Magnus’ life was beginning to feel dreamlike and surreal in ways that he wasn’t entirely sure how to articulate.
Alec, snatched away from him. Edom, bending to his father’s will to make itself more hospitable to a helpless Nephilim, and now…
This strange garden out of something in Shakespeare’s works.
Gone were the meticulously chosen pieces of outdoor furniture. In their place there was a riot of colorful plants, a soft mossy floor, a spell overhead to keep any harmful UV rays from frying the sleepers below, and a circle of crystals.
In that circle of crystals was Alec, sleeping on his bed of lush moss as though he were some fairytale prince in the Fae lands, waiting to be awoken from a long sleep. He looked peaceful, finally, and that alone eased some of the pain in Magnus’ heart.
Alec’s color was better, his skin less ashen and brittle. His breathing was eased, the wheezing nearly completely becoming his usual soft snuffling snores. His eyes were shifting under his closed lids and twice he sighed in his sleep in a contented sounding way.
Every so often, the spell above them misted them all with warm spring water straight from Idris – which was a complicated bit of spellwork that had included Clary trekking out to complete half the relay spell on site.
If this were for anyone else, Magnus might have blushed and called it overkill.
How could he though, when Alec was visibly recovering?
Magnus was the only one left not sleeping. Alec’s siblings were spread out around them, fast asleep. He himself longed to curl up around Alec and finally rest too but he was too amped up. Alec might need him, his worried mind whispered, and if he was asleep then how could he help?
The sun was finally starting to set and while the moon was beneficial in its own way, Magnus was pretty ready to shift Alec back inside in a little bit.
While the rest of them were still sleeping…
Magnus gently rubbed his thumb between Alec’s brows and let his lips ghost along his jaw. “Alexander.” He coaxed softly. If Alec wasn’t ready, that was all right. Magnus could wait. Now that he had Alec back and safe in their home, he could be patient.
Except it seemed he wouldn’t have to be. The skin under his fingertips tensed, Alec scrunching his eyes closed tighter. He sighed softly and Magnus laughed, delighted. “That’s it, my love. Wake up for me.”
Alec’s eyes fluttered open and just as the last time, he stared straight up at the world above. This time, finally, he could see the sky at sunset on Earth. Magnus had chosen his moment carefully. The sunset had faded to a whisper of orange against a mostly purple backdrop. No hint of red but not so black that there could be any confusion. This, perhaps more than anything else, sang Not Edom.
“Magnus.” Alec whispered in a breathy sort of way that sounded warm and content for all that it was born of exhaustion and healing lungs.
“I’ve missed you.” Magnus pressed another kiss, firmer this time, to Alec’s cheek. They hadn’t even been parted long, this nightmare had lasted less than forty-eight hours, and yet so many things had happened that Magnus felt it was so much longer.
Alec turned his head and caught Magnus’s lips against his, tilting his head up for another kiss. Magnus obliged because it was his privilege and pleasure.
He would have loved to lay down beside Alec and keep kissing him under the stars in their fairy garden, but Alec’s body wasn’t up for that yet and he needed to be the strong one in this moment. No matter how badly it hurt to pull back from Alec, especially when his love made a noise of protest that nearly gutted Magnus’ determination.
Alec reached up and pressed his palm to Magnus’ cheek, “How… Where are we?”
“Home,” Magnus promised.
He watched as Alec’s eyes took in the transformed balcony, spying the hunks of quartz circled around him and the creeping vines curled around latticework that hadn’t ever been there before. “I don’t understand.” He said finally.
“I’ve done a little redecorating on the balcony.” Magnus laughed softly, He covered the hand Alec had on his cheek with his own and rubbed his forearm with his other. “Maybe it’s not good for a party but I think it’s lovely enough to keep for a few weeks, don’t you?”
“Hmm,” Alec hummed in something that Magnus was choosing to take as agreement. He arched his neck up so he could see further, “Is that Izzy?”
“And Clary and Jace are just over there.” Magnus flicked a lazy finger in the sleeping pair’s direction. “They’ve only just fallen asleep.”
Alec settled back against the moss, “How long?” He asked seriously.
