Chapter 1: Prologue & Chapter One
1973 – New York
It was moments like these that made Magnus question whether he still wanted to be High Warlock of Brooklyn.
He shouldered the burden of ensuring the safety of his people without complaint. It was his privilege to protect those who could not protect themselves, perhaps the greatest pinnacle his magic could reach. And though the seemingly incessant whining of the warlocks of the city or the perpetual inability of the Downworld to unite itself for its own betterment was occasionally frustrating, he bore all of that with a smile and a cocktail. He pretended to himself that the hardest part of his job was dealing with the Shadowhunters.
And usually, that was true.
Today it was not. Presiding over this trial, giving the guilty verdict…
New York had been, for decades upon decades, the home base for a ‘secret’ warlock society, which was not particularly special because most major cities had at least a couple of secret warlock societies. The only thing warlocks enjoyed more than founding secret clubs was revealing them. They called themselves something ridiculous, The Society of the Red Planets, or something like that. It didn’t particularly matter, because they were mostly a joke. Yes, they created some new spell a few times a century but very few of them were particularly worthwhile or useful. Mostly, they got drunk together and had a good time. Magnus himself had been to a few meetings as a guest of one of his friends, Bartok. Very little spell theory had been discussed. Last he had gone, about seventy years ago, he had spent most of his evening smoking a rather spectacular pipe.
They were also famous for stringing along new potential members with elaborate and embarrassing initiation challenges that virtually never resulted in membership. They were a bit cruel about it but they had done it long enough that most older warlocks could intercede before the younger fools got much more than their pride injured.
Until now, of course.
Magnus still wasn’t entirely sure what had happened. All he knew was that seven members of the society were dead and it was a spurned young warlock to blame.
Nearly all the worthwhile testimony was through the murderess’ memories that Magnus had been able to access. Her mind was a whirlwind of paranoia, smug satisfaction and little to no remorse. She was justified, she felt, for the way they had treated her. For them trying to deny her entry. For making others think she was just a child.
The warlock, Anna Rău, had gone too far to be granted mercy. He had calls for her death coming from every corner.
During his last converasation with her, he had been desperate to find some sort of shred of understanding or remorse in her. Anything that he could use to ease her sentence.
There was none. Literally nothing. Her arrogance and pride knew no bounds.
He did not relish ordering her death. He did not wish to pass such judgment on another of his own kind.
He wanted it even less when he realized that her lover was an old friend of his. An old friend who begged him to spare her.
An old friend who was glaring at him with hate in his eyes now.
“You cannot do this, Magnus.” Claudio Raze spat out.
“I must,” Magnus said as gently as he was capable, “I can’t give mercy when none has been earned. She’s still pleased with herself. She’s not sorry at all. She’s not said even once that it was a heat of the moment decision that she regrets. Anna planned this, Claudio. She had a hundred chances to turn back and she didn’t.”
“Then send her to the Spiral Labyrinth! Imprison her. Imprison her forever if you must!” Claudio had made these suggestions before, at Magnus’ knees.
Then his eyes were filled with tears as he appealed to Magnus, not like now. Not with this fiery rage filling every cell of his body. His grief had taken him beyond reason and it was only because of Magnus’ affection for him and that long ago night they had caroused Venice as little more than children that kept him trying.
“How can I ask these families to accept anything less than her blood in penance when she’s bragging to them when they go to ask her why she did this?” Magnus tried to drive home how utterly unrepentant Claudio’s Anna was being but that didn’t dial down any of his pain.
“I will speak to her.” Claudio said at once, “I will make her understand. Give me more time.”
“I’ve given you days.” Magnus turned away from him then, back towards the friends of the dead who were comforting each other in this awful time. “And at this point, if you do manage to make her understand and she does come around, I won’t believe it sincere. All you will accomplish is coaching her to say she’s sorry and that lie would be worse than if she kept on telling everyone that they got what was coming to them.”
Claudio pulled in a deep, wavering breath. “I love her.”
“Then I am even more sorry.” Magnus answered softly.
“If you do this…” Claudio stepped closer to Magnus and gripped his shoulder, turning him around to face him. Magnus allowed it, even though in this context Claudio was manhandling the High Warlock and Magnus would be well within his rights to respond with force. He didn’t, he couldn’t, not when Claudio was in such pain. “If you do this to her, to me, I will return this pain ten-fold to the one you love most.”
There wasn’t anyone and there hadn’t been in a very long time.
Seeing Claudio so undone only reaffirmed his decision to lock his heart away. The pain of loving was too much.
“There won’t be any pain, my friend.” Magnus patted the hand that Claudio was bruising his shoulder with. “I will give her a potion that will make it very fast and painless. More merciful than what she did to her victims. Then I will return her body to you for burial.”
He was supposed to burn it, so that none could glorify her. He could at least give Claudio that bit of closure.
Claudio nearly flung his arm away instead of just letting him go. He took two staggering steps back, eyes trained on Magnus’ and filled with equal measures horror and wrath.
“I’ll make you pay for this.” He said again, like his threat meant much of anything to a man determined to never love again.
“I am sorry.” Magnus said again.
“You will be.”
Twenty-one hours ago, Alec slipped out of their bed, got dressed, pressed a kiss to Magnus’ forehead and went to start his day at the Institute.
Nineteen hours ago, Jace had called Magnus because he was getting something strange down their bond and he wanted to know why his brother still hadn’t come to work.
Eighteen hours ago, the search for Alec had begun.
Eight hours ago, CCTV footage led Magnus, with Alec’s siblings at his heels, to the apartment where his former friend Claudio Raze was living.
Seven hours ago, the interrogations had begun.
And now, almost a full day since Alec had been taken from them, they still had no idea what Claudio had done to Alec or where he was.
The why was the easy part.
Forty years ago Magnus had sentenced his lover to death for her role in the murder of seven other warlocks, one of the largest warlock-on-warlock attacks in recent memory. He hadn’t wavered in his decision, not even when Claudio swore revenge on the one Magnus loved most. There hadn’t been a person that he really and truly loved in so long, it hardly seemed like a problem. If Claudio wanted to work his way through Magnus’ long list of lovers to find the one he had loved the most then the winner would probably have been Camille and if Claudio wanted to bark up that particular tree then he was welcome to it. Camille would enjoy the attempt, at the very least. Magnus hadn’t been the slightest bit concerned.
In fact, until Isabelle had managed to isolate a split second clip of CCTV footage of Alec’s attacker, he hadn’t even considered the idea that this might be revenge against him. They had all – Magnus, Alec’s siblings, Underhill and the Clave – assumed Alec was attacked because of who he was personally, not because of who loved him.
The screen with the image on it shattered when Magnus had finally realized what was happening.
Finding Claudio hadn’t taken too long but at the same time had taken an eternity. Every minute they couldn’t find Alec was a moment Magnus’ blood was frozen in his veins. Yesterday morning had replayed in his head over and over again. What if he had gotten up and portalled Alec to the Institute instead of lazing around in bed? What if he had pulled Alec down for a proper kiss instead of letting him press one to his forehead and go? What if he had decided to take Alec out for breakfast at a little café they liked that was about halfway to the Institute? So many ways that he could have been there or ruined Claudio’s plan.
He tried to tell himself that there had been no reason to think that anything would happen to Alec once he was out of the safety of Magnus’ loft. That Alec went to great effort not to wake Magnus up in the mornings. That Claudio would have just tried to take him some other time. After all, the man had waited forty years for revenge – by now, patience was well within his arsenal of skills. He might have snatched Alec after a mission or when he stepped out to pick something up from some store or while he was on a run.
All those thoughts were so reasonable. Even hotheaded and freaked out Jace had tried to comfort him and tell him it wasn’t his fault.
All Magnus felt was the bitter sting of the knowledge that this was entirely his fault.
And now, with Claudio finally in their custody, they still had no idea where Alec was. The warlock was refusing to speak no matter what they did to him.
Isabelle had threatened the full force of the Clave. Clary had tried a good cop approach, appealing to Claudio sweetly. Magnus had gone in there and threatened at length, giving him all the opportunity in the world to reveal the truth to Magnus personally and watch his pain. Jace was violent and angry, using pain to break the warlock keeping his parabatai hidden.
If it weren’t for that rune, Magnus would have been torturing himself with visions of Alec’s corpse.
As it was, Jace could only say that Alec had been injured before he had abruptly gone so far away that Jace could only tell that he still existed, nothing else. It hadn’t done loads for Jace’s stability or Magnus’.
Where could Claudio have hidden Alec away? Why did no tracking spell work?
Not long ago, Magnus had given Alec a ring. Not that kind of ring, in fact he had presented it to Alec on chain to hang around his neck, but an important one all the same. He had infused that ring with as many spells as the metal could handle. Anything to protect Alec when he could not be there to do it himself. One element was to enhance tracking spells. With a tendril of his magic in the ring waiting to be called forward by any tracking spell, Alec should have been easy to find even if something was concealing him from Magnus.
With Magnus’ power, that spell around Alec’s neck and Alec’s parabatai by his side, there was no reason why the tracking should have failed.
Except the spells had failed, again and again, and each attempt left Magnus cold to his core.
He almost jerked in his seat as the door to Alec’s office, where Magnus had set up shop to watch the interrogation, creaked open and Isabelle came in with the same barely holding it together expression on her face as she had been wearing for hours and a glass of water in her hands. Without a word, she came to lean against his side and set the water down in front of him. She had been pushing food and drinks on him at regular intervals with increasingly effective methods for forcing him to ingest them. Without fuss, he lifted the glass and drained half of it in one go. He was too tired to fight the Lightwood will at the moment.
“Anything?” Izzy asked softly. She had only been gone from his side for less than fifteen minutes but she still needed to make sure.
He understood the impulse perfectly. “Nothing yet.” His eyes studied the scene before him as he added, “Jace is almost frighteningly good at this.”
It was true. Magnus had never seen more of Valentine’s upbringing in him than now. By order of the Clave, Jace wasn’t authorized to give Claudio any major wounds. The Clave did not engage in torture, after all. That said, he still had valuable information about the whereabouts of a Head of Institute, the eldest son of one of the oldest lines of Shadowhunter families and a Herondale’s parabatai.
Magnus had never been so happy for the Clave’s hypocrisy and lax definition of what could be considered torture.
Jace couldn’t do any major damage but he could still cause major pain.
On the screen now, Alec’s parabatai had a blade and a lit torch.
