It’s surprisingly hard to organise a Lightwood family dinner.
It shouldn’t be, since three of them live in the Institute together and the others are only a portal away, but it is. Alec has been trying to get his parents to come over and spend an evening with them all month, but they’ve both been coming up with reasons to avoid it. He knows the divorce hit them hard, he does. He just wishes they could put their children first once in a while.
He’s never asked them for anything. He stayed quiet when they didn’t show up for his promotion ceremony, didn’t protest when they refused to support his Downworld Cabinet, and grit his teeth when they let him struggle with the Institute and his siblings alone. This is different, though. For once, he wants his parents here.
So he keeps pushing. He pushes and pushes until they accept. Izzy and Jace don’t understand why he’s being so persistent, but this is important to Alec. His siblings mean the world to him, but he wants his parents to be a part of is life too. No matter how much they screwed up when he was younger, he truly believes they love him and his siblings, and he doesn’t want to cut them off completely.
The dinner rolls around a month and a half after he first tried organising it, and he doesn’t know whether he’s nervous, relieved, or excited. He’s standing in the Institute’s entrance hall, his siblings waiting for them in the office he turned into a nice dining area, and he can’t stop his feet’s awkward shuffling.
“There’s no reason for you to be nervous, Alexander.”
Alec turns to smile at his boyfriend, shrugging sheepishly. Magnus is staring at him fondly and it’s enough to remind Alec of why he’s doing this in the first place. Magnus deserves to be shown off, even to his dubiously-accepting parents. He doesn’t want them to find out about his boyfriend from someone else, so this is necessary. Stress-inducing, but absolutely necessary.
“I know,” he sighs. “I just… I don’t think they’ll react horribly, but what if they do? Are we supposed to sit through an uncomfortable dinner and act as though everything is okay?”
“Let’s not think about that what ifs just yet,” Magnus says softly, rubbing Alec’s shoulders in a futile effort to get rid of the tension. Magnus may be magical, but not even his powers can relax Alec when he’s in one of these moods. “I may not love your parents, darling, but they know this is important to you. I’m sure they’ll do their best to stay polite and play nice.”
His hands still and slide down to the small of his back and Alec leans into the touch. A second later, his parents step into the Institute. Alec’s eyebrows fly up. After all the arguing on their end about spending time with each other, he thought they’d spend the entire night arguing. He certainly didn’t expect to see them arrive together.
“Mom, dad,” he greets them with a small smile. They may be a pain to deal with most of the time, but they’re still his parents. He loves them, flaws and all. “Thank you so much for coming.”
“Alexander.” Alec winces at his father’s use of his name. Ever since Magnus and he started dating, he hasn’t been able to stand the sound of ‘Alexander’ from anyone other than his boyfriend.
“Alec,” his mother corrects, looking between Magnus and he confusedly. “And Bane. I wasn’t aware this was a business dinner.”
“It isn’t,” Alec says immediately. “Why don’t we go join everyone else? Could Max not make it?”
“He’s busy at the Academy,” his father answers, trying to take the lead as they walk towards Alec’s office. Magnus rolls his eyes and propels Alec forwards with a tiny bit of magic. If Robert notices, he doesn’t say anything. “He wanted me to tell you he misses you and wishes he had been able to come. We’ll try to organise something with him later.”
Magnus snorts and Alec shoots him an amused smile. Given how hard this dinner was to organise, Alec isn’t exactly hopeful about future family events either. Still, he doesn’t call his father out on it.
The rest of the trip is silent, interrupted only by a few questions about the Institute and the new shadowhunter transfers and recent reports. His parents clearly have no idea why they’re here, and Alec itches to tell them. However, he wants Jace and Izzy to be there to back him up, so he’ll just have to wait a few minutes longer.
They enter his office-turned-dining-room and Alec stands aside as his parents greet Jace and Izzy just as awkwardly as they greeted him. His siblings are still obviously unsure about their presence, but Alec doesn’t care. He forces a smile onto his face as he gestures for everyone to sit down.
Alec sits at the head of the table, Magnus on his right and his father on his left. Izzy settles at the other end of the table, with Jace next to their father. That leaves their mother to sit on Magnus’ other side. The arrangement isn’t perfect, but Alec doesn’t think there’s a way for everyone to be satisfied, so it’ll have to do.
“What is this dinner about, Alec?” his father asks.
“And what is the warlock doing here?” his mother adds, though she winces when all three of her children narrow their eyes at her dangerously. She should know better than to speak about downworlders that way, especially in front of her ‘rebellious’ children. “I just mean…”
“I get what you mean, mom,” Alec deflates. He knows she’s trying, no matter how terrible her attempts are. “And I invited you here because even though we don’t always see eye to eye, I don’t want you to fade out of my life. You deserve to know who my boyfriend is, so I thought I would be nice to introduce you to him. This is Magnus Bane, although I’m sure you already know that. We’ve been dating for five months now.”
