“Five attacks have been made in total. Mrs. Hardwright has put together a presentation detailing each incident so we are all on the same page before we make our final decisions.” Alec cleared his throat, gently tapping his papers to straighten out the pile, before sitting back into his seat. The heavy wooden chair scraped the marble floor and Alec restrained a wince. He may hold pride in his newfound position, but Head of the New York Institute held more meetings and less fieldwork than he preferred. The room, being full of shadowhunters, was particularly unreadable and this did nothing to abate his nerves as thirty sets of eyes stared back at him, but he squared his shoulders and refused to allow it to unnerve him.
Luckily the sixty eyes now turned towards Mrs. Hardwright, a young woman who had transferred just last week from another Institute into the position of Alec’s second in command. He realized at this rather inappropriate moment that he had never asked for her first name nor the Institute she had transferred from. She had come rather suddenly just as the Institute was swept up in the news of a coming coup.
“Thank you, Mr. Lightwood.” Mrs. Hardwright stood and smiled amicably as she gestured gracefully to the slide show behind her. “I assume that you are all aware in varying degrees of the misfortune that has fallen upon an alarmingly large group of Institute leaders.”
The slide show changed from the logo of the New York Institute to a world map with five cities marked with a star. “These stars each correspond with a major city from which their head of Institute was either killed or disappeared under mysterious circumstances within the past year.” She paused for a moment to allow the thirty eyes to take in the data before changing the slide. A photo of a stern, older Chinese man filled a corner of the screen with various information filling the rest of it. “Head of the Shanghai Institute in China. Cui Hong. Fifty years old. Killed in a failed mission to infiltrate a demon nest in March of last year. At the time this was not looked at with suspicion but rather as an occupational hazard,” Mrs. Hardwright explained. The sixty eyes showed no emotion.
The slide changed to a younger, African woman looking out at the room with similarly stern eyes. “Head of the Abuja Institute in Nigeria. Esther Adoti. Thirty-four years old. Captured in a mission May of last year in which she was separated from her teammates and not heard from again. No body was recovered. This was also looked at as a death via occupational hazard and very little investigation was done.”
The slide changed once more. “Head of the Brasilia Institute in Brazil. Michel Esteves Branco. Forty-one years old. Disappeared July of last year without a trace in broad daylight while at the market with his family.”
Next slide. “Head of the D.C. Institute in America. Maria Walker. Thirty-two years old. Disappeared on her way home at four in the morning in September of last year after a night at her second in command’s house. A thorough investigation turned up that the two were having an affair, but nothing more came of it. Her wife held a solid alibi and there is no indication as to what may have happened to her. In footage from a traffic light, she is seen walking along the road when she suddenly turns into an alley and never emerges. Her disappearance was originally believed to be the result of a hate crime, due to the nature of her personal relationships with women, coupled with her position of power. However, her strange behavior at the moment of entering the alley decided that this was likely not the case.”
Alec restrained a wince. There were days when he desperately wanted to shed the weight of hiding his closest personal relationship and come out to the world of shadowhunters. Magnus insisted that he didn’t care either way and that he is content to keep their relationship hidden forever if that’s what Alec needs, he knows how shadow hunters are. But Alec saw it behind his glamoured eyes when he brushed Alec’s fingertips in public and quickly put his hands in his pockets instead. If anything, Alec kept their relationship hidden to protect Magnus. Sure, Alec would be discriminated against, but as the Head of the New York Institute, he enjoyed more privilege and protection than Magnus who, despite his status as Head Warlock of Brooklyn, was still a downworlder.
“Our final victim is the head of the Brisbane Institute in Australia. Olivia Wilson. Twenty-nine years old. Seen entering her home one night in November of last winter, never to emerge. She, like the others, disappeared with no trail. Her disappearance was originally believed to be connected to a local gang due to her particular political affiliations, however, mundane intervention was ruled out after a thorough investigation as these five disappearances were realized to likely be connected.”
The slide show returned to its display of the world map, this time with months labeled at each star. “I’m sure you gathered this as I was giving the details of each victim’s disappearance, however, I believe it is important to point out that the only continent that has not had an attack is Europe. Additionally, the attacks have been regularly spaced out with two months in between each. The specific date appears to be random. This is particularly concerning as tomorrow is the new year and we are entering a month in which it is highly likely we will experience another disappearance.” With her presentation completed, Mrs. Hardwright sat back down, sliding her chair seamlessly back into the table.
Alec steadied his heart rate, briefly considering the irony that he didn’t even get this nervous when faced in battle, and stood once more, “Since we have reason to believe the next attack will be on Europe, and likely in an Institute housed in a capital city, backup is being sent into Europe capitals from all over the world. The Head Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus Bane, portaled to Paris exactly two weeks ago to offer his services. He will remain there for the duration of January, barring an incident in New York. Now that everyone has been caught up, we will move on to the main purpose of this meeting. Decisions must be made on how much more backup we will send to Europe. They will likely need our help, but we cannot ignore the possibility that we are being thrown off thinking that Europe will be attacked next. We cannot leave ourselves completely unprotected.”
As the other shadow hunters occupying the room began to discuss strategies, Alec, still listening carefully, turned to make a move towards the table holding coffee and food. It was nearly eleven and he had found himself exhausted. This meeting had been pushed further and further back in the day until they finally convened at ten p.m.. He was quickly intercepted by Mrs. Hardwright, who touched his arm amicably and said, “Mr. Lightwood, please allow me to get you whatever you need. You are too important to this situation to be distracted by a task I could be completing.”
Alec hesitated, hating to have someone waiting on him, but conceded. “I’d really appreciate a black coffee, thank you.” He hesitated momentarily once more, before turning back to the table and sitting down.
“The attacks do not seem to be connected in any way besides their timing and locations. We have no way of knowing how the next victim will be attacked.” Maryse Lightwood spoke.
“Except the failed missions, they all seem like they could simply be caused by mundanes. If it weren’t for the timing and locations, I would suggest that this is an overreaction. But the fact that only the Head’s have been taken indicated a possible coup coming.” Marion Lakewood, head of mission planning, spoke, jabbing a pen at the table for emphasis.
Mrs. Hardwright deposited a cup of steaming dark coffee in front of Alec, who thanked her and quickly downed the mug.
Alec was listening attentively to the suggestions, knowing it was ultimately his stamp of approval that would decide their next move, but the thoughts in the back of his mind drifted to Magnus.
Magnus had been highly disappointed that they wouldn’t be able to spend New Years together, so he insisted on having their own the night before he left. “If I don’t celebrate the years passing, they’ll all eventually blur together and I want to stay with the times” was how he had defended himself, but Alec suspected he was just coming up with a reason to dress Alec in a suit, take him out, and tumble into bed at the end of the night. Not that he needed an excuse for that. Alec felt a faint blush growing on his neck as the mottle of purpling on his collarbone, legs, and chest, hidden well by his shirt, tingled gently with the familiar feeling of Magnus’s leftover magic. He pulled himself from his thoughts, now wasn’t the time, and returned his full attention to the matter at hand.
It was eleven forty-five when the meeting adjourned and Alec stood, stretching, and debating whether to simply return to his old room at the Institute. Exhausted seemed to grip him to his bones, despite the caffeine he had ingested, and walking more than just down the hall seemed too much for him. He already missed Magnus dearly though, and the desire to be in their bedroom at the loft seemed to somehow outweigh his exhaustion. The promise of being in a bed that smelled like him dragged Alec out the door of the Institute and towards the subway.
As he went down the stairs into the underground, he found he could barely keep his eyes open and it took all his willpower to stay aware enough to not tumble down the stairs. That would be an embarrassing way to go, he thought vaguely, local Head of Institute who kills demons for a living trips down subway stairs and dies. Alec reached his platform and leaned against a pillar, not trusting himself to stay awake if he sat on a bench. Despite this, he felt his world growing dark as he slumped slowly to his knees. His last thought before he succumbed to the darkness was that he wished he had the willpower to roll onto his back and not have half his face pressed against the subway floor.
Super quick first update! Thanks for the lovely comments, they really helped me crank out this chapter! This is going to get long but I'm dedicated to this story so it'll get finished no matter how long it takes.
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His head ached. That was the only thing Alec could bear to think about as the darkness began to blink away. He felt as though he hadn’t slept in months and his head pounded so fiercely, Alec slowly reached up to touch it and make sure he hadn’t been impaled while he slept. He felt a deep set worry he knew wasn’t own but it was enough to drag him back to full consciousness as he slowly sat up. He suddenly remembered falling asleep on the subway platform and this was enough to incite his own panic.
Alec forced himself to calm down as his training set in and he looked around frantically, assessing the situation. The first thing he noticed was his clothes were gone. He had been left in his underwear by whatever force had brought him here. Alec wasn’t particularly ashamed of his body but the disgrace of being stripped and deposited into this room caused an angry blush to spread across his face.
With further assessment, he found that he was in a room that seemed to be an echo of the institute. Alec was struck by the memory of exploring as a child, too young to train, with Jace and Izzy and finding small rooms used for storage. He always insisted on dragging the others away from them under the warning that their parents told them they were allowed to look around but not get into anything, “We’re going to get in trouble. Rules are rules.” The room he was in looked the same as his memories. He was laying on a training mat in the middle of the room, a bucket in the corner by where his head had been previously, and a napkin with a piece of bread and a bottle of water sans label or cap next to door on the wall opposite the bucket.
His stomach growled fiercely as he spotted the bread but he was too wary of the possibility of it being tainted in some way to give in to his hunger. He realized his slowly abating head ache was likely the result of being drugged coupled with dehydration but, once again, he was too wary of the possibility of being drugged again to drink the water.
Being in a room in the Institute did nothing to abate his worry because he could feel that something was very wrong. He had a room in the Institute. If this had been a simple case of someone finding him passed out and bringing him back, he wouldn’t be nearly naked and in a storage closet. Alec gently pressed his fingers to his parabatai rune, holding onto Jace’s anxiety and trying to push against it to let him know that he was ok. Remnants of what he’d been drugged with seemed to cloud his thinking, making him unable to put together too many thoughts at once. Alec struggled to clear his mind but panic was beginning to set in as he remembered the contents of the meeting he had left from. How long ago? He had no way of knowing.
There was a knock at the door and Alec immediately darted to his feet, ignoring the throb from his head. He set himself in an offensive pose, ready to attack whatever came through the door, as all his training on what to do if you were captured sprinted through his head.
The one thing he didn’t anticipate was who walked through the door.
“Mom?” Alec couldn’t stop the word from slipping from his mouth as his posture slipped momentarily. He searched her for any indication of what was happening, but gained nothing from it. Only an air of unease.
Maryse smiled, “Hello Alexander. I’m sure you’re confused as to what brought you into this situation. Why don’t you drop the fighting stance and follow me.”
Alec hesitated. He was still struggling to formulate coherent thoughts but every instinct in him told him this was bad, this was wrong, he needed to fight and get out.
His mother’s gaze dropped to the untouched bread and water on the floor. “I recommend you eat and drink something. You’ll need the provisions.” She looked expectantly at him momentarily before speaking again, “Oh of course, you have no way of knowing who put that there.” She crouched gracefully and took a small sip and bite before standing, food in hand and holding it out to Alec.
Alec accepted, forcing himself not to throw the water back in one gulp and make himself sick. He felt as though he hadn’t drank anything in days and, while he still didn’t fully trust the food, at least it wasn’t poisoned or drugged.
Maryse tilted her head towards the door, indicating Alec to follow, and left the room. Alec steeled himself and followed, eating cautiously.
The room lead into precisely the hallway he expected. They only walked a few meters down the hall before Maryse slipped a key from her pocket and unlocked a door, entering the room. Alec had finished the food and water and was nervously twisting the bottle into a warped form of itself, vaguely planning that if bad went to worse he could use it as a weapon. Maryse plucked the bottle from his hands and ushered Alec into the room.
The room was bare apart from a standard treadmill in the middle of the room. The same type of treadmill he’d trained on for hours alone or with Jace, seeing who was faster or had more stamina.
“Get on.” Maryse’s tone left no room for argument and Alec heard a click from behind him as she locked the door.
He stepped up onto it and Maryse walked up beside it, tapping one of the speed buttons and sending Alec into a run.
“Am I allowed to ask now what’s happening?” Alec asked. The pacing was easy, he could do this for hours, even with a cloudy mind and pulsing headache. The water had helped immensely.
“You’ve proven yourself unfit to be in a position of power at the New York Institute.”
Alec’s heart clenched but he maintained a straight face.
“You’ve demonstrated to our leader that you, along with the likes of Mr. Hong and Mrs. Walker just to name a few, do not have the willpower and strength to lead when the revolution sweeps our city.”
Mr. Hong. Mrs. Walker. The names were so familiar but Alec pushed through the haze and recognized them, “The missing leaders of the China and D.C. Institutes?”
“The very same.” Maryse had dropped her air of friendliness and adopted an icy tone.
A wave of cold seemed to slide down Alec’s spine as he realized the implications of everything that had been said. There was a revolution happening as they spoke. His mother was in cahoots with the leader. She didn’t believe in Alec. He had been kidnapped. Who was going to take over the Institute? Who else knew where he was?
“Who is this leader?” Alec managed out, forcing himself to pick one question at a time.
Maryse casually pressed a higher speed, sending Alec into a sprint. “You’re familiar with him. Parabatai with his adoptive brother.”
If the previous statements hadn’t been enough, Alec’s blood turned to ice as he began to pant from exertion coupled with fear. “Sebastian.”
“Good job.” Maryse smiled, but it was cruel and unlike any expression he’d ever seen on his mother.
“Am I allowed to ask why I am on a treadmill?” Alec had steadied his breathing now, years of running practice kicking in.
“Well, unfortunately, Alexander, as I already informed you a moment ago, you’ve been deemed unfit. You will be with us for a while, so you may as well train while you are here.” Maryse pressed another button, allowing Alec to slow to a brisk run once more.
“How long will I be here? Why am I not allowed to be in my room?” Alec felt his knees and ankles begin to complain as he neared three miles barefoot. “Who is leading since I…” He couldn’t force himself to say deemed unfit. It was too painful.
“So many questions. You will be here as long as our leader sees fit and you will not be interacting with other members of the Institute. Mrs. Hardwright will be taking over your position.” Maryse slowly circled the treadmill, occasionally dragging her fingers delicately along the armrests. It made Alec uneasy.
He couldn’t help himself, “But Mrs. Hardwright has only been at the New York Institute for a week! She doesn’t have the experience necessary to run it!”
Maryse’s face turned to stone as she increased the speed with more aggression than before. “How would you know who is and is not fit to run the Institute seeing as you, yourself are not? How incredibly arrogant of you to assume this of a woman with whom you’ve barely spoken. You have no knowledge of where she has come from. I believed you to have higher ambitions for the Institute than this. However, I suppose I should have expected this from you.”
From you rang in his head. Alec was silent now, focusing on running, but his thoughts were racing with him. He had always recognized that his parents favored Izzy and particularly Jace. Jace may not have been their child but they welcomed him for his skill as the golden boy. Alec had never held this against him, but it hurt knowing his parents didn’t believe in him as much as the others, no matter how hard he trained or studied. He hadn’t realized that what he believed was just his parents favoring the others appeared now to Alec to actually be his parents actively disliking him. It hurt less than he expected. He had always suspected. Why shouldn’t they?
Maryse was silent now, watching him coldly as he sprinted away miles.
Alec found his thoughts drifting to Magnus as the conversation died. Would Magnus have agreed with the decision to remove him from the position? Did Magnus think he was unfit to be the head? Was he unfit to be a shadowhunter? No, of course Magnus wouldn’t think that of him. Magnus had been working with him nearly since they started dating on controlling Alec’s spirals of anxiety and Alec tried to remember his soothing words now, dispelling fears of inadequacy.
The hours began to wear on as Alec continued to run in silence, Maryse occasionally slowing or increasing the speed at which the treadmill moved. Alec tried to make sense of everything that had happened since he was drugged but the haze was never given proper time to clear and eventually, the exertion became so much to where he could only focus on movement. Alec checked periodically at the distance but the screen where the time was displayed had a piece of duct tape over it. This only confused him further. Timing was everything when they trained.
The miles tore on Alec’s knees and ankles as the screen blinked at him that he’d gone twenty miles. And then thirty. And then forty. Despite what felt like hours passing, Maryse seemed to have remained angry with Alec’s outburst. Alec regretted this now as she stalked over and stabbed at the highest speed yet.
His legs wobbled as he went past a sprint. Alec knew he couldn’t sustain this for more than a few seconds, not with his aching joints combined with a lack of energy and overexertion. He couldn’t bear to hear himself say it out loud. His mom was already angry and disappointed with him and why shouldn’t she be?
Not speaking up proved to be the wrong decision as Maryse upped the speed one last time and Alec’s legs gave out, sending him flying backward off the treadmill. He hit the wall with a thud that knocked the wind out of him and made him see stars. He gasped for breath as his vision began to clear and he saw Maryse standing over him.
“Hmm, almost six hours. Only forty miles? Alec, I’m disappointed. Was all the time you spent with a trainer for naught? We gave you the best shadowhunters in America to teach you and yet your ability is dissatisfactory. Although I suppose if I wanted greater speed and stamina, Jace would have performed. Perhaps sixty or seventy miles.” She stared down at Alec coldly, hands folded behind her back.
Alec struggled to get up but not only did his body fully reject the idea, Maryse placed one of her shiny black boots on Alec’s sternum, pinning him in place. The words came out of his mouth before he could stop them, “There’s no way Jace could have done that much more than I did. Definitely not in this situation nevermind that we trained together and I know we’re evenly matched. If you’re going to compare us and hold him over my head, at least don’t lie about it.”
Maryse’s face twisted into anger and Alec instantly regretted his words as the weight came off his chest. The next thing he knew was a sickening crack as pain exploded in his leg and his stomach spasmed as his body tried to retch, empty but unable to deal with the pain. He screamed and his vision went black as the pressure didn’t remove itself from his calf. He struggled to free himself from it, crying out as Maryse twisted her heel, grinding down into the certainly broken bone.
“Control your tongue. Perhaps this will serve as a lesson.”
Alec’s vision swam. He was aware that Maryse had grabbed him by one wrist and was dragging him out of the room but he couldn’t find the strength to fight or move or do anything but remain limp and struggle to stay conscious. Later he would wonder how she had the strength to move him. Maryse was strong and a trained shadowhunter, but Alec was tall and built with muscle and it was no easy feat to drag him. At the moment though, the only thing occupying his mind was pain and why.
Maryse was speaking but it was like Alec’s body had shut down to everything outside what it was currently feeling. He heard vaguely that she was saying something about how he wasn’t worth training so he may as well remain in his cell. Had he more capacity, the words would have wounded deeply.
He groaned as he was deposited onto the training mat, his leg dragging painfully over its lip. Alec remained limp, lacking the mental or physical strength to move. His leg joints ached but it was nothing compared to the spasming pain shooting through his calf.
He opened his eyes weakly to see Maryse standing in the doorway, arms crossed and face stony.
“Maybe now you will learn to control your tongue, Alexander. You have done nothing but prove our leader correct in his decision to remove you from your position. You are lucky he is merciful enough to leave you with your runes intact, despite your obvious inadequacy as a shadowhunter. I want you to remember, Jace would never be in this position.” With that, she turned and slammed the door behind her.
Alec heard a lock click and could have laughed. As if there was any way he could attempt to leave in his current state. He wouldn’t even get a step out the door. The pain overwhelmed him and, in an attempt to ease it, closed his eyes and let his thoughts go to Magnus. Magnus wouldn’t allow this to happen to him. There was no way he knew this was happening. The same could be said of Jace and Izabelle.
The thoughts soothed him as he fell into darkness.
Please comment if you enjoyed this! It helps more than you know :,)
Thank you for all the lovely comments! They kept me going as google docs continuously took my rights by saying ‘reconnecting’ even though I’ve been connected to WiFi the whole time? Anyway I hope you like the new chapter!
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“He’s exhausted and in a lot of pain but at least he’s not scared.” Jace screwed his eyes shut, fisting them with the palms of his hands as Isabelle gently massaged at his left calf, trying to abate the phantom pain. It didn’t seem to be helping, although nothing would aside from Alec’s pain being treated. “That at least tells us something.”
“All it tells us is they’ve hurt him.” Magnus snapped, slouching back in his chair and rubbing his eyes with the hand not firmly crossing his chest. His eyes, not having the benefit of a stamina rune, were rimmed red from exhaustion and the stiff Institute chairs were doing nothing to help his mood. Could shadowhunters not indulge in even a hint of comfort? There was no bravery or glory in having to sit in stiff backed chairs.