Any warlock who dared speak out against what Jace was doing – and none would, not unless they wanted to invoke the wrath of Magnus Bane – couldn’t even say that Jace had spilt much blood at all. Not with the way the wounds were being instantly cauterized.
Magnus might have expected the Shadowhunters to be a little bit more squeamish about it. Or that he would see some hesitance in Jace.
There was none.
The entire Institute was watching the interrogation so avidly Magnus was surprised there weren’t bowls of popcorn being distributed. If anything, Jace seemed frustrated by the Clave’s restrictions on him. Izzy watched her brother committing these acts with almost clinical detachment. Even Clary seemed grimly unbothered.
Magnus had underestimated them.
“Are you getting off on this? Torturing Downworlders? That’s all this is, isn’t it? An excuse.”
Claudio hadn’t begged yet. He had screamed and cried. He had even whimpered a few times. But not once had he begged Jace to just stop. Not once had he wavered.
Magnus almost respected it.
“I’d set the world on fire if I had to, to get Alec back. Think that over.”
Jace hadn’t wavered yet either. He wouldn’t, not until the rune on his hip faded into nothing.
The Angel have mercy on Claudio then.
“Clary and I were thinking we could send her in after Jace. Let her bandage him up, try that angle again.” Izzy explained with a tight voice that told Magnus all he needed to know about how she felt about giving any kindness to this despicable creature keeping her from her big brother’s side. There was a reason why Clary was the one playing good cop. She was the only one who could stomach it.
Magnus burned just as brightly at the mere thought of it. “I want to go in after Jace.”
“He’s made it clear he won’t say a word to you. Not after he told you why he did this.” Izzy argued. It was true. After that first conversation between them, Claudio had said not one single word to him, no matter what Magnus had said or done.
Magnus was almost too empty for fury. They were grasping at air and he was finding it harder and harder to ignore that fact, “There’s got to be something he wants to say to me.”
“I honestly don’t think there is.” Izzy squeezed his shoulder and though her hand was so much smaller than Alec’s, Magnus felt some of the tension drain at the gentle but fierce touch.
“There has to be anything else we can try. Clary won’t be able to appeal to his mercy because he has none.” Claudio had more than proven that, doing this to Alec when he had done nothing wrong.
“Maybe some time alone?” Izzy suggested. “That room is equipped with speakers. We can keep him from sleeping, at least.”
That wasn’t a small thing, Magnus knew. Sleep deprivation, especially for someone already wounded, was awful. He nodded, “That’s a good idea. You can pull Jace out of there yourself, though.”
“That’s what we have Clary for.” Izzy tried to joke but it fell immediately flat in no small part because it had been Alec’s job for so much longer than Clary had been around to help. Alec had been pulling Jace back from the brink for years.
Izzy silently pulled out her phone, probably to text Clary and update her on the plan.
Izzy and Magnus froze. Even Jace did. He held the burning red blade a mere centimeter from the bare skin of Claudio’s shoulders.
“Something you want to say?” Jace’s voice was deceptively soft. He didn’t pull the blade back but nor did he connect it to Claudio’s flesh.
“Bane… I want to talk to Magnus Bane.”
Jace’s eyes rose up to stare into the camera. There was a long moment of silence in the cell before he stepped back from Claudio and went straight out the door, blade in his hand and torch still lit.
“Magnus,” Izzy’s voice almost broke Magnus’ heart. There was a thread of hope in it now that there hadn’t been before.
Magnus kept his eyes on the screen unblinkingly. Claudio was panting and his shoulders were slumped. There were raised burns littering his skin and Magnus knew from experience that the smell in that room had to be horrific.
Thundering footsteps in the hall caught their attention and in seconds the door was thrown open, Jace, Clary and Underhill came flying into the room.
“Did you hear that, Magnus?” Jace was panting. He must have taken the stairs from the cells downstairs, unwilling to wait for the slower elevator.
Magnus didn’t answer.
“It worked!” Clary kissed Jace and pressed her hand to his cheek.
“Magnus?” Izzy asked.
Magnus stared woodenly at the screen. “Not five minutes ago he was taunting you, Jace.”
“You didn’t break him. You weren’t even close yet.” Magnus said, though he hated to.
There was a beat of silence that felt awful.
“Then why does he want to talk to you now?” Izzy asked softly.
“Because there’s something else going on.” Magnus shut his eyes tightly and didn’t bother ignoring the way they burned. He was more scared now than he had been only a few moments ago. “He’s still playing a game with me and for whatever reason now is the time to go to the next round.”
Underhill’s voice was steadier than anyone else’s but even he seemed affected. “Are you going down there?”
Magnus opened his eyes again and saw Claudio had twisted in his chair and was looking up at the camera. There was no smirk on his face but there didn’t need to be. He was still winning and he knew it. Magnus was watching and he knew that too.
“What other choice do I have?”
The door to Claudio’s cell shut softly behind Magnus.
He stared at the shell of a warlock in front of him. Once upon a time, he and Claudio had been friendly. He could still remember the night they had spent in Venice, laughing and drinking and being silly children. It had been so long ago. Magnus hadn’t even been one hundred years old yet. They hadn’t had many encounters after that one, their first, but whenever Magnus saw him after that they had greeted each other warmly.
And now… this. This pain, this anger, this betrayal.
“Do you regret it?”
Claudio’s voice wasn’t taunting. He just sounded tired. Tired and curious.
There was no reason for Magnus to pretend he didn’t understand the question.
Do you regret sentencing my lover to death?
Do you regret killing my Anna?
Do you regret it now that I’m avenging her?
His first instinct was to lie. To say yes and sell it as best he could. Perhaps that would appeal to Claudio’s ego or it would move them to the next phase of his horrible revenge.
Almost instantly, Magnus put the urge to the side. Claudio knew him well enough to know the lie when he heard it. On top of that, Alec wouldn’t have wavered so Magnus couldn’t either.
“No.” Magnus admitted solemnly. “What she did was heinous. Many other warlocks have been sentenced to death for much lesser crimes. You had to know that it was the only real conclusion.”
Claudio stared at him and his eyes were so… done, “I begged you then. Do you remember?”
Magnus did. Claudio had come to him when it became clear that Anna would be found guilty. Claudio had begged him, literally begged him, to spare her life. He promised he understood the severity of her crimes and that he would accept a lifetime imprisonment with a smile. Just please, Magnus, don’t put her to death for this. You can’t, please, you can’t.
But he had.
And then when she had been found guilty, he came again begging and angry. That was when he made his threat against some future lover. Alec, though Magnus didn’t know it then.
“I remember.” Magnus answered him with a cold voice. He would never discount Claudio’s pain, because after all before now his only crime had been loving the wrong person. A crime that Magnus had been guilty of in his life as well. But for him dare to pretend that his pain was greater than anyone else’s... Perhaps in his forty years of mourning, he had forgotten what his precious Anna had truly done. Magnus would be delighted to remind him. “I also remember Bartok’s sister, screaming over his body. I remember Caroline’s dead eyes. I remember Laurel running to Sebastian’s side, sobbing when she realized he was gone in an instant after their four hundred years together. I remember all of their bodies. I remember all of their friends and loved ones who would have pleaded with Anna just as hard as you were pleading with me. She didn’t give them a chance. She didn’t turn away from the path she had chosen. She murdered them over hurt pride.”
Claudio stared at him, his dark curls limp and greasy. He looked about the same age as Magnus and physically was nearly the same age as Magnus. This version of him, this final version, seemed ancient in a way that Magnus understood all too well. This man was broken and he would never be put back together again. He would never let himself be put back together again.
It was similar to how Magnus thought he would look if he didn’t get Alec back.
“You could have shown mercy.” He whispered though lips that were bloodied from his own teeth nearly biting through.
And then Magnus knew that Claudio would never truly be reasoned with. His mind was broken.
“Show mercy now,” Magnus urged him. “Prove yourself the better man. Alec has done absolutely nothing wrong.”
Claudio’s eyes went hard and instantly Magnus knew he had somehow made a misstep. “He chooses to love a monster.”
“There are some who still miss their lost loved one that would call Anna a monster.” Magnus countered him before he had managed to think through what he should say.
Claudio laughed then and the sound was brittle and strange but somehow also genuine. “Then your boy isn’t so different from me. It’s too bad.”
Magnus’ heart faltered. What did that mean? What was he saying? Alec’s rune was still dark as ever on Jace’s skin. Remember, he was not dead. They still had time. “What’s too bad?”
The laughter didn’t stop.
Magnus lunged forward and he grabbed Claudio’s bare shoulders. The fresh burns were weeping and Magnus felt the fluid on his fingers but he didn’t care. He shook the warlock’s shoulders and if he was causing pain then Claudio wasn’t showing it. “Tell me what you’ve done! Tell me where he is!”
“What do you think will kill him first?” Claudio whispered to Magnus, his face a mere inch from Magnus’. His eyes traced over Magnus’ mask of desperation as though he were a stunning piece of art. Claudio himself was still smiling, still defiant. Now though, Magnus knew he would get his answers. Wherever Alec was, it wasn’t good or safe.
The kidnapping wasn’t Claudio’s revenge. The beating Alec had taken directly after it wasn’t his revenge.
Whatever came out of Claudio’s mouth next, that was his revenge.
Magnus glared at him and waited.
“Answer me, Magnus. Guess. Tell me what will kill him first… being Angel-blooded in Edom or will Asmodeus do the deed himself?” And then Claudio laughed again.
Magnus’ hands fell from his shoulders and his magic lit up to burn the taint of him off his skin. He backed up slowly, groping for the door handle.
“Guess, Magnus!” There was a hysterical edge to his voice and Magnus could only stare.
The door opened and two rough hands pulled him out of the room. “Magnus!” Jace spun him around as Clary shut the door behind him, “Magnus, what’s he saying? Who’s Asmodeus?”
Magnus gaped at Jace blankly. There was a ringing in his ears that was faint but building.
“Asmodeus is my father. He’s a fallen Angel and a Prince of Hell.” Magnus breathed out.
Jace’s eyes widened and Magnus could read genuine fear in them.
“Alec is in Edom with my father.”
--- Twenty Hours Earlier ---
The second the Angel-blooded creature fell into his realm Asmodeus smelt it.
It had been so very long since he had been in the presence of a Nephilim. Years. Decades. It had been longer still since one had entered Edom. No Nephilim could survive in Edom long, even if Asmodeus didn’t end their consecration of his lands with a mere flicker of his magic.
