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The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

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“That’ll be $15.71, sir.”

Magnus pulled the requested money from his wallet and handed the amount over to the street vender.

“Here you are.” He pulled an extra five dollar bill, folded it, and slotted it into a tip jar. “Plus a little extra,” he said with a wink.

The woman giggled a little, pearly teeth flashing, and pulled at her single blonde braid. “Thank you so much, sir. You guys enjoy your gelato and this beautiful sun.”

He turned to see Dorothea waiting a few steps away with her own Caribbean coconut and Catarina’s order as well. Her long floral print sun dress flowed in the gentle breeze and she was tapping one foot encased in a yellow wedged sandals. He watched as she adjusted her big, floppy sun hat to give her room to eat.

Beside Dorothea was Catarina, her blue skin glamoured dark brown, sitting on a picnic tabletop. Dorothea handed Catarina her gelato container and the older woman lifted a spoonful of her pistachio into her mouth. She crossed her long legs and wiggled her leg in excitement causing her pink short-shorts to ride up even more. Scandalous. Magnus admired her thin, white poet shirt and made a mental note to ask her where she’d bought it. He’d been looking for something similar for himself for ages.

Magnus lifted his medium cup of dark chocolate frozen desert. The woman had given him double scoops and had offered a spoonful of raspberries as extra but Magnus wouldn’t complain. Raspberries were his favorite fruit.

The two were talking quietly to each other so Magnus could not hear. Dorothea took one look at Magnus approaching and her head flew back in a laugh. Catarina quirked her own lips in a smirk.

“Care to clue me in, ladies,” he drawled as he sidled up. He shoved his wallet back into his thin, tan blazer and began digging in to his own sweet.

Dorothea started to laugh harder.

“Don’t you worry about it, Magnus,” said Catarina. “Just a little joke between us girls.”

Magnus’ lips pursed. “Not to make this about me but I’m pretty sure this is about me.”

Dorothea calmed down enough to say, “Nice berries, Magnus.”

Magnus deflected. “Oh, well, she offered; it would have been rude to refuse.”

“I’ll bet,” said Catarina.

Magnus scoffed, while trying not to be smug. “She’s a very sweet girl. A Cancer, as it turns out. Common courtesy, I’m sure.”

Dorothea looked down pointedly to her own plain gelato, then over to Catarina’s similarly bare frozen sweet.

Catarina laughed this time. “I can’t believe you whammy-ed that poor woman like that. She has stars in her eyes right now.”

They all glanced back to the stand at the same time and found the woman gazing longingly at what had previously been Magnus’ back. She jumped when they noticed her and shyly looked down into her refrigerated cart, adjusting her assorted wares and blushing furiously.

“I take offense to that, Cat. I have never needed to ‘whammy’ anyone into giving up their fruit. I prefer my berries freely given.”

“For the sake of my sanity, I have chosen to ignore that innuendo.”

“I barely spoke to her, let alone ensorcelled her.”

Dorothea chimed in. “It’s pretty much the same thing, Magnus. You did your patented wink—”

“Twice!” interjected Catarina.

Dorothea nodded. “—and then suddenly you have extras.”

“That woman is going to be dreaming about you for the rest of the month,” Catarina said as she looped her arm through his, careful not to tip her gelato, and started to steer him down the shop lined street. Dorothea pulled up on her other side and kept pace.

They were in the Hamptons for the weekend. Magnus had wanted to decompress after…everything that had happened, so he had invited his closest downworlder friends (plus a few others) to his Sagaponack home for a three day retreat.

He had had his fill of shadowhunters for the moment and he wanted to just spend time with his own. He had not thrown a party since Max’s Rune initiation and that had obviously not been relaxing for a multitude of reasons.

He had decided on a smaller affair than he was used to throwing. Only a couple dozen or so people, some of which would not even arrive until the next day. The first night he had reserved for the people closest to him.

Catarina had agreed that the time away from New York City would be good for him and the other downworlders too, so she had dropped everything to come with him.

Dorothea, Catarina, and Magnus were the first to arrive that morning so they had decided to head to East Hampton for some early shopping. It had been swelteringly hot and instead of casting cooling charms on themselves, Dorothea had suggested gelato. Thus, there they were.

Magnus harrumphed. “It’s not my fault people adore me. I will not apologize for my face.”

Catarina bumped his shoulder. “Humble.”

Magnus sighed. “Do you want some, then?” he offered.

“No, no. Far be it from me to pluck berries from your mouth,” Cat said. “This time, at least.”

Magnus was suddenly reminded of a Hollywood party he and Catarina had been to in the late 60s. Magnus had been wooing a man all night—some actor named Corey or Carter or something. Magnus had just been about to lock him in for a night of debauchery when the man had taken one look at Catarina leaning against a bar across the room pulling from a bong, and had abandoned Magnus by the pool.

He hadn’t been bitter. After all, Catarina had looked sublime that night in a periwinkle sheath with her afro picked out into full halo, cannabis smoke easing from her lips like she was some kind of mythic oracle. Any man would have been a fool to deny her. He and Catarina had had wonderful laughs over the years every time they watched one of that actor’s movies.

Magnus decided to take the gentle ribbing in the manner in which it was offered.

“Subtle,” he said.

“I try.”

“I will take some,” said Dorothea. He stretched his cup out to give her more reach. She leaned around Catarina and scooped up several berries from his cup and toppled them into her own.

Catarina hummed around her spoon and swallowed. “So, Magnus, when is everyone else getting here?”

“Meliorn had to decline as he was called to the Queen’s side suddenly. Raphael will come up later tonight with Madzie, Zoe, and Remi.”

Dorothea giggled a little. “Madzie is with Raphael?”

Catarina waved her spoon to the side as she gestured. “She was actually staying with Remi. She’s been acting a bit lonely lately so I thought it would do her good to be around another little warlock girl. Remi agreed. Despite the age gap, she and Zoe have hit it right off. They’ve been having a weeklong sleepover that’ll end here at the beach this weekend. Thank you again for letting them come to your soiree, Magnus. I know you were originally planning an adult only type of thing.”

Magnus shook his head slightly. “Nonsense. I adore both Zoe and Madzie, and I miss them. Besides, it wasn’t like I was planning a bacchanal this time. I think having the kids around might actually be a better idea than I had planned.”

Dorothea continued her previous line of conversation with, “So, I assume Remi is going to portal in Raphael?”

Magnus nodded. “Yes. Luke has to finish up some work at the precinct but he, Maia, and Simon will get here just before three o’clock. Everyone else will get here tomorrow.”

Catarina squeezed his arm. “Is it wise to invite both Raphael and Simon to the same county, let alone the same house? After…everything, I mean.”

“Wise? No. Necessary? Yes.” Magnus sighed. “Raphael is very important to me and I have come to view Simon with a lot of affection. This feud cannot go on any longer.”

“And if they tear each other apart before we even get to the fireworks?”

