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The Law You Can't Beat

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New York City rush hour first thing in the morning was something you never wanted to get caught in.

New York City rush hour first thing in the morning was something you never wanted to get caught in, especially when your extremely unpleasant, good-for-nothing boss was expecting you to be in front of him with his morning coffee approximately five minutes ago.

Simon Lewis expertly weaved through the throng of pedestrians clogging up the busy New York sidewalk, desperately trying not to spill the to-go cup of coffee in his hand. Said coffee had managed to survive the busy line in the shop and the short subway ride, and he’d be damned if he lost it to a bunch of suits with swinging briefcases. To him, this cup was gold and much less important than the feelings of those around him. He bumped into far too many people in his haste, but he was in too much of a rush to apologize. Simon quite liked his head, and if there was any hope in hell of him keeping it on his shoulders, he had to be inside of his building before his boss - Mr. Satan, himself - arrived.

Damn, he was so late.

He darted past the front desk, flashing his security badge and slid into the elevator, mere seconds before it closed. He knew he must have looked a wreck; suit rumpled, hair sticking to his forehead with sweat and papers shoved haphazardly into his bag. But he still had the cardboard to-go cup of coffee in his hand, and that was all that mattered. Simon would rather walk into the office naked than to lose this coffee. And that was a dream he’d had far too many times than any normal human being should have.

After what seemed like a hundred years, the elevator finally stopped on the top floor. Simon pushed through everyone, ignoring their groans of protest, bolting out of the elevator and onto the floor of Lightwood & Lightwood.

He’d been working with the company for about eight years, climbing his way from the mailroom assistant in the basement, to Senior Executive Assistant of the managing partner himself, Alexander Lightwood. He liked to think he had improved since the days of sorting and delivering mail, wistfully hoping to be sitting in one of the desks of many higher - ups who barely paid him any mind. On the totem pole he would consider himself a nice happy medium, but it looked really great on paper, paid well and it was leaps above the mailroom so he supposed he couldn’t really complain. The whole story had all the qualities of a romcom blockbuster - lowly nerd climbing the ranks in the business until he made it close to the top, working directly for the devastatingly handsome boss whom he would eventually fall in love with.

Well, everything except for the fact that his boss hated just about everything and everyone - including (and especially) Simon.

Clary liked to call him the ‘Senior Executive Bitch’ to Alexander Lightwood, to which Simon wholeheartedly agreed. Simon loved his job, he really did, but sometimes it was a colossal drag. He needed to be available to Mr. Lightwood what seemed like twenty-four seven, completing small and hardly gratifying tasks, with little to no recognition for his work. It was unforgiving hours, late nights and thankless work, but it had its perks. He was the first line of contact for one of the top lawyers in the city, sitting in on briefings, cases and interviews. It was a lot of scheduling and answering the phone, but he hardly minded that. He got to meet with celebrities and other famous faces that hired Mr. Lightwood as their lawyer, and often learnt gossip first hand, before it hit the tabloids. And he was paid really well. Simon was never given any form of positive reinforcement directly, but he had been working for Mr. Lightwood longer than any of his previous assistants and he knew that somewhere, deep, deep down his work was being appreciated a little bit.

All in all, it was a pretty sweet gig.

But it was days like today when Simon wished he had chosen any other job - hell, any other profession. Maybe if he had gone to school a little longer, he could have been a Junior Partner like Clary or Maia. Or he could have been a paralegal like Underhill.

But as it was, and would continue for the foreseeable future, he was Senior Executive Bitch and there wasn’t much he could do about that.

He skidded into the office, beelining straight to his desk. He caught a few surprised glances on his way in, but many of his associates were used to him racing into the office in a panic, and went back to work. His desk was in sight, only a few steps away, and a quick glance into the office behind it told him that by some miracle, Mr. Lightwood hadn’t arrived yet. Simon was just thanking his lucky stars, letting out the breath he had been holding since he left the coffee shop, when it all came crashing down.

Literally.

It just so happened that today was the worst day of his life and in his haste to sit on his chair, he tripped over, ironically, the mail cart that someone had left right beside his desk. This resulted in something that, any other day or if it had happened to anyone else, would have been hilarious. But falling flat on your face, and spilling The Golden Coffee Cup everywhere was anything but funny.

Especially today.

“Simon!” He heard the sound of Clary’s heels rushing towards him as he sat up, assessing the damage. Thankfully, none of the coffee had gotten on his suit. The floor was another story though. There was a giant coffee shaped stain underneath his chair that was surely going to be a hassle to get out. But worse than the stain was what it represented; the fact that the cup was empty. “Are you okay?”

No, he was most certainly not.

Clary crouched down, grabbing him by the elbow and pulled him up. Clary had worked with the firm almost as long as Simon had. Just like every other lawyer, she started out as an associate but had quickly climbed the ranks. She ended up becoming the second youngest associate to be promoted to Junior Partner in the firm, second only to Mr. Lightwood himself. She was incredibly talented at what she did, and had a passion for helping those in need. Simon often wondered if that was why she had chosen him to be her best friend.

“I’m fine.” He shook his head, straightening his tie and giving her a smile in thanks. He held the empty coffee cup out, glaring at it before tossing it in the trash with a resigned sigh. Well, he thought, I guess I’ve had a pretty good life. There was no way he would survive the morning meeting without a coffee in his hand, and so the only other option was that he would probably be leaving the office today in a nice cedar box. Six feet underground.

The saying was ‘the good die young’, right? He must have been pretty good to die at the hands of his boss at 25.

Simon heard Mr. Lightwood coming before he saw him. The first indication was employees scattering, running to their desks and quickly sitting down at their computers, pretending to look busy. It was kind of like a scene in an action movie when the villain was storming down the streets of the city in slow-motion, and the citizens were fleeing like ants away from the threat. The only thing that was missing was the piles of burning rubble and the high intensity villain music. One thing this particular villain hated more than anything else was when people stood around. He often told his employees that water cooler “chit chat” was unproductive and would not be tolerated under any circumstances.

The second indication that he’d arrived was the deep, booming voice coming from the elevator. “Stevens, did you forget something last night? How to be a lawyer perhaps?” The associate in question squeaked something in response, but Mr. Lightwood continued on talking as if he hadn’t. “I want the Vincent file on my desk in five minutes or you can go looking for another job. Perhaps the McDonalds down the street.”