Asmodeus leaned back in his throne and waited for one of his demons to bring this Nephilim to him. He could smell its blood, enough had been spilt that it would have no fight left in it. Not in Edom. No being with weak, watered down Angel blood would last long in his domain. It was the way things were meant to be. No demons in Heaven. No Angels in Hell.
There should have been rage. That something so pure be in Edom was a perversion of all that was right.
Instead, there was only curiosity.
Blood sacrifices to the throne of Asmodeus weren’t uncommon. Never from the one he wanted but they came all the same. A Nephilim though, that was rare. That was different.
The monotony of Edom was a potent thing.
The sinuous footsteps of one of his underlings grew louder. Asmodeus glanced up and saw one of his demons dragging a body in by its legs. He stroked his own fingers down the arm of his carved throne and felt a smile grace his lips.
“Leave me.” Asmodeus stood and waved his hand at his demon. It bowed and left his presence in seconds.
Left him alone with his new plaything.
The stench of Nephilim blood only grew stronger the closer Asmodeus got to the poor wretch on his floor. It was bleeding badly, half dead already though it had only been in Edom mere moments. Who would send such a pathetic offering?
It was young. Tall and strong, covered in those runes. There was something wrong with its leg, a bend that humanoid things shouldn’t have. It wouldn’t be able to run from him when it woke up and realized whose feet it laid before.
Would it know?
The Nephilim thought themselves so superior. Oh, the stories that had reached Asmodeus’ ears. They thought themselves so much better than the demon blooded around them, they lorded that power over all those they deemed lesser.
Let this thing try to play Asmodeus’ better. Breaking him would be a pleasure.
He knelt down beside the dying little Nephilim and let his eyes rake over the broken flesh and beautiful bruises. One of its eyes was nearly swollen shut, its lip was split and its breathing was so very wrong.
And then its eyelashes fluttered and a groan slipped from its lips. It was waking up. Wonderful.
It would be time to play soon.
Asmodeus held his hand over the Nephilim and let his magic lick at its skin. The pain and suffering clinging to it was like the finest wine, rich and sweet. Not even a decade would be enough time to play with this thing and Asmodeus was only going to have a few days at the most if he healed it, if the limitations of Edom even made it possible. Perhaps he would, if it meant…
His breath caught as his hand hovered over the Nephilim’s sternum. What was that under his shirt?
He knew this magic down to his marrow.
Gently, Asmodeus’ magic tore open the Nephilim’s dark, stained shirt and found a ring on a chain. The ring was shaped like a silver arrow but that wasn’t where his focus went.
No, this ring sang with the magic of his son.
For a split second, joy filled Asmodeus. This half-dead Nephilim was a gift from his beloved son. The ring was a message for him. The first overture in their reunion. Perhaps another was soon to come, a true sacrifice worthy of one such as Magnus Bane, son of Asmodeus. This thing was dying and weak but that was only to test the waters between them. Asmodeus would send back its entrails with his compliments to his son. Magnus would know…
Then, the magic in the ring slid against Asmodeus’ own and that dream blew away like the red sands of Edom in a storm.
The magic was Magnus’ but it was a protection spell. Something to keep the wearer resistant to magical manipulation, something to ease pain, yet another thread meant to enhance tracking spells.
And then, underneath it all, there was possession.
Not a possession. Magnus hadn’t turned this creature into his own personal slave. No, it was a spell designed to sing out to any warlock looking that this thing belonged to Magnus and woe betide any who harmed it.
Glowing eyes raked over the slack face below, over the dark sooty lashes and the curved brows, over the high cheekbones and straight nose.
Who was this boy to earn such protection from his son?
And who was the cursed fool who had ignored the claim of Magnus Bane?
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Asmodeus was beginning to fear his estimate of Magnus’ boy lasting a few days was too generous.
He had healed him, of course. If he hadn’t the Nephilim would have been dead within hours and that would just not do. Not when Magnus was coming to the house of his father for the first time in so very long.
No, Asmodeus wouldn’t let his beloved son come to find his cherished Nephilim dead. That wouldn’t reconcile Magnus to him, and so the Nephilim’s death simply could not come to pass.
For Magnus, Asmodeus had healed the boy as best he could but his body was weak and growing weaker by the second. The nature of Edom didn’t lend itself well to healing magic and only a being such as him could even attempt it. The Nephilim’s body cooperated only so far.
He tried to keep him comfortable, laying him out on as soft a bed as he could offer and bringing the blistering temperature of Edom down in his castle.
Now, they just needed to wait for Magnus to come to save his plaything.
What their relationship was, Asmodeus could not say for sure. Magnus had many friends he adopted like family, although never a Nephilim before now. At least not his knowledge and Asmodeus did his best to keep an eye on his son from even the depths of Edom.
If he had to guess, he would say this boy was Magnus’ lover. Asmodeus knew what kind of beauty drew his son in and this Nephilim had it in spades. How Magnus was able to overlook those foul runes on his skin Asmodeus could not say. It wasn’t a father’s job to understand what roused his son’s passions.
There was an appeal though, underneath those runes. It made sense for all that it made no sense.
His suspicions were proven correct as the boy’s eyes started fluttering again and he swallowed heavily. “M-Magnus…”
“Peace, Nephilim.” Asmodeus said softly to the still dying creature before him. “Do not move.”
Though his voice was as low and soothing as he could make it, the boy’s eyes still snapped open and his breath instantly caught as he took in the splendor of the palace of the Prince of Hell.
“What… what, where…” The Nephilim coughed and Asmodeus used his magic to prop him up higher. He would have stepped closer to help with his hands but the terror of it might have sent him to his grave. Instead, he crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair, the picture of innocence.
The Nephilim panted as he took Asmodeus in. Though there was a glassy sheen over his eyes and the pain was visible, this one was shrewd in ways that Asmodeus didn’t normally see in Nephilim.
“You’re Asmodeus.” He breathed out in shock.
Magnus had taught him well.
“I am.” Asmodeus answered him. “And you are, young Nephilim?”
The boy’s runed arm curled around his chest, no doubt hoping to ease the ache caused by breathing in the air of Edom. It wouldn’t help but the attempt was valiant. “Alec Lightwood.”
“Alec Lightwood. The lover of Magnus Bane.” Asmodeus smiled at the widening of his eyes.
He recovered quickly, which Asmodeus had to give him credit for. “Alec Lightwood, the one who loves Magnus Bane.”
Oh, this boy was so very clever.
The need to know what Magnus had told this Nephilim about him was burning within his core. This Alec clearly knew who he was and, more importantly, who he was to Magnus. And yet, he called himself the one who loves Magnus Bane.
“A Nephilim in love with the son of a Prince of Hell.” Asmodeus mused aloud, “How very interesting you are.”
There was a fine tremor running down Alec’s body and Asmodeus wondered if it was pain or fear.
“Tell me, who sent you to me?” He asked. There was tension in his voice that he hadn’t meant to let slip through but the boy so clearly heard it.
Alec shifted and his jaw clenched when the pain lit up brighter. “A warlock who’s angry with Magnus.”
“A warlock who is angry with Magnus,” Asmodeus repeated flatly. “Quite angry to involve me. And to ignore that spell around your neck.”
Alec’s brows drew low over his eyes and at once Asmodeus knew that he had no idea what Magnus had so wisely done. What would he say to know that he wore such an explicit claim?
A claim that had been ignored. The knowledge still burned. Who was this pitiful warlock to ignore Magnus and all his power? He stood and turned away from the dying thing lying before him. “Tell me.” Tell me why. Tell me who.
“I-I know…” Alec coughed and pulled in a gasping breath that sounded wetter than was good for him, “I know what he thought would h-happen. That you would be so angry with Magnus that you’d kill me.”
And if Asmodeus thought that the way to Magnus’ side was by killing this boy he had claimed so thoroughly, then he would do it gladly. One Nephilim meant nothing at all to him.
Those spells woven into the ring told him all he needed to know. Protection, healing, and his own magical signature. No, Magnus would end whoever caused harm to his Nephilim and that included Asmodeus. Had he known about Alec Lightwood sooner, he could have manipulated the situation around to his favor better.
Although, perhaps not.
What better way to remind Magnus of what a loving father he had than to save Alec?
Add in the insult of the warlock ignoring Magnus’ claim and deciding that he could manipulate Asmodeus into doing his dirty work and no, Alec Lightwood, the one who loves Magnus Bane must live.
“But please,” Alec continued, completely unaware of where Asmodeus’ thoughts had taken him. “Please, you have to feel something for Magnus. You went after him as a child, y-you taught him for c-years. Pl-please…” Another gasping breath.
“Shhh,” Asmodeus went back to his side. He ignored the way the boy tensed up and held his hand over his chest again to dry to ease the pain and drain what blood he could get from his lungs. “Talking is not helping, young one.”
Alec shook his head, “M-Magnus lov-loves me. I love h-him. Please… don’t h-hurt…”
Asmodeus waited for him to finish the plea. Please don’t hurt me.
Instead, he got, “Him.”
Please don’t hurt him. Please don’t hurt Magnus.
“I would do anything for my son.” Asmodeus said softly. He moved his hand and pressed it to the boy’s hot forehead. “Sleep now.” And sent a pulse of magic designed to put him back under.
There was no fight left in Alec. He went under with a soft sigh, asleep in seconds. Hopefully he wouldn’t wake until Magnus had come to collect him. Hopefully he would wake again at all.
Asmodeus wasn’t sure what was taking his son so long but it was time to send him a message.
After the horrified words fell out of Magnus’ mouth, there was a hushed silence in the hall. Jace’s eyes were wide and glassy with a sheen of tears. Isabelle had her hand covering her mouth as she stared at Magnus in disbelief. Clary stood between the two, looking at Magnus like the words he was saying didn’t make sense.
It was Clary who broke the silence. “Edom? Edom as in hell?”
“A dimension of hell, yes.” Magnus answered faintly. Even though he was saying the words, even though he knew all that they implied, the truth of it was too grotesque to fully comprehend. The thought of Alec in Edom… of his Shadowhunter trapped in that place…
“Alec is in hell.” Izzy repeated slowly. She was looking at none of them, her eyes unfocused as she desperately put all the fractured pieces together, “Jace, that’s why you can’t feel him. He’s not… he’s not even here anymore.”
“Don’t say that!” Jace tore his eyes from Magnus and turned to Isabelle with something wild in every line of his tense body. “Don’t ever say that.”