“Magnus has invited them to his home. They wouldn’t dare…would they?” Dorothea’s voice sounded uncertain even as she said it.

Catarina’s voice turned wry. “Clearly you have never been in the same room with them. They came to my home one night on some bogus run for Magnus and they were at each other’s throats no less than five times in the single hour they were there, and not in the sexy way. And that was before any of what’s happened in the last three weeks. I shudder to think what they’ll be like now after what Simon and that shadowhunter pulled a few days ago.”

Magnus’ face grew tight with anger over the whole debacle as he listened to Catarina and Dorothea talk. He had personal history with Rosa Santiago and the fact that Simon and Isabelle had threatened the woman, even as an empty threat, was unconscionable to him. He planned to have a very thorough talk with the boy that night. It was part of the reason Magnus had invited him along in the first place.

“Oh, I heard about that! His sister, right?” Dorothea exclaimed. “Jacques told me Raphael was more enraged than he was that time Camille staked Timothy and Lauren for crossing her. He said Raphael didn’t even haggle over the portal price.”

“What do you expect? It was his sister. The entire thing was deplorable.” Catarina’s voice was sharp with disgust.

“I didn’t even know Raphael had a sister.”

“He’s kept it very secret. He had me tend to her sometimes over the years but I, of course, never talked about her to anyone who didn’t already know. You can’t be too careful. Families are always easy targets.”

“Especially once he became clan leader, I suppose,” Dorothea contemplated. “He’ll have to relocate her. The cat is definitely out of the bag now. It’s been all over the Down World for days.”

Magnus spoke up then. “Raphael tells me he and Luke tried to keep it quiet but they’ve both been having internal loyalty difficulties and there were a lot of disgruntled downworlders in the Jade Wolf that day. Someone must’ve squealed and now here we are.”

What he didn’t mention was that Raphael had also asked him to help with setting up a relocation for her. It would take time to find a good place and in the meantime they would have to move her around until they found something permanent.

It was not good for her health but it was the best they could do for now. He had found a few more places for Raphael to check the following week and when the vampire made a decision, they will move on it immediately. A few well-placed memory charms and some hefty wards should secure the place.

Catarina hummed. “Hopefully after he relocates her he’ll think twice about who he tells her location too.”

Magnus shrugged. “I can’t quite blame him. Although I’ve known Isabelle only for a short time now, I trusted her. I never thought she would ever do something like this. Betraying a confidence? Threatening an elderly woman? It was quite a shock even for me.”

Dorothea popped her head forward to look at Magnus. “Really? Magnus ‘are you really going to risk your life for a shadowhunter’ Bane was shocked at a shadowhunter betraying a downworlder?”

Magnus tipped his head to the side and conceded. “Yes, well…a lot of things have changed since I said that, Dot.” He paused and almost whispered the rest. “And not always to my benefit.”

Catarina squeezed his arm with hers and said, “You have let yourself become deeply entwined in shadowhunter business yet again, my friend. I thought you’d learned your lesson after the nonsense with those Carstairs and Herondale boys. Or even that nastiness with the Whitelaws.”

“It seems I’m still a glutton for punishment.” Magnus perked up. “Oh, and now I can add a new Herondale troublemaker to my life. It turns out Jace is, in fact, the son of Stephen and Celine. Long thought dead and yet rescued from the grave by Valentine to use for his own twisted purposes.”

Catarina paused with her spoon in her mouth. She swallowed her gelato hard and said, “No. One of Tessa’s line? Truly?”

Magnus nodded. “Jace being a Herondale is what stopped Imogen from illegally executing me, in fact.”

“Fortuitous.” Catarina finished off her gelato and discreetly banished the cup and spoon. Magnus finished his dessert as well and followed her example.

“More like ‘thank the gods,’” Dorothea added. “What if it had gone the other way? That would’ve been awful.”

An uncomfortable silence fell over the trio as Magnus contemplated how close he had come to death. His mind flashed horribly to the hours of excruciating torture and the even more painful acknowledgement that none of his friends or his lover had believed him enough to investigate his story. Right up to the end.

It had not escaped Magnus’ attention that in a horrific twist of irony, he owed his life to Valentine Morgenstern. If the genocidal maniac had not wanted his body back so badly, Magnus likely would have been dead at this moment.

Bile rose in his throat. He abruptly stopped walking and closed his eyes in an attempt to control himself. Catarina, her arm still linked with his, paused too and waited. Magnus could sense Dorothea doing the same.

Street traffic flowed around their still bodies as if they were rocks breaking a river. If other pedestrians complained he could not hear it. The white noise that had started in his mind had drowned out any of that.

After a short time, Magnus calmed and slowly opened his eyes. Neither woman had said a word, which Magnus greatly appreciated. He was not truly one to open up about his issues in public and he certainly wasn’t about to start then. He would save that emotional upheaval for another time.

For now he simply recomposed himself, gave the two women a strained smile, and gestured at the shops around them. “Well, enough of that. Shall we commence with shopping now?”

Dorothea banished her gelato container and smiled back. “Absolutely.”

Catarina brushed her hand along his sleeve. It was not quite a petting motion but Magnus appreciated the subtle comfort.

“And for lunch how about that little lakeside place in Montauk that we always went to in the 80s, Magnus?” she said.

“Penelope’s? Oh, they closed down over ten years ago.”

Catarina looked shocked. “Really? Why?”

Magnus shrugged. “A grindylow infestation, if you can believe it. It started in ’94 and they were losing customers by the dozens within a few years. They tried to get a Fae exterminator in but the little buggers just kept coming back. There was a huge mundane FBI investigation but it all got hushed up, of course. Penny decided to just throw in the towel in 2005. I haven’t heard of her setting up a new place yet.”

“How did I miss all of this?”

“You were in Cairo around then, remember?”

“That’s right. Well then, I guess we can just check out some other restaurants. Won’t be as good as Penny’s but it’ll do.”

With that Catarina looped her other arm around Dorothea’s shoulders and forcefully propelled them forward. Magnus skipped to keep from being bowled over, his heart already feeling lighter than it had in weeks.

***

Luke, Maia, and Simon had made good time on the way and had texted to say they were going to arrive a half hour earlier than expected, so Magnus had to cut their shopping trip short. He offered to return on his own but Catarina and Dorothea had been reluctant to leave him alone even for that small amount of time.

He chose not to look too deeply into that.

They emerged from the portal into his living room and Magnus gestured to switch on the lights. He dropped his bags onto the floor and gestured that he was headed to the door to let in the others. Catarina and Dorothea headed off to their respective rooms to put away their things.

Magnus opened the door of his summer home to see if his guests had arrived.

His timing was impeccable. In the distance, he could see Simon’s garish van pulling up the long drive onto his estate.

Magnus threw his magic out and opened the gates just as they got to them. The van trundled forward up a curving gravel road lined with white, yellow, and orange lantana plants and sprouts of marigolds.

The vehicle came to a stop next to his circular water fountain of mermaid statues, currently bubbling happily as he had turned it on and let it run since the morning.