“How long since you were taken or how long since I brought you home?” Magnus let Alec’s hand go and shifted to stretch out on his side alongside Alec. He stretched out an arm in invitation and Alec immediately curled in closer.
“About a day and a half since you were taken.” Magnus said as if he hadn’t been counting the hours. “And nearly seven hours since you came home.”
There was a long pause before Alec said, “Home from Edom.”
It wasn’t a question. Alec fully understood what had happened, for all that he had been mostly unconscious and certainly out of his mind with pain for the entire thing. For all that it was an utterly impossible thing to have happened.
Unconsciously Magnus’ body tensed and it took him a few seconds of silence to even notice it.
“Are you okay?” Alec asked as he turned his head to face Magnus better.
There wasn’t anything in his open expression that betrayed anger or blame. There should have been. This entire journey to hell was Magnus’ fault and yet Alec so obviously, so impossibly, didn’t seem to see it that way.
When Magnus didn’t speak, Alec let out a soft breath in understanding and kissed him again. “I would rather hurt than see you hurting. I know enough about your father. I think this was worse for you than it was for me.”
Magnus laughed sort of tremulously, “I can hardly see how that could be true. You went to Edom, Alec.”
“He told me everything.” Alec told him seriously, “Claudio, or that was what he said his name was. He seemed almost disappointed that you had never mentioned him to me.”
That made sense. Magnus had consumed Claudio’s every waking thought for years. To find that your sworn enemy didn’t feel the same was always a strange sort of wound.
“Did he explain why?” Magnus asked in a small voice that he hardly recognized.
Alec nodded as best he was able to while laying down, “I think I only made it worse for myself when I agreed with the decision you made.”
A laugh filled with nothing but pain burst out from Magnus’ lips so abruptly it startled him. He could remember Claudio asking him if he regretted sentencing his lover to death and Magnus’ brief thought of agreeing if that meant softening Alec’s kidnapper before deciding that Alec wouldn’t utter such a lie so Magnus couldn’t either. He had known it would be true. That didn’t make any of this easier though.
“I’m so sorry, Alec.” Magnus pulled in a shuddering breath, “I’ve done awful things in the past, some for better reasons than others. I’ve hurt people, I’ve killed and wounded and obliterated. I don’t deny it but I’ve never, never, wanted any of it to touch you.”
Even as Alec leaned in to kiss him again, Magnus felt the need to kneel before him and ask for forgiveness. To ask Alec to stay, even though Magnus had nearly gotten him killed.
Alec studied him carefully, “Help me up? I want to go inside.”
There was some heartbroken part of Magnus that was sure Alec only wanted to go inside to spare him a sleeping audience while Alec told him that he couldn’t forgive this. He could recognize that this was some early stage of hysteria and that Alec wouldn’t be looking at him so kindly if that was what was coming but the thoughts were still there.
He would have liked to keep Alec from the pain of standing on a recently healed leg and carried him but Alec gamely and silently stood with Magnus’ help. Instead, he just ducked under Alec’s arm and used his shoulder to brace him as they walked their way out of the garden and into the living room. Magnus waved some magic to close the balcony doors behind them silently.
The difference between the lush garden and the suddenly regular loft living room was stark. It was like waking up from a dream. It broke the hushed spell between them but Magnus couldn’t say he liked that better.
“Magnus,” Alec said as he let himself be lowered down onto the couch, “This isn’t your fault.”
“I hardly see how that could be true, Alexander.” Magnus hesitated for a second, trying to decide if he should sit beside Alec or opposite him. Alec saw that hesitation and tugged his hand, pulling him down to sit pressed up against his side.
Alec shook his head and held tight to his hand, “What could you have actually done differently? Not given justice to the people Claudio’s girlfriend killed? Killed him lashing out with a possibly empty threat while he was heartbroken? Locked me in this loft forever because it would be safer?”
That, actually, was more appealing than Alec probably realized. Although, judging by the soft smile on Alec’s face when he caught on to the look in Magnus’ eyes, he maybe did realize. “Darling, even if I did everything right this still wouldn’t have happened unless you knew me. Unless you were loved by me.”
