Chapter 1: Prologue
“I need a break.....from us.”
“You were being honest. I know the difference.”
“There’s no fixing this.”
“Days ago, I didn’t know the spark inside you, the one I fell in love with, was out for good.”
“Magnus...I can’t. I’m sorry.”
Every word is a knife digging itself deeper and deeper into his heart, an ache in his chest that rises and rises and knows no relief. Every breath he takes chokes his constricting throat and burns in his lungs. Every blink causes more tears to escape his stinging eyes. He’s gasping...for air, for light, for love.....for reason. But there’s no relief to be found. No salvation. No reprieve. No enlightenment.
Why?...Why? Why? Why? He asks, pleads, begs. No answer. His magic is gone. His purpose is gone. He is gone. Why? He’s lost. He’s empty. He’s alone. He has nothing. He is nothing. It’s all gone. Everything that defined him, made him who he was, everything that was him. Warlock, magician, protector, friend, lover. Gone. All gone.
He’s asphyxiating on the emptiness, the vacuum in his heart sucking in the bare bones of what little is still left inside of him. He can’t breathe. He can’t breathe . He’s drowning in an ocean of pain, grief, sorrow. He’s being pulled under by the waves. He can’t fight. He doesn’t want to fight. He has nothing left to fight for.
A single word echoes in the emptiness. Why? Why did he leave? Why did he break his heart? Why? Why? Why?
A ray of light, a single breath of salvation, delivered by the most unexpected savior; his Father. His magic restored. His power returned. His saving grace. He knows better than to trust the devil. He knows that gifts come with strings attached. He knows to be wary because there’s always a catch. Always a price.
Why? Why? Why?
He doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have what he lost. But he has enough. The only thing that matters. He has his magic back, he is powerful again. His magic courses through him, envelopes him. Fills the emptiness inside him and breathes new life into him.
It’s not enough. Not nearly enough. He’s still empty. He’s still drowning. His magic is not enough. He’s not enough.
He should have known better than to fall in love. He should have known better than to trust a Shadowhunter. He is only loved when he is useful. He is only wanted for his power. There are always conditions to love.
He prays for relief. He begs for respite. His magic answers. He’s surrounded by memories, memories of love, memories of him . He relives them, one last time, moments that he held so precious in his heart.
“They’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.”
“There is nothing ugly about you.”
“I don’t think I can live without you.”
“I love you.”
Take them away. Take them all away.
the first kiss at the inauspicious wedding and every kiss they shared since.....
the first time they confessed their love and every time they reaffirmed those three words .....
the first time they made love and every loving touch they shared ever after .....
Take them all away.
every disagreement and every reconciliation.....
every moment spent fighting against the world for their love....
every quiet, peaceful moment spent in each other’s company......
every look, every smile .....
every moment of being in love....
Take them away. Take them all away. His magic flares red around him, wrenching the memories from his mind into a swirling crimson sphere. Take them all away. Destroy them all.
He feels the pull of the magic draining him, draining the memories, the pain, the hurt, the love. He feels lighter. He can finally breathe. He forgets the pain. He forgets the love.
Take them all away. Destroy them all.
Moments later, he wakes from a reverie. What had he been doing? How did he get here? He doesn’t remember.......he can’t remember.......
Take them all away. Destroy them all.
His heart is pounding in his chest, his cheeks are wet with fallen tears. Why is he crying? Why can’t he remember?
Take them all away. Destroy them all.
The memories are gone. All that remains is an omamori charm in the palm of his hand.
Chapter 2: The problem of memory
Magnus believes denial is a perfectly acceptable method of solving problems. A visit from an old friend might just convince him otherwise.
Chapter 1: The problem of memory
The first rays of dawn streaming through the open window woke Magnus up from his restless slumber. Morning brought with it an awareness he would much rather ignore than acknowledge. The bright sunlight nudged his face insistently, urging him to abandon his bed and greet the new day. Instead, he rolled over with a groan, determined to hold on to the last vestiges of sleep still clinging to the fringes of his consciousness. He was not ready to wake up yet, the sun be damned, and Magnus Bane is nothing if not stubborn. He ignored the offending sunlight and the annoying awareness poking at his mind. He was sleeping, damn it! The least his unhelpful brain could do is cooperate.
But apparently, his brain had decided to act responsibly, now of all times, and try and solve the problem of his memory, or rather the absence of it. The problem, fascinating as it was, was also significantly alarming and hence, his brilliant solution had been to drink himself into a stupor till he fell asleep and ignore the very existence of the problem. It had been a fool-proof plan, or would have been if only his brain had received the memo. In his not so humble opinion, denial was a perfectly acceptable method of solving problems and if he could just ignore the problem altogether, he was certain it would resolve itself. With that in mind, he buried himself deeper into the covers, determined to sleep the day away, only to be foiled by the impatient knocking of a guest at his front door.
Alas, it seems the fates themselves were plotting against him and his much desired rest. Grumbling under his breath, he dragged himself from the comfort of his bed, fixing his hair and make-up with a quick snap of his fingers. He made his way to the door at a leisurely pace, pointedly ignoring the unfamiliarity of the apartment despite being filled by his familiar possessions. There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, he’s sure, that would make itself known if he just gave it enough time. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned. He sighed with exasperation. Accomplished liar that he is, he’s still not very good at lying to himself despite the centuries of practice.
The knocking resumed much louder than before, drawing him from his thoughts. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” He let a spike of irritation bleed into his voice. Really, the insolence of some people, disturbing his peaceful morning and banging on his door at such an early hour. Yanking the door open, he had half a mind to teach his ill-mannered guest a lesson, when the sight of his guest stopped him short.
“Catarina! What a pleasant surprise, my dear! To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
His friend just raised an eyebrow at him in response before inviting herself in and making herself comfortable on his couch. To say that he was surprised to see her would be an understatement, though he masked his emotions well. As close as they had always been, showing up unannounced at each other’s place of residence without a cause had never been their way. Not to mention it had been a while since he had seen her. Perhaps she was offended that he hadn’t called on her in so long?
She is still staring at him with her eyebrow cocked as if to say ‘Well?’ but he can’t imagine whatever it is that she is waiting for. He scrambled to figure out the correct answer to her unasked question, though it proved difficult when he doesn’t know what the question is. Had he forgotten about any plans to meet with her? Had he done something to upset her? Perhaps the missing memory was a greater problem than he had earlier anticipated.
Growing tired of his silence, Catarina decided to finally speak. “How have you been, Magnus?” The question seems too pointed and heavy with subtext to be a simple enquiry as to his well-being. He wondered if it is just his over-active imagination or if his friend was genuinely looking at him as if expecting him to shatter into a million pieces at any moment.
“Oh, I’ve been wonderful. There is so much to enjoy about this wonderful city. You really should let me take you out sometime. We’ll make a night of it, for old times’ sake.”
Judging by the concerned look on her face, it had been the wrong answer. Her gaze slid over to the mostly empty bottle of whiskey he had left on the table the previous night and then returns to him again. This time the question in her eyes is much more pronounced. He doesn’t understand what her problem is. She has known him long enough to know he indulges himself sometimes.
“Ah, I might have gotten a bit carried away last night. You know how it is. I never could resist a good liqueur.”
“Magnus, I’ve known you long enough to know when you’ve gotten a bit carried away and when you’re using alcohol as an escape to run away from your problems.”
Magnus can only stare at her in amazement because how could she possibly know? His friend was astute, he knew, but she couldn’t have just guessed that something had been bothering him from just the few minutes she had been in his company. And what could he tell her, when he didn’t understand it himself? How could he explain to her that he had woken last night to a gaping hole in his memory and an ache so deep in his chest that it had stolen his breath, that for a few moments he had felt a loss so painful that he had been overcome by an inexplicable grief. That he had been powerless to fight the tears in his eyes and the sobs in his chest and had spent a good half hour crying and he had absolutely no idea why. That he had been so overwhelmed by the feelings and so terrified by the confusion he had had no choice but to drown them with alcohol. No, he couldn’t tell her, however much he trusted her. He would figure it out on his own.
“Catarina...” He began in the most soothing voice possible. He meant to reassure her, to put her concerns to rest. But he found himself at a loss for words.
“Magnus, I know you are hurting. I cannot imagine what you are going through. To have lost so much, and in such a short period of time. I want you to know that you’re not alone. You have friends that you can rely upon, who will always support you. You don’t have to do this alone.”
“Ah....” Magnus made a valiant effort to not let his inner turmoil reflect on his face because what? What in the world .....? What was she talking about? What had he lost? Did she know about his lost memories? Obviously, he was missing crucial pieces of information. And Catarina seemed to be much more well-informed than him. Mentally, he debated the pros and cons of telling her the truth. Should he just come clean to her, tell her everything and let her help him in making sense of whatever had happened to him?
No, he needed more information. If he could just deduce what he couldn’t remember....
“Catarina, you know I appreciate your love and your support. While I am aggrieved by my latest misfortune, I assure you I have come to terms with it. I thank you for your concern, but I do not need it.” Please work, he silently prayed. It’s a risky gamble, a play for gathering information. He knew from experience that refusing her help would only make her more determined to give it and that she would never leave a grieving friend to mourn alone.
“Come to terms with it?” Her voice is dripping with sarcasm and disbelief. “You just called me last night, heartbroken and in tears, telling me that you had lost everything that mattered to you.”
He had called her last night? What had he told her? This was giving him a headache. Had he been attacked last night? Is that why he couldn’t remember? It was hard to imagine something getting the best of him. Had his memories been lost due to an accident or trauma? Or was it possible that they had been stolen from him? And what was it that he had lost that was so important to him? He couldn’t imagine anything that he could lose that he couldn’t live without. Surely he was being dramatic when he had called Catarina. He had everything he had ever needed to be happy. Whatever it was that he had lost, it couldn’t be that important.
“Magnus, are you listening to me?”
“What?...Oh yes, of course. My apologies, Catarina. I got distracted. What were you saying?”
Catarina was looking at him again with worry clouding her eyes and he tried to school his expression again to hide his own sharply rising worries. “I was saying that you could use some cheering up. I have a shift at the hospital right now but I thought you could babysit Madzie for today? Only if you’re feeling up for it, of course. You two could spend the day together and we could meet up for dinner?”
“ Er ....what?” Babysitting? Madzie ? What was she talking about? What had he missed? He was steadily losing any hope he had entertained of keeping this problem to himself. One thing was clear, ignoring this problem was not an option anymore.
“Magnus? Are you alright?”
He blinked as the hand on his shoulder pulled him from his train of thought. Catarina was standing beside him, trying to get his attention. He needed to get her out of here. He needed to figure this out. He needed to.....
“ Er ...yeah. Yes, of course. I’m alright, Catarina. Are you leaving? Let me get your coat.” He snapped his fingers, making the coat lying across the back of the couch appear in his hands so he could help her put it on.
She is staring at him with such astonishment that he hears alarm bells ringing in his mind. Oh, what had he done now? He couldn’t think of anything he had said or done that would cause such a reaction.
“Magnus, your magic! It’s back! How?”
“Whatever do you mean, Catarina? Back from where? Where would my magic go?”
Oh dear. Catarina is looking at him like an irate school teacher who had caught a naughty child red-handed trying to cause mischief. It’s an expression he has had many occasions to witness over their long friendship and had learned early on that its consequences never ended well for him. He felt a shudder down his spine and knew that the jig was up. Whoever had said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned had never met Catarina Loss when she caught someone lying to her. Or in this case, trying and failing to pull the wool over her eyes. He swallowed once, gathering his courage in the face of his friend’s wrath, and surrendered himself to a tongue-lashing he grudgingly admitted was well deserved.
“Magnus Bane! What are you hiding from me!???”
“Okay, lets recapitulate what we know....”
Catarina is pacing the length of his living room, occasionally wringing her hands in frustration and very clearly agitated beyond measure. He had rarely seen this level of discomposure from her and wondered if he should offer her a drink to calm her nerves. Probably not the best idea, he thinks, the memory of her murderous ‘I can’t believe you’d be so stupid, Magnus Bane!’ expression still fresh in his mind. One would think that after being on the receiving end of that look so many times that he’d had to rename it with his own personal moniker, at some point he would have developed an immunity for it. But no such luck; he still quailed and trembled in the face of Catarina’s ire. She probably wouldn’t let him have a much needed drink either despite how desperately he craved it. Why had he decided to ask her for help again? Oh right, he hadn’t.
“At some point last night, you realized that you were missing huge chunks of your memory. You couldn’t recall what you had been doing immediately before that. You don’t know if you had been attacked or hurt. You basically have no idea what or who could have done this.” She’s staring at him accusingly as if this was somehow all his fault. Well, it could be, he supposes. It’s not like he remembers. Still, she has no proof! He’s the victim here. Probably. Most likely. Oh hell, he’s reasonably certain this is not his fault. Maybe. Actually, given the long, long history of his past exploits that she had witnessed (and on several occasions, bailed him out of when he got in too far over his head, not that he would ever admit it), it’s a perfectly logical assumption.
“So basically, we know nothing.” He concluded with a dramatic flourish. He’s trying to lighten the mood but inside he can feel the anxiety coiling in his gut. He had easily decided to skim over the part where he’d been reduced to a weeping mess by emotions he couldn’t begin to comprehend. Magnus Bane does not get incapacitated by feelings , damn it. As worrisome as they may be, he was going to ignore them for as long as possible. Preferably till the end of time.
