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You gotta fall (to know how it feels to fly)

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Alec had no idea how long he flew for. There were so many places he could go, things to see. Family that he hadn’t seen for ages. He could have, should have, gone straight to Heaven to see his family, to partake in the joy he could feel spreading through his connection to the Host. They were celebrating his return. A return that had been felt all through Heaven, Hell, and in between, the minute his grace was returned to him.

Yet he found himself here of all places – standing on the edge of a cliff, staring out at a storming ocean in front of him, with no one around for miles and miles.

Large wings spread from Alec's back. He lifted them, all three pairs, and let the wind push through them. Let himself feel the stretch of them and rejoiced in their presence. For so long he’d been without them, felt the tug at his back where he hadn’t known he was missing something. Those empty places that Alec had once believed were normal were now filled with the shining joy of his grace. Alec was whole.

Reconciling the memories that came with his grace and pairing them up with the memories of who else he’d been, all the lifetimes he’d lived, had taken most of the time Alec had been here. It wasn’t easy to mesh the angel he’d once been with the human lives he’d lived. For so much of it, he’d been worried that he would lose Alec Lightwood underneath the weight of Michael.

If it wasn’t for the parabatai bond, he very well might have.

That bond had stayed, anchoring Alec in who he was, making sure that he didn’t lose the pieces of himself and who he’d become.

Now? Now he stood there, feeling a sense of peace both inside and out. He was Alec Lightwood, brother to Isabelle, Max, and Jace, parabatai, friend, lover to Magnus Bane.

And he was Michael, an angel who had seen so much death, so much pain, had caused so much hurt to his family, he hadn’t been able to look his them in the eye anymore. All he’d been able to do was rip out his grace, hide it, and Fall.

Alec closed his eyes and let the breeze wash over his face. The smell of salt in the air, the rumble of thunder in the distance, soothed down the last of the aching places inside of him. His grace – the very light that made him who and what he was – felt so much more settled now. Earlier, it had been like the storm Alec was watching, rough and turbulent, waves crashing over each other as the different parts of him tried to fight for control. Now it felt soft and cool, lapping up against those aching places inside of him.

For so long Alec had felt out of place. Broken and wrong. Like there was something in him that was different, that set him apart from the rest. He hadn’t realized back then just how right he was. Now? Now there was peace, yes, and a knowledge of who he was. A certainty in himself that he’d never been able to fully have before he met Magnus.

Thoughts of Magnus pushed in, breaking through Alec's reflection. His eyes opened again and let out an aching breath.

No matter what Alec tried, he couldn’t get that last image of Magnus out of his mind. The way his boyfriend had looked at him with that mask pulled tight over his feelings. How he’d drawn on his glamour and shut himself off not just from everyone, but from Alec.

He’d known what it was in that orb, and what it meant for Alec to feel connected to it. Magnus had known, recognized what that would mean, and still he’d urged Alec toward it despite knowing what kind of changes it would bring to their life. To them. Did he… would Magnus even want him around anymore? Knowing who Alec was, what he was, would Magnus want him in his life? It was one thing to date a Shadowhunter. Another thing entirely to date a Shadowhunter that was secretly an archangel.

Alec could feel a tug in his parabatai bond – a silent plea that Alec had long ago learned to recognize as Jace trying to summon him, pleading with him, back when he used to try and fight to draw Alec out of the darkness that would wrap around his mind.

However, while Alec's bond tugged at his soul, there was something else that tugged at his heart. And though Alec ached to soothe them both, he knew which one needed his attention more.

With another deep breath, dark wings spread out to the sides, and with a soft gust of wind drowned out by the crashing of the waves, he vanished from the clifftop.

No matter how many rooms Alec had stayed in at the Institute, how often he stayed at the loft, or how many different places he traveled to, there was nowhere that spoke of home to him more than the warm fire of everything that made up Magnus. To Alec, home had always been a sensation. A feeling. For the longest time he’d found it in his siblings. Wherever Jace and Isabelle were, that was home to him. For what place could be a home that didn’t have them in it?

