Actions

Work Header

Tipping the scales

Chapter Text

Alec was twelve when Valentine's Circle overran Alicante, forcing every Shadowhunter loyal to the Clave to flee Idris, to abandon their Institutes all over the world, and to seek refuge in the mundane world amongst their Downworld brethren instead.

Even now, more than ten years later, no one is entirely sure how the wards were brought down, how exactly Valentine and his loyal Circle and those weird forsaken creatures - that barely make a difference between friend and foe - got into Alicante without anyone noticing.

Although, everyone kind of assumes it likely had something to do with the truly staggering number of spies and moles and traitors who had apparently been hiding themselves within Alicante and who promptly crawled out of the woodwork to stab former comrades in the back as they joined Valentine’s ranks during the invasion.

It had been chaos, making it all the easier for Valentine to take over Alicante, forcing everyone else to flee the city originally given to them by the angel Raziel himself.

That thought alone still stings sometimes.

+++

The attack had come in the middle of the night.

No one had expected it. No one had even considered that Valentine might so much as attempt a takeover, much less that he could possibly ever succeed.

They were all taken by surprise, utterly unprepared for the pure viciousness of the attack, forcing them to flee and scatter all over the world.

Insidiously, the first part of the invasion had been done in the dead of night, pure, cowardly stealth, as the Circle crept through the city, specifically targeting the more well-known, more powerful families in Alicante. And by the time the first alarms actually sounded around Idris, a devastating number of loyal Shadowhunters had already been killed, most of them in their own beds, never even having seen an attack within their own walls coming.

The Silent City and Adamant Citadel immediately went on lockdown, closing their walls to protect their secrets and priceless artifacts from those who might seek to take what wasn't rightfully theirs.

Of course, Alec only heard about all of that afterwards, seeing as his family had been living at the New York Institute back then.

Still, he remembers that night with perfect clarity, remembers the yelling and the confusion and the obvious fear from his parents and holding on to his siblings while not entirely understanding what was going on.

There are especially two images from that night that Alec thinks he will never be able to forget.

One is of his mother, standing in the doorway to his bedroom, backlit by the red flashes of the Institute’s alarms from the corridor behind her, face pale, one hand on her pregnant stomach, the other holding on to a sleepy Izzy's hand, as she urged Alec and Jace to get their coats and shoes and wait for her in the entrance hall.

The other image is of his father.

Not the one of him yelling instructions in the Ops center, alerts from other Institutes requesting backup against invaders flashing on the screens, as he assigned groups of Shadowhunters to follow him to Idris to help defend Alicante, and others to stay behind and defend their own Institute if need be.

In the end, they hadn't succeeded in either.

Because the other image seared into Alec's brain is of the next time he had seen his father later that same night, only eleven of the forty-three Shadowhunters he had led to Idris still with him, plus those who had stayed behind to defend the Institute, all of them bleeding, roughed up, and with a desperate sort of helpless anger around them that Alec hasn't been able to forget until this day.

And he remembers holding on to Izzy and Jace on either side of him as the adults talked urgently between themselves, voices grim, expressions angry, eyes desperate, remembers his siblings leaning into his sides, clearly exhausted but so very wide awake with the obvious fear they were picking up from the adults.

He knows his siblings didn't quite understand what was happening at the time, had been more than a little confused at finding themselves standing in a random back alley still in their pajamas with only their coats on top.

He knows that even now they can't remember everything that actually happened that night.

But it had been different for Alec. He had been just old enough, had already been training as a Shadowhunter for long enough, had been receiving schooling as the Lightwood heir for even longer, had spent enough time studying Clave-Downworld politics, knew enough of their history on both ends of the spectrum, to realize even then why his mother had looked so absolutely terrified when the alarms had sounded in the middle of the night. The alarms that signified the Institute's wards were down.

Of course, as much as he had gotten the gist of what was going on back then, these days Alec knows even more about the reasons why his parents had been honestly terrified, not only for themselves but also for their children. Knows that with his parents having once been part of the Circle and thus having personally betrayed Valentine when they left, they would never have received any sort of mercy from the Circle if any of their family had ever been caught.

And without a safe place to retreat to, his parents simply hadn't stood a chance of escaping Valentine, not with his mother heavily pregnant and with three children in tow, two of them their own and one of them adopted barely a couple of months ago, none of them fully able to defend themselves, not against Circle members and not against any Downworlders who might decide to take this chance to get their revenge against the Clave.

So, Alec also knows why, as much as his mother’s general disdain for Downworlders hasn’t really changed, to this day there is a certain gratitude in her voice when she speaks of those first couple of weeks after they had been forced to leave the Institute behind.

Because, that night, in their absolute helplessness and with nowhere to turn to, his parents had done the only thing they could think of.

They called the resident High Warlock for help.

Which turned out to be the best damn decision they could possibly have made.

Because as soon as he heard of Idris’ fall, Magnus Bane had not only sent word to every other High Warlock around the globe, but he had also immediately put the entire city of New York on lockdown, had called in the warlocks under his jurisdiction, combining magic to put up city-wide defenses, wards that somehow spanned most of New York's metropolitan area and locked out any nephilim who weren't already within city limits.

And then, in contrast to most other places, Magnus Bane had decided to extend the protection of his wards to everyone who had a reason to hide from Valentine and his Circle, Downworlders and Shadowhunters alike.

New York's Shadowhunters might not have realized it right away, but as more and more cities fell, more and more Institutes being taken over by the Circle, they certainly learned to appreciate the fact that their city was apparently home to one of the most powerful warlocks alive.

Who apparently also had a rather eccentric collection of ridiculously powerful warlock friends, who - when Magnus Bane asked them for help with fortifying his city - promptly answered his call. And after feeding their magic into the city wards, they also seemed to collectively decide they might as well stay now that they were here, cheerfully taking up residence in New York City and - as Magnus Bane was apparently happy with keeping just Brooklyn for himself - proceeded to divide up the other boroughs amongst themselves.

Somehow, their city ended up being home to some of the most powerful warlocks around, making for quite the formidable line of defense.

These days, Magnus Bane is rarely seen going anywhere without being accompanied by at least one other Downworlder, more often than not Catarina Loss or Ragnor Fell, frequently even flanked by both.

It might not be quite official, but everyone in New York's Shadowworld knows that their city has a sort of Warlock Triumvirate instead of just a single High Warlock as used to be the norm.

Then again, considering the sheer number of Downworlders who started flocking to their city - not only in the weeks immediately after Alicante's fall but also continuously ever since - having more than just a single warlock in charge might admittedly be a bit of a necessity.

And it's not only Downworlders.

Because New York turned out to be one of the very few cities where - as soon as the Clave fell and lost its hold on the Shadowworld - Downworlders didn't collectively turn on Shadowhunters.

If for no other reason than because their High Warlock made it so.

So, Alec knows his family was lucky, knows that Shadowhunters from other Institutes weren’t nearly as fortunate, being driven out of their cities the moment Idris fell and the Clave's retaliation to any action taken against Shadowhunters stopped being a threat.

Nowadays, Alec even gets why, can retrospectively understand why after centuries of having to deal with Clave laws - being treated as second class citizens at best and volatile threats at worst - the Downworld as a whole simply wasn't willing to extend their own protections to Shadowhunters, not when collectively kicking out all nephilim was so much easier and safer for everyone else.

In those early days, when Shadowhunters suddenly found themselves without any sort of safe haven to retreat to, without allies or resources to fall back on, they had made rather easy pickings for Valentine.

And, of course, New York isn’t the only city that decided to give refuge to Shadowhunters, and it most certainly isn’t the only city that held out against Valentine, not at all.

But New York with its city-wide protections, the security of warlock wards against anyone with angel blood who hasn't been specifically keyed into them, is something else entirely. Their only real security gap being that there is really no way of knowing how many of Valentine's people might have been within city limits when the wards originally went up.

Still, it is much safer than almost anywhere else in the world. There really aren't many cities that can boast something even close to their city's protections.

Sure, it's not like just stepping foot outside the wards will immediately get you killed, but the danger of a run-in is definitely there, and Downworlders and Shadowhunters alike quickly learned that the Circle is most certainly looking for any 'dissenters' and 'abominations' to eliminate, forever continuing their zealous 'cleansing' of the population.

Of course, these days - more than ten years after Alicante's fall - a sort of equilibrium has long since established itself, with quite a number of strongholds all around the globe where Shadowhunters and Downworlders alike congregate under the protection of their resident warlocks' wards, while the fight for the upper hand between the various factions - of Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and Valentine’s Circle - continues.

Thankfully, New York had been the first to put up wards around the wider metropolitan area, had done so while Valentine had still been busy conquering Idris, so at least the number of possible security threats is rather limited. Which seems to be enough of a reassurance for their High Warlock. Because the only way to reliably get rid of any Circle members that might still have access to the city, would be by kicking out all Shadowhunters. And Alec - and everyone he knows - is incredibly grateful that Magnus Bane seems unwilling to do just that.

So, he knows he and his family were lucky, simply because they were in New York at the time of the invasion.

And once the initial panic on all sides finally settled, ‘equal treatment for all’ had actually turned out to be a surprisingly popular sentiment, as signified by how even now it isn't only Shadowhunters who continue flocking to New York, seeking refuge, but just as many Downworlders who are apparently more than willing to live alongside nephilim, just as long as everyone is treated fairly.

Who would have thought.

The only other cities Alec knows of that can rival New York in sheer numbers of Shadowhunters and Downworlders combined, are Osaka, Cologne, and Johannesburg, an admittedly rather odd collection of cities.

Still, as a Shadowhunter, New York is definitely one of the better places to end up in.

Not only do they have a sort of cabinet of the city's various leaders - werewolf alphas, vampire clan leaders, faerie delegates, Shadowhunter representatives, and usually the High Warlock himself - where everyone gets to have a voice.

But also because Alec isn't aware of a single other city where Shadowhunters received actual help with settling into the mundane world, even if it was just with something as simple as forging identification or documents about schooling and degrees and supposed previous jobs.

Those initial couple of months where they suddenly realized that life was quite a bit harder without the Clave's financial reserves backing them, suddenly having to find ways to support themselves, to make enough money to feed themselves and their families.

Sure, as a twelve year old that sort of problem hadn't really been something Alec thought about, but he still remembers the stack of official-looking documents one Magnus Bane had handed his parents without much of a comment at some point. None of them might have realized it at the time, but after a couple of years outside their Clave-protected bubble, they all know just how invaluable those few pieces of paper actually are when trying to make a living in the mundane world.

As a kid, Alec's image of the future most certainly hadn't ever included his parents having actual day jobs, with his mother working at a book store and his father working at a normal office, and then taking care of assigning missions and patrols to the Shadowhunters of their city once they got home.

Same as he had never thought he and his siblings would be sent to attend mundane high school and then actually go to university, so as to give them better odds at finding a higher paying job in the mundane world later in life, even as they completed their Shadowhunter training on the side.

Alec never imagined being as much a part of the mundane world as he is part of the Shadowworld.

And it took New York's Shadowhunters about a year to strike a deal with the other city leaders, a deal that still lets them hunt demons freely, even if they are required to stay entirely clear of any Downworld business.

Alec is honestly glad that - Alicante having fallen or not - they still get to go after the demons forever popping up all around the city, to fulfill their angel-given duty the way it was originally intended, before the Clave ever decided that their angel blood somehow made them more and that concurrently demon blood must make Downworlders less.

Alec certainly isn't alone in thinking that the Clave might have been overreaching just a little with that.

And word spread.

Word of a city mostly safe from Valentine, where Shadowhunters and Downworlders were about as equal as they could be. A city kept protected from the Circle under warlock wards, kept safe from demons by Shadowhunters, and kept at peace under balanced Shadowworld law.

Word of a utopia, or at least as close to it as you could ever hope to find.

And even now, more than ten years after Idris' fall, it seems like almost every week another Shadowhunter or Downworlder - sometimes entire families or even larger groups from other cities - knock on the wards, asking for entry.

Alec has heard of the rather harrowing questioning everyone has to go through in order to gain access to the city, but most of them don't really complain about it.

Because why complain when it is that same protocol that has so far kept their city safe from Valentine's people gaining access as well.

New York's Shadowworld has grown exponentially in the past decades and just the number of Shadowhunters who now live in their city is almost staggering compared to the number that used to be assigned to their Institute. And all of them have certainly gained a new appreciation for Downworlders.

And one Downworlder in particular.

High Warlock Bane.

Even those Shadowhunters amongst them who might not like him, even those who might resent the fact that they are now more or less living under warlock rule, are fully aware that it is that same warlock who is also keeping them safe, the reason why they were initially allowed to stay in the city at all, and also one of the main reasons why they have been treated fairly ever since.

So, no one in their entire city would ever refute that - as much as he seems happy to take everyone's opinions into account - High Warlock Bane is the one person in their entire city who could easily topple the balance. If only because, as much as other warlocks still feed their magic into New York's defenses, Magnus Bane is still the one who holds most of the city-wide wards. By himself.

Everyone in New York's Shadowworld is fully aware that it is the High Warlock who their little utopia depends on, that he is unquestionably the most important, the most sought after, the most powerful person in their entire city.

So - of all people - of course, that is also the person Alec has been harboring a rather enormous crush on ever since he was fifteen and first met the warlock in all his sparklingly bright glory face to face.

Because, of course, Alec couldn't have picked an at least slightly more attainable person to fall for.

He knows full well that there is just no way that he could ever actually have a chance with the man, is actually fairly certain that Magnus Bane is at most vaguely aware of the fact that Alec even exists.

So, he has long since resigned himself to the fact that he'll live out his days as a virgin, gazing wonderingly, longingly - and rather pathetically - from afar at the only person he has ever felt attracted to at all, seeing as he just had to fall for the most unattainable person in their entire city.

Probably on the planet.

Possibly even including any other realms associated with theirs.

You know, just to further reduce Alec's odds of ever so much as getting to actually talk to the man.

+++

And then comes the day Alec accidentally stumbles across a rather insidious plot to get rid of said High Warlock from the inside.

Something Alec takes definite exception to.

Of course, he is only so very appalled at the idea that someone might try to kill Magnus Bane because of the implications for their city's security, only because there seems to be a traitor on the inside.

It has nothing at all to do with that enormous crush Alec isn't harboring. Really.

Well, anyway.

Now, Alec just has to find a way to warn the most sought-after man in their city of said murder plot, has to somehow get word of the traitor amongst his most trusted to the High Warlock, while also bypassing all those people he seems to be constantly surrounded by, seeing as Alec really has no way of knowing which one of them might be working with the would-be assassinators. 

...

Well, fuck.

Chapter Text

It is a plain fact that destroying a Greater Demon is nigh impossible.

You can rip them apart, can kill them, even utterly crush them, but they are woven so deeply into the very fabric of this world that truly ending one, is quite a bit more difficult than just dealing a killing blow.

They always recover, recollect themselves, gather power anew, reform from the powers that created them in the first place.

They always return.

Sometimes it may take them a while to do so, decades, or centuries, or even millennia in some cases.

But sometimes it's truly just a matter of waking up and deciding to.

+++

What Magnus said to his father about anyone who enters a portal unconscious getting stuck in limbo forever may be true enough for most people.

Then again, Asmodeus may be many things but 'most people' he certainly is not.

Maybe his son should really have kept that in mind.

Asmodeus himself is in no way surprised when he finds himself waking not too long after being thrown into the portal by his son.

First, he decides to take a bit of an aimless wander around this non-dimension of places-in-between – thinking it might honestly be best to give his son a bit of time to cool off before Asmodeus seeks him out once more – but finally he decides that 'limbo', as Magnus called it, is far too boring for him to want to stick around here for any amount of time.

So, he doesn't.

A wave of his hand, a rip in the fabric of reality, and he easily steps back into the world.

Admittedly, he is somewhat surprised to then realize that his own dimension is apparently gone. Destroyed by his own son and that nephilim lover - now apparently turned husband - of his. Destroyed after his son had taken Asmodeus’ throne as Edom’s ruler.

Which, is admittedly rather unexpected.

He has to hand it to his son. It’s been centuries since Asmodeus was honestly surprised by something, has come across something he hadn’t already planned for. But in all his plans and machinations and manipulations to get Magnus to join him in Edom, even Asmodeus hadn’t anticipated this particular outcome.

An approving smirk curls his lips.

His son has certainly gotten his revenge for Asmodeus’ meddling.

Then again, it’s not like Edom having been destroyed is going to be much of a problem for Asmodeus. He can always just pick another dimension of hell to conquer and then rule over.

How about Duduael?

He seems to recall hearing something about Azazel having gone topside a while back and then daring to put his hands on Magnus?

Demons are possessive by nature, don’t like other demons touching what they consider theirs. So, messing with someone of Asmodeus’ bloodline without consulting him about it first is truly the height of stupidity.

Even Lilith knew better than that.

So, really, Azazel should have known better, should have remembered that Asmodeus has only ever been second in power to Lucifer himself. And he thinks, taking over his brother's dimension certainly seems like a fitting retaliation for such an infraction.

Although...

A smirk creeps over his face.

Why not make things a little more entertaining? With Edom gone and Asmodeus supposedly having nowhere to go, he might as well make use of that excuse and go visit some family while he is here on earth.

His son and his newly minted husband are surely going to be delighted to have Asmodeus staying with them for a while.

It seems only fair they’d play host to him, after the two of them decided to destroy Asmodeus’ realm.

His smirk widens.

It will certainly teach them to never touch a realm under his rule again. If only to avoid Asmodeus moving in with them once more.

And it’s not like he is in any sort of hurry. He can always wait a while until he conquers another dimension of hell. He has nothing if not time.

+++

When Alec comes home after a long day of work to find his supposed-to-be-vanquished-forever father-in-law in their living room, cheerfully lounging on the couch, drink in hand, looking perfectly at home, while Magnus sits in an armchair across from him with an air of resigned exasperation around him, Alec is anything but amused.

+++

"Magnus, he can't stay here!" Alec says emphatically. "Remember what he did last time we saw him?!"

They are in Magnus’ study, far enough away to talk but still close enough to keep an eye on the Greater Demon lounging about in their living room.

"I know, darling," Magnus replies. But it sounds almost plaintive and Alec immediately feels bad for acting like Magnus is in any way to blame for this situation they have suddenly found themselves in. Magnus is really the last person who should be receiving any blame in this. "It's just... What am I supposed to do? Do you really want me to send him away? Then we won't have any way of knowing where he is at much less what he might be doing?"

Okay, Alec can admit that's actually a good point.

Letting a Greater Demon – who has not only managed to find a way out of portal-limbo but, upon realizing that his own dimension is now gone, apparently also decided to move in with them – roam about freely on earth is a recipe for absolute disaster. And - depending on what Asmodeus decides to get up to – will likely even end with the two of them having to hunt the demon down anyway.

Not to even mention that he can also hear the hesitation in Magnus' voice. Hesitation because clearly – despite everything his father has done to him – Alec’s soft-hearted husband cannot even imagine throwing family out on the street.

Even if it is Asmodeus they are talking about, the demon who almost succeeded in driving Magnus and Alec apart entirely.

