the case too, so it’s not like I’m not working when I’m with you.”

“Well, we «used» to try the solve the case," Magnus said, correcting his boyfriend, "but lately we haven’t done much work.” He stated, because it was true. These past few weeks they had focused on their relationship and what they had, putting work, Valentine, and even Asmodeus in the background—their relationship had become their top priority.

“True, but we needed that.” Alec said sincerely. “At least I needed that.”

Magnus smiled. “I needed it, too.”

They smiled at each other and kept eating until they plates were clean. Their relationship had changed so much in the past few weeks that sometimes Magnus still marveled at how easy being with Alec had turned out to be. They were completely different, physically and mentally, but somehow they managed to complement one another, like two pieces of a puzzle that, although different in shape, when joined, fit perfectly and became one.

Magnus had never had that kind of connection with anyone before, so every second he spent with Alec was always new and refreshing, fascinating and unexpected. No matter what they were doing—talking, working, kissing, or just looking at each other—somehow all those moments ended up being magical; and Magnus had each and every one of them tattooed on his heart. The first time they had met on the rooftop of that jewelry store, their first date, the night he had stayed in Alec’s apartment to help him solve that case about the wills and they had danced, their first kiss, that day at-

“Dance with me?” Magnus asked abruptly. He had just realized that since they had started dating, they hadn’t danced as they had done that night in Alec’s place.

“What?”

“Dance with me?”

“There’s no music.” Alec said, blushing.

Magnus stood up and quickly put a song on his phone, it wasn't the same song they had danced that night, but it was just as slow and romantic, perfect for this moment.

“Now there’s music...may I have this dance?” Magnus asked, offering his hand to Alec.

Alec just smiled and took Magnus’s hand, standing up with a jump and immediately bringing their bodies together. Unlike that time when they had first danced and Alec had put up some resistance, now their bodies were as close as they could be; arms, foreheads, chests...there was no space between them and yet, it wasn't enough for Magnus to fill that need he had to be close to this man—with Alec never was enough.

“Do you remember that time in your place?” Magnus asked as they moved together around the living room, slow-dancing to the beat of the song.

“Yeah, it was nice.”

“Yeah, it was...but it was also hot.” Magnus added, remembering all those passionate kisses that had happened after they had danced.

“Very.”

“If your sister hadn’t arrived, do you think we would have...?”

“Probably,” Alec said, “I tend to stop thinking when you kiss me and after all the kissing that day, I can assure you that I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“Did you want it to happen?”

“Badly.”

Magnus smiled. “You just had to ask.”

“I would have never asked that.” Alec said, making Magnus spin just to land with his back on his own chest. “You know that.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not like that.”

“So you wouldn’t have made a move if I hadn’t kissed you.”

“I didn’t say that, I said I would have never asked you to have sex with me just like that—no matter how much I wanted it.”

“So you would have made a move?”

“Probably, though not as you’re imagining. You were driving me crazy...so yeah, I would have kissed you eventually.” Alec admitted. “Although I’m glad you did it first because it would have probably taken me much longer to make up my mind and muster the courage.”

Magnus chuckled. “I’m glad I did it too,” he said, turning around to be once again facing Alec, and leaving a soft kiss on his lips, “you’ve been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He admitted, looking at Alec straight in the eye so he could see that he was being completely honest. “There’s a Magnus before and after you, Alexander. From the moment we met, you changed my life, and despite how unusual our situation is, I have to confess that I can’t picture my life without you in it, little by little you’ve-”

“Magnus I…” Alec interrupted him.

The song was still going, but for some reason they had stopped moving. They were just standing there, their eyes fixed on one another, and somehow Magnus knew this was it—this was the moment he had been waiting for. The moment to finally confess his feelings.

He had been planning the perfect romantic date with flowers, music and an emotional speech that led to the most perfect love confession, but now that he had Alec in his arms and that they were there, just enjoying each other’s company, he realized that there would never be a more perfect moment than this one. No planning in the world could ever top this, so without thinking it twice, he ripped his heart out and offered it to Alec to do with it whatever he wanted.

“Aku cinta kamu…” He said before Alec could said anything else. This was the second time he uttered those words, but unlike that other time when Alec had no idea what they meant, this time Magnus saw understanding flashing on the agent’s beautiful eyes. Magnus knew that he didn’t have to say what they meant, Alec already knew. “I love you.” He translated, just in case.

Alec gasped, but there wasn’t repulsion or rejection on his face, no, there was only surprise, disbelief and...happiness? Magnus wasn't sure, but the agent's reaction was giving him hope and courage to keep talking.

“I know this only complicates things between us,” he continued, “and that it would have been better if I-” he was saying, but didn’t finish because Alec lunged at him, kissing him so hard that if Magnus hadn’t been holding on tightly to Alec, he would have ended up knocked on the ground.

“I love you too!” Alec said, kissing him repeatedly on the lips. It was as if Magnus saying those words had given Alec the freedom to say them too. “I don’t even know when it happened, but God, I love you, I love you so much.”

Magnus smiled and felt how his heart filled with a happiness he had never felt before. Sure, people in the past had told him they loved him, some way too early in the relationship, but this was the first time he heard them and really believed them. There was no doubt, Alec, his Alexander, loved him, and that—that meant everything.

“I’ve been wanting to tell you for so long,” Magnus admitted, grabbing Alec’s face with his hands and tenderly stroking one of his cheeks with his thumb. It seemed that words weren’t enough at the moment, he had to show what he felt somehow.

“You told me before,” Alec said with a smile, “you just didn’t tell me what those words meant.”

Magnus smiled. “I was afraid of losing you.”

Alec rolled his eyes. “You have nothing to be afraid of, you’re never going to lose me.”

Magnus exhaled relieved, hugging Alec tightly and letting what the agent had just said sink in. Never was a word that Magnus didn’t use very often, in his line of work promises of permanent things or never-endings weren’t possible, but with Alec everything had been so different that maybe, just maybe, he could allow himself the chance to hope—to hope that what Alec had said was true and that he would never lose him.

“When did you know?” Alec asked, breaking the hug and looking at Magnus. He was smiling so brightly that the light coming from the candles, the chimney, and the few lights Magnus had let on seemed dimmed compared to the glow emanating from his boyfriend. "When you told me your story?"

“No, long before that." Magnus confessed. "I don't really know exactly when it happened, there was never a day when I woke up and was able to put a name to what I felt. I just know that it feels as if it has always been there, just growing and growing with each passing day.”

Alec blushed. “I’ve known it for a while too.” He admitted. “It kinda started to dawn on me a few weeks ago, but I knew it was you from the first time we kissed.”

“Is that so?” Magnus asked playfully.

Alec nodded. “But I was afraid to admit it, as you said, this just complicates things between us, but I don’t care. I don't want to keep hiding what I feel, and what I feel is that I love you."

"Risks and all?" Magnus asked, remembering that conversation they had had on the Brooklyn Bridge when they had decided to give it a try to what they felt.

"Risks and all." Alec assured him.

"That's what I wanted to hear," Magnus said with a smile, "now, should we take this dance to my room?"

"We are not dancing anymore." Alec pointed out with a smile.

"I know, but we are about to do it again and this time...it will be with less clothing in the way." Magnus said, smiling mischievously and practically pushing his boyfriend into the bedroom. The night was short with Alec having to go to the office the next day and there was no time to waste, he wanted to show his boyfriend exactly how much he loved him.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec arrived a bit late to the office the next day, something that hadn't happened in all the years he had been working there. He knew that his boss was going to kill him, he had informed him of the meeting scheduled for this morning to welcome the new agents from the CID, but he had overslept and when he had woken up, he had realized that no matter what he did he would be late for work anyway, so he had done the unthinkable and instead of worrying about it, he had happily accepted his boyfriend's invitation to stay for breakfast.

He had always put his work and duties first, as a son, brother, and federal agent, but lately he was giving himself the chance to be a little more selfish and be just...a man, putting his personal desires and happiness above everything else. His work was important to him, that was never going to change, but so was Magnus, and after the night they had spent together, he was 100% sure that putting his boyfriend and what they had first was the right thing to do. They deserved it, their love deserved it.

