Alec Lightwood had spent most of his life thinking there was something wrong with him. For so many different reasons, and in so many different ways. The biggest of which was something he kept secret for a very long time, right up until the wedding-that-wasn’t, when he let the whole of the world know with one amazing kiss.
He thought maybe that letting go of the weight of that secret might make the other parts of himself feel a little less different. Alec had convinced himself that the whole reason he’d felt like he didn’t fit in for so long was because he’d been denying this part of himself for almost half his life. And for a while, it worked. Having Magnus in his life, being around him, being with him, made Alec feel like he belonged for the first time. In the world, in his skin. Magnus made him feel real.
But there remained a part of Alec that just… wasn’t quite right. A nagging voice inside of him that said this was wrong, he was wrong. It followed him, nagging at him, coloring so many parts of his life. It was like a voice in the back of his head that whispered that this was wrong, all of it, all of him .
Those voices were quieter when he laid in Magnus’ arms at night. Being around him silenced them in a way nothing else ever had. Alec could’ve loved him for that alone.
Of course, he loved him for so much more. Magnus was amazing and Alec would fight anyone who dared suggest otherwise.
Though the voices never quite went away, Alec could handle them, so long as he had Magnus to come home to each night. There wasn’t much Alec couldn’t handle with Magnus by his side.
So when Magnus was taken from him, when he walked away because Alec was too young and too stupid to do the right thing and he pushed him away, it left the young Shadowhunter alone, aching, and far more vulnerable to those voices than he had been for a long, long time.
Despite what others thought of him, suicide hadn’t ever been something Alec contemplated. He had too many people in his life who needed him for him to ever consider that an option. If he was gone, who would watch over Jace? Isabelle? Max ? Alec didn’t want to leave them. Nor was it something those voices pushed him toward. They whispered that things were wrong, that he was wrong, but they’d never pushed him toward some final solution .
They got louder during those next few days after Magnus left. Alec tried to drown them out with work, with his family, with anything that could keep him going, busy. It was when he stopped that it hurt. So long as Alec kept going, kept doing, he could make it through all this.
Then it all went to hell and back with a portal to Edom, the brief loss of his parabatai rune, the summoning of Raziel, Jace’s mystical resurrection, Valentine’s death. Alec's world was spinning, twisting out of his control, and he wasn’t sure how to find his footing.
Not until that party – until he saw Magnus across the crowded room. There, with the problems in their world briefly done, and the fear in his heart that had sat there ever since Raziel’s light had washed over the shores of Lake Lyn, Alec gathered up his courage and went to make things right with the one person who made every single day one worth living.
It was just as everything was starting to get back to normal that Alec's life was once more turned on its head, and he finally got an answer to the voices that had been plaguing him for a lifetime.
For the next few weeks after Valentine’s death a lot of things in life got back to normal. Or, as normal as they could ever be. Their lives had changed so much these past few months there was no real definition of normal anymore. Not that Alec thought that was a bad thing.
“We make our own normal,” Isabelle had told him a few days ago, smiling as she leaned in against him and watched Clary and Jace spar together, laughing at one another as they did. “Things aren’t going to be like they were before, and that’s okay. We’re all in a better place now. We’ve got amazing new people in our lives. And if it took all of those things to bring them to us, to bring us here, then I don’t regret a single minute of it, hermano .”
Alec had smiled down at her; that smile that only family ever got to see. Then he’d tugged her in enough to press a kiss against her hair. “You’re right.”
His words had been weak compared to hers, but that was okay. Isabelle understood what he meant. She’d always been the better of the two with real words. Not work ones, or the parroted words that Alec could give, but the real kind. The kind so full of emotion and honesty. It was their joke that she spoke enough for the both of them.
What she’d said hadn’t been wrong, though. The more Alec thought about it the more he liked it. They were making their own new normal. One that involved them all being happy. Jace and Clary were settling in to one another, and though Alec caught a few quiet, aching moments from his brother, his relationship with Clary looked like it was stronger than ever.
Isabelle looked happier, too, even if she seemed to think no one else saw it. Alec wasn’t blind. He could see how often she was going out to the Hunter’s Moon lately. He saw her there a lot whenever he and Magnus went for drinks and some pool. It wasn’t hard to notice how she always seemed to choose the nights that Maia was bartending, or how she’d lean in on the bar with that same flirtatious smile Alec had seen her use countless times. Nor did he miss the fact that Simon of all people often seemed to be with them.