His concept of home had grown once he met Magnus. With each passing moment they spent together, each laugh, each kiss, each night curled up watching ridiculous television, each brush of that beautiful magic against Alec's skin, his sense of home shifted.

While his siblings would always mean the world to him, and Alec would happily give his life to keep them safe, being with Magnus made Alec want to live. In a world where Alec had never fit, he’d found a place with Magnus, carved out into that generous heart and wrapped up in a fire that would burn the world down to protect him. A fire in which Alec always knew he’d be safe.

No matter what else was going on or what might’ve changed for Magnus, for Alec, it was a universal truth that could never change – wherever Magnus was, that was home.

That didn’t mean that he was surprised when he had to land outside the loft instead of in it. Magnus’ wards were up, and though they’d always welcomed Alec before, he was different now. Other. Of course they wouldn’t recognize him.

Deep down in his grace came the niggling thought that maybe he was too different. That Magnus had pulled those wards up to keep Alec out instead of welcoming him in the way they always had.

Alec did his best to push that down as far as he could. He’d questioned Magnus before, doubted him, and Magnus had done everything in his power to show Alec that he was worthy of trust. Just as Alec had worked to show Magnus the same. After everything with the Soul Sword, after the lies and the fights and everything between them, they’d come together so much stronger. They’d talked about Alec's actions and the hurt he’d caused with them, and they’d talked about Magnus’ actions and the hurt he’d caused. Together, the two had done their best to make sure neither doubted their need for one another in their life.

Clutching on to that was the only thing that gave Alec the strength to walk through the door of the building.

He tugged his grace down as tight as he could, compressing it into a small ball inside of him so that he wasn’t sending up power flares. So far he’d avoided going back to the one place he really didn’t want to go, and if he didn’t want them coming after him to try and drag him back there, he needed to keep himself shielded.

The wards around the building didn’t prevent Alec from coming inside. Guest wards allowed people in; usually clients. Though this might’ve been for him. He knew Magnus would sense him no matter how far down Alec pushed his grace. The whole way upstairs, Alec wondered, worrying about whether he would be let in or not. Whether those wards would stay up in a clear sign that he wasn’t welcome, or if they would part and allow him to come home.

The last few steps up to the top floor had Alec's heart pounding in his chest. He drew his wings in close against his back, their presence shielded from all eyes, and kept a tight grip on his grace.

What he found when he reached the top step was almost enough to have him losing control of all of it.

Instead of the tightly shut door Alec had feared he would find, the doors to the loft were open wide, and Magnus stood right in the center of them. Hesitant, worried, that little furrow between his brows and his own personal shields up high. The persona of High Warlock with just a little bit of Magnus peeking through. He looked capable, controlled, and so very worried. Though, willing to try. His open doors mad that clear. The opening of his doors was enough to put a crack in the wards that would let Alec in if he so chose.

Alec couldn’t help the way his whole being softened at the sight of him. This wonderful, beautiful man who meant more to Alec than anything.

There were countless words that Alec needed to say. So much that they had to talk about. Yet there was only one thing Alec wanted to do, and his body moved of its own accord to make that happen. In just a few short steps he closed the distance between them. Because he was watching so intently, he could see the surprise that flashed in Magnus’ eyes, the worry, and then the realization as he recognized whatever it was he saw on Alec's face.

Then Alec was there, cupping Magnus’ face between his palms as he’d done so many different times – “I don’t need anything else, Magnus, I’ve got the whole world right here” – and Alec finished closing that last bit of distance as he sealed their lips together.

Kissing Magnus really sank in the feeling of coming home. Everything about Alec softened at the first press of lips. He felt Magnus hesitate, felt him breathe in, and then one of his hands was on Alec's hip and the other curling over his neck, and yes, this was exactly what Alec needed. This was everything he could’ve wanted. Nothing could be so wrong in the world so long as Magnus could still kiss him like that. Like he was the single most important thing to the warlock.

