Chapter 10: Unfortunate confrontations
Centuries of living lent itself to a vast reservoir of memories and experiences, both pleasant and not so much. In Magnus’s experience, the latter was more common. Life was rarely a bed of roses, and the length of one’s life was directly proportional to the hardships one had survived. He himself had several centuries worth of experiences under his belt, so it went without saying that he had accumulated more than a few skeletons in his closet.
But none were as terrible or as remorseful as the time he had spent in his father’s tutelage. To say that he had been young and foolish would be a feeble excuse, and he had never allowed himself to take comfort in such petty justifications. He had eventually come to his senses and banished Asmodeus as soon as he had seen his true colors but he still carried his sins around his neck. The shame, the guilt, the remorse...those he kept close to his chest, kept alive in every beat of his heart. He had always known there was no redemption to be had but he had strived for it all the same, doing whatever good that was in his power, hoping it would be enough.
Seeing Asmodeus now, after centuries, felt like reliving every horrifying moment of those infernal days all at once. The man himself, or his visage in any case, looked unassuming and harmless to the untrained eye. But Magnus was no novice, he could easily see the glint of malice in his eyes, the cruelty in the rigidity of his spine, the sadism in the curve of his smile. But these were just the physical aspects, the subtle manifestations of the demon that hid below the surface. To a warlock or any being with a discerning eye for magic , there could be no doubt as to malignant nature of the creature. The energy coiled around the demon rippled in the shades of blood, slithered and creeped and burned everything in its path. He could feel it snake around him, into him, leaving a burning cold in its wake. The very air around him reeked of sulphur and death and decay.
Everything about Asmodeus screamed Danger! and Keep Away! He wondered if Alec could sense it, if he even realised a fraction of the danger before him. This was a Greater Demon of Edom. This was his father. Never had he hated his cat eyes more than when he saw them mirrored in Asmodeus’s face.
“My son.” The satisfied smirk on Asmodeus’s face is enough to make him wary. It awakens in him an age old fear he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge.
“Asmodeus. What do you want?”
“Can’t a father visit his beloved son? I’ve been looking all over the city for you.”
“I noticed. Why kill all those people? They were innocent.”
“Ah well. I had to get your attention somehow. You’ve been hiding from me.” The casual dismissal of the lives lost, the indifference to the lives he stole, sends a surge of anger through his veins. This is what he had hated about his father the most, the complete disregard for any life other than his own. It had been one lesson that he had thankfully never learned from his father. It makes him sick, the needless violence and bloodshed.
“Well, I’m here now. What do you want from me?”
“I want what I’ve always wanted. A meaningful relationship with my favorite son.”
“Don’t bother. I want nothing to do with you.”
“Come now, Magnus. Surely you don’t mean that.”
“I do. If that’s all...”
“I am rather surprised by this turn of events. I did not expect to see you here, Mr. Lightwood.”
What? How could his father possibly know who Alec was? Had they met before? A glance at Alec told him how uncomfortable he was. The nervousness was to be expected, he supposed, when facing down a Greater Demon. It made him feel a strange protectiveness towards him, an urge to stand between him and his father and not let any harm come to him.
“Leave him out of it. He has nothing to do with this.”
Without a conscious thought, Magnus found himself taking a step forward, angling his body protectively towards the man besides him. He doesn’t have to look to see the protest on Alec’s lips, but he quickly shushes him. Whatever the outcome of this confrontation, he knew he would do anything to ensure Alec made it through safely.
“Oh? I’m surprised at you, Magnus. You’re still protecting him? After everything?”
What was that supposed to mean? Was his father surprised because he was protecting a shadowhunter? If he didn’t know any better, he’d say his father looked genuinely shocked. It shouldn’t surprise him. Asmodeus knew nothing of friendship and basic decency.
“Leave him be.” Magnus repeats, letting a hint of steel bleed into his voice. He let his magic flare just a little, a threat and a warning. Asmodeus ignored him, turning towards Alec instead.
“And what about you, Mr. Lightwood? What are you doing with my son?”
“Nothing. We just ran into each other.”