Simon rolled down his car window and stuck his head out. “Hey, Magnus, killer mansion. Where do you want me to park?”

Magnus stepped down his marble front stairs and approached the van. “Right there is as good as any, Simon. You three are the only ones who decided to drive up. Everyone else is going to portal in.”

The passenger side door opened as the loud engine noise died down and Magnus saw Luke emerge, followed by Maia.

Luke walked around the front of the car with his hand outstretched. “Magnus. Thank you for having us,” he said.

Magnus took his hand firmly in a shake and slapped Luke on the shoulder with his other for good measure.

“My pleasure as always, Luke. And Maia.” Magnus moved to take Maia’s hands and lifted it to give a peck over the back of her fingers.

Maia’s smile stretched wide and her eyes crinkled adorably. “It’s funny that you do that.”

“Do what, my dear?”

“Treat me like some high society lady. I’m dressed like a punk rock band’s roadie.”

He smiled and looked down at her clothes. It was true. She was wearing black overalls with short legs that came only partially down her thighs, a white t-shirt, and an open burgundy colored flannel shirt. She had on scuffed Doc Martins, an assortment of black bracelets, and hooped earrings. Her scar stood out in stark relief on her neck and dark lipstick completed the look.

She was fabulous, so he told her just that.

“A lady is a lady no matter what she wears. And you, my dear, look wonderful in what you’re wearing.”

Maia smiled again and took back her hand.

While Magnus had talked to Maia, Luke and Simon had been pulling small suitcases from the back. The car doors slammed and they moved as a group up to the house.

“Come on in,” he said as he walked in front of them. “There’s only Catarina and Dorothea here. Everyone else arrives tonight and tomorrow. Pick any bedroom that’s not already occupied. I have plenty of rooms to spare. There’s a gemstone set into the wall next to every room. When you’ve made your choice, touch the stone and say ‘electi’ to set the wards to your own aura. The stone should glow faintly if it’s already activated. This will let you control the ward stones of that room until you touch the stone and say ‘finis’ at the end of our little retreat. You can lock and unlock the room by just touching your finger to the stone.”

Maia raised a hand. “Ah, I’m gonna need you to write those words down so I don’t forget.”

Simon nodded. “Me too.”

Magnus waved a hand and said, “I’ll give them to you before the barbecue tonight. No worries.”

He then opened the front doors of his summer home and led them inside.

Simon had called the house a mansion and it was not a wholly inaccurate word. It was a sprawling beachside villa with 13 bedrooms—more if he opened his dimensional spaces—sat on almost 20 acres of land. Magnus had bought the estate in the 70s when he had been seeing a merman named Nereus. Magnus had lived with the sea nymph for over a decade but he had been called back to the Unseelie Court one day. Magnus had begged Nereus to stay but ultimately duty to the Unseelie King had won out. Magnus had never heard from him again, not a letter or even a rumor. He did not even know if Nereus was still alive.

Still, after their parting Magnus had chosen to keep the villa. It had cost him millions, after all, and the estate was luxurious. He used it as one of his summer homes, perfectly close to New York City and yet still far enough away to feel like a vacation spot. He had thrown many a beach party there, especially for when he had mundanes over. The Hamptons were a perfectly normal vacation destination for them and he could have them over at any time, so long as he made sure his gnomes promised to stay in their knolls.

Magnus led his guests into the foyer and closed the door. He waved a hand to raise some light wards and a notice-me-not glamour to ward off wandering humans. Then he pulled on a little bell next to the door. A sharp peal rang out once and was answered in the distance with a deep boom.

Simon jumped. “What was that?”

Magnus sauntered further in the house, past the curling staircase to his left and through the large open doors that led into the gigantic living room.

“Just the signal for the gnomes to let them know I put up my wards so they can run around freely without expending their own magic.”

He motioned Luke, Simon, and Maia to set their bags to the side where his shopping lay. He snapped his fingers to send his purchased items up to his room, deciding to sort them later. Another stop covered his large glass coffee table with snacks and drinks. A third snap brought a carafe of blood for Simon.

“Oh, thanks.” Simon quickly poured a glass for himself. He paused with the drink near his lips. “Wait, did you just say ‘gnomes’?”

Magnus smirked. “I did.”

“Like, ‘little old guys with red hats’ type of gnomes?”

“Well, not quite like that. You’re thinking of redcaps, their Unseelie cousins. They have a red, hard shell on the tops of their heads that they use to bludgeon people to death,” Magnus said matter-of-factly. “That’s where the common, mundane image came from.”

Simon’s eyes were wide.

“No, gnomes are less violent. I have two full families living on the grounds who help maintain everything in exchange for having the territory. Eleven gnomes in total last I checked. Though one youngling was old enough to start his own knoll soon and might’ve moved on since I was last here. It’s been eight years since then, after all.”

Magnus laughed out loud at Simon’s face.

“Gnomes are real?” Simon said, his voice comically high pitched. “Oh my god, can I- Can I see one? Meet one? Holy shit! Maybe a redcap too. I’ve never even heard of a redcap before. Oh my god—”

Luke and Maia joined in with Magnus’ laugh. Luke grabbed Simon at the back of his neck and squeezed affectionately. He led the still babbling young man over to a couch to sit, grabbing a small plate of hors d'oeuvres.

“What’s all this merriment?” asked a feminine voice. It was Catarina. She and Dorothea emerged from the wide hallway leading in from the right of the house. They were still dressed in their casual wear, though Dorothea’s hat was gone and Catarina had let her glamour drop to show her blue skin. The two women moved lightly into the living room, each picking up a plate to sample some food.

Magnus poured three glasses of champagne from the room’s side bar and brought them over to the women. They each took a glass gratefully.

“Oh, I was just telling Simon about Titi and the others. He’s quite eager to meet a gnome for the first time.”

Catarina smiled and warned him, “Be careful not to say or do anything rude. Titi is a powerful matriarch despite no longer being connected to the Court. Cross her and you’ll be lucky to wake finding pebbles in your bed and all your clothes for weeks.”

“What’s the unlucky version?” Simon asked with a puzzled look on his face.

“She beats you bloody.”

“Hey, whoa, I thought you said they weren’t violent!” Simon turned to Magnus with an accusatory look.

Magnus shrugged. “I believe I said ‘less violent,’ actually.”

“Oh, thanks,” Simon said with a touch of alarm in his voice.

“Don’t worry. Titi and her clan have lived on my grounds for decades. Say ‘hello,’ maybe give her a little gift and you’ll be fine. Treat her with a kindness, and she and her ilk will return the same to you. Treat her ill, and you can expect the same. You should know that about the Down World by now, Simon.”

Magnus’ voice had gone low on the last sentence. All noise in the room froze as cold as his voice had been.

Magnus had not really intended to get into this right then but talking about Rosa earlier had made an itch simmer under his skin ever since. Perhaps it was best to just rip the bandage off completely. It would certainly come up again when Raphael arrived.

