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Part I: “Pretty Boy”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Alec mutters, stone-faced, and stalks away. Magnus watches him pensively until he disappears around the corner, then withdraws his phone, in its glittering case, from his back pocket.

“Isabelle, my beauty, if I could trouble you to lay off fussing over Jace for a moment?” When she rises and joins him near the doorway, Magnus slips the phone, with its empty contact screen, into her hands. “One never knows when one may need some assistance from a very special Shadowhunter,” he explains, winking.

Isabelle grins, her thumbs already in motion.

When they’re done escorting a rather rumpled Jace from Magnus’s lair, he pulls the phone out and gazes at the contact.

Alec

Short for Alexander, no doubt. “Defender of men.” And a fitting name it is, what with the way Alec dispatched Valentine’s lackey at the rave, and then came to Magnus’s aid against the Circle members who attacked his lair.

Shadowhunters who actually protect Downworlders. Will wonders never cease?

And then there’s that bashful smile Alec gave him when Magnus introduced himself. And the way he stammered like he didn’t know what to make of a man openly admiring him. And the fear that drove him to overreact when he thought his secret might be exposed.

Magnus doesn’t make a habit of pursuing Shadowhunters. He’s had the smallest spark of interest in one or two throughout his centuries, but nothing more than that.

He also doesn’t make a habit of pursuing closeted young men, at least not in recent decades now that young men have the option of being un -closeted. While not nearly as messy as a Shadowhunter/Downworlder affair has the potential to be, chasing after men hiding in the closet requires more effort and dedication than Magnus is willing to exert for the sake of a dirty weekend or two.

So why is he having a hard time convincing himself to wait at least twelve hours before calling?

Magnus stares down at his phone. The name staring back at him from the screen just doesn’t sit right with him.

“Alec” is too pedestrian, but for some reason Magnus can’t even make sense of in his own head, “Alexander” feels far too intimate. Magnus smiles to himself and renames the contact.

Pretty Boy

It’ll do for now.

Not twenty-four hours later, Magnus’s lair is once again invaded by Shadowhunters, and Magnus once again has Alec Lightwood to thank for saving him. This time from getting his throat torn out by an injured and enraged werewolf due to an untimely case of magical depletion.

“You okay?” Alec murmurs gently as Magnus slumps against him.

Oh, this is not good. This is not good at all.

There are at least four other people in the room but as far as Magnus is concerned, it’s just him and Alec.

Clary is fussing over Luke, and Jace and Simon are fussing over Clary and snarking at each other, and Magnus? Magnus can’t tear his eyes off Alec.

Being pressed so cozily against Alec is just dandy, of course, but it’s the fact that the rest of them might as well not exist that’s the problem. If he had a mirror, he’d probably discover he’s wearing a of dopey, smitten smile on his face and words just really can’t encompass just how truly not good this is.

It means that sometime around the moment when Alec selflessly volunteered to let Magnus borrow his energy, some traitorous corner of Magnus’s brain took the possibility of just a dirty weekend off the books. His idiotic heart is going to try to make this a thing , something real, something that has a lot less to do with sweaty bodies and good times had by all, and a lot more to do with very messy and probably very painful feelings.

When he finally manages to pull himself together enough to get Luke into the bedroom, he finds himself stalling for time. He hovers over Luke, adjusting blankets and pillows, until Luke quite pointedly thanks him.

He half expects Alec to be gone by the time he returns to the living room, but no. Of course not.

Alec is picking up Magnus’s books, stroking their spines like a parent tenderly inspecting a child for injuries.

Oh, this is really not good.

Rather than deal with it, Magnus makes drinks.

“How’d you get my number, anyway?” Alec asks after the third cocktail, his head lolling drowsily against the back of the sofa. He’d shuddered his way through the first drink Magnus had made him, but once the alcohol numbed his taste buds, he’d downed the rest quite readily.

Magnus smiles sleepily at him from the other sofa. He shouldn’t be this tipsy after so few drinks, but his tolerance is always a bit lower when he’s overextended himself magically. “What do you mean?”