“And someday someone might go after you because you’re the one I love.” Alec said as evenly as he was able. “It’ll be awful and I’ll hate it. We’re prominent figures in the Shadow World, that’s just what it is Magnus.”
This was starting to sound like when Magnus had misguidedly broken up with Alec because of their positions as leaders for their people. And what exactly was his aim? To convince Alec to leave him? To leave Alec himself to keep him safe? Neither could be endured.
Magnus slumped down and rested his forehead on Alec’s shoulder, “I’m just sorry, Alec.” He said softly.
Alec’s arm came around his shoulders, “I know. I’m sorry too.”
“For what?” Magnus raised his head to gape at Alec.
His Shadowhunter shrugged, “I could have fought harder. He caught me by surprise.”
“You’re not invincible, no matter how much I may wish it.” Magnus sighed and squeezed his fingers tight.
They were silent for a few moments after that. They just sat there, relishing having the other close again. This had been a close call. Perhaps closer than anything before.
Knowing that it was because of Magnus’ past was beyond painful. Magnus was almost dreading when they would finally get into their bed and sleep. The dreams that would come… those nightmares of what he had been so sure of what he would find in his father’s castle…
Maybe it wouldn’t be tonight, he might just be exhausted enough to sleep without dreams, but it would come sooner or later.
As if Alec knew the direction Magnus’ thoughts were taking him, he said in a strangely wry voice, “So that was your father, huh?”
He knew that Alec and Asmodeus had spoken to each other and that was a nightmare in and of itself. The things his father could have revealed to Alec… “That was my father, yes.” Magnus wished the hesitation in his voice wasn’t so obvious.
“Claudio told me where he was sending me and why.” Alec revealed, “But I think I would have known him immediately anyway.”
Did they look so much alike? Were his father’s eyes the giveaway? Magnus felt a stab of pain at the thought of his eyes – Magnus’ own, not his father’s, although he got them from Asmodeus – being a trigger to Alec’s nightmares. The next time they made love and Magnus’ control slipped, would Alec still be able to promise Magnus he was beautiful or would the specter of his time in Edom at the mercy of Asmodeus haunt him?
“He was just like you described him.” Alec kept talking while Magnus silently panicked, “The way he looked at me, even though he was trying to help me, it was… it was like something I’ve never seen before. I was a thing to him. I might as well have been some animal he was trying to keep alive long enough to play with.”
“You were.” Magnus admitted softly. “Alec, you were and always will be. Even if he was kind to you or tried to help you, you must never forget that he would kill you in a split second if he thought that your death would be even the slightest bit useful to him. The only reason he didn’t hurt you was because he knew he could use you as leverage when I came for you.”
Alec nodded tightly and Magnus could feel the way he swallowed heavily from where he was tucked up against his Deflect rune. “I know that. I tried to… he seems like he cares about you in some way. Not really loves you, I know that, but at least he wants you at his side. I tried to tell him that we loved each other, that my death would hurt you. I wanted to tell him my death would make you hate him but I couldn’t really… I could barely…”
“Shh,” Magnus pressed a hand to Alec’s chest and he shot up from his spot on his shoulder. “Shh, Alexander. I understand. You don’t have to explain.”
Stubbornly, Alec shook his head, “I think I just amused him more, saying that. He wanted to know why I was there and when I told him, I could see it. He was angry, really angry.”
That was easier to explain, “Of course he was. He was insulted and that’s no small thing for Asmodeus. Claudio took something,” Magnus brushed a kiss to Alec’s lips in apology for calling him a thing, “Of mine. Then, to make the insult even greater, he tried to manipulate Asmodeus into making a move against me that I would have taken as an act of war.”
Alec jerked in Magnus’ hold at the final word, “War?”
Magnus faltered for a second. Then, he hovered his hand a good foot from Alec’s chest and used his magic to pull his ring up from under his shirt to hover halfway between Alec’s chest and Magnus’ hand. An arrow ring suspended in blue magic.
“Quite angry to involve me. And to ignore that spell around your neck.” Alec quoted with understanding dawning on his face, “I didn’t understand what he meant.”