“What’s the last thing that you remember?” He can’t quite place the look she is giving him, as if she is expecting a particular answer but trying not to give it away if he answers incorrectly. He tries to ignore the suspicion that she knows something, something about him, that she’s not telling him. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, he decided, having someone know more about you than you know about yourself.
“Well, I’d just received a fire message from some insufferable shadowhunters who wanted to set up a meeting. I don’t know exactly what they wanted from me but they were willing to trade the necklace I once gifted to Camille, the enchanted Burmese ruby, you remember? I couldn’t decide if it was worth the risk of getting involved in shadowhunter business.”
“Magnus...that....that was ....you’re missing months worth of memories! At least! How could this have happened?”
“I don’t know, Catarina. I really don’t know.” When put like that, he should be more alarmed. Who knows what he had forgotten. And knowing his luck, it would come and bite him in the ass at the most unfortunate moment.
“You already met those shadowhunters . You even helped them. Don’t you remember him...them? At all?”
“Help them? Shadowhunters ? Doesn’t sound like me at all. You know I don’t like to get involved in shadowhunter business. They’re nothing but trouble.” Good God, what had he gotten himself into in the past few months? Helping the shadowhunters ? It was sacrilege! Blasphemy! What had he been thinking? What could possibly have convinced him it was anything but a bad idea?
“Oh Magnus.” Startled by the pain in her voice, he looked up at her, shocked to find her nearly in tears. Immediately, he held her hands in his.
“Catarina, what is it, darling? What has you so upset?”
“It’s nothing. Nothing at all. It’s just this whole business that has me concerned.”
“Catarina, you know you don’t have to worry about me. I’m fine. We’ll figure out a way to restore my memories, I’m sure.” At least, he hopes so. He doesn’t know why but he can’t shake the feeling that its absolutely imperative that he regains his memories, recovers whatever it is that he has lost.
“Right. Of course we will.” She doesn’t sound too sure which is not doing much to bolster his own confidence. Regardless, he’s certain of one thing; whatever happened to him, it had something to do with those damned, troublesome shadowhunters . It had to be. He never should have let himself get mixed up with them. Nothing good ever comes out of helping a shadowhunter .
Chapter 3: Forgotten Strangers
Magnus receives a visitor who offers help. But can he trust her?
Chapter 2 – Forgotten Strangers
One of the many advantages of immortality is that it gives you the time and the opportunity to amass priceless things; rare artifacts, powerful talismans, obscure ingredients for spells, trinkets of historical significance and most importantly, knowledge. In his long life, the most precious item that he has managed to obtain would undoubtedly be an unparalleled and boundless expanse of knowledge of all things preternatural that few others in the world could hope to rival. He had prided himself, in fact, on being one of the foremost experts on arcane and esoteric subjects. Over the years, he had collected massive tomes and books written by some of the wisest minds to have ever graced the earth, containing knowledge that only a blessed few had ever laid eyes on.
Imagine his frustration then, when not one of these unspeakably invaluable books that he so lovingly cherished, held the answers he needed. He set the book he was holding aside, carefully, and then proceeded to bang his head repeatedly against the table, hoping it would stir something in his head. He had spent the past week scouring through his numerous possessions, searching for something, anything, that could explain his current dilemma. While there were pages upon pages filled on the topic of memories, none of them quite fit with his symptoms. Memory spells were tricky, required a certain level of skill and finesse and a delicate hand that only came from experience. He himself was a rather self-proclaimed expert on the subject and knew exactly the kind of precise and meticulous spell-work required to extract memories from a mind. There weren’t a lot of individuals capable of it, and those that were, well he wasn’t all that eager to confront them.
Catarina, bless her soul, had proved surprisingly unhelpful in this matter. A quick examination from her practiced hands revealed no sign of injury or trauma that could have caused memory loss. There was no residual magic to trace the identity of the perpetrator, no other clue to indicate how he had managed to misplace so much of his memories.
A rather ominous theory had been circling his mind for the past couple of days, one that he had yet to share with Catarina. If this was done deliberately, what exactly had he known that someone was so desperate to make him forget? It must have been important. Whatever it was that he had forgotten, he was beginning to suspect was far more important than he had initially believed.
He had debated sharing this with Catarina, mostly because he knew it would only make her worry for his safety. And for another reason, well he was probably being paranoid, but he couldn’t help but think that she knew far more than she was letting on. The very first conversation he had had with her since this debacle sprang to his mind. She had mentioned something, something about a great loss that he had suffered, about being heartbroken after losing everything that mattered to him. After a whole lot of pleading and persuasion, she had finally broken down and told him that he was no longer the High Warlock of Brooklyn. Which had admittedly stung because he’d taken pride in his position and the respect it had lent him. Catarina had been evasive about how exactly he had lost the designation. But as disconcerted as he was about the loss, he could hardly imagine being heartbroken over it. It certainly didn’t explain the intensity and the depth of the emotional upheaval it had caused in him.
There were gaps in her story, too many to ignore, that he couldn’t help but wonder what she was keeping from him. Or why. That his friend had his best interest at heart, of that he had no doubt. But her deliberate evasions and conversational redirections were enough to make him question just why she was hiding things that could prove to be potentially useful information. If he didn’t know any better, he would say that she didn’t want him to remember whatever it was that he had forgotten, but that was ridiculous. She was his trusted friend and confidante. What possible reason could she have for not wanting him to remember?
His musings were interrupted by a quick succession of polite but forceful knocks on the front door. It’s not Catarina, he can tell, and is immediately wary. He hasn’t had any other visitors this past week. Curiously, he goes to open the door. The knocker turns out to be a woman he has never seen before, dark wavy hair and painted scarlet lips. She really is quite lovely and Magnus would ordinarily try to charm her if not for the angelic runes emblazoned on her pale skin. It sets his teeth on edge and his wariness only spikes when she pushes her way in through the door without being invited in. To say that he is shocked would be an understatement. Who does she think she is? Shadowhunters ; always so superior and self-entitled.
“Magnus, I know that you probably don’t want to see me right now. But we need your help.” She’s not asking so much as stating a fact. He should be more annoyed than he really is if not for the familiarity with which she speaks to him, as if they are old friends who don’t need to stand on ceremony and address each other without bothering with formalities or social niceties. With a start, he realized that might actually be true. Catarina had mentioned that he had grown somewhat chummy with shadowhunters, and that thought alone is enough to sour his mood.
“I’m sure that’s true, my dear. But I’m quite a busy person and alas cannot answer at the beck and call of the Clave. Feel free to call my secretary and make an appointment, I’ll get back to you eventually.” He has already turned around, expecting the woman to leave at the obvious dismissal.
“Magnus! Really? You’re actually going to refuse to help?” She sounds shocked, as if the possibility had never occurred to her. Had he really let himself be turned into the Clave’s lapdog? How far had he fallen. No more, he decided. This issue needed to be rectified.
“I believe that is what I said. Now, if that’s all, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
He made the mistake of turning around then and is taken aback by the stricken look on her face. She looks close to tears as if he had just slapped her in the face. He feels a twinge of guilt, he doesn’t like to be the cause of someone’s misery, even if the someone in question was an arrogant shadowhunter.
“Magnus....look, I know what happened was ....well it sucked. And I’m so sorry that things ended that way. But you know that he... we still care about you. I know you’re hurting right now. But I promise you, you’ll always be a dear friend and we’ll always be there for you when you need us.”
And that is ....well , he doesn’t know what to say to that. He was not expecting that . Obviously, he’s missing more than a few pieces of the puzzle. He cursed his damned lost memories. There’s a lot of history here that he’s missing, a lot of shared experiences that he has forgotten. He’s supposed to know this woman, this young shadowhunter who apparently cares about him to some degree, and for the life of him he can’t even remember her name. He tries to let her down gently, wondering just how close they’d been as friends. Its discomforting to realize how vulnerable the loss of his memories makes him. He can’t tell friend from foe, doesn’t know whom to trust. He’s on unequal footing here and its making him nervous. He’s not used to being at a disadvantage. Best to keep his distance then, at least until he knows more.
“Look, that’s very kind of you, darling. But I’m in the middle of something right now, so if you don’t mind...”
“Fine. If you want me to leave, I’ll leave.” But she steps forward to gently place a hand on his arm, ignoring the way he tenses at the contact. “But I really am sorry about what happened with Alec. And if you ever want to talk, just know that I’m always available.”
He’s touched by her concern. Paranoid bastard that he may have been, he can’t doubt that her offer is genuine. She seems like she truly cares for him, and he’s sorry that he doesn’t remember her. Even more so, that he cannot remember what the hell she’s talking about. What had happened that was supposed to have hurt him? Who the hell was Alec? Was he a friend? Had they had a falling out? And if so, about what? Was he supposed to be upset? The questions kept piling on and there were no answers in sight.
“Thank you for your concern, dear.” He finds, to his surprise, that he really is thankful. “But I’m doing just fine. In fact, you can tell... er , Alec, that I bear him no ill-will and er, it’s all water under the bridge. Everything’s fine.” Well, he hoped so. He has no idea what he’s saying but he prayed that it’s what she’s expecting to hear and he hasn’t just put his foot in his mouth. A quick glance at her increasingly suspicious face told him he may have gambled and lost. Dear God, this was impossible. How was he supposed to know what to say or do when he had no idea what was going on half the time?
“Magnus, are you sure that you’re alright? You’re allowed to be mad at Alec but...”
“I’m okay. I’m not mad. Please convey my best wishes to Alec as well.” He hoped she might let this go but she seems the stubborn sort. If he could just get her to leave now, and maybe avoid her and this Alec person for a while....
“Magnus, something is wrong, isn’t it? What are you not telling me?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Nothing at all.”
“Magnus.” Her voice is commanding now and he fought the urge to straighten his spine and stand at attention. “Tell me.”
He might as well tell her. She’s not going to let this go, that much is clear. Something tells him she’s not used to taking ‘No’ for an answer. She might even be able to help. And though it galls him to admit weakness to a shadowhunter , he can’t deny that at this point, he’s desperate for answers. All the research that he and Catarina have done has led to dead ends. Perhaps a fresh perspective is needed. So he decides to go against his better judgement and take a leap of faith and hope that he’s not making a horrible mistake.
“Well, you see ....there seems to be a slight issue in my memory.”
“Yes. As in, I seem to be missing some of it.”
There’s a look of horror dawning on her face that makes him feel absurdly guilty. She looks pale enough to make him worry she might pass out.
“Magnus....how? Do you...? How much do you remember?”
That’s a tough question to answer seeing as he can’t know how much he has forgotten unless he remembers it. “Well, let’s see. A few months, I should think.”
“Months? So, you don’t remember anything about....Magnus, do you even know who I am?”
“Well...uh....” He was hoping this wouldn’t come up. He’s hoping she would forgive him being so rude. He’s trying to figure out a polite way of saying it but she seems to have already deduced the truth from his silence.
“Oh my God! How could this have happened? Okay, okay. We can fix this. We can figure this out.” She was pacing in front of him now and it’s a mystery how she’s keeping her balance in those impractically high heels. He wonders if he should reassure her, maybe direct her to a chair and offer her a drink. She’s taking it a lot harder than he had expected. He can only speculate as to the nature of their relationship. Yesterday, he couldn’t have imagined there would ever be a time he would call a shadowhunter a friend, and yet, he’s forced to acknowledge that this compassionate and fierce woman might really have been one, a friend.
She stops pacing suddenly and stands in front of him, placing her hands on his shoulders and looking him in the eyes. “We’ll fix this, Magnus. I promise you. We will get your memories back. And I will personally kill the person who did this to you with my bare hands.” He hears the steel of determination in her voice and sees the fire of fury in her eyes and he believes her. And somehow, he feels his own waning spirits rise in response to hers and for the first time since this whole ordeal began, he feels hope.
“Thank you, my dear. I really do appreciate it. Now, I believe you did come here to ask for my help?”
“Oh, right. Totally forgot about that. Last night, a few bodies turned up at the Hunter’s Moon we believe might have been killed by a Greater Demon. You’re kind of the expert on the subject so I thought maybe you could examine the bodies and give us a clue as to who we’re dealing with.” She’s not wrong, he is an expert on the subject, in more ways than one. But there’s no way that she knows about his parentage, does she?
“Tell you what. We can help each other out. Why don’t you come with me to the Institute. Maybe you can shed some light on our demon problem and we can use all our resources to figure out what happened to you. The more heads working on this, the better.”
Going to the Institute, for whatever reason, feels too much like walking into the lion’s den. While he’s more than confident in his own abilities, willingly entering the home ground of shadowhunters with only his wits as backup seems much too foolish even for him. But the chance to finally get answers, no matter how small, is too tempting to resist. Oh well, he’s done stupider things for less.
“Alright.” The dazzling smile he gets from her makes him pray that this goes well. He may or may not have decided that this particular shadowhunter was perhaps not as bad as the majority of her kind, but that courtesy certainly did not extend to the rest of them.
“Okay. Let’s go.”
“Wait....I still don’t know who you are.”
The smile on her face became tentative for a moment before she collected herself and forced a smirk on her face that she probably didn’t realize was more of a grimace.
“I’m Izzy. Isabelle Lightwood.”