“Hey, it also tells us he's alive and, while he may be hurt, he’s not afraid of whatever’s happening to him. He’s going to be alright but we need to get more information about his disappearance if we’re ever going to find him.” Isabelle looked up from where her hands were working to Jace, draped in the chair across from her with his foot in her lap.
Magnus sighed, immediately regretful of his sharp tone. “You’re right, I’m sorry. Let’s just… Let’s just go over what we have again.”
Jace sat up, placing his foot back on the ground and his elbows on his knees, leaning forward to see the piece of paper with Isabelle’s messy scrawl scribbled all over it. “You’re going to have to read it. I speak a lot of languages but your handwriting isn’t one of them.”
Isabelle swatted at him offhandedly, picking up the paper from where it had sat next to her, “Ok. One. There’s video footage of him stumbling into the subway entrance closest to the Institute and then collapsing onto the platform. We can assume he was going to Magnus’s loft, if that matters.”
“Everything matters.” Magnus replied quickly, plucking the paper from her hands and squinting at it. “That was at… Elven Oh fight?”
Isabelle scowled playfully and snatched the paper back, “Twelve o’ five. After that the video cuts off. Field scouts told us that the camera was broken. Two. He was coming from a meeting. They talked about the disappearance of the heads. Everything about Alec lines up with the previous attacks so we can assume they’re connected. Three. The way Alec was acting indicates that he was probably drugged.”
“How could he have been drugged? There’s clear footage of him coming out of the Institute and walked to the station and no one interacts with him. Footage of him in the Institute just shows him going around as normal all day.” Jace replied, leaning back and crossing one leg over his knee.
“He might have been fed it in a form that didn’t kick in until he left. That’s a way that wouldn’t raise suspicion.” Magnus’s heart hurt with worry and it only seemed to tighten with every passing second.
“Alec never lets anyone make him food.” The muscles in Jace’s jaw tightened, mirroring the room’s mood of being unwilling to trail another false lead. “Mr. I’m-the-oldest won’t have it.”
“So we would need to look for an opportunity for-” Isabelle was cut off as a knock at the door immediately put all three of them on high alert.
Magnus’s heart jumped as his brain conjured a quick fantasy of Alec walking through the door, unharmed, before he pushed aside the thought. No need to torment himself.
The door opened and Alice Hardwright poked her head in, a smile too bright for Magnus’s foul mood lighting up her face. “Hello, everyone! I just wanted to come by and see if I could offer anything. I know you’ve been working hard looking for information about Alec. Coffee anyone?” When she was met with shakes of the head and a polite no thank you from Isabelle, she continued, smile not breaking, “Alright then, good luck with everything.”
The moment the door shut, three pairs of eyes met, immediate understanding passing between them as they all launched off the awful chairs, darting out of the room and down the hall to the records room that held archived security footage.
Alec’s training kicked in the moment he woke to the sound of the door opening, keeping his whole body relaxed as his heart rate skyrocketed with adrenaline. He opened his eyes just enough to see who had entered the room. However, he didn’t get a look before he found himself suddenly covered in freezing water.
“I hear ice water’s good for sore muscles.” Came from above him in a mocking tone, followed by the door slamming shut.
Alec sat up as quickly as he could without jarring his aching leg, scrambling to wipe off the water dripping down his face and into his eyes. He looked up, only to find himself alone again. The room hadn’t been warm to begin with but the water clinging to him seemed to sap the heat from his body. Alec started to shiver as he attempted to scrape the water from his body with his hands.
Just like the day before, a piece of bread and a bottle of water sat next to the door, the bottle missing both it’s cap and label. Alec almost found it amusing. He had proven himself unworthy as Head of the Institute but couldn’t be trusted with a bottle cap and a piece of flimsy paper?
He knew he needed to eat what he was given before anyone else came back and took it away or forced him into more ‘training’ but Alec hesitated, weighing his options on the food being poisoned today. His stomach growled fiercely and the persistent ache behind his eyes reminded him that his options were either eat and be able to take whatever they did to him today, eat and be poisoned or drugged, or be weaker than he could stand to be in this situation. Hunger and dehydration won out and he ended up carefully scooting across the mat and taking the provisions. He ate quickly, the lone piece of bread doing nothing to take the edge off the calorie deficit from the miles he had done yesterday. Alec drank slowly, weighing his options on being able to drink a little periodically throughout the day versus the possibility that it would be taken from him. He decided he couldn’t risk it and drank as slowly as his thirst would allow so he wouldn’t make himself sick.
As he ate and drank, he found himself able to assess his situation more clearly than the day before. Despite the pain he was in, the last traces of the drug had worn off while he was running.
The things his mom had said to him seemed to pinpoint insecurities that had plagued him his entire life and twisted a knife into them. Despite this, Alec couldn’t shake the idea that that hadn’t been Maryse Lightwood. The things she said had been cruel but spoken in her typical mannerisms.
As he considered this, Alec began to stand slowly, using the wall for support. The pain in his leg pounded as gravity pulled blood flow through it and it forced him to stop momentarily and lean against the wall fully as he grew faint with pain. He managed to clear his head and took some of his weight off the wall, still using it for support as he reached down and flipped over the training mat so the dry side was up, pushing it into the corner of the room while he was at it. Logically, it couldn’t make much of a difference but being in a corner made him feel safer plus he had a marginally better view on whoever came through the door, something that could potentially save his life.
Alec slowly sat back down on the now dry mat, leaning against the wall and wincing as he felt a lump on the back of his head touch the concrete wall.
Physically, he had no reason to believe the woman wasn’t Maryse Lightwood. There was no indication on her person to make him think differently. And yet her expressions were so marginally… wrong.
Alex found himself remembering a lesson they had been taught early in training. There was a concept in psychology called the uncanny valley that referred to studies done on mundanes showing how faces that looked mostly human but had something just not right about them caused most people to feel deeply unnerved. The point of the lesson had been to always trust your instincts when something doesn’t feel right. Alec struggled to remember the rest of the lesson, scowling as the back of his head began to ache in tandem with his dehydration headache. He didn’t need a concussion on top of everything that had happened to him but he cringed remembering the sound his head had made when it connected with the wall the previous day. Had it been the previous day? Alec had absolutely no way of knowing.
He did know that that… person was not his mother.
The part of his mind that always seemed to have something doubtful to say whispered to him that perhaps it was.
Yet there remained an aspect of this situation that Alec hadn’t explored. Our leader, Sebastian? In what universe would his mother ally herself with Sebastian after everything they had been through? Had the past two years of actively fighting Valentine’s forces been an act? There was no way.
So there was the consensus. That had not been Maryse Lightwood. Which meant whoever had thrown water at him this morning wasn’t Jace.
Alec was pulled from his thoughts at the realization that his teeth were chattering. He wanted to lie down and curl up to conserve whatever body heat he had left but he needed to remain as upright as possible in the event someone came in and he needed to move.
He decided to stand, taking a moment to thank Hodge for all the balancing exercises he’d put them through sans-rune. Alec’s leg throbbed once more as blood rushed through it. His joints were sore but luckily, expedited Shadowhunter healing meant the pain was easily manageable. He knew he needed to test out his range of motion in the event he did have to fight so he took a deep breath and did a one-legged hope across the room. He landed hard but maintained his balance, biting his lip hard to keep from crying out as his broken leg protested moving. OK. He could move if he really needed to. It wasn’t efficient or easy but he could do it.
Alec leaned back against the wall, trying to work up the nerve to try to test his movement again as nausea worked through his stomach from the pain shooting up his leg. However, just as he did this, the lock on the door clicked once more and he pushed off the wall. As quickly as he could, Alec bit back a yell as he jumped across the room to hide behind where the door was about to open.
His heart clenched as the door opened and the first thing he saw was a shock of golden hair. It’s not Jace, he reminded himself. This isn’t Jace. This is someone who wants to hurt you and isn’t Jace.
Before the not-Jace had time to realize what was happening, Alec leaped onto his back. The surprise was enough to throw him off balance and send them both crashing to the floor. Alec couldn’t hold back a pained yell as his and Jace’s weight sent shocks of pain through his leg but he didn’t allow this to stop him. Alec quickly grabbed Jace’s wrists and restained them, sitting on his back in the way he’d been taught to keep his opponent from being able to get up.
“Who are you?” Alec demanded.
Jace laughed, “I’m wounded. You don’t recognize your own parabatai? Must have hit your head pretty hard yesterday.”
Alec used one hand to keep his grip on Jace’s wrists, pulling the other back so he could bring his elbow down hard onto one of Jace’s ribs. “I said, who are you?”
Jace let out a choked laugh, but took the opportunity of only being restrained by one hand to wrench away from Alec’s grasp, reaching around using his own elbow to slam into Alec’s injured leg. He used Alec’s momentary distraction of pain to flip Alec off his back.
The wind rushed out of Alec all at once as Jace jumped to his feet. Alec didn’t have time to catch his breath before it was knocked out of him again as Jace landed a solid kick to his diaphragm.
“Come on, get up. Don’t you want to prove yourself?” Jace taunted from above him before sending his heavy boot into Alec’s stomach.
Alec tried to get up but his whole body ached in sharp pain and it felt like he didn’t have any air in his lungs. He only managed to roll onto his side, facing away from Jace.
Jace sent another pointed kick into the middle of Alec’s back before grabbing him by the hair that covered the welt on the back of his head and pulling sharply, forcing Alec onto his back with his head elevated. Alec bit his lip hard enough to draw blood, unwilling to give any indication of how much pain he was in.
Jace crouched, grinning wickedly as he got in Alec’s face. “What would everyone you give orders to think if they saw you like this? I wish I’d have known this is what you’d grow up to be when we became parabatai. I’d have run screaming from the ceremony.” He cackled, but was quickly interrupted as Alec spat in his face and punched him square in the nose.
“You’re not my parabatai,” He hissed as the imposter fell backwards. Alec tried to scramble into a standing position but he didn’t have the leverage to accomplish it. His ribs were undoubtedly broken, the only question being how many.
Jace didn’t have the same problem and got to his feet fairly quickly, once more sending his boot towards Alec, hard enough to sweep his arm out from under him but not enough to break it. Jace scowled, swiping a hand across his face and staring at the bloody mess that came off it.
“You’ll have to do better than that if you plan on ever leaving this room as anything more than a corpse.” Jace taunted, “Maybe we’ll even give you a proper burial if we decide you’re not too much of an embarrassment.”
Alec had often wished for his parabatai’s skill of wit, but the only thing he could bite out was, “go to hell” as he spat blood at Jace’s feet.
Jace’s face twisted in anger. “We’re already here,” he snarled and sent a final blow by slamming his heel down onto Alec’s sternum before turning and stalking out of the room.
I really appreciate comments but I got a rather rude one and I just want to remind you that if you don’t like m/m or whump or whatever just? Don’t read it? Anyway thanks for giving me a great reaction image for when I hate something
Ended up getting this chapter out sooner than I thought! As always, I hope you like it and thanks for all the lovely comments!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec had been left to his own devices for what felt like weeks. He had no way of telling how much time had actually passed and without anything to do but lay, tense with pain and the possibility that someone might come in, the days seemed to blur together. It had likely only been a few days but Alec’s memory had felt more and more hazy. He winced as the lump on the back of his head throbbed and reminded him that he was likely developing a concussion.
The silence in the small room was deafening and Alec felt like if he had to listen to the ringing in his own ears for any longer he would pull them off his head. On one hand, he knew that this was better than the imposters coming in because he didn’t have the physical strength to fight but the waiting felt worse.
A piece of bread and water still appeared every day but Alec never saw it happen. He was normally a light sleeper, a habit from years of training with the possibility of having to jump out of bed at any given time of the night to take care of a demon. Yet, it seemed that whoever was bringing him food slipped in and out without a single sound while Alec slept.
However, a meal hadn’t materialized that day and Alec tried not to let this worry him. He knew he was dehydrated and getting malnourished and his body couldn’t take being completely cut off from food at this point. His healing had slowed, not quite to the pace of a mundane but enough for him to notice. Alec tried to conserve what energy he could to put it towards healing. He’d been laying on his back in the corner of the room since the last time he’d finished eating, head lolled to the side as he did his best to keep pressure off his injuries.
He closed his eyes once more, trying to picture himself somewhere happier, with Magnus or his siblings. He’d run through all possibilities of escape in the past few days and fallen upon the conclusion that he couldn’t do anything in his current state of injury. At this point, the only thing keeping him calm and sane was dreaming about what his family was doing.
At last, the lock on the door clicked. Alec’s eyes snapped open and his heart pounded painfully as adrenaline rushed through him, but he made no move to get up. He could barely breathe through his broken ribs even while lying down and Alec knew that the best outcome of trying to get up and defend himself would likely be him passing out.
It was Isabelle that came through the door. However, the part that got Alec’s attention was the tin-foil wrapped item in her hand. Isabelle held a water bottle in the other, minus cap and label as always, and Alec knew he could logically assume the thing in the foil was the bread he was accustomed to but why the sudden attention to food hygiene?
“Ready to behave?” Isabelle stood in the doorway with a sweet smile better situated for a tender moment with a close friend than their current situation.
Alec managed a smile. “Unfortunately, no.”
Isabelle laughed as though that was the best joke she’d ever heard, “A bold statement for someone who can’t even get up.”
Momentarily, Alec was struck with anxiety as he realized he couldn’t defend himself against whatever ire he’d just stirred up in Isabelle but she just threw foil-wrapped package at him and set down the water. Alec watched, unnerved, as the look-alike spun on her heel and left Alec alone once more.
Alec slowly propped himself up against his arm and paused to heave sharp, shallow breaths as he screwed his eyes shut in pain. After a moment, he managed to pull himself into a seated position and reached for the water, dragging it towards him. He took a sip before slowly unwrapping the foil to find a ham and cheese sandwich.
He stared at it for a moment, trying desperately to listen to the logical side of his brain. Alec had disrespected her and tried to fight the Jace-imposter. Why would they give him more food than usual? If they had done something to it that would explain why Isabelle hadn’t fought him earlier despite Alec’s provocation. On the other hand, Alec was in terrible shape and perhaps this was their attempt at keeping him alive. If they wanted to kill him, they could have done it already.
He downed the sandwich in a manner of seconds.
“Jace, why don’t you lie down? At least sit!” Isabelle sighed in frustration, pinching the bridge of her nose.
Magnus rolled his eyes as Jace continued his pacing with renewed effort, gritting his teeth in an obvious effort to keep his parabatai’s pain at bay. Shadowhunters, he thought, staring at the ceiling and continuing to gently rock side to side in the swiveling chair, propping his feet on the conference table for leverage.
Isabelle opened her mouth to chastise Jace once more but Magnus interrupted, unable to take the fretting anymore, “Remind me once more why we are sitting here when we have a clear perpetrator?”
“We don’t know how many more spies have become part of the Institute. We could very well walk up to one of them and announce we know their plan. If we try to take down Hardwright alone we may be walking directly into a trap.” Jace scowled, turning on his heel and repeating his pathway down the conference room. “We won’t be any use to Alec if we get captured too.”
Magnus thought briefly about sticking a foot out and tripping him. Only briefly.
“You won’t be any use to him if we figure out where he is and you’ve exhausted yourself pacing.” Isabelle bit back, walking away from the coffee machine with a steaming mug and reclaiming her chair.
“Enough! I know we’re all worried about him but we can’t start arguing when we’re so close!” Jace barked out, suddenly halting.
The room went silent.
Isabelle sighed and placed the mug on the table, leaning down to rest her elbows on her knees and prop her head in her hands. “You’re right. So we need to find members of the Institute we know for certain aren’t part of this scheme.”
Magnus crossed and re-crossed his legs. “We could summon the help of the Downworlders. The disappearance of the head’s indicates a coup that would affect everyone. We know for certain that we at least have Luke’s gang of puppies.”
“I don’t want to risk dealing with Seelie court.” Jace replied quickly.
“Of course not. The vampire’s are unlikely to work favorable with us as well. That would leave warlocks.” Isabelle sat up, looking towards Magnus.
“I’ll see what I can do. Perhaps Catarina will be willing to lend her aid.” Magnus stood.
“Jace and I can go speak to Luke and Maia. Jace?” Isabelle stood as well but was now looking with concern at Jace, who was staring at a spot on the wall, white as a sheet.
“Is it Alec?” White hot anxiety seemed to shoot through Magnus at the thought of whatever new pain had been inflicted on his Shadowhunter. Jace had been struggling to behave normally while coping with a fraction of the pain and Magnus couldn’t imagine what Alec was going through.
Jace suddenly turned a horrid shade of green and lunged towards the trash bin sitting next to the coffee table.
Alec didn’t think he could be grateful in any capacity towards his captors and yet, here he was.
It had taken a few hours after eating for it to hit him fully but his stomach had started to cramp rather soon after finishing the sandwich. Through his other pain, he’d barely made it over to the bucket before starting to heave.
Alec realized it likely wasn’t for his benefit, but he found himself grateful nonetheless that magic seemed to have been done on the bucket so that it emptied itself promptly upon having anything put in it.
Through the pounding in his head, he briefly wondered what the limitations on the enchantment were and if maybe he could disappear if he tried to stand in it. His stomach seized and he started to retch once more, thinking darkly that perhaps even if it killed him it wouldn't be so bad.
Alec wasn’t sure how long it took him to empty out the contents of his stomach but it felt like hours had gone by when he finally sat back, panting as he leaned into the cool concrete of the wall. He should have known better than to trust anything he was given. Alec didn’t remember the last time he’d thrown up. It was difficult for illness to get through Shadowhunter’s superior immune systems and Alec thought numbly now that perhaps he’d taken that for granted.
He’d already been dehydrated before the food poisoning and Alec couldn’t imagine this would be anything more than a death sentence if he were forced to fight again. The room seemed to tilt and he closed his eyes, trying to imagine it was Magnus’ cool hand pressed against his cheek rather than the unforgiving wall of his prison cell.
The lock on the door clicked once more and Alec couldn’t even find it in him to open his eyes.
“Hm, guess you won’t be needing this if you’re dead.”
Alec forced his eyes open to see Isabelle back once more. She tauntingly held up a water bottle and took a long sip from it.
Alec’s closed his eyes as the room started to spin again. “Why are you doing this,” He muttered weakly.
“Our leader wants to make an example out of you.” Alec could hear the grin in her voice. “It’s brilliant, actually. He’s going to show how easy it was to break you and prove to the world that the Head of the New York Institute is weak. Why should they follow a weak leader? That, my dear brother, is where we come in.”
Alec didn’t respond. He didn’t have the energy nor the death wish to reply with a scathing remark.
“But,” She drew out. “He doesn’t want you dead just yet, so I guess you can have the rest of this.”
A familiar set of heels clicked over and Alec cracked open an eye to find her depositing the bottle next to him.
“Hmm,” Isabelle hummed, placing the tip of her stiletto on Alec’s injured leg and nudging it so she could see the full display of mottled purple and yellow. Alec couldn’t bite back a groan of pain. “You’ll look just the part of the pathetic excuse for a leader when we show you off. We’ll have to drag you into the room.”
With that, she kicked away his leg and turned gracefully, stalking out of the room.
Alec made a choked sound of pain as she kicked him, despite it being meant more to demean and less to injure, and allowed his eyes to slide shut once more, willing himself to give in to unconsciousness.
Please leave a comment if you're enjoying it! They help more than you know :,)
As always thanks for all the lovely comments! I'm sorry to do you so dirty in response with this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The ceiling was swimming and the room seemed to sway. Alec had chosen hours ago to keep his eyes closed rather than grow nauseous watching the room spin. He couldn’t tell if the darkness he kept slipping into was sleep or unconsciousness but he couldn’t control it either way. He did know that every time he fell into it, his eyes would snap open in a panic as he came back to consciousness and struggled to remember where he was. Alec’s ribs ached and seemed to be trying to tear through his chest from every time he’d woken up panicky and tried to sit up before the pain struck him.
Alec hadn’t given up hope but the ability to think about it had been taken from him long ago. Somewhere after being sick and before having his parabatai coming in once more with the expressed purpose of causing him as much pain as possible. His mind felt completely blank and the only thought he could grasp was that, even with his eyes closed, the room seemed to spin gently. Alec squeezed his eyes shut harder, trying to make everything stop moving just for a moment. It was making him so nauseous but he knew he couldn’t throw up even if he tried. The food had stopped coming days ago. Days? He couldn’t be sure but it didn’t really matter.