Simon looked confused. “Uh…sorry but are you mad at me?”

“What gave you that idea?”

Simon looked at the others and tentatively continued, “I don’t know. Maybe this insanely charged atmosphere or the fact that Maia is suddenly enthralled with that plate of chocolate nougats even though we all know she can’t eat them.”

Maia guiltily put the plate down.

“What’s this about, magic man?”

Luke shifted in his seat. Magnus glanced over to him and saw the other man shake his head subtly. Magnus paused, wanting to protest the warning. Eventually he decided to take his friend’s advice and let the matter rest just then, even if only to see what Luke had to say about why Magnus should wait.

Magnus relaxed and let out a smile. “It’s nothing we need go into now, Simon. I’m just on edge after this week.”

Simon frowned, not quite convinced.

Catarina clapped her hands. “Right then. Let’s not spoil this lovely weather. Shall we all go for a swim?”

Dorothea picked up the thread with, “Pool or beach?”

The ladies chattered on about their afternoon plans. Simon still looked uneasy to Magnus but a touch from Maia’s hand on his arm pulled him away from looking too closely at Magnus’ aggressive behavior and lackluster deflection.

Magnus rose to go back to the bar and pour himself a tumbler of whiskey this time. As he bent to find the right bottle, he saw Luke approach from the corner of his eye. He rose from his crouch behind the bar to see the other man settle on a bar stool in front of him.

“Pour me one, will you,” Luke requested. “On the rocks.”

“Of course.”

Magnus grabbed a second tumbler. He dropped large chunks of ice into both glasses and poured in the bourbon. Luke picked up his glass and raised it. Magnus clinked it with his own and they both took a sip.

Magnus closed his eyes and savored the oaky taste complemented by a burst of spices. He heard Luke hum contentedly and opened his eyes to see the man with one eyebrow quirked as he gazed into his glass.

Magnus smiled. “You like that?”

“Very nice. What is that? Sweet and bitter at the same time. Like licorice.”

“That’s the anise.” Magnus turned the whiskey bourbon bottle to show to Luke. “Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection. A bitch to get as Morris only makes it every now and then.”

Luke leaned closer to look at the label. “‘Seasoned Oak,’” he read. “Definitely worth the wait.”

Magnus agreed with a nod and took another small sip. He leaned his hip into the bar top and let the silence settle between them as they drank.

Behind Luke’s shoulder Magnus saw the rest of his guests make their way to picking their rooms, presumably to get changed for a swim. Soon enough it was just Magnus and Luke.

“What was that earlier, Magnus?”

Magnus sipped his drink and ventured nonchalantly, “What was what?”

Luke gave him a look. “You know what I mean. You were about to go into a full interrogation right in front of everyone here.”

Magnus flinched slightly at the word “interrogation” but brushed the reaction aside. Instead he focused on Luke’s words.

“When you told me you were inviting Simon and Raphael to this trip, you said that you just wanted to help fix things. Is that really true?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Well, from where I was sitting it looked less like you were getting to the truth and more like you were about to launch an attack.”

Magnus set his glass down firmly onto the wood of the bar. “I meant what I said, Luke,” he replied in slight annoyance.

He snapped his fingers to summon a plate of plain, rich cheesecake slices for them to eat along with their bourbon. He jabbed a fork into a slice and ate.

Luke sighed. “Magnus, I know how close you are to Raphael. He’s like your son. What Simon and Izzy did was out of line but Raphael is not without fault in all of this. Simon has been living at the Jade for months now and I have multiple times caught Raphael intimidating him.”

“Are you saying that I should ignore what they did?”

“No. I’m saying that the next time this topic comes up think about all of the sides, not just your son’s.”

“I could say the same to you about Simon. He is as close to your child as Clary is.”

“Touché,” Luke said with a wry twist of his mouth. “But I’m not intending on pulling Raphael aside to read him the riot act. I was very angry to walk into my restaurant to find Raphael almost staking Simon. I was ready to launch a full on attack, if it came to it, but I held myself back because I knew I didn’t have the whole picture. Can you honestly say that you believe Raphael to be completely blameless in this feud?”

Magnus tipped his glass to Luke’s side in acknowledgment. It was true that Raphael was not spotless. Magnus had known the vampire since he had just turned, and he had seen Raphael do things that would shame the devil. He was caring and protective to his own but he had always had a far more concrete streak of ruthlessness than Magnus himself possessed. One that made him choose more violent and aggressive paths to solutions than Magnus might have preferred. Raphael’s decision to kill Clary was proof of that. He did not know everything but Magnus could easily imagine a chain of events that would lead to where the two vampires were now, both at fault for one thing or another.

He would take Luke’s advice and hold off on judgement for now. At least until he had Raphael there to cross examine as well. This weekend retreat was meant to be about healing, not hurting. In his anger he had forgotten.

“Besides, I can tell that Simon has grown on you. I know you, Magnus. You’re two brunches and a band concert away from adopting him yourself. You would feel bad if you drove him away.”

Magnus snorted. “He’s like a damned limpet.”

Luke chuckled and finally reached for his own fork to eat some cheesecake. They were silent for a moment as they ate but Magnus saw Luke staring at him and knew there was something else on his mind.

“I haven’t forgotten what you said last week at the Down World Cabinet Meeting. I get it if you don’t want to talk about it, really…”

“Luke…”

“No, let me finish.” Luke paused. “I just meant…you can just focus on your own troubles and let Raphael and Simon pick up their own trash.”

“This weekend is meant to be about fun, them included.”

“I know,” Luke said. “I just want to make sure you know that it’s not your responsibility to fix everyone else’s problems. You couldn’t even if you wanted to. You’re very capable, Magnus, but even you have your limits.”

Magnus locked eyes with Luke as he spoke and took in his words. Then he leaned forward over the bar’s divide to clap Luke on the shoulder.

“I’m glad you came, my friend. Your wisdom is invaluable to me.”

“I feel the same, Magnus,” Luke said with a wide smile, teeth flashing.

Then they clinked their bourbon glasses again and took another sip in companionable silence.

***

By consensus they had decided on swimming in the ocean. What was the point of going to a seaside villa and not taking advantage of the private beach that was attached? The beach was only a ten to fifteen minute walk away but it took them nearly an hour before they finally hit the water as Simon had wasted a full thirty minutes trying to find a gnome to take a picture.

They descended onto the golden white sands with blankets and bags, coolers and food containers. Magnus conjured a few big umbrellas for those who preferred the shade and added a few beach chairs for good measure.

They were in the middle of a record breaking heatwave and it was boiling outside. Magnus had shielded the area to prevent most harmful effects from sun exposure with a word that worked similar to a common sunscreen. They spell was keyed to a large firestone amulet he had dropped in the middle of their chairs and blankets. The shield only covered a few meters so outside of that they still needed regular sunscreen or a screen spell.

It was also only good for shielding harmful UV rays. It would take far more energy than he was prepared to expend to cast the type of weather magic needed to cool the area as well.