Clary stepped close to him but hesitated before laying her hand down. Jace seemed like a caged animal, too unthinking to know who meant him harm and who didn’t. He jerked under her hand but he didn’t move to push her away. He was possibly even incapable of it.
“We’ll get him back, Jace.” Clary promised him. She turned to Magnus with determination in her eyes, “We can go to Edom, we can get him back. Jace’s rune is still there. Alec isn’t dead.”
She didn’t say it but they all heard it.
“I need to think.” Magnus braced a hand out behind him. He pressed it almost painfully hard to the wall to keep himself steady.
Clary tried to smile encouragingly, “Yes, we need a plan.”
Except there could be no we, there could only be Magnus. “I don’t know if Claudio did anything that would indicate to my father who Alec is. Who he is to me.” Magnus ran through the possibilities aloud. “I can’t… you can’t come with me.”
“The hell we can’t!” Jace’s voice went to a dull roar.
Magnus shook his head almost frantically, “No, listen to me. Angel-blooded beings cannot survive Edom. Not for long. Two days at the very most. I’ve never heard of a Nephilim lasting longer. Anything over a day is rare as it is.”
“It won’t take us long.” Jace grit out, “I’ll kill anything that stands between Alec and I.”
“And that would be a true threat, here on Earth.” Magnus tried to make him see reason, “But Jace, the second you enter Edom, your strength will be sapped. You’ll get sick. Your breathing will grow heavier and before long your lungs will fill with blood. Your runes are useless down there, so you won’t be an enhanced warrior for the Angels, you’ll be weaker than a human. That’s just the start. That’s what will happen within the first few moments.”
And those words were true. They were what Jace needed to hear to bring his bloodlust back to sanity. Except in saying them, Magnus forgot Isabelle standing right behind Jace, listening with a pounding heart. Her gasp felt like yet another failure.
“Is that what’s happening to Alec?” Izzy asked shakily.
Magnus clenched his eyes shut, “Yes, that’s happening to Alec.”
“Alec’s been down there nearly twenty-two hours, Magnus.” Izzy said as if Magnus had forgotten. The slow realization in her voice was awful to witness and it made him perversely glad that he’d shut his eyes to keep from seeing it. The thought was shameful, though, especially when this was all his fault. He opened his eyes to face Alec’s sister.
Izzy had tear slowly falling down her cheeks and if Alec had been there he would have had his arms wrapped around her. Jace was beyond the ability to comfort her, though, and Clary used the arm not grasping Jace’s shoulder to wrap around Izzy.
“I cannot lie to you, Isabelle.” Magnus said, “Alec went down there hurt. He’s stayed there for hours. He’s… he’s going to be in a bad way. A really bad way.”
“But you’ll be able to heal him, won’t you?” Clary pressed.
Leave it to Clary to refuse to allow any grim realities get in the way of her determination to succeed. Or perhaps she just had a foolish amount of faith in Magnus. “Magic works differently in Edom. It’s… I don’t know how to explain. It’s raw. It’s powerful. It’s tied to the demonic energy. Healing magic isn’t very compatible. A potion would do better work and I can bring some with me, but spells aren’t going to do much good.”
“Okay, so you’ll get him home and then heal him.” Clary tried instead.
Magnus shrugged a little helplessly and let that be his answer.
“We need to go.” Jace tried demanding. He looked ready for the sort of battle that would be needed but he wasn’t hearing Magnus. Or at least, he wasn’t hearing him right. All Jace understood was that his parabatai was dying in pain and he was letting anything Magnus tried to impress upon him regarding his own wellbeing go in one ear and out the other. It was very Jace but it was also very unhelpful.
“Listen to me, Jace,” Magnus reached out and pressed his hand to Jace’s cheeks, holding his face in place and waiting for Jace’s mismatched eyes to focus on his. “My father is a Prince of Hell. He is powerful. He is beyond anything you’ve ever fought. He seeks to control me and once upon a time, he did. If I took you to Edom, you would be affected almost instantly. Every minute you stayed, the less help you would be to me. If we could go in and get Alec in five minutes or less, then I would welcome you at my side. That’s not how this is going to go. Not when my father is getting what he’s been after for centuries.”
“And what’s that?” Izzy asked.
Magnus smiled bitterly, “Me. The chance to play games with me again. The leverage he needs to use me. My power in Edom. Claudio has given him everything he needs to ruin me and if he knows who Alec is to me, he’ll know it too.” His hands dropped down to grip Jace’s arms, “I have to go alone. I’ll do everything in my power to get Alec home. You can’t come with me.”
“He’s my parabatai.” A tear fell from Jace’s eye but it didn’t lessen their fierce gleam.
“And he’s the love of my life.” Magnus pressed his forehead to Jace’s, “I promise you, I’ll bring him home. We can’t delay any more. I need to go.” He stepped back from Jace.
Izzy stepped closer to them and she wrapped her hands around Jace’s clenched fist. “Jace, listen to Magnus. We have to let him do this.”
“I can’t just sit here.” Jace’s voice was a tight whisper and it made Magnus’ own throat ache to hear it.
“We have to.” Izzy said simply.
Portalling back to his loft alone was both a blessing and a curse.
Magnus had promised Alec’s terrified siblings that he would bring their brother home and that he would send for them as soon as he had arrived. Izzy had been fiercely determined to go back to the loft and wait for her brother’s return there. Magnus had instead asked her to deal with Claudio. He had stared at her meaningfully and then darted his eyes at Jace. He saw the understanding dawn in her own eyes and, damn him, he had let her believe that he wanted privacy to prepare because it was a complicated ritual or something. That he could get to Alec faster if he was alone.
Those things weren’t a lie but they weren’t the whole truth either.
Nephilim could survive in Edom a couple of days at the most. Magnus had healed a Shadowhunter who had been pulled into Edom only once and the woman had been close to death after not quite thirty hours. Her lungs filled with blood from the burning air of Edom, her body shook for days even after her survival was all but assured, her skin ached and even her eyes needed healing. She had been a mess of pain… and she hadn’t gone down injured.
Though it broke his heart to acknowledge it, he would possible by bringing back an Alec ruined by Edom and Asmodeus and he didn’t want Izzy and Jace to see him before Magnus had a chance to try and heal him. He wouldn’t keep them away long and he wouldn’t lie about Alec’s condition but he knew his lover. Alec wouldn’t want them to see him like that.
And so he didn’t tell them the whole truth and Izzy did what she thought was right without knowing the whole story.
He should have known that Isabelle’s acquiescence meant she had something up her sleeve.
Magnus hadn’t even closed the portal behind him before another opened up in front of him. Only one person had permission to portal directly through his wards.
“Isabelle called you.” Magnus said flatly as he and Catarina closed their portals.
“Isabelle called me.” She agreed and her voice was light for all that her eyes were grim. “So, Alec is finally getting to meet his future father-in-law?”
Magnus wasn’t sure what the sound that came out of his mouth was. He had perhaps been aiming for some sort of laugh. Something to prove that he wasn’t seconds from falling to pieces. What came out was strangled and gasping, a sound of pain more than anything else. “Claudio sent Alec to Edom as a sacrifice to my father. Never in my life would I have guessed that he had done such a thing.”
“You have to work quickly.” Cat said gravely, “I’ll help you prepare the spell to get yourself down there.” She turned away and went quickly to his workroom.
He followed along behind her like a particularly dim-witted duckling. “I can’t imagine Izzy called you to help me draw a pentagram.”
“I think we both know it’s a bit more complicated than that.” Cat said as she started gathering materials. For all that Magnus felt numb, Cat was a model of efficiency. “Besides, of course I would go to Edom with you if you asked but somehow I think you’d rather knock me unconscious and throw me in a closet than have me along.”
Magnus sighed and bowed his head, “My dear, I would love to have you by my side and not just for how incredibly desperately Alec is going to need your expertise when I get him back. You’re right though, any confrontation with Asmodeus is better done alone.”
“Yeah,” Cat agreed dryly and honestly that tone of voice was half of the reason why he loved her. “That’s what I figured but that doesn’t mean I can’t get you ready.”
And so they got to work.
Cat eventually abandoned the preparations for the portal to Edom in favor of loading Magnus up with a bag of goodies for Alexander. Healing potions, mostly, because his runes were unlikely to work well in Edom even if he still had his stele. She packed a few other things along with the healing potions and they ranged the gamut from water all the way to explosives. What exactly she was envisioning in terms of the battle to get Alec back Magnus didn’t know and he honestly wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.
“All right.” Cat dropped a shoulder bag down in front of him on the table, “I think I’ve thought of everything. I spelled it lighter, of course.”
That was much appreciated. Cat had never been a light packer.
“I’m hoping I can make some sort of deal with my father and we’ll be out of there before we need to use much of anything in…” Magnus paused and frowned. There was something pressing against the edge of his wards, on his balcony.
“What?” Cat was immediately on guard as Magnus turned his head to face the doors.
A demon was pressing against his wards and getting through.
“What is that, Magnus?” Cat sounded as shocked as him.
The magic that pressed against Magnus’ wards tickled at the edge of Magnus’ mind and lit up a thousand memories. Horrible memories, mostly, but not all of them were and that was always somehow worse.
“Stay here.” Magnus said softly. The balcony was warded less heavily than the loft itself and Magnus had no wish to see if his stronger wards held his father’s messenger out. Just seeing the thing on his balcony was bad enough. He waved his hand and opened the doors to the still dark morning.
Cat shook her head, fierce and determined, “Like hell I will.”
The two of them walked out onto the balcony shoulder to shoulder.
Magnus recognized the demon before him, one his father’s favorites. It looked like a dragon but it was so much more than that. How he didn’t have a team of Shadowhunters at his door was beyond him but he didn’t question his good fortune. His father knew that even his favored dragon with its thick, spell-repellant scales would be no real match for Magnus’ power.
Which meant it had been sent to him as a message, not a threat.
The beast’s glowing eyes caught Magnus’ and then his father’s voice, a voice he hadn’t heard in so long, purred in his mind.
My son, I have something that belongs to you. Come and claim it, if you wish it to live. You know the Nephilim aren’t meant to walk the sands of Edom. Do not delay, Magnus.
And then Magnus and the demon both blinked as one. The connection closed and Magnus was relieved to be alone inside his head again. Even one moment sharing it with a demon was more than enough for him.
“Magnus?” Cat’s voice was low with tension and her magic was swirling around her hands, ready to hurl it at the demon at the first sign something was wrong with him.