Then again, considering what Alec's own family has put Magnus through ever since they crashed into his life and after Magnus has given all of them – including Alec – so many second chances, he knows it's rather hypocritical of him to be arguing against that particular character trait of his husband's now.

But still, a Greater Demon! In their home!

Still, Alec already knows he won't protest any further. Honestly, doesn't really have a single argument to really protest with.

He huffs. "How did he even get here? This is Alicante. He isn't even supposed to be able to get into the country much less the city!"

"He is sitting right here and can hear every word you are saying," comes the amused comment from their living room.

Alec curls his lips even as he rolls his eyes, before glancing back at Magnus.

His husband who is looking up at him, eyes apologetic but clearly unable to think of an alternative either. “Just for a while. Just until we can figure out somewhere else for him to go,” Magnus says.

It ends in an upwards lilt. Like a question. Like Magnus is more worried about how Alec might feel about having Asmodeus around than about his own discomfort, never mind the fact that it wasn’t Alec but rather Magnus who had to bear the brunt of his father’s manipulations, that it was Magnus who got hurt.

Because, of course, Magnus’ first thought is for Alec and not himself.

When has it ever not been?

The thought makes Alec smile slightly, helplessly.

Magnus with his too soft heart and far too much kindness, making him incapable of holding any sort of grudge against anyone, no matter what they might have done.

His husband’s too-big and far-too-forgiving heart is one of the things Alec loves most about him. Even if it apparently means he has to put up with his demon father-in-law in his own home for a while.

“Okay,” he finally says quietly, even as he takes a small step closer.

Watches an answering smile curve Magnus’ lips, eyes warm and filled with that loving, reverent adoration that still makes Alec’s breath catch every time he sees it.   

Alec takes another step closer, brings up a hand to curl around the back of his neck, feels Magnus’ hands coming to settle on his waist as he tilts his head to -

He could also really use another drink,” Asmodeus’ voice, full of amused condescension, interrupts them rather jarringly

Alec blinks.

And Magnus just sighs, even as he twirls his fingers absently to refill his father’s glass even from a distance.

“Thank you, my dear son,” Asmodeus comments brightly from the living room. “Now, why don’t you leave your husband to do whatever it is nephilim do in their free time and instead come here to tell me what has happened since we saw each other last and you tried to banish me to eternal limbo. I mean, aside from you destroying my realm, of course.”

A pause.

And then, Magnus sighs in exasperated resignation as he lets his head fall to briefly rest his forehead against Alec’s shoulder.

But – with the mood between them so very effectively ruined – Magnus finally steps away slightly and, after throwing him another apologetic glance, follows his father’s call to the living room.

And Alec just feels torn between throwing up his hands in frustration and throwing something at his father-in-law.

He certainly hopes that this interrupting-at-the-most-inopportune-moments isn’t going to be any sort of pattern. Not if Asmodeus is planning to stay with them for any amount of time.

Because if that turns out to be the case, Alec definitely isn’t above finding a way to get rid of his father-in-law for good. It’s not like it would even be the first time he vanquished a Greater Demon in retaliation for messing with Magnus.

He steps out of the study to watch Magnus once more take his seat in the armchair across from his father. And he can’t help but frown darkly, suspiciously, at the rather superior, victorious smirk Asmodeus promptly sends him over Magnus’ shoulder.

Hm.

Maybe Alec should just start looking into ways for banishing a Greater Demon to a dimension that no longer exists right away.

You know, just in case.

Chapter Text

It takes them years – more than a decade even – to notice that Alexander simply stopped aging at some point.

Sure, in hindsight, the signs are obvious. But in a world full of creatures who never age or die, another forever-young face simply doesn’t stand out.

Not until they know to look for it.

And it’s actually Alexander himself who notices before anyone else does.

+++

Magnus glances up from where he is leaning over the desk in his study, having been focused on the merrily bubbling  potion he is currently brewing for a client.

An immediate smile stretches over his face at the sounds he can hear coming from the entrance hall to the loft. The jingling of keys, the door opening and closing, some shuffling.

The familiar sounds of Alexander coming home from work. And he knows that within a minute or two – just as soon as he has rid himself of his briefcase and jacket – Alexander will come looking for him, will appear in the doorway to his study, make his way over, and give him a kiss hello.

After more than a decade of being married, it’s familiar, almost routine at this point.

And Magnus absolutely adores it.

The past couple of years have been wonderful, everything just seeming to fall into place, as if to make up for the rather hectic, overly dramatic first couple of months after they had first met.

Clary and Valentine and Sebastian and Lilith had certainly made a mess of things. For everyone. But Magnus still maintains that he and Alexander somehow got stuck dealing with the worst of it, more often than not despite not actually being directly involved in whatever potentially world-ending catastrophe was currently being produced by the usual suspects.

Thankfully, those days are long gone, and even the worst troublemakers among their group have mellowed a little these days. Magnus certainly doesn't miss it.

Of course, he wouldn't change any of it for the world. Because in the end it had all been so very worth it. Worth it to get him where he is right now, married to the love of his life.

The smile on his face widens.

Things with Alexander and him have been great, perfect even. They've been married for fifteen years now and ever since they actually figured out how to do that whole healthy-communication thing, there haven't been any real hiccups between them anymore.

Sure, they fight from time to time, but the only real arguments they seem to get into these days, tend to be about either of their work or about one of them doing something stupidly self-sacrificial. Sometimes both.

Case in point, their argument just three days ago about Alexander working too much and Magnus telling him to slow down a little.

Magnus glances at the time.

Hm. Considering that Alexander is apparently already home from work, his husband actually seems to have taken that argument to heart. How nice.

It's not even fully dark out yet. So, if Magnus hurries with this potion they might even have a chance to actually go out tonight, spend some time together, just the two of them.

He smiles at the thought, even as he quickly focuses back on the bubbling concoction in front of him.

The potion was already in its final stages, so finishing it is done quickly. Although, when he finally corks the last vial, Magnus realizes that it must still have been at least fifteen minutes since Alexander got home.

But Magnus has yet to get his hello kiss from his husband.

He glances up with a slight frown.

Only to find Alexander actually standing in the doorway to his study, clearly having sought him out, but for some reason not having come over. Instead, just staring in his direction, frown on his face, and gaze focused somewhere into the middle distance.

Magnus smiles somewhat confusedly but as always he is just simply happy to see his husband. And he is far too used to Alexander coming home with something from work still on his mind to give his absentmindedness too much thought.

So, he puts down the vials in his hands, closes the book he had been getting the potion recipe from, and then over to Alexander, smiling in greeting.

“Hello, darling,” he says once he reaches him, leans in for a quick kiss. “How was your day?”

Alexander kisses him back absently, eyes focusing briefly on Magnus once he pulls away a little. And then, his gaze just drifts into the middle distance again, frown deepening, clearly caught up in his own thoughts.

Magnus is happy to just wait him out. Alexander might have grown in many ways over the years, but communication or articulating his feelings still certainly aren't his forte. Sometimes his husband just needs a couple of minutes to gather his thoughts.

Finally, Alexander opens his mouth, closes it again. Another pause. And then, he - rather randomly in Magnus' opinion - asserts, “I’m almost forty.”

Which, okay?

Magnus waits for him to continue. But when nothing else is forthcoming, he just grins easily, “Astute observation, love.”

Alexander blinks at him, finally focuses on him fully as he frowns, shakes his head. “No. I mean I’m almost forty. But I don’t look like it.”

Magnus' grin widens. “Oh, I know,” he lets something of a leer spread over his face as he gives his husband a slow once-over. “I mean, I always knew you Lightwoods had good genes but I had no idea you’d age this well.”

“That’s my point,” Alexander almost sounds a little distressed now, and it has Magnus promptly sobering entirely, feeling a frown of his own crossing his face.

Still, he has no idea just what his husband might be talking about.

And clearly, Alexander can tell, as he takes a step closer to Magnus and demands, “Look at me. Honestly look at me. And point out one thing that changed about me since we met. Just one.”

Magnus blinks, honestly taken aback.

But it’s such a strange request, and clearly there is something Alexander is rather rattled by, so he does as asked, looks at his husband of more than a decade and compares him to the man he met.

Looks for the laugh lines around his eyes he knows should be there or the furrows in his brow, the thinning or graying hair one might expect from a man approaching their forties. 

He frowns.

Looks closer.

Reaches up a hand to cup his face, palm brushing over the beard Alexander has taken to wearing these past couple of years, lets his fingertips tangle in his hair, as his eyes keep skipping over his husband’s features, honestly trying to make out anything that might show Alexander's age.

“I…” Magnus is baffled, eyes still intent on his husband's face.

There is nothing. No laugh lines around his eyes, no grey hairs, not a single damn wrinkle.

Sure, Alexander looks tired, but that has been the norm ever since he took on his current position. And, sure, the hair cut is a little different from a decade ago, and the scar running straight down his left temple wasn’t there back when they met, and Alexander certainly hadn't been wearing a beard back then. But the scar is from a fight with a demon just five years back, and the facial hair has little to do with actual age.

And aside from that, his husband looks exactly the same as he did fifteen years ago.

Magnus just stares. How is this possible?

And how did I not notice?

Alexander is watching him intently and can clearly tell when Magnus finally comes to the same conclusion he himself had apparently come to at some point during the day.

And once Magnus finally meets his gaze with the same sort of baffled confusion mirrored in his eyes, strangely enough, some of the tension around Alexander seems to almost release. As though sharing the epiphany of something being off, makes it somehow easier to bear.

Then, Alexander takes a step closer as he says lowly, urgently, “Jace's hair is starting to go gray at his temples, and I know Clary started dyeing hers, and Izzy doesn’t wear her tight dresses anymore because she says it just depresses her, and Luke stopped going on missions altogether because he says he simply can’t keep up with the younger Shadowhunters any longer.” A pause. “My hair is the same, I have no wrinkles, and once I was done training that class of new graduates from the academy today, most of them couldn’t even walk without leaning on each other anymore.” Another pause. “I'm older than my siblings. And I haven’t changed.”

Magnus blinks. “I don’t… But how?” he asks, feeling so very taken off guard, eyes now honestly darting over Alexander's face, trying to find something - anything - that might show his age.

Because now that it has been pointed out to him, he can't not notice that Alexander truly doesn't look like a man approaching his forties or like someone who has thrown his all at his ridiculously stressful job for the past fifteen years, something which in and of itself should be taking its toll as well.

“I don’t know,” Alexander sighs, finally slumping slightly now that he clearly has Magnus on the same page.

Magnus immediately steps up to his husband, reaches out to pull him into a firm embrace. And Alexander just gratefully leans into him, arms coming up to curl around his back, face tucking into his neck.

And, again, suddenly Magnus can’t not notice how this feels exactly like it has for the past fifteen years, how aside from the utter familiarity nothing about this has changed, the way Alexander still holds himself the same, with the same sort of authority and uncompromising strength of youth, the way he is still able to forge his way through the mountains of work in front of him, no matter any obstacles in his way, despite supposedly not being a young man anymore.

It’s been fifteen years. And his husband hasn’t aged.

And in a dark, secret corner of his mind - one Magnus usually keeps shoved down, hidden from everyone, even from himself - a thrill runs through him. A thrill of pure, unadulterated hope.

Immediately followed by guilt.

Because he knows he should in no way be celebrating this and, of course, he is worried just what might have caused this, knows they’ll need to figure out what is going on as soon as possible, need to know whether it's something nefarious, whether they might even possibly have to undo it.

Still, he also can’t help but selfishly think that even if this – whatever it may be that has apparently kept his husband from aging these past years – turns out to be just temporary, Magnus will still be unspeakably grateful.

Because even if Alexander starts aging again tomorrow, right now his husband is still physically in his twenties.

Which means an additional fifteen years. An additional fifteen years Magnus that might get to spend with the love of his life. When he had never expected to get more than sixty in total.

Magnus will take every additional day he can get. Every second, if it comes down to it.

And in that quiet, dark, desolate corner of his mind, the part of himself that he has hidden as deeply as he possibly can, the part of himself that cannot even fathom existing beyond Alexander's death, sits up and takes notice, rejoices.

Because his husband has stopped aging. Frozen in time.

Just like Magnus.

And even as he tightens his arms around Alexander, even as he presses a kiss to his husband's temple, murmurs soft reassurances into his hair, that dark, secret, hidden - suddenly so helplessly, breathtakingly hopeful - part of himself simply can't help but wonder.

What if?

Chapter Text

Alec runs, holding on to the small form in his arms securely, one hand bracing the fragile neck and shoulders against his chest as he leaps over rooftops, down into dark alleys, across crowded streets.

He needs to get to somewhere safe, can't fail in this.

Another jump, a sudden twist around a corner, and then he is crouching down behind a dumpster in a dark alley, listening for any anyone who might possibly be following him.

He has to make sure, can't risk being followed. Especially not by  other Shadowhunters.

But even with an activated soundless rune, there are still always signs that give a Shadowhunter's presence away if you know what to look for, like the sound of a pebble skittering down a roof tile, loosened by someone's step, or the displacement of air as someone jumps a larger distance.

But even as Alec strains his ears, he can hear nothing. No suspicious sounds, not even his instinct warning him of any immediate danger.

He feels just the slightest bit of his tension loosening as he breathes out quietly.

And then finally he takes a second to glance down at the small head with the mess of fuzzy curls now resting in the crook of his arm, tiny fingers curled into his shirt, large blue eyes staring up at him in pure delighted curiosity, clearly having rather enjoyed their mad dash across the city. But still, not so much as a peep out of the child.

The child who is the reason why Alec is currently hiding from his own people.

The child who is also a warlock - the blue skin and the little horns on his forehead easily give that fact away - still a toddler, probably not even a year old.

And Alec can barely believe it.

Somehow, he managed to come across a warlock child, while on a routine mission no less.

But excuse his disbelief. Because warlocks are a truly rare sight these days.

For good reason.

And it's the Clave who is solely to blame for the disappearance of an entire race from their realm.

It all started with the purges. The Clave's darkest hour.

When, instead of passing judgment on Valentine and his Circle, the Clave decided to make a deal with the biggest criminal in their world. A deal that said, instead of hunting all Downworlders, Valentine would only target the direct descendents of demons, excluding anyone with so much as a trace of angelic blood.

Of course, that was before Alec's time. Before he was even born.

But he still calls bullshit on anyone claiming they hadn't known exactly what would happen once that deal had been struck. Because as much as apparently no one had put it into words at the time, everyone must still have known exactly what those criteria meant, who exactly qualified for 'cleansing' in the eyes of the Clave.

The Clave had given the Circle permission to hunt warlocks freely, even hunt them to extinction if they could manage.

And Valentine had easily agreed to the 'concession'. So, so easily.

With the backing of the Clave and all their resources at Valentine's disposal, the Circle's attack on the world's warlock population had been devastating.

So, Alec thinks they should all be thankful that Valentine had also miscalculated. As had the Clave.

Because in their self-importance, they had assumed that they already knew all there was to know about warlocks, including not only the identity of any truly powerful warlocks living on earth, but also the knowledge just how powerful actually qualified as 'truly powerful' in a warlock's eyes.

But their worst mistake had been to assume that by attacking warlocks en masse any of the more powerful warlocks would be drawn out from behind their wards in order to protect their own and could then be overwhelmed by the Circle's various traps.

Well, they had been absolutely correct that the Circle's wide-spread attack on weaker warlocks - children and teenagers and any warlocks who weren't strong enough to defend themselves against an attack - brought the more powerful warlocks out of hiding.

Yes, they certainly managed to draw out the most powerful warlocks alright.

Which had, however, been a mistake. A fatal one.

Turns out, whatever the Clave had thought they knew about warlock powers, much less about the truly powerful ones amongst their race, was rather laughably inaccurate.

The tables turned.

What the Clave and Valentine had thought would be a quick cleansing of the population turned into something else entirely as soon as the warlocks not only realized what was going on but then also promptly decided to fight back.

With the same amount of mercy they themselves were being shown. Namely, none.

And as warlocks all over the world stood up, even more deigning to step out of the Labyrinth to join the fight, as their most powerful rose and gathered under the same flag, to protect their own, and proceeded to single-mindedly go after anyone with warlock blood on their blade.

It was a slaughter.

Hundreds of Shadowhunters died within less than those first twenty-four hours as the warlocks mercilessly tore apart everyone who dared to lift a seraph blade against them.

It was the exact mirror of what Valentine had been trying to accomplish.

Instead of 'cleansing' the world of those the Circle saw as lesser, the prey turned right around and became the predator instead.

But the warlocks didn't stop at that, didn't stop at killing anyone coming after them. For once, they were clearly unwilling to give the Clave any sort of leniency as they might have done under any other circumstances.

No, the warlocks widened their retaliation far beyond that.

Sure, they left any Shadowhunter who didn't lift a weapon against them alone, didn't actually hunt them as such.

Instead, they went directly for the heart of the Clave.

The warlocks set their eyes on Idris, tore through their wards of their angel-given city, and razed Alicante to the ground. Leaving behind a wasteland full of ruins and rubble to forever remind Shadowhunters of the truly foolish decision to try and subjugate an entire race.

When pitted against an entire army of warlocks fighting side-by-side - their magic joined, power and fury and magic, set to tear apart anyone standing in its way, malevolent, vicious, merciless - Shadowhunters quite simply hadn't stood a chance.

The warlocks won. The battle and the war.

Unequivocally.

But then, afterwards, instead of celebrating their victory, instead of asserting their power over the Shadowworld, instead of making someone pay, the warlocks decided on a far more effective punishment, something no one had even considered as a possible outcome.

They simply decided to let the Clave reap what they sowed.

Some sort of unseen signal went out and the warlocks pretty much disappeared over night, collectively disappearing into the Labyrinth, locking their doors, and barring entry to anyone not half and half human and demon.

But not before draining all magic from this earth.

No one knows exactly what spell the warlocks performed before they disappeared to their own dimension, but the effect was more than obvious. It had turned the world into a magical wasteland. Even including whatever remained of Idris.

Shadowhunters had always felt so certain in their superiority that they never bothered to consider what might happen if those of the Downworld who provided them with anything magical finally turned against them.

The world without warlock magic turned out to be a much harsher place than the Clave had ever even considered.

Gifts given, charms commissioned, potions brewed. They were suddenly mere trinkets. Useless. Supposedly permanent portals, wards already cast. Gone. Crumbling away as though they had never been there in the first place.

Even some of their angelic boons turned out to have just enough magic in them to be affected by the spell, suddenly losing their power. Like those protective wards around Idris that were supposed to keep demons out. Like the wards around the Institutes all over the world.

And even years later, the angels aren't kind enough to return those boons to them.

Of course, the Clave blames even that on the warlocks.

However, Alec thinks it's far more likely that the angels simply do not deem them worthy of those gifts any longer.

Especially as the Clave apparently learned nothing from their mistakes with the warlocks, not even trying to rein in Valentine who - in want of any warlocks to murder - promptly turned on any other Downworlders he could find in the aftermath.

Like that particular development had been in any way surprising.

Which simply led to the Faeries simply following the warlocks' example, locking themselves away in their own realm, barring entrance to everyone else.

Which just left vampires and werewolves. Who definitely got the worst of it, neither race having any magical means of protecting themselves and Alec knows that there are entire countries where both races have been hunted practically to extinction.