Besides half of the fun of coming to the beach was feeling the heat of the sun on your body and then cooling off in the chill of the ocean water.

The rest of the fun were the people you brought with you, of course.

Magnus reclined on a long beach chair next to an open cooler of drinks, water, and ice charmed not to melt. He had decided to let the sun warm his skin and he had stripped down to emerald swimming trunks.

Dorothea was next to him in another chair but she had wanted to rest under an umbrella while taking a nap. She was still recovering somewhat from Valentine’s experiments and often needed to sleep to reinvigorate her. They had started the day quite early after all and he couldn’t recall her sleeping even once.

Luke and Simon had raced off to have a swimming contest almost immediately. Magnus could see the two of them in the distance riding the waves. They weren’t as high as other places Magnus had been to in the tropics or down in Florida. Still, they were excellent waves that day for the Hamptons.

On a blanket in front of him sat Catarina and Maia talking softly. Catarina was moving a magic encased hand through Maia’s hair. Where her fingers passed, a section of hair would twist rapidly into the neatest cornrow Magnus had ever seen. Magnus closed his eyes and listened while he sunbathed.

“Is it easier to maintain with magic?” he heard Maia ask.

“Definitely,” Catarina replied. “It’s not always instantaneous. Some styles take longer for spells to work through and if you rush with de-tangling, you can cause breakage just as with manual care. Still, you can cut your time like a flash. Things that usually take an hour can get cut down to ten minutes.”

“Oh man, I’m super jealous. Best benefit of being a Black warlock over a Black werewolf, hands down.”

Magnus smiled and heard Catarina chuckle as well.

“Are there really no benefits for a wolf?”

“Not with hair. It’s actually the opposite. Coming back from a transformation fries my hair. Even worse, all the product I put in is gone after.”

“Even natural oils?”

“Even those. It sucks so bad. It’s like I have to start all over once I go back to human. Sometimes a bad transform even makes my hair tangle more.”

“There must be something you can use?”

“I keep trying different products, magical and mundane. Nothing works. Each time I just have to do the work again.”

Magnus opened his eyes and tilted his head to look at the two women.

“I might be able to help, Maia,” he said. He summoned up a frozen lemon daiquiri. “I could work on an ointment for you.”

Maia turned to him in surprise. “Really? You can do that?”

Catarina turned Maia’s head back straight. She had to start over on the second to last cornrow since Maia’s head turn had dislodged the casting.

“Potions are my specialty,” he said. “Plus, I spent a good portion of time as a hairdresser in France.”

Catarina snorted. “In the 1800s, Magnus. And as I recall it that was all a front for spy work anyway.”

Magnus waved his hand dismissively as he gulped down his mouthful of drink. “First of all, what kind of a spy would I have been if I couldn’t perform the job I used as my cover story? A poor one, is what. And I will have you know that I have kept up with my skills over the decades. I find hair styling quite therapeutic, in fact.”

Maia practically squealed as she talked. “I cannot believe this. You really used to do hair? This is wild.” She paused, then continued, “Wait, can you do Black hair?”

“No worries. I prided myself on being able to handle all hair textures, from 1 to 4c.”

Catarina finished off the last cornrow. She had given Maia nine medium sized rows. Maia had a fairly loose curl pattern so the spell had made quick work. Catarina’s own hair, left white against her shining cerulean skin, was already braided from earlier.

Maia flipped around gracefully once Catarina was finished.

“I can’t believe you would do that for me, Magnus. What will I owe you?”

Magnus wagged a finger. “Already forgot what I said about stingy warlocks, Maia? No, the research data I gather for future potions will be compensation enough. As long as you’re feeling up to trying different concoctions? I promise to be careful and do tests beforehand to make sure I don’t harm you or your hair.”

“No problem. I trust you, Magnus. Besides, with all the different products I keep trying, my head probably already is a chemical lab.”

Magnus sat up and banished his empty daiquiri glass. “Speaking of…when we have time later send me a list of the products you’ve found work the best with your hair. I’ll take a look at their ingredients to see if I can find something helpful.”

Magnus made a mental note to schedule laboratory time the next week to start the project. If he could come up with a good solution, he could publish the new potion recipes in the journals sent out by the Spiral Labyrinth for other downworlders to try.

“If I can get the recipe down to ingredients based only, with no need for active magic, you should be able to make it yourself at home.”

Maia stood up and walked the few steps to his chair. She reached down with her arms spread and Magnus obliged her with a hug.

“Magnus, thank you. That’s really sweet of you.”

“Not at all, my dear. Besides, I haven’t utilized my stylist skills in this way in years. I’ve been due to refresh myself.”

Maia smiled. “Alright, time to get in the water. All of us…well, except Dot. Should we wake her up?”

They all turned to the warlock. She was completely passed out. She must’ve been extremely tired as she had slept through their entire conversation.

Catarina cast a quick diagnostic spell over Dorothea and then shook her head. “No, let her sleep. She needs these naps for her recovery.”

“That settles it then. Let’s go,” Maia said and took off for the waves.

Catarina dropped the sarong she wore over her bathing suit. She grabbed Magnus’ hand and used leverage to pull him up to follow after Maia.

Magnus laughed as he was tugged along, unable to resist the call of the iridescent blue sea.

***

They spent hours on the beach and only came up to the house when twilight was approaching. They had alternated between resting on the beach and swimming deep in the ocean. Dorothea had awoken after a half hour nap and joined them.

It had been the most fun he had had since his trip to Japan with Alexander.

They relocated to his back of the house for the evening. His villa had a sprawling backyard, part garden and part open field. Closer to the house, just after the red brick patio, were rows of flowers and hedges, all blooming both in and out of season. Perks of having gnomes care for his gardens. He had roses and lilies and carnations and forget-me-nots and many more. He had three apple trees to the right of the yard and a line of tomato plants held upright to a bit of lattice to the left.

Further to the left was a path that you could follow through the flowers and bushes, not quite a maze but still winding and branching out. There were two benches along the path if one wanted to sit. In the distance, the riotous flowers gave way to open lawn leading up a small series of hills further inland in which the gnomes lived. It was the most picturesque place for dinner outside.

Magnus had planned a barbecue for his guests. He wanted it to go perfectly but by the time it came to it, he was tired. Catarina had seen his fatigue so she had volunteered to take over for him. She had told him to relax, slapped a book into his hands, and shoved him down into one of his cushioned lawn chairs.

He grumbled a bit at her ordering him around but in truth he was extremely grateful. He had been feeling constantly drained recently. He wasn’t exactly sure why but at a guess he thought it might be a bit psychosomatic. Some leftover from his terrifying ordeal with Imogen Herondale and possibly also lingering effects of the soul swap curses.

So there he was laying on a cushioned lounge chair on the patio of his oversized garden, changed into linen pants and a loose shirt patterned with red vines. He only bothered with a light hint of makeup and a few bits of jewelry. He was reading his copy of The Big Nowhere by the torch lamps set up around the garden. It was a tad dim but his demon blessed eyes were on display and made up the difference for his reading.