Simon looked around desperately, knowing he only had mere seconds before Mr. Lightwood stormed down the hallway and into his own office. He only had seconds before he was supposed to be standing in front of a seething, and very intimidating Mr. Lightwood, hot cup of coffee in hand, greeting him for the day. His boss seemed to be in an exceptionally bad mood this morning, and Simon didn’t really fancy being caught empty handed. If he could delay his death just a little bit, that would be great. His mom would be pissed if she had to plan a funeral.

Clary shoved a stack of papers into his hand, along with a still warm cup of coffee from her own desk. “Go.” She shooed quietly, shoving Simon towards the door of Mr. Lightwood’s office. He didn’t question her, or her mysterious cup of coffee. It was better than nothing.

He rounded the corner, long strides bringing him on a warpath directly to his office. On a warpath to Simon. He was dressed in a smart charcoal suit, crisp and sharp, with a white shirt and thin black tie. His dark hair was styled in a way that made it look natural, standing up in all the right places. He had a nice amount of facial hair, just enough to give him that cutting edge jawline, chiseled model look. He did actually look like a brooding model strutting down the runway, sharp gaze set forward, but he wouldn’t turn around and walk away at the end of this catwalk. If anyone asked, Simon would deny it, but Alec Lightwood was attractive. Devastatingly so, with his dark hair and eyes, fair skin and extremely built body. Not to mention his jawline that looked like it could actually cut someone. He was definitely hot, in that tall, dark and handsome type of way. Simon would maybe, sort of definitely climb that like a tree if not for one glaringly large detail.

His hotness hit a dead stop with his looks, his very ugly personality rearing its big head whenever he opened his mouth. Or looked at you. Or did anything, really.

“Good morning, Mr. Lightwood, sir. I hope you had a pleasant evening.” Alec shot him a look as he brushed by that told Simon if he made another dumb statement he wouldn’t be standing there much longer.

Swell.

Simon had learned early on not to ask about Alec’s personal life. He had taken to making vague comments or statements instead, but on Alec’s bad days he didn’t appreciate of those, either. It was one of the stranger things about Alec, his penchant for privacy. In all the time Simon had known him, he had never once learnt anything of real substance about his personal life. He knew menial things like his favourite restaurant (the Indian place on 45th) and how he liked his coffee (black with sugar). He knew Alec always stayed late and that he came in early every single day. He only ever took off three days in the year, one being Christmas and two other dates Simon wasn’t sure the significance of. He had a sister and a brother - maybe two - and he had inherited this company from his mother.

But other than that, Alec Lightwood was an enigma. A grouchy, evil, mysterious enigma.

“Where’s my coffee?” Alec asked, already seated behind his computer. Simon brought it over, setting it gently beside him. He really hoped, for the sake of his life, that Clary didn’t drink something sugary sweet. Heaven forbid that Simon place a Pumpkin Spiced Latte on his boss’ desk. Simon watched with bated breath as Alec took a cautious sip. His career, as well as his very existence, hung in the balance of this single cup of coffee. He wasn’t sure what they would put on his gravestone, but he hoped it would be something cool.

After an eternity, or just a few seconds, Alec nodded. That was as close as he got to showing appreciation. “For once, you got it right. Good job, Lewis.”

He would live another day, Simon thought, letting out a breath of relief. He fought down the urge to do a little happy dance, as he was almost certain that would get him flung from the window, fifty floors above the street.

Alec went to work on his computer, and Simon took it as his cue to go over the schedule for the day. He pulled out his clipboard. Alec didn’t look up, nor show any indication that he was listening. “So, you have that Marshall briefing this morning, but you just have to sit in on it because Maia will be running it. Michael Chapman is coming in for lunch today to discuss that problem he’s having with the mole in his company. The Vincent file needs to be sent in by noon so I’ll grab that from Stevens right away. And then at 3pm you have…” Simon paused, squinting down at the paper in shock. Surely he wasn’t reading the schedule right because it said -

“Spit it out, Lewis.”

Simon cleared his throat nervously. “Uh - um. You have, er … negotiations with Bane & Fell this afternoon. Regarding the client they are trying to poach from us, uh, you - sir.”

The room was so quiet that Simon could hear his heartbeat thudding in his ears. Or maybe that was just because he had just avoided one potential death sentence and jumped right into another. Either way, Simon had accepted he probably wouldn’t be making it through this day alive.

Alec closed his eyes and let out a long, deep sigh, fingertips pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. Which was justified, in Simon’s professional opinion. Bane & Fell was another large law firm in New York; arguably one of the biggest, most successful firms in the city, second only to their own. Lightwood & Lightwood’s toughest competition, if you would. The two firms were in what seemed like a constant battle to be the biggest, baddest shark in the business. Simon was happy to report that their own firm was currently on top, after recently signing Taylor Swift and her big fancy lawsuit against Big Machine Records a few weeks prior. Alec had made a bold move with it, but it had put him a few steps ahead in the game.

But it seemed that Bane & Fell was retaliating by going after Alec’s clients. Specifically one of Alec’s oldest clients. It was a bold move, but Simon expected nothing less from the great Magnus Bane.

Magnus was one of the managing partners of Bane & Fell, co-owning with his partner Ragnor Fell. Simon had never met either of them, but felt as though he knew them both personally through all he had heard from Alec over the years, especially about Magnus. He and Alec had had it out for each other for as long as Simon had been in the business. Rumour had it they were in the same graduating class during their time at Harvard, their rivalry starting from a young age. They had competed to become top of their class (Alec), getting jobs at their own respective law firms (Magnus) and finally becoming managing partners (Alec, again). Since then, it had been a clawing, brutal battle of the ages to get to the top of the ladder, and they were constantly trying to knock the other down in order to get there.

From what his boss had described, Magnus was mean, petty and devious, and he would do anything to win a case, even if it meant occasionally blurring the lines. He was like a piranha feasting on the weak, something that he seemed to take pride in. Simon had done his research when he first heard of the rivalry, trying to learn as much about the competition as possible. Magnus was affluent in many aspects of the law, but the one area in which he was mainly known for was that he was the best closer in the city. There weren't many clients that he hadn’t swooned, or cases that he hadn’t won. The only time he lost, it seemed, was when he was up against Alec. Even then, he was possibly one of the best lawyers Simon had ever seen.