“When you called me earlier to invite me out. You didn’t call the Institute, you called me.”

“Oh, that.” Magnus digs his phone out of his pocket and tosses it over. Even with his reflexes slowed by alcohol, Alec still manages to snag it out of the air without spilling his cocktail. “Your little sister is as kind as she is lovely.”

Alec opens Magnus’s contacts and then rolls his eyes, but Magnus’s inebriated mind has already moved on from the subject.

When he wakes the next morning, Alec is passed out on the other sofa, Magnus’s phone lying face-down on the coffee table next to him. As Magnus starts formulating plans to woo Alec with coffee and breakfast, he opens it to see what Alec was looking at, only to find the contact has been changed back.

Alec .

Really, Alexander is a far more fitting name, but if Magnus is to have any hope of keeping this infatuation under control, maybe he’ll be better off not reminding himself how Alec seems to be making a habit of coming to his rescue.

Smiling, Magnus pockets the phone and leaves the contact as it is.


 

Part II: “Mr. Branwell”

“Good-bye, Alexander.”

There are a lot of things Magnus is willing do for the right person.

Carrying on an affair with someone who’s engaged or married, however, is not one of them.

He’d been willing to date Alec on the DL. He wouldn’t have been thrilled with it—in fact, he’s fairly certain he would have actually hated it—but it wouldn’t have been the first time. Indeed, prior to the 1970s, most of his relationships with men outside the Shadow World had, by necessity, been conducted with a certain level of discretion. So if that was what had been required to give Alec the time and confidence to figure out how to be honest about himself and put an end to his parents’ attempts to find him a wife, Magnus would have sucked it up and gone with it.

He just hadn’t anticipated that Alec would be an active participant in the whole matrimony scheme.

So Magnus leaves. He goes home, dresses to kill, and heads to his club.

He then gets righteously drunk, which was absolutely his plan (shut up) and wakes up alone the next morning, which absolutely wasn’t ( shut. up. ) He has a phone-shaped imprint on his face where he fell asleep laying on the thing, but a quick look at his recent contacts reassures him that he at least didn’t drunk-dial Alec anyone.

He did, however, edit a certain contact name again.

Mr. Branwell.

Okay. So he’d apparently gotten both sloppy and bitchy.

A few days later, Alec is back in Magnus’s loft, this time entreating Magnus to be his sister’s defender in court. Which is laughable on several levels.

First of all, Isabelle is 100% guilty of the crime she’s accused of. She definitely orchestrated the effort to rescue Meliorn, and Magnus knows this because he helped her and Jace obtain Alec’s stele.

Second, Magnus and Isabelle have had precisely three conversations, all of which largely concerned Alec somehow. Why she thinks he’s even remotely qualified to argue on her behalf in a Shadowhunter court will be a mystery for the ages.

And finally, Isabelle banters with at least one Seelie lover on a regular basis and manages not to fall into any of the usual conversational traps, like inadvertently agreeing to a hundred years of indenture in the Seelie court. Ergo, she can probably argue circles around Magnus in her sleep.

Which means she knows the Clave has her dead-to-rights, and she’s sent Alec to Magnus for other reasons. Given her unfavorable view of Alec’s impending marriage, it’s not difficult to guess what those reasons are.

But why has Alec come? That’s a much tougher question.

“...there’s nothing to keep me from slipping through this gaping loophole. For the right price.”

“Name it,” Alec says without hesitation.

That lack of guile is going to drive Magnus mad, because it contradicts everything he’s has been telling himself since he found out that Alec was the one who proposed to Lydia. Alec isn’t being strong-armed into this engagement; he’s chosen it. Therefore, all Magnus’s early reads on Alec were wrong; he isn’t any different from any other Shadowhunter who puts their brainwashed obedience to the Clave ahead of everything else.

Magnus isn’t sure if it’s pettiness or a need to figure out exactly what Alec is made of that drives him to say, “ You. In fact, I’ll do you pro bono .”