Magnus flushed, “There’s a lot of spells infused in the metal.” He started. He felt like had said it a hundred times now, so that he could justify the one spell that had saved Alec’s life.
Alec’s eyes were glued to the necklace but he glanced back up at Magnus to say, “I know, you told me. Spells to make me easier to track and that kind of thing.”
“True,” Magnus agreed, “There are a lot of spells involved.” He repeated.
“And one says I’m yours?” Alec guessed gently, as though Magnus was the one that needed comforting in this moment. The thought was preposterous but it bolstered Magnus to see Alec looking at him so tenderly.
The confession was harder than it was when he had to say it to Alec’s siblings, although that logically made no sense. “I designed the spell to call out to any warlock who was directing magic towards you. If someone let’s their magic brush against you, the necklace is spelled to answer.”
“That anyone who moves against you moves against me.” Magnus explained it the way it was meant to be taken. “That whoever hurt you would bring me to their door. I meant it as a way of deterring attacks against you.”
Alec reached out and took the arrow from Magnus’ magic and he turned the metal around in his fingers, “Claudio didn’t seem to care but I guess that was a given.”
Magnus let out something between a laugh and a sob, “Encouragement, probably.”
“Hey,” Alec let the necklace go and wrapped his hand around Magnus’ again, “It’s a good idea. I think there’s way more warlocks out there who are properly respectful of your power than ones who purposefully want to piss you off.”
That was true, Magnus knew. That was the whole point of the spell. Still, it stung. “It worked well enough for my father, I suppose. Too well, honestly.”
Alec quirked an eyebrow at Magnus and the entirety of the situation caught up with him in such a rush that Magnus had to drop his head into his hands, “He took it like I had put a collar around your neck!” He nearly wailed into his hands, “Like I owned you literally.”
The laugh from Alec caught him a little off guard and it only made an answering giggle bubble up.
“I’m yours, you’re mine, I don’t care how Asmodeus took it as long as he didn’t gut me.” Alec tilted his head back on the couch and dragged a hand down his face while he laughed.
“Well, if you put it that way.” Magnus said a little helplessly.
This whole conversation with his Alexander was so… it was a privilege. It was a gift. Just hours ago he had been so sure…
“Hey,” Alec said softly, cutting through the waves of leftover fear and potential grief like it was nothing. Alec had a way of doing that. Of taking him out of his own head and making him feel like the man he felt he pretended to be. Someone brave and noble and good. Because that was what Alec believed him to be and so that was who he gave Magnus the strength to be.
“Hey,” Magnus answered with a bowed head. “I know what you’re going to say.”
“Do you?” Alec ran a hand through Magnus’ probably wild hair.
Magnus almost shivered at the feel of Alec’s fingers tangling in his dark strands. “It’s not my fault. It could have gone worse. That you’re one hundred percent fine. So on and so forth.”
Alec stretched slowly and Magnus jerked his head up to watch him for any signs of pain. He hadn’t really expected to see any. At least not anything obviously visible. Alec was so stubbornly stoic, he did whatever he could to hide his own pain.
So the sight of his wince and his small flinch was worrying to the extreme.
“Not one hundred percent.” Alec admitted. “Wrong on the last count. But the rest of it… Magnus, this isn’t your fault and it could have gone way worse. I don’t know how to make you believe me but I am so happy that this was how Claudio’s plan turned out. Yeah, I feel like I got locked in a hot oven while it rolled down a mountain but it’s already way better than it was. It’ll keep getting better.”
Alec’s confession inspired one of his own, because how could it not? “Alec, my father…”
When he trailed off, Alec ducked his head a little to catch his eye, “Did he say something to you? About me?”
“He,” Magnus paused again and used tangling his fingers with Alec’s to give himself another moment, “Of course he wanted to use that moment to try to convince me to ally myself with him again. Sometimes he wants my power to bolster his in Edom and sometimes he wants to roam freely here.”
“Tell me you didn’t make some sort of deal with him.” Alec’s voice was nearly begging.
He shook his head, “I didn’t. I would never,” He squeezed Alec’s hand even tighter, “I want you to understand that I would never.”