Not that he would ever, ever admit that to Alec, of course.

But while Magnus was an excellent closer, he had nothing on Alec when it came to presence in the courtroom. Simon had seen recordings of Magnus and Alec going head to head in trial cases and Alec had him ten to one. Their rivalry was glaringly obvious in the courtroom, tension thick even on the screen of Simon’s computer, but they never once dropped the air of professionalism. Magnus was excellent when it came to settlements and proceedings behind closed doors, but if a case went to trial, Alec won near every time. He was persuasive and always did his homework, predicting what the other counselor would dig up before they even thought of it themselves. It was truly artwork to watch.

And so they each had their own respective talents in which they were exceptional, talents that made them the best of the best. But everyone knew only one could be on top, especially in New York, and Simon desperately hoped that it would be Alec. One because he supported his boss and wanted only the best for him, but mainly because he didn’t want to see what kind of hell Alec would reap if he lost to Magnus.

He had a feeling that it wouldn’t be pretty. Especially for Simon who seemed to be the scapegoat for Alec’s anger.

Why oh why, had the universe decided that today would be a good day to push Alec’s buttons? Why hadn’t Magnus Bane waited to steal one of Alec’s clients on a day when he was slightly less murderous and a little less likely to rip Simon’s intestines from his body with his teeth?

The lawyer sat back in his chair, linking his fingers over his stomach and leveled his steely gaze at Simon. His face read he was calm, but Simon could see the burning, bubbling anger brewing under the surface, dangerous and moments away from exploding. “Bane & Fell is poaching my client?” He asked, eyebrow raised. His voice was cold, calculated. Simon gulped. “And why, pray tell, is this the first time I am hearing about it?”

Simon swallowed thickly, tongue heavy in his mouth. His next words were chosen carefully. “Erm, well.” Simon flipped through the pages, hoping to find some sort of answer that would please Alec. He held a deep sigh when he found the one he was looking for. “It appears that Raj put the memo in last night. And I only printed your schedule this morning, and -” Simon could see before he finished his sentence that he should most definitely stop talking immediately. Alec was shooting daggers at him with his eyes, hazels piercing right into his soul. It was a look that told him he didn’t like to be a step behind his enemy just because it was a late night, and Simon had been too busy drinking wine and binge watching Netflix to check his email. “Right.” Simon amended, nodding. “I’m going to go get you everything on the client in question and figure out why Bane & Fell would want them, and how they’re going to try and get them.” He let out in a rush, hoping that if he left this office fast enough, the lasers in Alec’s eyes wouldn’t have time to hit him. He excused himself before Alec could reprimand him further, hurrying out of the office and shutting the door behind him.

Once he was back in the safety of his own desk, he slumped down into his chair, letting out a long breath. That wasn’t the worst encounter he’d had with his boss, not by a long shot. But before this job, Simon hadn’t really been one to get in trouble often. Or ever. He was the golden child, both at home and all the way through school. His parents loved him, his teachers adored him, even when he had worked at that music shop during college his boss had told him he was the best employee they’d hired. So coming to work here, and being placed under the reign of Satan himself was a little bit of a reality check.

He waited until his heartbeat had slowed back to something that resembled normalancy, before opening up the lid of his laptop and started finding the information he needed. Alec was already displeased both with Simon and the fact that he had to have a meeting with his sworn enemy today, so he didn’t want to give him yet another reason to go on a killing spree. He figured he’d find everything he could, giving Alec a leg up in what he had lost this morning, and hopefully in doing that, Alec would be in a less than murderous mood.

Hopefully.

This job was going to give him a damn heart attack one day. He would just drop to the floor right here at his desk from stress. That, or he would lose all his hair before he was thirty.

A while later, Simon looked up to see a cup of coffee placed in his line of vision. Holding that cup of coffee was Clary. She was grinning at him, looking much too happy, considering the storm cloud that must have been surrounding his own head. “So…” she prodded cheekily, “how was our lovely Mr. Lightwood this morning?”

Simon gratefully grabbed the coffee from her with a thanks, gulping down a huge sip and not at all minding that it burned his tongue. He also noted that she had replaced the previous cup of her own that she had given him. “Oh you know, lots of glaring, very little conversation, flames coming out of his ears. The usual.” He shrugged, feigning nonchalance. Whether it was the coffee or Clary’s presence, Simon found himself starting to feel a little better.

Clary chuckled, rolling her eyes. “I’m being serious.”

“I mean, he didn’t yell at me too much, all things considered. He did almost kill me because I forgot to check my email last night, but he didn’t, so I guess we can count that one as a win.” Simon rolled his eyes playfully. “Also,” he said, “he liked the coffee, which means I owe you one. One, as in a life. I owe you a life, Clary. The life that would’ve been taken from me if he didn’t like the coffee. So thank you very much for saving my life today.” Clary chuckled, shaking her head. “Why didn’t I know you drink your coffee black, with one sugar?” Simon mused, sitting back in his chair, taking another sip of the cup she brought him.

Clary grinned brightly. “I don’t. But I do buy one of those everyday, just in case what happened to you this morning, ever happened. I started doing it about a year ago when you almost lost the cup tripping on your shoes coming out of the elevator.” Simon shuddered at the memory - that had been a close call. “I’ve been where you are, Simon. I was an admin assistant at one point, so I understand what terrible bosses are like. And,” she teased, winking. “I like you as a friend and didn’t particularly want to see you get killed first thing in the morning. Too much blood.”

Simon laughed, surprised. Clearly there were still some good people in the world, even at this firm. “Well, I still owe you one. Or a bunch, I guess. Expect some lives to be coming your way, Fray.” He shrugged. “Or a gift. Maybe I’ll buy you a really fancy handbag to make up for it.”

“As long as it’s really big and really expensive.” She said over her shoulder, retreating back to her office with a wave.

Simon laughed, but cut off immediately when Alec buzzed him over the intercom, asking him why he didn’t have the Bane & Fell information on his desk, ’yesterday, Lewis’.