Love...

Alec smiled, remembering all the things they had said to each other the night before, all the promises and plans that had been made in the name of that love. It had been so beautiful and sweet and-

"You're late!" His sister scolded him the moment he stepped out of the elevator. She looked angry and worried, but Alec was still so up on cloud nine that he didn’t pay much attention to her and just kept walking, making his way to his office.

“I’ve been calling your phone all morning,” she continued, trailing behind him, “the meeting should have started over an hour ago, but Hodge had to postpone it because you weren't here...he's not happy about it.”

“I know, I know...I’m sorry, okay? I overslept and forgot to turn on my phone.” Alec admitted.

“You don’t say…” Izzy said sarcastically. “Where’s Jace?”

“What do you mean, where’s Jace? He's not here?” Alec asked confused.

“No,” Izzy said, “I haven’t seen him since yesterday when he left for home. I tried to call him, but he’s not answering his phone either, we all thought he was with you.”

“I haven’t seen him since yesterday either, I kind of didn’t go home last night.” Alec confessed. He knew there was no way for his sister to know that he hadn’t been home because he wasn’t wearing yesterday's clothes—since he and Magnus had started sleeping together, Alec had been careful enough to have a spare of clothes in his trunk for occasions like this one—but even so, he felt he owed her some of the truth at least.

“You didn’t go home last night? You were with that mysterious boyfriend again, weren’t you?” Izzy asked, sounding not so surprised. “When are you going to introduce us to him, huh? I understand that you needed some time alone with him for the first few weeks to get to know each other and all that stuff, but it’s been months and we still have no clue who he is. Your relationship with him is the century's greatest mystery! I wonder why is that? And don’t you dare say it’s because ‘it's not a serious relationship,’ we know you’re totally serious with this man, otherwise you wouldn’t have spent Christmas and New Year with him.”

“I didn’t spend Christmas with him.” Alec immediately said.

“Alec, please!” Izzy exclaimed. “Who do you think we are? Did you really believe that any of us had bought that lame excuse you gave of having a terrible headache after having dinner with mom and dad? Please! We are your family, we know you more than you think. Give us some credit. You were perfectly fine, just in a hurry to get done with the family obligations and go see your man.”

“I-I…” Alec stammered. He really didn’t know what to say.

“It’s okay, none of us took it personal or anything. Mom and dad asked us about it, but Jace told them that you had had a very intense week and that you probably just needed some alone time. They believed him, so don’t worry.” Izzy said. “But anyway, you can’t keep hiding your relationship with him, big brother, it's not fair for either of you."

"I know, but..."

“What’s wrong with him that you can’t be open about what you two have? If you’re worried because he’s your first boyfriend and all that, then stop worrying, no one's going to judge you. We’ve known you’re into guys since forever, mom may raise an eyebrow when she meets him, but that shouldn't surprise you, she's always done that with all the people we've brought home—friends, boyfriends, girlfriends—you know how she is.”

“It’s not that, okay?” Alec exhaled.

“Then, what is it?”

“Things are still complicated with him, that’s all.”

“Well, then uncomplicate them and then introduce us to him. I really want to meet the man who’s making you so damn happy.”

“Is it that obvious?” Alec asked completely flushed.

“For us who love you, yes it is, Alec. It is very obvious.” Izzy said. “You’re acting different, more open and carefree, you look...complete. It’s been really heartwarming to witness that transformation.”

Alec smiled. He knew he had changed since Magnus had come into his life, but he had no idea it was something that people around him could notice. “Well, he does make me happy.” He admitted.

“I know...I can see it in your eyes—they glow.”

Alec blushed again, but didn't say another word for fear of giving himself away. Fortunately, before the silence became uncomfortable and Izzy started asking questions again, Hodge decided to interrupt, entering his office.

"Where were you!? I've been calling you for hours! I told you we had a meeting first thing in the morning! What happened with you? Why are you late? You're never late! What’s going on, Alec!?" He said.

"I'm sorry, nothing’s going on, I just couldn't sleep last night and I overslept." He lied—well, partially. He hadn't overslept because he had stayed up late counting sheep, but because he had spent most of the night making love to his boyfriend and he hadn't noticed when he had fallen asleep. "I turned off my phone and didn't get all your calls until I got here. I’m sorry, okay? But I’m here now, are we all set for the meeting?"

"Since 9 in the morning." Hodge said, pointing to the clock, “and it’s almost 11am—in case you weren’t aware of that.”

Alec exhaled. "I know, I'm sorry, I promise this won't happen again. We can start whenever you want." He said in the hope that his boss would no longer be angry with him if he saw how interested he was in the meeting—it didn't work.

“Meet me in the conference room in five minutes.” Hodge said, shaking his head and walking out of the office.

“Well, he’s mad…” Alec concluded once they were alone.

“I told you.”

Alec exhaled, he would deal with his boss later.

"And what do we do with Jace?" Izzy asked.  

"Keep trying to locate him," Alec said, "I'm sure he's okay, maybe something happened with Clary, have you tried calling her?"

"Yes, but her phone is off." Izzy said. "Apparently today everyone decided not to answer their phones."

Alec sighed. "And what about Simon? Do you think he can know something about them?"

"I already called him and he said he hadn't seen Clary in days, but since we're stuck here thanks to the silly meeting, I could ask him to go check on them for us...maybe they're at Clary's or something."

"Is he free?"

"No, he has rehearsals, but his band isn’t going to die if he leaves for 20 minutes, right? I’ll go call him." She said, leaving Alec's office.

Alec took a deep breath and started to get ready for the meeting, grabbing all the files he had on Valentine, Magnus, fake-Magnus and Asmodeus, just in case he needed them to make a point during the meeting. He had no idea what was going to happen from now on, the case had snowballed so quickly these past few months that it was practically impossible to guess how this was going to end. A few months ago he would have said that with Valentine and Magnus's impostor in jail, but now? Well, now he wasn't sure.

“Here we go.” He said to himself, but stopped halfway to the door when his phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and was surprised when Jace’s name flashed on the screen.

“Jace, where the hell are you!?” Alec said, without giving his brother a chance to say anything. “Izzy’s been looking for you all morning. What happened? Why aren't you answering your phone? Are you okay?”

“I’m okay, Alec, but I need to see you, where are you?”

“Where am I? I’m in the office, where by the way, you should be too.” Alec said. His brother was acting really strange.

“I know, I know, I’ll talk to Hodge later, but do you think we can meet back at my place? Like, right now? I need to talk to you.”

“Jace, is everything okay?” Alec asked, now worried.

“No, Alec is not, but could you meet me here? I really don’t want to talk about this on the phone—it's hard to explain.”

“Oh my God, is Clary pregnant?”

“What!? No! Of course not!”

“Then what is it?”

“I already told you, I can’t discuss this on the phone, come to my place and we can talk, okay?”

“I can’t right now, Jace, Hodge is waiting for me to start the meeting he had scheduled for this morning.”

“Shit! I totally forgot about that, could you meet me when the meeting is over then?”

“Yeah, but are you sure you're okay...you’re scaring me. If you need me right now, I could talk to Hodge and ask him to give me the day off, he’s already mad at me because I was late too, so-”

“No, it’s okay." Jace interrupted him. "I’m fine, well, not really, but I'm not dying...I can wait. Just don’t tell anyone you talked to me, okay? At least not until we’ve talked, I don't want people to know what's going on until I've shared it with you.”

"Jace you're acting really strange, let me talk to Hodge and-"

"No, you have to be at that meeting, Alec. We have to be in control of this investigation now more than ever, did you hear me? Go and make sure the CID and the Interpol know who's the boss here. I'll see you after, okay?"

"Okay, fine, but at least let me tell Izzy that you're okay, she's worried about you."

"Yeah, yeah, tell her, it's fine, just ask her not to tell anyone."

"Okay, then I'll see you at your apartment as soon as I can. Keep your phone with you all the time, okay? And if you need anything, and I mean it Jace, just call me and I'll get there as fast as I can."