“Almost six,” Magnus pipes up, staring at Alec adoringly. Raziel, Alec loves this man. They haven’t actually said the words out loud yet, but Alec can see it in Magnus’ gaze and knows his dopey grins are just as revealing. “The best six months of my life, if I may say so.”
Alec blushes and shakes his head at his boyfriend exasperatedly before glancing back at his parents. They’re both looking between Magnus and him with wide eyes, blinking rapidly and gaping unattractively.
“I’m sorry, what?” His mother’s voice cracks and she clears her throat. “You two are… dating?”
“We are,” Alec says firmly. Magnus is the best thing in his life and he will always defend their relationship. “I know you have a past with him, and I know you don’t have the most positive opinions on downworlders, but I’m asking that you try to get along. For me, please. He means the world to me, and I won’t hesitate to ban you from this Institute if you refuse to treat him with the respect he deserves.”
“Of course,” his mother frowns. Next to Alec, his father is conspicuously silent. “But… A man? Why did you never tell us?”
“Yes, a man,” Alec rolls his eyes. “And I never told you because I never found the right moment to do it. I wasn’t purposefully hiding the truth from you, or at least I haven’t been for over two years, but it never came up in a conversation. However, I feel like you have the right to hear about Magnus from me. He’s important to me, and you are too, so I’d like for you to get to know each other.”
His mother looks away from him and stares at Magnus instead, plastering a smile onto her face. It doesn’t look completely genuine, but it’s an effort Alec appreciates. It’s a sign that she’s trying. He can’t ask for much more.
“A pleasure to meet you, Magnus,” she says politely. Magnus’ hard gaze softens minutely, and Alec knows he understands how difficult this must be for his parents. His parents may have never said anything about it, but Alec knows they were expecting him to marry a proper shadowhunter woman. The fact that his mother is talking to Magnus at all is more than he had dared to hope for. “Can I ask how Alec and you met, if that’s alright? I know he has a Downworld Cabinet now, is that how everything started?”
Magnus grins and launches into the tale of his and Alec’s first meeting. Alec leaves them to it, turning towards his father. The man is gripping his cutlery too tightly for it to be anything than intentional, and Alec winces internally.
Izzy and Jace are staring at them carefully, their gazes sharp and assessing as they wait for their father to speak. Alec is so grateful for them, and he hopes they understand why he wanted everyone to be present for this talk. He doesn’t think he could have gone through this twice, once with each parent, and he doesn’t think he could have done it without his siblings.
Their eternal support never fails to amaze him, even though he knows he would do – and will do – the same thing for them when the time comes for them to reveal their own secrets. It’s how the Lightwood siblings work, always there to have each other’s backs.
“I don’t understand,” his father finally answers. His jaw is clenched and his eyes dark. Alec knows he isn’t going to like what comes next and steels himself for the incoming blow. “Why would you lower yourself to a downworlder like him?”
Alec almost bursts out laughing. It seems that even when it comes to his relationship, his parents are incapable of agreeing. His mother is more bothered by his partner’s gender – probably worried about grandchildren – whereas his father is, as always, stuck in his prejudices.
He doesn’t seem to care too much about Magnus being a man, but he’s always prided himself on having a perfect shadowhunter family. If Alec and Magnus stay together for life, the ‘shadowhunter’ part of that family will no longer be accurate. Too bad Alec doesn’t care.
“I’m not lowering myself to anyone,” Alec answers calmly.
He’s seething on the inside, but he knows his father is more likely to listen if he keeps his cool. So no matter how much he wants to yell at the man for being such a bigot, he doesn’t. Magnus is still speaking to his mother, but he takes the time to squeeze Alec’s hand, and Alec knows it’s his boyfriend’s way of saying he’s proud of him.
“Magnus isn’t ‘lower’ than me,” Alec continues, huffing bemusedly. “If anything, he’s so much more than I am. He’s a powerful warlock, respected by every downworlder in this city, a part of the Downworld Cabinet, and one of the kindest human beings I have ever met. There is no world in which you and I are his superiors. You either respect him or leave.”
He stares at his father until the man drops his gaze, looking back down at his plate. For a second, Alec wonders if he’s going to apologise. He hopes he’s going to apologise. He knew about the risks when he organised this dinner, but he’s still surprised when his father stands up, his chair scraping loudly as he pushes it back. His siblings look murderous, and Magnus is looking at Alec worriedly.
“I need time,” his father murmurs. “I love you, son, but I’m not sure I understand this. And I’m definitely not sure I can sit here and eat with your… boyfriend and act as though this is alright. I’m sorry.”