He restrained himself from licking his lips again. They’d cracked long ago and any movement of his face caused them to bleed. His nose and mouth burned as though he’d been sitting in front of a smokey fire. All he could think about was how thirsty he was and he knew his body was kicking into survival mode. Alec was having a hard time taking anything more than shallow, superficial inhales. It didn’t feel enough to sustain him but he remained painfully alive.
He tried to relax his tense shoulders and back, anything to get some relief from the pain radiating through his chest, but even that was too much. Alec felt the world falling away from him once more and he welcomed the brief respite. He remained in blissful darkness for what felt like seconds before gasping awake to the sound of the lock on the door clicking. They’re coming back, they’ll beat me up and this time I’ll die, I can’t take it. He struggled to sit up and defend himself but sharp pain shot through his whole body and he collapsed onto his back once more, struggling to contain the high pitched gasping breaths coming from his mouth. He gaped like a fish, looking frantically around the room, only moving his eyes but the door hadn’t opened.
He was in the Institute. Why was he in the Institute? Why was he in the basement? Why did everything hurt so horribly? Why was everything moving?
Memories seemed to fade in and out of fighting Jace, throwing up, and his mother breaking his leg. It seemed like the moment he remembered, the memories faded away again and he struggled for an explanation of how he had gotten to this position. It was doing little for his ability to calm down and Alec started to cough as he struggled to breathe. He was left dizzy with pain as the coughing disrupted his ribs.
Eventually, Alec managed to get himself under control, although he still felt like his skin was crawling. He closed his eyes once more, hoping desperately to either fall asleep or pass out.
The lock on the door clicked. Alec’s eyes snapped open as the door was flung open with a bang and unadulterated panic began to fill him once more.
Before he could begin to put together the beginnings of a coherent thought, Alec’s mother was stalking over to him with a murderous look. His chest constricted in fear as he struggled to prop himself up on his elbows but a heeled shoe quickly pressed into his chest and knocked him back down onto the mat with a huff of breath. Alec squeezed his eyes shut as he struggled to calm himself down. “Wh-”
“Shut up and listen.” Jace hissed, stomping down on Alec’s sternum and sending all the wind out of him. He crouched, keeping a foot on Alec’s chest and making him cry out in pain as more of Jace’s weight shifted onto him. “Let this encounter be a lesson for you.”
Alec gasped like a fish out of water and a ragged, dry yell tore from his throat as the pressure on his ribs increased.
“You’re not as good as any of us.” The pain hadn’t ebbed but suddenly Isabelle was hovering over him, kneeling on one leg with her other foot planted firmly on Alec’s chest.
“Is-?” Alec choked on the word as Isabelle - no longer Isabelle but Jace once more - dug his heel deeper down. “I told you to keep your mouth shut.” Jace hissed, too close to Alec’s face. “You’re not as strong as me. You never will be. You’re not as skilled as Isabelle. You never will be. I should have been head of the Institute. It doesn’t matter how hard you train. You’ll never live up to me and I’m not even a real part of your family.”
Alec shut his eyes as he tried to focus only on getting air into his lungs. He couldn’t take this why wouldn’t they just leave him alone, he was already hurting so much.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed.” His mother?
Alec willed himself to open his eyes and found himself staring wide-eyed and gasping into the eyes of Robert Lightwood.
“Never forget you were incompetent enough to be captured. You couldn’t even escape this room. Let’s make sure you don’t have the ability to forget.” His father snarled.
Suddenly burning pain exploded in his stomach just as the pressure on his chest lessened and blue light exploded in front of his eyes. Alec heard himself wail.
He felt hands on him and forced his eyes open to see what was coming next when he was met with a familiar pair of cat eyes.
Alec felt the dam break and tears began to blur his vision, obscuring colored hair and glitter from view as he started to plead, “Please, not you, please Magnus I’m so sorry. I can’t, I know I’m weak. I’m so so so sorry, please just not you, anyone just not you.” The hand he had pressed protectively to the pain in his stomach was growing wet and reached up to try to scrape the tears of his face but his face ended up more wet than before.
Hands tried to touch his face but he wrenched his head away, starting to sob and even though each cry sent pain spasming through his whole body, he couldn’t stop. Words hadn’t stopped spilling out of his mouth but he desperately needed Magnus to know that this was one pain he couldn’t stand, not on top of everything that had already been done to him.
Alec felt his whole body being shifted and suddenly he was being picked up. The shift in his weight sent throbs through every wound and only made him cry harder as he tried to struggle away from whoever was picking him up. He didn’t want to be moved, why couldn’t they just leave him there to die like they wanted, please. He could take more so long as it wasn’t Magnus inflicting it.
Alec couldn’t tell if the brightly colored lights were his vision giving out or a portal but the last thing he remembered was the smell of antiseptic and someone screaming.
... I'm sorry? Don't worry next chapter will be up in the next few days and they'll start getting a little longer again!
I promised I wouldn't leave you waiting too long after that cliffhanger so here we are! I had a great time writing this chapter and I hope you like it just as much! As always, thank you for all the lovely comments!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The lights were too bright. Alec had grown so used to the dim room that when he first opened his eyes, the fluorescents nearly blinded him.
Everything hurt. The first thing that stuck out to him, however, was that the pounding dehydration migraine that had been his constant companion had finally left him. His next thought was that he was warm. Warmer than he had been in weeks. Too warm? Cold air was no longer hitting his bare skin.
Alec slowly opened his eyes once more, blinking until the light no longer overwhelmed him, and he realized he was in a bed. A cot, more like. The room was a familiar sight, one he’d been in after too many battles. The New York Institute infirmary. He alone in a small room, one of the ones reserved for serious cases that required longer stays.
Alec felt his heart begin to pound painfully in his chest as the implications of his situation set in. He’d already been in the Institute but he’d been moved while unconscious. Had they hurt him so severely that he required medical care so as not to die? Was he in one of the solitary rooms so he couldn’t try to escape? Why not just draw an iratze? Was he going to be trapped in a loop of injury and medicine until something finally killed him? Would Magnus be the one to do it?
Alec squeezed his eyes shut again and tried to breathe but the steadily increasing beep of a heart monitor only insisted that he was doing a poor job calming himself down.
The door to the room opened and the frequency of the monitors beeping skyrocketed as Alec stared wide-eyed as his visitor. He couldn’t be sure if this was the result of his new association of the sound of an opening door with pain or the person he saw in front of him.
“Alexander, you’ve finally woken up. You only slept for thirty-eight hours.” Robert Lightwood, draped in the grey robes of an Inquisitor conducting official business, entered his room with a face set like stone. “I and many others have a long list of questions for you.”
Alec felt his chest and throat constrict as his father got closer to him and he struggled to try to get into a seated position, but agony shot through wounds that had been given time to start recovering and weren’t pleased with being jostled again. His injured leg felt heavy and he could see the outlines of a cast through the thin sheets. He felt the sharp pull of a needle as he realized he was connected to an IV. There was nowhere to go.
His father sighed, “Alexander, you need to calm yourself. Working yourself up won’t be helpful to anyone.”
Suddenly people seemed to flood into the room and Alec felt himself go lightheaded as he struggled to breathe through a tight throat and aching chest. There were so many people, too many people and they were all here to hurt him, oh god oh god. Hands began to grab at his arms and he tried to pull away but his body wouldn’t cooperate.
It was Jace’s accusatory, authoritarian tone that stuck out above the din, “-een awake for two minutes, leave him alone! He’s in pain and absolutely terrified and for good reason! Give him some space before you bombard him with questions. Don’t sedate him, he’s just scared, give him a moment!”
Jace continued to repeat himself until his words began to sink into the crowd. The hands - nurses, he could see now - were removed from his arms and as the crowd surrounding his bed began to back away, Alec found it slightly easier to breathe. He looked wildly around from face to face, recognizing many as Clave members. This did nothing to unwind the pit of anxiety in his stomach.
“I think he’s feverish, I can feel it,” Jace spoke again, this time more softly, to the nearest nurse, who nodded and left the room. Alec watched, unnerved, as Jace turned back to the rest of the crowd. “Let him breathe, he’ll still be here in a few hours to answer questions.”
The people slowly began to filter out. His father stood over him, face set in stone as he stared at Alec, and was the last to leave. Jace remained, arms crossed in a corner close to the door.
“I’m sorry about that. The nurse told us you woke up and they all got here before we could stop them.” Jace moved closer to the bed but quickly stopped when Alec flinched. A look of vague hurt crossed his face and immediately filled Alec with guilt but it didn’t outweigh the fear in the pit of his stomach that this still wasn’t Jace.
Jace took a step back, hovering and obviously unsure of what to do. “Do you want me to go?”
Alec opened his mouth to respond but couldn’t find the words.
“It’s alright. I understand. I’ll come back later if you want. Izzy is in the lobby too, if you want to see her, yeah?” Jace forced a pained smile and turned to go.
Suddenly, Alec was struck with what he wanted. “Is Magnus here?”
Jace looked back with a smile that was obviously meant to be comforting but was only acting as a window into Jace’s hurt and worry. The muscles around his eyes and jaw twitched with exhaustion. “Yeah, I’ll send him in if you want? He’s anxious to see you but he didn’t want to overwhelm you with all the other people.”
Alec gave a small nod and Jace turned and left. Alec let out a shaky breath and closed his eyes, the full weight of his injuries and fear settling into his bones. He’d started to shiver without realizing it and pulled the thin sheets tighter around himself as he struggled to process what had happened.
Before he could, Alec heard footsteps and opened his eyes to find Magnus standing in the doorway, every muscle tense as he looked in anxiously. “Angel?”
Alec’s eyes started to water but as Magnus started to approach him, a nerve seemed to strike inside him. “Wait,” Alec’s voice cracked as he held up a hand and Magnus froze where he was, a few steps from the end of Alec’s bed. “Tell me something only the real Magnus would know.”
Magnus seemed to falter as a heartbroken expression took over his face. “The night after our first date. You wouldn’t let me walk you home to the Institute. I thought it was because you didn’t like how the night had gone but you kissed me and told me you didn’t know how you’d explain yourself to the rest of the Shadowhunters if someone were to ask questions. You texted me that night and thanked me for saying yes when you asked me out and apologized that the date hadn’t gone as well as you wanted. I told you I had a feeling it was the best decision I’d ever made and your smile that night-”
“-made every blunder worth it. Come here.” Alec choked out and reached for him. He was grateful that Magnus moved so quickly because, just as Alec’s face crumpled, Magnus wrapped him in the best hug he could manage given the circumstances. He was so focused on keeping back his own tears that it came as a shock when he realized Magnus’ shoulders were shaking. Alec sniffed, still pressed into Magnus’ neck, “Why are you crying?”
Magnus let out a noise that could have been a laugh or a sob, “Maybe because the love of my life was missing for three weeks? Or maybe because his parabatai was nearly incapacitated with pain that was only a fraction of what he was feeling? It could have been when he was so delirious, he didn’t know we were rescuing him and thought I was going to hurt you? Him? ”
Alec tried to laugh but it sent an ache reverberating through his ribs. “Three weeks?” He asked in a small voice, overwhelmed with the information. “You could have said days or years and I would have believed you.”
Magnus made the same noise and gently pulled back, just enough to be able to look at the Shadowhunter, pressing a palm to Alec’s cheek and using the other hand to run his fingers through Alec’s hair. As he did this, Alec realized he didn’t feel as horribly grimy as he had for all those weeks and that Magnus must have used magic to scrub three weeks of torture off him.
“You look awful.” Alec tried to smile even though it pulled on his cracked lips.
Magnus snorted, briefly replacing the worried, caring expression he’d been wearing since he entered the room. “You’re one to talk. You’re burning up.” But Alec had a point. There were bags under his eyes and a tightness in his jaw, not to mention the look of sheer exhaustion hiding just below the surface of his expression.
Magnus opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by a knock on the door frame. Both men quickly looked to find a nurse coming into the room. She smiled apologetically and held up a thermometer. “Hello, Mr. Lightwood, Mr. Bane. I apologize for interrupting but I’m here to take your temperature. Your parabatai informed us that he thought you were developing a fever.”
Alec was reluctant to let go of Magnus, but luckily the warlock seemed to have a similar idea as he held tightly onto Alec’s hands as he dragged a chair over to sit next to the bed. However, now that Alec’s body seemed to finally be in a position where he could begin to relax and he was no longer focused on Magnus, sharp pains shot through his stomach. It was so unexpected that a soft sound of pain and surprise left him as he quickly pressed a hand against it. He heard Magnus worriedly ask what was wrong and the nurse gently peeled the sheets away from him.
Alec shivered violently as the blanket was taken and squeezed his eyes shut as it sent a wave of pain through his stomach.
“I’m going to page for Nurse Wrenfield. Alec, can you hear me?” The nurse asked him.
Alec forced his eyes open and discovered blood had seeped through his hospital gown. He squeezed Magnus’ hand as hard as he could and nodded.
“The wound on your stomach is bleeding severely. I’m going to take the top half of your gown off so we can see what happened, alright?”
Alec braced himself for having to go through sitting up but a wave of relief went through him as Magnus quickly said, “I’ve got it.” With a snap of his fingers, Alec’s gown was off his top half and pooled around his hips.
Another nurse appeared at Alec’s side, “Mr. Bane would you mind standing back for a moment as we get this under control.”
Magnus’s jaw tensed but he squeezed Alec’s hand and reluctantly let go, standing back as he was asked.
Hands prodded at Alec’s stomach and he grit his teeth to keep from crying out. “Why can’t you iratze me?” Looking down at the wound proper quickly answered his question though.
“You were infected with demon venom when they scratched you. We’ve done our best to clear what we can and that allowed for a little magic to begin the healing process but runes will not stay on your skin. Jenny, run and get me things to close this back up, I’ll get the bleeding under control.” The new nurse, Wrenfield, efficiently ordered the one that had originally entered with the thermometer.
Alec bit his lip bloody and clenched his eyes shut as he struggled not to howl in pain from the pressure being applied to his stomach. His hands scrambled for something to hold onto and suddenly, a cool hand slipped into his. Alec looked over, Magnus seeming to have appeared on the opposite side of the bed than earlier.
“Hold onto me. You’re not alone anymore, Angel.” Magnus tried to smile, rubbing his thumb over Alec’s hand.
Alec opened his mouth to respond but fresh pain shot through him and he groaned as he bit down on the pillow to keep quiet.
“You’re alright. I won’t be far.” Magnus murmured to him before taking a step back, still firmly holding onto Alec’s hand but now out of the way as Nurse Jenny hurried back into the room.
“Alright, Alec, it looks like you tore your stitches earlier so we’re going to patch you up. I’ll get you some lidocaine and this should go over more easily.” Nurse Jenny spoke to him and Alec gave a small nod.
After a bit, the pain began to dull to a manageable level and Alec slowly let go of the fabric clenched between his teeth as they continued to work on him.
“That was a demon that scratched me?” He asked softly, looking past the nurse to where Magnus was keeping a firm hold on his hand.
Magnus looked solemn, “Jonothan’s cult had you held by histrionis demons.”
Alec stared at Magnus, mouth slightly agape, as the pieces began to fall together. Histrionis demons had the ability to be fed information, generally in the form of memories, and use it to take on the best form to hurt their victims. They were amongst the most intelligent demons but, despite this, the masks they wore never looked perfect. Of course. That was why the lesson on the uncanny valley had come to mind. He had been too delirious to realize.
Alec was quiet as the nurses began to finish their work. The pain in his stomach had passed, lidocaine fully engaged, and the rest of him felt dull and only vaguely achey. With the pain and panic gone, exhaustion began to set into his bones.
After taking his temperature and declaring him feverish, Nurse Jenny spoke again, “Alright, Alec, you’re all done. Let’s try to keep these in this time. It was time for your dose of painkillers anyway so you should be feeling better as that works its way through your IV. The wound was starting to look infected so I’m not surprised you’re feeling feverish but I gave you something that should fix that right up. We’ll get you on antibiotics this afternoon.” Nurse Jenny smiled amicably at him. “Do you need anything more from us?” When Alec shook his head, she gently patted the bed before turning to go. “You ought to rest now but we’ll be back later to get you updated on everything. Mr. Bane, would you mind assisting with his gown again?”
“Of course,” He replied quickly. Magnus snapped his fingers and Alec’s gown, now clean, returned to its former place.
The nurses left, gently shutting the door behind them, and Magnus instantly moved closer to Alec’s bed. Alec was having a hard time staying awake as his body begged to have another chance to recover undisturbed.
“Don’t fight it, Angel. You need the sleep.” Magnus smiled at him, settling into the chair tucked against Alec’s bed. “I’ll be right here when you wake up.”
Alec couldn't argue with such infallible logic and he quickly succumbed to darkness.
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Honestly not super happy with this chapter but it addressed some things that needed to happen so I could move on. It all felt a bit like a lot is happening at once but that is how Alec is feeling right now. Anyway, I hope you guys like it! By the way I'm on vacation so there will likely be more time in between updates than usual!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Thirty-eight hours had only been the beginning. Alec may have only been awake for around thirty minutes the first time but he proceeded to fall unconscious for the next eighteen hours.
Waking up to the fluorescents didn’t get easier the second time. Alec blinked away the spots in his vision and reached up to rub his eyes but was quickly cut off with a sharp inhale as his ribs protested the movement. He steeled against it and tried again with the other hand, more slowly this time.
However, he quickly discovered his left hand to be incapacitated. Alec’s chest constricted slightly as the first thought that struck him was that he’d been restrained. It would only make it all the easier to hurt him with the assurance he couldn’t fight back.
However, the knot in his throat loosened as he realized what was causing the restriction. Magnus was fully and deeply asleep in the stiff infirmary chair, head resting on crossed arms on the bed, one hand firmly wrapped in Alec’s. Alec’s heart melted a bit at the sight and he smiled unconsciously, just enough so as not to agitate the healing cracks in his lips. He was safe. Magnus was here. It was really Magnus and he was safe.
Alec gently turned his head so he could more easily look at Magnus, no longer having to strain his eyes by looking out the corner of them. He was soothed by the silence, only the sound of his heart monitor disrupting the peace, to watch the warlock’s shiny-fabric clad back rise and fall. The persistent, sharp ache had returned to his whole body, but the sight steadied him and Alec was content to feel his eyes sliding shut once more.
The peace didn’t last for long though, and Alec’s heart rate skyrocketed as he heard a knock on the door before it opened. A nurse stuck her head around the door and smiled at him. “Good morning, Mr. Lightwood. How are you feeling?”
Alec tried to calm his pounding heart. It was just a door. People use doors all the time. No one was coming to hurt him. He forced a calm expression as Magnus began to stir. “I’m good.”
The nurse - Nurse Jenny, he remembered now - fully entered the room, picking up the chart hung at the end of his bed. “That’s good. We saw your heart rate go up on the monitor at the nurses' station and figured you were awake so I came to check on you. Are you in any pain this morning?”
Yes. Every bone and muscle ached and there was a sharp pain emanating from all his wounds.
Alec glanced at Magnus, who had sat up and rubbed his eyes, smearing eyeliner all over but somehow making it look intentional. He looked exhausted and Alec immediately felt guilty. He’d promised to be here when Alec woke up and had followed through even though he likely felt awful.
Alec wasn’t in that much pain, right? Everyone was already so worried about him. “No, I feel fine.”
Magnus raised an eyebrow, rather clearly unconvinced as he sat back in his chair and crossed his arms.
Alec didn’t look at him.
“Alright, you were due for your painkillers about an hour ago but we’ll start weaning you off them in that case.” She looked down, making a note in her chart. “If you’re feeling up to it, would you like to discuss the conditions of your injuries?”
Alec nodded. “Could I sit up?”
Magnus wiggled his fingers and the part of the bed under Alec’s top half slowly tilted up.
Nurse Jenny chuckled as she sat in on of the unoccupied chairs. “I could have done that manually but thank you, Mr. Bane. Now, generally, only family would be allowed in the room for this-”
Alec quickly cut her off without thinking, “I want him here.” As he said it, he realized that their guise of vague friendship would no longer stand up to scrutiny. It would have taken Alec’s kidnapping and near death to reveal the true nature of their relationship to the Clave. He suddenly felt uneasy about this but it quelled instantly as Magnus sat forward and gently took Alec’s hand into his own once more.