Around him the others were laughing and chatting as Luke and Catarina took turns handling the grill and the food preparations. The savory smell of cooking meat and burning coals wafted over him and made him hungrier by the minute.

Dorothea had summoned a stereo to play slow rhythm and blues music, and she was dancing with Maia barefoot in the grass. Simon was in the distance poking sticks into the ground, likely looking for gnomes again. Foolish boy.

They decided to eat out on a long banquet table that had been set up on the wide patio. The food finished just as the sky changed to darkened golds and inky reds. Catarina added floating mage lights to the torches already around the garden both to help them see and to set the mood. Some days she could be just as dramatic as he.

They had perfect timing with the food as just when Luke had set down the serving bowl of mashed potatoes, a portal opened to their left.

Out jumped Madzie and Zoe each holding onto Remi’s hands as they crossed. Behind them came Raphael, face as dark and intent as the suit he was wearing. Remi closed his portal behind them.

Madzie squealed when she saw Catarina and broke off from Remi’s hold to run into the blue warlock’s arms. Catarina spun around, holding the young girl tightly in her arms.

Magnus took that as his cue, put down his book, and strode forward to greet his guests.

“Remi, I’m so glad you made it.” He put his hand out and rested it on the back of Zoe’s head, bending down to drop a kiss into her hair. “And welcome to you too, Zoe dear.”

Zoe smiled up at him. “Thank you for letting us come to your party, Magnus. I brought you a gift.”

Zoe frowned in concentration, summoned purple flames, and waved her right hand over the other in continuous circles. After a moment, she materialized a corked brown jar.

“It’s pixie dew honey,” she said happily as she presented to him. “Remi says that we should always have a gift when we come to someone’s house. I picked this out.”

Magnus took the jar in hand. “How lovely. And excellent summoning work. Thank you so much. We’ll eat it together this weekend. How does that sound?”

“That sounds really great. I love this stuff.”

Magnus leaned forward to whisper, “So do I.” He tapped Zoe on the nose then steered her into the rest of the garden. “Go on and play. Mind the gnomes. Make sure to introduce yourself. The matriarch is named ‘Titi.’”

“Okay,” Zoe exclaimed and she set off running to join Madzie and Catarina.

Magnus turned to Remi next. Remi was a two hundred year old Maui warlock who had immigrated to New York in the 50s. He had brown skin and black hair left long and pulled back into a pony tail. He had an insectoid demon father so his warlock mark was that he had more joints in all of his limbs than a human would. He was toweringly tall, reaching up to nearly eight feet when standing straight, and his hands were elongated and spindly.

He had volunteered to take Zoe after the Circle had killed her previous adopted father at Magnus’ loft. Magnus had actually not known him that closely before then but afterwards they had become better acquainted since Magnus liked to keep a close eye on Zoe’s progress.

He reached out one bony hand for Magnus to shake and said, “Thank you again for letting me bring the girls. I know I’m not exactly one of your inner circle but I appreciate that you’ve invited me into one of your homes.”

Magnus squeezed firmly on Remi’s fingers in acknowledgment of his words. “Welcome, again. Have something to eat and relax. You can take any bedroom you like as long as it’s empty. Just key your signature on the gemstone outside to lock in your choice. You can show the girls when it’s time to put them to bed.”

Remi nodded and moved past Magnus.

“And last but never least,” Magnus said with a lilting voice as he turned to greet Raphael.

The other man had been waiting quietly a few steps away in the dark of the newly fallen night. He stood in the shadow of a large apple tree planted to the side of Magnus’ garden. As Magnus moved forward, Raphael met him halfway and embraced him.

“Thank you for coming, Raphael,” Magnus said softly. He leaned back to look over Raphael’s face. “I know you didn’t want to but I’m glad you did.”

A tense expression stole over Raphael’s face and he looked away. “Of course, Magnus. I know how much this vacation means to you.”

Magnus pulled away and contemplated Raphael closely. His jaw was clenching and unclenching, his shoulders stiff, and when he looked deeper into the garden, he involuntarily sneered. Magnus supposed he must have seen Simon.

As soon as he had the thought he heard Simon’s voice in a loud shout behind him. The exclamation was immediately followed by raucous, high-pitched, little girl laughter.

Raphael tilted his head toward the others. “You’d better step in soon or you’ll be looking for one of your…guests with a backhoe.”

Magnus’ eyes rolled all the way to the back of his head. He let out a loud sigh and spun on the spot, his body pivoting gracefully on one foot.

In the distance, Magnus could see the group of downworlders circled around something low to the ground, located just outside the edge of light from their barbecue area. In the middle was Titi and her son Kalek, two of his gnome residents, obscured slightly by the taller people around them. They both had scrunched faces as if prepared for an attack. Or perhaps a shouting match. Simon was standing in front of them and his hands were raised in protestation.

Magnus quickly rushed over to defuse what was clearly about to be a problem. He could feel Raphael following leisurely behind.

“Simon! I told you to be careful!”

The circle around the impending conflagration parted in front of him and Magnus could see the gnomes fully. They were both barely taller than a foot, pale brown with wavy brown hair as well. Titi, being older, had a wrinkled face dotted with aging freckles and white shooting through her tresses. Kalek was wiry and his skin taught with youth. Titi wore a little blue dress lined in gold geometric piping, and Kalek was in green trousers and no shirt. They were both barefoot, as was their way, their toes wiggling on the grass and dirt. Magnus could see the blades of his lawn curling around and caressing their ankles. This was the result of being fae: beings who were, by their nature, close to nature.

At the moment he arrived, Titi stamped her foot and fisted her knobby hands at her side.

“Magnus,” she said in a raspy growl. “Did you really invite this one? This one is not welcome!” Her hand flew high up into the air to shake a finger at Simon.

As she spoke, Kalek bared his teeth in a show of force and Simon started to return the favor. Magnus quickly grabbed the vampire on his arm and squeezed to stop the boy from doing something foolish that would make this gaff worse.

He turned to the gnomes. “Titi, what happened?”

“This one took pictures without even asking. No greeting, no gifting, and then to take? I will not have it.”

Magnus looked over. “You took their picture without asking? Simon.”

Simon shrugged but Magnus could see the cellphone in his hand that showed the statement was true.

Magnus sighed. “You most certainly should have asked first, especially since gnomes are ground dwelling people. They need to be prepared for flashes of light.”

“Oh, right, yeah…that’s my bad,” Simon said with chagrin. Then he turned to Titi. “I’m so sorry, little guys.”

Magnus closed his eyes. Gnomes despised being called “little” so plainly unless you were very close friends. Heaven save him but Simon was not making this easy.

Behind him Magnus heard Raphael snort in laughter and at the noise Simon’s arm tensed under Magnus’ hand. The other adult guests were shifting uncomfortably while Madzie and Zoe were silent and staring. Everyone around them except Simon understood how poorly the whole conversation was going.