Not that the lack of wards and magical protections and portals only affects Downworlders.

It's a fact that demons are making use of more and more these days, coming to earth to wreak havoc.

Shadowhunters definitely didn’t know how good they had it before the warlocks went to ground.

A quiet snuffling sound  brings his attention back to the child resting in the crook of his arm.

He glances down and finds large blue eyes staring up at him, full of innocence and bright curiosity. He can't help but reach out to softly run a finger down the child's soft cheek, checking whether the boy is still warm while he is at it, and one of his fingers is promptly caught in a tiny hand.

Alec doesn't even try to take it back, instead feeling his lips quirk up into a slight smile despite the rather stressful situation he is currently in.

It immediately gets him an answering, gummy smile, the sight of which quite literally tugging at his heart.

Thing is, just because the warlocks left this realm, doesn't mean that demons didn't continue to come here and impregnate mundanes.

So, warlocks still do appear from time to time.

But being a warlock in a world where even the bit of magic gathered in one as young as this boy is invaluable, is a fate no one should have to bear. Much less a child.

Alec might not have ever seen what happens to those few warlocks that the Clave has managed to get their hands on over the years.

But the fact that there are some Institutes with wards, Institutes that have somehow managed to find enough magic to feed into wards despite there supposedly being no source of magic aside from those few warlocks popping up around the globe from time to time...

Well, even the most favorable scenarios that Alec can possibly come up with for where that magic might be coming from and what might coincidentally be happening to any warlocks the Clave manages to get their hands on is rather bloodcurdling.

He's simply not going to risk anything of the sort happening to a child.

So, when he - during his supposedly normal mission - had spotted the blue-skinned toddler in some back alley, stuck in a cardboard box and shoved behind a stack of loading pallets, Alec had simply grabbed him and turned right around to sneak away, hurrying to put as much distance between him and the rest of his team as he could, before anyone had a chance to so much as spot just what Alec was hiding beneath his jacket.

He'll just have to come up with some sort of excuse for his unannounced absence from the mission later.

Actually...

He quickly fishes out his phone and shoots off a text to Izzy. 'Any more intel to add?'

The text is so vague that it won't raise any alarms with anyone who might be checking their message logs later. But it not only gives him something to build his excuse on later, but also lets Izzy know that something is going on with Alec - seeing as there isn't any actual intel he is waiting for from her - and that he might be in need of an alibi later on.

He is sure that by the time he gets back to the Institute, not only will there be some bogus mission in the logs supposedly having been assigned to Alec at the last minute, but likely Jace will also be cheerfully proclaiming that he has been with Alec the entire time while he was gone.

It's not like the three of them are new to this sort of thing. And they have yet to get caught.

See, one thing everyone just knows is that Alec is absolutely loyal to the Clave, that 'the law is the law' is his personal life motto, that he lives by the Clave's laws.

Same as everyone knows that Izzy and Jace do not in fact entirely agree with the Clave on all - or even most - matters, but that it's Alec's influence on his siblings that has supposedly kept them in line for all these years.

Which means that anyone within their ranks who might have any sort of problem with the Clave feels safe to approach his siblings with their concerns, giving them a pretty good idea who amongst the other Shadowhunters thinks along similar lines as they do.

Sure, their open disagreement with the Clave's laws also means that Izzy and Jace are watched, monitored a little more closely than others are, nothing too obtrusive but just enough to make sure they haven't been getting any ideas. Just close enough to make it impossible for anyone to claim that they are actually the ones responsible whenever things 'coincidentally' do not go entirely to the Clave's plan.

Which actually happens surprisingly frequently.

Well, not that surprisingly.

Because with everyone so very focused on keeping an eye on his siblings, they tend to entirely forget to watch Alec at all.

The Clave still hasn't cottoned on to the fact that the reason Jace and Izzy are supposedly still on the straight and narrow, isn't because Alec is keeping them there. But rather because Alec does all the rule-breaking for them.

And his siblings with their constant low-key surveillance then cheerfully provide him with alibis as needed.

It's a system they came up with a long time ago, when they were still in their teens and realized that none of them was willing to actually live by the Clave's directives but that being openly insubordinate tends to shorten one's lifespan significantly.

Alec will gladly hunt demons without second thought, even thinks that if the Clave were just a little less extreme, he'd probably be happy to bring in any Downworlders who are under suspicion of breaking the law.

But.

These days, being brought to the Clave for any sort of infraction is more or less a death sentence for any Downworlder, the trials tending to be little more than a farce and having very little to do with actual guilt or innocence.

So, yeah, Alec and his siblings tend to only hand over Downworlders to the Clave after having absolutely made sure that they are actually guilty of whatever they are being accused of. Not to even mention their various other ways of lending as much protection to the Downworlders in their city as they can while still staying in the shadows.

Which is actually what brings him here.

Because he needs somewhere safe for the little warlock resting in the crook of his arm and currently distracted by happily using Alec's finger as a teething ring.

And he knows that there is a werewolf pack living around here.

Sure, these wolves have taken absolute care not to give the locations of their den away to the Institute and there are absolutely no sightings of werewolves in this area, no suspicious activity so much as hinting at any sort of Downworlder activity anywhere near this part of the city.

If anything, they've actually done too good a job at hiding themselves.

Because the rather glaringly werewolf activity-free area on the city map caught Alec's attention years ago already.

And he might have been fabricating a couple of reports claiming werewolf sightings in this area over the years, just to make sure that no one else might possibly pick up on this particular - and rather obvious - pattern.

Still, despite his knowledge of their presence, Alec has never had any reason to seek them out.

Until now.

He takes another suspicious glance around, makes sure that there isn’t any chance of anyone having followed him here.

And then, he ducks down the dark alley he knows hides the entrance to the werewolves' underground territory, seeing as Alec and Jace scoped this place out a couple of years back. A few quick steps, through a door of one of the supposedly abandoned houses here, into the room on the right, down into the basement, and finally through the trap door in the far left corner, down into the catacombs stretching out beneath New York.

It takes him barely ten seconds to get down here, and as soon as the trap door closes above his head, he holds perfectly still once more, listens. Makes sure there isn’t a single sound from the building above him that might indicate someone might have followed him here.

There is only silence.

Still, the tension in his shoulders doesn't release in the slightest.

Because he knows that he is now in werewolf territory. On his own. Without any sort of backup coming.

Which is quite honestly not a good place to be for any Shadowhunter these days.

He glances at the little boy in his arms, makes sure he is properly covered by Alec's jacket to protect the kid from the rather chilly air down here, before he finally sets off slowly down the dark corridor he has found himself in.

Everything in him is alert, honed towards anything that might prove to be a danger to this child.

So, he knows he isn't alone anymore by the time he reaches the first branch in the tunnel he is in, knows he has company long before the low growling from the dark corner on the right even starts.

Alec just tightens his hold on the child in his arms, even as he turns slightly to face the sound, senses honed towards the rest of his surroundings, more than certain that the growl is designed to distract him from whoever else might be slinking through the shadows.

He picks out a second presence to his right almost immediately, another to his left.

Three wolves.

Admittedly, not the best odds. Especially with one of Alec's hands occupied and thus making it impossible for him to effectively use his bow.

The growling is increasing in volume, growing more aggressive with every second that passes and without Alec giving any sign of intending to retreat back the way he came.

Instead, he lets his free hand drop to rest on the hilt of his seraph blade, lowers his center, ready to defend himself and the small boy who is now once more held securely against his chest. But he doesn't actually draw his blade yet, still determined not to be the first one to show any actual signs of aggression.

Because he needs these people.

Needs them to return the favor of Alec having helped keeping the location of their den a secret for so long. Needs them to provide a safe place for the little warlock.

He quite simply doesn't have any other options. Not when keeping the boy himself would end with the child somehow landing in the Clave's hands anyway. Even if he were to go on the run, Alec isn't conceited enough to think he'd actually succeed at evading the Clave and the Circle for any length of time.

As much as he and his siblings have been playing the subterfuge game for years now, there is a reason why they have yet to openly rebel. No matter how much support they have managed to gather from various Shadowhunters over the years, against the entirety of the Clave they quite simply do not stand a chance.

Not unless they get some sort of support from the outside.

So. Alec can't fail in this.

Because if he fails, then this little boy will likely not even make it to his next birthday.

Not when Alec's other choices - either leaving the child in the mundane world but his so obviously non-mundane appearance practically guaranteeing he'll be picked up by some other Shadowhunter rather soon, or going on the run with the boy himself and probably being tracked down within a couple of months at most - all lead to the little warlock at the Clave's mercy, more than likely to be drained dry of his magic or any of the more gruesome scenarios that Alec has come up with over the years for what the Clave might be doing with those warlocks they manage to get their hands on from time to time.

So, even as he watches the massive, hulking form of a fully transformed werewolf slink out of one of the tunnels branching off in front of him, teeth bared in a snarl, growl rumbling threateningly in his chest, Alec only keeps his hands on his blade in case he is truly forced to fight for his life.

He watches as another two wolves follow the first, absently notes a couple more presences still hiding in the shadows behind them.

Yeah, even Alec won't be able to take all of them on at once.

If the wolves truly attack, then Alec's only chance of getting away with his life would be to sprint with full, rune-enhanced speed right back where he came from, out of the catacombs, into the city, back into Clave domain. Where the wolves won't dare to follow him, most likely for fear of an ambush at their front door. Which would, however, leave Alec without a solution to his problem of what to do with the child in his arms.

So.

Something has got to give. Before anyone attacks.

Alec's eyes narrow as he focuses on the wolves in front of him, easily picking out who between them is actually in charge.

He regards the obvious leader, steadily meeting the alpha's eyes.

Before Alec finally - and despite his instincts screaming at him - takes his hand off his seraph blade, and instead slowly reaches up to pull the fabric of his jacket aside, just enough to reveal the face of the blue-skinned toddler burbling happily at their surroundings, blue eyes large and curious as they take in the wolves across from them.

Everything stills.

Another couple of seconds before Alec carefully lets his hand drop to his side once more, loosely held over the hilt of his blade in case this still goes sideways, even as he waits for a reaction.

At this point, all he can do is hope that he hasn't made a fatal mistake by coming here, hope that these wolves will agree to take the boy in, agree to give the child a fair chance at survival in this less-than-optimal world they are all living in.

Or that they'll at the very least tell Alec where to go or who else to approach in his quest to give this little warlock a place to stay, a place to be safe.

Chapter Text

Alec not-so-patiently taps his foot, eyeing the people in front of him as the line moves forward incrementally, ever so slowly getting him closer to the counter of the little coffee shop he is currently in.

He barely keeps from rolling his eyes as yet another person dithers over whether to add whipped cream to her coffee concoction or not. Seriously, how can anyone put that much thought into something as simple as choosing their coffee order?

Alec also does his best to ignore the giggling group of what are likely first-semester students - five girls who keep throwing not-at-all surreptitious glances at Alec over their shoulders - in front of him. Maybe if he ignores them, they won't try to actually talk to him. Well, one can hope.

The little coffee shop is a students’ favorite and also conveniently set between the main building of Alec’s own department and that of the history department.

'Conveniently' because he tends to cross between the two buildings at least once a day, despite not actually having a single course that has anything whatsoever to do with history this semester.

But, well, the history building is where Magnus is at. Which - as pathetic as it honestly may be - is really enough reason for Alec to show up rather frequently as well.

And it's not like he is unwelcome there. Quite the opposite really. Magnus' smile every time he sees Alec is the thing he tends to look forward to the most throughout the day. Even if it is only under the guise of bringing coffee and visiting a friend.

Alec met Magnus barely two days after moving, coming across each other in the stairwell of the building they both apparently live in.

And as much as they don't really seem to have anything in common outwardly - Alec being his taciturn, standoffish self and Magnus being so bright he practically illuminates every room he steps into - they still hit it off right away, even before they realized that Magnus actually teaches at Idris University where Alec coincidentally decided to do his graduate studies.

So, when they realized they’d both be working at the University, Magnus had invited him out for drinks to show him the neighborhood and, well, they've been friends ever since.

In the privacy of his own mind, Alec sighs a little forlornly to himself at that thought.

Because, friends

He's been harboring a crush on Magnus pretty much since that first night they met, had been immediately drawn in, utterly captivated within the first hour as they talked. And by now, he is so far past the point of no return, so far past just crushing on the other man, has somehow managed to completely fall for Magnus. Someone who doesn’t even seem to register Alec as an option at all.

Alec would honestly give just about anything for a chance to actually take them off the path of friendship and steer them more towards a romantic relationship.

Alas, in the end, if friendship with Magnus is all he can have then Alec is absolutely willing to stick with that.

Some Magnus in his life is infinitely better than risking having no Magnus in his life by asking him out, just because Alec still hasn't figured out how to get over his rather insane crush on the ridiculously attractive history professor with the warm laugh and gentle eyes and genuine kindness in every single thing he does. Whose mere smile is enough to literally brighten Alec’s day, as absolutely stupid as that sounds.

Good lord, Alec is so gone on the man.

But just because Alec wants to have even more, wants to have the other man all to himself, wants to be able to call Magnus his, there is also absolutely no way he is going to risk losing Magnus. Losing what they have simply isn't worth getting the ever-growing weight of his feelings off his chest by telling Magnus. It just isn't.

Well, maybe Alec would actually get up the nerve to ask Magnus out if he had so much as the slightest inkling that the other man might even be somewhat interested in him.

Sure, Magnus admittedly does flirt with Alec, does so rather constantly even. But having known the man for a while now, Alec also knows that Magnus kind of flirts with everyone, has actually been flirting with Alec pretty much ever since the very moment they met, so he knows better than to read anything into it.

And with how hyper-aware Alec is of every tiny little thing Magnus does, trust him when he says, he'd know if anything about Magnus' behavior towards him ever changed.

Yeah, he'd know right away.

He blinks himself back into the present when the line in front of him finally moves forward a couple of steps.

It takes another couple of minutes until it’s finally his turn to order. When he finally does have his two coffees and scones in hand and turns to leave the shop, he somehow isn’t all that surprised to find the group of giggling girls still lingering rather obviously in front of the door.

It just makes him want to sigh.

But he doesn’t have the time to linger here and wait for the lot of them to just give up. Nothing for it, then.

So, he just strides towards the door and is utterly unsurprised when one of the girls ‘coincidentally’ reaches the door just as he gets there as well.

Well, she does proceed to even hold the door open for him – good thing too, seeing as his hands are full – and he calmly nods to her in thanks. But he then also promptly ignores the immediate, bright, flirtatious smile she is sending him, all coyly tilted head and batting eyelashes, mouth opening to say something - most likely something absolutely inane that would have promptly garnered her a scathing remark from Alec...

Well, she would likely have said something.

If it weren't for the fact that Alec is already striding past her, honestly already having dismissed the entire group – probably wouldn’t even have noticed them in the first place if it hadn’t been for all the giggling and glancing and near-pointing at him – and now entirely focused on reaching his actual goal, a rather familiar lecture hall in the history building.

He doesn't have time for anyone else.

So, okay, he doesn't actually have to be anywhere until his next class in about two hours...

But.

It's also Tuesday, which means Magnus has a half-hour break between his afternoon classes and, well, Alec was due a coffee break between grading essays from the course he has been assigned to teach pretty much on his own and working on his own studies anyway. And he might as well spend that break in decent company.

Right.

And so what if Alec doesn’t need to check in order to know that Magnus should have finished his class about five minutes ago? So what if Alec might have the other man's entire weekly schedule perfectly memorized? That's really no one's business but his own.

He finally makes it to the correct hallway, can already see the doors up ahead, can't help the slight smile tugging at his lips in anticipation.

Which promptly slides off his face again the moment he actually reaches the doors, being replaced with a scowl at the sight that greets him.

The sight of Magnus still at his desk at the front of the lecture hall, his bag already packed but clearly waiting for something.

Alec would even preen a little, fully aware that it is him Magnus is waiting for - it's not like Alec's visit in this particular timeslot is anything new - but his good mood is entirely dashed by the sight of the two students crowding around the desk in front of Magnus.

And, of course, Magnus is still smiling - always so very nice and kind and cheerful where his students are concerned - but he also isn't showing the least bit of interest in either of them.

Something Alec really wishes the students would pick up on as well.

If only because it would greatly help Alec's own peace of mind if people would stop coming on to the man he himself... likes. Yes, 'like' is a good word. Not the other words that might be a little more on the extreme side of things considering that they haven't actually ever gone on a date and considering the fact that Magnus doesn't actually seem to be interested in anything but friendship from Alec.

Yes, let's go with 'like'.

+++

Magnus smiles, easily answers the rather... bland question Lindsay Thurpin just asked him.

He doesn’t react to the way she is leaning onto his desk, rather shamelessly showing off her cleavage and her ridiculously short skirt. And, sure, Magnus is all for 'strutting your stuff' but he also lives by the rule that a certain finesse never goes amiss.

Well, her come-hither smile is easy to simply look past, seeing as he has more than enough practice in ignoring his students' flirtations.

Case in point, Brian Lawson who is still standing with his hip propped against the other side of his desk, despite Magnus already having answered all of his 'questions' about today's material, now seemingly just sticking around for no other reason than to continue flexing his muscles at him.

Honestly.

Magnus just suppresses a sigh.

You'd think at some point his students would collectively realize that he never goes out with anyone who is attending any of his classes or might potentially do so in the future.

And even if that weren’t a personal rule of his, it’s not like he is even vaguely tempted in the first place, no matter what they apparently seem to think about their own allure. Seriously, like there is any chance whatsoever that he might decide to simply drag one of these barely-twenty-one-years olds off to bed with him.

Well, okay, admittedly there is a certain twenty-four year old Magnus wouldn't mind dragging off to… well, wherever, really.

But that’s a completely different story.

For one, with Alexander actually working on getting his graduate degree in criminal justice - forever focused on his goal of joining the FBI one day - he isn’t actually part of Magnus’ department and thus that self-imposed no-dating-his-students rule simply doesn’t apply to him.

And secondly, Magnus would honestly challenge anyone to try and actually resist Alexander.

Alexander who is almost unreasonably gorgeous and so very self-confident, but somehow still pretty reserved, even standoffish with most people – an introvert if ever there was one – while also so endearingly enthusiastic about the most random of topics but still somehow being adorably shy sometimes…

Yeah, Magnus has known he didn’t stand a chance against this one pretty much ever since they met.

Not to even mention how difficult it has made finding anyone else who could possibly ever compare or even come close to living up to Magnus’ rather new, Alexander-derived standards.

Which brings him right back to his two students still lingering in front of his desk.

Honestly, these two and their absolutely blatant flirting would be almost humorous if it weren't also so very exhausting to deal with, so more-of-the-same. And also rather ill-timed.

Seeing as Magnus is actually kind of waiting for someone.

Not that he and Alexander actually agreed to meet here during Magnus' afternoon break... Then again, them having coffee together whenever their schedules align had already become the norm last semester, already a sort-of-routine barely weeks into the two of them knowing each other.

It still baffles him sometimes when he thinks about just how easily and immediately the two of them hit it off.