"Yes, I know...thanks, Alec."

Chapter Text

Magnus opened his eyes, waking up from the long nap he had taken after Alec had left for work in the morning. Every muscle in his body ached as if he had been exercising for a whole day, but it was not a kind of pain that kept him from moving or that made him writhe on the floor, no, it was a kind of pain that felt good and that made him smile because it reminded him of everything they had done the night before—the mind-blowing sex, the countless I love yous, the kisses, the caresses...the promises.

He smiled, stretching his limbs to relieve some of the pain. Never in his life had he felt so damn happy. He had had good times in the past before Alexander was part of his life, not everything had been bad; his time in Spain, meeting his friends, even his fleeting romance with Camille were good examples of that, but he had never reached this level of happiness before. Ever. For the first time since he could remember he felt complete, complete in a way he couldn't describe. It was as if a circle had been closed and everything within himself was in perfect harmony—heart, mind, and soul—and all because Alec, his Alexander, loved him.

Magnus covered his face with his hands to hide the stupid smile that had refused to fade away since he had heard Alec say those three words. It had been such a beautiful and magical confession that he still couldn't believe it hadn't been a product of his sometimes very creative imagination. People didn’t fall in love with him, people didn’t want to be with him, it was something he had learned to live with and that until Alec, he hadn’t thought would be remotely possible. But Alec, as usual, was the exception to all rules.

He sighed contentedly and got out of bed just as his phone buzzed, notifying him of a new incoming text message. He took the device from the nightstand and his smile grew even wider when he saw his boyfriend’s name on the screen.

"Speaking of the devil..." He murmured amused by the coincidence, but quickly opening the message and reading it to himself.

“Are you home? Can I come over, I need your help.”

“Of course you can come over,” Magnus typed, rolling his eyes at his boyfriend’s lame excuse to go see him, “you’re always welcome here, besides, you don’t need to come up with silly excuses to see me. I know you can’t live without my beautiful face...but aren’t you still at work?” He replied, waiting for an answer, but the answer never came.

Two solid minutes passed and just as he was about to give up and block his phone to go take a shower, the doorbell rang, making him jump. Of all the people who knew where he lived, the only person who bothered to use the doorbell was Alec.

“Well, that was fast.” He frowned, walking to the door and opening it.

Alec was standing there, wearing the same clothes he had left with this morning, but not the same smile. Unlike a few hours ago that his handsome face had reflected nothing but happiness, now the agent looked conflicted, worried...disturbed.

“I really need your help.” Alec said as if explaining his presence there.

“Are you okay? What happened?” Magnus asked worriedly.

“Yes, I’m fine.” Alec said, making his way into Magnus’s loft and walking straight to the drinks tray. “I just really need your help.”

“Did something happen at work?” Magnus asked confused. “It’s barely 4pm.” He pointed out, because as much as he was glad to see Alec, he knew that the agent never left work early.

“Not really,” Alec said, pouring himself a glass of who knows what, “and I left early.”

“What happened? You never leave your work early and you’re voluntarily drinking,” Magnus noted, “so this must be serious. Did you get into trouble for being late this morning?” He asked, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

Alec shook his head and drank whatever he had poured into his glass in one gulp.

“Do you want to sit down?” Magnus asked hesitantly. He could see how out of character Alec was. “You’re kind of scaring me, are you sure you’re not in trouble?”

Alec nodded, but then shook his head, just to nod again. “Technically I’m not,” he said, “but my brother is, well, he isn’t, but this involves him and if it involves him, it involves me and-”

“Alexander, please calm down and just try to be more clear, you’re freaking me out.” Magnus said, sitting down beside him.

“Okay, here goes…” Alec said, taking a deep breath before continuing speaking. “My brother has a girlfriend...Clary.”

“Okay?” Magnus said, not really knowing why the name of Jensen? Jesse? Jason’s girlfriend was a valuable piece of information.

“And well, since they met, she’s always been very secretive with him. Like, my brother knew nothing about her or her family for months—where she lived, what they did for a living...nothing. And I know that’s kinda normal at first, when you meet someone you don’t go and tell them all your secrets during the first date, but the thing with her is that that never changed, you know? She dated Jace for a very long time and she was always secretive, mysterious, and-”

“Alec, my love, please go to the point.”

“How did you just call me?” Alec asked, suddenly distracted by Magnus’s slip.

Magnus panicked. “My-my love…” he said tentatively, “was it too much?” He asked.

Alec shook his head and in spite of his distress, a smile spread across his face. “No, I liked it.”

Magnus smiled, feeling a sudden blush rushing to his cheeks. “But, please, go on,” he said before he could embarrass himself any further, “you were saying that-”

“Oh, yeah,” Alec continued, “well, it turns out that a couple of days ago, just after Christmas, Jace asked Clary to move in with him. She said yes, but since now they were going to be living together and all that, she told him that he needed to know everything about her before they made it official."

"Okay...and I'm assuming she told him?"

"Yes, they had a very serious conversation where she told him the story of her life. Where she had been born, what her mother did for a living, what had happened to her father, everything down to the last detail. And well...now, her brother, Clary’s brother, is missing.”

Magnus frowned, he wasn’t understanding anything. “Wait, you’re not making much sense, so this Clary girl finally told your brother the story of her life and that’s why her brother is now missing?”

“No, well, I don’t know if my brother knowing all this stuff had something to do with Clary’s brother disappearance, but no. What I’m trying to say is that-oh God, this is a mess!” Alec said, exhaling loudly. “Jace is going to kill me, but I can’t explain this with just half the story, you need to know everything. It's not easy to explain, so bear with me, okay?”

Magnus nodded.

“When I got to the office this morning my brother was missing, my sister had tried to call him, but he wasn’t answering his phone. Then, when I was on my way to the meeting I told you about last night, he called me. He told me that he needed to talk to me about something that had happened. I couldn’t leave the office right away, but eventually I met him at his place.” Alec said. “He was very nervous and worried when I arrived, so I asked him if he was okay. It took him forever, but in the end he told me what was going on.”

Magnus looked at Alec, it was taking him forever to get to the point as well.

“He told me he needed my help in finding Clary’s brother.” Alec continued. “Apparently the guy disappeared a couple of weeks ago, but they just discovered it last night. The picture doesn't look good, but on the bright side, they already have a suspect.”

“Okay…” Magnus said, not knowing where he entered in all this nonsense. “And why didn’t your brother use the Bureau’s resources to find him?”

“That’s the problem...no one can know that this happened, they can’t report his disappearance to the police.”

“Why not?”

“Because...because…”

“Because what?”

“Because Clary and this guy are Valentine’s children.”

“Valentine’s children, as in Valentine Morgenstern?” Magnus asked confused at what his boyfriend had just said.

Alec nodded.

“What!?” Magnus exclaimed. Of all the things that Alec could have told him, this was definitely not what he had been expecting.

“What you heard,” Alec continued, “that’s why she was so secretive with my brother, she grew up in witness protection. When Valentine faked his own death, the Marshals took a pregnant Jocelyn and her six-year-old son to witness protection—Clary was born a couple of months later.”

“Valentine has two children...” Magnus said, not quite believing what he was hearing.

Alec nodded.

“And don’t you think this is very suspicious?” Magnus asked. “Like, you’re telling me that Valentine Morgenstern’s daughter has been dating a federal agent all this time and nobody knew about it? That’s extremely convenient for everyone, don’t you think? Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. She could be working with him, even helping him get away with all these crimes—it’s her father, after all.”

“I know, I know,” Alec said, “I had my suspicions too, but my brother trusts her when she tells him that she knows nothing of her father, and I trust Jace, so...”

“Okay, fine, let’s take your brother’s word for it and believe that this Clary girl is telling the truth and really knows nothing about her father...where do I fit into all this?”

“I need your help to find her brother,” Alec said, “we believe that Valentine is behind his disappearance. According to Jace, they have enough reason to believe that Clary's father kidnapped him, and I agree with them, but I can’t use the Bureau's resources without putting a direct target on my back. We know that Valentine has people infiltrated in our ranks, so I need a way to get information and find out what happened to her brother without alerting Valentine. If we’re right and Valentine did take his son, then he’s closer than we had anticipated and that puts not only Clary’s family in danger, but mine too.”

