Alec managed to successfully avoid people for a full two days after his little revelation in the Ops Center. It wasn’t even intentional, really. With everything that they had on their plates, there was plenty enough to keep him busy. The Forsaken that had attacked the Jade Wolf, another that had attacked the Institute. Plus, whatever his siblings and Clary were getting up to, which Alec was sure would spell trouble in the end.
For the most part, Alec was trying to ignore that last one until he absolutely had to. He wasn’t quite sure he was up for Clary’s level of trouble. Nor did he really want to deal with talking to his sister or his parabatai after coming out so openly.
He was pretty sure she hadn’t found out about Simon yet. If she had, Alec had no doubt Clary would be in there yelling at him, and Alec was not looking forward to that conversation. Not after Magnus had warned him and explained the reasons why Clary might not be too happy.
Not that knowing beforehand would’ve changed Alec’s choice. It didn’t mean he really wanted to deal with it, though.
Honestly, Alec was trying to ignore pretty much everyone and everything, at least for a little while. There was only so long Alec could deal with the anger, disgust, and judgment that made his Institute smell like his worst nightmare. So, he hid out in his office.
For the most part, it seemed to be working for him. He didn’t even have to deal with Maryse. Since his revelation to her that Magnus was his mate, she’d backed off, and Alec wasn’t exactly inclined to go and hunt her down. He had other things to keep him busy.
But there was only so long he could avoid dealing with the other big problem around the Institute.
It was the evening of the second day after Alec’s reveal when he found himself in his office doing a bit of paperwork that had slacked the past few days. So far, he’d been forced to deal with practicalities. Namely making sure that the Clave was aware of everything he could make them aware of without implicating himself in any sort of trouble. He wasn’t really in the mood to do it, to be honest. More than anything, he wanted to go back to Magnus’ loft and wrap himself up in his mate. But taking care of the Clan came first.
He was just about done when a knock came on his door. Alec resisted the urge to sigh. “Come in.”
To his surprise, it wasn’t one of his siblings coming to ask something of him, or someone else bringing him a problem.
It was Lydia.
She was calm and composed when she walked in. Just as commanding as always, and just as brash with it. She shut the door without waiting for any sort of further permission and then walked over to the other side of Alec’s desk to stand there and look down at him. “We need to talk.”
The dragon in Alec wanted to growl at her for being so brazen. This was his office in his Institute. But he knew better, and he pushed it down. With one hand, he gestured for her to sit down. “I’m assuming this is about Magnus.”
“Yes and no.” Pausing, Lydia surprised him by huffing a little and losing some of her tense posture. She sank down into one of the chairs, crossing her legs as she did, and she fixed him with a straightforward look. “Can I be blunt here, Alec?”
Huh. This wasn’t what Alec had expected. He set down his pen and sat back in his chair, folding his hands in his lap as he watched her. “Go right ahead.”
“I won’t lie and tell you I wasn’t stunned after your little revelation in the Ops Center the other day. Most all of us were. Not just at your relationship, but at the fact that you were willing to admit it so openly.”
Though Alec didn’t move, his attention sharpened on her. He narrowed his eyes. “Which part of it? The part where I’m with a man, or the part where I’m with a warlock?”
“Honestly?” Lydia said, raising an eyebrow at him. “Both.”
The fact that she was so willing to say out loud what people had so far only whispered behind his back was something that Alec found himself respecting her for a little. He couldn’t scent any hint of a lie on her. There was none of that sweaty fear-scent that Alec could so easily recognize on people. Lydia was stating facts without the emotions attached to it, and that eased Alec more than anything else she could’ve done. He got so tired of trying to figure out everyone’s feelings on things and how to work around them. Having someone who seemed to be as blunt as him was refreshing.
“You have to know that neither of those things is going to win you any favors anywhere,” Lydia told him.
That almost had Alec breaking his control and growling. Really, truly growling. Only sheer will kept him from doing it. But, by the Angel, his dragon was so close to the surface lately! And it wasn’t happy with the way some people had been acting around them. Or where it concerned his mate.