There’s fear in Alec’s eyes that makes Magnus wants to desperately turn around, offer him some measure of comfort , reassure him that everything would be okay. But he knows better than to turn his back to his father. His father who is staring at Alec with eyes ablaze in anger.
“Father, you came here for me. This is between the two of us. Alec is in no way involved in this. So please, let him go.”
At least Asmodeus is glaring at him now, rather than at Alec. Small mercies, but he’s thankful for them all the same. He’s under no illusion that Asmodeus would listen to him. He’s never cared about collateral damage. All he can do is keep Asmodeus’s attentions trained on him and when the situation inevitably devolves into a fight, make sure Alec has the opportunity to escape.
“Oh but isn’t he? Quite the pair, aren’t you two? You just can’t seem to stay away from each other.”
Alec speaks up then, stepping around Magnus to stand beside him much to the consternation of his poor heart which starts pounding in protest. “Asmodeus....”
“Be quiet, Alec...” He hisses at him, trying to make him understand. Alec’s wide open, and the thought alone makes his mouth run dry. There’s nothing standing between them should Asmodeus choose to attack. Oh, why couldn’t the infuriating man just listen and let Magnus protect him?
“This isn’t what it looks like.” What? He sent a questioning glance at Alec but found himself being ignored.
“Is that so? Do you take me for a fool?!”
What? What was going on? He’s getting the distinct feeling that they’re having a different conversation than the one he had initially thought. What in the world was going on?
“Father, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. What do you mean?”
Asmodeus shifts his gaze to him, his eyes narrowed with suspicion. A long moment passes in silence while he holds his father’s gaze, when unexpectedly Asmodeus gasped in some form of comprehension.
“You really don’t know, do you?”
“Know what? What aren’t you telling me?”
“My dear boy, what have you done!”
Then just as quickly, Asmodeus’s face morphed into a scorching rage. There was no time to wonder or question. He’s immediately on his guard, raising his hands to channel his magic, prepared to defend himself and Alec. He sees Alec bracing himself, notching an adamas tipped arrow on his bow, ready to strike. He’s dying to talk to him, since clearly there is something going on that he does not understand, but it would have to wait until they’re out of this mess. Answers could be sought later, now was the time to fight.
“Enough of this foolishness! You will come with me to Edom, Magnus Bane, willing or unwilling, and take your rightful place by my side.”
He feels Asmodeus’s magic explode, a wave of unadulterated, blistering power slamming into him that he barely manages to shield. He stumbles from the impact and almost loses his footing, thankful that Alec had the sense to release an arrow before reaching out to steady him. The arrow itself disintegrates into dust with a wave of Asmodeus’s hand, unable to maintain its integrity in the force of such raw power. It doesn’t deter Alec however who sends arrow after arrow into the melee, each weapon meeting the same fate as its predecessor.
It distracts Asmodeus long enough though for Magnus to gather himself and launch an attack of his own. The bolts of energy he throws don’t do much, easily swatted away or deflected. He feels more than sees his father’s growing annoyance in the way the temperature rises, reminding him of the unforgiving heat native to Edom and feels his hopes sinking further.
He’s no stranger to magical brawls, has even started more than a few on his own, and he knows he’s no match for his father’s brute strength. Alec’s quiver is looking disparagingly sparse and his own reserves are dwindling at an alarming rate. While they’re working well in tandem, falling into an easy rhythm that is almost familiar, they won’t be able to hold Asmodeus at bay for much longer.
He can see that Asmodeus is gaining more ground by the minute and his own frustrations rise with each step that his father takes. His magic is pulsing erratically, on the verge of exhaustion, and he can feel his shield wavering in response. Soon, he’ll have to forego any attempt at defense and concentrate all his magic into an offensive attack. He wonders if he can spare enough to create a portal for Alec. He doesn’t think for one minute that Alec would amenable to leaving him behind, but he had no qualms about shoving him through if he had to. Alec would not be yet another casualty at his father’s hands, he’d make certain of it. Alec would just have to forgive him later.