Chapter 4: Misunderstandings and Heartbreaks
Alec and Magnus meet for the first time (again). It doesn't go quite as well as Alec had hoped.
Chapter 3 – Misunderstandings and Heartbreaks
Alec Lightwood had been told since he was a young boy that he was expected to achieve perfection in all things. It had been demanded from him by his parents, by the Clave, and though they weren’t always aware of it, even by his siblings. Perfection had never been a goal to strive towards; perfection was a practice, perfection was a force of habit, perfection was second nature, as natural as breathing. He had spent his entire life striving, struggling, sweating, bleeding, to be perfect. The perfect shadowhunter, the perfect soldier, the perfect brother, the perfect son. He knew he had often fallen short, but nevertheless he had never given up in his quest for perfection. He felt pretty far from perfect now.
He was barely holding it together, a combination of his militaristic training, his over-extended runes and sheer willpower the only things keeping him standing. Not that he gave any superficial indication of it, of course. He was too well trained for that. On the surface, he was the perfect leader, sinking into his role as the Head of the Institute like he’d been born for the job, barking orders, planning missions, solving problems. No one who looked at him could guess at the broken mess he was inside.
There were times, of course, when he could barely force his lungs to breathe, when his vision got blurry with unshed tears, when the pain in his heart nearly brought him to his knees. But somehow he’d pull himself together. He had a job to do, he had a duty to fulfill. There were people counting on him. So he ignored the pain, ignored the emotions and tried to be as close to perfect as he could be.
Magnus, and even thinking his name hurt so badly that he had to take a moment to collect himself, had never demanded perfection from him. Magnus had looked into his soul, seen his true self with all his rough edges and imperfections, and had loved him in spite of his faults. Magnus had known he was far from perfect, but had accepted his flaws and loved him anyway. Alec had never worried about being perfect for Magnus. Magnus had a way of making him feel like he was enough, just the way he was.
But he didn’t have Magnus anymore, didn’t have his unconditional love and acceptance. All he had left was a sense of duty that he couldn’t let himself ignore. So he threw himself into his work, let the routine of the everyday soothe his inner turmoil and tried to ignore that he was falling apart at the seams.
It had been working for the most part. Things had settled down a bit lately and even if he had a sinking feeling that it was the calm before the storm, for now they had a moment to breathe. The problem of Clary and Jonathan was yet to be solved, and there was possibly another Greater Demon on the loose. But there were still patrols to run, the everyday demonic riff-raff to destroy, petty disputes to mediate, reports to read and write, the Clave to pacify. It kept him busy, and more often than not exhausted him by the end of the day, but he was grateful for the grind.
He’d let the work tire him out, falling into bed at night praying for a couple of hours of dreamless sleep, then drag himself out of bed every morning to start all over again. It was working. Despite his sister’s questions and his parabatai’s worries, he was doing fine. Maybe not great, but at least he was functioning, doing his job, getting things done. As far as he was concerned, he was doing what he was supposed to do, so they had no reason to be concerned at all. Let it never be said that Alexander Lightwood ever shirked his duty.
Inevitably, the rhythm that he’d fallen into the past few days was disrupted unexpectedly by a phone call from Izzy. Figures, just as he was getting used to his new reality, things got screwed up all over again. Magnus lost his memories. Magnus didn’t remember them ....didn’t remember him . Magnus forgot him .
It hurt. By the angel, it hurt like hell. How? How was that even possible? How could Magnus forget them? Forget what they meant to each other? He wasn’t being fair, perhaps. Magnus didn’t know why he couldn’t remember. But how could he? A surge of irrational anger coursed through him, nearly overwhelmed him. How dare he forget? All those memories, moments they shared together, everything they had been through...how could he just forget? How could he make him shoulder that burden alone? How was he supposed to survive being the only one who carried those memories?
He knew he was being unreasonable. But he was in pain and just so tired. Tired of holding himself together, tired of doing his duty, tired of pretending he was okay, tired of sleepless nights, tired of the unending pain. He was tired of things going wrong just when they were starting to go right, tired of fooling himself into thinking he could recover from losing Magnus, tired of convincing himself that he’d done the right thing.
He needed a reprieve, a single moment when he was free of pain. He needed to sleep long enough that his head stopped aching. He needed his body to stop complaining from exhaustion and his eyes to stop stinging from unshed tears. He needed to pull himself together, just for a little while, before he could fall apart in the privacy of his own room.
He looked around at the shuffle of his fellow shadowhunters going about their usual business, relieved to see that nobody had noticed him lost in his thoughts. The phone call with Izzy had shifted the ground from beneath his feet, fractured his carefully cultivated composure. It wouldn’t do for his subordinates to catch him in a moment of weakness. He had to appear strong and collected, worthy of the title of the Head of the Institute. He had to be perfect.
So here he was, standing above the Ops-center, waiting for his sister to arrive with the love of his life who didn’t remember him anymore. He could do this. He could get through this. He realized suddenly that his fists were tightly clenched, his nails digging into his palms. The pain grounded him, focused his wandering mind, distracted him from his fatigue. He took a deep breath to center himself, just as he saw Izzy and Magnus walking in through the door.
He couldn’t help but catch his breath at the sight of Magnus, having been deprived of the sight since the break-up. Dressed to the nines as always, a deep burgundy shirt with gold embellishments that Alec might have mentioned once looked good on him, tight black pants that clung to his legs, elegant fingers adorned by a multitude of tastefully chosen rings... he’s beautiful . There’s an effortless grace to him that steals the air from his lungs every time he sees him walk into a room, drags his attention away from whatever he had been doing, captures his gaze until he can’t look away. And while he knows on an intellectual level that Magnus is not his anymore, that he’s not allowed to look and admire and want anymore, nevertheless he is hypnotized by the beauty of the vision before him.
It’s almost enough to make him forget the pain of the past few day . It could have been just another day; Magnus coming to see him at work, greeting him with a gentle kiss and a smile, chastising him for working too hard and not taking care of himself and offering to whisk him away for lunch. He can almost see the scene play out word for word, as it so often had in the past few months that it had become almost routine and he wants it, wants it so bad. Wants to turn back time so the past few days never happened, wants to fall to his knees and beg for his forgiveness, wants to take him in his arms and kiss him until he remembers what they meant to each other, remembers them . He wants......
Instead he can only watch, helpless and tongue-tied, as Magnus approaches him with no hint of affection or even recognition in his eyes, and offers to shake his hand. “Hello. I’m Magnus. Magnus Bane.” Oh, how that hurts. He can feel his heart shattering like glass, the shards digging into his lungs and shredding his insides. The indifference, the impassivity, the undeniable lack of regard, it’s incontrovertible proof that his Magnus, the Magnus that loved him, is no more. Magnus is lost to him, for good. The curious eyes watching him hold no warmth, show barely any interest, except maybe wondering why Alec is staring at him like an idiot.
“I know.” He chokes out somehow and immediately admonishes himself for the ridiculous response. Magnus frowns at him and lets his hand fall and Alec realizes too late that he had rudely forgotten to shake it. Magnus’s expression morphs into hurt. Shit. He wasn’t........he hadn’t meant to imply......Shit......he hadn’t meant to give the impression that he hadn’t wanted to shake a warlock’s hand........he wasn’t.........but Magnus didn’t know him anymore......did he think that Alec held the same prejudices and hatred towards downworlders that many shadowhunters still did?............shit........
Izzy, the angel bless her soul, stepped in to smooth over the animosity that had suddenly pervaded the atmosphere. “Alec, Magnus has graciously agreed to help us in identifying the demon that has been leaving behind bodies in its wake. In return, I’ve assured him that we will do everything possible to help him recover his lost memories.”
The reiteration, he knows, is more for Magnus’s benefit considering that she had already warned him over the phone. She’s trying to help ease the tension, silently offering her support, letting him know she has his back. Her eyes are unwavering, trying to convey her strength and resolve. Steady, big brother. He’s sure that he has never loved her more.
“Of course. Thank you for coming, Mr. Bane. We would appreciate any help that you could give us.” His voice is brusque and curt but atleast he’s successfully getting words out. It’s the best he can do right now.
“I’m sure you would. In return, I’d like access to certain texts in the Clave directories that I believe will be useful for me.” The coolness of his gaze and the sharpness of his tone is enough to cut him. He realizes suddenly that Magnus has never looked at him this way before, like he’s the enemy. He’s never been shy of vocalizing his contempt for shadowhunters with their Clave-enforced brainwashing and misguided ideas, but that had never applied to Alec. They’ve always been on the same side, fighting for the same cause. And if only Magnus could remember, then he’d know it too.
He’s fumbling for the words to apologise , to somehow make him understand, but Magnus doesn’t give him the chance. “If that’s all, I’d like to get to work. The sooner we begin, the sooner we can finish and I can be out of your hair. Isabelle, shall we?”
He’s already turned away from him, barely pausing to wait for Izzy to lead the way. He wants to reach out, to grab his hand, pull him into his arms, apologize for everything he has ever done to him, but he’s stuck. Izzy gives him a sympathetic look, briefly squeezing his shoulder before hurrying after Magnus.
Of course, its at that moment that Jace enters the room, his timing impeccable as always. He stops short at the sight of Magnus, clearly not expecting to see him at the Institute. “Magnus? What are you doing here?” He claps his hand on Magnus’s shoulder in greeting and even from a distance Alec can see the way Magnus flinches away from the touch.
“I’m here because you shadowhunters need my assistance with a demon on the loose. If it’s quite alright with you, I’d like to get back to work.” Jace is left staring at Magnus’s back as he and Izzy hurry in the direction of the morgue. Catching sight of Alec, Jace hurries towards him, but Alec just can’t deal with this anymore. Before he knows it, his feet are carrying him towards his room, steadfastly ignoring Jace’s calls behind him.
“Alec! Alec, wait!”
He doesn’t hear him, doesn’t hear anything beyond his heart pounding in his chest and his shallow breaths wheezing in his lungs.
He tears his door open, slamming it shut and collapsing against it, trying to force air into his lungs. His legs give out underneath him and he falls to the floor, leaning against the door, too far gone to make it to the bed. He’s barely aware of Jace pounding at his door, demanding to be let in.
He realizes his cheeks are wet with tears, that his chest is wrecked with heaving sobs. He hasn’t cried like this since he was a child. Somewhere between childhood and growing up, he had taught himself to cry softly and silently and always in the privacy of his bedroom. He learned to shed a few tears into his pillow, hide any evidence of his shameful moments of weakness from his eyes and never, ever let a single person know. Whether the pain was physical or mental, he would make sure that he bore it with a straight face and clear eyes. As far as Izzy or Jace were concerned, he hadn’t cried in years.
He’s crying now, finally letting the pain wash over him, letting himself be carried in the unrelenting waves. He finally lets himself acknowledge the pain that has been a constant since this whole ordeal, finally lets himself feel. It feels freeing, letting go of his iron-clad control, giving in to emotions. It feels like blasphemy, like a desecration of the shadowhunter code, but it feels so good to finally let go.
For the first time since he shattered his heart with his own hands, Alec let himself cry.
Chapter 5: Intuitions and Threats
A threat emerges that may put Magnus in danger.
Chapter 4: Intuitions and Threats
Intuition is an ability that has been the topic of much debate and discussion among those of the warlock community. While mundanes have repeatedly and thoughtlessly used the word over and over again till it lost its meaning, those who are better educated in magical theory have often postulated that intuition may be a bastardized, diluted version of the gift of foresight. Magnus himself had never put much stock in it. The concept of foresight had held some fascination for him many centuries ago but all his research on the subject had led him to question the very existence of such a discipline. The scant few warlocks that claimed to be in possession of such gifts had failed to produce any sort of empirical evidence and as for the subject of intuition, well if there was some magical basis in its origin then he had yet to see any proof. In short, in Magnus’s not inconsequential experience, intuition was at best an unreliable talent, and sometimes a gut feeling was just a gut feeling.
Which didn’t explain why exactly he was here, at the damned Shadowhunter Institute of New York, practically alone with no backup right in the lion’s den, trusting shadowhunters of all people to hold up their end of the deal, all because of some intangible, insubstantial, intuitive feeling that led him to trust a Lightwood of all people and follow her into a possible trap. Or why, as he had crossed the threshold of the sanctuary, he had felt an inexplicable, instinctive sense of safety and relief, as if his body was telling him that he was home after a long journey away. Or why, as he had walked towards the Lightwood heir, he had an intuitive, almost spiritual feeling that his quest was over and his questions had been answered.
It was completely ridiculous, insane, ludicrous! He had finally lost his mind. Perhaps he should have Catarina look him over once more, because there was no sensible or reasonable explanation for his actions. He could just imagine the scathing lecture he would suffer from her when he told her about the events of the day. If he made it out alive and in one piece, of course. He has undertaken plenty of reckless and ill-advised mis-adventures in his life, because immortality got boring after a while and he needed something to get the adrenalin flowing and keep things interesting, but this went beyond foolhardy and bordered on near suicidal. Perhaps, Catarina may even have him committed, and he wouldn’t even have a single argument in his defense.
There was no earthly reason for his presence here. The moment of insanity that had gripped him and brought him here had abruptly released him from it’s grip within moments of meeting the Lightwood boy. The irrational fog that had been clouding his judgement and common sense had finally lifted and reality had slapped him across the face. Whatever half-formed, fanciful notions he had had of assisting the shadowhunters, securing their gratitude and goodwill and requesting their help in regaining his memories had been knocked out of his head by the cruel punch of realism.