“I didn’t choose Magnus or tell people about us to win favors,” Alec said firmly, in his best Head-of-the-Institute voice. Was that all any Shadowhunters thought of? Relationships for political gain? While Alec wasn’t above taking advantage of a political gain if there was one to be found, that wasn’t at all the reason he was with Magnus, and the perceived insult against his warlock had Alec on the defensive.
He was surprised to see as Lydia’s face softened with a small smile. Her scent grew just a bit warmer, like plants flowering under the sun. “I know you didn’t. Or, at least, I kind of figured that out. You honestly care for him. And judging by his face when you kissed him, I’d say he cares for you just as much.”
“He does.” Why, Alec had no idea, but he didn’t doubt it.
“A part of me wants to insist there are rules for a reason, and how being with a warlock has to break one of those…” Lydia’s smile softened into something just a shade sadder. Tinged in old memories. “I can’t imagine how I would’ve felt if someone told me I couldn’t be with John. Nor would I have listened to them. I would’ve gone to Edom itself if that was what it meant to have him. How can I fault you for doing the same for your partner?”
Alec briefly wished that Magnus was there with him. Or Isabelle. This seemed like one of those moments that he should say something kind to make her feel better. Only, he had no idea what it was he was supposed to say.
Luckily, he was saved from having to figure out anything. Lydia shook her head like she was dismissing those thoughts. Then she straightened back up, and she was back to all business again. “Just because I understand doesn’t mean you’re going to have this easy. The Inquisitor sent me here to make sure this place is running as best it can. You have some favor with her right now – and after she sees my report, you’ll probably have a little more. Finding out that you’re dating a warlock could blow all of that out of the water, though.”
“My rule of this Institute has nothing to do with my dating life.”
“I believe you,” Lydia said. “I just felt you should be aware of what might come your way.”
As if he wasn’t already. Alec was more than aware of the type of trouble this was going to bring him. But he wasn’t lying when he told Lydia that his dating life had nothing to do with how he ran this Institute. These were his people—his Clan—and Alec would protect them no matter what it took. Who he saw in his free time wasn’t going to affect that. If anything, having Magnus in his life only made Alec stronger. He made Alec a better person.
Alec met her gaze and nodded. “I understand.”
“I hope you do, Alec. And I hope it works out for the two of you.”
Her words stuck with Alec through the rest of his evening, and on his walk to the loft. But walking into the loft itself was almost enough to banish it. At the very least, it pushed those thoughts aside. Seeing Magnus, getting his ‘welcome home’ kiss, and remembering that Alec had the whole night before he had to be back to work, helped to kick off even more stress. Then again, being around Magnus was always good for relaxing him.
By the time they’d eaten dinner and ended up cuddled together on the couch, Alec felt a whole lot more relaxed than he had been.
Which, of course, was when Magnus decided to talk about whatever it was that had been so clearly on his mind all night.
They were tucked together in one of their favorite positions in the corner of the couch. Magnus with his back to the corner while Alec was snug up against Magnus’ chest and under his arm. As always, Alec took advantage of the pose to reach up to the hand dangling in front of him and play with Magnus’ rings.
The quiet was comfortable, easy. Yet it wasn’t jarring for Magnus to speak up. They often sat together like this and talked about whatever came to mind. “You know, after you so boldly showed me off to your people, I was thinking that perhaps you might like to meet some of mine.” Magnus slanted a look down at him in that way that let Alec know this was a lot more important than the easy-going tone that Magnus was using. “I’m aware you already know Ragnor and Raphael both, but you’ve never met Raphael in any friendly sort of context, and you’ve never met Catarina.”
The idea that Magnus wanted to introduce Alec to his family had Alec letting out the happy little rumble that Magnus had taken to calling his purr. “I’d like that.”
He was rewarded with one of his favorite grins from Magnus. The one that took up his whole face and lit up his eyes. “Really?”
“Yeah. I mean, if you’re sure that you want me to meet them, why wouldn’t I want to? I like getting to know all the parts of your life.” More than that, Alec wanted to be a part of them. To take those bits of Magnus that he was willing to give and hoard them away in his heart the same way he hoarded bits of treasure. They were just as rare as some of the things Alec kept, and even more worthy of being cherished. All parts of Magnus were worthy of love.