He plays it off as a joke, but somewhere underneath it all, he needs to know if Alec might actually go for it, might betray his fianceé and whatever sense of honor he possesses to get what he wants from Magnus and save his precious little sister. Or if he thinks he can have Magnus as his piece on the side while he marries Lydia.

If he does, Magnus will then know that Alec isn’t the man Magnus took him for. He’ll know to stay far, far away. He’ll send Alec, Isabelle, and their entire damn Institute packing before he’ll lift a damned finger to help any of them.

But Alec doesn’t so much as waver. He looks weary and reluctantly amused by the offer, but not seriously tempted. “Anything else?”

Asking for Alec’s bow? That’s definitely pettiness. Or maybe it’s another test, after all. Magnus isn’t sure what the hell he’s really doing anymore, and by the time the trial is over, he’s even less sure.

Because Lydia Branwell is...lovely. Misguided? Ambitious? Yes. Subconsciously racist? Absolutely. But she’s almost as earnest and well-intentioned as Alec himself, and as torn between obedience to the Clave and doing what she knows is right.

This isn’t good. This is, in fact, a disaster in the making.

Frankly, this whole arranged marriage debacle is starting to take on the overtones of a Greek tragedy, with Magnus cast in the role of Cassandra. Two genuinely good people, young people who are positioned to be the next generation of Shadowhunter leaders and who may very well finally move the Clave in the right direction, are condemning themselves to a lifetime of mutual misery. And there’s nothing Magnus can do to stop it.

When he gets home, he changes the contact name in his phone back to Alec . He just doesn’t have the heart to be bitchy anymore.


 

Part III: “Worth The Effort”

While Alec debriefs with his furious parents after the wedding-that-wasn’t, Magnus almost changes the contact to Kisses Like A God but then decides to play it a little lower-key.

Just a little.

He goes with Owes Me A Date instead.

Not that a date is in the cards. Valentine has stepped up his campaign. No longer is he lurking somewhere sending his lackeys out to do his dirty work. No, he’s flitting all over New York, kidnapping Jace, murdering vampires, kidnapping MMA fighters, kidnapping Clary, kidnapping werewolves...

He’s collecting victims like cereal box tops. Possibly he’s planning to turn them in for a secret decoder ring.

And then Alec goes and tries to kill himself finding Jace.

Magnus wants to be furious with him, but he can’t, because this isn’t his first rodeo. He’s known parabatai before, known how far they’ll go for each other. And if Alec didn’t do this thing for Jace, he wouldn’t be the man Magnus is growing increasingly attached to.

“Please come back,” he pleads. And Alec does. Not right away, but he does.

Alec passes out again soon after Aldertree drags Jace away. Clearly he doesn’t want to; he wants to chase after his brother and demand his release, but exhaustion claims him instead. Compared to his previous comatose state, this is at least a real sleep, a natural sleep. Magnus can stand down.

It’s the second time Alec sleeps at Magnus’s loft. At least the divan Magnus had conjured when he’d transferred Alec from the Institute is more suitable for sleeping than the sofa Alec had ended up sprawled over last time. Magnus, too wired on residual fear and the realization of how deep he’s already fallen into this undefined thing they have ( true love’s kiss? really? ) reads on the sofa nearby for the entire night, or he does until he nods off with the book on his chest.

He wakes before dawn to discover someone has draped a throw over him. Alec is sitting nearby, looking vastly improved and thumbing through Magnus’s phone.

“Hey.” He blushes and sets the phone down on the coffee table when he notices Magnus’s eyes are open. “I need to get back to the Institute, but I didn’t want to leave without—without saying anything to you.”

Magnus rubs his eyes and tries to pull his thoughts together. “Well, let me make a portal for you.”

“You don’t have to. I’m fine. I can take the subway. I know you expended a lot of magic on me yesterday.”

Magnus flaps a hand at him. “Nonsense. I’d at least call a taxi for you if I couldn’t manage a portal. But, as it is, I’m expected by Aldertree bright and early this morning to answer to charges of—what was it again? ‘Aiding and abetting’ and ‘unlawful imprisonment’ I think?”