He was a warlock, a demon-blooded being, and while he was quite comfortable in his own skin, he would forever remain a downworlder in the eyes of the Nephilim. He had let himself forget, let himself be deceived by gentle eyes and a kind smile. He had forgotten that blood ran deep and thousands of years of hatred and prejudice was ingrained too deep to be completely washed away.
It had stung, the haughty rejection and indifferent dismissal of the Lightwood boy, the refusal to so much as shake his tainted hand. He had thought himself immune to such humiliations, having long since gotten used to being condescended to, of being looked down on and considered inferior. He told himself he was too old to be affected by such simplistic trivialities of foolish minds. And yet, it had stung with all the pain of a freshly carved wound.
How could he have been so stupid as to let himself be swept away by the girl, letting himself believe that they could have been friends, that perhaps they had managed to break the shackles of blood and society and had seen each other as equals. And wasn’t that a novel thought, angel-blooded and demon-blooded beings looking past the differences in their blood and embracing the humanity that bound them together. Such idealistic sentiments were better suited to children and not someone like him who had lived long enough to understand the realities of the world.
He should leave, now before more damage was done. Hadn’t he suffered enough indignities in his life to subject himself to more? Hadn’t he learned his lessons? He should leave.
And yet. And yet....
There was this feeling, this stupid, goddamned intuition that refused to see reason, that told him that he was right where he belonged. The walls of this church, the strange familiarity of this place, gave him a sense of belonging that had felt strangely absent even in his own apartment. Some inherent sense told him that this was where he was supposed to be, this was where he would find the answers to his questions, the solace to his confusions.
Magnus did not believe in hunches, in intuition, in foresight. He did not care for fate or destiny or providence. He only believed in that of which he had proof. Proof....
He did have proof. Wasn’t his body proof enough? Could he deny that he felt a modicum of peace here for the first time since this whole ordeal began? That his heartbeat slowed, his anxiety ebbed unexpectedly in the presence of these shadowhunters? That his body was telling him something, even if he did not have the knowledge to interpret it? Was that not proof enough, a reason enough to stay?
“Magnus?” Isabelle has a careful hand on his arm, jarring him from his thoughts. She looks concerned, maybe even a touch regretful. “You don’t have to do this right now, if you don’t feel up to it.”
He looks down at the preserved corpse of a mundane woman before him, her skin blotchy from where the veins had burst under the skin, her nails darkened to near black, her lips and mouth coated with a sooty residue. The death had definitely been delivered by a demonic hand. She had been young, probably in her early twenties or even younger, maybe a student, probably someone’s daughter, sister, girlfriend. He glances at the seven other bodies, wrapped in plastic bags and arranged on tables lined neatly in the corner. There are a mix of werewolves and vampires and warlocks, all having decided to partake the joys offered by The Hunter’s Moon on the same unfortunate night. All slaughtered, maybe just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He has to stay. “It’s quite alright, Isabelle. I did promise you my assistance, after all, and I’m a man of my word.”
He lets his magic unfurl, letting it envelop the body, seeping into every nook and cranny to unveil the secrets hidden within. He feels his magic interact with something corrupted that has definitely left by a powerful demon. He expects a challenge, to have to delve in deep and compel the identity of the harbinger of death, but there is no resistance. Infact, the demonic magic reacts to his own so familiarly, so intimately, that it forces a shudder of dread down his spine. The demon made no effort to hide his identity at all, and that alone tells him more than the body itself. He knows this magic, remembers it, fears it. It’s a magic so similar to his own, yet so much colder, crueler, bloodier. It elicits in him a response so vile, so revolting that he has to force himself not to throw up. He knows who did this, just as he knows that it couldn’t possibly be him.
“Magnus? Magnus, say something. Are you alright?”
Isabelle is holding his hands now, gently rubbing circles into them, trying to dispel the faint tremor that had overtaken him. He wants to pull his hands away. He wants to gather his composure and banish this moment of weakness that he has let her witness. But she’s looking at him with such obvious concern, her grip on him gentle as it is strong, her gaze worried as it is fierce. She carries herself with an easy confidence, ready to battle at a moment’s notice, and he allows himself, just for a moment, just a tiny moment, to draw from her strength and pull himself together.
“I know who did this. I know the demon we are after.”
The office of the Head of the New York Institute is unlike anything he had expected. Magnus himself had never been given the privilege of entering this inner sanctum, despite being responsible for designing the wards protecting the institute, but he had imagined it as an extravagant and ostentatiously decorated vault befitting of its position as the cerebral center of the shadowhunters of New York. Instead, the room is sparingly furnished, minimalistic and practical. It suits him, Magnus thinks, this young man who commands his position with a quiet, straightforward sort of authority and strength.
Alec Lightwood is seated behind his desk, his fingers steepled and his brows ruffled in concentration. His expression is almost severe enough to resemble a scowl, though his red-rimmed eyes betray a tiredness that is disproportionate to his age.
The blond shadowhunter he had met earlier, Jace, is leaning against the desk, his expression definitely twisted into a scowl and his arms crossed aggressively against his chest. He is alternating between glaring at his boss and staring mournfully at him like a lost puppy, which makes Magnus wonder at the strange dynamic between them. Clearly, their relationship superseded that of the superior-subordinate hierarchy that their kind is so fond of, for all that the blond is poised in a manner akin to a bodyguard.
Magnus himself had let Isabelle take the lead and report on the autopsies they had conducted, choosing instead to lean against the far wall and observe. Alec listens quietly, asking occasional questions that Magnus pretends not to hear and lets Isabelle answer to the best of her abilities. It’s not until the identity of the demon is revealed that all hell breaks loose, pun absolutely intended.
“Asmodeus?! Are you sure?”
“Yes, Alec. Magnus is sure.”
Isabelle is staring at Alec pointedly, some silent communication that he’s not privy to that makes him feel out of sorts. If he hadn’t already been agitated by the evidence of his father’s escape from Edom, he might have given some thought to their deceptions. As it is, he can barely think over the sinking dread he feels in the pit of his stomach.
“It’s not possible, Izzy. Asmodeus is in Edom. It can’t be him.”
“He could have escaped when you....”
“It’s not him. He couldn’t have escaped. It’s not possible.”
Alec’s not wrong. His father should not have been able to escape Edom, and yet, magic didn’t lie. He knew what he had felt, could never forget that slimy, repulsive, crawling feeling even if he tried. He can still feel the echoes of it, hear the screeching of demons, smell the scent of fear and blood. His magic trembles at the memories, screams at it, makes him feel unsettled in his own skin.
“It’s true.” Alec looks at him in surprise when he finally speaks. It’s uncomfortable, Magnus realizes, being the focus of that intense, unwavering gaze and he ignores the urge to look away. “Asmodeus murdered those people, I’m sure.”
“Magnus....” Alec lets his voice trail away, as if unsure what to say. There’s an uncharacteristic hesitance in his eyes, a softness that he doesn’t know what to make of. Certainly not when its directed at him.
“But do we know why?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Izzy. He wants Magnus, he always has.”
And that stops him short, because what in Edom....? How could they possibly know what his father wanted? For that matter, did they know that Asmodeus was his father? How could they possibly know? It’s a secret he has always kept closely guarded.
“Yeah, but why murder those people? It doesn’t make any sense! And how did he even escape? Magnus, do you have any idea how your father could have escaped from Edom?”
The three sets of eyes turning to stare at him are unnerving enough that it takes him a moment to speak. He feels like he’s missing something here. Maybe he was better acquainted with these shadowhunters than he had previously assumed. But surely, he would never have willingly revealed his parentage?
“You know? You know that Asmodeus is my...” He hates how unsure his voice sounds, hates showing any kind of vulnerability, especially in front of strangers. But he’s feeling unbalanced, his unreliable memory leaving him clueless and ignorant amongst people who seem to know more about him than he’s ever let anyone see.
Alec answers him, looking sympathetic in a way that he has no right to be. “Yes, well actually, you told us.” He seems apologetic, almost as if he knows that his father is a sensitive subject that he doesn’t talk about. Almost as if he can see that past the walls of Magnus’s composure and knows that he is nearing his breaking point. Almost as if he knows that he is falling apart inside.
He’s still struggling to gather himself, to look away from that stare when Jace speaks and Alec turns to look at him. “Alec, what do we do?”
“We find Asmodeus, and we figure out how to send him back. Jace, I want you to increase patrols in the city, make sure everyone knows that there’s a dangerous demon on the loose. If they find him, tell them not to engage directly and report to the Institute immediately for back up. Izzy, I know that the camera footage from the Hunter’s Moon was damaged but try to see if we can get anything from any nearby cameras. Also, start scouring the footage from all the cameras we have in the city. It may be a long shot but maybe facial recognition will pick something up.”
“On it, big brother. But shouldn’t we try summoning him?”
“No, we tried that before with Azazel and I don’t want to make the same mistake again with another Greater Demon. I’ll talk to the werewolves, vampires and seelies and ask them to keep their eyes and ears open. In the meantime, Magnus, can you work on finding a banishing spell that would send him back to Edom for good?”
“I’m sure I can come up with something.” He wonders if he should be more offended at being ordered about by a shadowhunter, but he’s too tired to muster up any anger.
“Okay. Bring everything you need here at the Institute. As long as Asmodeus is free, you’ll be safer here. Izzy, can you....”
“Excuse me?” Look at that, he does have enough energy to get angry after all. Who does this boy think he is, ordering him to stay at the Institute without so much as asking for his opinion, expecting him to obey his commands as if he is just another soldier below him. The sheer arrogance, the gall.......
“Magnus, look. Asmodeus is obviously after you. We can keep you safe here....”
“Thankyou very much for that, really. Whatever would I do without the protection of the mighty shadowhunters.”
Strangely, Alec seems to wince at the biting sarcasm in his voice, as if his words had physically cut him like knives.
“Magnus, the protection of everyone in New York, mundane or downworlder, is my responsibility. So.....”
“I don’t need your protection, shadowhunter. I’m not your responsibility. I can take care of myself.”
He’s expecting the shadowhunter to back down from his scathing glare, which he’s proud to say has sent countless men and women cowering in fear for their lives, so he’s more than surprised to find Alec returning his glare with one of his own. There’s no hint of fear in those hazel eyes, only determination and stubbornness. Magnus can clearly see that he’s not in a habit of backing down from anything, and in different circumstances, he might even respect his tenacity and strength of will. As it is, it only fuels his own anger and obstinacy.
Unsurprisingly, its Isabelle who breaks their staring contest before it devolves into childishness. “Okay, how about a compromise. Magnus, if you don’t want to work at the Institute, we’ll set up a protection detail at your apartment. Just until this situation is sorted.”
He’s about to refuse, he certainly does not need shadowhunters in his home for any length of time, but then he catches the expectant look in Alec’s eyes and knows this is the best he’s going to get. At least he can get out of his horrid place and go home, even if he does have to entertain shadowhunters there.
“Great! Then I’ll take the first shift. This is going to be so much fun.”
He can see Isabelle looking smug at having gotten her way, Alec looking like a man on a mission, the blond one still stuck somewhere between pouting and brooding and can’t help but roll his eyes. What had he gotten himself into?
Thank you to all the lovely people reviewed the last chapter or left their kudos. Your response makes my day.
Chapter 5 – Whiskey and Midnight Talks
There’s a cool, gentle breeze carrying with it a hint of winter’s adieu mixed with the promise of the approaching spring. There’s a man, standing at a balcony, his silhouette tall and solid against the skyline, gazing beyond at the city below him. He walks towards the man, stands beside him, brushing against his shoulder.
“How many downworlders do you think live in New York?”
“I don’t know. But they’re not all your responsibility.”
“I can take care of myself.”
He turns to look at him, but his face is obscured in shadows, his profile hazy as he turns to smoke. He reaches out to the man, tries to hold on to him. The man raises his hand too, holds out his hand to him, calls to him. But the man is fading before him, his shape dissolving into mist. He tries to call out, to grasp his hand, but his fingers slip through the shadows. He’s screaming, he’s crying, but the man is gone, all but the shadowy reflection of him left in the haze. He calls out his name, searches frantically through the fog, tries to catch a glimpse of him just once, but the man is gone. He’s all alone, there’s no one there, nothing but an endless all-encompassing darkness.
Magnus wakes up with a cry, biting down on the scream trying to force its way past his throat. He looks around the darkened room, his bedroom, as if searching for someone. There’s no one there, just as it should be, and he doesn’t understand why he is disappointed. There’s a name at the tip of his tongue, waiting to be released, as if he is about to call out to someone, but for the life of him he can’t remember. Who would he call out to?
He falls back into bed, tries to wrest his breathing back under control, tries to quieten the hammering of his heart. He’s drenched in sweat, the bedclothes sticking uncomfortably to his skin. Predictably, his eyes are stinging and his cheeks are wet with tears.
He has woken up in the same state every night for over a week now. As always, he tries to remember the dream, nightmare, memory, whatever it was that left him in such a sorry state. And as always, he is unsuccessful. He never remembers them, never even knows what they are about, only recalls the imprint of the emotions they leave behind. Anger, fear, loss, pain, betrayal.....