Alec didn’t claim to understand it. They seemed like such a random group, yet he couldn’t deny how they smiled when they were together. Even if he did think Isabelle was a little crazy for showing such clear interest in two different people.
He had a hard enough time dating one person. How on earth could she manage two ?
Magnus and Alec had been through quite a few hard times since they’d gotten together. Ups and downs that might’ve broken a lesser couple. But, they were making their way through it all together. Getting back together didn’t mean their relationship just fell right back to where it used to be. There was too much between them for that to happen. Hurt feelings and mistakes that had been made on both sides. Alec's mistake had been bigger, but Magnus insisted that he wasn’t without mistakes of his own.
“It’s okay to be mad at me,” he told Alec, the two of them curled into bed together back in those early days right after they got back together. With one hand he’d reached out and brushed a bit of hair so gently back from Alec's face. “I hurt you, sweet one. You’ve got a right to be upset about that.”
“I was the one that messed up. I hurt you…”
Magnus had cut Alec off with a kiss. “And I lashed out at you instead of trying to talk to you like adults. I’m not saying what you did was okay. I’m just saying that you have a right to be upset, too. It’s not a matter of who hurt who more. We were both hurt, and if we want to heal and grow stronger from this, we both have to acknowledge that.”
The fact that Magnus could say something like that and mean it was something Alec didn’t know what to do with. No one had ever told him it was okay to be upset. Especially not when he was the one who was the reason behind their argument. No one but Magnus.
Little by little, bit by bit, everything in Alec's personal life was starting to fall back together, though there were definite bumps in the road.
Jace’s continued silence about what happened at Lake Lyn.
Magnus’ loss of his position as High Warlock.
Yet even with those, things still seemed better .
Unfortunately, in his professional life things weren’t as easy. The Institute was Alec's, wholly and completely, but that didn’t mean the Clave wasn’t still watching every little move Alec made, waiting for him to mess up. Which made it all the more imperative for Alec to figure out what was going on with the mundane murders in his city, all while trying to continue to clean up Valentine’s mess.
The Clave didn’t seem eager to go around cleaning up the mess Valentine had left behind. He was dead, Clary was a hero, and in their eyes that meant all was well now.
Alec couldn’t travel the world finding all of the remaining Circle members and any of their hideouts, but he could clean up New York. They’d found a few different places so far, some of which had still housed people . Downworlders held prisoner, showing signs of torture.
As little as Alec liked to do it, for those moments he had to call in the current High Warlock of Brooklyn – Lorenzo Rey. The man was pompous, smarmy, annoying, and he’d taken the job that Magnus loved. Alec was just sort of predisposed to dislike him.
Which made it all the harder to admit just how kind the man could be when he was there, releasing Downworlders and getting them to safety. Alec didn’t want to admit there was anything good about him. He was quite content in hating him. But he was good with his people when it mattered.
That didn’t mean Alec was going to call him in without whining a little.
“Suck it up, brother,” Jace told him, grinning broadly at him. They were walking together in the hallway of another one of Valentine’s buildings, having finished clearing it of the Circle members that had been there. They’d found a cage with only a few Downworlders in it, and per Lorenzo’s orders, they hadn’t released them on their own. It was a logical response. Magnus likely would’ve requested the same. Many of the warlocks that had been held could lash out when their shackles were released. Doing it this way was hard, but it was safer for them all.
Lorenzo was in there with them now while a cleanup crew was taking care of the bodies of the Circle members who’d refused to come quietly. Alec and his team – him, Jace, Clary, and Isabelle – were supposed to be clearing the rest of the rooms.
Alec scowled as he headed toward the door his sister and Clary had just gone through. “I didn’t even say anything.”
“Trust me, you didn’t have to. That scowl says it all.” Teasingly, Jace jabbed his elbow at Alec, grinning the whole time. “We get it. The guy’s an asshole who stole your boy’s job, and you’re feeling a little growly over it.”
Any other time and Alec might’ve growled at Jace just to show him what an asshole Alec thought he was. But hearing Jace tease him, seeing him laugh without some of the shadows that sometimes edged that look, Alec couldn’t bring himself to risk messing that up. Jace was getting better day by day; Alec wanted nothing more than to keep that going for as long as he possibly could.