Titi let out a squall and Kalek began to emit an oppressive, grating noise. Magnus felt the ground beneath his feet tremble a little and he planted his feet to brace if necessary. If Magnus didn’t do something soon, however, he would have to reorganize his entire back yard around the sinkholes.

He opened his eyes and gave the gnomes his best smile. “My apologies, Titi. Young Simon here is very new to the Down World. He is not even a year dead. He does not know all of our ways.”

“Understatement,” he heard Raphael mutter behind him. Magnus threw back a sharp glare but Raphael remained unapologetic.

Titi looked on skeptically but her foot was no longer stamping. Kalek, on the other hand, was still emitting a low level rumble, like stone grinding over stone.

“Lack of knowledge is no excuse for lack of common sense,” said Kalek.

On the gnome’s last word, Simon yelped and hopped up on one foot. Magnus looked down to see a sharp rock had sprouted where Simon’s flip-flop covered foot had previously rested.

“Hey! What was that?” Simon yelled, setting his foot back on the ground gingerly. “That keeps happening.”

Magnus gave the young gnome a look. “His rudeness is mere ignorance, I assure you. Far less deliberate than others. Is this how Clan Loamweaver treats my guests? With petty tricks that could injure? If you do not accept his apology, then issue the required recompense. If his apology is not sufficient to cover the offense, then I will pay the difference. He is my guest, after all.”

Luke shifted then. “And if that is not enough, I will also offer restitutions. I’ve known Simon since he was a human child, I will be responsible for him.”

Kalek looked shocked at the offers. His little brown eyes were darting nervously between the two downworlder leaders. Magnus could admit it was an intimidating idea. He almost felt it was unfair to bombard the gnomes with that level of strength that came from a High Warlock and a Pack Alpha. It was a simple argument grown from ignorance, after all. But Down World slights with fae denizens had a way of fomenting in the darkness and erupting into a full feud before you knew it. It was better to nip this in the bud.

Titi gasped and grabbed her son by the arm, pulling him back to her side.

“My Lords,” she said, clearly upset. “My son has shamed our clan. We would not dare demand geld from you for such as this. Tis but the slight of a boy, as you say.”

Kalek looked like he would still protest despite his nervousness but Titi’s hand shook his arm sharply and his mouth closed sullenly.

“As Mother says, a slight.”

Magnus could tell the words were said begrudgingly but it was better than nothing. He’d take what he could get at this point. So he put on a bright smile, clapped his hands, and conjured up a covered basket of peaches which he then handed over to the gnome matriarch.

“Wonderful,” he said cheerfully. “Again, my apologies for the slight. I wish you to have these to celebrate the successful end of these hostilities and as a gift to make up for Simon’s lack of one.”

Peaches were Titi’s favorite fruit and she took them gratefully with a luminous smile that deepened the lovely wrinkles around her eyes. Magnus gave a graceful head nod and an arm flourish, and the two gnomes bowed low. Then, with a snap of their feet together, the ground melted beneath them and they both disappeared into it. Just below the sound of Simon’s gasp there was the rumble of dirt being shifted as the two gnomes sped away sub-terrestrially.

“Holy shit,” Simon exclaimed.

Luke stepped forward and grabbed Simon companionably by the shoulder. “Language, Simon. There are kids here.”

Magnus turned to his other guests. “Just so. Why don’t you all go get yourselves some dinner? I’m just going to talk for a little bit with Simon”—he paused to look around—“and Luke and Raphael in the kitchen.”

Luke nodded with a tiny smile and the two vampires put on near identical frowns.

He heard Madzie, voiced raised in that innocent way children did, say, “Is Simon in trouble?”

“No, baby, he just made a little mistake,” said Catarina, still carrying the girl in her arms.

The group he had addressed started murmuring amongst themselves but began making their way to the barbecue table without protest.

Magnus turned and led his own group into the kitchen and they followed after like ducklings.

His kitchen was still a bit of a mess from the food preparations. The remnants of chopped vegetables and dirtied mixing bowls cluttering the sink area. His large island in the center was sprinkled with flour from the cookies Dot had suddenly decided to make last minute. He waved a hand and spelled clean the worst of it, leaving only the dishes. He preferred handwashing those.

The three men who had followed him ignored the little breakfast nook to the left of the space and arranged themselves around the newly cleaned kitchen island, thankfully with Simon and Raphael opposite each other.

“Okay, there is an elephant in my room and we are going to talk about it,” Magnus said as he crossed his arms and leaned back against his pantry.

Raphael snorted. “Which elephant? Because there’s probably a herd in here thanks to this idiot’s awkward fumbling in a world he doesn’t understand.”

“Hey! I bet you weren’t any better when you were a baby vamp,” yelled Simon.

“Actually, I was a natural.”

“You’re lying.”

“Ask Magnus. He was there.”

They both turned to look at him simultaneously and Magnus stiffened.

It was true that Raphael had taken to being a vampire quite well. His bloodlust had been…difficult at first but he’d mostly overcome that addiction. His only major slip up had been the liaison he’d recently had with Isabelle. It was his sudden inability to practice his Catholicism that had been the worst thing for Raphael. However, like so much in his life, Raphael had put his head down and stubbornly barreled through, even at the cost of great pain to himself. Magnus had rarely seen anything like it.

Raphael’s natural charisma and intimidating nature which he had previously employed to control his neighborhood friends and care for his family in the absence of his father had made his vampire learning curve astonishingly brief. He had risen to second in command under Camille within months after he had left Magnus’ care, less than a year after being turned.

Magnus shrugged his shoulders. “It’s true. Raphael did fairly well as a youngling vampire.”

Raphael smirked and leaned back against the refrigerator. Simon huffed and crossed his arms.

“Don’t get too cocky, Raphael. I said ‘fairly well’ not ‘perfectly.’ Let’s not forget the debacle at the North American Down World Bicentennial.”

Simon perked up at that. “What? What’s that?”

Raphael gave him a glare so Magnus waved a hand at Simon. “It’s not important. What’s important is that you two work through whatever is happening recently. Luke has wisely counselled that I should not take sides without the entire story. Obviously you’re unlikely to ever be friends but I would like to get through this weekend without an outright murder.”

Raphael bared his fangs suddenly. “It is only out of respect for you that I am here at all, Magnus. We’ll settle things between us, one way or the other, on our own time.”

Simon returned the fang flash. “Was that another threat? Have you forgotten what happened the last time you threatened me?”

“No, I haven’t forgotten.”

In a flash of movement, Raphael was around the kitchen island and was just about to slam Simon into the wall. Magnus was prepared for such an event and his magic was deployed within the same millisecond. A translucent blue barrier was suddenly between the two vampires, preventing any unfortunate violence.

“Raphael!” Magnus yelled, frustrated. “You and Simon will control yourselves in my household.”