Yet again, he curses his missing memories. He’d hoped to have some clue, some idea of what he’s missing, what he has lost. That he is missing something is frightfully clear. Something....someone? There’s an emptiness in him that frightens him. It’s always been there, he thinks, that he’s tried his whole life to fill with pretty things and prettier paramours and meaningless flings. It’s the price of immortality, he’s learned. But the emptiness is something more now, almost tangible. It lingers in the shadows of his apartment, at the periphery of his vision, like a silent specter at his shoulder, haunting him, demanding his attention and then slipping away. He hasn’t felt it so strongly in centuries, this kind of loneliness. It scares him. It has always led to bad decisions.
He has forced himself to learn how to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t exist. He has learned to harden his heart, to still his emotions and to gorge himself on beauty and riches and decadence and passions and all things that made immortality just a little bit more bearable. He’s no stranger to indulgence.
With these thoughts, he forced himself out of his bed, letting the covers fall to the floor and made his way to the living room. There’s a bottle of fine whiskey calling his name and it would be a travesty not to answer. He curls himself on the luxurious couch, pours himself a drink and breathes a sigh of relief as the smooth liquid burns down his throat and spreads its warmth through his chest.
There’s movement at the corner of his eye, a humanoid shadow gliding towards him-he hadn’t bothered with the lights-and he nearly drops the crystal cut glass in his hand. The shadow takes the form of a woman, pale skin shimmering in the moonlight and a glint of teeth behind scarlet lips. Oh, of course, the shadowhunter . How could he forget? He watched, mildly annoyed, as Isabelle poured herself a drink before draping herself on the other end of the couch.
She has certainly made herself at home, Magnus thinks, as he watched her casually rest her high-heeled boots on the coffee table. He wonders if he should rebuke her-she's an uninvited guest in his home, and at the moment, an unwanted one as well-before deciding that it probably wouldn’t deter her.
“It’s far too beautiful a night to waste away on sleep. I thought I might enjoy a drink under the stars.” He realizes too late the closed balcony doors and shuttered windows and hopes she doesn’t call him out.
But she only hums in response, clearly not buying it and he wonders if he can convince her to skip out on guard duty and leave. He’s never really subscribed to the concept of misery and company, preferring instead to be miserable alone. With a drink, of course, or an entire bottle.
“You know, you could always share what’s on your mind.” She’s staring at him with an expression he might be tempted to call shrewd if not for the blatantly knowing smirk on her lips. Conniving she may be, subtle she was not.
“I’m a man of mystery, dear Isabelle. You cannot expect me to give away my secrets so easily.”
“Hmmm. You don’t remember, but there was a time when we could talk about anything. From eyeshadows to outfits to more serious things. You can still talk to me, if you want.” He almost chokes on his drink at the words because the idea is so absurd, a warlock engaged in heartfelt tête-à-têtes with a shadowhunter , that he would have laughed it off if not for the wistfulness in her voice.
Not for the first time he wonders at the nature of their relationship and how it came to be. He would call them friends except he couldn’t imagine what he had been doing that he had gotten involved with shadowhunters .
“Say, Isabelle, how did we...get to know each other so well?”
If she’s surprised by the question she does an admirable job of not showing it. “Oh, well, the first time we met was at Pandemonium. We needed your help with getting Clary’s memories back. So you summoned this memory demon and then...well things got kind of out of hand. Not your fault, well Alec.... uhhh basically things didn’t really work out....”
He raised an eyebrow at her, and realized she was nervously rambling. It’s strangely endearing.
“Anyway, I guess we really became friends when I was on trial and you agreed to be my attorney and saved my life.” She’s smirking now, like she knows she’s caught her prey. She’s not wrong, he’s certainly hooked.
“Now that sounds like an intriguing tale. Do tell.”
He could only watch in amazement as she launched into the story with enthusiasm, undoubtably embellishing the tale with dramatics and flourishes, putting on a show for a captive audience. The more he listened, the less sense the story made. Isabelle was clearly grateful for all the assistance he had given her in the past, she certainly narrated his role in the event as a knight in shining armour who had saved her from persecution, and yet something didn’t sit right with him.
That he had helped a shadowhunter might still be believable, but that he’d done so out of the goodness of his heart was less so. He was self-aware enough to know that while he was always willing to lend a helping hand to the downworlders who came to his door in search of assistance, he rarely extended the same courtesy to shadowhunters , especially those he barely knew. He had helped some shadowhunters in the past, Jocelyn being only one of them, but he rarely did it without charging a hefty price. His services were expensive and not everyone could afford them. What could he have asked for from this woman? He doubted it was something as banal as currency. Yet she didn’t seem to hold any ill-will towards him.
The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that he was missing something, some part of the picture that was obscured to him. He could feel his frustrations rise, because damn it, he was sick of it, sick of always missing something, sick of not knowing. This was his past, his story, his life and it was taken from him. Months' worth of experiences, conversations, events that had just been erased from his mind like they had never happened. Except they had happened, and they had affected so many people around him, probably affected him too, and yet he was the only one who was left in the dark.
It wasn’t just the memories that he had lost, but the person too. The person he had become, the person he was meant to be. It was unfathomable how he could change so much over the course of a few measly months when had centuries under his belt and yet he felt like he had become an entirely different person. The person Isabelle described might as well have been a stranger! Had he been so transformed, so altered that he could scarcely recognize himself? Had the few experiences he couldn’t remember shaped him so much that their loss felt like a severed limb?
There was a phantom pain growing inside his head, a subtle ache that had formed sometime after he woke up that was now screaming for his attention. What he had carelessly dismissed as a headache caused by the combination of exhaustion and inability to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time had somehow mutated into a gnawing migraine without him noticing. Now that he had acknowledged it, it was impossible to ignore. The pounding in his head drowned everything else and he wasn’t sure how he was still upright. His vision is blurring, darkness swimming in and out and his ears echoing with a resounding boom that set his teeth on edge.
He’s not sure he’s still in his living room sitting on his couch anymore. His vision is chaotic, filled with colours that shouldn’t be there, melding to form shapes and objects and then dispersing all too soon.
“....loophole....for the right price........”
“In fact, I’ll do you pro bono.”
One moment he is sitting or is he standing now? It’s dark in his living room or is it lit up with lights? There’s a glass filled with whiskey in his hand or is it a martini? There’s Isabelle standing in front of him or is it someone else? Is someone talking to him or is he the one speaking?
“Magnus? Magnus, are you alright?”
The hammering in his head peaks-is he going to pass out? -and then finally simmers down enough that he can breathe. His ears stop ringing and he can hear Isabelle calling out to him. His vision clears and he can focus enough to see her kneeling in front of him, her face crumpled with worry. It’s all he can do to fiercely fight down the nausea bubbling in his stomach.
“I’m alright, dear. Just a bit tired. I think I’ll retire now, after all.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“...if you’re sure....goodnight then...?”
He makes his escape to his bedroom and barely makes it to the bathroom before his stomach revolts against him and he has no choice but to give in to the dreadful feeling congealing in his gut.
What the hell was that!?
Thanks to all the lovely people who left their comments and kudos.
Chapter 7: Persistent Parabatai
Chapter 6 – Persistent Parabatai
As a shadowhunter , Alec knew that problem solving was a mandatory skill-set, especially for someone who was meant to lead an entire Institute. While the skill itself was encouraged and admired amongst the shadowhunter community, it seemed rather unfathomable to him that very little was done during their extensive training to actually teach and develop this skill. Although his tutors and seniors had always admired his analytical mind and critical thinking, they didn’t have much to offer in the way of actually giving him the tools to hone these traits. Their society was geared towards raising obedient and rule-following soldiers after all, not radical leaders and free-thinkers who constantly questioned the authority of the Clave.
So Alec had grown up severely lacking an arsenal of techniques he could fall back on when dealing with problems. As a child, the solution given to him for any kind of problem was simple: training. Messed up on a mission - train so you never made the same mistake twice. Disobeyed an order – train until you learned your lesson. Emotions get the better of you – train until you had your emotions tightly under control. Had a fight with Jace – train with each other until you worked things out. Angry with Mom and Dad – work your anger out on punching bag. Worried about something – work out until you forgot what you were worried about. Couldn’t sleep – train until your muscles gave in to exhaustion.
Thus, training had become his go-to solution for just about every problem. He was sure there were healthier ways of working out problems, but he’d never had the time or the luxury to seek them out. So training it was. And this was how Jace found him, around two-thirty in the morning, trying to beat a worn punching bag into submission. He barely notices, so used to his parabatai’s constant presence always lurking somewhere at the edge of his consciousness that it hardly registered anymore.
He was almost there, he could feel his muscles protesting the abuse, and it wouldn’t be long now that he would have beaten his body into submission too, until it would finally let him fall into a tired but dreamless slumber. Just a little more, maybe another half hour until the skin on his knuckles gave in and his eyelids bowed and his feet dragged him to his bed and he could finally, finally fall asleep.
“Alec, hey...easy buddy. I think that punching bag has had enough. Need a better sparring partner?”
He finally turned around to find Jace leaning against a pillar, arms crossed against his chest, a frown gracing his face, the very embodiment of ‘I don’t approve’ . Huh, it’s usually him giving the same look to Jace when he did something that would get him in trouble. He would have laughed at the role-reversal if he wasn’t so tired.
“I’m good. Was just going to bed anyway.” He hadn’t planned to, he was still too keyed up to sleep. But he was well aware that Jace would hardly let him go back to his workout now.
“Come on. One match. No one here to watch me kick your ass anyway.” Those were the exact wrong words to say, or the exact right ones depending on your perspective, and judging by the smirk on his face, Jace knew it. God, that cocky, over-confident patented Jace Wayland smirk. Jace knew how much it pissed him off, made him long to wipe it off his face and put his brother in his place. They were brothers in the truest sense, especially when it came to their competitive spirits. They’d competed over every little, inane thing, no matter how trivial or stupid. It used to drive Izzy nuts and make their mother shake her head and sigh a half amused and half exasperated ‘boys’ at them. And yet, every challenge had to be accepted. Those were the rules of brotherhood.
For a single moment, Alec considered refusing. He was already tired, his arms ached something fierce and by the angel he needed sleep. And worse, considering the late hour and the pajamas Jace was wearing, the only reason his parabatai was out of bed was because he’d felt Alec’s frustration and bitterness and exhaustion. Which meant he’d want to talk; something Alec was desperate to avoid. For the first time in his life, Alec considered backing down from a challenge.
But no; he’d never refused before and doing so now would only be more suspicious. Besides, Jace was still smirking and a small childish part of him that only Jace could awaken in him refused to rest until he had wiped the floor with his ass.
He felt his adrenalin spike as they circled each other, both predators in their own right. And then, prompted by some tacit signal unique to them, they attacked. Sparring with Jace was a kind of all-consuming experience. Izzy, in a fit of fancy, had once said that it looked like a choreographed dance. He preferred to think of it as meditation. As they traded blows, he felt his body falling into a familiar rhythm. His mind was at once absorbed in the fight yet simultaneously barely occupied. It had been a long time since he actually had to think when fighting Jace , their training long since reduced to instinct and muscle memory. Each move and counter-move was expected, familiar, etched into their bones. And yet, somehow it was never routine or boring. They knew each other well enough to make the fight almost predictable, which was the whole challenge. They weren’t fighting against each other, they were fighting against their own selves, their own instincts and strategies and thoughts. Whoever conquered himself, won the fight. It was almost an introspective experience; he did some of his best thinking when he was fighting Jace .
He could feel his mind settle, his thoughts submerged and silenced until his mind was blank. While the spar captured the majority of his concentration, everything else settled into the background, until he could hear himself think clearly again without becoming entangled by the clutter of a hundred different thoughts racing in his head.
While he was grateful to Jace for the impromptu therapy session, he also knew he wouldn’t last long. If he was tired before, he was beyond worn down by now. His reserves were depleted, his body was barely listening to him anymore and his muscles were screaming from the exertion. So he wasn’t surprised when found himself pinned to the floor a few minutes later. He tapped out reluctantly, part of him grateful for the respite while part of him burned in humiliation at the especially poor showing on his part. Jace thankfully didn’t comment on it, instead sliding silently to the floor by his side.
They both caught their breaths for a moment, both unwilling to speak. Alec was just about to make an excuse and head to bed when Jace finally broke the silence.
“So, wanna tell me why you’re murdering punching bags when you should be in bed?”
He knew without looking that Jace was rolling his eyes at him, but he stubbornly kept his eyes on the far wall. He certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for Jace .
“Alec, you do remember we’re parabatai , right?”
“Yeah, I seem to recall the whole vows and ceremony thing vaguely.”
“Then why are you lying to me when you know damn well that I can tell?”
“I’m not lying.”
“Alec...” The word is almost a growl and Alec fought the urge to smirk, knowing that Jace was nearing the end of his patience. Maybe he’d give up and let him go to bed?
“Don’t be an ass.”
“I’m not! You’re the one who’s keeping me up.”
“I’m not letting you go until we talk about this.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Are you ever going to tell me what happened with you and Magnus?”
“I already told you. We broke up. That’s it.”
“I thought you were gonna propose. Instead you decided to break up? Why?”
“Just let it go, Jace . I’m done talking about this.”