Alec's grace was like warm water brushing against the inside of him. His wings, still glamoured out of sight to everyone, curled instinctively around the one most precious to him. One that he would do everything in his power to keep safe.

Though Magnus had no idea of it, he was currently wrapped in the wings of Heaven’s oldest archangel, safe from everything except God Himself. There was nothing that would be able to get past Alec's wings to get to him.

When they broke apart, Alec tilted his head a little, pressing their foreheads together so that Magnus wouldn’t be able to go far. He didn’t want to give the other man a chance to pull back. Alec didn’t dare open his eyes; he wasn’t sure yet what he was going to see. But he did open his mouth. He’d been trying to think of the words to say on his flight over here and the walk up the stairs.

Only, instead of any of those words, what came out was, “I love you.” They hadn’t been planned and yet only rang with all the more sincerity because of it. Alec let out a shaky breath and slid his hands from Magnus’ face more toward the back of his head, thumbs stroking over his boyfriend’s cheeks. Still, Alec kept his eyes shut and let the soft words come spilling out. “I know everything’s changed, and I don’t know if you still want me around because of it. But I just, I need you to know that I love you. Even with who I am. Even like this. You mean everything to me, Magnus, and I don’t… I’m not…”

Sayang.” Magnus breathed the word out like a prayer against Alec's lips. The love in it, the sheer devotion, had Alec's grace and body shivering. He could feel the hint of worship in Magnus’ words in a way he hadn’t been able to before. That brought with them that tingling rush in his grace that came from hearing and feeling the truly devout. And in this, Magnus was a man of prayer, of divine worship, for him. “Oh, my sweet. My beautiful angel. Don’t you ever doubt I love you, in any and all forms. That hasn’t changed.”

Alec felt tears burn at the backs of his eyes. He wanted to say more, to let Magnus know just how much he still wanted him. He wanted to make absolutely sure that Magnus had no room for doubt about his place in Alec's life.

He should’ve known he wouldn’t have to find the words – Magnus found them for him.

The hands on Alec tightened a little and pulled his body in even closer while Magnus tilted up enough to brush a light kiss against his lips. “You came back to me,” he breathed out against Alec's lips.

In those words were a thousand other things. All the fears Magnus had felt, the ache of Alec leaving, the terror that he might not come back, the relief when he did, and the joy of reconnecting like this. All of it was packed into those five words. In that moment nothing else mattered. They had one another – the rest of it could be figured out. What mattered was that they were here. That Alec had come back home to him.

Opening his eyes, Alec looked down at him and smiled.

The smile he got in return was one that Alec would do just about anything to get. It was his favorite one. Open, bright, without any hint of masks in place. Little crinkles appeared at the corners of his unglamoured eyes, and Alec knew if he traced his thumbs forward there’d be those hints of dimples that Magnus liked to pretend didn’t actually exist. Magnus smiled wide and without reservation. Any of the weight that had been on him moments ago seemed gone.

“Why don’t we take this inside before our guests show up?” Magnus murmured, eyes twinkling.

“Mm, might be a good idea.”

Alec had felt them coming for a little while now. Had known that Jace would try and follow him as soon as Alec loosened his grip on himself and opened up their bond a little more. He’d been doing his best to shelter Jace so that he wouldn’t be hit with the full force of Alec's power through their bond.

They’d be there in just a few minutes at most. Jace, Isabelle, and Clary were all outside the building, getting ready to come up, and Alec could tell they were rushing.

Though it wasn’t easy, the two men broke apart enough to be able to move in out of the doorway. They didn’t separate entirely. Magnus twisted the hand that was on Alec's hip so that he could catch his hand and thread their fingers together.