The demon stared at him a moment more before spreading it’s bat-like wings and launching itself into the air. The pressure on his wards instantly fell away.
“My father says to hurry.” Magnus said almost blankly. Taunting, he had expected. Maybe a description of the way Alec was screaming for him or what his wounds were. Something awful meant to hurt him.
What he had gotten instead turned his heart inside out all the same.
Cat looked just as confused. “That’s it?”
Magnus repeated his father’s short little speech and Cat’s nor Magnus’ confusion lessened.
“Well,” Cat said slowly, nearly as unsure as he was with this new twist thrown at them by Asmodeus, “That was the plan anyway and we’ve got everything nearly finished.”
Magnus felt the resolve straighten his spine. It was time enter Edom.
Hang on, Alec, I’m coming.
Thank you for all of the awesome support for this story!
This is maybe a weird place to do this, but can I ask for help finding a fic that I love that I haven't been able to find again? It was on AO3 and I read it like a year ago maybe? And I've been itching to again but I can't remember who wrote it or what it was called and the frustration/desperation combo is getting out of hand.
Here's what I remember: For some reason, the Angels started giving Alec visions of something that was to come. A big bad that was going to open a portal, I believe. Except the visions are frying Alec's brain and it's getting worse and worse. They end up giving a rune to Alec, Jace and Magnus to stabilize the situation and there's a lot of delicious angst about the whole thing. I distinctly remember there were names for each of their roles and that Alec's was something like receptorum but I forget what the others were. I can give a few more details but I'm hoping this will jog someone's memory! Any help would be deeply appreciated!
Again, thank you to everyone who has been reading *this* story (lol) and please know that I die a happy death hearing everyone's thoughts!
Magnus had entered Edom before. He was, in fact, one of the few warlocks who had done it more than once.
Never would he get used to the blood red sky above him.
The intense heat could be endured. The sands were red and almost glittering but innocuous enough. The demons flying overhead had never given him any trouble and he knew that was only because they could sense whose blood ran through his veins.
The sky though… for some reason that always disturbed him beyond the rest.
Magnus turned in a circle, orienting himself to this new dimension. His father’s half crumbled yet still potently protected castle loomed ahead and Magnus stared at it for a full moment of stillness.
Alec was inside of it. His sweet Alec who worked so hard to save everyone under his protection no matter what kind of being they were, who defied every notion Magnus had once had of Shadowhunters, and who loved Magnus in spite of and perhaps because of his flaws, was inside the castle of Asmodeus, Prince of Edom.
How had he let this happen?
Magnus gripped the strap of his bag in his hand and started forward towards the one place he had never wanted to see again. He dreaded every step and yet he found himself running. He would walk through every nightmare to save Alec.
The doors to the castle opened the second Magnus’ boot touched the steps.
Magnus felt a strange chill pass over him once he was inside and it took him too long to realize that it was because the room was cooler, not because a shiver of dread had gone down his spine. Compared to the scorching heat of Edom, the temperature in the castle was something much closer to what it felt like in New York. What was his father playing at?
As Magnus turned into the hall of his father, the answer was before him but Magnus still didn’t understand.
Alec was laid out on a chaise lounge draped in blankets made of ancient velvet. Despite the coolness of the room, his skin was still damp with feverish sweat.
“Alec…” Magnus took two steps towards him before movement caught his attention.
His father was sitting beside Alec and the second Magnus said Alec’s name, Asmodeus rose up and gave him a chillingly wide grin, “Magnus Bane, returned to his father’s side at long last.”
“I came for Alexander.” Magnus said as firmly as he could with half his heart across the room visibly shaking. This wasn’t a father/son reunion for the ages. This was a necessary evil.
“Then have him,” Asmodeus swept his arm out to Alec and he stepped back to give Magnus room.
Even though being at Alec’s side was everything Magnus wanted, he still hesitated for a split second. Turning his back on his father wasn’t wise but at the same time Magnus knew that whatever game his father was playing wasn’t going to end with a spell at his undefended back before they had gotten a chance to talk. Asmodeus did love to monologue, after all.
So Magnus went to Alec.
“Alec, darling,” Magnus pressed his hand to Alec’s cheek and his face fell when he felt the heat. Alec’s fever was raging and he was shaking so badly. It could have been from his wounds or his Nephilim blood being in Edom or some combination of the two but what was obvious was that he needed treatment and quickly. Magnus fumbled for the latch to his satchel and quickly pulled out a small glass vial of a reddish potion. “Come on, my love, drink this please.” Magnus propped Alec’s head up with one hand and gently used his fingers to part Alec’s lips. He pulled the cork out of the vial with his teeth and fed it to Alec slowly, stopping every so often to rub at his throat to encourage him to swallow.
Once the vial was empty, Magnus dropped it and scanned Alec with his magic. He tried not to panic too hard, not when the potion’s work was still happening right under his hand. Broken capillaries healing, wounds stitching together, lungs strengthening, bone knitting…
It wasn’t enough.
The potion started the work but Alec was still in bad shape. The shaking hadn’t gotten any better but Magnus knew that was more because of where Alec was than what condition he was in. Mentally, Magnus went through the contents of his satchel and opened it back up to grab something else.
“Why are you bothering with that?” Asmodeus asked from behind him and Magnus almost flinched. Had he actually managed to forget how close he was to his father? Not really, but there was still some part of him that couldn’t believe that this was happening. Every word out of Asmodeus’ mouth only made the surreal-like quality of this nightmare heighten.
Magnus didn’t bother turning to look at him, not when he had Alec teetering on a precipice in front of him. He grabbed another vial containing a potion that would act as the warlock equivalent of Alec’s stamina rune.
“My son, who dared defy you to send him to me? That necklace you hung from his neck should have been clear warning not touch what you have claimed for your own, yet some pathetic warlock has ignored your command.” His father pressed. The phrasing was interesting. Almost as interesting as the tone of voice Asmodeus said it in. He sounded almost offended on Magnus’ behalf.
The ring, Magnus realized slowly. That was how Asmodeus knew who Alec was to Magnus. Not because Claudio had told him, or even that Alec had told him. It was because of the ring Magnus had given Alec.
While that realization swirled in his mind, Magnus gently lifted Alec’s head up again. What he truly wanted was to pull Alec up into his arms so he could rest against Magnus’ chest but he was honestly afraid to move him like that. Not with the way he was breathing. “Forty years ago I sentence a warlock to death for murdering seven other warlocks over a stupid feud that blew out of proportion. Her lover vowed revenge on the one I loved,” Magnus explained as succinctly as possible while he fed Alec another potion.
“And it took this pathetic warlock forty years to devise this plan?”
Magnus merely turned back to shoot his father a look.
“Ah,” Asmodeus said as delicately as he was able. “And with a Nephilim no less.”
How was this conversation even happening?
While Magnus poured the last of the potion into Alec’s mouth, he tried to figure out what to do next. Getting two potions into Alec while Asmodeus just stood there was already more than he could have hoped for. His time was running out. Alec’s time was running out. Magnus needed to get him out of Edom and back home where he could be properly cared for.
“That’s it, darling,” Magnus whispered to Alec. Even if Alec wasn’t conscious, even if he was beyond even being capable of being conscious, Magnus wanted to do everything he could to let Alec know he wasn’t alone anymore. “Just a little longer, Alexander. I promise. Hang on for me for just a little longer and we’ll go home.”
Alec didn’t react, he just laid trembling on the chaise that Asmodeus had put him on.
“If you need my help with the decimation of this warlock, you have only to ask.”
Though it physically hurt, Magnus stood up from Alec’s side and turned to face his father. “Why do you care about what happens to Claudio?”
“You are my son.” Asmodeus answered and stepped closer to Magnus. “My blood runs through your veins. The blood of royalty, of power. You claimed that Nephilim as yours and some lesser warlock thinks to manipulate me, Prince of Edom, to enact his revenge?” His father laughed and the sound sent a chill down Magnus’ spine. He knew that laugh, he had heard it before… usually before blood was spilt.
Asmodeus’ strange response to Alec started to make more sense. This wasn’t his father recognizing that Magnus loved Alec and being, well, not kind because that was not in his father’s capabilities, but at least being decent.
No, Magnus had long known that Asmodeus didn’t understand love.
What he did understand was possession, claim and ownership. Magnus was a tool that Asmodeus had created and thus owned. Asmodeus cared for Magnus because in his eyes he owned Magnus.
And apparently Asmodeus had decided that Magnus owned Alec.
Magnus wasn’t a noble man. He could fully admit that he enjoyed putting his claim on Alec, usually in the form of love bites and a necklace that was going far beyond its intended purpose, but the idea of the sort of outright ownership that his father was assuming was unsettling.
“Though I would welcome your counsel,” Magnus said slowly, weighing the words against the look in his father’s eyes, “I must get my Shadowhunter out of Edom.”
It was unsettling… but that didn’t mean that Magnus’ wasn’t going to use it to get Alec free of Edom.
Asmodeus nodded like he understood. Maybe he did, in some weird warped way. It didn’t matter, though, not when he was possibly letting Magnus walk away for the first time ever. Only to save Alec so the warlock who had crossed Magnus wouldn’t win, of course, not because the love of his long life was perilously close to a point that Magnus wouldn’t be able to pull him back from. And then so Magnus could assert his dominance and reaffirm the blood of Asmodeus was far superior to any others’. Not to avenge the wrong committed on Magnus’ lover.
Still, he would take it gladly.
But the almost innocent expression his father’s face only heightened his sense of wrongness.
“If I were by your side, this wouldn’t have happened to him. Think of the power and respect we would command if we were reunited.” Asmodeus almost purred the words to Magnus and he circled the chaise that Alec was laid on. Magnus had to hold his magic in check because he wanted nothing more than to throw his father across the room as far from Alec has he could get him.
But that that would be outright aggression. The chances that his father would return in kind terrified Magnus. Even if Asmodeus only threw spells at him, Alec was between them and completely vulnerable. He had to keep himself in check. He had to keep this as cordial as he could. It was the only way.
Magnus could barely keep the derision from his voice, “The fear, you mean.”
Asmodeus merely shrugged, like the difference was nothing to him. It wasn’t. “If it protects him, what does that matter?”
Magnus felt a jolt of shock that at this new angle Asmodeus was trying to take. A Prince of Hell protecting a Nephilim?
Asmodeus crouched down beside Alec, reaching up and stroking just a single finger down his cheek and though it wasn’t Magnus he was touching, it still made his skin crawl. The urge to shove his hand away from Alec was almost overpowering.