Magnus turned toward him. He brought one hand up to cup Alec’s cheek and tilt his face until he could bend down and kiss him. “I want you to meet them. I want the most important people in my life all in the same room.”
The gesture was sweet, and Alec pushed up and kissed Magnus again, just because he could.
When they pulled back, something occurred to Alec that had him tilting his head and studying Magnus’ face. After a second, he snorted. “You’ve already planned it, haven’t you?”
Magnus didn’t even try to look contrite about that. “Maybe.”
Rolling his eyes, Alec slumped back down in his seat, letting his head rest against Magnus’ shoulder again. He poked at the ring that had a fancy-looking M on it and wondered absently if he could convince Magnus to wear one with an A. Just to make damn sure the ones who couldn’t smell Alec’s scent on him would recognize that he was taken. “What if I’d said no?”
“Then I would’ve had a lovely dinner with my friends while you were off doing whatever it is you wanted to do.”
Shaking his head and battling down a smile, a common reaction when dealing with Magnus’ antics, Alec let himself sink a little more against his mate’s chest. “Are you sure you guys should be gathering right now? And isn’t Ragnor off in hiding somewhere?”
“I sent him a message to let him know I was thinking about introducing all of you, and he insisted on coming.”
Of course he had. Naturally. Because Ragnor was an old gossip who loved nothing more than watching drama unfold while insisting the whole time that he didn’t. He’d roll his eyes, bitch and moan about things, and yet the next big thing to happen, he’d somehow be in the middle of that, too.
When Alec said that out loud, it set Magnus off into peals of laughter that shook the both of them.
Alec smiled, content with having brought that kind of joy to Magnus, and he happily watched as Magnus wiped away a few tears while his laughter trailed off down to chuckles. “I’m very tempted to tell him you said that, darling.”
“You could.” Alec shrugged his shoulder lazily. “It’s not like I haven’t said it to him before.”
The arm Magnus had around Alec tightened a little, and then Magnus was leaning in to nuzzle at Alec’s hair in a gesture that was almost dragon-like. “Thank you.” The words were murmured softly against Alec’s hair like they were something rare and precious. Or as if Alec was. That thought made Alec want to shake his head. He wasn’t the rare or precious one here. That was clearly Magnus. The greatest jewel that Alec possessed, and that possessed him in return.
The two stayed where they were for a little while longer. With the heavier things out of the way, their conversation fell into something a lot easier and more relaxed. Alec knew his sibling would likely laugh if they knew how often he and Magnus sat around together like this. Just cuddled up comfortably with one another, either watching movies or talking. Sometimes, one of them would pull out a book and read a little, either to themselves or out loud. Those were some of Alec’s more favorite nights.
It was such a far cry from the way Alec had heard Jace or Isabelle talk about their experiences with others. Those always seemed to end up revolving around sex. Something which, while Alec was interested, he and Magnus hadn’t really… gotten into yet. For very valid reasons! Though, mostly on Alec’s half.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to. Far from it. Alec wanted nothing more than to spend time with his boyfriend and finally take that step with him. He wanted to know Magnus in that most intimate of ways, and—though it scared him—he wanted to be known in return. Everything Alec had heard made it sound like it was an amazing experience. Alec wanted that experience.
He’d just been afraid. Not only of the act itself, either. Though that was definitely a part of it. Alec was new to the whole sex thing, and he knew he wouldn’t have any idea what he was doing.
Mostly, though, his fear had always centered around his control. The idea of being in the middle of something intimate with Magnus and losing control of his powers or his form was just… terrifying. Completely and utterly terrifying. Before Magnus had found out about what Alec was, part of that fear had been in revealing himself to Magnus at the worst possible time. Now it was more a matter of accidentally hurting Magnus. And that was more terrifying than anything.
“You’re thinking awfully hard about something.”
Alec blinked his eyes to clear them. When he processed what had just been said to him, he wanted to flush a little at being so blatantly caught out at his lack of attention. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to ignore you.”