The front door was left open. Alec knew that Magnus wasn’t worried – his wards were around the building, after all. No one that he didn’t want to be inside would be able to come in here.

By the time the trio made their way up the stairs and to Magnus’ front door, Magnus and Alec were already in the living room. Alec had been pushed down into one of Magnus’ favorite dark blue chairs, while Magus had perched himself on the armrest. It was a deliberate and protective move that had Alec wanting to smile. Even knowing now the kind of power that Alec possessed it didn’t seem to stop Magnus from wanting to protect Alec in whatever way he could. Even if that meant putting himself bodily between Alec and anything that might be considered a threat.

Magnus was likely the only person who would think to try and protect Alec from his siblings. He was the one who saw when their jokes sometimes stopped being a joke for Alec and instead became hurtful, even if that wasn’t what they meant by it. He’d learned when and how to step in and either scold them, draw attention to himself, or distract them with something else. Every time he did it Alec fell in love a little more.

Tonight that skill seemed to be out in full effect. Magnus was reclined back enough that he was propped up a little against the back of the chair, and his legs were crossed casually overtop of Alec's legs, all while he cradled a drink in his hand. He looked lazy, comfortable, and somehow still in charge despite having set himself up almost like an ornament.

Alec knew just how fast Magnus could move, though. How easily he could throw up a shield with a flick of his fingers. Or how quickly he’d be able to push himself up and get between Alec and anything that might dare to threaten him inside their home.

For his part, Alec was trying not to be amused by it all. He wondered vaguely what Magnus would think if he realized that Alec's wings were curling around him, ready to drape over him like a blanket.

The first person to reach Alec's sight was, no surprise, his sister. She practically ran into the room with Jace and Clary coming in close on her heels.

What did surprise Alec was the sheer relief that washed over Isabelle’s face moments before she darted toward him and actually dropped down to her knees in front of his legs. For one brief moment Alec was terrified by the implications of that move and what it could mean. Then Isabelle threw that all out the window when she leaned in, hands pressing on his knees, and looked up into his face. Her eyes were dark, searching, not the reverence he’d been so scared to see.

A shudder ran down Isabelle’s body. To his growing horror, tears burned in her eyes. “Alec.”

So much relief lay heavy in Isabelle’s tone. It told Alec just how scared she’d been – of losing him, of him coming back but not being him.

Magnus shifted just enough that Alec could sit forward and reach out to his little sister. Strong though Isabelle might be, and more capable than any other Shadowhunter Alec knew, she was always going to be his little sister. The girl who hadn’t been afraid to spar with him and kick his ass, and who had come to his room at night when she was scared and wanted her big brother to make it all better. Alec knew the toughness she wore like a shield, the boldness that said how confident in herself she was, and he knew the softer heart that lived underneath, terrified of being hurt and alone.

“I’m all right, hermanita.” Alec tugged her in for a hug, and Isabelle easily folded into his embrace. With him sitting and her kneeling it made for an even more notable height difference than normal. She felt so much younger in that moment.

When they broke apart, Alec looked down and found the bright smile that was lighting up Isabelle’s face. “I’m so glad you’re back.”

“We all are,” Clary chimed in. She’d stepped away from Jace and, though there was a hint of hesitation, she still came up and bent down enough to hug him.

Alec lifted one arm so that he could give her a quick hug back. They’d gotten better since their rather rocky start. Closer. While Alec still had some issues with her, and she had some with him, they were building a friendship. One that had started because of their shared love for Jace and was growing into a reluctant affection for each other.

When Clary drew back, and Isabelle made to rise, Alec found himself looking up at his brother, his parabatai. He didn’t look as thrilled to see him as the others were. If anything, he looked hesitant.

But that wasn’t what had Alec going still. If wasn’t the hesitance in Jace’s body, or the tension in their bond – it was the darkness wrapped entirely around him, and the edge of angelic power still barely touching his soul. One of those, Alec knew immediately what it was, and so many things began to make sense in that moment. But the other – the other had Alec growling a little as he straightened himself up in his seat.