And by now, Alexander's appearances at Magnus’ lecture hall during their breaks has become so routine, he tends to firmly – and rather automatically – schedule them into his days. Almost like their shared coffee breaks were actual dates.

Despite the fact that they specifically aren't anything of the sort. As much as Magnus might still hope for that to change at some point.

Point is, Magnus has plans and a glance at the clock at the back of the room tells him that Alexander is already a couple minutes late, which means he should be showing up any time now.

Now, how to rid himself of his two over-eager students?

Which is the exact moment, Magnus spots movement by the door from the corner of his eye and he is immediately glancing over, smile already forming on his face, brightening even further when he – as expected – does find Alexander standing in the doorway to the hall, holding coffee as usual. And wearing a rather severe frown, which, quite honestly, is also rather usual.

"Alexander," he greets brightly.

So what if his demeanor changes somewhat abruptly whenever a certain rather tall, rather dark, and rather handsome someone makes an appearance? Magnus has no problem with letting his delight at Alexander's presence show. Like, none whatsoever.

The fact that even his two rather oblivious, still lingering students pick up on the fact that they have entirely lost Magnus' attention is only a bonus, even if it has the two of them promptly flipping around to see who is to blame for that change.

Although, they both immediately lose their scowls as soon as they actually spot Alexander. Whether due to the sight itself – which is quite something, in Magnus’ entirely unbiased opinion – or due to the really-rather-impressive scowl being aimed at them currently, Magnus can't tell.

He also doesn’t much care.

Finally, Alexander rather clearly seems to entirely dismiss the two students still lingering at his desk and instead proceeds to focus his entire rather formidable attention on Magnus.

As it should be.

"Magnus," he greets back, frown brightening at least slightly when he looks at him. "You free for your break now?"

"Certainly," he confirms cheerfully. "I was just waiting for you."

He ignores the way his students are now glancing between Magnus and Alexander, something speculative and clearly rather disappointed in their eyes.

And Magnus knows what they are thinking, knows the impression they are getting from Alexander - in all his tall-dark-and-handsome, leather-clad glory - showing up at his lecture hall just in time for his break, coffee in hand.

Yes, Magnus knows exactly what conclusions they are drawing about the sort of relationship he and Alexander must have.

It just makes him want to sigh forlornly.

Oh, how I wish. 

Chapter Text

Alec knows there is a dark scowl on his face, doesn’t even try to hide it.

He quite honestly doesn't even care right now, despite his current company. Instead, he barely keeps himself from scoffing out loud at the mere idea that he would ever agree to truly hurt Magnus.

Alec is here to make things better, not worse.

Irritatingly enough, Asmodeus just looks dismissively amused at Alec’s immediate and rather forceful refusal.

"Yes, yes," Asmodeus waves him off. "You are the embodiment of all that is good and righteous and never would you possibly so as much as risk hurting my son, I'm sure." There is something so very sharp in the demon's voice and the words almost make Alec flinch.

Because he suddenly has to struggle to suppress the deluge of memories that definitely contradict the demon’s words.

Memories of Alec hurting Magnus so often, far too often, of being so very careless with the heart of the man he loves, of seemingly always being left offering entirely inadequate apologies to Magnus in the aftermath.

Apologies that are of course always immediately accepted. Despite the fact that Alec just keeps on hurting him.

A trend that started way back, before they ever even got together. And he can’t help but think of those first couple of weeks of knowing Magnus and kind of just stringing him along, always denying that there could possibly ever be anything between them, claiming that Magnus could not possibly be worth Alec putting himself out there, but sure as hell not staying away long enough to actually give Magnus the chance to let go, forever showing up at the loft for some reason or other, a request, a plea, a demand, once more reeling the warlock in.

Sure, Alec hadn’t done it maliciously, hadn’t even really been aware of what he was doing, simply forever looking for any excuse to once more get to see Magnus despite constantly denying his attraction to the man. Even to himself.

During that time he had been so desperately adrift as his world was turned upside down, relationships and the very foundations upon which he had built his life changing or even crumbling from underneath him. And even back then, Magnus and his obvious, ever-present delight at seeing Alec had been like an anchor, like a steady rock to briefly find his footing again in the madness that was his life.

Which however doesn't change how unfair it had been to Magnus.

That indecisiveness on his part, stringing Magnus along just because he hadn’t been able to get the warlock out of his head despite his own certainty that marrying Lydia was ‘the right thing to do’, is still one of his bigger regrets.

There is a glint in Asmodeus’ eyes as he watches Alec that tells him his utterly impassive mask isn't enough to keep the Greater Demon from guessing just what he might be thinking about.

A thought that is promptly confirmed when Asmodeus tilts his head towards him just the slightest bit, voice soft but so very malicious as he adds on with a nonchalant gesture, "And I'm certain you would never let anyone else get away with doing any sort of harm to my son." The briefest pause, a cruel glint in his eyes. "Would you, Mr. Lightwood?"

And Alec knows what the Greater demon is doing, knows he is trying to bring Alec's self-doubts to the forefront of his mind, drawing up the darker thoughts about himself and others that he is usually so very good at systematically analyzing away.

But knowing - being fully aware of Asmodeus' intent - doesn't change the fact that his mind is already going down that path, making him remember all those incredibly stupid decisions he and his siblings and so many other people have made along the way, every single one of which Magnus seems to somehow have ended up paying the price for.

He remembers Jace going with Valentine, Max getting hurt, Izzy's Yin Feng addiction. And Magnus always being there to help, while Alec barely ever spared a thought for him, sometimes even deciding to take his anger out on Magnus for some reason.

He remembers Azazel and the body switch with Valentine, and Alec's heart still clenches, entire chest constricting in pain at the memory of just how badly he had fucked up there, the irreparable damage he had caused. Which Magnus had then of course promptly forgiven him for without so much as even asking Alec why it had been so hard for him to tell the difference between a mass murderer and the man he was dating.

A question he still sometimes asks himself when lying awake in bed at night, Magnus’ warmth pressed along his side. Alec still doesn’t have an answer.

He remembers the Soulsword fiasco and purposely lying to Magnus, fully aware that he was actually betraying his boyfriend's trust, and somehow Alec still got away scot-free. While Magnus ended up losing his position as the High Warlock as a result of that entire mess, one of the few things in his life his boyfriend truly treasured.

And it makes him cringe when he thinks about himself forever lamenting how hard it was for him as a Shadowhunter to date a Downworlder, but not once so much as asking just how the Downworld might be reacting to Magnus dating him, a Shadowhunter, a Lightwood, the Head of an Institute. Because Alec isn't naive enough not to realize that Magnus' decision to publicly be with him likely being one of the reasons NYC's warlock had been so quick to lose faith in him and decided to vote in Lorenzo as the High Warlock instead.

Of course, Magnus doesn't hold any of that against him, easily forgiving Alec for his missteps, his mistakes, forever willing to hand out second chances, as always far too kind-hearted for Alec's own peace of mind.

But that had only been the start.

Because then, Jace had been turned into the owl. And Alec had practically sent Magnus to Edom to fix it with barely a token protest, his own silence at Magnus' question of 'tell me Jace isn't worth it' still ringing in his ears. He thinks out of everything that has happened between them, that is what he regrets most.

Not having spoken up in that moment. Not telling Magnus that there is no comparison between him and Jace. That the thought of losing Magnus is just as utterly unfathomable to him as the thought of losing his parabatai.

That Alec never intended to trade one of their lives for the other’s.

Especially, as it ended with Magnus giving away his magic to spare Alec the pain of losing his parabatai, yet something else that Magnus treasured lost, yet another instance of Magnus giving up a part of himself for Alec’s sake.

Trading Alec's pain for his own.

Not that Alec had even realized just what Magnus had sacrificed for his sake.

He honestly doesn't know what was going on with him back then that he so entirely missed it, missed his boyfriend’s pain, but somehow the fact that Magnus had traded away a piece of himself in return for Jace's life, hadn't really occurred to him at all.

Not until that night on the balcony.

It had just seemed like such a straightforward trade before. Magnus giving away his magic and in return being able to save Jace.

And wasn't it just wonderful that Alec got everything he wanted in the process, not only his parabatai safe and sound, but also a suddenly mortal boyfriend who would now even grow old with Alec, conveniently taking care of one of his biggest insecurities along the way.

How nice for Alec.

And how much of an ignorant, self-centered asshole he had been to entirely ignore just what that trade had actually cost Magnus.

He himself would balk at the idea of giving up his runes for anything. And Magnus had given up much more than that. For Alec's sake.

So, Alec doesn’t think he has any sort of excuse for being so damn selfishly self-involved that he hadn't even realized the man he loves was breaking inside, only having gotten the first inkling that something was even lastingly wrong at all when Magnus literally gave up his home, centuries of collected memories, in order to regain even a taste of his magic by making a deal with Lorenzo.

And even then, it had taken Alec longer still to finally open his eyes.

It had taken him right until that moment on the balcony, when Alec had been cheerfully planning to propose to his boyfriend, so very happy at the idea of them taking the next step in their lives, only to watch utterly horrified as Magnus fell to pieces in his arms, having been so incredibly blind to the fact that the man he loves was still mourning for something he so recently lost.

It was only then that he finally realized that Magnus had literally given up everything for Alec, had traded everything he treasured in his life away for him and his happiness, while Alec just continued to selfishly take and take and take, and only ever seems to realize what he has once more cost Magnus when it is already too late to do something about it.

His teeth clench.

No more.

He swore to himself that he will fix this. And that he will never again let Magnus be the one to solely carry the burden of everyone else’s mistakes.

When he finally glances up to once more face the Greater demon across from him, he is entirely unsurprised at the satisfied, malicious gleam in Asmodeus' eyes as he watches Alec, looking down his nose at him, possibly knowing exactly just what is going through Alec's mind.

No, Alec wouldn’t be at all surprised if Asmodeus even knew beforehand exactly what sort of memories and regrets this conversation would kick loose in his mind.

"Well, Mr. Lightwood," Asmodeus smiles a breathtakingly beautiful, heartwarmingly friendly, bone-chillingly cruel smile. "It seems, asking you to break my son’s heart, might not be much of a payment after all.”

Alec barely keeps himself from flinching at the insinuation of that simple statement.

But at the same time something almost like desperation runs through him. Because that almost sounds like Asmodeus might not think Alec has anything to offer that would make returning Magnus' magic worth it.

Alec came here because he needs Asmodeus to give Magnus back his magic, needs to be able to for once return something to the man he loves, just that one piece. Needs to undo what has been done for his sake and the sake of others and never for the sake of the man he loves.

He knew before he ever decided to contact Asmodeus that - short of killing his own family - Alec would literally pay any price asked of him. Anything to give Magnus back his magic.

Doubts stir in his mind whether denying Asmodeus' demand out of hand had been the right choice.

Because, isn't this just another example of Alec being selfish? Not wanting to burden himself with yet another instance of hurting Magnus, even if it would also mean undoing the deal Magnus made with his father for Alec's sake?

Because if Alec were to agree, if he were to break his boyfriend’s heart - and shatter his own heart in the process - it's not like Magnus wouldn't be able to recover.

Magnus has loved before. Magnus is immortal.

So, surely he would find someone else to love at some point, even if Alec knows with utter certainty that he himself will never love again like this.

Magnus is it for him.

So, shouldn't Magnus' eventual happiness be worth the utter misery of breaking both of their hearts right now?

On the other hand, Alec swore to himself to do everything in his power to never hurt Magnus again, much less willingly or, angel forbid, purposely.

After watching Magnus fall apart in front of him while he - in the privacy of his own mind - had even been quietly celebrating the fact that with Magnus now no longer immortal, he swore to himself to finally start putting his boyfriend first, to start watching out for the man he loves as much as Magnus has been unequivocally watching out for Alec.

As it should be.

So, what is he to do when his only choice seems to be to save Magnus’ life by breaking his heart?

He swallows.

But before he can actually say anything - about reconsidering, about taking back his previous refusal, knowing he is in no way above even begging if it truly comes down to it - Asmodeus is already speaking again. "Hm. Seeing as my son stipulated that I do not take the payment for this particular deal out of you personally, and if I am also not to take the payment out of my son as per your demand, then it seems I will just have to look for my payment elsewhere.”

There is something so leisurely calm, so utterly relaxed, so languidly indifferent in his voice, directly contrasting the odd mix of emotions running through Alec. Relief at getting another chance. Suspicion about just what ‘elsewhere’ might mean. And immediate guilt at feeling so very relieved that it sounds like someone other than Magnus might be paying the price for once.

But Alec can also tell that there is something to that statement, some sort of implication that he is missing.

And for once, Asmodeus seems entirely content to just wait Alec out, his entire demeanor calm, easy, relaxed, clearly not in any sort of hurry and fully aware just who between the two of them is holding all the power in this conversation.

Alec already refused one deal offered to him. They both know he will not refuse another.

So, Alec finally concedes, gives up on waiting the Greater Demon out – and if 'looking away first' keeps Asmodeus generally agreeable then that is truly no sacrifice on his part – and asks, "’Elsewhere’ being where exactly?"

And Asmodeus' smile just widens, the very picture of languid relaxation as he replies with a flourish. "Why, from everyone else who owes my son, of course."

Alec blinks.

Somehow that isn’t what he expected to hear at all.

But clearly Asmodeus is rather happy with where their discussion is currently going as he continues, "By what I have been hearing about the going-ons topside, people seem to have forgotten that despite my son's so embarrassingly giving nature, he is still my direct descendant, my son, my blood."

And suddenly there is something so dark and foreboding and malicious in the demon's eyes that Alec almost wants to pull away a little. He doesn't, but only barely manages to keep himself from flinching away.

"I think it might be about time that I remind everyone that accepting favors from one of my bloodline without repaying those debts in full is a folly best not repeated. That any debts owed to my son are also owed to me by right of bloodline. And that I, in contrast to my son, am more than willing to ensure that any debts owed to my line are paid in full." There is power vibrating in the air around them, power and malice and something almost like anticipation.

And Alec breathes out, barely keeps it from coming out too harshly at the revelation of exactly what Asmodeus is going for here.

Of course he has heard of bloodline debts before. Vaguely, but he's heard of them. Debts wrought in blood and magic, untouched by the passage of time, a reimbursement system of old, inescapable once invoked.

But he also knows that there are very clear rules defined by magic itself that govern blood debts, rules about what can be asked as repayment and very clear limits to what cannot be requested. Like asking for one’s life being off limits. Or like children being entirely exempt, any debt incurred by those not yet mature simply not being collectible, not even at any point in the future.

And seeing as Asmodeus does have a direct blood relation to Magnus, it is in fact his right to call in any debts owed to his line. As long as he knows the exact circumstances of any debts incurred. And as long as those debts are signed over to him.

And suddenly, Alec knows exactly just what Asmodeus is planning to ask him next, knows exactly what he will demand as payment for the return of Magnus' magic.

A list of names. Names of anyone who owes Magnus in any way, including the debts owed and the exact circumstances by which they were incurred, as well as any payments that have already been made.

As well as an assurance that those debts will be Asmodeus’ to call in.

Considering how many people owe Magnus in some manner or committed some sort of slight against him, Alec is sure Asmodeus will get his payment several times over by collecting from everyone individually.

But even so, even before the Greater Demon actually makes that demand, Alec already knows he won't refuse, can't refuse.

Not when this is likely going to be Asmodeus' last offer, Alec's last chance to get Magnus' magic back.

And he can’t help but wonder whether Asmodeus offered this as a possible deal to Magnus when he went to Edom to ask for his father’s help. Or whether Asmodeus purposely waited until this very moment, when the leverage in his hands makes refusal of his demand plain impossible.

Either way, Alec is utterly unsurprised when Asmodeus finally continues, "So, Mr. Lightwood, in return for my son's magic, I demand a list. A list of everyone who owes my son. And I do mean everyone you know of, every debt mentioned to you or witnessed by you, no matter whether my son or you personally consider them to be already paid in full or not."

Alec narrows his eyes. Because him giving Asmodeus a list of debtors is only half of what the Greater Demon will need to actually get his payment.

Clearly, Asmodeus can tell just what he is thinking, his cruel smile widening. "I am absolutely certain my son will easily sign over any debts you promise to me. He will not dare void any deal we make, lest I decide to take the payment out of you in recompense after all." Condescension is practically dripping from his voice as he concludes, "My son is weak. And you, Mr. Lightwood, are his weakness.” A beautiful smile, absolutely bone-chilling in the pure malice curling at its edges. “And thus, I will collect every debt owed to my bloodline as is my right, and demand payment as I see fit."

Alec doesn’t know whether he wants to smile or to cringe at the fact that Magnus’ absolute refusal to put Alec in harm’s way is so utterly immutable, predictable, unquestionable that even one of the Greater Demons is willing to simply bank on that very fact.

Well, Asmodeus also isn’t wrong.

And maybe Alec shouldn't ever even consider this, shouldn't think about how Jace maybe should be made to carry some of the burden of his own mistakes, how Izzy should have had to pay somehow for breaking trust and alliances whenever it suits her own moral standards, how the Seelie Queen had directly betrayed Magnus and never even considered there might be a price to pay for that decision, how Clary has never once returned any of the favors Magnus tends to hand out so very freely no matter the cost to himself, how even Catarina had denied Magnus her help when he most needed it no matter her reasons, how Lorenzo is using his position to gain personal revenge for some sort of imagined slight on Magnus' part, how Lilith has been playing with them all in revenge for something none of them had any hand in.

Countless debts unpaid, all of them owed to the man he loves.

And Alec knows that Magnus is never going to call in any of them, won't even try. His far too soft-hearted warlock only ever interested in taking what people are willing to freely offer. Which, in all honesty, never turns out to be very much at all.

So, staring back at the Greater Demon in front of him, meeting his condescendingly mocking gaze, Alec simply can't help but think that maybe it really is about time all those people - including himself and his family - who keep screwing Magnus over, finally pay back some of what they owe.

Especially if it means that in return they can give back something of immeasurable value to Magnus.

His magic.

Because Magnus has saved all of their lives at some point, protected everything they hold dear several times over. But, somehow, whenever it comes down to it, no one ever seems to be quite willing to actually repay those favors. Magnus just keeps giving and giving. And this time, the cost was simply too high.

"So." Asmodeus pauses, something dark and anticipatory and maliciously ominous in the demon's eyes as he finally repeats once more, "A list of debts owed, Mr. Lightwood. That is my price."

The barest twirl of the Asmodeus’ fingers has pen and paper manifest on the table between them - almost like a challenge - even as Alec unflinchingly meets his stare.

And maybe it’s the rather jarring contrast of seeing that endless malice glowing from those eyes – the same golden cat eyes he absolutely adored on Magnus, those eyes that used to be forever alight with joy and caring and everything bright in Alec’s world – but in the end it only serves to firm his resolve.

Because in the greater scheme of things, losing his cat eyes might seem like something rather insignificant, but it also represents everything that Magnus lost.

Alec swallows, clenches his teeth and affirms his decision that if Magnus won't be selfish for his own sake, then Alec will damn well have to be.

Even if that means that everyone else will for once have to pay for their own mistakes instead of leaving the most kind-hearted person to ever walk the earth to do it for them.