Hastily hitting print, Simon prayed to whatever gods were up there that this meeting went well.

 

***

 

“The Patterson case needs to be closed up, so stick an associate on it and get it done by the end of the day. And while you’re at it, fire that associate, the one with the curly hair. He asked me how to use the fax machine yesterday.”

Lydia followed as quick as she could behind Magnus, who was striding briskly ahead of her. “Jacob, sir?”

“Yeah, him. Incompetent weasel.” Magnus scoffed, pace never slowing. “And did you book my lunch with Campbell for tomorrow?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Change it to this afternoon.” Magnus ordered. He strode around the corner and into his office, finally giving Lydia a moment to catch up. “I want to make sure I secure his business before I meet with Lightwood today.” The way he said Lightwood made her cringe, filled with venom.

“Right,” She nodded slowly, jotting down notes on her iPad. “But sir, if I may.” Magnus gave her a look that said she may not, but she continued on anyway. “Campbell is Lightwood’s oldest client. What makes you think they're going to switch legal services over to us?”

Magnus rolled his eyes, like the answer was obvious and she should have understood. “I’m going to charm Campbell the same way that I charm every other one of my clients. Once he sees what we have to offer, he’ll practically be jumping into my lap. Literally and metaphorically.”

Lydia pursed her lips, processing what her boss had just told her. She knew Magnus was good, really good, but good enough to take one of Lightwood’s first clients?

Magnus sighed dramatically. He twirled a pen between his fingers, leaning back in his chair. “Lightwood got a leg up on us by signing one of the biggest pop stars in the world in a very big and very public case. But we’re going to retaliate by taking his oldest client. He needs to be knocked out at the knees and taking something he thinks he’ll never lose is a surefire way of doing that.” He spun his chair, facing Lydia directly. “Do you have a problem with that?”

She shook her head. In reality, she did have a problem with it, but she was never going to tell him that. She had worked for him for years, but Magnus was imposing and pretty frightening when he fixed someone with that look. He was dressed immaculately, as usual. Expensive light grey suit, dark hair slicked into a quiff, eyes lined lightly with kohl. His eyes were possibly the worst though, cold and calculating, and she had seen on multiple occasions when they had frozen people on the spot. Like Medusa.

Lightwood had agreeably made a huge jump in the corporate law industry, it was true. They worked with big businesses all the time, even celebrities, but never celebrities of that global stature or fame. He had been all anyone could talk about for weeks and she could see it slowly rubbing off on Magnus. But, as impressive as it was, Lydia didn’t think that poaching his oldest client in retaliation was the best way to go about it. It would only serve in making him more mad, probably coming up with something worse to spite Magnus. It could only end in the two of them burning each other and their own companies into the ground.

But Magnus was the boss and there was a reason he was the best closer in New York.

He was simply … the best.

“Anything else, sir?” Magnus shook his head, dismissing her with an airy wave of his hand, already preoccupied with something else. He told her to be back in his office in four hours to go to the Lightwood meeting, and not a moment later.

Lydia retreated to her desk, slumping down in her chair. Sometimes she really wished her boss was a little nicer. Sure, he was good to her and paid her a hefty amount, but he wasn’t the nicest of people. Not even close, actually. He was snappy and mean, and didn’t ever consider anyone else’s feelings but his own. But he was a damn good lawyer, and if fetching his coffee and scheduling his meetings for a few years meant that maybe she could follow in his footsteps one day, then she supposed she had to live with it.

She let herself wonder briefly what it would be like if Magnus had found someone to love. Or maybe even a friend, one that wasn’t his business partner. If he met someone that made him smile, that made him laugh, that softened that hard, cold exterior. Because while she knew a lot about him, she knew hardly anything about his personal life. He hardly left the office, and barely ever took personal time. He’d never mentioned someone special in his life, though he didn’t mention much unless it was pertaining to a case or a direct order.

But she was sure that he didn’t have anyone in his life. Maybe if he found someone, someone real, he would spend more time away from the office and be in a better mood. Hell, even if he was getting laid regularly he’d be in a better mood.

Lydia’s fantasy popped though, because as she looked through the window of his office, she saw him yelling at someone through the phone, face pinched in anger. He slammed the receiver down, cursing at whomever was on the other line. There wasn’t a chance in hell that Magnus Bane would take off his lawyer hat long enough to let his true self shine through and let anyone in. She wasn’t even sure if he was even able to find his true self anymore, with how deep it was buried under years of anger and hatred. He had so many walls up, and each and every one was covered in barbed wire with snipers lining the top, blasting anyone who even thought about getting close.

Oh well, the thought had been nice while it lasted.

Lydia threw herself into her work. Technically, firing associates wasn’t part of her job, but she figured it was better she do it than Magnus. She hardly even wanted to think about what would happen if the poor, young associate walked into Magnus’ office. She sat him down and kindly explained that ‘it just wasn’t working out’, and ‘we wish you all the best in the future’. Jacob was upset, but Lydia handed him a glowing letter of recommendation with Magnus’ letterhead and sent him on his way with a sympathetic smile. Afterward, she gathered all the intel she could on Campbell, as well as Lightwood & Lightwood.

She knew Alec Lightwood had inherited the company from his mother and father, after the latter had passed away. His mother hadn’t wanted to run it alone and left it to her recently graduated son. He had rebuilt it from the ground up, turning it into the multi-billion dollar success it was today. She knew that Magnus knew this information though, and so she gathered what she could on Lightwood’s relationship with Campbell and handed it to Magnus in a file folder as he strode past her desk for his lunch meeting. She wanted Magnus to be prepared when he went into both the lunch and the meeting. More for her sake, than his own though. Magnus would be a raging fireball if he lost to Alec Lightwood.

All too soon she glanced at the clock and saw it was time for the meeting. She arranged for the car to meet them outside, gathered up her files and head into Magnus’ office, ten minutes early. He was ready and waiting for her when she arrived, scolding her for taking too long even though she had been ahead of schedule.

Pick your battles, Branwell, she thought to herself, letting out a breath.