Steady. Stay steady for Alec.
“A mortal lover, my son? I thought your tender heart knew better than that.”
He jerked his head back, “I don’t have to justify him to you.”
There was a look on Asmodeus’ face that was so absolutely fake that Magnus could feel the manipulation dripping from it. He made himself seem so innocent, like Magnus was the one being unreasonable, “I never said you had to, Magnus. You love him,” He offered Magnus a small, elegant shrug that looked almost natural, “That’s enough for me. I merely meant to express concern for the pain you’ll feel in the not so distant future. My memory of a human lifespan is shaky but what does this one have left? Another sixty years? Seventy? And that’s if you’re lucky? Years where he will be weak and infirm, where he won’t be what you fell in love with? Why open your heart to such pain? Why have you not come to me for help sooner?”
Magnus’ lip curled up in disgust, “So what, you could rip him from my mind? Turn me to stone like you?”
“Of course not,” Asmodeus crooned to him, as though Magnus were his fussy toddler and Asmodeus the kind father who only wanted to make him understand.
And the bastard knew, he knew, what that tone of voice did to Magnus. It was how he had spoken to Magnus so many years ago, when he found him all alone and flashed his cat eyes, sweetly promising him a father at last.
It only made what he said next twist Magnus up even worse.
“So I could help you keep him.”
“That isn’t possible.” Magnus said faintly. He understood what his father was offering, that he was trying to ply Magnus with promises to make Alec immortal like him. To give them forever, the forever that Magnus didn’t dare let himself dream of.
Even if he could, what would be the price?
Asmodeus rose up, “Anything is possible if you want it badly enough.”
Then we wouldn’t be here. Then Alec wouldn’t be hurt. Then I wouldn’t need you to make Alec immortal because he already would be. And his siblings would be too, so he wouldn’t have to endure that pain. And we would stay forever together, happy and safe.
His father’s eyes, unglamored and matching Magnus’ own, merely stared at him as though he was daring Magnus.
Get me free of here and join your power with mine, Asmodeus’ eyes said, and I will save him. Save him now, save him forever.
The worst part was that there was some little sliver of Magnus, the selfish core of him, that was tempted.
Magnus knew how to hate his father. He was good at it. They had been at odds for so many years. For so long, their encounters had been filled with rage. Standing here before him now, both of them having to play so cordial, was an exercise in restraint and pretending.
What to say? How best to play Asmodeus’ game?
And how to keep Alec safe while he did it?
“I need proof.” Magnus said slowly. He let his eyes stray back to Alec, as though he was truly considering what his father was offering.
Asmodeus’ smile widened and he held a hand out to gesture to Alec, “He breathes, does he not?”
“You say you want to help me. You say you want to keep my heart from breaking if I lose him.” Magnus stared into his father’s eyes, “Then let us leave.”
Asmodeus stared back at him evenly, “Back to a world where time marches on, taking him from you a little bit more every day?”
“Back to the only plane of existence where he can live.” Magnus countered and he let his voice waver, just enough for his father to hear it. “What you have offered… I need time to consider it. More time than Alec can endure in Edom. If you mean what you say, then prove it. I’ll consider what you’ve said, and you’ll let us go in a gesture of good faith.”
How committed to this new approach was his father? Willing enough to play the long game? Willing to let Magnus go on the chance that he would return?
Asmodeus had used threats and pain for so long, would he be willing to change course so thoroughly?
Slowly, a smile dawned on Asmodeus’ face and it chilled Magnus to his core. “And if I don’t?”
“Then he’ll die.” Magnus said simply though the words tasted like ash. “And you’ll be as dead to me as him. If you let him die, you will be nothing to me.”
His father’s eyes studied him carefully. Magnus only stared back at him, expressionless.
The room was so silent, though flames roared and demons screeched and Alec’s painful breaths echoed, it was as though time had slowed.
Asmodeus’ expression changed after a long moment. It wasn’t softening so much as an understanding. The way his perpetual smirk eased down into something closer to a frown. The way the furrow between his eyebrows deepened. The way he saw Magnus. Perhaps for the first time in so very long.
“Oh my son,” Asmodeus whispered with something like sorrow in his voice, “You’re letting him destroy you.”
Back to a world where time marches on, taking him from you a little bit more every day?
Magnus exhaled shakily. That was, he supposed, not entirely untrue. In loving him so completely, in accepting him and raising him up and inspiring him to be a better man, Alec was also destroying him. His loss would be unendurable. So one day, when Alec took his last breath with Magnus at his side, his father’s words would be true. Alec will have destroyed him.
He shrugged. What was there to say?
A harsh cough cut through their strange moment of understanding as though it were an axe slicing down between them. Alec’s back arched weakly, another ragged cough following the first.
“Alec!” Magnus cried as he sat down beside him again. His hands hovered over his love’s gasping body, his magic trying to seep into Alec’s lungs and fix what could not truly be fixed in Edom.
When Alec coughed again, blood splattered onto his lips.
“Hang on, hang on for me darling,” Magnus whispered frantically as he tried to help him.
Another hand entered his field of vision and strangely complimentary magic merged with his own. Together, they drained enough blood from Alec’s lungs to let him draw in a weak breath.
“Take him out of here,” Asmodeus’s voice was so soft Magnus almost didn’t hear him. “And consider what I have offered you, Magnus.”
Magnus gently slid an arm under Alec’s knees and around his back. “I have you, Alec.” He whispered into Alec’s ear. Alec didn’t make a single noise of complaint and his body stayed worryingly limp but Magnus knew he was causing pain. Alec’s breath audibly caught and Magnus froze with wide eyes for the few seconds it took for Alec to draw in another wavering breath.
They needed to leave. They needed to get out of Edom right that second.
His eyes met his father’s again.
“Tell me how it ends, my son.” Asmodeus said with something vicious in his voice.
Magnus said nothing because he wasn’t sure what else to say. One wrong thing and Asmodeus might rescind his agreement in letting them leave and then Magnus would have to fight their way out. Instead he turned with Alec in his arms and nodded to his father silently. He got another smile in return and breathed an internal sigh of relief.
He had just danced with the Devil and won.
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The journey down to Edom was always searingly hot and painful but over quickly enough. The return trip was normally just the same, except tinged with a sense of relief to finally be going home.
This time, with Alec half dead in his arms, Magnus felt none of that old relief and all of the blistering heat and pain but amplified because he knew as awful as the magic of the pentagram was for him, it had to be a thousand times worse for Alec’s weakened body.
Though it only took moments, Magnus had worked himself into a panic by the time he was standing back in his workroom. Catarina, bless her, was still waiting for him and he watched her rushing from the direction of his dining table over to the workroom.
“I have everything set up.” Cat’s waved her hand so her magic would scatter the drawn lines of the pentagram to douse the flames. The second the lines were broken, the magic was gone and the flames disappeared in the blink of Magnus’ eye. “Over here.”
True to her word, not that Magnus would have doubted her at all, Cat had changed his dining room table into something would fit better in an ER. There was a thin pad laid down both to cushion it for Alec and to catch any blood. She had potions and bandages and all sorts of things that Magnus’ frantic eyes slipped over as he carefully laid Alec out onto the table. “We’re home, darling. Alec, we’re safe now.” He whispered into Alec’s ear.
“Let’s see what we’re working with.” Cat held her hands over Alec on the other side of the table and she slowly worked her way down Alec’s body, her face still as though carved from stone as she took in the damage. “God, he’s really shaking. His breathing is a mess.”
“I gave him the paranemista potion first then another for strength.” Magnus hovered his own hands over Alec’s chest, his healing magic already trying to ease Alec’s breathing. Now that there were no flames or screaming demons to clog up Magnus’ ears, Alec’s struggle to get air in was even easier to hear.
Cat looked grim, “And I can feel traces of your father’s magic. Healing magic, Magnus. Which means that a Prince of Hell tried to heal him too. You have to tell me everything that happened down there after we fix your Shadowhunter.”
“Help me with his chest.” Magnus said instead of answering her very understandable questions about his meeting with Asmodeus. He honestly needed a little more time to process what had happened down there and what he had come so close to losing.
Cat came up to stand opposite Magnus and they both focused in on what needed doing. Some things, like Alec’s broken leg, would come later. Right now, they needed to do what they could to help Alec’s lungs heal from being in Edom.
“We have to drain all this blood.” Cat winced.
She flicked her fingers at his table and one end raised up like a hospital bed might. Now that Alec was tilted upwards a bit, the frantic gasping eased ever so slightly. Should he have done that in Edom?
Even though Alec was getting more air than before, he jerked against the table, another cough bringing frothy blood to his lips.
“Cat!” Magnus called in a strangled gasp as though she couldn’t see or hear what was happening.
“Focus Magnus,” Cat muttered to him from a clenched jaw, her hands were visibly trembling as she poured more and more magic into Alec’s seared lungs.
He had to look away from Alec’s face – from his bluish lips and pale skin – in order to even attempt the focus that Cat was demanding. If he saw Alec so close to being lost, he wasn’t sure he could coherently do what needed to be done.
As he and Cat worked desperately trying to pull Alec back from the brink, a wild thought bubbled up inside of Magnus’ frantic mind.
His father’s offer.
If Magnus couldn’t save him, Alec would be lost to him forever. He couldn’t – wouldn’t – endure his loss. Not now, not so soon. Not because of something Magnus had caused. He could barely stomach the thought of Alec, old and gray and happy, taking his last breath in Magnus’ arms after a long fulfilling life. Even that would be more than he could recover from but it was the only death that Magnus could even begin to try to accept.
This, gasping for breath through blood filled lungs on his dining room table because an enemy of Magnus’ had used him to enact revenge, was too much. This was beyond comprehension.
“Cat…” Magnus whispered, “Tell me… tell me if you think we can’t…” Save him, “My father. He, he offered to make Alec…”
“Immortal?” Cat gasped the word out breathlessly. She was pouring so much into Alec that she had unconsciously stopped breathing, holding her breath because she was concentrating so hard.
He couldn’t answer, couldn’t say the words.
“At what cost?” She asked because though she had never, thankfully, met Asmodeus she knew enough about him to know not to trust anything he said.
Magnus knew it too. He knew it better than anyone on this earth.
A push came to his wards on the balcony again and it stole Magnus’ already shaky breath.
His father’s dragon was back.
