From so high above Brooklyn, you couldn't hear a sound. Alec wondered if, actually, Magnus hadn't cast a spell to quiet down the stream of car honks, yelling bystanders, and the stringent symphonies of police, ambulances and fire trucks. The loft had an aura of coziness that he hadn't expected out of Magnus' lair. From the stories he'd been told, nothing about Magnus was what he had expected.
He was making them drinks right now, glass clinking softly against glass, his back a curved line Alec could hardly look away from. Magnus seemed so solid. Intricate detail on his collar drew Alec's eyes to the back of his neck, to the curve of his ear, to that spot just below it. A fleeting but powerful urge to bridge the distance between them and brush his lips there made him swallow hard and look away. They had to have a talk first. They hardly knew each other. He couldn't. His family, his career, this mess with the Cup and Clary and Valentine.
Yet this place felt outside of that. A corner of the world where Alec was simply Alec, having scrubbed blood off of the High Warlock of Brooklyn's couch and staying for drinks in spite of that little nagging voice saying he should go back to the Institute.
Magnus whirled around when he was done, no drop spilling from the rim of the glasses even when the liquid they contained swayed to their very edges. He was graceful and Alec loved the way he moved with an intensity that was almost moving. He'd never seen someone that captivated him as much, never met someone that he was so attracted to, that he felt a connection to on top of that desire.
"For you," Magnus said, and the brush of their fingers as Alec reached for his glass caused a jolt all through his body. Like when their hands had joined in the demon summoning circle. The memory is not entirely a pleasant one, since he'd left that encounter vulnerable and exposed and confused and scared. Yet Magnus had offered words that still rung through his ears, yet he still thought of the other man's hand against his, the jewelry cool against his skin.
Alec opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again. An anxious tremor filled him, yet he was pushed forward, as if nudged in this direction by everything in him he kept so tightly locked away. It was as if some secret Alec lived inside of him and saw this man as a chance to escape when before there had been none.
It meant braving certain dangers first, but as Magnus sipped at his drink and his eyes crinkled with joy, shoulders shimmering, it was like no other outcome was possible. It was here, and now, that Alec would take this step.
"Hey, Magnus, I... I wanted to tell you something," he said, hoping the weariness on his shoulders was not obvious, that he didn't look nervous. He wanted so badly to be perfect, to feel perfect, which was hard to do when you felt different than the way you were made said you you were meant to be. Even in his own head, the feelings were convoluted and contradictory, heart pulling in one direction, mind in another, trying to do whatever it took to stay in the good graces of his family and to remain on his path to the future.
Even if a certain event wearing long necklaces and large rings intervened and things had since felt different and... more relaxed. As if Alec had always taken his life between his fingertips and pulled it taught, stretching it like an elastic and giving it no slack, and Magnus' presence, eyes lined, nails painted, glitter on his forehead, had guided his hands closer together, releasing some of the tension there. When Alec looked at Magnus he thought this was someone who would understand. What scared him was the possibility that Magnus wouldn't and the crushing reality that if Magnus could not, then who ever could?
Maybe it was unfair to place so much faith in a near stranger. The fact of the matter was that Magnus did not feel like a stranger.
"What is it, Alexander?" Magnus queried, gentle as ever. It was a question that did not intend to rush, only express that he was listening. Alec believed it. Alec felt it. Magnus wanted to listen, because Magnus cared. Magnus looked at him and saw him, saw that other Alec in a trap of his own making. Being seen gave him a strength he'd lacked before.
This version of his name had caused his stomach to do flips the first time and did it again then. Alec's heart surged and he wanted nothing but to follow the path that Magnus was on, as if he was waiting for him out there and all Alec had to do was cross through bushes and brambles and a few thorns to get there. This was Alec, reaching a hand across for help.
Alec did not know where to start. The glass in his hand was cool, and he took a sip of the drink before letting it rest on a nearby side table. He had spent his life not uttering the words, bearing them in silence. Cold sweat made his shirt stick to his back. He was a warrior, he faced demons every day, how could his heart race and his palms get sweaty over this?