They made their way to the car awaiting downstairs. It was sleek and black, expensive and the only way Magnus traveled, unless it was by private jet. With a quick nod to the driver, they weaved out into afternoon New York traffic, on their way to Lightwood & Lightwood. It wasn’t a long drive, their firms just a mere few streets away, but to Lydia it felt like crossing into another territory, past enemy lines. She had never met Alec Lightwood, but she had heard a lot about him. Magnus certainly liked to talk about him often, though he never had anything remotely nice to say. From what she knew, he was brooding and manipulative, and a big pain in her boss’s ass.

Soon enough, the car pulled to a stop and they stepped out in front of Lightwood & Lightwood. The building loomed above them. It was your standard skyscraper, similar to their own, with windows for walls and height that stretched as high as Lydia could see. As associate was already waiting for them outside, a petite girl with blonde hair pulled back into a tight ponytail who introduced herself as Charlotte. She regarded Magnus with what could only be described as fascination and fear, eyes as wide as saucers when he stepped out. He didn’t seem to notice.

Charlotte led them into the building, passed the security checkpoint and into the elevator, up to the top floor. It was a long, silent ride to the top. No one spoke and the only sound was that stupid music people played in elevators that only made the situation more tense. Lydia was trying to prepare herself for what was to come. She knew Magnus wouldn’t go without a fight, but she wondered at what cost he would win. He didn’t appear nervous, but she knew better than to judge based on his outer percievance. Magnus was leaning against the wall and assessing the state of his nails at the front of the elevator, and muttered to Lydia to pen him in for an appointment in the next few days.

It was the calm that worried her the most, but there wasn’t much she could do about it as the elevator slid to a halt on the top floor.

As soon as they stepped off the elevator, the name ‘Lightwood & Lightwood greeted them, big fancy lettering making it impossible to miss. Magnus scoffed, rolling his eyes. “At least I don’t rely on showboating my big shot parents’ last name to the world to get my clients.” He noted, gesturing lazily to the sign. “Why have it once, when you could have it twice?” He asked sarcastically. If Charlotte heard him, she said nothing.

The offices were simple, yet elegant. The floor pure white, almost blindingly so, and Lydia wondered idly how they kept it so clean. In addition, there wasn’t a solid wall in sight. Instead, the front of every office was boxed in with immaculately clear glass, the name of the inhabitant engraved on the door. It was simple and open, and made the offices seem brighter and bigger.

Charlotte led them to a large conference room at the end of the hall. Inside was a long wooden table, surrounded by plush leather chairs. “Mr. Lightwood will be with you shortly.” She smiled, before promptly leaving. Lydia had a feeling she wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, before all the action started. The conference room, like the others, had a glass front. Lydia could see through the glass the looks they were getting, and people very obviously trying to make it look like they weren’t staring. Everyone clearly knew of the feud between Alec and Magnus, and wanted a front row seat to the action when it finally went down.

The last time Alec and Magnus had been face to face was about a year ago in court. She remembered it clearly, sitting in the row behind Magnus, and on the edge of her seat the entire time. It had been a high profile divorce case, something neither Alec nor Magnus took on often, but it was big money. The courtroom had been heated and it had gotten uglier, moreso when Alec and his client won. Magnus had shaken his opponents hand but the anger was clear in his expression, the tension in his shoulders as he gripped Alec’s hand.

But today he looked the epitome of relaxation, lounged back into one of the plush chairs, heels of his dress shoes crossed obnoxiously on the wooden table. “Ah, his Royal Highness will be greeting us personally today. Ms. Branwell, this is quite an honour.” He chuckled, smirking, and gestured to the audience that was gathering outside the window. “Everyone wants to stick around to watch, clearly. It is too bad that they’re going to see their precious leader fall, though. May as well jump ship over to us now, hm?” Magnus had never been one to shy away from attention, waving at an intern that was openly staring. She ducked her head, hurrying away.

Lydia wanted to ask if he was ready, if he knew what he was going to say but knew exactly how that would go over and kept her mouth shut. She got busy spreading papers out on the table, setting Magnus’ files in front of him. She was confident that they had Campbell on their side, but Magnus hadn’t let her in on how his lunch had gone today. But if she knew Magnus, and she was confident that she did, he could charm anyone over to his side. He could get a mouse to climb willingly into the jaws of an alligator if he really wanted to.

Lydia and Magnus sat in silence until a few minutes later, the door finally opened.

A younger looking man came in first, curly hair on his head and glasses perched on his nose, slipping down. He was cute, in a nerdy sort of way, but he looked much to fragile for this line of work. He had an enormous pile of files in his arms, dark bruises under his eyes, and a timid look in his eye that told Lydia he must be Alec’s personal assistant. He looked one stop away from frazzled, hair sticking out and tie just slightly lopsided. She gave him a sympathetic smile as he sat down.

Behind him, entered the illusive man himself and Lydia fought the urge to gasp. Alec Lightwood was tall - really tall. And he was handsome, too. He had sharp features, dark hair and bright hazel eyes that were anything but timid. He was wearing a suit that probably cost triple what Lydia paid for rent each month, fitting perfectly to his broad shoulders and muscled arms. If Lydia was straight, he would definitely be her type.

His eyes regarded each of them with bored arrogance before he sat down. He looked relaxed, hands resting on his stomach, eyes lingering just a little longer on Magnus than the rest of them. Just a millisecond, and if she had blinked she would have missed it.

Interesting.

Alec sighed. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere other than where he was, but because he had better things to do. He looked at Magnus, bored indifference practically rolling off of him. “Bane.” He drawled, in lieu of a greeting. He nodded his head slightly in their direction.

“How lovely to see you, Lightwood. It’s been a while, hm? You’ve certainly aged.”

The insult clearly didn’t bother Alec, though his assistant was looking between his boss and Magnus like a bomb was about to go off, eyes wide and fingers gripping the file in his hand tightly. “If I remember correctly,” Alec started cooly, “you were picking yourself up off the floor after I wiped the floor with you in court, no?”

Magnus bristled, only noticeable to Lydia herself. His eyes hardened and he flicked his earring, focusing in on Alec. “Hardly a win, though I’m sure your ego needed it. If I remember correctly, you had a bit of a tough year last year, no?”