He opened his mouth, a teasing remark on his lips, only for everything to cut off as the two of them stepped through the door and into the room.
Alec could feel the prickle of something cold and sharp over his skin when he stepped into the room. Wards . They’d passed through wards. How they were still let inside was something the logical part of his brain registered vaguely. The rest of him was laser focused dead ahead where a table sat against the far wall, covered in random items. Whatever those other items were, Alec didn’t know and he didn’t care. One item in particular held his attention like it’d reached out and grabbed at his soul.
A large orb sat on a twisted black metal stand in the middle of the table. It was about the size of a bowling ball, and full of a swirling bluish-white light that seemed to pulse brighter the closer that Alec stepped toward it. Those voices inside of Alec that he’d mostly learned to ignore were suddenly screaming at him, louder and louder, demanding that he step forward and reach out, that he take that orb and get it far away from anyone and everyone before they hurt it.
Someone touched Alec's arm, and he lashed out, knocking them back and away. Only they were just as fast, and though Alec got a few blows in, his focus was too split. In moments there were arms around him holding him down tightly.
“Go get Lorenzo!” snapped a deep voice right next to Alec's ear. He knew that voice, knew the arms that held him.
Jace, that’s Jace. Jace is the one holding you. Though Alec's chest throbbed like something was trying to claw its way out, he knew that touch, could feel the warmth that Jace was sending down their bond, and Alec latched on to it with every ounce of effort he had.
He felt his brother lean in close until his voice was right by Alec's ear. “Hang on, Alec,” Jace murmured. “Lorenzo’s on his way. I don’t know what’s going on, but he’s gonna figure it out, all right?”
“What happened to him?” Another voice – Clary, this time.
Jace huffed lightly, his breath tickling Alec's ear. “I don’t know, but I can feel him freaking out, and he was dead set on getting to that thing. Seems like a good idea not to let him get up there.”
Slowly but surely Alec was dragging himself back under control. It was hard, and he felt like he was clinging to it by his fingertips, but he did it.
Right up until the moment that Isabelle came back in the room with Lorenzo.
As soon as they entered, Alec went tense. But it was once they started walking forward – “He seemed focused over there, on that table,” Isabelle said, pointing toward the table – that Alec's control started to shatter. He held it together when Lorenzo was closer to the door and Alec was between them.
The instant Lorenzo stepped past them, Alec lost it.
In a move that clearly surprised Jace, as well as the others, Alec delivered a quick blow backward and then ducked down and shoved, breaking his body free of Jace’s hold. He lashed out with a twisting kick that caught Lorenzo in the chest and sent him flying back toward the door – far away from the orb.
Alec spun himself so that he was between the orb and everyone else. His blade was in his hand though he couldn’t remember drawing it. “Stay back,” he snarled out.
“Alec, what the hell?” Jace asked. He took a step forward, one hand lifted, only to freeze when Alec snarled again.
Lorenzo pushed himself up from the ground, eyes hooded. “Something on that table must have control of him.”
Isabelle snorted. “You think?”
“What do we do?” Clary asked. She, like Isabelle, was staying off to the side, out of the way, though clearly braced and ready to help in an instant.
“I need to get over there and try to analyze whatever’s on the table that might be doing this. But to do that, I’m going to need you to remove Mr. Lightwood from the room, though keep him in the building. I doubt whatever has a hold on him will let him go very far.”
This time it was Jace who made a snorting, scoffing sound. He shot Lorenzo a look that clearly asked: are you serious? “I don’t think he’s gonna let us take him anywhere right now. Or let you close.”
“You can either remove him, or I can,” Lorenzo said firmly. His voice wasn’t unkind; he wasn’t trying to be harsh. He was just doing what he thought needed to be done.
Unfortunately for him, no one else in the room agreed. Clary tightened her hands on her weapons, and Isabelle let her whip uncoil a little while she shifted closer to her brother. “Touch him, and you’ll deal with me,” she said, a very clear threat in her voice. She meant what she said.
“Magnus always told us not to try and separate someone from a magical thing if it looks like they’re connected somehow,” Clary said. She’d learned that lesson the one time Jace had touched something he wasn’t supposed to – okay, three times – and she’d tried once to pull him away.
The mention of Magnus’ name had some of the screaming in Alec getting a little bit quieter. He perked up, lowering his weapon a little.