"That — That's what is... it," he said, gesturing with a hand. Out with it, he thought to himself. Get it over with. Then you'll know whether you can stop daydreaming about his hands or his lips and wondering what they would taste like. "Alexander, that's not my name. Not my birth name."
He was too afraid to look at Magnus for too long in order to decipher if that had been clear enough for him. His eyes fell instead on Magnus' hands, then his shoes, then the couch to his right, a painting behind him. He wasn't scared, he told himself. Not of who he was. He was not ashamed of being as he was. His parents were supportive in essence, a son as a first born being just what they'd wished for. Sometimes he wondered if that counted. When he saw how they treated Izzy, he wondered a lot of things, but he tended to be too focused on making them proud in the present to wonder about hypotheticals. Did it matter what his parents' motivations were? He had a roof over his head, a career, a family, and every so often he worked hard enough to make them proud. And although they did not provide the emotional support he needed, although they pushed him harder then they would have pushed anyone, the sense of pride and joy he felt at every mention of being their son, of making them proud, had forged in him a strength he didn't believe he possessed.
That, and he'd always been resilient. It came with living with a secret. Two secrets, really. That second one he had not yet faced with his parents. Sometimes he felt like he'd already punched in his card for weird quirks that his parents would tolerate, that he could not be both trans and gay. Those were bad days. He had a lot of those.
A little less so, recently. He took a breath.
"It's... the guy version of my birth name," he said, and his eyes found Magnus as he did so, trying to convey his meaning without having to say it. That wasn't his style, though, so Alec did as Alec does, ripping off the band-aid and making a blunt declaration that could not be confused for anything that it was not: "I'm trans, Magnus."
There was a beat. Quickly, Alec continued.
"I've never — I've never told anyone. I've never had to. Nobody else knows except Iz, Jace, and my parents. Though they only went with this because they wanted a first born son. To keep the Institute to their name," he said, all in one breath. When he finished and inhaled, it was shaky. The glass he had put down might have shaken in his grasp had he kept it in his hand. As much as Alec felt safe, as much as he was who he was and that was it, he was terrified.
Terrified to have found something important, something that made him want to stray from a path he had followed all his life, only to lose it. Because of who he was. It was a rejection that was hard to swallow, one so complete it made everything else impossible. If Magnus reacted badly to this, Alec would not be able to be his friend. Magnus would have rejected a vital, key part of him.
"Okay," Magnus said, and Alec's head jerked up, staring at Magnus. A simple word for such a big reveal. Alec waited with baited breath as Magnus opened his mouth again, seeming to think of something else to say. Perhaps he'd ask Alec to leave. Or ask him about what exactly was in his pants. Or ask to see. Or ask if that made him straight after all. "Thank you," Magnus said instead, with such sincerity Alec thought he would cry.
Thank you? That was not what he'd expected, not what he'd imagined. He didn't know why he was reacting this way, confused at what Magnus was getting at.
"What? For what?"
"For trusting me and telling me." It was delivered like it was evident, but not like Alec was stupid for not realizing. It was almost tender. It made Alec's heart ache. He couldn't make this make sense, could not fit the pieces together. Magnus was acknowledging that being told this was significant. He was accepting that Alec had chosen him to tell, and that meant a degree of trust was implied.
Alec blinked, hands hanging at his sides, empty. His brow was furrowed in a mixture of confusion and having difficulty identifying and controlling what he was feeling. It felt like a tight ball in his throat. Relief, gratitude, confusion.
"Don't you... have a bunch of questions?"
Magnus was patient. He stepped closer, but instead of looking at Alec up and down, as if assessing if he was binding or if he was packing or if he'd had surgery or if he could tell that Alec had once been different, physically... he was looking into his eyes. Holding his gaze steady, in a way that left Alec breathless. It was charged, yet not sexual, more like a romantic sort of tension, like his honesty had only made Magnus feel more strongly for him.
He hummed as he got closer, close enough that he could extend one finger from his hand holding his glass and let the back of it brush against the fabric of Alec's shirt.