“Alright, it is, ultimately, up to you.” Nurse Jenny smiled kindly, giving no indication of her approval or disapproval. “Now, I realize this may be a bit upsetting to hear, so if at any time you need me to stop, I will, alright?”
Alec nodded, knowing he wouldn’t need to. He’d been injured enough times on enough demon hunts that it didn’t bother him to hear. He felt Magnus squeeze his hand.
“We’ll start with nutrition. You were severely dehydrated when you first came to us and that was one of the two most immediately life threatening issues. You should be feeling a lot better by now, thanks to the IV, but we’ll probably be taking you off it today. We’ve been giving you fluids mixed with nutrients as well as the painkillers and antibiotics. Again, it’s perfectly alright if you don’t feel comfortable speaking about it, but were you fed while being held?”
Alec tried not to look at Magnus, keeping his sights on Nurse Jenny instead. He was afraid that if he looked at Magnus, he’d feel guilty at the sadness he’d see there, hidden in a tight jaw or twitch of the eye. “I was given a piece of bread and a bottle of water until… I think until the last week. They didn’t give me anything then.” Magnus tightly squeezed his hand once more.
The nurse gave him a sympathetic smile before making a note in his chart. “I see. Well, as for your outward injuries, the other most pressing injury was the gash in your stomach. It appears a demon clawed you and left behind poison. We cleaned it out the best we could and stitched it up. The poison is keeping your runes from holding so I’m afraid you’ll be healing the mundane way for a bit. Your left leg was broken and had begun to heal incorrectly. We set it properly and you’ll be in a cast until the poison leaves you. You also had three broken ribs. As I’m sure you know, there’s not much we can do for those aside from tell you to go easy on them.”
Alec had realized his leg felt heavier than normal but hadn’t considered that he was in a cast until now. “How much longer will I have to stay in the infirmary?”
“Likely only a few days. It all depends on the poison.” Nurse Jenny stood from her chair, replacing Alec’s chart. “If you don’t have any questions for me, I’ll be off but I’ll be back in a bit to take you off the IV.”
Alec nodded and she left the room. He remained quiet for a moment, staring at the ceiling, before softly breaking the silence. “I’m sorry.”
“What?” Magnus sounded so surprised that Alec turned towards him, seeing his wide, loving eyes and incredulous expression. “Angel, you were kidnapped and tortured. Why on Earth are you sorry?”
Alec turned away. If Magnus kept looking at him like that he was going to cry and he couldn’t cry anymore. He’d cried enough and he couldn’t keep upsetting people. “Everyone is worried about me and you all look awful. You especially. You should go back to the loft and sleep. It can’t have been comfortable sleeping here all night.”
“Alexander, please look at me.”
Alexander. Not Angel.
He turned his head, ignoring the protest his ribs gave at even the smallest of movements. Magnus was still staring at him with that heartbreaking look but more intently now.
“When Jace went missing, you went out of your mind with worry. You weren’t angry when he came back. Or inconvenienced. You were just glad to have him back in more or less one piece, right?” Magnus prompted, gently rubbing his thumb over the veins in Alec’s wrist.
Alec nodded, wanting to look away but knowing Magnus wouldn’t have it.
“I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Please don’t apologize to us. We’re all just relieved to have you back and that you’ll be ok.”
You’ll be ok.
Alec swallowed hard and nodded again, not allowing himself to tear up as Magnus smiled gently and picked up Alec’s hand to press a kiss full of love into it. The motion made his ribs ache with pain and love but he didn’t mind.
They lied in comfortable silence for a moment before Alec spoke again, “Tell me what happened? While I was gone. Things that don’t have to do with finding me.”
Magnus obliged him, talking easily about Chairman Meow tripping him when Magnus got home from a long night at the Institute, indignant that dinner had been late, before launching into a petty disagreement between Raphael and Jace.
Alec listened silently for a while, relaxing into Magnus’s soothing tone.
“-and Raphael called him a… what was it? Ah, a bottle blonde monkey with the spine of a worm.” Magnus looked overly pleased with this.
Alec cracked a small smile, more so at Magnus’ face than his story. “Is Jace here?”
“He wouldn’t have gone far. Neither would Isabelle. Do you want to see them?” Magnus asked carefully, clearly doing his best to hide the gentle worry in his expression.
Alec considered for a moment. He did want to see them. Desperately. But he couldn’t deny the tightening in his lungs that accompanied, the worry that they would only come to hurt him once more. Alec squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and pushed away the thought. They’d been his siblings for eighteen years. Three weeks with demons wearing their faces couldn’t change that. He was being ridiculous. Alec opened his eyes again and tried to tamp down the anxiety that thrummed in his stomach. “Yes.”
“Angel, it’s alright if it’s too soon, they’ll understa-” Magnus said quickly.
“I want to see them.” He needed to. “Please.”
“Alright.” Magnus squeezed Alec’s hand and stood, kissing him gently on the forehead before heading out of the room.
Alec steadied his breathing. They were his siblings. Jace was his parabatai. The real Jace and Isabelle would never willingly hurt him. Those hadn’t been his siblings. They were demons, he reminded himself. He couldn’t just be afraid of his siblings forever. What kind of a shadowhunter was afraid of his own parabatai?
One weak enough to be captured.
Alec didn’t have time to dwell on this thought before he heard footsteps approaching and Magnus reappeared in the doorway. On his heels were Jace and Isabelle, looking at him anxiously.
It felt like something was crawling slowly up his throat but Alec tried to smile. “Hi.”
“Hey. How are you feeling?” Isabelle asked gently.
Alec tried not to flinch as she hurried towards him and reached for his hand. She must have seen it because she stuttered to a stop, arm still slightly outreached, a nervous expression behind her eyes. Alec forced a smile again and closed the gap, taking her hand. She relaxed and returned the smile. “I’m alright.”
Jace hovered back, clearly doing his best not to upset Alec like he had the day before. Alec noticed and gently, doing his best not to disrupt his ribs, extended the hand not holding Isabelle’s towards him.
He noticed then that Jace was limping slightly on his left leg and it clicked that the demon acting as Jace had never outwardly shown to be sharing his pain. This made him feel considerably better, although he felt a bit guilty that Jace was going through the same thing he was, and his smile became a bit more real.
Jace cracked a smile as Alec reached for him and hurried forward, obviously anxious to be close to him. “You’ve been asleep for a while. The Clave gave up and told us to call them when you woke up.”
Alec laughed softly and winced as a blade of pain shot through his chest and stomach. He didn’t miss Jace mirroring his expression.
“I thought you told the nurse you weren’t in pain.” Magnus said in a slightly accusatory tone.
“That was a lie.” Jace laughed through a grimace.
“Don’t be a hero, Alec. It’s ok to be in pain. You’re in the infirmary for a reason.” Isabelle chided.
“Alright, alright. Leave me alone, I’ll tell her when she comes back.” Alec felt considerably more at ease, falling into the familiar patterns of interacting with his siblings. They were all quiet for a moment, no one sure how to break the silence, before Alec spoke again. “So Jace, I heard Raphael revealed that you’re not a real blonde.
Isabelle cackled as Jace sputtered to defend himself, and all trace of Alec’s anxiety faded as he laughed along with them.
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Hello! I'm pleased with how this chapter came out. I've been thinking about this scene for a while. I hope you like it too! I'm still on vacation so chapters will still be a little more spread out than normal but we're about 3/4 of the way through with this story anyway :,) Don't forget to leave a comment!
Life became easier as time wore on. Alec still slept away the majority of his days as his body and mind recovered from the trauma he’d experienced. For the first time in his life, he slept so deeply that nothing but his own body telling him it had had enough could wake him.
His heart still skipped a beat when he heard the doorknob turn. He still flinched when the door opened. Alec did his best to hide it but he saw the way Magnus and Izzy looked at him when it happened. He knew Jace must have noticed the split-second block in their bond as Alec put up a wall to keep his parabatai from feeling his momentary panic.
But none of them mentioned it and for this he was grateful. All Alec wanted was to put the past behind him and move on. What exactly he as moving towards, he wasn’t sure yet, but he was ready to get there. He tried not to dwell on the internal battle that had been waging in his mind. On one hand, the demons had been right. He’d been captured and was too weak to escape. Alec was also too logical to not recognize that they would say anything they could to break him. But thinking about it was too painful, and he saw his companion's faces twist with worry when they came into his room to find him staring at the blank ceiling with such intent that it could have caught fire. He knew that Jace felt it.
But he was recovering physically and that was the most important thing. The venom had slowly begun to leave him, with constant encouragement from Magnus’ magic, and he had been taken off his IV that morning.
A spare cot had been placed against the far wall of Alec’s room at the insistence of his siblings. They didn’t want to leave his side and had begun to take shifts of being with him, whether they slept or spoke with him or just sat quietly in his vicinity.
Alec didn’t want to admit it, but he appreciated it enormously. While he wanted to think that he hadn’t been affected mentally by his time in captivity, he still frequently woke up anxious for reasons he couldn’t explain. Seeing Magnus or one of his siblings lying peacefully on the cot, generally sleeping or reading, soothed him immediately. He didn’t want to admit that there were moments where he doubted that those were truly his siblings.
The list of things he didn’t want to admit was growing long.
Alec stared at the analog clock ticking away on the wall. 9:15 AM. Having the ability to know the time gave him comfort, perhaps because he’d been denied that simple pleasure while trapped. Izzy was peacefully asleep in the cot and Alec smiled softly at the sight. No, she didn’t need to know that Alec’s first thought this morning, when he had looked at her, was the feeling of a high heel digging into his broken leg.
There was a soft knock on the door and Alec steeled himself for the sound of the knob turning, hating himself briefly. It was just a doorknob. But the thought was pushed aside when he saw Magnus’ dastardly bright, glittered suspenders coming through the door.
Isabelle stirred, sitting up and grinning at Magnus. “Right on time. How are you feeling this morning, Alec?”
Nervous. Full of self-loathing. “Good.” He put on a smile that didn’t require too much effort now that Magnus was here.
“Alright boys, behave.” She stood, stretching and fixing her ponytail. “I’ll be back in a bit. I’ll be down in my room if anything happens.” With that, she smiled at them and left, amicably bumping elbows with Nurse Jenny as they passed each other in the doorway.
Magnus took a seat next to Alec’s bed, reaching up to take his hand, as Nurse Jenny entered the room with a tray of food. “Goodmorning Mr. Lightwood, Mr. Bane.”
The boys called their greetings as the nurse deposited the tray onto a table at the far end of the room.
“Excited for your first solid food?” Jenny smiled, coming over to Alec and sliding a thermometer into his mouth. Alec nodded and allowed her to manipulate him in this way and that, checking his blood pressure and vitals. He was more so focused, however, on Magus running his fingers over Alec’s knuckles, infusing a bit of magic here and there to send gentle, pleasant tingles up Alec’s arm.
“Alright,” Jenny said finally, replacing her stethoscope around her neck. “I’m going to go make a note in your chart and I’ll be right back to bring you breakfast.” She smiled and turned out of the room, chart in hand.
Alec took the opportunity to turn towards Magnus, who was gently wiggling his fingers and sending sparks through Alec’s hand. “That tickles.” Magnus smiled but ceased. “How are you doing?” Alec asked, noting the circles under Magnus’ eyes that he’d attempted to conceal with makeup.
Magnus let out a gentle sigh. “I suppose I can’t lie when I’ve been nagging at you for the past few days to not conceal how you’re feeling.” He was quiet for a moment and now it was Alec’s turn to rub over Magnus’ knuckles with gentle, calloused fingers.
“I’ve been having nightmares. About you. That we came too late and you’ve bled out or that I am the one hurting you. That I come to trade-off with Jace or Isabelle but you’ve died.” The last word was softer than the rest and made Alec’s heartache.
“I’m sorry,” Alec replied, just as quietly. He was. Sorry, that is, and hugely so. Alec could bear any pain he was given but to be the one causing it to the people he loved? Unforgivable. He didn’t know how to articulate this so he just tugged Magnus’ hand to his mouth and pressed firm kisses there in the assurance that he was alive and well.
Magnus smiled at him, tired behind the sparkle in his eyes. “How are you really feeling?” He asked, knowing that he wasn’t as good as he insisted he was to Isabelle.
Alec didn’t respond but was quickly saved from having to talk about how his normally manageable anxiety had been through the roof since he returned as Nurse Jenny returned.
She replaced his chart at the end of his bed and picked up the tray once more. Magnus wiggled his fingers and the ancient motor in Alec’s bed slowly whirred to life as he was brought to a seated position.
Alec was grateful for her return, not only for the excuse not to reply to Magnus but also that he’d been greatly looking forward to eating real food since he got back. He’d been on an IV for about four days and, while it kept him hydrated and technically fed, it didn’t fulfill the desire to eat. However, as the tray was placed on the table over his lap, this all rapidly went out the window as he stared down at the contents of the tray.
A ham and cheese sandwich.
He heard Magnus and Jenny saying his name but Alec couldn’t hear them. He was back in that awful, tiny room, throwing up the last of his stomach contents because he’d eaten it even though he had known it would make him sick why would they willingly give him more food than normal when he had mouthed off to them? But he had been so, so hungry and now he was paying for it.
He was dragged back to the present by Magnus’ anxious, “Alexander?”
Alec felt all the blood rush to his head as his stomach lurched.
“Are you going to be sick?” Someone asked.
Alec nodded frantically as black spots danced in the corner of his vision and a bucket appeared in front of him with a gentle shower of blue sparks. He immediately heaved, emptying the limited contents of his stomach.
His ribs and stomach ached with the effort of retching and after a moment, with the plastic bucket now containing stomach acid and a little water, Alec finally leaned back against the bed again, coughing weakly. His eyes were closed and he was wheezing for air but he felt Magnus’ familiar fingers gently running through his now lightly damp hair. Alec leaned into the touch and let him magic away the sweat, opening his eyes when it was done.
He was met with an intensely worried look.
“Angel, why didn’t you tell us you felt bad?” Magnus spoke gently, still carding his fingers soothingly through Alec’s hair as his other hand gently wiggled and the bucket's contents vanished, leaving the bucket itself in case Alec needed it again.
“Didn’t… Was the sandwich…” Alec coughed again, trying to clear the bile remaining in his throat, and Nurse Jenny suddenly appeared by his side once more, having left and returned with a bottle of water. Alec gratefully accepted and used the first swig to rinse his mouth and spit into the bucket. When the water disappeared immediately upon hitting the plastic, Alec winced as an uncomfortable sense of deja vu washed over him.
Alec took a deep, heaving breath and tried to calm his racing heart. “About two weeks in, I mouthed off and they gave me a sandwich like that one. I knew it was probably poisoned but I couldn’t think straight and I was so hungry… I ended up being sick all night. That was the last day they gave me food and water.”
Jenny quickly whisked away the tray as Alec downed the last of the water. He didn’t realize he was twisting the plastic in the same nervous habit as when he was first kidnapped until Nurse Jenny gently took it from him and replaced it with a full bottle.
“Do you think you’ll be sick again?” Jenny asked gently. Everyone spoke so gently to him, like he was a scared animal. Maybe he was. He didn’t want to be.
Alec shook his head. The nausea had passed and he was now left feeling exhausted with a persistent ache coming from his ribs and stomach stitches.
“Alright, if you want I can bring you a different meal? Or we can wait a bit until your stomach settles.” She asked again in the same infuriatingly gentle tone.
“I’m fine.” Alec tried not to spit out. It wasn’t her fault. There was no reason to be angry. Of course she’s speaking to you like that, you just puked at the sight of a goddamn sandwich.
“Are there any other foods we should avoid…?”
Alec shook his head, praying she would leave before he lashed out without reason. She did.
He couldn’t look at Magnus.
“I’m sorry, Angel.”
The dam broke. “You shouldn’t have to be sorry. I should be better than this! I’m the head of the goddamn Institute and I can’t even keep it together when I see a sandwich. Why? Because one made me sick one time? That’s not worthy of pity, that’s not worthy of anything! I’m not worthy of anything!”
The room was painfully silent and Alec realized that he had been yelling. He also realized there were hot tears coming down his face as Magnus was wiping them away. All the anger that had burst out of him had left him feeling empty and vulnerable but he didn’t want to be crying. That was at least one reaction he could control and he needed to.
Jace suddenly burst into the room and Alec’s head snapped away from Magnus to see his parabatai standing in the doorway, hand over their shared rune with a painfully worried look on his face. “What happened, something felt wrong.”
Alec couldn’t control the sob that came from his mouth then and let Magnus pull him into his chest.
I was a bit stuck on this chapter for a while but here he is! I hope you like it! School starts in a week so I'm sorry about infrequent uploads but they'll probably keep coming out about every few days.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec seemed to become more closed off in the days following the incident with the sandwich. Izzy, Jace, and Magnus continued to remain vigilantly by his side but their conversations grew one-sided. Alec would only respond with monosyllabic answers.
The Clave had given him a day to recover. The day stretched to two to three when Alec had slept for nearly twenty-two hours a day immediately following his rescue. The incident with the sandwich had given him another day. He’d been too distraught to speak, nevermind answer questions about his torture. However, six days post-rescue, Magnus stood anxiously in front of Alec’s room, arms crossed.
“He’ll be interrogated in an hour. I understand they need to speak to him while his memories are still fresh but that’s exactly the problem! And how is he supposed to talk about being tortured to them when he won’t even say more than one syllable to us!” Jace paced angrily up and down the short hall, suddenly stopping and slamming his fist into the wall.
Magnus jumped, not having expected to be hit with drywall so early in the morning, and scowled. Shadowhunters. “I understand that you’re angry but kindly refrain from inane acts of violence.” He said, wiggling his fingers to repair the damage. “I attempted to speak to Robert Lightwood about it. However, he refused to listen to a lowly Downworlder, despite that Downworlder being a representative for all of his kind and also very good looking.”
Jace, seeming to have returned to a state of sensibility, stared at the wall as though someone else had caused the hole, before planting his back against the wall and sinking down onto his heels in a squat, head in hands.
“Magnus, I’m just so worried about him.”
“Yes, don’t forget to pay your dues for that club. We’re getting shirts later. They’ll have Alec’s beautiful face embroidered across the back with big red letters saying ‘please be ok’.”
Jace looked up and gave him a withering look. “I know a lot of people are worried about him and I know you all see just as well as I do that he’s been standoffish but you can’t feel what I do. He’s so scared, Magnus. And he tries to block me out sometimes but he drops it so quickly and then immediately pushes against the bond to get my attention. It’s like he’s afraid to be apart. He started crying last night, when he thought I was asleep. I let him because he obviously doesn’t want anyone to see it but watching him fall apart is killing me.” Jace’s voice went from furious to painfully soft over the course of his monologue.
Magnus’s heart clenched at the thought of his Angel sobbing in the dark, trying to be quiet so as not to wake his parabatai. He often cursed Shadowhunter’s culture of stoicism, but never before had he been so furious with it.
“I didn’t realize.” He said through gritted teeth.
Jace stood and pushed off from the wall. “I’m going to try to talk some sense into my parents. They’ll have to convince them. Take care of Alec, yeah?”
“Of course.” Magnus replied immediately, watching Jace stalk down the hall. He took a breath to steady himself. He didn’t need to go into Alec’s room angry.
After a moment of collecting himself, Magnus knocked softly on the door, four times like he’d promised Alec he always would. He didn’t understand why, but it seemed to make Alexander feel better, and whatever he could do to achieve that, he would. The door opened to a familiar sight.
Alec was lying on his back, a hand gently resting on his stomach in an unconscious, protective stance as he stared, unfocused at the ceiling. He seemed to startle at the sound of the door and his eyes quickly flicked to Magnus. He might have imagined the faintest of smiles twitch in the Shadowhunter’s jaw, but he would take it. Alec’s smiles were far and few between these days.
“Hey, Angel. How are you feeling?” Magnus spoke softly. The room seemed deathly quiet and he felt as though speaking too loudly would cause the walls to shatter.
Of course. It didn’t hurt any less to hear but Magnus forced a smile. “That’s good.” He wasn’t sure what else to say, but padded over to the chair by Alec’s bedside.
He didn’t miss that Alec’s hand, formerly on his stomach, had outstretched so Magnus could hold it in a familiar embrace. It made all the difference and a real smile formed on Magnus’ face.
They were quiet for a moment, but the silence felt more comfortable now. It was Alec, that broke it.
“The Clave is going to interrogate me today.” His voice was hoarse from disuse but steady.
Magnus watched Alec’s face carefully but it was as though the boy was made of stone. “If you’re not ready, Jace has already been working on moving the date back once more.”