So, under the satisfied, cruelly glowing eyes of a Greater Demon – eyes so similar but also entirely different from those that Alec so desperately misses seeing on the man he loves – he finally breathes out.

And sets pen to paper.

Chapter Text

Alec only listens with half an ear to the discussion going on around him.

He quite simply doesn't care about Clary's various woes in making a decision for or against the summoning ritual. You know, that ritual to get her memories back which is also the sole reason they came here in the first place.

Honestly, he still doesn't quite know whether he just wants to sigh in exasperation or grind his teeth in frustration at this entire situation.

But it's not like this girl would listen to his input even if Alec had any, much less if he dared contradicting her in any way. For some reason, the only thing that currently appears to matter is one Clary Fray's personal opinions on what is right and what isn't. Never mind that 'the right thing' seems to have a rather convenient tendency of perfectly coinciding with her personal agenda at any given time.

Still, no matter what she decides on, they all know she is going to get whatever she wants anyway, one way or another.

His parabatai made that fact perfectly clear outside the rave earlier.

So, Alec only cares about whatever plan they'll actually decide on, if for no other reason than so he can try to mitigate any new messes his siblings might end up creating next.

Instead, Alec uses the time while everyone is distracted with planning to throw another - hopefully surreptitious - glance at the warlock currently standing beside Izzy, only a couple of steps away from him.

Or rather 'Magnus', as he introduced himself to Alec a couple of minutes ago... in that other room... where Alec had been barely able to get out his own name, much less a complete sentence that actually made sense.

Everything about this man is just so damn dazzling.

Even Alec, who has long since trained himself out of noticing these sorts of things - lest someone else pick up on his attraction to people he isn't supposed to be attracted to - can't help but notice just how inordinately gorgeous the warlock is. 

Another surreptitious glance, and he can't help but let his eyes drag briefly over the tight pants and patterned jacket, the jewelry and the painted nails, fluidly moving hands, a flourish in his every gesture, a slight smirk seeming to be constantly playing around the man's lips, his eyes outlined in black, dark and beautiful and seeming to almost sparkle with amusement as though inwardly laughing at a joke only he is actually privy to, making it rather difficult for Alec to look away from him at all.

Angel be damned, but he is pretty.

He makes himself glance away, tunes back into the discussion briefly to check whether they are finally nearing some sort of conclusion.

Just in time, it seems, to catch the tail-end of Clary's rather dramatic assertion that she'd do anything to get her mother back.

Which is great for her. And - considering how things have been going recently - is probably going to suck for everyone else. Mostly, for Alec.

He barely keeps himself from sighing out loud at that thought.

But at least they seem to finally be getting somewhere, the - entirely superfluous - planning session apparently concluded.

"Pretty boy," Magnus commands rather imperiously, waving his hand in Jace's general direction. "Get your team ready."

And Jace promptly glances over at Alec, as though waiting for some sort of cue from him.

Ah. Now that your crush is already getting what she wants, we're back to caring about my opinion again, are we? Alec can't help but think sardonically.

Still, at this point arguing will be entirely useless, so they might as well see this mess through.

And at least the pretty warlock - who they've broken about a dozen Clave laws in order to contact - seems to actually know what he is talking about.

Be grateful for small mercies and all that.

So, Alec just shrugs at his parabatai, giving the go-ahead, even if he can't help but silently wish Jace had put even half as much thought into today's entire plan, as he is putting into this one decision right now.

Jace just reacts by affecting an aggrieved sigh, but then goes to do as commanded by the warlock.

He makes it about two steps.

A sudden hand on his chest pretty much stops him in his tracks, and there is something humorous, something condescendingly amused in the warlock's expression as he shakes his head slightly, almost seems to click his tongue at Jace.

"I'm not talking to you," Magnus intones, rolling his eyes, even seeming to scoff slightly. As though the mere assumption were absolutely ludicrous.

They are all blinking at the warlock now, wondering just what the man is talking about.

He just said...

Magnus waits a second, then scoffs again, this time seemingly including their entire group in his amused derision. Before he proceeds to simply push Jace back into his previous spot beside Alec - and, yeah, the ease with which the warlock simply pushes Jace aside, as though his parabatai were barely any obstacle at all, is really rather... impressive - and there seems to be honest amusement in his eyes now, expression turning just a fraction warmer as he calmly removes his hand from Jace's chest.

And then intones in his warm, lilting voice, "I'm talking to... you."

Alec blinks rather baffled at the finger suddenly pointing at his chest.

Me. He was talking to me? But... He said 'pretty boy', didn't he?

A second.

Oh.

The smile that Alec can feel tugging at his lips is entirely automatic, involuntary, only curving up a little further when he glances up from the finger still pointing straight at him to meet Magnus' eyes.

He simply can't help the smile.

It's just. Alec doesn't think anyone has ever called him... well, anything before. Much less actually called him pretty.

He meets Magnus' eyes - so full of gentle amusement and something warmly teasing - and feels his smile widening just the slightest bit further.

Which is the exact moment, everyone else seems to catch up as well.

Heads swinging around, all eyes promptly switching to focus on Alec.

He promptly does his best to wipe the smile off his face - though he isn't sure how well he actually succeeds at that - as he meets Jace's, then Izzy's eyes, shrugs in supposed confusion when his siblings just continue to stare at him, clearly too baffled to even pay Magnus - who proceeds to wander off to another room, Clary in tow - any note.

Alec just shrugs and pretends confusion. Like he doesn't get what's going on at all.

But he does. Oh, does he ever.

Magnus is flirting with him, flirting with Alec.

Angel.

No one who Alec has ever found even remotely attractive has ever flirted with him.

Not that he has any clue whatsoever what he is supposed to do with this, how to react, much less how to flirt back.

But, still.

Just the knowledge that someone like Magnus - so pretty and dazzling and honestly really rather captivating - actually seems to find Alec attractive, enough to flirt with him, is certainly rather nice, exhilarating even.

So for now, he just pushes down that thrill pulsing through him, suppresses the heat he can feel threatening to crawl up his neck, and instead just blinks at his siblings, affecting a mask of utter nonchalance.

And he makes sure not to let any of his amusement at Jace's current, almost offended expression - offense most likely at having been so easily dismissed by anyone, honest surprise at someone else being called 'pretty' while one Jace Wayland himself is still in the room - show.

Well, how nice that this is turning out to be a day of firsts for both of us, then, Alec can’t help but think sardonically.

Chapter Text

When Magnus feels the pull of the summoning stone, calling for him, calling him to the mundane world, he honestly can’t help but feel somewhat surprised.

Sure, it's not the first time Raphael has used the stone Magnus left him the same night the warlocks left the mundane world behind, but his little vampire has always taken it as a last resort, a way to get in contact with him but only if he ever truly needed help.

The last time Raphael called for him was almost four years ago now, when the Shadowhunters had finally figured out where the vampires all over the world were getting their blood from, only for the Clave to promptly proceed to simply poison the supply stock in every single mundane blood bank they could find.

Magnus can even admit that it had been a rather clever – if somewhat genocidal – plan in order to get rid of vampires in general. Though, never mind the countless mundane lives that had been lost due to the poisoned blood as ‘collateral damage’ in that particular scheme of the Clave’s.

But point is, Raphael had been desperate and had thus called Magnus for help, hoping for a way for his clan get their blood somewhere else.

Well, it had been rather simple for Magnus to just set up a purifying chamber that simply got rid of any contaminants in their usual blood supply. Problem solved and no one the wiser.

And the time before that when Raphael had called for him had been... what? Eight years ago now? When he needed Magnus’ help dealing with Camille who'd been just as carelessly screwing things up for everyone as always, playing her games and putting their entire clan at risk, almost bringing the Circle down on top of them despite the rather impenetrable wards Magnus had cast around Hotel Dumort to prevent anything of the sort from happening.

Now, well, she’s not a problem any longer.

And, of course, Magnus had left his Downworlder children ways to contact him even across realms. And he also goes to visit them whenever it strikes his fancy, went to see Raphael just last month, actually.

Just because the Warlock Council – his own vote admittedly very much included – decided to lock themselves away in the Labyrinth for a bit, to let the Clave reap what they sowed for once, doesn't mean Magnus was ever going to abandon those he holds near and dear to his heart. Not ever.

Which brings him back to the call, the summoning suddenly tugging at him, letting him know that Raphael is in need of his help.

His little vampire has always liked being independent, a need that seems to have only increased ever since he took over as leader of the Dumort Clan, and very much likes to avoid actually calling for Magnus.

So, for him to be calling at all, means it’s likely rather urgent.

Thus, as soon as he feels the call Magnus is already moving, grabbing a couple of things that might come in handy along the way, simply depending on whatever Raphael might need him for.

The preparation barely takes a minute or so. And, then he is already focusing inward, takes a couple of moments to gather the magic he’ll need, lets it build until the inter-realm portal – a spell that only a mere handful of warlocks alive even have the power to cast at all – is forming in front of him.

He steps through without hesitation, lets his magic guide him along the runic connection, towards the summoning stone that is calling him.

Although, his intrigue promptly increases once he realizes that the call isn't actually leading him to Hotel Dumort as he expected. But rather towards a completely different part of New York, underground, and also werewolf territory if he is reading the energy correctly?

Now, what could possibly have brought Raphael here of all places?

How curious, Magnus thinks rather delightedly. He’d been getting rather bored lately, anyway.

When he finally steps out of the portal, all nonchalance and casual cheer, makes sure to appear utterly unconcerned as he looks around.

He is immediately greeted by the sight of his forever-frowning dear little vampire, an entire collection of werewolves more or less gaping at Magnus.

But it's definitely the presence of the Shadowhunter – leaning faux-casually against one of the walls off to the side, entire posture alert, eyes attentive on the people surrounding him on all sides, focus immediately switching to Magnus as soon as he appears a little distance away – that truly surprises Magnus. It’s been decades since he’s been truly surprised by anything.

Which isn’t even mentioning the warlock magic - untrained, unrestrained, the way only the magic of small children ever is - Magnus can feel coming from the bundle cuddled rather protectively against the Shadowhunter's chest.

Magnus blinks.

There is a definite sort of uncompromising protectiveness - unwavering alertness, unmitigated caution - obvious in every line of the Shadowhunter's body. Protectiveness of the warlock child he is apparently holding.

Magnus blinks again, then feels a slight grin tug at the corner of his mouth.

Well, isn’t this just wonderfully intriguing.

Seems like things have indeed been happening here.

It takes him only a couple of seconds to take all of that in, before he is turning smoothly to face Raphael, still standing next to who must be the werewolf alpha of New York these days.

“Hello, my dear boy,” he greets cheerfully. Purposely disregarding the odd meeting place and the even odder company, acts as though the fact that they are in werewolf territory and that there is a nephilim present, were of no note at all.

His greeting gets him a resigned sigh, something like a nod in greeting. "Hello, Magnus," his moody little vampire returns blandly, as the werewolves around them continue to stare at the warlock suddenly present amongst them.

Magnus barely keeps from grinning.

+++

Alec tries to project calm nonchalance as his eyes continue constantly scanning his surroundings and the people not-so-subtly forming ring around him.

Ever since he revealed the child’s presence, everyone’s eyes have been fixed on the lump in Alec's jacket, hiding the warlock toddler from their sight. Although, every time Alec glances down at the child, he is greeted by two bright eyes and an immediate slight coo, the toddler being apparently rather content is his dark little hiding place.

Everything is still at a bit of an impasse, no one wanting to set off the other side.

Although, it sees that might be about to change.

And Alec can admit he is honestly a little distracted by the newest arrival, can barely stop himself from letting his eyes linger on the man who appeared through the portal barely a couple of minutes ago, who is now standing several steps away from him with the Dumort Clan leader and the NYC pack alpha.

First of all, he’s a warlock. Alec has never met an adult warlock before.

Even if it weren't for the fact that the man just stepped through a portal – though Alec has never heard of a purple portal before – or the fact that Alec can practically feel the power radiating off the man, something almost like a sort of heat-haze shimmering around the man, like a bright light contrasting the all-encompassing, murky grey of their world.

But even if it weren’t for either of those things rather clearly identifying him as a warlock, his fully-on-display warlock mark – beautiful golden cat-eyes, almost seeming to glow in the half-light of the tunnel they are in – give the man's race away rather obviously.

Which, first of all, wow.

And second of all… what the hell? 

Because. He knows that mark. Every Shadowhunter in the world knows that mark.

There is only one warlock with cat-eyes, and having heard the vampire call the man ‘Magnus’ a few minutes ago, only confirms it.

This is Magnus Bane.

Magnus Bane, the warlock who had single-handedly laid waste to every single Shadowhunter hide-out in the entirety of New York, an immediate, merciless retaliation for the Circle's attack on one of the child warlocks apparently under the then-High Warlock's immediate protection. It had been one of the Circle’s bigger mistakes during the Purges.

Of course, the Clave has rewritten that particular bit of 'The Rebellion', as they tend to do with anything that doesn't quite fit their narrative of their own supremacy.

But it’s also one of those stories. The stories that Shadowhunters tell each other in murmured conversations, hushed whispers in dark corners, voices full of awe and fear and anger and disgust.

The story of the High Warlock who had retaliated to an attack on his those under his protection by appearing on the Institute's steps, fury radiating off of him as he single-handedly tore apart the supposedly impenetrable wards, the entire building buckling under the inescapable, overwhelming vortex of fire and fury and magic, pure power, an unstoppable assault.

Until every single Shadowhunter had fled and almost all of the New York Institute had been reduced to nothing but rubble and ashes.

Well, despite the Clave’s rewriting of history, there is still a very clear order to immediately 'draw back' - read: run away - if any Shadowhunter ever ends up coming across one Magnus Bane whilst on a mission.

The point is, Alec is fairly certain that this might be the warlock who not only tore apart an entire Institute all on his own but had then also joined the other, truly powerful warlocks gathering from all around the world in their attack on Idris. Magnus Bane was one of the leaders, one of the powerhouses during the warlocks' retaliation.

And now he is apparently here.

And he’s also much prettier than Alec thinks the man honestly has any right to be.

Because the stories about Magnus Bane talk of malevolent hatred and twisted malice, of hell-fire wrath and sadistic spite, of grotesque fury and hideous evil.

No one thought to mention the glitter and the jewelry and the hair and… is that actual silk the man is wearing?

Alec blinks, kind of just wants to sigh at the way his thoughts keep going.

Honestly, what a time to discover my libido.

Because, clearly, this situation wasn't complicated enough already.

And Alec is just going to blame this all on that one werewolf who’d screwed it up for everyone.

The wolf who’d snarled rather aggressively at Alec - right when he and the alpha had finally come to an agreement - for no actual reason as far as Alec can figure.

But the wolf had snarled, and Alec had been able to feel the little body settled into the crook of his arm flinch rather violently at the sudden loud noise so close to them.

There had been just the barest pause. A hiccupped sniffle. Before a wail of distress and confused fear had filled the catacombs, something almost like electricity seeming to run across Alec’s skin originating from the baby in his arms, a bright flash of light.

And then, everything had promptly gone to hell.

Not that the sight of werewolves going flying in every direction - the entire group surrounding Alec at that point having been thrown off their feet and sent backwards by the wave of instinctual magic being sent out by the child - hadn’t been rather entertaining.

But the shield that had formed around the baby – and thereby also Alec – in its wake, is definitely less so.

Because that shield doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. And now, no one is able to come within two feet of Alec and the kid any longer.

And kudos to the kid for all that power, but it also kind of has them all stuck in a sort of impasse.

Which had led to the alpha deciding to call the vampire, who in turn apparently has a direct line of contact to one of the most powerful warlocks alive.

Because, of course, he does.

So, yes, Alec is blaming that one werewolf. For all of it.

Including the way he can’t seem to quite keep his eyes off said possibly all-powerful warlock.

He thinks the blame is well-deserved.

+++

"A shield, you say?" Magnus hums absently, even as he sends another casual glance back at the Shadowhunter still leaning against the wall several feet away from them, watching them intently.

Well, aside from the rather frequent glances the nephilim keeps throwing at the little bundle in his arms, features immediately softening just that slightest bit, so obviously barely able to suppress the smile tugging at his lips every time he does.

It’s really rather adorable and honestly just makes him want to coo at the sight.

"Yes." Alaric sighs in response. "Russell saw fit to rather aggressively threaten the Shadowhunter while he was just about to hand the child to Maia here. Which apparently scared the kid rather badly. First, all of us were sent flying by a wave of magic. And now, none of us can get within ten feet of the two of them."

"Neither can I," Raphael adds. “I can get closer than the wolves, but not enough to take the kid.”

Which explains why they saw the necessity to call Magnus here to help them solve this.

And, magic, this is quite the impasse they are all in.

The Shadowhunter who came here looking for a way to keep a warlock child safe from the Clave, the Downworlders who more than willing to do so, and the child who is too scared to let either of them do just that.

He can only hope that this Shadowhunter truly doesn't have some sort of nefarious plan brewing. Like coming here with a warlock child supposedly asking for help but only aiming to figure out if anyone in New York still has connections to the Labyrinth that might then be exploited by the Clave in some way.

On the other hand, Magnus has taken care of Raphael and his clan for more than two decades now – the wards he cast around Hotel Dumort before he finally left with the other warlocks are so strong, Shadowhunters not only aren't able to see the building anymore but they also forget it ever existed in the first place – and he is in no way worried about his ability to continue doing so. But he'll suggest to Alaric he take his pack and hide out somewhere else for a while. Just in case the Clave might get wind of this and come back here, trying to make them once more call a powerful warlock for whatever reason.

Although, there is just something in him telling him that this particular Shadowhunter doesn't actually have any nefarious intentions. There is just something absolutely honest, straightforward, almost untarnished about this one...

Either way, unless they plan to kill the nephilim, the cat is out of the bag anyway. And doing so would truly be a poor way of repaying the Shadowhunter for trying to keep a Downworlder child safe.

Although, Magnus' involvement wouldn't have been necessary at all if not for one wolf's screw up. "And where might this Russell character be then?" Magnus asks faux-casually.

"He is back at the den now," Alaric provides, glances at him quickly, definitely a little worriedly. "It has been suggested to him, he stay there for the foreseeable future."

Magnus almost wants to huff. He would have taken great joy in teaching that particular wolf some manners.

Because, scaring a warlock baby? Magnus takes definite exception to that.

Warlock children already have it difficult enough in this world without idiots making it even harder. And if the Shadowhunter's story about finding the baby clearly abandoned in an alley is true, this one's childhood never even had a chance to start before it was already taken away again.

He glances once more over to the Shadowhunter and the little baby warlock in his arms, who seems to have taken to playing a sort of peek-a-boo game with the Shadowhunter holding him from behind the nephilim's jacket.

Magnus has to fight a smile at how the man is somehow managing to retain his air of absolute stoicism, but is still cheerfully playing along with the child despite the situation he has found himself in.

It’s honestly rather adorable.

"You trust his story?" he finally asks.

Even if he already knows that they do. At least Raphael would never have called him otherwise, not if he had any reason to believe this might be some sort of trap.

Still, Magnus would actually like to hear their reasons for said trust.