“Unlawful imprisonment?” Alec’s voice gains volume with his outrage. “What, of me ?”

“Actually, it probably has more to do with Raj.” Magnus grins at Alec’s confused look. “It’s nothing to worry about. Let me get ready, and we can grab coffee and pastries on our way.”

The meeting with Aldertree goes about the way Magnus predicted it would. The whole crazy week is made totally worthwhile, however, by the bashful way Alec apologizes for not making good on his promise of a date yet. They’re so close to finally being able to do it, and then of course Raj has to appear to summon Alec into a demon briefing.

Magnus sighs. “Rain check?”

“Yeah.” Alec winces. “Is that alright?”

What can Magnus possibly say to that, except to assure him that of course it is?

As he strolls out of the Institute, he pulls his phone from his pocket to text that they will have that date soon, and notices the contact name has been changed back to Alec .

It’s several more days before Magnus finally convinces Alec to cash that rain check. By then, he’s desperately worried about Alec’s mental health. His desperation to save Jace was one thing, but his guilt and despair at being the unwilling instrument of the demon who killed Jocelyn Fairchild is something else entirely, leading him somewhere that could get very dark if Alec can’t find his way out of it.

Alec’s hesitation to accede to the date he’d been so eager for just a few days ago speaks volumes about the severe blow his emotional state has taken. But he lets Magnus cajole him out to the Hunter’s Moon until he finally has a drink and a pool cue in hand.

After Magnus wipes the felt with him the first time, he pulls his phone out of his pocket while Alec is racking to break for their second game. He leaves it lying very ostentatiously on the edge of the table, but Alec doesn’t rise to the bait and let it distract him. He runs the table until more than half the stripes have been sunk before Magnus gets a turn.

Sore loser ? Seriously?” he asks, arching an eyebrow over the phone as Magnus lines up his shot.

“Didn’t anyone tell you it’s bad manners to look at someone’s phone without their permission?” Magnus taunts, sinking two solids.

“You could always lock your phone, and yet you never do.” Alec leans on the jukebox and starts thumbing something into the phone. Magnus is so excited to see it that he scratches.

I Know What Youre Doing Bane

Magnus finds himself grinning so hard he doesn’t even mind when Alec finishes sinking his balls and drops the 8-ball precisely where he calls it without ever giving Magnus another turn. He thrusts the phone into Alec’s hands and goes to rack the balls for his break.

Its On Lightwood

A few hours later, their date has taken a decidedly morose turn. Alec tries to rally after the whole ex-lovers discussion and can’t quite manage it. Magnus is kicking himself for pulling a number as intimidating as 17,000 out of the air; the truth is, he has no idea what his “number” is. After the first hundred or so, most rational people lose count.

But Alec’s attitude when he asks Magnus how many people he’s been with is just judgmental enough that Magnus feels the need to challenge it. Nearly four centuries is long enough, and Magnus’s history colorful enough, that his bed-posts have long since been whittled down to toothpicks. He’s not going to pretend otherwise to satisfy a Shadowhunter’s puritanical sensibilities.

Not even Alec’s.

That indignant resolve lasts him until Alec is about to walk out the door. Magnus wants desperately to call him back, but he can’t.

He can’t, because with the exception of that kiss at his wedding, Magnus has been the one making all the overtures since they met. He can’t keep chasing after Alec; sooner or later Alec is going to need to come to Magnus, or any relationship between them will be so pathetically one-sided that it will never last.

And if Alec comes to Magnus, he needs to do so understanding that Magnus will not apologize for being who he is, for the history that has carried him through these hundreds of years. Either Alec can deal with that, or he can’t, and if he can’t it’s better that they know now.

So Magnus lets him go, turns away and waits for the closing of the door as Alec leaves.

Instead, he hears determined footfalls striding toward him. Sees the obstinance and nervousness mingling on Alec’s face as he pledges to accept Magnus, colorful history and all. Feels the trembling trembling in Alec’s body as he closes in for the second kiss he’s ever given Magnus.