Alec was quiet. “Jace told me you’re the warlock representative.”
The words held an uncomfortable weight. Magnus would be part of the council interrogating Alec. He would be one of the sets of eyes staring him down as Alec was forced to relive his trauma. He would hear in gruesome detail what had happened to his beloved boy that caused him to return in such a sorry state.
“I’ve spoken to Catarina but she’s tied up in Europe in place of me.” Magnus quickly followed that up with, “I won’t be there if you don’t want me to.”
“The warlock’s need a representative.” Alec was right but it didn’t hurt any less.
Alec was silent for another extended moment, his eyes not leaving the ceiling. Magnus couldn’t help that his eyes flicked up there too, just for a moment.
“They’re going to ask about you.” Once more, neither Alec’s face nor his tone gave anything away.
“Me?” Magnus asked softly, having a vague idea of what Alec was hinting at but not wanting to misunderstand.
“Why you’ve been at my bedside just as much as my sister and parabatai.”
Magnus desperately wanted Alec to look at him, but he didn’t push. “What you tell them is entirely up to your discretion, Angel.” He had to remind himself that Alec wasn’t delicate, not by any means. But there was vulnerability under that stony mask.
Alec took a deep, shaky breath that seemed to fill the room with sound. “I’m going to do it.” His gaze finally broke from the tiles above him and he turned his blue eyes onto Magnus, finally.
Magnus leaned forward, resting his forehead against Alec’s. “I’m proud of you.”
Alec closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.
No more words needed to be exchanged and they sat in comfortable silence, each drawing strength from the other until a firm knock sounded at the door.
A familiar face entered, pushing a wheelchair. Nurse Jenny smiled at them, although it had a vague air of sadness today, much unlike her.
Alec grimaced. “Can’t I walk?”
“Since the poison is taking longer to leave your system than we thought and you’re still healing the mundane way, it’s best that you don’t. We don’t need you reopening stitches or passing out.” She smiled sympathetically at him. “But it’s not for long.”
Alec obviously wasn’t pleased but allowed Jenny to assist him into the chair. Magnus noticed Alec’s wince, though, as he sat up and leaned more heavily on Jenny than he would have liked. Magnus walked alongside as she wheeled him down the hallway with practiced ease. There was a considerable distance from the infirmary to the conference room and the sound of Magnus’ dress shoes, Alec’s wheels, and Jenny’s sneakers bouncing off the walls did nothing to help anyone’s nerves. Magnus was ready to stop and strip everyone of their shoes when they finally arrived.
“Alright, Mr. Lightwood. This is where I leave you. Good luck and don’t forget that you can press this button any time if you’re in pain or need something and a nurse will be with you shortly.” She smiled at Alec, pressing a small remote into his hands before coming back down the hallway they had come from.
Alec stared at his hands, fidgeting with the remote. Alec didn’t have many nervous tics but it was always obvious to Magnus when his mind was racing ahead of him, leaving him emotionally drawn.
“Hey,” Magnus knelt on the ground so Alec didn’t have to feel like he was towering over him, expensive trousers be damned.
Alec looked up from his hands, only a shaky breath betraying his emotions.
Magnus gently took Alec’s hands in his. “I’ll be right there. Remember, I may be physically on their side but I’m there for and with you. Nothing you say in there will change my opinion of you. If anything, it will just prove to me all over again that you’re the strongest person I know.”
For the first time in what felt like months, Alec cracked a watery smile. “I love you, Magnus Bane.” The words were quiet, so much so that Magnus barely heard them, but it was the first time they had been spoken outside the walls of Magnus’s loft, away from prying ears.
Magnus couldn’t help the huge smile that grew on his face. “I love you more, Alexander.” He leaned forward, pressing a firm kiss to Alec’s cheek, before standing. “You can do this.”
He gave Alec a moment to collect himself before opening the door and pushing Alec into a room full of eyes.
The proceedings took hours. Four and a half, to be exact.
His heart ached for Alec as he looked the Clave members in the eyes and explained and re-explained in gruesome detail the pain he had suffered. Magnus wanted to be proud of him for speaking unwaveringly, and he was, of course, but he mostly felt anger towards the Clave. Alec shouldn’t have to relive his trauma, still so fresh, in front of a room full of unsympathetic strangers.
Alec was questioned backward and forwards, being the sole person to have been rescued from the string of Head kidnappings. He took every question, unwavering.
His breath caught though, when suspicion turned onto Magnus. Magnus watched, lips pressed together, as Alec swallowed hard and explained that Magnus was no threat to Shadowhunter society. Magnus suddenly felt the full weight of what Alec must have been facing for the past three hours as every pair of eyes turned on him.
Alec’s eyes suddenly joined them as he stared, steady, at Magnus. Magnus returned his gaze with a gentle grace of a smile.
Alec’s stoicism remained through the remainder of the interrogation. It remained as Magnus wheeled him back down the hallway they originally came through. It remained as he pushed Alec back into his room, soundly shutting the door behind him.
It was only as Magnus was helping him back into bed that he realized Alec was shaking like a leaf. His jaw was tense from the effort of keeping his teeth from chattering.
When Alec settled back into his bed, wincing and pressing his hand over his belly, Magnus had barely sat down before Alec was reaching for his hand.
“Would you sit with me?” Alec asked, suddenly, grasping for Magnus’ fingers.
“I am sitting with you. I wouldn’t leave, Angel.” Magnus smiled reassuringly at him, squeezing Alec’s hand gently.
“No, I mean…” Alec trailed off, weakly pulling himself up on shaky limbs and wincing. He shuffled across the bed, just enough to create room for two people.
Magnus’ face softened as his heart seemed to melt into a gooey puddle. He stood and climbed into the bed as gently as possible, doing his best not to disturb Alec’s injuries.
Alec grit his teeth but gingerly rolled onto his side that had neither broken ribs nor a gash and rested his head on Magnus’ chest.
They sat in content silence for a moment before Alec spoke softly, “I’m sorry you had to hear-”
Magnus interrupted. He couldn’t let Alec go down that road. “Hey, you don’t have to be sorry. I told you before but I’ll repeat it as many times as you need. All it does is make me think of you as even stronger than before.” He wrapped his arms around Alec as snugly as he could, nuzzling his face into Alec’s dark hair.
He was still trembling but that was ok. He had Magnus right there. It would eventually ease and for now, they were ok.
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Hello! Hope you like the newest chapter! I'm moving back into school in the next few days so sorry if the time between updates stretches out. Also I wrote this while watching Over the Garden Wall and making myself Sad and honestly? It shows. Anyway, hope you like it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hearing what Alec had been through in gruesome detail had weighed heavily on Magnus’ mind. He felt a new sense of guilt when he switched off with Jace or Isabelle and had to remind himself that those were Alec’s siblings. It was good for Alec’s mental state to have positive contact with them and remind him that he was safe. Magnus still couldn’t unwind the knot in his stomach when Alec clung onto him just a bit tighter before Magnus had to leave.
Alec seemed to open up a bit more towards Magnus but he still had a hard time speaking to people. He’d begun a new habit of apologizing. “I’m sorry” seemed to tumble out of his mouth with every other word. This did little to abate Magnus’ and his sibling’s worry but Alec didn’t seem to hear when they pleaded with him that there was no need to apologize.
Alec had been in the hospital for a total of eight days when he was cleared for release. The doctor explained with a furrowed brow that the demon venom was leaving his body at an abysmal rate but chalked it up to the fact that he sustained the wound while already in such a sorry state.
Alec grimaced when he heard this, pulling a hand up to press against his belly wound in a movement that seemed to have become unconscious. He had insisted that it didn’t hurt anymore but the touch seemed to comfort him. His eyes flickered to Magnus, who was standing against the wall along with Jace and Isabelle while a doctor and Nurse Jenny stood alongside Alec’s bed. “I’m sorry.” He murmured, barely audible, looking down to his lap. Alec was maintaining a firmly stony face, his tone the same as what he would use to apologize to his betters for a failed mission.
“There’s no need to apologize, Mr. Lightwood. It’s simply a fact.” The doctor smoothly replied before looking back down to his chart. “Your injuries have more or less stitched together but you need to be delicate on them. We recommend you use at least one crutch for the next week or two, particularly if your leg gives you trouble. Get a lot of rest. Don’t do anything strenuous for at least two weeks. Absolutely no training or missions for two weeks. Go easy on yourself.”
Alec looked more and more dismal as the doctor went on. Magnus’ heart sunk as he watched Alec’s expression. Alec needed the time to sleep and recover that the infirmary gave him but he had been antsy to leave, particularly in the last few days. They knew they were going to have to keep Alec off his feet and resting but the road wouldn’t be easy. If there was anything all Shadowhunters had in common, it was that they hated to sit still.
“Since they have been holding, I recommend regular iratze and pain runes. It’s a good thing you live in the Institute already, I would have recommended you stay longer if not so that if you have problems, we could watch you. If you don’t have any questions, you’re free to go.” The doctor looked up and eyed Alec.
Alec’s gaze remained downturned while the doctor was speaking but he looked up when the doctor finished speaking and shook his head, face set in the blank expression that betrayed no emotion. Magnus upheld his hypothesis that that expression was the first lesson at the Shadowhunter Academy, if not part of the syllabus week.
Alec carefully watched the doctor leave and waited a beat before shoving the covers aside. Magnus’ heart tightened as the black cast wrapped around Alec’s lower leg was revealed. It was always hard seeing Alec hurt but there was something about the cast that cut him to the core. Magnus had no reason to be more upset about the cast than any other bump or scrape Alec came home with and yet…
Alec swung his legs over the side of the bed in a motion that was far too swift and tried to hide a wince as his foot hit the ground. Magnus opened his mouth to advise Alec to maybe take it easy, he hasn’t stood in over a week, when Alec suddenly forced himself up into a standing position. Magnus did run forward, along with Jace and Isabelle, when Alec suddenly pitched to the side, catching himself as he leaned heavily on his cast. Three sets of hands quickly reached out only to retract just as fast when Alec flinched as if he’d been punched.
“I’m sorry, I just-” Alec took a deep breath, leaning heavily on his crutch and clutching it firmly with both hands. “I can do it.”
Magnus’ hand hovered in front of him, afraid to touch Alec but wanting desperately to help.
As Alec began to straighten up and settle ono his crutch, Magnus tried once more to offer help. “Angel, Isabelle brought you some of your clothes. I can get them on you if you’d like.”
Isabelle tried to offer a smile. “We figured you wouldn’t want to be walking around the Institute in a hospital gown.”
“I won’t be walking much of anywhere.” Alec had been staring intently at the floor but glanced up at Magnus’ offer. “Yes, please.” He spoke in a barely audible voice.
With a snap of Magnus’ fingers, Alec’s hospital gown was neatly folded on the infirmary bed and Alec was clad in his favorite black sweater and sweatpants, loose in the leg to fit over his cast.
“Thank you.” Alec said in that same horrible, soft voice. Magnus could only be grateful that it wasn’t followed by an apology.
Alec straightened once more, getting back to close to his full height, appearing to be more confident now that he was back in his own clothes. “I can do it.” He repeated, sounding more sure of himself this time.
With that, Alec began to shuffle out the door. Jace, Isabelle, and Magnus hovered behind him at what Magnus hoped was a respectful distance.
Magnus ached to say something to Alec, anything that would make his beloved boy less despondent. No words seemed to supply themselves by the time they got to Alec’s bedroom door.
Alec opened the door and was in the doorway when Magnus’ brain finally offered up, “Would you like one of us to stay with you?”
Alec paused before gently shaking his head. “I’d like to be alone. I’m sorry.”
Anger flared in Magnus’ stomach at the apology. Not at Alec but at those who had made him feel as though he had to act this way. “You don’t have anything to apologize for. I’ll be at the loft if you need anything. Just call.”
Alec nodded, leaning heavily on the crutch. There were no circles under his eyes and he looked infinitely physically healthier than he had when they found him and, yet, Alec looked utterly exhausted.
“Would you mind letting me speak with Alec for a minute?” Jace suddenly spoke.
Magnus had never thought he would be glad to hear Jace speak but it seemed lately that Alec’s parabatai was rotting away with him. Jace had been swinging wildly between fits of anger and silence and, while Magnus preferred Jace when he wasn’t breaking the Institute’s property in a fit of rage, utter silence was a bad fit for the boisterous Shadowhunter.
Magnus and Isabelle nodded. Isabelle hovered for a moment, as Magnus stepped back, clearly wanting to say something but coming up with nothing. She ended up saying, “I’ll be right through the wall if you need me,” with a pained smile as she turned to go to her room. Magnus gently caught her arm and squeezed as Jace spoke quietly to Alec in the background. Isabelle gave what appeared to be a genuine smile as she headed off.
Magnus tried not to watch but he was drawn to the conversation between the parabatai. Alec had finally looked up at Jace, tearing his gaze from the floor and was nodding as Jace spoke intently with him. Alec gave a more definitive nod and Jace gently clapped him on the arm in a familiar gesture before Alec turned into his room, shutting the door firmly behind him. Magnus heard a lock click.
Jace looked weary but he nodded at Magnus and stalked down the hallway.
Magnus woke to a familiar pulse of his blood, that someone - or something- had stepped through his wards. He groaned, rolling onto his side to check the blinking alarm sitting on his side table. It screamed at him that it was four twenty-five in the morning and why was he awake, exactly?
He heard an insistent knocking from the heavy wood of the front door and growled in frustration that someone would bother him at this hour as he swung his feet out from under the duvet and stood, snapping his fingers to dress himself in a robe as he stalked towards the door.
What kind of news warranted a knock on his door at four in the morning but couldn’t be handled by a phone call or fire message?
The knocking on the door grew more frantic and insistent and Magnus ripped open the door, snarling, “what could possibly be so-”
He was cut off when he found it was Alec standing in front of him, leaning heavily on his crutch and looking as though he was startled to see someone despite having been the one knocking. Magnus’s face and tone immediately softened as he realized Alex was soaked the bone in rainwater and shivering like a hiker in a snowstorm.
Magnus’ mind raced with questions but the first to emerge was, “Angel, what happened?” as he ushered Alec into his loft. He didn’t miss Alec’s nervous glance behind him a moment before the door shut.
Alec didn’t seem to be seeing what was in front of him as Magnus gently pulled him towards the couch, snapping him dry before they hit the cushions. Alec stared down at the rug, white knuckling the edge of the couch as he seemed to stare through the floor and beyond. It was then, once he was dry and warm, that he realized Alec hadn’t been shivering from the cold.
Magnus slowly reached up to place a hand on Alec’s back and winced when Alec flinched before seeming to come back to the present. “Angel?” He asked softly, feeling the full extent of Alec’s spine tremoring.
Alec sucked in a harsh breath. “I-” He wheezed out, “had a nightmare.” Alec squeezed his eyes shut and seemed to fold in on himself as he hugged himself tightly.
“How did you get here?” seemed to be the next most pressing question.
Alec’s teeth chattered. “Walked,” He forced out as Magnus began to gently rub his back. Alec wheezed again but leaned into the motion.
Magnus tamped down the part of his brain that wanted to say, “walked! At four in the morning! With a crutch on a broken leg!” and the other part that wanted to admonish Alexander for not calling so perhaps they could have portaled instead. The trembling boy huddled on his couch didn’t need that. Not right now.
Luckily, Magnus didn’t have to find the right words as Alec suddenly surprised him by jolting into a standing position. His crutch was leaning against the couch and the thought seemed to have come to Alec too suddenly to consider grabbing it. He pitched forward, put off kilter by the combination of the sudden motion, the added weight of the cast, and his unsteady emotional state. Magnus darted to his feet and steadied him.
“I should go. I shouldn’t have come. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have woke you up.” Words began to tumble out of Alec’s mouth faster than he was able to control. He attempted to turn to grab his crutch but stumbled. Magnus quickly grabbed for him and gently turned Alec back around to face him.
“Hey, hey, easy. Please don’t apologize for coming, I just wish you would have called so we could have used a portal. I’m not upset with you, I’m just worried.” Magnus tried to keep his words steady but he felt like his core was shaking apart along with Alec.
Alec seemed to be struggling for air and clutched at his chest and stomach as though he was in pain. The sight physically pained Magnus but he forced it down and ran his fingers through Alec’s hair in a soothing gesture, using the other to keep him steady. The first step would be calming him down, an iratze could come later. “You’re ok, breathe for me, Angel. You’re ok.”
After a few moments, Magnus’ words began to sink in and Alec’s breathing began to even out. His breaths still sounded shaky and wheezy but they had slowed.
“Do you want to tell me what’s gotten you so upset at this hour?” Magnus asked gently, rubbing up and down Alec’s arms. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Alec coughed weakly, loosening whatever had gotten stuck in his throat while he was struggling to breathe, and looked at the floor, the ceiling, anything but Magnus.
“It’s alright, you don’t have to.” Magnus gently pulled Alec towards him, giving him the option to pull away if he needed, but Alec just sunk into the embrace and pressed his face into the crook of Magnus’ neck.
Magnus let out a shaky breath of relief and gently rubbed up and down Alec’s back. He needed this just as much as Alec did after the shock of seeing his young lover in such a broken state so early in the morning.
“Jace is so worried all the time.” Alec finally spoke after a moment, voice watery and cracked. “He told me today that he can feel what I’m feeling but he forgets that I can feel him too. I know it upsets him when I flinch and I know you and Isabelle feel the same way and I can’t keep hurting you. I’m so sorry and I don’t know what to do.”
Magnus pressed a kiss to Alec’s hair and continued to rub his back, scrambling for the correct words. This moment felt poignant and he knew he needed to choose his words carefully.
“Alexander.” He pulled back enough to look Alec in the eyes. It was only then that he realized his Angel’s eyes were pooled with half-shed tears that he seemed embarrassed about. “We are worried about you but it is not your fault. Being kidnapped was not your fault and you are not weaker because of it. We’re not upset with you for flinching. It makes us sad that you’ve been conditioned to act this way but we’d never be upset with you. Many would not have survived that ordeal and yet you did. It will take longer for your mind to heal than your body.”
Alec let out a wet exhale that became a short cough as it caught on the phlegm built in his throat. “I was afraid you weren't coming. I didn’t think there was any way I was going to be able to escape and I thought I was going to die there.” Alec’s words were softer than the rest of their conversation and vulnerable. They struck Magnus with a new kind of pain as he pulled Alec back into as tight of an embrace as Alec’s ribs could manage.
“How could we have ever left you, darling.” He murmured into Alec’s hair.
Magnus wasn’t sure how long they stood there but exhaustion began to sink into him. He was sure Alec felt it too as he began to lean more and more of his weight onto Magnus. “Would you like to go back to bed?” He stroked over Alec’s back.
He felt Alec give a tight nod into his neck and Magnus untangled from him and helped Alec back onto his crutch. Magnus worried as Alec wobbled his way to Magnus’ bedroom but he left Alec get himself there. He didn’t push but handed Alec the stele he had dropped in the living room. Alec had nodded and activated the rune as Magnus snapped himself back into pajamas and crawled into bed.
He wasn’t sure who woke up more during the night. He wasn’t sure how many times Alec darted awake, most often with a choked gasp but occasionally with a scream that made Magnus feel like he couldn’t breathe either. Magnus hadn’t expected Alec’s nightmares to increase significantly after leaving the infirmary but perhaps now that Alec’s mind wasn’t exhausting itself with healing his body, the full weight of his trauma troubled his mind.
Magnus found himself cursing his vivid imagination as his mind woke him with carefully crafted renditions of what Alec had so patiently explained to the clave council. However, he also found himself awake at every movement or huff of Alec’s, ready to soothe him back to sleep. If Alec didn’t wake, he would simply watch Alec’s chest rise and fall and eventually ease back into sleep himself, comforted by the knowledge that his Angel was alive and near.
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Hey! Sorry for the lack of update lately, I've been getting settled at school. This fit should be getting wrapped up in the next couple chapters and honestly I can't believe it's gotten so long? Also, I've been thinking about how I always get comments exclusively at night and I was wondering if ya'll are insomniacs or just Europeans. Anyway, hope you like it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alec felt like he’d been asleep for minutes when Magnus’ phone began to ring. A female pop singers voice screamed at him from the bedside table on the opposite side of the bed and Alec gave a low groan as his head pounded weakly. He rolled over, wondering how he had gotten so far from Magnus in the night, and pressed his face into the side of Magnus’ chest. He groaned again as Magnus flung his arm towards the phone, grabbing for it as he put his other arm around Alec and brought him closer.