“Alexander.” Laughing a little, Magnus nudged him up, the two of them shifting in their seats until they were facing one another instead of curled into each other. Their drawn up knees brushed together while their faces were resting inches apart on the back of the couch. Magnus reached out and caught Alec’s hand in his. Then he smiled. “I wasn’t criticizing you, nor was I offended. I was just curious about what was going through your mind that drew your attention away.”
There were two ways this conversation could go. Either Alec could deny it and ignore it, the same as he’d been doing for a while now, or he could finally speak up and say something to Magnus. Tell him about his worries, his wants, and let Magnus help him through them the same way he had in everything so far.
The choice was an easy one. Alec curled their hands so that his fingers could get at the rings that sat on Magnus’ knuckles. He twisted them, steadying himself on the familiar touch of warm skin and cool silver. “I was thinking that I’d really like to stay here tonight. I want to… to take that next step with you.”
For a second, he wasn’t sure Magnus understood him. His brows were drawn down just the slightest bit. Then he abruptly went still, eyes flashing wide for a split second. His scent spiked with that cinnamon and pine that Alec had come to recognize as pure lust mixed in with a hint of pheromones. “Ah. That…wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“No, absolutely not,” Magnus hurried to reassure him. “I’m not upset by the idea. Merely caught off guard. We’ve never exactly talked about this before. Though, I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re the one to bring it up. Your straightforwardness is as refreshing as it is occasionally startling, my dear.”
“How are we supposed to talk about it if neither of us actually talk about it?” That was something Alec just didn’t understand. Sure, he got the whole keeping secrets thing. Obviously. But in a relationship, shouldn’t the two parties be honest with each other? Share these kinds of things? That was the impression Alec had always gotten from Magnus through every step of their relationship.
Magnus didn’t give him time to worry about it. “I agree wholeheartedly. A good relationship is built on communication. I want you to always feel like you can come speak with me about things. No matter what those things may be. If this is what you want, I’m glad you felt like you could talk about it with me.”
“I do want this.” Alec made sure his voice was full of all the confidence he felt. He might be nervous about what they were about to do, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want it or he wasn’t sure. “I want you. I’m just… nervous. I never brought this up before, I know, but you…you know about me now.”
Realization hit Magnus’. His eyes went wide and then softened into something warmer. Gentler. He reached one hand up to stroke over Alec’s cheek. “You’re worried about losing control.”
Alec nodded at him. In more ways than Magnus realized. He wasn’t just worried about his glamour dropping and all the dragon-bits that he kept hidden being out on display. What if he dropped his control too much, and his body took that to mean he needed to shift?
“I love you, Alexander. All of you. Though I can see your concern. Perhaps…” Pausing, Magnus hummed a little, tilting his head to the side as if in thought. “I want you to know I’m not asking this because I don’t believe I can handle things, but because I want to be prepared to handle whatever does happen. I’ve been with warlocks who have simple marks like mine, but also with some who have rather larger marks. Having those come out in the middle of things can be… interesting… if not prepared. Is there anything in specific I should be prepared for?”
The way he asked that was so matter-of-fact. Like he really didn’t care what kind of answer Alec gave just. Like it was no big deal, really, just something he wanted to know to be prepared just like he said.
That casual ease made it so much easier for Alec to answer him honestly. Though his answer probably wasn’t what Magnus was hoping for. “I’m… not quite sure. I don’t typically let my glamour down anymore. It’s been a long time since I haven’t had some form of it up unless I was fully shifting.” He wasn’t even sure he’d know how to actively let it down anymore.
“Well, I don’t think that’s quite on the agenda for tonight,” Magnus said teasingly. Then he winked. “We’ll save that sort of conversation for a later date.”
It took a second for Alec to realize what exactly it was Magnus meant with that. When he did, his eyes went wide. “Magnus!”
The little shit that he was, Magnus just grinned and patted at Alec’s arm in what he probably meant to be a reassuring gesture. “Don’t worry, darling. Like I said, that’s for later.”
Alec could only shake his head. He had no idea how to even begin to respond to that, so he mentally put it aside to think about later. Sometime when he wasn’t occupied with something else.