There’s so much more weight to this kiss. The last one had only ever really tangentially been about Magnus. It had been a declaration about Alec, and perhaps an offer to see where the connection the two of them felt toward each other might lead, but it hadn’t been about them .

This one is entirely about them. The only statement Alec is making this time is that he’s not going anywhere, that he intends to stick around and make this work. And that’s just...huge.

Magnus relishes the rasp in Alec’s voice when he talks about relationships taking effort.

The moment is shattered by a newly homeless Jace, and the next hour or so spent settling in Magnus’s unexpected houseguest. Afterward, Alec departs with a very chaste kiss and Magnus goes to get ready for bed.

As he pulls his phone out of his pocket to set it on the bedside table, he opens it to Alec’s contact, which still reads, Youre Going Down Bane .

“Oh, Alexander, you couldn’t be more right,” he sighs, and thumb-types in a new name.

Worth The Effort


 

Part IV: “Mr. Lightwood”

They manage a couple days of peace before the world falls apart again, and they put that time to good use.

After their date in Tokyo, Magnus grins and edits Alec’s contact to “ Thicc” Tuna .

“‘Thicc?’ What does that even mean?” Alec demands, laughing so hard he’s once again out of breath.

He’s naked in Magnus’s bed for the first time, his skin still glistening with a sheen of sweat after blowing Magnus’s mind (subsequent to a somewhat shaky start) and also getting an impromptu education in other activities involving the word “blow.”

It isn’t a lesson Magnus had imagined he’d be imparting quite so soon, but he absolutely has no complaints.

“Hmm, I have no idea,” Magnus murmurs, nipping one delightfully furred and muscled pec. “None whatsoever.”

Alec moans and lets the hand holding Magnus’s phone flop weakly down onto the bed beside him.

“No, but seriously,” he rasps a moment later, licking his lips. From the restless way his body is moving, Magnus suspects phones won’t be on his mind much longer. “This one definitely needs to go.”

“Would you prefer ‘Pleasingly Plump Tuna?’”

“Can we just declare any and all kinds of fish off-limits for the phone contact game?”

Magnus arches an eyebrow at him. “Game? You think this is a game ?”

“Please tell me you didn’t name my contact in your phone after sushi because you were being serious.”

“Oh, well, if you don’t like it…” Magnus snatches the phone out of his hands and edits the contact.

Alec blushes when he sees it. Then he somehow manages, in a single motion, to deposit the phone on the nightstand and flip them so that he’s lying over Magnus. “That’s a lot to live up to for a beginner.”

“I have every faith in you, Alexander.”

The afterglow hasn’t even faded yet when Magnus finds himself agreeing to host a Shadowhunter party for Max Lightwood’s rune ceremony. These days, he’ll do just about anything for that infallibly earnest stare Alec has a habit of leveling on him.

He’s in his study, having finished calling the various Downworld caterers he knows to see who’s available on short notice, when Alec comes charging in, a look of panic on his face. He snatches the phone off his desk.

“Alexander?”

Alec’s thumbs fly as he keys in something and hands the phone back to Magnus. “Do me a favor and don’t change this until my mother leaves town?” he pleads.

The contact is now a very repressive A. Lightwood .

Magnus is sufficiently put off by the idea of Maryse Lightwood seeing her son referred to as Sex God on Magnus’s phone that he leaves it as-is—and wonders if he’ll ever be able to touch it again without that mental image coming to mind.

By the time Maryse departs, Alec has tried to kill himself, Magnus’s book of counterspells has been stolen, Isabelle has somehow become a yin fen addict and is set on dragging Raphael down with her, Valentine has gotten his hands on a weapon of mass destruction (one the Clave has been hiding from the Downworld for centuries) that he needs Clary to activate, and genocide is once again the order of the day.

No sooner have they recovered from the massacre in the Institute then Magnus finds himself trapped—and tortured—in Valentine’s body. It isn’t until after Kaelie Whitewillow’s murder spree is stopped that Magnus even has the heart to think of changing Alec’s contact in his phone.