Simon and Raphael froze. Raphael turned his head to look at Magnus. He had the decency to look embarrassed, at least, but Magnus still felt angry that he’d been forced to yell at all. It was not in his nature to do so. He preferred a cold and calm fury to a hot one. He’d been quite off lately, however, and his two vampire charges were truly testing his patience.

Raphael moved back around the kitchen island and Luke moved next to Simon, hand pulling him back from Magnus’ barrier. Luke gave Magnus a nod so he removed his barrier spell from the room.

Simon rocked on his heels uncomfortably. “Sorry, Magnus, but he threatened my mom so I’m not going to back down.”

“And you, in turn, threatened his sister. I would have hoped this distastefulness would have stopped before you both threatened innocent family members but it seems neither of you know how to respect boundaries.”

They both looked away from him. They had shame, at least. Though Magnus was inclined to hammer in his point harder, a look from Luke made him decide otherwise. He took a deep breath to calm himself.

“I don’t want to yell at either of you. I’m just…disappointed that it’s come to this.”

Magnus saw Simon cringe and Raphael frown.

“Magnus…” Raphael said under his breath. He didn’t continue but Magnus could feel the apology in the silence.

Luke pressed his hands into the kitchen island’s marble top, arms spread wide. He glanced back and forth between the two vampires before he spoke.

“Magnus is right. This needs to end. We already have too many problems in the Down World for you two to add a vampire feud to it. Valentine’s already trying to kill all of us. How about we don’t help him?”

Magnus’ breath hitched at Valentine’s name but he nodded and brushed the reaction away. Instead he said to the others, “And in the future, if you two have a dispute with each other, come to me or to Luke instead of threatening each other’s families and escalating things. We are civil and civilized people. No need to act like the demons who begat us.”

Luke’s rumbling baritone sounded with authority. “Are we in agreement, gentlemen?”

Simon mumbled his acquiescence. Raphael locked eyes with Magnus and nodded with a simple “yes.”

Magnus let out a huff in gratitude. He had no guarantee that things would work well between them all but he at least had their assurances that they would try. One less thing to constantly worry about, to be sure.

“Excellent,” Magnus said and clapped his hands. He strode over to the massive refrigerator behind Raphael, shooing the man out of the way so he could open the doors. At the bottom was a smaller compartment that opened to reveal several metal carafes. After some searching, he pulled two from the compartment and closed the door.

“Alright, back to dinner for all of us. I have blood from a gazella bilkis, a Queen of Sheba’s Gazelle, for you two. I just got a new batch. Try it and let me know what you think.”

Simon’s face scrunched into a frown. “Aren’t they like…extinct?”

Raphael rolled his eyes. “How would you even know that?”

“I’m Jewish. I know what animals my ancestors used to eat. Gazelles are one of them. You know, before they started getting endangered and stuff. In fact, I did my tenth grade history class' final project on ancient kosher cuisine. I know what I’m talking about. You remember, right Luke?”

Simon gave Raphael a glare and bumped his hand into Luke’s arm.

Luke nodded. “I do remember that, actually. You had a whole slideshow and everything. It was…very detailed.”

Simon crossed his arms with a smug look on his face.

Magnus bit back a smile. “Simon, you’re right. The gazella bilkis is indeed extinct…in this realm. The Seelie and Unseelie Courts have cultivated many flora and fauna long thought to be gone in their pocket realms. The Courts have quite the thriving business selling their crops and herds to those in different dimensions.”

Raphael smirked. “You would know this if you had stuck around when I was trying to teach you our ways at the Dumort. Instead, you chose the shadowhunters. Clearly they taught you nothing. Maybe if you had paid half the attention during your lessons with me that you gave to your high school paper, you wouldn’t be making the kind of mistakes you did with Titi.”

Simon bared his teeth at that.

Magnus cleared his throat to forestall another argument. Both vampires barely relented. They didn’t launch into a new attack but they continued glaring at each other instead. Tired of them both, Magnus shoved a chilled carafe into both their hands, threw his arms up, and simply left the room.

He was done trying to fix their problems. Luke was right about that, at least. Magnus had done all he could; the rest was up to them.

***

Dinner proceeded uneventfully after that, thankfully. Magnus could still feel the tension at the table but Raphael and Simon behaved themselves for the most part so he had no reason to complain. Instead the night was filled with screeching laughter from the children and Remi’s atrocious singing.

Eventually, Magnus almost forgot that the feud had even happened at all. He simply let the joy of being surrounded by his friends soak into his bones. He had not felt as balanced and in control in weeks, and he welcomed the feeling.

Most Downworlders were night creatures by nature but eventually even they got tired. It was nearly midnight when Madzie and Zoe fell asleep, and Remi and Catarina put them to bed. The dinner party wound down soon after and the adults began to head in for the night as well. Magic made the cleanup infinitely easier.

Last to leave the yard had been Raphael. The man, being a regular vampire and not a Daylighter, had elected to return to New York City instead of being forced to stay in the house all day the next day. Magnus was grateful he’d agreed to come at all and told him so as the younger man gave his farewells, a portal waiting open beside them.

Raphael had hugged him unexpectedly. Two hugs in a single day was a rare thing for his stoic demeanor. Magnus wasn’t quite sure what to make of it but he was happy for it nonetheless.

“Take care of yourself, Magnus,” he’d said knowingly.

Magnus had deliberately ignored Raphael’s tone, put on a smile, and waved his hand in the air. “I always do, Rafa. What do you take me for?”

Raphael had kept his face somber as he asked, “Do you?”

Magnus had had no answer. The vampire hadn’t waited for more. Before Magnus knew it, he was standing alone in the night on his darkened patio, thoughts he had put off for so long clamoring in his brain.

Abruptly, Magnus turned to walk away from the house. It took a good five minutes to make his way back to the private beach in the dark. His un-glamoured eyes made the trip easier without any other light than the moon.

He collapsed onto a small dune and pulled his legs up to rest folded arms on his knees as he gazed out into the sea.

Around him rose the sound of insects and nocturnal bird calls barely heard above the waves crashing against the shore. In the distance, Magnus could see the lights of a ship bobbing against the current. It was a yacht, perhaps, or even a fishing boat floating listlessly and dipping occasionally below the dark horizon.

His throat closed up with emotion and his body was terrifyingly tense. His heart started hammering in his chest. Magnus gripped his own forearms tightly through his thin shirt. His hold was just this side of pain.

It was hours later, or maybe only minutes, when Magnus heard the crunch of footsteps on sand behind him. From the corner of his eye he saw a dark blur fall next to him.

Catarina leaned forward, her white hair undone from its style and her braid out exploding in a corona around her head, undulating in the gentle sea breeze. She mirrored his posture, arms on folded knees, then bumped her shoulder into his.

“Are you alright, Magnus? You’ve been out here alone a while.”

Magnus took a deep breath, tasting the salt of the ocean on his tongue and filling his lungs with cool air. He had relaxed at some point and hadn’t even noticed.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, and for the first time in a long time, he thought maybe he was telling the truth.