Whatever was coming through his bond with Jace must’ve shown Alec's reaction to that. He saw Jace’s head snap over toward him, a contemplative look on his face.
“Screw this,” Jace snapped suddenly. He yanked his phone from his pocket while pointing a finger at Lorenzo. “You – stay there.” Then, after punching one number, Jace brought his phone up to his ear. A second later they all heard why. “Magnus? Yeah, I need you to grab something of Alec's and track us so you can portal here. We’re at one of Valentine’s hideouts and Alec needs you here, now.”
There was no quicker way to get Magnus moving than to let him know that Alec needed him. Alec tried to summon up the strength to speak, to tell Jace to at least give Magnus more information than that, but he was caught up in a swell of gratitude that Jace was bringing him here at all. By the time Alec found his voice, Jace had already hung up the phone.
Lorenzo started to protest, loudly, but Alec couldn’t seem to hear him. The voices were starting to get louder again. They were demanding that Alec ignore them all and go to it, go to the orb and pick it up, keep it safe.
“Hey.” Jace’s voice cut through Alec's steadily growing panic. When Alec moved his eyes toward him – when had he turned himself to face the orb again? – he found his brother right there beside him, steady and strong despite everything going on. Jace didn’t try and reach out to touch him. He smiled gently at Alec. “Whatever this is, we’re gonna take care of it. Magnus is on his way. Until he gets here, we’ll make sure no one touches you or whatever it is that’s got a hold on you, okay?”
Staring at Jace, Alec slowly nodded. He could trust Jace. They were brothers – parabatai. Jace wouldn’t let anything happen to Alec or the orb.
That reminder helped Alec keep calm as Jace waved Isabelle and Clary over. The three of them took up post between the orb and Lorenzo without ever blocking off Alec's path to it. He had to fight not to flinch at seeing them so close. When they turned their backs to the orb, facing Lorenzo, it got a little easier.
Then something brushed against Alec's senses that had his head snapping up toward the door. Everyone else looked over at the same time.
Not even five seconds later, the door opened and Magnus came walking in, his eyes immediately seeking out Alec the way they always seemed to. Once he saw him, he shifted his path, heading toward him while clearly looking Alec over for any hint of an injury. “Alexander.”
“Thanks for coming,” Alec said. Even he could hear how flat his voice was. The way it seemed like all emotion had been sucked out of it. Right at the moment it was the only way Alec could manage this without screaming. He hadn’t even been able to talk to the others. But Magnus? For Magnus, Alec could try.
He could see the worry that was bright in Magnus’ eyes. His cat eyes peeked through briefly; just a hint of the concern he felt. Moving carefully, Magnus stopped right in front of Alec. Likely it was only Lorenzo’s presence that kept him from reaching out for Alec and pulling him in close to check him over. The presence of Alec's family wouldn’t have stopped him. “What did you need? Your parabatai only said you wanted me here, not what you needed me for.”
A brief flick of his eyes over to Lorenzo added layers to that question. A why do you need me with him here?
Licking his lips, Alec fought to keep himself as steady as he could. To not move a muscle. If he did, he didn’t know that he’d be able to stop himself. What little control Magnus’ presence seemed to have granted him felt shaky. Alec looked Magnus in the eye and told him, “I wanted you here to take a look at the artifact on the table.”
“And I told you, Mr. Lightwood, that I could handle this,” Lorenzo interjected. His voice made it clear just how pissed off he was getting. “My warlocks are not for you to order around. Requests like this come through me first.”
The two ignored him completely, the same as Alec had been ignoring him ever since Jace had called Magnus, and the rest of his team had gone to stand between Lorenzo and the orb.
Magnus kept his eyes on Alec's. “Okay. Can you tell me why?”
“Because from the minute I walked into the room all I wanted to do was touch it,” Alec said bluntly, watching as Magnus’ eyes went wide with surprise. “And the idea of anyone other than you touching it makes something in my chest start to scream.”
That had Magnus sucking in a sharp breath while the rest of the room went silent. Not even Lorenzo was protesting anymore. His eyes were sharp and fixed on Alec, his gaze deep and assessing in a way that would’ve left Alec uncomfortable at any other time. Right then, Alec couldn’t spare the focus to be uncomfortable. It was taking every ounce of his control to stay still.
“Okay.” Magnus nodded a little, and in that look was a steadiness Alec knew he could lean on. “Can you stay where you are for me, Alexander?”