The apology doesn’t soothe the hurt festering inside Alec’s chest. He gulps and nods, keeping his eyes on Magnus rather than on his father. He doesn’t want to look at him, doesn’t want to see the disappointment and confusion and everything else he’s undoubtedly feeling.
He doesn’t say anything even though his father clearly expects him to, and he only breathes again when the man finally leaves the room. The tense atmosphere lightens minutely, but Alec is still frowning, and his siblings are still glaring at the door as though they’ll be able to set their father on fire telepathically.
“He’ll come around eventually.”
Shockingly, it’s his mother who breaks the silence. She’s staring at Alec sadly, her eyes apologetic and her lips pressed tightly together. She hasn’t loved their father for a long time, but she was his wife for a very long time and apologising for his actions is probably an instinctual reaction. Still, Alec refuses to let her take the blame for their father’s actions.
“Maybe he will,” he shrugs. “And maybe he won’t. Either way, this has nothing to do with you. I didn’t invite you at the same time because I expected you to agree on this. I invited you together because I only wanted to go through this once, in case you both reacted negatively.”
“Alec, you’re my son,” his mother frowns. “There’s nothing you could say that would make me turn my back on you. Did I expect to meet your boyfriend when you told me about this dinner? No. Did I have an inkling that you were anything other than straight? No. But both those things are on you, not me. I hope you know you could have told me about this four years ago and my reaction would have still been the same.”
Alec smiles at her, tears stinging at his eyes. He wonders if she knows how much her acceptance means to him. He wonders if she knows he’s always valued her opinion more than their father’s. Their mother isn’t perfect, but she’s always loved them, and he’s glad his sexuality doesn’t change anything.
He’s glad Magnus doesn’t change anything, because he knows if she had made him choose, he would have stayed with his boyfriend. He would have cut all ties with his parents and lived the life he deserves to live.
“Thank you,” he says softly. Magnus and his siblings are grinning widely at his mother, and Alec has never felt more content. “Just so you know, it isn’t that I didn’t trust you with this knowledge before. I knew very well that a year or two wouldn’t change your opinion on my sexuality. So just… Please don’t think I kept this a secret because I didn’t believe in you.”
“Alright,” his mother tilts her head, acknowledging his words. “If you don’t mind me asking, why didn’t you tell us? I know you said you just never had to chance to do it, but surely you could have sat us down and told us about it. It might have been easier on your father than a dinner with your first boyfriend. Or… Is Magnus your first boyfriend?”
“He is,” Alec nods, gazing at Magnus reverently. He still can’t quite believe he’s dating Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn as well as the most magical person on the planet. “And I never sat you down because I didn’t want you to make a big deal out of my sexuality. This is just a part of who I am. I honestly didn’t think there was a point in telling you until I found someone worth sharing with the rest of my family.”
“So you weren’t ashamed of yourself?” his mother asks, and Alec can hear all the worry in her voice. It warms his heart to know she cares about him more than she cares about her own feelings.
“For a long time, I was,” he admits, thinking back to all those years when he hated himself for being different, for being abnormal, for not being more like Jace and Izzy. He’s over that now, but his mother deserves to know it wasn’t always this easy. “Growing up in the Institute meant that I was constantly surrounded by heterosexual people who never talked about gay relationships, and I thought my feelings were wrong because of it. However, it’s been a few years since I’ve felt that way. I’m okay now, mom, I promise. Izzy and Jace have been by my side through it all, and then I had Magnus to get me through the harder parts of coming out. It hasn’t been easy, exactly, but it’s been better than I thought it would be.”
Slowly, his mother nods, looking between Magnus and him with something like understanding and relief in her eyes.
“I’m glad,” she says quietly, taking one of Magnus’ hands in her own and staring at Alec seriously. “I’m so proud of you, Alec, for letting yourself love whoever you want to. If you’re happy with Magnus, then I’ll learn to talk about your boyfriend rather than possible girlfriends.”
Her words shouldn’t matter so much, but they do. Alec loves his mother and has always craved her approval, and knowing she’ll stand by him in this just as she stood for him when he asked to take over the Institute? It means the world to him. It’s proof that she doesn’t just see him as a political tool.
He’s her son, and she’s proud of him even though he doesn’t fit in with her ideas of normality. For that, he’ll always be grateful. His father may not be willing to see past Magnus’ status as a downworlder, but at least his mother is ready to forget about the heteronormative nonsense everyone has been drilling into her mind for decades.
“You don’t know how much this means to me,” he breathes out, holding onto Magnus’ hand tightly and looking over his family contentedly.
These are the people who accepted him even though they were taught to despise people like him – and people like Magnus. These are the people who deserve to be in his life.
These are the people he loves.