Jace’s eyes darkened in response to that growl. The blackness that was wrapped around him gripped a little tighter as if sensing Alec's power and trying to solidify its hold.

Every part of him that was Alec wanted to grab hold of his parabatai and shake him for being so stupid as to hide what had happened and leave himself exposed like this. The parts of him that were Michael wanted to fly to Heaven and do the same to Raziel for not daring to be more careful.

A hand on Alec's shoulder kept him from rising. “Alexander?”

Magnus’ murmur was meant for Alec's ears alone. Alec would’ve responded in kind, but he was afraid of saying the words out loud and giving that darkness in Jace a chance to hear and respond – or for the one connected to it to realize what was going on. Alec gathered hold of his grace and extended the smallest tendril toward Magnus, a brief brush against him that had Magnus jolting, and then, when Magnus’ own magic reached out in a show of trust that would be something worth thinking about later, Alec used that touch as a conduit for his thoughts, showing Magnus what he was seeing and what it meant.

Thoughts travel faster than words. By the time Alec pushed himself up out of the chair, he’d already explained it all to Magnus. His partner rose with him, discreetly gathering magic until he had enough to grab hold tight and fling up the more intense wards.

Alec added his own with a wave of his hand. Then, eyes on Jace, he gave a soft “I’m sorry, Jace” before reaching out with his power to grab hold of his brother.

Doing this without Jace’s permission felt all kinds of wrong. Alec hated himself for it, though he knew they didn’t have a better option right now. Saying something would’ve given a chance for so many things to happen, and though it might make Jace hate him, Alec wasn’t willing to risk Jace’s life.

In a flash Alec was right there in front of Jace, arms wrapped around him in a hold similar to the one that Jace had put Alec in earlier that night, and wings curling in tight as well. This close the darkness was so damn easy to see. To feel. The way it was leeching on to Jace’s soul made Alec feel sick.

Alec reached down to the soul that was twined together with his, bonded to both his soul and his grace, and he cradled it so very gently. Then Alec extended a bit more grace and began to wrap it around that darkness, the black that stained an otherwise bright and beautiful soul. You can’t have him!

The rest of the world shut off around them. Alec trusted to Magnus to watch his back, to keep them safe. All of Alec's focus was on peeling away the demon tied to Jace’s soul. It fought to hold on, sent there and controlled by someone strong and so very dangerous, but neither of them stood a chance against Alec.

He’s not yours.” The words of power flowed easily over Alec's tongue. He’d always had a gift for languages – now he remembered why. Remembered being there when the only language was Enochian. He remembered watching those languages be born and grow, while that language had stayed a constant in the first place Alec had ever called home.

It felt good to speak those words again. To feel the power of them roll off his tongue. In his hold, the demon shuddered, and Alec grinned. “You have no claim on this soul. It was mine before it was yours, and it will be mine long after I turn you to dust. How quickly that happens or how drawn out I make it depends entirely on how quickly you let him go.

Alec tightened his hold and met the thing power for power. It didn’t let go – couldn’t, Alec could see. Nor did it want to. Alec tightened his hold around it while feeding even more power to curl around Jace’s soul and keep it safe. Only when Alec was sure that the last of his barrier was in place did he finally let his power flow down to the demon he held.

In a flash of grace-light there was nothing left of it, not even ash.

With one last look to make sure that there was nothing left, Alec unwound his grip, taking a moment to soothe away the rougher edges as he went. He fixed the rawness that Raziel had left behind when he’d thrust Jace’s soul back into his body. Sealed the vulnerabilities behind a little patch of grace that would fade as Jace grew stronger.

When Alec finally drew back, he found Jace staring up at him, eyes wide. “What… what the hell did you just do?”