The breath Alec took was a little shakier than he liked. But not an inch of his body moved. “Yes.” Then, a little softer, “Just…stay where I can see you? I need everyone to stay where I can see them.”
Thinking about any of them being out of his sight, of being able to do something in this room that he couldn’t see, had a fine tremor running down Alec's body. He could tell by the way that Magnus’ eyes moved that he took note of it. There was very little he missed when it came to Alec.
When his eyes lifted back up to Alec's, they were steady and unglamoured. “No one’s going to move out of your sight. I’m going to move away now, and I’m going to get closer to the table. If at any point you start to feel uncomfortable with it, I need you to let me know immediately. This is not the time to be strong and silent about anything. Understand?”
Watching Magnus move away from him wasn’t easy. But it was far easier to see him getting close to the table than it was for Alec to watch anyone else.
Just as Magnus reached about a foot away, close to where Jace and Isabelle were helping Alec stand guard, that part of Alec that was demanding he get closer - that he touch - started to get louder. He found himself saying “Stop” before he’d even realized he was going to.
Magnus stopped immediately. He’d been watching Alec while he moved, watching both him and the table, and Alec was pretty sure Magnus had noticed Alec's distress at the same instant Alec felt it.
With a sweep of his eyes Magnus took in everything around him. Whatever he found had him connecting eyes with Lorenzo for a long second, finally breaking away with a nod. Then he looked back to Alec. Despite that, it wasn’t to Alec that he spoke. “Jace, Clarissa, Isabelle, I want you to slowly step back away from the table. One single step first. Then another.”
Alec didn’t look away from Magnus to see if the two were doing it. He heard them, heard their steps slowly start to back away. They were almost to him when Alec felt that place inside of him slowly quiet down again.
Magnus nodded like he could see Alec relaxing. “Stop,” he told the other two. Immediately the sound of their footsteps came to a halt. Then, still holding Alec's gaze, Magnus took one step backward, toward the table.
It was so hard to keep himself standing there. To not move as he watched Magnus finally come to a stop right next to the table. The voices inside of Alec were stronger, shouting at him, demanding that he go over there and grab the orb before anyone else could dare touch it ever again.
“I’m not going to touch it,” Magnus said, his words so close to Alec's thoughts that the nephilim wondered yet again if Magnus had some sort of mind reading power. “What I’m going to do is reach out with my magic and feel the air around it. Just a simple diagnostic you’ve seen me do countless times before. If I need to do anything more, I’ll let you know before I do. However, I need you to continue to do as I asked. If at any point you start to feel uncomfortable, tell me .”
All Alec could do was nod. His voice felt like it’d dried up in his throat the instant Magnus stopped by the table.
Alec's body felt like it was vibrating as he watched Magnus gather magic in his hands and reach out for the orb.
As Magnus had said, this wasn’t the first time Alec had seen Magnus do this. He’d always been their go-to person to call in when they came across magical artifacts. Though, they’d been forced to call in Lorenzo instead ever since he took on the title of High Warlock, and Alec couldn’t help but compare the two. Lorenzo was powerful – Alec didn’t doubt that. His magic had a strong, electric crackle to it that seemed to suit the warlock.
Magnus, however – Magnus’ power was like fire . Strong, in turns comforting and dangerous. Capable of burning them all to the ground or wrapping around them with a healing, peaceful warmth. It could create and destroy in equal measure. Alec loved it as much as he loved any other part of Magnus.
He watched as it teasingly licked through the air around the orb without ever coming close enough to touch it. Alec's heart stuttered in his chest at the sight of it. Instead of the panic that Alec had been half afraid he would feel, that first touch of magic brought a sense of peace that had Alec slumping slightly.
The movement wasn’t lost on Magnus. His eyes cut sharp from the magic over to Alec, all of him going still in response. “Alexander?”
“It’s fine,” Alec managed to croak out. The words felt like they were dragged up from the core of him. It was all he could manage.
Magnus looked him over, taking in every inch of him. Alec wondered what it was he saw. Did he see how Alec was relaxing? How much easier it was for him to breathe? Could he tell how Alec wanted to slump forward into that touch of magic and feel it against his skin, his feathers, his very soul .
When Magnus turned back to the orb, his magic brightened a little. “Whatever this is has a strong shield around it. I might be able to get a look, but I’m going to have to reach in closer to do that. Are you okay with that, Alexander?”