When he caught Magnus’ eyes again, the warlock was watching him with the kind of gentle look that never failed to steal Alec’s breath away. He reached up to stroke his fingers down the line of Alec’s jaw. Then his hand moved to settle into that familiar spot right below Alec’s ear, thumb on his cheek and fingers in his hair. It was a touch that was special between the two of them. One that Magnus did with no one else. It always worked to calm Alec a little. The pure scent of Magnus right next to his face, the warmth of his touch, the crackle of his magic.
“We don’t have to do this tonight,” Magnus murmured. “We can talk about things and try to plan.”
Even as Magnus made the offer, Alec was already shaking his head. “I want to, Magnus. I really do. I just…you might, um, you might need to be a bit patient with me.”
The way that Magnus looked at him made it clear that it wasn’t going to be a problem. Not that Alec had thought it would be. Magnus was always patient and gentle with him. He seemed to know just what it was Alec needed. Even back before he’d known all of who and what Alec was.
That was why when Magnus suggested, “Why don’t we start with something simple, then?” there was no worry in Alec. No panic.
Licking his lips, Alec forced himself to focus. “Yeah?”
“Mm-hm.” Without another word, Magnus drew in a breath and closed his eyes. When he blew his breath back out and opened his eyes again, his glamour was gone.
Okay. Okay. Alec could see where he was going with this. It was simple enough. Letting go of the glamour over his eyes wasn’t something new or scary. He’d done it countless times here in the loft.
Magnus smiled at the sight of his eyes the same way he always did. “Hello there, beautiful.”
“See?” Magnus stretched himself forward just a little to be able to press a kiss against Alec’s lips. When he settled back down in his seat, his smile was still there, still so unbearably soft. “That wasn’t so hard.”
“It’s not my eyes I’m worried about, Magnus.”
Alec was cut off by another kiss, just as brief as the last. “Hush, I know. That’s why we’re going to take this one step at a time, all right? That way, if at any point you feel like you’re going to lose control, we’ll be able to stop.” His fingers gave a soft little tug against Alec’s hair that was almost enough to have him purring. “You’ve got the control here, sayang. I trust you.”
Those last three words hit Alec right in the gut. To have Magnus say them so openly and so honestly, it was… Alec didn’t know how to put it into words. People trusted him day in and day out. They trusted him to watch their back on the job, to help keep them safe, to lead them, to protect. But the feeling that gave him was nothing compared to the one he had now when faced with Magnus’ soft, earnest words.
“I love you,” Alec said. It was the only thing he could think to say.
“I love you, too.”
With a strong and steady touch and hands that somehow still managed to be nothing but gentle, Magnus drew Alec up off the couch and then with him back toward the bedroom. Their bedroom. It was the most warded place in the whole loft. The absolute best place to be if something did go magically wrong. Here, it’d keep the impact contained at the very least. Though Alec made a point to twist them once they were inside so that Magnus was the one closer to the door. If anything went wrong, he wanted Magnus to have an easy exit.
The amused look he got said the gesture didn’t go unnoticed. Yet, like he so often did with some of Alec’s quirks, Magnus said nothing about it. He just pushed Alec down to sit on the edge of the bed, and then promptly climbed into his lap.
This was a position the both of them were familiar with. They’d spent many a makeout session on the couch this way. Alec was well used to the weight of Magnus on his lap. It was comforting and familiar in ways that had his inner dragon giving a happy rumble.
Smiling, Magnus wound his arms around Alec’s neck.
“First things first, why don’t we both get a little bit more comfortable?” Magnus suggested.
The eyebrow wiggle he tacked on was enough to have Alec chuckling. Trust Magnus to find a way to make this as easy as possible. Thank you, Raziel. How on earth had Alec been so lucky as to find someone like this? Magnus always knew when Alec needed to be serious and when he needed something a little bit lighter to keep things from getting too tense.
Still smiling, Alec looked up at him. “What did you have in mind?”
He was rewarded with a bright, devilish grin that promised so much trouble and so much fun doing it. “For every layer I take off, you take something off. Be it a piece of clothes, or a bit of glamour.”
The idea was simple enough. Alec let his eyes run over what Magnus was wearing, taking it all in. When he caught sight of just how many rings and necklaces his boyfriend had on, he gave another chuckle. “Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be a bit of a brat about this?”