He didn’t need to turn around to know. Its presence was distinct and with the sensation of it already pressing against his wards once so fresh in his memory, he knew instantly when it landed on the railing.
There was no time to step away, make eye contact with the thing and hear his father’s words. None at all. But if he didn’t, if he didn’t strike the bargain while there was still enough of Alec clinging to life to be saved…
“He would never forgive himself.” Cat shook her head frantically for all that she didn’t look away from Alec either. “Magnus, if you make some horrible deal with your father and make him immortal without his consent, he will never forgive himself for it. Alec would rather die.”
If her warning was that Alec would never forgive Magnus he would have already done it. He would be summoning his father right that second.
But could he put that pain on Alec instead? Could he commit this double crime against his love?
Alec’s mouth was still stained with blood but his frantic attempts to gulp air were slowing and Magnus felt his heart stop. His hands lifted, magic shuttering away as he moved to take a step back, a step towards the balcony. Could he trust his father this one last time?
Cat’s hand reached out and wrapped around his wrist so hard her nails nearly drew blood. She yanked him back closer and pulled his hand back into place over Alec’s chest, “Don’t stop, you idiot. It’s working!”
Her declaration startled him out of his terror fueled haze. His eyes swept over every inch of Alec, trying to keep himself focused.
Alec’s lips, though bloody, weren’t blue anymore. They were nearly ghostly white, his skin was too, but they weren’t blue.
And the quietness of his breathing wasn’t because he couldn’t breathe, it was because he didn’t have to work so hard for it anymore.
They were healing him.
Magnus’ magic spilled forth, eagerly rejoining Cat’s to complete the work as best he could. The vise around Magnus’ own chest eased. He wouldn’t have to choose. Not today, not without Alec’s consent. He could heal Alec himself.
Slowly, he and Cat eased up on the magic, pulling back a little as though to test Alec and see if he was going to continue breathing on his own. When nothing bad happened, their magic withdrew completely and they both stood there staring.
The presence on his balcony stayed silently watchful.
“You’re an idiot.” Cat said again. There was something both fond and worried in her voice.
Magnus shrugged a little helplessly, “What would you have me do, let him die?”
Cat let out a loaded sigh, “You two are really going to need to revisit that conversation again. Maybe not right away when everyone’s emotions are running high, but seriously, you need to talk to him about this. You can’t just make a deal with your father and trust him to follow through with no tricks. Even if Asmodeus did do what he said he was going to do, what would you say to Alec? Sorry, you’re immortal now. Enjoy watching your family age and die because I freaked out and made the decision without you. Magnus, that’s not fair.”
“I know that,” Magnus promised her. Promised Alec even, though he was still unconscious. “I just… Cat, I love him.”
Her hand came to rest on his shoulder and her eyes were unbearably kind. She pitied him a little, he could tell. “I understand, Magnus.”
And she did, as best she could. Magnus wasn’t sure that anyone would truly understand the depth of his feelings for Alec and his utter horror at the thought of losing him one day.
Another tiny little press on his wards. Like his father’s dragon was leaning forward just a little to remind Magnus that he was there.
Or Asmodeus was doing it himself. The fallen Angel was certainly capable of possessing a demon if he wanted to.
Magnus turned towards the balcony doors and carefully didn’t meet the demon’s eyes. He wanted no message. He couldn’t handle anything else designed to twist his heart around. With his eyes to the floor, he shook his head at the demon.
There was a moment where nothing happened. Neither Magnus nor the demon moved. Maybe it was waiting for him to truly look, for a connection to be made. Magnus shook his head again. I can’t.
The demon’s wings unfurled and spread wide. Magnus chanced a look just in time to see the dragon launch up from his balcony and fly into the sky without a backwards glance at him.
Finding his center again felt impossible. There was still so much to heal for Alec and so much to process for himself. He felt like his heart was in jagged pieces that kept cutting with each new thought.
Magnus turned back around to face Cat, “What next?” He asked after a few seconds of uncomfortable silence.
She pulled her hands away from him and hovered them over Alec again. Now that everything wasn’t being pulled to his chest, she would have a chance to properly look him over with more coherency than he was currently capable. For the moment, the reigns were firmly being held by her. He needed her to guide him, to take control of this situation.
“I mean, blood loss, obviously. In fact,” Cat opened her eyes and scanned around until she saw the strap of the bag she had sent him down to Edom with halfway across the room where it had apparently fallen off his arm without him noticing. She held her hand out and the bag shot over to her. Once she had it, she hunted around inside, finally pulling out a milky white potion. Blood replenisher, designed to accelerate the process of recovering from blood loss. “I know his body isn’t going to accept much more magic and potions for a while, but I think this is critical.”
While Cat carefully poured the potion into Alec’s mouth, Magnus rubbed his throat to get him to swallow. He was getting eerily good at coaxing Alec to ingest healing potions while unconscious.
Once that was done, Cat scanned him again. “Concussion, already half healed. A bunch of scrapes and bruises, a few more decent gashes along his back. Also half healed. His leg is a mess. I think that’s what we should tackle next. The rest of it can wait for a few hours until his body isn’t so overloaded.”
Given his father’s reaction to Alec, Magnus didn’t think he had been the one to break Alec’s leg. Which meant that either happened in Edom before Asmodeus took him in or, far more likely, Claudio had done it to keep Alec from being able to run away from him.
Another layer of hatred for Claudio built itself around his heart.
Anger aside, Cat was probably right. They didn’t want his leg to start to heal wrong or leave it too long and risk the injury turning into something that they couldn’t completely fix. When Cat’s magic went towards Alec’s leg, Magnus’ went with it.
The second their spells started stabilizing the break to put it back together, Alec let out a soft moan of pain. In an instant, Magnus stared up at Alec’s face, waiting to see any further hints of distress.
Instead Alec’s eyes fluttered open and Magnus’ magic flickered and sputtered out as his focus was torn from the task at hand. “Alec!”
“M-Magnus…” Alec swallowed heavily and his eyes were rolling around the room either because he was disoriented or because he was taking in the familiar surroundings.
“We’re home now, Alexander.” Magnus pushed his hair back from his forehead, “You’re home.”
“Th-at w-was Edom.” Alec looked up at him as though he saw less of Magnus and more of a blood red sky. “T-that was E-Edom, w-wasn’t it?”
Magnus tried to smile but he could feel the way his mouth just twisted into a grimace, “Yes, darling, that was Edom. You’re home now, though. We’re going to heal you, I promise.”
Alec’s eyes pulled away from Magnus and he tried to lift his head to look down the length of his body. “What…?”
It was Cat who pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Easy, Alec. To Edom and back isn’t an easy trip for a Nephilim to make. You’re lucky to still be in one piece.”
“Hurts.” Alec let Cat push him back down and if that wasn’t reason for worry then Magnus didn’t know what was. Usually, only a well placed application of teary eyes from one of his siblings or Magnus could make Alec give in and obey when he was injured. Perhaps a sniffle, if he was being really stubborn. Even better if two of them pinned him down with their leftover fear at the same time. Now though, Alec had barely made it two centimeters off the table and he had gone back down in seconds. If Magnus had given him the strength potion he had coaxed down his throat in Edom when he was in good health he would have been on his twentieth lap around Central Park by now, instead he was too weak to raise his head. Add in that he was actually telling them that he was in pain and Magnus’ concern went up another few notches.
Cat and Magnus exchanged worried glances. “What hurts?” Cat demanded.
Alec’s eyes went back up to stare at the ceiling and Magnus saw how red and glassy they were. “D-don’t know.” He answered quietly.
“All right, darling, it’s all right.” Magnus tried to sound as soothing as possible but he was honestly too shaky himself to make the words convincing. If Alec noticed, he gave no indication. He just laid there shaking.
Silently, Magnus and Cat got back to work.
Nearly two hours later, Magnus and Cat were sprawled over his couch. Each nursed a glass of the most expensive brand money could buy and Magnus was trying to work up the will to summon them both a steak dinner because for whatever reason something high in protein like red meat always regenerated magic faster.
Healing Alec had taken a lot of magic.
His boy was still laid out on his dining room table, largely because he was still not breathing the easiest and they were hesitant to move him until the magic got a little bit more time to work or they regenerated enough magic to do another treatment for Alec’s seared lungs. They were so much better, but they had also been so damaged it would take more than a couple of sessions to fix. He was also still on the table a little bit because Magnus’ arms were shaking and he didn’t think he had the strength to physically carry Alec to bed but he wasn’t saying that out loud because he found it strangely upsetting.
Jace can do it when he gets here, Magnus thought as he tried to ignore the twitching in his fingertips.
Then, the sheer ridiculousness of that statement caught up to him. When he had left the Institute he’d practically had to beat Jace and Izzy off with a stick to keep them from following him into the bowels of Hell, yet over two hours into Alec’s return to their plane of existence, something that Jace would have absolutely been able to feel, and neither of Alec’s siblings had come to his side?
There was something else going on.
“My dearest Catarina, did you text Isabelle to tell her we got Alec back?” Magnus asked lightly.
Cat snorted and Magnus closed his eyes because he instantly knew he wasn’t going to like what came out of her mouth next. “No, we got straight to work, didn’t we? I put a silencing spell on your door and redirected the ward alerts to myself.”
This was precisely the type of thing that made him regret giving Cat and Ragnor such free rights with his warding.
“And how long have Alec’s siblings been pounding on my door?” Magnus’s voice was less light this time, more tired. On the other side of his door, Jace Herondale definitely had bloody fists from banging them against the last barrier keeping him from Alec. Now he was going to have to heal Alec’s parabatai and probably his front door too. Clean it, at least. Nephilim blood smeared on the entryway wasn’t really the first impression he wanted his loft to give.
Cat had the audacity to chuckle, “Oh, only about two and a half hours.”
“Catarina, they’re frantic for their brother’s life!” Magnus jolted up from the couch and stood with a grimace for the crack that his back gave.
“And we were busying saving that life!” Cat shot back unrepentantly, “Having them buzzing around panicking wasn’t going to help any. I was going to let them in soon, just after we had a moment to breathe.”
And Magnus did believe her, he really did, but if he put himself in Jace and Izzy’s shoes he couldn’t really forgive Cat’s actions easily. He crossed the living room and flung the doors open.
Once the doors were open, the three Shadowhunters on the other side froze for a split second. Clary and Izzy were sitting on the ground, leaning on the wall opposite Magnus’ door. There were some smears of Izzy’s mascara that were probably from tears, which only made Magnus feel worse for what he had inadvertently done to them.