Alec nodded, a soft “yeah” barely breathed out past his lips.
“Lorenzo, would you mind shielding the room?”
If Lorenzo was bothered by being ordered around, he didn’t say anything. There was a crackle of magic in the air that wrapped over the room. Another one that seemed to go up in front of the others like a shield to keep them back and safe. Alec was grateful for that. He’d have to thank Lorenzo later.
Then Magnus’ magic pushed forward, reaching, and Alec's whole world whited out. Nothing else existed but the pulse of Magnus’ magic that was echoed by both the orb and Alec's heart . The two beat in time, pulsing together in waves that blocked out any sound. Alec could feel as the fire of Magnus’ magic finally connected with the cooler power of the orb.
Light flared up brightly in the room. There was a roaring in Alec's ears, a voice shouting, and the sound of drums pulsing in his heart, his chest, the very air . Alec didn’t realize he was falling, didn’t feel the impact of his knees on the ground.
All at once the light vanished. Alec found himself with a hand pressed to the ground and his heart beating hard in his chest. He looked up, only to find Magnus staring at him with wide eyes. Firm hands were on Alec's shoulders, keeping him from tumbling further down, and Alec registered them as Jace and safe , but he kept his focus on his boyfriend and whatever the hell had just happened.
Magnus blinked down at Alec. An indecipherable look crossed over his face. He blinked, and his glamour slid into place like a shield. One that hid his thoughts deep inside.
To the surprise of the room, Magnus drew in a breath and said “Let him go.”
The question was echoed by a few voices around the room. Magnus ignored them, only watching Alec. “Let him go.”
The hands on Alec reluctantly let him go until Alec was supported only by his own arms. He pushed upward, carefully rising to his feet without ever once taking his eyes off of Magnus. “Magnus?”
“Do you trust me?” Magnus asked.
Alec blinked at him a few times. The question seemed so ridiculous. He didn’t even have to think before answering. “Yes.”
A small tremor ran through Magnus. The lines around his eyes tightened ever so slightly. Yet his voice stayed calm and steady. “What’s in this orb will not harm you, Alexander. It’s yours, and as such, could never hurt you. If I had been here with you before you came in the room, I might’ve been able to stop it from calling out to you, but now that it has, there’s no way for me to block that connection. This is magic far beyond my own.”
“So, what? You’re saying you can’t help him?” Jace demanded from somewhere behind Alec.
Neither one of them moved. Magnus held his stare, and it looked to Alec like he was grieving. Pain darkened his eyes. Slowly, deliberately, Magnus took a step back, and with one hand he gestured toward the orb. “It’s yours, Alexander. All you have to do is reach out and take it.”
Alec wanted to ask him what the hell was going on. What this was, and why Magnus looked so pained by it. He wanted to demand answers.
Only, he couldn’t.
With Magnus’ permission it was like the power of the orb was reaching out even stronger than before. It called to Alec, tugging at him, pulling at that place inside where the voices were still screaming, and Alec was helpless to do anything but respond. He’d fought for far too long. His everything demanded that he go up there and take what was rightfully his.
Some part of Alec registered Magnus stepping back once more, watching from the sidelines with a sad look in his eyes that Alec had never wanted to see there. But there was no room left in him to do anything about it. Alec's feet took him straight to the table, and his hands reached out for the orb like they had a mind of their own.
The world felt like it held its breath when Alec's hand got close. Like it drew in, everything going still for that one brief moment it took for Alec's hand to close that last inch and press against the cool glass.
Alec and the light both went still. He could see it, feel it there under his palm, but for a moment, a heartbeat, nothing happened.
And then the world exhaled.
Power surged up, shattering the glass of the orb, only Alec couldn’t pay it any mind. The light was pouring into him and Alec welcomed it with open arms. He threw his head back, a joyous laugh spilling past his lips. The sound tasted like home . It filled him, chasing away all the aches and pains, scattering the voices that had plagued Alec for the entirety of his life. It broke Alec apart and built him anew. Better .
Music filled his ears. A chorus in the distance screaming out a cry of fear and joy, welcome and loss, a whole symphony that Alec felt in his soul, his grace .
Alec Lightwood died there in that small room, surrounded by his family, and was reborn again as he had once been, and as he was always meant to be.
Wide wings of black spread out, and with a great push, Alec took to the sky.
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.