“Okay, yeah…” Magnus exhaled—this was quite a mess, like some cheap soap opera. “I’ll help you, you know that, just let me see if I got this right, okay? Your story was all over the place, so I’m a bit confused. Clary’s been dating your brother for some time now, but for months she hadn’t been honest with him about who she really was; then when your brother asked her to move in with him, she told him that she was her father’s daughter and that she had grown up in witness protection. Then, last night, these two discovered that Clary’s brother was missing and your brother asked you for help to find him because they fear that Valentine has kidnapped him, right? But none of you can use the Bureau's resources to find him because Valentine’s men could hear about it and that would be a catastrophe since Clary and the missing guy are Valentine’s children. Did I get it right?” Magnus asked, trying to make sense of all the information Alec had thrown a him in the last fifteen minutes.

Alec nodded. “And since I have no way of knowing about Valentine and his plans, I came to you for help. I know that you know a lot of people, I know you could ask around and see if Valentine had anything to do with his son’s disappearance. I know it’s a lot to ask, especially since you don’t even know my family, but I’m desperate and I have no one else to turn to and-”

“You have me.” Magnus interrupted him, taking Alec’s hand to offer him support. It meant the world to him that the first person Alec had come to for help had been him. “And I'm going to help you in any way I can, but I’m going to need more information on all of this to really be of some help. This kid, how old is he exactly?”

“A year older than me.” Alec said.

“Was he still living with his family?”

“No, as far as I know he moved from Jocelyn’s house when he was eighteen, he visits them constantly, though.”

“Then, how are we so sure he disappeared hmmm, was kidnapped?”

“Because Clary and Jace went to his place last night and found it completely upside down. They hadn't heard from him in weeks, he didn’t show up for Christmas or even New Year, and although it wasn’t the first time that happened, they were scared because he hadn’t even called, so my brother took Clary to his house to check on him and that's when they knew. I saw the pictures they took, Magnus, the place was completely destroyed, as if they had taken him by force and he had put up resistance.”

“Okay, okay…” Magnus said, standing up and taking his phone out of his pocket. “That’s convincing enough, and don’t worry, I can ask around and see what we can find out.” He said, already dialing Raphael’s number.

“Thank you.” Alec said, visibly relieved.

Magnus just smiled at him and waited for his friend to answer the call. “Santiago!” He exclaimed. “I need your help to find someone who went missing some days or weeks ago, I’m not entirely sure when.”

“What are you up to now, Bane?” Raphael asked.

“Nothing, I promise, I’m just helping Alexander.”

“Your fed is making you play cop again? ¡Increíble!”

“He’s not.”

“Yeah, right…”

Magnus rolled his eyes, he wasn’t going to argue with his friend. “Can you help or not?”

“Okay...yes, but tell your fed that he’s going to owe me big time. Who's this missing person? Do you have a name?” 

“What’s his name?” Magnus asked, partially covering the speaker to ask his boyfriend.

“Sebastian...Sebastian Fray.” Alec said. “That’s the new name that the Marshals gave him, although he was born as Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern.”

“His name is Sebastian Fray.” Magnus said, deciding that it was better to use only Sebastian’s fake name, using his father’s surname was dangerous and could raise some red flags. “He’s 28 years old.”

“Any physical description you can give me? Birthmarks, tattoos, hair color?” Raphael asked.

“How does he look like?” Magnus redirected the question to Alec. “Does he have any birthmarks, tattoos?”

“I don’t know, but here,” Alec said, taking a picture from his pocket and handing it to Magnus, “maybe this could help, Jace gave it to me...it’s from Thanksgiving, the last time they saw him.”

Magnus took the photo Alec was offering him. There were two people in it, a man and a woman. When his eyes landed on the man, a chill ran down his body and he gasped in surprise—he had seen that face before. “You know what?” He managed to tell Raphael. “I’ll call you later, okay? Don’t look for this person just yet.”

“Huh?" Raphael murmured in confusion.

“Something came up, I’ll explain later, thanks anyway, Santiago.” He said, hanging up the phone.

“What happened?” Alec asked, looking confused.

“I...I…” Magnus hesitated. He had no idea how he was going to tell Alec what he had just discovered. No matter how he said it, he knew it was going to be shocking for his boyfriend. “I don’t think he’s been kidnapped.” He said, pointing to the picture.

“What?”

“I know him.” He confessed.

“You, what!?”

“He’s the guy who’s been using my name, Alexander, this is the guy who attacked me in the park—the killer you’ve been looking for.”

“No.” Alec whispered more to himself.

“Yes,” Magnus said, turning around and heading for the room he used as a studio to look for the sketch he had made of his impostor after his encounter with him the night of the attack to the boutique in the Upper East Side. He had thousands of papers scattered on the floor, so it took him a few minutes to find what he was looking for. All that time, Alec was there, watching his every move and asking him thousands of questions, but Magnus wasn't paying him any attention—he was focused on finding that stupid piece of paper, but...where the hell had he put it?

"Aha!" Magnus exclaimed when he found the folded piece of paper inside a book. He had had every intention of giving it to Alec some time ago, but he had completely forgotten about it.

"Magnus, what the-"

“Here,” he said, giving Alec the sketch; he knew it would answer all his questions, “see? It’s the same face. I did this after the encounter in the park. I intended to give it to you, but then, well, we started to fool around and I completely forgot about it; but it’s the same man, his hair was black then, but it’s him, I’m sure of it.”

“I can’t believe it.” Alec said terrified. He was comparing the sketch and the picture, but there was no doubt that it was the same person. It wasn't that Magnus liked to brag about his artistic skills or anything like that, but the sketch he had made of the man was very good.

“I suppose young Morgenstern has been working with daddy for a very long time.” Magnus said. He could see how shocked Alec was with all this, they both knew that this changed everything.

“If he’s working with him that means…”

“...that he knew his father was alive.” Magnus completed Alec’s sentence.

“And he’s been helping him ever since.”

“Probably. I know from experience that fathers can have a lot of control over their children. And I don't know since when this guy's been working with his, but this sketch was the reason I knew it was Valentine who was using my name. Some contacts told Raphael that the boy was one of Valentine's men, they forgot to mention that it was his own son, though.”

“I met him…once.” Alec confessed, still looking at the sketch and the picture together, “It was at Clary’s mom’s engagement party. The moment I saw him, I knew something was off about him. He was too charming and sweet to be real, but everyone said he was a nice kid and so I thought I was just being judgmental...but no, I was right, something was off about him.”

“This changes everything, you know that, don’t you?” Magnus said because he didn’t know if his boyfriend was aware of the implications that this discovery would have on the case they had been trying to solve for months. “We finally have a way to get to Valentine, we know about his family, we know about his son. If we handle this information in the right way, we could finally find him, Alexander, we could end this once and for all.”

Alec nodded. “I know...” He said almost in a whisper. Magnus noticed that he was more thoughtful than usual, completely lost in his own thoughts. “...but we can’t do it on our own.” He added.

“What do you mean by that?” Magnus asked confused.

“This is huge, Magnus, this man and therefore Valentine are closer to all of us than we had thought and they won’t hesitate to kill us if they discover that we’re getting closer to stop them. We are a great team, you and I, but they are murderers, cold-blooded murderers, we are no match for them. We can’t allow them to continue killing innocent people, we have to stop them as soon as possible and the only way we can do that is if there are more people working with us."

“More people working with us? Alexander, I have hundreds of men working with us." Magnus said. He really didn't understand how many more people Alec wanted to get involved in all this mess, all the people who worked for him were helping them in some way or another.

“I know, and you don't know how much I appreciate everything they've done for the case, we wouldn't know half of what we know if it weren't for them, but we need people closer to the case, Magnus, people we can trust.” Alec said, and Magnus saw something in the agent's eyes that made him tremble with fear. He wouldn't dare, would he?