And Alaric is immediately nodding, "I can't detect any falsehood in him or in his story." A pause. “And he clearly knew where to find us but stayed away until he needed help and also seems to have kept it from anyone else who might make use of that knowledge. If he wanted us gone…” Alaric shrugs, not finishing the sentence. They all know how that sentence ends.

Magnus nods. Although, most of his attention is actually on Raphael and his rather cagey expression.

He raises an eyebrow in question.

Another couple of seconds.

Before Raphael finally sighs out and admits, "I know him.” The slightest hesitation. “I know we can trust him."

Magnus blinks. "You know him? Since when do you associate with Shadowhunters of all people?"

He cheerfully injects as much faux-incredulity into his voice as he can, but he’s not actually that surprised at the idea that there might still be some decent Shadowhunters around in this world.

Because Magnus has has known countless Shadowhunters over the years. And while - in general - Shadowhunters tend to be rather close-minded, bigoted, and a bit too... inclined toward group-think for his taste, he has also met quite a number of absolutely decent Shadowhunters over the years, even some he called actual friends.

So, the Clave might be going through a bad phase right now, where everyone without genocidal proclivities likely has to keep their head down lest they lose it. But Magnus has seen this sort of thing before, has witnessed the rise and the fall of countless empires over the centuries.

The Clave's current regime of terror won't be any different.

It's one of the reasons he fully supported the idea for his people to simply retreat to the Labyrinth for a while, if only to give the Clave some time to sort themselves out before the warlocks will inevitably return to this realm.

Let the Clave be extreme for now, let them dig their own graves as they revel in their imagined superiority over all life on earth.

The pendulum will swing back. It always does.

But. While Raphael might be on the older side by human standards, it’s still only been eight decades for him. He is simply nowhere near Magnus’ level of acceptance where humanity's flaws are concerned.

"I don't 'associate' with them," Raphael returns promptly, pure irritation in his voice, in the way Magnus is rather proud to say only he himself is ever able to bring out of his little vampire. "But he’s helped us before." Another slight pause, a resigned sigh. Then, "You know that situation with the blood banks a couple of years back?”

Magnus raises his eyebrows but nods to show he does indeed remember.

Raphael makes a vague gesture. “He’s the one who warned us of the poison in the blood. Anonymously of course, and I only figured out who he was afterwards. But when I looked into him and his missions a bit, it turned out that he has a rather... notable tendency for being in the right place at the right time to prevent a capture or to exonerate someone in front of the Clave.”

Magnus feels his eyebrows raising slightly in surprise. "You don't say," he not-quite-asks slowly, even as he throws another glance at the nephilim now watching them seemingly even more intently than before. He can practically feel his own interest in this one rising only further.

Raphael nods slightly, frown on his face. "His sister and his parabatai also seem to share that particular tendency. But the two of them really have nothing on him.” He shrugs. Then, far too casual to actually be casual in any way, “By what I can tell, about half of New York's Downworld owes him in particular their lives for one reason or another."

Magnus blinks.

Well, would you look at that. A nephilim with a heart, a soul, and a conscience. Not to even mention that absurdly gorgeous face and body.

And an apparent soft spot for helpless, abandoned, little warlock children.

Magnus quirks a grin, and finally turns to focus fully on the Shadowhunter. Only to blink slightly when he finds the man’s focus already on himself.

The nephilim doesn’t even look away, clearly unbothered by being caught staring, instead simply continuing to meet his gaze. Not challenging in any way, but rather in that warm, intrigued way that says ‘I noticed you’ and ‘please, notice me back’, even if there is also something careful, something definitely assessing in his eyes.

Their eyes meet. And Magnus grants himself just a moment of getting lost in them, could honestly have stayed right there, just standing there, their gazes locked, for quite some time.

It’s only Raphael’s absolutely resigned sigh from beside him – most likely at Magnus’ rather apparent interest in this one – that finally brings his focus back to the present.

His smile widens, lets something a little coy curl at its edges, before he then proceeds to throw a rather blatant wink the Shadowhunter's way - who really is everything Magnus could ask for from eye-candy. And to his utter delight, instead of any sort of disgust or offense at having a warlock flirt with him, the nephilim’s mouth just seems to quirk slightly upwards in reaction, actually looking rather delighted himself.

Which is the exact moment a little, blue hand worms itself out of the nephilim's jacket, landing against the man’s cheek, the child clearly protesting not getting enough attention from his favorite person in the room.

Magnus watches as the nephilim reacts by glancing down to immediately give the little warlock in his arms a small, but so very warmly reassuring smile, a smile that only seems to widen further at the happy coo the child promptly makes in return.

It's quite the smile.

And Magnus is just utterly charmed.

Chapter Text

Alec almost wants to sigh, not really sure how to feel about Jace's continued hovering.

Ever since 'The Pretty Boy Incident' - and, yes, that's absolutely what Alec is calling it in his head, capital letters and all - Jace has been practically glued to his side, keeps hovering right beside him, all the while side-eyeing Magnus with an intensity that is almost amusing.

Mostly, because Magnus appears so utterly unconcerned by Jace's rather baleful stare.

Even now, mere minutes after the warlock returned from the ritual room where he showed Clary how to prepare for the summoning, Magnus just keeps looking their way - or rather, Alec's way - cheerfully, calmly, apparently entirely unashamed of being so very blatant about his interest. A fact that by itself already seems to be riling Jace up rather effectively, his glower ever-increasing in intensity.

While Alec just continues to pretend ignorance to it all.

Turns out, personal delight at having someone as pretty as Magnus at least vaguely interested in him aside, Alec still doesn't really know what to do with that.

It's just... He's never flirted with anyone. And he's certainly not about to try flirting for the first time in front of his siblings, thank you very much. Not that Jace would give him the chance even if Alec wanted to.

As becomes more than obvious when Magnus turns from where he is standing by his rather fancy-looking drink cart, just a couple of feet away, to ask, "Can I offer you something to drink while we wait?"

The question is phrased to include them all, but Magnus is so clearly looking at Alec as he asks... But he doesn't actually get a chance to reply.

"We're good," Jace immediately returns, tone rather combative, scowl ever-deepening.

Because, why wouldn't he see fit to decline on all of their behalves? It's not like we are all grown-ass people fully capable of making our own decisions or anything, Alec thinks sarcastically.

And he honestly doesn't quite get why the warlock's blatant flirting seems to bother his parabatai so much. All Magnus has done is make a few flirtatious comments, nothing that would warrant Jace's current response, even if one were to assume that Alec himself weren't interested at all. Which might, admittedly, not be entirely accurate.

Actually, as much as he'd like to claim otherwise, Alec is fairly certain his earlier reaction to being called pretty boy rather obviously gave away that he himself isn't bothered by the flirting in the least. Quite the opposite, really.

And Jace has a particular liking for seelies anyway, so it's not like he would be bothered by Alec maybe not having entirely succeeded in hiding his own interest in a Downworlder. That just wouldn't make any sense.

Right?

But. Alec also doesn't actually speak up, doesn't contradict him. As sad as it may be, this is also the most attention Jace has given to anything that doesn't directly revolve around his crush for days now. And Alec has missed his parabatai. Missed that unconditional, immovable, immutable closeness of theirs, their focus on each other, something he'd quite simply always taken for granted, just a fact of life, but which seems to have just disappeared ever since Jace first spotted Clary at that club.

This is how he and Alec used to be even less than a week ago. The two of them against the world. Well, the three of them, seeing as Izzy is definitely to be included in that. But, still, his point stands.

The contrast of how it used to be and the so very recent change, of it somehow having turned into Clary and Jace being an inseparable unit instead, Izzy going along with anything they want, and Alec quite simply seeing no choice but to follow behind them as well, if only to clean up after them, despite their rather aggravating dismissal of anything he might have to say about their plans... Well, if you can call 'we'll see what happens when we get there' a plan at all.

Still, he's missed this. Missed their closeness, the knowledge that no matter who else might be in the room, Jace's focus would always and forever be on Alec first, everything else second.

So, as exhilarating as it may be to have the attention of someone as dazzlingly bright as Magnus, for now Alec pretends to ignore it all, instead keeping his eyes on the spines of the various tomes in front of him, filling the bookshelves stretching along one of the walls in Magnus' apartment.

And if some of his attention might admittedly be focused elsewhere, a strange sort of hyper-awareness focused on Magnus, keeping Alec constantly aware of every time the warlock so much as shifts where he is now sitting on one of the couches a couple of steps away, something almost like tingles spreading over his skin every time he feels the man's eyes once more settle on him.

Well, then that would be entirely his business, now wouldn’t it.

+++

Magnus keeps an eye on the three Shadowhunters currently milling about his apartment, sticking their noses into every single nook and cranny they can find as they wait for the fourth one to finish drawing the pentagram.

Such a nosy lot, Shadowhunters.

Well, Magnus also has his study on lockdown, preventing the three of them from coming across any of the actually interesting things he does admittedly like to keep around, so they are welcome to their snooping.

And he probably wouldn't even mind the nosing about in the least, if it were only one certain Shadowhunter doing it.

Magnus lets his eyes drift over to Alexander once more, gaze lingering.

Magic, that boy is gorgeous.

Yes, Magnus wouldn't have any problem whatsoever with that particular Shadowhunter spending some time exploring his loft. My bedroom in particular, Magnus thinks wickedly, easily hiding his rather salacious grin behind the drink in his hand.

Although...

He frowns slightly.

Alexander's earlier reaction to being called 'pretty boy' somehow also just... bothers him. Something about everyone in this group so very naturally assuming that Magnus just must have been talking to the blond Shadowhunter, their honest surprise once they realized that he in fact wasn't, and - even with Magnus' finger pointing straight at him - it having taken this adorable Shadowhunter another couple of seconds to realize that Magnus truly meant him...

Something about that just tugs at Magnus' heart.

Because no one should be that surprised at being noticed, much less someone as gorgeous as Alexander.

And, magic, the boy's smile once he had realized that Magnus was truly talking to him. Just one simple compliment - not even a real compliment, more of a coyly teasing nickname than true flattery - and the honest, genuine, true smile it had gotten Magnus, for something so simple... That reaction also makes it rather clear exactly how accustomed Alexander apparently is to being complimented. Namely, not at all.

Turns out, nephilim really are complete nitwits if not one Shadowhunter at that entire Institute has noticed just how gorgeous this man is. Not that the Clave's collective idiocy is in any way news to Magnus, but still.

He once more lets his eyes drift over to where the two parabatai are currently standing in front of one of his bookshelves, Alexander appearing to read the titles on the spines. Magnus easily lets his eyes drag over him, all the while cheerfully ignoring the way he can see the parabatai's eyes narrowing at him once he notices him staring. Again.

But Magnus honestly couldn't care less about the other one.

Because Alexander very clearly didn't have any problem whatsoever with having Magnus' attention on him earlier, quite to the contrary. And his is the only opinion that counts.

He feels his lips quirk up in a slight smirk.

If a simple flirtatious comments gets him a smile like that, well, then Magnus sees absolutely no problem with maybe kicking his flirting up a notch - or ten - at the next opportunity that might present itself.

And if this little game of harmless flirting also helps to distract Magnus from the grief and regret and anger, the soul-deep devastation, the inescapable pain pulling at him, threatening to take the very breath out of his lungs whenever he lets his mind drift for so much as an instant, whenever he thinks of earlier, of bodies strewn across his living room floor, of so many friends lost.

Well, Magnus doesn't think anyone could possibly blame him for welcoming any sort of distraction right now.

Yes, for now he'd much rather think about that smile, maybe even see whether he might be able to elicit a similar response from this adorable Shadowhunter again. Just to help lift his own spirits the slightest bit, to help him keep his mind off the bodies his magic had so very carefully set into one of the other rooms as he relocated his apartment, to help him gather his resolve before he'll have to once more step into his role of the High Warlock, to help him find the strength to be the one for friends and families of the deceased to lean on in their grief. Before the funerals, before the many burial rituals he'll have to perform. Before Magnus will once more have to say his goodbyes to some of his own, to friends and allies and comrades, some of whom he's known for decades, some of whom he himself helped raise, lost to yet another attack of the Circle, lives claimed in the name of one man's zealous image of a perfect world

Magnus blinks, breathes out, forcefully drags his mind away from those thoughts, makes himself focus on the here and now instead, his eyes almost automatically drifting over to where the two parabatai are still standing.

So, yes, a little distraction would most certainly be welcome.

Not that there could possibly be any other reason whatsoever why Magnus would quite like to see that gorgeous boy look at him again like that, why he'd really quite like another one of those beautiful, genuine, beatific smiles directed at himself.

+++

"The last person I knew who could draw this well was Michelangelo," Magnus intones, and Alec can see something almost impish enter the warlock's expression as he then adds on, "Who was excellent in bed, I might add."

And as he says that last bit, Magnus more than obviously leans forward, blatantly focuses on Alec. Like... like he is personally - and very specifically - telling him. Like the others aren't even there, or just utterly irrelevant in his eyes.

Despite Izzy standing on Magnus' other side, already giggling at the comment and with that appreciative glint in her eyes that she always gets around particularly attractive Downworlders. Despite Magnus having to actually lean around Clary, who - according to his parabatai - is supposedly utterly irresistible. Despite Jace - the person everyone always focuses on first - standing right next to Alec.

Magnus is flirting. And he is still only flirting with Alec.

Well, at least this time, Alec is also better prepared - for the surprise, the delight, the giddy excitement that immediately flashes through him at yet another so very blatantly flirtatious comment directed at him - and thus when Jace flips around to again stare at him incredulously, this time looking almost offended for some reason, Alec's face is giving nothing away as he just shrugs once more.

Again pretending not to know what's going on.

Admittedly, he's not sure just how well he actually manages to hide that thrill that runs through once more. Because even as he blinks cluelessly at Jace, from the corner of his eye he can also see Magnus' lips quirking up the slightest bit further, like the warlock might be congratulating himself for a job well done.

And, just why is it so damn hard to keep his attention off this man? Why is it that Alec simply can't help but watch as Magnus starts sauntering around the pentagram to make sure Clary didn't mess up anywhere, expression cheerful, hips swaying slightly, hands gesturing fluidly as he explains what exactly will be involved in the summoning.

Alec quite simply can't help but let his eyes linger on him.

Then, Jace is suddenly leaning in to whisper rather aggressively, "What is with this guy?"

It pulls his focus rather effectively away from Magnus, Alec now blinking at Jace, honestly surprised at his parabatai's vehemence. Who however doesn't seem to even have noticed Alec's own distraction, seeing as Jace isn't actually looking at him but seems rather preoccupied with scowling darkly after Magnus.

Although... Alec feels a slight frown forming on his own face now, feels that giddy exhilaration that had still been running through him from Magnus' last comment disappear once more, as he instead remains focused on his parabatai now, feels his eyes narrowing slightly. Because for some reason that question is what finally does end up actually bothering him.

Not only because of Jace's apparent incredulity at Magnus' behavior, but also because his parabatai sounds almost amused as he says it. Like the mere idea of someone flirting with Alec is amusing to him.

He feels his frown deepen.

In all honesty, it's actually rather... disheartening to see just how surprised everyone seems to be reacting to the possibility that someone might possibly be interested in Alec for once. Because, well, Izzy is used to it, forever garnering appreciative glances anywhere they go. As is Jace, who has all the magnetism of the damn sun itself, always the center of attention.

While Alec tends to stick to the background.

But that has always been a choice on his part. Because his interest lies elsewhere, because he decided early on that he would put all that he is into being the best Shadowhunter he could be, because he knows that he simply wouldn't be interested in the Shadowhunters who would flirt with him, if only due to them quite simply being the wrong gender.

Still, it had been a deliberate choice on Alec's part to sideline his personal life.

So, for his siblings to react like this, Izzy grinning at him like she honestly thinks Alec ought to be congratulated just for someone thinking he is attractive, while Jace continues to scowl in offense for the same reason.

Well, maybe 'disheartening' isn't quite the right word. 'Aggravating' actually seems much more fitting.

Add to that his parabatai's apparent amusement on top of that...

After years of struggling with trying to figure out his feelings for Jace, struggling with the knowledge that he does find his parabatai attractive but forever uncertain whether it's in a purely aesthetic sense or whether his feelings might be something more. Years of trying to figure out where the line between his attraction and their soul bond is, trying to make sense of that instant jealousy that runs through him every time he sees Jace so much as looking at anyone else, years of trying to figure out whether his jealousy stems from Alec having actual feelings for him or whether it's just because someone is taking his parabatai's attention away from him. After years of struggling with his own maybe-or-maybe-not attraction to his parabatai, to now have Jace act as though the mere idea that someone might want to flirt with Alec is either something to be suspicious about or to be laughed at.

Despite Magnus' rather obvious interest in me quite clearly proving otherwise.

Yeah, something about his parabatai's reaction to all of this is definitely pissing Alec off.

He feels his eyes narrow further, brows drawing down into an actual scowl, as he decides to simply ignore Jace's almost-but-not-quite-rhetorical question for now. Instead, simply moving past his parabatai to take a spot at one of the five points of the pentagram as directed, ignores his siblings' somewhat baffled silence as they watch him, clearly confused by his non-reaction, but after a couple of moments they finally also move to follow his example, taking up their positions around the drawing.

And maybe it's his frustration at the entire situation, his anger at Jace for seeing no problem with running blindly, mindlessly, thoughtlessly after a pretty face himself, but getting offended when someone dares to so much as smile at Alec.

Or maybe it's simply that Alec honestly can't be bothered to hide just how nice it is to have someone so clearly  focused on him, to flirt with him, to like him for once.

Or maybe it's just because Magnus really is rather breathtakingly pretty.

Either way, when the warlock finally reaches out, holding out his hand for him to take as required for the summoning ritual, Alec doesn't even hesitate to reach out as well.

Though, kudos to Magnus for managing to turn even the simple action of holding out his hand into something that most certainly looks flirtatious.

Honestly, just how?

Still, Alec doesn't hesitate to reach out in turn, meets the man's eyes as he easily slides his hand into Magnus', letting his fingers curl firmly around the warlock's, can't help but marvel slightly at how well their hands seem to simply fit together, at the feeling of warm skin against his.

He also rather purposely ignores Izzy's staring at him from Magnus' left, looking honestly surprised, and he really can't be bothered to so much as glance at his parabatai on his other side right now.

Well, he also doesn't quite have the confidence to hold Magnus' gaze for long, glancing away after a mere few seconds of their eyes meeting, fighting to suppress the slight blush he can feel heating the skin of his neck, instead does his best to casually face forward as though concentrating on the pentagram in front of them.

Not that he actually sees much of the drawing, quite simply doesn't have the focus to spare.

Because at this point, Alec might even have been cursing his own lack of confidence that made him glance away at all, might have felt frustrated at his own uncertainty, his awkwardness, his utter unfamiliarity with this sort of thing. He might have. If it weren't for the smile he can see spreading over Magnus' face from the corner of his eye, something bright and delighted and warmly surprised in the warlock's expression as Magnus finally just moves to curl his fingers ever-so-slightly further around Alec's own.

And so what if this time Alec doesn't actually try all that hard to suppress the slight, answering smile tugging at his own lips in reaction. So what if he feels perfectly comfortable holding hands with this pretty pretty warlock. So what if he is finding it a little difficult to focus on anything besides the feeling of fingers firmly curled around his, the warm metal of Magnus' rings pressing into his skin.