"I do, actually," Magnus said, and Alec stopped breathing, waiting for the final blow, for all this to come crashing down. It was too good to be true, too easy, too simple, too good. His life had never been this easy or simple or good. He looked away, not ready to see Magnus' gaze grow into something more, maybe propositioning something out of curiosity, maybe to fill in the 'trans man' square of his bingo sex card, maybe to make an allusion to being into this concept as if it was something of a turn on. Alec had no experience in flirting, but he knew what people thought, what they said. He wasn't stupid. This was his life. He knew what people thought of trans people, of gay people. He was both. Magnus' voice brought him back into the moment, musical as it was. "Are you more of a cologne or perfume man?"
Alec's eyes snapped back to Magnus, searching for something, a hint that he was making a cruel joke before sending Alec off to return to his duty. The thought of not being taken seriously was like nails on a chalkboard to Alec, and while nothing about Magnus had so far indicated he wouldn't take him seriously, that was what he looked for in Magnus' gaze.
Instead he found only curiosity, warmth, something akin to affection. Magnus' eyes were a welcoming shade of brown, and Alec lost himself in them until Magnus quirked an eyebrow, tilting his head as if to ask Should I repeat myself?
Magnus really wanted to know. He was asking because he wanted to know.
Alec grinned wide, his heart beating steadily in his chest for once without the sensation of being trapped or constricted, for once beating as big as it could go, as hard as it could beat, his next exhale a laugh that was both happiness and relief to have found an acceptance he had waited all his life to find in spite of convincing himself it would never come.
It had. It was here. In the shape of a man wearing make up and jewelry and a shirt with dizzying patterns and a sheerness that let enough of his skin show through to be titillating. Someone who, from the moment they'd met, had communicated and interest and continued to do so after finding out a part of Alec's identity. Someone who had expressed sympathy and understanding of his situation even when Alec had shut him out.
His soft breathless laugh made Magnus smile, something sad in it that Alec understood was not that Magnus was sad for himself.
"Cologne," he answered, voice soft and unguarded now that this was out in the open, now that Magnus was still standing there and almost swaying on his feet from how pleased and content he looked. Nothing about this said Magnus liked him any less. It was the same as before. "Wouldn't know what to do with flowers. I'd probably kill them within a day," he admitted, finding it easy to say something like that, and infinitely worth it when Magnus' face crinkled happily and his free hand came to rest over his arm, warm, soft, gentle.
"I'll keep that in mind, for a first date gift," Magnus said, and Alec's heart skipped a beat, his face flooding with warmth.
"That sounds nice," he said, pursing his lips to fight off a grin, and letting it break through in the end. He didn't need to hide it, did he? Magnus watched him, something soft in his expression that made Alec entertain thoughts of Magnus' lips against his own once more.
"We'll have to schedule something," Magnus declared before stepping away, much to Alec's disappointment. Being so close to Magnus was intoxicating. Moreso now that this secret he held had changed nothing, and he could want this, could want Magnus, and not be afraid of the next steps. Magnus knew him now. Magnus still wanted to go on a date, of all things. Alec's disappointment did not last long, either. Magnus made sure to find his eyes again, made sure Alec knew he could follow as he walked toward the couch.
"Come sit with me," he said as he took a seat, and Alec's swallowed, nodding. He wanted that. He wanted to be close to Magnus, wanted to feel the warmth of his body, and it was overwhelming to let himself, finally. A series of questions left unanswered faded away at the sight of Magnus' smile. He could think about that later. He could wonder if this is something to pursue or shut down before recent events bit him in the ass another time. Tonight, he could sit with Magnus and simply chat with him, tonight he could get to know Magnus Bane and let Magnus Bane get to know him.
Taking a seat next to him, leaving very little space between them, Alec let his mind wander away from obligations and responsibilities, instead letting himself be lulled by the warmth of Magnus' voice, the glint of his jewelry with every punctuating hand movement, the curve of his lips, and the oh so comforting feeling of being accepted, taken as he was, seen for who he was.
He dozed off so quickly, feeling safer next to Magnus than he'd had with anyone before, giving into a sleep that was restful and reparative, in which he dreamed of kisses and giggles and promises, in which someone held his hand at stayed at his side and whispered words of encouragement and support and pride and love, words that said he was capable of anything, no matter what he decided to undertake.