Alec rolled his eyes while he drew the last of his grace back into his own body. “I just saved your ass, that’s what.” A hint of anger seeped into Alec's tone and made it just a bit more cutting. “How about next time you die and get resurrected by an archangel, you maybe don’t lie about it and leave yourself open like that, huh?”

A sharp “What?” came from Isabelle. For her part, Clary was shuffling a little, and her eyes seemed determined to avoid Alec.

Jace was far too used to Alec's sarcasm to let it bother him. Even in a situation like this. He also knew well enough how to read some of the message underneath as well as the emotions in their bond. With a grin that was more carefree than Jace actually felt, he reached up and clapped a hand on Alec's shoulder. “You know you love me, brother.”

“I’m beginning to rethink my life choices,” Alec shot back. Reaching up, he pinched the bridge of his nose and huffed, just a little. “Do you even realize the demon I just pulled off you? Or who was controlling it?”

“Why are we focusing on my problems? We came here to yell at you!” Jace said, letting go of Alec's shoulder to jab a finger against his chest.

“Oh no, you are not brushing this off,” Alec snapped. Then his brows furrowed, and he crossed his arms over his chest. “Wait a second – what do you mean, yell at me?”

“You’re the one who touched the big swirly ball of angel grace and then just vanished on us for an entire day!”

Alec went still, eyebrows shooting up. A day? He’d been gone a day? But… what? “A day?”

A warm hand pressed against the small of Alec's back. It slid up as Magnus stepped in closer, moving through the gap between Alec's wings that he wasn’t even sure Magnus was aware of, making him shiver. Then it settled in on the back of Alec's neck, steadying him in ways that nothing else had ever been able to. When Alec turned to look at Magnus, he saw the answer to his question already written on his boyfriend’s face. The nod Magnus gave only further confirmed it.

He hadn’t meant to be gone that long. Alec closed his eyes and tried to think. How could he have missed that he’d been gone so long? No wonder his return had got the reactions it had. “It didn’t feel like a day,” Alec said, opening his eyes to look at them all again. He wanted to make sure they heard him, that they believed him. Worrying his family wasn’t something Alec had ever wanted to do. Thinking that he’d been gone for hours was bad enough. Realizing it’d been a day made guilt crawl its way up his throat.

The hand on Alec's neck gave a steadying squeeze. One that had Alec sinking down into Magnus’ touch.

“Why don’t we all have a seat?” Magnus suggested, shifting his weight just enough that it put him between Alec and the others. The move wasn’t subtle; Alec had no doubt the others saw it and recognized it for what it was. This was Magnus’ way of telling them to back off. He nudged Alec back toward the chair before letting go and spreading his hands out grandly in front of him. “I imagine we’re all tired. I don’t know about you, but I think this is a conversation that requires drinks. What would you all like?”

In just a few easy words Magnus took control of the room. Alec found himself back in his chair, Magnus sitting once more on the armrest while he waved his hands in grand displays of magic far more elaborate than they needed to be, getting everyone seated and summoning drinks.

The momentary break in tension was just what they needed. Alec let himself sink into his chair a little more, body curved ever so slightly toward Magnus, and he cradled the mug of hot chocolate Magnus had given him. He hadn’t asked Alec what he wanted, just summoned him his usual comfort drink, hidden in an overlarge mug that claimed “I can’t even think straight” over a rainbow.

A little bit of grace summoned some of the rum Magnus would in for him on a particularly hard day.

When Alec looked up, he caught the slanted look Magnus sent his way, the hint of amusement when he looked down at the mug, clearly understanding what it was Alec had done. At Alec's shameless grin, Magnus chuckled and turned his focus back to the others.

Alec took advantage of this last moment of quiet to gather himself and his thoughts. He pushed away the guilt at how long he’d been gone – it was over and done with, and being upset wasn’t going to change it. All he could do was move forward. This conversation was going to be hard enough as it was. He was going to have to explain things – things that had hurt so bad all those years ago that Alec had chosen to rip apart his grace and become human just to escape from it.