So what?

Alec would very much like to reiterate that none of this is anyone's business but his own.

Chapter Text

“Magnus, please don’t go to that meeting at the rave. It’s too risky,” Elias pleads with him.

And Magnus sighs, of course fully aware that Elias is right, as much as the promise of getting back the necklace he once gave to Camille tempts him to go anyway.

Another glance at Elias' worried eyes and Magnus finally gives in with another sigh, “Alright. I won’t go.” A pause, a teasing smile as he reaches up to touch the side of Elias' face. "Now, please stop worrying. You're giving yourself crowfeet."

“You really won't go?” Elias asks, now sounding honestly surprised, most likely at how easily he got him to agree.

Magnus just shrugs fluidly, “You’re right, the message was rather sketchy and it is quite likely some sort of setup. It's just not worth the risk.” He quirks a smile at Elias’ rather obvious relief. “And I honestly don’t much feel like dealing with Shadowhunters today anyway.”

+++

“Jace, he isn’t coming,” Alec sighs exasperatedly, more than ready to return to the Institute at this point.

They’ve been lurking around the rave for almost two hours now, waiting for Magnus Bane to show up. At this point, it’s rather clear that whatever message Jace decided to send the warlock, it didn’t have the intended effect of luring Magnus Bane to meet them here. A fact which - wasted evening or not - Alec is actually rather grateful for. If only because this way he won't have to defend commissioning a warlock's services on Clary's behalf without approval in front of the Clave.

His parabatai is frowning now, clearly in reaction to Alec's statement. But then Jace finally sighs, throws a last look around and finally turns to the girl at his side, “Alec is right, Clary. He clearly isn’t coming.”

Her mouth immediately pulls down. “But what about my memories?” she asks plaintively, eyes large and sad as she blinks up at Jace.

Alec barely keeps himself from scoffing out loud at the sight. But, excuse him. He has three younger siblings, he knows puppy-dog eyes when he sees them. And Clary's have absolutely nothing on Max’s. Or Izzy's for that matter.

“We’ll find another way. I promise,” Jace is however already assuring her earnestly.

And Alec just wants to sigh. He’d wish someone here would remember that his world does not in fact revolve around one Clary Fray, that he does have other things to take care of aside from this one girl's personal problems.

Like, you know, running an entire Institute in his parents’ absence. Or like, going on missions to keep the city free of demons. Or like, dealing with the diplomatic mess resulting from the girl’s chatty mundane friend having been abducted by vampires just yesterday, something which the girl and his siblings already seem to have forgotten about. You know, things like his actual job.

Really, sometimes Alec thinks it must be so nice to live in his siblings' world. A world without negative consequences, a world where 'out of sight, out of mind' actually applies, where 'having good intentions' apparently makes up for everything you might screw up along the way.

Yes, it really must be nice to live in such a wonderful, fantastical world.

+++

Magnus doesn't react as he feels another blow land against the wards around his apartment.

His magic is already thrumming viciously, sparking a malignant blood-red between his fingertips, predatory anticipation curling through him, as he waits for the last of his ducklings to leave the lair through the portal he made for them the moment he felt the first blow glance off his wards.

Some of them protest, of course. Perfectly willing to join him in fighting off the attackers.

But tearing apart those who are stupid enough to go after him and his will be much easier if Magnus doesn’t have to worry about allies in the mix, doesn’t have to watch his powers or how vicious is spells get lest he hurt anyone on his side. Fighting by himself, being able to entirely let loose, will be much more effective, not to even mention much more viciously satisfying.

Thankfully, as their High Warlock – and seeing as it is in fact his apartment that is currently being attacked – he does have the authority to simply send them away, even if their departure is marked with a couple of scowls and discontent grumbling about them wanting a piece of the Circle as well. If anything, Magnus finds it rather cute how personally offended they all seem to be at someone daring to attack their High Warlock.

And it isn't until the portal finally closes behind Elias - who throws him a final glance before he actually steps through the gateway, the last of his flock to leave - that Magnus lets a rather dark, bloodthirsty grin spread over his face.

All in all, it took barely four minutes since he felt the first blow against his wards to evacuate the lair. And now, Magnus is the only one left.

No allies to take care of, no ducklings to protect. Only him, his magic, and those stupid enough to dare actually attacking him.

Because the Circle is usually smarter than attacking those of Magnus’ age and power outright, knowing full-well that the more powerful warlocks are simply beyond whatever one Shadowhunter - or ten, or twenty, or even fifty - might be able to throw at them. No, the Circle much prefers its cowardly ways, taking out weaker warlocks individually, picking them off one by one and forever avoiding those too powerful for them to have a chance against.

Magnus closes his eyes, breathes in deep, lets his magic coil past its usual restraints, relinquishes some of that constant control he keeps on his powers. It’s like pure warmth flooding his entire being.

He so rarely gets to let loose.

When he opens his eyes again, he knows his warlock mark is on full display, knows the gold of his cat-eyes will be glowing with pure power, as he lets his wrath gain physical form in his magic gathering around him.

If this attack had happened at any other time, he likely wouldn't even feel anywhere near as bloodthirsty as he does right now. But. It's quite simply far too much of a coincidence for this attack to happen right when Magnus had almost been lured away by the promise of potentially regaining something of true value to him, almost left his flock behind to reclaim something he gave away so long ago. It seems like that meeting really was a setup, a trap, even though not aimed at Magnus personally.

How typical of the Circle to try and draw me away in order to then go after those under my protection.

He feels his lips curl.

Spineless, degenerate, repugnant cowards, the lot of them.

His magic coils in bloodthirsty anticipation, tendrils twining around his fingers, glowing darkly, a brilliant blood-red, curling up his arms, sparking with power, illuminating the dark loft around him as he steps towards the door, steps towards where the attackers are still doing their best to bring down his wards.

And just for a second he even entertains the idea of opening a gateway, of dragging them collectively down to Edom, of giving his father a few nephilim to play with, to make them pay for trying to go after those under his protection.

On the other hand, Magnus would quite like to use the lot of them as a rather clear, unmistakable warning to anyone who might ever consider going after his again. So, he kind of still needs the bodies here up on earth.

And as he readies his magic for the upcoming fight, he doesn't even have to check the mirror to know that the smile curling at the edges of his lips has far too many teeth to be called anything even remotely friendly.

Because, either way, there will be no Circle members returning to whatever hole Valentine is hiding out in tonight.

Magnus has no mercy for those who try to go after anyone under his protection.

+++

Alec glances up from the paperwork on the desk in front of him when the door to his office opens without so much as a knock.

Jace comes striding in, scowl on his face, barely waiting until he has crossed the threshold before he is asserting, “You can’t just take the portal shard away from Clary.”

Izzy, following just a step behind Jace, is nodding in agreement. “It was her mother’s, Alec,” she adds on, her tone reprimanding, almost scolding.

Ah, seems like we are about to have another discussion about 'doing the right thing' and how I entirely missed the  mark and how dare I interfere with Clary's rampage through our city.

Alec honestly doesn’t know whether to sigh or to gnash his teeth in anger at this entire situation. How come his siblings don’t even ask him for his reasons? Not a single question, jumping right into flinging around accusations. Since when do they think themselves forever morally superior to him? For no other reason than because one Clary Fray said so.

However, Izzy's support only seems to embolden Jace as he continues, “You can’t just keep it from her. Not if it might help her find her mother.”

Alec almost rolls his eyes in exasperation at that. Because, just half an hour ago, Jace was reprimanding Alec for apparently putting too much pressure on Clary when he had been trying to help her glean any sort of useful information from what she saw through the shard. And now, his parabatai is reprimanding him for not doing that exact thing. Seriously, this girl has his parabatai so twisted around her finger, Jace clearly can't even see straight anymore.

Which however isn't any sort of excuse for Izzy. Because she wasn’t even there when Alec took the shard for safekeeping. How come she already has an opinion on the matter without even talking to him?

So, Alec ignores her for now.

"Jace," he says instead, unable to entirely hide his frustration at once more being lectured about ‘doing the right thing’, never mind that he is in fact trying to protect everyone, while ‘the right thing’ seems to have a rather suspicious tendency for perfectly coinciding with one Clary Fray’s personal goals. "Would you think for a second. Valentine has already used the shard to make contact with Clary once, meaning that everything she sees is probably tainted and quite likely a trap designed by him." He can already see the mulish tilt pulling at Jace's mouth, clearly unwilling to concede the point. So, Alec just continues, "I quite simply don't trust her not to go running off after whatever 'hint' Valentine might deign to show her, once more dragging all of us along as well." He focuses on both his siblings, makes sure he has their attention. "We need to lay low for a while. The Clave is only one unapproved mission away from taking control of the Institute away from the Lightwood family.”

That clearly brings his siblings up short, both of them now blinking at him, wide-eyed, clearly surprised, as though them cheerfully running around on self-assigned missions as they please, disregarding Clave directives whenever it suits them, couldn't possibly have had any sort of consequences in their minds.

Yes, such a wonderfully fantastical world the two of them are living in.

“What?” Jace asks.

Alec actually sighs this time. “Mom wrote. Apparently, word of the recent happenings here has reached Alicante and they already aren't really happy with us. Add to that all those bodies of Circle members that were found by the docks without any clue just who might have taken them out? The Clave is getting nervous about what’s happening in New York and they will use any excuse they can to insert themselves, even more so if they can find a legitimate reason to take over the Institute."

"You really think so?" Izzy asks, clearly still surprised.

He nods, their reactions giving him hope that they might actually listen to him for once. "Mom and Dad decided to stay in Alicante for now, hoping to mitigate the damage from their end. But apparently, the Clave has been discussing sending an official envoy to join us here for a while now, originally as additional manpower to help us handle the threat of Valentine who seems to be focusing a lot of his efforts on New York recently. But there is no way they won’t try to take actual control of the Institute instead if we give them enough of a reason and they can legitimately do so without pissing off the other old Shadowhunter families.”

Jace is honestly frowning now, clearly caught between surprise and anger at the Clave so much as considering such a slight against their family. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Alec shrugs, even though he feels anything but nonchalant about this topic. “The only reason they haven’t sent anyone to take over is because the rave never made it onto the logs. Officially, the only thing we’ve done against Clave directives so far, is bringing two mundanes into the Institute, one of whom turned out to be a nephilim anyway. Then the situation with the Dumort Clan, but I was able to argue that it was an emergency mission and that we didn't have the time to go through official channels to get approval. But if we had actually gone through with commissioning a warlock's services on Clary's behalf, that would have been the third strike and our family might have lost control of the Institute entirely."

"Well, damn," Izzy asserts emphatically.

Indeed, Alec thinks sarcastically.

There are several moments of silence. And Alec truly hopes they get now why he took the shard away from the girl who has already proven herself absolutely unwilling to so much as consider other people's concerns, as long as it gets her closer to her goal.

"You look tired, Alec," Izzy finally speaks up again and there is suddenly something honestly worried in her eyes as she watches him. 

Jace glances at her quickly and then back to focus on Alec, a somewhat worried frown forming on his face as well.

Alec just blows out a breath, glad they are not trying to revisit the topic of the portal shard. "I'll be fine. It's just been a little much recently." He sighs, then focuses on Jace. "Just, please, try to make Clary see reason from time to time. You can't just keep rushing in without any clue as to what you are doing."

"But her mom..." Jace starts hesitantly, clearly uncertain of his argument at this point.

Alec sighs, "I get that she is searching for her mother." He pauses, then adds on honestly, "And I even respect her wanting to protect her family. All I'm asking is that the two of you try to keep a low profile, maybe even listen to my suggestions from time to time on how to minimize the damage, and don't just rush in however you please and without any thought to the consequences and then leave me to clean it up on top of everything else."

That last part comes out a little harsher than he intended, but going by the honestly sheepish expression on Jace's face, it might have been exactly what his parabatai needed to hear.

+++

"Luke, I know you try to avoid conflict as much as you can," Magnus says with a raised eyebrow, the very picture of nonchalance as he sprinkles the required amount of lavender root into the cauldron in front of him, despite the topic having him everything but. "But your alpha truly isn't taking care of the pack as he should."

"I know, Magnus, I know," the former Shadowhunter, now second-in-command of New York’s strongest werewolf pack sighs where he is watching Magnus brew yet another potion for one of his pack members to help speed up their healing.

The silence hanging in the air between them for several moments is heavy, full of words unsaid.

"Just," Magnus finally continues carefully. "In case you decide to do something about it, let me know if you might need help, even if it's just as standby to patch you up afterwards." He waits until Luke meets his eyes. "Alright?"

"Alright," Luke sighs. A pause. "Thank you, old friend."

Magnus smiles. "Don't thank me. I'm just getting sick of always having to skip randomly across town in order to patch up the wolves your alpha so likes to punish for 'insubordination'." He makes sure to say it humorously, no matter how serious he is about the topic.

Luke is frowning now, rather heavily so. Magnus just focuses back on the potion, calmly waiting him out.

He learned long ago that it is never a good idea to actually fix other people's problems. It's far better to simply make sure they have the best possible odds for succeeding at fixing their problems themselves, maybe giving the last push and - most importantly - being there to help with the aftermath if need be.

It’s a couple of minutes before Luke finally looks up again, focuses on Magnus with sudden determination in his eyes. "About that standby," he starts.

Magnus raises an eyebrow in question.

"You available right now?"

Magnus grins.

+++

"I need to go back to my place to find my mother's tarot cards! I think the Mortal Cup might be amongst them," Clary bursts into his office, Jace on her heel.

Alec pauses, focuses on her intently.

Jace is actually the one who elaborates. “Clary thinks her mother hid the Cup in a drawing and even showed her the cards on purpose. Clary just didn’t know what she was looking at until now.”

Alec’s mind is already running through scenarios and probabilities and arguments for how best to argue the necessity of this mission in front of the Clave. He turns towards Clary, “How sure are you?" he asks.

"What do you mean, 'how sure'?" she exclaims impatiently. "I need to find my mother's cards!"

And Alec barely keeps from rolling his eyes in exasperation. Why can't this girl just answer someone's questions like a normal person? By the angel, he's made it through his siblings' puberty but he's fairly certain neither of them was ever near as melodramatic or self-absorbed as this particular girl.

+++

Magnus rushes through his apartment, doesn’t really pay any attention to Alaric sitting vigil next to his new alpha on the couch, or to Maia pacing rather restlessly by the window, or to Gretel standing stock-still by the table, scowling darkly into the cauldron where Magnus is preparing the potion they'll need to heal Luke. All three of them clearly have their attention is split between Luke groaning on the couch and Magnus rushing around gathering ingredients and adding them to the bubbling concoction as needed.

And usually, he'd do his best to reassure them, but he honestly can’t spare them any focus right now.

Thankfully, Luke gave him enough warning about his intention to challenge his alpha that Magnus had the time to gather all the ingredients he needs for this potion beforehand and it's now just a question of finishing it as quickly as possible.

Luke might have come out the victor from that fight, but it still took a lot out of him, as evidenced by his numerous wounds. And alpha-inflicted wounds are always the most difficult to heal.

Although, going by the collection of werewolves currently milling around his loft, clearly worried about their new alpha, and also the reaction he observed from the rest of the pack, it seems that no one is particularly sad about the change in leadership.

Magnus is glad. Luke will make an excellent alpha.

Not to even mention that peace within their city’s strongest werewolf pack also means a more peaceful Downworld as a whole, which means less strife between the various factions. Which can only ever be a good thing in the time of the Circle still doing its best to pick them off one by one.

+++

"The cards aren't here," Clary says. "Someone must have taken them." There is something forlorn in her voice and Jace is immediately reaching out to comfort her.

For once, Alec actually feels for her, can imagine how disappointing it must be for her to think she might have true leverage to get her mother back, only to then find said leverage gone. Still, his mind is already skipping ahead to what they need to do next. Because the other implications of the cards having disappeared are even worse. 

He briefly looks around, eyes briefly landing on Izzy who looks rather fascinated by what she's seeing, forever enamored with the mundane world. Then, Alec once more glances over to where Jace is still busy consoling Clary.

Because Alec knows that what he has to do next and he also knows it will have Clary once more railing against the unfairness of her life and quite likely also have his siblings up in arms, happy to take the girl's side once more.

But.

Alec knew what he was going to do next before they came here, has already run through the various scenarios of how to handle the situation if they had found the Cup. And even more so, if they didn't.

Idris needs to be informed. Because if the Mortal Cup is really amongst those cards, and now the cards are gone... There aren’t many places where they might have ended up.

"If Valentine has the Cup, then we need to tell the Clave," Alec finally asserts calmly. He sees Izzy glance up immediately, something unhappy in her expression but the look in her eyes also telling him that she recognizes his tone of voice, the tone he uses when he takes charge, when he leads a mission, when he takes on the role of Head of the Institute in their parents' absence. The tone voice when he has reached a conclusion, made up his mind, immovable in his conviction.

"No, you can't!" Clary is already exclaiming. "I need to find my mother first! I need the Cup to get my mother back.”

To Alec’s relief, for once neither of his siblings actually speak up to side with her. It wouldn't change his mind but it still makes his life quite a bit easier not to have to argue against them as well. Maybe for once they actually do get the implications, realize how far beyond their own agenda this situation might spread if they don’t get in front of it right away. Or maybe they just know him well enough to realize that there is no way they'll be able to move him, no matter what they say.

Either way, their lack of protest leaves Alec free to solely focus on Clary, as he honestly tries to explain the situation to her from his standpoint. "If Valentine has the Cup, then he might be creating an army of Shadowhunters only loyal to him right now. If that's the case, then it might put the balance of the entire Shadowworld at risk. It might even mean war.” Because that's the thing. No matter how much he might be able to sympathize with Clary doing everything to get her family back, with the Cup now possibly in Valentine's hands, this simply goes beyond just one person. “So, we need to tell the Clave and maybe they can work on trying to keep the peace."

He watches rather exasperatedly as his explanation only results in her expression turning mulish, an almost desperate light in her eyes and clearly not seeing what he just said as enough of a reason to give up on the Mortal Cup.

Alec wonders whether she is even aware of how incredibly, aggravatingly selfish it is of her to demand they put her personal agenda above the lives of everyone in the Shadowworld. Or whether she just doesn't care.

But, either way, the last time Valentine got out of control and the Clave didn't react quickly enough, the Downworld almost went to war with the Shadowhunters in retaliation. They barely managed to avoid an active conflict then, by quickly denouncing the Circle, but even now it is a fragile balance considering that Valentine is still very much out there and still hunting Downworlders as he pleases.

Alec is simply not risking an actual war for one Clary Fray.

To her right, Jace is watching them, the desire to speak up on Clary's behalf obvious in his expression. But when Alec looks over to meet his eyes, stance firm, conviction in his eyes, his parabatai finally just bows his head.

Because as much as they might like to argue otherwise, his siblings apparently get that Alec is actually right about this.

...

Or, just as likely, they are simply scheming how to get around me instead, Alec can't help but think sardonically. Certainly wouldn't be the first time.

Chapter Text

Magnus lets his eyes drift across the New York City skyline, drink in hand, taking a few moments to enjoy the quiet solitude currently surrounding him as he gazes over the view from his new balcony.