He’s close to begging now, even though he knows its useless. Jace isn’t going to give up this time. He can practically feel the stubbornness pushing against his own will. Jace has always been adept at bulldozing through his defenses. Once he sets his sights on something, he goes after it with a dogged single-mindedness that’s impossible to deter. It’s something he had always admired in his brother. Right now, all he can do is curse it. The steel in his eyes, the set of his jaw, he knows Jace won’t let him go without getting the answers he wants.
“Alec, I know that you’re not telling me something. I can feel it, okay? Come on, man. Talk to me.”
So with a defeated sigh, he took a deep breath to center himself and started talking. “That night, the night I was going to propose, um...Magnus, well he was upset....about losing his magic. I’ve never seen him like that, Jace . He was....he was so....devastated. Depressed. He said that....that he would never be happy without his magic.”
“Shit, man. I’m so sorry.” There was no small amount of guilt in his voice, Alec knew, but didn’t have it in him to reassure him. Afterall , his own guilt was a constant presence in his gut, eating away at him from the inside. He wondered if that’s why he felt so hollow.
“I had to do something Jace . I couldn’t see him like that. I couldn’t watch him be unhappy for the rest of his life.” He knows he sounds desperate, but he needs to explain, to justify what he did. He needs someone to understand why he made the decision that he did. He needs someone to reassure him that he made the right call because the Angel knew he questioned his decision every moment of every day.
“So....I spoke to Asmodeus .”
“You did what? Alec!”
“Just listen, okay. I spoke to him through a warlock conduit. And I made a deal with him.”
“You made a deal? With a Greater Demon? Damnit Alec, what were you thinking? Shit! Wait a minute, what did he want? Alec, what did you give him in exchange?”
He can feel his parabatai’s fear rising by the second, knows that he needs to pacify him, but he needs a minute to get through the next part. He takes a few deep breaths in vain, but it does little to calm his nerves. He feels Jace wrap an arm around his shoulder, tries to draw strength from him, borrow some of his courage.
“ Asmodeus agreed to give Magnus his magic back....if I broke his heart.”
“What? But....Alec...is that why....?”
“I had to Jace . It was the only way to get his magic back.”
“You think he would have wanted this? He loved you Alec. If he knew, he would never have let you make this choice. I may not have known Magnus as well as you did, but I know that he wouldn’t have given you up for anything.”
Oh, if only that were true. He had thought so too, had hoped that Magnus could have been happy with him even with his magic gone. He had hoped so desperately that Magnus would have found him worthy of the sacrifice, that he would have found Alec to be enough. Enough to stay. Enough to live. Enough to be happy with. But he wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t. He never was.
Magnus may have loved him, and he knew without a doubt that he had, but his magic was such an intricate part of him that Alec had feared he wouldn’t have survived its loss. Magnus needed his magic, far more than he needed Alec. He had lived for centuries without him, and would have lived for centuries more after Alec was gone. Alec had accepted that he could only be a temporary fixture in Magnus’s life, could share only a scant few decades with him at most. Magnus may be the first and last love of his entire life, but he couldn’t be that for Magnus. He couldn’t promise Magnus an eternity, but he could give him this, he could return his magic. Even if that magic tore him away from Magnus. It was worth it. It had to be.
“I couldn’t give him an eternity, Jace . That’s the price of dating an immortal. We were never meant to last forever. Besides, it all worked out in the end. He got his magic back. He can finally be whole and happy again. And he doesn’t even remember me anymore, so he doesn’t even have to go through the heartbreak.”
“Alec, what are you saying? Do you even want Magnus to get his memories back?”
“Maybe it’s for the best that he doesn’t. Think about it. What good would him remembering me do? It would only cause him unnecessary pain. This way, well, at least he’ll be happy.”
“But what about you, Alec? Could you live with him not knowing you are? What you meant to him? Would you ever be happy?”
He knows the answer to that question, just as he knows not to say it. He doubts he would ever find this kind of love again, the kind that burned through him so passionately that it consumed his very soul. He doesn’t think he has enough left in him to love like that again. Even so, he’s grateful that he got to experience it at all. Even more so that he got to experience it with Magnus. Even if it didn’t last longer, it was enough. It would have to be.
“As long as Magnus is happy, that’s enough for me.”
This is his atonement, his reparation for every pain that he ever caused Magnus. This is his amends. This is his apology and his restitution. This is his redemption. It is all that he has left to offer.
Chapter 8: Confessions and Reconciliations
Chapter 7: Confessions and Reconciliations
Home was concept that Alec had never given much thought to as a shadowhunter. If asked, he would have said the Institute was his home because that was the answer expected of him. And it was true, if only in the most simplistic sense. The Institute was his home as much as it could be a home to anyone. He lived there with his family, he had grown up within its walls, he had a designated room and a bed he could call his own. Was that enough to make it his home? The Institute also technically belonged to the Clave and was essentially the shadowhunter military command center for the city. Though he was born and raised to be a soldier, even he knew that the Institute could hardly be considered homely by any definition of the word.
He had considered Magnus’s loft to be his home for a while. They hadn’t been living together and he hadn’t officially moved in, of course, yet a small part of him had secretly entertained the hope of someday . In his heart, the loft had already been his home, his sanctuary. His very soul had gravitated towards it, his feet unerringly finding their way to it like a compass compelled to find its north. It had been a beacon calling to him, promising warmth and safety and peace. It was where he ended up when the world was overwhelming and he couldn’t breathe, when he needed a safe harbour during turbulent seas, when his heart yearned for comfort and his body ached for a reprieve. It was where he turned to when he needed to escape Alec Lightwood, Head of the New York Institute, eldest son, heir, brother, soldier; where he could just be Alexander. It was where he could let his guard down and be his truest self.
But the loft is gone now, yet another thing that he had cost Magnus, and he feels its loss deep in his chest. His feet still guide him in its direction sometimes, when he is too distracted to pay attention, before he catches himself and forces himself to turn around. It’s hard to fight instincts.
He doesn’t let himself stray today, making a conscious effort to stay on the right path. The path is unfamiliar and he ignores the way his body is telling him he’s going the wrong way. He’s uncharacteristically nervous, seeing as he is about to see Magnus soon. He keeps telling himself he’s being ridiculous, that its only Magnus and there’s no reason why his stomach should be tying itself in knots and his palms should be slick with sweat. He hates that he is filled with a curious mix of anticipation and dread, both looking forward to spending time with Magnus and dreading it at the same time. He reminds himself that he’s only going in an official capacity, as protection for a warlock under the threat of a Greater Demon, and nothing more. He certainly isn’t going to visit his boyfriend and this most definitely is not a date. This is business, this is just him doing his job and Magnus is just a warlock under his protection. He wonders if he would ever get better at lying to himself.
Standing in front of the unfamiliar doors of Magnus’s new place, he takes a deep breath for courage and then knocks. There’s a deafening silence for a few moments and just as he’s about to work himself up to an anxiety attack, the door opens and there he is. He looks just as beautiful as always of course and yet there is something just a little bit off. His hair is artfully ruffled but a few stray locks brush against his forehead in a way that he doesn’t think was intentional. His eyes are lined in kohl as always and yet the glittery sweep of eyeshadow does little to cover the exhaustion hidden beneath. His shoulders are just a little hunched, his back just a little bowed, his eyes just a little dull. He looks like he hasn’t been sleeping, though the slight imperfections are subtle enough that he doubts anyone else would notice. It sends a spasm of worry through him and its all he can do not to take him in his arms, kiss the furrow of his brow and coax him to share whatever it is that’s bothering him. But he can’t do that anymore, no longer has the right to take such liberties. Instead, he clasps his hands behind his back and waits to be let in.
“What do you want, Shadowhunter?”
It takes him a moment to breathe through the hurt and reply. He hadn’t really expected to be greeted with a warm smile and a fleeting kiss but he hadn’t been prepared for the cold eyes and the sharp tone either. He should have known better, their meeting yesterday hadn’t exactly gone well. But he’s in unknown fields here, never having been accustomed to being the recipient of Magnus’s glares and scowls. Even during their fights and their brief break-up, Magnus had been rude and angry and petulant but never cold, never hateful. He needs to apologise, he needs to explain that it was all just a misunderstanding, he needs Magnus to stop looking at him like he’s worth less than the dirt beneath his shoes.
He opens his mouth, tries to find the right words, but its hard to think when Magnus is still glaring at him with no hint of familiarity in his eyes.
“Alec? Is that you?” God bless Izzy and her impeccable timing. She had a knack for appearing just when she was needed. “Oh good. I was wondering when you would show up. Well, my shift is over. So, I’ll be seeing you two later. Bye now.” With that, Izzy is gone before either of them can get a word in and Alec is left with Magnus. Alone. For the next several hours. He already knows this is going to be torture.
“Why exactly is the Head of the Institute on guard duty?” Magnus looks suspicious and he’s not entirely wrong. There’s no reason for him to be here when he has an army of shadowhunters to do his bidding. He certainly has his hands full with other duties that are more pressing than babysitting the former High Warlock of Brooklyn. There’s no justification for him volunteering for this job. Thankfully, he had already prepared the answer in advance.
“Considering the threat of a Greater Demon on the loose that may specifically be targeting you, we’re not taking any chances.”
“Hmm. Fine. Although I don’t know what you think you could do if Asmodeus did decide to show up.” With that, Magnus turned his back to him and went inside. Atleast he left the door open for him instead of slamming it in his face. Alec tried not to let the dismissive tone get to him as he followed Magnus inside.
“If Asmodeus does show up, then I promise you I will do everything in my power to protect you.” Its the absolute, incontrovertible truth, even if Magnus may not believe it. That he would go to any lengths to keep him safe, even at the cost of his own life, Alec knows with a bone deep certainty. He feels a sudden, inexplicable need to make Magnus understand that, that he’s safe with Alec, that Alec would never let any harm come to him. He needs Magnus to feel safe with him.
Magnus, to his credit, seems to have lost some of his querulous demeanour. He seems rather taken aback by the sincerity in his voice and Alec can only hope this means he would be more agreeable to Alec’s presence. Magnus doesn’t seem to know how to respond, which is strange given how composed he usually is, but as long as he’s not glaring daggers at him, he decides he’ll call it a win.
“Well, since you insist on being here for the foreseeable future, can I get you a drink?”
He should say no. He’s on duty, he’s supposed to stay alert and its barely past noon. He should say no. But the scene is so achingly familiar, Magnus besides his beloved drink cart, mixing and pouring like an artist in his element, insisting on Alec trying his colourful creations. He’d never really developed a taste for alcohol, but never had the heart to deny him.
As Magnus got to work, Alec took the opportunity to look around. The apartment is smaller than the loft, yet no less ostentatiously decorated. It’s filled with the same knick-knacks and odds and ends as the loft though and that alone makes him absurdly happy. There are no floor to ceiling windows here but he can spot the balcony with the chaise-lounge that had been his favourite place to spend the evenings. The couch is the same too though the coffee table is new. The place is both the same and yet slightly different and he doesn’t quite know where he fits in it. That’s rather appropriate, considering he doesn’t really have a place in Magnus’s life anymore.
“Are you going to keep standing there?” Magnus hands him a glass filled with a drink he doesn’t know the name of, before reclining on one of the loveseats with deliberate casualness and feline grace. For all that he appears relaxed, the look in his eyes is eerily similar to a predator sizing up its prey and Alec feels his mouth go dry. Not that he thinks that Magnus would genuinely try to hurt him, but it was easy to forget that he could. He’d always known on an intellectual level that the man he was in love with was also an all-powerful warlock capable of bringing the world to its knees, but it was hard to think of the kind, compassionate man he knew and loved as a threat. Being in Magnus’s presence had always felt safe . Perhaps it was time to re-evaluate, given the circumstances.
Magnus is staring at him expectantly, and he abruptly remembered that he was still standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room. Taking a sip of his drink to hide his nervousness, he quickly took a seat on the couch. The drink was too strong, he should have known, and he fought to control a grimace. Magnus had taken to creating sweet concoctions for him, knowing his aversion to the taste of alcohol, but Alec could hardly blame him for not remembering anymore. It still stung though, just another reminder of what he had lost.
The silence stretched for a few minutes, uncomfortable in a way it had never been before. Magnus seemed content to stare at him, occasionally taking swigs of his own drink and he doesn’t know what to say in any case. He found himself staring, unable to look away after being denied of being in his presence for so long, before catching himself and looking away. Magnus must have noticed, but did not comment on it.
“Whatever for, Shadowhunter?”
Everything, he wants to say. He has so much to apologise for he wouldn’t know where to begin. For breaking your heart, he wants to say. For causing you to lose your powers in the first place. For not seeing how much you were hurting, for not knowing how to help you, for not being enough....But he can’t apologise for things that Magnus doesn’t even know he’s guilty of.
“Umm...I mean...your memories.”
“Ahh.” Magnus seems understandably uncomfortable with the topic. But he’s curious about this sudden memory loss, and more than a little worried. He wonders if Magnus has any clue what could have caused this. He wonders if Magnus even cares to find out what he’s lost.
“Do you know what could have caused it?”
“I’m still working on a few theories.”
“Oh. So you don’t remember anything? From the past few months, I mean.” He knows better than to hope and yet he feels his heartbeat rise in anticipation. Just the tiniest sliver of hope, that he might remember him, remember them ....
Magnus is staring at him with narrowed eyes, as if suspecting he’s hiding something. He can only hope his expressions don’t give away anything more than professional interest and idle curiosity.
“No. Nothing at all.”