“Can I help you?” Magnus sounded displeased.
Alec winced as a sharp ache shot through his ribs. Magnus’ anger rubbed him the wrong way but he tried not to think about it. He settled for wrapping an arm around himself and the other around Magnus, pressing his face in the side of Magnus’ ribs.
Magnus’ voice had softened almost immediately and Alec hated the relief he felt as he spoke again, “Yes, yes he’s here. He’s alright. He came in the middle of the night and stayed over. Yes, I’ll ask.” Magnus held the phone away from his ear and turned his head towards Alec, pressing a quick, soft kiss to his hair before murmuring, “Angel, Jace asked if he could speak with you.”
Alec wanted to talk to Jace, he really did. But the Jace of his dreams seemed to invade his mind once more and the thought of being confronted about why he had left when he had been told to stay in the Institute and rest, nevermind that he didn’t tell anyone beforehand, was overwhelming.
Magnus must have felt his anxiety, it seemed to be coming off him in waves these days, and gently rubbed a hand down his back. “You don’t have to.”
Alec shook his head but a pit of guilt formed in his stomach. He was so overwhelmed with emotion that he was finding it hard to breathe. It was a feeling he’d become familiar with over the past week.
Jace was worried about him. He had good reason to be considering Alec had up and left in the middle of the night. Alec tried not to imagine Jace or Isabelle coming to his room, only to find it empty. His mother and father must have been alerted. Everyone in the Institute would know. He’d have to explain what made him act this way.
He realized Magnus was talking to him and suddenly realized he didn’t have any air in his body. Alec wheezed in a breath as Magnus’ words began to sink into his head. “Alexander, you’re alright. Breathe with me, Angel.” Alec tried to match the pace of Magnus’ breathing but he was suddenly overly aware of the silk sheets and Magnus’ leftover perfume and the hand on his back and the sunlight beaming into the room and it was all too much.
He felt tears prick his eyes and squeezed them shut. He’d cried enough.
“I’m sorry.” He all but whimpered. Magnus had finally been free of Alec’s rollercoaster emotions when he was released from the hospital and then he’d thrown himself onto his doorstep in the middle of the night. It’s not like Magnus would have rejected him.
“Oh, Alexander.” Magnus sighed, kissing his hair and rubbing his back. Alec tried to lean into the feeling of it and push away everything else. The touch grounded him and all the emotions plaguing him seemed to evaporate, leaving only exhaustion.
Magnus must have felt when Alec deflated in his arms because he pushed back the hair sticking to his forehead and Alec followed the touch to look up at Magnus. “What’s wrong?” Magnus’ eyes were full of worry and the crease between his eyebrows cut Alec to his core.
Alec let out a deep, shaky breath. “Everyone’s going to know.” His voice came out weaker than expected.
“Going to know what, Angel?” The crease furrowed furthur and Alec suddenly felt ridiculous.
“It’s nothing. I just-” Alec looked away and then pushing his fingers through his own hair. “I left without telling anyone and they’re all going to want to know why.”
“It’s none of their business.” Magnus voice was firm and it surprised Alec into looking back at him.
Alec couldn’t find the words to respond and Magnus saved him from floundering for something to say by gently suggesting, “Are you hungry?”
Relief cleared his cloudy mind and Alec nodded. Magnus kissed his hair once more before standing. Alec stood more slowly, trying to keep a straight face as his body ached. Magnus must have noticed but didn’t say anything about it, silently handing Alec his crutch.
The pain had dulled to a constant, low ache that rose into a sharp pain when he moved too quickly or in the wrong way. As a Shadowhunter, Alec was used to pain but it never usually stuck around this long. With that thought in mind, he grabbed the stele from the bedside and activated his iratze. His runes had been getting stronger slowly but surely and relief coursed through him as an itchy burn stretched through his injuries.
Magnus had been watching him carefully so he offered a smile that Magnus brightly returned as Alec followed him to the kitchen.
Magnus leaned languidly against the counter and picked up a to-go menu from the stack, already beginning to wiggle his fingers as he asked Alec, “So what are you feeling for breakfast?” However, as he looked up, Alec was already picking eggs and butter out of the fridge.
Alec smiled a bit sheepishly, “Let me cook and thank you for everything you’ve been doing for me.”
Magnus’ face betrayed that he was very clearly torn between wanting to let Alec do as he pleased but also wanting him to rest. Alec took a step forward and kissed the expression off his face. “I’m alright.” Magnus’ face softened as he leaned into Alec for a moment before Alec turned away and began to pull out a pan.
Alec felt an unexpected solace as he smoothly buttered the pan, cracked the eggs, and sprinkled on spices. He was struck by memories of feeding his siblings on mornings when his parents had left him, barely two years older, in charge. He worked in a comfortable silence, only the clicking of Magnus taking down plates interrupting, and the experience felt over too soon. The role of caretaker was familiar and safe and he longed to return to it.
Alec brought the steaming pan over to the table, holding it carefully in one hand with the other on his crutch, and served them. Magnus showered him with lavish praise as they ate until Alec blushed.
“He fights, he leads, he cooks! What more does one desire!” Magnus declared with a flourish as Alec playfully kicked him under the table.
“You’re so dramatic.” Alec chided him but couldn’t contain the grin on his face.
“Ah yes, and you love it.” Magnus grinned back.
Their banter was so comfortable that briefly, Alec forgot about everything plaguing him. He could disappear into their easy conversation and erase worries of the Institute and his siblings. Eventually though, their chatter lulled and it was like a boomerang as it all came back to him.
Alec stood slowly, noting gratefully that the pain had dulled, and took their dishes to the sink as Magnus protested to leave them. He only got halfway to the dishwasher before they disappeared in a puff of blue smoke and Alec turned with a playful scowl that he couldn’t hold for long before both began to laugh.
“I need to go back to the Institute.” He sighed as Magnus stood and wrapped his arms around Alec.
“Or perchance, we could go back to bed.” Magnus pressed a kiss to Alec cheek with a wry smile.
Alec began to protest but was cut off with a sharp yawn as his lack of sleep began to catch up to him. “Alright but just for an hour and then I need to leave.”
They meandered back to the bedroom and Alec pretended not to notice as Magnus hesitated until Alec had climbed in before going to his own side. However, the gesture felt less overbearing and more loving than it had previously.
Alec could have groaned with relief as he sunk into Magnus’ lush bed and gave his body the rest it desperately wanted. Alec’s eyes were already shut when the room suddenly dimmed significantly, presumably with the use of magic. The room was slipping away when he felt Magnus tilt his head up and gently had him drink a flowery liquid. Alec thought he heard Magnus say something about helping him sleep but by that point he’d already gone under.
The room was dark but Alec’s vision barely had time to adjust before a lock clicked, the noise uncomfortably loud, and a door swung open as fluorescent lights were flicked on, nearly blinding him.
Alec scrambled to a seated position and frantically looked around at the small, concrete room before Jace walked through the doorway.
His grin was maniacal as he approached. Alec tried to ask where he was and what was happening but didn’t get the whole question out before his neck snapped to the side as pain exploded in his head. Alec found himself laying back on his side, completely disoriented as he reached up and touched his ear, his fingers coming away bloody.
“Why-” He muttered as the next kick came at his sternum, followed quickly in succession by three more. Each kick was accompanied by the sharp sound of a bone snapping in half and Alec couldn’t help but scream as his stomach lurched with familiar nausea of being overwhelmed with pain.
The assault stopped for a minute and Alec heaved for breath as he reached up to his chest to try to protect himself but could only moan as he felt something sharp sticking out of his chest.
He looked up at Jace, who still wore the same awful grin and everything seemed to tilt on its side.
How was Jace able to do this to him? Shouldn’t he be in pain too? Alec wasn’t sure why this seemed to be the only thought he was capable of having but before he knew what was happening, “why aren’t you hurting?” slipped out of his mouth.
Jace’s grin slowly slid into a sneer and then an enraged scowl as he brought his heavy boot down onto Alec’s skull and everything went black.
Alec heard someone saying his name but he didn’t want to wake up. Everything hurt and he was so nauseous and the darkness was so comforting. It was the touch to his hair that drew him back to consciousness.
He was laying on something soft and someone was stroking his hair. Alec’s eyes blinked open to a blissfully dim room - Magnus’ room - but a groan involuntarily left his mouth as it felt as though someone had stuck knives into his skull and ribs.
“There, there.” Someone - Magnus? - soothed, pushing his hair back. Alec opened his eyes more fully to discover he was laying in Magnus’ bed and it was, in fact, Magnus crouched on the floor next to him, stroking his hair.
Alec normally would have leaned into what was his favorite comforting gesture but right now, with every touch it felt like a blade was being pulled in and out of his skull. He wanted to tell Magnus to stop but opening his mouth yielded no sound but a weak whimper that he normally would have been embarrassed about but right now he was in so much pain that nothing mattered except getting Magnus to stop touching him.
“What’s wrong?” Magnus’ fingers carded through his hair but suddenly fiercely grabbed at it, pulling another awful noise from Alec’s mouth as pain exploded throughout him. “Cat got your tongue?”
Alec squeezed his eyes shut as tightly as he could, willing this to end. He wanted to say that it hurt, ask what was happening and why Magnus was doing this but nothing came out of his mouth but a desperate whine that sounded like a sob. Alec tried to pull away from him but he was in too much pain and another sob pulled from his throat as Magnus tugged sharply on his hair.
Alec opened his eyes and stared pleadingly at Magnus but he found no remorse in the electric, green cat eyes that normally brought him comfort. There was a glinting cruelty in them that made desperation and fear claw their way up Alec’s throat.
In a moment of clarity through the haze of pain and fear, a thought struck Alec. Magnus’ eyes were yellow. Not green.
Suddenly Magnus’ face twisted in the scowl akin to Jace’s and yanked so sharply on Alec’s hair that his whole head was tugged towards him. Alec screamed and everything fell away.
It took Alec a moment to realize that he was screaming. He tried to force himself to calm down but he couldn’t breathe and weak sobs began to spill from his mouth as he tried to curl up but found himself bound.
“Alexander, darling. You’re safe, Angel.”
Alec heard Magnus speaking but his voice sent a shock of anxiety through Alec’s spine and Alec only struggled harder against what he now realized were blankets tangled around him.
Hands suddenly freed him but as Magnus reached out to touch him, Alec scrambled away. “Don’t touch me.” He hissed, almost weak with relief that he could speak once more.
He pulled his knees to his chest and touched his head and ears frantically but his fingers came away clean. He was ok. He was alright. Everything was ok. Alec pressed a hand against his ribs and realized numbly that he wasn’t in as much pain as he had been, the idea that he’d been dreaming finally sinking in.
He looked frantically around the room and his eyes settled on Magnus, who was sitting on the edge of the bed closest to where Alec had been, and Jace, who was hovering anxiously in the doorway and clutching his chest in the same place Alec was.
“Alexander?” Magnus asked gently.
“Show me your eyes. Please.” Alec stumbled over his words but he was desperate to know that this was Magnus. He needed to be awake.
Magnus’ eyes softened and the glamor faded, revealing bright, yellow cat eyes. “It’s me, Angel. I’ve been trying to wake you. I'm so sorry, I didn’t expect that the potion would keep you from waking up if you had nightmares.”
It felt like every bone in his body wilted as Alec relaxed his body, only then realizing he was trembling violently.
“Can I touch you?” Magnus asked, voice full of so much worry that Alec’s heart clenched. Alec gave a weak nod and Magnus climbed into bed, gently putting an arm around him and letting Alec lean into him. “Jace was on patrol in the neighborhood and stopped to see how you were doing.”
Alec let out a weak laugh. “Not very well, apparently.” Magnus’ familiar touch was soothing and he relaxed into it, wishing he could melt and disappear. Embarrassment had begun to sink in now that he was no longer blinded with fear. Jace and Magnus let out anxious laughs.
Jace cleared his throat and spoke, never one for beating around the bush, “If you’re ready to talk about it, the Clave has begun it’s prosecution of the spies who…” helped get you captured hung too heavily in the air.
“Yes, I-” Alec struggled for something to say and instead took a deep breath, “Yes. In just one minute, let’s go to the living room.”
Jace nodded and turned, unspoken that he was leaving the two to speak privately.
Alec let out another shaky breath and pressed himself against Magnus.
“Was I part of it?” Magnus asked softly, stroking back Alec’s damp hair and gently infusing magic to take away the sweat that had formed while he was dreaming.
“Yes.” Alec replied, barely audible. He wanted desperately to be able to tell Magnus was he had dreamed about and how horribly anxious he was feeling but the words wouldn’t come. “Let’s go talk to Jace.”
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Hello! Sorry, this took a minute to upload but college is in swing and I'm admittedly struggling a bit with tying this fic up. I don't want to let it go yet but I think I've got maybe two or three more chapters left :,) If you liked this though, go follow my writing blog on tumblr! It's under the same name, grovegrocer, and I would absolutely adore if someone sent me prompt. Anyway, this chapter accidentally got WAY longer than the rest so perhaps that's my offering for taking so long with it. Hope you like it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Let’s go talk to Jace.” Alec said but made no move to get up. He’d calmed but was still shaking like a leaf and leaving Magnus’ arms felt like the worst thing in the world.
“Wait. Just another moment.” Magnus whispered into his hair but didn’t release his grip and, for once, Alec was grateful for his boyfriend’s ability to see through his bravado.
Alec pressed his face into Magnus’ chest, feeling his damp hair stick to his forehead, and breathed in the familiar scent, squeezing his eyes shut. Remnants of his dream plagued him and he fisted the back of Magnus’ shirt, trying to find anything to ground him to the reality that he was ok. He was with Magnus at home, not back there.
This was the worst of it all. The desperate, hopeless fear that had plagued him since he was captured. His stomach and throat felt watery, like a panicked scream could come out at any moment without his consent. Alec didn’t want to be scared anymore. He was supposed to be the leader that dispelled other’s fears. Right now though, he wasn’t that leader. He wasn’t a leader at all. He was sad and scared and vulnerable and the thought of acknowledging it made him sick.
Magnus seemed to sense his desperation because he stroked through Alec’s hair the way he liked and murmured, “I can hear you thinking. Stop it.”
Alec took a deep, shuddery inhale but didn’t respond. He didn’t trust his own voice.
“I’m so sorry about the potion. I was only hoping to give you a few hours of peace.” Magnus continued running his fingers through Alec’s hair and gently scratching through his scalp.
“It’s not your fault. I-” Alex hurried. He wanted so terribly to tell Magnus about how horrible he felt. He knew Magnus wanted to help him and Alec needed to confide in him because if not him, who? The words didn’t come. “Jace is waiting.” He finally spat out.
Magnus gently squeezed him and kissed his hair. “If you’re sure.”
Alec slowly pulled away and sat up, facing away from Magnus. He rubbed the fresh and dried tears from his eyes and tried to quiet the thrum of anxiety in his heart. The persistent ache in his chest had returned and he picked up his stele, drawing another iratze with slow and deliberate movements.
Magnus had appeared by his side. “You don’t need to do this today.” He gently advised, noncommittal to exactly what ‘this’ was.
Alec didn’t reply. He didn’t trust himself not to say that Magnus was right and they should just go back to bed. Instead, he stood, leaning heavily on his crutch, more for emotional support than anything else, and headed to the door. The ache in his chest seemed to grow stronger as he walked further away from the bedroom and he began to question whether the pain was coming from his ribs or deeper in his body.
He found Jace standing stiffly in front of Magnus’ bookshelf, hands clasped uncomfortably behind his back. The muscles in his legs were so taunt that a vision flicked through Alec’s mind of tapping Jace on the shoulder and Jace snapping around and punching him on reflex.
He settled instead on, “Have you read A History of Vampirism in Alicante ?”
Jace startled when Alec spoke and turned sharply, his face softening immediately. “No, I-... don’t believe the Institute keeps a copy.” Jace didn’t move but he seemed to twitch towards Alec, looking uncharacteristically unsure of himself.
Alec’s nightmare was painfully present in the forefront of his mind but he forced it aside and tried to clear the thoughts of Jace’s maniacal grin as he cleared the few feet between them and hugged his parabatai. Jace seemed taken aback at first but immediately reciprocated, leaning into the hug. Jace was still a bit stiff but Alec could feel his relief and tried not to feel guilty about what his whirlwind of negative emotions must be putting Jace through.
“Stop it.” Jace suddenly said.
Alec pulled away, moving his hands back to his crutch, eyebrows drawn together. “What?” Everyone seemed to be telling him that lately.
“Stop feeling so guilty. You haven’t done anything wrong.” It was like listening to a broken record. But Jace was looking at him so earnestly that Alec just smiled weakly and turned to sit on the couch.
They were quiet for a moment as Magnus magiked a martini into existence and held it out as an offering to the brothers, both of whom shook their heads. Magnus settled onto the couch, tucked next to Alec who had leaned over with his elbows on his knees.
Alec and Jace spoke at the same moment. “You said the Clave is-” “How have you been-” They both halted and laughed uncomfortably, neither sure of what to say.
“I, uh-” Alec looked nervously to his hands, twisting his fingers. He couldn’t lie to Jace, not when his parabatai had felt everything he had been through in the past twenty-four hours.
Jace mirrored Alec’s anxious expression but took mercy on him and launched into his explanation. “In a few days, the Clave will be putting Alice Hardwright on trial for high treason. They-” Jace looked from his hands to Alec to Magnus and back down to his hands. “They’ve requested your presence as a key witness.”
Alec felt nauseous at the thought of reliving his trauma through an interrogation in another room full of his betters, all unmoved by his words, staring and judging him.
Magnus snaked the arm not holding his glass around Alec’s waist and gently pushed under the hem of his sweater to stroke over Alec’s hip. Alec closed his eyes for a second as he dropped his head and he let the touch bring him from his spiral back to the living room. He took a breath before looking back up.
“I’ll be there.” Alec gathered some strength from the steadiness of his voice.
“Alec, you don’t need to do this.” “Alexander, they already put you through-” Jace and Magnus rushed as Jace sat forward onto the edge of the chair and Magnus’ gently touch on Alec’s hip became a more urgent press.
“I’ll be there,” Alec said more firmly, sitting up. The thought of repeating everything that he had already gone through with the Clave made his stomach churn but he knew that if he had a chance to prove himself to the Clave, he needed to take it.
Jace opened his mouth and quickly shut it. “Alec, you can’t-” He seemed to fish for words. “You were miserable after-”
“You don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do, Jace.” Alec snapped, suddenly darting to his feet. Magnus’ hand fell away from him. “It’s just speaking in front of the Clave! Why do you and everyone else always underestimate me, I’m not some weak-” Alec’s voice cracked. “I’m not weak.”
“Hey, hey. Of course you’re not weak.” Jace jumped to his feet as well, quickly followed by Magnus. “That’s not what I meant at all. You’ve just-” Jace pressed a hand against his parabatai rune. “You’ve been miserable and… it hurts.”
Alec’s resolve softened as guilt washed over him. “I’m sorry.” He whispered.
“It’s alright. I understand.” Jace’s phone dinged as he opened his mouth to speak again. He pulled it out of his pocket and checked the notification with a grimace before shoving it back in his jacket pocket. “I have to report back about my rounds. I’ll see you…” Jace trailed off, seeming unsure of when exactly he would be doing that.
“I’ll be staying here. For a few days at least.” Alec’s eyes flickered anxiously to Magnus as his doubts got the better of him and he suddenly realized he’d never asked. Magnus had never signed up to deal with the mess he’d become. Magnus though, just took a step forward and nodded, pressing a gentle hand against the base of Alec’s back.
Alec looked back to Jace, feeling more secure. “I’ll be here. You can come by if you want but I’ll be at the Institute on the day of the trial.”
Jace nodded, looking to his feet and then back to Alec. “I’ll see you. Call. If anything happens. I can always come if…” He touched his rune once more, unspoken that he would be there if Alec’s pain or emotions became too intense.
“I appreciate it but you don’t need to.” Alec glanced at Magnus. “I’ll text you if anything happens.” He gave Jace a small smile, trying to reassure his parabatai. “I’m sorry, again, about-”
“Don’t worry about it.” Jace returned his smile and headed to the door, glancing back at them before leaving and soundly shutting the door behind him.
Alec let out a shaky exhale and let Magnus rub up and down his back, leaning into it.
“Come on. It’s time for lunch.” Magnus smiled at him, pressing a kiss to his temple.
Alec brightened, “I’ll make something.”