After the attack on the lair, he didn't really have a choice but to move house, what with Valentine and his little club of genocidal maniacs clearly having found him. Not that he regrets leaving that particular spot behind. As much as that warehouse might have been a good hideout – somewhere Valentine hadn't so much as thought to look for him for years - but the doom and gloom of the abandoned industrial complex still hadn't really been Magnus style at all.

So, Magnus had decided to just relocate his apartment via the ley lines to one of the other lots he owns in Brooklyn, a simple if ridiculously draining spell that mainly just requires some focus and a whole lot of power.

Which brings him here, admiring the view of New York at night. He'd almost forgotten how much he has always liked this particular location, just the view alone making the move absolutely worth it.

He already replenished most of his magical reserves after the rather taxing relocation spell earlier, and now he is using his evening to just relax a little. The sun has already set and New York is coming alight as countless lights flicker into existence all around the city, beautifully aglow against the dark night sky stretching out above.

Magnus lets his eyes drift across the illuminated city, feeling a small smile tilt his lips at the tranquil, almost serene feeling of the scene in front of him.

He loves moments like these. These pockets of peace within the usual hustle and bustle of life, just a few moments to breathe, to pause, to reflect, to let his mind drift. A few moments to just be, and love life as it is.

Now, if only I had someone to share this with.

Magnus blinks, a little taken off guard by that thought, mouth pulling down a little.

It’s been a long time since he’s had someone in his life, since he let anyone close enough he’d even want to share this sort of thing with. And he knows why he chose to keep himself apart from others, knows why he built that wall around himself so many years ago, remembers why he chose to shut his heart to the world, remembers the last time he let someone in, remembers the heartbreak, the literal decades it took him to piece himself and the shattered pieces of his tattered heart back together.

He knows.

But in moments like these, when he teeters at the edge between solitude and loneliness, he can’t help but wonder whether it’s actually worth it.

Magnus sighs slightly, lifting his glass for another sip of his drink as his mind wanders.

He knows better these days than to go looking for companionship just because he’s lonely, knows that being with someone doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be any less alone. He learned that lesson rather painfully.

And he swore to himself that this time, he will wait. Wait until he finds someone he truly wants, someone who is worth it, someone he simply cannot be without. And once he finds that someone Magnus will hold on with everything in him, with everything he is. And until then, he will wait.

I've made it for about one hundred and fifty years on my own. What’s another century or two at this point?

Magnus feels a slightly sardonic smile tilt his lips even as he finally turns his focus back on the illuminated city, twinkling with countless lights in front of him, as he deliberately shakes off those thoughts, determined to use whatever remains of his evening to relax.

His long life has certainly taught him to enjoy whatever moments of peace you can find, because the next catastrophe is sure to be waiting just around the corner.

And as if to prove him right, the tranquil silence around him is promptly disrupted by sudden, rather incessant knocking coming from the door to his loft.

Magnus blinks. And then just heaves a sigh, quirking a smile, caught between aggrieved and amused, even as he moves to leisurely make his way over to the entranceway of his loft. It really wouldn't be a normal day without at least one of his ducklings showing up to ask for his help with something.

As soon as he reaches the entranceway, he reaches out to swing his door open with a flourish. And the smile on his face at finding Raphael - with company - standing on the other side is immediate.

"Hello, my dear boy," he greets brightly, honestly happy to see Raphael. "What a lovely surprise to see you."

Raphael nods in greeting, facial expression as stoically broody as ever. “Hello, Magnus.”

Then, there is silence.

Magnus ticks up an eyebrow expectantly, for now pretending to ignore the jittery looking teenager hovering half a step behind Raphael and twitching in obvious anxiety.

Finally, Raphael sighs and deigns to elaborate, "Magnus, this is Simon. Camille bit him. Against his will. And then, the idiot returned to Dumort and she actually got him to feed on her."

Magnus blinks at that rather succinct summary. Always such a charmer, my little vampire.

"Ah." He feels his mouth pull down in a frown of sympathy as he focuses on the kid, who only gives a nervous smile and an awkward wave in return. "That sounds like her."

"Hn," Raphael agrees, face as stoic as always.

"Well, come in, come in," Magnus invites them, keeps his voice cheerful despite how serious this situation is. "No use in standing around outside."

He ignores Raphael’s aggrieved sigh – either at Magnus’ general cheer or at him making it sound like it was their choice to remain standing in his entranceway and not Magnus blocking their way into the loft – even as the two vampires follow him inside.

As soon as they reach the living room, he waves at the vampires - well, one vampire and one vampire-to-be - to take a seat on the couches, even as he steps over to his drink cart to prepare himself another glass.

"Anything to drink?" he asks brightly, already waving a glass with Raphael's favorite blood type into existence on the coffee table in front of him, but hesitates what to put in front of the kid. “Water? Blood?” He pauses briefly, can’t help but add on, “A juice box?”

But the kid doesn’t actually react to the quip, and is instead just staring at the glass in front of Raphael with wide eyes - whether by the casual display of magic or whether by the obvious contents of the glass, Magnus can't quite tell.

"You-? But-" More wide-eyed surprise. "But how?" he points a finger at the glass, expression almost offended, something amusingly accusing in his voice, like the glass itself somehow betrayed him by entirely ignoring the laws of physics or reality.

"Magic, my dear," Magnus supplies brightly, like that explains everything. Which in his mind, it certainly does. "You know, since I am a warlock."

There is a pause.

Then, the kid heaves a deep sigh, face the picture of almost comical resignation. "Magic," he mumbles in return. "Right. Because, why wouldn't there be a couple of Harry Potters skulking about in the shadows of the night as well. Of course. Makes total sense. Silly of me to assume otherwise."

Magnus can't help but grin slightly.

Aw, this kid is just precious.

And also clearly entirely unfamiliar with the Shadowworld.

Magnus breathes in, makes them get to the actual topic.

"I take it you haven't fully turned yet? Still a fledgling?" he asks, makes sure to keep his voice calm and generally cheerful, not wanting to scare the kid off.

Who is now looking at him in utter confusion, clearly not getting the question, before he just glances over at Raphael with big eyes, nearly-visible question marks hovering above his head. Like he just assumes the other vampire has all the answers.

How adorable.

Raphael actually deigns to nod at him in confirmation and Simon promptly turns back towards Magnus. "Yeah," he confirms. "Still a... fledgling?"

"Hm," Magnus hums, watching Raphael expectantly. Who is looking perfectly exasperated at this point. But Magnus knows full-well just how absolutely invested he is in taking care of fledgling vampires, forever trying to make their transition smoother than the hell he himself had gone through.

There is a reason why the Dumort Clan is as large as it is. And it's most certainly not because Camille is the warm and fuzzy type. No, most of the members stay because of Raphael, the second in command, the real leader of their clan, the one who - despite all outwards appearances - truly cares.

It takes another couple of seconds before Raphael finally deigns to reply to Magnus' unspoken question of why he decided to bring a fledgling vampire specifically to him instead of keeping him with the clan to teach him.

"He has already proven to have no impulse control, no common sense, and no survival instincts whatsoever," the vampire says, voice bland, easily ignoring the rather offended 'Hey!' from Simon. "I couldn't leave him there, under Camille's tutelage."

Magnus nods, knowing what Raphael isn't saying. Because Camille would only teach Simon whatever suits her best for him to know, all the while extolling the wonder of vampire existence, not bothering to give the other side of the story at all. And Raphael is also self-aware enough to know that he himself would be the exact opposite, over-emphasizing the darker sides of living as a vampire. Because as much as he might have gotten used to being a vampire these days, Raphael still hasn't been able to fully reconcile his beliefs with his undead existence, the loss of his family he had to go through.

And it seems, his next choice had been Magnus. It warms something in him to know that Raphael had chosen to bring Simon specifically to him, trusting Magnus to give the fledgling vampire the full picture. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the wondrously beautiful of immortal life.

It's a job Magnus is all too willing to take on.

+++

Alec glances around himself absently. Sure, it's been a while since he last came to Idris, but nothing about Alicante ever really changes, no matter how long he’s been gone.

Of course, usually when he comes to Alicante he also has company, either Jace or Izzy or both walking right beside him.

But not this time. This time, they stayed behind.

Although, to his utter relief, it’s not because they decided to stay behind to show their disapproval of his decision to inform the Clave of the recent developments with the Cup. No, his siblings actually wanted to come.

It seems that something about the past two days - whether it's because Alec fully laid out his reasoning for this particular decision or whether it's because of their talk yesterday about the current political power games being played in the Clave and how it’s putting the Lightwood family in a precarious position - was enough to actually get his siblings on his side, to get them to actually try to see past their own noses for once.

Which, hallelujah.

Sure, neither Izzy nor Jace entirely approve of his plan to let the Clave in on the Mortal Cup most likely being hidden in a tarot card, but at least they seem willing to concede that Valentine possibly being possession of it means Alec does actually have rather excellent reasons for that decision.

And they would even have accompanied him to Idris, hoping to give his voice a little more weight in front of the Clave with their presence. Alec is actually the one who made them stay behind, putting Izzy in charge of the Institute in case something happens in his absence, and then putting Jace on Clary-sitting duty because Alec just doesn’t trust that girl not to make use of their absence to further her own agenda.

And he most certainly wasn’t going to take one Clary Fray to Alicante with them. Yeah, no way. Who knows what sort of mess she’d create if given access to the heart of the Clave.

Not that she would have agreed to come, seeing as she is refusing to be around Alec anyway, apparently angry at him for deciding to go against what serves her personal goals best.

At this point, he mostly just feels exasperation whenever he thinks of her. He so absolutely doesn't get what Jace sees in her. Like, at all. Well, okay, at least not beyond her one redeeming quality, namely her apparent, uncompromising loyalty to her family. Even Alec can admit that he himself finds that sort of unshakable loyalty truly attractive in a person. In a male person. But still.

Loyalty is kind of everything to Alec. And the only other person he knows who is as uncompromisingly loyal as him to those he calls family, is Jace.

It's one of the reasons why Alec has always had trouble separating the draw of his parabatai bond from the draw of simple attraction. Because Jace is not only attractive in a purely aesthetic sense but he is also pretty much everything else Alec wants in a partner.

Well, except for the fact that he is also his parabatai and kind of his brother and so much closer to him already - bound to his very soul - than a relationship would get them and while definitely attractive, Alec has also seen Jace naked countless times at this point, so he can say with absolute certainty that he isn't actually sexually attracted to his parabatai in any notable way.

Which doesn't change Alec's jealousy, the fact that he rather possessively guards their bond, forever resentful of anyone who takes his parabatai's attention away from him.

Like one Clary Fray. Who has Jace so spellbound, his parabatai apparently struggles to even think straight anymore.

Which brings Alec back to the reason why he is currently in Alicante, alone, striding through the corridors of the Council’s building on his way to the High Inquisitor's office, intent on passing on the information regarding one of the most sacred and most powerful artifacts in their world.

Because his own sensibilities and insecurities aside, Alec has already spent too much time placating that girl for Jace's sake, has put too many of the Shadowhunters under his command at risk for her. And risking his own career, his reputation, his life, or even the standing of the Lightwood family is one thing. Risking the peace of the entire Shadowworld for her sake is something else entirely.

At this point, his choices are either keeping silent, hiding the fact that there is a very real possibility of Valentine having the Cup and potentially even already making new Shadowhunters as he pleases. Or telling the Clave about the tarot card and relying on their extensive network of Institutes and Shadowhunters spanning the entire globe to help look the Cup, all the while hopefully also actively working to keep the peace in the Shadowworld as a whole.

The first option is quite likely going to lead to war. The second at least gives them a chance.

Yeah, it's not really much of a choice at all.

Alec breathes in, firms his resolves.

And then raises his hand, knocking firmly on the door to Imogen Herondale's office.

He can only hope that the Clave will be willing to put politics and power games aside in order to do their part in keeping the peace.

+++

Magnus isn’t surprised when Raphael pulls him aside as soon as Simon has wandered off a little, distracted as he oohs and aahs at Magnus' collection of various magical knickknacks displayed throughout his apartment.

He knew the moment Raphael showed up at his door that there must be an additional reason for him deciding to bring the fledgling vampire to him instead of keeping him at the hotel and laying the groundwork for folding him into the clan to make his transition as smooth as possible in case he does decide to become a vampire.

He even has a fairly good idea just what this is about.

"Magnus," Raphael starts, something heavy, something hesitant but weighty in his voice.

Magnus sighs, sadness welling up inside of him, but his voice steady as he asks calmly, "You brought Simon here, so he wouldn't have to witness his new sire being taken out by the clan, I assume?" He is glad to note that his tone doesn’t give any of his melancholy at that thought away.

Raphael's mouth pulls down slightly, even as he nods carefully, eyes shuttered, sympathetic as he watches Magnus intently - fully aware of that not-quite-healthy-but-still-so-deep bond Magnus has shared with Camille for over a century now - but also pure determination in his stance. "She can't be allowed to continue like this," he confirms. "She doesn't care anymore. Not about the Accords, not about the clan, not about the Clave coming after us. Tensions are already running high and if word gets out about her freely turning mundanes, my clan is simply not going to survive the Shadowhunter's retaliation."

Magnus breathes out, closes his eyes, fights down the grief running through him.

But he also knows Raphael is right.

As much as he has loved Camille, as much as he still treasures what they once had - one-sided as his affections may have been - there is a reason why Magnus finally cut ties with her. She has been losing her hold on whatever had remained of her humanity even just a century ago for a long time now.

And if she has now devolved to the point where she is putting her own clan - Raphael's clan - in real tangible danger...

He breathes in once, opens his eyes, and focuses on the vampire in front of him, the vampire Magnus would freely call his son if anyone ever thought to ask. "Do you need my help in handling her?"

"No," Raphael cuts in immediately. And as brusque as that brush-off sounds, Magnus knows the vehemence in his voice is much more about his resolution to spare Magnus the pain of having to go up against Camille – his lover, friend, confidante, partner-in-crime for so many decades – than it is about actually not needing or not wanting his help.

Even knowing that, Magnus can't help the utter relief that runs through him at the refusal, glad he will not actually have to be involved.

Raphael continues strongly, "The Clan already agreed. We are not going to kill her, only going to lock her into her coffin, at least for a decade or so until tensions hopefully have lessened a little. And together the clan can easily hold her down long enough to lock her away."

"Okay, dear boy," Magnus nods. Then, he can't help but add on, "Just. Be careful. You know her. Always at least another ace up her sleeve."

A firm nod is all he gets in response. But the relief shining in Raphael's eyes at Magnus' agreement - at him not speaking up on Camille's behalf - is absolutely worth the pain already thrumming through him at the thought of effectively losing yet another person he once called a friend.

But, in the end, if Magnus is put in front of a choice between her and one of his children? Well, that's not really a choice at all. There is nothing Magnus wouldn't do for those he truly calls his.

+++

Alec forces himself to keep his breathing even, his face clear, makes sure not to let any of the anger currently running through him show on his face, even as he makes his way through the city of Alicante, the Lightwood manor where his parents are currently staying a clear goal in his mind.

His current fury actually has nothing to do with his original reason for coming to Idris.

If anything, his trip here went much better than he had even dared to hope. Not only his meeting with Imogen, but also how she - in her role as the High Inquisitor  - had immediately called in a meeting of everyone higher up in the Clave hierarchy as soon as Alec informed her about the Cup, apparently determined to bring every single one of them up to speed right away. A meeting which Alec had then also found himself included in, to his surprise actually able to give his input on matters very much concerning his city and his Institute.

He honestly hadn't expected any of that.

The best thing to come out of that meeting was the Clave’s conclusion that the risk of Valentine possibly using the Cup to create Shadowhunters as he pleases, poses too large of a potential threat to keep this on the down-low.

Because Circle members are supposed to be marked as such, identifiable to other Shadowhunters and Downworlders alike. But, suddenly, there is the very real threat of Valentine creating unmarked Shadowhunters loyal to only him and his cause, who might then go around killing Downworlders indiscriminately but without being identifiable as Circle members...

The Downworld might just decide they've had enough and start that war they had threatened the last time Valentine had co-opted the Clave's banner to rain terror down unto their world.

And apparently, even the Clave isn't willing to risk an actual all-out war with the entire Downworld over information politics and thus decided to just be up front with the Downworld for once. So in a move that is admittedly almost astoundingly uncharacteristic for the Clave, they decided to not only issue an alert about the Cup's assumed whereabouts to the Institutes around the globe, but to also instruct them to pass on that information to their local Downworld representatives.

And, yes, Alec had honestly been hoping for something along those lines when he came here but he hadn't been too optimistic about it actually happening, what with the Clave's history of generally trying to keep things on a need-to-know basis. Because knowledge truly is power and all that.

So, his trip to Alicante really went great, even better than he'd hoped.

But the thing that has Alec currently furious has nothing at all to do with any of that.

Because on his way back to the portal area, he had run into Aline, who he hasn't seen in what feels like years, and it had been nice to catch up with her a little. And then they'd been joined by one of Aline's friends, Lydia Branwell, who Alec only knew in passing. But the three of them had gotten to talking, because it's simply not that often you get to not-so-subtly rant about the difficulties of being an heir to one of the old lines with people who actually get it, namely other heirs.

It had been nice.

But then, during the conversation, Lydia had made a comment. About family politics.

Just a casual comment, clearly not aiming for anything but being actually understanding. Understanding of how Alec's position must be even more difficult than hers or Aline's. You know, due to his parents' history with the Circle.

Alec breathes out harshly.

He never thought he'd find out about his parents lying to him for years while essentially gossiping with other Shadowhunter heirs.

Because apparently his parents were in the Circle, freely followed Valentine before his first fall. A fact that they seem to have conveniently forgotten to ever mention to Alec, despite their constant lecturing about honor and the right thing and the true Shadowhunter way.

He has always tried to live up to their expectations, to their example, determined to become just like them, become the ideal Shadowhunter as they seemed to be.

But.

It seems, Alec's parents are not at all what he has believed them to be all these years. Not only because of their apparent personal history, but also because of them then choosing to lie about it.

Turns out, his parents are liars, cowards, hypocrites, sanctimoniously self-righteous bigots. And Alec tries not to think about what else his parents realistically are, tries not to consider that Valentine's doctrine never differentiated between killing innocents and those actually guilty of any sort of crime, as long as they also had demon blood. And if his parents truly followed him, followed him for years even...

He breathes out painfully.

No, apparently his parents don't live up to Alec’s expectations at all. Which is quite the turnaround, what with him usually being the one getting reprimanded by them for not being good enough.

And as he finally reaches the part of the Alicante where a number of the old Shadowhunter families still have their ancestral homes, one of them the Lightwood family manor where his parents are staying, Alec can’t help but think that it suddenly seems like their estimation of what is good and what isn't, isn't really worth much at all.

In all their endless critiquing of Alec and his siblings, in all their preaching about holding up the Lightwood name, in all their willingness to point at each and every single one of their shortcomings as direct failings to their family, his parents never thought to mention that it is actually them who are to blame for any hits the Lightwood name might have taken over the past couple of decades.

No, they never deigned to mention that at all.

And Alec is furious.