His father is barely a few feet away, he’s almost out of time. He gathers enough magic to send a volley of energy at his father, then turns to Alec who has abandoned his bow for a glowing seraph blade.
“Alec, you need to go. I can portal you out of here.”
“What? Absolutely not! I’m not leaving you.” The affronted look on Alec’s face is enough to make him smile. He watches Alec slice through a ball of energy Asmodeus sends his way, watches as Alec throws himself wholeheartedly into a battle that is not his to fight, and can’t help the fondness blooming in his chest. Stupid, stubborn shadowhunter.
“Alec, I can’t protect you and fight him at the same time. I need you to be safe, all right? Now, let me portal you...”
He waved his hand in a well-practiced pattern, conjuring a portal besides him. Convincing Alec to go through the portal is a different matter altogether. The shadowhunter has his feet firmly planted, figuratively and literally, his face set in determination.
“Magnus, I’m not going anywhere.”
As long as you’re here, I’m not going anywhere.
He startles as words echo in his ear, unspoken but clearly audible all the same. His vision shifts, suddenly bright as the sun for a single moment, before reverting to night again. It takes only a split second, a momentary lapse of concentration, for his shield to disintegrate under the constant assault. Before he can question what happened, before he can form a single thought, a blazing sphere of destructive energy smashes through his defenses and his vision goes white again.
It’s too late to do anything except to close his eyes and brace himself for the impact. An impact that never comes. He opens his eyes hesitantly and his confusion turns to horror. He can only watch with his heart in his throat as Alec falls, protecting Magnus’s body with his own. The thump of his body hitting the ground echoes like a gunshot, and he feels his own heart stutter in response.
Magnus fell to his knees besides him, his hands fluttering uselessly over his prone form, trying to figure out where to even begin healing. Blood, there’s so much blood. Its pooling on the ground below, staining his hands, soaking his clothes.
“No, no, no, please God no....”
Don’t let him die...don’t let him die....please God not him...
“Now that that’s over with, come with me Magnus.”
For a second, he feels a fury so intense he’s surprised everything around him hasn’t turned to ash. He glares at his father, watches the smug smile on his face, and hates that he’s in any way related to this monster. He may not be a match for a Greater Demon in terms of pure, raw power, but he’s sure that he could take him on the strength of his rage alone. He can feel his magic gathering, reacting to his anger, ready to blow to smithereens anyone who stands in his way.
If he had been alone, he would have done it, thrown all his magic and his anger into the fight and challenged his father to a fight unto death. He would have finally rid himself of Asmodeus or died trying and been satisfied with either outcome. But he’s not alone and Alec....Alec is lying, broken and injured, at his feet. Alec, who thoughtlessly threw himself in harm’s way to save his life. Alec, who despite being a shadowhunter saw a downworlder as a friend and an equal and offered his help without hesitation. Alec, who’s the most surprising and kind and honorable man he has ever met in his life.
There’s no choice to be made, no second thoughts. Asmodeus can wait, but he’d be damned twice over if he let Alec die at his father’s hands. He gently gathered the shadowhunter in his arms, mindful of his wounds, and let himself fall back into the swirling vortex of the portal. He can see the exact moment Asmodeus realises what he has done, hears the frustrated cry echo in his ears and breathes a sigh of relief as the portal closes behind them.
His apartment is dark but he doesn’t need lights to navigate to the couch. Laying Alec down, he tried not to panic as he assessed the damage. But his magical reserves are all but depleted and refuse to answer his call, fizzling out in blue sparks before they can be used to heal. His hands are shaking and covered in blood and entirely useless as they try to stem the flow of blood. Alec’s breathing, too quick and shallow, drowns any coherent thought in his head.
Somehow, he manages to dig his cellphone out from his pocket and with trembling fingers dials Catarina for help. With the reassurance of assistance on its way, he all but collapses on the floor besides the couch. Taking Alec’s cold hands in his own, he wills him to hold on, just a little longer, just a little while longer. He barely realises he is babbling, reassurances and platitudes and encouragements falling from his lips though he scarcely knows what he is saying.
As he waits for help to arrive, for the first time in a long while, Magnus prays.