“Alexander!” Magnus put a hand over his heart and affected a look of such fake shock it had Alec cracking up. “How could you even imply something like that about me! I am absolutely offended by this. Do you hear me? Offended.”
Alec was laughing so hard by that point, he had to grab hold of Magnus’ hips just to make sure he didn’t dump him off his lap. When he looked up again, his laughter down to just a few chuckles, it was to find Magnus watching him with a look of open adoration on his face. There wasn’t a single person in Alec’s life who had ever looked at him quite the way Magnus did. While Isabelle and Jace might sometimes look at Alec’s dragon form in awe, Magnus was the only being who had looked at Alec’s human side with the very same kind of awe.
He didn’t know what to do with that kind of emotion. So instead of trying to speak – as if he would be able to get anything out past the knot of emotion tying up his throat – he pushed up for another kiss.
This one was longer, and a lot less chaste than the last. Alec could get lost in kissing Magnus for hours if he were allowed. Which, sometimes, they did. Especially now that Alec didn’t have to try and hide his reactions to things. He could get just a little rumbly, spend a bit of extra time at Magnus’ pulse points, and not have to worry about giving himself away.
Only, Magnus drew back this time far before Alec was ready to be done. He would’ve voiced a protest, except he opened his eyes to find that Magnus was reaching down to undo the buttons on his shirt. What little that were done.
In no time, he was shrugging his shoulders and letting the shirt fall to the floor. Miles and miles of suddenly open skin were right there on display. Alec wanted to lean in to taste, touch, mark. Make sure that no one would ever be able to doubt this beautiful creature was his.
As if he could read what Alec was thinking, which was unfairly likely, Magnus grinned. “Your turn.”
Maybe it was a bit cowardly, but Alec followed suit, pulling off his shirt as well and tossing it down to the floor. Not that Magnus seemed to mind in the least. His eyes lit the same way they always did when he got to see Alec without his shirt. Sometimes Magnus acted like it was the first time he was seeing Alec like this. Like there was no way he could get enough.
This time when they kissed, they didn’t just keep their hands still. Though Alec held one hand on Magnus’ hip to make sure he stayed in place, his other traveled up his back, tracing the nobs of his spine, the flare of his shoulder blades. Magnus was mapping Alec’s body out in turn.
The next items to go were shoes, for both of them. And then one of Magnus’ necklaces. He drew it off and banished it over to his jewelry box.
Alec knew he could’ve gone for any number of the items he was still wearing. Pants, socks, underwear. But there was a reason they were doing this, and it was one he’d wanted.
For so long, Alec’s forms had always been a firm one or the other. Sometimes things slipped through, mannerisms, gestures, instincts, even his eyes. But he’d never really let the two blend in the way Ragnor had always insisted he’d be able to. He kept a glamour so tightly around himself it was almost as much a part of him as the air he breathed.
Reaching down to that glamour was harder than Alec had expected it to be. He had a brief moment to wonder if maybe he should’ve done this alone first, tried to test this out in his hoard or somewhere else safe. Instead, he was sitting here on Magnus’ bed, with Magnus in his lap, and oh, Angel, this was such a bad idea. Such a bad idea.
Warm, firm hands cupped Alec’s cheeks. He looked up, barely even realizing that he’d closed his eyes, to find Magnus had pushed up a little on his knees so that he was better able to look down at him. It made Alec feel sheltered.
“Alexander, you don’t have to do this. Not until you’re ready for it. And if that’s never, that’s okay, too. This is on your terms, sayang, no one else’s. I’ll love you, no matter what.”
Some of the tension that had been building in Alec slowly faded away at those words. Though his fear didn’t leave him completely, he found it a whole lot easier to close his eyes once more and reach down into that place deep down at the center of his magic. It wasn’t quite what he’d need to shift. Like this, Alec could see that he wasn’t going to have to worry about that. Shifting was far too conscious a thing for him. This was different. Alec could reach out and take hold of the bits of magic he’d twined around himself and slowly but surely peel them away.
When he blinked his eyes open once more, it was to find Magnus staring down at him once more in awe.