Make something, he did. Alec made them the same chicken soup that had nursed Isabelle through the flu and comforted Jace through nights when he would show up to his newfound friend and brother’s door, teary from nightmares. He wasn’t sure what possessed him but making them food comforted him in ways nothing else seemed to.
When they finished eating, Magnus lavishing him with just as much excessive praise as before as an ansty burn began to settle into Alec’s muscles. Magnus sat at the kitchen table, watching as Alec bustled about the kitchen, washing dishes and putting away ingredients.
As he scrubbed a plate, Alec hazarded an offer to Magnus. “Maybe I could do some light training. Nothing much, maybe just an hour. Not even that, just half an hour.”
“I was actually thinking that I was feeling as though some dessert was in order. You don’t perchance know how to make any?”
The diversion tactic was obvious but Alec suppressed a smile as Magnus’s chair scraped and he came up behind him. “I’ve been told my brownies are divine.”
Magnus kissed behind his ear, placing his hands on Alec’s hips. “You’re the divine one here, Angel.” Magnus lingered behind him, pressing his forehead to the back of Alec’s neck. “I’ll be in the living room if you need anything.”
Alec settled into the familiar routine of measuring and pouring, smiling as he found the necessary ingredients that hadn’t been in the cupboards moments before. He ended up cooking all afternoon, Magnus occasionally coming in to check on him. His pain and anxiety fell away to the back of his mind as he made brownies and then muffins and then a stir fry for dinner.
“Alexander, you never cease to amaze me.” Magnus grinned at him as he stood, taking their plates to the sink. “Angel, I know it’s only seven but you must be exhausted.”
Alec’s stomach tightened at the thought of going back to sleep and seeing Jace’s crazed grin and Magnus’ cruel, glinting eyes. “I was actually hoping to take a shower. Being magiked clean works but…”
“It doesn’t compare. Here, I’ll clean up but first, let me make your cast waterproof.” Magnus crossed from the sink and knelt in front of Alec as he stood. He placed a hand against Alec’s cast and a cool blue glow wrapped around the cast before sinking into the material. Magnus looked up at Alec, adoration plain in his eyes as he pressed a loving kiss to Alec’s thigh before standing up and touching Alec’s face fondly.
Alec smiled gently and leaned into the touch before kissing Magnus’ hand and turning towards the master bedroom, heading for the bathroom. As he turned, he noticed Magnus wiggle his fingers and spark his magic through the air. Alec presumed the magic was aimed at the dishes until he entered the bathroom and found a drawn bath, water smelling potently of herbs. A fond smile grew on Alec’s face as he recognized chamomile, lavender, and jasmine, recalling that they were all flowers that promote healing and calmness.
He never took baths before he met Magnus, seeing as showering was the quickest way to get clean. Magnus had introduced him to the idea that sometimes, taking time for yourself wasn’t a bad thing.
Alec dwelled on this as he slowly undressed. He caught sight of himself in one of Magnus’ full-length mirrors as he gingerly pulled off his sweater. The pain in his ribs and stomach hadn’t been bothering him as much as of late but raising his arms over his head seemed to agitate it.
He held his sweater to his stomach for a moment, staring at himself in the mirror, before dropping the fabric to the ground. The blistering scar stretched across his stomach stared angrily back at him and Alec gingerly pressed his fingers against it, feeling the numb ridge of scar tissue and tight, black stitches as the pain of recognizing that it would never fully fade began to set in. He dug his nails into the angry, pink line and a sharp noise came involuntarily from his mouth as his body immediately reacted with an insistence to not do that again.
“Let’s make sure you don’t have the ability to forget.” His father’s voice hissed at him from the back of his mind.
Alec closed his eyes in pain, relaxing his hand to rest across his stomach rather than dig into it, and turned, trying to clear the voices in his head as he finished undressing and headed to the bath. Magnus must have infused more magic than he had originally thought because, as he sunk into the fragrant water, he felt his anxiety and lingering pain begin to abate.
He picked up one of Magnus’ shampoos and began to methodically scrub at his hair, tilting his head down so he didn’t have to reach as far up. Once he’d gotten through cleaning himself, he sunk down into the water so he was just enough above it to be able to breathe. Alec wasn’t sure how long he remained in the water but he found himself blinking awake to the sound of the door opening. He sat up sharply as fear shot through him but eased as he realized it was just Magnus, stepping halfway in through the door.
“Oh Angel, I’m sorry to startle you. I only wanted to check on you. I was worried when I realized you’ve been in for two hours.” Magnus apologized, eyes soft as he leaned on the doorway.
Alec’s heart thrummed uncomfortably as the aftershocks of adrenaline shot through him. Magnus’ magic must have done all it could because Alec no longer felt the familiar, comforting warmth of his magic seeping into his skin via the water. “It’s alright. I’m alright, I just- fell asleep I think. Thank you for the bath.”
“I’m glad you were comfortable enough to sleep. Would you like to come to bed?” Magnus came fully into the bathroom now, setting down a pile of black fabric that Alec recognized as his clothes, and took down a towel from the warming rack.
Alec drew his knees up to his chest, looking down. “Maybe in a bit.” The bath had taken away his anxieties long enough to sleep but the thought of falling back into the throes of a nightmare made his stomach hurt. He did stand though, and accepted the towel Magnus handed to him, wrapping it around himself. He toweled off and dressed deliberately, trying to keep the snaking scar covering his stomach covered, avoiding Magnus’ gaze as he began to get ready for bed.
“What’s wrong, Angel.” Magnus murmured as he procured another towel and dried off Alec’s back. “Anxiety is coming off you like heat from a fever.”
Alec was silent as he gingerly pulled on his pajamas. Magnus had lent him a pair of sleeping pants, seeing as Alec generally preferred fitted sweatpants that wouldn't lend themselves to fitting over a cast.
He wanted to tell Magnus everything. The details of the nightmare that had plagued him in vivid detail since this morning. The nausea of his stomach turning as he thought about admitting to the Clave again the details of how he got himself kidnapped. The raw anxiety of being afraid to go to sleep and suffer through torture at the hands of his closest friends and lover.
He didn’t speak until he finished dressing.
Alec exhaled shakily and pressed himself against Magnus, hugging him tightly. Magnus’ arms automatically wrapped around him, soothing up and down his spine. Part of him wanted Magnus to speak so that he wouldn’t have to but Magnus knew him better than that.
“I’m scared.” He admitted, embarrassed, into the crook of Magnus’ neck, barely loud enough to be heard. The words felt like a weight off his chest but hung heavily in the air.
“You’re safe, Angel. What’s scaring you?” Magnus replied softly, pressing one hand into Alec’s hair in a familiar gesture as the other continued to rub his back.
Magnus didn’t laugh at him.
The dam Alec had spent so much time and energy on building back up since his last outburst seemed to crack once more and words began to spill out of his mouth of their own volition. “Everything. I’m afraid to go to sleep because of the nightmares because I can’t take being hurt anymore, not by you, and I’m afraid to talk to Jace and Isabelle and I’m afraid when doors open when I’m not expecting them to because for three weeks that sound meant pain. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle talking in front of the Clave and that I’ll cry and prove to them that Sebastian was right, I am a weak leader. I’ve cried so much and I ought to be better than that, it's not like I haven’t been hurt before. I’m a Shadowhunter, getting hurt is part of my job. I’ve faced hundreds of demons before but the nightmares have never been so bad and I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid that you’re going to get tired of taking care of me because you do so much and you’re always there and you finally get away from me when I leave the hospital and then I deposit myself on your doorstep and become your problem again. I’m so scared that this is going to be the final straw for everyone and they’re all going to realize I’m not as strong as I pretend to be and you’re going to leave. Any other Shadowhunter or Downworlder would have coped better than I have. Not that I wish anyone else had gotten kidnapped but I’m so scared all the time and I should be better than this. I just- I just don’t know what to do.”
Alec didn’t realize he’d started to cry until a pained sob burst from his lips and Magnus wrapped him up tighter, shushing and soothing as Alec sobbed into his neck. They stood like that for what felt like hours as Alec struggled to calm himself down but could only cry in earnest and Magnus alternated between murmuring that it was alright to cry and that he was right there and Alec was safe, there was no need to be afraid.
It was only when Alec’s chest constricted and his breathing shallowed out that Magnus pulled away from him and placed his hands on each side of Alec’s ribs. Magnus was telling him to breathe but suddenly he couldn’t and he was still crying but he didn’t know how to get air into his lungs. He didn’t realize his knees had gone weak until he was sinking down to the ground, eased down by Magnus’ hold on him. He could barely hear what Magnus was saying to him but a wave of exhaustion suddenly shot through him as blue smoke seemed to pour from Magnus’ hands and Alec slumped forward into Magnus’ waiting arms.
“I’m sorry, Angel, I put an exhaustion spell on you. I wasn’t sure how else to calm you down except to make your mind too tired to focus on what’s upsetting you. Here, I’ll try to give you some energy back so...” Magnus trailed off as warmth seeped into Alec’s body where Magnus was touching him and suddenly, Alec didn’t feel like he was going to pass out.
Alec’s body went through such dramatic changes in energy levels so quickly that it surprised him into calming down by taking his mind away from his troubles. He was, however, left breathless and in a weak state of shock as he struggled to sit upright and ended up leaning against the cabinet instead of Magnus. “I’m sorry, I- I shouldn’t-” He gasped out, struggling to catch his breath as leftover tears rolled from his eyes..
“Please don’t apologize, there’s nothing to be sorry for.” Magnus reached up and gently wiped away the tears before cupping Alec’s cheek. The look of worry on Magnus’ face was too much to bear and Alec squeezed his eyes shut as he finally began to calm down.
Magnus allowed him a moment to collect himself before quietly prodding, “Alexander, would you look at me please?”
Alec forced his teary eyes open and looked to Magnus, who had slid his hand down to join the other in gently taking Alec’s shaky hands in his own. Alec’s mind felt utterly blank in wake of the waves of emotion he had just been sent through but the touch was nice.
“Alexander,” Magnus said slowly. Alec wasn’t sure if Magnus meant to be repeating his name so often in an attempt to ground him but that was the result it produced. He thought numbly that maybe Magnus was trying to steady himself.
“You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. You are barely twenty years old and you were kidnapped and tortured for weeks by demons wearing the faces of your loved ones. It is only reasonable that you would have this reaction. It’s been just over a week since you were rescued. You’ve been so strong but you went through horrible things. Let yourself recover.” Magnus squeezed Alec’s hands before reaching up to gently wipe away the fresh tears on Alec’s face.
Alec took a wet breath and coughed shortly on the phlegm stuck in his throat before hoarsely croaking out, “I should be better.”
“There’s no way to be better here, Angel. You can’t be expected or expect yourself to come out of this situation unscathed emotionally. You’re doing the best you can and that’s all you ask from yourself.” Magnus was quiet for a moment before shakily continuing, “I’ve been through terrible trauma in my past and although that was many years ago, centuries even, I am still haunted by it some nights. The face of that who tormented me. Their voice that convinced me I was worth nothing but cheap thrills. Perhaps they will always follow me but I try not to view it as something I must free myself of. It is simply something that happened to me and, while it may have affected me to become the person I am, you would never blame me for that, correct?”
Alec numbly shook his head, vaguely recognizing that Magnus was speaking of a past relationship he had hinted at before on dark nights when Alec woke to find Magnus sitting in the living room, staring into a fixed spot in space with a morose expression.
“How could you ever blame yourself for being in the same situation?” Magnus’ voice was so soft that Alec’s face crumpled and he sunk back into Magnus’ arms. He didn’t have any tears left in him but he needed to be wrapped in Magnus’ familiar embrace.
They sat there for a long while before Alec sniffed and sat back up, wiping his eyes once more.
Magnus let him take care of himself before softly speaking again, “I spoke to Catarina over the phone while you were in the bath. She advised me of a particular potion that could help you sleep, if you’re willing to trust me again. I understand fully if you wouldn’t-”
“Of course I trust you.” Alec gave Magnus a weak, watery smile that Magnus returned as he stood and offered a hand to Alec, who accepted it and pulled himself into a standing position.
“I already brewed it and was planning on saving it if you decided not to try it. I hope it brings you some peace tonight.” Magnus gently took his hand and lead him to the bed. Alec climbed in, sniffling softly, as Magnus picked up a small vial full of opaque, white liquid and climbed in next to Alec, offering the glass.
Alec took it and hesitantly smelled it. It was flowery and Alec tried not to think of the hell Magnus’ first potion had trapped him in as he downed it in one gulp and handed the vial back.
Magnus snapped the lights off as Alec began to feel heady and weightless, as though he was under anesthesia. He was suddenly gripped with the fear that Magnus was too far away, that he was alone, that it was dark and no one was nearby. He didn’t want to wake up far away from him again, especially not if he woke up afraid. Alec reached out across the bed towards Magnus and, upon making contact, did his best to move closer but it felt like his mind had separated from his body. Magnus seemed to sense his distress and asked, “Do you want me closer?”
Alec nodded desperately. He thought he did at least. Either way, Magnus moved closer and gently pulled Alec on top of him. Alec settled between Magnus’ legs and rested his head on his boyfriend’s chest.
“Is this alright?” Magnus asked softly, his voice the only noise in the dark room.
“More than alright.” Alec slurred, words seeming to come of their own volition.
“I love you.” He heard Magnus murmur into his damp hair.
“I love you more.” Alec mumbled as his eyes slide shut and the last thing he recognized was Magnus’ even, steady heartbeat against his ear as he fell into a blissfully dreamless sleep.
As always, don't forget to comment!
Hey! Sorry this has taken so long, college is kicking my ass. That coupled with the fact that I'm about to take the story in a direction I didn't originally plan for means chapter will take a little longer to come out but now that we've gotten some good recovery fluff, you can expect more plot coming along soon. I hope you like it!
Edit from Sept. 17: Hey guys, I managed to get a concussion so this probably won't be updated for a bit but on god I haven't dropped it I'm just not allowed to look at a screen rip
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Magnus woke unable to breathe. He coughed weakly but quickly realized as he tried to roll off his back that the source of his struggle was a nearly painful deadweight on chest. He blearily opened his eyes and blinked at the ceiling before a cursory glance downwards quickly explained away the weight.
Alexander was peacefully asleep, his head gently rising and falling in time with Magnus’ shallow breaths.
Magnus smiled faintly, fondness glowing through his chest as he settled into the unusual breathing pattern. He found that he didn’t mind it, not when Alec was so blissfully peaceful for the first time in so long. He watched Alec’s face carefully, content to lay still for as long as it took for Alec to wake up feeling better. There may have been deep, dark circles under his eyes but at least the creases between them had smoothed out. The beginnings of permanent lines had begun to form across Alec’s forehead and between his eyes and while it made Magnus’ heart ache that his Angel was so distressed, a flash of fondness shot through him as he took in all the tiny details that made up his face.
Alec took a breath more shallow than the rest and tilted his chin up, giving Magnus’ chest a nuzzle, before settling once more. Magnus released his own breath, having held it as Alec squirmed so as not to wake him. This was for naught, however, as Alec’s phone made an angry vibration on the side table and startled Alec into consciousness.
“What happened?” He asked blearily, raising himself up onto his forearm and rubbing his face with the other hand. He may have slept over a full night's rest but Alec still looked sleepy and the turn of his eyes was sad.
Magnus’ ribs groaned in relief as the weight was lifted off them but he would have taken a knife to the chest if it meant Alexander could have slept a bit longer, recovered a little longer before the day set in. “It’s alright, dear, go back to sleep.” He tried, rubbing his hands over Alec’s shoulders, knowing it was futile.
Alec reached for his phone, still looking as though he was only three-quarters conscious, and blinked at the bright screen before his face crumpled in guilt. “Jace called me three times and texted a bunch more.” Alec was quiet for a moment, scrolling through the messages. “He was worried about me last night.” He finally finished in a voice much softer than the rest.
Alec quickly tapped at his phone before returning it to the table and sinking back into Magnus’ waiting embrace. He pressed his face into the crook of Magnus’ arm and seemed to melt into the touch.
For a blissful moment, Magnus thought that maybe Alec would fall back asleep but the illusion shattered as Alec stirred once more, shifting so he was looking up at Magnus. “You let me sleep so late.” He accused, but there was no bite to his words.
It was only nine-thirty. He may have taught Alec about the wonders of self care but sleeping in was never a concept that would penetrate the Shadowhunter’s vocabulary.
“It’s not like we have anything pressing to attend to,” Magnus responded easily, smiling.
Alec wrinkled his nose and carefully picked himself up and off of Magnus, rolling off the bed and standing. Magnus lolled his head to the side, watching as Alec gingerly stretched his arms to the sky before grabbing his crutch. His wounds didn’t cause him anywhere near the amount of pain they had when Alec was in the hospital but he clearly babied them, even if he tried not to show it.
Magnus sighed as Alec headed towards the bathroom. Another thing sleeping in was good for was stalling the inevitable boredom that would infect Alec soon enough. It was much easier to keep the shadowhunter resting when he was asleep.
Magnus sat up and checked his own phone, only to discover the same situation that Alec had. He scrolled through eighteen panicked texts from Jace, all asking variations of why Alec felt had so horribly sad and scared and should he come to the loft? Isabelle had joined in the cacophony to insist that she knew Alec had told Jace not to come in this situation but she would be there in the morning if neither of them replied to their messages.
Magnus quickly composed a text intended for both of them. “Everything is fine. Alec had a panic attack last night but I gave him a potion and he finally slept through the night. He’s doing a lot better this morning. You don’t need to come.” He hesitated, wanting to include more details. Not only did he want to keep Alec’s siblings in the loop, but he also felt that the whole endeavor hadn’t just been hard on Alec and Magnus wished to commiserate on their shared worry. If Alec was any indication, bottling up bad feelings was no way to cope.
Magnus didn’t have time to debate before Alec returned so he sent the text as is and climbed out of bed, going to wrap his arms around Alec’s waist.
“What say you to breakfast?” He grinned.
Alec returned the brightest smile he had shown since being taken and Magnus’ heart soared at the expression. A full night of uninterrupted sleep had done him well.
The next few days passed nearly identical. Magnus was torn between feeling pity for Alec as his Shadowhunter became more and more antsy to leave the house and perform physically straining activities while the other part of him felt swept up in the domestic bliss that came with having Alec home for extended periods of time. With Shadowhunters the missions never ended and after missions came mission reports and there were always patrols to go on and report back on, nevermind training new recruits and even once all this was through, Alec preferred to spend countless hours alone or with his parabatai in the training room himself. He called it “the difference between life and death” but Magnus called it “home too late for dinner and a cuddle before bedtime.”
Alec baked until muffins and pastries lined their counter in piles and flour coated every available surface. Magnus didn’t mind. Mess could be cleaned after all and anything that brought Alec even a moment's peace was alright in his eyes. It was in the times when Alec tired even of cooking that Magnus could see his eyes cloud as the dark thoughts seemed to creep back in. It was all Magnus could do to pull him to the couch and distract him with a movie until Alec grew weary of the “mundane stupidity” and pulled him in for a kiss neither came back up from until their lungs burned for it. And then another. And another.
Magnus tried not to let his heart ache in despair when perhaps one of his hands ended up sliding down Alec’s body only for the boy to startle and shoot into a seated position when it grazed over the raised scar on his stomach. He’d try to soothe and apologize only for Alec to stutter out that he remembered Isabelle mentioning she liked croissants and that maybe he should make some. Magnus would be sitting alone on the couch before he knew it.
He tried to put the spare time to good use but he soon ran out of clients and fell back on texting Ragnor and Catarina until they would no longer reply. He looked to their conversations as a source of comfort but this too soon slipped away as he thanked Catarina for her suggestion of the potion and she informed him sternly that overuse could result in unwanted side effects, including the very real possibility of not waking up. Magnus wasn’t sure what was worse, having to tell Alec that his lifeline had been taken and watching as he struggled to put on a neutral expression as he faced sleepless nights full of terrors or waking up countless times to his blood-curdling screams as he writhed and begged Magnus not to touch him.
They decided to alternate nights when he would take the potion. The days worked like clockwork. On days when Alec had been allowed a full night's sleep, he was calmer and happier, less likely to cry after making a trivial mistake such as dropping the cup he’d been sipping tea from. Magnus couldn’t decide which of them was hurting more on days when they had both spent the night awake. Alec’s trauma was more obvious but Magnus felt physical pain aching behind his heart every time Alec flinched at the sound of a door or shied away from a comforting touch.