He needs to get back to himself. He’s been reeling since his experience with the agony rune, and some very uncomfortable part of his mind keeps questioning whether he’ll truly be able to rely on Alec when the chips are down.

He doesn’t blame Alec for not believing “Valentine” when he claimed to be Magnus; refusing to believe anything Valentine says is a thoroughly reasonable and sane response in any circumstance. It had hurt, and Magnus had been terrified, but he can’t say he wouldn’t have done the same thing in Alec’s shoes.

The problem is, not all of Alec disbelieved Magnus when he said that Azazel had switched his and Valentine’s bodies. Magnus had watched Alec suppress his own instinct, his own better judgment, in favor of obedience—not even to the Clave, but merely the Inquisitor, who was about to carry out an illegal execution.

That’s the image lingering in the back of Magnus’s mind every time he thinks on the event. He doesn’t mistrust Alec’s intentions, but when faced with the dilemma, will there ever come a time when Alec doesn’t prioritize the loyalty to the Clave?

Nonetheless, Magnus makes himself smile—which seems to be the only way he can smile these days—and says all the right things about supporting Alec’s peace initiative with this Downworld cabinet he wants to host. Because Alec’s intentions are good, and maybe he just needs more time to feel confident in his own instincts and leadership before he’ll be able to stand up to the Clave. Magnus is willing to give him that.

Alec’s struggle to keep a straight face when they greet each other with such contrive formality makes it absolutely worthwhile. Then Alec turns away to welcome Luke, and once Magnus is alone, he pulls out his phone and edits the name for Alec’s contact for the first time in weeks.

Mr. Lightwood.

It feels good. It feels normal . It feels like they just might, maybe, possibly, come out on the other side of this thing.


 

Part V: “Alexander”

“I knew it!” Alec says, an absolutely charming hint of blush blossoming in his cheeks as he looks at Magnus’s phone after the Downworld cabinet meeting.

Magnus drops his stained eye-makeup wipe into the wastebasket beside his vanity. “Don’t you dare edit it, Alexander! It’s staying that way forever.”

“Oh, I’m definitely going to edit it.” Alec’s thumbs begin moving and Magnus charges him.

Alec unfairly uses his few inches of extra height to his advantage, holding the phone high over his head. Magnus unfairly uses his magic to grab Alec’s hand and pull it down.

The tussle eventually (accidentally, of course) sends them tumbling onto the bed and then the phone is forgotten. It’s the first time Magnus has really felt like making love since the body-swap debacle, and Alec…

Well, Alec is a young man with a stamina rune and years of repression he’s still making up for, and sex is still very new to him. He’s almost always immediately on board with whatever Magnus proposes. He opens to Magnus’s kiss, his body undulating, pressing closer. His huge hands are incongruously gentle—they always, always are—as they push Magnus’s silk dressing gown open and off his shoulders.

That night, while Alec is sleeping the sleep of the blissfully well-laid, Magnus slips from the bed. What moments of sublime forgetfulness he managed to find in Alec’s arms are past, and now he’s left haunted by his own history.

Alec is starting to notice Magnus’s conspicuous absences in the morning. It’s only been a few weeks since they began sleeping together, but they’d been well on their way to establishing a morning routine before it happened, and that routine involved a lot more pillow talk and sleepy lovemaking than has been Magnus’s recent habit.

Of course Alec is going to challenge him on it. Of course he is. Because he doesn’t understand. Doesn’t understand what Magnus is or how wide the gulf between who they are actually is.

Sooner or later, something is going to remind Alec that he’s a Shadowhunter and Magnus is a Downworlder. And when that happens, they may very well not be able to overcome it.

That’s why, of course, this relationship between them almost never got off the ground. It’s why Alec walked out the morning after healing Luke, when he passed out on the sofa after drinks. It’s why Alec almost walked away after their first date. It’s why Magnus panicked when he realized he wouldn’t be able to glamour his eyes while making love with Alec.

That’s what Magnus sidestepped bringing up the morning after they first made love, when Alec ask him what scared him. Alec asked him that question just moments after he thought Alec was going to choose rushing off to the Institute again over staying with him.