That seemed to bring Alec up a little short. “What did he try to do, Magnus?”
“I suppose it startled me because I would never have expected it…” Magnus said slowly, “He… I don’t know why. Maybe because of the claim in the ring or something you said or how I was acting around you. He didn’t seem at all bothered by us being together. Not even because you’re a Shadowhunter, although he did make a comment about it.” His cheeks burned a little.
“I don’t know if I want to know.” Alec sounded genuinely disturbed.
Magnus huffed out a laugh that he was displeased to note sounded a bit more embarrassed than anything else, “When I explained Claudio, he asked if it had really taken him forty years to come up with the punishment. I just stared at him, because obviously the forty years was because that was how long it had taken for me to fall in love and he just said, ‘And with a Nephilim no less.’.”
Alec giggled a little, “Actually, that’s not so bad. If you had any idea half of the awkward things my parents, especially my father, have said to me about you then you wouldn’t be blushing.”
As a rule, Magnus Bane did not blush. After a life as well lived as his own, there were few things that could elicit such a response. Somehow, this was a rare instance of something that could.
“From there was where he took the more unexpected turn.” Magnus plowed ahead as bravely as he could. “He basically said that if I joined with him again, he would either protect you or he would turn you immortal for me.”
There was a beat of silence that Magnus couldn’t bear to break. If Alec needed a moment to process that then he would gladly give it to him.
Hell, Magnus himself would probably need a decade to process it and that was the optimistic estimate.
“Can he?” Alec’s voice was worryingly soft.
Magnus shrugged, “I mean, protect you certainly. Not that I think he actually would but he certainly has the power and the viciousness for it. Turn you immortal… I don’t know. Maybe? Not without some sort of price.”
“Then it doesn’t matter.” Alec sighed, “But I am sorry.”
He almost jerked in his seat, he was so surprised. “What do you mean, you’re sorry?”
Alec’s eyes were almost unbearably soft. Sympathetic, maybe was the word? It made Magnus feel seen in a way that he was almost uncomfortable with, even then it was only his Alec looking at him, the person he was most comfortable with in the entire world. “We both know why. I’m sorry he hurt you like that.”
His throat went tight, “Thank you, Alexander.”
They both went silent for a second and Magnus knew that Cat was right. One day, definitely not today when they were both so affected by what had happened and what had almost happened, they were going to have to talk about this again.
Magnus was going to have to say that losing Alec was beyond what he could endure. He was going to have to tell Alec how close he had come to accepting his father’s offer, damn the consequences or Alec’s consent.
And Alec would probably have serious feelings to tell Magnus about too. Magnus knew without a doubt that Alec had been doing a lot of thinking about immortality. The way his voice changed when it came up, the little furrow in his brow when his mortality was mentioned… his Shadowhunters was doing a lot of thinking.
Magnus could hardly cope with the wonder of what Alec’s thoughts were. Was it even a possibility to him? Was it something he was seriously considering? Or had he decided that he hated the idea?
Thus far, Magnus had been too afraid to ask. It seemed too big a thing to request of Alec. The peace that they had finally reached on the issue seemed too precious and hard won to break. There was so much pain that the conversation could reveal.
After having Alec ripped away from him, after the offer his father had made, after he had been forced to listen to Alec choking to death on his own blood… after all that, Magnus had to ask. He had to know. Even if Alec’s answer was no. Even if his answer was yes but they couldn’t figure out how.
He had to know.
A commotion on the balcony caught their attention and Magnus took the opportunity to clear his throat. Any longer staring into Ale’s kind expression and he might have needed to wipe his eyes as well. How long would it take him to stop feeling so raw about this whole thing?
It took a few shouts before Magnus made it out, but he realized that it was Jace’s voice calling Alec’s name.
Alec’s hand had gone to his parabatai rune, probably a reaction to whatever potent shot of fear had just travelled down their bond, “In here!” He called out to his panicked siblings.
The door burst open and Jace stood in the doorway scanning the room for Alec with that same wild look in his eyes as when he had been trapped out in the hall outside the loft. Magnus had half a mind to portal Jace to a spa, he looked that stressed out. Although he would pity the poor masseuse who had to try to zen Jace Herondale out.