Alec’s assistant looked on the verge of a heart attack, and Lydia wasn’t feeling to great herself. These two had a history of being at each other's throats, and while it had never been physical she didn’t particularly want to test that theory today. Magnus clearly wasn’t beyond poking at Alec where it hurt, particularly about the very public lawsuit filed against him the year prior. “Let’s get right to it, shall we?” Alec asked, blowing past the remark as though Magnus hadn’t spoken.. His expression was hard, watching Magnus with a calculatingly cold stare. “I heard you’re trying to steal my client.”

Magnus sat a little straighter in his chair. He had what Lydia recognized as his game face on, eyes sharp and mouth pursed into a tight line. His eyebrow quirked, a small smirk tipping his lips up. “Well, you’re quite observant, aren’t you? Maybe if you had been a little more observant you would have done better in the Hanson case a few years back.”

Alec rolled his eyes, but his jaw was set. He reached his hand out, and instantly his assistant placed a file in it. Alec opened it, almost lazily, before shutting it again and setting it on the table. “Campbell has already signed an agreement stating I am his legal counsel as long as he in business. It was signed when he hired Lightwood & Lightwood, renewed just last year. I’m afraid you’re wasting your time, Bane.” Alec raised a cocky eyebrow at Magnus. “And if you’ve forgotten, that business is Campbell’s soup. One of the world’s most successful food companies.”

Alec was asserting his dominance, trying to push Magnus back down, gaining back the ground he’d lost. He looked pretty confident, too. Lydia could see in his body language that he thought he had this settlement had been won before it even started. She almost felt bad for him, for he didn’t know what was coming. Magnus never entered into a settlement without knowing he was going to win, especially with his sworn enemy.

Magnus smiled across the table, though it was anything but pleasant. It was the smile that said ‘I’m going to make you regret the day you were born’. But Lydia noted with surprise, that Alec was anything but affected. Most people shriveled in their seats when Magnus looked at them like that. But Alec just fixed Magnus with the same bored glare, as if this meeting was boring him to death.

“And here, Lightwood, I have a signed affidavit from Campbell himself claiming he wants to switch counsel over to me due to ‘irrevocable differences with his current representation’. It was signed just this afternoon when I treated him to a very expensive steak lunch.” Lydia slid the document across the table slowly, Alec’s assistant hasily grabbing it and opening it for him. “Apparently he wasn’t happy with the services he was receiving over here. Your assistant should be hearing from him within the hour.”

Alec shook his head, laughing humorlessly. “And how did you get him to sign this? Did you tell him he was being misrepresented? That there was something better your firm could offer that mine couldn’t?”

Magnus shrugged. “Maybe it was dashingly good looks. Or maybe it was my witty charm. I’ve been known to be quite charming, Alexander.”

Alec showed the first sign of emotion since entering the room. He looked annoyed. Like the kind of annoyed Magnus got when an associate asked him dumb questions. It was a quiet rage, but she could see in tense set of his shoulders he was anything but pleased. He grabbed the file from the table, reading over it once more, before shoving it at his assistant roughly. The poor boy caught it, looking between Magnus and Alec like he wasn’t sure what had just happened. He studied the file intently, frowning.

Lydia could feel Magnus smirking from beside her, knowing that he had won.

“I’ll see to it that this gets filed immediately.” Alec practically growled. “Though I am a busy man, Bane. I’ve just signed a global pop star, as you must have heard.” He stood up, chair sliding out from under him. “So you’re little move here, is really low on my list of concerns.” With that he promptly made his way out of the meeting room without another glance, his assistant grabbing files and hasily following him.

“It was nice to see you too, darling!” Magnus called after him, chuckling when all he got in response was the slam of the door.

 

***

 

Simon followed after Alec as he walked back to his office, stepping quickly to keep up with Alec’s long strides. He sincerely hoped that they wouldn’t run into any innocent bystanders on the way, because Alec was on a warpath and would most certainly smite any living thing he crossed paths with. They walked - though walked wasn’t an accurate representation of the pace they were traveling - passed Clary’s office, who shot Simon a confused look from her desk. He just had time to shake his head at her before they blew past, and into Alec’s own office.

He roughly sat in his chair, spinning it so it faced the window. Alec had a great view from his office, but Simon doubted that he was actually looking at it. He couldn’t see Alec’s expression, but he knew for a fact it wasn’t good. His shoulders were drawn tight, his fingers drumming angrily on the arm of the chair. Simon stood in front of the desk, shifting from foot to foot, unsure of what to do with himself. Alec hadn’t formally dismissed him, which meant he was right where he needed to be, but he most definitely wanted to be anywhere than where he was right now. Literally anywhere. Alec had just lost one of his oldest clients to his sworn enemy, on a technicality. The meeting had been a blindside, to say the least. He had been so sure going into the meeting that there was nothing Magnus Bane could pull that would sweep Campbell from them. But Simon knew as well as any other lawyer that a client could change their counsel if they were unhappy with them, and breaking that contract would be as easy for Magnus as breaking a glow stick. Alec clearly knew this as well, for he was practically steaming with rage.

He was quiet, not turning from the window for a good five minutes. When he finally did spin around, his face was calm. All traces of anger were gone, replaced by the cool indifference Simon associated with the man. It was the look he had given Magnus in the conference room, the one that had scared Simon. “I want you to get Campbell on the phone right away, and I want to talk to him. Once you’ve done that, file that affidavit, Lewis.” Simon nodded, turning to leave but Alec wasn’t done, holding up a hand to stop Simon from leaving. “File the affidavit only after you’ve digitally categorized all of my ongoing and past cases and put them into both alphabetized and chronological file folders. I want every single case I’ve worked on since I started at this firm and I want them all onto my computer.”

Simon was about to object, to tell him that that would take weeks - months - when he snapped his mouth shut. Alec had told Magnus that he would get around to it when he had time, and Alec was making sure that they didn’t have time for a long while.

Or at least, that Simon didn’t have time for a very long while.

Which was a great plan, except for the fact that Simon had a lot more work on his plate than he did when he came into work this morning. But Alec’s look told him that this order was non-negotiable and that he’d better get it done if he wanted to see tomorrow.

“Right.” Simon nodded. “I’ll get right on that.” He was about to leave, when Alec’s voice called him back.

“And, Lewis?”

He winced, back to Alec. “Yes?”