He watches as Magnus raises a hand to delicately caress the serpent shaped ear-cuff adorning his ear and wonders if he even realises that’s his tell. It’s not something he does very often, but every now and then when Magnus was feeling embarrassed or shy or didn’t want anyone to know what he was thinking, he would pull at the edge of his ear. He had always thought it was an endearing gesture; now it makes him wonder what Magnus is keeping from him.
“Tell me. Why did you come here?”
“I, uh, I already told you....”
“I don’t know what you mean. I told you...”
“Right. You’re here to protect me from Asmodeus.” The scepticism in his voice hurts. But there’s a glint in Magnus’s eye, a tension in his body as if he’s about to pounce, that’s causing him more concern. Magnus looks like he’s waiting for him to slip up, to make a misstep or utter one wrong word, like he’s waiting for an excuse to tear him to shreds. He knows he needs to be careful, to watch what he says and how much he reveals. The mistrust in his eyes alone is enough to cleave his heart.
“What makes me curious, Shadowhunter, is why? Why would you care to protect a demon-blooded warlock?”
“I told you. Protection of the shadow world is my responsibility. I’m just doing my job.”
“And I suppose you want something in return.”
“What? Of course not. Is that what you think...”
“Since when do shadowhunters care about protecting downworlders?”
“I do. I care. I promise you, I’m not lying. The only thing I want is to keep you safe. That’s it. There’s no ulterior motive, I don’t want anything in return. I’m just trying to keep you safe.”
Shit, he doesn’t know when he lost control of the conversation, when he let his tongue run faster than his brain. He knows better, damnit. But Magnus....Magnus has always had a way of making him lose control until he’s blurting out truths from his heart without pausing to even think. Something about being here, being with Magnus, even now, makes him lose control over himself, makes him want to speak and confess and lay his heart bare at Magnus’s feet.
Magnus atleast has softened, just a little, abandoning some of the tenseness and sinking into the back of the couch. If he’s surprised by the emotional outburst, he’s doing an excellent job of concealing it. He can’t tell if he believes him or not, but some of the distrust seems to have faded from his eyes.
Alec waits in silence, waits for something, anything. He’s not sure what to say, what else he can say to win his trust. He watched with baited breath as Magnus finished the last dredges of his drink and then rose to make himself another. Just as he’s resigned himself to the silence, thinking that the conversation is over, Magnus surprises him again.
“You would protect me from him? Even knowing who he is, knowing that he is my...my Father.” Magnus has his back towards him, which he’s grateful for if only so he doesn’t see the heartbreak in his eyes. As it is, he barely restrains himself from wrapping his arms around him. He knows that Magnus’s parentage has always been a sensitive subject, knows the insecurities and self-doubts that he tries so hard to hide.
“Of course I will. Magnus, you’re not your father. In fact, you’re the furthest thing from evil.”
“You cannot possibly know that.”
“Yes, I do. I do know that you’re a good person, Magnus. I trust you.”
Magnus remains silent for several moments and it makes him wonder if he has overplayed his hand, said too much. The silence stretches on, too long, and Magnus remains standing with his back to him.
When he doesn’t respond, Alec walks up to him, hoping to bring him back from wherever he is lost in thought. He finds him gripping the edge of the end-table, his knuckles white and strained, his eyes unfocused and lost. He looks too pale and it makes him wonder if he’s sick.
“Magnus? Magnus, you alright?”
Nothing. Nothing at all. His gaze remains unfocused as if he’s seeing something else, as if he’s not here at all. His breathing is shallow and he’s swaying slightly as if he’s lost all balance. If Alec was worried before, he’s panicking now.
Just as he’s made up his mind to call Catarina, Magnus returns, present again in the moment.
“Magnus, what was that?”
It doesn’t help that Magnus looks just as confused as him. Then, composing himself, the warlock smiled with nonchalance and picked up his drink again.
“Oh, nothing at all. I’m fine.”
He’s not fine, Alec knows with absolute certainty. He’s shaking, his trembling fingers barely holding on to his glass. He looks like he’s about to throw up or maybe pass out. Perhaps both.
“Magnus, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
The words sound hollow and hardly like the reassurance they’re meant to be. But Magnus has closed himself off, reflecting nothing but a forced calm. He wants to press, but knows instinctively that it wouldn’t do any good.
Magnus settles on the couch once again, picks up a heavy tome from the table, turns to a previously bookmarked page and begins to read. The rest of Alec’s watch passes in silence.
Chapter 9: Dreams and Revelations
Chapter 8: Dreams and Revelations
The illuminated skyline is dazzling against the night sky, its brilliance barely dimmed by the floor to ceiling window. The room is bathed in soft, hazy lights, illuminating hardly anything while the rest of the room drowns in shadows. He turns his back to the mesmerising vista, his attention instead captivated by someone else. There’s a man, hidden in shadows, walking towards him with slow, purposeful steps. He’s tall but lean, his face obscured by shadows. The man reaches out to him and he finds himself handing over a cocktail glass.
The chime of glasses clinking sends a shiver down his spine. He’s fascinating, this man in front of him. He takes a sip of his own drink, pretending it’s the alcohol causing a wave of warmth to spread throughout his body.
“I wanted to see you again.”
The man is speaking, or maybe he is, the words muffled and undistinguishable. The voice itself is pleasant though, deep and rich and soothing. He wants to reach out to him, touch him, but he doesn’t want to scare him off.
“You’ve unlocked something in me.”
The voices are blurred, as if underwater, only a few snippets reaching his straining ear, and he aches to hear, to know. He wants to hear the man again, hear his voice, gaze upon his face. He wants to know him, this tall, dark, mysterious stranger.
There’s a sliver of sunlight now, making the room light up in shades of gold. He hopes it would shed some illumination over the man, but he’s still encased in shadows.
“You’re more than just a pretty face, aren’t you?”
He steps closer, determined to see, but the man steps away. He wants to reach out, he needs to know who this man is...
“I trust you. I don’t know why, but I do.”
The man turns his back to him. He’s leaving. He’s leaving. He reaches for him, runs after him, but the man is further and further away. He can’t let him leave. He needs to know. He needs to know who he is. Wait! Stop! Stay! Please stay. Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Please. Stay with me.
Magnus wakes to his heart breaking in his chest and tears spilling from his eyes. There’s a sense of abandonment in his heart, of betrayal and loneliness and heartbreak. He’s still reaching out to someone, someone....someone who left him? Someone who betrayed him? There’s a feeling of loss, so acute, so devastating, so all-encompassing, he doesn’t know if he’ll survive it.
He’s sure now, the more he thinks about it, that he has lost someone. Someone who meant something to him, someone he loved, someone who....left him? His memory, crippled and utterly useless as it is these days, is terrifyingly blank. He thinks, he’s sure that he lost more than just his memories that fateful day. Perhaps, he lost something else, someone else.
The man. The tall man. The man in his dreams. He remembers....something. Who was he? A friend? A lover? Where is now? Is he alive? Why hasn’t he found him? Why did he leave?
He needs to know. He needs to find him.
How? Where? Who is he? What did he mean to him? Who is this man that left him so broken and needy? Who is he that his heart still cries for him, that his arms still reach for him, his voice still calls for him?
And how is he supposed to find him when he can’t even see his face, doesn’t even know his name?
All the more reason to recover his memories. Unfortunately, while he is in no way lacking in determination, he is severely lacking in terms of resources. He had already exhausted his own informational trove, there was no evidence or symptoms suggesting who or what had managed to pilfer his memories. The shadowhunter resources themselves had proven to be disappointing, although they kept assuring him that they were doing everything in their power to find a solution. He had briefly considered consulting with the Seelie Queen but had just as quickly decided to keep that as a last resort. The Seelie Queen was at best a snake in the grass and he was in no way eager to get bitten.
That left him stuck in a waiting game, and if Magnus Bane hated something with a passion, inertia was very near to the top of the list. He’d been imprisoned at his apartment for days now, days spent waiting for something to happen, waiting for some threat or attack, and he wasn’t sure if he should be disappointed that nothing of the sort had occurred. In fact, the days had been leaden with stagnation and inactivity and he was done. He was leaving the apartment today, and those angel-damned shadowhunters would just have to accept it.
He wasn’t sure why he’d agreed to this confinement in the first place, he certainly had no obligation to listen to the shadowhunters. Perhaps he’d been shaken by the threat of his father, grateful for even some measure of protection. Perhaps he’d been caught up in the tangle of the murders and the bodies and the mystery.
Well, enough was enough. He was done waiting for something to happen. If his father wanted to talk to him, he could very well come and find him. He was done hiding. This was his home, he was not going to let those shadowhunters keep him prisoner here.
With that in mind, he leapt out of bed, throwing a silk robe over his bare chest, and went to greet his jailor and inform him of his decision. The blond one had been on duty last night, which made it all the more better; he had no qualms about yelling at him. It wasn’t that he particularly disliked him, but the shadowhunter had a tendency to be abrasive and just rubbed him the wrong way. They’d had a rocky start, and he’d barely restrained himself from blasting the annoying boy with his magic, and had just barely agreed to ignore the other’s presence during the time they’d been forced to spend together.
He had just thrown the bedroom door open and was about to speak when he realises that the picture is not what he had expected. For one, the shadowhunter sitting on the couch has dark hair instead of fair. He’s also significantly taller, even though he is hunched over the array of papers spread across the coffee table. Definitely not Jace.
To say that he’s surprised to see Alec Lightwood would be an understatement. He hadn’t seen him in days, not since the first and only time he’d been here three days ago. Isabelle and Jace had been alternating shifts since then, although Isabelle had been quick to assure him that Alec’s duties at the Institiute had been keeping him away and that he’d be here as soon as he could.
Not that Magnus would ever admit it, but he’d been simultaneously looking forward to seeing him again and also dreading it. Their first interaction notwithstanding, the shadowhunter had been...pleasant company. Clearly, there had been some misunderstandings and maybe some over-reaction on his part when they had met. The man was obviously not as prejudiced as he had presumed him to be. In fact, he had been nothing but polite and respectful, rare qualities in shadowhunters.
He still wasn’t sure what to make of the rather emotional outburst the other day when the shadowhunter had offered him his protection. He’d been touched, he had to admit. It felt good, to be considered worthy of being protected. He was a powerful warlock of course and hadn’t needed anyone to protect him in centuries, and yet, this shadowhunter who barely knew him had offered it all the same. It made him feel...safe...like someone was looking after him. Ridiculous ; he was a grown man. He didn’t need looking after.
Strangely, Alec knew who his father was, and he’s still curious as to how that particular cat got out of the bag, and he didn’t hold it against him. Most people would have. Most people did, even in the downworlder community. That’s why he had tried so hard to keep his lineage a secret. No one would ever trust the son of a Greater Demon. No one. And yet....
It had been three little words from Alec’s mouth that had truly shaken him to his core. I trust you. It didn’t make any sense. The man hardly knew him. And yet he’d so easily given him his trust. Just like that. Without an inkling of what those words meant to him. I trust you .
He wasn’t used to such blind faith. He was a warlock. Most people he met expected him to swindle them, lie to them, manipulate them. They called him a magician, a deceiver, a charlatan. He was used to being treated with mistrust, especially by shadowhunters. He wasn’t used to being trusted. I trust you.
The shadowhunter was definitely an enigma he couldn’t figure out. He’d been waiting for him to show up again, embarrassingly anxious every time he heard a knock on his door. But after days of waiting and being disappointed when either Isabelle or Jace showed up instead, he’d begun to lose hope of seeing him again. Now here he was, his tall frame sprawled on his couch, looking at him curiously, and he had no idea what to say.
“Goodmorning.” Right. He could do that. He could reply to a simple greeting, he told himself. He would not act like a tongue-tied fool.
“Goodmorning.” Inordinately pleased with himself at this success, he walked into the kitchen and hoped fervently he wouldn’t make a bigger fool of himself. Truth be told, he wasn’t sure how to act around the shadowhunter. He was slightly ashamed of how he had acted at their previous meeting, he knew he tended to be melodramatic more often than not. Should he apologise? Was Alec expecting an apology? Or should he just act as though nothing was wrong?
“Would you like some coffee?” There, that was a perfectly normal thing to ask. He could be normal.
“Sure. Coffee sounds great.”
He turned to switch the coffee machine on, thankful for something to do while he got his bearings, and got the cream and sugar. He told himself that he was definitely not self-conscious about his state of dress, or lack thereof. He’d only thrown on an untied blue silk robe over his shoulders over an unmatched pair of pajama pants and his hair was an unkempt mess. It wasn’t like Alec would care; he’s only seen the shadowhunter wearing all black, he was unlikely to judge his fashion choices.
Coffee finally ready, he carried the tray out to his guest, who was once again engrossed in his paperwork. Was it just his imagination, or was Alec purposefully avoiding his eyes? Being careful to avoid the scattered papers, he set the tray down and watched with faint amusement as Alec doused his coffee in sugar before practically inhaling it.
“I’m surprised to see you here today.” He watches Alec flinch and it makes him wonder if he had been deliberately keeping away. It made him feel absurdly guilty, thinking he had scared the shadowhunter off.
“Oh, yeah. Things have been busy at the Institute.”
“Hmm, I see.” He’s fairly sure there’s more to it than that. He might not know the man very well, but he was a pretty terrible liar. He’s failing at the very first rule of lying, avoiding eye contact and staring determinedly at his papers as if they held the answers to all the mysteries of the world.