“I’m not liking the direction this conversation is taking.” Magnus said just to set the record straight, but Alec didn't seem to be paying him much attention.

“I think it’s time we move this investigation to my apartment.” The agent said.

“Why?” Magnus asked, already afraid of the answer.

"Because we need a neutral place to work," Alec said, but before Magnus could ask why, the agent continued, "...it's time for Jace and Izzy to know about you.”

Magnus shuddered. He had feared that Alec was going to say something along those lines. He had seen the resolution in his boyfriend's eyes the moment he had told him that they needed people they could trust. “Alec, I really don't think that's a good idea. They are not like you, they won't understand what we have."

"How do you know that? You haven't met them yet."

"I don't need to meet them to know that." Magnus said. "You are their brother, Alec, I'm pretty sure they won't like the idea of knowing you've been dating a criminal. This could end badly, believe me. What if they-"

"I understand your hesitation, believe me that I do, but everything will turn out well. They are not as you think they are, they will understand, I promise." Alec said, taking Magnus's hands and interlacing their fingers together. "If we want to solve this and protect those we love, we have to surround ourselves with people we can trust.”

“And can they be trusted?” Magnus asked hesitantly. He didn’t mean to be rude or anything, but he didn’t know what to say. He had never, ever, felt this nervous about anything before—and he had stolen a painting from the Palace of Versailles in the midst of the greatest police display he had ever seen and lived to tell the story.

Alec gave him a look. “They are my family, Magnus, of course they can be trusted.”

“I know, I’m sorry...it’s just that-”

“I understand you’re scared, I am too...but you have nothing to worry about, they won’t try anything against you, or us.”

“How are you so sure?” Magnus asked, trying to sound hopeful, but the truth was that he was scared to death by Alec’s idea to include his siblings in this.

“Because I’m going to make sure of it.” The agent said, pulling his phone out of his pocket and dialing one of his siblings’ numbers. “Trust me, okay?”

Magnus nodded, but didn’t say anything else. He just hoped Alec was right and that these weren’t his last minutes of freedom.

o-o-o-o-o

Alec had never been more nervous in his life, his hands were shaking and his stomach was in knots. He was pacing around his living room to try to calm down a bit before his siblings arrived, but the truth was that no matter what he did, he couldn't calm his racing heart. When he had first suggested the idea of introducing Magnus to his siblings so that they could join forces to solve Sebastian/Valentine's case, he had thought it was a great idea. Who better than Jace and Izzy to help them, right? But now? Well, now he wasn't so sure about it. His mind was playing tricks with him and making him think of scenarios in which his siblings told him how disappointed they were of him for being in love with a criminal and where they ended up hating him for not putting Magnus behind bars when he had had the chance to do it.

“Everything’s ready.” Magnus informed him. His boyfriend had been setting up a series of escape routes in case things went wrong and he had to make a run for it.

“Okay, but I’m sure you won’t need them.” He told him, trying to reassure him—and himself.  

“You know what they say, better safe than sorry.” Magnus said.

Alec nodded. He knew that his boyfriend had every reason to feel nervous about this encounter, this was a big deal for both of them, but the more he observed him, the more he realized that the poor man was literally a bundle of nerves—he was breathing fast, constantly fidgeting with his hands, twisting the rings that always decorated his fingers, and darting his eyes in every direction.

“Hey,” Alec said, taking the criminal’s hands and stroking them gently, “everything will be fine, I promise.”

Magnus took a deep breath and nodded, leaning in for a quick kiss, but just as their lips were about to touch, the doorbell rang, making them jump apart.

The time had come, whatever happened after that moment was going to change everything, for better or for worse.

“I love you.” Magnus said.

“I love you too.” Alec replied.

After one last deep breath and a quick but emotional hug, they both went their separate ways, Magnus to hide in Alec’s room until it was time to come out and reveal his presence, and Alec to open the door.

“Hi.” Alec said, greeting Jace and Izzy with a fake smile. He had called them almost two hours ago to ask them to meet him at his place to discuss Jace’s problem. To his fortune the two had been in Clary’s house when he had called, so everything had worked out for everyone. For him and Magnus to get to the apartment without being noticed, and for his siblings to do what he had asked them to.

“What’s going on?” Jace asked as he made himself at home. “You sounded all weird on the phone, did you find out something?”

“I take you already shared everything with Izzy?” Alec asked instead of replying. In order for his plan to work, it was important for the three of them to know what was happening.

Jace nodded.

“Okay, good, then, sit down, please. Did you follow my instructions?” He asked, standing where Magnus had asked him—between the couch and the dining table, creating a physical barrier to give him time to run to the window and disappear down the fire escape in case he needed it.

“You mean that odd request to leave our badges, guns, and phones at Clary’s?” Izzy asked.

Alec nodded. He knew it had been a really weird request and his siblings had questioned him about it for five minutes on the phone, but it was the only way Alec had found to protect Magnus. If both his siblings were at his home as civilians there was less chance that any of them would try to do something against him.

“Yes, we’re clean.” Izzy said, showing her empty pockets and taking off her jacket so Alec could see she wasn’t carrying her gun.

“Good, good.” Alec said, taking deep breaths to ease his nerves.

“Alec, what’s going on?” Izzy asked. “I understand that all the stuff about Clary and Valentine is really shocking, when Jace was telling me about it I couldn’t believe it, but you’re acting really weird, much more so than usual.”

“It’s not about Clary or Valentine,” he said, “well, it involves them to some extent, but...just listen, okay? You know we can’t use the Bureau's resources to keep investigating Valentine, as you now know, he was one of us before becoming a criminal, and given the ease with which he’s stayed out of our radar for decades, it’s safe to assume that there are people protecting him from within our ranks.”

“Yes, we know...by the way,” Jace said, “you didn’t tell me how you knew Valentine was a former federal agent. You weren’t surprised at all when I told you he had been in the Academy, so that means you already knew.”

“You knew!?” Izzy asked surprised. “How? When? And why didn’t you share that with us? That’s vital information, Alec!”

“I know, and I’m sorry, I’ll explain everything later, I promise, but first I need to tell you both something important and relevant to all this mess.” He said.

“Okay, what is it?” Izzy asked.

“Hmmm, it’s about me, actually, but I need you to be really calm and open about it.”

Jace and Izzy looked at each other and frowned.

“Jace, you asked for my help to find Clary’s brother and I promised you that I would find a way to do it without putting anyone in danger, but something happened and-”

“Is he alright? Please, Alec, tell me Sebastian’s okay. Clary would die if-”

“I’m sure he’s perfectly fine.” Alec said to try to calm his brother and not show his disgust to the man in question. “What happened involves him, but not quite, as I said, it’s about me and my-my personal life. It's about...God, why is this so hard to explain? Okay, listen, so I can explain things in more detail, first I need you to meet someone.”

“Is this the CI you mentioned earlier? The one you said could probably help us track down Sebastian?” Jace asked.

Alec nodded. “Although, he’s not exactly a CI.” He admitted. When he had told Jace that he had a contact that could probably help them get some information about Clary’s brother, he had never imagined that he would be introducing said contact to his siblings, so giving Magnus the title of confidential informant had sounded reasonable at the moment. “He’s more like a very well-positioned and experienced contact.”

Jace and Izzy looked at each other again.

“Who is he?” Jace asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Hmmm…well, you two already know about him.” Alec admitted. His hands were sweating and he could hear his own heartbeat in his ears. “You’ve been wanting to meet him since you figured out I was seeing someone. I've been hesitant about this idea for reasons you’ll understand in just a second, but thanks to what happened when I was trying to find information about Clary’s brother, I had to make a decision and I guess it’s time you finally know who he is. But before that happens, I really need you to promise me that you’ll try to take this calmly and listen to what I have to say before reacting.”

“Alec, cut the crap, who is he!?” Jace said.

“Promise me!”

“We promise.” Jace and Izzy said in unison.

Alec took a deep breath—this was it. “Okay, you can come in.” He said. He knew that Magnus had been listening to the whole exchange, Alec had asked him to only come out until both Jace and Izzy had promised to take it all in stride.

“Alec, what the hell!” Jace exclaimed.