Once Jace’s eyes registered Alec, an Alec who was awake and smiling at him, his whole body seemed to deflate. He staggered to the couch and gripped Alec’s shoulders as he leaned down to press his forehead to his parabatai’s.
Izzy and Clary were a half step behind them and if Magnus was a stronger man he would have stood up to give Izzy the seat next to Alec. She didn’t seem to mind, though, she just came around Alec’s back and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
“I’m okay.” Alec said to the both of them, “I feel a little wrecked but it’s way better, I promise.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever scared me so bad in my life, big brother.” Izzy mumbled into Alec’s collar.
Alec reached his hand back behind him so he could press Izzy’s cheek closer to his. “I’m sorry.” He said, as though he had anything at all to apologize for. “It’s not how I thought the day would go.”
The joke made Izzy laugh at least, for all that it was a little shaky. Jace didn’t yet seem capable of it though. He pulled in a long, shuddering breath that didn’t appear to do much to ground him but he still drew back far enough to look Alec in the eyes, “You’re portalling to work from now on.”
Jace’s voice was a little strangled but the words were so unexpected that Magnus barked out an abrupt laugh. “I second that motion.”
“I don’t.” Alec protested, “I’ve walked to work a hundred times and haven’t gotten kidnapped and portalled to Edom.”
“Once was enough, thanks. We’re not risking another.” Izzy laughed sort of helplessly. From back towards the balcony, Magnus could hear Clary’s soft giggles.
“I’m pretty sure it’s never going to happen again.” And, oh, weren’t their lives something that Alec couldn’t even say for certain that something nearly every Shadowhunter in history hadn’t had happen to them once wouldn’t happen to him a second time?
Jace finally stood up straight and almost glared down at Alec, “It’s definitely not happening again because you’re either portalling places or someone is going with you.”
“Hmm,” Alec seemed to be barely resisting the urge to roll his eyes, “Does that mean you’re going on my morning run with me from now on?”
Jace, who Magnus had learned was only willing to engage in cardio if there was a demon at the finish line, made a face at Alec and playfully swiped at his head. When Alec started laughing, Jace finally let go enough to join in.
The conversation was mostly a joke for now and Magnus knew it wouldn’t stay that way, but it was hard to muster up any dread about anything in the future when his worst nightmares hadn’t come to pass.
He still had Alec, safe and sound, and that was all that mattered.
By the time the five of them rolled out of their beds the next morning, borrowed or otherwise, it was almost too late to call the meal Magnus conjured them brunch. They were probably about fifteen minutes off from just saying early lunch but that made them all sound lazy so Magnus just gave each of them a mimosa and called it a day.
The conversation flowed easily, everyone back down from the emotional highs of the day before. They all had the day off, according to Isabelle. What exactly was happening at the Institute Magnus wasn’t entirely sure but Alec wasn’t pushing to know so he certainly wasn’t going to.
“I still think you should keep the garden.” Clary was trying to convince Alec that the balcony’s transformation should be permanent. Alec was less than enthusiastic.
“It’s pretty,” Alec allowed, “But it’s kind of a lot. It’s like the Seelie realm out there.”
Clary was too far gone down her romantic rabbit hole to acknowledge the similarities between the balcony garden and a place she loathed. She just sighed and seemed to sway in her seat like she was imaging dancing under the moon. Jace was smiling softly at her like she was being particularly wonderful. He glanced over at Magnus and he knew instantly that he would be ‘renting out’ his balcony to Jace and Clary for a date night before he turned it back to what it had been before.
Preferably while he and Alec were out of the state, at the very least.
“It served its purpose nicely,” Magnus chimed in, “We’ll keep it for a while and then I think I’ll miss the open space too much before long.”
“Weird place to wake up,” Alec grinned at Magnus.
Izzy snorted, “Better than where you fell asleep.”