Magnus knew thoughts of inadequacy plagued Alec deeply and that, every time a sob broke through his barrier or he screamed himself awake, Alec was comparing himself to the imaginary. Someone else wouldn’t have cried. Someone else wouldn’t have woken up in the dead of night so distraught that they could barely stand to look their boyfriend in the eyes. Magnus did his best to dispel the fears with gentle kisses and strokes down his back but Alec’s pain remained tangible. A thing that seemed to weigh him down until he was too exhausted to remain awake and too afraid to sleep.
This culminated in the fifth night, placing them in Magnus’ bed as the morning light began to creep through the window and then pour in. Alec never wanted to discuss what he dreamed about but would often give the barest hints, murmuring that it had been Isabelle or his father or that they had hurt his leg or ribs. It was unspoken between them on days when Alec couldn’t bring himself to say even that, that it had been Magnus hurting him. Magnus knew before, though, from easy tells like the way Alec flinched away from him as Magnus shook him awake.
Magnus could do little more than sit, feeling utterly helpless, as Alec folded in on himself and made an awful, wounded keening sound as he struggled to breathe and calm himself down, so close yet so far away. He’d screamed himself hoarse hours ago and every pained noise coming from his mouth sounded like it had traveled over broken glass to get there.
Alec was obviously struggling between wanting comfort but being too freshly traumatized to reach out for it. He kept looking over at Magnus in glances that surely seemed more covert in his fear addled mind but Magnus just politely averted his eyes and let him. Alec finally seemed to have returned to this plane of reality and extended a trembling hand across the bed to Magnus.
Magnus knew the game well by now and he gently took Alec’s hand, at first lightly touching him with one hand before beginning to slowly rub over his knuckles, adding more pressure gradually. They’d slowly shuffle towards each other till eventually, Alec fell into Magnus’ arms and a lone, fresh sob would burst from his mouth as Magnus soothingly rubbed his back and ran fingers through his hair, loosely curling and damp with sweat, and murmured, “I know, it’s alright. That was a bad one.”
It was hard not to despair.
But every night, like clockwork, Alec would reduce to hiccuping breaths and his iron grip on the back of Magnus’ pajama top would loosen and he’d come out alright. Not good. But alright. Magnus pressed a final kiss to his hair as Alec began to stir and pull away, rubbing his eyes. He kept a soothing hand stroking over Alec’s spine, feeling his residual tremors through his shirt as Alec slumped into himself. Magnus felt a tight pull in his chest as his normally imposing commander of a Shadowhunter looked half his size as he pulled the blankets closer around himself, seeming desperate for any kind of comfort.
“Did you want to try to go back to sleep?” Magnus already knowing the answer but hazarded to ask anyway.
Alec would shake his head and when he turned his gaze on Magnus, his watery eyes were lost and desperate.
Magnus would smile comfortingly and say, “That’s alright. The sun’s already up after all. I’m sure you have something marvelous planned for breakfast.”
He may have dramatized the complements but he fully believed them and after all, he would say anything to get a smile on Alec’s face. It worked this morning and a small, watery smile quirked on Alec’s mouth before he ducked his head shyly and went to slide off the bed.
Magnus stood as well and watched as Alec situated himself onto his crutch. “Today’s the day your cast is coming off if I’m not mistaken?”
He was rewarded with a more steady smile as Alec wiped the last of the tears from his eyes. Magnus crossed the room and, as Alec was opening his eyes once more, wrapped him in a firm hug.
“I’m alright.” He heard Alec murmur although he reciprocated immediately.
“I know.” Magnus pressed kisses to Alec’s face and hair, starting slow and trying to convey how much he loved and cared for him but quickly sped up until Alec was laughing and pushing him off. Alec stared at him for a moment at arms length, face still puffy and red with tears but now calm, before offering a small smile and tugging Magnus towards the door.
With the mood considerably lighter, Magnus followed Alec into the kitchen and was content to sit at the table and watch Alec work. Alec’s training was expressed in unexpected ways, from the graceful cracking of an egg against a bowl that created a clean cut through the shell to the way he multitasked, whisking one bowl while watching the egg cook and somehow managing to chop a tomato in the meanwhile. Magnus was almost disappointed when Alec turned around holding two steaming plates. Almost.
“Alexander, these eggs are divine.” Magnus lavished around a mouthful.
“Don’t talk with food in your mouth,” Alec replied, hiding a growing blush and smile with another forkful.
They ate in quiet and Alec protested and sputtered as Magnus snatched the plates away from his hands but was quickly silenced with a firm kiss as Magnus snapped behind his back, sending the newly clean dishes back to their cupboards.
Magnus pulled away and gently nuzzled Alec’s nose, grinning at the smile he elicited. Magnus then placed his hands on Alec’s shoulders only to trail them down to his hands, entwining their fingers on the hand not holding a crutch and leading Alec to the couch where he pulled Alec down on top of him in a heap.
“Now that I have you trapped, you’re going to watch The Bachelor.” Magnus grinned, wiggling his fingers so the TV lit up as Alec halfheartedly squirmed in his grip, protesting. “You don’t even know any shows, what better suggestion do you have?”
Alec, silenced, gave him a playfully indignant look and settled with his back against Magnus’ chest as the show began to fold out. It didn’t take long though, for him to start to wriggle again until he had flipped and his face was nuzzled against Magnus’ chest, slotting their legs together comfortably.
Soon enough, Alec was sleeping peacefully, his exhaustion winning out over his fear addled mind. Magnus kept himself awake for a little while longer, stimulating his brain with the television, but remained hyper aware of any noise or movement from Alec. However, as the episode neared its end and the city began to wake, Magnus allowed his eyes to slide shut and fell into the throes of sleep alongside him.
As always, don't forget to comment! They keep me going and help get chapters out faster :,)
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
updated at last! I'm excited to get back on this, especially with school getting out soon so I can put more attention into it but I can't promise the next chapter for the next few weeks. I know I'm about to be too drained from cranking out essay after essay to do any writing for fun and turn out anything actually good but as always, this fic isn't abandoned, just victim to my schedule. Hope you like the newest chapter!
Magnus woke to a feeling that was familiar but unwelcome. He forced his eyes open as a quiet whimper left the squirming bundle in his arms but his vision was too hazy with sleep to fully understand. He blinked furiously, trying to clear his eyes and tried not to let his stomach sink with despair as the first thing he saw was Alec trembling against him. Magnus wanted to cry along with him as Alec’s jaw clenched and his lip quivered but he forced down the tremor of anxiety in his chest and settled into their routine.
Alec’s face contorted in fear as he struggled in Magnus’ arms, a soft, distressed whine involuntarily leaving him. Magnus bit his tongue to steady himself and gently untangled himself from Alec, knowing that the feeling of being restrained upset him dearly when he was having a nightmare. He propped himself up on one arm, settling the other in a light, soothing touch on Alec’s shoulder, and steadied his weight against the back of the couch so he could give Alec some space.
Alec seemed to ease momentarily as Magnus’s weight was taken off him but he flinched at being touched once more.
“Darling, you’re alright, you can wake up.” Magnus murmured, heart aching as Alec let out a breathy sob and tried to shrink away from his touch. “Easy, sweetheart, it’s just a dream, I’m here. You’re safe, Angel.”
Magnus began to gently rub up and down his arm and, suddenly fearing that Alec very well may slide right off the couch in his efforts to get away, snapped with the hand that was propping himself up to banish the coffee table that normally lived in front of the couch. That would at least keep Alec from waking up via a concussion.
Magnus continued to speak gently to Alec, encouraging him to wake up and murmuring that everything would be alright. It wasn’t enough to break through the haze of sleep and Alec continued to squirm and make soft, desperate whimpers mixed with the occasional sound that sounded horribly like Magnus’ own name.
Suddenly, Alec gave a heartbreaking cry as his arm flailed out against his invisible assailant. Magnus reflexively caught him by the wrist to keep him from accidentally injuring either of them. Alec didn’t need to be guilty on top of everything else. Alec made another hoarse noise at the contact but remained painfully asleep. Magnus gently lowered his arm and rested it back against Alec’s side, releasing it and loosely skimming his fingertips over Alec’s ribs and belly, hoping to soothe him with the familiar motion.
Guilt instantly pooled in Magnus’s stomach as he recognized his mistake, feeling his fingers brush over the raised skin of Alec’s scar. For a second, he was met with a pair of scared blue eyes as Alec, still hazy with sleep, pushed away from him in a panic that ended with him on the floor. Magnus went to catch him but everything happened too quickly. He sat up immediately, watching carefully as Alec sat in front of the couch with his knees drawn up to his chest, staring with wide eyes at the space in front of him as he seemed to come back to reality.
“Angel?” Magnus murmured, wanting desperately to reach out to Alec but unsure if the touch would be welcome, particularly after his mistake. He did mentally congratulate himself though, for having the forethought to move the table. Before he could feel too good about this, Alec let out a shuddery breath as he continued to stare with wide, rapidly blinking eyes. With one hand, his fingers flexed against the wooden floor as though he were searching for something to hold on to and the other fell into his new nervous habit of pressing it protectively against his belly where the long, red scar snaked under his shirt.
“Alexander?” Magnus tried again, slowly sliding off the couch to sit at Alec’s level. The movement seemed to drag him out of his own mind and Alec’s eyes snapped towards Magnus for a second as he took another weak, shaky inhale. He still didn’t seem fully there but Magnus placed a hand next to Alec’s, their fingers brushing together. He half expected Alec to flinch but he didn’t, allowing the contact for a few seconds before pulling his hands to his face and pressing his fingers into his eyes.
Magnus heard a soft, muffled sniffle and did his best not to stare at Alec with pity, wanting desperately to do anything that would make the beautiful boy feel safe. He knew better though, and instead remained still and quiet so he wouldn’t startle Alec just as he began to pull himself together.
After a few moments, Alec rubbed at his eyes one last time before finally uncovering his face. His eyes were red and puffy but dry and he seemed unsure of what to do, curling his fingers on one hand into fists and once more digging them against the floorboards. Away from Magnus’ hand, he noted.
When Alec finally spoke, it came out hoarse and wet and he had to clear his throat before trying once more. He wrapped one arm back around his stomach before trying again, stuttering through, “I’m going to… go take a shower… since we’re going to the Institute later…” Alec seemed dazed and unfocused, as though he still wasn’t fully present, but he stood hastily, cringing as he wobbled a bit on his cast. Magnus stood with him, automatically reaching out to steady him but rapidly pulling his hands away as guilt pooled in his stomach. He knew the touch wasn’t welcome. He picked up Alec’s crutch instead and offered it to him, “Alexander, I’m sorry for scaring you. I should have thought before touching your stomach and…” He trailed off, unsure of what more to say as he searched Alec’s face.
Alec was staring intently at the ground, pressing his lips together in a manner that would normally have made him seem angry but today he just looked… mournful. “It’s alright.” It was barely audible but he glanced up briefly and somehow, the expression in his eyes let Magnus know that he meant it. That everything was going to be alright but right now, he needed to go.
Magnus smiled weakly and nodded, watching as Alec slowly turned and headed towards their bedroom. The knowledge that Alec would only be gone for a bit didn’t abate the ache in his chest.
Alec released a shaky breath as he shut the bathroom door and swallowed down the discomfort that rose up his throat as he locked the door behind him. He tried not to dwell on the ideas that had been plaguing him since he’s woken up in the hospital but the sound of the lock still made his skin prick.
Would he ever be able to hear that noise without dread crawling up his spine?
He placed his hands on the rim of the sink and tried to steady himself by the cold that seeped into his skin. Alec had succeeded in calming himself down externally but still felt his mind in the throes of fight or flight. He’d spent nineteen years learning to carefully repress his emotions so that no matter what he was feeling, it wouldn’t escape into an outward expression. It had only taken three weeks to destroy it all and leave him a mess.
He realized his eyes were squeezed almost painfully shut and he forced them open, staring himself down in the mirror. Dark circles. Bloodshot eyes. Wild hair. Why was he here? He shut his eyes once more and slowly released the tension built up in his jaw. Why didn’t Magnus make him leave so at least one of them could get a decent night's sleep?
The threat of taking his shirt off loomed. Alec wasn’t entirely sure why he had said he was going to shower. He hadn’t showered since… it must have been since Magnus drew him the bath to help him relax. He’d avoided physically bathing since then and avoided Magnus’ eyes each time he was spelled clean. Magnus must have noticed Alec’s anxiety surrounding the raised scar lining his belly but thankfully hadn’t said anything. It turned Alec’s stomach to think about having to tell Magnus that he couldn’t stand to look at the mark that would forever mar his body and fill him with nausea to see and remember his inadequacies.
His wild eyes searched his own face in the mirror and he reached down within his consciousness to drag to the forefront the mask he’d spent so many years carefully crafting. It couldn’t cover the dark circles under his eyes or blotchy red spots on his cheeks but it formed his face into something more familiar and even. The sight of his steady expression only served to make his stomach twist so hard it lurched and Alec had to look away as his mind screamed in protest that he couldn’t possibly hide what it was going through. It had reached its capacity and it needed to release the tension before it broke for good. Putting a lid on it in the form of his carefully trained mask would only make him explode in the long run and send shrapnel careening into the people closest to him.
Alec reached blindly, eyes shut and head down, slamming the lights off with more force than was necessary. It did little to darken the room but he couldn’t do anything about the sunlight streaming through the window so he just forced himself to breathe and opened his eyes, turning towards the shower. Alec turned the lever as hot as it would go, suddenly overcome with a clamminess that made him shiver as he threw off his clothes and stepped under the steaming water, wincing at the burn. He took the heat for a moment, pressing his forehead against the cool tile of the wall and feeling the hair on his neck prick at the difference, before slowly turning the temperature down to be more tolerable.
Alec stared pointedly at the wall as he went through the motions of getting clean, trying to focus on how nice it was to finally be showering rather than the painful nag of his mind telling him that if he looked down he’d be met with a body that no longer felt like his.
He showered quickly, a habit that had been drilled into him from youth, and stepped out, quickly grabbing a nearby towel and wrapping it high on his waist once he’d dried off. His stomach sank as he realized that, in his haste, he’d forgotten to bring clothes with him. Alec placed a hand over where his towel was tucked tightly into itself so it would stay up on his waist and let it hover there a moment. It wasn’t so long ago that he would have had no qualms hanging the towel back up after drying off and fetching his clothes from the bedroom with nothing to cover him. And yet, now, the idea was overwhelming.
Alec stood, lost, in the middle of the bathroom, hair dripping down his back as he watched the mirror begin to de-fog, and made a snap decision, unwilling to watch as the mirror began to expose more and more of him.
He eased the door open and peered out, hearing the TV running in the living room and let out a small breath as he found the bedroom clear. He padded quietly around the room, cringing at the creak of his crutch, and fished a pair of dark jeans out of the dresser, quickly exchanging his towel for them. Alec had one of his own shirts in his hands when he spotted a black t-shirt, emblazoned with the name of a rock and roll band and a concert long passed. A small smile quirked on his lips as Alec folded his own shirt, carefully putting it away in favor of Magnus’ old concert tee.
He pulled on socks and a belt, soothed by the soft material of the shirt and the inexplicable comfort of simply wearing his lovers clothes. Alec finally perched on the edge of their bed, trying to settle his emotions fully before heading back out to the living room.
He pressed his fingers into the duvet and flexed his hands, trying to focus on the feeling.
He’d be at the Institute today for the first time since he left in the middle of the night, too shaken by nightmares to even consider anything other than being with Magnus, even if that meant walking across the dark city during a storm, soaking the cast he’d been under specific instruction to keep dry. Thank goodness for magic.
Surely no one would have focused so heavily on him that they would know what he did? Of course Jace and Isabelle and perhaps his parents knew but Alec was sure he’d have to resign and move continents if the rest of the Shadowhunter’s knew. How could he ever keep pretending to be a leader when all of his betters and charges looked at him and saw a frightened boy, barely out of his teenage years, too traumatized to be of any use?
He’d broken and thrown away everything his parents had worked for for twenty years. He was supposed to be the thing that put them back in good standing with the Clave and they’d been so close he could taste it. Head of the Institute at only twenty years old, best of the best in strategy and politics, on his way to Consulship. All for nothing. All wiped clean by his own inadequacy.
Maybe this was for the best. Maybe it was for the benefit of everyone involved that he stepped away from this path and disappointed everyone early, before the consequences were more severe.
Why did it have to hurt so much?
His fingers trembled and Alec wanted to scream and punch something as he felt his throat close, the telltale prick of tears behind his eyes. Hadn’t he cried enough ?
A familiar footfall came down the hallway and Alec suddenly snapped back to reality as he realized the TV had turned off and he was gripping the duvet so tightly he wasn’t sure what would rip first, the fabric or his tendons. He forced out a breath and released his hold just enough to ensure he wouldn’t put a hole through the comforter just as Magnus appeared in the doorway.
Guilt radiated off him as he hovered in the doorway, anxiously looking to Alec, more unsure of himself than Alec had ever seen. It made Alec’s heart ache to see this reaction from Magnus, knowing deep down that he had overreacted and over what? A simple touch? One that so few weeks ago he would have leaned into and chased the feeling of?
“How are you feeling?” Magnus asked cautiously, folding his arms and pressing his hands to his chest as though the sight of them might upset Alec with the thought of touch.
Unable to bear the sight of Magnus so reserved and hesitant, Alec stood, ignoring the tremble in his knees, and hurried towards him. Magnus’ expression morphed slightly as hope worked its way past the caution and Alec pressed himself close, wrapping his arms firmly around Magnus’ middle, leaning against him to offset the bulk of his crutch. He didn’t reply to Magnus’ question but the soft, relieved sigh and immediate reciprocation told him that everything had been communicated through the press of skin on skin.
They remained that way and time seemed to still and narrow down to just them as Alec ducked his head into the crook of Magnus’ neck and Magnus pressed his face against Alec’s damp curls. Alec despaired as Magnus’ hands remained cautiously still against his back, fear beginning to claw up his throat that he’d ruined this, he’d scared Magnus away and he’d be too afraid to touch him ever again. But then, slowly but surely as they both leaned into each other, Magnus began to sweep his hands up and down Alec’s back, seeming to wave away the thoughts that had begun to turn his blood to ice.
The air around them was warm and familiar, as though an aura of comfort had formed around them, solemnly swearing to protect them as long as they remained exactly as they were. Eventually though, Alec knew he had to be the one to break the spell and croaked out, “Can we- Is it too early to go to the Institute?”
As much as he wanted to crawl back under the covers and let Magnus scare away the terrible thoughts, he couldn’t sit around any longer and let the dread of seeing everyone build and rot his stomach. He wasn’t sure he could stand another moment of it.
“Alexander-” Magnus began slowly, letting out a breath as he stroked over Alec’s shoulder blade with his thumb, “Darling boy, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone.”
Alec’s whole body ached with longing as he wondered if anyone had ever called him an endearment with such reverence and love . He gently closed his hand into a fist on Magnus’ back, holding his shirt as though it were a direct line to express this but remained silent, letting him continue.
“I know I’ll be repeating myself but what you went through wasn’t- it wasn’t just nothing. No amount of training or preparation could have rendered you invulnerable to it and you need to heal, just like all your bodily injuries. I know you’re hurting and- I just don’t want you to push yourself into doing something, even if it’s just going back to the Institute, just because you were raised to push through the pain.” Magnus swallowed hard and held on tight to Alec before finishing, “You’re not alone. I know I can’t understand what’s happening in your mind but let me carry this with you. I know you don’t need protecting but it’s killing me to see you hurting so severely and bearing the cost of it alone.”
Alec couldn’t formulate a response that would convey his heartache and the love he bore for him so he gently pulled back and pressed a soft kiss against Magnus’ lips, one hand coming up to gently cup his cheek as the other remained fisted in his shirt.
It was short and chaste and Alec rested his forehead against Magnus’ as they broke apart, searching his expression for a moment before softly saying, “I know you’re here for me and I love you but it’s hard- it’s hard to-” Alec trailed off, taking a breath as he searched for the words, “I know you’re here.” He finally settled on repeating himself and hoping that he conveyed everything, knowing he couldn’t possibly get across the overwhelming love and simultaneous despair bursting through him.
“I do want to go to the Institute today. I need to.” Alec added, softer than the rest, glancing away before looking back to Magnus. “I can- We can do it.”
A smile cracked Magnus’ expression and Alec couldn’t help but return a small one as Magnus pulled him close once more.
“We will. Let me hold you for a moment longer.”
“Thank you.” Alec breathed out, not sure exactly what for but he let the thought drift away and be replaced with loving touch.