He and Izzy were staring at Magnus with astonishment on their faces, as if they couldn't quite believe what they were seeing, or better said, who they were looking at. Because there was no denying that the man standing in front of them was none other than the renowned thief and conman extraordinaire Magnus Bane.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Alec immediately said, the look of total confusion on his siblings' faces was hard to miss, “but I can explain.”

“How!?” Jace demanded. “There’s no way to explain how is it that a criminal like him is in your home walking freely!”

“I-I...it’s not like that.” Alec said.

“Not like that?” Jace retorted. “Alec, that man is a criminal! And even better, he’s the criminal you’ve been waiting to catch for years!”

“I know!” Alec exclaimed.

“Then why is he not in handcuffs?”

“Because he’s not a bad guy.”

“He’s not a bad guy? Alec, did you completely lose your mind?”

“No, Jace, but-”

“Is he the man you've been dating?” Izzy interrupted, smirking at him.

“No, well, yes...but it didn’t start like that.” He said. “Can I just explain what happened?”

“Please!” Jace said.

Alec took another deep breath. Things weren’t going smoothly, but at least his siblings hadn’t moved from where they were standing and that was a good sign—he called that progress. “It all started months ago when I was obsessed with finding the message on the postcards that Magnus had left in his multiple robberies, remember?”

“And you did, and you caught Asmodeus.” Jace said.

“That’s what you all thought, but I didn’t find that message back then, I found it months before that.” Alec confessed. “It was actually the same week that I started obsessing about it. It was late, I was alone in the office and I kinda figured it out. I thought about calling you both to share the discovery and make a plan to proceed with the investigation, but you were at Simon’s concert or whatever and I didn’t want to ruin your plans. I knew it was probably just some sort of prank Magnus had decided to play on me, so I went alone. The building was empty that time, there was just a disposable phone on the desk and a note addressed to me. I called and-”

“You said yes to the date.” Izzy said, understanding everything right off the bat.

Alec didn’t respond, but saw Magnus nodding and trying to suppress a smile.

“Not helping.” He warned his boyfriend, pointing a menacing finger at him and then returning his attention to his siblings. “And not exactly, he actually forced me to say yes and I did go, but I went with the sole purpose of catching him.”

“Then why you didn’t?” Jace asked.

“Because he was expecting me. You seriously think he went through all the trouble of leaving me a message on thirteen postcards in the span of two years just so that I could catch him when I finally figured it out? He’s smart, give him some credit, you know him as much as I do.”

“Debatable.” Izzy said with a mocking smile, which caused Magnus to chuckle.

Alec wasn’t liking this natural connection that his boyfriend and sister seemed to have, it was already dangerous and they had been in the same room for less than ten minutes.

“Anyway,” Alec continued, “so as you can imagine, when I got to the place he asked me to go, he wasn’t there. A random New Yorker he had bribed helped him get me in a car, and well, once there, one of his men took my gun, my phone, and practically blindfolded me to take me to the real meeting place. Long story short, the meeting was strangely pleasant, I couldn't do anything against him because for one, I was unarmed and practically powerless against him, and two, he was ready to run if I dared to even move a finger, so we just talked and had dinner together. I used that time to study him more and learn to know him, I was hoping to find something that could help me catch him, but he knew what he was doing. Anyway, the night went on and when our time together came to an end, I went home.”

“With him?” Jace asked.

“No, alone. Then, like two weeks later, give or take, I got a message from him asking me for a second date and I went. This time I was determined to catch him, I was prepared, I knew what to expect from him, so I equipped myself with everything I could to take him by surprise—I was even recording the conversation to have something against him.”

“But?” Izzy inquired still smiling, she was having too much fun with all this and Alec wasn’t sure he was particularly enjoying that.

“He offered me a deal.” He said, remembering that night as if it had happened just yesterday.

“A deal?” Both Izzy and Jace asked at the same time.

Alec nodded. “He had discovered that Valentine was behind the recent attacks connected to his name and he wanted to help me catch him.”

“In exchange for what? A good fuck?” Jace asked. Of the two, he was the one who hadn't taken the news very well.

“No, Jace, in exchange for me not imprisoning him for the time we worked together and clearing his name when Valentine was behind bars.” Alec explained. “At first I wasn’t sure about the plan, I knew things could go wrong, but ultimately I agreed and since then we’ve been working together trying to catch him. He’s been helping me connect everything, and in fact, it was thanks to him that I discovered that Valentine had been one of our own. And well...the-the other thing happened later, months later.” He said, sharing a quick look with Magnus. “He has his charms and I’m only human, besides, you can’t really blame me for falling for him, I mean-”

“Alexander Gideon Lightwood!” Izzy exclaimed, bursting into laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“You, Mr. I-never-break-the-rules, are breaking all the rules and dating a criminal!” She said, smiling sincerely. There was not a trace of anger or displeasure on her face, no, on the contrary, she looked really happy for him despite the more than unusual situation.

Alec knew that his sister would understand, before Simon came into the picture, she had had one or two slips during undercover assignments and had ended up dating more criminals than not.

“Alec, this could ruin you.” Jace told him.

“I know, Jace, I know.” Alec said. He understood Jace’s hesitation over his relationship with Magnus, if the roles had been inverted, he would probably be lecturing him about it and telling him how stupid this whole thing was.

“And you don’t care?”

“Of course I care, but we’ve been careful, okay?”

“You’ve been careful?” Jace repeated what Alec had said with sarcasm and laughed. “And what’s going to happen when you finally catch Valentine and this deal you’re talking about is over? Are you going to put him where he belongs or just let him run away, huh?"

“I don’t know, okay?” Alec admitted. He didn’t want to think about any of that at the moment. In fact, he had been trying not to think about the impending outcome for months. At first because he didn’t care, they were just having fun, right?  But then, well, then because there were already feelings involved and when he had accepted and embraced those feelings everything had just gotten more complicated.

“Alec…”

“I understand what you’re thinking, Jace, believe me that I do, if the roles were inverted I'd probably be lecturing you about this, but it happened, okay? And believe me or not, I don’t regret it—not even a little bit. Yes, it was a surprise for me too when I realized that I had stopped looking at him as a criminal and I had fallen for the man. All my life I was taught to look at them, at him, as nothing more than scum of human beings, but guess what? He’s not like that. He is a good person with a great heart who had to do what he had to do because the circumstances in his life led him to do so. And I'm not justifying what he's done in the past, he better than anyone knows that he made some pretty bad decisions, but the fact that he's a criminal doesn't make him a bad person. I know it's hard to believe, but it's the truth.”

“Wow!” Izzy exclaimed, she was just chilling on the couch, smiling and enjoying this confession time way too much for anyone's liking. “It hit you hard, big bro.”

Alec blushed because that statement couldn't be truer—it had hit him hard and now everyone in the room knew it.

“Are you okay with this, Iz?” Jace asked her.

Izzy shrugged. “I’m certainly not opposed, I mean, of the three of us, Alec has always been the most responsible one, right? I’m sure he’s thought this through way more than we’re doing right now. He knows the risks, he knows things could go wrong for both of them, and if he can live with that, then so can we.”

Alec smiled at his sister—he was going to give her diamonds for her next birthday.

“I guess you have a point…” Jace said, calmer now. “So he’s the one who’s been giving you information?”

Alec nodded. “And he has information about Sebastian that you better listen.”

“What?” Jace asked.

Alec exchanged a quick glance with Magnus, silently asking him if he wanted to say it or if Alec had to deliver the bad news. Magnus only blinked once and Alec knew that it all depended on him.

“Okay, for starters your brother in-law is working for Valentine.” Alec said, dropping the bomb without any warning. It was better like that, like ripping off a band-aid.

“No, impossible.” Jace said, shaking his head frantically. “He's not a criminal like him, he’s not his father. You better than anyone know that people aren’t their parents, or are you going to tell me that you think I’m a fucking drunk just because my fath-”

“He's the one in the video, Jace, you remember, the Hope Diamond case?” He interrupted his brother before he could continue defending Sebastian. Alec knew he had a lot on his plate at the moment, but it was important that he realized who the real villain in this story was. “Remember we came to the conclusion that there had been two men that night? Well, those two men were Magnus and Sebastian.”