“You say fell asleep like Asmodeus and I were braiding each other’s hair and I like nodded off or something.” Alec shot back. The casual way that he said the name of Magnus’ father was almost stunning. It threw Magnus for a loop every single time. As though it wasn’t such a big deal that his boyfriend’s father was the literal Prince of Hell. Or rather a Prince of Hell.
Jace didn’t quite seem as able to just throw around Asmodeus’ name as Alec was, although that was for a different reason than Alec. He didn’t say anything but Alec clearly felt something because he reached out and lightly shoved Jace’s shoulder.
“What?” Alec asked with another laugh.
“What do you mean, what?” Jace shot back.
“Snap out of it,” Was all that Alec said in return.
A different sort of gleam came into Jace’s eyes, “Forget the garden, here’s what we should be deciding: what are we doing with Claudio?”
The table went a quiet.
Then Izzy threw a bit of bacon at Jace, “Can we chill for like a day, Jace? Seriously? That’s what you want to talk about right now?”
“Why is it even something we have to decide?” Clary asked the table in general. “I mean, he goes to the Guard, doesn’t he?”
“Absolutely not.” Jace said.
In the same moment Alec said, “Yes.”
“Are you crazy?” Jace turned to his parabatai incredulously. “You want to send him to the Guard?”
“He attacked someone, of course that’s where I want to send him.” Alec took a bite of his eggs like this conversation was pointless.
Except it wasn’t. It absolutely wasn’t.
Jace went to Magnus next, “Magnus, back me up here. The last place we’re sending Claudio is the guard, right?”
“Jace is right,” Magnus said slowly. Alec’s head jerked up, surprised. “Darling, if it got out that an excellent way to hurt me would be to send you to Asmodeus, what do you think others might attempt? I keep my connection to him a secret for a reason.” A lot of reasons, actually, and shame was absolutely one of them. “My rocky relationship with him can be used against me. Honestly, few people not intimately acquainted with demonic lore are familiar with him and I prefer to keep it that way. The fewer people knowing who Asmodeus is at all the better.”
If Magnus could, he would burn up every book that made reference to his father, every spell reportedly able to summon him would be erased and every person who knew of him would simply forget. He wanted no followers of Asmodeus to come to Magnus’ door or, worse, to set his father free. He wanted no one willing to make sacrifices in his honor.
He wanted no one to take the beloved of Asmodeus’ son and use him in any way whatsoever.
“Exactly,” Jace said, although he said it with less animation than before. If the look on Alec’s face was any indication, Magnus’ own expression was probably something closer to pitiful than he was comfortable with.
Alec reached out for Magnus, “He wouldn’t be able to get out of the Guard, Magnus. This won’t happen again.”
“Breaking out of that place is rare, yes,” Magnus agreed, “But not unheard of.”
“I think that this was Claudio’s last show of power.” Isabelle looked between Jace and Magnus like they were making this bigger than it needed to be. “I don’t think he’s got a successful escape from the City of Bones in him.”
“Perhaps not,” Magnus allowed. “Probably not. But if he told others…”
“Okay,” Clary was staring at Jace worriedly, “So let’s say we can’t let him go to the Guard. It’s too dangerous. What then? Are you saying you want to kill him?”
Jace didn’t flinch, “Gladly.”
“We’re not killing him.” Alec shut that down instantly. “Jace, are you insane? The Clave won’t give that order and you’re not just doing it on your own. Even if the Clave did allow you to, is that the image we want in New York? That we just kill Downworlders if they piss us off enough?”
Jace’s eyes were cold, “That I just kill Downworlders if they try to kill my parabatai? I’m okay with that, it’s a good image. Change Downworlders to Mundanes or Shadowhunters. I don’t care.”
While Alec sputtered at his brother, a thought entered Magnus’ head that seemed almost too crazy to be a possibility.
“Magnus?” Clary asked with a careful eye on him.
Her voice turned Alec from trying to think up what to say to Jace and swung his attention back around to Magnus. “What’s wrong?”
Alec reached for his hand and Magnus took it gratefully, “Asmodeus,” He said.
“What about him?” Alec asked in confusion.
Beside him, Jace just laughed.
Isabelle seemed to slowly be catching on as well, “You… you want to give Claudio to Asmodeus?”