Alec was already working on something else, gaze focused intently on the file in front of him, but Simon could see the nearly imperceptible smirk when he said, “take your time.”

When Simon returned to his desk after a dignified and well deserved freak out in the men’s washroom, he found the entire legal staff of Lightwood & Lightwood surrounding his desk expectantly. Well, not the entire legal staff but it was probably the most people Simon had ever had at his desk. He found it hard to be enthused for he knew exactly what they were looking for.

Maia, Clary and Underhill were all there, along with a few associates Simon didn’t know, expectant looks on their faces. Some of them were clearly trying to hide their curiosity, well others, specifically his friends, practically jumped him the moment he stepped across the threshold. Simon knew that Alec couldn’t see them from his office, or else none of them would have been standing there.

“So, what happened?”

“What was Magnus Bane like?”

“Did you get the client back?”

“Did Alec punch him in the face?”

Simon snorted at the last one, from Underhill no less, but held up a hand effectively silencing their rapid-fire questions. He knew that everyone must have been buzzing about the meeting, especially seeing Magnus Bane himself walk into the building. He knew that Charlotte must have run to Clary as soon as she dropped off Magnus and his assistant, who them ran to Underhill, who ran to Maia and so on. Everyone in the office surely knew about the infamous meeting by now and the rumour mill was sure to be running at full speed.

Simon could see others peering up at him from their cubicles, desperately trying to listen in on the conversation. He rolled his eyes, shooing the associates away so that only his friends remained. He sighed, shrugging. “It wasn’t a big deal, really. Magnus Bane was a force to be reckoned with, and naturally he came in like he owned the place. Definitely an alpha male personality. It was kind of hot, if we’re all being honest here. He was also dressed to impress. He wore that suit like it was made for him, though now that I’m thinking about it probably was.” Maia’s muffled laughter alerted him he was getting off track. “He also had an assistant with him who was so put together she was actually terrifying, like seriously she made me look like -” Maia flicked his ear, urging him to get on to the part of the story they actually wanted to hear.

“Fine, whatever. Anyway, he had a super cool assistant that I’m not allowed to talk about apparently. Magnus Bane then handed over an affidavit from Campbells effectively saying that they wanted to switch legal counsel to Bane & Fell, and we lost the client. Alec was really mad and I thought he was going to go full psycho, you know, like that time with that guy from publishing. But then he was fine and eerily calm and now I have more work than I’ve ever had in my entire life. The end.”

He let out the last of it with a huff, slumping down into his chair. He looked up to his friends to see mixed looks of shock and surprise. No one seemed to know what to make of his story, exchanging confused looks.

Underhill finally shrugged, looking mildly disappointed. “Well, that was much less climactic than I was hoping for. You’re sure no one threw any punches?”

Simon shook his head. “Not a single one. There was lots of prolonged, tense eye contact but as far as I know - and I’m frequently on the receiving end of it - no one can die from that.”

Maia grinned wickedly. “Sexual eye contact? Like bedroom eyes?”

“No, no, no, no, no, no.” Simon moaned, head falling into his hands. He wished very much that he had just decided to keep his mouth closed.

Clary giggled. “I mean, Alec has been strung tight like a bow since, well, forever. He really needs to get laid, it could improve his mood drastically.” She smirked. “And they say hate sex is the best sex.”

“Who says that? Why are you talking about hate sex with people?” Simon squeaked. He was once again, ignored.

“And he most definitely hates Magnus. That would be like … the best sex either of them have ever had.” Underhill finished with a grin.

Simon really wished he could be removed from this rather disturbing discussion. He didn’t really like to picture Alec in any scenario if he didn’t have to, especially not in that kind of scenario. Well, except for that one time when -

“Okay! Enough.” Simon declared loudly, effectively ending his friends chatter and his own train of thought. “The next soul who speaks of Magnus Bane or Alec Lightwood in any form of compromising positions either together or apart will be assigned to helping me with organizing Alec’s files for the next month.”

Unsurprisingly, the crowd of people around his desk thinned pretty quickly and Simon was once again left in silence.

 

***

 

Simon didn’t hear the name Magnus Bane until a few weeks later.

He had spent most of the past few weeks working on nothing but the insane assignment Alec had doled out to him, not having time for much else. Alec had been at the firm for a good amount of time and with how much he worked, he had an incredible number of cases under his belt. It was more than impressive, but Simon was really hating his boss’s almost military-style work ethic right then. Finding each and every case, organizing them, and inputting them in the computer proved to be a much more arduous job than he had originally thought - and he hadn’t thought it would be a cake walk.

Simon spent most of his days holed up in the file room with his laptop. One positive of this though, was that he didn’t see much of Alec during those few weeks. He saw him in the morning for his coffee and daily briefing, but then Simon would be dismissed back into the dark depths of the file room a few floors below. His friends made an effort to come visit them as often as they could, knowing he was suffering alone. Underhill had come down for a few afternoons and helped Simon with the organizing, and Clary could often be seen dropping off lunch. Maia didn’t do much helping, but she did come down and keep him in the loop about all the latest office gossip.

The project as a whole took him just over a month, and by the time he had placed the last file in the ‘done’ pile on his desk, he was ready to quit legal work altogether and never look at another damn manila file folder ever again.

Finally a moment of peace, with the knowledge that he had nothing pressing to do for the rest of the day, Simon leaned back in his chair. He thought he deserved a little power nap, just half an hour. He’d been working hard all month, getting little to no sleep and running himself ragged. He felt as though he hadn’t been home in weeks, seeing nothing but the four walls of his office. Getting comfy in his chair, he closed his eyes, allowing himself to relax for the first time in weeks.

He had barely closed his eyes when he heard the voice of his nightmares. Maybe he was that tired, had already fallen asleep and was having a nightmare.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

He jumped, tripping over a cord under his desk and landed on the ground with a harsh thump. He was on his hands and knees - admittedly not the most dignified position - in front of a pair of immaculate Italian leather shoes. He slowly looked up past long, beautiful legs and a torso in a navy Brioni suit, and found Alec staring down at him - and he did not look pleased.

(Who was he kidding, Alec never looked pleased.)

Simon rushed to stand, wiping off his jacket and making himself somewhat presentable. Which was a lost cause at this point because there really wasn’t any coming back from falling at the feet of your boss, was there?