“You were there?” Izzy asked directly to Magnus.

Magnus nodded, speaking for the first time. “I wanted to meet the person who was using my name. I caught word that I, or better said he, was going to steal the diamond, so I went to confront him.”

“Sebastian attacked him,” Alec continued to explain what had happened that night. “Magnus cornered him against a tree and made him speak, but Sebastian threw glitter at him and escaped. Magnus did this after that night...” he said, handing Jace and Izzy the sketch Magnus had made of the man.

“It can’t be…” Jace said, looking at the piece of paper with shock

“But it is, Jace.” Alec said, looking at him sympathetically. He knew how hard all this was for his brother. “Now, as you can see this puts us all in danger, this is no longer about Clary and you, this is about all of us. That man is a murderer, he's been killing in cold blood for months, so we have to take care of one another. You have to protect Clary and her family, and we all have to protect each other. With Magnus’s help and all this new information we have on Valentine, I truly believe we’re closer to catching him, but we can’t do this just the two of us,” Alec said, pointing to Magnus and him, “we need your help, so...can we count on you two for this?”

Izzy nodded immediately. “Count on me, big bro.”

“Jace?” Alec inquired. His brother had his eyes fixed on Sebastian's sketch.

“Do you trust him?” Jace asked, looking up at Magnus.

“Implicitly.”

“Then I’m in.” Jace said, and Alec just smiled relieved.

o-o-o-o-o

Magnus walked to Alec's bedroom and grabbed the evidence boards they had brought from his loft and took them to the living room to share them with Alec's siblings. At first Magnus hadn't been very happy with this whole plan, the idea of including two more federal agents to their private investigation hadn't seemed like the smartest thing to do given their already complicated situation, but now that the worst part was over and that everything had gone relatively well, he was glad to have had the chance to meet Alec's two other siblings.

It had been clear in the way that both agents had reacted to the news of their relationship that they had Alec's best interests at heart and that no matter who he was with, they just wanted the best for him. It did not matter either if they disagreed with Alec's decisions, or if they thought he had completely lost his mind, they supported him unconditionally, and for Magnus that was more than enough to consider them trustworthy people.

"Where do I put these, dear?" Magnus asked Alec. The agent was placing the easels they had also brought from Magnus's loft around the dining table.

"Here." Alec said, rushing to get everything ready so that Magnus could lean the heavy boards there.

“Look at you two!” Isabelle exclaimed, admiring the boards and smiling pleased with all the information they had managed to gather over the past few months. “You actually worked on the case, I thought you had just wasted your time working each other out.”

“You’re not far from the truth, darling.” Magnus said, winking at Isabelle.

“Don’t.” Alec warned him from where he was standing, placing the last board.

"What, Alexander? It's the truth." He said, smiling innocently at his boyfriend.

Alec just rolled his eyes and walked away completely flushed.

“He’s always been shy.” Isabelle said.

“Tell me about it…”

“I don’t think he’s very shy around you.” The female agent pointed out.

“He has his moments.” Magnus admitted.

Isabelle just smiled and walked away, patting him on the arm. Magnus felt weird after that interaction, he had never imagined that he would be bonding with the agent over Alec’s personality.

“Okay.” Alec said, clapping his hands to draw everyone’s attention to him. “This is all we have on the cases we’ve been working together.” He added, pointing to the four boards they had—the first three on Valentine and the last one on Asmodeus.

“Asmodeus Brown is your father?” Jace asked, reading the information on the last board.

“Hmmm...surprise!?” Magnus said, not knowing what else to say. He wasn’t used to people knowing about his bloodline, but in this case being completely honest with Alec’s siblings had been part of the plan.

“You two didn’t help him ou-”

“Don’t even dare to finish that.” Alec warned his brother. “Yes, Asmodeus is his father, but Magnus has nothing to do with him. In fact, he’s the reason I caught him in the first place, so cut it out, okay? We’ve been trying to find him since he escaped, Magnus even has people investigating Agent Dieudonne's past to see if we can find something to help us find them.”

“I’m sorry…” Jace said, “...have you found anything?”

“Not yet,” Magnus admitted, “but we’re working on it. The man knows how to cover his tracks, but I'm sure he'll make a mistake sooner or later, as the say, we all have our weaknesses.”

“Even you?” Jace asked.

“Especially me.” Magnus said without explaining any further. “But anyway, let’s not worry about my father just yet. Finding Valentine and stopping Sebastian slash Jonathan is more important than knowing where that man is hiding. Innocent people are dying thanks to these two members of the Morgenstern family, my father’s escape only managed to tarnish the perfect image that the Interpol and FBI have crafted of themselves for years, but he’s harmless...at least for the moment.”

“Yes, you’re right, Magnus. Valentine and his son are our top priority, we also have to find Asmodeus, but we must focus on Valentine first.” Alec agreed. “Now, Jace...what do you know about your girlfriend’s father?”

“What little she knows.” The agent confessed. They all had sat around the table to talk. “He was a federal agent before becoming a criminal, nobody knows how it happened or what led him to do it, but after graduating from Quantico he started to change until he became who he is now. I don't know much about his life as a federal agent, I just know he was in the CD and-”

“Counterintelligence Division?” Magnus and Alec asked in unison.

Jace nodded. “I don't know what his position was there, but I do know he had a partner. He's no longer active, though, thanks to what happened with Valentine and all that, the Marshals had to take him to witness protection, but I know him, his name is-”

“-Luke.” Alec said.

Magnus looked at his boyfriend with shock for a second. Apparently, he knew more about all this than he had shared with them.

“How did you know?” Jace asked, making the question that everyone was wondering.

“He told me…” Alec confessed, “well, not exactly. Do you remember the day you asked me to go with you to Luke and Jocelyn’s engagement party? Well, that day I had a talk with Luke. He told me that he had been part of the system too and even shared why he was no longer active, he just didn’t tell me that Valentine had been his partner.”

“What did he tell you?” They all asked.

“That he had been shot during a crossfire between a group of terrorists and them, some case they had been working on for months. He didn’t say much, just that during the attack his partner had made all the wrong decisions, so when he had recovered from the wound, the Marshals had taken him to witness protection.”

“Do we know this Luke’s guy real name?” Magnus asked. “If he’s in witness protection, it's safe to assume that his real name is not Luke.” He said.

Jace shook his head.

“We’ll have to try to find more information about him." Alec said. “Is that all you know about Valentine?” He asked his brother who just nodded. "Well, we have a little more information on this, do you want to start, Magnus?" He asked him with a soft smile.

Magnus nodded, touched with the way Alec had been giving him his place not only as his boyfriend, but as the person who had been helping him solve the case, and started to share everything they knew about Valentine; what they had discovered thanks to the old cases the FBI had of him, the rumors they had heard in the criminal world of his whereabouts, and all that until now they had managed to find out about Magnus's impostor—a.k.a Sebastian.

Alec helped him explain in more detail certain parts, enhancing what Magnus was saying with a more analytical and professional point of view. It was easy for them to complement each other, they had been doing it for months now, but judging by the expression of the other two agents, it seemed that this kind of teamwork wasn't very common—both were staring at them with widely opened eyes.

"Well, now I understand everything." Jace said, still looking at them both.

Magnus had only known him for a couple of hours, but he didn't need more time to know that the agent wasn't talking about the case or the very useful information they had provided, but about them…as a couple.

"You guys are, well, you are a very good team." He admitted.

Magnus and Alec looked at each other and smiled a bit flushed—they knew they were, but it was nice that other people could see that too.

"Awww you made them blush!" Isabelle exclaimed.

Jace just rolled his eyes and stood up. "Anyway, back to the case." He said, grabbing the notes he'd taken during the time they had been discussing the case. "We know that Valentine was a federal agent, part of the Counterintelligence Division, he had a partner...Luke Garroway, real name still unknown." He said, pinning a picture of the man on one of the boards.