Want was too strong a word. In some ways, Magnus was more in line with Jace’s way of thinking.
“What would we tell the Clave?” Clary asked. “They’re expecting a prisoner.”
“We tell them that the High Warlock of Brooklyn took care of it.” Jace answered her. “It’s within Magnus’ rights and it’s not like we haven’t deferred to him warlock crimes before. The Clave doesn’t like it but they don’t fight Alec on it nearly as much anymore.”
While they worked that out, Magnus found himself unable to look away from Alec’s hazel eyes. “It ties up all the loose ends.” He said a little weakly.
Alec squeezed his hand tighter, “I don’t want to make you do that.”
Magnus laughed and shut his eyes for a second, “I don’t… Alec, I don’t think there’s any other choice.”
“Of course there is.” Alec said insistently “We put him in Clave custody.”
Except that gave too high a risk for information about Asmodeus getting into the wrong hands. Honestly, those hands might be the Clave’s themselves. To his knowledge, his ties to a Prince of Hell wasn’t in their files on him and he’d like to keep it that way. If Claudio was interrogated while in their custody, that would absolutely be revealed.
“It’s safest.” Magnus said again with a stronger voice than before. He opened his eyes and looked over at the rest of them.
“Are we sure this is going to go the way we think it is?” Izzy asked.
What she meant, of course, was Are we sure that your father is going to kill this guy?
“There’s no doubt in my mind that my father will utterly unmake Claudio for what he tried to do.” Magnus said, “Tried to do to Asmodeus, I mean.” He added, lest anyone think that any of Asmodeus’ rage was about nearly killing his son’s lover.
“We’re not doing anything today.” Alec said with finality. “We’re not making any rash moves.”
Jace looked a little put out but it was an honest relief to Magnus. The thought of having to make the arrangements for such a thing was daunting. What he wanted more than anything was to take a day to just be with Alec before anything else happened.
“All right, Alexander, we’ll worry about this tomorrow.” Magnus smiled at him as sincerely as he could.
Something soft and fond went over Alec’s face and Magnus could sincerely say that was probably mostly because his smile was a little sickly and Alec was pathetically endeared to it but it didn’t really matter why his angel was looking at him that way, only that he was.
In comparison to Alec’s smile and the love in his eyes, every other concern suddenly seemed distant.
Tomorrow, he decided again to himself and he meant it this time. Today was Alec’s.
Today was theirs.
The screaming was like beautiful music.
Truly, there was perhaps nothing more lovely than the sound of screams of fear. Screams of pain or pleasure were their own fine vintages, but no, his whole being sang when he heard the frantic screaming of someone who was terrified.
It was perhaps, he mused, because fear meant power and respect.
This scream meant this weak warlock before him, pinned down to the blood-slicked floor of his palace by four of his darling demons, knew him. Feared him. Cowered before his glory.
A sacrifice, mayhap? After the disappointment of the last thing thrown down into his realm, a sacrifice would brighten his mood.
“Welcome to Edom,” Asmodeus greeted with a smile he hoped conveyed all the promise of what was to come. It wouldn’t do for his guest to be disappointed as he had been. They both, he mused, should know exactly where they stood.
There was a gag in his mouth that kept him from returning the pleasantry, so Asmodeus forgave his rudeness.
His magic told him this one wasn’t a particularly strong one but with his demon blood, they would have longer to play. Much longer than he would have had with his son’s pretty Nephilim, if he had been allowed the pleasure. If he hadn’t have been tricked.
And there it was again, he realized with something like shock. A tendril of his son’s magic, calling out to him. Another claiming necklace?
No, it was something else. Something else in the pocket of the warlock’s torn jacket.
He pulled it out with his magic, unwilling to bend before this inferior being even an inch. The scrap of blood red paper fluttered up to his fingers, alight with Magnus’ magic.
Ink as gold as their eyes glittered in the firelight.
This is how it ends. There is no one better than you to show the might of our blood.
The screaming stopped for a moment. This pathetic warlock at his feet was waiting to see his reaction, to gauge the pain that would come for him by the way Asmodeus reacted to his son’s words.