“Uh -”

Alec shook his head, holding up a hand. “I don’t have time and I know that I most definitely don’t want to hear whatever witty excuse you’re going to come up with.” Simon snapped his mouth shut, nodding. His excuse wasn’t that witty, just his usual amount, but that humour clearly wouldn’t be appreciated at this time.

Or any time, really.

“I have a job for you.” Simon had to physically restrain himself from groaning out loud and rolling his eyes into the back of his skull. He had literally, just minutes ago, finished the motherload of all jobs, and now Alec had something else for him? Simon wondered if Alec maybe wanted him to go buy a dog and train it, or wash the floor of his house with a toothbrush, or maybe even get plastic surgery and take Alec’s place at all of his family functions, or any other task that would take all of his time, energy and sanity.

But instead of saying any of that, he plastered a smile on his face. “Anything for you, boss.”

Alec looked dubious, but continued on. “I need you to go out and buy the most expensive bottle of scotch you can find.” He said simply, handing Simon his credit card.

“The most -”

“Yes.” Alec interrupted quickly. “I need it for this afternoon so I suggest you leave now.” Simon nodded, grabbing his coat without another word and headed towards the elevator. If Alec wanted him to leave the office and go shopping for him, with a seemingly limitless credit card and the excuse to day drink, there would be no objections by him. Simon had barely seen sunlight in a month and was even paler than he usually was, and to be quite honest he was getting sick of the vampire jokes from Maia.

He didn’t spare a thought to why Alec had made this strange request, instead practically ran towards the front doors of the office and out into the November sunlight.

 

***

 

Simon returned to the office a few hours later, bag in hand. He wondered if the bottle he had purchased was maybe a little too pricey, but Alec had been specific in his request; the most expensive bottle of scotch he could find. A quick google search had provided him with a list, of which his eyes bulged at the top one. Anyone who would spend that much on alcohol shouldn’t be trusted with their own finances.

It ended up taking a little longer than he had been expecting, but found one he was sure Alec would be happy with. Or at least he hoped Alec would be happy with. He was a man notoriously hard to please. The scotch was one of only eleven available bottles in the world, and only two in New York, for a price that made Simon’s palms sweat, but hardly even made a dent in Alec’s account. Apparently it had been aging since New Years of 1955 and was equated to liquid gold.

Carrying it home on the subway had been an experience, to say the least. Simon had been so nervous about dropping it or bumping into someone that he had put it in his jacket and wrapped his arms around it like a child, glaring at anyone who had come too close to him. He definitely had gotten some weird looks, some commuters moving a safe seating distance away, which was most definitely fully justified. He wouldn’t have wanted to sit near him either.

When he got out of the elevator, he walked quickly, not stopping until he was at the door to Alec’s office. He was going to barge right in, but remembered how much his boss hated that, and knocked. Alec was sitting behind his desk, in the middle of a phone call when Simon entered. On the desk in front of him was a beautifully wrapped present, complete with a bow and all. A little early for Christmas gifts, Simon thought, but who was he to judge? Maybe Alec was a secret Christmas lover, and started celebrating the holiday a month early.

The slam of the phone startled Simon, the bottle slipping from his grasp. He caught it before it hit the ground, his entire life flashing before his eyes in the process. He could only imagine what it would mean for his career - or his life - if he dropped a bottle of scotch in Alec’s office that was worth more than his car and his apartment combined.

If Alec was phased by the near catastrophic incident, he didn’t show it. “Did you get it?” He looked skeptically at the bag in Simon’s hand, as if wondering if what his assistant had almost dropped was what he thought it was. Simon nodded meekly, ever so gently placing the bag on the desk and backing away. “I think you’ll like this one, sir. It’s er - very expensive. Like ridiculously expensive. On the top ten list of most expensive, actually.”

Alec raised an eyebrow, impressed. “What number on the list?”

“Six.”

“And one through five?”

Simon coughed. “Well, a bunch of those were one of a kind, and were sold already, or in the hands of like kings and other royalty or something. And two of them couldn’t be purchased in New York and I knew you wanted it today so I just made the decision to get this one, but if you don’t like it, I can take it back and get a more expensive one. I don’t know if they do returns but I’m sure they will if I tell them it’s you, and -”

“Lewis! Shut up. God.” Alec shook his head, gently taking the bottle from the bag. He examined it for a moment, turning it over to see it from all sides, nodding. “This will do perfectly.” He muttered to himself, before turning to Simon. “Good work.”

Compliments were given few and far inbetween when it came to Alec, so Simon decided to take them where he could. “Thank you, sir.”

Alec didn’t dismiss him, but he sat back down at his desk and opened his laptop, which Simon took as his cue to make himself scarce. And he was about to leave, he really was, but there was something that was nagging at his brain that he couldn’t let go.

“Sir?”

Alec looked up.

Simon nodded to the wrapped present sitting on his desk. “Did you want me to get rid of that for you? I know how you don’t like fan mail, or opening presents from clients.” In fact, all of that was true. All of Alec’s mail was first sent to Simon, who sorted through it and deemed what was to be prioritized for Alec’s time and attention. Presents were not on that list, as Simon had learned a few years ago.

To his surprise, Alec shook his head. He looked down at the package in front of him, an odd look on his face. Whomever had wrapped it had taken their time, folding the paper with delicate precision and care. It even had an ornate gold bow perched on top of the navy metallic wrapping paper. It was beautiful, and it only piqued Simon’s interest as to what was inside, and who had sent it.

Alec’s moment of reverie was broken not long after it started though, and he grabbed the package and placed it out of sight in the drawer beside him. Oh well, another mystery about Alec Lightwood that would forever remain unsolved.

Simon turned to leave when Alec’s gruff voice stopped him. “Clear your schedule, Lewis.”

“Done, sir.” Simon responded, before he asked why. He didn’t have much of a schedule to begin with, so it was pretty easy to clear. “What do you need me to do?”

“Find me a team of the best damn associates in this building. No, in the city. We’re going to need all the manpower we can get.”

“Why?” Simon was almost afraid of the answer.

“I’ve decided to take Magnus Bane to court.”

Yep. He was definitely afraid of the answer.

 

***