“We need to find out what was his class in Quantico.” Alec pointed out. “He has people helping him from within our ranks, so it’s very likely that these people are his friends from the Academy.”

“I already tried to find his class...” Jace confessed. “After Clary told me about her life, I kind of got curious about Valentine’s past as a federal agent and-”

“You didn’t use the Bureau’s data base, did you?” Alec asked.

Jace nodded, and Magnus really wanted to murder him—that had been a terrible mistake and they all knew it

“What were you thinking, Jace!?” Alec exclaimed. “If whoever’s helping Valentine knows we’re trying to find information about them, they are going to kill us!”

“I know, I’m sorry, I wasn’t really thinking when I did it, but don’t worry, I didn’t screw up completely.” Jace said. “I didn’t use his name to look for him, I just scrolled down the files of the different classes in Quantico, but there’s an entire decade missing, so it wasn’t of much help.” He shared.

“A decade?” Isabelle asked intrigued.

“Yes, from 1980 to 1990 there’s no information of any agent.”

“Not even of our father?” Alec asked.

“No, nothing.” Jace confirmed. “As if the Academy hadn’t had agents all those years.”

"That's weird..." Isabelle said.

“No, it’s not,” Magnus chimed in, “they did it to protect themselves. If they had eliminated just the year that Valentine graduated, it would have been quite easy to find all the agents who graduated that year and, therefore, know who his accomplices are, by wiping ten years of information they are protecting themselves. We live in the digital age, but even with all the technological advances we've had in the last few years, we still haven't managed to create the perfect system, they all have flaws; so if for some reason an agent asked what happened to those missing files, they could easily say that there was some flaw in the system—a malware, some hacking, you name it."

"Why would they want to do that?"

"Isn't it obvious? To force anyone who wants access to that information to put a request directly to the Washington file to see the physical copy of the file—the classified one." Magnus explained. "Think about it, that gives them more control over everything, they know when, who, and why someone requested access to those files. It's a very brilliant move, I have to give you guys merit for it."

“So what you’re saying is that no matter what we do, there’s no way to have access to that information.” Jace said.

“When did I say that?” Magnus asked, looking at the blond agent with questioning eyes.

“Well, right now, I mean, if what you’re saying is true and the only way to get that information is by requesting access to the classified file then we're screwed, we can’t do that, Valentine’s men will know right away that we’re investigating them and-”

“Didn’t I just say that there’s no such thing as a perfect system? There’s always a way, young agent, sometimes it takes time to find it, but if there’s something I’ve learned in all my years of experience is that there's always a way.” Magnus said, smiling—the gears in his head were already spinning.

“You have a plan?” Alec asked.

Magnus looked at his boyfriend and nodded. The three agents were looking at him expectantly, waiting to hear what he had in mind.

“First we need a complete list of all active agents of the Bureau.” Magnus said. “This happened over two decades ago, so the agents who are working for him could be of any age range. You three followed your father's footsteps, right? Well, we need to assume that the sons or daughters of others agents decided to do the same and their connection with Valentine could be through their parents, so we need names, lots of names—old and new.”

“And then?” Alec asked. Magnus saw that his boyfriend was already starting to follow his plan, there was a spark of excitement and understanding in his eyes.

“Then we cross information, of course. First we have to figure out which agents graduated during those 10 years that we’re missing. For that we need to subtract the time they've served and see in which year they graduated, if it's in any year between 1980 and 1990 then we add them to the list. Once we have the names of those agents, we look for more detailed information about them, what they do, who they are, if they have children and most importantly their positions. Valentine’s been taking advantage of the system for decades so the people helping him must be in very important positions.”

“Okay, but how do we know if they're helping him? We can’t accuse someone of complicity just because they graduated in those 10 missing years.” Isabelle said.

“Of course not, we’re not going to point fingers until we are 100% sure they're involved in all this mess, but I can take care of that.” Magnus said. “I have contacts, people who can help us rule out names, but I can't give them three thousand names, can I? We have to shorten the list.”

“And then?” Jace asked.

“Once we have a list of suspects, you can do your job and use the evidence we’ve compiled against Valentine to bring them to the Bureau and question them about it, offer them immunity or a deal in exchange for Valentine’s location. I don’t know all those things you do to solve cases, you know? Another day in the New York City White-Collar Division.”

“It’s a good plan.” Isabelle said.

“It is.” Jace also agreed.

“Then we'll find a way to get that list of active agents Magnus mentioned.” Alec said with determination.

“You have to be very careful, though,” Magnus added, “remember that Valentine has eyes everywhere, you can’t let people know what you’re up to, or this could end badly…really badly.”

“Yes, don’t worry, we’ll be careful, I promise. It’s probably going to take us a while, but I’m sure we can get it. With the CID and the Interpol working with us, I could easily put a request to have access to New York’s active agents.” Alec said, “Make it look like I’m just trying to keep a close eye on my team.”

“That’s a great idea, Alec!” Isabelle exclaimed.

“And once I get it, I could ask Lydia to get me the list of the Washington D.C. agents.”

“Do you think she wants to help?” Jace asked.

“Yes, I don’t need to tell her what I need it for, just that Hodge wants it—pin it on the next head in charge. It’s kind of a technicality, so I don’t see why anyone would raise an eyebrow.”

“You’re so smart.” Magnus said, unable to contain his pride towards his boyfriend and grabbing his hand. He had been trying to resist showing excessive amounts of affection for the sake of the other two agents, but it had been really hard.

Alec smiled at him and for those two seconds there was no one else in the room but them. They were telling each other with looks what they couldn't with words, until, of course, Isabelle cleared her throat.

“Sorry,” Alec immediately said, letting go of Magnus's hand and snapping back into his professional self in the blink of an eye, “so...hmmm, that’s the plan.”

“And what should I tell Clary?” Jace asked. “I can’t tell her who her brother is, she’s not going to believe me.”

“And even if she believed you, you can’t tell her.” Alec said. “This is our first real advantage against Valentine and we can’t blow it, so just tell her that you have CIs trying to figure out if Valentine kidnapped Sebastian. Try to reassure her about him by telling her that he must be fine or else you would know about it already and yada, yada, yada. She has to stop sticking her nose where it doesn't belong or she'll put us all in danger. By the way, Jocelyn and Luke...do they know about this?”

Jace shook his head. “Clary didn’t want me to tell them until we knew more, but they both are Seb-I mean, Jonathan’s parents, this is going to kill them. They love him...they think he’s a good kid.”

“He’s not, Jace, but anyway, it's best if they don’t know. We can’t trust them completely, at least not until we know more...especially about Luke.”

“I don’t think he’s involved.”

“I don’t think so either,” Alec agreed, “but we never know, so until we have more information about him, he’s under our list of suspects too. If you could casually ask Clary more about him that would be great, maybe if we knew his real name that would make things easier for us.”

“Okay.”

Magnus looked around. The day and most part of the night had slipped away, they had spent hours and hours discussing the same thing that without realizing it, a new day had begun. The sun hadn't come out yet, but it wasn’t going to take long and that only meant one thing—it was time to go.

“Well, now that we have a plan and we all have agreed to it, I think it’s time to go.” Magnus said, standing from the table. “It was a real pleasure to meet you both, but the sun is about to come out and well, Alec here knows the deal, our time together is always limited.”

“How are we going to get in touch with you?” Jace asked.

“Through Alec, of course, he knows how to do it. You’ll have to trust him.”

Jace just nodded in response.

“Goodbye, then.” Magnus said, stretching his hand toward Jace and Isabelle.

“Take care, Magnus.” Isabelle said with a smile.

“You too, darling.”

He walked over to Alec’s chair and hesitated whether or not he should kiss him goodbye. Everything had gone well and he certainly didn’t want to spoil it, but an innocent kiss wouldn't hurt anyone, would it? So he quickly made up his mind and bent down, giving him a sweet, chaste kiss. “They already know, so…” He said, winking at his boyfriend who was as red as a tomato and gently caressing his cheek. “See you later, okay? And...have fun catching the bad guys!” He added, winking at the other two Lightwoods and disappearing through the window.