That reality is why Alec thought nothing of expecting Magnus to prove his innocence in Kaelie’s murder spree instead of demanding the Clave extend the presumption of innocence in the absence of any evidence. And even though Alec didn’t mean it that way, Magnus can’t help but wonder if that’s why Alec let the Inquisitor torture and almost kill him. Would he have fought harder to save Magnus, had Magnus been a Shadowhunter lover telling Alec the same story of body-switching?

Magnus doesn’t know, and the not knowing haunts him almost as much as the memories he can’t bury.

Will confessing to the murder of his stepfather be the thing that reminds Alec that he’s a Shadowhunter, and his job is to capture or destroy Downworlders who commit those sorts of crimes?

“I never wanted you to see this terrible, ugly side of me,” Magnus confesses when the confrontation finally happens. He too weary of fighting and questioning and trying to bury things that won’t stay buried to hide the truth any longer. If this is going to be the moment when Alec choses being Shadowhunter over him, so be it. At least then he’ll know.

Instead, Alec looks at him with that excruciatingly earnest tenderness only Alec seems capable of, and says, “There’s nothing ugly about you.” And holds him, encircles Magnus with his acceptance as much as with his arms.

For a while, Magnus lets himself believe that they truly do love each other enough to overcome what Maryse had stiltedly termed their disparate backgrounds .

“I suppose you’ll be needing a portal to send Valentine to Idris?” Magnus asks, sniffling when he finally pulls back.

“No. Forget it.” Alec shakes his head firmly. “I’ll call Catarina—”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Catarina’s in good standing with the Clave, yes, but her clearance for such sensitive jobs isn’t as high as mine. Besides, then she’d have to find a sitter for Madzie on short notice and small children don’t handle instability and last minute changes very well. Especially in the middle of the night.” He looks up and nods, a solid, determined jerk of his head. “I’ll do it. I need to see this through to the end.”

“Okay.” Alec meets his eyes steadily. “Hand me your phone.”

Magnus smiles, though it feels a little shaky, and does as Alec asks. Alec opens his own contact and passes it back to Magnus.

“Edit it. Make it something that will remind you that I’m always here for you, that I will always love you and protect you, no matter what. And then leave it that way. No more changes.”

Magnus doesn’t hesitate. He knows exactly what it needs to be. The name that one time felt too intimate to be a possibility.

Alexander .

“Defender of Men” indeed.


 

Epilogue: The Last Change

Magnus peers out of the steam-filled bathroom with a towel clasped around his waist. “Alec, have you seen my—?”

Alec straightens suddenly, almost furtively, from where he was hunched over something beside Magnus’s bedside table. He turns and clasps his hands behind his back. “Seen your what?”

“Alexander?” Magnus purrs, gliding forward. “Is that my phone behind your back?”

“What? Oh. Yeah.” He hands it over and presses his lips together in what Magnus assumes is meant to be a smile. “I just, um, needed a contact for that warlock you told me about a few weeks ago, who might be able to do some short-notice portal work when we need it. Now, what did you need?”

Magnus narrows his eyes and wraps his hand around the phone. It’s been years—some of them rather rocky—since he’s edited Alec’s contact, not since Alec asks him never to change it again. But if Alec was going to revive that old game, Magnus was more than willing to play. “My cobalt silk shirt. The one I wore to Jace and Clary’s engagement party.”

“I think you left it hanging in the laundry room after making some alterations to the trim on the cuffs,” Alec replies. “I’ll go check for you.”

The moment he’s gone, Magnus opens his phone to Alec’s contact and stares.

And stares.

Alexander Lightwood-Bane

The breath abandons Magnus’s lungs in a sudden rush.

“I found it, Magnus. Here—” Alec rounds the corner with Magnus’s shirt in his hands and promptly turns crimson.

“Well.” Magnus clasps his trembling hands around the phone and swallows thickly. His voice is far shakier than he would like, but he manages. “So. Alexander. Is there something you wish to ask me—?”