He knows the next part would be harder, especially with Alec acting as his guardian instead of Jace. Nevertheless, he forges ahead, fully prepared for a fight.
“I was thinking, it’s a wonderful day today. I quite fancy a walk around the park. Maybe call on a few friends.”
As expected, Alec’s impressive brows furrowed in consternation, a refusal on the tip of his tongue. Within the span of a single second, he went from Alec to Head of the Institute, back straight, chin up, ready to issue orders and expecting to be obeyed.
“Now, now. You’re not implying that I’m a prisoner here, are you Mr Lightwood?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then you should have no problem with me stepping out for a little while.”
“Magnus, you know it’s too dangerous. With Asmodeus running around, possibly looking for you, you’d be in danger. It’s too risky.”
“I’ve been cooped up in here for days, Alec. And nothing has happened. I think we can safely say that whatever my father is up to, it has nothing to do with me. In fact, I think there’s no reason to continue with this protection detail anymore. It’s a waste of time.”
“Magnus, you know I can’t do that. The risks....” The more agitated Alec gets, the more it makes him suspect why the shadowhunter is so adamant to protect him.
“Alec, why are you so sure that Asmodeus is after me? He hasn’t tried to find me, let alone cause me harm. What makes you think he’ll come after me?”
He watches Alec shift in his seat uncomfortably, his gaze wandering all over the room and knows somehow that the next words out of his mouth would not be the truth.
“Alec, I need you to be honest with me.” Thankfully, his words seem to work as Alec sighs in defeat.
“There was another attack last night. At Pandemonium.”
“I see.” The words send a chill down his spine. How many, he wonders. How many lives lost because of his father.
“Magnus, think about the locations he has targeted. The Hunter’s Moon, that little restaurant downtown and now Pandemonium. We’ve been trying to figure out why Asmodeus chose these locations in particular, but these places mean nothing to him. But they do to you.”
“You think he’s looking for me, trying to draw me out.” He’s sure his heart skipped a beat. All those people, murdered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Murdered because of him. Because Asmodeus is trying to find him. He feels sick.
“Magnus, you alright?” He makes an effort to compose himself. His stomach is still twisting uncomfortably and he can only hope he doesn’t throw up in front of the shadowhunter.
“I’m fine.” Alec doesn’t look like he believes him.
“Magnus, do you think Asmodeus might have something to do with your missing memories?”
“You don’t think....But why? What possible reason could Asmodeus have for taking my memories?” Come to think of it, why hadn’t he suspected his father before? He was certainly capable of it, and one of the few people capable of overpowering him. It couldn’t be a coincidence, his memories disappearing just when his father found a way out of Edom. It had to be him. It had to be.
He was sure now. If he wanted to restore his memories and stop his father’s carnage across the city, then he needed to find Asmodeus.
Chapter 10: Drinks and (not a) Date
Chapter 9: Drinks and (not a) Date
Magnus Bane was self-aware enough to acknowledge that he was indulgent. He appreciated the finer things in life and saw no reason to deprive himself of all the pleasures the world had to offer. What was life if you couldn’t take the time to occasionally pamper yourself and allow yourself to partake in your heart’s desires.
This particular evening found him at the Hunter’s Moon, dressed to impress in a black ensemble bedecked in gold, well into his third drink of the night. Freedom tasted sweet on his tongue and he took a moment to savour the bacchanalian ambience surrounding him. He’d been cooped up for far too long and he intended to enjoy every minute of revelry that he could.
It had been far too long since he’d had the opportunity for a night on the town, drinking, dancing, maybe even finding a beautiful stranger to take home to bed. He looked around the room, taking in the mosaic of flashy dresses and overflowing drinks and general merriment. He could use a night of fun. It had been a while indeed.
Just as he’d taken a sip of his next drink, some colourful concoction that he’d ordered just because the name sounded interesting, the jovial atmosphere was dampened by the arrival of a scowling shadowhunter. He watched in amusement as Alec frantically looked around, his expression darkening as his eyes landed on Magnus, and made his way to him. He could barely keep a grin to himself as Alec took the seat next to him, his glare unwaveringly trained on him.
“Magnus.” Oh dear, he’s definitely pissed.
“Alec! Fancy seeing you here. Do you come here often?”
“Magnus, what are you doing here?”
“Well, I do admit I come here often. Lovely ambience, wonderful people and the drinks never run out. Speaking of, would you like one? You really should try this rather delicious...”
“Magnus, I get a call from Jace that you just announced you were going out and portalled out of your apartment. Do you have any idea how reckless this is?”
“Well, I decided I’ve been trapped in that apartment for far too long and I needed a break. You look like you could use one too.”
“Alec, when was the last time you took the time to just relax and enjoy yourself?”
“Not when there’s a Greater Demon running around...”
“All the more reason to enjoy the time you have. Now, how about that drink, hmm?” He can see the exact moment Alec caves, his tense shoulders dropping with a sigh, his features softening just a little as he nods in acquiescence. Inordinately proud of this victory, he lets Alec order himself a drink.
He’s learnt enough about Alec to know that the shadowhunter is perfectly comfortable with long silences and would likely spend the rest of the night without saying a word unless prodded into a conversation. If he’s to learn more about his elusive company, he’s going to have to ask the questions. Hopefully, the alcohol should aid his endeavour.
“So, how is it that you knew I was here?” He should probably be concerned that the shadowhunter had found him so quickly when he’d left no clues behind. He’d hoped to keep them running around the city for a little while. Oddly, there’s no worry blooming inside him, only curiosity.
“I guess you’re just that predictable.” A startled laugh escapes him at the unexpected response. Oh, the grumpy cat does have a sense of humour after all. Dear God, is he teasing him? And dare he say that’s a smile tugging at his lips. He’s certain this is the first time he’s seen Alec smile.
“Is that so? I’ll have to try harder next time.”
Alec just huffs in mock exasperation that is clearly more amused than annoyed. He can see Alec letting his guard down slowly, relaxing into his seat as he takes a sip of his drink. It should feel less of an accomplishment than it actually does.
“So Alec, do you come here often? I’m certain I would have noticed you before.”
“Does that line ever work for you?”
Magnus couldn’t help but laugh again. Oh, this could be fun indeed. He hadn’t been flirting, he really hadn’t. But the thought takes root in some traitorous part of his brain that makes him wonder what would happen if he did. It feels dangerous.
“Darling, that wasn’t a line. Trust me, if I was flirting with you, you’d know it.”
Alec is smiling too, no longer trying to hide. He does have a beautiful smile, Magnus notes, and can’t help but admire how it makes his entire face light up. He should smile more often, he almost tells him before stopping himself.
“You never answered my question.”
“Oh right. Not very often. I’ve only been here a couple of times before with someone.”
“Oh? Do tell. Someone special?”
“Something like that.” Alec looks uncomfortable though, squirming in his seat, his expression pained enough that he takes pity on him. Afterall, he’s no stranger to heartbreak. He can feel Alec retreating into himself, clearly lost in painful memories and is suddenly desperate to make him smile again.
“Ah, well. Her loss. I can’t imagine someone foolish enough to let you get away.” Alec cracks a smile at that and he feels relief course through him.
“Actually, it was a ‘him’ .” Dangerous, indeed. He stubbornly refuses to acknowledge his heartbeat quickening in his chest. Harmless flirting was one thing, it could be enjoyed by both parties without leading to anything more. But this was turning out to be a much more precarious game.
“Oh? I thought shadowhunters frowned on that sort of thing?”
“They do. Doesn’t mean they’re right. I guess someone helped me realise that there’s no honour in living a lie.”
“I see. So you’re a rebel. Who would have thought?” Alec’s answering laugh echoes in his ears and in his chest. It drowns the warning bells in his head screaming at him to pull back. What the hell is he doing? Is he actually flirting with a shadowhunter? Of all the warlocks and seelies and vampires in the bar, of course it is a shadowhunter who catches his eye.
He used to have better self-preservation skills, he’s sure. Or maybe not. The danger adds an undeniable thrill to the game. There’s something to be said for forbidden fruits, after all. And really, who can blame him. The man is truly a wonder, all hazel eyes and crooked smile and soft pink lips. He admits he has always had a weakness for the quintessential tall, dark and handsome. Maybe he could....
No. No. No. What is he thinking? The Head of the New York Institute is the last person he should be considering for a quick tumble in the sheets. Assuming he’d even be interested. And even if he was, and the thought alone sends a shiver down his spine, Alec was hardly a stranger he could spend the night with and then never see again. And there was their professional relationship to consider. A night-time tryst was hardly worth jeopardising their newfound friendship, it could easily create complications and unnecessary entanglements....Oh, he really needed to get his emotions under control.
“I know why you’re really here, you know.” It takes him a moment, lost in thought as he is, to realise that Alec has spoken, and another to make sense of what he has said.
“Oh? Haven’t we already covered this topic? I was bored and wanted a night out to enjoy myself.”
“You’re not as good at lying as you think you are.” Magnus almost snorts in derision at that because Alec clearly has no idea what he is talking about. He’s an excellent liar, thank you very much, he’s had centuries of practice. If this shadowhunter thinks he can just presume to read him well enough to be able to tell when he is lying, then he’s past the point of arrogance and well into the realm of delusion.
He’s about to say as much when Alec’s expression stops him short. There’s no smugness there, no audacity or ego. Only a quiet, steady confidence in his words with a hint of...something. Compassion? Kindness? He doesn’t know. But it takes his breath away all the same, dulls the edge of contempt, tempers it into something he cannot yet name.
“Magnus, endangering your life won’t help anyone.”
“Won’t it? You said it yourself. It’s me he’s after.”
“So what, you’re just going to hand yourself over to him?”
“ Of course not. But I can’t let him hurt anyone else either.” This is bad. He hadn’t counted on shadowhunters being here tonight. He’d never imagined Alec would figure him out. He’d planned on doing this alone, away from prying eyes and helpful hands that could easily turn into potential collateral damage.
“Magnus, you can’t fight him alone. He’s too powerful.”
“Yes, I can. I’m the only one who stands a chance. Alec, I can’t just stand by while he murders innocents left and right trying to get to me.” He knows he’s desperate. He knows this is a gamble he will probably lose. He doesn’t have a choice.
“We’ll stop him. Magnus, I promise you, we’ll find a way to stop him. But not like this. We will find another way.”
“There is no other way.”
“Magnus. Please. Let me take you home.” The entreaty in his voice, almost on the verge of begging, is almost a physical wound on his heart. He can only close his eyes against its assault, ignore the prickling tears in his eyes and scramble to hold on to some semblance of composure, some shred of resistance. He knows instinctively that it would take only a single glimpse into Alec’s soulful eyes for him to give in.
And he wants to give in, so much. He wants to let Alec take him home, he wants to let someone take care of him. Alec’s words still ring in his ears, seducing him with promises of safety and protection. He wants to bury his head in Alec’s shoulder, to ask for help and let him share his burden. He wants so badly to not have to face this alone.
But this is his father and it’s his burden to bear. He can’t ask this of Alec. He can’t accept this offer of help. He doesn’t think he can endure anyone else getting hurt because of him.
“Alec, I need you to leave, okay? I need you to let me handle this.”
“No. No way. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Magnus. I’m not letting you do this alone.”
He wants to argue, he wants to make this stupid shadowhunter see sense. But he can see that it wouldn’t lead anywhere, can read it in the steel of his eyes and the set of his jaw. And he’s so grateful, so incredibly grateful to this stubborn, selfless, stupid man who’s willing to risk his life so easily for him.
Why, he wants to ask him. Why would he lay down his life for someone he barely knows? Why would he be so willing to help him? Why would he so carelessly offer protection and sanctuary without asking for anything in return? And what had he ever done to deserve such a gift?
He wants to thank him, to somehow convey how grateful he is, but for once in his life, words are incapable of holding the depth of his emotions. Alec smiles at him though, as if he understands and no words are necessary at all. He takes Alec’s hand, squeezes it gently and hopes that its somehow enough.
It is then that he feels it, a presence at the periphery of his awareness, that grows stronger and louder until it sinks deep into his bones. It presses down on him, crushing the air from his lungs, robbing him of his breath. He can feel the oily tendrils of its malignant power seeking him, sliding over him, binding him in their inescapable snare. He can feel an old terror rising in him, like a prey caught in the trap of a predator, knowing there is no escape but death.
“Magnus? What’s wrong?”
Instantly, like the words were the sounding of a war-horn, Alec has a bow in his hand and quiver full of arrows on his shoulder. If there’s fear in his heart, he doesn’t let it show. Magnus takes a moment to admire him, the determination and the fearlessness, and suddenly feels braver himself. It’s as if Alec’s overabundance of courage is spilling over and into him, and he can feel a renewed sense of confidence rising in him. He’s not unafraid, but he is brave.
Feeling more like himself than he has in a long time, Magnus squares his shoulders and rises. He has never been one to run away and he won’t start now. Besides, this was the plan. Asmodeus’s reign of murder and mayhem needed to be stopped and he was the only one capable of doing it. It was his duty, his cross to bear.
Trading a determined glance with his companion, Magnus walked out of the bar with his head held high, ready to confront his father, Alec a warm, reassuring presence by his side.
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.
Thank you to all those who left lovely reviews and kudos. You guys are amazing!