Jace, though, was frantic in a way that Magnus had rarely seen him. His hair was a mess, limply hanging in his eyes. His skin was pale, his bottom lip was bitten bloody and he looked about as exhausted as Magnus felt. Alec’s parabatai had been pacing the hall and stopped only to blink at Magnus once before he was pushing past him to get to Alec.
“Come in,” Magnus said to Clary and Izzy as the girls scrambled to stand up. “Alec’s in the dining room, resting.”
“He’s okay?” Izzy’s eyes searched his for any hint that Alec wasn’t. “You healed him?”
Magnus wrapped his arm around her shoulders and led her inside, “He’s going to need some more time and care but he’s going to be okay.”
“Asmodeus didn’t…?” Hurt him, mutilate him, kill him? So many lovely options for Isabelle to have ended the sentence with and she didn’t even know the full depth of brutality that Magnus’ father was capable of.
“No,” Magnus answered her, “I’ll explain to you later but he didn’t hurt Alec.”
That didn’t really mesh with the picture he had painted them before he left for Edom but one, Magnus couldn’t have ever dreamed of his father’s actual reaction to Alec and two, Isabelle had finally caught sight of her brother and she wasn’t really listening to Magnus anymore.
Clary and Magnus hung back as the Lightwood siblings reunited. Jace had hopped up to sit on the table beside Alec and he was hunched over his parabatai, hands hovering over Alec’s skin like he was afraid to make contact and reveal that it was all just a mirage.
Izzy had no such fears, apparently. Her hands were smoothing down Alec’s hair as she whispered something in his ear that was, knowing Isabelle, probably a mixture of sweet dedication and threats of bodily harm if he ever scared her like that again.
“You okay?” Clary asked as she wrapped her hand around his bicep to pull him in a little closer to her side.
Magnus almost flushed, “Okay? No, I am definitely not okay. This whole thing has been…” He floundered trying to find the right words. “To call it my worst nightmare is entirely too weak a description.”
“This wasn’t your fault, Magnus,” Clary said, “Jace and Izzy don’t blame you and if they don’t then you know for sure Alec won’t either.” She gave him an encouraging little smile that seemed like something that she might have normally reserved for Simon. He wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or offended.
“He’s not waking up.”
Magnus turned back to the Lightwoods to find Jace somehow managing to go paler than he already was. “He’s exhausted,” Magnus quickly started to explain, lest Jace start swooning. “He did wake up and talk to us for a bit when we first got him home.” Home being both Magnus’ loft and the earthly plane.
Izzy reached out and squeezed Jace’s shoulder, “Magnus, just tell us everything.”
He sighed, because everything was a lot – too much even, “Cat and I have managed to heal quite a bit and, we’ll get to the details, but my father tried to heal him as well. The spell didn’t work the same way it would if he had tried it outside of Edom but he probably kept Alec going more than I can fully explain.”
“A Prince of Hell, one that you said would definitely kill Alec on sight or start hardcore torturing him,” Izzy’s voice caught a little, “Tried to heal Alec while he was helpless in Edom?”
Magnus nodded and he saw movement from the corner of his eyes – Cat, come to listen to the story.
Instantly, Magnus knew he didn’t want to tell them about the offer of immortality his father had made. That was too raw inside of him still, especially considering where his mind had gone when Alec had been choking on his own blood. Then, there was the fact that Magnus didn’t know what, if anything, Alec had ever said to them regarding his feelings towards immortality. If Alec hadn’t opened that particular door with his siblings then Magnus wasn’t going to do it for him.
Even without that part, there was still plenty more insanity to go over.
“All right let’s start from the beginning, near as I understand it. I arrived in Edom and instead of finding Alec either dead or strung up by his fingernails I found him in my father’s castle, which had been magically, well, air conditioned I suppose,” Magnus still wasn’t clear that such a thing had ever been done in Edom before. “And Alec was laid out under a blanket on a chaise.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Cat said incredulously.
“Trust me, my dear, I was just as shocked as you. More, actually, since I’ve met my father.” Magnus said. “He didn’t even stop me from going to Alec or giving him healing potions.”
“How is that possible?” Jace asked. He was looking back and forth between Magnus and Alec like the answer was something visually divined.
This was where things got a little weird to have to say verbally to Alec’s siblings. “I made Alec a ring as a present. It’s shaped like an arrow and he wears it as a necklace but the most important part was the spells that I infused in the metal. There’s a fair few elements to it, like making him easier for me to track and other useful things. What I did as well, however, was sort of…” He broke off when he felt an incredibly rare blush start to heat his cheeks.
“Oh my god,” Cat said with her mouth open wide, “You put your magical claim in a necklace and hung it around his neck?”
“I wasn’t thinking about it like that!” Magnus threw his hands up defensively, “It’s not like, like… I don’t know, a magical hickey or something. I did it so if another warlock went after him and caught my signature they’d know that to hurt him would be to bring my wrath down upon them.”
A slow smile was growing on Izzy’s face, “So Asmodeus is circling around Alec, trying to decide how quick he wants to kill him, and then he catches a hint of your magic on his necklace and that magic is a spell designed to say property of Magnus Bane, hands off and he actually backed off?”
“Not quite,” Magnus tried to explain it properly, “Asmodeus was… offended on my behalf? On his behalf even, because once I explained what Claudio was hoping would happen he was immediately displeased by the idea of being manipulated into enacting another warlock’s revenge against me. And then of course, he was fully capable of recognizing Alec’s potential as leverage against me.” It all made sense, of course. On paper, all of those reactions weren’t outside the realm of possibility. Of course his father was angry that his blood and status were being disrespected, that some lesser warlock had attempted to trick him into killing someone his son had claimed.
And then, using his love for Alec to sweet talk him into freeing Asmodeus for Alec’s sake. That was next level.
Magnus almost got lightheaded when he tried to comprehend what had actually happened.
Cat huffed out a laugh that still sounded more shocked than anything, “If there’s one thing demons understand, it’s ownership.”
“And you gave Alec a ring that says you own him.” Jace said flatly.
“Careful, blondie.” Cat pointed at Alec, “That necklace literally saved Alec’s life.”
Jace held up the free hand that wasn’t holding Alec’s, “I put a rune on Alec that said he was a part of me, I can’t really judge. I’m just asking.”
“Inadvertently, I gave Alec a ring that said he was mine, yes.” Magnus admitted, “I meant it differently than Asmodeus took it but once I realized that he was willing to let me walk out of Edom both with Alec and without fuss I went along with it.”
“Of course.” Izzy said so matter-of-factly that Magnus instantly felt better.
“Sometimes my father tries to reconcile us with force or violence and sometimes he tries to coax me back to his side with presents and a show of kindness.” Magnus admitted, though it had been such a long time since Asmodeus had tried the latter approach Magnus had almost forgotten how much harder it was to deny, “We’re just lucky that this time he was in a benevolent mood.”
“Is that why he doesn’t seem as bad off as you said he’d be?” Izzy asked, though she still looked at her brother worriedly. “I mean, he’s crazy pale and he’s wheezing and shaking but you made it sound like he was going to be almost certainly dead.”
Magnus came a little closer to the table and he reached out to rub his hand over Alec’s recently healed leg. The connection soothed Magnus’ frazzled nerves, even if Alec was still shaking. “He was injured and he’s suffering the after effects of a trip to Edom but yes, he is doing much better than he would have if my father hadn’t have tried to help him.”
“Yay Satan?” Clary joked with a cheeky look on her face.
“Asmodeus is not Satan and even if he’s taken a strange stance on Alec, we should never trust him.” Magnus said wearily. “But in this particular case… you’re not entirely wrong.”
“Okay, so what’s left?” Jace asked, “He’s not waking up and he’s shaking like crazy. What’s still wrong and why can’t you fix it?” The words sounded accusatory and even Jace’s voice – cracking like ice – made them sound angry. Magnus knew that wasn’t what he meant, though, not at all. This was still the nearly feral parabatai with a red hot blade.
What he wanted was an instantaneous cure, a plan, a battle to win.
Magnus had none of that to offer.
“We’ve healed all that Alec’s body can handle so far.” He admitted, even though it hurt him just like it hurt Jace. “His injuries from Claudio, some of the damage from being in Edom, especially to his lungs.”
“This is better?” Jace asked.
There was no answer necessary since Jace was only asking because he was angry that Alec wasn’t perfectly fine. He knew they had done as much as they could. Magnus could only shrug, because there wasn’t much to say to that.
Jace’s jaw clenched and he turned back to Alec, one hand reaching out to rest over Alec’s chest. Jace’s touch was careful and Magnus knew it was at least partially because he could feel exactly how sore Alec was.
“So this is just going to get better with time?” Clary asked when it was clear that Jace wasn’t really able to keep the questions coming.
“Pretty much.” Cat answered for him. “I mean, we can do some more healing later but the best thing will be rest.”
Well, rest on Earth. Magnus had half a mind to set Alec up on the balcony with some plants. Air and rich soil might honestly do him some good. He turned to Cat and said, “I almost want to turn the balcony into a garden and plop him down there.”
“What?” Jace’s confused voice sounded from the table but Magnus was instead focused on Cat’s considering face.
“That’s actually a good idea.” She said slowly. Her eyes drifted over to the balcony and Magnus could see her mentally going over the dimensions and re-arranging the space to her liking.
“Magnus?” Clary asked when he didn’t answer Jace.
Magnus turned back to them and sighed, “He’s been to Edom and that’s not easy on his body, as we’ve well established. A good way to dissipate that… energy?... would be to connect him to earth again.”
He got three blank looks in return. If Alec were awake, he would have looked at Magnus and Cat similarly.
Instead of helping him explain, Cat turned her back on the whole lot of them and waved her hand to open the balcony doors. “We’ve got plenty of hours of daylight left.”
Magnus shrugged at them a little helplessly, “The sun, water, soil, air… they’ll all help I think.”
“You think?” Jace pressed.
“This doesn’t come up frequently,” Magnus defended himself and gave another shrug, “He’s already got a lot of magic going on right now, magic that he still needs so I don’t want to do a purification ritual. This is simpler but sometimes simpler is stronger.”
The three of them stared at him for another few moments before Jace hopped off the table and squared his shoulders, “What do you want us to do?”
Just one more chapter to go! Thank you to everyone for your support for this story! I deeply appreciate it :)
Feedback is love
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
Sorry for the delay, work kicked my butt :(
Please enjoy the final chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
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